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Stories of Charlemagne by  Alfred J. Church


 

 

HOW HUON MET WITH KING OBERON

[333]

T
HERE is no need to tell all Huon's journeyings after he had departed from Paris. Let it suffice to say that he went to Rome and there received the blessing of the Pope; and that he took ship at Brandys, and, traversing the Inland Sea, so came to Holy Land, and, having landed at Jaffa, he came on the second day to Jerusalem. And he had for his comrade a certain Garyn, who was his mother's brother, for Huon was son to Duke Sevyn of Bordeaux. At Jerusalem, when they had worshipped at the Holy Sepulchre, Huon said to his uncle, "I thank you much for your great kindness in that you have borne me company so far. Now then return to your lady, my aunt, and to your children." "Not [334] so," answered Garyn, "I will not leave you till you shall return yourself to your own land."

From Jerusalem they passed through the desert suffering much from heat and thirst. On their way they saw a hut, in the door of which sat an old man with a long white beard, who, when Huon saluted him in the name of God, first began to weep, and then caught Huon's hand, and kissed it many times. "'Tis thirty years," he said, "since I have seen the face of a Christian man. And now looking upon you I remember me of a noble peer whom I knew long since in the land of France, Duke Sevyn of Bordeaux. But now I pray you rest awhile."

So Huon and Garyn tied their horses to trees, and sat down and talked with the old man. And when Huon had told his story, then the old man related how he had been sent on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, because he had slain a knight in a tourney, and how on his way home he had been taken prisoner by Saracens and carried to Babylon, from which place he had escaped after two years. "But," said he, "I have not been able to return home, but have dwelt in this place ever since."

Huon said, "It is to Babylon that I go. [335] Tell me now what road I should follow." The old man answered, "There are two roads to Babylon, one of forty days' journey and one of fifteen only. But the shorter road is beset by a certain Oberon, King of the Fairies. This Oberon is very pleasant to look upon, and his voice very sweet, but be sure that you do not speak to him, for he that speaks to him is lost for ever. Yet, if you will not speak to him, he will hinder your journey by his magic. I counsel you, therefore, that you take not the shorter way."

This counsel did not please Huon, who said, "If I can gain so much time by only keeping my tongue from speech, I will surely do so." "If this be your will," answered the old man, whose name, it should be said, was Gerames, "I will go with you."

The next day they set forth. At noon they rested awhile under an oak, and as they rested, Oberon came by, very richly clad in a garment garnished with precious stones, and holding in his hand a very precious bow. A horn also hung to his neck by two chains of gold. There never was such a horn in this world. One note of it could cure all kinds of sickness; another could satisfy hunger and thirst, yet another could lighten all heaviness of heart, [336] and a fourth could draw any one that heard it even against his will.

As Oberon rode by, he blew a note upon his horn, and when he heard it, Huon forgot all the hunger and thirst that he had. And Oberon cried, "I pray you speak to me." But Huon, mindful of the counsel of Gerames, answered not a word, but rode away. Then Oberon in his anger blew again on his horn, and straightway there arose a great storm, so that they could scarcely win their way against it; after the storm there appeared a great river in their way, very black and deep, and rushing with a terrible noise; also on the other side of the river there appeared a very fair castle, which when they had looked on it awhile vanished out of their sight.


[Illustration]

HUON MEETING WITH OBERON.

Gerames said, "Ride on now, taking no account of these things." And this they did. When they had ridden some five leagues, and had seen nothing more, Huon said, "We are well escaped from this Oberon." Gerames answered, "Not so; we shall see him again." And while he spake, they saw Oberon on the other side of a bridge by which they must pass. Huon said, "See, there is the devil who makes all this trouble." Oberon heard these words, and cried, "Sir, you do me wrong; I am no [337] devil, nor of an ill nature, and I entreat you that you speak with me." But Huon answered him not a word.

After certain days, Oberon appeared again and said, "I conjure you by the name of God that you speak to me. I know who you are, and why you are come hither"—and he told him all that had befallen him, the slaying of Charlot and the anger of the King—"and be sure that you cannot accomplish the thing for which you are come, save by my help." "Sir," answered Huon, "you are welcome." And Oberon said, "You will win for yourself a great reward by those words."

He had scarcely said these words when there rose up before them a very fair palace, and in the palace there was a hall, and in the hall a table of gold, set with cups and plates and dishes and all manner of meats thereon. At this they sat down, and feasted joyously. And Oberon told Huon how he came to be as he was, for he was but as a child to look upon. "When I was christened," said he, "my father gave a royal feast to all the people, and called the fairies also. But one fairy was not called, and she, being greatly angered, said, 'This child shall not grow one whit after his third year.' But afterwards repenting said, 'Though [338] this be so, yet there shall not be a fairer child than he." And when they were satisfied, Huon said, Have we your leave to depart?" Oberon answered, "You shall go when you wish, but first I would show you something." And he said to a knight, "Go, fetch me my cup." So the knight brought him a cup. This Oberon took in his hands, and made over it the sign of the cross, and straightway the cup was filled to the brim with wine. "See," said he, "this cup. If a man be in deadly sin, there shall be never a drop of wine in the cup when he holds it; but if he be out of sin, then it shall fill for him. Take it now and make a trial of it." Huon answered, "I count not myself to be worthy of such a thing; yet thus much will I say, that I do repent me of all that I have done amiss, and that I forgive all men what they may have done amiss to me." Then he took the cup in his hands, and straightway it was full of wine. Then Oberon said, "Take this cup, for you are worthy of it, and this horn also. But beware that you use it not except of necessity." And when he had looked upon Huon awhile, he said, "Huon, I love you well, but I foresee that you will suffer many things by reason of your folly." And he suffered him and his companions to depart.


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