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The Children's Book by  Horace E. Scudder
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THE HISTORY OF VALENTINE AND ORSON

IT stands upon record that Pepin, king of France, had a fair sister named Bellisant, who was married to Alexander, the Emperor of Greece, and by him carried to his capital at Constantinople; from whence, after having lived with great virtue, she was banished through the means of a false accuser, whom she had severely checked for his imprudence. Although she was ill, yet was she compelled to leave her husband's empire, to the great regret of the people, and went away attended by a squire named Blandiman.

After a long and fatiguing journey, she arrived in the forest of Orleans, where, being very faint, she dismissed her attendant for a nurse, but before his return gave birth to two lovely children, one of which was carried off by a she-bear; but she, wishing to save it, pursued on her hands and knees, leaving the other behind. Before her return, King Pepin, being a-hunting in the forest, came to the tree where she had left the other babe, and causing it to be taken up, sent it to a nurse, and when it grew up he called his name Valentine. Blandiman at length came back and instead of finding his mistress, found her brother Pepin at the tree, to whom he declared all that had happened, and how his sister was banished through the false suggestions of the arch-priest. But King Pepin, hearing this, believed the charge, and was greatly enraged against the Lady Bellisant, saying the emperor ought to have put her to death. So leaving Blandiman, he returned with his nobles to Paris.

The Lady Bellisant, having followed the bear to no purpose, returned to the place where she had left the other babe; but great was her sorrow when Blandiman said he had seen her brother Pe- [128] pin, but could tell nothing of the child; and having comforted her for the loss of it, they went to the seaside, took shipping, and arrived at the castle of the great Feragus, in Portugal.

All this while the bear nourished the infant among her young ones, until at length it grew up a wild, hairy man, doing great mischief to all that passed through the forest; in which we will leave him and return to the arch-priest, who continued his ill-doing until he was impeached by a merchant of having wrongfully accused the empress; upon which they fought, and the merchant conquering, made the priest confess all his treasons. The emperor wrote about it to the King of France and the arch-priest was hanged.

Now was Valentine grown a lusty young man, and by the king was greatly beloved, as if he had been his own child; he commanded him to be taught the use of arms, in which he soon became so expert that few in the court dared to encounter him, which made Hufray and Henry, the king's sons, exceedingly envy him. At this juncture great complaints were made against the Wild Man, from whom no knight who had encountered him had escaped with his life, which made the king promise a thousand marks to any one who should bring him dead or alive, which offer none dared to accept. Hufray and Henry desired King Pepin to send Valentine, with a view of getting rid of so powerful a rival in the king's favor; but his majesty, seeing their malice, was very angry, telling them he had rather lose the best baron in the land.

However, Valentine desired leave of his majesty to go to the forest, resolving either to conquer the Wild Man or die in the attempt. Accordingly, having furnished himself with a good horse and arms, he set forward on his journey, and after hard traveling he arrived in the forest. In the evening he tied his horse to a large spreading oak, and got up into the tree himself for security, where he rested that night.

Next morning he beheld the Wild Man traversing the forest in search of his prey; at length he came to the tree where Valentine's horse stood, from whom he pulled many hairs, upon which the horse kicked him. The Wild Man feeling the pain, was going to tear him to pieces, which Valentine seeing, made signs as if he would fight him, and accordingly he leaped down and gave him a blow, but the Wild Man caught him by the arm and threw him to the ground; then taking up Valentine's shield, he beheld it with amaze, in respect for the colors thereon emblazoned. Valentine being much bruised, got up and came to his brother in much anger, but Orson ran to a tree, and then they engaged, but both being terribly wounded, gave out by consent; after which Valentine signified to Orson that if he would yield to him he would order matters so as he should become a rational creature.

Orson, thinking that he meant no harm, stretched forth his hands to him; upon which he bound him and then led him to Paris, where he presented him to King Pepin, who had the Wild Man baptized by the name of Orson, from his being taken in a wood. Orson's actions, during their stay there, very much amused the whole court, so that at length the Duke of Acquitain sent letters importing that whoever should overcome the Green Knight, a fierce Pagan champion, should have his daughter Fazon in marriage. Upon which Valentine set out for that province, attended by his brother Orson, by which means he came to the knowledge of his parents, as we shall find hereafter.

After a long journey, Valentine and Orson arrived at Duke Savary's palace in Acquitain, and making known the reasons that brought them there, were presented to Fazon, to whom Valentine thus addressed himself: "Sweet creature! King Pepin has sent me hither to fight the Green Knight, and with me the bravest knight in all his realm, who, though he is dumb and naked, is endued with such valor that no knight under the sun is able to cope with him."

During this speech she viewed Orson narrowly and he her; but supper coming in, interrupted them, and they sat down to eat. Whilst they were in the midst of their feasting, the Green Knight entered, saying,—

[129] "Noble Duke of Acquitain, hast thou any more knights to cope with me for thy daughter?"

"Yea," replied the duke, "I have seventeen," and so he showed them to him. The Green Knight then said to them:—

"Eat your fill, for to-morrow will be your last."

Orson, hearing what he had said, was much incensed against him, and suddenly rising from the table, threw the Green Knight with such force against the wall as laid him dead for some time, which very much pleased the whole company. Next day, many knights went to fight the Green Knight, but he overcame and slew them all, until at last Orson, being armed in Valentine's armor, came to the Green Knight's pavilion, and defying him, they began the most desperate combat that ever was heard of, and the Green Knight made so great a stroke at him, as cut off the top of his helmet, and half his shield, wounding him much. But this served only to enrage the valiant Orson, who, coming to him on foot, took hold of him, and was just going to kill him, when he was prevented by Valentine, who interceded with Orson to spare his life, on condition of his turning Christian, and he acquainted King Pepin how he was conquered.

The Green Knight having promised to perform all that was desired, they led him a prisoner to the city of Acquitain, and the duke received them with great joy, and offered the Lady Fazon to Orson; but he would not marry her till his brother had won the Green Knight's sister, Lady Clerimond, nor till they had talked with the enchanted Head of Brass, to know his parents, and get the proper use of his tongue. When the lady knew this she was very sorrowful, because she loved Orson, and was resolved to marry none but him who had nobly conquered the Green Knight.

Valentine and Orson having taken leave of the Duke of Acquitain and his daughter Fazon, proceeded on their journey in search of the Lady Clerimond, and at last came to a tower of burnished brass; which upon inquiry they discovered to be kept by Clerimond, sister to Feragus and the Green Knight; and having demanded entrance were refused it by the sentinel, which provoked Valentine to that degree that he drew sword against him with such fury as to make the sentinel fall dead at his feet.

The Lady Clerimond beheld all this dispute, and, seeing them brave knights, received them courteously. Valentine having presented tokens from the Green Knight, told her he came there for the love of her, and to discourse with the all-knowing Head of Brass concerning their parents. After dinner the Lady Clerimond took them by the hand, and led them to the Chamber of Varieties, where the Head was placed between four pillars of pure jasper. When they entered the chamber the Head made the following speech to Valentine:—

"Thou famous knight of royal extract art called Valentine the Valiant, who of right ought to marry the Lady Clerimond. Thou art son to the Emperor of Greece and the Empress Bellisant who is now in the castle of Feragus in Portugal, where she has resided for twenty years. King Pepin is thy uncle, and the Wild Man thy brother. The Empress Bellisant brought ye two forth in the forest of Orleans; he was taken away by a ravenous bear; and thou wast taken up by thy uncle Pepin, who brought thee up to man's estate. Moreover, I likewise tell thee that thy brother shall never speak until thou cuttest the thread that groweth under his tongue."

The Brazen Head having ended his speech, Valentine embraced Orson, and cut the thread which grew under his tongue, when he directly related many surprising things. After which Valentine married the Lady Clerimond, but not before she had turned a Christian.

In this castle there lived a dwarf, named Pacolet, who was an enchanter, and by his art had contrived a horse of wood, and in the forehead a fixed pin, by turning of which one could convey one's self to the farthest part of the world. This enchanter flew to Portugal and informed Feragus of his sister's nuptials, and of her turning Chris- [130] tian, which so enraged him that he swore by Mahomet he would make her rue it, and therefore got ready his fleet and sailed toward the castle of Clerimond, where, when he arrived, he concealed his malice from his sister, and also the two knights, telling them that he came to fetch them into Portugal, the better to solemnize their marriage, and he would turn Christian on their arrival at his castle, all which they believed, and soon after embarked with him. When he had got them on board he ordered them to be put in irons, which so much grieved his sister Clerimond that she would have thrown herself into the sea, had she not been stopped.

When they were come to Portugal he put Valentine and Orson into a dungeon, and fed them with bread and water, but allowed his sister Clerimond the liberty of the castle, where she met Empress Bellisant, who had been confined twenty years in the castle of Feragus. She seeing her so full of grief, consoled her, inquiring the reason, which she told her.

The empress was mightily grieved, but Pacolet comforted them, saying that he would release them all that evening, which he accordingly did in the following manner. In the dead of the night he went to the dungeon where lay Valentine and Orson bound in chains, and touching the doors with his magic wand, they flew open, and coming to the knights he released them and conducted them to the apartment where Bellisant and Clerimond were, who were exceedingly transported; but Pacolet hindered them from discoursing long by telling them that they must depart before the guards of Feragus awaked, which would put a stop to his proceedings. So Pacolet led them out of the castle and having prepared a ship, he conveyed them to Lady Fazon at the city of Acquitain. The next morning when Feragus heard of their escape he was enraged to the highest degree.

The knights and ladies being out of danger soon arrived at Acquitain, to the great joy of Lady Fazon, who was soon after married to Orson with great solemnity, upon which occasion tilts and tournaments were performed for many days but Valentine carried off the prize, overthrowing at least a hundred brave knights.

Feragus, to be revenged on them, assembled an army, marched against the city of Acquitain, and laid close siege to it, with a vast army of Saracens. When Duke Savary perceived it, he resolved to give them battle the very next morning, and accordingly he sallied forth with all his forces, but venturing too far, he was taken by the Saracens, and carried to Feragus's tent.

Now Orson was resolved to set him free or lose his life; so putting on the armor of a dead Saracen, he called Pacolet, and went through the enemy without being molested, until they arrived at the tent where the duke was confined; which done they gave him a horse and a road to the Christian army; on their return, a general shout was made by all the army, "Long live the Duke of Acquitain," which so dismayed the Saracens that they fled away in confusion, and the Christians pursued them, till the night obliged them to give over.

Soon after the victory, Valentine, Orson, the Ladies Bellisant, Clerimond, and Fazon, after they had taken leave of Duke Savary and his nobles set out for Constantinople to see the emperor, and were received with great joy.

At length the emperor set out from Constantinople, after taking leave of his family, to visit a strong castle he had in Spain. While he was absent Brandifer, brother of Feragus, invaded the empire with a very great army, and finally besieged Constantinople, where lay Valentine and Orson, the Green Knight, and all the ladies. Valentine, seeing the condition they all were in resolved to give Brandifer battle, and thereupon divided his army into ten battalions commanded by ten knights, and sallying out of the city began the fight with the Saracens, who drew up in readiness to receive them.

In the mean time the emperor, who was at sea, returned homeward, and in his way he met a fleet going to the assistance of Brandifer, which bore upon him with full sail; wereupon, exhorting his [131] companions to behave like men, they made ready to receive them, and after a most bloody and obstinate battle the emperor got the victory, having slain many of the Pagans and dispersed their ships.

After this victory the emperor commanded his men to put on the arms of the vanquished, as he did himself, thinking thereby the better to fall on the besiegers his enemies, but the stratagem proved most fatal to him, as we shall hereafter find.

All this while the Christians and Valentine bravely encountered Brandifer and his men before the walls of Constantinople, sometimes gaining, and sometimes losing, ground; but at length Valentine came to the standard of Brandifer, where an Indian king ran upon him with great force, but Valentine, avoiding him, struck him with such fury as cleft him down the middle. On the other hand Orson and the Green Knight were not idle, but with their brandished swords cut themselves a passage quite through the Pagan army, destroying all that opposed them.

Soon after, news came that a mighty fleet of Saracens was entering the harbor; whereupon Valentine judged it was necessary to go thither and oppose their landing, but it proved fatal; for in this fleet was the emperor, his father, whom, being clad in Saracen armor, Valentine by mistake ran quite through the body with his spear; which when he knew, he would have killed himself, had not his brother and the Green Knight prevented him; but getting a horse, with an intent to lose his life, he rushed into the midst of the enemy, till he came to the giant Brandifer, who when he saw Valentine encountered him so fiercely that both fell to the ground; but Valentine recovering gave him a stab, which sent him after his false prophet Mahomet.

The Pagans, seeing their king dead, threw down their arms and ran, and the Christians pursued them with a mighty slaughter. At last, the pursuit being over, he returned to Constantinople, and Orson acquainted the empress with the death of his father, but concealed by whom it was done, upon which it was concluded that Valentine and Orson should govern the empire by turns, with their wives, the Ladies Fazon and Clerimond, whose brother, the Green Knight, was crowned King of the Green Mountain, the people of which were much delighted to have so brave a warrior for their king.

Now Valentine being greatly vexed in mind for the death of his father, whom he had killed out of a mistake, resolved to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre; and thereupon taking leave of his wife Clerimond, and giving the government of the empire unto his brother, he departed, to the great sorrow of all, particularly his brother Orson and the fair Clerimond. After seven years' absence he returned, dressed like a poor palmer, begging victuals at the gate of his own palace; and at length being sick and about to die, he called for Clerimond and made himself known to her, at which she was ready to give up the ghost.

At last, having recommended her to his brother's care, and the empress, his dear mother, and asking a blessing of them, he turned on one side and breathed out his noble soul from his illustrious body, to the great grief of all the valiant knights of Christendom, to whom he had been a most noble example and a generous reliever. Clerimond never would espouse any one, but betook her to a single life, always lamenting the loss of her beloved husband.

After his death, Orson governed the empire with great wisdom and justice for seven years, till at length, seeing the fragile state of human affairs, he gave the charge of his empire, wife, and children to the Green Knight, and then, turning hermit, he became once more a voluntary dweller in the forests and woods, where, after living to a great age, this magnanimous and invincible hero surrendered up his body unto never-sparing death, and his soul to the immortal God, of whose attribute it had a true resemblance.

Thus, reader you may see that none withstand,

Though great in valor, or in vast command,

The mighty force of death's all conquering hand.


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