Select Popular Tales from the German of Musaeus/Roland’s Squires

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Published in German as "Rolands Knappen" in Volksmärchen der Deutschen (vol. 1, 1782). For other versions, see Roland's Squires.



OUSIN ROLAND had, as all the world knows, conducted the wars of his uncle, the Emperor Charles, with glory and success, and had done immortal deeds, recited by poets and romance singers, until Ganelon the traitor deprived him of the victory over the Saracens, and at the same time of life, at Roncesvalles, at the foot of the Pyrenees. Of what avail was it to the hero that he had slain the son of Anak, the giant Ferracutus,—the insolent Syrian, of the race of Goliath, since he still must succumb to the sabre-strokes of the unbelievers! against whom his good sword Duridana could not protect him this time; for he had run through his heroic career, and was now at its close. Deserted by all the world, he lay among the heaps of slain, grievously wounded, and tormented with burning thirst. In this sad condition, he collected all his strength, and sounded three times his wonderful horn, to give Charles the concerted sign that he was in the last extremity.

Although the Emperor, with his army, was encamped at eight miles’ distance from the battle-field, he yet recognised the sound of the wondrous horn, dismissed the feast (to the great chagrin of his courtiers, who scented a dainty pasty which was just then served up), and caused his army to set forth immediately to the succour of his nephew. It was then, however, too late; since Roland had already breathed out his heroic soul. The Saracens, however, rejoiced in their victory, and gave to their general the honourable title of “Malek al Raffer,” or the victorious king.

In the confusion of the fight, the shield and armour bearers of the brave Roland had become separated from their lord, and had lost sight of him, when he flung himself into the midst of the enemies’ squadrons. When the hero fell, and the dispirited army of the Franks sought safety in flight, most of them were hewn down. Only three out of the multitude succeeded, by swiftness of foot, in escaping from death or slavish chains. The three comrades in misfortune fled far into the mountains, among untrodden places, and looked not behind them in their flight; since they believed Death pursued them with hasty feet. Wearied with thirst and the heat of the sun, they lay down to rest under a shady oak; and, after they had breathed a little, they took counsel together what they should now do. Andiol, the sword-bearer, first broke the silence, which the hurry of the flight and the fear of the Saracens had imposed on them.

“What counsel, brothers?” asked he. “How shall we reach the army, without falling into the hands of the unbelievers; and what road shall we follow? Let us make an attempt to force our way through these wild mountains; on the other side of them are, I believe, the Franks, who will certainly conduct us to the camp.”—“Thy proposition would be good, companion,” answered Amarin, the shield-bearer, “if thou wouldst give us the wings of eagles, to transport us over the wall of steep rocks; but with these wearied legs, from which hunger and the sun’s power have consumed the marrow, we shall certainly not climb the cliffs which separate us from the Franks. Let us first find a spring to quench our thirst, and to fill our gourd, and afterwards slay a deer, that we may eat: then we will spring over the rocks like light-footed chamois, and soon find a way to the encampment of Charles.” Sarron, the third squire, who was wont to bear the spurs of the Knight Roland, shook his head and said, “As concerns the stomach, comrade, thy counsel is not bad; but both propositions are dangerous for our necks. Do you imagine that Charles would feel grateful to us if we returned without our good lord, and did not even bring back his costly armour which was confided to us? If we should kneel at his throne, and say, ‘Roland is fallen!’ and he should answer, ‘Very sad is this news; but where have you left his sword Duridana?’ what wouldst thou answer, Andiol? Or should he say, ‘Squires, where have you his mirror-polished steel shield?’ what wouldst thou reply, Amarin? Or should he inquire for the golden spurs, with which he invested our lord when he dubbed him Knight, must I not keep silence in shame?”—“Well remembered,” replied Andiol; “thy understanding is as clear as Roland’s shield, as penetrating, bright, and sharp as Roland’s sword. We will not return to the camp of the Franks.”

Amongst these counsels night had approached; no star glistened in the clouded heavens; no zephyr awoke. In the wide desert the stillness of death reigned around, unbroken, save by the occasional croak of some night-bird. The three fugitives stretched themselves on the turf under the oak, and thought by sleep to cheat the ravenous hunger which the severe fast of the long day had awakened; but the stomach is a relentless creditor, who is not willing to give credit even for four-and-twenty hours. Notwithstanding their weariness, hunger permitted them no sleep, although they had taken their shoulder-belts for girdles, and drawn them as tight as possible. When, by way of passing the time, they began again, in their sadness, to converse, they perceived, through the bushes, a small distant light, which they at first considered to be the exhalation from a sulphureous marsh; but when, after some time, this same light neither changed its appearance nor its position, they came to a resolution to seek more closely into the cause. They left their quarters under the oak, and after they had overcome many difficulties, fallen in the darkness over many stones, and run their heads against many branches, they arrived in a cleared spot before an upright wall of rock, where, to their great joy, they found a saucepan on a trivet over a fire. The bright ascending flames discovered to them at the same time the entrance to a cave, over which hung down branches of ivy, and which was closed by a strong door. Andiol approached and knocked, imagining that the inhabitant might perhaps be a pious, hospitable hermit. But he heard a woman’s voice from within, which asked, “Who knocks; who knocks at my house?”—“Good woman,” said Andiol, “open to us the door of your grotto; three wandering travellers wait here on the threshold, and are faint with hunger and thirst.”—“Patience,” answered the voice from within, “let me first put my house in order, and prepare it for the reception of my guests. The listener at the door heard then a great rustling within, as if the whole house were set in order and scoured. He ceased for an interval, as long as his impatience permitted; but, as the mistress of the house did not seem to put an end to her cleaning, he knocked again at the door after a soldierly fashion, and desired to be admitted, with his companions. The voice again answered softly, “I hear, but allow me time to put on my dress, that I may be fit to appear before my guests. Meanwhile, stir the fire that the pot may boil well, and eat none of the broth.”

Sarron, who had ever been accustomed in Knight Roland’s kitchen to peep into the pot, had, from natural instinct, already undertaken the office of keeping up the fire; he had also previously examined the pot, and made a discovery which did not quite please him. For when he raised the lid and dipped in the meat-fork, he drew forth a hedgehog, which cured his stomach of all its impetuous cravings. He did not, however, reveal this discovery to his companions, in order that, when the broth should be served up, he might not deprive them of their appetite. Amarin had fallen asleep through weariness, and had almost slept enough before the inhabitant of the grotto had finished her toilet. On awaking, he joined himself to the noisy Andiol, who was making conditions for admission with the proprietress of the cave, in a boisterous dispute. When at last all was adjusted, she had unluckily mislaid the house-door key, and as, in her great hurry, she had also overthrown her lamp, she could not find it again. The famished wanderers thus were compelled to exercise an already tried patience until, after a long delay, the key was at length found, and the door opened. But a new delay occurred to prove the resignation of the strangers. Scarcely was the door half opened, when a great black cat sprang out, with eyes emitting fire; immediately the mistress of the house shut the door to and bolted it carefully, scolding and abusing the boisterous guests who had disturbed her dwelling, and had made away with her beloved pet animal. “Catch my cat! you creatures,” screamed she from within, “or don’t take it into your heads to pass my door.”

The three comrades looked hesitatingly on each other as to what they were to do. “The witch!” murmured Andiol between his teeth, “has she not mocked us long enough, that she now scolds and threatens? Shall a woman befool three men? By the shade of Roland, that shall not be! Let us break down the door, and quarter ourselves here like good soldiers.” Amarin agreed; but the wise Sarron said, “Bethink you, brothers, of what you do; the attempt may have an evil issue; I suspect there are wonderful things here; let us punctually obey the commands of our hostess; if our patience does not tire, her humour for jeering us will tire. This good counsel was taken, and immediately a general chase for Grimalkin began, but he had flown into the wood, and was not to be discovered in the dark night. For, although his eyes sparkled as brightly as the eyes of the pet cat of Petrarch, whose light served the poet as a lamp, by which to inscribe an immortal sonnet to Laura,—the Pyrenean Grimalkin appeared to have the humour of his mistress to jeer the three wanderers, and either blinked studiously with his eyes, or turned them so that they did not betray him. Yet the wily Sarron knew how to catch him. He understood the art of mewing so well, that the anchorite of the wood, who had taken refuge in an oak-tree, was deceived by it, and immediately replied.

As soon as the miauling cat betrayed himself by his voice, the ambushed squire was at hand, surprised him and brought the entrapped fugitive in triumph to the entrance of the cave in the rock, which was now no longer blockaded. Highly delighted, the three squires entered, in company with the strayed Penates, curious to make the acquaintance of their hostess; but they shuddered with dismay when they perceived a living skeleton—a dry and very old hag. She wore a long gown, held in her hand a bough of mistletoe, and touched with it, in a solemn manner, the new comers, while she welcomed them and forced them to sit down to a furnished table, on which a frugal meal of milk, meat, roasted chestnuts, and fresh fruits were served up. No pressing was necessary; the hungry guests fell upon the provisions like ravening wolves, and, in a short time, the dishes were so effectually emptied, that no dainty mouse would have found enough of the remains to satisfy itself. Sarron exceeded his two table companions in his haste to appease his stomach, for he imagined there would be yet another course, where the hedgehog ragout would make its appearance, which he intended to leave to his companions alone; but, as the mistress of the house produced nothing more, he believed that she had saved this dainty bit for herself. When night came, the squires entreated a night’s lodging, and the old woman, after some entreaty, began to prepare a couch of quilts, spun of Spanish wool, but it was so narrow and small that it seemed hardly possible for three men to find room in it; however, they made it suffice, and next morning they were roused by the voice of the old dame, who desired them to get up and dig her garden. This employment occupied them the whole of the day. Next day and the day after they had also their work given them to do, and for their labour they were rewarded with board and lodging, such as it was.

When, on the third day, the old woman dismissed the three friends, and, with kind words, told them she had no further occasion for their services, and exhorted them to go on their way, the speaker, Sarron, rose and said, “It is not the custom of the country to dismiss a guest empty-handed; moreover, we have merited from you more than thanks. Have we not stirred the fire under your kettle like kitchen-maids? Have we not caught again your house friend the black cat, which had strayed? Have we not digged your garden, carried water for you, and done everything for you, like obedient servants?

The old mother appeared to bethink herself; she was, according to the custom of old matrons, of a close nature, and did not give anything away lightly; but she had conceived an affection for the three men, and appeared inclined to grant their request. “Let us see,” said she, “if I can find a gift for you, to remind each of you of me.” Thereupon she tripped into her store-room, stirred about in it for a long time, opened and shut chests, and jingled with her keys, as if she had had the care of locking the hundred gates of Thebes. After a long delay, she made her appearance again, carrying something concealed in the lap of her dress, then turned towards the wise Sarron and asked, “Who shall have what I hold now in my hand?” He replied, “The sword-bearer, Andiol.” She drew forth a rusty, copper penny, and said, “Take this, and tell me whose that shall be which I hold in my hand?” The squire, discontented with the distribution, answered, saucily, “Whoever will may have it; what does it matter to me?” The old lady said, “Who will?” Then Amarin the shield-bearer named himself, and received for his share a table-napkin, neatly washed and folded. Sarron stood on the watch, expecting to receive the best; but he got nothing but a thumbstall from a leathern glove, and was much ridiculed by his companions.

The three fellow-travellers now went their way, took a cold leave, without appearing thankful for the charitable gifts or praising the liberality of the niggardly matron. After they had departed about the distance of a field, the sword-bearer, Andiol, began first to fret that they had not better bethought themselves in the Druid’s cave. “Did you not hear, comrades,” said he, “how the sorceress opened and shut chests, in her store-chamber, to collect the rubbish with which she has befooled us? In her chests there was certainly abundance of riches. Had we been wise, we should have seized the enchanted rod, without which she would have had no power over us; we should have rushed into the store-closet, and should, according to the custom and plan of warriors, have obtained booty, without allowing ourselves to be mocked by an old woman.” The discontented squire harangued yet longer in this tone, and concluded by drawing forth the rusty penny, and throwing it from him in scorn. Amarin followed the example of his companion, flourished the napkin around his head, and said, “What avails to me this rag, in these wilds where we have nothing to eat; if we find a well-furnished table, we shall not care for this!” He then abandoned it to the mournful winds, which wafted it to a neighbouring thorn, that held the love-token of the ancient lady fast on its sharp teeth. The far-sighted Sarron suspected something of concealed might in the despised gifts, and reproved the thoughtlessness of his playfellows, who, according to the common course of this world, only judged things from their outward appearance, without proving their internal worth; but he preached to deaf ears. However, he was not to be persuaded to relinquish his valueless thumbstall; on the contrary, he took occasion during his speech to make an experiment with it. He drew it on the thumb of his right hand without effect; hereupon he changed it to the left hand; and, during these experiments, he had loitered behind his companions. On a sudden Amarin stood still, and asked in astonishment, “Where is our friend Sarron?”—“Let him be; the covetous fellow seeks to recover what we have thrown away.” Sarron heard these words in silent astonishment; a cold shudder ran through him, and he scarcely knew how to contain himself, in his joy, since the secret of the thumbstall was now disclosed to him. His comrades halted to wait for him; he, however, went forward quickly on his way, and, when he was fairly in advance of them, he cried out, “You daudles, why do you lag behind? How long shall I wait for you.” Listening attentively, the two squires perceived the voice of their companion, whom they fancied behind, in front of them; they, therefore, redoubled their pace, and ran on before him without perceiving him. This pleased him still more, since he was now sure that the thumbstall imparted to him the gift of invisibility; and so he continued to deceive them, without betraying the cause of the deception, although they puzzled their heads sorely about it. They imagined their companion had slipped down from a rock into a deep valley, had broken his neck, and that his airy shadow hovered around them now, to say farewell to them. At length, tired of his game, Sarron made himself again visible, instructed his attentive companions in the qualities of the wonderful thumbstall, and reproved their thoughtlessness, so that they stood there quite stupified.

After they had recovered from their first astonishment, they ran back at full speed, to repossess themselves of the despised gifts of the old lady. Amarin huzzaed aloud when already, in the distance, he saw the table-napkin wave on the summit of the thorn-tree, which had preserved the property intrusted to it more carefully (although the four winds of heaven seemed to struggle for its possession) than many chests in which are deposited the inheritance of minors, though under judicial lock and key. It cost more trouble to recover the rusty penny out of the grass, yet eagerness to possess it, gave the eyes of Argus to the watchful owner, and served as a divining rod to lead his steps, and to point out the spot where the treasure lay concealed. A high leap and a loud cry of joy, announced the happy discovery of the rusty penny.

The company of travellers were much fatigued with their long walk, and sought the shadow of a tree, to shelter themselves from the oppressive heat of the sun; for it was now high noon, and they were hungry. The three adventurers were of good courage; their hearts beat high with joyous hope, and the two companions who had not yet proved the powers of their miraculous gifts made many attempts to discover them. Andiol collected his little cash, laid it with his copper penny, and began to count, forwards, backwards, towards the right, towards the left, from top to bottom, and from bottom to top, without perceiving the anticipated properties of a hatching penny. Amarin had gone to one side, looped the napkin very demurely through his button-hole, expecting nothing less than that a ready-roasted pigeon should fly into his mouth; but his proceeding was much too sinister for the magic table-napkin to act its part; so he returned to his companions, awaiting what destiny should disclose. The feeling of sharp hunger does not indeed improve a merry humour; but, when the elasticity of the soul is once disclosed, it does not sleep again at each little change of weather. On the return of Amarin, Sarron pulled the napkin out of his hand, in a merry manner, spread it on the turf under the tree, and cried, “Hither, comrades, the table is spread, let the power of the napkin now bestow on us a well-boiled ham upon it, with abundance of white bread. Scarcely had he spoken these words, when there rained down manchet loaves from the tree upon the cloth, and at the same moment stood there an ancient vase, in the form of an over-grown dish, with a boiled ham. Astonishment and greediness painted themselves in strange contrast in the faces of the hungry guests; however, the instinct of the stomach soon overcame the surprise, and with great eagerness they proceeded to satisfy their hunger. And now its troublesome twin-brother announced itself; besides which the taster, Sarron, had remarked that the ham had just a little too much salt. The impetuous Andiol first showed his discontent at the half-meal, as he called it; “Who feeds me without giving me to drink,” said he, “receives at my hand little thanks;” and he began to abuse yet more the defective qualities of the miraculous napkin. Amarin, who did not like his property to be run down, was offended at these remarks, seized the towel by the four corners, to remove it together with the dish; but, as soon as he began to fold it, dish and ham-bone had disappeared. “Brother,” said he, to the rebellious critic, “if in future you will be my guest, then take willingly what my table offers, but for thy thirsty spleen seek a bubbling stream; as regards drink, that is another matter; where there is a bake-house, says the proverb, there is no room for a brewhouse.”—“Well-spoken,” answered the sly fellow, Sarron; but let us see to this other matter. He again took from him the table-napkin, and spread it to the left on the meadow, with the wish that the administering spirits should cause to appear some wine-flasks filled, in the absence of sack, with the best Malmsey. In a twinkling there stood a vase, apparently belonging to the same service, formed like a pitcher, and filled with the most beautiful Malmsey wine.

Now, in the enjoyment of the sweet nectar, the three joyous fellows would not have exchanged their condition for King Charles’s throne; the wine immediately drove away all their past cares, and sparkled and foamed in the jack-cap which they used instead of a goblet. Even Andiol the spear-bearer now granted the power of the table-napkin, and, if its possessor had been willing to part with it, he would gladly have exchanged for it the rusty penny, with all its unknown properties. This became to him, however, much more valuable, and he kept feeling after it every minute to find whether it was still in its place. He drew it forth to look at the impression, but every trace of this had disappeared; then he turned it to look at the obverse; this was the right method to discover its powers. When he perceived here neither image nor inscription, and was going to put it by, he found under the wonderful penny a gold piece of equal size and thickness with it; he resumed the attempt several times, without being observed, to be sure of it, and found the result still the same. With the demonstrations of joy of the Syracusan philosopher, who, when he had discovered in the bath the water-gage of gold, trumpeted his “I have found it” through the streets, Andiol the sword-bearer arose from his turfy seat, jumped round the tree, leaping like a goat, and screamed with open mouth, “I have it, comrades, I have it!” upon which he concealed from them nothing of his alchemist’s progress. In the first burst of his joyful enthusiasm, he proposed instantly to seek out again the beneficent Druidess, and, throwing themselves at her feet, to thank her for her gifts. A similar impulse inspired them all; they suddenly collected all their possessions, and pursued the way by which they came. But either their eyes were blinded, or the vapours of the wine led them astray, or Mother Druid carefully concealed herself from them; suffice it to say they were unable to find the grotto again, although they traversed the Pyrenees industriously, and had already turned their backs on the strange mountains, and were on the high-road to Leon, before they perceived that they had gone astray. After a general consultation it was agreed to pursue this line of march, and to follow straight after their noses.

The happy trefoil of squires now perceived that they were in possession of three most desirable things, and that if they did not enjoy the greatest earthly happiness, at least, they had the groundwork for the gratification of every wish. The old leathern thumbstall, though not very sightly, had all the properties of the famed ring which Gyges once possessed; the rusty penny was as useful as the purse of Fortunatus; and the table-napkin was invested, also, with the same blessing as the famed miraculous flask of the holy Remigius. In order to assure to themselves the mutual enjoyment of these noble gifts on all occasions, the three companions entered into a compact never to separate, but to use their goods in common.

Meanwhile, each, according to the usual preference for one’s own things, began to boast the superior excellence of his gift, till the wise Sarron demonstrated that his thumbstall united in itself the fulness of all the other miraculous gifts: “To me,” said he, “both cellar and kitchen stand open in the house of epicures; I enjoy the privilege of the house-fly, to eat out of the same dish with the king, without his being able to prevent me; I may also empty the coffers of the rich, and it is even in my power to appropriate all the riches of Hindostan if the journey is not too irksome for me.”

Amid such speeches they arrived at Astorga, where King Garsias of the Asturias held his court, with his daughter, the Princess Urraca, as famous for her beauty as for her coquetry. The court was splendid and the Princess seemed to be a living pattern of her dwelling, in whom, whatever vanity can contribute to the decoration of ladies, was united. In the Pyrenean wastes the desires and passions of the three wanderers had been very limited and moderate; they were satisfied with the gift of the table-napkin, spread it out when they came to a shady tree, and held an open table. Six meals a day were their minimum, and there was not a single delicacy which they did not cause it to serve to them. However, when they entered the capital, tumultuous passions arose in their breasts; they conceived great projects for advancing themselves by their talents, and for rising from the rank of squires to lordly dignities. Unluckily they saw the lovely Urraca, whose charms so enchanted them that they proposed to try their fortune with her. They no sooner perceived the same feelings in each other, than there arose in their hearts a gnawing jealousy, the bond of union was broken, and as, in general, three happy people can with difficulty reside under one roof, since union is the daughter of mutual necessity, so it fell out with the partnership, the three united inheritors for life separated, only promising to each other not to betray the secret.

Andiol, in order to be beforehand with his rivals, immediately put his pocket coining-machine into operation, and shut himself up in a solitary chamber to twist his copper penny, in order to fill the purse with gold pieces. As soon as he had the necessary funds, he decked himself out as a stately knight, appeared at the court, obtained an appointment, and soon, by his splendour, drew the eyes of all Astorga on himself. The curious inquired his lineage, but he observed, on this point, a profound silence, and let the critics chatter; yet he did not contradict the report which called him a near connexion of Charlemagne’s, and he named himself Childeric. The Princess, by means of her acuteness of sight, discovered this Brabanter, who followed in the vortex of her enchanting allurements, with pleasure, and delayed not to exercise her attractive powers on him;—and friend Andiol, to whom love in the highest circles was yet new and strange, swam with the current, which carried him away, like a light soap-bubble.

The coquetry of the lovely Urraca was not merely temperament, or pride in stringing hearts on the cords of her frivolity, to make a display with this dazzling garniture, which, in the eyes of ladies, is of great value. The amusement of pillaging her suitors, and the malicious pleasure of afterwards mocking them, had a great share in her plans. Her favour was now granted at the highest price which the importunate rivals could offer for it; as soon as an infatuated fool was quite despoiled of his wealth, he was dismissed with scorn and contempt. Of these victims to an unhappy passion, which embittered the honey of enjoyment with sad repentance, Mrs. Fame had had much to relate throughout the kingdom of the Asturias; notwithstanding this, there were not wanting foolhardy moths which flew to the fatal light, in whose flames they found then end.

As soon as Crœsus Andiol was scented out by this covetous lady, she proposed to herself to make use of him as an orange, which one peels to enjoy the sweet marrow. The report of his illustrious descent, and the great expenditure that he made, gave him so much weight and importance at the court, that even the most penetrating eyes did not discover the shield-bearer through this dazzling veil, although his blunt manners often betrayed his former company. These anomalies in polite manners passed at court rather for originality of mind and characteristics of great genius. He succeeded in obtaining the first place amid the favourites of the Princess, and spared neither trouble nor expense to retain it. He daily gave splendid fêtes, tournaments, games of running at the ring, royal banquets, fished with golden nets, and would, like the squanderer Heliogabalus, have caused the Princess to sail on a lake of rose or lavender water, if she had studied the Roman history, or had herself conceived this ingenious fancy. Meanwhile similar ideas were not wanting. In a hunting-party which her new favourite had prepared, she expressed a wish to see the entire forest metamorphosed into a noble park, with grottoes, fish-ponds, cascades, springs, baths of parian marble, palaces, summer-houses, and colonnades; and the following day many thousand hands were occupied in carrying out the great plan, and, where it was possible, also improving upon the idea of the Princess. If this had lasted long the entire kingdom would have been transformed; where a mountain stood she would have had a plain, where the peasant ploughed she would have fished, and where gondolas floated she would have wished to ride. The copper penny was as little tired of hatching gold pieces, as the ingenious lady of spending them; her sole endeavour was to humble the obstinate spendthrift, to crush him in the dust and to get rid of him.

While Andiol shone in this brilliant manner at the court, the lazy Amarin fattened on the good deeds of his table-napkin; but envy and jealousy very soon impaired the relish of his table. One day he folded up his table-napkin, put it in his pocket, and went to walk in the market-place, just as the King’s head-cook was publicly driven away, because, by a badly-prepared meal, he had given the monarch a severe fit of indigestion. When Amarin learned this news he was struck with it, and thought to himself, in a land where mistakes in cooking are so much thought of, without doubt, merit in cooking is well rewarded. He immediately entered the palace kitchen, announced himself as a travelling cook, who sought employment, and promised in an hour to give the proof which might be required of his skill. The kitchen department was at Astorga justly considered among the most important, since it had the strongest influence on the prosperity or troubles of the state. For the good or bad humour of the ruler and his ministers depends, in a great measure, on the good or bad digestion of the stomach, and it is a well-known truth that this may be assisted or hindered by the chemical operations of cooking. Thus there was a very reasonable cause for going more carefully to work in choosing a head-cook than in choosing a minister. Amarin, whose appearance did not recommend him (for he had quite the air of a vagrant), had to employ all his eloquence, that is the talent of boasting, in order to be admitted into the list of aspirants to the high office. Only the boldness and confidence with which he spoke of his skill, induced the purveyor to give him, as an essay, a particular dish, the dressing of which had often wrecked the arts of the most skilful cooks. When he had to ask for ingredients for this purpose, he betrayed such perfect ignorance in the selection, that the whole company of cooks found it impossible to restrain their laughter. He did not trouble himself, however, about that, locked himself into a separate kitchen, kindled, for appearance sake, a large fire, opened out his table-napkin, and called for the desired specimen, prepared in a masterly manner. Instantly the savoury mess appeared in the usual old vase; he took it, placed it prettily in a silver dish, and gave it to be tried by the chief-taster, who took a little on his tongue with suspicion, lest he should injure the delicate organization of his palate by a spoiled dish. But, to his astonishment, he found it excellent, and acknowledged it as worthy to be placed on the King’s table. The King showed, from his indisposition, little desire to eat, but scarcely did the odour of the noble dish reach him, when his brow smoothed, and its horizon indicated fair weather. He desired to taste it, emptied one plate after another, and would have consumed the whole had not a feeling of kindness to his spouse and her daughter prompted him to send some remains of it to them. The spirits of the monarch were so invigorated and excited, and their majesties were so cheerful after dinner, that they deigned to work with the minister, and even to undertake, of their own accord, the thorny affairs of their high seat. The great spring-wheel of this so happy revolution of affairs was not forgotten; the well-skilled Amarin was invested with splendid clothes, he was led from the kitchen before the throne, and, after a long exordium on his talents, was named the King’s head-cook, with the rank of field-marshal. In a short time his fame reached its highest summit.

So resplendent a meteor in the kitchen horizon disturbed, beyond measure, the heart of the Princess. She had hitherto been able to do everything with her father, and held him in the leading-strings of her pleasure; but now she feared to lose her power and consequence through the unexpected favouritism. Since the kitchen revolution, which Amarin’s table-napkin wrought, the culinary skill of the Princess lost its fame. She had sometimes had the daring to compete with the major domo, but always to her disadvantage; for, instead of triumphing over Amarin’s dish, hers was commonly removed untouched, and became the perquisite of waiters and parasites. Her invention wearied in the preparation of costly viands; Amarin’s skill could be surpassed only by itself. In this so critical a conjuncture the Lady Urraca made a resolution to venture an attack on the heart of the new favourite, in order to draw him into her interests through love. She called him in secret to her, and, through the all-persuasive power of her charms, easily induced him to grant her what she wished. He promised her, on the approaching birthday of the King, a dish which should surpass all that had ever previously flattered the sense of taste.

The two men now played the most conspicuous part in the court of Astorga, and strutted about with unbounded pride. Although after their separation fate had again brought them so closely together, that they ate from the same dish—drank from the same goblet, and shared the favour of the lovely Urraca; they yet, according to their agreement, behaved to each other like perfect strangers, and allowed none of their previous acquaintanceship to be observed. Meanwhile neither of them could discover whither the wise Sarron had vanished. The latter had, by means of his thumbstall, preserved the strictest incognito, and enjoyed the privilege of it in a manner which was not, indeed, apparent; but, notwithstanding, assured to him the accomplishment of all his wishes. The sight of the lovely Urraca had made the same impression on him as on his companions; his wishes and intentions were the same, and as no ceremony was required for the fulfilment of them, he had, already, won a great advantage before his rivals suspected it in the least. Since their separation, the wise Sarron had hovered invisibly around his two companions, and now, as before, remained table and pocket companion of Amarin and Andiol—filled his stomach with the remains from the table of the one, and his purse from the superfluous money of the other.

His first care was to dress himself in a romantic manner, in order to carry out his plan, and to surprise the Princess in the retirement of her own chamber. He clad himself in cerulean blue satin, with a rose-coloured under-dress, like an Arcadian shepherd, who tends his flocks, in a masked ball; perfumed himself strongly, and entered, by the aid of his miraculous gift, into the room at her hour of the afternoon siesta. The sight of the reposing beauty struck him so much, that he could not refrain from an exclamation of delight and surprise, at the sound of which her slumbering attendant awoke, whose office it was to waft cool air to her lady, with a fly-fan of peacock’s feathers, and to drive away the winged insects. The Princess likewise roused herself, and asked what stranger could have been in the chamber. The lady of the bedchamber again set her fan in motion, as if she had not ceased her activity, declared that no third person was in the chamber; and added the assurance that it must be a pleasant dream which had deceived her highness. The Princess was not to be put off, and she commanded the attendant lady’s-maid to make inquiries without in the antechamber of the guards. While she left her seat to obey the command, the fan began to agitate itself, and to waft to the Princess cool zephyrs, which breathed out fragrance of flowers and ambergris. At this sight horror and fright seized the fair Urraca; she sprang from her sofa, and would have fled, but felt herself restrained by an invisible power, and heard a voice which whispered to her these words:—“Lovely mortal, fear nothing, you are under the protection of the powerful king of the fairies, named Damogorgon. Your charms have attracted me from the upper regions of the air, into the oppressive atmosphere of the earth, to do homage to your beauty.” At these words the attendant entered the chamber to give a report of her commission, but she was immediately sent away with an excuse, since her presence appeared superfluous at this secret audience.

The lovely Urraca was naturally uncommonly flattered by such a supernatural lover; she put in action all the graces of the most practised coquetry, in order to dazzle the lord of the fairies by the variegated splendour of her charms, and to assure herself of so mighty a conquest. From the modest embarrassment which she at first affected, she changed to the warmest demonstrations of growing passion. The confiding tenderness of the lovers grew with every moment: the Princess only complained that her lover was invisible. “Know, lovely Princess,” said the king of the fairies, “that it is quite in my power to corporealize myself, and to present myself before your eyes in the figure of man; but such a condescension is below my dignity!” The lovely Urraca did not, meanwhile, cease to crave this sacrifice so pressingly, that he could not withstand the desire of the lady. He agreed, apparently unwillingly,—and the fancy of the Princess presented to her the image of the handsomest man, whom she, with anxious expectation waited to behold. But what a contrast between the actual and the ideal! nothing appeared but a common everyday face—one of the ordinary men, whose physiognomy revealed neither the glance of genius, nor a feeling mind. The pretended fairy prince, in his Arcadian shepherd’s costume, had quite the appearance of a Flemish peasant in one of Ostade’s taverns. The Princess concealed her astonishment at this bizarre appearance, as well as she could, and consoled herself immediately with the idea, that the proud spirit of air had been willing to impose a little penitence on her senses, for her pertinacity in desiring him to assume a visible shape, and that, on another appearance, he would make himself as handsome as Adonis.

Perhaps he would have been happier without the gift of invisibility than with it. He followed the lady, incognito like her shadow, and could not thus fail to make discoveries not altogether pleasing to a lover. He found that the complaisant Princess granted her favours to others with equal liberality; and this fatal collision with his previous companions in arms, who were as well received as himself, created in his heart a torturing jealousy. He thought on some means of driving away his rivals, and, by chance, he found an opportunity of displaying his resentment against the blockhead Amarin. At a banquet at which the king and the whole court were feasted, there was placed on the table a covered dish, for which King Garsias reserved his excellent appetite; for although the table-napkin had produced it, it passed current under the firman of the Princess Urraca; and the head-cook loudly asserted, that the culinary skill of her highness, this time, so far surpassed his own, that, in order not to venture his reputation, he had withheld his usual contribution to the cheer. This flattery was so acceptable to the Princess, that she repaid the major domo with the most tender intelligent glance, which cut to the heart the invisible watchful Sarron. “Very good,” said he to himself, “you shall none of you taste that.” When the chief carver raised the dish, and uncovered it, the concealed dainty had disappeared, to the astonishment of all the surrounding attendants, and the dish was empty and void. Great whispering and murmurs arose among the servants; the chief carver let his knife fall in his horror, and told it to the purveyor. He ran to the chief taster and told him the bad news; and the latter did not delay to whisper it in the ear of his chief; thereupon the major domo arose from his place with a grave official air, and whispered the sad news in the Princess’s ear, who became as pale as a corpse. The King, meanwhile, awaited with great anxiety the cup-bearer, who should present him with the eagerly expected dainty. He looked first to the right, then to the left, for the plate which was to come; when, however, he perceived the confusion of the attendants, and how they all ran about in disorder, he asked what was the matter, and the Princess took heart and disclosed to him with melancholy gestures, that an accident had happened, and her dish could not be produced! At this unpleasant news the hungry monarch, as is easy to imagine, grew very angry—pushed away his chair in displeasure, and betook himself to his apartment, in which hasty withdrawal every body took care to keep out of his way. The Princess also did not remain long in the dining-hall, but betook herself to her chamber, there to break the staff over the poor Amarin.

Suddenly, she caused the confounded major domo, who had not yet recovered from his astonishment at the vanished dainty and the extreme anger of the King, to be summoned before her; and when he lay, sadly and submissively, at the feet of the scornful lady, she addressed him, emphatically, in these words: “Unthankful traitor! dost thou so little value my favours, that thou canst venture to excite against me the anger of the monarch, and expose me to the laughter of the whole court retinue? Is thy ambition so unlimited, that, for the highest favours, thou deniest me the little honour of adorning the King’s table with a simple dish? Didst thou repent thy promise to allure thither, at my wish, the most excellent dish, that thou sufferedst it to disappear at the moment I expected to receive praises and applause? Disclose to me immediately the secret of thy art, or expect the recompense of magic at the stake, where to-morrow thou shalt roast at a slow fire!” This firm decision harrowed so much the timorous simpleton, that he saw no way of escaping but by an open revelation of the nature of his culinary art. Since now his prating tongue was in motion, and he besides wished to remove the suspicion of the enraged lady that he had enviously caused the ragoût to disappear, he neither concealed the adventure in the Pyrenees, nor the gifts of Mother Druid. Through this true tale the Princess suddenly arrived at the long-desired knowledge of her three favourites, and immediately resolved to possess herself of their magic secrets.

As soon as the unguarded prattler ceased, and according to his idea had justified himself she spoke, and said, with a contemptuous mien. “Miserable fool! dost thou hope to save thyself, and to deceive me with such a lame falsehood? Let me see the wonder of thy table-napkin, or fear my revenge!” Amarin was as willing as constrained to obey this command. He drew forth his table-napkin, spread it out, and asked what he should serve up. She desired a ripe nutmeg, in the husk. Amarin commanded the obedient spirit of the napkin; the vase appeared; and the ripe nutmeg in its husk appeared on a green twig, which Amarin, to Urraca’s astonishment, offered respectfully to her, on his knees. But, instead of accepting it, she seized upon the magic table-napkin, and threw it into an open box, which she immediately locked. Fainting, the betrayed major domo sank to the earth, when he saw before his eyes the loss of all his temporary happiness; the cunning robber, however, gave a loud scream; and when her domestics entered, she said. “This man is afflicted with epilepsy; take care of him; but let him never again approach me, that he may not cause me a second fright.” Stupidly enough, the clever Sarron, with all his cunning, had this time kept a bad look out, in thinking to piny his companion a roguish trick. In the pleasure of mischief, he greedily gobbled up the pilfered dainty; and, thus occupied, he did not think, on this occasion, of accompanying the Queen into her chamber. She had, however, on the previous day, invited him to an entertainment in the evening, where he did not delay to present himself. The Queen was in an unusually good humour, and as tender and caressing as a Grace; so that friend Damogorgon was in a complete paroxysm of joy. In this rapture, the cunning deceiver offered him a goblet of nectar, which she first sipped, and the flavour of which soon wafted to him sweet slumbers; for a powerful opiate lay concealed therein. As soon as he began to snore aloud, the most crafty of thieves possessed herself of the thumbstall of invisibility, and caused the monarch of air to be carried forth by her servants, and laid in the open street, in a corner of the town, where he snored out the narcotic draught on the pavement. No sleep came to the eyes of the false Princess, for joy; her thoughts and invention were now only directed to obtaining also the third magic treasure.

Scarcely did the first morning-beam gild the roofs of the King’s palace at Astorga, when the restless lady rang for her Abigails and said, “Send a messenger to Childeric, that he may accompany me to mass, and repay this favour with a rich offering for the poor.

The pampered favourite of fortune and of the lovely Urraca yet lay stretched on his broad couch, yawned aloud when he received the honourable message, but caused himself to be dressed by his half-asleep attendants, and repaired to the court, where the High Chamberlain looked askance at him that he should again enjoy the honour of exercising his function on his behalf. With splendid pomp went the procession this time to the Cathedral, where the Archbishop, with his staff of Clergy, held a solemn festival. The people had already assembled in great numbers to stare at the noble cavalcade. The lovely Urraca, and yet more the rich train of her dress which was supported by six attendants, excited general astonishment. A crowd of unfortunate beggars, lame, blind, and halt, on crutches and stilts, surrounded the splendid Cathedral, impeded the way and supplicated alms, which Andiol distributed largely to the right and left. A blind old man distinguished himself by the activity with which he pushed himself forward, and by the anxious supplications with which he entreated benevolence before all the rest; he would not quit the side of the Princess, but held up his hat constantly, and begged for a trifle. Andiol from time to time threw him a gold-piece, but before the blind man found it, a thievish neighbour stole it from him, and he resumed his entreaty. The Princess appeared to compassionate this unhappy old man; she suddenly took the purse from her companion, and gave it into the hand of the blind beggar: “Take,” said she, “good old man, the blessing which a noble knight bestows on thee, through me, and pray for the health of his soul.”

Andiol was horrified to such a degree at this exercise of liberality at his expense, that he was quite confounded, and made a movement with his hand as if to recover the purse, at which apparent avarice the attentive suite broke forth into loud laughter. At this his emotion was only greater; yet he was so fearful of injuring his reputation, that he went with the Princess on his arm into the Cathedral, and concealed his deep grief as well as he could till the mass was sung. Afterwards he inquired industriously after the beggar, and promised great rewards for an old coin, which, according to his representation, was a rare cabinet-piece. But no one could tell him whither the beggar had disappeared; as soon as the purse was in his hands, he vanished, and was no more seen. The seeing blind man in fact could have been found only in the antechamber of the Princess Urraca, where he awaited her return; for he was her court buffoon, whom she had disguised as a blind beggar in order to obtain possession of the hatching penny, which to her great joy she found in the purse, which her agent faithfully made over to her.

The most crafty of women now found herself, through her arts, in possession of all the magic gifts of the three esquires, who bemoaned and wept their loss inconsolably, and despairingly tore their hair and beards; she, however, proudly triumphed at the success of her cunning, and troubled herself no farther about the three unlucky wretches.

The first thing which she undertook, was to try whether the miraculous gifts would exercise their powers in the hand of a new possessor. Her trial succeeded to her wish; the table-napkin yielded its dish at her command, the copper penny produced ducats, and under the veil of the thumbstall she went unseen past the watch in the antechamber, into the apartments of her ladies.

With a joyously-beating heart she made projects for the most dazzling scenes, which she hoped to execute, and her darling wish was to change herself into a lovely fairy. She had the ingenuity to discover a new theory as to these puzzling ladies, even the accurate knowledge of whom is concealed from the beings of this world. What is a fairy, thought she, but the possessor of one or more magic secrets through which are wrought the wonders which appear to elevate them above the lot of mortals? And can I not, by the aid of this concealed power, qualify myself for one of the first of fairies? Her sole remaining wish was to possess a car drawn by dragons, or a team of butterflies, since the way through the air appeared yet closed to her. Still she flattered herself that this privilege would not be denied to her when she should be received into the community of fairies; she hoped easily to find an agreeable sister who would exchange with her such an airy equipage for one of her miraculous gifts. All night long she amused herself with agreeable castles in the air, to surprise handsome youths, to tease them invisibly, to drive them out of their wits, to plague them with the torments of love, and then to elude their grasp, &c. &c. Yet the new fairy felt a substantial want ere she could venture to go forth with a proper air on her adventures; she wanted first a well-furnished fairy wardrobe. With the earliest morning which followed a watchful night, in which her lively imagination had arranged the whole stock of fairy ornaments, from the flag-feather to the heel of the lowly shoe, the assembled company of tailors in Astorga was summoned, as if the first masquerade was to be opened, or as if the most capricious theatrical princesses were to be waited on for an Opera Seria. Yet before these preparations were completed, an event took place which astonished the whole kingdom of the Asturias, and especially the lovely Urraca.

The long exertions of her mind had one night at length sent the idealized Princess to sleep, when she was suddenly awakened by a martial voice, and an officer of the watch commanded her to follow him without delay. The terrified lady fell from the clouds, knew not what to say or think, but began to expostulate with the warrior, who, putting aside his present function, was indeed very good-looking, for which reason also, in bygone times, the honour of being visited by the fairies was attributed to him. After a strong appeal made in vain, the Princess perceived that she was the weaker, and must obey. “The King’s will is a command for me,” said she; “I follow you.” As she said this, she went to her box, in order, as she pretended, to fling over her a cloak as a protection against the night air, but in truth to perform the trick of the thumbstall, and to disappear suddenly. But the captain had strict orders, and was rude enough to refuse this little compliance to the lovely prisoner. Neither prayers nor tears had any effect on the hard-hearted soldier; he seized her in his muscular arms, and carried her nimbly out of the chamber, of which justice immediately took possession, and caused it to be bolted up. Below, at the outer gate, stood a sedan borne by two mules, in which the weeping lady, in the most careless négligé, must needs take her seat; and now their route went by torchlight, silently and sadly, like a midnight funeral, through the solitary streets and out at the gate, to a distance of twelve miles, to a sequestered convent well walled round, where the tearful prisoner was locked up in a frightful cell, forty fathoms below the earth.

King Garsias had, since the disagreeable feast-day, on which his food had disappeared from the dish, been so ill-humoured, that nothing could be done with him. One half of his ministers and attendants had incurred his displeasure, and the other half, fearing the same fate, sought most industriously to drive away this splenetic paroxysm. For this purpose, many expedients were proposed; among the rest a hunting-party, which had the preference, as a means of diversion. It did not effect, however, what was hoped from it. The King could not get over the disappearance of the chef d’œuvre of cookery, and hinted intelligibly his opinion that this vanishing had not happened in a lawful manner; nay, he even, contrary to his usual confidence, expressed a suspicion of the bad sin of magic against the Princess. Other suspicious circumstances, also, came to light, and as Urraca had at court a large party of enemies, they no sooner perceived in what point of view the King now appeared to view her, than the spirit of cabal delayed not to employ this opportunity for the destruction of her good name.

A court-commission was now unceasingly employed in hunting through the effects of this unhappy Princess, in order to discover proofs of magic—perhaps a talisman, with magic characters, or even a contract with the wicked enemy, or a copy of such a contract. All her jewels, and other valuables, as well as all the fairy preparations, were faithfully noted down; but notwithstanding all the trouble employed, weak-minded justice could discover nothing which appeared to have any connexion with enchantment. The actual “corpus delicti,” the booty of Roland’s companions had so insignificant and unsuspicious an appearance, that they did not even deign to catalogue these magic treasures. The valuable napkin only served the unconscious secretary of justice as a cloth with which to wipe up the black stream from an overthrown inkstand; the miraculous thumb stall,—the noble vehicle of invisibility,—and the rich-making copper penny, were thrown aside as useless rubbish. What became of the fair Urraca, in the dismal cloister in which she was immured, if she was sentenced to a life-long penitence, or has ever again seen the light of day, as well as if the three magic secrets were destroyed by mould, rust, and decay, or were snatched by some fortunate hand from the rubbish and heaps of sweepings to which all the goods of the earth fall for preservation, on this subject the old legend preserves a profound silence. Fate ought properly to have caused the fruitful napkin, or the augmenting penny to fall into the hands of a starving virtuous man, languishing with a ravenous family on the profits of his hard labour, and having only tears when the young ravens cried for bread. And the gift of invisibility might well have been the portion of a pining grieving lover, whose maiden a father’s tyranny, or a mother’s despotism, had shut up in some strong castle, that he might deliver his beloved from her strait confinement, and unite himself inseparably with her. But such things, in the common course of this lower world, are not always to be expected.

After the loss of all the gifts of the generous Mother Druid, the plundered owners quietly departed from Astorga. Amarin, who, without his table-napkin, could not properly fill the office of head master of the kitchen, was the first to depart; Andiol followed him on foot. Since the great facility of acquiring his money had taught him the usual aversion to work of rich gluttons, he was too lazy to turn his penny in proportion to his expenses, but lived on credit, and was accustomed only to fill his coffers when the weather was bad, or when he had no party of pleasure. Now he was without the means of satisfying his creditors. He, however, changed his dress without delay, and disappeared from their sight. As soon as Sarron awoke from his death-like sleep, and perceived that he had ceased to play the Fairy King, he crept home despondingly, collected his old equipments, and took immediately the first straight road to the gate.

Chance so contrived it, that all Roland’s squires again met in the high-road to Castile. Instead of annoying each other with useless reproaches, which could now in no wise better their condition, they bore their lot with resignation. Its similarity, and the unexpected meeting, immediately revived the old bond of companionship; and the wise Sarron made the remark, that the lot of friendship falls only to the golden mean, and is with difficulty united with great talents, or fortune.

Hereupon the three comrades unanimously agreed to go forth on their way, to return again to a course of honourable duty, in following their first profession under Castilian colours, and to avenge the death of Roland on the Saracens. They soon found themselves at the goal of their desires, their swords drank the Saracen’s blood in the tumult of the battle-field. They led a long and honourable life of warfare, and, at last, crowned with the palms of victory, they died together the death of heroes.