Old-Fashioned Fairy Book, The


(From one of Marie's Lays.)

ELIDUC was a knight of Brittany who, through the cabals of enemies, fell under the displeasure of the king and was banished from his dominions. Sir Eliduc did not wish to forsake his country, still less did he wish to part with the fair Lady Guildeluec, to whom he was solemnly betrothed. But the king's order was law; and, taking a fond leave of his promised wife, while vowing ever to be faithful, Sir Eliduc called to him ten of the bravest of his followers, and set sail for the English coast. They had a short voyage with fair winds, landing at Totness, in Devonshire,[309] and proceeded at once to Exeter. The King of Exeter was at that time plunged into a most distressful war with a neighboring province, to whose prince he had refused to marry his only daughter and heiress. Sir Eliduc offered his services to the king, which were gladly accepted. After a few days a battle was fought, in which Eliduc's knowledge of the art of war and his bravery, as well as that of his ten followers, helped to decide the fortunes of the King of Exeter, who had the satisfaction of seeing the foe put to flight. As a reward for his aid, the king made Eliduc the supreme commander of all his armies. Eliduc was the idol of the people, and soon the fair Princess Guilliadun fell in love with him, confiding to the king, her father, that she would have no other husband than this valiant stranger. The king thought he could do no better than secure such a noble successor to his throne, and sent his chamberlain to inform Eliduc of the honor in store for him. Eliduc was now in a sad plight. He thought of his absent Guildeluec, who was no doubt, even then, waiting and weeping for his return, and his heart grew heavy within him. On the other hand, the Princess Guilliadun was by far the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, and her love[310] for him was strong. To refuse her offered hand would bring down on him the fierce wrath of a great king, to whom no man said nay.

While Sir Eliduc was in this dilemma, a message came to him from his former master, the Breton king, ordering his immediate return to protect their country from invasion. All Sir Eliduc's love for his own land stirred within him. To defend her borders he was ready to sacrifice his present rank and wealth, and be a simple knight again. The image of his promised wife arose clear and bright before him, and he forgot the lovely Guilliadun, who, for a time, had so dazzled his imagination with her charms.

Laying down his sword before the sovereign, he resigned command of the Exeter troops, and, in spite of the king's rich offers and temptations, hurried to take ship for France. Among his attendants was a youth muffled in a long mantle, who, when they were fairly out at sea, revealed to the knight's astonished gaze the face and form of the wilful Guilliadun.

She had thus disguised herself to follow him, and now vowed that unless he took her to be his wife, she would die by her own fair hand. There was no time for discussion, for, at that moment, arose a mighty[311] tempest which threatened to engulf the ship. In vain were the efforts of the sailors to manage the vessel, and all prepared for immediate death, as wind and waves beat furiously upon them. Suddenly, one of the sailors spoke up for the rest, and, in the hearing of Guilliadun, warned Sir Eliduc that Heaven was angry with him for carrying off the princess in disguise, when he was already promised in marriage to another woman. Guilliadun hearing these words, fell lifeless to the deck. She appeared so like a dead person that the crew offered to throw her overboard, but Eliduc, seizing an oar, struck down the sailor who had spoken, and, himself grasping the helm, drove the ship through foam and boiling waves safely to port. In a few hours he might hope to reach the court of his king; but what, meantime, should he do with the body of the unfortunate princess? In this emergency, he remembered that in a forest near by had once lived an aged hermit, in whose cell he might possibly leave the corpse of the princess, until he should be able to dispose of it in a style suited to her rank. He mounted his palfrey, took the body in his arms, rode to the hermit's retreat, and, gaining entrance to a little chapel, laid on a slab in the centre of it the unhappy Guilliadun.[312] She was beautiful as ever, and looked like a waxen image. The knight, kneeling beside her, shed many bitter tears, and then, springing to his saddle, galloped off to place himself at the service of his king.

He found the affairs of his country in a bad way, but the mere mention of his name sufficed to inspire the Breton soldiers with new courage. Marching at the head of the king's troops, he led them to battle, and in a short time had put the foe to confusion and rout. Covered with glory, Eliduc rode back to receive the king's congratulations and thanks. There, among the ladies attending the queen, was his faithful Guildeluec; but when she came forward with open arms to greet him, a thought of the Lady Guilliadun, who had died for love of him, shot into his heart like an arrow. Guildeluec quickly saw that something was amiss; but, hiding the anguish she felt, she resolved to keep close watch upon her lover, and, if possible, discover the cause of his coldness.

For some days the court was given up to gaiety and festivals of all kinds. Guildeluec noticed that every day her knight would steal away to the forest and remain there for some hours, returning to the palace more melancholy than before. She set a little page to[313] follow Eliduc, and the boy traced his master to a retreat all overgrown with trees, where the knight entered and was lost to sight.

Dismissing the boy with a piece of gold, the lady resolved herself to unravel the mystery. Wrapped in a long veil, she stole along the green alleys of the wood, and soon reached the little hermitage. Lifting up a curtain of closely woven vines which drooped before it, she entered the chapel door. There, on a bier richly hung with velvet, lay a young and lovely maiden, apparently dead, save that her cheeks bloomed like a new-blown rose. Guildeluec gazed for a while upon this sad sight, when a noise of approaching footsteps startled her, and she hid behind a tomb. The new-comer was none other than the brave knight Eliduc, who, casting himself on the ground beside the bier, gave way to bitter grief, calling the saints above to witness that he had been true to his pledge to Guildeluec, even to hastening to an untimely end the fair maiden before him. Guildeluec heard all, and understood what had taken his love from her. Just then a weasel, running from behind the altar, passed near the bier, which angered the knight, who, at one blow, struck the little animal dead upon the ground. When[314] Eliduc had gone, the watching lady saw another weasel run up to his slaughtered companion, attempt to play with her, and on finding her without life, go away with every appearance of grief. Directly the weasel came back again, carrying a beautiful red flower from the wood, which was carefully inserted in the mouth of his companion. The effect was magical. Instantly, the dead weasel sprang up, dropped the flower, and scampered off with her happy little comrade.

Guildeluec stooped to pick up the fallen blossom. For a moment she hesitated, for her love for the knight was very great. Then she bent forward, and laid the stem of the flower between the rosy lips of the entranced Guilliadun. Immediately there were signs of life. The girl stirred, a blush came into her cheeks, and her lips parted. When her eyes opened, Guildeluec sighed and said, "Truly, never was there seen so fair a creature."

Guildeluec soon explained to the awakened princess where she was, and received her fervent thanks for delivery from so strange a spell. With many tears, Guilliadun confessed to her unknown friend her love for the knight Eliduc, and the way she had followed him from her father's court. Guildeluec heard her[315] [316]tale in silence, and when it was at an end, led her away from the hermitage to the palace, where the queen took the princess under her charge, and in the evening presented her with much pomp to the members of her court. When Eliduc saw Guilliadun alive and well, richly clad and lovelier than before, his heart rejoiced, but he turned away from her. Then came forward Guildeluec, who, with the queen's permission, released him from his pledge to her, and gave him back his ring, saying she had determined to retire to a convent and devote her days to holy works.

Guildeluec Reviving Guilliadun.

The queen then placed Guilliadun's hand in that of Eliduc. They were married with great rejoicings; but when the blessing was said over them by the priest, the knight fancied he heard a sigh breathed close in his ear. He looked around; there was no one in sight, save the group of nuns behind a grating, whose voices rose pure and clear in the strains of the bridal hymn.


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