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Chapter 26


CHAPTER XXVI.
OGIER, THE DANE, CONTINUED.

WHEN Charlemagne had somewhat recovered his composure, he was
surprised to observe that Ogier appeared in good case, and had a
healthy color in his cheeks. He turned to the Archbishop, who could
not help blushing as he met his eye. "By the head of Bertha, my
queen," said Charlemagne, "Ogier has had good quarters in your castle,
my Lord Archbishop; but so much the more am I indebted to you." All
the barons laughed, and jested with Turpin, who only said, "Laugh as
much as you please, my lords; but for my part I am not sorry to see
the arm in full vigor that is to avenge us on the proud Saracen."
Charlemagne immediately despatched his herald, accepting the
challenge, and appointing the next day but one for the encounter.
The proud and crafty Bruhier laughed scornfully when he heard the
reply accepting his challenge, for he had a reliance on certain
resources besides his natural strength and skill. However, he swore by
Mahomet to observe the conditions as proposed and agreed upon.
Ogier now demanded his armor, and it was brought to him in excellent
condition, for the good Turpin had kept it faithfully; but it was
not easy to provide a horse for the occasion. Charlemagne had the best
horses of his stables brought out, except Blanchard, his own
charger; but all in vain, the weight of Ogier bent their backs to
the ground. In this embarrassment the Archbishop remembered that the
Emperor had given Beiffror to the Abbot of St. Faron, and sent off a
courier in haste to re-demand him.
Monks are hard masters, and the one who directed the laborers at the
abbey had but too faithfully obeyed the orders of the Abbot. Poor
Beiffror was brought back lean, spiritless, and chafed with the
harness of the vile cart that he had had to draw so long. He carried
his head down, and trod heavily before Charlemagne; but when he
heard the voice of Ogier he raised his head, he neighed, his eyes
flashed, his former ardor showed itself by the force with which he
pawed the ground. Ogier caressed him, and the good steed seemed to
return his caresses; Ogier mounted him, and Beiffror, proud of
carrying his master again, leapt and curvetted with all his youthful
vigor.
Nothing being now wanted, Charlemagne, at the head of his army,
marched forth from the city of Paris, and occupied the hill of
Montmartre, whence the view extended over the plain of St. Denis,
where the battle was to be fought.
When the appointed day came, the Dukes Namo and Salomon, as
seconds of Ogier, accompanied him to the place marked out for the
lists, and Bruhier, with two distinguished Emirs, presented himself on
the other side.
Bruhier was in high spirits, and jested with his friends, as he
advanced, upon the appearance of Beiffror. "Is that the horse they
presume to match with Marchevallee, the best steed that ever fed in
the vales of Mount Atlas?" But now the combatants, having met and
saluted each other, ride apart, to come together in full career.
Beiffror flew over the plain, and met the adversary more than halfway.
The lances of the two combatants were shivered at the shock, and
Bruhier was astonished to see almost at the same instant the sword
of Ogier gleaming above his head. He parried it with his buckler,
and gave Ogier a blow on his helmet, who returned it with another,
better aimed or better seconded by the temper of his blade, for it cut
away part of Bruhier's helmet, and with it his ear and part of his
cheek. Ogier, seeing the blood, did not immediately repeat his blow,
and Bruhier seized the moment to gallop off on one side. As he rode he
took a vase of gold which hung at the saddle-bow, and bathed with
its contents the wounded part. The blood instantly ceased to flow, the
ear and the flesh were restored quite whole, and the Dane was
astonished to see his antagonist return to the ground as sound as
ever.
Bruhier laughed at his amazement. "Know," said he, "that I possess
the precious balm that Joseph of Arimathea used upon the body of the
Crucified One, Whom you worship. If I should lose an arm, I could
restore it with a few drops of this. It is useless for you to
contend with me. Yield yourself, and, as you appear to be a strong
fellow, I will make you first oarsman in one of my galleys."
Ogier, though boiling with rage, forgot not to implore the
assistance of Heaven. "O Lord," he exclaimed, "suffer not the enemy of
Thy name to profit by the powerful help of that which owes all its
virtue to Thy divine blood." At these words he attacked Bruhier
again with more vigor than ever; both struck terrible blows, and
made grievous wounds; but the blood flowed from those of Ogier,
while Bruhier stanched his by the application of his balm. Ogier,
desperate at the unequal contest, grasped Cortana with both hands, and
struck his enemy such a blow that it cleft his buckler, and cut off
his arm with it; but Bruhier at the same time launched one at Ogier,
which, missing him, struck the head of Beiffror, and the good horse
fell, and drew down his master in his fall.
Bruhier had time to leap to the ground, to pick up his arm and apply
his balsam; then, before Ogier had recovered his footing, he rushed
forward with sword uplifted to complete his destruction.
Charlemagne, from the height of Montmartre, seeing the brave Ogier
in this situation, groaned, and was ready to murmur against
Providence; but the good Turpin, raising his arms, with a faith like
that of Moses, drew down upon the Christian warrior the favor of
Heaven.
Ogier, promptly disengaging himself, pressed Bruhier with so much
impetuosity that he drove him to a distance from his horse, to whose
saddle-bow the precious balm was suspended; and very soon
Charlemagne saw Ogier, now completely in the advantage, bring his
enemy to his knees, tear off his helmet, and, with a sweep of his
sword, strike his head from his body.
After the victory, Ogier seized Marchevallee, leaped upon his
back, and became possessed of the precious flask, a few drops from
which closed his wounds and restored his strength. The French
knights who had been Bruhier's captives, now released, pressed round
Ogier to thank him for their deliverance.
Charlemagne and his nobles, as soon as their attention was
relieved from the single combat, perceived from their elevated
position an unusual agitation in the enemy's camp. They attributed
it at first to the death of their general, but soon the noise of arms,
the cries of combatants, and new standards which advanced, disclosed
to them the fact that Bruhier's army was attacked by a new enemy.
The Emperor was right; it was the brave Carahue of Mauritania,
who, with an army, had arrived in France, resolved to attempt the
liberation of Ogier, his brother in arms. Learning on his arrival
the changed aspect of affairs, he hesitated not to render a signal
service to the Emperor, by attacking the army of Bruhier in the
midst of the consternation occasioned by the loss of its commander.
Ogier recognized the standard of his friend, and, leaping upon
Marchevallee, flew to aid his attack. Charlemagne followed with his
army; and the Saracen host, after an obstinate conflict, was forced to
surrender unconditionally.
The interview of Ogier and Carahue was such as might be
anticipated of two such attached friends and accomplished knights.
Charlemagne went to meet them, embraced them, and putting the King
of Mauritania on his right and Ogier on his left, returned in
triumph to Paris. There the Empress Bertha and the ladies of her court
crowned them with laurels, and the sage and gallant Eginhard,
chamberlain and secretary of the Emperor, wrote all these great events
in his history.
A few days after, Guyon, King of Denmark, arrived in France with a
chosen band of knights, and sent an ambassador to Charlemagne, to
say that he came, not as an enemy, but to render homage to him as
the best knight of the time and the head of the Christian world.
Charlemagne gave the ambassador a cordial reception, and, mounting his
horse, rode forward to meet the King of Denmark.
These great princes, being assembled at the court of Charles, held
council together, and the ancient and sage barons were called to
join it.
It was decided that the united Danish and Mauritanian armies
should cross the sea and carry the war to the country of the Saracens,
and that a thousand French knights should range themselves under the
banner of Ogier, the Dane, who, though not a king, should have equal
rank with the two others.
We have not space to record all the illustrious actions performed by
Ogier and his allies in this war. Suffice it to say, they subdued
the Saracens of Ptolemais and Judaea, and, erecting those regions into
a kingdom, placed the crown upon the head of Ogier. Guyon and
Carahue then left him, to return to their respective dominions.
Ogier adopted Walter, the son of Guyon of Denmark, to be his successor
in his kingdom. He superintended his education, and saw the young
prince grow up worthy of his cares. But Ogier, in spite of all the
honors of his rank, often regretted the court of Charlemagne, the Duke
of Namo, and Salomon of Brittany, for whom he had the respect and
attachment of a son. At last, finding Walter old enough to sustain the
weight of government, Ogier caused a vessel to be prepared secretly,
and, attended only by one squire, left his palace by night, and
embarked to return to France.
The vessel, driven by a fair wind, cut the sea with the swiftness of
a bird; but on a sudden it deviated from its course, no longer
obeyed the helm, and sped fast towards a black promontory which
stretched into the sea. This was a mountain of loadstone, and, its
attractive power increasing as the distance diminished, the vessel
at last flew with the swiftness of an arrow towards it, and was dashed
to pieces on its rocky base. Ogier alone saved himself, and reached
the shore on a fragment of the wreck.
Ogier advanced into the country, looking for some marks of
inhabitancy, but found none. On a sudden he encountered two
monstrous animals, covered with glittering scales, accompanied by a
horse breathing fire. Ogier drew his sword and prepared to defend
himself; but the monsters, terrific as they appeared, made no
attempt to assail him, and the horse, Papillon, knelt down, and
appeared to court Ogier to mount upon his back. Ogier hesitated not to
see the adventure through; he mounted Papillon, who ran with speed,
and soon cleared the rocks and precipices which hemmed in and
concealed a beautiful landscape. He continued his course till he
reached a magnificent palace, and, without allowing Ogier time to
admire it, crossed a grand court-yard adorned with colonnades, and
entered a garden, where, making his way through alleys of myrtle, he
checked his course, and knelt down on the enamelled turf of a
fountain.
Ogier dismounted and took some steps along the margin of the stream,
but was soon stopped by meeting a young beauty, such as they paint the
Graces, and almost as lightly attired as they. At the same moment,
to his amazement, his armor fell off of its own accord. The young
beauty advanced with a tender air, and placed upon his head a crown of
flowers. At that instant the Danish hero lost his memory; his combats,
his glory, Charlemagne and his court, all vanished from his mind; he
saw only Morgana, he desired nothing but to sigh forever at her feet.
We abridge the narrative of all the delights which Ogier enjoyed for
more than a hundred years. Time flew by, leaving no impression of
its flight. Morgana's youthful charms did not decay, and Ogier had
none of those warnings of increasing years which less-favored
mortals never fail to receive. There is no knowing how long this
blissful state might have lasted, if it had not been for an
accident, by which Morgana one day, in a sportive moment, snatched the
crown from his head. That moment Ogier regained his memory, and lost
his contentment. The recollection of Charlemagne, and of his own
relatives and friends, saddened the hours which he passed with
Morgana. The fairy saw with grief the changed looks of her lover. At
last she drew from him the acknowledgment that he wished to go, at
least for a time, to revisit Charles's court. She consented with
reluctance, and with her own hands helped to reinvest him with his
armor. Papillon was led forth, Ogier mounted him, and, taking a tender
adieu of the tearful Morgana, crossed at rapid speed the rocky belt
which separated Morgana's palace from the borders of the sea.
The sea-goblins which had received him at his coming awaited him
on the shore. One of them took Ogier on his back, and the other
placing himself under Papillon, they spread their broad fins, and in a
short time traversed the wide space that separates the isle of
Avalon from France. They landed Ogier on the coast of Languedoc, and
then plunged into the sea and disappeared.
Ogier remounted on Papillon, who carried him across the kingdom
almost as fast as he had passed the sea. He arrived under the walls of
Paris, which he would scarcely have recognized if the high towers of
St. Genevieve had not caught his eye. He went straight to the palace
of Charlemagne, which seemed to him to have been entirely rebuilt. His
surprise was extreme, and increased still more on finding that he
understood with difficulty the language of the guards and attendants
in replying to his questions; and seeing them smile as they tried to
explain to one another the language in which he addressed them.
Presently the attention of some of the barons who were going to
court was attracted to the scene, and Ogier, who recognized the badges
of their rank, addressed them, and inquired if the Dukes Namo and
Salomon were still residing at the Emperor's court. At this question
the barons looked at one another in amazement; and one of the eldest
said to the rest, "How much this knight resembles the portrait of my
grand-uncle, Ogier the Dane." "Ah! my dear nephew, I am Ogier the
Dane," said he; and he remembered that Morgana had told him that he
was little aware of the flight of time during his abode with her.
The barons, more astonished than ever, concluded to conduct him to
the monarch who then reigned, the great Hugh Capet.
The brave Ogier entered the palace without hesitation; but when,
on reaching the royal hall, the barons directed him to make his
obeisance to the King of France, he was astonished to see a man of
short stature and large head, whose air, nevertheless, was noble and
martial, seated upon the throne on which he had so often seen
Charlemagne, the tallest and handsomest sovereign of his time.
Ogier recounted his adventures with simplicity and unaffectedness.
Hugh Capet was slow to believe him; but Ogier recalled so many
proofs and circumstances, that at last he was forced to recognize
the aged warrior to be the famous Ogier the Dane.
The king informed Ogier of the events which had taken place during
his long absence; that the line of Charlemagne was extinct; that a new
dynasty had commenced; that the old enemies of the kingdom, the
Saracens, were still troublesome; and that at that very time an army
of those miscreants was besieging the city of Chartres, to which he
was about to repair in a few days to its relief. Ogier, always
inflamed with the love of glory, offered the service of his arm, which
the illustrious monarch accepted graciously, and conducted him to
the queen. The astonishment of Ogier was redoubled when he saw the new
ornaments and head-dresses of the ladies; still, the beautiful hair
which they built up on their foreheads, and the feathers interwoven,
which waved with so much grace, gave them a noble air that delighted
him. His admiration increased when, instead of the old Empress Bertha,
he saw a young queen who combined a majestic mien with the graces of
her time of life, and manners candid and charming, suited to attach
all hearts. Ogier saluted the youthful queen with a respect so
profound that many of the courtiers took him for a foreigner, or at
least for some nobleman brought up at a distance from Paris, who
retained the manners of what they called the old court.
When the queen was informed by her husband that it was the
celebrated Ogier the Dane whom he presented to her, whose memorable
exploits she had often read in the chronicles of antiquity, her
surprise was extreme, which was increased when she remarked the
dignity of his address, the animation and even the youthfulness of his
countenance. This queen had too much intelligence to believe
hastily; proof alone could compel her assent; and she asked him many
questions about the old court of Charlemagne, and received such
instructive and appropriate answers as removed every doubt. It is to
the corrections which Ogier was at that time enabled to make to the
popular narratives of his exploits, that we are indebted for the
perfect accuracy and trustworthiness of all the details of our own
history.
King Hugh Capet, having received that same evening couriers from the
inhabitants of Chartres, informing him that they were hard pressed
by the besiegers, resolved to hasten with Ogier to their relief.
Ogier terminated this affair as expeditiously as he had so often
done others. The Saracens having dared to offer battle, he bore the
Oriflamme through the thickest of their ranks; Papillon, breathing
fire from his nostrils, threw them into disorder, and Cortana, wielded
by his invincible arm, soon finished their overthrow.
The king, victorious over the Saracens, led back the Danish hero
to Paris, where the deliverer of France received the honors due to his
valor. Ogier continued some time at the court, detained by the favor
of the king and queen; but erelong he had the pain to witness the
death of the king. Then it was that, impressed with all the
perfections which he had discerned in the queen, he could not withhold
the tender homage of the offer of his hand. The queen would perhaps
have accepted it, she had even called a meeting of her great barons to
deliberate on the proposition, when, the day before the meeting was to
be held, at the moment when Ogier was kneeling at her feet, she
perceived a crown of gold which an invisible hand had placed on his
brow, and in an instant a cloud enveloped Ogier, and he disappeared
forever from her sight. It was Morgana, the fairy, whose jealousy
was awakened at what she beheld, who now resumed her power, and took
him away to dwell with her in the island of Avalon. There, in
company with the great King Arthur of Britain, he still lives, and
when his illustrious friend shall return to resume his ancient
reign, he will doubtless return with him, and share his triumph.


THE END

Thomas Bulfinch

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