Sir Tristram's Axe, An Allegorical Fairy Tale

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Sir Tristram's Axe, An Allegorical Fairy Tale

Part I The Transformation
Part II – The Black Cat
Part III – The Serpent
Part IV – The Dove
Part V – The Restoration
Part VI – The Faithful Knight
Part VII – The Conqueror
 

"Look well to thy herds, for riches are not for ever."
                                                   Prov. xxvii. 23, 24.


SIMON HARDHEART, the farmer, was an eminently practical man, – square-headed, his neighbours called him; and indeed, when he placed his stiff wide-awake on his iron-grey hair, he did it in such a resolute way, and wore it in such a determined manner, that a certain rugged squareness seemed his chief characteristic. A black tie, a black hat, and a black coat were Simon's ideas of dress. "Colours!" he used to say, "What's the good of colours? Makes things look pretty, does it? A man can't live on beauty."

On this point Simon and his little daughter were always at variance. His daughter put ribbons on the kittens. Simon objected. "Cats," said he, "should catch mice," and the ribbons hindered them. "But," said his little daughter, "they might be enchanted princes!" "Stuff and nonsense," said Simon.

In winter, when the snow was on the ground, and his little daughter went out to feed the birds, Simon's anger knew no bounds. "What's the good of feeding the birds?" said he. "Birds can't work; and 'he that will not work neither shall he eat;' that's my motto." "But father," said little Ida, "the birds do work: they sing beautiful songs to cheer us." "Nasty, thievish things," said the farmer, "they steal my grain." "But they catch slugs and worms," said Ida, "and 'the labourer is worthy of his hire.' Mamma taught me that before she died." "So you are going to teach me, are you?" said the farmer. "Never let me catch you feeding the birds again." "No, father dear," said Ida. "I cannot teach you: the fairies must do that." "Fairies," laughed the farmer, "there are none; and, even if there were, I defy them to teach me. Lazy things, that dance and do no work!"

Now fairies heard the challenge, and all his hard and cruel speeches, and determined to punish him; but, because it was Christmas, and a season of peace and goodwill, they resolved not to do it at that time. However the fairy queen called to her the spirit of a knight, by name Sir Tristram, who was once an ornament of Arthur's court, and told him to be ready in the summer, if the farmer's heart were not softened, to punish him severely. And Sir Tristram raised his shining axe, and swore in this, as in all other matters, he would obey her.

Now all winter God poured upon the farmer many blessings. His home was bright and cheerful, his little daughter loving, and he was free from sickness and trouble. Yet for all this he was still unthankful, and, though he knew it not, was being fast bound by the chains of the ogre "Self."

Spring came and went with its abounding life, and summer came with its verdure, when the trees were richly clothed in their soft, green garments, and the birds flew swiftly through the bouyant air. Then little Ida put a hammock in the garden, where she could lie and watch the waggons climbing up the hill, and the smoke curling from the chimney of the cottage which nestled underneath the rainbow. For the rainbow was always there, and it was made by the shining of the fairies' wings on the tears Ida shed for her father.

Now Ida had a favourite hen, which used to bring its chickens, as she lay swinging in her hammock, that they might watch her as they fed; and she put a table under the tree, and scattered them the crumbs from her loaf. But it happened one day that the farmer determined to kill the hen, for he said it scratched up the soil of his garden. And Ida wept and would not be consoled, for her heart was very pitiful. Then the queen of the fairies was angry, and said to Sir Tristram: "Now, go and punish this obdurate farmer; yet be merciful to him for Ida's sake." And when Sir Tristram heard these words of the fairy queen, he shouldered his gleaming axe, and went and stood by the farmer.

Now the farmer was smoking his pipe as he walked to and fro in his garden. And, as he passed by the hammock, he saw a book which his daughter had left there, and he lay down in the hammock to read it. The book was called "The Romance of Arthur." So he took it and read of Sir Tristram – how he killed Sir Marhault, of Ireland; how he was driven out by King Mark; how he overthrew thirty knights at once; how he encountered with Sir Launcelot; and how he joined the fellowship of the Round Table. And, when he had finished reading, he threw the book on the ground. "Pish!" said he, "what's the good of fighting for nothing? If he had been paid now I could understand it." Then a voice came from the air and said: "Oh! farmer, when wilt thou learn that there is something better than self?" Then the farmer looked all round, but he saw nothing, and he thought it was his fancy which had spoken; but the voice once more sounded in his ears: "It was no fancy, O Simon, but a real voice. I am Sir Tristram of whom thou hast been reading, and I am sent to punish thee for thy cruelty." Then it grew very dark, and the farmer wondered; and through the darkness flashed arrows of bright lightning, and he heard the distant muttering of the thunder. And, suddenly, a loud clap burst above him, and in the brilliant light he saw an axe, and when the lightning ceased, there, in the darkness, stood the tall figure of a stalwart knight!

Simon could scarcely believe his senses as he gazed on the coroneted helm and the stern face underneath it. The pale blue steel, as it glimmered in the flash of the lightning, seemed to him terrible, while the golden coronet gleamed with a lurid lustre of its own, and banded the pale helm with flashing fire. What made the figure more dreadful, was the fact that only half of it was visible. The steel-clad arm was there, the body in its blue surtout, and the belt with its clasp of gold, whilst the blood-red cloak floated out behind as though blown by some ghostly wind; but all below the belt was shrouded in a veil of undulating cloud, which rose and fell in a perpetual motion, till the figure seemed to Simon to be suspended in the air above him, whence he dreaded, in shrinking terror, the descent of that gleaming axe.

Then the figure spoke in a low yet awful voice: "What sayest thou, Simon, why I should not slay thee, as thou would'st slay thy daughter's favourite hen?" And Simon tried to answer, but he could not. Then the hen raised its head and said to the knight: "Slay him not yet, Sir Tristram, for his daughter's sake, for her heart is tender and she loves him well." So Sir Tristram turned to the farmer: "Go now," said he, "and learn to be merciful, and remember that beauty hath its uses as well as toil. I spare thee now for Ida's sake; but know that I am evermore behind thee, and, in the day of thy cruelty, dread the stroke of my vengeful axe!"

So Sir Tristram made himself invisible to all but the farmer, and Simon went once more about his work, and a spirit of kindness was upon him, and all men marvelled at his gentleness; but still behind him floated that stern form, and evermore he saw the gleaming axe.

And so for some time things continued, and Simon was beginning to think he should escape the threatened blow, when an event happened which entirely changed his life. He was sitting before the fire, and the kittens were playing on the hearth, when one of them ran its sharp claws into his foot. All Simon's good resolves were instantly forgotten. He sprang up savagely and kicked it into the fire, and, even as he did so, Sir Tristram's axe descended.
 
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Simon felt himself hurled to the ground and turned to spring at his assailant; but he was unable to rise to his feet, and when he opened his mouth to ask the cause, the only sound emitted was a feeble "M-i-e-w," for he had been turned into a kitten, while Sir Tristram, having taken the form of a large white cat, stood before him with uplifted paw, as though daring him to advance.

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"He was driven from men." - Dan. iv. 33.

PART II. – THE BLACK CAT

SIMON stood for a moment amazed at this strange transformation; then an angry feeling overcame him: and, erecting his back and swelling his tail, he gave an angry spit, and, with bared claws and glistening teeth, sprang straight at the throat of Sir Tristram.

The knight received him gently. Swinging his uplifted paw, as though it still held his ponderous battle-axe, he struck poor Simon softly to the ground, and, in spite of his struggling, biting and scratching, held him there steadily. But the more gentleness Sir Tristram showed, the more furious Simon became; and he made such a noise of mewing, spitting and swearing, that little Ida came in to see what was the matter. "Dear, dear," she said, "whatever is the matter with the kitten? It never behaved like this before. Come Kitty, and let me nurse you." So saying, she lifted Simon from the floor, and, sitting down, placed him upon her knee and began to stroke him, while Sir Tristram looked calmly on with an air of serene approval.

At first Simon wondered that Ida did not see they were strangers; but, when he noticed that Sir Tristram looked exactly like the white cat, he concluded that he must be equally like the kitten; and Sir Tristram, by his magic, had caused the real cats to vanish. Simon soon knew what had become of one of them!

At first he allowed Ida to stroke him quietly, for was she not his own child! and he was very fond of her; but soon she began to scold him for being so cross to Sir Tristram. "It was very naughty of you, Kitty," she said, "when pussy was not hurting you at all: you will be scratching me next, I expect." A speech which so angered poor Simon that he did just what she had said. He raised his paw, and gave her an ugly scratch. "Oh! Kitty," exclaimed Ida, "I didn't think you would do that." And indeed Simon had scarcely intended to do so, but he was carried away by his passion. He felt very sorry now, when he saw her scarred arm.

Just then a heavy step sounded on the floor, so like his own that Simon started and looked up. Yes! there was no doubt about it! There he stood; his very self: and evidently in a bad temper. Simon trembled to his paws, and now, for the first time, understood why all the animals used to run away from him. He could see that Ida also was trembling, though she tried to seem brave.

"What is the meaning of this?" he said to Sir Tristram. "Who is this man who looks so like myself?" "That," said Sir Tristram, "is the large white cat. By my magic I have changed her to your likeness, and she will take your place until such time as you shall earn the right to be restored. Be faithful and shrink not from sacrifice, even the greatest, and all may yet be well. To me is your training entrusted!" "But the kitten," said Simon, "where has it gone to?" "To fairyland," answered Sir Tristram, "to be cured of its burn. But I must not tell you more." Now, though Sir Tristram and Simon talked thus freely to each other, to Ida it only seemed as though they mewed.

The farmer (for Ida thought the white cat was really her father, so we will call it by this name) heard them as well. "So," he said to Ida, "you have been nursing the kittens again," and he struck her. Simon's blood boiled as he saw it. His daughter struck by a white cat! He was ready to spring upon him. But Sir Tristram whispered softly: "What is the good of fighting for nothing? If you were paid now, I could understand it." Then Simon remembered his words and was ashamed.

"And one of them has scratched you," said the farmer. "Which was it?" "Oh! father dear," said Ida, "it was Kitty, but don't be cross with her, please. She didn't mean to do it, I know. She didn't really." "I daresay not," said the farmer, "but they shall go into the barn. I won't have them in the house any longer." So Ida had to carry them into the barn, and if she cried a little over them there – well, that is her own secret. All I know is that poor Simon cuddled close up to her and tried to comfort her, and that he felt a world of reproach as she went away, for her last words were: "I am sure you didn't mean to do it, Kitty." Simon mewed pitifully when she left, but Sir Tristram seemed quite satisfied.

And now began a hard life for poor Simon, for though Ida sometimes brought them milk, the farmer was very hard. "They must catch the mice," he said, "and then they will not be hungry." So he forbade Ida to take them any food, and she was too good a child to disobey him, though she grieved terribly. So poor Simon was often very hungry, and but for Sir Tristram would have starved, for he did not know how to catch mice. But Sir Tristram was very kind to him, though when Simon railed at the farmer, he said, "What's the use of feeding cats? Cats can't work, and 'he that will not work, neither shall he eat.'" "But we do work," said Simon. "Stuff and nonsense," replied Sir Tristram. Then Simon remembered once more, and once more he was ashamed.

Now the hen had again hatched some chickens, and one day when Simon was very hungry a strange, black cat came to him and said: "Why do you starve here when you might feast on chicken? Pluck up heart and take one; they are all really yours, you know." And the more Simon thought about it, the more he longed to taste a chicken, for he was extremely hungry, and weary of the taste of mouse-flesh. So he watched his opportunity, and having lain in wait, he pounced upon one. But, as he was going to kill it, the hen looked up, and Simon remembered how it had pleaded for him with Sir Tristram, and he let the chicken go. And, as he turned away, he saw Sir Tristram and the black cat fighting, and Sir Tristram was uppermost.

After this, things went smoothly for some time. But one day Simon became very angry with Sir Tristram, though he himself could scarcely tell the reason, and the black cat crept up to him, and said: "Why are you always ruled by Sir Tristram? Be a cat of spirit, and come with me to-night, and let us rob the pantry. It will be ever so much better than starving in the barn." And, being angry, Simon consented. So that night they robbed the pantry, and Sir Tristram looked very sad.

But the next morning Simon heard the farmer scolding Ida, for he said she had left the window open, and he threatened to drown the cats. And when Simon saw Ida's grief, he was very sorry, and went, and told Sir Tristram what he had done. But Sir Tristram only said: "If you are sorry, you will do something to show it." "What can I do?" questioned Simon. "What is hardest to you?" asked Sir Tristram in reply. So Simon answered: "The hen pleaded with you for me, and I know she fears for her chickens; but must I lower myself to become a companion to a hen?" "Before honour is humility," said Sir Tristram. "Go, and guard the hen." So Simon came to the hen. And when the chickens saw him they were frightened, for them remembered how he had attacked them. But when they knew his gentleness, they loved him.

Now the black cat was always tempting him to steal one of the chickens, but Simon would not listen to him. Then the black cat swelled with wrath and fell upon the hen, and Simon sprang forward to protect it. But because the black cat was the stronger, it gave Simon many wounds. Then he thought the hen would surely be slain, for he had no more power to defend her. Yet he fought valliantly, and called loudly to Sir Tristram for succour. But the black cat grew larger and larger, and when Sir Tristram came to the rescue, he too seemed to grow bigger and bigger. And Simon fell fainting to the ground, yet he seemed still to see the combat; and he perceived that the black cat had now grown into an immense tiger, and that Sir Tristram was transformed once more into a knight, and was battling against it with his axe. And he saw Sir Tristram deal it a heavy blow, and his faintness overpowered him and he knew no more.

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When he came to he was lying on Ida's bed, and Sir Tristram was licking his wounds. And there went a healing virtue from Sir Tristram's tongue, which marvellously soothed them. "You fought well," said Sir Tristram. "And the hen?" "Is safe," said Sir Tristram. "The black cat will trouble it no more." "And did it really turn into a tiger and you into a knight, and did you kill it?" questioned Simon. But Sir Tristram made no answer. He was looking though the window, and following the direction of his gaze, Simon saw two fiery eyes, with a world of angry malice in their depths, gazing at him from the window-sill. And he knew that the black cat still lived to work him mischief.

I need not tell how Ida petted the two cats on her return to the room, which she had left to fetch them some bread and milk, nor how they nestled to her in contentment. She had found them in the yard, lying exhausted after their fight, and one of the stable-boys had told her how bravely they had defended her favourite hen; indeed, she herself saw the end of the battle, though a scale was on her eyes, and she saw them but as cats. And, having heard the story, she had gone to the farmer, and repeating it to him, asked leave to have them in the house again. And he, being in an unusually gracious mood, consented. All this she told them as she fondly stroked them, for Ida always talked to her animals, believing that they liked it and could understand her. In the present case they most assuredly could, and I think in general animals know more than we sage adults give them credit for. Sir Tristram, I fancy, suspected that the fairy queen had a hand in the farmer's good temper; but, if it were so, he kept his own counsel.

Poor Simon was delight to be with his daughter again, and Sir Tristram also looked very satisfied, though sometimes there was an anxious expression in his eyes, and Simon noticed that at such times the black cat was steadfastly regarding them. However he settled himself comfortably on Ida's bed, lying very contentedly upon the pillow. And as he nestled close to Ida, when she came to rest, he thought it was the happiest moment he had known in his kitten life.

But about midnight he was awakened by a smell of burning, and, looking up, he saw the bed on fire, and knew that it was the work of the black cat. An overturned night-light explained how the mischief had been done, and, by the light of the flames, he could perceive Sir Tristram and the culprit engaged in a fierce though silent conflict, struggling as though life and death depended upon their prowess. Poor Simon tugged desperately at Ida to awaken her, but she slept far too soundly to be disturbed. Then he noticed that the fire, as yet, covered a space no larger than his own body, and that if he laid himself down upon it, he would be able to smother it, but he saw that the effort would cost him his life. And, as he thought of the plan, Sir Tristram changed into a knight once more, and raised his gleaming axe; but, when he shrank back in fear, the black cat grew once more into a tiger, and Sir Tristram seemed to waver, and turned an anxious, longing look on Simon. And Simon cried out. "Oh!" said he, "what shall I do? If I live, my child dies; and, if I die, my child lives. My life for her's: I will pay it." And he leaped into the fire. As he did so he heard a joyous cry from Sir Tristram, and saw his axe sink deeply into the tiger's scull. Then he felt a sharp and sudden pain, and all was darkness.  

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When he opened his eyes he was lying on the bank of a river, whose sluggish waters crept stealthily through a tangled thicket of forest. It was broad day, yet but a feeble light penetrated the thick leafage overhead. Long rope-like masses stretched from tree to tree, and on the branches were a troop of chattering monkeys.

Simon rose and moved towards the river, and as he did so, a dark object slid from the bank, and opening wide an enormous pair of jaws, disclosed two rows of formidable teeth, which it brought together with a deafening crash. As he heard the sound, Simon shuddered, for he felt a presentiment that he should at some time be between them.

A loud hiss now disturbed him, and an enormous serpent launched itself upon him, but a large eagle swooped down from the trees and alighted on the serpent's head. Simon, who perceived that he was again a man, rushed to the river, but as soon as he saw his face mirrored in the water, he started in surprise. He was a man, it is true, but the face that gazed back at him from the river was not the face of Simon the farmer. The thick nose and projecting lips, the short woolly hair, and the ebony complexion, were those of a negro. Simon's restoration was not yet complete. The white cat still ruled in his home, and Simon was alone in the dark forest, surrounded by ferocious animals and dangerous reptiles, changed by the fire to the human form, but – a negro of the negroes.

Poor Simon! His many woes had quite unmanned him. He sat down upon the river's bank and wept.

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"The way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent upon a rock." - Prov. xxx. 19.

"Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him." - Dan. iv. 16.

PART III. – THE SERPENT

FOR a long time Simon remained in the same attitude, with his head buried in his hands, a prey to the deepest despondency. Such a state, however, could not last for ever, and at leangth he rose to his feet and looked around him. The same chattering and screeching was going on in the trees, but he searched in vain for the serpent and the eagle; both had disappeared! On the river he fancied he descried the dark body of the crocodile, though it was at some distance, and he could not discern it very clearly.

However, in default of any better occupation, he kept his eyes listlessly fixed upon it. It was not, as he at first supposed, stationary, but was moving, rapidly too, in his direction. He soon discovered that he had been mistaken, also, in fancying the object to be the crocodile, for, as it drew near, he perceived that it was a bark canoe, which, he supposed, had been carried by the stream from the upper part of the river. Nearer and nearer it came, as though drawn by some invisible hand, and at length grounded itself on the shore at Simon's feet. Here was indeed good fortune! An easy means of getting away from his perilous position, provided as though by a miracle; no wonder he leaped for joy as he surveyed the little craft.

Could he have gazed behind him, and seen the serpent's eyes fixed upon him, he would have shuddered at the malignant triumph of their expression!

"Ah!" said Simon, "this is delightful. Here I am, saved all anxiety as to my course. I have only to sit in this canoe and be wafted down the river. I shall be sure to come to dwellings sometime. What an easy way it is!" [Oh! how the serpent's eyes blazed when he heard it!] But suddenly, was it fancy, or did he hear again Sir Tristram's voice, saying, "What is hardest to you, do it"? Simon started and paused. "Stop," said he, "this may be too easy. There may be danger on the river." And he turned away, for he remembered the gleaming teeth of the crocodile. As he did so, a disappointed look came into serpent's eyes, and it drew back amongst the trees.

"Yet," said Simon to himself, "if I do not use this canoe, how am I to get away from this spot?" And again he turned towards the river, and again the serpent's head appeared behind him.

"Why, what is this?" said Simon. "This was certainly not here before. What a curious bottle it is, to be sure." So saying he stooped and lifted something out of the canoe. It was a small flask, made of some red-coloured substance, and most marvellously carved. Flowers and serpents were most curiously blended upon it, and so skilfully that no one could tell just where the flower ended and the serpent began. Within the flask was a pale colourless liquid. "I must really taste this," said Simon; and again the serpent's eyes blazed with a savage triumph!

But ere Simon could raise the bottle to his lips he received a heavy blow, and it was dashed to the ground. For a moment he fancied it was Sir Tristram who had struck him, for he thought he saw the gleaming of his axe; but a second look showed him that it was but the sunlight reflected from some white feathers under the eagle's wing, for it was the eagle which, dashing against him in its flight, had caused him to drop the bottle from his grasp. After the first start of surprise he turned to look for it, but it had vanished as mysteriously as it first appeared.

And now began a fierce struggle in Simon's mind between his inclination and his sense of right. He was strongly inclined to embark in the canoe, it presented such an easy method of leaving his present miserable situation; but still he felt that it was his duty to follow the intimation he had received of the mind of Sir Tristram, for he could not free himself from the idea that he had really heard Sir Tristram's voice saying, "What is hardest to you, do it."

"It is a great sacrifice," said Simon, and spoke unconsciously aloud; and again he seemed to hear Sir Tristram saying, "Shrink not from sacrifice, even the greatest, and all may yet be well." "You are right, Sir Tristram," he eagerly exclaimed, "and I will not shrink from the sacrifice. I will remove this temptation from me." And he pushed the canoe again into the stream. For a moment or so it floated steadily, and was then seized as by an invisible power, and drawn under the water. Then Simon rejoiced greatly at the peril he had escaped.

After this he noticed a narrow path through the trees, and wondered that he had not seen it before; but the entrance was so narrow and so blocked up by thorns, that it was no wonder he had overlooked it. Even now he would probably not have observed it had it not been for the eagle, for the bird had flown down to the entrance, and, by its inviting gestures, seemed to beckon Simon to approach. This he did fearlessly, for, at the moment he cast the canoe adrift, the serpent had disappeared.

The way led through the darkest part of the forest, and Simon often stumbled as he walked along it; but the eagle flew just before him and gave him a sense of companionship. At length the path terminated abruptly before a large rock, which rose sheer from the ground for several hundred feet, and seemed to bar all further advance. But, as the eagle flew upward, Simon essayed to scale it, and after climbing some distance, noticed an opening into which the eagle vanished. Simon was not long in following, and found himself in a small cave. A marble slab, revolving on a pivot, stood by the opening. Simon turned it and thus closed the entrance, and, for the present, felt himself safe from the dreadful serpent.

There was no other opening save the one by which Simon had entered, yet the cave was by no means dark. A soft and mellowed light seemed to pervade it, and strains of sweetest music floated through it, yet so unobtrusive were both light and music, that for some time Simon perceived neither the one nor the other. He was so overcome by hunger, thirst, and fatigue, that it simply never struck him as strange that the cave should not be dark. Till he had eaten and drunk, he could have no other thought than of his own necessities. Fortunately there was a table in the cave, and on it Simon found a loaf of bread and a pitcher of milk. Never did bread taste so delicious before, and the milk was exquisite. Simon rose like a giant refreshed, and then, for the first time, noticed the mysterious radiance which glowed around him.

At the far end of the cave was the figure of a pelican, and from its body streamed a flood of marvellous light, and Simon noticed that every ray was gathered up by, and reflected from the white feathers of a crowd of doves, which seemed to wait upon the pelican. Moreover, he noticed that they fed upon the pelican's blood, for its beak was buried in its breast, and from the wound a crimson stream was pouring, and the stream was the food of the doves.

And while he looked fierce animals drew near – wolves, lions, and tigers – and so soon as they had drunk of the stream they also became doves; and Simon was aware of a power in the doves that was not in the lions and tigers. It seemed to him that in becoming weaker they grew much stronger, for they became partakers of the strength of the pelican.

And Simon marvelled much at the vision: yet, when he would have drawn nearer, he was unable: and soon the figures vanished from his sight, and the cave was plunged in darkness.

Simon groped his way to a heap of straw in the corner, above which he had seen the eagle perch itself, and, worn out by the day's adventures, was soon fast asleep.

And, in his sleep, he had a curious dream.

He dreamed that he stood by the river, as he had done in the morning, and that behind him for miles stretched the dark forest, while all on the other side of the river was bright and sunny, and that, there, amidst beautiful flowers and trees, were bands of children playing, and little Ida was amongst the number. And they had on white robes, which, somehow, reminded him of the feathers of the doves. And he thought they drank from a crystal stream, though he could not see whence it arose, and whenever they drank they grew brighter, till their robes outshone the sun itself in lustre. And happy-looking men and women walked amongst them, and they also drank of the crystal stream.

And Simon longed to be amongst them, but the dark river flowed before him, and there was no way to get over. Then, he thought, the serpent coiled itself round a tree on either bank, and a bridge was made of its body; and Simon longed to cross over, but he was weak, and he feared to tread on the serpent. Then he heard the voice of Sir Tristram, saying: "Drink of this cup; it is the blood of the pelican; then fear not to tread upon the serpent. Go only in the strength of the pelican, and it shall not hurt you. All who reached yon shore trod on the serpent, and none can tread it safely save in the strength of the pelican. All others slip into the stream, and the serpent swallows them. Drink then, and tread fearlessly!"

Then he turned to take the cup from Sir Tristram, and in doing so awoke, and saw only the eagle standing beside him.

Then Simon arose, and again refreshed himself with the bread and the milk, and opened the door of the cave. And the eagle flew out, and Simon followed.

But oh, what a road the eagle led him that day. Over tangled roots, through thorns and briers, over bogs where his feet sank at every step, yet always safely, though he was sadly weary and worn. And with the toil of the way Simon grew hungry and thirsty, for he had brought no provision of food from the cave. And as they journeyed he saw a smooth, green path, which led to a lovely bower. Bright flowers bloomed beside the road, but they were all poisonous, and filled the air with a drowsy perfume. And Simon, being very weary, turned aside from the rugged path in which he was following the eagle, and entered the pleasant bower. The eagle uttered a loud warning cry as he did so, but Simon did not heed it. At the same moment the serpent glided into the path, and darted a glance of triumph at the eagle; and with a sad, wistful look at Simon, the eagle spread its might wings and flew away. Nevermore might it succour Simon until he called it; for, without the call, it might not venture on the serpent's ground.

As for Simon, he had entered the bower, and there he found an inviting couch, and a table on which stood the same curious flask which the eagle had dashed from his hands the day before. Perhaps it was his weariness and thirst; perhaps the heavy atmosphere caused by the poisonous flowers: but Simon forgot the action of the eagle, forgot everything except his thirst, and drained the bottle to the dregs. Then he lay down upon the couch to sleep; and the serpent, with an evil glitter in its eyes, lay down to watch him.

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When he awoke, the serpent was still gazing upon him. Simon staggered slowly to his feet, for he was dazed by the fumes of the liquid. "Where am I? What has happened?" he muttered, and his eyes fell upon the serpent. The day before, he would have hastened away from such a dangerous neighbourhood, but to-day there was a fascination in the serpent's eyes that took away all power of movement. He seemed, moreover, to understand the serpent when it opened its mouth and hissed at him. "You are my servant," it seemed to say. "Sooner or later I shall devour you, but first you must work for me." "I will not," Simon tried to answer, but the words came otherwise, and, "I must obey you," was what he really uttered.

"And now, go and join my other servants," said the serpent; and Simon saw an opening in the back of the bower, through which he felt compelled to pass. He had no sooner done so than he was seized by two uncouth forms, somewhat resembling men, with immensely muscular arms, and long, shaggy hair upon their bodies.

The expression of their faces was terrible, for their huge fangs were exposed in a ferocious grin, and their small eyes flashed fire beneath their beetling eye-brows. Each of them held in his hand a massive club, and leaned upon it as he walked, for their legs seemed absurdly weak in proportion to the strength of the upper body. They did not give Simon much time, however, for observation; for they seemed to take a pleasure in tormenting him, and he received many a sly pinch and blow as they dragged him onwards.

Before long they arrived at a spot where several gigantic trees grew close together, and under the trees were built rude huts of branches. As Simon and his captors approached, from every hut swarmed a troop of creatures similar to Simon's companions. These soon surrounded them, and Simon stood some risk of being torn to pieces amongst the number; indeed such would have probably been his fate, had not the serpent suddenly appeared, when all the strange creatures retreated rapidly to their huts.

"You must build a hut like these at the foot of this tree," said the serpent. "Let me see it done on my return." "But am I to live amongst such creatures as these?" said Simon. "Why not," answered the serpent, "when you are one of them?" "I one of them!" exclaimed Simon. "I will never believe that!" "Look then and see," replied the serpent; and he led him to a stream of water. "That is your own reflection."

Simon started in horror!

THE FORM MIRRORED IN THE WATER WAS THE EXACT COUNTERPART OF THE HIDEOUS CREATURES HE HAD JUST SEEN!!!

"They were all men once," said the serpent, "but they drank my potion, and it changed them thus. Do you not admire your brawny limbs? To be sure, I shall eat you sometime, but I hope you will do a deal of work for me before that. Build your hut now, and get a club to hunt with."

So saying, the serpent disappeared.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________


"He which converteth the sinner . . . shall save a soul from death." - S. James v. 20.

PART IV. – THE DOVE.

WHEN Simon was left alone, he set to work with a heavy heart to tear down branches, and build himself a hut. Perhaps he would have made some effort to escape, but the fumes of the liquor were still in his brain, and he felt that he was no longer master of his actions. He belonged now to the serpent, and that by his own act and deed, and, though only death awaited him, he had no option but to obey. With that fatal draught his very will had left him, and he would have passively yielded to the serpent's orders, even had it commanded him to walk down its throat. When the serpent returned, the hut was finished; and Simon was installed with the other wretched creatures, a house-holder in a miserable hut, on the serpent's land.

In the daytime he hunted with his wild companions, and brought to the serpent all that he took, and each evening he returned to the village of huts, for he felt himself compelled, by some fatal charm, to do so. Now every evening, after his meal, the serpent used to leave a portion for his servants; and one of his great delights was to see them fight for their pittance; and Simon soon became as ferocious as the rest, and used his club freely to maintain the morsel he had seized. Now and then fresh additions were made to their numbers, but always the same hideous creatures, for all alike had drunk the fatal potion, though some had drunk less deeply, and retained a more human form than the others: and now and again the serpent thinned their numbers, by lunching on some of the miserable creatures. On this account they kept him well supplied with food, for each feared that, if the serpent were hungry, he himself might be the next victim. Sometimes, too, they killed each other in their quarrels, when the serpent was sure to feast upon the bodies.

It was a hard life to lead, moreover, for another reason. Their constant raids had raised them a host of enemies, and, wherever they turned, the animals were ready to fall upon them. True, their numbers and great strength enabled them generally to prevail, but if one of them were alone in the forest he was almost certain to be slain, so that any attempt to escape, even were they capable of making it, would have been fruitless.

They by no means confined their hunting to the smaller animals, but would fearlessly spring upon lions and tigers, slay them with their clubs, and carry their bodies to the insatiable serpent. The smaller prey they took alive, for the serpent loved to see their terror ere he ate them, and, for this reason, would often preserve them alive for days.

Now one day when Simon was out hunting with his companions, he saw a white dove pursued by a hawk. And his companions went on, but he had remained to see the end; for by this time he had grown callous to the sight of suffering.

But the dove espied him, and flying towards him, perched itself upon his arm, and looked appealingly into his face. And Simon's memory began to stir within him, though he could not at all remember having seen the dove before. Still, while it was with him, he felt less fierce, and he resolved to take it back, and hide it in his hut. So he stole away quietly before his companions returned, and having concealed it amongst the boughs of which the hut was built, returned once more to hunt for prey.

And he found a lamb bleating for its mother, but the influence of the dove was upon him, and he would not take it to be tortured, but, gathering it up in its arms, he carried it to its dam. Both sheep and lamb were too much astonished to run away, for it was the first kind act done by either Simon or any of his companions since they entered the serpent's bower.

Simon was meditating his probable fate if he returned empty-handed to the serpent, when an agonized bleating startled him. He turned quickly, and saw the lamb in the grasp of a large tiger. Instantly all his savage ferocity was aroused. One sweep of his club, and the tiger lay dead upon the ground.

Seizing it by the legs, Simon threw it lightly over his shoulder, and, with the grateful bleating of the sheep still ringing in his ears, hurried back to his miserable dwelling.

His first kind act had had a humanising effect upon him, and the tears stood in his eyes on the whole of his homeward journey, the first he had shed since he entered the fatal bower; for, though the serpent's miserable servants suffered deeply, there were no tears ever seen in their eyes.

That night Simon gave half his wretched allowance to a feeble companion, and, though the others jeered at him, felt happier than he had done for long, and his face wore a more human expression. And all that night there was a chastened light in his hut, which seemed to come from the feathers of the dove.

And Simon wondered where he had seen the light before, and, as he gazed upon it, there grew within him a loathing of himself and a hatred of the serpent, and he began to cherish indistinctly a desire to be free.

Next morning, in his hunting, Simon found a deer in the jaws of a lion, and he killed the lion and released the deer; and the deer's grateful look still further softened him; and that evening he again gave half his portion to his feeble comrade. And when he returned to his hut, the light from the dove's wings shone brighter and clearer; and, as Simon gazed upon its purity, he began to loathe his dirt; so, on the next morning, he washed himself in the stream.

But soon it began to be noticed that Simon brought back no live animals for the serpent to torture and that all those he brought in slain were beasts of prey; and the serpent heard, moreover, how Simon gave half his portion to a feeble comrade. Then he became uneasy, for he perceived that his power over Simon was departing, and he gave orders that Simon should be watched.

And it was told him that Simon had that day released a cow from the clutches of a bear, [indeed Simon had brought the bear in with him, as his portion,] and he commanded that Simon should be seized. But those who went to his hut to seize him, came back and reported that there was a strange light inside, and that they were afraid to enter. Then the serpent, being very wroth, went himself. And he, too, saw the light and the dove, but he had no power to touch the dove, and he feared the influence of the light. So he called to Simon: "Bring the dove to me, that I may eat it." But Simon never stirred. Then the serpent fixed its eyes upon him. "It is the dove's life or yours," he said. "If you do not bring me the dove, then you must die yourself." Then the dove flew into Simon's arms, and Simon took a step towards the serpent. "But no," he said, "I cannot do it! The dove has awakened in me feelings to which I have been long a stranger. If I could only remember! 'Sacrifice! Shrink not from sacrifice!' Where did I hear that? If I could remember! If I could only remember!" "Choose quickly," hissed the serpent. "Bring me the dove, and I spare you; otherwise, prepare to die." But the dove was looking, with wonderfully intelligent eyes, into Simon's face, and suddenly it dropped its beak upon its breast as though to pierce it. And when Simon saw the action, he cried, "I remember now: I remember now!"

Then the serpent darted itself upon him, but the dove spread wide its wings before him, and there came a radiance from them which dazzled the serpent's eyes, so that he could not see to strike. And Simon cried once more aloud: "Oh! Sir Tristram," he said, "I repent me bitterly that I left the road. Can you not help me now? Come, if you can, Sir Tristram!"

And the words were scarcely uttered, when a shrill cry was heard in the air, like an exultant war-note, and the eagle descended with the speed of a thunderbolt, and drove its sharp talons deep into the serpent's neck. "Now," it cried to Simon, "put your foot upon the serpent's head, and promise that henceforth you will hold it vanquished, that you will no longer obey its commands, and that, as much as in you lies, you will fight against it and all its works." And Simon set his foot upon its head, and promised.

And the eagle said: "Now go, and look at yourself in the stream!" So Simon went and looked. And he saw that the fierce light had gone from his eyes, and that his lips were not parted in the old ferocious grin; yet he still retained his monstrous shape, and his body was still covered with long hair. And he wept sore at the sight of his own deformity, and returned to the eagle, and said: "Behold I will obey you in all things; only tell me how I may regain the human form?" And the eagle answered: "Courage I can teach you, and fidelity: but this is beyond me. To attain this, you must follow the guidance of the dove, for he is greater and more powerful than I." Then the mighty eagle released the serpent, and came and bowed himself before the gentle dove. And the serpent glided away and hid himself. Then the dove spoke, and said: "Not in me is any power; but there is much strength in the pelican. If you will follow, I will guide you; but it will be through much danger and many hardships. Then, when we have come to the cavern, you shall drink of the blood of the pelican, and your shape shall be restored." And Simon said: "Through all danger I will follow, but my strength is small, and the serpent will do his utmost to stay me. How then can I succeed?" But the dove answered: "Even now you have conquered, not in your own strength, but in the strength of the pelican. From the first day you received me has the light of the pelican been upon you, for, as far as in me lies, have I reflected his light. And now has he given me charge to be near you, that you may see his light always, and behold his strength, exemplified in my weakness, until you also shall feed upon his blood. Fear not therefore: take your club and march boldly, but be careful that you use it not, save on the enemies of the pelican."

Then the dove spread its white wings, and flew away, and Simon followed, wondering.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________


"Love than death itself more strong."
"Who in the strength of Jesus trusts,
Is more than conqueror
."                  

PART V. – THE RESTORATION

A marvellous awe seemed to be upon the servants of the serpent, and they suffered Simon to go without any resistance. He could see the eagle already soaring towards the sky as, with a last look at his miserable hut and the group of his late fellow-servants, he turned to follow, through hardship and privation, the guide appointed to lead him to the pelican; the gentle, snow-white dove!

A strange feeling of pity had sprung up in his mind towards his late companions: their unkindness and mockery were alike forgotten, and he remembered only that they had been men; and were now, as he so lately was himself, the servants of the dreadful serpent. And a resolve arose in his heart, that, if permitted, he would returned, and get them also to drink of the pelican's blood.

But his journey was not to be unmolested, for no sooner had he departed than the serpent called up his allies, and gave them orders, by every means in their power, to hinder the progress of Simon and the dove. Moreover, the cruelties of Simon and his old companions had made all the country hostile through which he had to pass. And the owl and the bat, being firm adherents of the serpent, gathered all the animals together, and incited them to slay Simon and his guide. But the sheep and the lamb arose, and told how Simon had defended them: how he had slain the tiger, and restored the lamb to its mother: then all the sheep and lambs took an oath to use all their influence to defend him. But the fiercer animals gathered themselves together, and marched away to attack him.

Then the deer, being fleet of foot, outran the other animals, and came to him and warned him. But he only said: "I follow the guidance of the dove, and I may not turn aside for danger." But he grasped his club more firmly! Then the dove said to him: "Grasp not thy club so firmly, O Simon, for in thine own service thou must by no means use it. The pelican's enemies are not these, but the serpent and its brood. These may yet become his friends." "But, if I do not defend myself, they may kill me," answered Simon. "Fear not," replied the dove. "The battle is not yours!" Then the dove spake a word to the deer, and it bounded away; and the dove flew onward, and Simon followed.

So they came to where the animals were assembled. And when they saw Simon they all rushed forward to attack him. And Simon, as the dove had told him, laid down his club, and stood meekly before them. But, just ere they reached him, a loud bellow was heard, and a troop of bulls clustered round him, and presented a row of menacing horns to his assailants. So the latter drew back, and Simon passed safely on his way. Thus did the cow repay her debt by the courage of her sons, and thus the influence of the dove bore fruit. Nor must the gratitude of the deer be forgotten, for it was he who had summoned them to the rescue.

Then the serpent, finding that open attack was unavailing, raised dangerous mists round Simon to mislead him; but the dove, by the shining of its wings, dispersed them. Then the great dragon, the king of all the serpents, came out in great fury to withstand him: and it flapped its monstrous wings, and gnashed its hideous teeth, but, because he walked in the strength of the pelican, it could not touch him: only it strove by terror to turn him from the way.

But, through terror, danger and fatigue, Simon followed the guidance of the dove, and, though he was torn by the thorns, drenched by the rains, mired by the sloughs, and fainting from fatigue, still it led him safely through all dangers, and brought him at length to the cave of the pelican.

And when Simon saw the blood he cried: "I am not worthy, O Pelican, to drink thy blood, but thy mercy grants it to the unworthy. I pray thee accept me as thy servant, and grant me a portion in thy strength." Then he put forth his hand, and drank in the blood. And the dove and the eagle stood beside him. And at the same moment, while he was yet drinking the blood, he was restored to the human form. And the dove and the eagle also were changed, or he saw them with truer eyes. For the eagle stood revealed as his friend Sir Tristram; and beside him was the transformed figure of the dove: a young knight, clad in pure white armour, with a red cross blazoned on his snowy shield, and a look of ineffable love and pity in his eyes, he seemed more fitted for the tender offices of a mother than the stern duties of a warrior: yet Sir Tristram bowed before him as to a braver man, and the eyes which beamed so tenderly on Simon could flash with angry fire on the brood of the serpent. Braver and truer champion never lived than the young Sir Galahad; who alone could sit in the seat perilous, who alone was worthy to achieve the Holy Grail.

Such was the knight who now clasped Simon by the hand. "Welcome," he said, "dear comrade, back to manhood. Right well am I repaid, by this joyful restoration, for the perils I encountered on your behalf. I have won another servant for the pelican. My reward is overflowing!" And Sir Tristram also cordially embraced him.

And Simon said: "Behold! I am a man; but what of my companions? May I not take them also the blood of the pelican, that they may regain their lives?" And Sir Tristram spoke to his companion: "What say you, Sir Galahad? May he venture to return? The serpent's ground is dangerous to the servants of the pelican." And Sir Galahad replied: "Let him first count the cost, and then, if he can pay it, let him venture. The path is a path of sacrifice, and he must tread it alone." "Nay, not alone," said Simon, "since I go in the strength of the pelican." "Go then," said Sir Galahad, "and prosper, and the strength of the pelican be with you. When you cross the river, we shall be there to meet you." "Farewell then," cried Simon. "Farewell," cried they both, "in your weakness you are stronger than the serpent, since the strength of the pelican is in you."

So Simon took a cruse of the pelican's blood, and returned once more, to his hut on the serpent's land.

But the serpent stirred up enmity in the minds of his servants, and they would not listen to Simon. And when he spoke to them of the blood of the pelican, they mocked him. Often, moreover, they struck him with their clubs. But Simon bore all meekly, for the love he had towards them, and because he lived by the strength of the pelican. And the light which shone from the dove now shone from Simon, and little by little it gained on his comrades.

He had to gather the wild roots for his food, [for the serpent, of course, would not feed him, and he would no longer hunt,] but however little he had, he always shared it with his weak companion. And the creature's heart stirred under the touch of his kindness, and it said to Simon: "You are weaker than us, and we often hurt you. Why, then, do you give me food?" And Simon said: "It is the law of the pelican. And besides, I love you, brother." "Brother!" cried the creature, "I would be your servant. I am not fit to be your brother." And the tears came rushing from its eyes. And Simon rejoiced greatly when he saw them, for he knew that the serpent's power was broken. "Be now the servant of the pelican," he cried, "and we shall indeed be brothers!" "But how can I," said the creature, "be a servant of the pelican? Am I not the bond slave of the serpent?" "Drink of this blood," said Simon. "It will free you: and you shall tread upon the serpent and his brood."

But the creature looked as though it understood not: and before Simon could say more, a band of its comrades burst into the hut, seized and bound him, and carried him to the serpent. Now the serpent was unable to touch him because he served the pelican, but he had incited his servants to this action, and persuaded them that, if Simon would not again serve him, they should cast him to the crocodile. So they led him to the river, where was the same hideous animal he had seen when he first awoke beside it. And the crocodile gnashed his teeth together, and Simon remembered his presentiment that he should at sometime be between them.

And his captors said to him: "You know, Simon, that we are the servants of the serpent, and that you serve the pelican: now, therefore, choose: whether will you serve the pelican and be cast to the crocodile, or serve the serpent and live?" And Simon said, "If I serve the serpent, I shall surely die, for he will eat me. Listen, and I will tell you the difference between my master and yours: the serpent devours the servants who have toiled for him, but the pelican feeds his servants on his own blood. Right gladly will I be cast to the crocodile, if, by my death, you become servants of the pelican." And when they saw his stedfastness they were greatly moved, and said: "What is this power in the pelican, whereby his servants dare even to die by the crocodile, rather than forsake him? We would know more of this!" And Simon said: "Behold! I leave the cruse of blood. Drink, and ye shall know the power of the pelican. Now am I ready to be cast into the river."

But they were awe-struck by the majesty of his looks, for he shone in the light of the pelican, and they feared to cast him in. Moreover, some cried that they should listen to him. But the serpent, by his magic, worked upon their passions, and certain of them seized Simon, and cast him bound into the river. And, as he fell, remorse came upon them, and they cried: "He has died bravely. What strength is in the pelican! We will drink of the cruse, as he told us!" And the serpent would fain have prevented them, but a radiance came from the river which overpowered him, and he retreated, and hid himself in the forest. And the weakly creature whom Simon had fed cried out: "Oh! brothers! he told me to drink of the blood of the pelican, and I should be truly his brother! Who will drink with me for the sake of the martyr?" And they all cried: "We will! We will! We will all be his brothers! Honour to the pelican." And the light from the river grew more radiant, and they all drank of the blood of the pelican. And their shaggy skins fell off them; their clubs were turned into olive branches, and they became clothed with white feathers, and shone with the light of the pelican.

And Simon, as he rose to the surface of the water, saw a flock of white doves, each bearing an olive branch, fly above the river, and he knew that they were his late companions.

And he cried aloud: "Honour to the pelican! Happy is my death!" Then he was seized by the crocodile, and drawn under the water, and all became dark around him.  

*          *           *           *           *           *

When he recovered consciousness, he was lying on a green bank under a tree. A horse was feeding beside him, and he noticed that it was of great size and was protected by cumbrous plates of mail. A rich cloth covered its body both before and behind the saddle, and from the centre of its forehead projected an iron spike. A long lance was reared against the tree, and at the foot thereof was laid a shield without device, and an enormous sword.

Simon tried to rise to his feet, but a great weight seemed to press him down. He therefore examined himself to ascertain the cause, and discovered that he was clothed from head to foot in armour, but there was no device either on his breast or on his shield, and he had no spurs to his feet.

Then he noticed a gleam of light a short distance away, and, turning in that direction, he saw a crescent axe he thought he recognised. It was resting on the shoulder of a knight of great stature, who was standing with his back to Simon, gazing across the fields. His noble charger stood beside him, and his spurs were on his feet.

At the noise of Simon's movement, he turned; and Simon stood, once more, face to face with Sir Tristram!

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"And every virtue we possess,
And every conflict won,
And every thought of holiness,
Are His alone
."              

"And the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.." - Dan. ii. 45.

PART VI. – THE FAITHFUL KNIGHT.

SIMON rubbed his eyes to make sure that he was awake, but he was soon certified on that point by the scratching of his gauntlets. He next tried to get upon his feet, and, with a little assistance from Sir Tristram, succeeded. But still he could only stare about him and wonder. "Where am I? Where am I?" he kept saying. "Where is the crocodile, and the serpent? Where is the pelican? Am I no longer its servant?" "Be comforted," said Sir Tristram, "you are still the servant of the pelican; and as to the serpent and the crocodile, be assured you will meet them again, though it may be in different forms."

"But how is it that I was not killed?" said Simon. "The crocodile had me firmly in its jaws." "You were not killed," replied Sir Tristram, "because you cannot be killed. Yet, in a sense, you were killed. Simon the negro exists no longer. Come, and look at yourself in the stream." So he led him to a crystal brook that flowed hard by, and Simon gazed at his likeness therein. And he saw that his skin was white and clear, his features regular, with a look of confident trust upon them, as though he were always certain of help from a higher sourcce, and that he was clothed in armour like a knight, but that his shield had no device, and that there were no spurs to his feet.

"But tell me," said Simon, "where am I? and why is there no device on my shield?" "You are in England," answered Sir Tristram, "but not in England as you know it. I have been permitted, because of your fidelity to the pelican, to bring you to the England of King Arthur; so that you may prove by your deeds as a knight, how little you regard the words you spoke as a farmer." "Foolish words!" exclaimed Simon. "What trouble they have brought upon me!" "And what blessing also," said Sir Tristram. "Do you already regret your sufferings?" "I can regret nothing," said Simon, "that has helped me to become a servant of the pelican; but I think of Ida, and what she may suffer from the white cat, and I long to be restored to her that I may protect her!" "Fear not for her," said Sir Tristram. "She is a child, and pure; and she is safe in the care of Sir Galahad." "Does Sir Galahad guard her, then?" cried Simon. "Now I can rest content." "Yes, he guards her," answered Sir Tristram, but only for the pelican. And now we must be going, for you have yet to gain a device for your shield, and spurs for your feet. When you have passed this ordeal, you will again be Simon the farmer. One ordeal more, thereafter, and your dream shall be fulfilled. You shall cross the river on the serpent's body, and enter the pelican's land."

So Sir Tristram and Simon rode off in search of adventures, and Simon learned to glory in the calling he had once despised, for he found that honour was better than money, and kindesses done for the sake of the pelican were better than them both.

He killed a dreadful giant on his first journey, and Sir Tristram placed the golden spurs upon his feet, and King Arthur made him knight; but he chose a pair of shackles for his device, for he said: "I would remember that I was the bond-slave of the serpent, and am now the servant of the pelican!" And he was known among the knights as a brave man and humble, and Sir Tristram and he were sworn companions.

And the time came when the knights dispersed to seek the Holy Grail, but Simon refused to go. "I will serve the pelican," he said, "in the way of duty, neither will I seek what he hides from me: lest the needy suffer through my neglect, when they seek a champion and there is none."

And Sir Mordred, Arthur's nephew, tried hard to persuade him to leave his post, and to follow the others in search of the Grail. But Simon looked sternly on him, and said: "I know I should meet the serpent again, but I did not expect it would come in the guise of a knight! I will not leave my post; for the Holy Grail is the gift of the pelican, and he will bestow it on those who serve him." Then all the serpent looked out of Sir Mordred's eyes, and he hissed: "Beware of the serpent and the crocodile in the day of battle." And he turned away and left him.

Now after these things, Sir Mordred rebelled against Arthur, and Simon fought in the last battle. And it seemed to him that behind Sir Mordred he could see the figure of the crocodile, so he knew that his death should be by Sir Mordred. And one by one, he saw King Arthur's knights struck down, and he knew that the day was lost. Then Sir Mordred crossed over to him and whispered: "Come over to my side, Sir Simon, and I will advance you to great honour. I am the king that is to be; for King Arthur's day is over." "Never," cried Simon, "never! You advance me to honour!! I should lose all honour by serving you, you traitor!" "Bethink you," hissed Sir Mordred, and his voice was fierce and cruel, "you have no child to save, no comrades to die for now. This is only a cause, and a losing one," "Black-cat Serpent, and Mordred," cried Simon, "I know you now at last. You are my own evil nature. This may be only a cause, but it is the cause of the pelican, my master, and, though it seem a losing one, I know that it shall triumph. King Arthur and the right! 'Tis a cause worth dying for!" And, as he spoke, Sir Mordred struck him a great blow on the head, and he fell down senseless.  

*          *           *           *           *           *

"Are you awake, papa? You have slept a long time." It was Ida's voice that spoke, and Simon looked up with a start. He was lying in the hammock where he had gone to sleep, and the book lay open on the ground. He got up very confusedly. "Where is Sir Tristram?" he murmured. "Sir Tristram!" said Ida, "have you been dreaming about Sir Tristram? The man is waiting to know if he must kill the hen to-night." "Kill the hen!" cried Simon. "Certainly not; and, Ida, bring the kittens into the house. They must have a basin of warm milk to-night; I have been thinking that it is cold for them in the barn." "Why, Father," exclaimed Ida, "the fairies must have been teaching you." "I believe they have," replied Simon. "They can do a great deal in a short time. Now run away, dear, for the kittens."

And, when Ida was gone, Simon kneeled down and prayed. "Oh! Lord," he said, "let me not forget the lesson I have learned. Let me still be the servant of the pelican; for thou art the true pelican, who feedest thy servants on thine own blood. And thine angels are about thy people, as Sir Tristram and Sir Galahad were around me. One trial more and I cross the river: Lord, give me thy strength in my trial, and in the hour when I cross over. Let me ever henceforth live in thee!"

Then he arose, and followed Ida to the house.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________


"But oh! what joy upon the shore,
To tell the voyage perils o'er
."        

PART VII. – THE CONQUEROR.

ABOUT two years later, I was walking near Simon's farm. Nature was at her best, for she had freshly donned her emerald robes; and, in every hedgerow, the springing flowerets were again preaching their eloquent sermon on the truth of the Resurrection. High overhead, a lark carroled to the sun; and nearer, the honey-laden bees filled the air with a contented murmur, as they eulogised the advantages of work. But there was no sound of work on the farm, for an air of Sabbath stillness was upon the place; and, as though to still further carry out the illusion of its being Sunday, the church-bells began solemnly to toll. It was the tolling for the dead! Then, from the farmhouse door, started a mournful procession. I thought everyone in the village must have been there. Old men hobbled along on their staffs. Strong men walked with bowed heads. Little children wept as they saw the cortege. "Why, who is this?" said I. "The whole place seems to mourn him."

So I followed the procession to the peaceful churchyard, and saw the body laid beside a little grave, on which was the simple inscription, "Ida;" and under it the words, "He shall carry the lambs in his bosom."

There was one old man among the mourners who seemed especially touched. He had a hard, stern face, but the tears were rolling down it as he murmured: "Forgive me, my enemy; you were my truest friend." And I saw a light resting on his tears which reminded me of the light from the river.

So singular were his words that I followed him from the churchyard, and ventured to accost him. "Tell me," said I, "the meaning of the strange words you uttered. Who is it that has just been buried, and how could he be both your enemy and your friend?" And he answered: "Come home with me, and I will tell you. It will do me good to unburden myself to someone." So he took me to his home, and, with the tears pouring down his rugged face, told me the following tale: –

"The man you saw buried to-day was one Simon Hardheart, and at one time the name fitted him well, for a harder-hearted man it would have been difficult to find. Not that he was intentionally cruel, but all his finer qualities had been hidden under the icy crust of money-making. Success was at that time his god, and the only thing he cared for but his money was his daughter Ida. Well, Simon and I were bitter enemies, for we had quarrelled over some cattle, and we never lost an opportunity of annoying each other. Simon was not a man to forgive, now, for the matter of that, was I either. I was fond of the child, little Ida. She used often to run over and see me, and she would sit and tell me fairy stories till I could almost believe them true. I think that the child did believe them. But, of course, after our quarrel Simon forbid her to come, and I didn't like him any the better for stopping my pleasure; but, though I used to long for the child's company, being a lonely man, I was too proud to humble myself. And so things went on: . . ."

Here the rugged face quivered, and the voice grew husky and low. "It makes me feel bad to think how stubborn I was," he said, "and the evil that came of it!" " . . . . . . . . . And so things went on, as I was saying, till about two years ago, when Simon had a singular dream. Little Ida used to say that it was no dream, but that he had really been with Sir Tristram; and indeed I sometimes almost think so myself. Anyway, it made a great change in Simon, and the very day he had it he came over and asked me to be friends. But I was stubborn, and wouldn't hear of it. "Well, if you won't have me, you will let Ida come over," said Simon. I would have liked to say, "no," but I hadn't the heart to: so Ida used to run about the house as before. She told me all about Simon's dream, and Sir Tristram and Sir Galahad, and how she was going to serve the pelican and learn to tread upon the serpent; and sometimes I would her her talking softly to Sir Galahad as though he were quite close to her. I believe she thought he was. But she was always wanting me to be friends with Simon, and I knew I was in the wrong, and it made me angry, and . . . . . . and . . . . . . well . . . . . . I killed her!"

Here he saw the look of horror on my face, and eagerly exclaimed: "I didn't mean to do it. I would have cut off my hand sooner. But I was so angry with feeling in the wrong and not daring to own it, that I put out my hand and pushed her from me. She was always a delicate child, and I pushed angrily, and she fell against the fender, and hurt her head. Everyone thought it was an accident but Simon, and he – well, he forgave me, though it broke his heart to lose her.

She was conscious when she died, and she talked a lot about Sir Galahad, and the pelican's land and the doves! We were both with her, and she made her father and I clasp hands, and told me not to mind having hurt her, for she knew I loved her and didn't mean to do it. Love her! I should think I did love her!! Well, she went to sleep after that. Then she awoke and said: "Good-bye, Father! Good-bye, Friend!" She always called me "friend" because she so wanted me to be a friend to her father. "We will wait for you across the river: Sir Tristram, Sir Galahad and I. You must come to the pelican's land, too, Friend." Then she looked bright and said: "Oh! Sir Galahad!" and "Oh! the Shepherd!" and was gone. "She is safe with the Shepherd now," said Simon. "He shall carry the lambs in his bosom." That is the text he put upon her grave.

Well, he never looked up after she died, though he was always kind and considerate. And to me he was like a brother. I was in difficulties and he lent me money; and, when I fell ill, he nursed me. That was what killed him. He took the fever and died. "One ordeal more," I heard him murmur. "One ordeal more. I thought to have died for an enemy, but he has become my friend. Oh! Friend," said he, "be the servant of my master. Ida is waiting for you, and Sir Tristram, and Sir Galahad, and I will wait there too. The river is not death, but life; and the serpent is your own evil nature. Tread it under in the strength of Christ." Then he began to ramble, and talked of his dream. He seemed to be wandering again in the forest with thick darkness all around him; and all at once he seemed to see the light, for his face beamed with pleasure and he stretched forth his hand as though to grasp another, and called out in a strong clear voice: "Well met, Sir Tristram! Well met, Sir Galahad!" Then with look of tender happiness, he added: "Ida, my child, my loved one." Then he grasped my hand in his. "We will wait, Friend!" he said. But what a radiance was on him as he cried, "The Pelican! Our Elder Brother!" That radiance went with him to the coffin. He shall arise with it upon the judgement day!"

"Now," said the man, "do you wonder I weep? Do you wonder the whole village weeps? I will try to serve his master, and follow him. He gained me, when he died for his enemy."

"Yes," said I, "and he gained life everlasting. Simon is not dead. Both here and in heaven he is living. He will never die in the hearts that knew and loved him!" "Never!" sobbed the old man, "Never!"

Then I went away pondering the story, but most of all those strange words, "Well met, Sir Tristram."  


THE END.