Gateway to the Classics: Stories of Charlemagne by Alfred J. Church
Stories of Charlemagne by  Alfred J. Church

Of the End of the False Duke Macaire

H uon and his companions rode on till they came to the city of Tormont. At the gate they met a man with a bow in his hand, who had been hunting in the wood. Huon saluted him in the name of God, and would know by what name the city was called. When the man heard the salutation, he said, "Sir, speak softly, I pray you; if the Duke of this city should know you to be Christian man, he would assuredly slay you. I am a Christian man myself, but keep it hidden for fear of my life."

"I am journeying to Babylon," said Huon, "and would fain tarry a night in the city, for I and my company are weary." "Sir," answered the stranger, "I counsel you not to tarry; should the Duke know of your coming, you would hardly save your lives." But Huon said, "The day is far spent, and we are weary. Nor does a wise traveller leave a good town." Then said the stranger, "If you are purposed to do this thing, I will take you to a lodging, where you shall be safe." So the man took Huon and his companions to the house of the Provost of the city.

Huon greeted the Provost, as he had greeted the man at the gate, and the Provost answered him in the same fashion: "Speak softly," he said, "for if the Duke should hear of this, you would be lost. Nevertheless you are right welcome to my house." Then he bade Huon and his companions enter, and when they had refreshed themselves, they supped with great plenty. Supper being ended, Huon said to Gerames, "Cause now that proclamation be made that any man in the city that will may come and sup free of all cost. And go you into the city, and buy bread and meat and other things needful, and I, with my cup, will give them drink." And so it was done, and there was never a beggar or vagabond in the whole city but came to the supper. And Huon ministered to them wine from the cup.

Now it should be told that the Duke of the city of Tormont was by name Macaire, and was uncle to Huon. But he had forsworn his Christian faith, and was full of hatred against all Christian men. About this time he chanced to send his steward into the city to buy provisions. But when the steward found that everything had been sold, he came again to his master, and said, "I can get nothing in the town for your supper. There is a young man lodged in the Provost's house that has bought all the victuals that were in the city, and has feasted therewith all the rogues and vagabonds in it." When the Duke heard this he said, "I will go and see this fellow." And he bade his knights arm themselves, and come with him. As he went there came one that had been at the supper, who said, "There is a young man that has a most wonderful cup. If all the people from the east to the west should drink thereof, it would not fail." Then the Duke said to himself, "I will have that cup." So he and his men went to the Provost's house.

When the Provost saw the Duke coming, he said to Huon, "Here comes the Duke; I know not how you will fare." "Trouble not yourself," answered Huon; and when the Duke came into the house, he said to him in a cheerful voice, "Sir, you are welcome." "What mean you by this tumult? Why did you bid

all these rogues to supper?" "Sir," answered Huon, "I am bound on a journey to the Red Sea; these poor folk I have thus entertained that they may pray for me that I may come back safely." "This is foolishness," said the Duke; "what will their prayers profit you if you lose your head?" "Sir," answered Huon, "be content. Sit down now with your knights, and sup with us; if I have done aught amiss I will make due amends."

So the Duke and his knights sat down, seeming to be content. And when they had supped, Huon serving them all the time full courteously, he took the cup and showed it to the Duke, saying, "Is not this cup empty?" "'Tis so," said the Duke, "I see nothing therein." Then Huon made the sign of the cross over the cup, and straightway it was full of wine. But when he gave it to the Duke, lo! in a moment it was empty. Said the Duke, "What magic is this?" "'Tis no magic," answered Huon. "Because you are in sin, therefore the cup became empty in your hands."

The Duke was not a little wroth; nevertheless he dissembled his anger, and said, "Tell me now your name and your kindred, and of what country you are." And when he heard these things, he said, Fair sir, you are my nephew; you should lodge nowhere but with me." I thank you, sir," answered Huon. But Gerames said, "'Tis safer lodging with the Provost."

On the morrow Huon would have departed, but the Duke said, "Tarry awhile, fair nephew, till my Barons shall come, for I would have them go with you to your journey's end." "I am content," answered Huon, "if you will have it so."

The Duke, purposing to slay his nephew, said to a certain Geoffrey, a knight who had come with him from France, and had also renounced the Christian faith, "Bring now five or six score of soldiers, and let them slay this Huon and all his train. Let not one escape, if you would not lose my favour." To this Geoffrey consented.

But when Geoffrey was gone out from the Duke's presence, he said to himself, "This is a villainous deed that the Duke would have me to do, the slaying of his own nephew. I remember what great service this man's father, the Duke Sevyn, did me when I was in France, saving my life when I was overpowered by my enemies. It were a shameful thing to deal with his son in this fashion."

Now there were in the castle some six score prisoners out of the land of France who had been taken captive on the seas. Geoffrey, having charge of these prisoners, for he was in high authority under the Duke, went to the dungeons where they lay, and said to them, "Sirs, if you would save your lives, follow me." This they were well content to do. So he took them to the chamber where the arms were kept, and armed them all. Having done this he said, "Sirs, now it is time to show your courage, if you would have freedom instead of bondage." And he told them how the Duke had sent for pagan men to slay his nephew. "But you," he said, "when the time comes, will not slay but succour him."

So the prisoners, being clad in armour, and having swords by their sides, followed Geoffrey to the hall where the Duke and Huon sat at dinner; and when they had entered the hall, Huon said to his uncle, "Are these the Barons who shall conduct me on my journey?" for he was very desirous to depart. The Duke, thinking that Geoffrey had fulfilled his commandment, said, "Not so, my nephew; these are soldiers whom I have sent for that they may slay you."

When Huon heard this he stood upon his feet, and put his helmet on his head and prepared to fight for his life. Geoffrey, on his part, said to the prisoners, "Show yourselves men, fair sirs, and suffer not a single pagan to escape!" And the prisoners fell on the company that was gathered at dinner with the Duke, and slew them.

As for the Duke, when he saw how he had been deceived, he fled by a secret way that he knew, and, leaping from a window, so escaped. But Geoffrey and the Frenchmen shut to the gates, and drew up the drawbridge, thinking to defend themselves in the castle, for they knew that the Duke would not be content till he had recovered it.

In no long time the Duke, having gathered together a great company of men, laid siege to the castle. He had engines of war with him, and ladders wherewith his men might climb on to the walls and make a breach with pikes and mattocks. And this the pagans did, and for all the valour of Huon and Geoffrey and the prisoners the castle was very like to be taken.

Gerames said to Huon, "Now, sir, it is time for you to blow your horn, for unless there come to us some help we shall scarce see another day." Huon answered, "I would willingly do so, but my horn I have not, for I left it with the Provost."

Meanwhile the Provost had come to the Duke, and said to him, "Sir, this is but ill counsel that you are pulling down your own castle. Make peace with your nephew on this condition, that he and his company straightway depart from out of your city. Let me go, therefore, and persuade him." "You shall go," answered the Duke.

So the Provost, coming to the castle gate, said that he greatly desired to see Huon, who coming, desired to know who he was. When he heard that he was the Provost, he said to him, "Now if you would serve me, give me the horn which I left in your keeping." "That is easily done," answered the Provost, and he drew it from his bosom and gave it to Huon.

Gerames, though he had counselled the blowing of the horn, when he saw Huon now ready to do so, repented, for he mistrusted King Oberon, and would gladly have done without his help. He said, therefore, to Huon, "Sir, I doubt whether you are even now in such a strait that you should blow the horn. Haply King Oberon would not desire that it should be done."

"What mean you?" answered Huon. "Shall I tarry till I am slain before I ask for help?" and putting the horn to his lips he blew it with all his might.

King Oberon heard the blast of the horn where he sat in his city of Mommure, and he said to himself, "Doubtless my friend has need of me; I wish that I were with him and ten thousand men with me." No sooner had he wished it than he and the ten thousand men were in the city of Tormont. A great slaughter did they make of the pagans, but they that were willing to be christened King Oberon saved alive. As for the Duke, he was slain without mercy, for he was an evil man, and had sinned against knowledge, and they hanged his body on a gibbet that was set upon the wall, that his end might serve as an example for others.

After these things Oberon took leave of Huon. At the same time he said, "I foresee that you will run into many dangers by your rashness. I counsel you, therefore, that you undertake no adventures but such as are necessary." To these words Huon answered, that when he departed from France, he had resolved that he would refuse no adventure, how perilous so ever it might be. "That is foolishness," said Oberon; "and mark this: if you blow the horn when you are on any of such adventures, I will not heed it, no, not though you should even break the horn in the blowing of it." "Sir," said Huon, when he heard these words, "you will do your pleasure, as I will do mine own." But Oberon answered nothing. So these two parted in anger.

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