Flemish Legend Sir Halewyn by Charles de Coster Chapter 29

Of the crow and the sparrow, of the hound, the horse and the seven echoes

When she reached the middle part of the forest, she saw through the thick snowflakes Sir Halewyn coming towards her.

The Miserable had that day on his body a fine dress of blue cloth, on which was broidered in two colours his ugly arms. Round his waist he had a fair belt studded with lumps of gold, and at his belt the golden sickle, and over his dress a fair opperst-kleed of corn-coloured cloth-of-scarlet.

Riding on his roan horse he came up to Magtelt, and she saw that he was handsome.

Before his horse, barking and making a great noise, ran a hound like a wolf, which, on seeing Schimmel, leapt at him and bit him. But Schimmel, with a great kick which he let fly, set him dancing a sorry dance, and singing a pitiful song over his broken paw.

“Ah,” thought the maid, “God grant, brave Schimmel, that I may do better for the master than thou hast done for the dog.”

And the Miserable came to her:

“Salutation,” he said, “fair maid with clear brown eyes.”

“Salutation,” she said, “Siewert Halewyn the Invincible.”

But the Miserable: “What brings thee,” he said, “into my lands?”

“My heart,” said Magtelt, “bade me come, I wished greatly to see thee, and am content now that I can look at thee face to face.”

“So,” said he, “have done and shall do all virgins, even more beautiful than thou art.”

While they were talking together the wounded hound made a rush at the horse and hung on to Halewyn’s opperst-kleed as if he would drag him down to the ground.

Having done this, he went off and sat down in the snow beside the road, and there lifting up his muzzle howled most lamentably.

“See,” said he, “my hound crying out to death. Hast no fear, maid?”

“I go,” she said, “in God’s keeping.”

Having moved forward a little way, talking and riding together, they saw in the air above their heads, a crow of great size, on whose neck was perched an angry little sparrow, pecking him, clutching him, pulling out his feathers and piping furiously. Wounded, torn open, flying this way and that, right, left, upward, downward, banging against the trees blindly, and croaking with pain, this crow at length fell dead, with his eyes pecked out, across Halewyn’s saddle. Having looked at it a moment, he tossed it aside into the road; while the sparrow flew off to a bough, and there, shaking out his feathers merrily, fell a-piping at the top of his voice in celebration of his victory.

“Ah,” said Magtelt, laughing to the sparrow, “thou art of noble blood, little bird; come hither, I will find thee a fair cage and give thee thy fill of wheat, millet, hemp, and linseed.”

But Halewyn became mightily angry: “Common little insolent!” he cried, “would that I had thee in a snare! Shouldst not then sing for long thy victory over this noble crow.”

None the less the sparrow went on singing without a break, and in this wise seemed to mock at Halewyn, who said to Magtelt:

“Dost dare to applaud and give heart to this little animal, knowing that my shield bears on it the crow of my glorious ancestor Dirk! Knowest thou not that like him thou hast but little longer to sing?”

“I,” she said, “shall sing as long as it pleases God, my master.”

“There is for thee,” said he, “no other master than I, for here I rule alone.” Suddenly he turned very cold, for the heart of Anne-Mie, though it still beat, was become like ice in his breast. So, thinking that this heart was about to dry up, he said to Magtelt: “Thou comest in good season, fair virgin.”

“Whom God leads,” said she, “comes always in good season.”

“But,” he said, “who art thou, riding in my land, singing and winding the horn, who bringest hither such insolent talk?”

“I,” said she, “am the Lady Magtelt, daughter of Roel le Preux, Lord of Heurne.”

“And,” said he, “art thou not chilled, riding thus in the snow?”

“None,” she said, “feels the cold in the race of the Lords of Heurne.”

“And,” said he, “hast thou no fear, here at my side and on my own land, where no one dares to set foot?”

“None,” she said, “knows of fear in the race of the Lords of Heurne.”

“Thou art,” said he, “a brave maid.”

“I,” she said, “am daughter of Roel le Preux, Lord of Heurne.”

He answered nothing to that, and they went on a while without speaking.

Suddenly he said, lifting his head arrogantly: “Am I not truly the Invincible, the Beautiful, the Strong? Shall I not be so always? Yes, for all things come to my aid in the hour of victory. In former times I must needs sing, in cold, snow, wind, and darkness, to call virgins to me, but now the most proud, noble, and beautiful of maids comes hither in broad day without song to call her: sure sign of growing power. Who is my equal? None, save God. He has the heavens and I the earth, and over all living things triumph and mastery. Let come what may, armies, lightning, thunder, tempest; who can stand but I?”

“I!” answered to his hideous blasphemy seven voices speaking together.

Those voices were the echo of the Seven Giants, which sent back every sound seven times over with great force and volume.

But the Miserable: “Hark!” said he, “my Lord Echo dares to mock the Invincible.”

And he burst out laughing.

But the echo burst out laughing likewise, and laughed loud, long, and terribly.

And Halewyn appeared well pleased at the noise, and went on laughing, with the seven echoes after him.

And it seemed to Magtelt as it were a thousand men hidden in the forest.

And meanwhile the hound had taken fright and howled so desperately that it seemed to Magtelt as it were a thousand hounds in the forest crying out to death.

The Miserable’s horse had taken fright also, and was so terrified at his master’s laughter, the dog’s howls, and his own neighing, all ringing out together, that he plunged, reared, stood up on his hind legs like a man, laid back his ears with fear, and would, without doubt, have thrown Halewyn from his back, if, driving him onward with his spurs, he had not made him pass by force the place of the seven echoes.

But Schimmel had not moved at all, and this strangely enough, for he was a young horse, apt to be alarmed.

When the noise was over they rode on their way, speaking few words together as they rode.

And together they came to the Gallows-field.