Charlotte Mary Yonge.

A storehouse of stories : storehouse the first online

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frightened all w^ho were so unhappy as to behold them.

The name of this enormous wretch was Barbarico. A name
which filled all who heard it with fear and astonishment. The
whole delight of this monster's life was in acts of inhuman-
ity and mischief; and he was the most miserable as well as
the most wicked creature that ever yet was born. He had no
sooner committed one outrage, but he was in agonies till he
could commit another; never satisfied, unless he could find
an opportunity of either torturing or devouring some innocent
creature. And whenever he happened to be disappointed
in any of his malicious purposes, he would stretch his
immense bulk on the top of some high mountain, and groan,
and beat the earth, and bellow with such a hollow voice,
that the whole country heard and trembled at the sound.

The other giant, wliose name was Benefico, was not so
tall and bulky as the hideous Barbarico. He was handsome,
well proportioned, and of a very goodnatured turn of mind.
His delight was no less in acts of goodness and benevolence
than the other's was in cruelty and mischief His constant
care was to endeavour if possible to repair the injuries


committed by this horrid tyrant, which he had sometimes
an opportunity of doing ; for though Barbarico was much
larger and stronger than Benefico, yet his coward mind was
afraid to engage with him, and always shunned a meeting;
leaving the pursuit of any prey, if he himself was pursueel
by Benefico: nor could the good Benefico trust farther to
this coward spirit of his base adversary, than only to make the
horrid creature fly; for he well knew that a close engage-
ment might make him desperate; and fatal to himself might
be the consequence of such a brutal desperation; therefore
he prudently declined any attempt to destroy this cruel mon-
ster, till he should gain some sure advantage over him.

It happened on a certain day, that as the i/i/nttfiafi Bar-
barico was prowling along the side of a craggy mountain
overgrown with brambles and briery thickets, taking most
horrid strides, rolling his ghastly eyes around in c^uest of
human blood, and having his breast tortured with inward rage
and grief, that he had been so unhappy as to live one whole
day without some act of violence, he beheld, in a pleasant
valley at a distance, a little rivulet winding its gentle course
through rows of willows mixed with flowery shrubs. Hither
the giant hasted; and being arrived, he gazed about to see
if in this sweet retirement any were so unhappy as to fall
within his power; but finding none, the disappointment set
him in a flame of rage, which, burning like an inward fur-
nace, parched his throat. And now he laid him down on
the bank, to try if in the cool stream, that murmured as it
flowed, he could assuage or slack the fiery thirst that burnt
within him.

He bent him down to drink; and at the same time casting
his baleful eyes towards the opposite side, he discovered
within a little natural arbour fonned by the branches of a
spreading tree, within the meadow's flowery lawn, the shei>
herd Fidus and his loved Amata.

The gloomy tyrant no sooner perceived this happy pair,
than his heart exulted with joy; and, suddenly leajjing up
on the ground, he forgot his thirst, and left the stream
untasted. He stood for a short space to view them in their
eweet retirement; and was soon convinced that, in the


innocent enjoyment of reciprocal affection, their hapjiiness
was complete. His eyes, inflan:ed with envy to behold such
bliss, darted a fearful glare ; and his breast swelling with
malice and envenomed rage, he with gigantic pace approached
their peaceful seat.

The happy Fidus was at that time busy in entertaining his
loved Amata with a song which he had that very morning
composed in praise of constancy; and the giant was now
within one stride of them, when Amata, perceiving him,
cried out in a trembling voice, ' Fly, Fidus, fly, or we are
lost for ever; we are pursued by the hateful Barbarico 1 '
She had scarce uttered these words, when the savage tjTant
seized them by the waist in either hand, and holding them
up to his nearer view, thus said : ' Speak, miscreants ; and,
if you would avoid immediate death, tell me who you are,
and whence arises that tranquillity of mind, which even at a
distance was visible in your behaviour.'

Poor Fidus, with looks that would have melted the hardest
heart, innocently replied, 'that they were wandering that
way without designing offence to any creature on earth.
That they were faithful lovers ; and, with the consent of all
their friends and relations, were soon to be married ; there-
fore he entreated him not to part them.

The giant now no sooner perceived, from the last words
of the affrighted youth, what was most likely to give them
the greatest torment, than with a spiteful grin which made
his horrible face yet more horrible, and in a hollow voice, as
loud as thunder, he tauntingly cried out, ' Ho, hoh ! You'd
not be parted, would you % For once Fll gratify thy will,
and thou shalt follow this thy whimpering fondling down
my capacious maw.' So saying, he turned his ghastly visage
on the trembling Amata who, being now no longer able to
support herself under his cruel threats, fainted away, and
remained in his hand but as a lifeless corpse. When lifting
up his eyes towards the hill on the opposite side, he beheld
Benefico coming hastily towards him. This good giant
having been that morning informed that Barbarico was
roaming in the mountains after prey, left his peaceful castle,
in hopes of giving protection to whatever unfortunate


creature should fall into the clutches of this so cruel a

Barbarico, at the sight of the friendly Benefico, started
with fear ; for although in bulk and stature he was, as we
have said, the superior : yet that cowardice, which ever
accompanies wickedness, now wTought in him in such a
manner that he could not bear to confront him, well know-
ing the courage and fortitude that always attend the good
and virtuous ; and therefore instantly putting Fidus into the
wallet that hung over his shoulder, he flung the fainting
Amata, whom he took to be quite expired, into the stream
that ran hard by, and fled to his cave, not daring once to
cast his eyes behind him.

The good Benefico perceiving the monster's flight, and not.
doubting but he had been doing some horrid mischief, im-
mediately hastened to the brook ; where he found the half
expiring Amata floating down the stream, for her clothes
had yet borne her up on the surface of the water. He
speedily stepped in, and drew her out, and taking her in
his arms, pressed her to his warm bosom; and in a short
space perceiving in her face the visible marks of returning
life, his heart swelled with kind compassion, and he thus be-
spoke the tender maid : ' Unhappy damsel, lift up thy gentle
eyes, and tell me by what hard fate thou hast fallen into
the power of that barbarous monster, whose savage nature
delights in nothing but ruin and desolation. Tremble not
thus, but without fear or terror behold one who joys in the
thought of having saved thee from destruction, and will briny
thee every comfort his utmost power can procure.

The gentle Amata was now just enough recovered to open
her eyes : but finding herself in a giant's arms, and still
retaining in her mind the frightful image of the horrid
Barbarico, she fetched a deep sigh, crying out in broken
accents, ' Fly, Fidus, fly ; ' and again sunk down upon the
friendly giant's breast. On hearing these words, and plainly
seeing by the anguish of her mind that some settled grief
was deeply rooted at her heart, and therefore despairing to
bring her to herself immediately, the kind Benefico hastened
with her to his ho.spitable castle ; where every imaginable
* I


assistance was administered to her relief, in order to recover
her lost senses, and reconcile her to her wretched fate.

The cruel Barbarico was no sooner arrived at his gloomy
cave, than he called to him his little page ; who, trembling
to hear the tyrant now again returned, quickly drew near to
attend his stern commands : when drawing out of the wallet
the poor Fidus, more dead than alive, the monster cried
out, ' Here, caitiff, take in charge this smoothed-faced
miscreant ; and, d'ye hear mel see that his allowance be
no more than one small ounce of mouldy bread and half-a-
pint of standing water, for each day's support, till his now
blooming skin be withered, his flesh be wasted from his
bones, and he dwindle to a meagre skeleton.' So saying he
left them, as he hoped, to bewail each other's sad condition.
But the unhappy Fidus, bereft of his Amata, was not to be
appalled by any of the most horrid threats ; for now his only
comfort was the hopes of a speedy end to his miserable life,
and to find a refuge from his misfortunes in the peaceful
grave. With this reflection the faithful Fidus was endea-
vouring to calm the inward troubles of his mind, when the
little page, with looks of the most tender compassion, and
in gentle words, bid him be comforted, and with patience
endure his present affliction; adding that he himself had
long suffered the most rigorous fiite, yet despaired not but
that one day would give them an opportunity to free them-
selves from the wicked ^vretch, whose sole delight was in
others' torments. A? to his inhuman commands, continued
he, I will sooner die than obey them ; and in a mutual
friendship perhaps we may find some consolation, even in
this dismal cave.

This little page the cruel Barbarico had stolen from his
parents at five years old ; ever since which time he had
tortured and abused him, till he had now attained the age of
one-and-twenty. His mother had given him the name of
Mignon; by which name the monster always called him, as
it gratified his insolence to make use of that fond appellation
whilst he was abusing him, only when he said Alignon he
would in derision add the word Dwarf; for, to say the truth,
IMignon was one of the least men that was ever seen, though


at the same time one of the prettiest: his limbs, though small,
were exactly proportioned ; his countenance was at once
sprightly and soft; and whatever his head thought, or his heart
felt, his eyes by their looks expressed ; and his temper was
as sweet as his person was amiable. Such was the gentle
creature Barbarico chose to torment. For wicked giants, no
less than wicked men and women, are constantly tormented
at the appearance of those perfections in another, to which
they themselves have no pretensions.

The friendship and affection of Fidus and Mignon now
every day increased ; and the longer they were acquainted,
the more delight they took in each other's company. The
faithful Fidus related to his companion the story of his
loved Amata, whilst the tender Mignon consoled his friend's
inward sorrows, and supplied him with necessaries, notwith-
standing the venture he run of the cruel tyrant's heavy
displeasure. The giant ceased not every day to view the
hapless Fidus, to see if the cruelty of his intentions had in
any degree wrought its desired effect ; but perceiving in him
no alteration, he now began to be suspicious that the little
Mignon had not punctually obeyed his savage command.
In order therefore to satisfy his wicked curiosity, he resolved
within himself narrowly to watch every occasion these poor un-
happy captives had of conversing with each other. Alignon,
well knowing the implacable and revengeful disposition of
this barbarous tyrant, had taken all the precautions imagin-
able to avoid discovery; and therefore generally sought every
opportunity of being alone with Fidus, and carrying him his
daily provisions at those hours he knew the giant was most
likely to be asleep.

It so befel that, on a certain day, the wicked giant had, as
was his usual custom, been abroad for many hours in search
of some unhappy creature on whom to glut his hateful inhu-
manity; when, tired with fruitless roaming, he returned to
his gloomy cave, beguiled of all his horrid purposes ; for he
had not once that day espied so much as the track of man,
or other harmless animal, to give him ho])es even to gratify
his rage or cruelty ; but now raving with inward torment
and despair, he laid him down upon his iron couch, to try if

I 2


he could close his eyes and quiet the tumultuous passions of
his breast. He tossed and tumbled and could get no rest,
starting with fearful dreams, and horrid visions of tormenting

Meanwhile the gentle Mignon had prepared a little deli-
cate repast, and having seen the monster lay himself at
length, and thinking now that a fit occasion offered in which
to comfort and refresh his long expecting friend, was hasten-
ing with it to the cell where the faithful Fidus was confined.
At this fatal moment the giant, rearing himself up on his
couch, perceived the little Mignon just at the entrance of
the cell ; when calling to him in a hollow voice, that dis-
mally resounded through the cave, he so startled the poor
unhappy page, that he dropped the cover from his trembling
hand and stood fixed and motionless as a statue.

Come hither, Mignon, caitiff, dwarf, said then the taunting
homicide: but the poor little creature was so thunderstruck
he was quite unable to stir one foot. Whereat the giant,
rousing himself from off" his couch, with one huge stride
reached out his brawny arm, and seized him by the waist;
and, pointing to the scattered delicates, cried out, ' Vile mis-
creant ! is it thus thou hast obeyed my orders % Is this the
mouldy bread and muddy water, with which alone it was my
command thou shouldst sustain that puny mortal ? But I'll '
— here raising him aloft, he was about to dash him to the
ground, when suddenly revolving in his wicked thoughts,
that if at once he should destroy his patient slave, his
cruelty to him must also have an end, he paused — and then
recovering, he stretched out his arm, and bringing the little
trembler near his glaring eyes, he thus subjoins : 'No; I'll
not destroy thy wretched life ; but thou shalt waste thy
weary days in a dark dungeon, as far remote from the least
dawn of light as from thy loved companion. And I myself
will carefully supply you both so equally with mouldy bread
and water, that each by his own sufferings shall daily know
what his dear friend endures.' So saying, he hastened \\'ith
him to his deepest dungeon; and having thrust him in, he
doubly barred the iron door. And now again retiring to his
couch, this new wrought mischief, which greatly gratified his


raging mind, soon sunk him down into a sound and heavy
sleep. The reason this horrid m.onster had not long ago
devoured his little captive (for he thought him a delicious
morsel) was, that he might never want an object at hand
to gratify his cruelty. For though extremely great was his
voracious hunger, yet greater still was his desire of tormen-
ting ; and oftentimes when he had teazed, beat, and tor-
tured the poor gentle Mignon, so as to force from him tears,
and sometimes a soft complaint, he would, with a malicious
sneer, scornfully reproach him in the following words : ' Little
does it avail to whine, to blubber, or complain ; for, remem-
ber, abject wretch,

I am a giant, and I can eat thee :

Thou art a dwarf, and thou canst not eat me.'

When Mignon was thus alone, he threw himself on the
cold ground bemoaning his unhappy fate. However, he
soon recollected that patience and resignation were his only
succour in this distressful condition; not doubting but that,
as goodness cannot always suffer, he should in time meet
with some unforeseen deliverance from the savage power of
the inhuman Barbarico.

Whilst the gentle Mignon was endeavouring to comfort
himself in his dungeon with these good reflections, he sud-
denly perceived, at a little distance from him, a small glimmer-
ing light. Immediately he rose from the ground, and going
towards it, found that it shone through a little door that
had been left ajar, which led him to a spacious hall, wherein
the giant hoarded his immense treasures. Mignon was at
first dazzled with the lustre of so much gold and silver,
and sparkling jewels as were there heaped together. But
casting his eyes on a statue that was placed in the middle
of the room, he read on the pedestal, written in very small
letters, the following verses : —

Wouldst thou from the rage be free
Of the tyrant's tyranny,
Loose the fillet which is bound
Twice three times my brows around;
Bolts and bars shall open fly,
By a magic sympathy.


Take him in his sleepinfy hour ;
Bind his neck and break his pow'r.
Patience bids make no delay :
Haste to bind him, haste away.

Mignon's little heart now leapt for joy, that he had found
the means of such a speedy deliverance; and eagerly climb-
ing up the statue, he quickly unbound the magic fillet; which
was no sooner done, but suddenly the bolts and bars of the
brazen gates through which the giant used to pass to this
his treasury, were all unloosed, and the folding-doors of
their own accord flew open, grating harsh thunder on their
massy hinges. At the same instant, stretched on his iron
couch in the room adjoining to the hall, the giant gave a
deadly groan. Here again the little IMignon's trembling
heart began to fail; for he feared the monster was awakened
by the noise, and that he should now suffer the cruellest
torments his wicked malice could invent. Wherefore for a
short space he remained clinging round the statue, till he
perceived that all again was hushed and silent, when,
getting down, he gently stole into the giant's chamber,
where he found him still in a profound sleep.

But here, to the great mortification of Miss Jenny's at-
tentive hearers, the hour of entertaining themselves being
at an end, they were obliged to lea\'e the poor little IMignon
in the greatest distress and fright lest the giant should awake
before he could fulfil the commands of the oracle, and to
wait for the remainder of the story till another opportunity.

In the evening, as soon as school was over, the little
company again met in their arbour, and nothing could
be greater than their impatience to hear the event of Mig-
non's hazardous undertaking. Miss Dolly Friendly said
that if the poor little creature was destroyed, she should not
sleep that night. But they all joined in entreating Miss
Jenny to proceed ; which she did in the following manner :


Now, thought Mignon, is the lucky moment to fulfil the
instructions of the oracle. And then cautiously getting up


the side of the couch, with trembling hands he put the fillet
round the monster's neck, and tied it firmly in a three-
fold knot ; and again softly creeping down, he retired into a
corner of the room to wait the wished event. In a few
minutes the giant waked ; and opening his enormous eyes,
he glared their horrid orbs around (but without the least
motion of his head or body) and spied the little Mignon
where he lay, close shrinking to avoid his baleful sight.

The giant no sooner perceived his little page at liberty,
but his heart sorely smote him, and he began to suspect the
worst that could befal ; for, recollecting that he had care-
lessly left open the little door leading from the dungeon to
the great hall, wherein was placed the fatal magic statue,
he was now entirely convinced that Mignon had discovered
the secret charm on which his power depended ; for he
already found the magic of the fillet round his neck fully to
operate, his sinews all relax, his joints all tremble; and when
he would by his own hand have tried to free himself, his
shivering limbs he found refused obedience to their office.
Thus bereft of all his strength, and well nigh motionless,
in this extremity of impotence he cast about within himself
by what sly fraud (for fraud and subtlety were now his only
refuge) he best might work upon the gentle Mignon to lend
his kind assistance to unloose him. Wherefore with guile-
ful words and seeming courtesy, still striving to conceal his
curst condition, he thus bespake his little captive :

' Come hither Mignon ; my pretty gentle boy, come near
me. This fillet thou hast bound around my neck, to keep
me from the cold, gives me some pain. I know thy gentle
nature will not let thee see thy tender master in the least
uneasiness, without affording him thy cheerful aid and kind
relief Come hither, my dear child, I say, and loose the
knot which in thy kind concern (I thank thee for thy care)
thou hast tied so hard, it somewhat frets my neck.'

These words the insidious wretch uttered in such a low
trembling tone of voice, and with such an affectation of ten-
derness, that the little page, who had never before expe-
rienced from him any such kind of dialect, and but too well
knew his savage nature to believe that any thing but guile


or want of power could move him to the least friendly
speech, or kind affection, began now strongly to be persua-
ded that all was as he wished, and that the power of the
inhuman tyrant was at an end. He knew full well, that if
the giant had not lost the ability of rising from the couch, he
should ere now too sensibly have felt the sad effects of his
malicious resentment, and therefore boldly adventured to
approach him, and coming near the couch, and linding not
the least effort in the monster to reach him, and from thence
quite satislied of the giant's total incapacity of doing farther
mischief, he flew with raptures to the cell where Fidus la}'

Poor Fidus all this time was quite disconsolate ; nor
could he guess the cause why his little friend so long had
kept away ; one while he thought the giant's stern com-
mands had streightened him of all subsistence ; another
while his heart misgave him for his gentle friend, lest
unawares his kind beneficence towards him had caused him
to fall a sacrifice to the tyrant's cruel resentment. With
these and many other like reflections the unhappy youth
was busied, when Mignon, suddenly unbarred the cell, flew
to his friend, and eagerly embraced him, cried out, ' Come
Fidus, haste, my dearest friend ; for thou and all of us are
from this moment free. Come and behold the cruel mon-
ster, where he lies, bereft of all his strength. I cannot stay
to tell thee now the cause ; but haste, and thou shall see the
(Ireadful tyrant stretched on his iron couch, deprived of all
his wicked power. But first let us unbar each cell, wherein
is pent some wretched captive, that we may share a general
transport for this our glad deliverance.'

The faithful Fidus, whose heart had known but little joy
since he had lost his loved Amata, now felt a dawning hope
that he might once more chance to find her, if she had
survived their fatal separation ; and, without one word of
answer, he followed Mignon to the several cells, and soon
released all the astonished captives.

Mignon first carried them to behold their former terror,
now, to appearance, almost a lifeless corpse ; who on seeing
them all surround his couch, gave a most hideous roar,


which made them tremble, all but the gentle Mignon, who
was convinced of the impotence of his rage, and begged
them to give him their attendance in the hall ; where they
were no sooner assembled than he showed them the statue,
read them the oracle, and told them every circumstance be-
fore related.

They now began to bethink themselves of what method
was to be taken to procure their entire liberty; for the
influence of the magic fillet extended only to the gates of
the hall ; and still they remained imprisoned within the
dismal cave ; and though they knew from the oracle, as
well as from what appeared, that the monster's power was
at an end, yet still were they to seek the means of their
escape from this his horrid abode. At length Mignon again
ascended the couch to find the massy key, and .spying one
end of it peep out from under the pillow, he called to
Fidus, who first stepped up to his friend's assistance; the
rest by his example quickly followed ; and now, by their
united force, they dragged the ponderous key from under
the monster's head ; and then descending they all went to
the outer door of the cave, where, with some difficulty, they
set wide open the folding iron gates.

They now determined to despatch a messenger to the

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeA storehouse of stories : storehouse the first → online text (page 11 of 43)