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Marjorie Strachey.

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beyond the walls of the city. At a
signal the twelve archers shot. Their
twelve arrows hit the trunk of the tree,
and it quivered as though in a storm.
Then Vassilissa took an arrow, aimed at
the oak, and loosed the bow. The cord
whistled like a whirlwind, the dart flew,
and struck the oak with such force that
it was shivered from top to bottom as if
by a thunderbolt.

But Zabava still implored her father
not to marry her to the terrible ambas-
sador. " Believe me, believe me," she
cried, " you will regret it if you do."

So courteous Prince Vladimir thought
of another test.

" Vassily," said he, " will you wrestle
with my young men ? "

" Gladly," replied Vassilissa, and step-
ping into the court where the wrestlers



52 SAVITRI

were she seized two in one hand and
three in the other, and cracked their
skulls together like eggshells.

But Zabava still maintained that the
terrible ambassador was a woman ; and
at this courteous Prince Vladimir spat
with rage.

" Oh, foolish princess," he shouted,
*' your hair is long but your wits are
short ! How can this barbarian, stronger
than five wrestlers, be a woman ? "

And he ordered the wedding-feast to
be prepared.

On the third day of the wedding-
feast, when the time approached for going
to the church to be married, the terrible
ambassador grew sad, silent, and drooped
his head.

" Why are you not merry ? " asked
courteous Prince Vladimir.

" I do not know," answered Vassilissa ;
" perhaps at this very moment my aged
father or my dear mother is dying.
Have you no minstrels or harpers who
might divert my thoughts ? "

But though all the best minstrels and
harpers of Kieff were summoned, the
terrible ambassador was still sad.



VASSILISSA THE WISE 53

" Is not Stavros Godinovich among
your guests, courteous Prince Vladimir ?
They tell me he is the best player on
the harp — why have I not heard him ? "

At that Vladimir was perplexed ; for
he had sworn to keep Stavros in prison
for six years, and yet he dared not anger
the terrible ambassador. At last he sent
his servants to bring Stavros from the
dungeon to the banquet hall. And when
Stavros came he took his harp and strung
it ; one string was from Kieff, one from
Byzance, and one from far Jerusalem.
He plucked the harp and sang, and his
songs were strange and outlandish, from
over the blue sea.

Then said Vassilissa, " This harp player
pleases me. Give him to me, courteous
Prince Vladimir, and I will take him to
my tent."

Again Vladimir hesitated, but he did
not venture to refuse anything to the
terrible ambassador, so he bowed his
head and gave consent.

And when Vassilissa had brought
Stavros to the white pavilion outside the
wall, she turned and took him by the
hands and said ;



54 SAVITRI

" Stavros Godinovich, dost thou not
know me ? "

And he looked long in her eyes and
cried :

" Ah, my beloved wife, thou art
Vassilissa the Wise ! "

Then, when they had embraced and
rejoiced over his escape, Stavros said,
" Let us mount our horses and fly quickly
from the town of Kieff and the power of
Vladimir."

" No," said Vassilissa, " do not let us
steal away as if we were ashamed. Let
us rather return to courteous Prince
Vladimir."

So Vassilissa put on her woman's
clothes, and the husband and wife rode
back to the Tsar's palace. When they
reached it, Vassilissa crossed herself, bowed
low to all present, especially to Prince
Vladimir and his daughter Zabava, and
said :

" Behold again, O Tsar, the terrible
ambassador you betrothed to your
daughter Zabava. Shall we continue
the wedding-feast ? "

" Prince," said Stavros, " have I made
good my boast that if my wife," Vassilissa



VASSILISSA THE WISE 55

the Wise, came to Kieff she could deceive
all the nobles and princes, and drive you,
courteous Prince Vladimir, out of your
senses ? "

For a time Vladimir stood amazed and
speechless. At last he found his voice
and answered :

" You have indeed made good your
boast, Stavros Godinovich, and your wife
is truly called Vassilissa the Wise. Your
liberty is restored ; go safely home from
Kieff, and henceforth trade in any part
of my kingdom freely and without tax."



JANET AND TAMLIN

IN the north there lived a Baron who
had a fine castle and many broad
lands ; but of all his possessions the
dearest was his young daughter, Janet.
When she was still a child he gave her,
as a proof of his love, a beautiful wood
called Carterhaugh, which lay not far
from his castle. But though it was a
fine wood with splendid trees growing
in it, and beautiful flowers, it was a
dangerous place to walk in. There were
many fairy rings in the grass, and strange
elfin knights had been seen wandering
among the elms, and at last the maids of
the castle were forbidden to go there for
fear lest though they went maids they
should never return maids again.

One summer evening Janet was sitting
in her bower, sewing a silken seam, and
the room was hot, and she was tired of
sewing. Suddenly she thought of the

S6



JANET AND TAMLIN 57

green cool leaves of Carterhaugh, and in
spite of what she had been told she
resolved to go there. She threw her
needle to the ground and pushed the
seam off her knee ; she braided her
yellow hair, pulled up her green kirtle
so that it should not hinder her, and
unseen by anyone ran off to Carter-
haugh. Just on the outskirts of the
wood was a rose-tree. Janet stepped
up to it and picked a rose ; and a young
knight with nine silver bells hanging
round his waist started up and put his
hand on her arm.

" Lady," said he, " let that alone.
What makes you pull the rose from the
tree ? What makes you come to Carter-
haugh without my leave ? "

" Well may I come to Carterhaugh,"
she answered, " and well may I pluck the
rose without your leave, for Carterhaugh
and all it contains is mine — my father gave
it to me."

The young knight made no reply ; he
took her by her white hand and her green
sleeve and, without asking for her consent,
led her to the fairy ground.



58 SAVITRI

Janet braided her yellow hair and
fastened her green kirtle so that it should
not hinder her, and as fast as she could go
ran off to her father's hall. But when
she got there she looked so strange and
pale that they thought something terrible
had happened to her, or that she was
suffering from some illness.

The summer passed and the autumn
came, and Janet was changed indeed.
One day four-and-twenty fair ladies were
playing ball near the castle when Janet
came out. Once she had been the flower
of them all ; but now she did not join
them in their game. One day four-and-
twenty fair ladies were playing chess in
the castle hall when Janet came down the
stairs. Once she had been the loveliest of
them all, but now her cheeks were as
green as glass. One day as she walked
near the castle wall a grey-haired knight
leant across it and said to her, " Alas, fair
Janet, it is we who will be blamed on your
account — not one of us will escape
suspicion."

" Hold your tongue, you old-faced
knight," cried Janet angrily. " May you
die an ill death ! Father my child on



JANET AND TAMLIN 59

whom I may, be sure I shall never father
him on you ! Oh, if my love were an
earthly knight I would not change him
for any lord alive — but he is no earthly
man, only an elfin knight with nine silver
bells hanging round his waist."

Her brother, who was passing by, heard
her words. He hated his sister for the
shame she was bringing on her family,
and he spoke, meaning to do her
harm :

" If your love is no earthly man, but
an elfin knight, he can never wed you.
Take my advice ; go down to Carter-
haugh and there you will find a little grey
herb that will rid you of your child."

Janet braided her yellow hair and
fastened her green kirtle so that it should
not hinder her, and as fast as she
could go ran to Carterhaugh. All the
roses had fallen and the trees were bare.
She looked carefully for the little grey
herb, and when she found it she picked
two leaves. Immediately Tamlin started
up and put his hand on her arm.

" Lady," said he, " let that alone.
How dare you pull a leaf from that herb ?



6o SAVITRI

How dare you think to harm the child
that is mine as well as yours ? "

" Oh, tell me, tell me, Tamlin," she
cried, " can you never become an earthly
man ? Were you always an elfin knight ?
Tell me, for the sake of Him who died
on a tree, were you never in a holy
chapel ? Were you never baptized into
Christendom ? "

" I'll tell you the truth, Janet. I'll
tell you all my tale, and I'll not lie to
you in a single word.

" I was not always an elfin knight ; an
earthly lord got me, an earthly lady
bore me as they did you, and I have been
in a holy chapel and baptized into
Christendom.

" It happened on a certain day that
I went out hunting, and as I rode along
a wind came out of the north ; the wind
was sharp and cold ; a dead sleep came
over me, and I fell from my horse ; then
the Queen of the Fairies seized me and
carried me off to live with her in yon
green hill.

" It is pleasant enough to live in fairy-
land making merry with elves and goblins,
sleeping soft and eating and drinking of



JANET AND TAMLIN 6i

the best. It is pleasant enough ; but at
the end of every seven years they must
pay a tithe to Hell, and much I fear that
this year I shall be their tithe. There is,
however, yet one chance for me. To-
night is Hallowe'en and the fairy folk go
riding ; I shall be with them and, Janet,
then you can win me if you will."

" Indeed, Tamlin," answered she, " I
will win you if I can — but how shall I
recognise you among a pack of unknown
knights riding past me in the dark ? "

" You must come down to Miles'
Cross," said Tamlin, " between midnight
and one o'clock ; you must fill your
hands with holy water, and you must
turn round to all the points of the
compass. The first company that passes
by, say nothing and let them go ; the
next company that passes by, say nothing
and let them go ; the third company
that passes by will have me among them.
Some of them will be on black horses
and some on brown, but I shall be on a
milk-white steed, my right hand will be
gloved, my left hand will be bare, and
on my head I shall wear a crown with a
golden star on it. These are the tokens



62 SAVITRI

by which you will know me. Then you
must take my horse by the head, pull the
bridle from my hands, fling your arms
around me, and hold me tight whatever
happens."

Janet braided her yellow hair and
fastened her green kirtle so that it should
not hinder her, and as fast as she could
go ran on to Miles' Cross. Long she
waited there in the darkness ; and when
at the dead hour of night she heard the
bridles ring she was as glad as she had
ever been in her life. The companies of
fairy riders went by, and when the third
company appeared she knew her lover
would be among them. First came
knights on black horses, and then came
knights on brown horses, but when Janet
saw one on a milk-white steed she caught
the horse by the head, snatched away
the bridle, and pulled the rider down.
There was a wild tumult among the
fairy folk. An eldritch cry arose among
them, " True Tamlin is away ! " and to
and fro they darted to discover where he
was hiding. At last they found him
with Janet holding him fast, and immedi-



JANET AND TAMLIN 63

ately began their spells to make her let
him go.

They turned him first into a snake,
so smooth and slippery that it almost
slid from her arms ; but she gripped and
held him fast — he was her friend and
companion.

They turned him next into a wild
deer that bruised her with his hard hoofs
and struggled frantically to escape ; but
she gripped and held him fast — he was
the father of her child.

They turned him next into a hot iron,
and the closer she clasped him in her
arms the more fiercely her tender flesh
was burnt and tortured ; but she gripped
and held him fast — he was her heart's
desire.

They turned him at last into a mother
naked man ; and when Janet saw his face
she knew him for Tamlin ; she threw
her mantle over him, and thus she won
her love.

The Queen of the Fairies was standing
in a bush of broom, and she was filled
with anger at the loss of Tamlin.

" She that has won young Tamlin,"
she cried, " has got a stately groom —



64 SAVITRI

she's taking away the finest knight of all
my company.

" Adieu, Tamlin ! but if I had known
yesterday what I know to-night I would
have taken out thy heart of flesh and put
in a heart of stone.

" Adieu, Tamlin ! but if I had known
thou didst love an earthly lady I would
have taken out thy two grey eyes and
put in eyes of wood.

" Adieu, Tamlin ! but if I had known
that an earthly lady would win you I
would have paid my tithe to Hell seven
times over rather than let you escape."



LIBUSSA THE PROPHETESS

WHEN Crocus, King of Bohemia,
had reigned for thirty - nine
years, and had lived eighty-six, he died,
and all his people were in great distress.
They rushed to their dwellings, like
bees to their hive, lamenting, tearing
their faces with their nails, and shrieking
aloud, " Alas, and woe, our King, art
thou dead ? Who then will rule us
now ? We shall find no one in the whole
land ! "

His children wailed and beat their
breasts, and called out :

" O Merote, lead him. in the path of
light ! "

" O Radama, judge him according to
his justness, and let not Tesanos bring
him to destruction ! " and there was a
great noise of weeping from old and young
until the third day.

5



66 SAVITRI

On the fourth day, with cries and
shouts that echoed through the hills and
woods, they carried him to Ctiniowes,
and there buried him beside King Czech,
and near his wife, Niua. They put many
gifts in the grave, rolled a great stone
over it, built a lire, and there burnt his
clothes, sacrificing them to the gods.

Crocus had left behind three beautiful
and learned daughters. The eldest was
called Kascha ; she knew as much as
Medea of Colchis of the virtues and
powers of all herbs and plants, and her
skill in medicine was so great that she
could cure men of their wounds and
sickness by her words alone. The second
daughter was called Tetka ; she was a
priestess, and she taught the people how
to serve and make sacrifices to the
gods of the water, the woods, and the
mountains. The youngest was Libussa ;
she was eminent among women for her
readiness in counsel, wise in speech,
chaste, honourable, learned, friendly to
all and loved by all, the ornament and
glory of her sex. But because no one
is blessed in everything, this woman of



LIBUSSA THE PROPHETESS 6^

so much renown — oh, hard fate of
humanity ! — was a prophetess,

A short time after the death of Crocus
the three daughters were together in
the castle of Pfary, and all the elders
assembled there and told them they
desired a ruler. Then the daughters of
King Crocus said :

" Whom do you wish to have for your
ruler ? "

And the elders replied :

" You who are the heiresses shall cast
lots between you to decide which of you
shall have the sovereignty."

Now, no one knows in what way the lot
was cast, but, in the end, the one to be
chosen was the youngest, Libussa ; and
she was accepted as ruler by all the people,
and she ruled her subjects peacefully and
judged them justly.

At that time there lived on the borders
of the Otava a man named Klen, whose
father had come long ago to these rich
lands with King Czech, crossing three
rivers on the way. When Klen died his
two sons, Chroudoch and Striaglav, had
a furious quarrel as to who should in-



68 SAVITRI

herit his lands, and so great was the
clamour and uproar that they made, and
so violent their hatred, that the waters
of the Otava were troubled. The river
boiled between its banks, whirledits golden
sands away, flooded the green mountain-
tops, and terrified all the birds and beasts
who lived on its brink. A swallow flew
all the way to Wychegrad, where Libussa
lived in the ancient gilded palace of
Crocus, and perched on her broad window-
sill, complaining and lamenting.

" Swallow," said Libussa, " what is
the cause of your complaints and
laments ? "

" Why should I not complain and
lament," replied the swallow, " when
Chroudoch and Striaglav, the sons of
Klen, whose father came long ago to
these rich lands with King Czech, cross-
ing three rivers on the way, are quarrelling
so furiously as to who shall inherit his
lands ? They are tearing out each
other's beards and pulling each other's
noses, and the river Otava is boiling in its
banks and flooding the green mountain-
tops."

So the princess sent messengers to the



LIBUSSA THE PROPHETESS 69

White Hill of the young oaks, to the
Giant mountains where Trut killed the
cruel serpent, to Radoran near the source
of Otava, to fair Sazava whose waters
carry silver ; she sent to summon all the
nobles, warriors, and peasants, and she
sent to summon Chroudoch and Striaglav,
who were disputing over their father's
inheritance.

When the appointed day arrived the
nobles, warriors, and peasants assembled
at Wychegrad and entered the court of
judgment. At the upper end of the hall
was a high golden throne covered with a
woven stuff ; at each end stood a virgin,
learned in divine matters, one holding
the tables of the law, the other the
sword of justice, and on the throne
lay Libussa clothed all in white. In
front of them was burning the flame that
tests, and at their feet lay the water that
purifies.

Libussa gave the sign, and the two
brothers, Chroudoch and Striaglav, came
forward, still quarrelling furiously. They
rushed up to the golden throne where
the princess lay, and, shouting and waving



70 SAVITRI

their arms, adjured her to settle the
question according to the laws of justice.

" I shall settle it," replied Libussa,
" according to the laws of the immortal
gods. These laws declare that a father's
land should be divided between his sons
in equal parts or held in common. My
decision is that Chroudoch and Striaglav,
the sons of Klen, whose father came
long ago to these rich lands with King
Czech, crossing three rivers on the way,
shall agree together about their heritage,
and shall possess it in common. Nobles,
warriors, and peasants, confirm my
decree if you think it just, and if not give
another decision to settle the dispute
yourselves."

The nobles, warriors, and peasants
bowed before Libussa and turned to each
other to discuss the sentence ; they
agreed that it was a just sentence and in
accordance with the laws of the im-
mortal gods, and Lutabor of Dobraslav
stepped out from among them and
said :

" Glorious princess of the golden
throne, we have considered the sentence
and approve it."



LIBUSSA THE PROPHETESS 71

At that Chroudoch, the eldest of the
brothers, leapt forward. He was quite
possessed with rage : all his limbs
trembled ; he hit his head with his
fist three or four times, struck his staff
on the ground, spat in his beard, and
exclaimed :

" Woe to the nest which a serpent has
found ! Woe to the men who are
governed by a woman ! Is it not certain
that a woman knows little enough when
she is standing or even sitting, how much
less then when she is lying in bed ? For
it is well known that women have long
hair but short understanding. It is for
men to rule over men. It is for the eldest
to have the inheritance."

At these shameful words Libussa, hiding
her grief in her heart, and determined
not to reason with him or to refute
his insults, smiled and answered
quietly :

" Yes, it is as you say. I am a woman
and I live like a woman, and now you
despise me because I rule you with kind-
ness and not with fear. For it seems
that where there is no fear there is no
respect. So it was in the days when the



72 SAVITRI

doves despised the kite they had chosen
to rule them and would have instead a
hawk, who put to death the innocent
with the guilty, and even to this day feeds
on their flesh. Return to your dwellings ;
and when you assemble again to-morrow
you shall know who is to be your new
lord ; see if his iron judgments please
you better than mine."

Libussa summoned her two sisters, who
were as angry as she was at the insulting
words of Chroudoch, for they also were
wise women, and had devoted themselves
to the study of strange lore. What
counsel these three sisters held together
that night or what secret spells they used
in their magic art has never been told ;
but certain it is that by daybreak next
morning the name of the future ruler
was revealed to Libussa and the place
where he would be found.

When all the people, nobles, warriors,
and peasants were assembled, Libussa
entered the court and lay down on the
golden throne, across which was spread
a richly woven stuff ; and she ordered
the servants to bring in two chairs and



LIBUSSA THE PROPHETESS 73

place one on each side of her, for the
use of her sisters. Then, when all was
ready, she waved her hand that the
people might be silent, opened her mouth,
and spoke.

" Oh, you famous Bohemian nation,
how is it come about that you reject the
better for the worse and refuse to live
in freedom ? Oh, stiffnecked people, why
do you fly from life to death, and ask
for an unbearable yoke to be placed on
your shoulders ? For when you have
chosen a prince — and that you may do
easily — you and all that you possess will
be in his power. When he appears your
knees will tremble, your mouth will dry
up, and you will hardly be able to say,
' Yes, it is true, lord.' Your sons and
your daughters will have to bend low
before him, and your best possessions — in
the field, the vineyard, or the meadow, in
the villages or dwelling-places, or hidden
in rooms and chests, or even buried under-
ground — if they happen to please him
he will seize them for his own use. Now,
what do you think ? Shall I tell you
his name and the place where he is to
be found ? "



74 SAVITRI

Then all together, and as if with one
mouth, they began to cry and shout :

" Give us a prince ! Tell us the name
of our prince ! "

When at last the turmoil began to die
down she raised her hand and, pointing
to the north, spoke :

" See there, behind those mountains
runs the river Bila ; not far from the river
is a village called Stadiz, near which
there is a field. This field is a hundred
and twenty paces long and a hundred
and twenty paces wide ; in it a man is
ploughing whose name is Przemysl. Go
and bring him here, and he shall be your
prince and my husband, and his posterity
shall rule over these lands for all eternity."

So the people chose out thirty from
amongst them to go at once to search
for their new prince. These envoys,
anxious to lose no time, went to Libussa
and begged her to tell them exactly
where to find Przemysl and what he
looked like, so that they should make
no mistakes.

" Ask no further," she replied, " but
take my white horse. Let him go freely
where he will and do you follow him —



LIBUSSA THE PROPHETESS 75

he will lead you to your prince. And you
will know your prince by these signs —
he ploughs with birds, he guides them
with a tree, and he eats off an iron
table."

When Libussa had said these words the
envoys bowed down to the ground and
immediately set off on their search.

When the envoys following Libussa's
white horse had crossed the Middle
Mountains they began to approach a
village, and wondered if this was the
place of which they had been told. See-
ing a boy run out of one of the houses
they stopped him and asked whether this
village was called Stadiz, and whether
there lived in it a man called Przemysl ?

" Yes," answered the boy, " this is
Stadiz, and Przemysl is there, ploughing
in the field."

So the envoys continued their path,
still following the white horse. He led
them to the field the boy had pointed
out, and went up to a man in the middle
of it, ploughing with two piebald oxen.
He fell on his knees in front of this man
and neighed loud and long.



^e SAVITRI

" Hail, ploughman ! " said the envoys.
" Learn that we have been sent by
Libussa, Sovereign of Bohemia, and by-
all the people to summon a ploughman
named Przemysl to return with us to
become our prince. If, then, that is
your name unyoke your oxen, mount this
horse, and let us set off.

At these words the man stopped in the
middle of the furrow he had been plough-
ing. Without answering the envoys he
unyoked the oxen, and striking them on
the flanks with his goad he called out :

" Return to whence you came."


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