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The Story and Song of Black Roderick   By: (1866-1918)

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By Dora Sigerson


This is the story of Black Earl Roderick, the story and the song of his pride and of his humbling; of the bitterness of his heart, and of the love that came to it at last; of his threatened destruction, and the strange and wonderful way of his salvation.

So shall I begin and tell.

He left his gray castle at the dawn of the morning, and with many a knight to bear him company rode, not eager and swift, like a prince who went to find a treasure, but steady and slow, as we should go to meet sorrow. Not one of the hundred men who followed dared to lilt a lay or fling a laughing jest from his mouth. All rode silent among their gay trappings, for so saith a song:

It was the Black Earl Roderick Who rode towards the south; The frown was heavy on his brow, The sneer upon his mouth.

Behind him rode a hundred men All gay with plume and spear; But not a one did lilt a song His weary way to cheer.

So stern was Black Earl Roderick Upon his wedding day, To none he spake a single word Who met him on his way.

And of those that passed him as he went there were none who dared to bid him God speed, and only one whispered at all; she was Mora of the Knowledge, who was picking herbs in a lonely place and saw him ride.

"There goeth the hunter," said she; "'tis a white doe that thou wouldst kill. High hanging to thee, my lord, upon a windy day!"

And of all the flying things he met in his going, one only dared to put pain upon him, and she was a honeybee who stabbed his cheek with her sword.

"Would I could slay thee," she cried, "ere thou rob the hive of its honey!"

And of all the creeping things that passed him on his way, only one tried to stay him; she was the bramble who cast her thorn across his path so his steed wellnigh stumbled.

"Would I could make thee fall, Black Earl, who now art so high, ere thou rob fruit from the branch!"

Only one living thing upon the mountains saw him go without mourning, and he was the red weasel who took the world as he found it.

"Tears will not heal a wound," saith he, "but they will quench a fire. Thy hive is in danger, bee," quoth he. "Bramble, thy flowers are scattered and thy fruit lost."

But the Black Earl did not heed or hear anything outside his own thoughts. They were sharper than the bee's sword and less easy to cast aside than the entrapping bramble.

When he reached the castle wherein his bride did dwell, he blew three blasts upon the horn that hung beside the gate, and in answer to his call a voice cried out to him. But what it said I shall sing thee, lest thou grow weary of my prose:

"Come in, come in, Earl Roderick, Come in or you be late; The priest is ready in his stole. The wedding guests await."

And then the stern Earl Roderick From his fierce steed came down; The sneer still curled upon his lip, His eyes still held the frown.

He strode right haughtily and quick Into the banquet hall, And stood among the wedding guests, The greatest of them all.

He gave scant greeting to the throng, He waved the guests aside: "Now haste! for I, Earl Roderick, Will wait long for no bride!

"And I must in the saddle be Before the night is gray; So quickly with the marriage lines, And let us ride away."

And now shall I tell thee how, as he spoke thus proud and heartlessly, his little bride came into the hall? So white was she, and so trembled she, that many wondered she did not sink upon the marble floor and die.

Her mother held her snow white hand, weeping bitterly the while.

"If I had my will," thought she, "this thing should never be... Continue reading book >>

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