THE OWL KING
OTHER FAIRY STORIES.
THERE WAS A FEARFUL BATTLE.
See p. 99.
THE OWL KING
OTHER FAIRY STORIES.
"THE ONE-EYED GRIFFIN," "THE TWO-EYED GRIFFIN," ETC., ETC.
WITHIN ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATIONS
E. A. MASON.
FREDERICK WARNE AND CO.,
AND NEW YORK.
(All rights reserved.)
MY DEAR LITTLE FRIEND,
I DEDICATE THIS VOLUME, AS A TOKEN OF MY
FRIENDSHIP FOR HIM AND ESTEEM
FOR HIS PARENTS.
There are dragons to-day, boy,
And giants to fight.
There are fairies to help, boy,
Whene'er we do right.
Ptincesses to aid, boy,
And captives to free,
In the battle of life, boy,
That waiteth for thee.
Be brave then and true, boy,
As all heroes should;
A staunch little knight, boy,
Sir Ernie the Good.
THE OWL KING.
I. HoW IT ALL BEGAN .. ...
II. LULLA'S FIRST WORK ...
III. THE STEALING OF IMOGEN ...
IV. IN LULLA'S CAVE
V. ERNIE AND SWEETBRIAR ...
VI. ST. MADRON'S WELL ...
VII. ERNIE FIGHTS THE GOBLIN KNIGHT
VIII. IN THE FOREST ....,
IX. THE HOME OF TIIE OWLS ...
X. *THE ENCHANTED CASTLE ..
XI, THE BATTLE ...
XII. THE END OF THE STORY ..
... ... 22
... ... 31
... ... 46
... ... 55
... ... 62
... ... 70
... ... 86
... ... 101
IRENE THE IDLE.
THE PRINCESS AT HOME... ... ... ... 107
THE PRINCE OF THE HAPPY ISLES ... ... 115
URSULA ... ... ... ... ... 123
THE FAIRY COTTAGE ... ... ... 131
A VERY STRANGE BATTLE ... ... ... 138
IRENE OBEYS THE FAIRIES ... ... ... 145
HOME ONCE MORE ... ... ... ... I52
WEDDING-BELLS ... ... ... ... 158
THE MAGIC PEARL.
I. Tis KELPIE KINGDOM ... ...
II. IN THE LAND OF GOLDEN LIGHT
III. DISOBEDIENCE PUNISHED ... .
IV. PRINCE AMETHYST TO THE RESCUE
V. THE FISHES' MEETING ...
VI. AMETHYST FINDS SUNRAY .
VII. THE DEFEAT OF THE KELPIE KING
BOLD BAD BANG.
THEIR STORY OF A CHRISTMAS-CRA CKiER.
A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE
INSIDE THE CRACKER
ELSIE GETS CAUGHT
BANG .. ..
... ... ... 206
S... .. ,.. 219
... ... ... 226
WEE WILLY WIDEAWAKE.
IN MEADOWSWEET ... .. ... ... 232
IN FAIRYLAND ... .. .*. 241
THE GIANT'S WORK .. ... ... ... 247
WEE WILLY STARTS ... ...- ... 255
THE GIANT GETS INTO TROUBLE .,. .,, ... 261
SWAMPIFEN IS DISAPPOINTED ... ... ... 268
THE BREAKING OF THE SPELL .... ... ... 273
THE LAST ... ... ... ... ... 279
THE FAIRY OF THE WELL.
HOW THE FAIRY FELL IN LOVE ...
THE WELL FAIRY'S STORY ... .
HOW THE FAIRY WAS STOLEN .
THE SEARCHING FOR CRYSTALLINE ...
WHAT THE SPRITE DID ,, .
... ... 296
. ... 312
... ... 162
... ... 71
... ... 175
... ... 181
... .. 187
.. ... 190
... ... 198
THREE LITTLE GOBLINS.
A NONSENSE TALE.
THE GOBLINS LOSE THEIR HOME ...
TURNED OUT .. ...
BLOWING OUT AND BLOWING UP ..
THE STORY OF PRINCE HAZELEYE.
THE TWO BABIES ...
HOW THE GOBLIN GOT THERE
ALL ABOUT HAZELEYE ...
ALL ABOUT GRUBBY GRUB ..
IN THE TREE-TOP ...
A FIGHT AND A WEDDING ...
... ... 317
... ... 332
... ... 341
.. .. 353
... ... 367
... ... 374
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
THERE WAS A FEARFUL BATTLE *. *., Frontispiece
"THE BRAMBLE IS KILLING THE PIXIE'S FLOWER," SHE SAID 15
t HO, HO AGAIN LAUGHED TIE WICKED WITCH To face 26.
"DEAREST BROTHER," SHE SAID GENTLY, "WHAT IS YOUR
TROUBLE?" ... ... .. *** 47
HE FOLLOWED MERLIN TO AN APARTMENT ... ... 65
BUT ERNIE'S SISTER WAS NOT TO BE FRIGHTENED .. 90g
" WE CAN DO NOTHING WITH HER, YOUR MAJESTY" ... I9
THINKING, THINKING, YET NEVER GETTING' TO THE MEAN-
ING OF IT ALL ... ... ... 125
SUCH TINY MEN THEY WERE ... ... ... ... 143
"NOW HOLD UP YOUR HAND" ... ... ... 150
IRENE TOOK THE WHITE ROSE FROM HER HAIR ... ... 161
"HERE-STOP,! I WANT YOU" ... ... ... 168
ALAS IT WAS TOO LATE ... ... ... 78
THIS WAS SOPHIASTES, THE FAIRY WIZARD ... ... 184
THEN BEGAN A TERRIBLE STRUGGLE ... ... ... 194
.OUT STEPPED THE IMPRISONED FAIRY ... ... 203
"WHAT IS THE MATTER?" REPEATED THE QUEEN ,.. 216
xii List of Illustrations.
"THAT'S HER!" THEY SCREAMED IN CHORUS .,. T face 222
ELSIE PULLED, THE BIG MOUSE PULLED, THE LITTLE MOUSE
PULLED ... ... ... ... ... ... 230
"ALL READY! ONE TWO THREE ... ... 235
VERY TERRIBLE HE LOOKED ... ... ... ... 252
THE SLY OLD MONSTER TOOK HIS CLUB, AND BEGAN TO
BEAT THE BED WITH ALL HIS MIGHT ... ... 266
"IT-IT WON'T WORK," GROANED SWAMPIFEN ... 272
"YUM, UM, YUM !" WENT THE HEADS ... ... ... 275
THE NIGHTINGALE COMMENCED HER SINGING ... 288
AND THERE IN THE MOONLIGHT STOOD A STERN, FIERCE
OLD SOLDIER ... ... .. ... ... 295.
BUT TIE SPRITE NEVER ALLOWED HER TO REST ... ... 301
IT WAS HARD WORK AGAINST SO MANY ... ... 310
THE OTHER TWO REGARDED HIM STERNLY ... ... 319
"HI STOP THEM I MY BELLOWS I HE YELLED Tojace 337
"I WANT YOUR AID," REPLIED THE WIZARD ... 347
"WHERE IS GRUBBY GRUB?" SAID THE QUEEN ... ... 364
"OW OW !" CRIED THE MONSTER ... ... ... 371
THE OWL KING.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN.
EVERYBODY knows that in the days of good King
Arthur things were very different from what they
To begin with, they had no trains or trams-no
motor-cars, cabs, or 'buses; they had no post-office,
no telegrams, no newspapers, and no board schools.
Really, when one thinks of all the things that
they did not have, it is quite a wonder how they
managed to get on at all.
Perhaps it was because they had some things
which we have not got to-day; such as giants, ogres,
fairies, fiery dragons, witches, and magicians. All
these nice things, which have gone out of fashion
now, no doubt helped them to get along very comr
Now, in one part of Merrie England (I need not
pay which, because they make the maps differently
The Owl King.
now, and it is not marked down) there lived a very
good and noble baron, named Guy de Beaucceur.
He was one of King Arthur's most powerful lords,
and all the land for miles round his castle belonged
Guy de Beaucceur had many stout retainers and
vassals, but, among them, none truer than Harry
Vraiami, his verderer, who lived in the pretty cottage
close to the great forest, with his fair young wife
and their little son. And now, having told you
this much, we will begin the story of the Owl
It was a lovely summer evening, and the sun as
it set kissed the tops of the trees, and sent long
slanting beams of light through their branches to
the green sward at their feet.
The air was full of the wild birds' song as they
sang their good-nights; and from afar came the low
notes of the monastery bell calling the brown-robed
monks to vespers.
All seemed calm and beautiful, and Dame Mar-
gery, the verderer's wife, took her little son in her
arms and went down the winding forest path to meet
her husband on his homeward way.
She went along, singing softly, for she felt very
happy thinking of her good husband and with her
dear little one; when suddenly she espied, growing
at her feet, the pretty yellow St. John's wort.
"Why," thought she, "surely it is strange to see
The Owl King.
the fairies' flower growing here! I will pick some
for good luck."
She stooped, and, pulling a tiny spray, put it into
her baby's hand.
A little farther down the path she came upon a
"THE BRAMBLE IS KILLING THE PIXIE'S FLOWER," SHE SAID,
great rough bramble, which had spread its branches
all along the ground, and had nearly killed a root
of white stitchwort.
"The bramble is killing the pixie's flower," she
said; and, taking her scissors from her girdle, she
The Owl King.
cut the thorny branch away, and placed one slender
stalk of stitchwort beside the yellow blossoms her
little one held-fairy-flower and pixie-flower together
-and then hastened on through the gathering
shadows till she came to the clearing in which the
verderer had built his little hut, and here she found
her husband just ready to start for home.
"Why, Margery, lass," he cried fondly, "have you
come to take care of me? But what is this?" he
added, as he saw the plucked flowers. "Dame, you
have been picking the fairy and pixie bloom. Do
you not know that no one in this fair land does
I did it to give him good luck," she replied. "I
am sure the fairies will not mind, they are so good;
and I have earned this other from the pixies."
"Earned it!" repeated the verderer in astonish-
ment. "And how, pray ?"
"Because I saw a bramble that was killing the
stitchwort, and I cut it away."
"And you shall pay for it! a harsh voice cried;
and there, before them, the pair saw a gaunt, hideous
old witch, standing and pointing her skinny finger
To be sure they were startled-she looked so evil,
with her sunken cruel eyes, bushy brows, and long,
snaky hair falling to her shoulders.
* "Yes, you shall pay for it!" she repeated. "That
bramble was mine; and as you have defeated my
The Owl King. 17
plans, so I will defeat yours. Listen! You want
your babe to grow up a brave verderer. He shall
never be one!"
S"Ho, ho! he shall not!" cried a voice from the
shadows. "He shall not, Lulla!"
The unhappy parents glanced round in dismay,
but the witch seemed terribly enraged by the sound.
"Avaunt, pixies she snarled. "Lulla, the night
hag, defies you! Ah, you woman," she added, grin-
ning at poor Dame Margery, "you may sing lullaby
over your babe, but I will have him in spite of your
song! As you came through the forest your careless
foot crushed a lily and a poppy, and these are my
flowers. You spoilt what I love, now give me what
you love-give me your baby."
"Stand back!" shouted the verderer, fitting an
arrow to his bow. "Stand back, or I shoot "
Lulla laughed loud, in scorn.
"What shaft, think you, can harm me ? The babe
"No, no, no!" came the answer from the wood;
and as the words were spoken, the fay-folk came
running up-gnomes, elves, brownies, good neigh-
bours, and fairy sprites.
"Stop, stop, wicked Lulla!" cried they. "This
babe holds St. John's wort yellow and stitchwort
By the virtue of our flowers,
From all spell
18 The Owl King.
Watching through the flying hours,
Fays and pixies ward will keep.
Lulla cruel, plotting deep;
By our flowers we defy
The night-hag looked spitefully at the little people.
"I acknowledge the power of your flowers," she
said, "but do not think that I am conquered.
"Though by the fairy flowers banned,
I may not vengeance take,
Yet I can work by mortals' hand,
Let fairies sleep or wake.
Yes," she continued, "you cannot hinder mortal
hands. -They shall give me this child."
"That is true," said King Oberon, the- fairy
monarch; "but we can do something to stop your
Ten blossoms he holdeth of stitchwort white
And of yellow John's wort he holdeth ten;
So for twice ten years this verderer's child
Shall roam by the forest, the fen, and wild,
Unscathed by your magic or power of men.
So, Lulla, whatever you may try to do, it will take
twenty years in the doing."
"We will see," snarled the witch. I rather fancy
I can work more speedily than that. We will see;"
and so saying, she caught hold of the night wind,
and, jumping on its back, rode away.
"Go home, worthy people," said King Oberon to
the verderer and his wife.,. "Go home, and do not
The Owl King.
fear; all the fay-folk are your friends, and we will
guard you and yours from wicked Lulla."
"Teach your little one to be brave and true,"
added Queen Mab, "and one day he shall wear the
golden spurs of knighthood, and be called Sir Ernie
Meanwhile Lulla rode off on the wind till she
came to Sir Guy de Beaucceur's castle, where, jump-
ing off, she pulled four hairs from her head, and,
throwing them on the ground, cried-
For every hair I want a page "
and, lo and behold four handsomely dressed pages
Having done this, the witch took one drop of dew
from a roseleaf and put it or her face, then another
drop upon her dress, and instantly she changed into
a beautiful princess.
The warders on the towers seeing, as they thought,
a princess standing at the gate, let down the draw-
bridge and raised the portcullis, sending a message
at the same time to inform their master that a noble
lady was at the door.
Immediately Sir Guy himself came out, and, after
bidding his guest welcome, conducted her to the-
great hall, and begged to know her name and
"My name," replied the disguised Lulla, "I must
keep secret. My mission is to demand redress for
wrongs done to me."
2c The Owl King.
"And you shall not demand in vain," replied Sir
Guy. "While de Beaucceur can couch lance, a
lady's prayer shall never pass unanswered."
"But this is no knightly deed I require," said
Lulla. "A rascal of thine, Vraiami, the verderer,
has insulted me. I demand that he and his
wife be slain, and their child given to me for a
"That is a cruel demand from so fair a lady," said
the baron, gravely. "How hath this poor verderer
insulted thee ?"
"Nay, must I be questioned ?" cried Lulla, in
feigned indignation. "Is not my word enough ?"
"No one's word should be enough to condemn a
man unheard," was the answer.
"So !" cried Lulla. "Then will I go as I came.
Yet mark, proud baron, when I return with my
armies, you will repent of this. Will you grant my
"No," Sir Guy answered, "not unless my verderer
is tried and proved guilty. Even then it is a demand
no gentle-hearted lady should make."
"And no gentle-hearted lady has made it !" inter-
posed a grey-bearded, bald-headed old man. "By
our royal Arthur, this is no princess, Sir Guy; 'tis
Lulla, the night-hag, or my name is not Merlin !"
Lulla fairly screamed with passion at being dis-
"Yes, it is Lulla, and Lulla will have revenge.:
The Owl King. 21
Give me this verderer's child, or one day I will take
your children. I will be your enemy for ever."
"I will not, vile witch!" was the answer; and
Lulla, catching up her four pages, threw them out
of the window, and went sailing after them into the
"She is a nice young lady," laughed Merlin. "I
am afraid she will make a little bother before she is
done with. However, baron, it is no use going to
meet trouble before- it comes to you. I'll see what
I can do to get things straight."
This is how Lulla became the enemy of Sir Guy
de Beaucceur; and it was necessary for us to know
this in order to understand how the Owl King ever
came to live in the enchanted forest.
LULLA'S FIRST WORK.
EIGHTEEN long years have passed away, and no one
had heard anything more about Lulla, the wicked
night-hag. Indeed, both the baron and his verderer
had forgotten all about her.
But Lulla had not forgotten them-oh dear, no!
She was just waiting her time, till she could catch
Merlin and the pixies napping, and then she would
begin to work.
Indeed she had begun, although people did not
know it; for the forest, where the verderer's hut had
been, had grown and grown until it had become
a dense, gloomy place, filled with swamps and quag-
mires, and inhabited by wolves, bears, wild boars,
and bands of fierce robbers.
Right in the centre of this was a castle, all tumbling
to pieces and overgrown with ivy. No one knew that
it was there, because if ever a traveller did manage
to get so far into the forest as the place where it
stood, it only appeared to him like a great rock all
covered with moss.
The Owl King.
Having made this enchanted castle, so as to have
it ready in case she might want it, Lulla was content
to wait and watch till her chance came; and so the
eighteen years had come and gone, and the verderer's
little son had grown into a fine manly youth ; and
every one spoke well of Ernie, the verderer's son.
Ernie had one sister named Sweetbriar; she was
two years younger than he, and as fair as the pink
may on a fresh summer's morning.-
Sir Guy de Beaucceur, too, had two children, and
it would be hard to say which were the handsomer
pair, the baron's or his verderer's.
Young Lord Lancelot, his son, was just a year
older than Ernie; he was a brave young knight,
who had won his spurs fighting under King Arthur
His daughter, Lady Imogen, was beautiful and
good, and many a brave knight had-come to woo
her, but not one had gained fair Imogen's heart.
Greatly were they loved by all the people-gentle
Lady Imogen, and brave young Lord Lancelot, who
looked so gallant a knight when he rode by her side,
with his falcon shaking its bells upon his wrist.
Right proud was, the baron of his son, and dearly
did Lord Lancelot love his father; yet, for all that,
he had one secret from him; a secret which even his
mother and sweet Imogen did not dream of: young
Lord Lancelot was in love !
Nothing wonderful in that, you may say-young
The Owl King.
men of twenty very often do fall in love; but then,
you see, he had not lost his heart to princess, or lady
of high degree; no indeed, that would have been
right enough; but, instead, Lord Lancelot had fallen
in love with pretty little Sweetbriar herself!
The poor young knight was in terrible trouble
about this, for he would have liked to woo Sweetbriar
openly. He hated to deceive his father in anything,
and yet he did not dare say how dear Sweetbriar was
He knew that Sir Guy would not hear of his
marrying the verderer's daughter, and he knew too
that the verderer would not hear of it either; for
Harry Vraiami, in his way, was as proud as the baron.
This was all due to Lulla; and she hoped also to
get Ernie Vraiami to fall in love with the fair Lady
Imogen, and then she thought that the baron, in his
rage, would be sure to destroy all the verderer's
"I shall get my own way yet," she laughed, as she
watched the young people; only she did not know
that Merlin and King Oberon were watching too.
Now, it chanced one evening that Lancelot was
riding homewards from the chase, and thinking so
deeply of Sweetbriar that he hardly noticed where
his horse was taking him, until his attention was
aroused by a low, evil laugh, and, looking up, he found
that he had left the proper road and was in the depths
of the forest.
The Owl King.
His horse suddenly halted with a snort of fear, for
right in his path stood Lulla herself.
S"So, so, dreaming, Sir Lancelot," she said, nodding
her head at him. Dreaming of Sweetbriar, eh ? "
"Who are you, old woman, who seem to know both
me and my thoughts ?" replied the young knight, in
"It matters not who I am, seeing that I do know
you and your thoughts; what is more important is
that I can help you to gain your desire."
How do you mean, good dame ?" was the eager
"Ho, ho! 'tis good dame now," laughed Lulla,
mockingly. Your father would frown at your
loving his verderer's daughter. Ah, yes, I know his
Speak no word against my noble father, dame."
"Why, what a dutiful son we have here !" sneered
the witch. Well, let it pass. I will give you a philtre
which shall make Sweetbriar follow you wherever
you list. Bring her to this forest; none will find her
here, and then-- "
"Now, out upon you for a foul hag!" shouted the
indignant young man; "I am a Christian knight, true
to my lady love, and shall I play such scurvy
"Stay, stay!" cried Lulla; "since that does not
please you, I will secure your father's consent, if you
will do my bidding for one year."
The Owl King.
-" I will not do your bidding one minute," replied
the knight. Stand from my path, witch."
Your path !" retorted Lulla, in a rage, for she had
hoped to have trapped the knight--"your path I All
the forest paths are mine when once the sun has set,
and you are in my power now, my most noble
Stand from my path, I say," repeated Lancelot;
and as he spoke he drew his good sword ; but, alas! as
it left its sheath that bright blade became a lath, of
"Ho, ho! a brave sword truly I" cried the witch,
mockingly. "A brave sword! So you refuse my
aid and my service ? So be it. I have an old score
to settle with the Beaucceurs, and I will begin pay-
By all that is evil, by all that is dark,
By hiss of the adder, by werewolfs dread bark,
By- spell of the forest, by spell of the hour,
I hold thee,. Lord Lancelot, now in my power.
Now change thy fair form by the spell of my might,
And turn to a creature of darkness and night,
To hoot and to fly while th' scared watch-dogs howl,
I turn thee, Lord Lancelot, into AN OWL.".
As Lulla spoke, she struck the startled knight with
her crutch, and lo on the charger's back, instead of
the handsome youth, sat a great horned owl with
wide staring eyes.
"Ho, ho I" again laughed the wicked witch, "now
- .0 ;~
HO, HO AGAIN LAUGHED THE WICKED WITCH.
b ., u,
The Owl King. 27
you are a creature of mine, whether you like it or
no., Now you shall serve me for ever."
"That shall he not."
Lulla started, for there stood Robin Goodfellow,
the fairies' messenger.
"Oh no, Lulla; indeed, he shall not. The owls
are the fairies' friends, not yours."
"But he must be my slave," retorted she, "for I
have east this charm upon him."
"That is true; but see, his horse stands in a fairy
ring, and by virtue of that, the fairies claim him."
Lulla raved and stamped with rage, but it was
no use; out from the toad-stools and wild flowers
sprang the fairy army, while the,king himself dashed
up on his dragon-fly steed.
"What is all this ?" he said, springing ,to the
"Your Majesty, Lulla has changed Lord Lancelot
into an owl, and claims him for her own; but his
horse stands in a fairy ring, and so I say that he
"Surely he is," replied tle ling. '"You know that
is so, Lulla. You should have taken the horse from
out our ring, witch."
"It is not fair," yelled Lulla, dancing wildly; "it
is not fair; but I will pay you all out. You just
wait, King Oberon."
"Oh, I will wait," laughed the fairy king, "but
now I must work. Lord Lancelot," he said, advancing
28 The Owl King.
to the owl, which hooted mournfully, "do not lose
heart; your spell shall be broken, and, if you are
patient, the fairies will surely give you your own
true love. Now I must call my fairy owls."
As he spoke these words, Lulla gave a yell of
dismay, and ran off as -hard as she could, amidst
the laughter of the little folk; for Lulla did not like
those fairy owls at all.
"Fairies, silence," commanded their monarch.
Fairy owls from the belfry,
Where the bell rings deep and low;
Fairy owls from the ruin,
Where the whisp'ring night winds blow )
Fairy owls from the oak tree,
Hither fly on flapping wing,
Fairy owls from the ivy,
Hasten here to meet your king."
Then through all the forest came the sound of
beating wings, and owls of all sorts and sizes came
hastening in answer to King Oberon's call. They
perched on the branches overhead; they hopped on
the grass all round; and regarding Oberon with
solemn eyes, they cried in chorus-
Ter-whit ter-whit ter-whit ter-whoo I
Fairy king we come to you,
Keen of sight and swift of wing,
Homage due to give our king.
Tell us quickly, where is he,
Who of owls the king shall be ?"
"That will I do," replied Oberon, pointing to the
changed Lord Lancelot. "Behold, fairy owls, there
is your ruler-Hoot Hoot, the Owl King."
The Owl King. 29
Then all the owls raised their wings and hissed
three times; bobbing up and down to King Hoot
Hoot, as we must for the present call Lord Lancelot,
like a lot of corks in a mill stream.
So funny they looked, that their new king felt
inclined to laugh; while into his heart there came
the feeling that, somehow, he should conquer old
"Thank you all, my subjects," he cried. "Truly
I have a goodly company to rule over, and goodly
work we will do."
"Why, that is well said," cried Oberon; and all
the owls echoed, "Well said, Hoot Hoot."
"Come, fairies," continued the little monarch, "sing
the owl's song;" and at his word they sang-
"THE SONG OF THE OWL KING.
When shadows grey steal o'er the sky,
What form is that goes swooping by,
With silent wing and watchful eye ?
'Tis the owl-the horned owl.
Who sits alone in ruin grey
Silent and grim, till close of day;
Then hoots, and screams, and flies away?
'Tis the owl-the horned owl.
Hey for the owl, the bird of night,
Hey for the joy of his silent flight,
The king of birds with the eye of light
Is the owl-the horned owl:
Who marks the night-hags besomed ride
To gibbet where the murd'rer died,
While moans the wind and sobs.the tide?
30 The Owl King.
'Tis the owl-the horned owl.
Who dwells on high in belfry old,
While dance the fairies in the wold,
Who with his scream scares e'en the bold?
'Tis the owl-the horned owl.
Hey for the owl, the bird of night,
Hey for the joy of his silent flight,
The king of birds with the eye of light
Is the owl-the horned owl:
The king of birds with the eye of light
Is the owl-the horned owl,"
cried all the owls in chorus, and then with loud
hootings they rose in circling flight, Hoot Hoot in
their, midst, while the frightened horse, with a snort
of terror, sprang from the fairy ring, and galloped
away into the darkness,
TIHE STEALING OF IMOGEN.
GREAT was the grief at the baron's castle when next
morning Sir Lancelot's horse was found, riderless
and travel-stained, outside the gates.
Fearful that his son had met with some terrible
calamity, Sir Guy sent bands in every direction to
search for him; but no traces of the missing one
could they discover, only deep into the forest, the
verderer found a sword with a wooden blade, the hilt
of which, set with rare jewels, was undoubtedly that
belonging to the lost Sir Lancelot's weapon.
This discovery only increased the baron's bewilder-
ment; but in the midst of his anxiety, he received a
visit from Merlin.
"Noble Sir Guy," said the old magician, leaning
upon his long staff, "I know of your trouble, but be
of good heart, for all will come right in the end."
"But what has become of my poor boy? cried
the baron, in deep distress.
"He has been spirited away by Lulla, the night-
hag; yet fear not, all the fairies are his friends, and
32 The Owl King.
the plots of this wicked witch will be overthrown, even
though she seems for the time to succeed."
"But what can be done ? was Sir Guy's distressed
"Nothing yet. You must know, Sir Guy, that your
son has lost his heart to a maiden of lowly birth.
Too true a son to do aught to displease you, he has
manfully striven to conquer his love, but all in vain."
"And why tell me this, Merlin ?"
Because, baron, at the right time that maiden will
find your son."
"Who is this lowly maiden ? I would rather grant
their union than lose my son."
"Nay, be patient. If her heart is truly his, she will
yet prove her worth."
And with this Sir Guy de Beaucceur had to be con-
tent; though, as weeks grew into months, and the
months crept on to a year, his heart grew more and
And there was another who grieved sorely for the
missing one, and that was Lady Imogen. Many
were the bitter tears she shed, and she vowed that
she would only give her hand to the one who should
find Lancelot, and rescue him from his cruel fate.
Away in the verderer's cottage, too, Ernie and
his sister grieved; the latter, because her heart was
breaking for her noble lover; the former, partly on
account of the brave knight whom he dearly loved,
and partly because he saw how sorely his dear
The Owl King. 33
Imogen was sorrowing. Oh, how he longed to
comfort her! until, at last, the desire became so'
strong that he started off and sought the lady in
The servants told Imogen that Ernie wished to
see her. And, in spite of her grief, her heart beat
more quickly, and a blush dyed her cheek; for,
though she would not confess it even to herself,
Imogen loved the stalwart Ernie Vraiami.
"You wish to see me?" she said, when he came
to her. "How can Imogen help you ?"
"Oh, dear lady," he replied, with tears in his eyes.
"I have come to tell you how grieved I am for your
sorrow! I would give my life if I could bring Sir
"I know it, Vraiami," replied the lady, kindly.
"I know how good you are."
"Therefore call him no more Vraiami," cried a
hoarse voice overhead. "Call him rather Ernie the
The two looked up in surprise, for there, on an
overhanging branch, sat a great horned owl.
"Oh, owl, what do you mean?" exclaimed the
"I mean that I know your secret. I know that
you love Ernie Vraiami."
Ernie started up. "Oh, dearest lady, does the
bird speak truly? Do you love the poor verderer's
The Owl King.
Imogen was silent for a moment; then she said,
"Ernie, a Beaucceur scorns to tell a lie. What the
owl says is true. I do love you, and I know that
you love me. But," she added firmly, "I will only
give my hand to him who brings back my brother
Even if he were Ernie the verderer's son ?" cried
the owl; and she replied-
"Yes, gladly. But whoever he is, I will keep my
"Go home, Ernie," said the owl. "Go home
and be ready, for you must soon start on your
"But where am I to search for Sir Lancelot ?" was
the eager question; and the owl replied-
"Where you are directed to go." And then, with
a long ter-whoo," he flew off
Ernie bent his knee to Imogen, and, kissing her
"Lady Imogen, I will do it or die. Farewell."
"Farewell, Ernie," she whispered. "Farewell,
dear love !"
When Ernie had gone, Imogen sat down to think
over the owl's message; but scarcely had she seated
herself when she saw a strange little old woman
come trotting up the garden path.
"Why, dame, how did you get into my grounds?"
she asked in surprise.
"I came through the crack under the gate," was.
The Owl King.
the reply. "Lady Imogen, would you like to see
your brother ?"
"Oh, dearly, dearly," she said, starting up.
"Then give me one lock of your golden hair," said
the old woman.
"Right willingly will I do that, good dame."
The princess let down her long tresses as she
spoke, and, taking her scissors, she cut off a lock
and handed it to the woman. Alas! it was scarcely
resting on the outstretched palm, when it seemed
as if invisible hands seized Imogen, and before she
had time to cry out, she was whirled into the air.
When the poor lady recovered her senses, she
looked around her in dismay. Well might she
shudder, for she was in the very heart of the forest
in front of Lulla's ruined castle, and by her side the
old woman stood grinning.
"Wicked woman, why have you deceived me?"
she said. "You told me that I should see my-
"And so you shall, upon one condition," was the-
"What is your condition ?"
The old woman threw back her cloak from her
face, and Imogen uttered a cry of horror, for there
stood ugly Lulla, while from a tree overhead dropped.
a terrible-looking creature, half man, half bat.
"I am Lulla, the enemy of your house!" hissed
the witch. "You, Imogen shall see your brother,
The Owl King.
if you will consent to marry this my son, Fly by
Night, the King of the Vampires."
"Never will I," declared Imogen.
"Listen," continued the witch. "Your brother
is in my power. Marry my son, and I will set
Imogen hesitated. She loved her brother dearly,
even enough to give up her life for him; but could
she do this ?
"You will set him free?" she queried.
Yes," grinned the witch.
"Will not do it," cried a fairy little creature, more
lovely than anything Imogen had ever seen before.
The fairy-it was Robin Goodfellow-was seated
on a toadstool, and nodded to Imogen as he
"Do not listen to her, Imogen. Trust the fairies,
and all will come right."
"Will you do it?" yelled Lulla, furiously; and
Imogen answered bravely-
"No, I will not."
"Then you shall die. You are in my power, and
Fly by Night shall suck your blood."
The hideous vampire fluttered his leather wings
and snapped his teeth viciously, but little Robin
sprang up and shouted-
"Hoot Hoot, Hoot Hoot, to the rescue "
Whirr came a rush of wings, and Imogen saw the
The Owl King. 37
great owl come with open beak and hooked talons,
straight as an arrow from a bow.
In vain did Fly by Night scream and snap, he
was no match for the owl. His wings were torn,
his fur was blood-stained; and at last, screaming
with pain, he managed to escape and fly off, closely
pursued by the enraged Hoot Hoot.
But while the combat lasted, Lulla had seized
Imogen, and dragged her into the ruined castle.
Here, at any rate, I have you in my power," she
cried viciously; "for no fairy can break through
my spell and come in here. And here you shall
stay, Imogen, till you consent to marry Fly by
"Then I will stay here for ever," retorted Imogen.
"We will see, we will see. Giants and dragons,
witches and warlocks, guard this castle, and woe to
the mortal who dares to cross its threshold."
While she spoke, Lulla produced heavy fetters
and chains, and, binding Imogen tightly, she fastened
her to an iron ring in the wall; then, calling a hideous
dwarf to keep guard over her, she went away, giving
orders that her prisoner was only to be fed on black
bread and water, until the time that she should
promise to obey her wishes and become Fly by
IN LULLA'S CAVE.
4N a dreary cave in one part of the forest, Lulla
sat bending over a book, the pages of which were
covered with strange signs.
In spite of her having cast her spells upon Lord
Lancelot, and having got poor Lady Imogen into
her power, the witch did not seem very contented;
and the more she read, the more troubled she became.
S"I shall have harder work here than I expected,"
she said aloud. "If it had not been for the fairy and
pixie flowers which the verderer's wife picked, I
might have conquered easily; now, all the fay-folk
will be helping Merlin. Well, we will see if Lulla
is not as clever as they are. Fly by Night! Where
is that fellow? Fly by Night, I say ?"
"Well, what is it? I am here," replied the
Vampire King, dropping from the roof of the cave
to her feet. "What do you want with me ?"
"What do I want with you ?" she repeated angrily.
"You are a nice kind of king, are you not ? "
"It is all very well for you to talk," replied her
The Owl King. 39
son, sulkily; "you have not been nearly torn to
pieces by a horrid old owl."
"Serve you right for being a coward. Were your
teeth and claws not sharp enough to fight him ?"
"No!" snarled the vampire; "what did you want
to turn him into an owl for? "
I thought that we might make use of him," Lulla
answered. How was I to know that his horse was
standing in a fairy ring ?"
"What's the good of your eyes if you could not
.see that?" was his rude reply. Fly by Night was
not a very dutiful son, I am afraid.
Lulla stamped her foot angrily.
"Silence, sir; how dare you talk to me? Just
listen to what I am going to say."
"Well, I'm listening; you need not shout,"
grumbled Fly by Night.
"We shall have to fight," continued, the witch;
and the vampire king groaned.
"Shall we? Well, I can tell you that I am not
going to fight that Hoot Hoot any more. You can
do it yourself if you want to."
Will you hold your tongue, and do as you are
told ?" screamed Lulla.
'"No, I won't, so there! I won't fight Hoot Hoot!"
"Very well," retorted the witch; "then. I shall
get on my besom and fly away, and leave you for
the fairies to do as they like'with."
"Yah, yow, boo hooh hoo! yelled Fly by Night
40 The Owl King.
in dismay. "You must not; you shanp't! I won't
be left! I didn't do it, and I am not going to take
"Then you just do as you are told."
Fly by Night was thoroughly frightened at his
mother's threat, for he knew that unless he had hei
to help him by her spells and charms, he would soon
be done for; but he did not like the idea of meeting
Hoot Hoot again.
"What must I do ?" he inquired at last.
Go and gather your army of vampires and bats.
Let them keep guard all round the forest. Have
some hung in the trees, and watch where the pixies
gather for council. Let some more keep watch
round the enchanted castle."
"And what if Hoot Hoot and his. owls come?"
asked the vampire king, nervously.
"I will try and prevent them coming if I can.
You are a terrible coward."
"Well, I can't help that."
!'You had better try to get over it. Remember,
I cannot keep the Lady Imogen for ever; and if we
cannot defeat our enemies and compel her to marry
you, we shall soon be overcome."
S"I'd rather eat her," 'replied the vampire; and
Lulla laughed, as she answered-
Well, you can do that after you have married her."
"So I can," was the vampire's reply; "I never
thought of that."
The Owl King. 41
"You don't seem to think of anything except
keeping out of danger."
"Well!" cried Fly by Night, "and is not that a
very good thing to think of ?"
" And you will be getting into danger soon, for
they will kill you to get power over me."
Oh!" howled he, "what a shame! I don't see
why that should be."
"If you want to prevent it, be quick and obey my
orders. Then go to the shrews and field-mice, and
to the frogs and toads; tell them to be ready to
march the moment that I send for them."
"Ah," said the vampire, "that is a better plan.
They can do the fighting, and I will look on."
The witch was so angry that she seized her besom,
and hit her son a terrible crack over the head.
"Be off !" she cried ; "be off, and do as I tell you, or
I will boil you down in my magic caldron ;" and at this
threat Fly by Night uttered a loud cry, and flew off
into the forest.
"Now I must work my magic spells," said Lulla;
and, dragging out her caldron, she lit the fire, and
began putting in a lot of very strange things, singing
as she did so-
"I put my pot upon the fire,
I blow the flames to make them higher,
I fill my pot with castor oil,
And stir it up to make it boil.
A dead tom cat, an old door mat,
A great grey rat, an old top hat,
4.2 The Owl King
A long-legged spider very fat
Into my magic caldron go,
While the fire burns and bellows blow."
Then the caldron boiled and bubbled, while Lulla
stirred up its contents with the end of her magic
Bubble and boil, all in castor oil;
I know the way their plotting to spoil."
Having done this, the night-hag.caught up a black
tom cat which lay asleep in the corner, and pulled
one long hair from its tail.
"Me-ow-yow-yow," yelled the cat; but his
mistress took no heed.
Throwing the hair into the fire, she cried, Goblin
knight appear!" and a knight dressed in armour
sprang out of the caldron.
"Well, Lulla, what now ? cried the goblin.
"Take your weapons, and guard my forest," com-
manded the witch; and the goblin, answering, "I
obey," left the cave.
Then Lulla pulled a second hair from the cat's tail.
Mow-wow-wow-wow," yelled the cat, spitting
and struggling, as his mistress threw this hair also
upon the fire, crying-
Black Giant appear and a great giant jumped
out of the caldron.
"Hallo, Lulla, what do you want ?" he shouted,
keeping his head bent so that he might not bump it
against the roof.
The Owl King.
Go and guard the enchanted castle," said Lulla;
and off he went to obey her.
Then once again a hair was pulled from the cat's
tail; indeed, I do not know how long Lulla might
have gone on, had not the creature got tired of it,
and, turning suddenly, fastened its teeth in the witch's
Then it was her turn to yell; and she did, most
dolefully; dropping the cat, which immediately ran
away, and clapping her hand to her face.
: "My nose, oh, my nose! she cried. I am sure
that he has bitten a piece right off. I-why, where is
the hair ?"
Where indeed! Lulla had let it drop in her pain,
and search as she would, she could not find it.
This loss, for some reason, seemed to trouble her a
good deal. She peered about all over the place,
poking into the dark corners with her stick.
"Bother the thing, where is it? she cried.
Here it is, Lulla," replied some one from the door
of the cave; and, looking up, she saw Merlin standing
there, holding the hair between his finger and thumb.
Give it to me," she cried, "it is mine; you have no
right to it."
" Have I not ?" he laughed. Well, I am going
to keep it all the same. So you have been busy,
"Yes," she snarled spitefully, glaring at him from
under her bushy brows-" yes, have."
44 The Owl King.
"So I see. It is no good, though. I will find two
remedies for your two spells."
"Ah, but I am going to make a third," cried
"Not while I keep this hair, Lulla," he retorted
calmly. And you may be sure that I shall keep it
very carefully indeed. Now I am just going to
spoil all your little plans."
"Ah, you cannot do that, Merlin."
Oh yes, I can. You have Fly by Night, the
goblin, and the giant. I am going to have Hoot
"You will want more than him," said Lulla,
Yes-two more. Look in your caldron; you will
"I don't believe it," cried Lulla, but she looked
into the caldron all the same.
Then the oil ceased to boil, and she saw-she
nearly turned green with anger-she saw the forms
of Ernie and Sweetbriar.
"I shall conquer you with those," said Merlin.
You shan't, you shan't," she yelled; and, seizing
her wand, she began to stir the contents of the
I do not quite know how it happened. I think it
must have been that she leaned too heavily upon its
edge; but suddenly the whole thing tipped up,
The Owl King. 45
pouring its contents over Lulla, and tumbling right
on top of her, so that only her two feet were seen,
sticking out from under its edge; while from under
that caldron came the most dismal squealings that
ever you heard in all your life.
ERNIE AND SWEETBRIAR
ON a little seat outside the verderer's cottage Ernie
was seated. Behind him, on the trelliswork, honey-
suckle and jasmine grew, filling the air with their
fragrance; but he did not notice them; he did not
hear the song of the lark, nor the lowing of the cattle
from the meadows.
He ought to have been at work; and yet he sat
there idle, his eyes fixed on the dark forest, and his
mind pondering upon the lost Lord Lancelot.
How could he find him? where should he search?
The owl had said that he should be told, but no one
had come to direct him, and he knew not where to
No wonder that he felt troubled. Suppose some
one else should be the lucky one ? then he must give
up all hopes of ever winning Imogen.
He sat buried in thought, till a hand laid gently
upon his shoulder caused him to look up, and there
stood Sweetbriar, his sister.
"Dearest brother," she said gently, "what is your
The Owl King.
trouble? I know that something is the matter; you
look so sad. Will you not let your little sister share
your cares with you ?"
Dear Sweetbriar, I was thinking of Lord Lancelot."
"DEAREST BROTHER," SHE SAID GENTLY, "WHAT IS YOUR
Sweetbriar sighed, and the tears gathered in her
Do you grieve so much for him ? she asked.
"Truly I do, Sweetbriar. But it was not only
48` The Owl King.
grief; I am determined to find him, and know not
how to begin."
Sweetbriar turned pale.
Oh, Ernie, suppose he is in the forest ?"
"Then I will seek him there! he said stoutly.
But the night-hag may harm you."
The twenty years are nearly up; I must meet
her soon, anyway," he said. "But remember, dear,
that I still have my St. John's wort and stitchwort.
They are faded, it is true, but they are here."
He took out his wallet and opened it; but as he
did so he uttered a cry of surprise, for, instead of
being withered and dry, the fairy flowers were as
fresh as on the day that they were picked.
"Look, Sweetbriar!" he cried eagerly; "is not
this a token of the fairies' friendship ? Truly I think
that the owl spoke the truth."
What owl, brother ?" inquired Sweetbriar,
And Ernie told her all about his meeting with
Imogen, and the owl's message.
"And do you love Imogen so much, Ernie ?"
"With all my heart. And, think of it, Sweetbriar,
she loves me."
"And why not? Are you not brave and strong
and good ? cried his sister. "Why should she not
love you ?"
"Why not, indeed ?"
SThe two started, and Sweetbriar looked rather
The Owl King.
scared, for there on the garden fence was Hoot
"Why not, indeed ?" he cried, blinking his great
eyes. "And why should not Lord Lancelot love
the beautiful Sweetbriar ? Ah why not ?"
Ernie looked at his sister.
"Do you hear that ?" he said. "Sweetbriar, does
Lord Lancelot love you ? "
Sweetbriar blushed, and whispered softly-
"And you, dear, do you love him ?"
"Do you love him ?" repeated the owl.
"Yes," she said, more softly still; and Hoot Hoot
uttered a loud triumphant "Ter-whoo," while Ernie
"Ah, Sweetbriar, I have now even more reason
to seek Lord Lancelot. Owl, when shall I
"When the right time comes," was the answer;
and Ernie was just going to ask when that would
be, when he heard the tramp, tramp of marching
men, and a band of soldiers drew up to the gate.
"Are you Ernie, the verderer's son?" demanded
the leader, sternly.
"I am," was the answer.
"Then you are to come with us. You are my
Sweetbriar screamed, and flung her arms round
her brother's neck.
The Owl King.
Your prisoner !" he repeated in surprise. ." Why,
what am I accused of? "
"That you will learn when Sir Guy sees you."
By this time the verderer and his wife had come
out, wondering what was the matter.
"Sir Guy has sent for my son !" exclaimed Harry
Vraiami. "Ernie, what offence have you com-
"Truly, I do not know of any, father."
"Nay, then," said the old verderer, "I will e'en
go with you, and hear what Sir Guy has to say."
"Such are my orders from Sir Guy-' Bring young
Vraiami as your prisoner, and let his people come
if they will,' he said," observed the captain.
"We will all go !" Sweetbriar declared. "I know
Ernie has done nothing wrong."
Back they all went, wondering greatly in what
way Ernie could have offended; but they wondered
more when, being taken to the baron's hall, they saw
King Arthur himself seated upon the dais. Sternly
the monarch beckoned Ernie to come near.
"Young man, you are called Ernie Vraiami?" said
"That is my name, your Majesty."
"You have confessed that you, a verderer's
son, love the Lady Imogen, the noble Sir Guy's
"Who could help loving her?" was the simple
answer; and Harry Vraiami gasped.
The Owl King.
"The boy is mad!" he muttered. "He will be
Very stern did King Arthur look.
"Knave!" he cried. "You were with the Lady
Imogen in her garden scarce two hours since! and
the verderer groaned as he heard the words.
"I was, Sire," admitted Ernie.
The Lady Imogen is missing, young man. What
have you to say to that ? "
Poor Ernie! He went very white, so that those
who watched him thought that he must be guilty
of stealing the missing lady.
"Oh, Sire," he cried, "you do not mean that the
Lady Imogen is lost? "
The king paused. Something in the young man's
manner seemed to speak of true grief.
"I do mean so. Nay, more. You are accused of
bearing her, by violence or witchcraft, away."
"I, your Majesty, I!" cried Ernie. "Why, I
loved the Lady Imogen too well to hurt a single
hair of her head."
"On my word, I believe him, Sire 1" Sir Guy said.
"Truly he is presumptuous in speaking of love for
my daughter, and deserves hanging--"
"I should deserve hanging if I did not love her!"
declared Ernie boldly, and the king smiled.
"Shrewdly said, Sir Guy. What say you? "
"I say that I do not believe Vraiami or his son
could be traitors to me or mine."
52 The Owl King.
"Thank you, noble Sir Guy!" called the old
"Peace, friend," King Arthur said. Then turning
to Ernie, he continued, Young man, tell me what
brought you to the Lady Imogen's garden ?"
Ernie did not hesitate. He told how he had
grieved for Imogen's sorrow, of his interview with
her, and of the owl's advice.
"Now this is passing strange," the king said
thoughtfully. "You have spoken no words of love
to the Lady Imogen, then ?"
"Not till after her promise, your Majesty. How
should one such as I presume to speak? To love
the Lady Imogen is no sin, but to speak of my love
would have been."
"Well said !" cried the king. "And so you pro-
posed seeking Lord Lancelot, and holding this lady
to her promise ? "
"I came to offer to seek him before the Lady
Imogen told me of her vow," was Ernie's reply.
"'Tis strange," King Arthur murmured. I hear
your son, too, Sir Guy, had lost his heart to this
young man's sister."
"I only had that from Merlin, your Majesty."
"Merlin is sure to be right, so- Is this the
"Please, your Majesty, I am Sweetbriar."
Sweetbriar felt horribly frightened as she spoke,
but the king smiled kindly.
The Owl King.
"And a very pretty Sweetbriar, too! And were
you going a-searching with your brother ?"
" No," said Ernie.
"Yes," said Sweetbriar.
"No-yes. What is this?" King Arthur looked
stern again. "Speak the truth, or you will
"Please, I was going to ask Ernie to take me,"
"I see; but you had not done so?"
"No, your Majesty."
The king was silent for some moments; then he
spoke once more.
"Young man, your story is a strange one. I
hardly know how to believe it, for I never heard of
owls talking. This, therefore, is my will. You and
your sister shall go with us at once to St. Madron's
well, which standeth in our brave Cornish land.
Hast ever heard of the doom well of St. Madron? "
"No, your Majesty," they replied.
"Then, listen. You shall plunge your right arms
into his spring. If you are false, if you have dealt
with witches, if you are evil, the water will scald you;
but if you are true, then ye shall be scathless. Well,
what do you say ?"
I will go gladly," cried Ernie.
"And I too," added Sweetbriar.
"So be it. Let St. Madron declare you guiltless,
and you shall go on your quest; and, should you
54 The Owl King.
succeed, then-Arthur's word for it-he will make
you fit to mate with noble Beaucceur's house."
So King Arthur declared, and gave orders for the
journey. And so we, too, will go with them to stout
Cornwall and St. Madron's well.
ST. MADRON'S WELL.
BENEATH the shade of a great beech tree rested
Merlin the Magician, and very comfortable he seemed
to be, for, though the sun shone brightly out in the
fields and on the dusty highways, here all was cool
Close beside the magician rose a rock, the top of
which was quite smooth, and in that smooth top was
a hole something like a very deep basin-a hole
filled with crystal-clear water; while far down, at the
bottom, one could see where the water bubbled in,
like little balls of rolling, dancing silver. And this
was St. Madron's well.
The old man had been resting there some time,
when he heard his name pronounced, and, glancing
upward, he saw Queen Mab floating beside him,
lying on a gossamer couch drawn by six little pink
"Well, Merlin," said the fairy queen, "how does
our work go on? "
"Right well," he replied. "Lulla thinks that she
56 The Owl King.
can conquer us-thinks that she is doing so; but she
will find her mistake out presently."
She has Imogen and her brother."
"True, Queen Mab; but we can always afford to
give up a little, if we are to gain much in the end."
"That is so," the fairy said.
"We can only win battles against evil by doing
what we know is right, and by patiently waiting.
Patience and perseverance are worth all our charms."
"Yes. What do you propose to do next, Merlin ?"
"You know that King Arthur is bringing Ernie to
St. Madron's well?" Merlin said, in answer to this
question. "I am glad of that, because it will prove
him to be a true heart. When the king finds that
out, he will offer no objection to his starting upon his
quest. I will find his arms and mail, and his stout
heart and strong arm must do the rest."
He will find it hard work," said Queen Mab.
To be sure, he will. No good work can be done
without effort. My first plan is for him to go to
the forest, and boldly challenge the goblin knight to
battle. I know the fierce creature will not refuse."
"But he might be vanquished, good Merlin," cried
the fairy, anxiously.
Merlin laughed at her fears.
"Why, Mab, you fairy queen, and talk in such a
way! No, Mab; the hand that is washed in St.
Madron's well will be victorious against all goblin
The Owl King.
The sound of horns winding merry blasts came
borne towards them on the wind, and Merlin rose
from the ground.
"They are approaching! Farewell, Queen Mab."
"Farewell, good Merlin." And as Mab spoke she
shook the reins of her butterfly steeds, and floated
away, like a bright speck in the sunlight.
Very soon the cavalcade came in sight, and soon
the whole company had reached the well. And a
goodly company it was, for with the king and Sir
Guy were many of Arthur's nobles and many fair
ladies, who had come to see the verderer's son that
had become the lover of a baron's daughter.
Down from his saddle sprang the king, and helped
the queen to alight.
"Ah, fair sweetheart, we could brave the waters of
St. Madron, could we not? he said merrily. How
say you, fair knights ? Shall we put our honour to
the test ? "
Many a ready cry of approval came in reply, yet
some there were in that company who looked askance
at the words of the king.
Perhaps it was well that Merlin was there; you see,
he was a very wise man, and knew very well that even
some of Arthur's knights had not hands true enough
to brave St. Madron's spring.
"Nay, nay, King Arthur," he cried. "We are
here to test the truth only of those who are under
58 The Owl King.
"To test the truth of Ernie, the verderer's son,"
replied the king.
Not his only. There is his sister, Sweetbriar."
Now out on thee, Merlin!" Arthur cried. Surely
so sweet a maiden needs no proving."
"Some might say that she had cast spells upon
Lord Lancelot. Nay more, king, not she only, but
her father and mother must dree their weird at St.
So be it," said the king, and with that he motioned
the verderer and his family to approach.
"Harry Vraiami," Merlin said, "do you and yours
listen to my words. This limpid water, which looks
so clear and bright, will only bear the hands of honest
hearts within it. If there is evil, or deceit, or cruelty
within your soul, you had better thrust your hand
into the fire than into St. Madron's spring."
"Why, as to that, good Master Merlin," answered
the old man bluntly. "No one has ever yet accused
old Harry Vraiami of knavish deeds."
"It might be said that you had a hand with your
son in carrying off the Lady Imogen."
Might it," growled Vraiami. "By my troth, the
head of him that said it might be broken by my
cudgel, then ;" and he looked wrathfully round.
"Gramercy, good verderer, it was not I," laughed
King Arthur. "Spare my poor head. Good, my
lords, he looks as if he would challenge us all to
The Owl King.
"Peace, Vraiami," interposed Guy de Beaucceur,
"not one here would doubt thy fidelity. There is no
need for thy submitting to St. Madron's rede."
Marry, but there is, though, after what this worthy
gentleman has said," retorted the verderer, pointing
to Merlin. "Little does Harry Vraiami mind wash-
ing his hands;" and as he spoke, the verderer drew
off his glove and plunged his hand into the water.
How long am I to hold it here ? he demanded.
"Not a moment," was Merlin's answer. "Had St.
Madron found aught evil, he would soon have shown
his anger. Verderer though you be, your heart is
true as that of king himself."
"Well, that's as well to know," Vraiami replied.
Come, dame, dip your fingers in the saint's basin."
"Willingly," said Dame Margery, as she placed
her hand in the water; but St. Madron never offered
Now, young master, 'tis your turn," Merlin con-
.tinued, turning to Ernie. "Let St. Madron prove
you true heart."
"He cannot prove me aught else," Ernie said
calmly, and he thrust his arm up to the elbow into
"Either St. Madron is asleep, or Ernie Vraiami is
true," cried the king; and Merlin smiled as he
"St. Madron sleeps not-now, Sweetbriar-"
But before the magician had time to finish, little
60 The Owl King.
Sweetbriar had buried both her hands beneath the
surface of the waters, lifting the clear drops in her
palms, and pouring them over her pretty white arms.
"'Tis enough," said King Arthur. "The test is
passed, and Ernie and Sweetbriar may go forth on
"By my word, but I do not believe there is any-
thing in it," muttered a fierce-browed knight. "'Tis
but a simple spring, and these two may still be in
league with evil, for aught we know. They should
not be suffered to go."
Ha! sayest thou there is nothing in it? demanded
Merlin, sharply. "Then, Sir Irgo, plunge in thine
Well said !" cried the king; but the knight looked
rather unwilling to comply.
"Who dares lay aught against my honour ?" he said.
"Why, no one, my good Irgo; therefore thou hast
no cause to hesitate."
Still the knight made no offer to comply with
Merlin's challenge; till King Arthur, looking at him
How is this, Irgo ? Does a knight of my round
table hesitate to have his honour tested-?"
"Nay, royal Arthur, but I like not these childish
tricks. With lance or sword I am ready enough."
St. Madron waits to test thine honour, Sir Irgo."
Merlin spoke in unmoved tones. "Either comply, or
be dubbed a traitor."
The Owl King.
Sir Irgo glared furiously at the magician, but there
was no way of escape.
"So be it," he growled, drawing off his gauntlet.
"If men and warriors must play such fool's games."
He stepped forward and placed his hand in the
well, but no sooner was it done than the clear limpid
water began to hiss and bubble, as though red-hot
iron had been plunged into it.
A cry of rage and agony burst from the lips of the
false knight as he drew his arm out; and lo! to the
wrist it was red and scalded.
St. Madron had punished him.
It is some foul witchcraft of the magician's," he
cried ; but the king shook his head, and pointed to the
Mount and go," he said sternly. "Arthur will
have no traitor knight in his train. Away with thee,
for if thou art found in land of mine hereafter thou
shalt surely die."
"Well quit of him," was Merlin's verdict. King
Arthur, that same Irgo is leader of the robbers of the
forest, and sworn ally of Lulla the witch. But now,"
he added, "let us back to the castle, for there is work
to be done, and that right speedily."
ERNIE FIGHTS THE GOBLIN KNIGHT.
WHEN once King Arthur and his train were back
at the castle of Sir Guy de Beaucceur, Ernie was
anxious to begin his journey, though he was by no
means sure of the wisdom of taking Sweetbriar with
"I may have rough work to do," he thought, "and
it will only give me another care, if I have her to
In this mind he sought his father, and asked his
"Tell me what you think best," said he.
"Why, by my faith, my son, I am getting so
bewildered that I hardly know what to say. You
daring to go a courting of Lady Imogen, Lord
Lancelot wooing your sister, and the king, instead
of causing you to be hanged, seeming to think no
harm of it. Body o' me, it is beyond me. You had
best ask good worthy Master Merlin. I' faith, he
seems to know more about it than anybody else."
But Merlin did not wait for his advice to be asked;
The Owl King. 63
he had made up his mind what was best to be done,
and sent a messenger to bid Ernie follow him to the
"Well, Merlin," said the monarch, "dost think
that we owe your young champion some sort of
apology for our hard thoughts and harder words,
that thou hast brought him to us ? "
"No, royal Arthur, though, in sooth, you were
somewhat ready to suspect him. I have brought
him because thou art the champion of chivalry, and
it is meet that thou shouldst give him thy blessing
ere he departs."
"Dost thou start on thy quest at once, then ?"
the king said kindly to Ernie. "Well, it is natural.
What lover would not be eager to rescue his fair
lady? And art thou going to take thy pretty sister
with thee? Thou must guard her well, my
"Nay, royal Arthur, the first act in this adven-
ture shall be wrought under thine own eyes," Merlin
"How under mine, Merlin ?" cried the king.
"Hear me, your Majesty. The first foe to be met
is the guardian of the outer wood. A goblin knight
of power and might."
"And do you want that I should do this?" in-
quired the king.
"Not so. Ernie must either-do this, or fail in all.
But that you may see whether he bears him stoutly,
The Owl King.
and is worthy of knighthood's spurs, he shall fight
this goblin in thy presence."
"By my word, a goodly sight! But how will you
get your goblin warrior to appear, good Merlin ? "
"Easily. We will set the lists at the forest edge;
then Ernie shall send his challenge to the goblin,
who will himself come to answer it."
"Good !" cried the king. Let it be as you say.
Stay, though," he added, "there is one thing to be
thought of. By the laws of chivalry, this youth may
not wear knightly armour till he has won his spurs."
"I have thought of that, Sire," replied Merlin, "and
seeing that the combat will be on foot, I do not
think that it matters so much. I will, myself, provide
Ernie with half-armour, which will not impede his
"I would rather be without any, and use my stout
boar spear and knife," said Ernie.
"Nay, let Merlin advise thee. Go with him and
prepare. I will with Sir Guy to the forest, and make
ready for the fray. By the king's word, good youth,
if you bear yourself stoutly in this adventure, you
shall fill the place at my round table that has been
left vacant by that false traitor Irgo. Go, and good
fortune attend thee."
Ernie was overcome by the king's kindness. Here
was a glorious chance. To be made a knight! To
be free to woo Lady Imogen! It seemed too good
to be true; and he determined to conquer this
The Owl King.
goblin or die in the attempt. He followed Merlin
to an apartment set apart for the magician's use in
the castle; and here the old man produced from an
lIE FOLLOWED MERLIN TO AN APARTMENT.
iron-bound chest a coat of chain-mail of most beau-
tiful workmanship, a breastplate of proof, a casque,
brassarts, and greaves. Having assisted Ernie to
66 The Owl King.
don these, he armed him with dagger, sword, axe,
"Take the St. John's wort and pixies' bloom and
wear them in your helmet," he next directed. "And
now keep a stout heart, and bear yourself bravely for
the Lady Imogen."
"Truly I will; and much do I thank you for your
goodness, Merlin," replied Ernie, gratefully.
"'Tis nothing; I can only help those who are true
of heart, and ready to do and dare. No charm can
aid the craven."
"That I will never be," said the youthful warrior,
as they set out for the forest.
Here they found the king and his knights awaiting
them; and many good wishes did the champions of
Arthur's table bestow upon Ernie.
Now, good Merlin, how are we to get this goblin
knight from his hiding-place? asked King Arthur,
anxiously. "Who will carry this .gallant's challenge
to his foe ? "
"That will I, royal Arthur," answered the hoarse
voice of Hoot Hoot, and the Owl King flew down near
Ernie. Every twist and turn of the forest I know;
and I can find this goblin knight without trouble."
"It is the owl I told your Majesty of," explained
Ernie. "I pray you let him be my messenger."
"So be it," laughed the king. "'Tis a strange
adventure, and a strange messenger is fitting. Sir
Owl, hie thee to this goblin knight, and tell him that
The Owl King.
Ernie Vraiami challengeth him to single combat, and
waiteth here in the presence of his king, to maintain
his cause and the Lady Imogen's beauty."
"I obey!" cried Hoot Hoot. "Let the heralds
sound a fanfare;" and he flew swiftly off.
Then the heralds sounded their challenge-once,
twice, thrice; and at the third blast, an answering
note came from the forest depths.
"'Tis right, good friends," cried the king. "The
goblin hears. By the rood! I would this adventure
were mine. I envy this youth his good fortune.
Ah! here our goblin comes."
Even as the king spoke, the goblin knight came
out of the forest. Truly he was a formidable-looking
foe, nearly seven feet high, and clothed from head
to foot in black mail.
Dame Margery shuddered, while her husband
"Now God speed our boy, for truly this is a tough
deer to stalk."
Sweetbriar, however, looked on undismayed; she
felt certain that Ernie would conquer; indeed, I am
not at all sure that she would have minded fighting
the goblin herself.
The black-mailed knight glanced round the as-
sembled throng in silence for a moment; then,
advancing, he said-
I am come in answer to the challenge; where is he
who sent it ?"
68 The Owl King.
"I am here, evil goblin, servant of the witch
Lulla," replied Ernie. "And I am ready to redeem
"And what may that be?" demanded the goblin;
and Ernie answered boldly-
"To slay thee."
Loud laughed his grim adversary.
If that be your pleasure, truly you can indulge it.
Come, let us make trial."
Each firmly gripping his shield, and swinging his
keen axe on high, the two moved towards each
other; and then the fight began in right good earnest.
The axes clashed and clanged, and the sparks flew
from their strokes, as they moved around each other
in rapid circles.
"Truly, the youth bears himself well," said the
king; "but, I fear me, his adversary presses him
"Yes, 'tis an unequal contest," replied Sir Guy; "I
am sorry for the lad."
"Keep your sorrow till there is cause for it,"
laughed Merlin. "Yonder goblin will soon fall."
Sweetbriar, clinging to her father's arm, watched
the sweeping axes; nor could she repress a cry of
dismay, as she saw the blood trickling from her
"Oh, Merlin," she whispered pleadingly, "can you
not help him ?"
Not while he can help himself. But do not fear
The Owl King.
the evil may wound the good, they never can destroy
them. Ah 1 see ndw."
A cheer went up from all around, for Ernie had
caught the goblin so lusty a thwack on the head
that the huge creature dropped to his knees, his axe
falling from his grasp.
He uttered a roar of rage, and strove to draw his
dagger, but down came Ernie's axe once more, and
off tumbled the goblin-knight's head.
"Bravo! well fought!" cried the knights, and
Sweetbriar fairly danced with delight as King Arthur
called Ernie to him.
"Right nobly have you fought," he said, "and now
I redeem my promise. Ernie Vraiami, kneel."
He drew his sword as Ernie bent before him, and,
laying it upon the young man's shoulder, said-
"Arise, Sir Ernie Vraiami, and let men know thee
hereafter as Ernie the Good."
IN THE FOREST.
LULLA was in a terrible rage. She had just heard
that her goblin knight was defeated. Fly by Night
had sent her tidings of the fight, and hardly had
his messenger arrived when he himself followed.
"Why have you left the forest ?" cried his mother,
when he appeared.
"To bring you news. Ernie and his sister have
just entered the wood."
Ernie and his sister ? repeated the witch. What
are they seeking ? "
"The path to the magic castle," he answered.
They never shall find it. We will lead them on
deeper and deeper into its heart, and then throw
them into the great swamp. They shall both perish.
Surely Merlin must have been silly to let them come
where even he has no power to aid them. We must
keep them from the fairy ground, and lure them on
into our part. Go back, Fly by Night; I will follow
The ugly vampire flew off, and Lulla, only waiting
The Owl King. 71
to put a fresh piece of plaster upon her nose, seized
her besom, and, springing on it, went with a whiz
and whirr, sailing off over the chimney-pots.
Meanwhile Ernie and Sweetbriar were making
their way through the winding paths of the forest;
for, greatly to his surprise, Merlin had insisted upon
Ernie taking Sweetbriar with him.
He was still dressed in the armour which the
magician had given him, while his sister looked very
much like a little Joan of Arc; for she had a tiny
silver helmet and breastplate, a little silver shield,
and a long slender spear; all of which Queen Mab
had brought from Fairyland expressly for her.
At first their way was easy, for the paths were
clear, and, in the daytime, the evil things of the
forest had but little power; but as it began to grow
dark, the road became more and more difficult, the
trees grew more thickly, and great brambles covered
I wonder where we can rest to-night ?"
It was Ernie who said this, as, pausing in a little
clearing, he looked doubtfully around. "We can
hardly go much farther, it is getting so dark."
"Yes; I wish we had a light," replied Sweetbriar;
and scarcely had the words left her lips 'ere a
soft white radiance seemed to shine from above
"Why, Ernie, do look cried his sister, in delight;
"it is shining from the point of my spear I "
The Owl King.
Sweetbriar was right; the keen-edged spear-head
was glowing and gleaming like a lantern.
"This is capital," her brother said ; "that gift of
Queen Mab's will be useful indeed."
Halt! who goes there ? shouted a harsh voice;
and they saw in front a band of fierce robbers.
"Who goes there ?" echoed another voice from
the darkness above. "Our enemies, Irgo, Ernie and
Sweetbriar. Up and slay them."
That we will, Lulla ;" and Irgo, the false knight,
strode up to the brother and sister.
"Ha! a pretty prize we have here," he laughed
mockingly; "yield, most noble and true ones. This
is a better test than St. Madron's well. Come,
pretty one," he continued, "you shall be my servant,
and we will hang your brother to this tree."
"Ha, ha ho, ho !" laughed the robber band, and
cruel voices in the forest gloom took up the cry,
" Ha, ha ho, ho!"
"Yield!" screamed Lulla, peering down from the
treetops. No fairies can help you now. Only the
things of night that creep and fly can have power
here, and they belong to me."
So Lulla said; but she forgot that there were
some things of night that fly, and that did not
belong to her. Yes, Lulla forgot the fairy owls.
"I will not yield," replied Ernie. "Stand behind
me, dear Sweetbriar."
But Sweetbriar had no intention of standing behind
The Owl King.
any one, and before even her brother could aim a
blow at the robber-chief, she had darted her spear
right in his face.
"Ha, oh, oh!" roared Irgo. "Oh, I am dead!
Yow! Oh avenge me, my brave comrades. I-- "
What he would have said is not quite certain, for
though he said he was dead, he did not look it;
and so Ernie, to make quite sure, struck his sword
right through his body.
Up jumped the robbers.
Our captain is killed. Revenge! Let us get at
you. We will teach you to come interfering with us."
"Come on, Sweetbriar, we must fight now," cried
Ernie ; then he paused, for there came the beat, beat
of wings, and, through the darkness, he saw what
looked like a lot of lamps approaching-they were
the eyes of the fairy owls.
"Oh, oh! Oh, oh!" screamed the robbers.
"Ghosts! bogies!! goblins!!! Oh, we are so
frightened. We want to go home to our ma's. We
won't never be robbers not no more. Oh "
It was in vain that they cried, in vain that they ran,
for the owls could see in the dark better than they
could. They rushed here and there; they bumped
their noses up against trees; they caught their feet
in brambles, and went rolling and sprawling in every
direction; and all the while, the owls whirled, hissing
and hooting, round their heads, while Ernie and his
sister, with their sword and spear, kept giving them
The Owl King.
such sharp cuts and pricks, that they only thought
of getting away from these terrible enemies as quickly
as ever they could.
They ran, and they ran, the owls following them,
and, for all I know, they may be running yet; indeed,
I saw a man running only the other day, only, of
course, I could not be quite sure that it was one
of those robbers.
Up in the treetop Lulla wriggled and raved and
moaned and groaned; but she was powerless, for
the fairy owls were creatures of the night, and had
as much right in the forest as she had.
She called for her will-o'-the-wisps and hobgoblins
to lure the two travellers from the path, and then
went off, whirling through the air, and making the
night wind moan and sigh as she beat it with her
"Well, little Sweetbriar, all our enemies seem to
be gone," said Ernie. "I wonder what sort of things
they were that came to help us ? "
"I think they were owls, Ernie," she replied.
"Why, so do I, now I think of it. I suppose that
our owl sent them ; I don't understand it a bit."
"Do you know, Ernie, somehow I think that owl
has something to do with poor Lord Lancelot ? "
"Ter-whoo-ter-whoo- too-whoo----" came a
loud hoot from the darkness; and then from the
trees above came the answer-
The Owl King. 75
Ernie was silent some moments.
"That ugly Lulla can never have turned him into
"Too-whoo-too-whoo-too-whoo- the call
"Oh, I hope not, I do hope not," said Sweetbriar,
her tears falling fast.
"You see," went on Ernie, "you hardly could love
"Hoot-ter-whoo!" It was such a mournful cry
"Not love him!" repeated Sweetbriar. "Oh,
Ernie, I can't help loving him. I love him now, and
I must love him always."
Too-whoo Hoot ter-whoo ter-whoo- "
But this time the cry was full of joy, and from all
sides it was taken up.
"Just listen to them; it seems as if they knew
what we were saying."
"Yes, Sweetbriar; but now we have something
else to think of. Where are we ? and where can we
rest to-night ? This forest is full of evil things ; we
cannot possibly sleep here."
"I think I see a light in the distance; perhaps it
is from a cottage. Let us try and reach it."
I see it too cried Ernie. "Come on, dear."
Stop, stop came a hoarse cry.
"Who said 'stop' ?" demanded Ernie.
76 The Owl King.
I," replied the voice-" Hoot Hoot, the Owl King.
There is danger there; that goblin light would lead
you into a deep bog. There are hidden enemies
all round you."
"What shall we do, then?" asked Ernie, in
"Follow where the light gleams from Sweetbriar's
spear. No matter where it falls-on water or land,
swamp or mead-follow it. Voices will call you,
but do not heed them. So long as you follow the
light, the hobgoblins cannot come near you."
"Thank you, Hoot Hoot; we will obey your
counsel," Sweetbriar said.
"Stay yet one moment," the unseen owl continued.
"Hold out your hand, fair Sweetbriar."
The maiden did so, and a little bundle of wild
flowers dropped into her palm.
Can you tell me what they are ?" the voice asked.
Sweetbriar bent over them; she knew every wild
blossom of the dells.
"Marjoram, white heather, and tutsan," she said
"You are right. Keep them carefully, and re-
"Marjoram, tutsan, heather white,
Put the fiend in a proper fright."
"Come," said Ernie, "let us move on, dear sister.
See how the light shines from your spear down this
The Owl King.
Sweetbriar fastened the flowers in her girdle, and,
taking her brother's hand, said-
"I am ready, Ernie."
Down the path they went, while strange mocking
voices called to them, and uncouth shapes glided
through the shadows; but neither Ernie nor his
sister gave heed to them.
Sometimes they saw smooth flowery meads, and
pretty cottages standing in them, and they would
willingly have stayed and sought rest and shelter;
but still the light kept gleaming on the path in front,
and, mindful of Hoot Hoot's warning, they kept on.
Over streams and ditches, through swamps and
tangled brakes, it led them, while the forest grew
darker and more drear.
Great frogs and hissing snakes crowded in their
path, but nothing seemed able to get near them, for
the marjoram, tutsan, and white heather kept all
evil things away.
Then the trees themselves took all manner of
queer shapes, looking like old men with long waving
arms and hideous faces. Yet still on and on went
the travellers, ever following the light that shone
from the fairy spear; until, at last, they came into
a clearing, where they saw an old ruined tower rising
in the moonlight, and there, sitting motionless and
alone, was Hoot Hoot, the Owl King.
THE HOME OF THE OWLS.
THERE sat the Owl King, but looking so strange and
weird in the dim light, that Sweetbriar could not
repress a little cry of dismay, and at the sound the
owl turned his head towards her.
"Fear not, gentle Sweetbriar," he said, "I would
not harm you even if I could; and you, Ernie, I bid
you also welcome to the owl's home."
"I thank you right heartily, -Hoot Hoot," replied
Ernie, looking round in some perplexity.. "For
myself, I desire nothing better than this green sward
where I may rest secure till morning from our
enemies in this forest; but I hardly care for my
sister to sleep without shelter of some sort."
The Owl King laughed.
"Why, Ernie-or I suppose I should say Sir Ernie
now, since royal Arthur has knighted you-do you
think I would bid Sweetbriar welcome only to damp
grass and starlit sky ? No, no, good friend. Hoot
Hoot can offer better hospitality than that. Yonder
ruin, old and grey, has yet within it apartments more
meet for her gentle presence."
The Owl King.
"I beg your pardon, Hoot Hoot, but it looks so
lonely and drear."
"Wait, wait," cried Hoot Hoot, "so long have I
hoped for this joyful time, that you may be sure I
have used my utmost diligence to see that nothing
has been omitted which may add to Sweetbriar's
Having said this, the Owl King raised his wings
and hooted loudly, and at the sound, all the hedges
and trees near were lit up with tiny twinkling firefly
lights, that flashed and gleamed, forming a ring of
moving stars all round the tower.
The grass itself became carpeted with glowworm's
lanterns, ever shaping themselves into changing
patterns, like a living kaleidoscope.
Sweetbriar uttered an exclamation of wonder and
delight, so pretty did all these tiny points of moving
radiance appear; and Ernie stared in surprise, for
now that dark, ruined tower appeared to be glowing
with ruddy light, which streamed through old broken
casements and doorless entrances.
Hundreds and hundreds of little bowers, made by
the clinging ivy on its walls, were lit up; and in each
one, they saw an owl resting motionless and solemn.
It must be Fairyland," cried Sweetbriar.
"It must be magic," murmured Ernie.
"You are right, Sir Ernie. It is magic; but
remember there is good and bad magic, and this is
the good. It is Fairyland, too, Sweetbriar; but
80 The Owl King.
Lulla's spells keep the fay-folk from coming here; so
only fairy owls are left to guard it. But hark, the
owls welcome you "
It seemed to the two that a bell was ringing some-
where, though where they could not tell; and at the
sound, all the owls came tumbling from their resting-
places, while many more peeped from holes in the
Round they gathered to welcome their visitors, and
as they came they sang in tones far sweeter than
any one would have thought an owl could possess-
"Ding-dong, bim-bom, ding-dong, bim-bom,
From the church the bells are pealing,
Ding-dong, bim-bom, ding-dong, bim-bom.
O'er the sky the shades are stealing.
Both in and out, and round about
Winds and turns the feathered rout,
Hooting, hissing, laughing, kissing,
Never one his true love missing,
While the shadows grey are stealing,
And the bell is pealing, pealing,
Ding-dong, bim-bom, ding-dong, bim-borr:
Ter-whit, ter-whit, ter-whoo.
Ding-dong, bim-bom, ding-dong, bim-bom,
By himself Hoot Hoot sits lonely,
Ding-dong, bim-bom, ding-dong, bim-bom;
One can cheer him, and one only,
And she is here, Sweetbriar dear.
Now raise the song and dry the tear,
Hoping ever, doubting never,
Loving hearts no charm can sever.
Welcome, while the bells are pealing,
And the shadows grey are stealing.
Ding-dong, bim-bom, ding-dong, bim-bom j
Ter-whit, ter-whit, too-whoo."
The Owl King. 81
"Welcome, welcome, welcome !" cried all the owls
again and again.
"Welcome," repeated Hoot Hoot-" welcome !
Ah! now our hearts are glad, for 'tis the fairy hour
Silent and still sits the owl all day
Alone in his home on high,
But when the night comes cold and grey
He opens wide his eye.
And he plumeth himself for his midnight flight,
And hooteth aloud with glee;
And he feareth for naught in the darkest night,
As he leaveth his hollow tree.
Then hey for the owl, the bird of night,
Hey for the joy of the midnight flight,
The king of all birds, with eye of light,
Is the owl-the horned owl.
Ter-whit, ter-whit, ter-whoo."
Again the owls caught up the cry of welcome, and,
forming two and two, hopped into the ruin.
Then Hoot Hoot turned to Ernie and Sweetbriar.
"And now," he said, "will you let Hoot Hoot be
your host to-night ? You must rest well, for there
will be work to do soon."
"We accept your kindness gladly," replied Ernie,
"but we must continue our journey betimes."
"Your journey is almost done," answered the Owl
King. "Little more can you do until to-morrow's
sun has set, and then you will need strong arm and
stout heart; for then Lulla must be beaten, once and
Hoot Hoot led the way in as he spoke, and no
82 The Owl King.
sooner were Ernie and Sweetbriar inside the ruined
tower than they had a second surprise, for there,
instead of dreary wind-swept rooms and deserted
corridors, was a spacious hall well furnished, and
Fresh rushes were on the floor, costly tapestries
hung from the marble pillars, and the lights from
o'erhead were reflected in the rich plate with which
the table was set.
At the head of the table was a throne for the Owl
King, and upon either hand of the monarch Ernie
and Sweetbriar sat. Hidden musicians played the
sweetest melodies, and a fountain sent perfumed
water high into the air.
It was indeed a much better place than the forest,
and Ernie was delighted at having so good a shelter
The company gathered for dinner were all owls,
and very funny owls they looked; for they were
dressed like men and women, the lady owls had
flowing robes of silk and lace; the gentlemen owls
wore velvets and satins, just as did the nobles in King
Arthur's court, and they all seemed to be enjoying
themselves a very great deal.
Hoot Hoot watched his guests, seeing that they had
everything they needed; and never since the world
began was there such a polite attentive owl as he.
When the dinner was. over, all the company went
to the ballroom, which was so big that it puzzled
The Owl King. 83
Ernie to know how they managed to put it inside
that little tower; and here they had all sorts of games
and dances; quite like a nice party, you know.
Sweetbriar and Ernie were watching the dancers
curiously-for the owls danced with comical gravity-
when the Owl King joined them.
"Well, my friends," he said, "and so you are
determined to find Lord Lancelot ? "
"Yes," replied Ernie, firmly; but Sweetbriar
I think that we have found him. I do not know
why, but my heart tells me that you are he."
The Owl King looked at her for some moments in
silence; then he said-
"You are indeed right, fairest Sweetbriar, I am
Lord Lancelot. The wicked night-hag turned me
into an owl, but now I am glad she did so."
"Glad Why ?" cried Ernie, in amazement.
"Because, Sir Ernie, the very thing which she
thought would hurt the fairies the most, is going to
be the cause of her own defeat. Being an owl, I
have power in the forest, even where the fay-folk
cannot come. You saw how my owls helped you
fight the robbers, and we shall be able to help you
still more to-morrow. Oh yes, we shall conquer
Lulla, I am sure, and then I shall get my own
form once more, and perhaps you will love me a
"I love you now," replied Sweetbriar, gently; and
84 The Owl King.
Hoot Hoot looked as though he would have liked to
"But have you no tidings of Lady Imogen ?" asked
Ernie; "for she, too, is lost, you know."
"She is quite safe, Sir Ernie, though a prisoner,"
replied Hoot Hoot. "The witch has shut her up in
her enchanted castle, and sent a giant and a dwarf to
Up sprang Ernie. "Where is the castle; I will go
"Not to night, Sir Ernie. Nothing can be done
till daylight comes; then you can go and set her
free, and hasten back to take part in the battle."
"But," objected Ernie, Lulla may harm her, now
that she knows we are coming to her rescue."
She cannot, Sir Ernie. Besides, she is busy enough
in her cave, trying to get things ready for to-morrow.
Never fear. You may be sure .that I love my sister
too well to let her be hurt if I can help it, and my
spies keep close watch all round Lulla's castle."
"I hope this will be the end of Lulla's power, for I
have heard that she has made mischief for a very
long time," Sweetbriar said.
"She has indeed," Hoot Hoot replied. "But I
must not forget that you and Sir Ernie are weary
after all your labours to-day. It will be better for
you to rest now, and you may rest secure from doubt,
for many owl guards watch round this tower and in
The Owl King. 85
Hoot Hoot rose and led his guests to two sleeping-
apartments, quite as well furnished as the hall; then,
bidding them "Good night," he went away.
"Good-night, Ernie dear," said Sweetbriar. Of
what are you thinking so deeply ? "
Of nothing very terrible, dear," he replied, laugh-
ing. "I was trying to make out how they have
managed to get such a lot of rooms into a tower that
does not seem large enough to hold any one of them.
Good night, my dearest sister,"
THE ENCHANTED CASTLE.
THE next morning Sir Ernie and Sweetbriar were
quite ready to be off to the rescue of the Lady
Imogen. Sir Ernie wanted to go alone, unwilling
that Sweetbriar should risk danger in a fight with
the giant; but she would not hear of it.
"I am sure that our poor Imogen will be glad to
have me with her, even if we cannot get her away at
once, and we may not be able to do that."
But how are you going to get to her ?" demanded
And his sister replied-
"I don't know; but I will find out some way."
"Come on then, dear," was Ernie's answer; "only
be sure that you keep out of danger's way, for that
giant may be a very difficult fellow to conquer."
"I will be careful," she promised. And having
bidden farewell to Hoot Hoot, and been shown the
way, they set off.
It was daylight now, and the goblins had no
power ; so that, except for the difficulties of the way,
The Owl King. 87
they had no trouble in their journey. But as they
drew near the enchanted castle, suddenly keen-eyed
Sweetbriar laid her hand on Ernie's arm.
"Look there 1" she whispered, pointing down the
path; and Ernie saw Lulla and Fly by Night hiding
in the shadows.
Let us creep up and hear what they say," he said
softly. "They do not guess that we are here."
They crept softly forward, taking care to keep
well hidden by the trees, and at last came quite close
to the ugly pair.
"You had better let me eat her at once," they
heard Fly by Night say.
"I tell you I will not!" answered the witch.
"We must try to keep her if we can, and then she
must marry you."
"And then I can eat her. .Ho, ho "
"Hush! said Lulla, cautiously. "Now, listen!
I am afraid that Ernie will find his way here, and
fight the giant. If he seems likely to conquer him,
you must creep into the castle, and then-well, you
can kill the prisoner, if you like."
"Ho! And how am I to get into her cell ?"
asked the vampire.
Here is the key; only see that you do not lose
it. Now, stay here, and mind you obey all my
Lulla gave her son the key as she spoke, and then
hurried away to get ready for the battle which she
88 The Owl King.
knew must be soon fought between her army and
Good gracious !" whispered Sweetbriar. "Those
wretches were talking of poor Imogen."
"Yes," was her brother's reply. "It is fortunate
that we overheard them."
"And what shall we to now, Ernie?"
"We must take that ugly creature, and get the
key from him. Come on the silly creature is not
watching in the least."
This was true, for Fly by Night was trying to
screw up his courage sufficiently to disobey his
"I might just as well go in at once and eat her,"
he growled; "I should be sure of her then; and I
don't want no silly wives. Wives are only a bother,"
he went on. "I want to eat her, and-I will!"
"You will not!" shouted Ernie, darting forward.
ou ugly monster, give me that key!"
"Who are you? What do you mean by calling
me names?" demanded the vampire, blinking his
bleary eyes and showing his teeth.
"I am Sir Ernie the Good," replied our hero,
defiantly. "The key at once Do you hear ? "
"Oh yes, I hear. But you have made a little
mistake; you are not to fight me. The giant is
there on purpose to kill you. He is quite ready."
"I will fight him presently," retorted the knight,
" after I have killed you."
The Owl King. 89
"But I don't want to be killed," yelled Fly by
Night. "I won't be killed, so there! Yah! Mo-
ther, moth-er, this boy's hitting me! Ow "
The "Ow!" was caused by Sweetbriar gently
prodding him with her spear.
"Two to one ain't fair. Go away; I ain't playing!
Go away, or I'll bite you!"
He made a dash at Sweetbriar as he spoke, but
Sir Ernie stepped forward.
"Come! no more nonsense," he said sternly.
"Are you going to give me the key ?"
Certainly he is not," roared a mighty voice; and
Fly by Night uttered a yell of delight, for there
came Lulla's giant striding towards them. "Give
up the key, indeed!" roared the monster again.
"Come here, you pigmy, and let me eat you."
"Look to him, Sweetbriar," cried Ernie, as he
turned to meet this new foe. "Mind he does not
Fly by Night thought that he could easily frighten
a girl; so, as soon as Ernie was gone, he came
snapping his teeth, and beating with his long leathery
wings at Sweetbriar's face.
But Ernie's sister was not to be frightened. She
knew that this hideous creature wanted to harm her
dear Lady Imogen-to eat her-and she meant to
prevent him if she could.
Stepping back, she caught the blow which he
aimed at her face upon her silver shield ; then with
The Owl King.
one quick thrust she ran her spear clean through
his fat, ugly body, and down fell the Vampire King,
rolling and squirming as though he did not like it
BUT ERNIE'S SISTER WAS NOT TO BE FRIGHTENED.
"Oh! oh! mo-the-e-er, this-girl-is hitting me
now Oo-boo-hoo! "
But he called in vain, for Lulla was not there, and
Sweetbriar had taken the key from him.
"I don't want to have to kill you," she said, "but
The Owl King. 91
I must if you don't lie quite still." And Fly by
Night lay as if he never meant to move again.
Sweetbriar looked anxiously at the giant. It
seemed impossible that Ernie could vanquish him.
But Sir Ernie the Good meant to try, and was
dodging about, avoiding the furious blows which his
enemy aimed at him, while at every opportunity he
belaboured those great legs till the giant roared with
pain as well as passion.
"He will conquer!" cried Sweetbriar, gladly. "Well
done, Ernie. Ah!"
Her joy turned to dismay, for Ernie's foot slipped,
and he fell, while, with a shout of delight, the giant
Sweetbriar seized her spear and ran to help Ernie,
and then, to her surprise, the giant threw his club
away and flopped down.
What had happened? Evidently Ernie knew, for
he sat up and laughed till the tears ran down his
What had happened? Why, this. No sooner had
Sweetbriar left Fly by Night, than the vampire had
started up eager to escape, but, as he could not see in
the sunlight very well, he had in his hurry flown into
the giant's open mouth and down his huge throat.
Down the giant sat, coughing and gasping-
"Ah, ugh, ho! I-I've swallowed something, a
fly, or a blackbeetle; ugh, ow-perhaps it was a
pater-ciller, I mean citter-paller, no, a caller-pitter.
92 The Owl King.
You know, a thing with a lot of legs. Oh, I do feel
so bad I Won't somebody get me something? will
nobody get me nothing? I will be glad if anybody
could get me anything. It-it must have been a
spider. I can feel its long legs tickling my inside.
Oh, what shall I do ? "
"Better have a drink of water, and then we can go
on fighting," advised Sir Ernie.
"But I-I don't feel like fighting any more. I
think I will go home and go to bed," groaned the
giant. I have got such a pain inside."
"He seems very bad," said Sweetbriar. "I am
afraid that Fly by Night did not agree with him."
"I think he has poisoned him," replied Ernie; and
indeed it seemed so, for the giant was rolling about
like a great eel.
"Oh, oh, oh!" he cried once again, and then he
did not cry any more, for he was quite dead. The
Vampire King had poisoned him.
My word, Sweetbriar, if our enemies would only
keep on like that, we should have little work to do."
"And little glory to gain," replied his sister. "But
let us hasten and set Lady Imogen free; the poor
lady has been kept in this old castle too long."
Now, Lulla had made the inside of her castle very
strong. Every room had charms of some sort in it,
to defend it against any who might strive to enter;
but with the loss of her giant, her goblin, and her
son, her power was getting very much weaker, and
The Owl King. 93
what with Ernie's axe and Sweetbriar's spear, they
soon found their way to the dungeon where Lady
Imogen was kept, and, having made very short work
of the jailor-dwarf, they set Ernie's sweetheart free.
"Dear Ernie," said the lady, I felt sure that you
would come to my rescue. What! and you too,
Sweetbriar! Brave little Sweetbriar! now we only
want to find my dear brother, and we shall be quite
"We have already found him, dearest Imogen,"
said Ernie, in reply, "and I trust that by to-night the
cruel spell upon him will be broken. Lulla has
changed him into an owl."
"Then it was he that came each day to my cell,
bringing me food ?" cried Imogen.
"Yes, it was Lord Lancelot, though now he is
Hoot Hoot, the Owl King."
They left the enchanted castle, and as they walked
through the wood, an owl messenger arrived bidding
them hasten, as Lulla's army was beginning to come
in sight; so at their best speed they returned to the
YES, the witch's army was coming, and a queer army
it was. There were all the toads from the wood,
frogs from the swamp, and the snakes from the fen.
There were the vampire bats flitting overhead, and
the wood-goblins hopping on the ground, while Lulla
on her besom dashed and whirled round and round.
She was sorry now that she had turned Lord
Lancelot into an owl, for the owls could fight in the
air and on the ground too.
Lulla had heard already that Imogen had been
freed from the enchanted castle and taken to the owls'
tower, and so she gave orders for her army to march
in that direction.
"We will defeat the owls first," she declared, and
then we will attack all the farms and barns. We will
spoil the corn and worry the cattle till the people will
be glad to take Lulla for their queen."
That was all very nice, and sounded quite easy to
say, but Hoot Hoot was going to have his word about
The Owl King.
Sir Ernie had taken his sister and Imogen to the
tower, but both of them declared that they were not
going to sit idle while their friends were fighting.
Imogen had felt inclined to cry at first when she
beheld the Owl King, and knew that under that ugly
form her handsome brother was a prisoner ; but when
she heard his cheery words, and when she understood
that, after all, it would be the means of defeating the
wicked night-hag, she dried her tears, and asked for
a spear and shield like Sweetbriar's.
"Dearest Imogen, pray do not think of exposing
yourself to the danger of the fight," pleaded Sir
Ernie; but she replied-
"Would you have your ladylove less brave than
your sister, sir knight ? "
What could he say to her after that?
"But where will you get your weapons, Imogen ? "
"What is that ?" asked Hoot Hoot, who overheard
Lady Imogen wishes to take part in the battle, by
Sweetbriar's side," explained Sir Ernie.
"Ha! like the noble girl that she is! By my
word, she shall have her desire! Ho, Hook-beak!
"Your Majesty !" said two owls, appearing at his
Speed to her Majesty Queen Mab. Tell her that
the Lady Imogen begs for weapons to take part in
the fairy ranks against wicked Lulla. Away-speed."
96 The Owl King.
"We obey," cried the owls, and flew off.
Now for our plans," continued Hoot Hoot. We
will not wait for Lulla to attack us here, we will
meet her in the forest. I will take half the army,
and fight on the wing. You, Sir Ernie, with Sweet-
briar and Imogen, shall lead the battle beneath.
How say you to that ?"
"With all my heart," cried Ernie. "And if we
do not soon overthrow all these evil things, I shall
be very much surprised."
"Of course, we shall overthrow them," Sweetbriar
declared. "It is right against wrong-love against
hate-truth against falsehood. We are bound to
win, were they ten times as many."
"I wish that the owls would return with my
weapons," sighed Imogen. "I shall be so dis-
appointed if I cannot be with Sweetbriar."
"Patience, little sister," laughed Hoot Hoot.
"Even fairy owls cannot fly as quickly as you
seem to think. Be sure that they will return in
When shall we start ? inquired Sir Ernie.
"Not till twilight, so we have plenty of time both
to rest and to prepare. Lulla cannot move through
the forest any farther till the moon is up."
"Here come your messengers, dear Imogen!"
cried Sweetbriar, pointing upwards.
And there, true enough, back were speeding the
two owls, bearing a tiny helm, a sword, and shield.
The Owl King. 97
Imogen was delighted, and when the gift of the
fairy queen had been laid before her, she turned
to Sir Ernie, and said-
"Now, my true knight, I will see if you shall not
be as proud of me as I am of you."
"I am proud of you and your love, dearest
Imogen," he answered tenderly.
"Ah, but I want to show you that I am worthy
of your love. Beauty and birth are well enough,
but true hearts are better."
"But, dearest, you are true and brave; I do not
need proof of it."
Imogen smiled happily.
"And yet, dear Ernie, there ought to be proof
of it; and I am glad, so glad, that I am going to
be with you and share your danger."
They were now joined by Hoot Hoot, who, having
done all that he could in arranging for the march,
"Dear Sweetbriar," he said, and, as he spoke, his
hoarse voice seemed to grow softer, "I want to thank
you, before we go, for your goodness in coming to
try and aid me."
"What else could I do but seek to help my love? "
she replied gently. "Ah, Lancelot! what else could
I do ? "
"You call me Lancelot !" cried the Owl King.
"Because you are Lancelot. I know nothing of
Hoot Hoot. The witch could change your body,
The Owl King.
but not your noble heart. Lancelot looks out of
your eyes, and speaks through your voice. If you
had to remain in the form of Hoot Hoot for ever,
I should still think of you only as Lord Lancelot."
"And your true knight?" he said.
"And my true knight and true love," was her
"Only what, dearest Sweetbriar ?"
"When you have been freed from this cruel spell,
will your father, noble Sir Guy, suffer you to wed
the poor verderer's daughter ?"
"That he will," cried a hearty voice, and they all
turned in surprise, for there stood Merlin with Sir
Guy and King Arthur,
"Hey! you are surprised to see us," laughed the
magician, as, Imogen ran to her father's arms, and
Hoot Hoot bent at his feet. "You see, Sir Ernie,
my messengers kept me informed of your valiant
deeds, and those of your sister; and when we knew
that the battle was to be fought to-day, nothing
would do but that the king and Sir Guy must come
to look on."
Only look on, Merlin ? cried the king, reproach-
"That was the bargain, your Majesty. But since
we started, I have learned tidings which will perhaps
allow you to fight."
"Why, that is good news," was the king's joyful
reply. "Pray what are these tidings ? "