River Legends; Or, Father Thames and Father Rhine

River Legends; Or, Father Thames and Father Rhine

Author:
Baron Edward Hugessen Knatchbull-Hugessen Brabourne
Author:
Baron Edward Hugessen Knatchbull-Hugessen Brabourne
Format:
epub
language:
English

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Author: Brabourne, Edward Hugessen Knatchbull-Hugessen, Baron, 1829-1893
Children’s stories
Legends — Juvenile literature
River Legends; Or, Father Thames and Father Rhine

RIVER LEGENDS

or,

FATHER THAMES AND FATHER RHINE

By E. H. Knatchbull-Hugessen

With Illustrations By GUSTAVE DORÉ

1875

Original Size — Medium-Size


CONTENTS
LIST OF ENGRAVINGS.
RIVER LEGENDS
THE GREAT BOAR OF WINDSOR FOREST
MARTHA’S VENGEANCE
THE FAMILY FEUD
THE GIANT BRAMBLE-BUFFER
THE MANNIKINS’ CASTLE
SIR RODERICK FOWLE—A LEGEND OF THE OLDEN TIME.


LIST OF ENGRAVINGS.

FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS.

Hans and his Prisoner…………….Frontispiece

The Baron’s Oath…..To face page………….107
The Father of all Giants………………….140
Powle’s Advance on the Castle……………..242

TEXT ILLUSTRATIONS.

Father Thames and Father Rhine…………….003
The Messenger……………………………005
Father Thames after his Ale……………….006
The Boar………………………………..008
The Boar’s Family………………………..010
The Infant Smith…………………………013
The Sacrifice of Smith’s Father……………015
Smith in Toad-land……………………….018
The Snakes………………………………022
Bertha the Druidess………………………027
The Road into the Forest………………….035
The Last of the Boar……………………..046
The Baroness and her back hair…………….056
Father Rhine and his Elves………………..059
The River-Demon Thief…………………….064
The Greedy Child…………………………067
The Devilet……………………………..072
Martha rousing the Peasants……………….078
Father Rhine and the three Baronesses………081
The Swan-sisters…………………………084
Crazy Timothy……………………………092
The Old Harper…………………………..097
She keeps the Pigs……………………….115
She watches the Battle……………………132
Giants Mountain-building………………….143
Bramble-buffer Storm-making……………….148
He uproots the Tree………………………153
Hans sent aloft………………………….163
Hans in the Giant’s Mouth…………………166
The Mouth Fortified………………………167
The Giant weeps………………………….170
The Giant’s Release………………………173
The Castle………………………………181
Mannikins at Play………………………..187
Goody Tickleback’s Steed………………….188
Flight of the Witches…………………….202
The Sea-serpent………………………….225
Father Rhine’s Retreat……………………252


RIVER LEGENDS

OR

FATHER THAMES AND FATHER RHINE

I had been down to spend a summer’s day at Eton. Dear old Eton! There is no place where a summer’s day can be more happily spent, especially by those to whom the spot is hallowed by the memory of boyish days. The “playing-fields” are delightful, in spite of the passage through the same being a service of danger when cricket-balls whiz recklessly past your ear, and a courteous “thank you!” invites your hand to restore to its owner the engine which has nearly broken your head. “Poet’s Walk” is charming, although its memories may not be entirely pleasant if you chance in your boyhood to have been “fag” to some “sixth-form” master whose tea you had to carry out to that pleasant resort. The “school-yard” also is not without its recommendations, though when one has attained the mature age of forty-five one feels rather as if one had no business there, standing among a crowd of fellows of a younger and happier age, the only idler among the number.
On the particular day of which I speak, I had rambled about with those boys I knew, gathered as much pleasure as I could from the memories which clung around the precincts of the old college, and afterwards strolled out along the banks of the river in the direction of Surly. The weather being rather hot, although evening was approaching, I thought it well to halt in the immediate neighbourhood of Surly Hall, and having seated myself in the shadiest place I could find, began to think over the various “Fourths of June” and “Election Saturdays” which I had witnessed in that famous locality, until I not unnaturally fell fast asleep. I do not know how long I remained in this comfortable state, but I was suddenly aroused by the sound of voices, and immediately opened my eyes and looked around to discover the quarter from which they proceeded. It was not long before I was enlightened upon this point.
Nearly opposite the spot upon which I had seated myself was a little island in the very middle of the river, dividing the water which flowed on each side of it and left it high and dry. This island was of no great size, and, I should imagine, of no great value either, being covered with reeds and willows, and apparently fit for nothing except to afford shelter to moor-hens and water-rats, which creatures probably found it an exceedingly convenient habitation. Upon the present occasion, however, beings of a different nature altogether appeared to have taken possession of the island. At a plain deal table were seated two ancient individuals of kingly and majestic mien. He who sat at the end of the table wore a white beard of mighty size, which streamed downward to his waist; whilst his companion, who sat at his right hand, and was of a dark and swarthy complexion, boasted but little beard, but made up for the deficiency by the size and length of the black appendages which adorned his upper lip. Each of these two kings (for such the crowns upon their heads betokened them to be, and the regal dignity of their general appearance gave further proof of their condition) grasped in his hand a tumbler which was apparently full of liquor more potent than the water which flowed around them, whilst a huge pewter pot (which constituted the only other furniture of their table) bore witness to the quarter from whence their potations had been supplied.


Original Size — Medium-Size

As I regarded these two strange beings with an astonishment not altogether unmixed with reverential awe (for I saw at once that they were more than ordinary mortals), he at the end of the table broke silence, and striking his fist upon the board in an emphatic manner, thus addressed his companion: “Brother Rhine!” said he, “welcome to old England. Thames gives thee hearty welcome.” The other gravely bowed his head in acknowledgment of this cordial speech, but uttered no word in reply, and methought I perceived upon his royal countenance some signs such as appear upon the face of a passenger between Dover and Calais whom the ocean has rudely shaken. Father Thames (for as such I instinctively recognised the first speaker) appeared to make a somewhat similar observation, for he forthwith addressed his friend a second time in these words: “What aileth thee, Brother Rhine? Lovest thou not this change of climate, or dost thou fear that thy waters will overflow or thy tributary streams rebel during thy brief absence?”
He who was thus accosted smiled grimly, and stroked his dark moustache as he made answer: “Neither the one nor the other, Brother Thames. It is but thine English ale which is somewhat more potent than my native drink. But, craving thy pardon, the matter will soon be set right. A trusty messenger should by this time be arriving with a supply of mine own Rhine wine, and I would fain have thee try the vintage.”
The countenance of Father Thames visibly darkened. “I forsake not mine ale,” said he gloomily. “It gladdens the heart and strengthens the frame more than the juice of grape.”
“And yet,” replied the other, “there are merry hearts, strong frames, and brave spirits in plenty upon my banks; and thus it has ever been, as many an old legend can well bear witness.”
“Doubtless,” responded Father Thames, though still somewhat moodily. “But yet for legends and stories of the olden time my river lacketh not a good supply, nor are British hearts less merry or British spirits less brave than those of whom thou makest thy boast.”


Original Size — Medium-Size

“I doubt it not, I doubt it not,” rejoined the monarch of the Rhine. “But see, here comes my messenger!” As he spoke, I looked up and beheld an enormous eagle, carrying a huge silver flagon in his beak and another in each of his claws, and hovering immediately over the heads of the two kings. Presently he alighted, deposited his precious burdens upon the table directly in front of the Rhine king, and obediently waited for orders behind his master. The latter lost no time in hesitation over his course of procedure. Taking up the vessel from which he had recently drank, he dipped it several times in the running water at his feet until all traces of the ale had disappeared, then, filling it full with sparkling wine from one of the flagons before him, he looked steadily at his companion, gravely inclined his head towards him, and then tossed off his liquor with an air of supreme satisfaction, and replaced his tumbler upon the table.


Original Size — Medium-Size

Father Thames meanwhile had not been idle. Whilst his brother king was thus engaged, he had drawn the pewter pot nearer to himself and replenished his tumbler with foaming ale. “Your health, Brother Rhine,” he shouted in a stentorian voice, and winking one eye in a peculiar but not unpleasant manner, he drained his glass to the dregs. A change at once appeared to come over his countenance—it positively sparkled with fun; a species of light appeared to play around his head as if the rays of the sun had come to give a parting radiance to his crown before they retired for the night. His whole face beamed with internal and intense satisfaction, and once more striking his hand on the table, he spoke thus: “Brother Rhine, we have each his own liquor and each his own river. Let each enjoy his own! Live and let live. But whilst we sit here so happily, let us while away the time by recounting some of the legends for which our banks are so famous, and of which we each have a good store.”
“Agreed!” cried he of the Rhine; “and as thou hast proposed the pastime, Brother Thames, do thou begin.” Thus adjured, Father Thames, having previously filled and emptied his tumbler once more, cleared his throat and commenced the history of—


THE GREAT BOAR OF WINDSOR FOREST

I need scarcely tell you that England was not always what it is to-day, and that the advance of time has wrought very considerable changes in the scenery of the country through which the waters of the Thames hold their course. The river which bears my name now washes fertile shores which were once barren plains, and pleasant towns and smiling meadows have replaced wild thickets and dense forests. I suppose there never was a more delightful forest than that of which Windsor can boast. When mortals speak of Windsor Forest, they generally associate therewith the name of Herne the Hunter, who was quite a character in his way, had an oak of his own, and has had more than one very readable story written about him. But Herne the Hunter is quite a modern hero compared with those of whom I am about to tell you. I speak of old, very old days, and if I do not give you the exact date when the events occurred which I shall presently relate, it is only because I haven’t the least idea what that date may have been. But, be it what you will, it is an undoubted fact that long, long ago there was a forest which stretched down to the very edge of my river near to this particular spot, and this forest was the abode of many strange and incomprehensible beings.


Original Size — Medium-Size

Perhaps the most curious and most disagreeable of these in the days I speak of was a personage familiarly termed the Wild Boar of Windsor. This creature was of enormous size and strength, and was generally acknowledged as the king of his tribe.
Wild boars were at that time numerous in England, and I believe, if the truth were known, that fairies and Fairyland power had much to do with their existence. That power has passed away now, or at least has so greatly diminished that, although there are plenty of persons left who may be correctly described by a word which sounds exactly like the name of the animal in question, yet the fairies have nothing to do with this. Magic power no longer converts the objects of its wrath into brute beasts or hideous monsters, as was frequently the case in the good old times of which I speak. Whether the Wild Boar in question was the victim of some such vengeance, or whether he had always been what he appeared in those days, it is not necessary to inquire. Anyhow, he was certainly more than mortal. He had apparently the gift of prophecy, for his grunts were often repeated by his subservient followers as having foretold subsequent events with singular accuracy, and he was not unfrequently sought out by persons who desired to be acquainted beforehand with future events, which has in all ages been a foolish weakness to which human nature has been subject.
This Boar had a numerous family, who were daily fed out of silver dishes, sitting all in a row and eating with as much decorum as could be expected. It is not, however, of his family or domestic life that I am about to tell you to-day, but of the extraordinary events which occurred in connection with the efforts made by mankind to rid themselves of this exceedingly troublesome creature. For although, as I have already said, the ignorant peasants of the neighbourhood held the Boar in great reverence, and used to creep timidly into the forest in search of the knowledge which he was said to possess, and which they certainly lacked, there were others who regarded the kingly Boar as an unmitigated nuisance. This was scarcely wonderful, since he and his tribe had the most unpleasant habit of issuing forth from the forest, and devastating the country far and wide, making everybody as uncomfortable as possible.


Original Size — Medium-Size

Ever since I have known this country, which is now a good many years ago, the people who inhabit it have liked to be as comfortable as they could be, especially when living quietly in their own homes, intrusion into which they have always greatly resented. “An Englishman’s house is his castle” is a very old proverb amongst them, and they have a strong attachment to the particular localities in which they have been bom and bred. So that when this Boar ravaged right and left, respected no man’s castle, uprooted everybody’s crops, and made himself generally disagreeable, it was quite natural that the worthy people who suffered from his depredations should feel exceedingly annoyed. After a while, this annoyance took the form of an earnest desire to get rid of the monster. The question, however, of the means to be employed to accomplish this desirable result was by no means easy of solution. To dig pits, such as were in those days commonly used for the destruction of wild animals, would have been an utterly useless proceeding when employed against a creature of such supernatural sagacity. Guns had not been invented; no dog could be found strong and fierce enough to attack the monster; and the more the poor people thought of the matter the more hopeless did their case appear. Law and order were not then what they are now, and there existed no county constabulary to whom, in the present day, the business would at once be referred with a perfect certainty that the wrong-doer would be forthwith arrested and punished. Nor had the pious founder of Eton College as yet existed, or doubtless aid would have been sought by the sufferers from the provost and fellows of that famous abode of learning. Their prayers at least would have been invoked, for these saintly men have always been persons of great age, profound wisdom, and extreme piety, and the only doubt might have been lest, as the Boar had been so long in existence, they might not have considered him as one of the institutions of their country, and declined to take any steps against him in consequence. But, as they themselves did not then exist, the question did not arise, and the Boar continued supreme.
For aught I know, he might have continued so down to this day but for the circumstances which I am about to relate.
A poor woman of the neighbourhood dreamed that she was about to become the mother of the largest family that the world had ever seen. This being a thing which her husband, being in straitened circumstances, deemed by no means desirable, he received the news with disgust only tempered by disbelief, and treated his helpmate to language of a rough and discourteous character. His frame of mind changed, however, when, as years rolled on, one child only claimed him for its father, which of course entitled him to sneer at his wife and her dreams as a good husband would naturally do under such circumstances. The child, however, was one of no ordinary description. Not only was he the largest and most strongly made child ever seen in these parts, but he showed from an early age a singular and precocious intelligence. Before the time when infants are supposed to be able to convey their meaning to their friends by intelligible utterances, a very remarkable instance of this precocity occurred. The father and mother (whose names have not been handed down to posterity) were discussing the future of their promising babe in his presence, and one asked of the other the question what distinguishing name should be given to so fine a child. The astonishment of the parents may be imagined when the infant, suddenly sitting upright in his mother’s lap, and steadfastly regarding his father, winked his left eye violently, laid the first finger of his right hand against his little nose in a confidential manner, and emphatically pronounced the word “Smith.”
Whether this proceeding was, by the powers of magic, ordered and decreed with a view to the fulfilment of the dream of the child’s mother, is a question upon which (like most others) various opinions may be entertained. Certain, however, it is that the result justifies the idea, inasmuch as the astonished parents obeyed the commands of their offspring, and gave him that name which has since been borne by so many of the inhabitants of this island, and of which, (despite all other accounts bearing the stamp of probability) this child was the inventor and founder.


Original Size — Medium-Size

As the babe grew older, his wondrous strength was the subject of general remark. His favourite plaything was a club, much thicker at one end than the other, and nearly as tall as himself. This he would brandish about over his head to the imminent danger of the bystanders, or would lovingly encircle with his arm, leaning his head against it, as he sat upon the ground pondering over some plans only known to himself with a more than childish gravity.
These, you must know, were the days of the worthy Druids, who guided the religious feelings of the country, and, as has been occasionally the fashion of ecclesiastics in all ages, used the ignorance and superstition of the people to establish their own authority.‘Take them all in all, I don’t know that they were worse than other priests whom I have seen upon my banks in later ages; but they had an awkward habit of occasionally discovering that their personal enemies were required by the gods as a sacrifice, and thus not unfrequently managed to propitiate their own vengeance and that of the irate deities at one and the same moment. Smith’s father, having been unlucky enough to fall under the ban of one of these respec

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