Sybilla Myrtillo And Furioso





A certain king had a beautiful golden-haired daughter named Sybilla,

whose suitors came from every country, though with small success, since

the princess had vowed to remain single until one proving to be the

mightiest hero of the world should appear.



At no great distance from her father's country lived a horrible giant,

every hair of whose head could change, at will, into a fiery serpent. He

had one eye, the size of a mill-wheel, and his teeth looked like rocks

in a mighty cavern. His name was Furioso, and his strength was known to

surpass that of an army of ordinary men. What was the dismay of

Sybilla's father when this monster sent to request the lovely princess

for his wife! The king turned pale, and walked up and down his palace

floor all night, for he knew what it meant to refuse the request of

Furioso, who, up to this time, had lived at peace with his neighbor's

country. The queen-mother, hearing of the giant's offer, took to her

royal bed in kicking hysterics. As to the proud little princess, she

curled her pretty red lips scornfully and tossed her head. "I'd like to

see him do it, the fright!" was what she said.



In a few days what the king feared had come to pass. The giant Furioso,

on receiving the beautiful diplomatic letter the king's secretary had

written him (after consultation with all the lords and lawyers of the

realm), frowned, scratched his head, which instantly bristled all over

with flaming serpents, and opening his mouth sent forth a blood-curdling

yell of defiance that resounded in the farthest part of the king's

dominions. Without a moment's delay he changed himself into a fearful

hurricane, and swept over the country and the palace of the Princess

Sybilla. Fences and iron gates, stone walls and marble palaces fell to

the ground like card-houses. Forests were uprooted, suspension bridges

snapped like cobwebs, villages entire rose up into the clouds and

disappeared, with their inhabitants looking in astonishment out of the

windows! Cows and horses, dogs and elephants were seen whirling about

in the air like Japanese day-fireworks. The king and queen found the

roof lifted from above their heads, and went sailing out the open space

in their nightcaps. They met all the court blowing wildly about up

there, and for some time it was like a mad dance without any bottom to

it. Dizzy and terrified, the royal couple at last fell down to earth

again, the queen lighting on the fat cook, so that she was not seriously

injured--the king falling on a tennis net, which the force of the wind

kept suspended like a hammock without any ropes.



Picking themselves up, the first thought of the royal couple was for

their beloved princess. As fast as different members of the court and

household fell down from the clouds, which they continued to do all the

evening and night, the king sent them in search of the princess. Nobody

remembered having seen Sybilla anywhere in the air, and her

waiting-maid, who dropped somewhere about nine o'clock A.M., next day,

wept as she told how she was combing the princess' golden hair with the

ivory comb she still held in her hand, when the breeze came which

separated them. One thing was certain, the princess had disappeared.

When things settled down a little, and people began taking their

breath, a peasant turned up who reported seeing the princess flying

along at a fearful rate of speed in the arms of a tall, white-haired man

wrapped in a mantle, who hid his face as he passed. "It were just at

that moment, your honors," said the peasant, overwhelmed by the

questions that rained on him, "I were myself tooken, unexpected-like,

and turned upside down by the wind; and when I cum to, there I were

atop a haystack in Farmer Grimes' field, five miles from home as the

crow flies, a-standing on my head."



The king and queen exchanged horrified glances.



Each remembered to have heard that one of the tricks of Giant Furioso,

when he wished to be particularly wicked, was to change to the semblance

of a venerable white-haired man. No doubt about it, the whole calamity

to court and nation was the work of Furioso, and he had got the

princess.



The distracted king set out at the head of his army to visit Furioso's

castle. To his surprise, under the giant's name, upon a visiting card

inserted above the speaking-trumpet at the gate, were pencilled these

words: "Out of town till further notice." The windows were closed, and

green shades hung behind them. No smoke came out of the chimneys, and

the doors were chained. Evidently the giant had retired to some one of

his retreats, where he could not be followed. The king and his army

marched back again in gloomy silence.



For six months nothing was heard of the unfortunate Sybilla, till one

day three young princes, travelling from a distant country in search of

adventure, found a wounded carrier-pigeon on the road. Under its wing

was a note, written in pale red ink, on a bit of torn linen cambric. The

note gave them considerable trouble to read it, but, at last, the

youngest prince, Myrtillo, who had always been the cleverest at school,

managed to decipher these words:



"I write this with blood taken from my finger, on a fragment of

my only pocket-handkerchief. I am the wretched Princess

Sybilla, daughter of the King Rolando, and I pray any kind

mortal who finds this to come to my aid, in the dungeon of

Furioso, under the fifth mountain of the Impassable Range. Once

in twenty-four hours this mountain cleaves asunder to let my

oppressor take the air. Watch, and rescue me, in the name of

humanity."



The Impassable Range was far away, but the princes journeyed thither

without delay. They found the fifth mountain easily, and hid under the

rocks at its base, to await developments. Exactly at sunrise a rumbling

sound was heard, and the cliffs shook. The mountain split apart from

summit to base, and between two yawning jaws of rock issued forth,

first, a head covered with flaming serpents, then a frightful purple

face, and lastly, the gigantic form of Furioso. Following him came the

wails and shrieks of his captives within the mountain, to which Furioso

paid no attention; he only turned his back and shouted:



"Close you, mountain, fierce and grim,

Open but to Banbedrim!"



The princes fancied that this last was the password, and when the giant

had disappeared they tried to make the mountain open by repeating it;

but in his excitement each one forgot how to pronounce the magic

syllables. So there they stayed till sunset, when the giant came home

from his hunting expedition. He had a pouch slung over his shoulder, and

in it were crowded the new men, women, and children he had caught. The

poor creatures were half dead with terror and rough treatment. The

princes watched the giant, and listened with all their ears for the

password. "Banbedrim!" thundered Furioso, and instantly the mountain

yawned to let him and his miserable prisoners pass in, when it closed,

as before.



The three princes laid each his hand on his sword, and swore to be

avenged of the brutal treatment of their fellow-beings. Next morning

when the giant issued forth, hurling the password at the mountain, then

disappeared from sight, the oldest prince declared that he should be the

first to enter the mountain, that his brothers should wait twenty-four

hours for his reappearance, and that should he fail to come back the

second brother might come to his assistance.



Bravely the young man sprang up the mountain-side, and called aloud the

password. Instantly amid thunderings and lightnings the ground split at

his feet and swallowed him from sight. They could see the tip of his

bright sword held aloft, as he sank into the gloomy abyss.



Twenty-four hours passed, and the oldest prince failed to return. Then

the second brother set forth, and he, too, vanished from sight. A long

day and night of waiting had the youngest prince. Then he ascended the

mountain where there was every reason to fear his brothers had found a

horrible fate. Uttering the password, Myrtillo saw, through the opening

earth at his feet, a pit whence came fire and smoke; and he plainly

heard the cries for help of many human voices.



Myrtillo fell a great distance, landing on his feet in a desolate

cavern. The smoke cleared away and he beheld a huge iron door before

which were four trumpets--one of copper, one of silver, one of gold, and

one of brass. Over them these words: "He who would enter here, choose

between us four."



At the foot of the golden trumpet lay the mangled remains of his oldest

brother, who had perished in trying to blow it. At the foot of the

silver trumpet the corpse of the second prince had fallen; and now

Myrtillo must choose between the two remaining trumpets! Without a

moment's hesitation he put his lips to the copper trumpet, and gave a

loud, clear blast. At once the iron door flew open, and he was in a hall

surrounded by dungeons, through whose gratings he could see prisoners in

every stage of misery. They called to him frantically, and hailed him as

their deliverer. Alas! what could the poor prince do to save them. He

looked about and saw a long tunnel, ending in a massive gate of stone

and iron. As he gazed into the darkness of the tunnel something coiled

up at the end of it seemed to stir, and a hideous snake darted toward

him, opening a pair of jaws as wide as an ordinary fireplace, and

sending out a flaming tongue. Myrtillo charged upon the beast, and after

a desperate fight drove his sword down its throat, the point coming out

at the back of the neck. As he stooped to free his sword the serpent

gave a convulsive struggle and died. Myrtillo found a chain around its

neck on which was fastened a golden key. He took the key and put it in

the great key-hole of the iron door before him, and to his joy the door

opened. There, in a dismal dungeon within, lay a beautiful maiden in

chains. Myrtillo set her free, and found that she was the Princess

Sybilla, whom the giant treated with especial cruelty because she

persisted in refusing his love. She told him that the little pigeon was

one of many kept for the serpent's food, and that she had hidden it, and

helped it to fly out one day when the giant left her cell. "And now,"

said the princess, when Myrtillo had in turn told her his story, "let us

be quick, and lose no time. In the court beyond my cell are two

fountains. One of them contains the water of strength, the other the

water of weakness. From the former fountain Furioso gains all his power.

A little of its water sprinkled upon the dead recalls them to life, and

we may save your poor brothers yet."



Myrtillo and the lady hastened to the fountains; but to their dismay a

roaring noise and the groans of the wretched prisoners, who were

chastised daily upon his return, announced the arrival of the giant.

"Quick!" said the lady, pointing to the water of strength; "drink once

of this, and you will be strong enough to change the fountains, putting

each in the place of the other."



Myrtillo obeyed, and at once felt able to move a mountain at command. He

seized the solid stone basins and changed them, and hardly had he done

so when the giant came rushing in. "Where is that insolent

whipper-snapper of a prince who has dared to kill my faithful serpent?"

roared he.



"Here he is, at your service," said Myrtillo, stepping forth with a

gallant bow, and holding his glittering sword in hand.



"Just wait till I quench my thirst," said the giant disdainfully, as he

stooped down to what he supposed to be his fountain of strength, and

drank a long, deep draught. Suddenly a strange trembling came over the

monster's huge bulk. His face turned pale, his eyes stared, his jaw

dropped, he sank to the ground.



"Why, this is the water of weakness my prisoners drink," he cried. "What

trick have you been playing me, you scoundrel?"



Myrtillo again drank of the water of strength, and now he felt as if he

could defy an army, single-handed. Swift as a lightning flash he

descended upon the giant, and severed his wicked head from his body. The

Princess Sybilla uttered a wild shriek of delight, which was heard and

understood by all her fellow-captives, and the dungeons echoed with

sobs and cries of joy. Myrtillo and the princess filled goblets with the

water of strength, and hastened to sprinkle all the prisoners, who,

paralyzed by their chains and wasted with hunger, could in many cases

barely stir upon the ground where they lay. Soon, a host of strong men

and women filled the main hall of the dungeon, and then Myrtillo had the

joy of seeing his two brothers return to life under the action of the

magic water, in which he bathed their limbs. As Myrtillo only had

drank of the water of strength, he remained the strongest champion in

the world; and when Sybilla was taken back to her father and mother, she

told them that she had promised to take the Prince Myrtillo for her

husband. From the giant's stronghold Myrtillo brought away gems and gold

enough to enrich him for a lifetime, even after all the giant's victims

had been sent home with a bag of gold apiece. His brothers found brides

in two lovely fellow-sufferers they had led out of the giant's cavern to

the light of day; and so all were satisfied, and in a short time the

Giant Furioso was forgotten. No more hurricanes visited the kingdom of

Sybilla's father, where things continued to jog along in the old-time

peaceful fashion.





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