MERLIN- Chapter VIII (end)


When Viviane had clapped her hands by way of agreement, Merlin traced a circle around the spring. This he did with a hazel wand which the young girl had fetched from the nearby coppice at his request ; then he sat down beside his friend.

In a few moments the forest seemed to come alive and Viviane saw a crowd of knights and ladies, squires and girls of court ; they were walking hand in hand singing in wonderful tune. Having arranged themselves outside Merlin's circle, this happy band began to perform a series of dances of incomparable grace and delicacy, whilst invisible bagpipes intoned the steps. Out of the air, close by, a castle had appeared surrounded by an orchard filled with flowers and sweet-smelling fruit. Viviane no longer thought of questioning her teacher, the novelty of such a scene enraptured her. The festivities went on from nones to vespers (early afternoon to sunset). After the dances followed by lunch on the grass, the ladies and girls stayed chatting while their escorts went to amuse themselves tilting at the quintain in the gardens of the castle.

As dusk approached, knights, squires, girls and ladies withdrew, dancing, into the depths of the forest. Viviane watched them, couple by couple, vanish into the half-light as they reached the shelter of the trees. Then the castle faded into the mist and disappeared in its turn. But the orchard remained at the request of the girl who called it "The Refuge of Every Happiness" and this name still stands.

"My beauty, I must depart", said Merlin.

"Why so, dear friend ? Are n't you going to teach me any of your magic tricks before leaving me ?"

"I would need more spare time than I have this evening. But I shall not delay coming back... Then I will teach you the finest of my spells if you will swear to be mine without, this time, imposing any conditions at all".

But Viviane, still smiling, replied: "I should be very reluctant, dear sir, to make such a promise in haste. Am I not already your friend in our heart of hearts ? Teach me what I want to know so much. My happiness will be your richest reward in the expectation that one day perhaps..."

And Merlin, doubly imprudent, was weak enough to swear to her that he would teach her all his secrets provided that she became his very own.

Xavier de LANGLAIS

Translation: Terence O'HARA, M.A. Oxon