The Age of Fable eBook

Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,207 pages of information about The Age of Fable.


Leir, who next reigned, built Leicester, and called it after his name.  He had no male issue, but only three daughters.  When grown old he determined to divide his kingdom among his daughters, and bestow them in marriage.  But first, to try which of them loved him best, he determined to ask them solemnly in order, and judge of the warmth of their affection by their answers.  Goneril, the eldest, knowing well her father’s weakness, made answer that she loved him “above her soul.”  “Since thou so honorest my declining age,” said the old man, “to thee and to thy husband I give the third part of my realm.”  Such good success for a few words soon uttered was ample instruction to Regan, the second daughter, what to say.  She therefore to the same question replied that “she loved him more than all the world beside;” and so received an equal reward with her sister.  But Cordelia, the youngest, and hitherto the best beloved, though having before her eyes the reward of a little easy soothing, and the loss likely to attend plain-dealing, yet was not moved from the solid purpose of a sincere and virtuous answer, and replied:  “Father, my love towards you is as my duty bids.  They who pretend beyond this flatter.”  When the old man, sorry to hear this, and wishing her to recall these words, persisted in asking, she still restrained her expressions so as to say rather less than more than the truth.  Then Leir, all in a passion, burst forth:  “Since thou hast not reverenced thy aged father like thy sisters, think not to have any part in my kingdom or what else I have;”—­and without delay, giving in marriage his other daughters, Goneril to the Duke of Albany, and Regan to the Duke of Cornwall, he divides his kingdom between them, and goes to reside with his eldest daughter, attended only by a hundred knights.  But in a short time his attendants, being complained of as too numerous and disorderly, are reduced to thirty.  Resenting that affront, the old king betakes him to his second daughter; but she, instead of soothing his wounded pride, takes part with her sister, and refuses to admit a retinue of more than five.  Then back he returns to the other, who now will not receive him with more than one attendant.  Then the remembrance of Cordeilla comes to his thoughts, and he takes his journey into France to seek her, with little hope of kind consideration from one whom he had so injured, but to pay her the last recompense he can render,—­ confession of his injustice.  When Cordeilla is informed of his approach, and of his sad condition, she pours forth true filial tears.  And, not willing that her own or others’ eyes should see him in that forlorn condition, she sends one of her trusted servants to meet him, and convey him privately to some comfortable abode, and to furnish him with such state as befitted his dignity.  After which Cordeilla, with the king her husband, went in state to meet him, and, after an honorable reception, the king permitted his wife, Cordeilla, to go with an army and set her father again upon his throne.  They prospered, subdued the wicked sisters and their consorts, and Leir obtained the crown and held it three years.  Cordeilla succeeded him and reigned five years; but the sons of her sisters, after that, rebelled against her, and she lost both her crown and life.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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