Part 2 out of 7
I had him next day for dinner. This linnet, as near as I can remember,
seemed to be somewhat larger than an English swan.
The queen, who often used to hear me talk of my sea voyages, and took
all occasions to divert me when I was melancholy, asked me whether I
understood how to handle a sail or an oar, and whether a little exercise
of rowing might not be convenient for my health. I answered that I
understood both very well; for although my proper employment had been to
be surgeon or doctor to the ship, yet often upon a pinch I was forced to
work like a common mariner. But I could not see how this could be done
in their country, where the smallest wherry was equal to a first-rate
man-of-war among us; and such a boat as I could manage would never live
in any of their rivers. Her majesty said, if I would contrive a boat,
her own joiner should make it, and she would provide a place for me to
sail in. The fellow was an ingenious workman, and by my instructions, in
ten days finished a pleasure-boat, with all its tackling, able
conveniently to hold eight Europeans. When it was finished the queen was
so delighted that she ran with it in her lap to the king, who ordered it
to be put into a cistern full of water, with me in it, by way of trial,
where I could not manage my two sculls, or little oars, for want of
But the queen had before contrived another project. She ordered the
joiner to make a wooden trough of three hundred foot long, fifty broad,
and eight deep; which, being well pitched, to prevent leaking, was
placed on the floor, along the wall, in an outer room of the palace. It
had a cock near the bottom to let out the water, when it began to grow
stale; and two servants could easily fill it in half an hour. Here I
often used to row for my own diversion, as well as that of the queen and
her ladies, who thought themselves well entertained with my skill and
agility. Sometimes I would put up my sails, and then my business was
only to steer, while the ladies gave me a gale with their fans; and,
when they were weary, some of their pages would blow my sail forward
with their breath, while I showed my art by steering starboard or
larboard as I pleased. When I had done, Glumdalclitch always carried
back my boat into her closet, and hung it on a nail to dry.
One time, one of the servants, whose office it was to fill my trough
every third day with fresh water, was so careless as to let a huge frog
(not perceiving it) slip out of his pail. The frog lay concealed till I
was put into my boat, but then, seeing a resting place, climbed up, and
made it lean so much on one side that I was forced to balance it with
all my weight on the other, to prevent overturning. When the frog was
got in it hopped at once half the length of the boat; and then over my
head, backward and forward, daubing my face and clothes with odious
slime. The largeness of its features made it appear the most deformed
animal that can be conceived. However, I desired Glumdalclitch to let me
deal with it alone. I banged it a good while with one of my sculls, and
at last forced it to leap out of the boat.
[Illustration: A GALE WITH THEIR FANS]
But the greatest danger I ever underwent in that kingdom was from a
monkey, who belonged to one of the clerks of the kitchen. Glumdalclitch
had locked me up in her closet, while she went somewhere upon business
or a visit. The weather being very warm, the closet window was left
open, as well as the windows and the door of my bigger box, in which I
usually lived, because of its largeness and conveniency. As I sat
quietly meditating at my table I heard Something bounce in at the closet
window, and skip about from one side to the other: whereat, although I
was much alarmed, yet I ventured to look out, but not stirring from my
seat; and then I saw this frolicsome animal frisking and leaping up and
down, till at last he came to my box, which he seemed to view with great
pleasure and curiosity, peeping in at the door and every window. I
retreated to the further corner of my room or box; but the monkey,
looking in at every side, put me into such a fright that I wanted
presence of mind to conceal myself under the bed, as I might easily have
done. After some time spent in peeping, grinning, and chattering, he at
last espied me; and, reaching one of his paws in at the door, as a cat
does when she plays with a mouse, although I often shifted place to
avoid him, he at length caught hold of the lappet of my coat (which,
being made of that country cloth, was very thick and strong), and
dragged me out. He took me up in his right forefoot, and held me, just
as I have seen the same sort of creature do with a kitten in Europe; and
when I offered to struggle he squeezed me so hard that I thought it more
prudent to submit. I have good reason to believe that he took me for a
young one of his own species, by his often stroking my face very gently
with his other paw. In these diversions he was interrupted by a noise at
the closet door, as if somebody were opening it, whereupon he suddenly
leaped up to the window at which he had come in, and thence upon the
leads and gutters, walking upon three legs, and holding me in the
fourth, till he clambered up to a roof that was next to ours. I heard
Glumdalclitch give a shriek at the moment he was carrying me out. The
poor girl was almost distracted; that quarter of the palace was all in
an uproar; the servants ran for ladders; the monkey was seen by hundreds
in the court sitting upon the ridge of a building, holding me like a
baby in one of his forepaws, and feeding me with the other, by cramming
into my mouth some victuals he had squeezed out of the bag on one side
of his chaps, and patting me when I would not eat; whereat the rabble
below could not forbear laughing; neither do I think they justly ought
to be blamed, for without question the sight was ridiculous enough to
everybody but myself.
Some of the people threw up stones, hoping to drive the monkey down; but
this was strictly forbidden, or else, very probably, my brains had been
The ladders were now applied, and mounted by several men, which the
monkey observing, and finding himself almost encompassed, not being able
to make speed enough with his three legs, let me drop on a ridge tile,
and made his escape. Here I sat for some time, three hundred yards from
the ground, expecting every moment to be blown down by the wind, or to
fall by my own giddiness, and come tumbling over and over from the ridge
to the eaves; but an honest lad, one of my nurse's footmen, climbed up,
and, putting me into his breeches pocket, brought me down safe.
I was so weak and bruised in the sides by the squeezes given me by this
odious animal that I was forced to keep my bed a fortnight. The king,
queen, and all the court, sent every day to inquire after my health; and
her majesty made me several visits during my sickness. The monkey was
killed, and an order made that no such animal should be kept about the
When I attended the king after my recovery, to return him thanks for his
favors, he was pleased to rally me a good deal upon this adventure. He
asked me what my thoughts and speculations were while I lay in the
monkey's paw; how I liked the victuals he gave me; his manner of
feeding; and whether the fresh air on the roof had sharpened my stomach.
He desired to know what I would have done upon such an occasion in my
I told his majesty that in Europe we had no monkeys, except such as were
brought for curiosities from other places, and so small that I could
deal with a dozen of them together, if they presumed to attack me. And
as for that monstrous animal with whom I was so lately engaged (it was
indeed as large as an elephant), if my fear had suffered me to think so
far as to make use of my hanger (looking fiercely, and clapping my hand
upon the hilt as I spoke), when he poked his paw into my chamber,
perhaps I should have given him such a wound as would have made him glad
to withdraw it with more haste than he put it in. This I delivered in a
firm tone, like a person who was jealous lest his courage should be
called in question. However, my speech produced nothing else besides a
loud laughter, which all the respect due to his majesty from those about
him could not make them contain. This made me reflect how vain an
attempt it is for a man to endeavor doing himself honor among those who
are out of all degree of equality or comparison with him. And yet I have
seen the moral of my own behavior very frequent in England since my
return; where a little, contemptible varlet, without the least title to
birth, person, wit, or common sense, shall presume to look with
importance, and put himself upon a foot with the greatest persons of the
[Footnote 22: Gulliver's hatred of mankind betrays him, even in the
midst of his mildest satire, into such sharp, biting remarks as
[Illustration: GULLIVER AND THE KING]
_IV. A Wonderful Escape_
I had always a strong impulse that I should some time recover my
liberty, though it was impossible to conjecture by what means, or to
form any project with the least hope of succeeding. The ship in which I
sailed was the first ever known to be driven within sight of that coast,
and the king had given strict orders that if at any time another
appeared it should be taken ashore, and, with all its crew and
passengers, brought in a tumbrel to the capital. I was indeed treated
with much kindness; I was the favorite of a great king and queen, and
the delight of the whole court; but it was upon such a foot as ill
became the dignity of human kind. I could never forget those domestic
pledges I had left behind me. I wanted to be among people with whom I
could, converse upon even terms, and walk about the streets and fields
without fear of being trod to death like a frog or a young puppy. But my
deliverance came sooner than I expected, and in a manner not very
common; the whole story and circumstances of which I shall faithfully
I had now been two years in the country; and about the beginning of the
third Glumdalclitch and I attended the king and queen in a progress to
the south coast of the kingdom. I was carried, as usual, in my
traveling-box, a very convenient closet of twelve foot wide.
And I had ordered a hammock to be fixed, by silken ropes, from the four
corners at the top, to break the jolts when a servant carried me before
him on horseback, as I sometimes desired; and would often sleep in my
hammock while we were upon the road. On the roof of my closet, not
directly over the middle of the hammock, I ordered the joiner to cut out
a hole of a foot square, to give me air in hot weather, as I slept;
which hole I shut at pleasure with a board that drew backward and
forward through a groove.
When we came to our journey's end, the king thought proper to pass a few
days at a palace he hath near Flanflasnic, a city within eighteen
English miles of the seaside. Glumdalclitch and I were much fatigued: I
had gotten a small cold, but the poor girl was so ill as to be confined
to her chamber. I longed to see the ocean, which must be the only scene
of my escape, if ever it should happen. I pretended to be worse than I
really was, and desired leave to take the fresh air of the sea, with a
page whom I was very fond of, and who had sometimes been trusted with
me. I shall never forget with what unwillingness Glumdalclitch
consented, nor the strict charge she gave the page to be careful of me,
bursting at the same time into a flood of tears, as if she had some
foreboding of what was to happen.
The boy took me out in my box, about half an hour's walk from the
palace, toward the rocks on the seashore. I ordered him to set me
down, and lifting up one of my sashes, cast many a wistful, melancholy
look toward the sea. I found myself not very well, and told the page
that I had a mind to take a nap in my hammock, which I hoped would do me
good. I got in, and the boy shut the window close down, to keep out the
cold. I soon fell asleep, and all I can conjecture is, that while I
slept the page, thinking no danger could happen, went among the rocks to
look for bird's eggs, having before observed him from my window
searching about, and picking up one or two in the clefts.
[Footnote 23: Here again we have a striking contrast--the "half an
hour's walk" of eighteen miles set over against the day and a
half's ride of one-half mile in Lilliput.]
Be that as it will, I found myself suddenly awaked with a violent pull
upon the ring, which was fastened at the top of my box for the
conveniency of carriage. I felt my box raised very high in the air, and
then borne forward with prodigious speed. The first jolt had like to
have shaken me out of my hammock, but afterward the motion was easy
enough. I called out several times as loud as I could raise my voice,
but all to no purpose.
I looked toward my windows, and could see nothing but the clouds and
sky. I heard a noise just over my head, like the clapping of wings, and
then began to perceive the woeful condition I was in; that some eagle
had got the ring of my box in his beak, with an intent to let it fall on
a rock, like a tortoise in a shell, and then pick out my body, and
devour it: for the sagacity and smell of this bird enable him to
discover his quarry at a great distance, though better concealed than I
could be within a two-inch board.
In a little time I observed the noise and flutter of wings to increase
very fast, and my box was tossed up and down, like a sign in a windy
day. I heard several bangs or buffets, as I thought, given to the eagle
(for such, I am certain, it must have been that held the ring of my box
in his beak), and then, all on a sudden, felt myself falling
perpendicularly down for above a minute, but with such incredible
swiftness that I almost lost my breath. My fall was stopped by a
terrible squash, that sounded louder to my ears than the cataract of
Niagara; after which I was quite in the dark for another minute, and
then my box began to rise so high that I could see light from the tops
of my windows. I now perceived that I was fallen into the sea. My box,
by the weight of my body, the goods that were in it, and the broad
plates of iron fixed for strength at the four corners of the top and
bottom, floated above five foot deep in water. I did then, and do now,
suppose that the eagle, which flew away with my box, was pursued by two
or three others, and forced to let me drop, while he was defending
himself against the rest, who hoped to share in the prey. The plates of
iron fastened at the bottom of the box (for those were the strongest)
preserved the balance while it fell, and hindered it from being broken
on the surface of the water. Every joint of it was well grooved; and the
door did not move on hinges, but up and down like a sash, which kept my
closet so tight that very little water came in. I got, with much
difficulty, out of my hammock, having first ventured to draw back the
slip-board on the roof, already mentioned, contrived on purpose to let
in air, for want of which I found myself almost stifled.
How often did I then wish myself with my dear Glumdalclitch, from whom
one single hour had so far divided me! And I may say with truth, that,
in the midst of my own misfortunes, I could not forbear lamenting my
poor nurse, the grief she would suffer for my loss, the displeasure of
the queen, and the ruin of her fortune. Perhaps many travelers have not
been under greater difficulties and distress than I was at this
juncture, expecting every moment to see my box dashed in pieces, or, at
least, overset by the first violent blast, or a rising wave. A breach in
one single pane of glass would have been immediate death: nor could
anything have preserved the windows, but the strong lattice wires,
placed on the outside, against accidents in traveling. I saw water ooze
in at several crannies, although the leaks were not considerable, and I
endeavored to stop them as well as I could. I was not able to lift up
the roof of my closet, which otherwise I certainly should have done, and
sat on top of it; where I might at least preserve myself some hours
longer, than by being shut up (as I may call it) in the hold. Or, if I
escaped these dangers for a day or two, what could I expect but a
miserable death of cold and hunger? I was four hours under these
circumstances, expecting, and indeed wishing, every moment to be my
There were two strong staples fixed upon that side of my box which had
no window, and into which the servant, who used to carry me on
horseback, would put a leathern belt, and buckle it about his waist.
Being in this disconsolate state, I heard, or at least thought I heard,
some kind of grating noise on that side of my box where the staples were
fixed; and soon after I began to fancy that the box was pulled or towed
along in the sea; for I now and then felt a sort of tugging, which made
the waves rise near the tops of my windows, leaving me almost in the
dark. This gave me some faint hopes of relief, although I was not able
to imagine how it could be brought about. I ventured to unscrew one of
my chairs, which were always fastened to the floor; and having made a
hard shift to screw it down again, directly under the slipping-board
that I had lately opened, I mounted on the chair, and, putting my mouth
as near as I could to the hole, I called for help in a loud voice, and
in all the languages I understood. I then fastened my handkerchief to a
stick I usually carried, and, thrusting it up the hole waved it several
times in the air, that, if any boat or ship were near, the seamen might
conjecture some unhappy mortal to be shut up in this box.
I found no effect from all I could do, but plainly perceived my closet
to be moved along; and in the space of an hour, or better, that side of
the box where the staples were, and had no windows, struck against
something that was hard. I apprehended it to be a rock, and found myself
tossed more than ever. I plainly heard a noise upon the cover of my
closet like that of a cable, and the grating of it as it passed through
the ring. I then found myself hoisted up, by degrees, at least three
foot higher than I was before. Whereupon I again thrust up my stick and
handkerchief, calling for help till I was almost hoarse. In return to
which I heard a great shout repeated three times, giving me such
transports of joy as are not to be conceived but by those who feel them.
I now heard a trampling over my head, and somebody calling through the
hole with a loud voice, in the English tongue, if there be anybody
below, let them speak.
I answered, I was an Englishman, drawn, by ill fortune, into the
greatest calamity that ever any creature underwent, and begged, by all
that was moving, to be delivered out of the dungeon I was in. The voice
replied, I was safe, for my box was fastened to their ship, and the
carpenter should immediately come and saw a hole in the cover, large
enough to pull me out. I answered, that was needless, and would take up
too much time; for there was no more to be done, but let one of the crew
put his finger into the ring, and take the box out of the sea into the
ship, and so into the captain's cabin. Some of them, upon hearing me
talk so wildly, thought I was mad; others laughed; for indeed it never
came into my head that I was now got among people of my own stature and
strength. The carpenter came, and, in a few minutes, sawed a passage
about four foot square, then let down a small ladder, upon which I
mounted, and from thence was taken into the ship in a very weak
The sailors were all in amazement, and asked me a thousand questions,
which I had no inclination to answer. I was equally confounded at the
sight of so many pigmies, for such I took them to be, after having so
long accustomed mine eyes to the monstrous objects I had left. But the
captain, Mr. Thomas Wilcocks, an honest, worthy Shropshireman, observing
I was ready to faint, took me into his cabin, gave me a cordial to
comfort me, and made me turn in upon his own bed, advising me to take a
little rest, of which I had great need.
Before I went to sleep I gave him to understand that I had some valuable
furniture in my box, too good to be lost; a fine hammock--an handsome
field bed--two chairs--a table--and a cabinet. That my closet was hung
on all sides, or rather quilted with silk and cotton; that, if he would
let one of the crew bring my closet into his cabin, I would open it
there before him, and show him my goods. The captain, hearing me utter
these absurdities, concluded I was raving; however (I suppose to pacify
me), he promised to give order as I desired, and going upon deck, sent
some of his men down into my closet, from whence (as I afterward found)
they drew up all my goods, and stripped off the quilting; but the
chairs, cabinet, and bedstead, being screwed to the floor, were much
damaged by the ignorance of the seamen, who tore them up by force. Then
they knocked off some of the boards for the use of the ship, and when
they had got all they had a mind for, let the hull drop into the sea,
which, by reason of many breaches made in the bottom and sides, sunk to
rights. And, indeed, I was glad not to have been a spectator of the
havoc they made, because I am confident it would have sensibly touched
me, by bringing former passages into my mind, which I had rather forget.
[Footnote 24: _To rights_ means _directly_.]
I slept some hours, but perpetually disturbed with dreams of the place I
had left, and the dangers I had escaped. However, upon waking, I found
myself much recovered. It was now about eight o'clock at night, and the
captain ordered supper immediately, thinking I had already fasted too
long. He entertained me with great kindness, observing me not to look
wildly, or talk inconsistently; and, when we were left alone, desired I
would give him a relation of my travels, and by what accident I came to
be set adrift in that monstrous wooden chest. He said that about twelve
o'clock at noon, as he was looking through his glass, he spied it at a
distance, and thought it was a sail, which he had a mind to make, being
not much out of his course, in hopes of buying some biscuit, his own
beginning to fall short; that, upon coming nearer, and finding his
error, he sent out his longboat to discover what it was; that his men
came back in a fright, swearing that they had seen a swimming house;
that he laughed at their folly, and went himself in the boat, ordering
his men to take a strong cable along with them; that the weather being
calm, he rowed round me several times, observed my windows, and the wire
lattice that defended them; that he discovered two staples upon one
side, which was all of boards, without any passage for light. He then
commanded his men to row up to that side, and fastening a cable to one
of the staples, ordered them to tow my chest, as they called it, toward
the ship. When it was there, he gave directions to fasten another cable
to the ring fixed in the cover, and to raise up my chest with pulleys,
which all the sailors were not able to do above two or three foot. He
said they saw my stick and handkerchief thrust out of the hole, and
concluded that some unhappy man must be shut up in the cavity.
I asked whether he or the crew had seen any prodigious birds in the air
about the time he first discovered me. To which he answered, that
discoursing this matter with the sailors while I was asleep, one of them
said he had observed three eagles flying toward the north, but remarked
nothing of their being larger than the usual size; which, I suppose,
must be imputed to the great height they were at; and he could not guess
the reason of my question. I then asked the captain how far he reckoned
we might be from land. He said by the best computation he could make, we
were, at least, an hundred leagues. I assured him that he must be
mistaken by almost half, for I had not left the country from whence I
came above two hours before I dropped into the sea. Whereupon, he began
again to think that my brain was disturbed, of which he gave me a hint,
and advised me to go to bed in a cabin he had provided.
I assured him I was well refreshed with his good entertainment and
company, and as much in my senses as ever I was in my life. He then grew
serious, and desired to ask me freely, whether I were not troubled in
mind by the consciousness of some enormous crime, for which I was
punished, at the command of some prince, by exposing me in that chest;
as great criminals, in other countries, have been forced to sea in a
leaky vessel, without provisions; for although he should be sorry to
have taken so ill a man into his ship, yet he would engage his word to
set me safe on shore at the first port where we arrived. He added that
his suspicions were much increased by some very absurd speeches I had
delivered at first to the sailors, and afterward to himself, in relation
to my closet or chest, as well as by my odd looks and behavior while I
was at supper.
I begged his patience to hear me tell my story, which I faithfully did,
from the last time I left England to the moment he first discovered me.
And as truth always forceth its way into rational minds, so this honest,
worthy gentleman, who had some tincture of learning and very good sense,
was immediately convinced of my candor and veracity.
But further to confirm all I had said, I entreated him to give order
that my cabinet should be brought, of which I had the key in my pocket;
for he had already informed me how the seamen disposed of my closet. I
opened it in his own presence, and showed him the small collection of
rarities I made in the country from whence I had been so strangely
delivered. There was a comb I had contrived out of the stumps of the
king's beard, and another of the same materials, but fixed into a paring
of her majesty's thumb-nail, which served for the back. There was a
collection of needles and pins, from a foot to half a yard long; four
wasp's stings, like joiner's tacks; a gold ring, which one day she made
me a present of, in a most obliging manner, taking it from her little
finger, and throwing it over my head like a collar. I desired the
captain would please to accept this ring in return of his civilities,
which he absolutely refused. I showed him a corn that I had cut off,
with my own hand, from a maid of honor's toe; it was the bigness of a
Kentish pippin, and grown so hard that, when I returned to England, I
got it hollowed into a cup, and set in silver. Lastly, I desired him to
see the breeches I had then on, which were made of a mouse's skin.
I could force nothing on him but a footman's tooth, which I observed him
to examine with great curiosity, and found he had a fancy for it. He
received it with abundance of thanks, more than such a trifle could
deserve. It was drawn by an unskillful surgeon in a mistake, from one of
Glumdalclitch's men, who was afflicted with the toothache, but it was as
sound as any in his head. I got it cleaned, and put it in my cabinet. It
was about a foot long and four inches in diameter.
The captain wondered at one thing very much, which was, to hear me speak
so loud; asking me whether the king or queen of that country were thick
of hearing. I told him it was what I had been used to for above two
years past, and that I wondered as much at the voices of him and his
men, who seemed to me only to whisper, and yet I could hear them well
enough. But when I spoke in that country it was like a man talking in
the street to another looking out from the top of a steeple, unless when
I was placed on a table, or held in any person's hand.
I told him I had likewise observed another thing, that, when I first got
into the ship, and the sailors stood all about me, I thought they were
the most contemptible little creatures I had ever beheld. For, indeed,
while I was in that prince's country I could never endure to look in a
glass after mine eyes had been accustomed to such prodigious objects,
because the comparison gave me so despicable a conceit of myself.
The captain said that while we were at supper he observed me to look at
everything with a sort of wonder, and that I often seemed hardly able to
contain my laughter, which he knew not well how to take, but imputed it
to some disorder in my brain.
I answered, it was very true: and I wondered how I could forbear when I
saw his dishes of the size of a silver threepence, a leg of pork hardly
a mouthful, a cup not so big as a nutshell; and so I went on, describing
the rest of his household stuff and provisions, after the same manner.
For, although the queen had ordered a little equipage of all things
necessary for me, while I was in her service, yet my ideas were wholly
taken up with what I saw on every side of me, and I winked at my own
littleness as people do at their own faults.
The captain understood my raillery very well, and merrily replied with
the old English proverb, that he doubted mine eyes were bigger than my
belly, for he did not observe my stomach so good, although I had fasted
all day; and continuing in his mirth, protested, that he would have
gladly given a hundred pounds to have seen my closet in the eagle's
bill, and afterward in its fall from so great a height into the sea,
which would certainly have been a most astonishing object, worthy to
have the description of it transmitted to future ages; and the
comparison of Phaethon was so obvious that he could not forbear
applying it, although I did not much admire the conceit.
[Footnote 25: _Phaethon_ was, according to Greek mythology, the son
of Apollo, the sun god. One day he prevailed upon his father to allow
him to mount the chariot of the sun and drive the white cloud-horses
across the heavens. He was unable to guide his steeds, however, and they
worked great havoc by dragging the sun up and down and from one side of
the sky to the other. Finally, Jupiter hurled the youth into a river.]
The captain having been at Tonquin was in his return to England driven
north-eastward to the latitude of 44 degrees, and of longitude 143. But
meeting a trade-wind two days after I came on board him, we sailed
southward a long time, and coasting New Holland kept our course
west-southwest, and then south-south-west till we doubled the Cape of
Good Hope. Our voyage was very prosperous, but I shall not trouble the
reader with a journal of it. The captain called in at one or two ports,
and sent in his long boat for provisions and fresh water, but I never
went out of the ship, till we came into the Downs which was on the third
day of June, 1706, about nine months after my escape. I offered to leave
my goods in security for payment of my freight; but the captain
protested he would not receive one farthing. We took kind leave of each
other, and I made him promise he would come to see me at my house. I
hired a horse and guide for five shillings, which I borrowed of the
As I was on the road, observing the littleness of the horses, the trees,
the cattle, and the people, I began to think myself in Lilliput. I was
afraid of trampling on every traveler I met, and often called aloud to
have them stand out of the way, so that I had like to have gotten one or
two broken heads for my impertinence.
When I came to my own house, for which I was forced to inquire, one of
the servants opening the door, I bent down to go in (like a goose under
a gate), for fear of striking my head. My wife ran out to embrace me,
but I stooped lower than her knees, thinking she could otherwise never
be able to reach my mouth. My daughter kneeled to ask my blessing, but I
could not see her till she arose, having been so long used to stand with
my head and eyes erect to above sixty feet; and then I went to take her
up with one hand by the waist. I looked down upon the servants, and one
or two friends who were in the house, as if they had been pigmies, and I
a giant. I told my wife, "she had been too thrifty, for I found she had
starved herself and her daughter to nothing." In short, I behaved myself
so unaccountably that they were all of the captain's opinion when he
first saw me, and concluded I had lost my wits. This I mention as an
instance of the great power of habit and prejudice.
In a little time, I and my family and friends came to a right
understanding; but my wife protested I should never go to sea any more;
although my evil destiny so ordered, that she had not power to hinder
THE BALLAD OF AGINCOURT
_By_ MICHAEL DRAYTON
[Footnote 1: Michael Drayton was an English poet who lived from 1563 to
1631. Little is known of his life beyond the fact that he served as a
page in the household of some nobleman, and that he tried in vain to
gain the patronage of King James I. This _Ballad of Agincourt_ is
one of the finest of the English martial ballads.]
Fair stood the wind for France,
When we our sails advance,
Nor now to prove our chance
Longer will tarry;
But putting to the main,
At Kaux, the mouth of Seine,
With all his martial train,
Landed King Harry.
[Footnote 2: From 1337 to 1453 the French and the English were engaged
in a series of struggles to which the name of _The Hundred Years'
War_ has been given. The cause of the conflict was the attempt of the
English kings to establish their rule over France.]
[Footnote 3: This was Henry V, king of England from 1413 to 1422. He was
a general of great ability, and the battle described in this ballad was
one of his chief victories.]
And taking many a fort,
Furnished in warlike sort,
Marched towards Agincourt
In happy hour,--
Skirmishing day by day.
[Footnote 4: The English army numbered but 14,000, while the French were
about 50,000 strong. Henry, to save his men, was willing to make terms
with the French, who, however, demanded unconditional surrender. The two
armies met for battle near the little village of Agincourt.]
With those that stopped his way,
Where the French general lay
With all his power,
Which in his height of pride,
King Henry to deride,
His ransom to provide
To the king sending;
Which he neglects the while,
As from a nation vile,
Yet, with an angry smile,
Their fall portending.
And turning to his men,
Quoth our brave Henry then:
"Though they to one be ten,
Be not amazed;
Yet have we well begun,--
Battles so bravely won
Have ever to the sun
By fame been raised.
"And for myself," quoth he,
"This my full rest shall be;
England ne'er mourn for me,
Nor more esteem me.
Victor I will remain,
Or on this earth lie slain;
Never shall she sustain
Loss to redeem me.
"Poitiers and Cressy tell,
When most their pride did swell,
Under our swords they fell;
No less our skill is
Than when our grandsire great,
Claiming the regal seat,
By many a warlike feat
Lopped the French lilies." 
[Footnote 5: The Battle of Poitiers was fought in 1356. The English
under the Black Prince, son of Edward III of England, defeated the
French under King John, though the French outnumbered them more than
five to one.]
[Footnote 6: In the Battle of Cressy, which was fought in 1346, 35,000
English under King Edward III defeated 75,000 French under Philip VI.
About 30,000 of the French army were slain.]
[Footnote 7: The great-grandfather of Henry V was Edward III, the hero
of the early part of the Hundred Years' War.]
[Footnote 8: The lily, or fleur-de-lis, is the national flower of
France. _Lopped the French lilies_ is a poetical way of saying _defeated
[Illustration: "VICTOR I WILL REMAIN"]
The Duke of York so dread
The eager vaward led;
With the main Henry sped,
Amongst his henchmen.
Excester had the rear,--
A braver man not there:
O Lord! how hot they were
On the false Frenchmen!
[Footnote 9: _Vaward_ is an old word for _vanward_, or _advance-guard._]
They now to fight are gone;
Armor on armor shone;
Drum now to drum did groan,--
To hear was wonder;
That with the cries they make
The very earth did shake;
Trumpet to trumpet spake,
Thunder to thunder.
Well it thine age became,
O noble Erpingham!
Which did the signal aim
To our hid forces;
When, from a meadow by,
Like a storm suddenly,
The English archery
Struck the French horses,
With Spanish yew so strong,
Arrows a cloth-yard long,
That like to serpents stung,
Piercing the weather;
None from his fellow starts,
But playing manly parts,
And like true English hearts
Stuck close together.
When down their bows they threw,
And forth their bilboes drew,
And on the French they flew,
Not one was tardy;
Arms were from shoulders sent;
Scalps to the teeth were rent;
Down the French peasants went;
Our men were hardy.
[Footnote 10: _Bilboes_ is a poetical word for _swords_.]
This while our noble king,
His broadsword brandishing,
Down the French host did ding,
As to o'erwhelm it;
And many a deep wound lent,
His arms with blood besprent,
And many a cruel dent
Bruised his helmet.
[Footnote 11: To _ding_ is to _strike_.]
Glo'ster, that duke so good,
Next of the royal blood,
For famous England stood,
With his brave brother,--
Clarence, in steel so bright,
Though but a maiden knight,
Yet in that furious fight
Scarce such another.
Warwick in blood did wade;
Oxford the foe invade,
And cruel slaughter made,
Still as they ran up.
Suffolk his axe did ply;
Beaumont and Willoughby
Bare them right doughtily,
Ferrers and Fanhope.
Upon Saint Crispin's day
Fought was this noble fray,
Which fame did not delay
To England to carry;
O, when shall Englishmen
With such acts fill a pen,
Or England breed again
Such a King Harry!
[Footnote 12: Crispin was a Christian saint who suffered martyrdom in
the third century. The 25th of October was made sacred to him.
It was on Saint Crispin's day, 1415, that the Battle of Agincourt
SOME CHILDREN'S BOOKS OF
_By_ GRACE E. SELLON
Probably somewhere about your home, put away so far from sight that you
never think of them any more, are some of the ABC books and the alphabet
blocks and the brightly colored story books about horses, dogs and other
familiar animals that used to amuse you when you were just learning to
say the alphabet and to spell a few three-letter words. Perhaps you can
remember how much you liked to have the stories read to you and how much
fun there was in repeating your A B C's when you could point out the
big, colored letters in your book or on your blocks. But have you ever
thought that you were any more fortunate than other children of other
ages in having these interesting things to help you? Have you ever
wondered whether, far back in history before our country was discovered
and settled by white men, boys and girls had the same kinds of picture
books and drawing-slates, alphabet games and other playthings that used
to delight you in the days when you were going to kindergarten or
learning your first simple lessons from your mother?
If you have never thought enough about this matter to ask some older
person about it, you will find the lesson books and story books used by
children of even a hundred years ago very curious. Suppose we go farther
back, to 1620, the year of the Mayflower, let us say. You could never
imagine what a child then living in England was given to learn his
letters from. As soon as he was able to remember the first little things
that children are taught, his mother would fasten to his belt a string
from which was suspended what she would call his _hornbook_. This was
not at all what we think of to-day as a book, for it was made of a piece
of cardboard covered on one side with a thin sheet of horn, and
surrounded by a frame with a handle. Through the covering of horn the
little boy could see the alphabet written on the cardboard in both large
and small letters. After these would come rows of syllables to help him
in learning to pronounce simple combinations of sounds. Probably last on
the sheet there would be the Lord's Prayer, which he must be taught to
say without a mistake. As he went about he could easily take up his
hornbook once in a while and say over to himself the letters and the
rows of syllables. Sometimes--especially if he had been obedient and had
studied well--he was given a hornbook made of gingerbread; and then, of
course, he would find that the tiresome lines of letters had all at once
become very attractive.
The hornbook must have done its work well, or at least no better way of
teaching the alphabet had been found when the Puritans came to America,
for it was not many years before little folks in the New World were
being taught from the famous _New England Primer_, which joined to what
had been in the hornbook a catechism and various moral teachings. With
its rude illustrations and its dry contents, this little book would
probably be laughed at by school-children of to-day, if they did not
stop to think how very many of the writers, statesmen and soldiers who
have made our country great learned their first lessons from its pages.
Somewhere between 1687 and 1690 it was first published, and for a
hundred years from that time it was the schoolbook found in almost every
New England home and classroom.
[Illustration: CHILDREN WITH HORNBOOKS]
Can you imagine what kind of reading lessons were in this primer? If you
think they were like the lively little stories and the pleasing verses
printed in your readers, you will he a good deal surprised to find that
they are stern and gloomy tales that were meant to frighten children
into being good, rather than to entertain them.
First of all in the little book came the alphabet and the lists of
syllables, as in the hornbook. There was this difference, however. At
the beginning of the first line of letters in the hornbooks was placed a
cross, as the symbol of Christianity, and from this fact the first line
was called the _Christ-cross_, or _criss-cross row_. But the Puritans
strictly kept the cross out of the _Primer_, for to them it stood in a
disagreeable way for the older churches from which they had separated
Then came a series of sentences from the Bible teaching moral lessons
and illustrating the use of the letters of the alphabet, one being made
prominent in each verse. The Lord's Prayer and the Apostle's Creed might
appear next, followed by twenty-four alphabet rhymes with accompanying
pictures. Most of these verses were upon Bible subjects, as in the case
of the letter _R_, for example, illustrated by the lines:
"Young pious Ruth
Left all for Truth."
One of the best-loved rhymes was one put into the series after the
Revolution to stir the pride of every young American by reminding him
"Great Washington brave
His country did save."
In the pages that followed were to be found an illustrated poem telling
of the awful fate of John Rogers, burned at the stake while his wife and
their ten children looked on, and a dialogue between Christ, a youth and
the devil, in which the youth was finally overcome by Satan's
This story of the terrifying fate of the youth was placed after the
shorter Westminster catechism, possibly as a warning to all children who
would not obey their religious teachings. The one hundred seven
questions of the catechism must be answered correctly, even though the
five-syllable words were even harder to understand than to pronounce.
Religious songs and pictures and descriptions of good and of bad
children were also scattered through the book, and in some copies is to
be found the little prayer beginning: "Now I lay me down to sleep,"
which was probably published for the first time in the _Primer_.
As the years went on, pictures and verses and little articles about the
objects of nature and the everyday things that children are interested
in began to take the place of the Bible verses and subjects; and at
length when people saw how well children liked this new way of teaching,
better books than the _Primer_ took its place.
While the young folks in New England families were thus being warned in
story and verse against the awful temptations that lay all around them,
the children in old England were being entertained by popular
penny-books that treated of all kinds of subjects, from the _History of
Joseph and his Brother_ to _The Old Egyptian Fortune Teller's Last
Legacy_. These books were of a size scarcely larger than that of the
letter-paper made for little folks, and they contained usually from
sixteen to twenty-four pages. Illustrations that looked a good deal like
the pictures made by a small boy in his schoolbooks adorned the rough
In every city and town and even in the villages peddlers went along the
streets selling these chapbooks, as they were called. Imagine how the
children, and the grown people too, must have flocked around the peddler
as he began taking out one after another of his queer little books, for
he had something to please every one. The boys might choose stories like
_The Mad Pranks of Tom Tram_, _A Wonderful and Strange Relation of a
Sailor_ or _The True Tale of Robin Hood_, and we can see them almost
getting into a brawl over the possession of _The Merry Life and Mad
Exploits of Captain James Hind, the Great Robber of England_. Probably
the girls would choose _Patient Grissel_, _The History of Mother Bunch_
or _Cinderella_. For the small children there were, for example, the
_History of Two Children in the Wood_, _The Pleasant History of Jack
Horner_ and _Tom Thumb_. Most likely it was only the pennies of
much-tried mothers and fathers that were spent for _A Timely Warning to
Rash and Disobedient Children_.
The chapman or peddler we may well believe did not stand silently
looking on as he disposed of his stock. He had at the tip of his tongue
such a fair-sounding advertisement for every book that everybody, young
and old, came under the spell of his words and bought of his wares.
After he had departed with his traveling library, we can picture the
children taking themselves off to quiet places with their new chapbooks.
Perhaps you are wondering why it was that they were so eager to read
them. If so, you may like to look into a few of these rare old story
books. As you read, notice how quaint the wording seems when compared
with that of the stories of to-day.
(Extract from _The History of Tom Long the Carrier._)
As Tom Long the Carrier was travelling between Dover and Westchester, he
fortuned to pass something near a House, where was kept a great Mastiff
Dog, who, as soon as he espied Tom, came running open-mouthed at him,
and so furiously assaulted him, as if he meant to devour him at a bite.
But Tom, having in his Hand a good Pikestaff, most valiantly defended
himself like a Man, and to withstand the danger he thrust the Pike-end
of his Staff into his Throat and so killed him. Whereupon the Owner
thereof, seeing the Dog lost, comes earnestly unto Tom, and between
threatening and chiding, asking him why he struck him not with the great
End of the staff. 'Marry,' quoth he, 'because your Dog runs not at me
with his tail.'
(Extract from _The Kentish Miracle, or, A Seasonable Warning to all
Sinners_.) Shewn in the Wonderful Relation of one Mary Moore whose
Husband died some time ago, and left her with two children, and who was
reduced to great want. How she wandered about the Country asking relief
and went two Days without any Food--How the Devil appeared to her and
the many great offers he made her to deny Christ and enter into his
service, and how she confounded Satan by powerful Argument. How she came
to a well of water when she fell down on her knees to pray to God that
He would give that Vertue to the Water that it might refresh and satisfy
her Children's Hunger, with an Account how an Angel appeared to her, and
relieved her, also declared many Things that shall happen in the Month
of March next. Shewing likewise what strange and surprising Accidents
shall happen by means of the present War, and concerning a dreadful
(Extract from _A Timely Warning to Rash and Disobedient Children_.)
As this Child went to School one Day
Through the Churchyard she took her Way
When lo, the Devil came and said
Where are you going to, my pretty Maid
To School I am going Sir, said she
Pish, Child, don't mind the same saith he,
But haste to your Companions dear
And learn to lie and curse and swear.
They bravely spend their Time in Play
God they don't value--no, not they.
It is a Fable, Child, he cry'd
At which his cloven Foot she spy'd.
I'm sure there is a God, saith she
Who from your Power will keep me free,
And if you should this Thing deny
Your cloven Foot gives you the Lie.
Satan, avaunt, hence, out of hand,
In Name of Jesus I command.
At which the Devil instantly
In Flames of Fire away did fly.
(Extract from _Wonder of Wonders_, being a strange and wonderful
Relation of a Mermaid that was seen and spoke with by one John Robinson,
Mariner, who was tossed on the Ocean for 6 Days and Nights. All the
other Mariners perished.)
He was in great Fear and dreadful Fright in the main Ocean ...... but to
his great Amazement he espy'd a beautiful young Lady combing her Head
and toss'd on the Billows, cloathed all in green (but by chance he got
the first Word from her). Then She with a Smile came on Board and asked
how he did. The young Man, being Something Smart and a Scholar
reply'd--Madam, I am the better to see you in good Health, in great
hopes trusting you will be a Comfort and Assistance to me in this my low
Condition: and so caught hold of her Comb and Green Girdle that was
about her Waist. To which she reply'd, Sir, you ought not to rob a young
Woman of her Riches and then expect a Favour at her Hands, but if you
will give me my Comb and Girdle again, what lies in my Power, I will do
for you. She presents him with a Compass, told him to steer S.W., made
an Appointment for following Friday, and jumped in the sea. He arrives
safely home, and while musing on his promise She appeared to him with a
smiling Countenance, and (by his Misfortune) she got the first Word of
him, so that he could not speak one Word and was quite Dumb, and she
began to sing, after which she departed, taking from him the Compass.
She took a Ring from her Finger and gave him. (The young man went home,
fell ill and died 5 days after), to the wonderful Admiration of all
People who saw the young Man.
* * * * *
After the eighteenth century the chapbooks gradually went out of favor,
and since then in England, as in America, more and more careful
attention has been given to writing good stories for children and
printing these attractively. These better books could not have come,
however, had it not been that for generation after generation crude
little primers and storybooks, such as the interesting kinds that have
been described, helped to point out to people, little by little, how to
make children's reading both instructive and pleasing.
LEAD, KINDLY LIGHT
_By_ CARDINAL NEWMAN
Of this poem, Newman has written: "I was aching to get home; yet for
want of a vessel, I was kept at Palermo for three weeks. At last I got
off on an orange boat, bound for Marseilles. Then it was that I wrote
the lines, _Lead, Kindly Light_, which have since become well known."
Again, he has said: "This is one full of light, rejoicing in suffering
with our Lord. This is what those who like _Lead, Kindly Light_ must
come to--they have to learn it."
Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead thou me on;
The night is dark and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on;
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead thou me on;
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years.
So long thy power has blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost the while.
LET SOMETHING GOOD BE SAID[A]
[Footnote A: From _Home-Folks,_ by James Whitcomb Riley. Used by
special permission of the publishers, _The Bobbs-Merrill Company_.]
_By_ JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY
When over the fair fame of friend or foe
The shadows of disgrace shall fall; instead
Of words of blame, or proof of so and so,
Let something good be said.
Forget not that no fellow-being yet
May fall so low but love may lift his head;
Even the cheek of shame with tears is wet,
If something good be said.
No generous heart may vainly turn aside
In ways of sympathy; no soul so dead
But may awaken strong and glorified,
If something good be said.
And so I charge ye, by the thorny crown,
And by the cross on which the Saviour bled,
And by your own soul's hope for fair renown,
Let something good be said!
Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion'd thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgement.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous choice in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
SHAKESPEARE _(Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3)_.
I. ARTHUR MADE KING
Uther Pendragon was one of the kings who ruled in Britain so long ago
that many marvelous legends have sprung up about him and his more famous
son, Arthur. They lived in the days when magicians and witches were
believed to be common, and the stories of the time are filled with deeds
of magic and with miraculous events.
Merlin was the greatest of magicians, and it was only by his power that
King Uther won the wife he wanted and that his son was protected and
nurtured during his childhood and youth. Many of the knights of King
Uther aspired to his throne, and so to protect the baby Arthur, Merlin
carried him to the good knight Sir Ector, who brought him up with his
own son Kay; but none knew that the boy was Uther's son.
When Arthur had grown to be a tall, manly youth and was skilled in the
use of arms, the Archbishop of Canterbury called together all the
men-at-arms and the great ladies of the land, for Merlin had declared
that at Christmas-tide great wonders should be done. King Uther had been
long dead, and there was much wrangling over his successor, although he
had declared on his death bed that his son Arthur was living and should
reign in his stead.
From all sides, barons, knights and ladies, with long retinues of
servants, crowded into London and gathered into the greatest church.
When the people came forth from the service there was seen in the
churchyard a great marble stone, four square, and having in the midst of
it a steel anvil a foot high. Through the middle of this anvil a
beautiful sword was sticking, with the point projecting beyond. Around
the sword in letters of gold was written,
"WHOSO PULLETH THIS SWORD
OUT OF THIS STONE AND ANVIL IS
THE TRUE-BORN KING OF BRITAIN."
The excitement was great and for some time difficult to quell, for every
man who hoped to be king wished to be the first to try to draw the
sword; but the Archbishop arranged the men in order, and one after
another they made their attempts. Not even the strongest man in the
kingdom could move the sword the fraction of a single inch.
When it became certain that no one could draw the sword, the Archbishop
set ten knights to guard it and decreed that on New Year's Day the
people should meet for other attempts; in the meantime, word should be
sent abroad that all in the kingdom might know of the marvelous sword
and the reward that awaited the successful knight. A great tournament
was called and many rich prizes were offered.
Among those who came to the jousts were Sir Ector and his son, Sir Kay,
and the young man Arthur, not yet a knight. In the morning when they
rode to the field where the multitude were gathered to watch the
jousting, Sir Kay discovered that he had left his sword at his lodgings.
"Arthur, I beg you to ride back and bring me my sword," said Sir Kay.
[Illustration: ARTHUR DRAWS THE SWORD]
Arthur willingly rode back, but when he came to the lodging he could not
enter, because every one had gone out to see the jousting. Arthur loved
Sir Kay dearly, and could not bear to think of his brother being kept
out of the tourney because he had no sword. And so, as he rode by the
churchyard and saw the magic sword unguarded in the stone, he thought
how fine a weapon it would be for Sir Kay.
"How fortunate that the guards have gone to see the tourney. I'll take
this sword to Kay," he said.
When Arthur laid his hand on the jewelled hilt the sword came free from
its resting place, and the boy bore it joyously to his brother.
As soon as Sir Kay saw the sword he knew it was the one that had been in
the magic stone. Hastily riding to Sir Ector he said, "See, here is the
sword of the stone. It must be that I am to be king."
Sir Ector answered, "Give me the weapon and come with me to the church."
Together with Arthur they rode to the church, and all three alighted
from their horses and saw that the sword was gone from the stone.
"Now, my son, swear by the holy book to tell me honestly how you got the
"My brother Arthur brought it to me--this I swear," said Sir Kay.
"How did you get this sword?" said Sir Ector, turning to Arthur.
"Sir," said Arthur, "when I could not find my brother's sword and
returned by this place I saw the sword sticking in the stone. So I came
and pulled at it and it yielded easily, and I took it to Sir Kay, for I
would not have my brother sword-less."
"Were there any knights about the stone?" asked Sir Ector.
"None," said Arthur.
"Now I understand," said Sir Ector; "you, Arthur, are to be king of
[Illustration: KING ARTHUR
_Statue by Peter Vischer, in the Hofkirche, Innsbruck_]
"Why should I be king of Britain?" asked the boy.
"I know not why, except that God wills it so, for it has been ordained
that the man who should draw the sword from the stone is the true-born
king of Britain. Now let me see whether you can put the sword where it
was and draw it forth again."
"That is not difficult," said Arthur, as he thrust the sword back into
Sir Ector tried to pull it out again, but he could not move it.
"Now you try," he said to Sir Kay.
Although Sir Kay pulled with all his might the sword remained immovable.
"Now you try it," said Sir Ector to Arthur.
"I will," said Arthur, as he grasped the hilt and drew the sword out
without any difficulty.
Then Sir Ector and Sir Kay knelt down before Arthur and said, "Now we
know you for our king and swear allegiance to you."
"Now my own dear father, and Kay, my brother, do not kneel to me."
"Arthur," said Sir Ector, "I must now tell you that you are not my son,
nor is Sir Kay your brother. I do not know who you are, but I did not
think you were of kingly lineage."
Then Arthur wept, for he loved Ector and Kay as though they were father
and brother to him.
"When you are king," asked Sir Ector, "will you be kind to me and my
"Indeed I will," said Arthur, "or I shall be much to blame, for I am
more deeply in debt to you than to any other man in all the world, and
to your wife, whom I have always thought my mother and who has cared for
me as for her own son. If it ever is the will of God that I be king of
Britain, ask what you desire and it will be my pleasure to accord it."
The three then went to the Archbishop and told him all that had
happened. He counseled them to remain quiet till after the tournament,
when Arthur should make the trial in public. At that time, after all had
struggled madly to pull out the sword and had failed, Arthur drew it out
easily before the astonished eyes of the onlookers.
The barons and knights laughed in derision and said, "Shall Britain be
ruled over by a boy? Let us have another trial at Twelfth Day."
At Twelfth Day and at Easter were the trials again held with the same
results, but the fierce barons would not recognize Arthur until the
people grew angry and shouted, "Arthur is our king. We will have no one
but Arthur for our king."
Even the fierce knights who aspired to the throne could not resist the
call of the people combined with that of the many barons who sided with
Sir Ector. When the Archbishop placed the crown upon the head of the
young king all there did homage to Arthur though many scowled and
threatened the life of the new ruler. Arthur did not forget his
promises, but made Sir Kay his seneschal and gave broad lands and rich
presents to his foster parents.
II. ARTHUR WEDS GUINEVERE. THE ROUND TABLE
Arthur's reign began with savage wars with his neighbors and with
sedition and rebellion in his kingdom. In every conflict he was
successful, and every victory made him friends, for he was a noble man
and administered his affairs with justice to all. Moreover, he cut roads
through the forests and made it possible for his husbandmen to cultivate
the lands without danger from wild beasts or fear of marauders. He
established justice everywhere so that even the poor felt sure of his
protection. If treachery or oppression appeared among his nobles he
punished them severely, but he forgave personal injuries freely.
Many of the rulers of petty kingdoms near Arthur had occasion to bless
him for brave assistance, and among them was Leodegrance, king of
Cameliard, whom Arthur, in a fierce battle in which ten thousand men
were slain, freed from the tyranny of King Rience. After the battle,
Leodegrance entertained Arthur and his friends at a great feast, at
which Guinevere, the beautiful young daughter of the host, served the
table. At the sight of the fair maid Arthur's heart was won, and ever
after he loved her faithfully.
Merlin, the great magician, had always been the friend and counselor of
Arthur, and to his sound advice and wonderful enchantments the king was
indebted for much of his power and renown. Before Arthur proposed to
marry Guinevere, he took counsel of Merlin, who looked sorrowful and
dismayed at the young king's words.
"If indeed your heart is set on the fair Guinevere, you may not change
it. Yet it had been better for you to have loved another."
Delighted at even this guarded advice Arthur went at once to Leodegrance
and asked for the hand of his young daughter. Leodegrance consented with
joy, for he loved Arthur greatly, and welcomed him as a son-in-law.
In the great cathedral of Canterbury the two were married by the
Archbishop, while without, the people reflected in wild celebrations the
joys of the king and his fair bride.
Among the gifts which King Arthur received was one from King Leodegrance
which pleased him most. "This gift," said Leodegrance, "is the Table
Round which King Uther Pendragon gave to me and around which can sit a
hundred and fifty knights. This table the great Merlin made, as he made
also the hundred and fifty sieges which surround it."
The day of his marriage Arthur chose one hundred and twenty-eight
knights to found his famous Order of the Round Table, and to each he
gave one of the sieges or carved chairs, upon the back of which, as each
knight took his seat, appeared his name in magical letters of gold. Soon
all the seats were filled excepting one, the Siege Perilous, in which no
man might sit under peril of his life, unless he were blameless and free
from all sin. When by death or otherwise any of the other sieges became
vacant, a new knight was chosen to occupy it, and the magic letters
changed to spell his name.
[Illustration: THE WEDDING OF ARTHUR AND GUINEVERE]
Camelot, the lordly castle of Arthur, with its vast halls and beautiful
grounds, was all raised by Merlin's magic power without the aid of human
hands. Here at Christmas, at Easter and at Pentecost great festivals
were held, and Arthur's knights would gather to feast, to joust in
tournament and to tell the stories of the wonderful adventures which had
befallen them since the last meeting; and great was their knightly
pleasure in these gatherings.
III. ARTHUR AND PELLINORE
One day Arthur dressed himself in his best armor, mounted his best horse
and rode forth alone to seek adventure. He had started before dawn and
had ridden slowly along.
Just at day-break he saw Merlin running toward him in deadly peril, for
three fierce vagabonds brandishing huge clubs were close at his heels.
Arthur rode toward the robbers, and they turned and fled at the sight of
an armed knight.
"O, Merlin," said Arthur, "this time certainly you would have been
killed in spite of your magic if I had not appeared to rescue you."
"No," said Merlin, "I could have saved myself if I had wished; but you
are nearer death than I am, for now you are certainly traveling toward
death unless God befriend you."
Arthur asked the magician what he meant, but the wily man would give no
explanation. However, he turned and accompanied Arthur.
As they rode along they came across a beautiful wayside spring, near
which, under a wide-spreading tree, a rich tent was set. In front of it
sat a sturdy knight full armed for battle.
"Sir Knight," said Arthur, "why do you sit here in full armor thus
watching the road?"
"It is my custom," said the knight, "and no man may pass by unless he
fight with me."
"That is a vile custom," said the king, "and I bid you give it up."
"That will I not do," said the knight. "If any man does not like my
custom, let him change it."
"I will change it," said Arthur.
"I will defend myself," answered the knight.
Then the knight arose, took shield and spear, mounted the war-horse
tethered near and rode at Arthur, who spurred his horse to meet the
shock. They came together with such force that their horses were thrown
back upon their haunches and their spears were shivered against their
shields. Arthur recovered himself and pulled out his sword.
"No, no," said the knight, "I pray you let us fight again with spears.
It is the fairer way."
"I would be very willing," assented Arthur, "if I had another spear."
"But I have spears for both," declared the knight, as he called to a
squire to bring him two good spears.
When the weapons were brought Arthur selected one and the knight took
the other. Drawing apart they again charged together, and again their
spears were both broken at the hand. Again Arthur put his hand to his
sword, but the knight protested a second time.
"Nay, not so," he said, "for the honor of our knighthood let us joust
once more. You are the strongest knight and the best jouster I have ever
"I am willing," said Arthur, "if you will let me have another spear."
Two more spears were brought--heavy ones such as only the best of
knights could handle. Again Arthur chose the one he liked, and again
they drew apart.
This time they ran together with greater force than ever, and once more
Arthur shivered his spear on the shield of his opponent. But this time
the spear of the unknown knight struck Arthur's shield full in the
center and drove both horse and rider to the earth.
The king sprang free from his horse, recovered his shield, drew his
sword and cried, "Now will I fight you on foot, for I have lost the
honor on horseback."
"No, I will fight only on horseback," said the knight.
Then Arthur grew very angry and rushed afoot at the knight. Seeing how
determined the king was, and thinking it dishonorable to keep his seat
while Arthur fought on foot, the knight alighted and dressed his shield
against his foe.
Long and fierce was the battle, for both were full of anger and
resentment. They charged and fell back; they hacked and hewed until
shields and armor were bent and broken in many places. Both were sorely
wounded, and the blood ran until the trampled ground was stained with
it. Then, out of breath and weary from the terrible exertion, they both
rested for a few moments, but they soon began the duel again, rushing
together like two fierce wild animals and striking such blows that both
were many times brought to their knees. Every time, however, they
recovered themselves and renewed the terrific struggle. At last the
swords met full in the air, and Arthur's was broken at the hilt.
[Illustration: MERLIN SAVES ARTHUR]
"Now yield," said the strange knight, "for you are wholly in my power
and I can slay or release you as I will. Yield now to me as a recreant
knight or I will slay you as you stand."
"As for death," said Arthur, "let it come when it will. I would rather
die than shame my manhood by yielding."
And then like lightning Arthur leaped upon the knight, clasped him round
the middle and threw him to the ground. But the knight was a powerful
man, and throwing Arthur off he hurled him to the ground, struck off his
helm and raised his sword to behead the king.
All the time Merlin had stood and watched the fray, but when he saw the
deadly peril in which Arthur lay, he called out, "Knight, hold your
hand! If you slay this knight you put this kingdom in the greatest
peril, for this is a more worshipful knight than you dream of."
"Why, who is he?" asked the knight.
"It is King Arthur," Merlin replied.
Then was the knight fearful of the vengeance of the King, if he should
survive the encounter. He raised his sword again and would have killed
Arthur as he lay, but Merlin cast an enchantment over him and he fell
into a deep sleep.
The magician caught up the king and rode forth on the knight's horse.
"Alas!" said Arthur, "what have you done, Merlin? Have you slain this
good knight by your crafts? There is no braver knight in the world than
he was. I would give half my kingdom if he were alive again."
"Do not trouble yourself," replied Merlin. "He is in less danger than
you are, for he lies asleep and will awake whole and refreshed in three
hours. I told you how powerful a knight he was, and you would have
certainly been slain here if I had not been by to help. This same knight
shall live to do you great service."
"Who is the knight?" asked Arthur.
"It is King Pellinore; and he shall have two sons, both of whom shall be
good men; and one shall have no equal in strength, courage and
IV. ARTHUR GETS EXCALIBUR
After his battle with King Pellinore, Arthur was three days with a
hermit, who by magic salves healed him of his wounds and set him again
upon his way.
As they rode along, Arthur turned to Merlin and said, "Behold, I have no
"That does not matter," replied Merlin; "there is a good sword near here
that shall be yours if I can get it for you."
They turned aside and rode till they came to a beautiful little lake,
now quiet in the afternoon light. As Arthur looked he saw in the middle
of the lake an arm clothed in white samite, "mystic, wonderful,"
stretched up and holding in its hand a flashing sword.
"Lo!" said Merlin. "Yonder is the sword of which I spoke."
As Arthur looked he saw a fair maid coming toward him over the water.
"What damsel is that?" he inquired of Merlin. "That is the Lady of the
Lake," answered the magician. "Speak kindly to her and ask her to give
you the sword."
As the beautiful maid came nearer she saluted Arthur and he returned the
"Damsel," said Arthur, "what rich sword is that which yonder hand holds
above the water? I would it were mine, for I have no sword."
[Illustration: ARTHUR RECEIVES EXCALIBUR]
"That is my sword, Excalibur," answered the maid, "and I will give it to
you if you will give me a gift when I ask it."
"Right willingly will I give you what you ask, so that I may have the
"Well, take the boat and row yourself out to the sword. When the time
comes I will ask the gift."
So Arthur got down from his horse, tied it to a tree and entered the
boat. When he had come to the arm Arthur reached up and grasped the
sword and scabbard. Immediately both were released, and the
white-clothed arm sank back into the waters.
When he returned to the land the maiden had disappeared, and the two
rode on their way. Arthur kept looking at his sword, for he admired it
"Which do you prefer," asked Merlin, "the sword or the scabbard?"
"I like the sword the better," replied Arthur.
"That is not wise," rejoined the magician. "The scabbard is worth ten of
the swords, because while you have the scabbard on you, you cannot lose
a drop of blood no matter how severe your wound. Therefore keep the
scabbard always by you."
The number of King Arthur's Knights varies from twelve to several
hundred, according to the different poets or romancers. Here is one
"The fellowship of the Table Round,
Soe famous in those dayes;
Whereatt a hundred noble knights
And thirty sat alwayes;
Who for their deeds and martiall feates,
As bookes done yett record,
Amongst all other nations
Wer feared through the world."
_Legend of King Arthur_ (Old Ballad)
BALIN AND BALAN
When Arthur was at one time in Camelot with his knights, a messenger
came to him from Rience, king of North Wales and Ireland, saying, "My
Lord, the king Rience has conquered eleven kings, and all of them do
homage to him.
"Moreover, each gave to the king his heard, shaved clean from his face,
and my master has used the eleven beards to trim his mantle. One place
on the mantle is still vacant, and Rience demands that you send your
beard at once to fill the vacant place or he will come with sword and
spear, lay waste your land and take your beard and your head with it."
Then was Arthur terribly enraged, and would have killed the messenger on
the spot, but that he remembered the knightly usage and spared the
"Now this is the most insulting message ever sent from one man to
another. Return to your king and tell him that my beard is yet too young
to trim a mantle with, and that, moreover, neither I nor any of my
lieges owe him homage. On the other hand I demand homage from him, and
unless he render it, I will assemble my knights and take both his head
and his kingdom."
The messenger departed, and soon Arthur heard that Rience had invaded
the kingdom with a great host, and had slain large numbers of people.
Arthur then hurriedly summoned his barons, knights and men-at-arms to
meet him at Camelot for council.
When Arthur and his followers had gathered at Camelot a damsel richly
clothed in a robe of fur rode among them, and as she came before the
king she let fall the mantle from her shoulders, and lo! there was girt
at her side a noble sword.
Arthur wondered, and said, "Why do you come before me in this unseemly
manner, girt with a great sword?"
The damsel answered, "I am girt with this great sword against my will
and may not remove it until it is drawn from its scabbard, a thing that
can be done only by a knight, and that a passing good one, without
treachery or villainy of any sort. I have been with King Rience, and
many of his knights have tried to draw the sword from its scabbard, but
no one succeeded. I have heard that here you have many good knights, and
perchance one may be found who can pull the blade."
"This is marvelous," said Arthur. "I will myself make the first attempt,
not because I think myself the best knight, but to give my knights an
Then Arthur seized the sword by the scabbard and the hilt and pulled at
it eagerly, but it would not move.
"Sir," said the damsel, "you need not pull the half so hard, for he who
is fit can pull it with little strength."
Then one after another the knights all tried, but none could draw the
"Alas," said the maiden, "I had thought that in this court there would
be found at least one man of gentle blood on both his father's and his
mother's side, himself without treason or guile."
There was then at the court a poor knight born in Northumberland who had
been in prison for slaying the king's cousin, but who had been released
at the request of the barons, for he was known to be a good man and well
Balin, for that was the knight's name, wished to try the sword, but was
afraid to come forward because of his appearance. As the damsel was
departing from the court, Balin called to her and said:
"Fair maid, I beg you to let me try to draw the sword, for though I am
poorly clad I feel in my heart that I am as good as many who have tried,
and I think I can succeed."
The damsel looked at Balin, and though she saw that he was a strong and
handsome man, yet she looked at his poor raiment and thought that he
could not be a noble knight without treachery and villainy. So she said
to him, "Sir, put me to no more trouble, for I cannot think you will
succeed where so many others have failed."
"Ah, fair damsel," said Balin, "perchance good deeds are not in a man's
clothing, but manliness and bravery are hid within the person, and many
a worshipful knight is not known to all the people. Therefore honor and
greatness are not in raiment."
"By the Lord," said the damsel, "you speak well and say the truth.
Therefore shall you try the sword."
And Balin grasped the scabbard and drew the sword out easily, and when
he saw the sword he was greatly pleased, for it was a marvelous weapon
of finest steel.
[Illustration: THE DAMSEL LET FALL HER MANTLE]
"Certainly," said the damsel, "this is a good knight, the best I have
ever found, without treason, treachery or villainy; and many noble deeds
shall he do. Now, gentle and gracious knight, give back the sword to
"No," said Balin, "this sword will I keep unless it be taken from me by
"Well," said the damsel, "you are unwise to hold the sword from me, for
with it you shall slay the best friend that you have, the man you best
love in all the world; and the sword shall also be your destruction."
"Nevertheless," replied Balin, "I shall take the event as God gives it
me. But the sword you shall not have."
"Within a very short time," said the damsel, "you shall repent it. I ask
the sword more on your account than mine, for I am sad for your sake. It
is a great pity that you will not believe that the sword will be your
Speaking thus the damsel departed from the court, sorrowing as she went.
As soon as the damsel had gone, Balin sent for his horse and his armor
and made ready to depart from the court.
"Do not leave us so lightly," said King Arthur, "for though I have in
ignorance misused thee, I know now that thou art a noble knight, and if
thou wilt stay, I will advance thee much to thy liking."
"God bless your highness," said Balin. "Though no man may ever value
your kindness and bounty more, yet at the present time I must thank you
for your kindness and beseech your good grace."
"If you must go," said Arthur, "I pray you not to tarry long, for right
welcome will you be on your return, and then I shall take pains to make
right what I did amiss before."
"God reward your lordship," said Balin, as he made ready to depart.
Ere he could leave, however, there came riding into the court the Lady
of the Lake, from whom King Arthur had received his sword. She was
richly clothed, and as she entered she saluted Arthur royally and said,
"I come now to ask the gift you promised me when I gave you the sword."
"That is right," said Arthur; "a gift I certainly promised you, but I
have forgotten the name of the sword you gave me."
"The name of the sword is Excalibur. That is to say, 'Cut Steel.'"
"That is right," said the king. "Now ask what you will and you shall
have it if it lies in my power to give it."
"I ask," returned the Lady, "the head of the knight that to-day has won
the other sword, or else the head of the damsel who brought the sword.
By right I should have the heads of both, for he slew my brother, a good
and true knight, and that woman caused my father's death."
"Indeed," said Arthur, "I cannot grant such a request as that with any
justice to myself. Therefore, ask what else you will and I will grant
"I want nothing else," said the Lady; "I will ask no other thing."
Now when Balin was leaving the court he saw this Lady of the Lake. Three
years before she had slain Balin's mother, and all this time he had been
searching for the wicked woman. Then some one told him that she had
asked his head of Arthur.
On hearing this, Balin went straight to the woman and said, "It is
unlucky for you that I have found you to-day. You asked my head of King
Arthur, and therefore you shall lose yours."
With these words Balin drew his sword, and before any one could
interfere struck off her head, even before the face of King Arthur.
"Alas," said Arthur, "why have you done this deed? You have shamed me
and all my court, for this was a lady to whom I was indebted, and she
came here under my safe conduct. I shall never forgive you this vile
"Sire," said Balin, "withdraw your displeasure, for this same lady was
the falsest lady living, and by enchantment and sorcery she has
destroyed many good knights. She it was who through falsehood and
treachery caused my mother to be burned."
"No matter what cause you had," replied the king, "you should have
waited till she left my presence. You shall certainly repent this deed,
for such another insult I never had in my court. Therefore, withdraw
from my presence with all the haste you may."
Balin took up the head of the Lady and carried it to his hostelry, where
he met his squire.
"Now," said Balin, as the two rode out of the town, "much I regret to
have displeased King Arthur. You must, however, take this head and carry
it to my friends in Northumberland, and tell them that my most bitter
enemy is dead. Tell them, too, that I am out of prison, and how I came
to get this sword."
"Alas," said the squire, "you were greatly to blame for so displeasing
"As for that," said Balin, "I will go with all the haste I can to meet
King Rience that I may destroy him or die myself. If perchance I may
happen to overthrow him, then Arthur will forgive me and be my gracious
"Where shall I meet you?" said the squire.
"In King Arthur's court," answered Balin.
When Balin left King Arthur's court, Lanceor, a proud and arrogant
knight who counted himself the best of Arthur's followers, went and
offered to ride after Balin and bring him back dead or alive.
"Go," said King Arthur, "for I am wroth with Balin and would have
revenge for the insult he has shown me."
So Lanceor departed to arm himself, and in the meantime, Merlin arrived,
and hearing of the death of the Lady of the Lake, by the sword of Balin,
went in to King Arthur.
"Now," said Merlin, "you should know that this damsel who brought the
sword to the court is the falsest woman living. She has a brother whom
she hates beyond measure, and it was to compass his death that she came
hither, for it had been decreed that whoso drew the sword should slay
her brother. This I know to be true. Would to God she had never come to
this court, for the knight that drew the sword shall die by that sword,
and this shall be a great reproach to you and your court; for no man
liveth of greater ability and prowess than this same knight Balin, and
much good will he do you. It is a great pity he may not live to serve
you with his strength and hardiness."
In the meantime Lanceor, armed at all points, rode at full speed after
Balin, and when he caught sight of him he called in a loud voice, "Stop,
you false knight, for you shall return with me whether you will or not,
and your shield and your sword shall not help you."
When Balin heard the voice he turned his horse fiercely and said, "What
is it you will with me? Will you joust with me?"
"Yes," said the Irish knight. "For that reason have I followed you."
"Perchance," said Balin, "it would have been better if you had remained
at home, for many a man who strives to overthrow his enemy falls himself
in the struggle. From what court do you come?"
"I am from the court of King Arthur," said Lanceor, "and I came to seek
revenge for the insult you showed Arthur and his court this day."
"I see," said Balin, "that I must fight with you, but I much regret that
I have done wrong before King Arthur and his court. Your quarrel with me
is foolish, for the lady that I slew did me, through falsehood and
treachery, the greatest harm on earth, else would I have been as loath
as any knight that lives to slay a lady."
"Cease talking," said Lanceor, "and face me, for only one of us shall
Then they levelled their spears and clashed together as hard as their
horses could. The spear of the Irish knight struck Balin on the shield
and broke all in pieces, but Balin's spear pierced the shield of
Lanceor, passed through his hauberk and body and even into his horse, so
that Lanceor fell, a dead man.
Regretting much that he had slain one of Arthur's knights, Balin buried
Lanceor and proceeded on his way.
He had not ridden far into the forest when he saw a knight coming
towards him whom by his arms he recognized as his brother Balan. When
they met they dismounted and kissed each other and wept for pure joy.
When they had calmed themselves a little, Balan said, "I had no thought
of meeting you here; I had supposed you were still in prison, for a
knight that I met at the castle of Four Stones told me how you had been
imprisoned by the king. I came this way hoping to serve you."
Balin in reply told him of his adventures until the time they met, and
added, "Truly I am very sad that King Arthur is displeased with me, for
he is the most worshipful knight that reigneth on this earth. Now I mean
to regain his love or perish in the attempt. King Rience is even now
besieging the Castle Terrabil, and thither do I ride to see what I can
do against him."
"I will go with you," said Balan, "and we will help each other as true
knights and good brethren ought to do."
As they talked they saw coming toward them a misshapen old man. This was
Merlin in a strange disguise, though the brothers did not know him.
"Ah, Balin," said the old dwarf, "too ready are you to strike in anger,
for here you have slain one of the noblest knights of Arthur's court,
and his kinsmen will follow you through the world till they have slain
"As for that," said Balin, "I have little fear, but I regret beyond
words that I have displeased my lord, King Arthur."
"Be that as it may," answered Merlin, "you have given the saddest blow
ever struck; and yet worse is to come, for with that same sword will you
slay your brother."
"If I believed that," the sad knight replied, "I should kill myself now
to prove you a liar."
At that moment the crippled old man vanished suddenly, and the brothers
saw Merlin in his own person riding toward them.
"Where are you going?" inquired Merlin.
"At present we have little to do and ride as we please."
"I can tell you where you are going," said the magician. "You go to meet
King Rience, but your journey will be a failure unless you are guided by
"Ah, Merlin," said Balin, "we will be ruled by you."
"Come on then; but see that you fight manfully, for you will need all
your strength and valor."
"Fear not," they both exclaimed. "We will do all that men can do."
"Then," said the magician, "conceal yourselves here in the woods behind
the leaves. Hide your horses and rest in patience, for soon will Rience
with sixty of his best knights come this way. You can fall upon them
from ambush and easily destroy them."
It happened just as Merlin had predicted, and the brothers soon saw the
sixty knights riding down the lane.
"Which is Rience?" asked Balin.
"There," said he, "the knight that rides in the midst--that is Rience."
The brothers waited till Rience was opposite them, and then they rushed
upon him and bore him down, wounding him severely. Wheeling from the
charge they fell upon the followers of Rience and smote them to right
and left, so that many fell dead or wounded and the remainder broke into
Returning to King Rience the brothers would have killed him, but he
cried, "Slay me not. By my death you will win nothing, but by my life
you may win."
"That is so," the two agreed: and they made a litter, and Balan bore
Rience to King Arthur, but Balin would not go to the court till he had
done more for Arthur.
The tale of Balin's deeds is too long for recital here, but it may be
read in the book of King Arthur's knights. At last, after many days of
wandering and many exciting combats, Balin saw by the roadside a cross
upon which in letters of gold was written, "No man must ride to this
Then, too, an old man came toward him and said, "Balin le Savage, turn
now before it is too late. You have already passed the bounds of
prudence." With these words the old man vanished, and Balin heard the
blast of a horn, like that blown when a huntsman kills an animal.
"That blast," said Balin to himself, "is for me, for I am the prize, yet
am I not dead."
As the echoes of the horn died away, Balin saw coming toward him a
hundred knights and ladies: who rode up to him and smilingly greeted
"Come with us to the castle," said they, "and there shall be music and
dancing and feasting and much joy."
Balin followed them to the castle and was surprised at the good cheer
that awaited him. In the midst of the feast, when joy was at its height,
the chief lady of the feast looked at Balin and said, "Knight with the
two swords, no man may pass this way unless he fight with a knight who
keeps an island near by. Now must you joust with him."
"That is an unhappy custom," said Balin, "that a knight may not pass
this way unless he fight."
"You need to fight with but one man," said the lady.
"Well," said Balin, "if I must fight, then must I fight, but a traveling
man and his horse are oft-times weary. However, though my horse and my
body are weary, my heart is not weary, and I will go where danger awaits
"Sir," said one of the knights to Balin, "it seems to me that your
shield is not in good condition. Take mine; it is a larger one, and you
are quite welcome to it."
So Balin took the strange shield and left his own, with his arms
blazoned on it, at the castle, and rode forth to the island. On his way
he met a maid who called to him, "O Balin, why have you left your own
shield behind? You have now put yourself in the gravest danger, for by
the arms upon your shield all men might know you. It is a great pity,
indeed, that evil should befall you, for you are the peer of any knight
"I repent exceedingly," said Balin, "that I ever came into this country,
but now that I have set foot upon this adventure I may not turn back
without shame to myself. Be it life or death, now will I take whatsoever
Then he looked carefully at his armor and saw that it was all in good
condition and that his shield and spear were in good trim, and then,
blessing himself, he mounted his horse. Out of the castle there now came
riding toward him a knight on a powerful charger. Red was the armor of
the knight, red his shield, without any arms or device, and red were the
trappings on his horse. Now this knight in red was Balan, and when he
saw coming toward him a knight with two swords he thought it must be his
brother Balin, but when he looked at the shield it was strange, and
thus, neither brother knowing the other, they levelled their spears and
dashed together at full speed.
The spear of each struck fair in the center of the shield of the other,
and their spears were so strong and their charge so fierce that both
horses were thrown to the ground and the men lay on the ground
unconscious. Balin was sadly bruised by the fall of his horse, and
besides he was weary of travel, so that Balan was the first to get up
and draw his sword. Balin, however, was little behind him, and was ready
with his weapon to meet the onset. Balan was first to strike, and though
Balin put up his shield the sword passed through it and cut through his
helm. Balin returned the blow with that unhappy sword that carried so
much misery with it, and well-nigh killed his brother, but both
recovered themselves and fought together, charging back and forth until
their breath failed them.
As they rested for a moment Balin looked up to the castle walls and saw
that the towers were filled with ladies. Inspired by the sight, both
went into battle again, and both were wounded many times. Often they
rested and often renewed the combat, until the ground around them was
red with blood. Both had been wounded seven times or more, and each
wound so serious that it would have been the death of any less mighty
man. Both were weary and weak from their exertions, but still they
fought on. Their helmets were hewed off and their armor fell to pieces
till they were almost naked and defenseless.
At last Balan withdrew a little and lay down in utter exhaustion.
"What knight art thou?" said Balin le Savage. "Never have I found a
knight that so well matched me."
"My name," he said, "is Balan, brother of the great knight Balin."
"Alas," said Balin, "that ever I should see this day." And with these
words he fell back unconscious.
Balan, on his hands and knees, crept to his brother and took the helm
from off his head, but even then he did not know him, so bloody and
wounded was his face.
When a few minutes later Balin recovered consciousness, he cried, "Oh
Balan, my brother, thou hast slain me and I thee. On this account all
the world shall speak of us."
"Alas," said Balan, "that I ever saw this day, and shame on me that I
knew you not, for I saw your two swords; but because you had a strange
shield I thought you were some strange knight."
"There is a false knight in the castle," said Balin, "that got me to
leave my own shield and gave me his, and for this reason are we both to
die. Would that I might live to destroy the castle and prevent the foul
customs that pertain here."
"That, indeed, were the right thing to do," said Balan, "for on the day
that I came hither I happened to kill the knight that kept the island,
and since then never have I been able to depart but have been compelled
to keep this island against all comers. If you had slain me, then must
you have kept the island, for no man may leave because of an