Horn thought it wise to hide his real name from them, lest it should come to Aylmer's ears, and his anger reach Horn even in this distant land. "I am called Cuthbert," he answered, "and I am come far from the west in this little ship, seeking adventure and honour."
"Well met, sir knight," said Harild. "Come now to our father the king: you shall do knightly deeds in his service." They led him to King Thurston their father; and when Thurston saw that Horn was a man of might, skilled in arms, and a true knight, he took him into his service readily. So Horn--or Cuthbert, as they knew him--abode at Thurston's court, and served the king in battle. But no great and notable thing befell him until the coming of Christmas.
It was King Thurston's custom to make each Christmas a great feast, lasting many days. To this feast Horn was bidden, with all the other knights of the court. Great mirth and joy was there that Yule-tide; all men feasted with light hearts. Suddenly, about noon-day, the great doors of the king's hall were flung open, and a monstrous giant strode in. He was fully armed, in pagan raiment, and his mien was proud and terrible.
"Sit still, sir king," he roared, as Thurston turned to him. "Hearken to my tidings. I am come hither with a Saracen host, and my comrades are close at hand. From them I bring a challenge; and this is the challenge. One of us alone will fight any three of your knights, in a certain place. If your three slay our one, then we will depart and leave you and your land unscathed. But if our one champion slays your three, then will we take your land for our own, and deal with it and you as it pleases us. To-morrow at dawn we will make ready for the combat; and if you take not up this challenge, and send your appointed knights to battle, then will we burn and lay waste and slay all over this realm." Thereupon he turned, and stalked out of the hall, saying never another word. "This is a sorry hap," said King Thurston, when the Saracen had gone and left them all aghast. "Yet must we take up this challenge. Cuthbert," he said, turning to Horn, "you have heard this pagan boast; will you be one of our three champions? Harild and Berild, my sons, shall be the other two, and may God prosper all three! But alas! it is of little avail. We are all dead men!"
But Horn felt no fear. He started up from the board when he heard the king's sorrowful words. "Sir king," he cried, "this is all amiss. It is not to our honour that three Christian knights should fight this one pagan. I alone will lay the giant low, with my own sword, unaided."
Thurston hoped little of this plan, but none the less he agreed to it; and when the next day came, he arose betimes, and with his own hands helped to arm Horn; and having made ready, he rode down to the field of battle with him. There, in a great open space, stood the Saracen giant awaiting them, his friends standing by him to abide the issue of the combat. They made little tarrying, but fell to right soon. Horn dealt mightily with the giant; he attacked him at once, and showered blows upon him, so that the pagan was hard pressed, and begged for a breathing space.
"Let us rest awhile, sir knight," he said. "Never suffered I such blows from any man's hand yet, except from King Murry, whom I slew in Suddenne."
At that dear name Horn's blood ran hot within him: before him he saw the man who had slain his father and had driven himself from his kingdom. He fell to more furiously than ever, and drove hard at the giant beneath the shield; and as he smote he cast his eye upon the ring Rimenhild had given him.
Therewith his strength was redoubled; so straight and strong was the blow, so true his arm, that he pierced the giant to the heart, and he fell dead upon the ground.
When they saw their champion slain, the Saracens were stricken with panic. They turned and fled headlong to their ships, Thurston and his knights pursuing. A great battle was fought by the ships: Harild and Berild were slain, but Horn did such deeds of prowess that every pagan was killed.
There was great lamentation over the two princes. Their bodies were brought to the king's palace and laid in state, and lastly buried in a great church built for them.
Retold by F. J. H. Darton
There was now no heir to Thurston's kingdom, since Harild and Berild were slain; and in a little time, when the king's grief abated, he bethought him of what should befall his people when his time came to die.
"Cuthbert," he said to Horn one day, when he had pondered long over these things, "there is no heir to my kingdom. There is but my daughter Reynild to come after me. Will you wed her, and he king and rule this land after my death?"
Horn was sorely tempted. But he looked on his ring, and remembered Rimenhild. "Sir king," he answered, "you do me great honour, and I give you thanks. But I am under a vow, and cannot wed the lady Reynild." He would say no more, but was firm in his purpose; and King Thurston had to be content with his loyal service only. For seven years Horn abode at Thurston's court, serving in arms under him and winning great fame by his knightly deeds. No word did he send to Rimenhild, nor received tidings of any kind from Westerness.
About the end of the seventh year Horn chanced to be riding in the forest, when he met a page journeying as if towards Thurston's palace. "What do you here?" he said. "Whither do you go?"
"Sir," answered the page, "I have a message for one Sir Horn from Sir Athulf in Westerness, where Aylmer is king. The Lady Rimenhild is to be wedded on Sunday to King Modi of Reynes, and I am sent to bring tidings thereof to Sir Horn. But I can find him nowhere, nor hear even so much as his name, though I have wandered far and wide."
At this heavy news Horn hid his name no longer. He told the page who he was, and bade him go back with all speed, and say to Rimenhild that she need no longer mourn: her lover would save her ere Sunday came.
The page returned blithely with this message. But he never delivered it, for as he went back he was by chance drowned; and Rimenhild, hearing no word of Horn, despaired. Athulf, too, watching long for Horn each day on a tower of Aylmer's palace, gave up hope.
But Horn was not idle or forgetful. When he had despatched the page, as he thought, safely back to Athulf and Rimenhild, he went straight to King Thurston, and without more pretence told him his true name and all the story of the adventures.
"Sire," he said, at the end, "I have served you well. Grant me reward for my service, and help me to win Rimenhild. See, you offered me the hand of your daughter Reynild; that I might not accept, for I was pledged already; but perchance my comrade Athulf might be deemed an honourable suitor. If you will but help me, Athulf shall be Reynild's husband; that I vow. Sire, give me your aid."
"Be it so," said Thurston, loath to lose Horn, but glad to hear of a knight waiting to wed the lady Reynild. Straightway a levy of knights was made, and Horn set forth in a ship with a brave body of fighting men. The wind blew favourably, and ere long they came to Westerness.
Even as they touched the shore, the bells ceased ringing for the marriage of Rimenhild to King Modi.
Horn saw how late they had arrived, and that he must needs act warily, if he would save Rimenhild in the midst of the rejoicings over her wedding. He left his men on board ship, and landed alone, setting out to walk to the palace, where the wedding-feast was about to be held.
As he walked thus, he met a palmer [Footnote: A pilgrim], clad in pilgrim's weeds. "Whither go you, sir palmer?" he asked.
"I have just come from a wedding," he answered, "from the wedding of Rimenhild, the king's daughter; and sad and sorrowful she seemed to be, in truth, on this wedding day."
"Now Heaven help me, palmer, but I will change clothes with you. Take you my robe, and give me your long cloak. To-day I will drink at that wedding feast, and some shall rue the hour that I sit at the board with them."
Without more ado he changed clothes with the palmer, taking also his staff and scrip, and staining his face till it was like that of a toil-worn traveller. Then he set out for the palace once more.
He came soon to the gates, where a porter strove to bar his entrance. But Horn broke in the wicket-gate, and entered, and threw the man over the drawbridge, so that his ribs were broken. None other stood in Horn's way, and he went into the great hall, and took his place in a lowly seat among the beggars and poor men.
As he looked about him, he saw, at a little distance, Rimenhild, weeping and lamenting sorely. Athulf he did not see, for he was still keeping watch in the tower for Horn's return. Before long Rimenhild rose from her seat and began to minister to the guests, according to custom, pouring them out wine and ale in horn beakers. When she came low down among the guests, Horn spoke to her.
"Fair queen," he said, "serve us also; we beggars are athirst."
She laid down the vessel she bore, and took a great gallon cup, and filled it with brown ale, and offered it him, thinking him a glutton. "Take this cup," she said, "and drink your fill. Never saw I so forward a beggar."
"I will not drink your ale, lady," answered Horn, for he was minded to let her know who he was, and yet to hide himself from all others at the feast. "Give me wine; I am no beggar. I am a fisherman, come hither to search my nets, and see what I have caught. Pledge me now yourself and drink to Horn of horn."
Thus by his strange words he thought to recall to her that dream she had formerly dreamed, of a great fish that escaped from her net.
Rimenhild looked on him, and hope and fear sprang up in her heart together. She knew not what his saying about his nets and "Horn of horn" might mean. With a steadfast look, she took her drinking-horn, and filled it with wine, and gave it to Horn.
"Drink your fill, friend," she said, "and tell me if you have seen aught of this Horn of whom you seem to speak."
Horn drained the beaker, and as he put it down dropped into it the ring that Rimenhild had given him so long ago. When Rimenhild saw the ring she knew it at once. She made an excuse, and left the feast, and went to her bower. In a little time she sent for the palmer secretly, and asked him where he got the ring.
"Queen," said Horn, "in my travels I met one named Horn. He gave me this ring to bring to you; it was on shipboard I met him, and he lay dying."
He said this to prove if her love were still constant to him. But Rimenhild believed him, and when she heard him say that Horn was dead, became as one mad with grief. Then Horn, seeing how strong was her love, threw off his palmer's cloak, and showed her the false stain on his face, and told her that he was in very truth Horn, her lover.
When their first joy at meeting again was over, Horn told the princess of the men he had brought with him in his ship. Secretly they sent for Athulf, and when he too had learnt all Horn's tidings, a message was sent to the men in the ship, who came to the palace speedily, and were admitted by a private door. Then all the company of them broke suddenly into the banquet-hall, and fell upon those there, and slew many; but Modi and Fikenhild escaped and fled from Westerness.
THE KING OF SUDDENNE
Retold by F. J. H. Barton
When they had made an end of slaying, Horn revealed himself to Aylmer, and reproached him for giving his daughter in marriage to Modi, whom she did not love; and Aylmer, when he heard of Horn's deeds--for the fame which Horn had won under the name of Cuthbert had gone into many lands--could not but feel sorrow that he had sent Horn away in anger seven years ago; and he begged Horn to stay at his court and wed Rimenhild, for the marriage with Modi was not fully complete when Horn and his men broke up the feast.
"Nay, I am of royal blood," answered Horn. "You thought me a foundling and despised me. For that insult you formerly put upon me, I vow I will not take Rimenhild for my wife until I have won my kingdom of Suddenne back from the Saracens, and avenged my father King Murry, whom they slew. I am a king's son; I will be a king before my wife shall come to me."
Aylmer could not gainsay Horn in his purpose, and once more Horn set out on his wanderings. With him went Sir Athulf and a band of brave knights. They took ship and for five days sailed the sea with a favouring wind, till at last, late at night on the fifth day, they came to the shores of Suddenne.
Horn and Athulf landed, to spy out the country. A little way inland they came upon an old knight sleeping by the wayside; on his shield was the device of a cross. Horn woke him gently. "Tell me, sir knight, who are you?" he asked. "Your shield shows that you are a Christian; but this land is ruled by pagans."