Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race
Page: 173The king consented to this proposal, and, in spite of Rymenhild’s grief, Horn immediately bade her farewell, and with his whole army embarked for Suddene, this time accompanied by Athulf, but leaving the rest of his comrades for the protection of his wife.
The Apostate Knight
The wind blew fair for Suddene, and the fleet reached the port. The warriors disembarked, and marched inland, to encamp for the night in a wood, where they could be hidden. Horn and Athulf set out at midnight to endeavour to obtain news of the foe, and soon found a solitary knight sleeping. They awoke him roughly, saying, “Knight, awake! Why sleepest thou here? What dost thou guard?” The knight sprang lightly from the ground, saw their faces and the shining crosses on their shields, and cast down his eyes in shame, saying, “Alas! I have served these pagans against my will. In time gone by I was a Christian, but now I am a coward renegade, who forsook his God for fear of death at the hands of the Saracens! I hate my infidel masters, but I fear them too, and they have forced me to guard this district and keep watch against Horn’s return. If he should come to his own again how glad I should be! These infidels slew his father, and drove him into exile, with his twelve comrades, among whom was my own son, Athulf, who loved the prince as his own life. If the prince is yet alive, and my son also, God grant [Pg 310] that I may see them both again! Then would I joyfully die.”
Horn answered quickly: “Sir Knight, be glad and rejoice, for here are we, Horn and Athulf, come to avenge my father and retake my realm from the heathen.” Athulf’s father was overcome with joy and shame; he hardly dared to embrace his son, yet the bliss of meeting was so great that he clasped Athulf in his arms and prayed his forgiveness for the disgrace he had brought upon him. The two young knights said nothing of his past weakness, but told him all their own adventures, and at last he said: “What is your true errand hither? Can you two alone slay the heathen? Dear Childe Horn, what joy this will be to thy mother Godhild, who still lives in a solitary retreat, praying for thee and for the land!” Horn broke in on his speech with “Blessed be the hour when I returned! Thank God that my mother yet lives! We are not alone, but I have an army of valiant Irish warriors, who will help me to regain my realm.”
The Reconquest of Suddene
Now the king blew his horn, and his host marched out from the wood and prepared to attack the Saracens. The news soon spread that Childe Horn had returned, and many men who had accepted the faith of Mahomet for fear of death now threw off the hated religion, joined the true king’s army, and were rebaptized. The war was not long, for the Saracens had made themselves universally hated, and the inhabitants rose against them; so that in a short time the country was purged of the infidels, who were slain or fled to other lands. Then Horn brought his mother from her retreat, and [Pg 311] together they purified the churches which had been desecrated, and restored the true faith. When the land of Suddene was again a Christian realm King Horn was crowned with solemn rites, and a great coronation feast was held, which lasted too long for Horn’s true happiness.