Death of Fikenhild
King Horn now glanced down and saw the ring of betrothal on his finger, where he had worn it ever, except that fateful day when he had given it as a token of recognition to Rymenhild. He thought of his wife’s sufferings, and his mind was made up. Springing from the minstrels’ bench, he strode boldly up the hall, throwing off his disguise, and, shouting, “I am King Horn! False Fikenhild, thou shalt die!” he slew the villain in the midst of his men. Horn’s comrades likewise flung off their disguise, and soon overpowered the few of the household who cared to fight in their dead master’s cause. The castle was taken for King Ailmar, who was persuaded to nominate Sir Arnoldin his heir, and the baronage of Westernesse did homage to him as the next king. Horn and his fair wife begged the good old steward Sir Athelbrus to go with them to Suddene, and on the way they touched at Ireland, where Reynild, the king’s fair daughter, was induced to look favourably on Sir Athulf and accept him for her husband. The land of King Modi, which had now no ruler, was committed to the care of Sir Athelbrus, and Horn and Rymenhild at last reached Suddene, where the people received their fair queen with great joy, and where they dwelt in happiness till their lives’ end.
CHAPTER XV: ROBIN HOOD
ENGLAND during the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries was slowly taught the value of firm administrative government. In Saxon England, the keeping of the peace and the maintenance of justice had been left largely to private and family enterprise and to local and trading communities. In Norman England, the royal authority was asserted throughout the kingdom, though as yet the king had to depend in large measure upon the co-operation of his barons and the help of the burghers to supply the lack of a standing army and an adequate police. Under the Plantagenets, the older chivalry was slowly breaking up, and a new, wealthy burgher and trading community was rapidly gaining influence in the land; whilst the clergy, corrupted by excess of wealth and power, had strained, almost to breaking, the controlling force of religion. It was therefore natural that in these latter days a class of men should arise to avail themselves of the unique opportunities of the time—men who, loving liberty and hating oppression, took the law into their own hands and executed a rough and ready justice between the rich and the poor which embodied the best traditions of knight-errantry, whilst they themselves lived a free and merry life on the tolls they exacted from their wealthy victims. Such a man may well have been the original Robin Hood, a man who, when once he had captured the popular imagination, soon acquired heroic reputation and was credited with every daring deed and every magnanimous action in two centuries of ‘freebooting.’