Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 162

Arrival in Westernesse

The other boys sat lamenting and bewailing their fate, but Childe Horn, looking round the boat, found a pair of oars, and as he saw that the boat was in the grasp of some strong current he rowed in the same direction, so that the boat soon drifted out of sight of land. The other lads were a dismal crew, for they thought their death was certain, but Horn toiled hard at his rowing all night, and with the dawn grew so weary that he rested for a little on his oars. When the rising sun made things clear, and he could see over the crests of the waves, he stood up in the boat and uttered a cry of joy. “Comrades,” cried he, “dear friends, I see land not far away. I hear the sweet songs of birds and see the soft green grass. We have come to some unknown land and have saved our lives.” Then Athulf took up the glad tidings and began to cheer the forlorn little crew, and under Horn’s skilful guidance the little boat grounded gently and safely on the sands of Westernesse. The boys sprang on shore, all but Childe Horn having no thought of the past night and the journey; but he stood by the boat, looking sadly at it.

Farewell to the Boat

“‘Boat,’ quoth he, ‘which hast borne me on my way,
Have thou good days beside a summer sea!
May never wave prevail to sink thee deep!
Go, little boat, and when thou comest home
Greet well my mother, mournful Queen Godhild;
Tell her, frail skiff, her dear son Horn is safe.
Greet, too, the pagan lord, Mahomet’s thrall,
The bitter enemy of Jesus Christ,
[Pg 290] And bid him know that I am safe and well.
Say I have reached a land beyond the sea,
Whence, in God’s own good time, I will return
Then he shall feel my vengeance for my sire.’”

Then sorrowfully he pushed the boat out into the ocean, and the ebbing tide bore it away, while Horn and his companions set their faces resolutely towards the town they could see in the distance.

King Ailmar and Childe Horn

As the little band were trudging wearily towards the town they saw a knight riding towards them, and when he came nearer they became aware that he must be some noble of high rank. When he halted and began to question them, Childe Horn recognised by his tone and bearing that this must be the king. So indeed it was, for King Ailmar of Westernesse was one of those noble rulers who see for themselves the state of their subjects and make their people happy by free, unrestrained intercourse with them. When the king saw the forlorn little company he said: “Whence are ye, fair youths, so strong and comely of body? Never have I seen so goodly a company of thirteen youths in the realm of Westernesse. Tell me whence ye come, and what ye seek.” Childe Horn assumed the office of spokesman, for he was leader by birth, by courage, and by intellect. “We are lads of noble families in Suddene, sons of Christians and of men of lofty station. Pagans have taken the land and slain our parents, and we boys fell into their hands. These heathen have slain and tortured many Christian men, but they had pity upon us, and put us into an old boat with no sail or rudder. So we drifted all night, until I saw your land at dawn, and our boat came to the shore. Now we are in your power, and you may do with us what [Pg 291] you will, but I pray you to have pity on us and to feed us, that we may not perish utterly.”