Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 165

Horn and Rymenhild

Horn listened to this unusual speech with great astonishment, but, since Sir Athelbrus spoke so solemnly, he laid all his words to heart, and thus, marvelling greatly, departed to the royal bower. When he had knocked at the door, and had been bidden to come in, entering, he found Rymenhild sitting in a great chair, intently regarding him as he came into the room. He knelt down to make obeisance to her, and kissed her hand, saying, “Sweet be thy life and soft thy slumbers, fair Princess Rymenhild! Well may it be with thy gentle ladies of honour! I am here at thy command, lady, for Sir Athelbrus the steward, bade me come to [Pg 295] speak with thee. Tell me thy will, and I will fulfil all thy desires.” She arose from her seat, and, bending towards him as he knelt, took him by the hand and lifted him up, saying, “Arise and sit beside me, Childe Horn, and we will drink this cup of wine together.” In great astonishment the youth did as the princess bade, and sat beside her, and soon, to his utter amazement, Rymenhild avowed her love for him, and offered him her hand. “Have pity on me, Horn, and plight me thy troth, for in very truth I love thee, and have loved thee long, and if thou wilt I will be thy wife.”

Horn Refuses the Princess

Now Horn was in evil case, for he saw full well in what danger he would place the princess, Sir Athelbrus, and himself if he accepted the proffer of her love. He knew the reason of the steward’s warning, and tried to think what he might say to satisfy the princess and yet not be disloyal to the king. At last he replied: “Christ save and keep thee, my lady Rymenhild, and give thee joy of thy husband, whosoever he may be! I am too lowly born to be worthy of such a wife; I am a mere foundling, living on thy father’s bounty. It is not in the course of nature that such as I should wed a king’s daughter, for there can be no equal match between a princess and a landless squire.”

Rymenhild was so disheartened and ashamed at this reply to her loving appeal that her colour changed, she turned deadly pale, began to sigh, flung her arms out wildly, and fell down in a swoon. Childe Horn lifted her up, full of pity for her deep distress, and began to comfort her and try to revive her. As he held her in his arms he kissed her often, and said:

[Pg 296] “‘Lady, dear love, take comfort and be strong!
For I will yield me wholly to thy guidance
If thou wilt compass one great thing for me.
Plead with King Ailmar that he dub me knight,
That I may prove me worthy of thy love.
Soon shall my knighthood be no idle dream,
And I will strive to do thy will, dear heart.’”