Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 170

[Pg 303] King Thurston agreed, and Horn dwelt in Ireland for seven years, and sent no word or token to Rymenhild all the time.

Rymenhild’s Distress

In the meantime Princess Rymenhild was in great perplexity and trouble, for a powerful ruler, King Modi of Reynes, wooed her for his wife, and her own betrothed sent her no token of his life or love. Her father accepted the new suitor for her hand, and the day of the wedding was fixed, so that Rymenhild could no longer delay her marriage. In her extremity she besought Athulf to write letters to Horn, begging him to return and claim his bride and protect her; and these letters she delivered to several messengers, bidding them search in all lands until they found Sir Horn and gave the letters into his own hand. Horn knew nought of this, till one day in the forest he met a weary youth, all but exhausted, who told how he had sought Horn in vain. When Horn declared himself, the youth broke out into loud lamentations over Rymenhild’s unhappy fate, and delivered the letter which explained all her distress. Now it was Horn’s turn to weep bitterly for his love’s troubles, and he bade the messenger return to his mistress and tell her to cease her tears, for Horn would be there in time to rescue her from her hated bridegroom. The youth returned joyfully, but as his boat neared the shore of Westernesse a storm arose and the messenger was drowned; so that Rymenhild, opening her tower door to look for expected succour, found her messenger lying dead at the foot of the tower, and felt that all hope was gone. She wept and wrung her hands, but nothing that she could do would avert the evil day.

[Pg 304]

Horn and King Thurston

As soon as Horn had read Rymenhild’s letter he went to King Thurston and revealed the whole matter to him. He told of his own royal parentage, his exile, his knighthood, his betrothal to the princess, and his banishment; then of the death of the Saracen leader who had slain King Murry, and the vengeance he had taken. Then he ended:

“‘King Thurston, be thou wise, and grant my boon;
Repay the service I have yielded thee;
Help me to save my princess from this woe.
I will take counsel for fair Reynild’s fate,
For she shall wed Sir Athulf, my best friend,
My truest comrade and my doughtiest knight.
If ever I have risked my life for thee
And proved myself in battle, grant my prayer.’”

To this the king replied: “Childe Horn, do what thou wilt.”

Horn Returns on the Wedding-day

Horn at once invited Irish knights to accompany him to Westernesse to rescue his love from a hateful marriage, and many came eagerly to fight in the cause of the valiant Cuthbert who had defended Ireland for seven years. Thus it was with a goodly company that Horn took ship, and landed in King Ailmar’s realm; and he came in a happy hour, for it was the wedding-day of Princess Rymenhild and King Modi of Reynes. The Irish knights landed and encamped in a wood, while Horn went on alone to learn tidings. Meeting a palmer, he asked the news, and the palmer replied: “I have been at the wedding of Princess Rymenhild, and a sad sight it was, for the bride was wedded against her will, vowing she had a husband though he is a banished [Pg 305] man. She would take no ring nor utter any vows; but the service was read, and afterwards King Modi took her to a strong castle, where not even a palmer was given entrance. I came away, for I could not endure the pity of it. The bride sits weeping sorely, and if report be true her heart is like to break with grief.”

Horn Is Disguised as a Palmer

“Come, palmer,” said Horn, “lend me your cloak and scrip. I must see this strange bridal, and it may be I shall make some there repent of the wrong they have done to a helpless maiden. I will essay to enter.” The change was soon made, and Horn darkened his face and hands as if bronzed with Eastern suns, bowed his back, and gave his voice an old man’s feebleness, so that no man would have known him; which done, he made his way to King Modi’s new castle. Here he begged admittance for charity’s sake, that he might share the broken bits of the wedding feast; but he was churlishly refused by the porter, who would not be moved by any entreaties. At last Horn lost all patience, and broke open the door, and threw the porter out over the drawbridge into the moat; then, once more assuming his disguise, he made his way into the hall and sat down in the beggars’ row.