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The
king, whose name was Ermyn, thought he had never seen any boy of his age
so tall and beautiful, and asked him many things as to his past life.
These Bevis answered with so much truth and spirit that Ermyn was
persuaded that he would grow into a man much above the common, and
declared that he would make him heir to his throne and wed him in due
course to his daughter Josyan, if he would only give up Christianity and
become a convert to the faith of Heathenesse. But this Bevis swore he
would never do.

The good captain feared greatly that the king might be angered by
Bevis's refusal, but instead Ermyn seemed to think that the boy, who
would not break his vows lightly, was fain to turn out a true and loyal
man. So he smiled, and told Bevis that he would make him his
chamberlain, and when he was of age to be a knight, he should be his
banneret.

Eight years passed by, spent by Bevis in learning all the feats with the
sword and spear for which the knights of Heathenesse had long been
famous. His life was smooth and pleasant, and it was only when he had
counted fifteen summers that he had his first adventure.

It was Christmas Day, and Bevis was riding with a large company of
Paynim knights through the great plain that surrounded the city. The
talk ran upon the many lion chases they had held in that very place,
when suddenly one of the knights who had journeyed both to Rome and
Jerusalem turned to Bevis, who happened to be next him, and asked if he
knew what day it was.

'No,' answered Bevis; 'why should I? Is it different from any other
day?' and the knight laughed and told him he was but a poor Christian.
This angered Bevis, who said that, as he had lived among heathens since
he was seven years old, it was not likely he should have learnt anything
about his faith, but that in defence of it he was ready to tilt with the
knights one after the other and hoped that in so good a cause he might
prevail.

'Listen to the crowing of this young cock' cried one of the party,
highly wroth at the answer of Bevis; and indeed so furious were they
that they set upon him at once and dealt him many wounds before the boy
was able to defend himself. Then he snatched a sword from the man
nearest him, and laid about him so hardly that in a short time they were
all stretched dead upon the ground, while their horses galloped back to
their stalls. Bevis himself, suffering great pain, went quietly back to
his room in the palace and waited to see what would come next.

When king Ermyn heard the news, and how so many of his best knights had
been put to death by his page, he was beside himself with fury, and gave
orders that Bevis should be instantly beheaded. But Josyan, his
daughter, pleaded so hard for the young page that the king agreed to
hear his story, and when he had heard it he not only forgave the youth,
but told Josyan, who was skilled in leechcraft, to heal his wounds. And
in a little while Bevis was raised to higher favour than ever by slaying
a boar which had carried away and eaten several children on the
outskirts of the city.

By this time the fame of the princess's beauty had spread far and wide,
and the king of Damascus sent an embassy to the court of king Ermyn,
praying that she should be given him to wife.

'But,' added he, 'in case you do not well consider my suit, I would have
you know that I will gather together a great army, and lay waste your
land with fire and sword. So think well before you refuse me.'

King Ermyn was little used to language of this sort, and for all answer
collected twenty thousand men, whom he commanded to be in readiness.
Next, at the request of his daughter, he dubbed Bevis a knight, and the
princess herself clad him in a richly inlaid helmet, and buckled on him
the good sword Morglay. As a parting gift she bestowed on him a swift
white horse called Arundel, and very proud was Bevis as he rode away at
the head of the army beside the commander.

* * * * *

It were too long to tell of all the deeds wrought by Sir Bevis during
the fight with the king of Damascus, whose standard-bearer, the giant
Radyson, he slew at the very outset of the battle. In the end, and owing
in a great measure to the valour of the young knight, the Damascenes
owned themselves beaten, and their king remained a captive in the hands
of Sir Bevis.

'I will spare your life on one condition only,' said the victor, 'and
that is that you shall swear fealty on my sword to king Ermyn, and
acknowledge yourself to be his vassal.'

The king's heart was sore when he heard what was demanded of him, for
never before had he been vanquished in war. Still, he saw that there was
no help for it, and he took the oath that Bevis required of him, after
which he was suffered to depart into his own country.

King Ermyn could not do enough honour to Sir Bevis when he came back to
the palace, and, as was the custom, he bade his daughter rid him of his
heavy armour, to put on him gorgeous robes, and to wait on him when he
sat down to table. Sir Bevis was half glad and half ashamed to receive
these services at the hands of the princess, but Josyan heard her
father's orders right willingly, and led him away to fulfil them at
once.

The first thing she did was to order her slaves to prepare a bath for
him, and to make it soft with all manner of sweet-smelling spices. Then
she summoned him to her chamber, where she had prepared food and wine,
and, like a wise woman, spoke nothing till he had eaten and drunk as
much as he would. When he had satisfied his hunger, he flung himself to
rest on a pile of cushions, and Josyan seated herself near him. Taking
one of his hands in hers, she said softly:

'Oh, Bevis, little do you know what I have suffered these many months
from the love I bear you! Indeed, so grievous have been my pains that I
marvel that I am alive this day. But if you return not my love, of a
surety I am a dead woman.'

Now Bevis had long loved the princess in secret; but his heart was
proud, and, besides, he feared to seem that he had betrayed the king's
trust. So he answered:

'Fair Josyan, I thank you for your gentle words, but it would ill become
me to take advantage of them. There is no prince in all the world, be he
who he may, who would not crown you queen, and hold himself honoured.
For me, I am but a poor knight, and one from a strange land, to whom
your father has shown more favour than I deserve. It is not thus I
should repay his kindness.'

These words struck a chill through Josyan. All her life she had never
known what it was to be denied anything she asked for, and she fell to
weeping.

'I would sooner have you, poor as you are, than the greatest king
alive,' sobbed she; but when Bevis sat still and kept silence her grief
turned to wrath.

'Am I, who might reign over any of the kingdoms of the earth, to be
flouted by you, a mere churl? Out of my chamber this instant, and betake
yourself to working in the fields, for they are fitter setting for one
of your birth than a lady's bower!'

'Damsel,' said Bevis, 'you wrong me. No churl am I, but the son of an
earl, and a knight withal. And now farewell, for I shall depart into my
own country.'

For a short time Josyan's anger held sway in her heart, and even the
death of Bevis would hardly have moved her, but when she heard that
Bevis was actually preparing to leave the city her pride broke down,
and she sent a messenger to implore his forgiveness. But she had to
learn that Bevis was no less proud than she, and he dismissed the
messenger with a ring that the king had given him, merely saying that he
had already bid good-bye to the princess Josyan.

Then Josyan saw that if she would keep Bevis at her side she must humble
herself to the dust, so she went herself to the chamber of Bevis, and
implored him to forget her hasty words, and not to forsake her. Nay, she
would even promise to give up her own faith and to become a Christian.

At this proof of her devotion, Sir Bevis's resolve gave way, and he told
her that he had loved her always, but feared that her father would never
accept him as a son-in-law. Josyan made light of this obstacle, and
declared that her father would never refuse her anything she had set her
heart upon; but Bevis was not so hopeful, and soon events proved that he
was right.

Two knights whom Bevis had rescued from captivity and had brought to the
palace overheard the vows exchanged between him and Josyan, and her
offer of being baptized. Hating and envying the good fortune of Bevis,
they sought out the king, and told him that his daughter was about to
give up the faith of Mahomet, and to fly from the country with a
Christian knight.

These tidings were grievous to king Ermyn. He could not forgive his
daughter, and yet, after all the deeds he had done, the people of the
city would not suffer Bevis to be punished. What was he to do? The more
he thought of it the more bewildered he felt; and all the while the two
traitors stood patiently by, knowing well what was passing through the
king's mind.

At length he turned, as they were sure he would, and asked their
counsel, which was quite ready.

'Let your Majesty write a letter to King Bradmond, as from liege lord to
vassal, and let Sir Bevis be the bearer of it, and bid the king put the
knight to instant death.' So said the traitors, and, though the device
was neither new nor honourable, it would serve. Bevis was summoned to
the king's presence, and listened carefully to all he was told. Joyful
was he at being chosen for this mission, which he thought betokened
special favour, though his spirits were somewhat damped by the assurance
that he must leave his sword Morglay and Arundel, his swift horse,
behind him.

'It were an insult to the king to approach him on a war-horse, and
brandishing the sword that has slain so many of his men,' said Ermyn.
'You shall ride the ambling palfrey on which I make my progress through
the city; and, as for weapons, you will have no need of them.' So
Arundel remained quietly in his stable, while Bevis unwillingly jogged
along at the slow pace of the palfrey.



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