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a boy!' he cried disdainfully; but the 'boy' struck him another
swinging stroke, which almost cleft his shield. Then the giant drew out
his great double-edged battle-axe, but the champion sprang aside, and
the axe crashed harmlessly on a rock, while a well-aimed throw from the
javelin pierced the joints of the giant's harness, and he fell heavily
to the ground.

'It is an earthquake,' whispered the people of Babylon, as the houses
shook and the swords rattled.

After this the giant's followers, who, big though they were, had no mind
to face such a fighter, fled into the forest, and were seen no more.

The first thing to be done was of course to cut the cords which had been
carefully wound round the arms and legs of the prisoners, who, seizing
the champion's hands, shed tears and kisses over them. As to the sultan,
he was well-nigh speechless from gratitude, but when he was able to
speak he begged the youth to ask for some boon that he could grant,
even if it were the half of his kingdom.

'That I will tell you to-morrow,' said he.

By this time the evening had come, and the chariots and the horses were
made ready, and the company returned to the palace in Babylon, though
neither the princess nor her ladies felt very safe till they were within
the gates of the city.

Early next day the sultan sent the grand vizier to bid the youth await
him in the great hall, that he might declare in presence of all the
court what guerdon should be given him for saving his master's life.

And a right noble company was gathered together, for the victor was well
loved of all, and every man expected that he would ask the hand of the
princess.

All stood up and bowed low as the sultan swept down between them clothed
in his royal robes, and wearing his golden crown on his head; for he
wished the goodly assemblage to know how priceless a service the young
man had done him. Nay, he too thought, like his people, that there was
only one boon that the youth could fitly crave.

When he was seated on his throne, he signed to the chevalier to draw
near.

'And what is the reward that I shall give you?' he asked with a smile as
the young man knelt before him.

'O mighty sultan, grant me this, that with the sword which slew your
enemy you will make me a knight'; then he paused and grew red, as a
cloud came over the sultan's brow.

'By all the rules of chivalry----' But the sultan's words were drowned
by a tumult in the hall, and pushing her way between the crowds came a
richly clad maiden, closely pursued by a huge black king.

'Save me!' she cried, looking wildly on the company of knights that
stood round. 'I am the daughter of as mighty a monarch as you, and was
carried off from my father's island by this black man whom you see
before you. One grace he has given me, that for the space of a year I
may wander where I will, seeking a knight to be my champion. But,
despite their mighty names, not one has ever managed to pierce his
armour.'

And again she looked on the knights, but not a man stirred from his
place.

Then the chevalier rose to his feet and spoke out boldly.

'Make _me_ a knight, O sultan, and _I_ will fight this man who is feared
by all the world! Oh, I know what you would say, that I am yet too young
to bear the weight which has sometimes proved too heavy for many a
goodly knight. But, if my years are few, my deeds have proved that I am
no whit behind the doughtiest knight of your court. So grant me my boon
or this day I will leave you for ever.'

'Be it so,' answered the sultan at last, 'though I would rather have
given you the half of my kingdom or the hand of my daughter. But watch
this night beside your arms in the temple, and to-morrow you shall be
admitted into the order of chivalry.'

* * * * *

Now the sultan had a brother named Lyrgander, who was wise in every kind
of enchantment, and, though he was at this time in a far country, he
learned by means of his arts what strange things were happening at the
court of Babylon. Without losing a moment he went to the room where his
treasures were kept, and opened a large chest, from which he took two
suits of armour. One, which was all white, he meant for the chevalier,
and the other was for his friend Claberinde. Then he poured a few drops
of a yellow liquid into a glass and drank it, wishing, as he did so,
that he was in Babylon. Before the glass fell from his hand he found
himself there. Very early after the youth had ended his watch, Lyrgander
came to him and girded on him the suit of white armour. Led by
Lyrgander, and followed by all the knights and nobles of the court, the
chevalier entered the presence-chamber, where the sultan was sitting on
his throne awaiting him. Once again the youth knelt, and the sultan,
drawing the magic sword from its sheath, struck him three times lightly
on the head with it. Afterwards, the sultan put back the sword in the
scabbard and buckled it on the side of the kneeling youth.

Then, stooping down, he lowered the vizor, and said slowly and solemnly:

'I dub you knight, and arm you knight. May the high gods have you in
their care!'

'Amen!' said the chevalier, and he rose from his knees and went out to
the place where the lists had been prepared. And the court sat round to
watch the fight, while in the midst of them all, her eyes fixed on her
champion, was the captive princess, who was resolved to kill herself
with her own hands rather than fall into the power of the black king.

The Knight of the Sun had chosen the best horse in the sultan's stables,
and was waiting in his place till the signal should be given.

At the other end, the black king bestrode a huge black horse, and the
moment he caught sight of his foe poured out a stream of abuse, which
only ceased when the sound of the trumpets drowned his voice.

'I have never been conquered by mortal man,' said he, 'and shall yon
wretched beardless boy, who should now be sitting with his mother's
maidens, the child who but an hour ago was dubbed a knight by special
grace of the sultan, have strength to do what the hardiest knights have
failed in doing? By the eyes of my fathers! he will make fine food for
the vultures before the sun sets.'

And the young knight heard, and the blood flew to his cheeks under his
vizor, and his fingers closed more tightly on his sword.

With the first blast of the trumpets he spurred his horse, and his
onslaught was so fierce that the giant reeled in his saddle.

'They have tricked me,' he said to himself, as he righted himself again.
'That blow was never given by the boy I saw; they have put someone else
in his place. The battle will be harder than I thought, but the end is
sure'; and he reined his horse back for a second rush.

* * * * *

The hours passed by, and the sun grew high in the heavens, but the
flashing of swords never ceased, and the watchers of the fight could
hardly breathe. Once the chevalier was thrown right on to his horse's
neck, and was forced to cling to it lest he should fall to the ground.
Once again--and here a murmur of terror could be heard in the crowd--a
blow on his head rendered him sick and dizzy, and the charger carried
him three times round the lists while he sat grasping the bridle,
unconscious where he was and what he was doing. But after all, the swift
rush through the air brought back his senses, and, by the time the black
king was expecting that one more thrust would gain him the day, the
knight spurred his horse quickly to one side, and, taking his adversary
unawares, swept him dead from his saddle.

Then at last the silence was broken, and a roar of triumph and relief
burst from the crowd.

Slowly the young man turned and rode along the lists, pausing before the
lady Radimere as she sat by the sultan.

'You are free, princess,' he said, as he lifted his vizor; and with
those words he disappeared in the crowd, before anyone had time to stop
him.

It was whispered, perhaps truly, that the princess Radimere would fain
have made him her husband, and have given him lordship over her island;
but all we know for certain is that she returned there alone, and soon
after married the son of a neighbouring king.

[_L'Histoire Admirable du Chevalier du Soleil._ Traduite de l'Espagnol
par Louis Douet.]




HOW THE KNIGHT OF THE SUN RESCUED HIS FATHER


When once the youth had been made a knight by the sultan of Babylon, and
had slain the black king, he set off by himself in quest of other
adventures, desiring greatly to see the world. For the next few years
the young man wandered from court to court, fighting giants and
delivering enchanted damsels, till at last his feet led him to a kingdom
where Rosiclair his brother happened to be.

Now Rosiclair was scarcely a whit behind the Knight of the Sun in manly
deeds, and not long before had done such good service to the king of
England that Olive, the king's daughter, had, at her father's bidding,
clasped a collar of gold around his neck, and held out to him a crown
studded with jewels. Rosiclair bent gladly to receive the collar, and
then taking the crown from the hands of the princess he placed it on her
head.

'Lady, I am evermore your knight,' said he.

This tale and many others had come to the ears of the Knight of the Sun,
and he longed to see his brother again, and to break a lance with him in
good fellowship, but some time had yet to pass before they met, and then
it fell out in this wise. After the combat in the lists in London, where
Rosiclair had cut off the arms of the giant Candramarte, the giant's
daughter had brought him by her wiles to the island in which lay her
father's castle.

[Illustration: THE GIANT'S DAUGHTER REPROACHES THE TWO BROTHERS]

No sooner had he stepped on shore than the damsel pushed off, crying as
she did so to her brothers and their knights to avenge the giant's
wounds. In a moment all the little island was alive with men, whirling
lances or swords or axes above their heads, and all pressing forward to
the spot where Rosiclair awaited them.



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