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How geirald the coward was punished.
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'Well, then,' said his Majesty, 'this is what I want you to do: In the
north-east part of my kingdom there dwells a giant, who has an iron
staff twenty yards long, and he is so quick in using it, that even fifty
knights have no chance against him. The bravest and strongest young
men of my court have fallen under the blows of that staff; but, as you
overcame the twelve robbers so easily, I feel that I have reason to hope
that you may be able to conquer the giant. In three days from this you
will set out.'
'We will be ready, your Majesty,' answered Rosald; but Geirald remained
'How can we possibly fight against a giant that has killed fifty
knights?' cried Geirald, when they were outside the castle. 'The king
only wants to get rid of us! He won't think about us for the next three
days--that is one comfort--so we shall have plenty of time to cross the
borders of the kingdom and be out of reach.'
'We mayn't be able to kill the giant, but we certainly can't run away
till we have tried,' answered Rosald. 'Besides, think how glorious it
will be if we DO manage to kill him! I know what sort of weapon I shall
use. Come with me now, and I will see about it.' And, taking his friend
by the arm, he led him into a shop where he bought a huge lump of solid
iron, so big that they could hardly lift it between them. However, they
just managed to carry it to a blacksmith's where Rosald directed that it
should be beaten into a thick club, with a sharp spike at one end. When
this was done to his liking he took it home under his arm.
Very early on the third morning the two young men started on their
journey, and on the fourth day they reached the giant's cave before he
was out of bed. Hearing the sound of footsteps, the giant got up and
went to the entrance to see who was coming, and Rosald, expecting
something of the sort, struck him such a blow on the forehead that he
fell to the ground. Then, before he could rise to his feet again, Rosald
drew out his sword and cut off his head.
'It was not so difficult after all, you see,' he said, turning to
Geirald. And placing the giant's head in a leathern wallet which was
slung over his back, they began their journey to the castle.
As they drew near the gates, Rosald took the head from the wallet and
handed it to Geirald, whom he followed into the king's presence.
'The giant will trouble you no more,' said Geirald, holding out the
head. And the king fell on his neck and kissed him, and cried joyfully
that he was the 'bravest knight in all the world, and that a feast
should be made for him and Rosald, and that the great deed should be
proclaimed throughout the kingdom.' And Geirald's heart swelled with
pride, and he almost forgot that it was Rosald and not he, who had slain
By-and-by a whisper went round that a beautiful lady who lived in the
castle would be present at the feast, with twenty-four lovely maidens,
her attendants. The lady was the queen of her own country, but as her
father and mother had died when she was a little girl, she had been left
in the care of this king who was her uncle.
She was now old enough to govern her own kingdom, but her subjects did
not like being ruled by a woman, and said that she must find a husband
to help her in managing her affairs. Prince after prince had offered
himself, but the young queen would have nothing to say to any of them,
and at last told her ministers that if she was to have a husband at all
she must choose him for herself, as she would certainly not marry any of
those whom they had selected for her. The ministers replied that in that
case she had better manage her kingdom alone, and the queen, who knew
nothing about business, got things into such a confusion that at last
she threw them up altogether, and went off to her uncle.
Now when she heard how the two young men had slain the giant, her heart
was filled with admiration of their courage, and she declared that if a
feast was held she would certainly be present at it.
And so she was; and when the feast was over she asked the king, her
guardian, if he would allow the two heroes who had killed the robbers
and slain the giant to fight a tourney the next day with one of her
pages. The king gladly gave his consent, and ordered the lists to be
made ready, never doubting that two great champions would be eager for
such a chance of adding to their fame. Little did he guess that Geirald
had done all he could to persuade Rosald to steal secretly out of the
castle during the night, 'for,' said he, 'I don't believe they are pages
at all, but well-proved knights, and how can we, so young and untried,
stand up against them?'
'The honour will be all the higher if we gain the day,' answered Rosald;
but Geirald would listen to nothing, and only declared that he did not
care about honour, and would rather be alive than have every honour in
the world heaped upon him. Go he would, and as Rosald had sworn to give
him his company, he must come with him.
Rosald was much grieved when he heard these words, but he knew that it
was useless attempting to persuade Geirald, and turned his thoughts to
forming some plan to prevent this disgraceful flight. Suddenly his
face brightened. 'Let us change clothes,' he said, 'and I will do the
fighting, while you shall get the glory. Nobody will ever know.' And to
this Geirald readily consented.