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How geirald the coward was punished.
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Whether Geirald was right or not in thinking that the so-called page was
really a well-proved knight, it is certain that Rosald's task was a very
hard one. Three times they came together with a crash which made their
horses reel; once Rosald knocked the helmet off his foe, and received in
return such a blow that he staggered in his saddle. Shouts went up
from the lookers-on, as first one and then the other seemed gaining
the victory; but at length Rosald planted his spear in the armour
which covered his adversary's breast and bore him steadily backward.
'Unhorsed! unhorsed!' cried the people; and Rosald then himself
dismounted and helped his adversary to rise.
In the confusion that followed it was easy for Rosald to slip away and
return Geirald his proper clothes. And in these, torn and dusty with the
fight, Geirald answered the king's summons to come before him.
'You have done what I expected you to do,' said he, 'and now, choose
'Grant me, sire, the hand of the queen, your niece,' replied the
young man, bowing low, 'and I will defend her kingdom against all her
'She could choose no better husband,' said the king, 'and if she
consents I do.' And he turned towards the queen, who had not been
present during the fight, but had just slipped into a seat by his right
hand. Now the queen's eyes were very sharp, and it seemed to her that
the man who stood before her, tall and handsome though he might be, was
different in many slight ways, and in one in particular, from the man
who had fought the tourney. How there could be any trickery she could
not understand, and why the real victor should be willing to give up his
prize to another was still stranger; but something in her heart warned
her to be careful. She answered: 'You may be satisfied, uncle, but I am
not. One more proof I must have; let the two young men now fight against
each other. The man I marry must be the man who killed the robbers and
the giant, and overcame my page.' Geirald's face grew pale as he heard
these words. He knew there was no escape from him now, though he did not
doubt for one moment that Rosald would keep his compact loyally to the
last. But how would it be possible that even Rosald should deceive the
watchful eyes of the king and his court, and still more those of the
young queen whom he felt uneasily had suspected him from the first?
The tourney was fought, and in spite of Geirald's fears Rosald managed
to hang back to make attacks which were never meant to succeed, and to
allow strokes which he could easily have parried to attain their end. At
length, after a great show of resistance, he fell heavily to the ground.
And as he fell he knew that it was not alone the glory that was his
rightfully which he gave up, but the hand of the queen that was more
But Geirald did not even wait to see if he was wounded; he went straight
to the wall where the royal banner waved and claimed the reward which
was now his.
The crowd of watchers turned towards the queen, expecting to see her
stoop and give some token to the victor. Instead, to the surprise
of everyone, she merely smiled gracefully, and said that before she
bestowed her hand one more test must be imposed, but this should be the
last. The final tourney should be fought; Geirald and Rosald should meet
singly two knights of the king's court, and he who could unhorse his foe
should be master of herself and of her kingdom. The combat was fixed to
take place at ten o'clock the following day.
All night long Geirald walked about his room, not daring to face
the fight that lay in front of him, and trying with all his might to
discover some means of escaping it. All night long he moved restlessly
from door to window; and when the trumpets sounded, and the combatants
rode into the field, he alone was missing. The king sent messengers
to see what had become of him, and he was found, trembling with fear,
hiding under his bed. After that there was no need of any further proof.
The combat was declared unnecessary, and the queen pronounced herself
quite satisfied, and ready to accept Rosald as her husband.
'You forgot one thing,' she said, when they were alone. 'I recognized
my father's ring which Hankur the Tall had stolen, on the finger of your
right hand, and I knew that it was you and not Geirald who had slain the
robber band. I was the page who fought you, and again I saw the ring on
your finger, though it was absent from his when he stood before me to
claim the prize. That was why I ordered the combat between you, though
your faith to your word prevented my plan being successful, and I had
to try another. The man who keeps his promise at all costs to himself is
the man I can trust, both for myself and for my people.'
So they were married, and returned to their own kingdom, which they
ruled well and happily. And many years after a poor beggar knocked at
the palace gates and asked for money, for the sake of days gone by--and
this was Geirald.