How The Ass Became A Man Again
Once upon a time there lived a young man who would do nothing from
morning till night but amuse himself. His parents were dead and had left
him plenty of money, but this was fast vanishing, and his friends shook
their heads sadly, for when the money was gone they did not see where
more was to come from. It was not that Apuleius (for that was the name
of the youth) was stupid. He might have been a good soldier, or a
scholar, or a worker in gold, if so it had pleased him, but from a child
he had refused to do anything useful, and roamed about the city all day
long in search of adventures. The only kind of learning to which he paid
any heed was magic, and when he was in the house he would spend hours
poring over great books of spells.
Fond though he was of sorcery, he was too lazy to leave the town and its
pleasures--the chariot-racing, the theatre, and the wrestling, and to
travel in search of the wizards who were renowned for their skill in the
art. However, the time came when, very unwillingly, he was forced to
take a journey into Thessaly, to see to the proper working of some
silver mines in which he had a share, and Thessaly, as everybody knows,
is the home of all magic. So when Apuleius arrived at the town of
Hypata, where dwelt the man Milo, overseer of his mines, he was prepared
to believe that all he saw was enchanted.
Now, if Thessaly is the country of magic, it is also the country of
robbers, and Apuleius soon noticed that everybody he met was in fear of
them. Indeed, they made this fear the excuse for all sorts of mean and
foolish ways. For instance, Milo, who loved money and could not bear to
spend a farthing, refused to have any seats in his house that could be
removed, and in consequence there was nothing to sit upon except two
marble chairs fixed to the wall. As there was only room in these for one
person, the wife of Milo had to retire to her own chamber when the young
'It was no use,' explained Milo, 'in laying out money on moveable seats,
with robbers about. They would be sure to hear of it and to break into
Unlike his guest, Milo was always occupied in adding to his wealth in
one form or another. Sometimes he sent down a train of mules to the sea,
and bought merchandise which the ships had carried from Babylon or
Egypt, to sell it again at a high price. Then he dealt in sheep and
cattle, and when he thought he might do so with safety made false
returns of the silver that was dug up from the mines, and kept the
difference for himself. But most often he lent large sums at high
interest to the young men of the neighbourhood, and so cunning was he
that, whoever else might be ruined, Milo managed to make large profits.
Apuleius knew very well that his steward was in his way as great a
robber as any in Thessaly, but, as usual, he found it too much trouble
to look into the matter. So he laughed and jested with the miser, and
next morning went out to the public baths and then took a stroll through
the city. It was full of statues of the famous men to whom Hypata had
given birth; but as Apuleius had made up his mind that nothing in
Thessaly _could_ be what it seemed, he supposed that they were living
people who had fallen under enchantment, and that the oxen whom he met
driven through the streets had once been men and women.
One evening he was returning as usual from a walk when he saw from afar
three figures before Milo's house, who he at once guessed were trying to
force an entrance. 'Here is an adventure at last,' thought he, and,
keeping in the shadow, he stole softly up behind them, and drawing his
short sword he stabbed each one to the heart. Then, without waiting to
see what more would befall, he left them where they were and entered the
house by a door at the back.
He said nothing of what had happened to Milo his host, but the next day,
before he had left his bed, a summons was brought him by one of the
slaves to appear before the court at noon on a charge of murder. As has
been seen, Apuleius was a brave man and did not fear to face three times
his number, but his heart quailed at the thought of a public trial.
Still, he was wise enough to know that there was no help for it, and at
the hour appointed he was in his place.
The first witnesses against him were two women with black veils covering
them from head to foot. At the sound of the herald's trumpet, one of the
two stepped forward and accused him of compassing the death of her
husband. When she had ended her plaint the herald blew another blast,
and another veiled woman came forward and charged him with her son's
murder. Then the herald inquired if there was not yet a third victim,
but was answered that his wound was slight, and that he was able to roam
through the city.
After the witnesses had been called, the judge pronounced sentence.
Apuleius the murderer was condemned to death, but he must first of all
be tortured, so that he might reveal the names of the men who had
abetted him. By order of the court, horrible instruments were brought
forward which chilled the blood of Apuleius in his veins. But to his
surprise, when he looked round to see if none would be his friend, he
noticed that every one, from the judge to the herald, was shaking with
laughter. His amazement was increased when with a trembling voice one of
the women demanded that the bodies should be produced, so that the judge
might be induced to feel more pity and to order more tortures. The
judge assented to this, and two bodies were carried into court shrouded
in wrappings, and the order was given that Apuleius himself should
remove the wrappings.
The face of the young man grew white as he heard the words of the judge,
for even a hardened criminal cares but little to touch the corpse of a
man whom he has murdered. But he dared not disobey, and walked slowly to
the place where the dead bodies lay. He shrank for a moment as he took
the cloth in his hand, but his guards were behind him, and calling up
all his courage he withdrew it. A shout of laughter pealed out behind
him, and to his amazement he saw that his victims of the previous night
had been three huge leather bottles and not men at all!
As soon as Apuleius found out the trick that had been played on him he
was no less amused than the rest, but in the midst of his mirth a sudden
thought struck him.
'How was it you managed to make them alive?' asked he, 'for alive they
were, and battering themselves against the door of the house.'
'Oh, that is simple enough when one has a sorceress for a mistress,'
answered a damsel, who was standing by. 'She burned the hairs of some
goats and wove spells over them, so that the animals to whom the hairs
and skins had once belonged became endowed with life and tried to enter
their former dwelling.'
'They may well say that Thessaly is the home of wonders,' cried the
young man. 'But do you think that your mistress would let me see her at
work? I would pay her well--and you also,' he added.
'It might be managed perhaps, without her knowledge,' answered Fotis,
for such was the girl's name; 'but you must hold yourself in readiness
after nightfall, for I cannot tell what evening she may choose to cast
off her own shape.'
Apuleius promised readily that he would not stir out after sunset, and
the damsel went her way.
That very evening, Hesperus had scarcely risen from his bed when Fotis
knocked at the door of the house.
'Come hither, and quickly,' she said; and without stopping to question
her Apuleius hastened by her side to the dwelling of the witch Pamphile.
Entering softly, they crept along a dark passage, where they could peep
through a crack in the wall and see Pamphile at work. She was in the act
of rubbing her body with essences from a long row of bottles which
stood in a cupboard in the wall, chanting to herself spells as she did
so. Slowly, feathers began to sprout from her head to her feet. Her arms
vanished, her nails became claws, her eyes grew round and her nose
hooked, and a little brown owl flew out of the window.
'Well, are you satisfied?' asked Fotis; but Apuleius shook his head.
'Not yet,' he answered. 'I want to know how she transforms herself into
a woman again.'
'That is quite easy, you may be sure,' replied Fotis. 'My mistress never
runs any risks. A cup of water from a spring, with some laurel leaves
and anise floating in it, is all that she needs. I have seen her do it a
'Turn me into a nightingale, then, and I will give you five hundred
sesterces,' cried Apuleius eagerly; and Fotis, tempted by the thought of
so much money, agreed to do what he wished.
But either Fotis was not so skilful as she thought herself, or in her
hurry she neglected to observe that the bird bottles were all on one
shelf, and the beast bottles on another, for when she had rubbed the
ointment over the young man's chest something fearful happened. Instead
of his arms disappearing, they stretched downwards; his back became
bent, his face long and narrow, while a browny-grey fur covered his
body. Apuleius had been changed, not into a nightingale, but into an
* * * * *
A loud scream broke from Fotis when she saw what she had done, and
Apuleius, glancing at a polished mirror from Corinth which hung on the
walls, beheld with horror the fate that had overtaken him.
'Quick, quick! fetch the water, and I will seek for the laurels and
anise,' he cried. 'I do not want to be an ass at all; my arms and back
are aching already, and if I am not swiftly restored to my own shape I
shall not be able to overthrow the champion in the wrestling match
So Fotis ran out to draw the water from the spring, while Apuleius
opened some boxes with his teeth, and soon found the anise and laurels.
But alas! Fotis had deceived herself. The charm which was meant for a
bird would not work with a beast, and, what was worse, when Apuleius
tried to speak to her and beg her to try something else, he found he
could only bray!
In despair the girl took down the book of spells, and began to turn over
the pages; while the ass, who was still a man in all but his outward
form, glanced eagerly down them also. At length he gave a loud bray of
satisfaction, and rubbed his nose on a part of the long scroll.
'Of course, I remember now,' cried Fotis with delight. 'What a comfort
that nothing more is needed to restore you to your proper shape than a
handful of rose leaves!
The mind of Apuleius was now quite easy, but his spirits fell again when
Fotis reminded him that he could no longer expect to be received by his
friends, but must lie in the stable of Milo, with his own horse, and be
tended, if he was tended at all, by his own servant.
'However, it will not be for long,' she added consolingly. 'In the
corner of the stable is a little shrine to the goddess of horses, and
every day fresh roses are placed before it. Before the sun sets
to-morrow you will be yourself again.'
Slowly and shyly Apuleius slunk along lonely paths till he came to the
stable of Milo. The door was open, but, as he entered, his horse, who
was fastened with a sliding cord, kicked wildly at him, and caught him
right on the shoulder. But before the horse could deal another blow
Apuleius had sprung hastily on one side, and had hidden himself in a
dark corner, where he slept soundly.
The moon was shining brightly when he awoke, and looking round he saw,
as Fotis had told him, the shrine of Hippone, with a branch of
sweet-smelling pink roses lying before it. It was rather high up, he
thought, but, when he reared himself on his hind legs, he would surely
be tall enough to reach it. So up he got, and trod softly over the
straw, till he drew near the shrine, when with a violent effort he threw
up his forelegs into the air. Yes! it was all right, his nose was quite
near the roses; but just as he opened his mouth his balance gave way,
and his front feet came heavily on the floor.
The noise brought the man, who was sleeping in another part of the
'Oh, I see what you are at, you ugly beast,' cried he; 'would you eat
roses that I put there for the goddess? I don't know who may be your
master, or how you got here, but I will take care that you do no more
mischief.' So saying, he struck the ass several times with his fists,
and then, putting a rope round his neck, tied him up in another part of
Now it happened that an hour or two later some of the most desperate
robbers in all Thessaly broke into the house of Milo, and, unheard by
anyone, took all the bags of money that the miser had concealed under
some loose stones in his cellar. It was clear that they could not carry
away such heavy plunder without risk of the crime being discovered, but
they managed to get it quietly as far as the stable, where they gave the
horse some apples to put it in a good temper, while they thrust a turnip
into the mouth of Apuleius, who did not like it at all. Then they led
out both the animals, and placed the sacks of money on their backs,
after which they all set out for the robbers' cave in the side of the
mountain. As this, however, was some distance off, it took them many
hours to reach it, and on the way they passed through a large deserted
garden, where rose bushes of all sorts grew like weeds. The pulse of
Apuleius bounded at the sight, and he had already stretched out his nose
towards them, when he suddenly remembered that if he should turn into a
man in his present company he would probably be murdered by the robbers.
With a great effort, he left the roses alone, and tramped steadily on
It were long indeed to tell the adventures of Apuleius and the number of
masters whom he served. After some time he was captured by a soldier,
and by him sold to two brothers, one a cook and the other a maker of
pastry, who were attached to the service of a rich man who lived in the
country. This man did not allow any of his slaves to dwell in his house,
except those who attended on him personally, and these two brothers
lived in a tent on the other side of the garden, and the ass was given
to them to send to and fro with savoury dishes in his panniers.
The cook and his brother were both careful men, and always had a great
store of pastry and sweet things on their shelves, so that none might be
lacking if their lord should command them. When they had done their work
they placed water and food for their donkey in a little shed which
opened on to the tent, then, fastening the door so that no one could
enter, they went out to enjoy the evening air.
On their return, it struck them that the tent looked unusually bare, and
at length they perceived that this was because every morsel of pastry
and sweets on the shelves had disappeared, and nothing was left of them,
not so much as a crumb. There was no room for a thief to hide, so the
two brothers supposed that, impossible though it seemed, he must not
only have got _in_ but _out_ by the door, and, as their master might
send for a tray of cakes at any moment, there was no help for it but to
make a fresh supply. And so they did, and it took them more than half
the night to do it.
The next evening the same thing happened again; and the next, and the
next, and the next.
Then, by accident, the cook went into the shed where the ass lay, and
discovered a heap of corn and hay that reached nearly to the roof.
'Ah, you rascal!' he exclaimed, bursting out laughing as he spoke. 'So
it is you who have cost us our sleep! Well, well, I dare say I should
have done the same myself, for cakes and sweets are certainly nicer than
corn and hay.' And the donkey brayed in answer, and winked an eye at
him, and, more amused than before, the man went away to tell his
Of course it was not long before the story reached the ears of their
master, who instantly sent to buy the donkey, and bade one of his
servants, who had a taste for such things, teach him fresh tricks. This
the man was ready enough to do, for the fame of this wonderful creature
soon spread far and wide, and the citizens of the town thronged the
doors of his stable. And while the servant reaped much gold by making
the ass display his accomplishments, the master gained many friends
among the people, and was soon made chief ruler.
For five years Apuleius stayed in the house of Thyasus, and ate as many
sweet cakes as he chose; and if he wanted more than were given him he
wandered down to the tent of his old masters, and swept the shelves bare
as of yore. At the end of the five years Thyasus proclaimed that a great
feast would be held in his garden, after which plays would be acted, and
in one of them his donkey should appear.
Now, though Apuleius loved eating and drinking, he was not at all fond
of doing tricks in public, and as the day drew near he grew more and
more resolved that he would take no part in the entertainment. So one
warm moonlight night he stole out of his stable, and galloped as fast as
he could for ten miles, when he reached the sea. He was hot and tired
with his long run, and the sea looked cool and pleasant.
'It is years since I have had a bath,' thought he, 'or wetted anything
but my feet. I will take one now; it will make me feel like a man
again'; and into the water he went, and splashed about with joy, which
would much have surprised anyone who had seen him, for asses do not in
general care about washing.
When he came back to dry land once more, he shook himself all over, and
held his head first on one side and then on the other, so that the water
might run out of his long ears. After that he felt quite comfortable,
and lay down to sleep under a tree.
He was awakened some hours later by the sound of voices singing a hymn,
and, raising his head, he saw a vast crowd of people trooping down to
the shore to hold the festival of their goddess, and in their midst
walked the high priest crowned with a wreath of roses.
At this sight hope was born afresh in the heart of Apuleius. It was long
indeed since he had beheld any roses, for Thyasus fancied they made him
ill, and would not suffer anyone to grow them in the city. So he drew
near to the priest as he passed by, and gazed at him so wistfully that,
moved by some sudden impulse, the pontiff lifted the wreath from his
head, and held it out to him, while the people drew on one side, feeling
that something was happening which they did not understand.
Scarcely had Apuleius swallowed one of the roses, when the ass's skin
fell from him, his back straightened itself, and his face once more
became fair and rosy. Then he turned and joined in the hymn, and there
was not a man among them all with a sweeter voice or more thankful
spirit than that of Apuleius.
[Apuleius, _The Golden Ass_.]
_GUY OF WARWICK_
Everyone knows about the famous knight Sir Guy, the slayer of the great
Dun Cow which had laid waste the whole county of Warwick. But besides
slaying the cow, he did many other noble deeds of which you may like to
hear, so we had better begin at the beginning and learn who Sir Guy
The father of Guy, Segard the Wise, was one of the most trusty
councillors of the powerful earl of Warwick and Oxford, who was feared
as well as loved by all, as a man who would suffer no wrong through the
lands which he governed.
Now the earl had long noted the beauty and strength of Segard's young
son, and had enrolled him amongst his pages and taught him all manner of
knightly exercises. He even was versed in the art of chess-playing, and
thus whiled away many a wet and gloomy day for his master, and for his
daughter the fair Felice, learned in astronomy, geometry, and music, and
in all else that professors from the schools of Toulouse and Spain could
teach a maiden.
It happened one Pentecost that the earl of Warwick ordered a great
feast, followed by a tourney, to be held in the open space near the
castle, and tents to be set up for dancing and players on the lute and
harp. At these tourneys it was the custom of every knight to choose out
his lady and to wear her token or colours on his helmet, as Sir Lancelot
did the red sleeve of Elaine, and oftentimes, when Pentecost and the
sports were over, marriages would be blessed by the priest.
At this feast of Pentecost in particular, Guy stood behind the chair of
his master the earl, as was his duty, when he was bidden by the
chamberlain of the castle to hasten to the chamber of the Lady Felice,
and to attend upon her and her maidens, as it was not thought seemly for
them to be present at the great feast.
Although, as we have said, the page had more than once been called upon
to amuse the young damsel with a bout of chess, she had ever been
strictly guarded by her nurse and never suffered to exchange a word with
the youth whose place was so much below hers. On this evening, however,
with none to hinder her, she chattered and laughed and teased her
ladies, till Guy's heart was stolen from him and he quite forgot the
duties he was sent to fulfil, and when he left her presence he sought
his room, staggering like one blind.
Young though he was, Guy knew--none better--how wide was the gulf that
lay between him and the daughter of his liege lord. If the earl, in
spite of all his favour, was but to know of the passion that had so
suddenly been born in him, instant death would be the portion of the
over-bold youth. But, well though he knew this, Guy cared little, and
vowed to himself that, come what might, as soon as the feast was over he
would open his heart to Felice, and abide by her answer.
It was not easy to get a chance of speaking to her, so surrounded was
she by all the princes and noble knights who had taken part in the
tourney; but, as everything comes to him who waits, he one day found her
sitting alone in the garden, and at once poured forth all his love and
'Are you mad to think that _I_ should marry _you_?' was all she said,
and Guy turned away so full of unhappiness that he grew sick with
misery. The news of his illness much distressed his master, who bade all
his most learned leeches go and heal his best-beloved page, but, as he
answered nothing to all they asked him, they returned and told the earl
that the young man had not many days to live.
But, as some of our neighbours say, 'What shall be, shall be'; and that
very night Felice dreamed that an angel appeared to her and chided her
for her pride, and bade her return a soft answer if Guy again told her
of his love. She arose from her bed full of doubts and fears, and
hurried to a rose bower in her own garden, where, dismissing her ladies,
she tried to set her mind in order and find out what she really felt.
Felice was not very successful, because when she began to look into her
heart there was one little door which always kept bursting open, though
as often as it did so her pride shut it and bolted it again. She became
so tired of telling herself that it was impossible that the daughter of
a powerful noble could ever wed the simple son of a knight, that she was
about to call to her maidens to cheer her with their songs and stories,
when a hand pushed aside the roses and Guy himself stood before her.
'Will my love ever be in vain?' he asked, gasping painfully as he spoke
and steadying himself by the walls of the arbour. 'It is for the last
time that I ask it; but if you deny me, my life is done, and I die, I
die!' And indeed it seemed as if he were already dead, for he sank in a
swoon at Felice's feet.
Her screams brought one of her maidens running to her. 'Grammercy, my
lady, and is your heart of stone,' cried the damsel, 'that it can see
the fairest knight in the world lying here, and not break into pieces at
his misery? Would that it were _I_ whom he loved! I would never say him
'Would it _were_ you, and then I should no more be plagued of him,'
answered Felice; but her voice was softer than her words, and she even
helped her maiden to bring the young man out of his swoon. 'He is
restored now,' she said to her damsel, who curtseyed and withdrew from
the bower; then, turning to Guy, she added, half smiling:
'It seems that in my father's court no man knows the proverb, "Faint
heart never won fair lady." Yet it is old, and a good one. _My_ hand
will only be the prize of a knight who has proved himself better than
other men. If _you_ can be that knight--well, you will have your chance
with the rest.'
The soul of the youth leaped into his eyes as he listened; for he knew
that this was much for the proud Felice to say. But he only bowed low,
and with new life in his blood he left the castle. In a few days he was
as strong as ever he had been, and straightway sought the earl, whom he
implored to bestow on him the honour of knighthood.
'Right gladly will I do so, my page,' answered Rohand, and gave orders
that he would hold a solemn ceremony, when Guy and twenty other youths
should be dubbed knights.
Like many young men, Sir Guy thought that his first step on the road was
also to be his last, and instantly sought the presence of Felice, whom
he expected to find in the same softened mood as he had left her. But
the lady only laughed his eagerness to scorn.
'Think you that the name of knight is so rare that its ownership places
you high above all men?' asked she. 'In what, I pray you tell me, does
it put you above the rest who were dubbed by my father with you to-day?
No troth of mine shall you have until your name is known from Warwick to
And Sir Guy confessed his folly and presumption, and went heavily unto
the house of Segard.
'O my father,' he began before he had let the tapestry fall behind him,
'I would fain cross the seas and seek adventures.'
'Truly this is somewhat sudden, my fair young knight,' answered Sir
Segard, with a mocking gleam in his eyes, for Guy's father had not been
as blind as fathers are wont to be.
'Other knights do so,' replied Guy, drawing figures on the floor with
the point of his sword. 'And I would not that I were behind them.'
'You shall go, my son,' said Segard, 'and I will give you as companions
the well-tried knights Sir Thorold and Sir Leroy, and Heraud, whom I
have proved in many wars. Besides these, you shall have men-at-arms with
you, and such money as you may need.'
Before many days had passed, Sir Guy and his friends had sailed across
the high seas, and had made their way to the noble city of Rouen. Amidst
all that was strange and new to him, there was yet much that was
familiar to his eyes, for there were certain signs which betokened a
tournament, and on questioning the host of the inn he learned all that
he desired. Next morning a tourney was to be held by order of the
emperor and the prize should be a white horse, a milk-white falcon, and
two white greyhounds, and, if he wished it, the hand of the princess
Whiterose, the emperor's daughter.
Though he had not been made a knight a month ago, Sir Guy knew full well
the customs of chivalry, and presented a palfrey, scarcely less
beautiful than the one promised as a prize, to the teller of these happy
tidings. Then he put on his armour and rode forth to the place of the
In the field over against Rouen was gathered the flower of Western
chivalry. The emperor had sent his son, and in his train came many
valiant knights, among them Otho duke of Pavia, hereafter to be Sir
Guy's most bitter enemy. The fights were long and sore, but one by one
the keenest swordsmen rolled in the dust, and the prize was at length
adjudged to the youngest knight there present.
Full courteously he told all who might wish to hear that he might not
wed Whiterose, the princess, for his faith was already plighted to
another across the sea. And to Felice and to her father he sent the
falcon and horse and greyhounds as tokens of his valour. After that he
and his friends journeyed to many lands, fighting tournaments when there
were any tournaments to fight, till the whole of Christendom rang with
the name of Sir Guy.
'Surely I have proved my worth,' he said, when a whole year had gone by.
'Let us go home'; and home they went.
Joyful was the welcome bestowed on him by every one he met--joyful, that
is, from all but Felice.
'Yes, you have done well,' she said, when he knelt before her, offering
some of the prizes he had won. 'It is truly spoken among men that there
are not twelve knights living as valorous as you. But that is not good
enough for me. It matters not that you are "one of the best"; my husband
must be "the best of all."'
In vain Sir Guy pleaded that with her for his wife his strength would be
doubled, and his renown also.
'If you cannot conquer all men for my sake _now_, you will never do it
after,' she answered; and Sir Guy, seeing his words were useless, went
out to do her bidding.
The wrath of his father and mother was great when their son came to tell
them he was going to seek a fresh quest, but, though his heart was sore
rent with their tears, he only embraced them tenderly, and departed
quickly, lest he should make some promise he might not keep.
For long he found no knight whose skill and strength were equal to his
own, and he was beginning to hope that the day was drawing nigh that
should see him stand without a peer, when, in a tourney near the city of
Benevento, his foe thrust his lance deep into his shoulder, and for many
days Sir Guy lay almost senseless on his bed.
Now Otho duke of Pavia had neither forgotten nor forgiven his overthrow
by the young knight at Rouen, more than a year agone, and he resolved to
have his revenge while his enemy was still weak from loss of blood. So
he hid some men behind some bushes, which Sir Guy would needs pass while
riding along the road to the north, 'and _then_,' thought he, 'I will
cast him into prison, there to await my pleasure.'
But though his plans were well laid, the fight went against him, and in
the end Sir Guy, nearly fainting with weariness and loss of blood, was
again the victor, and Otho's best knight, Sir Guichard of Lombardy, owed
his life to the swiftness of his horse. His victory, however, was to Sir
Guy as sad as many defeats, for his constant companions lay dead before
'Ah, Felice, this is your doing,' said he.
* * * * *
Long were it to tell of the deeds done by the noble knight Sir Guy; of
the tourneys that he won, of the cities that he conquered--even at the
game of chess he managed to be victorious! Of course many men were
sorely jealous of him and his renown, and wove plots for his ruin, but
somehow or other he contrived to escape them all.
By this time Sir Guy had grown to love wandering and fighting so well
that he had well-nigh forgotten who had sent him from his native land,
and why he was not dwelling in his father's castle. Indeed, so wholly
had the image of Felice faded from his memory, that when Ernis emperor
of Constantinople, under whose banner he was serving, offered him the
hand of his only daughter and half of his dominions, Sir Guy at once
accepted his gifts.
The sight of the wedding-ring brought him back to his allegiance. He no
longer loved Felice it is true, and he _did_ love a younger and gentler
maiden. But he must abide by the oath he had sworn, though it were to
his own undoing.
His grief at the loss of the princess Lorette sent Sir Guy to his bed
for many days, but as soon as the fever left him he felt that he could
stay at court no longer, and began to make plans to seek other
adventures in company with his friend Heraud and a lion which he had
saved from the claws of a dragon.
Since that day this lion had never quitted his side, except at his
master's bidding, and he always slept on the floor by his master's bed.
The emperor and all his courtiers were fond of the great beast, who
moved among them as freely as a kitten, but Sir Morgadour, the chief
steward of the emperor of the West, who was visiting the court, had ever
been Sir Guy's mortal enemy, and one evening, thinking himself unseen,
gave the lion a mortal wound as he was sleeping quietly in the garden.
He had just strength enough to drag himself to Sir Guy's feet, where he
died, and a damsel who had marked the cruel deed proclaimed loudly that
it was done by Sir Morgadour. In an instant Sir Guy's dagger was buried
in his breast; but when he grew calmer he remembered that his presence
at court might bring injury upon Ernis, as the emperor of the West would
certainly seize the occasion to avenge the death of his steward. So the
next day he left the city, and slowly turned his face towards England.
It was some months before he arrived there, so many adventures did he
meet with on the way. But directly he landed he hastened to York to
throw himself at the feet of Athelstan the king.
'Ah, welcome indeed, fair son,' cried he; 'the fame of your prowess has
reached us these many years past, and we have just received the news
that a fearful and horrible dragon, with wings on his feet and claws on
his ears, is laying waste our county of Northumberland. He is as black
as any coal, and as rough as any foal, and every man who has gone out to
meet him has been done to death ere he has struck a blow. Go, therefore,
with all speed and deliver us from this monster, for of dragons you
have slain many, and perchance this one is no more evil than the rest.'
The adventure was one after Sir Guy's own heart, and that very day he
rode northwards; but even _his_ well-proved courage failed somewhat at
the sight of the dragon, ten times uglier and more loathsome than any he
had ever beheld. The creature roared hideously as he drew near, and
stood up at his full length, till he seemed almost to stretch as far as
Warwick. 'Verily,' thought Sir Guy to himself, 'the fight of old with
the great Dun Cow was as the slaying of a puppy in comparison with
The dragon was covered thickly with scales all over his body, his
stomach as well as his back. They were polished and shiny and hard as
iron, and so closely planted that no sword could get in between them.
'No use to strike there,' muttered Sir Guy, 'a thrust down his throat is
my only chance.'
But if Sir Guy knew this, the dragon knew it much better, and, though
the knight managed to jump aside and avoid the swoops of his long neck
and the sudden darting of his sharp claws, he had not even tried to
strike a blow himself for fear lest his sword should break in two
against that shining horny surface. This was not the kind of warfare to
which the dragon was accustomed, and he began to grow angry, as anyone
might have seen by the lashings of his tail and the jets of smoke and
flame that poured out of his nostrils. Sir Guy felt that his chance
would soon come, and waited patiently, keeping his eye for ever fixed on
the dragon's mouth.
At length the monster gave a sudden spring forward, and if Sir Guy had
not been watching he could scarcely have leaped out of the way. The
failure to reach his prey enraged the dragon more than ever, and,
opening his mouth, he gave a roar which the king heard on his throne at
York. He opened his mouth; but he never shut it again, for Guy's sword
was buried in it. The death struggles were short; and then Sir Guy cut
off the head and bore it to the king.
After this, his first thought was for his parents, who, he found, had
died many years agone, and having said a prayer over their graves, and
put his affairs in order, he hurried off to Warwick to see Felice, and
tell her that he had fulfilled the commands she had given him long years
ago, when he was but a boy. He also told her of the ladies of high
degree whose hands he had won in fair fight--won--and rejected. 'All of
them I forsook for thee, Felice,' he said.
He had kept his word; but he had left his heart in Constantinople.
Perhaps Felice did not know this, or perhaps she did not set much store
by hearts, and cared more for the renown that Sir Guy had won throughout
Christendom. Anyhow, she received him gladly and graciously, and so did
her father, and the marriage was celebrated with great pomp, and for a
space Sir Guy remained at home, and after a time a son was born to him.
But at the day of his son's birth Sir Guy was far away. In the quiet and
idleness of the castle he began to think, and his conscience pricked him
sore, that all the years of his life he had done ill to many a man
And slain many a man with his hand,
Burnt and destroyed many a land.
And all was for woman's love,
And not for God's sake above.
'The end should be different from the beginning,' he said, and forthwith
he put on the dress of a pilgrim, and took ship for the Holy Land,
carrying with him a gold ring, given him by Felice.
Once more he came back, an old man now, summoned by Athelstan, to
deliver the city of Winchester out of the hands of the Danes, who were
besieging it. Once more he returned to Warwick, and, unseen, watched
Felice training her son in all the duties of knighthood, and once more
he spoke with her, when, dying in his hermitage, he sent her the ring by
his page, and prayed her to come and give him burial.
Next: How Bradamante Conquered The Wizard
Previous: Ogier The Dane