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The Seven Champions of Christendom by  F. J. Harvey Darton
Table of Contents


 

 

ST. PATRICK OF IRELAND

THE SIX PRINCESSES OF THRACE

[179]

S
T. PATRICK'S road did not lead him into any such great perils as the other champions met with. He had adventures enough, and received the honour of knighthood, and wandered into many lands doing whatever deeds fell in his way; but there was no happening that need be chronicled till he came into Greece, and found himself riding through a great forest. He had heard of the tournament at the King's court at Athens—all the world of chivalry knew of it—and meant to adventure in arms at it. He was thinking, as he rode, of certain tricks of swordsmanship he had learnt from an old knight in Bohemia, when suddenly loud cries broke upon his ears. They were screams of distress, but with them were mingled strange growlings and hideous laughter. The sound came from a little way in front, and it seemed that there were many people there.

[180] St. Patrick dismounted, so as to approach the more silently, and tethered his horse. Then he drew his sword, and crept on tiptoe through the trees. He reached a little clearing in a few moments, and then he saw the cause of the uproar. A band of satyrs, horrible creatures like those which had guarded St. George long before in Kalyb's realm, were trying to carry off with them six beautiful maidens, who wailed and struggled, but were in danger of being overcome.

St. Patrick flew out from his sheltering trees, and laid about him with his sword. In a trice three of the creatures lay dead, and a fourth was wounded. The rest fled headlong with shrill squeals of dismay.

The champion turned to the six ladies. "Oh, Sir Knight," said one of them, "you came only just in time! Why did you not come before?"

"I came as soon as I heard your cries, fair lady," answered St. Patrick courteously. Had I known you were in peril, I would have hastened my horse. But I did not know till the sounds reached me that there was anyone in this forest. When I knew, I did all that was in my power, as a Christian knight should. You are safe now; but by [181] your leave I will escort you on your way, lest other dangers come upon you."

"You are a Christian knight, you say?" said one of the Princesses. They had been whispering together as St. Patrick spoke. But a Christian knight, if he be like one we know, would have found out our danger without waiting to hear our cries."

"My name is Patrick of Ireland, and I defend the Christian faith. Forgive me, fair ladies, if I think you are not just to me."

"Was not that one of them?" said a Princess to her sister. "Did not our Sir Andrew speak of Sir Patrick?"

"What is this strange talk of yours?" interrupted St. Patrick. I have done you a trifling service, and you blame me because I could not do it more speedily. You say a Christian knight would know of dangers before they come to pass, which I take leave to doubt. And then you speak of one who is my dear comrade and brother-in-arms. What does it mean? Pray, who are you?"

For the poor knight was bewildered by their blaming him and their mention of St. Andrew. Their heads, indeed, were almost turned by the picture they had formed in their own minds of the champion of Scotland

"Brave knight," said the eldest Princess, [182] "pardon our discourtesy and ingratitude. We are distraught by our adventure, and also our minds are full of that paragon of knighthood, Sir Andrew of Scotland, our deliverer, whom we are going to seek at the court of Greece. Tell us truly, are you that Christian knight, Sir Patrick of Ireland, who is the comrade of our Sir Andrew?"

"I did not know that he was your Sir Andrew, fair ladies. You did not tell me, and even a Christian knight cannot guess such unknown things as that. But I am indeed the brother-in-arms of Sir Andrew of Scotland. With him and five others I seek to bring the whole world into the Christian faith."

"Then we welcome you, Sir Patrick, and we thank you, moreover, as we should have thanked you already, for your valour; and we will gladly have your escort to the court of Athens, if you are going thither, as I think all Christendom is. Know that we are princesses, daughters of the King of Thrace." And she told him all the adventure of Blanderon's castle, and the doings of St. Anthony and the Princess Rosalind.

St. Patrick was overjoyed to think that he would meet two of his companions at Athens, and he gladly escorted them thither. But he [183] found others besides those two champions there, for St. James and the Princess Celestine, his wife, had come to the tournament, and St. Denis also, with his Princess Eglantine; so that five of the seven champions of Christendom had come together again. There also arrived in due time the King of Thrace, rejoicing to find his wandering daughters again. And still other friends were to come to that wondrous tournament.


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