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Good Stories for Great Holidays by  Frances Jenkins Olcott


 

 

THE PHANTOM KNIGHT OF THE VANDAL CAMP

FROM GESTA ROMANORUM (ADAPTED)

THERE was once in Great Britain, a knight named Albert, strong in arms and adorned with every virtue. One day as he was seeking for adventure, [263] he chanced to wander into a castle where he was hospitably entertained.

At night, after supper, as was usual in great families during the winter, the household gathered about the hearth and occupied the time in relating divers tales.

At last they told how in the near-by plain of Wandlesbury there was a haunted mound. There in old days the Vandals, who laid waste the land and slaughtered Christians, had pitched their camp and built about it a great rampart. And it was further related that in the hush of the night, if any one crossed the plain, ascended the mound, and called out in a loud voice, "Let my adversary appear!" there immediately started up from the ruined ramparts a huge, ghostly figure, armed and mounted for battle. This phantom then attacked the knight who had cried out and speedily overcame him.

Now, when Albert heard this marvelous tale, he greatly doubted its truth, and was determined to put the matter to a test. As the moon was shining brightly, and the night was quiet, he armed, mounted, and immediately hastened to the plain of Wandlesbury, accompanied by a squire of noble blood.

He ascended the mound, dismissed his attendant, and shouted:—

"Let my adversary appear!"

[264] Instantly there sprang from the ruins a huge, ghostly knight completely armed and mounted on an enormous steed.

This phantom rushed upon Albert, who spurred his horse, extended his shield, and drove at his antagonist with his lance. Both knights were shaken by the encounter. Albert, however, so resolutely and with so strong an arm pressed his adversary that the latter was thrown violently to the ground. Seeing this Albert hastily seized the steed of the fallen knight, and started to leave the mound.

But the phantom, rising to his feet, and seeing his horse led away, flung his lance and cruelly wounded Albert in the thigh. This done he vanished as suddenly as he had appeared.

Our knight, overjoyed at his victory, returned in triumph to the castle, where the household crowded around him and praised his bravery. But when he put off his armor he found the cuish from his right thigh filled with clots of blood from an angry wound in his side. The family, alarmed, hastened to apply healing herbs and bandages.

The captured horse was then brought forward. He was prodigiously large, and black as jet. His eyes were fierce and flashing, his neck proudly arched, and he wore a glittering war-saddle upon his back.

[265] As the first streaks of dawn began to appear, the animal reared wildly, snorted as if with pain and anger, and struck the ground so furiously with his hoofs that the sparks flew. The black cock of the castle crew and the horse, uttering a terrible cry, instantly disappeared.

And every year, on the selfsame night, at the selfsame hour, the wounds of the knight Albert broke out afresh, and tormented him with agony. Thus till his dying day he bore in his body a yearly reminder of his encounter with the Phantom Knight of the Vandal Camp.


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