Stories from the Ballads Told to the Children - Mary Macgregor

Hynde Horn

Hynde Horn was a little prince. It was because he was so courteous, so kind a little lad that Prince Horn was always called Hynde Horn. For hend or hynde in the days of long ago meant just all the beautiful things which these words, courteous, kind, mean in these days.

Hynde Horn lived a happy life in his home in the distant East. For it was in the bright glowing land of the sun that his father, King Allof, reigned.

The Queen Godylt loved her little son too well to spoil him. She wished him to learn to share his toys, to play his games with other boys.

Thus, much to the delight of little Prince Horn, two boys, almost as old as he was, came to live with him in the palace. Athulph and Fykenyld were their names.

They were merry playmates for the little prince, and, as the years rolled by, Athulph and Fykenyld thought there was no one to equal their prince Hynde Horn. They would serve him loyally when he was king and they were men.

All went well in the palace of this far-off eastern land until Hynde Horn was fifteen years of age. Then war came, without warning, into this country of blue sky and blazing sun.

Mury, King of the Turks, landed in the kingdom of King Allof, who was all unprepared for fight. And King Mury, with his fierce soldiers, pillaged the land, killed the good King Allof, seized his crown, and placed it on his own head.

Then poor Queen Godylt fled from the palace, taking with her Hynde Horn and his two playmates Prince Athulph and Prince Fykenyld.

I cannot tell you what became of the beautiful queen, but Mury, the cruel king, captured Hynde Horn and made him and his two playfellows prisoners.

What should he do with Prince Horn, who was heir to the kingdom he had seized?

Should he kill the lad, he wondered. Yet cruel as King Mury was, he could not do so dastardly a deed.

But Hynde Horn was tall and strong, and Hynde Horn was loved by the people. He must certainly be sent out of the country.

So King Mury planned, and King Mury plotted, and at length he thought of a way, by which he hoped to be for ever rid of the gallant prince and his two companions.

He ordered the prisoners to be brought down to the seashore, and there the lads were thrust into an open boat, and pushed out to sea. It seemed as though they must perish, for King Mury had given orders that no provisions were to be placed in the boat.

There was neither helm nor oar for the little craft. The lads could do nothing to guide her on her dangerous course. Now they would drift gently on the swell of the quiet sea, now they would whirl giddily on the crest of a storm-tossed wave. Faint and weary grew Hynde Horn and his two companions. It seemed to them that they would perish from hunger or be devoured by the storm.

Yet every day the little boat was drifted by soft breezes or driven by wild storm-clouds westward and always westward. At length one day a great wave came and lifted it high up on to the coast. The boys had reached Scotland, the country over which King Alymer ruled.

Now it chanced that King Alymer was passing along the sea-coast, and seeing the lads lying there, pale and bruised, he ordered that they should be carried to the palace, that they might be fed and that their wounds might be bathed.

So carefully were they tended in the palace of King Alymer that soon roses bloomed again on the cheeks of Hynde Horn and his two companions, strength crept back to their bruised bodies.

Ere many weeks had passed all in the palace loved Hynde Horn and knew that he was a prince worthy of his name.

When the prince was well, King Alymer listened to the story the lad had to tell, the story of his ruined home, his lost kingdom, his suffering at the hands of the cruel King Mury.

And King Alymer, for he was gentle at heart, shed a tear as he heard.

'Thou shalt stay at our court, Hynde Horn,' he said, 'and learn all that a prince should learn. Then, when thou art older, thou shalt go to war with Mury, the cruel king of the Turks. Thou shalt win back thine own kingdom and rule over it.'

Then the king called for Athelbras, his steward, and bade him care for Prince Horn and his two companions.

A suite of rooms was given to the prince in the palace, and here he and his playfellows were trained in all courtly ways. When his studies were over, Hynde Horn would go out to hawk and hunt. Often, too, he would wrestle and tilt with his companions, so that in days to come he would be able to take his place in battle and in tournament.

But one day King Alymer heard the young prince's voice as he sang. So pure, so sweet rang the voice that the king said to himself, 'Hynde Horn shall be trained by the best harpist in our land.'

Then happy days began for the young prince. Rather would he sing, as he touched softly the cords of the harp, than would he fight or tilt; rather would he sing and play, than go to hunt and hawk. Yet well had he loved these sports in former days.

Now, King Alymer had one daughter, the Princess Jean. Dearly did the king love his daughter, and ofttimes he stroked her hair and wished that she had a playfellow to cheer her in his absence. For when the king would journey from city to city to see that justice and right ruled throughout the land, his child was left alone.

But now that Hynde Horn and his companions had come, the king knew that the Princess Jean would no longer be dull while he was away.

She, too, in the early days after the prince came to the palace, would ride to hunt and hawk, Hynde Horn by her side. And later she would listen as he talked to her of his beautiful home under the eastern sky, of his dear lost mother, Godylt, and his father, King Allof, who was slain by the cruel Mury.

She would listen, her eyes dim with tears, for she knew how well he had loved his home in the far-off East.

But her eyes would flash as he told of the cruel King Mury, and of how one day he would go back to his kingdom and win it from the hand of the evil king.

Her eyes would flash and her heart would beat, yet when she was alone she would weep. For what would she do if Hynde Horn went away to the far East and she was left alone? To the Princess Jean it seemed that the palace would be empty were Prince Horn no longer dwelling there.

Well, the years rolled on and Hynde Horn was no longer a boy, Princess Jean no longer a girl. They both had changed in many ways, but in one way both were still as they had been when they were boy and girl together. They had loved each other then, they loved each other now. So well did they love one another that they went to King Alymer and told him that they wished to marry, and that without delay.

Now the king was well pleased that Hynde Horn should marry his beautiful daughter the Princess Jean, but he was not willing that the wedding should be at once.

'Thou must wait, my daughter,' said the king; 'thou must wait to wed Hynde Horn until he has journeyed to the far East and won back the kingdom Mury so unjustly wrested from him. Then, when he has shown himself as brave as he is courteous, then shall the wedding be without delay.'

Thus it was that a few days later Hynde Horn and the Princess Jean stood together to say farewell one to another. Hynde Horn was going away to win his spurs, to show himself worthy of the lady whom he loved.

Before he left her, he gave her a beautiful silver wand, and on the wand were perched seven living larks. They would warble to the Princess Jean when Hynde Horn was no longer near to sing to her, as had been his wont, in his soft sweet voice.

And the Princess Jean drew from her own finger a ring, and seven diamonds shone therein. She placed it on the finger of her dear Hynde Horn, and said, 'As long as the diamonds in this ring flash bright, thou wilt know I love thee as I do now. Should the gleam of the diamonds fade and grow dim, thou wilt know, not that my love grows less, for that may never be, but thou wilt know that evil hath befallen me.'

Then sadly they parted and Hynde Horn, the ring on his finger, hastened down to the shore. Swiftly he embarked in the ship that awaited him, and sailed away. On and on for many a long day he sailed, until he reached the kingdom which Mury the king had seized when he killed King Allof.

Here Hynde Horn warred against King Mury until he overcame him and won again the kingdom of the East for himself, the rightful heir. And the people over whom he ruled rejoiced, for Hynde Horn, though he no longer was prince but king, did not forget his kind and courteous ways.

For seven years King Horn ruled in this distant land, doing many a deed of daring meanwhile, and winning both gold and glory for himself.

Ofttimes during these long years he would glance at the diamond ring which the Princess Jean had given to him, and always the diamonds flashed back bright. Then one day, when his work was over and he knew he was free to go again to the princess, his heart wellnigh stopped for fear. He had looked downward at his ring, and lo! the diamonds were dull and dim. Their lustre had vanished.

The Princess Jean must be in trouble, or already evil had befallen her.

Hynde Horn hastened down to the seashore, and there he hired a ship to sail speedily to Scotland, where King Alymer ruled.

The ship sailed swiftly, yet the days seemed long to King Horn. Oft he would gaze at his ring, but only to find the diamonds growing always more dull, more dim. Hynde Horn longed as he had never longed before to be once more beside the Princess Jean that he might guard her from all harm.

Fair blew the wind, onward sailed the ship, and at length Hynde Horn saw land, and knew that he was drawing near to Scotland.

A little later he had reached the coast and had begun his journey towards the palace.

As he hastened on, King Horn met a beggar man.

'Old man,' cried Hynde Horn, 'I have come from far across the sea. Tell me what news there is in this country, for it is many a long day since I have been in Scotland.'

'There is little news,' said the beggar, 'little news, for we dwell secure under our gracious King Alymer. To be sure, in the palace there is rejoicing. The feast has already been spread for forty days and more. To-day is the wedding-day of the king's daughter, the Princess Jean.'

Ah, now Hynde Horn understood why his diamonds had grown dull and dim. His beautiful princess had not forgotten him. Of that he was quite sure. But King Alymer and his people had grown weary of waiting for his return. Seven years had seemed a long, long time, and now the king was anxious that his daughter should marry and wait no longer for the return of Hynde Horn.

And, but this King Horn did not know, Fykenyld, his old companion, loved the princess, and had wooed her long and was waiting to marry her. False to Hynde Horn was Fykenyld, for ever did he say, 'Hynde Horn is dead,' or 'Hynde Horn hath forgotten the Princess Jean,' or 'Hynde Horn hath married one of the dark-haired princesses in the far-off East.' And never did he leave the palace to go in search of his old playfellow, whom he had once longed to serve.

Now King Alymer had listened to Fykenyld's words, and though he did not believe Hynde Horn would forget his daughter, he did believe that Hynde Horn might be dead. Thus it was that he commanded Princess Jean to look no longer for the return of Hynde Horn, but without more delay to marry Prince Fykenyld.

And the princess, pale and sad, worn out by long waiting, promised to look no more for Hynde Horn. To please her father and his people, she even promised to marry Hynde Horn's old playfellow, Prince Fykenyld.

Ah, but had they only known, King Horn was already hastening towards the palace.

Already he had learned that the wedding had not yet taken place.

Now he was speaking to the beggar again, quickly, impatiently.

'Old man, lend me your torn and tattered coat. Thou shalt have my scarlet cloak in its place. Thy staff, too, I must have. Instead of it thou shalt have my horse.'

You see the young king had made up his mind to go to the palace dressed as a beggar.

But the old man was puzzled. Could the young prince from across the sea really wish to dress in his torn rags? Well, it was a strange wish, but right glad would he be to have the scarlet cloak, the gallant steed.

When King Horn had donned his disguise, he cried, 'Tell me now, how dost thou behave thyself when thou comest to the palace to beg?'

'Ah, sir,' said the old man, 'thou must not walk thus upright. Thou must not look all men boldly in the face. As thou goest up the hill, thou must lean heavily on thy staff, thou must cast thine eyes low to the ground. When thou comest to the gate of the palace, thou must tarry there until the hour for the king to dine. Then mayest thou go to the great gate and ask an alms for the sake of St. Peter and St. Paul, but none shalt thou take from any hand, save from the hand of the young bride herself.'

Hynde Horn thanked the old beggar man, and, bidding him farewell, set off up the hill toward the palace gate. And no one looking at him in the tattered coat, bending half double over his staff, no one could have guessed that this beggar man was the brave and courteous Hynde Horn.

Now when at length King Horn reached the palace gate, the wedding feast was spread.

Princess Jean was sitting on the throne beside her father, Prince Fykenyld on her other side, smiling to himself.

He would soon be wedded to the princess, he thought, and in days to come he would reign with her over King Alymer's wide domains. Fykenyld had no thought to spare for his old playmate, save to be glad that he had never returned from the far East to claim his bride.

But though seven long years had rolled away, Princess Jean had not forgotten Hynde Horn. Forgotten! Nay, day and night he was in her thought, in her heart. Yet was she sure that he would never now return.

It is true that in her despair she had yielded to her father's wishes; she had promised to wed Prince Fykenyld that very day. It was no wonder then that she sat on the throne sad at heart, pale of face.

Hynde Horn had knocked at the palace gate. It was no humble beggar's rap he gave, but a bold, impatient knock. King Horn had forgotten for the moment that he was only a beggar man.

The palace gate was flung wide. One of the noble guests had arrived, thought the porter. But when he saw a beggar standing before him, he wellnigh slammed the gate in the poor man's face.

Before he could do this Hynde Horn spoke, and his voice made the porter pause to listen, so sweet, so soft it was. It brought back to the rough old man the thought of Hynde Horn, for he had been used to speak in just such a tone.

The porter cleared his voice, wiped his eyes, for he, as all others who dwelt in the palace, had loved Hynde Horn, and grieved sorely for his absence.

For the sake of Hynde Horn it was that the porter listened to the beggar man's request.

'I have come to ask for alms, yet will I take them from none save from the hand of the Princess Jean herself, and from across the sea,' said the beggar man.

Still hearing the sound of the lost prince's voice, the porter bade the beggar wait, and stealing up into the hall unnoticed, he passed through the crowd of gay lords and ladies until he reached the princess.

'A beggar from across the sea begs alms, yet none will he have save from the hand of the Princess Jean herself,' said the porter boldly. Then—for he had known the princess from the time that she was only a tiny little girl—then he added in a whisper: 'The man hath a voice soft and sweet as that of our lost Prince Horn.'

Princess Jean heard, and not a moment did she pause.

She stepped down from the throne, took a cup of red wine in her hand, and heeding not the astonished stare of lord and lady, she hastened out to the palace gate.

Very beautiful she looked in her long white robe, her gold combs glinting in her hair.

'Drink,' she said gently, as she stood before the beggar, 'drink, and then haste to tell me what tidings thou dost bring from across the sea.'

Hynde Horn returns


The beggar took the cup of wine and drank. As he handed back the cup to the princess he dropped into it the diamond ring, which had been dull and dim for many a long day now.

Princess Jean saw the ring. She knew it was the very one she had given to Hynde Horn. Her heart bounded. Now at least she would hear tidings of her long-lost love.

'Oh tell me, tell me quick,' she cried, 'where didst thou find this ring? Was it on the sea or in a far-off country that thou didst find it, or was it on the finger of a dead man? Tell me, oh tell me quick!' cried the Princess Jean.

'Neither by sea nor by land did I find the ring,' answered the beggar, 'nor on a dead man's hand. It was given to me by one who loved me well, and I, I give it back to her on this her wedding-day.' As Hynde Horn spoke he stood up, straight and tall, and looked straight into the eyes of the Princess Jean.

Then, in a flash, she understood. In spite of the tattered coat, she knew her own Hynde Horn.

Her pale cheeks glowed, her dim eyes shone.

'Hynde Horn!' she cried, 'my own Hynde Horn, I will never let thee leave me again. I will throw away my golden combs, I will put on my oldest gown, and I will come with thee, and together we will beg for bread.'

King Horn smiled, and his voice was soft as he answered, 'No need is there to take the gold combs from thy hair or to change thy white robe for one less fair. This is thy wedding-day, and I have come to claim my bride.' And King Horn flung aside the old torn coat, and the Princess Jean saw that beneath the rags Hynde Horn was clothed as one of kingly rank.

Then throughout the palace the tidings spread, 'Hynde Horn hath come back, Hynde Horn hath come back, and now is he king of his own country.'

And that very day King Horn was wedded to the beautiful Princess Jean, with her father's blessing, and amid the rejoicings of the people.

And Prince Fykenyld slunk away, ashamed to look his old playmate in the face.

Not many months passed ere King Horn and Queen Jean sailed away to reign together in the far East. And never again in the years to come did the diamonds on King Horn's ring grow dull or dim.