THE FAIRY SPINNER
"OUT OF DATE OR NOT?"
SIR ASTOLIN'S DEPARTURE.
S)T OF DATE
-" IRAN ,DA 'jLL)
- ': .- .-.-
i i C: i.' ) ; "' 1 ..~ *- '
THE FAIRY SPINNER
"OUT OF DATE
MARCUS WARD & CO., 67, CHANDOS STREET
AND ROYAL ULSTER WORKS, BELFAST
THE FAIRY SPINNER.
I.-THE FAIRY'S CAVE 9
III.-SPRING TIDINGS 59
V.-FORGING THE SHIELD 112
VI.-THE CRYSTAL 132
VII.-THE WATER-SPRITE'S DAUGHTERS 151
VIII.-THE COMBAT 163
"OUT OF DATE OR NOT?"
I.--A STRANGE SV1ITOR 183
II.-THE RIDE 189
III.-THE FIRST WARRIOR 196
IV.-HEROES OR NOT? 204
V.-AT ONE 213
SIR ASTOLIN'S DEPARTURE (p. 24) Frontispiece.
ETHELSIEGA PLACES THE WREATH ON SIR ASTOLIN'S HEAD 18
ETHELSIEGA AND THE SWALLOWS .. 80
ETHELSIEGA AT THE LOOM 128
ETHELSIEGA AND THE SNAIL 176
THE FAIRY SPINNER.
CHAP. I.-THE FAIRY'S CAVE.
T HERE was once a king who had a most
lovely daughter. She was so beautiful
that the swallows came back to that country
ten days earlier than to any of the neigh-
bouring kingdoms, because they were so im-
patient to see her; and the roses bloomed
almost all the year through in the palace-garden,
because they said her presence made it feel like
summer. Not that the princess was always
sunny and summer like. Her maids of honour
often received very freezing looks and cold
treatment from her, if they came with their
little attentions and services when the princess
was not disposed to receive such, more especi-
The Fairy Spinner.
ally if they happened to disturb her when she
was studying. But when the princess went to
her window to look out at the distant moun-
tains, so clear and blue, she was always loving
and gentle; that was the time when the roses
saw her, so they knew nothing of her frosty
moods. No wonder they loved her. Every-
body loved her, from her father's wise old
prime-minister, down to the little cow-herd,
who delighted to watch her riding past the
meadows with her golden hair dancing in the
wind. Of course the king, her father, doted
on the princess. She was his only child, and
her mother had died soon after she was born.
The king had given his daughter the best
education he could, one that he thought would
fit her to rule the kingdom well. And indeed
she was so fond of study, that the king's great
anxiety was lest she should carry it too far,
and devote herself only to that. He tried to
persuade her to join in all the gaieties that
young people generally enjoy; and he gave her
several girls of her own age as companions;
but after all, she seemed never so happy as
The Fairy's Cave. 11
when she was sitting under the tall fir-tree on
the hill with her books; or perplexing her old
tutor with deep questions which he could not
answer. Not that the princess was melancholy
or gloomy; quite the contrary. When she was
in her merry moods she amused every one with
her droll sayings; and perhaps the strangest
thing about her was that you never knew
whether she was going to make some odd funny
speech, or deliver some very grave piece of
When Ethelsiega (so the princess was called)
was about seventeen years old, her father judged
it time to think of her marriage. He was most
anxious to choose for her a husband who should
be worthy in every respect, and he sent to his
ambassadors in foreign lands to learn what
princes were held in highest estimation for
valour, courtesy, and all princely qualities. But
when Ethelsiega knew of this, she declared most
positively that she never would marry any man
who could not answer the most difficult ques-
tions in Latin and Greek. The king, her father,
was greatly dismayed at this, knowing how very
12 The Fairy Spinner.
unlikely it was that any of the young princes
should fulfil such a requirement, and fearing
it would therefore be very difficult to find a
husband for his daughter. But he knew that
Ethelsiega was very resolute, and always did
as she said; he therefore thought only of over-
coming the obstacle. So he established a great
university in his kingdom, and encouraged all
young men of noble birth and princes from
neighboring states to coue and study there;
and when it was known that the hand of the
beautiful princess Ethelsiega was the prize held
out to the most successful graduate, students
came flocking from all parts of the world.
Ethelsiega was delighted that the university
should be founded. She could not believe that
most of the students came there in the hope of
winning her, that was so unworthy a motive!
Some of them might do so; but there must be
others with nobler ideas, men actuated by a
real love of study. She was rejoiced that they
should have the opportunities for learning af-
forded by the university.
At the end of a year the most advanced
The Fairy's Cave.
students were presented at court, that they
might be seen by the king and interrogated by
the princess, who sat on a splendid throne be-
side her father, and looked more beautiful than
ever. She received the students one by one.
The first who was introduced (the most learned
of all) was a short man with a very pale face.
When the princess asked him different questions
in Latin and Greek, he answered them all,
though at first he was very nervous and was
sadly put out of countenance by being obliged
to reply to the beautiful princess. The king
looked pleased with the successful answers
given; but the princess exclaimed-" Yes, he is
very learned-but how short! I can't get over
that!" Most people think high things more
difficult to get over than low ones, but Ethel-
siega was of a contrary opinion, so the poor
man retired hastily, and another candidate was
ushered in. He was tall, it is true, but dread-
fully thin, and with stooping shoulders. "He
does not look at all strong," said the princess.
"Is there none among the students who possesses
that fine quality, good health?" The door was
14 The Fairy Spinner.
opened and the whole set of students were in-
troduced. "Miserable specimens of humanity
all of them!" exclaimed the princess. "I don't
believe that one of them could bend a bow, or
wield a sword, or climb a mountain. Learned
they may be-but they won't do for me. I
cannot bear people who have only one side of
their nature developed. The man I marry
must be a perfect knight-brave and strong, as
well as a great student. He must know how
to row, and climb, and wrestle, and fight, and
do all things with agility and strength." The
crowd of disappointed graduates withdrew from
court, and the king was again somewhat troubled;
but he thought that his daughter's last idea
would be more easy to realize than the first;
the difficulty was to unite the two sets of quali-
ties she demanded. However he set to work
again, instituted public games, tournaments, &c.,
and did all he could to encourage excellence
in martial exercises.
At the end of another year there was a great
tournament held at court, and the young nobles
and princes who had also been studying at the
The Fairy's Cave.
university came to try their strength. The
victorious champion was led up to the throne
of the princess, who began to discourse with him
about Latin and Greek, as was her wont. The
young knight showed a great deal of learning.
At last the princess abruptly said, "Can you
tell me what the old snail under the strawberry
leaf is thinking about?" The knight remained
perfectly silent with amazement, and could not
believe that the princess was in earnest till she
repeated her question. He was then obliged to
confess that he had not the least idea. "Then
you have entirely neglected natural science, I
see," said she in a displeased tone; "you have
only studied what you thought you would be
questioned upon," she added scornfully, "you
have no true love of study, but have followed
it only for the poor purpose of winning me-
go! do not think I can love any one who has
not the real love of knowledge for its own sake."
The young knight retired with feelings of
mingled shame and indignation. Now the old
king began to be impatient with his daughter,
and said that she really demanded too much,
16 The Fairy Spinner.
and he could not suffer her to continue so full
of whims; she must make up her mind to marry
some prince or other. But Ethelsiega spoke so
playfully and caressingly to him, and told him
that she was so happy and did not wish to
marry yet; probably the right man would come
some day, and then she would. So her father
could not long be angry with her, but let her
have her way, only he kept inviting learned
men to his court and giving tournaments, in
hopes that some of the students or knights
might be so happy as to win Ethelsiega's affec-
tions. Whenever he returned to the subject,
and troubled Ethelsiega about it, she grew very
sad and would wander away into the fir-wood
and look out at the distant mountains and
murmur to herself, "When will the great knight
come, who is also a great student, who is
bravest and most learned, who loves courtesy
and knowledge, who serves truth and charity
both. I am weary of these half men."
One day the lists had been prepared and a
splendid tournament was about to take place,
when a stranger knight was observed riding
The Fairy's Cave. 17
towards the lists. He wore no helmet, so his
face was clearly seen, a calm noble face it was,
and his golden hair made a sort of halo round
his head. He held in his hand a wondrous
sword of marvellous brightness, the hilt was set
with rubies and diamonds, which flashed in the
sunlight as he brandished his sword in the air.
He rode straight up to the lists, and demanded
leave to join in the tournament. Permission
was given, and the combat was begun. Ethel-
siega, who was sitting by, as usual, to see the
fight, could not keep her eyes from the stranger
knight. It seemed to her as if, wherever he
rode, the sunlight fell more brightly. At first
she feared for him, but soon saw with delight
that his sword cleared a path for him every-
where; none could resist it. One knight after
another fell before him, and yet Ethelsiega
observed that he only struck with the flat side
of his sword. At last he was left on the field,
conqueror; the other knights were all unhorsed
and overcome, though none were wounded.
The stranger knight was declared victor by the
heralds, and was conducted to the princess to
18 The Fairy Spinner.
receive from her the crown which was the sign
of victory. Ethelsiega did not say a word
as she placed the laurel wreath on his head;
but the old king, who was delighted with the
aspect and with the valour of the stranger,
asked him his name, and whence he came.
" My name is Astolin," replied the knight, "and
I am from a country in the West." The king
begged Sir Astolin to remain in his palace that
day, and to join the feast which was prepared
for all the brave knights who had fought in the
tournament. "Our festival will be poor if it
lacks the presence of the victor," said the king.
Ethelsiega did not press the knight to stay, she
only looked at him with eloquent eyes, but he
did not observe her. He, however, courteously
consented to remain.
The old king made Sir Astolin sit by his side
at the feast, and conversed with him con-
tinually. The knight described the countries
through which he had travelled, the forests, the
glaciers, the lakes, the mountains: all his
speeches were like the most beautiful poetry-
so thought Ethelsiega, and she listened to every
ETHELSIEGA PLACES THE WREATH ON SIR ASTOLIN'S HEAD.-p. 18.
The Fairy's Cave. 19
word with delight. But great was her secret
annoyance when her father broke in upon Sir
Astolin's conversation with very learned remarks
and questions about Latin and Greek. The
truth was, the old king was so charmed with
Sir Astolin that he would have liked him to
marry the princess, and he was anxious to find
out whether he was learned enough to satisfy
her. The knight's replies showed a very
masterly knowledge of the two great languages
and of their literature, and vexed as she was at
the former interruption, the princess could not
help feeling a proud joy as she heard his
answers and recognized his great learning.
Suddenly the king broke in, with an anxious
voice, "Can you tell what the old snail
under the strawberry leaf is thinking about?"
Ethelsiega's face flushed; no words can express
her vexation. "Why should my father bring
up that subject?" she thought. What does it
matter?" The stranger knight gazed with a look
of astonishment at the king, and begged him to
explain what he meant. "We wish to know
whether you have studied natural science," said
20 The Fairy Spinner.
the old king; "we conclude that you have come
hither to our tournament, as so many princes
and noble knights have done, to win the hand
of our daughter by proofs of valour and of
learning: and we like you so well, that we
would more willingly bestow our child upon
you than upon any that hath presented himself;
therefore we are desirous to ascertain whether
you fulfil our daughter's last and most difficult
requirement, that of having studied natural
science." "I have not done so," replied the
knight, "nor did I aspire to so bold an enter-
prise as that of gaining the princess, your
daughter, when I came to the tournament
to-day. Being a stranger in this country I
knew nothing of the great prize held out to the
victor, nor of the other conditions you speak of,
nor indeed for a moment could I have enter-
tained thoughts of marriage, since I am bound
upon a great and perilous adventure, which calls
for all my energy and devotion. I did but
enter the list to-day to make trial of my
strength, and to learn to estimate and admire
that of the noble knights of this realm."
The Fairy's Cave.
The old king felt disappointed as he heard
Sir Astolin's reply, but he consoled himself by
thinking, "He would not have done for her
after all; he has not studied natural science;
he could not stand the 'snail' test."
As for Ethelsiega-it is impossible to de-
scribe what she felt. To have had the subject
so abruptly brought forward before this great
knight, for whom she felt such deep reverence;
to have it supposed that she scorned him of
whom she felt herself only too unworthy, and
to hear his indifferent way of putting the
matter aside; to be told the impossibility of
being united to the only man whom she felt
she would ever love-all this was so dreadful
a blow, that it seemed to her as if she would
never recover it. Meanwhile Sir Astolin was
quite unconscious of the feelings he had called
forth. He had spoken of his adventure in a
very grave and earnest voice, but changed his
tone immediately, as if unwilling to talk about
himself, and added in a tone that was half-
playful, "And does the princess herself know
the answer to her own question? Can she tell
22 The Fairy Spinner.
what the old snail under the strawberry leaf is
Ethelsiega did not say a word; she could
not have spoken at that moment, but her
father replied with evident pride and pleasure
in his voice, "Oh, yes!-our daughter is well
acquainted with the language of all beasts,
birds, and other-hem! hem! well!-crea-
tures"-he would have said insects, but the
princess had scolded him so often for calling
snails insects, that he dare not hazard a word,
but, unable to distinguish which were insects,
called them by the safe general term of
"creatures." Ethelsiega is on intimate terms
with all of them, and if she were doubtful
about what their thoughts were, there is not
one of them, I am sure, that would not gladly
confide his deepest secrets to her. She has
only to ask the old snail his thoughts and he
would tell her; but she would consider it a
great want of penetration on her part not to
know without asking," added he, laughing,
"Would you not, Ethelsiega? "
Still the princess spoke no word. Sir Asto-
The Fairy's Cave. 23
lin looked up at her as if expecting an answer
to her father's question, and then he observed
for the first time that she really was very
beautiful. At this moment Ethelsiega was
relieved from the distressing sense that she
was required to answer, by the entrance of the
minstrel, who began his songs of great heroic
deeds, and of noble love, and made the hearts
of all thrill with his music. Whenever the
minstrel sang of any great hero, it seemed
to Ethelsiega that he must have been like
Astolin; she imagined him performing all the
great actions that were related in the ballad;
and each time, the lady who loved the hero
was herself. Somehow the minstrel that even-
ing did not sing of the love of the hero for
his lady so much as that of the lady for her
true knight; but Ethelsiega did not observe
that-it seemed more like the reality as it
The feast went on until late in the night,
and then all the guests withdrew to their
rooms. Sir Astolin said on retiring that he
must bid the king and princess adieu that
24 The Fairy Spinner.
night, for he should be up and away at sun-
rise, before they were stirring.
But Ethelsiega slept little that night, and
woke at earliest dawn. She went to her win-
dow, the window that looked towards the
eastern mountains, and waited there to see Sir
Astolin again, and to watch his departure.
The sun rose amid rosy and golden clouds over
the blue mountain-tops, and Ethelsiega felt the
beauty though she hardly saw it; she was
listening for the knight's footsteps. Soon she
saw him come riding out of the castle gates
on his great white steed. His golden hair
waved in the morning breeze, and seemed
again to form a halo round his head. He once
more turned round to look at the castle before
he rode away, but he did not see the princess.
She saw him, however, from her window, and
rejoiced that she had caught that last glimpse
of his face; but when he had ridden away, it
seemed to her as if the sun had set, and the
world grown suddenly dark.
That morning she wandered mournfully in
her garden, lamenting the knight's absence.
The Fairy's Cave.
" What shall I do? what shall I do ?" cried she;
"Sir Astolin is gone. My life seems now so
dreary and worthless. Oh that I could be with
him, or at least could know that he loved me !"
Be content," answered the swan on the lake,
who heard what the princess said. "Contemplate
your own beauty and worthiness, look at your
own image in the mirror of the lake as I do,
think of your royal greatness, be sufficient for
yourself, and be content."
"No, that would be hateful and quite un-
satisfactory !" exclaimed the princess.
"Be content," murmured the turtle-dove from
the fir-wood. "Follow your knight through
all the world with faithful love like mine,
and be content."
"No," cried the princess again, "that cannot
be; that would be too undignified; I have still
some pride and self-respect left. That would
be very well if I knew that he loved me, but,
alas! I do not."
Be content," said the martin. "Go out into
life and get plenty to do, be busy all day, as
we are, and be content."
The Fairy Spinner.
I do not know what to be busy about," said
the princess sorrowfully. "It is so difficult for
a princess to find work to do, or to be allowed
to do it if she did find it."
"Be content," said the sky-lark. "Soar up
towards heaven, as I do; look down upon the
earth and its inhabitants from that height
whence Sir Astolin will only look like a little
speck; and be content."
"That is so hard," sighed the princess, "and
if I could do so I don't know that I should
see more truly, nor do I feel quite sure that I
should like to see him only as a little speck.
But oh! if I knew whether he loved me, if I
knew whether he ever would love me!" she
went on, more sadly.
"Shell and horns!" cried the snail, peering
up out of the strawberry bed (that was always
his ejaculation). "Shell and horns! I believe
that is the voice of our princess sounding so
mournfully. What can be the matter "
"Oh dear little snail!" answered Ethelsiega,
"the great true knight has come, and has
left us again, and I am sure he does not love
The Fairy's Cave. 27
me, and I don't know whether he ever will,
and I am miserable "
"Whether he does love you! whether he
ever will love you! and miserable already!
you say so many things at once, you are always
so hasty. I cannot understand what you say.
Give me time to deliberate; be more leisurely.
The true knight come, do you say ? could he
guess my thoughts ? you never came to me
to know them."
"Never mind about your thoughts," said the
princess hurriedly, "that does not matter."
"Not matter!" said the snail. "Shell and
horns! I think it does matter. I have a
thought now that may be useful to you.
You want to know whether the knight will
love you? Well! come with me to-night to
the cave of the Fairy Spinner. It is mid-
summer eve, the time when she spins true-love
threads for the coming year, and you shall see
those which are linked together. I can gain
admittance for you, I know, though it is a great
favour; but the Fairy loves you, and will allow
you to see her spin, I am sure. Will you come?"
28 The Fairy Spinner.
Ethelsiega gladly accepted the snail's offer,
and looked forward eagerly to the evening,
which should set her doubts and uncertainties
at rest, as she thought. "Better to know even
the worst than to be in suspense," thought she.
That night, just when the moon was rising,
she and the snail set off together into the
forest. "Stop! you are going much too fast,"
said he, "I can never keep up with that pace.
You are too hasty, as I say to my friend the
beetle, much too hasty What do you take me
Shall I carry you ?" said the princess, for
we shall not reach the forest to-night at this
"Thank you," said the snail, "I think that
will be the best plan; I ought to have started
this morning if I meant to crawl, or walk,
as you say; and I should have done so, but
I waited to conduct you."
The princess gathered some damp moss for
a cushion for the snail, because her hot hand
would have been uncomfortable to him, and he
travelled along very contentedly. The full
The Fairy's Cave. 29
moon shone through the boughs of the forest
trees, and glow-worms glittered all along the
green paths that led to the Fairy's cave.
Ethelsiega might have seen numbers of fairies
if she had only looked about her attentively,
but she walked along hurriedly, seeing nothing.
The old snail saw numbers of them, and con-
tinually saluted them by waving his horns
gracefully about. At last the princess reached
the cave. It was a place she knew very well;
she had passed it some weeks before when she
had been on a geological expedition, to see a
very curious formation that "cropped up" in
the neighbourhood; and she had then recog-
nized it as one of the curious caves so often
found in chalk and limestone rocks. But it
had looked very different then, with the hot
noonday sunlight streaming through the beech-
boughs and on the white chalk slope, beneath
which the cave looked cool and shadowy with
ferns and ivy drooping over the entrance.
Now the cave was bright with the light of
hundreds of glow-worms, its white walls were
quite illuminated by them, and in the wonderful
30 The Fairy Spinner.
gold green light Ethelsiega saw, standing in the
middle of the cave, the Fairy Spinner. She was
a tiny creature, with a calm face, and very bright
searching eyes; she had a star on her forehead
that shone forth very brightly at times, and
then again seemed to become paler and to give
a softer light. Sometimes it glowed with al-
most a red light, like the planet Mars. The
Fairy Spinner's dress was a sort of mist-like
gray gossamer. Ethelsiega hesitated to enter,
and stood at the threshold of the cave; but the
Fairy Spinner, looking at her with her bright
penetrating eyes for a moment, made a sign
to her to approach. She did so, and put the
old snail and his cushion of moss gently down
on the floor of the cave.
She saw that the Fairy was twisting very
rapidly certain silken threads which she held
in each hand.
Ethelsiega could not see where the threads
began, they seemed to come down from the root
of the cave. As she spun them she wound
them on to her arms, with a curious movement
every now and then. She treated the threads
The Fairy's Cave. 31
very differently, usually she held one in each
hand and twisted them together; some seemed
to twine smoothly and to come to an end
naturally; some she suddenly cut short in the
middle of her spinning; some waved and swayed
about, so that Ethelsiega thought they would
be broken. Now and then the Fairy would
draw out only one thread, twisting it, but not
twining any other with it. Occasionally after
a very long time she would draw out another
thread and twine it with the solitary one, and
then all the length of the solitary thread that
had been drawn out alone would be again
caught up and turned round, so that the twine
was trebly strong, instead of only doubly so.
But this was not by any means always the case.
Very often the threads remained single ones till
they were spun out; or more often till the Fairy
cut them off, for there were not many of these
single twines that lasted till the end of the
thread. Sometimes the Fairy would draw out
three threads at a time instead of two; but
then there was always such a tangle and con-
fusion in the spinning that she very soon cut
The Fairy Spinner.
off one of the three, and spun the other two
alone-as she drew out each thread she sang
in the most musical voice the name of the per-
son whose trie-love thread it was. Ethelsiega
thought she could see a kind of connection be-
tween the aspect of the star of the Fairy's fore-
head and the condition of the threads. When
they were drawn smoothly out to their full
length the star glowed brightly, or with soft
light; when the threads waved about and
seemed tossed as by a great wind, but yet were
twined firmly together at last, the star became
red and splendid like Mars; when they were
entangled, or some cut off, the star grew dim.
Ethelsiega heard the Fairy sing the names
of several people she knew, and she watched
with interest the spinning out of the threads.
She could not help being very much surprised
at one or two of the couples, whose true-love
threads were twisted together; but of others
it was just what she expected, and had almost
exclaimed, "I guessed so!" but she refrained.
She listened with intense eagerness for the
name of Sir Astolin; but it did not come.
The Fairy's Cave. 33
At last she heard her own name-and her
heart beat fast as she watched whose thread
would be twined with hers. But the Fairy
drew out a solitary thread, and spun it.
Ethelsiega waited almost breathless to see if
another thread would not be drawn out to
unite with hers, but still the Fairy went on
spinning the single thread, and at last raised
her hand as if to cut it off. Ethelsiega could
bear it no longer; she cried out, "Of course-
I knew that would be my fate!"
Instantly the Fairy's hand was arrested; she
neither cut off the thread, nor could Ethelsiega
even tell if she had meant to do that, or to
draw out a second thread to twist with the
first The spinning stopped instantly. The Fairy
turned and gazed at the princess with a look
of stern displeasure; and the silken threads
now fell of their own accord from the roof of
the cave, and twined and twisted themselves
together, so as rapidly to hide the Fairy from her
sight; they went on lengthening and winding
till they formed a sort of cocoon of grey mist,
in which the Fairy was completely enshrouded;
34 The Fairy Spinner.
but she kept her indignant eyes fixed on Ethel-
siega to the last. Then Ethelsiega heard from
out the mist these words-"As thou hast exacted
much from others, so, much shall be exacted
of thee; and as thou hast been impatient,
therefore shalt thou learn the need of patience."
Instantly the glow-worms' light was extin-
guished, and the cave was dark.
"Ah!" exclaimed the old snail, "you were
too hasty; you should be more deliberate; you
did not wait to see the end; you don't know
what it would have been; did you not see how
brightly the Fairy's star began to glow when
you interrupted all by your precipitate words?
You should be calm and deliberate as I am."
Ethelsiega said nothing. She picked up
the snail and his mossy cushion from the floor
of the cave, and hurried back to the palace
without uttering a single word; her heart was
too full of grief for it to find any expression.
fFTER the day on which Sir Astolin had
departed, and the night on which Ethel-
siega had been to the Fairy's cave, the prin-
cess's whole life seemed to have undergone a
change. The sun no longer seemed bright,
nor the flowers beautiful, she cared no more
for her studies even; she took her books and
tried to read, partly from duty and partly
from habit, but she could not attend to them,
and would fall into long dreamy fits of
absence, then impatiently would toss the books
aside, saying she was only wasting her time.
Everybody noticed the change in her, and
wondered at it. Her old father grew im-
patient and declared she must marry, it was
quite absurd of her to insist upon having a
The Fairy Spinner.
husband who had studied natural science as
well as Latin and Greek, and who was besides
a faultless knight. Nobody would be found
who would fulfil all these conditions. "Even Sir
Astolin," the old king would say repeatedly,
"even Sir Astolin had not studied natural
science, and he was as perfect a knight and as
learned a man as was likely to be met with in
any kingdom, and happy the lady who should
marry him. Did Ethelsiega expect to find any
one better than he was ?" Ethelsiega only
sighed; she did not tell her father how entirely
she agreed with him; but she answered that
no doubt he was right, very likely no one
would be found who would fulfil her condi-
tions; but the fact was she did not intend to
The old king was very angry with her, and
said she was utterly unreasonable, then began to
try and persuade her to alter her mind; but he
found her far more obstinate than he had ex-
pected. This having happened once or twice
the king became seriously displeased with his
daughter; and one day he called her to him
and told her that if she did not make up her
mind to obey him, and marry some prince
whom he should choose for her, he should
disinherit her, and leave the throne to his
nephew, who was then quite a child. Ethel-
siega replied that she was far more grieved at
displeasing her father than at losing the
kingdom, but that nevertheless she could not
marry; so the king in a rage declared she
should no longer live in his palace, and that
he would find means to humble her pride and
break her obstinacy. Accordingly he sent her
to another and very distant part of the kingdom,
and put her under the charge of a very rough
and harsh peasant woman, who lived in a poor
and miserable cottage on a road near to a wild
heath, and not far from a very large forest.
There Ethelsiega was to live, and to be treated
in every way as a poor peasant girl, until she
consented to yield to her father's wishes. Her
father sent for his little nephew, and had him
educated at court, but he could not bear to
think of disinheriting his beloved daughter, and
he frequently sent messages to know whether
38 The Fairy Spinner.
she had altered her mind (longing to be able
to restore her. to favour). However, when the
messengers always returned with the same
answer, that the princess was quite firm in her
resolution, the king's anger, being continually
roused, had the effect of somewhat diminishing
his affection, and he sent less often for news of
Ethelsiega, and turned his thoughts more and
more towards his nephew.
Meanwhile the poor princess was made to
feel more and more the bitterness of her posi-
tion. Far from all her friends, she, who had
been from her childhood the darling of all
around her, must experience harsh treatment
and rough words from a hard-hearted and base-
minded woman. This peasant, besides being
cruel and spiteful, was avaricious, and she made
the princess work very hard; not only must
she do all the rough work of the house, but she
must weave for many hours a day besides.
The princess had been utterly unaccustomed
to do anything with her hands, but she was so
quick and dexterous that she soon learned, and
did the weaving very cleverly, though often it
tired her very much. And a very strange
thing happened about this weaving. The
peasant woman having given Ethelsiega some
coarse blue wool to weave into serge, and the
poor child sitting there weaving, and silently
weeping all the time, did not perceive that as
her tears fell they changed into lovely pearls,
which became enwoven with the material in
beautiful patterns, so that when the stuff
was finished it looked as if it had been em-
broidered with pearls. Though Ethelsiega did
not observe this at first, the peasant soon did.
"Oh ho!" said she, "this is worth something;
you must weave a great deal, and the more you
cry the better if this is to be the result," she
added with a hoarse laugh.
So she bought finer material for the princess
to weave, and again the lovely pearl embroidery
was there; and the peasant sold the stuff and
made a great deal of money, which she hid
away, not daring to let any one know, for fear
other people might persuade the king to give
them charge of the princess, if they knew of
this wonderful power of hers. So poor Ethel-
40 The Fairy Spinner.
siega was forced to weave nearly all day, and
the pearls, if sometimes there were fewer of
them, seemed to grow larger and finer than
ever, and to arrange themselves in more and
more beautiful shapes.
In addition to all this the princess had to
sweep the cottage, to fetch water from the well,
to wash the dishes, in fact to do all the hard
work that wearied her, and the dirty work that
disgusted her. She even had to feed the pigs,
but this I must say she did not dislike; and
herein Ethelsiega showed something of her
former self-her old love for animals and sym-
pathy with them had not abated, and she un-
derstood as well as ever how to make them
happy, and almost took pleasure herself in
doing so. She knew just the morsels the pigs
would like, and she talked to them, and they
answered her; and she declared to herself that
there was more sense in their conversation than
in that of many human beings. Of course she
and the birds were friends as ever, and when
she fed the pigeons they would come and sit
on her shoulder, and she caressing them said,
"Oh, you dear little things, can you tell me
where Sir Astolin is now ?"
"No, no," said they; "we never fly far
enough from home to see him. We do not
know where he is."
One evening as Ethelsiega was returning
from the fountain carrying a heavy pitcher of
water, she heard a loud chirping above her
head, and looking up she saw a flock of swallows
wheeling round and round in the air; she
immediately recognized her own swallows that
built under the eaves of her father's palace.
She wept for joy at sight of them, but they
chirped out loud words of indignation as they
saw their dear and beautiful princess forced to
do such laborious work.
"Oh, that does not signify," said the princess,
"that is the least part of my sorrow; tell me
how is my dear father."
"When we left him, he was sitting in the
room that used to be thy study, and resting his
head on his hands; we believe he was weeping
for thee," replied the swallows.
Ethelsiega's tears again broke forth. "And
42 The Fairy Spinner.
have you seen Sir Astolin?" asked she, as soon
as she could speak calmly.
"No," said the swallows, "we have not seen
him, but do not think of him-give way to
thy father and return to the palace, every one
misses thee so dreadfully, and the roses are
Ethelsiega shook her head and said, "You are
sweet little friends, but ill counsellors; how
can I be false to my own heart; I love only
one man, and that is Sir Astolin. I will not
act a lie by marrying another."
"Dear princess," answered the swallows, "we
hope all will come right; we shall expect to see
thee at the palace when we return next spring.
Farewell, farewell." And away they flew.
Weeks and months passed by, autumn was
far advanced, and winter was at hand. One
day Ethelsiega was greatly touched at receiving
a visit from her old tutor. He had made the
long journey from the palace on foot; he had
longed so much to see how his dear pupil was,
he said he could not keep away any longer, but
he had not dared to tell any one where he was
going for fear the king should hear of it, and
the king had forbidden any one to see his
daughter, so great was his anger against her.
But the old tutor's heart was so full of pity
that he had resolved to brave all and come to
see the princess. He wept at the sight of her
pale, sorrowful face, and begged her to submit
to her father. She could not tell him her secret
as she had told the swallows, she only begged
him not to grieve her by repeating the old,
weary persuasions, but to tell her about her
father and all her friends at home.
Then he told her all the court news, but said
not a word about Sir Astolin; nor did she dare
to ask whether he had been at court again.
At last the old man went back again to the
subject of Ethelsiega and her father's anger,
and warned her how seriously displeased her
father was, and that if she continued firm he
might really disinherit her as he had said, and
leave the crown to the young prince his nephew.
"He seems very fond of the child," said the
"And has forgotten me, I suppose," said the
44 The Fairy Spinner.
princess in a voice of quiet grief that went to
the heart of the old man.
"Forgotten thee! how can any one do that?"
he cried; "why the palace is not the same since
thou hast left, and all the court is dull and sad;
no man wears a cheerful countenance now.
Oh come back, come back, my dear princess,
my pupil, my child! let us again go out geo-
logizing in the summer, and read Greek to-
gether in the winter evenings; and, and, I'll try
to explain the polarization of light and the
atomic theory; only don't ask me too many
things at once," he added, in a half-imploring
Ethelsiega laughed sadly, and told him that
as long as her father remained so displeased
with her she should stay in banishment, for
she never could yield about her marriage. So
it was no use asking her. The old tutor
shook his head and bewailed her determination;
and after many affectionate remonstrances bid
her farewell, and went back to the.palace.
Ethelsiega returned to her work and her
weaving, and felt more desolate than ever.
Now the winter came and the snow fell. It
was a terribly severe winter, and Ethelsiega
felt the cold dreadfully in the little hut, where
they had scarcely enough fuel, and the wind
came roaring down the chimney and whistling
through the cracks in the wall; and the poor
child had to go barefoot like a peasant girl, and
to wear only peasant garments instead of the
rich furs to which she had been accustomed in
winter. She was now very careful to feed the
birds every day, that they might not suffer
hunger as well as cold.
One night Ethelsiega was lying awake
listening to the storm; there was a terrible
wind which howled round the hut, and shrieked
and moaned, and swayed the snow-covered
branches of the forest trees to and fro, so that
many cracked and fell to the earth. Snow was
whirled through the air, it already lay deep on
the ground, for it had fallen for several succes-
sive days, and this tremendous wind was blow-
ing it into great drifts. Ethelsiega could not
sleep, she heard every sound made by the wind
and the falling branches; she thought how
The Fairy Spinner.
grand and white everything must be looking,
and she rose up and went to the window, but
there was no moonlight, and she could only see
the snow-flakes falling thickly on the window
ledge. She went to bed again; but in the
intervals of the storm she soon distinguished
the melancholy voice of an owl. It came
nearer and nearer, the bird flew past her very
window, and she now heard distinctly its cry,
"Who, who, is in the wood? Who, who, is in
He did this once or twice, till Ethelsiega
felt sure the question was meant for her.
She sprang up, went to the window again,
opened it, and, undeterred by the gust of wind
and shower of snow that came against her, she
put her head out and called the owl to her.
He alighted on the window-sill, and she now
saw his great eyes shining in the darkness.
"Dear little owl, come in, tell me who is in
the wood; is it Sir Astolin ?" As Ethelsiega
said this she took the owl up and lifted him
through the window; he tried to flap his wings,
and did not seem comfortable, so she let him
go, and he flew up to one of the rafters and
gazed down upon her for a minute or two.
"Is it Sir Astolin ?" said the princess; "I
know it is."
The owl paused, and then replied,-
"He, Sir Astolin, to wit !
In this dreadful night, to woo!
Lost in yonder wood doth sit-
Who will be his guide t who, who In
"I will be his guide," said the princess; "I
will be his guide. You can take me where he is,
can you not, dear owl! I know you came to me
for that purpose, you dear faithful creature!"
The owl answered ruffling up his feathers
as if he were offended,-
"Had he had the sense to wit
What I said, 'twas plain to who
Used his ears, I meant to flit
On and guide him safe to you."
Ah," said Ethelsiega, "but the knight does
not know your language as I do; he did not
understand that he was to follow you, he did
not know your kind intentions towards him;
48 The Fairy Spinner.
but I thank you with all my heart, you darling
owl! and now you will guide me to him, will
you not, and show us the way back again
through the darkness ?"
The owl winked his staring eyes and said,-
"Who, who can e'er resist
You, you I must assist,"
and hopped about on his rafter as if he were
quite ready to set off. Ethelsiega dressed as
quickly as possible, and then taking a lanthorn
in her hand, she beckoned to the owl, and
walked noiselessly to the door of the cottage.
She feared to awaken the peasant woman, but
was somewhat re-assured when she heard her
snoring loud in the room above.
Opening the cottage door, she stepped out
into the stormy night. The wind roared, the
snow beat in her face, but she walked on, hardly
feeling them; her heart danced with joy at the
thought of again seeing the knight-of helping
him out of danger-for danger she well knew he
must be in. The owl flittered on in front of
her, first hopping a little way, and then flying
slowly along, but the darkness was so intense
that she found she could not see him unless he
hopped along on the white snow, where by the
light of her lanthorn he was distinguishable;
so she begged him not to fly at all, but to hop
instead, which he accordingly did. Ethelsiega
did not ask the owl any questions about Sir
Astolin-where he was, or in what state; she
felt that no time was to be lost, and her only
anxiety was to reach him. When they entered
the wood Ethelsiega knew that she was in some
danger from the falling branches, and even from
the great masses of snow that were hurled down
from time to time; but her fear was not for
herself, if only she might be able to save the
knight from perishing in the snow, that was her
only thought. She followed her guide, the owl,
for a long, long distance-she hurried more and
more as her impatience increased-she longed
to find Sir Astolin.
At last she heard the roaring of a torrent,
which fell from rock to rock, and which, swollen
by the snow, sounded louder and more terrific
than ever. The owl stopped, and then rising
The Fairy Spinner.
into the air flew round and round uttering his
mournful cry. Ethelsiega understood that she
was near the spot where her knight was. How
her heart bounded with joy as she heard Sir
Astolin's voice exclaim, "A light-then I am
safe. Ho there! friend! whoever you are, can
you guide me into the path? My horse has
sunk into a snow-drift, and I have not dared to
urge him forward in any direction, as I perceive
I am near a torrent."
Ethelsiega went forward in the direction in
which the voice sounded, and holding her
lanthorn high in the air looked down the bank.
There, by the light of the lanthorn, she saw
Sir Astolin standing by the side of his white
horse; he had sunk in the snow up to his
shoulders, and his armour was covered with
snow-so he stood, a white knight beside his
"Hither, sir knight, this is the path," said
the princess, and he struggled out of the
snow, carefully leading his quaking and terri-
fied horse up the bank.
"Good heavens, is it a maiden whom I
see, out in such a night?" exclaimed Sir
Astolin. "How hast thou come hither; art
not thou almost frozen, my child?" he ex-
claimed, as he gazed wonderingly at the
beautiful face and fragile form of the princess.
No," said she, casting her eyes down to the
ground, "I can bear the cold. I had an errand
to perform, sir knight, that obliged me to
come into the wood to-night. Right glad am
I that I have been able to show you the path,
the snow-drifts are so dangerous."
"But now can you direct me out of the
wood?" continued Sir Astolin. "I do not
know the way at all; I should be glad to
find some shelter for the night. Is there
any village near?"
"There is none for many miles, but if you
will follow me I will guide you to our cot-
tage, where you can lodge to-night."
"Many thanks for thy courtesy, gentle
maiden," said he; "I will gladly accept thine
invitation. But I cannot let thee walk," added
he, as he saw Ethelsiega set off with the lanthorn
in her hand; "thou must mount my horse and
The Fairy Spinner.
I will walk by thy side and guide him. Thou
wilt not be afraid (perhaps thou hast never
been on horseback), let me lift thee up. We
shall go gently,' and thou canst direct me."
Ethelsiega smiled within herself at the idea
of her never having ridden before. "He takes
me for an ignorant peasant indeed," she thought;
"at any rate he does not recognize me, that is
one comfort." But she answered, "Thanks,
sir knight, I should not fear to mount, but I
could not see the road if I did. The night is
so dark I must walk and hold my lanthorn near
the ground, otherwise I shall not discern the
path. Will you mount and follow me ?"
Sir Astolin seemed very unwilling to let
Ethelsiega walk whilst he rode, but as he could
not offer to guide her, not knowing the road,
he was obliged to do as she suggested. The
owl was again hopping on and showing her
the path, and she walked joyfully on, making
her way through the snow as best she could.
But gradually the cold told upon her, she
grew more and more numb, and could hardly
struggle through the deep snow; yet she
would not give way to the feeling of power-
lessness that was creeping over her; she said
not a word, but went on. Just as they reached
the outskirts of the wood, however, her strength
suddenly gave way, and she fell senseless on
the snow. Sir Astolin sprang from his horse
in an instant, and raising her in his arms,
began chafing her hands and trying in every
way to restore her to consciousness. Mean-
while the owl flew round in circles uttering
his sad cry. In a few minutes she recovered
sufficiently to stand up, though she felt very
weak, and then she heard Sir Astolin reproach-
ing himself for having let her walk.
"It is nothing," she said, "I shall be better
directly. I suppose it is the effect of the cold
-now we will go on."
She tried to walk, but could not; so she was
obliged to let Sir Astolin help her on to his
horse, and giving the lanthorn into his hand,
told him to follow the bird that was hop-
ping on in front of them. He looked at her a
moment, as if doubtful if she were quite con-
scious of what she was saying; she saw his look
54 The Fairy Spinner.
and said, "Yes, I mean what I say," and so
he followed her directions, and in about ten
minutes they were at the door of the hut. The
owl flew off hooting, and Ethelsiega, dismount-
ing, knocked and summoned the peasant woman,
who came down and stared in amazement at
the sight of those two in the snow.
Ethelsiega said briefly, "I was in the wood
and I found this knight, who had lost his
way in a snow-drift. I showed him the way,
he must lodge here to-night; make a fire
and get supper directly."
This was said in a tone of such quiet
authority and utter indifference to what the
peasant might think, as the woman had never
before heard in Ethelsiega. She gazed at
her in amazement and prepared to obey her,
without a word, while Ethelsiega went to show
Sir Astolin the shed where he could lodge his
horse for the night. She fed the horse with
her own hands, so anxious was she that he
should be well cared for, knowing how the
knight valued him; and would herself have
brought straw for the litter, but for this she
was scarcely yet strong enough, and the knight,
observing her trying to lift it, ran and carried
it himself, thanking her for her kind offices, and
expressing great concern on her account. When
they returned to the house the peasant, with
sullen face, was preparing supper for the knight.
She had already made a bright fire.
Sir Astolin began, "It is indeed most for-
tunate for me that your daughter happened
to be passing through the wood to-night,
otherwise I know not what I should have
done. I have to thank her for saving my
life, I believe, for I think I should have been
buried in the snow had I remained where I
was, or dashed into the torrent had I stirred
from that place. But it was a terrible night
for a maiden to be out, and I fear she has
suffered some harm from the cold. It must
have been a pressing cause to take her out on
such a night."
The peasant muttered something about Yes,
she had an errand in the wood." She dared
not say more, for the fact was she looked
upon the princess as more than half a witch,
56 The Fairy Spinner.
and believed she had dealings with fairies,
and she was too alarmed to inquire curiously
into what might take her out in the wood,
and was also afraid of offending her because
of the pearl embroidery in the weaving; so
she thought it best to say little.
Ethelsiega waited on the knight at supper.
How she rejoiced at being able to do the smallest
thing for him! Her eagerness to do this seemed
to give her strength again. Once when the
peasant was out of the room the knight said,
"I fear I am giving thy mother a great deal of
trouble." He had observed the woman's un-
"She is not my mother," replied the prin-
cess, "my mother is dead," and at this her eyes
filled with tears.
Sir Astolin looked at her with an expression
of compassion and interest, but asked no more
for fear of giving pain.
Ethelsiega went to her own room, but could
not sleep for thinking of all that had happened
At earliest dawn she rose and went to the
shed to attend to the knight's horse. The
morning was bright and frosty, no more snow
was falling; and in an hour or two Sir Astolin
was preparing to depart. He paid the peasant
for her trouble, but he had perception enough
to see that he could not offer any kind of
recompense to Ethelsiega. As he mounted he
turned to her and said, "Gentle maiden, I am
much indebted to thee for all thy kindness and
courtesy. If there is anything I can do to
show my gratitude I will gladly do it."
Ethelsiega shook her head.
"Then farewell," said he, "and many thanks
for all thou hast done for me," and he rode off.
Now, indeed, all seemed more wintry and
desolate than ever. All hope seemed to have
died out of Ethelsiega's life, as she returned to
her dreary work. But as she sat at her weav-
ing her thoughts dwelt on all that the knight
had said and done. "How courteous he was to
me!" said she; "though he took me for a mere
peasant, how gentle and considerate! Oh, how
glad I am that he did not recognize me! How
could I ever have answered his surprise at
58 The Fairy Spinner.
finding me in this place and condition ? But
yet, that he should not know me, that shows
how little he cares for me. I should have known
him if I had seen him dressed like the meanest
beggar or doing the most servile work." And
then she would wonder on what adventure
he was going, and dream about him for hours
CHAP. III-SPRING TIDINGS.
THE spring came, but brought no change
to Ethelsiega. It was always the same
round of work from morning till night
She lived on with no gentle words to soothe
her, no kindly smiles to cheer her, no hope
for the future, nothing but memories of the
One day her swallows came again to see her.
"Still here!" said they sadly. "We had
hoped to find thee at the palace."
"Yes; still here," said Ethelsiega; "but
where have you been, dear swallows, and what
have you seen since last autumn ?"
"We have been through many lands,"
replied they, "and we have nowhere seen
any one so lovely as thou art, nor any one
The Fairy Spinner.
so wilful. Ah! thou hast seen Sir Astolin;
we heard that from the jay, who heard it
from the owl; but we are not glad, no not at
all glad, because he is the cause of all thy
"And how is my father ?" asked the prin-
cess, unwilling to answer the last speech of
the swallows. "What was he doing when
you left the palace!"
"He was sitting with his little nephew on
his knee, stroking the child's dark hair and
playing with him. The old man seemed well
"That is well," said Ethelsiega, but her
look was very sad.
"But we do not like the palace now thou
art no longer there, and we think of deserting
it, and building elsewhere," added the swallows.
"No no, do not do that," said the princess,
"I love to think of you in the old place, and
I want you to watch over my father for me,
and to promise to fly here and tell me if he
is ill or if anything goes wrong."
"Well, well, we will stay there," said the
Spring Tidings. 61
swallows, not sorry to be persuaded to do as
they had always done, for they were "creatures
of habit," like so many of us. So they flew
back again to the palace to build as usual.
And the spring went on, and the weaving
went on, and the pearl embroidery was always
there. Sometimes there were many pearls and
small ones; sometimes few and large; and
the patterns they formed became more and
more lovely. And there happened a thing
which seemed strange to Ethelsiega: she
began to be able to sing. Before, in her life
in the palace, she had never been able to
sing at all, she had no voice she always
said; but now her voice seemed to come.
At first it was a very small voice though
always sweet, it had a very sad plaintive
tone, and the songs she sang were always
pathetic. Her singing was like the wind
passing through the strings of an Eolian harp.
One day, when the peasant had gone to the
village to sell some of the stuff which the
princess had woven, Ethelsiega was in the
wood gathering sticks, when she saw one of
62 The Fairy Spinner.
her pigeons circling round in the air above
her head, and she heard it calling out in its
soft voice, "Who, who is on the moor ?-Who,
who is on the moor ?"
Ethelsiega started up. "My bird," said she,
"tell me, is it Sir Astolin ? Where, where
The pigeon flew to her and alighting on her
"Too, too good to die neglected there,
Do, do, princess, save him by thy care."
"Die! no, never-he shall not die! What
do you mean?" cried the princess. "Oh, take
me to the place where he is."
The pigeon flew on, and Ethelsiega ran
swiftly in the direction the pigeon took; keep-
ing it always in sight. From time to time
she had to slacken her pace, for she found
the distance was greater than she had ex-
pected; but soon she hurried on again, fear-
ing to come too late. The pigeon from time
to time flew back to her when it had flown
on too far for her to overtake it When she
Spring Tidings. 63
had gone for three miles or more Ethelsiega
saw before her a slope covered with a thicket
of small bushes, furze, hawthorns, and brambles;
beyond that rose a very high bank, on the top
of which were some tall fir-trees; under these
fir-trees stood the well-known white horse-but,
alas! where was his rider ?
Ethelsiega darted to the spot, and there
lay Sir Astolin, apparently quite unconscious,
and the blood was flowing out through the
joints of his armour. The princess knelt down
by his side; she loosened the armour and
saw that the wound was in his shoulder;
with great care and skill she bound up the
wound so as to stop the bleeding, and then
hastening to a clear spring which she heard
trickling at some little distance, she brought
water in the hollow of her hands and bathed
his forehead. This she did continually, until
at last Sir Astolin opened his eyes, and seemed
as if he were recovering consciousness. But
the expression in his eyes was strange and
wild, and the few words he uttered were inco-
The Fairy Spinner.
Ethelsiega now saw that he was in a fever;
but whether this had been caused by his
wound, or how-she could not tell. Had he
been lying long on the ground, wounded, ex-
posed to the noon-day, for the fir-trees only
formed a shade to that bank when the sun was
in the west? She wondered about this, but
quickly these thoughts passed through her
mind, and the more important question rose-
What could be done for him now? She had
no means of removing him to the cottage; and
if she had, she did not know whether the old
peasant woman would consent to let him re-
main there. No; he must stay where he was,
and she would nurse him. She looked round
for some sort of shelter, and saw a cave at the
bottom of the steep bank on which he lay.
The soil was sandy and the cave looked cool
and dry; the roof was partly formed of the
roots of the fir-trees which twisted together
and made flat projecting eaves in front of the
Ethelsiega instantly perceived that this
was the place for the knight. She collected
Spring Tidings. 65
quantities of heath to form a soft couch, and
over this she threw the knight's cloak. The
next time he opened his eyes and seemed
somewhat conscious, she spoke to him, asking
him to rise, and with her help move to the
cave. He tried to rise, and leaning on her arm,
slowly and with tottering steps descended the
bank, and she then guided him into the cave,
where he lay down on the bed she had prepared
for him. But though he seemed to understand
the meaning of her words sufficiently to know
what she meant him to do, he evidently did
not know who she was or where he was; and
soon fell again into a state of unconsciousness.
And now, Ethelsiega, having left him in com-
parative safety, hurried back to the cottage,
arriving fortunately before the return of the
peasant, and, collecting all the things she thought
she should need for her beloved knight, returned
to him as speedily as possible, and how greatly
S did she now rejoice that she had learned some-
thing of the healing art. Her knowledge of
the virtue of plants enabled her to obtain some
of the most valuable remedies from them; and
66 The Fairy Spinner.
all her skill and care were devoted to restoring
Sir Astolin to health.
After several days and nights of watching
and tending she saw, to her great joy, that
he was beginning to recover. Who can ex-
press her delight and gratitude! And now
his amendment went on rapidly, till one day
he awoke as if from a dream, and the first
word he exclaimed was "Gwendolin!" Then
sitting up with newly regained strength he
looked around him, and asked with surprise,
"Where am I ?"
Ethelsiega (to whom his first word had been
like a stab) now came forward and said, "Sir
knight, you are in a cave on the great moor
in the country of King Sigebert."
"And how came I here ?" he continued, in
still more wonder and bewilderment
"You have been wounded and in a fever."
"Wounded!" he exclaimed; and then, as in
moving, he felt the wound in his shoulder, Yes,
by that terrible knight," and then he stopped,
closing his eyes as if trying to collect his
thoughts; "but then where is Gwendolin?"
he continued, opening his eyes and looking
round. "Alas! Yes, I have failed to rescue
her. I remember all; and she is in the power
of that villain still; I must away, where is
my sword?" he said, rising and hurrying to
the corner of the cave where Ethelsiega had
piled up his armour. But his steps faltered;
he was not strong enough to ride away, so
Ethelsiega thought as she saw him lean against
the wall of the cave for support.
She came up to him and spoke in her
sweet appealing voice, "Sir knight, you are
still weak from illness, and your wound is
not healed yet. Do not ride forth to battle!
You are not ready to fight. Do not ride away,
or if you go, do not ride far. Go to some castle
or palace where you will receive hospitable en-
tertainment, and where you can rest till you
have recovered from the effects of your wounds."
"The counsel is good," said Sir Astolin,
slowly putting on his armour; "but where
should I meet with such hospitality ?"
"The castles of the noble knights would
all open to receive you, or the convents of
The Fairy Sfinner.
the monks-or-or-the palace of the king,"
she added, in a lower voice. "But his court
is far off," she continued, "you had better not
ride so far. Go to some castle nearer than
that. Sir Fridesmund's castle is only fifteen
miles off, go there; he will certainly receive
you in a fitting manner."
"I will go," said Sir Astolin, leaving the
cave, and calling his white horse, which was
grazing near, and which came at its master's
call, neighing with pleasure.
And Sir Astolin went into the cave again
to get the saddle, and afterwards saddled his
horse. And then as he was mounting he
turned round and looked at Ethelsiega as she
stood at the door of the cave, and letting fall
the reins he exclaimed, as to himself, "And I,
ungrateful, have never even asked-never
He advanced towards her and said, "And
who is it who has tended me in this illness,
and cured my wound ? To whom am I so
deeply bound in service and gratitude for
care which I know not how to repay, and to
Spring Tidings. 69
which I had no claim? Lady-let me at least
know the name of her to whom I owe so much?"
"Do not you remember me?" said Ethel-
siega, looking up timidly, "we have met before,"
but she did not say where.
Surely I know that face," said Sir Astolin.
"It is the maiden who guided me out of the
wood last winter. Beautiful and gentle maiden!
this is the second time that I have to thank
you for the preservation of my life. What
good angel guides you to me ?"
He paused; she did not answer.
He continued, "Are you one of those holy
women whose life is given to deeds of charity?"
Ethelsiega shook her head. "No; I am not
a nun," said she.
"Then why ?" he began, and paused.
"But none the less must I give help and
succour to those whom I see in danger and
suffering," Ethelsiega continued, seeing that
he waited for her answer, and then she felt
almost as if she had spoken falsely, for she
had left so much unsaid. Yet more it was
impossible to say.
The Fairy Spinner.
He looked up at her with sympathy and
admiration in his' eyes and said, "Tell me in
what way I can best prove my deep gratitude
for you. What service can I render? what
can I do that may in any way pleasure you ?
All that I could do would be little to repay
your great courtesy and unexampled kindness."
And he bent forward to hear her answer.
"I do not wish to be repaid," she answered,
coldly and haughtily, "for doing what I"
consider simply my duty;" and she turned
"Do not misunderstand me, dear lady," he
said, following her. I do not speak of recom-
pense, but of that glad and grateful service
which a true knight must ever be eager to
render to any one who has behaved so nobly
and generously as you have."
"Thanks, sir knight," replied Ethelsiega,
turning round to him again. "There is no
service which you can render me; may you
prosper in your enterprise! Do not try your
strength too soon," she continued, in a voice
that was slightly tremulous.
Spring Tidings. 71
"I can then do nothing for you?" he asked,
in a voice that seemed half-discontented.
"Nothing," she answered, and waited to
see Sir Astolin mount and ride off, which he
did slowly and musingly; and as she stood
under the fir-tree she saw him look back at
her once or twice and wave his hand as a
farewell greeting; and her heart sank when she
lost sight of him. Then she returned to the
cottage; and the old peasant never ventured to
ask her any questions as to where she had
THE summer passed and autumn came.
No news of Sir Astolin reached the
princess. She longed to know that he had
recovered from the effects of his wound; that
he had succeeded in his enterprise. Often and
often she thought of all that he had said.
"Who is Gwendolin," she asked herself again
and again. "Doubtless she is the lady whom
he loves. Oh, does she prize his love as she
ought ? Is she worthy of him ?"
Then again she would wonder whether Sir
Astolin had visited her father's court again.
"How differently he spoke to me last time,"
she said to herself. "He recognized me as
the same girl who had guided him out of
the wood. He took me for a peasant then,
and yet last time he spoke to me as to a lady,
so reverently and so chivalrously, and did not
use the familiar 'thou.' And yet I am sure
he does not know who I am. Why is it?"
Another time she would say, as if in answer
to her own thoughts, "How foolish I am! of
course he never can love me, I know that.
Well, and if he never does, what then ? I love
him, and I will serve him whenever and
however I can; at the cost of my life if need
And Ethelsiega's voice grew stronger and
sweeter than ever, and she learned wonderful
songs by listening to the voice of nature; the
songs came to her she knew not how; and now
her singing was like the lark's, high and raptur-
ous and clear and aspiring.
And late in the autumn came messengers
from King Sigebert to Ethelsiega, to ask if she
had repented of her obstinacy and would yield
to his wishes.
"Tell my father," she replied, "that I cannot
alter my determination; and as to the kingdom,
I care not for that; if he thinks best let my
The Fairy Spinner.
cousin have it, but I pray my father to restore
me to his favour and presence."
The messenger told all this to the king.
"Ah!" thought he, "the girl is relenting,
she will give way and be reasonable if I remain
firm;" so he sent word to her that he would
have nothing to do with her until she submitted
entirely to his wishes.
"Then it is quite hopeless," replied the prin-
cess to herself, "I shall never be reconciled
to my father;" and the future seemed darker
Winter came and passed away, no one
brought news of Sir Astolin to Ethelsiega.
Night after night she listened in hopes the
owl would come again, but he never did.
That winter seemed to her much colder and
longer than the last, though, in truth, the
weather was not nearly so severe.
And now the early spring had come, and the
primroses were beginning to peep out from the
moss by the banks of the stream that flowed
through the wood; and Ethelsiega went there
to seek for them, and thought of the time when
that stream had been a torrent, and when she
had seen Sir Astolin in the snow. But then
she longed to go once more to the fir-trees and
see the cave, and recall all that had passed;
but that was more difficult to manage because
it was some distance off, and her hard task-
mistress left her so little time for herself.
However one morning she rose very early,
and set off to walk across the moor before the
peasant was up. The mists were rising from
the ground, and veiled the distance from her;
but as she came near the fir-trees the mists
curled up and floated away, and the sun shone
brightly on the dewy ground. Was it the
effect of the mist, or did she see a white horse
standing under the tree ? It must be her fancy,
and she was almost angry with her eyes for
playing her heart such a trick and making it
beat so fast. No! there really was the horse;
but the knight was nowhere to be seen. Ethel-
siega hurried forward, but suddenly stopped
short. Why should she go ? she did not know
that the knight was in any danger; and if not,
why should she seek to meet him ? she would
The Fairy Spinner.
return, she would not go to the cave. As she
turned to go the horse came trotting up to her,
neighing, and rubbing his head against her
shoulder. She was touched at the horse's
affection for her, stroked and patted him, and
then said, "Return to your master now, dear
Snowdragon, you must not come after me."
But the horse still followed her, and kept
rubbing his head against her, as if he were
asking her to do something for him; but what,
she did not know.
"Where is your master, Snowdragon?" she
asked in the horse's own language, but he
did not reply; he had lived so little with his
own race that he had never learnt their speech,
and so did not understand her. He understood
human language best, but then he could not
reply to that, so it was no use questioning him.
Ethelsiega found that Snowdragon still con-
tinued to follow her, and so began to think
something must be wrong. She therefore re-
turned to the fir-trees, began searching in the
cave and all around to see if she could see Sir
Astolin, but there were no traces of him any-
where. She turned sadly homeward, wondering
what could be the matter, and the horse
When she reached the cottage and went
in Snowdragon waited outside in the road,
but neighed impatiently from time to time.
When Ethelsiega saw this, she felt convinced
that some misfortune had happened to Sir
Astolin, and that the faithful horse had come
to fetch her to his aid.
She hesitated no longer; leaving her loom, at
which she had already sat down to work, she
went out and putting her arms lovingly round
the horse's neck said, "Yes, I will go with you,
Snowdragon, if that is what you want," and
she mounted him at once, and thought to
herself, "This is the second time I have ridden
Sir Astolin's horse, but last time he walked by
my side, now, where is he ? Alas! I fear some
great disaster has befallen him."
But as soon as the princess had mounted,
Snowdragon galloped away as fast as possible;
she felt sure that this was what the horse had
meant all the while.
78 The Fairy Spinner.
Where was he going to take her? He
went across the moor, for miles and miles,
through forests, and at last to the foot of some
mountains which separated the kingdom of
Sigebert from a neighboring state. Ethelsiega
knew that this was the boundary, and she felt
some wonder and a little fear as the horse began
to ascend the road that led to the pass.
"Where are you taking me, Snowdragon?"
she said, patting his neck. However, I fear
nought, so you bring me to your master."
It was a long ascent up the mountain pass, and
the sun was near its setting when they began
to descend the other side of the mountain. At
last the horse stopped on a plain at the foot of
the mountain, and Ethelsiega saw that she was
near to the walls of a strongly fortified castle,
which was built on a mount in the middle of
the plain. Its great embattled walls, and gates
with a strong portcullis, stood out against the
sky, clear in the twilight. Was it here that
Sir Astolin was ? and how,-as master of the
castle, as honoured guest, as prisoner ? What
did it all mean 2
Snowdragon stopped, as if he expected
Ethelsiega to dismount, which she did; and
wondered what she should do next. She
resolved that she would try and learn from
the people of the neighbourhood who was the
lord of that castle, and get some kind of clue as
to what she had to do there; and where Sir
Astolin was. She therefore mounted Snow-
dragon, and urged him on, hoping that she
might see some village or house near, at which
she could make inquiries; but before long she
heard a party of horsemen approaching, and
anxious to avoid being seen, she hastily dis-
mounted and hurried into a thicket which was
near; Snowdragon followed her slowly and
stopping now and then to graze.
As the party on horseback approached, she
saw that they were men in armour, and one
of them shouted out, "There is that white
horse belonging to the knight whom our master
made prisoner the other day. I will catch it,
it will be a famous prize, and I think those
who do the fighting may fairly claim a share
of the booty." So saying, he got off his horse
The Fairy Spinner.
and approached Snowdragon, who no sooner
heard the footsteps behind him than he started
off, scouring over the plain until he was out
of sight. The man returned to his horse
grumbling and swearing, his companions jeered
at him, and the whole troop rode off. Ethel-
siega saw them enter the castle gates, which
were instantly closed behind them.
Sir Astolin a prisoner! What must the
princess do ? How should she free him ? She
must try to learn more about the castle and
its inhabitants. And now, as it grew darker,
she saw lights twinkling at a little distance,
and she concluded that there must be a village.
So she rose up from her hiding-place and
walked on in the direction of the village.
Snowdragon had not yet returned, and so he
did not follow her: of which she was very
glad; for she wished to pass for a peasant, and
not to be identified with the knight in any
way. At last she reached the little village,
and stopped at the inn, the sign of which was
"The Fish and Tinder-box." She asked the
host if she could have a lodging for the night,
assuring him, as he looked uncertainly at her,
that she would pay for her lodging though she
was a poor girl.
"Come in, come in," said the good-natured
host, "I don't care about the pence; come
in and welcome; it is a cold evening to be
out without a roof to shelter one, and you
are a stranger in this part of the country, I
Ethelsiega said, "Yes, she was in search of
a place, she wanted to get into service; now,
would she be likely to succeed in getting into
the service of some of the nobles about there;
the lord of that castle, for instance ?"
The landlord replied that he could not say.
Sir Bringwylt had a vast retinue, and many
dependents, he never sought servants among
outlanderss." What should make the girl
think of going into service in the castle; he
never heard of a maid going in search of
service in that way.
Ethelsiega answered that she longed to know
what life was like in a castle, and she hoped
she might succeed in getting a place there.
The Fairy Sfinner.
Who was the lord of that castle ? she asked.
"Sir Bringwylt, a very powerful knight,"
the host told her, and he had a large troop
of men-at-arms, whom he entertained in his
castle. He was always going out to wars, he
was sure to take part whenever any fighting
was going on. "He is a robber knight,"
whispered the host, "and a friend of the
mighty sorcerer who lives across the moun-
tains. He has a number of prisoners and no
mistake," said mine host of The Fish and
Tinder-box;" "he keeps many in the dungeons
of his castle, and some high up in the towers,
and he has to keep a jailer to look after them;
a right good fellow that jailer is! He some-
times comes down here to taste my cider, but
it is not often he can slip out."
"Does not that jailer want a maid to wait
on him ? asked the princess; "I could fetch
him his cider, and cook for him too. I can
cook very well. To tell you the truth, I have
lived in a palace, and I know how they have
things served up there," she added, nodding
her head knowingly.
The host stared with wonder and delight.
"Lived in a palace Oh, then you know what
service is," he exclaimed; "I will recommend
you to Sir Bringwylt's cook. Perhaps he will
take you into the kitchen to assist. I am
going to send up a few barrels of cider to
the castle to-morrow, and you shall go with
my man, and you can ask about work."
After she had supped, the host showed
Ethelsiega to a small room where she was to
pass the night, and she lay down on the little
bed and slept soundly, being quite worn out
by her long ride. She awoke very early, and
rose up quickly, and looked out towards the
castle, whose white towers she now saw glitter-
ing against the wall of mountain beyond. She
waited at the inn all the morning, till the cart
should be loaded with the cider-barrels, and
the party ready to set out. She was secretly
so full of impatience, that she could hardly
brook the delay: but she talked cheerily to
the innkeeper from time to time, and he was
quite pleased with her.
"What a curious sign your inn has, mine
84 The Fairy Spinner.
host," she said. "I have never seen one like
"Fire and water, you see, fire and water,
that's the idea," he said complacently; "I
thought earth and air had their full share
of honour, for all the inns have 'The Bull,'
'The Lion,' 'The Eagle,' 'The Dove,' and so
forth; I thought once for all I would pay a
little tribute to the other two elements, so
I fixed on that 'Fish and Tinder-box;' it's a
good idea, is it not ?" So he talked on; de-
lighted to have a listener in the princess.
At last the cider-cart was loaded, and the
party ready to set out. The host had taken
such a fancy to Ethelsiega that he resolved to
go up to the castle himself and speak for her to
his friends the cook and jailer; and the princess
was not sorry to have a friendly escort, for she
dreaded to encounter the men-at-arms, fearing
they might all be such rough creatures as those
whom she had seen the evening before. There
was a loud noise in the courtyard as the cart
drove in, men on horseback assembling, others
arming, they were evidently preparing to go
forth on some expedition. But they stopped
and stared as the host passed with his cider-
barrels, and a few of them passed broad com-
pliments to Ethelsiega on her beauty, and
others joked with the host about her. As the
princess walked through the midst she whis-
pered to herself, "Oh, my knight, this is the
hardest of all, but even this is easy for thy
sake!" The host nodded, and looked wise and
self-complacent, and made few answers, and
having sought out the jailer, he first gave over
the cider-barrels, and then began to tell him
about the clever cook-maid who wanted to
serve in that castle, and who had once been in
a palace. The jailer promised to speak to the
cook in her behalf, meanwhile he asked her to
sit down in the great hall.
But he soon came back and said the cook
would not have anything to do with her;
(perhaps he was jealous of her skill, the host
remarked), he did not want a kitchen-maid he
declared; so they need not trouble him. But
the jailer said he liked the looks of the girl,
and he would keep her to mind his own
The Fairy Spinner.
little boy, who was quite neglected since his
mother's death, and at this remembrance the
jolly jailer looked really sad. There was only
one difficulty, she would have to sleep in the
hayloft, over one of the stables. Would she
mind that ? She declared she did not mind
at all. So she was installed in her office as
servant to the jailer, and the good host of
"The Fish and Tinder-box" departed.
And now Ethelsiega's power of sympathy
proved, without her so intending it, the great-
est help to her. For the jailer's little boy
attached himself so much to Ethelsiega, that
it quite won the jailer's heart. The child had
been passionate and troublesome, but Ethelsiega
knew so well how to interest him and make
him happy, that he was always good with her;
and the jailer, who had really a tender heart,
and whose great object of affection was his
child, began very soon to like and to trust
But how was she to learn about her knight?
The first thing was to find out whereabouts in
the castle he was; she dared not ask the jailer
a word about his prisoners, for fear of rousing
his suspicions, and he never volunteered any
information. He went his rounds from time
to time to take the prisoners' food, and to see
that they were safe, but Ethelsiega had no
opportunity of accompanying him; she did not
venture even to suggest such a thing. She
looked wistfully after him every time he went;
and longed to go with him. However, she
must find out where Sir Astolin was ? As she
lay in the hayloft at night she said to herself,
"I have been here a week and have done
nothing as yet. Oh, I wish I knew whether
Sir Astolin were in one of the towers or in
the lower dungeons! Where is he! how can
I find out?" Presently the rats which were
scampering about in the hayloft heard her
talking so sadly to herself, and they spoke thus
"Gentle princess, wait till day,
Ask the swallows, they can say
Whether in the towers above
Dwells the knight you so much love."
Then Ethelsiega thanked the rats for their
The Fairy Sinzner.
good advice, and next morning early she went
out in the courtyard and asked the martens
which were flying about, busy in building their
nests under the eaves of the highest towers,
whether Sir Astolin were in any of the cells
"What is he like ?" they asked.
"He is tall, and has golden hair that makes
a halo round his head, and his presence is like
sunlight," answered the princess.
Then the swallows twittered, and flew about
past the gratings of the cells, and made a great
commotion and chirping. At last one of them
flew down and chirped out to her these words-
"Much it grieves us, princess dear,
But in truth he is not here;
Our advice is, wait till night,
Ask the mole, he'll set all right."
So Ethelsiega waited till night, and then
stole silently into the courtyard, and called
the mole; who came at her summons and
asked what she wanted.
"Have you seen my knight Sir Astolin in
the underground regions?" asked the princess.
"What is he like ?" asked the mole.
"He is tall, and has golden hair that makes
a halo round his head, and his presence is like
sunlight," answered the princess.
Then the mole replied-
"In the dungeon underground
I Sir Astolin have found,
Where no ray from sun or stars
Penetrates his prison-bars."
"Dear mole! good mole! which cell is he
in ?" asked the princess.
"Well! if you go straight down my burrow
and take the first turning on the right, and
then the second turning on the left, and then
the downward way for thirty yards, then turn
to the right, and then take the upward way
for two yards, and then turn to the right again
-there you are, in his cell."
"I am afraid I cannot go down your bur-
row," said Ethelsiega sorrowfully, "can you
not tell me anything else about the position of
the cell ?"
"I know no other way to it except down
my burrow," said the mole, and ran off.
The Fairy Spinner.
So this was all that the princess could learn;
but this was something.
One day, to her great joy, the jailer, as he
was setting off on his rounds to the cells, told
Ethelsiega to come with him and carry a
pitcher of water and the drinking-cup for the
prisoners, because he had the basket of bread,
and that was as much as he could carry.
She followed him, hoping to catch some glimpse
into the cells; but the jailer always told her
to wait outside when he carried in the bread
and water; and the light of his lanthorn was
so feeble that it hardly made anything visible
in that profound darkness; besides, Ethelsiega
was afraid of making the jailer suspicious if
she peeped into the cells. After visiting the
tower dungeon, he went up into the towers to
the cells there, and she accompanied him, but
she did not care about that at all-Sir Astolin
was not up there.
It happened one afternoon that the land-
lord of "The Fish and Tinder-box" came up to
visit his friend the jailer-and the two sat
down in the jailer's room to talk over matters,
and to drink cider together. The host asked
how the maid did, and the jailer praised her
greatly, and said she was very useful to him,
and related the various ways in which she
helped him. The afternoon went on and still
the two sat there, and at last the jailer remem-
bered that it was past the usual time for him
to make his rounds; but he was very loath to
leave his comfortable chair, his cider, and his
guest, so he shouted out to Ethelsiega that she
knew the way very well, and that she could
take the bread and water to the prisoners; she
might take the bread first and then the water-
it did not matter about her making two jour-
neys of it; she knew the key of the outer door
that led into the passage where all the cells
were, and the key that opened all the cells.
The prisoners were chained, the jailer said, so
she need not be afraid to go into the cells; no
prisoner could possibly escape. So the jailer
gave her his keys, and sat there enjoying him-
self, and in perfect security.
With what delight and yet fear did Ethel-
siega find herself now able to enter the cells
92 The Fairy Spinner.
and to seek her beloved knight. All the
prisoners chained, the man had said. Alas!
she had no means of striking off chains; but
that might be managed in time if once she
knew Sir Astolin's cell. You may well believe
that she hurried down to the subterranean
dungeons first: she carried with her the heavy
basket of bread, and the jailer's lanthorn. She
went to one cell after another, leaving a loaf
in each, and looking eagerly into the face of
each prisoner, to see if he were her knight;
but again and again she was disappointed.
Her heart sank with dismay and pity as she
beheld the sorrowful and wan faces of the men
in those dungeons; their look of hopeless
suffering was dreadful, and she had never
imagined human beings living in such absolute
darkness, and in places almost deprived of air.
Many a mournful face met hers, and gazed
with something like a ray of hope and joy at
the sight of that young beautiful girl. It
seemed as if an angel of consolation had come
to visit their prison.
But Ethelsiega dared not stay to speak, only
her eyes looked pity. She had reached the
lowest cell and was preparing to unlock the
door, when the sound of a man's voice singing
met her ears. She listened-the song was
"Dark the world to me-but bright
And clear the heaven out of sight.
Why repine that God doth bless
With his sunlight one soul less ?
Heart of mine! canst thou despair,
Since the light is always there ?
For I know the sunshine fills
All the valleys-crowns the hills.
So the light of perfect trust
Fills my soul-for God is just.
Heart of mine!-thou canst not fear,
Since His love is always near."
Ethelsiega could not mistake that voice: it
was Sir Astolin's. Trembling she unlocked
the door and entered. The song ended as she
came in. The darkness was so intense that for
a moment she could see nothing; but holding
up the lanthorn, its rays fell upon a well-
known figure leaning against a pillar. There
was the noble head with its halo of golden
hair, but the eyes looked sunken, and the
The Fairy Spinner.
cheeks thin. A flush overspread the knight's
face as he saw Ethelsiega, and he exclaimed,
"What marvel is this ?" but before he could
say more she broke in-
"Hist, sir knight, beware lest we be heard.
If it were known that I spoke to you, all hopes
of deliverance would be over. Tell me
quickly; can your freedom be obtained by
ransom ? Is the enemy who keeps you here
placable, or not ?"
"Alas! no," replied the knight. "There is
no chance for my freedom unless my friends
fought for it, or unless I could escape."
"Who are your friends ? can I go and tell
them where you are, and rouse them to action ?
Say briefly what I can do for you."
"My friends I fear are now in too helpless
a condition themselves to come to my rescue.
But you, noble maiden, what brings you
"Never mind that," replied the princess,
"I am the jailer's servant at present; say not
a word to him about me: ignore me. But tell
me, can you think of no means of escape ? Be
brief, for I fear to awaken suspicion if I tarry;
and such another opportunity may not soon
occur. How can we break these chains ? the
rest might be managed."
"If I had but my sword," exclaimed the
knight: "with my magic sword I can cut
through fetters, through anything. My foes
could never have conquered me had not they
attacked me from behind, and struck my
sword out of my hand, before I could raise it
"Your sword," said Ethelsiega, "doubtless
I can find that, for I pass through the armoury
every day; perhaps it is there,-if so, I will
watch my opportunity to seize it and bring it
"Nay-nay, do not so," said the knight,
"because it might expose you to danger."
"I fear no danger," said Ethelsiega proudly,
and was about to depart when Sir Astolin
called to her to stop.
"I beseech you, gentle maiden, do not
attempt to seize my sword, even if you can
find it, for among its other wonderful proper-
96 The Fairy Spinner.
ties is this. If a thought of fear for himself
comes into the mind of any one who grasps it,
the sword will shiver in pieces. Should you
therefore succeed in getting it, and should you
be exposed to any danger, not only can I never
suffer that you should be so on my account,
but you will run the risk of breaking my
sword, for it is impossible that you should find
yourself in peril and not feel fear: and I
would rather abide my fate here, and wait
some other means of escape, than lose my
sword for ever!"
"Leave all to me, sir knight," said Ethel-
siega as she left the cell.
Knowing that she must return with the
water, she ventured to leave the door of Sir
Astolin's cell open; and then she hastened to
the upper tower to carry bread to the prisoners
there. But as she was descending the tower-
staircase, she heard the jailer calling to her in
an angry voice, and asking if she had not been
the rounds yet, she had been very long about
it. She told him she was now going to carry
the water to the prisoners. He said that he
would do that himself; as she had not finished
her task he might just as well do it, for his
guest was gone. He therefore took the keys
from her, and set off towards the tower pris-
oners with the water.
"Now it is all over!" thought Ethelsiega,
"he will find the open door and will never let
me go there again."
But instantly she resolved on her course of
action. She would find the sword and put it
into Sir Astolin's hand before the old jailer
had reached the knight's cell. Quick as
thought she darted into the armoury, which
was a large hall and always open. Glancing
round the walls she described the sword. She
knew it by the hilt set with rubies and
"I will never fear whatever befalls," she
whispered to herself, and seized the sword in
her hand. She left the armoury and prepared
to pass through the great hall. But there she
saw Sir Bringwylt and his men, who were
feasting together. She always dreaded encoun-
tering the men-at-arms, but now all depended