Hynde Horn

: Tales From Scottish Ballads

"'Oh, it's Hynde Horn fair, and it's Hynde Horn free;

Oh, where were you born, and in what countrie?'

'In a far distant countrie I was born;

But of home and friends I am quite forlorn.'"

Once upon a time there was a King of Scotland, called King Aylmer, who

had one little daughter, whose name was Jean. She was his only daughter,

and, as her mother was dead, he adored her. H
gave her whatever she

liked to ask for, and her nursery was so full of toys and games of all

kinds, that it was a wonder that any little girl, even although she was

a Princess, could possibly find time to play with them all.

She had a beautiful white palfrey to ride on, and two piebald ponies to

draw her little carriage when she wanted to drive; but she had no one of

her own age to play with, and often she felt very lonely, and she was

always asking her father to bring her someone to play with.

"By my troth," he would reply, "but that were no easy matter, for thou

art a royal Princess, and it befits not that such as thou shouldst play

with children of less noble blood."

Then little Princess Jean would go back to her splendid nurseries with

the tears rolling down her cheeks, wishing with all her heart that she

had been born just an ordinary little girl.

King Aylmer had gone away on a hunting expedition one day, and Princess

Jean was playing alone as usual, in her nursery, when she heard the

sound of her father's horn outside the castle walls, and the old porter

hurried across the courtyard to open the gate. A moment later the King's

voice rang through the hall, calling loudly for old Elspeth, the nurse.

The old dame hurried down the broad staircase, followed by the little

Princess, who was surprised that her father had returned so early from

his hunting, and what was her astonishment to see him standing, with all

his nobles round him, holding a fair-haired boy in his arms.

The boy's face was very white, and his eyes were shut, and the little

Princess thought that he was dead, and ran up to a gray-haired baron,

whose name was Athelbras, and hid her face against his rough hunting


But old Elspeth ran forward and took the boy's hand in hers, and laid

her ear against his heart, and then she asked that he might be carried

up into her own chamber, and that the housekeeper might be sent after

them with plenty of blankets, and hot water, and red wine.

When all this had been done, King Aylmer noticed his little daughter,

and when he saw how pale her cheeks were, he patted her head and said,

"Cheer up, child, the young cock-sparrow is not dead; 'tis but a swoon

caused by the cold and wet, and methinks when old Elspeth hath put a

little life into him, thou wilt mayhap have found a playfellow."

Then he called for his horse and rode away to hunt again, and Princess

Jean was once more left alone. But this time she did not feel lonely.

Her father's wonderful words, "Thou wilt mayhap have found a

playfellow," rang in her ears, and she was so busy thinking about them,

sitting by herself in the dark by the nursery fire, that she started

when old Elspeth opened the door of her room and called out, "Come,

Princess, the young gentleman hath had a sweet sleep, and would fain

talk with thee."

The little Princess went into the room on tip-toe, and there, lying on

the great oak settle by the fire, was the boy whom she had seen in her

father's arms. He seemed about four years older than she was, and he was

very handsome, with long yellow hair, which hung in curls round his

shoulders, and merry blue eyes, and rosy cheeks.

He smiled at her as she stood shyly in the doorway, and held out his

hand. "I am thy humble servant, Princess," he said. "If it had not been

for thy father's kindness, and for this old dame's skill, I would have

been dead ere now."

Princess Jean did not know what to say; she had often wished for someone

who was young enough to play with her, but now that she had found a real

playmate, she felt as if someone had tied her tongue.

"What is thy name, and where dost thou come from?" she asked at last.

The boy laughed, and pointed to a little stool which stood beside the

settle. "Sit down there," he said, "and I will tell thee. I have often

wished to have a little sister of my own, and now I will pretend that

thou art my little sister."

Princess Jean did as she was bid, and went and sat down on the stool,

and the stranger began his tale.

"My name is Hynde Horn," he said, "and I am a King's son."

"And I am a King's daughter," said the little Princess, and then they

both laughed.

Then the boy's face grew grave again.

"They called my father King Allof," he said, "and my mother's name was

Queen Godyet, and they reigned over a beautiful country far away in the

East. I was their only son, and we were all as happy as the day was

long, until a wicked king, called Mury, came with his soldiers, and

fought against my father, and killed him, and took his kingdom. My

mother and I tried to escape, but the fright killed my mother--she died

in a hut in the forest where we had hidden ourselves, and some soldiers

found me weeping beside her body, and took me prisoner, and carried me

to the wicked King.

"He was too cruel to kill me outright--he wanted me to die a harder

death--so he bade his men tie my hands and my feet, and carry me down to

the sea-shore, and put me in a boat, and push it out into the sea; and

there they left me to die of hunger and thirst.

"At first the sun beat down on my face, and burned my skin, but by and

by it grew dark, and a great storm arose, and the boat drifted on and

on, and I grew so hungry, and then so thirsty--oh! I thought I would die

of thirst--and at last I became unconscious, for I remember nothing more

until I woke up to find yonder kind old dame bending over me."

"The boat was washed up on our shore, just as his Highness the King rode

past," explained old Elspeth, who was stirring some posset over the

fire, and listening to the story.

"And what did you say your name was?" demanded the little Princess, who

had listened with eager attention to the story.

"Hynde Horn," repeated the boy, whose eyes were wet with tears at the

thought of all that he had gone through.

"Prince Hynde Horn," corrected Princess Jean, who liked always to have

her title given to her, and expected that other people liked the same.

"Well, I suppose I ought to be King Horn now, were it not for that

wicked King who hath taken my Kingdom, as well as my father's life; but

the people in my own land always called me Hynde Horn, and I like the

old name best."

"But what doth it mean?" persisted the little Princess.

The boy blushed and looked down modestly. "It is an old word which in

our language means 'kind' or 'courteous,' but I am afraid that they

flattered me, for I did not always deserve it."

The little Princess clapped her hands. "We will call thee by it," she

said, "until thou provest thyself unworthy of it."

After this a new life opened up for the little girl.

King Aylmer, finding that the young Prince who had been so unexpectedly

thrown on his protection was both modest and manly, determined to

befriend him, and to give him a home at his Court until he was old

enough to go and try to recover his kingdom, and avenge his parents'

death, so he gave orders that a suite of rooms in the castle should be

given to him, and arranged that Baron Athelbras, his steward, should

train him in all knightly accomplishments, such as hawking and tilting

at the ring. He soon found out too that Hynde Horn had a glorious voice,

and sang like a bird, so he gave orders that old Thamile, the minstrel,

should teach him to play the harp; and soon he could play it so well,

that the whole Court would sit round him in the long winter evenings,

and listen to his music.

He was so sweet-tempered, and lovable, that everyone liked him, and

would say to one another that the people in his own land had done well

to name him Hynde Horn.

To the little Princess he was the most delightful companion, for he was

never too busy or too tired to play with her. He taught her to ride as

she had never ridden before, not merely to jog along the road on her fat

palfrey, but to gallop alongside of him under the trees in the forest,

and they used to be out all day, hunting and hawking, for he trained two

dear little white falcons and gave them to her, and taught her to carry

them on her wrist; and she grew so fat and rosy that everyone said it

was a joyful day when Hynde Horn was washed up on the sea-shore in the


But alas! people do not remain children for ever, and, as years went on,

Hynde Horn grew into as goodly a young man as anyone need wish to see,

and of course he fell in love with Princess Jean, and of course she fell

in love with him. Everyone was quite delighted, and said, "What is to

hinder them from being married at once, and then when Princess Jean

comes to be Queen, we will be quite content to have Hynde Horn for our


But wise King Aylmer would not agree to this. He knew that it is not

good for any man to have no difficulties to overcome, and to get

everything that he wants without any trouble.

"Nay," he said, "but the lad hath to win his spurs first, and to show us

of what stuff he is made. Besides, his father's Kingdom lies desolate,

ruled over by an alien. He shall be betrothed to my daughter, and we

will have a great feast to celebrate the event, and then I will give him

a ship, manned by thirty sailors, and he shall go away to his own land

in search of adventure, and when he hath done great deeds of daring, and

avenged his father's death, he shall come again, and my daughter will be

waiting for him."

So there was a splendid feast held at the castle, and all the great

lords and barons came to it, and Princess Jean and Hynde Horn were

betrothed amidst great rejoicing, for everyone was glad to think that

their Princess would wed someone whom they knew, and not a stranger.

But the hearts of the two lovers were heavy, and when the feast was

over, and all the guests had gone away, they went out on a little

balcony in front of the castle, which overlooked the sea. It was a

lovely evening, the moon was full, and by its light they could see the

white sails of the ship lying ready in the little bay, waiting to carry

Hynde Horn far away to other lands. The roses were nodding their heads

over the balcony railings and the honeysuckle was falling in clusters

from the castle walls, but it might have been December for all that poor

Princess Jean cared, and the tears rolled fast down her face as she

thought of the parting.

"Alack, alack, Hynde Horn," she said, "could I but go with thee! How

shall I live all these years, with no one to talk to, or to ride with?"

Then he tried to comfort her with promises of how brave he would be, and

how soon he would conquer his father's enemies and come back to her; but

they both knew in their hearts that this was the last time that they

would be together for long years to come.

At last Hynde Horn drew a long case from his pocket, out of which he

took a beautifully wrought silver wand, with three little silver

laverocks[32] sitting on the end of it. "This," he said, "dear love, is

for thee; the sceptre is a token that thou rulest in my heart, as well

as over broad Scotland, and the three singing laverocks are to remind

thee of me, for thou hast oft-times told me that my poor singing reminds

thee of a lark."

[Footnote 32: Larks.]

Then Princess Jean drew from her finger a gold ring, set with three

priceless diamonds. It was so small it would only go on the little

finger of her lover's left hand. "This is a token of my love," she said

gravely, "therefore guard it well. When the diamonds are bright and

shining, thou shalt know that my love for thee will be burning clear and

true; but if ever they lose their lustre and grow pale and dim, then

know thou that some evil hath befallen me. Either I am dead, or else

someone tempts me to be untrue."

Next morning the fair white ship spread her sails, and carried Hynde

Horn far away over the sea. Princess Jean stood on the little balcony

until the tallest mast had disappeared below the horizon, and then she

threw herself on her bed, and wept as though her heart would break.

After this, for many a long day, there was nothing heard of Hynde Horn,

not even a message came from him, and people began to say that he must

be dead, and that it was high time that their Princess forgot him, and

listened to the suit of one of the many noble princes who came to pay

court to her from over the sea. She would not listen to them, however,

and year after year went by.

Now it happened, that, when seven years had passed, a poor beggar went

up one day to the castle in the hope that one of the servants would see

him, and give him some of the broken bread and meat that was always left

from the hall table. The porter knew him by sight and let him pass into

the courtyard, but although he loitered about for a whole hour, no one

appeared to have time to speak to him. It seemed as if something unusual

were going on, for there were horses standing about in the courtyard,

held by grooms in strange liveries, and servants were hurrying along, as

if they were so busy they hardly knew what to do first. The old beggar

man spoke to one or two of them as they passed, but they did not pay any

attention to him, so at last he thought it was no use waiting any

longer, and was about to turn away, when a little scullery-maid came out

of the kitchen, and began to wash some pots under a running tap. He went

up to her, and asked if she could spare him any broken victuals.

She looked at him crossly. "A pretty day to come for broken victuals,"

she cried, "when we all have so much to do that we would need twenty

fingers on every hand, and four pairs of hands at the very least. Knowst

thou not that an embassage has come from over the sea, seeking the hand

of our Princess Jean for the young Prince of Eastnesse, he that is so

rich that he could dine off diamonds every day, an' it suited him, and

they are all in the great hall now, talking it over with King Aylmer?

Only 'tis said that the Princess doth not favour the thought; she is all

for an old lover called Hynde Horn, whom everyone else holds to be dead

this many a year. Be it as it may, I have no time to talk to the like of

thee, for we have a banquet to cook for fifty guests, not counting the

King and all his nobles. The like of it hath not been seen since the day

when Princess Jean and that Hynde Horn plighted their troth these seven

years ago. But hark'ee, old man, it might be well worth thy while to

come back to-morrow; there will be plenty of picking then." And, flapping

her dish-clout in the wind, she ran into the kitchen again.

The old beggar went away, intending to take her advice and return on the

morrow; but as he was walking along the sands to a little cottage where

he sometimes got a night's lodging, he met a gallant Knight on

horseback, who was very finely dressed, and wore a lovely scarlet cloak.

The beggar thought that he must be one of the King's guests, who had

come out for a gallop on the smooth yellow sands, and he stood aside and

pulled off his cap; but the Knight drew rein, and spoke to him.

"God shield thee, old man," he said, "and what may the news be in this

country? I used to live here, but I have been in far-off lands these

seven years, and I know not how things go on."

"Sire," answered the beggar, "things have gone on much as usual for

these few years back, but it seems as if changes were in the air. I was

but this moment at the castle, and 'twas told me that the young Prince

Eitel, heir to the great Kingdom of Eastnesse, hath sent to crave the

hand of our Princess; and although the young lady favours not his suit

(she being true to an old love, one Hynde Horn, who is thought to be

dead), the King her father is like to urge her to it, for the King of

Eastnesse is a valuable ally, and fabulously rich."

Then a strange light came into the stranger's eyes, and, to the beggar's

astonishment, he sprang from his horse, and held out the rein to him.

"Wilt do me a favour, friend?" he said. "Wilt give me thy beggar's

wallet, and staff, and cloak, if I give thee my horse, and this cloak of

crimson sarsenet? I have a mind to turn beggar."

The beggar scratched his head, and looked at him in surprise. "He hath

been in the East, methinks," he muttered, "and the sun hath touched his

brain, but anyhow 'tis a fair exchange; that crimson cloak will sell for

ten merks any day, and for the horse I can get twenty pounds," and

presently he cantered off, well pleased with the bargain, while the

other,--the beggar's wallet in his hand, his hat drawn down over his

eyes, and leaning on his staff,--began to ascend the steep hill leading

to the castle.

When he reached the great gate, he knocked boldly on the iron knocker,

and the knock was so imperious that the porter hastened to open it at

once. He expected to see some lordly knight waiting there, and when he

saw no one but a weary-looking beggar man, he uttered an angry

exclamation, and was about to shut the great gate in his face, but the

beggar's voice was wondrously sweet and low, and he could not help

listening to it.

"Good porter, for the sake of St Peter and St Paul, and for the sake of

Him who died on the Holy Rood, give a cup of wine, and a little piece of

bread, to a poor wayfarer."

As the porter hesitated between pity and impatience, the pleading voice

went on, "And one more boon would I crave, kind man. Carry a message

from me to the fair bride who is to be betrothed this day, and ask her

if she will herself hand the bite and the sup to one who hath come from


"Ask the Bride! ask the Princess Jean to come and feed thee with her own

hands!" cried the man in astonishment. "Nay, thou art mad. Away with

thee; we want no madmen here," and he would have thrust the beggar

aside; but the stranger laid his hand on his shoulder, and said calmly,

as if he were giving an order to a servant, "Go, tell her it is for the

sake of Hynde Horn." And the old porter turned and went without a word.

Meanwhile all the guests in the castle were gathered at the banquet in

the great banqueting hall. On a raised dais at the end of the room sat

King Aylmer and the great Ambassador who had come from Prince Eitel of

Eastnesse, and between them sat Princess Jean, dressed in a lovely white

satin dress, with a little circlet of gold on her head. The King and the

Ambassador were in high spirits, for they had persuaded the Princess to

marry Prince Eitel in a month and a day from that time; but poor

Princess Jean looked pale and sad.

As all the lords and nobles who were feasting in the hall below stood up

and filled their glasses, and drank to the health of Prince Eitel of

Eastnesse and his fair bride, she had much ado to keep the tears from

falling, as she thought of the old days when Hynde Horn and she went out

hunting and hawking together.

Just at that moment the door opened, and the porter entered, and,

without looking to the right hand or to the left, marched straight up

the hall and along the dais, until he came to where Princess Jean sat;

then he stooped down and whispered something to her.

In a moment the Princess' pale face was like a damask rose, and, taking

a glass full of ruby-red wine in one hand, and a farl of cake in the

other, she rose, and walked straight out of the hall.

"By my faith," said King Aylmer, who was startled by the look on his

daughter's face, "something hath fallen out, I ween, which may change

the whole course of events," and he rose and followed her, accompanied

by the Ambassador and all the great nobles.

At the head of the staircase they stopped and watched the Princess as

she went down the stairs and across the courtyard, her long white robe

trailing behind her, with the cup of ruby-red wine in one hand, and the

farl of cake in the other.

When she came to the gateway, there was no one there but a poor old

beggar man, and all the foreign noblemen looked at each other and shook

their heads, and said, "Certs, but it misdoubts us if this bride will

please our young Prince, if she is wont to disturb a court banquet

because she must needs serve beggars with her own hands."

But Princess Jean heard none of this. With trembling hands she held out

the food to the beggar. He raised the wine to his lips, and pledged the

fair bride before he drank it, and when he handed the glass back to her,

lo! in the bottom of it lay the gold ring which she had given to her

lover Hynde Horn, seven long years before.

"Oh," she cried breathlessly, snatching it out of the glass, "tell me

quickly, I pray thee, where thou didst find this? Was't on the sea, or

in a far-off land, and was the hand that it was taken from alive or


"Nay, noble lady," answered the beggar, and at the sound of his voice

Princess Jean grew pale again, "I did not get it on the sea, or in a

far-off land, but in this country, and from the hand of a fair lady. It

was a pledge of love, noble Princess, which I had given to me seven long

years ago, and the diamonds were to be tokens of the brightness and

constancy of that love. For seven long years they have gleamed and

sparkled clearly, but now they are dim, and losing their brightness, so

I fear me that my lady's love is waning and growing cold."

Then Princess Jean knew all, and she tore the circlet of gold from her

head and knelt on the cold stones at his feet, and cried, "Hynde Horn,

my own Hynde Horn, my love is not cold, neither is it dim; but thou wert

so long in coming, and they said it was my duty to marry someone else.

But now, even if thou art a beggar, I will be a beggar's wife, and

follow thee from place to place, and we can harp and sing for our


Hynde Horn laughed a laugh that was pleasant to hear, and he threw off

the beggar's cloak, and, behold, he was dressed as gaily as any gallant

in the throng.

"There is no need of that, Sweetheart," he said. "I did it but to try

thee. I have not been idle these seven years; I have killed the wicked

King, and come into my own again, and I have fought and conquered the

Saracens in the East, and I have gold enough and to spare."

Then he drew her arm within his, and they crossed the courtyard together

and began to ascend the stairs. Suddenly old Athelbras, the steward,

raised his cap and shouted, "It is Hynde Horn, our own Hynde Horn," and

then there was such a tumult of shouting and cheering that everyone was

nearly deafened. Even the Ambassador from Eastnesse and all his train

joined in it, although they knew that now Princess Jean would never

marry their Prince; but they could not help shouting, for everyone

looked so happy.

And the next day there was another great banquet prepared, and riders

were sent all over the country to tell the people everywhere to rejoice,

for their Princess was being married, not to any stranger, but to her

old lover, Hynde Horn, who had come back in time after all.