Page images

them politely and made a great feast for them, but after they were through she wiped her mouth with a fine handkerchief and said, "My lord, every suitor who comes to me must submit to a certain trial. It is the custom of my palace. To-morrow morning I shall ask you to tell upon whom I bestow this handkerchief, and if you cannot tell me you must lose your head." With that she thrust the handkerchief into her bosom and left the room.

The prince went to bed in a very mournful frame of mind, but Jack put on his cap of knowledge and from it learned that every night the lady was carried to meet the magician in a distant part of the forest. So Jack put on his coat of darkness and his shoes of swiftness and reached the place before she arrived. When the lady came, she handed the handkerchief to the magician, who took it and put ft in his pocket. With one blow of his sword of sharpness Jack struck off the magician's head; then, taking the handkerchief from the pocket, he returned to the castle with incredible speed and handed the handkerchief to the prince.

The moment the magician died the lady was freed from her enchantment and was restored to her former gentleness and goodness. The next day she was married to the prince, and in two days more they returned to the court of King Arthur, where they were received with great joy.

For the many great exploits which Jack had performed he was knighted by King Arthur and became one of the famous knights of the Round Table.

Jack had been so lucky in all of his adventures thus far that he could not rest in idleness, but felt that he must do all that he could for the honor of King Arthur and the Round Table. He therefore asked the King for a horse and money, that he might travel on in search of new adventures.

"There are," he said, "still in Wales a great many giants, who live in remote parts, but who come forth at times to terrorize and destroy your majesty's subjects. Now if you are pleased to favor me as I ask, I shall soon rid your country of these giants and hideous monsters."

'The king joyfully consented to Jack's proposal and fitted him out with everything necessary for such a journey. Jack took leave of the king and his knights of the Round Table and set forth on his adventures, taking with him his cap of knowledge, his coat of darkness, his shoes of swiftness and his sword of sharpness. Over hills and mountains he traveled for three days, and then as he passed through a dense forest he heard terrible shrieks and cries, and pushing his way among the trees he beheld a monstrous giant dragging a knight and a beautiful lady over the ground by the hair.

Their cries melted the heart of honest Jack, who tied his horse to a tree, put on his coat of darkness and under it hid his sword of sharpness. When he came up to the giant he struck at him many times, but he could not reach a vital point because of the monster's enormous height. Finally, taking his sword in both his hands and aiming just below the knees, he swung his trusty blade with such force that he cut off both of the giant's legs, and the gigantic body, tumbling to the ground, made the trees quiver and the ground shake. Jack set his foot upon the giant's neck and shouted, "You savage wretch, I come to execute upon you a just punishment for your hideous crimes."

Thereupon he plunged his sword into the giant's body, and the huge monster gave a hideous groan of agony and rolled over quite dead. The noble knight and the beautiful lady were overjoyed at the sudden death of the giant, thanked Jack the GiantKiller heartily for their deliverance, and invited him to their palace to rest and refresh himself and likewise to receive a fitting reward for his great service.

"No," said Jack; "I cannot remain at ease till I have found the den of this horrible monster I have just slain."

Thereupon the knight grew very sorrowful and exclaimed, "Noble stranger, you must not run so terrible a risk a second time. That giant lived in a cavern in the mountain with a brother more fierce' and cruel by far than he was. If you should go, therefore, and perish in the attempt, both my wife and I would break our hearts with grief. Let me beg of you to desist from any further pursuit."

"No," said Jack; "if there be another, or even if there be twenty more, I would shed the last drop of my blood rather than allow one to escape. It is my task to free this land from giants. When I have accomplished it I will return and pay my respects to you."

Learning from the knight where the cavern was located, Jack mounted his horse and rode away to settle accounts with the giant's brother.

Jack had not ridden more than a mile and a half when he came in sight of the mouth of the cavern, and there at the entrance of it he saw the other giant sitting on a huge block of pine timber with a knotted iron club lying by his side. His enormous eyes were like flames of fire, his features were grim, his cheeks looked like two sides of bacon, the bristles of his beard were like iron wires, and his long locks of hair fell down upon his brawny shoulders like a mass of writhing snakes. Jack dismounted, tied his horse in the thicket and put on his coat of darkness. Then going close up to the giant he said softly, "O, are you there? It will not be long before I have you fast by the beard."

Because of the coat of darkness the monster could not see Jack, who came still nearer, and, swinging his sword of sharpness, struck a fierce blow at the giant. However, his aim was not true, and all he did was to smite off the nose of the giant, whose roars sounded like continuous claps of thunder. Like one mad he rolled his glaring eyes on every side and struck out right and left with his huge iron club.

"Oh," said Jack, "if fighting is what you want, T will kill vou at once before some chance blow strikes me."

As he said this he slipped nimbly behind the giant, and, jumping upon the block of timber, stabbed him between the shoulders. After a few despairing howls the giant fell down and died, whereupon Jack struck off his head and sent it with the brother's head by messenger to King Arthur.

Having slain the two giants, Jack went into the cave in search of their treasure. He came at length into a great room paved with freestone. At one end was a boiling cauldron, and at the other a huge table where the giants used to dine. On one side of the room he looked through a large barred window and beheld a great number of wretched prisoners who cried out when they saw Jack, "Alas, alas, young man, must you, too, come to be one of us?"

"On the other hand," said Jack, "I hope you will not stay here long; but pray tell me why you are all shut up here?"

"Alas," said one poor old man, "I will tell you. We have been captured by the giants who live in this cave, and are kept here till they make a feast. Then will they come and select one of us, cook and season him to their taste, and eat him at their leisure. It is not long since three of our companions were taken for this same purpose."

"Well," said Jack, "I have given those giants such a meal that it will be a long time before they want another."

The captives showed the amazement they felt at such a statement.

"O, you may believe me," said Jack, "for I have slain them both with my good sword, and have sent their great heads to King Arthur as a token of my success."

« PreviousContinue »