After they quitted the brazen pillar, they, too, traversed that sea so famed in ancient story. But their ship being wrecked as they were approaching the land, and sinking beneath their feet, they mounted on the backs of two huge dolphins, which were swimming by at the time, and which Saint Patrick caught with cunningly-devised hooks; and thus towing their steeds, they reached in safety the sandy shores of Africa. There landing, while they sat by the sea-side burnishing their arms, which were slightly rusty from the salt air, the sweetest strains of music struck upon their ears. The Squire listened, and rising from the rock on which he sat, he wandered on to discover whence they proceeded.
What was his astonishment, as he looked into a cavern half filled with water, to behold a dozen lovely nymphs, almost immersed in the crystal sea, combing their golden locks, while from their throats came forth those warbling sounds.
The Squire gazed enravished. "Och, but you are beautiful creatures!" he exclaimed, forgetting that his voice might be heard. The maidens started, like frightened deer, at the sound; and then, seeing the faithful Terence as he looked over the rock, they swam towards him, putting out their arms, and endeavouring to grasp his hands. A more prudent person would have withdrawn, and suspected treachery; but such an idea never occurred to the mind of the warm-hearted Irishman.
"A pleasant morning to ye, my pretty damsels!" quoth he, offering his hand to the first who came up, expecting to assist her to land; for, as they were dressed in sea-green garments, and had wreaths of red and white coral on their heads, he thought that they would have no objection to come out of the water. Instead, however, of coming out themselves, the first held him tight, and others arriving caught hold of him likewise, and began to pull and pull away till the faithful Terence discovered, without a doubt, that it was their purpose to pull him in.
"But I can't swim, Ladies!" he exclaimed. "I shall spoil my armour and wet my clothes -- let me go, if you please, now." He wished to speak them fair, though doubts as to what they were began to rise up in his mind. "Och, now, let me go, I say! A joke's a joke all the world over; but if you souse me head over ears in that pool, and drown me entirely, it will be a very bad one to my taste now." The more, however, he shouted and struggled the harder the damsels pulled.
Though Terence was a stout fellow, and had been in many a hot fight in foreign lands, and not a few scrimmages in Old Ireland, he never had had such a struggle in his life. At last his cries brought Saint Patrick to his aid, (for who would the Champion of Ireland have helped more willingly than Terence O'Grady?) and seizing the other arm, he hauled away lustily against the twelve sea-nymphs, whom he at once discovered to be mermaids, who had set their hearts on carrying off his faithful Squire to their coral homes beneath the waves.
Between the mermaids on one side, and his master on the other, hauling away with all their might, poor Terence was very nearly torn in pieces. Still he struggled and strove, entreating his master not to let him go.
Shouts of merry laughter issued from the throats of the mermaids; but though they diverted themselves with the terror of the faithful Terence, they did not cease to pull at him the less hard, till he began to fear that, if they could not have the whole, they would have a bit of him to a certainty.
Saint Patrick himself saw full well that the matter was no joke; but how to rescue his Squire without using his sword, and against that all his knightly feelings revolted, even he was sorely puzzled to discover.
As it happened, there dwelt not far off, in a lofty castle of iron walls and golden battlements, a monstrous giant, who had long sought one of these mermaids in marriage; but she fearing his temper, and not wishing to leave her watery home had ever disdainfully refused to listen to his proposals. He now was wandering along the shore in search of her to prosecute his suit.
As he looked down into the cave and saw the mermaids, one of whom was his beloved, pulling away on one side at the faithful Terence, while Saint Patrick pulled on the other, he uttered a loud roar of rage and fury. The sound so alarmed the mermaids that they let go their hold, and fled away in terror, to hide themselves in their coral homes, while Saint Patrick, looking up, beheld the Giant frowning down defiance at him.
The Irish Champion, nothing daunted, drew his falchion. "Ah, my trusty weapon, thou hast at length found a worthy enemy!" he exclaimed, climbing up the cliff towards the Giant, closely followed by the faithful Terence. Black as jet was the Giant, but blacker were his looks, yet blackest of all were his intentions. Behind him stood a huge crocodile, opening wide its immense jaws, and threatening to devour anyone who came within their compass. Many a stout warrior would have avoided the encounter; but Saint Patrick boldly advanced, trusting in a good cause, his own arm, and his well-tempered sword, feeling assured, also, that Terence would give a good account of the crocodile.
Quickly were heard to sound the ringing strokes of the Champion's trusty falchion against the black shield of the Giant, whose huge battle-axe dealt many a fearful blow in return. Fiercely raged the combat. Blow after blow was given and taken with right good will, while the Giant bellowed out so loudly his threats of vengeance against the valiant Knight, that the rocks and distant mountains resounded with his cries mingled with the clang of desperate strife.
Terence stood by to watch the contest, not to deprive his loved master of a shred of glory, till he saw the crocodile opening his monstrous jaws to snap at his legs. Then he saw that the time for action had arrived, and, rushing up, began to assail the brute with right good will.
The crocodile snapped and snapped his huge jaws with a sound which made the hills ring and ring again; but he failed to get the faithful Terence within the power of his grinders; at the same time, in vain the Squire sought a vulnerable point into which to thrust his trusty sword. The length of the monster's snout prevented him from reaching his eyes, and, as to getting a fair thrust at his shoulders, that seemed utterly impossible.
All this time Saint Patrick and the Giant, it must not be forgotten, were fighting furiously.
"Let my tame crocodile alone, or I'll make mincemeat of you when I have killed your master!" cried the Giant hoarsely, through his clinched teeth.
"Faith, then, I hope that time will never arrive then, my beauty," answered the faithful Terence, making a spring, and leaping nimbly on the crocodile's back. "It's not exactly the sort of steed I'd choose, except for the honour of riding, but I'll make him pay the piper, at all events;" whereupon he began slashing away with his trusty sword most furiously on the neck and shoulders of the crocodile. A delicate maiden might as well have tried to pierce the hide of an aged hippopotamus with a bodkin.
At last, losing patience, he sprang to his feet on the back of the monster, and plunged his sword into one of his eyes, just as he was about to make a snap at Saint Patrick's thigh. The crocodile, feeling itself wounded, turned aside, when the Squire plunged his weapon into the other eye.
Thus blinded, and furious with pain, the brute rushed forward, snapping in every direction, and running against his master, caught hold of the calf of his leg with a gripe so firm that the Giant, groaning with pain, turned aside his proud looks to see what was the matter.
The opportunity was not lost on Saint Patrick, who, pressing forward, plunged his falchion into the neck of his antagonist, who, bellowing louder than ten thousand bulls, made a desperate cut with his battle-axe at the helm of the Knight. The Champion sprang aside, and the blow descended on the neck of the tame crocodile, whereby its head was severed from its body, Terence narrowly escaping from the effects of the blow.
The death of his favourite brute enraged the Giant still further; but rage invariably blinds judgment, and neglecting his proper guards, he soon found himself treated as he had treated the crocodile, his head, by a stroke of the Knight's battle-axe, falling on the sand, while his eyes continued to roll most horribly, as if still animated with fury and malicious hatred.
The faithful Terence having found a huge brazen key, and a purse of gold, in the Giant's pocket, and transferred the latter to his own, to be ready for future emergencies, Saint Patrick and he left the two carcasses to be devoured by the birds of the air, and proceeded to the Giant's castle. The huge brazen key opened the castle gate; when entering, they wandered amazed through the spacious halls, and courts, and galleries, admiring the wonders there collected. In the armoury were numerous tall and straight trees of cocoa-nut and pine, with iron or steel points, which served the Giant as spears; his sword even Saint Patrick could scarcely lift, while near was another tree, taller than all the rest, with a cable at one end, and a hook bigger than a huge ship's anchor, with which in his hand the Giant sat on a rock and bobbed for whales.
In the stables, instead of some vast horses, which they expected to find, capable of carrying so monstrous a being, they beheld rows of alligators and hippopotami, which the Giant was wont to harness to his brazen chariots when he went to war, or out a pleasuring; while, as no saddles or bridles were found, it was evident that he possessed no steed capable of bearing his ponderous weight.
Saint Patrick and his Squire, making themselves at home in the Giant's castle, passed several pleasant days, while they recovered from the fatigues of their combat and refreshed themselves after their voyage. Then, that they might keep their own steeds ready for any emergency, they harnessed a dozen hippopotami, and as many tame crocodiles, to one of the Giant's chariots, and so, with great comfort and convenience, proceeded on their journey. The canopy of the chariot was of azure silk fringed with silver, which sheltered them from the warm rays of the sun.
"Faith, this is pleasanter far than riding along over a dusty road!" quoth the Squire to the Knight, with that easy familiarity which the superior delighted to encourage in his faithful attendant. "What would they say in Old Ireland if they saw us two now a travelling along, quite at our ease, over the burning plains of Africa!" Whereat Saint Patrick made some suitable reply. But their pleasant conversation was cut short by the sounds of some terrible wails and laments, uttered by female voices, and at the same time of loud harsh voices and rude laughter, proceeding from out of a neighbouring wood, which they beheld before them. On this Terence whipped on the crocodiles and hippopotami with right good will, their own trusty steeds trotting behind till they arrived at the borders of the wood; when, securely fastening their chariot to a stout tree, they mounted their chargers, and dashed forward, in the direction from whence the cries proceeded.
Louder and louder grew the shrieks and lamentations, till the Knight and his Squire arrived at a spot whence, looking down into a sylvan dell, they beheld a sight which made their hearts melt with pity, and their blood run cold with horror. There, with the salt tears running down their cheeks, and their eyes imploring mercy and pity, they saw six lovely damsels, clad in green garments, bound to as many trees, while round them danced a hundred fierce satyrs, terrible of aspect, and hideous to behold.
Each satyr was armed with a huge club of the size of a tree, which he flourished wildly, and on his other arm he bore a shield of vast proportions, like the moon at the full, as she rises over the housetops; while scabbardless two-handed swords hung with brazen chains by their sides, and long-bows and quivers full of arrows were suspended at their backs; their voices as they danced giving forth those hideous sounds which had attracted the Knight and Squire.
Near the ladies stood six milk-white palfreys, and a little way behind, who had not at first been seen, six other damsels, their dress and bearing showing them to be the serving maidens of the lovely ladies in green. In an instant the heart of the Champion of Ireland, and of his faithful Squire, were all in a flame, burning to rescue these six lovely ladies and their six inestimable serving women from the power of those hideous satyrs; so, drawing their falchions, and uttering the war-cry of Old Ireland, they dashed with headlong speed in among them, cutting and slashing and hewing away before any of those terrific beings had any knowledge of their approach.
Soon recovering themselves, after a few of their number had bitten the dust, the hideous satyrs, uniting in one body, and seeing that their enemies consisted but of a single knight and his squire, flourished their huge clubs, and with loud shouts, louder than the roaring of ten thousand bulls, advanced towards them.
Heroically fought Saint Patrick, and manfully combated his Squire. The blows from the monstrous clubs of the hideous satyrs fell like hail about their helmets; but their thirsty swords rapidly drank the life-blood of their foes, and now one satyr, now another, was overthrown. Still more came on. Some stood at a distance, shooting their arrows from their long-bows; others came around, with their two-handed swords, and struck and slashed so fiercely that it required all the activity and courage of both Knight and Squire, of which they fortunately possessed so large a portion, to keep their enemies at bay. Still the sight of the lovely ladies tied to the trees, not forgetting the six serving maidens, as well as their own honour, and desire for glory and renown, induced them to persevere.
Full one-third of the hideous satyrs had sunk lifeless from their stalwart blows, while many others limped off sorely wounded and maimed; yet the remainder, with a perseverance worthy of a better cause, fiercely continued the combat.
At length, Saint Patrick telling Terence to escape, wheeled his horse round as if to fly, but it was only a cunning device, as his faithful Squire well knew; for, instantly returning to the charge with redoubled vigour among the scattered ranks of his foes, he dealt such slaughter and destruction among them, that the survivors were fain to fly far away, howling, into the distant woods, which resounded with their mournful cries, leaving the six ladies and their six serving maidens to the care and protection of the gallant Knight and his attendant.
While Saint Patrick cut loose the cords from the fair limbs of the six ladies all clothed in green, Terence performed the same office for the serving maidens.
After they had been refreshed by some pure draughts from the neighbouring crystal brook, and partaken of such fare as the Champion could offer them, he led them forth from the wood, and with courteous attentions, and many polite expressions, placed them in his chariot drawn by the crocodiles and hippopotami. Then, and not till then, did he inquire their names, and state, and nation.
The eldest replied: -- "Know, most puissant and valiant Knight, that we are the unfortunate daughters of the King of Georgia. Our lives since our births have been unhappy. First, we were carried off by a monstrous giant, and, being turned into swans for seven long years, lost sight of the outer world, neither knowing what dresses were worn, how fashions were changed, and many other important matters.
"At length, through the courage of a noble Knight, Saint Andrew of Scotland, of whom you have doubtless heard, we were happily released from our thraldom. What, however, was our astonishment when we got back to our father's court to find that our eldest sister had departed as the bride of another famed Champion, Saint Anthony of Italy, by whose mighty prowess the giant had been slain; and in a brief time Saint Andrew, hearing or this, also set off in search of his former comrade and brother knight.
"Now -- why need we be ashamed to confess it? -- we had allowed a feeling of regard to spring up in our bosoms for that worthy Knight, and we all agreed that we could no longer exist out of his society; and so we also set off from our father's court, resolved to search for him the world around, and bring him back to our native land, or lie down, and mournful die beside his tomb."
"The noble Champion for whom you took in hand this weary travel is my much approved good friend," exclaimed Saint Patrick. "To get a sight of him I would go more miles than there are trees throughout this mighty continent; therefore, will my faithful squire, Terence O'Grady, whom I now crave leave to make known unto you, and I travel in your company, and in that of your six serving maidens, till we have found the right noble Saint Andrew, or some other of those six brave Knights of Christendom who for seven summers I have not seen."
Much pleased with the discourse and the polished courtesy of Saint Patrick, the six princesses consented to his proposal; and thus we will, for the present, leave them journeying in the giant's chariot, drawn by the dozen crocodiles and hippopotami, and followed by the six maidens and their six milk-white palfreys, and escorted on either side by Saint Patrick and his faithful Squire, in the direction they believed Saint Andrew had taken.