How Cedric Became a Knight
A LONG time ago, in a small stone hut, at the foot of a high hill, there lived a little boy named Cedric. At the top of the hill there stood a grand old castle. The little boy used to watch the strong iron gate rise slowly from the ground as the brave knights rode out of the castle courtyard. It was a gay sight when the sun lighted their helmets and shone upon their brave faces. Their horses, even, seemed proud to carry them. Little Cedric thought nothing was so beautiful to see as the knights riding down the hill.
One day Cedric was playing with his kitten, and the queer little thing went out into the middle of the dusty road and curled herself up for a nap. Suddenly Cedric saw five knights galloping down the hill and the kitten was still fast asleep in the highway. He jumped out and gathered the little thing up in his arms just before the horses swept by.
As they passed, one of the knights smiled down upon Cedric and said: "My little boy, you are brave enough to be a knight some day."
And as Cedric went into the house he whispered softly to himself: "To be a knight some day." He ate his supper of bread and milk, and undressed for bed, just as he did every night, but when he went to sleep he dreamed of being the bravest knight in the whole world, who should rescue a beautiful princess from an ugly giant who had shut her up in a dungeon.
In the morning he fed the doves, and watered the cows, and brought hay for the horses. He helped his mother with the housework, and at last he said: "Do you think I could ever grow up to be a knight, mother?"
His mother smiled and said: "Knights have many hard things to do. You are only a very little boy, Cedric. Run out to play."
One evening, when it was summer time, Cedric stood in the doorway, and he heard the tramp of horses' feet, and he saw a gay party of horsemen coming. His face lighted up with a glad smile. It was Sir Rollin Du Bois and his soldiers riding home from the king's war. As they rode nearer he saw that even the tallest knight looked weary, and one of them stopped and said: "Little man, will you give me a drink of cold water?"
Cedric ran and filled a cup at the spring.
"Thank you," said the soldier; "you are as courteous as a knight, my boy."
And Cedric ran to tell his mother, and asked again: "Mother dear, can I ever be a knight?"
After many months a wonderful thing happened. One day Cedric's father came in from his work and said: "Sir Rollin wishes a lad to come to the castle as a page. May Cedric go, mother?"
Cedric's heart nearly stopped beating, until his mother said slowly: "Yes." And she made a bundle of his few clothes that very afternoon, and his father took him up the steep hill to the castle gate.
The iron gate slowly lifted, they crossed the drawbridge and the courtyard, and went into one of the castle rooms where the walls and ceiling and floor were all of stone.
"You would like to be a knight, my lad?" said Sir Rollin, after he had talked with Cedric's father. "You will not mind hard tasks, and you will be brave and true? It will take many years."
"I will try," said Cedric.
So he bade his father good-bye and he went with an older boy up a flight of stone steps to a tiny room where he was to sleep for the night upon a pile of straw with only a sheepskin to cover him.
That night his supper was coarse rye bread and a bowl of broth, and in the morning his lessons began—learning how to stand straight, and run very fast, and jump on or off a horse when it was galloping, and throw a spear straight at a mark. Above all, must he go quickly when Sir Rollin called, and do an errand faithfully and well.
After years and years Cedric grew large and tall. One day Sir Rollin came to him and said: "Cedric, you are to take a letter to the king. It must reach him quickly. Take my gray horse and ride swiftly, and remember how greatly I trust you."
Cedric's heart beat high with joy to know that Sir Rollin had chosen him for a messenger from all the pages. He was ready in half an hour. He jumped on the gray horse and galloped off down the highway. But the road was dark and lonely, and at last he entered the deep woods. "If I am ever to be a knight, I must learn to be brave," thought Cedric, but he was quite sure he heard a deep growl close by. He rode steadily forward, but there, coming toward him, was the great wild boar which had destroyed the farmer's cattle. Cedric spurred his horse forward and hurled his spear at the boar, and it rolled over upon the ground—dead.
After a time he came to a little village and he saw a group of boys who were tormenting a poor lame man in their midst.
"How dare you!" cried Cedric, riding up in their midst, and he said, gently, to the old man, who was trembling with fright: "Come with me. You may ride my horse."
So Cedric walked until they reached the next village, where he left the old man at his own door, and then hurried on—not stopping for food even. Late in the evening he reached the house where he was to rest for the night, and by dawn the next day he was up and off on his journey once more.
As he rode along he came to a rippling brook and he saw a poor little fish lying on the bank, gasping for breath, where some fisherman had carelessly left it to die.
"You poor little thing!" thought Cedric, as he stepped down from his horse and gently laid the fish back in the brook once more and watched it swim gaily away. "A knight should help any suffering thing, no matter how small," he said as he rode on.
At last the king's beautiful palace was in sight, and Cedric rode into the courtyard—very weary—but carrying Sir Rollin's letter safe. And when the king read the letter he sent for Cedric. Sir Rollin had written to say that Cedric was brave, and true, and courteous, and ready to be a soldier. So the king told him that he was to serve in the army and live at the palace.
Then, after some more years, came a wonderful day when the king called Cedric to his great throne-room. There sat the king upon a beautiful throne of gold and beside him the queen. There was a canopy of velvet over their heads, and all the ladies-in-waiting and the courtiers stood about. Cedric knelt upon one knee before the king's throne, as was the custom in those days; the king raised his beautiful golden sceptre and struck Cedric lightly upon the shoulder with it, saying at the same time: "Arise, Sir Cedric!" And Cedric knew that he was at last a knight.
After a while he had a beautiful castle of his own, and his own prancing black horses, and he was always so brave, and noble, and kind that all his people loved him, and called him "Sir Cedric, the Good."