St. Andrew of Scotland
The Valley of Evil Spirits
T. ANDREW'S road led him through England to a seaport,
where he took ship and sailed to Europe. When his
wanderings on land continued, he found himself at
length upon a very lonely path that grew narrower and
more winding at every step. It took him through what
seemed to be the greenest of meadows, going zigzag
across the long, rich grass without, as it appeared,
rhyme or reason. But the reason was made clear when St.
Andrew left the path in order to take a shorter way
across a bend in the track. The moment he was off the
path he sank in the ground almost up to his waist, and
only by throwing his head and shoulders violently
backward and clinging to the track he had left did he
reach dry ground safely. The
whole green meadow
was a treacherous quaking bog, with only this one way
Presently the meadow sloped away to one side, the path
running along the upper edge of it. Soon there was no
marshland left by the path at all. The grass ceased,
the way became dry and barren, with a gaunt,
wind-swept, leafless hedge on one side, and rocky
slopes on the other. Hardly a living plant or flower
grew in that place. The green things were thin and wan,
of a sickly yellow hue, as though no cheerful sunlight
ever fell on them. Such flowers as there were had
blooms of a dull threatening purple, and livid pale
berries, and ragged thorny leaves, as if they were
meant to offend and not to delight the eyes of mankind.
The air grew colder, and a fine white mist seemed to be
approaching at a little distance.
Again the path sloped, now very steeply. St. Andrew
found himself in the mist. It was of a strange
thinness, and hardly shut out the prospect from his
eyes, but only served to make it unreal and ghostly.
And, indeed, that was a ghostly place, for it was a
haunted valley, full of evil spirits. The hedge had
ceased. In its place were a few gnarled roots with
little hold upon the ground. There were deep, dark
holes in the grey soil, like
foxes' earths, but
larger. Stones and great boulders bestrewed the way.
A hand plucked St. Andrew by the arm. He turned
quickly. There was no one near him. "It was but fancy,"
he said to himself; but in his heart he knew that it
was no fancy. He went on boldly. Suddenly there was a
whispering in his ear of strange words in a tongue
which he could not understand. The words seemed evil,
for they sounded full of anger and threatenings. But
there was no being in sight who could have spoken them.
St. Andrew perceived that there was some spell at work
in the valley which he could not understand. He feared
lest he should fall under its power. But he kept a
stout heart, and rode on, drawing his sword and holding
it in readiness.
The moment he had drawn the sword the spirits seemed to
take it as a challenge. On every side unseen hands
caught at him. One would seize his reins and try to
draw them from his hand; others struck him lightly in
the face, or pulled his foot out of the stirrup, or
strove to clutch his throat. All round him he heard
whisperings and faint, shrill cries. He waved his sword
fiercely in every direction, but it met with no
resistance. He grew
confused, and his good horse
snorted and whinnied in fear.
St. Andrew murmured a prayer and made the sign of the
Cross, and immediately the mist disappeared and the
spirits became visible to him. They were upon every
side, multitudes of them—in the air, roaming upon the
ground, some even wriggling out of the holes by the
wayside with new malice in their dreadful eyes. They
were of all manner of shapes, horrible to behold. Some
had long skinny arms and bony claw-like fingers, some
were squat and gross; here was one whose eyes flamed;
there one with long pointed ears that moved like a
horse's; there one whose body trailed away as if it
were but a wisp of smoke; and some, most terrible of
all, perpetually changed from one loathsome shape to
Yet they were powerless to do harm to a Christian
knight if he never lost heart. And St. Andrew took new
courage from his prayer. He spurred his horse, and
struck at the spirits fiercely with his sword. The
blade passed clean through them, and he felt as if it
had met with nothing at all. Rage against these evil
creatures seized him, and took away his prudence. He
set his horse at those upon his right hand, and rode
hither and thither
furiously, cutting and slashing at them with his
sword. Even if the sword seemed to do them no harm,
they shrank from it, and fled before him; and he, in
triumph, rode and struck the more savagely, not seeing
in his anger that he was going farther and farther from
the path, until suddenly all the spirits vanished, and
he was alone.
He looked for the track; it was nowhere to be seen. All
around were rocks and stones and inhospitable earth,
with no sign of a path. The light was beginning to
fade, and soon was gone altogether. St. Andrew was in a
Once more the spirits began to attack him. They pulled
and pushed on every side, and the air was full of their
indistinct sounds. It was useless to strike at them,
now that they could no longer be seen, and in which
direction the true path lay St. Andrew could not guess.
Once again he murmured a prayer, and immediately an
answer came. In front of him there suddenly glowed a
small clear light, sparkling and dancing in the air as
if inviting him to follow. He urged his steed towards
the spark, but he got no nearer to it, for as he
advanced it moved also, keeping always at a little
distance in front.
St. Andrew had heard of will-o'-the-wisps,
lead men on till they fall into a bog, or over a
precipice, or into some awful death. He did not know
whether this might not be some such deadly thing. But
he had faith in it, and followed it, nevertheless; and
soon he was glad that he did so, for the valley seemed
to grow smoother under his horse's feet, and the evil
spirits grew less in number, and at last, after one
great effort to drag him from his saddle, died away
altogether and left him. In a little while St. Andrew
felt that he was going uphill again. Stones no longer
rang under his horse's hoofs, which, indeed, rustled at
every tread, as if they were walking on good turf.
Upwards he went, the bright light still flickering and
leaping in front of him.
At last the ground grew level again. On one side he saw
a growing glow in the sky; it was the moon rising. Soon
she was above the horizon, lighting up the way for him.
He could see that he was on a broad, clear expanse of
hill, and the road gleamed white and straight in front
of him. He looked for the friendly light which had led
him thither; in watching the moon rise he had forgotten
it. But it had vanished; its work was done.
St. Andrew rode on a little way, and came to a
little clump of trees. Here he
dismounted, and rested for the night. On the next day he went on
with his journey, but he met no other adventure till he
came to the borders of the kingdom of Thrace. Though he
did not know it, he was close to the castle of
Blanderon, to which, at that very time, the King of
Thrace and his knights were travelling after hearing
the news brought by St. Anthony and Princess Rosalind.
The Fight with the Enchanter
St. Andrew came in sight of Blanderon's castle about
the middle of a fine morning. Like St. Anthony, he
thought that in so great a castle might lie the cause
of some worthy adventure, and he made haste to approach
it. But when he was in an open space a mile or more
from it, he saw, proceeding towards it from another
direction, a great band of knights and ladies. They
were, in truth, though he did not know it, the King of
Thrace and his followers.
He turned out of his direct path to the castle, and
made towards the new-comers. They, in their turn, had
seen him, and halted and awaited him.
"Who are you that ride armed towards the castle of
Blanderon?" cried a Thracian knight to him, when he was
"I am a Christian knight in search of warlike
adventure," answered St. Andrew.
"A Christian! One of our enemies!" said the King of
Thrace, on hearing this. "And he seeks warlike
adventure. He shall have it. He shall fight my knights,
one after the other, with all due ceremony. He shall
have the death of an honourable enemy. Let a herald go
to him, and let my marshals draw up the lists for a
tourney. Here is a fair open space that will well suit
A herald was instructed, and rode out to meet St.
Andrew. "Sir Knight," he said, "the King of Thrace
sends me to you to say that all Christians are his
enemies, and you must therefore die. But the King is
just and honourable, and he will grant you a knightly
death. The lists shall be set, and you shall do battle
with his champions. The laws of chivalry will be
observed, and the King will appoint squires to attend
St. Andrew thought for a moment. He could not decline
the combat, and, indeed, he was eager to uphold the
Christian faith in arms; but he knew that it might be
his death, for no man could fight foe after foe and
in the end be conquered. "I accept your King's
offer," he said at length. "Let him send whomsoever he
pleases against me; I will uphold my faith against them
"Spoken like a gallant knight," said the herald. "Let me
lead you to the lists."
He escorted St. Andrew to the place where already a
great space was being barred off, and pavilions erected
for the King, and for the knights at either end of the
course. The champion was presented to the King, and
then he was led to his pavilion, and food and drink was
given him. Three squires waited upon him, and, when he
had been refreshed, attended to his armour, and brought
him spare weapons.
Soon the trumpets sounded. A squire told St. Andrew
that it was time for him to go forth. The hangings of
the pavilion were parted, and he rode out into the
sunlight of the lists, his armour gleaming, a golden
pennon on a small lance fluttering gaily. On the pennon
were embroidered in silver letters the words: "To-day a
martyr or a conqueror."
He rode to the King's pavilion, and made obeisance;
then he went back to his corner of the lists, and took
up his great tilting-lance, and waited while a herald
proclaimed his name.
"Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!" cried the herald, after
blowing three blasts on a silver trumpet. "The gallant
knight, Sir Andrew of Scotland, is ready to do battle
on behalf of the Christian faith against all who come."
Three blasts sounded from the other end of the lists.
From the pavilion at that end came a knight clad all in
silver armour upon a white horse. The marshal of the
lists, standing near the King's pavilion, cried in a
loud voice: "Set on!" And from either end the two
knights thundered together. Crash! They had met. But
the silver knight had not touched St. Andrew with his
lance. The sound came from St. Andrew's lance, which
struck his enemy full on the upper part of the helmet.
His head was wrenched violently, and he fell backwards
off his horse, his armour rattling about him. His horse
galloped wildly on, and was secured by an attendant.
But the knight lay where he had fallen. His neck was
broken, and he was dead.
St. Andrew retired slowly to his pavilion. His squires
made sure that his armour and weapons were still sound.
The trumpets blared again, and he rode into the lists.
This time there awaited him a knight clad in golden
armour. The marshal gave the word, and they rushed
together. St. Andrew
was struck by the knight's
lance, but only lightly, for as they met his own lance
smote his enemy in the shoulder, and turned the blow
aside. The knight was unhorsed by the stroke, but not
greatly injured. He drew his sword, and St. Andrew drew
his in turn, and leapt from his horse to fight on equal
terms. But this part of the combat did not last long,
for St. Andrew with one great back-handed sweep of his
sword broke through the golden knight's defence, and
clove his neck deep, so that he died. There were
murmurs of wonder and of anger from the onlookers, who
did not like to see their champions so easily defeated.
Then again St. Andrew was tended by his squires, and
again he left his pavilion at the sound of the trumpet.
By now he was feeling some weariness, and he was eager
to see if his new opponent would be more skilled than
the other two.
The pavilion curtains at the far end of the lists were
drawn apart, and through them came a knight in
coal-black armour, riding a black horse. From his
helmet flew a plume black as a raven's wing, and his
squire held up as his banner a lance with a dull black
"Who is this knight?" asked the King of Thrace of one
of his courtiers. "I do not
know his armour, and he
seems to be a stranger."
"I do not know, Sire."
But a page came to the King with a message that a
knight who wished to be called the Unknown, and not to
proclaim his name, was anxious to do battle with the
Christian knight. He had a hatred of all Christians, he
said, and he sought to serve the King of Thrace by
fighting thus. He had but that moment arrived, and had
come straight to the lists.
The King gave leave readily enough. It was no concern
of his to limit the number of those who encountered St.
Andrew, and the strange knight looked like one who
could hold his own. Very huge and sinister did he seem
as he towered upright on the black charger.
"Set on!" cried the marshal of the lists once more.
The knights dashed across the lists. They met with a
clang and a shivering, rending noise. Each staggered a
little in his saddle, but remained unhurt, and then it
was seen that both their lances had been broken to
atoms in the shock.
They galloped to their pavilions, and obtained fresh
lances. Then they came together again. The black knight
was borne clean off his horse's back, over the crupper,
rearing high in the air at the blow. St.
Andrew, likewise, was struck full and fair, and he
leant back in his saddle till he was too far gone to
stay upright, and he, too, slipped off his horse.
Squires ran up and seized the horses, and quickly gave
shields to each knight.
St. Andrew drew his sword; already the black knight had
his out of its scabbard. They rushed at one another,
and blade rang on blade as fast as the strokes of a
hammer on an anvil. So fiercely did his enemy assail
him that St. Andrew had to yield ground, and retreat a
little. A roar of cheering came from the onlookers when
they saw him hard pressed. But he was not defeated. As
he gave way he watched his enemy warily. The black
knight grew more eager, and came on more hastily. He
aimed a tremendous blow at St. Andrew's head, striking
a little wildly in his fury. St. Andrew sprang swiftly
far to one side, and before the knight could recover
his balance he had driven his sword down, down, clean
through the black plume and the black helmet, through
skull and neck to the very shoulders.
It was a wondrous stroke, and the crowd of knights and
followers looking on gasped at the sight. Then they
came to their senses, and knew that their third
champion had been
defeated. They lost their
tempers, and no longer could the marshal of the lists
and his men keep them behind the barriers. They swarmed
over them, and rushed at St. Andrew with cries of
hatred and anger. "Down with the Christian! Kill him!"
they shouted. "He has bewitched our knights. Kill him!"
St. Andrew knew that he was in dire peril. He could see
no hope of his life, but he resolved to sell it as
dearly as he could. A great anger filled him at this
treacherous onset, and instead of defending himself, he
became in a moment the attacker. Whirling his sword
aloft, he sprang forward with a cry of battle, and
threw himself like a madman upon the mob.
Well it was for him that his armour was stout and his
blade sharp; not all the courage in the world could
else have saved his life, for the Thracians were all
armed. But so fierce was his fury that in a few minutes
he had slain many of the crowd, and was driving the
rest before him like sheep. Then he turned and strode
across to the King's pavilion, aflame with wrath.
"Sir King," he cried in a great voice, "is this the way
you uphold the laws of chivalry? Your herald talked to
me of honour. Is this your honour? How do——"
"Sire, Sire, a wonder!" a voice broke in. A squire
came running across the lists, with his face full of
horror. "The black knight—" he cried breathlessly. "I
pray you come and look."
The crowd had become silent. Strange news had come to
their ears. They whispered to one another in fear, and
drew back beyond the barriers, as the King and St.
Andrew and certain courtiers walked to where the black
"This was no knight," said a squire who was by the
body. "It was some evil spirit in the shape of a man.
He drew back the vizor of the broken helmet, and they
looked at the face of the dead man. Here were no
features of a brave and powerful knight. The face was
not that of a man capable of bearing arms, but of an
old, old creature, wizened and shrunken. There was no
hair upon the head, the eyes were sunken and full of
evil (for they had remained open in death), and the
teeth protruded like a dog's. Assuredly it was the face
of one to whom all evil was known, and who had lived
evilly all his days.
"It must have been some wizard," said St. Andrew, when
he had lost his first horror, and could think more
clearly. "When I
fought him, he was veritably a man
in the prime of life, and full of strength. If he was a
wizard, he could take the shape of a young knight; but
when I slew him his power would vanish, and he would
become as he really was, the evil thing that you see."
"By my faith, Sir Knight," said the King of Thrace, "I
think that is the truth of it. Do you know why I and my
knights have come hither? When we encountered you we
were riding to yonder castle to see if we could
discover a certain magician. It may be that this is he
himself whom you have slain. If it be so, I owe you a
debt that I cannot pay even with my life."
And he told him the story that the Princess Rosalind
had brought to him from Blanderon's castle.
"Forgive me, good sir," he ended, "if in my zeal
against Christians I used you ill: I would have treated
you honourably, with all the customs of chivalry, but
my knights forgot their knightly courtesy when they saw
this third champion slain. You are indeed a man of
might, Sir Andrew. Now I pray that you will come with
us to Blanderon's castle, and we will see whether the
death of this enchanter has given us help in our
search. If you have delivered my six daughters
the spell cast upon them, there is no reward
that you cannot ask of me."
Attendants remained behind to break up the lists, while
the King and St. Andrew and all the knights and ladies
went to the castle. They came to the great gates, and
opened them with the keys which St. Anthony had given
the King. No sooner were they within the courtyard than
there ran to meet them a host of prisoners set free
from spells, and foremost among them the King's
daughters, once more restored to human form, and very
lovely to look upon. For what St. Andrew and the King
had guessed was indeed true. The black knight was no
other than the terrible enchanter, the friend of
Blanderon, who had bewitched the Princesses and many
other persons, and given them into the giant's charge.
He had heard of Blanderon's death, and by his magic
arts he knew that St. Andrew was coming thither also;
and he feared that these Christian knights, by their
strong faith, might prevail over his spells. He took,
therefore, the shape of a knight, and tried to slay St.
Andrew in the tournament. But the might of the
Christian champion was too strong for him, and now he
was dead, and all his enchantments void and broken.
"What shall I do to reward you, friend?" asked
the King of Thrace, when all these things had become
clear to him. "How can I make amends also for my
treatment of you?"
"You did not use me ill, Sire," answered St. Andrew
gently. "You hated Christians, and you knew that I was
one. It will be enough reward for me if henceforth you
do not hate knights of my faith."
"Hate!" cried the King. "I have seen Sir Anthony, and
you, Sir Andrew, and I know now that there is no better
faith in the world. I will become a Christian myself,
if you will instruct me in the way."
They talked long and earnestly about the Christian
faith, and the end of it was that the King of Thrace
became a Christian, and with him many of his court.
Then they set out to go back to the chief city, for the
Princesses were eager to see their home and their
sister Rosalind again, and Sir Andrew longed to meet
Sir Anthony, his comrade, once more.
As for the castle of Blanderon, the King gave orders
that it should be razed to the ground and utterly
destroyed; and if you search for it now in Thrace you
will not find so much as a single stone left, and no
man knows where it once stood.
They came presently to the chief city. The news of
their coming spread before them, and all the people
assembled to welcome them, strewing flowers in the path
of St. Andrew and the six Princesses, who so honoured
their deliverer that they wished to be with him always.
But there was a disappointment in store for them, for
they found that St. Anthony and his wife, the Princess
Rosalind, hearing of the great tournament which was to
be held at the court of the King of Greece, had
already set out thither. St. Andrew was filled with
sorrow at this news, and it was not many days before he
decided to go to Greece himself also to seek his
brother-in-arms and to take part in the tournament. In
order not to seem discourteous and impatient, and to
prevent the Princesses from trying to dissuade him, he
left the King's palace secretly, only leaving word
whither he had gone. After a journey of some days he
came to the chief city of Greece, Athens, and there he
found St. Anthony and his Princess. Right glad were
they to see one another again, and many a plan for
adventure in the coming tournament did they make.
But the two champions were not the only friends who
were united at Athens. When
they discovered St. Andrew's flight, the six
Princesses of Thrace were plunged into grief. So deep
was their sorrow that nothing would content them but to
go secretly to Greece themselves, without thinking of
their father's misery if he found them gone. They set
out privately one night. But their attendants, from
chance sayings and other signs, guessed whither they
had gone, and told the King, who, when he first heard
of their absence, had thought that another enchanter
must have carried them off. But when he heard that it
was only love for St. Andrew that had driven them, as
it seemed to him, out of their senses, he determined
that he, too, would go to Greece, and off he set in