St. James of Spain
The Slaying of the Boar
T. JAMES OF SPAIN took a road which led him, after
many perils and adventures, during which he won his
spurs, to the Holy Land, and in course of time he found
himself near Jerusalem. He was standing upon a hill
looking at the domes and towers and gleaming walls of
the city, when there broke upon his ears the sound of
drums and trumpets, and the marching of a great
company. He looked towards the sound which came from
the city, and he saw the gates thrown open, and many
people issuing through them. First was a troop of
horsemen bravely apparelled in white and gold, with
jewelled harness and jingling arms; there were more
than a hundred of them. After them rode twelve knights
on chargers, two by two. Each of these knights carried
a long lance from which floated a blood-red
banner embroidered with a picture of Adonai being
wounded by a boar. Next came the King and his daughter,
very richly clad. The King wore a gleaming circlet of
gold on his head, and rode a white horse. The Princess
rode a milk-white unicorn, whose long horn was covered
with gold leaf. In her hand she bore a silver javelin,
and she wore a breastplate of beaten gold. Behind her
rode a bodyguard of a hundred Amazons. Last of all were
men playing instruments of music and a crowd of humbler
The cavalcade came near where St. James stood, and
began to pass him. He spoke to a man who was close by
him. "What does this gay expedition mean?" he asked.
"You must come from a very far land, Sir Knight," said
the man, "if you do not know that."
"I do not know so much as who that King and the fair
lady by his side are," answered St. James.
"That is the King of Judah, our good monarch," said the
man, "and the lady is his daughter, the Princess
Celestine. This is the great hunting festival, when all
the court goes a-hunting in honour of Adonai, whom we
revere, and who was slain by a boar. Every year
proclamation is made, and great
prizes are given by
the King. See, here is a herald about to make the
As he spoke a herald halted near them. He was clad in
cloth of gold, and bore a silver trumpet with a purple
streamer hanging from it. He blew three blasts upon the
trumpet, and cried in a loud voice: "In the name of the
King and in honour of Adonai! To all men I cry. The
King is pleased to offer a corselet of fine steel worth
a thousand shekels of silver to any man soever who
shall slay the first boar this day. Now set on, knights
and squires. The hunt is up."
He blew three blasts again on his trumpet, and passed
St. James heard him out. As he listened his glance fell
on the Princess Celestine, and he saw how fair she was.
And she, too, saw him as he stood there, and thought
him a knight of gallant looks and noble bearing.
"I will win the Princess," thought St. James to
himself. "No other shall be my bride. For her I will
With that he set spurs to his horse, and, making a
little curve to avoid the more slowly moving cavalcade,
he rode ahead over the plains to the forest to which he
saw the hunt was going. He dismounted for
ease of movement among the trees, and
tethered his horse; then he entered the forest.
Hardly was he in the shade of the trees than he saw a
huge boar in front of him, goring with its sharp tusks
the body of some poor traveller it had overcome. The
beast paid him no heed, so intent was it upon its task.
He sounded his silver horn loudly, and the boar turned
quickly. In a moment it saw the new enemy, and charged
furiously. St. James awaited the attack with his lance
in rest, meaning to leap aside himself at the last
minute. The boar came on more swiftly than he had
expected of so unwieldy a brute, and his lance did not
strike it fair and full. It grazed its shoulder merely,
and glanced off, and St. James had to leap very nimbly
to avoid its tusks as it lunged sideways at him in
The rush of its speed carried the boar some little way
past the champion, who had time to throw aside his
lance and loosen his battle-axe for use. The boar
charged again as soon as it could turn. This time St.
James was more wary, for he had gauged the speed of the
monster's rush. He stepped aside again as it reached
him, and swung the battle-axe down, across his body, on
to the back of the boar's skull, with all his force
blow. The keen edge crashed through
flesh and bone, and killed the beast instantly.
The champion cut off the boar's head, well pleased at
his victory. He heard a noise of trampling and music
close at hand, and looked round. The King and the
Princess and their train had reached the forest.
St. James took his boar's head, and carried it to the
King. Falling on one knee, he held it out before him.
"Here is the first boar of the hunt, O King," he
said. Unless any man has slain another before me, I
claim the reward your herald cried publicly but a
little while ago."
"You are the first, Sir Knight," answered the King,
perceiving that St. James was a man of rank and
honourable position. Yours is the reward. Let my
armourer bring the corselet."
The armourer came forward with the corselet of fine
steel. So wonderfully was it wrought that it fitted St.
James instantly. Keen indeed must an edge have been to
pierce it, and yet when the champion had it upon his
body he felt no more weight from it than if it had been
a shirt of fine linen.
"It beseems you well," said the King graciously. "Does
it not, Celestine?"
"Indeed it is a finely wrought corselet,"
the Princess; and she looked upon St. James with such
admiration that he fell more deeply in love with her
"I am much beholden to Your Majesty for your gracious
gift," said St. James courteously. "I came hither in
search of knightly adventure, not thinking to win so
worthy a prize as this."
"Whence do you come, Sir Knight?" asked the King; "and
what is your name and lineage?"
"I am called James,and I am a Christian knight of
"What!" cried the King, all his graciousness gone from
him in a moment. "A Christian! Then you die here and
now, for I have vowed to put to death every Christian
who comes into my realm. Ho there! Seize this dog and
stone him to death!"
His attendants rushed forward in a body, and seized
the champion, who, indeed, was too greatly surprised at
this sudden change in the King to resist, even if
resistance had been of use. And when they had bound him
he regained his wits.
"Stop, O King," he cried boldly. "You may kill me if you
will, though I have done no wrong to any man for which
I deserve death. But remember that I slew this
boar, and give me some respite for that deed.
Let me at least have a time to pray and to prepare my
soul for death, and grant me also that I may choose the
manner of my death."
"I will never show mercy to a dog of a
Christian," answered the King. "But such slight delay as
you ask shall be granted you. And I will grant your
other boon also. When you have had an hour for prayer
you shall say in what way you choose to die. But let
not this be a pretext to gain some means of escape; you
shall surely die."
"So be it, King," said St. James. "But I tell you that you
are doing ill, and one day you will repent of it."
" 'One day' has yet to come," answered the King.
And what I
will, I do. Now set about your prayers. We will continue
our hunt. Forward, my friends."
And they plunged deep into the forest, their raiment
shining, their harness making a merry noise. A hundred
guards remained with St. James, who yet felt very
lonely when he saw the Princess and all her attendants
ride off into the cool, dark forest.
They unbound him and retired to a little distance,
forming a circle round about him. For an hour he prayed
steadfastly, and made
his peace with God, thinking
indeed that the time had come for him to lay down his
At the end of the hour the King and his court came
back, the Princess with them, her eyes full of sadness.
"Bring that Christian dog before me," said the King. "I
have said that I would grant his boon."
They bound St. James again, and set him before the
King. "Now, Sir James of Spain, you are to look your
last upon the sunlight," said the King cruelly. "Tell
me, since I have given you leave, in what way you will
close your eyes to it for ever."
A strange fancy had come into the champion's mind. He
had a whim to die in a certain way, if die he must.
"Let me be bound to a pine-tree, unguarded," he said,
"and then let me be shot by an arrow loosed by a
"That is a new form of death, Christian," said the King;
"but I doubt not it will serve as well as any other.
Let it be done as this Spanish knight asks. The maiden
to slay him shall be chosen by lot from those who are
They brought a helmet, and put in it a bushel of white
peas, and among them a single black one. She who drew
one (her eyes being blindfolded before
the choice) was to kill St. James.
When all was ready they began to draw. And first of all
the Princess Celestine was to put her hand into the
helmet. She dismounted from her horse. A green scarf
was tied round her eyes, and she stretched out her
hand, fumbling at the edge of the helmet to be sure of
reaching the peas.
There was a rattling sound as she put her hand among
the dry, loose peas. Then she drew it forth again, and
opened it, tearing off the scarf as she did so. On her
white palm lay the black pea.
"Oh, I cannot!" she cried in distress. "I cannot slay an
innocent man. My father"—and she fell on her knees
before the King—"oh, my father, spare him! What evil
has he done? He is a Christian, truly, but he was born
and bred in that faith, and knew nought of ours. He
knew nought of your vow against all Christians; else he
would not have come here and told us his faith and
lineage. He has done you a service by killing the
"Bind him to a pine-tree," said the King sternly. "He must
die; I have vowed it. Celestine, take your bow, aim
truly, and kill him."
The guards seized the champion, and bound him to a
pine-tree hard by. But Celestine did not cease to plead
for his life.
"I will never kill him," she said. "I could not aim
truly at a just man, who has done no wrong. Let him go,
Sire; I dare swear he will leave your kingdom and never
return, if you do but let him go. Bethink you that your
vow was made because of the war that Christians have
made upon us; you might well slay all who fought
against you and sought to do you harm. But this knight
has made no war. He came honourably in peace. Let him
go in peace, even if you do not honour him as at first,
before you knew him for a Christian, you seemed to
wish. Remember that till he proclaimed his faith out of
his own lips, you had not a hard word for him. O spare
him, my father, for if you do not I too shall surely
She clasped her father's foot with her hands as she
knelt by his stirrup, and bowed her head upon it in
The King hesitated. He knew that he was but killing the
knight in order to keep to the letter of his vow,
which, indeed, he had taken against his enemies rather
than against peaceful strangers. But he hated all
Christians bitterly, for they were trying always
drive him out of the Holy Land and make it part of
Christendom. Yet he could not resist his daughter's
"Have it as you will, Celestine," he said harshly. "Set
him free yourself. But be sure that if ever again he
sets foot in this land he shall be put to death, and no
prayers shall save him, and it shall be no gentle hands
like yours that shall cut him off from life. Tell him
this, and bid him begone from Judah in a day's time. If
he is found anywhere in my realm at this time on the
morrow, he dies."
He turned away. Celestine ran to the pine-tree, and cut
St. James's bonds with her hunting-knife.
"You are free, Sir James," she said eagerly. "I have
begged your life of my father. But, alas! it is not
better to me than if you were dead, for you must leave
this land at once, and never return. If ever you come
back, you will be slain—ay, and perhaps tortured into
the bargain. Go; make what speed you can. Remember me.
Take this ring from me, and wear it for my sake, and be
sure that never will I forget you. Farewell."
"Farewell, Princess," said St. James; "I shall never
forget you. I do not need this ring to keep your memory
in my heart to my life's end. But I will treasure your
if ever we meet again it shall be a sign
He said no more, but mounted his horse and rode away,
the ring on his finger; and the Princess went back
sadly to her father's court.
made the best speed he could to the borders
of Judah. Often as he rode he looked at the ring the
Princess had given him. On the inside of it were words
engraved—"Fare well ever beloved"; and he thought that
truly he had said farewell to all that he now held
He looked back over the plains for the last time from a
hill on the edge of the country. As he looked a plan
suddenly came into his mind. Why should he not return
There was a wood not far off. Beyond that lay a little
town of which he had heard from a chance traveller whom
he had met not long before. He hastened on to the town,
and bought in it a Moorish dress; then he returned to
the wood, and, having dug a deep hole with his sword,
buried the greater part of his
armour and his
raiment, marking the place by certain signs that he
might readily find it again. He sought out a tree with
dark berries, of which there were many in the forest.
He squeezed out their juice, until he had enough to
stain his skin dark brown all over. When he had put on
the dress he had bought, he looked every inch a Moor,
and no one would have known him for the gallant knight
who had slain the boar but a little while before. He
stained also the white hide of his horse, and darkened
the harness, so that there was nothing left for any man
He resolved to feign to be deaf and dumb, so that his
speech might not betray him. When he had satisfied
himself that his appearance was suitable, he returned
to Jerusalem, and went to the King's palace, and by
signs indicated that he wished to be taken into the
It chanced that as he was making this silent request to
the King's chamberlain, the Princess Celestine herself
passed by. The chamberlain rose to greet her, and she
acknowledged his obeisance; but her eyes were fixed in
wonder on the Moor whom she saw. There seemed to her
something familiar in him, she knew not what.
"Who is this man?" she asked the chamberlain.
"He is a deaf and dumb man, Princess, a Moor who seems
to wish to be taken into the King's household."
"He is goodly to look upon. Is he skilled in arms, and
of courteous manner?"
"For his courtesy I can only answer by what I have
seen," said the chamberlain. "He seems to be of good
demeanour. As for his skill in arms, I will try him."
He made passes in the air, as though handling a sword.
St. James, who had heard very well all that was said,
nodded his head joyfully. The chamberlain took a sword,
and gave it to him, and took another himself, and they
began to fence together. In a little while it was clear
that the chamberlain, though a good swordsman, was no
match for the stranger, who, indeed, suddenly sent his
sword flying by a quick turn of the wrist.
The Princess smiled. "Let him be of my bodyguard," she
said. "He is a stout fellow, and I need another good
warrior just now." But though she felt that she knew
his face, she did not guess who the Moor was.
So St. James was made one of Celestine's guards. In a
little time he had shown himself so gentle in manner,
so gallant in bearing, and
so expert in arms and
courtesy, that he was made chief of the guard and
special champion of the Princess. All day long he was
near her, and had her under his charge, though he could
not speak to her, and as yet dared not reveal himself
There were many suitors for the fair Princess's hand in
those days. Princes and nobles came from many distant
countries to seek her: from Trebizond, and Bokhara, and
Ethiopia; the King of Arabia came, and an Ambassador
from the Emperor of Cathay, who had heard of her
loveliness; and the Lord High Admiral of Babylon
itself—all these and many more tried to win her hand.
But she would have none of them, being true in heart to
It chanced presently that at one time there were a
score or more of these suitors in Jerusalem together.
Since, as they learnt, their suit was hopeless, they
agreed well with one another; and they resolved that
before they went away from Judah they would give a
splendid entertainment in honour of the Princess. They
planned to hold a banquet, and then a ball.
The Princess took with her her chief attendants, among
them, of course, the champion of her guard. She had
asked him by
signs—in which way by now they found
it easy to converse—if he could dance for her a Moorish
dance; and it happened that St. James was able to do
this, and the Princess commanded that he should dance
one with her at the ball.
St. James thought that this would be his opportunity.
The revelry would continue far into the night, and when
it was ended all the court would be weary, and heedless
of anything but sleep. He made his preparations,
which, as chief of the Princess's body-guard, he could
do without suspicion.
The banquet came and passed, and was followed by the
ball. St. James, to give the Princess a message
silently, had put her ring upon his finger; hitherto,
while he was in her service, he had worn it on a fine
gold chain round his neck, lest it should betray him at
am inopportune time.
The time came for him to dance the Moorish dance with
the Princess. He held out his hand to her to lead her.
She saw the ring, and knew at once why she had seemed
to find his face familiar to her. But she said never a
word, for fear of discovery; only her hand pressed his,
and their eyes met, and hope sprang up in their hearts.
They danced together, and then the Princess thanked
him by signs for his courtesy;
but to her signs she
added some that meant, "Remain here."
He stayed near her. Presently he heard her speaking to
one of her ladies. "It is hot, and I am weary. I will
walk upon the terrace for a little. I cannot choose one
of my suitors for a companion, for fear of making the
rest jealous. And, indeed, I am too weary for talk. I
will go with my chief of guards, and take the air for a
space, and return before long."
She made signs to St. James that he was to escort her
to the terrace of the palace, and place guards in
suitable positions. Then she went forth, St. James by
They paced the terrace together at a little distance
from the guards. She spoke to him in soft whispers, and
he answered, and told her of his plans. She was to put
on a Moorish dress, and meet him in the hall of her
palace an hour after all the household had retired to
rest, and he would take her thence by a back way, and
through a private door in the city walls, of which he
had been able to get a key made once when the real key
was lent him for some special purpose. A little way
outside the walls, in a clump of trees, he had two
swift horses tethered. Once they reached the horses
unseen and unheard, they would be safe.
All this he whispered to her, and she agreed to do
exactly as he said. Then he led her back to the
ball-room, and made an obeisance to her, and she
pretended to dismiss him graciously. The walk upon the
terrace had cooled her cheeks, and her joy made her
eyes shine like stars, so that she seemed indeed to
have gone from the ball-room to rest, and to have come
St. James left her and went to her palace. He made
ready a little store of food, and saw that his sword
and dagger were sharp, and loose in their scabbards;
for he knew not when he might have to use them
suddenly. Then he sat down, and waited as patiently as
he could for the appointed hour.
The court came home from the ball; the palace for a
little while was full of light and sound and confusion.
Then one by one the lights died away, and silence
slowly fell upon the place. St. James waited until
well-nigh an hour had passed; then he stole softly out
of his chamber and down to the great dark hall of the
palace. Very huge and mysterious it seemed now, empty
of all life. His light footsteps sounded to his anxious
ears like the trampling of an army.
He sat down in a corner and waited again. The time
passed, and the Princess did not
come. St. James
rose and paced the hall quietly, in case by chance she
was there already, and did not know of his presence, or
thought him some enemy. But she was not there. His mind
began to be filled with a thousand fears and hopes. He
thought that she might have been discovered, and he
dared not imagine what would then befall her. Then he
fancied that she had been overcome by weariness, and
had fallen asleep; and despair settled upon his heart,
for he might not have such an opportunity of escape as
this for many months to come.
He heard a step. He remained quite still. The sound
came nearer, and he heard the noise of breath drawn
quickly and anxiously. Then he knew that it was the
Princess. "Celestine!" he whispered. She came to him,
guided by the sound, and hand in hand they crept
through the hall, out by the little door, and so at
last out of the city. Not a soul saw or heard them;
unperceived they reached the tethered horses, and in a
few minutes were galloping across the dim, ghostly
desert together, free and safe, never to return to
Jerusalem while it was a pagan city.