But Marvel caught him deftly in his arms, and so saved him from the sword points.
"There!" he said, standing the boy upon his feet; "now you are released from your misery."
"And I should be glad to punish you for your interference," declared the boy, gloomily eying his preserver, "had you not saved my life by catching me. According to the code of honor of knighthood I can not harm one who has saved my life until I have returned the obligation. Therefore, for the present I shall pardon your insulting speeches and actions."
"But you have also saved my life," answered Prince Marvel; "for had you not warned me of the robbers' return they would surely have caught me."
"True," said the boy, brightening up; "therefore our score is now even. But take care not to affront me again, for hereafter I will show you no mercy!"
Prince Marvel looked at the boy with wonder. He was about his own size, yet strong and well formed, and he would have been handsome except for the expression of discontent upon his face. Yet his manner and words were so absurd and unnatural that the prince was more amused than angered by his new acquaintance, and presently laughed in his face.
"If all the people in this island are like you," he said, "I shall have lots of fun with them. And you are only a boy, after all."
"I'm bigger than you!" declared the other, glaring fiercely at the prince.
"How much bigger?" asked Marvel, his eyes twinkling.
"Oh, ever so much!"
"Then fetch along that coil of rope, and follow me," said Prince Marvel.
"Fetch the rope yourself!" retorted the boy, bluntly. "I'm not your servant." Then he put his hands in his pockets and coolly walked out of the cave to look at the pile of senseless robbers.
Prince Marvel made no reply, but taking the coil of rope on his shoulder he carried it to where the thieves lay and threw it down beside them. Then he cut lengths from the coil with his sword and bound the limbs of each robber securely. Within a half-hour he had laid out a row of thieves extending half way across the grassy plain, and on counting their number he found he had captured fifty-nine of them.
This task being accomplished and the robbers rendered helpless, Prince Marvel turned to the boy who stood watching him.
"Get a suit of armor from the cave, and a strong sword, and then return here," he said, in a stern voice.
"Why should I do that?" asked the boy, rather impudently.
"Because I am going to fight you for disobeying my orders; and if you do not protect yourself I shall probably kill you."
"That sounds pleasant," said the boy. "But if you should prove my superior in skill I beg you will not kill me at once, but let me die a lingering death."
"Why?" asked the prince.
"Because I shall suffer more, and that will be delightful."
"I am not anxious to kill you, nor to make you suffer," said Marvel, "all that I ask is that you acknowledge me your master."
"I won't!" answered the boy. "I acknowledge no master in all the world!"
"Then you must fight," declared the prince, gravely. "If you win, I will promise to serve you faithfully; and if I conquer you, then you must acknowledge me your master, and obey my commands."
"Agreed!" cried the boy, with sudden energy, and he rushed into the cave and soon returned clad in armor and bearing a sword and shield. On the shield was pictured a bolt of lightning.
"Lightning will soon strike those three girls whose champion you seem to be," he said tauntingly.
"The three girls defy your lightning!" returned the prince with a smile. "I see you are brave enough."
"Brave! Why should I not be?" answered the boy proudly. "I am the Lord Nerle, the son of Neggar, the chief baron of Heg!"
The other bowed low.
"I am pleased to know your station," he said. "I am called Prince Marvel, and this is my first adventure."
"And likely to be your last," exclaimed the boy, sneeringly. "For I am stronger than you, and I have fought many times with full grown men."
"Are you ready?" asked Prince Marvel, for answer.