And the baron's daughter was suddenly inspired to be brave, not wishing to disappoint the venturous immortal. So she rose and took the magic wand in her hand, waving it three times above the head of the fairy.
"By my powers as a mortal," she said, marveling even then at the strange speech, "I command you to become a brave and gallant youth--handsome, strong, fearless! And such shall you remain for the space of one year.
As she ceased speaking the fairy was gone, and a slender youth, dark-eyed and laughing, was holding her hand in his and kissing it gratefully.
"I thank you, most lovely maiden," he said, in a pleasant voice, "for giving me a place in the world of mortals. I shall ride at once in search of adventure, but my good sword is ever at your service."
With this he gracefully arose and began to buckle on his magnificent armor and to fasten the sword to his belt.
Seseley drew a long, sighing breath of amazement at her own powers, and turning to Berna and Helda she asked:
"Do I see aright? Is the little fairy really transformed to this youth?"
"It certainly seems so," returned Helda, who, being unabashed by the marvels she had beheld, turned to gaze boldly upon the young knight.
"Do you still remember that a moment ago you were a fairy?" she inquired.
"Yes, indeed," said he, smiling; "and I am really a fairy now, being but changed in outward form. But no one must know this save yourselves, until the year has expired and I resume my true station. Will you promise to guard my secret?"
"Oh, yes!" they exclaimed, in chorus. For they were delighted, as any children might well be, at having so remarkable a secret to keep and talk over among themselves.
"I must ask one more favor," continued the youth: "that you give me a name; for in this island I believe all men bear names of some sort, to distinguish them one from another."
"True," said Seseley, thoughtfully. "What were you called as a fairy?"
"That does not matter in the least," he answered, hastily. "I must have an entirely new name."
"Suppose we call him the Silver Knight," suggested Berna, as she eyed his glistening armor.
"Oh, no!--that is no name at all!" declared Helda. "We might better call him Baron Strongarm."
"I do not like that, either," said the Lady Seseley, "for we do not know whether his arm is strong or not. But he has been transformed in a most astonishing and bewildering manner before our very eyes, and I think the name of Prince Marvel would suit him very well."
"Excellent!" cried the youth, picking up his richly graven shield. "The name seems fitting in every way. And for a year I shall be known to all this island as Prince Marvel!"
5. The King of Thieves
Old Marshelm, the captain of the guard, was much surprised when he saw the baron's daughter and her playmates approach her father's castle escorted by a knight in glittering armor.
To be sure it was a rather small knight, but the horse he led by the bridle was so stately and magnificent in appearance that old Marshelm, who was an excellent judge of horses, at once decided the stranger must be a personage of unusual importance.
As they came nearer the captain of the guard also observed the beauty of the little knight's armor, and caught the glint of jewels set in the handle of his sword; so he called his men about him and prepared to receive the knight with the honors doubtless due his high rank.
But to the captain's disappointment the stranger showed no intention of entering the castle. On the contrary, he kissed the little Lady Seseley's hand respectfully, waved an adieu to the others, and then mounted his charger and galloped away over the plains.
The drawbridge was let down to permit the three children to enter, and the great Baron Merd came himself to question his daughter.
"Who was the little knight?" he asked.
"His name is Prince Marvel," answered Seseley, demurely.
"Prince Marvel?" exclaimed the Baron. "I have never heard of him. Does he come from the Kingdom of Dawna, or that of Auriel, or Plenta?"
"That I do not know," said Seseley, with truth.