The sun had scarcely risen on the third day, when the watchman on the walls of the brazen tower saw the death of the dragon. He hastily called to the captive King and Queen, who, coming forth, ordered the tidings of peace and joy to be proclaimed through the whole land.
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With sacred rites and vowed for ever to abyde.
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His owne two hands the holy knotts did knitt,
That none but death for ever can divide.''
Then all the trumpets sounded for victory, and the people came flocking as to a great feast, rejoicing at the fall of the cruel enemy, from whose bondage they were now free.
Forth from the castle came the King and Queen, attended by a noble company. In front marched a goodly band of brave young men, all able to wield arms, but who now bore laurel branches in sign of victory and peace. These they threw at the feet of the Red Cross Knight, and hailed him conqueror.
Then came beautiful maidens with garlands of flowers and timbrels; troops of merry children ran in front, dancing and singing to the sound of sweet music. When they reached the spot where Una stood, they bowed before her, and crowned her with a garland, so that she looked--as indeed she was--a queen.
The King gave goodly gifts of gold and ivory to his brave champion, and thanked him a thousand times for all that he had done. Then the Red Cross Knight and Una were brought in triumph to the palace; the trumpets and the clarions sounded, and all the people sang for joy, and strewed their garments in the way. At the palace everything was splendid and beautiful, as befitted a prince's court, and here a great feast was held.
The King and Queen made their guest tell them all the strange adventures and perils that had befallen him. They listened with much interest and pity to his story. Then said the King:--
"Dear son, great are the evils which you have borne, so that I know not whether most to praise or to pity you. Never has living man passed through a
sea of more deadly dangers. But since you have arrived safely at the shore, now let us think of ease and everlasting rest."
"Ah! dearest sovereign," replied the brave Knight, "I may not yet think of ease or rest. For by the vow which I made when I first took up arms, I plighted myself to return to Queen Gloriana, and to serve her in warlike ways for six years."
The King, when he heard this, was very sorry, but he knew that the vow must be kept.
"As soon as the six years are over," said he, "you shall return here and marry my daughter, the Lady Una. I proclaimed through the world that whoever killed the dragon should have my only daughter to be his wife, and should be made heir of my kingdom. Since you have won the reward by noble chivalry, lo! here I yield to you my daughter and my kingdom."
Then Una stepped forward, radiant as the morning star and fair as the flowers in May. She wore a garment of lily-white, that looked as if it were woven of silk and silver. The blazing brightness of her beauty and the glorious light of her sunshiny face can scarcely be told. Even her dear Knight, who had been with her every day, wondered at the sight.
So the Red Cross Knight and Una were betrothed. Every one, young and old, rejoiced, and a solemn feast was held through all the land. Now, indeed, the Knight thought himself happy. Whenever his eye beheld Una, his heart melted with joy; no wickedness nor envy could ever again harm their love.
Yet even in the midst of his happiness he remembered
the vow he had made to return to Queen Gloriana. His work was not yet done, and at last the day came when he had to leave Una, and set forth again on his travels.
We know, however, that whatever new perils Jay before him, he would be able to overcome them all by the help of his heavenly armour, and that in the end he would be restored to Una, to dwell happily with her for ever.