118 GEIRALD THE COWARD
on the forehead that he fell to the ground. Then, before he could rise to his feet again, Eosald drew out his sword and cut off his head.
' It was not so difficult after all, you see,' he said, turning to Geirald. And placing the giant's head in a leathern wallet which was slung over his back, they began their journey to the castle.
As they drew near the gates, Eosald took the head from the wallet and handed it to Geirald, whom he followed into the king's presence.
' The giant will trouble you no more,' said Geirald, holding out the head. And the king fell on his neck and kissed him, and cried joyfully that he was the ' bravest knight in all the world, and that a feast should be made for him and Eosald, and that the great deed should be proclaimed throughout the kingdom. And Geirald's heart swelled with pride, and he almost forgot that it was Eosald and not he, who had slain the giant.
By-and-by a whisper went round that a beautiful lady who lived in the castle would be present at the feast, with twenty-four lovely maidens, her attendants. The lady was the queen of her own country, but as her father and mother had died when she was a little girl, she had been left in the care of this king who was her uncle.
She was now old enough to govern her own kingdom, but her subjects did not like being ruled by a woman, and said that she must find a husband to help her in managing her affairs. Prince after prince had offered himself, but the young queen would have nothing to say to any of them, and at last told her ministers that if she was to have a husband at all she must choose him for herself, as she would certainly not marry any of those whom they had selected for her. The ministers replied that in that case she had better manage her kingdom alone, and the queen, who knew nothing about business, got things into such a confusion that at last she threw them up altogether, and went off to her uncle-