One day when Arthur and his knights were in the hall of the Round Table, a young man entered. He was so large that his shoulders were as wide as the doorway, and he could hardly squeeze through. The knights looked at him in amazement, for he was almost a giant.
When he came closer to them, they saw that he had on a coat which was far too large for him. It hung in wrinkles and folds all over his back, and the sleeves were so long that he had to turn them up almost to the elbow. The coat was of rich material, gold cloth, but it was old and blood-stained.
The young man strode up to the king and said:
“My lord, my name is Brune. I can tell you no more than that. I beg you to make me a knight.”
At this Sir Kay laughed and said:
“He must be called The King with the Badly Made Coat.”
“Call me what you will,” said the young man. “Yes, I take that name, for I will not tell my real one.”
Then Arthur spoke to him gently:
“Young man, you ask a great thing. All those in my Court who are made knights must serve for a long time as squires. If they prove themselves loyal and brave, I make them knights. But I must always know whence they come, and who their fathers are.”
“My lord,” said the young man, “I do indeed ask a great thing. I would gladly tell you more of myself, but I am under a vow to reveal no more than you already know. Yet I will tell you this, further. I am the son of a noble who was as big as a giant. My good father was very peaceable and did not care to fight; so he never came to your Court, and you did not hear of him. He lived at home with my mother and me, and the simple people who plowed the land about our castle.
“Every one ought to have loved him; but he had one enemy. One day, six years ago, when I was only a boy, my father and I were in the forest. My father was sleeping at the foot of a tree, and I was bathing in a brook near by. This enemy, who wanted my father’s lands, came up and drove his sword into my father’s heart. Then he rode away. I ran up to my dead father and took off the coat which he wore and put it on. I swore never to take it off, and never to tell my father’s name or where I came from, till I had avenged his death.
“Then I rode home to our castle, but our enemy had taken possession of it, and had made my mother prisoner. As I was not yet grown up I vowed that I would stay with the good shepherds near by till I was strong enough to pull up a young tree by the roots. Then I would go to King Arthur’s Court and ask to be made a knight. So every month I have tried to uproot a young tree. This morning I succeeded, and here, my lords, I am.”
The knights were much moved and prayed the king to make him a knight. They said that they would teach him to use arms. The king said that he would wait to see what sort of man Brune was.
A few days after this all the knights rode off to a tournament and Brune was left at home with a few soldiers. He was in the castle yard practicing some of the lessons in warfare which the knights had been teaching him. While he was hard at work, Queen Guinevere with twelve soldiers who were her bodyguard passed by.
As she was speaking kindly to Brune, they heard a terrible noise, and looking in the direction from which it came, saw a dreadful sight. A fierce lion which had been confined in a tower of stone had broken out of its prison and was rushing towards them. The twelve soldiers fled, leaving the queen and Brune alone.
“Ah,” said Brune, “not all the cowards in the world are dead.”
He stood still while the lion bounded towards him. He had dropped his sword, and as the beast leaped upon him, he seized its head in his hands. Then he slowly, slowly, bent its head back. It was a strong lion, and with the effort the muscles on Brune’s neck stood out like great ropes. Presently, the queen and Brune heard a loud crack and they knew that the lion’s neck was broken. Brune loosed his hold, and the huge tawny body dropped to the ground, quivered a moment, and was still.
While this was going on, the king and his knights returned. They saw at a glance what Brune had done, and cheered him loudly. The king rode up to him.
“Kneel down,” he said.
Brune knelt down by the body of the lion, and the king touched him lightly with his sword, saying:
“Sir Brune, I make you a knight of my Round Table Be always loyal, brave, and merciful.”
Then all the knights were glad, but Sir Brune was gladdest of all.