At last, after many years full of adventures and travel, Guy reached England once more. He was now an old man. His beard was long, his hair had grown white, and in the weather-beaten pilgrim none could recognize the gallant knight and earl, Guy of Warwick.
When Guy landed in England he found the whole country in sore dread. For Anlaf, King of Denmark, had invaded England with a great army. With fire and sword he had wasted the land, sparing neither tower nor town, man, woman, nor child, but destroying all that came in his path. Fight how they might, the English could not drive out the Danes.
Now they were in deep despair, for the enemy lay before the King’s city of Winchester. With them was a terrible giant called Colbrand, and Anlaf had sent a message to King Athelstane, as the King who now reigned over all England was called, demanding that he should either find a champion to fight with Colbrand or deliver over his kingdom.
So the King had sent messengers north, south, east, and west, but in all the land no knight could be found who was brave enough to face the awful giant. And now within the great church of Winchester the King with his priests and people knelt, praying God to send a champion.
“Where, then, is Heraud?” asked Guy of the man who told this tale. “Where is Heraud, who never yet forsook man in need?”
“Alas! he has gone far beyond the seas,” replied the man, “and so has Guy of Warwick. We know not where they are.”
Then Guy took his staff and turned his steps toward Winchester. Coming there, he found the King sitting among his wise men. “I bid you,” he was saying to them, “give me some counsel how I may defend my country against the Danes. Is there any knight among you who will fight this giant? Half my kingdom he shall have, and that gladly, if he conquer.”
But all the wise men, knights and nobles, stood silent and looked upon the ground.
“Oh, we is me!” then cried the King, “that I rule over such cowards. To what have my English come that I may not find one knight among them bold enough to do battle for his King and country? Oh that Guy of Warwick were here!”
Then through the bright crowd of steel-clad nobles there came a tall old man, dressed in a worn, dark, pilgrim’s robe, with bare feet and head, and a staff in his hand.
“My Lord King,” he said, “I will fight for thee.”
“Thou,” said the King in astonishment, “thou seemest more fit to pray than to fight for us.”
“Believe me, my Lord King,” said Guy, for of course it was he, “this hand has often held a sword, and never yet have I been worsted in fight.”
“Then since there is none other,” said the King, “fight, and God strengthen thee.”
Now Guy was very tall, and no armor could be found anywhere to fit him. “Send to the Countess of Warwick,” said Guy at last. “Ask her to lend the earl’s weapons and armor for the saving of England.”