HERNANDO was a poor knight, who had spent all in the service of his country. He had nothing to call his own but his stout armour, his high-couraged black charger, and his bold lance; and with these he was ever in the thickest of the fray against the Moors. But at last his turn came; and in return for the losses he had caused them, the Moors contrived to surround and slay him.
Now, when his black charger knew that his master was wounded to death, like a valiant steed true to his Christian master, he turned and bore him out of the fight to a lonely dell, where a pious hermit might minister the last consolations of religion to his parting soul. But a sordid Moor, seeing the helpless dying man thus borne along, determined to possess himself of his stout armour and his bold black charger; he followed with fruitless attempts to arrest the gallant beast until it pleased him to stop before the hermit's cell, where it waited patiently while they lifted the sacred burden down--the hermit and the Moor together; for the Moor desired to possess himself of the outer shell of his armour, and the hermit, the inner shell, namely, his body, that the kernel, that is his soul, might go up holy and clean before God. Then his soul had scarcely passed away, when the Moor stripped him of his armour, and packed it all safely on the back of the black charger, and prepared to lead him home, for he was afraid himself to mount him. But the black charger no sooner perceived his dear master's remains safe in the care of the hermit, to bury them, and his armour safe in his own, than he started off at his wildest speed, leaving the Moor who had ventured to lay his infidel hands on the reins, to measure his length in the dust. And on and on he went, nor stopped till he reached Hernando's hillside home.
Doña Teresa, his wife, had never ceased every day to look out for her Hernando's return. And when she saw his black charger, bearing his empty armour, she knew at once all that had come to pass; and like a noble Christian spouse, she had the strength to thank God that her Hernando had spent his life in the service of his religion and his country. Then she took his precious armour and laid it safely by, and she caressed the gallant black charger, and led him away to his fresh-littered stall.
Then every day she tried the armour on the young Hernando, and made him bestride the black charger, that he might be a valiant slayer of Moors like his father.
Now young Hernando was slight, and young Hernando was pale. And he shrank from the cold, hard armour, and the tall, snorting steed. But his mother Teresa was brave, brave as became a Christian spouse, and she listened not to his fears; but bade him be of good heart, and put his trust in Christ.
And at last the day came when she bade him go forth and do battle to the Moors. Young Hernando's heart beat high, for his spirit indeed was willing; and he burned to add his name to the long traditions of prowess which his mother told him of his house. But his arm was all untried, and he shrank from the thought of pain, for the young tender flesh was weak. But he would not belie his mother, so he crossed the bold black charger; and the noble charger snorted, when he felt that once more he bore a Christian to the battle. By night they travelled on; and by day they slept in the shade. In the morning, when the sun began to dawn, they rose, and set out on their way; and as they crossed a plain, young Hernando saw a tall Moor coming towards them. And his heart smote him for fear; and he would gladly have turned out of the way. But he bethought him it became not a Christian to shrink away before a Moor; so he nerved him with what courage he might, and rode on steadily along his way.
Now, when the bold black charger scented the Pagan hound, he snorted, and shook his mane, and darted to the encounter. So young Hernando was borne along, and found himself face to face with his foe. Then his father's shield rose to protect him; and the lance lifted up his arm; and the black charger rode at the Moor; and the lance cast him down from his seat. Then the sword leaped from its scabbard, and planting itself in young Hernando's grasp, struck off the pagan's head.
So Hernando tied the head to his saddle and bound the body upon its mule. Thus he rode on to the town--to the town of Royal Burgos. And when the people saw him bestriding the bold black charger, the grisly head hanging from his saddle, and the headless body following behind, bound fast to the African mule, they cried, "All hail to the victor! All hail to young Hernando, who conquered the pagan Moor!"
And so they brought him to the king, and his ghastly burden with him, and the headless rider behind. And the king rose and embraced him, and the queen held her fair white hand and gave it the youth to kiss. And she said, "A youth so comely and valiant should have armour rich and bright, and a steed with a shining coat." So she called a page to bring a suit of polished steel, and a horse from the royal stables, and present them to young Hernando. Then they took off his ancient armour and laid it on the old black charger, and Hernando donned the new, and sprang into the saddle of the horse from the royal stall.
Now the bold black charger was grieved to be thus set aside, so he snorted and turned his head and rode back to Doña Teresa. When Doña Teresa saw him ride back with the empty armour, she thought that her son was dead, and rejoiced as a Christian mother, that the Moors had sent him to glory. So she laid up the ancient armour, and caressed the bold black charger, and led him to his fresh-littered stall.
Young Hernando meantime feared, as he sat on the fiery steed; for in his far-off hillside home he had but that black charger tried. Nor had he learnt to handle the weapons they gave him to bear.
But the king, who had seen him come in bearing along such goodly spoils, took him for a practised warrior, and gave him a work to do which needed a valiant heart. "Now keep this pass," he said, "for the rocks are narrow and high, and one at a time, as the enemy comes, with your sword you will strike them down."
Young Hernando durst not say 'Nay;' for his spirit within him was bold, though his young tender flesh was weak. And as he watched there alone, with only the moon for guide, "Oh, had I my old black charger, and my father's armour!" he cried. And the bold black charger felt, as he stood in his far-off stall, that his master's son was in danger, and he snorted to get away. And Doña Teresa knew when she heard him snort and snort there was work to do far away. So she bound the armour on him, and away he fled like the wind, nor stopped till he reached Hernando.
"To me! my bold black charger! To me! 'tis yet in time! To me!" And he mounted the charger bold, in his father's armour clad.
Then stealthily came the Moors, all creeping through the pass, and Hernando's lance and Hernando's sword laid them low on the ground that night. And when the king came up, Hernando sat at his post, and his prostrate foes around him.
When the king saw he had done so bravely, he would have given him a new suit of armour, and a new bright-coated steed. But Hernando said, "Good king! pray leave me my father's armour and my father's charger bold, for I am but a stripling, and my hand and my arm are weak, but my father's arms and my father's steed alone put the foe to flight."
So the king let him have his will; and as he found him so brave and successful against the Moors, he sent him to carry a message of encouragement to Don Diaz, to whom the Moors had laid siege. Now, as he came back from the errand, he was crossing the lonely plain, when anon it was covered with horsemen--Moorish horsemen, arrayed in their might. He knew that his trust was sacred, and he might not endanger the letter he bore by encountering so overpowering a host. But 'twas vain that he tried to turn, for the bold black charger refused; but, as if he had been spurred, with his might he dashed right into the Pagan midst. The lance sprang in Hernando's hand and pierced through the Moorish king. Then the host, dismayed, exclaimed, "This one rider alone in his strength, no mortal man is he: it is one of their Christian saints come down to scatter the Prophet's band." So they turned and fled apace, and on the black charger rode behind; and Hernando's lance and Hernando's sword laid low the straggling host.
And such fear had fallen on all the Prophet's children that day, that on bended knee they sent to sue a truce of the Christian king. And to purchase a term of rest, they set all their captives free, and with tribute and with hostages made peace with the Christian king.
So young Hernando rode home--to his home by the steep hillside. And Doña Teresa came out to greet her boy on his gallant steed. And with her, fair Melisenda walked, who a gentler greeting gave; she was his bride betrothed, and she knew that now peace was made, they would lovingly live together, in that far-off hillside home.
And they stroked the bold black charger, and led him to his fresh-littered stall. And 'tis said that while yet the land was blighted by one strange  Moor, that bold black charger never died; but whenever the fight raged high, or the Christian host needed aid, there he bore his rider to turn the day. But where he died or when he fell, no mortal ever knew.