History of Literature






James Knowles


"THE LEGENDS OF KING ARTHUR


AND HIS KNIGHTS"


Illustrations by Lancelot Speed



 

 

"THE LEGENDS OF KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS"  (Part III)


Illustrations by Lancelot Speed




CHAPTER VIII

King Arthur conquers Rome, and is crowned Emperor

And now again the second time there came ambassadors from Lucius Tiberius,
Emperor of Rome, demanding, under pain of war, tribute and homage from
King Arthur, and the restoration of all Gaul, which he had conquered from
the tribune Flollo.

When they had delivered their message, the king bade them withdraw while
he consulted with his knights and barons what reply to send. Then some of
the younger knights would have slain the ambassadors, saying that their
speech was a rebuke to all who heard the king insulted by it. But when
King Arthur heard that, he ordered none to touch them upon pain of death;
and sending officers, he had them taken to a noble lodging, and there
entertained with the best cheer. "And," said he, "let no dainty be spared,
for the Romans are great lords; and though their message please me not,
yet must I remember mine honour."

Then the lords and knights of the Round Table were called on to declare
their counsel--what should be done upon this matter; and Sir Cador of
Cornwall speaking first, said, "Sir, this message is the best news I have
heard for a long time, for we have been now idle and at rest for many
days, and I trust that thou wilt make sharp war upon the Romans, wherein,
I doubt not, we shall all gain honour."

"I believe well," said Arthur, "that thou art pleased, Sir Cador; but that
is scarce an answer to the Emperor of Rome, and his demand doth grieve me
sorely, for truly I will never pay him tribute; wherefore, lords, I pray
ye counsel me. Now, I have understood that Belinus and Brennius, knights
of Britain, held the Roman Empire in their hands for many days, and also
Constantine, the son of Helen, which is open evidence, not only that we
owe Rome no tribute, but that I, being descended from them, may, of right,
myself claim the empire."

Then said King Anguish of Scotland, "Sir, thou oughtest of right to be
above all other kings, for in all Christendom is there not thine equal;
and I counsel thee never to obey the Romans. For when they reigned here
they grievously distressed us, and put the land to great and heavy
burdens; and here, for my part, I swear to avenge me on them when I may,
and will furnish thee with twenty thousand men-at-arms, whom I will pay
and keep, and who shall wait on thee with me, when it shall please thee."

Then the King of Little Britain rose and promised King Arthur thirty
thousand men; and likewise many other kings, and dukes, and barons,
promised aid--as the lord of West Wales thirty thousand men, Sir Ewaine
and his cousin thirty thousand men, and so forth; Sir Lancelot also, and
every other knight of the Round Table, promised each man a great host.

So the king, passing joyful at their courage and good will, thanked them
all heartily, and sent for the ambassadors again, to hear his answer. "I
will," said he, "that ye now go back straightway unto the Emperor your
master and tell him that I give no heed to his words, for I have conquered
all my kingdoms by the will of God and by my own right arm, and I am
strong enough to keep them, without paying tribute to any earthly
creature. But, on the other hand, I claim both tribute and submission from
himself, and also claim the sovereignty of all his empire, whereto I am
entitled by the right of my own ancestors--sometime kings of this land.
And say to him that I will shortly come to Rome, and by God's grace will
take possession of my empire and subdue all rebels. Wherefore, lastly, I
command him and all the lords of Rome that they forthwith pay me their
homage, under pain of my chastisement and wrath."

Then he commanded his treasurers to give the ambassadors great gifts, and
defray all their charges, and appointed Sir Cador to convey them
worshipfully out of the land.

So when they returned to Rome and came before Lucius, he was sore angry at
their words, and said, "I thought this Arthur would have instantly obeyed
my orders and have served me as humbly as any other king; but because of
his fortune in Gaul, he hath grown insolent."

"Ah, lord," said one of the ambassadors, "refrain from such vain words,
for truly I and all with me were fearful at his royal majesty and angry
countenance. I fear me thou hast made a rod for thee more sharp than thou
hast counted on. He meaneth to be master of this empire; and is another
kind of man than thou supposest, and holdeth the most noble court of all
the world. We saw him on the new year's day, served at his table by nine
kings, and the noblest company of other princes, lords, and knights that
ever was in all the world; and in his person he is the most manly-seeming
man that liveth, and looketh like to conquer all the earth."

Then Lucius sent messengers to all the subject countries of Rome, and
brought together a mighty army, and assembled sixteen kings, and many
dukes, princes, lords, and admirals, and a wondrous great multitude of
people. Fifty giants also, born of fiends, were set around him for a
body-guard. With all that host he straightway went from Rome, and passed
beyond the mountains into Gaul, and burned the towns and ravaged all the
country of that province, in rage for its submission to King Arthur. Then
he moved on towards Little Britain.

Meanwhile, King Arthur having held a parliament at York, left the realm in
charge of Sir Badewine and Sir Constantine, and crossed the sea from
Sandwich to meet Lucius. And so soon as he was landed, he sent Sir Gawain,
Sir Bors, Sir Lionel, and Sir Bedivere to the Emperor, commanding him "to
move swiftly and in haste out of his land, and, if not, to make himself
ready for battle, and not continue ravaging the country and slaying
harmless people." Anon, those noble knights attired themselves and set
forth on horseback to where they saw, in a meadow, many silken tents of
divers colours, and the Emperor's pavilion in the midst, with a golden
eagle set above it.

Then Sir Gawain and Sir Bors rode forward, leaving the other two behind
in ambush, and gave King Arthur's message. To which the Emperor replied,
"Return, and tell your lord that I am come to conquer him and all his
land."

At this, Sir Gawain burned with anger, and cried out, "I had rather than
all France that I might fight with thee alone!"

"And I also," said Sir Bors.

Then a knight named Ganius, a near cousin of the Emperor, laughed out
aloud, and said, "Lo! how these Britons boast and are full of pride,
bragging as though they bare up all the world!"

At these words, Sir Gawain could refrain no longer, but drew forth his
sword and with one blow shore oft Ganius' head; then with Sir Bors, he
turned his horse and rode over waters and through woods, back to the
ambush, where Sir Lionel and Sir Bedivere were waiting. The Romans
followed fast behind them till the knights turned and stood, and then Sir
Bors smote the foremost of them through the body with a spear, and slew
him on the spot. Then came on Calibere, a huge Pavian, but Sir Bors
overthrew him also. And then the company of Sir Lionel and Sir Bedivere
brake from their ambush and fell on the Romans, and slew and hewed them
down, and forced them to return and flee, chasing them to their tents.

But as they neared the camp, a great host more rushed forth, and turned
the battle backwards, and in the turmoil, Sir Bors and Sir Berel fell into
the Romans' hands. When Sir Gawain saw that, he drew his good sword
Galotine, and swore to see King Arthur's face no more if those two knights
were not delivered; and then, with good Sir Idrus, made so sore an
onslaught that the Romans fled and left Sir Bors and Sir Berel to their
friends. So the Britons returned in triumph to King Arthur, having slain
more than ten thousand Romans, and lost no man of worship from amongst
themselves.

When the Emperor Lucius heard of that discomfiture he arose, with all his
army, to crush King Arthur, and met him in the vale of Soissons. Then
speaking to all his host, he said, "Sirs, I admonish you that this day ye
fight and acquit yourselves as men; and remembering how Rome is chief of
all the earth, and mistress of the universal world, suffer not these
barbarous and savage Britons to abide our onset." At that, the trumpets
blew so loud, that the ground trembled and shook.

Then did the rival hosts draw near each other with great shoutings; and
when they closed, no tongue can tell the fury of their smiting, and the
sore struggling, wounds, and slaughter. Then King Arthur, with his
mightiest knights, rode down into the thickest of the fight, and drew
Excalibur, and slew as lightning slays for swiftness and for force. And in
the midmost crowd he met a giant, Galapas by name, and struck off both his
legs at the knee-joints; then saying, "Now art thou a better size to deal
with!" smote his head off at a second blow: and the body killed six men in
falling down.

Anon, King Arthur spied where Lucius fought and worked great deeds of
prowess with his own hands. Forthwith he rode at him, and each attacked
the other passing fiercely; till at the last, Lucius struck King Arthur
with a fearful wound across the face, and Arthur, in return, lifting up
Excalibur on high, drove it with all his force upon the Emperor's head,
shivering his helmet, crashing his head in halves, and splitting his body
to the breast. And when the Romans saw their Emperor dead they fled in
hosts of thousands; and King Arthur and his knights, and all his army
followed them, and slew one hundred thousand men.

Then returning to the field, King Arthur rode to the place where Lucius
lay dead, and round him the kings of Egypt and Ethiopia, and seventeen
other kings, with sixty Roman senators, all noble men. All these he
ordered to be carefully embalmed with aromatic gums, and laid in leaden
coffins, covered with their shields and arms and banners. Then calling for
three senators who were taken prisoners, he said to them, "As the ransom
of your lives, I will that ye take these dead bodies and carry them to
Rome, and there present them for me, with these letters saying I will
myself be shortly there. And I suppose the Romans will beware how they
again ask tribute of me; for tell them, these dead bodies that I send them
are for the tribute they have dared to ask of me; and if they wish for
more, when I come I will pay them the rest."

So, with that charge, the three senators departed with the dead bodies,
and went to Rome; the body of the Emperor being carried in a chariot
blazoned with the arms of the empire, all alone, and the bodies of the
kings two and two in chariots following.

After the battle, King Arthur entered Lorraine, Brabant, and Flanders, and
thence, subduing all the countries as he went, passed into Germany, and so
beyond the mountains into Lombardy and Tuscany. At length he came before a
city which refused to obey him, wherefore he sat down before it to besiege
it. And after a long time thus spent, King Arthur called Sir Florence,
and told him they began to lack food for his hosts--"And not far from
hence," said he, "are great forests full of cattle belonging to my
enemies. Go then, and bring by force all that thou canst find; and take
with thee Sir Gawain, my nephew, and Sir Clegis, Sir Claremond the Captain
of Cardiff, and a strong band."

Anon, those knights made ready, and rode over holts and hills, and through
forests and woods, till they came to a great meadow full of fair flowers
and grass, and there they rested themselves and their horses that night.
And at the dawn of the next day, Sir Gawain took his horse and rode away
from his fellows to seek some adventure. Soon he saw an armed knight
walking his horse by a wood's side, with his shield laced to his shoulder,
and no attendant with him save a page, bearing a mighty spear; and on his
shield were blazoned three gold griffins. When Sir Gawain spied him, he
put his spear in rest, and riding straight to him, asked who he was. "A
Tuscan," said he; "and they mayest prove me when thou wilt, for thou shalt
be my prisoner ere we part."

Then said Sir Gawain, "Thou vauntest thee greatly, and speakest proud
words; yet I counsel thee, for all thy boastings, look to thyself the best
thou canst."

At that they took their spears and ran at each other with all the might
they had, and smote each other through their shields into their shoulders;
and then drawing swords smote with great strokes, till the fire sprang out
of their helms. Then was Sir Gawain enraged, and with his good sword
Galotine struck his enerny through shield and hauberk, and splintered into
pieces all the precious stones of it, and made so huge a wound that men
might see both lungs and liver. At that the Tuscan, groaning loudly,
rushed on to Sir Gawain, and gave him a deep slanting stroke, and made a
mighty wound and cut a great vein asunder, so that he bled fast. Then he
cried out, "Bind thy wound quickly up, Sir knight, for thou be-bloodest
all thy horse and thy fair armour, and all the surgeons of the world shall
never staunch thy blood; for so shall it be to whomsoever is hurt with
this good sword."

Then answered Sir Gawain, "It grieveth me but little, and thy boastful
words give me no fear, for thou shalt suffer greater grief and sorrow ere
we part; but tell me quickly who can staunch this blood."

"That can I do," said the strange knight, "and will, if thou wilt aid and
succour me to become christened, and to believe on God, which now I do
require of thee upon thy manhood."

"I am content," said Sir Gawain; "and may God help me to grant all thy
wishes. But tell mefirst, what soughtest thou thus here alone, and of what
land art thou?"

"Sir," said the knight, "my name is Prianius, and my father is a great
prince, who hath rebelled against Rome. He is descended from Alexander and
Hector, and of our lineage also were Joshua and Maccabaeus. I am of right
the king of Alexandria, and Africa, and all the outer isles, yet I would
believe in the Lord thou worshippest, and for thy labour I will give thee
treasure enough. I was so proud in heart that I thought none my equal, but
now have I encountered with thee, who hast given me my fill of fighting;
wherefore, I pray thee, Sir knight, tell me of thyself."

"I am no knight," said Sir Gawain; "I have been brought up many years in
the wardrobe of the noble prince King Arthur, to mind his armour and
array."

"Ah," said Prianius, "if his varlets be so keen and fierce, his knights
must be passing good! Now, for the love of heaven, whether thou be knight
or knave, tell me thy name."

"By heaven!" said Gawain, "now will I tell thee the truth. My name is Sir
Gawain, and I am a knight of the Round Table."

"Now am I better pleased," said Prianius, "than if thou hadst given me all
the province of Paris the rich. I had rather have been torn by wild horses
than that any varlet should have won such victory over me as thou hast
done. But now, Sir knight, I warn thee that close by is the Duke of
Lorraine, with sixty thousand good men of war; and we had both best flee
at once, for he will find us else, and we be sorely wounded and never
likely to recover. And let my page be careful that he blow no horn, for
hard by are a hundred knights, my servants; and if they seize thee, no
ransom of gold or silver would acquit thee."

Then Sir Gawain rode over a river to save himself, and Sir Prianius after
him, and so they both fled till they came to his companions who were in
the meadow, where they spent the night. When Sir Whishard saw Sir Gawain
so hurt, he ran to him weeping, and asked him who it was had wounded him;
and Sir Gawain told him how he had fought with that man--pointing to
Prianius--who had salves to heal them both. "But I can tell ye other
tidings," said he--"that soon we must encounter many enemies, for a great
army is close to us in our front."

Then Prianius and Sir Gawain alighted and let their horses graze while
they unarmed, and when they took their armour and their clothing off, the
hot blood ran down freshly from their wounds till it was piteous to see.
But Prianius took from his page a vial filled from the four rivers that
flow out of Paradise, and anointed both their wounds with a certain balm,
and washed them with that water, and within an hour afterwards they were
both as sound and whole as ever they had been. Then, at the sound of a
trumpet, all the knights were assembled to council; and after much
talking, Prianius said, "Cease your words, for I warn you in yonder wood
ye shall find knights out of number, who will put out cattle for a decoy
to lead you on; and ye are not seven hundred!"

"Nevertheless," said Sir Gawain, "let us at once encounter them, and see
what they can do; and may the best have the victory."

Then they saw suddenly an earl named Sir Ethelwold, and the Duke of
Duchmen come leaping out of ambush of the woods in front, with many a
thousand after them, and all rode straight down to the battle. And Sir
Gawain, full of ardour and courage, comforted his knights, saying, "They
all are ours." Then the seven hundred knights, in one close company, set
spurs to their horses and began to gallop, and fiercely met their enemies.
And then were men and horses slain and overthrown on every side, and in
and out amidst them all, the knights of the Round Table pressed and
thrust, and smote down to the earth all who withstood them, till at length
the whole of them turned back and fled.

"By heaven!" said Sir Gawain, "this gladdeneth well my heart, for now
behold them as they flee! they are full seventy thousand less in number
than they were an hour ago!"

Thus was the battle quickly ended, and a great host of high lords and
knights of Lombardy and Saracens left dead upon the field. Then Sir Gawain
and his company collected a great plenty of cattle, and of gold and
silver, and all kind of treasure, and returned to King Arthur, where he
still kept the siege.

"Now God be thanked," cried he; "but who is he that standeth yonder by
himself, and seemeth not a prisoner?"

"Sir," said Sir Gawain, "he is a good man with his weapons, and hath
matched me; but cometh hither to be made a Christian. Had it not been for
his warnings, we none of us should have been here this day. I pray thee,
therefore, let him be baptized, for there can be few nobler men, or better
knights."

So Prianius was christened, and made a duke and knight of the Round Table.

Presently afterwards, they made a last attack upon the city, and entered
by the walls on every side; and as the men were rushing to the pillage,
came the Duchess forth, with many ladies and damsels, and kneeled before
King Arthur; and besought him to receive their submission. To whom the
king made answer, with a noble countenance, "Madam, be well assured that
none shall harm ye, or your ladies; neither shall any that belong to thee
be hurt; but the Duke must abide my judgment." Then he commanded to stay
the assault and took the keys from the Duke's eldest son, who brought them
kneeling. Anon the Duke was sent a prisoner to Dover for his life, and
rents and taxes were assigned for dowry of the Duchess and her children.

Then went he on with all his hosts, winning all towns and castles, and
wasting them that refused obedience, till he came to Viterbo. From thence
he sent to Rome, to ask the senators whether they would receive him for
their lord and governor. In answer, came out to him all the Senate who
remained alive, and the Cardinals, with a majestic retinue and procession;
and laying great treasures at his feet, they prayed him to come in at once
to Rome, and there be peaceably crowned as Emperor. "At this next
Christmas," said King Arthur, "will I be crowned, and hold my Round Table
in your city."

Anon he entered Rome, in mighty pomp and state; and after him came all his
hosts, and his knights, and princes, and great lords, arrayed in gold and
jewels, such as never were beheld before. And then was he crowned Emperor
by the Pope's hands, with all the highest solemnity that could be made.

Then after his coronation, he abode in Rome for a season, settling his
lands and giving kingdoms to his knights and servants, to each one after
his deserving, and in such wise fashion that no man among them all
complained. Also he made many dukes and earls, and loaded all his
men-at-arms with riches and great treasures.

When all this was done, the lords and knights, and all the men of great
estate, came together before him, and said, "Noble Emperor! by the
blessing of Eternal God, thy mortal warfare is all finished, and thy
conquests all achieved; for now in all the world is none so great and
mighty as to dare make war with thee. Wherefore we beseech and heartily
pray thee of thy noble grace, to turn thee homeward, and to give us also
leave to see our wives and homes again, for now we have been from them a
long season, and all thy journey is completed with great honour and
worship."

"Ye say well," replied he, "and to tempt God is no wisdom; therefore make
ready in all haste, and turn we home to England."

So King Arthur returned with his knights and lords and armies, in great
triumph and joy, through all the countries he had conquered, and commanded
that no man, upon pain of death, should rob or do any violence by the way.
And crossing the sea, he came at length to Sandwich, where Queen Guinevere
received him, and made great joy at his arrival. And through all the realm
of Britain was there such rejoicing as no tongue can tell.



CHAPTER IX

The Adventures of Sir Lancelot du Lake

Then, at the following Pentecost, was held a feast of the Round Table at
Caerleon, with high splendour; and all the knights thereof resorted to the
court, and held many games and jousts. And therein Sir Lancelot increased
in fame and worship above all men, for he overthrew all comers, and never
was unhorsed or worsted, save by treason and enchantment.

When Queen Guinevere had seen his wondrous feats, she held him in great
favour, and smiled more on him than on any other knight. And ever since he
first had gone to bring her to King Arthur, had Lancelot thought on her as
fairest of all ladies, and done his best to win her grace. So the queen
often sent for him, and bade him tell of his birth and strange adventures:
how he was only son of great King Ban of Brittany, and how, one night, his
father, with his mother Helen and himself, fled from his burning castle;
how his father, groaning deeply, fell to the ground and died of grief and
wounds, and how his mother, running to her husband, left himself alone;
how, as he thus lay wailing, came the lady of the lake, and took him in
her arms and went with him into the midst of the waters, where, with his
cousins Lionel and Bors he had been cherished all his childhood until he
came to King Arthur's court; and how this was the reason why men called
him Lancelot du Lake.

Anon it was ordained by King Arthur, that in every year at Pentecost there
should be held a festival of all the knights of the Round Table at
Caerleon, or such other place as he should choose. And at those festivals
should be told publicly the most famous adventures of any knight during
the past year.

So, when Sir Lancelot saw Queen Guinevere rejoiced to hear his wanderings
and adventures, he resolved to set forth yet again, and win more worship
still, that he might more increase her favour. Then he bade his cousin Sir
Lionel make ready, "for," said he, "we two will seek adventure." So they
mounted their horses--armed at all points--and rode into a vast forest;
and when they had passed through it, they came to a great plain, and the
weather being very hot about noontide, Sir Lancelot greatly longed to
sleep. Then Sir Lionel espied a great apple-tree standing by a hedge, and
said, "Brother, yonder is a fair shadow where we may rest ourselves and
horses."

"I am full glad of it," said Sir Lancelot, "for all these seven years I
have not been so sleepy."

So they alighted there, and tied their horses up to sundry trees; and Sir
Lionel waked and watched while Sir Lancelot fell asleep, and slept passing
fast.

In the meanwhile came three knights, riding as fast flying as ever they
could ride, and after them followed a single knight; but when Sir Lionel
looked at him, he thought he had never seen so great and strong a man, or
so well furnished and apparelled. Anon he saw him overtake the last of
those who fled, and smite him to the ground; then came he to the second,
and smote him such a stroke that horse and man went to the earth; then
rode he to the third, likewise, and struck him off his horse more than a
spear's length. With that he lighted from his horse, and bound all three
knights fast with the reins of their own bridles.

When Sir Lionel saw this he thought the time was come to prove himself
against him, so quietly and cautiously, lest he should wake Sir Lancelot,
he took his horse and mounted and rode after him. Presently overtaking
him, he cried aloud to him to turn, which instantly he did, and smote Sir
Lionel so hard that horse and man went down forthwith. Then took he up Sir
Lionel, and threw him bound over his own horse's back; and so he served
the three other knights, and rode them away to his own castle. There they
were disarmed, stripped naked, and beaten with thorns, and afterwards
thrust into a deep prison, where many more knights, also, made great moans
and lamentations, saying, "Alas, alas! there is no man can help us but Sir
Lancelot, for no other knight can match this tyrant Turquine, our
conqueror."

But all this while, Sir Lancelot lay sleeping soundly under the
apple-tree. And, as it chanced, there passed that way four queens, of high
estate, riding upon four white mules, under four canopies of green silk
borne on spears, to keep them from the sun. As they rode thus, they heard
a great horse grimly neigh, and, turning them about, soon saw a sleeping
knight that lay all armed under an apple-tree; and when they saw his
face, they knew it was Lancelot of the Lake.

Then they began to strive which of them should have the care of him. But
Queen Morgan le Fay, King Arthur's half sister, the great sorceress, was
one of them, and said "We need not strive for him, I have enchanted him,
so that for six hours more he shall not wake. Let us take him to my
castle, and, when he wakes, himself shall choose which one of us he would
rather serve." So Sir Lancelot was laid upon his shield and borne on
horseback between two knights, to the castle, and there laid in a cold
chamber, till the spell should pass.

Anon, they sent him a fair damsel, bearing his supper, who asked him,
"What cheer?"

"I cannot tell, fair damsel," said he, "for I know not how I came into
this castle, if it were not by enchantment."

"Sir," said she, "be of good heart, and to-morrow at the dawn of day, ye
shall know more."

And so she left him alone, and there he lay all night. In the morning
early came the four queens to him, passing richly dressed; and said, "Sir
knight, thou must understand that thou art our prisoner, and that we know
thee well for King Ban's son, Sir Lancelot du Lake. And though we know
full well there is one lady only in this world may have thy love, and she
Queen Guinevere--King Arthur's wife--yet now are we resolved to have thee
to serve one of us; choose, therefore, of us four which thou wilt serve. I
am Queen Morgan le Fay, Queen of the land of Gore, and here also is the
Queen of Northgales, and the Queen of Eastland, and the Queen of the Out
Isles. Choose, then, at once, for else shall thou abide here, in this
prison, till thy death."

"It is a hard case," said Sir Lancelot, "that either I must die, or choose
one of you for my mistress! Yet had I rather die in this prison than serve
any living creature against my will. So take this for my answer. I will
serve none of ye, for ye be false enchantresses. And as for my lady, Queen
Guinevere, whom lightly ye have spoken of, were I at liberty I would prove
it upon you or upon yours she is the truest lady living to her lord the
king."

"Well," said the queen, "is this your answer, that ye refuse us all?"

"Yea, on my life," said Lancelot, "refused ye be of me."

So they departed from him in great wrath, and left him sorrowfully
grieving in his dungeon.

At noon the damsel came to him and brought his dinner, and asked him as
before, "What cheer?"

"Truly, fair damsel," said Sir Lancelot, "in all my life never so ill."

"Sir," replied she, "I grieve to see ye so, but if ye do as I advise, I
can help ye out of this distress, and will do so if you promise me a
boon."

"Fair damsel," said Sir Lancelot, "right willingly will I grant it thee,
for sorely do I dread these four witch-queens, who have destroyed and
slain many a good knight with their enchantments."

Then said the damsel, "Sir, wilt thou promise me to help my father on next
Tuesday, for he hath a tournament with the King of Northgales, and last
Tuesday lost the field through three knights of King Arthur's court, who
came against him. And if next Tuesday thou wilt aid him, to-morrow,
before daylight, by God's grace, I will deliver thee."

"Fair maiden," said Sir Lancelot, "tell me thy father's name and I will
answer thee."

"My father is King Bagdemagus," said she.

"I know him well," replied Sir Lancelot, "for a noble king and a good
knight; and by the faith of my body I will do him all the service I am
able on that day."

"Grammercy to thee, Sir knight," said the damsel.

"To-morrow, when thou art delivered from this place, ride ten miles hence
unto an abbey of white monks, and there abide until I bring my father to
thee."

"So be it," said Sir Lancelot, "as I am a true knight."

So she departed, and on the morrow, early, came again, and let him out of
twelve gates, differently locked, and brought him to his armour; and when
he was all armed, she brought him his horse also, and lightly he saddled
him, and took a great spear in his hand, and mounted and rode forth,
saying, as he went, "Fair damsel, I shall not fail thee, by the grace of
God."

And all that day he rode in a great forest, and could find no highway, and
spent the night in the wood; but the next morning found his road, and came
to the abbey of white monks. And there he saw King Bagdemagus and his
daughter waiting for him. So when they were together in a chamber, Sir
Lancelot told the king how he had been betrayed by an enchantment, and how
his brother Lionel was gone he knew not where, and how the damsel had
delivered him from the castle of Queen Morgan le Fay. "Wherefore while I
live," said he, "I shall do service to herself and all her kindred."

"Then am I sure of thy aid," said the king, "on Tuesday now next coming?"

"Yea, sir, I shall not fail thee," said Sir Lancelot; "but what knights
were they who last week defeated thee, and took part with the King of
Northgales?"

"Sir Mador de la Port, Sir Modred, and Sir Gahalatine," replied the king.

"Sir," said Sir Lancelot, "as I understand, the tournament shall take
place but three miles from this abbey; send then to me here, three knights
of thine, the best thou hast, and let them all have plain white shields,
such as I also will; then will we four come suddenly into the midst
between both parties, and fall upon thy enemies, and grieve them all we
can, and none will know us who we are."

So, on the Tuesday, Sir Lancelot and the three knights lodged themselves
in a small grove hard by the lists. Then came into the field the King of
Northgales, with one hundred and sixty helms, and the three knights of
King Arthur's court, who stood apart by themselves. And when King
Bagdemagus had arrived, with eighty helms, both companies set all their
spears in rest and came together with a mighty clash, wherein were slain
twelve knights of King Bagdemagus, and six of the King of Northgales; and
the party of King Bagdemagus was driven back.

With that, came Sir Lancelot, and thrust into the thickest of the press,
and smote down with one spear five knights, and brake the backs of four,
and cast down the King of Northgales, and brake his thigh by the fall.
When the three knights of Arthur's court saw this, they rode at Sir
Lancelot, and each after other attacked him; but he overthrew them all,
and smote them nigh to death. Then taking a new spear, he bore down to the
ground sixteen more knights, and hurt them all so sorely, that they could
carry arms no more that day. And when his spear at length was broken, he
took yet another, and smote down twelve knights more, the most of whom he
wounded mortally, till in the end the party of the King of Northgales
would joust no more, and the victory was cried to King Bagdemagus.

Then Sir Lancelot rode forth with King Bagdemagus to his castle, and there
he feasted with great cheer and welcome, and received many royal gifts.
And on the morrow he took leave and went to find his brother Lionel.

Anon, by chance, he came to the same forest where the four queens had
found him sleeping, and there he met a damsel riding on a white palfrey.
When they had saluted each other, Sir Lancelot said, "Fair damsel, knowest
thou where any adventures may be had in this country?"

"Sir knight," said she, "there are adventures great enough close by if
thou darest prove them."

"Why should I not," said he, "since for that cause I came here?"

"Sir," said the damsel, "hard by this place there dwelleth a knight that
cannot be defeated by any man, so great and perilously strong he is. His
name is Sir Turquine, and in the prisons of his castle lie three score
knights and four, mostly from King Arthur's court, whom he hath taken with
his own hands. But promise me, ere thou undertakest their deliverance, to
go and help me afterwards, and free me and many other ladies that are
distressed by a false knight." "Bring me but to this felon Turquine,"
quoth Sir Lancelot, "and I will afterwards fulfil all your wishes."

So the damsel went before, and brought him to a ford, and a tree whereon a
great brass basin hung; and Sir Lancelot beat with his spear-end upon the
basin, long and hard, until he beat the bottom of it out, but he saw
nothing. Then he rode to and fro before the castle gates for well-nigh
half an hour, and anon saw a great knight riding from the distance,
driving a horse before him, across which hung an armed man bound. And when
they came near, Sir Lancelot knew the prisoner for a knight of the Round
Table. By that time, the great knight who drove the prisoner saw Sir
Lancelot, and each of them began to settle his spear, and to make ready.

"Fair sir," then said Sir Lancelot, "put off that wounded knight, I pray
thee, from his horse, and let him rest while thou and I shall prove our
strength upon each other; for, as I am told, thou doest, and hast done,
great shame and injury to knights of the Round Table. Wherefore, I warn
thee now, defend thyself."

"If thou mayest be of the Round Table," answered Turquine, "I defy thee,
and all thy fellows."

"That is saying overmuch," said Sir Lancelot.

Then, setting their lances in rest, they spurred their horses towards each
other, as fast as they could go, and smote so fearfully upon each other's
shields, that both their horses' backs brake under them. As soon as they
could clear their saddles, they took their shields before them, and drew
their swords, and came together eagerly, and fought with great and
grievous strokes; and soon they both had many grim and fearful wounds, and
bled in streams. Thus they fought two hours and more, thrusting and
smiting at each other, wherever they could hit.

Anon, they both were breathless, and stood leaning on their swords.

"Now, comrade," said Sir Turquine, "let us wait awhile, and answer me what
I shall ask thee."

"Say on," said Lancelot.

"Thou art," said Turquine, "the best man I ever met, and seemest like one
that I hate above all other knights that live; but if thou be not he, I
will make peace with thee, and for sake of thy great valour, will deliver
all the three score prisoners and four who lie within my dungeons, and
thou and I will be companions evermore. Tell me, then, thy name."

"Thou sayest well," replied Sir Lancelot; "but who is he thou hatest so
above all others?"

"His name," said Turquine, "is Sir Lancelot of the Lake; and he slew my
brother Sir Carados, at the dolorous tower; wherefore, if ever I shall
meet with him, one of us two shall slay the other; and thereto I have
sworn by a great oath. And to discover and destroy him I have slain a
hundred knights, and crippled utterly as many more, and many have died in
my prisons; and now, as I have told thee, I have many more therein, who
all shall be delivered, if thou tell me thy name, and it be not Sir
Lancelot."

"Well," said Lancelot, "I am that knight, son of King Ban of Benwick, and
Knight of the Round Table; so now I defy thee to do thy best!"

"Aha!" said Turquine, with a shout, "is it then so at last! Thou art more
welcome to my sword than ever knight or lady was to feast, for never
shall we part till one of us be dead."

Then did they hurtle together like two wild bulls, slashing and lashing
with their shields and swords, and sometimes falling both on to the
ground. For two more hours they fought so, and at the last Sir Turquine
grew very faint, and gave a little back, and bare his shield full low for
weariness. When Sir Lancelot saw him thus, he leaped upon him fiercely as
a lion, and took him by the crest of his helmet, and dragged him to his
knees; and then he tore his helmet off and smote his neck asunder.

Then he arose, and went to the damsel who had brought him to Sir Turquine,
and said, "I am ready, fair lady, to go with thee upon thy service, but I
have no horse."

"Fair sir," said she, "take ye this horse of the wounded knight whom
Turquine but just now was carrying to his prisons, and send that knight on
to deliver all the prisoners."

So Sir Lancelot went to the knight and prayed him for the loan of his
horse.

"Fair lord," said he, "ye are right welcome, for to-day ye have saved both
me and my horse; and I see that ye are the best knight in all the world,
for in my sight have ye slain the mightiest man and the best knight,
except thyself, I ever saw."

"Sir," said Sir Lancelot, "I thank thee well; and now go into yonder
castle, where thou shall find many noble knights of the Round Table, for I
have seen their shields hung on the trees around. On yonder tree alone
there are Sir Key's, Sir Brandel's, Sir Marhaus', Sir Galind's, and Sir
Aliduke's, and many more; and also my two kinsmen's shields, Sir Ector de
Maris' and Sir Lionel's. And I pray you greet them all from me, Sir
Lancelot of the Lake, and tell them that I bid them help themselves to any
treasures they can find within the castle; and that I pray my brethren,
Lionel and Ector, to go to King Arthur's court and stay there till I come.
And by the high feast at Pentecost I must be there; but now I must ride
forth with this damsel to fulfil my promise."

So, as they went, the damsel told him, "Sir, we are now near the place
where the foul knight haunteth, who robbeth and distresseth all ladies and
gentlewomen travelling past this way, against whom I have sought thy aid."

Then they arranged that she should ride on foremost, and Sir Lancelot
should follow under cover of the trees by the roadside, and if he saw her
come to any mishap, he should ride forth and deal with him that troubled
her. And as the damsel rode on at a soft ambling pace, a knight and page
burst forth from the roadside and forced the damsel from her horse, till
she cried out for help.

Then came Sir Lancelot rushing through the wood as fast as he might fly,
and all the branches of the trees crackled and waved around him. "O thou
false knight and traitor to all knighthood!" shouted he, "who taught thee
to distress fair ladies thus?"

The foul knight answered nothing, but drew out his sword and rode at Sir
Lancelot, who threw his spear away and drew his own sword likewise, and
struck him such a mighty blow as clave his head down to the throat. "Now
hast thou the wages thou long hast earned!" said he; and so departed from
the damsel.

Then for two days he rode in a great forest, and had but scanty food and
lodging, and on the third day he rode over a long bridge, when suddenly
there started up a passing foul churl, and smote his horse across the
nose, so that he started and turned back, rearing with pain. "Why ridest
thou over here without my leave?" said he.

"Why should I not?" said Sir Lancelot; "there is no other way to ride."

"Thou shalt not pass by here," cried out the churl, and dashed at him with
a great club full of iron spikes, till Sir Lancelot was fain to draw his
sword and smite him dead upon the earth.

At the end of the bridge was a fair village, and all the people came and
cried, "Ah, sir! a worse deed for thyself thou never didst, for thou hast
slain the chief porter of the castle yonder!" But he let them talk as they
pleased, and rode straight forward to the castle.

There he alighted, and tied his horse to a ring in the wall; and going in,
he saw a wide green court, and thought it seemed a noble place to fight
in. And as he looked about, he saw many people watching him from doors and
windows, making signs of warning, and saying, "Fair knight, thou art
unhappy." In the next moment came upon him two great giants, well armed
save their heads, and with two horrible clubs in their hands. Then he put
his shield before him, and with it warded off one giant's stroke, and
clove the other with his sword from the head downward to the chest. When
the first giant saw that, he ran away mad with fear; but Sir Lancelot ran
after him, and smote him through the shoulder, and shore him down his
back, so that he fell dead.

Then he walked onward to the castle hall, and saw a band of sixty ladies
and young damsels coming forth, who knelt to him, and thanked him for
their freedom. "For, sir," said they, "the most of us have been prisoners
here these seven years; and have been kept at all manner of work to earn
our meat, though we be all great gentlewomen born. Blessed be the time
that thou wast born, for never did a knight a deed of greater worship than
thou hast this day, and thereto will we all bear witness in all times and
places! Tell us, therefore, noble knight, thy name and court, that we may
tell them to our friends!" And when they heard it, they all cried aloud,
"Well may it be so, for we knew that no knight save thou shouldst ever
overcome those giants; and many a long day have we sighed for thee; for
the giants feared no other name among all knights but thine."

Then he told them to take the treasures of the castle as a reward for
their grievances, and to return to their homes, and so rode away into many
strange and wild countries. And at last, after many days, by chance he
came, near the night time, to a fair mansion, wherein he found an old
gentlewoman, who gave him and his horse good cheer. And when bed time was
come, his host brought him to a chamber over a gate, and there he unarmed,
and went to bed and fell asleep.

But soon thereafter came one riding in great haste, and knocking
vehemently at the gate below, which when Sir Lancelot heard, he rose and
looked out of the window, and, by the moonlight, saw three knights come
riding fiercely after one man, and lashing on him all at once with their
swords, while the one knight nobly fought all.

Then Sir Lancelot quickly armed himself, and getting through the window,
let himself down by a sheet into the midst of them, crying out, "Turn ye
on me, ye cowards, and leave fighting with that knight!" Then they all
left Sir Key, for the first knight was he, and began to fall upon Sir
Lancelot furiously. And when Sir Key would have come forward to assist
him, Sir Lancelot refused, and cried, "Leave me alone to deal with them."
And presently, with six great strokes, he felled them all.

Then they cried out, "Sir knight, we yield us unto thee, as to a man of
might!"

"I will not take your yielding!" said he; "yield ye to Sir Key, the
seneschal, or I will have your lives."

"Fair knight," said they, "excuse us in that thing, for we have chased Sir
Key thus far, and should have overcome him but for thee."

"Well," said Sir Lancelot, "do as ye will, for ye may live or die; but, if
ye live, ye shall be holden to Sir Key."

Then they yielded to him; and Sir Lancelot commanded them to go unto King
Arthur's court at the next Pentecost, and say, Sir Key had sent them
prisoners to Queen Guinevere. And this they sware to do upon their swords.

Then Sir Lancelot knocked at the gate with his sword-hilt till his hostess
came and let him in again, and Sir Key also. And when the light came, Sir
Key knew Sir Lancelot, and knelt and thanked him for his courtesy, and
gentleness, and kindness. "Sir," said he, "I have done no more than what I
ought to do, and ye are welcome; therefore let us now take rest."

So when Sir Key had supped, they went to sleep, and Sir Lancelot and he
slept in the same bed. On the morrow, Sir Lancelot rose early, and took
Sir Key's shield and armour and set forth. When Sir Key arose, he found
Sir Lancelot's armour by his bedside, and his own arms gone. "Now, by my
faith," thought he, "I know that he will grieve some knights of our king's
court; for those who meet him will be bold to joust with him, mistaking
him for me, while I, dressed in his shield and armour, shall surely ride
in peace."


 

Then Sir Lancelot, dressed in Sir Key's apparel, rode long in a great
forest, and came at last to a low country, full of rivers and fair
meadows, and saw a bridge before him, whereon were three silk tents of
divers colours, and to each tent was hung a white shield, and by each
shield stood a knight. So Sir Lancelot went by without speaking a word.
And when he had passed, the three knights said it was the proud Sir Key,
"who thinketh no knight equal to himself, although the contrary is full
often proved upon him."

"By my faith!" said one of them, named Gaunter, "I will ride after and
attack him for all his pride, and ye shall watch my speed."

Then, taking shield and spear, he mounted and rode after Sir Lancelot, and
cried, "Abide, proud knight, and turn, for thou shalt not pass free!"

So Sir Lancelot turned, and each one put his spear in rest and came with
all his might against the other. And Sir Gaunter's spear brake short, but
Sir Lancelot smote him down, both horse and man.

When the other knights saw this, they said, "Yonder is not Sir Key, but a
bigger man."

"I dare wager my head," said Sir Gilmere, "yonder knight hath slain Sir
Key, and taken his horse and harness."

"Be it so, or not," said Sir Reynold, the third brother; "let us now go to
our brother Gaunter's rescue; we shall have enough to do to match that
knight, for, by his stature, I believe it is Sir Lancelot or Sir
Tristram."

Anon, they took their horses and galloped after Sir Lancelot; and Sir
Gilmere first assailed him, but was smitten down forthwith, and lay
stunned on the earth. Then said Sir Reynold, "Sir knight, thou art a
strong man, and, I believe, hast slain my two brothers, wherefore my heart
is sore against thee; yet, if I might with honour, I would avoid thee.
Nevertheless, that cannot be, so keep thyself." And so they hurtled
together with all their might, and each man shivered his spear to pieces;
and then they drew their swords and lashed out eagerly.

And as they fought, Sir Gaunter and Sir Gilmere presently arose and
mounted once again, and came down at full tilt upon Sir Lancelot. But,
when he saw them coming, he put forth all his strength, and struck Sir
Reynold off his horse. Then, with two other strokes, he served the others
likewise.

Anon, Sir Reynold crept along the ground, with his head all bloody, and
came towards Sir Lancelot. "It is enough," said Lancelot, "I was not far
from thee when thou wast made a knight, Sir Reynold, and know thee for a
good and valiant man, and was full loth to slay thee."

"Grammercy for thy gentleness!" said Sir Reynold. "I and my brethren will
straightway yield to thee when we know thy name, for well we know that
thou art not Sir Key."

"As for that," said Sir Lancelot, "be it as it may, but ye shall yield to
Queen Guinevere at the next feast of Pentecost as prisoners, and say that
Sir Key sent ye."

Then they swore to him it should be done as he commanded. And so Sir
Lancelot passed on, and the three brethren helped each other's wounds as
best they might.

Then rode Sir Lancelot forward into a deep forest, and came upon four
knights of King Arthur's court, under an oak tree--Sir Sagramour, Sir
Ector, Sir Gawain, and Sir Ewaine. And when they spied him, they thought
he was Sir Key. "Now by my faith," said Sir Sagramour, "I will prove Sir
Key's might!" and taking his spear he rode towards Sir Lancelot.

But Sir Lancelot was aware of him, and, setting his spear in rest, smote
him so sorely, that horse and man fell to the earth.

"Lo!" cried Sir Ector, "I see by the buffet that knight hath given our
fellow he is stronger than Sir Key. Now will I try what I can do against
him!" So Sir Ector took his spear, and galloped at Sir Lancelot; and Sir
Lancelot met him as he came, and smote him through shield and shoulder, so
that he fell, but his own spear was not broken.

"By my faith," cried Sir Ewaine, "yonder is a strong knight, and must have
slain Sir Key, and taken his armour! By his strength, I see it will be
hard to match him." So saying he rode towards Sir Lancelot, who met him
halfway and struck him so fiercely, that at one blow he overthrew him
also.

"Now," said Sir Gawain, "will I encounter him." So he took a good spear in
his hand, and guarded himself with his shield. And he and Sir Lancelot
rode against each other, with their horses at full speed, and furiously
smote each other on the middle of their shields; but Sir Gawain's spear
broke short asunder, and Sir Lancelot charged so mightily upon him, that
his horse and he both fell, and rolled upon the ground.

"Ah," said Sir Lancelot, smiling, as he rode away from the four knights,
"heaven give joy to him who made this spear, for never held I better in my
hand."

But the four knights said to each other, "Truly one spear hath felled us
all."

"I dare lay my life," said Sir Gawain, "it is Sir Lancelot. I know him by
his riding."

So they all departed for the court.

And as Sir Lancelot rode still in the forest, he saw a black bloodhound,
running with its head towards the ground, as if it tracked a deer. And
following after it, he came to a great pool of blood. But the hound, ever
and anon looking behind, ran through a great marsh, and over a bridge,
towards an old manor house. So Sir Lancelot followed, and went into the
hall, and saw a dead knight lying there, whose wounds the hound licked.
And a lady stood behind him, weeping and wringing her hands, who cried, "O
knight! too great is the sorrow which thou hast brought me!"

"Why say ye so?" replied Sir Lancelot; "for I never harmed this knight,
and am full sorely grieved to see thy sorrow."

"Nay, sir," said the lady, "I see it is not thou hast slain my husband,
for he that truly did that deed is deeply wounded, and shall never more
recover."

"What is thy husband's name?" said Sir Lancelot.

"His name," she answered, "was Sir Gilbert--one of the best knights in all
the world; but I know not his name who hath slain him."

"God send thee comfort," said Sir Lancelot, and departed again into the
forest.

And as he rode, he met with a damsel who knew him, who cried out, "Well
found, my lord! I pray ye of your knighthood help my brother, who is sore
wounded and ceases not to bleed, for he fought this day with Sir Gilbert,
and slew him, but was himself well nigh slain. And there is a sorceress,
who dwelleth in a castle hard by, and she this day hath told me that my
brother's wound shall never be made whole until I find a knight to go into
the Chapel Perilous, and bring from thence a sword and the bloody cloth in
which the wounded knight was wrapped."

"This is a marvellous thing!" said Sir Lancelot; "but what is your
brother's name?"

"His name, sir," she replied, "is Sir Meliot de Logres."

"He is a Fellow of the Round Table," said Sir Lancelot, "and truly will I
do my best to help him."

"Then, sir," said she, "follow this way, and it will bring ye to the
Chapel Perilous. I will abide here till God send ye hither again; for if
ye speed not, there is no living knight who may achieve that adventure."

So Sir Lancelot departed, and when he came to the Chapel Perilous he
alighted, and tied his horse to the gate. And as soon as he was within
the churchyard, he saw on the front of the chapel many shields of knights
whom he had known, turned upside down. Then saw he in the pathway thirty
mighty knights, taller than any men whom he had ever seen, all armed in
black armour, with their swords drawn; and they gnashed their teeth upon
him as he came. But he put his shield before him, and took his sword in
hand, ready to do battle with them. And when he would have cut his way
through them, they scattered on every side and let him pass. Then he went
into the chapel, and saw therein no light but of a dim lamp burning. Then
he was aware of a corpse in the midst of the chapel, covered with a silken
cloth, and so stooped down and cut off a piece of the cloth, whereat the
earth beneath him trembled. Then saw he a sword lying by the dead knight,
and taking it in his hand, he hied him from the chapel. As soon as he was
in the churchyard again, all the thirty knights cried out to him with
fierce voices, "Sir Lancelot! lay that sword from thee, or thou diest!"

"Whether I live or die," said he, "ye shall fight for it ere ye take it
from me."

With that they let him pass.

And further on, beyond the chapel, he met a fair damsel, who said, "Sir
Lancelot, leave that sword behind thee, or thou diest."

"I will not leave it," said Sir Lancelot, "for any asking."

"Then, gentle knight," said the damsel, "I pray thee kiss me once."

"Nay," said Sir Lancelot, "that God forbid!"

"Alas!" cried she, "I have lost all my labour! but hadst thou kissed me,
thy life's days had been all done!"

"Heaven save me from thy subtle crafts!" said Sir Lancelot; and therewith
took his horse and galloped forth.

And when he was departed, the damsel sorrowed greatly, and died in fifteen
days. Her name was Ellawes, the sorceress.

Then came Sir Lancelot to Sir Meliot's sister, who, when she saw him,
clapped her hands and wept for joy, and took him to the castle hard by,
where Sir Meliot was. And when Sir Lancelot saw Sir Meliot, he knew him,
though he was pale as ashes for loss of blood. And Sir Meliot, when he saw
Sir Lancelot, kneeled to him and cried aloud, "O lord, Sir Lancelot! help
me!"

And thereupon, Sir Lancelot went to him and touched his wounds with the
sword, and wiped them with the piece of bloody cloth. And immediately he
was as whole as though he had been never wounded. Then was there great joy
between him and Sir Meliot; and his sister made Sir Lancelot good cheer.
So on the morrow, he took his leave, that he might go to King Arthur's
court, "for," said he, "it draweth nigh the feast of Pentecost, and there,
by God's grace, shall ye then find me."

And riding through many strange countries, over marshes and valleys, he
came at length before a castle. As he passed by he heard two little bells
ringing, and looking up, he saw a falcon flying overhead, with bells tied
to her feet, and long strings dangling from them. And as the falcon flew
past an elm-tree, the strings caught in the boughs, so that she could fly
no further.

In the meanwhile, came a lady from the castle and cried, "Oh, Sir
Lancelot! as thou art the flower of all knights in the world, help me to
get my hawk, for she hath slipped away from me, and if she be lost, my
lord my husband is so hasty, he will surely slay me!"

"What is thy lord's name?" said Sir Lancelot.

"His name," said she, "is Sir Phelot, a knight of the King of Northgales."

"Fair lady," said Sir Lancelot, "since you know my name, and require me,
on my knighthood, to help you, I will do what I can to get your hawk."

And thereupon alighting, he tied his horse to the same tree, and prayed
the lady to unarm him. So when he was unarmed, he climbed up and reached
the falcon, and threw it to the lady.

Then suddenly came down, out of the wood, her husband, Sir Phelot, all
armed, with a drawn sword in his hand, and said, "Oh, Sir Lancelot! now
have I found thee as I would have thee!" and stood at the trunk of the
tree to slay him.

"Ah, lady!" cried Sir Lancelot, "why have ye betrayed me?"

"She hath done as I commanded her," said Sir Phelot, "and thine hour is
come that thou must die."

"It were shame," said Lancelot, "for an armed to slay an unarmed man."

"Thou hast no other favour from me," said Sir Phelot.

"Alas!" cried Sir Lancelot, "that ever any knight should die weaponless!"
And looking overhead, he saw a great bough without leaves, and wrenched it
off the tree, and suddenly leaped down. Then Sir Phelot struck at him
eagerly, thinking to have slain him, but Sir Lancelot put aside the stroke
with the bough, and therewith smote him on the side of the head, till he
fell swooning to the ground. And tearing his sword from out his hands, he
shore his neck through from the body. Then did the lady shriek dismally,
and swooned as though she would die. But Sir Lancelot put on his armour,
and with haste took his horse and departed thence, thanking God he had
escaped that peril.

And as he rode through a valley, among many wild ways, he saw a knight,
with a drawn sword, chasing a lady to slay her. And seeing Sir Lancelot,
she cried and prayed to him to come and rescue her.

At that he went up, saying, "Fie on thee, knight! why wilt thou slay this
lady? Thou doest shame to thyself and all knights."

"What hast thou to do between me and my wife?" replied the knight. "I will
slay her in spite of thee."

"Thou shall not harm her," said Sir Lancelot, "till we have first fought
together."

"Sir," answered the knight, "thou doest ill, for this lady hath betrayed
me."

"He speaketh falsely," said the lady, "for he is jealous of me without
cause, as I shall answer before Heaven; but as thou art named the most
worshipful knight in the world, I pray thee of thy true knighthood to save
me, for he is without mercy."

"Be of good cheer," said Sir Lancelot; "it shall not lie within his power
to harm thee."

"Sir," said the knight, "I will be ruled as ye will have me."

So Sir Lancelot rode between the knight and the lady. And when they had
ridden awhile, the knight cried out suddenly to Sir Lancelot to turn and
see what men they were who came riding after them; and while Sir Lancelot,
thinking not of treason, turned to look, the knight, with one great
stroke, smote off the lady's head.

Then was Sir Lancelot passing wroth, and cried, "Thou traitor! Thou hast
shamed me for ever!" and, alighting from his horse, he drew his sword to
have slain him instantly; but the knight fell on the ground and clasped
Sir Lancelot's knees, and cried out for mercy. "Thou shameful knight,"
answered Lancelot, "thou mayest have no mercy, for thou showedst none,
therefore arise and fight with me."

"Nay," said the knight, "I will not rise till thou dost grant me mercy."

"Now will I deal fairly by thee," said Sir Lancelot; "I will unarm me to
my shirt, and have my sword only in my hand, and if thou canst slay me
thou shall be quit for ever."

"That will I never do," said the knight.

"Then," answered Sir Lancelot, "take this lady and the head, and bear it
with thee, and swear to me upon thy sword never to rest until thou comest
to Queen Guinevere."

"That will I do," said he.

"Now," said Sir Lancelot, "tell me thy name."

"It is Pedivere," answered the knight.

"In a shameful hour wert thou born," said Sir Lancelot.

So Sir Pedivere departed, bearing with him the dead lady and her head. And
when he came to Winchester, where the Queen was with King Arthur, he told
them all the truth; and afterwards did great and heavy penance many
years, and became an holy hermit.

"So, two days before the Feast of Pentecost, Sir Lancelot returned to the
court, and King Arthur was full glad of his coming. And when Sir Gawain,
Sir Ewaine, Sir Sagramour, and Sir Ector, saw him in Sir Key's armour,
they knew well it was he who had smitten them all down with one spear.
Anon, came all the knights Sir Turquine had taken prisoners, and gave
worship and honour to Sir Lancelot. Then Sir Key told the King how Sir
Lancelot had rescued him when he was in near danger of his death; "and,"
said Sir Key, "he made the knights yield, not to himself, but me. And by
Heaven! because Sir Lancelot took my armour and left me his, I rode in
peace, and no man would have aught to do with me." Then came the knights
who fought with Sir Lancelot at the long bridge and yielded themselves
also to Sir Key, but he said nay, he had not fought with them. "It is Sir
Lancelot," said he, "that overcame ye." Next came Sir Meliot de Logres,
and told King Arthur how Sir Lancelot had saved him from death.

And so all Sir Lancelot's deeds and great adventures were made known; how
the four sorceress-queens had him in prison; how he was delivered by the
daughter of King Bagdemagus, and what deeds of arms he did at the
tournament between the King of North Wales and King Bagdemagus. And so, at
that festival, Sir Lancelot had the greatest name of any knight in all the
world, and by high and low was he the most honoured of all men.



CHAPTER X

Adventures of Sir Beaumains or Sir Gareth

Again King Arthur held the Feast of Pentecost, with all the Table Round,
and after his custom sat in the banquet hall, before beginning meat,
waiting for some adventure. Then came there to the king a squire and said,
"Lord, now may ye go to meat, for here a damsel cometh with some strange
adventure." So the king was glad, and sat down to meat.

Anon the damsel came in and saluted him, praying him for succour. "What
wilt thou?" said the king. "Lord," answered she, "my mistress is a lady of
great renown, but is at this time besieged by a tyrant, who will not
suffer her to go out of her castle; and because here in thy court the
knights are called the noblest in the world, I come to pray thee for thy
succour. "Where dwelleth your lady?" answered the king. "What is her name,
and who is he that hath besieged her?" "For her name," replied the damsel,
"as yet I may not tell it; but she is a lady of worship and great lands.
The tyrant that besiegeth her and wasteth her lands is called the Red
Knight of the Redlands." "I know him not," said Arthur. "But I know him,
lord," said Sir Gawain, "and he is one of the most perilous knights in all
the world. Men say he hath the strength of seven; and from him I myself
once hardly escaped with life." "Fair damsel," said the king, "there be
here many knights that would gladly do their uttermost to rescue your
lady, but unless ye tell me her name, and where she dwelleth, none of my
knights shall go with you by my leave."

Now, there was a stripling at the court called Beaumains, who served in
the king's kitchen, a fair youth and of great stature. Twelve months
before this time he had come to the king as he sat at meat, at
Whitsuntide, and prayed three gifts of him. And being asked what gifts, he
answered, "As for the first gift I will ask it now, but the other two
gifts I will ask on this day twelve months, wheresoever ye hold your high
feast." Then said King Arthur, "What is thy first request?" "This, lord,"
said he, "that thou wilt give me meat and drink enough for twelve months
from this time, and then will I ask my other two gifts." And the king
seeing that he was a goodly youth, and deeming that he was come of
honourable blood, had granted his desire, and given him into the charge of
Sir Key, the steward. But Sir Key scorned and mocked the youth, calling
him Beaumains, because his hands were large and fair, and putting him into
the kitchen, where he had served for twelve months as a scullion, and, in
spite of all his churlish treatment, had faithfully obeyed Sir Key. But
Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain were angered when they saw Sir Key so churlish
to a youth that had so worshipful a bearing, and ofttimes had they given
him gold and clothing.

And now at this time came young Beaumains to the king, while the damsel
was there, and said, "Lord, now I thank thee well and heartily that I have
been twelve months kept in thy kitchen, and have had full sustenance. Now
will I ask my two remaining gifts." "Ask," said King Arthur, "on my good
faith." "These, lord," said he, "shall be my two gifts--the one, that thou
wilt grant me this adventure of the damsel, for to me of right it
belongeth; and the other, that thou wilt bid Sir Lancelot make me a
knight, for of him only will I have that honour; and I pray that he may
ride after me and make me a knight when I require him." "Be it as thou
wilt," replied the king. But thereupon the damsel was full wroth, and
said, "Shall I have a kitchen page for this adventure?" and so she took
horse and departed.

Then came one to Beaumains, and told him that a dwarf with a horse and
armour were waiting for him. And all men marvelled whence these things
came. But when he was on horseback and armed, scarce any one at the court
was a goodlier man than he. And coming into the hall, he took his leave of
the king and Sir Gawain, and prayed Sir Lancelot to follow him. So he rode
after the damsel, and many of the court went out to see him, so richly
arrayed and horsed; yet he had neither shield nor spear. Then Sir Key
cried, "I also will ride after the kitchen boy, and see whether he will
obey me now." And taking his horse, he rode after him, and said, "Know ye
not me, Beaumains?" "Yea," said he, "I know thee for an ungentle knight,
therefore beware of me." Then Sir Key put his spear in rest and ran at
him, but Beaumains rushed upon him with his sword in his hand, and
therewith, putting aside the spear, struck Sir Key so sorely in the side,
that he fell down, as if dead. Then he alighted, and took his shield and
spear, and bade his dwarf ride upon Sir Key's horse.

By this time, Sir Lancelot had come up, and Beaumains offering to tilt
with him, they both made ready. And their horses came together so fiercely
that both fell to the earth, full sorely bruised. Then they arose, and
Beaumains, putting up his shield before him, offered to fight Sir
Lancelot, on foot. So they rushed upon each other, striking, and
thrusting, and parrying, for the space of an hour. And Lancelot marvelled
at the strength of Beaumains, for he fought more like a giant than a man,
and his fighting was passing fierce and terrible. So, at the last, he
said, "Fight not so sorely, Beaumains; our quarrel is not such that we may
not now cease." "True," answered Beaumains; "yet it doth me good to feel
thy might, though I have not yet proved my uttermost." "By my faith," said
Lancelot, "I had as much as I could do to save myself from you unshamed,
therefore be in no doubt of any earthly knight." "May I, then, stand as a
proved knight?" said Beaumains. "For that will I be thy warrant," answered
Lancelot. "Then, I pray thee," said he, "give me the order of knighthood."
"First, then, must thou tell me of thy name and kindred," said Sir
Lancelot. "If thou wilt tell them to no other, I will tell thee," answered
he. "My name is Gareth of Orkney, and I am own brother to Sir Gawain."
"Ah!" said Sir Lancelot, "at that am I full glad; for, truly, I deemed
thee to be of gentle blood." So then he knighted Beaumains, and, after
that, they parted company, and Sir Lancelot, returning to the court, took
up Sir Key on his shield. And hardly did Sir Key escape with his life,
from the wound Beaumains had given him; but all men blamed him for his
ungentle treatment of so brave a knight.

Then Sir Beaumains rode forward, and soon overtook the damsel; but she
said to him, in scorn, "Return again, base kitchen page! What art thou,
but a washer-up of dishes!" "Damsel," said he, "say to me what thou wilt,
I will not leave thee; for I have undertaken to King Arthur to relieve thy
adventure, and I will finish it to the end, or die." "Thou finish my
adventure!" said she--"anon, thou shalt meet one, whose face thou wilt not
even dare to look at." "I shall attempt it," answered he. So, as they rode
thus, into a wood, there met them a man, fleeing, as for his life.
"Whither fleest thou?" said Sir Beaumains. "O lord!" he answered, "help
me; for, in a valley hard by, there are six thieves, who have taken my
lord, and bound him, and I fear will slay him." "Bring me thither," said
Sir Beaumains. So they rode to the place, and Sir Beaumains rushed after
the thieves, and smote one, at the first stroke, so that he died; and
then, with two other blows, slew a second and third. Then fled the other
three, and Sir Beaumains rode after them, and overtook and slew them all.
Then he returned and unbound the knight. And the knight thanked him, and
prayed him to ride to his castle, where he would reward him. "Sir,"
answered Sir Beaumains, "I will have no reward of thee, for but this day
was I made knight by the most noble Sir Lancelot; and besides, I must go
with this damsel." Then the knight begged the damsel to rest that night at
his castle. So they all rode thither, and ever the damsel scoffed at Sir
Beaumains as a kitchen boy, and laughed at him before the knight their
host, so that he set his meat before him at a lower table, as though he
were not of their company.

And on the morrow, the damsel and Sir Beaumains took their leave of the
knight, and thanking him departed. Then they rode on their way till they
came to a great forest, through which flowed a river, and there was but
one passage over it, whereat stood two knights armed to hinder the way.
"Wilt thou match those two knights," said the damsel to Sir Beaumains, "or
return again?" "I would not return," said he, "though they were six."
Therewith he galloped into the water, and swam his horse into the middle
of the stream. And there, in the river, one of the knights met him, and
they brake their spears together, and then drew their swords, and smote
fiercely at each other. And at the last, Sir Beaumains struck the other
mightily upon the helm, so that he fell down stunned into the water, and
was drowned. Then Sir Beaumains spurred his horse on to the land, where
instantly the other knight fell on him. And they also brake their spears
upon each other, and then drew their swords, and fought savagely and long
together. And after many blows, Sir Beaumains clove through the knight's
skull down to the shoulders. Then rode Sir Beaumains to the damsel, but
ever she still scoffed at him, and said, "Alas! that a kitchen page should
chance to slay two such brave knights! Thou deemest now that thou hast
done a mighty deed, but it is not so; for the first knight's horse
stumbled, and thus was he drowned--not by thy strength; and as for the
second knight, thou wentest by chance behind him, and didst kill him
shamefully." "Damsel," said Sir Beaumains, "say what ye list, I care not
so I may win your lady; and wouldst thou give me but fair language, all
my care were past; for whatsoever knights I meet, I fear them not." "Thou
shalt see knights that shall abate thy boast, base kitchen knave," replied
she; "yet say I this for thine advantage, for if thou followest me thou
wilt be surely slain, since I see all thou doest is but by chance, and not
by thy own prowess." "Well damsel," said he, "say what ye will, wherever
ye go I will follow."

So they rode on until the eventide, and still the damsel evermore kept
chiding Sir Beaumains. Then came they to a black space of land, whereon
was a black hawthorn tree, and on the tree there hung a black banner, and
on the other side was a black shield and spear, and by them a great black
horse, covered with silk; and hard by sat a knight armed in black armour,
whose name was the Knight of the Blacklands. When the damsel saw him, she
cried out to Beaumains, "Flee down the valley, for thy horse is not
saddled!" "Wilt thou for ever deem me coward?" answered he. With that came
the Black Knight to the damsel, and said, "Fair damsel, hast thou brought
this knight from Arthur's court to be thy champion?" "Not so, fair
knight," said she; "he is but a kitchen knave." "Then wherefore cometh he
in such array?" said he; "it is a shame that he should bear thee company."
"I cannot be delivered from him," answered she: "for in spite of me he
rideth with me; and would to Heaven you would put him from me, or now slay
him, for he hath slain two knights at the river passage yonder, and done
many marvellous deeds through pure mischance." "I marvel," said the Black
Knight, "that any man of worship will fight with him." "They know him
not," said the damsel, "and think, because he rideth with me, that he is
well born." "Truly, he hath a goodly person, and is likely to be a strong
man," replied the knight; "but since he is no man of worship, he shall
leave his horse and armour with me, for it were a shame for me to do him
more harm."

When Sir Beaumains heard him speak thus, he said, "Horse or armour gettest
thou none of me, Sir knight, save thou winnest them with thy hands;
therefore defend thyself, and let me see what thou canst do." "How sayest
thou?" answered the Black Knight. "Now quit this lady also, for it
beseemeth not a kitchen knave like thee to ride with such a lady." "I am
of higher lineage than thou," said Sir Beaumains, "and will straightway
prove it on thy body." Then furiously they drove their horses at each
other, and came together as it had been thunder. But the Black Knight's
spear brake short, and Sir Beaumains thrust him through the side, and his
spear breaking at the head, left its point sticking fast in the Black
Knight's body. Yet did the Black Knight draw his sword, and smite at Sir
Beaumains with many fierce and bitter blows; but after they had fought an
hour and more, he fell down from his horse in a swoon, and forthwith died.
Then Sir Beaumains lighted down and armed himself in the Black Knight's
armour, and rode on after the damsel. But notwithstanding all his valour,
still she scoffed at him, and said, "Away! for thou savourest ever of the
kitchen. Alas! that such a knave should by mishap destroy so good a
knight; yet once again I counsel thee to flee, for hard by is a knight who
shall repay thee!" "It may chance that I am beaten or slain," answered Sir
Beaumains, "but I warn thee, fair damsel, that I will not flee away, nor
leave thy company or my quest, for all that ye can say."

Anon, as they rode, they saw a knight come swiftly towards them, dressed
all in green, who, calling to the damsel said, "Is that my brother, the
Black Knight, that ye have brought with you?" "Nay, and alas!" said she,
"this kitchen knave hath slain thy brother through mischance." "Alas!"
said the Green Knight, "that such a noble knight as he was should be slain
by a knave's hand. Traitor!" cried he to Sir Beaumains, "thou shalt die
for this! Sir Pereard was my brother, and a full noble knight." "I defy
thee," said Sir Beaumains, "for I slew him knightly and not shamefully."
Then the Green Knight rode to a thorn whereon hung a green horn, and, when
he blew three notes, there came three damsels forth, who quickly armed
him, and brought him a great horse and a green shield and spear. Then did
they run at one another with their fullest might, and break their spears
asunder; and, drawing their swords, they closed in fight, and sorely smote
and wounded each other with many grievous blows.

At last, Sir Beaumains' horse jostled against the Green Knight's horse,
and overthrew him. Then both alighted, and, hurtling together like mad
lions, fought a great while on foot. But the damsel cheered the Green
Knight, and said, "My lord, why wilt thou let a kitchen knave so long
stand up against thee?" Hearing these words, he was ashamed, and gave Sir
Beaumains such a mighty stroke as clave his shield asunder. When Sir
Beaumains heard the damsel's words, and felt that blow, he waxed passing
wroth, and gave the Green Knight such a buffet on the helm that he fell on
his knees, and with another blow Sir Beaumains threw him on the ground.
Then the Green Knight yielded, and prayed him to spare his life. "All thy
prayers are vain," said he, "unless this damsel who came with me pray for
thee." "That will I never do, base kitchen knave," said she. "Then shall
he die," said Beaumains. "Alas! fair lady," said the Green Knight, "suffer
me not to die for a word! O, Sir knight," cried he to Beaumains, "give me
my life, and I will ever do thee homage; and thirty knights, who owe me
service, shall give allegiance to thee." "All availeth not," answered Sir
Beaumains, "unless the damsel ask me for thy life;" and thereupon he made
as though he would have slain him. Then cried the damsel, "Slay him not;
for if thou do thou shalt repent it." "Damsel," said Sir Beaumains, "at
thy command, he shall obtain his life. Arise, Sir knight of the green
armour, I release thee!" Then the Green Knight knelt at his feet, and did
him homage with his words. "Lodge with me this night," said he, "and
to-morrow will I guide ye through the forest." So, taking their horses,
they rode to his castle, which was hard by.

Yet still did the damsel rebuke and scoff at Sir Beaumains, and would not
suffer him to sit at her table. "I marvel," said the Green Knight to her,
"that ye thus chide so noble a knight, for truly I know none to match him;
and be sure, that whatsoever he appeareth now, he will prove, at the end,
of noble blood and royal lineage." But of all this would the damsel take
no heed, and ceased not to mock at Sir Beaumains. On the morrow, they
arose and heard mass; and when they had broken their fast, took their
horses and rode on their way, the Green Knight conveying them through the
forest. Then, when he had led them for a while, he said to Sir Beaumains,
"My lord, my thirty knights and I shall always be at thy command
whensoever thou shalt send for us." "It is well said," replied he; "and
when I call upon you, you shall yield yourself and all your knights unto
King Arthur." "That will we gladly do," said the Green Knight, and so
departed.

And the damsel rode on before Sir Beaumains, and said to him, "Why dost
thou follow me, thou kitchen boy? I counsel thee to throw aside thy spear
and shield, and flee betimes, for wert thou as mighty as Sir Lancelot or
Sir Tristram, thou shouldest not pass a valley near this place, called the
Pass Perilous." "Damsel," answered he, "let him that feareth flee; as for
me, it were indeed a shameful thing to turn after so long a journey." As
he spake, they came upon a tower as white as snow, with mighty
battlements, and double moats round it, and over the tower-gate hung fifty
shields of divers colours. Before the tower walls, they saw a fair meadow,
wherein were many knights and squires in pavilions, for on the morrow
there was a tournament at that castle.

Then the lord of the castle, seeing a knight armed at all points, with a
damsel and a page, riding towards the tower, came forth to meet them; and
his horse and harness, with his shield and spear, were all of a red
colour. When he came near Sir Beaumains, and saw his armour all of black,
he thought him his own brother, the Black Knight, and so cried aloud,
"Brother! what do ye here, within these borders?" "Nay!" said the damsel,
"it is not thy brother, but a kitchen knave of Arthur's court, who hath
slain thy brother, and overcome thy other brother also, the Green Knight."
"Now do I defy thee!" cried the Red Knight to Sir Beaumains, and put his
spear in rest and spurred his horse. Then both knights turned back a
little space, and ran together with all their might, till their horses
fell to the earth. Then, with their swords, they fought fiercely for the
space of three hours. And at last, Sir Beaumains overcame his foe, and
smote him to the ground. Then the Red Knight prayed his mercy, and said,
"Slay me not, noble knight, and I will yield to thee with sixty knights
that do my bidding." "All avails not," answered Sir Beaumains, "save this
damsel pray me to release thee." Then did he lift his sword to slay him;
but the damsel cried aloud, "Slay him not, Beaumains, for he is a noble
knight." Then Sir Beaumains bade him rise up and thank the damsel, which
straightway he did, and afterwards invited them to his castle, and made
them goodly cheer.

But notwithstanding all Sir Beaumains' mighty deeds, the damsel ceased not
to revile and chide him, at which the Red Knight marvelled much; and
caused his sixty knights to watch Sir Beaumains, that no villainy might
happen to him. And on the morrow, they heard mass and broke their fast,
and the Red Knight came before Sir Beaumains, with his sixty knights, and
proffered him homage and fealty. "I thank thee," answered he; "and when I
call upon thee thou shalt come before my lord King Arthur at his court,
and yield yourselves to him." "That will we surely do," said the Red
Knight. So Sir Beaumains and the damsel departed.

And as she constantly reviled him and tormented him, he said to her,
"Damsel, ye are discourteous thus always to rebuke me, for I have done you
service; and for all your threats of knights that shall destroy me, all
they who come lie in the dust before me. Now, therefore, I pray you
rebuke me no more till you see me beaten or a recreant, and then bid me go
from you." "There shall soon meet thee a knight who shall repay thee all
thy deeds, thou boaster," answered she, "for, save King Arthur, he is the
man of most worship in the world." "It will be the greater honour to
encounter him," said Sir Beaumains.

Soon after, they saw before them a city passing fair, and between them and
the city was a meadow newly mown, wherein were many goodly tents. "Seest
thou yonder blue pavilion?" said the damsel to Sir Beaumains; "it is Sir
Perseant's, the lord of that great city, whose custom is, in all fair
weather, to lie in this meadow, and joust with his knights."

And as she spake, Sir Perseant, who had espied them coming, sent a
messenger to meet Sir Beaumains, and to ask him if he came in war or
peace. "Say to thy lord," he answered, "that I care not whether of the
twain it be." So when the messenger gave this reply, Sir Perseant came out
to fight with Sir Beaumains. And making ready, they rode their steeds
against each other; and when their spears were shivered asunder, they
fought with their swords. And for more than two hours did they hack and
hew at each other, till their shields and hauberks were all dinted with
many blows, and they themselves were sorely wounded. And at the last, Sir
Beaumains smote Sir Perseant on the helm, so that he fell grovelling on
the earth. And when he unlaced his helm to slay him, the damsel prayed for
his life. "That will I grant gladly," answered Sir Beaumains, "for it were
pity such a noble knight should die." "Grammercy!" said Sir Perseant,
"for now I certainly know that it was thou who slewest my brother, the
Black Knight, Sir Pereard; and overcame my brothers, the Green Knight, Sir
Pertolope, and the Red Knight, Sir Perimones; and since thou hast overcome
me also, I will do thee homage and fealty, and place at thy command one
hundred knights to do thy bidding."

But when the damsel saw Sir Perseant overthrown, she marvelled greatly at
the might of Sir Beaumains, and said, "What manner of man may ye be, for
now am I sure that ye be come of noble blood? And truly, never did woman
revile knight as I have done thee, and yet ye have ever courteously borne
with me, which surely never had been were ye not of gentle blood and
lineage."

"Lady," replied Sir Beaumains, "a knight is little worth who may not bear
with a damsel; and so whatsoever ye said to me I took no heed, save only
that at times when your scorn angered me, it made me all the stronger
against those with whom I fought, and thus have ye furthered me in my
battles. But whether I be born of gentle blood or no, I have done you
gentle service, and peradventure will do better still, ere I depart from
you."

"Alas!" said she, weeping at his courtesy, "forgive me, fair Sir
Beaumains, all that I have missaid and misdone against you." "With all my
heart," said he; "and since you now speak fairly to me, I am passing glad
of heart, and methinks I have the strength to overcome whatever knights I
shall henceforth encounter."

Then Sir Perseant prayed them to come to his pavilion, and set before them
wines and spices, and made them great cheer. So they rested that night;
and on the morrow, the damsel and Sir Beaumains rose, and heard mass. And
when they had broken their fast, they took their leave of Sir Perseant.
"Fair damsel," said he "whither lead ye this knight?" "Sir," answered she,
"to the Castle Dangerous, where my sister is besieged by the Knight of the
Redlands." "I know him well," said Sir Perseant, "for the most perilous
knight alive--a man without mercy, and with the strength of seven men. God
save thee, Sir Beaumains, from him! and enable thee to overcome him, for
the Lady Lyones, whom he besiegeth, is as fair a lady as there liveth in
this world." "Thou sayest truth, sir," said the damsel; "for I am her
sister; and men call me Linet, or the Wild Maiden." "Now, I would have
thee know," said Sir Perseant to Sir Beaumains, "that the Knight of the
Redlands hath kept that siege more than two years, and prolongeth the time
hoping that Sir Lancelot, or Sir Tristram, or Sir Lamoracke, may come and
battle with him; for these three knights divide between them all
knighthood; and thou if thou mayest match the Knight of the Redlands,
shall well be called the fourth knight of the world." "Sir," said Sir
Beaumains, "I would fain have that good fame; and truly, I am come of
great and honourable lineage. And so that you and this fair damsel will
conceal it, I will tell ye my descent." And when they swore to keep it
secret, he told them, "My name is Sir Gareth of Orkney, my father was King
Lot, and my mother the Lady Belisent, King Arthur's sister. Sir Gawain,
Sir Agravain, and Sir Gaheris, are my brethren, and I am the youngest of
them all. But, as yet King Arthur and the court know me not, who I am."
When he had thus told them, they both wondered greatly.

And the damsel Linet sent the dwarf forward to her sister, to tell her of
their coming. Then did Dame Lyones inquire what manner of man the knight
was who was coming to her rescue. And the dwarf told her of all Sir
Beaumains' deeds by the way: how he had overthrown Sir Key, and left him
for dead; how he had battled with Sir Lancelot, and was knighted of him;
how he had fought with, and slain, the thieves; how he had overcome the
two knights who kept the river passage; how he had fought with, and slain,
the Black Knight; and how he had overcome the Green Knight, the Red
Knight, and last of all, the Blue Knight, Sir Perseant. Then was Dame
Lyones passing glad, and sent the dwarf back to Sir Beaumains with great
gifts, thanking him for his courtesy, in taking such a labour on him for
her sake, and praying him to be of good heart and courage. And as the
dwarf returned, he met the Knight of the Redlands, who asked him whence he
came. "I came here with the sister of my lady of the castle," said the
dwarf, "who hath been now to King Arthur's court and brought a knight with
her to take her battle on him." "Then is her travail lost," replied the
knight; "for, though she had brought Sir Lancelot, Sir Tristram, Sir
Lamoracke, or Sir Gawain, I count myself their equal, and who besides
shall be so called?" Then the dwarf told the knight what deeds Sir
Beaumains had done; but he answered, "I care not for him, whosoever he be,
for I shall shortly overcome him, and give him shameful death, as to so
many others I have done."

Then the damsel Linet and Sir Beaumains left Sir Perseant, and rode on
through a forest to a large plain, where they saw many pavilions, and hard
by, a castle passing fair.

But as they came near Sir Beaumains saw upon the branches of some trees
which grew there, the dead bodies of forty knights hanging, with rich
armour on them, their shields and swords about their necks, and golden
spurs upon their heels. "What meaneth this?" said he, amazed. "Lose not
thy courage, fair sir," replied the damsel, "at this shameful sight, for
all these knights came hither to rescue my sister; and when the Knight of
the Redlands had overcome them, he put them to this piteous death, without
mercy; and in such wise will he treat thee also unless thou bearest thee
more valiantly than they." "Truly he useth shameful customs," said Sir
Beaumains; "and it is a marvel that he hath endured so long."

So they rode onward to the castle walls, and found them double-moated, and
heard the sea waves dashing on one side the walls. Then said the damsel,
"See you that ivory horn hanging upon the sycamore-tree? The Knight of the
Redlands hath hung it there, that any knight may blow thereon, and then
will he himself come out and fight with him. But I pray thee sound it not
till high noontide, for now it is but daybreak, and till noon his strength
increases to the might of seven men." "Let that be as it may, fair
damsel," answered he, "for were he stronger knight than ever lived, I
would not fail him. Either will I defeat him at his mightiest, or die
knightly in the field." With that he spurred his horse unto the sycamore,
and blew the ivory horn so eagerly, that all the castle rang its echoes.
Instantly, all the knights who were in the pavilions ran forth, and those
within the castle looked out from the windows, or above the walls. And the
Knight of the Redlands, arming himself quickly in blood-red armour, with
spear, and shield, and horse's trappings of like colour, rode forth into a
little valley by the castle walls, so that all in the castle, and at the
siege, might see the battle.

"Be of good cheer," said the damsel Linet to Sir Beaumains, "for thy
deadly enemy now cometh; and at yonder window is my lady and sister, Dame
Lyones." "In good sooth," said Sir Beaumains, "she is the fairest lady I
have ever seen, and I would wish no better quarrel than to fight for her."
With that, he looked up to the window, and saw the Lady Lyones, who waved
her handkerchief to her sister and to him to cheer them. Then called the
Knight of the Redlands to Sir Beaumains, "Leave now thy gazing, Sir
knight, and turn to me, for I warn thee that lady is mine." "She loveth
none of thy fellowship," he answered; "but know this, that I love her, and
will rescue her from thee, or die." "Say ye so!" said the Red Knight.
"Take ye no warning from those knights that hang on yonder trees?" "For
shame that thou so boastest!" said Sir Beaumains. "Be sure that sight hath
raised a hatred for thee that will not lightly be put out, and given me
not fear, but rage." "Sir knight, defend thyself," said the Knight of the
Redlands, "for we will talk no longer."

Then did they put their spears in rest, and came together at the fullest
speed of their horses, and smote each other in the midst of their shields,
so that their horses' harness sundered by the shock, and they fell to the
ground. And both lay there so long time, stunned, that many deemed their
necks were broken. And all men said the strange knight was a strong man,
and a noble jouster, for none had ever yet so matched the Knight of the
Redlands. Then, in a while, they rose, and putting up their shields before
them, drew their swords, and fought with fury, running at each other like
wild beasts--now striking such buffets that both reeled backwards, now
hewing at each other till they shore the harness off in pieces, and left
their bodies naked and unarmed. And thus they fought till noon was past,
when, for a time they rested to get breath, so sorely staggering and
bleeding, that many who beheld them wept for pity. Then they renewed the
battle--sometimes rushing so furiously together, that both fell to the
ground, and anon changing swords in their confusion. Thus they endured,
and lashed, and struggled, until eventide, and none who saw knew which was
the likeliest to win; for though the Knight of the Redlands was a wily and
subtle warrior, his subtlety made Sir Beaumains wilier and wiser too. So
once again they rested for a little space, and took their helms off to
find breath.

But when Sir Beaumains' helm was off, he looked up to Dame Lyones, where
she leaned, gazing and weeping, from her window. And when he saw the
sweetness of her smiling, all his heart was light and joyful, and starting
up, he bade the Knight of the Redlands make ready. Then did they lace
their helms and fight together yet afresh, as though they had never fought
before. And at the last, the Knight of the Redlands with a sudden stroke
smote Sir Beaumains on the hand, so that his sword fell from it, and with
a second stroke upon the helm he drove him to the earth. Then cried aloud
the damsel Linet, "Alas! Sir Beaumains, see how my sister weepeth to
behold thee fallen!" And when Sir Beaumains heard her words, he sprang
upon his feet with strength, and leaping to his sword, he caught it; and
with many heavy blows pressed so sorely on the Knight of the Redlands,
that in the end he smote his sword from out his hand, and, with a mighty
blow upon the head, hurled him upon the ground.

Then Sir Beaumains unlaced his helm, and would have straightway slain him,
but the Knight of the Redlands yielded, and prayed for mercy. "I may not
spare thee," answered he, "because of the shameful death which thou hast
given to so many noble knights." "Yet hold thy hand, Sir knight," said he,
"and hear the cause. I loved once a fair damsel, whose brother was slain,
as she told me, by a knight of Arthur's court, either Sir Lancelot, or Sir
Gawain; and she prayed me, as I truly loved her, and by the faith of my
knighthood, to labour daily in deeds of arms, till I should meet with him;
and to put all knights of the Round Table whom I should overcome to a
villainous death. And this I swore to her." Then prayed the earls, and
knights, and barons, who stood round Sir Beaumains, to spare the Red
Knight's life. "Truly," replied he, "I am loth to slay him,
notwithstanding he hath done such shameful deeds. And inasmuch as what he
did was done to please his lady and to gain her love, I blame him less,
and for your sakes I will release him. But on this agreement only shall he
hold his life--that straightway he depart into the castle, and yield him
to the lady there, and make her such amends as she shall ask, for all the
trespass he hath done upon her lands; and afterwards, that he shall go
unto King Arthur's court, and ask the pardon of Sir Lancelot and Sir
Gawain for all the evil he hath done against them." "All this, Sir knight,
I swear to do," said the Knight of the Redlands; and therewith he did him
homage and fealty.

Then came the damsel Linet to Sir Beaumains and the Knight of the
Redlands, and disarmed them, and staunched their wounds. And when the
Knight of the Redlands had made amends for all his trespasses, he departed
for the court.

Then Sir Beaumains, being healed of his wounds, armed himself, and took
his horse and spear and rode straight to the castle of Dame Lyones, for
greatly he desired to see her. But when he came to the gate they closed it
fast, and pulled the drawbridge up. And as he marvelled thereat, he saw
the Lady Lyones standing at a window, who said, "Go thy way as yet, Sir
Beaumains, for thou shalt not wholly have my love until thou be among the
worthiest knights of all the world. Go, therefore, and labour yet in arms
for twelve months more, and then return to me." "Alas! fair lady," said
Sir Beaumains, "I have scarce deserved this of thee, for sure I am that I
have bought thy love with all the best blood in my body." "Be not
aggrieved, fair knight," said she, "for none of thy service is forgot or
lost. Twelve months will soon be passed in noble deeds; and trust that to
my death I shall love thee and not another." With that she turned and left
the window.

So Sir Beaumains rode away from the castle very sorrowrul at heart, and
rode he knew not whither, and lay that night in a poor man's cottage. On
the morrow he went forward, and came at noon to a broad lake, and thereby
he alighted, being very sad and weary, and rested his head upon his
shield, and told his dwarf to keep watch while he slept.

Now, as soon as he had departed, the Lady Lyones repented, and greatly
longed to see him back, and asked her sister many times of what lineage he
was; but the damsel would not tell her, being bound by her oath to Sir
Beaumains, and said his dwarf best knew, So she called Sir Gringamors,
her brother, who dwelt with her, and prayed him to ride after Sir
Beaumains till he found him sleeping, and then to take his dwarf away and
bring him back to her. Anon Sir Gringamors departed, and rode till he came
to Sir Beaumains, and found him as he lay sleeping by the water-side. Then
stepping stealthily behind the dwarf he caught him in his arms and rode
off in haste. And though the dwarf cried loudly to his lord for help, and
woke Sir Beaumains, yet, though he rode full quickly after him, he could
not overtake Sir Gringamors.

When Dame Lyones saw her brother come back, she was passing glad of heart,
and forthwith asked the dwarf his master's lineage. "He is a king's son,"
said the dwarf, "and his mother is King Arthur's sister. His name is Sir
Gareth of Orkney, and he is brother to the good knight, Sir Gawain. But I
pray you suffer me to go back to my lord, for truly he will never leave
this country till he have me again." But when the Lady Lyones knew her
deliverer was come of such a kingly stock, she longed more than ever to
see him again.

Now as Sir Beaumains rode in vain to rescue his dwarf, he came to a fair
green road and met a poor man of the country, and asked him had he seen a
knight on a black horse, riding with a dwarf of a sad countenance behind
him. "Yea," said the man, "I met with such a knight an hour agone, and his
name is Sir Gringamors. He liveth at a castle two miles from hence; but he
is a perilous knight, and I counsel ye not to follow him save ye bear him
goodwill." Then Sir Beaumains followed the path which the poor man showed
him, and came to the castle. And riding to the gate in great anger, he
drew his sword, and cried aloud, "Sir Gringamors, thou traitor! deliver
me my dwarf again, or by my knighthood it shall be ill for thee!" Then Sir
Gringamors looked out of a window and said, "Sir Gareth of Orkney, leave
thy boasting words, for thou wilt not get thy dwarf again." But the Lady
Lyones said to her brother, "Nay brother, but I will that he have his
dwarf, for he hath done much for me, and delivered me from the Knight of
the Redlands, and well do I love him above all other knights." So Sir
Gringamors went down to Sir Gareth and cried him mercy, and prayed him to
alight and take good cheer.

Then he alighted, and his dwarf ran to him. And when he was in the hall
came the Lady Lyones dressed royally like a princess. And Sir Gareth was
right glad of heart when he saw her. Then she told him how she had made
her brother take away his dwarf and bring him back to her. And then she
promised him her love, and faithfully to cleave to him and none other all
the days of her life. And so they plighted their troth to each other. Then
Sir Gringamors prayed him to sojourn at the castle, which willingly he
did. "For," said he, "I have promised to quit the court for twelve months,
though sure I am that in the meanwhile I shall be sought and found by my
lord King Arthur and many others." So he sojourned long at the castle.

Anon the knights, Sir Perseant, Sir Perimones, and Sir Pertolope, whom Sir
Gareth had overthrown, went to King Arthur's court with all the knights
who did them service, and told the king they had been conquered by a
knight of his named Beaumains. And as they yet were talking, it was told
the king there came another great lord with five hundred knights, who,
entering in, did homage, and declared himself to be the Knight of the
Redlands. "But my true name," said he, "is Ironside, and I am hither sent
by one Sir Beaumains, who conquered me, and charged me to yield unto your
grace." "Thou art welcome," said King Arthur, "for thou hast been long a
foe to me and mine, and truly I am much beholden to the knight who sent
thee. And now, Sir Ironside, if thou wilt amend thy life and hold of me, I
will entreat thee as a friend, and make thee Knight of the Round Table;
but thou mayst no more be a murderer of noble knights." Then the Knight of
the Redlands knelt to the king, and told him of his promise to Sir
Beaumains to use never more such shameful customs; and how he had so done
but at the prayer of a lady whom he loved. Then knelt he to Sir Lancelot
and Sir Gawain, and prayed their pardon for the hatred he had borne them.

But the king and all the court marvelled greatly who Sir Beaumains was.
"For," said the king, "he is a full noble knight." Then said Sir Lancelot,
"Truly he is come of honourable blood, else had I not given him the order
of knighthood; but he charged me that I should conceal his secret."



 

Now as they talked thus it was told King Arthur that his sister, the Queen
of Orkney, was come to the court with a great retinue of knights and
ladies. Then was there great rejoicing, and the king rose and saluted his
sister. And her sons, Sir Gawain, Sir Agravain, and Sir Gaheris knelt
before her and asked her blessing, for during fifteen years last past they
had not seen her. Anon she said, "Where is my youngest son, Sir Gareth?
for I know that he was here a twelvemonth with you, and that ye made a
kitchen knave of him. Then the king and all the knights knew that Sir
Beaumains and Sir Gareth were the same. "Truly," said the king, "I knew
him not." "Nor I," said Sir Gawain and both his brothers. Then said the
king, "God be thanked, fair sister, that he is proved as worshipful a
knight as any now alive, and by the grace of Heaven he shall be found
forthwith if he be anywhere within these seven realms." Then said Sir
Gawain and his brethren, "Lord, if ye will give us leave we will go seek
him." But Sir Lancelot said, "It were better that the king should send a
messenger to Dame Lyones and pray her to come hither with all speed, and
she will counsel where ye shall find him." "It is well said," replied the
king; and sent a messenger quickly unto Dame Lyones.

When she heard the message she promised she would come forthwith, and told
Sir Gareth what the messenger had said, and asked him what to do. "I pray
you," said he, "tell them not where I am, but when my lord King Arthur
asketh for me, advise him thus--that he proclaim a tournament before this
castle on Assumption Day, and that the knight who proveth best shall win
yourself and all your lands." So the Lady Lyones departed and came to King
Arthur's court, and there was right nobly welcomed. And when they asked
her where Sir Gareth was, she said she could not tell. "But, lord," said
she, "with thy goodwill I will proclaim a tournament before my castle on
the Feast of the Assumption, whereof the prize shall be myself and all my
lands. Then if it be proclaimed that you, lord, and your knights will be
there, I will find knights on my side to fight you and yours, and thus am
I sure ye will hear tidings of Sir Gareth." "Be it so done," replied the
king.

So Sir Gareth sent messengers privily to Sir Perseant and Sir Ironside,
and charged them to be ready on the day appointed, with their companies of
knights to aid him and his party against the king. And when they were
arrived he said, "Now be ye well assured that we shall be matched with the
best knights of the world, and therefore must we gather all the good
knights we can find."

So proclamation was made throughout all England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland,
and Cornwall, and in the out isles and other countries, that at the Feast
of the Assumption of our Lady, next coming, all knights who came to joust
at Castle Perilous should make choice whether they would side with the
king or with the castle. Then came many good knights on the side of the
castle. Sir Epinogris, the son of the King of Northumberland, and Sir
Palomedes the Saracen, and Sir Grummore Grummorsum, a good knight of
Scotland, and Sir Brian des Iles, a noble knight, and Sir Carados of the
Tower Dolorous, and Sir Tristram, who as yet was not a knight of the Round
Table, and many others. But none among them knew Sir Gareth, for he took
no more upon him than any mean person.

And on King Arthur's side there came the King of Ireland and the King of
Scotland, the noble prince Sir Galahaut, Sir Gawain and his brothers Sir
Agravain and Sir Gaheris, Sir Ewaine, Sir Tor, Sir Perceval, and Sir
Lamoracke, Sir Lancelot also and his kindred, Sir Lionel, Sir Ector, Sir
Bors and Sir Bedivere, likewise Sir Key and the most part of the Table
Round. The two queens also, Queen Guinevere and the Queen of Orkney, Sir
Gareth's mother, came with the king. So there was a great array both
within and without the castle, with all manner of feasting and minstrelsy.

Now before the tournament began, Sir Gareth privily prayed Dame Lyones,
Sir Gringamors, Sir Ironside, and Sir Perseant, that they would in nowise
disclose his name, nor make more of him than of any common knight. Then
said Dame Lyones, "Dear lord, I pray thee take this ring, which hath the
power to change the wearer's clothing into any colour he may will, and
guardeth him from any loss of blood. But give it me again, I pray thee,
when the tournament is done, for it greatly increaseth my beauty
whensoever I wear it." "Grammercy, mine own lady," said Sir Gareth, "I
wished for nothing better, for now I may be certainly disguised as long as
I will." Then Sir Gringamors gave Sir Gareth a bay courser that was a
passing good horse, with sure armour, and a noble sword, won by his father
from a heathen tyrant. And then every knight made him ready for the
tournament.

So on the day of the Assumption, when mass and matins were said, the
heralds blew their trumpets and sounded for the tourney. Anon came out the
knights of the castle and the knights of King Arthur, and matched
themselves together.

Then Sir Epinogris, son of the King of Northumberland, a knight of the
castle, encountered Sir Ewaine, and both broke off their spears short to
their hands. Then came Sir Palomedes from the castle, and met Sir Gawain,
and they so hardly smote each other, that both knights and horses fell to
the earth. Then Sir Tristram, from the castle, encountered with Sir
Bedivere, and smote him to the earth, horse and man. Then the Knight of
the Redlands and Sir Gareth met with Sir Bors and Sir Bleoberis; and the
Knight of the Redlands and Sir Bors smote together so hard that their
spears burst, and their horses fell grovelling to the ground. And Sir
Bleoberis brake his spear upon Sir Gareth, but himself was hurled upon
the ground. When Sir Galihodin saw that, he bade Sir Gareth keep him, but
Sir Gareth lightly smote him to the earth. Then Sir Galihud got a spear to
avenge his brother, but was served in like manner. And Sir Dinadam, and
his brother La-cote-male-taile, and Sir Sagramour le Desirous, and Dodinas
le Savage, he bore down all with one spear.

When King Anguish of Ireland saw this, he marvelled what that knight could
be who seemed at one time green and at another blue; for so at every
course he changed his colour that none might know him. Then he ran towards
him and encountered him, and Sir Gareth smote the king from his horse,
saddle and all. And in like manner he served the King of Scotland, and
King Urience of Gore, and King Bagdemagus.

Then Sir Galahaut, the noble prince, cried out, "Knight of the many
colours! thou hast jousted well; now make thee ready to joust with me."
When Sir Gareth heard him, he took a great spear and met him swiftly. And
the prince's spear broke off, but Sir Gareth smote him on the left side of
the helm, so that he reeled here and there, and had fallen down had not
his men recovered him. "By my faith," said King Arthur, "that knight of
the many colours is a good knight. I pray thee, Sir Lancelot du Lake,
encounter with him." "Lord," said Sir Lancelot, "by thy leave I will
forbear. I find it in my heart to spare him at this time, for he hath done
enough work for one day; and when a good knight doth so well it is no
knightly part to hinder him from this honour. And peradventure his quarrel
is here to-day, and he may be the best beloved of the Lady Lyones of all
that be here; for I see well he paineth and forceth himself to do great
deeds. Therefore, as for me, this day he shall have the honour; for
though I were able to put him from it, I would not." "You speak well and
truly," said the king.

Then after the tilting, they drew swords, and there began a great
tournament, and there Sir Lancelot did marvellous deeds of arms, for first
he fought with both Sir Tristram and Sir Carados, albeit they were the
most perilous in all the world. Then came Sir Gareth and put them asunder,
but would not smite a stroke against Sir Lancelot, for by him he had been
knighted. Anon Sir Gareth's helm had need of mending, and he rode aside to
see to it and to drink water, for he was sore athirst with all his mighty
feats of strength. And while he drank, his dwarf said to him, "Give me
your ring, lest ye lose it while ye drink." So Sir Gareth took it off. And
when he had finished drinking, he rode back eagerly to the field, and in
his haste forgot to take the ring again. Then all the people saw that he
wore yellow armour. And King Arthur told a herald, "Ride and espy the
cognizance of that brave knight, for I have asked many who he is, and none
can tell me."

Then the herald rode near, and saw written round about his helmet in
letters of gold, "Sir Gareth of Orkney." And instantly the herald cried
his name aloud, and all men pressed to see him.

But when he saw he was discovered, he pushed with haste through all the
crowd, and cried to his dwarf, Boy, thou hast beguiled me foully in
keeping my ring; give it me again, that I may be hidden." And as soon as
he had put it on, his armour changed again, and no man knew where he had
gone. Then he passed forth from the field; but Sir Gawain, his brother,
rode after him.

And when Sir Gareth had ridden far into the forest, he took off his ring,
and sent it back by the dwarf to the Lady Lyones, praying her to be true
and faithful to him while he was away.

Then rode Sir Gareth long through the forest, till night fell, and coming
to a castle he went up to the gate, and prayed the porter to let him in.
But churlishly he answered "that he should not lodge there." Then said Sir
Gareth, "Tell thy lord and lady that I am a knight of King Arthur's court,
and for his sake I pray their shelter." With that the porter went to the
duchess who owned the castle. "Let him in straightway," cried she; "for
the king's sake he shall not be harbourless!" and went down to receive
him. When Sir Gareth saw her coming, he saluted her, and said, "Fair lady,
I pray you give me shelter for this night, and if there be here any
champion or giant with whom I must needs fight, spare me till to-morrow,
when I and my horse shall have rested, for we are full weary." "Sir
knight," she said, "thou speakest boldly; for the lord of this castle is a
foe to King Arthur and his court, and if thou wilt rest here to-night thou
must agree, that wheresoever thou mayest meet my lord, thou must yield to
him as a prisoner." "What is thy lord's name, lady?" said Sir Gareth. "The
Duke de la Rowse," said she. "I will promise thee," said he, "to yield to
him, if he promise to do me no harm; but if he refuse, I will release
myself with my sword and spear."

"It is well," said the duchess; and commanded the drawbridge to be let
down. So he rode into the hall and alighted. And when he had taken off his
armour, the duchess and her ladies made him passing good cheer. And after
supper his bed was made in the hall, and there he rested that night. On
the morrow he rose and heard mass, and having broken his fast, took his
leave and departed.

And as he rode past a certain mountain there met him a knight named Sir
Bendelaine, and cried unto him "Thou shalt not pass unless thou joust with
me or be my prisoner!" "Then will we joust," replied Sir Gareth. So they
let their horses run at full speed, and Sir Gareth smote Sir Bendelaine
through his body so sorely that he scarcely reached his castle ere he fell
dead. And as Sir Gareth presently came by the castle, Sir Bendelaine's
knights and servants rode out to revenge their lord. And twenty of them
fell on him at once, although his spear was broken. But drawing his sword
he put his shield before him. And though they brake their spears upon him,
one and all, and sorely pressed on him, yet ever he defended himself like
a noble knight. Anon, finding they could not overcome him, they agreed to
slay his horse; and having killed it with their spears, they set upon Sir
Gareth as he fought on foot. But every one he struck he slew, and drave at
them with fearful blows, till he had slain them all but four, who fled.
Then taking the horse of one of those that lay there dead, he rode upon
his way.

Anon he came to another castle and heard from within a sound as of many
women moaning and weeping. Then said he to a page who stood without, "What
noise is this I hear?" "Sir knight," said he, "there be within thirty
ladies, the widows of thirty knights who have been slain by the lord of
this castle. He is called the Brown Knight without pity, and is the most
perilous knight living, wherefore I warn thee to flee." "That will I never
do," said Sir Gareth, "for I fear him not." Then the page saw the Brown
Knight coming and said to Gareth, "Lo! my lord is near."

So both knights made them ready and galloped their horses towards each
other, and the Brown Knight brake his spear upon Sir Gareth's shield; but
Sir Gareth smote him through the body so that he fell dead. At that he
rode into the castle and told the ladies he had slain their foe. Then were
they right glad of heart and made him all the cheer they could, and
thanked him out of measure. But on the morrow as he went to mass he found
the ladies weeping in the chapel upon divers tombs that were there. And he
knew that in those tombs their husbands lay. Then he bade them be
comforted, and with noble and high words he desired and prayed them all to
be at Arthur's court on the next Feast of Pentecost.

So he departed and rode past a mountain where was a goodly knight waiting,
who said to him, "Abide, Sir knight, and joust with me!" "How are ye
named?" said Sir Gareth. "I am the Duke de la Rowse," answered he. "In
good sooth," then said Sir Gareth, "not long ago I lodged within your
castle, and there promised I would yield to you whenever we might meet."
"Art thou that proud knight," said the duke, "who was ready to fight with
me? Guard thyself therefore and make ready." So they ran together, and Sir
Gareth smote the duke from his horse. Then they alighted and drew their
swords, and fought full sorely for the space of an hour; and at the last
Sir Gareth smote the duke to the earth and would have slain him, but he
yielded. "Then must ye go," said Sir Gareth, "to my lord King Arthur at
the next Feast of Pentecost and say that I, Sir Gareth, sent ye." "As ye
will be it," said the duke; and gave him up his shield for pledge.

And as Sir Gareth rode alone he saw an armed knight coming towards him.
And putting the duke's shield before him he rode fast to tilt with him;
and so they ran together as it had been thunder, and brake their spears
upon each other. Then fought they fiercely with their swords and lashed
together with such mighty strokes that blood ran to the ground on every
side. And after they had fought together for two hours and more, it
chanced the damsel Linet passed that way; and when she saw them she cried
out, "Sir Gawain and Sir Gareth, leave your fighting, for ye are
brethren!" At that they threw away their shields and swords, and took each
other in their arms and wept a great while ere they could speak. And each
gave to the other the honour of the battle, and there was many a kind word
between them. Then said Sir Gawain, "O my brother, for your sake have I
had great sorrow and labour! But truly I would honour you though ye were
not my brother, for ye have done great worship to King Arthur and his
court, and sent more knights to him than any of the Table Round, except
Sir Lancelot."

Then the damsel Linet staunched their wounds, and their horses being weary
she rode her palfrey to King Arthur and told him of this strange
adventure. When she had told her tidings, the king himself mounted his
horse and bade all come with him to meet them. So a great company of lords
and ladies went forth to meet the brothers. And when King Arthur saw them
he would have spoken hearty words, but for gladness he could not. And both
Sir Gawain and Sir Gareth fell down at their uncle's knees and did him
homage, and there was passing great joy and gladness among them all.

Then said the king to the damsel Linet, "Why cometh not the Lady Lyones to
visit her knight, Sir Gareth, who hath had such travail for her love?"
"She knoweth not, my lord, that he is here," replied the damsel, "for
truly she desireth greatly to see him." "Go ye and bring her hither,"
said the king. So the damsel rode to tell her sister where Sir Gareth was,
and when she heard it she rejoiced full heartily and came with all the
speed she could. And when Sir Gareth saw her, there was great joy and
comfort between them.

Then the king asked Sir Gareth whether he would have that lady for his
wife? "My lord," replied Sir Gareth, "know well that I love her above all
ladies living." "Now, fair lady," said King Arthur, "what say ye?" "Most
noble king," she answered, "my lord, Sir Gareth, is my first love and
shall be my last, and if I may not have him for my husband I will have
none." Then said the king to them, "Be well assured that for my crown I
would not be the cause of parting your two hearts."

Then was high preparation made for the marriage, for the king desired it
should be at the Michaelmas next following, at Kinkenadon-by-the-Sea.

So Sir Gareth sent out messages to all the knights whom he had overcome in
battle that they should be there upon his marriage-day.

Therefore, at the next Michaelmas, came a goodly company to
Kinkenadon-by-the-Sea. And there did the Archbishop of Canterbury marry
Sir Gareth and the Lady Lyones with all solemnity. And all the knights
whom Sir Gareth had overcome were at the feast; and every manner of revels
and games was held with music and minstrelsy. And there was a great
jousting for three days. But because of his bride the king would not
suffer Sir Gareth to joust. Then did King Arthur give great lands and
fair, with store of gold, to Sir Gareth and his wife, that so they might
live royally together to their lives' end.

 

 
 
 
 
 

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