Tales of the Round Table
WHAT BEAUMAINS ASKED OF THE KING
As Pentecost drew near King Arthur commanded that all the Knights of the Round Table should keep the feast at a city called Kin-Kenadon, hard by the sands of Wales, where there was a great castle. Now it was the King's custom that he would eat no food on the day of Pentecost, which we call Whitsunday, until he had heard or seen some great marvel.
So on that morning Sir Gawaine was looking from the window a little before noon when he espied three men on horseback, and with them a dwarf on foot, who held their horses when they alighted. Then Sir Gawaine went to the King and said, 'Sir, go to your food, for strange adventures are at hand.' And Arthur called the other Kings that were in the castle, and all the Knights of the Round Table that were a hundred and fifty, and they sat down to dine. When they were seated there entered the hall two men well and richly dressed, and upon their shoulders leaned the handsomest young man that ever was seen of any of them, higher than the other two by a cubit.
He was wide in the chest and large handed, but his great height seemed to be a burden and a shame to him, therefore it was he leaned on the shoulders of his friends. As soon as Arthur beheld him he made a sign, and without more words all three went up to the high days, where the King sat. Then the tall young man stood up straight, and said: 'King Arthur, God bless you and all your fair fellowship, and in especial the fellowship of the Table Round. I have come hither to pray you to give me three gifts, which you can grant me honourably, for they will do no hurt to you or to anyone.' 'Ask,' answered Arthur, 'and you shall have your asking.'
'Sir, this is my petition for this feast, for the other two I will ask after. Give me meat and drink for this one twelvemonth.' 'Well,' said the King, 'you shall have meat and drink enough, for that I give to every man, whether friend or foe. But tell me your name!'
'I cannot tell you that,' answered he. 'That is strange,' replied the King, 'but you are the goodliest young man I ever saw,' and, turning to Sir Kay, the steward, charged him to give the young man to eat and drink of the best, and to treat him in all ways as if he were a lord's son. 'There is little need to do that,' answered Sir Kay, 'for if he had come of gentlemen and not of peasants he would have asked of you a horse and armour. But as the birth of a man is so are his requests. And seeing he has no name I will give him one, and it shall be Beaumains, or Fair-hands, and he shall sit in the kitchen and eat broth, and at the end of a year he shall be as fat as any pig that feeds on acorns.' So the young man was left in charge of Sir Kay, that scorned and mocked him.
Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawaine were wroth when they heard what Sir Kay said, and bade him leave off his mocking, for they believed the youth would turn out to be a man of great deeds; but Sir Kay paid no heed to them, and took him down to the great hall, and set him among the boys and lads, where he ate sadly. After he had finished eating both Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawaine bade him come to their room, and would have had him eat and drink there, but he refused, saying he was bound to obey Sir Kay, into whose charge the King had given him. So he was put into the kitchen by Sir Kay, and slept nightly with the kitchen boys. This he bore for a whole year, and was always mild and gentle, and gave hard words to no one. Only, whenever the Knights played at tourney he would steal out and watch them. And Sir Lancelot gave him gold to spend, and clothes to wear, and so did Gawaine. Also, if there were any games held whereat he might be, none could throw a bar nor cast a stone as far as he by two good yards.
Thus the year passed by till the feast of Whitsuntide came again, and this time the King held it at Carlion. But King, Arthur would eat no meat at Whitsuntide till some adventures were told him, and glad was he when a squire came and said to him, 'Sir, you may go to your food, for here is a damsel with some strange tales.'
At this the damsel was led into the hall, and bowed low before the King, and begged he would give her help. 'For whom?' asked the King, 'and what is the adventure?' 'Sir,' answered she, 'my sister is a noble lady of great fame, who is besieged by a tyrant, and may not get out of her castle. And it is because your Knights are said to be the noblest in all the world that I came to you for aid.' 'What is your sister's name, and where does she dwell? And who is the man that besieges her, and where does he come from?' 'Sir King,' answered she, 'as for my sister's name, I cannot tell it you now, but she is a lady of great beauty and goodness, and of many lands. As for the tyrant who besieges her, he is called the Red Knight of the Red Lawns.' 'I know nothing of him,' said the King. 'But I know him,' cried Sir Gawaine, 'and he is one of the most dangerous Knights in the world. Men say he has the strength of seven, and once when we had crossed swords I hardly escaped from him with my life.' 'Fair damsel,' then said the King, 'there are many Knights here who would go gladly to the rescue of your lady, but none of them shall do so with my consent unless you will tell us her name, and the place of her castle.' 'Then I must speak further,' said the damsel.
But before she had made answer to the King up came Beaumains, and spoke to Arthur, saying, 'Sir King, I thank you that for this whole year I have lived in your kitchen, and had meat and drink, and now I will ask you for the two gifts that you promised me on this day.' 'Ask them,' answered the King. 'Sir, this shall be my two gifts. First grant me the adventure of this damsel, for it is mine by right.' 'You shall have it,' said the King. 'Then, Sir, you shall bid Sir Lancelot du Lake to make me Knight, for I will receive knighthood at the hands of no other.' 'All this shall be done,' said the King. 'Fie on you,' cried the damsel, 'will you give me none but a kitchen boy to rescue my lady?' and she went away in a rage, and mounted her horse.
No sooner had she left the hall than a page came to Beaumains and told him that a horse and fair armour had been brought for him, also there had arrived a dwarf carrying all things that a Knight needed. And when he was armed there were few men that were handsomer than he, and the Court wondered greatly whence these splendid trappings had come.
Then Beaumains came into the hall, and took farewell of the King, and Sir Gawaine and Sir Lancelot, and prayed Sir Lancelot that he would follow after him. So he departed, and rode after the damsel. Many looked upon him and marvelled at the strength of his horse, and its golden trappings, and envied Beaumains his shining coat of mail; but they noted that he had neither shield nor spear. 'I will ride after him,' laughed Sir Kay, 'and see if my kitchen boy will own me for his better.' 'Leave him and stay at home,' said Sir Gawaine and Sir Lancelot, but Sir Kay would not listen and sprang upon his horse. Just as Beaumains came up with the damsel, Sir Kay reached Beaumains, and said, 'Beaumains, do you not know me?'
Beaumains turned and looked at him, and answered, 'Yes, I know you for an ill-mannered Knight, therefore beware of me.' At this Sir Kay put his spear in rest and charged him, and Beaumains drew his sword and charged Sir Kay, and dashed aside the spear, and thrust him through the side, till Sir Kay fell down as if he had been dead, and Beaumains took his shield and spear for himself. Then he sprang on his own horse, bidding first his dwarf take Sir Kay's horse, and rode away. All this was seen by Sir Lancelot, who had followed him, and also by the damsel.
In a little while Beaumains stopped, and asked Sir Lancelot if he would tilt with him, and they came together with such a shock that both the horses and their riders fell to the earth and were bruised sorely. Sir Lancelot was the first to rise, and he helped Beaumains from his horse, and Beaumains threw his shield from him, and offered to fight on foot. And they rushed together like wild boars, turning and thrusting and parrying for the space of an hour, and Sir Lancelot marvelled at the young man's strength, and thought he was more like a giant than a Knight, and dreading lest he himself should be put to shame, he said: 'Beaumains, do not fight so hard, we have no quarrel that forbids us to leave off.' 'That is true,' answered Beaumains, laying down his arms, 'but it does me good, my lord, to feel your might.' 'Well, said Sir Lancelot, 'I promise you I had much ado to save myself from you unshamed, therefore have no fear of any other Knight.' 'Do you think I could really stand against a proved Knight?' asked Beaumains. 'Yes,' said Lancelot, 'if you fight as you have fought to-day I will be your warrant against anyone.' 'Then I pray you,' cried Beaumains, 'give me the order of knighthood.' You must first tell me your name,' replied Lancelot, and who are your kindred.' 'You will not betray me if I do?' asked Beaumains. 'No, that I will never do, till it is openly known,' said Lancelot. 'Then, Sir, my name is Gareth, and Sir Gawaine is my brother.' 'Ah, Sir,' cried Lancelot, 'I am gladder of you than ever I was, for I was sure you came of good blood, and that you did not come to the Court for meat and drink only.' And he bade him kneel, and gave him the order of knighthood.
After that Sir Gareth wished to go his own ways, and departed. When he was gone, Sir Lancelot went back to Sir Kay and ordered some men that were by to bear him home on a shield, and in time his wounds were healed; but he was scorned of all men, and especially of Sir Gawaine and Sir Lancelot, who told him it was no good deed to treat any young man so, and no one could tell what his birth might be, or what had brought him to the Court.
Then Beaumains rode after the damsel, who stopped when she saw him coming. 'What are you doing here?' said she. 'Your clothes smell of the grease and tallow of the kitchen! Do you think to change my heart towards you because of yonder Knight whom you slew? No, truly! I know well who you are, you turner of spits! Go back to King Arthur's kitchen, which is your proper place.' 'Damsel,' replied Beaumains, 'you may say to me what you will, but I shall not quit you whatever you may do, for I have vowed to King Arthur to relieve the lady in the castle, and I shall set her free or die fighting for her.' 'Fie on you, Scullion,' answered she. 'You will meet with one who will make you such a welcome that you would give all the broth you ever cooked never to have seen his face.' 'I shall do my best to fight him,' said Beaumains, and held his peace.
Soon they entered the wood, and there came a man lying towards them, galloping with all his might. 'Oh, help! help! lord,' cried he, 'for my master lies in a thicket, bound by six thieves, and I greatly fear they will slay him.' 'Show me the way,' said Sir Beaumains, and they rode together till they reached the place where the Knight lay bound. Then Sir Beaumains charged the six thieves, and struck one dead, and another, and another still, and the other three fled, not liking the battle. Sir Beaumains pursued them till they turned at bay, and fought hard for their lives; but in the end Sir Beaumains slew them) and returned to the Knight and unbound him. The Knight thanked Beaumains heartily for his deliverance, and prayed him to come to his castle, where he would reward him. 'Sir,' said Beaumains, 'I was this day made Knight by noble Sir Lancelot, and that is reward enough for anything I may do. Besides, I must follow this damsel.'
But when he came near her she reviled him as before, and bade him ride far from her. 'Do you think I set store by what you have done? You will soon see a sight that will make you tell a very different tale.' At this the Knight whom Beaumains had rescued rode up to the damsel, and begged that she would rest in his castle that night, as the sun was now setting. The damsel agreed, and the Knight ordered a great supper, and gave Sir Beaumains a seat above the seat of the damsel, who rose up in anger. 'Fie! fie! Sir Knight,' cried she, 'you are uncourteous to set a mere kitchen page before me; he is not fit to be in the company of highborn people.' Her words struck shame into the Knight, and he took Beaumains and set him at a side table, and seated himself before him.
In the early morning Sir Beaumains and the damsel bade farewell to the Knight, and rode through the forest till they came to a great river, where stood two Knights on the further side, guarding the passage. 'Well, what do you say now?' asked the damsel. 'Will you fight them or turn back?' 'I would not turn if there were six more of them,' answered Sir Beaumains, and he rushed into the water and so did one of the Knights.
They came together in the middle of the stream, and their spears broke in two with the force of the charge, and they drew their swords, hitting hard at each other. At length Sir Beaumains dealt the other Knight such a blow that he fell from his horse, and was drowned in the river. Then Beaumains put his horse at the bank, where the second Knight was waiting for him, and they fought long together, till Sir Beaumains clave his helmet in two.
So he left him dead, and rode after the damsel. 'Alas!' she cried, 'that even a kitchen page should have power to destroy two such Knights! You think you have done mighty things, but you are wrong! As to the first Knight, his horse stumbled, and he was drowned before you ever touched him. And the other you took from behind, and struck him when he was defenceless.' 'Damsel!' answered Beaumains, 'you may say what you will, I care not what it is, so I may deliver this lady.' 'Fie, foul kitchen knave, you shall see Knights that will make you lower your crest.' 'I pray you be more civil in your language,' answered Beaumains, 'for it matters not to me what Knights they be, 'will do battle with them.' 'I am trying to turn you back for your own good,' answered she, 'for if you follow me you are certainly a dead man, as well I know all you have won before has been by luck.' 'Say what you will, damsel,' said he, 'but where you go I will follow you,' and they rode together till eventide, and all the way she chid him and gave him no rest.
At length they reached an open space where there was a black lawn, and on the lawn a black hawthorn, whereon hung a black banner on one side, and a black shield and spear, big and long, on the other. Close by stood a black horse covered with silk, fastened to a black stone.
A Knight, covered with black armour, sat on the horse, and when she saw him. the damsel bade him ride away, as his horse was not saddled. But the Knight drew near and said to her, 'Damsel, have you brought this Knight from King Arthur's Court to be your champion?' 'No, truly,' answered she, this is but a kitchen boy, fed by King Arthur for charity.' 'Then why is he clad in armour?' asked the Knight; 'it is a shame that he should even bear you company.' 'I cannot be rid of him,' said she, 'he rides with me against my will. I would that you were able to deliver me from him! Either slay him or frighten him off, for by ill fortune he has this day slain the two Knights of the passage.' 'I wonder much,' said the Black Knight, 'that any man who is well born should consent to fight with him.' 'They do not know him,' replied the damsel, 'and they think he must be a famous Knight because he rides with me.' 'That may be,' said the Black Knight, 'but he is well made, and looks likely to be a strong man; still I promise you I will just throw him to the ground, and take away his horse and armour, for it would be a shame to me to do more.'
When Sir Beaumains heard him talk thus he looked up and said, 'Sir Knight, you are lightly disposing of my horse and armour, but I would have you know that I will pass this lawn, against your will or not, and you will only get my horse and armour if you win them in fair fight. Therefore let me see what you can do.' 'Say you so?' answered the Knight, 'now give up the lady at once, for it ill becomes a kitchen page to ride with a lady of high degree.' 'It is a lie,' said Beaumains, 'I am a gentleman born, and my birth is better than yours, as I will prove upon your body.'
With that they drew back their horses so as to charge each other hotly, and for the space of an hour and a half they fought fiercely and well, but in the end a blow from Beaumains threw the Knight from his horse, and he swooned and died. Then Beaumains jumped down, and seeing that the Knight's horse and armour were better than his own, he took them for himself, and rode after the damsel. While they were thus riding together, and the damsel was chiding him as ever she did, they saw a Knight coming towards them dressed all in green.
'Is that my brother the Black Knight who is with you? asked he of the damsel. 'No, indeed,' she replied, 'this unhappy kitchen knave has slain your brother, to my great sorrow.' 'Alas!' sighed the Green Knight, 'that my brother should die so meanly at the hand of a kitchen knave. Traitor!' he added, turning to Beaumains, 'thou shalt die for slaying my brother, for he was a noble Knight, and his name was Sir Percard.' 'I defy you,' said Beaumains, 'for I slew him as a good Knight should.'
Then the Green Knight seized a horn which hung, from a horn tree, and blew three notes upon it, and two damsels came and armed him, and fastened on him a green shield and a green spear. So the fight began and raged long, first on horseback and then on foot, till both were sore wounded. At last the damsel came and stood beside them, and said, 'My lord the Green Knight, why for very shame do you stand so long fighting a kitchen knave? You ought never to have been made a Knight at all!'
These scornful words stung the heart of the Green Knight, and he dealt a mighty stroke which cleft asunder the shield of Beaumains. And when Beaumains saw this, he struck a blow upon the Knight's helmet which brought him to his knees, and Beaumains leapt on him, and dragged him to the ground. Then the Green Knight cried for mercy, and offered to yield himself prisoner unto Beaumains. 'It is all in vain,' answered Beaumains, 'unless the damsel prays me for your life,' and therewith he unlaced his helmet as though he would slay him. 'Fie upon thee, false kitchen page!' said the damsel, 'I will never pray to save his life, for I am sure he is in no danger.' 'Suffer me not to die,' entreated the Knight, 'when a word may save me!' 'Fair Knight,' he went on, turning to Beaumains, I save my life, and I will forgive you the death of my brother, and will do you service for ever, and will bring thirty of my Knights to serve you likewise.' 'It is a shame,' cried the damsel, 'that such a kitchen knave should have you and thirty Knights besides.' 'Sir Knight,' said Beaumains, 'I care nothing for all this, but if I am to spare your life the damsel must ask for it,' and he stepped forward as if to slay him. 'Let be, foul knave,' then said the damsel, 'do not slay him. If you do, you will repent it.' 'Damsel,' answered Beaumains, 'it is a pleasure to me to obey you, and at your wish I will save his life. Sir Knight with the green arms, I release you at the request of this damsel, and I will fulfil all she charges me.'
Then the Green Knight kneeled down, and did him homage with his sword. 'I am sorry,' said the damsel, 'for the wounds you have received, and for your brother's death, for I had great need of you both, and have much dread of passing the forest.' 'Fear nothing,' answered the Green Knight, 'for this evening you shall lodge in my house, and to-morrow I will show you the way through the forest.' And they went with the Green Knight. But the damsel did not mend her ways with Beaumains, and ever more reviled him, till the Green Knight rebuked her, saying Beaumains was the noblest Knight that held a spear, and that in the end she would find he had sprung from some great King.
And the Green Knight summoned the thirty Knights who did him service, and bade them henceforth do service to Beaumains, and keep him from treachery, and when he had need of them they would be ready to obey his orders. So they bade each other farewell, and Beaumains and the damsel rode forth anew. In like manner did Sir Beaumains overcome the Red Knight, who was the third brother, and the Red Knight cried for mercy, and offered to bring sixty Knights to do him service, and Beaumains spared his life at the request of the damsel, and likewise it so happened to Sir Persant of Inde.
And this time the damsel prayed Beaumains to give up the fight, saying, 'Sir, I wonder who you are and of what kindred you have come. Boldly you speak, and boldly you have done; therefore I pray you to depart and save yourself while you may, for both you and your horse have suffered great fatigues, and I fear we delay too long, for the besieged castle is but seven miles from this place, and all the perils are past save this one only.
I dread sorely lest you should get some hurt; yet this Sir Persant of Inde is nothing in might to the Knight who has laid siege to my lady.' But Sir Beaumains would not listen to her words, and vowed that by two hours after noon he would have overthrown him, and that it would still be daylight when they reached the castle. 'What sort of a man can you be?' answered the damsel, looking at him in wonder, 'for never did a woman treat a Knight as ill and shamefully as I have done you, while you have always been gentle and courteous to me, and no one bears himself like that save he who is of noble blood.' 'Damsel,' replied Beaumains, 'your hard words only drove me to strike the harder, and though I ate in King Arthur's kitchen, perhaps I might have had as much food as I wanted elsewhere. But all I have done was to make proof of my friends, and whether I am a gentleman or not, fair damsel, I have done! you gentleman's service, and may perchance do you greater service before we part from each other.' 'Alas, fair Beaumains, forgive me all that I have said and done against you.' 'With all my heart,' he answered, 'and since you are pleased now to speak good words to me, know that I hear them gladly, and there is no Knight living but I feel strong enough to meet him.'
So Beaumains conquered Sir Persant of Inde, who brought a hundred Knights to be sworn into his service, and the next morning the damsel led him to the castle, where the Red Knight of the Red Lawn held fast the lady. 'Heaven defend you,' cried Sir Persant, when they told him where they were going; 'that is the most perilous Knight now living, for he has the strength of seven men.
He has done great wrong to that lady, who is one of the fairest in all the world, and it seems to me as if this damsel must be her sister. Is not her name Linet?' 'Yes, Sir,' answered she, 'and my lady my sister's name is dame Lyonesse.' 'The Red Knight has drawn out the siege for two years,' said Sir Persant 'though he might have forced an entrance many a time, but he hoped that Sir Lancelot du Lake or Sir Tristram or Sir Gawaine should come to do battle with him.' 'My Lord Sir Persant of Inde,' said the damsel, 'I bid you knight this gentleman before he fight with the Red Knight.' 'That I will gladly,' replied Sir Persant, 'if it please him to take the order of knighthood from so simple a man as I am.' 'Sir,' answered Beaumains, 'I thank you for your goodwill, but at the beginning of this quest I was made a Knight by Sir Lancelot. My name is Sir Gareth of Orkney and Sir Gawaine is my brother, though neither he nor King Arthur, whose sister is my mother, knows of it. I pray you to keep it close also.'
Now word was brought unto the besieged lady by the dwarf that her sister was corning to her with a Knight sent by King Arthur. And when the lady heard all that Beaumains had done, and how he had overthrown all who stood in his way, she bade her dwarf take baked venison, and fat capons, and two silver flagons of wine and a gold cup, and put them into the hands of a hermit that dwelt in a hermitage close by.
The dwarf did so, and the lady then sent him to greet her sister and Sir Beaumains, and to beg them to eat and drink in the hermit's cell, and rest themselves, which they did. When they drew near the besieged castle Sir Beaumains saw full forty Knights, with spurs on their heels and swords in their hands, hanging from the tall trees that stood upon the lawn. 'Fair Sir,' said the damsel, 'these Knights came hither to rescue my sister, dame Lyonesse; and if you cannot overthrow the Knight of the Red Lawn, you will hang there too.'
'Truly,' answered Beaumains, 'it is a marvel that none of King Arthur's Knights has dealt with the Knight of the Red Lawn ere this'; and they rode up to the castle, which had round it high walls and deep ditches, till they came to a great sycamore tree, where hung a horn. And whoso desired to do battle with the Red Knight must blow that horn loudly.
'Sir, I pray you,' said Linet, as Beaumains bent forward to seize it, 'do not blow it till it is full noontide, for during three hours before that the Red Knight's strength so increases that it is as the strength of seven men; but when noon is come, he has the might of one man only.'
'Ah! for shame, damsel, to say such words. I will fight him as he is, or not at all,' and Beaumains blew such a blast that it rang through the castle And the Red Knight buckled on his armour, and came to where Beaumains stood. So the battle began, and a fierce one it was, and much ado had Beaumains to last out till noon, when the Red Knight's strength began to wane; they, rested, and came on again, and in the end the Red Knight yielded to Sir Beaumains, and the lords and Barons in the castle did homage to the victor, and begged that the Red Knight's life might be spared on condition they all took service with Beaumains. This was granted to them, and Linet bound up his wounds and put ointment on them, and so she did likewise to Sir Beaumains. But the Red Knight was sent to the Court of King Arthur, and told him all that Sir Beaumains had done. And King Arthur and his Knights marvelled.
Now Sir Beaumains had looked up at the windows of Castle Perilous before the fight, and had seen the face of the Lady Lyonesse, and had thought it the fairest in all the world. After he had subdued the Red Knight, he hasted into the castle, and the Lady Lyonesse welcomed him, and he told her he had bought her love with the best blood in his body. And she did not say him nay, but put him off for a time.
Then the King sent letters to her to bid her, and likewise Sir Gareth, come to his Court, and by the counsel of Sir Gareth she prayed the King to let her call a tournament, and to proclaim that the Knight who bore himself best should, if he was unwedded, take her and all her lands. But if he had a wife already he should be given a white ger-falcon, and for his wife a crown of gold, set about with precious stones.
So the Lady Lyonesse did as Sir Gareth had counselled her, and answered King Arthur that where Sir Gareth was she could not tell, but that if the King would call a tourney he might be sure that Sir Gareth would come to it. 'It is well thought of,' said Arthur, and the Lady Lyonesse departed unto Castle Perilous, and summoned all her Knights around her, and told them what she had done, and how they were to make ready to fight in the tournament.
She began at once to set her castle in order, and to think what she should do with the great array of Knights that would ride hither from the furthest parts--from Scotland and Wales and Cornwall--and to lodge fitly the Kings, Dukes, Earls, and Barons that should come with Arthur. Queen Guenevere also she awaited, and the Queen of Orkney, Sir Gareth's mother. But Sir Gareth entreated the Lady Lyonesse and those Knights that were in the castle with him not to let his name be known, and this they agreed to.
'Sir Gareth,' said dame Lyonesse, 'I will lend you a ring, which I beseech you for the love you bear me to give me back when the tournament is done, for without it I have but little beauty. This ring is like no other ring, it will turn green red, and blue white, and the bearer shall lose no blood, however sore he may be wounded.'
'Truly, my own lady,' answered Sir Gareth, 'this ring will serve me well, and by its help I shall not fear that any man shall know me.' And Sir Gringamore, brother to the Lady Lyonesse, gave him a bay horse, and strong armour, and a sharp sword that had once belonged to his father. On the morning of the fifteenth of August, when the Feast of the Assumption was kept, the King commanded his heralds to blow loudly their trumpets, so that every Knight might know that he must enter the lists.
It was a noble sight to see them flocking clad in shining armour, each man with his device upon his shield. And the heralds marked who bare them best, and who were overthrown. All marvelled as to who the Knight could be whose armour sometimes seemed green, and sometimes white, but no man knew it was Sir Gareth.
And whosoever Sir Gareth tilted with was straightway overthrown. 'Of a truth,' cried King Arthur, 'that Knight with the many colours is a good Knight,' and he called Sir Lancelot and bade him to challenge that Knight to combat. But Sir Lancelot said that though the Knight had come off victor in every fight, yet his limbs must be weary, for he had fought as a man fights under the eyes of his lady, 'and for this day,' said Sir Lancelot, 'he shall have the honour. Though it lay in my power to put it from him, I would not.'
Then they paused for a while to rest, and afterwards the tournament began again more fiercely than before, and Sir Lancelot was set upon by two Knights at once. When Sir Gareth saw that, he rode in between them, but no stroke would he deal Sir Lancelot, which Sir Lancelot noted, and guessed that it was the good Knight, Sir Gareth. Sir Gareth went hither and thither, smiting anyone that came in his way, and by fortune he met with his brother Sir Gawaine, and knocked off his helmet. Now it happened that while he was fighting a Knight dealt Sir Gareth a fierce blow on his helm, and he rode off the field to mend it. Then his dwarf, who had been watching eagerly, cried out to Sir Gareth to leave the ring with him, lest he should lose it while he was drinking, which Sir Gareth did; and when he had drunk and mended his helm he forgot the ring, at which the dwarf was glad, for he knew his name could no longer be hid.
And when Sir Gareth returned to the field, his armour shone yellow like gold, and King Arthur marvelled what Knight he was, for he saw by his hair that he was the same Knight who had worn the many colours. 'Go,' he said to his heralds, 'ride near him and see what manner of Knight he is, for none can tell me his name.' So a herald drew close to
him, and saw that on his helm was written in golden letters 'This helm belongs to Sir Gareth of Orkney'; and the herald cried out and made proclamation, and the Kings and Knights pressed to behold him. And when Sir Gareth saw he was discovered, he struck more fiercely than before, and smote down Sir Sagramore, and his brother, Sir Gawaine. 'O brother,' said Sir Gawaine, 'I did not think you would have smitten me!'
When Sir Gareth heard him say that he rode out of the press, and cried to his dwarf, 'Boy, you have played me foul, for you have kept my ring. Give it to me now, that may hide myself,' and he galloped swiftly into the forest, and no one knew where he had gone. 'What shall I do next?' asked he of the dwarf. 'Sir,' answered the dwarf, 'send the Lady Lyonesse back her ring.' 'Your counsel is good,' said Gareth; I take it to her, and commend me to her grace, and say I will come when I may, and bid her to be faithful to me, as I am to her.' After that Sir Gareth rode deeper into the forest.
Though Sir Gareth had left the tournament he found that there were as many fights awaiting him as if he had remained there. He overcame all his foes, and sent them and their followers to do homage to King Arthur, but he himself stayed behind. He was standing alone after they had gone, when he beheld an armed Knight coining towards him. Sir Gareth sprang on his horse, and without a word the two crashed together like thunder, and strove hard for two hours, till the ground was wet with blood.
At that time the damsel Linet came riding by, and saw what was doing, and knew who were the fighters. And she cried, 'Sir Gawaine, Sir Gawaine, leave fighting with your brother Sir Gareth.' Then he threw down his shield and sword, and ran to Sir Gareth, mid first took him in his arms and next kneeled down and asked mercy of him.
Why do you, who were but now so strong and mighty, so suddenly yield to me." asked Sir Gareth, who had not perceived the damsel. 'O Gareth, I am your brother, and
have had much sorrow for your sake.' At this Sir Gareth unlaced his helm and knelt before Sir Gawaine, and they rose and embraced each other. 'Ah, my fair brother,' said Sir Gawaine, 'I ought rightly to do you homage, even if you were not my brother, for in this twelvemonth you have sent King Arthur more Knights than any six of the best men of the Round Table.' While he was speaking there came the Lady Linet, and healed the wounds of Sir Gareth and of Sir Gawaine. I What are you going to do DOW?' asked she. 'It is time that King Arthur had tidings of you both, and your horses are not fit to bear you.'
'Ride, I pray you,' said Sir Gawaine, 'to my uncle, King Arthur, who is but two miles away, and tell him what adventure has befallen me.' So she mounted her mule, and when she had told her tale to King Arthur, he bade them saddle him a palfrey and invited all the Knights and ladies of his Court to ride with him. When they reached the place they saw Sir Gareth and Sir Gawaine sitting on the hill-side. The King jumped off his horse, and would have greeted them, but he swooned away for gladness, and they ran and comforted him, and also their mother.
The two Knights stayed in King Arthur's Court for eight days, and rested themselves and grew strong. Then said the King to Linet, 'I wonder that your sister, dame Lyonesse, does not come here to visit me, or more truly to visit my nephew, Sir Gareth, who has worked so hard to win her love.'
'My lord,' answered Linet, 'you must, by your grace, hold her excused, for she does not know that Sir Gareth is here.'
'Go and fetch her, then,' said Arthur.
'That I will do quickly,' replied Linet, and by the next morning she had brought dame Lyonesse, and her brother Sir Gringamore, and forty Knights, but among the ladies dame Lyonesse was the fairest, save only Queen Guenevere. They were all welcomed of King Arthur, who turned to his nephew Sir Gareth and asked him whether he would have that lady to his wife.
'My lord,' replied Sir Gareth, 'you know well that I love her above all the ladies in the world.'
'And what say you, fair lady?' asked the King.
'Most noble King,' said dame Lyonesse, 'I would sooner have Sir Gareth as my husband than any King or Prince that may be christened, and if I may not have him I promise you I will have none. For he is my first love, and shall be my last. And if you will suffer him to have his will and choice, I dare say he will have me.'
'That is truth,' said Sir Gareth.
'What, nephew,' cried the King, 'sits the wind in that door? Then you shall have all the help that is in my power,' and so said Gareth's mother. And it was fixed that the marriage should be at Michaelmas, at Kin-Kenadon by the sea-shore, and thus it was proclaimed in all places of the realm. Then Sir Gareth sent his summons to all the Knights and ladies that he had won in battle that they should be present, and he gave a rich ring to the Lady Lyonesse, and she gave him one likewise. And before she departed she had from King Arthur a shining golden bee, as a token. After that Sir Gareth set her on her way towards her castle, and returned unto the King. But he would ever be in Sir Lancelot's company, for there was no Knight that Sir Gareth loved so well as Sir Lancelot.
The days drew fast to Michaelmas, and there came the Lady Lyonesse with her sister Linet and her brother Sir Gringamore to Kin-Kenadon by the sea, and there were they lodged by order of King Arthur. And upon Michaelmas Day the Bishop of Canterbury wedded Sir Gareth and the Lady Lyonesse with great ceremonies, and King Arthur commanded that Sir Gawaine should be joined to the damsel Linet, and Sir Agrawaine to the niece of dame Lyonesse, whose name was Laurel. Then the Knights whom Sir Gareth had won in battle came with their followings and did homage to him, and the Green Knight besought him that he might act as chamberlain at the feast, and the Red Knight that he might be his steward.
As soon as the feast was ended, they had all manner of minstrelsy and games and a great tournament that lasted three days, but at the prayer of dame Lyonesse the King would not suffer that any man who was wedded should fight at that feast.