The Legends Of King Arthur And His Knights
Part 3 out of 5
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.
[Illustration: Sir Lancelot smote down with one spear five knights, and
brake the backs of four, and cast down the King of Northgales.]
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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
But the four knights said to each other, "Truly one spear hath felled us
"I dare lay my life," said Sir Gawain, "it is Sir Lancelot. I know him by
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
"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
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
"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
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."
[Illustration: 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
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
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
"Sir," answered the knight, "thou doest ill, for this lady hath betrayed
"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.
_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
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
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
"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
[Illustration: "Lady," replied Sir Beaumains, "a knight is little worth
who may not bear with a damsel."]
"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
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
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
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
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
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.
[Illustration: So he rode into the hall and alighted.]
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
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
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.
_The Adventures of Sir Tristram of Lyonesse_
Again King Arthur held high festival at Caerleon, at Pentecost, and
gathered round him all the fellowship of the Round Table, and so,
according to his custom, sat and waited till some adventure should arise,
or some knight return to court whose deeds and perils might be told.
Anon he saw Sir Lancelot and a crowd of knights coming through the doors
and leading in their midst the mighty knight, Sir Tristram. As soon as
King Arthur saw him, he rose up and went through half the hall, and held
out both his hands and cried, "Right welcome to thee, good Sir Tristram,
as welcome art thou as any knight that ever came before into this court. A
long time have I wished for thee amongst my fellowship." Then all the
knights and barons rose up with one accord and came around, and cried out,
"Welcome." Queen Guinevere came also, and many ladies with her, and all
with one voice said the same.
Then the king took Sir Tristram by the hand and led him to the Round Table
and said, "Welcome again for one of the best and gentlest knights in all
the world; a chief in war, a chief in peace, a chief in field and forest,
a chief in the ladies' chamber--right heartily welcome to this court, and
mayest thou long abide in it."
When he had so said he looked at every empty seat until he came to what
had been Sir Marhaus', and there he found written in gold letters, "This
is the seat of the noble knight, Sir Tristram." Whereat they made him,
with great cheer and gladness, a Fellow of the Round Table.
Now the story of Sir Tristram was as follows:--
There was a king of Lyonesse, named Meliodas, married to the sister of
King Mark of Cornwall, a right fair lady and a good. And so it happened
that King Meliodas hunting in the woods was taken by enchantment and made
prisoner in a castle. When his wife Elizabeth heard it she was nigh mad
with grief, and ran into the forest to seek out her lord. But after many
days of wandering and sorrow she found no trace of him, and laid her down
in a deep valley and prayed to meet her death. And so indeed she did, but
ere she died she gave birth in the midst of all her sorrow to a child, a
boy, and called him with her latest breath Tristram; for she said, "His
name shall show how sadly he hath come into this world."
Therewith she gave up her ghost, and the gentlewoman who was with her took
the child and wrapped it from the cold as well as she was able, and lay
down with it in her arms beneath the shadow of a tree hard by, expecting
death to come to her in turn.
But shortly after came a company of lords and barons seeking for the
queen, and found the lady and the child and took them home. And on the
next day came King Meliodas, whom Merlin had delivered, and when he heard
of the queen's death his sorrow was greater than tongue can tell. And anon
he buried her solemnly and nobly, and called the child Tristram as she had
Then for seven years King Meliodas mourned and took no comfort, and all
that time young Tristram was well nourished; but in a while he wedded with
the daughter of Howell, King of Brittany, who, that her own children might
enjoy the kingdom, cast about in her mind how she might destroy Tristram.
So on a certain day she put poison in a silver cup, where Tristram and her
children were together playing, that when he was athirst he might drink of
it and die. But so it happened that her own son saw the cup, and, thinking
it must hold good drink, he climbed and took it, and drank deeply of it,
and suddenly thereafter burst and fell down dead.
When the queen heard that, her grief was very great, but her anger and
envy were fiercer than before, and soon again she put more poison in the
cup. And by chance one day her husband finding it when thirsty, took it up
and was about to drink therefrom, when, seeing him, she sprang up with a
mighty cry and dashed it from his hands.
At that King Meliodas, wondering greatly, called to mind the sudden death
of his young child, and taking her fiercely by the hand he cried:
"Traitress, tell me what drink is in this cup or I will slay thee in a
moment;" and therewith pulling out his sword he swore by a great oath to
slay her if she straightway told him not the truth.
"Ah, mercy, lord," said she, and fell down at his feet; "mercy, and I will
tell thee all."
And then she told him of her plot to murder Tristram, that her own sons
might enjoy the kingdom.
"The law shall judge thee," said the king.
And so anon she was tried before the barons, and condemned to be burnt to
But when the fire was made, and she brought out, came Tristram kneeling at
his father's feet and besought of him a favour.
"Whatsoever thou desirest I will give thee," said the king.
"Give me the life, then, of the queen, my stepmother," said he.
"Thou doest wrong to ask it," said Meliodas; "for she would have slain
thee with her poisons if she could, and chiefly for thy sake she ought to
"Sir," said he, "as for that, I beseech thee of thy mercy to forgive it
her, and for my part may God pardon her as I do; and so I pray thee grant
me my boon, and for God's sake hold thee to thy promise."
"If it must be so," said the king, "take thou her life, for to thee I give
it, and go and do with her as thou wilt."
Then went young Tristram to the fire and loosed the queen from all her
bonds and delivered her from death.
And after a great while by his good means the king again forgave and lived
in peace with her, though never more in the same lodgings.
Anon was Tristram sent abroad to France in care of one named Governale.
And there for seven years he learned the language of the land, and all
knightly exercises and gentle crafts, and especially was he foremost in
music and in hunting, and was a harper beyond all others. And when at
nineteen years of age he came back to his father, he was as lusty and
strong of body and as noble of heart as ever man was seen.
Now shortly after his return it befell that King Anguish of Ireland sent
to King Mark of Cornwall for the tribute due to Ireland, but which was now
seven years behindhand. To whom King Mark sent answer, if he would have it
he must send and fight for it, and they would find a champion to fight
So King Anguish called for Sir Marhaus, his wife's brother, a good knight
of the Round Table, who lived then at his court, and sent him with a
knightly retinue in six great ships to Cornwall. And, casting anchor by
the castle of Tintagil, he sent up daily to King Mark for the tribute or
the champion. But no knight there would venture to assail him, for his
fame was very high in all the realm for strength and hardihood.
Then made King Mark a proclamation throughout Cornwall, that if any knight
would fight Sir Marhaus he should stand at the king's right hand for
evermore, and have great honour and riches all the rest of his days. Anon
this news came to the land of Lyonesse, and when young Tristram heard it
he was angry and ashamed to think no knight of Cornwall durst assail the
Irish champion. "Alas," said he, "that I am not a knight, that I might
match this Marhaus! I pray you give me leave, sir, to depart to King
Mark's court and beg of his grace to make me knight."
"Be ruled by thy own courage," said his father.
So Tristram rode away forthwith to Tintagil to King Mark, and went up
boldly to him and said, "Sir, give me the order of knighthood and I will
fight to the uttermost with Sir Marhaus of Ireland."
"What are ye, and whence come ye?" said the king, seeing he was but a
young man, though strong and well made both in body and limb.
"My name is Tristram," said he, "and I was born in the country of
"But know ye," said the king, "this Irish knight will fight with none who
be not come of royal blood and near of kin to kings or queens, as he
himself is, for his sister is the Queen of Ireland."
Then said Tristram, "Let him know that I am come both on my father's and
my mother's side of blood as good as his, for my father is King Meliodas
and my mother was that Queen Elizabeth, thy sister, who died in the forest
at my birth."
When King Mark heard that he welcomed him with all his heart, and knighted
him forthwith, and made him ready to go forth as soon as he would choose,
and armed him royally in armour covered with gold and silver.
Then he sent Sir Marhaus word, "That a better man than he should fight
with him, Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, son of King Meliodas and of King
Mark's own sister." So the battle was ordained to be fought in an island
near Sir Marhaus' ships, and there Sir Tristram landed on the morrow, with
Governale alone attending him for squire, and him he sent back to the land
when he had made himself ready.
When Sir Marhaus and Sir Tristram were thus left alone, Sir Marhaus said,
"Young knight Sir Tristram what doest thou here? I am full sorry for thy
rashness, for ofttimes have I been assailed in vain, and by the best
knights of the world. Be warned in time, return to them that sent thee."
"Fair knight, and well-proved knight," replied Sir Tristram, "be sure that
I shall never quit this quarrel till one of us be overcome. For this cause
have I been made knight, and thou shalt know before we part that though as
yet unproved, I am a king's son and first-born of a queen. Moreover I have
promised to deliver Cornwall from this ancient burden, or to die. Also,
thou shouldst have known, Sir Marhaus, that thy valour and thy might are
but the better reasons why I should assail thee; for whether I win or lose
I shall gain honour to have met so great a knight as thou art."
Then they began the battle, and tilted at their hardest against each
other, so that both knights and horses fell to the earth. But Sir Marhaus'
spear smote Sir Tristram a great wound in the side. Then, springing up
from their horses, they lashed together with their swords like two wild
boars. And when they had stricken together a great while they left off
strokes and lunged at one another's breasts and visors; but seeing this
availed not they hurtled together again to bear each other down.
[Illustration: Then they began the battle, and tilted at their hardest
against each other.]
Thus fought they more than half the day, till both were sorely spent and
blood ran from them to the ground on every side. But by this time Sir
Tristram remained fresher than Sir Marhaus and better winded, and with a
mighty stroke he smote him such a buffet as cut through his helm into his
brain-pan, and there his sword stuck in so fast that thrice Sir Tristram
pulled ere he could get it from his head. Then fell Sir Marhaus down upon
his knees, and the edge of Sir Tristram's sword broke off into his
brain-pan. And suddenly when he seemed dead, Sir Marhaus rose and threw
his sword and shield away from him and ran and fled into his ship. And
Tristram cried out after him, "Aha! Sir knight of the Round Table, dost
thou withdraw thee from so young a knight? it is a shame to thee and all
thy kin; I would rather have been hewn into a hundred pieces than have
fled from thee."
But Sir Marhaus answered nothing, and sorely groaning fled away.
"Farewell, Sir knight, farewell," laughed Tristram, whose own voice now
was hoarse and faint with loss of blood; "I have thy sword and shield in
my safe keeping, and will wear them in all places where I ride on my
adventures, and before King Arthur and the Table Round."
Then was Sir Marhaus taken back to Ireland by his company; and as soon as
he arrived his wounds were searched, and when they searched his head they
found therein a piece of Tristram's sword; but all the skill of surgeons
was in vain to move it out. So anon Sir Marhaus died.
But the queen, his sister, took the piece of sword-blade and put it safely
by, for she thought that some day it might help her to revenge her
Meanwhile, Sir Tristram, being sorely wounded, sat down softly on a little
mound and bled passing fast; and in that evil case was found anon by
Governale and King Mark's knights. Then they gently took him up and
brought him in a barge back to the land, and lifted him into a bed within
the castle, and had his wounds dressed carefully.
But for a great while he lay sorely sick, and was likely to have died of
the first stroke Sir Marhaus had given him with the spear, for the point
of it was poisoned. And, though the wisest surgeons and leeches--both men
and women--came from every part, yet could he be by no means cured. At
last came a wise lady, and said plainly that Sir Tristram never should be
healed, until he went and stayed in that same country whence the poison
came. When this was understood, the king sent Sir Tristram in a fair and
goodly ship to Ireland, and by fortune he arrived fast by a castle where
the king and queen were. And as the ship was being anchored, he sat upon
his bed and harped a merry lay, and made so sweet a music as was never
When the king heard that the sweet harper was a wounded knight, he sent
for him, and asked his name. "I am of the country of Lyonesse," he
answered, "and my name is Tramtrist;" for he dared not tell his true name
lest the vengeance of the queen should fall upon him for her brother's
"Well," said King Anguish, "thou art right welcome here, and shalt have
all the help this land can give thee; but be not anxious if I am at times
cast down and sad, for but lately in Cornwall the best knight in the
world, fighting for my cause, was slain; his name was Sir Marhaus, a
knight of King Arthur's Round Table." And then he told Sir Tristram all
the story of Sir Marhaus' battle, and Sir Tristram made pretence of great
surprise and sorrow, though he knew all far better than the king himself.
Then was he put in charge of the king's daughter, La Belle Isault, to be
healed of his wound, and she was as fair and noble a lady as men's eyes
might see. And so marvellously was she skilled in medicine, that in a few
days she fully cured him; and in return Sir Tristram taught her the harp;
so, before long, they two began to love each other greatly.
But at that time a heathen knight, Sir Palomedes, was in Ireland, and much
cherished by the king and queen. He also loved mightily La Belle Isault,
and never wearied of making her great gifts, and seeking for her favour,
and was ready even to be christened for her sake. Sir Tristram therefore
hated him out of measure, and Sir Palomedes was full of rage and envy
And so it befell that King Anguish proclaimed a great tournament to be
held, the prize whereof should be a lady called the Lady of the Launds, of
near kindred to the king: and her the winner of the tournament should wed
in three days afterwards, and possess all her lands. When La Belle Isault
told Sir Tristram of this tournament, he said, "Fair lady! I am yet a
feeble knight, and but for thee had been a dead man now: what wouldest
thou I should do? Thou knowest well I may not joust."
"Ah, Tristram," said she, "why wilt thou not fight in this tournament? Sir
Palomedes will be there, and will do his mightiest; and therefore be thou
there, I pray thee, or else he will be winner of the prize."
"Madam," said Tristram, "I will go, and for thy sake will do my best; but
let me go unknown to all men; and do thou, I pray thee, keep my counsel,
and help me to a disguise."
So on the day of jousting came Sir Palomedes, with a black shield, and
overthrew many knights. And all the people wondered at his prowess; for on
the first day he put to the worse Sir Gawain, Sir Gaheris, Sir Agravaine,
Sir Key, and many more from far and near. And on the morrow he was
conqueror again, and overthrew the king with a hundred knights and the
King of Scotland. But presently Sir Tristram rode up to the lists, having
been let out at a privy postern of the castle, where none could see. La
Belle Isault had dressed him in white armour and given him a white horse
and shield, and so he came suddenly into the field as it had been a bright
As soon as Sir Palomedes saw him he ran at him with a great spear in rest,
but Sir Tristram was ready, and at the first encounter hurled him to the
ground. Then there arose a great cry that the knight with the black shield
was overthrown. And Palomedes sorely hurt and shamed, sought out a secret
way and would have left the field; but Tristram watched him, and rode
after him, and bade him stay, for he had not yet done with him. Then did
Sir Palomedes turn with fury, and lash at Sir Tristram with his sword; but
at the first stroke Sir Tristram smote him to the earth, and cried, "Do
now all my commands, or take thy death." Then he yielded to Sir Tristram's
mercy, and promised to forsake La Belle Isault, and for twelve months to
wear no arms or armour. And rising up, he cut his armour off him into
shreds with rage and madness, and turned and left the field: and Sir
Tristram also left the lists, and rode back to the castle through the
Then was Sir Tristram long cherished by the King and Queen of Ireland, and
ever with La Belle Isault. But on a certain day, while he was bathing,
came the queen with La Belle Isault by chance into his chamber, and saw
his sword lie naked on the bed: anon she drew it from the scabbard and
looked at it a long while, and both thought it a passing fair sword; but
within a foot and a half of the end there was a great piece broken out,
and while the queen was looking at the gap, she suddenly remembered the
piece of sword-blade that was found in the brain-pan of her brother Sir
Therewith she turned and cried, "By my faith, this is the felon knight who
slew thy uncle!" And running to her chamber she sought in her casket for
the piece of iron from Sir Marhaus' head and brought it back, and fitted
it in Tristram's sword; and surely did it fit therein as closely as it had
been but yesterday broke out.
[Illustration: And running to her chamber, she sought in her casket for
the piece of iron ... and fitted it in Tristram's sword.]
Then the queen caught the sword up fiercely in her hand, and ran into the
room where Sir Tristram was yet in his bath, and making straight for him,
had run him through the body, had not his squire, Sir Hebes, got her in
his arms, and pulled the sword away from her.
Then ran she to the king, and fell upon her knees before him, saying,
"Lord and husband, thou hast here in thy house that felon knight who slew
my brother Marhaus!"
"Who is it?" said the king.
"It is Sir Tristram!" said she, "whom Isault hath healed."
"Alas!" replied the king, "I am full grieved thereat, for he is a good
knight as ever I have seen in any field; but I charge thee leave thou him,
and let me deal with him."
Then the king went to Sir Tristram's chamber and found him all armed and
ready to mount his horse, and said to him, "Sir Tristram, it is not to
prove me against thee I come, for it were shameful of thy host to seek thy
life. Depart in peace, but tell me first thy name, and whether thou
slewest my brother, Sir Marhaus."
Then Sir Tristram told him all the truth, and how he had hid his name, to
be unknown in Ireland; and when he had ended, the king declared he held
him in no blame. "Howbeit, I cannot for mine honour's sake retain thee at
this court, for so I should displease my barons, and my wife, and all her
"Sir," said Sir Tristram, "I thank thee for the goodness thou hast shown
me here, and for the great goodness my lady, thy daughter, hath shown me;
and it may chance to be more for thy advantage if I live than if I die;
for wheresoever I may be, I shall ever seek thy service, and shall be my
lady thy daughter's servant in all places, and her knight in right and
wrong, and shall never fail to do for her as much as knight can do."
Then Sir Tristram went to La Belle Isault, and took his leave of her. "O
gentle knight," said she, "full of grief am I at your departing, for never
yet I saw a man to love so well."
"Madam," said he, "I promise faithfully that all my life I shall be your
Then Sir Tristram gave her a ring, and she gave him another, and after
that he left her, weeping and lamenting, and went among the barons, and
openly took his leave of them all, saying, "Fair lords, it so befalleth
that I now must depart hence; therefore, if there be any here whom I have
offended or who is grieved with me, let him now say it, and before I go I
will amend it to the utmost of my power. And if there be but one who
would speak shame of me behind my back, let him say it now or never, and
here is my body to prove it on--body against body."
And all stood still and said no word, though some there were of the
queen's kindred who would have assailed him had they dared.
So Sir Tristram departed from Ireland and took the sea and came with a
fair wind to Tintagil. And when the news came to King Mark that Sir
Tristram was returned, healed of his wound, he was passing glad, and so
were all his barons. And when he had visited the king his uncle, he rode
to his father, King Meliodas, and there had all the heartiest welcome that
could be made him. And both the king and queen gave largely to him of
their lands and goods.
Anon he came again to King Mark's court, and there lived in great joy and
pleasure, till within a while the king grew jealous of his fame, and of
the love and favour shown him by all damsels. And as long as King Mark
lived, he never after loved Sir Tristram, though there was much fair
speech between them.
Then it befell upon a certain day that the good knight Sir Bleoberis de
Ganis, brother to Sir Blamor de Ganis, and nigh cousin to Sir Lancelot of
the Lake, came to King Mark's court and asked of him a favour. And though
the king marvelled, seeing he was a man of great renown, and a knight of
the Round Table, he granted him all his asking. Then said Sir Bleoberis,
"I will have the fairest lady in your court, at my own choosing."
"I may not say thee nay," replied the king; "choose therefore, but take
all the issues of thy choice."
So when he had looked around, he chose the wife of Earl Segwarides, and
took her by the hand, and set her upon horseback behind his squire, and
rode forth on his way.
Presently thereafter came in the earl, and rode out straightway after him
in rage. But all the ladies cried out shame upon Sir Tristram that he had
not gone, and one rebuked him foully and called him coward knight, that he
would stand and see a lady forced away from his uncle's court. But Sir
Tristram answered her, "Fair lady, it is not my place to take part in this
quarrel while her lord and husband is here to do it. Had he not been at
this court, peradventure I had been her champion. And if it so befall that
he speed ill, then may it happen that I speak with that foul knight before
he pass out of this realm."
Anon ran in one of Sir Segwarides' squires, and told that his master was
sore wounded, and at the point of death. When Sir Tristram heard that, he
was soon armed and on his horse, and Governale, his servant, followed him
with shield and spear.
And as he rode, he met his cousin Sir Andret, who had been commanded by
King Mark to bring home to him two knights of King Arthur's court who
roamed the country thereabouts seeking adventures.
"What tidings?" said Sir Tristram.
"God help me, never worse," replied his cousin; "for those I went to bring
have beaten and defeated me, and set my message at naught."
"Fair cousin," said Sir Tristram, "ride ye on your way, perchance if I
should meet them ye may be revenged."
So Sir Andret rode into Cornwall, but Sir Tristram rode after the two
knights who had misused him, namely, Sir Sagramour le Desirous, and Sir
Dodinas le Savage. And before long he saw them but a little way before
"Sir," said Governale, "by my advice thou wilt leave them alone, for they
be two well-proved knights of Arthur's court."
"Shall I not therefore rather meet them?" said Sir Tristram, and, riding
swiftly after them, he called to them to stop, and asked them whence they
came, and whither they were going, and what they were doing in those
Sir Sagramour looked haughtily at Sir Tristram, and made mocking of his
words, and said, "Fair knight, be ye a knight of Cornwall?"
"Wherefore askest thou that?" said Tristram.
"Truly, because it is full seldom seen," replied Sir Sagramour, "that
Cornish knights are valiant with their arms as with their tongues. It is
but two hours since there met us such a Cornish knight, who spoke great
words with might and prowess, but anon, with little mastery, he was laid
on earth, as I trow wilt thou be also."
"Fair lords," said Sir Tristram, "it may chance I be a better man than he;
but, be that as it may, he was my cousin, and for his sake I will assail
ye both; one Cornish knight against ye two."
When Sir Dodinas le Savage heard this speech, he caught at his spear and
said, "Sir knight, keep well thyself;" and then they parted and came
together as it had been thunder, and Sir Dodinas' spear split asunder; but
Sir Tristram smote him with so full a stroke as hurled him over his
horse's crupper, and nearly brake his neck. Sir Sagramour, seeing his
fellow's fall, marvelled who this new knight might be, and dressed his
spear, and came against Sir Tristram as a whirlwind; but Sir Tristram
smote him a mighty buffet, and rolled him with his horse down on the
ground; and in the falling he brake his thigh.
Then, looking at them both as they lay grovelling on the grass, Sir
Tristram said, "Fair knights, will ye joust any more? Are there no bigger
knights in King Arthur's court? Will ye soon again speak shame of Cornish
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