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A short story by Charles Morris

The Adventures Of Beaumains

Title:     The Adventures Of Beaumains
Author: Charles Morris [More Titles by Morris]



King Arthur had, early in his reign, established the custom that at the feast of Pentecost he would never dine until he had seen or heard of some marvellous event. Through that custom many strange adventures were brought to his notice. It happened on one day of Pentecost that the king held his Round Table at a castle called Kinkenadon, on the borders of Wales. On that day, a little before noon, as Gawaine looked from a window, he saw three men on horseback and a dwarf on foot approaching the castle. When they came near the men alighted, and, leaving their horses in care of the dwarf, they walked towards the castle-gate. One of these men was very tall, being a foot and a half higher than his companions.

On seeing this, Gawaine went to the king and said,--

"Sire, I deem you can now safely go to your dinner, for I fancy we have an adventure at hand."

The king thereupon went to the table with his knights and the kings who were guests at his court. They were but well seated when there came into the hall two men, richly attired, upon whose shoulders leaned the fairest and handsomest young man that any there had ever seen. In body he was large and tall, with broad shoulders and sturdy limbs, yet he moved as if he could not bear himself erect, but needed support from his comrades' shoulders.

When Arthur saw this youth he bade those around him to make room, and the stranger with his companions walked up to the high dais without speaking.

Then he drew himself up straight and stood erect before the king.

"King Arthur," he said, "may God bless you and your fellowship, and, above all, the fellowship of the Round Table. I am come hither to beg of you three gifts, promising that they shall not be unreasonable, and that you can honorably grant them without hurt or loss to yourself. The first I shall ask now, and the other two this day twelvemonth."

"Ask what you will," said Arthur. "You shall have your gift, if it be so easy to grant."

"This is my first petition, that you furnish me meat and drink sufficient for this year, and until the time has come to ask for my other gifts."

"My fair son," said Arthur, "I counsel you to ask more than this. If my judgment fail not, you are of good birth and fit for noble deeds."

"However that may be, I have asked all that I now desire."

"Well, well, you shall have meat and drink enough. I have never denied that to friend or foe. But what is your name?"

"Great sir, that I cannot tell you."

"There is a mystery here. A youth of so handsome face and vigorous form as you must be of noble parentage. But if you desire secrecy, I shall not press you."

Then Arthur bade Kay to take charge of the youth and see that he had the best fare of the castle, and to find out if he was a lord's son, if possible.

"A churl's son, I should say," answered Kay, scornfully, "and not worth the cost of his meals. Had he been of gentle birth he would have asked for horse and armor; but he demands that which fits his base-born nature. Since he has no name, I shall give him one. Let him be called Beaumains, or Fair Hands. I shall keep him in the kitchen, where he can have fat broth every day, so that at the years end he will be fat as a swollen hog."

Then the two men departed and left the youth with Kay, who continued to scorn and mock him.

Gawaine and Lancelot were angry at this, and bade Kay to cease his mockery, saying that they were sure the youth would prove of merit.

"Never will he," said Kay. "He has asked as his nature bade him."

"Beware," said Lancelot. "This is not the first youth you have given a name in mockery, which turned on yourself at last."

"I do not fear that of this fellow. I wager that he has been brought up in some abbey, and came hither because good eating failed him there."

Kay then bade him get a place and sit down to his meal, and Beaumains sought a place at the hall-door among boys and menials.

Gawaine and Lancelot thereupon asked him to come to their chambers, where he should be well fed and lodged; but he refused, saying that he would do only as Kay commanded, since the king had so bidden.

It thus came about that Beaumains ate in the kitchen among the menials, and slept in sorry quarters. And during the whole year he was always meek and mild, and gave no cause for displeasure to man or child.

But whenever there was jousting of knights he was always present to see, and seemed in this sport to take great delight. And Gawaine and Lancelot, who felt sure that the youth but bided his time, gave him clothes and what money he needed. Also, wherever there were sports of skill or strength he was sure to be on hand, and in throwing the bar or stone he surpassed all contestants by two yards.

"How like you my boy of the kitchen?" Kay would say, on seeing these feats. "Fat broth is good for the muscles."

And so the year passed on till the festival of Whitsuntide came again. The court was now at Carlion, where royal feasts were held. But the king, as was his custom, refused to eat until he should hear of some strange adventure.

While he thus waited a damsel came into the hall and saluted the king, and begged aid and succor of him.

"For whom?" asked Arthur. "Of what do you complain?"

"Sire," she replied, "I serve a lady of great worth and merit, who is besieged in her castle by a tyrant, and dares not leave her gates for fear of him. I pray you send with me some knight to succor her."

"Who is your lady, and where does she dwell? And what is the name of the man who besieges her?"

"Her name I must not now tell. I shall only say that she has wide lands and is a noble lady. As for the tyrant that distresses her, he is called the Red Knight of the Red Lawns."

"I know him not," said the king.

"I know him well," said Gawaine. "Men say he has seven men's strength. I escaped him once barely with life."

"Fair damsel," said the king, "there are knights here who would do their utmost to rescue your lady. But if you will not tell me her name nor where she lives, none of them shall go with my consent."

"Then I must seek further," said the damsel, "for that I am forbidden to tell."

At this moment Beaumains came to the king, and said,--

"Royal sir, I have been twelve months in your kitchen, and have had all you promised me; now I desire to ask for my other two gifts."

"Ask, if you will. I shall keep to my word."

"This, then, is what I request. First, that you send me with the damsel, for this adventure belongs to me."

"You shall have it," said the king.

"My third request is that you shall bid Lancelot du Lake make me a knight, for he is the only man in your court from whom I will take that honor. When I am gone let him ride after me, and dub me knight when I require it of him."

"I grant your wish," said the king. "All shall be done as you desire."

"Fie on you all!" cried the damsel. "I came here for a knight, and you offer me a kitchen scullion. Is this King Arthur's way of rescuing a lady in distress? If so, I want none of it, and will seek my knight elsewhere."

She left the court, red with anger, mounted her horse, and rode away.

She had hardly gone when a page of the court came to Beaumains and told him that his dwarf was without, with a noble horse and a rich suit of armor, and all other necessaries of the best.

At this all the court marvelled, for they could not imagine who had sent all this rich gear to a kitchen menial. But when Beaumains was armed, there were none in the court who presented a more manly aspect than he. He took courteous leave of the king, and of Gawaine and Lancelot, praying the latter that he would soon ride after him. This done, he mounted his horse and pursued the damsel.

But those who observed him noticed that, while he was well horsed and had trappings of cloth of gold, he bore neither shield nor spear. Among those who watched him was Kay, who said,--

"Yonder goes my kitchen drudge, as fine a knight as the best of us, if a brave show were all that a knight needed. I have a mind to ride after him, to let him know that I am still his superior."

"You had better let him alone," said Gawaine. "You may find more than you bargain for."

But Kay armed himself and rode after Beaumains, whom he overtook just as he came up with the damsel.

"Hold there, Beaumains," he cried, in mockery. "Do you not know me?"

"Yes," answered the young man. "I know you for an ungentle knight of the court, who has put much despite upon me. It is my turn to repay you for your insults; so, sirrah, defend yourself."

Kay thereupon put his spear in rest and rode upon Beaumains, who awaited him sword in hand. When they came together, Beaumains, with a skilful parry, turned aside the spear, and then with a vigorous thrust wounded Kay in the side, so that he fell from his horse like a dead man. This done, he dismounted and took Kay's shield and spear, and bade his dwarf take his horse.

All this was observed by the damsel, and also by Lancelot, who had followed closely upon the track of the seneschal.

"Now, Sir Lancelot, I am ready to accept your offer to knight me," said Beaumains, "but, first, I would prove myself worthy of the honor, and so will joust with you, if you consent."

"That I shall certainly not decline," said Lancelot, counting upon an easy victory.

But when the knight and the youth rode against each other both were hurled from their horses to the earth, and sorely bruised. But Beaumains was entangled in his harness, and Lancelot helped him from his horse.

Then Beaumains flung aside his shield and proffered to fight Lancelot on foot, to which the latter consented. For an hour they fought, Beaumains showing such strength that Lancelot marvelled at it, and esteemed him more a giant than a knight. He began, indeed, to fear that he might be vanquished in the end, and at length cried out,--

"Beaumains, you fight too hard, considering that there is no quarrel between us. I fancy you need no further proof."

"That is true enough, my lord," said Beaumains. "But it did me good to feel your might. As for my own strength, I hardly know it yet."

"It is as much as I want to deal with," said Lancelot. "I had to do my best to save my honor."

"Then you think I may prove myself a worthy knight?"

"I warrant you that, if you do as well as you have done to-day."

"I pray you, then, to invest me with the order of knighthood."

"That shall I willingly do. But you must first tell me your name, and that of your father."

"You will keep my secret?"

"I promise you that on my faith, until you are ready to reveal it yourself."

"Then, sir, my name is Gareth, and I am Gawaine's brother, though he knows it not. I was but a child when he became a knight, but King Lot was my father."

"I am very glad to hear that," said Lancelot. "I knew you were of gentle blood, and came to court for something else than meat and drink."

Then Gareth kneeled before Lancelot, who made him a knight, and bade him be a good and worthy one, and to honor his birth by his deeds.

Lancelot then left him and returned to Kay, who lay half dead in the road. He had him borne back to the court, but his wound proved long in healing, and he found himself the scorn of the court for his discourteous treatment of the youth who had been put in his care.




When Beaumains overtook the damsel, he received from her but a sorry greeting.

"How dare you follow me?" she said. "You smell too much of the kitchen for my liking. Your clothes are foul with grease and tallow, and I marvel much that King Arthur made a knight of such a sorry rogue. As for yonder knight whom you wounded, there is no credit in that, for it was done by treachery and cowardice, not by skill and valor. I know well why Kay named you Beaumains, for you are but a lubber and turner of spits, and a washer of soiled dishes."

"Say what you will, damsel," answered Beaumains, "you shall not drive me away. King Arthur chose me to achieve your adventure, and I shall perform it or die."

"Fie on you, kitchen knave! you would not dare, for all the broth you ever supped, to look the red knight in the face."

"Would I not? That is to be seen."

As they thus angrily debated, there came to them a man flying at full speed.

"Help me, sir knight!" he cried. "Six thieves have taken my lord and bound him, and I fear they will slay him if he be not rescued."

"Lead me to him," said Beaumains.

He followed the man to a neighboring glade, where he saw a knight bound and prostrate, surrounded by six sorry-looking villains. At sight of this the heart of Beaumains leaped with anger. With a ringing battle-cry he rushed upon the knaves, and with three vigorous strokes laid three of them dead upon the earth. The others fled, but he followed at full speed, and quickly overtook them. Then they turned and assailed him fiercely, but after a short fight he slew them all. He then rode back to the knight, whom his man had unbound.

The rescued knight thanked him warmly, and begged him to ride with him to his castle, where he would reward him for his great service. But Beaumains answered that he was upon a quest which could not be left, and as for reward he would leave that to God.

Then he turned and rode back to the damsel, who greeted him with the same contempt as before, bidding him ride farther from her, as she could not bear the smell of the kitchen.

"Do you fancy that I esteem you any the nobler for having killed a few churls? You shall see a sight yet, sir knave, that will make you turn your back, and that quickly."

Not much farther had they ridden when they were overtaken by the rescued knight, who begged them, as it was near night, and his castle close at hand, to spend the night there. The damsel agreed to this, and they rode together to the castle, where they were well entertained.

But at supper the knight set Beaumains before the damsel.

"Fie, fie! sir knight," she exclaimed. "This is discourteous, to seat a kitchen page before a lady of high birth. This fellow is more used to carve swine than to sit at lords' tables."

To this Beaumains made no answer, but the knight was ashamed, and withdrew with his guest to a side table, leaving her to the honor of the high table alone. When morning came they thanked the knight for their entertainment, and rode refreshed away.

Other adventures were ready for Beaumains before they had ridden far, for they soon found themselves at the side of a river that had but a single ford, and on the opposite side stood two knights, ready to dispute the passage with any who should attempt it.

"What say you to this?" asked the damsel. "Will you face yonder knights, or turn back?"

"I shall not turn; nor would I, if there were six more of them. You shall see that I can deal with knights as well as knaves."

Then he rode into the water, in the midst of which he met one of the knights, their spears breaking as they came fiercely together. They then drew their swords and began a fierce fight in the centre of the ford. But at last Beaumains dealt his opponent a blow on the helm that stunned him, and hurled him from his horse into the water, where he was quickly drowned.

Beaumains now spurred forward to the land, where the other knight rushed upon him as he touched shore, breaking his spear, but not shaking the young champion in his seat. Then they went at it with sword and shield, and with the same fortune as before, for Beaumains quickly cleaved the helmet and brain of his opponent, and left him dead on the ground.

He now turned and called proudly to the damsel, bidding her to ride forward, as he had cleared the ford for her passage.

"Alas!" she cried, "that a kitchen page should have the fortune to kill two valiant knights. You fancy you have done a doughty deed, but I deny it. The first knight was drowned through his horse stumbling, and the other one you struck a foul blow from behind. Never brag of this, for I can attest it was not honestly done."

"You may say what you will," rejoined Beaumains. "Whoever seeks to hinder me shall make way or kill me, for nothing less than death shall stop me on my quest to aid your lady."

"You can boast loudly before a woman. Wait till you meet the knights I take you to, and you will be taught another lesson."

"Fair damsel, if you will but give me courteous language, I shall ask no more. As for the knights you speak of, let come what will come."

"I say this for your own good; for if you continue to follow me you will be slain. What you have done is by misadventure, not by prowess. If you are wise, you will turn back with what little honor you may claim."

"Say what you choose, damsel, but wherever you go there go I, and it will take more than insulting words to turn me back."

So they rode on till evening, she continuing to chide and berate him, and bid him leave her, and he answering meekly, but with no abatement of his resolution.

Finally a strange sight came to them. For before them they saw a black lawn, in whose midst grew a black hawthorn. On one side of this hung a black banner, and on the other a black shield, while near by stood a black spear of great size, and a massive black horse covered with silk. Near by was a knight armed in black armor, who was known as the Knight of the Black Lawn.

The damsel, on seeing this knight, bade Beaumains flee down the valley, telling him that he might still escape, for the knight's horse was not saddled.

"Gramercy," said Beaumains, "will you always take me for a coward? I fly not from one man, though he be as black as ten ravens."

The black knight, seeing them approach, thus addressed the damsel,--

"So, my lady, you are here again! Have you brought this knight from King Arthur's court to be your champion?"

"Hardly so, fair sir. This is but a kitchen knave, who was fed in Arthur's court through charity, and has followed me as a cur follows his master."

"Why comes he then in knightly guise? And what do you in such foul company?"

"I cannot get rid of him, sir. He rides with me in my despite. I bring him here that you may rid me of the unhappy knave. Through mishap and treachery he killed two knights at the river ford, and did other deeds that might have been of worth were they fairly done. Yet he is but a sorry poltroon."

"I am surprised," said the black knight, "that any man of worth will fight with him."

"They knew him not," she answered, "and fancy him of some credit from his riding with me, and from his brave show of armor."

"That may be," said the black knight. "Yet, knave or not, he looks like a strong fellow. This much I shall do to relieve you of him. I shall put him on foot, and take from him his horse and armor. It would be a shame to do him more harm."

Beaumains had heard all this, biting his lips in anger. He now scornfully replied,--

"Sir knight, you are liberal in disposing of my horse and armor, but beware you do not pay a fair price for them. Whether you like it or not, this lawn I shall pass, and you will get no horse or armor of mine till you win them in open fight. Let me see if you can do it."

"Say you so? You shall yield me this lady, or pay dearly for it; for it does not beseem a kitchen page to ride with a lady of high degree."

"If you want her, you must win her," said Beaumains, "and much comfort may you get from her tongue. As for me, I am a gentleman born, and of higher birth than you; and will prove this on your body if you deny it."

Then in hot anger they rode apart, and came together with a sound of thunder. The spear of the black knight broke, but Beaumains thrust him through the side, the spear breaking in his body, and leaving the truncheon in his flesh. Yet, despite his wound, he drew his sword and struck with strength and fury at his antagonist. But the fight lasted not long, for the black knight, faint with loss of blood, fell from his horse in a swoon, and quickly died.

Then Beaumains, seeing that the horse and armor were better than his own, dismounted and put on the dead knight's armor. Now, mounting the sable horse, he rode after the damsel. On coming up she greeted him as before.

"Away, knave, the smell of thy clothes displeases me. And what a pity it is that such as you should by mishap slay so good a knight! But you will be quickly repaid, unless you fly, for there is a knight hereby who is double your match."

"I may be beaten or slain, fair damsel," said Beaumains; "but you cannot drive me off by foul words, or by talking of knights who will beat or kill me. Somehow I ride on and leave your knights on the ground. You would do well to hold your peace, for I shall follow you, whatever may happen, unless I be truly beaten or slain."

So they rode on, Beaumains in silence, but the damsel still at times reviling, till they saw approaching them a knight who was all in green, both horse and harness. As he came nigh, he asked the damsel,--

"Is that my brother, the black knight, who rides with you?"

"No," she replied. "Your brother is dead. This unhappy kitchen knave has slain him through mishap."

"Alas!" cried the green knight, "has so noble a warrior as he been slain by a knave! Traitor, you shall die for your deed!"

"I defy you," said Beaumains. "I slew him knightly and not shamefully, and am ready to answer to you with sword and spear."

Then the knight took a green horn from his saddle-bow, and blew on it three warlike notes. Immediately two damsels appeared, who aided him in arming. This done, he mounted his steed, took from their hands a green spear and green shield, and stationed himself opposite Beaumains.

Setting spurs to their horses they rode furiously together, both breaking their spears, but keeping their seats. Then they attacked each other, sword in hand, and cut and slashed with knightly vigor. At length, in a sudden wheel, Beaumains's horse struck that of the green knight on the side and overturned it, the knight having to leap quickly to escape being overthrown.

When Beaumains saw this, he also sprang to the earth and met his antagonist on foot. Here they fought for a long time, till both had lost much blood.

"You should be ashamed to stand so long fighting with a kitchen knave," cried the damsel at last to the green knight. "Who made you knight, that you let such a lad match you, as the weed overgrows the corn?"

Her words of scorn so angered the green knight that he struck a wrathful blow at Beaumains, which cut deeply into his shield. Beaumains, roused by this and by the damsel's language, struck back with such might on the helm of his foe as to hurl him to his knees. Then, seizing him, he flung him to the ground, and towered above him with upraised sword.

"I yield me!" cried the knight. "Slay me not, I beg of you."

"You shall die," answered Beaumains, "unless this damsel pray me to spare your life," and he unlaced his helm, as with intent to slay him.

"Pray you to save his life!" cried the damsel, in scorn. "I shall never so demean myself to a page of the kitchen."

"Then he shall die."

"Slay him, if you will. Ask me not to beg for his life."

"Alas!" said the green knight, "you would not let me die when you can save my life with a word? Fair sir, spare me, and I will forgive you my brother's death, and become your man, with thirty knights who are at my command."

"In the fiend's name!" cried the damsel, "shall such a knave have service of thee and thirty knights?"

"All this avails nothing," said Beaumains. "You shall have your life only at this damsel's request," and he made a show as if he would slay him.

"Let him be, knave," said the damsel. "Slay him not, or you shall repent it."

"Damsel," said Beaumains, "your request is to me a command and a pleasure. His life shall be spared, since you ask it. Sir knight of the green array, I release you at the damsel's request, for I am bound by her wish, and will do all that she commands."

Then the green knight kneeled down and did homage with his sword.

"I am sorry, sir knight, for your mishap, and for your brother's death," said the damsel. "I had great need of your help, for I dread the passage of this forest."

"You need not," he replied. "To-night you shall lodge at my castle, and to-morrow I will aid you to pass the forest."

So they rode to his manor, which was not far distant. Here it happened as it had on the evening before, for the damsel reviled Beaumains, and would not listen to his sitting at the same table with her.

"Why deal you such despite to this noble warrior?" said the green knight. "You are wrong, for he will do you good service, and whatever he declares himself to be, I warrant in the end you will find him to come of right noble blood."

"You say far more of him than he deserves," she replied. "I know him too well."

"And so do I, for he is the best champion I ever found; and I have fought in my day with many worthy knights."

That night, when they went to rest, the green knight set a guard over Beaumains's chamber, for he feared some harm to him from the bitter scorn and hatred of the damsel. In the morning he rode with them through the forest, and at parting said,--

"My lord Beaumains, I and my knights shall always be at your summons, early or late, or whatever be the service you demand."

"That is well said. When I require your service it will be to yield yourself and your knights to King Arthur."

"If you bid us do so, we shall be ready at all times."

"Fie on you!" said the damsel. "It shames me to see good knights obedient to a kitchen knave."

After they had parted she turned to Beaumains, and said, despitefully,--

"Why wilt thou follow me, lackey of the kitchen? Cast away thy spear and shield and fly while you may, for that is at hand which you will not easily escape. Were you Lancelot himself, or any knight of renown, you would not lightly venture on a pass just in advance of us, called the pass perilous."

"Damsel," said Beaumains, "he who is afraid let him flee. It would be a shame for me to turn back, after having ridden so far with you."

"You soon shall, whether it be to your liking or not," replied the damsel, scornfully.

What the damsel meant quickly appeared, for in a little time they came in sight of a tower which was white as snow in hue, and with every appliance for defence. Over the gateway hung fifty shields of varied colors, and in front spread a level meadow. On this meadow were scaffolds and pavilions, and many knights were there, for there was to be a tournament on the morrow.

The lord of the castle was at a window, and as he looked upon the tournament field he saw approaching a damsel, a dwarf, and a knight armed at all points.

"A knight-errant, as I live!" said the lord. "By my faith, I shall joust with him, and get myself in train for the tournament."

He hastily armed and rode from the gates. What Beaumains saw was a knight all in red, his horse, harness, shield, spear, and armor alike being of this blood-like color. The red knight was, indeed, brother to those whom Beaumains had lately fought, and on seeing the black array of the youth, he cried,--

"Brother, is it you? What do you in these marshes?"

"No, no, it is not he," said the damsel, "but a kitchen knave who has been brought up on alms in Arthur's court."

"Then how got he that armor?"

"He has slain your brother, the black knight, and taken his horse and arms. He has also overcome your brother, the green knight. I hope you may revenge your brothers on him, for I see no other way of getting rid of him."

"I will try," said the red knight, grimly. "Sir knight, take your place for a joust."

Beaumains, who had not yet spoken, rode to a proper distance, and then the two knights rushed together with such even force that both horses fell to the ground, the riders nimbly leaping from them.

Then with sword and shield they fought like wild boars for the space of two hours, advancing, retreating, feigning, striking, now here, now there, till both were well weary of the fray. But the damsel, who looked on, now cried loudly to the red knight,--

"Alas, noble sir, will you let a kitchen knave thus endure your might, after all the honor you have won from worthy champions?"

Then the red knight flamed with wrath, and attacked Beaumains with such fury that he wounded him so that the blood flowed in a stream to the ground. Yet the young knight held his own bravely, giving stroke for stroke, and by a final blow hurled his antagonist to the earth. He had raised his sword to slay him, when the red knight craved mercy, saying,--

"Noble, sir, you have me at advantage, but I pray you not to slay me. I yield me with the fifty knights at my command. And I forgive you all you have done to my brothers."

"That will not suffice," said Beaumains. "You must die, unless the damsel shall pray me to spare your life." And he raised his sword as if for the fatal blow.

"Let him live, then, Beaumains. He is a noble knight, and it is only by a chance blow that you have overcome him."

"It is enough that you ask it," said Beaumains. "Rise, sir knight, and thank this damsel for your life."

The red knight did so, and then prayed that they would enter his castle and spend the night there. To this they consented, but as they sat at supper the damsel continued to berate her champion, in such language that their host marvelled at the meekness of the knight.

In the morning the red knight came to Beaumains with his followers, and proffered to him his homage and fealty at all times.

"I thank you," said Beaumains, "but all I ask is, that when I demand it you shall go to Arthur's court, and yield yourself as his knight."

"I and my fellowship will ever be ready at your summons," replied the red knight.

Then Beaumains and the damsel resumed their journey, while she, as if in a fury of spite, berated him more vilely than ever before.

"Fair lady," he said, with all meekness, "you are discourteous to revile me as you do. What would you have of me? The knights that you have threatened me with are all dead or my vassals. When you see me beaten, then you may bid me go in shame and I will obey, but till then I will not leave you. I were worse than a fool to be driven off by insulting words when I am daily winning honor."

"You shall soon meet a knight who will test your boasted strength. So far you have fought with boys. Now you have a man who would try Arthur's self."

"Let him come," said Beaumains. "The better a man he is, the more honor shall I gain from a joust with him."




Beaumains rode forward with the damsel till it was close upon the hour of noon, when he saw that they were approaching a rich and fair city, well walled, and with many noble buildings.

Between them and the city extended a new-mown meadow, a mile and a half in width, on which were placed many handsome pavilions.

"These pavilions belong to the lord who owns that city," said the damsel. "It is his custom, during fair weather, to joust and tourney in this meadow. He has around him five hundred knights and gentlemen of arms, and they have knightly games of all sorts."

"I shall be glad to see that worthy lord," said Beaumains.

"That you shall, and very soon."

She rode on till she came in sight of the lord's pavilion.

"Look yonder," she said. "That rich pavilion, of the color of India, is his. All about him, men and women, and horse-trappings, shields, and spears, are of the same rare color. His name is Sir Persant of India, and you will find him the lordliest knight you ever saw."

"Be he never so stout a knight," answered Beaumains, "I shall abide in this field till I see him behind his shield."

"That is a fool's talk," she replied. "If you were a wise man, you would fly."

"Why should I?" rejoined Beaumains. "If he be as noble a knight as you say, he will meet me alone; not with all his men. And if there come but one at a time I shall not fail to face them while life lasts."

"That is a proud boast for a greasy kitchen lout," she answered.

"Let him come and do his worst," said Beaumains. "I would rather fight him five times over than endure your insults. You are greatly to blame to treat me so vilely."

"Sir," she replied, with a sudden change of tone, "I marvel greatly who you are, and of what kindred you come. This I will admit, that you have performed as boldly as you have promised. But you and your horse have had great labor, and I fear we have been too long on the road. The place we seek is but seven miles away, and we have passed all points of peril except this. I dread, therefore, that you may receive some hurt from this strong knight that will unfit you for the task before you. For Persant, strong as he is, is no match for the knight who besieges my lady, and I would have you save your strength for the work you have undertaken."

"Be that as it may," said Beaumains, "I have come so near the knight that I cannot withdraw without shame. I hope, with God's aid, to become his master within two hours, and then we can reach your lady's castle before the day ends."

"Much I marvel," cried the damsel, "what manner of man you are. You must be of noble blood, for no woman ever before treated a knight so shamefully as I have you, and you have ever borne it courteously and meekly. Such patience could never come but from gentle blood."

"A knight who cannot bear a woman's words had better doff his armor," answered Beaumains. "Do not think that I heeded not your words. But the anger they gave me was the worse for my adversaries, and you only aided to make me prove myself a man of worth and honor. If I had meat in Arthur's kitchen, what odds? I could have had enough of it in many a place. I did it but to prove who were worthy to be my friends, and that I will in time make known. Whether I be a gentleman born or not, I have done you a gentleman's service, and may do better before we part."

"That you have, fair Beaumains," she said. "I ask your forgiveness for all I have said or done."

"I forgive you with all my heart," he replied. "It pleases me so to be with you that I have found joy even in your evil words. And now that you are pleased to speak courteously to me, it seems to me that I am stout at heart enough to meet any knight living."

As to the battle that followed between Beaumains and Persant, it began and ended much like those that we have related, Persant in the end being overcome, and gaining his life at the lady's request. He yielded himself and a hundred knights to be at Beaumains's command, and invited the travellers to his pavilion, where they were feasted nobly.

In the morning Beaumains and the damsel after breakfasting, prepared to continue their journey.

"Whither do you lead this knight?" asked Persant of the damsel.

"Sir knight," she replied, "he is going to the aid of my sister, who is besieged in the Castle Dangerous."

"Ah!" cried Persant, "then he will have to do with the Knight of the Red Lawns, a man without mercy, and with the strength of seven men. I fear you take too perilous a task, fair sir. This villain has done great wrong to the lady of the castle, Dame Lioness. I think, fair damsel, you are her sister, Linet?"

"That is my name," replied the damsel.

"This I may say," rejoined Persant: "the Knight of the Red Lawns would have had the castle long ago, but it is his purpose to draw to the rescue Lancelot, Gawaine, Tristram, or Lamorak, whom he is eager to match his might against."

"My Lord Persant of India," said Linet, "will you not make this gentleman a knight before he meets this dread warrior?"

"With all my heart," answered Persant.

"I thank you for your good will," said Beaumains, "but I have been already knighted, and that by the hand of Sir Lancelot."

"You could have had the honor from no more renowned knight," answered Persant. "He, Tristram, and Lamorak now bear the meed of highest renown, and if you fairly match the red knight you may claim to make a fourth in the world's best champions."

"I shall ever do my best," answered Beaumains. "This I may tell you: I am of noble birth. If you and the damsel will keep my secret I will tell it you."

"We shall not breathe it except with your permission," they replied.

"Then I will acknowledge that my name is Gareth of Orkney, that King Lot was my father, and that I am a nephew of King Arthur, and brother to Gawaine, Gaheris, and Agravaine. Yet none of these know who I am, for they left my father's castle while I was but a child."

While they were thus taking leave, Beaumains's dwarf had ridden ahead to the besieged castle, where he saw the Lady Lioness, and told her of the champion her sister was bringing, and what deeds he had done.

"I am glad enough of these tidings," said the lady. "There is a hermitage of mine near by, where I would have you go, and take thither two silver flagons of wine, of two gallons each; also bread, baked venison, and fowls. I give you also a rich cup of gold for the knight's use. Then go to my sister, and bid her present my thanks to the knight, and pray him to eat and drink, that he may be strong for the great task he undertakes. Tell him I thank him for his courtesy and goodness, and that he whom he is to meet has none of these qualities, but strong and bold as he is, cares for nothing but murder."

This message the dwarf brought back, and led the knight and damsel to the hermitage, where they rested and feasted on the rich food provided. They spent the night there, and in the morning heard mass and broke their fast. Then they mounted and rode towards the besieged castle.

Their journey soon brought them to a plain, where they saw many tents and pavilions, and a castle in the distance. And there was a great noise and much smoke, as from a large encampment. As they came nearer the castle Beaumains saw before him a number of great trees, and from these hung by the neck armed knights, with their shields and swords, and gilt spurs on their heels. Of these there were in all nearly forty.

"What means this sorrowful sight?" asked Beaumains, with a look of deep concern.

"Do not be depressed by what you see," said Linet. "You must keep in spirit, or it will be the worse for you and us all. These knights came here to the rescue of my sister, and the red knight, when he had overcome them, put them to this shameful death, without mercy or pity. He will serve you in the same way if he should vanquish you."

"Jesu defend me from such a shameful death and disgrace!" cried Beaumains. "If I must die, I hope to be slain in open battle."

"It would be better, indeed. But trust not to his courtesy, for thus he treats all."

"It is a marvel that so vile a murderer has been left to live so long. I shall do my best to end his career of crime."

Then they rode to the castle, and found it surrounded with high and strong walls, with double ditches, and lofty towers within. Near the walls were lodged many lords of the besieging army, and there was great sound of minstrelsy and merry-making. On the opposite side of the castle was the sea, and here vessels rode the waves and the cries of mariners were heard.

Near where they stood was a lofty sycamore-tree, and on its trunk hung a mighty horn made from an elephant's tusk. This the Knight of the Red Lawns had hung there, in order that any errant knight, who wished to battle for the castle, might summons him to the fray.

"But let me warn you," said Linet, "not to blow it till noon. For it is now nearly day, and men say that his strength increases till the noontide hour. To blow it now would double your peril."

"Do not advise me thus, fair damsel," said Beaumains. "I shall meet him at his highest might, and win worshipfully or die knightly in the field. It must be man to man and might to might."

Therewith he spurred his horse to the sycamore, and, taking the horn in hand, blew with it such a blast that castle and camp rang with the sound.

At the mighty blast knights leaped from their tents and pavilions, and those in the castle looked from walls and windows, to see what manner of man was this that blew so lustily. But the Red Knight of the Red Lawns armed in all haste, for he had already been told by the dwarf of the approach of this champion. He was all blood-red in hue, armor, shield, and spurs. An earl buckled on his helm, and they then brought him a red steed and a red spear, and he rode into a little vale near the castle, so that all within and without the castle might behold the battle.

"Look you be light and glad," said Linet to the knight, "for yonder is your deadly enemy, and at yonder window is my sister, Dame Lioness."

"Where?" asked Beaumains.

"Yonder," she said, pointing.

"I see her," said Beaumains. "And from here she seems the fairest lady I ever looked upon. I ask no better quarrel than to fight for her, and wish no better fate than to greet her as my lady," and his face grew glad as he looked up to the window.

As he did so the Lady Lioness made a grateful courtesy to him, bending to the earth and holding up her hands. This courtesy was returned by Beaumains; but now the Knight of the Red Lawns rode forward.

"Leave your looking, sir knight," he said. "Or look this way, for I warn you that she is my lady, and I have done many battles for her."

"You waste your time, then, it seems to me, for she wants none of your love. And to waste love on those who want it not is but folly. If I thought she would not thank me for it, I would think twice before doing battle for her. But she plainly wants not you, and I will tell you this: I love her, and will rescue her or die."

"Say you so? The knights who hang yonder might give you warning."

"You shame yourself and knighthood by such an evil custom," said Beaumains, hotly. "How can any lady love such a man as you? That shameful sight gives me more courage than fear, for I am nerved now to revenge those knights as well as to rescue yonder lady."

"Make ready," cried the red knight; "we have talked enough."

Then Beaumains bade the damsel retire to a safe distance. Taking their places, they put their spears in rest, and came together like two thunderbolts, each smiting the other so fiercely that the breast-plates, horse-girths, and cruppers burst, and both fell to the earth with the bridle-reins still in their hands, and they lay awhile stunned by the fall.

So long they lay indeed that all who looked on thought that both their necks were broken, and said that the stranger knight must be of mighty prowess, for never had the red knight been so roughly handled before.

But ere long the knights regained their breath and sprang to their feet. Then, drawing their swords, they ran like fierce lions together, giving each other such buffets on the helms that both reeled backwards, while pieces were hewed out from their armor and shields and fell into the field.

Thus they fought on till it was past noon, when both stopped for breath, and stood panting and bleeding till many who beheld them wept for pity. When they had rested awhile they again went to battle, now gnashing at each other with their swords like tusked boars, and now running together like furious rams, so that at times both fell to the ground; and at times they were grappled so closely that they changed swords in the wrestle.

This went on till evening was near at hand, and so evenly they continued matched that none could know which would win. Their armor was so hewn away that the naked flesh showed in places, and these places they did their utmost to defend. The red knight was a wily fighter, and Beaumains suffered sorely before he learned his methods and met him in his own way.

At length, by mutual assent, they granted each other a short time for rest, and seated themselves upon two hillocks, where each had his page to unlace his helm and give him a breath of the cold air.

While Beaumains's helm was off he looked at the castle window, and there saw the Lady Lioness, who looked at him in such wise that his heart grew light with joy, and he bade the red knight to make ready, for the battle must begin again.

Then they laced their helms and stepped together and fought freshly. But Beaumains came near to disaster, for the red knight, by a skilful sword sweep, struck his sword from his hand, and then gave him such a buffet on the helm as hurled him to the earth.

The red knight ran forward to his fallen foe, but Linet cried loudly,--

"Oh, Beaumains, where is thy valor gone? Alas, my sister sobs and weeps to see you overthrown, till my own heart is heavy for her grief."

Hearing this, Beaumains sprang to his feet before his foe could reach him, and with a leap recovered his sword, which he gripped with a strong hand. And thus he faced again his surprised antagonist.

Then the young knight, nerved by love and desperation, poured such fierce blows on his enemy that he smote the sword from his hand and brought him to the earth with a fiery blow on the helm.

Before the red knight could rise, Beaumains threw himself upon him, and tore his helm from his head with intent to slay him. But the fallen knight cried loudly,--

"O noble knight, I yield me to thy mercy."

"Why should you have it, after the shameful death you have given to so many knights?"

"I did all this through love," answered the red knight. "I loved a lady whose brother was slain by Lancelot or Gawaine, as she said. She made me swear on my knighthood to fight till I met one of them, and put to a shameful death all I overcame. And I vowed to fight King Arthur's knights above all, till I should meet him that had slain her brother."

Then there came up many earls, and barons, and noble knights, who fell upon their knees and prayed for mercy to the vanquished, saying,--

"Sir, it were fairer to take homage and fealty of him, and let him hold his lands of you, than to slay him. Nothing wrong that he has done will be undone by his death, and we will all become your men, and do you homage and fealty."

"Fair lords," said Beaumains, "I am loath to slay this knight, though his deeds have been ill and shameful. But as he acted through a lady's request I blame him the less, and will release him on these conditions: He must go into the castle and yield to the Lady Lioness, and make amends to her for his trespass on her lands; then if she forgives him I will. Afterwards he must go to the court of King Arthur and obtain forgiveness from Lancelot and Gawaine for the ill will he has borne them."

"All this I will do," said the red knight, "and give you pledges and sureties therefore."

Then Beaumains granted him his life, and permitted him to rise. Afterwards the damsel Linet disarmed Beaumains and applied healing unguents to his wounds, and performed the same service for the red knight. For ten days thereafter Beaumains dwelt with the red knight, who showed him all the honor possible, and who afterwards went into the castle and submitted himself to the Lady Lioness, according to the terms of his compact.




After the ten days of feasting and pleasure that followed the events we have just related, the Red Knight of the Red Lawns set out with his noblest followers to Arthur's court, to make submission as he had covenanted. When he had gone, Beaumains armed himself, took his horse and spear, and rode to the castle of the Lady Lioness. But when he came to the gate he found there many armed men, who pulled up the drawbridge and let fall the portcullis.

Marvelling deeply that he was denied admittance, Beaumains looked up at the window, where he saw the lady of the castle, who called out to him,--

"Go thy way, Sir Beaumains. You shall not yet have my love till you have earned for yourself a name of world-wide honor. I bid you, therefore, go strive for fame and glory this twelvemonth, and when you return you shall hear new tidings."

"Alas, fair lady," said Beaumains, "is this all I have deserved of you? I thought I had bought your love at the price of some of the best blood in my body."

"Fair, courteous knight, be not so hasty," answered Lioness. "Your labor and your love shall not be lost. A twelvemonth will soon pass away; and trust me that I shall be true to you, and to my death shall love no other than you."

With this she turned from the window, and Beaumains rode slowly away from the castle in deep sorrow, and heeding not whither he went till deep night came upon him. The next day he rode in the same heedless fashion, and at night couched in a wayside lodge, bidding the dwarf guard his horse and watch all night.

But near day dawn came a knight in black armor, who, seeing that Beaumains slept soundly, crept slyly behind the dwarf, caught him up under his arm, and rode away with him at full speed. But as he rode, the dwarf called loudly to his master for help, waking the sleeping knight, who sprang to his feet and saw the robber and the dwarf vanishing into the distance.

Then Beaumains armed himself in a fury, and rode straight forward through marshes and dales, so hot upon the chase that he heeded not the road, and was more than once flung by his stumbling horse into the mire. At length he met a country-man, whom he asked for information.

"Sir knight," he answered, "I have seen the rider with the dwarf. But I advise you to follow him no farther. His name is Sir Gringamore; he dwells but two miles from here, and he is one of the most valiant knights of the country round."

With little dread from this warning, Beaumains rode on, with double fury as he came near the robber's castle. Soon he thundered through the gates, which stood wide open, and sword in hand cried, in a voice that rang through the castle,--

"Thou traitor, Sir Gringamore, yield me my dwarf again, or by the faith that I owe to the order of knighthood I will make you repent bitterly your false deed."

Meanwhile, within the castle matters of interest were occurring. For Gringamore was brother to the Lady Lioness, and had stolen the dwarf at her request, that she might learn from him who Beaumains really was. The dwarf, under threat of imprisonment for life, thus answered,--

"I fear to tell his name and kindred. Yet if I must I will say that he is a king's son, that his mother is sister to King Arthur, and that his name is Sir Gareth of Orkney. Now, I pray you, let me go to him again, for he will have me in spite of you, and if he be angry, he will work you much rack and ruin."

"As for that," said Gringamore, "it can wait. Let us go to dinner."

"He may well be a king's son," said Linet to her sister, "for he is the most courteous and long-suffering man I ever met. I tried him with such reviling as never lady uttered before, but he bore it all with meek and gentle answers. Yet to armed knights he was like a lion."

As they thus talked, the challenge of Beaumains rang loud from the castle court. Then Gringamore called loudly to him from a window,--

"Cease your boasting, Gareth of Orkney, you will not get your dwarf again."

"Thou coward knight," cried Beaumains. "Bring him here, and do battle with me. Then if you can win him, keep him."

"So I will when I am ready. But you will not get him by loud words."

"Do not anger him, brother," said Lioness. "I have all I want from the dwarf, and he may have him again. But do not let him know who I am. Let him think me a strange lady."

"Very well," said Gringamore; "if that is your wish, he can have the dwarf." Then he went down to the court and said,--

"Sir, I beg your pardon, and am ready to amend all the harm I have done you. Pray alight, and take such cheer as my poor castle affords."

"Shall I have my dwarf?" said Gareth.

"Yes. Since he told me who you are, and of your noble deeds, I am ready to return him."

Then Gareth dismounted, and the dwarf came and took his horse.

"Oh, my little fellow," said Gareth, "I have had many adventures for your sake."

Gringamore then led him into the hall and presented him to his wife. And while they stood there conversing Dame Lioness came forth dressed like a princess, and was presented to the knight.

When Gareth saw her his feeling for the Lady Lioness weakened in his heart, and it grew ready to vanish as the day passed, and he conversed much with this strange and lovely lady. There were all manner of games, and sports of dancing and singing, and the more he beheld her the more he loved her, while through his heart ran ever the thought: "Would that the lady of the Castle Dangerous were half so lovely and charming as this beautiful stranger."

When supper came, Gareth could not eat, and hardly knew where he was, so hot had his love grown. All this was noted by Gringamore, who after supper took his sister aside and said,--

"I can well see how matters stand between you and this noble knight. And it seems to me you cannot do better than to bestow your hand upon him."

"I should like to try him further," she replied, "though he has done me noble service, and my heart is warmly turned to him."

Gringamore then went to Gareth and said,--

"Sir, I welcome you gladly to my house, for I can see that you dearly love my sister, and that she loves you as well. With my will she is yours if you wish her."

"If she will accept me," answered Gareth, "there will be no happier man on earth."

"Trust me for that," said Gringamore.

"I fancied I loved the Lady Lioness," said Gareth, "and promised for her sake to return to this country in a twelvemonth. But since I have seen your sister I fear my love for her is gone."

"It was too sudden to be deep," said Gringamore. "She will be consoled, doubt not. Now let me take you to my sister."

Then he led Gareth to his sister and left them together, where they told each other their love, and Gareth kissed her many times, and their hearts were filled with joy.

"But how is it with the Lady Lioness, to whom you vowed your love?" she asked.

"Promised; not vowed," he answered. "And she was not ready to accept it, but gave me a twelvemonth's probation. Moreover, I saw but her face at a window, and that was little to base love upon."

"Did she look like me?"

"Somewhat, but not half so lovely."

"Do you think you could have loved her so well?"

"No, indeed; for I will vow by sword and spear that there is no woman in the world so charming as you."

"I fear that the Lady Lioness loves you, and that her heart will be broken."

"How could she? She saw so little of me."

"I know she loves you; she has told me so. I bid you to forget me and make her happy."

"That I can never do. You do not love me, or you could not say this."

"You are my heart's desire. But I feel deeply for the Lady Lioness, whose love I know. If you cannot love her alone, you may love us both together. I grant you this privilege."

"I will not accept it," said Gareth, looking strangely at her smiling countenance. "I love but you; my heart can hold no more."

"You blind fellow," she answered, with a merry laugh, "you looked not at the Lady Lioness closely, or you would not so easily forget your troth plight. Know, sirrah, that I am the lady of the Castle Dangerous, that my name is Lioness, and that I am she whom you have so lightly thrown aside for the love of a strange lady."

Then Gareth looked into her glowing countenance, and saw there that she spoke the truth and that he had been pleasantly beguiled. With a warm impulse of love he caught her in his arms and kissed her rosy lips, exclaiming,--

"I withdraw it all. I love you both; the lady of the Castle Dangerous a little; but the lady of the Castle Amorous as my heart's mistress, to dwell there while life remains."

Then they conversed long and joyfully, and she told him why she had made her brother steal the dwarf, and why she had deceived him, so as to win his love for herself alone. And they plighted their troth, and vowed that their love for each other should never cease.

Other strange things happened to Gareth in that castle, through the spells of the damsel Linet, who knew something of sorcery. But these we shall not tell, but return to King Arthur's court, in which at the next feast of Pentecost a high festival was held at Carlion.

Hither, during the feast, came all those whom Gareth had overcome, and yielded themselves, saying that they had been sent thither by a knight named Beaumains. But most of all was Arthur surprised by the deeds of his kitchen boy when the Red Knight of the Red Lawns rode up with six hundred followers, and yielded himself as vassal to Beaumains and to the king. Arthur then, charging him strictly that he should do no more deeds of murder, gave to Sir Ironside, which was the knight's name, the greatest honors of his court, and also to the green and the red knights, and to Sir Persant of Inde, who were all present with their followers.

But while the court was at feast there came in the queen of Orkney, with a great following of knights and ladies, seeking her young son Gareth. She was lovingly saluted by her sons Gawaine, Gaheris, and Agravaine, who for fifteen years had not seen her, but she loudly demanded Gareth of her brother King Arthur.

"He was here among you a twelvemonth, and you made a kitchen knave of him, which I hold to be a shame to you all. What have you done to the dear son who was my joy and bliss?"

These words filled all hearts with a strange sensation, and most of all that of Gawaine, who thought it marvellous that he should have made so much of his brother and not known him. Then Arthur told his sister of all that had happened, and cheered her heart with a recital of her son's great deeds, and promised to have the whole realm searched till he should be found.

"You shall not need," said Lancelot. "My advice is that you send a messenger to Dame Lioness, and request her to come in all haste to court. Let her give you counsel where to find him. I doubt not she knows where he is."

This counsel seemed judicious to the king, and he sent the messenger as requested, who came in due time to the Castle Dangerous, and delivered his letters to Lioness.

She brought these to her brother and Gareth, and asked what she should do.

"My lady and love," said Gareth, "if you go to Arthur's court I beg that you will not let them know where I am. But give this advice to the king, that he call a great tournament, to be held at your castle at the feast of the Assumption, and announce that whatever knight proves himself best shall wed you and win your lands. Be sure that I will be there to do my best in your service."

This advice pleased the lady, whose warm faith in the prowess of her lover told her that he would win in the tournament. She therefore set out with a noble escort and rode to King Arthur's court, where she was received with the highest honors. The king closely questioned her about Sir Gareth, desiring particularly to know what had become of him. She answered that where he was she was not at liberty to tell, and said further to the king,--

"Sir, there is a way to find him. It is my purpose to call a tournament, which shall be held before my castle at the feast of the Assumption. You, my lord Arthur, must be there with your knights, and my knights shall be against you. I doubt me not that then you shall hear of Sir Gareth."

"That is well advised," said the king.

"It shall be announced," she continued, "that the knight who proves the best shall wed me and be lord of my lands. If he be already wedded, his wife shall have a coronal of gold, set with precious stones to the value of a thousand pounds, and a white jerfalcon."

"It is well," said the king. "That will bring Sir Gareth, if he be alive and able to come. If he would win you, he must do his duty nobly."

Soon after the Lady Lioness departed and returned to her castle, where she told all that had passed, and began preparations for the tournament, which was to be held two months from that day.

Gareth sent for Sir Persant of Inde, and for Sir Ironside, the Red Knight of the Red Lawns, bidding them be ready with all their followers, to fight on his side against King Arthur and his knights. And the cry for the tournament was made in England, Wales and Scotland, Ireland, and Cornwall, and in all the out islands, and in Brittany and other countries. Many good knights came from afar, eager to win honor in the lists, the most of whom held with the party of the castle against King Arthur and his knights.

In due time King Arthur and his following appeared at the Castle Dangerous, there being with him Gawaine and the other brothers of Gareth, Lancelot with his nephews and cousins, and all the most valiant Knights of the Round Table, with various kings who owed him knightly service, as noble a band of warriors as had ever been seen in the land.

Meanwhile Dame Lioness had hospitably entertained the knights of her party, providing ample lodging and food, though abundance was left to be had for gold and silver by King Arthur and his knights.

But Gareth begged her and all who knew him in no manner to make known his name, but to deal with him as if he were the least of their company, as he wished to fight in secret and bide his own time to declare himself.

"Sir," said Dame Lioness to him, "if such be your desire, I will lend you a ring, whose virtue is such that it will turn that which is green to red, and that which is red to green; and also turn blue to white, and white to blue, and so with all colors. And he who wears it will lose no blood, however desperately he fights. For the great love I bear you I lend you this ring; but as you love me heartily in return, let me have it again when the tournament is done, for this ring increases my beauty more than it is of itself."

"My own dear lady," cried Gareth, "now indeed you prove your love for me. Gladly shall I wear that ring, for I much desire not to be known."

Then Sir Gringamore gave Gareth a powerful bay courser, and a suit of the best of armor; and with them a noble sword which his father had long before won from a heathen tyrant. And so the lover made ready for the tournament, of which his lady-love was to be the prize.

Two days before the Assumption of our Lady, King Arthur reached the castle, and for those two days rich feasting was held, while royal minstrelsy and merry-making of all kinds filled every soul with joy. But when came the morning of the Assumption all was restless bustle and warlike confusion. At an early hour the heralds were commanded to blow to the field, and soon from every side a throng of knights was to be seen riding gayly to the lists, while a goodly host of spectators made haste to take their seats, all eager to behold that noble passage-at-arms.

Valorous and worthy were the deeds that followed, for hosts of the best knights in the world had gathered in the lists, and there was wondrous breaking of spears and unhorsing of knights, while many who boasted of their firm seat in the saddle went headlong to the earth.

At length there rode into the lists Sir Gareth and Sir Ironside from the castle, each of whom smote to the ground the first knights that encountered them, and before long time had passed Gareth had with one spear unhorsed seven knights of renown.

When King Agwisance of Ireland saw this new-comer fare so nobly, he marvelled much who he might be, for at one time he seemed green and at another blue, his color appearing to change at every course as he rode to and fro, so that no eye could readily follow him.

"I must try this strange turn-color knight myself," said Sir Agwisance, and he spurred his horse vigorously on Gareth.

But with a mighty stroke of his spear Gareth thrust him from his horse, saddle and all. Then King Carados of Scotland rode against him, and was hurled to the earth, horse and man. King Uriens of Gore, King Bagdemagus, and others who tried their fortune, were served in the same manner. Then Sir Galahalt, the high prince, cried loudly,--

"Knight of the many colors, well hast thou jousted; now make ready, that I may joust with thee."

Gareth heard him, and got a great spear, and quickly the two knights encountered, the prince breaking his spear. But Gareth smote him on the left side of the helm so that he reeled in his saddle, and would have fallen had not his men supported him.

"Truly," said King Arthur, "that knight with the many colors is a lusty fighter. Lancelot, do you try his mettle, before he beats all our best men."

"Sir," said Lancelot, "I should hold it unjust to meet him fresh after his hard labors. It is not the part of a good knight to rob one of the honor for which he has worked so nobly. It may be that he is best beloved of the lady of all that are here, for I can see that he enforces himself to do great deeds. Therefore, for me, he shall have what honor he has won; though it lay in my power to put him from it, I would not."

And now, in the lists, the breaking of spears was followed by drawing of swords; and then there began a sore tournament. There did Sir Lamorak marvellous deeds of arms, and betwixt him and Sir Ironside there was a strong battle, and one also between Palamides and Bleoberis. Then came in Lancelot, who rode against Sir Turquine and his brother Carados, fighting them both together.

Seeing Lancelot thus hard pressed, Gareth pushed his horse between him and his opponents, and hurtled them asunder, but no stroke would he smite Sir Lancelot, but rode briskly on, striking to right and left, so that his path was marked by the knights he overturned.

Afterward Gareth rode out of the press of knights to adjust his helm, which had become loosened. Here his dwarf came briskly up with drink, and said to him,--

"Let me hold your ring, that you lose it not while you drink."

Gareth gave it to him, and quaffed deeply of the refreshing draught, for he was burning with thirst. This done, his eagerness to return to the fray was so great that he forgot the ring, which he left in the keeping of the dwarf, while he replaced his helm, mounted his horse, and rode briskly back to the lists.

When he reached the field again he was in yellow armor, and there he rashed off helms and pulled down knights till King Arthur marvelled more than ever what knight this was, for though his color changed no more, the king saw by his hair that he was the same knight.

"Go and ride about that yellow knight," said the king to several heralds, "and see if you can learn who he is. I have asked many knights of his party to-day, and none of them know him."

So a herald rode as near Gareth as he could, and there he saw written about his helm in letters of gold, "This helm is Sir Gareth's of Orkney."

Then the herald cried out as if he were mad, and many others echoed his words, "The knight in the yellow arms is Sir Gareth of Orkney, King Lot's son!"

When Gareth saw that he was discovered he doubled his strokes in his anger, and smote down Sir Sagramore, and his brother Gawaine.

"Oh, brother!" cried Gawaine, "I did not deem that you would strike me. Can you not find food enough for your sword, without coming so near home?"

On hearing this, Gareth was troubled in soul, and with great force made his way out of the press, meeting his dwarf outside.

"Faithless boy!" he cried; "you have beguiled me foully to-day by keeping my ring. Give it to me again; I am too well known without it."

He took the ring, and at once he changed color again, so that all lost sight of him but Gawaine, who had kept his eyes fixed upon him. Leaving the lists, Gareth now rode into the forest, followed at a distance by his brother, who soon lost sight of him in the woodland depths.

When Gareth saw that he had thus distanced his pursuer, he turned to the dwarf and asked his counsel as to what should now be done.

"Sir," said the dwarf, "it seems best to me, now that you are free from danger of spying, that you send my lady, Dame Lioness, her ring. It is too precious a thing to keep from her."

"That is well advised," said Gareth. "Take it to her, and say that I recommend myself to her good grace, and will come when I may; and pray her to be true and faithful to me, as I will be to her."

"It shall be done as you command," said the dwarf, and, receiving the ring, he rode on his errand.

The Lady Lioness received him graciously, and listened with beaming eyes to Gareth's message.

"Where is my knight?" she asked.

"He bade me say that he would not be long from you," answered the dwarf.

Then, bearing a tender reply from the lady, the dwarf sought his master again, and found him impatiently waiting, for he was weary and needed repose.

As they rode forward through the forest a storm of thunder and lightning came up suddenly, and it rained as if heaven and earth were coming together. On through this conflict of the elements rode the weary knight and the disconsolate dwarf, under the drenching leaves of the forest, until night was near at hand. And still it thundered and lightened as if all the spirits of the air had gone mad.

At last, through an opening in the trees, Gareth to his delight beheld the towers of a castle, and heard the watchman's call upon its walls.

"Good luck follows bad, my worthy dwarf," he cried. "Here is shelter; let us to it."

He rode to the barbican of the castle and called to the porter, praying him in courteous language to let him in from the storm.

"Go thy way," cried the porter, surlily; "thou gettest no lodging here."

"Say not so, fair sir. I am a knight of King Arthur's, and pray the lord or lady of this castle to give me harbor for love of the king."

Then the porter went to the duchess, and told her that a knight of King Arthur's sought shelter.

"I will see him," said the duchess; "for King Arthur's sake he shall not go harborless."

Then she went up into a tower over the gate, with great torch-light, that she might behold the storm-stayed wayfarer. When Gareth saw the light, he cried loudly,--

"Whether thou be lord or lady, giant or champion, I pray for harbor this night. If it be that I must fight for my lodging, spare me that till morning, when I have rested, for I and my horse are both weary."

"Sir knight," said the lady, "you speak like a bold knight errant. This you must know, that the lord of this castle loves not King Arthur nor any of his court. Therefore, it were better for you not to enter here. If you come in it must be under this contract, that wherever you meet my lord, by road, by lane, or by street, you shall yield to him as his prisoner."

"Madam," asked Gareth, "what is your lord's name?"

"He is the Duke de la Rowse," she answered.

"Well, madam, it shall be as you say. I promise that wherever I meet your lord I shall yield me to his good grace, with the covenant that he will do me no harm. If I understand that he will, then shall I release myself as best I can with sword and spear."

"You speak well and wisely," answered the duchess, and she ordered that the drawbridge be lowered.

Gareth rode into the court-yard, where he alighted and gave his horse to a stableman. Then he was led to the hall, where his dwarf removed his armor.

"Madam," he said, "I shall not leave this hall to-night. When it comes daylight if any one wants to fight me he will find me ready."

Supper was now prepared, the table being garnished with many goodly dishes, and the duchess and other fair ladies sat by while Gareth ate, some of them saying that they never saw a man of nobler carriage or aspect. Shortly after he had supped, his bed was made in the hall, and there he rested all night.

In the morning he heard mass and took his leave of the duchess and her lady attendants, thanking her warmly for his lodging and the good cheer she had set before him. She now asked him his name.

"Madam," he replied, "my name is Gareth of Orkney, though some men call me Beaumains."

Hearing this, she bade him adieu with great courtesy, for she now knew that she had entertained the knight who had rescued Dame Lioness, and the victor at the tournament.

As for Gareth, he rode onward mile after mile, till he found himself on a mountain side, where he was confronted by a knight named Sir Bendelaine, who demanded that he should joust or yield himself prisoner. Gareth, angry at this demand, rode against the freebooter and smote him so furiously that his spear pierced his body, so that he died on reaching his castle.

Quickly a throng of his knights and servants, furious at their lord's death, rode after the victor and assailed him fiercely. When they saw how well he defended himself, they attacked his horse and killed it with spear-thrusts, and then rushed in a body on the dismounted knight. But they found him still more than their match, for one after another of them fell beneath his sword till only four were left. These fled in terror to the castle, and Gareth, taking the best of their horses, rode leisurely on his way.

Many miles farther had he gone when he found himself near a roadside castle, from whose walls there came to his ears dismal lamentations in ladies' voices. While he stood wondering at this there came by a page.

"What noise is that within the castle?" asked Gareth.

"Sir knight," answered the page, "within this castle there are thirty ladies, all widows, for their husbands have been slain by the lord of the castle, who is called the brown knight without pity, and there is no more perilous knight now living. Therefore," continued the page, "I bid you flee."

"You may be afraid of him," said Gareth; "but I shall not flee for that."

Then the page saw the brown knight coming.

"Lo! yonder he cometh," he said.

"Let me deal with him," said Gareth.

When the brown knight saw a champion in the road, with spear in rest, awaiting him, he prepared quickly for the combat, and spurring his strong war-horse, rode furiously upon Gareth, breaking his spear in the middle of his shield. But Gareth struck him a fatal blow in return, for his spear went through his body, so that he fell to the ground stark dead.

Then the victor rode into the castle, and prayed the ladies that he might find repose there for the night.

"Alas!" they cried, "that cannot be."

"Give him your best cheer," said the page, "for this knight has killed your enemy."

Hearing this, they joyfully did their utmost to make him comfortable. In the morning, when he was ready to depart, he went to mass, and there saw the thirty ladies kneeling, and some of them grovelling upon the tombs, with the greatest sorrow and lamentation.

"Fair ladies, you have my pity," he said. "Grieve no more, I pray you; your enemy is justly punished for his crimes."

So with few words he departed, and rode onward till fortune brought him into another mountain. Not far up its slope had he gone when he saw before him a sturdy knight, who bade him stand and joust.

"Who are you?" asked Gareth.

"I am the Duke de la Rowse."

"Then I lodged lately in your castle, and promised your lady that I should yield unto you."

"Ah!" said the duke, "are you that proud knight who proffered to fight with any of my followers? Make ready, sirrah; I must have a passage-at-arms with you, for I would know which of us is the better man."

So they spurred together, and Gareth smote the duke from his horse. But in a moment he was on his feet, sword in hand, and bidding his antagonist to alight and continue the battle on foot. Nothing loath, Gareth obeyed, and for more than an hour they fought, until both were sorely hurt. But in the end Gareth got the duke to the earth, and bade him yield if he would save his life. At this the duke lost no time in yielding.

"Then must you go," said Gareth, "unto my lord King Arthur at the next feast, and say that I, Sir Gareth of Orkney, sent you."

"It shall be done," said the duke. "And I am at your command all the days of my life, with a hundred knights in my train."

This said, the duke departed, leaving Gareth there alone. But not long had he stood when he saw another armed knight approaching. Then Gareth took the duke's shield, and mounted, waiting the new-comer, who rode upon him without a word of greeting. And now, for the first time, Gareth met his match, for the stranger knight held his seat unharmed, and wounded him in the side with his spear.

Then they alighted and drew their swords, and for two hours they fought, till the blood flowed freely from them both.

As they thus fought there came that way the damsel Linet, riding on an ambling mule. When she saw them, she cried,--

"Sir Gawaine, Sir Gawaine, leave off fighting with thy brother Gareth."

When Gawaine, for it was indeed he, heard this, he threw down his shield and sword and ran to Gareth, whom he took in his arms, and then kneeled down and asked his mercy.

"Who are you," asked Gareth, "that one minute fight me so strongly and yield the next?"

"Oh, Gareth, I am your brother Gawaine."

Then Gareth unlaced his helm, and kneeled to him and asked his mercy. Both now rose and embraced each other, weeping so that it was long before they could speak. When their voices returned they entered into a brotherly contest, for each insisted that the other had won the battle. As they thus stood in loving converse, the damsel Linet came up to them, and stanched their wounds, from which the blood was flowing freely.

"What will you do now?" she asked. "It seems to me that my lord Arthur should have news of you, for your horses are too bruised to carry you."

"It is well said," answered Gawaine. "Will you, fair damsel, bear word to him?"

Then she took her mule and rode to where the king abode, he then being at a castle scarcely two miles distant. The tidings she brought him cheered his heart wonderfully, for much had the disappearance of Gareth troubled him. Turning to his attendants, he ordered that a palfrey should be saddled in all haste.

When he was in the saddle he turned to the wondering lords and ladies and told them whither he went, bidding all who wished to greet Sir Gareth to follow. Then was there hasty saddling and bridling of queens' horses and princes' horses, and happiest were they who soonest got ready.

But the king rode on till he came where Gawaine and Gareth sat upon a little hill-side, and here he sprang from his horse and embraced Gareth as though he were his own son. Quickly behind him came his sister Morgause, who fell into a swoon when she saw her dear young son. And the other knights and ladies came up in all haste, and great was the joy that all felt. After congratulations had passed, and the two brothers been removed to a place where their wounds could be attended to, the Dame Lioness was sent for, and came at the utmost speed, with her brother Sir Gringamore and forty knights.

Among all the ladies there she was the fairest and peerless. And when Gareth saw her, so loving were the looks and joyous the words between them, that all who beheld it were filled with delight.

Eight days passed before Gareth and his brother recovered from their wounds. Then Arthur came to him, with Guenever, and Morgause, and others of high degree, and asked him if he would have the Lady Lioness for his wife.

"My lord, I love her above all ladies living."

"Now, fair lady, what say you?" asked the king.

"Most noble king," replied Lioness, with blushing face, "my lord Gareth is more to me than any king or prince that was ever christened. If I may not have him, none will I ever have. My first love is he, and my last he shall be."

"And if I have you not as my wife," broke in Gareth, "never shall lady living give joy to my heart."

"What, nephew," said the king, "is the wind in that door? Then not for my crown would I sever two such loving hearts, but would much prefer to increase than to distress your love."

And words to the same effect said Gareth's mother.

Then provision was made for a brilliant and joyous wedding, the king advising that it should take place on the Michaelmas following, at Kinkenadon by the seaside, where is a plentiful country. And so it was cried in all places through the realm.

Dame Lioness and the damsel Linet, with Sir Gringamore, now rode to their castle, where she gave Gareth a jewelled ring and received one from him, while Arthur gave her a rich bee of gold. Then Arthur and his following rode towards Kinkenadon. Gareth soon followed, and joined Arthur on his way.

Oh, the great cheer that Lancelot now made of Gareth, and Gareth of him; for there was never knight that Gareth loved as he did Lancelot. But he cared less for his brother Gawaine, who was revengeful, and disposed to murder where he hated, a feeling which the young knight abhorred.

When Michaelmas came near, Dame Lioness with her brother and sister rode to Kinkenadon, where they were lodged at the expense of King Arthur, who had prepared for them royally.

And upon Michaelmas day the bishop of Canterbury performed the wedding ceremony between Gareth and the Lady Lioness with all solemnity, and in the presence of a noble and splendid gathering of the greatest lords and highest ladies of England's realm.

And here other weddings took place, for King Arthur devised that Gaheris should wed the damsel Linet, and that Agravaine should wed Dame Laurel, a fair lady, niece to the Lady Lioness.

When these weddings were done another solemnity took place; for there came into the church the various knights whom Gareth had overcome, each with his knightly followers, and with them the thirty ladies whom he had delivered from the brown knight, attended by many gentlewomen. All the knights did homage and fealty to Gareth, and the ladies kneeled and prayed heartily that happiness might be his lot throughout his life.

Afterwards there was high feasting, and all manner of games and revels, with the richest minstrelsy, and jousts that lasted three days. But the king would not suffer Sir Gareth to joust because of his new bride; for the Dame Lioness had desired that none who were newly married should joust at that feast.

On the first day Sir Lamorak won the honor of the lists, for he overthrew thirty knights and did marvellous feats of arms. And that day King Arthur made Sir Persant of Inde and his two brothers, Knights of the Round Table, and gave them great lands.

On the second day Sir Tristram jousted best, and overthrew forty knights. And on that day the king made Sir Ironside, the Red Knight of the Red Lawns, a Knight of the Round Table, and gave him great lands.

On the third day the prize of valor fell to Sir Lancelot, who overthrew fifty knights and did such marvellous deeds that all men wondered at him. And now King Arthur made the Duke de la Rowse a Knight of the Round Table, and gave him great lands to spend.

Thus ended the festivities at the marriage of Sir Gareth of Orkney and the Lady Lioness. But Gareth and his lovely bride lived long and happily together afterwards, and much knightly renown he won, and great honor from all men.

[The end]
Charles Morris's short story: The Adventures Of Beaumains