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King Arthur Stories. Part 7 The adventures of Sir Gareth.
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Now as they rode through the forest, they met with a knight sore beset
by six thieves, and him Sir Gareth rescued. The knight then bade
Gareth and the damsel rest at his castle, and entertained them right
gladly until the morn, when the two rode forth again. Presently, they
drew near to a deep river where two knights kept the ford. "How now,
kitchen knave? Will ye fight or escape while ye may?" cried the
damsel. "I would fight though there were six instead of two," replied
Sir Gareth. Therewith he encountered the one knight in midstream and
struck him such a blow on the head that he fell, stunned, into the
water and was drowned. Then, gaining the land, Gareth cleft in two
helmet and head of the other knight, and turned to the damsel, saying,
"Lead on; I follow."
But the damsel mocked him, saying: "What a mischance is this that a
kitchen boy should slay two noble knights! Be not overproud,
Turn-spit. It was but luck, if indeed ye did not attack one knight
from behind." "Say what you will, I follow," said Sir Gareth.
So they rode on again, the damsel in front and Sir Gareth behind, till
they reached a wide meadow where stood many fair pavilions; and one,
the largest, was all of blue, and the men who stood about it were
clothed in blue, and bore shields and spears of that color; and of
blue, too, were the trappings of the horses.
Then said the damsel,
"Yonder is the Blue Knight, the goodliest that ever ye have looked
upon, and five hundred knights own him lord." "I will encounter him,"
said Sir Gareth; "for if he be good knight and true as ye say, he will
scarce set on me with all his following; and man to man, I fear him
not." "Fie!" said the damsel, "for a dirty knave, ye brag loud. And
even if ye overcome him, his might is as nothing to that of the Red
Knight who besieges my lady sister. So get ye gone while ye may."
"Damsel," said Sir Gareth, "ye are but ungentle so to rebuke me; for,
knight or knave, I have done you good service, nor will I leave this
guest while life is mine." Then the damsel ashamed, and, looking
curiously at Gareth, she said, "I would gladly know what manner of man
ye are. For I heard you call yourself kitchen knave before Arthur's
self, but ye have ever answered patiently though I have chidden you
shamefully; and courtesy comes only of gentle blood." Thereat Sir
Gareth but laughed, and said: "He is no knight whom a maiden can anger
by harsh words."
So talking, they entered the field, and there came to Sir Gareth a
messenger from the Blue Knight to ask him if he came in peace or in
war. "As your lord pleases," said Sir Gareth. So when the messenger
had brought back this word, the Blue Knight mounted his horse, took
his spear in his hand, and rode upon Sir Gareth. At their first
encounter their lances shivered to pieces, and such was the shock that
their horses fell dead. So they rushed on each other with swords and
shield, cutting and slashing till the armor was hacked from their
bodies; but at last, Sir Gareth smote the Blue Knight to the
earth. Then the Blue Knight yielded, and at the damsel's entreaty, Sir
Gareth spared his life.
So they were reconciled, and, at the request of the Blue Knight, Sir
Gareth and the damsel abode that night in his tents. As they sat at
table, the Blue Knight said: "Fair damsel, are ye not called Linet?"
"Yes," answered she, "and I am taking this noble knight to the relief
of my sister, the Lady Liones." "God speed you, sir," said the Blue
Knight, "for he is a stout knight whom ye must meet. Long ago might he
have taken the lady, but that he hoped that Sir Launcelot or some
other of Arthur's most famous knights, coming to her rescue, might
fall beneath his lance. If ye overthrow him, then are ye the peer of
Sir Launcelot and Sir Tristram." "Sir knight," answered Gareth, "I can
but strive to bear me worthily as one whom the great Sir Launcelot
So in the morning they bade farewell to the Blue Knight, who vowed to
carry to King Arthur word of all that Gareth had achieved; and they
rode on till, in the evening, they came to a little ruined hermitage
where there awaited them a dwarf, sent by the Lady Liones, with all
manner of meats and other store. In the morning, the dwarf set out
again to bear word to his lady that her rescuer was come. As he drew
near the castle, the Red Knight stopped him, demanding whence he came.
"Sir," said the dwarf, "I have been with my lady's sister, who brings
with her a knight to the rescue of my lady." "It is lost labor," said
the Red Knight; "even though she brought Launcelot or Tristram, I hold
myself a match for them." "He is none of these," said the dwarf, "but
he has overthrown the knights who kept the ford, and the Blue Knight
yielded to him." "Let him come," said the Red Knight; "I shall soon
make an end of him, and a shameful death shall he have at my hands, as
many a better knight has had." So saying, he let the dwarf go.