how there hung a white shield on that tree, and ever as the damosels came by it they spit upon it, and some threw mire upon the shield.
How Sir Gawaine and Sir Uwaine met with twelve fair damosels, and how they complained on Sir Marhaus.
THEN Sir Gawaine and Sir Uwaine went and saluted them, and asked why they did that despite to the shield. Sir, said the damosels, we shall tell you. There is a knight in this country that owneth this white shield, and he is a passing good man of his hands, but he hateth all ladies and gentlewomen, and therefore we do all this despite to the shield. I shall say you, said Sir Gawaine, it beseemeth evil a good knight to despise all ladies and gentlewomen, and peradventure though he hate you he hath some certain cause, and peradventure he loveth in some other places ladies and gentlewomen, and to be loved again, an he be such a man of prowess as ye speak of. Now, what is his name? Sir, said they, his name is Marhaus, the king's son of Ireland. I know him well, said Sir Uwaine, he is a passing good knight as any is alive, for I saw him once proved at a jousts where many knights were gathered, and <128>that time there might no man withstand him. Ah! said Sir Gawaine, damosels, methinketh ye are to blame, for it is to suppose, he that hung that shield there, he will not be long therefrom, and then may those knights match him on horseback, and that is more your worship than thus; for I will abide no longer to see a knight's shield dishonoured. And therewith Sir Uwaine and Gawaine departed a little from them, and then were they ware where Sir Marhaus came riding on a great horse straight toward them. And when the twelve damosels saw Sir Marhaus they fled into the turret as they were wild, so that some of them fell by the way. Then the one of the knights of the tower dressed his shield, and said on high, Sir Marhaus, defend thee. And so they ran together that the knight brake his spear on Marhaus, and Marhaus smote him so hard that he brake his neck and the horse's back. That saw the other knight of the turret, and dressed him toward Marhaus, and they met so eagerly together that the knight of the turret was soon smitten down, horse and man, stark dead.