Stories of King Arthur and His Knights/Chapter 16
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Chapter XVI. How Sir Gareth Returned to the Court of King Arthur
|Chapter XVII. How Young Tristram Saved the Life of the Queen of Lyonesse→|
Now leave we Sir Gareth there with Sir Gringamore and his sisters, Liones and Linet, and turn we unto King Arthur that held the next feast of Pentecost at Carlion. And there came the Green Knight with his fifty knights, and they yielded themselves all unto King Arthur. And so there came the Red Knight, his brother, and yielded himself and three-score knights with him. Also there came the Blue Knight, brother to them, and his hundred knights, and yielded themselves. These three brethren told King Arthur how they were overcome by a knight that a damsel had with her, and called him Fair-hands. Also they told how the fourth brother, the Black Knight, was slain in an encounter with Sir Fair-hands, and of the adventure with the two brethren that kept the passage of the water; and ever more King Arthur marvelled who the knight might be that was in his kitchen a twelvemonth and that Sir Kay in scorn named Fair-hands.
Right as the King stood so talking with these three brethren there came Sir Launcelot of the Lake and told him that there was come a goodly lord with six hundred knights. The King went out, and there came to him and saluted him in a goodly manner the Red Knight of the Red Lawns, and he said, "I am sent to you by a knight that is called Fair-hands, for he won me in plain battle, hand for hand. No knight has ever had the better of me before. I and my knights yield ourselves to your will, as he commanded, to do you such service as may be in our power."
King Arthur received him courteously, as he had before received the three brethren, and he promised to do them honour for the love of Sir Fair-hands. Then the King and they went to meat, and were served in the best manner.
And as they sat at the table, there came in the Queen of Orkney, with ladies and knights a great number. And her sons, Sir Gawaine, Sir Agravaine, and Gaheris arose and went to her, and saluted her upon their knees and asked her blessing, for in fifteen years they had not seen her.
Then she spake on high to her brother, King Arthur, "Where have ye done my young son, Sir Gareth? He was here amongst you a twelvemonth, and ye made a kitchen-knave of him, which is shame to you all."
"Oh dear mother," said Sir Gawaine, "I knew him not."
"Nor I," said the King; "but thanked be God, he is proved an honourable knight as any of his years now living, and I shall never be glad till I may find him. Sister, me seemeth ye might have done me to know of his coming, and then, had I not done well to him, ye might have blamed me. For when he came to this court, he came leaning upon two men's shoulders, as though he might not walk. And then he asked of me three gifts, — one the same day, that was that I would give him meat for that twelvemonth. The other two gifts he asked that day a twelvemonth, and those were that he might have the adventure of the damsel Linet, and that Sir Launcelot should make him knight when he desired him. I granted him all his desire, and many in this court marvelled that he desired his sustenance for a twelvemonth, and thereby deemed many of us that he was not come of a noble house."
"Sir," said the Queen of Orkney unto King Arthur, her brother, "I sent him unto you right well armed and horsed, and gold and silver plenty to spend."
"It may be," said the King, "but thereof saw we none, save that same day as he departed from us, knights told me that there came a dwarf hither suddenly, and brought him armour and a good horse, full well and richly beseen, and thereat we had all marvel from whence that riches came. Then we deemed all that he was come of men of honour."
"Brother," said the queen, "all that ye say I believe, for ever since he was grown he was marvellously witted, and ever he was faithful and true to his promise. But I marvel that Sir Kay did mock him and scorn him, and give him the name Fair-hands. Yet Sir Kay named him more justly than he knew, for I dare say, if he be alive, he is as fair-handed a man and as well disposed as any living."
"Sister," said Arthur, "by the grace of God he shall be found if he be within these seven realms. Meanwhile let us be merry, for he is proved to be a man of honour, and that is my joy."
So then goodly letters were made and a messenger sent forth to the Lady Liones, praying her to give best counsel where Sir Gareth might be found. She answered that she could not then tell where he was; but she let proclaim a great tournament at her castle, and was sure that Sir Gareth would be heard of there. So King Arthur and all his knights of valour and prowess came together at the Lady Liones' castle by the Isle of Avilion, and great deeds of arms were done there, but most of all Sir Gareth gained honour, though no one knew that it was he until a herald rode near him and saw his name written about his helm.
Wit ye well the King made great joy when he found Sir Gareth again, and ever he wept as he had been a child. With that came his mother, the Queen of Orkney, and when she saw Sir Gareth really face to face she suddenly fell down in a swoon. Then Sir Gareth comforted his mother in such a wise that she recovered, and made good cheer. And the Lady Liones came, among all the ladies there named the fairest and peerless. And there the King asked his nephew Sir Gareth whether he would have that lady to his wife.
"My lord," said he, "wit ye well that I love her above all ladies."
"Now, fair lady," said King Arthur, "what say ye?"
"Most noble King," said Dame Liones, "wit ye well that my Lord Gareth is to me more dear to have and to hold as my husband than any king or prince that is christened, and if ye will suffer him to have his will and free choice, I dare say he will have me."
"That is truth," said Sir Gareth, "and if I have not you and hold not you as my wife I wed no lady."
"What, nephew," said the King, "is the wind in that door! Wit ye well I would not for the stint of my crown be causer to withdraw your hearts. Ye shall have my love and my lordship in the uttermost wise that may lie in my power."
Then was there made a provision for the day of marriage, and by the King's advice it should be at Michaelmas following at Kink-Kenadon by the seaside. And when the day came the Bishop of Canterbury made the wedding betwixt Sir Gareth and the Lady Liones with great solemnity. And at the same time Gaheris was wedded to Linet.
When this solemnisation was done there came in the Green Knight, the Red Knight, and all the others that had yielded themselves to Sir Gareth, and did homage and fealty to hold their lands of him for ever, and desired to serve him at the feast. And the kings and queens, princes, earls, and barons, and many bold knights went unto meat, and well may ye wit that there was all manner of meat plenteously, all manner of revels, and games, with all manner of minstrelsy that was used in those days. So they held the court forty days with great solemnity.
And this Sir Gareth was a noble knight, and a well ruled, and fair languaged.