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"Damsel," said Gareth, as we must now call him, '* say to me what ye like. I have undertaken to King Arthur to achieve your adventure, and I shall finish it or die in attempting it."
"Fie on thee, kitchen knave!" cried Lynette, for that was the lady's name, "thou shalt meet one whom, for all the broth thou hast supped, thou darest not look in the face!"
"I shall try," said Gareth quietly.
Just then a man came rushing up to them. "Help! help!" cried he; "my master has been set on by six ruffians, overcome and bound, and I fear for his life."
"Show me the way," said Gareth. The man led him to where his master lay bound, and three of the robbers made off when they saw him coming. Gareth laid about him so fiercely that he soon had the three others disabled, but was only slightly wounded himself, owing to his great skill in arms; then he went back to the prostrate man, unbound him, and helped him to regain his horse. The knight was most grateful, and thanked Gareth heartily, and begged him to go with him to his castle and rest and refresh himself. He even wished to reward him, but this Gareth refused. "Sir," said he, "I will no reward have. I was this day made knight of the noble Sir Launcelot, and this is reward enough. I must follow the lady."
When he turned to Lynette, who had thought it prudent to retire a little while the fight was going on, she abused him worse than ever. But he took .no notice of her raging, other than to assure her that his purpose was fixed to go on with her and rescue the unknown distressed lady.
Then the knight, seeing there was a wandering lady also, begged them both very earnestly to come to Ms castle and rest. So they rode on together, and for once Lynette forebore to wrangle.
They went into the castle, where the knight ordered supper to be spread, and invited the two young people to sit down. But when Gareth was given a place next to Lynette, she rose at once in anger, and declared that she would not sit down with a kitchen knave, as it was an insult to her dignity.
Gareth's face flushed, but, true to his resolve, he offered no objection. The host settled the question by putting Gareth at a side table, and seated himself by him, leaving Lynette by herself, which was by no means what she wished.
Next morning, after breakfast, they thanked the good knight for his hospitality, and set off once more. They rode on and on till they came to a gloomy forest, through which Lynette led the way, and then they reached the banks of a river. There was only one place where they could cross it in safety. By the ford were two knights, who stood on the alert to prevent them crossing. Again the lady tried her sharp tongue on her patient knight.
"Best go back," said she, "for you won't dare risk your bones!"
"Not I," said he; "not if there were six of them," and with that he rushed up to the ford.
Then there was another fight, long and hard, but in the end Gareth overcame his two assailants, and he and Lynette passed over the river in safety. Small credit did he get at his lady's hands, however. "Alas!" said
she, "that ever a kitchen page should have the fortune to overcome two such doughty knights."
Gareth took no notice, and only suggested that they should push on; and seeing she could make no impression on him, she consented. After riding nearly all day, they came to a strange place. There was a black hawthorn, and on it hung a black banner; on the other side there hung a black shield, and by it a long black spear, and there was a great black horse fastened to it, and hard by there was a black stone. On the stone sat a knight all in black armor, and his name was the Knight of the Black Lands.
When Lynette saw this, she advised Gareth to fly down the valley, for his horse was not saddled.
"Nay, would you have me a coward?" said Gareth, smiling.
Then the Black Knight made ready to fight, and after a short but sharp passage was overcome and killed.
After this they rode on again, and presently they met a knight dressed all in green, with a green shield and a green spear. He, like the first, was anxious to fight, and Gareth was nothing loth; so they set to with great fierceness. Hard and quick came the blows, and for a time the result seemed uncertain, when a fortunate stroke brought the Green Knight to the ground, and Gareth stood over him, ready to kill him.
But Lynette, who had begun to respect her champion in spite of herself, called out loudly to him that he was to spare him.
"Nay," said Gareth, "not unless you ask me for your sake to show mercy."