Gilbert's King Arthur's Knights
V. THE DEEDS OF SIR GERAINT
King Arthur was spending Whitsuntide at Caerleon-upon-Usk, and one day he hunted the
stag in the forests that lay thereby. As he had given permission for his queen to go and
see the hunting, she set out with one handmaiden, and rode in the misty dawning down to
the river, and across the ford.
They climbed up the other bank, following the track of the men and horses which had formed
the king's hunting party, until they stood on the edge of the dark forest, where the young
leaves were fresh and sweetly green. The sun burst forth, and sucked up the mists along
the meadow flats beside the river below them, and the water flashed and the birds sang.
"Here will we stay," said the queen, who felt happy with the sunlight upon her,
and the smell of the forest blowing out from the trees, "and though we shall not see
the killing, we shall hear the horns when they sound, and we shall hear the dogs when they
are let loose and begin to cry so eagerly."
Suddenly they heard a rushing sound and the thud of hooves behind them, and, turning,
they saw a young man upon a hunter foal of mighty size. The rider was a fair-haired
handsome youth, of princely mien, yet withal kindly of look and smile. A riding-robe and
surcoat of satin were upon him, low-cut shoes of soft leather were on his feet, and in his
girdle was a golden-hilted sword. A fillet of gold bound his curly hair, and a collar of
gold, with a blue enamel swastika pendant, hung about his neck.
He checked his horse as he neared the queen, and it came towards her with step stately,
swift and proud, and the rider bowed full low to Gwenevere.
"Heaven prosper thee, Sir Geraint," she said. " And its welcome be unto
"Heaven accord you long life and happiness, 0 queen," replied Geraint.
"Why didst thou not go with my lord to hunt?" asked the queen.
"Because I knew not when he went," said Geraint.
But men told me in hall that you had gone out alone, and I came to crave permission to
accompany and guard you."
"Gramercy," said the queen. "Thy protection is very agreeable to me."
As they stood talking, they heard the clatter of steel armour, and looking between the
trees, they beheld a proud knight upon a war-horse of great size, wearing a heavy
chain-mail jesseraunt, with coif and vizored helm, and his horse was also clothed in
harness of chain mail.
Following him was a lady upon a beautiful white horse, which went with stately and proud
steps along the forest way. The lady was clothed in a great robe of gold brocade, and her
headcloth, of fine cambric, was turned so that her face was hidden. Behind them rode a
little dark man, hairy and fierce of face, dressed as a page; and he sat on a great horse,
strong and spirited, yet the dwarf held it well in hand. Hung to his saddle-bow was the
knight's shield, but the device was hidden by a cloth, and two lances were fixed to the
girdle of the dwarf. In his right fist the page carried a whip, long and heavy and
"Sir Geraint," said Gwenevere, "knowest thou the name of that tall
"I know him not, lady," said Geraint, "and his helm conceals his face, and
his shield is also hidden. But I will go and ask the page, that you may learn his
And Sir Geraint rode up to the dwarfish page. "Who is yonder knight?" said Sir
"I will not tell thee," replied the dwarf, and scowled.
"Then I will ask him himself," said Sir Geraint.
"That thou wilt not, by my head," said the dwarf angrily, "for thou art not
of honour enough to speak to my lord."
Geraint turned his horse's head to go towards the knight, whereupon the dwarf spurred
forward and over-took him, and lashed towards him with the long and knotted whip. The lash
struck the mouth of Sir Geraint, and blood flowed, and dropped upon the silken scarf that
Instantly Sir Geraint turned, with sword half drawn, and the dwarf cowed and pulled back.
But Sir Geraint thought it would be no vengeance to carve the dwarf's head from his
shoulders, and to be attacked unarmed by the mail-clad knight.
He thrust his sword back with a clang into its scabbard, and rode towards the queen.
"Thou hast acted wisely and nobly, Sir Geraint," said the queen, "and I
sorrow for the insult the craven knave hath placed upon thee."
"Lady, I fear he was but copying his master," said Geraint, whose eyes flashed
with anger. "But if your ladyship will permit me, I will follow this knight, and at
last he will come to some town where I may get arms either as a loan or from a friend, and
then will I avenge the insult which this stranger knight hath given to you, my queen and
"Go," said Gwenevere; "but I beg of thee, do not encounter with the knight
until thou hast good arms, for he is a man almost as big as Sir Lancelot du Lake. And I
shall be anxious concerning thee until thou dost return, or send tidings."
"If I be alive," said Sir Geraint, "you shall hear tidings of me by
to-morrow at evensong."
Thus he departed. All that day Sir-Gerairit followed the knight and the lady and the page,
keeping them in sight, though at a distance. Through the forest they went first, and
thereafter the road ran along a ridge of high ground, with the great downs and combes
falling and heaving below their feet, the sun flashing back from lakes and streams, the
bees humming at the flowers in the grass, and the larks rising with thrilling song in the
warm sweet air of the spring.
Sir Geraint loved it all, but he kept his eyes ever on the knight, who flashed as he moved
far before him. At length he saw the towers of a high castle, and beneath it the red roofs
of a little town nestling at the foot of the grey walls. They rode into the town, and as
the hauighty knight passed through it the people in the booths and cabins and those beside
the way saluted him. He did not acknowledge any of their greetings, but looked before him
proudly, as he had done when he rode through the solitary paths of the wilderness.
Sir Geraint looked about him as he rode behind, to see if there was any armourer or
knightly person whom he knew, but there was none. When he saw the knight and the lady and
the dwarf enter the castle, and was sure that they would sojourn there, he rode about the
little town, and found it full of knights and squires, with armourers and others cleaning
arms, sharpening swords, and repairing harness. But no one did he know of whom to beg a
suit of armour and a lance.
Then he took his way to a little stream beneath the wall of the town, and on the other
side he saw a manor-house, old and ruinous, standing amidst the weeds. And thinking he
might get lodging there for that night, he forded the river and went towards the manor. He
saw that the hall-door yawned open, and that a marble bridge led up to it, over a wide
ditch full of stagnant water and thick with green weeds and rushes.
On the bridge sat an old and reverend man in clothes that once had been rich, but now were
thin and tattered. And Geraint thought it was not possible that so poor a place could help
him in what he desired. He looked steadfastly at the old man.
"Young sir," said the latter, "why art thou so thoughtful?"
"I was thinking, fair sir," said Geraint, "whether thou couldst give me
lodging here for this night."
"Of a surety," said the old man, rising. "It is poor we are, but such as
can be given shall be of our best."
He led Sir Geraint into the hall, which was bleak and desolate, and the hearthstone in the
centre was thick with last year's leaves, as if it had been long since fire had flickered
upon it. On the wall there hung rusty weapons and helms, and through the cracks there
crept the ivy from the outer wall. The horse was tethered in the hall by the old man.
Then he led Sir Geraint to a door upon the dais, and ushered him into the bower, and there
he saw an old decrepit woman, sweet of look though thin and peaked. She rose from the
cushion on which she sat, greeting him kindly, and he saw that the satin garments upon her
were also old and tattered. Yet Sir Geraint thought she must have been a lovely woman in
her happy youth. Beside her was a maiden, upon whom was a vest and robe poor and thin, and
the veil of her headcloth was old though clean. Yet truly, thought Geraint, he had never
seen a lovelier maiden, nor one with more sweetness and grace in her smile or gentleness
in her voice.
And the heart of him stirred with pity to see her so pale and wan, as if she fared but
"Welcome, fair sir," said the old dame. "This is my daughter Enid, who will
gladly prepare food for you."
When food had been prepared they sat down, and Geraint was placed between the white-haired
man and his wife, and the maiden served them.
Afterwards, as they drank weak mead from cups of earthenware, they spoke together; and
Geraint asked whose was the manor in which they sat.
"Mine," said the old man, "for I built it. And the castle up there and the
town were also mine."
"Alas!" said Geraint, "how is it you and yours have lost them?"
"For my sins and my greed," said the old man sadly, "and bitterly have I
repented me of my wrong. I am Earl Inewl, but I have lost the lands that made my earl-dom.
For I have a nephew, whom his father, on his deathbed, gave into my keeping, with all his
lands. And I added his possessions to my own, and when the boy was a man he demanded them
of me, and I would not give them up. So he made war upon me, and took everything from me
except this ruined hall and one poor farm.
"Since you are sorry for the greed that hath ruined you," replied Geraint,
"I will do what I may to regain your possessions, if God gives me life. But first I
would ask, why went that knight and the lady and the dwarf just now into the town, and why
is there so much furbishing of arms there?"
The preparations are for the jousting that is to be held to-morrow's morn in the level
meadow beside the ford," responded the old earl. "And the prize is to be a
falcon of pure gold. The knight thou sawest has won the falcon two years running, and if
he wins it this time he will have it for his own, and will win the title of the Knight of
the Golden Falcon. And to gain it from him all those knights in the town will essay. And
with each will go the lady that he loveth best and if a man takes not his lady with him he
may not enter the lists."
"Sir," said Sir Geraint, "I would willingly have to do with that knight,
for he hath, by the hands of his dwarf page, most evilly insulted the queen of my dear
lord, King Arthur; but I have no armour."
"As for that," said the old man, "I have arms here that will fit thee; but
if thou hast no maiden with thee, thou canst not do battle."
"If, sir," replied Sir Geraint, "you and this maiden, your daughter, will
permit me to challenge for her, I will engage, if I escape alive from the tournament, to
be the maiden's knight while I shall live."
"What say you, daughter?" said the old earl.
"Indeed, sir," replied the maiden, gently flushing, "I am in your hands.
And if this fair knight will have it so, he may challenge for me."
This said Enid to hide her true thoughts; for indeed she felt that she had never before
seen as noble a youth as Geraint, or one for whom her thoughts were so kind.
"Then so shall it be," said Earl Inewl.
On the morrow, ere it was dawn, they arose and arrayed themselves; and at break of day
they were in the meadow. Before the seat of the young earl, who was Inewl's nephew, there
was set up a post, and on it was the figure of a gyr-falcon, of pure gold, and
marvellously wrought, with wings outspread and talons astretch, as if it were about to
strike its prey.
Then the knight whom Geraint had followed entered the field with his lady, and when he had
made proclamation, he bade her go and fetch the falcon from its place, "for,"
said he, "thou art the fairest of women, and, if any deny it, by force will I defend
the fame of thy beauty and thy gentleness and nobleness."
"Touch not the falcon!" cried Geraint, "for here is a maiden who is fairer,
and more noble, and more gentle, and who has a better claim to it than any."
The stranger knight looked keenly at Geraint, and in a haughty voice cried:
"I know not who thou art; but if thou art worthy to bear arms against me, come
Geraint mounted his horse, and when he rode to the end of the meadow laughter rippled and
rang from the people watching him. For he bore an old and rusty suit of armour that was of
an ancient pattern, and the joints of which gaped here and there. And none knew who he
was, for his shield was bare.
But when, thundering together, the two knights had each broken several lances upon the
shield of the other, the people eyed Sir Geraint with some regard. When it seemed that the
proud knight was the better jouster, the earl and his people shouted, and lnewl and Enid
had sad looks.
"Pity it is," said Enid, "that our young knight hath but that old gaping
armour. For when they clash together, I feel the cruel point of the proud knight's spear
as if it were in my heart."
"Fear not, my dear," said the old dame, her mother.
"I feel that him you have learned to love so soon is worthy a good maiden's love, and
I think that his good knighthood will overcome the other's pride."
Then the old knight went to Geraint.
"0 young chief!" he said, "since all other lances break in thy strong young
hand, take you this. It was the lance I had on the day when I received knighthood. It was
made by the wizard smith who lives in the Hill of Ithel, and it hath never failed
Then Sir Geraint took the lance and thanked the old earl, and looked back to where stood
Enid. And his heart leaped to see how proud and calm she stood, though her lips trembled
as she smiled at him.
With that the strength seemed to course like a mountain stream through all his body, and
from the utter-most end of the meadow he pricked his horse and rushed towards the proud
knight. His blow was so mighty, and the good lance so strong, that the shield of the proud
knight was cleft in twain, and he was thrust far beyond his horse and fell crashing to the
Then Geraint leaped from his horse and drew his sword, and the other rising to his feet,
they dashed together with the fury of wild bulls; and so battled long and sore until the
sweat and blood obscured their sight. Once, when the proud knight had struck Sir Geraint a
mighty blow, the young knight saw as he fought how the maid Enid stood with clasped hands
and a pale face of terror, as if she feared for his life.
With the sight of the maiden's dread and the memory of the insult done by the proud knight
to Queen Gwenevere, Sir Geraint waxed both fiercer and stronger; and gathering all his
might in one blow, he beat with his sword upon the crown of the knight's helm, and so
fierce was it that the headpiece broke and the sword-blade cut to the bone.
Straightway the knight fell down upon his knees and craved mercy.
"Why should I give mercy to one so full of pride and arrogance?" said Geraint.
"Thou, through thy servant, hast shamefully insulted the queen of my lord, King
"Fair knight," cried the other, "I confess it, and I give up my overbearing
henceforth, and I crave for mercy. And if ye give me my life, I will be your man and do
"I will give thee mercy on one condition," said Geraint, "which is that
thou and thy lady and thy dwarf page go instantly and yield yourselves into the hands of
the queen, and claim atonement for your insult. And what-soever my lady the queen
determines, that shall ye suffer. Tell me who art thou?"
"I am Sir Edern of the Needlands," replied the other.
"And who art thou, sir knight?" he asked, "for never have I met so valiant
and good a knight of his hands as thou art."
"I am Geraint of Cornwall," said the young knight.
"It giveth comfort to me to know that I am overcome by so noble a knight," said
the other. Then he got upon his horse, all wounded as he was, and with his lady and the
page beside him took his way sadly to Arthur's court.
Then the young earl rose and came to Sir Geraint, and asked him to stay with him at his
castle, for he loved all knights of great prowess and would have them to talk to him.
"Nay, I will not," said Geraint coldly; "I will go where I was last
"Have your will, sir knight," replied the young earl courteously. "But I
will ask Earl Inewl to permit me to furnish his manor as it should be furnished for your
honour and ease."
Sir Geraint went back to the manor, conversing with Earl Inewl and his wife, and with the
When they reached the house, they found it full of the servants of the earl, who were
sweeping the hall and laying straw therein, with tables and benches as were suitable, and
soon a great fire leaped and crackled on the stone in the centre. Then when Sir Geraint's
wound had been washed and salved and bound, and he had placed upon himself his walking
attire, the chamberlain of the young earl came to him and asked him to go into the hall to
eat. Sir Geraint asked where was Earl Inewl and his wife and daughter.
"They are in the bower putting on robes which my lord the earl hath sent, more
befitting their station and your honour," said the earl's chamberlain.
Sir Geraint liked it not that the maiden should be dressed in robes given by the man who
had stripped her father of all his wealth, and he said coldly:
"I would that the damsel do not array herself, except in the vest and veil she hath
worn till now. And those she should wear," he said, "until she come to the court
of Arthur, where the queen shall clothe her in garments fitting for her."
It was so done, and the maiden sat in her poor robes while the other knights and ladies in
the young earl's company glittered and shone in satin and jewels. But she cared not for
this, because Sir Geraint had bidden her.
When meat was done and mead was served, they all began to talk, and the young earl invited
Sir Geraint to visit him next day.
"It may not be," said Sir Geraint; "I will go to the court of my lord
Arthur with this maiden, for I will not rest while Earl Inewl and his dame and daughter go
in poverty and rags and trouble. And it is for this I will see my lord, so that something
may be done to give them maintenance befitting their station
Then, because the young earl admired Sir Geraint for his knightly strength, his nobility
of manner, and his prowess, there was sorrow in his heart for the old Earl Inewl.
"Ah, Sir Geraint," he said, "I am sorry if your heart is sore because of my
kinsman's poor condition; and if you will give me your friendship, I will abide by your
counsel and do what you think I should do of right."
"I thank thee, fair sir," said Geraint, "and I will ask ye to restore unto
the Earl Inewl all the possessions that were rightly his, and what he should have received
up to this day."
"That I will gladly do for your sake," said the young earl.
Thus it was agreed; and such of the men in the hall who held lands which rightly belonged
to Earl Inewl came and knelt before him and did homage to him. And next morning the lands
and homesteads and all other his possessions were returned to Earl Inewl, to the last
Thereafter Sir Geraint prepared to return to the court of King Arthur, and the Earl Inewl
came to him with the maiden Enid, whose gentle face went pale and red by turns. Putting
her hand in the hand of Sir Geraint, the old man said:
"Fair sir, your pursuit of that knight, Sir Edern, and your revenge for his insult, I
shall bless until the last day of my life. For you have done more goodness and justice
than I can ever repay you. But if this my daughter, for whom ye fought yesterday, is
pleasing unto you, then take her for your wife, with the blessing of myself and my
Sir Geraint clasped the hand of the young maiden, and said:
"My lord, I thank thee, and if my lord King Arthur shall give this maiden unto me for
wife, then will I love her and cherish her all the days of my life, if she in her heart
would choose me for her husband."
"My lord," said the maiden, raising her frank eyes and flushing face to him,
"I have never known a knight to whom I gave so great goodwill as I find in my heart
for thee. And if thy lord Arthur shall give me unto thee, I will plight thee my love and
loving service till I die."
Thereupon they proceeded on their way to the court of King
Arthur, and what had seemed a long journey to Geraint when he had followed Sir
seemed too short, for he and the maid Enid passed it in much pleasant converse.
Towards evening they arrived at Caerleon-upon-Usk, and Queen Gwenevere received Sir
Geraint with great welcome, calling him "her glorious knight and champion," and
telling him that Sir Edern had yielded himself into her hands to do such atonement as
seemed fitting, when he should have recovered from his wounds.
At the beauty of the maid Enid all the court marvelled; and the queen hastened to clothe
her in robes of satin, rich and rare, with gold upon her hair and about her throat. And
when she was so dressed, all were glad that one of so sweet a dignity and rare a beauty
had come among them.
King Arthur gave her to Sir Geraint with many rich gifts, and Enid and Geraint were
married in the abbey church, and the court gave itself up to feasting and sport, and
acclaimed her one of the three most lovely ladies in all the isle of Britain.
When a year had passed in great happiness, ambassadors came from King Erbin of
with a request to King Arthur that he should let Sir Geraint go home to his father.
"For," said the messengers, "King Erbin waxes old and feeble, and the more
he ageth the more insolent and daring are the barons and lords on his marches, trying to
wrest parts of his lands to add to their own. Therefore," said they, "the king
begs you to let his son Sir Geraint return home, so that, knowing the fame of the strength
of his arm and his prowess, the turbulent lords would desist, and if they would not, Sir
Geraint would hurl them from his boundaries."
King Arthur, though very reluctant to let so great an ornament of his court depart, let
him go, and Geraint and Enid went with a great party of the best knights of the Round
Table, and rode to the Severn Shore, and there took ship to the shores of Cornwall.
When they reached there, all the people came from their villages welcoming Sir Geraint and
his lovely bride, for the fame of his prowess, and the way in which he had won his wife,
had spread over all the land. And King Erbin welcomed his son and was glad of his coming,
and the next day all the chief subjects, the lords and barons holding land or offices, and
the chief tenants of common degree, came into the hall, and, kneeling before Sir Geraint,
did honour to him and swore fealty.
Then, with a great company of his chief warriors, Sir Geraint visited all the bounds of
his territory. Experienced guides went with him, and old men learned in the marks of the
boundaries, and priests, and they renewed the mere-marks that were broken down, and
replaced those which had been wrongfully moved.
Thereafter men lived peacefully in the land, and on all the borders, for under the shadow
of the strong young chief no border lords dared to invade the land, and no fierce baron
Then, as had been his wont at the court of Arthur, Sir Geraint went to all tournaments
that were held within easy reach of his kingdom. Thus he became acquainted with every
mighty knight of his hands throughout the lands of Cornwall, Wales, and Logres; and so
great in strength and prowess did he become that men hailed him as one of the Three Great
Heroes of the Isle of Britain; the other two being Sir Lancelot du Lake and Sir Tristram
of Lyones. And though there were other great and valiant warriors, as Sir
Lamorake, Sir Bors, Sir Gawaine and his brother Sir Gareth, and Sir Palomides, yet all these had been
overcome by one or other of the three heroes. For as yet Sir Perceval was in the forest
with his widowed mother, and knew no arms but a stone or a stick; and Sir Galahad was not
yet born. And these two were knights stainless of pride or any evil desire, and by that
force alone did strike down every arm, however mighty, that relied on knightly prowess
When his fame had spread over all the kingdoms south of Trent, so that no knight that knew
him or saw the device of the golden falcon on his shield would have to do with him, Sir
Geraint began to seek ease and pleasure, for there was no one who would joust with him. He
began to stay at home and never went beyond his wife's bower-chamber, but sat and
delighted in playing chess, or hearing the bards of the court sing songs of glamour and
wizardry, or tell him tales of ancient warriors and lovers, long since dead.
The whole court marvelled at his slothfulness as time passed and he changed not. He gave
up the friendship of his nobles, and went not hunting or hawking; and found no pleasure
but in the company of his wife, whom he dearly loved.
Men began to scoff and jeer at his name over their cups in hall, or as they rode with hawk
on fist to the hunting, or as they tilted in the lists. And the lawless lords upon the
marches of the land began to stir and to dare, and when none came to punish them, their
plunderings and oppressions grew.
Soon these things came to the ears of the old King Erbin, and great heaviness was upon
him. And he called the Lady Enid to him one day, and with stern sorrow in his eyes spoke
"Fair woman, is it thou that hast turned my son's spirit into water? Is it thy love
that hath made his name a byword among those who should love him because he is not as he
once was - a man no one could meet in arms and overcome? Is it thou that hath sunk him in
slothfulness, so that the wolfish lords and tyrant barons upon his marchlands begin to
creep out of their castle-holds, and tear and maim his people and wrest from them and him
broad lands and fertile fields?"
"Nay, lord, nay," said Enid, and he knew from the tears in her brave eyes that
she spoke the truth. "It is not I, by my confession unto heaven! I know not what hath
come to my dear lord. But there is nothing more hateful to me than his unknightly sloth!
And I know not what I may do. For it is not harder, lord, to know what men say of my dear
husband, than to have to tell him, and see the shame in the eyes of him I love."
And Enid went away weeping sorely.
The next morning, when Enid awoke from sleep, she sat up and looked at Geraint sleeping.
The sun was shining through the windows, and lay upon her husband. And she gazed upon his
marvellous beauty, and the great muscles of his arms and breast, and tears filled her eyes
as she leaned over him.
"Alas," she said half aloud, "am I the cause that this strength, this noble
and manly beauty, have all lost the fame they once enjoyed? Am I the cause that he hath
sunk in sloth, and men scoff at his name and his strength?"
And the words were heard by Geraint, and he felt the scalding tears fall upon his breast,
and he lay appearing to be asleep, yet he was awake. A great rage burned in him, so that
for some moments he knew not what to do or say.
Then he opened his eyes as if he had heard and felt nothing, and in his eyes was a hard
gleam. He rose and swiftly dressed, and called his squire.
"Go," he said to the man, "prepare my destrier, and get old armour and a
shield with no device thereon, old and rusty. And say naught to none.
"And do thou," he said to his wife, "rise and apparel thyself, and cause
thy horse to be prepared, and do thou wear the oldest riding-robe thou hast. And thou wilt
come with me."
So Enid arose and clothed herself in her meanest garments.
Then Geraint went to his father and said, "Sir, I am going upon a quest into the land
of Logres, and I do not know when I may return. Do thou therefore keep our kingdom till I
"I will do so, my son," said Erbin, "but thou art not strong enough to go
through the land of Logres alone. Wilt thou not have a company with thee?"
"But one person shall go with me," said Geraint, "and that is a woman.
Then he put on the old and rusty suit of armour, and took the shield with no device, and a
sword and a lance, and then mounting his horse he took his way out of the town. And Enid
went before him on her palfrey, marvelling what all this might mean.
Geraint called unto her and said sternly:
"Go thou and ride a long way before me. And whatever ye see or hear concerning me,
say naught, and turn not back. And unless I speak to thee, speak not thou to me."
All day they rode thus, and deeper and deeper they sank into a desolate land, where huge
rocks jutted from the starved soil, and there was no sound or sight of living thing,
except it was the wolf looking from his lair beneath a stone, or the breaking of a branch,
as the brown bear on a distant hillslope tore at a tree to get a honeycomb, and blinked
down at them, marvelling, maybe, to see a knight and a lady in his desolate domain.
When, late in the afternoon, their long shadows marched before them down a broad green
road which they had struck upon, Enid's heart suddenly lifted to see the white walls and
roofs of what looked like a rich town for she knew not what was in her lord's mind, and
feared lest his strange anger should push him to go on through the night, and so become a
prey to robbers or wild animals. But she marvelled that there was no sight or sound of
people; no carters or travellers going to or coming from the city, and no smoke rising
above the housetops.
When they came nearer, she saw the wall of the gate was broken down, and that along the
broad road beyond the wall the grass waved high across the street, and the little wooden
booths and cabins beside the road were rotting and decayed. Anon they rode into a broad
market-place or forum, where white buildings rose above them, the windows gaping, grass
growing on the roofs or in the crannies of the walls, and the doorways choked with bushes.
And out of the broad hallway of the basilica she saw the grey form of a wolf walk and
slink away in the shadows.
With a sinking heart she knew that this was one of the fair cities which the Romans had
built, and when they had left Britain this town had been deserted and left desolate, to
become a place where the wolf and the bear made their lairs, where the beaver built his
dam in the stream beneath the wall of the palace, and where robbers and wild men lay hid,
or the small people of the hills came and made their magic and weaved their
the aid of the spirits haunting the desolate hearths of the Romans.
And as Enid checked her horse and waited for Geraint to come up, that she might ask him
whether it was his pleasure to pass the night there, she saw, down the wide street before
her, the forms of men, creeping and gathering in the gloom. Then, fearing lest they should
fall upon her husband before he was aware of them, she turned her horse and rode towards
him and said:
"Lord, dost thou see the wild men which gather in the shadows there in the street
before us, as if they would attack thee?"
Geraint lifted up his angry eyes to hers:
"Thou wert bid to keep silent," he said, "whatsoever thou hast seen or
heard. Why dost thou warn one whom thou dost despise?"
Even as he spoke, from
the broken houses through which they had crept to assail the single knight, dashed ten
robbers, naked of feet, evil of look, clothed in skins. One leaped at the knight with a
knife in his hand, to be cut down, halfway in his spring, by Sir Geraint's fierce
sword-stroke. Then, while Enid stood apart, terror in her heart, prayer on her lips, she
saw him as if he were in the midst of a pack of tearing wolves, and in the silent street
with its twilight was the sudden clash of steel, the howls and cries of wounded men.
Then she was aware that six lay quiet on the road, and the remaining four broke suddenly
away towards the shelter of the houses. But two of these Sir Geraint pursued, and cut down
before they could reach cover.
He rejoined her in silence and sought for a place of lodging, and in a small villa they
found a room with but one door. Here they supped from the scrip of food and the bottle of
wine which Enid had brought, and there they slept that night.
On the morrow they pursued their way, and followed the green road out of the ruined city
until they reached the forest. And in the heat and brightness of the high noon the green
and coolness of the forestways were sweet, and the sound of tiny streams hidden beneath
the leaves was refreshing.
Then they came upon a plain where was a village surrounded by a bank of earth, on which
was a palisade. And there was a wailing and weeping coming from between the little
mud-cabins therein; and as they approached they saw in the middle green four knights in
armour and a crowd of poor frightened folk about them.
As they passed the gate of the village a poor man ran from the group, and threw himself
before Sir Geraint.
"O sir knight," he cried full piteously, "if thou art a good knight and a
brave, do thou see justice done here. For these four lords would cut my father's throat if
he say not where his money is hid."
"Are they his proper lords?" asked Geraint.
"Nay, sir knight," said the man. "Our land is Geraint's, and these lords
say that he sleeps all day, and so they will be our masters. And they do ever oppress us
with fine and tax and torture."
Therewith Sir Geraint rode through the gate of the village and approached the group. He
saw where the four knights stood cruelly torturing a poor old man whom they had tied to a
post, and the sweat stood upon the peasant's white face, and the fear of death was in his
"Lords! lords!" he cried in a spent voice, "I have no money, for you did
take all I had when you told us our lord Geraint was become a court fool."
"Thou miser!" jeered one of the knights, "that was two months
thou hast something more by now. Will this loose thy secret, carrion?"
At the cruel torture the man shrieked aloud and by reason of the pain his head sank and he
slid down the post in a swoon. And a young woman rushed forth, threw her arm about the
hanging body, and with flashing eyes turned and defied the knights.
Next moment it would have gone ill with her, but the voice of Sir Geraint rang out.
"Ho, there, sir knights," he cried, "or sir wolves - I know not which ye
are - have ye naught to do but to squeeze poor peasants of mean savings?"
The knights turned in rage, and laughed and sneered when they saw but one solitary knight
in old and rusty armour.
" Ah, sir scarecrow!" cried one, leaping on his horse, "I will spit thee
for thy insolence."
"Knock him down and truss him up with this starveling peasant," cried another.
All now had mounted, and the first prepared to run at Sir Geraint, who backed his horse
through the gateway into the open plain. Anon the first knight came, hurling himself
angrily upon him. But deftly Sir Geraint struck the other's lance aside with his sword,
and as the rider rushed past him, he rose in his stirrups, his blade flashed, and then
sank in the neck of the felon knight, who swayed in his saddle and then crashed to the
Then the second horseman attacked him furiously, being wroth at the death of his
companion. But Sir Geraint couched his lance, and caught the other on the edge of his
shield, and the spear passed through his body.
And by good hap also he slew the other two, one with his lance, the other with his sword
Enid, full of fear while the fight was raging, felt gladness and sorrow when she saw how
nobly her husband had smitten these torturers with justice, and she said that of a truth
she had been wrong, and that there was no sloth in his heart, no weakness in the strong
arm of her lord.
Then Sir Geraint took off the armour from each of the four knights and piled them on their
horses, and tied them together, and bade her drive them before her. "And do thou go
forward some way," said he sternly, "and say not one word to me unless I speak
first unto thee.
As he mounted his horse, the man that had been tortured came forward with his people, and
knelt before him, and kissed the mail-clad shoe in his stirrup, and in rude few words they
thanked him tearfully, asking for his name, so that they could speak of him in their
"I am called Sir Slothful," said Sir Geraint, "and I deserve not your
worship. But, hark ye, if other evil lords come upon these marches and seek to oppress
thee, tell them that though Sir Geraint sleeps now, he will soon awake and they shall not
stand before his vengeance."
And so he rode on, leaving the poor folks marvelling but happy.
Then in a little while they came upon a highroad, and the lady went on first, and for all
his anger, Geraint was sorry to see how much trouble Enid had in driving the four horses
before her, yet how patient she was.
Soon they beheld a wide valley below them, the fairest and richest in homesteads and
farms that they had yet seen. A river ran through the middle of it, and the road on which
they passed ran down to a bridge over the river, beyond which was a castle and a walled
Sir Geraint took the road towards the bridge, and soon a knight came cantering towards
"Fair sir," said Sir Geraint, "canst thou tell me who is the owner of this
fair valley and that walled city?"
"Of a truth," said the other, "these are the lands of King Griffith, whom
men call the Little King. He holds them of King Erbin, whose son, that was so famous, men
say has become a worthless court dandy."
"I thank thee for thy words, fair sir," said Geraint, and would pass on.
"I would counsel thee not to attempt to cross the bridge," said the knight,
"unless thou dost intend to fight the little king. For armed strangers he will not
suffer to pass, and I doubt me if thy arms are of much use to thee."
And the knight smiled at the rusty arms and shield of Sir Geraint.
"Nevertheless," said Sir Geraint, " though my arms are old, I will go this
"If thou dost so," said the knight, "thou wilt meet with shame and defeat.
For the little king is a man of giant strength."
But Sir Geraint passed down towards the bridge and crossed it, and went along the road
beyond towards the town. Presently Sir Geraint heard the sound of hoofs behind him, and
looking round he saw a knight following him upon a great black horse, tall and stately and
stepping proudly. The knight was the smallest that Sir Geraint had ever seen.
When the stranger had come up to him, he said:
"Tell me, fair sir, is it by presumption or by ignorance that thou comest armed
along this road?"
"I knew not that in any of the lands of King Erbin, a peaceful man, though he be
armed, could not go without hindrance," replied Sir Geraint.
"That was so," replied the knight, "when King Erbin's son Sir Geraint was a
man of prowess, not a soft fool. Then his name alone kept his borders clean of robber
lords and bandit knights; but now that he is less than naught, I myself must keep my land
clean of thieves in rusty armour that would frighten and oppress poor folk."
"Nevertheless," said Sir Geraint, " I will travel by this road, and ye
hinder me at your peril."
"Have at thee, then," said the little knight, and together they spurred towards
Sir Geraint marvelled to feel how powerful were the lance-strokes of the little man,
while, as for himself, so high was the little knight's horse and so small was the rider,
that he was hardly able to get a good blow at him. But they jousted until at the third
bout the little king's lance broke short, and then they dismounted, and lashed at each
other with their swords.
At first Sir Geraint thought it was nigh unseemly that one so strong and tall as himself
should have to do with so small a knight; but if he thought that he had advantage in his
longer reach and greater strength he quickly saw his error. For the little king was a man
of marvellous strength and agility, and for all Sir Geraint's knowledge and strength, the
other's strokes were so boldly fierce, so quick and powerful, that it was not long ere Sir
Geraint found he had need of great wariness.
Soon their helmets were cracked and their shields dented and carved and their hauberks in
rags, and hardly could they see between the bars of their vizors for the sweat and blood
in their eyes.
Then at last Sir Geraint, enraged that one so small should give him so much trouble to
conquer, gathered all his strength in one blow, so that the little king was beaten to his
knees, and the sword flew from his hand ten yards away.
"I yield me!" cried King Griffith, "and never have I fought with so valiant
and strong a knight. Have mercy and spare me, and I will be thy man."
"Be it so!" said Sir Geraint, "but thou hast already sworn to be my
And he lifted up his vizor and showed his face, whereat the little king did off his own
helm quickly and came and kneeled humbly before him.
"Sir Geraint," he said, "forgive me my words concerning thee, but men told
me that ye had forgotten that you had once been so glorious a man, and were softening to a
"Nai," said Sir Geraint, "they were the fools that said so. And now I will
depart, for I see these marches are in safe keeping in your hands, fair king."
But the little king wished Geraint to come to his castle to be rested and healed of his
wounds, and Geraint and Enid went and abode there a few days. But ever Sir Geraint was
cold and stern to his wife, for he was still angry at her disbelief in him.
Sir Geraint would not stay longer, though his wounds were but half healed, and on the
third day he commanded Enid to mount her horse and to go before him with the four other
While the sun climbed up the sky they rode through the wilderness, by tangled woods, deep
valleys, and quaking marshes, until they reached a deep dark forest. Suddenly as they rode
they heard a great wailing of distress, and bidding Enid stay, Geraint dashed through the
trees towards the crying, and came out upon a great bare upland, and beside the wood were
a knight, dead in his armour, and two horses. one with a woman's saddle upon it.
And looking further Geraint saw three small dark shaggy trolls making swift way up the
hill towards a great green mound, and in the arms of one of them was a damsel, who
shrieked as she was borne away.
Fiercely Sir Geraint spurred his horse up the slope, bidding the trolls to stop, but they
only ran with an exceeding great swiftness. But he pursued them, and when they were within
a few steps of a small door in the hillside, the one dropped the maiden, and the three of
them turned at bay. And the damsel ran shrieking away down the hill.
The trolls had dark thin faces, with curly black hair and fierce black eyes, and their
rage was horrible to see. They were lightly clothed in skins, and in their arms they held,
one a bar of iron, another a great club, and the third a long sharp stick.
Sir Geraint commended his soul to Heaven, for he knew he was to battle with evil dwarfs
who lived in the hollow hills, and whose strength was greater than any man's, and whose
powers of wizardry were stronger than Merlin's.
He dashed with his lance at the one with the iron bar, but the hill-troll slipped away,
and brought the great bar with a heavy blow upon his lance, so that it snapped in twain.
Then one leaped like a wild cat upon the arm that held the rein, but happily Sir Geraint
had drawn his sword, and with one stroke slew him. Then the two others leaped towards him,
but the blows of the bar and club he caught upon his shield and slew the troll with the
Ere Sir Geraint could draw his sword back from this blow, he felt his horse fall under
him, for the dwarf with the iron bar had with one blow broken the beast's back. Quickly
avoiding the horse, Sir Geraint dashed at the dwarf, who ran towards the hole in the hill,
but ere he could reach it Sir Geraint gave him a blow on the crown of his head, so fierce
and hard that the skull was split to the shoulders.
So then Sir Geraint turned and walked slowly down the hill, for he was dazed, and his old
wounds had broken afresh. But he came to where Enid stood comforting the damsel mourning
over the dead knight, and when he was there, straightway he fell down lifeless, Enid
shrieked with the anguish of the thought that he was dead, and came and knelt beside him
and undid his helm and kissed him many times. And the sound of her wailing reached an earl
named Madoc, who was passing with a company along the road from a plundering expedition,
and he came and took up Geraint and the dead knight, and laid them in the hollow of their
shields, and with the damsels took them to his castle a mile along the road.
Now the earl was a tyrant and a robber, and had done much evil on the borderlands of
Geraint, in burning, plnndering, and slaying, since he had heard that Geraint was become
soft and foolish. And he had recognized Sir Geraint while he lay in the swoon, and
rejoiced that now he was like to die.
As he rode along he thought that if he could prevail upon the Lady Enid to wed him, he
might get much land with her, as the widow of the dead Sir Geraint, future King of
Cornwall. And he determined to make her marry him.
When, therefore, he and his host had reached his castle, he ordered the dead knight to be
buried, but Sir Geraint he commanded to be laid in his shield on a litter-couch in front
of the high table in the hall. So that Sir Geraint should die, he commanded that no leech
should be sent for.
While his knights and men-at-arms sat down to dine, Earl Madoc came to Enid and begged her
to make good cheer. But, thinking to gain more from secrecy, he did not tell her that he
knew who she was, nor did he show her that he knew who was her lord.
"Take off thy travelling clothes, fair lady," he said, "and weep not for
this dead knight."
"I will not," she said, and hung over Geraint, chafing his hands and looking
earnestly into his pallid face.
"Ah, lady," the earl said, "be not so sorrowful. For he is now dead, and
therefore ye need no longer mourn. But as ye are beautiful, I would wed thee, and thou
shalt have this earldom and myself and much wealth and all these men to serve thee."
"I tell you I will rather die with my dead lord, if indeed he be dead," cried
Enid, " than live in wealth with you or any one."
"Come, then," said the earl, "and at least take food with me."
"Nay, I will not," said Enid, "and never more will I eat or be joyful in
"But, by Heaven, thou shalt," said Madoc, furious at her resistance to his will.
And he drew her from beside the litter, and forced her to come to the table where his
knights sat eating, and commanded her to eat.
"I will not eat," she cried, straining from his hold towards where Geraint lay,
"unless my dear lord shall eat also."
"But he is dead already thou mad woman," cried the earl. " Drink this
goblet of wine," he commanded, "and thou wilt change thy mind."
"I will not drink again until my dear lord drink also," said Enid, and strove to
free herself from the grasp of the earl.
"Now, by Heaven!" said Madoc wrathfully, "I have tried gentle means with
thee. Let this teach thee that I am not to be baulked of my will."
With that he gave her a violent blow on the ear, and tried to drag her away out of the
hall. And Enid shrieked and wept and cried for help, but none of the knights that sat
there dared to oppose their lord.
But suddenly men started up from their seats in terror to see the corpse of Geraint rise
from the hollow of the shield. Enid's cries had roused him from his swoon, and his hand as
he raised himself felt the hilt of the sword beside him.
He leaped from the litter, and, drawing his sword, he ran towards the earl, who by now had
almost dragged Enid to the door. Raising the sword, Geraint struck him with so fierce a
blow that he cleft his head in twain.
Then, for terror at seeing what they thought was a dead man rise up to slay them, the
knights ran from the hall and left Geraint and Enid alone.
Enid threw her arms about Geraint, her face bright with happiness.
"My dear lord, I thank God thou art not dead, as this man said thou wert. And I pray
thy forgiveness for doubting that thou hadst forgotten thy manhood, for of a truth none is
so brave, so good as thou art."
Geraint kissed his wife, smiling wanly the while.
"Sorry I am, my dear wife," he said, "that I was swooning when thou hadst
need of me. And as for any doubts thou hadst of me, why, let us both forget them from this
time forth. And now we must away, ere this lord's men recover their fright and pursue
Enid led him instantly to the stalls where she had seen the horses had been led, and
Geraint took the spear and the horse of the knight whom the trolls had slain, and, when he
had mounted, he took up Enid from the ground and placed her before him.
Thus they rode out of the castle, and away as rapidly as they could. And now that they
were reconciled, much joyful and loving talk was between them.
But night was coming on, and Geraint was weak from his wounds and loss of blood, and Enid
was full of trouble for the pain her husband suffered. She prayed fervently that soon they
might reach a town where she could obtain help for him.
Suddenly she heard far away in the distance the tramp of horses, and Enid could have wept
for sorrow. But she kept her face calm, though her lips trembled. Geraint also heard the
beat of the hoofs, and turning in his saddle he looked up, and saw on the skyline of the
narrow road the glint of spears between them and the sky.
"Dear wife," he said, with a faint brave smile, "I hear some one following
us. I will put thee in hiding behind this thicket, and should they slay me, do thou make
thy way homeward to my father Erbin, and bid him avenge my death."
"0, my dear Geraint!" said Enid, sobbing, for all her bravery as she thought
that he would surely be slain, and that, after all their trouble, they were not to be
allowed to enjoy the happiness of their reconciliation.
"I would liefer die with thee, my dear, dear lord. Let them kill us both, if it is to
"Nay, dear wife," said Geraint, "I would not have thee slain. Revenge my
death if they slay me."
So, with many lingering kisses, he set her down upon the road, and saw her hide in the
By now the gloom of evening had settled upon them, and the sound of trampling horses had
rapidly approached. And painfully, by reason of his stiff wounds, Geraint dressed his
armour as best he could, and laid spear in rest, and drew his shield before him, and so
waited in the dark road.
He heard a single knight riding before the others, and soon saw his figure issue from the
gloom with couched lance. And Sir Geraint made him ready also, resolved to sell his life
dearly at the last.
But as they began to spur their horses, there came the voice of Enid from the hedgerow
beside them. And she cried out piteously in the dark:
"0 chieftain, whoever thou art, what renown wilt thou gain by slaying a dead
The stranger stopped his horse, and called out:
"0 Heaven, is it my lord, Sir Geraint?"
"Yes, in truth," said Enid, "and who art thou?"
"I am the little king!" said the other, and rode swiftly towards Sir Geraint.
Then he leaped from his horse and came to the stirrup of his chief.
"My lord," he said, "I learned that thou wert in trouble, and came to see
if I could aid thee."
And Enid ran forward with joy at hearing this, and welcomed the little king, and told him
in what a hard pass was Sir Geraint.
"My lord and my lady," said Griffith, "I thank Heaven sincerely for the
favour that I come to you in your need. I learned of thy fight with the trolls and of thy
slaying of Earl Madoc, and that thou wert wounded. Therefore I rode on to find thee."
"I thank thee heartily," said Sir Geraint, "and my dear wife also thanks
thee. For of a truth I am spent, and must needs get me rest and a leech for my
"Then come at once with me," said the little king; and after he had helped Enid
to her place before Geraint, he leaped on his own horse.
"Now thou shalt go to the hall of a son-in-law of my sister which is near here,"
said King Griffith, "and thou shalt have the best medical advice in the
At the hall of the baron, whose name was Tewder, and a most knightly and gentle lord, Sir
Geraint and the Lady Enid were received with great welcome and hospitality. Physicians
were sent for, and they attended Geraint day by day until he was quite well again.
The fame of his adventures began to spread along the borders of his kingdom, and at length
reached his own court. And the robber lords and brigands of the marches, hearing of his
deeds, ceased their evil-doing and made haste to hide from his wrath. Also his father
Erbin and the host at his court repented of their hard thoughts and sneers concerning him,
and praised the strength of his arm, the gentleness of his courtesy and his justice and
When Sir Geraint and the Lady Enid returned home, all the people gathered to welcome them.
And thence-forth he reigned prosperously, and his warlike fame and splendour lasted with
renown and honour and love, both to him and to the Lady Enid, from that time forth.