Queen Guinevere lay idly in bed dreaming beautiful dreams. The sunny morning hours were slipping away, but she was so happy in dreamland, that she did not remember that her little maid had called her long ago.
But the Queen’s dreams came to an end at last, and all at once she remembered that this was the morning she had promised to go to the hunt with King Arthur.
Even in the hunting-field, the King was not quite happy if his beautiful Queen Guinevere were not there. This morning he had waited for her in vain, for in dreamland the Queen had forgotten all about the hunt.
‘If I dress quickly, I shall not be very late,’ thought the Queen, as she heard the far-off sound of the hunting-horn. And she was so quick that in a very short time she and her little waiting-maid were out, and riding up to a grassy knoll. But the huntsmen were already far away. ‘We will wait here to see them ride homewards,’ said the Queen, and they drew up their horses to watch and listen.
They had not waited long, when they heard the sound of horse’s hoofs, and turning round, the Queen saw Prince Geraint, one of Arthur’s knights. He was unarmed, except that his sword hung at his side. He wore a suit of silk, with a purple sash round his waist, and at each end of the sash was a golden apple, which sparkled in the sunlight.
‘You are late for the hunt, Prince Geraint,’ said the Queen.
‘Like you, I have come, not to join the hunt, but to see it pass,’ said the Prince, bowing low to the beautiful Queen. And he asked to be allowed to wait with her and the little maid.
As they waited, three people, a lady, a knight and a dwarf, came out of the forest, and rode slowly past. The knight had his helmet off, and the Queen saw that he looked young and bold.
‘I cannot remember if he is one of Arthur’s knights. I must know his name,’ she said. And she sent her little maid to find out who the strange knight was.
But when the little maid asked the dwarf his master’s name, the dwarf answered rudely that he would not tell her.
‘Then I will ask your master himself,’ said the maid. But as she stepped towards the knight, the dwarf struck her with his whip, and the little maid, half-angry and half-frightened, hurried back to the Queen, and told her how the dwarf had treated her.
Prince Geraint was angry when he heard how rude the dwarf had been to the Queen’s little messenger, and said that he would go and find out the knight’s name.
But the dwarf, by his master’s orders, treated the Prince as rudely as he had treated the little maid. When Geraint felt the dwarf’s whip strike his cheek, and saw the blood dropping on to his purple sash, he felt for the sword at his side. Then he remembered that while he was tall and strong, the dwarf was small and weak, and he scorned to touch him.
Going back to the Queen, Geraint told her that he had not been able to find out the knight’s name either, ‘but with your leave, I will follow him to his home, and compel him to ask your pardon,’ said the Prince. And the Queen allowed him to follow the knight.
‘When you come back, you will perhaps bring a bride with you,’ said the Queen. ‘If she be a great lady, or if she be only a beggar-maid, I will dress her in beautiful robes, and she shall stand among the fairest ladies of my court.’
‘In three days I shall come back, if I am not slain in battle with the knight,’ said Geraint. And he rode away, a little sorry not to hear the merry sound of the hunter’s horn, and a little vexed that he had undertaken this strange adventure.
Through valleys and over hills Geraint followed the lady, the knight and the dwarf, till at last, in the evening, he saw them go through the narrow streets of a little town, and reach a white fortress. Into this fortress the lady, the knight and the dwarf disappeared.
‘I shall find the knight there to-morrow,’ thought Geraint ‘Now I must go to an inn for food and a bed,’ for he was hungry and tired after his long ride.
But all the inns in the little town were full, and every one seemed too busy to take any notice of the stranger.
‘Why is there such a bustle in your town this evening?’ asked Geraint, first of one person and then of another. But they hurried past him, muttering, ‘The Sparrow-hawk has his tournament here to-morrow.’
‘The Sparrow-hawk! that is a strange name,’ thought Geraint. But he did not know that this was one of the names of the knight he had followed so far.
Soon Geraint reached a smithy, and he looked in, and saw that the smith was busy sharpening swords and spears. ‘I will go in and buy arms,’ thought Geraint.
And because the smith saw that the stranger was dressed like a Prince, he stopped his work for a moment to speak to him.
‘Arms?’ he said, when Geraint told him what he wanted. ‘There are no arms to spare, for the Sparrow-hawk holds his tournament here to-morrow.’
‘The Sparrow-hawk again!’ thought Geraint. ‘I wonder who he can be.’ Then he turned to the smith again and said, ‘Though you cannot give me arms, perhaps you can tell me where to find food and a bed.’
‘The old Earl Yniol might give you shelter. He lives in that half-ruined castle across the bridge,’ said the smith. And he turned again to his work, muttering, ‘Those who work for the Sparrow-hawk have no time to waste in talk.’
So Geraint rode wearily on across the bridge and reached the castle. The courtyard was quite empty and looked very dreary, for it was all overgrown with weeds and thistles. At the door of the half-ruined castle stood the old Earl.
‘It is growing late. Will you not come in and rest,’ said Earl Yniol, ‘although the castle be bare, and the fare simple?’
And Geraint said he would like to stay there, for he was so hungry that the plainest food would seem a feast.
As he entered the castle, he heard some one singing. The song was so beautiful, and the voice was so pure and clear, that Geraint thought it was the sweetest song in all the world, and the old castle seemed less gloomy as he listened.
Then Earl Yniol led Geraint into a long low room, and this room was both dining-room and kitchen.
The Earl’s wife sat there, and she wore a dress that must have been very grand once, but now it was old.
Beside her stood her beautiful daughter, and she wore a faded silk gown, but Geraint thought he had never seen so fair a face.
‘This is the maiden who sang the beautiful song,’ he thought. ‘If I can win her for my bride, she shall come back with me to Queen Guinevere. But the brightest silks the Queen can dress her in, will not make her look more fair than she does in this old gown,’ he murmured to himself.
‘Enid,’ said the Earl, ‘take the stranger’s horse to the stable, and then go to the town and buy food for supper.’
Geraint did not like the beautiful girl to wait on him, and he got up eagerly to help her.
‘We are poor, and have no servants, but we cannot let our guest wait upon himself,’ said the Earl proudly. And Geraint had to sit down, while Enid took his horse to the stall, and went across the bridge to the little town to buy meat and cakes for supper.
And as the dining-room was the kitchen too, Geraint could watch Enid as she cooked the food and set the table.
At first it grieved him that she should work at all, but afterwards he thought, ‘She touches everything with such grace and gentleness, that the work grows beautiful under her white hands.’
And when supper was ready, Enid stood behind, and waited, and Geraint almost forgot that he was very hungry, as he took the dishes from her careful hands.
When supper was over, Geraint turned to the Earl. ‘Who is this Sparrow-hawk of whom all the townspeople chatter? Yet if he should be the knight of the white fortress, do not tell me his real name. That I must find out for myself.’ And he told the Earl that he was Prince Geraint, and that he had come to punish the knight, because he allowed his dwarf to be so rude to the Queen’s messengers.
The Earl was glad when he heard his guest’s name. ‘I have often told Enid of your noble deeds and wonderful adventures,’ he said, ‘and when I stopped, she would call to me to go on. She loves to hear of the noble deeds of Arthur’s knights. But now I will tell you about the Sparrow-hawk. He lives in the white fortress, and he is my nephew. He is a fierce and cruel man, and when I would not allow him to marry Enid, he hated me, and made the people believe I was unkind to him. He said I had stolen his father’s money from him. And the people believed him,’ said the Earl, ‘and were full of rage against me. One evening, just before Enid’s birthday, three years ago, they broke into our home, and turned us out, and took away all our treasures. Then the Sparrow-hawk built himself the white fortress for safety, but us he keeps in this old half-ruined castle.’
‘Give me arms,’ said Geraint, ‘and I will fight this knight in to-morrow’s tournament.’
‘Arms I can give you,’ said the Earl, ‘though they are old and rusty; but you cannot fight to-morrow.’ And the Earl told Geraint that the Sparrow-hawk gave a prize at the tournament. ‘But every knight who fights to-morrow must have a lady with him,’ said the Earl, ‘so that if he wins the prize in fair fight from the Sparrow-hawk, he may give it to her. But you have no lady to whom you could give the prize, so you will not be allowed to fight.’
‘Let me fight as your beautiful Enid’s knight,’ said Geraint. ‘And if I win the prize for her, let me marry her, for I love her more than any one else in all the world.’
Then the Earl was pleased, for he knew that if the Prince took Enid away, she would go to a beautiful home. And though the old castle would be more dreary than ever without her, he loved his fair daughter too well to wish to keep her there.
‘Her mother will tell Enid to be at the tournament to-morrow,’ said the Earl, ‘if she be willing to have you as her knight.’
And Enid was willing. And when she slept that night she dreamed of noble deeds and true knights, and always in her dream the face of each knight was like the face of Prince Geraint.
Early in the morning Enid woke her mother, and together they went through the meadows to the place where the tournament was to be held.
And the Earl and Geraint followed, and the Prince wore the Earl’s rusty arms, but in spite of these, every one could see that he was a Prince.
A great many lords and ladies and all the townspeople came to see the tournament.
Then the Sparrow-hawk came to the front of the great crowd, and asked if any one claimed his prize. And he thought, ‘No one here is brave enough to fight with me.’
But Geraint was brave, and he called out loudly, ‘I claim the prize for the fairest lady in the field.’ And he glanced at Enid in her faded silk dress.
Then, in a great rage, the Sparrow-hawk got ready for the fight with Enid’s champion, and they fought so fiercely that three times they broke their spears. Then they got off their horses, and fought with their swords. And the lords and ladies and all the townspeople marvelled that Geraint was still alive, for the Sparrow-hawk’s sword flashed like lightning round the Prince’s head.
But Geraint, because he was fighting for the Queen, and to win the gracious Enid for his bride, brought down his sword with all his strength on the Sparrow-hawk’s helmet. The blow brought the knight to the ground, and Geraint put his foot on him, and demanded his name.
And all the pride of the Sparrow-hawk was gone because Enid had seen his fall, and he quickly told Geraint his name was Edyrn.
‘I will spare your life,’ said Geraint, ‘but you must go to the Queen and ask her to forgive you, and you must take the dwarf with you. And you must give back to Earl Yniol his earldom and all his treasures.’
Edyrn went to the Queen and she forgave him; and he stayed at the court and grew ashamed of his rough and cruel deeds. At last he began to fight for King Arthur, and lived ever after as a true knight.
When the tournament was over, Geraint took the prize to Enid, and asked her if she would be his bride, and go to the Queen’s court with him the next day. And Enid was glad, and said she would go.
In the early morning, Enid lay thinking of her journey. ‘I have only my faded silk dress to wear,’ she sighed, and it seemed to her shabbier and more faded than ever, as it hung there in the morning light. ‘If only I had a few days longer, I would weave myself a dress. I would weave it so delicately that when Geraint took me to the Queen, he would be proud of it,’ she thought. For in her heart she was afraid that Geraint would be ashamed of the old faded silk, when they reached the court.
And her thoughts wandered back to the evening before her birthday, three long years ago. She could never forget that evening, for it was then that their home had been sacked. Then she thought of the morning of that day when her mother had brought her a beautiful gift. It was a dress, made all of silk, with beautiful silk flowers woven into it. If only she could have worn that, but the robbers had taken it away.
But what had happened? Enid sat up and rubbed her eyes. For at that moment her mother came into the room, and over her arm was the very dress Enid had been thinking of.
‘The colours are as bright as ever,’ said the mother, touching the silk softly. And she told Enid how last night their scattered treasures had been brought back, and how she had found the dress among them.
‘I will wear it at once,’ said Enid, a glad look in her eyes. And with loving hands her mother helped her to put on the old birthday gift.
Downstairs the Earl was telling Geraint that last night the Sparrow-hawk had sent back all their treasures. ‘Among them is one of Enid’s beautiful dresses. At last you will see her dressed as a Princess,’ said the Earl gladly.
But Geraint remembered that he had first seen and loved Enid in the faded gown, and he thought, ‘I will ask her to wear it again to-day for my sake.’
And Enid loved the Prince so dearly, that when she heard his wish, she took off the beautiful dress she had been so glad to wear, and went down to him in the old silk gown. And when Geraint saw Enid, the gladness in his face made her glad too, and she forgot all about the old dress.
All that day Queen Guinevere sat in a high tower and often glanced out of the window to look for Geraint and his bride. When she saw them riding along the white road, she went down to the gate herself to welcome them. And when the Queen had dressed Enid in soft and shining silk, all the court marvelled at her beauty.
But because Geraint had first seen and loved her in the old faded silk, Enid folded it up with care and put it away among the things she loved.
And a feast was made for the wedding-day, and in great joy Geraint and Enid were married.
Day by day Geraint loved his wife more dearly. And Enid was happy in this strange new life, and she wondered at the merry lords and ladies, and she loved the beautiful Queen, who was so kind to her.
And Geraint was glad that Enid was often with the Queen, till one day he heard some people say that though the Queen was very beautiful, she was not good. And Geraint heard this so often, that he learned to believe it.
‘I must take Enid away from the court,’ he thought, ‘for she worships the Queen and may grow like her.’
So Geraint went to King Arthur, and asked to be allowed to go to his own country. He told the King that robbers trampled down his cornfields, and carried away his cattle. ‘I wish to go and fight these robbers,’ he said. And King Arthur allowed him to go.
And Enid left the Queen and the lords and ladies gladly, to go with Geraint.
But all the time Geraint could not help thinking, ‘Enid is longing for the knights and ladies she knew at the court.’
When Geraint reached his own country, he forgot all about the robbers, who were destroying his land. He forgot to go to the hunt, or the tournament, or to look after the poor people. And this was all because he loved Enid so much. He thought, ‘I will stay with her all day. I will be so kind to her that she will forget the gay lords and ladies, and be happy here, alone with me.’
But Enid grew sadder and paler every day. She did not wish Geraint to wait on her and forget every one else. She wanted him to be a true knight.
And the people began to scoff and jeer whenever Geraint’s name was spoken. ‘The Prince is no knight,’ they said. ‘The robbers spoil his land and carry off his cattle, but he neither cares nor fights. He does nothing but wait on the fair Lady Enid.’
Enid knew what the people said, and she thought, ‘I must tell Geraint, and then surely he will be ashamed, and become a brave knight once more.’ But always her courage failed.
‘I think I could buckle on his armour and ride with him to battle,’ thought Enid, ‘but how can I tell him he is no worthy knight?’
And her tears fell fast, and Geraint coming in, saw her weeping, and thought, ‘She weeps for the gay lords and ladies of Arthur’s court.’
Then all at once he hated his idle life. ‘It has only made Enid despise me,’ he thought. ‘We will go together into the wilderness, and I will show her I can still fight.’ And half in anger and half in sadness he called for his war-horse.
Then Geraint told Enid to put on her oldest dress and ride with him into the wilderness. And because he was angry with himself for thinking that Enid wept for the gay knights and ladies at Arthur’s court, he would not ride with her, but told her to go on in front, and ‘whatever you see or hear, do not speak to me,’ he said sternly.
Then Enid remembered the old faded silk gown. ‘I will wear that, for he loved me in it,’ she thought.
Through woods and swamps Enid and Geraint rode in silence. And while Enid’s heart cried, ‘Why is Geraint angry with me?’ her eyes were busy glancing into every bush and corner, in case robbers should attack her lord.
At last in the shadow of some trees, Enid saw three tall knights. They were armed, and she heard them whisper, when they saw Geraint, ‘This is a craven-looking knight. We will slay him, and take his armour and his maiden.’
And Enid thought, ‘Even if it makes Geraint angry, I must tell him what the knights say, or they will attack him before he knows they are there.’ And Enid turned back. Geraint frowned as he saw her coming to speak to him, but Enid said bravely, ‘There are three knights in front of us. They say they will fight with you.’
‘I do not want your warning,’ said Geraint roughly, ‘but you shall see I can fight.’
Sad and pale, Enid watched the three knights spring suddenly out of their ambush and attack her lord.
But Geraint threw his spear at the tallest knight, and it pierced his breast. Then with two sword thrusts, he stunned the other two.
Geraint dismounted, and took the armour of the three fallen knights, and tied it round their horses. Twining the three bridle reins into one, he gave it to Enid.
‘Drive these horses in front, and whatever you see or hear, do not speak to me,’ said Geraint. But he rode a little nearer Enid than before, and that made her glad.
Soon they came to a wood, and in the wood Enid again saw three knights. One was taller and looked stronger than Geraint, and Enid trembled as she looked at him.
‘The knight hangs his head, and the horses are driven by a girl,’ she heard them mutter. ‘We will kill the knight, and take his damsel and his horses for ourselves.’
‘Surely,’ thought Enid, ‘I may warn Geraint this time, for he is faint and tired after the last battle.’
And Enid waited till Geraint rode up to her, and told him there were three evil men in front of them. ‘One is stronger than you,’ she said, ‘and he means to kill you.’
And Geraint answered angrily, ‘If you would but obey me, I would fight one hundred knights gladly.’ Yet Geraint loved Enid all the time, though he spoke so roughly.
Then Enid stood out of the way, and she hardly dared to look as the strongest knight attacked Geraint. But Geraint hurled his spear through the strong knight’s armour, and he fell over and died.
The other two knights came slowly towards Geraint, but he shouted his battle-cry, and they turned and fled. But Geraint caught them, and killed them.
Again Geraint tied the armour of the three slain knights round their horses. Then he twisted the three reins together, and handed them to Enid.
‘Drive these on in front,’ said Geraint. And now Enid had six horses to drive, and Geraint saw that they were difficult to manage. Then he rode nearer Enid.
They had left the wood behind them now, and were riding through cornfields, where reapers were busy cutting down the waving corn.
Coming down the path towards them, they saw a fair-haired boy. He was carrying food to the reapers. Geraint thought Enid looked faint, and he was very hungry, so he stopped the lad and asked for food.
‘I can give you some of this; it is the reapers’ dinner,’ said the boy. ‘But it is coarse and plain food,’ and he glanced doubtfully at the lady with the sad eyes and her stern-looking knight.
But Geraint thanked him, and took the food to Enid. And to please him she ate a little, but Geraint was so hungry that he finished all the reapers’ dinner.
‘I will reward you,’ said Geraint, for the lad was dismayed to find nothing left for the reapers to eat. And he told him to take one of the horses, with the suit of armour bound round it.
Then the boy was full of glee, and thought himself a knight, as he led the horse away.
Geraint and Enid then went to the little village near the cornfields, and lodged there for one night.
The country they were in belonged to a cruel Earl. He had once wanted to marry Enid. When he heard that she was in his country, he made up his mind to kill Geraint, and make Enid marry him after all.
‘I will go to the inn while they are still asleep,’ thought the Earl, ‘and kill the knight and take Enid away.’
But Geraint and Enid had got up very early that morning, and had left the five horses and the five suits of armour with the landlord, to pay him for their food and shelter.
By the time the Earl reached the inn Geraint and Enid had ridden a long way into a wild country.
Then the wicked Earl galloped after them, and Enid heard the sound of horse’s hoofs coming nearer and nearer. As the horseman dashed down upon Geraint, Enid hid her face, and asked God to spare her dear lord’s life once more.
The fight was long and fierce, but at last Geraint overthrew the Earl, and left him lying half-dead in the dust.
Still a little in front, Enid rode silently on, and Geraint followed, but he had been wounded in the fight with the Earl, though he did not tell Enid. And the wound bled inside his armour, till Geraint felt very faint, and suddenly everything seemed black in front of him. He reeled and fell from his horse on to a bank of grass.
Enid heard the crash of his armour as he fell, and in a moment she was beside him. She unbuckled the armour and took off his helmet Then she took her veil of faded silk and bound up his wound. But Geraint lay quite still.
Enid’s horse wandered into a forest and was lost, but Geraint’s noble war-horse kept watch with Enid, as if he understood.
About noon, the Earl, in whose country they now were, passed along with his followers. He saw the two by the wayside, and shouted to Enid, ‘Is he dead?’
‘No, no, not dead; he cannot be dead. Let him be carried out of the sun,’ she entreated.
And Enid’s great sorrow, and her great beauty, made the Earl a little less rough, and he told his men to carry Geraint to the hall. ‘His charger is a noble one, bring it too,’ shouted the Earl.
His men unwillingly carried Geraint to the hall, and laid him down on a stretcher there, and left him.
Enid bent over him, chafing his cold hands, and calling him to come back to her.
After a long time Geraint opened his eyes. He saw Enid tenderly watching him, and he felt Enid’s tears dropping on his face. ‘She weeps for me,’ he thought; but he did not move, but lay there as if he were dead.
In the evening the Earl came into the great hall and called for dinner, and many knights and ladies sat down with him, but no one remembered Enid. But when the Earl had finished eating and drinking, his eye fell on her. He remembered how she had wept for her wounded lord in the morning.
‘Do not weep any more, but eat and be merry. Then I will marry you, and you shall share my earldom, and I will hunt for you,’ said the wild Earl.
Enid’s head drooped lower, and she murmured, ‘Leave me alone, I beseech you, for my lord is surely dead.’
The Earl hardly heard what she said, but thought Enid was thanking him. ‘Yes, eat and be glad,’ he repeated, ‘for you are mine.’
‘How can I ever be glad again?’ said Enid, thinking, ‘Surely Geraint is dead.’
But the Earl was growing impatient. He seized her roughly, and made her sit at the table, and he put food before her, shouting, ‘Eat.’
‘No,’ said Enid, ‘I will not eat, till my lord arises and eats with me.’
‘Then drink,’ said the Earl, and he thrust a cup to her lips.
‘No,’ said Enid, ‘I will not drink, till my lord arises and drinks with me; and if he does not arise, I will not drink wine till I die.’
The Earl strode up and down the hall in a great rage. ‘If you will neither eat nor drink, will you take off this old faded dress?’ said the Earl. And he told one of his women to bring Enid a robe, which had been woven across the sea, and which was covered with many gems.
But Enid told the Earl how Geraint had first seen and loved her in the dress she wore, and how he had asked her to wear it when he took her to the Queen. ‘And when we started on this sad journey, I wore it again, to win back his love,’ she said, ‘and I will never take it off till he arises and bids me.’
Then the Earl was angry. He came close to Enid, and struck her on the cheek with his hand.
And Enid thought, ‘He would not have dared to strike me, if he had not known that my lord was truly dead,’ and she gave a bitter cry.
When Geraint heard Enid’s cry, with one bound he leaped to where the huge Earl stood, and with one swing of his sword cut off the Earl’s head, and it fell down and rolled along the floor.
Then all the lords and ladies were afraid, for they had thought Geraint was dead, and they fled, and Geraint and Enid were left alone.
And Geraint never again thought that Enid loved the gay lords and ladies at King Arthur’s court better than she loved him.
Then they went back to their own land. And soon the people knew that Prince Geraint had come back a true knight, and the old whispers that he was a coward faded away, and the people called him ‘Geraint the Brave.’
And her ladies called Enid, ‘Enid the Fair,’ but the people on the land called her ‘Enid the Good.’
Notes: Contains the legends of king Arthur and his Knights, told to the children by Mary MacGregor.
Author: Mary MacGregor
Editor: Louey Chisholm
Publisher: T. C. & E. C. Jack, London; E. P. Dutton & Co., New York