This is a chapter of King Arthur and His Knights by Blanche Winder.
Sir Gawaine’s most marvelous adventure all came about through another knight, Sir Kay, who told a story of a hidden fountain which, he said, was to be found over the waters of the sea, in the heart of another enchanted forest, called Broceliande. There were strange tales related of this fountain — of its magical waters, the mysterious white marble slab upon its brink. Whoever could make way to the fountain would be sure of the finest adventure in all the world.
When Sir Gawaine heard about the fountain and the promised adventure, he did not hesitate a moment. He took ship to Brittany and took his horse and his armor with him. When he landed, he mounted and rode away over the moors and through the villages until he reached Broceliande. The enchanted part began in a valley, which was the loveliest valley in the world. A sparkling stream splashed and bubbled among the sunlit stones. Sir Gawaine followed the stream until he reached a castle which shone like silver. Two beautiful boys stood at the door of this castle, dressed in yellow satin, with gold crowns on their heads and gold shoes on their feet. When the sound of Sir Gawaine’s horse traveled up to the castle windows, a tall man, also dressed in yellow satin, came out of the door and advanced to meet the visitor.
The man in the shining robe led Sir Gawaine into the castle, where twenty-four maidens sat in a row. Six of them took Sir Gawaine’s horse, six carried off his armor to wash it, and six took away his travel-stained clothes and brought him a robe, silk-lined, shining, and soft. The remaining six waited on him with silver bowls of clear water, and fine damask towels. Then they spread a delicious feast for him, and the man in yellow satin asked where he was going.
When Sir Gawaine replied that he was going to the magical fountain in search of high adventure, the man in yellow satin seemed delighted to have met so brave a knight. He ordered Sir Gawaine’s horse to be brought around and showed him the path that would take him where he wished to go. Sir Gawaine rode off and presently came to a sheltered glade, with a mound in the middle of it, where an enormous black man sat, with only one eye, set in the middle of his forehead, who held an iron club in his right hand.
Round this ugly black giant stood a thousand wild animals — stags and boars, lions and tigers, serpents and dragons! Sir Gawaine was very much startled, but he spurred his horse on through the crowd of fierce growling beasts, and, riding straight up to the one-eyed black giant, asked him boldly the way to the fairy fountain where a wandering knight could find the highest of high adventures.
The great black giant scowled at him with his one eye, but answered. If Sir Gawaine would ride a little farther down the valley, he would see, presently, the tallest, greenest tree he had ever seen in his life. Under this tree bubbled the fountain; and, by the side of the water, was a white marble slab. On the slab was set a bowl of silver, fastened with a silver chain. Any knight who was brave enough to fill the silver bowl with water from the fountain, and then to pour the water over the white marble slab, would find himself in the middle of an adventure dangerous enough to satisfy the most courageous man. All this the giant growled out unwillingly. Sir Gawaine was not sorry to leave and to ride forward among the shady oaks and pines.
Presently, he saw the tall and beautiful green tree of which the big black man had spoken — and there, at its foot, were the white marble slab, the silver bowl, and the fairy fountain.
Sir Gawaine dismounted and, without a moment’s hesitation, took the silver bowl, filled it with water, and poured the water right over the white marble. In an instant, almost before he could spring on his horse again, the sky went as black as night, a clap of thunder shook the valley, and a hailstorm came beating and rattling about the tall green tree. Every leaf of the tree was beaten off, and then the storm passed, and the sun came out again. And behold! instead of putting out fresh leaves, the tall tree seemed to blossom into hundreds and hundreds of little birds, which set singing more sweetly and exquisitely than the sweetest, most exquisite music Sir Gawaine had ever heard!
Then, as he sat on his horse, entranced, a loud deep wailing traveled along the valley, and down through the sunlight galloped a knight, who was the blackest of all the black knights ever seen. And he rushed upon Sir Gawaine, who spurred his horse to meet the other, with a loud defiant cry.
For many minutes they fought beside the fairy fountain, and then Sir Gawaine gave the black knight a mortal blow. But he did not fall at once — he only turned his horse’s head and galloped away, with Sir Gawaine after him. In a short time, the high walls of a palace showed through the trees. The black knight galloped across the drawbridge and through the lifted iron gate. But, when Sir Gawaine would have followed, the great gate slid down between the high walls again and shut him out.
Theory without practice is absolutely useless. With a one-time payment, you’ll have the full course forever, with all the theory explained in video and dozens of hours of practice analyzed and explained step by step by me on the screen.
Join the Latin from Scratch course! ⚡
Sir Gawaine, disappointed, got down from his horse and peeped through the bars. And, to his surprise, he met the gaze of a charming maiden with curly golden hair who, as he was peeping in, was, in the same way, peeping out!
“Who are you?” said she. “And what do you want?”
“I want to come inside!” cried Sir Gawaine.
The maiden nodded her head quite kindly.
“I have been waiting here for you a long time,” said she. “But I cannot let you in for all the world to see! Take this ring. Put it on your finger and you will be invisible, and then I will lift up the gate!”
So Sir Gawaine put on the ring and became invisible, and she lifted up the gate and admitted him. The maiden led him to a wonderful gilded and painted chamber and gave him a delicious supper. When he had finished, she bade him listen to sounds of wailing coming up from below.
“The lord of the castle is dead!” said she. “He was the black knight of the fountain. But it was always told that his lady should marry one of Arthur’s knights. You must be he.”
“Yes, I must be he!” cried Sir Gawaine. “This is my high adventure, I know. Fair maiden, let me see the lady!”
“Peep through that little grating and you will see her in the hall below,” said the maiden.
So Sir Gawaine peeped, and, down in the hall, in a lovely black-and-silver gown, he saw a most beautiful lady sitting with candles all about her. She was pale and grave, but not very sad. She had never really loved the lord of the castle, but had, long ago, married him so that he might defend the fairy fountain. Her name had always been the Lady of the Fountain, and she knew that she must marry again, immediately, so that those magical waters, that white slab with the silver bowl, that tall green tree, might still be kept unhurt in the secret fairy places of Broceliande.
Sir Gawaine, watching her, felt his love for her spring up like a flame. He turned to the maiden in the page’s dress.
“I love the Lady of the Fountain!” he cried. “I have always loved her in my dreams! Take me to her.”
“Tomorrow!” said the maiden. “I will take you tomorrow. Be assured she will love you in return!”
So, the next day, the maiden gave Sir Gawaine a beautiful robe to wear, with golden clasps in the shapes of lions. He looked right royal in it as he strode down the corridors of the castle into the presence of the Lady of the Fountain, who was sitting thoughtful, and all alone. The maiden led Sir Gawaine to her, and she turned her beautiful pale face to him, as he knelt, silently, on one knee before her.
“You?” she said. “Then it was you who fought with the black knight of the Fountain.”
“It was my adventure, lady,” said Sir Gawaine.
The Lady of the Fountain made a sign to the pretty maiden who was dressed like a page.
“Call my nobles,” said she.
Then, when all the nobles came, she pointed to Sir Gawaine.
“He has shown himself the strongest knight we have ever known,” said she. “Tell me, for it is for you to decide — shall he guard the waters of the fairy fountain for me and for all of you?”
The nobles, who knew that Sir Gawaine had conquered in a fair fight, said that he should. And then the lady stood up on her raised throne, walked down the steps, and gave Sir Gawaine her hand.
“Be it so!” said she.