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Sir Dougie and the Green Knight

Chapter Text

After the siege and the assault of Hartford, when that burg was destroyed and burnt to ashes, and the traitor tried for his treason, the noble Brind'amour and his kin sailed forth to become princes and patrons of the Carolinas.

And in that kingdom of the Carolinas have been wrought more gallant deeds than in any other; but of all Carolina kings Justin was the most valiant, as I have heard tell, therefore will I set forth a wondrous adventure that fell out in his time. And if you will listen to me, but for a little while, I will tell it as it is fixed in the letter, as it has long been known in the land.


King Justin lay at Raleigh upon a Christmas-tide, with many a gallant lord and lovely lady, and all the noble brotherhood of the Storm Surge. There they held rich revels with gay talk and jest. Sometimes they would ride forth to joust and tourney and play hockey, and again back to the court to make chirps. There was a feast held for fifteen days with pond hockey in the morning, all the mirth that men could devise, song and glee, glorious to hear, in the daytime, and dancing at night. Halls and chambers were crowded with noble guests, the bravest of knights and the loveliest of ladies, and Justin himself was the comeliest king that ever held a court. For all his fair folk were in their youth, the fairest and most fortunate under heaven, and the king himself of such fame that it was hard to name so valiant a hero.

Now the New Year had but newly come in, and on that day a double portion was served on the high table to all the noble guests, and thither came the king with all his knights. And they greeted each other for the New Year, and gave rich gifts, one to the other. Then they washed and sat down to the feast in fitting rank and order, and Kelly the queen, gaily clad, sat on the high daïs. Silken was her seat, with a fair canopy over her head, of rich embroidered tapestries, and studded with costly gems; fair she was to look upon. With her shining eyes, a fairer woman might no man boast himself of having seen.

But Justin would not eat till all were served, so full of joy and gladness was he, even as his hair greyed; he liked not either to lie long, or to sit long at meat, so worked upon him his young blood and his wild brain. And another custom he had also, that came of his nobility. He would never eat upon a high day till he had been advised of some knightly deed, or some strange and marvelous tale, or till some stranger knight should seek of him leave to joust with one of the Storm Surge, that they might set their lives one against another, as fortune might favour them. Such was the king's custom when he sat in hall at each high feast with his noble knights, therefore on that New Year's Eve he abode, fair of face, on the throne, and made much mirth withal.

Thus the king sat before the high tables, and spoke of many things; and there good Sir Dougie was seated by Kelly the queen, and on her other side sat Warren, the hard man; both were the king's sister's sons and full gallant knights. And at the end of the table was Bishop Aho, and Jordan, King Staal's son, sat at the other side alone. These were worthily served on the daïs, and at the lower tables sat many valiant knights. They herald the first course with the blast of trumpets and waving of banners. Many were the delicacies, and rare the meats. So great was the plenty, they scarce find room on the board to set the dishes. Each helped himself as he liked best, and to each two were twelve dishes, with great plenty of beer and wine. Now I will say no more of the service, but that you may know there was no lack.

As the sound of the music ceased, and the first course had been fitly served, there came in at the hall door one terrible to behold, of stature greater than any on earth; from neck to loin so strong and thickly made, and with limbs so long and so great that he seemed even as a giant. And yet he was but a man, only the mightiest that might mount a steed; broad of chest and shoulders yet slender of waist and wrist, and all his features of like fashion. But the men marveled most at his color, for though he rode as a knight, he was green all over.

Clad he was all in green, with a straight coat, and a mantle above; all decked and lined with fur was the cloth and the hood that was thrown back from his locks and lay on his shoulders. Hose had he of the same green, and spurs of bright gold with silken fastenings richly worked. The lower part of his sleeves were fastened with clasps in the same wise as a king's mantle. Around his waist and his saddle were bands with fair stones set upon silken work. All the trappings of his steed were of green enamel on metal. Even the stirrups that he stood in were stained of the same, and stirrups and saddle-bow alike gleamed and shone with green stones. The knight was thus gaily dressed in green, his hair not falling past his nape; he wore no beard upon his strong jaw.

Even the steed on which he rode was of the same hue, a green horse, great and strong. The horse's mane was crisp and plaited with many a knot folded in with gold thread about the fair green; here a twist of the hair, here another of gold. The tail was twined in like manner, bound with a band of bright green set with many a precious stone and tied aloft in a cunning knot, whereon rang many bells of burnished gold. Such a steed might no other ride, nor had such ever been looked upon in that hall ere that time.

The knight bore no helm nor hauberk, neither gorget nor breast-plate, neither shaft nor buckler to smite nor to shield, but in his hands he had an axe, huge and uncomely, a cruel weapon in fashion, if one would picture it. The head was an ell-yard long, the metal all of green steel and gold, the blade burnished bright, with a broad edge, as well shaped to shear as a sharp razor. The steel was set into a strong staff, all bound round with iron, even to the end, and engraved with green in cunning work. A lace was twined about it, that looped at the head, and all down the handle it was clasped with tassels on buttons of bright green richly broidered.

The knight rode through the entrance of the hall, driving straight to the high daïs, and greeted no man. The first words he spoke were, "Where is the ruler of this court? I would gladly look upon that hero, and have speech with him." He cast his eyes on the knights, and mustered them up and down, striving to see who of them was the most renowned.

There was great gazing to behold that knight, for each man marveled what it might mean that him and his steed should have such a hue as the green grass, or even greener. All looked on him as he stood, and wondered greatly what he might be; for many marvels had they seen, but none such as this, and phantasm and faërie did the assembly deem it. Therefore the gallant knights gazed astounded, slow to answer, and sat stone still in a deep silence through that goodly hall, as if a slumber were fallen upon them.

Then King Justin beheld this adventurer before his high daïs, and knightly he greeted him, for fearful was he never. "Sir," he said, "you are welcome to this place–lord of this hall am I, and men call me Justin. Alight thee down, and tarry awhile, and what your will is, that shall we learn after our feast."

"No," quoth the stranger, his voice thick with an unknown accent, "it is not mine errand to tarry any while in this dwelling; but the praise of this thy city is lifted up on high, and thy warriors are held for the best and the most valiant of those who ride mail-clad to the fight. The wisest and the worthiest of this world are they, and well proven in hockey and all knightly sports. And here, as I have heard tell, is fairest courtesy, therefore have I come at this time. You may be sure that I come in peace, seeking no strife. For had I willed to journey in warlike guise I have at home both hauberk and helm, shield and shining spear, and other weapons to mine hand. Since I seek no war my raiment is that of peace, but if you be as bold as all men tell, you will freely grant me the boon I ask."

And Justin answered, "Sir Knight, if you crave battle here you shall not fail for lack of a foe."

And the knight answered, "I ask no fight. In faith here on the benches are but children, were I clad in armor on my steed there is no man here who might match me. Instead I ask but for a Christmas jest, for there are here many eager for sport. If anyone in this hall holds himself so hardy, so bold both of blood and brain, as to dare strike me one stroke for another, I will give him as a gift this axe to handle as he wills. I shall abide the first blow, unarmed as I sit. If any knight be so bold as to prove my words let him come swiftly to me here, and take this weapon. I quit claim to it, he may keep it as his own, and I will abide his stroke, firm on the floor. Respite of a year and a day shall he have, and then shall you give me the right to deal him another in kind. Now, what do any here dare say?"

If the knights had been astounded at the first, yet stiller were they all now, high and low, when they had heard his words. The knight on his steed straightened himself in the saddle, and cast his eyes fiercely round the hall; red they gleamed under his noble green brow. He frowned and tossed his head, waiting to see who should rise, and when none answered he cried aloud in mockery, "What, is this Justin's hall, and these the knights whose renown has run through many realms? Where are now your pride and your conquests, your wrath, and anger, and mighty words? Now are the praise and the renown of the Storm Surge overthrown by one man's speech, since all keep silence for dread before they ever have seen a blow!"

With that he laughed so loudly that the blood rushed to the king's fair face for very shame, as did all his knights. King Justin sprang to his feet, and drew near to the stranger and said, "Now by heaven foolish is your asking, and your folly shall find its fitting answer. I am not aghast at your words. Give me your axe and I shall grant you the boon you have asked." The knight, fierce of aspect, lighted down from his charger.

Then Justin took the axe, gripped the haft, and swung it round, readying his strike. And the knight stood before him, taller by the head than any in the hall; he stood, and stroked his chin, and checked his nails, no more dismayed for the king's threats than if one had brought him a drink of wine.

Then Dougie, who sat by the queen, rose from the table and spoke, "I beseech you, my lord, let this venture be mine. For I think it not seemly when such challenges be made in your hall that you yourself should undertake it, while there are many bold knights who sit beside you. I am the weakest, I know, and the feeblest of wit, and it will be the less loss of my life than if you seek to grant this boon. For save that you are my uncle there is nothing in me to praise, no virtue is there in my body save your blood, and since this challenge is such folly that it is unseemly for you to take it, and I have asked it from you, let it fall to me, and if I bear myself ungallantly then let all this court blame me."

Justin commanded the knight to approach. He went quickly, knelt down before the king, and grasped the weapon. The king loosed his hold of it, and lifted up his hand, gave him his blessing, and bade him be strong both of heart and hand. "Take care, nephew," quoth Justin, "that you give him but the one blow, and if you strike him rightly I know you shall well abide the stroke he may give you after."

Dougie stepped to the stranger, axe in hand, marveling at his height, even taller than Dougie, and he, never fearing, awaited his coming. Their eyes met, blue to red. Then the Green Knight spoke to Sir Dougie, "Make we our covenant before we go further. First, I ask you, knight, what is your name? Tell me truly, that I may know you."

"In faith," quoth the good knight, "Dougie am I, who will give you this blow, let what may come of it; and at this time twelvemonth will I take another at your hand with whatsoever weapon you would, and none other."

Then the other answered again, low in voice so that none but Dougie could hear, "Sir Dougie, I am heartily glad that you shall be the one to give me this blow.” A shiver passed down Dougie's neck. Quoth the Green Knight, loud again, "Sir Dougie, I appreciate that you have readily and truly rehearsed all the covenant that I asked of the king, save that you shall swear me, by thy troth, to seek me yourself wherever you think that I may be found, and win you such reward as you will deal me today, before this court."

"Where shall I seek you?" quoth Dougie. "Where is your place? I do not know where you dwell, nor your court, nor your name. But teach me truly all that, and tell me your name, and I shall use all my wit to win my way thither, and that I swear by my sure troth."

"That is enough in the New Year, it needs no more," quoth the Green Knight to the gallant Dougie, "I shall tell you truly when I have taken the blow, and you have smitten me; then will I teach you of my house and home, and mine own name, then may you keep your covenant. And if I waste no words then you fare all the better, for you can dwell in your land, and seek no further. But take now your toll, and let us see how you strike."

"Gladly will I," quoth Dougie, handling his axe.

Then the Green Knight swiftly made himself ready. He bowed down his head, and his hair parted from his neck so that his beautiful, bare nape, glowing green, might be seen. Dougie gripped his axe and raised it on high, the left foot he set forward on the floor, and let the blow fall on the bare neck. The sharp edge of the blade sundered the bones, smote through the neck, and cleaved it in two, so that the edge of the steel bit on the ground, and the fair head fell to the earth.

The blood spurted forth, and glistened on the green raiment, but the knight neither faltered nor fell; he started forward with outstretched hand, and caught the head, and lifted it up. Then he turned to his steed, and took hold of the bride, set his foot in the stirrup, and mounted. His head he held by the hair, in his hand. Then he seated himself in his saddle as if nothing ailed him, and he were not headless. He turned his steed about, the grim corpse bleeding freely all the while.

He held up the head in his hand, and turned the face towards them that sat on the high daïs, and it lifted up the eyelids and looked upon them and spoke, "Look, Dougie, that you are ready to go as you have promised, and seek loyally till you find me, as you have sworn in this hall in the hearing of these knights. Such a stroke as you have dealt you shall deserve, and it shall be paid to you on New Year's morn. Many men know me as the knight of the Green Chapel. Come, I charge thee, and if you ask, you will not fail to find me. Come, or forever be known as a coward."

With that he turned his bridle, and galloped out at the hall door, his head in his hands, so that sparks flew from beneath his horse's hoofs. Whither he went none knew, no more than they knew whence he had come.

Though Justin the king was astonished at his heart, he let no sign of it be seen, but spoke courteous wise to Sir Dougie. "Fair nephew, hang up your axe, since it has hewn enough. Now I may well get me to meat, for I have seen a marvel I may not forget." And they hung it above the daïs, where all men might look on it for a marvel and wonder. Then they sat down together, the king and the good knight, and men served them with a double portion, as was the share of the noblest. And they spent that day in gladness, but Sir Dougie thinks much of the heavy venture to which he had set his hand.

Chapter Text

For Yule was now over-past, and the year after, each season in its turn following the other. For after Christmas comes crabbed Lent, that will have fish for flesh and simpler cheer. But then the weather of the world chides with winter; the cold withdraws itself, the clouds uplift, and the rain falls in warm showers on the fair plains. Then the flowers come forth, meadows and grove are clad in green, the birds make ready to build, and sing sweetly for solace of the soft summer that follows thereafter. The blossoms bud and blow in the hedgerows rich and rank, and noble notes enough are heard in the fair woods.

After the season of summer, with the soft winds, when zephyr breathes lightly on seeds and herbs, joyous indeed is the growth that waxes thereout when the dew drips from the leaves beneath the blissful glance of the bright sun. But then comes harvest and hardens the grain, warning it to wax ripe ere the winter. The drought drives the dust on high, flying over the face of the land; the angry wind of the welkin wrestles with the sun; the leaves fall from the trees and light upon the ground, and all brown are the groves that but now were green, and ripe is the fruit that once was flower. So the year passes into many yesterdays, and winter comes again, as it needs no sage to tell us.

When the Michaelmas moon was come in with warnings of winter, Sir Dougie began to think again of his perilous journey. Yet till All Hallows Day he lingered with Justin, and on that day they made a great feast for Dougie's sake, with all revel and richness of the Storm Surge. Courteous knights and comely ladies, all were in sorrow for the love of that knight, and though they spoke no word of it, many were joyless for his sake.

And after meat, sadly Sir Dougie turned to his uncle, and spoke of his journey, and said, "Liege lord of my life, I must ask leave from you. You know well how the matter stands without more words. Tomorrow am I bound to set forth in search of the Green Knight." Then came together all the noblest knights, Warren and Hayden, Sir Trevor van Riemsdyk, the Duke of Charlotte, Gardiner and Gibbons, and McGinn the Good. Sir Joel and Sir James, valiant knights both, and many another hero, they all drew near, heavy at heart, to take counsel with Sir Dougie. Much sorrow and weeping was there in the hall to think that so worthy a knight as Dougie should go to seek a deadly blow, and no more wield his sword in fight. But the knight made ever good cheer, and said, "But how could I shrink away? What may a man do but prove his fate?" He dwelt there all that day, and on the morn he arose and dressed in his armor.

First, clad he was in a doublet of silk, with a close hood, lined fairly throughout. Then they set the steel shoes upon his feet, and wrapped his legs with greaves, with polished knee-caps, fastened with knots of gold. Then they cased his thighs in cuisses closed with thongs, and brought him the byrny of bright steel rings sewn upon a fair stuff. Well burnished braces they set on each arm with good elbow-pieces, and gloves of mail, and all the goodly gear that should shield him in his need. And they cast over all a rich surcoat, and set the golden spurs on his heels, and girt him with a trusty sword fastened with a silken baldric. When he was thus clad his harness was costly, for the least loop or latchet gleamed with gold. So armed as he was he came to the king, and the knights of his court, and courteously took leave of lords and ladies.

With that was his horse, Stormy, ready, girt with a saddle that gleamed gaily with many golden fringes, enriched and decked anew for the venture. The bridle was all barred about with bright gold buttons, and all the covertures and trappings of the steed, the crupper and the rich skirts, accorded with the saddle; spread fair with the rich red gold that glittered and gleamed in the rays of the sun. Then the knight called for his helmet, which was well lined throughout, and set it high on his head, and hasped it behind. He wore a light kerchief over the vintail, that was broidered and studded with fair gems on a broad silken ribbon, with birds of gay colour, and many a turtle and true-lover's knot interlaced thickly, even as many a maiden had wrought diligently for seven winter long. But the circlet which crowned his helmet was yet more precious, being adorned with a device in diamonds.

Then they brought him his shield, which was of bright red, with the hurricane painted thereon. And why that noble prince bares the hurricane I am minded to tell you, though my tale tarry thereby. It was well suiting to this knight and to his arms, since Dougie was faithful, pure was he as gold, void of all villainy and endowed with all virtues. The hero used frankness and fellowship above all, purity and courtesy that never failed him, and compassion that surpasses all; in these five virtues was that hero wrapped and clothed. Therefore he bares the hurricane on shield and surcoat as the truest of heroes and gentlest of knights.

Now was Sir Dougie ready, and he took his lance in hand, and bade them all farewell. Then he smote Stormy with his spurs, and sprang on his way, so that sparks flew from the stones after him. All that saw him were grieved at heart, and said one to the other, "'Tis a great pity that one of such noble life should be lost! In faith, it is not easy to find his equal upon earth. That knight should have been made a duke; a gallant leader of men is he, and fate has not destined better for him than to be hewn in pieces at the will of an elfish man, for mere pride. Why did the king consent to risk his knights on a Christmas jest?" Many were the tears that flowed from their eyes when that goodly knight rode from the hall. He made no delaying, but went his way swiftly, and rode many a wild road.

So rode Sir Dougie through the realm of Carteret, on an errand that he held for no jest. Often he lay companionless, save his steed, and had none save God with whom to take counsel. At length he came into the wilderness of Watauga, where few dwell who are possessed of a true heart. And he asked of all whom he met if they had heard any tidings of a Green Knight in the country thereabout, or of a Green Chapel? And all answered him no, never in their lives had they seen any man of such a hue. Many a cliff did he climb in that unknown land, where afar from his friends he rode as a stranger. Never did he come to a stream or a ford but he found a foe before him and was forced to fight. So many wonders did that knight behold, that it were too long to tell the tenth part of them. Sometimes he fought with dragons and wolves; sometimes with wild men that dwelt in the rocks; another while with bulls, and bears, and wild boars, or with giants of the high moorland that drew near to him. Had he not been an enduring knight of well-proved valor, doubtless he would have been slain, for he was oft in danger of death.

Thus in peril and pain, and many a hardship, the knight rode alone till Christmas Eve. On that morning he rode by a hill, and came into a thick forest, wild and dreary; on each side were high hills, and thick woods below them of great hoar oaks, a hundred together, of hazel and hawthorn with their trailing boughs intertwined, and rough ragged moss spreading everywhere. On the bare twigs the birds chirped piteously, for pain of the cold. The knight upon Stormy rode lonely beneath them, through marsh and mire, much troubled at heart lest he should fail to fulfil his oath. Just then, he became aware in the wood of a dwelling within a moat, above a lawn, on a mound surrounded by many mighty trees that stood round the moat. 'Twas the fairest castle that ever a knight owned, built in a meadow with a park all about it, and a spiked palisade, closely driven, that enclosed the trees for more than two miles.

Dougie approached the hold from the side, as it shone through the oaks, and felt relief. "Now," thought the knight, "I beseech you, grant me fair hostel." Then he pricked Stormy with his golden spurs, rode gaily towards the great gate, and came swiftly to the bridge end. The bridge was drawn up and the gates closed shut; the walls were strong and thick, so that they might fear no tempest. The knight on his charger abode on the bank of the deep double ditch that surrounded the castle. The walls were set deep in the water, and rose aloft to a wondrous height; they were of hard hewn stone up to the corbels. And within he beheld the high hall, with its tower and many windows with carven cornices, and chalk-white chimneys on the turreted roofs that shone fair in the sun. And everywhere, thickly scattered on the castle battlements, were pinnacles, so many that it seemed as if it were all wrought out of paper, so white was it.

The knight called aloud, and soon there came a porter of kindly countenance, who stood on the wall and greeted this knight and asked his errand. "Good sir," quoth Dougie, "will you go for me to the high lord of the castle, and beg for me lodging?"

"Yes, of course," quoth the porter. "In truth I believe that you will be welcome to dwell here so long as you like." Then he went, and came again swiftly with many folk to receive the knight. They let down the great drawbridge, and came forth and knelt on their knees on the cold earth to give him worthy welcome. Courteously he bid them rise, they held wide open the great gates, and he rode over the bridge. Then men came to him and held his stirrup while he dismounted, and took and stabled his steed. There came down knights and squires to bring the guest with joy to the hall. When he removed his helmet there were many to take it from his hand, eager to serve him, and they took from him his well-used sword and shield.

Sir Dougie gave good greeting to the noble and the mighty men who came to do him honor. Clad in his shining armor they led him to the hall, where a great fire burnt brightly on the floor; and the lord of the household came forth from his chamber to meet the hero. He spoke to the knight in a pleasing voice with the light touch of a foreign tongue, and said: "You are welcome to do here as you like. All that is here is your own to have at your will and disposal."

"I thank you," quoth Dougie. Each embraced the other as if old friends. Dougie asked, "What is your name, my lord?"

The lord replied, "It is Andrei," and Dougie looked on the knight who greeted him so kindly, and thought it was a handsome warrior that owned the castle. Of mighty stature he was, but of younger age than Dougie. He had no beard and short-cropped hair, but was stalwart of limb, strong in his stride, and his speech free. In all, he seemed one well fitted to be a leader of valiant men. Then Andrei led Sir Dougie to a chamber, and commanded folk to wait upon him, and at his bidding came men who brought the guest to a fair bower. The bedding was noble, with curtains of pure silk wrought with gold, and wondrous coverings of fair cloth all embroidered. They took from the guest his byrny and all his shining armor, and brought him rich robes in its stead. They were long and flowing, and became him well, and when he was clad in them all who looked upon Dougie thought that surely there had never been a fairer knight; he seemed to be a prince without peer in the field where men strive in battle.

Then before the hearth-place, where the fire burned, they made ready a chair for Dougie, hung about with cloth and fair cushions, and they cast around him a mantle of brown samite, richly embroidered and furred of ermine, with a hood of the same. He seated himself in that rich seat, and warmed himself at the fire, and was cheered at heart. And while he sat thus the serving men set up a table on trestles, and covered it with a fair white cloth, and set thereon a salt-cellar, and napkins, and silver spoons. The knight washed at his will, and set down to eat. The folk served him courteously with many dishes seasoned of the best, a double portion. All kinds of fish were there, some baked in bread, some broiled on the embers, some sodden, some stewed and savored with spices, with all sorts of cunning devices to his taste. Dougie thanked them heartily for their pains.

Then they questioned that prince courteously of whence he came; and he told them that he was of the court of Justin, who is the rich royal King of the Storm Surge, and that it was Dougie himself who was within their walls, and would keep Christmas with them, as the chance had fallen out. And when Andrei, the lord of the castle, heard those tidings he laughed aloud for gladness, and all the men in that keep were joyful that they should be in the company of him to whom belonged all fame, and valor, and courtesy, and whose honor was praised above that of all men on earth. Each said softly to his fellow, "Now shall we see a truly courteous bearing, and the manner of speech befitting courts. What charm lies in gentle speech shall we learn without asking, since here we have welcomed the fine father of courtesy. What favor we must have to be sent such a guest as Dougie! This knight shall bring us to the knowledge of fair manners, and by hearing him we may learn the cunning speech of love." By the time the knight had risen from dinner it was near nightfall. Then chaplains took their way to the chapel, and rang loudly, even as they should, for the solemn evensong of the high feast.

Thither went Andrei, and his lady, Tatiana, also. She entered with her maidens into a comely closet. Then Andrei took Dougie by the hand and led him to a seat beside him, and said, "Dougie, you are of all men in the world the most welcome here." And Sir Dougie thanked him truly, and they sat close together throughout the service. Then the lady Tatiana desired to look upon that knight, and she came forth from her closet. The fairest of ladies was she in face, and figure, and coloring, fairer even than Kelly, and better at hockey, so the knight thought. When she came through the chancel to greet the hero, another lady held her by the left hand, older than she, and seemingly of high estate. But unlike the younger, the elder was yellow. Her cheeks were rough and wrinkled, her neck was swathed in a gorget, with a white wimple over her black chin. Her forehead was wrapped in silk with many folds, worked with knots, so that naught of her was seen save her black brows, her eyes, her nose and her lips, and those were bleared, and ill to look upon. In figure was she short and broad, and thickly made. Far fairer to behold was she whom she led by the hand. When Dougie beheld that fair lady, who looked at him graciously, with Andrei's leave he went towards them, and, bowing low, he greeted the elder, but the younger and fairer he took lightly in his arms, and greeted her in knightly fashion. Then she hailed him as friend, and they took him between them. Talking all the while, they led him to the chamber, to the hearth, to the place of honor beside Andrei, and bade them bring the good wine that was wont to be drunk at such seasons.

Then Andrei sprang to his feet and bade them make merry. He took off his hood, hung it on a spear, and bade him who should make most mirth that Christmas-tide the prize of it. "And I shall try to fool it with the best, by the help of my friends, or I shall lose my raiment." Thus with gay words Andrei made trial to gladden Dougie with jests that night, till it was time to bid them light the tapers, and Sir Dougie took leave of them and to rest, heart gladdened by Andrei.

In the morning, a high feast was held, with many delicacies and cunningly cooked dishes. On the daïs sat gallant men, clad in their best. The ancient dame sat on the high seat, with Andrei, the lord of the castle, beside her. Beside him was Dougie, and with him the fair lady Tatiana sat. There was meat, there was mirth, there was much joy, so that to tell thereof would take me too long. But Dougie and Andrei had much joy of each other's company through Andrei's sweet words and courteous conversation.

So they held high feast that day and the next, and the third day thereafter, but on the fourth day the joy was diminished, for this was the last of the feast and the guests would depart in the grey of the morning. Therefore they awoke early, and drank wine, and danced fair carols, and at last, when it was late, each man took his leave to go on his way. Dougie, too, would bid his host farewell, but Andrei took him by the hand, and led him to his own chamber beside the hearth, and there he thanked him for the favor he had shown him in honoring his dwelling at that high season, and gladdening him and his castle with his fair countenance. "I wish that while I live I shall be held the worthier that Dougie has been my guest."

"in good faith," quoth Dougie, flushed of face, "all the honour is yours, for you have gladdened me just as much, and I am but at your will to work your behest, beholden as I am to you in great and small by rights." Andrei did his best to persuade the knight to tarry with him, but Dougie answered that he would not be wise to do so. Then Andrei asked him curiously, what stern behest had driven him from the king's court, to fare all alone, even before the feast was ended?

"I say but the truth," quoth the knight, "'tis a high quest and a pressing one that has brought me afield, for I am summoned myself to a certain place, and I know not where in the world I may find it. I would give all the kingdom of Carolina if I might find it by New Year's morn. Therefore, sir, I make request of you that you tell me truly if you have ever heard word of the Green Chapel, where it may be found, and the Green Knight that keeps it. For I am pledged by solemn compact sworn between us to meet that knight at the New Year. If you could tell me, I would look upon you more joyfully than on any other fair sight! But, by your will, it behooves me to leave you, for I have but barely three days, and I would rather fall dead than fail my errand."

Quoth Andrei, laughing, "Now must you stay, for I will show you your goal, the Green Chapel, before your term be at an end, have you no fear! But you can take your ease, dear friend, in your bed, till the fourth day, and go forth on the first of the year and come to that place at mid-morning to do as you will. Dwell here till New Year's Day, and then rise and set forth; it is not two miles hence." Then was Dougie glad. He laughed gaily and embraced his host.

"I thank you for this above all else. Now my quest is achieved I will dwell here at your will, and otherwise do as you shall ask." Then Andrei took him, and set him beside him, and between themselves they had solace. Andrei, for gladness, made merry jest, even as one who knows not what to do for joy; and he cried aloud to the knight, "You have promised to do the thing I bid you: will you hold to this behest, here, at once?"

"Yes, absolutely," said that true knight, "while I abide in your castle I am bound by your behest."

"You have travelled from afar," said the host, "and since then you have waked with me. You are not well refreshed by rest and sleep, as I know. You shall therefore abide in your chamber, and lie at your ease tomorrow, and eat when you will with my wife, who shall sit with you, and comfort you with her company till I return; and I shall rise early and go forth to the chase." And Dougie agreed to all this courteously.

"Sir Dougie," quoth Andrei, eyes alight, "we shall make a covenant. Whatsoever I win in the wood shall be yours, and whatever may fall to your share, that shall you exchange for it. Let us swear to make this exchange, however our luck may fall, for worse or for better." "I grant you your will," quoth Dougie the good; "if this you would like to do, then so would I."

"Bring hither the wine-cup, the bargain is made," so said the lord of that castle. They laughed each one, and drank of the wine, and made merry as it pleased them. When the tapers had burned down to nothing, with gay talk and merry jest Andrei arose to escort Dougie to his chamber. Before his door they stood, and spoke softly and with regard. Andrei kissed Dougie courteously, and each took leave the other. With burning torches was each led to his bed, and to himself the knight oft repeated their covenant, and thought much of their kiss.

Chapter Text

Full early, before daylight, the court began to rise. The guests who would depart called their grooms. They made them ready, saddled the steeds, tightened up the girths, and trussed up their mails. The knights, all arrayed for riding, leapt up lightly, and took their bridles, and each rode his way as pleased him best.

Andrei, the lord of the land, was not the last. Ready for the chase, with many of his men, he ate hastily, and then with blast of the bugle fared forth to the field. He and his nobles were to horse before daylight glimmered upon the earth.

A hundred hunters there were of the best, so I have heard tell. Then the trackers led them to the trysting-place and uncoupled the hounds, and forest rang again with the blasts of the bugle and the barking of the hounds.

At the first sound of the hunt the game quaked for fear, and fled, trembling, along the vale. The harts they let pass them, and the stags with their spreading antlers, for Andrei had forbidden that they should be slain, but the hinds and the does they drove down into the valley. As the deer fled under the boughs an arrow whistling smote and wounded each sorely, so that, wounded and bleeding, they fell dying on the banks. The hounds followed swiftly on their tracks, and hunters sped after them with ringing shouts. What game escaped those that shot was run down at the outer ring. Thus Andrei passed the day in mirth and joyfulness, even to nightfall.

So the lord roamed the woods, and Dougie, that good knight, lay abed, curtained about, under the costly coverlet, while the daylight gleamed on the walls. And as he lay half slumbering, he heard a little sound at the door. He raised his head, caught back a corner of the curtain, and waited to see what it might be. It was the lovely lady Tatiana, the lord's wife. She shut the door softly behind her, and turned towards the bed. Dougie laid down softly and made as if he slept. And she came lightly to the bedside, within the curtain, and sat herself down beside him, to wait till he awakened.

The knight lay there awhile, and marveled within himself what her coming might mean, so improper it was. Despite his discomfort, he said to himself, "'It would be more seemly if I asked her what has brought her here." Then he feigned to awaken, and turned towards her, and widened his eyes as one astonished. She looked on him laughing, with her cheeks red and white, lovely to behold, and small smiling lips.

"Good morrow, Sir Dougie," said Tatiana; "you are a deep sleeper, since one can enter thus. Now are you taken unawares, and lest you escape me I shall bind you in your bed; of that be you assured!" Laughing, she spoke these words.

"Good morrow, fair lady," quoth Dougie blithely. "I will do your will, as it likes me well. For I yield me readily, and that is best." Thus he jested again, laughing. "But if you would, fair lady, grant your prisoner the grace to rise? I would get up bed and array myself better, then could I talk with you in more comfort."

"No way, fair sir," quoth Tatiana, "you shall not rise. I shall keep you here, since you can do nothing else, and talk with my knight whom I have captured. For I know well that you are Sir Dougie, whom all the world worships, wheresoever you may ride. Your honor and your courtesy are praised by lords and ladies, by all who live. Now you are here and we are alone. My lord and his men are afield, the serving men are in their beds, and my maidens also, and the door shut upon us. And since in this hour I have him that all men love, I shall use my time well with speech, while it lasts."

"In truth," quoth Dougie, "I think that I am not him of whom you speak, for unworthy am I of such praise as you here proffer. Still, I would be glad if I might set myself by word or service to your pleasure."

"Truly, Sir Dougie," quoth the gay Tatiana, "I know that you possess the praise and the prowess that pleases all ladies. There are ladies enough who would rather have Sir Dougie in their hold, as I have you here, to dally with your courteous words, to bring them comfort and to ease their cares, than much of the treasure and the gold that are theirs. And now, I have wholly in my power that which they all desire!"

Thus Tatiana, fair to look upon, made him great cheer, and Sir Dougie, with modest words, answered her again: "Madam," he quoth, "I have found in you a noble frankness."

Quoth Tatiana, "Were I worth all the women alive, and had I the wealth of the world in my hand, and might choose me a lord to my liking, then, for all that I have seen in you, Sir Knight, of beauty and courtesy, and for all that I have hearkened and hold true, there is no knight on earth I should choose before you!"

"Well I wish," quoth Sir Dougie, "that you would choose a better; but I am proud that you should so prize me, and as your servant and your knight do I hold you my sovereign."

So they talked of many matters till mid-morn was past, and whenever Tatiana spoke as though she loved him, the knight turned her speech aside. For though she were the brightest of maidens, he had decided to eschew her love for the sake of her lord Andrei, and the blow that must be given without delay.

Then Tatiana prayed her leave from him, and he granted it readily. And she bid him good day with a laughing glance, but he marveled at her words:

"Now that I have spoken with you, that you be Dougie my mind misdoubts me greatly."

"Wherefore?" quoth the knight quickly, fearing he had lacked in some courtesy.

And the lady spoke: "So true a knight as Dougie, and one so perfect in courtesy, would never have tarried so long with a lady and not craved a kiss at parting."

Then quoth Dougie, "I will do as it may please you, and kiss at your commandment, as a true knight should who does not dare ask for fear of discourtesy."

At that she came near and bent down and kissed the knight, and she went forth from the chamber softly.

Then Sir Dougie arose and called his chamberlain and chose his garments, and when he was ready he then went to eat, and made merry all day till the rising of the moon, and never had a knight fairer lodging than had he with those two noble ladies, the elder and the younger.

Andrei chased the hinds through holt and heath till eventide, and then with much blowing of bugles and baying of hounds they bore the game homeward. By the time daylight was done all the court had returned to that fair castle. And when Andrei and Sir Dougie met together, then were they both well pleased. The lord commanded them all to assemble in the great hall, and the ladies to descend with their maidens, and there, before them all, he bade the men fetch in the spoil of the day's hunting. He called unto Dougie, and recounted the tale of the beasts, and showed them to him, and said, "What think you of this game, Sir Knight? Have I deserved of you thanks for my woodcraft?"

"Yes indeed," quoth the other, "here is the fairest spoil I have ever seen in the winter season."

"And all this do I give you, Dougie," quoth Andrei, "by accord of our covenant you may claim it as your own."

"That is true," quoth Dougie, "and I grant you that same. I have fairly won this within these walls, and with good will do I yield it to you." With that he clasped his hands round the lord's strong jaw and neck and kissed him as courteously as he might. And if this kiss was longer in duration than the one he had received from Tatiana, no one need know but Dougie. When the kiss ended, he found he could not unclasp his hands. "Take you here my spoils, no more have I won; you have it freely, though I wish it were greater than this."

"'Tis good," said Andrei, hushed, still so close, "Yet I would like to know where you won this same favour, and if it were by your own wit?"

"No," answered Dougie, moving away, "that was not in the bond. Ask me no more: you have taken what was yours by right, be content with that."

Then they laughed and jested together, and sat down to supper, where they were served with many delicacies. After supper they sat close by the hearth, and wine was served out to them. They promised to observe on the morrow the same covenant that they had made before, and to exchange their spoil, be it much or little, when they met at night. Thus they renewed their bargain before the whole court. Then the night-drink was served, and each courteously took leave of the other and went to bed.

By the time the cock had crowed thrice the lord Andrei had left his bed. The hunting party were at the woods before the day broke. With hound and horn they rode over the plain, and uncoupled their dogs among the thorns. Soon they struck on the scent, and the hunt cheered on the hounds who were first to seize it. The huntsmen spurred them on with shouting and blasts of the horn; and the hounds drew together to a thicket betwixt the water and a high crag in the cliff beneath the hillside. The knights knew well what beast was within, and would drive him forth with the bloodhounds. And as they beat the bushes, suddenly over the beaters there rushed forth a wondrous great and fierce boar; long since had he left the herd to roam by himself. Grunting, he cast many to the ground, and fled forth at his best speed, without more mischief. The men hallooed loudly and blew the horns to urge on the hounds, and rode swiftly after the boar. Many a time did he turn to bay and snap at the hounds, and they yelped and howled shrilly. The men made ready their arrows and shot at him, but the points were turned on his thick hide, and the barbs would not bite upon him, for the shafts shivered in pieces, and the head but leapt again wherever it hit.

But when the boar felt the stroke of the arrows he waxed mad with rage, and turned on the hunters, so that, affrighted, they fled before him. But Andrei on a swift steed pursued him, blowing his bugle; as a gallant knight he rode through the woodland chasing the boar till the sun grew low.

So did the hunters this day, while Sir Dougie lay in his bed lapped in rich gear; and Tatiana did not forget to salute him. She came to the bedside and looked on the knight. Dougie gave her fit greeting, and she greeted him again with ready words, and sat her by his side and laughed, and with a sweet look she spoke to him:

"Sir, if you be Dougie, I think it a wonder that you be so stern and cold, and care not for the courtesies of friendship. You have so soon forgotten what I taught you yesterday!"

"What is that?" quoth the knight. "I know not. If it be true that you say, then the blame is mine own."

"But I taught you of kissing, " quoth Tatiana the fair. "Wherever a fair countenance is shown him, it behooves a courteous knight quickly to claim a kiss."

"No, my lady," said Sir Dougie, "cease that speech at once; that I dare not do lest I were denied, for if I were forbidden I would be in the wrong should I further entreat."

"Oh really?" quoth Tatiana merrily, "you may not be forbidden, you are strong enough to take by strength what you will, were anyone so discourteous as to denial you."

"Yes, that is true," said Dougie, "but threats are forbidden in the land where I dwell, and so are gifts that are not given of good will. I am at your commandment to kiss when you like, to take or to leave as you may."

Then Tatiana bent her down and kissed him courteously. And as they spoke together she said, "I would like to learn somewhat from you, for young you are and fair, and so courteous and knightly as you are known to be, the acme all chivalry, and versed in all wisdom of love and war. It is ever told of true knights how they risked their lives for their true love, and endured hardships for her favours, and avenged her with valour, and eased her sorrows, and brought joy to her bower. You are the fairest knight of your time, and your fame and your honour are everywhere, yet I have sat by you here twice, and never a word have I heard from you of love! You who are so courteous and skilled in such love ought surely to teach one so young and unskilled as me some little craft of true love! Why, are you in truth so unlearned despite your fame? Or is it that you deemed me unworthy to listen to your teaching? For shame, Sir Knight! I come have come here alone to sit at your side and learn from you some skill; teach me of your wit, while my lord is from home."

"In good faith," quoth Dougie, truth-telling, "great is my joy that so fair a lady as you are should deign to come hither, and trouble yourself with so poor a man. That you make sport with your knight with kindly countenance, it pleases me much. But that I, in my turn, should take it upon me to tell of love and such like matters to you who knows more by half, or a hundred fold, of such craft than I do, or ever shall in all my lifetime, that would be folly indeed! I will work your will as best I can, as I am bound, and evermore will I be your servant."

Then often with guile Tatiana questioned that knight that she might win him to woo her, but he defended himself so fairly that none might in any way blame him, and nothing but harmless jesting passed between them. They laughed and talked together till at last she kissed him, and craved her leave of him, and went her way.

Then the knight arose, and afterward dinner was served. He sat and spoke with the ladies all day. But the lord Andrei rode ever over the land chasing the wild boar that fled through the thickets, slaying the best of his hounds and breaking their backs; till at last he was so weary he could run no longer, but made for a hole in a mound by a rock. He got the mound at his back and faced the hounds, whetting his white tusks and foaming at the mouth. The huntsmen stood aloof, fearing to draw near him, so many of them had been already wounded that they were loath to be torn with his tusks, so fierce he was and mad with rage. At length Andrei himself came up, saw the beast at bay and the men standing aloof. Then quickly he sprang to the ground and drew out a bright blade, and waded through the stream to the boar.

When the beast was aware of the lord with weapon in hand, he set up his bristles and snorted loudly, and many feared for their lord lest he be slain. Then the boar leapt upon Andrei so that beast and man were one atop the other in the water. But the boar had the worst of it, for the man had marked, even as he sprang, and set the point of his brand to the beast's chest, and drove it up to the hilt, so that the heart was split in two. The boar fell snarling and was swept down by the water to where a hundred hounds seized on him, and the men drew him to shore for the dogs to slay.

Then the huntsmen smote off the boar's head, and hung the carcass by the four feet to a stout pole, and so went on their way homewards. The head they bore before Andrei himself, who had slain the beast at the ford by force of his strong hand.

It seemed to him far too long before he saw Sir Dougie again in the hall. He called, and the guest came to take that which fell to his share. And when he saw Dougie, eyes kind and red hair shining, Andrei laughed aloud, and bade them call the ladies and the household together. He showed them the game, and told them the tale, how they hunted the wild boar through the woods, and of his length and breadth and height; and Sir Dougie commended his deeds and praised him for his valour, well proven, for so mighty a beast had he never seen before.

They handled the huge head, and Andrei said aloud, "Now, Dougie, this game is your own by sure covenant, as you well know."

"'True," quoth the knight, "and as truly will I give you all I have gained." He took Andrei round the neck, and kissed him twice, long and pleasant. "Now are we quits," he said, forehead pressed to Andrei's, "this eventide, of all the covenants that we made since I came here."

And Andrei answered, face pink, "By my troth, you are the best man I know; you will shortly be rich if you drive such bargains!"

Then they set up the tables on trestles, and covered them with fair cloths, and lit waxen tapers on the walls. The knights sat and were served in the hall, and much game and glee was there round the hearth, with many songs of Christmas, and new carols, with all the mirth one may think of. And ever that lovely lady Tatiana sat by the knight, and with still stolen looks made such effort to please him, that Dougie marveled much, and was wroth with himself. He could not for his courtesy return her fair glances, but dealt with her cunningly, however she might strive to wrest the thing.

When they had tarried in the hall so long as it seemed them good, Dougie and Andrei turned to the inner chamber and the wide hearthplace, and there they drank wine, and Andrei proffered to renew the covenant for New Year's Eve. Though the knight craved to do so, he had resolved to depart on the morrow, for it was nearing the time when he must fulfil his pledge. But Andrei would withhold him from so doing, and prayed him to tarry, and said,

"As I am a true knight I swear my troth that you shall come to the Green Chapel to achieve your task on New Year's morn, in good time. Therefore abide you in your bed, and I will hunt in this wood, and hold you to the covenant to exchange with me against all the spoil I may bring home. For twice have I tried you, and found you pleasing and true, and the morrow shall be the third time and the best. Make we merry now while we may, and think on joy, for misfortune may take a man whenever it wills."

Dougie granted his request gladly, then all went to bed.

Sir Dougie lay and slept softly, but Andrei, who was keen to hunt, was afoot early. He and his men ate a morsel, and then he asked for his steed; all the knights who would ride with him were already mounted before the hall gates.

'Twas a fair frosty morning, for the sun rose red in ruddy vapor, and the sky was clear of clouds. The hunters scattered, and the rocks rang again with the blast of their horns. Some came on the scent of a fox, and a hound gave tongue; the huntsmen shouted, and the pack followed in a crowd on the trail. The fox ran before them, and when they saw him they pursued him. He wound and turned through many a thick grove, often cowering in a hedge. At last by a little ditch he leapt out, stole away slyly by a copse path, out of the wood and away from the hounds. But where he went the hunters foresaw, and three started forth on him at once, so he must needs double back, and betake him to the wood again.

Then was it joyful to hearken to the hounds; when all the pack had met together and had sight of their game they made as loud a din as if all the lofty cliffs had fallen clattering together. The huntsmen shouted and threatened, and followed close upon him so that he might scarce escape. But the fox was wily, and he turned and doubled upon them, and led Andrei and his men over the hills, now on the slopes, now in the vales, while Dougie the knight at home slept through the cold morning beneath his costly curtains.

But Tatiana, the fair lady of the castle, rose betimes, and clad herself in a rich mantle that reached to the ground. She left her throat and her fair neck bare and bordered with costly furs. On her head she wore no golden circlet, the symbol of her wedded bliss and high place, but a lattice of precious stones that gleamed and shone through her tresses in clusters, as though she were unmarried still. Thus she came into the chamber, closed the door after her, flung open a window, and called to Dougie gaily, "Sir Knight, how can you sleep when the morning is so fair?"

Sir Dougie was deep in slumber, and he dreamed a troubled dream of the destiny that should befall him on the morrow, when he should meet the knight at the Green Chapel and abide his blow, but when the lady spoke he heard her, and roused from his dream to answer swiftly. Tatiana came laughing, and kissed him courteously, and he welcomed her fittingly with as cheerful a countenance as he could muster. Her so gloriously and gaily dressed, so faultless of features and complexion, Dougie could not mistake her seductive intentions.

The knight thought again upon his covenant with Andrei. Red flushed his face as he realized what he must do that night should he grant her desire. But this could not be. They spoke to each other smiling, yet was there a gulf between them. She shall win no more of her knight, for that gallant prince Dougie watched well his words. He would neither take her love, nor frankly refuse it. He cared for his courtesy, lest he be deemed churlish, and yet more for his honor lest he be traitor to his affections for Andrei, his host. Thus with courteous words did he set aside all the seductive speeches that came from her lips.

Then spoke Tatiana to the knight, "You must already have a love whom you hold dearer, and like better, and have sworn such firm faith to that lady that you care not to know me - that I have now come to believe. And now I pray that you tell me the straightforward truth, and hide it not."

And the knight answered, (and he smiled as he spoke, for her words allowed him to conceal much) "no such love have I, nor do I think I shall have soon."

"That is the worst word I may hear," quoth Tatiana, "but at least I have mine answer; kiss me now courteously, and I will go hence; I can but mourn as a maiden that loves much."

Sighing, she stooped down and kissed him, and then she rose up and spoke as she stood, "Now, dear, at our parting do me this grace: give me some gift, if it were but your glove, that I may think of my knight, and lessen my mourning."

"Now, I wish," quoth Dougie, "I would that I had here the most precious thing that I possess on earth that I might leave for you as a token, for you have deserved far more reward than I can give. But it is not to your honour to have at this time a glove as gift from me. I am here on a strange errand, and am without goodly things. That mislikes me much, lady, but each man must fare as he is taken, if for sorrow and ill."

"Well, knight highly honored," quoth that lovesome Tatiana, "though I have nothing of yours, yet shall you have something of mine." With that she proffered a ring of red gold with a sparkling stone therein, that shone even as the sun. But Dougie refused it, and spoke readily, "I will take no gift, lady, at this time. I have none to give, thus none will I take."

She prayed him to take it, but he refused her prayer, and swore that he would not have it. Tatiana was sorely vexed, and said, "If you refuse my ring as too costly, so that you will not be so highly beholden to me, I will give you my girdle as a lesser gift." With that she loosened a lace that was fastened at her side, knit open her kirtle under her mantle. Resting upon her skin, it was wrought of green silk, and gold, only braided by the fingers, and that she offered to the knight, and begged him though it were of little worth that he take it. Again he said no, he would touch neither gold nor gear of hers. "And therefore, I pray you, do not further displease yourself, and ask me no longer, for I shall not grant it. I am dearly beholden to you for the favor you have shown me while I have abided here, and ever, in heat and cold, will I be your true servant."

"Now," said Tatiana, "you refuse this silk, for it seems simple in itself. It is small to look upon and less in cost, but if you knew the virtue that is knit therein you would, I imagine, value it more highly. For whatever knight is girded with this green lace, while he bears it knotted about him no man can overcome him, for he may not be slain by any magic on earth."

It came sharply into Dougie's heart that this were a savior against the jeopardy that awaited him at the Green Chapel. Could he so arrange it that he should escape alive, this was a craft worth trying. And so Dougie let her say her say. Again she pressed the girdle on him and prayed him to take it, and this time he granted her prayer. She gave it him with good will, and beseeched him for her sake never to reveal it but to hide it loyally from her lord; and Dougie agreed that never should anyone know it, save they two alone. He thanked her often and heartily, and she kissed him for the third time.

Then she took her leave of him, and when she was gone Sir Dougie arose, and clad himself in rich attire. He took the girdle, knotted it round him, and hid it beneath his robes. He made merry with the ladies, with carols, and all kinds of joy, as never he did but that one day, even to nightfall; and all the men marveled at him, and said that never since he came thither had he been so merry.

Meanwhile the lord Andrei was abroad chasing the fox; awhile he lost him, and then it came creeping through a thick grove, with all the pack at his heels. The lord drew out his shining brand, and cast it at the beast. The fox swerved aside for the sharp edge, and would have doubled back, but a hound was on him ere he might turn, and right before the horse's feet they all fell on him, and worried him fiercely, snarling all the while.

Then Andrei leapt from his saddle, caught the fox from the jaws, and held it aloft over his head, and many brave hounds bayed as they beheld it. The hunters gathered, blowing their horns. 'Twas the merriest meeting that ever men heard, the clamor that was raised at the death of the fox. They rewarded the hounds, stroking them and rubbing their heads, and stripped the fox of his coat; then blowing their horns, they turned homewards, for it was near nightfall.

Andrei was glad to return, and found a bright fire on the hearth. The knight beside it, the good Sir Dougie, was in joyous mood for the pleasure he had had with the ladies. He wore a robe of blue, that reached to the ground, and a surcoat richly furred, that became his red hair well. A hood like to the surcoat fell on his shoulders, and all alike were done about with fur. He met the host in the midst of the floor, and jesting, he greeted him, and said, "Now shall I be first to fulfil our covenant which we made together." Then he embraced the knight, and kissed him thrice, as satisfyingly as he might.

"Oh," quoth the other, "you have had good luck in the matter of this covenant!"

"It matters naught of the exchange," quoth Dougie, "since what I owe is swiftly paid."

"Mine, alas," said Andrei, "is behind, for I have hunted all day, and naught have I got but this one fox-skin, and that is poor payment indeed for three kisses as good as you have here given me."

"Worry not," quoth Sir Dougie, for he had rather have Andrei's kisses than if he could have all the world, "I thank you."

Then the lord told them of his hunting, and how the fox had been slain. With mirth and minstrelsy, they made merry till it was time for them to part, for at last they must take to their beds. Together Dougie and Andrei left the hall for the inner chamber alone. There Dougie took his leave of Andrei, and thanked him fervently.

"For the fair sojourn that I have had here at this high feast may you be honored for all time. I give you myself, as one of your servants, if you so like; for I must needs, as you know, go hence with the morn, and you will give me, as you promised, a guide to show me the way to the Green Chapel, and on New Year's Day the Green Knight will deal the doom of my weird."\
"By my faith," quoth the host, "all that ever I promised, that shall I keep with good will."

"Then," replied Dougie, pink of face and heart thundering, "I am still yours for one night more, to do with what you will, for I am your servant in all things."

On one knee Dougie knelt before his lord. In his hands he grasped the edge of the fine scarlet girdle wrapped around his waist and brought it to his lips, supplication and submission. Andrei raised him from the floor and then kissed him, all courtesy gone as they listed into one another. By torchlight Andrei led Dougie to his chamber, and brought him to his bed. That they slept soundly I may not say, for the morrow was not much in their thoughts.

Chapter Text

Now the New Year drew nigh, and the night passed, and the day chased the darkness, but wild weather wakened therewith. The clouds cast the cold to the earth, with enough of the north to slay them that lacked clothing. The snow drave smartly, and the whistling wind blew from the heights, and made great drifts in the valleys. The knight, lying in Andrei's bed, listened, for though his eyes were shut, he hearkened every cock that crew. He arose ere the day broke, by the light of the chamber windows lest he wake Andrei, and sought out his chamberlain, bidding him bring his armor and saddle his steed.

He fetched his garments, and robed Sir Dougie. First he clad him in his clothes to keep off the cold, and then in his harness, which was well and fairly kept. Both hauberk and plates were well burnished, the rings of the rich byrny freed from rust, and all as fresh as at first, so that the knight was fain to thank him. Then he put on each piece, and bade them bring his steed, while he put the fairest raiment on himself; his coat with its fair cognizance, adorned with precious stones upon velvet, with broidered seams, and all furred within with costly skins.

And he left not the lace, Tatiana's gift, that Dougie forgot not, for his own good. When he had girded on his sword he wrapped the gift twice about him, swathed around his waist. The girdle of green silk set gaily and well upon the royal red cloth, rich to behold, but the knight wore it not for pride of the pendants, polished though they were with fair gold that gleamed brightly on the ends, but to save himself from sword strike, when it behooved him to abide his hurt without question.

Then was Stormy ready, that was great and strong, and had been well cared for and tended in every way; in fair condition was that proud steed, and fit for a journey. Dougie went to him, and looked on his coat, and then he set foot in the stirrup and bestrode his steed, and his squire gave him his shield, which he laid on his shoulder. Then he smote Stormy with his golden spurs, and the steed pranced on the stones and would stand no longer. The drawbridge was let down, and the broad gates unbarred and opened on both sides; the knight took a deep breath as he passed through the gateway.

Thus Dougie went on his way with the one man who should guide him to that dread place where he should receive rueful payment. The two went by hedges where the boughs were bare, and climbed the cliffs where the cold clings. Naught fell from the heavens, but the ground was ill beneath them. Mist brooded over the moor and hung on the mountains; each hill had a cap, a great cloak, of mist. The streams foamed and bubbled between their banks, dashing sparkling on the shores where they shelved downwards. Rugged and dangerous was the way through the woods, till it was time for the sun-rising. Then were they on a high hill; the snow lay white beside them, and the man who rode with Dougie drew rein by his master.

"Sir," he said, "I have brought you till here, and now you are not far from the place that you have sought so specially. But I will tell you the truth, since I know you well, and you are such a knight as I well love: would that you follow my counsel you would fare the better. The place whither you go is accounted full perilous, for he who lives in that waste is the worst on earth. He is strong and fierce, and loves to deal mighty blows; taller is he than any man on earth, and greater of frame than any four in King Justin's court, or in any other. And this is his custom at the Green Chapel: there may no man pass by that place, however proud his arms, but he does put him to death by force of his hand, for he is a discourteous knight, and shows no mercy. Be he churl or chaplain who rides by that chapel, monk or mass priest, or any man else, he thinks it as pleasant to slay them as to pass alive himself. Therefore, I tell you, as true as you sit in your saddle, if you come near there and that knight comes to know it, you shall be slain, though you had twenty lives; I know me that truly! He has dwelt here long and seen many a combat; you may not defend yourself against his blows. Therefore, good Sir Dougie, let the man be, and get you away some other road; seek you another land! I will ride me home again, and I promise you further that I will swear by any oath you please that I will keep counsel faithfully, and never let anyone know the tale that you fled for fear of any man."

"Gramercy," quoth Dougie, but ill-pleased. "Good fortune be his who wishes me good, and that you would keep faith with me I will believe; but you will never be able to keep it hidden forever, that I passed here and fled for fear. Then will I be a coward knight, and shall not be held guiltless. So I will to the chapel, let chance what may, and talk with that man, whether for gladness or for woe, as fate may have it, fierce though he may be in fight."

"Well," quoth the other, "now that you have said that you will take your own harm on yourself, and be pleased to lose your life, I will not keep you. Have, here your helm and your spear in your hand, and ride down this same road beside the rock till you come to the bottom of the valley. There look a little to the left hand, and you shall see in that vale the chapel, and the grim man who keeps it. Now fare you well, noble Dougie; for all the gold on earth I would not go with you nor bear your fellowship one step further." With that the man turned his bridle into the wood, smote the horse with his spurs as hard as he could, and galloped off, leaving the knight alone.

Quoth Dougie, "I will neither greet nor groan, but commend myself to the Green Knight, and yield me to his will." Then the knight spurred Stormy, and rode down the path close in by a bank beside a grove. So he rode through the rough thicket, right into the dale, and there he halted, for it seemed him wild enough. No sign of a chapel could he see, but high and burnt banks on either side and rough rugged crags with great stones above. An ill-looking place he thought it. He drew in his horse and looked around to seek the chapel, but he saw none and thought it strange.

Then he saw a mound on a level space of land by a bank beside the stream where it ran swiftly, the water bubbled within as if boiling. The knight turned his steed to the mound, lighted down, and tied the rein to the branch of a linden. He turned to the mound and walked round it, questioning with himself what it might be. It had a hole at the end and at either side, and was overgrown with clumps of grass, and it was hollow within as an old cave or the crevice of a crag. "Ah," quoth Dougie, "can this be the Green Chapel? Here might the devil say his dread spells at midnight! Now I think there is wizardry here. All overgrown with grass, it would well beseem that fellow in green to say his devotions here. Now feel I 'tis the foul fiend himself who set me this tryst, to destroy me! This is a chapel of mischance: ill-luck resides here!"

Helmet on head and lance in hand, he came up to the rough dwelling, when he heard over the high hill beyond the brook a wondrous fierce noise, that rang in the cliff as if it would cleave asunder. It was as if one ground a scythe on a grindstone, it whirred and whetted like water on a mill-wheel and rushed and rang, terrible to hear. Quoth Dougie, "That sound is preparing for the knight who will meet me here. Naught may help me, yet should my life be forfeit, I fear not!" With that he called aloud. "Who is here in this place to give me my trial? Now is Dougie come hither: if any man wants something of him let him hasten forward now or never."

"Stay," quoth one on the bank above his head, "and you shall speedily have that which I promised you." For a while more the noise of whetting went on before he appeared, and then he came forth from a cave in the crag with a fell weapon, a Danish axe newly sharpened, with which to deal the blow. An evil head it had, four feet large, no less, sharply ground, and bound to the handle by the lace that gleamed brightly. And the knight himself was all green as before, face and foot and locks, but now he was afoot. When he came to the water he would not wade it, but sprang over with the pole of his axe, and strode boldly over the hill that was white with snow.

Sir Dougie went to meet him, but he made no low bow. So long since he had seen the Green Knight's face, that now it seemed altogether familiar. The other said, "Now, fair sir, one may trust you to keep your word. You are welcome, Dougie, to my place. You have timed your coming as befits a true man. You know the covenant set between us: at this time twelve months ago you took that which fell to you, and I at this New Year will readily requite you. We are in this valley alone, here are no knights to sever us, do what we will. Have off your helm from your head, and have here your pay; make me no more talking than I did then when you struck off my head with one blow."

"Nay," quoth Dougie, "I shall make no moan whatever befalls me, but make you ready for the blow and I shall stand still and say never a word, do as you will." With that he bent his head and showed his long, fair neck all bare, and made as if he felt no fear, for he would not be thought a coward.

Then the Green Knight made him ready, and grasped his grim weapon to smite Dougie. With all his force he bore it aloft with a mighty feint of slaying him: had it fallen as straight as he aimed he would have been slain by the blow. But Dougie swerved aside as the axe came gliding down to slay him as he stood, and shrank a little with the shoulders, for the sharp iron. The other heaved up the blade and rebuked the prince with many proud words: "You are not Dougie," he said, "who is held so valiant, that never feared he man by hill or vale, but you shrink away for fear of feeling hurt. Such cowardice did I never hear of Dougie! Neither did I flinch from your blow, or make strife in King Justin's hall. My head fell to my feet, and yet I fled not; but you waxed faint of heart before any harm befell you. I must be deemed the braver knight."

Quoth Dougie, "I shrank once, but so will I no more, though if my head fall on the stones I cannot replace it. But haste, Sir Knight, and bring me to the point, deal me my destiny, and do it out of hand, for I will stand for your stroke and move no more till your axe has hit me."

"Have it, then," quoth the other, and heaved aloft the axe with fierce mien, as if he were mad. He struck at him fiercely but wounded him not, withholding his hand before it might strike him. Dougie flinched in no limb from the stroke, but stood still as a stone or the stump of a tree that is fast rooted in the rocky ground with a hundred roots. Then spoke gaily the man in green, "Now that you have control of your heart whole it behooves me to smite. Hold aside that hood that Justin gave you, and keep your neck bent lest it cover it again." Then Dougie said angrily, "Why are you talking? You hold the threat above me too long. I hope your heart misgives you."

"I apologize," quoth the other, "so fiercely do you speak I will no longer let your errand wait its reward." Then he braced himself to strike, frowning with lips and brow. He lifted the axe lightly and let it fall with the edge of the blade on the bare neck. Though he struck swiftly it hurt him no more than on the one side where it severed the skin. The sharp blade cut into the flesh so that the blood ran over his shoulder to the ground. And when the knight saw the blood staining the snow, he sprang forth, cast his shield over his shoulder, drew out his bright sword, and spoke boldly (never since he was born was he half so blithe), "Stop, Sir Knight, bid me no more blows. I have stood a stroke here without flinching, and if you give me another, I shall requite you, and give as good again. By the covenant made between us in Justin's hall but one blow falls to me here. Halt, therefore."

Then the Green Knight drew back from him and leaned on his axe, setting the shaft on the ground, and looked on Dougie as he stood all armed and faced him fearlessly–at heart it pleased him well. Then he spoke merrily in a loud voice, and said to the knight, "Bold sir, be not so fierce, no man here has done you wrong, nor will do, save by covenant, as we made at Justin's court. I promised you a blow and you have had it–hold yourself well paid! I release you of all other claims. If I had been so minded I might perchance have given you a rougher one. First I menaced you with a feigned one, and hurt you not for the covenant that we made in the first night, and which you did hold truly."

"Sir, what could you mean?" Dougie cried, though now he could see why he found the face of his foe familiar. The Green Knight smiled, and all at once, between one blink of the eye, now stood before Dougie his lord Andrei. To the cold ground did Andrei's axe fall, then he took a cloth from his pocket and pressed it to Dougie's wound.

"All that you gained did you give me as a true man should. The other feint I proffered you for the morrow: my fair wife kissed you, and you did give me her kisses–for both those days I gave you two harmless blows–true man, true return. But the third time you failed, and therefore I gave you that blow. For that piece of clothing you wear is mine, that same woven girdle. Now I know how well you kiss, and your conversation, and the wooing of my wife, for it was mine own doing. I sent her to try you, and in truth I think you are the most faultless knight that ever walked the earth. As a pearl among white peas is of more worth than they, so is Dougie by other knights. But you did lack a little, Sir Knight, and was wanting in loyalty, yet that was for no evil work, nor for wooing neither, but because you loved your life–therefore I blame you less."

Then the other stood a great while, sorely angered and vexed within himself, yet gladdened and relieved that he should not have seen Andrei for the last time; all the blood flew to his face as the Green Knight spoke. Dougie loosed the girdle, and gave it to Andrei. "Here, take back that falsity, may foulness befall it! For fear of your blow cowardice made me make friends with covetousness and forsake loyalty. Now am I faulty and false and have been afraid: from treachery and untruth come sorrow. I admit, my lord, that I have ill done; do then your will."

Then the other laughed and said gaily, "Your free confession of your misdeeds and the penance you have borne on the edge of my axe make hold you absolved from that sin, and my love for you only grows greater. And this girdle of gold and green, like my raiment, do I give you, Sir Dougie, that you keep this for a token of the adventure of the Green Chapel, as it chanced between chivalrous knights. And you shall come again with me to my dwelling and pass the rest of this feast in gladness." Then the lord laid hold of him, and said, "I hope we shall soon make peace with my wife, who was your bitter enemy."

"No," said Sir Dougie, "Your girdle will I take with good will, not for gain of the gold, nor for samite, nor silk, nor the costly pendants, nor for worship, but in sign of my frailty. I shall look upon it when I ride in renown and remind myself of the fault and faintness of the flesh; and so when pride uplifts me for prowess of arms, the sight of this lace shall humble my heart. But I have fared ill, may bliss betide you. Commend me to that courteous lady, your fair wife, but it is no marvel if I do not like to be made a fool and brought to sorrow by women's wiles. But one thing would I pray, if it not displease you: since you are the lord of yonder land wherein I have dwelt, tell me what your rightful name may be, and I will ask no more."

"That will I truly," quoth the other. "Andrei de Svechnikov am I called in this land. But what you now know still is not your true dealing. Rylan le Day dwells in my house, and through knowledge of witchcraft did she change my shape. For long time was she the mistress of Merlin, who knew well all you knights of the court. Rylan the goddess is she called therefore, and there is none so haughty but she can bring him low. Many turns ago, when she beseeched King Justin to allow her to teach the women of the court hockey, he refused and banished her. Injured and desolate, she came to our kingdom. When she prayed to my lord father to help her endeavor, he granted her prayer, and all our court aided in the creation of an alliance of five kingdoms far, far away, where fair maidens play hockey in gladness all the day long. In exchange, she granted each of us a boon. She sent me in this guise to your fair hall to test the truth of the renown that is spread abroad of the valor of the Storm Surge, to find for me one knight who would be worthy of my love," Andrei caressed the knight's face, "for there are not many knights who would love me as I would like to be loved. She taught me this marvel to betray to me your wits and your character, to bear your heart to me as I bear mine to you. That ancient lady is she who is at home, with my wife who is not. Lady Tatiana is the Princess of Shatalova, my cousin, and a noble warrior of hockey who plays for King Ivo Mocek in the kingdom of Ryventer. For the sake of our family bond did she play her part in my ruse."

Sir Dougie knew not what to say, and so embraced and kissed Andrei instead.

"Rylan is even your aunt, Justin's half-sister, the daughter of the Duchess of Tintagel, who afterward married King Uther. Therefore I bid you, dearest Dougie, come to meet your aunt, and make merry in my house; by my troth I love you, and with you I gain more happiness than any man on earth."

Sir Dougie could not drop the smile from his face, and he said yes; so they embraced and kissed again, and on Dougie's steed rode together swiftly back to the lord's castle, the bloodstained dread axe forgotten on the icy ground. Sir Dougie had thus won the grace of love in his life, the hurt that he had in his neck was healed, and the shining girdle as a baldric he bound by his side, made fast with a knot beneath his left arm–and thus he came in safety again to the castle.

Then joy awakened in that dwelling when the folk knew that the good Sir Dougie was come back with their lord. Before the court Andrei kissed the knight, and many valiant knights sought to embrace him. They asked him how he had fared, and he told them all that had chanced to him–the adventure of the chapel, the fashion of the knight, the love of the lord–and at last of the lace. He showed them the wound in the neck which he won for his disloyalty at the hand of the knight, the blood flew to his face for shame as he told the tale.

Then the lord comforted the knight, and grasped his hand tight in his, and the court laughed loudly at the tale. And together lived Dougie and Andrei in love and in honor, as it is testified in the best book of romance, forevermore. That in Justin's days this adventure befell, the book of Bettman bears witness.