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CHAP. XLIV.-How Don Galaor and Florestan, going towards the kingdom of Sobradisa, met three Damsels at the Foun
tain of the Elm Trees. MOVON GALAOR and Florestan remained in the
castle of Corisanda till their wounds were
well healed, then took they their departure; but Corisanda niade such sorrow that it was pitiful to see her, albeit Florestan comforted her, and assured her of his speedy return. They crossed to the mainland, and proceeded towards Sobradisa, hoping to arrive there before the battle. Brother, quoth Florestan, as they rode along, grant me a boon for courtesy. Sir, and good brother, cried Galaor, is it a thing that I shall repent? You will not repent it, said Florestan.—Ask it then ; for what I can grant without shame, I shall grant with good will.-I ask then, that you will attempt no combat in this journey till I have tried my fortune. Certes, quoth Galaor, I repent. Not so, replied Florestan, for if there be any worth in me, it is to your honour as well as to mine. Four days they rode without adventure ; on the fifth at evening they came to a tower. A knight, who stood at the court-gate, courteously invited them for the night; and there were they worshipfully entertained. The knight their host, was a fair knight and a wise, and of goodly stature ; but oftentimes he appeared so lost in thought and sadness, that the brethren asked each other what it might mean, and Don Galaor at last said to him, Sir, methinks you are not so chearful as you should be ! if your sadness is for any cause which our aid can remedy, tell us, and we will do your will. Many thanks replied he of the tower: I believe you would do so like good knights ;
but my sadness proceeds from the force of love, and I will not tell you more now, for it would be to my own great shame. The hour of sleeping came on; their host went to his apartment, and the brethren remained in a handsome chamber where there were two beds. In the morning he rode to bear them company, but unarmed; and, that he might see whether they were such in arms as their appearance bespoke them, he led them not along the high road, but through bye ways, till they came to a place called the fountain of the Three Elms, for there were three great and lofty elm-trees above the fountain. Three fair damsels and well apparelled, were by the fountain, and there was a dwarf aloft in the trees. Florestan went first and saluted them gently, as a courteous man, and one who had been gently bred. God save you, sir knight, quoth the one ; if you are as brave as you are handsome, God hath gifted you well. Damsel, he replied, if my beauty pleaseth you, my courage would please you more if it were put to proof. You answer well, quoth she : see now, if your courage be enough to carry me from hence.Certes, quoth Florestan, little goodness is enough for that; since it is your pleasure, I will do it.—He then bade his squires place her upon a palfrey which was tied to one of the elms : when the dwarf, who was sitting up in the tree, cried out aloud, Come forth, knights, come forth ! they are carrying away your mistress! At these words a knight, well armed and on a great horse, came up from the valley, and cried out to Florestan, Knight! who bid you lay your hands upon that damsel? I do not think she can be yours, replied Florestan, seeing of her own will she desired me to carry her hence. The knight answered, Though she consent, I do not; and I have 'defended her against better than you.—I know not how that may be, but unless you act up to your words, carry her away I will !Learn first what the knights of the valley are, and how they defend their mistresses ! With that they ran at each other, and Florestan smote his shield so strongly against his helmet that the laces brake, and the helmet came off. The knight could not keep his seat; he fell upon his sword, and broke it in two. Florestan turned his horse and pointed his lance at him :-You are dead, unless you yield the damsel ! I yield her, quoth he, and cursed be she, and the day wherein I first beheld her, for she made me commit so many follies that at last I have destroyed myself. Florestan left him, and went to the damsel, saying, You are mine! You have well won me, quoth she, and may do with me as you please. Let us go then ! said he; but one of the other damsels then said to him, Sir knight, you are parting good company; we have been a year together, and it grieves us to be separated. Said Florestan, If you chuse to go in my company I will take you also, otherwise you must be separated, for I will not leave so fair a damsel as this. And if she be fair, quoth the damsel, neither do I esteem myself so ugly, but that knight should venture something for me also; but I believe you are not of that temper. What ! cried he, think you that I would leave you here for fear ? so help me as I would have done so only to respect your free will, but you shall see. He bade the squires place her also on her palfrey, and the dwarf, who sate up aloft, cried out again for help.
won one damsel, and, not content with her, you would carry off another; you must, therefore, lose both, and your head too; for it is not fit that a knight of such degree as you should have in your keeping a damsel of such rank. You praise yourself bountifully, quoth Florestan ; yet had I rather have two knights of my kin for my helpers than thee! I neither regard thee nor them, said the knight: you have won this damsel from hin who could not defend her; if I conquer thee, she shall be mine ; if the victory is yours, you shall take the other whom I defend. Content, quoth Florestan. Defend yourself now, if you can ! said he of the valley; and they ran their encounter. The knight pierced through Florestan's shield, and broke his lance against the strong mail. Florestan failed in the race : ashamed at that, when the knight had taken from his squire another lance, he ran again, and pierced the shield of his antagonist and the arm that held it, and drove him back upon the crupper of his horse; the horse reared and threw him, and the ground being hard, he neither moved hand nor foot. Damsel, said Florestan, you are mine ; for methinks your friend can neither help you nor himself. So it seems, quoth she.
Florestan looked at the other damsel, who now remained alone by the fountain, and saw that she was very sad. Damsel, said he, if it please you, I will not leave you here alone.' She did not answer him, but said to his host, Go from hence, I counsel you ! you know that these knights are not enough to protect you from him who will presently be here, and, if he take you, you are sure to die. I will see what may happen, he answered, my horse is swift, and my tower at hand. Ah, said she, take care of yourself; ye are but three, and you unarmed, and you well know that is nothing against him. When Florestan heard this, he became more desirous to carry away that damsel, and see him whom she praised so greatly. So he had her also placed on her palfrey ; and the dwarf, who sate up aloft, said, Don Cavalier, in an ill hour are you so bold : here comes one who shall take vengeance for all ! and then he shouted out, Help! help, sir, you linger too long! Presently there came another knight from the same valley ; his armour was inlaid with gold, and he rode upon a bay horse, big enough for a giant. Two squires came after him, armed with corselets and morions like serving men, and each carried a huge battle-axe in his hand, in the use of which weapon their master prided himself. He cried out to Florestan, Stay, knight, and seek not to fly, for it will not save you : die you must, and it is better die like a brave man, than like a coward! When Florestan heard himself threatened, he waxed wondrous angry, and cried out, come on, wretch and rascal, and clumsy fool!* So help me God, as I fear thee no more than a great cowardly beast. Ah, quoth the knight, how it grieves me that I cannot wreak sufficient vengeance upon thee! would that the best four of thy lineage were here, that I might cut off their heads with thine! Protect yourself from one, cried Florestan, you may dispense with the rest. Then, being both greatly incensed, they ran at each other, and the shields and the mails of both were pierced with the violence of the encounter: the large knight lost both his stirrups, and was fain to save himself by clinging round his horse's neck. Florestan,