Gareth and Lynette by Mary MacGregor
Gareth was a little prince. His home was
an old grey castle, and there were great
mountains all round the castle. Gareth loved
these mountains and his beautiful home at
the foot of them. He had lived there all his
Gareth had no little boys or girls to play
with, for there were no houses near his
But Gareth was happy all day long. Sometimes
in the bright summer mornings the
streams would call to him. Then he would
follow them up the mountains, till he found
the place where the streams ended in tiny
Sometimes the birds and beasts, his woodland
friends, would call to him, and then
Gareth would wander about in the forest
with them till evening came. Then he
would tell his mother the wonderful things
he had seen, and the wonderful things he
had heard in the forests and on the mountain-sides.
Gareth’s mother, the Queen of Orkney,
loved the little prince so much that she was
never dull. She had no one to talk to except
her little son, for her husband was old, so old
that he could not talk to his Queen. And if
she talked to him, he was almost too deaf
to hear what she said.
But though the Queen was never dull, she
was sometimes unhappy. She was afraid
that some day, when Gareth was older, he
would want to leave her to go into the world,
perhaps to go to the great King Arthur’s
court, as his three brothers had done.
Now Gareth had already heard stories
about the brave deeds of King Arthur’s
knights. He knew that they were strong
men, and that they fought for the weak
people, and that they often had great
adventures, when they were sent to punish
the King’s enemies. And Gareth longed
to be a man, for ‘when I am a man, I
will be one of Arthur’s knights, too,’ he
At last, one day, his mother knew that
what she had been afraid of had come to pass.
She knew that Gareth would not be content
to stay among the mountains much longer.
But when he threw his arms round her, and
coaxed her to let him go, she thought, ‘Surely
I can keep him a little longer.’ And she said,
‘Your father is old, and your brothers have
left me, you will not leave me alone, Gareth.
You will stay and be a great huntsman and
follow the deer.’ But all the time her heart
whispered, ‘He will not stay.’
And Gareth said, ‘Let me go, sweet mother.
Now I am a man, I must do a man’s work.
“Follow the deer!” No; now I must follow
But still his mother would not let him go.
‘The next time he asks me, I will try another
way,’ she thought. And when Gareth came
again and pleaded to be allowed to go to the
court, she said, ‘Yes, you may go, if for one
whole year you will tell no one your name,
or that you are a prince, and if for that
whole year you will go into the King’s kitchen
and work there.’ ‘These things will be too
difficult for my princely boy,’ she thought.
But Gareth wanted to go so much, that he
promised not to tell any one his name, nor
that he was a prince. ‘And I will go to the
court, only to work in the King’s kitchen for
a year,’ promised Gareth proudly. And then
his mother knew that her plan had failed,
and she wept.
But Gareth was glad. He got up early
one morning, and without saying good-bye
to his mother, for he could not bear to see
her sad face again, he left his mountain home,
and went out into the wide world.
When three men, dressed like ploughmen,
left the castle, no one would have known
that one of them was a prince. For Gareth
had left all his beautiful clothes behind him,
and was dressed just like the two servants
he took with him. But still he was glad,
for though he remembered he was going to
work in a kitchen, he thought a year would
soon pass, and then, perhaps, King Arthur
would make him one of his knights.
On a certain day, every year, there was a
great feast at Arthur’s court. Now the King
would not sit down to the feast till he had
heard if any of his people were in trouble,
and if they wished one of his knights to go
to help them. And on this day too, people
could come into the King’s presence to ask
for any boon or good thing they wished.
Gareth reached the court, with his two
servants, on one of these feast-days.
‘The King will listen to my wish to-day.
I will go to him at once,’ thought Gareth.
And leaning on the shoulders of his servants,
so as to look less princely, he came
into the large dining-hall.
‘Grant me only this boon,’ Gareth entreated
the King, ‘that I may work in your kitchen
and eat and drink there for a year. After
that I will fight.’
And King Arthur looked at Gareth, and
saw that though he leaned on his servants
he was tall and strong, and that though he
wore rough clothes, he was as noble-looking
as any of his knights.
‘You ask but a small boon,’ said the King.
‘Would you not rather serve me as my
And Gareth longed to say ‘Yes.’ But as he
could not break the promise he had given to
his mother, he said again, that the only boon
he asked was to be allowed to work in the
Then the King sent for Sir Kay, the
steward of his kitchen, and told him to
make Gareth one of his kitchen-boys. But
Sir Kay did not wish this noble-looking lad
in his kitchen, and he made fun of him and
mocked him, because he would not tell his
name, nor where his home was.
But Sir Lancelot, the noblest knight in all
the land, was kind to Gareth, and Gareth’s
brother, Sir Gavaine, who had gone to
Arthur’s court long ago, was kind to him
too. Yet Sir Gavaine did not know that
Gareth was his brother, for the little prince
he had left at home looked very different
to the King’s new kitchen-boy.
In the kitchen Gareth soon began to find
out what a difficult task he had undertaken,
for the sake of one day being a knight. He
ate his meals with rough kitchen-boys, and
as Gareth’s mother had taught her little
prince daintily, he did not like their rough
ways; and at night he slept in a shed with
And because Sir Kay did not like Gareth,
he would bustle and hurry him, and make
him work harder than any of the other lads,
and give him all the roughest work to do.
It was Gareth who had to draw the water
and cut the wood, while the other servants
But when at last his work was done,
Gareth would listen gladly as the servants
talked of Lancelot and the King. He loved
to hear how Lancelot had twice saved the
King’s life, and how since then there had
grown up a great friendship between the
King and his brave knight.
And Gareth was glad when he heard that
though Lancelot was first in all the tournaments
or mock battles, yet on the battle-field
his hero King was mightiest of all.
But when the servants’ talk was rough and
rude, Gareth would not listen, but sang some
of his old mountain-songs, carolling like any
lark, and the servants stopped their talk to
It seemed a long year to Gareth, the
longest year in all his life, but at last it
came to an end. A whole year had passed,
and another of the King’s great feast-days
Gareth woke up on that morning, thinking,
‘Now at last I can be one of King
Arthur’s knights; now at last I am free.’
In the dining-room he sprang eagerly to
the King’s side. ‘A boon, King Arthur,
grant me this boon,’ he cried, ‘that I serve
you no longer as a kitchen-page, but as a
Arthur loved the noble-looking lad, and
was pleased with his eagerness. ‘I make
you my knight, to win glory and honour for
our land,’ said the King. But the secret of
Gareth’s knighthood was to be kept from all
but Sir Lancelot, till the new knight, Sir
Gareth, had won for himself great fame.
‘You shall begin at once,’ said the King.
And he promised Gareth that he should be
the first of all his knights to leave his court
As he spoke, a beautiful lady called Lynette
came into the hall, in great haste. ‘A knight
to rescue my sister, King Arthur,’ she cried.
‘Who is your sister, and why does she
need a knight?’ asked the King.
And Lynette told Arthur that her sister
was called the Lady Lyonors, and that
Lyonors was rich and had many castles of
her own, but a cruel knight, called the Red
Knight, had shut her up in one of her own
castles. The name of the castle in which
she was a prisoner was Castle Dangerous.
And the Red Knight said he would keep
Lady Lyonors there, till he had fought King
Arthur’s bravest knight. Then he would
make Lyonors his wife. ‘But,’ said Lynette,
‘my sister will never be the bride of the Red
Knight, for she does not love him.’
Then Arthur, looking round his knights,
saw Gareth’s eyes growing bright, and heard
Gareth’s voice ringing out, ‘Your promise,
And the King said to Gareth, ‘Go and
rescue the Lady Lyonors from the Red
‘A kitchen-page go to rescue the Lady
Lyonors!’ shouted Sir Kay in scorn.
When Lynette heard that, she was angry,
and said, ‘I came for Sir Lancelot, the greatest
of all your knights, and you give me a
kitchen-boy.’ In her anger, she walked out
of the palace gates, and rode quickly down
the streets. She neither looked nor waited
to see if Gareth followed.
‘I will wait for nothing,’ thought the
new knight, and he hurried after Lynette
to the palace gates, but there he was
Gareth’s mother had not forgotten that a
year had passed since her boy had left her.
In her quiet castle she had been busy planning
a surprise for her prince.
‘Gareth will be a knight to-day,’ she
thought. ‘I will send our dwarf to him
with a noble war-horse and armour fit for a
knight. Surely he will begin his adventures
the more gladly, that I help to send him
forth,’ she murmured, thinking half-regretfully
of the long year she had made him
spend in the kitchen.
And Gareth was glad when he saw his
mother’s gift; and when he had put on the
armour, there was no more handsome
knight in all King Arthur’s court than Sir
Gareth. He mounted his horse, and, telling
the dwarf to follow, rode quickly after
But Gareth had not gone far, when he
heard shouts behind him, and, turning, he
saw that Sir Kay was riding after him.
‘If it is possible, I will bring my kitchen-boy
boy back again,’ thought Sir Kay, ‘for he
works well.’ ‘Have you forgotten that I am
your master?’ he shouted, as he reached
‘You are no longer my master,’ said
Gareth, ‘and I know that you are the most
unkind of all Arthur’s knights.’
Then Sir Kay was so angry that he drew
his sword, and Gareth drew his and struck
Sir Kay so hard a blow, that he tumbled off
his horse, and lay on the ground as if he
were dead. Then Gareth took away his old
master’s sword and shield, and telling the
dwarf to take Sir Kay’s horse, he once more
hurried on to reach Lynette.
Both Lancelot and Lynette had seen Sir
Gareth fight with Sir Kay, for the King had
asked Sir Lancelot to ride on before Gareth,
that he might know if his new knight could
use his sword.
When Lancelot had seen Sir Kay fall to
the ground, he rode back to the court to tell
King Arthur that his knight, Sir Gareth, was
strong and true. And he sent men to bring
home the wounded Sir Kay.
Now Lynette was more cross than ever
because Lancelot had left her, and when
Gareth at last rode up to her, she cried
rudely, ‘You are only a kitchen-knave. Your
clothes smell of cooking, and your dress is
soiled with grease and tallow. Ride further
off from me.’
But what she said was not true, for Gareth
had put on the beautiful armour his mother
had sent him.
As Lynette mocked, Gareth rode quietly
behind. In spite of her unkindness, he was
happy. After the long days spent in the hot
kitchen, the forest breeze seemed to touch
him more gently than in the old days, and
the trees seemed to him more beautiful.
But though the streams seemed more clear,
they still called to him, just as the streams
in his own mountains used to do.
But Gareth had not much time to think of
the trees and streams, for suddenly he heard
the steps of some one hurrying through the
forest, crushing the fallen twigs and crisp
leaves underfoot in his great haste. Was it
‘Where are you running to?’ said Gareth,
as a man came in sight.
‘O sir, six thieves have fallen upon my
lord, and bound him to a tree, and I am
afraid they will kill him.’
‘Show me where your lord is,’ said Gareth.
And they rode together to the place where
the knight was tied to a tree.
Then Gareth struck the first robber down
with his sword, and killed another, and slew
the third as he turned to run away.
‘There were six thieves,’ thought Gareth;
but when he turned to look for the other
three, they were nowhere to be seen. They
had all run away in great fright.
Then Gareth unbound the knight. And
the knight was very grateful, and said,
‘Come and stay at my castle to-night, and
to-morrow I will reward you.’
‘I want no reward,’ said Gareth. ‘And
besides, I must follow this lady.’ But when
he rode up to Lynette, she said, ‘Ride
further off, for still you smell of the kitchen.’
‘You are no knight, though you killed the
Then the knight who had been set free
rode up, and asked Lynette to come to his
castle, and as it was getting dark in the
forest, she was glad to stay with him that
At supper-time, the knight put a chair for
Gareth beside Lynette.
‘Sir Knight, you are wrong to put a
kitchen-knave beside me,’ said the lady, ‘for
I am of noble birth.’
‘The noble-looking knight a kitchen-knave!
What does the lady mean!’ But
he took Gareth to another table, and sat
there himself with him.
The next morning Gareth and Lynette
thanked the knight, and rode on, till they
came to another great forest, and at the end
of the forest they reached a broad river.
There was only one place where the river
was narrow and could be crossed, and this
passage was guarded by two knights.
‘Will you fight two knights,’ mocked
Lynette, ‘or will you turn back again?’
‘Six knights would not make me turn
back,’ said Gareth, as he rushed into
the river. One knight rushed in from the
further side, and Gareth and he fought with
their swords in the middle of the stream.
At last Gareth smote him on the helmet so
violently that he fell down into the water
and was drowned.
Then Gareth spurred his horse up the
bank where the other knight stood waiting
for him, and this knight fought so fiercely
that he broke Gareth’s spear. Then they
both drew their swords, and fought for a long
time, till in the end Gareth won the victory.
Gareth then crossed over the river again
to Lynette, and told her to ride on, for the
passage across the river was clear.
‘Alas, that a kitchen-page should kill
two brave knights!’ cried Lynette. ‘But do
not think your skill killed these men.’ And
she told Gareth she had seen the horse of
the first knight stumble, and that that was
why he was drowned. ‘And, as for the second
knight, you came behind and slew him like
a coward,’ she said.
‘Lady,’ said Gareth, ‘say what you like;
but lead on, and I follow to deliver your
sister.’ So Gareth and the lady rode on
In the evening they came to a strange
and dreary country, where everything looked
black. On one side of a black hawthorn
hung a black banner, on the other side hung
a black shield. Beside the shield there was
a long black spear, and close to the spear
there was a great black horse, covered with
silk, and the silk was black. And looking
blacker than all the rest was a huge black
Through the darkness they could see some
one sitting near the rock. It was a knight,
and he was armed in black armour, and his
name was ‘the Knight of the Black Land.’
Lynette saw the knight. ‘Flee down the
valley, before the Black Knight saddles his
horse,’ she called to Gareth. But she knew
that even the Black Knight would not
frighten her kitchen-knave.
The Black Knight saddled his horse and
rode up to them. ‘Is this your knight,
and has he come to fight me?’ he asked
‘He is only a kitchen-boy, he is no knight
of mine,’ Lynette answered. And in a cruel
voice she added, ‘I wish you could slay him
and take him out of my way; but he does
wonderful deeds with his sword, and has
just slain two knights.’
‘If he is no knight, I will take his horse
and armour, and let him go. It would be a
shame to take his life,’ said the Black Knight.
Gareth was very angry when he heard this.
‘I am on my way to Castle Dangerous, and
I mean to reach it,’ he said to the Black
Knight. ‘And as for my horse and armour,
you cannot have them unless you take them
from me in fair fight.’
Then they began to fight on foot, and
the Black Knight wounded Gareth, but
Gareth smote him with such strength, that
his sword cut through the knight’s armour,
and then the Black Knight fell to the
ground and died. This was the fiercest
fight Gareth had ever fought, and it lasted
for an hour and a half.
Once more Gareth went back to Lynette
a conqueror, but still she cried, ‘Do not come
near me, kitchen-knave. You have slain a
noble knight. Let me ride on alone.’
‘Whatever happens I will follow you till
we reach the Lady Lyonors,’ said Gareth.
They were coming near to Castle Dangerous
now, but before they reached it, a knight
dressed all in green stopped them.
And Gareth fought the Green Knight too.
But when he had struck him to the ground,
the Green Knight begged Gareth to spare
‘It is useless to ask me to spare your life,
for you shall die, unless the Lady Lynette
asks me to set you free,’ said Gareth. And
he began to undo the helmet of the Green
Knight, as if he meant to slay him.
‘I will never ask a favour of a kitchen-page,’
said Lynette haughtily. ‘I will never
ask you to spare the Green Knight’s life.’
‘Spare my life,’ entreated the Green
Knight, ‘and I and my thirty followers will
serve you for ever.’
‘It is useless for you to ask me,’ repeated
Gareth. ‘Only the Lady Lynette can save
your life.’ And again he lifted his sword, as
if to slay the Green Knight.
‘You will not slay him, for if you do, you
will be sorry,’ stammered Lynette, as she
saw Gareth’s sword coming down to kill the
Gareth heard Lynette’s voice, and at once
put away his sword, and gave the Green
Knight his freedom.
In his gratitude the knight persuaded
Gareth and Lynette to stay with him that
night, ‘and in the morning I will help you
to reach Castle Dangerous,’ he said.
That evening at supper-time, Lynette
again mocked Gareth. He had never asked
her to be more gentle to him, but now
he said, ‘Mock me no more, for in spite
of all your taunts I have killed many
knights, and cleared the forests of the
Now Lynette had begun to feel ashamed
of her unkindness, and as she listened to
Gareth, and thought how loyally he had
served her, she felt sorry that she had been
so unkind. And she asked Gareth to forgive
her for being so rude.
‘I forgive you with all my heart,’ said
Gareth, and at last they rode on happily
side by side.
Then Gareth sent his dwarf on in front to
tell Lynette’s sister that they were near her
castle. And the Lady Lyonors asked the
dwarf a great many questions about his
‘He is a noble knight and a kind master,’
said the dwarf; and he told the lady of all
the adventures they had met on their way
to her castle. And Lyonors longed to see
the knight who had fought so often and
so bravely to reach her.
And now there was only the Red Knight
between Gareth and the Lady Lyonors.
On the great tree, outside the castle,
Gareth saw hanging the bodies of forty
knights, with their shields round their
necks and their spurs on their heels. As
he looked at this terrible sight, Gareth was
Then Lynette reminded him of all his
victories, and of how even the Black Knight
had yielded to him. But what encouraged
Gareth more than all Lynette said was that,
when he looked up to the castle, he saw a
beautiful lady at one of the windows. She
smiled and waved her hands to him, and
he knew that this was the Lady Lyonors.
Then all his courage came back.
‘This is the fairest lady I have ever seen,’
thought Gareth. ‘I ask nothing better than
to be allowed to do battle for her, and win
her from the Red Knight.’
Outside the castle, hanging on a sycamore
tree, was a great horn, made of an elephant’s
bone, and whoever wished to fight the Red
Knight must blow this horn.
Gareth looked again at the window where
Lyonors still watched, and hesitating no
longer, blew the horn so piercingly and so
long, that he woke all the echoes of the
Then the Knight of the Red Lands armed
himself in great haste, and his barons
brought him a red spear, and a steed
covered with red silk. And the Red Knight
rode proudly down into the valley, to slay
Gareth, as he had slain the other forty
‘Do not look any longer at the castle
window,’ said the Red Knight roughly to
Gareth. ‘The Lady Lyonors is mine. I
have fought many battles for her.’
‘I know that the Lady Lyonors does not
love you nor your ways, for they are cruel,’
said Gareth, ‘and I will rescue her from you,
‘Look at the dead knights on those trees,
and beware,’ said the Red Knight, ‘or soon
I will hang your body beside theirs.’
‘That is a sight that makes me only more
anxious to fight,’ said Gareth, ‘for you break
the rules of all true knights by your cruelty.’
‘Talk no more,’ said the Red Knight, ‘but
get ready for the combat.’
Then Gareth told Lynette to go further
off, to a place of safety.
And the two knights smote each other
so fiercely in the front of their shields that
they both fell off their horses, still holding
the reins in their hands. And they lay
stunned on the ground so long, that those
who were watching from the castle thought
their necks were broken.
But after a time, leaving their horses, they
fought on foot. And the battle was so rough
that great pieces of their shields and armour
were knocked off, and left lying on the field.
And they fought till twelve o’clock. But
by that time they were so worn out that
they staggered about, scarcely knowing
where they went, and their wounds bled so
much that they were faint.
They fought till evening, and then they
both agreed to rest for a little while.
Then Gareth took off his helmet, and looked
up to the castle window. And when he saw
the Lady Lyonors looking down at him, with
great kindness in her eyes, his heart felt all
at once light and glad.
And her kindness made him strong, and
he started up quickly and called to the Red
Knight to fight, ‘and this time to the death,’
In his fury the Red Knight knocked the
sword out of Gareth’s hand, and before he
could get it again, he gave him such a blow
on his helmet that Gareth stumbled and fell
to the ground.
Then Lynette called out, ‘O Gareth, have
you lost your courage? My sister weeps
and breaks her heart, because her true
knight has fallen.’
When Gareth heard that, he got up,
and with a great effort leaped to where
his sword lay, and caught it in his hand,
and began to fight as if he fought a new
And his strokes fell so quickly on his foe,
that the Red Knight lost his sword and fell
to the ground, and Gareth threw himself on
him to slay him. But the knight begged
piteously for his life.
‘Go to the castle and yield your homage
to the Lady Lyonors,’ said Gareth. ‘And if
she is willing to pardon you, you are free,
after you restore the lands and castles
you have taken from her.’
Then the Red Knight gladly restored all
he had stolen. And after he had been forgiven
by the Lady Lyonors, he journeyed
to the court, and told Arthur all that Sir
Gareth had done.
And Lynette came and took off Gareth’s
armour and bathed his wounds, and he
rested in his tent for ten days.
‘I will go to the castle and ask Lyonors
to come home with me and be my wife,’
thought Gareth, as soon as his wounds
were healed. But when he came to the
castle, he found the drawbridge pulled up,
and many armed men were there, who
would not let him enter.
‘But Lyonors, I must see Lyonors,’
thought Gareth. ‘Surely she will wish to
see me,’ and he looked wistfully up to the
window, and there beautiful as ever, was
his Lady Lyonors.
‘I cannot love you altogether,’ said
Lyonors, ‘till you have been King Arthur’s
knight for another year, and helped to clear
the land from his enemies.’
Though he was a good knight, Gareth’s
heart was heavy as he listened. ‘If I do
not see Lyonors for a year,’ he thought,
‘the months will pass more slowly and
seem more empty than those long months I
spent in the King’s kitchen.’ But as Gareth
was a right loyal knight, he bowed to his
lady’s will. He had freed the castle from
the Red Knight, and now it was open to
every one, only he himself was banished.
And he went away sadly but faithfully to
find new adventures.
And when Gareth slept in the forests or
on the wild mountain-sides, he often dreamed
of the day that would come when his year’s
wanderings were over, when Lyonors would
be his wife, and together they would go back
to King Arthur’s court, and he would at last
be known to every one as Sir Gareth and a
He dreamed, too, of the happier day, when
he would take the beautiful Lyonors to his
mother, and show her the mountain home he
loved so well.