Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 316
Publication Date: 1905
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I KNOW not any time of the year that is more full of joyfulness than the early summer season; for that time the sun is wonderfully lusty and strong, yet not so very hot; that time the trees and shrubs are very full of life and very abundant of shade and yet have not grown dry with the heats and droughts of later days; that time the grass is young and lush and green, so that when you walk athwart the meadow-lands it is as though you walked through a fair billowy lake of magical verdure, sprinkled over with a great multitude of little flowers; that time the roses are everywhere a-bloom, both the white rose and the red, and the eglantine is abundant; that time the nests are brimful of well-fledged nestlings, and the little hearts of the small parent fowls are so exalted with gladness that they sing with all their mights and mains, so that the early daytime is filled full of the sweet jargon and the jubilant medley of their voices. Yea; that is a goodly season of the year, for though, haply, the spirit may not be so hilarious as in the young and golden springtime, yet doth the soul take to itself so great a content in the fulness of the beauty of the world, that the heart is elated with a great and abundant joy that it is not apt to feel at another season.
Now it chanced upon the day before Saint John's day in the fulness of a summer-time such as this, that King Arthur looked forth from his chamber very early in the morning and beheld how exceedingly fair and very lusty was the world out-of-doors-all in the freshness of the young daylight. For the sun had not yet risen, though he was about to rise, and the sky was like to pure gold for brightness; all the grass and leaves and flowers were drenched with sweet and fragrant dew, and the birds were singing so vehemently that the heart of any man could not but rejoice in the fulness of life that lay all around about him.
There were two knights with King Arthur at that time, one was Sir Ewain, the son of Morgana le Fay (and he was King Arthur's nephew), and the other was Sir Ector de Maris, the son of King Ban of Benwick and of Queen Helen--this latter a very noble, youthful knight, and the youngest of all the Knights of the Round Table who were at that time elected. These stood by King Arthur and looked forth out of the window with him and they also took joy with him in the sweetness of the summer season. Unto them, after a while, King Arthur spake, saying: "Messires, meseems this is too fair a day to stay within doors. For, certes, it is a shame that I who am a king should be prisoner within mine own castle, whilst any ploughman may be free of the wold and the green woods and the bright sun and the blue sky and the wind that blows over hill and dale. Now, I too would fain go forth out of doors and enjoy these things; wherefore I ordain that we shall go a-hunting this day and that ye and I shall start before any others of the lords and the ladies that dwell herein are awake. So let us take our horses and our hounds and let us take certain foresters and huntsmen, and let us go forth a-hunting into the green forest; for this day shall be holiday for me and for you and we shall leave care behind us, and for a while we shall disport ourselves in pleasant places."
So they all did as King Arthur bade; they made them each man ready with his own hands, and they bade the huntsmen and the foresters to attend thereupon as the King had ordained. Then they rode forth from the castle and out into the wide world that lay beyond, and it was yet so early in the morning that none of the castle folk were astir to know of their departure.
All that day they hunted in the forest with much joy and with great sport, nor did they turn their faces toward home again until the day was so far spent that the sun had sunk behind the tops of the tall leafy trees. Then, at that time, King Arthur gave command that they should bend their ways toward Camelot once more.
Now this time, being the Eve of Saint John, fairies and those folk who are fay come forth, as is very well known, into the world from which they dwell apart at other times. So when King Arthur and those two knights and their several foresters and huntsmen came to a certain outlying part of the forest, they were suddenly aware of a damsel and a dwarf waiting where the road upon which they were travelling crossed another road, and they perceived, from her very remarkable appearance, that the damsel was very likely Fay. For both she and her dwarf sat each upon a milk-white horse, very strangely still, close to where was a shrine by a hedge of hawthorne; and the damsel was so wonderfully fair of face that it was a marvel to behold her. Moreover, she was clad all in white samite from top to toe and her garments were embroidered with silver; and the trappings and garniture of her horse were of white samite studded with bright silver bosses, wherefore, because of this silver, she glistered with a sudden lustre whensoever she moved a little. When King Arthur and the two knights who were with him drew nigh this damsel, much marvelling at her appearance, she hailed him in a voice that was both high and clear, crying: "Welcome, King Arthur! Welcome, King Arthur! Welcome, King Arthur!" saying three words three times; and "Welcome, Sir Ewain!" "Welcome, Sir Ector de Maris!" addressing each of those lords by his name.
"Damsel," quoth King Arthur, "it is very singular that you should know who we are and that we should not know you. Now, will you not tell us your name and whence you come and whither you go? For of a surety I believe you are Fay."
"Lord," said the damsel, "it matters not who I am, saving that I am of the court of a wonderful lady who is your very good friend. She hath sent me here to meet you and to beseech you to come with me whither I shall lead you, and I shall lead you unto her."
"Damsel," said King Arthur, "I shall be right glad to go with you as you desire me to do. So, if, you will lead me to your lady, I and my knights will gladly follow you thitherway to pay our court unto her."