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The Mill Henry van Dyke

How Martimor Bled for a Lady and Lived for a Maid, and how His Great Adventure Ended and Began at the Mill

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Now leave we of the Mill and Martimor and the Maid, and let us speak of a certain Lady, passing tall and fair and young. This was the Lady Beauvivante, that was daughter to King Pellinore. And three false knights took her by craft from her father's court and led her away to work their will on her. But she escaped from them as they slept by a well, and came riding on a white palfrey, over hill and dale, as fast as ever she could drive.

Thus she came to the Mill, and her palfrey was spent, and there she took refuge, beseeching Martimor that he would hide her, and defend her from those caitiff knights that must soon follow.

"Of hiding," said he, "will I hear naught, but of defending am I full fain. For this have I waited."

Then he made ready his horse and his armour, and took both spear and sword, and stood forth in the bridge. Now this bridge was strait, so that none could pass there but singly, and that not till Martimor yielded or was beaten down.

Then came the three knights that followed the Lady, riding fiercely down the hill. And when they came about ten spear-lengths from the bridge, they halted, and stood still as it had been a plump of wood. One rode in black, and one rode in yellow, and the third rode in black and yellow. So they cried Martimor that he should give them passage, for they followed a quest.

"Passage takes, who passage makes!" cried Martimor. "Right well I know your quest, and it is a foul one."

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Then the knight in black rode at him lightly, but Martimor encountered him with the spear and smote him backward from his horse, that his head struck the coping of the bridge and brake his neck. Then came the knight in yellow, walloping heavily, and him the spear pierced through the midst of the body and burst in three pieces: so he fell on his back and the life went out of him, but the spear stuck fast and stood up from his breast as a stake.

Then the knight in black and yellow, that was as big as both his brethren, gave a terrible shout, and rode at Martimor like a wood lion. But he fended with his shield that the spear went aside, and they clapped together like thunder, and both horses were overthrown. And lightly they avoided their horses and rushed together, tracing, rasing, and foining. Such strokes they gave that great pieces were clipped away from their hauberks, and their helms, and they staggered to and fro like drunken men. Then they hurtled together like rams and each battered other the wind out of his body. So they sat either on one side of the bridge, to take their breath, glaring the one at the other as two owls. Then they stepped together and fought freshly, smiting and thrusting, ramping and reeling, panting, snorting, and scattering blood, for the space of two hours. So the knight in black and yellow, because he was heavier, drave Martimor backward step by step till he came to the crown of the bridge, and there fell grovelling. At this the Lady Beauvivante shrieked and wailed, but the damsel Lirette cried loudly, "Up! Martimor, strike again!"

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The Blue Flower
Henry van Dyke

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