THE LADY OF THE FOUNTAIN 295
and he cried a challenge to the earl, who came to meet him. Hard did they fight, but Owen overthrew his enemy and drove him in front to the castle gate and into the hall.
' Behold the reward of thy blessed balsam,' said he, as he bade the earl kneel down before her, and made him swear that he would restore all that he had taken from her.
After that he departed, and went into the deserts, and as he was passing through a wood he heard a loud yelling. Pushing aside the bushes he beheld a lion standing on a great mound, and by it a rock. Near the rock was a lion seeking to reach the mound, and each time he moved out darted a serpent from the rock to prevent him. Then Owen unsheathed his sword, and cut off the serpent's head and went on his way, and the lion followed and played about him, as if he had been a greyhound. And much more useful was he than a greyhound, for in the evening he brought large logs in his mouth to kindle a fire, and killed a fat buck for dinner.
Owen made his fire and skinned the buck, and put some of it to roast, and gave the rest to the lion for supper. While he was waiting for the meat to cook he heard a sound of deep sighing close to him, and he said :
' Who art thou ? '
' I am Luned,' replied a voice from a cave so hidden by bushes and green hanging plants that Owen had not seen it.
' And what dost thou here ? ' cried he.
' I am held captive in this cave on account of the knight who married the countess and left her, for the pages spoke ill of him, and because I told them that no man living was his equal they dragged me here and said I should die unless he should come to deliver me by a certain day, and that is no further than the day after to-morrow. His name is Owen the son of Urien, but I