WHAT BEAUMAINS ASKED OF THE KING 39
me honourably, for they will do no hurt to you or to anyone.' ' Ask,' answered Arthur, ' and you shall have your asking.'
' Sir, this is my petition for this feast, for the other two I will ask after. Give me meat and drink for this one twelvemonth.' ' Well,' said the King, ' you shall have meat and drink enough, for that I give to every man, whether friend or foe. But tell me your name !'
' I cannot tell you that,' answered he. ' That is strange,' replied the King,' but you are the goodliest young man I ever saw,' and, turning to Sir Kay, the steward, charged him to give the young man to eat and drink of the best, and to treat him in all ways as if he were a lord's son. ' There is little need to do that,' answered Sir Kay, ' for if he had come of gentlemen and not of peasants he would have asked of you a horse and armour. But as the birth of a man is so are his requests. And seeing he has no name I will give him one, and it shall be Beaumains, or Fair-hands, and he shall sit in the kitchen and eat broth, and at the end of a year he shall be as fat as any pig that feeds on acorns.' So the young man was left in charge of Sir Kay, that scorned and mocked him.
Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawaine were wroth when they heard what Sir Kay said, and bade him leave off his mocking, for they believed the youth would turn out to be a man of great deeds; but Sir Kay paid no heed to them, and took him down to the great hall, and set him among the boys and lads, where he ate sadly. After he had finished eating both Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawaine bade him come to their room, and would have had him eat and drink there, but he refused, saying he was bound to obey Sir Kay, into whose charge the King had given him. So he was put into the kitchen by Sir Kay, and slept nightly with the kitchen boys. This he bore for a whole year, and was always mild and gentle, and gave hard words to no one. Only, whenever the