122 THE FAIR MAID OF ASTOLAT
'Now blessed be God,' said the Maid of Astolat, ' that that Knight sped so well, for he is the man in the world that I loved first, and he will also be the last that ever I shall love.'
' Fair maid,' asked Sir Gawaine, ' is that Knight your love ?'
' Certainly he is my love,' said she.
' Then you know his name ? ' asked Sir Gawaine.
' Nay, truly,' answered the damsel, ' I know neither his name, nor whence he cometh, but I love him for all that.'
'How did you meet him first?' asked Sir Gawaine. At that she told him the whole story, and how her brother went with Sir Lancelot to do him service, and lent him the white shield of her brother Sir Tirre and left his own shield with her. ' Why did he do that ? ' asked Sir Gawaine.
For this cause,' said the damsel, 'his shield was too well known among many noble Knights.'
' Ah, fair damsel,' said Sir Gawaine, ' I beg of you to let me have a sight of that shield.'
' Sir,' answered she, ' it is in my chamber covered with a case, and if you will come with me, you shall see it.'
' Not so,' said Sir Bernard, and sent his squire for it. And when Sir Gawaine took off the case and beheld the shield, and saw the arms, he knew it to be Sir Lancelot's. ' Ah mercy,' cried he, ' my heart is heavier than ever it was before!'
' Why ? ' asked Elaine.
' I have great cause,' answered Sir Gawaine. ' Is that Knight who owns this shield your love ?'
' Yes, truly,' said she ; ' I would I were his love.'
' You are right, fair damsel,' replied Gawaine, ' for if you love him, you love the most honourable Knight in the world. I have known him for four-and-twenty years, and never did I or any other Knight see him wear a token of either lady or damsel at a tournament, Therefore,