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CHAPTER 23 The Leechcraft of the Lady
 Meanwhile she went to Ralph and stood by him, who now began to stir again; and she knelt down by him and kissed his face gently, and rose up hastily and stood a little aloof again.  
Now Ralph sat up and looked about him, and when he saw the Lady he first blushed red, and then turned very pale; for the full life was in him again, and he knew her, and love drew strongly at his heart-strings. But she looked on him kindly and said to him: "How fares it with thee? I am sorry of thy hurt which thou hast had for me." He said: "Forsooth, Lady, a chance knock or two is no great matter for a lad of Upmeads. But oh! I have seen thee before." "Yea," she said, "twice before, fair knight." "How is that?" he said; "once I saw thee, the fairest thing in the world, and evil men would have led thee to slaughter; but not twice."
She smiled on him still more kindly, as if he were a dear friend, and said simply: "I was that lad in the cloak that ye saw in the Flower de Luce; and afterwards when ye, thou and Roger, fled away from the Burg of the Four Friths. I had come into the Burg with my captain of war at the peril of our lives to deliver four faithful friends of mine who were else doomed to an evil death."
He said nought, but gazed at her face, wondering at her valiancy and goodness. She took him by the hand now, and held it without speaking for a little while, and he sat there still looking up into her face, wondering at her sweetness and his happiness. Then she said, as she drew her hand away and spake in such a voice, and so looking at him, that every word was as a caress to him: "Thy soul is coming back to thee, my friend, and thou art well at ease: is it not so?"
"O yea," he said, "and I woke up happily e'en now; for me-dreamed that my gossip came to me and kissed me kindly; and she is a fair woman, but not a young woman."
As he spoke the knight, who had come nearly noiselessly over the grass, stood by them, holding his helm full of water, and looking grimly upon them; but the Lady looked up at him with wide eyes wonderingly, and Ralph, beholding her, deemed that all he had heard of her goodness was but the very sooth. But the knight spake: "Young man, thou hast fought with me, thou knowest not wherefore, and grim was my mood when thou madest thine onset, and still is, so that never but once wilt thou be nigher thy death than thou hast been this hour. But now I have given thee life because of the asking of this lady; and therewith I give thee leave to come thy ways with us: nay, rather I command thee to come, for thou art my prisoner, to be kept or ransomed, or set free as I will. But my will is that thou shalt not have thine armour and weapons; and there is a cause for this, which mayhappen I will tell thee hereafter. But now I bid thee drink of this water, and then do off thine helm and hauberk and give me thy sword and dagger, and go with us peaceably; and be not overmuch ashamed, for I have overcome men who boasted themselves to be great warriors."
So Ralph drank of the water, and did off his helm, and cast water on his face, and arose, and said smiling: "Nay, my master, I am nought ashamed of my mishaps: and as to my going with thee and the Lady, thou hast heard me say under thy dagger that I would not forbear to follow her; so I scarce need thy command thereto." The knight scowled on him and said: "Hold thy peace, fool! Thou wert best not stir my wrath again." "Nay," said Ralph, "thou hast my sword, and mayst slay me if thou wilt; therefore be not word-valiant with me."
Said the Knight of the Sun: "Well, well, thou hast the right of it there. Only beware lest thou try me overmuch. But now must we set forth on our road; and here is work for thee to do: a hundred yards within the thick wood in a straight line from the oak-tree thou shalt find two horses, mine and the knight's who fell before me; go thou and bring them hither; for I will not leave thee with my lady, lest I have to slay thee in the end, and maybe her also."
Ralph nodded cheerfully, and set off on his task, and was the readier therein because the Lady looked on him kindly and compassionately as he went by her. He found the horses speedily, a black horse that was of the Black Knight, and a bay of the Knight of the Sun, and he came back with them lightly.
But when he came to the oak-tree again, lo, the knight and the Lady both kneeling over the body of the Black Knight,............
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