The European Sky -God. 339
journeys north, and on Christmas Eve comes to a castle, where the lord receives him kindly, tells him he is within easy reach of his goal, and bids him remain over the feast as his guest. Gawain accepts. The three last days of the year the host rides forth on a hunting expedition, leaving Gawain to the care of his wife, and making a bargain that on his return they shall mutually exchange whatever they have won during the day. Gawain is sorely tempted by the wiles of his hostess, who, during her lord's absence, would fain take advantage of Gawain's well- known courtesy and fame as a lover. But he turns a deaf ear to her blandishments, and only a kiss passes between them, which he, in fulfilment of his compact, passes on to the husband on his return. The next day the result is similar : Gawain receives and gives two kisses. The third day, besides three kisses, the lady gives him a green lace, which, if bound round the body, has the property of preserving from harm. In view of the morrow's ordeal, from which Gawain does not expect to escape with his life, he cannot make up his mind to part with this talisman, but gives his host the kisses and says nothing about the lace. The morrow morning at day- break he rides forth, and comes to the Green Chapel, apparently a natural hollow, or cave, in a wild and deso- late part of the country. The Green Knight appears, armed with his axe, and bids Gawain kneel to receive the blow. As the axe descends, Gawain instinctively flinches, and is rebuked for his cowardice by the knight, who tells him he cannot be Gawain. The second time he remains steady, but the axe does not touch him. The third time the knight strikes him, inflicting a slight cut on the neck.
Gawain promptly springs to his feet, drawing his sword, and announces that he has now stood " one stroke for another," and that the compact is at an end ; whereon the Green Knight reveals himself as his erewhile host. He