So, yeah, Gawaine and Uwaine, cousins, they take in this whole scene — twelve maidens throwing garbage at a white shield — and they’re like, “hey ladies, how’s it going? What’s up with this shield that you all clearly hate so much?”
The ladies stop what they’re doing and they crowd around Gawaine and Uwaine, and they explain that there’s a Sir Marhaus who lives in the area, who uses a white shield, and he’s an ass. They hate him. They hate him so much that they’ve thrown this garden party specifically to mock him and his stupid white shield.
“Marhaus!” says Sir Uwaine. “I know Marhaus. He’s an okay guy. Really good jouster. Son of the king of Ireland.” Which would make him Sir Lanceor’s brother, everybody, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
“He’s a good jouster?” Gawaine shakes his head. “Ladies, ladies, ladies. Clearly you’re wrong. No one whom Uwaine remembers as being a good jouster could be on the wrong side of an issue, if the other side is just a dozen women.”
At this point, I have to wonder what happened to Gawaine’s entourage of scolding ladies-in-waiting. Seems like one of them should smack him on the back of the head for that one.
“I mean, if he hung up a white shield like that, it must be a signal of his intent to joust,” Gawaine muses. “Yes, plainly you maidens are all terrible people for failing to give proper respect and deference to the white shield.”
Gawaine and Uwaine then don’t want to have anything else to do with the ladies, and they sort of loiter around the edge of the garden party, waiting for Marhaus to show up. They figure hey, he’s a good jouster.
And sure enough, before too long, Marhaus rides up. Gawaine and Uwaine can tell it’s Marhaus, because the ladies go absolutely ape, screaming and flailing around and they hide in their tower (did I mention they had a tower?). The two knights with them, whom I’m pretty sure I did mention yesterday, these two dudes waste no time running up at Marhaus and it’s less a joust than just some guys trying to kill one another, and Marhaus wins easily. Which you probably saw coming, since he got a name and Malory didn’t bother to name anyone else in the scene.
Then Marhaus sees how the ladies had been throwing garbage at his white shield, and mutters something about how he got that shield from his childhood sweetheart, and swaps it out for the other white one that he’d been carrying around. He’s wiping it off and scowling and of course this is the point at which Gawaine and Uwaine decide to have a chat with him. I mean, he’s just killed two dudes and he’s clearly grumpy. Best possible time to talk.
“Who are you and what do you want?”
“I’m Gawaine and you may remember, this is Uwaine.” Uwaine nods, since they’ve met before. “We’re knights from Camelot, out looking for a strange adventure.”
“That sounds to me like you want to joust!”
Gawaine does not want to joust. “No, actually —“ But Marhaus has already ridden off.
“It’s cool,” says Uwaine. “I mean, yes, he could kill you effortlessly, Gawaine, but I’m pretty good at jousting. I’ll do it.”
TIME FOR A JOUSTING SEQUENCE! Now would be a good time to use the restroom, smoke a cigarette, as you like. I’m editing this down, I promise.
So Uwaine and Marhaus joust, and Marhaus disables Uwaine easily with a nonlethal attack, and also Marhaus pretty well humiliates Gawaine, smashing up his spear and killing his horse. Gawaine is thus forces to fight on foot with a sword, and when Marhaus comes at him still mounted, of course Gawaine complains that he’s cheating.
Marhaus is all, heck, I’ll play it your way you little squirt, and ties up his horse and makes ready to fight on foot.
Then something peculiar happens! Gawaine stops sucking! It’s weird. They start their swordfight at about 11:45 in the morning, and as it gets closer to noon, Gawaine’s strength and prowess are boosted! They max out at noon and start to recede afterwards, though, so it’s a fairly sucky superpower and Marhaus meanwhile is fresh as a daisy. They swordfight for hours and hours, the way only fictional characters can, and by sunset Gawaine is pretty well exhausted and Marhaus is plainly just toying with him.
Malory’s phrasing here is pretty good. “Sir knight,” says Sir Marhaus… “Our quarrels are not great, and therefore it would be a pity to hurt you, for I feel you are increasingly feeble.”
“I was just going to say that to you!” cries Gawaine, which is an obvious lie.
So they kiss and make up, and Uwaine recovers, and next thing you know, they’re all hanging out back at Marhaus’s house.
“So those ladies seemed to really hate you, what’s up with that?”
“Bah, those ladies.” Marhaus sniffs. “Bunch of witches. They’re all the time seducing men, and stealing their power, and so on.”
Again, I wish Malory had been more consistent with Gawaine’s entourage of ladies-in-waiting, because I don’t think Guenever’s gals would have let that pass.