History of Literature






James Knowles


"THE LEGENDS OF KING ARTHUR


AND HIS KNIGHTS"


Illustrations by Lancelot Speed


 

"THE LEGENDS OF KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS"  (Part IV)


Illustrations by Lancelot Speed

 


CHAPTER XI

The Adventures of Sir Tristram of Lyonesse

Again King Arthur held high festival at Caerleon, at Pentecost, and
gathered round him all the fellowship of the Round Table, and so,
according to his custom, sat and waited till some adventure should arise,
or some knight return to court whose deeds and perils might be told.

Anon he saw Sir Lancelot and a crowd of knights coming through the doors
and leading in their midst the mighty knight, Sir Tristram. As soon as
King Arthur saw him, he rose up and went through half the hall, and held
out both his hands and cried, "Right welcome to thee, good Sir Tristram,
as welcome art thou as any knight that ever came before into this court. A
long time have I wished for thee amongst my fellowship." Then all the
knights and barons rose up with one accord and came around, and cried out,
"Welcome." Queen Guinevere came also, and many ladies with her, and all
with one voice said the same.

Then the king took Sir Tristram by the hand and led him to the Round Table
and said, "Welcome again for one of the best and gentlest knights in all
the world; a chief in war, a chief in peace, a chief in field and forest,
a chief in the ladies' chamber--right heartily welcome to this court, and
mayest thou long abide in it."

When he had so said he looked at every empty seat until he came to what
had been Sir Marhaus', and there he found written in gold letters, "This
is the seat of the noble knight, Sir Tristram." Whereat they made him,
with great cheer and gladness, a Fellow of the Round Table.

Now the story of Sir Tristram was as follows:--

There was a king of Lyonesse, named Meliodas, married to the sister of
King Mark of Cornwall, a right fair lady and a good. And so it happened
that King Meliodas hunting in the woods was taken by enchantment and made
prisoner in a castle. When his wife Elizabeth heard it she was nigh mad
with grief, and ran into the forest to seek out her lord. But after many
days of wandering and sorrow she found no trace of him, and laid her down
in a deep valley and prayed to meet her death. And so indeed she did, but
ere she died she gave birth in the midst of all her sorrow to a child, a
boy, and called him with her latest breath Tristram; for she said, "His
name shall show how sadly he hath come into this world."

Therewith she gave up her ghost, and the gentlewoman who was with her took
the child and wrapped it from the cold as well as she was able, and lay
down with it in her arms beneath the shadow of a tree hard by, expecting
death to come to her in turn.

But shortly after came a company of lords and barons seeking for the
queen, and found the lady and the child and took them home. And on the
next day came King Meliodas, whom Merlin had delivered, and when he heard
of the queen's death his sorrow was greater than tongue can tell. And anon
he buried her solemnly and nobly, and called the child Tristram as she had
desired.

Then for seven years King Meliodas mourned and took no comfort, and all
that time young Tristram was well nourished; but in a while he wedded with
the daughter of Howell, King of Brittany, who, that her own children might
enjoy the kingdom, cast about in her mind how she might destroy Tristram.
So on a certain day she put poison in a silver cup, where Tristram and her
children were together playing, that when he was athirst he might drink of
it and die. But so it happened that her own son saw the cup, and, thinking
it must hold good drink, he climbed and took it, and drank deeply of it,
and suddenly thereafter burst and fell down dead.

When the queen heard that, her grief was very great, but her anger and
envy were fiercer than before, and soon again she put more poison in the
cup. And by chance one day her husband finding it when thirsty, took it up
and was about to drink therefrom, when, seeing him, she sprang up with a
mighty cry and dashed it from his hands.

At that King Meliodas, wondering greatly, called to mind the sudden death
of his young child, and taking her fiercely by the hand he cried:

"Traitress, tell me what drink is in this cup or I will slay thee in a
moment;" and therewith pulling out his sword he swore by a great oath to
slay her if she straightway told him not the truth.

"Ah, mercy, lord," said she, and fell down at his feet; "mercy, and I will
tell thee all."

And then she told him of her plot to murder Tristram, that her own sons
might enjoy the kingdom.

"The law shall judge thee," said the king.

And so anon she was tried before the barons, and condemned to be burnt to
death.

But when the fire was made, and she brought out, came Tristram kneeling at
his father's feet and besought of him a favour.

"Whatsoever thou desirest I will give thee," said the king.

"Give me the life, then, of the queen, my stepmother," said he.

"Thou doest wrong to ask it," said Meliodas; "for she would have slain
thee with her poisons if she could, and chiefly for thy sake she ought to
die."

"Sir," said he, "as for that, I beseech thee of thy mercy to forgive it
her, and for my part may God pardon her as I do; and so I pray thee grant
me my boon, and for God's sake hold thee to thy promise."

"If it must be so," said the king, "take thou her life, for to thee I give
it, and go and do with her as thou wilt."

Then went young Tristram to the fire and loosed the queen from all her
bonds and delivered her from death.

And after a great while by his good means the king again forgave and lived
in peace with her, though never more in the same lodgings.

Anon was Tristram sent abroad to France in care of one named Governale.
And there for seven years he learned the language of the land, and all
knightly exercises and gentle crafts, and especially was he foremost in
music and in hunting, and was a harper beyond all others. And when at
nineteen years of age he came back to his father, he was as lusty and
strong of body and as noble of heart as ever man was seen.

Now shortly after his return it befell that King Anguish of Ireland sent
to King Mark of Cornwall for the tribute due to Ireland, but which was now
seven years behindhand. To whom King Mark sent answer, if he would have it
he must send and fight for it, and they would find a champion to fight
against it.

So King Anguish called for Sir Marhaus, his wife's brother, a good knight
of the Round Table, who lived then at his court, and sent him with a
knightly retinue in six great ships to Cornwall. And, casting anchor by
the castle of Tintagil, he sent up daily to King Mark for the tribute or
the champion. But no knight there would venture to assail him, for his
fame was very high in all the realm for strength and hardihood.

Then made King Mark a proclamation throughout Cornwall, that if any knight
would fight Sir Marhaus he should stand at the king's right hand for
evermore, and have great honour and riches all the rest of his days. Anon
this news came to the land of Lyonesse, and when young Tristram heard it
he was angry and ashamed to think no knight of Cornwall durst assail the
Irish champion. "Alas," said he, "that I am not a knight, that I might
match this Marhaus! I pray you give me leave, sir, to depart to King
Mark's court and beg of his grace to make me knight."

"Be ruled by thy own courage," said his father.

So Tristram rode away forthwith to Tintagil to King Mark, and went up
boldly to him and said, "Sir, give me the order of knighthood and I will
fight to the uttermost with Sir Marhaus of Ireland."

"What are ye, and whence come ye?" said the king, seeing he was but a
young man, though strong and well made both in body and limb.

"My name is Tristram," said he, "and I was born in the country of
Lyonesse."

"But know ye," said the king, "this Irish knight will fight with none who
be not come of royal blood and near of kin to kings or queens, as he
himself is, for his sister is the Queen of Ireland."

Then said Tristram, "Let him know that I am come both on my father's and
my mother's side of blood as good as his, for my father is King Meliodas
and my mother was that Queen Elizabeth, thy sister, who died in the forest
at my birth."

When King Mark heard that he welcomed him with all his heart, and knighted
him forthwith, and made him ready to go forth as soon as he would choose,
and armed him royally in armour covered with gold and silver.

Then he sent Sir Marhaus word, "That a better man than he should fight
with him, Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, son of King Meliodas and of King
Mark's own sister." So the battle was ordained to be fought in an island
near Sir Marhaus' ships, and there Sir Tristram landed on the morrow, with
Governale alone attending him for squire, and him he sent back to the land
when he had made himself ready.

When Sir Marhaus and Sir Tristram were thus left alone, Sir Marhaus said,
"Young knight Sir Tristram what doest thou here? I am full sorry for thy
rashness, for ofttimes have I been assailed in vain, and by the best
knights of the world. Be warned in time, return to them that sent thee."

"Fair knight, and well-proved knight," replied Sir Tristram, "be sure that
I shall never quit this quarrel till one of us be overcome. For this cause
have I been made knight, and thou shalt know before we part that though as
yet unproved, I am a king's son and first-born of a queen. Moreover I have
promised to deliver Cornwall from this ancient burden, or to die. Also,
thou shouldst have known, Sir Marhaus, that thy valour and thy might are
but the better reasons why I should assail thee; for whether I win or lose
I shall gain honour to have met so great a knight as thou art."

Then they began the battle, and tilted at their hardest against each
other, so that both knights and horses fell to the earth. But Sir Marhaus'
spear smote Sir Tristram a great wound in the side. Then, springing up
from their horses, they lashed together with their swords like two wild
boars. And when they had stricken together a great while they left off
strokes and lunged at one another's breasts and visors; but seeing this
availed not they hurtled together again to bear each other down.

Thus fought they more than half the day, till both were sorely spent and
blood ran from them to the ground on every side. But by this time Sir
Tristram remained fresher than Sir Marhaus and better winded, and with a
mighty stroke he smote him such a buffet as cut through his helm into his
brain-pan, and there his sword stuck in so fast that thrice Sir Tristram
pulled ere he could get it from his head. Then fell Sir Marhaus down upon
his knees, and the edge of Sir Tristram's sword broke off into his
brain-pan. And suddenly when he seemed dead, Sir Marhaus rose and threw
his sword and shield away from him and ran and fled into his ship. And
Tristram cried out after him, "Aha! Sir knight of the Round Table, dost
thou withdraw thee from so young a knight? it is a shame to thee and all
thy kin; I would rather have been hewn into a hundred pieces than have
fled from thee."

But Sir Marhaus answered nothing, and sorely groaning fled away.

"Farewell, Sir knight, farewell," laughed Tristram, whose own voice now
was hoarse and faint with loss of blood; "I have thy sword and shield in
my safe keeping, and will wear them in all places where I ride on my
adventures, and before King Arthur and the Table Round."

Then was Sir Marhaus taken back to Ireland by his company; and as soon as
he arrived his wounds were searched, and when they searched his head they
found therein a piece of Tristram's sword; but all the skill of surgeons
was in vain to move it out. So anon Sir Marhaus died.

But the queen, his sister, took the piece of sword-blade and put it safely
by, for she thought that some day it might help her to revenge her
brother's death.

Meanwhile, Sir Tristram, being sorely wounded, sat down softly on a little
mound and bled passing fast; and in that evil case was found anon by
Governale and King Mark's knights. Then they gently took him up and
brought him in a barge back to the land, and lifted him into a bed within
the castle, and had his wounds dressed carefully.

But for a great while he lay sorely sick, and was likely to have died of
the first stroke Sir Marhaus had given him with the spear, for the point
of it was poisoned. And, though the wisest surgeons and leeches--both men
and women--came from every part, yet could he be by no means cured. At
last came a wise lady, and said plainly that Sir Tristram never should be
healed, until he went and stayed in that same country whence the poison
came. When this was understood, the king sent Sir Tristram in a fair and
goodly ship to Ireland, and by fortune he arrived fast by a castle where
the king and queen were. And as the ship was being anchored, he sat upon
his bed and harped a merry lay, and made so sweet a music as was never
equalled.

When the king heard that the sweet harper was a wounded knight, he sent
for him, and asked his name. "I am of the country of Lyonesse," he
answered, "and my name is Tramtrist;" for he dared not tell his true name
lest the vengeance of the queen should fall upon him for her brother's
death.

"Well," said King Anguish, "thou art right welcome here, and shalt have
all the help this land can give thee; but be not anxious if I am at times
cast down and sad, for but lately in Cornwall the best knight in the
world, fighting for my cause, was slain; his name was Sir Marhaus, a
knight of King Arthur's Round Table." And then he told Sir Tristram all
the story of Sir Marhaus' battle, and Sir Tristram made pretence of great
surprise and sorrow, though he knew all far better than the king himself.

Then was he put in charge of the king's daughter, La Belle Isault, to be
healed of his wound, and she was as fair and noble a lady as men's eyes
might see. And so marvellously was she skilled in medicine, that in a few
days she fully cured him; and in return Sir Tristram taught her the harp;
so, before long, they two began to love each other greatly.

But at that time a heathen knight, Sir Palomedes, was in Ireland, and much
cherished by the king and queen. He also loved mightily La Belle Isault,
and never wearied of making her great gifts, and seeking for her favour,
and was ready even to be christened for her sake. Sir Tristram therefore
hated him out of measure, and Sir Palomedes was full of rage and envy
against Tristram.

And so it befell that King Anguish proclaimed a great tournament to be
held, the prize whereof should be a lady called the Lady of the Launds, of
near kindred to the king: and her the winner of the tournament should wed
in three days afterwards, and possess all her lands. When La Belle Isault
told Sir Tristram of this tournament, he said, "Fair lady! I am yet a
feeble knight, and but for thee had been a dead man now: what wouldest
thou I should do? Thou knowest well I may not joust."

"Ah, Tristram," said she, "why wilt thou not fight in this tournament? Sir
Palomedes will be there, and will do his mightiest; and therefore be thou
there, I pray thee, or else he will be winner of the prize."

"Madam," said Tristram, "I will go, and for thy sake will do my best; but
let me go unknown to all men; and do thou, I pray thee, keep my counsel,
and help me to a disguise."

So on the day of jousting came Sir Palomedes, with a black shield, and
overthrew many knights. And all the people wondered at his prowess; for on
the first day he put to the worse Sir Gawain, Sir Gaheris, Sir Agravaine,
Sir Key, and many more from far and near. And on the morrow he was
conqueror again, and overthrew the king with a hundred knights and the
King of Scotland. But presently Sir Tristram rode up to the lists, having
been let out at a privy postern of the castle, where none could see. La
Belle Isault had dressed him in white armour and given him a white horse
and shield, and so he came suddenly into the field as it had been a bright
angel.

As soon as Sir Palomedes saw him he ran at him with a great spear in rest,
but Sir Tristram was ready, and at the first encounter hurled him to the
ground. Then there arose a great cry that the knight with the black shield
was overthrown. And Palomedes sorely hurt and shamed, sought out a secret
way and would have left the field; but Tristram watched him, and rode
after him, and bade him stay, for he had not yet done with him. Then did
Sir Palomedes turn with fury, and lash at Sir Tristram with his sword; but
at the first stroke Sir Tristram smote him to the earth, and cried, "Do
now all my commands, or take thy death." Then he yielded to Sir Tristram's
mercy, and promised to forsake La Belle Isault, and for twelve months to
wear no arms or armour. And rising up, he cut his armour off him into
shreds with rage and madness, and turned and left the field: and Sir
Tristram also left the lists, and rode back to the castle through the
postern gate.

Then was Sir Tristram long cherished by the King and Queen of Ireland, and
ever with La Belle Isault. But on a certain day, while he was bathing,
came the queen with La Belle Isault by chance into his chamber, and saw
his sword lie naked on the bed: anon she drew it from the scabbard and
looked at it a long while, and both thought it a passing fair sword; but
within a foot and a half of the end there was a great piece broken out,
and while the queen was looking at the gap, she suddenly remembered the
piece of sword-blade that was found in the brain-pan of her brother Sir
Marhaus.

Therewith she turned and cried, "By my faith, this is the felon knight who
slew thy uncle!" And running to her chamber she sought in her casket for
the piece of iron from Sir Marhaus' head and brought it back, and fitted
it in Tristram's sword; and surely did it fit therein as closely as it had
been but yesterday broke out.

[Illustration: And running to her chamber, she sought in her casket for
the piece of iron ... and fitted it in Tristram's sword.]

Then the queen caught the sword up fiercely in her hand, and ran into the
room where Sir Tristram was yet in his bath, and making straight for him,
had run him through the body, had not his squire, Sir Hebes, got her in
his arms, and pulled the sword away from her.

Then ran she to the king, and fell upon her knees before him, saying,
"Lord and husband, thou hast here in thy house that felon knight who slew
my brother Marhaus!"

"Who is it?" said the king.

"It is Sir Tristram!" said she, "whom Isault hath healed."

"Alas!" replied the king, "I am full grieved thereat, for he is a good
knight as ever I have seen in any field; but I charge thee leave thou him,
and let me deal with him."

Then the king went to Sir Tristram's chamber and found him all armed and
ready to mount his horse, and said to him, "Sir Tristram, it is not to
prove me against thee I come, for it were shameful of thy host to seek thy
life. Depart in peace, but tell me first thy name, and whether thou
slewest my brother, Sir Marhaus."

Then Sir Tristram told him all the truth, and how he had hid his name, to
be unknown in Ireland; and when he had ended, the king declared he held
him in no blame. "Howbeit, I cannot for mine honour's sake retain thee at
this court, for so I should displease my barons, and my wife, and all her
kin."

"Sir," said Sir Tristram, "I thank thee for the goodness thou hast shown
me here, and for the great goodness my lady, thy daughter, hath shown me;
and it may chance to be more for thy advantage if I live than if I die;
for wheresoever I may be, I shall ever seek thy service, and shall be my
lady thy daughter's servant in all places, and her knight in right and
wrong, and shall never fail to do for her as much as knight can do."

Then Sir Tristram went to La Belle Isault, and took his leave of her. "O
gentle knight," said she, "full of grief am I at your departing, for never
yet I saw a man to love so well."

"Madam," said he, "I promise faithfully that all my life I shall be your
knight."

Then Sir Tristram gave her a ring, and she gave him another, and after
that he left her, weeping and lamenting, and went among the barons, and
openly took his leave of them all, saying, "Fair lords, it so befalleth
that I now must depart hence; therefore, if there be any here whom I have
offended or who is grieved with me, let him now say it, and before I go I
will amend it to the utmost of my power. And if there be but one who
would speak shame of me behind my back, let him say it now or never, and
here is my body to prove it on--body against body."

And all stood still and said no word, though some there were of the
queen's kindred who would have assailed him had they dared.

So Sir Tristram departed from Ireland and took the sea and came with a
fair wind to Tintagil. And when the news came to King Mark that Sir
Tristram was returned, healed of his wound, he was passing glad, and so
were all his barons. And when he had visited the king his uncle, he rode
to his father, King Meliodas, and there had all the heartiest welcome that
could be made him. And both the king and queen gave largely to him of
their lands and goods.

Anon he came again to King Mark's court, and there lived in great joy and
pleasure, till within a while the king grew jealous of his fame, and of
the love and favour shown him by all damsels. And as long as King Mark
lived, he never after loved Sir Tristram, though there was much fair
speech between them.

Then it befell upon a certain day that the good knight Sir Bleoberis de
Ganis, brother to Sir Blamor de Ganis, and nigh cousin to Sir Lancelot of
the Lake, came to King Mark's court and asked of him a favour. And though
the king marvelled, seeing he was a man of great renown, and a knight of
the Round Table, he granted him all his asking. Then said Sir Bleoberis,
"I will have the fairest lady in your court, at my own choosing."

"I may not say thee nay," replied the king; "choose therefore, but take
all the issues of thy choice."

So when he had looked around, he chose the wife of Earl Segwarides, and
took her by the hand, and set her upon horseback behind his squire, and
rode forth on his way.

Presently thereafter came in the earl, and rode out straightway after him
in rage. But all the ladies cried out shame upon Sir Tristram that he had
not gone, and one rebuked him foully and called him coward knight, that he
would stand and see a lady forced away from his uncle's court. But Sir
Tristram answered her, "Fair lady, it is not my place to take part in this
quarrel while her lord and husband is here to do it. Had he not been at
this court, peradventure I had been her champion. And if it so befall that
he speed ill, then may it happen that I speak with that foul knight before
he pass out of this realm."

Anon ran in one of Sir Segwarides' squires, and told that his master was
sore wounded, and at the point of death. When Sir Tristram heard that, he
was soon armed and on his horse, and Governale, his servant, followed him
with shield and spear.

And as he rode, he met his cousin Sir Andret, who had been commanded by
King Mark to bring home to him two knights of King Arthur's court who
roamed the country thereabouts seeking adventures.

"What tidings?" said Sir Tristram.

"God help me, never worse," replied his cousin; "for those I went to bring
have beaten and defeated me, and set my message at naught."

"Fair cousin," said Sir Tristram, "ride ye on your way, perchance if I
should meet them ye may be revenged."

So Sir Andret rode into Cornwall, but Sir Tristram rode after the two
knights who had misused him, namely, Sir Sagramour le Desirous, and Sir
Dodinas le Savage. And before long he saw them but a little way before
him.

"Sir," said Governale, "by my advice thou wilt leave them alone, for they
be two well-proved knights of Arthur's court."

"Shall I not therefore rather meet them?" said Sir Tristram, and, riding
swiftly after them, he called to them to stop, and asked them whence they
came, and whither they were going, and what they were doing in those
marches.

Sir Sagramour looked haughtily at Sir Tristram, and made mocking of his
words, and said, "Fair knight, be ye a knight of Cornwall?"

"Wherefore askest thou that?" said Tristram.

"Truly, because it is full seldom seen," replied Sir Sagramour, "that
Cornish knights are valiant with their arms as with their tongues. It is
but two hours since there met us such a Cornish knight, who spoke great
words with might and prowess, but anon, with little mastery, he was laid
on earth, as I trow wilt thou be also."

"Fair lords," said Sir Tristram, "it may chance I be a better man than he;
but, be that as it may, he was my cousin, and for his sake I will assail
ye both; one Cornish knight against ye two."

When Sir Dodinas le Savage heard this speech, he caught at his spear and
said, "Sir knight, keep well thyself;" and then they parted and came
together as it had been thunder, and Sir Dodinas' spear split asunder; but
Sir Tristram smote him with so full a stroke as hurled him over his
horse's crupper, and nearly brake his neck. Sir Sagramour, seeing his
fellow's fall, marvelled who this new knight might be, and dressed his
spear, and came against Sir Tristram as a whirlwind; but Sir Tristram
smote him a mighty buffet, and rolled him with his horse down on the
ground; and in the falling he brake his thigh.

Then, looking at them both as they lay grovelling on the grass, Sir
Tristram said, "Fair knights, will ye joust any more? Are there no bigger
knights in King Arthur's court? Will ye soon again speak shame of Cornish

knights?"

"Thou hast defeated us, in truth," replied Sir Sagramour, "and on the
faith of knighthood I require thee tell us thy right name?"

"Ye charge me by a great thing," said Sir Tristram, "and I will answer
ye."

And when they heard his name the two knights were right glad that they had
met Sir Tristram, for his deeds were known through all the land, and they
prayed him to abide in their company.

"Nay," said he, "I must find a fellow-knight of yours, Sir Bleoberis de
Ganis, whom I seek."

"God speed you well," said the two knights; and Sir Tristram rode away.

Soon he saw before him in a valley Sir Bleoberis with Sir Segwarides' wife
riding behind his squire upon a palfrey. At that he cried out aloud,
"Abide, Sir knight of King Arthur's court, bring back again that lady or
deliver her to me."

"I will not," said Bleoberis, "for I dread no Cornish knight."

"Why," said Sir Tristram, "may not a Cornish knight do well as any other?
This day, but three miles back, two knights of thy own court met me, and
found one Cornish knight enough for both before we parted."

"What were their names?" said Sir Bleoberis.

"Sir Sagramour le Desirous and Sir Dodinas le Savage," said Sir Tristram.

"Ah," said Sir Bleoberis, amazed; "hast thou then met with them? By my
faith, they were two good knights and men of worship, and if thou hast
beat both thou must needs be a good knight; but for all that thou shalt
beat me also ere thou hast this lady."

"Defend thee, then," cried out Sir Tristram, and came upon him swiftly
with his spear in rest. But Sir Bleoberis was as swift as he, and each
bore down the other, horse and all, on to the earth.

Then they sprang clear of their horses, and lashed together full eagerly
and mightily with their swords, tracing and traversing on the right hand
and on the left more than two hours, and sometimes rushing together with
such fury that they both lay grovelling on the ground. At last Sir
Bleoberis started back and said, "Now, gentle knight, hold hard awhile,
and let us speak together."

"Say on," said Sir Tristram, "and I will answer thee."

"Sir," said Sir Bleoberis, "I would know thy name, and court, and
country."

"I have no shame to tell them," said Sir Tristram. "I am King Meliodas'
son, and my mother was sister to King Mark, from whose court I now come.
My name is Sir Tristram de Lyonesse." "Truly," said Sir Bleoberis, "I am
right glad to hear it, for thou art he that slew Sir Marhaus hand-to-hand,
fighting for the Cornish tribute; and overcame Sir Palomedes at the great
Irish tournament, where also thou didst overthrow Sir Gawain and his nine
companions."

"I am that knight," said Sir Tristram, "and now I pray thee tell me thy
name."

"I am Sir Bleoberis de Ganis, cousin of Sir Lancelot of the Lake, one of
the best knights in all the world," he answered.

"Thou sayest truth," said Sir Tristram; "for Sir Lancelot, as all men
know, is peerless in courtesy and knighthood, and for the great love I
bear to his name I will not willingly fight more with thee his kinsman."

"In good faith, sir," said Sir Bleoberis, "I am as loth to fight thee
more; but since thou hast followed me to win this lady, I proffer thee
kindness, courtesy, and gentleness; this lady shall be free to go with
which of us she pleaseth best."

"I am content," said Sir Tristram, "for I doubt not she will come to me."

"That shalt thou shortly prove," said he, and called his squire, and set
the lady in the midst between them, who forthwith walked to Sir Bleoberis
and elected to abide with him. Which, when Sir Tristram saw, he was in
wondrous anger with her, and felt that he could scarce for shame return to
King Mark's court. But Sir Bleoberis said, "Hearken to me, good knight,
Sir Tristram, because King Mark gave me free choice of any gift, and
because this lady chose to go with me, I took her; but now I have
fulfilled my quest and my adventure, and for thy sake she shall be sent
back to her husband at the abbey where he lieth."

So Sir Tristram rode back to Tintagil, and Sir Bleoberis to the abbey
where Sir Segwarides lay wounded, and there delivered up his lady, and
departed as a noble knight.

After this adventure Sir Tristram abode still at his uncle's court, till
in the envy of his heart King Mark devised a plan to be rid of him. So on
a certain day he desired him to depart again for Ireland, and there demand
La Belle Isault on his behalf, to be his queen--for ever had Sir Tristram
praised her beauty and her goodness, till King Mark desired to wed her for
himself. Moreover, he believed his nephew surely would be slain by the
queen's kindred if he once were found again in Ireland.

But Sir Tristram, scorning fear, made ready to depart, and took with him
the noblest knights that could be found, arrayed in the richest fashion.

And when they were come to Ireland, upon a certain day Sir Tristram gave
his uncle's message, and King Anguish consented thereto.

But when La Belle Isault was told the tidings she was very sorrowful and
loth--yet made she ready to set forth with Sir Tristram, and took with her
Dame Bragwaine, her chief gentlewoman. Then the queen gave Dame Bragwaine,
and Governale, Sir Tristram's servant, a little flask, and charged them
that La Belle Isault and King Mark should both drink of it on their
marriage day, and then should they surely love each other all their lives.

Anon, Sir Tristram and Isault, with a great company, took the sea and
departed. And so it chanced that one day sitting in their cabin they were
athirst, and saw a little flask of gold which seemed to hold good wine. So
Sir Tristram took it up, and said, "Fair lady, this looketh to be the best
of wines, and your maid, Dame Bragwaine, and my servant, Governale, have
kept it for themselves." Thereat they both laughed merrily, and drank each
after other from the flask, and never before had they tasted any wine
which seemed so good and sweet. But by the time they had finished drinking
they loved each other so well that their love nevermore might leave them
for weal or woe. And thus it came to pass that though Sir Tristram might
never wed La Belle Isault, he did the mightiest deeds of arms for her sake
only all his life.

Then they sailed onwards till they came to a castle called Pluere, where
they would have rested. But anon there ran forth a great company and took
them prisoners. And when they were in prison, Sir Tristram asked a knight
and lady whom they found therein wherefore they were so shamefully dealt
with; "for," said he, "it was never the custom of any place of honour that
I ever came unto to seize a knight and lady asking shelter and thrust them
into prison, and a full evil and discourteous custom is it."

"Sir," said the knight, "know ye not that this is called the Castle
Pluere, or the weeping castle, and that it is an ancient custom here that
whatsoever knight abideth in it must needs fight the lord of it, Sir
Brewnor, and he that is the weakest shall lose his head. And if the lady
he hath with him be less fair than the lord's wife, she shall lose her
head; but if she be fairer, then must the lady of the castle lose her
head."

"Now Heaven help me," said Sir Tristram, "but this is a foul and shameful
custom. Yet have I one advantage, for my lady is the fairest that doth
live in all the world, so that I nothing fear for her; and as for me, I
will full gladly fight for my own head in a fair field."

Then said the knight, "Look ye be up betimes to-morrow, and make you ready
and your lady."

And on the morrow came Sir Brewnor to Sir Tristram, and put him and Isault
forth out of prison, and brought him a horse and armour, and bade him make
ready, for all the commons and estates of that lordship waited in the
field to see and judge the battle.

Then Sir Brewnor, holding his lady by the hand, all muffled, came forth,
and Sir Tristram went to meet him with La Belle Isault beside him, muffled
also. Then said Sir Brewnor, "Sir knight, if thy lady be fairer than mine,
with thy sword smite off my lady's head; but if my lady be fairer than
thine, with my sword I will smite off thy lady's head. And if I overcome
thee thy lady shall be mine, and thou shalt lose thy head."

"Sir knight," replied Sir Tristram, "this is a right foul and felon
custom, and rather than my lady shall lose her head will I lose my own."

"Nay," said Sir Brewnor, "but the ladies shall be now compared together
and judgment shall be had."

"I consent not," cried Sir Tristram, "for who is here that will give
rightful judgment? Yet doubt not that my lady is far fairer than thine
own, and that will I prove and make good." Therewith Sir Tristram lifted
up the veil from off La Belle Isault, and stood beside her with his naked
sword drawn in his hand.

Then Sir Brewnor unmuffled his lady and did in like manner. But when he
saw La Belle Isault he knew that none could be so fair, and all there
present gave their judgment so. Then said Sir Tristram, "Because thou and
thy lady have long used this evil custom, and have slain many good knights
and ladies, it were a just thing to destroy thee both."

"In good sooth," said Sir Brewnor, "thy lady is fairer than mine, and of
all women I never saw any so fair. Therefore, slay my lady if thou wilt,
and I doubt not but I shall slay thee and have thine."

"Thou shalt win her," said Sir Tristram, "as dearly as ever knight won
lady; and because of thy own judgment and of the evil custom that thy lady
hath consented to, I will slay her as thou sayest."

And therewithal Sir Tristram went to him and took his lady from him, and
smote off her head at a stroke.

"Now take thy horse," cried out Sir Brewnor, "for since I have lost my
lady I will win thine and have thy life."

So they took their horses and came together as fast as they could fly, and
Sir Tristram lightly smote Sir Brewnor from his horse. But he rose right
quickly, and when Sir Tristram came again he thrust his horse through both
the shoulders, so that it reeled and fell. But Sir Tristram was light and
nimble, and voided his horse, and rose up and dressed his shield before
him, though meanwhile, ere he could draw out his sword, Sir Brewnor gave
him three or four grievous strokes. Then they rushed furiously together
like two wild boars, and fought hurtling and hewing here and there for
nigh two hours, and wounded each other full sorely. Then at the last Sir
Brewnor rushed upon Sir Tristram and took him in his arms to throw him,
for he trusted greatly in his strength. But Sir Tristram was at that time
called the strongest and biggest knight of the world; for he was bigger
than Sir Lancelot, though Sir Lancelot was better breathed. So anon he
thrust Sir Brewnor grovelling to the earth, and then unlaced his helm and
struck off his head. Then all they that belonged to the castle came and
did him homage and fealty, and prayed him to abide there for a season and
put an end to that foul custom.

But within a while he departed and came to Cornwall, and there King Mark
was forthwith wedded to La Belle Isault with great joy and splendour.

And Sir Tristram had high honour, and ever lodged at the king's court. But
for all he had done him such services King Mark hated him, and on a
certain day he set two knights to fall upon him as he rode in the forest.
But Sir Tristram lightly smote one's head off, and sorely wounded the
other, and made him bear his fellow's body to the king. At that the king
dissembled and hid from Sir Tristram that the knights were sent by him;
yet more than ever he hated him in secret, and sought to slay him.

So on a certain day, by the assent of Sir Andret, a false knight, and
forty other knights, Sir Tristram was taken prisoner in his sleep and
carried to a chapel on the rocks above the sea to be cast down. But as
they were about to cast him in, suddenly he brake his bonds asunder, and
rushing at Sir Andret, took his sword and smote him down therewith. Then,
leaping down the rocks where none could follow, he escaped them. But one
shot after him and wounded him full sorely with a poisoned arrow in the
arm.

Anon, his servant Governale, with Sir Lambegus sought him and found him
safe among the rocks, and told him that King Mark had banished him and all
his followers to avenge Sir Andret's death. So they took ship and came to
Brittany.

Now Sir Tristram, suffering great anguish from his wound, was told to seek
Isoude, the daughter of the King of Brittany, for she alone could cure
such wounds. Wherefore he went to King Howell's court, and said, "Lord, I
am come into this country to have help from thy daughter, for men tell me
none but she may help me." And Isoude gladly offering to do her best,
within a month he was made whole.

While he abode still at that court, an earl named Grip made war upon King
Howell, and besieged him; and Sir Kay Hedius, the king's son, went forth
against him, but was beaten in battle and sore wounded. Then the king
praying Sir Tristram for his help, he took with him such knights as he
could find, and on the morrow, in another battle, did such deeds of arms
that all the land spake of him. For there he slew the earl with his own
hands, and more than a hundred knights besides.

When he came back King Howell met him, and saluted him with every honour
and rejoicing that could be thought of, and took him in his arms, and
said, "Sir Tristram, all my kingdom will I resign to thee."

"Nay," answered he, "God forbid, for truly am I beholden to you for ever
for your daughter's sake."

Then the king prayed him to take Isoude in marriage, with a great dower of
lands and castles. To this Sir Tristram presently consenting anon they
were wedded at the court.

But within a while Sir Tristram greatly longed to see Cornwall, and Sir
Kay Hedius desired to go with him. So they took ship; but as soon as they
were at sea the wind blew them upon the coast of North Wales, nigh to
Castle Perilous, hard by a forest wherein were many strange adventures
ofttimes to be met. Then said Sir Tristram to Sir Kay Hedius, "Let us
prove some of them ere we depart." So they took their horses and rode
forth.

When they had ridden a mile or more, Sir Tristram spied a goodly knight
before him well armed, who sat by a clear fountain with a strong horse
near him, tied to an oak-tree. "Fair sir," said he, when they came near,
"ye seem to be a knight errant by your arms and harness, therefore make
ready now to joust with one of us, or both."

Thereat the knight spake not, but took his shield and buckled it round his
neck, and leaping on his horse caught a spear from his squire's hand.

Then said Sir Kay Hedius to Sir Tristram, "Let me assay him."

"Do thy best," said he.

So the two knights met, and Sir Kay Hedius fell sorely wounded in the
breast.

"Thou hast well jousted," cried Sir Tristram to the knight; "now make
ready for me!"

"I am ready," answered he, and encountered him, and smote him so heavily
that he fell down from his horse. Whereat, being ashamed, he put his
shield before him, and drew his sword, crying to the strange knight to do
likewise. Then they fought on foot for well nigh two hours, till they were
both weary.

At last Sir Tristram said, "In all my life I never met a knight so strong
and well-breathed as ye be. It were a pity we should further hurt each
other. Hold thy hand, fair knight, and tell me thy name."

"That will I," answered he, "if thou wilt tell me thine."

"My name," said he, "is Sir Tristram of Lyonesse."

"And mine, Sir Lamoracke of Gaul."

Then both cried out together, "Well met;" and Sir Lamoracke said, "Sir,
for your great renown, I will that ye have all the worship of this battle,
and therefore will I yield me unto you." And therewith he took his sword
by the point to yield him.

"Nay," said Sir Tristram, "ye shall not do so, for well I know ye do it of
courtesy, and not of dread." And therewith he offered his sword to Sir
Lamoracke, saying, "Sir, as an overcome knight, I yield me unto you as
unto the man of noblest powers I have ever met with."

"Hold," said Sir Lamoracke, "let us now swear together nevermore to fight
against each other."

Then did they swear as he said.

Then Sir Tristram returned to Sir Kay Hedius, and when he was whole of his
wounds, they departed together in a ship, and landed on the coast of
Cornwall. And when they came ashore, Sir Tristram eagerly sought news of
La Belle Isault. And one told him in mistake that she was dead. Whereat,
for sore and grievous sorrow, he fell down in a swoon, and so lay for
three days and nights.

When he awoke therefrom he was crazed, and ran into the forest and abode
there like a wild man many days; whereby he waxed lean and weak of body,
and would have died, but that a hermit laid some meat beside him as he
slept. Now in that forest was a giant named Tauleas, who, for fear of
Tristram, had hid himself within a castle, but when they told him he was
mad, came forth and went at large again. And on a certain day he saw a
knight of Cornwall, named Sir Dinaunt, pass by with a lady, and when he
had alighted by a well to rest, the giant leaped out from his ambush, and
took him by the throat to slay him. But Sir Tristram, as he wandered
through the forest, came upon them as they struggled; and when the knight
cried out for help, he rushed upon the giant, and taking up Sir Dinaunt's
sword, struck off therewith the giant's head, and straightway disappeared
among the trees.

Anon, Sir Dinaunt took the head of Tauleas, and bare it with him to the
court of King Mark, whither he was bound, and told of his adventures.
"Where had ye this adventure?" said King Mark.

"At a fair fountain in thy forest," answered he.

"I would fain see that wild man," said the king.

So within a day or two he commanded his knights to a great hunting in the
forest. And when the king came to the well, he saw a wild man lying there
asleep, having a sword beside him; but he knew not that it was Sir
Tristram. Then he blew his horn, and summoned all his knights to take him
gently up and bear him to the court.

And when they came thereto they bathed and washed him, and brought him
somewhat to his right mind. Now La Belle Isault knew not that Sir Tristram
was in Cornwall; but when she heard that a wild man had been found in the
forest, she came to see him. And so sorely was he changed, she knew him
not. "Yet," said she to Dame Bragwaine, "in good faith I seem to have
beheld him ofttimes before."

As she thus spoke a little hound, which Sir Tristram had given her when
she first came to Cornwall, and which was ever with her, saw Sir Tristram
lying there, and leapt upon him, licking his hands and face, and whined
and barked for joy.

"Alas," cried out La Belle Isault, "it is my own true knight, Sir
Tristram."

And at her voice Sir Tristram's senses wholly came again, and wellnigh he
wept for joy to see his lady living.

But never would the hound depart from Tristram; and when King Mark and
other knights came up to see him, it sat upon his body and bayed at all
who came too near. Then one of the knights said, "Surely this is Sir
Tristram; I see it by the hound."

"Nay," said the king, "it cannot be," and asked Sir Tristram on his faith
who he was.

"My name," said he, "is Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, and now ye may do what
ye list with me."

Then the king said, "It repents me that ye are recovered," and sought to
make his barons slay him. But most of them would not assent thereto, and
counselled him instead to banish Tristram for ten years again from
Cornwall, for returning without orders from the king. So he was sworn to
depart forthwith.

And as he went towards the ship a knight of King Arthur, named Sir
Dinadan, who sought him, came and said, "Fair knight, ere that you pass
out of this country, I pray you joust with me!"

"With a good will," said he.

Then they ran together, and Sir Tristram lightly smote him from his horse.
Anon he prayed Sir Tristram's leave to bear him company, and when he had
consented they rode together to the ship.

Then was Sir Tristram full of bitterness of heart, and said to all the
knights who took him to the shore, "Greet well King Mark and all mine
enemies from me, and tell them I will come again when I may. Well am I now
rewarded for slaying Sir Marhaus, and delivering this kingdom from its
bondage, and for the perils wherewithal I brought La Belle Isault from
Ireland to the king, and rescued her at the Castle Pluere, and for the
slaying of the giant Tauleas, and all the other deeds that I have done for
Cornwall and King Mark." Thus angrily and passing bitterly he spake, and
went his way.

And after sailing awhile the ship stayed at a landing-place upon the coast
of Wales; and there Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan alighted, and on the
shore they met two knights, Sir Ector and Sir Bors. And Sir Ector
encountered with Sir Dinadan and smote him to the ground; but Sir Bors
would not encounter with Sir Tristram, "For," said he, "no Cornish knights
are men of worship." Thereat Sir Tristram was full wroth, but presently
there met them two more knights, Sir Bleoberis and Sir Driant; and Sir
Bleoberis proffered to joust with Sir Tristram, who shortly smote him
down.

"I had not thought," cried out Sir Bors, "that any Cornish knight could do
so valiantly."

Then Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan departed, and rode into a forest, and as
they rode a damsel met them, who for Sir Lancelot's sake was seeking any
noble knights to rescue him. For Queen Morgan le Fay, who hated him, had
ordered thirty men-at-arms to lie in ambush for him as he passed, with the
intent to kill him. So the damsel prayed them to rescue him.

Then said Sir Tristram, "Bring me to that place, fair damsel."

But Sir Dinadan cried out, "It is not possible for us to meet with thirty
knights! I will take no part in such a hardihood, for to match one or two
or three knights is enough; but to match fifteen I will never assay."

"For shame," replied Sir Tristram, "do but your part."

"That will I not," said he; "wherefore, I pray ye, lend me your shield,
for it is of Cornwall, and because men of that country are deemed cowards,
ye are but little troubled as ye ride with knights to joust with."

"Nay," said Sir Tristram, "I will never give my shield up for her sake who
gave it me; but if thou wilt not stand by me to-day I will surely slay
thee; for I ask no more of thee than to fight one knight, and if thy heart
will not serve thee that much, thou shalt stand by and look on me and
them."

"Would God that I had never met with ye!" cried Sir Dinadan; "but I
promise to look on and do all that I may to save myself."

Anon they came to where the thirty knights lay waiting, and Sir Tristram
rushed upon them, saying, "Here is one who fights for love of Lancelot!"
Then slew he two of them at the first onset with his spear, and ten more
swiftly after with his sword. At that Sir Dinadan took courage, and
assailed the others with him, till they turned and fled.

But Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan rode on till nightfall, and meeting with
a shepherd, asked him if he knew of any lodging thereabouts.

"Truly, fair lords," said he, "there is good lodging in a castle hard by,
but it is a custom there that none shall lodge therein save ye first joust
with two knights, and as soon as ye be within, ye shall find your match."

"That is an evil lodging," said Sir Dinadan; "lodge where ye will, I will
not lodge there."

"Shame on thee!" said Sir Tristram; "art thou a knight at all?"

Then he required him on his knighthood to go with him, and they rode
together to the castle. As soon as they were near, two knights came out
and ran full speed against them; but both of them they overthrew, and went
within the castle, and had noble cheer. Now, when they were unarmed and
ready to take rest, there came to the castle-gate two knights, Sir
Palomedes and Sir Gaheris, and desired the custom of the castle.

"I would far rather rest than fight," said Sir Dinadan.

"That may not be," replied Sir Tristram, "for we must needs defend the
custom of the castle, seeing we have overcome its lords; therefore, make
ready."

"Alas that I ever came into your company," said Sir Dinadan.

So they made ready, and Sir Gaheris encountered Sir Tristram and fell
before him; but Sir Palomedes overthrew Sir Dinadan. Then would all fight
on foot save Sir Dinadan, for he was sorely bruised and frighted by his
fall. And when Sir Tristram prayed him to fight, "I will not," answered
he, "for I was wounded by those thirty knights with whom we fought this
morning; and as to you, ye are in truth like one gone mad, and who would
cast himself away! There be but two knights in the world so mad, and the
other is Sir Lancelot, with whom I once rode forth, who kept me evermore
at battling so that for a quarter of a year thereafter I lay in my bed.
Heaven defend me again from either of your fellowships!"

"Well," said Sir Tristram, "if it must be, I will fight them both."

Therewith he drew his sword and assailed Sir Palomedes and Sir Gaheris
together; but Sir Palomedes said, "Nay, but it is a shame for two to fight
with one." So he bade Sir Gaheris stand by, and he and Sir Tristram fought
long together; but in the end Sir Tristram drave him backward, whereat Sir
Gaheris and Sir Dinadan with one accord sundered them. Then Sir Tristram
prayed the two knights to lodge there; but Sir Dinadan departed and rode
away into a priory hard by, and there he lodged that night.

And on the morrow came Sir Tristram to the priory to find him, and seeing
him so weary that he could not ride, he left him, and departed. At that
same priory was lodged Sir Pellinore, who asked Sir Dinadan Sir Tristram's
name, but could not learn it, for Sir Tristram had charged that he should
remain unknown. Then said Sir Pellinore, "Since ye will not tell it me, I
will ride after him and find it myself."

"Beware, Sir knight," said Sir Dinadan, "ye will repent it if ye follow
him."

But Sir Pellinore straightway mounted and overtook him, and cried to him
to joust; whereat Sir Tristram forthwith turned and smote him down, and
wounded him full sorely in the shoulder.

On the day after, Sir Tristram met a herald, who told him of a tournament
proclaimed between King Carados of Scotland, and the King of North Wales,
to be held at the Maiden's Castle. Now King Carados sought Sir Lancelot to
fight there on his side, and the King of North Wales sought Sir Tristram.
And Sir Tristram purposed to be there. So as he rode, he met Sir Key, the
seneschal, and Sir Sagramour, and Sir Key proffered to joust with him. But
he refused, desiring to keep himself unwearied for the tourney. Then Sir
Key cried, "Sir knight of Cornwall, joust with me, or yield as recreant."
When Sir Tristram heard that, he fiercely turned and set his spear in
rest, and spurred his horse towards him. But when Sir Key saw him so madly
coming on, he in his turn refused, whereat Sir Tristram called him coward,
till for shame he was compelled to meet him. Then Sir Tristram lightly
smote him down, and rode away. But Sir Sagramour pursued him, crying
loudly to joust with him also. So Sir Tristram turned and quickly
overthrew him likewise, and departed.

Anon a damsel met him as he rode, and told him of a knight adventurous who
did great harm thereby, and prayed him for his help. But as he went with
her he met Sir Gawain, who knew the damsel for a maiden of Queen Morgan le
Fay. Knowing, therefore, that she needs must have evil plots against Sir
Tristram, Sir Gawain demanded of him courteously whither he went.

"I know not whither," said he, "save as this damsel leadeth me."

"Sir," said Sir Gawain, "ye shall not ride with her, for she and her lady
never yet did good to any;" and, drawing his sword, he said to the
damsel, "Tell me now straightway for what cause thou leadest this knight
or else shalt thou die; for I know of old thy lady's treason."

"Mercy, Sir Gawain," cried the damsel, "and I will tell thee all." Then
she told him that Queen Morgan had ordained thirty fair damsels to seek
out Sir Lancelot and Sir Tristram, and by their wiles persuade them to her
castle, where she had thirty knights in wait to slay them.

"Oh shame!" cried Sir Gawain, "that ever such foul treason should be
wrought by a queen, and a king's sister." Then said he to Sir Tristram,
"Sir knight, if ye will stand with me, we will together prove the malice
of these thirty knights."

"I will not fail you," answered he, "for but few days since I had to do
with thirty knights of that same queen, and trust we may win honour as
lightly now as then."

So they rode together, and when they came to the castle, Sir Gawain cried
aloud, "Queen Morgan le Fay, send out thy knights that we may fight with
them."

Then the queen urged her knights to issue forth, but they durst not, for
they well knew Sir Tristram, and feared him greatly.

So Sir Tristram and Sir Gawain went on their way, and as they rode they
saw a knight, named Sir Brewse-without-pity, chasing a lady, with intent
to slay her. Then Sir Gawain prayed Sir Tristram to hold still and let him
assail that knight. So he rode up between Sir Brewse and the lady, and
cried, "False knight, turn thee to me and leave that lady." Then Sir
Brewse turned and set his spear in rest, and rushed against Sir Gawain
and overthrew him, and rode his horse upon him as he lay, which when Sir
Tristram saw, he cried, "Forbear that villainy," and galloped at him. But
when Sir Brewse saw by the shield it was Sir Tristram, he turned and fled.
And though Sir Tristram followed swiftly after him, yet he was so well
horsed that he escaped.

Anon Sir Tristram and Sir Gawain came nigh the Maiden's Castle, and there
an old knight named Sir Pellonnes gave them lodging. And Sir Persides, the
son of Sir Pellonnes, a good knight, came out to welcome them. And, as
they stood talking at a bay window of the castle, they saw a goodly knight
ride by on a black horse, and carrying a black shield. "What knight is
that?" asked Tristram.

"One of the best knights in all the world," said Sir Persides.

"Is he Sir Lancelot?" said Sir Tristram.

"Nay," answered Sir Persides, "it is Sir Palomedes, who is yet
unchristened."

Within a while one came and told them that a knight with a black shield
had smitten down thirteen knights. "Let us go and see this jousting," said
Sir Tristram. So they armed themselves and went down. And when Sir
Palomedes saw Sir Persides, he sent a squire to him and proffered him to
joust. So they jousted, and Sir Persides was overthrown. Then Sir Tristram
made ready to joust, but ere he had his spear in rest, Sir Palomedes took
him at advantage, and struck him on the shield so that he fell. At that
Sir Tristram was wroth out of measure and sore ashamed, wherefore he sent
a squire and prayed Sir Palomedes to joust once again. But he would not,
saying, "Tell thy master to revenge himself to-morrow at the Maiden's
Castle, where he shall see me again."

So on the morrow Sir Tristram commanded his servant to give him a black
shield with no cognizance thereon, and he and Sir Persides rode into the
tournament and joined King Carados' side.

Then the knights of the King of North Wales came forth, and there was a
great fighting and breaking of spears, and overthrow of men and horses.

Now King Arthur sat above in a high gallery to see the tourney and give
the judgment, and Sir Lancelot sat beside him. Then came against Sir
Tristram and Sir Persides, two knights with them of North Wales, Sir
Bleoberis and Sir Gaheris; and Sir Persides was smitten down and nigh
slain, for four horsemen rode over him. But Sir Tristram rode against Sir
Gaheris and smote him from his horse, and when Sir Bleoberis next
encountered him, he overthrew him also. Anon they horsed themselves again,
and with them came Sir Dinadan, whom Sir Tristram forthwith smote so
sorely, that he reeled off his saddle. Then cried he, "Ah! Sir knight, I
know ye better than ye deem, and promise nevermore to come against ye."
Then rode Sir Bleoberis at him the second time, and had a buffet that
felled him to the earth. And soon thereafter the king commanded to cease
for that day, and all men marvelled who Sir Tristram was, for the prize of
the first day was given him in the name of the Knight of the Black Shield.

Now Sir Palomedes was on the side of the King of North Wales, but knew not
Sir Tristram again. And, when he saw his marvellous deeds, he sent to ask
his name. "As to that," said Sir Tristram, "he shall not know at this
time, but tell him he shall know when I have broken two spears upon him,
for I am the knight he smote down yesterday, and whatever side he taketh,
I will take the other."

So when they told him that Sir Palomedes would be on King Carados'
side--for he was kindred to King Arthur--"Then will I be on the King of
North Wales' side," said he, "but else would I be on my lord King
Arthur's."

Then on the morrow, when King Arthur was come, the heralds blew unto the
tourney. And King Carados jousted with the King of a Hundred Knights and
fell before him, and then came in King Arthur's knights and bare back
those of North Wales. But anon Sir Tristram came to aid them and bare back
the battle, and fought so mightily that none could stand against him, for
he smote down on the right and on the left, so that all the knights and
common people shouted his praise.

"Since I bare arms," said King Arthur, "never saw I a knight do more
marvellous deeds."

Then the King of the Hundred Knights and those of North Wales, set upon
twenty knights who were of Sir Lancelot's kin, who fought all together,
none failing the others. When Sir Tristram beheld their nobleness and
valour, he marvelled much. "Well may he be valiant and full of prowess,"
said he, "who hath such noble knights for kindred." So, when he had looked
on them awhile, he thought it shame to see two hundred men assailing
twenty, and riding to the King of a Hundred Knights, he said, "I pray
thee, Sir king, leave your fighting with those twenty knights, for ye be
too many and they be too few. For ye shall gain no honour if ye win, and
that I see verily ye will not do unless ye slay them; but if ye will not
stay, I will ride with them and help them."

"Nay," said the king, "ye shall not do so; for full gladly I will do you
courtesy," and with that he withdrew his knights.

Then Sir Tristram rode his way into the forest, that no man might know
him. And King Arthur caused the heralds to blow that the tourney should
end that day, and he gave the King of North Wales the prize, because Sir
Tristram was on his side. And in all the field there was such a cry that
the sound thereof was heard two miles away--"The knight with the black
shield hath won the field."

"Alas!" said King Arthur, "where is that knight? it is shame to let him
thus escape us." Then he comforted his knights, and said, "Be not
dismayed, my friends, howbeit ye have lost the day; be of good cheer;
to-morrow I myself will be in the field, and fare with you." So they all
rested that night.

And on the morrow the heralds blew unto the field. So the King of North
Wales and the King of a Hundred Knights encountered with King Carados and
the King of Ireland, and overthrew them. With that came King Arthur, and
did mighty deeds of arms, and overthrew the King of North Wales and his
fellows, and put twenty valiant knights to the worse. Anon came in Sir
Palomedes, and made great fight upon King Arthur's side. But Sir Tristram
rode furiously against him, and Sir Palomedes was thrown from his horse.
Then cried King Arthur, "Knight of the Black Shield, keep thyself." And as
he spake he came upon him, and smote him from his saddle to the ground,
and so passed on to other knights. Then Sir Palomedes having now another
horse rushed at Sir Tristram, as he was on foot, thinking to run over him.
But he was aware of him, and stepped aside, and grasped Sir Palomedes by
the arms, and pulled him off his horse. Then they rushed together with
their swords, and many stood still to gaze on them. And Sir Tristram smote
Sir Palomedes with three mighty strokes upon the helm, crying at each
stroke, "Take this for Sir Tristram's sake," and with that Sir Palomedes
fell to the earth.

Anon the King of North Wales brought Sir Tristram another horse, and Sir
Palomedes found one also. Then did they joust again with passing rage, for
both by now were like mad lions. But Sir Tristram avoided his spear, and
seized Sir Palomedes by the neck, and pulled him from his saddle, and bore
him onward ten spears' length, and so let him fall. Then King Arthur drew
forth his sword and smote the spear asunder, and gave Sir Tristram two or
three sore strokes ere he could get at his own sword. But when he had it
in his hand he mightily assailed the king. With that eleven knights of
Lancelot's kin went forth against him, but he smote them all down to the
earth, so that men marvelled at his deeds.

And the cry was now so great that Sir Lancelot got a spear in his hand,
and came down to assay Sir Tristram, saying, "Knight with the black
shield, make ready." When Sir Tristram heard him he levelled his spear,
and both stooping their heads, they ran together mightily, as it had been
thunder. And Sir Tristram's spear brake short, but Sir Lancelot struck him
with a deep wound in the side and broke his spear, yet overthrew him not.
Therewith Sir Tristram, smarting at his wound, drew forth his sword, and
rushing at Sir Lancelot, gave him mighty strokes upon the helm, so that
the sparks flew from it, and Sir Lancelot stooped his head down to the
saddle-bow. But then Sir Tristram turned and left the field, for he felt
his wound so grievous that he deemed he should soon die. Then did Sir
Lancelot hold the field against all comers, and put the King of North
Wales and his party to the worse. And because he was the last knight in
the field the prize was given him.

But he refused to take it, and when the cry was raised, "Sir Lancelot hath
won the day," he cried out, "Nay, but Sir Tristram is the victor, for he
first began and last endured, and so hath he done each day." And all men
honoured Lancelot more for his knightly words than if he had taken the
prize.

Thus was the tournament ended, and King Arthur departed to Caerleon, for
the Whitsun feast was now nigh come, and all the knights adventurous went
their ways. And many sought Sir Tristram in the forest whither he had
gone, and at last Sir Lancelot found him, and brought him to King Arthur's
court, as hath been told already.








CHAPTER XII

The Quest of the Sangreal, and the Adventures of Sir Percival, Sir Bors,
and Sir Galahad

After these things, Merlin fell into a dotage of love for a damsel of the
Lady of the Lake, and would let her have no rest, but followed her in
every place. And ever she encouraged him, and made him welcome till she
had learned all his crafts that she desired to know.

Then upon a time she went with him beyond the sea to the land of Benwicke,
and as they went he showed her many wonders, till at length she was
afraid, and would fain have been delivered from him.

And as they were in the forest of Broceliande, they sat together under an
oak-tree, and the damsel prayed to see all that charm whereby men might be
shut up yet alive in rocks or trees. But he refused her a long time,
fearing to let her know, yet in the end, her prayers and kisses overcame
him, and he told her all. Then did she make him great cheer, but anon, as
he lay down to sleep, she softly rose, and walked about him waving her
hands and muttering the charm, and presently enclosed him fast within the
tree whereby he slept. And therefrom nevermore he could by any means come
out for all the crafts that he could do. And so she departed and left
Merlin.

At the vigil of the next Feast of Pentecost, when all the Knights of the
Round Table were met together at Camelot, and had heard mass, and were
about to sit down to meat, there rode into the hall a fair lady on
horseback, who went straight up to King Arthur where he sat upon his
throne, and reverently saluted him.

"God be with thee, fair damsel," quoth the king; "what desirest thou of
me?"

"I pray thee tell me, lord," she answered, "where Sir Lancelot is."

"Yonder may ye see him," said King Arthur.

Then went she to Sir Lancelot and said, "Sir, I salute thee in King
Pelles' name, and require thee to come with me into the forest hereby."

Then asked he her with whom she dwelt, and what she wished of him.

"I dwell with King Pelles," said she, "whom Balin erst so sorely wounded
when he smote the dolorous stroke. It is he who hath sent me to call
thee."

"I will go with thee gladly," said Sir Lancelot, and bade his squire
straightway saddle his horse and bring his armour.

Then came the queen to him and said, "Sir Lancelot, will ye leave me thus
at this high feast?"

"Madam," replied the damsel, "by dinner-time to-morrow he shall be with
you."

"If I thought not," said the queen, "he should not go with thee by my
goodwill."

Then Sir Lancelot and the lady rode forth till they came to the forest,
and in a valley thereof found an abbey of nuns, whereby a squire stood
ready to open the gates. When they had entered, and descended from their
horses, a joyful crowd pressed round Sir Lancelot and heartily saluted
him, and led him to the abbess's chamber, and unarmed him. Anon he saw his
cousins likewise there, Sir Bors and Sir Lionel, who also made great joy
at seeing him, and said, "By what adventure art thou here, for we thought
to have seen thee at Camelot to-morrow?"

"A damsel brought me here," said he, "but as yet I know not for what
service."

As they thus talked twelve nuns came in, who brought with them a youth so
passing fair and well made, that in all the world his match could not be
found. His name was Galahad, and though he knew him not, nor Lancelot him,
Sir Lancelot was his father.

"Sir," said the nuns, "we bring thee here this child whom we have
nourished from his youth, and pray thee to make him a knight, for from no
worthier hand can he receive that order."

Then Sir Lancelot, looking on the youth, saw that he was seemly and demure
as a dove, with every feature good and noble, and thought he never had
beheld a better fashioned man of his years. "Cometh this desire from
himself?" said he.

"Yea," answered Galahad and all the nuns.

"To-morrow, then, in reverence for the feast, he shall have his wish,"
said Sir Lancelot.

And the next day at the hour of prime, he knighted him, and said, "God
make of thee as good a man as He hath made thee beautiful."

Then with Sir Lionel and Sir Bors he returned to the court, and found all
gone to the minster to hear service. When they came into the banquet-hall
each knight and baron found his name written in some seat in letters of
gold, as "here ought to sit Sir Lionel," "here ought to sit Sir
Gawain,"--and so forth. And in the Perilous Seat, at the high centre of
the table, a name was also written, whereat they marvelled greatly, for no
living man had ever yet dared sit upon that seat, save one, and him a
flame leaped forth and drew down under earth, so that he was no more seen.

Then came Sir Lancelot and read the letters in that seat, and said, "My
counsel is that this inscription be now covered up until the knight be
come who shall achieve this great adventure." So they made a veil of silk
and put it over the letters.

In the meanwhile came Sir Gawain to the court and told the king he had a
message to him from beyond the sea, from Merlin.

"For," said he, "as I rode through the forest of Broceliande but five days
since, I heard the voice of Merlin speaking to me from the midst of an
oak-tree, whereat, in great amazement, I besought him to come forth. But
he, with many groans, replied he never more might do so, for that none
could free him, save the damsel of the Lake, who had enclosed him there by
his own spells which he had taught her. 'But go,' said he, 'to King
Arthur, and tell him, that he now prepare his knights and all his Table
Round to seek the Sangreal, for the time is come when it shall be
achieved.'"

When Sir Gawain had spoken thus, King Arthur sat pensive in spirit, and
mused deeply of the Holy Grale an what saintly knight should come who
might achieve it.

Anon he bade them hasten to set on the banquet. "Sir," said Sir Key, the
seneschal, "if ye go now to meat ye will break the ancient custom of your
court, for never have ye dined at this high feast till ye have seen some
strange adventure."

"Thou sayest truly," said the king, "but my mind was full of wonders and
musings, till I bethought me not of mine old custom."

As they stood speaking thus, a squire ran in and cried, "Lord, I bring
thee marvellous tidings."

"What be they?" said King Arthur.

"Lord," said he, "hereby at the river is a marvellous great stone, which I
myself saw swim down hitherwards upon the water, and in it there is set a
sword, and ever the stone heaveth and swayeth on the water, but floateth
down no further with the stream."

"I will go and see it," said the king. So all the knights went with him,
and when they came to the river, there surely found they a mighty stone of
red marble floating on the water, as the squire had said, and therein
stuck a fair and rich sword, on the pommel whereof were precious stones
wrought skilfully with gold into these words: "No man shall take me hence
but he by whose side I should hang, and he shall be the best knight in the
world."

When the king read this, he turned round to Sir Lancelot, and said, "Fair
sir, this sword ought surely to be thine, for thou art the best knight in
all the world."

But Lancelot answered soberly, "Certainly, sir, it is not for me; nor will
I have the hardihood to set my hand upon it. For he that toucheth it and
faileth to achieve it shall one day be wounded by it mortally. But I doubt
not, lord, this day will show the greatest marvels that we yet have seen,
for now the time is fully come, as Merlin hath forewarned us, when all the
prophecies about the Sangreal shall be fulfilled."

Then stepped Sir Gawain forward and pulled at the sword, but could not
move it, and after him Sir Percival, to keep him fellowship in any peril
he might suffer. But no other knight durst be so hardy as to try.

"Now may ye go to your dinner," said Sir Key, "for a marvellous adventure
ye have had."

So all returned from the river, and every knight sat down in his own
place, and the high feast and banquet then was sumptuously begun, and all
the hall was full of laughter and loud talk and jests, and running to and
fro of squires who served their knights, and noise of jollity and mirth.

Then suddenly befell a wondrous thing, for all the doors and windows of
the hall shut violently of themselves, and made thick darkness; and
presently there came a fair and gentle light from out the Perilous Seat,
and filled the palace with its beams. Then a dead silence fell on all the
knights, and each man anxiously beheld his neighbour.

But King Arthur rose and said, "Lords and fair knights, have ye no fear,
but rejoice; we have seen strange things to-day, but stranger yet remain.
For now I know we shall to-day see him who may sit in the Siege Perilous,
and shall achieve the Sangreal. For as ye all well know, that holy vessel,
wherefrom at the Supper of our Lord before His death He drank the wine
with His disciples, hath been held ever since the holiest treasure of the
world, and wheresoever it hath rested peace and prosperity have rested
with it on the land. But since the dolorous stroke which Balin gave King
Pelles none have seen it, for Heaven, wroth with that presumptuous blow,
hath hid it none know where. Yet somewhere in the world it still may be,
and may be it is left to us, and to this noble order of the Table Round,
to find and bring it home, and make of this our realm the happiest in the
earth. Many great quests and perilous adventures have ye all taken and
achieved, but this high quest he only shall attain who hath clean hands
and a pure heart, and valour and hardihood beyond all othermen."

While the king spoke there came in softly an old man robed all in white,
leading with him a young knight clad in red from top to toe, but without
armour or shield, and having by his side an empty scabbard.

The old man went up to the king, and said, "Lord, here I bring thee this
young knight of royal lineage, and of the blood of Joseph of Arimathea, by
whom the marvels of thy court shall fully be accomplished."

The king was right glad at his words, and said, "Sir, ye be right heartily
welcome, and the young knight also."

Then the old man put on Sir Galahad (for it was he) a crimson robe trimmed
with fine ermine, and took him by the hand and led him to the Perilous
Seat, and lifting up the silken cloth which hung upon it, read these words
written in gold letters, "This is the seat of Sir Galahad, the good
knight."

"Sir," said the old man, "this place is thine."

Then sat Sir Galahad down firmly and surely, and said to the old man,
"Sir, ye may now go your way, for ye have done well and truly all ye were
commanded, and commend me to my grandsire, King Pelles, and say that I
shall see him soon." So the old man departed with a retinue of twenty
noble squires.

But all the knights of the Round Table marvelled at Sir Galahad, and at
his tender age, and at his sitting there so surely in the Perilous Seat.

Then the king led Sir Galahad forth from the palace, to show him the
adventure of the floating stone. "Here" said he, "is as great a marvel as
I ever saw, and right good knights have tried and failed to gain that
sword."

"I marvel not thereat," said Galahad, "for this adventure is not theirs,
but mine; and for the certainty I had thereof, I brought no sword with me,
as thou mayst see here by this empty scabbard."

Anon he laid his hand upon the sword, and lightly drew it from the stone,
and put it in his sheath, and said, "This sword was that enchanted one
which erst belonged to the good knight, Sir Balin, wherewith he slew
through piteous mistake his brother Balan; who also slew him at the same
time: all which great woe befell him through the dolorous stroke he gave
my grandsire, King Pelles, the wound whereof is not yet whole, nor shall
be till I heal him."

As he stood speaking thus, they saw a lady riding swiftly down the river's
bank towards them, on a white palfrey; who, saluting the king and queen,
said, "Lord king, Nacien the hermit sendeth thee word that to thee shall
come to-day the greatest honour and worship that hath yet ever befallen a
king of Britain; for this day shall the Sangreal appear in thy house."

With that the damsel took her leave, and departed the same way she came.

"Now," said the king, "I know that from to-day the quest of the Sangreal
shall begin, and all ye of the Round Table will be scattered so that
nevermore shall I see ye again together as ye are now; let me then see a
joust and tournament amongst ye for the last time before ye go."

So they all took their harness and met together in the meadows by Camelot,
and the queen and all her ladies sat in a tower to see.

Then Sir Galahad, at the prayer of the king and queen, put on a coat of
light armour, and a helmet, but shield he would take none, and grasping a
lance, he drove into the middle of the press of knights, and began to
break spears marvellously, so that all men were full of wonder. And in so
short a time he had surmounted and exceeded the rest, save Sir Lancelot
and Sir Percival, that he took the chief worship of the field.

Then the king and all the court and fellowship of knights went back to the
palace, and so to evensong in the great minster, a royal and goodly
company, and after that sat down to supper in the hall, every knight in
his own seat, as they had been before.

Anon suddenly burst overhead the cracking and crying of great peals of
thunder, till the palace walls were shaken sorely, and they thought to see
them riven all to pieces.

And in the midst of the blast there entered in a sunbeam, clearer by seven
times than ever they saw day, and a marvellous great glory fell upon them
all. Then each knight, looking on his neighbour, found his face fairer
than he had ever seen, and so--all standing on their feet--they gazed as
dumb men on each other, not knowing what to say.

Then entered into the hall the Sangreal, borne aloft without hands through
the midst of the sunbeam, and covered with white samite, so that none
might see it. And all the hall was filled with perfume and incense, and
every knight was fed with the food he best loved. And when the holy vessel
had been thus borne through the hall, it suddenly departed, no man saw
whither.

When they recovered breath to speak, King Arthur first rose up, and
yielded thanks to God and to our Lord.

Then Sir Gawain sprang up and said, "Now have we all been fed by miracle
with whatsoever food we thought of or desired; but with our eyes we have
not seen the blessed vessel whence it came, so carefully and preciously it
was concealed. Therefore, I make a vow, that from to-morrow I shall labour
twelve months and a day in quest of the Sangreal, and longer if need be;
nor will I come again into this court until mine eyes have seen it
evidently."

When he had spoken thus, knight after knight rose up and vowed himself to
the same quest, till the most part of the Round Table had thus sworn.

But when King Arthur heard them all, he could not refrain his eyes from
tears, and said, "Sir Gawain, Sir Gawain, thou hast set me in great
sorrow, for I fear me my true fellowship shall never meet together here
again; and surely never Christian king had such a company of worthy
knights around his table at one time."

And when the queen and her ladies and gentlewomen heard the vows, they had
such grief and sorrow as no tongue could tell; and Queen Guinevere cried
out, "I marvel that my lord will suffer them to depart from him." And many
of the ladies who loved knights would have gone with them, but were
forbidden by the hermit Nacien, who sent this message to all who had sworn
themselves to the quest: "Take with ye no lady nor gentlewoman, for into
so high a service as ye go in, no thought but of our Lord and heaven may
enter."

On the morrow morning all the knights rose early, and when they were fully
armed, save shields and helms, they went in with the king and queen to
service in the minster. Then the king counted all who had taken the
adventure on themselves, and found them a hundred and fifty knights of the
Round Table; and so they all put on their helms, and rode away together in
the midst of cries and lamentations from the court, and from the ladies,
and from all the town.

But the queen went alone to her chamber, that no man might see her sorrow;
and Sir Lancelot followed her to say farewell.

When she saw him she cried out, "Oh, Sir Lancelot, thou hast betrayed me;
thou hast put me to death thus to depart and leave my lord the king."

"Ah, madam," said he, "be not displeased or angry, for I shall come again
as soon as I can with honour."

"Alas!" said she, "that ever I saw thee; but He that suffered death upon
the cross for all mankind be to thee safety and good conduct, and to all
thy company."

Then Sir Lancelot saluted her and the king, and went forth with the rest,
and came with them that night to Castle Vagon, where they abode, and on
the morrow they departed from each other on their separate ways, every
knight taking the way that pleased him best.

Now Sir Galahad went forth without a shield, and rode so four days without
adventure; and on the fourth day, after evensong, he came to an abbey of
white monks, where he was received in the house, and led into a chamber.
And there he was unarmed, and met two knights of the Round Table, King
Bagdemagus, and Sir Uwaine.

"Sirs," said Sir Galahad, "what adventure hath brought ye here?"

"Within this place, as we are told," they answered, "there is a shield no
man may bear around his neck without receiving sore mischance, or death
within three days."

"To-morrow," said King Bagdemagus, "I shall attempt the adventure; and if
I fail, do thou, Sir Galahad, take it up after me."

"I will willingly," said he; "for as ye see I have no shield as yet."

So on the morrow they arose and heard mass, and afterwards King Bagdemagus
asked where the shield was kept. Then a monk led him behind the altar,
where the shield hung, as white as any snow, and with a blood-red cross in
the midst of it.

"Sir," said the monk, "this shield should hang from no knight's neck
unless he be the worthiest in the world. I warn ye, therefore, knights;
consider well before ye dare to touch it."

"Well," said King Bagdemagus, "I know well that I am far from the best
knight in all the world, yet shall I make the trial;" and so he took the
shield, and bore it from the monastery.

"If it please thee," said he to Sir Galahad, "abide here till thou hearest
how I speed."

"I will abide thee," said he.

Then taking with him a squire who might return with any tidings to Sir
Galahad, the king rode forth; and before he had gone two miles, he saw in
a fair valley a hermitage, and a knight who came forth dressed in white
armour, horse and all, who rode fast against him. When they encountered,
Bagdemagus brake his spear upon the White Knight's shield, but was himself
struck through the shoulder with a sore wound, and hurled down from his
horse. Then the White Knight alighting, came and took the white shield
from the king, and said, "Thou hast done great folly, for this shield
ought never to be borne but by one who hath no living peer." And turning
to the squire, he said, "Bear thou this shield to the good knight, Sir
Galahad, and greet him well from me."

"In whose name shall I greet him?" said the squire.

"Take thou no heed of that," he answered; "it is not for thee or any
earthly man to know."

"Now tell me, fair sir, at the least," said the squire, "why may this
shield be never borne except its wearer come to injury or death?"

"Because it shall belong to no man save its rightful owner, Galahad,"
replied the knight.

Then the squire went to his master, and found him wounded nigh to death,
wherefore he fetched his horse, and bore him back with him to the abbey.
And there they laid him in a bed, and looked to his wounds; and when he
had lain many days grievously sick, he at the last barely escaped with his
life.

"Sir Galahad," said the squire, "the knight who overthrew King Bagdemagus
sent you greeting, and bade you bear this shield."

"Now blessed be God and fortune," said Sir Galahad, and hung the shield
about his neck, and armed him, and rode forth.

Anon he met the White Knight by the hermitage, and each saluted
courteously the other.

"Sir," said Sir Galahad, "this shield I bear hath surely a full marvellous
history."

"Thou sayest rightly," answered he. "That shield was made in the days of
Joseph of Arimathea, the gentle knight who took our Lord down from the
cross. He, when he left Jerusalem with his kindred, came to the country of
King Evelake, who warred continually with one Tollome; and when, by the
teaching of Joseph, King Evelake became a Christian, this shield was made
for him in our Lord's name; and through its aid King Tollome was defeated.
For when King Evelake met him next in battle, he hid it in a veil, and
suddenly uncovering it, he showed his enemies the figure of a bleeding man
nailed to a cross, at sight of which they were discomfited and fled.
Presently after that, a man whose hand was smitten off touched the cross
upon the shield, and had his hand restored to him; and many other miracles
it worked. But suddenly the cross that was upon it vanished away. Anon
both Joseph and King Evelake came to Britain, and by the preaching of
Joseph the people were made Christians. And when at length he lay upon his
death-bed, King Evelake begged of him some token ere he died. Then,
calling for his shield, he dipped his finger in his own blood, for he was
bleeding fast, and none could staunch the wound, and marked that cross
upon it, saying, 'This cross shall ever show as bright as now, and the
last of my lineage shall wear this shield about his neck, and go forth to
all the marvellous deeds he will achieve.'"

When the White Knight had thus spoken he vanished suddenly away, and Sir
Galahad returned to the abbey.

As he alighted, came a monk, and prayed him to go see a tomb in the
churchyard, wherefrom came such a great and hideous noise, that none could
hear it but they went nigh mad, or lost all strength. "And sir," said he,
"I deem it is a fiend."

"Lead me thither," said Sir Galahad.

When they were come near the place, "Now," said the monk, "go thou to the
tomb, and lift it up."

And Galahad, nothing afraid, quickly lifted up the stone, and forthwith
came out a foul smoke, and from the midst thereof leaped up the loathliest
figure that ever he had seen in the likeness of man; and Galahad blessed
himself, for he knew it was a fiend of hell. Then he heard a voice crying
out, "Oh, Galahad, I cannot tear thee as I would; I see so many angels
round thee, that I may not come at thee."

Then the fiend suddenly disappeared with a marvellous great cry; and Sir
Galahad, looking in the tomb, saw there a body all armed, with a sword
beside it. "Now, fair brother," said he to the monk, "let us remove this
cursed body, which is not fit to lie in a churchyard, for when it lived, a
false and perjured Christian man dwelt in it. Cast it away, and there
shall come no more hideous noises from the tomb."

"And now must I depart," he added, "for I have much in hand, and am upon
the holy quest of the Sangreal, with many more good knights."

So he took his leave, and rode many journeys backwards and forwards as
adventure would lead him; and at last one day he departed from a castle
without first hearing mass, which was it ever his custom to hear before he
left his lodging. Anon he found a ruined chapel on a mountain, and went in
and kneeled before the altar, and prayed for wholesome counsel what to do;
and as he prayed he heard a voice, which said, "Depart, adventurous
knight, unto the Maiden's Castle, and redress the violence and wrongs
there done!"

Hearing these words he cheerfully arose, and mounted his horse, and rode
but half a mile, when he saw before him a strong castle, with deep ditches
round it, and a fair river running past. And seeing an old churl hard by,
he asked him what men called that castle.

"Fair sir," said he, "it is the Maiden's Castle."

"It is a cursed place," said Galahad, "and all its masters are but felons,
full of mischief and hardness and shame."

"For that good reason," said the old man, "thou wert well-advised to turn
thee back."

"For that same reason," quoth Sir Galahad, "will I the more certainly ride
on."

Then, looking at his armour carefully, to see that nothing failed him, he
went forward, and presently there met him seven damsels, who cried out,
"Sir knight, thou ridest in great peril, for thou hast two waters to pass
over."

"Why should I not pass over them?" said he, and rode straight on.

Anon he met a squire, who said, "Sir knight, the masters of this castle
defy thee, and bid thee go no further, till thou showest them thy business
here."

"Fair fellow," said Sir Galahad, "I am come here to destroy their wicked
customs."

"If that be thy purpose," answered he, "thou wilt have much to do."

"Go thou," said Galahad, "and hasten with my message."

In a few minutes after rode forth furiously from the gateways of the
castle seven knights, all brothers, and crying out, "Knight, keep thee,"
bore down all at once upon Sir Galahad. But thrusting forth his spear, he
smote the foremost to the earth, so that his neck was almost broken, and
warded with his shield the spears of all the others, which every one brake
off from it, and shivered into pieces. Then he drew out his sword, and set
upon them hard and fiercely, and by his wondrous force drave them before
him, and chased them to the castle gate, and there he slew them.

At that came out to him an ancient man, in priest's vestments, saying,
"Behold, sir, here, the keys of this castle."

Then he unlocked the gates, and found within a multitude of people, who
cried out, "Sir knight, ye be welcome, for long have we waited thy
deliverance," and told him that the seven felons he had slain had long
enslaved the people round about, and killed all knights who passed that
way, because the maiden whom they had robbed of the castle had foretold
that by one knight they should themselves be overthrown.

"Where is the maiden?" asked Sir Galahad.

"She lingereth below in a dungeon," said they.

So Sir Galahad went down and released her, and restored her her
inheritance; and when he had summoned the barons of the country to do her
homage, he took his leave, and departed.

Presently thereafter, as he rode, he entered a great forest, and in a
glade thereof met two knights, disguised, who proffered him to joust.
These were Sir Lancelot, his father, and Sir Percival, but neither knew
the other. So he and Sir Lancelot encountered first, and Sir Galahad smote
down his father. Then drawing his sword, for his spear was broken, he
fought with Sir Percival, and struck so mightily that he clave Sir
Percival's helm, and smote him from his horse.

Now hard by where they fought there was a hermitage, where dwelt a pious
woman, a recluse, who, when she heard the sound, came forth, and seeing
Sir Galahad ride, she cried, "God be with thee, the best knight in the
world; had yonder knights known thee as well as I do, they would not have
encountered with thee."

When Sir Galahad heard that, fearing to be made known, he forthwith smote
his horse with his spurs, and departed at a great pace.

Sir Lancelot and Sir Percival heard her words also, and rode fast after
him, but within awhile he was out of their sight. Then Sir Percival rode
back to ask his name of the recluse; but Sir Lancelot went forward on his
quest, and following any path his horse would take, he came by-and-by
after nightfall to a stone cross hard by an ancient chapel. When he had
alighted and tied his horse up to a tree, he went and looked in through
the chapel door, which was all ruinous and wasted, and there within he saw
an altar, richly decked with silk, whereon there stood a fair candlestick
of silver, bearing six great lights. And when Sir Lancelot saw the light,
he tried to get within the chapel, but could find no place. So, being
passing weary and heavy, he came again to his horse, and when he had
unsaddled him, and set him free to pasture, he unlaced his helm, and
ungirded his sword, and laid him down to sleep upon his shield before the
cross.

And while he lay between waking and sleeping, he saw come by him two white
palfreys bearing a litter, wherein a sick knight lay, and the palfreys
stood still by the cross. Then Sir Lancelot heard the sick man say, "O
sweet Lord, when shall this sorrow leave me, and the holy vessel pass by
me, wherethrough I shall be blessed? for I have long endured."

With that Sir Lancelot saw the chapel open, and the candlestick with the
six tapers come before the cross, but he could see none who bare it. Then
came there also a table of silver, and thereon the holy vessel of the
Sangreal. And when the sick knight saw that, he sat up, and lifting both
his hands, said, "Fair Lord, sweet Lord, who art here within this holy
vessel, have mercy on me, that I may be whole;" and therewith he crept
upon his hands and knees so nigh, that he might touch the vessel; and when
he had kissed it, he leaped up, and stood and cried aloud, "Lord God, I
thank Thee, for I am made whole." Then the Holy Grale departed with the
table and the silver candlestick into the chapel, so that Sir Lancelot saw
it no more, nor for his sins' sake could he follow it. And the knight who
was healed went on his way.

Then Sir Lancelot awake, and marvelled whether he had seen aught but a
dream. And as he marvelled, he heard a voice saying, "Sir Lancelot, thou
are unworthy, go thou hence, and withdraw thee from this holy place." And
when he heard that, he was passing heavy, for he bethought him of his
sins.

So he departed weeping, and cursed the day of his birth, for the words
went into his heart, and he knew wherefore he was thus driven forth. Then
he went to seek his arms and horse, but could not find them; and then he
called himself the wretchedest and most unhappy of all knights, and said,
"My sin hath brought me unto great dishonour: for when I sought earthly
honours, I achieved them ever; but now I take upon me holy things, my
guilt doth hinder me, and shameth me; therefore had I no power to stir or
speak when the holy blood appeared before me."

So thus he sorrowed till it was day, and he heard the birds sing; then was
he somewhat comforted, and departing from the cross on foot, he came into
a wild forest, and to a high mountain, and there he found a hermitage;
and, kneeling before the hermit down upon both his knees, he cried for
mercy for his wicked works, and prayed him to hear his confession. But
when he told his name, the hermit marvelled to see him in so sore a case,
and said, "Sir, ye ought to thank God more than any knight living, for He
hath given thee more honour than any; yet for thy presumption, while in
deadly sin to come into the presence of His flesh and blood, He suffered
thee neither to see nor follow it. Wherefore, believe that all thy
strength and manhood will avail thee little, when God is against thee."

Then Sir Lancelot wept and said, "Now know I well ye tell me truth."

Then he confessed to him, and told him all his sins, and how he had for
fourteen years served but Queen Guinevere only, and forgotten God, and
done great deeds of arms for her, and not for Heaven, and had little or
nothing thanked God for the honour that he won. And then Sir Lancelot
said, "I pray you counsel me."

"I will counsel thee," said he: "never more enter into that queen's
company when ye can avoid it."

So Sir Lancelot promised him.

"Look that your heart and your mouth accord," said the good man, "and ye
shall have more honour and more nobleness than ever ye have had."

Then were his arms and horse restored to him, and so he took his leave,
and rode forth, repenting greatly.

Now Sir Percival had ridden back to the recluse, to learn who that knight
was whom she had called the best in the world. And when he had told her
that he was Sir Percival, she made passing great joy of him, for she was
his mother's sister, wherefore she opened her door to him, and made him
good cheer. And on the morrow she told him of her kindred to him, and they
both made great rejoicing. Then he asked her who that knight was, and she
told him, "He it is who on Whit Sunday last was clad in the red robe, and
bare the red arms; and he hath no peer, for he worketh all by miracle, and
shall be never overcome by any earthly hands."

"By my goodwill," said Sir Percival, "I will never after these tidings
have to do with Sir Galahad but in the way of kindness; and I would fain
learn where I may find him."

"Fair nephew," said she, "ye must ride to the Castle of Goth, where he
hath a cousin; by him ye may be lodged, and he will teach you the way to
go; but if he can tell you no tidings, ride straight to the Castle of
Carbonek, where the wounded king is lying, for there shall ye surely hear
true tidings of him."

So Sir Percival departed from his aunt, and rode till evensong time, when
he was ware of a monastery closed round with walls and deep ditches, where
he knocked at the gate, and anon was let in. And there he had good cheer
that night, and on the morrow heard mass. And beside the altar where the
priest stood, was a rich bed of silk and cloth of gold; and on the bed
there lay a man passing old, having a crown of gold upon his head, and all
his body was full of great wounds, and his eyes almost wholly blind; and
ever he held up his hands and said, "Sweet Lord, forget not me!"

Then Sir Percival asked one of the brethren who he was.

"Sir," said the good man, "ye have heard of Joseph of Arimathea, how he
was sent of Jesus Christ into this land to preach and teach the Christian
faith. Now, in the city of Sarras he converted a king named Evelake, and
this is he. He came with Joseph to this land, and ever desired greatly to
see the Sangreal; so on a time he came nigh thereto, and was struck almost
blind. Then he cried out for mercy, and said, 'Fair Lord, I pray thee let
me never die until a good knight of my blood achieve the Sangreal, and I
may see and kiss him.' When he had thus prayed, he heard a voice that
said, 'Thy prayers be heard and answered, for thou shalt not die till that
knight kiss thee; and when he cometh shall thine eyes be opened and thy
wounds be healed.' And now hath he lived here for three hundred winters in
a holy life, and men say a certain knight of King Arthur's court shall
shortly heal him."

Thereat Sir Percival marvelled greatly, for he well knew who that knight
should be; and so, taking his leave of the monk, departed.

Then he rode on till noon, and came into a valley where he met twenty
men-at-arms bearing a dead knight on a bier. And they cried to him,
"Whence comest thou?"

"From King Arthur's court," he answered.

Then they all cried together, "Slay him," and set upon him.

But he smote down the first man to the ground, and his horse upon him;
whereat seven of them all at once assailed him, and others slew his horse.
Thus he had been either taken or slain, but by good chance Sir Galahad was
passing by that way, who, seeing twenty men attacking one, cried, "Slay
him not," and rushed upon them; and, as fast as his horse could drive, he
encountered with the foremost man, and smote him down. Then, his spear
being broken, he drew forth his sword and struck out on the right hand and
on the left, at each blow smiting down a man, till the remainder fled, and
he pursued them.

Then Sir Percival, knowing that it was Sir Galahad, would fain have
overtaken him, but could not, for his horse was slain. Yet followed he on
foot as fast as he could go; and as he went there met him a yeoman riding
on a palfrey, and leading in his hand a great black steed. So Sir Percival
prayed him to lend him the steed, that he might overtake Sir Galahad. But
he replied, "That can I not do, fair sir, for the horse is my master's,
and should I lend it he would slay me." So he departed, and Sir Percival
sat down beneath a tree in heaviness of heart. And as he sat, anon a
knight went riding past on the black steed which the yeoman had led. And
presently after came the yeoman back in haste, and asked Sir Percival if
he had seen a knight riding his horse.

"Yea," said Sir Percival.

"Alas," said the yeoman, "he hath reft him from me by strength, and my
master will slay me."

Then he besought Sir Percival to take his hackney and follow, and get back
his steed. So he rode quickly, and overtook the knight, and cried,
"Knight, turn again." Whereat he turned and set his spear, and smote Sir
Percival's hackney in the breast, so that it fell dead, and then went on
his way. Then cried Sir Percival after him, "Turn now, false knight, and
fight with me on foot;" but he would not, and rode out of sight.

Then was Sir Percival passing wroth and heavy of heart, and lay down to
rest beneath a tree, and slept till midnight. When he awoke he saw a woman
standing by him, who said to him right fiercely, "Sir Percival, what doest
thou here?"

"I do neither good nor evil," said he.

"If thou wilt promise me," said she, "to do my will whenever I shall ask
thee, I will bring thee here a horse that will bear thee wheresoever thou
desirest."

At that he was full glad, and promised as she asked. Then anon she came
again, with a great black steed, strong and well apparelled. So Sir
Percival mounted, and rode through the clear moonlight, and within less
than an hour had gone a four days' journey, till he came to a rough water
that roared; and his horse would have borne him into it, but Sir Percival
would not suffer him, yet could he scarce restrain him. And seeing the
water so furious, he made the sign of the cross upon his forehead, whereat
the horse suddenly shook him off, and with a terrible sound leaped into
the water and disappeared, the waves all burning up in flames around him.
Then Sir Percival knew it was a fiend which had brought him the horse; so
he commended himself to God, and prayed that he might escape temptations,
and continued in prayer till it was day.

Then he saw that he was on a wild mountain, nigh surrounded on all sides
by the sea, and filled with wild beasts; and going on into a valley, he
saw a serpent carrying a young lion by the neck. With that came another
lion, crying and roaring after the serpent, and anon overtook him, and
began to battle with him. And Sir Percival helped the lion, and drew his
sword, and gave the serpent such a stroke that it fell dead. Thereat the
lion fawned upon him like a dog, licking his hands, and crouching at his
feet, and at night lay down by him and slept at his side.

And at noon the next day Sir Percival saw a ship come sailing before a
strong wind upon the sea towards him, and he rose and went towards it. And
when it came to shore, he found it covered with white samite, and on the
deck there stood an old man dressed in priest's robes, who said, "God be
with you, fair sir; whence come ye?"

"I am a knight of King Arthur's court," said he, "and follow the quest of
the Sangreal; but here have I lost myself in this wilderness."

"Fear nothing," said the old man, "for I have come from a strange country
to comfort thee."

Then he told Sir Percival it was a fiend of hell upon which he had ridden
to the sea, and that the lion, whom he had delivered from the serpent,
meant the Church. And Sir Percival rejoiced at these tidings, and entered
into the ship, which presently sailed from the shore into the sea.

Now when Sir Bors rode forth from Camelot to seek the Sangreal, anon he
met a holy man riding on an ass, and courteously saluted him.

"Who are ye, son?" said the good man.

"I am a knight," said he, "in quest of the Sangreal, and would fain have
thy counsel, for he shall have much earthly honour who may bring it to a
favourable end."

"That is truth," said the good man, "for he shall be the best knight of
the world; yet know that none shall gain it save by sinless living."

So they rode to his hermitage together, and there he prayed Sir Bors to
abide that night, and anon they went into the chapel, and Sir Bors was
confessed. And they eat bread and drank water together.

"Now," said the hermit, "I pray thee eat no other food till thou sit at
the table where the Sangreal shall be." Thereto Sir Bors agreed.

"Also," said the hermit, "it were wise that ye should wear a sackcloth
garment next your skin, for penance;" and in this also did Sir Bors as he
was counselled. And afterwards he armed himself and took his leave.

Then rode he onwards all that day, and as he rode he saw a passing great
bird sit in an old dry tree, whereon no leaves were left; and many little
birds lay round the great one, nigh dead with hunger. Then did the big
bird smite himself with his own bill, and bled till he died amongst his
little ones, and they recovered life in drinking up his blood. When Sir
Bors saw this he knew it was a token, and rode on full of thought. And
about eventide he came to a tower, whereto he prayed admission, and he was
received gladly by the lady of the castle. But when a supper of many meats
and dainties was set before him, he remembered his vow, and bade a squire
to bring him water, and therein he dipped his bread, and ate.

Then said the lady, "Sir Bors, I fear ye like not my meat."

"Yea, truly," said he; "God thank thee, madam; but I may eat no other meat
this day."

After supper came a squire, and said, "Madam, bethink thee to provide a
champion for thee to-morrow for the tourney, or else shall thy sister have
thy castle."

At that the lady wept, and made great sorrow. But Sir Bors prayed her to
be comforted, and asked her why the tournament was held. Then she told him
how she and her sister were the daughters of King Anianse, who left them
all his lands between them; and how her sister was the wife of a strong
knight, named Sir Pridan le Noir, who had taken from herself all her
lands, save the one tower wherein she dwelt. "And now," said she, "this
also will they take, unless I find a champion by to-morrow."

Then said Sir Bors, "Be comforted; to-morrow I will fight for thee;"
whereat she rejoiced not a little, and sent word to Sir Pridan that she
was provided and ready. And Sir Bors lay on the floor, and in no bed, nor
ever would do otherwise till he had achieved his quest.

On the morrow he arose and clothed himself, and went into the chapel,
where the lady met him, and they heard mass together. Anon he called for
his armour, and went with a goodly company of knights to the battle. And
the lady prayed him to refresh himself ere he should fight, but he refused
to break his fast until the tournament were done. So they all rode
together to the lists, and there they saw the lady's eldest sister, and
her husband, Sir Pridan le Noir. And a cry was made by the heralds that,
whichever should win, his lady should have all the other's lands.

Then the two knights departed asunder a little space, and came together
with such force, that both their spears were shivered, and their shields
and hauberks pierced through; and both fell to the ground sorely wounded,
with their horses under them. But swiftly they arose, and drew their
swords, and smote each other on the head with many great and heavy blows,
till the blood ran down their bodies; and Sir Pridan was a full good
knight, so that Sir Bors had more ado than he had thought for to overcome
him.

But at last Sir Pridan grew a little faint; that instantly perceived Sir
Bors, and rushed upon him the more vehemently, and smote him fiercely,
till he rent off his helm, and then gave him great strokes upon his visage
with the flat of his sword, and bade him yield or be slain.

And then Sir Pridan cried him mercy, and said, "For God's sake slay me
not, and I will never war against thy lady more." So Sir Bors let him go,
and his wife fled away with all her knights.

Then all those who had held lands of the lady of the tower came and did
homage to her again, and swore fealty. And when the country was at peace
Sir Bors departed, and rode forth into a forest until it was midday, and
there befell him a marvellous adventure.

For at a place where two ways parted, there met him two knights, bearing
Sir Lionel, his brother, all naked, bound on a horse, and as they rode,
they beat him sorely with thorns, so that the blood trailed down in more
than a hundred places from his body; but for all this he uttered no word
or groan, so great he was of heart. As soon as Sir Bors knew his brother,
he put his spear in rest to run and rescue him; but in the same moment
heard a woman's voice cry close beside him in the wood, "St. Mary, succour
thy maid;" and, looking round, he saw a damsel whom a felon knight dragged
after him into the thickets; and she, perceiving him, cried piteously for
help, and adjured him to deliver her as he was a sworn knight. Then was
Sir Bors sore troubled, and knew not what to do, for he thought within
himself, "If I let my brother be, he will be murdered; but if I help not
the maid, she is shamed for ever, and my vow compelleth me to set her
free; wherefore must I first help her, and trust my brother unto God."

So, riding to the knight who held the damsel, he cried out, "Sir knight,
lay your hand off that maid, or else ye be but dead."

At that the knight set down the maid, and dropped his shield, and drew
forth his sword against Sir Bors, who ran at him, and smote him through
both shield and shoulder, and threw him to the earth; and when he pulled
his spear forth, the knight swooned. Then the maid thanked Sir Bors
heartily, and he set her on the knight's horse, and brought her to her
men-at-arms, who presently came riding after her. And they made much joy,
and besought him to come to her father, a great lord, and he should be
right welcome. But "truly," said he, "I may not at this time, for I have a
great adventure yet to do;" and commending them to God, he departed in
great haste to find his brother.

So he rode, seeking him by the track of the horses a great while. Anon he
met a seeming holy man riding upon a strong black horse, and asked him,
had he seen pass by that way a knight led bound and beaten with thorns by
two others.

"Yea, truly, such an one I saw," said the man; "but he is dead, and lo!
his body is hard by in a bush."

Then he showed him a newly slain body lying in a thick bush, which seemed
indeed to be Sir Lionel. Then made Sir Bors such mourning and sorrow that
by-and-by he fell into a swoon upon the ground. And when he came to
himself again, he took the body in his arms and put it on his horse's
saddle, and bore it to a chapel hard by, and would have buried it. But
when he made the sign of the cross, he heard a full great noise and cry as
though all the fiends of hell had been about him, and suddenly the body
and the chapel and the old man vanished all away. Then he knew that it was
the devil who had thus beguiled him, and that his brother yet lived.

Then held he up his hands to heaven, and thanked God for his own escape
from hurt, and rode onwards; and anon, as he passed by an hermitage in a
forest, he saw his brother sitting armed by the door. And when he saw him
he was filled with joy, and lighted from his horse, and ran to him and
said, "Fair brother, when came ye hither?"

But Sir Lionel answered, with an angry face, "What vain words be these,
when for you I might have been slain? Did ye not see me bound and led away
to death, and left me in that peril to go succouring a gentlewoman, the
like whereof no brother ever yet hath done? Now, for thy false misdeed, I
do defy thee, and ensure thee speedy death."

Then Sir Bors prayed his brother to abate his anger, and said, "Fair
brother, remember the love that should be between us twain."

But Sir Lionel would not hear, and prepared to fight and mounted his horse
and came before him, crying, "Sir Bors, keep thee from me, for I shall do
to thee as a felon and a traitor; therefore, start upon thy horse, for if
thou wilt not, I will run upon thee as thou standest."

But for all his words Sir Bors would not defend himself against his
brother. And anon the fiend stirred up Sir Lionel to such rage, that he
rushed over him and overthrew him with his horse's hoofs, so that he lay
swooning on the ground. Then would he have rent off his helm and slain
him, but the hermit of that place ran out, and prayed him to forbear, and
shielded Sir Bors with his body.

Then Sir Lionel cried out, "Now, God so help me, sir priest, but I shall
slay thee else thou depart, and him too after thee."

And when the good man utterly refused to leave Sir Bors, he smote him on
the head until he died, and then he took his brother by the helm and
unlaced it, to have stricken off his head, and so he would have done, but
suddenly was pulled off backwards by a knight of the Round Table, who, by
the will of Heaven, was passing by that place--Sir Colgrevance by name.

"Sir Lionel," he cried, "will ye slay your brother, one of the best
knights of all the world? That ought no man to suffer."

"Why," said Sir Lionel, "will ye hinder me and meddle in this strife?
beware, lest I shall slay both thee and him."

And when Sir Colgrevance refused to let them be, Sir Lionel defied him,
and gave him a great stroke through the helmet, whereat Sir Colgrevance
drew his sword, and smote again right manfully. And so long they fought
together that Sir Bors awoke from his swoon, and tried to rise and part
them, but had no strength to stand upon his feet.

Anon Sir Colgrevance saw him, and cried out to him for help, for now Sir
Lionel had nigh defeated him. When Sir Bors heard that, he struggled to
his feet, and put his helmet on, and took his sword. But before he could
come to him, Sir Lionel had smitten off Sir Colgrevance's helm, and thrown
him to the earth and slain him. Then turned he to his brother as a man
possessed by fiends, and gave him such a stroke as bent him nearly double.

But still Sir Bors prayed him for God's sake to quit that battle, "For if
it befell us that we either slew the other we should die for care of that
sin."

"Never will I spare thee if I master thee," cried out Sir Lionel.

Then Sir Bors drew his sword all weeping, and said, "Now, God have mercy
on me, though I defend my life against my brother;" with that he lifted up
his sword to strike, but suddenly he heard a mighty voice, "Put up thy
sword, Sir Bors, and flee, or thou shalt surely slay him." And then there
fell upon them both a fiery cloud, which flamed and burned their shields,
and they fell to the earth in sore dread.

Anon Sir Bors rose to his feet, and saw that Sir Lionel had taken no harm.
Then came the voice again, and said, "Sir Bors, go hence and leave thy
brother, and ride thou forward to the sea, for there Sir Percival abideth
thee."

Then he said to his brother, "Brother, forgive me all my trespass against
thee."

And Sir Lionel answered, "God forgive it thee, as I do."

Then he departed and rode to the sea, and on the strand he found a ship
all covered with white samite, and as soon as he had entered thereinto,
it put forth from the shore. And in the midst of the ship there stood an
armed knight, whom he knew to be Sir Percival. Then they rejoiced greatly
over each other, and said, "We lack nothing now but the good knight Sir
Galahad."

Now when Sir Galahad had rescued Sir Percival from the twenty knights he
rode into a vast forest. And after many days it befell that he came to a
castle whereat was a tournament. And the knights of the castle were put to
the worse; which when he saw, he set his spear in rest and ran to help
them, and smote down many of their adversaries. And as it chanced, Sir
Gawain was amongst the stranger knights, and when he saw the white shield
with the red cross, he knew it was Sir Galahad, and proffered to joust
with him. So they encountered, and having broken their spears, they drew
their swords, and Sir Galahad smote Sir Gawain so sorely on the helm that
he clove it through, and struck on slanting to the earth, carving the
horse's shoulder in twain, and Sir Gawain fell to the earth. Then Sir
Galahad beat back all who warred against the castle, yet would he not wait
for thanks, but rode away that no man might know him.

And he rested that night at a hermitage, and when he was asleep, he heard
a knocking at the door. So he rose, and found a damsel there, who said,
"Sir Galahad, I will that ye arm you, and mount upon your horse and follow
me, for I will show you within these three days the highest adventure that
ever any knight saw."

Anon Sir Galahad armed him, and took his horse, and commended himself to
God, and bade the gentlewoman go, and he would follow where she liked.

So they rode onwards to the sea as fast as their horses might gallop, and
at night they came to a castle in a valley, inclosed by running water, and
by strong and high walls, whereinto they entered and had great cheer, for
the lady of the castle was the damsel's mistress.

And when he was unarmed, the damsel said to her lady, "Madam, shall we
abide here this night?"

"Nay," said she, "but only till he hath dined and slept a little."

So he ate and slept a while, till the maid called him, and armed him by
torchlight; and when he had saluted the lady of the castle, the damsel and
Sir Galahad rode on.

Anon they came to the seaside, and lo! the ship, wherein were Sir Percival
and Sir Bors, abode by the shore. Then they cried, "Welcome, Sir Galahad,
for we have awaited thee long."

Then they rejoiced to see each other, and told of all their adventures and
temptations. And the damsel went into the ship with them, and spake to Sir
Percival: "Sir Percival, know ye not who I am?"

And he replied, "Nay, certainly, I know thee not."

Then said she, "I am thy sister, the daughter of King Pellinore, and am
sent to help thee and these knights, thy fellows, to achieve the quest
which ye all follow."

So Sir Percival rejoiced to see his sister, and they departed from the
shore. And after a while they came upon a whirlpool, where their ship
could not live. Then saw they another greater ship hard by and went
towards it, but saw neither man nor woman therein. And on the end of it
these words were written, "Thou who shalt enter me, beware that thou be in
steadfast belief, for I am Faith; and if thou doubtest, I cannot help
thee." Then were they all adread, but, commending themselves to God, they
entered in.

As soon as they were on board they saw a fair bed; whereon lay a crown of
silk, and at the foot was a fair and rich sword drawn from its scabbard
half a foot and more. The pommel was of precious stones of many colours,
every colour having a different virtue, and the scales of the haft were of
two ribs of different beasts. The one was bone of a serpent from Calidone
forest, named the serpent of the fiend; and its virtue saveth all men who
hold it from weariness. The other was of a fish that haunteth the floods
of Euphrates, named Ertanax; and its virtue causeth whoever holdeth it to
forget all other things, whether of joy or pain, save the thing he seeth
before him.

"In the name of God," said Sir Percival, "I shall assay to handle this
sword; "and set his hand to it, but could not grasp it. "By my faith,"
said he, "now have I failed."

Sir Bors set his hand to it, and failed also.

Then came Sir Galahad, and saw these letters written red as blood, "None
shall draw me forth save the hardiest of all men; but he that draweth me
shall never be shamed or wounded to death." "By my faith," said Sir
Galahad, "I would draw it forth, but dare not try."

"Ye may try safely," said the gentlewoman, Sir Percival's sister, "for be
ye well assured the drawing of this sword is forbid to all but you. For
this was the sword of David, King of Israel, and Solomon his son made for
it this marvellous pommel and this wondrous sheath, and laid it on this
bed till thou shouldest come and take it up; and though before thee some
have dared to raise it, yet have they all been maimed or wounded for their
daring."

"Where," said Sir Galahad, "shall we find a girdle for it?"

"Fair sir," said she, "dismay you not;" and therewith took from out a box
a girdle, nobly wrought with golden thread, set full of precious stones
and with a rich gold buckle. "This girdle, lords," said she, "is made for
the most part of mine own hair, which, while I was yet in the world, I
loved full well; but when I knew that this adventure was ordained me, I
cut off and wove as ye now see."

Then they all prayed Sir Galahad to take the sword, and so anon he gripped
it in his fingers; and the maiden girt it round his waist, saying, "Now
reck I not though I die, for I have made thee the worthiest knight of all
the world."

"Fair damsel," said Sir Galahad, "ye have done so much that I shall be
your knight all the days of my life."

Then the ship sailed a great way on the sea, and brought them to land near
the Castle of Carteloise. When they were landed came a squire and asked
them, "Be ye of King Arthur's court?"

"We are," said they.

"In an evil hour are ye come," said he, and went back swiftly to the
castle.

Within a while they heard a great horn blow, and saw a multitude of
well-armed knights come forth, who bade them yield or die. At that they
ran together, and Sir Percival smote one to the earth and mounted his
horse, and so likewise did Sir Bors and Sir Galahad, and soon had they
routed all their enemies and alighted on foot, and with their swords slew
them downright, and entered into the castle.

Then came there forth a priest, to whom Sir Galahad kneeled and said, "In
sooth, good father, I repent me of this slaughter; but we were first
assailed, or else it had not been."

"Repent ye not," said the good man, "for if ye lived as long as the world
lasted ye could do no better deed, for these were all the felon sons of a
good knight, Earl Hernox, whom they have thrown into a dungeon, and in his
name have slain priests and clerks, and beat down chapels far and near."

Then Sir Galahad prayed the priest to bring him to the earl; who, when he
saw Sir Galahad, cried out, "Long have I waited for thy coming, and now I
pray thee hold me in thine arms that I may die in peace."

And therewith, when Sir Galahad had taken him in his arms, his soul
departed from his body.

Then came a voice in the hearing of them all, "Depart now, Sir Galahad,
and go quickly to the maimed king, for he hath long abided to receive
health from thy hand."

So the three knights departed, and Sir Percival's sister with them, and
came to a vast forest, and saw before them a white hart, exceeding fair,
led by four lions; and marvelling greatly at that sight, they followed.

Anon they came to a hermitage and a chapel, whereunto the hart entered,
and the lions with it. Then a priest offered mass, and presently they saw
the hart change into the figure of a man, most sweet and comely to behold;
and the four lions also changed and became a man, an eagle, a lion, and an
ox. And suddenly all those five figures vanished without sound. Then the
knights marvelled greatly, and fell upon their knees, and when they rose
they prayed the priest to tell them what that sight might mean.

"What saw ye, sirs?" said he, "for I saw nothing." Then they told him.

"Ah, lords!" said he, "ye are full welcome; now know I well ye be the
knights who shall achieve the Sangreal, for unto them alone such
mysteries are revealed. The hart ye saw is One above all men, white and
without blemish, and the four lions with Him are the four evangelists."

When they heard that they heartily rejoiced, and thanking the priest,
departed.

Anon, as they passed by a certain castle, an armed knight suddenly came
after them, and cried out to the damsel, "By the holy cross, ye shall not
go till ye have yielded to the custom of the castle."

"Let her go," said Sir Percival, "for a maiden, wheresoever she cometh, is
free."

"Whatever maiden passeth here," replied the knight, "must give a dishful
of her blood from her right arm."

"It is a foul and shameful custom," cried Sir Galahad and both his
fellows, "and sooner will we die than let this maiden yield thereto."

"Then shall ye die," replied the knight, and as he spake there came out
from a gate hard by, ten or twelve more, and encountered with them,
running upon them vehemently with a great cry. But the three knights
withstood them, and set their hands to their swords, and beat them down
and slew them.

At that came forth a company of threescore knights, all armed. "Fair
lords," said Sir Galahad, "have mercy on yourselves and keep from us."

"Nay, fair lords," they answered, "rather be advised by us, and yield ye
to our custom."

"It is an idle word," said Galahad, "in vain ye speak it."

"Well," said they, "will ye die?"

"We be not come thereto as yet," replied Sir Galahad.

Then did they fall upon each other, and Sir Galahad drew forth his sword,
and smote on the right hand and on the left, and slew so mightily that
all who saw him thought he was a monster and no earthly man. And both his
comrades helped him well, and so they held the field against that
multitude till it was night. Then came a good knight forward from the
enemy and said, "Fair knights, abide with us to-night and be right
welcome; by the faith of our bodies as we are true knights, to-morrow ye
shall rise unharmed, and meanwhile maybe ye will, of your own accord,
accept the custom of the castle when ye know it better."

So they entered and alighted and made great cheer. Anon, they asked them
whence that custom came. "The lady of this castle is a leper," said they,
"and can be no way cured save by the blood of a pure virgin and a king's
daughter; therefore to save her life are we her servants bound to stay
every maid that passeth by, and try if her blood may not cure our
mistress."

Then said the damsel, "Take ye of my blood as much as ye will, if it may
avail your lady."

And though the three knights urged her not to put her life in that great
peril, she replied, "If I die to heal another's body, I shall get health
to my soul," and would not be persuaded to refuse.

So on the morrow she was brought to the sick lady, and her arm was bared,
and a vein thereof was opened, and the dish filled with her blood. Then
the sick lady was anointed therewith, and anon she was whole of her
malady. With that Sir Percival's sister lifted up her hand and blessed
her, saying, "Madam, I am come to my death to make you whole; for God's
love pray for me;" and thus saying she fell down in a swoon.

Then Sir Galahad, Sir Percival, and Sir Bors started to lift her up and
staunch her blood, but she had lost too much to live. So when she came to
herself she said to Sir Percival, "Fair brother, I must die for the
healing of this lady, and now, I pray thee, bury me not here, but when I
am dead put me in a boat at the next haven and let me float at venture on
the sea. And when ye come to the city of Sarras, to achieve the Sangreal,
shall ye find me waiting by a tower, and there I pray thee bury me, for
there shall Sir Galahad and ye also be laid." Thus having said, she died.

Then Sir Percival wrote all the story of her life and put it in her right
hand, and so laid her in a barge and covered it with silk. And the wind
arising drove the barge from land, and all the knights stood watching it
till it was out of sight.

Anon they returned to the castle, and forthwith fell a sudden tempest of
thunder and lightning and rain, as if the earth were broken up: and half
the castle was thrown down. Then came a voice to the three knights which
said, "Depart ye now asunder till ye meet again where the maimed king is
lying." So they parted and rode divers ways.

Now after Sir Lancelot had left the hermit, he rode a long while till he
knew not whither to turn, and so he lay down to sleep, if haply he might
dream whither to go.

And in his sleep a vision came to him saying, "Lancelot, rise up and take
thine armour, and enter the first ship that thou shalt find."

When he awoke he obeyed the vision, and rode till he came to the
sea-shore, and found there a ship without sails or oars, and as soon as he
was in it he smelt the sweetest savour he had ever known, and seemed
filled with all things he could think of or desire. And looking round he
saw a fair bed, and thereon a gentlewoman lying dead, who was Sir
Percival's sister. And as Sir Lancelot looked on her he spied the writing
in her right hand, and, taking it, he read therein her story. And more
than a month thereafter he abode in that ship and was nourished by the
grace of Heaven, as Israel was fed with manna in the desert.

And on a certain night he went ashore to pass the time, for he was
somewhat weary, and, listening, he heard a horse come towards him, from
which a knight alighted and went up into the ship; who, when he saw Sir
Lancelot, said, "Fair sir, ye be right welcome to mine eyes, for I am thy
son Galahad, and long time I have sought for thee." With that he kneeled
and asked his blessing, and took off his helm and kissed him, and the
great joy there was between them no tongue can tell.

Then for half a year they dwelt together in the ship, and served God night
and day with all their powers, and went to many unknown islands, where none
but wild beasts haunted, and there found many strange and perilous
adventures.

And upon a time they came to the edge of a forest, before a cross of
stone, and saw a knight armed all in white, leading a white horse. Then
the knight saluted them, and said to Galahad, "Ye have been long time
enough with your father; now, therefore, leave him and ride this horse
till ye achieve the Holy Quest."

Then went Sir Galahad to his father and kissed him full courteously, and
said, "Fair father, I know not when I shall see thee again."

And as he took his horse a voice spake in their hearing, "Ye shall meet no
more in this life."

"Now, my son, Sir Galahad," said Sir Lancelot, "since we must so part and
see each other never more, I pray the High Father of Heaven to preserve
both you and me."

Then they bade farewell, and Sir Galahad entered the forest, and Sir
Lancelot returned to the ship, and the wind rose and drove him more than a
month through the sea, whereby he slept but little, yet ever prayed that
he might see the Sangreal.

So it befell upon a certain midnight, the moon shining clear, he came
before a fair and rich castle, whereof the postern gate was open towards
the sea, having no keeper save two lions in the entry.

Anon Sir Lancelot heard a voice: "Leave now thy ship and go within the
castle, and thou shalt see a part of thy desire."

Then he armed and went towards the gate, and coming to the lions he drew
out his sword, but suddenly a dwarf rushed out and smote him on the arm,
so that he dropt his sword, and heard again the voice, "Oh, man of evil
faith, and poor belief, wherefore trustest thou thine arms above thy
Maker?" Then he put up his sword and signed the cross upon his forehead,
and so passed by the lions without hurt.

And going in, he found a chamber with the door shut, which in vain he
tried to open. And listening thereat he heard a voice within, which sang
so sweetly that it seemed no earthly thing, "Joy and honour be to the
Father of Heaven!" Then he kneeled down at the door, for he knew well the
Sangreal was there within.

Anon the door was opened without hands, and forthwith came thereout so
great a splendour as if all the torches of the world had been alight
together. But when he would have entered in, a voice forbad him; wherefore
he drew back, and looked, standing upon the threshold of the door. And
there he saw a table of silver, and the holy vessel covered with red
samite, and many angels round it holding burning candles and a cross and
all the ornaments of the altar.

Then a priest stood up and offered mass, and when he took the vessel up,
he seemed to sink beneath that burden. At that Sir Lancelot cried, "O
Father, take it not for sin that I go in to help the priest, who hath much
need thereof." So saying, he went in, but when he came towards the table
he felt a breath of fire which issued out therefrom and smote him to the
ground, so that he had no power to rise.

Then felt he many hands about him, which took him up and laid him down
outside the chapel door. There lay he in a swoon all through that night,
and on the morrow certain people found him senseless, and bore him to an
inner chamber and laid him on a bed. And there he rested, living, but
moving no limbs, twenty-four days and nights.

On the twenty-fifth day he opened his eyes and saw those standing round,
and said, "Why have ye waked me? for I have seen marvels that no tongue
can tell, and more than any heart can think."

Then he asked where he was, and they told him, "In the Castle of
Carbonek."

"Tell your lord, King Pelles," said he, "that I am Sir Lancelot."

At that they marvelled greatly, and told their lord it was Sir Lancelot
who had lain there so long.

Then was King Pelles wondrous glad and went to see him, and prayed him to
abide there for a season. But Sir Lancelot said, "I know well that I have
now seen as much as mine eyes may behold of the Sangreal; wherefore I will
return to my own country." So he took leave of King Pelles, and departed
towards Logris.

Now after Sir Galahad had parted from Sir Lancelot, he rode many days,
till he came to the monastery where the blind King Evelake lay, whom Sir
Percival had seen. And on the morrow, when he had heard mass, Sir Galahad
desired to see the king, who cried out, "Welcome, Sir Galahad, servant of
the Lord! long have I abided thy coming. Take me now in thine arms, that I
may die in peace."

At that Sir Galahad embraced him; and when he had so done the king's eyes
were opened, and he said, "Fair Lord Jesus, suffer me now to come to
Thee;" and anon his soul departed.

Then they buried him royally, as a king should be; and Sir Galahad went on
his way.

Within a while he came to a chapel in a forest, in the crypt whereof he
saw a tomb which always blazed and burnt. And asking the brethren what
that might mean, they told him, "Joseph of Arimathea's son did found this
monastery, and one who wronged him hath lain here these three hundred and
fifty years and burneth evermore, until that perfect knight who shall
achieve the Sangreal doth quench the fire."

Then said he, "I pray ye bring me to the tomb."

And when he touched the place immediately the fire was quenched, and a
voice came from the grave and cried, "Thanks be to God, who now hath
purged me of my sin, and draweth me from earthly pains into the joys of
paradise."

Then Sir Galahad took the body in his arms and bore it to the abbey, and
on the morrow put it in the earth before the high altar.

Anon he departed from thence and rode five days in a great forest; and
after that he met Sir Percival, and a little further on Sir Bors. When
they had told each other their adventures, they rode together to the
Castle of Carbonek: and there King Pelles gave them hearty welcome, for he
knew they should achieve the Holy Quest.

As soon as they were come into the castle, a voice cried in the midst of
the chamber, "Let them who ought not now to sit at the table of the Lord
rise and depart hence!" Then all, save those three knights, departed.

Anon they saw other knights come in with haste at the hall doors and take
their harness off, who said to Sir Galahad, "Sir, we have tried sore to be
with you at this table."

"Ye be welcome," said he, "but whence are ye?"

So three of them said they were from Gaul; and three from Ireland; and
three from Denmark.

Then came forth the likeness of a bishop, with a cross in his hand, and
four angels stood by him, and a table of silver was before them, whereon
was set the vessel of the Sangreal. Then came forth other angels also--two
bearing burning candles, and the third a towel, and the fourth a spear
which bled marvellously, the drops wherefrom fell into a box he held in
his left hand. Anon the bishop took the wafer up to consecrate it, and at
the lifting up, they saw the figure of a Child, whose visage was as bright
as any fire, which smote itself into the midst of the wafer and vanished,
so that all saw the flesh made bread.

Thereat the bishop went to Galahad and kissed him, and bade him go and
kiss his fellows; and said, "Now, servants of the Lord, prepare for food
such as none ever yet were fed with since the world began."

With that he vanished, and the knights were filled with a great dread and
prayed devoutly.

Then saw they come forth from the holy vessel the vision of a man bleeding
all openly, whom they knew well by the tokens of His passion for the Lord
Himself. At that they fell upon their faces and were dumb. Anon he brought
the Holy Grale to them and spake high words of comfort, and, when they
drank therefrom, the taste thereof was sweeter than any tongue could tell
or heart desire. Then a voice said to Galahad, "Son, with this blood which
drippeth from the spear anoint thou the maimed king and heal him. And when
thou hast this done, depart hence with thy brethren in a ship that ye
shall find, and go to the city of Sarras. And bear with thee the holy
vessel, for it shall no more be seen in the realm of Logris."

At that Sir Galahad walked to the bleeding spear, and therefrom anointing
his fingers went out straightway to the maimed King Pelles, and touched
his wound. Then suddenly he uprose from his bed as whole a man as ever he
was, and praised God passing thankfully with all his heart.

Then Sir Galahad, Sir Bors, and Sir Percival departed as they had been
told; and when they had ridden three days they came to the sea-shore, and
found the ship awaiting them. Therein they entered, and saw in the midst
the silver table and the vessel of the Sangreal, covered with red samite.
Then were they passing glad, and made great reverence thereto. And Sir
Galahad prayed that now he might leave the world and pass to God. And
presently, the while he prayed, a voice said to him, "Galahad, thy prayer
is heard, and when thou asketh the death of the body thou shalt have it,
and find the life of thy soul."

But while they prayed and slept the ship sailed on, and when they woke
they saw the city of Sarras before them, and the other ship wherein was
Sir Percival's sister. Then the three knights took up the holy table and
the Sangreal and went into the city; and there, in a chapel, they buried
Sir Percival's sister right solemnly.

Now at the gate of the town they saw an old cripple sitting, whom Sir
Galahad called to help them bear their weight.

"Truly," said the old man, "it is ten years since I have gone a step
without these crutches."

"Care ye not," said Sir Galahad; "rise now and show goodwill."

So he assayed to move, and found his limbs as strong as any man's might
be, and running to the table helped to carry it.

Anon there rose a rumour in the city that a cripple had been healed by
certain marvellous strange knights.

But the king, named Estouranse, who was a heathen tyrant, when he heard
thereof took Sir Galahad and his fellows, and put them in prison in a deep
hole. Therein they abode a great while, but ever the Sangreal was with
them and fed them with marvellous sweet food, so that they fainted not,
but had all joy and comfort they could wish.

At the year's end the king fell sick and felt that he should die. Then
sent he for the three knights, and when they came before him prayed their
mercy for his trespasses against them. So they forgave him gladly, and
anon he died.

Then the chief men of the city took counsel together who should be king in
his stead, and as they talked, a voice cried in their midst, "Choose ye
the youngest of the three knights King Estouranse cast into prison for
your king." At that they sought Sir Galahad and made him king with the
assent of all the city, and else they would have slain him.

But within a twelvemonth came to him, upon a certain day, as he prayed
before the Sangreal, a man in likeness of a bishop, with a great company
of angels round about him, who offered mass, and afterwards called to Sir
Galahad, "Come forth, thou servant of the Lord, for the time hath come
thou hast desired so long."

Then Sir Galahad lifted up his hands and prayed, "Now, blessed Lord! would
I no longer live if it might please Thee."

Anon the bishop gave him the sacrament, and when he had received it with
unspeakable gladness, he said, "Who art thou, father?"

"I am Joseph of Arimathea," answered he, "whom our Lord hath sent to bear
thee fellowship."

When he heard that, Sir Galahad went to Sir Percival and Sir Bors and
kissed them and commended them to God, saying, "Salute for me Sir
Lancelot, my father, and bid him remember this unstable world."

Therewith he kneeled down and prayed, and suddenly his soul departed, and
a multitude of angels bare it up to heaven. Then came a hand from heaven
and took the vessel and the spear and bare them out of sight.

Since then was never man so hardy as to say that he had seen the Sangreal.

And after all these things, Sir Percival put off his armour and betook him
to an hermitage, and within a little while passed out of this world. And
Sir Bors, when he had buried him beside his sister, returned, weeping sore
for the loss of his two brethren, to King Arthur, at Camelot.



CHAPTER XIII

Sir Lancelot and the Fair Maid of Astolat

Now after the quest of the Sangreal was fulfilled and all the knights who
were left alive were come again to the Round Table, there was great joy in
the court. And passing glad were King Arthur and Queen Guinevere to see
Sir Lancelot and Sir Bors, for they had been long absent in that quest.

And so greatly was Sir Lancelot's fame now spread abroad that many ladies
and damsels daily resorted to him and besought him for their champion; and
all right quarrels did he gladly undertake for the pleasure of our Lord
Christ. And always as much as he might he withdrew him from the queen.

Wherefore Queen Guinevere, who counted him for her own knight, grew wroth
with him, and on a certain day she called him to her chamber, and said
thus: "Sir Lancelot, I daily see thy loyalty to me doth slack, for ever
thou art absent from this court, and takest other ladies' quarrels on thee
more than ever thou wert wont. Now do I understand thee, false knight, and
therefore shall I never trust thee more. Depart now from my sight, and
come no more within this court upon pain of thy head." With that she
turned from him and would hear no excuses.

So Sir Lancelot departed in heaviness of heart, and calling Sir Bors, Sir
Ector, and Sir Lionel, he told them how the queen had dealt with him.

"Fair sir," replied Sir Bors, "remember what honour ye have in this
country, and how ye are called the noblest knight in the world; wherefore
go not, for women are hasty, and do often what they sore repent of
afterwards. Be ruled by my advice. Take horse and ride to the hermitage
beside Windsor, and there abide till I send ye better tidings."

To that Sir Lancelot consented, and departed with a sorrowful countenance.

Now when the queen heard of his leaving she was inwardly sorry, but made
no show of grief, bearing a proud visage outwardly. And on a certain day
she made a costly banquet to all the knights of the Round Table, to show
she had as great joy in all others as in Sir Lancelot. And at the banquet
were Sir Gawain, and his brothers Sir Agravaine, Sir Gaheris, and Sir
Gareth; also Sir Modred, Sir Bors, Sir Blamor, Sir Bleoberis, Sir Ector,
Sir Lionel, Sir Palomedes, Sir Mador de la Port, and his cousin Sir
Patrice--a knight of Ireland, Sir Pinell le Savage, and many more.

Now Sir Pinell hated Sir Gawain because he had slain one of his kinsmen by
treason; and Sir Gawain had a great love for all kinds of fruit, which,
when Sir Pinell knew, he poisoned certain apples that were set upon the
table, with intent to slay him. And so it chanced as they ate and made
merry, Sir Patrice, who sat next to Sir Gawain, took one of the poisoned
apples and eat it, and when he had eaten he suddenly swelled up and fell
down dead.

At that every knight leapt from the board ashamed and enraged nigh out of
their wits, for they knew not what to say, yet seeing that the queen had
made the banquet they all had suspicion of her.

"My lady the queen," said Sir Gawain, "I wit well this fruit was meant for
me, for all men know my love for it, and now had I been nearly slain;
wherefore, I fear me, ye will be ashamed."

"This shall not end so," cried Sir Mador de la Port; "now have I lost a
noble knight of my own blood, and for this despite and shame I will be
revenged to the uttermost."

Then he challenged Queen Guinevere concerning the death of his cousin, but
she stood still, sore abashed, and anon with her sorrow and dread, she
swooned.

At the noise and sudden cry came in King Arthur, and to him appealed Sir
Mador, and impeached the queen.

"Fair lords," said he, "full sorely am I troubled at this matter, for I
must be rightful judge, and therein it repenteth me I may not do battle
for my wife, for, as I deem, this deed was none of hers. But I suppose she
will not lack a champion, and some good knight surely will put his body in
jeopardy to save her."

But all who had been bidden to the banquet said they could not hold the
queen excused, or be her champions, for she had made the feast, and either
by herself or servants must it have come.

"Alas!" said the queen, "I made this dinner for a good intent, and no
evil, so God help me in my need."

"My lord the king," said Sir Mador, "I require you heartily as you be a
righteous king give me a day when I may have justice."

"Well," said the king, "I give ye this day fifteen days, when ye shall be
ready and armed in the meadow beside Westminster, and if there be a
knight to fight with you, God speed the right, and if not, then must my
queen be burnt."

When the king and queen were alone together he asked her how this case
befell.

"I wot not how or in what manner," answered she.

"Where is Sir Lancelot?" said King Arthur, "for he would not grudge to do
battle for thee."

"Sir," said she, "I cannot tell you, but all his kinsmen deem he is not in
this realm."

"These be sad tidings," said the king; "I counsel ye to find Sir Bors, and
pray him for Sir Lancelot's sake to do this battle for you."

So the queen departed and sent for Sir Bors to her chamber, and besought
his succour.

"Madam," said he, "what would you have me do? for I may not with my honour
take this matter on me, for I was at that same dinner, and all the other
knights would have me ever in suspicion. Now do ye miss Sir Lancelot, for
he would not have failed you in right nor yet in wrong, as ye have often
proved, but now ye have driven him from the country."

"Alas! fair knight," said the queen, "I put me wholly at your mercy, and
all that is done amiss I will amend as ye will counsel me."

And therewith she kneeled down upon both her knees before Sir Bors, and
besought him to have mercy on her.

Anon came in King Arthur also, and prayed him of his courtesy to help her,
saying, "I require you for the love of Lancelot."

"My lord," said he, "ye require the greatest thing of me that any man can
ask, for if I do this battle for the queen I shall anger all my fellows of
the Table Round; nevertheless, for my lord Sir Lancelot's sake, and for
yours, I will that day be the queen's champion, unless there chance to
come a better knight than I am to do battle for her." And this he promised
on his faith.

Then were the king and queen passing glad, and thanked him heartily, and
so departed.

But Sir Bors rode in secret to the hermitage where Sir Lancelot was, and
told him all these tidings.

"It has chanced as I would have it," said Sir Lancelot; "yet make ye ready
for the battle, but tarry till ye see me come."

"Sir," said Sir Bors, "doubt not but ye shall have your will."

But many of the knights were greatly wroth with him when they heard he was
to be the queen's champion, for there were few in the court but deemed her
guilty.

Then said Sir Bors, "Wit ye well, fair lords, it were a shame to us all to
suffer so fair and noble a lady to be burnt for lack of a champion, for
ever hath she proved herself a lover of good knights; wherefore I doubt
not she is guiltless of this treason."

At that were some well pleased, but others rested passing wroth.

And when the day was come, the king and queen and all the knights went to
the meadow beside Westminster, where the battle should be fought. Then the
queen was put in ward, and a great fire was made round the iron stake,
where she must be burnt if Sir Mador won the day.

So when the heralds blew, Sir Mador rode forth, and took oath that Queen
Guinevere was guilty of Sir Patrice's death, and his oath he would prove
with his body against any who would say the contrary. Then came forth Sir
Bors, and said, "Queen Guinevere is in the right, and that will I prove
with my hands."

With that they both departed to their tents to make ready for the battle.
But Sir Bors tarried long, hoping Sir Lancelot would come, till Sir Mador
cried out to King Arthur, "Bid thy champion come forth, unless he dare
not." Then was Sir Bors ashamed, and took his horse and rode to the end of
the lists.

But ere he could meet Sir Mador he was ware of a knight upon a white
horse, armed at all points, and with a strange shield, who rode to him and
said, "I pray you withdraw from this quarrel, for it is mine, and I have
ridden far to fight in it."

Thereat Sir Bors rode to King Arthur, and told him that another knight was
come who would do battle for the queen.

"Who is he?" said King Arthur.

"I may not tell you," said Sir Bors; "but he made a covenant with me to be
here to-day, wherefore I am discharged."

Then the king called that knight, and asked him if he would fight for the
queen.

"Therefore came I hither, Sir king," answered he; "but let us tarry no
longer, for anon I have other matters to do. But wit ye well," said he to
the Knights of the Round Table, "it is shame to ye for such a courteous
queen to suffer this dishonour."

And all men marvelled who this knight might be, for none knew him save Sir
Bors.

Then Sir Mador and the knight rode to either end of the lists, and
couching their spears, ran one against the other with all their might; and
Sir Mador's spear broke short, but the strange knight bore both him and
his horse down to the ground. Then lightly they leaped from their saddles
and drew their swords, and so came eagerly to the battle, and either gave
the other many sad strokes and sore and deep wounds.

Thus they fought nigh an hour, for Sir Mador was a full strong and valiant
knight. But at last the strange knight smote him to the earth, and gave
him such a buffet on the helm as wellnigh killed him. Then did Sir Mador
yield, and prayed his life.

"I will but grant it thee," said the strange knight, "if thou wilt release
the queen from this quarrel for ever, and promise that no mention shall be
made upon Sir Patrice's tomb that ever she consented to that treason."

"All this shall be done," said Sir Mador.

Then the knights parters took up Sir Mador and led him to his tent, and
the other knight went straight to the stair foot of King Arthur's throne;
and by that time was the queen come to the king again, and kissed him
lovingly.

Then both the king and she stooped down, and thanked the knight, and
prayed him to put off his helm and rest him, and to take a cup of wine.
And when he put his helmet off to drink, all people saw it was Sir
Lancelot. But when the queen beheld him she sank almost to the ground
weeping for sorrow and for joy, that he had done her such great goodness
when she had showed him such unkindness.

Then the knights of his blood gathered round him, and there was great joy
and mirth in the court. And Sir Mador and Sir Lancelot were soon healed of
their wounds; and not long after came the Lady of the Lake to the court,
and told all there by her enchantments how Sir Pinell, and not the queen,
was guilty of Sir Patrice's death. Whereat the queen was held excused of
all men, and Sir Pinell fled the country.

So Sir Patrice was buried in the church of Winchester, and it was written
on his tomb that Sir Pinell slew him with a poisoned apple, in error for
Sir Gawain. Then, through Sir Lancelot's favour, the queen was reconciled
to Sir Mador, and all was forgiven.

Now fifteen days before the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady, the king
proclaimed a tourney to be held that feast-day at Camelot, whereat himself
and the King of Scotland would joust with all who should come against
them. So thither went the King of North Wales, and King Anguish of
Ireland, and Sir Galahaut the noble prince, and many other nobles of
divers countries.

And King Arthur made ready to go, and would have had the queen go with
him, but she said that she was sick. Sir Lancelot, also, made excuses,
saying he was not yet whole of his wounds.

At that the king was passing heavy and grieved, and so departed alone
towards Camelot. And by the way he lodged in a town called Astolat, and
lay that night in the castle.

As soon as he had gone, Sir Lancelot said to the queen, "This night I will
rest, and to-morrow betimes will I take my way to Camelot; for at these
jousts I will be against the king and his fellowship."

"Ye may do as ye list," said Queen Guinevere; "but by my counsel ye will
not be against the king, for in his company are many hardy knights, as ye
well know."

"Madam," said Sir Lancelot, "I pray ye be not displeased with me, for I
will take the adventure that God may send me."

And on the morrow he went to the church and heard mass, and took his leave
of the queen, and so departed.

Then he rode long till he came to Astolat, and there lodged at the castle
of an old baron called Sir Bernard of Astolat, which was near the castle
where King Arthur lodged. And as Sir Lancelot entered the king espied him,
and knew him. Then said he to the knights, "I have just seen a knight who
will fight full well at the joust toward which we go."

"Who is it?" asked they.

"As yet ye shall not know," he answered smiling.

When Sir Lancelot was in his chamber unarming, the old baron came to him
saluting him, though as yet he knew not who he was.

Now Sir Bernard had a daughter passing beautiful, called the Fair Maid of
Astolat, and when she saw Sir Lancelot she loved him from that instant
with her whole heart, and could not stay from gazing on him.

On the morrow, Sir Lancelot asked the old baron to lend him a strange
shield. "For," said he, "I would be unknown."

"Sir," said his host, "ye shall have your desire, for here is the shield
of my eldest son, Sir Torre, who was hurt the day he was made knight, so
that he cannot ride; and his shield, therefore, is not known. And, if it
please you, my youngest son, Sir Lavaine, shall ride with you to the
jousts, for he is of his age full strong and mighty; and I deem ye be a
noble knight, wherefore I pray ye tell me your name."

"As to that," said Sir Lancelot, "ye must hold me excused at this time,
but if I speed well at the jousts, I will come again and tell you; but in
anywise let me have your son, Sir Lavaine, with me, and lend me his
brother's shield."

Then, ere they departed, came Elaine, the baron's daughter, and said to
Sir Lancelot, "I pray thee, gentle knight, to wear my token at to-morrow's
tourney."

"If I should grant you that, fair damsel," said he, "ye might say that I
did more for you than ever I have done for lady or damsel."

Then he bethought him that if he granted her request he would be the more
disguised, for never before had he worn any lady's token. So anon he said,
"Fair damsel, I will wear thy token on my helmet if thou wilt show it me."

Thereat was she passing glad, and brought him a scarlet sleeve broidered
with pearls, which Sir Lancelot took, and put upon his helm. Then he
prayed her to keep his shield for him until he came again, and taking Sir
Torre's shield instead, rode forth with Sir Lavaine towards Camelot.

On the morrow the trumpets blew for the tourney, and there was a great
press of dukes and earls and barons and many noble knights; and King
Arthur sat in a gallery to behold who did the best. So the King of
Scotland and his knights, and King Anguish of Ireland rode forth on King
Arthur's side; and against them came the King of North Wales, the King of
a Hundred Knights, the King of Northumberland, and the noble prince Sir
Galahaut.

But Sir Lancelot and Sir Lavaine rode into a little wood behind the party
which was against King Arthur, to watch which side should prove the
weakest.

Then was there a strong fight between the two parties, for the King of a
Hundred Knights smote down the King of Scotland; and Sir Palomedes, who
was on King Arthur's side, overthrew Sir Galahaut. Then came fifteen
Knights of the Round Table and beat back the Kings of Northumberland and
North Wales with their knights.

"Now," said Sir Lancelot to Sir Lavaine, "if ye will help me, ye shall
see yonder fellowship go back as fast as they came."

"Sir," said Sir Lavaine, "I will do what I can."

Then they rode together into the thickest of the press, and there, with
one spear, Sir Lancelot smote down five Knights of the Round Table, one
after other, and Sir Lavaine overthrew two. And taking another spear, for
his own was broken, Sir Lancelot smote down four more knights, and Sir
Lavaine a fifth. Then, drawing his sword, Sir Lancelot fought fiercely on
the right hand and the left, and unhorsed Sir Safire, Sir Epinogris, and
Sir Galleron. At that the Knights of the Round Table withdrew themselves
as well as they were able.

"Now, mercy," said Sir Gawain, who sat by King Arthur; "what knight is
that who doth such marvellous deeds of arms? I should deem him by his
force to be Sir Lancelot, but that he wears a lady's token on his helm as
never Lancelot doth."

"Let him be," said King Arthur; "he will be better known, and do more ere
he depart."

Thus the party against King Arthur prospered at this time, and his knights
were sore ashamed. Then Sir Bors, Sir Ector, and Sir Lionel called
together the knights of their blood, nine in number, and agreed to join
together in one band against the two strange knights. So they encountered
Sir Lancelot all at once, and by main force smote his horse to the ground;
and by misfortune Sir Bors struck Sir Lancelot through the shield into the
side, and the spear broke off and left the head in the wound.

When Sir Lavaine saw that, he ran to the King of Scotland and struck him
off his horse, and brought it to Sir Lancelot, and helped him to mount.
Then Sir Lancelot bore Sir Bors and his horse to the ground, and in like
manner served Sir Ector and Sir Lionel; and turning upon three other
knights he smote them down also; while Sir Lavaine did many gallant deeds.

But feeling himself now sorely wounded Sir Lancelot drew his sword, and
proffered to fight with Sir Bors, who, by this time, was mounted anew. And
as they met, Sir Ector and Sir Lionel came also, and the swords of all
three drave fiercely against him. When he felt their buffets, and his
wound that was so grievous, he determined to do all his best while he
could yet endure, and smote Sir Bors a blow that bent his head down nearly
to the ground and razed his helmet off and pulled him from his horse.

Then rushing at Sir Ector and Sir Lionel, he smote them down, and might
have slain all three, but when he saw their faces his heart forbade him.
Leaving them, therefore, on the field, he hurled into the thickest of the
press, and did such feats of arms as never were beheld before.

And Sir Lavaine was with him through it all, and overthrew ten knights;
but Sir Lancelot smote down more than thirty, and most of them Knights of
the Round Table.

Then the king ordered the trumpets to blow for the end of the tourney, and
the prize to be given by the heralds to the knight with the white shield
who bore the red sleeve.

But ere Sir Lancelot was found by the heralds, came the King of the
Hundred Knights, the King of North Wales, the King of Northumberland, and
Sir Galahaut, and said to him, "Fair knight, God bless thee, for much have
ye done this day for us; wherefore we pray ye come with us and receive
the honour and the prize as ye have worshipfully deserved it."

"My fair lords," said Sir Lancelot, "wit ye well if I have deserved
thanks, I have sore bought them, for I am like never to escape with my
life; therefore I pray ye let me depart, for I am sore hurt. I take no
thought of honour, for I had rather rest me than be lord of all the
world." And therewith he groaned piteously, and rode a great gallop away
from them.

And Sir Lavaine rode after him, sad at heart, for the broken spear still
stuck fast in Sir Lancelot's side, and the blood streamed sorely from the
wound. Anon they came near a wood more than a mile from the lists, where
he knew he could be hidden.

Then said he to Sir Lavaine, "O gentle knight, help me to pull out this
spear-head from my side, for the pain thereof nigh killeth me."

"Dear lord," said he, "I fain would help ye; but I dread to draw it forth,
lest ye should die for loss of blood."

"I charge you as you love me," said Sir Lancelot, "draw it out."

So they dismounted, and with a mighty wrench Sir Lavaine drew the spear
forth from Sir Lancelot's side; whereat he gave a marvellous great shriek
and ghastly groan, and all his blood leaped forth in a full stream. Then
he sank swooning to the earth, with a visage pale as death.

"Alas!" cried Sir Lavaine, "what shall I do now?"

And then he turned his master's face towards the wind, and sat by him nigh
half an hour while he lay quiet as one dead. But at the last he lifted up
his eyes, and said, "I pray ye bear me on my horse again, and lead me to a
hermit who dwelleth within two miles hence, for he was formerly a knight
of Arthur's court, and now hath mighty skill in medicine and herbs."

So with great pain Sir Lavaine got him to his horse, and led him to the
hermitage within the wood, beside a stream. Then knocked he with his spear
upon the door, and prayed to enter. At that a child came out, to whom he
said, "Fair child, pray the good man thy master to come hither and let in
a knight who is sore wounded."

Anon came out the knight-hermit, whose name was Sir Baldwin, and asked,
"Who is this wounded knight?"

"I know not," said Sir Lavaine, "save that he is the noblest knight I ever
met with, and hath done this day such marvellous deeds of arms against
King Arthur that he hath won the prize of the tourney."

Then the hermit gazed long on Sir Lancelot, and hardly knew him, so pale
he was with bleeding, yet said he at the last, "Who art thou, lord?"

Sir Lancelot answered feebly, "I am a stranger knight adventurous, who
laboureth through many realms to win worship."

"Why hidest thou thy name, dear lord, from me?" cried Sir Baldwin; "for in
sooth I know thee now to be the noblest knight in all the world--my lord
Sir Lancelot du Lake, with whom I long had fellowship at the Round Table."

"Since ye know me, fair sir," said he, "I pray ye, for Christ's sake, to
help me if ye may."

"Doubt not," replied he, "that ye shall live and fare right well."

Then he staunched his wound, and gave him strong medicines and cordials
till he was refreshed from his faintness and came to himself again.

Now after the jousting was done King Arthur held a feast, and asked to see
the knight with the red sleeve that he might take the prize. So they told
him how that knight had ridden from the field wounded nigh to death.
"These be the worst tidings I have heard for many years," cried out the
king; "I would not for my kingdom he were slain."

Then all men asked, "Know ye him, lord?"

"I may not tell ye at this time," said he; "but would to God we had good
tidings of him."

Then Sir Gawain prayed leave to go and seek that knight, which the king
gladly gave him. So forthwith he mounted and rode many leagues round
Camelot, but could hear no tidings.

Within two days thereafter King Arthur and his knights returned from
Camelot, and Sir Gawain chanced to lodge at Astolat, in the house of Sir
Bernard. And there came in the fair Elaine to him, and prayed him news of
the tournament, and who won the prize. "A knight with a white shield,"
said he, "who bare a red sleeve in his helm, smote down all comers and won
the day."

At that the visage of Elaine changed suddenly from white to red, and
heartily she thanked our Lady.

Then said Sir Gawain, "Know ye that knight?" and urged her till she told
him that it was her sleeve he wore. So Sir Gawain knew it was for love
that she had given it; and when he heard she kept his proper shield he
prayed to see it.

As soon as it was brought he saw Sir Lancelot's arms thereon, and cried,
"Alas! now am I heavier of heart than ever yet."

"Wherefore?" said fair Elaine.

"Fair damsel," answered he, "know ye not that the knight ye love is of
all knights the noblest in the world, Sir Lancelot du Lake? With all my
heart I pray ye may have joy of each other, but hardly dare I think that
ye shall see him in this world again, for he is so sore wounded he may
scarcely live, and is gone out of sight where none can find him."

Then was Elaine nigh mad with grief and sorrow, and with piteous words she
prayed her father that she might go seek Sir Lancelot and her brother. So
in the end her father gave her leave, and she departed.

And on the morrow came Sir Gawain to the court, and told how he had found
Sir Lancelot's shield in Elaine's keeping, and how it was her sleeve which
he had worn; whereat all marvelled, for Sir Lancelot had done for her more
than he had ever done for any woman.

But when Queen Guinevere heard it she was beside herself with wrath, and
sending privily for Sir Bors, who sorrowed sorely that through him Sir
Lancelot had been hurt--"Have ye now heard," said she, "how falsely Sir
Lancelot hath betrayed me?"

"I beseech thee, madam," said he, "speak not so, for else I may not hear
thee."

"Shall I not call him traitor," cried she, "who hath worn another lady's
token at the jousting?"

"Be sure he did it, madam, for no ill intent," replied Sir Bors, "but that
he might be better hidden, for never did he in that wise before."

"Now shame on him, and thee who wouldest help him," cried the queen.

"Madam, say what ye will," said he; "but I must haste to seek him, and God
send me soon good tidings of him."

So with that he departed to find Sir Lancelot.

Now Elaine had ridden with full haste from Astolat, and come to Camelot,
and there she sought throughout the country for any news of Lancelot. And
so it chanced that Sir Lavaine was riding near the hermitage to exercise
his horse, and when she saw him she ran up and cried aloud, "How doth my
lord Sir Lancelot fare?"

Then said Sir Lavaine, marvelling greatly, "How know ye my lord's name,
fair sister?"

So she told him how Sir Gawain had lodged with Sir Bernard, and knew Sir
Lancelot's shield.

Then prayed she to see his lord forthwith, and when she came to the
hermitage and found him lying there sore sick and bleeding, she swooned
for sorrow. Anon, as she revived, Sir Lancelot kissed her, and said, "Fair
maid, I pray ye take comfort, for, by God's grace, I shall be shortly
whole of this wound, and if ye be come to tend me, I am heartily bounden
to your great kindness." Yet was he sore vexed to hear Sir Gawain had
discovered him, for he knew Queen Guinevere would be full wroth because of
the red sleeve.

So Elaine rested in the hermitage, and ever night and day she watched and
waited on Sir Lancelot, and would let none other tend him. And as she saw
him more, the more she set her love upon him, and could by no means
withdraw it. Then said Sir Lancelot to Sir Lavaine, "I pray thee set some
to watch for the good knight Sir Bors, for as he hurt me, so will he
surely seek for me."

Now Sir Bors by this time had come to Camelot, and was seeking for Sir
Lancelot everywhere, so Sir Lavaine soon found him, and brought him to the
hermitage.

And when he saw Sir Lancelot pale and feeble, he wept for pity and sorrow
that he had given him that grievous wound. "God send thee a right speedy
cure, dear lord," said he; "for I am of all men most unhappy to have
wounded thee, who art our leader, and the noblest knight in all the
world."

"Fair cousin," said Sir Lancelot, "be comforted, for I have but gained
what I sought, and it was through pride that I was hurt, for had I warned
ye of my coming it had not been; wherefore let us speak of other things."

So they talked long together, and Sir Bors told him of the queen's anger.
Then he asked Sir Lancelot, "Was it from this maid who tendeth you so
lovingly ye had the token?"

"Yea," said Sir Lancelot; "and would I could persuade her to withdraw her
love from me."

"Why should ye do so?" said Sir Bors; "for she is passing fair and loving.
I would to heaven ye could love her."

"That may not be," replied he; "but it repenteth me in sooth to grieve
her."

Then they talked of other matters, and of the great jousting at
Allhallowtide next coming, between King Arthur and the King of North
Wales.

"Abide with me till then," said Sir Lancelot, "for by that time I trust to
be all whole again, and we will go together."

So Elaine daily and nightly tending him, within a month he felt so strong
he deemed himself full cured. Then on a day, when Sir Bors and Sir Lavaine
were from the hermitage, and the knight-hermit also was gone forth, Sir
Lancelot prayed Elaine to bring him some herbs from the forest.

When she was gone he rose and made haste to arm himself, and try if he
were whole enough to joust, and mounted on his horse, which was fresh with
lack of labour for so long a time. But when he set his spear in the rest
and tried his armour, the horse bounded and leapt beneath him, so that Sir
Lancelot strained to keep him back. And therewith his wound, which was not
wholly healed, burst forth again, and with a mighty groan he sank down
swooning on the ground.

At that came fair Elaine and wept and piteously moaned to see him lying
so. And when Sir Bors and Sir Lavaine came back, she called them traitors
to let him rise, or to know any rumour of the tournament. Anon the hermit
returned and was wroth to see Sir Lancelot risen, but within a while he
recovered him from his swoon and staunched the wound. Then Sir Lancelot
told him how he had risen of his own will to assay his strength for the
tournament. But the hermit bad him rest and let Sir Bors go alone, for
else would he sorely peril his life. And Elaine, with tears, prayed him in
the same wise, so that Sir Lancelot in the end consented.

So Sir Bors departed to the tournament, and there he did such feats of
arms that the prize was given between him and Sir Gawain, who did like
valiantly.

And when all was over he came back and told Sir Lancelot, and found him so
nigh well that he could rise and walk. And within a while thereafter he
departed from the hermitage and went with Sir Bors, Sir Lavaine, and fair
Elaine to Astolat, where Sir Bernard joyfully received them.

But after they had lodged there a few days Sir Lancelot and Sir Bors must
needs depart and return to King Arthur's court.

So when Elaine knew Sir Lancelot must go, she came to him and said, "Have
mercy on me, fair knight, and let me not die for your love."

Then said Sir Lancelot, very sad at heart, "Fair maid, what would ye that
I should do for you?"

"If I may not be your wife, dear lord," she answered, "I must die."

"Alas!" said he, "I pray heaven that may not be; for in sooth I may not be
your husband. But fain would I show ye what thankfulness I can for all
your love and kindness to me. And ever will I be your knight, fair maiden;
and if it chance that ye shall ever wed some noble knight, right heartily
will I give ye such a dower as half my lands will bring."

"Alas! what shall that aid me?" answered she; "for I must die," and
therewith she fell to the earth in a deep swoon.

Then was Sir Lancelot passing heavy of heart, and said to Sir Bernard and
Sir Lavaine, "What shall I do for her?"

"Alas!" said Sir Bernard, "I know well that she will die for your sake."

And Sir Lavaine said, "I marvel not that she so sorely mourneth your
departure, for truly I do as she doth, and since I once have seen you,
lord, I cannot leave you."

So anon, with a full sorrowful heart, Sir Lancelot took his leave, and Sir
Lavaine rode with him to the court. And King Arthur and the Knights of the
Round Table joyed greatly to see him whole of his wound, but Queen
Guinevere was sorely wroth, and neither spake with him nor greeted him.

Now when Sir Lancelot had departed, the Maid of Astolat could neither eat,
nor drink, not sleep for sorrow; and having thus endured ten days, she
felt within herself that she must die.

Then sent she for a holy man, and was shriven and received the sacrament.
But when he told her she must leave her earthly thoughts, she answered,
"Am I not an earthly woman? What sin is it to love the noblest knight of
all the world? And, by my truth, I am not able to withstand the love
whereof I die; wherefore, I pray the High Father of Heaven to have mercy
on my soul."

Then she besought Sir Bernard to indite a letter as she should devise, and
said, "When I am dead put this within my hand, and dress me in my fairest
clothes, and lay me in a barge all covered with black samite, and steer it
down the river till it reach the court. Thus, father, I beseech thee let
it be."

Then, full of grief, he promised her it should be so. And anon she died,
and all the household made a bitter lamentation over her.

Then did they as she had desired, and laid her body, richly dressed, upon
a bed within the barge, and a trusty servant steered it down the river
towards the court.

Now King Arthur and Queen Guinevere sat at a window of the palace, and saw
the barge come floating with the tide, and marvelled what was laid
therein, and sent a messenger to see, who, soon returning, prayed them to
come forth.

When they came to the shore they marvelled greatly, and the king asked of
the serving-men who steered the barge what this might mean. But he made
signs that he was dumb, and pointed to the letter in the damsel's hands.
So King Arthur took the letter from the hand of the corpse, and found
thereon written, "To the noble knight, Sir Lancelot du Lake."

Then was Sir Lancelot sent for, and the letter read aloud by a clerk, and
thus it was written:--

"Most noble knight, my lord Sir Lancelot, now hath death for ever parted
us. I, whom men call the Maid of Astolat, set my love upon you, and have
died for your sake. This is my last request, that ye pray for my soul and
give me burial. Grant me this, Sir Lancelot, as thou art a peerless
knight."

At these words the queen and all the knights wept sore for pity.

Then said Sir Lancelot, "My lord, I am right heavy for the death of this
fair damsel; and God knoweth that right unwillingly I caused it, for she
was good as she was fair, and much was I beholden to her; but she loved me
beyond measure, and asked me that I could not give her."

"Ye might have shown her gentleness enough to save her life," answered the
queen.

"Madam," said he, "she would but be repaid by my taking her to wife, and
that I could not grant her, for love cometh of the heart and not by
constraint."

"That is true," said the king; "for love is free."

"I pray you," said Sir Lancelot, "let me now grant her last asking, to be
buried by me."

So on the morrow, he caused her body to be buried richly and solemnly, and
ordained masses for her soul, and made great sorrow over her.

Then the queen sent for Sir Lancelot, and prayed his pardon for her wrath
against him without cause. "This is not the first time it hath been so,"
answered he; "yet must I ever bear with ye, and so do I now forgive you."

So Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot were made friends again; but anon such
favour did she show him, as in the end brought many evils on them both and
all the realm.



CHAPTER XIV

The War between King Arthur and Sir Lancelot and the Death of King
Arthur

Within a while thereafter was a jousting at the court, wherein Sir
Lancelot won the prize. And two of those he smote down were Sir Agravaine,
the brother of Sir Gawain, and Sir Modred, his false brother--King
Arthur's son by Belisent. And because of his victory they hated Sir
Lancelot, and sought how they might injure him.

So on a night, when King Arthur was hunting in the forest, and the queen
sent for Sir Lancelot to her chamber, they two espied him; and thinking
now to make a scandal and a quarrel between Lancelot and the king, they
found twelve others, and said Sir Lancelot was ever now in the queen's
chamber, and King Arthur was dishonoured.

Then, all armed, they came suddenly round the queen's door, and cried,
"Traitor! now art thou taken."

"Madam, we be betrayed," said Sir Lancelot; "yet shall my life cost these
men dear."

Then did the queen weep sore, and dismally she cried, "Alas! there is no
armour here whereby ye might withstand so many; wherefore ye will be
slain, and I be burnt for the dread crime they will charge on me."

But while she spake the shouting of the knights was heard without,
"Traitor, come forth, for now thou art snared!"

"Better were twenty deaths at once than this vile outcry," said Sir
Lancelot.

Then he kissed her and said, "Most noble lady, I beseech ye, as I have
ever been your own true knight, take courage; pray for my soul if I be now
slain, and trust my faithful friends, Sir Bors and Sir Lavaine, to save
you from the fire."

But ever bitterly she wept and moaned, and cried, "Would God that they
would take and slay me, and that thou couldest escape."

"That shall never be," said he. And wrapping his mantle round his arm he
unbarred the door a little space, so that but one could enter.

Then first rushed in Sir Chalaunce, a full strong knight, and lifted up
his sword to smite Sir Lancelot; but lightly he avoided him, and struck
Sir Chalaunce, with his hand, such a sore buffet on the head as felled him
dead upon the floor.

Then Sir Lancelot pulled in his body and barred the door again, and
dressed himself in his armour, and took his drawn sword in his hand.

But still the knights cried mightily without the door, "Traitor, come
forth!"

[Illustration: But still the knights cried mightily without the door,
"Traitor, come forth!"]

"Be silent and depart," replied Sir Lancelot; "for be ye sure ye will not
take me, and to-morrow will I meet ye face to face before the king."

"Ye shall have no such grace," they cried; "but we will slay thee, or take
thee as we list."

"Then save yourselves who may," he thundered, and therewith suddenly
unbarred the door and rushed forth at them. And at the first blow he slew
Sir Agravaine, and after him twelve other knights, with twelve more mighty
buffets. And none of all escaped him save Sir Modred, who, sorely wounded,
fled away for life.

Then returned he to the queen, and said, "Now, madam, will I depart, and
if ye be in any danger I pray ye come to me."

"Surely will I stay here, for I am queen," she answered; "yet if to-morrow
any harm come to me I trust to thee for rescue."

"Have ye no doubt of me," said he, "for ever while I live am I your own
true knight."

Therewith he took his leave, and went and told Sir Bors and all his
kindred of this adventure. "We will be with thee in this quarrel," said
they all; "and if the queen be sentenced to the fire, we certainly will
save her."

Meanwhile Sir Modred, in great fear and pain, fled from the court, and
rode until he found King Arthur, and told him all that had befallen. But
the king would scarce believe him till he came and saw the bodies of Sir
Agravaine and all the other knights.

Then felt he in himself that all was true, and with his passing grief his
heart nigh broke. "Alas!" cried he, "now is the fellowship of the Round
Table for ever broken: yea, woe is me! I may not with my honour spare my
queen."

Anon it was ordained that Queen Guinevere should be burned to death,
because she had dishonoured King Arthur.

But when Sir Gawain heard thereof, he came before the king, and said, "My
lord, I counsel thee be not too hasty in this matter, but stay the
judgment of the queen a season, for it may well be that Sir Lancelot was
in her chamber for no evil, seeing she is greatly beholden to him for so
many deeds done for her sake, and peradventure she had sent to him to
thank him, and did it secretly that she might avoid slander."

But King Arthur answered, full of grief, "Alas! I may not help her; she is
judged as any other woman."

Then he required Sir Gawain and his brethren, Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth,
to be ready to bear the queen to-morrow to the place of execution.

"Nay, noble lord," replied Sir Gawain, "that can I never do; for neither
will my heart suffer me to see the queen die, nor shall men ever say I was
of your counsel in this matter."

Then said his brothers, "Ye may command us to be there, but since it is
against our will, we will be without arms, that we may do no battle
against her."

So on the morrow was Queen Guinevere led forth to die by fire, and a
mighty crowd was there, of knights and nobles, armed and unarmed. And all
the lords and ladies wept sore at that piteous sight. Then was she shriven
by a priest, and the men came nigh to bind her to the stake and light the
fire.

At that Sir Lancelot's spies rode hastily and told him and his kindred,
who lay hidden in a wood hard by; and suddenly, with twenty knights, he
rushed into the midst of all the throng to rescue her.

But certain of King Arthur's knights rose up and fought with them, and
there was a full great battle and confusion. And Sir Lancelot drave
fiercely here and there among the press, and smote on every side, and at
every blow struck down a knight, so that many were slain by him and his
fellows.

Then was the queen set free, and caught up on Sir Lancelot's saddle and
fled away with him and all his company to the Castle of La Joyous Garde.

Now so it chanced that, in the turmoil of the fighting, Sir Lancelot had
unawares struck down and slain the two good knights Sir Gareth and Sir
Gaheris, knowing it not, for he fought wildly, and saw not that they were
unarmed.

When King Arthur heard thereof, and of all that battle, and the rescue of
the queen, he sorrowed heavily for those good knights, and was passing
wroth with Lancelot and the queen.

But when Sir Gawain heard of his brethren's death he swooned for sorrow
and wrath, for he wist that Sir Lancelot had killed them in malice. And as
soon as he recovered he ran in to the king, and said, "Lord king and
uncle, hear this oath which now I swear, that from this day I will not
fail Sir Lancelot till one of us hath slain the other. And now, unless ye
haste to war with him, that we may be avenged, will I myself alone go
after him."

Then the king, full of wrath and grief, agreed thereto, and sent letters
throughout the realm to summon all his knights, and went with a vast army
to besiege the Castle of La Joyous Garde. And Sir Lancelot, with his
knights, mightily defended it; but never would he suffer any to go forth
and attack one of the king's army, for he was right loth to fight against
him.

So when fifteen weeks were passed, and King Arthur's army wasted itself in
vain against the castle, for it was passing strong, it chanced upon a day
Sir Lancelot was looking from the walls and espied King Arthur and Sir
Gawain close beside.

"Come forth, Sir Lancelot," said King Arthur right fiercely, "and let us
two meet in the midst of the field."

"God forbid that I should encounter with thee, lord, for thou didst make
me a knight," replied Sir Lancelot.

Then cried Sir Gawain, "Shame on thee, traitor and false knight, yet be ye
well assured we will regain the queen and slay thee and thy company; yea,
double shame on ye to slay my brother Gaheris unarmed, Sir Gareth also,
who loved ye so well. For that treachery, be sure I am thine enemy till
death."

"Alas!" cried Sir Lancelot, "that I hear such tidings, for I knew not I
had slain those noble knights, and right sorely now do I repent it with a
heavy heart. Yet abate thy wrath, Sir Gawain, for ye know full well I did
it by mischance, for I loved them ever as my own brothers."

"Thou liest, false recreant," cried Sir Gawain, fiercely.

At that Sir Lancelot was wroth, and said, "I well see thou art now mine
enemy, and that there can be no more peace with thee, or with my lord the
king, else would I gladly give back the queen."

Then the king would fain have listened to Sir Lancelot, for more than all
his own wrong did he grieve at the sore waste and damage of the realm, but
Sir Gawain persuaded him against it, and ever cried out foully on Sir
Lancelot.

When Sir Bors and the other knights of Lancelot's party heard the fierce
words of Sir Gawain, they were passing wroth, and prayed to ride forth and
be avenged on him, for they were weary of so long waiting to no good. And
in the end Sir Lancelot, with a heavy heart, consented.

So on the morrow the hosts on either side met in the field, and there was
a great battle. And Sir Gawain prayed his knights chiefly to set upon Sir
Lancelot; but Sir Lancelot commanded his company to forbear King Arthur
and Sir Gawain.

So the two armies jousted together right fiercely, and Sir Gawain
proffered to encounter with Sir Lionel, and overthrew him. But Sir Bors,
and Sir Blamor, and Sir Palomedes, who were on Sir Lancelot's side, did
great feats of arms, and overthrew many of King Arthur's knights.

Then the king came forth against Sir Lancelot, but Sir Lancelot forbore
him and would not strike again.

At that Sir Bors rode up against the king and smote him down. But Sir
Lancelot cried, "Touch him not on pain of thy head," and going to King
Arthur he alighted and gave him his own horse, saying, "My lord, I pray
thee forbear this strife, for it can bring to neither of us any honour."

And when King Arthur looked on him the tears came to his eyes as he
thought of his noble courtesy, and he said within himself, "Alas! that
ever this war began."

But on the morrow Sir Gawain led forth the army again, and Sir Bors
commanded on Sir Lancelot's side. And they two struck together so fiercely
that both fell to the ground sorely wounded; and all the day they fought
till night fell, and many were slain on both sides, yet in the end neither
gained the victory.

But by now the fame of this fierce war spread through all Christendom, and
when the Pope heard thereof he sent a Bull, and charged King Arthur to
make peace with Lancelot, and receive back Queen Guinevere; and for the
offence imputed to her absolution should be given by the Pope.

Thereto would King Arthur straightway have obeyed, but Sir Gawain ever
urged him to refuse.

When Sir Lancelot heard thereof, he wrote thus to the king: "It was never
in my thought, lord, to withhold thy queen from thee; but since she was
condemned for my sake to death, I deemed it but a just and knightly part
to rescue her therefrom; wherefore I recommend me to your grace, and
within eight days will I come to thee and bring the queen in safety."

Then, within eight days, as he had said, Sir Lancelot rode from out the
castle with Queen Guinevere, and a hundred knights for company, each
carrying an olive branch, in sign of peace. And so they came to the court,
and found King Arthur sitting on his throne, with Sir Gawain and many
other knights around him. And when Sir Lancelot entered with the queen,
they both kneeled down before the king.

Anon Sir Lancelot rose and said, "My lord, I have brought hither my lady
the queen again, as right requireth, and by commandment of the Pope and
you. I pray ye take her to your heart again and forget the past. For
myself I may ask nothing, and for my sin I shall have sorrow and sore
punishment; yet I would to heaven I might have your grace."

But ere the king could answer, for he was moved with pity at his words,
Sir Gawain cried aloud, "Let the king do as he will, but be sure, Sir
Lancelot, thou and I shall never be accorded while we live, for thou has
slain my brethren traitorously and unarmed."

"As heaven is my help," replied Sir Lancelot, "I did it ignorantly, for I
loved them well, and while I live I shall bewail their death; but to make
war with me were no avail, for I must needs fight with thee if thou
assailest, and peradventure I might kill thee also, which I were right
loth to do."

"I will forgive thee never," cried Sir Gawain, "and if the king accordeth
with thee he shall lose my service."

Then the knights who stood near tried to reconcile Sir Gawain to Sir
Lancelot, but he would not hear them. So, at the last, Sir Lancelot said,
"Since peace is vain, I will depart, lest I bring more evil on my
fellowship."

And as he turned to go, the tears fell from him, and he said, "Alas, most
noble Christian realm, which I have loved above all others, now shall I
see thee never more!" Then said he to the queen, "Madam, now must I leave
ye and this noble fellowship for ever. And, I beseech ye, pray for me, and
if ye ever be defamed of any, let me hear thereof, and as I have been ever
thy true knight in right and wrong, so will I be again."

With that he kneeled and kissed King Arthur's hands, and departed on his
way. And there was none in all that court, save Sir Gawain alone, but wept
to see him go.

So he returned with all his knights to the Castle of La Joyous Garde, and,
for his sorrow's sake, he named it Dolorous Garde thenceforth.

Anon he left the realm, and went with many of his fellowship beyond the
sea to France, and there divided all his lands among them equally, he
sharing but as the rest.

And from that time forward peace had been between him and King Arthur, but
for Sir Gawain, who left the king no rest, but constantly persuaded him
that Lancelot was raising mighty hosts against him.

So in the end his malice overcame the king, who left the government in
charge of Modred, and made him guardian of the queen, and went with a
great army to invade Sir Lancelot's lands.

Yet Sir Lancelot would make no war upon the king, and sent a message to
gain peace on any terms King Arthur chose. But Sir Gawain met the herald
ere he reached the king, and sent him back with taunting and bitter words.
Whereat Sir Lancelot sorrowfully called his knights together and fortified
the Castle of Benwicke, and there was shortly besieged by the army of King
Arthur.

And every day Sir Gawain rode up to the walls, and cried out foully on Sir
Lancelot, till, upon a time, Sir Lancelot answered him that he would meet
him in the field and put his boasting to the proof. So it was agreed on
both sides that there should none come nigh them or separate them till one
had fallen or yielded; and they two rode forth.

Then did they wheel their horses apart, and turning, came together as it
had been thunder, so that both horses fell, and both their lances broke.
At that they drew their swords and set upon each other fiercely, with
passing grievous strokes.

Now Sir Gawain had through magic a marvellous great gift. For every day,
from morning till noon, his strength waxed to the might of seven men, but
after that waned to his natural force. Therefore till noon he gave Sir
Lancelot many mighty buffets, which scarcely he endured. Yet greatly he
forbore Sir Gawain, for he was aware of his enchantment, and smote him
slightly till his own knights marvelled. But after noon Sir Gawain's
strength sank fast, and then, with one full blow, Sir Lancelot laid him on
the earth. Then Sir Gawain cried out, "Turn not away, thou traitor knight,
but slay me if thou wilt, or else I will arise and fight with thee again
some other time."

"Sir knight," replied Sir Lancelot, "I never yet smote a fallen man."

At that they bore Sir Gawain sorely wounded to his tent, and King Arthur
withdrew his men, for he was loth to shed the blood of so many knights of
his own fellowship.

But now came tidings to King Arthur from across the sea, which caused him
to return in haste. For thus the news ran, that no sooner was Sir Modred
set up in his regency, than he had forged false tidings from abroad that
the king had fallen in a battle with Sir Lancelot. Whereat he had
proclaimed himself the king, and had been crowned at Canterbury, where he
had held a coronation feast for fifteen days. Then he had gone to
Winchester, where Queen Guinevere abode, and had commanded her to be his
wife; whereto, for fear and sore perplexity, she had feigned consent, but,
under pretext of preparing for the marriage, had fled in haste to London
and taken shelter in the Tower, fortifying it and providing it with all
manner of victuals, and defending it against Sir Modred, and answering to
all his threats that she would rather slay herself than be his queen.

Thus was it written to King Arthur. Then, in passing great wrath and
haste, he came with all his army swiftly back from France and sailed to
England. But when Sir Modred heard thereof, he left the Tower and marched
with all his host to meet the king at Dover.

Then fled Queen Guinevere to Amesbury to a nunnery, and there she clothed
herself in sackcloth, and spent her time in praying for the king and in
good deeds and fasting. And in that nunnery evermore she lived, sorely
repenting and mourning for her sin, and for the ruin she had brought on
all the realm. And there anon she died.

And when Sir Lancelot heard thereof, he put his knightly armour off, and
bade farewell to all his kin, and went a mighty pilgrimage for many years,
and after lived a hermit till his death.

When Sir Modred came to Dover, he found King Arthur and his army but just
landed; and there they fought a fierce and bloody battle, and many great
and noble knights fell on both sides.

But the king's side had the victory, for he was beyond himself with might
and passion, and all his knights so fiercely followed him, that, in spite
of all their multitude, they drove Sir Modred's army back with fearful
wounds and slaughter, and slept that night upon the battle-field.

But Sir Gawain was smitten by an arrow in the wound Sir Lancelot gave him,
and wounded to the death. Then was he borne to the king's tent, and King
Arthur sorrowed over him as it had been his own son. "Alas!" said he; "in
Sir Lancelot and in you I had my greatest earthly joy, and now is all gone
from me."

And Sir Gawain answered, with a feeble voice, "My lord and king, I know
well my death is come, and through my own wilfulness, for I am smitten in
the wound Sir Lancelot gave me. Alas! that I have been the cause of all
this war, for but for me thou hadst been now at peace with Lancelot, and
then had Modred never done this treason. I pray ye, therefore, my dear
lord, be now agreed with Lancelot, and tell him, that although he gave me
my death-wound, it was through my own seeking; wherefore I beseech him to
come back to England, and here to visit my tomb, and pray for my soul."

When he had thus spoken, Sir Gawain gave up his ghost, and the king
grievously mourned for him.

Then they told him that the enemy had camped on Barham Downs, whereat,
with all his hosts, he straightway marched there, and fought again a
bloody battle, and overthrew Sir Modred utterly. Howbeit, he raised yet
another army, and retreating ever from before the king, increased his
numbers as he went, till at the farthest west in Lyonesse, he once more
made a stand.

Now, on the night of Trinity Sunday, being the eve of the battle, King
Arthur had a vision, and saw Sir Gawain in a dream, who warned him not to
fight with Modred on the morrow, else he would be surely slain; and prayed
him to delay till Lancelot and his knights should come to aid him.

So when King Arthur woke he told his lords and knights that vision, and
all agreed to wait the coming of Sir Lancelot. Then a herald was sent with
a message of truce to Sir Modred, and a treaty was made that neither army
should assail the other.

But when the treaty was agreed upon, and the heralds returned, King Arthur
said to his knights, "Beware, lest Sir Modred deceive us, for I in no wise
trust him, and if swords be drawn be ready to encounter!" And Sir Modred
likewise gave an order, that if any man of the king's army drew his sword,
they should begin to fight.

And as it chanced, a knight of the king's side was bitten by an adder in
the foot, and hastily drew forth his sword to slay it. That saw Sir
Modred, and forthwith commanded all his army to assail the king's.

So both sides rushed to battle, and fought passing fiercely. And when the
king saw there was no hope to stay them, he did right mightily and nobly
as a king should do, and ever, like a lion, raged in the thickest of the
press, and slew on the right hand and on the left, till his horse went
fetlock deep in blood. So all day long they fought, and stinted not till
many a noble knight was slain.

But the king was passing sorrowful to see his trusty knights lie dead on
every side. And at the last but two remained beside him, Sir Lucan, and
his brother, Sir Bedivere, and both were sorely wounded.

"Now am I come to mine end," said King Arthur; "but, lo! that traitor
Modred liveth yet, and I may not die till I have slain him. Now, give me
my spear, Sir Lucan."

"Lord, let him be," replied Sir Lucan; "for if ye pass through this
unhappy day, ye shall be right well revenged upon him. My good lord,
remember well your dream, and what the spirit of Sir Gawain did forewarn
ye."

"Betide me life, betide me death," said the king; "now I see him yonder
alone, he shall never escape my hands, for at a better vantage shall I
never have him."

"God speed you well," said Sir Bedivere.

Then King Arthur got his spear in both his hands, and ran towards Sir
Modred, crying, "Traitor, now is thy death-day come!" And when Sir Modred
heard his words, and saw him come, he drew his sword and stood to meet
him. Then King Arthur smote Sir Modred through the body more than a
fathom. And when Sir Modred felt he had his death wound, he thrust himself
with all his might up to the end of King Arthur's spear, and smote his
father, Arthur, with his sword upon the head, so that it pierced both helm
and brain-pan.

And therewith Sir Modred fell down stark dead to the earth, and King
Arthur fell down also in a swoon, and swooned many times.

Then Sir Lucan and Sir Bedivere came and bare him away to a little chapel
by the sea-shore. And there Sir Lucan sank down with the bleeding of his
own wounds, and fell dead.

And King Arthur lay long in a swoon, and when he came to himself, he found
Sir Lucan lying dead beside him, and Sir Bedivere weeping over the body of
his brother.

Then said the king to Sir Bedivere, "Weeping will avail no longer, else
would I grieve for evermore. Alas! now is the fellowship of the Round
Table dissolved for ever, and all my realm I have so loved is wasted with
war. But my time hieth fast, wherefore take thou Excalibur, my good sword,
and go therewith to yonder water-side and throw it in, and bring me word
what thing thou seest."

So Sir Bedivere departed; but as he went he looked upon the sword, the
hilt whereof was all inlaid with precious stones exceeding rich. And
presently he said within himself, "If I now throw this sword into the
water, what good should come of it?" So he hid the sword among the reeds,
and came again to the king.

"What sawest thou?" said he to Sir Bedivere.

"Lord," said he, "I saw nothing else but wind and waves."

"Thou hast untruly spoken," said the king; "wherefore go lightly back and
throw it in, and spare not."

Then Sir Bedivere returned again, and took the sword up in his hand; but
when he looked on it, he thought it sin and shame to throw away a thing so
noble. Wherefore he hid it yet again, and went back to the king.

"What saw ye?" said King Arthur.

"Lord," answered he, "I saw nothing but the water ebbing and flowing."

"Oh, traitor and untrue!" cried out the king; "twice hast thou now
betrayed me. Art thou called of men a noble knight, and wouldest betray me
for a jewelled sword? Now, therefore, go again for the last time, for thy
tarrying hath put me in sore peril of my life, and I fear my wound hath
taken cold; and if thou do it not this time, by my faith I will arise and
slay thee with my hands."

Then Sir Bedivere ran quickly and took up the sword, and went down to the
water's edge, and bound the girdle round the hilt and threw it far into
the water. And lo! an arm and hand came forth above the water, and caught
the sword, and brandished it three times, and vanished.

So Sir Bedivere came again to the king and told him what he had seen.

"Help me from hence," said King Arthur; "for I dread me I have tarried
over long."

Then Sir Bedivere took the king up in his arms, and bore him to the
water's edge. And by the shore they saw a barge with three fair queens
therein, all dressed in black, and when they saw King Arthur they wept and
wailed.

"Now put me in the barge," said he to Sir Bedivere, and tenderly he did
so.

Then the three queens received him, and he laid his head upon the lap of
one of them, who cried, "Alas! dear brother, why have ye tarried so long,
for your wound hath taken cold?"

With that the barge put from the land, and when Sir Bedivere saw it
departing, he cried with a bitter cry, "Alas! my lord King Arthur, what
shall become of me now ye have gone from me?"

"Comfort ye," said King Arthur, "and be strong, for I may no more help ye.
I go to the Vale of Avilion to heal me of my grievous wound, and if ye see
me no more, pray for my soul."

Then the three queens kneeled down around the king and sorely wept and
wailed, and the barge went forth to sea, and departed slowly out of Sir
Bedivere's sight.

 
 
 
 
 

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