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Title: Stories from Le Morte D'Arthur and the Mabinogion
Author: Clay, Beatrice
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_The_ KINGS TREASURIES OF LITERATURE

  GENERAL EDITOR
  SIR A.T. QUILLER COUCH


[Illustration: THE LADY OF THE LAKE TELLETH ARTHUR
OF THE SWORD EXCALIBUR]

NEW YORK--E.P. DUTTON & COMPANY


[Illustration: FIRST AND CHIEF OF ALL THE
THREE BEST MOST CHRISTIAN
AND WORTHY, KING ARTHUR]

  STORIES FROM LE MORTE D'ARTHUR
  AND THE MABINOGION

  RETOLD BY
  BEATRICE CLAY

LONDON & TORONTO--J.M. DENT & SONS Ltd.


SOLE AGENT FOR SCOTLAND
THE GRANT EDUCATIONAL CO. LTD.
GLASGOW

FIRST EDITION, 1920
REPRINTED, 1922, 1924

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN



CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION


BOOK I.--THE COMING OF ARTHUR

      I. OF ARTHUR'S BIRTH; AND HOW HE BECAME KING
     II. THE ROUND TABLE
    III. OF THE FINDING OF EXCALIBUR
     IV. OF THE TREACHERY OF QUEEN MORGAN LE FAY
      V. HOW THE SCABBARD OF EXCALIBUR WAS LOST
     VI. MERLIN
    VII. BALIN AND BALAN


BOOK II.--SIR LAUNCELOT

   VIII. SIR LAUNCELOT DU LAC
     IX. THE ADVENTURE OF THE CHAPEL PERILOUS
      X. SIR LAUNCELOT AND THE FALCON


BOOK III.--SIR TRISTRAM

     XI. OF THE BIRTH OF ST. TRISTRAM
    XII. HOW TRISTRAM FOUGHT WITH SIR MARHAUS OF IRELAND
   XIII. THE FAIR ISOLT
    XIV. HOW KING MARK SENT SIR TRISTRAM TO FETCH HIM A WIFE
     XV. HOW SIR TRISTRAM AND THE FAIR ISOLT DRANK OF THE MAGIC POTION
    XVI. OF THE END OF SIR TRISTRAM


BOOK IV.--KING ARTHUR'S NEPHEWS

   XVII. SIR GAWAIN AND THE LADY
  XVIII. THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GARETH


BOOK V.--SIR GERAINT

    XIX. THE ADVENTURES OF GERAINT
     XX. GERAINT AND ENID


BOOK VI.--THE LADY OF THE FOUNTAIN

    XXI. THE LADY OF THE FOUNTAIN


BOOK VII.--SIR PEREDUR

   XXII. THE ADVENTURES OF SIR PEREDUR


BOOK VIII.--THE HOLY GRAIL

  XXIII. THE COMING OF SIR GALAHAD
   XXIV. HOW SIR GALAHAD WON THE RED-CROSS SHIELD
    XXV. THE ADVENTURES OF SIR PERCIVALE
   XXVI. THE ADVENTURES OF SIR BORS
  XXVII. THE ADVENTURES OF SIR LAUNCELOT
 XXVIII. HOW SIR LAUNCELOT SAW THE HOLY GRAIL
   XXIX. THE END OF THE QUEST


BOOK IX.--THE FAIR MAID OF ASTOLAT

    XXX. THE FAIR MAID OF ASTOLAT


BOOK X.--QUEEN GUENEVERE

   XXXI. HOW MORDRED PLOTTED AGAINST SIR LAUNCELOT
  XXXII. THE TRIAL OF THE QUEEN
 XXXIII. HOW SIR GAWAIN DEFIED SIR LAUNCELOT
  XXXIV. HOW KING ARTHUR AND SIR GAWAIN WENT TO FRANCE


BOOK XI.--THE MORTE D'ARTHUR

   XXXV. MORDRED THE TRAITOR
  XXXVI. THE BATTLE IN THE WEST
 XXXVII. THE PASSING OF ARTHUR
XXXVIII. THE DEATH OF SIR LAUNCELOT AND OF THE QUEEN



INTRODUCTION


Among the stories of world-wide renown, not the least stirring are
those that have gathered about the names of national heroes. The
_Æneid_, the _Nibelungenlied_, the _Chanson de Roland_, the _Morte
D'Arthur_,--they are not history, but they have been as National
Anthems to the races, and their magic is not yet dead.

In olden times our forefathers used to say that the world had seen
nine great heroes, three heathen, three Jewish, and three
Christian; among the Christian heroes was British Arthur, and of
none is the fame greater. Even to the present day, his name
lingers in many widely distant places. In the peninsula of Gower, a
huge slab of rock, propped up on eleven short pillars, is still
called Arthur's Stone; the lofty ridge which looks down upon
Edinburgh bears the name of Arthur's Seat; and--strangest, perhaps,
of all--in the Franciscan Church of far-away Innsbrück, the finest
of the ten statues of ancestors guarding the tomb of the Emperor
Maximilian I. is that of King Arthur. There is hardly a country in
Europe without its tales of the Warrior-King; and yet of any real
Arthur history tells us little, and that little describes, not the
knightly conqueror, but the king of a broken people, struggling for
very life.

More than fifteen centuries ago, this country, now called England,
was inhabited by a Celtic race known as the Britons, a warlike
people, divided into numerous tribes constantly at war with each
other. But in the first century of the Christian era they were
conquered by the Romans, who added Britain to their vast empire and
held it against attacks from without and rebellions from within by
stationing legions, or troops of soldiers, in strongly fortified
places all over the country. Now, from their conquerors, the
Britons learnt many useful arts, to read and to write, to build
houses and to make roads; but at the same time, they unlearnt some
of their own virtues and, among others, how to think and act for
themselves. For the Romans never allowed a Briton any real part in
the government of his own country, and if he wished to become a
soldier, he was sent away from Britain to serve with a legion
stationed in some far-distant part of the empire. Thus it came
about that when, in the fifth century, the Romans withdrew from
Britain to defend Rome itself from invading hordes of savages, the
unhappy Britons had forgotten how to govern and how to defend
themselves, and fell an easy prey to the many enemies waiting to
pounce on their defenceless country. Picts from Scotland invaded
the north, and Scots from Ireland plundered the west; worst of all,
the heathen Angles and Saxons, pouring across the seas from their
homes in the Elbe country, wasted the land with fire and sword.
Many of the Britons were slain; those who escaped sought refuge in
the mountainous parts of the west from Cornwall to the Firth of
Clyde. There, forgetting, to some extent, their quarrels, they took
the name of the Cymry, which means the "Brethren," though the
English, unable to understand their language, spoke of them
contemptuously as the "Welsh," or the "Strangers."

For a long time the struggle went on between the two races, and
nowhere mere fiercely than in the south-west, where the invaders set
up the Kingdom of Wessex; but at last there arose among the Britons a
great chieftain called Arthur. The old histories speak of him as
"Emperor," and he seems to have been obeyed by all the Britons;
perhaps, therefore, he had succeeded to the position of the Roman
official known as the Comes Britanniæ, whose duty it was to hasten to
the aid of the local governors in defending any part of Britain where
danger threatened. At all events, under his leadership, the oppressed
people defeated the Saxons in a desperate fight at Mons Badonicus,
perhaps the little place in Dorsetshire known as Badbury, or, it may
be, Bath itself, which is still called Badon by the Welsh. After that
victory, history has little to say about Arthur. The stories tell that
he was killed in a great battle in the west; but, nowadays, the wisest
historians think it more probable that he met his death in a conflict
near the River Forth.

And so, in history, Arthur, the hero of such a mass of romantic
story, is little more than a name, and it is hardly possible to
explain how he attained to such renown as the hero of marvellous
and, sometimes, magical feats, unless on the supposition that he
became confused with some legendary hero, half god, half man, whose
fame he added to his own. Perhaps not the least marvel about him is
that he who was the hero of the Britons, should have become the
national hero of the English race that he spent his life in
fighting. Yet that is what did happen, though not till long
afterwards, when the victorious English, in their turn, bent before
their conquering kinsmen, the Normans.

Now in the reign of the third Norman king, Henry I., there lived a
certain Welsh priest known as Geoffrey of Monmouth. Geoffrey seems
to have been much about the Court, and perhaps it was the Norman
love of stories that first made him think of writing his _History
of the British Kings_. A wonderful tale he told of all the British
kings from the time that Brut the Trojan settled in the country and
called it, after himself, Britain! For Geoffrey's book was history
only in name. What he tells us is that he was given an ancient
chronicle found in Brittany, and was asked to translate it from
Welsh into the better known language, Latin. It is hardly likely,
however, that Geoffrey himself expected his statement to be taken
quite seriously. Even in his own day, not every one believed in
him, for a certain Yorkshire monk declared that the historian had
"lied saucily and shamelessly"; and some years later, Gerald the
Welshman tells of a man who had intercourse with devils, from whose
sway, however, he could be freed if a Bible were placed upon his
breast, whereas he was completely under their control if Geoffrey's
_History_ were laid upon him, just because the book was so full of
lies.

It is quite certain that Geoffrey did not write history, but he did
make a capital story, partly by collecting legends about British
heroes, partly by inventing stories of his own; so that though he
is not entitled to fame as an historian, he may claim to rank high
as a romantic story-teller who set a fashion destined to last for
some three centuries.

So popular was his book that, not only in England, but, in an even
greater degree, on the Continent, writers were soon at work,
collecting and making more stories about the greatest of his kings,
Arthur. By some it is thought that the Normans took such delight in
the knightly deeds of Geoffrey's heroes that they spread the story
in France when they visited their homes in Normandy. Moreover, they
were in a good position to learn other tales of their favourite
knights, for Normandy bordered on Brittany, the home of the
Bretons, who, being of the same race as the Welsh, honoured the
same heroes in their legends. So in return for Geoffrey's tales,
Breton stories, perhaps, found their way into England; at all
events, marvellous romances of King Arthur and his Round Table were
soon being told in England, in France, in Germany and in Italy.

Now, to some it may seem strange that story-tellers should care to
weave their stories so constantly about the same personages;
strange, too, that they should invent stories about men and women
who were believed actually to have existed. But it must be
remembered that, in those early days, very few could read and
write, and that, before printing was invented, books were so scarce
that four or five constituted quite a library. Those who knew how
to read, and were so fortunate as to have books, read them again
and again. For the rest, though kings and great nobles might have
poets attached to their courts, the majority depended for their
amusement on the professional story-teller. In the long winter
evening, no one was more welcome than the wandering minstrel. He
might be the knightly troubadour who, accompanied by a jongleur to
play his accompaniments, wandered from place to place out of sheer
love of his art and of adventure; more often, however, the minstrel
made story-telling his trade, and gained his living from the bounty
of his audience--be it in castle, market-place, or inn. Most
commonly, the narratives took the form of long rhyming poems; not
because the people in those days were so poetical--indeed, some of
these poems would be thought, in present times, very dreary
doggerel--but because rhyme is easier to remember than prose.
Story-tellers had generally much the same stock-in-trade--stories
of Arthur, Charlemagne, Sir Guy of Warwick, Sir Bevis of
Southampton, and so on. If a minstrel had skill of his own, he
would invent some new episode, and so, perhaps, turn a compliment
to his patron by introducing the exploit of an ancestor, at the
same time that he made his story last longer. People did not weary
of hearing the same tales over and over again, any more than little
children get tired of nursery rhymes, or their elders turn away
from "Punch and Judy," though the same little play has been
performed for centuries. As for inventing stories about real
people, that may well have seemed permissible in an age when
historians recorded mere hearsay as actual fact. Richard III.,
perhaps, had one shoulder higher than the other, but within a few
years of his death grave historians had represented him as a
hunchbacked deformity.

The romances connected with King Arthur and his knights went on
steadily growing in number until the fifteenth century; of them,
some have survived to the present day, but undoubtedly many have
been lost. Then, in the latter half of the fifteenth century, the
most famous of all the Arthurian stories was given to the world in
Sir Thomas Malory's _Morte D'Arthur_. By good luck, the great
printer who made it one of his first works, has left an account of
the circumstances that led to its production. In the reign of
Edward IV., William Caxton set up his printing-press (the first in
England) in the precincts of Westminster Abbey. There he was
visited, as he himself relates, by "many noble and divers gentlemen"
demanding why he had not printed the "noble history of the Saint Grail
and of the most-renowned Christian King ... Arthur." To please them,
and because he himself loved chivalry, Caxton printed Sir Thomas
Malory's story, in which all that is best in the many Arthurian
romances is woven into one grand narrative.

Since then, in our own days, the story of Arthur and his knights
has been told in beautiful verse by Lord Tennyson; but for the
originals of some of his poems it would be useless to look in
Malory. The story of Geraint and Enid, Tennyson derived from a very
interesting collection of translations of ancient Welsh stories
made by Lady Charlotte Guest, and by her called _Mabinogion_,[1]
although not all Welsh scholars would consider the name quite
accurate.

[Footnote 1: Meaning the apprentices of the bards.]

And now it is time to say something about the stories themselves.
The Arthur of history was engaged in a life-long struggle with an
enemy that threatened to rob his people of home, of country, and of
freedom; in the stories, the king and his knights, like Richard
Coeur-de-Lion, sought adventure for adventure's sake, or, as in the
case of Sir Peredur, took fantastic vows for the love of a lady.
The Knights of the Round Table are sheathed from head to foot in
plate armour, although the real Arthur's warriors probably had only
shirts of mail and shields with which to ward off the blows of the
enemy. They live in moated castles instead of in halls of wood,
and they are more often engaged in tournaments than in struggles
with the heathen. In fact, those who wrote the stories represented
their heroes as living such lives as they themselves led. Just in
the same way, Dutch painters used to represent the shepherds in the
Bible story as Dutch peasants; just so David Garrick, the great
actor of the eighteenth century, used to act the part of a Roman in
his own full-bottomed wig and wide-skirted coat.

It must not be forgotten that, in those far-away days when there
were few who could even read or write, there was little that, in
their ignorance, people were not prepared to believe. Stories of
marvels and magic that would deceive no one now, were then eagerly
accepted as truth. Those were the days when philosophers expected
to discover the Elixir of Life; when doctors consulted the stars in
treating their patients; when a noble of the royal blood, such as
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, could fall into disgrace because his
wife was accused of trying to compass the king's death by melting a
wax image of him before a slow fire.

Of all the stories, perhaps the most mystical is that of the Quest
of the Holy Grail, and it has features peculiar to itself. Nuns
take the place of fair ladies; there are hermitages instead of
castles; and the knights themselves, if they do not die, become
monks or hermits. The reason for this change in scene and character
is, that this is a romance in which the Church was trying to teach
men, by means of a tale such as they loved, the lesson of devotion
and purity of heart.

The story sprang from certain legends which had grown up about the
name of Joseph of Arimathea. It was related that, when our Lord was
crucified, Joseph caught in a dish, or vessel, the blood which
flowed from His wounded side. In later years, the pious Jew left
his home and, taking with him the precious vessel, sailed away on
unknown seas until he came to the land of Britain. In that country
he landed, and at Glastonbury he built himself a hermitage, where
he treasured the sacred dish which came to be known as the Saint
Grail. After Joseph's death, the world grew more wicked, and so the
Holy Grail disappeared from the sight of sinful men, although, from
time to time, the vision of it was granted, as in the story, to the
pure in heart.

In later days, legend said that where Joseph's hermitage had stood,
there grew up the famous monastery of Glastonbury, and it came to
have a special importance of its own in the Arthurian romance. In
the reign of Henry II., by the king's orders, the monks of
Glastonbury made search for the grave of King Arthur, and, in due
time, they announced that they had found it, nine feet below the
soil, the coffin covered with a stone in which was inlaid a leaden
cross bearing this inscription: "Hic iacet sepultus inclitus rex
Arthurius in insula Avalonia." Some, however, suggested that the
monks, less honest than anxious to please the masterful king, had
first placed the stone in position and then found it!

One more feature of the tales remains to be mentioned: their
geography. There is no atlas that will make it plain in all cases; and
this is hardly wonderful, for so little was known of this subject
that, even in the reign of Henry VIII., the learned Lord Berners was
quite satisfied that his hero should journey to Babylon by way of the
Nile! Some of the places mentioned in the stories are, of course,
familiar, and others, less well known, can, with a little care, be
traced; but to identify all is not possible. Caerleon, where King
Arthur so often held his Court, still bears the same name, though its
glory has sorely shrank since the days when it had a bishop of its
own. Camelot, where stood the marvellous palace built for the king by
Merlin, is perhaps the village of Queen's Camel in Somersetshire. If
it is borne in mind that the French call Wales _Pays de Galles_, it is
not difficult to see that North Galis may well be North Wales. Gore is
the peninsula of Gower; Liones probably the land south-west of
Cornwall, now sunk beneath the sea; and Avalonia was the name given to
one of the many small islands of the once marshy, low-lying shore of
Somersetshire, which became afterwards better known as Glastonbury.

Happily, it is neither on their history nor on their geography that
the tales depend for their interest. As long as a story of adventure
thrills; as long as gentleness, courtesy and consideration for the
weak excite respect, so long will be read the tales of the brave times

     "When every morning brought a noble chance,
     And every chance brought out a noble knight."



STORIES FROM LE MORTE D'ARTHUR AND THE MABINOGION



BOOK I

THE COMING OF ARTHUR



CHAPTER I

OF ARTHUR'S BIRTH; AND HOW HE BECAME KING


Long years ago, there ruled over Britain a king called Uther
Pendragon. A mighty prince was he, and feared by all men; yet, when
he sought the love of the fair Igraine of Cornwall, she would have
naught to do with him, so that, from grief and disappointment,
Uther fell sick, and at last seemed like to die.

Now in those days, there lived a famous magician named Merlin, so
powerful that he could change his form at will, or even make
himself invisible; nor was there any place so remote but that he
could reach it at once, merely by wishing himself there. One day,
suddenly he stood at Uther's bedside, and said: "Sir King, I know
thy grief, and am ready to help thee. Only promise to give me, at
his birth, the son that shall be born to thee, and thou shalt have
thy heart's desire." To this the king agreed joyfully, and Merlin
kept his word: for he gave Uther the form of one whom Igraine had
loved dearly, and so she took him willingly for her husband.

When the time had come that a child should be born to the King and
Queen, Merlin appeared before Uther to remind him of his promise;
and Uther swore it should be as he had said. Three days later, a
prince was born, and, with pomp and ceremony, was christened by the
name of Arthur; but immediately thereafter, the King commanded that
the child should be carried to the postern-gate, there to be given
to the old man who would be found waiting without.

Not long after, Uther fell sick, and he knew that his end was come;
so, by Merlin's advice, he called together his knights and barons,
and said to them: "My death draws near. I charge you, therefore,
that ye obey my son even as ye have obeyed me; and my curse upon
him if he claim not the crown when he is a man grown." Then the
King turned his face to the wall and died.

Scarcely was Uther laid in his grave before disputes arose. Few of
the nobles had seen Arthur or even heard of him, and not one of
them would have been willing to be ruled by a child; rather, each
thought himself fitted to be king, and, strengthening his own
castle, made war on his neighbours until confusion alone was
supreme, and the poor groaned because there was none to help them.

Now when Merlin carried away Arthur--for Merlin was the old man who
had stood at the postern-gate--he had known all that would happen,
and had taken the child to keep him safe from the fierce barons
until he should be of age to rule wisely and well, and perform all
the wonders prophesied of him. He gave the child to the care of the
good knight Sir Ector to bring up with his son Kay, but revealed
not to him that it was the son of Uther Pendragon that was given
into his charge.

At last, when years had passed and Arthur was grown a tall youth
well skilled in knightly exercises, Merlin went to the Archbishop
of Canterbury and advised him that he should call together at
Christmas-time all the chief men of the realm to the great
cathedral in London; "For," said Merlin, "there shall be seen a
great marvel by which it shall be made clear to all men who is the
lawful King of this land." The Archbishop did as Merlin counselled.
Under pain of a fearful curse, he bade barons and knights come to
London to keep the feast, and to pray heaven to send peace to the
realm.

The people hastened to obey the Archbishop's commands, and, from
all sides, barons and knights came riding in to keep the
birth-feast of our Lord. And when they had prayed, and were coming
forth from the cathedral, they saw a strange sight. There, in the
open space before the church, stood, on a great stone, an anvil
thrust through with a sword; and on the stone were written these
words: "Whoso can draw forth this sword, is rightful King of
Britain born."

At once there were fierce quarrels, each man clamouring to be the
first to try his fortune, none doubting his own success. Then the
Archbishop decreed that each should make the venture in turn, from
the greatest baron to the least knight; and each in turn, having
put forth his utmost strength, failed to move the sword one inch,
and drew back ashamed. So the Archbishop dismissed the company, and
having appointed guards to watch over the stone, sent messengers
through all the land to give word of great jousts to be held in
London at Easter, when each knight could give proof of his skill
and courage, and try whether the adventure of the sword was for
him.

Among those who rode to London at Easter was the good Sir Ector,
and with him his son, Sir Kay, newly made a knight, and the young
Arthur. When the morning came that the jousts should begin, Sir Kay
and Arthur mounted their horses and set out for the lists; but
before they reached the field, Kay looked and saw that he had left
his sword behind. Immediately Arthur turned back to fetch it for
him, only to find the house fast shut, for all were gone to view
the tournament. Sore vexed was Arthur, fearing lest his brother Kay
should lose his chance of gaining glory, till, of a sudden, he
bethought him of the sword in the great anvil before the cathedral.
Thither he rode with all speed, and the guards having deserted
their post to view the tournament, there was none to forbid him the
adventure. He leaped from his horse, seized the hilt, and instantly
drew forth the sword as easily as from a scabbard; then, mounting
his horse and thinking no marvel of what he had done, he rode after
his brother and handed him the weapon.

When Kay looked at it, he saw at once that it was the wondrous
sword from the stone. In great joy he sought his father, and
showing it to him, said: "Then must I be King of Britain." But Sir
Ector bade him say how he came by the sword, and when Sir Kay told
how Arthur had brought it to him, Sir Ector bent his knee to the
boy, and said: "Sir, I perceive that ye are my King, and here I
tender you my homage"; and Kay did as his father. Then the three
sought the Archbishop, to whom they related all that had happened;
and he, much marvelling, called the people together to the great
stone, and bade Arthur thrust back the sword and draw it forth
again in the presence of all, which he did with ease. But an angry
murmur arose from the barons, who cried that what a boy could do, a
man could do; so, at the Archbishop's word, the sword was put back,
and each man, whether baron or knight, tried in his turn to draw it
forth, and failed. Then, for the third time, Arthur drew forth the
sword. Immediately there arose from the people a great shout:
"Arthur is King! Arthur is King! We will have no King but Arthur";
and, though the great barons scowled and threatened, they fell on
their knees before him while the Archbishop placed the crown upon
his head, and swore to obey him faithfully as their lord and
sovereign.

Thus Arthur was made King; and to all he did justice, righting
wrongs and giving to all their dues. Nor was he forgetful of those
that had been his friends; for Kay, whom he loved as a brother, he
made Seneschal and chief of his household, and to Sir Ector, his
foster-father, he gave broad lands.



CHAPTER II

THE ROUND TABLE


Thus Arthur was made King, but he had to fight for his own; for
eleven great kings drew together and refused to acknowledge him as
their lord, and chief amongst the rebels was King Lot of Orkney who
had married Arthur's sister, Bellicent.

By Merlin's advice, Arthur sent for help overseas, to Ban and Bors,
the two great Kings who ruled in Gaul. With their aid, he overthrew
his foes in a great battle near the river Trent; and then he passed
with them into their own lands and helped them drive out their
enemies. So there was ever great friendship between Arthur and the
Kings Ban and Bors, and all their kindred; and afterwards some of
the most famous Knights of the Round Table were of that kin.

Then King Arthur set himself to restore order throughout his
kingdom. To all who would submit and amend their evil ways, he
showed kindness; but those who persisted in oppression and wrong he
removed, putting in their places others who would deal justly with
the people. And because the land had become overrun with forest
during the days of misrule, he cut roads through the thickets, that
no longer wild beasts and men, fiercer than the beasts, should lurk
in their gloom, to the harm of the weak and defenceless. Thus it
came to pass that soon the peasant ploughed his fields in safety,
and where had been wastes, men dwelt again in peace and prosperity.

Amongst the lesser kings whom Arthur helped to rebuild their towns
and restore order, was King Leodegrance of Cameliard. Now
Leodegrance had one fair child, his daughter Guenevere; and from
the time that first he saw her, Arthur gave her all his love. So he
sought counsel of Merlin, his chief adviser. Merlin heard the King
sorrowfully, and he said: "Sir King, when a man's heart is set, he
may not change. Yet had it been well if ye had loved another."

So the King sent his knights to Leodegrance, to ask of him his
daughter; and Leodegrance consented, rejoicing to wed her to so
good and knightly a King. With great pomp, the princess was
conducted to Canterbury, and there the King met her, and they two
were wed by the Archbishop in the great Cathedral, amid the
rejoicings of the people.

On that same day did Arthur found his Order of the Round Table, the
fame of which was to spread throughout Christendom and endure
through all time. Now the Round Table had been made for King Uther
Pendragon by Merlin, who had meant thereby to set forth plainly to
all men the roundness of the earth. After Uther died, King
Leodegrance had possessed it; but when Arthur was wed, he sent it
to him as a gift, and great was the King's joy at receiving it. One
hundred and fifty knights might take their places about it, and for
them Merlin made sieges or seats. One hundred and twenty-eight did
Arthur knight at that great feast; thereafter, if any sieges were
empty, at the high festival of Pentecost new knights were ordained
to fill them, and by magic was the name of each knight found
inscribed, in letters of gold, in his proper siege. One seat only
long remained unoccupied, and that was the Siege Perilous. No
knight might occupy it until the coming of Sir Galahad; for,
without danger to his life, none might sit there who was not free
from all stain of sin.

With pomp and ceremony did each knight take upon him the vows of
true knighthood: to obey the King; to show mercy to all who asked
it; to defend the weak; and for no worldly gain to fight in a
wrongful cause: and all the knights rejoiced together, doing honour
to Arthur and to his Queen. Then they rode forth to right the wrong
and help the oppressed, and by their aid, the King held his realm
in peace, doing justice to all.



CHAPTER III

OF THE FINDING OF EXCALIBUR


Now when Arthur was first made King, as young knights will, he
courted peril for its own sake, and often would he ride unattended
by lonely forest ways, seeking the adventure that chance might send
him. All unmindful was he of the ruin to his realm if mischief
befell him; and even his trusty counsellors, though they grieved
that he should thus imperil him, yet could not but love him the
more for his hardihood.

So, on a day, he rode through the Forest Perilous where dwelt the
Lady Annoure, a sorceress of great might, who used her magic powers
but for the furtherance of her own desires. And as she looked from
a turret window, she descried King Arthur come riding down a forest
glade, and the sunbeams falling upon him made one glory of his
armour and of his yellow hair. Then, as Annoure gazed upon the
King, her heart grew hot within her, and she resolved that, come
what might, she would have him for her own, to dwell with her
always and fulfil all her behests. And so she bade lower the
drawbridge and raise the portcullis, and sallying forth accompanied
by her maidens, she gave King Arthur courteous salutation, and
prayed him that he would rest within her castle that day, for that
she had a petition to make to him; and Arthur, doubting nothing of
her good faith, suffered himself to be led within.

Then was a great feast spread, and Annoure caused the King to be
seated in a chair of state at her right hand, while squires and
pages served him on bended knee. So when they had feasted, the King
turned to the Lady Annoure and said courteously: "Lady, somewhat ye
said of a request that ye would make. If there be aught in which I
may pleasure you, I pray you let me know it, and I will serve you
as knightly as I may." "In truth," said the lady, "there is that
which I would fain entreat of you, most noble knight; yet suffer, I
beseech you, that first I may show you somewhat of my castle and my
estate, and then will I crave a boon of your chivalry." Then the
sorceress led King Arthur from room to room of her castle, and ever
each displayed greater store of beauty than the last. In some the
walls were hung with rich tapestries, in others they gleamed with
precious stones; and the King marvelled what might be the petition
of one that was mistress of such wealth. Lastly, Annoure brought
the King out upon the battlements, and as he gazed around him, he
saw that, since he had entered the castle, there had sprung up
about it triple walls of defence that shut out wholly the forest
from view. Then turned he to Annoure, and gravely he said: "Lady,
greatly I marvel in what a simple knight may pleasure one that is
mistress of so wondrous a castle as ye have shown me here; yet if
there be aught in which I may render you knightly service, right
gladly would I hear it now, for I must forth upon my way to render
service to those whose knight I am sworn." "Nay, now, King
Arthur," answered the sorceress mockingly, "ye may not think to
deceive me; for well I know you, and that all Britain bows to your
behest." "The more reason then that I should ride forth to right
wrong and succour them that, of their loyalty, render true
obedience to their lord." "Ye speak as a fool," said the sorceress;
"why should one that may command be at the beck and call of every
hind and slave within his realm? Nay, rest thee here with me, and I
will make thee ruler of a richer land than Britain, and give thee
to satisfy thy every desire." "Lady," said the King sternly, "I
will hear and judge of your petition at this time, and then will I
forth upon my way." "Nay," said Annoure, "there needs not this
harshness. I did but speak for thine advantage. Only vow thee to my
service, and there is naught that thou canst desire that thou shalt
not possess. Thou shalt be lord of this fair castle and of the
mighty powers that obey me. Why waste thy youth in hardship and in
the service of such as shall render thee little enough again?"

Thereupon, without ever a word, the King turned him about and made
for the turret stair by which he had ascended, but nowhere could he
find it. Then said the sorceress, mocking him: "Fair sir, how think
ye to escape without my good-will? See ye not the walls that guard
my stronghold? And think ye that I have not servants enow to do my
bidding?" She clapped her hands and forthwith there appeared a
company of squires who, at her command, seized the King and bore
him away to a strong chamber where they locked him in.

And so the King abode that night, the prisoner of that evil
sorceress, with little hope that day, when it dawned, should bring
him better cheer. Yet lost he not courage, but kept watch and vigil
the night through lest the powers of evil should assail him
unawares. And with the early morning light, Annoure came to visit
him. More stately she seemed than the night before, more tall and
more terrible; and her dress was one blaze of flashing gems, so
that scarce could the eye look upon her. As a queen might address a
vassal, so greeted she the King, and as condescending to one of low
estate, asked how he had fared that night. And the King made
answer: "I have kept vigil as behoves a knight who, knowing him to
be in the midst of danger, would bear himself meetly in any peril
that should offer." And the Lady Annoure, admiring his knightly
courage, desired more earnestly even than before to win him to her
will, and she said: "Sir Arthur, I know well your courage and
knightly fame, and greatly do I desire to keep you with me. Stay
with me and I promise you that ye shall bear sway over a wider
realm than any that ever ye heard of, and I, even I, its mistress,
will be at your command. And what lose ye if ye accept my offer?
Little enough, I ween, for never think that ye shall win the world
from evil and men to loyalty and truth." Then answered the King in
anger: "Full well I see that thou art in league with evil and that
thou but seekest to turn me from my purpose. I defy thee, foul
sorceress. Do thy worst; though thou slay me, thou shalt never sway
me to thy will"; and therewith the King raised his cross-hilted
sword before her. Then the lady quailed at that sight. Her heart
was filled with hate, but she said: "Go your way, proud King of a
petty realm. Rule well your race of miserable mortals, since more
it pleasures you than to bear sway over the powers of the air. I
keep you not against your will." With these words, she passed from
the chamber, and the King heard her give command to her squires to
set him without her gates, give him his horse, and suffer him to go
on his way.

And so it came to pass that the King found himself once more at
large, and marvelled to have won so lightly to liberty. Yet knew he
not the depths of treachery in the heart of Annoure; for when she
found she might not prevail with the King, she bethought her how,
by mortal means, she might bring the King to dishonour and death.
And so, by her magic art, she caused the King to follow a path that
brought him to a fountain, whereby a knight had his tent, and, for
love of adventure, held the way against all comers. Now this knight
was Sir Pellinore, and at that time he had not his equal for
strength and knightly skill, nor had any been found that might
stand against him. So, as the King drew nigh, Pellinore cried:
"Stay, knight, for none passes this way except he joust with me."
"That is no good custom," said the King; "it were well that ye
followed it no more." "It is my custom, and I will follow it
still," answered Pellinore; "if ye like it not, amend it if ye
may." "I will do my endeavour," said Arthur, "but, as ye see, I
have no spear." "Nay, I seek not to have you at advantage,"
replied Pellinore, and bade his squire give Arthur a spear. Then
they dressed their shields, laid their lances in rest, and rushed
upon each other. Now the King was wearied by his night's vigil, and
the strength of Pellinore was as the strength of three men; so, at
the first encounter, Arthur was unhorsed. Then said he: "I have
lost the honour on horseback, but now will I encounter thee with my
sword and on foot." "I, too, will alight," said Pellinore; "small
honour to me were it if I slew thee on foot, I being horsed the
while." So they encountered each other on foot, and so fiercely
they fought that they hewed off great pieces of each other's armour
and the ground was dyed with their blood. But at the last, Arthur's
sword broke off short at the hilt, and so he stood all defenceless
before his foe. "I have thee now," cried Pellinore; "yield thee as
recreant or I will slay thee." "That will I never," said the King,
"slay me if thou canst." Then he sprang on Pellinore, caught him by
the middle, and flung him to the ground, himself falling with him.
And Sir Pellinore marvelled, for never before had he encountered so
bold and resolute a foe; but exerting his great strength, he rolled
himself over, and so brought Arthur beneath him. Then had Arthur
perished, but at that moment Merlin stood beside him, and when Sir
Pellinore would have struck off the King's head, stayed his blow,
crying: "Pellinore, if thou slayest this knight, thou puttest the
whole realm in peril; for this is none other than King Arthur
himself." Then was Pellinore filled with dread, and cried: "Better
make an end of him at once; for if I suffer him to live, what hope
have I of his grace, that have dealt with him so sorely?" But
before Pellinore could strike, Merlin caused a deep sleep to come
upon him; and raising King Arthur from the ground, he staunched his
wounds and recovered him of his swoon.

But when the King came to himself, he saw his foe lie, still as in
death, on the ground beside him; and he was grieved, and said:
"Merlin, what have ye done to this brave knight? Nay, if ye have
slain him, I shall grieve my life long; for a good knight he is,
bold and a fair fighter, though something wanting in knightly
courtesy." "He is in better case than ye are, Sir King, who so
lightly imperil your person, and thereby your kingdom's welfare;
and, as ye say, Pellinore is a stout knight, and hereafter shall he
serve you well. Have no fear. He shall wake again in three hours
and have suffered naught by the encounter. But for you, it were
well that ye came where ye might be tended for your wounds." "Nay,"
replied the King, smiling, "I may not return to my court thus
weaponless; first will I find means to purvey me of a sword." "That
is easily done," answered Merlin; "follow me, and I will bring you
where ye shall get you a sword, the wonder of the world."

So, though his wounds pained him sore, the King followed Merlin by
many a forest path and glade, until they came upon a mere, bosomed
deep in the forest; and as he looked thereon, the King beheld an
arm, clothed in white samite, shoot above the surface of the lake,
and in the hand was a fair sword that gleamed in the level rays of
the setting sun. "This is a great marvel," said the King, "what may
it mean?" And Merlin made answer: "Deep is this mere, so deep
indeed that no man may fathom it; but in its depths, and built upon
the roots of the mountains, is the palace of the Lady of the Lake.
Powerful is she with a power that works ever for good, and she
shall help thee in thine hour of need. For thee has she wrought
yonder sword. Go now, and take it."

Then was Arthur aware of a little skiff, half hidden among the
bulrushes that fringed the lake; and leaping into the boat, without
aid of oar, he was wafted out into the middle of the lake, to the
place where, out of the water, rose the arm and sword. And leaning
from the skiff, he took the sword from the hand, which forthwith
vanished, and immediately thereafter the skiff bore him back to
land.

Arthur drew from its scabbard the mighty sword, wondering the while
at the marvel of its workmanship, for the hilt shone with the light
of many twinkling gems--diamond and topaz and emerald, and many
another whose names none know. And as he looked on the blade,
Arthur was aware of mystic writings on the one side and the other,
and calling to Merlin, he bade him interpret them. "Sir," said
Merlin, "on the one side is written 'Keep me,' and on the other
'Throw me away.'" "Then," said the King, "which does it behove me
to do?" "Keep it," answered Merlin; "the time to cast it away is
not yet come. This is the good brand Excalibur, or Cut Steel, and
well shall it serve you. But what think ye of the scabbard?" "A
fair cover for so good a sword," answered Arthur. "Nay, it is more
than that," said Merlin, "for, so long as ye keep it, though ye be
wounded never so sore, yet ye shall not bleed to death." And when
he heard that, the King marvelled the more.

Then they journeyed back to Caerleon, where the knights made great
joy of the return of their lord. And presently, thither came Sir
Pellinore, craving pardon of the King, who made but jest of his own
misadventure. And afterwards Sir Pellinore became of the Table
Round, a knight vowed, not only to deeds of hardihood, but also to
gentleness and courtesy; and faithfully he served the King,
fighting ever to maintain justice and put down wrong, and to defend
the weak from the oppressor.



CHAPTER IV

OF THE TREACHERY OF QUEEN MORGAN LE FAY


There was a certain Queen whose name was Morgan le Fay, and she was
a powerful sorceress. Little do men know of her save that, in her
youth, she was eager for knowledge and, having learnt all human
lore, turned her to magic, becoming so skilled therein that she was
feared of all. There was a time when great was her enmity towards
King Arthur, so that she plotted his ruin not once only nor twice;
and that is a strange thing, for it is said that she herself was
the kinswoman of the King. And truly, in the end, she repented her
of her malice, for she was, of those that came to bear Arthur to
the Delightful Islands from the field of his last bitter conflict;
but that was long after.

Now when this enchantress learned how the Lady of the Lake had
given the King a sword and scabbard of strange might, she was
filled with ill-will; and all her thought was only how she might
wrest the weapon from him and have it for her own, to bestow as she
would. Even while she pondered thereon, the King himself sent her
the scabbard to keep for him; for Merlin never ceased to warn the
King to have in safe keeping the scabbard that had power to keep
him from mortal hurt; and it seemed to Arthur that none might
better guard it for him, till the hour of need, than Morgan le Fay,
the wise Queen that was of his own kindred. Yet was not the Queen
shamed of her treacherous intent by the trust that Arthur had in
her; but all her mind was set on how she might win to the
possession of the sword itself as well as of the scabbard. At the
last--so had her desire for the sword wrought upon her--she
resolved to compass the destruction of the King that, if she gained
the sword, never might she have need to fear his justice for the
wrong she had done.

And her chance came soon. For, on a day, King Arthur resolved to
chase the hart in the forests near Camelot, wherefore he left
behind him his sword Excalibur, and took but a hunting spear with
him. All day long, he chased a white hart and, when evening fell,
he had far outstripped his attendants, save only two, Sir Accolon
of Gaul and Sir Uriens, King of Gore, the husband of Queen Morgan
le Fay herself. So when the King saw that darkness had come upon
them in the forest, he turned to his companions, saying: "Sirs, we
be far from Camelot and must lodge as we may this night. Let us go
forward until we shall find where we may shelter us a little." So
they rode forward, and presently Arthur espied a little lake
glinting in the beams of the rising moon, and, as they drew nearer,
they descried, full in the moonlight, a little ship, all hung with
silks even to the water's edge. Then said the King to his knights:
"Yonder is promise of shelter or, it may be, of adventure. Let us
tether our horses in the thicket and enter into this little ship."
And when they had so done, presently they found themselves in a
fair cabin all hung with silks and tapestries, and, in its midst, a
table spread with the choicest fare. And being weary and hungered
with the chase, they ate of the feast prepared and, lying down to
rest, were soon sunk in deep slumber.

While they slept, the little ship floated away from the land, and
it came to pass that a great wonder befell; for when they woke in
the morning, King Uriens found himself at home in his own land, and
Sir Accolon was in his own chamber at Camelot; but the King lay a
prisoner, bound and fettered and weaponless, in a noisome dungeon
that echoed to the groans of hapless captives.

When he was come to himself, King Arthur looked about him and saw
that his companions were knights in the same hard case as himself;
and he inquired of them how they came to be in that plight. "Sir,"
said one of them, "we are in duresse in the castle of a certain
recreant knight, Sir Damas by name, a coward false to chivalry.
None love him, and so no champion can he find to maintain his cause
in a certain quarrel that he has in hand. For this reason, he lies
in wait with a great company of soldiers for any knights that may
pass this way, and taking them prisoners, holds them in captivity
unless they will undertake to fight to the death in his cause. And
this I would not, nor any of my companions here; but unless we be
speedily rescued, we are all like to die of hunger in this
loathsome dungeon." "What is his quarrel?" asked the King. "That we
none of us know," answered the knight.

While they yet talked, there entered the prison a damsel. She went
up to the King at once, and said: "Knight, will ye undertake to
fight in the cause of the lord of this castle?" "That I may not
say," replied the King, "unless first I may hear what is his
quarrel." "That ye shall not know," replied the damsel, "but this I
tell you: if ye refuse, ye shall never leave this dungeon alive,
but shall perish here miserably." "This is a hard case," said the
King, "that I must either die or fight for one I know not, and in a
cause that I may not hear. Yet on one condition will I undertake
your lord's quarrel, and that is that he shall give me all the
prisoners bound here in this dungeon." "It shall be as ye say,"
answered the damsel, "and ye shall also be furnished with horse and
armour and sword than which ye never saw better." Therewith the
damsel bade him follow her, and brought him to a great hall where
presently there came to him squires to arm him for the combat; and
when their service was rendered, the damsel said to him: "Sir
Knight, even now there has come one who greets you in the name of
Queen Morgan le Fay, and bids me tell you that the Queen, knowing
your need, has sent you your good sword." Then the King rejoiced
greatly, for it seemed to him that the sword that the damsel gave
him was none other than the good sword Excalibur.

When all was prepared, the damsel led King Arthur into a fair
field, and there he beheld awaiting him a knight, all sheathed in
armour, his vizor down, and bearing a shield on which was no
blazonry. So the two knights saluted each other, and, wheeling
their horses, rode away from each other some little space.

Then turning again, they laid lance in rest, and rushing upon each
other, encountered with the noise of thunder, and so great was the
shock that each knight was borne from the saddle. Swiftly they
gained their feet, and, drawing their swords, dealt each other
great blows; and thus they contended fiercely for some while. But
as he fought, a great wonder came upon Arthur, for it seemed to him
that his sword, that never before had failed him, bit not upon the
armour of the other, while every stroke of his enemy drew blood,
till the ground on which he fought was slippery beneath his feet;
and at the last almost his heart failed within him, knowing that he
was betrayed, and that the brand with which he fought was not
Excalibur. Yet would he not show aught of what he suffered, but
struggled on, faint as he was and spent; so that they that watched
the fight and saw how he was sore wounded, marvelled at his great
courage and endurance. But presently, the stranger knight dealt the
King a blow which fell upon Arthur's sword, and so fierce was the
stroke that the blade broke off at the pommel. "Knight," said the
other, "thou must yield thee recreant to my mercy." "That may I not
do with mine honour," answered the King, "for I am sworn to fight
in this quarrel to the death." "But weaponless thou must needs be
slain." "Slay me an ye will, but think not to win glory by slaying
a weaponless man."

Then was the other wroth to find himself still withstood and, in
his anger, he dealt Arthur a great blow; but this the King shunned,
and rushing upon his foe, smote him so fiercely on the head with
the pommel of his broken sword that the knight swayed and let slip
his own weapon. With a bound, Arthur was upon the sword, and no
sooner had he it within his grasp than he knew it, of a truth, to
be his own sword Excalibur. Then he scanned more closely his enemy,
and saw the scabbard that he wore was none other than the magic
scabbard of Excalibur; and forthwith, leaping upon the knight, he
tore it from him and flung it far afield.

"Knight," cried King Arthur, "ye have made me suffer sore, but now
is the case changed and ye stand within my power, helpless and
unarmed. And much I misdoubt me but that treacherously ye have
dealt with me. Nevertheless, yield you recreant and I will spare
your life." "That I may not do, for it is against my vow; so slay
me if ye will. Of a truth, ye are the best knight that ever I
encountered."

Then it seemed to the King that the knight's voice was not unknown
to him, and he said: "Tell me your name and what country ye are of,
for something bids me think that ye are not all unknown to me." "I
am Accolon of Gaul, knight of King Arthur's Round Table." "Ah!
Accolon, Accolon," cried the King, "is it even thou that hast
fought against me? Almost hast thou undone me. What treason tempted
thee to come against me, and with mine own weapon too?" When Sir
Accolon knew that it was against King Arthur that he had fought, he
gave a loud cry and swooned away utterly. Then Arthur called to two
stout yeomen amongst those that had looked on at the fight, and
bade them bear Sir Accolon to a little hermitage hard by, and
thither he himself followed with pain, being weak from loss of
blood; but into the castle he would not enter, for he trusted not
those that held it.

The hermit dressed their wounds, and presently, when Sir Accolon
had come to himself again, the King spoke gently to him, bidding
him say how he had come to bear arms against him. "Sir and my
lord," answered Sir Accolon, "it comes of naught but the treachery
of your kinswoman, Queen Morgan le Fay. For on the morrow after we
had entered upon the little ship, I awoke in my chamber at Camelot,
and greatly I marvelled how I had come there. And as I yet
wondered, there came to me a messenger from Queen Morgan le Fay,
desiring me to go to her without delay. And when I entered her
presence, she was as one sore troubled, and she said to me: 'Sir
Accolon, of my secret power, I know that now is our King, Arthur,
in great danger; for he lies imprisoned in a great and horrible
dungeon whence he may not be delivered unless one be found to do
battle for him with the lord of the castle. Wherefore have I sent
for you that ye may take the battle upon you for our lord the King.
And for greater surety, I give you here Excalibur, Arthur's own
sword, for, of a truth, we should use all means for the rescuing of
our lord.' And I, believing this evil woman, came hither and
challenged the lord of this castle to mortal combat; and, indeed, I
deemed it was with Sir Damas that I fought even now. Yet all was
treachery, and I misdoubt me that Sir Damas and his people are in
league with Queen Morgan le Fay to compass your destruction. But,
my lord Arthur, pardon me, I beseech you, the injuries that, all
unwitting, I have done you."

King Arthur was filled with wrath against the Queen, more for the
wrong done to Sir Accolon than for the treason to himself. In all
ways that he might, he sought to comfort and relieve Sir Accolon,
but in vain, for daily the knight grew weaker, and, after many
days, he died. Then the King, being recovered of his wounds,
returned to Camelot, and calling together a band of knights, led
them against the castle of Sir Damas. But Damas had no heart to
attempt to hold out, and surrendered himself and all that he had to
the King's mercy. And first King Arthur set free those that Sir
Damas had kept in miserable bondage, and sent them away with rich
gifts. When he had righted the wrongs of others, then he summoned
Sir Damas before him, and said: "I command thee that thou tell me
why thou didst seek my destruction." And cringing low at the King's
footstool, Damas answered: "I beseech you, deal mercifully with me,
for all that I have done, I have done at the bidding of Queen
Morgan le Fay." "A coward's plea," said the King; "how camest thou
first to have traffic with her?" "Sir," replied Damas, "much have I
suffered, first by the greed of my younger brother and now by the
deceit of this evil woman, as ye shall hear. When my father died, I
claimed the inheritance as of right, seeing that I was his elder
son; but my young brother, Sir Ontzlake, withstood me, and demanded
some part of my father's lands. Long since, he sent me a challenge
to decide our quarrel in single combat, but it liked me ill, seeing
that I am of no great strength. Much, therefore, did I desire to
find a champion but, by ill fortune, none could I find until Queen
Morgan le Fay sent word that, of her good will to me, she had sent
me one that would defend my cause; and that same evening, the
little ship brought you, my lord, to my castle. And when I saw you,
I rejoiced, thinking to have found a champion that would silence my
brother for ever; nor knew I you for the King's self. Wherefore, I
entreat you, spare me, and avenge me on my brother." Therewith, Sir
Damas fawned upon the King, but Arthur sternly bade him rise and
send messengers to bring Sir Ontzlake before him.

Presently, there stood before the King a youth, fair and of good
stature, who saluted his lord and then remained silent before him.
"Sir Ontzlake," said the King, "I have sent for you to know of your
dealings with Sir Accolon and of your quarrel with your brother."
"My lord Arthur," answered the youth, "that I was the cause of hurt
to yourself, I pray you to pardon me, for all unwitting was I of
evil. For ye shall know that I had challenged my brother to single
combat; but when word came to me that he was provided of a
champion, I might not so much as brook my armour for a sore wound
that I had got of an arrow shot at me as I rode through the forest
near his castle. And as I grieved for my hard case, there came a
messenger from Queen Morgan le Fay bidding me be of good courage,
for she had sent unto me one, Sir Accolon, who would undertake my
quarrel. This only she commanded me, that I should ask no question
of Sir Accolon. So Sir Accolon abode with me that night and, as I
supposed, fought in my cause the next day. Sure am I that there is
some mystery, yet may I not misdoubt my lady Queen Morgan le Fay
without cause; wherefore, if blame there be, let me bear the
punishment."

Then was the King well pleased with the young man for his courage
and loyalty to others. "Fair youth," said he, "ye shall go with me
to Camelot, and if ye prove you brave and just in all your doings,
ye shall be of my Round Table." But to Sir Damas he said sternly:
"Ye are a mean-spirited varlet, unworthy of the degree of
knighthood. Here I ordain that ye shall yield unto your brother
the moiety of the lands that ye had of your father and, in payment
for it, yearly ye shall receive of Sir Ontzlake a palfrey; for that
will befit you better to ride than the knightly war-horse. And look
ye well to it, on pain of death, that ye lie no more in wait for
errant knights, but amend your life and live peaceably with your
brother."

Thereafter, the fear of the King kept Sir Damas from deeds of
violence; yet, to the end, he remained cowardly and churlish,
unworthy of the golden spurs of knighthood. But Sir Ontzlake proved
him a valiant knight, fearing God and the King and naught else.



CHAPTER V

HOW THE SCABBARD OF EXCALIBUR WAS LOST


Now when Queen Morgan le Fay knew that her plot had miscarried and
that her treachery was discovered, she feared to abide the return
of the King to Camelot; and so she went to Queen Guenevere, and
said: "Madam, of your courtesy, grant me leave, I pray you, to
depart." "Nay," said the Queen, "that were pity, for I have news of
my lord the King, that soon he will return to Camelot. Will ye not
then await his return, that ye may see your kinsman before ye
depart?" "Alas! madam," said Morgan le Fay, "that may not be, for
I have ill news that requires that immediately I get to my own
country." "Then shall ye depart when ye will," said the Queen.

So before the next day had dawned, Morgan le Fay arose and, taking
her horse, departed unattended from Camelot. All that day and most
of the night she rode fast, and ere noon the next day, she was come
to a nunnery where, as she knew, King Arthur lay. Entering into the
house, she made herself known to the nuns, who received her
courteously and gave her of their best to eat and to drink. When
she was refreshed, she asked if any other had sought shelter with
them that day; and they told her that King Arthur lay in an inner
chamber and slept, for he had rested little for three nights. "Ah!
my dear lord!" exclaimed the false sorceress; "gladly would I speak
with him, but I will not that ye awaken him, and long I may not
tarry here; wherefore surfer me at least to look upon him as he
sleeps, and then will I continue my journey." And the nuns,
suspecting no treachery, showed Queen Morgan le Fay the room where
King Arthur slept, and let her enter it alone.

So Morgan le Fay had her will and stood beside the sleeping King;
but again it seemed as if she must fail of her purpose, and her
heart was filled with rage and despair. For she saw that the King
grasped in his hand the hilt of the naked brand, that none might
take it without awakening him. While she mused, suddenly she espied
the scabbard where it hung at the foot of the bed, and her heart
rejoiced to know that something she might gain by her bold
venture. She snatched up the empty sheath, and wrapping it in a
fold of her garment, left the chamber. Brief were her farewells to
the holy nuns, and in haste she got to horse and rode away.

Scarcely had she set forth, when the King awoke, and rising from
his couch, saw at once that the scabbard of his sword was gone.
Then summoned he the whole household to his presence and inquired
who had entered his chamber. "Sir," said the Abbess, "there has
none been here save only your kinswoman, the Queen Morgan le Fay.
She, indeed, desired to look upon you since she might not abide
your awakening." Then the King groaned aloud, saying, "It is my own
kinswoman, the wife of my true knight, Sir Uriens, that would
betray me." He bade Sir Ontzlake make ready to accompany him, and
after courteous salutation to the Abbess and her nuns, together
they rode forth by the path that Morgan le Fay had taken.

Fast they rode in pursuit, and presently they came to a cross where
was a poor cowherd keeping watch over his few beasts, and of him
they asked whether any had passed that way. "Sirs," said the
peasant, "even now there rode past the cross a lady most lovely to
look upon, and with her forty knights." Greatly the King marvelled
how Queen Morgan le Fay had come by such a cavalcade, but nothing
he doubted that it was she the cowherd had seen. So thanking the
poor man, the King, with Sir Ontzlake, rode on by the path that had
been shown them, and presently, emerging from the forest, they were
aware of a glittering company of horsemen winding through a wide
plain that lay stretched before them. On the instant, they put
spurs to their horses and galloped as fast as they might in
pursuit.

But, as it chanced, Queen Morgan le Fay looked back even as Arthur
and Sir Ontzlake came forth from the forest, and seeing them, she
knew at once that her theft had been discovered, and that she was
pursued. Straightway she bade her knights ride on till they should
come to a narrow valley where lay many great stones; but as soon as
they had left her, she herself rode, with all speed, to a mere hard
by. Sullen and still it lay, without even a ripple on its surface.
No animal ever drank of its waters nor bird sang by it, and it was
so deep that none might ever plumb it. And when the Queen had come
to the brink, she dismounted. From the folds of her dress she drew
the scabbard, and waving it above her head, she cried, "Whatsoever
becometh of me, King Arthur shall not have this scabbard." Then,
whirling it with all her might, she flung it far into the mere. The
jewels glinted as the scabbard flashed through the air, then it
clove the oily waters of the lake and sank, never again to be seen.

When it had vanished, Morgan le Fay mounted her horse again, and
rode fast after her knights, for the King and Ontzlake were in hot
pursuit, and sore she feared lest they should come up with her
before she might reach the shelter of the Valley of Stones. But she
had rejoined her company of knights before the King had reached the
narrow mouth of the valley. Quickly she bade her men scatter among
the boulders, and then, by her magic art, she turned them all, men
and horses and herself too, into stones, that none might tell the
one from the other.

When King Arthur and Sir Ontzlake reached the valley, they looked
about for some sign of the presence of the Queen or her knights,
but naught might they see though they rode through the valley and
beyond, and returning, searched with all diligence among the rocks
and boulders. Never again was Queen Morgan le Fay seen at Camelot,
nor did she attempt aught afterwards against the welfare of the
King. When she had restored her knights to their proper form, she
hastened with them back to her own land, and there she abode for
the rest of her days until she came with the other queens to carry
Arthur from the field of the Battle in the West.

Nor would the King seek to take vengeance on a woman, though sorely
she had wronged him. His life long, he guarded well the sword
Excalibur, but the sheath no man ever saw again.



CHAPTER VI

MERLIN


Of Merlin and how he served King Arthur, something has been already
shown. Loyal he was ever to Uther Pendragon and to his son, King
Arthur, and for the latter especially he wrought great marvels. He
brought the King to his rights; he made him his ships; and some
say that Camelot, with its splendid halls, where Arthur would
gather his knights around him at the great festivals of the year,
at Christmas, at Easter, and at Pentecost, was raised by his magic,
without human toil. Bleise, the aged magician who dwelt in
Northumberland and recorded the great deeds of Arthur and his
knights, had been Merlin's master in magic; but it came to pass in
time that Merlin far excelled him in skill, so that his enemies
declared no mortal was his father, and called him devil's son.

Then, on a certain time, Merlin said to Arthur: "The time draws
near when ye shall miss me, for I shall go down alive into the
earth; and it shall be that gladly would ye give your lands to have
me again." Then Arthur was grieved, and said: "Since ye know your
danger, use your craft to avoid it." But Merlin answered: "That may
not be."

Now there had come to Arthur's court, a damsel of the Lady of the
Lake--her whose skill in magic, some say, was greater than Merlin's
own; and the damsel's name was Vivien. She set herself to learn the
secrets of Merlin's art, and was ever with him, tending upon the
old man and, with gentleness and tender service, winning her way to
his heart; but all was a pretence, for she was weary of him and
sought only his ruin, thinking it should be fame for her, by any
means whatsoever, to enslave the greatest wizard of his age. And so
she persuaded him to pass with her overseas into King Ban's land of
Benwick, and there, one day, he showed her a wondrous rock, formed
by magic art. Then she begged him to enter into it, the better to
declare to her its wonders; but when once he was within, by a charm
that she had learnt from Merlin's self, she caused the rock to
shut down that never again might he come forth. Thus was Merlin's
prophecy fulfilled, that he should go down into the earth alive.
Much they marvelled in Arthur's court what had become of the great
magician, till on a time, there rode past the stone a certain
Knight of the Round Table and heard Merlin lamenting his sad fate.
The knight would have striven to raise the mighty stone, but Merlin
bade him not waste his labour, since none might release him save
her who had imprisoned him there. Thus Merlin passed from the world
through the treachery of a damsel, and thus Arthur was without aid
in the days when his doom came upon him.



CHAPTER VII

BALIN AND BALAN


Among the princes that thought scorn of Arthur in the days when
first he became king, none was more insolent than Ryons of North
Wales. So, on a time when King Arthur held high festival at
Camelot, Ryons sent a herald who, in the presence of the whole
court, before brave knights and fair dames, thus addressed the
King: "Sir Arthur, my master bids me say that he has overcome
eleven kings with all their hosts, and, in token of their
submission, they have given him their beards to fringe him a
mantle. There remains yet space for the twelfth; wherefore, with
all speed, send him your beard, else will he lay waste your land
with fire and sword." "Viler message," said King Arthur, "was never
sent from man to man. Get thee gone, lest we forget thine office
protects thee." So spoke the King, for he had seen his knights clap
hand to sword, and would not that a messenger should suffer hurt in
his court.

Now among the knights present the while was one whom men called
Balin le Savage, who had but late been freed from prison for
slaying a knight of Arthur's court. None was more wroth than he at
the villainy of Ryons, and immediately after the departure of the
herald, he left the hall and armed him; for he was minded to try
if, with good fortune, he might win to Arthur's grace by avenging
him on the King of North Wales. While he was without, there entered
the hall a Witch Lady who, on a certain occasion, had done the King
a service, and for this she now desired of him a boon. So Arthur
bade her name her request, and thus she said: "O King, I require of
you the head of the knight Balin le Savage." "That may I not grant
you with my honour," replied the King; "ask what it may become me
to give." But the Witch Lady would have naught else, and departed
from the hall, murmuring against the King. Then, as it chanced,
Balin met her at the door, and immediately when he saw her, he rode
upon her, sword in hand, and, with one blow, smote off her head.
Thus he took vengeance for his mother's death, of which she had
been the cause, and, well content, rode away. But when it was told
King Arthur of the deed that Balin had done, he was full wroth,
nor was his anger lessened though Merlin declared the wrong the
Witch Lady had done to Balin. "Whatsoever cause he had against her,
yet should he have done her no violence in my court," said the
King, and bade Sir Lanceour of Ireland ride after Balin and bring
him back again.

Thus it came to pass that, as Sir Balin rode on his way, he heard
the hoof-beats of a horse fast galloping, and a voice cried loudly
to him: "Stay, Knight; for thou shalt stay, whether thou wilt or
not." "Fair Knight," answered Balin fiercely, "dost thou desire to
fight with me?" "Yea, truly," answered Lanceour; "for that cause
have I followed thee from Camelot." "Alas!" cried Balin, "then I
know thy quarrel. And yet, I dealt but justly by that vile woman,
and it grieves me to offend my lord King Arthur again." "Have done,
and make ready to fight," said Lanceour insolently; for he was
proud and arrogant, though a brave knight. So they rushed together,
and, at the first encounter, Sir Lanceour's spear was shivered
against the shield of the other, but Balin's spear pierced shield
and hauberk and Lanceour fell dead to the earth.

Then Sir Balin, sore grieved that he had caused the death of a
knight of Arthur's court, buried Lanceour as well as he might, and
continued sorrowfully on his journey in search of King Ryons.
Presently, as he rode through a great forest, he espied a knight
whom, by his arms, he knew at once for his brother, Sir Balan.
Great joy had they in their meeting, for Balan had believed Balin
still to be in prison. So Balin told Balan all that had befallen
him, and how he sought Ryons to avenge Arthur upon him for his
insolent message, and hoped thereby to win his lord's favour again.
"I will ride with thee, brother," said Balan, "and help thee all I
may." So the two went on their way till, presently, they met with
an old man--Merlin's self, though they knew him not, for he was
disguised. "Ah, Knight," said Merlin to Balin, "swift to strike and
swift to repent, beware, or thou shalt strike the most dolorous
blow dealt by man; for thou shalt slay thine own brother." "If I
believed thy words true," cried Balin hotly, "I would slay myself
to make thee a liar." "I know the past and I know the future," said
Merlin; "I know, too, the errand on which thou ridest, and I will
help thee if thou wilt." "Ah!" said Balin, "that pleases me well."
"Hide you both in this covert," said Merlin; "for presently there
shall come riding down this path King Ryons with sixty of his
knights." With these words he vanished. So Balin and Balan did as
he had bidden them, and when King Ryons and his men entered the
little path, they fell upon them with such fury that they slew more
than forty knights, while the rest fled, and King Ryons himself
yielded him to them. So Sir Balan rode with King Ryons to Camelot
that he might deliver him to King Arthur; but Balin went not with
them, for he would see more adventures before he sought King
Arthur's presence again.

After many days' travel and many encounters, it befell that, one
evening, Balin drew near to a castle; and when he would have sought
admittance, there stood by him an old man, and said: "Balin, turn
thee back, and it shall be better for thee," and so vanished. At
that moment there was blown a blast on a horn, such as is sounded
when the stag receives its death; and hearing it, Balin's heart
misgave him, and he cried: "That blast is blown for me, and I am
the prize. But not yet am I dead!"

At that instant the castle gate was raised and there appeared many
knights and ladies welcoming Balin into the castle. So he entered,
and presently they were all seated at supper. Then the lady of the
castle said to Balin: "Sir Knight, to-morrow thou must have ado
with a knight that keeps an island near-by; else mayest thou not
pass that way." "That is an evil custom," answered Balin; "but if I
must, I must." So that night he rested, but with the dawn he arose,
and was arming himself for battle when there came to him a knight
and said: "Sir, your shield is not good; I pray you, take mine
which is larger and stouter." In an evil hour, Balin suffered
himself to be persuaded, and taking the stranger's shield, left;
behind his own on which his arms were blazoned. Then, entering a
boat, he was conveyed to the island where the unknown knight held
the ford.

No sooner was he landed, than there came riding to him a knight
armed all in red armour, his horse, too, trapped all in red; and
without word spoken, they charged upon each other, and each bore
the other from the saddle. Thus for a while they lay, stunned by
the fall. The Red Knight was the first to rise, for Balin, all
wearied by his travels and many encounters, was sore shaken by the
fall. Then they fought together right fiercely, hacking away great
pieces of armour, and dealing each other dreadful wounds. But when
they paused to take breath, Balin, looking up, saw the battlements
of the castle filled with knights and ladies watching the struggle,
and immediately, shamed that the conflict should have so long
endured, he rushed again upon the Red Knight, aiming at him blows
that might have felled a giant. So they fought together a long
while; but at the last, the Red Knight drew back a little. Then
cried Balin: "Who art thou? for till now, never have I met my
match." Then said the Red Knight: "I am Balan, brother to the noble
knight, Sir Balin"; and with the word, he fell to the ground as one
dead. "Alas!" cried Balin, "that I should have lived to see this
day!" Then, as well as he might, for his strength was almost spent,
he crept on hands and knees to his brother's side and opened the
vizor of his helmet, and when he saw his brother's face all
ghastly, as it was, he cried: "O Balan, I have slain thee, as thou
hast also slain me! Oh! woeful deed I never to be forgotten of
men!" Then Balan, being somewhat recovered, told Balin how he had
been compelled by those at the castle to keep the ford against all
comers, and might never depart; and Balin told of the grievous
chance by which he had taken another's shield.

So these two died, slain by each other's hands. In one tomb they
were buried; and Merlin, passing that way, inscribed thereon the
full story of their deaths.



BOOK II

SIR LAUNCELOT



CHAPTER VIII

SIR LAUNCELOT DU LAC


Now, as time passed, King Arthur gathered into his Order of the
Round Table knights whose peers shall never be found in any age;
and foremost amongst them all was Sir Launcelot du Lac. Such was
his strength that none against whom he laid lance in rest could
keep the saddle, and no shield was proof against his sword dint;
but for his courtesy even more than for his courage and strength,
Sir Launcelot was famed far and near. Gentle he was and ever the
first to rejoice in the renown of another; and in the jousts, he
would avoid encounter with the young and untried knight, letting
him pass to gain glory if he might.

It would take a great book to record all the famous deeds of Sir
Launcelot, and all his adventures. He was of Gaul, for his father,
King Ban, ruled over Benwick; and some say that his first name was
Galahad, and that he was named Launcelot du Lac by the Lady of the
Lake who reared him when his mother died. Early he won renown by
delivering his father's people from the grim King Claudas who, for
more than twenty years, had laid waste the fair land of Benwick;
then, when there was peace in his own land, he passed into Britain,
to Arthur's court, where the King received him gladly, and made him
Knight of the Round Table and took him for his trustiest friend.
And so it was that, when Guenevere was to be brought to Canterbury,
to be married to the King, Launcelot was chief of the knights sent
to wait upon her, and of this came the sorrow of later days. For,
from the moment he saw her, Sir Launcelot loved Guenevere, for her
sake remaining wifeless all his days, and in all things being her
faithful knight. But busy-bodies and mischief-makers spoke evil of
Sir Launcelot and the Queen, and from their talk came the undoing
of the King and the downfall of his great work. But that was after
long years, and after many true knights had lived their lives,
honouring the King and Queen, and doing great deeds whereby the
fame of Arthur and his Order passed through all the world.



CHAPTER IX

THE ADVENTURE OF THE CHAPEL PERILOUS


Now on a day, as he rode through the forest, Sir Launcelot met a
damsel weeping bitterly, and seeing him, she cried, "Stay, Sir
Knight! By your knighthood I require you to aid me in my distress."
Immediately Sir Launcelot checked his horse and asked in what she
needed his service. "Sir," said the maiden, "my brother lies at the
point of death, for this day he fought with the stout knight, Sir
Gilbert, and sorely they wounded each other; and a wise woman, a
sorceress, has said that nothing may staunch my brother's wounds
unless they be searched with the sword and bound up with a piece
of the cloth from the body of the wounded knight who lies in the
ruined chapel hard by. And well I know you, my lord Sir Launcelot,
and that, if ye will not help me, none may." "Tell me your
brother's name," said Sir Launcelot. "Sir Meliot de Logris,"
answered the damsel. "A Knight of our Round Table," said Sir
Launcelot; "the more am I bound to your service. Only tell me,
gentle damsel, where I may find this Chapel Perilous." So she
directed him, and, riding through forest byeways, Sir Launcelot
came presently upon a little ruined chapel, standing in the midst
of a churchyard, where the tombs showed broken and neglected under
the dark yews. In front of the porch, Sir Launcelot paused and
looked, for thereon hung, upside down, dishonoured, the shield of
many a good knight whom Sir Launcelot had known.

As he stood wondering, suddenly there pressed upon him from all
sides thirty stout knights, all giants and fully armed, their drawn
swords in their hands and their shields advanced. With threatening
looks, they spoke to him saying: "Sir Launcelot, it were well ye
turned back before evil befell you." But Sir Launcelot, though he
feared to have to do with thirty such warriors, answered boldly: "I
turn not back for high words. Make them good by your deeds." Then
he rode upon them fiercely, whereupon instantly they scattered and
disappeared, and, sword in hand, Sir Launcelot entered the little
chapel. All was dark within, save that a little lamp hung from the
roof, and by its dim light he could just espy how on a bier before
the altar there lay, stark and cold, a knight sheathed in armour.
And drawing nearer, Sir Launcelot saw that the dead man lay on a
blood-stained mantle, his naked sword by his side, but that his
left hand had been lopped off at the wrist by a mighty sword-cut.
Then Sir Launcelot boldly seized the sword and with it cut off a
piece of the bloody mantle. Immediately the earth shook and the
walls of the chapel rocked, and in fear Sir Launcelot turned to go.
But, as he would have left the chapel, there stood before him in
the doorway a lady, fair to look upon and beautifully arrayed, who
gazed earnestly upon him, and said: "Sir Knight, put away from you
that sword lest it be your death." But Sir Launcelot answered her:
"Lady, what I have said, I do; and what I have won, I keep." "It is
well," said the lady. "Had ye cast away the sword your life days
were done. And now I make but one request. Kiss me once." "That may
I not do," said Sir Launcelot. Then said the lady: "Go your way,
Launcelot; ye have won, and I have lost. Know that, had ye kissed
me, your dead body had lain even now on the altar bier. For much
have I desired to win you; and to entrap you, I ordained this
chapel. Many a knight have I taken, and once Sir Gawain himself
hardly escaped, but he fought with Sir Gilbert and lopped off his
hand, and so got away. Fare ye well; it is plain to see that none
but our lady, Queen Guenevere, may have your services." With that,
she vanished from his sight. So Sir Launcelot mounted his horse and
rode away from that evil place till he met Sir Meliot's sister, who
led him to her brother where he lay, pale as the earth, and
bleeding fast. And when he saw Sir Launcelot, he would have risen
to greet him; but his strength failed him, and he fell back on his
couch. Sir Launcelot searched his wounds with the sword, and bound
them up with the blood-stained cloth, and immediately Sir Meliot
was sound and well, and greatly he rejoiced. Then Sir Meliot and
his sister begged Sir Launcelot to stay and rest, but he departed
on his adventures, bidding them farewell until he should meet them
again at Arthur's court.

As for the sorceress of the Chapel Perilous, it is said she died
of grief that all her charms had failed to win for her the good
knight Sir Launcelot.



CHAPTER X

SIR LAUNCELOT AND THE FALCON


Sir Launcelot rode on his way, by marsh and valley and hill, till
he chanced upon a fair castle, and saw fly from it, over his head,
a beautiful falcon, with the lines still hanging from her feet. And
as he looked, the falcon flew into a tree where she was held fast
by the lines becoming entangled about the boughs. Immediately, from
the castle there came running a fair lady, who cried: "O Launcelot,
Launcelot! As ye are the noblest of all knights, I pray you help me
to recover my falcon. For if my husband discover its loss, he will
slay me in his anger." "Who is your husband, fair lady?" asked Sir
Launcelot. "Sir Phelot, a knight of Northgalis, and he is of a
hasty temper; wherefore, I beseech you, help me." "Well, lady,"
said Sir Launcelot, "I will serve you if I may; but the tree is
hard to climb, for the boughs are few, and, in truth, I am no
climber. But I will do my best." So the lady helped Sir Launcelot
to unarm, and he led his horse to the foot of the tree, and
springing from its back, he caught at the nearest bough, and drew
himself up into the branches. Then he climbed till he reached the
falcon and, tying her lines to a rotten bough, broke it off, and
threw down bird and bough to the lady below. Forthwith, Sir Phelot
came from amongst the trees and said: "Ah! Sir Launcelot! Now at
length I have you as I would; for I have long sought your life."
And Sir Launcelot made answer: "Surely ye would not slay me, an
unarmed man; for that were dishonour to you. Keep my armour if ye
will; but hang my sword on a bough where I may reach it, and then
do with me as ye can." But Sir Phelot laughed mockingly and said:
"Not so, Sir Launcelot. I know you too well to throw away my
advantage; wherefore, shift as ye may." "Alas!" said Sir Launcelot,
"that ever knight should be so unknightly. And you, madam, how
could ye so betray me?" "She did but as I commanded her," said Sir
Phelot.

Then Launcelot looked about him to see how he might help himself in
these straits, and espying above his head a great bare branch, he
tote it down. Then, ever watching his advantage, he sprang to the
ground on the far side of his horse, so that the horse was between
him and Sir Phelot. Sir Phelot rushed upon him with his sword, but
Sir Launcelot parried it with the bough, with which he dealt his
enemy such a blow on the head that Sir Phelot sank to the ground in
a swoon. Then Sir Launcelot seized his sword where it lay beside
his armour, and stooping over the fallen knight, unloosed his helm.
When the lady saw him do that, she shrieked and cried: "Spare his
life! spare his life, noble knight, I beseech you!" But Sir
Launcelot answered sternly: "A felon's death for him who does
felon's deeds. He has lived too long already," and with one blow,
he smote off his head. Then he armed himself, and mounting upon his
steed, rode away, leaving the lady to weep beside her lord.



BOOK III

SIR TRISTRAM



CHAPTER XI

OF THE BIRTH OF SIR TRISTRAM


In the days of Arthur, there ruled over the kingdom of Liones the
good knight Sir Meliodas; and his Queen was the fair Elizabeth,
sister of King Mark of Cornwall.

Now there was a lady, an enchantress, who had no good-will towards
King Meliodas and his Queen; so one day, when the King was
hunting, she brought it to pass by her charms that Meliodas chased
a hart till he found himself, far from all his men, alone by an old
castle, and there he was taken prisoner by the lady's knights.

When King Meliodas did not return home, the Queen was nigh crazed
with grief. Attended only by one of the ladies of her court, she
ran out into the forest to seek her lord. Long and far she
wandered, until she could go no further, but sank down at the foot
of a great tree, and there, in the midst of the forest, was her
little son born. When the Queen knew that she must die, she kissed
the babe and said: "Ah! little son, sad has been thy birth,
wherefore thy name shall be Tristram; but thou shalt grow to be a
brave knight and a strong." Then she charged her gentlewoman to
take care of the child and to commend her to King Meliodas; and
after that she died. All too late came many of the barons seeking
their Queen, and sorrowfully they bore her back to the castle where
presently the King arrived, released by the skill of Merlin from
the evil spells of the enchantress. Great indeed was his grief for
the death of his Queen. He caused her to be buried with all the
pomp and reverence due to so good and fair a lady, and long and
bitterly he mourned her loss and all the people with him.

But at the end of seven years, King Meliodas took another wife.
Then, when the Queen had sons of her own, it angered her to think
that in the days to come, her stepson Tristram, and none other,
should rule the fair land of Liones. The more she thought of it,
the more she hated him till, at the last, she was resolved to do
away with him. So she filled a silver goblet with a pleasant drink
in which she had mixed poison, and she set it in the room where
Tristram played with the young princes, his half-brothers. Now the
day was hot, and presently, being heated with his play, the young
prince, the Queen's eldest son, drank of the poisoned goblet; and
immediately he died. Much the Queen grieved, but more than ever she
hated her stepson Tristram, as if, through him, her son had died.
Presently, again she mixed poison and set it in a goblet; and that
time, King Meliodas, returning thirsty from the chase, took the cup
and would have drunk of it, only the Queen cried to him to forbear.
Then the King recalled to mind how his young son had drunk of a
seeming pleasant drink and died on the instant; and seizing the
Queen by the hand, he cried: "False traitress! tell me at once what
is in that cup, or I will slay thee!" Then the Queen cried him
mercy and told him all her sin. But in his wrath the King would
have no mercy, but sentenced her to be burnt at the stake, which,
in those days, was the doom of traitors. The day having come when
the Queen should suffer for her fault, she was led out and bound to
a stake in the presence of all the court, and the faggots were
heaped about her. Then the young prince Tristram kneeled before the
King and asked of him a favour: and the King, loving him much,
granted him his request. "Then," said Tristram, "I require you to
release the Queen, my stepmother, and to take her again to your
favour." Greatly the King marvelled, and said: "Ye should of right
hate her, seeing that she sought your life." But Tristram answered:
"I forgive her freely." "I give you then her life," said the King;
"do ye release her from the stake." So Tristram unloosed the chains
which bound the Queen and led her back to the castle, and from that
day the Queen loved him well; but as for King Meliodas, though he
forgave her and suffered her to remain at court, yet never again
would he have aught to do with her.



CHAPTER XII

HOW TRISTRAM FOUGHT WITH SIR MARHAUS OF IRELAND


Now King Meliodas, though he had pardoned the Queen, would keep his
son Tristram no longer at the court, but sent him into France.
There Tristram learnt all knightly exercises, so that there was
none could equal him as harper or hunter; and after seven years,
being by then a youth of nineteen, he returned to his own land of
Liones.

It chanced, in those days, that King Anguish of Ireland sent to
Cornwall, demanding the tribute paid him in former times by that
land. Then Mark, the Cornish King, called together his barons and
knights to take counsel; and by their advice, he made answer that
he would pay no tribute, and bade King Anguish send a stout knight
to fight for his right if he still dared claim aught of the land of
Cornwall.

Forthwith there came from Ireland Sir Marhaus, brother of the Queen
of Ireland. Now Sir Marhaus was Knight of the Round Table and in
his time there were few of greater renown. He anchored his ships
under the Castle of Tintagil, and sent messengers daily to King
Mark, bidding him pay the tribute or find one to fight in his
cause.

Then was King Mark sore perplexed, for not one of his knights dared
encounter Sir Marhaus. Criers were sent through all the land,
proclaiming that, to any knight that would take the combat upon
him, King Mark would give such gifts as should enrich him for life.
In time, word of all that had happened came to Liones, and
immediately Tristram sought his father, desiring his permission to
go to the court of his uncle, King Mark, to take the battle upon
him. Thus it came to pass that, with his father's good leave,
Tristram presented himself before King Mark, asking to be made
knight that he might do battle for the liberties of Cornwall. Then
when Mark knew that it was his sister's son, he rejoiced greatly,
and having made Tristram knight, he sent word to Sir Marhaus that
there was found to meet him a champion of better birth than Sir
Marhaus' self.

So it was arranged that the combat should take place on a little
island hard by, where Sir Marhaus had anchored his ships. Sir
Tristram, with his horse and arms, was placed on board a ship, and
when the island was gained, he leaped on shore, bidding his squire
put off again and only return when he was slain or victorious.

Now, when Sir Marhaus saw that Tristram was but a youth, he cried
aloud to him: "Be advised, young Sir, and go back to your ship.
What can ye hope to do against me, a proven knight of Arthur's
Table?" Then Tristram made answer: "Sir and most famous champion, I
have been made knight to do battle with you, and I promise myself
to win honour thereby, I who have never before encountered a proven
knight." "If ye can endure three strokes of my sword, it shall be
honour enough," said Sir Marhaus. Then they rushed upon each other,
and at the first encounter each unhorsed the other, and Sir
Marhaus' spear pierced Sir Tristram's side and made a grievous
wound. Drawing their swords, they lashed at each other, and the
blows fell thick as hail till the whole island re-echoed with the
din of onslaught. So they fought half a day, and ever it seemed
that Sir Tristram grew fresher and nimbler while Sir Marhaus became
sore wearied. And at the last, Sir Tristram aimed a great blow at
the head of his enemy, and the sword crashed through the helmet and
bit into the skull so that a great piece was broken away from the
edge of Tristram's sword. Then Sir Marhaus flung away sword and
shield, and when he might regain his feet, fled shrieking to his
ships. "Do ye flee?" cried Tristram. "I am but newly made knight;
but rather than flee, I would be hewn piecemeal."

Then came Gouvernail, Sir Tristram's squire, and bore his master
back to land, where Mark and all the Cornish lords came to meet him
and convey him to the castle of Tintagil. Far and wide they sent
for surgeons to dress Sir Tristram's wound, but none might help
him, and ever he grew weaker. At the last, a wise woman told King
Mark that in that land alone whence came the poisoned spear could
Sir Tristram find cure. Then the King gave orders and a ship was
made ready with great stores of rich furnishings, to convey Sir
Tristram to Ireland, there to heal him of his wound.



CHAPTER XIII

THE FAIR ISOLT


Thus Tristram sailed to Ireland, and when he drew nigh the coast,
he called for his harp, and sitting up on his couch on the deck,
played the merriest tune that was ever heard in that land. And the
warders on the castle wall, hearing him, sent and told King Anguish
how a ship drew near with one who harped as none other might. Then
King Anguish sent knights to convey the stranger into the castle.
So when he was brought into the King's presence, Tristram declared
that he was Sir Tramtrist of Liones, lately made knight, and
wounded in his first battle; for which cause he was come to
Ireland, to seek healing. Forthwith the King made him welcome, and
placed him in the charge of his daughter, Isolt. Now Isolt was
famed for her skill in surgery, and, moreover, she was the fairest
lady of that time, save only Queen Guenevere. So she searched and
bandaged Sir Tristram's wound, and presently it was healed. But
still Sir Tristram abode at King Anguish's court, teaching the Fair
Isolt to harp, and taking great pleasure in her company. And ever
the princess doubted whether Sir Tristram were not a renowned
knight and ever she liked him better.

So the time passed merrily with feastings and in the jousts, and in
the lists Sir Tristram won great honour when he was recovered of
his wound.

At last it befell upon a day that Sir Tristram had gone to the bath
and left his sword lying on the couch. And the Queen, entering,
espied it, and taking it up, drew the sword from the sheath and
fell to admiring the mighty blade. Presently she saw that the edge
was notched, and while she pondered how great a blow must have
broken the good steel, suddenly she bethought her of the piece
which had been found in the head of her brother, Sir Marhaus.
Hastening to her chamber, she sought in a casket for the fragment,
and returning, placed it by the sword edge, where it fitted as well
as on the day it was first broken. Then she cried to her daughter:
"This, then, is the traitor knight who slew my brother, Sir
Marhaus"; and snatching up the sword, she rushed upon Sir Tristram
where he sat in his bath, and would have killed him, but that his
squire restrained her. Having failed of her purpose, she sought her
husband, King Anguish, and told him all her story: how the knight
they had harboured was he who had slain Sir Marhaus. Then the King,
sore perplexed, went to Sir Tristram's chamber, where he found him
fully armed, ready to get to horse. And Tristram told him all the
truth, how in fair fight he had slain Sir Marhaus. "Ye did as a
knight should," said King Anguish; "and much it grieves me that I
may not keep you at my court; but I cannot so displease my Queen or
barons." "Sir," said Tristram, "I thank you for your courtesy, and
will requite it as occasion may offer. Moreover, here I pledge my
word, as I am good knight and true, to be your daughter's servant,
and in all places and at all times to uphold her quarrel. Wherefore
I pray you that I may take my leave of the princess."

Then, with the King's permission, Sir Tristram went to the Fair
Isolt and told her all his story; "And here," said he, "I make my
vow ever to be your true knight, and at all times and in all places
to uphold your quarrel." "And on my part" answered the Fair Isolt,
"I make promise that never these seven years will I marry any man,
save with your leave and as ye shall desire." Therewith they
exchanged rings, the Fair Isolt grieving sore the while. Then Sir
Tristram strode into the court and cried aloud, before all the
barons: "Ye knights of Ireland, the time is come when I must
depart. Therefore, if any man have aught against me, let him stand
forth now, and I will satisfy him as I may." Now there were many
present of the kin of Sir Marhaus, but none dared have ado with Sir
Tristram; so, slowly he rode away, and with his squire took ship
again for Cornwall.



CHAPTER XIV

HOW KING MARK SENT SIR TRISTRAM TO FETCH HIM A WIFE


When Sir Tristram had come back to Cornwall, he abode some time at
the court of King Mark. Now in those days the Cornish knights were
little esteemed, and none less than Mark himself, who was a coward,
and never adventured himself in fair and open combat, seeking
rather to attack by stealth and have his enemy at an advantage. But
the fame of Sir Tristram increased daily, and all men spoke well of
him. So it came to pass that King Mark, knowing himself despised,
grew fearful and jealous of the love that all men bore his nephew;
for he seemed in their praise of him to hear his own reproach. He
sought, therefore, how he might rid himself of Tristram even while
he spoke him fair and made as if he loved him much, and at the last
he bethought him how he might gain his end and no man be the wiser.
So one day, he said to Tristram: "Fair nephew, I am resolved to
marry, and fain would I have your aid." "In all things, I am yours
to command," answered Sir Tristram. "I pray you, then," said King
Mark, "bring me to wife the Fair Isolt of Ireland. For since I have
heard your praises of her beauty, I may not rest unless I have her
for my Queen." And this he said thinking that, if ever Sir Tristram
set foot in Ireland, he would be slain.

But Tristram, nothing mistrusting, got together a company of
gallant knights, all fairly arrayed as became men sent by their
King on such an errand; and with them he embarked on a goodly ship.
Now it chanced that when he had reached the open sea, a great storm
arose and drove him back on to the coast of England, and landing
with great difficulty he set up his pavilion hard by the city of
Camelot.

Presently, word was brought him by his squire that King Anguish
with his company lay hard by, and that the King was in sore
straits; for he was charged with the murder of a knight of Arthur's
court, and must meet in combat Sir Blamor, one of the stoutest
knights of the Round Table. Then Sir Tristram rejoiced, for he saw
in this opportunity of serving King Anguish the means of earning
his good will. So he betook himself to the King's tent, and
proffered to take upon him the encounter, for the kindness shown
him by King Anguish in former days. And the King gratefully
accepting of his championship, the next day Sir Tristram
encountered with Sir Blamor, overthrew him, and so acquitted the
Irish King of the charge brought against him. Then in his joy, King
Anguish begged Sir Tristram to voyage with him to his own land,
bidding Tristram ask what boon he would and he should have it. So
rejoicing in his great fortune, Sir Tristram sailed once again for
the Irish land.



CHAPTER XV

HOW SIR TRISTRAM AND THE FAIR ISOLT DRANK OF THE MAGIC POTION


Then King Anguish made haste to return to Ireland, taking Sir
Tristram with him. And when he was come there and had told all his
adventures, there was great rejoicing over Sir Tristram, but of
none more than of the Fair Isolt. So when Sir Tristram had stayed
there some while, King Anguish reminded him of the boon he should
ask and of his own willingness to grant it. "Sir King," replied Sir
Tristram, "now will I ask it. Grant me your daughter, the Fair
Isolt, that I may take her to Cornwall, there to become the wife of
my uncle, King Mark." Then King Anguish grieved when he heard Sir
Tristram's request, and said: "Far more gladly would I give her to
you to wife." "That may not be," replied Sir Tristram; "my honour
forbids." "Take her then," said King Anguish, "she is yours to wed
or to give to your uncle, King Mark, as seems good to you."

So a ship was made ready and there entered it the Fair Isolt and
Sir Tristram, and Gouvernail, his squire, and Dame Bragwaine, who
was maid to the princess. But before they sailed, the Queen gave in
charge to Gouvernail and Dame Bragwaine a phial of wine which King
Mark and Isolt should drink together on their wedding-day; "For,"
said the Queen, "such is the magic virtue of this wine, that,
having drunk of it, they may never cease from loving one another."

Now it chanced, one day, that Sir Tristram sat and harped to the
Fair Isolt; and the weather being hot, he became thirsty. Then
looking round the cabin he beheld a golden flask, curiously shaped
and wrought; and laughing, he said to the Fair Isolt: "See, madam,
how my man and your maid care for themselves; for here is the best
wine that ever I tasted. I pray you, now, drink to me." So with
mirth and laughter, they pledged each other, and thought that never
before had they tasted aught so good. But when they had made an end
of drinking, there came upon them the might of the magic charm; and
never from that day, for good or for ill, might they cease from
their love. And so much woe was wrought; for, mindful of his pledge
to his uncle, Sir Tristram brought Isolt in all honour into the
land of Cornwall where she was wedded with pomp and ceremony to
King Mark, the craven King, who hated his nephew even more than
before, because he had returned in safety and made good his promise
as became an honourable knight. And from that day he never ceased
seeking the death of Sir Tristram.



CHAPTER XVI

OF THE END OF SIR TRISTRAM


Then again Sir Tristram abode at King Mark's court, ever rendering
the Fair Isolt loyal and knightly service; for King Mark would
imperil his life for none, no matter what the need.

Now among the Cornish knights, there was much jealousy of Sir
Tristram de Liones, and chief of his enemies was his own cousin,
Sir Andred. With lying words, Sir Andred sought to stir up King
Mark against his nephew, speaking evil of the Queen and of Sir
Tristram. Now Mark was afraid openly to accuse Sir Tristram, so he
set Sir Andred to spy upon him. At last, it befell one day that Sir
Andred saw Sir Tristram coming, alone and unarmed, from the Queen's
presence, and with twelve other knights, he fell upon him and bound
him. Then these felon knights bore Sir Tristram to a little chapel
standing upon a great rock which jutted out into the sea. There
they would have slain him, unarmed and bound. But Sir Tristram,
perceiving their intent, put forth suddenly all his strength, burst
his bonds, and wresting a sword from Sir Andred, cut him down; and
so he did with six other knights. Then while the rest, being but
cowards, gave back a little, he shut to and bolted the doors
against them, and sprang from the window on to the sea-washed rocks
below. There he lay as one dead, until his squire, Gouvernail,
coming in a little boat, took up his master, dressed his wounds,
and carried him to the coast of England.

So Sir Tristram was minded to remain in that country for a time.
Then, one day, as he rode through the forest near Camelot, there
came running to him a fair lady who cried: "Sir Tristram, I claim
your aid for the truest knight in all the world, and that is none
other than King Arthur." "With a good heart," said Sir Tristram;
"but where may I find him?" "Follow me," said the lady, who was
none other than the Lady of the Lake herself, and ever mindful of
the welfare of King Arthur. So he rode after her till he came to a
castle, and in front of it he saw two knights who beset at once
another knight, and when Sir Tristram came to the spot, the two had
borne King Arthur to the ground and were about to cut off his head.
Then Sir Tristram called to them to leave their traitor's work and
look to themselves; with the word, one he pierced through with his
spear and the other he cut down, and setting King Arthur again upon
his horse, he rode with him until they met with certain of Arthur's
knights. But when King Arthur would know his name, Tristram would
give none, but said only that he was a poor errant knight; and so
they parted.

But Arthur, when he was come back to Camelot, sent for Sir
Launcelot and other of his knights, bidding them seek for such an
one as was Sir Tristram and bring him to the court. So they
departed, each his own way, and searched for many days, but in
vain. Then it chanced, at last, as Sir Launcelot rode on his way,
he espied Sir Tristram resting beside a tomb; and, as was the
custom of knights errant, he called upon him to joust. So the two
ran together and each broke his spear. Then they sprang to the
ground and fought with their swords, and each thought that never
had he encountered so stout or so skilled a knight. So fiercely
they fought that, perforce, at last they must rest. Then said Sir
Launcelot: "Fair Knight, I pray you tell me your name, for never
have I met so good a knight." "In truth," said Sir Tristram, "I am
loth to tell my name." "I marvel at that," said Sir Launcelot; "for
mine I will tell you freely. I am Launcelot du Lac." Then was Sir
Tristram filled at once with joy and with sorrow; with joy that at
last he had encountered the noblest knight of the Round Table, with
sorrow that he had done him such hurt, and without more ado he
revealed his name. Now Sir Launcelot, who ever delighted in the
fame of another, had long desired to meet Sir Tristram de Liones,
and rejoicing to have found him, he knelt right courteously and
proffered him his sword, as if he would yield to him. But Tristram
would not have it so, declaring that, rather, he should yield to
Sir Launcelot. So they embraced right heartily, and when Sir
Launcelot questioned him, Sir Tristram acknowledged that it was he
who had come to King Arthur's aid. Together, then, they rode to
Camelot, and there Sir Tristram was received with great honour by
King Arthur, who made him Knight of the Round Table.

Presently, to Tristram at Camelot, there came word that King Mark
had driven the Fair Isolt from court, and compelled her to have her
dwelling in a hut set apart for lepers. Then Sir Tristram was wroth
indeed, and mounting his horse, rode forth that same hour, and
rested not till he had found the lepers' hut, whence he bore the
Queen to the castle known as the Joyous Garde; and there he held
her, in safety and honour, in spite of all that King Mark could do.
And all men honoured Sir Tristram, and felt sorrow for the Fair
Isolt; while as for King Mark, they scorned him even more than
before.

But to Sir Tristram, it was grief to be at enmity with his uncle
who had made him knight, and at last he craved King Arthur's aid to
reconcile him to Mark. So then the King, who loved Sir Tristram,
sent messengers to Cornwall to Mark, bidding him come forthwith to
Camelot; and when the Cornish King was arrived, Arthur required him
to set aside his enmity to Tristram, who had in all things been his
loyal nephew and knight. And King Mark, his head full of hate, but
fearful of offending his lord, King Arthur, made fair proffers of
friendship, begging Sir Tristram to return to Cornwall with him,
and promising to hold him in love and honour. So they were
reconciled, and when King Mark returned to Cornwall, thither Sir
Tristram escorted the Fair Isolt, and himself abode there,
believing his uncle to mean truly and honourably by him.

But under a seeming fair exterior, King Mark hated Sir Tristram
more than ever, and waited only to have him at an advantage. At
length he contrived the opportunity he sought. For he hid him in
the Queen's chamber at a time when he knew Sir Tristram would come
there unarmed, to harp to the Fair Isolt the music that she loved.
So as Sir Tristram, all unsuspecting, bent over his harp, Mark
leaped from his lurking place and dealt him such a blow from behind
that, on the instant, he fell dead at the feet of the Fair Isolt.
So perished the good knight, Sir Tristram de Liones Nor did the
Fair Isolt long survive him, for refusing all comfort, she pined
away, and died within a few days, and was laid in a tomb beside
that of her true knight. But the felon King paid the price of his
treachery with his life; for Sir Launcelot himself avenged the
death of his friend and the wrongs of the Fair Isolt.



BOOK IV

KING ARTHUR'S NEPHEWS



CHAPTER XVII

SIR GAWAIN AND THE LADY


Among the knights at King Arthur's court were his nephews, the sons
of his sister, Queen Bellicent, and of that King Lot of Orkney, who
had joined the league against Arthur in the first years of his
reign.

Of each, many tales are told; of Sir Gawain and Sir Gareth to
their great renown, but of Sir Mordred to his shame. For Sir Gawain
and Sir Gareth were knights of great prowess; but Sir Mordred was a
coward and a traitor, envious of other men's fame, and a
tale-bearer.

Now Sir Gawain was known as the Ladies' Knight, and this is how he
came by the name. It was at Arthur's marriage-feast, when Gawain
had just been made knight, that a strange thing befell. There
entered the hall a white hart, chased by a hound, and when it had
run round the hall, it fled through the doorway again, still
followed by the hound. Then, by Merlin's advice, the quest of the
hart was given to Gawain as a new-made knight, to follow it and see
what adventures it would bring him. So Sir Gawain rode away, taking
with him three couples of greyhounds for the pursuit. At the last,
the hounds caught the hart, and killed it just as it reached the
court-yard of a castle. Then there came forth from the castle a
knight, and he was grieved and wroth to see the hart slain, for it
was given him by his lady; so, in his anger, he killed two of the
hounds. At that moment Sir Gawain entered the court-yard, and an
angry man was he when he saw his greyhounds slain. "Sir Knight,"
said he, "ye would have done better to have taken your vengeance on
me rather than on dumb animals which but acted after their kind."
"I will be avenged on you also," cried the knight; and the two
rushed together, cutting and thrusting that it was wonderful they
might so long endure. But at the last the knight grew faint, and
crying for mercy, offered to yield to Sir Gawain. "Ye had no mercy
on my hounds," said Sir Gawain. "I will make you all the amends in
my power," answered the knight. But Sir Gawain would not be turned
from his purpose, and unlacing the vanquished knight's helmet, was
about to cut off his head, when a lady rushed out from the castle
and flung herself on the body of the fallen knight. So it chanced
that Sir Gawain's sword descending smote off the lady's head. Then
was Sir Gawain grieved and sore ashamed for what he had done, and
said to the knight: "I repent for what I have done; and here I give
you your life. Go only to Camelot, to King Arthur's court, and tell
him ye are sent by the knight who follows the quest of the white
hart." "Ye have slain my lady," said the other, "and now I care not
what befalls me." So he arose and went to King Arthur's court.

Then Sir Gawain prepared to rest him there for the night; but
scarcely had he lain down when there fell upon him four knights,
crying: "New-made knight, ye have shamed your knighthood, for a
knight without mercy is without honour." Then was Sir Gawain borne
to the earth, and would have been slain, but that there came forth
from the castle four ladies who besought the knights to spare his
life; so they consented and bound him prisoner.

The next morning Sir Gawain was brought again before the knights
and their dames; and because he was King Arthur's nephew, the
ladies desired that he should be set free, only they required that
he should ride again to Camelot, the murdered lady's head hanging
from his neck, and her dead body across his saddle-bow; and that
when he arrived at the court he should confess his misdeeds.

So Sir Gawain rode sadly back to Camelot, and when he had told his
tale, King Arthur was sore displeased. And Queen Guenevere held a
court of her ladies to pass sentence on Sir Gawain for his
ungentleness. These then decreed that, his life long, he must never
refuse to fight for any lady who desired his services, and that
ever he should be gentle and courteous and show mercy to all. From
that time forth, Sir Gawain never failed in aught that dame or
damsel asked of him, and so he won and kept the title of the
Ladies' Knight.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GARETH


Gareth was the youngest of the sons of Lot and Bellicent, and had
grown up long after Gawain and Mordred left their home for King
Arthur's court; so that when he came before the King, all humbly
attired, he was known not even by his own brothers.

King Arthur was keeping Pentecost at Kink Kenadon on the Welsh
border and, as his custom was, waited to begin the feast until some
adventure should befall. Presently there was seen approaching a
youth, who, to the wonderment of all that saw, leaned upon the
shoulders of two men, his companions; and yet as he passed up the
hall, he seemed a goodly youth, tall and broad-shouldered. When he
stood before the King, suddenly he drew himself up, and after due
greeting, said: "Sir King, I would ask of you three boons; one to
be granted now and two hereafter when I shall require them." And
Arthur, looking upon him, was pleased, for his countenance was open
and honest. So he made answer; "Fair son, ask of me aught that is
honourable and I will grant it." Then the youth said: "For this
present, I ask only that ye will give me meat and drink for a year
and a day." "Ye might have asked and had a better gift," replied
the King; "tell me now your name." "At this time, I may not tell
it," said the youth. Now King Arthur trusted every man until he
proved himself unworthy, and in this youth he thought he saw one
who should do nobly and win renown; so laughing, he bade him keep
his own counsel since so he would, and gave him in charge to Sir
Kay, the Seneschal.

Now Sir Kay was but harsh to those whom he liked not, and from the
first he scorned the young man; "For none," said he, "but a
low-born lout would crave meat and drink when he might have asked
for a horse and arms." But Sir Launcelot and Sir Gawain took the
youth's part. Neither knew him for Gareth of the Orkneys, but both
believed him to be a youth of good promise who, for his own
reasons, would pass in disguise for a season.

So Gareth lived the year among the kitchen-boys, all the time
mocked and scorned by Sir Kay, who called him Fairhands because his
hands were white and shapely. But Launcelot and Gawain showed him
all courtesy, and failed not to observe how, in all trials of
strength, he excelled his comrades, and that he was ever present to
witness the feats of the knights in the tournaments.

So the year passed, and again King Arthur was keeping the feast of
Pentecost with his knights, when a damsel entered the hall and
asked his aid: "For," said she, "my sister is closely besieged in
her castle by a strong knight who lays waste all her lands. And
since I know that the knights of your court be the most renowned in
the world, I have come to crave help of your mightiest." "What is
your sister's name, and who is he that oppresses her?" asked the
King. "The Red Knight, he is called," replied the damsel. "As for
my sister I will not say her name, only that she is a high-born
lady and owns broad lands." Then the King frowned and said: "Ye
would have aid but will say no name. I may not ask knight of mine
to go on such an errand."

Then forth stepped Gareth from among the serving men at the hall
end and said: "Sir King, I have eaten of your meat in your kitchen
this twelvemonth since, and now I crave my other two boons." "Ask
and have," replied the King. "Grant me then the adventure of this
damsel, and bid Sir Launcelot ride after me to knight me at my
desire, for of him alone would I be made knight." "It shall be so,"
answered the King. "What!" cried the damsel, "I ask for a knight
and ye give me a kitchen-boy. Shame on you, Sir King." And in
great wrath she fled from the hall, mounted her palfrey and rode
away. Gareth but waited to array himself in the armour which he had
kept ever in readiness for the time when he should need it, and
mounting his horse, rode after the damsel.

But when Sir Kay knew what had happened, he was wroth, and got to
horse to ride after Gareth and bring him back. Even as Gareth
overtook the damsel, so did Kay come up with him and cried: "Turn
back, Fairhands! What, sir, do ye not know me?" "Yes," answered
Gareth, "I know you for the most discourteous knight in Arthur's
court." Then Sir Kay rode upon him with his lance, but Gareth
turned it aside with his sword and pierced Sir Kay through the side
so that he fell to the ground and lay there without motion. So
Gareth took Sir Kay's shield and spear and was about to ride away,
when seeing Sir Launcelot draw near, he called upon him to joust.
At the first encounter, Sir Launcelot unhorsed Gareth, but quickly
helped him to his feet. Then, at Gareth's desire, they fought
together with swords, and Gareth did knightly till, at length, Sir
Launcelot said, laughing: "Why should we fight any longer? Of a
truth ye are a stout knight." "If that is indeed your thought, I
pray you make me knight," cried Gareth. So Sir Launcelot knighted
Gareth, who, bidding him farewell, hastened after the damsel, for
she had ridden on again while the two knights talked. When she saw
him coming, she cried: "Keep off! ye smell of the kitchen!"
"Damsel," said Sir Gareth, "I must follow until I have fulfilled
the adventure." "Till ye accomplish the adventure, Turn-spit? Your
part in it shall soon be ended." "I can only do my best," answered
Sir Gareth.

Now as they rode through the forest, they met with a knight sore
beset by six thieves, and him Sir Gareth rescued. The knight then
bade Gareth and the damsel rest at his castle, and entertained them
right gladly until the morn, when the two rode forth again.
Presently, they drew near to a deep river where two knights kept
the ford. "How now, kitchen-knave? Will ye fight or escape while ye
may?" cried the damsel. "I would fight though there were six
instead of two," replied Sir Gareth. Therewith he encountered the
one knight in mid-stream and struck him such a blow on the head
that he fell, stunned, into the water and was drowned. Then,
gaining the land, Gareth cleft in two both helmet and head of the
other knight, and turned to the damsel, saying: "Lead on; I
follow."

But the damsel mocked him, saying: "What a mischance is this that a
kitchen-boy should slay two noble knights! Be not over-proud,
Turn-spit. It was but luck, if indeed ye did not attack one knight
from behind." "Say what you will, I follow," said Sir Gareth.

So they rode on again, the damsel in front and Sir Gareth behind,
till they reached a wide meadow where stood many fair pavilions;
and one, the largest, was all of blue, and the men who stood about
it were clothed in blue, and bore shields and spears of that
colour; and of blue, too, were the trappings of the horses. Then
said the damsel: "Yonder is the Blue Knight, the goodliest that
ever ye have looked upon, and five hundred knights own him lord."
"I will encounter him," said Sir Gareth; "for if he be good knight
and true as ye say, he will scarce set on me with all his
following; and man to man, I fear him not." "Fie!" said the damsel,
"for a dirty knave, ye brag loud. And even if ye overcome him, his
might is as nothing to that of the Red Knight who besieges my lady
sister. So get ye gone while ye may." "Damsel," said Sir Gareth,
"ye are but ungentle so to rebuke me; for, knight or knave, I have
done you good service, nor will I leave this quest while life is
mine." Then the damsel was ashamed, and, looking curiously at
Gareth, she said: "I would gladly know what manner of man ye are.
For I heard you call yourself kitchen-knave before Arthur's self,
but ye have ever answered patiently though I have chidden you
shamefully; and courtesy comes only of gentle blood." Thereat Sir
Gareth but laughed, and said: "He is no knight whom a maiden can
anger by harsh words."

So talking, they entered the field, and there came to Sir Gareth a
messenger from the Blue Knight to ask him if he came in peace or in
war. "As your lord pleases," said Sir Gareth. So when the messenger
had brought back this word, the Blue Knight mounted his horse, took
his spear in his hand, and rode upon Sir Gareth. At their first
encounter their lances shivered to pieces, and such was the shock
that their horses fell dead. So they rushed on each other with
sword and shield, cutting and slashing till the armour was hacked
from their bodies; but at last, Sir Gareth smote the Blue Knight
to the earth. Then the Blue Knight yielded, and at the damsel's
entreaty, Sir Gareth spared his life.

So they were reconciled, and at the request of the Blue Knight, Sir
Gareth and the damsel abode that night in his tents. As they sat at
table, the Blue Knight said: "Fair damsel, are ye not called
Linet?" "Yes," answered she, "and I am taking this noble knight to
the relief of my sister, the Lady Liones." "God speed you, Sir,"
said the Blue Knight, "for he is a stout knight whom ye must meet.
Long ago might he have taken the lady, but that he hoped that Sir
Launcelot or some other of Arthur's most famous knights, coming to
her rescue, might fall beneath his lance. If ye overthrow him, then
are ye the peer of Sir Launcelot and Sir Tristram." "Sir Knight,"
answered Gareth, "I can but strive to bear me worthily as one whom
the great Sir Launcelot made knight."

So in the morning they bade farewell to the Blue Knight, who vowed
to carry to King Arthur word of all that Gareth had achieved; and
they rode on, till, in the evening, they came to a little ruined
hermitage where there awaited them a dwarf, sent by the Lady
Liones, with all manner of meats and other store. In the morning,
the dwarf set out again to bear word to his lady that her rescuer
was come. As he drew near the castle, the Red Knight stopped him,
demanding whence he came. "Sir," said the dwarf, "I have been with
my lady's sister, who brings with her a knight to the rescue of my
lady." "It is lost labour," said the Red Knight; "even though she
brought Launcelot or Tristram, I hold myself a match for them."
"He is none of these," said the dwarf, "but he has overthrown the
knights who kept the ford, and the Blue Knight yielded to him."
"Let him come," said the Red Knight; "I shall soon make an end of
him, and a shameful death shall he have at my hands, as many a
better knight has had." So saying, he let the dwarf go.

Presently, there came riding towards the castle Sir Gareth and the
damsel Linet, and Gareth marvelled to see hang from the trees some
forty knights in goodly armour, their shields reversed beside them.
And when he inquired of the damsel, she told him how these were the
bodies of brave knights who, coming to the rescue of the Lady
Liones, had been overthrown and shamefully done to death by the Red
Knight. Then was Gareth shamed and angry, and he vowed to make an
end of these evil practices. So at last they drew near to the
castle walls, and saw how the plain around was covered with the Red
Knight's tents, and the noise was that of a great army. Hard by was
a tall sycamore tree, and from it hung a mighty horn, made of an
elephant's tusk. Spurring his horse, Gareth rode to it, and blew
such a blast that those on the castle walls heard it; the knights
came forth from their tents to see who blew so bold a blast, and
from a window of the castle the Lady Liones looked forth and waved
her hand to her champion. Then, as Sir Gareth made his reverence to
the lady, the Red Knight called roughly to him to leave his
courtesy and look to himself; "For," said he, "she is mine, and to
have her, I have fought many a battle." "It is but vain labour,"
said Sir Gareth, "since she loves you not. Know, too, Sir Knight,
that I have vowed to rescue her from you." "So did many another who
now hangs on a tree," replied the Red Knight, "and soon ye shall
hang beside them." Then both laid their spears in rest, and spurred
their horses. At the first encounter, each smote the other full in
the shield, and the girths of the saddles bursting, they were borne
to the earth, where they lay for awhile as if dead. But presently
they rose, and setting their shields before them, rushed upon each
other with their swords, cutting and hacking till the armour lay on
the ground in fragments. So they fought till noon and then rested;
but soon they renewed the battle, and so furiously they fought,
that often they fell to the ground together. Then, when the bells
sounded for evensong, the knights rested again a while, unlacing
their helms to breathe the evening air. But looking up to the
castle windows, Gareth saw the Lady Liones gazing earnestly upon
him; then he caught up his helmet, and calling to the Red Knight,
bade him make ready for the battle; "And this time," said he, "we
will make an end of it." "So be it," said the Red Knight. Then the
Red Knight smote Gareth on the hand that his sword flew from his
grasp, and with another blow he brought him grovelling to the
earth. At the sight of this, Linet cried aloud, and hearing her,
Gareth, with a mighty effort, threw off the Red Knight, leaped to
his sword and got it again within his hand. Then he pressed the Red
Knight harder than ever, and at the last bore him to the earth,
and unlacing his helm, made ready to slay him; but the Red Knight
cried aloud: "Mercy; I yield." At first, remembering the evil
deaths of the forty good knights, Gareth was unwilling to spare
him; but the Red Knight besought him to have mercy, telling him
how, against his will, he had been bound by a vow to make war on
Arthur's knights. So Sir Gareth relented, and bade him set forth at
once for Kink Kenadon and entreat the King's pardon for his evil
past. And this the Red Knight promised to do.

Then amidst much rejoicing, Sir Gareth was borne into the castle.
There his wounds were dressed by the Lady Liones, and there he
rested until he recovered his strength. And having won her love,
when Gareth returned to Arthur's court, the Lady Liones rode with
him, and they two were wed with great pomp in the presence of the
whole Fellowship of the Round Table; the King rejoicing much that
his nephew had done so valiantly. So Sir Gareth lived happily with
Dame Liones, winning fame and the love of all true knights. As for
Linet, she came again to Arthur's court and wedded Sir Gareth's
younger brother, Sir Gaheris.



BOOK V

SIR GERAINT



CHAPTER XIX

THE ADVENTURES OF GERAINT


It befell, one Whitsunday, that Arthur was holding his court at
Caerleon, when word was brought to him of a splendid white stag
that ranged the Forest of Dean, and forthwith the King proclaimed a
hunt for the morrow.

So, with the dawn, there was much trampling of hoofs and baying of
hounds as all the knights got to horse; but Queen Guenevere
herself, though she had said she would ride with the hunt, slept
late, and when she called her maidens to her, it was broad day.
Then, with much haste, she arrayed herself, and taking one of her
ladies with her, rode to a little rising ground in the forest, near
which, as she well knew, the hunt must pass.

Presently, as she waited, there came riding by the gallant knight,
Geraint of Devon. He was arrayed neither for the chase nor for the
fight, but wore a surcoat of white satin and about him a loose
scarf of purple, with a golden apple at each corner. And when the
Queen had answered his salutation, she said: "How is it, Prince,
that ye be not ridden with the hunters?" "Madam," answered he,
"with shame I say it; I slept too late." Smiling, the Queen said:
"Then are we both in the same case, for I also arose too late. But
tarry with me, and soon ye will hear the baying of the hounds; for
often I have known them break covert here."

Then as they waited on the little woodland knoll, there came riding
past a knight full armed, a lady with him, and behind them a dwarf,
misshapen and evil-looking, and they passed without word or
salutation to the Queen.

Then said Guenevere to Geraint: "Prince, know ye yonder knight?"
"Nay, madam," said he; "his arms I know not, and his face I might
not see." Thereupon the Queen turned to her attendant and said:
"Ride after them quickly and ask the dwarf his master's name." So
the maiden did as she was bidden; but when she inquired of the
dwarf, he answered her roughly: "I will not tell thee my master's
name." "Since thou art so churlish," said she, "I will even ask him
himself." "That thou shalt not," he cried, and struck her across
the face with his whip. So the maiden, alarmed and angered, rode
back to the Queen and told her all that had happened. "Madam,"
cried Geraint, "the churl has wronged your maiden and insulted your
person. I pray you, suffer me to do your errand myself." With the
word, he put spurs to his horse and rode after the three. And when
he had come up with the dwarf, he asked the knight's name as the
maiden had done, and the dwarf answered him as he had answered the
Queen's lady. "I will speak with thy master himself," said Geraint.
"Thou shalt not, by my faith!" said the dwarf. "Thou art not
honourable enough to speak with my lord." "I have spoken with men
of as good rank as he," answered Geraint, and would have turned his
horse's head that he might ride after the knight; but the dwarf
struck him across the face such a blow that the blood spurted forth
over his purple scarf. Then, in his wrath, Geraint clapped hand to
sword, and would have slain the churl, but that he bethought him
how powerless was such a misshapen thing. So refraining himself, he
rode back to the Queen and said: "Madam, for the time the knight
has escaped me. But, with your leave, I will ride after him, and
require of him satisfaction for the wrong done to yourself and to
your maiden. It must be that I shall come presently to a town where
I may obtain armour. Farewell; if I live, ye shall have tidings of
me by next even." "Farewell," said the Queen; "I shall ever hold
your good service in remembrance."

So Geraint rode forth on his quest, and followed the road to the
ford of the Usk, where he crossed, and then went on his way until
he came to a town, at the further end of which rose a mighty
castle. And as he entered the town, he saw the knight and the lady,
and how, as they rode through the streets, from every window the
folk craned their necks to see them pass, until they entered the
castle and the gate fell behind them. Then was Geraint satisfied
that they would not pass thence that night, and turned him about to
see where he could obtain the use of arms that, the next day, he
might call the knight to account.

Now it seemed that the whole town was in a ferment. In every house,
men were busy polishing shields, sharpening swords, and washing
armour, and scarce could they find time to answer questions put to
them; so at the last, finding nowhere in the town to rest, Geraint
rode in the direction of a ruined palace, which stood a little
apart from the town, and was reached by a marble bridge spanning a
deep ravine. Seated on the bridge was an old man, hoary-headed, and
clothed in the tattered remains of what had once been splendid
attire, who gave Geraint courteous greeting. "Sir," said Geraint,
"I pray you, know ye where I may find shelter for this night?"
"Come with me," said the old man, "and ye shall have the best my
old halls afford." So saying, he led Geraint into a great
stone-paved court-yard, surrounded by buildings, once strong
fortifications, but then half burned and ruinous. There he bade
Geraint dismount, and led the way into an upper chamber, where sat
an aged dame, and with her a maiden the fairest that ever Geraint
had looked upon, for all that her attire was but a faded robe and
veil. Then the old man spoke to the maiden, saying: "Enid, take the
good knight's charger to a stall and give him corn. Then go to the
town and buy us provision for a feast to-night." Now it pleased not
Geraint that the maiden should thus do him service; but when he
made to accompany her, the old man, her father, stayed him and kept
him in converse until presently she was returned from the town and
had made all ready for the evening meal. Then they sat them down to
supper, the old man and his wife with Geraint between them; and the
fair maid, Enid, waited upon them, though it irked the Prince to
see her do such menial service.

So as they ate, they talked, and presently Geraint asked of the
cause why the palace was all in ruins. "Sir knight," said the old
man, "I am Yniol, and once I was lord of a broad earldom. But my
nephew, whose guardian I had been, made war upon me, affirming that
I had withheld from him his dues; and being the stronger, he
prevailed, and seized my lands and burnt my halls, even as ye see.
For the townsfolk hold with him, because that, with his tournaments
and feastings, he brings many strangers their way." "What then is
all the stir in the town even now?" asked Geraint. "To-morrow,"
said the Earl, "they hold the tournament of the Sparrow-Hawk. In
the midst of the meadow are set up two forks, and on the forks a
silver rod, and on the rod the form of a Sparrow-Hawk. Two years
has it been won by the stout knight Edeyrn, and if he win it the
morrow, it shall be his for aye, and he himself known as the
Sparrow-Hawk." "Tell me," cried Geraint, "is that the knight that
rode this day with a lady and a dwarf to the castle hard by?" "The
same," said Yniol; "and a bold knight he is." Then Geraint told
them of the insult offered that morning to Queen Guenevere and her
maiden, and how he had ridden forth to obtain satisfaction. "And
now, I pray you," said Geraint, "help me to come by some arms, and
in to-morrow's lists will I call this Sparrow-Hawk to account."
"Arms have I," answered the Earl, "old and rusty indeed, yet at
your service. But, Sir Knight, ye may not appear in to-morrow's
tournament, for none may contend unless he bring with him a lady in
whose honour he jousts." Then cried Geraint: "Lord Earl, suffer me
to lay lance in rest in honour of the fair maiden, your daughter.
And if I fall to-morrow, no harm shall have been done her, and if I
win, I will love her my life long, and make her my true wife." Now
Enid, her service ended, had left them to their talk; but the Earl,
rejoicing that so noble a knight should seek his daughter's love,
promised that, with the maiden's consent, all should be as the
Prince desired.

So they retired to rest that night, and the next day at dawn,
Geraint arose, and, donning the rusty old armour lent him by Earl
Yniol, rode to the lists; and there amongst the humbler sort of
onlookers, he found the old Earl and his wife and with them their
fair daughter.

Then the heralds blew their trumpets, and Edeyrn bade his lady-love
take the Sparrow-Hawk, her due as fairest of the fair. "Forbear,"
cried Geraint; "here is one fairer and nobler for whom I claim the
prize of the tournament." "Do battle for it, then!" cried Edeyrn.
So the two took their lances and rushed upon one another with a
crash like thunder, and each broke his spear. Thus they encountered
once and again; but at the last Geraint bore down upon Edeyrn with
such force that he carried him from his horse, saddle and all. Then
he dismounted, and the two rushed upon each other with their
swords. Long they fought, the sparks flying and their breath coming
hard, till, exerting all his strength, Geraint dealt the other such
a blow as cleft his helmet and bit to the bone. Then Edeyrn flung
away his sword and yielded him. "Thou shalt have thy life," said
Geraint, "upon condition that, forthwith, thou goest to Arthur's
court, there to deliver thyself to our Queen, and make such
atonement as shall be adjudged thee, for the insult offered her
yester morn." "I will do so," answered Edeyrn; and when his wounds
had been dressed he got heavily to horse and rode forth to
Caerleon.

Then the young Earl, Yniol's nephew, adjudged the Sparrow-Hawk to
Geraint, as victor in the tourney, and prayed him to come to his
castle to rest and feast. But Geraint, declining courteously, said
that it behoved him to go there where he had rested the night
before. "Where may that have been?" asked the Earl; "for though ye
come not to my castle, yet would I see that ye fare as befits your
valour." "I rested even with Yniol, your uncle," answered Geraint.
The young Earl mused awhile, and then he said: "I will seek you,
then, in my uncle's halls, and bring with me the means to furnish
forth a feast."

And so it was. Scarcely had Prince Geraint returned to the ruined
hall and bathed and rested him after his labours, when the young
Earl arrived, and with him forty of his followers bearing all
manner of stores and plenishings. And that same hour, the young
Earl was accorded with Yniol, his uncle, restoring to him the lands
of which he had deprived him, and pledging his word to build up
again the ruined palace.

When they had gone to the banquet, then came to them Enid, attired
in beautiful raiment befitting her rank; and the old Earl led her
to Geraint, saying: "Prince, here is the maiden for whom ye fought,
and freely I bestow her upon you." So Geraint took her hand before
them all and said: "She shall ride with me to Caerleon, and there
will I wed her before Arthur's court." Then to Enid he said:
"Gentle maiden, bear with me when I pray you to don the faded robe
and veil in which first I saw you." And Enid, who was ever gentle
and meek, did as he desired, and that evening they rode to
Caerleon.

So when they drew near the King's palace, word was brought to
Guenevere of their approach. Then the Queen went forth to greet the
good knight, and when she had heard all his story, she kissed the
maiden, and leading her into her own chamber, arrayed her right
royally for her marriage with the Prince. And that evening they
were wed amidst great rejoicing, in the presence of all the
knights and ladies of the court, the King himself giving Enid to
her husband. Many happy days they spent at Caerleon, rejoicing in
the love and good-will of Arthur and his Queen.



CHAPTER XX

GERAINT AND ENID


Geraint and the fair Enid abode more than a year at Arthur's court;
Enid winning daily more and more the love of all by her gentleness
and goodness, and Geraint being ever amongst the foremost in the
tournament. But presently there came word of robber raids upon the
borders of Devon; wherefore the Prince craved leave of Arthur to
return to his own land, there to put down wrong and oppression, and
maintain order and justice. And the King bade him go and secure to
every man his due.

So Geraint passed to his own land, Enid going with him; and soon he
had driven the oppressors from their strongholds and established
peace and order, so that the poor man dwelt in his little cot
secure in his possessions. But when all was done, and there was
none dared defy him, Geraint abode at home, neglectful of the
tournament and the chase, and all those manly exercises in which he
had once excelled, content if he had but the companionship of his
wife; so that his nobles murmured because he withdrew himself from
their society, and the common people jeered at him for a laggard.

Now these evil rumours came to Enid's ears, and it grieved her that
she should be the cause, however unwillingly, of her husband's
dishonour; and since she could not bring herself to speak to her
lord of what was in her heart, daily she grew more sorrowful, till
the Prince, aware of her altered demeanour, became uneasy, not
knowing its source.

So time went by till it chanced, one summer morning, that with the
first rays of the sun, Enid awoke from her slumbers, and, rising,
gazed upon her husband as he lay, and marvelled at his strength.
"Alas!" said she, "to be the cause that my lord suffers shame!
Surely I should find courage to tell him all, were I indeed true
wife to him!" Then, by ill chance, her tears falling upon him awoke
him, so that he heard her words, but brokenly, and seeing her weep
and hearing her accuse herself, it came into his thought that, for
all his love and care for her, she was weary of him, nay, even that
perhaps she loved him not at all. In anger and grief he called to
his squire and bade him saddle his charger and a palfrey for Enid;
and to her he said: "Put on thy meanest attire, and thou shalt ride
with me into the wilderness. It seems that I have yet to win me
fame; but before thou seest home again, thou shalt learn if indeed
I am fallen so low as thou deemest." And Enid, wondering and
troubled, answered, "I know naught of thy meaning, my lord." "Ask
me nothing," said Geraint. So sorrowfully and in silence Enid
arrayed herself, choosing for her apparel the faded robe and veil
in which first her lord had seen her.

Then the squire brought them their horses; but when he would have
mounted and ridden after, Geraint forbade him. And to Enid the
Prince said: "Ride before me and turn not back, no matter what thou
seest or hearest. And unless I speak to thee, say not a word to
me."

So they rode forward along the least frequented road till they came
to a vast forest, which they entered. There Enid, as she rode in
front, saw four armed men lurking by the road, and one said to the
other: "See, now is our opportunity to win much spoil at little
cost; for we may easily overcome this doleful knight, and take from
him his arms and lady." And Enid hearing them, was filled with fear
and doubt; for she longed to warn her lord of his danger, yet
feared to arouse his wrath, seeing he had bidden her keep silence.
Then said she to herself: "Better to anger him, even to the slaying
of me, than have the misery of seeing him perish." So she waited
till Geraint drew near, and said: "Lord, there lie in wait for thee
four men fully armed, to slay and rob thee." Then he answered her
in anger: "Did I desire thy silence or thy warning? Look, then, and
whether thou desirest my life or my death, thou shalt see that I
dread not these robbers." Then, as the foremost of the four rode
upon him, Geraint drove upon him with his spear with such force
that the weapon stood out a cubit behind him; and so he did with
the second, and the third, and the fourth. Then, dismounting from
his horse, he stripped the dead felons of their armour, bound it
upon their horses, and tying the bridle reins together, bade Enid
drive the beasts before her. "And," said he, "I charge thee, at thy
peril, speak no word to me."

So they went forward; and presently Enid saw how three horsemen,
well armed and well mounted, rode towards them. And one said to the
other: "Good fortune, indeed! Here are four horses and four suits
of armour for us, and but one knight to deal with; a craven too, by
the way he hangs his head." Then Enid thought within herself how
her lord was wearied with his former combat, and resolved to warn
him even at her own peril. So she waited till he was come up with
her, and said: "Lord, there be three men riding towards us, and
they promise themselves rich booty at small cost." Wrathfully spoke
Geraint: "Their words anger me less than thy disobedience"; and
immediately rushing upon the mid-most of the three knights, he bore
him from his horse; then he turned upon the other two who rode
against him at the same moment, and slew them both. As with the
former caitiffs, so now Geraint stripped the three of their armour,
bound it upon the horses, and bade Enid drive these forward with
the other four.

Again they rode on their way, and, for all his anger, it smote
Geraint to the heart to see the gentle lady labouring to drive
forward the seven horses. So he bade her stay, for they would go no
farther then, but rest that night as best they might in the forest;
and scarcely had they dismounted and tethered the horses before
Geraint, wearied with his encounters, fell asleep; but Enid
remained watching, lest harm should come to her lord while he
slept.

With the first ray of light, Geraint awoke, and his anger against
Enid was not passed; so, without more ado, he set her on her
palfrey and bade her drive the horses on in front as before,
charging her that, whatever befell, that day at least, she should
keep silence.

Soon they passed from the forest into open land, and came upon a
river flowing through broad meadows where the mowers toiled. Then,
as they waited to let the horses drink their fill, there drew near
a youth, bearing a basket of bread and meat and a blue pitcher
covered over with a bowl. So when the youth saluted them, Geraint
stayed him, asking whence he came. "My lord," said the lad, "I am
come from the town hard by, to bring the mowers their breakfast."
"I pray thee, then," said the Prince, "give of the food to this
lady, for she is faint." "That will I gladly," answered the youth,
"and do ye also partake, noble sir"; and he spread the meal for
them on the grass while they dismounted. So when they had eaten and
were refreshed, the youth gathered up the basket and pitcher,
saying he would return to the town for food for the mowers. "Do
so," said the Prince, "and when thou art come there, take for me
the best lodging that thou mayst. And for thy fair service, take a
horse and armour, whichsoever thou wilt." "My lord, ye reward me
far beyond my deserts," cried the youth. "Right gladly will I make
all ready against your arrival, and acquaint my master, the Earl,
of your coming."

So Geraint and Enid followed after the youth to the town, and
there they found everything prepared for their comfort, even as he
had promised; for they were lodged in a goodly chamber well
furnished with all that they might require. Then said Geraint to
Enid: "Abide at one end of the room and I will remain at the other.
And call the woman of the house if thou desirest her aid and
comfort in aught." "I thank thee, lord," answered Enid patiently;
but she called for no service, remaining silent and forlorn in the
farthest corner of the great chamber.

Presently there came to the house the Earl, the youth's master, and
with him twelve goodly knights to wait upon him. And Geraint
welcomed them right heartily, bidding the host bring forth his best
to furnish a feast. So they sat them down at the table, each in his
degree according to his rank, and feasted long and merrily; but
Enid remained the while shrinking into her corner if perchance she
might escape all notice.

As they sat at the banquet, the Earl asked Prince Geraint what
quest he followed. "None but mine own inclination and the adventure
it may please heaven to send," said Geraint. Then the Earl, whose
eye had oft sought Enid as she sat apart, said: "Have I your good
leave to cross the room and speak to your fair damsel? For she
joins us not in the feast." "Ye have it freely," answered the
Prince. So the Earl arose, and approaching Enid, bowed before her,
and spoke to her in low tones, saying: "Damsel, sad life is yours,
I fear, to journey with yonder man." "To travel the road he takes
is pleasant enough to me," answered Enid. "But see what slights he
puts upon you! To suffer you to journey thus, unattended by page or
maiden, argues but little love or reverence for you." "It is as
nothing, so that I am with him," said Enid. "Nay, but," said the
Earl, "see how much happier a life might be yours. Leave this
churl, who values you not, and all that I have, land and riches,
and my love and service for ever shall be yours." "Ye cannot tempt
me, with aught that ye can offer, to be false to him to whom I
vowed my faith," said she. "Ye are a fool!" said the Earl in a
fierce whisper. "One word to these my knights, and yonder is a dead
man. Then who shall hinder me that I take you by force? Nay, now,
be better advised, and I vow you my whole devotion for all time."
Then was Enid filled with dread of the man and his might, and
seeking but to gain time, she said: "Suffer me to be for this
present, my lord, and to-morrow ye shall come and take me as by
force. Then shall my name not suffer loss." "So be it," said he; "I
will not fail you." With that he left her, and taking his leave of
Geraint, departed with his followers.

Never a word of what the Earl had said did Enid tell her husband
that night; and on the departure of his guests, the Prince,
unheedful of her, flung him on the couch, and soon slept, despite
his grief and wrath. But Enid watched again that night, and, before
cock-crow, arose, set all his armour ready in one place, and then,
though fearful of his wrath, stepped to his side and touching him
gently, said: "Awake, my lord, and arm you, and save me and
yourself." Then she told him of all the Earl had said and of the
device she had used to save them both. Then wrathfully he rose and
armed himself, bidding her rouse the host to saddle and bring forth
the horses. When all was ready, Prince Geraint asked the man his
reckoning. "Ye owe but little," said the host. "Take then the seven
horses and the suits of armour," said Geraint. "Why, noble sir,"
cried the host, "I scarce have spent the value of one." "The richer
thou," answered Geraint. "Now show me the road from the town."

So the man guided them from the town, and scarce was he returned
when Earl Durm--for so was the Earl named--hammered at the door,
with forty followers at his back. "Where is the knight who was here
erewhile?" "He is gone hence, my lord," answered the host. "Fool
and villain!" cried the Earl, "why didst thou suffer him to escape?
Which way went he?" And the man, fearful and trembling, directed
the Earl the road Geraint had gone.

So it came to pass, as they rode on their way, Enid in front, the
Prince behind, that it seemed to Enid she heard the beat of many
horse-hoofs. And, as before, she broke Geraint's command, caring
little for aught that might befall her in comparison of loss to
him. "My lord," said she, "seest thou yonder knight pursuing thee
and many another with him?" "Yea, in good truth, I see him," said
Geraint, "and I see, too, that never wilt thou obey me." Then he
turned him about and, laying lance in rest, bore straight down upon
Earl Durm, who foremost rushed upon him; and such was the shock of
their encounter, that Earl Durm was borne from his saddle and lay
without motion as one dead. And Geraint charged fiercely upon the
Earl's men, unhorsing some and wounding others; and the rest,
having little heart for the fight after their master's overthrow,
turned and fled.

Then Geraint signed to Enid to ride on as before, and so they
journeyed the space of another hour while the summer sun beat upon
them with ever increasing force. Now the Prince had received a
grievous hurt in the encounter with Earl Durm and his men; but such
was his spirit that he heeded it not, though the wound bled sore
under his armour. Presently, as they rode, there came to them the
sound of wailing, and by the wayside they saw a lady weeping
bitterly over a knight who lay dead on the ground. "Lady," said
Geraint, "what has befallen you?" "Noble knight," she replied, "as
we rode through the forest, my husband and I, three villains set
upon him at once, and slew him." "Which way went they?" asked
Geraint. "Straight on by this high-road that ye follow even now,"
answered she. Then Geraint bade Enid remain with the lady while he
rode on to take vengeance on the miscreants. And Enid waited
fearfully the long while he was gone, and her heart rejoiced when
she saw him returning. But soon her joy was turned to sorrow, for
his armour was all dented and covered with blood and his face
ghastly; and even as he reached her side, he fell from his horse,
prone on the ground. Then Enid strove to loosen his armour, and
having found the wound, she staunched it as best she might and
bound it with her veil. And taking his head on her lap, she chafed
his hands and tried with her own body to shield him from the sun,
her tears falling fast the while. So she waited till, perchance,
help might come that way; and presently, indeed, she heard the
tramp of horses, and a troop came riding by with the Earl Limours
at their head. And when the Earl saw the two fallen knights and the
weeping women beside them, he stayed his horse, and said: "Ladies,
what has chanced to you?" Then she whose husband had been slain
said: "Sir, three caitiffs set on my husband at once and slew him.
Then came this good knight and went in pursuit of them, and as I
think, slew them; but when he came back, he fell from his horse,
sore wounded as ye see, and, I fear me, by now he is dead." "Nay,
gentle sir," cried Enid; "it cannot be that he is dead. Only, I
beseech you, suffer two of your men to carry him hence to some
place of shelter where he may have help and tendance." "I misdoubt
me, it is but labour wasted," said the Earl; "nevertheless, for the
sake of your fair face, it shall be as ye desire." Then he ordered
two of his men to carry Geraint to his halls and two more to stay
behind and bury the dead knight, while he caused the two women to
be placed on led horses; and so they rode to his castle. When they
were arrived there, the two spearmen who had carried Geraint,
placed him on a settle in the hall, and Enid crouched by his side,
striving if by any means she might bring him back to life. And
gradually Geraint recovered, though still he lay as in a swoon,
hearing indeed what passed around him, but dimly, as from a
distance.

Soon there came into the hall many servitors, who brought forth
the tables and set thereon all manner of meats, haunches of venison
and boars' heads and great pasties, together with huge flagons of
wine. Then when all was set, there came trooping to the board the
whole company of Earl Limours' retainers; last of all came the Earl
himself and took his place on the raised dais. Suddenly, as he
feasted and made merry, he espied Enid, who, mistrusting him
utterly, would fain have escaped his eye. And when he saw her, he
cried: "Lady, cease wasting sorrow on a dead man and come hither.
Thou shalt have a seat by my side; ay, and myself, too, and my
Earldom to boot." "I thank you, lord," she answered meekly, "but, I
pray you, suffer me to be as I am." "Thou art a fool," said
Limours; "little enough he prized thee, I warrant, else had he not
put thy beauty to such scorn, dressing it in faded rags! Nay, be
wise; eat and drink, and thou wilt think the better of me and my
fair proffer." "I will not," cried Enid; "I will neither eat nor
drink, till my lord arise and eat with me." "Thou vowest more than
thou canst perform. He is dead already. Nay, thou shalt drink."
With the word, he strode to her and thrust into her hand a goblet
brimming with wine, crying, "Drink." "Nay, lord," she said, "I
beseech you, spare me and be pitiful." "Gentleness avails nothing
with thee," cried the Earl in wrath; "thou hast scorned my fair
courtesy. Thou shalt taste the contrary." So saying, he smote her
across the face.

Then Enid, knowing all her helplessness, uttered an exceeding
bitter cry, and the sound roused Geraint. Grasping his sword, with
one bound he was upon the Earl and, with one blow, shore his neck
in two. Then those who sat at meat fled shrieking, for they
believed that the dead had come to life.

But Geraint gazed upon Enid and his heart smote him, thinking of
the sorrow he had brought upon her. "Lady and sweet wife," he
cried, "for the wrong I have done thee, pardon me. For, hearing thy
words not three days since at morn, I doubted thy love and thy
loyalty. But now I know thee and trust thee beyond the power of
words to shake my faith." "Ah! my lord," cried Enid, "fly, lest
they return and slay thee." "Knowest thou where is my charger?" "I
will bring thee to it." So they found the war-horse and Geraint
mounted it, setting Enid behind him; thus they went forth in the
direction of the nearest town, that they might find rest and
succour. Then, as they rode, there came forth from a glade of the
forest a knight, who, seeing Geraint, at once laid lance in rest as
if he would ride upon him. And Enid, fearing for her husband,
shrieked aloud, crying: "Noble knight, whosoever ye be, encounter
not with a man nigh wounded to the death." Immediately the knight
raised his lance and looking more attentively upon, them, he
exclaimed: "What! is it Prince Geraint? Pardon me, noble knight,
that I knew you not at once. I am that Edeyrn whom once ye
overthrew and spared. At Arthur's court, whither ye sent me, I was
shown kindness and courtesy little deserved, and now am I knight of
Arthur's Round Table. But how came ye in such a case?" Then Geraint
told him of his encounter with the three caitiffs, and how he had
afterwards been borne to the castle of Earl Limours. "To do justice
on that same felon is Arthur himself here even now," cried Edeyrn.
"His camp is hard by." Then Geraint told Edeyrn how Limours lay
dead in his own halls, justly punished for the many wrongs he had
done, and how his people were scattered. "Come then yourself to
greet the King and tell him what has chanced." So he led the way to
Arthur's camp, where it lay in the forest hard by. Then were they
welcomed by the King himself and a tent assigned to them, where
Geraint rested until his wounds were healed.

Never again, from that time forth, had Geraint a doubt of the love
and truth of Enid; and never from that time had she to mourn that
he seemed to set small store by his knightly fame. For after he was
cured, they returned to their own land, and there Geraint upheld
the King's justice, righting wrong and putting down robbery and
oppression, so that the people blessed him and his gentle wife.
Year by year, his fame grew, till his name was known through all
lands; and at last, when his time was come, he died a knightly
death, as he had lived a knightly life, in the service of his lord,
King Arthur.



BOOK VI

THE LADY OF THE FOUNTAIN



CHAPTER XXI

THE LADY OF THE FOUNTAIN


King Arthur was holding his court at Caerleon-upon-Usk, and it was
the time of the evening banquet, when there entered the hall the
good knight, Sir Kynon. A brave warrior was he, and of good
counsel, but he seemed in weary plight as, after due salutation to
all, he took his place at the Round Table. So it was that all were
eager to hear of his adventure, yet none would question him until
he had eaten and drunk. But when he was refreshed, the King said to
him: "Whence come ye, Sir Kynon? For it would seem that ye have met
with hard adventure." "Sir King," answered Kynon, "it has been with
me as never before; for I have encountered with, and been
overthrown by, a single knight." All were filled with wonder at his
words, for never before had Sir Kynon been worsted in any meeting,
man to man. Then said the King: "The stoutest of us must some time
meet his match; yet did ye bear you valiantly, I doubt not. Tell us
now, I pray you, of your adventures." "Noble lord," said Kynon, "I
had determined to journey into other lands; for I would seek new
and untried adventures. So I passed into a far land, and it
chanced, one day, that I found myself in the fairest valley I had
ever seen. Through it there flowed a mighty river, which I
followed, until I came, as evening fell, to a castle, the largest
and strongest I have ever seen. At the castle gate I espied a man
of right noble mien, who greeted me courteously, and bade me enter.
So as we sat at supper, he inquired of my journey and the quest I
followed, and I told him how I sought but adventure, and whether,
perchance, I might encounter one stronger than myself. Then the
lord of the castle smiled and said: 'I can bring you to such an
one, if ye would rather that I showed you your disadvantage than
your advantage.' And when I questioned him further, he replied:
'Sleep here this night, and to-morrow I will show you such an one
as ye seek.' So I rested that night, and with the dawn I rose and
took my leave of the lord of the castle, who said to me: 'If ye
will persevere in your quest, follow the path to the head of the
glade, and ascend the wooded steep until ye come to an open space
in the forest, with but one great tree in its midst. Under the tree
is a fountain, and beside it a marble slab to which is chained a
silver bowl. Take a bowlful of water and dash it upon the slab, and
presently there will appear a knight spurring to encounter with
you. If ye flee, he will pursue, but if ye overcome him, there
exists none in this world whom ye need fear to have ado with.'

"Forthwith I departed, and following these directions, I came at
last to such a space as he described, with the tree and fountain in
its midst. So I took the bowl and dashed water from the fountain
upon the marble slab, and, on the instant, came a clap of thunder
so loud as near deafened me, and a storm of hailstones the biggest
that ever man saw. Scarce was I recovered from my confusion, when I
saw a knight galloping towards me. All in black was he, and he rode
a black horse. Not a word we spoke, but we dashed against each
other, and at the first encounter I was unhorsed. Still not a word
spoke the Black Knight, but passing the butt-end of his lance
through my horse's reins, rode away, leaving me shamed and on foot.
So I made my way back to the castle, and there I was entertained
again that night right hospitably, none questioning me as to my
adventure. The next morning, when I rose, there awaited me a noble
steed, ready saddled and bridled, and I rode away and am returned
hither. And now ye know my story and my shame."

Then were all grieved for the discomfiture of Sir Kynon, who had
ever borne himself boldly and courteously to all; and they strove
to console him as best they might. Presently there rose from his
siege the good knight Sir Owain of Rheged, and said: "My lord, I
pray you, give me leave to take upon me this adventure. For I would
gladly seek this wondrous fountain and encounter with this same
Black Knight." So the King consented, and on the morrow Sir Owain
armed him, mounted his horse, and rode forth the way Sir Kynon had
directed him.

So he journeyed many a day until at last he reached the valley of
which Sir Kynon had told, and presently he came to the strong
castle and, at the gate, met the lord thereof, even as Sir Kynon
had done. And the lord of the castle gave him a hearty welcome and
made him good cheer, asking nothing of his errand till they were
seated about the board. Then, when questioned, Sir Owain declared
his quest, that he sought the knight who guarded the fountain. So
the lord of the castle, failing to dissuade Sir Owain from the
adventure, directed him how he might find the forest glade wherein
was the wondrous fountain.

With the dawn, Sir Owain rose, mounted his horse, and rode forward
until he had found the fountain. Then he dashed water on the marble
slab and instantly there burst over him the fearful hailstorm, and
through it there came pricking towards him the Black Knight on the
black steed. In the first onset, they broke their lances and then,
drawing sword, they fought blade to blade. Sore was the contest,
but at the last Owain dealt the Black Knight so fierce a blow that
the sword cut through helmet and bone to the very brain. Then the
Black Knight knew that he had got his death-wound, and turning his
horse's head, fled as fast as he might, Sir Owain following close
behind. So they came, fast galloping, to the gate of a mighty
castle, and instantly the portcullis was raised and the Black
Knight dashed through the gateway. But Sir Owain, following close
behind, found himself a prisoner, fast caught between two gates;
for as the Black Knight passed through the inner of the two gates,
it was closed before Sir Owain could follow. For the moment none
noticed Sir Owain, for all were busied about the Black Knight, who
drew not rein till he was come to the castle hall; then as he
strove to dismount, he fell from his saddle, dead.

All this Sir Owain saw through the bars of the gate that held him
prisoner; and he judged that his time was come, for he doubted not
but that the people of the castle would hold his life forfeit for
the death of their lord. So as he waited, suddenly there stood at
his side a fair damsel, who, laying finger on lip, motioned to him
to follow her. Much wondering, he obeyed, and climbed after her up
a dark winding staircase, that led from the gateway into a tiny
chamber high in the tower. There she set food and wine before him,
bidding him eat; then when he was refreshed, she asked him his name
and whence he came. "Truly," answered he, "I am Owain of Rheged,
knight of King Arthur's Round Table, who, in fair fight, have
wounded, I doubt not to the death, the Black Knight that guards the
fountain and, as I suppose, the lord of this castle. Wherefore,
maiden, if ye intend me evil, lead me where I may answer for my
deed, boldly, man to man." "Nay," answered the damsel eagerly, "in
a good hour ye are come. Well I know your name, for even here have
we heard of your mighty deeds; and by good fortune it may be that
ye shall release my lady." "Who is your lady?" asked Sir Owain.
"None other than the rightful Chatelaine of this castle and
Countess of broad lands besides; but this year and more has the
Black Knight held her prisoner in her own halls because she would
not listen to his suit." "Then lead me to your lady forthwith,"
cried Sir Owain; "right gladly will I take her quarrel upon me if
there be any that will oppose me." So she led him to the Countess'
bower, and there he made him known to the fair lady and proffered
her his services. And she that had long deemed there was no
deliverance for her, accepted them right gladly. So taking her by
the hand, he led her down to the hall, and there, standing at the
door, he proclaimed her the lawful lady of that castle and all its
lands, and himself ready to do battle in her cause. But none
answered his challenge, for those that had held with the Black
Knight, deprived of their leader, had lost heart, whereas they that
for their loyalty to their lady had been held in subjection,
gathered fast about Sir Owain, ready to do battle. So in short
space, Sir Owain drove forth the lawless invaders of the Countess'
lands, and called together her vassals that they might do homage
to her anew.

Thus he abode in the castle many days, seeking in all that he might
to do her service, until through all her lands order was restored,
and her right acknowledged. But when all was done, Sir Owain yet
tarried in the lady's castle; for he loved her much, but doubted
ever of her favour. So one day, Luned, the damsel who had come to
his aid on the day that he slew the Black Knight, said to him:
"Alas! Sir Knight, the time must come when ye will leave us. And
who will then defend my lady's fountain, which is the key to all
her lands? For who holds the fountain, holds the land also." "I
will never fail your lady while there is breath in my body," cried
Sir Owain. "Then were it well that ye stayed here ever," answered
Luned. "Gladly would I," answered Sir Owain, "if that I might." "Ye
might find a way if your wits were as sharp as your sword," she
answered, and laughing, left him, but herself sought her lady. Long
he pondered her words, and he was still deep in thought, when there
came to him the Countess, and said: "Sir Knight, I hear that ye
must leave us." "Nay, my lady," answered Sir Owain, "I will stay as
long as ye require my services." "There must ever be one to guard
the fountain, and he who guards the fountain, is lord of these
lands," answered the lady softly. Then Sir Owain found words at
last, and bending the knee, he said: "Lady, if ye love me, I will
stay and guard you and your lands; and if ye love me not, I will go
into my own country, and yet will I come again whensoever ye have
need of me. For never loved I any but you." Then the Countess bade
him stay, and calling her vassals together, she commanded all to do
homage to him, and took him for her husband in presence of them
all.

Thus Sir Owain won the Lady of the Fountain.



BOOK VII

SIR PEREDUR



CHAPTER XXII

THE ADVENTURES OF SIR PEREDUR


At one time there was in the North of Britain a great Earl named
Evrawc. A stout knight he was, and few were the tournaments at
which he was not to be found in company with six of his sons; the
seventh only, who was too young to bear arms, remaining at home
with his mother. But at the last, after he had won the prize at
many a tourney, Earl Evrawc was slain, and his six sons with him;
and then the Countess fled with Peredur, her youngest, to a lonely
spot in the midst of a forest, far from the dwellings of men; for
she was minded to bring him up where he might never hear of jousts
and feats of arms, that so at least one son might be left to her.

So Peredur was reared amongst women and decrepit old men, and even
these were strictly commanded never to tell the boy aught of the
great world beyond the forest, or what men did therein. None the
less, he grew up active and fearless, as nimble and sure-footed as
the goats, and patient of much toil.

Then, one day, when Peredur was grown a tall, strong youth, there
chanced what had never chanced before; for there came riding
through the forest, hard by where Peredur dwelt with his mother, a
knight in full armour, none other, indeed, than the good knight,
Sir Owain himself. And seeing him, Peredur cried out: "Mother, what
is that, yonder?" "An angel, my son," said his mother. "Then will I
go and become an angel with him," said Peredur; and before any one
could stay him, he was gone.

When Sir Owain saw him approaching, he reined in his horse, and
after courteous salutation, said: "I pray thee, fair youth, tell
me, hast thou seen a knight pass this way?" "I know not what a
knight may be," answered Peredur. "Why, even such an one as I,"
answered Sir Owain. "If ye will tell me what I ask you, I will tell
you what ye ask me," said Peredur; and when Owain, laughing,
consented, Peredur touched the saddle, demanding, "What is this?"
"Surely, a saddle," replied Sir Owain; and, in like manner, Peredur
asked him of all the parts of his armour, and Owain answered him
patiently and courteously. Then when he had ended his questions,
Peredur said: "Ride forward; for yesterday I saw from a distance
such an one as ye are, ride through the forest."

Sir Peredur returned to his mother, and exclaimed: "Mother, that
was no angel, but a noble knight"; and hearing his words, his
mother fell into a swoon. But Peredur hastened to the spot where
were tethered the horses that brought them firewood and food from
afar, and from them he chose a bony piebald, which seemed the
strongest and in the best condition. Then he found a pack and
fastened it on the horse's back, in some way to resemble a saddle,
and strove with twigs to imitate the trappings he had seen upon Sir
Owain's horse. When his preparations were complete, he returned to
the Countess, who, by then, was recovered from her swoon; and she
saw that all her trouble had been in vain, and that the time was
come when she must part with her son. "Thou wilt ride forth, my
son?" she asked. "Yea, with your leave," he answered. "Hear, then,
my counsel," said she; "go thy way to Arthur's court, for there are
the noblest and truest knights. And wheresoever thou seest a
church, fail not to say thy prayers, and whatsoever woman demands
thy aid, refuse her not."

So, bidding his mother farewell, Peredur mounted his horse, and
took in his hand a long, sharp-pointed stake. He journeyed many
days till, at last, he had come to Caerleon, where Arthur held his
court, and dismounting at the door, he entered the hall. Even as he
did so, a stranger knight, who had passed in before him, seized a
goblet and, dashing the wine in the face of Queen Guenevere, held
the goblet aloft and cried: "If any dare dispute this goblet with
me or venture to avenge the insult done to Arthur's Queen, let him
follow me to the meadow without, where I will await him."

And for sheer amazement at this insolence, none moved save Peredur,
who cried aloud: "I will seek out this man and do vengeance upon
him." Then a voice exclaimed: "Welcome, goodly Peredur, thou flower
of knighthood"; and all turned in surprise to look upon a little
misshapen dwarf, who, a year before, had craved and obtained
shelter in Arthur's court, and since then had spoken no word. But
Kay the Seneschal, in anger that a mere boy, and one so strangely
equipped as Peredur, should have taken up the Queen's quarrel when
proven knights had remained mute, struck the dwarf, crying: "Thou
art ill-bred to remain mute a year in Arthur's court, and then to
break silence in praise of such a fellow." Then Peredur, who saw
the blow, cried, as he left the hall: "Knight, hereafter ye shall
answer to me for that blow." Therewith, he mounted his piebald and
rode in haste to the meadow. And when the knight espied him, he
cried to him: "Tell me, youth, saw'st thou any coming after me from
the court?" "I am come myself," said Peredur. "Hold thy peace,"
answered the knight angrily, "and go back to the court and say
that, unless one comes in haste, I will not tarry, but will ride
away, holding them all shamed." "By my faith," said Peredur,
"willingly or unwillingly, thou shalt answer to me for thine
insolence; and I will have the goblet of thee, ay, and thy horse
and armour to boot." With that, in a rage, the knight struck
Peredur a violent blow between the neck and the shoulder with the
butt-end of his lance. "So!" cried Peredur, "not thus did my
mother's servants play with me; and thus will I play with thee";
and drove at him with his pointed stake that it entered the eye of
the knight, who forthwith fell dead from his horse. Then Peredur
dismounted and began wrenching at the fastenings of the dead man's
armour, for he saw in the adventure the means of equipping himself
as a knight should ride; but knowing not the trick of the
fastenings, his efforts were in vain. While he yet struggled, there
rode up Sir Owain who had followed in hot haste from the court; and
when he saw the fallen knight, he was amazed that a mere lad,
unarmed and unskilled in knightly exercises, should thus have
prevailed. "Fair youth," said he, "what would ye?" "I would have
this knight's iron coat, but I cannot stir it for all my efforts."
"Nay, young Sir," said Sir Owain, "leave the dead his arms, and
take mine and my horse, which I give you right gladly; and come
with me to the King to receive the order of knighthood, for, by my
faith, ye have shown yourself worthy of it." "I thank you, noble
Sir," answered Peredur, "and gladly I accept your gift; but I will
not go with you now. Rather will I seek other adventures and prove
me further first; nor will I seek the King's presence until I have
encountered with the tall knight that so misused the dwarf, and
have called him to account. Only, I pray you, take this goblet to
Queen Guenevere, and say to my lord, King Arthur, that, in all
places and at all times, I am his true vassal, and will render him
such service as I may." Then, with Sir Owain's help, Peredur put on
the armour, and mounting his horse, after due salutation, rode on
his way.

So, for many days, Peredur followed his adventures, and many a
knight he met and overthrew. To all he yielded grace, requiring
only that they should ride to Caerleon, there to give themselves up
to the King's pleasure, and say that Peredur had sent them. At last
he came to a fair castle that rose from the shores of a lake, and
there he was welcomed by a venerable old man who pressed him to
make some stay. So, as they sat at supper, the old man asked
Peredur many questions of himself and his adventure, gazing
earnestly on him the while; and, at last, he said: "I know thee who
thou art. Thou art my sister's son. Stay now with me, and I will
teach thee the arts and courtesy and noble bearing of a gentle
knight, and give thee the degree when thou art accomplished in all
that becomes an honourable knight." Thereto Peredur assented
gladly, and remained with his uncle until he had come to a perfect
knowledge of chivalry; after that, he received the order of
knighthood at the old man's hands, and rode forth again to seek
adventures. Presently he came to the city of Caerleon, but though
Arthur was there with all his court, Sir Peredur chose to make
himself known to none; for he had not yet avenged the dwarf on Sir
Kay. Now it chanced, as he walked through the city, he saw at her
casement a beautiful maiden whose name was Angharad; and at once he
knew that he had seen the damsel whom he must love his life long.
So he sought to be acquainted with her, but she scorned him,
thinking him but some unproved knight, since he consorted not with
those of Arthur's court; and, at last, finding he might in no wise
win her favour at that time, he made a vow that never would he
speak to Christian man or woman until he had gained her love, and
forthwith rode away again. After long journeyings, he came one
night to a castle, and, knocking, gained admittance and courteous
reception from the lady who owned it. But it seemed to Sir Peredur
that there hung over all a gloom, none caring to talk or make
merry, though there was no lack of the consideration due to a
guest. Then when the evening hour was come, they took their places
at the board, Peredur being set at the Countess' right hand; and
two nuns entered and placed before the lady a flagon of wine and
six white loaves, and that was all the fare. Then the Countess gave
largely of the food to Sir Peredur, keeping little for herself and
her attendants; but this pleased not the knight, who, heedless of
his oath, said: "Lady, permit me to fare as do the others," and he
took but a small portion of that which she had given him. Then the
Countess, blushing as with shame, said to him: "Sir Knight, if we
make you poor cheer, far otherwise is our desire, but we are in
sore straits." "Madam," answered Peredur courteously, "for your
welcome I thank you heartily; and, I pray you, if there is aught in
which a knight may serve you, tell me your trouble." Then the
Countess told him how she had been her father's one child, and heir
to his broad lands; and how a neighbouring baron had sought her
hand; but she, misliking him, had refused his suit, so that his
wrath was great. Then, when her father died, he had made war upon
her, overrunning all her lands till nothing was left to her but the
one castle. Long since, all the provision stored therein was
consumed, and she must have yielded her to the oppressor but for
the charity of the nuns of a neighbouring monastery, who had
secretly supplied her with food when, for fear, her vassals had
forsaken her. But that day the nuns had told her that no longer
could they aid her, and there was naught left save to submit to the
invader. This was the story that, with many tears, the Countess
related to Peredur. "Lady," said he, "with your permission, I will
take upon me your quarrel, and to-morrow I will seek to encounter
this felon." The Countess thanked him heartily and they retired to
rest for that night.

In the morning betimes, Sir Peredur arose, donned his armour and,
seeking the Countess, desired that the portcullis might be raised,
for he would sally forth to seek her oppressor. So he rode out from
the castle and saw in the morning light a plain covered with the
tents of a great host. With him he took a herald to proclaim that
he was ready to meet any in fair fight, in the Countess' quarrel.
Forthwith, in answer to his challenge, there rode forward the baron
himself, a proud and stately knight mounted on a great black
horse. The two rushed together, and, at the first encounter, Sir
Peredur unhorsed his opponent, bearing him over the crupper with
such force that he lay stunned, as one dead. Then, Peredur, drawing
his sword, dismounted and stood over the fallen knight, who, when
he was recovered a little, asked his mercy. "Gladly will I grant
it," answered Peredur, "but on these conditions. Ye shall disband
this host, restore to the Countess threefold all of which ye have
deprived her, and, finally, ye shall submit yourself unto her as
her vassal." All this the baron promised to do, and Peredur
remained with the Countess in her castle until she was firmly
established in that which was rightfully hers. Then he bade her
farewell, promising his aid if ever she should need his services,
and so rode forth again.

And as he rode, at times he was troubled, thinking on the scorn
with which the fair Angharad had treated him, and reproaching
himself bitterly for having broken his vow of silence. So he
journeyed many days, and at length, one morn, dismounting by a
little woodland stream, he stood lost in thought, heedless of his
surroundings. Now, as it chanced, Arthur and a company of his
knights were encamped hard by; for, returning from an expedition,
the King had been told of Peredur and how he had taken upon him the
Queen's quarrel, and forthwith had ridden out in search of him.
When the King espied Sir Peredur standing near the brook, he said
to the knights about him: "Know ye yonder knight?" "I know him
not," said Sir Kay, "but I will soon learn his name." So he rode
up to Sir Peredur and spoke to him, demanding his name. When
Peredur answered not, though questioned more than once, Sir Kay in
anger, struck him with the butt-end of his spear. On the instant,
Sir Peredur caught him with his lance under the jaw, and, though
himself unmounted, hurled Kay from the saddle. Then when Kay
returned not, Sir Owain mounted his horse and rode forth to learn
what had happened, and by the brook he found Sir Kay sore hurt, and
Peredur ready mounted to encounter any who sought a quarrel. But at
once Sir Owain recognised Sir Peredur and rejoiced to see him; and
when he found Sir Peredur would speak no word, being himself an
honourable knight, he thought no evil, but urged him to ride back
with him to Arthur's camp. And Sir Peredur, still speaking never a
word, went with Sir Owain, and all respected his silence save Kay,
who was long healing of the injuries he had received, and whose
angry words none heeded. So they returned to Caerleon and soon,
through the city, were noised the noble deeds of Sir Peredur, each
new-comer bringing some fresh story of his prowess. Then when
Angharad learnt how true and famous was the knight whom she had
lightly esteemed, she was sore ashamed; and seeing him ever
foremost in the tournament and courteous to all in deed, though
speaking not a word; she thought that never had there been so noble
a knight, or one so worthy of a lady's love. Thus in the winning of
her favour, Sir Peredur was released from his vow, and his marriage
was celebrated with much pomp before the King and Queen. Long and
happily he lived, famed through all Britain as one of the most
valiant and faithful knights of King Arthur's Round Table.



BOOK VIII

THE HOLY GRAIL



CHAPTER XXIII

THE COMING OF SIR GALAHAD


Many times had the Feast of Pentecost come round, and many were the
knights that Arthur had made since first he founded the Order of
the Round Table; yet no knight had appeared who dared claim the
seat named by Merlin the Siege Perilous. At last, one vigil of the
great feast, a lady came to Arthur's court at Camelot and asked Sir
Launcelot to ride with her into the forest hard by, for a purpose
not then to be revealed. Launcelot consenting, they rode together
until they came to a nunnery hidden deep in the forest; and there
the lady bade Launcelot dismount, and led him into a great and
stately room. Presently there entered twelve nuns and with them a
youth, the fairest that Launcelot had ever seen. "Sir," said the
nuns, "we have brought up this child in our midst, and now that he
is grown to manhood, we pray you make him knight, for of none
worthier could he receive the honour." "Is this thy own desire?"
asked Launcelot of the young squire; and when he said that so it
was, Launcelot promised to make him knight after the great festival
had been celebrated in the church next day.

So on the morrow, after they had worshipped, Launcelot knighted
Galahad--for that was the youth's name--and asked him if he would
ride at once with him to the King's court; but the young knight
excusing himself, Sir Launcelot rode back alone to Camelot, where
all rejoiced that he was returned in time to keep the feast with
the whole Order of the Round Table.

Now, according to his custom, King Arthur was waiting for some
marvel to befall before he and his knights sat down to the banquet.
Presently a squire entered the hall and said: "Sir King, a great
wonder has appeared. There floats on the river a mighty stone, as
it were a block of red marble, and it is thrust through by a sword,
the hilt of which is set thick with precious stones." On hearing
this, the King and all his knights went forth to view the stone
and found it as the squire had said; moreover, looking closer, they
read these words: "None shall draw me hence, but only he by whose
side I must hang; and he shall be the best knight in all the
world." Immediately, all bade Launcelot draw forth the sword, but
he refused, saying that the sword was not for him. Then, at the
King's command, Sir Gawain made the attempt and failed, as did Sir
Percivale after him. So the knights knew the adventure was not for
them, and returning to the hall, took their places about the Round
Table.

No sooner were they seated than an aged man, clothed all in white,
entered the hall, followed by a young knight in red armour, by
whose side hung an empty scabbard. The old man approached King
Arthur and bowing low before him, said: "Sir, I bring you a young
knight of the house and lineage of Joseph of Arimathea, and through
him shall great glory be won for all the land of Britain." Greatly
did King Arthur rejoice to hear this, and welcomed the two right
royally. Then when the young knight had saluted the King, the old
man led him to the Siege Perilous and drew off its silken cover;
and all the knights were amazed, for they saw that where had been
engraved the words, "The Siege Perilous," was written now in
shining gold: "This is the Siege of the noble prince, Sir Galahad."
Straightway the young man seated himself there where none other had
ever sat without danger to his life; and all who saw it said, one
to another: "Surely this is he that shall achieve the Holy Grail."
Now the Holy Grail was the blessed dish from which Our Lord had
eaten the Last Supper, and it had been brought to the land of
Britain by Joseph of Arimathea; but because of men's sinfulness, it
had been withdrawn from human sight, only that, from time to time,
it appeared to the pure in heart.

When all had partaken of the royal banquet, King Arthur bade Sir
Galahad come with him to the river's brink; and showing him the
floating stone with the sword thrust through it, told him how his
knights had failed to draw forth the sword. "Sir," said Galahad,
"it is no marvel that they failed, for the adventure was meant for
me, as my empty scabbard shows." So saying, lightly he drew the
sword from the heart of the stone, and lightly he slid it into the
scabbard at his side. While all yet wondered at this adventure of
the sword, there came riding to them a lady on a white palfrey who,
saluting King Arthur, said: "Sir King, Nacien the hermit sends thee
word that this day shall great honour be shown to thee and all
thine house; for the Holy Grail shall appear in thy hall, and thou
and all thy fellowship shall be fed therefrom." And to Launcelot
she said: "Sir Knight, thou hast ever been the best knight of all
the world; but another has come to whom thou must yield
precedence." Then Launcelot answered humbly: "I know well I was
never the best." "Ay, of a truth thou wast and art still, of sinful
men," said she, and rode away before any could question her
further.

So, that evening, when all were gathered about the Round Table,
each knight in his own siege, suddenly there was heard a crash of
thunder, so mighty that the hall trembled, and there flashed into
the hall a sun-beam, brighter far than any that had ever before
been seen; and then, draped all in white samite, there glided
through the air what none might see, yet what all knew to be the
Holy Grail. And all the air was filled with sweet odours, and on
every one was shed a light in which he looked fairer and nobler
than ever before. So they sat in an amazed silence, till presently
King Arthur rose and gave thanks to God for the grace given to him
and to his court. Then up sprang Sir Gawain and made his avow to
follow for a year and a day the Quest of the Holy Grail, if
perchance he might be granted the vision of it. Immediately other
of the knights followed his example, binding themselves to the
Quest of the Holy Grail until, in all, one hundred and fifty had
vowed themselves to the adventure.

Then was King Arthur grieved, for he foresaw the ruin of his noble
Order. And turning to Sir Gawain, he said: "Nephew ye have done
ill, for through you I am bereft of the noblest company of knights
that ever brought honour to any realm in Christendom. Well I know
that never again shall all of you gather in this hall, and it
grieves me to lose men I have loved as my life and through whom I
have won peace and righteousness for all my realm." So the King
mourned and his knights with him, but their oaths they could not
recall.



CHAPTER XXIV

HOW SIR GALAHAD WON THE RED-CROSS SHIELD


Great woe was there in Camelot next day when, after worship in the
Cathedral, the knights who had vowed themselves to the Quest of the
Holy Grail got to horse and rode away. A goodly company it was that
passed through the streets, the townfolk weeping to see them go;
Sir Launcelot du Lac and his kin, Sir Galahad of whom all expected
great deeds, Sir Bors and Sir Percivale, and many another scarcely
less famed than they. So they rode together that day to the Castle
of Vagon, where they were entertained right hospitably, and the
next day they separated, each to ride his own way and see what
adventures should befall him.

So it came to pass that, after four days' ride, Sir Galahad reached
an abbey. Now Sir Galahad was still clothed in red armour as when
he came to the King's court, and by his side hung the wondrous
sword; but he was without a shield. They of the abbey received him
right heartily, as also did the brave King Bagdemagus, Knight of
the Round Table, who was resting there. When they had greeted each
other, Sir Galahad asked King Bagdemagus what adventure had brought
him there. "Sir," said Bagdemagus, "I was told that in this abbey
was preserved a wondrous shield which none but the best knight in
the world might bear without grievous harm to himself. And though I
know well that there are better knights than I, to-morrow I purpose
to make the attempt. But, I pray you, bide at this monastery awhile
until you hear from me; and if I fail, do ye take the adventure
upon you." "So be it," said Sir Galahad.

The next day, at their request, Sir Galahad and King Bagdemagus
were led into the church by a monk and shown where, behind the
altar, hung the wondrous shield, whiter than snow save for the
blood-red cross in its midst. Then the monk warned them of the
danger to any who, being unworthy, should dare to bear the shield.
But King Bagdemagus made answer: "I know well that I am not the
best knight in the world, yet will I try if I may bear it." So he
hung it about his neck, and, bidding farewell, rode away with his
squire.

The two had not journeyed far before they saw a knight approach,
armed all in white mail and mounted upon a white horse. Immediately
he laid his spear in rest and, charging King Bagdemagus, pierced
him through the shoulder and bore him from his horse; and standing
over the wounded knight, he said: "Knight, thou hast shown great
folly, for none shall bear this shield save the peerless knight,
Sir Galahad." Then, taking the shield, he gave it to the squire and
said: "Bear this shield to the good Knight Galahad and greet him
well from me." "What is your name?" asked the squire, "That is not
for thee or any other to know." "One thing, I pray you," said the
squire; "why may this shield be borne by none but Sir Galahad
without danger?" "Because it belongs to him only," answered the
stranger knight, and vanished.

Then the squire took the shield and, setting King Bagdemagus on his
horse, bore him back to the abbey where he lay long, sick unto
death. To Galahad the squire gave the shield and told him all that
had befallen. So Galahad hung the shield about his neck and rode
the way that Bagdemagus had gone the day before; and presently he
met the White Knight, whom he greeted courteously, begging that he
would make known to him the marvels of the red-cross shield. "That
will I gladly," answered the White Knight. "Ye must know, Sir
Knight, that this shield was made and given by Joseph of Arimathea
to the good King Evelake of Sarras, that, in the might of the holy
symbol, he should overthrow the heathen who threatened his kingdom.
But afterwards, King Evelake followed Joseph to this land of
Britain where they taught the true faith unto the people who before
were heathen. Then when Joseph lay dying, he bade King Evelake set
the shield in the monastery where ye lay last night, and foretold
that none should wear it without loss until that day when it should
be taken by the knight, ninth and last in descent from him, who
should come to that place the fifteenth day after receiving the
degree of knighthood. Even so has it been with you, Sir Knight." So
saying, the unknown knight disappeared and Sir Galahad rode on his
way.



CHAPTER XXV

THE ADVENTURES OF SIR PERCIVALE


After he had left his fellows, Sir Percivale rode long through the
forest until, one evening, he reached a monastery where he sought
shelter for the night. The next morning, he went into the chapel to
hear mass and there he espied the body of an old, old man, laid on
a richly adorned couch. At first it seemed as if the aged man were
dead, but presently, raising himself in his bed, he took off his
crown, and, delivering it to the priest, bade him place it on the
altar. So when the service was concluded, Sir Percivale asked who
the aged king might be. Then he was told that it was none other
than King Evelake who accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to Britain.
And on a certain occasion, the King had approached the Holy Grail
nigher than was reverent and, for his impiety, God had punished him
with blindness. Thereupon he repented and, entreating God
earnestly, had obtained his petition that he should not die until
he had seen the spotless knight who should be descended from him in
the ninth degree. (This his desire was fulfilled later when Sir
Galahad came thither; after which, he died and was buried by the
good knight.)

The next day, Sir Percivale continued his journey and presently met
with twenty knights who bore on a bier the body of a dead knight.
When they espied Sir Percivale, they demanded of him who he was and
whence he came. So he told them, whereupon they all shouted, "Slay
him! slay him!" and setting upon him all at once, they killed his
horse and would have slain him but that the good knight, Sir
Galahad, passing that way by chance, came to his rescue and put his
assailants to flight. Then Galahad rode away as fast as he might,
for he would not be thanked, and Sir Percivale was left, horseless
and alone, in the forest.

So Sir Percivale continued his journey on foot as well as he might;
and ever the way became lonelier, until at last he came to the
shores of a vast sea. There Sir Percivale abode many days, without
food and desolate, doubting whether he should ever escape thence.
At last it chanced that, looking out to sea, Sir Percivale descried
a ship and, as it drew nearer, he saw how it was all hung with
satin and velvet. Presently, it reached the land and out of it
there stepped a lady of marvellous beauty, who asked him how he
came there; "For know," said she, "ye are like to die here by
hunger or mischance." "He whom I serve will protect me," said Sir
Percivale. "I know well whom ye desire most to see," said the lady.
"Ye would meet with the Red Knight who bears the red-cross shield."
"Ah! lady, I pray you tell me where I may find him," cried Sir
Percivale. "With a good will," said the damsel; "if ye will but
promise me your service when I shall ask for it, I will lead you to
the knight, for I met him of late in the forest." So Sir Percivale
promised gladly to serve her when she should need him. Then the
lady asked him how long he had fasted. "For three days," answered
Sir Percivale. Immediately she gave orders to her attendants
forthwith to pitch a tent and set out a table with all manner of
delicacies, and of these she invited Sir Percivale to partake. "I
pray you, fair lady," said Sir Percivale, "who are ye that show me
such kindness?" "Truly," said the lady, "I am but a hapless damsel,
driven forth from my inheritance by a great lord whom I have
chanced to displease. I implore you, Sir Knight, by your vows of
knighthood, to give me your aid." Sir Percivale promised her all
the aid he could give, and then she bade him lie down and sleep,
and herself took off his helmet, and unclasped his sword-belt. So
Sir Percivale slept, and when he waked, there was another feast
prepared, and he was given the rarest and the strongest wines that
ever he had tasted. Thus they made merry and, when the lady begged
Percivale to rest him there awhile, promising him all that ever he
could desire if he would vow himself to her service, almost he
forgot the quest to which he was vowed, and would have consented,
but that his eye fell upon his sword where it lay. Now in the
sword-hilt there was set a red cross and, seeing it, Percivale
called to mind his vow, and, thinking on it, he signed him with the
cross on his forehead. Instantly, the tent was overthrown and
vanished in thick smoke; and she who had appeared a lovely woman
disappeared from his sight in semblance of a fiend.

Then was Sir Percivale sore ashamed that almost he had yielded to
the temptings of the Evil One, and earnestly, he prayed that his
sin might be forgiven him. Thus he remained in prayer far into the
night, bewailing his weakness; and when the dawn appeared, a ship
drew nigh the land. Sir Percivale entered into it, but could find
no one there; so commending himself to God, he determined to remain
thereon, and was borne over the seas for many days, he knew not
whither.



CHAPTER XXVI

THE ADVENTURES OF SIR BORS


Among the knights vowed to the Quest of the Holy Grail was Sir
Bors, one of the kin of Sir Launcelot, a brave knight and pious. He
rode through the forest many a day, making his lodging most often
under a leafy tree, though once on his journey he stayed at a
castle, that he might do battle for its lady against a felon knight
who would have robbed and oppressed her.

So, on a day, as he rode through the forest, Sir Bors came to the
parting of two ways. While he was considering which he should
follow, he espied two knights driving before them a horse on which
was stretched, bound and naked, none other than Sir Bors' own
brother, Sir Lionel; and, from time to time, the two false knights
beat him with thorns so that his body was all smeared with blood,
but, so great was his heart, Sir Lionel uttered never a word. Then,
in great wrath, Sir Bors laid his lance in rest and would have
fought the felon knights to rescue his brother, but that, even as
he spurred his horse, there came a bitter cry from the other path
and, looking round, he saw a lady being dragged by a knight into
the darkest part of the forest where none might find and rescue
her. When she saw Sir Bors, she cried to him: "Help me! Sir Knight,
help me! I beseech you by your knighthood." Then Sir Bors was much
troubled, for he would not desert his brother; but bethinking him
that ever a woman must be more helpless than a man, he wheeled his
horse, rode upon her captor and beat him to the earth. The damsel
thanked him earnestly and told him how the knight was her own
cousin, who had that day carried her off by craft from her father's
castle. As they talked, there came up twelve knights who had been
seeking the lady everywhere; so to their care Sir Bors delivered
her, and rode with haste in the direction whither his brother had
been borne. On the way, he met with an old man, dressed as a
priest, who asked him what he sought. When Sir Bors had told him,
"Ah! Bors," said he, "I can give you tidings indeed. Your brother
is dead"; and parting the bushes, he showed him the body of a dead
man, to all seeming Sir Lionel's self. Then Sir Bors grieved
sorely, misdoubting almost whether he should not have rescued his
own brother rather than the lady; and at the last, he dug a grave
and buried the dead man; after which he rode sorrowfully on his
way.

When he had ridden many days, he met with a yeoman whom he asked if
there were any adventures in those parts. "Sir," said the man, "at
the castle; hard by, they hold a great tournament." Sir Bors
thanked him and rode along the way pointed out to him; and
presently, as he passed a hermitage, whom should he see sitting at
its door but his brother, Sir Lionel, whom he had believed dead.
Then in great joy, he leaped from his horse, and running to Lionel,
cried: "Fair brother, how came ye hither?" "Through no aid of
yours," said Sir Lionel angrily; "for ye left me bound and beaten,
to ride to the rescue of a maiden. Never was brother so dealt with
by brother before. Keep you from me as ye may!" When Sir Bors
understood that his brother would slay him, he knelt before him
entreating his pardon. Sir Lionel took no heed, but mounting his
horse and taking his lance, cried: "Keep you from me, traitor!
Fight, or die!" And Sir Bors moved not; for to him it seemed a sin
most horrible that brother should fight with brother. Then Sir
Lionel, in his rage, rode his horse at him, bore him to the ground
and trampled him under the horse's hoofs, till Bors lay beaten to
the earth in a swoon. Even so, Sir Lionel's anger was not stayed;
for, alighting, he drew his sword and would have smitten off his
brother's head, but that the holy hermit, hearing the noise of
conflict, ran out of the hermitage and threw himself upon Sir Bors.
"Gentle knight," he cried, "have mercy upon him and on thyself; for
of the sin of slaying thy brother, thou couldst never be quit."
"Sir Priest," said Lionel, "if ye leave him not, I shall slay you
too." "It were a lesser sin than to slay thy brother," answered the
hermit. "So be it," cried Lionel, and with one blow, struck off the
hermit's head. Then he would have worked his evil will upon his
brother too, but that, even as he was unlacing Sir Bors' helm to
cut off his head, there rode up the good knight Sir Colgrevance, a
fellow of the Round Table. When he saw the dead hermit and was
aware how Lionel sought the life of Bors, he was amazed, and
springing from his horse, ran to Lionel and dragged him back from
his brother. "Do ye think to hinder me?" said Sir Lionel. "Let
come who will, I will have his life." "Ye shall have to do with me
first," cried Colgrevance. Therewith, they took their swords, and,
setting their shields before them, rushed upon each other. Now Sir
Colgrevance was a good knight, but Sir Lionel was strong and his
anger added to his strength. So long they fought that Sir Bors had
time to recover from his swoon, and raising himself with pain on
his elbow, saw how the two fought for his life; and as it seemed,
Sir Lionel would prevail, for Sir Colgrevance grew weak and weary.
Sir Bors tried to get to his feet, but, so weak he was, he could
not stand; and Sir Colgrevance, seeing him stir, called on him to
come to his aid, for he was in mortal peril for his sake. But even
as he called, Sir Lionel cut him to the ground and, as one
possessed, rushed upon his brother to slay him. Sir Bors entreated
him for mercy, and when he would not, sorrowfully he took his
sword, saying: "Now, God forgive me, though I defend my life
against my brother."

Immediately there was heard a voice saying, "Flee, Bors, and touch
not thy brother"; and at the same time, a fiery cloud burned
between them, so that their shields glowed with the flame, and both
knights fell to the earth. But the voice came again, saying, "Bors,
leave thy brother and take thy way to the sea. There thou shalt
meet Sir Percivale." Then Sir Bors made ready to obey, and, turning
to Lionel, said: "Dear brother, I pray you forgive me for aught in
which I have wronged you." "I forgive you," said Lionel, for he was
too amazed and terrified to keep his anger.

So Sir Bors continued his journey, and at the last, coming to the
sea shore, he espied a ship, draped all with white samite, and
entering thereon, he saw Sir Percivale, and much they rejoiced them
in each other's company.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE ADVENTURES OF SIR LAUNCELOT


After Sir Launcelot had parted from his fellows at the Castle of
Vagon, he rode many days through the forest without adventure, till
he chanced upon a knight close by a little hermitage in the wood.
Immediately, as was the wont of errant knights, they prepared to
joust, and Launcelot, whom none before had overthrown, was borne
down, man and horse, by the stranger knight. Thereupon a nun, who
dwelt in the hermitage, cried: "God be with thee, best knight in
all this world," for she knew the victor for Sir Galahad. But
Galahad, not wishing to be known, rode swiftly away; and presently
Sir Launcelot got to horse again and rode slowly on his way, shamed
and doubting sorely in his heart whether this quest were meant for
him.

When night fell, he came to a great stone cross which stood at the
parting of the way and close by a little ruined chapel. So Sir
Launcelot, being minded to pass the night there, alighted, fastened
his horse to a tree and hung his shield on a bough. Then he drew
near to the little chapel, and wondered to see how, all ruinous
though it was, yet within was an altar hung with silk and a great
silver candlestick on it; but when he sought entrance, he could
find none and, much troubled in his mind, he returned to his horse
where he had left it, and unlacing his helm and ungirding his
sword, laid him down to rest.

Then it seemed to Sir Launcelot that, as he lay between sleeping
and waking, there passed him two white palfreys bearing a litter
wherein was a sick knight, who cried: "Sweet Lord, when shall I be
pardoned all my transgressions, and when shall the holy vessel come
to me, to cure me of my sickness?" And instantly it seemed that the
great candlestick came forth of itself from the chapel, floating
through the air before a table of silver on which was the Holy
Grail. Thereupon the sick knight raised himself, and on his bended
knees he approached so nigh that he kissed the holy vessel; and
immediately he cried: "I thank Thee, sweet Lord, that I am healed
of my sickness." And all the while Sir Launcelot, who saw this
wonder, felt himself held that he could not move. Then a squire
brought the stranger knight his weapons, in much joy that his lord
was cured. "Who think ye that this knight may be who remains
sleeping when the holy vessel is so near?" said the knight. "In
truth," said the squire, "he must be one that is held by the bond
of some great sin. I will take his helm and his sword, for here
have I brought you all your armour save only these two." So the
knight armed him from head to foot, and taking Sir Launcelot's
horse, rode away with his squire. On the instant, Sir Launcelot
awoke amazed, not knowing whether he had dreamed or not; but while
he wondered, there came a terrible voice, saying: "Launcelot, arise
and leave this holy place." In shame, Sir Launcelot turned to obey,
only to find horse and sword and shield alike vanished. Then,
indeed, he knew himself dishonoured. Weeping bitterly, he made the
best of his way on foot, until he came to a cell where a hermit was
saying prayer. Sir Launcelot knelt too, and, when all was ended,
called to the hermit, entreating him for counsel. "With good will,"
said the hermit. So Sir Launcelot made himself known and told the
hermit all, lamenting how his good fortune was turned to
wretchedness and his glory to shame; and truly, the hermit was
amazed that Sir Launcelot should be in such case. "Sir," said he,
"God has given you manhood and strength beyond all other knights;
the more are ye bounden to his service." "I have sinned," said Sir
Launcelot; "for in all these years of my knighthood, I have done
everything for the honour and glory of my lady and naught for my
Maker; and little thank have I given to God for all his benefits to
me." Then the holy man gave Sir Launcelot good counsel and made him
rest there that night; and the next day he gave him a horse, a
sword and a helmet, and bade him go forth and bear himself knightly
as the servant of God.



CHAPTER XXVIII

HOW SIR LAUNCELOT SAW THE HOLY GRAIL


For many days after he had left the hermitage, Sir Launcelot rode
through the forest, but there came to him no such adventures as had
befallen him on other quests to the increase of his fame. At last,
one night-tide, he came to the shores of a great water and there he
lay down to sleep; but as he slept, a voice called on him:
"Launcelot, arise, put on thine armour and go on thy way until thou
comest to a ship. Into that thou shalt enter." Immediately, Sir
Launcelot started from his sleep to obey and, riding along the
shore, came presently to a ship beached on the strand; no sooner
had he entered it, than the ship was launched--how, he might not
know. So the ship sailed before the wind for many a day. No mortal
was on it, save only Sir Launcelot, yet were all his needs
supplied. Then, at last, the ship ran ashore at the foot of a great
castle; and it was midnight. Sir Launcelot waited not for the dawn,
but, his sword gripped in his hand, sprang ashore, and then, right
before him, he saw a postern where the gate stood open indeed, but
two grisly lions kept the way. And when Sir Launcelot would have
rushed upon the great beasts with his sword, it was struck from his
hand, and a voice said: "Ah! Launcelot, ever is thy trust in thy
might rather than thy Maker!" Sore ashamed, Sir Launcelot took his
sword and thrust it back into the sheath, and going forward, he
passed unhurt through the gateway, the lions that kept it falling
back from his path. So without more adventure, Launcelot entered
into the castle; and there he saw how every door stood open, save
only one, and that was fast barred, nor, with all his force, might
he open it. Presently from the chamber within came the sound of a
sweet voice in a holy chant, and then in his heart Launcelot knew
that he was come to the Holy Grail. So, kneeling humbly, he prayed
that to him might be shown some vision of that he sought. Forthwith
the door flew open and from the chamber blazed a light such as he
had never known before; but when he made to enter, a voice cried:
"Launcelot, forbear," and sorrowfully he withdrew. Then where he
knelt, far even from the threshold of the wondrous room, he saw a
silver table and, on it, covered with red samite, the Holy Grail.
At sight of that which he had sought so long, his joy became so
great that, unmindful of the warning, he advanced into the room and
drew nigh even to the Table itself. Then on the instant there burst
between him and it a blaze of light, and he fell to the ground.
There he lay, nor might he move nor utter any sound; only he was
aware of hands busy about him which bore him away from the chamber.

For four-and-twenty days, Sir Launcelot lay as in a trance. At the
end of that time, he came to himself, and found those about him
that had tended him in his swoon. These, when they had given him
fresh raiment, brought him to the aged King--Pelles was his
name--that owned that castle. The King entertained him right
royally, for he knew of the fame of Sir Launcelot; and long he
talked with him of his quest and of the other knights who followed
it, for he was of a great age and knew much of men. At the end of
four days, he spoke to Sir Launcelot, bidding him return to
Arthur's court; "For," said he, "your quest is ended here, and all
that ye shall see of the Holy Grail, ye have seen." So Launcelot
rode on his way, grieving for the sin that hindered him from the
perfect vision of the Holy Grail, but thanking God for that which
he had seen. So in time he came to Camelot, and told to Arthur all
that had befallen him.



CHAPTER XXIX

THE END OF THE QUEST


After he had rescued Sir Percivale from the twenty knights who
beset him, Sir Galahad rode on his way till night-fall, when he
sought shelter at a little hermitage. Thither there came in the
night a damsel who desired to speak with Sir Galahad; so he arose
and went to her, "Galahad," said she, "arm you and mount your horse
and follow me, for I am come to guide you in your quest." So they
rode together until they had come to the sea-shore, and there the
damsel showed Galahad a great ship into which he must enter. Then
she bade him farewell, and he, going on to the ship, found there
already the good knights Sir Bors and Sir Percivale, who made much
joy of the meeting. They abode in that ship until they had come to
the castle of King Pelles, who welcomed them right gladly. Then, as
they all sat at supper that night, suddenly the hall was filled
with a great light, and the holy vessel appeared in their midst,
covered all in white samite. While they all rejoiced, there came a
voice saying: "My Knights whom I have chosen, ye have seen the
holy vessel dimly. Continue your journey to the city of Sarras and
there the perfect Vision shall be yours."

Now in the city of Sarras had dwelt long time Joseph of Arimathea,
teaching its people the true faith, before ever he came into the
land of Britain; but when Sir Galahad and his fellows came there
after long voyage, they found it ruled by a heathen king named
Estorause, who cast them into a deep dungeon. There they were kept
a year, but at the end of that time, the tyrant died. Then the
great men of the land gathered together to consider who should be
their king; and, while they were in council, came a voice bidding
them take as their king the youngest of the three knights whom
Estorause had thrown into prison. So in fear and wonder they
hastened to the prison, and releasing the three knights, made
Galahad king as the voice had bidden them.

Thus Sir Galahad became King of the famous city of Sarras, in far
Babylon. He had reigned a year when, one morning early, he and the
other two knights, his fellows, went into the chapel, and there
they saw, kneeling in prayer, an aged man, robed as a bishop, and
round him hovered many angels. The knights fell on their knees in
awe and reverence, whereupon he that seemed a bishop turned to them
and said: "I am Joseph of Arimathea, and I am come to show you the
perfect Vision of the Holy Grail." On the instant there appeared
before them, without veil or cover, the holy vessel, in a radiance
of light such as almost blinded them. Sir Bors and Sir Percivale,
when at length they were recovered from the brightness of that
glory, looked up to find that the holy Joseph and the wondrous
vessel had passed from their sight. Then they went to Sir Galahad
where he still knelt as in prayer, and behold, he was dead; for it
had been with him even as he had prayed; in the moment when he had
seen the vision, his soul had gone back to God.

So the two knights buried him in that far city, themselves mourning
and all the people with them. And immediately after, Sir Percivale
put off his arms and took the habit of a monk, living a devout and
holy life until, a year and two months later, he also died and was
buried near Sir Galahad. Then Sir Bors armed him, and bidding
farewell to the city, sailed away until, after many weeks, he came
again to the land of Britain. There he took horse, and stayed not
till he had come to Camelot. Great was the rejoicing of Arthur and
all his knights when Sir Bors was once more among them. When he had
told all the adventures which had befallen him and the good
knights, his companions, all who heard were filled with amaze. But
the King, he caused the wisest clerks in the land to write in great
hooks this Quest of the Holy Grail, that the fame of it should
endure unto all time.



BOOK IX

THE FAIR MAID OF ASTOLAT



CHAPTER XXX

THE FAIR MAID OF ASTOLAT


At last, the Quest of the Holy Grail was ended, and by ones and
twos the knights came back to Camelot, though many who had set out
so boldly were never seen again about the Round Table.

Great was the joy of King Arthur when Sir Launcelot and Sir Bors
returned, for, so long had they been away, that almost he had
feared that they had perished. In their honour there was high
festival for many days in London, where Arthur then had his court;
and the King made proclamation of a great tournament that he would
hold at Camelot, when he and the King of Northgalis would keep the
lists against all comers.

So, one fair morning of spring, King Arthur made ready to ride to
Camelot and all his knights with him, save Launcelot, who excused
himself, saying that an old wound hindered him from riding. But
when the King, sore vexed, had departed, the Queen rebuked Sir
Launcelot, and bade him go and prove his great prowess as of old.
"Madam," said Sir Launcelot, "in this, as in all else, I obey you;
at your bidding I go, but know that in this tournament I shall
adventure me in other wise than ever before."

The next day, at dawn, Sir Launcelot mounted his horse, and, riding
forth unattended, journeyed all that day till, as evening fell, he
reached the little town of Astolat, and there, at the castle,
sought lodgement for that night. The old Lord of Astolat was glad
at his coming, judging him at once to be a noble knight, though he
knew him not, for it was Sir Launcelot's will to remain unknown.

So they went to supper, Sir Launcelot and the old lord, his son,
Sir Lavaine, and his daughter Elaine, whom they of the place called
the Fair Maid of Astolat. As they sat at meat, the Baron asked Sir
Launcelot if he rode to the tournament. "Yea," answered Launcelot;
"and right glad should I be if, of your courtesy, ye would lend me
a shield without device." "Right willingly," said his host; "ye
shall have my son, Sir Tirre's shield. He was but lately made
knight and was hurt in his first encounter, so his shield is bare
enough. If ye will take with you my young son, Sir Lavaine, he will
be glad to ride in the company of so noble a knight and will do you
such service as he may." "I shall be glad indeed of his
fellowship," answered Sir Launcelot courteously.

Now it seemed to the fair Elaine that never had she beheld so noble
a knight as this stranger; and seeing that he was as gentle and
courteous as he was strong, she said to him: "Fair Knight, will ye
wear my favour at this tournament? For never have I found knight
yet to wear my crimson sleeve, and sure am I that none other could
ever win it such honour." "Maiden," said Sir Launcelot, "right
gladly would I serve you in aught; but it has never been my custom
to wear lady's favour." "Then shall it serve the better for
disguise," answered Elaine. Sir Launcelot pondered her words, and
at last he said: "Fair maiden, I will do for you what I have done
for none, and will wear your favour." So with great glee, she
brought it him, a crimson velvet sleeve embroidered with great
pearls, and fastened it in his helmet. Then Sir Launcelot begged
her to keep for him his own shield until after the tournament, when
he would come for it again and tell them his name.

The next morn, Sir Launcelot took his departure with Sir Lavaine
and, by evening, they were come to Camelot. Forthwith Sir Lavaine
led Sir Launcelot to the house of a worthy burgher, where he might
stay in privacy, undiscovered by those of his acquaintance. Then,
when at dawn the trumpets blew, they mounted their horses and rode
to a little wood hard by the lists, and there they abode some
while; for Sir Launcelot would take no part until he had seen which
side was the stronger. So they saw how King Arthur sat high on a
throne to overlook the combat, while the King of Northgalis and all
the fellowship of the Round Table held the lists against their
opponents led by King Anguish of Ireland and the King of Scots.

Then it soon appeared that the two Kings with all their company
could do but little against the Knights of the Round Table, and
were sore pressed to maintain their ground. Seeing this, Sir
Launcelot said to Sir Lavaine: "Sir Knight, will ye give me your
aid if I go to the rescue of the weaker side? For it seems to me
they may not much longer hold their own unaided." "Sir," answered
Lavaine, "I will gladly follow you and do what I may." So the two
laid their lances in rest and charged into the thickest of the
fight and, with one spear, Sir Launcelot bore four knights from the
saddle. Lavaine, too, did nobly, for he unhorsed the bold Sir
Bedivere and Sir Lucan the Butler. Then with their swords they
smote lustily on the left hand and on the right, and those whom
they had come to aid rallying to them, they drove the Knights of
the Round Table back a space. So the fight raged furiously,
Launcelot ever being in the thickest of the press and performing
such deeds of valour that all marvelled to see him, and would fain
know who was the Knight of the Crimson Sleeve. But the knights of
Arthur's court felt shame of their discomfiture, and, in especial,
those of Launcelot's kin were wroth that one should appear who
seemed mightier even than Launcelot's self. So they called to each
other and, making a rally, directed all their force against the
stranger knight who had so turned the fortunes of the day. With
lances in rest, Sir Lionel, Sir Bors, and Sir Ector, bore down
together upon Sir Launcelot, and Sir Bors' spear pierced Sir
Launcelot and brought him to the earth, leaving the spear head
broken off in his side. This Sir Lavaine saw, and immediately, with
all his might, he rode upon the King of Scots, unhorsed him and
took his horse to Sir Launcelot. Now Sir Launcelot felt as if he
had got his death-wound, but such was his spirit that he was
resolved to do some great deed while yet his strength remained. So,
with Lavaine's aid, he got upon the horse, took a spear and, laying
it in rest, bore down, one after the other, Sir Bors, Sir Lionel,
and Sir Ector. Next he flung him into the thickest of the fight,
and before the trumpets sounded the signal to cease, he had
unhorsed thirty good knights.

Then the Kings of Scotland and Ireland came to Sir Launcelot and
said: "Sir Knight, we thank you for the service done us this day.
And now, we pray you, come with us to receive the prize which is
rightly yours; for never have we seen such deeds as ye have done
this day." "My fair lords," answered Sir Launcelot, "for aught that
I have accomplished, I am like to pay dearly; I beseech you, suffer
me to depart." With these words, he rode away full gallop, followed
by Sir Lavaine; and when he had come to a little wood, he called
Lavaine to him, saying: "Gentle Knight, I entreat you, draw forth
this spear head, for it nigh slayeth me." "Oh! my dear lord," said
Lavaine, "I fear sore to draw it forth lest ye die." "If ye love
me, draw it out," answered Launcelot. So Lavaine did as he was
bidden, and, with a deathly groan, Sir Launcelot fell in a swoon to
the ground. When he was a little recovered, he begged Lavaine to
help him to his horse and lead him to a hermitage hard by where
dwelt a hermit who, in bygone days, had been known to Launcelot for
a good knight and true. So with pain and difficulty they journeyed
to the hermitage, Lavaine oft fearing that Sir Launcelot would die.
And when the hermit saw Sir Launcelot, all pale and besmeared with
blood, he scarce knew him for the bold Sir Launcelot du Lac; but he
bore him within and dressed his wound and bade him be of good
cheer, for he should recover. So there Sir Launcelot abode many
weeks and Sir Lavaine with him; for Lavaine would not leave him,
such love had he for the good knight he had taken for his lord.

Now when it was known that the victorious knight had departed from
the field sore wounded, Sir Gawain vowed to go in search of him. So
it chanced that, in his wanderings, he came to Astolat, and there
he had a hearty welcome of the Lord of Astolat, who asked him for
news of the tournament. Then Sir Gawain related how two stranger
knights, bearing white shields, had won great glory, and in
especial one, who wore in his helm a crimson sleeve, had surpassed
all others in knightly prowess. At these words, the fair Elaine
cried aloud with delight. "Maiden," said Gawain, "know ye this
knight?" "Not his name," she replied; "but full sure was I that he
was a noble knight when I prayed him to wear my favour." Then she
showed Gawain the shield which she had kept wrapped in rich
broideries, and immediately Sir Gawain knew it for Launcelot's.
"Alas!" cried he, "without doubt it was Launcelot himself that we
wounded to the death. Sir Bors will never recover the woe of it."

Then, on the morrow, Sir Gawain rode to London to tell the court
how the stranger knight and Launcelot were one; but the Fair Maid
of Astolat rose betimes, and having obtained leave of her father,
set out to search for Sir Launcelot and her brother Lavaine. After
many journeyings, she came, one day, upon Lavaine exercising his
horse in a field, and by him she was taken to Sir Launcelot. Then,
indeed, her heart was filled with grief when she saw the good
knight to whom she had given her crimson sleeve thus laid low; so
she abode in the hermitage, waiting upon Sir Launcelot and doing
all within her power to lessen his pain.

After many weeks, by the good care of the hermit and the fair
Elaine, Sir Launcelot was so far recovered that he might bear the
weight of his armour and mount his horse again. Then, one morn,
they left the hermitage and rode all three, the Fair Maid, Sir
Launcelot, and Sir Lavaine, to the castle of Astolat, where there
was much joy of their coming. After brief sojourn, Sir Launcelot
desired to ride to court, for he knew there would be much sorrow
among his kinsmen for his long absence. But when he would take his
departure, Elaine cried aloud: "Ah! my lord, suffer me to go with
you, for I may not bear to lose you." "Fair child," answered Sir
Launcelot gently, "that may not be. But in the days to come, when
ye shall love and wed some good knight, for your sake I will bestow
upon him broad lands and great riches; and at all times will I hold
me ready to serve you as a true knight may." Thus spoke Sir
Launcelot, but the fair Elaine answered never a word.

So Sir Launcelot rode to London where the whole court was glad of
his coming; but from the day of his departure, the Fair Maid
drooped and pined until, when ten days were passed, she felt that
her end was at hand. So she sent for her father and two brothers,
to whom she said gently: "Dear father and brethren, I must now
leave you." Bitterly they wept, but she comforted them all she
might, and presently desired of her father a boon. "Ye shall have
what ye will," said the old lord; for he hoped that she might yet
recover. Then first she required her brother, Sir Tirre, to write a
letter, word for word as she said it; and when it was written, she
turned to her father and said: "Kind father, I desire that, when I
am dead, I may be arrayed in my fairest raiment, and placed on a
bier; and let the bier be set within a barge, with one to steer it
until I be come to London. Then, perchance, Sir Launcelot will come
and look upon me with kindness." So she died, and all was done as
she desired; for they set her, looking as fair as a lily, in a
barge all hung with black, and an old dumb man went with her as
helmsman.

Slowly the barge floated down the river until it had come to
Westminster; and as it passed under the palace walls, it chanced
that King Arthur and Queen Guenevere looked forth from a window.
Marvelling much at the strange sight, together they went forth to
the quay, followed by many of the knights. Then the King espied the
letter clasped in the dead maiden's hand, and drew it forth gently
and broke the seal. And thus the letter ran: "Most noble Knight,
Sir Launcelot, I, that men called the Fair Maid of Astolat, am come
hither to crave burial at thy hands for the sake of the unrequited
love I gave thee. As thou art peerless knight, pray for my soul."

Then the King bade fetch Sir Launcelot, and when he was come, he
showed him the letter. And Sir Launcelot, gazing on the dead
maiden, was filled with sorrow. "My lord Arthur," he said, "for the
death of this dear child I shall grieve my life long. Gentle she
was and loving, and much was I beholden to her; but what she
desired I could not give." "Yet her request now thou wilt grant, I
know," said the King; "for ever thou art kind and courteous to
all." "It is my desire," answered Sir Launcelot.

So the Maid of Astolat was buried in the presence of the King and
Queen and of the fellowship of the Round Table, and of many a
gentle lady who wept, that time, the fair child's fate. Over her
grave was raised a tomb of white marble, and on it was sculptured
the shield of Sir Launcelot; for, when he had heard her whole
story, it was the King's will that she that in life had guarded the
shield of his noblest knight, should keep it also in death.



BOOK X

QUEEN GUENEVERE



CHAPTER XXXI

HOW MORDRED PLOTTED AGAINST SIR LAUNCELOT


Before Merlin passed from the world of men, imprisoned in the great
stone by the evil arts of Vivien, he had uttered many marvellous
prophecies, and one that boded ill to King Arthur; for he foretold
that, in the days to come, a son of Arthur's sister should stir up
bitter war against the King, and at last a great battle should be
fought in the West, when many a brave knight should find his doom.

Now, among the nephews of Arthur, was one most dishonourable; his
name was Mordred. No knightly deed had he ever done, and he hated
to hear the good report of others because he himself was a coward
and envious. But of all the Round Table there was none that Mordred
hated more than Sir Launcelot du Lac, whom all true knights held in
most honour; and not the less did Mordred hate Launcelot that he
was the knight whom Queen Guenevere had in most esteem. So, at
last, his jealous rage passing all bounds, he spoke evil of the
Queen and of Launcelot, saying that they were traitors to the King.
Now Sir Gawain and Sir Gareth, Mordred's brothers, refused to give
ear to these slanders, holding that Sir Launcelot, in his knightly
service of the Queen, did honour to King Arthur also; but by
ill-fortune another brother, Sir Agravaine, had ill-will to the
Queen, and professed to believe Mordred's evil tales. So the two
went to King Arthur with their ill stories.

Now when Arthur had heard them, he was wroth; for never would he
lightly believe evil of any, and Sir Launcelot was the knight whom
he loved above all others. Sternly then he bade them begone and
come no more to him with unproven tales against any, and, least of
all, against Sir Launcelot and their lady, the Queen.

The two departed, but in their hearts was hatred against Launcelot
and the Queen, more bitter than ever for the rebuke they had
called down upon themselves; and they resolved, from that time
forth, diligently to watch if, perchance, they might find aught to
turn to evil account against Sir Launcelot.

Not long after, it seemed to them that the occasion had come. For
King Arthur having ridden forth to hunt far from Carlisle, where he
then held court, the Queen sent for Sir Launcelot to speak with him
in her bower. Then Agravaine and Mordred got together twelve
knights, friends of Sir Gawain, their brother, and persuaded them
to come with them for they should do the King a service. So with
the twelve knights they watched and waited in a little room until
they saw Sir Launcelot, all unarmed, pass into the Queen's chamber;
and when the door was closed upon him, they came forth, and Sir
Agravaine and Sir Mordred thundered on the door, crying so that all
the court might hear: "Thou traitor, Sir Launcelot, come forth from
the Queen's chamber. Come forth, for thy treason against the King
is known to all!"

Then Sir Launcelot and the Queen were amazed and filled with shame
that such a clamour should be raised where the Queen was. While
they waited and listened in dismay, Sir Mordred and Sir Agravaine
took up the cry again, the twelve knights echoing it: "Traitor
Launcelot, come forth and meet thy doom; for thy last hour is
come." Then Sir Launcelot, wroth more for the Queen than for
himself, exclaimed: "This shameful cry will kill me; better death
than such dishonour. Lady, as I have ever been your true knight,
since the day when my lord, King Arthur, knighted me, pray for me
if now I meet my death." Then he went to the door and cried to
those without: "Fair lords, cease this outcry. I will open the
door, and then ye shall do with me as ye will." With the word, he
set open the door, but only by so much that one knight could enter
at a time. So a certain Sir Colgrevance of Gore, a knight of great
stature, pushed into the room and thrust at Sir Launcelot with all
his might; but Sir Launcelot, with the arm round which he had
wrapped his cloak, turned aside the sword and, with his bare hand,
dealt Colgrevance such a blow on the helmet that he fell grovelling
to the earth. Then Sir Launcelot thrust to and barred the door, and
stripping the fallen knight of his armour, armed himself in haste
with the aid of the Queen and her ladies.

All this while, Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred continued their
outcry; so when he was armed, Sir Launcelot called to them to cease
their vile cries and the next day he would meet any or all of them
in arms and knightly disprove their vile slander. Now there was not
one among those knights who dared meet Sir Launcelot in the open
field, so they were resolved to slay him while they had the
advantage over him. When Sir Launcelot understood their evil
purpose, he set wide the door and rushed upon them. At the first
blow he slew Sir Agravaine, and soon eleven other knights lay cold
on the earth beside him. Only Mordred escaped, for he fled with all
his might; but, even so, he was sore wounded.

Then Sir Launcelot spoke to the Queen. "Madam," said he, "here may
I no longer stay, for many a foe have I made me this night. And
when I am gone, I know not what evil may be spoken of you for this
night's work. I pray you, then, suffer me to lead you to a place of
safety." "Ye shall run no more risk for my sake," said the Queen;
"only go hence in haste before more harm befall you. But as for me,
here I abide. I will flee for no traitor's outcry."

So Sir Launcelot, seeing that at that time there was naught he
might do for Queen Guenevere, withdrew with all his kin to a little
distance from Carlisle, and awaited what should befall.



CHAPTER XXXII

THE TRIAL OF THE QUEEN


When Mordred escaped Sir Launcelot, he got to horse, all wounded as
he was, and never drew rein till he had found King Arthur, to whom
he told all that had happened.

Then great was the King's grief. Despite all that Mordred could
say, he was slow to doubt Sir Launcelot, whom he loved, but his
mind was filled with forebodings; for many a knight had been slain,
and well he knew that their kin would seek vengeance on Sir
Launcelot, and the noble fellowship of the Round Table be utterly
destroyed by their feuds.

All too soon, it proved even as the King had feared. Many were
found to hold with Sir Mordred; some because they were kin to the
knights that had been slain, some from envy of the honour and
worship of the noble Sir Launcelot; and among them even were those
who dared to raise their voice against the Queen herself, calling
for judgment upon her as leagued with a traitor against the King,
and as having caused the death of so many good knights. Now in
those days the law was that if any one were accused of treason by
witnesses, or taken in the act, that one should die the death by
burning, be it man or woman, knight or churl. So then the murmurs
grew to a loud clamour that the law should have its course, and
that King Arthur should pass sentence on the Queen. Then was the
King's woe doubled; "For," said he, "I sit as King to be a rightful
judge and keep all the law; wherefore I may not do battle for my
own Queen, and now there is none other to help her." So a decree
was issued that Queen Guenevere should be burnt at the stake
outside the walls of Carlisle.

Forthwith, King Arthur sent for his nephew, Sir Gawain, and said to
him: "Fair nephew, I give it in charge to you to see that all is
done as has been decreed." But Sir Gawain answered boldly: "Sir
King, never will I be present to see my lady the Queen die. It is
of ill counsel that ye have consented to her death." Then the King
bade Gawain send his two young brothers, Sir Gareth and Sir
Gaheris, to receive his commands, and these he desired to attend
the Queen to the place of execution. So Gareth made answer for
both: "My Lord the King, we owe you obedience in all things, but
know that it is sore against our wills that we obey you in this;
nor will we appear in arms in the place where that noble lady shall
die"; then sorrowfully they mounted their horses, and rode to
Carlisle.

When the day appointed had come, the Queen was led forth to a place
without the walls of Carlisle, and there she was bound to the stake
to be burnt to death. Loud were her ladies' lamentations, and many
a lord was found to weep at that grievous sight of a Queen brought
so low; yet was there none who dared come forward as her champion,
lest he should be suspected of treason. As for Gareth and Gaheris,
they could not bear the sight and stood with their faces covered in
their mantles. Then, just as the torch was to be applied to the
faggots, there was a sound as of many horses galloping, and the
next instant a band of knights rushed upon the astonished throng,
their leader cutting down all who crossed his path until he had
reached the Queen, whom he lifted to his saddle and bore from the
press. Then all men knew that it was Sir Launcelot, come knightly
to rescue the Queen, and in their hearts they rejoiced. So with
little hindrance they rode away, Sir Launcelot and all his kin with
the Queen in their midst, till they came to the castle of the
Joyous Garde where they held the Queen in safety and all reverence.

But of that day came a kingdom's ruin, for among the slain were
Gawain's brothers, Sir Gareth and Sir Gaheris. Now Sir Launcelot
loved Sir Gareth as if he had been his own younger brother, and
himself had knighted him; but, in the press, he struck at him and
killed him, not seeing that he was unarmed and weaponless; and in
like wise, Sir Gaheris met his death. So when word was brought to
King Arthur of what had passed, Sir Gawain asked straightway how
his brothers had fared. "Both are slain," said the messenger.
"Alas! my dear brothers!" cried Sir Gawain; "how came they by their
death?" "They were both slain by Sir Launcelot." "That will I never
believe," cried Sir Gawain; "for my brother, Sir Gareth, had such
love for Sir Launcelot that there was naught Sir Launcelot could
ask him that he would not do." But the man said again: "He is
slain, and by Sir Launcelot."

Then, from sheer grief, Sir Gawain fell swooning to the ground.
When he was recovered, he said: "My Lord and uncle, is it even as
this man says, that Sir Launcelot has slain my brother Sir Gareth?"
"Alas!" said the King, "Launcelot rode upon him in the press and
slew him, not seeing who he was or that he was unarmed." "Then,"
cried Gawain fiercely, "here I make my avow. Never, while my life
lasts, will I leave Sir Launcelot in peace until he has rendered me
account for the slaying of my brother." From that day forth, Sir
Gawain would not suffer the King to rest until he had gathered all
his host and marched against the Joyous Garde. Thus began the war
which broke up the fellowship of the Round Table.



CHAPTER XXXIII

HOW SIR GAWAIN DEFIED SIR LAUNCELOT


Now it came to the ears of the Pope in Rome that King Arthur was
besieging Sir Launcelot in his castle of the Joyous Garde, and it
grieved him that there should be strife between two such goodly
knights, the like of whom was not to be found in Christendom. So he
called to him the Bishop of Rochester, and bade him carry word to
Britain, both to Arthur and to Sir Launcelot, that they should be
reconciled, the one to the other, and that King Arthur should
receive again Queen Guenevere.

Forthwith Sir Launcelot desired of King Arthur assurance of liberty
and reverence for the Queen, as also safe conduct for himself and
his knights, that he might bring Dame Guenevere, with due honour,
to the King at Carlisle; and thereto the King pledged his word.

So Launcelot set forth with the Queen, and behind them rode a
hundred knights arrayed in green velvet, the housings of the horses
of the same all studded with precious stones; thus they passed
through the city of Carlisle, openly, in the sight of all, and
there were many who rejoiced that the Queen was come again and Sir
Launcelot with her, though they of Gawain's party scowled upon him.

When they were come into the great hall where Arthur sat, with Sir
Gawain and other great lords about him, Sir Launcelot led
Guenevere to the throne and both knelt before the King; then,
rising, Sir Launcelot lifted the Queen to her feet, and thus he
spoke to King Arthur, boldly and well before the whole court: "My
lord, Sir Arthur, I bring you here your Queen, than whom no truer
nor nobler lady ever lived; and here stand I, Sir Launcelot du Lac,
ready to do battle with any that dare gainsay it"; and with these
words Sir Launcelot turned and looked upon the lords and knights
present in their places, but none would challenge him in that
cause, not even Sir Gawain, for he had ever affirmed that Dame
Guenevere was a true and honourable lady.

Then Sir Launcelot spoke again: "Now, my Lord Arthur, in my own
defence it behoves me to say that never in aught have I been false
to you. That I slew certain knights is true; but I hold me
guiltless, seeing that they brought death upon themselves. For no
sooner had I gone to the Queen's bower, as she had commanded me,
than they beset the door, with shameful outcry, that all the court
might hear, calling me traitor and felon knight." "And rightly they
called you," cried Sir Gawain fiercely. "My lord, Sir Gawain,"
answered Sir Launcelot, "in their quarrel they proved not
themselves right, else had not I, alone, encountered fourteen
knights and come forth unscathed."

Then said King Arthur: "Sir Launcelot, I have ever loved you above
all other knights, and trusted you to the uttermost; but ill have
ye done by me and mine." "My lord," said Launcelot, "that I slew
Sir Gareth I shall mourn as long as life lasts. As soon would I
have slain my own nephew, Sir Bors, as have harmed Sir Gareth
wittingly; for I myself made him knight, and loved him as my
brother." "Liar and traitor," cried Sir Gawain, "ye slew him,
defenceless and unarmed." "It is full plain, Sir Gawain," said
Launcelot, "that never again shall I have your love; and yet there
has been old kindness between us, and once ye thanked me that I
saved your life." "It shall not avail you now," said Sir Gawain;
"traitor ye are, both to the King and to me. Know that, while life
lasts, never will I rest until I have avenged my brother Sir
Gareth's death upon you." "Fair nephew," said the King, "cease your
brawling. Sir Launcelot has come under surety of my word that none
shall do him harm. Elsewhere, and at another time, fasten a quarrel
upon him, if quarrel ye must." "I care not," cried Sir Gawain
fiercely. "The proud traitor trusts so in his own strength that he
thinks none dare meet him. But here I defy him and swear that, be
it in open combat or by stealth, I shall have his life. And know,
mine uncle and King, if I shall not have your aid, I and mine will
leave you for ever, and, if need be, fight even against you."
"Peace," said the King; and to Sir Launcelot: "We give you fifteen
days in which to leave this kingdom." Then Sir Launcelot sighed
heavily and said: "Full well I see that no sorrow of mine for what
is past availeth me." Then he went to the Queen where she sat, and
said: "Madam, the time is come when I must leave this fair realm
that I have loved. Think well of me, I pray you, and send for me
if ever there be aught in which a true knight may serve lady."
Therewith he turned him about and, without greeting to any, passed
through the hall, and with his faithful knights rode to the Joyous
Garde, though ever thereafter, in memory of that sad day, he called
it the Dolorous Garde.

There he called about him his friends and kinsmen, saying: "Fair
Knights, I must now pass into my own lands." Then they all, with
one voice, cried that they would go with him. So he thanked them,
promising them all fair estates and great honour when they were
come to his kingdom; for all France belonged to Sir Launcelot. Yet
was he loth to leave the land where he had followed so many
glorious adventures, and sore he mourned to part in anger from King
Arthur. "My mind misgives me," said Sir Launcelot, "but that
trouble shall come of Sir Mordred, for he is envious and a
mischief-maker, and it grieves me that never more I may serve Sir
Arthur and his realm."

So Sir Launcelot sorrowed; but his kinsmen were wroth for the
dishonour done him, and making haste to depart, by the fifteenth
day they were all embarked to sail overseas to France.



CHAPTER XXXIV

HOW KING ARTHUR AND SIR GAWAIN WENT TO FRANCE


From the day when Sir Launcelot brought the Queen to Carlisle,
never would Gawain suffer the King to be at rest; but always he
desired him to call his army together that they might go to attack
Sir Launcelot in his own land.

Now King Arthur was loth to war against Sir Launcelot; and seeing
this, Sir Gawain upbraided him bitterly. "I see well it is naught
to you that my brother, Sir Gareth, died fulfilling your behest.
Little ye care if all your knights be slain, if only the traitor
Launcelot escape. Since, then, ye will not do me justice nor avenge
your own nephew, I and my fellows will take the traitor when and
how we may. He trusts in his own might that none can encounter with
him; let see if we may not entrap him."

Thus urged, King Arthur called his army together and bade collect a
great fleet; for rather would he fight openly with Sir Launcelot
than that Sir Gawain should bring such dishonour upon himself as to
slay a noble knight treacherously. So with a great host, the King
passed overseas to France, leaving Sir Mordred to rule Britain in
his stead.

When Launcelot heard that King Arthur and Sir Gawain were coming
against him, he withdrew into the strong castle of Benwick; for
unwilling indeed was he to fight with the King, or to do an injury
to Sir Gareth's brother. The army passed through the land, laying
it waste, and presently encamped about the castle, laying close
siege to it; but so thick were the walls, and so watchful the
garrison, that in no way could they prevail against it.

One day, there came to Sir Launcelot seven brethren, brave knights
of Wales, who had joined their fortunes to his, and said: "Sir
Launcelot, bid us sally forth against this host which has invaded
and laid waste your lands, and we will scatter it; for we are not
wont to cower behind walls." "Fair lords," answered Launcelot, "it
is grief to me to war on good Christian knights, and especially on
my lord, King Arthur. Have but patience and I will send to him and
see if, even now, there may not be a treaty of peace between us;
for better far is peace than war." So Sir Launcelot sought out a
damsel and, mounting her upon a palfrey, bade her ride to King
Arthur's camp and require of the King to cease warring on his
lands, proffering fair terms of peace. When the damsel came to the
camp, there met her Sir Lucan the Butler, "Fair damsel," said Sir
Lucan, "do ye come from Sir Launcelot?" "Yea, in good truth," said
the damsel; "and, I pray you, lead me to King Arthur." "Now, may ye
prosper in your errand," said Sir Lucan. "Our King loves Sir
Launcelot dearly and wishes him well; but Sir Gawain will not
suffer him to be reconciled to him." So when the damsel had come
before the King, she told him all her tale, and much she said of
Sir Launcelot's love and good-will to his lord the King, so that
the tears stood in Arthur's eyes. But Sir Gawain broke in roughly:
"My Lord and uncle, shall it be said of us that we came hither with
such a host to hie us home again, nothing done, to be the scoff of
all men?" "Nephew," said the King, "methinks Sir Launcelot offers
fair and generously. It were well if ye would accept his proffer.
Nevertheless, as the quarrel is yours, so shall the answer be."
"Then, damsel," said Sir Gawain, "say unto Sir Launcelot that the
time for peace is past. And tell him that I, Sir Gawain, swear by
the faith I owe to knighthood that never will I forego my revenge."

So the damsel returned to Sir Launcelot and told him all. Sir
Launcelot's heart was filled with grief nigh unto breaking; but his
knights were enraged and clamoured that he had endured too much of
insult and wrong, and that he should lead them forth to battle. Sir
Launcelot armed him sorrowfully, and presently the gates were set
open and he rode forth, he and all his company. But to all his
knights he had given commandment that none should seek King Arthur;
"For never," said he, "will I see the noble King, who made me
knight, either killed or shamed."

Fierce was the battle between those two hosts. On Launcelot's side,
Sir Bors and Sir Lavaine and many another did right well; while on
the other side, King Arthur bore him as the noble knight he was,
and Sir Gawain raged through the battle, seeking to come at Sir
Launcelot. Presently, Sir Bors encountered with King Arthur, and
unhorsed him. This Sir Launcelot saw and, coming to the King's
side, he alighted and, raising him from the ground, mounted him
upon his own horse. Then King Arthur, looking upon Launcelot,
cried: "Ah! Launcelot, Launcelot! That ever there should be war
between us two!" and tears stood in the King's eyes. "Ah! my Lord
Arthur," cried Sir Launcelot, "I pray you stay this war." As they
spoke thus, Sir Gawain came upon them, and, miscalling Sir
Launcelot traitor and coward, had almost ridden upon him before
Launcelot could provide him of another horse. Then the two hosts
drew back, each on its own side, to see the battle between Sir
Launcelot and Sir Gawain; for they wheeled their horses, and
departing far asunder, rushed again upon each other with the noise
of thunder, and each bore the other from his horse. Then they put
their shields before them and set on each other with their swords;
but while ever Sir Gawain smote fiercely, Sir Launcelot was content
only to ward off blows, because he would not, for Sir Gareth's
sake, do any harm to Sir Gawain. But the more Sir Launcelot forbore
him, the more furiously Sir Gawain struck, so that Sir Launcelot
had much ado to defend himself, and at the last smote Gawain on the
helm so mightily that he bore him to the ground. Then Sir
Launcelot stood back from Sir Gawain. But Gawain cried: "Why do ye
draw back, traitor knight? Slay me while ye may, for never will I
cease to be your enemy while my life lasts." "Sir," said Launcelot,
"I shall withstand you as I may; but never will I smite a fallen
knight." Then he spoke to King Arthur: "My Lord, I pray you, if but
for this day, draw off your men. And think upon our former love if
ye may; but, be ye friend or foe, God keep you." Thereupon Sir
Launcelot drew off with his men into his castle, and King Arthur
and his company to their tents. As for Sir Gawain, his squires bore
him to his tent where his wounds were dressed.



BOOK XI

THE MORTE D'ARTHUR



CHAPTER XXXV

MORDRED THE TRAITOR


So Sir Gawain lay healing of the grim wound which Sir Launcelot had
given him, and there was peace between the two armies, when there
came messengers from Britain bearing letters for King Arthur; and
more evil news than they brought might not well be, for they told
how Sir Mordred had usurped his uncle's realm. First, he had caused
it to be noised abroad that King Arthur was slain in battle with
Sir Launcelot, and, since there be many ever ready to believe any
idle rumour and eager for any change, it had been no hard task for
Sir Mordred to call the lords to a Parliament and persuade them to
make him king. But the Queen could not be brought to believe that
her lord was dead, so she took refuge in the Tower of London from
Sir Mordred's violence, nor was she to be induced to leave her
strong refuge for aught that Mordred could promise or threaten.

This was the news that came to Arthur as he lay encamped about Sir
Launcelot's castle of Benwick. Forthwith he bade his host make
ready to move, and when they had reached the coast, they embarked
and made sail to reach Britain with all possible speed.

Sir Mordred, on his part, had heard of their sailing, and hasted to
get together a great army. It was grievous to see how many a stout
knight held by Mordred, ay, even many whom Arthur himself had
raised to honour and fortune; for it is the nature of men to be
fickle. Thus it was that, when Arthur drew near to Dover, he found
Mordred with a mighty host, waiting to oppose his landing. Then
there was a great sea-fight, those of Mordred's party going out in
boats, great and small, to board King Arthur's ships and slay him
and his men or ever they should come to land. Right valiantly did
King Arthur bear him, as was his wont, and boldly his followers
fought in his cause, so that at last they drove off their enemies
and landed at Dover in spite of Mordred and his array. For that
time Mordred fled, and King Arthur bade those of his party bury the
slain and tend the wounded.

So as they passed from ship to ship, salving and binding the hurts
of the men, they came at last upon Sir Gawain, where he lay at the
bottom of a boat, wounded to the death, for he had received a great
blow on the wound that Sir Launcelot had given him. They bore him
to his tent, and his uncle, the King, came to him, sorrowing beyond
measure. "Methinks," said the King, "my joy on earth is done; for
never have I loved any men as I have loved you, my nephew, and Sir
Launcelot. Sir Launcelot I have lost, and now I see you on your
death-bed." "My King," said Sir Gawain, "my hour is come, and I
have got my death at Sir Launcelot's hand; for I am smitten on the
wound he gave me. And rightly am I served, for of my willfulness
and stubbornness comes this unhappy war. I pray you, my uncle,
raise me in your arms and let me write to Sir Launcelot before I
die."

Thus, then, Sir Gawain wrote: "To Sir Launcelot, the noblest of all
knights, I, Gawain, send greeting before I die. For I am smitten on
the wound ye gave me before your castle of Benwick in France, and I
bid all men bear witness that I sought my own death and that ye are
innocent of it. I pray you, by our friendship of old, come again
into Britain, and when ye look upon my tomb, pray for Gawain of
Orkney. Farewell."

So Sir Gawain died and was buried in the Chapel at Dover.



CHAPTER XXXVI

THE BATTLE IN THE WEST


The day after the battle at Dover, King Arthur and his host pursued
Sir Mordred to Barham Down where again there was a great battle
fought, with much slaughter on both sides; but, in the end, Arthur
was victorious, and Mordred fled to Canterbury.

Now, by this time, many that Mordred had cheated by his lying
reports, had drawn unto King Arthur, to whom at heart they had ever
been loyal, knowing him for a true and noble king and hating
themselves for having been deceived by such a false usurper as Sir
Mordred. Then when he found that he was being deserted, Sir Mordred
withdrew to the far West, for there men knew less of what had
happened, and so he might still find some to believe in him and
support him; and being without conscience, he even called to his
aid the heathen hosts that his uncle, King Arthur, had driven from
the land, in the good years when Launcelot was of the Round Table.

King Arthur followed ever after; for in his heart was bitter anger
against the false nephew who had wrought woe upon him and all his
realm. At the last, when Mordred could flee no further, the two
hosts were drawn up near the shore of the great western sea; and it
was the Feast of the Holy Trinity.

That night, as King Arthur slept, he thought that Sir Gawain stood
before him, looking just as he did in life, and said to him: "My
uncle and my King, God in his great love has suffered me to come
unto you, to warn you that in no wise ye fight on the morrow; for
if ye do, ye shall be slain, and with you the most part of the
people on both sides. Make ye, therefore, treaty for a month, and
within that time, Sir Launcelot shall come to you with all his
knights, and ye shall overthrow the traitor and all that hold with
him." Therewith, Sir Gawain vanished. Immediately, the King awoke
and called to him the best and wisest of his knights, the two
brethren, Sir Lucan the Butler and Sir Bedivere, and others, to
whom he told his dream. Then all were agreed that, on any terms
whatsoever, a treaty should be made with Sir Mordred, even as Sir
Gawain had said; and, with the dawn, messengers went to the camp of
the enemy, to call Sir Mordred to a conference. So it was
determined that the meeting should take place in the sight of both
armies, in an open space between the two camps, and that King
Arthur and Mordred should each be accompanied by fourteen knights.
Little enough faith had either in the other, so when they set forth
to the meeting, they bade their hosts join battle if ever they saw
a sword drawn. Thus they went to the conference.

Now as they talked, it befell that an adder, coming out of a bush
hard by, stung a knight in the foot; and he, seeing the snake, drew
his sword to kill it and thought no harm thereby. But on the
instant that the sword flashed, the trumpets blared on both sides
and the two hosts rushed to battle. Never was there fought a fight
of such bitter enmity; for brother fought with brother, and comrade
with comrade, and fiercely they cut and thrust, with many a bitter
word between; while King Arthur himself, his heart hot within him,
rode through and through the battle, seeking the traitor Mordred.
So they fought all day, till at last the evening fell. Then Arthur,
looking around him, saw of his valiant knights but two left, Sir
Lucan and Sir Bedivere, and these sore wounded; and there, over
against him, by a great heap of the dead, stood Sir Mordred, the
cause of all this ruin. Thereupon the King, his heart nigh broken
with grief for the loss of his true knights, cried with a loud
voice: "Traitor! now is thy doom upon thee!" and with his spear
gripped in both hands, he rushed upon Sir Mordred and smote him
that the weapon stood out a fathom behind. And Sir Mordred knew
that he had his death-wound. With all the might that he had, he
thrust him up the spear to the haft and, with his sword, struck
King Arthur upon the head, that the steel pierced the helmet and
bit into the head; then he fell back, stark and dead.

Sir Lucan and Sir Bedivere went to the King where he lay, swooning
from the blow, and bore him to a little chapel on the sea-shore. As
they laid him on the ground, Sir Lucan fell dead beside the King,
and Arthur, coming to himself, found but Sir Bedivere alive beside
him.



CHAPTER XXXVII

THE PASSING OF ARTHUR


So King Arthur lay wounded to the death, grieving, not that his end
was come, but for the desolation of his kingdom and the loss of his
good knights. And looking upon the body of Sir Lucan, he sighed and
said: "Alas! true knight, dead for my sake! If I lived, I should
ever grieve for thy death, but now mine own end draws nigh." Then,
turning to Sir Bedivere, who stood sorrowing beside him, he said:
"Leave weeping now, for the time is short and much to do. Hereafter
shalt thou weep if thou wilt. But take now my sword Excalibur,
hasten to the water side, and fling it into the deep. Then, watch
what happens and bring me word thereof." "My Lord," said Sir
Bedivere, "your command shall be obeyed"; and taking the sword, he
departed. But as he went on his way, he looked on the sword, how
wondrously it was formed and the hilt all studded with precious
stones; and, as he looked, he called to mind the marvel by which it
had come into the King's keeping. For on a certain day, as Arthur
walked on the shore of a great lake, there had appeared above the
surface of the water a hand brandishing a sword. On the instant,
the King had leaped into a boat, and, rowing into the lake, had got
the sword and brought it back to land. Then he had seen how, on one
side the blade, was written, "Keep me," but on the other, "Throw me
away," and, sore perplexed, he had shown it to Merlin, the great
wizard, who said: "Keep it now. The time for casting away has not
yet come." Thinking on this, it seemed to Bedivere that no good,
but harm, must come of obeying the King's word; so hiding the sword
under a tree, he hastened back to the little chapel. Then said the
King: "What saw'st thou?" "Sir," answered Bedivere, "I saw naught
but the waves, heard naught but the wind." "That is untrue," said
King Arthur; "I charge thee, as thou art true knight, go again and
spare not to throw away the sword."

Sir Bedivere departed a second time, and his mind was to obey his
lord; but when he took the sword in his hand, he thought: "Sin it
is and shameful, to throw away so glorious a sword." Then, hiding
it again, he hastened back to the King, "What saw'st thou?" said
Sir Arthur. "Sir, I saw the water lap on the crags." Then spoke the
King in great wrath: "Traitor and unkind! Twice hast thou betrayed
me! Art dazzled by the splendour of the jewels, thou that, till
now, hast ever been dear and true to me? Go yet again, but if thou
fail me this time, I will arise and, with mine own hands, slay
thee."

Then Sir Bedivere left the King and, that time, he took the sword
quickly from the place where he had hidden it and, forbearing even
to look upon it, he twisted the belt about it and flung it with all
his force into the water. A wondrous sight he saw, for, as the
sword touched the water, a hand rose from out the deep, caught it,
brandished it thrice, and drew it beneath the surface.

Sir Bedivere hastened back to the King and told him what he had
seen. "It is well," said Arthur; "now, bear me to the water's edge;
and hasten, I pray thee, for I have tarried over-long and my wound
has taken cold." So Sir Bedivere raised the King on his back and
bore him tenderly to the lonely shore, where the lapping waves
floated many an empty helmet and the fitful moonlight fell on the
upturned faces of the dead. Scarce had they reached the shore when
there hove in sight a barge, and on its deck stood three tall
women, robed all in black and wearing crowns on their heads. "Place
me in the barge," said the King, and softly Sir Bedivere lifted the
King into it. And these three Queens wept sore over Arthur, and one
took his head in her lap and chafed his hands, crying: "Alas! my
brother, thou hast been over-long in coming and, I fear me, thy
wound has taken cold." Then the barge began to move slowly from the
land. When Sir Bedivere saw this, he lifted up his voice and cried
with a bitter cry: "Ah! my Lord Arthur, thou art taken from me! And
I, whither shall I go?" "Comfort thyself," said the King, "for in
me is no comfort more. I pass to the Valley of Avilion, to heal me
of my grievous wound. If thou seest me never again, pray for me."

So the barge floated away out of sight, and Sir Bedivere stood
straining his eyes after it till it had vanished utterly. Then he
turned him about and journeyed through the forest until, at
daybreak, he reached a hermitage. Entering it, he prayed the holy
hermit that he might abide with him, and there he spent the rest of
his life in prayer and holy exercise.

But of King Arthur is no more known. Some men, indeed, say that he
is not dead, but abides in the happy Valley of Avilion until such
time as his country's need is sorest, when he shall come again and
deliver it. Others say that, of a truth, he is dead, and that, in
the far West, his tomb may be seen, and written on it these words:

     "Here lies Arthur, once King and King to be."



CHAPTER XXXVIII

THE DEATH OF SIR LAUNCELOT AND OF THE QUEEN


When news reached Sir Launcelot in his own land of the treason of
Mordred, he gathered his lords and knights together, and rested not
till he had come to Britain to aid King Arthur. He landed at Dover,
and there the evil tidings were told him, how the King had met his
death at the hands of his traitor nephew. Then was Sir Launcelot's
heart nigh broken for grief. "Alas!" he cried, "that I should live
to know my King overthrown by such a felon! What have I done that I
should have caused the deaths of the good knights, Sir Gareth, Sir
Gaheris, and Sir Gawain, and yet that such a villain should escape
my sword!" Then he desired to be led to Sir Gawain's tomb where he
remained long in prayer and in great lamentation; after which he
called to him his kinsmen and friends, and said to them: "My fair
lords, I thank you all most heartily that, of your courtesy, ye
came with me to this land. That we be come too late is a misfortune
that might not be avoided, though I shall mourn it my life long.
And now I will ride forth alone to find my lady the Queen in the
West, whither men say she has fled. Wait for me, I pray you, for
fifteen days, and then, if ye hear naught of me, return to your own
lands." So Sir Launcelot rode forth alone, nor would he suffer any
to follow him, despite their prayers and entreaties.

Thus he rode some seven or eight days until, at the last, he came
to a nunnery where he saw in the cloister many nuns waiting on a
fair lady; none other, indeed, than Queen Guenevere herself. And
she, looking up, saw Sir Launcelot, and at the sight, grew so pale
that her ladies feared for her; but she recovered, and bade them go
and bring Sir Launcelot to her presence. When he was come, she said
to him: "Sir Launcelot, glad am I to see thee once again that I may
bid thee farewell; for in this world shall we never meet again."
"Sweet Madam," answered Sir Launcelot, "I was minded, with your
leave, to bear you to my own country, where I doubt not but I
should guard you well and safely from your enemies." "Nay,
Launcelot," said the Queen, "that may not be; I am resolved never
to look upon the world again, but here to pass my life in prayer
and in such good works as I may. But thou, do thou get back to
thine own land and take a fair wife; and ye both shall ever have my
prayers." "Madam," replied Sir Launcelot, "ye know well that shall
never be. And since ye are resolved to lead a life of prayer, I,
too, will forsake the world if I can find hermit to share his cell
with me; for ever your will has been mine." Long and earnestly he
looked upon her as he might never gaze enough; then, getting to
horse, he rode slowly away.

Nor did they ever meet again in life. For Queen Guenevere abode in
the great nunnery of Almesbury where Sir Launcelot had found her,
and presently, for the holiness of her life, was made Abbess. But
Sir Launcelot, after he had left her, rode on his way till he came
to the cell where Sir Bedivere dwelt with the holy hermit; and when
Sir Bedivere had told him all that had befallen, of the great
battle in the West, and of the passing away of Arthur, Sir
Launcelot flung down his arms and implored the holy hermit to let
him remain there as the servant of God. So Sir Launcelot donned the
serge gown and abode in the hermitage as the priest of God.

Presently there came riding that way the good Sir Bors, Launcelot's
nephew; for, when Sir Launcelot returned not to Dover, Sir Bors and
many another knight went forth in search of him. There, then, Sir
Bors remained and, within a half-year, there joined themselves to
these three many who in former days had been fellows of the Round
Table; and the fame of their piety spread far and wide.

So six years passed and then, one night, Launcelot had a vision. It
seemed to him that one said to him: "Launcelot, arise and go in
haste to Almesbury. There shalt thou find Queen Guenevere dead, and
it shall be for thee to bury her." Sir Launcelot arose at once and,
calling his fellows to him, told them his dream. Immediately, with
all haste, they set forth towards Almesbury and, arriving there the
second day, found the Queen dead, as had been foretold in the
vision. So with the state and ceremony befitting a great Queen,
they buried her in the Abbey of Glastonbury, in that same church
where, some say, King Arthur's tomb is to be found. Launcelot it
was who performed the funeral rites and chanted the requiem; but
when all was done, he pined away, growing weaker daily. So at the
end of six weeks, he called to him his fellows, and bidding them
all farewell, desired that his dead body should be conveyed to the
Joyous Garde, there to be buried; for that in the church at
Glastonbury he was not worthy to lie. And that same night he died,
and was buried, as he had desired, in his own castle. So passed
from the world the bold Sir Launcelot du Lac, bravest, most
courteous, and most gentle of knights, whose peer the world has
never seen ever shall.

After Sir Launcelot's death, Sir Bors and the pious knights, his
companions, took their way to the Holy Land, and there they died in
battle against the Turk.

So ends the story of King Arthur and his noble fellowship of the
Round Table.





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