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Title: Tales from Tennyson
Author: Bellew, Molly K.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Tales from Tennyson" ***

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[Illustration: THREE TIMES THEY BROKE SPEARS]

   TALES FROM TENNYSON

   BY
   MOLLY K. BELLEW

   EDITOR OF
   "TALES FROM LONGFELLOW"
   "DICKENS' CHRISTMAS STORIES FOR CHILDREN"
   ETC., ETC.

   ILLUSTRATED BY H. S. CAMPBELL

   NEW YORK AND BOSTON
   H. M. CALDWELL CO.
   PUBLISHERS



   COPYRIGHT, 1902
   BY
   JAMIESON-HIGGINS CO.



   CONTENTS.


   The Coming of King Arthur               9

   Gareth and Lynette                     29

   The Marriage of Geraint                46

   Geraint's Quest of Honor               64

   Merlin and Vivien                      85

   Balin and Balan                        95

   Lancelot and Elaine                   104

   The Holy Grail                        119

   Pelleas and Ettarre                   132

   The Last Tournament                   142

   The Passing of Arthur                 150



To my Young Readers.


Alfred Lord Tennyson was the typically English poet, and none, perhaps
not even Shakespeare, has appealed so keenly to the human heart. No
other man's poems have caused as many readers to shed tears of sympathy
nor have awakened higher sentiments in the human heart. The critics
agree in pronouncing him the ideal poet laureate. In his "Idylls from
the King" are found the loftiest and proudest deeds of English history
and even in the retelling of these in prose the high spirit that is an
inspiration to the noblest deeds cannot fail to be preserved.

                                         MOLLY K. BELLEW.



THE COMING OF KING ARTHUR.


Over a thousand years ago everybody was talking about the wonderful King
Arthur and his brilliant Knights of the Round Table, who everywhere were
pursuing bold quests, putting to rout the band of outlaws and robbers
which in those days infested every highway and by-way of the country,
going to war with tyrannical nobles, establishing law and order among
the rich, redressing the wrongs of women, the poor and the oppressed,
and winning glorious renown for their valor and their successes.

That was in England which at that time was not England as it is today,
all one kingdom under a single ruler, but was divided into many bits of
kingdoms each with its own king and all warring against each other.
Arthur's kingdom was the most unpeaceful of all. This was because for
twenty years or more, ever since the death of old King Uther, the
country had been without a ruler. Old King Uther had died about a score
of years before without leaving an heir to the throne, and all the
nobles of the realm had immediately gone to war with one another each
trying to get the most land and each trying to get the throne for
himself.

[Illustration: OLD MERLIN APPEARS.]

Suddenly, however, old Merlin, the wizard who had been King Uther's
magician, appeared one day in the royal council hall with a handsome
young man, Arthur, and declared him to be the king of the realm. Arthur
was crowned and for a time the nobles were quiet, for he ruled with a
strong hand of iron, put down all the evils in his kingdom and
everywhere gave it peace and order. People in every part of the island
sent for him and his knights, begging him to come to help them out of
their difficulties. But presently the nobles became troublesome again;
they said that Arthur was not the true king, that he was not the son of
Uther and that, therefore, he had no right to reign over them. So there
was fighting and unrest again, and in the midst of it Leodogran, the
king of the Land of Cameliard, asked Arthur to come with his knights and
drive away the enemies besetting him on every side. The country of
Cameliard had gone to waste and ruin, because of the continual warfare
that was waged with the kings that lived in the little neighboring
countries and a mass of wild-eyed foreign heathen peoples who invaded
the land. And so it happened that Cameliard was ravaged with battles,
its strong men were cut down with the sword and wild dogs, wolves, and
bears from the tangled weeds came rooting up the green fields and
wallowing into the palace gardens. Sometimes the wolves stole little
children from the villages and nursed them like their own cubs, until
finally these children grew up into a race of wolf-men who molested the
land worse than the wolves themselves. Then another king fought
Leodogran, and at last the heathen hordes came swarming from over the
seas and made all the earth red with his soldiers' blood, and they made
the sun red with the smoke of the burning homes of his people.

Leodogran simply did not know which way to turn for help until at last
he thought of young Arthur of the Round Table who recently had been
crowned king. So Leodogran sent for Arthur beseeching him to come and
help him, for between the men and the beasts his country was dying.

[Illustration: PRINCESS GUINEVERE.]

King Arthur and his men welcomed the chance and went at once into the
Land of Cameliard to drive away the heathen marauders. As he marched
with his men past the castle walls, pretty Princess Guinevere stood
outside to watch the glittering soldiers go by. Among so many richly
dressed knights she did not particularly notice Arthur, for he wore
nothing to show that he was king, although his kingly bearing and brave
forehead might suggest leadership. But no royal arms were engraved upon
his helmet or his shield, and he carried simple weapons not nearly so
gorgeously emblazoned as those of some of the others.

[Illustration: HE LED HIS WARRIORS BOLDLY.]

Although Guinevere did not see the fair young King, Arthur spied her
beside the castle wall; he felt the light of her beautiful eyes
glimmering out into his heart and setting it all aflame with a fire of
love for her.

He led his warriors boldly to the forests where they pitched their
tents, then fought all the heathen until they scampered away to their
own territories, he slew the frightful wild beasts that had plundered
the fields, cut down the forest trees so as to open out roads for the
people of Cameliard to pass over from one part of their land to the
other, then he traveled quietly away with his men, back to fight his own
battles in his own country. For there was fighting everywhere in those
days. But all the time in Arthur's heart, while he was doing those
wonderful things for Leodogran, he was thinking still, not of Leodogran,
but of the lovely Guinevere, and yearning for her.

If only she could be his queen he thought they two together could rule
on his throne as one strong, sweet, delicious life, and could exert a
mighty power over all his people to make them good and wise and happy.
Each day increased his love until he could not bear even to think for a
moment of living without her. So from the very field of battle, while
the swords were flashing and clashing about him, as he fought the barons
and great lords who had risen up against him, Arthur dispatched three
messengers to Leodogran, the King of Cameliard.

These three messengers were Ulfius, Brastias and Bedivere, the very
first knight Arthur had knighted upon his throne. They went to Leodogran
and said that if Arthur had been of any service to him in his recent
troubles with the heathen and the wild beasts, he should give the
Princess Guinevere to be Arthur's wife as a mark of his good will.

[Illustration: ARTHUR DISPATCHED THREE MESSENGERS TO LEODOGRAN.]

Well, when they had said this, Leodogran did not know what to do any
better than when the heathen and the beasts had come upon him. For while
he thought Arthur a very bold soldier and a very fine man, and, although
he felt very grateful indeed to him for all the great things he had
done, still he was not certain that Guinevere ought to marry him. For,
as Guinevere was the daughter of a king she should become the wife of
none but the son of a king. And Leodogran did not know precisely who
this King Arthur was; but he did know that the barons of Arthur's court
had burst out into this uproar against him because they said he was not
their true king and not the son of King Uther who had reigned before
him. Some of them declared him to be the child of Gerlois, and others
avowed that Sir Anton was his father.

As poor, puzzled Leodogran knew nothing about the matter himself, he
sent for his gray-headed trusty old chamberlain, who always had good
counsel to give him in any dilemma; and he asked the chamberlain whether
he had heard anything certainly as to Arthur's birth. The chamberlain
told him that there were just two men in all the world who knew the
truth with respect to Arthur and where he had come from, and that both
these men were twice as old as himself. One of them was Merlin the
wizard, the other was Bleys, Merlin's teacher in magic, who had written
a book of his renowned pupil's wonders, which probably related
everything regarding the secret of Arthur's birth.

"If King Arthur had done no more for me in my wars than you have just
now in my present trouble," the king answered the chamberlain, "I would
have died long ago from the wild beasts and the heathen. Send me in
Ulfius and Brastias and Bedivere again."

So the chamberlain went out and Arthur's three men came into Leodogran
who spoke to them this way: "I have often seen a big cuckoo chased by
little birds and understood why such tiny birds plagued him so, but why
are the nobles in your country rebelling against their king and saying
that he is not the son of a king. Tell me whether you yourselves think
he is the child of King Uther."

[Illustration: SIR KING, THERE ARE ALL SORTS OF STORIES ABOUT THAT.]

Ulfius and Brastias answered immediately "yes," but Bedivere, the first
of all Arthur's knights, became very bold when anyone slandered his
sovereign and he replied: "_Sir King, there are all sorts of stories
about that_; some of the nobles hate him just because he is good and
they are wicked; they cry out that he is no man because his ways are
gentler than their rough manners, while others again think he must be
an angel dropped from heaven. But I will tell you the facts as I know
them, King Uther and Gerlois were rivals long ago; they both loved
Ygerne. And she was the wife of Gerlois and had no sons, but three
daughters, one of them the Queen of Orkney who has clung to Arthur like
a sister. The two rivals, Gerlois and Uther went to war with each other
and Gerlois was killed in battle; then Uther quickly married the winsome
Ygerne, the widow of Gerlois, for he loved her dearly and impatiently.
In a few months Uther died, and on that very night of his death Arthur
was born. And as soon as he was born they carried him out by a secret
back gateway to Merlin the magician, to be brought up far away from the
court so that no one would hear about him until he was grown up ready to
sit upon Uther's, his father, throne.

"For those were wild lords in those years just like these of today,
always struggling for the rule, and they would have shattered the
helpless little prince to pieces had they known about him. So Merlin
took the baby and gave him over to old Sir Anton, a friend of Uther's,
and Sir Anton's wife tended Arthur with her own little ones so that
nobody knew who he was or where he had come from. But while the prince
was growing up the kingdom went to weed; the great lords and barons were
fighting all the time among themselves and nobody ruled. But during this
present year Arthur's time for ascending the throne had come, so Merlin
brought him from out of his hiding place, set him in the palace hall and
cried out to all the lords and ladies, 'This is Uther's heir, your
king!' Of course, none of them would have that. A hundred voices cried
back immediately: 'Away with him! he is no king of ours, that's the son
of Gerlois, or else the child of Anton, and no king.'

"In spite of this opposition Merlin was so crafty and clever he won the
day for the people, who were clamoring for a king and were glad to see
Arthur crowned. But after it all was over the lords banded together and
broke out in open war against Arthur. That is the whole story of this
war."

Although pleased with Bedivere's good account of Arthur, yet when it was
ended Leodogran scarcely felt satisfied. Was Bedivere right, he thought
to himself, or were the barons right? As he sat pondering over
everything in his palace, _three great visitors came to the castle_;
these were the Queen of Orkney, the daughter of Gerlois and Ygerne, with
her two sons, Gawain and Modred. Leodogran made a great feast for them
and while entertaining them at table remembered what Bedivere had said
about Arthur and this queen. So he turned to the queen and remarked:

[Illustration: THREE VISITORS TO THE CASTLE.]

"An insecure throne is no better than a mass of ice in a summer's sea;
it all melts away. You are from Arthur's court; tell me, do you think
this king with his few loyal Knights of the Round Table can triumph over
the rebellious lords, and keep his throne?"

"O King, they are few indeed," the Queen of Orkney cried, "but so bold
and true, and all of one mind with him. I was there at the coronation
when the savage yells of the nobles died away, and Arthur sat crowned
upon the dais with all his knights gathered round him to do his service
for him forever. Arthur in low, deep tones, with simple words of great
authority bound them to him with such wonderfully rigid vows that when
they rose from their knees one after the other, some of them looked as
pale as if a ghost had passed by them, others were flushed in their
faces, and yet others seemed dazed and blind with their awe as if not
fully awake. Then he spoke to them, cheering them with divine words that
are far more than my tongue can ever tell you, and while he spoke every
face flashed, for just a moment with his likeness, and from the crucifix
above, three rays in green, blue, scarlet, streamed across upon the
bright, sweet faces of the three tall fair queens, his friends who stood
silently beside his throne, and who will always be ready to help him if
he is in need.

"Merlin, the magician, came there too, with his hundred years of art
like so many hands of vassals to wait upon the young king. Near Merlin
stood the mystical, marvelous Lady of the Lake, who knows a deeper magic
than Merlin's own, dressed in white. A mist of incense curled all about
her and her face was fairly hidden in the dim gloom. But when the holy
hymns were sung a voice like flowing waters sounded through the music.
It was the voice of the Lady of the Lake who lives in the lowest waters
of the lake where it is always calm, no matter what storms may blow over
the earth and who when the waves tumble and roll above her can walk out
upon their crests just as our Lord did.

"_It was she who gave Arthur his remarkable sword_ Excalibur, with its
hilt like a cross wherewith he drove away the heathen for you. That
strange sword rose up from out the bosom of the lake, and Arthur rowed
over in a little boat and took it. The sword is incrusted with rich
jewels on the hilt, with a blade so bright that men are blinded by it.
On one side the words 'Take me' are graven upon it in the oldest
language of the world, while on the other side the words 'Cast me away'
are carved in the tongue that you speak.

[Illustration: SHE GAVE ARTHUR HIS REMARKABLE SWORD]

"Arthur became very sad when he saw the second inscription, but Merlin
advised him to take the beautiful blade and use it; he told him that now
was the time to strike and that the time to cast away was very, very far
off. So Arthur took the tremendous sword and with it he will beat down
his enemies, King Leodogran."

Leodogran was pleased with the queen's words, but he wished to test the
story Bedivere had told him, so he looked into her eyes narrowly as he
observed, with a question in his tones, "The swallow and the swift are
very near kin, but you are still closer to this noble prince as you are
his own dear sister."

"I am the daughter of Gerlois and Ygerne," she answered.

"Yes, that is why you are Arthur's sister," the king returned still
questioningly.

"These are secret things," the Queen of Orkney replied, and she motioned
with her hand for her two sons to leave her alone in the room with the
king.

Gawain immediately skipped away singing, his hair flying after and
frolicked outside like a frisky pony, _but cunning Modred laid his ear
close beside the door to listen_, so that he half heard all the strange
story his mother told the king. This is what the queen said in the
beginning to the king.

[Illustration: CUNNING MODRED BESIDE THE DOOR TO LISTEN]

"What should I know about it? For my mother's hair and eyes were dark,
and so were the eyes and hair of Gerlois, and Uther was dark too, almost
black, but the King Arthur is fairer than anyone else in Britain.
However, I remember how my mother used often to weep and say, 'O that
you had some brother, pretty little one, to guard you from the rough
ways of the world."

"Yes? She said that?" Leodogran rejoined, "but when did you see Arthur
first?"

"O king, I will tell you all about it," cried the Queen of Orkney. "Once
when I was a little bit of a girl and had been beaten for some childish
fault that I had not committed, I ran outside and flung myself on a
grassy bank and hated all the world and everything in it, and wished I
were dead. But all of a sudden little Arthur stood by my side. I don't
know how he came or anything about it. Perhaps Merlin brought him, for
Merlin, they say, can walk about and nobody see him, if he will, but any
rate, Arthur was there by my side, comforting me and drying my tears.
After that Arthur came very often without anybody knowing it and we were
children together, and in those golden days I felt sure he would be
king.

"But now I must tell you about Bleys, the old wizard who taught the
magician Merlin. You know they both served King Uther, and just a little
while ago when Bleys died he sent for me. He said he had something to
tell me that I must know before he left the world. He said that they
two, Merlin and he, sat beside the bed of King Uther on the night when
the king passed away, moaning and wailing because he left no heir to his
throne. After the king's death as Merlin and Bleys walked out from the
castle walls into the dismal misty night, they saw a wonderful
fairy-ship shaped like a winged dragon sailing the heavens, with shining
people collected on its decks; but in the twinkling of an eye the ship
was gone.

"Then Merlin and Bleys passed down into the cove by the seashore to
watch the billows, one after the other, as they lapped up against the
beach. And as they looked at last a great wave gathered up one-half of
the ocean and came full of voices, slowly rising and plunging, roaring
all the while. Then all the wave was in a flame; and down in the wave
and in the flame they saw lying a naked babe that was carried by the
water to Merlin's very feet.

"'The king!' cried Merlin. 'Here's an heir for Uther.'

"Then as old Merlin spoke the fringe of that terrible great flaming
breaker lashed at him as he held up the baby; it rose up round him in a
mantle of fire so that he and the child were clothed in fire. Then
suddenly there was a calm, the stars looked out and the sky was open.

"'And this same child,' Bleys whispered to me, 'is the young king who
reigns. And I could not die in peace unless the story had been told.'
Then Bleys passed away into the land where nobody can question him.

"So I came to Merlin to ask him whether that was all true about the
shining dragon-ship and the tiny bare baby floating down from heaven
over on the glory of the seas; but Merlin just laughed, as he always
does, and answered me in the riddles of the old song, this way:

    "'Rain, rain and sun! a rainbow in the sky!
    A young man will be wiser by and by;
    An old man's wit may wander ere he die.
    Rain, rain and sun! a rainbow on the lea!
    And truth is this to me and that to thee;
    And truth or clothed or naked let it be.
    Rain, sun and rain! and the free blossom blows;
    Sun, rain and sun! and where is he who knows.
    From the great deep to the great deep he goes!'

"It vexed me dreadfully to have Merlin be so tantalizing; but you must
not be afraid, king, to give your only child Guinevere to this King
Arthur. For great poets will sing of his brave deeds in long years after
this; and Merlin has said, and not joking, either, that even although
Arthur's enemies may wound him in battle he will never, never die, but
will only pass away for a time, for a little while, and then will come
to us again. And Merlin says too, that sometime Arthur is going to
trample all the heathen kings under his feet until all the nations and
all the men will call him their king."

It pleased Leodogran tremendously to hear what the Queen of Orkney told
him of Arthur, and when she had ended he lay thinking over it all, still
puzzled as to whether he should say "yes" or "no" to the ambassadors
whom Arthur had sent. As he lay buried in his thoughts he grew very,
very drowsy and dreamy, and at last, he fell asleep. And while he slept
he saw a wonderful vision in a dream.

There was a strange, sloping land, rising before his eyes, that ascended
higher and higher, field after field, to a very great height and at the
top there was a lofty peak hidden in the heavy, hazy clouds; and on the
peak a phantom king stood. One moment the king was there, and the next
moment he was gone, while everything below him was in a frightful
confusion, a battle with swords, and the flocks of sheep and cattle
falling back, and all the villages burning and their smoke rolling up in
streams to the clouded pinnacle of the peak where the king stood in the
fog, hiding him the more. Now and then the king spoke out through the
haze, and some one here or there beneath would point upward toward him,
but the rest all went on fighting. They cried out, "He is no king of
ours, no son of Uther's, no king of ours." Then in a twinkling the dream
all changed; the mists had quite blown away, the solid earth below the
peak had vanished like a bubble and only the wonderful king remained,
crowned with his diadems, standing in the heavens.

Then Leodogran while still looking at him woke from his sleep. He called
for Ulfius and Brastias and Bedevere, and when they had come into this
presence he told them that Arthur should marry the fair Princess
Guinevere, and he sent them galloping back to Arthur's court.

That was a joyful day for King Arthur when the three knights delivered
King Leodogran's message. He made ready at once for his sweet queen. He
picked out Lancelot, his favorite Knight of the Round Table, whom he
loved better than any other man in all the world, to ride over into the
Land of Cameliard and bring back Guinevere for his bride. And as
Lancelot mounted his dancing steed and rode away _Arthur watched him
from the palace gates_, thinking of the lovely lady who would ride by
his side when he returned.

[Illustration: LANCELOT MOUNTED HIS DANCING STEED.]

Lancelot's horse trampled away among the flowers; for it was April when
he left the court of Arthur, and just one month later he came riding
back among the flowers of the May-time. Guinevere was with him on her
graceful palfrey.

Then Dubric, the head of the whole church in Britain, went out to meet
her. Happy Arthur was there too. They were married in the greatest and
noblest church in the land before the stately altar, with all the
Knights of the Round Table dressed in stainless white clothes, gathered
about them. And all the knights were as delighted as they could be
because their king was so glad. Holy Dubric spread out his hands above
the King and the lovely Queen to call down the blessings of heaven, and
he said:

[Illustration: KING ARTHUR AND THE LOVELY QUEEN.]

"Reign, King, and live and love, and make the world better, and may your
queen be one with you, and may all the Knights of the Order of the Round
Table fulfill the boundless purposes of their king."

There was spread a glorious marriage feast. Great lords came thither
from far away Rome, which once was the mistress of all the world, but
now was slowly fading away. These Roman lords called for the tribute
from Arthur that they had always received from Britain ever since Cæsar
with his Roman legions had conquered it long years before.

But Arthur, the king and bridegroom, pointed to his snowy knights and
said: "These knights of mine have sworn to fight for me in all my wars
and to worship me as their king. The old order of things has passed away
and a new order will take its place. We are fighting for our fair father
Christ, while you have been growing so feeble and so weak and so old
that you cannot even drive away the heathen from your Roman walls any
more. So we will not pay tribute to you nor be your slaves. This is to
be our own free country which we will defend and maintain."

_The great lords from Rome drew back very angrily_ and went home and
told their king all about what Arthur had said. So Arthur had to battle
with Rome, but he won in the end.

Arthur trained his Knights of the Round Table so that they all felt like
one great, vast strong man, all of one will. Thus he became mightier
than any of the other kings in any part of Britain. And when he fought
with them he always conquered them. In that way he drew in all the
little kingdoms under him, so that he was the one king of the land, and
they all fought together for him.

There were twelve great battles against the heathen hordes that had
molested them from across the terrible seas, and each of these battles
he won. So he made one great realm and he reigned over it, the king.

[Illustration: THE GREAT LORDS FROM ROME DREW BACK.]



GARETH AND LYNETTE.


Old King Lot and good Queen Bellicent had three sons. Gawain and Modred
were Knights of the Round Table at Arthur's court, and young Gareth, who
was his mother's pet, sighed to think he had to stay home and be cuddled
and fondled like a baby boy instead of riding off like a venturesome
soldier fighting gloriously for the king and winning a great name.

"There!" he cried impatiently, one chilly spring day as he stood by the
brink of a rivulet and saw a bit of a pine tree caught from the bank by
the dashing, swollen waters of the stream and whirled madly away.
"That's the way the king's enemies would fall before my spear, if I had
a spear to use! That stream can do no more than I can, even although it
is merely icy water all cold with the snows while I'm tingling with hot
blood and have strong arms. When Gawain came home last summer and asked
me to tilt with him and Modred was the judge, didn't I shake him so in
his saddle that he said I had half overcome him? Humph! and mother
thinks I'm still a child!"

_Gareth went in to the queen_ and said: "Mother, if you love me listen
to a story I will tell. Once there was an egg which a great royal eagle
laid high above on the rocks somewhere almost out of sight and there was
a lad which saw the splendor sparkling from it, and the lightnings
playing around it and the little birds crying and clashing in the nest.
The boy thought if he could only reach that egg he would be richer than
a houseful of kings, and he was nearly driven from his sense with his
desire for it. But whenever he reached to clamber up for it some one who
loved him restrained him saying, 'If you love me do not climb, lest
you break your neck.' So the boy did not climb, mother, and he did not
break his neck, but he broke his heart pining for the glorious egg. How
can you keep me tethered here, Mother? Let me go!"

[Illustration: MOTHER, IF YOU LOVE ME LISTEN TO A STORY I WILL TELL.]

"Have you no pity for me?" Queen Bellicent asked. "Stay here by your
poor old father and me; chase the deer in our fir trees and marry some
lovely bride I will get for you. You're my best son and so young."

"Mother, a king once showed his son two brides and told him that he must
either win the beautiful one, or, if he failed, wed the other. The
pretty one was Fame and the other was Shame. Why should I follow the
deer when I can follow the king? Why was I born a man if I cannot do a
man's work?"

"But some of the barons say he isn't the true king."

"Hasn't he conquered the Romans and driven off the heathen and made all
the people free? Who has a right to be king if not the man who has done
that? He is the true king."

When Bellicent found that she could not turn Gareth from his purpose,
she said that if he was determined he must do one thing before he asked
the king to make him a knight.

"Anything," cried Gareth. "Give me a hundred proofs. Only be quick."

The queen looked at him very slowly and said: "You are a prince, Gareth,
but before you are fit to serve the king you must go into Arthur's court
disguised and hire yourself to serve his meats and drink among the
scullions and kitchen knaves. And you must not tell your name to anyone
and you must serve that way for a year and a day."

The queen made this condition, thinking that Gareth would be too proud
to play the slave. But he thought a moment, then answered: "A slave may
be free in his soul, and I can see the jousts there. You are my mother
so I must obey you and I will be a scullion in King Arthur's kitchen and
keep my name a secret from everyone, even the king."

So Bellicent grieved and watched Gareth every moment wherever he went,
dreading the time when he should leave. And he waited until one windy
night when she slept, then called two servants and slipped away with
them, all three dressed like poor peasants of the field.

They walked away towards the south and as they came to the plain
stretching to the mountain of Camelot, they saw the royal city upon its
brow. Sometimes its spires and towers flashed in the sunlight; sometimes
only the great gate shone out before their eyes, or again the whole fair
town vanished away. Then the servants said:

"Let us go no further, Lord. It's an enchanted city, and all a vision.
The people say anyway, that Arthur isn't the true king, but only a
changeling from fairyland, and that Merlin won his battles for him with
magic."

Gareth laughed and replied that he had magic enough in his blood and
hopes to plunge old Merlin into the Arabian sea. And he pushed them on
to the gate. There was no other gate like it under heaven. The Lady of
the Lake stood barefooted on the keystone and held up the cornice. Drops
of water fell from either hand and above were the three queens who were
Arthur's friends, and on each side Arthur's wars were pictured in weird
devices with dragons and elves so intertwined that they made men dizzy
to look at them. The servants cried out, "Lord, the gateway is alive!"
Then a blast of music pealed out of the city, and the three queens
stepped aside while an old man with a long beard came out and asked:

"Who are you, my sons?"

"We are peasants," answered Gareth, "who have come to see the glories of
your king, but the city looked so strange through the morning mist that
my men are wondering whether it is not a fairy city or perhaps no city
at all. So tell us the truth about it."

"Oh, it's a fairy city," the old man answered, "and a fairy king and
queen came out of the mountain cleft at sunrise with harps in their
hands and built it to music, which means it never was built at all, and
therefore built forever."

"Why do you mock me so?" Gareth cried angrily.

"I am not mocking you so much as you are mocking me and every one who
looks at you, for you are not what you seem, still I know what you truly
are."

Then the old man turned away and Gareth said to his men: "Our poor
little white lie stands like a ghost at the very beginning of our
enterprise. Blame my mother's love for it and not her nor me."

So they all laughed and came into the city of Camelot with its shadowy
and stately palaces. Here and there a knight passed in or out, his arms
clashing and the sound was good to Gareth's ears. Or out of a casement
window glanced the pure eyes of lovely women. But Gareth made at once
for the hall of the king where his heart fairly hammered into his ears
as he wondered whether Arthur would turn him aside because of the half
shadow of a lie he had told the old man by the gate about being a
peasant. There were many supplicants coming before the king to tell him
of some hurt done them by marauders or the wild beasts, and each one was
given a knight by the king to help them.

When Gareth's turn came, he rested his arms, one on each servant, and
stepped forward saying: "A boon, Sir King! Do you see how weak I seem,
leaning on these men? Pray let me go into your kitchen and serve there
for a year and a day, and do not ask me my name. After that I will fight
for you."

"You are a handsome youth," said the king, "and worth something better
from the king, but if that is what you wish, go and serve under the
seneschal, Sir Kay, Master of the Meats and Drinks."

Sir Kay thought the boy had probably run away from the farm belonging to
some Abbey where he had not had enough to eat, and he promised that if
Gareth would work well he would feed him until he was as plump as a
pigeon.

But Lancelot, the king's favorite, said to Kay: "You don't understand
boys as well as dogs and cattle. Can't you see by this lad's broad fair
forehead and fine hands that he is nobly born? Treat him well or he may
shame you."

"Fair and fine, forsooth," cried Kay. "If he had been a gentleman he
would have asked for a horse and armor."

So he hustled and harried Garreth, _set him to draw water_, _hew wood_
and labor harder than any of the grimy and smudgy kitchen knaves. Gareth
did all with a noble sort of ease and graced the lowliest act, and when
the knaves all gathered together of an evening to tell stories about
Arthur on the battlefields or of Lancelot in the tournament, Gareth
listened delightedly or made them all, with gaping mouths, listen
charmed, to some prodigious tale of his own about wonderful knights
cutting their scarlet way through twenty folds of twisted dragons. When
there was a Joust and Sir Kay let him attend it, he went half beside
himself in an ecstasy watching the warriors clash their springing
spears, and the sniffing chargers reel.

At the end of the first month, lonely Queen Bellicent felt sorry for her
poor, dear son, toiling and moiling among pots and pans, so she sent a
servant to Camelot with the beaming armor of a knight and freed him from
his vow. Gareth colored redder than any young girl and went alone in to
the king and told him all.

[Illustration: SET HIM TO DRAW WATER, HEW WOOD.]

"Make me your knight in secret," he begged Arthur, "and give me the very
next quest from your court!"

"Son," answered the king, "my knights are sworn to vows of utter
hardihood, of utter gentleness, of utter faithfulness in love and of
utter obedience to the king."

Gareth sprang lightly from his knees: "My king, I can promise you for my
hardihood; respecting my obedience, ask Sir Kay, and as for love I have
not loved yet, but God willing some day I will, and faithfully."

The reply so pleased the great king, he laid his hand on Gareth's arm
and smiled and knighted him.

A few days later _a noble maiden_ with a brow like a May-blossom and a
saucy nose _passed into the king's hall with her page_ and told Arthur
that her name was Lynette, and that her beautiful sister, the Lady
Lyonors lived in the Castle Perilous which was beset with bandit
knights.

[Illustration: A NOBLE MAIDEN WITH HER PAGE.]

"A river courses about the castle in three loops," said she, "each loop
has a bridge and every bridge is guarded by a wicked outlaw warrior, Sir
Morning-star, Sir Noon-sun and Sir Evening-star, while a fourth called
Death, a huge man-beast of boundless savageries, is besieging my sister
in her own castle so as to break her will and make her wed with him.
They are four fools," cried the maiden disdainfully, "but they are
mighty men so I have come to ask for Lancelot to ride away with me to
help us."

Gareth was up in a twinkling with kindled eyes. "A boon, Sir King, this
quest," he cried. "I am only a knave from your kitchen, but I can
topple over a hundred such fellows. Your promise, king."

"You are rough and sudden and worthy to be a knight. Therefore go," said
Arthur to the great amazement of the court.

"Fie on you, King!" exclaimed Lynette in a fury. "I asked you for your
best knight, Lancelot, and you give me a slave from your kitchen," and
she scampered down the aisle, leaped to her horse and flitted out of the
weird white gate. "A kitchen slave!" she sputtered as she flew. "Why
didn't the king send me a knight that fights for love and glory?"

Gareth in the meantime had strode to the side doorway of the royal hall
where he saw a war-horse awaiting him, the gift of Arthur and worth half
the price of a town. His two servants stood by with his shield and
helmet and spear. Dropping his coarse kitchen cloak to the floor, he
instantly harnessed himself in his armor, leaped to the back of his
beautiful steed and flashed out of the gateway while all his kitchen
mates threw up their caps and cried, "God bless the king and all his
fellowship!"

"Maiden, the quest is mine," he said to Lynette as he overtook her,
"Lead and I follow."

"Away with you!" she cried, nipping her slender nose. "You smell of
kitchen grease. See there, your master is coming!"

Indeed she told the truth, for Sir Kay, infuriated with Gareth's
boldness in the king's hall was hounding after them. "Don't you know
me?" he shouted.

"Yes, too well," returned Gareth. "I know you to be the most ungentle
knight in Arthur's court."

"Have at me, then," cried Kay, whereupon Gareth pounced upon him with
his gleaming lance and struck him instantly to the earth, then turned
for Lynette and said again, "Lead and I follow."

But Lynette had hurried her galloping palfrey away and would not stop
the beast until his heart had nearly burst with its violent throbbing.
Then she turned and eyed Gareth as scornfully as ever. As he pranced to
her side she observed:

"Do you suppose scullion, that I think any more of you now that by some
good luck you have overthrown your master. You dishwasher and
water-carrier, you smell of the kitchen quite as much as before."

"Maiden," Gareth rejoined gently, "Say what you will, but whatever you
say, I will not leave this quest until it is ended or I have died for
it."

"O, my, how the knave talks! But you'll soon meet with another knave
whom in spite of all the kitchen concoctions ever brewed, you'll not
dare look in the face."

"I'll try him," answered Gareth with a smile that maddened Lynette. And
away she darted again far into the strange avenues of the limitless
woods.

Gareth plunged on through the pine trees after her and a serving-man
came breaking through the black forest crying out, "They've bound my
master and are throwing him into the lake!"

"Lead and I follow," cried Gareth to Lynette, and she led, plunging into
the pine trees until they came upon a hollow sinking away into a lake,
where six tall men up to their thighs in reeds and bulrushes were
dragging a seventh man with a stone about his neck toward the water to
drown him.

Gareth sprang upon three and stilled them with his doughty blows, but
three scurried away through the trees; then Gareth loosened the stone
from the gentleman and set him on his feet. He proved to be a baron and
a friend of Arthur and asked Gareth what he could do to show his
gratitude for the saving of his life. Gareth said he would like a
night's shelter for the lady who was with him. So they rode over toward
the graceful manor house where the baron lived, and as they rode he said
to Gareth.

"I believe you are of the Table," meaning that Gareth was a Knight of
the Round Table.

"Yes, he is of the table after his own fashion," Lynette laughed, "for
he serves in Arthur's kitchen." And turning toward Gareth she added, "Do
not imagine that I admire you the more for having routed these miserable
cowardly foresters; any thresher with his flail could have done that."

And when they were seated at the baron's table, Gareth by Lynette's
side, she cried out to their host, "It seems dreadfully rude in you,
Lord Baron, to place this knave beside me. Listen to me: I went to King
Arthur's court to ask for Sir Lancelot to come to help my sister, and as
I ended my plea, up bawls this kitchen boy: 'Mine's the quest.' And
Arthur goes mad and sends me this fellow who was made to kill pigs and
not redress the wrongs of women."

So Gareth was seated at another table and the baron came to him and
asked him whether it might not be better for him to relinquish his
quest, but the lad replied that the king had given it to him and he
would carry it through. The next morning he said again to proud Lynette,
"Lead and I follow."

But the maiden responded, "We are almost at the place where one of the
knaves is stationed. Don't you want to go home? He will slay you and
then I'll go back to Arthur and shame him for giving me a knight from
his kitchen cinders."

"Just let me fight," cried Gareth, "and I'll have as good luck as little
Cinderella who married the prince."

So they came to the first coil of the river and on the other side saw a
rich white pavilion with a purple dome and a slender crimson flag
fluttering above. The lawless Sir Morning-star paced up and down
outside.

"Damsel, is this the knight you've brought me?" he shouted.

"Not a knight, but a knave. The king scorned you so he sent some one
from his kitchen."

"Come Daughters of the Dawn and arm me!" cried Sir Morning-star, and
three bare-footed, bare-headed maidens in pink and gold dresses brought
him a blue coat of mail and a blue shield.

"A kitchen knave in scorn of me!" roared the blue knight. "I won't fight
him. Go home, knave! It isn't proper for you to be riding abroad with a
lady."

"Dog, you lie! I'm sprung from nobler lineage than you," and saying
this, Gareth sprang fiercely at his adversary who met him in the middle
of the bridge. The two spears were hurled so harshly that both knights
were thrown from their horses like two stones but up they leaped
instantly. Gareth drew forth his sword and drove his enemy back down the
bridge and laid him at his feet.

"I yield," Sir Morning-star cried, "don't kill me."

"Your life is in the hands of this lady," Gareth replied. "If she asks
me to spare you I will."

"Scullion!" Lynette cried, reddening with shame. "Do you suppose I will
ask a favor of you?"

"Then he dies," and Gareth was about to slay the wounded knight when
Lynette screamed and told him he ought not to think of killing a man of
nobler birth than himself. So Gareth said, "Knight, your life is spared
at this lady's command. Go to King Arthur's court and tell him that his
kitchen knave sent you, and crave his pardon for breaking his laws."

"I thought the smells of the odors of the kitchen grew fainter while you
were fighting on the bridge," Lynette remarked to Gareth as he took his
place behind her and told her to lead, "but now they are as strong as
ever."

So they rode on until they arrived at the second loop of the river where
the knight of the Noonday-Sun flared with his burning shield that blazed
so violently that Gareth saw scarlet blots before his eyes as he turned
away from it.

"Here's a kitchen knave from Arthur's hall who has overthrown your
brother," Lynette called across the river to him.

"Ugh!" returned Sir Noonday-Sun, raising his visor to reveal his round
foolish face like a cipher, and with that he pushed his horse into the
foaming stream.

Gareth met him midway and struck him four blows of his sword. As he was
about to deal the fifth stroke the horse of the Noonday-Sun slipped and
the stream washed his dazzling master away. Gareth plucked him out of
the water and sent him back to King Arthur.

"Lead and I follow," he said to Lynette.

"Do not fancy," she rejoined, as she guided him toward the third passing
of the river, "that I thought you bold or brave when you overcame Sir
Noonday-Sun; he just slipped on the river-bed. Here we are at the third
fool in the allegory, Sir Evening-star. You see he looks naked but he is
only wrapped in hardened skins that fit him like his own. They will turn
the blade of your sword."

"Never mind," Gareth said, "the wind may turn again and the kitchen
odors grow faint."

Then Lynette called to the Evening-star:

"Both of your brothers have gone down before this youth and so will you.
Aren't you old?"

"Old with the strength of twenty boys," said Sir Evening-star.

"Old in boasting," Gareth cried, "but the same strength that slew your
brothers can slay you."

Then the Evening-star blew a deadly note upon his horn and a
storm-beaten, russet, grizzly old woman came out and armed him in a
quantity of dingy weapons. The two knights clashed together on the
bridge and Gareth brought the Evening-star groveling in a minute to his
feet on his knees. But the other vaulted up again so quickly that Gareth
panted and half despaired of winning the victory.

Then Lynette cried: "Well done, knave; you are as noble as any knight.
Now do not shame me; I said you would win. Strike! strike! and the wind
will change again."

Gareth struck harder, he hewed great pieces of armor from the old
knight, but clashed in vain with his sword against the hard skin, until
at last he lashed the Evening-star's sword and broke it at the hilt. "I
have you now!" he shouted, but the cowardly knight of the Evening-star
writhed his arms about the lad till Gareth was almost strangled. Yet
straining himself to the uttermost he finally _tossed his foe headlong
over the side of the bridge_ to sink or to swim as the waves allowed.

"Lead and I follow," Gareth said to Lynette.

"No, it is lead no longer," the maiden replied. "Ride beside me the
knightliest of all kitchen knaves. Sir I am ashamed that I have treated
you so. Pardon me. I do wonder who you are, you knave."

"You are not to blame for anything," Gareth said, "except for your
mistrusting of the king when he sent you some one to defend you. You
said what you thought and I answered by my actions."

At that moment he heard the hoofs of a horse clattering in the road
behind him. "Stay!" cried a knight with a veiled shield, "I have come to
avenge my friend, Sir Kay."

Gareth turned, and in a thrice had closed in upon the stranger, but when
he felt the touch of the stranger knight's magical spear, which was the
wonder of the world he fell to the earth. As he felt the grass in his
hands he burst into laughter.

[Illustration: TOSSED HIS FOE OVER THE SIDE OF THE BRIDGE.]

"Why do you laugh?" asked Lynette.

"Because here am I, the son of old King Lot and good Queen Bellicent,
the victor of the three bridges, and a knight of Arthur's thrown by no
one knows whom."

"I have come to help you and not harm you," said the strange knight,
revealing himself. It was Lancelot, whom King Arthur had sent to keep a
guardian eye upon young Gareth in this his first quest, to prevent him
from being killed or taken away.

"And why did you refuse to come when I wanted you, and now come just in
time to shame my poor defender just when I was beginning to feel proud
of him?" asked Lynette.

"But he isn't shamed," Lancelot answered. "What knight is not overthrown
sometimes? By being defeated we learn to overcome, so hail Prince and
Knight of our Round Table!" "You did well Gareth, only you and your
horse were a little weary."

[Illustration: SHE TENDED HIM AS GENTLY AS A MOTHER.]

Lynette led them into a glen and a cave where they found pleasant drinks
and meat, and where Gareth fell asleep.

"You have good reason to feel sleepy," cried Lynette. "Sleep soundly and
wake strong." _And she tended him as gently as a mother_, and watched
over him carefully as he slept.

When Gareth woke Lancelot gave him his own horse and shield to use in
fighting the last awful outlaw, but as they drew near Lynette clutched
at the shield and pleaded with him: "Give it back to Lancelot," said
she. "O curse my tongue that was reviling you so today. He must do the
fighting now. You have done wonders, but you cannot do miracles. You
have thrown three men today and that is glory enough. You will get all
maimed and mangled if you go on now when you are tired. There, I vow you
must not try the fourth."

But Gareth told her that her sharp words during the day had just spurred
him on to do his best and he said he must not now leave his quest until
he had finished. So Lancelot advised him how best to manage his horse
and his lance, his sword and his shield when meeting a foe that was
stouter than himself, winning with fineness and skill where he lacked in
strength.

But Gareth replied that he knew but one rule in fighting and that was to
dash against his foe and overcome him.

"Heaven help you," cried Lynette, and she made her palfrey halt.
"There!" They were facing the camp of the Knight of Death.

There was a huge black pavilion, a black banner and a black horn. Gareth
blew the horn and heard hollow tramplings to and fro and muffled voices.
Then on a night-black horse, in night-black arms rode forth the dread
warrior. A white breast-bone showed in front. He spoke not a word which
made him the more fearful.

"Fool!" shouted Gareth sturdily. "People say that you have the strength
of ten men; can't you trust to it without depending on these toggeries
and tricks?"

But the Knight of Death said nothing. Lady Lyonors at her castle window
wept, and one of her maids fainted away, and Gareth felt his head
prickling beneath his helmet and Lancelot felt his blood turning cold.
Every one stood aghast.

Then the chargers bounded forward and Gareth struck Death to the ground.
Drawing out his sword he split apart the vast skull; one half of it fell
to the right and one half to the left. Then he was about to strike at
the helmet when out of it peeped the face of a blooming young boy, as
fresh as a flower.

"O Knight!" cried the laddie. "Do not kill me. My three brothers made me
do it to make a horror all about the castle. They never dreamed that
anyone could pass the bridges."

Then Lady Lyonors with all her house had a great party of dancing and
revelry and song and making merry because the hideous Knight of Death
that had terrified them so was only a pretty little boy. And there was
mirth over Gareth's victorious quest.

And some people say that Gareth married Lynette, but others who tell the
story later say he wedded with Lyonors.



THE MARRIAGE OF GERAINT.


King Arthur had come to the old city of Caerleon on the River Usk to
hold his court, and was sitting high in his royal hall when a woodman,
all bedraggled with the mists of the forests came tripping up in haste
before his throne.

"O noble King," he cried, "today I saw a wonderful deer, a hart all
milky white running through among the trees, and, nothing like it has
ever been seen here before."

The king, who loved the chase, was very pleased and immediately gave
orders that the royal horns should be blown for all the court to go a
hunting after the beautiful white deer the following morning. Queen
Guinevere wished to go with them to watch the hounds and huntsmen and
dancing horses in the chase. She slept late, however, the next day with
her pleasant dreams, and Arthur with his Knights of the Round Table had
sped gloriously away on their snorting chargers when she arose, called
one of her maids to come with her, mounted her palfrey and forded the
River Usk to pass over by the forest.

[Illustration: A WOODMAN ALL BEDRAGGLED CAME IN HASTE BEFORE HIS
THRONE.]

There they climbed up on a little knoll and stood listening for the
hounds, but instead of the barking of the king's dogs they heard the
sound of a horse's hoofs trampling behind them. It was Prince Geraint's
charger as he flashed over the shallow ford of the river, then galloped
up the banks of the knoll to her side. He carried not a single weapon
except his golden-hilted sword and wore, not his hunting-dress, but gay
holiday silks with a purple scarf about him swinging an apple of gold at
either end and glancing like a dragon-fly. He bowed low to the sweet,
stately queen.

"You're late, very late, Sir Prince," said she, "later even than we."

"Yes, noble queen," replied Geraint, "I'm so late that I'm not going to
the hunt; I've come like you just to watch it."

"Then stay with me," the queen said, "for here on this little knoll, if
anywhere, you will have a good chance to see the hounds, often they dash
by at its very feet."

So Geraint stood by the queen, thinking he would catch particularly the
baying of Cavall, Arthur's loudest dog, which would tell him that the
hunters were coming. As they waited however, along the base of the
knoll, came a knight, a lady and a dwarf riding slowly by on their
horses. The knight wore his visor up showing his imperious and very
haughty young face. The dwarf lagged behind.

"That knight doesn't belong to the Round Table, does he?" asked the
queen. "I don't know him."

"No, nor I," replied Geraint.

So the queen sent her maid over to the dwarf to find out the name of his
master. But the dwarf was old and crotchety and would not tell her.

"Then I'll ask your master himself," cried the maid.

"No, indeed, you shall not!" cried the dwarf, "you are not fit even to
speak of him," and as the girl turned her horse to approach the proud
young knight, the misshapen little dwarf of a servant struck at her with
his whip, and she came scampering back indignantly to the queen.

[Illustration: HE STRUCK OUT HIS WHIP AND CUT THE PRINCE'S CHEEK.]

"I'll learn his name for you," Geraint exclaimed, and he rode off
sharply.

But the impudent dwarf answered just as before and when Prince Geraint
moved on toward his master he struck out his whip and cut the prince's
cheek so that the blood streamed upon the purple scarf dyeing it red.
Instantly Geraint reached for the hilt of his sword to strike down the
vicious little midget but then remembering that he was a prince and
disdaining to fight with a dwarf, he did not even say a word, but
cantered back to Queen Guinevere's side.

"Noble Queen," he cried fiercely. "I am going to avenge this insult that
has been done you. I'll track these vermin to the earth. For even
although I am riding unarmed just now, as we go along I will come to
some place where I can borrow weapons or hire them. And then when I have
my man I'll fight him, and on the third day from today I'll be back
again unless I die in the fight. So good-bye, farewell."

"Farewell, handsome prince," the queen answered. "Good fortune in your
quest and may you live to marry your first love whoever that may be. But
whether she will be a princess or a beggar from the hedgerows, before
you wed with her bring her back to me and I will robe her for her
wedding day."

Prince Geraint bowed and with that he was off. One minute he thought he
heard the noble milk-white deer brought to bay by the dogs, the next he
thought he heard the hunter's horn far away and felt a little vexed to
think he must be following this stupid dwarf while all the others were
at the chase. But he had determined to avenge the queen and up and down
the grassy glades and valleys pursued the three enemies until at last at
sundown they emerged from the forest, climbed up on the ridge of a hill
where they looked like shadows against the dark sky, then sank again on
the other side.

Below on the other side of the ridge ran the long street of a clamoring
little town in a long valley, on one side a new white fortress and on
the other, across a ravine and a bridge, a fallen old castle in decay.
The knight, the lady and the dwarf rode on to the white fortress, then
vanished within its walls.

"There!" cried Geraint, "now I have him! I have tracked him to his hole,
and tomorrow when I'm rested I'll fight him."

Then he turned wearily down the long street of the noisy village to look
for his night's lodging, but he found every inn and tavern crowded, and
everywhere horses in the stables were being shod and young fellows were
busy burnishing their master's armor.

"What does all this hubbub mean?" asked Geraint of one of these youths.

The lad did not stop his work one instant, but went on scouring and
replied, "It's the sparrow-hawk."

As Prince Geraint did not know what was meant by the sparrow-hawk he
trotted a little farther along the street until he came to a quiet old
man trudging by with a sack of corn on his back.

"Why is your town so noisy and busy to-night, good old fellow?" he
cried.

"Ugh! the sparrow-hawk!" the old fellow said gruffly.

So the prince rode his horse yet a little farther until he saw an
armor-maker's shop. The armor-maker sat inside with his back turned, all
doubled over a helmet which he was riveting together upon his knee.

"Armorer," cried Geraint, "what is going on? Why is there such a din?"

The man did not pause in his riveting even to turn about and face the
stranger, but said quickly as if to finish speaking as rapidly as he
could, "Friend, the people who are working for the sparrow-hawk have no
time for idle questions."

At this Geraint flashed up angrily.

"A fig for your sparrow-hawk! I wish all the bits of birds of the air
would peck him dead. You imagine that this little cackle in your baby
town is all the noise and murmur of the great world. What do I care
about it? It is nothing to me. Listen to me, now, if you are not gone
hawk-mad like the rest, where can I get a lodging for the night, and
more than that, where can I get some arms, arms, arms, to fight my
enemy? Tell me."

The hurrying armor-maker looked about in amazement to see this gorgeous
cavalier in purple silks standing before his bit of a shop.

"O pardon me, stranger knight," said he very politely. "We are holding a
great tournament here tomorrow morning and there is hardly any time to
do one-half the work that has to be finished before then. Arms, did you
say? Indeed I cannot tell you where to get any; all that there are in
this town are needed for to-morrow in the lists. And as for lodging, I
don't know unless perhaps at Earl Yniol's in the old castle across the
bridge." Then he again picked up his helmet and turned his back to the
prince.

So Geraint, still a wee mite vexed, rode over the bridge that spanned
the ravine, to go to the ruined castle. There upon the farther side sat
the hoary-headed Earl Yniol, dressed in some magnificent shabby old
clothes which had been fit for a king's parties when they were new.

"Where are you going, son?" he queried of Geraint, waking from his
reveries and dreaminess.

"O friend, I'm looking for some shelter for the night," Geraint replied.

"Come in then," Yniol said, "and accept of my hospitality. Our house was
rich once and now it is poor, but it always keeps its door open to the
stranger."

"Oh, anything will do for me," cried Geraint. "If only you won't serve
me sparrow-hawks for my supper I'll eat with all the passion of a whole
day's fast."

The old earl smiled and sighed as he rejoined, "I have more serious
reason than you to curse this sparrow-hawk. But go in and we will not
have a word about him even jokingly unless you wish it."

Whereupon Geraint passed into the desolate castle court, where the
stones of the pavement were all broken and overgrown with wild plants,
and the turrets and walls were shattered. As he stood awaiting the Earl
Yniol, the voice of a young girl singing like a nightingale rang out
from one of the open castle windows.

It was the voice of Enid, Earl Yniol's daughter as she sang the song of
Fortune and her Wheel:

    "Turn, Fortune, thy wheel with smile or frown,
    With that wild wheel we go not up or down;
    Our hoard is little, but our hearts are great."

"The song of that little bird describes the nest she lives in," cried
Earl Yniol approaching. "Enter."

Geraint alighted from his charger and stepped within the large dusky
cobwebbed hall, where an aged lady sat, with Enid moving about her, like
a little flower in a wilted sheath of a faded silk gown.

"Enid, the good knight's horse is standing in the court," cried the
earl. "Take him to the stall and give him some corn, then go to town and
buy us some meat and wine."

[Illustration: GERAINT STEPPED WITHIN THE DUSKY COBWEBBED HALL.]

Geraint wished that he might do this servant's work instead of this
pretty young lady, but as he started to follow her the old gray earl
stopped him.

"We're old and poor," he said, "but not so poor and old as to let our
guests wait upon themselves."

So Enid fetched the wine and the meat and the cakes and the bread; and
she served at the table while her mother, father and Geraint sat around.
Geraint wished that he might stoop to kiss her tender little thumb as it
held the platter when she laid it down.

[Illustration: ENID FETCHED THE WINE AND THE MEAT AND THE CAKES.]

"Fair host and Earl," he said after his refreshing supper, "who is this
sparrow-hawk that everybody in the town is talking about? And yet I do
not wish you to give me his name, for perhaps he is the knight I saw
riding into the new fortress the other side of the bridge at the other
end of the town. His name I am going to have from his own lips, for I
am Geraint of Devon. This morning when the queen sent her maid to find
out his name he struck at the girl with his whip, and I've sworn
vengeance for such a great insult done our queen, and have followed him
to his hold, and as soon as I can get arms I will fight him."

"And are you the renowned Geraint?" cried Earl Yniol beaming. "Well, as
soon as I saw you coming toward me on the bridge I knew that you were no
ordinary man. By the state and presence of your bearing I might have
guessed you to be one of Arthur's Knights of the Round Table at Camelot.
Pray do not suppose that I am flattering you foolishly. This dear child
of mine has often heard me telling glorious stories of all the famous
things you have done for the king and the people. And she has asked me
to repeat them again and again.

"Poor thing, there never has lived a woman with such miserable lovers as
she has had. The first was Limours, who did nothing but drink and brawl,
even when he was making love to her. And the second was the
'sparrow-hawk,' my nephew, my curse. I will not let his name slip from
me if I can help it. When I told him that he could not marry my daughter
he spread a false rumour all round here among the people that his father
had left him a great sum of money in my keeping and that I had never
passed it over to him but had retained it for myself. He bribed all my
servants with large promises and stirred up this whole little old town
of mine against me, my own town. That was the night of Enid's birthday
nearly three years ago. They sacked my house, ousted me from my earldom,
threw us into this dilapidated, dingy old place and built up that grand
new white fort. He would kill me if he did not despise me too much to
do so; and sometimes I believe I despise myself for letting him have his
way. I scarcely know whether I am very wise or very silly, very manly or
very base to suffer it all so patiently."

"Well said," cried Geraint eagerly. "But the arms, the arms, where can I
get arms for myself? Then if the sparrow-hawk will fight tomorrow in the
tourney I may be able to bring down his terrible pride a little."

"I have arms," said Yniol, "although they are old and rusty, Prince
Geraint, and you would be welcome to have them for the asking. But in
this tournament of tomorrow no knight is allowed to tilt unless the lady
he loves best come there too. The forks are fastened into the meadow
ground and over them is placed a silver wand, above that a golden
sparrow-hawk, the prize of beauty for the fairest woman there. And
whoever wins in the tourney presents this to the lady-love whom he has
brought with him. Since my nephew is a man of very large bone and is
clever with his lance he has always won it for his lady. That is how he
has earned his title of sparrow-hawk. But you have no lady so you will
not be able to fight."

Then Geraint leaned forward toward the earl.

"With your leave, noble Earl Yniol," he replied, "I will do battle for
your daughter. For although I have seen all the beauties of the day
never have I come upon anything so wonderfully lovely as she. If it
should happen that I prove victor, as true as heaven, I will make her my
wife!"

Yniol's heart danced in his bosom for joy, and he turned about for Enid,
but she had fluttered away as soon as her name had been mentioned, so
he tenderly grasped the hands of her mother in his own and said:

"Mother, young girls are shy little things and best understood by their
own mothers. Before you go to rest to night, find out what Enid will
think about this."

So the earl's wife passed out to speak with Enid, and Enid became so
glad and excited that she could not sleep the entire happy night long.
But very early the next morning, as soon as the pale sky began to redden
with the sun she arose, then called her mother, and hand in hand,
tripped over with her to the place of the tournament. There they awaited
for Yniol and Geraint. Geraint came wearing the Earl's rusty, worn old
arms, yet in spite of them looked stately and princely.

Many other knights in blazing armor gathered there for the jousts, with
many fine ladies, and by and by the whole town full of people flooded
in, settling in a circle around the lists. Then the two forks were fixed
into the earth, above them a wand of silver was laid, and over it the
golden sparrow-hawk. The trumpet was blown and Yniol's nephew rose and
spoke:

"Come forward, my lady," he cried to the maiden who had come with him.
"Fairest of the fair, take the prize of beauty which I have won for you
during the past two years."

"Stay!" Prince Geraint cried loudly. "There is a worthier beauty here."

The earl's nephew looked round with surprise and disdain to see his
uncle's family and the prince.

"Do battle for it then," he shouted angrily.

Geraint sprang forward and the tourney was begun. Three times the two
warriors clashed together. _Three times they broke their spears._ Then
both were thrown from their horses. They now drew their swords; and
with them lashed at one another so frequently and with such dreadfully
hard strokes that all the crowd wondered. Now and again from the distant
walls came the sounds of applause, like the clapping of phantom hands.
The perspiration and the blood flowed together down the strong bodies of
the combatants. Each was as sturdy as the other.

[Illustration]

"Remember the great insult done our queen!" Earl Yniol cried at last.

This so inflamed Geraint that he heaved his vast sword-blade aloft,
cracked through his enemy's helmet, bit into the bone of his head,
felled the haughty knight, and set his feet upon his breast.

"Your name!" demanded Geraint.

"Edryn, the son of Nudd," groaned the fallen warrior.

"Very well, then Edryn, the son of Nudd," returned Geraint, "you must do
these two things or else you will have to die. First, you with your lady
and your dwarf must ride to Arthur's court at Caerleon and crave their
pardon for the insult you did the queen yesterday morning, and you must
bide her decree in the punishment she awards you. Secondly, you must
give back the earldom to your uncle the Earl of Yniol. You will do these
two things or you die."

"I will do them," cried Edryn. "For never before was I ever overcome.
But now all of my pride is broken down, for Enid has seen me fall."

With that Edryn rose from the ground like a man, took his lady and the
dwarf on their horses to Arthur's court. There receiving the sweet
forgiveness of the queen, he became a true knight of the Round Table,
and at the last died in battle while he fought for his king.

But Geraint when the tourney was over and he had come back to the
castle, drew Enid aside to tell her that early the next morning he would
have to start for Caerleon and that she should be ready to ride away
with him to be married at the court with tremendous pomp. For that would
be three days after the King's chase, when the prince had promised Queen
Guinevere he would be back. But of that he did not speak to Enid, who
wondered why he was so bent on returning immediately, and why she could
not have time at home to prepare herself some pretty robes to wear.

Imagine, she thought, such a grand and frightful thing as a court, the
queen's court, with all the graceful ladies staring at her in that faded
old silk dress! And although she promised Geraint that she would go as
he wished, when she woke to the dread day for making her appearance at
court, she still yearned that he would only stay yet a little while so
that she could sew herself some clothes, that she had the flowered silk
which her mother had given her three years ago for her birthday and
which Edryn's men had robbed from her when they sacked the house and
scattered everything she ever owned to all the winds. How she wished
that handsome Geraint had known her then, those three years ago when she
wore so many pretty dresses and jewels!

But while she lay dreamily thinking, softly in trod her mother bearing
on her arm a gorgeous, delicate robe.

"Do you recognize it, child?" she cried.

It was that self-same birthday dress, three years old, but as beautiful
as new and never worn.

"Yesterday after the jousts your father went through all the town from
house to house and ordered that all sack and plunder which the men had
taken from us should be brought back, for he was again to be in his
earldom. So last evening while you were talking with the prince some one
came up from the town and placed this in my hands. I did not tell you
about it then for I wished to keep it as a sweet surprise for you this
morning. And it is a sweet surprise, isn't it? For although the prince
yesterday did say that you were the fairest of the fair there is no
handsome girl in the world but looks handsomer in new clothes than in
old. And it would have been a shame for you to go to the court in your
poor old faded silk which you have worn so long and so patiently. The
great ladies there might say that Prince Geraint had plucked up some
ragged robin from the hedges."

[Illustration: BEARING A GORGEOUS ROBE.]

So Enid was put into the fine flowered robe.

Her mother said that after she had gone to the queen's court, she, the
poor old mother at home, who was too feeble to journey so far with her
daughter, would think over and over again of her pretty princess at
Camelot. And the old gray Earl Yniol went in to tell Geraint of Enid's
fanciful apparel.

But Geraint was not delighted with the magnificence.

"Say to her," he answered the earl, "that by all my love for her,
although I give her no other reason, I entreat Enid to wear that faded
old silk dress of hers and no other."

This amazing and hard message from Geraint made poor little Enid's face
fall like a meadowful of corn blasted by a rainstorm. Still she
willingly laid aside her gold finery for his sake, slipped into the
faded silk, and pattered down the steps to meet Geraint. He scanned her
so eagerly from her tip to her toe that both her rosy cheeks burned like
flames. Then as he noted her mother's clouded face he said very kindly:

"My new mother don't be very angry, or grieved with your new son because
of what I have just asked Enid to do. I had a very good reason for it
and I will explain it all to you. The other day when I left the queen at
Caerleon to avenge the insult done her by Edryn, the son of Nudd, she
made me two wishes. The one was that I should be successful with my
quest and the other was that I should wed with my first love. Then she
promised that whoever my bride should be she herself with her own royal
hands would dress her for her wedding day, splendidly, like the very sun
in the skies. So when I found this lovely Enid of yours in her shabby
clothes I vowed that the queen's hands only should array her in handsome
new robes that befitted her grace and beauty. But never mind, dear
mother, some day you will come to see Enid and then she will wear the
golden, flowered birthday dress which you gave her three years ago."

Then the earl's wife smiled through her tears, wrapped Enid in a mantle,
kissed her gentle farewells, and in a moment saw her riding far, far
away beside Geraint.

The queen Guinevere that day had three times climbed the royal tower at
Caerleon to look far into the valley for some sign of Geraint, who had
promised to be back that day, if he did not fall in battle, and who
would certainly come now, since Edryn had been vanquished and had come
to the court. At last when evening had fallen she spied the prince's
charger pacing nobly along the road, and Enid's palfrey at his side.
Instantly Queen Guinevere sped down from the small window in the high
turret, tripped out to the gate to greet him and embrace the lovely Enid
as a long-loved friend.

The old City of Caerleon was gay for one whole week, over the wedding
week of Geraint and Enid. The queen herself dressed Enid for her
marriage like the very sunlight, Dubric, the highest saint of the
church, married them, and they lived for nearly a year at the court with
Arthur and sweet Guinevere.

And so the insult done the queen was avenged, and her two wishes were
fulfilled. For Geraint overcame his enemy and wedded with his
first-love, dressed for her marriage by the queen.



GERAINT'S QUEST OF HONOR.


One morning Prince Geraint went into Arthur's hall and said:

"O King, my princedom is in danger. It lies close to the territory which
is infested with bandits, earls and caitiff knights, assassins and all
sorts of outlaws. Give me your kind good leave and I will go there to
defend my lands."

The king said the prince might go, and sent fifty armed knights to
protect him and pretty Enid as they traveled away on their horses across
the Severn River into their own country, the Land of Devon.

After Geraint had come into Devon he forgot what he had said to the king
of ridding his princedom of outlawry, he forgot the chase where he had
always been so clever in tracking his game, forgot the tournament where
he had won victory after victory, forgot all his former glory and his
name, forgot his lands and their cares, forgot everything he ever did,
and did nothing at all but lie about at home and talk with Enid. At last
all his people began to gossip about their fine prince who once had been
illustrious everywhere and now had become an idle stay-at-home who spent
his time in making love to his wife.

[Illustration: ENID HEARD OF GERAINT FROM HER HAIR-DRESSER.]

Enid heard of the tattling about Geraint from her hair-dresser, and one
morning as he lay abed, she went over it all to herself, talking aloud.
She wished, that he would not abandon all his knightly pursuits but
would hunt and fight again and add to his lustre. She felt very bashful
about mentioning the matter to him as she was very shy by nature and
lived in a time when wives were altogether over-ruled by their husbands,
yet to say nothing she thought would not be showing herself a true wife
to Geraint. All this and more Enid went over to herself.

The drowsy prince, half awake, just half heard her and quite
misunderstood her meaning. When she said that in keeping quiet about the
gossip she was not a true wife to him he supposed she meant that she no
longer cared for him, that he was not a handsome and strong enough man
to suit her. This grieved him deeply and made him very angry with her,
for Geraint had really given up all the glory of the king's court just
to be alone with Enid, although no one knew it. And the thought that now
she looked down upon him infuriated all his heart. A word would have
made everything right but he didn't say it.

Springing up quickly from his bed he roused his squire and said, "Get
ready our horses, my charger and the princess' palfrey. And you,"
turning a frowning face to the princess, "put on the worst looking,
meanest, poorest dress you have and come away with me. We are going on a
quest of honor and then you will see what sort of soldier I am."

Enid wondered why her lord was so vexed with her and replied, "If I have
displeased you surely you will tell me why."

But Geraint would not say; he could not bear to speak of it. So Enid
hurried after her poor old faded silk gown with the summer flowers among
its folds, which she had worn to ride from her old home to Caerleon, and
hastily dressed.

"Do not ride at my side," Geraint said as they both mounted their horses
to start away. "Ride ahead of me, a good way ahead of me, and no matter
what may happen, do not speak a word to me, no not a word."

Enid listened, wondering what had come over her lord.

"There!" he cried as they were off, "we will make our way along with our
iron weapons, not with gold money." So saying, he loosed the great purse
which dangled from his belt and tossed it back to his squire who stood
on the marble threshold of the doorway where the golden coins flashed
and clattered as they scattered every which-way over the floor. "Now
then, Enid, to the wild woods!"

At that they made for the swampy, desolated forest lands that were
famous for their perilous paths and their bandits, Enid with a white
face going before, Geraint coming gloomily nearly a quarter of a mile
after.

The morning was only half begun when the white princess became aware
that behind a rock hiding in the shadow stood three tall knights on
horseback, armed from tip to toe, bandit outlaws lying in wait to fall
upon whoever should pass. She heard one saying to his comrades as he
pointed toward Geraint:

"Look here comes some lazy-bones who seems just about as bold as a dog
who has had the worst of it in a fight. Come, we will kill him, and then
we will take his horse and armor and his lady."

Enid thought, "I'll go back a little way to Geraint and tell him about
these ruffians, for even if it will madden him I should rather have him
kill me than to have him fall into their hands."

She guided her palfrey backward and bravely met the frowning face which
greeted her, saying timidly:

"My lord, there are three bandit knights behind a rock a little way
beyond us who are boasting that they will slay you and steal your horse
and armor and make me their captive."

"Did I tell you," cried Geraint angrily, "that you should warn me of any
danger. There was only one thing which I told you to do and that was to
keep quiet; and this is the way you have heeded me! a pretty way! But
win or lose, you shall see by these fellows that my vigor is not lost."

Then Enid stood back as the three outlaws flashed out of their ambush
and bore down upon the prince.

Geraint aimed first for the middle one, driving his long spear into the
bandit's breast and out on the other side. The two others in the
meanwhile had dashed upon him with their lances, but they had broken on
his magnificent armor like so many icicles. He now turned upon them with
his broadsword, swinging it first to the right and then to the left,
first stunning them with his blows, then slaying them outright. And when
all three had fallen he dismounted, and like a hunter skinning the wild
beasts he has shot, he stripped the three robber knights of their gay
suits of armor, and leaving the bodies lie, bound each man's sword,
spear and coat of arms to his horse, tied the three bridle reins of the
three empty horses together and cried to Enid.

"Drive these on before you."

Enid drove them on across the wastelands, Geraint following after. As
she passed into the first shallow shade of the forest she described
three more horsemen partly hidden in the gloom of three sturdy
oak-trees. All were armed and one was a veritable giant, so tall and
bulky, towering above his companions.

[Illustration: THE THREE OUTLAWS BORE DOWN UPON THE PRINCE.]

"See there, a prize!" bellowed the giant and set Enid's pulses in a
quiver. "Three horses and three suits of armor, and all in charge
of--whom? A girl! Isn't that simple? Lay on, my men!"

"No," cried the second, "behind is coming a knight. A coward and a fool,
for see how he hangs his head."

The giant thundered back gaily.

"Yes? Only one? Wait here and as he goes by make for him."

"I will go no farther until Geraint comes," Enid said to herself
stopping her horse. "And then I will tell him about these villains. He
must be so weary with his other fight and they will fall upon him
unawares. I shall have to disobey him again for his own sake. How could
I dare to obey him and let him be harmed? I must speak; if he kills me
for it I shall only have lost my own life to save a life that is dearer
to me than my own."

So she waited until the prince approached when she said with a timid
firmness, "Have I your leave to speak?"

"You take it without asking when you speak," he replied, and she
continued:

"There are three men lurking in the woods behind some oaks and one of
them is larger than you, a perfect giant. He told them to attack you as
you passed by them."

"If there were a hundred men in the wood and each of them a giant and if
they all made for me together I vow it would not anger me so as to have
you disobey me. Stand aside while we do battle and when we are done
stand by the victor."

At this, while Enid fell back breathing short fits of prayer but not
daring to watch, Geraint proceeded to meet his assailants. The giant was
the first to dash out for him aiming his lance at Geraint's helmet, but
the lance missed and went to one side. Geraint's spear had been a
little strained with his first encounter, but it struck through the
bulky giant's corselet and pierced his breast, then broke, one-half of
it still fast in the flesh as the giant knight fell to the earth. The
other two bandits now felt that their support and hero was gone, and
when Geraint darted rapidly on them, uttering his terrible warcry as if
there were a thousand men behind him to come to his aid, they flew into
the woods. But they were soon overtaken and pitilessly put to death.
Then Geraint, selecting the best lance, the brightest and strongest
among their spears to replace the one he had broken on the giant, he
plucked off the gaudy armor from each brigand's body, laid it on the
backs of the three horses, tied the bridle reins together and handed
them to Enid with the words, "Drive them on before you."

So Enid now followed the wild paths of the gloomy forest with two sets
of three horses, each horse laden with his master's jingling weapons and
coat of mail. Geraint came after. As they passed out of the wood into
the open sky they came to a little town with towers upon a rocky hill,
and beneath it a wide meadowland with mowers in it, mowing the hay. Down
a stony pathway from the town skipped a fair-haired lad carrying a
basket of lunch for the laborers in the field.

"Friend!" cried Geraint, as the lad trotted past him, for he saw that
Enid looked very white, "let my lady have something to eat. She is so
faint."

"Willingly," the youth answered, "and you too, my lord, even although
this feed is very coarse and only fit for the mowers."

He set down his basket and Enid and Geraint alighted and put all the
horses to graze, while they sat down on the green sward to have some
bread and barley. Enid felt too faint at heart, thinking of the
prince's strange conduct, to care a great deal for food, but Geraint was
hungry enough and had all the mowers' basket emptied almost before he
knew it.

"Boy," he cried half-ashamed, "everything is gone, which is a disgrace.
But take one of my horses and his arms by way of payment, choose the
very best."

The poor lad, who might as well have had a kingdom given him, reddened
with his extreme surprise and delight.

"My lord, you are over-paying me fifty times," he cried.

"You will be all the wealthier then," returned the prince, gaily.

"I'll take it as free gift, then," the lad answered. "The food is not
worth much. While your lady is resting here I can easily go back and
fetch more, some more for the earl's mowers. For all these mowers belong
to our great earl, and all these fields are his, and I am his, too. I'll
tell him what a fine man you are, and he will have you to his palace and
serve you with costly dinners."

"I wish no better fare than I have had," Geraint said, "I never ate
better in my life than just now when I left your poor mowers dinnerless.
And I will go into no earl's palace. If he desires to see me, let him
come to me. Now you go hire us some pleasant room in the town, stall our
horses and when you return with the food for these men tell us about
it."

"Yes, my kind lord," the glad youth cried, and he held his head high and
thought he was a gorgeous knight off to the wars as he disappeared up
the rocky path leading his handsome horse.

The prince turned himself sleepily to watch the lusty mowers laboring
under the sun as it blazed on their scythes, while Enid plucked the long
grass by the meadows' edge to weave it round and round her wedding
ring, until the boy returned and showed them the room he had got in the
town.

"If you wish anything, call the woman of the house," Prince Geraint said
to Enid as the door closed behind them. "Do not speak to me."

"Yes, my lord," returned Enid, still marvelling at his cold ways.

Silently they sat down, she at one end, he at the other, as quiet as
pictures. But suddenly a mass of voices sounded up the street, and heel
after heel echoing upon the pavement. In a twinkling the door to their
room was pushed back to the wall while a mob of boisterous young
gentlemen tumbled in led by the Earl of Limours, the wild lord of the
town, and Enid's old suitor whom her father had rejected long ago, a man
as beautiful as a woman and very graceful. He seized the prince's hand
warmly, welcomed him to the town and stealthily, out of the corner of
his eye, caught a glimpse of unhappy Enid nestled all alone at the
farther end of the room.

The prince immediately sent for every sort of delicious things to eat
and drink from the town, told the earl, to bid all his friends for a
feast and soon was gaily making merry with the men, drinking, laughing,
joking.

"May I have your leave, my lord," cried Earl Limours, "to cross the room
and speak a word with your lady who seems so lonely?"

"My free leave," cried the merry Prince Geraint, who did not know the
earl, "Get her to speak with you; she has nothing to say to me."

As Limours stepped to Enid's side he lifted his eyes adoringly, bowed at
her side and said in a whisper:

"Enid, you pilot star of my life, I see that Geraint is very unkind to
you and loves you no longer. What a laughing stock he is making of you
with that wretched old dress you have on! But I, I love you still as
always. Just say the word and I will have him put into the keep and you
will come with me. I will be kind to you forever."

The tears fluttered into the earl's eyes as he spoke.

"Earl," replied Enid, "if you love me as you used to do in the years
long ago, and are not joking now, come in the morning and take me by
force from the prince. But leave me tonight. I am wearied to death."

So the earl made a low bow, brandishing his plumes until they brushed
his very insteps, while the stout prince bade him a loud good night, and
he moved away talking to his men.

[Illustration: THE EARL MADE A LOW BOW.]

But as soon as he was gone Enid began to plan how she could escape with
Geraint before Earl Limours should come after her in the morning. She
was too afraid of Geraint to speak with him about it, but when he had
fallen asleep she stepped lightly about the room and gathered the pieces
of his armor together in one place ready for an early departure on the
morrow. Then she dropped off into slumber. But suddenly she heard a loud
sound, the earl with his wild following blowing his trumpet to call her
to come out, she thought. But it was only the great red cock in the
yard below crowing at the daylight which had begun to glimmer now across
the heap of Geraint's armor. She rose immediately in her fright to see
that all was well, went over to examine the weapons and unwittingly let
the casque fall jangling to the floor. This woke Geraint, who started up
and stared at her.

"My lord," began Enid, and then she told him all that Earl Limours had
said to her and how she had put him off by telling him to come this
morning.

"Call the woman of the house and tell her to bring the charger and the
palfrey," Geraint cried angrily. "Your sweet face makes fools of good
fellows." Geraint loved Enid still and he was in as great perplexity as
she, for after misunderstanding what she had said he no more knew
whether she cared for him truly than she knew what was troubling him and
making him act in this unaccountable manner.

Enid slipped through the sleeping household like a ghost to deliver the
prince's message to the landlord, hurried back to help Geraint with his
armor and came down with him to spring upon her palfrey.

"What do I owe you, friends?" the prince asked his host, but before the
man could reply he added "take those five horses and their burdens of
arms."

"My lord, I have scarcely spent the price of one of them on you!" cried
the landlord astonished.

"You'll have all the more riches then," the prince laughed, then turning
to Enid, "today I charge you more particularly than ever before that
whatever you may see, hear, fancy or imagine, do not speak to me, but
obey."

"Yes, my lord," answered Enid, "I know your wish and should like to
obey, but when I go riding ahead, I hear all the violent threats you do
not hear and see the danger you cannot see, and then not to give you
warning seems hard, almost beyond me. Yet, I wish to obey you."

"Do so, then," said he. "Do not be too wise, seeing that you are
married, not to a clown but a strong man with arms to guard his own head
and yours, too."

The broad beaten path which they now took passed through toward the
wasted lands bordering on the castle of Earl Doorm, the Bull, as his
people called him, because of his ferocity.

It was still early morning when Enid caught the sound of quantities of
hoofs galloping up the road. Turning round she saw cloudsful of dust and
the points of lances sparkling in it. Then, not to disobey the prince,
yet to give him warning, she held up her finger and pointed toward the
dust. Geraint was pleased at her cunning, and immediately stopped his
horse. The moment after, the Earl of Limours dashed in upon him on a
charger as black and as stormy as a thunder-cloud.

Geraint closed with the earl, bore down on him with his spear, and in a
minute brought him stunned or dead to the ground. Then he turned to the
next-comer after Limours, overthrew him and blindly rushed back upon all
the men behind. But they were so startled at the flash and movement of
the prince that they scrambled away in a panic, leaving their leader
lying on the public highway. The horses also of the fallen warriors
whisked off from their wounded masters and wildly flew away to mix with
the vanishing mob.

"Horse and man, all of one mind," remarked Geraint, smiling, "not a hoof
of them left. What do you say, Enid, shall we strip the earl and pay for
a dinner or shall we fast? Fast? Then go on and let us pray heaven to
send us some Earl of Doorm's men so that we can earn ourselves something
to eat."

Enid sadly eyed her bridle-reins and led the way, Geraint coming after,
scarcely knowing that he had been pricked by Limours in his side, and
that he was bleeding secretly beneath his armor. But at last his head
and helmet began to wag unsteadily, and at a sudden swerving of the road
he was tossed from his horse upon a bank of grass. Enid heard the
clashing of the fall, and too terrified to cry out, came back all pale.
Then she dismounted, loosed the fastenings of his armor and bound up his
wounds with her veil. Then she sat down desolately and began to cry,
wondering what ever she should do.

[Illustration: ENID SAT DOWN DESOLATELY AND BEGAN TO CRY.]

Many men passed by but no one took any notice of her. For in that
lawless, turbulent earldom no one minded a woman weeping for a murdered
lover than they now mind a summer shower. One man scurrying as fast as
ever he could travel toward the bandit earl's castle, drove the sand
sweeping into her poor eyes, and another coming in the opposite
direction from out the earl's castle park in seeming hot haste, turned
all the long dusty road into a column of smoke behind him, and
frightened her little palfrey so that it scoured off into the coppices
and was lost. But the prince's charger stood beside them and grieved
over the mishap like a man.

At noon a huge warrior with a big face and russet beard and eyes rolling
about in search of prey, came riding hard by with a hundred spearmen at
his back all bound for some foray. It was the frightful Earl Doorm.

"What, is he dead?" cried the earl loudly to Enid, as he spied her on
the wayside.

"No, no, not dead," she quickly answered. "Would some of your kind
people take him up and bear him off somewhere out of this cruel sun? I
am very sure, quite sure that he is not dead."

"Well, if he isn't dead, why should you cry for him so? Dead or not
dead, you just spoil your pretty face with idiotic tears. They will not
help him. But since it is a pretty face, come fellows, some of you, and
take him to our hall. If he lives he will be one of our band, and if
not, why there is earth enough to bury him in. See that you take his
charger, too, a noble one."

And so saying, the rude earl passed on, while two brawny horsemen came
forward growling to think they might lose their chance of booty from the
morning's raid all for this dead man. They raised the prince upon a
litter, laying him in the hollow of his shield, and brought him into
the barren hall of Doorm, while Enid and the gentle charger followed
after. They tossed him and his litter down on an oaken settle in the
hall, and then shot away for the woods.

Enid sat through long hours all alone with Geraint besides the oaken
settle, propping his head and chafing his hands, but in the late
afternoon she saw the huge Earl Doorm returning with his lusty spearmen
and their plunder. Each hurled down a heap of spoils on the floor, threw
aside his lance and doffed his helmet, while a tribe of brightly gowned
gentle-women fluttered into the hall and began to talk with them. Earl
Doorm struck his knife against the table and bellowed for meat, and
wine. In a moment the place fairly steamed and smoked with whole roast
hogs and oxen, and everybody sat down in a hodge-podge and ate like
cattle feeding in their stalls, while Enid shrank far back startled,
into her nook.

But suddenly, when Earl Doorm had eaten all he would, and all he could
for the moment, he revolved his eyes about the bare hall and caught a
glimpse of the fair little lady drooping in her niche. Then he
recollected how she had crouched weeping by the roadside for her fallen
lord that morning. A wild pity filled his gruff heart.

"Eat, eat!" he shouted. "I never before saw any thing so pale. Be
yourself. Isn't your lord lucky, for were I dead who is there in all the
world who would mourn for me? Sweet lady, never have I ever seen a lily
like you. If there were a bit of color living in your cheeks there is
not one among my gentle-women here who would be fit to wear your
slippers for gloves. But listen to me and you will share my earldom with
me, girl, and we will live like two birds in a nest and I will bring you
all sorts of finery from every part of the world to make you happy."

As the earl spoke his two cheeks bulged with the two tremendous morsels
of meat which he had tucked into his mouth.

Enid was more alarmed than ever.

"How can I be happy over anything," replied she, "until my lord is well
again?"

The earl laughed, then plucked her up out of the corner, carried her
over to the table, thrust a dish of food before her and held a horn of
wine to her lips.

"By all heaven," cried Enid, "I will not drink until my lord gets up and
drinks and eats with me. And if he will not rise again I will not drink
any wine until I die."

At this the earl turned perfectly red and paced up and down the hall,
gnawing first his upper and then his lower lip.

"Girl," shouted he, "why wail over a man who shames your beauty so, by
dressing it in that rag? Put off those beggar-woman's weeds and robe
yourself in this which my gentle-woman has brought you."

It was a gorgeous, wonderful dress, colored in the tints of a shallow
sea with the blue playing into the green, and gemmed with precious
stones all down the front of it as thick as dewdrops on the grass. But
Enid was harder to move than any cold tyrant on his throne, and said:

"Earl, in this poor gown my dear lord found me first and loved me while
I was living with my father; in this poor gown I rode with him to court
and was presented to the queen; in this poor gown he bade me ride as we
came out on this fatal quest of honor, and in this poor gown I am going
to stay until he gets up again, a live, strong man, and tells me to put
it away. I have griefs enough, pray be gentle with me, let me be. O God!
I beg of your gentleness, since he is as he is, to let me be."

Then the brutal earl strode up and down the hall and cried out:

"It is of no more use to be gentle with you than to be rough. So take my
salute," and with that he slapped her lightly on her white cheek.

Enid shrieked. Instantly the fallen Geraint was up on his feet with the
sword that had laid beside him in the hollow of the shield, making a
single bound for the earl, and with one sweep of it sheared through the
swarthy neck. The rolling eyes turned glassy, the russet-bearded head
tumbled over the floor like a ball, and all the bandit knights and the
gentle-women in the hall flitted, scampering pell-mell away, yelling as
if they had seen a ghoul. Enid and Geraint were left alone.

[Illustration: THE RUSSET-BEARDED HEAD TUMBLED OVER THE FLOOR LIKE A
BALL.]

Now Geraint had come out of his swoon before the earl had returned, and
he had lain perfectly silent and immovable because he wished to test
Enid and see what she would do when she thought he was sleeping or
fainted away, or perhaps dead. So he had listened to all that had taken
place and had heard everything that Earl Doorm had said to her and all
that Enid had replied, so now he knew that she loved him as ever and
that she stood steadfast by him. All his heart filled with pity and
remorse that he had brought her away on this hard, hard quest, and had
made her suffer so much and had been so rough and cold.

"Enid," said the prince tenderly, very tenderly. "I have used you worse
than that big dead brute of a man used you. I have done you more wrong
than he. I misunderstood you. Now, now you are three times mine."

Geraint's kindness burst upon Enid so abruptly and was so unforeseen
that she could not speak a word only this:

"Fly, Geraint, they will kill you, they will come back. Fly. Your horse
is outside, my poor little thing is lost."

"You shall ride behind me, then, Enid."

So they slipped quickly outside, found the stately charger and mounted
him, first Geraint, then Enid, climbing up the prince's feet, and
throwing her arms about him to hold herself firm as they bounded off.

But as the horse dashed outside of the earl's gateway there before them
in the highroad stood a knight of Arthur's court holding his lance as if
ready to spring upon Geraint.

"Stranger!" shrieked Enid, thinking of the prince's wound and loss of
blood, "do not kill a dead man!"

"The voice of Enid!" cried the stranger knight.

Then Enid saw that he was Edryn, the son of Nudd, and feeling the more
terrified as she remembered the jousts, cried out:

"O, cousin, this is the man who spared your life!"

[Illustration: BEFORE THEM IN THE HIGHROAD STOOD A KNIGHT OF ARTHUR'S
COURT.]

Edryn stepped forward. "My lord Geraint," he said, "I took you for some
bandit knight of Doorm's. Do not fear, Enid, that I will attack the
prince. I love him. When he overthrew me at the lists he threw me
higher. For now I have been made a Knight of the Round Table and am
altogether changed. But since I used to know Earl Doorm in the old days
when I was lawless and half a bandit myself, I have come as the
mouthpiece of our king to tell Doorm to disband all his men and become
subject to Arthur, who is now on his way hither."

"Doorm is now before the King of Kings," Geraint replied, "And his men
are already scattered," and the prince pointed to groups in the
thickets or still running off in their panic. Then back to the people
all aghast whom they could see huddling, he related fully to Edryn how
he had slain the huge earl in his own hall.

[Illustration: TO THE ROYAL CAMP WHERE ARTHUR CAME OUT TO GREET THEM.]

"Come with me to the king," astonished Edryn said.

So they all traveled off to the royal camp where Arthur himself came out
to greet them, lifted Enid from her saddle, kissed her and showed her a
tent where his own physician came in to attend to Geraint's wound. When
that was healed he rode away with them to Caerleon for a visit with
Queen Guinevere, who dressed Enid again in magnificent clothes. Then
fifty armed knights escorted Enid and the prince as far as the banks of
the Severn River, where they crossed over into the land of Devon. And
all their people welcomed them back.

Geraint after that never forgot his princedom or the tournament, but was
known through all the country round as the cleverest and bravest
warrior, while his princess was called Enid the Good.



MERLIN AND VIVIEN.


Vivien was a very clever, wily and wicked woman, who wanted to become a
greater magician than even the great Merlin, who was the most famous man
of all his times, who understood all the arts, who had built the king's
harbors, ships and halls, who was a fine poet and who could read the
future in the stars in the skies.

He had once told Vivien of a charm that he could work to make people
invisible. Whenever he worked it upon anyone that person would seem to
be imprisoned within the four walls of a tower and could not get out.
The person would seem dead, lost to every one, and could be seen only by
the person who worked the charm. Vivien yearned to know what the charm
was, for she wanted to cast its spell on Merlin so that no one would
know where he was and she could become a great enchantress in the realm,
as she foolishly thought. And she planned very cleverly so as to find
out the wise old man's secret.

She wanted him to think that she loved him dearly. At first she played
about him with lively, pretty talk, vivid smiles, and he watched and
laughed at her as if she were a playful kitten. Then as she saw that he
half disdained her she began to put on very grave and serious fits,
turned red and pale when he came near her, or sighed or gazed at him, so
silently and with such sweet devotion that he half believed that she
really loved him truly.

[Illustration: HE LAUGHED AT HER.]

But after a while a great melancholy fell over Merlin, he felt so
terribly sad that he passed away out of the kings' court and went down
to the beach. There he found a little boat and stepped into it. Vivien
had followed him without his knowing it. She sat down in the boat and
while he took the sail she seized the helm of the boat. They were driven
across the sea with a strong wind and came to the shores of Brittany.
Here Merlin got out and Vivien followed him all the way into the wild
woods of Broceliande. Every step of the way Merlin was perfectly quiet.

They sat down together, she lay beside him and kissed his feet as if in
the deepest reverence and love. A twist of gold was wound round her
hair, a priceless robe of satiny samite clung about her beautiful limbs.
As she kissed his feet she cried:

"Trample me down, dear feet which I have followed all through the world
and I will worship you. Tread me down and I will kiss you for it."

But Merlin still said not a word.

[Illustration: MERLIN FELT SO TERRIBLY SAD.]

"Merlin do you love me?" at last cried Vivien, with her face sadly
appealing to him. And again, "O, Merlin, do you love me?" "Great Master,
do you love me?" she cried for the third time.

And then when he was as quiet as ever she writhed up toward him, slid
upon his knee, twined her feet about his ankles, curved her arms about
his neck and used one of her hands as a white comb to run through his
long ashy beard which she drew all across her neck down to her knees.

"See! I'm clothing myself with wisdom," she cried. "I'm a golden summer
butterfly that's been caught in a great old tyrant spider's web that's
going to eat me up in this big wild wood without a word to me."

"What do you mean, Vivien, with these pretty tricks of yours?" cried
Merlin at last. "What do you want me to give you?"

"What!" said Vivien, smiling saucily, "have you found your tongue at
last? Now yesterday you didn't open your lips once except to drink. And
then I, with my own lady hands, made a pretty cup and offered you your
water kneeling before you and you drank it, but gave me not a word of
thanks. And when we stopped at the other spring when you lay with your
feet all golden with blossoms from the meadows we passed through you
know that I bathed your feet before I bathed my own. But yet no thanks
from you. And all through this wild wood, all through this morning when
I fondled you, still not a word of thanks."

Then Merlin locked her hand in his and said, "Vivien, have you never
seen a wave as it was coming up the beach ready to break? Well, I've
been seeing a wave that was ready to break on me. It seemed to me that
some dark, tremendous wave was going to come and sweep me away from my
hold on the world, away from my fame and my usefulness and my great
name. That's why I came away from Arthur's court to make me forget it
and feel better. And when I saw you coming after me it seemed to me that
you were that wave that was going to roll all over me. But pardon me,
now, child, your pretty ways have brightened everything again, and now
tell me what you would like to have from me. For I owe you something
three times over, once for neglecting you, twice for the thanks for your
goodness to me, and lastly for those dainty gambols of yours. So tell me
now, what will you have?"

Vivien smiled mournfully as she answered:

"I've always been afraid that you were not really mine, that you didn't
love me truly, that you didn't quite trust me, and now you yourself have
owned it. Don't you see, dear love, how this strange mood of yours must
make me feel it more than ever? must make me yearn still more to prove
that you are mine, must make me wish still more to know that great charm
of waving hands and woven footsteps that you told me about, just as a
proof that you trust me? If you told that to me I should know that you
are mine, and I should have the great proof of your love, because I
think that however wise you may be you do not know me yet."

"I never was less wise, you inquisitive Vivien," said Merlin, "than when
I told you about that charm. Why won't you ask me for another boon?"

Then Vivien, as if she were the tenderest hearted little maid that ever
lived, burst into tears and said:

"No, master, don't be angry at your little girl. Caress me, let me feel
myself forgiven, for I have not the heart to ask for another boon. I
don't suppose that you know the old rhyme, 'Trust not at all or all in
all?'"

Then Merlin looked at her and half believed what she said. Her voice was
so tender, her face was so fair, her eyes were so sweetly gleaming
behind her tears.

He locked her hand in his again and said, "If you should know this charm
you might sometimes in a wild moment of anger or a mood of overstrained
affection when you wanted me all to yourself or when you were jealous
in a sudden fit, you might work it on me."

"Good!" cried Vivien, as if she were angry, "I am not trusted. Well,
hide it away, hide it, and I shall find it out, and when I've found it
beware, look out for Vivien! When you use me so it's a wonder that I can
love you at all, and as for jealousy, it seems to me this wonderful
charm was invented just to make me jealous. I suppose you have a lot of
pretty girls whom you have caged here and there all over the world with
it."

Then the great master laughed merrily.

"Long, long years ago," he said, "there lived a King in the farthest
East of the East. A tawny pirate who had plundered twenty islands or
more anchored his boat in the King's port, and in the boat was a woman.
For, as he had passed one of the islands the pirates had seen two cities
full of men in boats fighting for a woman on the sea; he had pushed up
his black boat in among the rest, lightly scattered every one of them
and brought her off with half his people killed with arrows. She was a
maiden so smooth, so white, so wonderful that a light seemed to come
from her as she walked. When the pirate came upon the shore of the
Eastern King's island the King asked him for the woman, but he would not
give her up. So the King imprisoned the pirate and made the woman his
queen.

"All the people adored her, the King's councilmen and all his soldiers,
the beasts themselves. The camels knelt down before her unbidden, and
the black slaves of the mountains rang her golden ankle bells just to
see her smile. So little wonder that the King grew very jealous. He had
his horns blown through all the hundred under-kingdoms which he ruled,
telling the people that he wanted a wizard who would teach him some
charm to work upon the queen and make her all his own. To the wizard who
could do this he promised a league of mountain land full of golden
mines, a province with a hundred miles of coast, a palace and a
princess. But all the wizards who failed should be killed and their
heads would be hung on the city gates until they mouldered away.

"So there were many, many wizards all through the hundred kingdoms who
tried to work the charm, but failed; many wizard heads bleached on the
walls, and for weeks a troupe of carrion crows hung like a cloud above
the towers of the city gateways. But at last the king's men found a
little glassy headed, hairless man who lived alone in a great wilderness
and ate nothing but grass. He read only one book, and by always reading
had got grated down, filed away and lean, with monstrous eyes and his
skin clinging to his bones. But since he never tasted wine or flesh--the
wall that separates people from spirits became crystal to him. He could
see through it, perceive the spirits as they walked and hear them
talking; so he learned their secrets. Often he drew a cloud of rain
across a sunny sky, or when there was a wild storm and the pine woods
roared he made everything calm again.

"He was the man that was wanted. They dragged him to the king's court by
force, he didn't want to go. There he taught the king how to charm the
queen so that no one could see her again, and she could see no one
except the king as he passed about the palace. She lay as if quite dead
and lost to life. But when the king offered the magician his league of
golden mines, the province with a hundred miles of sea coast, the palace
and the princess, the old man turned away, went back to his wilderness
and lived on grass and vanished away. But his book came down to me."

"You have the book!" cried Vivian smiling saucily. "The charm is written
in it. Good, take my advice and let me know the secret at once, for if
you should hide it away like a puzzle in a chest, if you should put
chest upon chest, and lock and padlock each chest thirty times and bury
them all away under some vast mound like the heaps of soldiers on the
battle-field, still I should hit upon some way of digging it out, of
picking it, of opening it and reading the charm. And _then_ if I tried
it on you who would blame me?"

"You read the book, my pretty Vivien?" cried Merlin. "Well, it's only
twenty pages long, but such pages! Every page has a square of text that
looks like a blot, the letters no longer than fleas' legs written in a
language that has long gone by, and all the borders and margins
scribbled, crossed and crammed with notes. You read that book! No one,
not even I can read the text, and no one besides me can make out the
notes on the margins. I found the charm in the margin. Oh, it is simple
enough. Any child might work it and then not be able to undo it. Don't
ask me again for it, because even although you would love me too much to
try it on me, still you might try it on some of the knights of the Round
Table."

"O, you are crueller than any man ever told of in a story, or sung about
in song!" cried Vivien. She clapped her hands together and wailed out a
shriek. "I'm stabbed to the heart! I only wished that prove to you that
were wholly mine, that you loved me and now I'm killed with a word.
There's nothing left for me to do except crawl into some hole or cave,
and if the wolves won't tear me to pieces, just to weep my life away,
killed with unutterable unkindness!"

She paused, turned away, hung her head while the hair uncoiled itself.
Then she wept afresh.

The dark wood grew darker with a storm coming over the sky.

Merlin sat thinking quietly and half believed that she was true.

"Come out of the storm," he called over to her, "come here into the
hollow old oak tree."

Then since she didn't answer, he tried three times to calm her but quite
in vain. At last, however, she let herself be conquered, came back to
her old perch, and nestled there, half falling from his knees. Gentle
Merlin saw the slow tears still standing in her eyes and threw his arms
kindly about her. But Vivien unlinked herself at once, rose with her
arms crossed upon her bosom and fled away.

"No more love between us two," she cried, "for you do not trust me. Oh,
it would have been better if I had died three times over than to have
asked you once! Farewell, think gently of me and I will go. But before I
leave you let me swear once more that if I've been planning against you
in all this, may the dark heavens send one great flash from out the sky
to burn me to a cinder!"

Just as she ended a bolt of lightning darted across the sky, and sliced
the giant oak tree into a thousand splinters and spikes.

"Oh, Merlin, save me! save me!" cried Vivien, terrified lest the heavens
had heard her oath and were going to kill her. And she flew back to his
arms. She called him her dear protector, her lord and liege, her seer,
her bard, her silver star of evening, her God, her Merlin, the one
passionate love of her life, and hugged him close.

All the time overhead the tempest bellowed, the branches snapped above
them in the rushing rain. Her glittering eyes and neck seemed to come
and go before Merlin's eyes with the lightning. At last the storm had
spent its passion, the woodland was all in peace again, and Merlin,
overtalked and overworn had told all of the charm and had fallen asleep.

[Illustration: IN THE HOLLOW OF THE OLD OAK TREE LEFT HIM LYING DEAD.]

Then in a moment Vivien worked the charm with woven footsteps and waving
arms, and in the hollow of the old oak tree left him lying dead to all
life, use and fame and name.

"I have made his glory mine! O fool!" she shrieked, and she sprang down
through the great forest, the thicket closed about her behind her and
all the woods echoed, "Fool!"



BALIN AND BALAN.


King Pellam owed Arthur some tribute money so Arthur told three of his
knights to go see about it and collect it for him.

"Very well," said one of the knights, "but listen, on the way to King
Pellam's country, near Camelot, there are two strange knights sitting
beside a fountain. They challenge and overthrow every knight that
passes. Shall I stop to fight them as we go by and send them back to
you?"

Arthur laughed, "No, don't stop for anything; let them wait until they
can find some one stronger themselves."

With that the three men left. But after they had gone Arthur, who loved
a good fight himself, started away early one morning for the fountain
side of Camelot. On its right hand he saw the knight Balin sitting under
an alder tree, with his horse beside him, and on the left hand under a
poplar tree with his horse at his side sat the knight Balan.

"Fair sirs," cried Arthur, "why are you sitting here?"

"For the sake of glory," they answered. "We're stronger than all
Arthur's court. We've proved that because we easily overthrow every
knight that comes by here."

"Well, I'm of Arthur's court, too," replied the king, "although I've
never done so much in jousts as in real wars. But see whether you can
overthrow me so easily too."

So the two brothers came out boldly and fought with Arthur, but he
struck them both lightly down, then softly came away and nobody knew
anything about it.

But that evening while Balin and Balan sat very meekly by the bubbling
water a spangled messenger came riding by and cried out to them: "Sirs,
you are sent for by the King."

So they followed the man back to the court. "Tell me your names,"
demanded Arthur, "and why do you sit there by the fountain?"

[Illustration: TWO STRANGE KNIGHTS.]

"My name is Balin," answered one of the men, "and my brother's name is
Balan. Three years ago I struck down one of your slaves whom I heard had
spoken ill of me, and you sent me away for a three years' exile. Then I
thought that if we would sit by the well and would overcome every knight
who passed by you would be a more willing to take me back. But today
some man of yours came along and conquered us both. What do you wish
with me?"

"Be wiser for falling," Arthur said. "Your chair is in the hall vacant.
Take it again and be my knight once more."

So Balin went back into the old hall of the Knights of the Round Table,
and they all clashed their cups together drinking his welcome, and sang
until all of Arthur's banners of war hanging overhead began to stir as
they always did on the battlefield.

Meanwhile the men who had gone to collect the taxes from King Pellam
returned.

"Sir King," they cried to Arthur, "We scarcely could see Pellam for the
gloom in his hall. That man who used to be one of your roughest and most
riotous enemies is now living like a monk in his castle and has all
sorts of holy things about him, and says he has given up all matters of
the world. He wouldn't even talk about the tribute money and told us
that his heir Sir Garlon, attended to his business for him, so we went
to Garlon and after a struggle we got it. Then we came away, but as we
passed through the deep woods we found one of your knights lying dead,
killed by a spear. After we had buried him, we talked with an old
woodman who told us that there's a demon of the woods who had probably
slain the knight. This demon, he said, was once a man who lived all
alone and learned black magic. He hated people so much that when he died
he became a fiend. The woodman showed us the cave where he has seen the
demon go in and out and where he lives. We saw the print of a horse's
hoof, but no more."

"Foully and villainously slain!" cried Arthur thinking of his poor
killed knight in the woods. "Who will go hunt this demon of the woods
for me?"

"I!" exclaimed Balan, ready to dart instantly away, but first he
embraced Balin, saying, "Good brother, hear; don't let your angry
passions conquer you, fight them away. Remember how these knights of the
Round Table welcomed you back. Be a loving brother with them and don't
imagine that there is hatred among them here any more than there is in
heaven itself."

When bad Balan left, Balin set himself to learn how to curb his wildness
and become a courteous and manly knight. He always hovered about
Lancelot, the pattern knight of all the court, to see how he did, and
when he noticed Lancelot's sweet smiles and his little pleasant words
that gladdened every knight or churl or child that he passed, Balin
sighed like some lame boy who longed to scale a mountain top and could
scarcely limp up one hundred feet from the base.

"It's Lancelot's worship of the queen that helps to make him gentle,"
said he to himself. "If I want to be gentle I must serve and worship
lovely Queen Guinevere too. Suppose I ask the King to let me have some
token of hers on my shield instead of these pictures of wild beasts with
big teeth and grins. Then whenever I see it I'll forget my wild heats
and violences."

"What would you like to bear on your shield?" asked the king when Balin
spoke to him about his wish.

"The queen's own crown-royal," replied Balin.

Then the queen smiled and turned to Arthur. "The crown is only the
shadow of the king," she said, "and this crown is the shadow of that
shadow. But let him have it if it will help him out of his violences."

"It's no shadow to me, my queen," cried Balan, "no shadow to me, king.
It's a light for me."

So Balin was given the crown to bear on his shield and whenever he
looked at it, it seemed to make him feel gentle and patient.

But one morning as he heard Lancelot and the queen talking together on
the white walk of lilies that led to Queen Guinevere's bower, all his
old passions seemed to come back and filled him and he darted madly away
on his horse, not stopping until he had passed the fount where he had
sat with his brother Balan and had dived into the skyless woods beyond.
There the gray-headed woodman was hewing away wearily at a branch of a
tree.

[Illustration: BALIN WAS GIVEN THE CROWN TO WEAR ON HIS SHIELD.]

"Give me your axe, Churl," cried Balin, and with one sharp cut he struck
it down.

"Lord!" cried the woodman, "you could kill the devil of this woods if
any one can. Just yesterday I saw a flash of him. Some people say that
our Sir Garlon has learned black magic too and can ride armed unseen.
Just look into the demon's cave."

But Balin said the woodman was foolish, and rode off through the glades
with a drooping head. He did not notice that on his right a great cavern
chasm yawned out of the darkness. Once he heard the mosses beneath him
thud and tremble and then the shadow of a spear shot from behind him and
ran along the ground. The light of somebody's armor flashed by him and
vanished into the woods.

Balin dashed after this but he was so blinded by his rage that he
stumbled against a tree, breaking his lance and falling from his horse.
He sprang to his feet and darted off again not knowing where he was
going until the massy battlements of King Pellam's castle appeared.

"Why do you wear the crown royal on your shield?" Pellam's men asked him
as soon as they saw him.

"The fairest and best of ladies living gave it to me," Balin replied, as
he stalled his horse and strode across the court to the banquet hall.

"Why do you wear the royal crown?" Sir Garlon asked him as they sat at
table.

"The queen whom Lancelot and we all worship as the fairest, best and
purest gave it to me to wear," said Balin.

But Sir Garlon only hissed at him and made fun of what he said, and
Balin reached for a wonderful goblet embossed with a sacred picture to
hurl it at Garlon, but the thought of the gentle queen about whom he
was talking soothed his temper. The next morning, however, in the court
Sir Garlon mocked him again and Balin's face grew black with anger. He
tore out his sword from its shield and crying out fiercely, "Ha! I'll
make a ghost of you!" struck Garlon hard on the helmet.

The blade flew and splintered into six parts which clinked upon the
stones below while Garlon reeled slowly backward and fell. Balin dragged
him by the banneret of his helmet and struck again, but in a minute
twenty warriors with pointed lances were making for him from the castle.
Balin dashed his fist against the foremost face then dipped through a
low doorway out along a glimmering gallery until he saw the open portals
of King Pellam's chapel. He slipped inside this and crept behind the
door while the others howled past outside.

Before the golden altar he noticed lying the brightest lance he had ever
seen with its point painted red with blood. Seizing it he pushed it out
through an open casement, leaned on it and leaped in a half-circle to
the ground outside. Running along a path he found his horse, mounted him
and scudded away. An arrow whizzed to his right, another to his left and
a third over his head while he heard Pellam crying out feebly, "Catch
him, catch him! he mustn't pollute holy things!"

But Balin quickly dove beneath the tree boughs and raced through miles
of thick groves and open meadowland until his good horse, at last
wearied and uncertain in his footsteps, stumbled over a fallen oak and
threw Balin headlong.

As Balin rose to his feet he looked at the Queen's crown on his shield
and then drew the shield from off his neck. "I have shamed you," he
cried. "I won't carry you any more," and he hung it up on a branch and
threw himself on the ground in a passionate sleep.

While he slept there the beautiful wicked Vivien came riding by through
the woodland alleys with her squire, warbling a song.

"What is this?" she cried as she noticed the shield on the tree, "a
shield with a crown upon it. And there's a horse. Where's the rider? Oh!
there he is sleeping. Hail royal knight, I'm flying away from a bad king
and the knight I was riding with was hurt, and my poor squire isn't of
much use in helping me. But you, Sir Prince, will surely guide me to the
Warrior King Arthur, the Blameless, to get me some shelter."

"Oh, no, I'll never go to Arthur's court again," cried Balin. "I'm not a
prince any more, or a knight. I have brought the Queen's crown to
shame."

Then Vivien laughed shrilly, and told Balin a wicked story about the
Queen which she just imagined in her wicked mind. But she told it so
cunningly and smiled so sunnily as she talked that Balin believed her
and he flew into the more passionate rage because he thought he had been
deceived in the Queen whom he had worshipped.

He ground his teeth together, sprang up with a yell, tore the shield
from the branch and cast it on the ground, drove his heel _into the
royal crown_, stamped and trampled upon it until it was all spoiled,
then hurled the shield from him out among the forest weeds and cursed
the story, the queen and Vivien.

His weird yell had thrilled through the woods where Balan was lurking
for his foe. "There! that's the scream of the wood-devil I'm looking
for," he thought. "He has killed some knight and trampled on his shield
to show his loathing of our order and the queen. Devil or man,
whichever you are, take care of your head!"

[Illustration: HE DROVE HIS HEEL INTO THE ROYAL CROWN.]

With that he made swiftly for his poor brother whom he did not
recognize. Sir Balin spoke not a word but snatched the buckler from
Vivien's squire, vaulted on his horse and in a moment had clashed with
his brother's armor. King Pellam's holy spear reddened with blood as it
pricked through Balan's shield to his flesh. Then Balin's horse, wearied
to death, rolled back over his rider and crushed him inward and both men
fell and swooned away.

"The fools!" cried Vivien to her young squire. "Come, you Sir Chick,
loosen their casques and see who they are. They must be rivals for the
same woman to fight so hard."

"They are happy," her gentle squire answered, "if they died for love.
And Vivien, though you beat me like your dog I would die for you."

"Don't die, Sir Boy," cried Vivien, "I'd rather have a live dog than a
dead lion. Come away, I don't like to look at them," and she made her
palfrey leap off over the fallen oak tree.

Balin was the first to wake from his swoon. As soon as he saw his
brother's face he crawled over to his side moaning. Then Balan faintly
opened his eyes and seeing who was with him kissed Balin's forehead.

"O Balin," he cried, "why didn't you carry your own shield which I knew,
and why did you trample all over this one which bears the queen's own
crown which I know?"

So Balin slowly gasped out the whole story of his shield. Then they each
said good-night to the other and closed their eyes, locked in each
other's arms.



LANCELOT AND ELAINE.


Long before Arthur was crowned king while he was roving one night over
the trackless realms of Lyonesse he came upon a glen with a gray boulder
and a lake. As he rode up the highway in the misty moonshine he suddenly
stepped upon a white skeleton of a man with a crown of diamonds upon its
skull. The skull broke off from the body and rolled away into the lake.
Arthur alighted, reached down and picked up the crown and set it on his
head murmuring to himself, "_You too shall be king some day_," for the
skeleton was the bones of a king who had fought with his brother there
and been killed.

[Illustration: YOU TOO SHALL BE KING SOME DAY.]

When Arthur was crowned he plucked the nine gems out of the crown he had
found on the skeleton and showed them to his knights with the words:

"These jewels belong to the whole kingdom for everybody's use and not to
the king. Hereafter there is to be joust for one of them every year and
in that way in nine years time we will learn who is the mightiest in the
kingdom and we will race with each other to become skilful in the use
of arms until at last we shall be able to drive away the heathen horde
from the land."

Eight years had now passed and there had been eight jousts. Lancelot had
won the diamond every year and intended when he had been victorious in
all the jousts, to give the nine gems to the queen. When the ninth year
came Arthur proclaimed the tournament for the central and largest
diamond to be held at Camelot, where he was holding his court. But the
queen became ill as the time for the tour jousts drew near and he asked
her whether she was too feeble to go to see Lancelot in the lists.

"Yes, my lord," replied Guinevere, "and you know it," and she looked up
languidly to Lancelot who stood near.

Lancelot thinking that she would rather have him near while she was ill
than to receive all the diamonds of the crown, said:

"Sir King, that old wound of mine is not quite healed so I can hardly
ride in my saddle."

So the king went, excused Lancelot, and rode away alone to the lists
while Lancelot remained, but as soon as Arthur was gone the _queen told
Lancelot that he ought by all means go too and fight_.

"But how can I go now," replied Lancelot, "after what I have said to the
king."

"I will tell you what to do," said Guinevere. "Everybody says that men
go down before your spear just because of your great name. They are
afraid as soon as you appear and of course, they are conquered. Go in
today entirely unknown and win for yourself, then after all is over the
king will be pleased with you for being so clever."

[Illustration: THE QUEEN TOLD LANCELOT THAT HE OUGHT BY ALL MEANS
FIGHT.]

Lancelot quickly got his horse and leaving the beaten thoroughfare,
chose a green path among the downs to take him to the lists. It was a
new road to him however and he lost his way and did not know where to go
until at last he came upon a faintly traced pathway that led to the
castle of Astolat far away on a hill. He went thither, blew the horn at
the gate where a _dumb, wrinkled old man came to let him in_. In the
castle court he met the lord of Astolat with his two young sons, Sir
Torre and Sir Lavaine and behind them the lily maiden Elaine, Astolat's
daughter. They were jesting and laughing as they came.

[Illustration: A WRINKLED OLD MAN CAME AND LET HIM IN.]

"Where do you come from, my guest, and what is your name?" asked
Astolat. "By your state and presence I would guess you to be the chief
of Arthur's court, for I have seen him although the other knights of the
Round Table are strangers to me."

Lancelot, Arthur's chief knight replied, "I am of Arthur's court and I
am known, and my shield which I have happened to bring with me, is known
too. But as I am going to joust for the diamond at Camelot as a
stranger do not ask me my name. After it is over you shall know me and
my shield. If you have some blank shield around, or one with a strange
device, pray lend it to me."

"Here is Torre's," the Lord of Astolat replied. "He was hurt in his
first tilt and so his shield is blank enough, God knows. You can have
his."

"Yes," added Sir Torre simply, "since I can't use it you may have it."

His father laughed. "Fie, Churl, is that an answer for a noble knight?
You must pardon him, but Lavaine, my younger boy, is so full of life he
will ride in the lists, joust for the diamond, win and bring it in one
hour to set upon his sister's golden hair and make her three times as
wilful as before."

"Oh, no, good father! don't shame me before this noble knight. It was
all a joke. Elaine dreamed that some one had put the diamond into her
hand and it was so slippery it dropped into a pool of water. Then I told
her that if I fought and won it for her she must keep it safer than
that. But it was all in fun. However, if you'll give me your leave, I'll
ride to Camelot with this noble knight. I shall not win but I'll do my
best to win."

Lancelot smiled a moment. "If you'll give me the pleasure of your
company over the downs where I lost myself I'll be glad to have you as a
friend and guide. You shall win the diamond if you can and then give it
to your sister if you wish."

"Such diamonds are for queens and not for simple little girls," said Sir
Torre.

Elaine flushed at this and Lancelot said, "If beautiful things are for
beautiful people this maiden may wear as fine jewels as there are in the
world."

Then the lily maid lifted her eyes and thought that Lancelot was the
greatest man that had ever lived. She loved his bruised and bronzed face
seamed across with an old sword-cut.

They took the pet knight of Arthur's court into the rude hall of Astolat
where they entertained him with their best meats, wines and minstrel
melodies. They told him about the dumb old man at the gate, how ten
years ago he had warned Astolat of the heathen fighters coming, and how
they had all escaped to the woods and lived in a boatman's hut by the
river while the old man had been caught and had his tongue cut off.

"Those were dull days," said the Lord of Astolat, "until Arthur came and
drove the heathen away."

"O, great Lord!" cried Lavaine to Lancelot, "you fought in those
glorious wars with Arthur. Tell us about them!"

So Lancelot told him all about the fight all day long at the white mouth
of the river Glenn, the four loud battles on the shore of Duglas where
the glorious king wore on his cuirass an emerald carved into Our Lady's
head. "On the mount of Badon," he said, "I saw him charge at the head of
all of his Round Table and break the heathen hosts. Afterward he stood
on a heap of the killed, all red, from his spurs to the plumes of his
helmet, with their blood, and he cried to me: 'They are broken! they are
broken!' In this heathen war the fire of God filled him, I never saw
anyone like him, there is no greater leader."

"Except yourself," thought the lily maid Elaine. All through the night
she saw his dark, splendid face living before her eyes and early in the
morning she arose as if to bid goodbye to Lavaine, stole step after step
down the long tower stairs and passed out to the court where Lancelot
was smoothing the glossy shoulders of his horse. She drew nearer and
stood in the dewy light, studying his face as though it was a god. He
had never dreamed she was so beautiful.

[Illustration: "FAIR LORD," SAID ELAINE.]

"Fair lord," said Elaine, "I don't know your name but I believe it is
the noblest himself of them all. Will you wear a token of me at the
tournament today?"

"No, pretty lady," said he, "for I've never worn a token of any woman in
the lists; as every one who knows me knows."

"Then by wearing mine you'll be less likely to be found out this time."

"That's true, my child, well, I'll wear it. Fetch it out to me. What is
it?"

"A red sleeve bordered with pearls," replied Elaine, and she went in and
brought it out to him.

Then he wound it round his helmet and said he had never before done so
much for any girl in the world. The blood sprang to Elaine's face as he
said that, and filled her with delight, although she grew all the paler
as Lavaine came out and handed Sir Torre's shield to Lancelot. Lancelot
gave his own shield to Elaine saying, "Do me this favor, child, keep my
shield for me until I come back."

"It's a favor to me," she replied smiling, "I'll be your squire."

"Come, Lily Maid," cried Lavaine, "you'll be a lily maid in earnest if
you don't get to bed and have some sleep," and he kissed her good-bye.

Lancelot kissed her hand as they moved away. She watched them at the
gateway until their sparkling arms dipped below the downs, then climbed
up to her tower with the shield and there she studied it and mused over
it every day.

Meanwhile Lancelot and Lavaine passed far over the long downs until they
reached an old hermit who lived in a white rock. Here they spent the
night. The next morning as they rode away Lancelot said, "Listen to me,
but keep what I say a secret, you're riding with Lancelot of the Lake."

"The great Lancelot?" stammered Lavaine, catching his breath with
surprise. "There is only one other great man to see, and that is
Britain's king of kings, Arthur. And he's going to be at the tournament,
too."

As soon as they reached the lists in the meadows by Camelot, Lancelot
pointed out the king who, as he sat in the peopled gallery was very easy
to recognize because of his five dragons. A golden dragon clung to his
crown, another writhed down his robe while two others in gilded carved
wood-work formed the arms of his chair. The canopy above him blazed with
the last big diamond.

"You call me great," cried Lancelot, "I'm not great, there's the man."

Lavaine gaped at Arthur as if he were something miraculous. Then the
trumpets blew. The two sides, those who held the lists and those who
attacked them, set their lances in rest, then struck their spurs, moved
out suddenly and shocked in the center of the field. The ground shook
and there was a low thunder of arms. Lancelot waited a little until he
saw which was the weaker side, then sprang into the fight with them. In
those days of his glory, whomever he struck he overthrew, whether they
were kings, dukes, earls, counts or barons. But that day in the field
some of his relatives were holding the lists who did not know him and
who could not bear the idea that any stranger knight should out do the
feats of their own Lancelot.

"Who is this?" one of them asked, "Isn't it Lancelot?"

"When has Lancelot ever worn a lady's token?" the others replied.

"Who is it then?" they cried, furious to guard the name of Lancelot.
They pricked their steeds and moving all together bore down upon him
like a wild wave that upsets a ship. One spear lamed Lancelot's charger
and another pierced through Lancelot's side, snapped there and stuck.
Lavaine now did splendidly for he brought a famous old knight down by
Lancelot's side. Lancelot in the meantime rose to his feet in all his
agony and by a sort of miracle as it seemed to those who were on his
side, drove all his opponents back to the barrier. Then the trumpet blew
and proclaimed that the knight who wore the scarlet sleeve with pearls
was victor.

"Go up and get your diamond," his men said to him.

"Don't give me any diamonds," said Lancelot. "My prize is death, I'll
leave and don't follow."

Then he vanished into the poplar grove where he told Lavaine to draw out
the lance head.

"I'm afraid you'll die, if I do," cried Lavaine.

"I'm dying now with it," said Lancelot, so Lavaine drew it out and
Lancelot gave a wonderful shriek and swooned away.

Then the old hermit came out, carried him into the white rock and
stanched his wound.

Immediately after he had left the field the men of his side went to the
king and said that the knight who had won the day had left without
receiving his prize.

"Such a knight as that must not go uncared for," said the king. "Gawain,
ride out and find him and since he didn't come for his diamond we will
send it to him. Don't leave your quest until you have him."

Gawain the courteous was a good young knight but he didn't like it that
he had to leave the banquet and the king's side to look for a stranger
knight, so he mounted his horse rather crossly. He rode all round the
country to every place except the right one, poplar grove, and at last
very late reached the Castle of Astolat.

"What news from Camelot?" cried Elaine as soon as she saw him, "What
about the knight with the red sleeve?"

"He won."

"I knew it," she said.

"But he left the jousts wounded in his side."

Then Elaine almost swooned away. When the Lord of Astolat came out and
heard about Gawain's quest, "Stay with us, noble prince," said he. "For
the knight was here and left his shield with us, so he will certainly
come back or send for it. Besides my son is with him."

Gawain thought he would have a pleasant time with Elaine so he stayed.
But Elaine rebelled against his pretty love-making and asked him why he
neglected the king's quest and why he didn't ask to see the knight's
shield.

"I've lost my quest in the light of your blue eyes," said Gawain, "but
let me see the shield. Ah! the king was right!" he cried out when Elaine
showed it to him. "It was our Lancelot."

"I was right too," Elaine said merrily, "for I dreamed that my knight
was the greatest of them all."

"And suppose that I dreamed that you love this greatest knight?"
returned Gawain.

"What do I know?" Elaine answered simply. "I don't know whether I know
what love is, but I do know that if I do not love him there isn't
another man whom I can love."

"Yes, you love him well," said Gawain. "And I suppose you know just
where your greatest knight is hidden, so let me leave my quest with you.
If you love him it will be sweet to you to give him the diamond and if
he loves you it will be sweet to him to receive it from you, while even
if he doesn't love you, a diamond is always a diamond. Farewell a
thousand times. If he loves you I may see you at court after while."

Then Gawain lightly kissed her hand as he laid the diamond in it, and,
wearied of his quest, leaped on his horse and carrolling a love-ballad
airily rode away to the court where it was soon buzzed abroad that a
maid of Astolat loved Lancelot and that Lancelot loved a maid of
Astolat.

The maid meanwhile crept up to her father one day and received his leave
to take the diamond to Sir Lancelot. Sir Torre went with her to the
gates of Camelot where they saw Lavaine capering about on a horse.

"Lavaine!" she cried, "how is it with my lord Sir Lancelot?" and she
told him about the diamond. Then Sir Torre went on into the city while
Lavaine guided Elaine to the hermit's cave. As she saw her handsome
knight on the floor, a sort of skeleton of himself, she gave a little
tender dolorous cry.

"Your prize, the diamond, sent you by the king," said she, as she put it
into his hand and explained how she had received it from Gawain. Then he
kissed her as a father would kiss a dear little daughter and she went
back to the dim, rich city of Camelot for the night. But the next
morning she was back in the cave, and day after day she came, caring for
him more mildly, tenderly and kindly than any mother could with a child,
until at last the old hermit said she had nursed him back to life, then
all three rode back together one morning to Astolat where Lancelot asked
Elaine to tell him the dearest wish of her heart so that he could grant
it to her. Elaine turned as pale as a ghost when he first spoke but at
last one day she told him. She said she wanted him to love her, she
wanted to be his wife.

"If I had chosen to wed," Lancelot replied, slowly, "I would have been
married long before this. But now I shall never marry, sweet Elaine."

"No, no," cried Elaine, "it won't matter if I can't be your wife, if I
can only go with you always and go round the world with you and serve
you."

But Lancelot said that would be a poor way for him to requite the love
and kindness her father and brothers had shown him. "Noble maid," he
went on, "this is only the first flash of love with you. After awhile
you will smile at yourself about it when you find a knight who is fitter
for you to marry and not three times older than you as I am, and then I
will give you broad lands and territories even to a half of my kingdom
across the seas and I'll always be ready to fight for you in your
troubles. I'll do this, dear girl, but more I cannot."

"Of all this I care for nothing," Elaine said growing deathly pale and
falling in a swoon.

That evening Lancelot sent for his shield from the tower where Elaine
sat with it, and as his horse's hoofs clattered off upon the stone of
the highway she looked down from her tower, but he did not glance back.

After that Elaine dreamed her time sadly away in the tower and only
wished that she could die. She begged her father to send for the priest
to confess her and asked Lavaine to write a letter for her to Lancelot.
Then she arranged it that when she died the dumb old man at the gate was
to take her in the barge down the river to the king's palace. Eleven
days later this was done. Elaine was dressed like a little sleeping
queen and floated along the stream with her letter in one hand and a
lily in the other.

That day Lancelot was with the queen and as he looked out of the
casement upon the river he saw the barge hung with rich black samite,
the dumb old man and the lily maid of Astolat gliding up to the palace
door.

"What is it?" cried everybody streaming round. "A pale fairy queen come
to take Arthur to fairy land?"

Then the king bade meek Sir Percival and pure Sir Galahad carry her
reverently into the hall where the fine Gawain came and wondered at her
and Lancelot came and mused over her, and the queen came and pitied her.
But King Arthur spied a letter, opened it and read it aloud to all the
lords and ladies. It was Elaine's goodbye to Lancelot.

[Illustration: A PALE FAIRY QUEEN CAME TO TAKE ARTHUR TO FAIRY LAND.]

Then Sir Lancelot told them everything about Elaine and how he had
promised to give her his lands and riches when she should be ready to
marry some knight of her own age. The king said that he should see that
she was buried very grandly. So they had a procession with all the pomp
of a queen, with gorgeous ceremonies, mass and rolling music while all
the Order of the Round Table followed her to the tomb. Then they laid
the shield of Lancelot at her feet and put a lily in her hand.



THE HOLY GRAIL.


One day a new monk came into the abbey beyond Camelot. There was
something about him different from all the other monks there. He was so
polished and clever that old Ambrosious who had lived in the old
monastery for fifty years and had never seen a bit of the world guessed
in a minute that the new brother had come from King Arthur's court. And
one windy April morning as Ambrosious stood under the yew tree with this
gentle monk he asked him why he left the Knights of the Round Table.

Then Sir Percival answered:

"It was the sweet vision of the Holy Grail."

[Illustration: "THE HOLY GRAIL," CRIED AMBROSIOUS.]

"The Holy Grail," cried Ambrosious. "Heaven knows I don't know much, but
what is that, the phantom of a cup that comes and goes?"

"No, no," said Percival, "what phantom do you mean? It's the cup that
our Lord drank from at his sad last supper, and after he died Joseph of
Aramathea brought it to Glastonbury at Christmas time, and there it
stayed a while and every one who looked at it or touched it was healed
of their sicknesses. But the times grew so wicked that the cup was
caught up into heaven where nobody could see it."

"Yes, I remember reading in our old books," said Ambrosious, "how Joseph
built a lonely little church at Glastonbury on the marsh, but that was
long ago. Who first saw the vision of the Holy Grail to-day?"

"A woman," said Sir Percival, "a nun, my sister who was a holy maid if
ever there was one. The old man to whom she used to tell her sins (or
what she called her sins), often spoke to her about the legend of the
Holy Grail which had been handed down through six people, each of them a
hundred years old, from the Lord's time. And when Arthur made the order
of the Round Table and all hearts became clean and pure for a time this
old man thought surely the Holy Grail would come back again. 'O Christ!'
he used to say to my sister, 'if only it would come back and help all
the world of its wickedness!' And then my sister asked him whether it
might come to her by prayer and fasting.

"'Perhaps,' said the father, 'for your heart is as pure as snow.'

"So she prayed and fasted until the sun shone and the wind blew through
her and one day she sent for me. Her eyes were so beautiful with the
light of holiness that I did not know them.

"'Sweet Brother,' she said, 'I have seen the Holy Grail. I heard a sound
like a silver horn but sweeter than any music we can make, and then a
cold silver beam of light streamed in through my cell, and down the beam
stole the Holy Grail, rose red and throbbing as if it were alive. All
the walls of my cell grew rosy red with quivering rosy colors. Then the
music faded away, the Holy Grail vanished and the colors died out in
the darkness. So now we know the Holy Thing is here again, Brother fast,
too, and pray, and tell your brother-knights about it, then perhaps the
vision may be seen by you all, and the whole world will be healed.'

[Illustration: MY KNIGHT OF HEAVEN, GO FORTH.]

"So I told all the knights and we fasted and prayed for many weeks. Then
my sister cut off all her long streaming silken hair which used to fall
to her feet and out of it braided a strong sword belt and with silver
and crimson thread she wove into it a crimson grail in a silver beam.
Then she bound it on our beautiful boy knight, Sir Galahad, and said:

"'My knight of heaven, go forth, for you shall see what I have seen and
far in the spiritual city you will be crowned king.' Then she sent the
deathless passion of her eyes through him and he believed what she said.

"Then came a year of miracles. In our great hall there stood a chair
which Merlin had fashioned carved with strange figures like a serpent
and in and out among the strange figures ran a scroll of strange letters
in a language nobody knew like a serpent. Merlin called it the Seat
Perilous, because he said if any one sat in it he would get lost. And
Galahad said that if he got lost in it he would save himself. So one
summer night Sir Galahad sat down in the chair and all at once there was
a cracking of the roofs above us, and a blast and thunder, and in the
thunder there was a cry and in the blast there was a beam of light seven
times clearer than the daylight. Down the beam stole the Holy Grail all
covered over with a luminous cloud. Then it passed away but every knight
saw his brother knight's faces in a glory and we all rose and stared at
each other until at last I found my voice and swore a vow.

"I swore that because I had not seen the Holy Grail behind the cloud I
would ride away a year and a day in quest of it until I could see it as
my sister saw it. Galahad swore too, and good Sir Bors, and Lancelot and
many others, knights, and Gawain louder than all the rest.

"The king was not in the hall that day for he had gone out to help some
poor maiden, but as he came back over the plains beyond Camelot he saw
the roofs rolling in smoke and thought that his wonderfully dear,
beautiful hall which Merlin had built for him so wonderfully was afire.
So he rode fast and rushed into the tumult of knights and asked me what
it all meant.

"'Woe is me!' cried the king when I told him. 'Had I been here you would
not have sworn the vows.'

"'My king,' I answered boldly, had you been here you would have sworn
the vows yourself.'

"'Yes, yes,' said he, 'are you so bold when you didn't see the Grail?
You didn't see farther than the cloud, and what can you expect to see
now if you go out into the wilderness?'

"'No, no, Lord, I didn't see the Grail, I heard the sound, I saw the
light and since I didn't see the holy thing I swore the vow that I would
follow it until I did see.'

"'Then he asked us, knight by knight, whether we had seen it and each
one said, 'No, no, Lord, that was why we swore our vows,' but suddenly
Galahad called out, 'But I saw the Holy Grail, Sir Arthur, and heard the
cry, "O Galahad, follow me."'

"Ah, Galahad, Galahad,' said the king, 'the vision is for such as you
and for your holy nun but not for these. Are you all Galahads or all
Percivals? No, no, you are just men with the strength to right the
wrongs and violences of the land. But now since one has seen, all the
blind want to see. However, since you have made the vow, go. But oh, how
often the distressed people of the kingdom will come into the hall for
you to help them and all your chairs will be vacant while you are out
chasing a fire in the quagmire! Many of you, yes, most of you will never
come back again! But come to-morrow before you go, let us have one more
day of field sports so that before you go I can rejoice in the unbroken
strength of the Order I have made.'

"So the next day there was the greatest tournament that Camelot had ever
seen, and Galahad and I, with a strength which we had received from the
vision, overthrew so many knights that all the people cheered hotly for
Sir Galahad and Sir Percival. The next morning all the rich balconies
along the streets of Camelot were laden with ladies and showers of
flowers fell over us as we passed out and men and boys astride lions and
dragons, griffins and swans at the street corners, called us all by name
and cried, 'God Speed!' while many lords and ladies wept. Then we came
down to the gate of The Three Queens and there each one went on his own
way.

"I was feeling glad over my victories in the lists and thought the sky
never looked so blue nor the earth so green. All my blood danced within
me for I knew that I would see the Holy Grail. But after a while I
thought of the dark warning of the king. I looked about and saw that I
was quite alone in a sandy thorny place, and I thought I would die of
thirst. Then I came to a deep lawn with a flowing brook and apple trees
overhanging it. But while I was drinking of the water and eating of the
apples they all turned to dust, and I was alone and thirsty again in
among the sands and thorns. Next I saw a woman spinning beside a
beautiful house. She rose to greet me and stretched out her arms to
welcome me into her house to rest, but as soon as I touched her she fell
to dust, and the house turned into a shed with a dead baby inside, and
then it fell to dust too.

"Then I rode on and found a big hill and on the top was a walled city,
the spires with incredible pinnacles reaching up to the sky, and at the
gateway there was a crowd of people who cried out to me:

"Welcome, Percival, you mightiest and purest of men!"

"But when I reached the top there was no one there. I passed through to
the ruined old city and found only one person a very, very old man.
'Where is the crowd who called out to me?' I asked him.

"He could scarcely speak, but he gasped out, 'Where are you from and who
are you?' and then fell to dust.

[Illustration: NEXT I SAW A WOMAN SPINNING.]

"Then I was so unhappy I cried. I felt as though even if I should see
the Holy Grail itself and touched it it would crumble into dust. From
there I passed down into a deep valley, as low down as the city was
high up, where I found a chapel with a hermit in a hermitage near by. I
told him about all these phantoms.

"'You haven't true humility,' he said, 'which is the mother of all
virtue. You haven't lost yourself to find yourself as Galahad did.'

"Just as he ended suddenly Sir Galahad shone before us in silver armor.
He laid his lance beside the chapel door and we all went in and knelt in
prayer. Then my thirst was quenched. But when the mass was burned I saw
only the holy elements while Galahad saw the Holy Grail come down upon
the shrine.

"'The Holy Grail,' he said, 'has always been at my side ever since we
came away, fainter in the daytime, but blood-red at night. In its
strength I have overcome evil customs wherever I have gone, and have
passed through Pagan lands and clashed with Pagan hordes and broken them
down everywhere. But the time is very near now when I shall go into the
spiritual city far away where some one will crown me king. Come with me
for you will see the Holy Grail in a vision when I go.'

"At the close of the day I started away with him. We came to a hill
which only a man could climb, scarred all over with a hundred frozen
streams, and when we reached the top there was a wild storm. Galahad's
armor flashed and darkened again every instant with quick, thick
lightnings which struck the dead old tree trunks on every side until at
last they blazed into a fire. At the base was a great black swamp partly
whitened with bones of dead men. A chain of bridges lead across it to
the great sea, and Galahad crossed them, one after the other, but each
one burned away as soon as he had passed over so that I had to stay
behind. When he reached the great sea the Holy Grail hung over his head
in a brilliant cloud. Then a boat came swiftly by and when the sky
brightened again with the lightning I could see him floating away,
either in a boat with full sails or a winged creature which was flying,
I couldn't tell which. Above him hung the Holy Grail rosy red without
the cloud. I had seen the holy thing at last. When I saw Sir Galahad
again he looked like a silver star in the sky, and beyond the star was
the spiritual city with all her spires and gateways in a glory like one
pearl, no larger than a pearl. From the star a rosy red sparkle from the
Grail shot across to the city. But while I looked a flood of rain came
down in torrents, and how I ever came away I don't know, but anyway at
the dawn of the next day I had reached the little chapel again. There I
got my horse from the hermit and rode back to the gates of Camelot.

"Just once I met one of the other knights. That was one night when the
full moon was rising and the pelican of Sir Bors' casque made a shadow
on it. I spurred on my horse, hailed him and we were both very glad to
see each other.

"'Where is Sir Lancelot,' he asked. 'Have you seen him? Once he dashed
across me very madly, maddening his horse. When I asked him why he rode
so hotly on a holy quest he shouted, 'Don't keep me, I was a sluggard,
and now I'm going fast for there's a lion in the way.' Then he vanished.
When I saw how mad he was I felt very sad for I love him, and I cared no
more whether I saw the Holy Grail, or not; but I rode on until I came to
the loneliest parts of the country where some magicians told me I
followed a mocking fire. This vexed me and when the people saw that I
quarrelled with their priests they bound me and put me into a cell of
stones. I lay there for hours until one night a miracle happened. One
of the stones slipped away without any one touching it or any wind
blowing. Through the gap it made I saw the seven clear stars which we
have always called the stars of the Round Table and across the seven
stars the sweet Grail glided past. Close after a clap of thunder pealed.
Then a maiden came to me in secret and loosed me and let me go.'

[Illustration: ACROSS THE SEVEN STARS THE SWEET GRAIL GLIDED PAST.]

"Sir Bors and I rode along together and when we reached the city our
horses stumbled over heaps of ruined bits of houses that fell as they
trod along the streets. At last brought us to Arthur's hall.

"As we came in we saw Arthur sitting on his throne with just a tenth of
the knights who had gone out on the quest of the Holy Grail standing
before him, wasted and worn, also the knights who had stayed at home.
When he saw me he rose and said he was glad to see me back, that he had
been worrying about me because of the fierce gale that had made havoc
through the town and shaken even the new strong hall and half wrenched
the statue Merlin made for him.

"'But the quest,' the king went on, 'have you seen the cup that Joseph
brought long ago to Glastonbury?'

"Then when I told him all that you have been hearing just now and how I
was going to give up the tournament and tilt and pass into the quiet of
the life of the monk, he answered not a word, but turning quickly to
Gawain asked,

"'Gawain, was this quest for you?'

"'No, Lord,' replied Gawain, 'not for such as I. I talked with a saintly
old man about that and he made me very sure that it wasn't for me. I was
very tired of it. But I found a silk pavilion in the field with a lot of
merry girls in it, then this gale tore it off from the tenting pin and
blew my merry maidens all about with a great deal of discomfort. If it
hadn't been for that storm my twelve months and a day would have passed
very pleasantly for me.'

"Then Arthur turned to Sir Bors, who had pushed across the throng at
once to Lancelot's side, caught him by the hand and held it there half
hidden beside him until the king spied them.

"'Hail, Bors, if ever a true and loyal man could see the Grail you have
seen it,' cried Arthur.

"'Don't ask me about it,' replied Sir Bors with tears in his eyes 'I may
not speak about it; I saw it.'

"The others spoke only about the perils of their storm, and then it was
Lancelot's turn. Perhaps Arthur kept his best for the last.

"'My Lancelot,' said the king, 'our Strongest, has the quest availed for
you?'

"'Our strongest, O King!' groaned Lancelot and as he paused I thought I
saw a dying fire of madness in his eyes. 'O King, my friend, a sin lived
in me that was so strange that everything pure, noble and knightly in me
twined and clung around it until the good and the poisonous in me grew
together, and when your knights swore to make the quest I swore only in
the hope that could I see or touch the Holy Grail they might be pulled
apart. Then I spoke to a holy saint who said that if they could not be
plucked apart my quest would be all in vain. So I vowed to him that I
would do just as he told me, and while I was out trying to tear them
away from each other my old madness came back to me and whipped me off
into waste fields far away.

"There I was beaten down by little knights whom at one time I would have
frightened away just by the shadow of my spear. From there I rode over
to the sea-shore where such a blast of wind began to blow that you could
not hear the waves even although they were heaped up in mountains and
drove the sea like a cataract, while the sand on the beach swept by like
a river. A boat, half-swallowed by the seafoam, was moored to the shore
by a chain. I said to myself that I would embark in the boat and lose
myself and wash away my sin in the great sea.

"For seven days I rode around over the dreary water and on the seventh
night I felt the boat striking ground. In front of me rose the enchanted
towers of Carbonek, a castle like a rock upon a rock, with portals open
to the sea and steps that met the waves. A lion sat on each side of
them. I went up the steps and drew my sword. Suddenly flaring their
manes the lions stood up like men and gripped me on my shoulders. When I
was about to strike them a voice said to me, 'Don't be afraid, or the
beasts will tear you to pieces; go on.' Then my sword was dashed
violently from my hand and fell. Up into the sounding hall I passed but
saw not a bench, table, picture, shield or anything else except the moon
over the sea through the oriel window, but I heard a sweet voice as
clear as a lark singing in the topmost tower to the east. I climbed up a
thousand steps with great pain. It seemed as though I was climbing
forever but at last I reached a door with light shining through the
crannies and I heard voices singing 'Glory and joy and honor to our Lord
and the Holy Vessel, the Grail.'

"'Then I madly tried the door, it gave way and through a stormy glare of
heat that burned me and made me swoon away I thought I saw the Grail,
all veiled with crimson samite and around it great angels, awful shapes
and wings and eyes!'

"The long hall was silent after Lancelot was done, until airy Gawain
began with a sudden.

"'O King, my liege, my good friend Percival and your holy nun have
driven men mad. By my eyes and ears I swear I'll be deeper than a
blue-eyed cat and three times as blind as any owl at noon-time
hereafter to any holy virgins in their ecstasies.'

"'Gawain,' replied the king, 'don't try to become blinder; you're too
blind now to want to see. If a sign really came from heaven Bors,
Lancelot and Percival are blessed for they have each seen according to
their sight.'"



PELLEAS AND ETTARRE.


When his knights went after the Holy Grail Arthur made many new knights
to fill the gaps made by their absence. As he sat in his hall one day at
old Caerleon the high doors were softly parted and through these in came
a youth, and with him the outer sunshine and the sweet scent of meadows.

"Make me your knight, Sir King!" he cried, "because I know all about
everything that belongs to a knight and because I love a maiden."

This youth was Sir Pelleas-of-the-Isles who had heard that the king had
proclaimed a great tournament at Caerleon with a sword for the victor
and a golden crown for the victor's sweetheart as the prize. He longed
to win them, the circlet for his lady love, the sword for himself.

Just a few days before, while riding across the Forest of Dean to find
the king's palace hall at Caerleon, Pelleas had felt the sun beating on
his helmet so sharply that he reeled and almost fell from his horse.
Then, seeing a hillock near-by overgrown with stately beech trees and
flowers here and there beneath, he tied his horse to a tree, threw
himself down and was very soon lost in sweet dreams about a maiden, not
any particular maiden for he had no sweetheart at that time.

But suddenly he was wakened with a sound of chatter and laughing at the
outskirts of the grove, and glancing through fern he saw a party of
young girls in many colors like the clouds at sunset, all of them riding
on richly dressed horses. They were all talking together in a
hodgepodge, some pointing this way, some that, for they had lost their
way.

[Illustration: WAS VERY SOON LOST IN SWEET DREAMS ABOUT A MAIDEN.]

Pelleas sprang up, loosed his horse and led him into the light.

"Just in time!" cried the lady who seemed to be the leader of the party.
"See, our pilot-star! Youth, we are wandering damsels riding armed, as
you see, ready to tilt against the knights at Caerleon, but we've lost
our way. To the right? to the left? straight on? forward? backward?
which is it? tell us quickly."

Pelleas gazed at her and wondered to himself whether the famous Queen
Guinevere herself was as beautiful as this maiden. For her violet eyes,
scornful eyes, were large and the bloom on her cheeks was like the rosy
dawn. Her beauty made Pelleas timid and when she spoke to him he could
not answer but only stammered, for he had come from far away waste
islands where besides his sisters, he had scarcely known any women but
the tough wives of the islands who made fish nets.

With a slow smile the lady turned round to her companions the smile
spreading to them all. For she was Ettarre, a very great lady in her
land.

"O, wild man of the woods," she cried, "don't you understand our
language, or has heaven given you a beautiful face and no tongue?"

"Lady," he answered, "I just woke from my dreams, and coming out of the
gloomy woods I was dazzled by the sudden light, and beg your pardon. But
are you going to Caerleon? I'm going too. Shall I lead you to the king?"

"Lead," said she.

So through the woods they went together but his tender manner, his awe
of her and his bashfulness bothered her. "I've lighted on a fool," she
muttered to herself, "so raw and yet so stale!"

But since she wished to be crowned the Queen of Beauty in the king's
tournament, and since Pelleas looked strong she thought perhaps he would
fight for her, so she flattered him and was very pleasant and kind. Her
three knights and maidens were kind to him too, for she was a very
great lady and they had to do as she did. When they reached Caerleon
before she passed on to her lodgings she took Pelleas by the hand and
said:

[Illustration: SHE TOOK PELLEAS BY THE HAND.]

"O, how strong your hand is! See; look at my poor little weak one! Will
you fight for me and win me the crown, Pelleas, so that I may love you?"

Pelleas' heart danced. "Yes! Yes!" he cried, "and will you love me if I
win?"

"Yes, that I will," answered Ettarre laughing and flinging away his hand
as she peeped round to her knights and ladies until they all laughed
with her.

"O what a happy world!" thought glad Pelleas, "everybody seems happy and
I am the happiest of all."

He couldn't sleep that night for joy and on the next day when he was
knighted he swore to love one maiden only. As he came away from the
king's hall the men who met him all turned around to look at his face,
for it flamed with happiness, and at the great banquets which Arthur
gave to knights from all parts of the country Pelleas looked the noblest
of the noble. For he dreamed that his lady loved him and he knew that he
was loved by the king.

On the morning when the jousts began the first that was called was the
tournament of youth. Arthur wanted to keep the older, stronger men out
of it so that young Pelleas might win his lady's love as she had
promised, and be lord of the tourney. Down by the field along the river
Usk where it was held the gilded parapets were crowned with faces and
the great tower filled with eyes up to its top. Then the trumpets blew
for the tournament to begin.

All day long Sir Pelleas held the field. At the close a shout rang round
the galleries as Ettarre caught the gold crown from his lance and
crowned herself before all the people. Her eyes sparkled as she looked
at him, but that was the last time she was kind to her knight.

She lingered a few days at Caerleon, sunny to all the other people but
always frowning at him.

Still when she left for home with her knights and maidens Sir Pelleas
followed.

"Damsels," cried she as she saw him coming, "I ought to be ashamed to
say it and yet I can't bear that Sir Baby. Keep him back with
yourselves. I'd rather have some rough old knight who knows the ways of
the world to chatter and joke with; so don't let him come near me.
Tell him all sorts of baby fables that good mothers tell their little
boys, and if he runs off for us--it doesn't matter."

[Illustration: ETTARRE CROWNED HERSELF BEFORE ALL THE PEOPLE.]

So the young women didn't let him go near Ettarre but made him stay with
them, and as soon as they had all passed into Ettarre's castle gate up
sprang the drawbridge, down rang the iron grating, and Sir Pelleas was
left outside all alone.

"These are only the ways of ladies with their lovers when the ladies
want to find out whether the lovers are true or not. Well, she can try
me with anything, I'll be true through all."

So he stayed there until dark, then went to a priory not far off and the
next morning came back. Every day he did the same whether it rained or
shone, armed on his charger, and stayed all the day beneath the walls,
although nobody opened the gate for him.

This made Ettarre's scorn turn to anger. She told her three knights to
go out and drive him away. But when they came out Pelleas overthrew them
all as they dashed upon him one after the other. So they went back
inside and he kept his watch as before. This turned Ettarre's anger into
hate. As she walked on top of the walls with her three knights about a
week later she pointed down to Pelleas and said:

"He haunts me, look, he besieges me! I can't breathe. Strike him down,
put my hate into your blows and drive him away from my walls."

So down they went but Pelleas overthrew them all again so Ettarre called
down from the tower above, "Bind him and bring him in."

Pelleas heard her say this so he did not resist, but let the men bind
him and take him into his lady love. "See me, Lady," he said cheerily,
"your prisoner, and if you keep me in your dungeon here I'll be quite
content if you'll just let me see your face every day. For I've sworn my
vows and you've given me your promise and I know that when you've done
proving me you will give me your love and have me for your knight."

But she made fun of his vows and told her knights to put him outside
again and "if he isn't a fool to the middle of his bones," said she,
"he'll never come back." Then the three knights laughed and thrust him
out of the gates.

But a week later Ettarre called them again, "He's watching there yet. He
comes just like a dog that's been kicked out of his master's door. Don't
you hate him? Go after him, all of you at once, and if you don't kill
him bind him as you did before and bring him in."

So the three knights couched their spears all together, three against
one, ready to dash upon Pelleas, low down beneath the shadow of the
towers.

Gawain passing by on a lonely adventure saw them.

"The villains!" he shouted to Pelleas, "I'll strike for you!"

"No," cried Pelleas, "when one's doing a lady's will one doesn't need
any help."

Gawain stood by quivering to fight while the three knights sprang down
upon Pelleas, but Pelleas all alone beat the three of them together.
Then they rose to their feet, and he stood still while they bound him
and took him into their lady.

"You're scarcely fit to touch your victor, you dogs!" she cried to her
men, "far less bind him; but take him out as he is and let whoever wants
to untie him. Then if he comes again--"

She paused just a minute and Pelleas broke in at once with, "Lady, I
loved you and thought you very beautiful, but if you don't love me
don't trouble yourself about it; you won't see me again."

As soon as Pelleas was put outside the gate Gawain sprang forward,
loosed his bonds, flung them over the walls and cried out:

"My faith, and why did you let those wretches tie you up so when you
were victor of all the jousts?"

"O," said Pelleas, "they were just obeying the wishes of my lady, and
her wishes are mine."

Gawain laughed. "Lend me your horse and armor," he said, "and I'll tell
her I've killed you. Then she'll let me in just to hear all about it and
when I've made her listen I'll tell her all about you, what a great and
good fellow you are. Give me three days to melt her and on the third
evening I'll bring you golden news."

"Don't betray me," cried Pelleas, as he handed over his horse and all
his weapons except his sword. "Aren't you the knight they call
'Light-of-love?'"

"That is just because women are so light," Gawain rejoined, laughing.

Then he rode up to the castle gate, and blew the bugle so musically that
all the hidden echoes in the walls rang out.

"Away with you!" cried Ettarre's maidens, running up to the tower
window. "Our lady doesn't love you."

"I'm Gawain from Arthur's court," cried Gawain, lifting his vizor so
that they could see his face. "I've killed Pelleas whom you hate so.
Open the gates and I'll make you merry with my story."

The ladies ran down crying out to Ettarre, "Pelleas is dead! Sir Gawain
of Arthur's court has killed him and is blowing the bugle to come in to
tell us."

"Let him in," said Ettarre.

Then they opened the gates and Gawain rode inside.

For three days Pelleas wandered all about, doing nothing but thinking of
Gawain and Ettarre, and on the third night, when Gawain did not come, he
wondered why Gawain lingered with his golden news. At last he rode up to
Ettarre's castle, tied his horse outside and walked in through the wide
open gates. The court he found all dark and empty, not a light
glimmering from anywhere, so he passed out by the back gate, into the
large gardens beyond of red and white roses, where he saw three
pavilions. In one he found the three knights with their squires, all red
with revelling, and all asleep, in the second he saw the girls with
their scornful smiles frozen stiff in slumber, and in the third lay
Gawain with Ettarre, the golden crown he had won for her at the joust on
her forehead, both sleeping.

Pelleas drew back as if he had touched a snake.

"I'll kill them just as they lie," he cried in a passion. "O! to think
that any knight could be so false!"

But he was too manly to kill anyone in sleep, so he just laid his sword
across their throats and passed out to his horse, crushed his saddle
with his thighs, clenched his hands together and groaned.

"I loathe her now just as much as I loved her!" he cried, and dashing
his spurs into his horse he bounded out into the darkness and never came
back.

Meanwhile Ettarre, feeling the cold sword on her neck, awoke.

"Liar!" she cried to Gawain, as she saw that it was the sword of
Pelleas, "you haven't killed Pelleas, for he's been here and could have
killed us both just now."

And ever after that, as those who tell the story say, the proud and
scornful Ettarre sighed for Pelleas, the one true knight in the world,
her only faithful lover, and at last pined away because he never came
back.



THE LAST TOURNAMENT.


One day while King Arthur and Sir Lancelot were riding far, far beneath
a winding wall of rock they heard the wail of a child.

A half-dead oak tree climbed up the sides of the rock and up in mid-air
it held an eagle's nest. Through its branches rushed a rainy wind and
through the wind came the voice of a little child. Lancelot sprang up
the crag and from the nest at the tree-top he brought down a baby girl.
Round her neck was twined a necklace of rubies, wound round and round
three times.

Arthur took the baby and gave it to Queen Guinevere, who soon loved it
very tenderly and named her "Nestling." But Nestling had caught a
terrible cold in her strange little home in the wild eagle's nest and
died. And after that whenever the Queen looked at the ruby necklace it
made her very sad so she gave it to Arthur and said:

"Take these jewels of our Dead Innocence and make them a prize at a
tournament."

"Just as you wish," cried the King, "but why don't you wear the diamonds
that I found for you in the tarn, which Lancelot won for you at the
jousts?"

"Don't you know that they slipped out of my hands the very day that he
gave them to me, while I was leaning out of the window to see Elaine in
the barge on the river? But these rubies will bring better luck than
that to the lady who gets them, for they didn't come from a dead king's
skeleton, but from the body of a sweet baby girl. Perhaps, who knows,
the purest of your knights will win them at the jousts for the purest of
my ladies."

So the great jousts were proclaimed with trumpets that blew all along
the streets of Camelot and out across the faded fields to the farthest
towers, and everywhere the knights armed themselves for a day of glory
before the king.

But just the day before they were to be held, as King Arthur sat in his
great hall, a churl staggered in through the door; his face was all
striped with the lashes of a dog whip, his nose was broken, one eye was
out, a hand was off and the other hand dangled at his side with
shattered fingers.

"My poor Churl," cried the king, full of indignant pity, "what beast or
fiend has been after you? Or was it a man who hurt you so?"

"He took them all away," sputtered the churl, "a hundred good ones. It
was the Red Knight. He--Lord, I was tending sheep, my pigs, a hundred
good ones, and he drove them all off to his tower. And when I said that
you were always kind to poor churls like me as well as gentle lords and
ladies, he made for me and would have killed me outright if he didn't
want me to bring you message and made me swear that I would tell you.

"He said, 'Tell the king that I have made a Round Table of my own in the
North, and that whatever his knights swear not to do mine swear that
they will do; and tell him his hour has come, and that the heathen are
after him, and that his long lance is broken, and that his sword
Excalibur is a straw.'"

Then Arthur turned to Sir Kay the Seneschal and said: "Take this churl
of mine and tend him very carefully as if he were the son of a king
until all his hurts are healed," and as Sir Kay left the hall with the
churl the king went on to Lancelot: "The heathen have been quiet for a
long, long time, but now they are rising again in the North, and I will
go with my younger knights to put them down, so as to make the whole
island safe from one shore to the other. And while I go away, you, Sir
Lancelot, will sit in my chair to-morrow at the tournament and be the
judge there of the field. For why should you anyway care to go in again
yourself, when you've already won the nine diamonds for the queen?"

"Very well," replied Lancelot, "if you wish, although it would be better
if you would let me go off with the younger knights and you stay here
with the others and watch the tournament. But, if not, all is well?"

"Is all really well?" cried the king, "or have I just dreamed that our
knights are not quite so true and manly as they used to be and that my
noble realm which has been built up by noble deeds and noble vows is
going to fall back into beastly roughness and violence again?"

He gathered all the younger Knights of the Round Table together and
started away with them down the hilly streets of Camelot, and at the
gateway turned sharply North.

The next morning, the day of the Tournament, the Tournament of the Dead
Innocence they called it, a wet wind blew. But the streets were hung
with white samite, the fountains were filled with wine, and round each
fountain twelve little girls, all dressed in purest white sat with the
cups of gold and gave drinks to all that passed. The stately galleries
were filled with white-robed ladies. Lancelot mounted the steps to the
king's dragon-carved chair, the trumpets blew and the jousts began.

[Illustration: TWELVE LITTLE GIRLS GAVE DRINK TO ALL WHO PASSED.]

But Lancelot did not think of the sport before him, he was dreaming over
and over again the words of the king about the kingdom, and many rules
of the tournament were broken, and he didn't say a word. Once one of the
knights, who was overthrown cursed the little baby girl, the dead
innocence, and the king, and once one of the knight's helmets became
unlaced and the wicked face of Modred peeped through like a vermin, but
Lancelot didn't see.

After a while a roar of welcome shouted all round the galleries and
lists as a new knight came in dressed from his head to his feet in green
armor all trimmed with tiny silver deer, with holly berries on his
helmet crest. It was Sir Tristram of the Woods who had just crossed over
the seas from Brittany. Lancelot had fought with him long ago and
conquered him, and now he saw him and longed to fight him again. As
many, many knights of the Round Table fell down before the new knight
Lancelot gripped the golden dragons on each side of his throne to keep
himself in his seat, and groaned with passion. "Craven crests! oh,
shame!" he muttered, "the glory of the Round Table is gone."

So Tristram won the jousts and Sir Lancelot gave him the jewels.

"The hands with which you take these rubies are red," he said as he put
the necklace in Tristram's hands.

Then the thick rain began to fall, the plumes on the helmets of the
knights drooped and the dresses of the ladies were mussed. When they
went inside to feast the ladies took off their pure white gowns and
robed themselves in all the colors of the rainbow and field flowers,
like poppies, blue-bells, kingcups, and one said she was glad the time
to wear the pure innocent simple white was over. They grew so loud in
their frolics that at last the queen, who was angry that Sir Tristram
had won the prize and angry with the lawless youths, broke up the
banquet.

The next morning as Sir Tristram stood before the hall little Dagonet,
the fool, came dancing along and Sir Tristram threw his rubies round
the little fool's neck as he skipped about like a withered leaf, asking
him why he danced.

"It's stupid to dance without music," Tristram said, and picked up his
harp and began to twangle a tune on it; but as soon as Sir Tristram
began to play Dagonet stopped his dance. "And why don't you go on
skipping, Sir Fool?" asked Tristram.

"Because I'd rather skip twenty years to the music of my little brain
than skip a minute to the broken music you make."

"And what music have I broken?" cried Sir Tristram. "Arthur the King's
music," cried little Dagonet, skipping again and again as Sir Tristram
ceased. Then down the city he danced all the way, while Sir Tristram
passed out into the lonely avenues of the forests. He rode on toward
Lyonesse and the West, thinking of Isolt, the White, whom he loved, and
how he would put the rubies round her neck.

[Illustration: LITTLE DAGONET SKIPPING AGAIN AND AGAIN.]

Arthur, meanwhile, with his hundred spearmen had gone far, far away,
until at last over the countless reeds of marshes and islands he saw a
huge tower glaring in the wide-winged sunset of the West. As he drew
near he saw that the tower doors stood open and heard roars of rioting
and wicked songs of ruffian men and women.

"Look," cried one of his knights, for there high on a grim dead tree
before the tower, a brother of the Round Table was swinging by his neck,
his shield flowing with a shower of blood on a branch near by.

All the knights wanted to dash forward and blow the great horn that hung
beside the gate, but Arthur waved them back and went himself. He blew so
hard that the horn roared until all the grasses of the marshes flared
up, and out of the castle gate sallied a knight dressed from tip to toe
in blood-red arms, the Red Knight.

"Aren't you the king?" he bellowed, "the king that keeps us all with
such strict vows that we can't have any pleasures, a milky-hearted king?
Look to your life now!"

Arthur scorned to speak to so vile a man or to fight him with his sword.
He simply let the drunkard, stretching out from his horse to strike,
fall head-heavy, over from the castle causeway to the swamp below.

Then all the Round Table Knights roared and shouted, leaped down on the
fallen man, trampled out his face in the mire, sank his head so that it
could not be seen, and, still shouting, sprang through the open doors
among the people within. They hurled their swords right and left on men
and women, hurled over the tables and the wines and slew and slew until
all the rafters rang with yells and all the pavements streamed with
blood. Then they set the tower all afire and half the night through it
flushed the long low meadows and marshlands and lazily plunging sea with
its flames. That was how Arthur made the ways of the island safe from
one shore to the other.

Sir Tristram, not many nights after, reached Tintagil, where Isolt, the
White, lived in a crown of towers, where she now sat with the low
sea-sunset glorying her hair and glossy throat, thinking of him and of
Mark, her Cornish lord.

When Tristram's footsteps came grinding up the tower steps she flushed,
started out to meet him and threw her white arms about him.

"Not Mark, not Mark!" she cried. "At first your footsteps fluttered me,
for Mark steals into his own castle like a cat."

"No, it's I," said Sir Tristram, "and don't think about your Mark any
more, for he isn't yours any longer."

"But listen," she cried, "to-day he went away for a three days' hunt, he
said, and that means that he may be back in an hour for that's his way.
My God, my hate for him is as strong as my love for you. Let me tell you
how I sat here one evening thinking of you, one black midsummer night,
all alone, dreaming of you, and sometimes speaking your name aloud, when
suddenly there Mark stood behind me, for that's his way to steal behind
one in the dark.

"'Tristram has married her!' he hissed out and then this tower shook
with such a roar that I swooned away."

"Come," cried Sir Tristram, laughing, "never mind, I'm hungry, give me
some meat and wine."

So they ate and drank, talked and laughed about Mark with his long
crane-like legs, and Sir Tristram took a harp and sang a song. Then
while the last light of the day glimmered away he swung the ruby
necklace before Isolt.

"It's the fruit of a magical oak-tree that grew mid air," he cried, "and
was won by Sir Tristram as a tourney prize to bring to you."

Flinging the rubies round her neck he had just touched her jeweled
throat with his lips when behind him rose a shadow and a shriek.

"Mark's way!" cried Mark, the Cornish king, and he clove Tristram
through the brain.

       *       *       *       *       *

That very night Arthur came back from the North, and as he climbed up
the tower steps to go to the queen, in the dark of the tower something
pulled at him. It was little Dagonet.

"Who are you?" said the king.

"I'm little Dagonet, your fool," sobbed the little jester, "and I cry
because I can never make you laugh again."



THE PASSING OF ARTHUR.


One night King Arthur saw Sir Gawain in a dream, and Gawain, who had
been killed, shrilly called out to him through the wind:

"Hail King! to-morrow you are going to pass away, and there's a land of
rest for you. Farewell!"

But when Arthur told his dream to Sir Bedivere, good old Sir Bedivere
replied, "Don't mind what dreams tell you, but get your knights together
and go out to the West to meet Sir Modred, who has stirred up against
you so many of the knights you love. They all know in their hearts that
you are king. Go and conquer them as of old."

So the king took his army by night and pushed upon Modred league after
league, until they reached the Western part of Lyonesse where the long
mountains ended in the moaning sea. There Modred's men could flee no
farther, so on the waste lands by the barren sea they began that last
dim weird battle of the West.

A white chill mist slept over all the land and water so that even Arthur
became confused since he could not see which were his friends and which
were his foes. Friends killed friends, some saw the faces of old ghosts
looking in upon the battle. Spears were splintered, shields were broken,
swords clashed, helmets were shattered, men shrieked and looked up to
heaven for help but saw only the white, white mists. There were cries
for light and moans.

At last toward the close of the day a hush fell over the whole shore; a
bitter wind from the North blew the mist aside and the pale king looked
across the battlefield. But no one was there only the waves breaking in
among the dead faces.

But bold Bedivere said: "My King! the man who hates you stands there,
Modred, the traitor of your house!"

"Don't call this traitor a person of my house," the king replied. "The
men of my house are not those who have lived under one roof with me, but
those who always call me their king."

With that, Arthur dashed after Modred. Modred struck at the king's
helmet, which had grown thin with all his heathen wars. Arthur with his
sword Excalibur struck Modred dead, then fell down himself almost killed
with the wound through his helmet.

Sir Bedivere lifted him up and carried him to a chapel near by.

"Take my sword, Excalibur," said the King, "and fling it out into the
middle of the sea, watch what happens to it and then come back at once
and tell me."

"It doesn't seem right to leave you all alone here," said Sir Bedivere,
"when you are wounded and ill, but since you wish me to go, I will, and
will do all that you have told me."

He slipped away by zigzag paths, points and jutting rock to the shining
level of the sea. There he drew out the sword Excalibur. The winter moon
sparkled against its hilt and made it twinkle with its diamond sparks,
with myriads of topaz lights and fine jewelry work. Bedivere gazed so
long at it that both his eyes were dazzled as he stood, and he wondered
whether he ought to throw away so beautiful a thing. At last he decided
to hide it away among the water-flags that grew along shore.

"Did you do as I said?" asked the king, when he saw him. "What did you
see?"

"I heard the ripple washing in the reeds," said Sir Bedivere, "and the
wild water lapping on the rock."

"You are not giving me a true answer," said the king, faint and pale.
"It's shameful for men to lie. Quickly go again and as you are true and
dear, do just as I bade you. Watch and bring me word."

Then Sir Bedivere went the second time and paced up and down beside the
pebbly water, counting the dewey pebbles, but when he saw the wonderful
sword he clapped his hands together and cried:

"If I threw that sword away, a precious thing will be lost forever. The
King is ill; he does not know what he is doing. His great sword ought to
be kept, then in long years hereafter people will look at it at the
tournament and they will say: 'This was the great Arthur's sword
Excalibur which was made by the lonely lady of the Lake, working in the
deep sea for nine years.'"

So the second time he hid Excalibur and strode very slowly back to the
king.

"What did you see or what did you hear?" asked Arthur breathing very
heavily.

"I heard the water lapping on the rock and the long ripples washing in
the reeds."

"Unkind! miserable! untrue! unknightly!" cried Arthur, filled with
anger. "I see what you are, for you are the only one left me of all the
knights, yet you would betray me for my sword, either to sell it or like
a girl, because you love its beauty. Go out now the third time and if
you do not throw out my sword Excalibur I'll get up and kill you with my
hands."

At this Sir Bedivere sprang up like a flash and ran down leaping lightly
over the ridges, plunged into the beds of bulrushes, clutched the sword,
wheeled it round strongly and threw it as far as he could.

Excalibur made lightning in the moonlight as it flashed round and round
and whirled in an arch, shooting far out to the water. But before it
quite dipped into the sea an arm robed in white samite, mystic and
wonderful, rose out of the waves, caught it by the hilt, brandished it
three times and drew it under.

"Now I can see by your eyes that you have done it!" cried the King.
"Speak out; what have you seen or heard?"

"Sir King," cried Sir Bedivere, "I closed my eyes when I picked it up so
that I would not be turned from my purpose of throwing it into the
water, for I could live three lives, Sir King, and I wouldn't again see
such a wonderful thing as your sword. Sir, I threw it out with both
hands, wheeling it round and when I looked an arm robed in white samite
reached up out of the water and caught it by the hilt, brandished it
three times and drew it under."

"Carry me to the shore," said the king.

[Illustration: AN ARM ROBED IN WHITE SAMITE.]

So Bedivere lifted him up and walked as swiftly as he could from the
ridge, heavily, heavily down to the beach. As they reached the shore
they saw a black barge beside the water filled with stately people all
dressed in black. Among the people were three queens wearing crowns of
gold.

"Put me into the barge," cried Arthur.

So they came to the barge and the three queens held out their hands and
took the king.

The tallest and fairest of them held his head upon her lap loosed his
shattered helmet and chafed his hands, and moaned tenderly over him.

"Ah, my lord Arthur," cried Sir Bedivere, "where shall I go now? For
the old times are past now and the whole Round Table is broken."

"Go and pray," cried the king. "Farewell, for I am going a very long way
to the lovely Island-valley of Avilion where it will never hail nor rain
nor snow, and where the loud winds never blow. It lies in deep meadows,
beautiful with lawns and fruit trees and flowery glens."

Then the barge set sail and oar, and moved away from the shore.

"The king is gone!" groaned Bedivere.

He walked away from the shore and climbed up to the highest peaks and
ridges about him and looked far, far away. And from far away out beyond
the world he thought he heard sounds from a beautiful city as if every
one in it all together were welcoming a great King who had just come
back from his wars.

END.



Transcriber's Note:

Minor spelling and typographical errors have been corrected without note.
There are inconsistencies with italicising text that refers to
illustrations. I have left these as in the original text.

   Corrections made include the following:
   p34. ecstacy => ecstasy
   p37. meaintime => meantime
   p52. magnificientn => magnificent
   p66. Springly => Springing
   p75. Geriant => Geraint
   p90. jealously => jealousy
   p100. though => through
   p101. passed => past
   p101. musn't => mustn't
   p106. heathern => heathen
   p106. Gunievere => Guinevere
   p117. to => that
   p146. Mordred => Modred





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