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Title: Historic Tales, Vol 14  (of 15) - The Romance of Reality
Author: Morris, Charles, 1833-1922
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Notes:

1. Passages in italics are surrounded by _underscores_.

2. Minor punctuation errors have been corrected.

3. A complete list of spelling corrections and notations is located at
   the end of this text.



                           _Édition d'Élite_


                            Historical Tales

                         The Romance of Reality

                                   By

                             CHARLES MORRIS


      _Author of "Half-Hours with the Best American Authors," "Tales
                       from the Dramatists," etc._


                           IN FIFTEEN VOLUMES

                               Volume XIV


                               King Arthur

                                    2


                         J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

                         PHILADELPHIA AND LONDON


               Copyright, 1891, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.

               Copyright, 1904, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.

               Copyright, 1908, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.


[Illustration: CONWAY CASTLE.]



                          CONTENTS TO VOLUME II.


                                BOOK VIII.

                    TRISTRAM AND ISOLDE AT JOYOUS GARD.

      CHAPTER.                                             PAGE.

         I.--THE TREACHERY OF KING MARK                       9

        II.--HOW TRISTRAM BEFOOLED DINADAN                   23

       III.--ON THE ROAD TO LONAZEP                          36

        IV.--HOW PALAMIDES FARED AT THE RED CITY             46

         V.--THE TOURNAMENT AT LONAZEP                       55

        VI.--THE SECOND DAY OF THE TOURNAMENT                70

       VII.--THE WOES OF TWO LOVERS                          83

      VIII.--THE RIVALRY OF TRISTRAM AND PALAMIDES           92


                                 BOOK IX.

                       THE QUEST OF THE HOLY GRAIL.

         I.--THE ENCHANTED CASTLE OF KING PELLAM            117

        II.--THE MARVEL OF THE FLOATING SWORD               125

       III.--HOW GALAHAD GOT HIS SHIELD                     141

        IV.--THE TEMPTATION OF SIR PERCIVALE                155

         V.--THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF SIR BORS             173

        VI.--THE ADVENTURE OF THE MAGIC SHIP                195

       VII.--HOW LANCELOT SAW THE SANGREAL                  207

      VIII.--THE DEEDS OF THE THREE CHOSEN KNIGHTS          217


                                 BOOK X.

                    THE LOVE OF LANCELOT AND GUENEVER.

         I.--THE POISONING OF SIR PATRISE                   226

        II.--THE LILY MAID OF ASTOLAT                       239

       III.--HOW ELAINE DIED FOR LOVE                       251

        IV.--THE CHEVALIER OF THE CART                      260


                                 BOOK XI.

                           THE HAND OF DESTINY.

         I.--THE TRAPPING OF THE LION                       280

        II.--THE RESCUE OF THE QUEEN                        288

       III.--THE RETURN OF GUENEVER                         297

        IV.--THE WAR BETWEEN ARTHUR AND LANCELOT            314

         V.--THE STING OF THE VIPER                         323

        VI.--THE PASSING OF ARTHUR                          335

       VII.--THE DEATH OF LANCELOT AND GUENEVER             339



                          LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


                          KING ARTHUR. VOL. II.

                                                           PAGE

      CONWAY CASTLE                           _Frontispiece._

      ST. MICHAEL'S MOUNT, CORNWALL                          10

      THE ROUND TABLE OF KING ARTHUR                         16

      MARRIAGE OF SIR TRISTRAM                               24

      THE ASSAULT OF SIR TRISTRAM                            42

      SIR TRISTRAM AT JOYOUS GARD                            55

      THE DEPARTURE                                          93

      ON THE QUEST OF THE HOLY GRAIL                        118

      JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA                                   134

      OATH OF KNIGHTHOOD                                    144

      SIR GALAHAD FIGHTING THE SEVEN SINS                   153

      AN OLD AND HALF-RUINED CHAPEL                         183

      THE MAGIC SHIP                                        198

      SIR GALAHAD'S QUEST OF THE HOLY GRAIL                 217

      SALISBURY CATHEDRAL                                   225

      "YOU ARE WELCOME, BOTH," SAID SIR BERNARD             241

      ELAINE                                                259

      SIR LANCELOT IN THE QUEEN'S CHAMBER                   287

      THE TOWER OF LONDON                                   324

      THE OLD KITCHEN OF GLASTONBURY ABBEY                  345

       *       *       *       *       *



                             KING ARTHUR

                               AND THE

                      KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE.



                              BOOK VIII.

                  TRISTRAM AND ISOLDE AT JOYOUS GARD



CHAPTER I.

THE TREACHERY OF KING MARK.


The story of Tristram's valorous deeds, and of the high honor in which
he was held at Camelot, in good time came to Cornwall, where it filled
King Mark's soul with revengeful fury, and stirred the heart of La Belle
Isolde to the warmest love. The coward king, indeed, in his jealous
hatred of his nephew, set out in disguise for England, with murderous
designs against Tristram should an opportunity occur.

Many things happened to him there, and he was brought into deep
disgrace, but the story of his adventures may be passed over in brief
review, lest the reader should find it wearisome.

Not far had he ridden on English soil before he met with Dinadan, who,
in his jesting humor, soon played him a merry trick. For he arrayed
Dagonet, the king's fool, in a suit of armor, which he made Mark believe
was Lancelot's. Thus prepared, Dagonet rode to meet him and challenged
him to a joust. But King Mark, on seeing what he fancied was Lancelot's
shield, turned and fled at headlong speed, followed by the fool and his
comrades with hunting cries and laughter till the forest rang with the
noise.

Escaping at length from this merry chase, the trembling dastard made his
way to Camelot, where he hoped some chance would arise to aid him in his
murderous designs on Tristram. But a knight of his own train, named Sir
Amant, had arrived there before him, and accused him of treason to the
king, without telling who he was.

"This is a charge that must be settled by wager of battle," said King
Arthur. "The quarrel is between you; you must decide it with sword and
spear."

In the battle that followed, Sir Amant, by unlucky fortune, was run
through, and fell from his horse with a mortal wound.

"Heaven has decided in my favor," cried King Mark. "But here I shall no
longer stay, for it does not seem a safe harbor for honest knights."

He thereupon rode away, fearing that Dinadan would reveal his name. Yet
not far had he gone before Lancelot came in furious haste after him.

[Illustration: ST. MICHAEL'S MOUNT, CORNWALL.]

"Turn again, thou recreant king and knight," he loudly called. "To
Arthur's court you must return, whether it is your will or not. We know
you, villain. Sir Amant has told your name and purpose; and, by my
faith, I am strongly moved to kill you on the spot."

"Fair sir," asked King Mark, "what is your name?"

"My name is Lancelot du Lake. Defend yourself, dog and dastard."

On hearing this dreaded name, and seeing Lancelot riding upon him with
spear in rest, King Mark tumbled like a sack of grain from his saddle to
the earth, crying in terror, "I yield me, Sir Lancelot! I yield me!" and
begging piteously for mercy.

"Thou villain!" thundered Lancelot, "I would give much to deal thee one
buffet for the love of Tristram and Isolde. Mount, dog, and follow me."

Mark hastened to obey, and was thus brought like a slave back to
Arthur's court, where he made such prayers and promises that in the end
the king forgave him, but only on condition that he would enter into
accord with Tristram, and remove from him the sentence of banishment.
All this King Mark volubly promised and swore to abide by, though a
false heart underlay his fair words. But Tristram gladly accepted the
proffered truce with his old enemy, for his heart burned with desire to
see his lady love again.

Soon afterwards Dinadan, with Dagonet and his companions, came to court,
and great was the laughter and jesting at King Mark when they told the
story of his flight from Arthur's fool.

"This is all very well for you stay-at-homes," cried Mark; "but even a
fool in Lancelot's armor is not to be played with. As it was, Dagonet
paid for his masquerade, for he met a knight who brought him like a log
to the ground, and all these laughing fellows with him."

"Who was that?" asked King Arthur.

"I can tell you," said Dinadan. "It was Sir Palamides. I followed him
through the forest, and a lively time we had in company."

"Aha! then you have had adventures."

"Rare ones. We met a knight before Morgan le Fay's castle. You know the
custom there, to let no knight pass without a hard fight for it. This
stranger made havoc with the custom, for he overthrew ten of your
sister's knights, and killed some of them. He afterwards tilted with
Palamides for offering to help him, and gave that doughty fellow a sore
wound."

"Who was this mighty champion? Not Lancelot or Tristram?" asked the
king, looking around.

"On our faith we had no hand in it," they both answered.

"It was the knight next to them in renown," answered Dinadan.

"Lamorak of Wales?"

"No less. And, my faith, a sturdy fellow he is. I left him and Palamides
the best of friends."

"I hope, then, to see the pair of them at next week's tournament," said
the king.

Alas for Lamorak! Better for him far had he kept away from that
tournament. His gallant career was near its end, for treachery and
hatred were soon to seal his fate. This sorrowful story it is now our
sad duty to tell.

Lamorak had long loved Margause, the queen of Orkney, Arthur's sister
and the mother of Gawaine and his brethren. For this they hated him, and
with treacherous intent invited their mother to a castle near Camelot,
as a lure to her lover. Soon after the tournament, at which Lamorak won
the prize of valor, and redoubled the hatred of Gawaine and his brothers
by overcoming them in the fray, word was brought to the victorious
knight that Margause was near at hand and wished to see him.

With a lover's ardor, he hastened to the castle where she was, but, as
they sat in the queen's apartment in conversation, the door was suddenly
flung open, and Gaheris, one of the murderous brethren, burst in, full
armed and with a naked sword in his hand. Rushing in fury on the
unsuspecting lovers, with one dreadful blow he struck off his mother's
head, crimsoning Lamorak with her blood. He next assailed Lamorak, who,
being unarmed, was forced to fly for his life, and barely escaped.

The tidings of this dread affair filled the land with dismay, and many
of the good knights of Arthur's court threatened reprisal. Arthur
himself was full of wrath at the death of his sister. Yet those were
days when law ruled not, but force was master, and retribution only came
from the strong hand and the ready sword. This was Lamorak's quarrel,
and the king, though he vowed to protect him from his foes, declared
that the good knight of Wales must seek retribution with his own hand.

He gained death, alas! instead of revenge, for his foes proved too
vigilant for him, and overcame him by vile treachery. Watching his
movements, they lay in ambush for him at a difficult place, and as he
was passing, unsuspicious of danger, they set suddenly upon him, slew
his horse, and assailed him on foot.

Gawaine, Mordred, and Gaheris formed this ambush, for the noble-minded
Gareth had refused to take part in their murderous plot; and with
desperate fury they assaulted the noble Welsh knight, who, for three
hours, defended himself against their utmost strength. But at the last
Mordred dealt him a death-blow from behind, and when he fell in death
the three murders hewed him with their swords till scarce a trace of the
human form was left.

Thus perished one of the noblest of Arthur's knights, and thus was done
one of the most villanous deeds of blood ever known in those days of
chivalrous war.

Before the death of Lamorak another event happened at Arthur's court
which must here be told, for it was marvellous in itself, and had in it
the promise of wondrous future deeds.

One day there came to the court at Camelot a knight attended by a young
squire. When he had disarmed he went to the king and asked him to give
the honor of knighthood to his squire.

"What claim has he to it?" asked the king. "Of what lineage is he?"

"He is the youngest son of King Pellinore, and brother to Sir Lamorak.
He is my brother also; for my name is Aglavale, and I am of the same
descent."

"What is his name?"

"Percivale."

"Then for my love of Lamorak, and the love I bore your father, he shall
be made a knight to-morrow."

So when the morrow dawned, the king ordered that the youth should be
brought into the great hall, and there he knighted him, dealing him the
accolade with his good sword Excalibur.

And so the day passed on till the dinner-hour, when the king seated
himself at the head of the table, while down its sides were many knights
of prowess and renown. Percivale, the new-made knight, was given a seat
among the squires and the untried knights, who sat at the lower end of
the great dining-table.

But in the midst of their dinner an event of great strangeness occurred.
For there came into the hall one of the queen's maidens, who was of high
birth, but who had been born dumb, and in all her life had spoken no
word. Straight across the hall she walked, while all gazed at her in
mute surprise, till she came to where Percivale sat. Then she took him
by the hand, and spoke in a voice that rang through the hall with the
clearness of a trumpet,--

"Arise, Sir Percivale, thou noble knight and warrior of God's own
choosing. Arise and come with me."

He rose in deep surprise, while all the others sat in dumb wonder at
this miracle. To the Round Table she led him, and to the right side of
the seat perilous, in which no knight had hitherto dared to sit.

"Fair knight, take here your seat;" she said. "This seat belongs to you,
and to none other, and shall be yours until a greater than you shall
come."

This said, she departed and asked for a priest. Then was she confessed
and given the sacrament, and forthwith died. But the king and all his
court gazed with wonder on Sir Percivale, and asked themselves what all
this meant, and for what great career God had picked out this youthful
knight, for such a miracle no man there had ever seen before.

Meanwhile, King Mark had gone back to Cornwall, and with him went Sir
Tristram, at King Arthur's request, though not till Arthur had made the
Cornish king swear on Holy Scripture to do his guest no harm, but hold
him in honor and esteem.

Lancelot, however, was full of dread and anger when he heard what had
occurred, and he told King Mark plainly that if he did mischief to Sir
Tristram he would slay him with his own hands.

"Bear this well in mind, sir king," he said, "for I have a way of
keeping my word."

"I have sworn before King Arthur to treat him honorably," answered Mark.
"I, too, have a way of keeping my word."

"A way, I doubt not," said Lancelot, scornfully; "but not my way. Your
reputation for truth needs mending. And all men know for what you came
into this country. Therefore, take heed what you do."

[Illustration: Copyright 1895 by E. A. Abbey; from a Copely print
copyright 1897 by Curtis and Cameron.

THE ROUND TABLE OF KING ARTHUR.]

Then Mark and Tristram departed, and soon after they reached Cornwall a
damsel was sent to Camelot with news of their safe arrival, and bearing
letters from Tristram to Arthur and Lancelot. These they answered and
sent the damsel back, the burden of Lancelot's letter being, "Beware of
King Fox, for his ways are ways of wiles."

They also sent letters to King Mark, threatening him if he should do
aught to Tristram's injury. These letters worked harm only, for they
roused the evil spirit in the Cornish king's soul, stirring him up to
anger and thirst for revenge. He thereupon wrote to Arthur, bidding him
to meddle with his own concerns, and to take heed to his wife and his
knights, which would give him work enough to do. As for Sir Tristram, he
said that he held him to be his mortal enemy.

He wrote also to Queen Guenever, his letter being full of shameful
charges of illicit relations with Sir Lancelot, and dishonor to her
lord, the king. Full of wrath at these vile charges, Guenever took the
letter to Lancelot, who was half beside himself with anger on reading
it.

"You cannot get at him to make him eat his words," said Dinadan, whom
Lancelot took into his confidence. "And if you seek to bring him to
terms with pen and ink, you will find that his villany will get the
better of your honesty. Yet there are other ways of dealing with
cowardly curs. Leave him to me; I will make him wince. I will write a
mocking lay of King Mark and his doings, and will send a harper to sing
it before him at his court. When this noble king has heard my song I
fancy he will admit that there are other ways of gaining revenge besides
writing scurrilous letters."

A stinging lay, indeed, was that which Dinadan composed. When done he
taught it to a harper named Eliot, who in his turn taught it to other
harpers, and these, by the orders of Arthur and Lancelot, went into
Wales and Cornwall to sing it everywhere.

Meanwhile King Mark's crown had been in great danger. For his country
had been invaded by an army from Session, led by a noted warrior named
Elias, who drove the forces of Cornwall from the field and besieged the
king in his castle of Tintagil. And now Tristram came nobly to the
rescue. At the head of the Cornish forces he drove back the besiegers
with heavy loss, and challenged Elias to a single combat to end the war.
The challenge was accepted, and a long and furious combat followed, but
in the end Elias was slain, and the remnant of his army forced to
surrender.

This great service added to the seeming accord between Tristram and the
king, but in his heart Mark nursed all his old bitterness, and hated him
the more that he had helped him. His secret fury soon found occasion to
flame to the surface. For at the feast which was given in honor of the
victory, Eliot, the harper, appeared, and sang before the king and his
lords the lay that Dinadan had made.

This was so full of ridicule and scorn of King Mark that he leaped from
his seat in a fury of wrath before the harper had half finished.

"Thou villanous twanger of strings!" he cried. "What hound sent you into
this land to insult me with your scurrilous songs?"

"I am a minstrel," said Eliot, "and must obey the orders of my lord.
Sir Dinadan made this song, if you would know, and bade me sing it
here."

"That jesting fool!" cried Mark, in wrath. "As for you, fellow, you
shall go free through minstrels' license. But if you lose any time in
getting out of this country you may find that Cornish air is not good
for you."

The harper took this advice and hastened away, bearing letters from
Tristram to Lancelot and Dinadan. But King Mark turned the weight of his
anger against Tristram, whom he believed had instigated this insult,
with the design to set all the nobles of his own court laughing at him.
And well he knew that the villanous lay would be sung throughout the
land, and that he would be made the jest of all the kingdom.

"They have their sport now," he said. "Mine will come. Tristram of
Lyonesse shall pay dearly for this insult. And all that hold with him
shall learn that King Mark of Cornwall is no child's bauble to be played
with."

The evil-minded king was not long in putting his project in execution.
At a tournament which was held soon afterwards Tristram was badly
wounded, and King Mark, with great show of sorrow, had him borne to a
castle near by, where he took him under his own care as nurse and leech.

Here he gave him a sleeping draught, and had him borne while slumbering
to another castle, where he was placed in a strong prison cell, under
the charge of stern keepers.

The disappearance of Tristram made a great stir in the kingdom. La Belle
Isolde, fearing treachery, went to a faithful knight named Sir Sadok,
and begged him to try and discover what had become of the missing
knight. Sadok set himself diligently to work; and soon learned that
Tristram was held captive in the castle of Lyonesse. Then he went to
Dinas, the seneschal, and others, and told them what had been done, at
which they broke into open rebellion against King Mark, and took
possession of all the towns and castles in the country of Lyonesse,
filling them with their followers.

But while the rebellious army was preparing to march on Tintagil, and
force King Mark to set free his prisoner, Tristram was delivered by the
young knight Sir Percivale, who had come thither in search of
adventures, and had heard of King Mark's base deed. Great was the joy
between these noble knights, and Tristram said,--

"Will you abide in these marches, Sir Percivale? If so, I will keep you
company."

"Nay, dear friend, I cannot tarry here. Duty calls me into Wales."

But before leaving Cornwall he went to King Mark, told him what he had
done, and threatened him with the revenge of all honorable knights if he
sought again to injure his noble nephew.

"What would you have me do?" asked the king. "Shall I harbor a man who
openly makes love to my wife and queen?"

"Is there any shame in a nephew showing an open affection for his
uncle's wife?" asked Percivale. "No man will dare say that so noble a
warrior as Sir Tristram would go beyond the borders of sinless love, or
will dare accuse the virtuous lady La Belle Isolde of lack of chastity.
You have let jealousy run away with your wisdom, King Mark."

So saying, he departed; but his words had little effect on King Mark's
mind. No sooner had Percivale gone than he began new devices to gratify
his hatred of his nephew. He sent word to Dinas, the seneschal, under
oath, that he intended to go to the Pope and join the war against the
infidel Saracens, which he looked upon as a nobler service than that of
raising the people against their lawful king.

So earnest were his professions that Dinas believed him and dismissed
his forces, but no sooner was this done than King Mark set aside his
oath and had Tristram again privately seized and imprisoned.

This new outrage filled the whole realm with tumult and rebellious
feeling. La Belle Isolde was at first thrown into the deepest grief, and
then her heart swelled high with resolution to live no longer with the
dastard who called her wife. Tristram at the same time privately sent
her a letter, advising her to leave the court of her villanous lord, and
offering to go with her to Arthur's realm, if she would have a vessel
privately made ready.

The queen thereupon had an interview with Dinas and Sadok, and begged
them to seize and imprison the king, since she was resolved to escape
from his power.

Furious at the fox-like treachery of the king, these knights did as
requested, for they formed a plot by which Mark was privately seized,
and they imprisoned him secretly in a strong dungeon. At the same time
Tristram was delivered, and soon sailed openly away from Cornwall with
La Belle Isolde, gladly shaking the dust of that realm of treachery from
his feet.

In due time the vessel touched shore in King Arthur's dominions, and
gladly throbbed the heart of the long-unhappy queen as her feet touched
that free and friendly soil. As for Tristram, never was lover fuller of
joy, and life seemed to him to have just begun.

Not long had they landed when a knightly chance brought Lancelot into
their company. Warm indeed was the greeting of those two noble
companions, and glad the welcome which Lancelot gave Isolde to English
soil.

"You have done well," he said, "to fly from that wolf's den. There is no
noble knight in the world but hates King Mark and will honor you for
leaving his palace of vile devices. Come with me, you shall be housed at
my expense."

Then he rode with them to his own castle of Joyous Gard, a noble
stronghold which he had won with his own hands. A royal castle it was,
garnished and provided with a richness which no king or queen could
surpass. Here Lancelot bade them use everything as their own, and
charged all his people to love and honor them as they would himself.

"Joyous Gard is yours as long as you will honor it by making it your
home," he said. "As for me, I can have no greater joy than to know that
my castle is so nobly tenanted, and that Tristram of Lyonesse and Queen
Isolde are my honored guests."

Leaving them, Lancelot rode to Camelot, where he told Arthur and
Guenever of what had happened, much to their joy and delight.

"By my crown," cried Arthur, joyfully, "the coming of Tristram and
Isolde to my realm is no everyday event, and is worthy of the highest
honor. We must signalize it with a noble tournament."

Then he gave orders that a stately passage-at-arms should be held on
May-day at the castle of Lonazep, which was near Joyous Gard. And word
was sent far and near that the knights of his own realm of Logris, with
those of Cornwall and North Wales, would be pitted against those of the
rest of England, of Ireland and Scotland, and of lands beyond the seas.



CHAPTER II.

HOW TRISTRAM BEFOOLED DINADAN.


Never were two happier lovers than Tristram and Isolde at Joyous Gard.
Their days were spent in feasting and merriment, Isolde's heart
overflowing with joy to be free from the jealousy of her ill-tempered
spouse, and Tristram's to have his lady love to himself, far from
treacherous plots and murderous devices.

Every day Tristram went hunting, for at that time men say he was the
best courser at the chase in the world, and the rarest blower of the
horn among all lovers of sport. From him, it is said, came all the
terms of hunting and hawking, the distinction between beasts of the
chase and vermin, all methods of dealing with hounds and with game, and
all the blasts of the chase and the recall, so that they who delight in
huntsmen's sport will have cause to the world's end to love Sir Tristram
and pray for his soul's repose.

Yet Isolde at length grew anxious for his welfare, and said,--

"I marvel that you ride so much to the chase unarmed. This is a country
not well known to you, and one that contains many false knights, while
King Mark may lay some plot for your destruction. I pray you, my dear
love, to take more heed to your safety."

This advice seemed timely, and thereafter Tristram rode in armor to the
chase, and followed by men who bore his shield and spear. One day, a
little before the month of May, he followed a hart eagerly, but as the
animal led him by a cool woodland spring, he alighted to quench his
thirst in the gurgling waters.

Here, by chance, he met with Dinadan, who had come into that country in
search of him. Some words of greeting passed between them, after which
Dinadan asked him his name, telling his own. This confidence Tristram
declined to return, whereupon Dinadan burst out in anger.

[Illustration: MARRIAGE OF SIR TRISTRAM.]

"You value your name highly, sir knight," he said. "Do you design to
ride everywhere under a mask? Such a foolish knight as you I saw but
lately lying by a well. He seemed like one asleep, and no word could be
got from him, yet all the time he grinned like a fool. The fellow was
either an idiot or a lover, I know not which."

"And are not you a lover?" asked Tristram.

"Marry, my wit has saved me from that craft."

"That is not well said," answered Tristram. "A knight who disdains love
is but half a man, and not half a warrior."

"I am ready to stand by my creed," retorted Dinadan. "As for you,
sirrah, you shall tell me your name, or do battle with me."

"You will not get my name by a threat, I promise you that," said
Tristram. "I shall not fight till I am in the mood; and when I do, you
may get more than you bargain for."

"I fear you not, coward," said Dinadan.

"If you are so full of valor, here is your man," said Tristram, pointing
to a knight who rode along the forest aisle towards them. "He looks
ready for a joust."

"On my life, it is the same dull-plate knave I saw lying by the well,
neither sleeping nor waking," said Dinadan.

"This is not the first time I have seen that covered shield of azure,"
said Tristram. "This knight is Sir Epinegris, the son of the king of
Northumberland, than whom the land holds no more ardent lover, for his
heart is gone utterly out to the fair daughter of the king of Wales.
Now, if you care to find whether a lover or a non-lover is the better
knight, here is your opportunity."

"I shall teach him to grin to more purpose," said Dinadan. "Stand by and
you shall see."

Then, as the lover approached, he cried,--

"Halt, sir knight, and make ready to joust, as is the custom with errant
knights."

"Let it be so, if you will," answered Epinegris. "Since it is the custom
of you knight-errant to make a man joust whether he will or no, I am
your man."

"Make ready, then, for here is for you."

Then they spurred their horses and rode together at full speed, Dinadan
breaking his spear, while Epinegris struck him so shrewd a blow that he
rolled upon the earth.

"How now?" cried Tristram. "It seems to me that the lover has best
sped."

"Will you play the coward?" queried Dinadan. "Or will you, like a good
knight, revenge me?"

"I am not in the mood," answered Tristram. "Take your horse, Sir
Dinadan, and let us get away from here, where hard blows are more
plentiful than soft beds."

"Defend me from such fellowship as yours!" roared Dinadan. "Take your
way and I will take mine. We fit not well together."

"I might give you news of Sir Tristram."

"Sir Tristram, if he be wise, will seek better company. I can do without
your news, as I have had to do without your help," and he rode on in
high dudgeon.

"Farewell, then," cried Tristram, laughing. "It may happen we shall soon
meet again."

Tristram rode back in much amusement to Joyous Gard, but on coming near
he heard in the neighboring town a great outcry.

"What means this noise?" he asked.

"Sir," he was told, "a knight of the castle has just been slain by two
strangers, and for no other cause than saying that Sir Lancelot was a
better knight than Sir Gawaine."

"Who would dispute that?" said Tristram. "It is a small cause for the
death of a good man, that he stands for his lord's fame."

"But what remedy have we?" said the towns-men. "If Lancelot had been
here, these fellows would soon have been called to a reckoning. But,
alas, he is away."

"I may do something in his service," answered Tristram. "If I take his
place, I must defend his followers."

Thereupon he sent for his shield and spear, and rode in pursuit of the
two knights, whom he overtook before they had gone far.

"Turn, sir dastards," he cried, "and amend your misdeeds."

"What amends wish you?" asked one of the knights. "We are ready with
spear and sword to make good whatever we have done."

He rode against Tristram, but was met so sturdily in mid career that he
was thrust over his horse's tail. Then the other rode against him, and
was served in the same rough manner.

They rose as quickly as they could, drew their swords, and challenged
him to battle on foot.

"You shall tell me your names," he said, sternly. "I warn you that if it
comes to sword-play you will find more than your match. Yet you may have
that in your lineage which will keep you from my hands, however much you
deserve punishment for your evil deeds."

"As for our names, we dread not to tell them. We are Agravaine and
Gaheris, brothers to the good knight Gawaine, and nephews of King
Arthur."

"For Arthur's sake, then, I must let you pass unscathed. Yet it is a
crying shame that men of such good blood as you should play the part of
murderers. You slew among you a better knight than the best of your kin,
Lamorak de Galis, and I would to God I had been by at that time."

"You would have gone the same road," said Gaheris.

"Not without more knights to do it than you had in your murderous crew."

With these words he turned from them and rode back towards Joyous Gard.
When he had gone they regained their horses, and feeling themselves safe
in the saddle their courage returned.

"Let us pursue this boaster," they said, "and see if he fares so much
better than Lamorak."

They did so, and when they came near Tristram, who was jogging slowly
along, Agravaine cried,--

"Turn, traitor knight!"

"Traitor in your teeth!" cried Tristram, in a rage. "I let you off too
cheaply, it seems." And drawing his sword, he turned upon Agravaine and
smote him so fiercely on the helm that he fell swooning from his horse,
with a dangerous wound.

Then he turned to Gaheris and dealt him a blow that in like manner
tumbled him from his saddle to the earth. This done, Tristram turned and
rode into the castle, leaving them like dead men in the road.

Here he told La Belle Isolde of his several adventures. When he spoke
of Dinadan, she asked,--

"Was it not he that made the song about King Mark?"

"The same," answered Tristram. "He is the greatest jester at Arthur's
court, but a good knight withal, and I know no man whom I like better as
a comrade."

"Why did you not bring him with you?"

"No need of that. He is seeking me through this country, and there is no
fear that he will give up the search lightly."

As they spoke, a servant came and told Tristram that a knight-errant had
entered the town, and described the device on his shield.

"That is our man now," said Tristram. "That is Dinadan. Send for him,
Isolde, and you shall hear the merriest knight and the maddest talker
that you ever spoke with. I pray you to make him heartily welcome, for
he is a cherished friend of mine."

Then Isolde sent into the town with a message to Dinadan, begging that
he would come to the castle and rest a while there, at a lady's wish.

"That will I, with a good will," answered Dinadan. "I were but a churl
else."

He hastened to mount and ride to the castle, and here he was shown to a
chamber where he laid aside his armor. Then he was brought into the
presence of La Belle Isolde, who courteously bade him welcome.

"Whence, come you, and what name do you bear?" she asked.

"Madam," he answered, "I am from King Arthur's court, and am one of the
small fry of Round Table Knights. My name is Dinadan."

"And why came you hither?"

"I am seeking my old friend and comrade, Sir Tristram, who I am told has
made his way to this country."

"That I cannot answer for," said Isolde. "He may and he may not be here.
Sir Tristram will be found where love leads him."

"I warrant me that. Your true lover has no will of his own, but is led
like an ox, with a ring in his nose. I marvel what juice of folly gets
into the pates of these lovers to make them so mad about the women."

"Why, sir," said Isolde, "can it be that you are a knight and no lover?
I fancy that there can be no true man-of-arms who seeks not by his deeds
to win the smiles of the fair."

"They who care to be fed on smiles are welcome to them, but I am not
made of that fashion," answered Dinadan. "The joy of love is too short,
and the sorrow thereof too long, to please my fancy."

"Say you so? Yet near here but to-day was the good knight Sir Bleoberis,
he who fought with three knights at once for a maiden's sake, and won
her before the king of Northumberland."

"I know him for a worthy fellow," said Dinadan, "as are all of
Lancelot's kindred. Yet he has crotchets in his head, like all that
crew."

"Now, I pray you," said Isolde, "will you not do me the grace to fight
for my love with three knights that have done me great wrong? As you
are a knight of King Arthur's, you can never say me nay in such a duty."

"Can I not?" cried Dinadan. "This much I will say, madam, that you are
as fair a sample of womankind as ever I saw, and much more beautiful
than is my lady Queen Guenever. And yet, heaven defend me, I will not
fight for you against three knights; and would not, were you Helen of
Troy herself."

At these words, and the odd grimace which he made, La Belle Isolde burst
into a merry peal of laughter, and broke out with,--

"I know you better than you fancy, Sir Dinadan. And well you keep up
your credit of being a merry fellow. You are very welcome to my castle,
good sir."

They had much more of gameful conversation together, and Dinadan was
treated with all honor, and slept serenely at the castle that night. But
Tristram took good care to keep out of his sight.

Early the next day Tristram armed himself and prepared to ride away,
saying to the Lady Isolde that he would contrive to meet with Dinadan,
and would ride with him to Lonazep, where the tournament was to be held.
He promised also to make arrangements to provide her with a good place
from which to see the passage-at-arms. Then he departed, accompanied by
two squires, who bore his shield and a brace of great and long spears.

Shortly afterwards Dinadan left the castle, bidding a merry adieu to the
lady, and rode so briskly forward that he soon overtook Tristram. He
knew him at sight for his yesterday's comrade, and made a sour grimace
at beholding him.

"So," he said, "here again is my easy-going friend, who wears his armor
for a holiday parade. You shall not get off so lightly to-day, fellow.
You shall joust with me, despite your head."

"Faith, I am not eager," said Tristram, "but a wilful man will have his
way; so let us have it over, if fight we must."

Then they rode at each other, and Dinadan broke a spear on Tristram's
shield, but Tristram purposely missed him.

Dinadan now bade him draw his sword.

"Not I," he answered. "What makes you so warlike? I am not in the humor
to fight."

"You shame all knights by your cowardice."

"So far as that goes, it troubles me little," said Tristram. "Suppose,
my good sir, you take me under your protection. Though I bear arms I
shall gladly accept the patronage of so worthy a knight as you."

"The devil deliver me of you!" cried Dinadan. "You are a fellow of
goodly build, and sit your horse like a warrior; but heaven knows if you
have blood or water in your veins. What do you propose to do with those
great spears that your squire carries?"

"I shall give them to some good knight at the tournament. If you prove
the best there, you are welcome to them."

As they thus conversed they saw a knight-errant in the road before them,
who sat with spear in rest as if eager to joust.

"Come," said Tristram, "since you are so anxious for a fight, yonder is
your man."

"Shame betide you for a dastard," cried Dinadan. "Fight him yourself.
You can't get more than a fall."

"Not so. That knight seems a shrewish fellow. It will need a stronger
hand than mine to manage him."

"Good faith, then, here's to teach you a lesson," said Dinadan, and he
rode fiercely against the other knight, with the unlucky result that he
was thrust from his horse, and fell headlong to the earth.

"What did I tell you?" said Tristram. "You had better have taken a
lesson from my prudence, and let that good fellow alone."

"The fiends take you, coward!" cried Dinadan, as he started to his feet
and drew his sword. "Come, sir knight, you are my better on horseback,
let us have it out on foot."

"Shall it be in love or in anger?" said the other.

"Let it be in love. I am saving all my anger for this do-nothing who
came with me."

"Then I pray you to tell me your name."

"Folks call me Dinadan."

"Ah, and I am your comrade Gareth. I will not fight with an old friend
like Dinadan."

"Nor I with you, by my faith!" cried Dinadan, seizing Gareth's hand and
giving it a warm pressure. "Beaumains is safe from my spear. Here is a
chap now, if you want to try your skill; but if you can get him to fight
you must first learn the art of converting a coward into a man of
valor."

Tristram laughed quietly at this, and bided his time. Nor was there long
to wait, for just then a well-armed knight rode up, on a sturdy horse,
and put his spear in rest as he approached.

"Now, my good sirs," said Tristram, "choose between yourselves which
will joust with yonder knight; for I warn you that I will keep clear of
him."

"Faith, you had better," said Gareth. "Leave him to me."

And he rode against the knight but with such ill-fortune that he was
thrust over his horse's croup.

"It is your turn now," said Tristram to Dinadan. "Honor requires that
you should avenge your comrade Gareth."

"Honor does, eh? Then reason does not, and I always weigh reason against
honor. He has overturned a much bigger fellow than I, and with your kind
permission I will not stir up that hornet."

"Aha, friend Dinadan, your heart fails you after all your boasting. Very
well, you shall see what the coward can do. Make ready, sir knight."

Then Tristram rode against the victorious knight, and dealt him so
shrewd a buffet that he was thrust from his horse.

Dinadan looked at this in amazement. Was this the fellow that professed
cowardice and begged protection? "The cunning rogue," he said to
himself, "has been making game of me. The rascal! where has he learned
the art of turning my weapons on myself?"

The dismounted knight rose to his feet in anger, and drawing his sword,
challenged Tristram to a fight on foot.

"First, tell me your name?" asked Tristram.

"My name is Palamides."

"And what knight hate you most?"

"I hate Sir Tristram to the death. If we meet, one of us must die."

"You need not go far to seek him. I am Tristram de Lyonesse. Now do your
worst."

At this Dinadan started, and struck his hand sturdily on his knee, like
one who has had a shock of surprise. Nor was Palamides less astonished,
and he stood before Tristram like one in a sudden revulsion of feeling.

"I pray you, Sir Tristram," he said, "to forgive my ill-will and my
unkind words. You are a noble knight and worthy of the love of all
honorable warriors. I repent my truculent temper towards you, and, if I
live, will rather do you service than assail you."

"I know your valor well," answered Tristram, "and that it is anything
but fear makes you speak so. Therefore I thank you much for your kind
words. But if you have any shreds of ill-will towards me I am ready to
give you satisfaction."

"My wits have been astray," answered Palamides. "There is no just reason
why we should be at odds, and I am ready to do you knightly service in
all things you may command."

"I take you at your word," cried Tristram, as he grasped Palamides by
the hand. "I have never been your enemy, and know none whom I would
rather have as a friend."

"Would you?" cried Dinadan. "And would have me as your fool, mayhap? By
my knightly faith, you have made a sweet butt of me! I came into this
country for your sake, and by the advice of Sir Lancelot, though he
would not tell me where to find you. By Jove's ears, I never thought to
find you masquerading as a milk-brained coward."

"He could have told you," said Tristram, "for I abode within his own
castle. As for my little sport, friend Dinadan, I cry you mercy."

"Faith, it is but one of my own jests, turned against me," said Dinadan,
with a merry laugh. "I am pinked with my own dart. I forgive you, old
comrade; but I vow I did not know you had such a jolly humor."

"It comes to one in your company," said Tristram, laughing. "The disease
is catching."

And so the four knights rode gayly onward, conversing much as they went,
and laying their plans for the tournament.



CHAPTER III.

ON THE ROAD TO LONAZEP.


The four knights rode onward in company until they came in sight of the
castle of Lonazep, where they saw striking preparations for the
tournament. For not less than four hundred tents and pavilions covered
the plain outside the great circle of the lists, and war-horses and
knights in armor were there in hundreds.

"Truly," said Tristram, "this is the royalest show that I ever saw."

"You forget," answered Palamides. "It had its equal at the Castle of
Maidens, where you won the prize."

"And in that tournament which Galahalt of the Long Isles held in Surluse
there was as great a gathering," said Dinadan.

"I was not there; who won the prize?" asked Tristram.

"Lancelot du Lake, and the next after him was the noble knight Lamorak
de Galis."

"A noble fellow, indeed, I never met his better, save Sir Lancelot. His
murder was shameful, and were they not the nephews of my lord Arthur
that slew him, by my faith they should die the death. And this without
prejudice to you, Sir Gareth."

"Say what you will on that point; I am with you," answered Gareth.
"Though my own brothers did that bloody work, I hold not with them. None
of them love me, as you well know, and I have left their company as
murderers. Had I been by when Lamorak was killed there might have been
another tale to tell."

"Truly that is well said of you," rejoined Tristram. "I would rather
have been there than to have all the gold between here and Rome."

"And I also," said Palamides. "It is a burning disgrace to the Round
Table fellowship that such a knight should have been ambushed and slain
on his way from a passage-at-arms where he had won the prize of valor."

"Out on such treason!" cried Tristram. "The tale of it makes my blood
run cold."

"And mine as well," said Gareth. "I can never love or respect my
brothers again for that ruthless deed."

"Yet to speak of it is useless," said Palamides. "His life is gone; we
cannot bring it back again."

"There lies the pity," said Dinadan. "No matter how good and noble a man
may be, when he stops breathing all else stops with him. By good luck,
though, the same rule holds with villains and cowards. As for Gawaine
and his brothers, except you, Sir Gareth, they hate the best knights of
the Round Table, and Lancelot and his kindred above all. Only that
Lancelot is well aware of this, they might draw him into as deadly a
trap as they drew poor Lamorak."

"Come, come, remember that Gareth is their brother," said Palamides.
"Let us change the subject. Here is this tournament,--what part shall we
play here? My advice is that we four hold together against all that may
assail us."

"That is not my counsel," said Tristram. "By their pavilions we may
count on some four hundred knights, and doubtless many of them worthy
ones. If we play the game of four against all comers we are likely to
find ourselves borne down by numbers. Many good knights have lost the
game by taking too great odds. Manhood is of little avail if it be not
tempered by wisdom. If you think it best we may try it, and see what we
can do in company, but, as a rule, I prefer to fight for my own hand."

As they thus talked they rode away from Lonazep, and in due time came to
the banks of the Humber, where they were surprised by a loud and
grievous cry that seemed full of doleful meaning. Looking over the
waters they saw approaching before the wind a vessel richly draped with
red silk. Not long had they waited when it came to the shore, at a point
close by where they stood.

Seeing this strange thing and hearing the doleful cries which came from
the vessel, the knights gave their horses in care of their squires, and
approached on foot, Tristram boarding the vessel. When he reached the
deck he saw there a bed with rich silken coverings, on which lay a dead
knight, armed save the head, which was crimsoned with blood. And through
great gaps in his armor deadly wounds could be seen.

"What means this?" said Tristram. "How came this knight by his death?"

As he spoke he saw that a letter lay in the dead knight's hand.

"Master mariners," he asked of those on board the vessel, "what does
this strange thing signify?"

"Sir knight," they answered, "by the letter which the dead knight bears
you may learn how and for what cause he was slain, and what name he
bore. Yet first heed well this warning: No man must take and read that
letter unless he be a knight of proved valor, and faithfully promises to
revenge the murder of this good warrior."

"There be those among us able to revenge him," answered Tristram. "And
if he shall prove to have been foully treated his death shall not go
unredressed."

Therewith he took the letter from the knight's hand and opened it. Thus
it read,--

"I, Hermance, king and lord of the Red City, request of all
knights-errant and all noble knights of Arthur's court, that they find
one knight who will fight for my sake with two false brethren, whom I
brought up from nothingness and who have feloniously and treacherously
slain me. And it is my will and desire that the valiant knight who
avenges my death shall become lord of my Red City and all my castles."

"Sir," said the mariners, "the king and knight that lies here dead was a
man of great virtue and noble prowess, and one who loved all
knights-errant, and, above all, those of King Arthur's court."

"It is a piteous case, truly," said Tristram. "I would fain take the
enterprise in hand myself, but that I have made a solemn promise to take
part in this great tournament. It was for my sake in especial that my
lord Arthur made it, and I cannot in honor and courtesy fail to attend
it. Therefore I am not free to undertake any adventure which may keep me
from the lists."

"I pray you, dear sir," said Palamides, who had followed Tristram into
the vessel, "to put this enterprise into my hands. I promise to achieve
it worthily or to die in the effort."

"Be it so," said Tristram. "You may go if you will. But first I wish
your promise to return so as to be with me at the tournament this day
week, if possible."

"That promise I freely give. If I be alive and unhurt, and my task be
not too arduous and long, I shall be with you by that day."

This said, Tristram left the vessel, leaving Palamides in it, and he,
with Gareth and Dinadan, stood watching it as the mariners hoisted its
sails and it glided swiftly away over long Humber. Not till it was out
of sight did they return to their horses, and look about them.

As they did so they beheld near them a knight, who came up unarmed save
a sword, and saluted them with all courtesy.

"Fair sirs," he said, "I pray you, as knights-errant, to come and see my
castle, and take such fare as you may find there. This I heartily
request."

"That shall we willingly do, and thank you for your courtesy," they
answered, and rode with him to his castle, which was near by.

Here they entered a richly-furnished hall, and, having laid off their
armor, took their seats at a well-laden table. But when the host saw
Tristram's face, he knew him, and first grew pale and then angry of
countenance.

"Sir, mine host," said Tristram, on seeing this threatening aspect,
"what is wrong with you, I pray?"

"I know you, Tristram de Lyonesse," answered the knight, hotly. "You
slew my brother. Honor demands that I shall not seek revenge here, but I
give you warning that I will kill you when I meet you outside my
castle."

"I have no knowledge of you or your brother," answered Tristram. "But no
man can say that I ever killed any one except in fair and open fight. If
I have done as you say I stand ready to make what amends are in my
power."

"I desire no amends," rejoined the knight. "But I warn you to keep from
me."

Tristram at this rose from the table and asked for his arms, his
companions following him. Seeking their horses they rode away, but they
had not gone far from the castle when Dinadan saw a knight following
them, who was well armed, but bore no shield.

"Take care of yourself, Sir Tristram," he said. "Yonder comes our host
to call you to account."

"Then I must abide him as I may," answered Tristram.

Soon the knight came up, and, loudly bidding Tristram to be on his
guard, he rode furiously upon him with couched spear. But his valor went
beyond his strength, for he was hurled over his horse's croup.

Not content with this, he rose, mounted again, and driving his horse at
full speed upon Tristram, struck him two hard blows on the helm.

"Sir knight," said Tristram, "I pray you leave off this sport. I do not
care to harm you after having just eaten at your table, but beg you not
to try my patience too far."

The furious assailant would not cease, however, and continued his
assaults until Tristram was provoked to anger. In the end he returned
the knight a blow with the full strength of his mighty arm, so fierce a
buffet, indeed, that the blood burst out from the breathing holes of his
helm, and he fell to the earth and lay there like one dead.

[Illustration: THE ASSAULT OF SIR TRISTRAM.]

"I hope I have not killed him," said Tristram. "I did not think to
strike the man so hard a blow, but I am not a log to stand at rest and
let him whet his sword on."

Leaving the fallen knight to the care of his squire, they rode on; but
not far had they gone when they saw coming towards them two well-armed
and well-horsed knights, each with a good following of servants. One of
these was Berrant le Apres, he who was called the king with the hundred
knights, and the other Sir Segwarides, both men of might and renown.

When they came up the king looked at Dinadan, who, through sport, had
put on Tristram's helmet. This he recognized as one he had seen before
with the queen of Northgalis, whom he loved. She had given it to La
Belle Isolde, and she to Tristram.

"Sir knight," asked Berrant, "whence had you that helm?"

"Not from you, I fancy. What have you to say to it?"

"That I will have a tilt with you, for the love of her who once owned
it. Therefore, defend yourself."

So they drew asunder, and rode at each other with all the speed of their
horses. But Dinadan, good knight as he was, was no match for the tough
and hardy warrior before him, and was sent, horse and all, to the
ground.

"I fancy I have something to say about the helmet now," said Berrant,
grimly. "Go take it off him, and keep it," he ordered his servant.

"What will you do?" cried Tristram. "Hands off, fellow. Touch not that
helm."

"To what intent do you meddle, sir knight?" demanded Berrant.

"To this intent, that the helm is mine. Nor will you get it from me till
you buy it at a dearer price."

"Do you mean that as a challenge?" asked Berrant. "Be it so, then; make
ready."

Together they rode with all speed, but with a change of fortune, for
Berrant found himself thrust over the tail of his horse. In a moment he
was on his feet, sprang briskly to his saddle, and, riding in anger upon
Tristram, struck at him fiercely with his sword.

Tristram was not taken unawares, but in an instant had his sword in
hand. A fierce combat followed, for the king with the hundred knights
was a warrior of tough sinews and tried valor, but at the last he
received such a buffet on the helm that he fell forward on his horse's
neck, stunned and helpless.

"By my faith, that helmet has proved unlucky for two of us," said
Dinadan. "It brought me a tumble, and now, sir king, you owe it a
buzzing head-piece."

"Who will joust with me?" asked Segwarides.

"It is your right," said Gareth to Dinadan, "but I pray you let me have
it."

"You are heartily welcome to it. One tumble a day is enough for my weak
appetite," answered Dinadan. "I make you a free present of the
opportunity."

"That is no fair exchange," said Tristram. "The joust is yours by
right."

"But not by choice," rejoined Dinadan. "Good faith, sir bruiser, I have
lived long enough to know when I have had my share, and that is a
lesson it would pay many of you battle-hungry knights to learn."

Then Gareth and Segwarides rode together, the result being that Gareth
and his horse went in a heap to the earth.

"Now," said Tristram, "the joust is yours."

"But the appetite is lacking," said Dinadan. "I have even less stomach
for it than before."

"Then will I try him."

With these words Tristram challenged Segwarides, who received a sore
fall in the joust that followed. Then the three knights rode on, leaving
their late antagonists the worse in heart and limb for the encounter.

They continued their ride till they reached Joyous Gard. Here Gareth
courteously declined to enter the castle, but Tristram would not hear of
his departure, and made him alight and enter as his guest. So they
disarmed and had good cheer, with La Belle Isolde as their hostess.

But Dinadan, when he came into the presence of Isolde, roundly cursed
the hour that he had been persuaded to wear Tristram's helm, and told
her of how he had been mocked by his comrade knight.

Much laughing and jesting at Dinadan followed, but this was a game in
which he was quite able to hold his own, however he might lack with
sword and spear. For Arthur's court held no other so witty of tongue and
merry of heart. And thus in jest and feast they passed the hours happily
away.



CHAPTER IV.

HOW PALAMIDES FARED AT THE RED CITY.


Leaving Tristram and his companions to their merry talk in Joyous Gard,
we must now return to Palamides. The ship into which he had entered
sailed far along the Humber, until in time it reached the open sea. It
continued its course through the sea-waves till it came to a part of the
coast where stood a stately castle.

All day and night they had sailed, and it was now early in the morning,
before day-dawn. Palamides was sound asleep in the vessel's cabin when
the mariners came to call him.

"Sir knight," they said, "you must arise. We have reached a castle,
which you must enter."

"I am at your command," he replied.

Rising, he armed himself quickly, and then blew a loud call upon a horn
which the mariners gave him.

At the ringing music of that bugle-blast the sleeping castle seemed to
stir into life. Soon many eyes could be seen looking from the windows,
and ere long the walls were crowded with knights, who called to
Palamides as with one voice, "Welcome, fair sir, to this castle."

The day had now fully dawned, and Palamides entered the castle, where a
crowd of knights came to greet him, and led him to a stately
dining-hall, where an abundant breakfast awaited him. But as he ate he
heard much lamentation, and saw many whose eyes were wet with tears.

"What means this?" he asked. "I love not such sorrow, and would fain
know what gives rise to it."

"We mourn here daily," answered a knight named Sir Ebel, "and for this
cause. We had a king named Hermance, who was lord of the Red City, and
in every way a noble and generous monarch. And he loved nothing in the
world so much as the knights-errant of King Arthur's court, together
with the sports of jousting, hunting, and all knightly diversions. A
king so kind of heart as he was never before known in this country, and
we shall ever be filled with sorrow for his loss. Yet he acted unwisely,
and is himself at fault for his death."

"Tell me how he was slain and by whom," asked Palamides.

"In this wise it came to pass," answered Ebel. "He brought up, in pure
charity, two children, who are now strong knights. And to them he gave
all his trust and confidence, in default of those of his own blood.
These two men governed him completely, and, through him, his lands and
people, for they took the best of care that none of his kindred should
come into power. He was so free and trustful, and they so politic and
deceitful, that they ruled him as though they were the kings and he the
subject. When the lords of our king's blood saw that he had fallen into
this dotage they left the court in disgust, and sought their livelihood
elsewhere. This it proved not wise to do, for when these villains found
that all the king's kindred had left the realm they schemed to have more
power still; for, as the old saw says, 'Give a churl rule in part, and
he will not be content till he has it all.' It is the instinct of the
base-born to destroy gentlemen-born, if the power be put in their hands,
and all rulers should take warning by the fate of King Hermance. In the
end our king, by the advice of these traitors, rode into the forest here
by, to chase the red deer. When he had become warm from the hunt he
alighted to drink at a woodland spring, and, while he was bent over the
water, one of these villains thrust him through the body with a spear.
They then fled from the spot, thinking he was dead. Shortly after they
had gone, fortune brought me to the spot, where I found my lord still
alive, but mortally hurt, and learned from him his story. Knowing that
we had no knights able to revenge him on his murderers, I had him
brought to the water, and put into the ship alive, and the letter which
he bore in his hand I wrote from his own words. Then he died, and, as he
had ordered, the ship set sail up the Humber, bound for the realm of
Logris, where it was hoped that some valiant Knight of the Round Table
would take this adventure on himself."

"Truly your doleful tale grieves me sorely," said Palamides. "I saw the
letter you speak of. It was read to me by one of the best knights upon
the earth, and it is by his command I am here. I came to revenge your
king, and I shall never be at ease till I meet with and punish his
murderers."

"You have my hearty thanks and best wishes," said Ebel. "Since you
accept this adventure, you must enter the ship again, and sail forward
till you reach the Delectable Isle, which is near by the Red City. We
shall await here your return. If you speed well this castle is yours.
King Hermance built it for the two traitors, but we hold it against
them, and they threaten us sorely unless we yield it."

"Look that you keep it, whatsoever may come to me," said Palamides. "For
if fortune decides that I am to be slain in this quest, I trust that one
of the best knights in the world will come to revenge me; either
Tristram de Lyonesse or Lancelot du Lake."

Then Palamides entered the ship and sailed away towards the Red City.
But as he came near it, and landed on the coast, another ship touched
shore near by, from which came a goodly knight, with his shield on his
shoulder and his hand on his sword.

"Sir knight, what seek you here?" he asked Palamides. "If you have come
to revenge King Hermance you must yield this quest to me, for it was
mine before it was yours, and I shall yield it to no man."

"You speak like a true knight," said Palamides. "But when the letter was
taken from the dead king's hand there was nothing known of any champion
for him, and so I promised to revenge him. And this I must and shall do,
lest I win shame instead of honor."

"You have right on your side," said the knight. "What I propose is this.
I will fight with you; and he who proves the better knight shall have
the quest."

"That fits with my fancy," said Palamides; "for from what I hear no
second-rate champion can watch this pair of villains."

With this they advanced their shields and drew their swords, and began a
stern and well-contested combat. For more than an hour the fight between
them continued, but at the end of this time Palamides seemed stronger
and better-winded than at the beginning, and he finally dealt his
opponent a blow that brought him to his knees. Then the discomfited
combatant cried out,--

"Knight, hold your hand."

Palamides let fall his sword at this request.

"You are the better of us two, and more worthy of this battle," said the
knight. "But fain would I know your name."

"My name is Palamides. I am a Knight of the Round Table, and one well
known in Arthur's realm."

"In good faith it is, and much beyond that realm," answered the knight.
"I know only three living men besides yourself who are fitted for this
task, and they are Lancelot, Tristram, and my cousin Lamorak. As for me,
my name is Hermind, and I am brother to the murdered King Hermance."

"I shall do my best to revenge your brother," said Palamides. "If I am
slain, I commend you to Lancelot or Tristram. As for Lamorak, he will
never strike blow again."

"Alas, what mean you?"

"That he has been murdered--waylaid and slain treacherously by Gawaine
and his brothers, except Sir Gareth, the best of them all." And he told
the story of the death of Lamorak, much to the grief and indignation of
his hearer.

Then Palamides took ship again, and sailed on till he came to the
Delectable Isle. Meanwhile Hermind made all haste to the Red City, where
he told of the arrival of the famous knight Palamides and of his combat
with him. The people were filled with joy at these tidings, and quickly
sent a messenger to the two brethren, bidding them to make ready, as a
knight had come who would fight them both. The messenger found them at a
castle near by, and delivered his message.

"Who is this champion?" they asked. "Is it Lancelot or any of his
blood?"

"No."

"If it were, we would not fight. But we care for no one else."

"It is a good knight though, Sir Palamides, a Saracen by birth, and
still unchristened."

"He had best have been christened before he came here, for it will be
too late when we have done with him. Let him know that we will be at the
Red City in two days, and will give him all the fighting he is likely to
want for the rest of his life."

When Palamides came to the city he was received with the greatest joy,
and the more so when the people saw what a handsome and well-built man
he was, neither too young nor too old, with clean and powerful limbs,
and no defect of body.

At the time appointed there came to the city the two brethren, Helius
and Helake by name, both of them strong and valiant men, of great
prowess in war, false as they were at heart. And with them they brought
forty knights, to guard them against any treachery from the Red City,
for they knew well that it was filled with their enemies.

The lists had already been prepared, and at the appointed hour Palamides
entered full armed, and confronted his antagonists boldly.

"Are you the two brethren Helius and Helake, who slew your king by
treason?" he asked.

"We are the men who slew King Hermance," they replied. "And bear in
mind, Sir Saracen, we are able to stand by our deeds, and will handle
you so before you depart that you will wish you had been christened
before you came so far."

"I trust to God I shall die a better Christian than either of you,"
Palamides replied. "And you had best kill me if you get the chance, for
I vow not to spare you."

As he spoke the trumpet sounded, and, reining back their horses, they
rode against each other with terrific speed. Palamides directed his
spear against Helake, and struck him so mighty a blow that the spear
pierced through his shield and hauberk, and for a fathom's length
through his breast, hurling him dead to the earth. As for Helius, he
held up his spear in pride and presumption, and rode by Palamides
without touching him.

But when he saw his brother stretched in death on the earth his
assurance changed to doubt, and rage drove the pride from his heart.
"Help thyself, villain!" he cried, and rushed upon Palamides before he
could prepare to encounter him, striking him a blow with his spear that
bore him from his saddle to the earth. Then he forced his horse over
him backward and forward before the dismounted champion could regain his
feet.

As he came again, the fallen knight reached up and caught the horse by
the bridle, dragging himself by its aid to his feet. Then, as the animal
reared, he pressed so strongly upon it that it toppled backward to the
ground, the rider barely saving himself from being crushed beneath his
fallen horse. But he was on his feet in an instant, and, sword in hand,
struck Palamides a blow on the helm that brought him down to one knee.

Before he could repeat the blow the gallant Saracen was on his feet and
had drawn his trenchant blade, with which he attacked his antagonist in
turn. A fierce and deadly combat succeeded, the two knights hurtling
together like two wild boars, now both hurled grovelling to the earth,
now on foot again and hewing at each other with the strength of giants.

Thus for two hours they fought, without time for rest or a moment's
space to recover breath. At the end of that time Palamides grew faint
and weary from the violence of his efforts, but Helius seemed as strong
as ever, and redoubling his strokes he drove back the Saracen knight
step by step, over all the field. At this the people of the city were
filled with fear, while the party of Helius shouted with triumph.

"Alas!" cried the citizens, "that this noble knight should be slain for
our king's sake."

While they thus bewailed his threatened fate and the seeming victory of
their tyrant, Helius showered so many vigorous blows on his weakened
foe that it was a wonder he kept his feet. But when he saw how the
common people wept for him his heart was filled with a sense of shame,
while a glow of fury burned like fire in his veins.

"Fie on you for a dastard, Palamides!" he said to himself. "Why hang you
your head so like a whipped hound?"

Then, with a new spirit burning hotly within him, and fresh strength
animating his limbs, he lifted his drooping shield and turned on Helius
with lion-like fury, smiting him a vigorous blow on the helm, which he
followed quickly by others. This violent onset was too much for the
strained strength of the false knight, and he retreated in dismay, while
the sword of Palamides fell with ever more and more might. At length
came so mighty a blow that he was hurled like a log to the earth. The
victorious Saracen gave him no time to recover, but sprang upon him like
a fury, tore the helm from his head, and with a final stroke smote the
head from his body.

Then he rose and stood leaning upon his sword, hardly able to bear
himself on his feet, while from all the people of the city went up loud
shouts of joy and congratulation.

"Palamides, the conqueror! Palamides, our deliverer! Palamides, our
king!" they shouted, while one adorned his brows with a wreath of
laurel, and others tore off his armor and applied ointments to his
bleeding limbs.

"Fair friends, your crown is not for me," he said. "I have delivered you
from your tyrants, but you must choose some other king, as I am under
promise to return with all speed to my lord King Arthur at the castle of
Lonazep."

This decision filled them with grief, but they brought him to the city
and treated him with all the honor which they could bestow upon him. And
as he persisted in his refusal of the crown, they proffered him a third
part of their goods if he would remain with them. All this he declined,
and in a short time departed, bearing with him a thousand good wishes
and prayers for success and fortune.

He was received with like joy and congratulation at the castle, Sir Ebel
warmly pressing him to change his decision and remain as their king. To
this Palamides would by no means consent, and after a day's stay he took
ship again, and sailed up the Humber to the castle of Lonazep.

[Illustration: SIR TRISTRAM AT JOYOUS GARD.]



CHAPTER V.

THE TOURNAMENT AT LONAZEP.


When Palamides learned that Tristram was not at Lonazep, he tarried not
there, but crossed the Humber, and sought him at Joyous Gard. Here he
found lodgings in the town, and word was quickly brought to Tristram
that a knight-errant had come.

"What manner of man is he? and what sign does he bear?" he asked.

The messenger described his armor and appearance.

"That is Palamides," said Dinadan. "The brave fellow is already back,
and victorious, I doubt not."

"It looks that way, indeed. Go and bid him welcome to Joyous Gard," said
Tristram.

So Dinadan went to Palamides, and joyfully greeted him, listening
eagerly to the story of his exploits, and congratulating him on his
signal success. He remained with him that night, and in the morning they
were visited by Tristram and Gareth before they had arisen.

Many were the warm congratulations which Tristram gave Palamides on his
noble achievement, and after they had breakfasted he invited him to ride
into the fields and woods, that they might repose under the cool shelter
of the forest. Here they alighted by a refreshing spring, and as they
sat conversing an armed knight came riding towards them.

"Who are those knights that are lodged in Joyous Gard?" he asked.

"That I cannot say," answered Tristram.

"At any rate you can tell me who you are. You are not knights-errant, I
fancy, since you ride unarmed."

"Whether we be or no, we prefer not to tell our names."

"You are not courteous, sir knight, and this is the way I pay
discourtesy," said the stranger. "Guard yourself, or you shall die by
my hands."

Then, spear in hand, he rode on Sir Tristram, with brutal intent to run
him through. But Palamides sprang up hastily, and smote the knight's
horse so fierce a blow with his clinched fist that horse and man fell
together to the earth. He then drew his sword to slay him.

"Let the dog go," said Tristram. "He is but a fool, and it were a shame
to slay him for his folly. Take the fellow's spear from him, though. It
is a weapon he has not learned the use of."

The knight rose groaning, and when he had regained his saddle he again
requested their names.

"My name is Tristram de Lyonesse, and this knight's name is Palamides.
Would you know more?"

"No, by my faith!" cried the other, and, hastily putting spurs to his
horse, he rode away as fast as the animal would carry him.

Hardly had he gone when a knight, who bore a bended shield of azure,
came riding up at a furious gallop.

"My fair sirs," he asked, "has a knight passed here bearing a shield
with a case of red over it?"

"Yes. We but now had some trouble with such a fellow. Who is he?"

"And you let him escape? That was ill-advised, fair sirs. He is the
falsest rogue and the greatest foe to knights-errant living. His name is
Breuse Sans Pité."

"And I had him under my sword!" cried Palamides. "Fool I was to let him
go."

"If I overtake him there will be another story to tell," answered the
knight, as he spurred onward on the track of the fugitive.

Then the four friends mounted and rode leisurely back towards Joyous
Gard, much conversing as they went. When they reached the castle
Palamides wished not to enter, but Tristram insisted on it, and, taking
him by the hand, led him in.

When Palamides saw La Belle Isolde, whom he had not met for years, but
for whom his love burned as warmly as ever, he was so ravished with joy
that he could scarcely speak. And when they were at dinner he could not
eat a morsel, but sat like a dumb man, scarcely venturing to raise his
eyes to Isolde's lovely countenance.

Poorly he slept that night, and with many dreams of her he loved. When
morning broke they all prepared to ride to Lonazep. Tristram took with
him three squires, and Queen Isolde had three gentlewomen, all attired
with great richness. These, with the other knights and their squires,
and valets to bear their shields and spears, formed their train.

Not far had they gone before they saw on the road before them a group of
knights. Chief of these was the knight Galihodin, who was attended by
twenty companions.

"Fair fellows," said Galihodin, "yonder come four knights escorting a
richly-attired lady. What say you? shall we take her from them?"

"That is not the best counsel," said one.

"At any rate, it is my counsel," answered Galihodin. "We shall show them
that we have the right of the road." And he sent a squire to them,
asking them if they would joust, or else lose their lady.

"We are but four," said Tristram. "Tell your lord to come with three of
his comrades, and win her if he can."

"Let me have this joust," said Palamides. "I will undertake them all
four."

"As you will," said Tristram. "Go tell your lord that this one knight
will encounter him and any three of his fellows."

The squire departed with his challenge, and in a trice Galihodin came
riding forward spear in rest. Palamides encountered him in mid career,
and smote him so hard a blow that he had a terrible fall to the earth,
and his horse with him. His three comrades were served in the same
summary manner, while Palamides still bore an unbroken spear. At this
unlooked-for result six knights rode out from the opposite party with
purpose of revenge on the victor.

"Hold your hands," cried Galihodin. "Let not one of you touch this noble
knight, who has proved himself a man of worth. And I doubt if the whole
of you could handle him."

When Palamides saw that the field was yielded to him he rode back to Sir
Tristram.

"Well and worshipfully have you done," said Tristram. "No man could have
surpassed you."

Onward they rode again, and in a little while after met four knights in
the highway, with spears in rest. These were Gawaine and three
companions. This joust also Tristram gave to Palamides, and he served
these four as he had served the others, leaving them all unhorsed in
the road. For the presence of La Belle Isolde gave the strength of ten
men to the arm of her lover, the Saracen.

They now continued their route without molestation, and in good time
reached the spot where Tristram had ordered his pavilions to be set up.
Here were now many more pavilions than they had seen on their previous
visit, and a great array of knights, who had been gathering for many
days, for far and wide had spread the news of the great tournament.

Leaving Palamides and Gareth at the pavilions with Queen Isolde,
Tristram and Dinadan rode to Lonazep to learn what was afoot, Tristram
riding on the Saracen knight's white horse. As they came into the castle
the sound of a great bugle-blast met their ears, and many knights
crowded forward.

"What means the blast?" asked Tristram.

"Sir," answered a knight, "it comes from the party who hold against King
Arthur at this tournament. These are the kings of Ireland, of Surluse,
of Listinoise, of Northumberland, of North Wales, and of other
countries. They are calling a council to decide how they shall be
governed in the lists."

Tristram thereupon followed them to their council, and listened to the
debate. He then sought his horse again, and rode by where King Arthur
stood surrounded by a press of knights. Among those were Galihodin and
Gawaine, who said to the king: "That knight in the green harness, with
the white horse, is a man of might, whoever he be. To-day he overthrew
us both, with six of our fellows."

"Who can he be?" said the king, and he called Tristram to him, and
requested to know his name.

"I beg pardon, my liege lord," answered Tristram, "and pray that you
will hold me excused from revealing my name at this time," and he turned
his horse and rode away.

"Go after him, Sir Griflet," said the king. "Tell him that I wish to
speak with him apart."

Griflet rode to Tristram and told him the king's wish, and the two
returned in company.

"Fair sir," said the king, "what is the cause that you withhold your
name?"

"I have an excellent reason, but beg that you will not press me for it."

"With which party do you hold?"

"Truly, my lord, that I cannot say. Where my heart draws or my fancy
bids I will go. To-morrow you shall see which side I take. To-day I know
not myself."

Leaving the king, he rode back to where his pavilions were set. When the
morning dawned he and his three companions armed themselves all in green
and rode to the lists. Here young knights had begun to joust, and,
seeing this, Gareth asked leave of Tristram to break a spear.

"Go in and do your best if you care to play with beginners," said
Tristram, laughing.

But Gareth found himself encountered by a nephew of the king with the
hundred knights, who had some of his uncle's tough fibre, and both got
ugly falls, and lay on the ground till they were helped up by their
friends. Then Tristram and Palamides rode with Gareth back to the
pavilions, where they removed their helmets. When Isolde saw Gareth all
bruised in the face, she asked him what ailed him.

"Madam, I had a hard buffet, and gave another, but none of my fellows
would rescue me."

"Only unproved knights are yet in the field," said Palamides. "The man
that met you, though, was a strong and well-trained knight, Sir Selises
by name, so you have no dishonor. Rest here and get yourself in
condition for to-morrow's work."

"I shall not fail you if I can bestride my horse," said Gareth.

"What party is it best for us to join to-morrow?" asked Tristram.

"Against King Arthur, is my advice," said Palamides. "Lancelot and many
other good men will be on his side, and the more men of prowess we meet
the more honor we will win."

"Well and knightly spoken," said Tristram. "Hard blows is what we court.
Your counsel is well given."

"So think we all," said the others.

On the morrow, when day had broken, they arrayed themselves in green
trappings, with shields and spears of green, while Isolde and her three
damsels wore dresses of the same color. For the ladies Tristram found
seats in a bay window of a priory which overlooked the field, and from
which they could see all that took place. This done, they rode straight
to the party of the king of Scots.

When Arthur saw this he asked Lancelot who were these knights and the
queenly lady who came with them.

"That I cannot say for certain. Yet if Tristram and Palamides be in this
country then it is they and La Belle Isolde."

Then Arthur turned to Kay and said,--

"Go to the hall and see how many Knights of the Round Table are missing,
and bring me word."

Kay did so, and found by the roll of knights that ten were
wanting,--Tristram, Dinadan, and eight others.

"Then I dare say," remarked Arthur, "that some of these are here to-day
against us."

The tournament began with a combat in which two knights, cousins to
Gawaine, named Sir Edward and Sir Sadok, rode against the king of Scots
and the king of North Wales and overthrew them both. This Palamides saw,
and in return he spurred upon these victorious knights and hurled both
of them from their saddles.

"What knight is that in green?" asked Arthur. "He is a mighty jouster."

"You will see him do better yet," said Gawaine. "It was he that unhorsed
me and seven others two days ago."

As they stood talking Tristram rode into the lists on a black horse, and
within a few minutes he smote down four knights of Orkney, while Gareth
and Dinadan each unhorsed a good knight.

"Yonder is another fellow of marvellous arm," said Arthur; "that green
knight on the black horse."

"He has not begun his work yet," said Gawaine. "It is plain that he is
no common man."

And so it proved, for Sir Tristram pushed fiercely into the press,
rescued the two kings who had been unhorsed, and did such mighty work
among the opposing party that all who saw him marvelled to behold one
man do so many valiant deeds. Nor was the career of Palamides less
marvellous to the spectators.

King Arthur, who watched them both with admiring eyes, likened Tristram
to a furious lion, and Palamides to a maddened leopard, and Gareth and
Dinadan, who seconded them strongly, to eager wolves. So fiercely did
Tristram rage, indeed, among the knights of Orkney that at length they
withdrew from the field, as no longer able to face him.

Then loud went up the cry of the heralds and the common people,--

"The green knight has beaten all Orkney!" And the heralds took account
that not less than fifty knights had been smitten down by the four
champions in green.

"This will not do," said Arthur. "Our party will be overmatched if these
fellows rage on at such a rate. Come, Lancelot, you and Hector and
Bleoberis must try your hands, and I will make a fourth."

"Let it be so," answered Lancelot. "Let me take him on the black horse,
and Bleoberis him on the white. Hector shall match him on the gray
horse" (Sir Gareth).

"And I," said Arthur, "will face the knight on the grizzled steed" (Sir
Dinadan).

With this conversation they armed and rode to the lists. Here Lancelot
rode against Tristram and smote him so hard a blow that horse and man
went to the earth, while his three companions met with the same ill
fortune from their new antagonists.

This disaster raised a cry throughout the lists: "The green knights are
down! Rescue the green knights! Let them not be held prisoners!" For the
understanding was that any unhorsed knight not rescued by his own
strength or by his fellows should be held as prisoner.

Then the king of North Wales rode straight to Tristram, and sprang from
his horse, crying,--

"Noble knight, I know not of what country you are, but beg you to take
my horse, for you have proved yourself worthier to bestride it than I
am."

"Many thanks," said Tristram. "I shall try and do you as welcome a turn.
Keep near us, and I may soon win you another horse."

Then he sprang to the saddle, and meeting with King Arthur struck him so
fierce a sword-blow on the helm that he had no power to keep his saddle.

"Here is the horse promised you," cried Tristram to the king of North
Wales, who was quickly remounted on King Arthur's horse.

Then came a hot contest around the king, one party seeking to mount him
again and the other to hold him prisoner. Palamides thrust himself, on
foot, into the press, striking such mighty blows to the right and left
that the whole throng were borne back before him. At the same time
Tristram rode into the thickest of the throng of knights and cut a way
through them, hurling many of them to the earth.

This done, he left the lists and rode to his pavilion, where he changed
his horse and armor; he who had gone forth as a green knight coming back
to the fray as a red one.

When Queen Isolde saw that Tristram was unhorsed, and lost sight of him
in the press, she wept greatly, fearing that some harm had come to him.
But when he rode back she knew him in an instant, despite his red
disguise, and her heart swelled anew with joy as she saw him with one
spear smite down five knights. Lancelot, too, now knew him, and withdrew
from the lists lest he should encounter him again.

All this time Tristram's three friends had not been able to regain their
saddles, but now he drove back the press and helped them again to horse,
and, though they knew him not in his new array, they aided him with all
their knightly prowess.

When Isolde, at her window, saw what havoc her chosen knight was making,
she leaned eagerly forth and laughed and smiled in delight. This
Palamides saw, and the vision of her lovely and smiling countenance
filled his soul so deeply with love's rejoicing that there seemed to
flow into him the strength and spirit of ten men, and, with a shout of
knightly challenge, he pressed forward, smiting down with spear and
sword every man he encountered. For his heart was so enamoured by the
vision of that charming face that Tristram or Lancelot would then have
had much ado to stand before him.

"Truly Palamides is a noble warrior," said Tristram, when he beheld
this. "I never saw him do such deeds as he has done this day, nor heard
of his showing such prowess."

"It is his day," said Dinadan, simply. But to himself he said, "If you
knew for whose love he does these valorous deeds, you would soon be in
the field against him."

"It is a crying pity that so brave a knight should be a pagan," said
Tristram.

"It is my fancy," said Dinadan to himself, "that you may thank Queen
Isolde for what you have seen; if she had not been here to-day that
shouting throng would not be giving Palamides the palm of the tourney."

At this juncture Lancelot came again into the field, and hearing the
outcry in favor of Palamides he set his spear in rest and spurred upon
him. Palamides, seeing this, and having no spear, coolly awaited
Lancelot, and as he came up smote his spear in two with a sword-stroke.
Then he rushed upon him and struck his horse so hard a blow in the neck
that the animal fell, bearing his rider to the ground.

Loud and fierce was the outcry then: "Palamides the Saracen has smitten
Sir Lancelot's horse! It is an unknightly deed!"

And Hector de Maris, seeing his brother Lancelot thus unfairly
dismounted, rushed upon Palamides in a rage, and bore him from his horse
with a mighty spear-thrust.

"Take heed to yourself, sirrah," cried Lancelot, springing towards him
sword in hand. "You have done me a sorry deed, and by my knightly honor
I will repay you for it."

"I humbly beg your pardon, noble sir," answered Palamides. "I have done
so much this day that I have no power or strength left to withstand you.
Forgive me my hasty and uncourteous deed, and I promise to be your
knight while I live."

"You have done marvellously well indeed," said Lancelot. "I understand
well what power moves you. Love is a mighty mistress, and if she I love
were here to-day you should not bear away the honor of the field, though
you have nobly won it. Beware that Tristram discovers not your love, or
you may repent it. But I have no quarrel with you, and will not seek to
take from you the honor of the day."

So Lancelot suffered Palamides to depart, and mounted his own horse
again, despite twenty knights who sought to hinder him. Lancelot,
Tristram, and Palamides did many more noble deeds before that day's end,
and so great became the medley at length that the field seemed a dense
mass of rearing and plunging horses and struggling knights.

At length Arthur bade the heralds to blow to lodging and the fray ended.
And since Palamides had been in the field from first to last, without
once withdrawing, and had done so many, noble and valiant deeds, the
honor and the prize for the day were unanimously voted him, a judgment
which Arthur and the kings of his counsel unanimously confirmed.

But when Palamides came to understand that the red knight who had
rescued him was Sir Tristram his heart was glad, for all but Dinadan
fancied he had been taken prisoner. Much was the talk upon the events of
the day, and great the wonder of king and knights at the remarkable
valor of the Saracen knight.

"And yet I well know," said Lancelot, "that there was a better knight
there than he. And take my word for it, this will be proved before the
tournament ends."

This also thought Dinadan, and he rallied his friend Tristram with
satirical tongue.

"What the fiend has ailed you to-day?" he asked. "Palamides grew in
strength from first to last, but you have been like a man asleep, or a
coward knight."

"I was never called coward before," said Tristram, hotly. "The only fall
I got was from Lancelot, and him I hold as my better, and for that
matter the better of any man alive."

But Dinadan kept up his railing accusations till the growing anger of
Tristram warned him to desist. Yet this was all from friendship, not
from spite, for he wished to stir up his friend to do his best in the
lists the coming day, and not permit the Saracen again to carry off the
prize.



CHAPTER VI.

THE SECOND DAY OF THE TOURNAMENT.


When the next morning dawned, Tristram, Palamides, and Gareth, with La
Belle Isolde and her ladies, all arrayed as before in green, took horse
at an early hour, and rode into the fresh forest. But Dinadan was left
still asleep in bed. As they passed the castle at a little distance, it
chanced that King Arthur and Lancelot saw them from an upper window.

"Yonder rideth the fairest lady of the world," said Lancelot, "always
excepting your queen, Guenever."

"Who is it?" asked Arthur.

"It is La Belle Isolde, Cornwall's queen and Tristram's lady-love."

"By my troth, I should like to see her closer," said the king. "Let us
arm and mount, and ride after them."

This they did, and in a short time were on the track of the gay
cavalcade they had seen.

"Let us not be too hasty," warned Lancelot. "There are some knights who
resent being intruded on abruptly; particularly if in the company of
ladies."

"As for that, we must take our chances," said Arthur. "If they feel
aggrieved I cannot help it, for I am bent on seeing Queen Isolde."

Seeing Tristram and his companions just in advance, Arthur rode briskly
up and saluted Isolde courteously, saying, "God save you, fair lady."

"Thanks for your courtesy, sir knight," she replied.

Then Arthur looked upon her charming countenance, freshened by the
morning air, and thought in his mind that Lancelot had spoken but the
truth, and that no more beautiful lady lived. But at this moment
Palamides rode up.

"Sir knight, what seek you here?" he asked. "It is uncourteous to come
on a lady so suddenly. Your intrusion is not to our liking, and I bid
you to withdraw."

Arthur paid no heed to these words, but continued to gaze upon Isolde,
as one stricken with admiration. Seeing this, Palamides flamed into
anger, and spurred fiercely upon the king, with spear in rest, smiting
him from his horse.

"Here is an awkward business," said Lancelot to himself. "If I ride down
Palamides I shall have Tristram on me; and the pair of them would be too
much for me. This comes from too head-strong a will. But whether I live
or die I must stand by my lord and king." Then riding forward, he called
to Palamides, "Keep thee from me!"

Fierce was the onset with which they met, but it ended in Lancelot's
favor, for Palamides was flung from his saddle and had a hard fall.

When Tristram saw this he called to Lancelot, "Be on your guard, sir
knight. You have unhorsed my comrade, and must joust with me."

"I have no dread of that," said Lancelot; "and yet I did but avenge my
lord, who was unhorsed unwarily and unknightly. You have no cause for
displeasure; for no honorable knight could stand by and see his friend
ill-treated."

Tristram now felt sure that it was Lancelot who spoke, and that it was
King Arthur whom Palamides had unhorsed. He therefore laid aside his
spear and helped Palamides again to his saddle, while Lancelot did the
same for the king.

"That deed of thine was not knightly nor courteous," said Tristram,
sternly to Palamides, after the others had departed. "I cannot see any
harm in a knight accosting a lady gently and courteously; nor am I
pleased to have you play such masteries before my lady. If I deem her
insulted, I am quite able myself to protect her. And if I am not
mistaken, it was King Arthur you assailed so rudely, and the other was
Lancelot du Lake. You may yet have to pay for your violence."

"I cannot think," said Palamides, "that the great Arthur would ride thus
secretly arrayed as a poor knight-errant."

"Then you know him not," said Tristram. "No knight living is fonder of
adventure. King Arthur is always ready to take his part as an errant
knight, nor does he bear malice against those who may overthrow him when
in disguise. I tell you, Palamides, that our king is the true model of
knightly honor, and that the best of us might learn from him."

"If it were he I am sorry," said Palamides. "I may have been over-hasty.
But a thing that is done cannot be undone, and I must abide the
consequences."

Then Tristram sent Isolde to her lodging in the priory, from which she
might behold the tournament, and made ready to enter the lists.

Fierce was the shock of the first encounter of the knights, and the
three champions in green began the day with many deeds of might.

"How feel you?" asked Tristram of Palamides. "Are you able to repeat
yesterday's work?"

"Hardly," was the reply. "I am weary and sore yet from my hard labors."

"I am sorry for that, as I shall miss your aid."

"Trust not to me," answered Palamides. "I have not much work left in
me."

"Then I must depend on you," said Tristram to Gareth. "We two should be
able to make our mark. Keep near me and rescue me if I get in trouble,
and I will do the same for you."

"I shall not fail you," was the reply.

Leaving them, Palamides rode off by himself, and, pushing into the
thickest press of the men of Orkney, did such deeds of arms that
Tristram looked on in amazement.

"Is that his soreness and weariness?" he asked. "I fancy he is weary of
my company, and wishes to win all the honor to his own hand."

"That is what Dinadan meant yesterday when he called you coward," said
Gareth. "He but wished to stir you to anger so that Palamides should not
rob you of credit."

"By my faith, if Palamides bears me ill will and envy I shall show him
what a knight of Cornwall can do. He has gained the acclamations of the
crowd already. He has left our company and we owe him no courtesy. You
shall see me rob him of his honors."

Then Tristram rode into the thickest of the press, and laid about him
with such might that all eyes were turned upon him, and men began to
say, "There is a greater than Palamides come into the field."

"Is it not as I told you?" said Lancelot to Arthur. "I said you would
this day see the Saracen distanced."

"It is true enough," answered Arthur. "Palamides has not such strength
of arm."

"It is Tristram himself you look upon."

"That I can well believe," said Arthur. "Such knights as he do not grow
like mushrooms in every field."

The noise from the other part of the lists now drew the attention of
Palamides, and when he saw what puissant deeds his late comrade was
doing he wept for spite, for he saw that the honor of that day was not
for him.

Seeing to what straits their party was put, Arthur and Lancelot and many
other knights now armed and rode into the field, and by their aid so
changed the tide of victory that the other side was driven quite back,
until Tristram and Gareth stood alone, bravely abiding all who came upon
them. But Lancelot and his kinsmen kept purposely away from them.

"See," said Lancelot to Arthur, "how Palamides hovers yonder like one in
a dream, sick, I fancy, from envy of Tristram."

"Then he is but a fool," said the king. "He is not and never was the
match of Tristram. I am glad to see the fellow repaid for the way he
served me this morning."

As they stood thus conversing, Tristram withdrew quietly from the lists,
his going noted only by Isolde and Palamides, who kept their eyes upon
him. He rode back to his pavilions, where he found Dinadan still asleep,
his slumbers not broken by all the uproar of the tournament.

"As I am a living man, here is a lusty sleeper," cried Tristram. "Wake,
Dinadan. The day is half spent and the field half won, and here you are
still a-bed."

At this Dinadan sprang hastily up and rubbed his eyes.

"I dreamt of wars and jousts," he said. "And, i' faith, I like that way
the best, for one gets all the good of the fight and is safe from sore
limbs and aching bones. But what's to do?"

"Get on your harness and ride with me to the field. You will find
something there to waken you up."

Dinadan, as he armed, noted Tristram's battered shield, and remarked,--

"I slept both well and wisely, it seems. If I had been there I must have
followed you, from shame if not from courage. And by the looks of your
shield I would have been worse battered than I was yesterday. Why did
you not let me sleep out the balance of it, friend Tristram?"

"A truce with your jests. Come, we must to the field again."

"How now, is there a new deal in the game? Yesterday you did but dream;
to-day you seem awake."

Meanwhile Tristram had changed his armor, and now was attired all in
black.

"You have more fight in you than you had yesterday, that is sure," said
Dinadan. "Did I stir up your sleeping spirit?"

"It may be so," said Tristram, smiling. "Keep well up to me, and I shall
make you a highway through the press. If you see me overmatched, do what
you can to aid me."

When ready they took their horses and rode back to the lists, where
Isolde and Palamides noted their entrance. When the Saracen saw that
Tristram was disguised, a new fancy came into his scheming brain.
Leaving the lists, he rode to where a knight sat sorely wounded under a
tree outside. Him he prayed for an exchange of armor, saying that his
own was too well known in the field, and that he wished for a disguise.

"That is very true," said the knight, as he recognized the green armor.
"You have made your array somewhat too well known. You are welcome to my
arms, if they will be of use to you. They will gain more credit in your
hands than they have won in mine."

Palamides thereupon exchanged armor with him, and, taking his shield,
which shone like silver, rode into the field. He now joined the party of
King Arthur, and rode spitefully against Tristram, who had just struck
down three knights. They met with such force that both spears splintered
to their hands, though neither lost his seat. Then they dashed eagerly
together with drawn swords and fought with the courage and fury of two
lions. But Tristram wondered much what knight this was that faced him
so valiantly, and grew angry as he felt that he was wasting in this
single combat the strength he wished to treasure up for the day's work.

La Belle Isolde, who had watched Palamides from her window, had seen him
change his armor with the wounded knight. And when his treacherous
purpose came to her mind she wept so heartily and was so deeply
disturbed that she swooned away.

At this juncture in the fray Lancelot rode again into the field, and
when the knights of Arthur's party saw him the cry went up. "Return,
return, here comes Sir Lancelot du Lake!"

And some said to him, "Sir Lancelot, yonder knight in the black harness
is your man. He is the best of our opponents, and has nearly overcome
the good knight with the silver shield."

At this Lancelot rode between the combatants, and cried to Palamides,--

"Let me have this battle; you need repose."

Palamides knew Lancelot, and readily gave way, hoping through his mighty
aid to gain revenge upon his rival. Then Lancelot fell upon Tristram,
and, unknowing who he was, dealt him blows that would have stunned a
less hardy fighter. Tristram returned them but feebly, for he knew well
with whom he fought. And Isolde, who saw it all, was half out of her
mind with grief.

Dinadan now told Gareth who the knight in black armor was, and said,
"Lancelot will get the better of him, for one is weary and the other
fresh, and Tristram is not fighting with his old vim. Let us to his
aid."

"I am with you," said Gareth. "Yonder fellow with the silver shield is
waiting to fall on Tristram, if he can to advantage. It is our business
to give our friend what help we can."

Then they rode in, and Gareth struck Lancelot a sword-blow that made his
head swim, while Dinadan followed with a spear-thrust that bore horse
and man together to the earth.

"Why do you this?" cried Tristram, angrily. "It is not a knightly act,
and does not that good knight any dishonor. I was quite his match
without you."

Then Palamides came to Lancelot's aid, and a close medley of fighting
began, in which Dinadan was unhorsed and Tristram pulled Palamides from
his saddle, and fell with him. Dinadan now sprang up and caught
Tristram's horse by the bridle, calling out, with purpose to end the
fight,--

"My lord Sir Tristram, take your horse."

"What is this?" cried Lancelot. "What have I done? Sir Tristram, why
came you here disguised? Surely I would not have drawn sword on you, had
I known you."

"Sir," said Tristram, "this is not the first honor you have done me."

Then they mounted their horses again, while the people on one side gave
Lancelot the honor of the fray, and those on the other side gave it to
Tristram.

"The honor is not mine," said Lancelot. "He has been longer in the
field, and has smitten down many more knights; so I give my voice for
Sir Tristram, and pray to all my lords and fellows to do the same."

This was the verdict of the judges, and the prize of that day's tourney
was by all voted to the noble Sir Tristram.

Then the trumpets blew to lodging, and the knights left the field, while
Queen Isolde was conducted to her pavilion. But her heart burned hot
with wrath against Palamides, all whose treachery she had seen. As
Tristram rode forward with Gareth and Dinadan, Palamides joined them,
still disguised.

"Sir knight," said Tristram, "you are not of our party, and your company
is not welcome. So begone."

"Not I," he answered. "One of the best knights in the world bade me keep
fellowship with you, and till he relieve me from that service I must
obey him."

"Ha, Palamides, I know you now!" said Tristram. "But, by my faith, I did
not know you before, for I deemed you a worthy knight and not a traitor.
I could have handled you well enough, but you brought Lancelot to your
aid against me."

"Are you my lord, Sir Tristram?" said Palamides, in a tone of surprise.

"That you know, well enough."

"How should I know it any more than you knew me? I deemed you the king
of Ireland, for you bear his arms."

"I won them in battle, from his champion Sir Marhaus," said Tristram.

"Sir," answered Palamides, "I fancied you had joined Lancelot's party,
and that caused me to turn to the same side."

"If that be so, I forgive you," said Tristram.

But when they reached the pavilion and had disarmed and washed, and were
come to table, Isolde grew red with wrath on seeing Palamides.

"You traitor and felon!" she cried, "how dare you thrust yourself into
this goodly company? You know not how falsely he has treated you, my
lord Tristram. I saw it all. He watched you when you rode to your tent
and donned the black armor. Then he changed armor with a wounded knight
and rode back and wilfully changed sides, and drew sword upon you. I saw
it all, my lord, and I impeach him of treason."

"Madam," said Palamides, calmly, "you may say what you will. I cannot in
courtesy deny you. Yet by my knighthood I declare I knew not Sir
Tristram."

"I will take your excuse," said Tristram, "though it seems a lame one.
You spared me little in the field, but all that I have pardoned."

At this, Isolde held down her head in despite and said no more.

While they were still at table two knights rode to the pavilions, and
entered in full armor.

"Fair sirs," said Tristram, "is this courtesy, to come upon us thus
armed at our meal?"

"We come with no ill intent," said one, "but as your friends, Sir
Tristram."

"I am come," said the other, "to greet you as a friend and comrade, and
my companion is eager to see and welcome La Belle Isolde."

"Then remove your helms, that I may see what guests I have."

"That we do, willingly."

No sooner were their helmets off than Tristram sprang hastily to his
feet.

"Madam, arise," he cried; "this is none less than my lord King Arthur;
and this my very dear friend Sir Lancelot."

Then the king and queen kissed, and Lancelot and Tristram warmly
embraced, while deep joy filled all hearts there. At the request of
Isolde the visitors removed their armor and joined them at their meal.

"Many is the day that I have longed to see you," said Arthur to Isolde,
"for much praise have I heard of you, and not without warrant. For a
nobler match for beauty and valor than you and Sir Tristram the world
does not hold."

"We thank you heartily," replied Tristram and Isolde. "Such praise from
King Arthur is the highest honor that men's lips could give."

Then they talked of other things, but mainly of the tournament.

"Why were you against us?" asked Arthur. "You are a Knight of the Round
Table, and have fought to-day against your own."

"Here is Dinadan, and your own nephew Gareth. You must blame them for
that," said Tristram, smiling.

"You may lay all the blame on my shoulders, if Tristram wishes it," said
Gareth.

"Not on mine, then," said Dinadan. "Mine are only broad enough to carry
my own sins. It was this unhappy Tristram brought us to the tournament,
and I owe to him a whole body full of aches and pains as it is, without
taking any of his sins in my sack, to boot."

At this the king and Lancelot laughed heartily, and the more so at the
sour grimace with which Dinadan ended.

"What knight was he with the shield of silver that held you so short?"
asked Arthur.

"Here he sits," said Tristram.

"What! was it Palamides?"

"None less than he," said Isolde.

"That was not a courteous action."

"Sir," said Palamides, "Tristram was so disguised that I knew him not."

"That may well be," said Lancelot, "for I knew him no better."

"However it be, we are friends again," said Tristram, "and I hope will
continue so."

And so the evening passed, till the time came for Arthur and Lancelot to
take their leave.

That night Palamides slept not for the pain and envy that burned in his
heart. But when his friends entered his chamber in the morning they
found him fast asleep, with his cheeks stained with tears.

"Say nothing," said Tristram. "The poor fellow has been deeply wounded
by the rebuke that I and Isolde gave him. Lay no heavier load upon his
heart."



CHAPTER VII.

THE WOES OF TWO LOVERS.


Early on the third morning of the tournament the knights of Tristram's
party were up and armed, they now being all arrayed in red, as was also
Isolde and her maidens. And rare was the show they made as they rode
gayly to the priory, where they left Isolde and her maidens to occupy
their proper seats. As the knights turned thence towards the field they
heard three loud bugle-blasts, and saw the throng of armed knights press
eagerly forward, while already from the listed space came the thunder of
hoofs and the cries of combatants.

Into the field they rode, Palamides in advance, and such havoc did he
make in the opposing ranks that shouts of approval went up from all the
seats. But Tristram now rode forward at the full speed of his great
war-horse, hurled Kay the seneschal from his saddle, smote down three
other knights with the same spear, and then, drawing his sword, laid
about him like a roused giant.

Quickly changed the cry from Palamides. "O Tristram! O Tristram!"
shouted the throng of spectators, and the deeds of this new champion
threw those of the former victor into the shade.

Gareth and Dinadan also nobly aided the two champions, rousing the
admiration of Arthur and Lancelot by their gallantry, and the four
knightly comrades soon cleared a wide space in the ranks before them.

"Come," said Arthur, "we must to the rescue, or our side will be driven
from the field before the day is an hour old. See how the others crowd
in on Tristram's steps, like wolves to the prey."

Then he and Lancelot hastily armed and sought the field, where they
quickly fought their way into the thickest press of the tumult.
Tristram, not knowing them, rode upon them and thrust King Arthur from
his horse, and when Lancelot rushed to his rescue he was surrounded with
such an eager host that he was pulled from his saddle to the ground.

Seeing this, the kings of Ireland and Scotland, with their knights,
rushed forward to take Lancelot and Arthur prisoners. But they counted
without their host, for the dismounted knights laid about them like
angry lions, driving back all who came near them. Of all that passed in
that hot turmoil it were too much to say. Many a knight there did deeds
of great prowess, and Arthur and Lancelot being mounted again, strewed
the earth with fallen knights, Lancelot that day unhorsing thirty
warriors. Yet the other side held so firmly together that, with all
their ardent labor, Arthur and his party were overmatched.

At this juncture, Tristram turned to his companions and said,--

"My good comrades, I begin to fancy that we are to-day on the wrong
side. King Arthur's party is overborne more by numbers than valor, for I
must say I never saw so few men do so well. It would be a shame for us,
who are Knights of the Round Table, to see our lord Arthur and our good
comrade Lancelot dishonored. I am in the humor to change sides, and help
our king and liege lord."

"We are with you in that," cried Gareth and Dinadan. "We have been
fighting against the grain these three days."

"Do as you will," said Palamides. "I shall not change my hand in the
midst of the fray."

"As you will," said Tristram. "You are your own master. Speed well in
your way, and we will do our best in ours."

Then he, Gareth, and Dinadan drew out of the press and rode round to
Arthur's side, where they lent such noble aid that the fortune of the
field quickly changed, and the opposing party began to give ground. As
for Palamides, King Arthur struck him so fierce a blow that he was
hurled from his horse, while Tristram and Lancelot unhorsed all before
them. Such havoc did they make, indeed, that the party of the opposing
kings was soon in full flight from the field, bearing Palamides, who
wept for rage and grief, with them.

Then rarely sounded the trumpets, and loudly shouted the spectators,
while the names of Tristram and Lancelot were in every mouth, some
voting one the prize, some the other. But neither of these good comrades
would have it alone, so that in the end it was divided between them.

When evening drew near, and the knights had all withdrawn to their
pavilions, Palamides rode up to that of Sir Tristram, in company with
the kings of Wales and Scotland. Here he drew up his horse, praying his
companions to wait a while while he spoke to the knight within. Then he
cried loudly at the entrance,--

"Where are you, Tristram of Lyonesse?"

"Is that you, Palamides?" answered the knight. "Will you not dismount
and join us?"

"I seek better company, sir traitor," cried Palamides, in tones that
trembled with fury. "I hate you now as much as I once esteemed you, and
bear this in mind, if it were daylight as it is night, I would slay you
with my own hands. You shall die yet for this day's deeds."

"You blame me wrongly, Palamides," said Tristram, mildly. "If you had
done as I advised you would have won honor instead of disgrace. Why come
you here seeking to lay your own fault on me? Since you give me such
broad warning, I shall be well on my guard against you."

"Well you may, sir dastard, for I love you not," and, fiercely spurring
his horse, the hot-blooded Saracen joined his kingly companions.

When the next day dawned the festive array which had long spread bustle
and splendor round Lonazep broke up, and knights and ladies rode off in
all directions through the land, to carry far and wide the story of the
wondrous deeds of valor that had been performed at the great tournament.
Tristram and his two comrades, with Hector de Maris and Bleoberis,
escorted La Belle Isolde to Joyous Gard, where for seven days the guests
were nobly entertained, with all the sports and mirthfulness that could
be devised. King Arthur and his knights drew back to Camelot, and
Palamides rode onward with the two kings, his heart torn with mingled
sorrow and despair. Not alone was he in grief for his disgrace in the
field, under the eyes of her he loved, but was full as sorrowful for the
hot words he had spoken in his wrath to Tristram, who had been so kind
and gentle to him that his heart was torn to think how falsely and
treacherously he had requited him.

His kingly companions would have had him stay with them, but he could
not be persuaded, so the king of Ireland presented him with a noble
courser, and the king of Scotland with valuable gifts, and he rode his
way, still plunged in a grief that was almost despair. Noon brought him
to a forest fountain, beside which lay a wounded knight, who sighed so
mournfully that the very leaves on the trees seemed to sigh in echo.

"Why mourn you so, fair knight?" asked Palamides, mildly. "Or if you
care not to tell, at least let me lie beside you and join my moans to
yours, for I dare say I have a hundredfold deeper cause for grief, and
we may ease our hearts by mutual complaints."

"What is your name, gentle sir?"

"Such as I am, for better or worse, men call me Palamides, son to King
Astlabor."

"Noble sir, it solaces me much to meet you. I am Epinegris, son to the
king of Northumberland. Now repose you on this mossy bank and let us
tell our woes, and so ease somewhat our sad hearts."

Then Palamides dismounted and laid himself beside the wounded knight.

"This is my source of woe," he said. "I love the fairest queen that ever
drew breath, La Belle Isolde, Cornwall's queen."

"That is sheer folly," said Epinegris, "for she loves none but Tristram
de Lyonesse."

"Know I it not? I have been in their company this month, daily reaping
sorrow. And now I have lost the fellowship of Tristram and the love of
Isolde forever, through my envy and jealousy, and never more shall a
glad thought enter my sorrowful heart."

"Did she ever show you signs of love?"

"Never. She hated me, I fear. And the last day we met she gave me such a
rebuke that I will never recover from it:--yet well I deserved it by my
unknightly acts. Many great deeds have I done for her love, yet never
shall I win a smile from her eyes."

"Deep is your grief, indeed," said Epinegris, with a heart-breaking
sigh, "yet it is but a jest to my sorrow. For my lady loved me, and I
won her with my hands. But, alas! this day I have lost her and am left
here to moan. I took her from an earl and two knights that were with
her; but as we sat here this day, telling each other of our loves, there
came an errant knight, named Helior de Preuse, and challenged me to
fight for my lady. You see what followed. He wounded me so that he left
me for dead and took my lady with him. So my sorrow is deepest, for I
have rejoiced in my love, and you never have. To have and lose is far
worse than never to own."

"That is true," said Palamides. "But yet I have the deepest cause for
grief, for your love is not hopeless, like mine. And I shall prove this,
for if I can find this Helior he shall be made to yield you your lady,
unless he prove able to deal with me as he has with you."

Then he helped Epinegris on his horse and led him to a hermitage near
by, where he left him under the care of the holy hermit. Here Palamides
stayed not long, but walked out under the shadow of the green leaves, to
be a while alone with his woes. But not far had he gone before he saw
near him a knight, who bore a shield that he had seen Hector de Maris
wear. With him were ten other knights, who sheltered themselves from the
noontide heat under the green leaves.

As they stood there another knight came by whose shield was green, with
a white lion in its midst, and who led a lady on a palfrey. As he came
up, the knight who bore Sir Hector's shield rode fiercely after him, and
bade him turn and defend his lady.

"That I must, in knightly duty," cried the other.

Then the two knights rode together with such might that horses and men
together were hurled to the earth. Drawing their swords, they now fought
sturdily for the space of an hour. In the end the knight of the white
lion was stricken to the earth and forced to beg for his life.

Palamides stood under the leaves, watching this combat till it came to
its end. Then he went to the lady, whom he believed to be her whom he
had promised to rescue. Taking her gently by the hand, he asked her if
she knew a knight named Epinegris.

"Alas! that ever I did," she sadly replied. "For his sake I have lost my
liberty, and for mine he has lost his life."

"Not so badly as that," said Palamides. "He is at yonder hermitage. I
will take you to him."

"Then he lives!" she cried in joy. "You fill my heart with gladness."

But not many steps had Palamides led her before the victorious knight
cried out in tones of fierce anger,--

"Loose the lady, sirrah! Whither take you her?"

"Whither I will?" answered Palamides.

"You speak largely, sir knave," cried the knight. "Do you fancy you can
rob me of my prize so lightly? Think it not, sirrah; were you as good a
knight as Lancelot or Tristram or Palamides, you should not have that
lady without winning her at a dearer rate than I did."

"If fight it is, I am ready for you," answered Palamides. "I promised to
bring this lady to her lover from whom yonder knight stole her, and it
will need more swords than one to make me break my word."

"We shall see if that be so," said the other, attacking him so fiercely
that Palamides had much ado to protect himself. They fought for so long
a time that Palamides marvelled much who this knight could be that
withstood him so sturdily after his late hard battle.

"Knight," he said, at length, "you fight like a hero. I would know your
name."

"You shall have it for yours in return."

"I agree to that."

"Then, sir, my name is Safere. I am son of King Astlobar, and brother to
Palamides and Segwarides."

"Then heaven defend me for having fought you, for I am your brother
Palamides."

At these words Safere fell upon his knees and begged his brother's
pardon; and then they unlaced their helms and kissed each other with
tears of joy.

As they stood thus, Epinegris advanced towards them, for he had heard
the sounds of fighting, and, wounded as he was, he came to help
Palamides if he should stand in need.

Palamides, seeing him approach, took the lady by the hand and led her to
him, and they embraced so tenderly that all hearts there were touched.

"Fair knight and lady," said Safere, "it would be a cruel pity to part
you, and I pray heaven to send you joy of each other."

"You have my sincere thanks," said Epinegris. "And deeper thanks has Sir
Palamides for what he has done for me this day. My castle is near by;
will you not ride there with me as a safeguard?"

"That we gladly will," they said, and when Epinegris had got his horse
they rode with him and the lady to the castle, where they were nobly
received and treated with the highest honor. They had such good cheer
and such enjoyment as they had rarely before known. And never burned the
flame of love more warmly than that between Epinegris and his rescued
lady.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE RIVALRY OF TRISTRAM AND PALAMIDES.


When morning again dawned over the forest and the smiling fields that
surrounded the castle of Epinegris, the two brothers rode out, taking
with them the blessings and prayers for good fortune of those they left
behind. But had they known into what deadly peril they ventured they
would not for days have left those hospitable gates.

For they rode on hour by hour, until afternoon came, and then found
themselves in front of a noble manor-house from which came to their ears
doleful sounds of woe and lamentation.

"What means this woful noise? Shall we enter and see?" said Safere.

"Willingly," answered Palamides.

Leaving their horses at the gates, they entered the court-yard, where
they saw an old man tremblingly fumbling his beads. But when they came
within the hall they beheld many men weeping and lamenting.

"Fair sirs, why make you such a moaning?" asked Palamides.

"We weep for our lord, who is slain," they dolefully replied.

But one of the knights observed the new-comers closely, and said
secretly to his fellows,--

"Know you not this man? Fortune has thrown into our hands the knight who
slew our lord at Lonazep. That tall fellow is Palamides. Let him not go
as easily as he came."

Hearing this, most of them quietly withdrew and armed themselves, and
then came suddenly upon their visitors to the number of threescore,
crying,--

"Defend yourself, if you can, Sir Palamides. We know you for the
murderer of our lord, and it is our duty to revenge him. Die you shall,
though you had the might of a giant."

Palamides and his brother, finding themselves in this desperate strait,
set themselves back to back in the midst of their assailants, and fought
like very giants, keeping their ground for two hours, though they were
attacked by twenty knights and forty gentlemen and yeomen. But strength
cannot hold out forever against odds, and at the end they were forced to
yield, and were locked up in a strong prison.

Within three days thereafter a court of twelve knights sat upon the
charge against them, and found Sir Palamides guilty of their lord's
death.

Sir Safere, who was adjudged not guilty, was given his liberty, and
bidden to depart from the castle. He parted with his brother in the
deepest woe.

"Dear brother, grieve not so greatly," said Palamides. "If die I must, I
shall meet death bravely. But had I dreamed of such a doom as this, they
should never have taken me alive."

[Illustration: Copyright 1895 by E. A. Abbey; from a Copely print
copyright 1896 by Curtis and Cameron.

THE DEPARTURE.]

Then Safere departed in untold sorrow, though not without hope of rescue
if he could raise a force to storm the castle. This he had no chance to
do, for on the next morning Palamides was sent under an escort of twelve
knights to the father of the dead knight, who dwelt in a strong castle
by the sea-side, named Pelownes, where it had been decided that the
sentence should be put into execution.

Palamides was placed on a sorry old steed with his feet bound beneath
it, and, surrounded by the guard of twelve armed knights, was taken
towards the place of death.

But through the favor of fortune their route lay by the castle of Joyous
Gard, and here they were seen by one who knew Palamides, and who asked
him whither he was borne.

"To my death," he answered, "for the slaying of a knight at the
tournament. Had I not left Sir Tristram this would not have happened to
me. I pray you, recommended me to your lord and to my lady Isolde, and
beg them to forgive me my trespasses against them. And also to my lord
King Arthur, and to all my fellows of the Round Table."

When the yeoman heard this he rode in all haste to Joyous Gard, where he
told Tristram of what he had seen and heard.

"To his death, you say?" cried Tristram. "And for an accident of the
tournament? Why, I and twenty others might be served in the same manner.
I have reason to be angry with Palamides, but he shall not die the death
of a dog if I can rescue him."

This said, he armed in all haste, and taking two squires with him, he
rode at a fast gallop towards the castle of Pelownes, hoping to overtake
the party before they could pass its gates.

But fortune had decreed that the prisoner should be otherwise rescued.
For as the guard of knights rode on their way they passed by a well
where Lancelot had alighted to drink of the refreshing waters.

When he saw the cavalcade approach he put on his helmet and stood
watching them as they passed. But his heart swelled with anger when he
saw Palamides disarmed and bound in their midst, and seemingly led to
his death.

"What means this?" he cried. "What has this knight done that deserves a
shameful death? Whatever it be, I cannot suffer him to be foully dealt
with."

Then he mounted and rode after the twelve knights, soon overtaking them.

"Sir knights," he said, "whither take you that gentleman? To ride thus
bound is not befitting for a man of his metal."

At this the guard of knights turned their horses and faced Lancelot.

"We counsel you not to meddle with us," they said, sternly. "This man
has deserved death, and to death he is adjudged."

"I tell you, sirs, it shall not be. He is too good a knight to die a
shameful death. Defend yourselves, then, for I will try my one hand
against your twelve, and rescue him or die in the effort."

The knights of the guard now put their spears in rest, and Lancelot rode
upon them with such fury that the foremost and three of those behind him
were hurled to the ground before his spear broke. Then he drew his sword
and laid about him so shrewdly that in a little time the whole twelve of
them were stretched upon the earth, most of them being sorely wounded.
Lancelot now cut the bonds of Palamides, mounted him upon the best of
their horses, and rode back with him towards Joyous Gard.

As they went forward they saw Sir Tristram approaching. Lancelot knew
him at sight, but was himself unknown, because he bore a golden shield
which neither Tristram nor Palamides recognized. He therefore mystified
them for a time, and declined to enter Joyous Gard on the plea that he
had other pressing business on hand. But when strongly entreated, he at
length consented, and entered the castle with them.

Great was their surprise and joy when he had unhelmed, to find that they
had their host for guest. Tristram took him in his arms, and so did
Isolde, while Palamides kneeled before him and thanked him for his life.
When Lancelot saw this he took him by the hand and made him rise.

"Good sirs," he said, "could I, or any knight of worship in this land,
hesitate to rescue from an ignoble death such a knight as Palamides? Had
there been fifty instead of twelve, I fear I should have braved them
all."

Much joy was there in Joyous Gard at the visit of the lord of the
castle, but Lancelot stayed there but four days. Palamides, however,
remained for two months and more, his love and grief growing deeper,
till he faded away to a shadow of himself.

One day, at the end of this time, he wandered far into the neighboring
forest, and here by chance saw the reflection of his face in a clear
pool. The wasted visage disturbed and affrighted him.

"What does this mean?" he asked himself. "Am I, who was called one of
the handsomest knights in the world, wasted to such a frightful figure?
I must leave this life, for it is idle to grieve myself to death for
that which I can never possess."

Then he threw himself beside the well, and from the fulness of his heart
began to make a song about La Belle Isolde and himself, a rhyme made up
of music, love, and grief.

As chance would have it, Tristram had ridden into the forest that day in
chase of the hart. And as he rode up and down under the green leaves the
summer air brought to his ears the sound of a voice singing loud and
clear. He rode softly towards the sound, for he deemed that some
knight-errant lay there solacing himself with song.

When he came nigh he tied his horse to a tree and advanced on foot. Then
he became aware that the singer was his guest Palamides, and that his
song was about La Belle Isolde, a doleful and piteous, yet marvellously
well-made song, which the singer sang loudly and in a clear voice.
Tristram stood listening till he had heard it from beginning to end. But
at the last his anger grew so high that he needed to restrain himself
from slaying the singer where he lay.

Remembering that Palamides was unarmed, he resisted this impulse, and
advanced slowly towards him.

"Sir Palamides," he said, in a gentle voice, "I have heard your song,
and learned your treason to your host. If it were not for the shame of
an unknightly act I would deal you here the meed you have earned. How
will you acquit yourself of treachery?"

"Thus will I," said Palamides, springing to his feet in his surprise.
"As for Queen Isolde, you may know well that I love her above all other
ladies in the world. I loved her before you ever saw her, as you know,
and have never ceased nor shall ever cease to love her. What honor I
have won is due for the most part to my love of her. Yet never for a
moment has she returned my love, and I have been her knight without
guerdon. Therefore I dread not death, for I had as lief die as live."

"Well have you uttered your treason," said Tristram.

"No treason is it," said Palamides. "Love is free to all men, and I have
a right to love any lady I will. If she return it not, no man is harmed.
Such wrong as is done I have suffered, not you, for your love is
returned and mine has brought me but pain. Yet I shall continue to love
La Belle Isolde to the end of my days as deeply as you can."

That there was reason in these words Tristram could not but have seen,
had not anger blinded his wisdom.

"None shall love my lady but myself," he cried, in passion. "And for
what you have said I challenge you to battle to the uttermost."

"I can never fight in a better quarrel," said Palamides. "And if you
slay me I can never die by a nobler hand. Since I cannot hope for favor
from La Belle Isolde, I have as good will to die as to live."

"Then set a day in which we shall do battle in this cause."

"Let it be fifteen days hence. And let the place be in the meadow under
Joyous Gard."

"Why so long a time?" demanded Tristram. "To-morrow will suit me
better."

"It is because I am meagre and weak, and have fallen away to a shadow
through hopeless love. I must rest until I get my strength again before
I can face so doughty a knight."

"So let it be, then," said Tristram. "Yet once before you broke a
promise to meet me in battle at the grave near Camelot."

"What could I do?" rejoined Palamides. "I was in prison, and could not
keep my word."

"If you had done so, there would have been no need of a fight now," said
Tristram, as he strode haughtily away.

Then Palamides took his horse and rode to Arthur's court, where he did
his utmost to rest and regain strength. When the appointed time
approached he returned, attended by four knights and four
sergeant-at-arms.

Meanwhile Tristram spent his time at the chase. And by evil fortune,
about three days before the time of battle, a wild arrow shot by an
archer at a hart struck him in the thigh and wounded him so deeply that
he could scarcely return to Joyous Gard.

Great was his heaviness of heart, and neither man nor woman could bring
him cheer, for it was now impossible to keep his word with his rival;
and his heart grew full of the fancy that Palamides himself had shot
that arrow, so as to prevent him doing battle on the appointed day. But
this no knight about Tristram would believe.

When the fifteenth day came Palamides appeared at the place fixed, with
the knights and sergeants whom he had brought with him to bear record of
the battle. One sergeant bore his helm, a second his spear, and a third
his shield. And for two hours he rested in the field, awaiting the
approach of his antagonist.

Then, seeing that Tristram failed to come, he sent a squire to Joyous
Gard to remind him of his challenge. When Tristram heard of this message
he had the squire brought to his chamber, and showed him his wound.

"Tell Sir Palamides," he said, "that were I able to come he would not
need to send for me, and that I had rather be whole to-day than have all
King Arthur's gold. Tell him, moreover, that as soon as I am able I
shall seek him throughout the land, as I am a true knight; and when I
find him he shall have his fill of battle."

This message the squire brought to his master, who heard it with much
secret satisfaction.

"I would have had hard handling of him, and very likely have been
vanquished," he said, "for he has not his equal in battle, unless it be
Sir Lancelot. So I am well content to give up the fight."

A month passed before Tristram was well. Then he took his horse and rode
from country to country in search of Palamides, having many strange
adventures by the way, but nowhere could he meet or hear of his rival
in love. But during his search Tristram did so many valiant deeds that
his fame for the time quite overtopped that of Lancelot, so much so that
Lancelot's kinsmen in their anger would have waylaid and slain the
valiant warrior.

For this jealousy Lancelot sternly rebuked them, saying,--

"Bear it well in mind, that if any of you does any harm to Sir Tristram,
that man shall I slay with my own hands. To murder a man like this for
his noble deeds! Out upon such base designs! Far rather should you
worship him for his valor and royal prowess."

And so time went on for the space of two years, during which Tristram
sought in vain for his rival.

At the end of that time he came home to Joyous Gard from one of his
journeys of adventure, and there was told by La Belle Isolde of a great
feast to be held at the court on the coming day of Pentecost, which she
counselled him strongly to attend.

Much debate passed between him and his lady-love on this subject, for he
was loth to go without her, and she cared not to go. In the end he
declared that he would obey her wishes, but would ride thither unarmed,
save for his sword and spear.

This he did, and though she in her loving anxiety sent after him four
knights, he sent them back within half a mile. Yet he soon had reason to
repent his rashness. For hardly had he gone a mile farther when he came
upon a wounded knight, who told him he owed his hurt to Sir Palamides.
What to do now, Tristram knew not. Near by was the foe he had so long
sought in vain, and he was unarmed. Should he ride back for his armor,
or go on as he was?

While he stood thinking, Palamides appeared, and knew him at sight.

"Well met, Sir Tristram!" he cried. "I have heard much of your search
for me. You have found me now, and we shall not part till we have
settled our old scores."

"As for that," answered Tristram, "no Christian can boast that I ever
fled from him, nor shall a Saracen make this boast, even if I be
unarmed."

Then he put his horse to the gallop and rode on Palamides with such fury
that his spear broke into a hundred pieces. Throwing it away, he drew
his sword and struck Palamides six great strokes upon the helm, while
the Saracen stood unresisting, and wondering at the folly and madness of
his foe. Then Tristram cried out in fury,--

"Coward knight, why stand you thus idly? You dare not do battle with me,
for doubt not but I can endure all your strength and malice."

"You know well, Sir Tristram," answered Palamides, "that I cannot in
honor strike at your unarmed head. If I should slay you thus, shame
would be my lot. As for your valor and hardiness, those I shall never
question."

"You speak well," answered Tristram.

"Tell me this," continued Palamides. "Were I here naked of armor, and
you full armed as I am, what would you do?"

"I shall not answer from fear, but from truthfulness. I would bid you
depart, as I could not have ado with you."

"No more can I with you," said Palamides, "therefore ride on your way."

"I shall ride or abide as I may choose," said Tristram. "But tell me
this, Palamides: how is it that so good a knight as you refuses to be
christened, as your brothers have long been?"

"I cannot become a Christian till a vow I made years ago is fulfilled. I
believe fully in Jesus Christ and His mild mother Mary; but there is one
battle yet I must fight, and when that is done I will be baptized with a
good will."

"If that is the battle with me," said Tristram, "you shall not long wait
for it. For God defend that through my fault you should continue a
Saracen. Yonder is a knight whom you have hurt. Help me to put on his
armor and I will aid you to fulfil your vow."

So they rode together to the wounded knight, who was seated on a bank.
Tristram saluted him, and he weakly returned the salute.

"Will you tell me your name, sir knight?" asked Tristram.

"I am Sir Galleron of Galway, and a Knight of the Round Table."

"I am sorry for your hurts, and beg you to lend me your armor, for I am
unarmed, and would do battle with this knight who wounded you."

"You shall have it with a good will. But you must beware, for this is no
common knight."

"I know him well," answered Tristram, "and have an old quarrel with
him."

"Will you kindly tell me your name?"

"My name is Tristram de Lyonesse."

"Then it was idle to warn you. Well I know your renown and worship; and
Sir Palamides is likely to have no light task."

Tristram now took off the armor of the wounded knight, who, as well as
he could, helped him to put it on himself. This accomplished, Tristram
mounted his horse and took in his hand Sir Galleron's spear.

Riding to where Palamides stood waiting, he bade him make ready. In a
minute more the two strong knights came hurtling together like two
lions. Each smote the other in the centre of the shield, but Palamides's
spear broke, while that of Tristram overturned the horse of Palamides.
In a moment the unhorsed knight had sprung to his feet and drawn his
sword, while Tristram alighted, tied his horse to a tree, and advanced
to the fray.

The combat that succeeded was a hard and well-fought one, as only it
could be between two such knights. For more than two hours it continued,
Tristram often bringing Palamides to his knees by his mighty strokes,
while Palamides cut through Tristram's shield and wounded him. Then, in
a fury of anger, Tristram rushed upon his rival and hurled him to the
earth. But in an instant the agile Saracen was on his feet again,
fighting with all his old strength and skill. And so the combat went on,
hour by hour, and, hard as Tristram fought, Palamides stood as nobly to
his work, and gave him stroke for stroke.

But, as fortune willed, in the end a fierce blow struck the sword from
Palamides's hand, nor dare he stoop for it, for fear of being slain. So
he stood moveless, regarding it with a sorrowful heart.

"Now," said Tristram, "I have you at advantage, as you had me this day.
But it shall never be said that Tristram de Lyonesse killed a weaponless
knight. Therefore take your sword, and let us make an end of this
battle."

"As for that, I am willing to end it now," said Palamides. "I have no
wish to fight longer. Nor can I think that my offence is such that we
may not be friends. All I have done is to love La Belle Isolde. You will
not say that I have done her aught of dishonor by holding that she is
peerless among ladies, or by the valor which love for her has given me.
As for such offence as I have given you, I have atoned for it this day,
and no one can say that I have not held my own like a man. But this I
will affirm, that I never before fought with a man of your might.
Therefore I beg you to forgive me for all wrongs which I have done you,
and as my vow is now fulfilled, I stand ready to go with you to the
nearest church, there to be confessed, and to receive baptism as a true
and earnest Christian knight."

"I gladly forgive you all you have done against me," said Tristram; "the
more so that you have done it rather from love than from hatred. It
fills my heart with joy to be the means of bringing the valiant
Palamides into the Church of Christ, and hereafter I shall hold you
among my best friends. Within a mile from here is the suffragan of
Carlisle, who will gladly give you the sacrament of baptism; and all
Christendom must rejoice to gain so noble a convert."

Then they took their horses and helped Galleron to his, and rode to the
church, where Tristram told the suffragan the purpose of their coming.
Proud to bring into the fold of the church so notable a convert, the
suffragan filled a great vessel with water, and hallowed it. This done,
he confessed and baptized Sir Palamides, while Tristram and Galleron
stood as his godfathers.

Afterwards the three knights rode to Camelot, much to the joy of the
king and queen, who gladly welcomed Tristram to their court, and were no
less glad to learn that the valiant Palamides had become a Christian,
and that the long rivalry between him and Tristram was at an end. The
great feast of Pentecost that followed was the merriest that had ever
been held at Arthur's court, and the merriest that ever would be, for
the breath of coming woe and trouble was in the air, and the time was
near at hand in which that worthy fellowship of noble knights was
destined to break up in dire disaster.

But first of all the tide of disaster came upon Tristram the brave and
Isolde the fair, as we must now relate. The chronicles tell the story at
length, but the record of treachery and crime had always best be short,
and so we shall make that of King Mark, the murderer.

Many years before the time to which we have now come, King Mark's
treachery had filled Cornwall with mischief and all the land with
horror, through a deed of frightful crime. And in thus wise it came
about. Cornwall had been invaded by a host of Saracens, but before they
could do any mischief, Prince Baldwin, King Mark's brother, attacked
them, burned their ships, and utterly destroyed them. Furious at heart
that his brother should win such honor, while he lay cowering with fear
in his castle, Mark invited him to Tintagil, with his wife and child.
There suddenly charging him with treason for attacking the Saracens
without orders, he stabbed him to the heart, and would have slain his
wife and child as well had not the lady Anglides fled for life with her
child.

Mark sent after them an old knight named Sir Sadok, with orders to bring
them back to Tintagil. But he suffered them to escape, and brought back
to the king a false tale that he had drowned the boy.

Many years now passed by, during which Baldwin's son, Alexander the
orphan, grew up to be a youth large of limb and strong of arm. In due
time he was made a knight, whereupon Anglides produced the bloody
doublet and shirt of her murdered husband, which she had carefully
preserved, and laid upon the young knight the duty of revenging his
father's death. The story of the crime had been diligently kept from
him, but he now accepted this heavy charge with alacrity, and vowed
solemnly to devote his life to the duty of revenging his murdered
father.

News of all this was quickly brought to King Mark, by a false knight who
hoped to win favor by turning informer.

"By my halidom," cried Mark, "whom can I trust? I fancied the young
viper was dead years ago. That false hound, Sadok, let him escape. As I
am a living man, he shall pay the penalty of his treason."

Seizing a sword, he burst furiously from the chamber, and rushed madly
through the castle in search of the knight who had deceived him. When
Sadok saw him coming, with fury in his face, he guessed what had
happened, and drew his own sword in haste.

"King Mark," he cried, "beware how you come nigh me. I saved the life of
Alexander, and glory in it, for you slew his father cowardly and
treacherously. And it is my hope and prayer that the youth may have the
strength and spirit to revenge the good Prince Baldwin on his murderer."

"What, traitor! What, dog! Do you dare rail thus at me?" cried the king,
and in a voice of fury he bade four knights of his following to slay the
traitor.

These knights drew their swords and advanced in a body on Sadok; but he
got the wall of them, and fought so shrewdly that he killed the whole
four in King Mark's presence.

Then, shaking his clinched fist at the king, he said,--

"I would add your false body to the heap, but that I leave you for
Alexander's revenge."

This said, he took horse and rode briskly away, and in all his court
Mark could not find a knight willing to pursue him, for all that held
with the king feared the old knight's sturdy arm.

King Mark now finding his wrath of no avail, set himself to devising
some scheme of treachery by which the danger that threatened him might
be removed. In the end he made a compact with Morgan le Fay and the
queen of Northgalis, both false sorceresses, in which they agreed to
fill the land with ladies that were enchantresses, and with false
knights like Malgrim and Breuse Sans Pité, so that the young knight
Alexander le Orphelin should be surrounded with magic and treachery, and
without doubt be taken prisoner or slain.

Soon after his knighting, Alexander set out for King Arthur's court, and
on the way there had many adventures, in which he proved himself a
knight of great valor and skill. Among these was a mighty battle with
the false knight Malgrim, whom in the end he killed.

But now Morgan le Fay sought to entrap him by her false devices. She
gave him a sleeping draught, and had him taken in a horse-litter to a
castle of hers named La Belle Regard.

Here she cured him of his wounds by healing salves, but not until he had
promised that he would not set foot beyond the boundaries of that castle
for a twelvemonth and a day. When he had recovered, Alexander chafed
bitterly at his confinement, for he felt sure that the pledge had been
exacted from him to save King Mark from his vow of revenge. Yet his word
held him close prisoner.

As one day he wandered through the halls of the castle, like a young
lion in a cage,--now heavy and sad, now burning with desire for
action,--there came to him a damsel who was cousin to Morgan le Fay, and
to whom the castle of La Belle Regard by right belonged.

"Sir knight," she said to him, "I find you doleful of aspect; yet I bear
tidings that should make you merry!"

"I pray you tell them to me," he answered. "I am here now a prisoner by
promise, but must say that time hangs very heavy on my hands."

"You are more of a prisoner than you deem," she replied. "My cousin,
Morgan le Fay, keeps you here for purposes of her own which you will
scarcely find to your liking."

"I fancy she keeps me here through an understanding with King Mark," he
rejoined. "I have no faith in her, but I cannot break my word of honor."

"Truly, fair sir," she said, "I pity your unhappy lot, and have a plan
in mind through which you may escape from this durance without loss of
honor."

"Do that and I shall owe you my life's service," he answered, warmly.
"Tell me, dear lady, by what means I can be freed."

"This I may justly say, that this castle of right belongs to me. I have
been unjustly deprived of it, and in right and honor you are my
prisoner, not Morgan's. I have an uncle who is a powerful nobleman, the
Earl of Pase, and who hates Morgan le Fay above all persons. I shall
send to him, and pray him for my sake to destroy this castle, which
harbors only evil customs. He will come at my wish and set fire to the
building throughout. As for you, I shall get you out at a private
postern, and there have your horse and armor ready."

"Truly, fair maiden, you are as wise as you are beautiful," he answered,
in eager accents. "Release me from imprisonment to Morgan and I will
hold myself your prisoner for life."

Then she sent to her uncle the earl, and bade him come and burn that
haunt of mischief,--a design which he already had in mind.

When the appointed day came the Earl of Pase sought the castle with four
hundred knights, and set fire to it in all parts, ceasing not his
efforts till there was not a stone left standing of the once proud
stronghold.

But Alexander was not willing to take this as a release from his vow,
but stationed himself within the limits of the space where had stood the
castle of La Belle Regard, and made it known far and wide that he would
hold that ground against all comers for a twelvemonth and a day.

Word of this knightly challenge soon came to Arthur's court, where was
then a lady of famous beauty and great estate, known as Alice la Belle
Pilgrim, daughter of Duke Ansirus, called the pilgrim, since he went on
a pilgrimage to Jerusalem every third year.

When this fair maiden heard of Alexander's challenge, she went into the
great hall of Camelot and proclaimed in the hearing of all the knights
that whoever should overcome the champion of La Belle Regard should wed
her and be lord of all her lands.

This done, she went to La Belle Regard, where she set up her pavilion
beside the piece of earth held by the young knight. And as the weeks
passed by there came from all directions knights who had heard of
Alexander's challenge and Alice's offer, and many a hard battle was
fought. Yet from them all Alexander came as victor.

But the more he triumphed over his knightly foes the deeper he fell
captive to his fair neighbor, for whom he grew to feel so deep a love
that it almost robbed him of his wits. Nor was his love unrequited, for
his valor and youthful beauty had filled her heart with as ardent a
passion for him in return, and she prayed as warmly for his victory in
every combat as though he had been her chosen champion.

And so time passed on, varied by fighting and love-making, till one day,
after Alexander had unhorsed two knights, there came to him the lady to
whom he owed the burning of the castle, who told Alice the whole story
of what had then occurred.

"You worked wisely and well," answered Alice. "Sir Alexander, indeed,
has not gained much more freedom, except it be freedom to fight. But
that is more his fault than yours."

"Have I not?" exclaimed the young knight. "I have gained freedom to love
also; for which I am ever beholden to this fair damsel."

At this Alice turned away with a rosy blush, while the maiden stood
regarding them with merry smiles.

"I have, by right, the first claim on you, Sir Alexander," she said.
"But if this fair lady wants you, I should be sorry to stand in love's
light. I yield my claim in her favor."

As they thus conversed in merry mood, three knights rode up, who
challenged Alexander to joust for the proffered prize of the hand and
estate of Alice la Belle Pilgrim. But the three of them got such falls
that they lost all desire to wed the lady, and, like all knights whom
Alexander overcame, they were made to swear to wear no arms for a
twelvemonth and a day.

Yet love may bring weakness as well as strength, as the young lover was
to find to his cost. For there came a day in which, as he stood looking
from his pavilion, he saw the lady Alice on horseback outside, and so
charming did she appear in his eyes that his love for her became almost
a frenzy. So enamoured was he that all thought of life and its doings
fled from his brain, and he grew like one demented.

While he was in this state of love-lorn blindness the false-hearted
knight Sir Mordred rode up with purpose to joust. But when he saw that
the youthful champion was besotted with admiration of his lady, and had
no eyes or mind for aught beside, he thought to make a jest of him, and,
taking his horse by the bridle, led him here and there, designing to
bring the lover to shame by withdrawing him from the place he had sworn
to defend.

When the damsel of the castle saw this, and found that no words of hers
would rouse Alexander from his blind folly, she burned with indignation,
and bethought her of a sharper means of bringing him back to his lost
senses.

So she put on her armor and took a sword in her hand, and, mounting a
horse, rode upon him with the fury of a knight, giving him such a buffet
on the helm that he thought that fire flew from his eyes.

When the besotted lover felt this stroke he came of a sudden to his
wits, and felt for his sword. But the damsel fled to the pavilion and
Mordred to the forest, so that Alexander was left raging there, with no
foe to repay for that stinging blow.

When he came to understand how the false knight would have shamed him,
his heart burned with wrath that Sir Mordred had escaped his hands. But
the two ladies had many a jest upon him for the knightly stroke which
the damsel had given him on the helm.

"Good faith," she said, "I knew not how else to bring back his strayed
wits. I fancy I would have given him some shrewd work to do if I had
chosen to stand against him. These men think that none but they can wear
armor and wield swords. I took pity on your champion, Alice, or it might
have gone hard with him," and she laughed so merrily that they could not
but join her in her mirth.

After that nearly every day Alexander jousted with knights of honor and
renown, but of them all not one was able to put him to the worse, and he
held his ground to the twelvemonth's end, proving himself a knight of
the noblest prowess.

When the year had reached its end and his pledge was fully kept, he
departed from that place with Alice la Belle Pilgrim, who afterwards
became his loving wife, and they lived together with great joy and
happiness in her country of Benoye.

But though he let love set aside for the time his vow of revenge on King
Mark, he did not forget the duty that lay before him, nor did that
evil-minded king rest at ease under the knowledge that an avenger was in
the land. Many a false scheme he devised to keep Alexander from his
court, and in the end his treacherous plots proved successful, for the
young knight was murdered by some of King Mark's emissaries, with his
father's death still unrevenged.

But vengeance sleeps not, and destiny had decided that the false-hearted
king should yet die in retribution for the murder of Prince Baldwin.
Alexander left a son, who was named Bellengerus le Beuse, and who grew
up to become a valiant and renowned knight. He it was who avenged the
slaughter of Prince Baldwin, and also of Sir Tristram, for this noble
knight was also slain by the felonious king, as we must now tell.

Through the good services of King Arthur and Queen Guenever, after
Tristram and Isolde had long dwelt at Joyous Gard, peace was made
between them and King Mark, and they returned to Tintagil, where for a
long time all went on in seeming friendship and harmony.

But the false king nursed the demon of jealousy deep within his breast,
and bided his time for revenge. At length, on a day when Tristram,
dreaming not of danger, sat harping before La Belle Isolde, the
treacherous king rushed suddenly upon him with a naked sword in his hand
and struck him dead at her feet.

Retribution for this vile deed came quickly, for Bellengerus was at
Tintagil Castle at the time, brought there by thirst of vengeance, and
with a heart filled with double fury by the news of this dastardly deed,
he rushed upon King Mark as he stood in the midst of his knights and
courtiers, and struck him to the heart with his father's avenging
blade.

Then, aided by Dinas, Fergus, and others of Tristram's friends, he
turned upon Andred and the remainder of King Mark's satellites, and when
the work of blood was done not one of these false-hearted knights
remained alive, and the court of Cornwall was purged of the villany
which had long reigned there supreme.

But La Belle Isolde loved Tristram with too deep a love to survive his
death, and she fell swooning upon the cross above his tomb and there
sobbed out her life; and she was buried by his side, that those who had
been so united in life should not be parted in death.

Great was the grief and pity aroused throughout England, and through all
lands where knighthood was held in honor, by this distressful event, for
never before had two such faithful lovers breathed mortal air. And long
thereafter lovers made pilgrimages to their tomb, where many prayed
fervently for a draught from that magic goblet from which Tristram and
Isolde drank, and whose wine of love forever after ran so warmly in
their veins.



                              BOOK IX.

                    THE QUEST OF THE HOLY GRAIL.



CHAPTER I.

THE ENCHANTED CASTLE OF KING PELLAM.


After many years had come and gone, and all at the court of Arthur the
king had grown older and wiser, there came to pass a series of
adventures more marvellous than had ever been known upon the earth
before, and of a nobler kind than mere tourneyings and joustings, being
no less than the quest of the holy vessel named the Sangreal, in which
was kept a portion of the blood of our blessed Saviour, Jesus Christ.

And through this quest much disaster came upon the land, and the noble
fellowship of the Round Table was broken up and destroyed, for many went
in search of the holy vessel who had lived evil lives, and of these few
came back, but most of them died deaths of violence.

This sacred talisman--the Sangreal--had been brought to England
centuries before by Joseph of Arimathea, a follower of our Saviour, and
had passed down from him to his descendant, King Pellam, of Listengeise,
him whom Balin struck the dolorous stroke, and who was destined to lie
in misery and pain until he should be healed of his wound by the winner
of the holy vessel.

But to tell how this perilous quest began we must go long years back and
relate a story of strange adventures and marvellous deliverances.

For it had happened that during a feast of Whitsuntide Lancelot du Lake
left Arthur's court at Camelot and rode afar in search of adventures.
And after a long journey, in which many strange things came to pass, he
arrived at Listengeise, the land of King Pellam. Here he rescued the
king's fair daughter, Elaine, from a dismal enchantment, under which she
had long lain through the wiles of Morgan le Fay and the queen of
Northgalis, who hated her bitterly from her renown for beauty.

After the rescue of the lady, Lancelot fought with and killed a mighty
serpent that haunted a tomb near by, and had done much harm in the land.
Then there came to him a dignified and noble baron, who thanked him
heartily in the name of the king, and invited him to a repast in the
castle hall.

But as they sat at table a wonderful thing took place. For in at the
open window of the hall there flew a dove, which bore in its mouth what
seemed a little censer of gold. And from this censer came such a rich
and penetrating perfume as if all the spicery of the world had been
there, while upon the table suddenly appeared the most delicious of
meats and drinks. Then came in a damsel, young and beautiful, who bore
in her hands a vessel of gold, before which all who were there kneeled
and prayed devoutly.

[Illustration: ON THE QUEST OF THE HOLY GRAIL.]

"What may all this mean?" asked Lancelot in deep surprise.

"It has been granted you to see the most precious and wonderful thing in
the world," answered the noble baron. "For you have been permitted to
gaze upon the holy Sangreal. In the time to come all Arthur's knights
shall take part in a quest for this precious talisman, and great shall
be the woe therefrom, for through that quest the Round Table fellowship
shall be broken up and many of its noble knights destroyed."

But all that passed in that land is too much for us to tell. We shall
say only that the fair Elaine came to love Lancelot dearly, but he gave
her no love in return, for all the affection of his heart was centred
upon Queen Guenever. Yet King Pellam so desired that Lancelot should wed
his fair daughter that in the end he used enchantment, and brought him
to make her his wife when under a magic spell, the deluded knight
fancying that it was Guenever whom he had wedded.

This delusion last not long, and when the deceived spouse came to his
senses and learned how he had been dealt with, he broke away like a
madman, and, gaining his horse, rode wildly through the land. And every
knight-errant who dared to joust with him was made to suffer from the
fury that burned in his blood.

Long afterwards, as chance and adventure brought about, there came to
King Pellam's castle Sir Bors de Ganis, Lancelot's nephew. He was gladly
received, and treated with all the good cheer and honor which the castle
could afford. And as he sat at his repast with, the castle lords, there
came in, as it had come to Lancelot, the dove with the censer, at which
the air was filled with the richest perfume, and the table covered with
the most delicious viands. Then entered the maiden with the holy grail,
and all fell to their prayers.

"Truly," said Bors, "this is a strange place, and a land full of
marvels."

"This I will say," answered the noble baron who sat in the king's chair,
"that of the knights who come here few see the holy vessel, and fewer go
away with any honor. Gawaine, the good knight, was here but lately; but
he saw not what your eyes have beheld, and he left here in shame. None
but those of a worshipful life and who love God devoutly can behold this
marvel, or sleep in this castle without coming to harm."

"I am in quest of adventures," said Bors, "and shall lie in your castle
this night, come what will. Men call me honest and virtuous, and I stand
ready to dare all perils the castle may hold."

"I counsel you not," said the baron. "You will hardly escape without
harm and shame."

"Let come what will come, I am ready."

"Then I advise you to confess, and go to your chamber with a clean soul,
for you will be sorely tried."

"Let it be so. Your counsel is wise."

After Sir Bors had been confessed and received absolution, he was led
into a fair large chamber, around which were many doors, while a bed of
royal richness stood in the middle of the floor. Here he was left alone,
and threw himself on the bed in his armor, deeming it wise to be
prepared for all that might come.

Not long had he lain there with open eyes and alert wits, when the room
was all at once brilliantly lighted up, though whence the light came he
could not tell. And suddenly a great and long spear, whose point burnt
like a taper, shot across the chamber without hand to guide it, and
struck him in the shoulder so fierce a blow that his armor was pierced,
and he received a wound, a hand's-breadth in depth, which pained him
bitterly.

Quickly afterwards an armed knight strode in, with shield on shoulder
and sword in hand, who cried in a harsh voice,--

"Arise, sir knight, and fight with me."

"I shall not fail you," said Bors, hot with the pain of his wound. "I am
sorely hurt, but I have vowed boldly to dare aught that might come to
me. If that burning spear came from your hand you shall pay dearly for
it."

With these words he sprang from the bed and attacked the intruder, and a
hard and stern battle began, which lasted long. At the end the intruding
knight was driven backward to a chamber door, through which he passed,
leaving Bors master of the floor.

But hardly had he rested a minute when the defeated knight returned, as
fresh as at the start, and attacked Bors with renewed strength. Again
the battle went on fiercely. But when Bors saw his antagonist once more
retreating towards the chamber door, he cried out,--

"Not so, my good fellow. You played that trick on me once; you shall
not again. Back and defend yourself. If you defeat me it shall be by
strength, not by magic." And he stationed himself before the door, and
drove back his opponent with such fury, that in a moment more he hurled
him to the floor.

"Yield, or you die!" he cried, setting his foot on the fallen knight's
head.

"I yield," came the answer.

"What is your name?"

"I am Sir Pedivere of the Straight Marches."

"Then, Sir Pedivere of the Straight Marches, take yourself away. And if
you have any of your fellows behind yonder door, bid them to keep out of
this room, for I came here to sleep, not to fight. At Whitsunday next,
present yourself at King Arthur's court, and tell him that you have come
thither as a prisoner of Sir Bors of the sharp sword."

This, Sir Pedivere swore to do, and left his conqueror to what rest he
could get. But this was little, for enchantment surrounded the daring
knight. The room suddenly became full of frightful noises and alive with
peril. Whence they came he knew not, whether through doors or windows,
but a flight of arrows and of crossbow bolts filled the air, whistling
shrewdly past his ears, while many of them fell upon him and pierced his
flesh through the open places in his armor.

"Who can sleep in such a den of witchcraft as this?" he cried, in a
rage, springing from the bed. As he did so one of the doors opened, and
a great lion leaped fiercely in, with a hideous roar.

"It is better to fight a lion that one can see, than arrows which nobody
shoots," cried Bors, and he rushed without hesitation on the dangerous
animal.

Sharp was the fight that followed, but of short duration. The lion
sprang wildly upon him, and tore the shield from his arm, while the
sharp claws rent his flesh. But the knight retorted with a sweeping
stroke that cut off the frightful beast's head, and stretched its tawny
body lifeless on the floor.

Then Bors walked to the window to see whither the arrows had come, and
as he looked into the castle court he beheld a wondrous sight. For
before his eyes stood a dragon, huge and horrible of aspect, in whose
forehead were letters of gold which seemed to him to form King Arthur's
emblem. And as he gazed there leaped into the court an old and mighty
leopard, which sprang upon the dragon and engaged in desperate battle
with the huge monster.

At last the dragon spit out of its mouth a hundred of what seemed small
dragons, and these quickly leaped upon the frightful beast and rent it
to fragments. Then all the animals disappeared, and an old man came into
the court, around whose neck two adders wreathed their folds. In his
hand was a harp, upon which he played, while he sang an old song telling
how Joseph of Arimathea came to that land. When his song was ended he
said to Sir Bors,--

"Go from this land, sir knight, for you shall have no more adventures
here. You have played your part well and nobly, and shall do still
better hereafter, for wondrous things are reserved for you."

Then Bors saw a dove of whitest plumage fly across the court with a
golden censer in its mouth, from which seemed to stream the most
delicious perfumes. And the tempest which had raged in the sky suddenly
ceased, while from the rent clouds the full moon poured down its white
light to the earth.

Next there came into the court four children who bore four tapers, and
an old man in their midst with a censer in one hand a spear in the
other, and that spear was called the spear of vengeance.

"Go to your cousin, Sir Lancelot," said the old man, "and tell him what
you have seen, and that if he had been as clean of sin as he should be,
the adventure which all this signifies would have been his. Tell him,
moreover, that though in worldly adventures he passes all others in
manhood and prowess, there are many his betters in spiritual worth, and
that what you have seen and done this night he was not deemed worthy
of."

Then Bors saw four meanly-dressed gentlewomen pass through his chamber,
and enter an apartment beyond which was lit up with a light like that of
midsummer. Here they knelt before an altar of silver with four pillars,
where also kneeled a man in the dress of a bishop. And as the knight
looked upward he beheld a naked sword hovering over his head, whose
blade shone like silver, yielding a flashing light that blinded him as
he gazed. As he stood thus sightless, he heard a voice which said,--

"Go hence, Sir Bors, for as yet thou art not worthy to be in this
place."

Then the door of that chamber closed, and he went backward to his bed,
where he lay and slept undisturbed till morning dawned. But when the
regent of King Pellam learned what had happened to his guest in the
night, and how he had escaped the perils of the enchanted chamber, he
greeted him joyfully, and said,--

"You are the first that ever endured so well that chamber's mysteries.
And more has been shown to your eyes than any others have seen. Go home,
worthy knight. You are chosen for great deeds in the time to come."

Sir Bors thereupon took his horse and rode away, thinking long and
deeply on all that had happened to him.



CHAPTER II.

THE MARVEL OF THE FLOATING SWORD.


Many and strange were the events that followed those we have just
related, and great trouble and woe came therefrom. For when Sir Bors
returned to Camelot and told the story of the wedding of Lancelot and
Elaine, much was the secret talk and great the scandal. And when the
news came to Guenever's ears she flamed with wrath.

Not long afterwards, Lancelot returned, still half frenzied with the
deception that had been practised upon him. When Guenever saw him she
accused him bitterly of being a traitor to love, and harshly bade him
leave the court, and never come again within her sight.

This bitter reviling turned Lancelot's frenzy to a sudden madness. With
distracted brain he leaped from a window into a garden, and ran like a
wild man through wood and brake, heedless that his clothes were torn and
his flesh rent with thorns and briers. Thus hotly burns despised love in
the human heart and brain, and thus it may turn the strongest senses
away and bring madness to the clearest mind.

On learning what had passed, Bors and Hector went to the queen, and
accused her harshly of the great wrong she had done to the noble
Lancelot. But she was already torn with remorse, and she knelt before
these noble knights, begging their forgiveness, and praying them
pitifully to seek Lancelot and bring him back to the court.

Months passed and Lancelot returned not, nor could he be found, though
he was sought through many lands. For he kept afar from cities and
courts, and roamed through wilds and wastes, where he had many
adventures in his madness, and did strange and wild things.

For two years he wandered hither and thither in frenzy, until at length
he came to King Pellam's city of Corbin, and to the castle where dwelt
the fair Elaine. Here he was given shelter in a little outhouse, with
straw to sleep on, while every day they threw him meat and set him
drink, for none would venture near a madman of such savage aspect.

But one day as he slept, Elaine chanced to behold him, and knew him at
once for Lancelot. Telling a trusty baron of her discovery, she had the
distracted knight borne still sleeping into a tower chamber in which was
kept the holy vessel, the Sangreal, concealed from all eyes save those
of persons of saintly life. Lancelot was laid near this, and when all
had left the chamber a man of sanctity entered and uncovered the vessel.
Such was its holy influence that it wrought marvellously upon the
distracted knight as he lay there asleep and the madness passed away
from his brain. When he woke he was himself again, as whole a man in
mind and body as any that stood upon the earth. For so healing was the
virtue of that precious vessel that it not only drove the cloud of
madness from his mind, but gave him back all his old might and
comeliness of body.

Then, ashamed of his frenzy, and anxious not to be known, Lancelot
assumed the name of the Chevalier Mal Fet, or the knight who has
trespassed, and took up his abode with Elaine and many knights and
ladies at a castle given him by King Pellam. This stood on an island in
the midst of a deep and clear lake, which Lancelot named the Joyous
Isle. And now, filled again with martial fervor, he made it known far
and wide that he would joust with any knights that came that way, and
that any one who should put him to the worst would receive as a prize a
jewel of worth and a jerfalcon.

But none won the prize, though very many noble knights jousted with the
Chevalier Mal Fet.

Last of all came Percivale and Hector, who had been long in search of
Lancelot. Learning the challenge, Percivale jousted with Lancelot, and
afterwards they fought with swords. So long and even was their combat,
that a length both paused for breath. And now Percivale, wondering who
this sturdy knight could be, told his name, and asked for his in return.
At this, Lancelot threw away his weapon, and took his late opponent in
his arms, crying out that he was Lancelot du Lake.

Glad was the meeting between these old friends and comrades, and richly
were the new-comers entertained in the castle. But in the end they
persuaded Lancelot to go with them to Camelot, and the disconsolate
Elaine was left to return, with her knights and ladies, to her father's
castle.

After these events years came and went, until many summers and winters
had passed over England's fair isle, and age had begun to lay its hand
on those who had been young, while those who had been children grew up
and became knights and ladies. Then came at length the time fixed by
destiny for the adventure of the Sangreal. And thus this adventure
began.

When again approached the vigil of Pentecost, and all the fellowship of
the Round Table had come to Camelot, and the tables were set to dine,
there rode into the great hall a gentlewoman of noble aspect, whose
horse was white with sweat and foam.

She saluted Lancelot and begged him to go with her, though whither and
for what purpose she would not say. Stirred by his love of adventure, he
armed and rode with her, and before the day's end reached an abbey of
nuns in a secluded valley. Here, as he stood conversing with the abbess,
there came in to him twelve nuns, bringing with them a youth who had not
yet reached manhood, but was large and powerful of frame, and as
handsome of face as any man he had ever seen.

"Sir," said the ladies, with weeping eyes, "we bring you this child,
whom we have long nourished, and pray you to make him a knight; for
there is no worthier man from whom he can receive the order of
knighthood, and we hold him worthy of your sword."

Lancelot looked long at the young squire, and saw that he was seemly,
and demure as a dove, and of wonderful beauty of form and features, and
his heart went out with great love for the beautiful youth.

"What is his name?" asked Lancelot.

"We call him Galahad."

"Comes this desire from himself?"

"It does," said they all.

"From whom has he sprung?"

"His mother is dead. His father is a full noble knight, as you shall
soon learn."

"Then he shall be knighted by my hand to-morrow at the morning services,
for truly he seems worthy of it."

That night, Lancelot's cousins, Bors and Lionel, stopped at the abbey,
and spent there a cheery evening with their noble kinsman. At early morn
of the next day he gave the accolade to the youth, pronouncing him
knight, and bidding Bors and Lionel to stand as his godfathers in the
order of knighthood.

"And may God make you a good man and a noble knight," he said. "Beauty
you have now, equal to any I have ever seen, and strength and courage I
doubt not; if you bear with these a noble heart and an earnest mind you
have the best treasures that God can confer or man possess."

Then, when they had broken their fast, Lancelot said to the demure and
modest young knight,--

"Fair sir, will you come with me to the court of King Arthur?"

"I humbly beg your pardon," said Galahad, "but I cannot come at this
time. Trust me to follow soon."

Then Lancelot and his cousins left the abbey and rode to Camelot, where
they arrived before the hour of the feast. In the great hall were many
noble knights, some of them strangers, who walked about the Round Table,
reading the names in letters of gold in the several seats, and saying,--

"Here sits Gawaine, here Lancelot, here Percivale," and so with the
others.

At length they came to the seat perilous, in which no man but Percivale
had hitherto dared to sit, and which he no longer occupied. To their
deep surprise they found there newly written in letters of gold these
words,--

"Four hundred and fifty-four winters after the passion of our Lord Jesus
Christ, the knight shall come for whom this seat is held by destiny."

"What marvellous thing is this?" cried all who saw it. "Here is a
miracle."

"In the name of God, what means it?" cried Lancelot. "Percivale long
since had warning to leave that seat. Who shall fill it to-day, for this
is the feast of Pentecost of the four hundred and fifty-fourth year. The
year and day have come, but where and who is the man? I advise that
these letters be hidden, till he come for whom this seat is
pre-ordained."

Then it was ordered that the writing should be covered with a cloth of
silk; and the king bade his guests to hasten to dinner, and forget for
the time being what they had seen.

"Sir," said Kay, the steward, "if you go to table now you will break
your old custom, not to sit at dinner on this day till you have seen or
heard of some adventure."

"Very true," said the king. "I had forgotten my custom through this
strange event."

As they stood thus speaking, there came hastily into the court a squire,
whose eyes were big with wonder.

"Sire, I bring you marvellous tidings," he cried to the king.

"What are they?" demanded Arthur.

"As I stood but now by the river, I saw floating on its waters a great
square stone, and above this stood the hilt of a sword, whose blade was
thrust deeply into the stone."

"A stone that floats!" said the king. "That is strange, indeed. I must
see this marvel."

Then he, followed by all the knights, went to the river, and saw there
that the squire had spoken truly; for a great stone that seemed of red
marble floated like wood on the water, and thrust deeply into it was a
rich sword, in whose pommel were many jewels of price. As they looked in
wonder the stone whirled inward on an eddy and came aground at their
feet. And now they saw that the precious stones were set in letters of
gold, which none there could read. But there was a man at the court
learned in strange tongues, and he being sent for, read these with ease,
and thus interpreted them,--

"Never shall the hand of man draw me from this stone until he comes by
whose side I am to hang; and he shall be the best knight in the world."

"Lay your hand on this sword and draw it," said the king to Lancelot.
"To you it surely belongs; for you are the best knight in the world."

"Best of hand, mayhap, but not of heart and life," said Lancelot,
soberly. "Certes, sir, that sword is not for me, nor have I the
hardiness to set hand thereto. I had a vision in my last night's sleep,
and this it told me: that he who seeks to draw that sword, and fails
therein, shall in time receive from it a wound which shall be very long
in healing. And this more I learned, that this same day, and with the
drawing of that sword, shall begin the marvellous quest of the holy
vessel, the Sangreal. For fate has destined that this precious amulet
shall be sought throughout the world; and to him who finds it the
greatest of earth's honors shall come."

The king and all the knights heard these words with wonder, for Lancelot
spoke like one inspired. Then Arthur turned to Gawaine.

"Fair nephew," he said, "try you this task for my love."

"Saving your good grace," said Gawaine, "that I shall not do."

"Then, sir, seek to draw the sword at my command."

"Your command I must obey," said Gawaine, "yet I dread to meddle with
magic."

Then he took the sword by the handle, and pulled with all his might, but
he could not stir it.

"I thank you," said the king, "for the trial, even if you have failed."

"My lord Gawaine," said Lancelot, "bear well in mind, this sword shall
touch you so sore that you would give the best castle in this kingdom
not to have set your hand thereto."

"It may be," answered Gawaine. "Yet I could not disobey the command of
the king."

Then the king turned to Percivale, and asked him for his love to try the
task.

"Gladly will I," he said, "if only to bear Gawaine fellowship."

But pull as strongly as he would, the sword yielded not to his hand. And
there were more there so hardy as to disregard Lancelot's warning and
seek to draw the sword, but to no hand would it yield.

"Try no more," said Kay to the king. "You have seen your marvel, and now
may, with a good appetite, go to your dinner."

This advice seemed timely to the king, and all went to the court, where
the knights took their seats at the Round Table, and were served by
young men lately made knights. When they had been fully served, every
seat being filled save the seat perilous, another marvellous thing
happened. For suddenly all the doors and windows of the hall shut of
themselves. Yet the room was not greatly darkened, and men looked into
one another's faces with abashed and frightened visages.

"Fair fellows and lords," said the king, "this is a day of strange
events. And I doubt if we shall not see greater before night comes, for
it seems a day set aside by the fates."

As he spoke, there came into the hall an ancient man, clothed all in
white, but no knight knew through which door he had entered. By the hand
he led a young knight, clad in red armor, but without sword or shield,
an empty scabbard hanging by his side.

"Peace be with you, fair lords," said the old man. Then he turned to
King Arthur, and said,--

"Sir, I bring with me a young knight who is of kingly lineage, and of
the kindred of Joseph of Arimathea. By his hand many strange marvels are
destined to be accomplished."

The king heard these words with close attention, and answered
graciously,--

"Sir, you are right welcome here, and the young knight you bring."

Then the old man removed the youth's armor, and put upon him a coat of
red sendal and a mantle that was furred with ermine. And Lancelot saw
that the young man was he whom he had knighted that morning at the
abbey.

[Illustration: JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA.]

But the chief wonder of the day was now to appear. For the old man said
to his young companion,--

"Sir, follow me." He led him around the table till they came to the seat
perilous, beside which sat Lancelot. Here the old man lifted up the
silken cloth, and lo! the letters which had been covered were gone, and
new letters of gold were visible, which read,--

"This is the seat of Galahad, the high prince."

"Sir," said the old man, "this seat is yours. Long has it waited your
coming."

And he seated him therein, while all the circle of knights looked on in
wonder. Now for the first time the young knight spoke.

"Dear sir," he said, "you may now depart, for you have done well what
you were commanded to do. Recommend me to my grandsire, King Pellam, and
say to him that I will come and see him as soon as I may."

With this the old man departed. Outside there waited twenty noble
squires, who mounted when he came, and rode away with him. The Knights
of the Round Table marvelled greatly at all this, and the more so on
seeing that he who occupied that chair of peril was one so tender of
age, and a youth whom no one knew, nor whence he came; but to one
another they privately said,--

"This is he by whom the Sangreal shall be achieved; for none ever sat
there before but Percivale, and he was not long deemed worthy to occupy
that seat."

The talk of this strange event quickly passed through the palace, and
came to the queen, who heard it with wonder. Those who brought word
said that the youth resembled Sir Lancelot.

"I must see this strange thing," she said, and, followed by her ladies,
she entered the hall.

"It is Sir Lancelot in youth again," she cried, on looking the young
knight in the face. "Fair sir, tell me truly, what father had you, and
what mother."

"King Pellam is my grandsire," answered Galahad, "and Elaine was my
mother. As for my father, I know him not."

"Then do I," cried the queen, "for he sits beside you. Sir Lancelot is
your father. You are son unto the noblest knight that ever wore sword."

At these words Lancelot rose up in haste, for he had not dreamed of what
was to come; and he clasped the youth in his arms and kissed his fair
young face with a love that overflowed his heart.

"My son!" he said. "Can it be? Greatly, indeed, have I felt drawn unto
you."

"And my heart went out to you, dear father," said Galahad, "from the
moment I looked upon your noble face."

The sight of this affecting meeting filled all hearts there with joy,
and the king warmly congratulated Lancelot on having found so worthy a
son; "for to him, I dare avow," he said, "is destined that great
achievement of the Sangreal of which you have this day told us."

Then Arthur took Galahad by the hand, and said,--

"Come with me, young sir," and led him from the palace to the river to
show him the marvel of the stone. After them followed the knights, and
the queen and ladies of the court, all full of hope of greater wonders
yet to come.

"Sir," said the king, "that sword floated hither this day. Many knights
of great prowess have tried to draw it and failed."

"That is no marvel," said Galahad. "The sword is not theirs, but mine.
And since I knew it awaited me I have brought no sword; but its
scabbard, as you may see, hangs by my side."

Then he laid his hand upon the sword, and, while all eyes opened wide
with wonder, drew it from the stone as easily as if it came from the
water only, and thrust it into the scabbard, saying to the king,--

"It fits there better than in a floating stone."

"God has sent it you," said the king. "And I doubt not he will send you
a shield in as marvellous a manner."

"This is the sword that at one time belonged to Balin le Savage," said
Galahad, "and with which he killed his brother Balan, in that terrible
joust which happened many years ago. The scabbard I wear was Balin's
scabbard, and it was Merlin who put the sword into that stone, saying
that no hand should draw it but that of Lancelot, or his son Galahad.
Nor can any man have forgotten the dolorous stroke which Balin dealt my
grandfather King Pellam, of which he is not yet healed, nor shall be
till I heal him. So has Merlin prophesied."

As they talked thus a lady on a white palfrey was seen riding down the
river side to where they stood. Reaching the group, she saluted the
king and queen, and asked if Sir Lancelot were there.

"I am here, fair lady," he answered.

"Sad is it," she said, while tears flowed from her eyes, "that all your
great renown is changed since this day's dawn."

"Damsel, why say you this?"

"Until to-day you were the best knight in the world," she answered. "But
he who should say this now would speak falsely, for there has come a
better than you. And this is proved by the adventure of the sword to
which you dared not set your hand. Remember well what I have said."

"As touches that," rejoined Lancelot, "I never had the pride of being
the best knight in the world, nor do I envy my son if any worship has
passed from me to him."

"Yet you were the greatest; and still are among sinful men," she
persisted. "And, sir king," she said to Arthur, "this more I am bid to
say, from the holy lips of Nancien the hermit, that to you shall fall
to-day the greatest of honors; for this day the Sangreal shall appear in
your palace, and feed you and all your fellowship of the Round Table!"

With these words she turned her palfrey and rode away as she had come,
leaving all who had heard her lost in wonder and admiration.

When they had a little got over their wonder at what they had seen, the
king gave orders that the stone should be taken from the water, saying
that he would have it set up as a monument of those strange events.

"And as it may be long before you all come together here again, I should
like to have you joust in the meadow of Camelot, by way of honor to this
day."

Thus he spoke; but his real purpose was to see Galahad proved, for he
feared that if he once left the court it might be long before he should
see him again. Then the knights put on their armor and rode to the
meadow in a gallant cavalcade. Galahad also, at the earnest request of
the king, put on armor, but he would take no shield, though the king and
Lancelot prayed him to do so. The most he would consent to do was to
take a spear.

But noble work he did that day, meeting all men who cared to break
spears with him, so that by the end of the joust he had thrown down many
good Knights of the Round Table. Only two of them, Lancelot and
Percivale, were able to keep their seats against the vigorous onset of
the strong young knight.

When the jousting was at an end, the king and knights went back to
Camelot, where they attended even-song at the great minster. Thence they
proceeded to the palace hall, where all took their seats at the table
for supper.

But as they sat eating, there came outside a terrible crash of thunder,
and a wind arose that seemed as if it would rend the great hall from its
foundations. In the midst of this blast the hall was lighted by a sudden
gleam seven times brighter than the midday light, in whose glare the
knights sat dumb, none daring to speak. But each looked at the others,
and it seemed to each that his fellows were fairer of visage than he
had ever seen them before.

Then the storm and the glare passed away as suddenly as they had come,
and there entered the hall the holy grail. None there saw it, for it was
covered with white samite, but the hall was filled with the rarest
odors, and each knight saw on the table before him the meats and drinks
that he loved best in the world.

When the holy vessel had passed through the hall, it suddenly vanished,
none knew how. And not till then dared any man speak.

"Certes," said the king, "we ought to thank God devoutly for what he has
shown us this day."

"We have enjoyed the richest of perfumes, and have before us the rarest
of food," said Gawaine; "and we have but one thing to regret, that the
sacred vessel was so preciously covered that no eye might behold it. But
this miracle has filled my soul with the warmest desire to see this holy
thing, and I therefore vow that to-morrow, without delay, I shall set
out in quest of the Sangreal, and shall not return hither till I have
seen it more openly, if it take me a twelvemonth or more. If I fail in
the end, I shall return as one who is not worthy to behold the holy
vessel."

On hearing these words the other knights arose as one man, and repeated
the vow which Gawaine had made.

Upon this, King Arthur sprang to his feet in deep displeasure, for there
came to his mind like a vision a host of evil consequences from this
inconsiderate vow.

"You are over-hasty, Gawaine," he said, sharply, "and have done me a
lifelong evil with your vow. For you have bereft me of the fairest
fellowship that ever came together in this world. When my knights depart
hence on that difficult search, well I know that they will never all
meet again in this world, for many shall die in the quest. Therefore it
distresses me deeply, for I have loved them as I loved my life, and I
would rather have my soul depart from my body than to lose their noble
fellowship. Long have we dwelt together in sorrow and in joy, but I fear
our happy days are at an end, and that trouble and suffering await us in
the time to come. What God wills must be, but my heart is sore at the
thought of it."

And men who looked upon the king could see tears of distress and grief
flowing from his eyes.



CHAPTER III.

HOW GALAHAD GOT HIS SHIELD.


When morning came the knights made ready for their departure, amid the
tears and lamentations of ladies, and with the deep sorrow of the king
and queen. For there were a hundred and fifty of them in all, comprising
the whole fellowship of the Table Round, and King Arthur had deep reason
for his fear that he would never gather all these gallant knights round
his festal board again. And so they mounted and rode through the streets
of Camelot, where was weeping of rich and poor, and the king turned away
and could not speak for grief, while Queen Guenever hid herself in her
chamber, to be alone with her bitter sorrow at the going of Lancelot.

Onward they rode in company until they came to a castle and town that
were named Vagon. There they stopped and were well entertained by the
lord of the castle, who was a man of great hospitality. But when morning
came it was decided between them that they should separate, each taking
his own course, so that the Sangreal might be sought in all quarters.
This they did with much sorrow and many fervent farewells, each knight
taking the way that he liked the best, and riding alone and afar on his
perilous quest.

First must we follow the young knight Galahad, who still rode without a
shield, and who passed onward for four days without an adventure. Near
eventide of the fourth day he came to a white abbey, where he was
received with great respect, and led to a chamber that he might lay off
his armor. And here, to his surprise, he met with two of the goodly
company from which he had lately parted, Sir Uwaine and King Bagdemagus.

"Sirs," said Galahad, "what adventure brought you hither?"

"We are told," they replied, "that within this place is a shield of
perilous significance. For he who bears it about his neck runs deep risk
of being slain within three days, or maimed forever. Yet," said
Bagdemagus, "I shall bear it to-morrow and try my fortune."

"In the name of God, try it," said Galahad. "Yet truly you take a great
risk."

"If I fail therein, you shall take the adventure. I am sure you will not
fail."

"I agree to that," said Galahad. "I have ridden far enough without a
shield."

Then they went to supper, and afterwards to sleep. When morning came
Bagdemagus asked of the abbot where the magic shield was, and a monk led
him behind an altar where hung a shield as white as snow, but with a red
cross in its centre.

"I hope you are well advised of what you do," said the monk. "No knight,
unless he be the worthiest in the world, can safely bear this shield."

"I know well that I am not the best of knights," said Bagdemagus; "and
yet I shall wear it and dare the danger."

Then he took it out of the monastery, and said to Galahad,--

"If it please you, await me here till you learn how I shall speed."

"I shall await tidings," said Galahad.

Bagdemagus now rode forward with a squire, that he might send back
tidings of his good or ill fortune, and passed onward for two miles,
when he found himself in a valley before a hermitage. Here he saw a
stalwart knight in white armor, horse and all, who, in seeing the
red-cross shield, rode upon him at the full speed of his charger.
Bagdemagus put his spear in rest and rode to meet him, but his spear
broke on the white knight, while he was wounded in the right shoulder
and borne from his horse, the treacherous shield refusing to cover him.
Then the victor knight alighted and took the white shield from him,
saying,--

"Sir knight, you have acted with more folly than wisdom, for you should
have known that only he who has no peer living can safely bear this
shield."

Then he went to the squire who had come with King Bagdemagus, and
said,--

"Bear this shield to the good knight Sir Galahad, whom you left in the
abbey, and greet him from me."

"What shall I tell him is your name?"

"Take no heed of my name. That is not for you to know, nor for any
earthly man. Content yourself with telling Sir Galahad that this shield
is for him, and for no other man to wear. And may God aid him to bear it
worthily and worshipfully."

But the squire went first to Bagdemagus and asked him if he were
seriously wounded.

"Forsooth, I am," he said. "I shall scarce escape from death."

The squire then conveyed him in great pain to the hermitage, and left
him in care of the hermit. And as the chronicle tells, he lay there
long, and barely escaped with life.

[Illustration: Copyright 1895 by E. A. Abbey; from a Copely print
copyright 1896 by Curtis and Cameron.

OATH OF KNIGHTHOOD.]

"Sir Galahad," said the squire, when he had returned to the abbey, "King
Bagdemagus has paid dearly for his venture. He lies at a hermitage
sorely wounded. As for you, the knight that overthrew him sends you
greeting, and bids you to bear this shield, through which marvellous
adventures shall come to you."

"Then blessed be God and fortune," said Galahad.

He now resumed his arms and mounted his horse, hanging the white shield
about his neck and commending himself to God. Uwaine offered to bear him
company, but this was not to be.

"Sir knight," said Galahad, "I thank you for your offer, but I must go
alone, save that this squire shall bear me fellowship."

With these words the youthful knight rode away, and soon came to where
the white knight abode by the hermitage. They saluted each other
courteously, and fell into a conversation in which the white knight told
Galahad the story of the magical shield.

"In the far past time," he said, "soon after Joseph of Arimathea took
down the body of our Lord from the holy cross, and bore it from
Jerusalem to a city named Sarras, there was a king of Sarras named
Evelake, who was then at war with the Saracens. This king, through the
teachings of Joseph, was converted from the old law to the new, and for
him this shield was made, in the name of Him who died on the cross.
Afterwards, when Evelake was in battle, the shield was covered with a
cloth, which was only removed in times of deadly peril, and then his
enemies saw the figure of a man on the cross, before which they fell
back discomfited. At times the cross of the shield would vanish away,
and at times stand out clear and bright; and such was its virtue that a
soldier whose hand was stricken off was made whole again by touching
the cross. The time came at length when Joseph left Palestine and
journeyed westward, and King Evelake with him, till they came to Great
Britain, where all the people had been pagans, but were then converted
to the Christian faith. Soon afterwards Joseph sickened and came near to
death, and while he lay in his bed he bade Evelake bring him the shield,
and on it he traced a red cross with his own blood. Then he said to
Evelake, 'No man hereafter shall bear this shield but he shall repent
it, until Galahad, the last of my lineage, shall come to seek it, and
with it he shall do marvellous deeds.' 'Where shall the shield await his
coming?' asked Evelake. 'You shall leave it in the abbey where Nancien
the hermit shall lie after his death, and thither the knight Galahad
shall come for it soon after he receives the order of knighthood.' This
is the story of the shield, and this day has the prediction been
fulfilled. Wear the shield worthily and well, young knight, for much
glory and renown shall come to you through it. You are in God's hands;
to God commend yourself."

With these words the white knight vanished away, and in the place where
he had stood was seen but empty air.

Then the squire, who had heard these words, alighted and kneeled at
Galahad's feet, praying that he would make him a knight.

"That I shall consider," said Galahad. "But now let us return to the
abbey."

Here Galahad drove away a fiend that had long dwelt in a tomb near by,
where it made such noise that none could venture near it. But the
virtue of the shield protected him from all harm from this evil shape,
which was forced to depart.

When morning came, he asked the young squire his name.

"Sir," he answered, "men call me Melias de Lile, and I am the son of the
king of Denmark."

"Then, fair sir, since you come of kings and queens, I shall make you a
knight; and look you that knighthood sit well on you, for you should be
a mirror of chivalry."

"That shall I seek to be," said Melias.

Then Galahad gave him the accolade as he kneeled before him, and bade
him rise a knight.

"Now, dear sir," said Melias, "since you have done me this high honor,
it is but right that you grant me my first request, so that it be in
reason."

"You speak justly," said Galahad.

"I beg, then, that you let me ride with you in the quest of the Sangreal
till some adventure shall part us."

"That I grant willingly."

Armor was now brought to Melias, and when it had been girded upon him he
and Galahad rode away, and passed onward all that week without an
adventure. But on the Monday next, as they set out from an abbey, they
came to where a cross marked a parting of the road. On the cross was
written,--

"Ye knights-errant, that ride in quest of adventures, here lie two ways.
He that takes the right-hand road shall not leave it again, if he be a
good man and a worthy knight. He that takes the left-hand shall not
lightly win fortune, for his strength and endurance will be soon tried."

"If you will suffer me to take the left-hand road I should like it
greatly," said Melias. "My strength and skill need trial."

"It were better not. I fancy that I only should face the danger that
there confronts us."

"Nay, my lord, I pray you let me have this adventure."

"Take it, then, in God's name," said Galahad; "and do your duty
worthily."

So Melias rode forward and soon found himself in a forest, through which
he passed for two days, seeing there neither man, woman, nor child. Then
he came from the forest into a broad meadow, where stood a lodge built
of green boughs. And in that lodge was a chair, on which lay a crown of
gold wrought with rich and subtle skill. Also there were cloths spread
upon the earth, upon which delicious meats were laid.

Melias beheld all this and thought it marvellous. He felt no hunger, but
the crown of gold roused his covetousness, and he took it up and rode
away with it. But not far had he ridden when a knight came after him,
who said,--

"Sir knight, why have you taken that crown? It is not yours; therefore
defend yourself."

Then Melias blessed himself, and said,--

"Fair Lord of Heaven, help and save thy new made knight."

Then they rode together at full speed, but Melias's prayer availed him
naught, for the spear-head of the other went through his hauberk, and
wounded him so deeply in the left side that he fell to the earth like a
dead man. Then the victor knight took the crown and rode away.

But with wise forethought Galahad had followed Melias, and now rode into
the valley, where he found him in peril of death.

"Ah, Melias!" he cried, "better for you had you taken the other way. Who
has done you this harm?"

"For God's love, let me not die in this place!" said Melias in reply.
"Bear me to some abbey near by, where I may be confessed and have the
rites of the church."

"It shall be done," said Galahad. "But where is he who has wounded you?"

The reply came from the edge of the forest, where Galahad heard a voice
cry in stirring tones,--

"Knight, defend yourself from me."

"Beware, sir," warned Melias. "He it is that has left me thus."

"Sir knight," said Galahad, "come on at your peril."

Then they rode together as fast as their horses could run, and Galahad
drove his spear through the shoulder of his opponent, hurling him from
his horse. But in his fall the spear broke. Then, before the young
knight could turn, another knight rode from under the leaves and broke
his spear upon him.

At this treacherous act Galahad drew his sword in wrath, and with a keen
blow smote off the left arm of his antagonist, whom he pursued into the
forest.

He soon returned, however, and took up Melias gently, for the truncheon
of the spear was in his body, and bore him on his horse in his arms to
an abbey near at hand. Here the wounded knight was unarmed and laid upon
a bed, where the rites of the church were administered to him.

"Sir Galahad," he then said, "let death come when it will, I am at peace
with God." And he drew the truncheon of the spear from his body, and
swooned away.

But an old monk who stood there, and who was a skilful leech, examined
the wound, and said, "He need not die. By the grace of God I hope to
heal him of this wound within seven weeks."

This gladdened Galahad, and he remained at the abbey three days to see
how Melias should fare. Then he asked him how it stood with him.

"I feel now as if I may live," he answered.

"God be thanked for that," said Galahad. "Now must I depart, for I have
much to do, and the quest of the Sangreal will not permit long leisure
and delay."

"Sir," said the monk, "it is for his sin this knight is so bitterly
wounded. He took on him the high order of knighthood without clean
confession, which was a sinful thing to do. As for the two ways to which
you came, the way on the right betokens the highway of righteousness,
and the way on the left, which he chose, betokens that of sinners and
infidels. And when the devil saw his presumption in taking the quest of
the Sangreal without being worthy of it, he caused his overthrow. And
when he took the crown of gold he sinned in covetousness and theft. As
for you, Sir Galahad, the two knights with whom you fought signify the
two deadly sins which abide in Sir Melias. But they could not withstand
you, for you are without deadly sin."

"God send I may keep so," said Galahad. "Now must I depart. I pray you
do your utmost for this knight."

"My Lord Galahad," said Melias, "I shall get well, and shall seek you as
soon as I can ride."

"God grant you speedy health," said Galahad, and he left the room and
sought his horse, and rode away alone.

After he had ridden for days in various directions, it chanced that he
departed from a place called Abblasoure, where he had heard no mass, as
was his daily custom. But ere the day was old, he came to a mountain, on
which he found a ruined chapel, and here he kneeled before the altar,
and besought God's counsel. And as he prayed he heard a voice that said,
"Go now, thou adventurous knight, to the Castle of Maidens, and do away
with the wicked customs which there are kept."

When Galahad heard this he took his horse and rode away, full of
gladness that he might thus serve God. And not long nor far had he
ridden before he saw in a valley before him a strong castle, with high
towers and battlements and deep ditches; and beside it ran a broad
river, named the Severn.

Here he met an aged man, whom he saluted, and asked the castle's name.

"It is the Castle of Maidens," said the old man.

"Then it is a cursed castle, and an abode of sin," said Galahad. "All
pity is wanting within those walls, and evil and hardness of heart there
have their abode."

"Then, sir knight, you would do well to turn and leave it."

"That shall I not," said Galahad. "I have come here to punish the
evil-doers that there abide."

Leaving the old man, he rode forward, and soon met with seven fair
maidens, who said to him,--

"Sir knight, you ride in folly, for you have the water to pass."

"And why should I not pass the water?" asked Galahad.

He continued his ride, and next met a squire, who said,--

"Sir knight, I bring you defiance from the knights in the castle, who
forbid you to go farther till they learn your purpose."

"You may tell it to them, if you will. I come to destroy the wicked
customs of this castle."

"Sir, if you abide by that, you will have enough to do."

"Go now and bear them my answer."

Then the squire returned to the castle, from which there soon after rode
seven knights, in full armor. When they saw Galahad they cried,--

"Knight, be on your guard, for you have come to your death."

"What!" asked Galahad, "will you all assail me at once?"

"That shall we; so defend yourself."

Then Galahad rode against them and smote the foremost such a blow that
he nearly broke his neck. The others rode on him together, each
striking his shield with might. But their spears broke and he still held
his seat.

He now drew his sword, and set upon them with such energy that, many as
they were, he put them all to flight, chasing them until they entered
the castle, and following them within its walls till they fled from the
castle by another gate.

Galahad was now met by an old man, clad in religious costume, who said
to him,--

"Sir, here are the keys of the castle."

Then the victor ordered that all the gates should be thrown open, and in
the streets of the neighboring town were crowds of people, crying
gladly,--

"Sir knight, you are heartily welcome. Long have we waited for the
deliverance which you bring us."

And a gentlewoman came, who said to him,--

"These knights are fled, but they will come again. Therefore, sir, I
counsel you to send for all the knights that hold their lands of this
castle, and make them swear to restore the old customs, and do away with
the evil practices which these villanous knights have fostered."

"That is good counsel," said Galahad.

Then she brought him a horn of ivory, richly adorned with gold, and
said,--

"Blow this horn loudly. It will be heard two miles and more from the
castle, and all that hear it will come."

[Illustration: Copyright 1901 by E. A. Abbey; from a Copely print
copyright 1902 by Curtis and Cameron.

SIR GALAHAD FIGHTING THE SEVEN SINS.]

Galahad took the horn, and blew so loud a blast that the very trees
shook therewith. Then he seated himself and waited to see what would
come from the summons. As he sat there a priest came to him and said,--

"Sir knight, for seven years these brethren have held the castle, whose
lord, Duke Lianor, they killed, and held his daughter prisoner; and by
force they have kept all the knights of the castle under their power,
and have acted as tyrants, robbing the common people of all they had,
and taking tribute and demanding service from all the country round.
Seven years ago the duke's daughter said to them, 'You shall not hold
this castle for many years, for by one knight you shall be overcome.'
'Say you so,' they replied. 'Then shall never knight or lady pass this
castle, but all that come shall stay or lose their heads, till comes
that knight of whom you prophesy.' Therefore this is called the Maidens'
Castle, since its tyrants have so long made war upon maidens."

"Is the duke's daughter still here?"

"No; she died three days after the castle was taken. But her younger
sister and many other ladies are held prisoners."

Soon afterwards the knights of the country began to flock in, in
response to the bugle-call, and glad were they to find what had
occurred. Galahad made them do homage and fealty to the duke's daughter,
which they did with great willingness of heart.

And when the next day dawned great news was brought in, for a messenger
came to Galahad and told him that the seven felon brothers had been met
by Gawaine, Gareth, and Uwaine, and all slain.

"So ends their rule and power," said Galahad, fervently. "It is well
done, and well are all here delivered."

Then he commended them to God, and took his armor and horse, and rode
away amid the prayers of those he had delivered.



CHAPTER IV.

THE TEMPTATION OF SIR PERCIVALE.


Many adventures had the other knights that set out in search of the
Sangreal, and much reproof did many of them receive for the evil lives
they had led; but all this we cannot stop to tell, but must confine
ourselves to the deeds of a few only. As for Sir Gawaine, he parted from
Gareth and Uwaine after they had slain the seven wicked knights of the
Castle of Maidens, and rode from Whitsuntide to Michaelmas without an
adventure. Then came a day in which he met Sir Hector de Maris, and glad
were both at the meeting.

"Truly," said Gawaine, "I am growing weary of this quest."

"And I as well," said Hector. "And of the twenty knights I have met from
time to time, they all complain as we do."

"Have you met with Lancelot?"

"No, nor with Percivale, Bors, or Galahad. I can learn nothing of these
four."

"They are well able to take care of themselves," said Gawaine. "And if
they fail to find the Sangreal, it is waste of time for the rest of us
to seek it, for outside of them there is little virtue in the Round
Table fellowship."

Afterwards these two knights went far in company, and had strange dreams
and visions, the meaning of which was expounded to them by the hermit
Nancien. This holy man also reproved Gawaine severely for his evil life,
and bade both him and his companion to give up the search for the
Sangreal, as that high achievement was not for hands like theirs.

Soon after they met an armed knight in the road, who proffered to joust
with them. Gawaine accepted the challenge, and rode against this unknown
opponent, dealing him so severe a blow that he was hurled from his horse
with a mortal wound. But when they had removed his helmet, what was
their horror to find that it was their friend and comrade, Uwaine.

"Alas!" cried Gawaine, "that such a fatal misadventure should have
befallen me! I would sooner have died myself."

"Thus ends my quest of the Sangreal," said Uwaine. "And thus will end
that of many a noble knight. Dear friends, commend me to King Arthur,
and to my fellows of the Round Table, and sometimes think of me for old
brotherhood's sake."

And he died in their arms, leaving them plunged in the deepest grief,
from which they were long in recovering.

Meanwhile Lancelot and Percivale rode far in company, and many things
happened to them. While journeying through a strange region they met an
unknown knight, whom they challenged to joust. But the event turned out
little to their satisfaction, for Lancelot was hurled to the ground,
horse and man, and Percivale received so fierce a sword-blow that he
would have been slain had not the sword swerved.

Then the victor knight rode rapidly away, leaving them to recover as
they best could. But a recluse near whose hut this encounter had taken
place told them that the victor was Sir Galahad. On learning this they
pursued him at all speed, but in vain.

Percivale now turned back to question the recluse further, but Lancelot
kept on, passing through waste and forest till he came to a stone cross
at the parting of two ways.

Near by was a ruined chapel, with broken door, and other signs of waste
and decay, if it had been long deserted. But when he looked within he
saw to his great surprise a high altar richly dressed with cloth of
white silk, on which stood a lofty candelabra of silver which bore six
great candles, all lighted.

Lancelot sought to enter the chapel, but try as he would he could not
pass the broken door, nor find entrance elsewhere. Some invisible power
seemed to stand between him and admission to that sacred place.

Then, out of heart at this ill success, he took off his helm and sword,
relieved his horse of saddle and bridle, and lay down to sleep before
the cross. Night came upon him as he lay there, and with the night came
strange visions.

For as he lay but half asleep he saw a sick knight brought thither in a
litter. This knight prayed earnestly for aid in his affliction, and as
he did so Lancelot saw the silver candlestick come from the chapel to
the cross, and after it a table of silver on which was the holy grail.
The sick knight crawled painfully to it on his hands and knees, and
raised himself so as to touch and kiss the sacred vessel. No sooner had
he done so than he grew whole and sound, with all his pain and sickness
gone, and rose to his feet with his former strength and vigor.

"Lord, I thank thee deeply," he said; "for through thy infinite grace I
am healed of my affliction."

Then the holy vessel returned to the chapel, and Lancelot strove hard to
rise and follow it. But his limbs were powerless, and he lay like one
chained to the ground.

He now fell into deep slumber, and waked not till near morning. And as
he raised himself and sat on the ground he heard a voice in the air,
that seemed to come from no earthly lips.

"Sir Lancelot," it said, "more hard than is the stone, more bitter than
the wood, more bare than the barren fig-tree, arise and go from hence,
and withdraw thyself from this holy place."

Lancelot arose with a heavy heart, for the sense of these words sank
deeply within him. But when he sought his horse and helm and sword he
found they were gone, for they had been taken by the knight whose
healing he had seen.

Deeply depressed and unhappy at this misfortune, he left the cross on
foot, and wandered onward till he came to a hermitage on a high hill.

Here he told the hermit what had happened to him, and confessed all the
evil deeds of his life, saying that he had resolved to be a different
man from what he had been, and to live a higher life than that of doing
deeds of arms that men might applaud.

Then the holy man gave him absolution, with injunctions of penance, and
prayed that he would abide with him all that day. This Lancelot did,
talking much with him upon his sins, and repenting sincerely the worldly
life he had led.

Meanwhile Percivale had returned to the recluse, and questioned her as
to how he should find Galahad.

"That I cannot surely tell," she said. "Ride hence to a castle which is
called Goothe, where he has a cousin-german. If he can give you no
tidings, then ride straight to the castle Carbonek, where the maimed
king lies, and there you shall hear sure tidings of him."

Percivale, leaving her, rode onward till eventide, and as he looked
around him for shelter he heard a clock strike loud and clear. He now
perceived before him a mansion, with lofty walls and deep ditches. Here
he knocked loudly, and was let in without delay.

After laying off his armor, he was led to the supper hall, where he was
well served, and afterwards spent the night in comfort. When morning
dawned he entered the chapel for the mass, and found there a priest
ready at the altar. On the right side was a pew closed with iron, and
behind the altar a rich bed, covered with cloth of silk and gold. On
this bed lay a person with covered visage, so that he could not tell if
it were man or woman.

After the service was over the occupant of the bed sat up and threw back
the covering, and then Percivale saw that it was a man of very great
age, on whose head was a crown of gold. But his shoulders and body to
the middle were unclad, and were covered with wounds, as were also his
arms and face.

To all seeming he might have been three hundred years of age, for so
venerable a face Percivale had never gazed upon, and as he sat up he
prayed fervently, with joined hands. When the mass was over the priest
bore the sacrament to the sick king. And when he had used it, he took
off his crown and commanded it to be set on the altar. Then he lay down
again.

Percivale now asked one of the attendants who this venerable man was.

"You have heard of Joseph of Arimathea," was the reply, "and how he came
into this land to convert the heathen. With him came a king named
Evelake, whom he had converted in the city of Sarras, in Palestine. This
king afterwards had an earnest desire to be where the Sangreal was, and
on one occasion he ventured so nigh it that God was displeased with him,
and struck him almost blind. Then King Evelake prayed for mercy and
pardon, and begged that he might not die until he who was to achieve the
Sangreal should come, that he might see him and kiss him. There
answered him a voice that said: 'Thy prayers are heard; thou shalt not
die till he has kissed thee. And when he comes thy eyes shall be opened
to see clearly, and thy wounds shall be healed; but not until then.' So
King Evelake has lived in this mansion for three hundred winters,
waiting for the coming of the knight who shall heal him. Now, sir, will
you tell me what knight you are, and if you are of the Round Table
fellowship?"

"That am I, and my name is Percivale de Galis."

On hearing this the good man welcomed Percivale warmly, and pressed him
to remain. But the knight replied that he could not, for his duty led
him onward.

Percivale now left the chapel, and, arming himself, he took his horse
and rode onward. And that day more strange things happened to him than
we have space to tell. Not far had he ridden when he met twenty
men-at-arms, who bore on a bier a dead knight. On learning that he was
from King Arthur's court, they assailed him fiercely, killed his horse,
and would have slain him; but when he was at the worst strait a knight
in red armor came hastily to his rescue, and rode fiercely on the
assailants.

He attacked these, indeed, with such fury that many of them were soon
stretched on the ground; while the others fled into a thick forest,
whither they were hotly pursued by their assailant.

On seeing him thus ride away, Percivale was deeply grieved, for he well
knew his rescuer was Galahad, and he had no horse to follow him.

He went forward as fast as he could on foot, and had not gone far when
he met a yeoman riding on a hackney, and leading a great war-horse,
blacker than any bear.

Percivale begged that he would lend him this horse, that he might
overtake a knight before him. But this the yeoman refused, saying that
the owner of the horse would slay him if he should do so.

Not long afterwards, as Percivale sat woebegone beneath a tree, an armed
knight came riding past on the black horse, pursued by the yeoman, who
called him robber, and moaned bitterly that his master would kill him
for the loss of his charge.

"Lend me your hackney," said Percivale; "I may get you your horse
again."

This the yeoman gladly did, and Percivale pursued the robber knight,
loudly bidding him to stand and deliver.

The knight at this turned and rode fiercely upon him, but directed his
spear against the horse instead of the rider, striking it in the breast,
so that it fell to the earth.

He now rode away, without heeding Percivale's angry demand that he
should stop and fight it out on foot. When the dismounted knight found
that his antagonist would not turn, he was so filled with chagrin that
he threw away his helm and sword, and raved like one out of his wits.
Thus he continued till night came on, when he lay down exhausted and
fell into a deep slumber.

Near the midnight hour he suddenly awakened, and saw in the road before
him a woman, who said,--

"Sir Percivale, what do you here?"

"I do neither good nor ill," he replied.

"You need a horse," she said. "If you will promise to do my will when I
shall summon you, I will lend you mine. You will find him no common
one."

"I promise that," cried Percivale. "I would do much for a horse just
now."

"Wait, then; I shall fetch you the noblest animal you ever bestrode."

She departed, but quickly came again, leading a horse of midnight
blackness, and richly apparelled for knightly service.

Percivale looked at it with admiration. He had not hoped for so great
and noble a steed as this. Thanking her warmly, he sprang to his feet,
leaped to the saddle, and put spurs to the horse, from whose nostrils
fire seemed to glare.

Away went the black horse under the moonlight, making such marvellous
strides that it seemed to leave the earth behind it in its magical
progress. With such wondrous speed did it go that in an hour it had made
a four days' journey. Then it came to the brink of a great body of
water, whose waves foamed and leaped boisterously against the shore.

When Percivale saw the heaving waves, which stretched far away under the
moonlight, he drew with all his force upon the rein; but the fiendish
brute which he rode heeded not his hand, but bore him madly to the
brink. Fear and doubt now filled the knight's mind, and with a hasty
impulse he made the sign of the cross. At this the beast roared loudly
in rage, while flame a foot long poured from its nostrils, and with a
wild rear it shook off its rider, and plunged madly into the wild
billows. And the showering drops which fell upon Percivale from the
plunge burnt like sparks of fire.

"God be thanked that I am here alive," cried the knight, fervently. "I
have ridden the foul fiend in the image of a horse, and barely have I
escaped perdition."

Then he commended himself to God, and prayed earnestly to the Lord to
save him from all such perils and temptations. He continued in prayer
all the remainder of that night until the next day dawned upon the
earth.

When sunrise came he looked needfully about him, anxious to learn
whither he had been borne by the unholy brute. To his surprise and alarm
he found himself in a wild waste, which was closed in on one side by the
sea, and on the other by a range of rough and high mountains, impassable
to human feet; a land that seemed without food or shelter, and the
lurking-place of wild beasts.

He trembled with fear on seeing this, and went forward with doubtful
steps. Not far had he gone before he saw a strange thing, for a great
serpent passed near him, bearing a young lion by the neck. Fiercely
after it came a great lion, roaring with rage, and fell upon the
serpent, which turned in defence, so that a mighty battle was waged
before the knight.

"By my faith," he cried, "the lion is the most natural beast of the two,
and it fights for its young. The lion it is my duty to help."

He drew his sword with these words and struck the serpent so fierce a
stroke that it fell dead. Then he turned his shield against the lion,
but as the latter made no show of fighting him, but fawned upon him with
every mark of joy and gratitude, he cast down his shield and removed his
helm, and sat there stroking the neck and shoulders of the beast.

Until noon he comforted himself with the fellowship of the lion. Then it
took up its whelp and bore it away, leaving Percivale alone. But he was
not unhappy, for he believed fervently in God, and prayed with all
earnestness that he might be saved from unholy things, and chosen as a
champion of right and truth.

When night came, Percivale, to his joy, saw the lion coming towards him.
It crouched at his feet like a spaniel, and all that night the lion and
the knight slept in company, his head being pillowed on the shoulder of
the beast.

But during the night a strange dream came to him. He seemed to see two
women, one of whom was young, and rode upon a lion, and the other was
old, and sat upon a gliding serpent. And the younger spoke to him as
follows,--

"Sir Percivale," she said, "my lord salutes you, and sends a warning to
you to make ready, for to-morrow you will have to fight with the
strongest champion in the world. And if overcome you will be shamed to
the world's end."

"Who is your lord?" he asked.

"The greatest lord in all the world," she said; and then suddenly
vanished.

Then came the lady upon the serpent, and said,--

"Sir Percivale, I have done you no harm, and yet you have worked me
injury."

"What have I done? I have been always heedful to offend no lady."

"I have long nourished here a great serpent, and yesterday you killed it
for seeking its prey. Why did you this? The lion was not in your care."

"I aided the lion because it was a nobler beast than the serpent. In
that I did nothing against you."

"You did me a great wrong, and in return for this injury I demand that
you become my man."

"That shall I never be," he answered.

"Beware, then, proud knight, who pride yourself on your piety. You have
robbed me of that which I loved; take heed that I catch you not
unawares, or mine you shall be, body and soul."

With these words she departed, and Percivale finished his sleep without
further vision. In the morning, when he awoke, he felt feeble. And as he
rose and blessed himself he saw not far off in the sea a ship that
sailed towards him. As it came near he perceived it to be covered within
and without with white samite, while on the deck stood an old man
dressed in a surplice like a priest.

"Sir," said Percivale, "you are welcome."

"God keep you," said the old man; "whence come you?"

"I am of King Arthur's court, and a Knight of the Round Table, and am in
quest of the Sangreal. But here I find myself in a wilderness, with no
hope of escape."

"Doubt not, if you be a true knight."

"Who are you?" asked Percivale.

"I have come hither from a strange country to comfort you," said the old
man.

"Then, sir, can you tell me what my dream signifies?" and Percivale
related what had befallen him.

"That can I," said the old man. "She that rode on the lion betokens the
new law of holy church, and she came through love, to warn you of the
great battle that is before you."

"With whom shall I fight?" asked Percivale.

"With the strongest champion of the world, and if you fail in the fight
you shall not escape with the loss of a limb, but shall be shamed to the
world's end. As for her that rode on the serpent, she betokens the old
law. Heed her not. The serpent you slew betokens the devil that you rode
hither, and whom you overcame by the sign of the cross. Yield not to her
or any of her kindred, or worse will befall you."

Then the ship turned and sailed away, leaving Percivale again alone. But
when he went up the rocks he found there the lion, which he stroked and
made joyful fellowship with.

And thus time went on till midday. Then Percivale saw a ship approaching
with such speed as if all the winds in the world had driven it. On it
kept till it reached land at the beach below him. He hurried hopefully
to meet it, and saw that it was covered with black silk, while on the
deck stood a lady of great beauty, who was dressed in the richest
apparel.

"What brought you into this wilderness?" she cried to the knight. "Here
you are likely to die of hunger, for no man may cross yonder rocks and
escape."

"I serve the best master in the world," said Percivale. "He will not
suffer harm to come to me."

"Sir Percivale," said she, "know you who I am?"

"Who taught you my name?" he answered.

"I know you better than you deem," she replied, laughing. "This much I
may tell you, that not long since I was in the waste forest, where I saw
the red knight with the white shield."

"Ah! is that so? Fain would I meet with him."

"I shall bring you to him; but only on covenant that you will come to my
aid when I summon you."

"If it be in reason and uprightness, you may trust me," he replied.

"I saw him," she continued, "chase two knights into the stream that is
called Mortaise, and follow them into the water. But they passed over,
and his horse was drowned, and only by his great strength he got safe to
land again."

"That I am very glad to hear. It would have been a sad day had that good
knight been drowned."

"You look pale and thin," she remarked. "Have you eaten lately?"

"Not these three days," he answered. "Yet I spoke of late with a good
man, whose words refreshed me as if I had partaken of rich viands."

"Ah, sir knight," she said, "beware of that old man. I know him better
than you. He is a false enchanter, who seeks your harm. If you heed his
words shame will be your lot, and you will die on this rock and be
devoured by wild beasts. I am here to help you in your need, for I am
not content to see so good a knight come to harm and disgrace."

"Who are you," asked Percivale, "that proffer me so great a kindness?"

"Once I was the richest woman in the world," she answered. "Now I am
disinherited and in want."

"Then I pity you greatly. Who is it that has disinherited you?"

"I dwelt with the greatest man in the world," she answered, "and to him
I owe my beauty,--a beauty of which I was, alas! too proud. Then I said
that which offended him deeply, and he drove me away from him, and
robbed me of my heritage, and has never since had pity for me nor for my
friends. Since this has happened I have done my best to wean his men
from him, and many of them now cling to me, and I and they war against
him day and night. I know no good knight, nor good man, but that I
strive to win him to my side, and all such I repay well for their
services. For he against whom I wage war is strong, and I need all the
aid to be had. Therefore, since I know you for a valiant knight, I
beseech you to help me. A fellow of the Round Table cannot, under his
vow, fail any woman that is disinherited, and that seeks his aid."

"That is true, indeed," said Percivale, "and I shall do all I can for
you."

"You have my earnest thanks," she said.

Then, as the weather was hot, she called some of her attendants, and
bade them bring a pavilion and set it up on the gravel near the
sea-line.

"Sir knight," she said, "I pray you to rest here in the heat of the day,
while my attendants prepare food for you."

He thanked her and laid aside his helm and shield, and fell asleep
within the pavilion, where he slumbered long. When he awoke he asked her
if the food was ready.

"Yes," she answered; "I have worked while you slumbered."

Then a table was set within the pavilion, and covered with a rich array
of meats and drinks, of which Percivale ate with great appetite, while
the lady sat opposite him with a very gracious aspect. The wine he drank
was the strongest that had ever passed his lips, and its strength soon
got into his veins and heated his brain.

The lady now smiled graciously upon him, and it seemed to him that he
had never beheld so fair a creature. Her beauty so worked upon his
heated blood, indeed, that he proffered her his love, and prayed
earnestly for hers in return.

When she saw his loving ardor, and that the wine worked like fire in his
blood, she said, with a smile of witchery,--

"Sir Percivale, if I become yours, you must become mine. I shall not
grant you my love unless you swear that henceforth you will be my true
servant, and do nothing but what I shall command. Will you thus bind
yourself, as you are a true knight?"

"That will I, fair lady, by the faith of my body."

"Then this I will say, that of all the knights in the world you are he
whom I most love. And you may seal upon my lips the compact we have
made."

But when Percivale came towards her, to claim the proffered kiss, which
she offered with such bewitching grace, by chance or through God's aid
he saw his sword, which lay on the ground at his feet, and in its pommel
a red cross, with the sign of the crucifix therein. Then came to his
mind the promise he had made to the old man, and his knightly vows, and
with a pious impulse he raised his hand and made the sign of the cross
on his forehead, the while his eyes were fixed on the lovely face of the
tempter before him.

As he did so her smile changed to a look of deadly hate, and the
loveliness of her face to a hideous aspect, while in the same moment the
pavilion fell as before a great wind, and then vanished in smoke and
cloud.

Over the sea the wind rose and roared, and as he looked he saw the ship
battling with heaving waves, while the water seemed to burn behind it.
On the deck stood the lady, who cried,--

"Sir Percivale, you have betrayed me! Beware, proud knight, I shall have
my revenge." Then the ship drove out to sea, and vanished from his
sight.

But in a passion of remorse Percivale snatched up the sword that lay
before him, and crying, "Since my flesh has been my master I will punish
it," he drove the naked blade through his thigh, till the blood spouted
out like a fountain.

"Wretch that I am, how nearly was I lost!" he cried, in a torment of
conscience. "Fair sweet Father, Jesus Christ my Lord, let me not be
shamed, as I would now have been but for thy good grace. Take this wound
in recompense for what I have done against thee, and forgive me my deep
transgression, I humbly pray thee."

But as he lay moaning and bleeding the wild winds went down and the sea
grew smooth, while he saw coming from the Orient the ship with the good
man, on board, on beholding whom he fell into a swoon.

When he awoke he found that his wound had been dressed and the bleeding
stopped. Beside him sat the good man, who asked him,--

"How hast thou done since I departed?"

"Weakly and wickedly enough," he answered. "A witch beguiled me, and I
nearly fell a victim to her wiles."

"Knew you her not?"

"Only that I deem the foul fiend sent her here to shame me."

"Worse than that, good knight. Your victory is greater than you deem.
That seeming woman who deceived you was no less an adversary than the
master-fiend of hell, who has power over all the lesser devils, and, had
you yielded you had been lost forever. For this is the mighty champion
against whom you were forwarned; he who was once the brightest angel of
heaven, and was driven out by our Lord Christ for his sins, and thus
lost his heritage. But that the grace of God was on your side you would
have fallen before this champion of evil. Take this, Sir Percivale, as a
warning and an example."

With these words the good man vanished away. Then the mariners carried
the wounded knight on board their ship, and set sail, bearing him
rapidly away from that scene of temptation and victory.



CHAPTER V.

THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF SIR BORS.


When Sir Bors parted from his companions, on the quest of the Sangreal,
not far had he gone when he met a religious man riding on an ass, whom
he courteously saluted.

"Who are you?" asked the good man.

"I am one of those knights who have set out in quest of the Sangreal,"
said Bors. "I would fain have your counsel in this high duty, for great
honor shall come to him who succeeds therein."

"That is true," said the good man. "He that wins the Sangreal will be
counted the best knight and the purest soul among men. None can hope to
attain it except through cleanness of spirit."

Then they rode together till they came to a hermitage. Here Bors went
into the chapel with his companion, and confessed to him, and ate bread
and drank water with him.

"Now," said the good man, "I charge you that you take no other food than
bread and water till you sit at the table where the Sangreal shall be."

"To that I agree. But how know you that I shall ever sit there?"

"I know it, let that suffice; but few of your comrades shall have that
honor."

"All that God sends me will be welcome," said Bors.

"Also, instead of a shirt, and in token of chastisement, you shall wear
this garment," and the good man produced a scarlet coat, which Bors
promised to wear next his skin till the Sangreal should be won.

Then, after further wholesome advice, he resumed his armor and departed.
He had gone but a little way from the hermitage when he passed a tree
that was little more than an old and leafless trunk, and on one of its
boughs he saw a great bird, surrounded by young that were nearly dead
with hunger. As, he continued to look at this strange sight, the bird
smote itself in the breast with its sharp beak, and bled till it died
among its young. Then the young birds fed on their mother's blood, and
were revived thereby.

This to Bors seemed full of deep significance, and he pondered deeply
upon it as he rode onward. By even-song he found himself near a strong
and high tower, where he asked shelter for the night, and was hospitably
welcomed.

When he had disarmed he was led to a richly furnished apartment, where
he found a young and fair lady, who welcomed him gladly to her tower,
and invited him to take supper with her.

The table was set with rich meats and many dainties, but Bors forgot not
the hermit's charge, and bade an attendant to bring him water. In this
he sopped bread and ate it.

"How is this?" asked the lady in surprise. "Like you not my meat?"

"Truly I do, madam; yet I may eat no other food this day."

Then the lady was silent, for she feared to displease him by
questioning. After supper, while they sat talking, a squire came, who
said,--

"Madam, you know well what is set for to-morrow. You must provide a
champion to fight in your quarrel against Pridam le Noire, or your
sister will have this castle and all your lands."

"I know that," she said, with a deep sigh. "May God save me from being
robbed, for I see no earthly aid."

Her sorrow touched Bors, who asked,--

"What means this, madam?"

"Sir," she said, "I shall tell you. There was formerly a king named
Aniause, who owned all these lands. By chance he loved my sister, who is
much older than I,--and much wickeder also, I fear. He gave her this
land to govern; but she brought into it many evil customs, and caused
the death of many of his kinsmen. When the king saw how vilely she
governed, he drove her away, and put me over this district. But he is
now dead, and she is making war on me, and has destroyed many of my
men, and turned others from me, so that I have little left but this
tower, and the few men that guard it. Even this she now threatens to
take from me, unless I can find a knight to fight her champion, who will
appear before my gates to-morrow."

"Is it so?" said Bors. "Who is this Pridam le Noire?"

"He is the most stalwart knight in this country, and has no equal among
us."

"Madam," said Bors, "you have given me shelter; in return I shall aid
you as far as I can in your trouble. You may send word that you have
found a knight who will fight with this Pridam the Black, in God's
quarrel and yours."

"Then may God's blessing rest upon you," she cried, gladly. And word was
sent out that she had found a champion who would take on himself her
quarrel.

That evening she did what lay in her power to make Bors welcome, and
sent him at bedtime to a chamber whose bed was soft as down, and spread
with silken coverings.

But in no bed would he rest, but laid himself on the floor, as he had
vowed to do till he found the Sangreal.

As he lay there asleep there came to him a vision. He seemed to see two
birds, one white as a swan, the other of smaller size, and shaped like a
raven, with plumage of inky blackness. The white bird came to him and
said, "If thou wilt give me meat and serve me, I shall give thee all the
riches of the world, and make thee as fair and white as I am." Then the
white bird departed, and the black bird came and said, "I beg that you
will serve me to-morrow, and hold me in no despite; for this I tell you,
that my blackness will avail you more than the other's whiteness." And
this bird, too, departed.

But his dream continued, and he seemed to come to a great place, that
looked like a chapel. Here he saw on the left side a chair, which was
worm-eaten and feeble. And on the right hand were two flowers of the
shape of a lily, and one would have taken the whiteness from the other
but that a good man separated them, and would not let them touch. And
out of each came many flowers and plentiful fruit. Then the good man
said, "Would not he act with great folly that should let these two
flowers perish to succor the rotten tree, and keep it from falling?"
"Sir," said the dreamer, "it seems to me that the flower is of more
value than the wood." "Then take heed that you never choose the false
for the true."

With this Bors awoke, and made the sign of the cross on his forehead,
and then rose and dressed. When he had come to the lady she saluted him,
and led him to a chapel, where they heard the morning service. Quickly
afterwards there came a company of knights that the lady had sent for,
to lead her champion to battle. After he had armed, she begged him to
take some strengthening food.

"Nay, madam," he answered, "that I shall not do till I have fought this
battle, in which I ask but God's grace to aid me."

This said, he sprang upon his horse, and set out with the knights and
men, closely followed by the lady and her train. They soon came to where
the other party were encamped, and with them the lady of their choice.

"Madam," said the lady of the tower, "you have done me great wrong to
take from me the lands which King Aniause gave me. And I am sorry that
there should be any battle."

"You shall not choose," said the other, "unless you withdraw your knight
and yield the tower."

"That I shall not do. You have robbed me enough already."

Then was the trumpet sounded, and proclamation was made that whichever
champion won the battle, the lady for whom he fought should enjoy all
the land. This done, the two champions drew aside, and faced each other
grimly in their armor of proof.

But when the sound for the onset was blown they put spurs to their
steeds, which rushed together like two lions, and the knights struck
each other with such force that their spears flew to pieces and both
fell to the earth.

They quickly rose and drew their swords, and hewed at each other like
two woodmen, so that soon each was sorely wounded and bleeding
profusely. Bors quickly found that he had a sturdier antagonist than he
expected, for Pridam was a strong and hardy fighter, who stood up
lustily to his work, and gave his opponent many a sturdy blow.

Bors, perceiving this, took a new course, and played with his antagonist
till he saw that he was growing weary with his hard work. Then he
advanced upon him fiercely, and drove him step by step backward, till
in the end Pridam fell. Bors now leaped upon him and pulled so strongly
upon his helm as to rend it from his head. Then he struck him with the
flat of his sword upon the cheek, and bade him yield, or he would kill
him.

"For God's love, slay me not!" cried the knight. "I yield me to thy
mercy. I shall swear never to war against thy lady, but be henceforth
her friend and protector."

With this assurance, Bors let him live; while the covetous old lady fled
in fear, followed by all her knights. The victorious champion now called
to him all those who held lands in that estate, and threatened to
destroy them unless they would do the lady such service as belonged to
their holdings. This they swore to do, and there and then paid homage to
the lady, who thus came to her own again through the mighty prowess of
Sir Bors de Ganis.

Not until the country was well in peace did he take his leave, refusing
the offers of wealth which the grateful lady pressed upon him, and
receiving her warm thanks with a humility that well became him.

Hardly would she let him go; but at length he bade her farewell, and
rode away from her tears and thanks. On he journeyed for all that day,
and till midday of the next, when he found himself in a forest, where a
strange adventure befell him.

For at the parting of two ways he met two knights who had taken prisoner
his brother Lionel, whom they had bound all naked upon a hackney, while
they beat him with thorns till the blood flowed from every part of his
body. Yet so great of heart was he that no word came from his lips, and
he made no sign of pain.

Bors, seeing this, was on the point of rushing to his rescue, when he
beheld on the other side a knight who held as prisoner a fair lady, whom
he was taking into the thickest part of the forest to hide her from
those who sought her. And as they went she cried in a lamentable
voice,--

"Saint Mary, rescue me! Holy mother, succor your maid!"

When she saw Bors she cried out to him grievously for aid and rescue.

"By the faith you owe to the high order of knighthood, and for the noble
King Arthur's sake, who I suppose made you knight, help me, gracious
sir, and suffer me not to come to shame through this felon knight!"

On hearing this appeal the distracted knight knew not what to do. On one
side his brother in danger of his life; on the other a maiden in peril
of her honor.

"If I rescue not my brother he will be slain; and that I would not have
for the earth. Yet if I help not the maiden, I am recreant to my vows of
knighthood, and to my duty to the high order of chivalry."

Tears ran from his eyes as he stood in cruel perplexity. Then, with a
knightly resolution, he cried,--

"Fair sweet Lord Jesus, whose liegeman I am, keep Lionel my brother
that these knights slay him not; since for your service, and for Mary's
sake, I must succor this maid."

Then he turned to the knight who had the damsel, and loudly cried,--

"Sir knight, take your hands from that maiden and set her free, or you
are a dead man."

On hearing this the knight released the maiden as bidden, but drew his
sword, as he had no spear, and rode fiercely at the rescuer. Bors met
him with couched spear, and struck him so hard a blow as to pierce his
shield and his hauberk on the left shoulder, beating him down to the
earth. On pulling out the spear the wounded knight swooned.

"You are delivered from this felon. Can I help you further?" said Bors
to the maiden.

"I beg you to take me to the place whence he carried me away."

"That shall I do as my duty."

Then he seated her on the knight's horse, and conducted her back towards
her home.

"You have done nobly, sir knight," she said. "If you had not rescued me,
five hundred men might have died for this. The knight you wounded is my
cousin, who yesterday stole me away from my father's house, no one
mistrusting him. But if you had not overcome him, there would soon have
been others on his track."

Even as she spoke there came a troop of twelve knights riding briskly
forward in search of her. When they found her delivered their joy was
great, and they thanked Bors profusely, begging him to accompany them
to her father, who was a great lord, and would welcome him with
gladness.

"That I cannot do," said Bors, "much as I should like to; for I have
another matter of high importance before me. I can but say, then,
farewell, and God be with you and this fair maiden."

So saying, he turned and rode briskly away, followed by their earnest
thanks. Reaching the point where he had seen Lionel in custody, he took
the trail of the horses, and followed them far by their hoof-marks in
the road. Then he overtook a religious man, who was mounted on a strong
horse, blacker than a berry.

"Sir knight," he asked, "what seek you?"

"I seek my brother," he replied, "who came this way beaten by two
knights."

"Then seek no further, but be strong of heart, for I have sad tidings
for you. Your brother is dead."

He then led Bors to a clump of bushes, in which lay a newly slain body,
which seemed to be that of Lionel. Seeing this, Bors broke into such
grief that he fell to the earth in a swoon, and long lay there. When he
recovered he said, sadly,--

"Dear brother, I would have rescued you had not a higher duty called me.
But since we are thus parted, joy shall never again enter my desolate
heart. I can now but say, be He whom I have taken for my master my help
and comfort."

Thus grieving, he took up the body in his arms, and put it upon his
saddle-bow. Then he said to his companion,--

"Can you tell me of some chapel, where I may bury this body?"

"Come with me. There is one near by."

[Illustration: AN OLD AND HALF-RUINED CHAPEL.]

They rode forward till they came in sight of a tower, beside which was
an old and half-ruined chapel. Here they alighted, and placed the corpse
in a tomb of marble.

"We will leave him here," said the good man, "and seek shelter for the
night. To-morrow we will return and perform the services for the dead."

"Are you a priest?" asked Bors.

"Yes," he answered.

"Then you may be able to interpret a dream that came to me last night."

Thereupon he told his dream of the birds, and that of the flowers.

"I can interpret the vision of the birds now," said the priest. "The
rest must wait till later. The white bird is the emblem of a rich and
fair lady, who loves you deeply, and will die for love if you pity her
not. I counsel you, therefore, not to refuse her, for this I shall tell
you, that if you return not her love, your cousin Lancelot, the best of
knights, shall die. Men will call you a man-slayer, both of your brother
Lionel and your cousin Lancelot, since you might have saved them both
easily if you would. You rescued a maiden who was naught to you, and let
your brother perish. Which, think you, was your greater duty?"

"I did what I thought my duty," said Bors.

"At any rate, bear this in mind, you will be in sad fault if you suffer
your cousin Lancelot to die for an idle scruple."

"I should be sad, indeed," said Bors. "Rather would I die ten times over
than see my cousin Lancelot perish through fault of mine."

"The choice lies in your hand," said the priest. "It is for you to
decide."

As he spoke they came in front of a fair-showing tower and manor-house,
where were knights and ladies, who welcomed Bors warmly. When he was
disarmed there was brought him a mantle furred with ermine. Then he was
led to the company of knights and ladies, who received him so gladly,
and did so much to make his stay pleasant, that all thoughts of his
brother Lionel and of the danger of Lancelot were driven from his mind.

As they stood in gay converse there came out of a chamber a lady whom
Bors had not before seen, and whose beauty was such that he felt he had
never beheld so lovely a face, while her dress was richer than Queen
Guenever had ever worn.

"Here, Sir Bors," said those present, "is the lady to whom we all owe
service. Richer and fairer lady the world holds not, and she loves you
above all other knights, and will have no knight but you."

On hearing this, Bors stood abashed. This, then, he thought, was the
white bird of his dream. Her love he must return or lose Lancelot,--so
fate had spoken.

As he stood deeply thinking, the lady came up and saluted him, taking
his hand in hers, and bidding him sit beside her, while her deep eyes
rested upon him with looks that made his soul tremble. Never had he
gazed into such eyes before.

Then she spoke of many things, luring him into pleasant conversation, in
which he forgot his fears, and began to take delight in her presence. At
the end she told him how deeply and how long she had loved him, and
begged him to return her love, saying that she could make him richer
than ever was man of his age.

These words brought back all his trouble of soul. How to answer the lady
he knew not, for his vow of chastity was too deep to be lightly broken.

"Alas!" she said, "must I plead for your love in vain?"

"Madam," said Bors, "I cannot think of earthly ties and delights while
my brother lies dead, and awaits the rites of the Church."

"I have loved you long," she repeated, "both for your beauty of body and
soul, and the high renown you have achieved. Now that chance has brought
you to my home, think not ill of me if I let you not go without telling
my love, and beseeching you to return it."

"That I cannot do," said Bors.

At these words she fell into the deepest sorrow, while tears flowed from
her beautiful eyes.

"You will kill me by your coldness," she bewailed. Then she took him by
the hand and bade him look upon her. "Am I not fair and lovely, and
worthy the love of the best of knights? Alas! since you will not love
me, you shall see me die of despair before your eyes."

"That I do not fear to see," he replied.

"You shall see it within this hour," she said, sadly.

Then she left him, and, taking with her twelve of her ladies, mounted to
the highest battlement of the tower, while Bors was led to the
court-yard below.

"Ah, Sir Bors, gentle knight, have pity on us!" cried one of the ladies.
"We shall all die if you are cruel to our lady, for she vows that she
and all of us shall fall from this tower if you disdain her proffered
love."

Bors looked up, and his heart melted with pity, to see so many fair
faces looking beseechingly down upon him, while tears seemed to rain
from their eyes. Yet he was steadfast of heart, for he felt that he
could not lose his soul to save their lives, and his vow of chastity in
the quest of the Sangreal was not to be broken for the delights of
earthly love.

As he stood, some of the maidens flung themselves from the tower, and
lay dead and bleeding at his feet, while above he saw the fair face of
the lady looking down, as she stood balanced on the battlement, like a
fair leaf that the next wind would sweep to certain death.

"God help me and guide me!" cried Bors in horror. "What shall I do? Here
earthly endurance is too weak; I must put my trust in heaven." And he
made the sign of the cross on his forehead and his breast.

Then came a marvel indeed. A roar was heard as if thunder had rent the
sky, and a cry as if all the fiends of hell were about him. For the
moment he closed his eyes, stunned by the uproar. When he opened them
again all had gone,--the tower, the lady, the knights, and the chapel
where he had placed his brother's body,--and he stood in the road, armed
and mounted, while only a broad, empty plain spread before him.

Then he held up his hands to heaven and cried fervently: "Father and
Creator, from what have I escaped! It is the foul fiend in the likeness
of a beautiful woman who has tempted me. Only the sign of the holy cross
has saved me from perdition."

Putting spurs to his horse he rode furiously away, burning with anxiety
to get from that accursed place, and deeply glad at his escape. As he
proceeded a loud clock-bell sounded to the right, and turning thither he
came to a high wall, over which he saw the pinnacles of an abbey.

Here he asked shelter for the night, and was received with a warm
welcome, for those within deemed he was one of the knights that sought
the Sangreal. When morning came he heard mass, and then the abbot came
and bade him good-morning. A conversation followed, in which he told the
abbot all that had happened to him, and begged his interpretation
thereof.

"Truly you are strong in the service of the Lord," said the abbot, "and
are held for great deeds. Thus I interpret your adventures and visions.
The great fowl that fed its young with its own blood is an emblem of
Christ, who shed his blood for the good of mankind. And the bare tree on
which it sat signifies the world, which of itself is barren and without
fruit. Also King Aniause betokens Jesus Christ, and the lady for whom
you took the battle the new law of Holy Church; while the older lady is
the emblem of the old law and the fiend, which forever war against the
Church.

"By the black bird also was emblemed the Holy Church, which saith, 'I
am black but he is fair.' The white bird represented the fiend, which,
like hypocrisy, is white without and foul within. As for the rotten
chair and the white lilies, the first was thy brother Lionel, who is a
murderer and an untrue knight; while the lilies were the knight and the
lady. The one drew near to the other to dishonor her, but you forced
them to part. And you would have been in great peril had you, for the
rescue of a rotten tree, suffered those two flowers to perish; for if
they had sinned together they had both been damned.

"The seeming man of religion, who blamed you for leaving your brother to
rescue a lady, was the foul fiend himself. Your brother was not slain,
as he made it appear, but is still alive. For the corpse, and the
chapel, and the tower were all devices of the evil one, and the lady who
offered her love was the fiend himself in that showing. He knew you were
tender-hearted, and he did all. Much you may thank God that you
withstood his temptation, and that until now you have come through all
your adventures pure and unblemished."

This gladdened the heart of the virtuous knight, and a warm hope of
winning the Sangreal arose in his soul. Much more passed between them,
and when Bors rode forth it was with the fervent blessing of the holy
abbot.

On the morning of the second day Bors saw before him a castle that rose
in a green valley, and met with a yeoman, whom he stopped and asked what
was going on in that country.

"Sir knight," he answered, "there is to be held a great tournament
before that castle."

"By what people?" asked Bors.

"The Earl of Plains," was the answer, "leads one party, and the nephew
of the Lady of Hervin the other."

With this the yeoman rode on, and Bors kept on his course, thinking he
might meet Lionel or some other of his old comrades at the tournament.
At length he turned aside to a hermitage that stood at the entrance to
the forest. And to his surprise and joy he saw his brother Lionel
sitting armed at the chapel door, waiting there to take part in the
tournament the next morning.

Springing from his horse, Bors ran up gladly, crying, "Dear brother,
happy is this meeting!"

"Come not near me!" cried Lionel, leaping to his feet in a burst of
fury. "False recreant, you left me in peril of death to help a yelping
woman, and by my knightly vow you shall pay dearly for it. Keep from me,
traitor, and defend yourself. You or I shall die for this."

On seeing his brother in such wrath Bors kneeled beseechingly before
him, holding up his hands, and praying for pardon and forgiveness.

"Never!" said Lionel. "I vow to God to punish you for your treachery.
You have lived long enough for a dog and traitor."

Then he strode wrathfully away, and came back soon, mounted and with
spear in hand.

"Bors de Ganis," he cried, "defend yourself, for I hold you as a felon
and traitor, and the untruest knight that ever came from so worthy a
house as ours. Mount and fight. If you will not, I will run on you as
you stand there on foot. The shame shall be mine and the harm yours; but
of that shame I reck naught."

When Bors saw that he must fight with his brother or die he knew not
what to do. Again he kneeled and begged forgiveness, in view of the love
that ought to be between brothers.

But the fiend that sought his overthrow had put such fury into Lionel's
heart that nothing could turn him from his wrathful purpose. And when he
saw that Bors would not mount, he spurred his horse upon him and rode
over him, hurting him so with his horse's hoofs that he swooned with the
pain. Then Lionel sprang from his horse and rushed upon him sword in
hand to strike off his head.

At this critical moment the hermit, who was a man of great age, came
running out, and threw himself protectingly on the fallen knight.

"Gentle sir," he cried to Lionel, "have mercy on me and on thy brother,
who is one of the worthiest knights in the world. If you slay him, you
will lose your soul."

"Sir priest," said Lionel, sternly, "if you leave not I shall slay you,
and him after you."

"Slay me if you will, but spare your brother, for my death would not do
half so much harm as his."

"Have it, then, meddler, if you will!" cried Lionel, and he struck the
hermit a blow with his sword that stretched him dead on the ground.

Then, with unquenched anger, he tore loose the lacings of his brother's
helmet, and would have killed him on the spot but for a fortunate
chance.

As it happened, Colgrevance, a fellow of the Round Table, rode up at
that moment, and wondered when he saw the hermit dead, and Lionel about
to slay his brother, whom he greatly loved.

Leaping hastily to the ground, he caught the furious knight by the
shoulders and drew him strongly backward.

"What would you do?" he cried. "Madman, would you kill your brother, the
worthiest knight of our brotherhood? And are you so lost to honor as to
slay any knight thus lying insensible?"

"Will you hinder me?" asked Lionel, turning in rage. "Back, sirrah, or I
shall slay you first and him afterwards."

"Why seek you to slay him?"

"He has richly deserved it, and die he shall, whoever says the
contrary."

Then he ran upon Bors and raised his sword to strike him on the head.
But Colgrevance pushed between them and thrust him fiercely backward.

"Off, you murderer!" he cried. "If you are so hot for blood you must
have mine first."

"Who are you?" demanded Lionel.

"I am Colgrevance, one of your fellows. Round Table Knights should be
brothers, not foes, but I would challenge King Arthur himself in this
quarrel."

"Defend yourself, meddler," cried Lionel, rushing upon him and striking
him fiercely on the helm with his sword.

"That shall I," rejoined Colgrevance, attacking him in turn.

Then a hot battle began, for Colgrevance was a good knight, and defended
himself manfully.

While the fight went on Bors recovered his senses, and saw with a sad
heart Colgrevance defending him against his brother. He strove to rise
and part them, but his hurts were such that he could not stand on his
feet. And thus he sat watching the combat till he saw that Colgrevance
had the worst, for Lionel had wounded him sorely, and he had lost so
much blood that he could barely stand.

At this juncture he saw Bors, who sat watching them in deep anguish.

"Bors," he cried, "I am fighting to succor you. Will you sit there and
see me perish?"

"You both shall die," cried Lionel, furiously. "You shall pay the
penalty of your meddling, and he of his treason."

Hearing this, Bors rose with aching limbs, and painfully put on his
helm. Colgrevance again called to him in anguish,--

"Help me, Bors! I can stand no longer. Will you let me die without
lifting your hand?"

At this moment Lionel smote the helm from his head, and then with
another fierce blow stretched him dead and bleeding upon the earth.

This murderous deed done, he ran on Bors with the passion of a fiend,
and dealt him a blow that made him stoop.

"For God's love leave me!" cried Bors. "If I slay you or you me, we will
both be dead of that sin."

"May God never help me if I take mercy on you, if I have the better
hand," cried Lionel, in reply.

Then Bors drew his sword, though his eyes were wet with tears.

"Fair brother," he said, "God knows my heart. You have done evil enough
this day, in slaying a holy priest and one of our own brotherhood of
knights. I fear you not, but I dread the wrath of God, for this is an
unnatural battle which you force upon me. May God have mercy upon me,
since I must defend my life against my brother."

Saying this, Bors raised his sword and advanced upon Lionel, who stood
before him with the wrath of a fury.

Then would have been a most unholy battle, had not God come to the
rescue. For as they thus stood defiant a voice came to them from the
air, which said,--

"Flee, Bors, and touch him not, for if you do, you will surely slay
him."

And between them descended a cloud that gleamed like fire, and from
which issued a marvellous flame that burned both their shields to a
cinder. They were both so affrighted that they fell to the earth, and
lay there long in a swoon.

When they came to themselves Bors saw that his brother had received no
harm. For this he thanked God, for he feared that heaven's vengeance had
fallen upon him. Then came the voice again.

"Bors," it said, "go hence, and bear thy brother company no longer. Take
thy way to the sea where Percivale awaiteth thee."

"Forgive me, brother," said Bors, "for what I have done against you."

"God has forgiven you, and I must," said Lionel. "It was the foul fiend
that filled my soul with fury, and much harm has come of it."

Then Bors rode away, leaving Lionel in the company of those whom he had
slain, and took the most direct road towards the sea.

At length he came to an abbey that was near the water-side. And at
midnight as he rested there he was roused from his sleep by a voice,
that bade him leave his bed and ride onward.

He started up at this, and made the sign of the cross on his forehead;
then took his harness and horse, and rode out at a broken place in the
abbey wall. An hour or so brought him to the water-side, and on the
strand there lay awaiting him a ship all covered with white samite. Bors
alighted, and leaving his horse on the stand entered the ship,
commending himself to Christ's fostering care.

Hardly had he done so before the sails spread, as of themselves, and the
vessel set out to sea so fast that it seemed to fly. But it was still
dark night, and he saw no one about him. So he lay down and slept till
day.

When he awaked he saw a knight lying in the middle of the deck, all
armed but the helm. A glance told him that it was Percivale de Galis,
and he sprang towards him with joy. But Percivale drew back, asking him
who he was.

"Know you me not?" asked Bors.

"I do not. But I marvel how you came hither, unless brought by our Lord
himself."

Then Bors took off his helm and smiled. Great was Percivale's joy when
he recognized him, and long did they converse in gladness, telling each
other their adventures and temptations.

And so they went far over the sea, the ship taking them they knew not
whither, yet each comforted the other, and daily they prayed for God's
grace.

"Now, that we two are together," said Percivale, "we lack nothing but
Galahad, the best of knights."



CHAPTER VI.

THE ADVENTURE OF THE MAGIC SHIP.


After Galahad had rescued Percivale from the twenty knights, he rode
into a vast forest, through which he journeyed for many days, meeting
there many strange adventures. Then fortune took him past a castle where
a tournament was in progress, and where the men of the castle had so
much the worse of it that they were driven back to their gates, and some
of them slain. Seeing this, Galahad rode to the aid of the weaker party,
and did marvellous deeds of arms, soon aiding them to drive back their
foes.

As it happened, Gawaine and Hector de Maris were with the outer party,
and when they beheld the white shield with the red cross, they said to
one another,--

"That hewer of helms and shields is Galahad, none less. We should be
fools to meet him face to face."

Yet Gawaine did not escape, for Galahad came at full career upon him,
and gave him such a blow that his helm was cleft, and so would his head
have been but that the sword slanted, and cut the shoulder of his horse
deeply.

Seeing Gawaine thus dealt with, Hector drew back, not deeming it wise to
meet such a champion, nor the part of nature to fight with his nephew.
Galahad continued his onset till he had beaten down all the knights
opposed to him. Then, seeing that none would face him, he turned and
rode away as he had come, none knowing whither he, who had come upon
them with the suddenness of a thunder-clap, had gone.

"Lancelot du Lake told no less than the truth," declared Gawaine,
bitterly, "when he said that, for seeking to draw the sword from the
stone, I would get a sore wound from that same blade. In faith, I would
not for the best castle in the world have had such a buffet."

"Your quest is done, it seems," said Hector.

"As for that, it was done before. You can still seek the Sangreal if you
will, but I shall seek my bed; and I fear I shall stay there much longer
than I care to."

Then he was borne into the castle, where a leech was found for him,
while Hector remained with him, vowing he would not leave till his
comrade was well.

Meanwhile Galahad rode on, leaving many a groan and more than one sore
head behind him, and at night reached a hermitage near the castle of
Carbonek. Here he was welcomed by the hermit; but late at night, when
they were asleep, a loud knock came on the door, which roused the host.
Going to see who knocked at that untimely hour, he found a lady at the
door, who said,--

"Ulfin, rouse the knight who is with you. I must speak with him."

This he did, and Galahad went to the door, and asked her what she
wished.

"Galahad," she replied, "I am sent here to seek you. You must arm and
mount your horse at once, and follow me. Within three days I shall bring
you to the greatest adventure that ever knight met."

Without further question Galahad obeyed, and, having commended himself
to God, he bade his fair guide to lead, and he would follow wherever she
wished.

Onward they rode during the remainder of the night and the next day,
till they came to a castle not far from the sea, where Galahad was
warmly welcomed, for the damsel who guided him had been sent by the lady
of that castle.

"Madam," said the damsel, "shall he stay here all night?"

"No," she replied; "only until he has dined, and has slept a little. He
must ride on until destiny is accomplished."

So at early nightfall Galahad was called and helped to arm by
torchlight. Then he and the damsel again took horse, and rode on at
speed till they suddenly found themselves at the ocean's brink, with the
waves breaking at their feet. And here lay a ship covered with white
samite, from which manly voices cried,--

"Welcome, Sir Galahad. We have long awaited you. Come on board."

"What means this?" asked Galahad of the damsel. "Who are they that
call?"

"No others than your friends and comrades, Sir Bors and Sir Percivale.
Here you must leave your horse, and I mine, and both of us enter the
ship, for so God commands."

This they did, taking their saddles and bridles with them, and making on
them the sign of the cross. When they had entered the ship the two
knights received them with great joy. And as they stood greeting each
other the wind suddenly rose and drove the ship from the land, forcing
it through the waves at a marvellous speed.

"Whence comes this ship?" asked Galahad.

Then Bors and Percivale told him of their adventures and temptations,
and by what miracles they had been brought on board that vessel.

"Truly," said Galahad, "God has aided you marvellously. As for me, had
it not been for the lady who led me, I should never have found you."

"If Lancelot, your father, were but here," said Bors, "then it would
seem to me that we had all that heart could wish."

"That may not be," answered Galahad, "unless by the pleasure of our
Lord."

As they conversed the ship suddenly ran between two rocks, where it held
fast, but where they could not land for the raging of the sea. But just
before them lay another ship, which they could reach without danger.

[Illustration: Copyright 1901 by E. A. Abbey; from a Copely print
copyright 1902 by Curtis and Cameron.

THE MAGIC SHIP.]

"Thither we must go," said the lady, "and there we shall find strange
things, for such is the Lord's will."

At this they approached the ship, and saw that it was richly provided,
but without man or woman on board. And on its bow there was written in
large letters,--

"You who shall enter this ship, take heed of your belief: for I am
Faith, and bid you beware. If you fail I shall not help you. He who
enters here must be of pure heart and earnest trust."

They stood looking earnestly at one another after having read these
words.

"Percivale," said the lady, "know you who I am?"

"I do not," he replied. "Have I ever seen you before?"

"Know, then, that I am your sister, the daughter of King Pellinore. I
love no man on earth as I do you. I warn you, therefore, not to enter
this ship unless you have perfect belief in our Lord Jesus Christ, for
if your faith fails you aught here you shall perish."

"Fair sister," he replied, "happy am I, indeed, to know you. As for the
ship, I shall not fail to enter it. If I prove an untrue knight or a
misbeliever, then let me perish."

As they spoke, Galahad blessed himself and entered the ship, and after
him came the lady, and then Bors and Percivale. On reaching the deck
they found it so marvellously fair and rich that they stood in wonder.
In the midst of the ship was a noble bed; and when Galahad went thither
he found on it a crown of silk. Below this lay a sword, half drawn from
its scabbard, the pommel being of stone of many colors. The scales of
the haft were of the ribs of two beasts. One beast was a serpent, known
in Calidone as the serpent of the fiend; and its bone had the magic
virtue that the hand which touched it should never be weary or hurt. The
other beast was a fish, that haunted the flood of Euphrates, its name
Ertanax; its bone had the virtue that he who handled it should not think
on the joys and sorrows of his past life, but only of that which he then
beheld. And no man could grasp this sword but the one who passed all
others in might and virtue.

"In the name of God," said Percivale, "I shall seek to handle it."

But in vain he tried, he could not grasp the magic hilt. No more could
Bors, who attempted it in his turn. Then Galahad approached, and as he
did so saw written on the sword in letters like blood, "He who draweth
me has peril to endure. His body shall meet with shame, for he shall be
wounded to the death."

"By my faith, the risk is too great," said Galahad. "I shall not set my
hand to so fatal a blade."

"That you must," said the lady. "The drawing of this sword is forbidden
to all men, save you. No one can draw back from that which destiny
commands."

Then she told a marvellous story of that strange blade.

"When this ship arrived in the realm of England," she said, "there was
deadly war between King Labor and King Hurlame, who was a christened
Saracen. Here they fought one day by the sea-side, and Hurlame was
defeated and his men slain. Then he fled into this ship, drew the sword
which he saw here, and with one stroke smote King Labor and his horse in
twain. But a fatal stroke it proved, for with it there came harm and
pestilence to all this realm. Neither corn nor grass would grow, fruit
failed to ripen, the waters held no fish, and men named this the waste
land of the two marches. Nor did King Hurlame escape. When he saw the
strange carving of the sword, a craving came into his mind to possess
the scabbard. Entering the ship for that purpose, he thrust the sword
into the sheath; but no sooner had he done so than he fell dead beside
the bed. And there his body lay till a maiden entered the ship and cast
it out, for no man could be found hardy enough to set foot on that fatal
deck."

The three knights on hearing this looked earnestly at the scabbard,
which seemed to them made of serpent's skin, while on it was writing in
letters of gold and silver. But the girdle was poor and mean, and ill
suited to so rich a sword. The writing was to this effect: "He who shall
wield me must be hardy of nature. Nor shall he ever be shamed while he
is girt with this girdle; which must never be put away except by the
hands of a maiden and a king's daughter. And she, if she shall ever
cease to be a maid, shall die the most villanous death that woman ever
endured."

"Turn the sword," said Percivale, "that we may see what is on the other
side."

On doing so they found it red as blood, with coal-black letters, which
said: "He that shall praise me most shall find me most to fail him in
time of great need; and to whom I should be most fair shall I prove most
foul. Thus is it ordained."

Then Percivale's sister told them the history of the sword, which was a
very strange and admirable thing to hear. More than once had it been
drawn in modern times; once by Nancien, who afterwards became a hermit,
and in whose hands the sword fell in half, and sorely wounded him in the
foot. Afterwards it was drawn by King Pellam, and it was for this
boldness that he was destined to be deeply wounded by the spear with
which Balin afterwards struck him.

The knights now observed the bed more closely, and saw that above its
head there hung two swords. With them were three strange spindles, one
of which was white as snow, one red as blood, and one as green as
emerald. As they gazed at them with curious wonder, the damsel told a
strange story of the surprising things they had gazed upon. And thus her
story ran.

When mother Eve gathered the fruit for which Adam and she were put out
of Paradise, she took with her the bough on which the apple grew. As it
kept fair and green, and she had no coffer in which to keep it, she
thrust it in the earth, where, by God's will, it took root, and soon
grew to a great tree, whose branches and leaves were as white as milk.
But afterwards, at the time of Abel's birth, it became grass-green. It
was under this tree that Cain slew Abel, and then it quickly lost its
green color, and grew red as blood. So it lived and thrived, and was in
full life when Solomon, the wise king, came to the throne.

It came to pass that, as Solomon studied over many things, and, above
all, despised women in his heart and in his writings, a voice came which
told him that of his line would be born the Virgin Mary, the purest and
noblest of human kind, and that afterwards would come a man, the last of
his blood, as pure in mind as a young maiden, and as good a knight as
Joshua of Israel. This revelation he told to his wife, who had
questioned him as to the reason of his deep study.

"Sir," she said, "since this knight is to come, it is our duty to
prepare for him. Therefore, I shall first have made a ship of the best
and most durable wood that man may find."

This was done by Solomon's command. When the ship was built and ready to
sail, she made a covering for it of cloth of silk, of such quality that
no weather could rot it. And in the midst she placed a great bed, of
marvellously rich workmanship, and covered with silk of the finest
texture.

"Now, my dear lord," she said to Solomon, "since this last knight of
your lineage is to pass in valor and renown all other knights that have
been before or shall come after him, therefore I counsel you to go into
the Temple of the Lord, where is the sword of the great King David, your
father, which is of magic temper and virtue. Take off the pommel of this
sword and make one of precious stones, skilfully wrought. And make a
hilt and sheath of great richness and beauty. As for the girdle, leave
that to me to provide."

Solomon did as she advised, and she took the sword and laid it in the
bed; but when he looked at it he grew angry, for the girdle was meanly
made of hemp.

"I have nothing," she said, "fit to make a girdle worthy of such a
sword. But when the time comes a maiden will change this for a girdle
worthy of him that is to wear it."

This done, she went with a carpenter to the tree under which Abel was
slain.

"Carve me from this tree as much wood as will make me a spindle," she
said.

"Ah, madam," said he, "I dare not cut the tree which our first mother
planted."

"Do as you are bidden," she ordered. "Dare not disobey me."

But as he began to cut the tree drops of blood flowed out. Then he would
have fled, but she made him cut sufficient to form a spindle. Next she
went to the green and the white trees, which had grown from the roots of
the other, and bade him cut as much from each of these. From this wood
were three spindles wrought, which she hung up at the head of the bed.

"You have done marvellously well," said Solomon, on seeing this.
"Wonderful things, I deem, shall come of all this, more than you
yourself dream of."

"Some of these things you shall soon know," she answered.

That night Solomon lay near the ship, and as he slept he dreamed. There
came from heaven, as it seemed to him, a great company of angels, who
alighted in the ship, and took water that was brought by an angel in a
vessel of silver, and sprinkled it everywhere. Then the angel came to
the sword and drew letters on the hilt, and on the ship's bow he wrote,
"You who shall enter this ship take heed of your belief," and further as
the knights had read. When Solomon had read these words he drew back,
and dared not enter, and there soon arose a wind which drove the ship
far to sea, so that it was quickly lost to sight. Then a low voice said,
"Solomon, the last knight of thy lineage shall rest in this bed." With
this Solomon waked, and lo! the ship was gone.

This was the story that the fair damsel, Percivale's sister, told to the
knights, as they stood curiously surveying the bed and the spindles.
Then one of them lifted a cloth that lay on the deck, and under it found
a purse, in which was a written paper, telling the same strange story
they had just heard.

"The sword is here," said Galahad; "but where shall be found the maiden
who is to make the new girdle?"

"You need not seek far," said Percivale's sister. "By God's leave, I
have been chosen to make that girdle, and have it here."

Then she opened a box which she had brought with her, and took from it a
girdle that was richly wrought with golden threads and studded with
precious stones, while its buckle was of polished gold.

"Lo, lords and knights," she said, "here is the destined girdle. The
greater part of it was made of my hair, which I loved dearly when I was
a woman of the world. When I knew that I was set aside for this high
purpose, I cut off my hair and wrought this girdle in God's name."

"Well have you done!" cried Bors. "Without you we would have learned
nothing of this high emprise."

Then the noble maiden removed the mean girdle from the sword, and put
upon it the rich one she had brought, which became it wonderfully.

"By what name shall we call this sword?" they now asked her.

"Its name is," she answered, "the sword with the strange girdle; and
that of the sheath is, mover of blood. But no man with blood in him
shall ever see the part of the sheath that was made of the tree of
life."

Then she took the sword and girded it about Galahad, fastening the
golden buckle about his waist.

"Now reck I not though I die," she said, "for I hold that I am one of
the world's blessed maidens, since it has been given to me to arm the
worthiest knight in the world."

After this they left the magic ship at her bidding, and entered the one
in which they had come. And immediately there rose a great wind which
blew their vessel from between the rocks, and carried it afar over the
sea.



CHAPTER VII.

HOW LANCELOT SAW THE SANGREAL.


The ship that bore the three knights and the maiden came ashore at
length near a castle in Scotland, where they landed. From here they
journeyed far, while many were their adventures, all of which tried
their virtue and belonged to the quest of the Sangreal. In them all the
sword with the strange girdle proved of such marvellous worth that no
men, were they a hundred in number, could stand before it.

Finally they came to a castle which had the strange custom that every
maiden who passed that way should yield a dish full of blood. When they
asked the reason of this dreadful custom, they were told,--

"There is in this castle a lady to whom the domain belongs, and who has
lain for years sick of a malady which no leech can cure. And a wise man
has said that she can only be cured if she have a dish full of blood
from a pure virgin and a king's daughter, with which to anoint her."

"Fair knights," said Percivale's sister, "I alone can aid the sick lady,
who must die otherwise."

"If you bleed as they demand, you may die," said Galahad. "Is not your
life worth more than hers?"

"This I answer," said she. "If I yield not my blood there will be mortal
war between you and the knights of the castle to-morrow, and many men
must die that one woman may not bleed. If I die to heal the sick lady I
shall gain renown and do God's will, and surely one harm is better than
many. That you will fight for me to the death, I know, but wherefore
should you?"

Say what they would, she held to her will, and the next morning bade the
people of the castle bring forth the sick lady. She lay in great pain
and suffering, and bent her eyes pleadingly on the devoted maiden.

Then Percivale's sister bared her arm, and bade them bleed her. This
they did till a silver dish was filled with her life blood. Then she
blessed the lady, and said,--

"Madam, I have given my life for yours; for God's love, pray for me!"
and she fell in a swoon.

Galahad and his fellows hastened to stanch the blood, but it was too
late, her life was ebbing fast.

"Fair brother Percivale," she said, "death is upon me. But before I die
I have this to tell you. It is written that I shall not be buried in
this country. When I am dead, seek you the sea-shore near by, and put my
body in a boat, and let it go where fortune bears it. But when you three
arrive at the city of Sarras, in Palestine, which you will in God's good
time, you shall find me arrived there before you. There bury me in
consecrated soil. This further I may say, that there the holy Grail
shall be achieved, and there shall Galahad die and be buried in the same
place."

And as they stood there weeping beside her a voice came to them,
saying,--

"Lords and comrades, to-morrow at sunrise you three must depart, each
taking his own way, and you shall not meet again till adventure bring
you to the maimed king."

After that all was done as had been foreseen and desired. The maiden
died, and the same day the sick lady was healed, through the virtue of
her blood. Then Percivale wrote a letter telling who she was and what
things she had done. This he put in her right hand, and laid her body in
a vessel that was covered with black silk. The wind now arose and drove
it far from the land, while all stood watching it till it was out of
sight.

Then they returned towards the castle. But suddenly a tempest of wind,
thunder, and rain broke from the sky, so furious that the very earth
seemed to be torn up. And as they looked they saw the turrets of the
castle and part of its walls totter and fall, and in a moment come
crashing in ruin to the earth.

That night they slept in a chapel, and in the morning rode to the
castle, to see how it had fared in the storm. But when they reached it
they found it in ruins, while of all that had dwelt there not one was
left alive. All of them, man and woman alike, had fallen victims to the
vengeance of God. And they heard a voice that said,--

"This vengeance is for the shedding of maidens' blood."

But at the end of the chapel was a church-yard in which were threescore
tombs, over which it seemed no tempest had passed. And in these lay all
the maidens who had shed their blood and died martyrs for the sick
lady's sake. On these were their names and lineage, and all were of
royal blood, and twelve of them kings' daughters.

The knights turned away, marvelling much at what they had seen and
heard.

"Here we must part," said Galahad. "Let us pray that we may soon meet
again."

Then they kissed each other, and wept at the parting, and each rode his
own way into the forest before them.

But we must now leave them and return to Lancelot, whom we left sorely
repentant of his sins. After he departed from the hermitage he rode
through many lands and had divers adventures, and in the end came to the
sea-shore, beside which he lay down and slept.

In his slumber, words came to his ear, saying, "Lancelot, rise and take
thine armor, and enter into the first ship that thou shalt find." On
hearing these words he started up, and saw that all about him was
strangely clear, the skies giving out a light like that of midday. Then
he blessed himself, and took his arms, and advanced to the strand, where
he saw a ship without sails or oars. This he entered, as he had been
bidden, and when he was within it his heart was filled with such joy as
he had never before known.

Naught had he ever thought of or desired but what seemed come to him
now, and in his gladness he returned thanks fervently to the Lord.

"I know not what has happened to me," he said, "but such joy as I feel I
never dreamed the human heart could hold."

Then he lay down and slept on the ship's deck, and when he woke the
night had passed and it was broad day.

And in the ship he found a bed, whereon lay a dead lady, with a letter
in her right hand which Lancelot read. From this he learned that the
fair corpse was that of Percivale's sister, together with many of the
strange things that had happened to her and the chosen knights.

For a month or more Lancelot abode in this ship, driven about the seas,
and sustained by no food, but by the grace of the Holy Ghost, for he
prayed fervently for God's aid night and morning.

At length came a night when the ship touched the shore. Here he landed,
being somewhat weary of the deck. And as he stood on the strand he heard
a horse approach, and soon one rode by that seemed a knight.

When he came to the ship he checked his horse and alighted. Then, taking
the saddle and bridle from the horse, he turned it free and entered the
ship. Lancelot, in surprise, drew near.

"Fair knight," he said, "I know not who you are or why you come. But
since you seek passage on my ship you are welcome."

The other saluted him in turn, and asked,--

"What is your name? I pray you, tell me, for my heart warms strangely
towards you."

"My name is Lancelot du Lake."

"Then are we well met indeed. You are my father."

"Ah! then you are Galahad?"

"Yes, truly," and as he spoke he took off his helm, and kneeled, and
asked his blessing.

Joyful indeed was that meeting, and gladly there father and son
communed, telling each other all that had happened to them since they
left the court. When Galahad saw the dead maiden he knew her well, and
told his father the story of the sword, at which he marvelled greatly.

"Truly, Galahad," he said, "I never heard of aught so strange, and can
well believe you were born for wondrous deeds."

Afterwards for nearly half a year the father and son dwelt together
within that ship, serving God day and night with prayer and praise. Now
they touched on peopled shores, and now on desert islands where only
wild beasts abode, and perilous and strange adventures they met. But
these we shall not tell, since they had naught to do with the Sangreal.

But at length came a Monday morning when the ship touched shore at the
edge of a forest, before a cross, where they saw a knight armed all in
white, and leading a white horse. He saluted them courteously, and
said,--

"Galahad, you have been long enough with your father. You must now leave
the ship, and take this horse, and ride whither destiny shall lead you
in the quest of the Sangreal."

Hearing this command, Galahad kissed his father, and bade him farewell,
saying,--

"Dear father, I know not if we shall ever meet again."

"Then I bid you," said Lancelot, "to pray to the great Father that He
hold me in His service."

There came in answer a mysterious voice that spoke these words,--

"Think each to do well; for you shall never see each other till the
dreadful day of doom."

This voice of destiny affected them greatly, and they bade each other a
tearful farewell, Lancelot begging again the prayers of his son in his
behalf. Then Galahad mounted the white horse and rode into the forest,
while a wind arose which blew the ship from shore, and for a month drove
it up and down the seas.

But at length came a night when it touched shore on the rear side of a
fair and stately castle. Brightly shone the moon, and Lancelot saw an
open postern in which stood on guard two great lions. As he looked he
heard a voice.

"Lancelot," it said, "leave this ship and enter the castle. There shalt
thou see a part of that which thou desirest."

Lancelot at this armed himself and went to the gate, where the lions
rose rampant against him. With an instinct of fear he drew his sword,
but at that instant appeared a dwarf, who struck him on the arm so
sharply that the sword fell from his hand.

"Oh, man of evil hope and weak belief," came the mysterious voice,
"trust you more in your armor than in your Maker? Does He who brought
you here need a sword for your protection?"

"Truly am I reproved," said Lancelot. "Happy am I to be held the Lord's
ward and servant."

He took up his sword and put it in the sheath, then made a cross on his
forehead, and advanced to the lions, which raged and showed their teeth
as if ready to rend him in pieces. Yet with a bold step and tranquil
mien he passed between them unhurt, and entered the castle.

Through it he went, room by room, passage by passage, for every door
stood wide and no living being met him as he advanced. Finally he came
to a chamber whose door was closed, and which yielded not to his hand
when he sought to open it. He tried again with all his force, but the
door resisted his strength.

Then he listened, and heard a voice that sang more sweetly than he had
ever heard. And the words seemed to him to be, "Joy and honor be to the
Father of Heaven!"

Lancelot no longer sought to open the door, but kneeled before it,
feeling in his heart that the Sangreal was within that chamber.

"Sweet Father Jesus," he prayed, "if ever I did aught in thy service, in
pity forgive me my sins, and show me something of that which I seek."

As he prayed the door opened without hands, and from the room came a
light brighter than if all the torches of the world had been there. He
rose in joy to enter, but the voice spoke sternly in his ear,--

"Forbear, Lancelot, and seek not to enter here. If you enter, you shall
repent it dearly."

Then he drew back hastily, and looked into the chamber, where he saw a
table of silver, on which was the holy vessel covered with red samite,
with angels about it, one of which held a burning candle of wax, and one
a cross. And before the holy vessel stood a priest, who seemed to be
serving the mass. In front of the priest appeared to be three men, two
of whom put the youngest between the priest's hands, who held him up
high as if to show him. Yet so heavy seemed the figure that the priest
appeared ready to fall with weakness, and with a sudden impulse Lancelot
rushed into the room, crying, "Fair Lord Jesus, hold it no sin that I
help the good man, who seems in utmost need."

But as he rashly entered and came towards the table of silver, a breath
that seemed half fire smote him so hotly in the face that he fell
heavily to the earth, and lay like one bereft of all his senses. Then
many hands seemed to take him up, and bear him without the door, where
he lay to all seeming dead.

When morning dawned he was found there by the people of the castle, who
marvelled how he got there, and could not be sure if he were dead or
alive. But they laid him in a bed, and watched him closely, for days
passed without signs of life or death. At length, on the twenty-fifth
day, he gave a deep sigh, and opened his eyes, and gazed in wonder on
the people about him.

"Why have you wakened me?" he cried. "Why left you me not to my blessed
visions?"

"What have you seen?" they asked, eagerly.

"Such marvels as no tongue can tell nor ear understand," he said. "And
more had I seen but that my son was here before me. For God's love,
gentlemen, tell me where I am."

"Sir, you are in the castle of Carbonek."

"I thank God of His great mercy for what I have seen," he said. "Now
may I leave the quest of the Sangreal, for more of it shall I never see,
and few men living shall see so much."

These words said, he arose and dressed in new clothing that they brought
him, and stood in his old strength and beauty before the people.

"Sir Lancelot!" they cried, "is it you?"

"Truly so," he answered.

Then word was brought to King Pellam, the maimed king, who now dwelt in
that castle, that the knight who had lain so long between death and life
was Lancelot. Glad was the king to hear this, and he bade them bring
Lancelot to him.

"Long has my daughter Elaine been dead," he said. "But happy she lived
in having been loved by you, and in the grace of her noble son Galahad."

"I was but cold to her," answered Lancelot, "for she was a lovable lady.
But in truth I have been held from love and life's delights, for my fate
has not been my own to control."

For four days he abode at the castle, and then took his armor and horse,
saying that now his quest of the Sangreal was done, and duty bade him
return to Camelot.

Back through many realms he rode, and in time came to the abbey where
Galahad had won the white shield. Here he spent the night, and the next
day rode into Camelot, where he was received with untold joy by Arthur
and the queen.

For of the Knights of the Round Table who had set out on that perilous
quest more than half had perished, and small was the tale of that
gallant fellowship that could now be mustered. So the coming of
Lancelot filled all hearts with joy.

Great was the marvel of the king when Lancelot told him of what he had
seen and done, and of the adventures of Galahad, Percivale, and Bors.

"God send that they were all here again," said the king.

"That shall never be," said Lancelot. "One of them shall come again, but
two you shall never see."

[Illustration: From the painting by George Frederick Watts.

SIR GALAHAD'S QUEST OF THE HOLY GRAIL.]



CHAPTER VIII.

THE DEEDS OF THE THREE CHOSEN KNIGHTS.


After Galahad left the ship and his father Lancelot, he rode far and had
many adventures, righting many wrongs and achieving many marvels. Among
these he came to the abbey where was the ancient King Evelake, who had
laid blind three hundred years, as we have elsewhere told.

The old king knew well that his deliverance had come, and begged to be
embraced by the pious youth. No sooner had he been clasped in his arms
than his sight returned, and his flesh grew whole and young.

"Now, sweet Saviour, my destiny is fulfilled; receive thou my soul," he
prayed.

As he said these words the soul left his body, and the miracle of his
fate was achieved.

Many days after this Galahad met Percivale, and soon the two came upon
Bors, as he rode out of a great forest, that extended many days' journey
through the land.

And so they rode in glad companionship, with many a tale of marvel to
tell, till in time they came to the castle of Carbonek, where they were
gladly received, for those in the castle knew that the quest of the
Sangreal was now wellnigh achieved.

When evening approached, and the table for supper was set, the
mysterious voice that so often had guided these knights spoke again.

"They that are not worthy to sit at the table of Jesus Christ arise," it
said; "for now shall the worthiest be fed."

Then all arose save Eliazar, the son of King Pellam, and a maid who was
his niece, and the three knights. But as they sat at supper nine other
knights, in full armor, entered at the hall door, and took off their
helmets and armor, and said to Galahad,--

"Sir, we have come far and in haste to be with you at this table, where
the holy meat shall be served."

"If you are worthy, you are welcome," said Galahad. "Whence come you?"

Three of them answered that they were from Gaul, three from Ireland, and
three from Denmark, and that they had come thither at the bidding of the
strange voice.

So they all sat at table. But ere they began to eat, four gentlewomen
bore into the hall a bed, whereon lay a man sick, with a crown of gold
on his head. Setting him down, they went away.

"Galahad, holy knight, you are welcome," said he who lay in the bed,
raising his head feebly. "Long have I waited your coming, in pain and
anguish, since Balin, the good knight, struck me the dolorous stroke. To
you I look for aid and release from my long suffering."

Then spoke the voice again: "There be those here who are not in the
quest of the Sangreal; let them depart." And the son and niece of the
king rose and left the room.

Then there came suddenly four angels, and a man who bore a cross and
wore the dress of a bishop, whom the angels placed in a chair before the
silver table of the Sangreal. In his forehead were letters which said,
"This is Joseph, the first bishop of Christendom."

Next opened the chamber door, and angels entered, two bearing wax
candles, the third a towel, and the fourth a spear that bled, the blood
drops falling into a silver vessel which he held in his other hand. The
candles were set on the table, the towel spread upon the vessel, and the
spear set upright on this.

The bishop then said mass, at which other strange signs were seen; for a
figure like a child, with a face that shone like flame, entered into the
bread of the sacrament. Then the bishop kissed Galahad, and bade him
kiss his fellows. This done, he said,--

"Servants of Jesus Christ, ye shall here be fed on such meats as never
knights tasted;" and with these words he vanished.

But as they knelt in prayer before the table, they saw come out of the
holy vessel a man who bore all the signs of the passion of Jesus Christ.
And he took up the vessel and bore it to Galahad and to the other
knights, who kneeled to receive the sacrament; and so sweet was it that
their hearts marvelled and were filled with joy.

"Now have you tasted of Christ's own food," he said, "and seen what you
highly and holily desired. But more openly shall you see it in the city
of Sarras, in the spiritual place. Therefore you must go hence, for this
night the holy vessel will leave this realm, and will never more be seen
here. To-morrow you three shall go to the sea, where a ship awaits you;
and you must take with you the sword with the strange girdle."

"Shall not these good knights go also?" asked Galahad.

"Not so. They have seen all that is fitting to them. As for you, two of
you shall die in my service, and the third shall return and tell what he
has seen."

Then he gave them his blessing, and vanished from out their midst.

When they had somewhat recovered from the weight of these marvels,
Galahad went to the spear that lay on the table, and touched the blood
with his fingers, and with it anointed the wounds of the maimed king.
And at this touch he started up whole and strong, thanking God fervently
for his healing.

But he went not into the world again, but to a monastery of white monks,
where he became a man of holy renown.

At midnight came a voice to the nine knights, which said,--

"My sons, and not my chieftains; my friends, and not my warriors; go ye
hence, and do well what comes to you, in my service."

"Lord," they replied, "wilt thou vouchsafe also to call us thy sinners?
Thy servants we shall be henceforth."

And they arose, armed, and departed, bidding a solemn adieu to the three
knights. When morning dawned these three rose also, and rode till they
came to the sea. Here awaited them the ship wherein they had found the
sword and the three magic spindles, and to their wonder and delight they
beheld in its midst the table of silver and the Sangreal, which was
covered with red samite.

It was a joyous company that sailed over the sea in that magical ship,
and at the wish of his comrades Galahad slept in the bed where the sword
had lain, and Bors and Percivale on the deck beside him.

And so they went by day and by night, and at length came to the city of
Sarras. Here, as they would have landed, they saw beside them, just come
to shore, the ship that bore the corpse of Percivale's sister, and this
as fair and as fresh as when first placed within it.

Then they took up the silver table and bore it to the city, at whose
gate sat an old and crooked cripple.

"Come hither, and help us carry this heavy thing," said Galahad.

"How shall I do that? I have not gone for ten years without crutches."

"No matter for that. Show your good will by trying."

Then the cripple rose and took hold, and in that instant he was whole
and strong, and helped them bear the table to the palace. This done,
they returned, and bore to the palace the corpse of Percivale's sister,
which they placed in a rich tomb, suited to a king's daughter.

Meanwhile the report had spread through the city that a cripple had been
made whole by three strange knights, and people flocked to see them.

When the king of the city saw and heard all this, he came to the knights
and asked them who they were, and what it was they had brought into his
realm.

Galahad answered him, telling of the marvel of the Sangreal, and of
God's power and grace therein.

But the king, Estorause, a tyrant in will and a pagan in faith, heard
this with wrath and unbelief, and ordered the knights to be put in
prison as spies and felons.

For a whole year they lay thus in prison, yet were always kept whole and
in good spirits; for the holy Sangreal came to them in their dungeons,
and filled their souls with joy. When the year ended, Estorause grew
sick unto death, and in remorse sent for the imprisoned knights, whose
pardon and forgiveness he fervently begged. This they gave him, and he
straightway died.

His death threw the city into dismay, for he had left no successor to
the throne. But as the lords sat in council there came a voice that
bade them choose the youngest of the three knights for their king. This
mysterious behest was told to the citizens, and with one acclaim they
hailed it as God's will, and demanded Galahad as their king.

Thereupon he became king of Sarras, though it was not his wish; but he
felt it to be God's command. And when he came to the throne he had
constructed a chest of gold and precious stones, in which was placed the
table of silver with the holy vessel, and before this the three knights
kneeled and prayed daily with fervent zeal.

And so time rolled on till came the day that was the anniversary of that
in which Galahad had taken the crown. On this morning he rose betimes,
and before the holy vessel he saw a man dressed like a bishop, while
round about him was a great fellowship of angels.

"Come forth, thou servant of Jesus Christ, and thou shalt see what thou
hast so much desired," said the bishop.

Then Galahad began to tremble, his flesh quaking in the presence of
things spiritual. And he held his hands up towards heaven, saying,--

"Lord, I thank thee, for now my desire is fulfilled. And if it be thy
will that I should come to thee, I wish no longer to live."

"I am Joseph of Arimathea," said the strange presence, "and am sent by
the Lord to bear thee fellowship. Thou resemblest me in two things; for
thou hast seen the highest marvel of the Sangreal, and are pure of heart
and of body. Now say farewell to thy comrades, for thy time is come to
depart."

Galahad thereupon went to Percivale and Bors, and kissed them, and
commended them to God, saying to Bors,--

"Fair friend, who art destined to return to our native realm, salute for
me my lord and father Lancelot, and bid him remember the evils of this
unstable world, and bear in mind the duty he has been taught."

Then he kneeled before the table and prayed fervently, and suddenly his
soul departed from his body, a multitude of angels bearing it visibly
upward toward heaven, in full view of his late comrades. Also they saw
come from heaven a hand, with no body visible, and take up the holy
vessel and the spear, and bear them to heaven. And from that moment no
man ever saw on earth again the blessed Sangreal.

Afterwards Galahad's body was buried with great honor, and with many
tears from his two fellows and from the people whom he had governed.
Then Percivale betook him to a hermitage, and entered upon a religious
life; while Bors stayed with him, but in secular clothing, for it was
his purpose to return to England.

For a year and two months Percivale lived thus the holy life of a
hermit, and then he passed out of this world, and was buried by
Bors--who mourned him as deeply as ever man was mourned--beside his
sister and Galahad. This pious office performed, Sir Bors, the last of
the three chosen knights, felt that his duty in that land was at an end,
and thereupon took ship at the city of Sarras and sailed for the realm
of England, where he in good season arrived. Here he took horse and
rode in all haste to Camelot, where King Arthur and the court then were,
and where he was received with the greatest joy and wonder, for so long
had it been since any man there had set eyes on him, that all believed
him to be dead.

But greater than their wonder was their admiration when the returned
knight told the story of miracle and adventure which had befallen him
and his two comrades, and the pious maid, Percivale's sister, and of the
holy life and death of Galahad and Percivale. This marvellous narrative
the king had told again to skilled clerks, that they might put upon
record the wonderful deeds of these good knights. And it was all written
down in great books, which were put in safe keeping at Salisbury.

Bors then gave to Lancelot the message which his son had sent him, and
Lancelot took him in his arms, saying, "Gentle cousin, gladly do I
welcome you again. Never while we live shall we part, but shall ever be
true friends and brothers while life may last to us."

And thus came to an end the marvellous and unparalleled adventure of the
Holy Grail.

[Illustration: SALISBURY CATHEDRAL.]



                                 BOOK X.

                    THE LOVE OF LANCELOT AND GUENEVER.



CHAPTER I.

THE POISONING OF SIR PATRISE.


After the quest of the Sangreal was ended, and all the knights who were
left alive had come again to Camelot, there was great joy in the court,
with feasts and merrymakings, that this fortunate remnant might find a
glad welcome. Above all, King Arthur and Queen Guenever were full of joy
in the return of Lancelot and Bors, both from the love they bore them
and the special honor they had gained in the quest.

But, as is man's way, holy thoughts vanished with the holy task that
gave them rise, the knights went back to their old fashions and
frailties, and in Lancelot's heart his earthly love for the queen soon
rose again, and his love of heaven and holy thoughts grew dim as the
days went by. Alas that it should have been so! for such an unholy
passion could but lead to harm. To fatal ills, indeed, it led, and to
the end of Arthur's reign and of the worshipful fellowship of the Table
Round, as it is our sorrowful duty now to tell.

All this began in the scandal that was raised in the court by the close
companionship between Lancelot and the queen. Whisper of this secret
talk at length came to that good knight's ears, and he withdrew from
Queen Guenever as much as he could, giving himself to the society of
other ladies of the court, with design to overcome the evil activity of
slanderous tongues.

This withdrawal filled the queen with jealous anger, and she accused him
bitterly of coldness in his love.

"Madam," said Lancelot, "only that love for you clung desperately to my
heart, and drove out heavenly thoughts, I should have gained as great
honor in the quest of the Sangreal as even my son Galahad. My love is
still yours, but I fear to show it, for there are those of the court who
love me not, such as Agravaine and Mordred, and these evil-thinking
knights are spreading vile reports wherever they may. It is for this I
make show of delight in other ladies' society, to cheat the bitter
tongue of slander."

To this the queen listened with heaving breast and burning cheek. But at
the end she burst into bitter tears and sobs, and wept so long that
Lancelot stood in dismay. When she could speak, she called him recreant
and false, declared she should never love him more, and bade him leave
the court, and on pain of his head never come near her again.

This filled the faithful lover with the deepest grief and pain; yet
there was anger, too, for he felt that the queen had shut her ears to
reason, and had let causeless jealousy blind her. So, without further
words, he turned and sought his room, prepared to leave the court. He
sent for Hector, Bors, and Lionel, and told them what had happened, and
that he intended to leave England and return to his native land.

"If you take my advice you will do nothing so rash," said Bors. "Know
you not that women are hasty to act, and quick to repent? This is not
the first time the queen has been angry with you; nor will her
repentance be a new experience."

"You speak truly," said Lancelot. "I will ride, therefore, to the
hermitage of Brasias, near Windsor, and wait there till I hear from you
if my lady Guenever changes her mood. I pray you do your best to get me
her love again."

"That needs no prayer. Well you know I will do my utmost in your
behalf."

Then Lancelot departed in haste, none but Bors knowing whither he had
gone. But the queen showed no sign of sorrow at his going, however
deeply she may have felt it in her heart. In countenance she remained
serene and proud, as though the world went well with her, and her heart
was free from care.

Her desire, indeed, to show that she took as much joy in the society of
other knights as in that of Lancelot led to a woful and perilous event,
which we have next to describe. For she gave a private dinner, to which
she invited Gawaine and his brethren and other knights, to the number of
twenty-four in all. A rich feast it was, with all manner of dainties and
rare devices. Much was the joy and merriment of the feasting knights.

As it happened, Gawaine had a great love for fruits, especially apples
and pears, which he ate daily at dinner and supper; and all who invited
him to dine took care to provide his favorite fruits. This the queen
failed not to do. But there was at the feast an enemy of Gawaine's,
named Pinel le Savage, who was a cousin of Lamorak de Galis, and had
long hated Gawaine for the murder of that noble knight.

To obtain revenge on him, Pinel poisoned some of the apples, feeling
sure that only Gawaine would eat them. But by unlucky chance a knight
named Patrise, cousin to Mador de la Porte, eat one of the poisoned
apples. So deadly was the venom that in a moment he was in agony, and
very soon it so filled his veins that he fell dead from his seat.

Then was terror and wrath, as the knights sprang in haste and turmoil
from their seats. For they saw that Patrise had been poisoned, and
suspicion naturally fell upon the queen, the giver of the feast.

"My lady, the queen," cried Gawaine in anger, "what thing is this we
see? This fate, I deem, was meant for me, since the fruit was provided
for my taste. Madam, what shall I think? Has this good knight taken on
himself the death that was intended to be mine?"

The queen made no answer, being so confused and terrified that she knew
not what to say.

"This affair shall not end here," cried Mador de la Porte in great
wrath. "Here lies a noble knight of my near kindred, slain by poison and
treason. For this I shall have revenge to the utterance. Queen Guenever,
I hold you guilty of the murder of my cousin, Sir Patrise. I demand from
the laws of the realm and the justice of our lord the king redress for
this deed. A knight like this shall not fall unrevenged, while I can
wield spear or hold sword."

The queen, at this hot accusation, looked appealingly from face to face;
but all stood grave and silent, for greatly they suspected her of the
crime. Then, seeing that she had not a friend in the room, she burst
into a passion of tears, and at length fell to the floor in a swoon.

The story of this sad business soon spread through the court, and
quickly came to the ears of the king, who hastened to the banqueting
hall full of trouble at what he had heard. When Mador saw him, he again
bitterly accused the queen of treason,--as murder of all kinds was then
called.

"This is a serious affair," said the king, gravely. "I, as a rightful
judge, cannot take the matter into my own hands, or I would do battle in
this cause myself, for I know well that my wife is wrongly accused. To
burn a queen on a hasty accusation of crime is no light matter, though
you may deem it so, Sir Mador; and if you demand the combat, fear not
but a knight will be found to meet you in the lists."

"My gracious lord," said Mador, "you must hold me excused, for though
you are our king, you are a knight also, and held by knightly rules.
Therefore, be not displeased with me, for all the knights here suspect
the queen of this crime. What say you, my lords?"

"The dinner was made by the queen," they answered. "She or her servants
must be held guilty of the crime."

"I gave this dinner with a good will, and with no thought of evil," said
the queen, sadly. "May God help me as an innocent woman, and visit this
murder on the base head of him who committed it. My king and husband, to
God I appeal for right and justice."

"And justice I demand," said Mador, "and require the king to name a day
in which this wrong can be righted."

"Be it so, then," said the king. "Fifteen days hence be thou ready armed
on horseback in the meadow beside Winchester. If there be a knight there
to meet you, then God speed the right. If none meet you, then my queen
must suffer the penalty of the law."

When Arthur and the queen had departed, he asked her how this case
befell.

"God help me if I know," she answered.

"Where is Lancelot?" asked the king. "If he were here, he would do
battle for you."

"I know not," she replied. "His kinsmen say he has left the land."

"How cometh it," said the king, "that you cannot keep Lancelot by your
side? If he were here your case would be won. Sir Bors will do battle in
his place, I am sure. Go seek him and demand his aid."

This the queen did, begging Bors to act as her champion; but he, as one
of the knights who had been at the dinner, demurred, and accused her of
having driven Lancelot from the country by her scorn and jealousy.

Then she knelt and begged his aid, and the king, coming in, also
requested his assistance, for he was now sure the queen had been
unjustly defamed.

"My lord," answered Bors, "it is a great thing you require of me, for if
I grant your request I will affront many of my Round Table comrades. Yet
for your and Lancelot's sake I will be the queen's champion on the day
appointed, unless it may happen that a better knight than I come to do
battle for her."

"Will you promise me this, on your faith?" asked the king.

"I shall not fail you," said Bors. "If a better knight than I come, the
battle shall be his. If not, I will do what I can."

This promise gladdened the king and queen, who thanked Bors heartily,
and were filled with hope, for they trusted greatly in this good
knight's prowess and skill.

Bors, however, had other thoughts than they dreamed of, and left the
court secretly, riding to the hermitage of Brasias, where he found
Lancelot and told him of what had occurred.

"This happens well," said Lancelot. "The queen shall not suffer. Do you
make ready for the battle, but tarry and delay, if I am not there, as
much as you may, till I arrive. Mador is a hot knight, and will be hasty
to battle. Bid him cool his haste."

"Leave that to me," said Bors. "Doubt not that it will go as you wish."

Meanwhile the news spread throughout the court that Bors had taken on
himself the queen's championship. This displeased the most of the
knights, for suspicion of the queen was general. On his return many of
his fellows accused him hotly of taking on himself a wrongful quarrel.

"Shall we see the queen of our great lord King Arthur brought to shame?"
he demanded. "To whom in the world do we owe more?"

"We love and honor our king as much as you do," they answered. "But we
cannot love a destroyer of knights, as Queen Guenever has proved
herself."

"Fair sirs," said Bors, "you speak hastily, methinks. At all times, so
far as I know, she has been a maintainer, not a destroyer, of knights,
and has been free with gifts and open-handed in bounty to all of
knightly fame. This you cannot gainsay, nor will I suffer the wife of
our noble king to be shamefully slain. She is not guilty of Sir
Patrise's death, for she never bore him ill will, nor any other at that
dinner. It was for good will she invited us there, and I doubt not her
innocence will be proved; for howsoever the game goeth, take my word for
it, some other than she is guilty of that murder."

This some began to believe, convinced by his words, but others still
held their displeasure, believing the queen guilty.

When at length the day that had been fixed for the battle came, there
was a great gathering of knights and people in the meadow beside
Winchester, where the combat was to take place. But many shuddered when
they saw another thing, for an iron stake was erected, and fagots heaped
round it, for the burning of the queen should Mador win the fight.

Such, indeed, was the custom of those days. Neither for favor, for love,
nor for kindred could any but righteous judgment be given, as well upon
a king as upon a knight, upon a queen as upon a poor lady, and death at
the stake was the penalty for those convicted of murder.

Now there rode into the lists Sir Mador de la Porte, and took oath
before the king that he held the queen to be guilty of the death of Sir
Patrise, and would prove it with his body against any one who should say
to the contrary.

Sir Bors followed, and made oath as the queen's champion that he held
her guiltless, and would prove it with his body, unless a better knight
came to take the battle on him.

"Make ready then," said Mador, "and we shall prove which is in the
right, you or I."

"You are a good knight, Sir Mador," said Bors, "but I trust that God
will give this battle to justice, not to prowess."

He continued to talk and to make delay till Mador called out
impatiently,--

"It seems to me that we waste time and weather. Either come and do
battle at once, or else say nay."

"I am not much given to say nay," answered Bors. "Take your horse and
make ready. I shall not tarry long, I promise you."

Then each departed to his tent, and in a little while Mador came into
the field with his shield on his shoulder and his spear in his hand. But
he waited in vain for Bors.

"Where is your champion?" cried Mador to the king. "Bid him come forth
if he dare!"

When this was told to Bors he was ashamed to delay longer, and mounted
his horse and rode to his appointed place. But as he did so he saw a
knight, mounted on a white horse, and bearing a shield of strange
device, emerge from a neighboring wood, and come up at all speed. He
continued his course till he came to Sir Bors.

"Be not displeased, fair knight," he said, "if I claim this battle. I
have ridden far this day to have it, as I promised you when we spoke
last. And for what you have done I thank you."

Then Bors rode to the king and told him that a knight had come who would
do battle for the queen and relieve him from the championship.

"What knight is this?" asked the king.

"All I may say is that he covenanted to be here to-day. He has kept his
word, and I am discharged."

"How is this?" demanded Arthur. "Sir knight, do you truly desire to do
battle for the queen?"

"For that, and that alone, came I hither," answered the knight. "And I
beg that there be no delay, for when this battle is ended I must depart
in haste on other duties. I hold it a dishonor to all those knights of
the Round Table that they can stand and see so noble a lady and
courteous a queen as Queen Guenever rebuked and shamed among them all.
Therefore I stand as her champion."

Then all marvelled what knight this could be, for none suspected him.
But Mador cried impatiently to the king,--

"We lose time here. If this knight, whoever he be, will have ado with
me, it is time to end words and begin deeds."

"You are hot, Sir Mador. Take care that your valor be not cooled," said
the other.

They now moved to their appointed stations, and there couched their
spears and rode together with all the speed of their chargers. Mador's
spear broke, but the spear of his opponent held, and bore him and his
horse backward to the earth.

But he sprang lightly from the saddle, and drew his sword, challenging
the victor to do battle with him on foot. This the other knight did,
springing quickly to the ground, and drawing his sword. Then they came
eagerly to the combat, and for the space of near an hour fought with the
fury of wild beasts, for Mador was a strong knight, proved in many
battles.

But at last the strange champion struck his opponent a blow that brought
him to the earth. He stepped near him to hurl him flat, but at that
instant Mador suddenly rose. As he did so he struck upward with his
sword, and ran the other through the thick of the thigh, so that the
blood flowed freely.

When he felt himself wounded he stepped back in a rage, and grasping his
sword struck Mador a two-handed blow that hurled him flat to the earth.
Then he sprang upon him to pull off his helm.

"I yield me!" cried Mador. "Spare my life, and I release the queen."

"I shall not grant your life," said the other, "only on condition that
you freely withdraw this accusation from the queen, and that no charge
against her be made on Sir Patrise's tomb."

"All this shall be done. I have lost, and adjudge her innocent."

The knights-parters of the lists now took up Sir Mador and bore him to
his tent. The other knight went to the foot of King Arthur's seat. By
that time the queen had come thither also, and was heartily kissed by
her overjoyed lord. Then king and queen alike thanked the victor knight,
and prayed him to take off his helmet, and drink some wine for
refreshment. This he did, and on the instant a loud shout went up from
all present, for they recognized the noble face of Lancelot du Lake.

"Sir Lancelot!" cried the king. "Never were you more heartily welcome.
Deep thanks I and Queen Guenever owe you for your noble labor this day
in our behalf."

"My lord Arthur," said Lancelot, "I would shame myself should I ever
fail to do battle for you both. It was you who gave me the high honor of
knighthood. And on the day you made me knight I lost my sword through
haste, and the lady your queen found it and gave it me when I had need
of it, and so saved me from disgrace among the knights. On that day I
promised her to be ever her knight in right or wrong."

"Your goodness merits reward," said the king, "and therein I shall not
fail you."

But as the queen gazed on Lancelot, tears came to her eyes, and she wept
so tenderly that she almost sank to the ground from sorrow and remorse
at her unkindness to him who had done her such noble service.

Now the knights of his blood came around Lancelot in the greatest joy,
and all the Knights of the Round Table after them, glad to welcome him.

And in the days that followed Lancelot was cured of his wound, and Mador
put under the care of skilful leeches, while great joy and gladness
reigned in the court for the happy issue of that combat which had
promised so fatal an ending.

About this time it befell that Nimue, the damsel of the lake, came to
the court, she who knew so many things by her power of enchantment, and
had such great love for Arthur and his knights. When the story of the
death of Sir Patrise and the peril of the queen was told her, she
answered openly that the queen had been falsely accused, and that the
real murderer was Sir Pinel, who had poisoned the apples to destroy
Gawaine, in revenge for the murder of Lamorak. This story was confirmed
when Pinel fled hastily from the court, for then all saw clearly that
Guenever was innocent of the crime.

The slain knight was buried in the church of Westminster, and on his
tomb was written,--

"Here lieth Sir Patrise of Ireland, slain by Sir Pinel le Savage,
through poisoned apples intended for Sir Gawaine." And to this was added
the story of how Guenever the queen had been charged with that crime,
and had been cleared in the combat by Sir Lancelot du Lake, her
champion.

All this was written on the tomb, to clear the queen's good fame. And
daily and long Sir Mador sued the queen to have her good grace again.
At length, by means of Lancelot, he was forgiven, and entered again into
the grace of king and queen. Thus once more peace and good-will were
restored to Camelot.



CHAPTER II.

THE LILY MAID OF ASTOLAT.


It came to pass that, within fifteen days of the Feast of the
Assumption, King Arthur announced that a great tournament would be held
on that day at Camelot, where he and the king of Scots would hold the
lists against all who should come. This tidings went far, and there came
to Camelot many noble knights, among them the king of North Wales, King
Anguish of Ireland, the king with the hundred knights, Sir Galahalt the
high prince, and other kings, dukes, and earls.

But when Arthur was ready to ride from London, where he then was, to
Camelot, the queen begged to be excused from going with him, saying that
she was not well. Lancelot, too, would not go, on the plea that he was
not well of the wound which Sir Mador had given him. So the king set out
in grief and anger, for the absence of his wife and Lancelot tried him
sorely. On his way to Camelot he lodged in a town named Astolat, which
is now known as Gilford, and here he remained for several days.

But hardly had he departed before the queen sought Lancelot, and blamed
him severely for not going with the king, saying that he thus exposed
her to slander.

"Madam, your wisdom comes somewhat late. Why gave you not this advice
sooner?" said Lancelot. "I will go, since you command it; but I warn you
that at the jousts I will fight against the king and his party."

"Fight as you will, but go," said Guenever. "If you take my counsel,
however, you will keep with your king and your kindred."

"Be not displeased with me, madam," said Lancelot. "I will do as God
wills, and that, I fear, will be to fight against the king's party."

So the knight took horse and rode to Astolat, and here in the evening he
obtained quarters in the mansion of an old baron, named Sir Bernard of
Astolat. It happened that this mansion was near the quarters of the
king, who, as in the dusk he walked in the castle garden, saw Lancelot
draw near to Sir Bernard's door, and recognized him.

"Aha!" said the king, "is that the game? That gives me comfort. I shall
have one knight in the lists who will do his duty nobly."

"Who is that?" asked those with him.

"Ask me not now," said the king, smiling. "You may learn later."

Meanwhile Lancelot was hospitably received by the old baron, though the
latter knew not his guest.

"Dear sir," said Lancelot to his host, "I thank you for your kindness,
and I shall owe you deeper thanks if you will lend me a shield. Mine is
too well known, and I wish to fight in disguise."

"That shall I willingly," answered his host. "I have two sons who were
lately knighted, and the elder, Sir Tirre, has been hurt. His shield you
shall have, for it is yet unknown in list or field. As for my younger
son, Sir Lavaine, he is a strong and likely youth, whom I beg you will
take with you. I feel that you must be a champion of renown, and hope
you will tell me your name."

"Not at present, if you will excuse me," said Lancelot. "If I speed well
at the tournament I will return and tell you. But I shall be glad to
have Sir Lavaine with me, and to use his brother's shield."

"You are welcome to both," said Sir Bernard.

This old baron had a daughter of great beauty, and in the freshness of
youth, who was known in that region as the Fair Maid of Astolat, by name
Elaine le Blank. And when she saw Lancelot her whole heart went out to
him in love,--a love of that ardent nature that never dies while she who
wears it lives.

Lancelot, too, was strongly attracted by her fresh young face, of
lily-like charm; but he had no love to give. Yet he spoke in tender
kindness to the maiden, and so emboldened her that she begged him to
wear her token at the tournament.

"You ask more than I have ever yet granted to lady or damsel," said
Lancelot. "If I yield to your wish I shall do more for your love than
any woman born can claim."

[Illustration: "YOU ARE WELCOME, BOTH!" SAID SIR BERNARD.]

She besought him now with still more earnestness, and it came to his
mind that if he wished to go to the lists disguised he could take no
better method, for no one would recognise Lancelot under a damsel's
token.

"Show me what you would have me wear, fair maiden," he said.

"It is a red sleeve of mine," she answered, "a sleeve of scarlet,
embroidered with great pearls," and she brought it to him.

"I have never done this for damsel before," said Lancelot. "In return I
will leave my shield in your keeping. Pray keep it safe till we meet
again."

Then the evening was spent in merry cheer; but that night Elaine slept
but lightly, for her slumber was full of dreams of Lancelot, and her
heart burned with fears that he might come to harm in the lists.

On the next day King Arthur and his knights set out for Camelot. Soon
afterwards Lancelot and Lavaine took leave of Sir Bernard and his fair
daughter, while the eyes of Elaine followed the noble form of Lancelot
fondly and far, as he rode. Both the knights had white shields, and
Lancelot bore with him Elaine's red embroidered sleeve. When they
reached Camelot they took lodging privately with a rich burgess of the
town, that none might know them.

When came Assumption Day, the lists were set, the trumpets blew to the
field, the two parties of knights gathered promptly to the fray, and
fierce was the encounter between them. In the end, after hard fighting,
the party of Arthur bore back their opponents, who were headed by the
kings of Northumberland and North Wales.

All this was seen by Lancelot and Lavaine, who sat their horses at a
distance looking on.

"Come," said Lancelot, "let us help these good fellows, who seem to be
overpowered."

"Lead on," said Lavaine. "I shall follow and do my best."

Then Lancelot, with the red sleeve fastened upon his helmet, rode into
the thickest of the press, and smote down such numbers of knights with
spear and sword that the party of the Round Table were forced to give
back, and their opponents came on with fresh heart. And close upon
Lancelot's track Lavaine smote down several good knights.

"Who can this wonderful fighter be?" asked Gawaine of the king.

"I know him well," said Arthur, "but will not name him since he is in
disguise."

"I could believe it was Lancelot," said Gawaine, "but for that red
sleeve. No man ever saw Lancelot wear a woman's token."

"Let him be," said Arthur. "He will be better known before he is done."

Then nine knights of Lancelot's kindred, angry at seeing this one
champion beat down all before him, joined together and pressed hotly
into the din, smiting down all that opposed them. Three of them--Bors,
Hector, and Lionel--spurred together on Lancelot, all striking him at
once with their spears. So great was their force that Lancelot's horse
was hurled to the ground, and his shield pierced by Bors, whose spear
wounded him in the side, breaking and leaving its head deep in the
flesh.

Seeing this misfortune, Lavaine spurred fiercely on the king of the
Scots, thrust him from his horse, and, in despite of them all, brought
that horse to Lancelot, and helped him to mount. Then, though so sorely
hurt, Lancelot drew his sword, and, aided by Lavaine, did such deeds of
arms as he had never surpassed in his hours of greatest strength. As the
chronicles say, that day he unhorsed more than thirty knights; and
Lavaine followed his example well, for he smote down ten Knights of the
Round Table in this his first tournament. So does a noble example stir
young hearts.

"I would give much to know who this valiant knight can be," said
Gawaine.

"He will be known before he departs," answered Arthur. "Trust me for
that."

Then the king blew to lodging, and the prize was given by the heralds to
the knight with the white shield who bore the red sleeve. Around
Lancelot gathered the leaders on his side, and thanked him warmly for
gaining them the victory.

"If I have deserved thanks I have sorely paid for them," said Lancelot,
"for I doubt if I escape with my life. Dear sirs, permit me to depart,
for just now I would rather have repose than be lord of all the world."

Then he broke from them and galloped away, though his wound forced
piteous groans from his steadfast heart. When out of sight of them all
he checked his horse, and begged Lavaine to help him dismount and to
draw the spear-head from his side.

"My lord," said Lavaine, "I would fain help you; yet I fear that to draw
the spear will be your death."

"It will be my death if it remains," said Lancelot. "I charge you to
draw it."

This Lavaine did, the pain being so deadly that Lancelot shrieked and
fell into a death-like swoon, while a full pint of blood gushed from the
wound. Lavaine stopped the bleeding as well as he could, and with great
trouble got the wounded knight to a neighboring hermitage, that stood in
front of a great cliff, with a clear stream running by its foot.

Here Lavaine beat on the door with the butt of his spear, and cried
loudly,--

"Open, for Jesus' sake! Open, for a noble knight lies bleeding to death
at your gate!"

This loud appeal quickly brought out the hermit, who was named Baldwin
of Brittany, and had once been a Round Table knight. He gazed with pity
and alarm on the pale face and bleeding form before him.

"I should know this knight," he said. "Who is he?"

"Fair sir," said Lancelot, feebly, "I am a stranger and a knight-errant,
who have sought renown through many realms, and have come here to my
deadly peril."

As he spoke the hermit recognized him, by a wound on his pallid cheek.

"Ah, my lord Lancelot," he said, "you cannot deceive me thus."

"Then, if you know me, help me for heaven's sake. Relieve me from this
pain, whether it be by life or death."

"I shall do my best," said the hermit. "Fear not that you will die."

Then he had him borne into the hermitage, and laid in bed, his armor
being removed. This done, the hermit stanched the bleeding, anointed the
wound with healing ointments, and gave Lancelot a refreshing and healing
draught.

Meanwhile King Arthur invited the knights of both parties to a great
evening feast, and there asked the king of North Wales to bring forward
the knight of the red sleeve, that he might receive the prize he had
won.

"That I cannot do," was the answer. "He was badly, if not fatally,
wounded, and left us so hastily that we know not whither he went."

"That is the worst news I have heard these seven years," said Arthur. "I
would rather lose my throne than have that noble knight slain."

"Do you know him?" they all asked.

"I have a shrewd suspicion who he is; and I pray God for good tidings of
him."

"By my head," said Gawaine, "I should be sorry enough to see harm come
to one that can handle spear and sword like him. He cannot be far away,
and if he is to be found I shall find him."

"Fortune aid you in the quest," said the king.

Then Gawaine took a squire, and they rode in all directions for six or
seven miles around Camelot, but could learn nothing of the missing
knight. Two days afterwards Arthur and his fellowship set out on their
return to London. On their way they passed through Astolat, and here it
happened that Gawaine lodged with Sir Bernard, Lancelot's former host.

He was well received, and the old baron and his fair daughter begged him
earnestly for tidings of the tournament, being specially eager to know
who had done best there.

"Two knights bore all before them," said Gawaine. "Both carried white
shields, and one wore on his helmet a red sleeve, as some fair lady's
token. Never saw I a man before do such mighty deeds, and his fellow
seconded him nobly."

"Blessed be God that that knight did so well," broke out Elaine, "for he
is the first man I ever loved, and shall be the last."

"You know him then?" said Gawaine. "Pray tell me his name."

"That I know not, nor whence he came; but this I truly know, that I love
him, and that the token he wore was mine. This, and this only, I can
justly affirm."

"This is a strange story," said Gawaine. "What knowledge have you of
him? and how came you to know him?"

In response, she told him how the knight had left his shield with her,
and taken that of her brother, with what else she knew.

"I would thank you much for a sight of that shield," said Gawaine.

"I have it in my chamber, covered with a case, and will send for it,"
said Elaine.

When the shield was brought Gawaine removed the case, and at sight he
knew it to be Lancelot's shield.

"Ah, mercy!" said Gawaine, "the sight of this makes my heart heavy."

"Why so?" she demanded.

"For good cause," he answered. "Is the owner of this shield your love?"

"Truly so," she replied. "I love him dearly; would to God he loved me as
dearly."

"Then must I say that you have given your love to the noblest and most
renowned knight in the world."

"So it seemed to me; for he carries a noble soul in his face."

"This I may say," said Gawaine. "I have known this knight for more than
twenty years, and never knew him before to wear a woman's token at joust
or tournament. You owe him thanks, indeed, that he wore yours. Yet I
dread greatly that you will never see him again, and it is for this that
my heart is heavy."

"Why say you so?" she cried, starting up with pallid face. "Is he hurt?
Is he slain?"

"Not slain; but sadly hurt. This more it is my duty to tell you: he is
the noble knight, Sir Lancelot du Lake. I know him by his shield."

"Lancelot! Can this be so? And his hurt--who gave it? Is it really
perilous?"

"Had the knight who wounded him known him, he would have been grieved
almost to death. As for Sir Lancelot, I can tell you nothing more. On
receiving his hurt he left the lists with his comrade, and cannot be
found. He is somewhere concealed."

"Then shall I go seek him!" cried Elaine. "Give me leave to do so, dear
father, if you would not have me lose my mind. I shall never rest till
I find him and my brother, and nurse him back to health."

"Go, daughter, if you will," said her father, "for I am sick at heart to
hear such tidings of that noble knight."

In the morning Gawaine rejoined King Arthur, and told him of what he had
learned.

"I knew already it was Lancelot," said the king; "but never before knew
I him to wear woman's token."

"By my faith, this lily maiden of Astolat loves him deeply," said
Gawaine. "What it means I cannot say, but she has set out to seek him,
and will break her heart if she fail to find him."

And so they rode on to London, where Gawaine made known to the court
that it was Lancelot who wore the red sleeve and won the prize at the
tournament.

This tidings made no small trouble in the court. Bors and his kinsmen
were heavy at heart when they learned that it was Lancelot whom they had
so hotly assailed. And Queen Guenever was beside herself with anger on
learning that it was Lancelot who had worn the red sleeve at the
tournament.

Meanwhile Elaine journeyed to Camelot in search of the wounded knight,
and as she sought far and near about the town, sick at heart, it chanced
that she espied her brother Lavaine, as he rode out to give his horse
air. She called loudly to him, and when he came up asked him,--

"How does my lord, Sir Lancelot?"

"Who told you, sister, that my lord's name was Lancelot?"

She told him how she had learned this, and they rode together to the
hermitage, where Lavaine brought her in to see the wounded knight.

But when she saw him lying there so sick and pale, and with a death-like
hue upon his face, she stood gazing upon him with dilated eyes and
whitening face, and then suddenly fell to the floor in a deep swoon.

"I pray you, Lavaine, take her up and bring her to me," said Lancelot.

When she was brought near him he kissed her pale face, and at the touch
of his lips her cheeks flamed out with red, and life came back to her.

"Fair maiden," said Lancelot, "it pains me to see you so deeply
afflicted. Comfort yourself, I pray you. If you come here to my aid you
are truly welcome; but let not this little hurt trouble you; I shall
soon be well of it."

Then they fell into discourse, and Elaine told Lancelot how Gawaine had
seen and known his shield. This gave him no small trouble, for he knew
well that the story of the red scarf would get to Queen Guenever's ears,
and he feared its effect on her hasty and jealous temper. But Elaine
never left Lancelot, but watched him day and night, nursing him back to
health.



CHAPTER III.

HOW ELAINE DIED FOR LOVE.


When Sir Bors learned that his unlucky blow had brought Lancelot nearly
to death's door, he became sore indeed at heart, and hastened to Camelot
in search of his noble kinsman. Here he met Lavaine, who knew him and
conducted him to the bedside of the wounded knight.

When he saw the pale and haggard countenance of Lancelot, he fell into a
passion of tears, and accused himself bitterly. But Lancelot consoled
him as well as he could, declaring that the fault was his own, and that
he would bear the blame. Then Bors told him of the anger of the queen,
and of his earnest but vain endeavor to overcome it.

"I deserve it not," said Lancelot. "I wore the sleeve only by way of
disguise. As for Gawaine, he would have shown more wisdom and friendship
had he been less free of speech."

"I told her all this," said Bors, "but she was past listening to reason.
Is this maiden, who is so busy about you, she whom they call the lily of
Astolat?"

"She it is," said Lancelot. "I cannot by any means put her from me."

"Why should you?" asked Bors. "She is a beautiful and tender-hearted
damsel. Would to God, fair cousin, you could love her, for I see well,
by her gentle and close care of you, that she loves you devoutedly."

"That I am sorry for," said Lancelot.

"She will not be the first that has loved you in vain," said Bors; "the
more the pity."

Many other things they talked of, and Lancelot found such comfort in the
presence of Sir Bors that in a few days he showed great signs of
improvement. Then Bors told him of another tournament that King Arthur
had ordered, to be held at Camelot on All-hallowmas day, between his
party and that of the king of North Wales.

This filled Lancelot with an earnest desire to grow strong, and during
the following month, under the kind care of his cousin, and the gentle
ministrations of Elaine, he improved greatly in health. For Elaine
waited upon him with loving diligence night and day, and never was child
or wife more gentle and heedful to father or husband than this fair maid
of Astolat to the wounded knight.

At length came a day when Lancelot felt so much stronger, through the
healing influence of a bath of herbs which the hermit had gathered in
the woods, that he determined to try if he could wear his armor and sit
in his saddle. He thereupon armed and had his horse brought out.
Mounting the mettled charger, in the high spirit of new health he
spurred it to full speed.

But the courser's long rest in the stable had made it fresh and fierce,
and on feeling the spurs it leaped forward so violently that Lancelot's
wound burst open in the strain, and the blood gushed out again.

"Bors! Lavaine! help!" he feebly cried. "I am come to my end."

As he spoke he fell from his horse to the earth, and lay there like a
corpse.

The two knights hurried up, full of fearful concern, and when Elaine,
who had heard the pitiful call, came flying to the spot, she threw
herself on the prostrate form, weeping like one beside herself with
grief, and kissing the insensible knight as if she hoped thus to recall
him to life.

"Traitors you are!" she cried wildly to her brother and Sir Bors. "Why
did you let him leave his bed? I hold you guilty of his death."

At this moment the hermit Baldwin appeared. When he saw Lancelot in that
plight he grew angry at heart, though he checked the reproachful words
that rose to his lips.

"Let us have him in," he said, briefly.

Lancelot was thereupon carried to the hermitage, his armor removed, and
the bleeding stanched, but it was long before he could be brought out of
his death-like swoon.

"Why did you put your life thus in jeopardy?" asked the hermit,
reproachfully, when the knight was again in his senses.

"I was too eager to attend the tournament, now near at hand," he said.

"Ah, Sir Lancelot, you have more courage than wisdom, I fear. As for the
tournament, let Sir Bors attend it and do what he may. By the time it is
over and he returned, I hope that you may be well once more, if you will
but be governed by my advice."

This advice was taken and Bors went to the tournament, where he bore
himself so valorously that the prize was divided between him and
Gawaine. Gareth and Palamides also did noble deeds, but they departed
suddenly before the prize was declared, as if called away by some
adventure.

All this Lancelot heard with great pleasure from Bors on his return, his
only regret being that he had not been able to take part in that
knightly sport. But the remedies of the hermit and the care of Elaine
had meanwhile done him wonderful service, and he was soon able again to
mount his horse and wear his armor in safety.

A day, therefore, quickly came when the knight felt himself in condition
for a journey, and when he and his companions took the road to Astolat,
escorting the fair Elaine back to her father's home. Here they were
gladly received by the old baron Bernard, and his son Tirre, who had now
recovered.

But when the time approached which Lancelot had set for his departure,
Elaine grew pale and drooping. At length, with the boldness of speech of
that period, she came to him and said,--

"My lord Sir Lancelot, clear and courteous sir, will you then depart,
and leave me alone with my love and sorrow? Have mercy on me, I pray
you, and suffer me not to die of grief."

"What would you have me do?" asked Lancelot.

"I brought you back to life; give me your love in return; make me your
wedded wife, and I will love you as never woman loved."

"That can I never do," said Lancelot, gravely. "I shall never wed."

"Then shall I die for your love."

"Think not of death, Elaine. If I could marry woman it would be you,
for I could love you dearly were my heart free. For your gentleness and
kindness thus only can I repay you. If you can set your heart upon some
worthy knight who is free to wed you, I shall give to you and your heirs
a thousand pounds yearly, as some small payment of the debt I owe you."

"You speak idly and coldly, Sir Lancelot. Your money I will have none
of; and as for wedding, I have but the choice to wed you or wed my
death."

"You rend my heart, fair Elaine. Would that it could be as you wish.
Alas! that can never be."

At this, with a cry of heart-pain, the distressed maiden fell swooning
at his feet. Thence she was borne by women to her chamber, where she
lay, lamenting like one whose heart is broken.

Sir Bernard now came to Lancelot, who was preparing to depart, and
said,--

"Dear sir, it grieves me to find my daughter Elaine in such a
distressful state. I fear she may die for your sake."

"It grieves me as deeply," said Lancelot. "But what can I do? That she
loves me so deeply I am sorry to learn, for I have done nothing to
encourage it, as your son can testify. I know that she is a true and
noble maiden, and will do all that I can for her as an honest knight;
but love her as she loves me I cannot, and to wed I am forbidden. Yet
her distress wounds me sorely."

"Father," said Lavaine, "I dare avow that she is as pure and good as my
lord Sir Lancelot has said. In loving him she does but what I do, for
since I first saw him I could never depart from him; nor shall I leave
him so long as he will bear my company."

Then Lancelot took his leave, and he and Lavaine rode together to
Camelot, where Arthur and the whole court received the errant knight
with the utmost joy and warmest welcome. Queen Guenever alone failed to
greet him kindly, her jealous anger continuing so bitter that she would
not give him a word or a look, seek as he would.

But the joy and brightness at Camelot were replaced by darkness at
Astolat, for the fair Elaine was in such sorrow day and night that she
neither ate, drank, nor slept; and ever she sadly moaned and bewailed
the cruelty of Sir Lancelot.

Ten days of this brought her so near her end, that her old father, with
sad heart, sent for the priest to give her the last sacraments. But even
then she made her plaints of Lancelot's coldness so mournfully, that the
ghostly father bade her cease such thoughts.

"Why should I?" she cried. "Am I not a woman, with a woman's heart and
feelings? While the breath is in my body I must lament my fate; for I
hold it no offence to love, and take God to witness that I never have
and never can love other than Lancelot du Lake. Since it is God's will
that I must die from unrequited love of so noble a knight, I pray for
his mercy and forgiveness of all my sins. Never did I offend deeply
against God's laws; but it was not in my nature to withstand the fervent
love that is bringing me to my death."

Then she sent for her father and brother, and prayed them to write a
letter as she might dictate. This they did, writing down the mournful
words which she spoke.

"Now," she said, "this more I command you to do. When I am dead, put
this letter in my right hand before my body grows cold. Then see that I
be richly dressed and laid in a fair bed, and take me in a chariot to
the river Thames. There lay my body in a barge, covered with black
samite, and with but one man to steer the barge down the river to
Camelot."

All this they, weeping sadly, agreed to do, and soon afterwards the
maiden died, slain by her love. Her sad old father then had all done as
she had requested.

Meanwhile, in Camelot the world moved merrily. But one morning, by
fortune, as King Arthur and Queen Guenever stood talking at a window,
they espied a black barge drifting slowly down the river. Wondering much
what it meant, the king called Sir Kay and two other knights, and sent
them to the river, bidding them to bring him speedy word of what the
barge contained.

This they did. On reaching the river-side they found that the barge had
been turned inward, and lay beside the bank, and to their surprise they
saw in it a rich bed, on which lay the corpse of as fair a woman as they
had ever beheld. In the stern of the barge sat, with oar in hand, a poor
man who seemed dumb, for no word would he speak.

"That corpse must I see," said the king, when word of this event was
brought him. "Surely this betokens something strange."

He took the queen by the hand and went to the river-side with her. Here
the barge had been made fast, and they stepped from the shore to its
deck. There they saw the corpse of a beautiful maiden, dressed in costly
attire, and lying in a bed which was richly covered with cloth of gold.
And as she lay she seemed to smile.

The queen now espied a letter clasped closely in her right hand, and
showed it to the king.

"That will surely tell us who she is, and why she has come hither," he
said.

He thereupon took the letter and returned with the queen to the palace.
Here, surrounded by many knights, he broke the seal, and gave the
epistle to a clerk to read. This was its purport,--

"Most noble knight, Sir Lancelot, now hath death made us two at debate
for your love. I was your lover, she whom men called the Fair Maid of
Astolat; therefore unto all ladies I make my moan, and I beg you to pray
for my soul, and at the least to bury me, and offer my mass-penny. This
is my last request. God is my witness that I die a pure maiden. Pray for
my soul, Sir Lancelot, as thou art peerless."

When this pitiful letter had been read, all who heard it shed tears, for
never had they heard aught so moving. Then Lancelot was sent for and the
letter read to him.

"A sorrowful thing is this," he said, in grievous tones. "Then she is
dead, the fair Elaine, and thus, with silent lips, makes her last
prayer. Truly it wounds me to the heart. Yet, my lord Arthur, God knows
I had no just share in the death of this maiden, as her brother here,
Sir Lavaine, can testify. She was fair and good, and I owed her much,
but she loved me beyond measure, and her love I could not return."

"You might have shown her," said the queen, reprovingly, "some bounty
and gentleness, and thus have preserved her life."

"Madam," said Lancelot, "naught would she have but my love, and my hand
in marriage. I offered to endow her with a thousand pounds yearly, if
she should love and wed any other, but to this she would not listen. As
for me, I had no other comfort to give her, for love cannot be
constrained, but must rise of itself from the heart."

"Truly must it," said the king. "Love is free in itself, and will not be
bound, for if bonds be placed upon it, it looseth itself perforce. As
for this unhappy maiden, nothing is left for you but to obey her last
pitiful request."

"That shall I to the utmost of my power," said Lancelot.

Then many knights and ladies went to behold the fair maiden, who had
come thither in such moving wise. And in the morning she was richly
interred, and with all due honor, at Lancelot's command; and he offered
her mass-penny, as did all the knights who were there present.

Then the poor dumb servitor returned again with the barge, rowing it
slowly and sadly back to Astolat.

Afterwards the queen sent for Lancelot, and begged his pardon humbly for
her causeless anger.

[Illustration: ELAINE.]

"This is not the first time," said Lancelot, "that you have been
displeased with me without cause. What you will, I must bear, and keep
my sorrow within my heart; yet I would that your love were less tainted
by hasty jealousy. As for forgiving you, what else can I do, my queen?
Love cannot live without forgiveness."

After these events the winter and spring passed on, with hunting and
hawking, and jousts and tournaments, and the fate of the fair Elaine was
wellnigh forgotten in the joy of the court. But her brother Lavaine
gained great honor, and at a tournament that was given on Candlemas day
did so nobly that the king promised he should be made a Knight of the
Round Table at the next feast of Pentecost.

And at this tournament Lancelot again fought in disguise, wearing a
sleeve of gold of the queen's, and did such deeds that the prize was
adjudged to him. Thus a second time did he wear a woman's token in the
lists.



CHAPTER IV.

THE CHEVALIER OF THE CART.


The year passed on from Candlemas till after Easter, and then came the
month of May, when every lusty heart begins to blossom and to bear
fruit; for as herbs and trees flourish in May, so does the heart of a
lover, since in this lusty month all lovers gain courage, calling to
their minds old vows and deeds of gentleness, and much that was
forgotten in the winter's chill.

As winter always defaces and erases green summer, so fares it with
unstable love in man and woman. But as May flowers and flourishes in
many gardens, so flowers the lover's heart in the joy of her to whom he
has promised his faith. Yet nowadays men cannot love seven days without
their love cooling; for where love warms in haste it cools as hastily;
thus fareth it in our days,--soon hot, soon cold. The old love was not
so. Men and women could love together seven years in truth and
faithfulness. Such was the way of love in King Arthur's days; but love
nowadays I liken unto summer and winter; now hot, now cold, like the
changing seasons. Therefore all ye who are lovers call to your
remembrance the month of May, like as did Queen Guenever, who while she
lived was a true lover, and therefore she had a good end.

So it befell in the month of May that Queen Guenever called unto her
certain knights of the Round Table, inviting them to ride with her in
the early morn a-maying in the woods and fields beside Camelot.

"And see that you all be well horsed," she said, "and clad in green,
either in silk or cloth. I shall bring with me ten ladies, and every
knight shall have a lady behind him, and bring with him a squire and two
yeomen."

And so, when morning came, the ten knights invited put on their gayest
robes of green, and rode with the queen and her ladies, a-maying in the
woods and fields, to their great joy and delight.

Yet this pleasure party led to sad results, as we have now to tell. For
there was a knight named Meliagrance, son of King Bagdemagus, who had a
castle, the gift of King Arthur, within seven miles of Camelot. This
knight loved the queen, and had done so for many years, and it had long
been in his heart to steal her away; but he had never been able to find
her without many knights about her, and, chief of all, Sir Lancelot.

When he heard of this Maying party, and that the queen would be attended
by only ten knights, and these in green robes, he resolved to carry out
his base design, and therefore placed in ambush twenty men-at-arms and a
hundred archers.

So it happened that while the queen and her knights were merrily
arraying one another in flowers and mosses, and with wreaths made of
sprays of fresh green, this false knight rode suddenly from a wood near
by, followed by a throng of armed men, and bade them stand, and yield up
the queen on peril of their lives.

"Traitor knight," cried Guenever, "what seek you to do? Wouldst thou, a
king's son, and a knight of the Round Table, seek to dishonor the noble
king who made you what you are? You shame yourself and all knighthood;
but me you shall never shame, for I had rather cut my throat than be
dishonored by you."

"Madam, this language will avail you nothing," said Meliagrance. "I have
loved you many a year, and now that I have you at advantage will take
you as I find you."

"You must kill us first, unarmed as we are," cried the queen's knights.
"You have taken us at a foul disadvantage; but you shall not have the
queen so lightly as you deem."

"Fight, will you? Then fight it, if you will have it so," said
Meliagrance.

Then the ten knights drew their swords, and the others spurred upon them
with couched spears. But so skilfully did the queen's defenders use
their blades that the spears did them no harm.

The battle then went on with swords, and the ten knights did noble
deeds, slaying many of their assailants; yet they were so overmatched
that they soon were all stretched upon the earth with bleeding wounds.

"Sir Meliagrance," cried the queen, in deep distress, "kill not my noble
knights, I pray you. If you do them no more harm I will go with you, if
you will take them with me. Otherwise I will slay myself before you
shall take me."

"Madam, since you wish it, they shall be taken to my castle, whither you
must come with me."

Then at the queen's command the battle ceased, and the knights had their
wounds dressed. But Meliagrance watched keenly that none of the company
should escape, for greatly he feared that news of this outrage might be
borne to Lancelot du Lake.

But there was with the queen a little page who rode a swift horse, and
to him she privily spoke.

"Slip away, when you see the chance," she said, "and bear this ring to
Lancelot du Lake. Tell him what has happened, and pray him as he loves
me to come in haste to my rescue. Spare not your horse, and stay not for
land or water."

The page took the ring, and rode carelessly to the edge of the circle.
Then, seeing his opportunity, he put spurs to his horse and rode away at
full speed. When Meliagrance saw this he ordered instant pursuit, and
the boy was hotly chased and fired at with arrows and javelins; yet the
speed of his horse soon carried him beyond danger.

"Madam," cried Meliagrance, fiercely, to the queen, "you are plotting to
betray me. But if you have sent for Lancelot du Lake, he shall find the
road to you a perilous one, I warrant him."

And as they rode to the castle he placed an ambush of thirty archers by
the road-side, charging them if they saw a knight come that way on a
white horse to slay the horse. But he warned them not to assail him in
person, as they would find him hard to overcome.

This done, the party proceeded to the castle; but here the queen would
not let her ladies and knights out of her presence, and Meliagrance
stood in such dread of Lancelot that he dared not use force.

In the mean time the page found Lancelot, and gave him the queen's ring
and message, telling him the whole story of the treacherous assault.

"I would give all France to have been there well armed," cried Lancelot.
"The queen shall be saved, or I will die in the effort. Haste you to Sir
Lavaine and tell him where I have gone, and bid him follow me to
Meliagrance's castle. Tell him to come quickly, if he wishes to have a
hand in the rescue of the queen and her knights."

Lancelot was hastily arming as he spoke, and mounting, he rode with all
speed, forcing his horse to swim the Thames in his haste. In no great
time he reached the spot where the fight had taken place, and where he
found the garlands the knights had worn, rent with sword-strokes and
reddened with their blood. Then he followed the tracks of the party till
he entered a narrow passage, bordered by a wood. Here were the archers
stationed, and when Lancelot came by they bade him return, for that way
was closed.

"Why should I turn?" he demanded. "Whence get you the right to close the
way?"

"If you go forward it will be on foot, for we shall kill your horse."

"Go forward I shall, if there were five hundred more of you," said
Lancelot.

Then a cloud of arrows whistled through the air, and the noble horse,
struck by a dozen shafts, fell to the earth. Lancelot leaped lightly
from the falling animal, and rushed in a rage into the wood; but there
were so many hedges and ditches that he found it impossible to reach his
light-armed assailants.

"Shame on this Meliagrance for a dastard!" he cried in anger. "It is a
true old saw that a good man is never in danger but from a coward."

The angry knight, finding that his assailants were beyond his reach, set
out on foot for Meliagrance's castle, but found himself so encumbered
with his armor, shield, and spear, that his progress was but slow. Yet
he dared not leave any of his arms, for fear of giving his foe an
advantage.

At length, by good fortune, there appeared on the road a cart, that was
used for hauling wood.

"Tell me, friend carter," said Lancelot, when the vehicle came near,
"what shall I give you for a ride in your cart to a castle that lies a
few miles away?"

"You can give me nothing," said the carter. "I am sent to bring wood for
my lord, Sir Meliagrance, and it is not my fashion to work for two at
once."

"It is Sir Meliagrance I seek."

"Then go on foot," said the carter, surlily. "My cart is for other
work."

Incensed at this, Lancelot dealt the fellow a blow with his mailed fist
that stretched him senseless on the ground. Then he turned to the
carter's comrade.

"Strike me not, fair sir," pleaded this fellow. "I will bring you where
you wish."

"Then drive me and this cart to the gate of Meliagrance's castle."

"Leap into the cart, and you shall be there before the day grows old."

This Lancelot did, and the carter lashed his horse forward with all
speed, for he was in mortal fear of the knight's hard fist.

An hour and a half afterwards, as Guenever and her ladies stood in a
window of the castle, they saw a cart approaching, in which stood
upright an armed knight, resting on his spear. Even at that distance
they knew him by his shield to be Lancelot du Lake.

"A noble and trusty friend he is, indeed, to come in such a fashion,"
said the queen. "Hard bested he must have been, to be forced to ride
hither in a woodman's cart."

As they looked, the cart came to the castle gates, and Lancelot sprang
from it to the ground, his heart full of rage and passion.

"Where art thou, traitor?" he cried, in a voice that rang throughout the
castle. "Come forth, thou disgrace to the Round Table fellowship! Come,
with all your men; for here am I, Lancelot du Lake, who will fight you
all single-handed on this question."

As he spoke he thrust the gates open with such force that the porter,
who sought to hold them shut, was hurled like a dead man to the earth.

When Meliagrance in the castle heard this loud defiance his cowardly
soul sank within him, for well he knew from whom it came, and he ran in
haste to the queen and fell on his knees before her, begging her to
forgive him and to cool the wrath of Lancelot. So pitifully did he
implore, that in the end Guenever was moved to compassion, and went with
her ladies to the castle court, where Lancelot stood furiously bidding
the traitor knight to come down and do battle.

"Why are you so moved, Lancelot?" asked the queen.

"Why should I not be?" he cried, in a rage. "The hound has killed my
horse and stolen my queen. Is this the thing to bear like a lamb?"

"He sorely repents his fault, and has moved me to forgive him," said the
queen. "Come in, then, peaceably, I beg you, for I have passed my word."

"You accord easily with this dog of a kidnapper," said Lancelot,
sourly. "Had I looked for this I might have spared my haste and saved my
horse."

"It is not through love or favor I have forgiven him," said the queen,
"but to check the voice of scandal."

"I am no fonder of scandal than yourself," said Lancelot. "Yet if I had
my will I would make this fellow's heart full cold before I left this
castle."

"I know that well, but beg that you will be ruled by me in this affair."

"Let it be so, if you have passed your word. But you are too soft of
heart Queen Guenever."

Then she took his hand, for he had taken off his gauntlet, and led him
into the castle, and to the chamber in which lay the ten wounded
knights, whose hearts warmed at his coming. From them he learned in full
what had occurred, a story which stirred his blood again into such a
flame, that only the soft hand of the queen hindered him from seeking
Meliagrance through the castle to slay him.

As they stood talking, Sir Lavaine rode furiously in at the gate,
crying,--

"Where is my lord, Sir Lancelot du Lake?"

"Here I am," cried Lancelot from a window. "All is well, Lavaine."

"I found your horse slain with arrows, and judged you were hard pushed."

"As for that, Lavaine, soft words have turned hard blows. Come in. We
shall right this matter at another time, when we best may."

For many a day thereafter, as the French book says, Lancelot was called
the Chevalier of the Cart, and many an adventure he had under that
homely name.

All went peacefully that night at the castle, but the next morning there
was new trouble. For one of the castle maidens brought word to
Meliagrance that she had found what seemed to be the print of a bloody
hand on the coverings of the queen's bed. Thither he hurried, full of
jealous anger, and found what appeared, indeed, to be the crimson print
of a man's hand. On seeing this he made a loud outcry, declaring that it
was the blood of one of the wounded knights, and fiercely accused
Guenever of having been false to her lord King Arthur.

When word of this accusation came to the wounded knights they were
filled with indignation, and cried that they would meet Meliagrance or
any man in the lists in defence of the queen's honor.

"Ye speak proudly," said Meliagrance. "Yet look here, and see if I have
not warrant for what I say."

When he showed them the red witness of his words they were abashed, and
knew not what to answer.

All this was told to Lancelot, and he came in haste and anger to the
queen's chamber.

"What is this?" he demanded.

"It is that the queen has proved false to her lord and husband, and this
I stand ready to prove with my body," said Meliagrance.

"Beware what you say, sir knight," cried Lancelot, "or you will find
your challenge taken."

"My lord Lancelot," answered Meliagrance, "good knight as you are, take
heed how you do battle in a wrong quarrel, for God will have a hand in
such a cause."

"This I say," answered Lancelot, hotly, "that you accuse the queen
wrongly, and these noble knights as falsely. This is the work of treason
or magic."

"Hold," said Meliagrance; "here is my glove, in proof that she is
traitress to the king, and that one of these wounded knights is her
leman."

"I accept your challenge," said Lancelot, "and will fight you to the
death in this cause. When shall we do battle?"

"Let it be in eight days from this," said Meliagrance, "in the field
beside Camelot."

"I am agreed," said Lancelot.

"Then let us go to dinner," said Meliagrance, "and afterwards you and
the queen and her knights may ride to Camelot."

Yet fairly as he spoke his heart was full of treachery, and before going
to the table he asked Lancelot if he would care to see the rooms and
passages of the castle.

"If you wish to show them," said Lancelot.

Then they went from chamber to chamber, Lancelot having no fear of peril
or thought of treason. But as they traversed a long and dark passage the
false-hearted host trod on a spring, and down fell a trap-door, giving
Lancelot a fall of more than ten fathoms into a dark cell, whose floor
was covered deeply with straw. This done, Meliagrance hastened away,
after replacing the trap, and ordered one of his men to remove Lavaine's
horse from the stable.

When the knights came to dinner all were surprised that Lancelot was not
present.

"Is this one of his old tricks?" asked the queen. "He has a fashion of
thus departing suddenly, without warning."

"But not on foot," said Lavaine, and left the room.

When he returned, it was to say that his horse had vanished from the
stable, and that doubtless Lancelot had taken it and ridden off. So they
sat quietly at dinner, and afterwards set out for the court, the wounded
knights being carried under care of Lavaine, in easily litters.

When the court was reached, and Arthur was told of what had occurred, he
was full of wrath.

"So this traitor Meliagrance chooses first to kidnap my queen, and then
to accuse her of treason?" he cried. "By my crown, I would deal with him
in another fashion only that Lancelot has taken the challenge. I fancy
the fellow will have his hands full, without my care. But where is
Lancelot?"

"That we know not," said the knights. "It is like him to go off in this
hasty way. He took Sir Lavaine's horse, and left us without a word of
parting."

"Let him he," said the king. "He will come in good time,--unless he be
trapped by some treachery."

Little dreamed they of Lancelot's true situation at that moment. He had
been sorely bruised by his fall, and lay in great pain in the cave,
visited only by a lady, who came to him daily with food. Yet it
happened, as had occurred so often to Lancelot, that the lady fell in
love with his handsome face. Meliagrance had made a foolish choice in
sending a woman with a soft heart to his prisoner, and was likely to pay
dearly for his folly. Yet days passed on, and Lancelot continued deaf to
her sighs and blind to her languishing looks.

"Sir Lancelot," she at length said, "do you not know that your lady,
Queen Guenever, will be burnt at the stake unless you be there at the
day of battle?"

"God forbid that such a disaster should come to pass!" cried Lancelot.
"Yet if I should not be there, all men of worship will know that I am
dead, sick, or in prison, for men know me well enough to know that
nothing less would keep me away. Therefore, some knight of my blood or
of my fellowship will take up this battle, and fight bravely in the
queen's cause."

"I shall set you free, Sir Lancelot, to fight your own battle, if you
will but give me your love; for truly I love you with my whole heart."

"I am sorry that I cannot return it," said Lancelot. "But I cannot lie
to you in such a cause, even for life or honor."

"Take heed what you say, Sir Lancelot. Shame will be your lot if any but
you fight this battle."

"As for the world's shame, may Christ defend me. As for my distress of
heart, it is welcome, if God sends it."

The lady went away full of sorrowful thoughts. But on the morning of the
day fixed for the battle she came to him again, and said, gently,--

"Sir Lancelot, I deem you hard-hearted and cruel; yet I love you too
truly to see you disgraced. If you will solace my heart-pain with but
one kiss, I will set you free, and deliver to you your armor, and the
best horse in the castle stables."

"Surely there is no dishonor in a kiss; and well will you earn it by
such service," said Lancelot. "You offer me new life, fair lady."

Then he kissed her; and with a face half glad, half gloomy, she led him
from the prison by a secret passage to the chamber where his armor had
been left. And when he was armed she conducted him privily to a stable
where stood twelve good horses, and bade him make his choice.

Lancelot chose a white courser, whose size and spirit pleased him most,
and this he deftly saddled and bridled. Then, with spear in hand and
sword by side, he commended the lady to God, saying,--

"Lady, for this good deed I shall do you ample service if ever it be in
my power. If not, may God reward you."

This said, he rode with proud mien from the castle, and galloped at
headlong speed away, while she, with sad eyes and sighing lips, stood
looking with loving regard on his departing form.

Sadly was his coming needed, for imminent was the peril of the queen. At
the place fixed for the combat knights and lords had early gathered, and
Meliagrance, feeling sure that Lancelot could not appear to do battle,
put on a haughty mien, and loudly demanded justice, or the combat. Yet
the hour appointed came and passed, and the queen's champion had not
appeared; while the king and all the court grew full of pain and dread
as the fatal moments went by. The laws were strict, and could not be set
aside for queen or commoner. Guenever must perish at the stake, or be
saved by a champion's sword and spear. Therefore, as the minutes slowly
grew into hours, and nothing of Lancelot was seen, while Meliagrance
more loudly demanded justice or a champion, all hearts sank deep in
despair.

"My lord the king," cried Lavaine, at length, "some sad misfortune has
happened to Sir Lancelot. Never did he fail to appear to do battle
unless he were sick or in prison. I beseech you, therefore, give me
leave this day to do battle for him, and to strike a knightly blow for
my lady the queen."

"Thanks, gentle knight," said the king. "I dare avow that the charge
which Meliagrance lays upon the queen is a false one, for of these ten
wounded knights who were present, there is not one but would gladly do
battle to prove its falsity were he able to wear armor."

"That shall I do in the service of my lord Lancelot," said Lavaine, "if
you will give me leave."

"Full leave you have," answered the king. "I pray you do your best; for
it seems sure that some treachery has been done to the noble Lancelot."

Lavaine now armed in all haste, and, mounting his war-courser, rode into
the lists, where he faced Meliagrance, challenging him to do battle to
the death.

"Lesses les aller!" cried the heralds.

The two champions couched their spears, clutched their bridles, and were
about to plunge the spurs into their horses' flanks, when the sound of
hoofs was heard without, and an armed knight came galloping at furious
speed into the lists.

"Ho! and abide!" cried King Arthur.

"Raise your spears, sir knights, this quarrel is mine," said the
new-comer. "You have my thanks, Lavaine, but only I must fight in this
cause."

Then he rode to the king, lifted his visor, and showed the noble face of
Lancelot, now hot with indignation.

"I am here to fight this villain and traitor," he called, loudly. "My
lord the king, I have lain these eight days in a prison cell, into which
the base hound entrapped me. By fortune I escaped, and here I am, ready
to pay him in fitting coin for his foul treachery."

"The dog! has he done this thing?" cried the king, in anger. "Then, by
my crown, whether he win or not Guenever shall not suffer from the
charge which he has dared bring. But God's justice will not let him
win."

That Meliagrance quaked at heart on seeing this seeming apparition from
the grave need not be said. But he had dared the hazard of the die, and
sat his horse in grim silence while his foul treachery was thus made
known to the court. Lancelot now rode to his place in the lists, and
faced his adversary.

"Lesses les aller!" cried the heralds again.

Then, spear in rest, the warriors spurred their horses, and met with a
shock like thunder in the centre of the field. Lancelot kept his saddle,
but Meliagrance was hurled over his horse's croup. Seeing this, Lancelot
lightly sprang from his saddle, drew his sword, and advanced upon his
foe, who was on his feet ready to meet him.

Hot and fierce was the combat that succeeded, many great strokes being
given and returned; but at length Lancelot struck so fierce a blow that
Meliagrance was felled to the ground. Then the dastard cried aloud in an
agony of fear,--

"Noble knight, noble Sir Lancelot, spare my life, I humbly pray you! I
yield me as overcome and recreant and beseech you, as a Knight and
Fellow of the Round Table, not to slay me helpless. Alive or dead, I put
myself in your hands and the king's."

Lancelot stood looking grimly down upon him, at a loss what to do. To
slay him was the wish of his heart; yet it looked like murder to kill a
praying wretch. In his doubt he turned towards the queen, and she nodded
her head as if to bid him kill the villain.

"Rise, sir hound," cried Lancelot. "You shall fight this battle to the
utterance."

"I will never rise," said Meliagrance, "till you grant me mercy as a
yielding and recreant knight."

"Coward!" cried Lancelot. "If you fear to fight me as I am, I will give
you odds in the combat. I will take off my armor from my head and the
left side of my body, and let them bind my left hand behind me, and
fight you with my right hand alone."

At this perilous offer Meliagrance started hastily to his feet, and
loudly cried,--

"My lord Arthur, you have heard this offer! I accept it. Let him be
disarmed and bound as he says."

"You do not mean to keep this foolish promise, Lancelot?" demanded the
king.

"That do I," said Lancelot. "I shall not go back on my word, be it wise
or foolish."

"Then so let it be; but you invite death by such a reckless compact."

The attendant knights thereupon removed Lancelot's helmet, and took from
him his shield and the armor from his left side. They then bound his
left arm behind him, and thus arrayed he was placed before his
antagonist, whose heart burned with hope and with murderous designs.

All those who looked on were full of fear for Lancelot, deeming it the
height of folly that he should take such a frightful risk, while many
ladies closed their eyes, in dread to see him slain.

With the inspiration of hope, Meliagrance came up, bearing his sword
uplifted, while Lancelot stood with his head and side fully open to his
stroke. Down came the blade with a deadly sweep that caused many men to
close their eyes, sure that the knights head would be cleft in twain.

But Lancelot had no such thought. With a light swing to the right he
avoided the stroke, which cut idly through the air; then, stepping
forward to give effect to the blow, he swung his own blade upward with
giant strength, and brought it down on Meliagrance's helmet with such
mighty force that the hard steel and the head it covered were shorn in
twain, and the traitor knight fell dead upon the field.

Wild were the shouts of joy and triumph at this unlooked-for end to the
combat. The king sprang from his seat and rushed into the lists, where
he warmly clasped Lancelot in his arms; while Guenever, in joy at her
deliverance, kissed him on both cheeks; and all the knights crowded
around them with glad cries and warm congratulations.

As for Meliagrance, he was given the burial of a recreant and traitor,
the cause of his death being inscribed on his tomb, that all might read
his dishonor.

But for Sir Lancelot, the king and queen made more of him, and felt more
love for him in their hearts, than ever before.

After this time many events of interest took place of which we have
little space to speak. Among them, Lancelot healed the wounds of a
knight of Hungary, named Sir Urre, who had been held in pain, through
sorcery, for seven years, till his wounds should be touched by the best
knight in the world. This knight had a lovely sister, named Felelolie,
whom Lavaine married, whereupon King Arthur made him a Knight of the
Round Table, and gave him a barony of land.

As for Lancelot, he gained great fame as the Chevalier of the Cart. For
as many lords and ladies made sport of him as the knight who had ridden
in a cart, like one sentenced to the gallows, for a whole twelvemonth he
never mounted horse, but rode only in a cart, during which time he had
many adventures and fought forty battles, in all of which he came off
victor.

And so the days grew into years, and all went happily at Arthur's court,
though each passing day brought the coming time of woe and disaster
nearer to hand.



                              BOOK XI.

                        THE HAND OF DESTINY.



CHAPTER I.

THE TRAPPING OF THE LION.


In May, when every lusty heart flourisheth and bourgeoneth,--for as
winter, with its rough winds and blasts, causes man and woman to cover
and sit fast by the fire, this fresh and joyous season brings them forth
to gladden in the coming of the flowery summer,--in this rare month of
May, when only merry thoughts and gentle deeds should be known, there
began a great and unhappy season of wrath, which ended not till the
flower of chivalry of all the world was destroyed. And this all came
about through the hate and jealousy of two unhappy knights, Sir
Agravaine and Sir Mordred, brothers unto Sir Gawaine.

For much in their secret souls they hated the queen and Lancelot, and
they fell to watching this good knight daily and nightly, with the hope
of bringing him in some way to shame.

Failing in this base endeavor, they no longer concealed their enmity,
but began to talk openly of the love of Lancelot for the queen, and to
hint that shameful relations existed between them. The report of this
slanderous talk coming to Gawaine's ears, he reproved them sharply for
indulging in such base and unworthy scandal, in which he was joined by
his brothers Gareth and Gaheris.

"You forget what Lancelot has done for you," said Gawaine. "Who but he
rescued you both when held in prison by Sir Turquine? And many other
things he has done in your favor. Methinks such kind deeds merit better
return than this."

"Think as you will," said Agravaine, "I have my opinions and shall hide
them no longer."

As they thus debated King Arthur approached.

"Now, brothers, stint your noise," said Gawaine.

"That will we not," they replied.

"Then the devil speed the pair of you, if you are bent on mischief! I
will listen to no more of your slanderous talk."

"Nor will we," said Gareth and Gaheris. "We owe too much to Lancelot to
listen to the false tales of evil tongues."

With this they turned and walked away in anger and grief, as Arthur came
up.

"What is this?" asked the king. "Is there bad blood between you
brethren?"

"They do not care to hear the truth," said Agravaine, "but to my fancy
it has been kept too long from your knowledge. We are your sister's
sons, King Arthur, and it is our duty to be honest and open with you."

"What would you say?" asked the king.

"Simply what we and all your court know well, that there are such doings
between Lancelot and your queen as are a disgrace to this realm of
England. He is a traitor to your person and your honor, and this we
stand ready to prove."

"This is a perilous charge you make," said Arthur, deeply moved. "Nor am
I ready to believe such a tale on your mere word. You have gone far,
gentlemen; too far, I deem, without abundant proof."

"My lord," said Mordred, "we speak not without due warrant, and proof
you shall have. What we advise is, that you ride out to the hunt
to-morrow. Lancelot, you will find, will have some excuse to hold back.
Then, when night draws near, send word to the queen that you will lie
out all that night. Let this be done, and we promise you we shall take
him with the queen. If we do it will go hard with Lancelot; for we shall
not lightly see our king brought to shame."

"Be it so," said the king, after deep thought, for he was little
inclined to believe ill of Lancelot. "I will do as you say. Understand,
sir knights, I have heard all this before; yet I believe it not, and I
consent to your scheme only to put an end to the vile voice of scandal."

On the next morning, as agreed upon, Arthur rode to the hunt; but
Lancelot excused himself, as his enemies had predicted, on the plea that
he was in no mood for the chase. When night came near a messenger from
the king brought word to Guenever that the hunting party had been drawn
far away, and would not return that night.

Meanwhile Mordred and Agravaine selected twelve knights, all of them
enemies of Lancelot, to whom they told their purpose, and set them on
guard in the castle of Carlisle, where the court then was. Of Lancelot's
friends few were in the court, for nearly all had gone with the king to
the hunt.

When night came, Lancelot told Bors, who dwelt with him, that he had a
fancy to go and speak with the queen.

"Do not go to-night, I pray you," said Bors.

"Why not to-night?"

"I fear some plot of that rogue, Agravaine, who has it in his heart to
work you ill. I have heard a whisper, and fear that the king's absence
to-night is part of a plot, and that an ambush is laid to do you harm."

"Have no dread of that," said Lancelot. "I wish only some minutes'
conversation with the queen, and will quickly return again."

"I should rather you would not go. I am in doubt that some evil may come
of it."

"Why say you this nephew? Do you deem that I am a coward, or that the
queen is my mistress, as the evil-tongued say? I go because she has sent
for me, desiring to see me. Am I the man to deny her request because
there are foul-mouthed slanderers abroad?"

"Go, then, since I see you will. God speed you, and send you back safe
and sound."

Lancelot thereupon wrapped himself in his mantle, and taking his sword
under his arm made his way to the castle, which was some distance from
his residence. Here he sought and entered the queen's chamber, where she
awaited him with her ladies.

But no sooner had he done so, and scarcely had he spoken a word to his
royal lady, than Mordred, Agravaine, and their followers burst in tumult
from the chamber in which they had been concealed, and loudly
exclaimed,--

"Traitor knight! Lancelot du Lake, false and caitiff wretch, now art
thou taken in thy treason!"

So loud they cried that their voices rang throughout the court, and they
crowded round the door of the queen's chamber, bent on taking Lancelot
unarmed, and slaying him at the feet of Guenever. Fortunately the door
was of solid oak, and a damsel of the queen had hastily shot the bolts.

"Alas!" cried the queen, "what vile plot is this? Mischief is around us,
Lancelot!"

"Is there any armor in your chamber?" asked Lancelot. "If so, give it to
me, and I will face this malicious crew."

"There is none," said the queen. "I see no hope, and fear our love has
come to a fatal end. There seems to be a host of armed knights without.
They will kill you, Lancelot, and death will come to me through their
vile charge of unchastity."

"Why did I not even wear as much of my armor as I fought Meliagrance
with!" cried Lancelot, in distress. "If I had but listened to Sir Bors!
Never was I caught in such a trap before."

As they spoke the tumult without increased, and Mordred and Agravaine
cried together,--

"Come out, thou traitor knight! Think not to escape, for we have you
like a rat in a trap. Come out and meet your just deserts."

"Shall I bear this?" cried Lancelot, flaming into anger. "The dogs! a
dozen of them in armor against one man in his mantle! I would rather
meet death at once than stand and hear their reviling tongues."

Then he took the queen in his arms and kissed her, saying,--

"Most noble Christian queen, I beseech you, as you have ever been my
special good lady, and I your poor knight, and as I never failed you in
right or wrong since the day that King Arthur made me knight, that you
will pray for my soul if I be here slain. For you may be sure that Sir
Bors and my other kindred, with Lavaine and others of my friends, will
rescue you from harm, and I beg you to go with them and live like a
queen on my lands."

"That will I not, Lancelot," said the queen. "If you are slain for me,
then death may come when it will, for I shall not live long to mourn
you."

"Then, since my last hour seems to have come, and our love and life must
cease together, so let it be; but some of those barking curs shall go
with me to the shades. I am heavier at heart for you than for myself.
Ah, that I had but a knight's armor!"

"I would that God would be content with my death, and suffer you to
escape," said the queen.

"That shall never be," said Lancelot. "God defend me from such a shame.
And now may the Lord Jesus be my shield and my armor."

This said, he wrapped his mantle around his arm, and approached the
door. As he did so the strong oaken portal trembled under their blows,
for they had got a great form out of the hall, and were using it as a
battering-ram.

"Save your trouble, you crew of mischief," said Lancelot. "Think you
that Lancelot du Lake needs to be come at like a rabbit in its hutch? I
fear you not, and dread not to face an army of such hounds."

"Come out, then, or let us into that chamber. It avails you nothing to
strive against us all; but we will promise to spare your life till we
have brought you to King Arthur."

"Will you?" said Lancelot, "or do you think to slay me where I stand? I
trust you not, liars."

Then he unbarred the door and with his left hand held it open a little,
so that but one man could enter at a time. As he did so, Colgrevance of
Gore, who stood nearest, pressed forcibly through the opening, and
struck a spiteful blow at Lancelot with his sword. This Lancelot
parried, and returned so fierce a stroke with his own good blade, that
he cut through the helmet and skull of the knight, and stretched him
dead upon the floor.

Then, with all his great strength, he dragged the bleeding corpse within
the chamber, closed the door against the pressure of all who bore upon
it, and replaced the bars. "So much for this daring fool," he cried.
"Thank heaven, I have an armor now! I shall not be quite a sheep at the
shambles."

As he spoke he was hastily stripping the armor from the body of the dead
knight. This done, he quickly arrayed himself in it, with the aid of the
queen and her ladies.

Meanwhile the assault on the door continued, and Mordred and Agravaine
kept up their cry,--

"Traitor knight! come out of the queen's chamber!"

"Hold your peace," cried Lancelot. "You shall not prison me here, I
promise you that, and if you take my counsel, you will depart. I am
ready to agree on my knighthood to appear to-morrow before the king, and
answer there that I came not to the queen with any evil purpose; and
this I stand ready to prove by word or deed."

"Out on you, traitor!" cried Mordred. "Have you, we will, and slay you
if we wish, for the king has given us the choice to save you or slay
you."

"Is that your last word, sirrahs? Then keep yourselves, for I am not of
the breed that die easily."

As he spoke, he flung down the bars and threw the door wide open. Then
he strode proudly and mightily among them, sword in hand and clad in
full armor, and at the first blow from his mighty hand stretched
Agravaine dead upon the floor. Like a maddened lion that charges upon a
herd of sheep, he now rushed upon them, striking fiercely to right and
left, and felling men with every blow, till in a little while twelve
more of his assailants lay cold in death, for there was not a man of
them all could stand one blow from his powerful arm.

Of the whole party only Mordred remained alive, and he fled wounded with
craven haste. Then Lancelot, leaning on his blood-dripping sword, turned
to the queen, who stood looking at his deeds of might, with white lips
and starting eyes.

[Illustration: Copyright by Frederick Hollyer, London, England.

SIR LANCELOT IN THE QUEEN'S CHAMBER.]

"All is at an end now," he said. "Henceforth King Arthur is my foe, and
I am like a wolf at bay. Yet I fear your enemies will work you fatal
harm, and would have you go with me, and let me be your
knight-protector."

"That I dread to do," said the queen, "for vile slander would follow my
footsteps. I had better face my foes. If they devise to put me to death,
then you may come to my rescue, and no one then can blame me for going
with you."

"That shall I do," said Lancelot. "And I promise to make such havoc
among all men who mean you harm as I have done among those who lie
here."

Then he kissed her, and each gave the other a ring; and so he left the
queen and went to his lodgings.



CHAPTER II.

THE RESCUE OF THE QUEEN.


Little sleep came that night to Lancelot and his friends. For when he
came again to Bors, he had found him, with others of his kindred, armed
and ready to come to his rescue. They listened with concern and
indignation to Lancelot's story of how he had been entrapped, and heard
with knightly joy the story of his bold discomfiture of his foes.

But it was evident to them all that the event was one of the greatest
moment; that enmity would exist between Lancelot and the king, and that
Guenever might be adjudged to the stake on the charge of infidelity to
her lord.

Therefore Bors took it upon himself to gather in Lancelot's defence all
his kindred and friends; and by seven o'clock of the next morning he had
gained the word of twenty-two Knights of the Round Table. To these were
added knights of North Wales and Cornwall, who joined Lancelot for
Lamorak's and Tristram's sake, to the number of fourscore.

To these Lancelot told all that had occurred, and expressed his fear of
Arthur's hostility.

"I am sure of mortal war," he said, "for these knights claimed to have
been sent and ordained by King Arthur to betray me, and I fear the king
may, in his heat and malice, condemn the queen to the fire. Trust me,
that I will not suffer her to be burnt for my sake. She is and has been
ever a true lady to her lord, and while I live she shall not become a
victim to the malice of her enemies."

The assembled knights agreed with him in this decision, and promised
their utmost aid in his purpose of rescue.

"Rescue her I shall, whoever may be hurt; and I trust to heaven that no
friend of mine will aid the king to her injury. But if I rescue her,
where shall I keep her?"

"Did not the noble Sir Tristram, with your good will, keep La Belle
Isolde three years in Joyous Gard, against the malice of King Mark?"
said Bors. "That place is your own; and there, if the king adjudge the
queen to the stake, you may keep her till his heat shall cool. Then you
may bring her home with worship, and gain Arthur's thanks."

"That may not work so well as you fancy," said Lancelot. "You remember
what a return Tristram got from King Mark."

"That is another story," replied Bors. "You know well that Arthur and
Mark are men of different mould. Mark could smile and play the traitor;
but no man living can say that King Arthur was ever untrue to his word."

Their conference over, by the advice of Lancelot the knights put
themselves in ambush in a wood as near Carlisle as they could secretly
approach. And there they remained on guard, waiting to learn what the
king might do.

Meantime Mordred, though wounded by Lancelot's sword, had managed to
mount his horse, and rode in all haste to tell the king of the bloody
end of the ambush. On hearing the story, Arthur's mind was divided
between anger and pain.

"It grieves me sorely that Lancelot should be against me," he said; "and
much I fear that the glorious fellowship of the Round Table is broken,
for many of our noblest knights will hold with him. But dishonor must
not rest upon England's crown. The queen has played me false, and shall
suffer death for her treason to her wifely duty."

For the law was such in those days, that all, of whatever estate or
degree, found guilty of treason, should suffer death. And so it was
ordained in Queen Guenever's case--since thirteen knights had been
slain, and one escaped sore wounded, in defending the king's honor--that
she should be taken to the stake, and there be burnt to death as a
traitress.

"My lord Arthur," said Gawaine, "let me counsel you not to be over
hasty in this severe judgment, for as I take it the guilt of the queen
is not proved. That Lancelot was found in the queen's chamber I admit;
but he might have come there with no evil purpose. You know how he has
been for years her chosen knight, and how much he has done for her. She
may have sent for him privily, to avoid scandal, for conference on some
innocent subject. What we do for the best often turns to the worst, and
I dare affirm that my lady the queen is, and has always been, faithful
and true to her lord. As for Lancelot, I doubt me not he will make good
what I have said with word and body, against any and all that question
or oppose."

"That I believe," said the king. "I know Lancelot's way. But his
boldness does not prove the queen's innocence. For her he shall never
fight again, for she shall suffer the penalty of the law. And if I can
lay my hands on him, he shall die the shameful death he richly merits."

"Then may Christ save me from ever seeing it," said Gawaine.

"Why say you this?" demanded the king, angrily. "You have no cause to
love him. Last night he killed your brother Agravaine, and here is
Mordred sorely wounded. He also slew two of your sons, Sir Florence and
Sir Lovel."

"I know all that. But I gave them warning beforehand of what would
happen if they meddled in this affair. They brought this fate on
themselves. As for Agravaine, he stirred up this scandalous business,
and has got his deserts."

"Say no more," cried the king, in hot indignation. "I am resolved. The
honor of Arthur's wife must be above suspicion. She has fallen from
chastity and shall die the death. As for you, Gawaine, I bid you arm in
your best armor, with your brethren Gareth and Gaheris, and bring her to
the fire, that she may there hear her judgment, and receive the death
she merits."

"No, my most noble lord, that shall I never do," said Gawaine. "No man
shall say that I had aught to do with the death of this worthy lady, or
gave my word in favor of her death."

"Then bid your brothers, Gareth and Gaheris, attend."

"They are young, and may not withstand your will; but they shall not be
there by my counsel," said Gawaine, stoutly.

"We must attend, if you command us," said Gareth and Gaheris to the
king. "But it will be sorely against our wills. If come we must, it
shall be in peaceful guise, and without warlike array."

"Come as you will," said the king. "This I say, she shall have judgment
this day."

"Alas! that I have ever lived to see this woful day!" said Gawaine,
sadly, and as he turned away the tears ran hotly from his eyes.

But the king was bitterly set in his deadly purpose, and no sooner had
he reached Carlisle than he gave command that the queen should at once
be led to the place of execution, there to be burned as a traitress.

When this fatal decision was known in the castle there was weeping and
wailing and wringing of hands from many lords and ladies, while of the
knights there present, few would consent to wear armor to compass the
queen's death.

But Arthur's commands none dared question, and the unhappy lady was
shriven by her ghostly father, and bound to the fatal stake. In a circle
around her stood a guard of armed knights, while others were present
without armor. But the king was not there; nor would Gawaine show
himself at that shameful scene.

Then fire was set to the fagots that surrounded the stake. But as the
flames began to curl upwards there came a shrill bugle-blast from a
neighboring wood, and of a sudden Lancelot and his knights broke from
their ambush, and rode upon those about the fire, striking right and
left at all who bore arms and withstood them.

Down went the guard of knights before this fierce onset, till full
twenty of them lay dead on the field. But by sad fortune, as Lancelot,
in his warlike fury pressed hither and thither, cutting and slashing
with the hot rage of the berserker, he by mishap struck the two unarmed
knights, Gareth and Gaheris, and stretched them dead upon the field.

This was in the thick of the fray, and he knew not what he had done, for
rather would he have slain himself than harmed these, his faithful
friends. A few minutes sufficed to kill or disperse all the guard. Then
Lancelot sprang from his horse, scattered the blazing fagots with his
foot, and with a blow of his sword severed the bonds that fastened
Guenever to the stake.

The unhappy lady fell, weeping, into his arms, thanking him in broken
accents. With all due haste he mounted her on a horse that had been
provided, and rode off with her and his following of gallant knights to
Joyous Gard, strong of heart and stout of frame, and resolved to fight
for her to the death, for more than ever he felt himself her chosen
knight.

And when word went through the country round that Arthur and Lancelot
were at odds, many a good knight rode in all haste to his castle, bent
on taking his side in the coming war.

But when the news was brought to Arthur of how Lancelot had rescued the
queen, and slain many of his knights, and in particular Gareth and
Gaheris, his anger turned to such bitter sorrow and regret that he
swooned from pure grief. And when he came to his senses again he deeply
moaned, and reproached himself for the evil that had befallen.

"Alas! that I ever wore the crown!" he bewailed. "Within these two days
I have lost forty knights, and, above all, the noble fellowship of
Lancelot and his kindred, and all because I listened to the tongue of
foul detraction. Alas! that ever this fatal thing began! Fair friends,
see that none of you tell Gawaine of what has happened, for he loves
Gareth so deeply that I fear, when he hears of his death, he will go out
of his mind. How came Lancelot to slay these knights, who both loved him
devotedly?"

"He would never have harmed them had he known them," said a knight. "It
was in the midst of the hurtling and fierce struggling, when swords
strike they know not where. Sad he will be when he learns what he has
done."

"I am heavier for the loss of my knights than of my queen," said
Arthur, sadly. "Other queens may be had, but such a fellowship of
knights can never be brought together again. And this I know, that when
Gawaine learns of Gareth's death, he will never rest, nor suffer me to
rest, till I have destroyed Lancelot and his kindred, or they have
destroyed me. Ah, Agravaine, Agravaine, Jesus forgive thy soul for thy
evil will, for thou and thy brother Mordred have caused all this bitter
sorrow."

While the king thus complained, a tale-bearer, unheeding his
injunctions, came to Gawaine big with his story, and told him of the
rescue of the queen, and the death of a knightly host.

"What else could Lancelot do?" said Gawaine. "I should have done as much
myself had I stood in his place. But where are my brothers? Why hear I
not of them?"

"Truly," said the man; "they are both killed."

"Now, Jesus forbid! What! both? Is Gareth slain? Dare you tell me so?"

"Alas! the pity of it!"

"Killed! Who killed him?"

"Sir Lancelot slew them both."

"That is false. Gareth loved him better than he did me or the king. He
would have joined him against us all, had Lancelot desired. And he was
unarmed. Dare you repeat this story?" and he caught the man fiercely by
the shoulders and glared wildly in his face.

"Sir, it is so noised abroad," said the man.

"Then is all joy gone from my life," moaned Gawaine, and he fell to the
floor in a deep swoon, in which he lay long like one dead.

But when Gawaine recovered, and had sought the king, and learned that
his two brothers had been killed, unarmed and defenceless, his sorrow
changed to bitter and revengeful anger.

"My king, my lord, and my uncle," he sternly said, "I vow by my
knighthood that I shall never forgive Lancelot for this murderous deed,
but from this day forth shall remain his deadly foe, till one of us has
slain the other. War to the death it shall be, and if you aid me not I
shall seek Sir Lancelot alone, if it be through seven kings' realms,
till I hold him to answer for this deed of blood."

"You shall not need to seek him so far," said the king. "They say that
Lancelot awaits us in Joyous Gard, and that many knights have joined
him."

"Well is it so," said Gawaine fiercely. "Then my lord Arthur, gather
your friends, and I will gather mine. Say not that deeds like this shall
go unpunished in England's realm. Your justice defied! My unarmed
brothers murdered! Shall this be done, and we basely submit?"

"You speak to the point," said the king. "We must strike for honor and
revenge. Strong as Lancelot's castle is, and bold as are his friends, I
fancy I can gain strength enough to draw him out of the strongest tower
in it."

Then King Arthur sent orders far and wide through the land, and in brief
time there came to Carlisle many knights, dukes, and earls, so that he
had a great host. These the king informed of what had happened, and of
his purpose to force Lancelot to yield up his queen, and to punish him
for his trespass.

Lancelot meanwhile, was not idle, but drew to himself, many more
knights, and provisioned his castle fully, for he well knew that he must
abide behind walls, as he was far too weak to meet the king's host in
the field.

Not many days had elapsed when King Arthur and Gawaine with a great host
of men, laid siege about Joyous Gard, both the town and the castle, and
war replaced the peace that had reigned so long in the land.

But Lancelot lay secure in his castle, and for a long time would not go
out himself, nor suffer any of his knights to pass the gates of town or
castle. And so fifteen weeks of the siege passed away.



CHAPTER III.

THE RETURN OF GUENEVER.


It befell upon a day in harvest-time that Lancelot looked over the walls
of Joyous Gard, and seeing below him the king and Gawaine, thus spoke to
them,--

"My lords both, you besiege this castle in vain. You will gain more
dishonor than worship here. If I chose to come out, with my knights, I
should soon bring this war to an end."

"Come forth, if thou darest!" cried the king, in anger. "I promise to
meet thee in the midst of the field."

"God defend that I should face on the field of battle the noble king who
made me knight."

"A truce to your fair language," answered the king. "Trust me, that I am
your mortal foe, and will be so till the day of my death. You have slain
my knights and dishonored my queen, and hold her from me by force, like
a traitor. Think you I shall lightly forgive this?"

"You may say what you will, my lord and king," answered Lancelot. "With
you I will not fight; but as for your lady Guenever, I am ready to stand
for her innocence against any knight under heaven. Those who have
slandered me and her lie in their teeth, and I hold myself ready to
prove to the death that she is as true and chaste a lady as ever lived.
More than once, my lord, you have consented that she should be burnt,
from the voice of slander, and more than once have I rescued her, and
forced the lie down the throats of her slanderers. Then you thanked me
for saving her from the fire. Now, for doing you the same high service
again, you bring war upon me. Your queen is honest and true, and if you
will receive her to your good grace again I stand ready to deliver her."

"Recreant knight!" cried Gawaine, in wrath, "I warrant you my lord the
king shall have his queen and you too, despite your fair words and proud
defiance, and shall slay you both if it please him."

"That may be, Gawaine," said Lancelot. "Yet if I chose to come out of
the castle you would not find it quite child's play to win me and the
queen."

"Save your boastful words," said Gawaine. "As for my lady, the queen, I
shall say naught to her dishonor. But, recreant knight, what cause had
you to slay my brother Gareth, who loved you with his whole soul?"

"I shall not seek an excuse for that deed," said Lancelot. "I would with
as good will have slain my nephew Sir Bors. All I may say is that it was
done in the heat of battle, and I knew not they were slain till word was
brought me here."

"You lie in your teeth!" cried Gawaine. "You killed them in despite of
me; and for this foul deed I shall make war on you while I live."

"If you are so hotly set, there is no use for me to seek accord; yet I
am truly sorry for their deaths and your enmity. Only for this I would
soon have the good grace of my lord Arthur."

"That may be, traitor, but you will wait long for peace. You have lorded
it over me, and the whole of us, too long, and slain knights at your
will. Now our turn has come."

"No one dare say that I ever killed a knight through treachery, as you,
Gawaine, have done."

"You mean Sir Lamorak. Him I slew, man to man."

"Who lies now? You know well that you and the crew that set upon him
dared not meet him face to face. You struck him treacherously from
behind."

"A truce to Lamorak. This you may know, that I will never leave you till
I deal with you as I did with him."

"Murder me, you mean! I fancy you might if you caught me in such a
strait, which you will not easily do."

Then others took the cue from Gawaine, and the cry went up from many
voices: "False and recreant knight! how long will you hide behind your
castle walls, like a rat in his hole?"

"How long is this to last?" said Bors and others to Lancelot. "We pray
you to keep us no longer within these walls, but let us out to do battle
with them. Men will say next that you are afraid. As for fair speech, it
is thrown away. Gawaine will never forgive you, nor suffer you to make
accord with the king. Therefore fight for your right, for to that it
must come."

"I am loath to do so," said Lancelot.

Then he called from the wall to the king,--

"My knights demand that I let them sally from the castle. I therefore
pray that neither you nor Sir Gawaine come into the field, for to you
two I wish no harm."

"What then? Shall we cower in our tents while others fight our battles?"
cried Gawaine. "This quarrel is mine and the king's. Shall we not fight
in it?"

"If you will, you will; but I seek not battle with either of you."

Then they drew back, and both sides made ready for battle. And Gawaine,
with deadly intent, set aside a strong body of knights, bidding them to
attack Lancelot in force, and slay him if they could.

When the next morning came, King Arthur drew up his host against the
castle in three great bands. And Lancelot's fellowship issued from the
castle at three gates, the three bands being led by Lancelot, Bors, and
Lionel. But Lancelot had given strict charge to his knights to avoid
harming King Arthur and Sir Gawaine.

Fierce was the battle that followed, and many good knights were slain.
It began with a challenge from Gawaine, who came out before the king's
host and dared any knight of Lancelot's to joust with him. This
challenge Lionel accepted, but Gawaine thrust him through the body, and
dashed him to the earth like a dead man. Then his friends rushed to his
rescue and drove back his foes, bearing him from the field into the
castle. This affray brought on a hot and fiery battle, and soon the air
was filled with shouts, and the earth strewn with dead and wounded men.

In the midst of this fray the king hotly attacked Lancelot; but that
faithful knight patiently endured his assault, and lifted not a hand in
defence. But Bors, seeing his danger, rushed in, and, with a spear
thrust, hurled King Arthur to the ground. Quickly leaping from his
horse, he drew his sword, and said,--

"Shall I make an end of this war?"

"On pain of your head, no! Harm not the king! I shall not stand by and
see him slain."

Then Lancelot sprang to the ground and helped the king to his horse
again, saying,--

"My lord Arthur, for God's sake, end this strife! I will not fight you,
though you kill me, nor have I the heart to fight your men. My lord,
remember what I have done for you. Is not this an evil reward?"

When Arthur heard these words tears flowed from his eyes, for Lancelot's
courtesy had overcome his anger. He turned and rode away, saying
sadly,--

"Alas! that this war ever began."

Then both sides drew off, and parties of each began the sad duty of
burying the dead, while the wounded were borne away, and healing salves
applied to their wounds.

The next day the battle was renewed, and fought with the same deadly
energy as before. On this day Bors led the foremost party, and met
Gawaine as Lionel had done the day before. Fiercely together they rode,
and both were hurled to the ground with deep and dangerous wounds.
Around them the battle raged with double fierceness, but Lancelot broke
in and rescued Bors, and had him borne to the castle, while the other
party bore off Gawaine.

Then, as the battle continued, Lavaine and others begged Lancelot to put
forth his strength and fight with his full might, for he imperilled them
all by his forbearance.

"Why should you spare your foes?" they said. "You do but harm thereby.
Your enemies spare not you."

"I have no heart to fight against the king," said Lancelot.

"If you spare them all this day they will never thank you," said
Palamides. "And if they get the better of you they will slay you without
mercy."

Lancelot saw that this was but the truth, and stirred by this and the
wound of Sir Bors, he rushed into the fray with his old might and fury,
forcing back all before him. Glad to see the old Lancelot, his
followers pressed forward, driving back the foe, so that by eventide
they had the best of the fray, and their horses went fetlock deep in the
blood of the slain.

Then, in pity for Arthur, Lancelot blew the recall, and suffered the
king's party to withdraw without further slaughter.

After this there was peace between the parties for many days, for
Gawaine had been so sorely hurt that he could not stir the king to
active war, and Arthur after awhile returned to Carlisle, leaving the
castle closely besieged.

But the story of this war had now passed through Christendom, and had
reached the pope, who, feeling that war between King Arthur and Lancelot
was like battle between brothers, sent a letter to the king, commanding
him, under pain of an interdict upon all England, to take his Queen
Guenever into favor again, and to make peace and accord with Sir
Lancelot.

This Papal bull was brought to Arthur by the bishop of Rochester, who
was then at Rome. When the king had heard it read he knew not what to
do. He agreed to take back the queen, and in his heart desired to make
friends with Lancelot; but to this Gawaine, who had then the greatest
influence over him, would not consent.

In the end it was agreed that if Lancelot would bring back the queen he
should come and go in safety, and that no word should be spoken to
Guenever, by the king or other person, of aught that had happened in the
past.

Then the bishop had from the king his assurance, under the great seal
of the realm, as he was a true anointed knight, that Sir Lancelot should
come and return in safety, and that the queen should not be spoken to by
the king, or any other, concerning what had passed. With this
safe-conduct, written at length and signed by King Arthur, the holy
prelate rode in state to Joyous Gard, where he made Lancelot acquainted
with all that had happened, telling him of the pope's action, and of the
peril he would encounter if he withheld the queen from the king.

"It was never in my thought," said Lancelot, "to withhold Queen Guenever
from my lord Arthur. All men know why I have her in charge. She would
have suffered a shameful death through the king's unjust anger had I not
been on hand to save her life; and I hold her only from peril of that
vile sentence, which has never until now been remitted. I thank the pope
heartily that he has made peace between Guenever and the king, and God
knows that I will be a thousand-fold gladder to take her back than I
ever was to bring her away. All I demand is, that I shall come and go in
safety, and that the queen shall have her liberty as before, and stand
in no peril from this or any former charge against her. For else I dare
venture to keep her from a harder shower than ever yet has fallen upon
her or me."

"You need dread nothing either for yourself or the queen," replied the
bishop. "You know full well that the pope must be obeyed, by the king as
well as by you. It were not to the pope's worship nor my poor honor that
you should be distressed, or the queen put to shame or peril. And as
for King Arthur, here is his promise, under his own writing and seal."

Then he showed Lancelot all the written documents he had brought, both
from the pope and the king.

"That suffices," said Lancelot. "I would trust King Arthur's bare word
as I would the oath of half Christendom. No man can say that he ever
broke his plighted faith. Therefore, I beg you to ride before me to the
king, and recommend me to his good grace, letting him know that in eight
days from to-day, by the grace of God, I shall bring to him his lady
Queen Guenever. And say this further to him, that I stand ready to meet
any one in the lists for the queen's fair fame except himself and Sir
Gawaine, and the latter more from the king's love for him than from
aught of his own deserts."

With this agreement the bishop departed to Carlisle, and when he had
told the king how nobly Lancelot had spoken, the tears started from
Arthur's eyes, and much he deplored in his heart the cruel chance that
had aroused war between him and his dearest friend.

Lancelot now made ready a hundred knights, who were all dressed in green
velvet, with their horses trapped to their heels, while each knight held
in his hand an olive branch, in token of peace. For the queen there were
provided four and twenty gentlewomen, who followed her in the same
guise; while Lancelot was followed by twelve coursers, on each of which
sat a young gentleman, and these were arrayed in green velvet with
golden girdles, and the horses trapped to the heels with rich cloths,
set with pearls and stones in gold, to the number of a thousand. As for
Lancelot and Guenever, they were clothed in white cloth-of-gold tissue.
And in this array they rode from Joyous Gard to Carlisle, and through
Carlisle to the castle, while many an eye shed tears on seeing them.

Then Lancelot alighted and took the queen, and led her to where Arthur
sat, with Gawaine and many great lords before him. Then he kneeled, and
the queen with him.

Many of the assembled knights wept bitterly on seeing this, but the king
sat in haughty silence, looking steadily upon the pair who knelt before
him. Seeing his countenance, Lancelot rose and forced the queen to rise
also. Then thus he spoke in knightly pride,--

"My lord the king, by the pope's command and yours I have brought you my
lady, the queen, as right requireth. If there be any knight, whatever
his degree, except your sacred self, who shall dare say she has been
untrue to you, I, Lancelot du Lake, stand ready to make her honor good
with my body. To liars you have listened, and that has caused all the
trouble between you and me. Time has been, my lord Arthur, when you have
been greatly pleased with me in that I did battle for my lady your
queen. Full well you know, my most royal sir, that she has been put to
great wrong before this time; and since it pleased you then that I
should fight for her, it seems to me that I had still more cause this
last time to rescue her from the fire, since she was to have been burnt
for my sake. Had not the might of God been with me, think you that I
could, unarmed, have prevailed over fourteen armed knights? I was sent
for by the queen, who wished to confer with me, but had barely stepped
within her chamber, when out burst Mordred and Agravaine, calling me
traitor and recreant knight."

"They called you truly," said Gawaine.

"Did they so, Gawaine? By heaven, in their quarrel they failed to prove
themselves in the right."

"I have given you no cause to do evil to me, Lancelot," said the king.
"For I have loved you and yours more than all my other knights."

"My good lord and liege," answered Lancelot, "I beg it may not displease
you if I answer that you have better cause to love me and mine than most
knights, for none have done you such service as we have at many times
and in many places. Often have I myself rescued you from deadly peril,
when you were hard pressed by your foes; and it has ever been my joy to
please you, and my lord Gawaine as well, in jousts and tournaments, and
in set battles, both on horse and on foot. I wish not to boast of my
deeds, yet you all know well that I never met a knight but that I was
able to stand against him, and have always done my duty like a man. I
have been matched with good knights, such as Sir Tristram and Sir
Lamorak, whom I loved for their valor and honesty. And I take God to
witness, that I was never angry with or jealous of any good knight whom
I saw active to win honor, and was ever glad at heart when I found a
knight who was able to endure me on horseback or on foot. Sir Carados of
the dolorous tower was a noble knight and a man of mighty strength, and
this you know full well, Sir Gawaine, since he pulled you from your
horse, and bound you before him on his saddle. Yet I rescued you from
him, and slew him before your eyes. In like manner I found his brother,
Sir Turquine, leading your brother, Sir Gaheris, bound on his saddle,
and slew him, and rescued your brother, as also three-score and four of
King Arthur's knights whom he held in prison. Never met I with as strong
and hard-fighting knights as Sir Carados and Sir Turquine, and I fought
with them to the uttermost for the sake of you and your brother. It
seems to me, Sir Gawaine, that you ought to bear in mind this good
service I did for you in the past. If I might but have your good will in
return, I would trust to God to have my lord Arthur's kindly grace."

"The king may do as he will," said Gawaine; "but while I live I shall
never be in accord with you. I cannot forget that you have killed three
of my brothers, two of them treacherously and pitilessly, for they wore
no armor against you, and refused to bear any."

"Would to heaven they had been armed, for then they would now be alive,"
said Lancelot. "I tell you this, Sir Gawaine, that I love none of my own
kinsmen as I did your brother, Sir Gareth, and would far rather have
slain myself than him. Never while I live shall I cease to mourn his
death, not alone for your bitter sorrow and anger, but for other causes
which concern myself. One is, that it was I who made him a knight;
another is, that he loved me above all other knights; a third is, that
he was ever noble, true, courteous, and gentle. I never would have
slain, or even hurt, either Gareth or Gaheris by my will; and sad at
heart am I that this fatal chance has robbed me of your love and made
undying war between us, and has caused my noble lord and king to be my
mortal foe. May Jesus forgive me for this cruel chance, which the fates
have laid upon me. In reparation for this sad misfortune, I shall freely
offer, if it will please the king's good grace, and yours, my lord
Gawaine, to do penance in this wise. I shall start from Sandwich, and go
in my shirt, barefoot, and at every ten miles' end I shall found a
religious house, of what order you wish, where shall be sung and read
day and night psalms and masses for the repose of Sir Gareth and Sir
Gaheris. This I shall perform from Sandwich to Carlisle. This, Sir
Gawaine, seems to me fairer, holier, and better for their souls than
that you and the king should make war upon me; for little good to any is
likely to come from it."

Then the knights and ladies there wept as though they were distracted,
and the tears fell hot on King Arthur's cheeks. But no shadow of
softness came to Gawaine's stern face.

"The king, as I have said, may do as it pleases him," he answered, "but
I shall never forgive you for the murder of my brothers. If my uncle,
King Arthur, accords with you, he shall lose my service, for I hold you
false both to the king and me."

"The man lives not that can make that good," cried Lancelot. "If you
charge me thus, I am ready to answer you with spear and sword since
words you disdain."

"That cannot be at this time," said Gawaine. "You are here under the
king's safe-conduct, and so must depart. If it were not for the pope's
command and the king's given word, I should do battle with you, body to
body, and prove upon you that you have been false both to the king and
to me. In this land you shall not abide more than fifteen days, for I
give you open warning that your safe-conduct lasts only for that time.
In this the king and we all were agreed before you came hither. Only for
this you would now find that my words are ready to be backed up with
deeds. And this you shall find wheresoever I shall meet you hereafter."

Then Lancelot sighed, and tears fell upon his cheeks.

"Alas, most Christian realm," he said, "that I have loved above all
other realms, and most Christian king, whom I have worshipped next to my
God. From both I am banished, without cause or warrant. Truly I am sorry
that I ever came into this land, to be thus causelessly and shamefully
treated, after my long service here. So is it ever with fortune, whose
wheel is so changeable that there is no constant abiding; and this may
be proved by the old chronicles of noble Hector of Troy, and Troilus,
and Alexander the mighty conqueror, and many more. When they were
highest they quickly became lowest; and thus has it fared with me. No
living men have brought more honor and glory to the Round Table than I
and my kindred, and yet we stand banished from the land which owes us
such worthy service. As for you, Gawaine, I can live upon my native
lands as well as any knight here. And if you, redoubted king, shall seek
me there in hostile array, I must endure you as well as I may. If you
come thither, Gawaine, see that you charge me not with treason or
felony, for if you do, it will scarcely end with words."

"Do your worst," cried Gawaine, hotly. "And get you gone from here as
fast as you can. We shall soon come after, and tumble your strongest
castle upon your head."

"That shall not need," said Lancelot. "You may find me ready to meet you
in open field."

"There have been words enough," said Gawaine. "Deliver the queen and
take yourself away."

"If I had looked for so short a reception I would have thought twice
before coming," answered Lancelot, proudly. "If the queen had been as
dear to me as you would make her, I durst have kept her from the best
fellowship of knights under heaven."

Then he turned to Guenever and said, in full hearing of the king and all
there,--

"Madam, now I must depart from you and this noble fellowship forever.
Since it is so, I beseech you to pray for me. And if you be slandered by
any false tongues, send me word, my lady, and if one knight's hands may
deliver you by battle, I shall deliver you."

Then Lancelot kissed the queen, and said openly to all present,--

"Now let me see who there is in this place that dare say Queen Guenever
is not true unto my lord King Arthur! Let him speak who dare speak."

He looked proudly around the hall, from right to left, but no voice came
in answer. Then he took the queen by the hand and led her to the king,
and delivered her to his royal hand. This done, Lancelot turned and
walked from the hall with haughty stride; and there was neither duke,
earl, nor king, baron nor knight, lady or maiden, that wept not at the
sorrowful parting, except Sir Gawaine. And when Lancelot took his horse
to ride out of Carlisle there was sobbing and weeping from all the
people who had gathered in the streets to see him depart. And so he took
his way to Joyous Gard, which ever after he called Dolorous Gard. And
thus departed Sir Lancelot du Lake from the court of King Arthur
forever.

He now called his fellowship about him, and asked them what they would
do.

"Whatever you will," they answered with one voice.

"Then, my brave and faithful friends, we must leave this realm. It is
sore to me to be banished, and had I not dreaded shame, the lady
Guenever should never have left me."

"If you stay in this land we shall not fail you," said his knights. "If
you depart hence we shall go with you."

"My fair lords, I thank you heartily," answered Lancelot, with much
feeling. "If you come with me to my realm beyond the sea, I shall divide
my lands among you, till I have as little as any of you. I care for
only enough to live upon, and trust to maintain you in knightly honor."

"So let it be," they rejoined. "Here, now that the fellowship of the
Round Table is broken, there will be no more peace, but only strife and
turmoil. You were the stay of Arthur's court, Sir Lancelot. With you
gone, all quiet and harmony will depart."

"You praise me too highly, gentlemen. I did my duty; but not I alone.
Yet I fear, when we are gone, we will soon hear of wars and rebellions,
from those who dared not raise their heads when we were all together.
Mordred I fear above all. He is envious and ambitious, and if King
Arthur shall trust him I dread me greatly he will find him a stinging
serpent."

Then, soon after, they left Joyous Gard, and shipped at Cardiff to pass
beyond the seas to Lancelot's realm of Benwick. Some men, indeed, call
it Bayonne, and some call it Beume, the land whence comes the wine of
Beume. Yet to say sooth, Lancelot and his nephews were lords of all
France, and had there a host of towns and castles, and many people at
their command.

There went with him a hundred proven knights, whom he rewarded as he had
promised. For he shortly called a parliament, where he crowned Lionel
king of France. Bors he made king of the realm of King Claudas; and
Hector de Maris, King of Benwick and Guienne; while his other knights
were made dukes and earls, till all were nobly provided for.

Thus Lancelot rewarded his faithful friends. And he furnished and
provisioned his towns and castles, and gathered the men of war of the
realm, for he felt well assured that Gawaine would not rest till he had
brought King Arthur against him in martial array.



CHAPTER IV.

THE WAR BETWEEN ARTHUR AND LANCELOT.


What Lancelot had feared came quickly to pass. For so unrelenting was
Gawaine's enmity, and so strong his influence over the king, that
Arthur, at his persistent instigation, got together a great army, to the
number of sixty thousand, and had shipping made ready to carry them over
the sea.

Then he made Sir Mordred chief ruler of all England during his absence,
and put Queen Guenever under his care, little dreaming of what fatal
results would follow this unwise choice.

These preparations made, Arthur passed the sea with his host, and landed
in Lancelot's realm, where, through the revengeful spirit of Gawaine,
they burnt and wasted all that they overran.

When word of this was brought to Lancelot and his knights, Sir Bors thus
broke out in anger,--

"My lord Sir Lancelot, it is a shame to let them thus destroy this fair
realm of France. You may well be assured that, however long you forbear
your foes, they will do you no favor if you fall into their hands."

Then said Sir Lionel, who was wary and wise, "My lord Sir Lancelot, this
is my counsel. Let us keep to our strong-walled towns till the invaders
suffer from hunger and cold, and blow upon their nails for warmth. Then
we may freshly set upon them, and shred them down like sheep in a
field."

"Such a course would disgrace us all," said King Bagdemagus to Lancelot.
"Your over-courtesy has caused all the trouble we now have. If we let
Gawaine work his will, he will bring our power to naught, while we hide
like rabbits in our holes."

"So say I," broke in Sir Galihud. "There are knights here who come of
kings' blood, and that will not long be content to droop behind walls.
Give us leave to meet them in the field, and we shall deal with them in
such fashion that they will curse the time they came into this country."

Then spoke seven brethren of North Wales, men of such prowess that one
might seek through seven lands before he could find seven such
knights,--

"Sir Lancelot," they said together, "let us ride out with Sir Galihud,
for it has never been our wont to cower in towns and castles."

"My fair lords," replied Lancelot to them all, "I am loath to ride out
with my knights and shed Christian blood. And my lands, after all the
wars they have endured, are too bare long to sustain this invading host.
It is the part of wisdom, therefore, for the time to keep to our walls,
and meanwhile I will send a messenger to King Arthur and offer him a
treaty of peace."

Then he sent a damsel to the king, and a dwarf with her, with a message,
bidding Arthur to quit making war upon his lands, and offering him fair
terms of accommodation. The damsel rode to the hostile camp on a palfry,
while the dwarf ran by her side. When she came near to King Arthur's
pavilion she alighted, and there was met by a gentle knight, Sir Lucan
the butler, who said,--

"Fair damsel, come you from Sir Lancelot du Lake?"

"Yes, sir," she replied, "I am come hither with a message from him to my
lord the king."

"Alas, that it should be needed!" said Sir Lucan. "My lord Arthur would
soon be in accord with Lancelot but for Gawaine, who has more influence
over him than all his knights besides, and will not suffer him to think
of peace and friendship. I pray to God, damsel, that you speed well in
your errand, for all that are about the king, except Sir Gawaine, wish
well to Lancelot above all knights living."

With these words he led the damsel to the king's pavilion. There Arthur,
who had been advised of her coming, sat with Gawaine to hear her
message. When she had told her errand the king was so moved that tears
ran from his eyes, and all the lords were ready to advise him to make
peace with Lancelot. But Gawaine, who sat with lowering brow, now broke
out in hot speech,--

"My lord, my uncle, what will you do? Will you turn again after having
come so far? All the world will speak villany of you."

"I do not deem it wise to refuse his fair proffers," said the king.
"Yet since I am come so far on this journey, I leave it to you to give
the damsel her answer."

"Then tell Sir Lancelot," said Gawaine to the damsel, "that he wastes
his labor now to sue to my uncle. If he wished peace he should have
sought it sooner. Now it is too late. Tell him, also, that I, Sir
Gawaine, promise him, by the faith I owe to God and to knighthood, never
to leave him in peace till he have slain me or I him."

This word the damsel brought back to Lancelot, where he stood among his
knights, and sad of heart he was to hear it.

"Why do you grieve?" said the knights. "If war they want, let them have
it to their fill. Let us meet them in the field."

"Never before was I so loath to do battle," said Lancelot. "I would
rather flee from King Arthur than fight him. Be ruled by me, noble sirs.
When I must defend myself, then I will; but haste will make fresh
sorrow."

Then the knights held their peace, and that night took their rest. But
in the morning, when they looked abroad, they saw a hostile host around
the city of Benwick, pressing it so closely that ladders were already
set up against the walls. The defenders of the town flocked in haste to
the walls and threw down the ladders, and hot strife began.

Forth now rode Sir Gawaine on a strong steed, and with a great spear in
his hand, and when he came before the chief gate he called out loudly,--

"Sir Lancelot, where art thou? Or what proud knight is here that dare
break a spear with me?"

Hearing this challenge, Sir Bors hastily made ready, and rode from the
city to the encounter. But Gawaine smote him from his horse, and would
have slain him had he not been rescued. Then Lionel, his brother, rode
out to revenge him; but he, too, was sorely wounded, and so borne into
the town.

And thus, day after day, came Gawaine with his challenge, and not a day
passed but some knight fell before his spear. And for half a year the
siege continued, and there was much slaughter on both sides.

At length came a day when Gawaine again appeared before the gates, armed
at all points, and loudly cried,--

"Where art thou now, thou false traitor, Sir Lancelot? Why hidest thou
within walls and holes like a coward? Come forth, traitor, that I may
revenge on thy body the death of my three brothers?"

Then said Lancelot's knights to their leader,--

"Now, Sir Lancelot, you must fight, or you are shamed forever. It is
time for you to stir, for you have slept over long and we suffered over
much."

"Defend myself I must, since he charges me with treason," said Lancelot.
"His words cut deeply, and I must fight or be held recreant," and with
stern countenance he bade the attendants to saddle his strongest horse
and bring his arms to the gate tower. Then from this tower he called to
the king, who stood below,--

"My lord Arthur," he said, "sad am I, for your sake, that thus you press
upon me. Had I been revengeful I might have met you in open field, and
there made your boldest knights full tame; but I have forborne you half
a year, and given you and Gawaine free way. It is much against my will
to fight with any of your blood, but since he accuses me of treason I am
driven to it like a beast brought to bay."

"If you dare do battle," cried Gawaine, "leave your babbling and come
out. Nothing will give deeper joy to my heart, for I have waited long
for this hour."

At this Lancelot mounted and rode out, and a host of knights followed
him from the city, while from the king's army a throng of knights
pressed to the front. But covenant was made that none should come near
the two warriors till one was dead or had yielded, and the knights drew
back, leaving a broad open space for the combatants.

Gawaine and Lancelot now rode far apart, and wheeled their horses till
they faced each other. Thus they stood in grim silence and energy till
the signal for the onset was given, when, like iron statues come to
life, they plunged their spurs in the flanks of their chargers and
dashed at furious speed across the plain. A minute passed, and they met
in the middle with a shock like thunder, but the knights were so strong
and their spears so great, that the horses could not endure the buffets,
and fell to the earth.

In a moment both knights had leaped clear of their saddles, drawn their
swords, and brought their shields before them. And now began a fierce
and terrible affray, for they stood and hewed at each other with might
and main, till blood burst in many places through the joints of their
armor.

But Gawaine had a gift that a holy man had given him, that every day in
the year, from nine o'clock till noon, his strength should increase till
it became threefold. And he took good care to fight all his battles
during these hours, whereby he gained great honor.

None knew of this gift but King Arthur, and as Lancelot felt the
strength of his antagonist constantly increasing, he wondered greatly,
and began to fear that he would be overcome. It seemed to him that he
had a fiend, and no earthly man, before him, and for three hours he
traced and traversed, and covered himself with his shield, scarcely able
to stand against the brunt of Gawaine's mighty blows. At this all men
marvelled, for never before had they beheld Lancelot so sorely driven to
defence.

But when the hour of noon had passed, the magic might of Gawaine
suddenly left him, and he had now only his own strength. This Lancelot
felt, and he drew himself up and pressed on his foe, saying,--

"You have had your day, Gawaine; now it is my turn. Defend yourself, for
I have many a grievous buffet to repay."

Then he redoubled his strokes, and at length gave Gawaine such a blow on
the helmet that he fell to the earth. Lancelot now withdrew a step.

"Why do you withdraw?" cried Gawaine, bitterly. "Turn, thou traitor, and
slay me; for if I recover you shall fight with me again."

"It is not my way, Sir Gawaine, to strike a fallen knight. When you
want to fight again you shall not find me lacking."

Then he turned and went with his knights into the city, while Gawaine
was borne from the field to one of the king's pavilions, where leeches
were brought to attend him.

"Alas!" said the king, "that ever this unhappy war began, for Sir
Lancelot ever forbeareth me, and my kin also, and that is well seen in
his sparing my nephew Gawaine this day."

Then Arthur fell sick from sorrow for the hurt of his nephew and regret
for the war. The siege was kept up, but with little energy, and both
sides rested from their toils.

Three weeks passed before Gawaine regained his strength; but as soon as
he was able to ride he armed again, mounted his horse, and rode to the
gate of Benwick, where he loudly repeated his challenge to Lancelot as a
traitor and recreant knight.

"You got the best of me by mischance at our last battle," he said, "but
if you dare come into the field this day I will make amends, and lay you
as low as you laid me."

"Defend me from such a fate," said Lancelot, "for if you should get me
into such a strait my days were done. But since you in this unknightly
fashion charge me with treason, I warrant you shall have both hands full
before you gain your end."

Then Lancelot armed and rode out, and the battle began as before, with a
circle of armed knights surrounding. But in this onset Gawaine's spear
broke into a hundred pieces in his hand, while Lancelot struck him with
such might that his horse's feet were raised, and horse and rider
toppled to the earth.

"Alight, traitor knight!" cried Gawaine, drawing his sword. "If a horse
has failed me, think not that a king and queen's son shall fail thee."

Then Lancelot sprang to the ground and the battle went on as before,
Gawaine's strength increasing hour by hour. But Lancelot, feeling this,
warily kept his strength and his wind, keeping under cover of his
shield, and tracing and traversing back and forth, to break the strength
and courage of his foe.

As for Gawaine, he put forth all his might and power to destroy
Lancelot, and for three hours pressed him so fiercely that he could
barely defend himself. But when noon passed, and Lancelot felt Gawaine's
strength again decline, he said,--

"I have proved you twice, Sir Gawaine. By this magic trick of your
strength increasing you have deceived many a valiant knight. You have
done your worst; now you shall see of what metal I am made."

Then he attacked him fiercely, and Gawaine defended himself with all his
power; but at length there fell such a heavy blow on his helmet and on
the old wound, that he sank to the earth in a swoon. When he came to
himself again, he struck feebly at Lancelot as he lay, and cried
spitefully,--

"Thou false traitor, I am not yet slain. Come near me, and do this
battle to the uttermost."

"I shall do no more than I have done," said Lancelot. "When I see you on
your feet again I shall stand ready to fight you to the bitter end. But
to smite a wounded and prostrate man!--God defend me from such a shame."

And he turned and went towards the city, while Gawaine with spiteful
malice called him traitor, and vowed he would never cease to fight with
him till one of them was dead.

A month now passed away, during which Gawaine lay sick of his wound. As
he slowly recovered, the old battle-hunger for Lancelot's blood returned
to his heart, and he impatiently awaited the day when he could again
take the field. But before this day arrived, news came from England that
put a sudden end to the war; tidings of such threatening aspect that
King Arthur was forced to return in all haste to his own realm.



CHAPTER V.

THE STING OF THE VIPER.


Disastrous, indeed, were the news from England. King Arthur had made the
fatal mistake of placing a villain and dastard in charge of his realm,
for Mordred had taken advantage of his absence to turn traitor, and seek
to seize the crown and sceptre of England as his own.

News moved but slowly from over seas in those days, and Mordred, with
treasonable craft, had letters written as though they came from abroad,
which said that King Arthur had been slain in battle with Sir Lancelot.

Having spread this lie far and wide, he called the lords together to
London in parliament, and so managed that they voted him king. Then he
was crowned at Canterbury, and held a feast for fifteen days, after
which he went to Winchester, where Guenever was, and publicly declared
that he would wed his uncle's widow.

When word of this came to Guenever she grew heavy at heart, for she
hated the traitor to her soul's depth. But she was in his power, and was
forced to hide her secret hate. She therefore seemed to consent to his
will, and desired permission to go to London, where she might buy all
things that were necessary for the wedding. She spoke so fairly that he
trusted her, and gave her leave to make the journey.

But no sooner had she reached London than she took possession of the
Tower, and with all haste supplied it with provisions and garrisoned it
with men, and so held it as a fortress, many knights holding with her
against the usurper.

Mordred soon learned that he had been beguiled by the queen, and, moved
to fury, he hastened to London, where he besieged the Tower, assailing
it vigorously with great engines of war. But Guenever held out stoutly
against him, and neither by fair speech nor foul could he induce her to
trust herself into his hands again.

[Illustration: THE TOWER OF LONDON.]

There now came to Mordred the bishop of Canterbury, who said,--

"Sir, what would you do? Would you displease God and shame knighthood
by wedding the wife of your uncle, who has been to you as a father?
Cease this vile purpose, I command you, or I shall curse you with book,
and bell, and candle, and bring upon your head the vengeance of the
church."

"Do your worst, sir priest," said Mordred, angrily. "I defy you."

"I shall do what I ought; be sure of that. You noise about that the lord
Arthur is slain, no word of which I believe. You seek with a lie to make
mischief in this land. Beware, lest your vile work recoil upon
yourself."

"Peace, thou false priest," cried Mordred. "Chafe me no more, or I shall
order that thy head be stricken off."

Finding that words were useless, the bishop departed, and, as he had
threatened, laid the curse of the church on Mordred. Roused to rage by
this, the usurper sought him to slay him, and he fled in all haste to
Glastonbury, where he took refuge as a hermit in a chapel. But well he
knew that war was at hand, and that the rightful king would soon strike
for the throne.

Despite the anathema of the church, Mordred continued his efforts to get
Guenever into his power; but she held firmly to the Tower, repelling all
his assaults, and declaring openly that she would rather kill herself
than marry such a wretch. Soon afterwards he was forced to raise the
siege, for word came to him by secret messengers that Arthur had heard
of his treason, and was coming home with his whole host to revenge
himself on the usurper of his crown.

When Mordred heard this he made strenuous efforts to gather a large
army, and many lords joined him with their people, saying that with
Arthur there had been nothing but war and strife, but that with Mordred
they hoped for peace and a quiet life. Thus was evil said of the good
King Arthur when he was away from the land, and that by many who owed to
him their honors and estates. Mordred was thus quickly able to draw with
a great host to Dover, where he had heard that Arthur would land, for he
hoped to defeat and slay him before he could get firm footing on
England's soil.

Not long had he been there when a great fleet of ships, galleys, and
carracks appeared upon the sea, bearing the king's army back to their
native realm. On the beach stood Mordred's host, drawn up to prevent the
landing of the king's army. As the boats came to the shore, laden with
noble men-of-arms, a fierce struggle ensued, in which many a knight was
slain, while full many a bold baron was laid low on both sides. But so
courageous was the king, and so fierce the onset of his knights, that
the opposing host could not hinder the landing of his army. And when
they had gained a footing on the land, they set on Mordred with such
fury that he and all his host were driven back and forced to fly,
leaving Arthur master of the field.

After the battle, the king ordered that the dead should be buried and
the wounded cared for. Among the latter Sir Gawaine was found lying in a
great boat, where he had been felled with a deadly wound in the bitter
strife. On hearing this direful news, Arthur hastened to him and took
him in his arms, with great show of grief and pain.

"In you and in Lancelot I had my highest joy," moaned the king. "Now I
have lost you both, and all my earthly happiness is gone."

"My death is at hand," said Gawaine, "and I owe it all to my own hate
and bitterness for I am smitten on the old wound that Lancelot gave me,
and feel that I must die. Had he but been with you this unhappy war
would never have begun. Of all this I am the cause, and have but
received my deserts. Therefore I pray you, dear uncle, let me have
paper, pen, and ink, that I may write to Sir Lancelot with my own hand."

These were brought him, and Gawaine wrote a moving and tender letter to
Lancelot, blaming himself severely for his hardness of heart.

In this wise it ran,--

"Unto Sir Lancelot, flower of all noble knights, I, Sir Gawaine, son of
King Lot of Orkney, and sister's son unto the noble King Arthur, send
greeting; and also these sad tidings, that on the tenth day of May I was
smitten on the old wound which you gave me at Benwick, and thus through
this wound have I come to my death. And I would have all the world know
that I, Sir Gawaine, Knight of the Round Table, have met with death not
through your ill-will, but from my own seeking; therefore I beseech you
to come in all haste to this realm, to which you have heretofore done
such honor. I earnestly pray you, Sir Lancelot, for all the love that
ever was betwixt us, make no tarrying, but come over the sea in all
haste, that thou mayest with thy noble knights rescue that royal king
who made thee knight, for he is hard bested with a false traitor, my own
half-brother, Sir Mordred, who has had himself crowned king, and would
have wedded Queen Guenever had she not taken refuge in the Tower of
London. We put him to flight on our landing, on the tenth day of May,
but he still holds against us with a great host. Therefore, I pray you
to come, for I am within two hours of my death; and I beg that you will
visit my tomb, and pray some prayer, more or less, for my soul."

When Sir Gawaine had finished this letter he wept bitter tears of sorrow
and remorse, and Arthur wept beside him till they both swooned, the one
from grief, the other from pain. When they recovered, the king had the
rites of the church administered to the dying knight, who then prayed
him to send in haste for Lancelot, and to cherish him above all other
knights, as his best friend and ally.

Afterwards, at the hour of noon, Gawaine yielded up his spirit. And the
king had him interred in Dover castle, where men to this day may see his
skull, with the wound thereon that Lancelot gave him in battle.

Word was now brought to King Arthur that Mordred had pitched a new camp
on Barham Down. Thither in all haste he led his army, and there a second
great battle was fought, with much loss on both sides. But at the end
Arthur's party stood best, and Mordred fled, with all his host, to
Canterbury.

This second victory changed the feeling of the country, and many people
who had held aloof joined the king's army, saying that Mordred was a
traitor and usurper. When the dead had been buried and the wounded cared
for, Arthur marched with his host to the sea-shore, westward towards
Salisbury. Here a challenge passed between him and Mordred, in which
they agreed to meet on a down beside Salisbury, on the day after Trinity
Sunday, and there fight out their quarrel.

Mordred now made haste to recruit his army, raising many men about
London, for the people of that section of the country held largely with
him, and particularly those who were friendly to Lancelot. When the time
fixed came near, the two armies drew together and camped on Salisbury
Down.

And so the days passed till came the night of Trinity Sunday, when the
king dreamed a strange dream, for it seemed to him that he sat in a
chair that was fastened to a wheel, and was covered with the richest
cloth of gold that could be made. But far beneath him he beheld a
hideous black pool, in which were all manner of serpents, and vile
worms, foul and horrible. Suddenly the wheel seemed to turn, and he fell
among the serpents, which seized upon his limbs.

Awakening in fright, he loudly cried, "Help!" and knights and squires
came crowding in alarm into his chamber; but he was so amazed that he
knew not where he was nor what he said.

Then he fell again into a half slumber, in which Gawaine seemed to come
to him attended by a number of fair ladies.

"Fair nephew," asked the king, "who are these ladies?"

"They are those for whom I did battle during my life," answered Gawaine.
"God has sent them and me to warn you of your coming death, for if you
fight with Mordred to-morrow as you have agreed, you will both be slain,
and most of your people. Therefore I am here to warn you not to fight
to-morrow, but to treat with the traitor, and make him large and fair
promises, so as to gain a month's delay. Within that time Lancelot and
his knights will come, and Mordred the usurper cannot hold against you
both."

This said, Gawaine and the ladies vanished. Then Arthur waked, and sent
messengers in haste to bring his lords and bishops to council. When they
had come he told them his dream, and they counselled him by all means to
be guided by it. Lucan the butler, and his brother Sir Bevidere, with
two bishops, were therefore sent to treat with Mordred, and make him
large promises for a month's truce.

The commissioners sought Mordred's camp and held a long conference with
him. At the end he agreed to meet King Arthur on the plain between the
hosts, each to bring but fourteen persons with him, and there consult on
the treaty.

"I am glad that this is accomplished," said the king, when word of the
compact was brought him.

But when he was ready to start for the place of conference, with the
fourteen chosen men, he said to his knights,--

"Be wary and watchful, for I trust not Mordred. If you see any sword
drawn, come fiercely forward, and slay the villain and his guard."

Mordred gave the same warning to his lords, for he had equal mistrust of
Arthur, whom he feared and doubted.

The two leaders, with their chosen followers, now advanced and met
between the hosts. But by a fatal chance, as the king and his opponent
were in consultation, an adder came from a heath bush and stung a knight
on the foot. Feeling the wound he drew his sword in thoughtless haste to
kill the venomous serpent. But the instant the hosts on both sides saw
that sword flash in the air all was uproar and tumult. On both sides
trumpets and horns were blown, harness rattled and clanked, and the
flash of spear-heads and sword-blades gleamed in the sunlight, while
like two mighty waves of war the great hosts broke from their stations
and rushed together across the plain.

Then Arthur sprang to his horse, exclaiming, "Alas! this unhappy day!"
and rode to his party; and Mordred did likewise.

No hand nor voice could stay the advancing hosts, and in a moment there
began the most doleful battle ever seen in Christian land. For there was
rushing and riding, foining and striking, and deadly clamor, and fearful
strife. Many a grim word was there spoken, and many a deadly stroke
dealt. Many times King Arthur rode through Mordred's host, and knightly
were the deeds of his hands. And Mordred fought with knightly valor and
zeal.

Thus went on the deadly fray all day long, without pause or stint, till
noble knights lay like fallen leaves upon the bloody ground. And when
nightfall was at hand they still fought with desperate valor, though by
that time full a hundred thousand men lay dead upon the down.

Then the heart of Arthur grew full of warlike fury, to see so many of
his people slain. And when the sun was near its setting, he leaned upon
his crimson sword, and looked about him with eyes that seemed to weep
blood. For of all his mighty host of knights but two remained alive, Sir
Lucan the butler, and his brother Sir Bevidere; and both of these were
sorely wounded.

"God's mercy!" cried the king, "where are all my noble knights? Alas!
that I have lived to see this doleful day! Now, indeed, am I come to my
end. But would to God I knew where to find that traitor, Mordred, who
has caused all this mischief."

As he spoke, his eyes fell on Mordred, who stood leaning upon his sword
amid a great heap of slain, for his host had been slaughtered to a man.

"Give me my spear," cried Arthur, wrathfully, to Sir Lucan. "Yonder
stands the traitor who has wrought this dire woe."

"Let him be," said Lucan. "He is unhappy enough. Remember, my good lord,
your last night's dream, and what the spirit of Sir Gawaine told you.
For God's sake make an end of this fray. Blessed be God, we have won the
field; for here are three of us alive, while Mordred stands alone among
his dead. If you leave off now, the wicked day of destiny will pass and
life remain to you. Your time for revenge will come hereafter."

"Betide me life, betide me death," cried the king, "this fray must end
here. Now that I see him yonder alone, he shall never escape my hands.
One or both of us shall die."

"Then God speed the just cause," said Bevidere.

With no word more Arthur took his spear in both hands, and ran furiously
at Mordred, crying,--

"Traitor, now has thy day of death come!"

When Mordred heard him, he raised his dripping sword and ran to meet the
king. Thus they met in mid-field, and King Arthur smote Mordred under
the shield, the spear piercing his body more than a fathom.

Mordred felt that he had his death-wound, but with a last impulse of
fury in his felon soul he thrust himself, with all his strength, up to
the bur of King Arthur's spear. Then wielding his sword with both hands,
he struck the king so dread a blow on the side of the head that the
trenchant blade cut through the helmet and deep into the skull.

With this last and fatal stroke Mordred fell stark dead to the ground.
And Arthur sank in a swoon to the earth, where he lay like one dead.

Thus sadly and direfully ended that dreadful war, with which came to a
close the flower of the days of chivalry, and the glorious and
never-to-be equalled fellowship of the Round Table, with all the mighty
deeds of prowess and marvels of adventure that to it belonged. For of
those noble knights, except Sir Lancelot and his kindred, only two
lived, Sir Lucan the butler, and Sir Bevidere his brother, and of these
two Sir Lucan was wounded unto death; and with them the illustrious King
Arthur, whose chivalrous soul had so long sustained this noble order of
knighthood, lay bleeding piteously upon that direful field of blood.

Sir Lucan and Bevidere, with bitter tears of sorrow, lifted their
helpless king between them, and with great labor led him from that place
of slaughter till they reached a small chapel near the sea-shore. Here,
as the night drew on, the sound of many voices came to them, as if the
dead had risen and were astir on the blood-stained field.

"What noise is this, Sir Lucan?" said the king. "Go, gentle friend, and
tell me what it means."

Lucan went, and by the moonlight saw a throng of pillagers, who robbed
the dead bodies of money and jewels, killing for their riches those
knights who were not quite dead. When he brought this news back to
Arthur, the king's sad heart came near to breaking.

"Alas! Lancelot," he said, "how have I missed you this day. Alas! that I
ever turned against you, for had you been here this fatal end could
never have been, nor those noble warriors left to be the prey of the
wolves and jackals of the battle-field. Sorely have I erred and sadly
have I been repaid for my error. But now, alas, it is too late for
regret or amendment, for the fellowship of the Round Table is at an end,
and Arthur the king shall reign no more."



CHAPTER VI.

THE PASSING OF ARTHUR.


When morning dawned, after that day of fate, Lucan and Bevidere took up
the king between them, and sought to bear him to the sea-shore, as he
bade them do. But in the lifting the king swooned, and Lucan fell
prostrate, the blood gushing anew from his wound.

Arthur lay long like one dead, and when he came to himself again he saw
Lucan lifeless at his feet, with foam upon his lips, and the ground
around him deeply stained with his blood.

"Alas! this is a heavy sight to see," he said. "He sought to help me
when he stood most in need of help. He would not complain though his
heart broke, and has given his life for mine. May Jesus have mercy on
his soul."

Bevidere stood beside him, weeping bitterly for the death of his
brother.

"Weep and mourn no more," said the king. "It will not now avail. Could I
live, the death of Sir Lucan would grieve me evermore. But my time goeth
fast, and there is that to do for which but few moments remain."

Then he closed his eyes for a time, like one who sees visions; and when
he looked again there was that in his face which Bevidere could not
fathom and his eyes were deep with meaning unrevealed.

"Now, my lord Bevidere," said the king, "the end is at hand. Take thou
my good sword Excalibur, and go with it to yonder water-side. When thou
comest there, I charge thee throw it as far as thou canst into the
water; then come again and tell me what thing thou seest."

"Trust me, my lord and king, your command shall be obeyed," said
Bevidere.

So he took the sword and departed to the water-side. But as his eyes
fell upon the noble weapon, whose pommel and haft were all of precious
stones, a feeling of greed came upon him and he said to himself,--

"If I throw this rich sword into the water, no good can come of it, but
only harm and loss. Had I not better keep it for myself?"

Moved by this thought, he hid Excalibur under a tree, and returned to
the king, whom he told that he had thrown the sword into the water.

"What saw you there?" asked the king.

"Sir, I saw nothing but the rippling waves."

"Then you speak untruly," said the king. "You have not thrown the sword
as I bade you. Go again, and obey my command, as you are to me dear and
true. Spare not, but throw it in afar."

Bevidere thereupon went again, and took the sword in his hand. But the
rich jewels so glittered in the sun that his greed came back more
strongly than before, and he deemed it a sin to throw into the sea that
noble blade. So he hid the sword again, and returned to the king with
his former tale.

"What sawest thou there?" asked the king.

"Sir, I saw nothing but the waves that broke on the beach, and heard
only the roar of the surf."

"Ah, traitor! false and untrue art thou!" cried the king. "Thou hast
betrayed me twice. Who would have thought that thou, whom I held dear,
and who art named a noble knight, would betray his king for the jewels
of a sword? Go again, for thy long delay puts me in a great jeopardy of
my life. If now you do not as I have bidden, beware of me hereafter, for
dead or alive I will have revenge upon you. Would you, Sir Bevidere, for
a shining blade, bring death and ruin to your king?"

Then Bevidere, heart-full of shame, hastened away, and took the sword,
turning his eyes manfully away from its jewelled hilt. Binding the
girdle around it, with all the might of his arm he hurled the blade far
out over the waves.

Then came a marvel. For as he followed the sword with his eyes, he saw a
hand and arm rise above the waves to meet the blade. The hand caught it
by the hilt, and brandished it thrice in the air, and then vanished with
it into the water.

Bevidere, much wondering, hurried back to the king, and told him what he
had seen.

"Now, Sir Bevidere, you have done as I bade you," said Arthur. "But much
precious time have you lost. Help me hence, in God's name, for I fear
that I have tarried over-long."

Then Bevidere took the king on his back and bore him to the water-side,
and lo! there he saw another strange thing.

For close by the shore lay a little barge, which he had not seen before,
and in it sat many fair ladies, among whom were three queens, who wore
black hoods, and wept with bitter sorrow when they saw King Arthur.

"Now help me into the barge," said the king.

This Sir Bevidere did as gently as he could. And the three queens
received the dying monarch with deep mourning, and had him laid between
them, with his head on the lap of her who sat in the centre.

"Alas! dear brother, why have you tarried so long from me?" said this
queen. "Much harm I fear from this sad wound."

And so they rowed from the land, while Bevidere stood on the shore sadly
watching the barge go from him.

"Ah, my lord Arthur," he cried, "what shall become of me, now that you
go from me and leave me here alone among my enemies?"

"Comfort thyself," said the king, "and do what thou mayest, for in me
can no man henceforth put his trust. I go into the vale of Avilion, to a
happy summer island far over the sea, where I shall be healed of my
grievous wound. But when I shall come again no voice may tell. Mayhap I
shall never come, but dwell forever in that sunny vale. If you never
hear more of me, pray for my soul."

Then again the queens and the ladies wept and moaned, and the barge
moved swiftly over the long waves and afar to sea, while Bevidere stood
and watched it till it became a black speck on the waters. Then it
vanished and was seen no more, and the lonely watcher cast himself upon
the beach, weeping like one who has lost all life's happiness.

But when night came near he turned and went wearily away, heavy with the
weight of death that lay upon his soul, for he alone remained of
yesterday's mighty hosts. All that night he journeyed through a great
forest, and in the morning he found himself between two hoary cliffs,
with a chapel and a hermitage in the glen that lay between.

In this hermitage he found the holy man who had been archbishop of
Canterbury, and who had come hither to escape Mordred's rage. With him
Bevidere stayed till he was cured of his wounds, and afterwards he put
on poor clothes, and served the hermit full lowly in fasting and
prayers.

But as for the three queens who went with Arthur to the island of
Avilion, the chronicles say that they were Morgan le Fay his sister, the
queen of Northgalis, and the queen of the Waste Lands. And with them was
Nimue, the lady of the lake. All were skilled in magic, but whither they
bore King Arthur, or where lies the magical isle of Avilion, or if he
shall come again, all this no man can say. These are of the secrets that
time alone can tell, and we only know that his coming is not yet.



CHAPTER VII.

THE DEATH OF LANCELOT AND GUENEVER.


When word was brought to Lancelot du Lake that Mordred had usurped the
throne of England, had besieged Guenever in the Tower of London, and had
sought to prevent Arthur from landing at Dover, his soul was moved to
wrath and sorrow. And still more was he moved by the letter of Sir
Gawaine, with its pitiful self-reproach and earnest wistfulness.

"Is it a time for mourning?" said Sir Bors to Lancelot. "My counsel is
that you cross at once to England, visit Gawaine's tomb, as he requests,
and then revenge my lord Arthur and my lady Guenever on this base
traitor, Mordred."

"It is well advised," said Lancelot. "To England we must go in all
haste."

Then ships and galleys were made ready with the greatest despatch, for
Lancelot and his host to pass over to England. And in good time he
landed at Dover, having with him seven kings and a mighty host of men.

But when he asked the people of Dover the news of the country, his heart
was filled with dismay to hear of the great battle on Salisbury Downs,
where a hundred thousand men had died in a day, and of the death of
Arthur the king.

"Alas!" said Lancelot, "this is the heaviest tidings that ever mortal
ears heard. Would that I had been advised in good time. Nothing now
remains to do. I have come too late. Fair sirs, I pray you to show me
the tomb of Sir Gawaine."

Then they brought him into the castle of Dover, and showed him the tomb.
Lancelot fell on his knees before it, and wept, and prayed heartily for
the soul of him that lay within. And that night he made a funeral feast,
to which all who came had flesh, fish, wine, and ale, and every man and
woman was given twelve pence. With his own hand he dealt them money in
a mourning gown; and ever he wept, and prayed for the soul of Sir
Gawaine.

In the morning, all the priests and clerks of the country round
gathered, at his request, and sang a requiem mass before the tomb. And
Lancelot offered a hundred pounds, and each of the seven kings forty
pounds, and a thousand knights offered one pound each, this going on
from morning till night. And Lancelot lay two nights on the tomb in
prayer and weeping.

On the third day he called about him the kings, dukes, earls, barons,
and knights of his train, and said to them,--

"My fair lords, I thank you all for coming into this country with me;
but we have come too late, and that I shall mourn while I live. But
since it is so, I shall myself ride and seek my lady Queen Guenever, for
men say that she has fled from London, and become a nun, and that she
lives in deep penance, and in fasting, prayers, and almsgiving, and is
sick almost unto death. Therefore, I pray you, await me here, and if I
come not again within fifteen days, then take ship and return to your
own country."

"Is it wise for you to ride in this realm?" said Sir Bors. "Few friends
will you find here now."

"Be that as it may," said Lancelot, "I shall go on my journey. Keep you
still here, for no man nor child shall go with me."

No boot was it to strive with him, and he departed and rode westerly, on
a seven or eight days' journey, asking of all people as he went. At last
he came to the nunnery where was Queen Guenever, who saw him as she
walked in the cloister, and swooned away, so that her ladies had work
enough to keep her from falling. When she could speak, she said,--

"Ye marvel why I am so held. Truly, it is for the sight of yonder
knight. Bid him come hither, I pray you."

And when Sir Lancelot had come, she said to him with sweet and sad
visage,--

"Sir Lancelot, through our love has all this happened, and through it my
noble lord has come to his death. As for me, I am in a way to get my
soul's health. Therefore, I pray you heartily, for all the love that
ever was between us, that you see me no more in the visage; but turn to
thy kingdom again, and keep well thy realm from war and wrack. So well
have I loved you that my heart will not serve me to see you, for through
you and me is the flower of kings and knights destroyed. Therefore, Sir
Lancelot, go to thy realm, and take there a wife, and live with her in
joy and bliss; and I beseech you heartily to pray to God for me, that I
may amend my mis-living."

"Nay, madam, I shall never take a wife," said Lancelot. "Never shall I
be false to you; but the same lot you have chosen that shall I choose."

"If you will do so, I pray that you may," said the queen. "Yet I cannot
believe but that you will turn to the world again."

"Madam," he earnestly replied, "in the quest of the Sangreal I would
have forsaken the world but for the service of your lord. If I had done
so then with all my heart, I had passed all the knights on the quest
except Galahad, my son. And had I now found you disposed to earthly
joys, I would have begged you to come into my realm. But since I find
you turned to heavenly hopes, I, too, shall take to penance, and pray
while my life lasts, if I can find any hermit, either gray or white, who
will receive me. Wherefore, madam, I pray you kiss me, and never more
shall my lips touch woman's."

"Nay," said the queen, "that shall I never do. But take you my blessing,
and leave me."

Then they parted. But hard of heart would he have been who had not wept
to see their grief; for there was lamentation as deep as though they had
been wounded with spears. The ladies bore the queen to her chamber, and
Lancelot took his horse and rode all that day and all that night in a
forest, weeping.

At last he became aware of a hermitage and a chapel that stood between
two cliffs, and then he heard a little bell ring to mass, so he rode
thither and alighted, and heard mass.

He that sang mass was the archbishop of Canterbury, and with him was Sir
Bevidere. After the mass they conversed together, and when Bevidere had
told all his lamentable tale, Lancelot's heart almost broke with sorrow.
He flung his arms abroad, crying,--

"Alas! who may trust this world?"

Then he kneeled, and prayed the bishop to shrive and absolve him,
beseeching that he might accept him as his brother in the faith. To this
the bishop gladly consented, and he put a religious habit on Lancelot,
who served God there night and day with prayers and fastings.

Meanwhile the army remained at Dover. But Lionel with fifteen lords rode
to London to seek Lancelot. There he was assailed by Mordred's friends,
and slain with many of his lords. Then Sir Bors bade the kings, with
their followers, to return to France. But he, with others of Lancelot's
kindred, set out to ride over all England in search of their lost
leader.

At length Bors came by chance to the chapel where Lancelot was. As he
rode by he heard the sound of a little bell that rang to mass, and
thereupon alighted and entered the chapel. But when he saw Lancelot and
Bevidere in hermits' clothing his surprise was great, and he prayed for
the privilege to put on the same suit. Afterwards other knights joined
them, so that there were seven in all.

There they remained in penance for six years, and afterwards Sir
Lancelot took the habit of a priest, and for a twelvemonth he sang mass.
But at length came a night when he had a vision that bade him to seek
Almesbury, where he would find Guenever dead. Thrice that night was the
vision repeated, and Lancelot rose before day and told the hermit of
what he had dreamed.

"It is from God," said the hermit. "See that you make ready, and disobey
not the warning."

So, in the early morn, Lancelot and his fellows set out on foot from
Glastonbury to Almesbury, which is little more than thirty miles. But
they were two days on the road, for they were weak and feeble with long
penance. And when they reached the nunnery they found that Guenever had
died but half an hour before.

The ladies told Lancelot that the queen had said,--

"Hither cometh Lancelot as fast as he may to fetch my corpse. But I
beseech Almighty God that I may never behold him again with my mortal
eyes."

This, said the ladies, was her prayer for two days, till she died. When
Lancelot looked upon her dead face he wept not greatly, but sighed. And
he said all the service for the dead himself, and in the morning he sang
mass.

Then was the corpse placed in a horse-bier, and so taken to Glastonbury
with a hundred torches ever burning about it, and Lancelot and his
fellows on foot beside it, singing and reading many a holy orison, and
burning frankincense about the corpse.

When the chapel had been reached, and services said by the hermit
archbishop, the queen's corpse was wrapped in cered cloth of Raines,
thirty-fold, and afterwards was put in a web of lead, and then in a
coffin of marble.

But when the corpse of her whom he had so long loved was put in the
earth, Lancelot swooned with grief, and lay long like one dead, till the
hermit came and aroused him, and said,--

"You are to blame for such unmeasured grief. You displease God thereby."

[Illustration: Copyright by F. Frith and Co. Ltd., London, England.

THE OLD KITCHEN OF GLASTONBURY ABBEY.]

"I trust not," Lancelot replied, "for my sorrow is too deep ever to
cease. When I remember how greatly I am to blame for the death of this
noble King Arthur and Queen Guenever, my heart sinks within me, and I
feel that I shall never know a moment's joy again."

Thereafter he sickened and pined away, for the bishop nor any of his
fellows could make him eat nor drink but very little, but day and night
he prayed, and wasted away, and ever lay grovelling on the tomb of the
queen.

So, within six weeks afterwards, Lancelot fell sick and lay in his bed.
Then he sent for the bishop and all his fellows, and said with sad
voice: "Sir Bishop, I pray you give me all the rites that belong to a
Christian man, for my end is at hand."

"This is but heaviness of your blood," replied the bishop. "You shall be
well amended, I hope, through God's grace, by to-morrow morning."

"In heaven, mayhap, but not on earth," said Lancelot. "So give me the
rites of the church, and after my death, I beg you to take my body to
Joyous Gard, for there I have vowed that I would be buried."

When they had heard this, and saw that he was indeed near his end, there
was such weeping and wringing of hands among his fellows that they could
hardly help the bishop in the holy offices of the church. But that
night, after the midnight hour, as the bishop lay asleep, he fell into
such a hearty laugh of joy that they all came to him in haste, and asked
him what ailed him.

"Why did you wake me?" he cried. "I was never in my life so happy and
merry."

"Wherefore?" asked Sir Bors.

"Truly, here was Sir Lancelot with me, with more angels than I ever saw
men together; and I saw the angels bear him to heaven, and the gates of
heaven opened to him."

"This is but the vexation of a dream," said Sir Bors. "Lancelot may yet
mend."

"Go to his bed," said the hermit, "and you shall find if my dream has
meaning."

This they hastened to do, and there lay Lancelot dead, but with a smile
on his lips, and the sweetest savor about him they ever had known.

Great was the grief that followed, for never earthly man was mourned as
was Lancelot. In the morning, after the bishop had made a requiem mass,
he and his fellows put the corpse of the noble knight into the same
horse-bier that had borne Guenever, and the queen's corpse with it, and
they were taken together to Joyous Gard, with such state and ceremony as
befitted those of royal blood.

And there all the services of the church were sung and read, while the
face of Lancelot lay open for people to see; for such was then the
custom of the land. When the services were over they were buried in one
tomb, for so great had been their love during life that all men said
they should not be divided in death.

During these events, Sir Constantine, the noble son of Sir Cador of
Cornwall, had been chosen king of England in Arthur's place, and a
worthy monarch he proved, ruling the realm worshipfully and long.

After Lancelot's death the new king sent for the bishop of Canterbury,
and restored him to his archbishopric; but Sir Bevidere remained a
hermit at Glastonbury to his life's end.

King Constantine also desired the kindred of Lancelot to remain in his
realm; but this they would not do, but returned to their own country.
Four of them, Sir Bors, Sir Hector, Sir Blamor, and Sir Bleoberis, went
to the Holy Land, where they fought long and stoutly against the
Saracens. And there they died upon a Good Friday, for God's sake.

And so ends the book of the life and death of King Arthur and his noble
Knights of the Round Table, who were an hundred and fifty when they were
all together. Let us pray that God was merciful to them all.

THE END.


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

1. Minor punctuation errors have been corrected as follows;

      Pg. 12 - Added missing punctuation "?" (might champion?)

      Pg. 188 - Added missing punctuation "." (and he did all.)

      Pg. 270 - Added missing endquote ("This I say,")

      Pg. 316 - Removed extra enquote (what will you do?)


2. Spelling corrections based upon correct spelling of the word
   elsewhere in the text:

      Pg. 39 - "grevious" to "grievous" (4) (grievous cry that)

      Pg. 50 - "you" to "your" ("Knight, hold your hand.")

      Pg. 83 - "Dinaden" to "Dinadan" (92) (Gareth and Dinadan also)

      Pg. 94 - "seaside" to "sea-side" (8) (castle by the sea-side,)

      Pg. 127 - "law" to "lay" (as he lay there asleep)

      Pg. 143 - "Badgemagus" to "Bagdemagus" (11) (said Bagdemagus)

      Pg. 159 - "Percival" to "Percivale" (94) (Percivale had returned)

      Pg. 166 - "dressel" to "dressed" (old man dressed in a)

      Pg. 189 - "this" to "his" (to his surprise and joy)

      Pg. 202 - "Nacien" to "Nancien" (3) (once by Nancien)

      Pg. 220 - "seem" to "seen" (and seen what you highly)

      Pg. 238 - "befel" to "befell" (5) (it befell that Nimue)

      Pg. 281 - "Turquin" to "Turquine" (2) (by Sir Turquine?)

      Pg. 289 - "Tristam's" to "Tristram's" (313) (and Tristram's sake)

      Pg. 298 - "wil" to "will" (361) (if you will receive)

      Pg. 299 - "dishoner" to "dishonor" (12) (naught to her dishonor.)


3. Words where both versions appear in this text and have been retained.

      "threescore" (2) and "three-score"

      "King Astlabor" (p. 87) and "King Astlobar" (p. 90)


4. Known English Archaic words used in this text:

      "emprise" (prowess/daring)

      "guerdon" (reward)

      "halidom" (a thing considered holy)

      "leman" (sweetheart)

      "lief" (dear)

      "woful" (3) (now woeful)

      "villanous" (6) and villany (3) (now var. of villian* (10))





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