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Title: Tales of King Arthur and the Round Table Adapted from the Book of Romance
Author: Lang, Andrew
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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             _Longmans’ Class-Books of English Literature_

                          TALES OF KING ARTHUR
                            THE ROUND TABLE

                              ADAPTED FROM
                          THE BOOK OF ROMANCE
                              ANDREW LANG

                   WITH INTRODUCTION, NOTES, ETC., BY
                              J. C. ALLEN
                        TWENTY ILLUSTRATIONS BY
                               H. J. FORD

                             NEW IMPRESSION

                        LONGMANS, GREEN AND CO.
                       39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON
                 FOURTH AVENUE & 30TH STREET, NEW YORK
                      BOMBAY, CALCUTTA, AND MADRAS
                         _All rights reserved_


The tales of King Arthur and his Knights are of Celtic origin. The Celts
were the people who occupied Britain at the time when the history of the
country opens, and a few words are necessary to explain why the
characters in the stories act and speak as though they belonged to a
later age.

It is believed that King Arthur lived in the sixth century, just after
the Romans withdrew from Britain, and when the Britons, left to defend
themselves against the attacks of the marauding Saxons, rose and
defeated them at Mount Badon, securing to themselves peace for many
years. It was probably about this time that King Arthur and his company
of Knights performed the deeds which were to become the themes of
stories and lays for generations afterwards.

In olden times, it was the custom of minstrels and story-tellers to
travel through the land from court to court, telling of tales of
chivalry and heroism, and for many centuries the tales of King Arthur
formed the stock from which the story-teller drew.

In this way the stories came to be handed down from father to son, in
Brittany (whose people are of the same family as the Welsh) as well as
in Wales and England, and by this means alone were they prevented from
being lost. But in the reigns of Henry II. and Richard I., they were set
down on paper, and so became literature. Before this, however, a British
writer had written out some of the tales, and from him as well as from
the lips of the bards and story-tellers of their own generation, the
writers in the time of Henry II. were able to collect their information.

Now, it will be remembered that the second and third crusades were being
carried on during the reigns of Henry II. and Richard I., and many
English and French Knights were therefore fighting in the fields of

The story-teller, whose living depended on the welcome his stories met
with, instead of telling them according to tradition, altered them to
suit the tastes of his hearers. Thus, the old heroes of tradition were
placed upon prancing horses, clothed in coats of mail, and armed with
lances as if they had been vassals of King Henry or King Richard. And in
this way the story-teller called up before the minds of the listeners
pictures of deeds of chivalry, such as husbands and brothers were
performing for the Christian faith in far-off Palestine. The writers of
the time, both English and French, set them down as they heard and knew
them, and so in their altered and historically inaccurate form they have
reached us at the present day.

One of the most famous of the books compiled by old English writers was
the “Historia Britonum,” which was written (in Latin) by Geoffrey,
Bishop of Asaph. It contained an account of a war which King Arthur
waged in Western Europe, but made no mention of the Holy Grail.

From this and other books of romances compiled in England, and very
largely, too, from books of French romances, Sir Thomas Malory obtained
the material for his “Morte d’Arthur,” which was written in 1470. This
is the most famous of the early books of Arthurian legend, and it is
from the “Morte d’Arthur” that most of the stories in this book are
taken. Some, however, are taken from the “High History of the Holy
Graal,” translated from the French by Dr. Sebastian Evans. The language
throughout has been modified with a view to making the legends more easy
of study.


                                PART I.
  Introduction                                                     v, vi
  The Drawing of the Sword                                             1
  The Sword Excalibur                                                  6
  How the Round Table began                                            7
  The Story of Sir Balin                                              11
  What Beaumains asked of the King                                    18
  How Morgan Le Fay tried to kill King Arthur                         42
  The Passing of Merlin                                               45

                                 PART II.
  The Quest of the Holy Graal (Parts I. to XI.)                       48

                                PART III.
  The Fight for the Queen                                             78
  The Fair Maid of Astolat                                            88

                                 PART IV.
  Lancelot and Guenevere                                             107
  The End of it All                                                  136


                           FULL-PAGE PLATES.
  How Arthur drew the Sword                                            4
  The Death of Balin and Balan                                        17
  Gareth and Linet                                                    24
  Linet and the Black Knight                                          27
  The Lady of Lyonesse sees Sir Gareth                                34
  Morgan Le Fay casts away the Scabbard                               44
  Merlin and Vivien                                                   47
  Sir Galahad opens the Tomb                                          56
  Sir Percivale slays the Serpent                                     63
  Arthur and Guenevere kiss before all the People                     86
  Elaine ties her Sleeve round Sir Lancelot’s Helmet                  92
  The Black Barget                                                   104
  The Archers threaten Lancelot                                      113
  Sir Mordred                                                        141
  Excalibur returns to the Mere                                      144

                                 IN TEXT.
  The Damsel warns Sir Balin                                          14
  How Sir Bors was saved from killing his Brother                     68
  Sir Mador accuses Guenevere                                         81
  Guenevere sends her Page to Lancelot for help                      111
  Lancelot comes out of Guenevere’s Room                             123

                          TALES OF KING ARTHUR
                            THE ROUND TABLE

                                PART I.

                       THE DRAWING OF THE SWORD.

Long, long ago, after Uther Pendragon died, no king reigned in Britain,
and every Knight hoped to seize the crown for himself. The country was
like to fare ill when laws were broken on every side, and the corn which
was to give bread to the poor was trodden underfoot, and there was none
to bring the evildoer to justice. Then, when things were at their worst,
came forth Merlin the magician, and fast he rode to the place where the
Archbishop of Canterbury had his dwelling. They took counsel together,
and agreed that all the lords and gentlemen of Britain should ride to
London and meet on Christmas Day, now at hand, in the Great Church. So
this was done. And on Christmas morning, as they left the church, they
saw in the churchyard a large stone, and on it a bar of steel, and in
the steel a naked sword was held, and about it was written in letters of
gold, “Whoso pulleth out this sword is by right of birth King of
England.” They marvelled at these words, and called for the Archbishop,
and brought him into the place where the stone stood. Then those Knights
who fain would be King took firm hold of the hilt, and they tugged at
the sword with all their might; but it never stirred. The Archbishop
watched them in silence, but when they were faint from pulling he spoke:
“The man is not here who shall lift out that sword, nor do I know where
to find him. But this is my counsel—that two Knights be chosen, good and
true men, to keep guard over the sword.”

Thus it was done. But the lords and gentlemen-at-arms cried out that
every man had a right to try to win the sword, and they decided that on
New Year’s Day a tournament should be held, and any Knight who would,
might enter the lists.

So on New Year’s Day, the Knights, according to custom, went to hear
service in the Great Church, and after it was over they met in the field
to make ready for the tourney. Among them was a brave Knight called Sir
Ector, who brought with him Sir Kay, his son, and Arthur, Kay’s
foster-brother. Now Kay had unbuckled his sword the evening before, and
in his haste to be at the tourney had forgotten to put it on again, and
he begged Arthur to ride back and fetch it for him. But when Arthur
reached the house the door was locked, for the women had gone out to see
the tourney, and, though Arthur tried his best to get in, he could not.
Then he rode away in great anger, and said to himself, “Kay shall not be
without a sword this day. I will take that sword in the churchyard, and
give it to him;” and he galloped fast till he reached the gate of the
churchyard. He jumped down, tied his horse tightly to a tree, and,
running up to the sword, seized the handle, and lightly and fiercely
drew it out; then he mounted his horse again, and delivered the sword to
Sir Kay. The moment Sir Kay saw the sword he knew it was not his own,
but the sword of the stone, and he sought out his father Sir Ector, and
said to him, “Sir, this is the sword of the stone, therefore I am the
rightful King.” Sir Ector made no answer, but signed to Kay and Arthur
to follow him, and they all three went back to the church. Leaving their
horses outside, they entered the choir, and here Sir Ector took a holy
book and bade Sir Kay swear how he came by that sword. “My brother
Arthur gave it to me,” replied Sir Kay. “How did you come by it?” asked
Sir Ector, turning to Arthur. “Sir,” said Arthur, “when I rode home for
my brother’s sword, I found no one to deliver it to me, and as I
resolved he should not be swordless, I thought of the sword in this
stone, and I pulled it out.” “Were any Knights present when you did
this?” asked Sir Ector. “No, none,” said Arthur. “Then you are the
rightful King of this land,” said Sir Ector. “But why am I the King?”
inquired Arthur. “Because,” answered Sir Ector, “this is an enchanted
sword, and no man could draw it but he who was born a King. Therefore
put the sword back into the stone, and let me see you take it out.”
“That is soon done,” said Arthur, replacing the sword, and Sir Ector
himself tried to draw it, but he could not. “Now it is your turn,” he
said to Sir Kay, but Sir Kay fared no better than his father, though he
tugged with all his might and main. “Now you, Arthur,” and Arthur pulled
it out as easily as if it had been lying in its sheath, and as he did so
Sir Ector and Sir Kay sank on their knees before him. “Why do you, my
father and brother, kneel to me?” asked Arthur in surprise. “Nay, nay,
my lord,” answered Sir Ector, “I am not your father, though till to-day
I could not tell you who your father really was. You are the son of
Uther Pendragon, and you were brought to me when you were born by Merlin
himself, who promised that when the time came you should know from whom
you sprang.” When Arthur heard that Sir Ector was not his father, he
wept bitterly. “If I am King,” he said at last, “ask what you will, and
I shall not fail you. For to you, and to my lady and mother, I owe more
than to any one in the world, for she loved me and treated me as her
son.” “Sir,” replied Sir Ector, “I only ask that you will make your
foster-brother, Sir Kay, Seneschal of all your lands.” “That I will
readily,” answered Arthur, “and while he and I live no other shall fill
that office.”

               [Illustration: HOW ARTHVR DREW THE SWORD]

Sir Ector then bade them seek out the Archbishop with him, and they told
him all that had happened concerning the sword, which Arthur had left
standing in the stone. And on Twelfth Day the Knights and Barons came
again, but none could draw it out but Arthur. When they saw this, many
of the Barons became angry and cried out that they would never own a boy
for King whose blood was no better than their own. So it was agreed to
wait till Candlemas, when more Knights might be there, and meanwhile the
same two men who had been chosen before watched the sword night and day;
but at Candlemas it was the same thing, and at Easter. And when
Pentecost came, the common people who were present, and saw Arthur pull
out the sword, cried with one voice that he was their King, and they
would kill any man who said differently.

Then rich and poor fell on their knees before him, and Arthur took the
sword and offered it upon the altar where the Archbishop stood, and the
best man who was there made him Knight. After that the crown was put on
his head, and he swore to his lords and commons that he would be a true
King, and would do them justice all the days of his life.

                          THE SWORD EXCALIBUR.

King Arthur, accompanied by Merlin the magician, had left the comfort of
the court to seek adventures. He had fought a hard battle with the
tallest Knight in all the land, and though he struck hard and well, he
would have been slain had not Merlin enchanted the Knight and cast him
into a deep sleep, and brought the King to a hermit who had studied the
art of healing, and cured all his wounds in three days. Then Arthur and
Merlin waited no longer, but gave the hermit thanks and departed.

As they rode together Arthur said, “I have no sword,” but Merlin bade
him be patient and he would soon give him one. In a little while they
came to a large lake, and in the midst of the lake Arthur beheld an arm
rising out of the water, holding up a sword. “Look!” said Merlin, “that
is the sword I spoke of.” And the King looked again, and a maiden stood
upon the water. “That is the Lady of the Lake,” said Merlin, “and she is
coming to you, and if you ask her courteously she will give you the
sword.” So when the maiden drew near, Arthur saluted her and said,
“Maiden, I pray you tell me whose sword is that which an arm is holding
out of the water? I wish it were mine, for I have lost my sword.”

“That sword is mine, King Arthur,” answered she, “and I will give it to
you, if you in return will give me a gift when I ask you.”

“By my faith,” said the King, “I will give you whatever gift you ask.”
“Well,” said the maiden, “get into the barge yonder, and row yourself to
the sword, and take it and the scabbard with you.” For this was the
sword Excalibur. “As for _my_ gift, I will ask it in my own time.” Then
King Arthur and Merlin dismounted from their horses and tied them up
safely, and went into the barge, and when they came to the place where
the arm was holding the sword Arthur took it by the handle, and the arm
disappeared. And they brought the sword back to land. As they rode the
King looked lovingly on his sword, which Merlin saw, and, smiling, said,
“Which do you like best, the sword or the scabbard?” “I like the sword,”
answered Arthur. “You are not wise to say that,” replied Merlin, “for
the scabbard is worth ten of the sword, and as long as it is buckled on
you you will lose no blood, however sorely you may be wounded.” So they
rode into the town of Carlion, and Arthur’s Knights gave them a glad
welcome, and said it was a joy to serve under a King who risked his life
as much as any common man.

                       HOW THE ROUND TABLE BEGAN.

After King Arthur had fought and conquered many enemies, he said one day
to Merlin, whose counsel he took all the days of his life, “My Barons
will let me have no rest, but bid me take a wife, and I have answered
them that I shall take none, except you advise me.”

“It is well,” replied Merlin, “that you should take a wife, but is there
any woman that you love better than another?” “Yes,” said Arthur, “I
love Guenevere, daughter of Leodegrance, King of Cameliard, in whose
house is the Round Table that my father gave him. This maiden is the
fairest that I have ever seen, or ever shall see.” “Sir,” answered
Merlin, “what you say as to her beauty is true, but, if your heart was
not set on her, I could find you another as fair, and of more goodness,
than she. But if a man’s heart is once set it is idle to try to turn
him.” Then Merlin asked the King to give him a company of knights and
esquires, that he might go to the Court of King Leodegrance and tell him
that King Arthur desired to wed his daughter, which Arthur did gladly.
Therefore Merlin rode forth and made all the haste he could till he came
to the Castle of Cameliard, and told King Leodegrance who had sent him
and why.

“That is the best news I have ever had,” replied Leodegrance, “for
little did I think that so great and noble a King should seek to marry
my daughter. As for lands to endow her with, I would give whatever he
chose; but he has lands enough of his own, so I will give him instead
something that will please him much more, the Round Table which Uther
Pendragon gave me, where a hundred and fifty Knights can sit at one
time. I myself can call to my side a hundred good Knights, but I lack
fifty, for the wars have slain many, and some are absent.” And without
more words King Leodegrance gave his consent that his daughter should
wed King Arthur. And Merlin returned with his Knights and esquires,
journeying partly by water and partly by land, till they drew near to

When King Arthur heard of the coming of Merlin and of the Knights with
the Round Table he was filled with joy, and said to those that stood
about him, “This news that Merlin has brought me is welcome indeed, for
I have long loved this fair lady, and the Round Table is dearer to me
than great riches.” Then he ordered that Sir Lancelot should ride to
fetch the Queen, and that preparations for the marriage and her
coronation should be made, which was done. “Now, Merlin,” said the King,
“go and look about my kingdom and bring fifty of the bravest and most
famous Knights that can be found throughout the land.” But no more than
eight and twenty Knights could Merlin find. With these Arthur had to be
content, and the Bishop of Canterbury was fetched, and he blessed the
seats that were placed by the Round Table, and the Knights sat in them.
“Fair Sirs,” said Merlin, when the Bishop had ended his blessing, “arise
all of you, and pay your homage to the King.” So the Knights arose to do
his bidding, and in every seat was the name of the Knight who had sat on
it, written in letters of gold, but two seats were empty. After that
young Gawaine came to the King, and prayed him to make him a Knight on
the day that he should wed Guenevere. “That I will gladly,” replied the
King, “for you are my sister’s son.”

As the King was speaking, a poor man entered the Court, bringing with
him a youth about eighteen years old, riding on a lean mare, though it
was not the custom for gentlemen to ride on mares. “Where is King
Arthur?” asked the man. “Yonder,” answered the Knights. “Have you
business with him?” “Yes,” said the man, and he went and bowed low
before the King: “I have heard, O King Arthur, flower of Knights and
Kings, that at the time of your marriage you would give any man the gift
he should ask for.”

“That is truth,” answered the King, “as long as I do no wrong to other
men or to my kingdom.”

“I thank you for your gracious words,” said the poor man; “the boon I
would ask is that you would make my son a Knight.” “It is a great boon
to ask,” answered the King. “What is your name?”

“Sir, my name is Aries the cowherd.”

“Is it you or your son that has thought of this honour?”

“It is my son who desires it, and not I,” replied the man. “I have
thirteen sons who tend cattle, and work in the fields if I bid them; but
this boy will do nothing but shoot and cast darts, or go to watch
battles and look on Knights, and all day long he beseeches me to bring
him to you, that he may be knighted also.”

“What is your name?” said Arthur, turning to the young man.

“Sir, my name is Tor.”

“Where is your sword that I may knight you?” said the King.

“It is here, my lord.”

“Take it out of its sheath,” said the King, “and require me to make you
a Knight.” Then Tor jumped off his mare and pulled out his sword, and
knelt before the King, praying that he might be made a Knight and a
Knight of the Round Table.

“As for a Knight, that I will make you,” said Arthur, smiting him in the
neck with the sword, “and if you are worthy of it you shall be a Knight
of the Round Table.” Then was the high feast made ready, and the King
was wedded to fair Guenevere at Camelot in the Church of St. Stephen
with all due observance. And the next day Gawaine was made a Knight

Sir Tor proved before long by his gallant deeds that he was well worthy
to sit in one of the empty seats at the Round Table.

                        THE STORY OF SIR BALIN.

In those days many Kings reigned in the Islands of the Sea, and they
constantly waged war upon each other, and on their liege lord, and news
came to Arthur that Ryons, King of North Wales, had collected a large
host and had ravaged his lands and slain some of his people. When he
heard this, Arthur rose in anger, and commanded that all lords, Knights,
and gentlemen of arms should meet him at Camelot, where he would call a
council, and hold a tourney.

From every part the Knights flocked to Camelot, and the town was full to
overflowing of armed men and their horses. And when they were all
assembled, there rode in a damsel, who said she had come with a message
from the great Lady Lile of Avelion, and begged that they would bring
her before King Arthur. When she was led into his presence she let her
mantle of fur slip off her shoulders, and they saw that by her side a
richly wrought sword was buckled. The King was silent with wonder at the
strange sight, but at last he said, “Damsel, why do you wear this sword?
for swords are not the ornaments of women.” “Oh, my lord,” answered she,
“I would I could find some Knight to rid me of this sword, which weighs
me down and causes me much sorrow. But the man who will deliver me of it
must be one who is mighty of his hands, and pure in his deeds, without
villainy, or treason. If I find a Knight such as this, he will draw this
sword out of its sheath, and he only. For I have been at the Court of
King Ryons, and he and his Knights tried with all their strength to draw
the sword and they could not.”

“Let me see if I can draw it,” said Arthur, “not because I think myself
the best Knight, for well I know how far I am outdone by others, but to
set them an example that they may follow me.” With that the King took
the sword by the sheath and by the girdle, and pulled at it with all his
force, but the sword stuck fast. “Sir,” said the damsel, “you need not
pull half so hard, for he that shall pull it out shall do it with little
strength.” “It is not for me,” answered Arthur, “and now, my Barons, let
each man try his fortune.” So most of the Knights of the Round Table
there present pulled, one after another, at the sword, but none could
stir it from its sheath. “Alas! alas!” cried the damsel in great grief,
“I thought to find in this Court Knights that were blameless and true of
heart, and now I know not where to look for them.” “By my faith,” said
Arthur, “there are no better Knights in the world than these of mine,
but I am sore displeased that they cannot help me in this matter.”

Now at that time there was a poor Knight at Arthur’s Court who had been
kept prisoner for a year and a half because he had slain the King’s
cousin. He was of high birth and his name was Balin, and after he had
suffered eighteen months the punishment of his misdeed the Barons prayed
the King to set him free, which Arthur did willingly. When Balin,
standing apart beheld the Knights one by one try the sword, and fail to
draw it, his heart beat fast, yet he shrank from taking his turn, for he
was meanly dressed, and could not compare with the other Barons. But
after the damsel had bid farewell to Arthur and his Court, and was
setting out on her journey homewards, he called to her and said,
“Damsel, I pray you to suffer me to try your sword, as well as these
lords, for though I am so poorly clothed, my heart is as high as
theirs.” The damsel stopped and looked at him, and answered, “Sir, it is
not needful to put you to such trouble, for where so many have failed it
is hardly likely that you will succeed.” “Ah! fair damsel,” said Balin,
“it is not fine clothes that make good deeds.” “You speak truly,”
replied the damsel, “therefore do what you can.” Then Balin took the
sword by the girdle and sheath, and pulled it out easily, and when he
looked at the sword he was greatly pleased with it. The King and the
Knights were dumb with surprise that it was Balin who had triumphed over
them, and many of them envied him and felt anger towards him. “In
truth,” said the damsel, “this is the best Knight that I ever found,
but, Sir, I pray you give me the sword again.”

“No,” answered Balin, “I will keep it till it is taken from me by
force.” “It is for your sake, not mine, that I ask for it,” said the
damsel, “for with that sword you shall slay the man you love best, and
it will bring about your own ruin.” “I will take what befalls me,”
replied Balin, “but the sword I will not give up, by the faith of my
body.” So the damsel departed in great sorrow. The next day Sir Balin
left the Court, and, armed with his sword, set forth in search of
adventures, which he found in many places where he had not thought to
meet with them. In all the fights that he fought, Sir Balin was the
victor, and Arthur, and Merlin his friend, knew that there was no Knight
living of greater deeds, or more worthy of worship. And he was known to
all as Sir Balin le Savage, the Knight of the two swords.

One day he was riding forth when at the turning of a road he saw a
cross, and on it was written in letters of gold, “Let no Knight ride
towards this castle.” Sir Balin was still reading the writing when there
came towards him an old man with white hair, who said, “Sir Balin le
Savage, this is not the way for you, so turn again and choose some other
path.” And so he vanished, and a horn blew loudly, as a horn is blown at
the death of a beast. “That blast,” said Balin, “is for me, but I am
still alive,” and he rode to the castle, where a great company of
knights and ladies met him and welcomed him, and made him a feast. Then
the lady of the castle said to him, “Knight with the two swords, you
must now fight a Knight that guards an island, for it is our law that no
man may leave us without he first fight a tourney.”

              [Illustration: The Damsel Warns Sir Balin.]

“That is a bad custom,” said Balin, “but if I must I am ready; for
though my horse is weary my heart is strong.”

“Sir,” said a Knight to him, “your shield does not look whole to me; I
will lend you another;” so Balin listened to him and took the shield
that was offered, and left his own with his own coat of arms behind him.
He rode down to the shore, and led his horse into a boat which took them
across. When he reached the other side, a damsel came to him crying, “O
knight Balin, why have you left your own shield behind you? Alas! you
have put yourself in great danger, for by your shield you should have
been known. I grieve over your doom, for there is no man living that can
rival you for courage and bold deeds.”

“I repent,” answered Balin, “ever having come into this country, but for
very shame I must go on. Whatever befalls me, either for life or death,
I am ready to take it.” Then he examined his armour, and saw that it was
whole, and mounted his horse.

As he went along the path he beheld a Knight come out of a castle in
front, clothed in red, riding a horse with red trappings. When this red
Knight looked on the two swords, he thought for a moment it was Balin,
but the shield did not bear Balin’s device. So they rode at each other
with their spears, and smote each other’s shields so hard that both
horses and men fell to the ground with the shock, and the Knights lay
unconscious on the ground for some minutes. But soon they rose up again
and began the fight afresh, and they fought till the place was red with
their blood, and they had each seven great wounds. “What Knight are
you?” asked Balin le Savage, pausing for breath, “for never before have
I found any Knight to match me.” “My name,” said he, “is Balan, brother
to the good Knight Balin.”

“Alas!” cried Balin, “that I should ever live to see this day,” and he
fell back fainting to the ground. At this sight Balan crept on his feet
and hands, and pulled off Balin’s helmet, so that he might see his face.
The fresh air revived Balin, and he awoke and said: “O Balan, my
brother, you have slain me, and I you, and the whole world will speak
ill of us both.”

“Alas,” sighed Balan, “if I had only known you! I saw your two swords,
but from your shield I thought you had been another knight.”

“Woe is me!” said Balin, “all this was wrought by an unhappy knight in
the castle, who caused me to change my shield for his. If I lived, I
would destroy that castle that he should not deceive other men.”

“You would have done well,” answered Balan, “for they have kept me
prisoner ever since I slew a Knight that guarded this island, and they
would have kept you captive too.” Then came the lady of the castle and
her companions, and listened as they made their moan. And Balan prayed
that she would grant them the grace to lie together, there where they
died, and their wish was given them, and she and those that were with
her wept for pity.

So they died; and the lady made a tomb for them, and put Balan’s name
alone on it, for Balin’s name she knew not. But Merlin knew, and next
morning he came and wrote it in letters of gold, and he ungirded Balin’s
sword, and unscrewed the pommel, and put another pommel on it, and bade
a Knight that stood by handle it, but the Knight could not. At that
Merlin laughed.

              [Illustration: The Death of Balin and Balan]

“Why do you laugh?” asked the Knight. “Because,” said Merlin, “no man
shall handle this sword but the best Knight in the world, and that is
either Sir Lancelot or his son Sir Galahad. With this sword Sir Lancelot
shall slay the man he loves best, and his name is Sir Gawaine.” And this
was later done, in a fight across the seas.

All this Merlin wrote on the pommel of the sword. Next he made a bridge
of steel to the island, six inches broad, and no man could pass over it
that was guilty of any evil deeds. The scabbard of the sword he left on
this side of the island, so that Galahad should find it. The sword
itself he put in a magic stone, which floated down the stream to
Camelot, that is now called Winchester. And the same day Galahad came to
the river, having in his hand the scabbard, and he saw the sword and
pulled it out of the stone, as is told in another place.


As Pentecost drew near King Arthur commanded that all the Knights of the
Round Table should keep the feast at a city called Kin-Kenadon, hard by
the sands of Wales, where there was a great castle. Now it was the
King’s custom that he would eat no food on the day of Pentecost, which
we call Whit Sunday, until he had heard or seen some great marvel. So on
that morning Sir Gawaine was looking from the window a little before
noon when he espied three men on horseback, and with them a dwarf on
foot, who held their horses when they alighted. Then Sir Gawaine went to
the King and said, “Sir, go to your food, for strange adventures are at
hand.” And Arthur called the other Kings that were in the castle, and
all the Knights of the Round Table that were a hundred and fifty, and
they sat down to dine. When they were seated there entered the hall two
men well and richly dressed, and upon their shoulders leaned the
handsomest young man that ever was seen of any of them, higher than the
other two by a cubit. He was wide in the chest and large handed, but his
great height seemed to be a burden and a shame to him, therefore it was
he leaned on the shoulders of his friends. As soon as Arthur beheld him
he made a sign, and without more words all three went up to the high
daïs, where the King sat. Then the tall young man stood up straight, and
said: “King Arthur, God bless you and all your fair fellowship, and in
especial the fellowship of the Table Round. I have come hither to pray
you to give me three gifts, which you can grant me honourably, for they
will do no hurt to you or to any one.” “Ask,” answered Arthur, “and you
shall have your asking.”

“Sir, this is my petition for this feast, for the other two I will ask
after. Give me meat and drink for this one twelvemonth.” “Well,” said
the king, “you shall have meat and drink enough, for that I give to
every man, whether friend or foe. But tell me your name!”

“I cannot tell you that,” answered he. “That is strange,” replied the
King, “but you are the goodliest young man I ever saw,” and, turning to
Sir Kay, the steward, charged him to give the young man to eat and drink
of the best, and to treat him in all ways as if he were a lord’s son.
“There is little need to do that,” answered Sir Kay, “for if he had come
of gentlemen and not of peasants he would have asked of you a horse and
armour. But as the birth of a man is so are his requests. And seeing he
has no name I will give him one, and it shall be Beaumains, or
Fair-hands, and he shall sit in the kitchen and eat broth, and at the
end of a year he shall be as fat as any pig that feeds on acorns.” So
the young man was left in charge of Sir Kay, that scorned and mocked

Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawaine were wroth when they heard what Sir Kay
said, and bade him leave off his mocking, for they believed the youth
would turn out to be a man of great deeds; but Sir Kay paid no heed to
them, and took him down to the great hall, and set him among the boys
and lads, where he ate sadly. After he had finished eating both Sir
Lancelot and Sir Gawaine bade him come to their room, and would have had
him eat and drink there, but he refused, saying he was bound to obey Sir
Kay, into whose charge the King had given him. So he was put into the
kitchen by Sir Kay, and slept nightly with the kitchen boys. This he
bore for a whole year, and was always mild and gentle, and gave hard
words to no one. Only, whenever the Knights played at tourney he would
steal out and watch them. And Sir Lancelot gave him gold to spend, and
clothes to wear, and so did Gawaine. Also, if there were any games held
whereat he might be, none could throw a bar nor cast a stone as far as
he by two good yards.

Thus the year passed by till the feast of Whitsuntide came again, and
this time the king held it at Carlion. But King Arthur would eat no meat
at Whitsuntide till some adventures were told him, and glad was he when
a squire came and said to him, “Sir you may go to your food, for here is
a damsel with some strange tales.” At this the damsel was led into the
hall, and bowed low before the King, and begged he would give her help.
“For whom?” asked the King, “and what is the adventure?” “Sir,” answered
she, “my sister is a noble lady of great fame, who is besieged by a
tyrant, and may not get out of her castle. And it is because your
Knights are said to be the noblest in all the world that I came to you
for aid.” “What is your sister’s name, and where does she dwell? And who
is the man that besieges her, and where does he come from?” “Sir King,”
answered she, “as for my sister’s name, I cannot tell it you now, but
she is a lady of great beauty and goodness, and of many lands. As for
the tyrant who besieges her, he is called the Red Knight of the Red
Lawns.” “I know nothing of him,” said the King. “But I know him,” cried
Sir Gawaine, “and he is one of the most dangerous Knights in the world.
Men say he has the strength of seven, and once when we had crossed
swords I hardly escaped from him with my life.” “Fair damsel,” then said
the King, “there are many Knights here who would go gladly to the rescue
of your lady, but none of them shall do so with my consent unless you
will tell us her name, and the place of her castle.” “Then I must speak
further,” said the damsel. But before she had made answer to the King up
came Beaumains, and spoke to Arthur, saying, “Sir King, I thank you that
for this whole year I have lived in your kitchen, and had meat and
drink, and now I will ask you for the two gifts that you promised me on
this day.” “Ask them,” answered the King. “Sir, these shall be my two
gifts. First grant me the adventure of this damsel, for it is mine by
right.” “You shall have it,” said the King. “Then, Sir, you shall bid
Sir Lancelot du Lake to make me Knight, for I will receive Knighthood at
the hands of no other.” “All this shall be done,” said the King. “Fie on
you,” cried the damsel, “will you give me none but a kitchen boy to
rescue my lady?” and she went away in a rage, and mounted her horse.

No sooner had she left the hall than a page came to Beaumains and told
him that a horse and fair armour had been brought for him, also there
had arrived a dwarf carrying all things that a Knight needed. And when
he was armed there were few men that were handsomer than he, and the
Court wondered greatly whence these splendid trappings had come. Then
Beaumains came into the hall, and took farewell of the King, and Sir
Gawaine and Sir Lancelot, and prayed Sir Lancelot that he would follow
after him. So he departed, and rode after the damsel. Many looked upon
him and marvelled at the strength of his horse, and its golden
trappings, and envied Beaumains his shining coat of mail; but they noted
that he had neither shield nor spear. “I will ride after him,” laughed
Sir Kay, “and see if my kitchen boy will own me for his better.” “Leave
him and stay at home,” said Sir Gawaine and Sir Lancelot, but Sir Kay
would not listen and sprang upon his horse. Just as Beaumains came up
with the damsel, Sir Kay reached Beaumains, and said, “Beaumains, do you
not know me?”

Beaumains turned and looked at him, and answered, “Yes, I know you for
an ill-mannered Knight, therefore beware of me.” At this Sir Kay put his
spear in rest and charged him, and Beaumains drew his sword and charged
Sir Kay, and dashed aside the spear, and thrust him through the side,
till Sir Kay fell down as if he had been dead, and Beaumains took his
shield and spear for himself. Then he sprang on his own horse, bidding
first his dwarf take Sir Kay’s horse, and rode away. All this was seen
by Sir Lancelot, who had followed him, and also by the damsel. In a
little while Beaumains stopped, and asked Sir Lancelot if he would tilt
with him, and they came together with such a shock that both the horses
and their riders fell to the earth and were bruised sorely. Sir Lancelot
was the first to rise, and he helped Beaumains from his horse, and
Beaumains threw his shield from him, and offered to fight on foot. And
they rushed together like wild boars, turning and thrusting and parrying
for the space of an hour, and Sir Lancelot marvelled at the young man’s
strength, and thought he was more like a giant than a Knight, and
dreading lest he himself should be put to shame, he said: “Beaumains, do
not fight so hard, we have no quarrel that forbids us to leave off.”
“That is true,” answered Beaumains, laying down his arms, “but it does
me good, my lord, to feel your might.” “Well,” said Sir Lancelot, “I
promise you I had much ado to save myself from you unshamed, therefore
have no fear of any other Knight.” “Do you think I could really stand
against a proved Knight?” asked Beaumains. “Yes,” said Lancelot, “if you
fight as you have fought to-day I will be your warrant against any one.”
“Then I pray you,” cried Beaumains, “give me the order of knighthood.”
“You must first tell me your name,” replied Lancelot, “and who are your
kindred.” “You will not betray me if I do?” asked Beaumains. “No, that I
will never do, till it is openly known,” said Lancelot. “Then, Sir, my
name is Gareth, and Sir Gawaine is my brother.” “Ah, Sir,” cried
Lancelot, “I am more pleased with you than ever. I was sure you came of
good blood, and that you did not come to the Court for meat and drink
only.” And he bade him kneel, and gave him the order of knighthood.
After that Sir Gareth wished to go his own ways, and departed. When he
was gone, Sir Lancelot went back to Sir Kay and ordered some men that
were by to bear him home on a shield, and in time his wounds were
healed; but he was scorned of all men, and especially of Sir Gawaine and
Sir Lancelot, who told him it was no good deed to treat any young man
so, and no one could tell what his birth might be, or what had brought
him to the Court.

  [Illustration: Faugh Sir! You Smell of Y^e Kitchen / Gareth & Linet]

Then Beaumains rode after the damsel, who stopped when she saw him
coming. “What are you doing here?” said she. “Your clothes smell of the
grease and tallow of the kitchen! Do you think to change my heart
towards you because of yonder Knight whom you slew? No, truly! I know
well who you are, you turner of spits! Go back to King Arthur’s kitchen,
which is your proper place.” “Damsel,” replied Beaumains, “you may say
to me what you will, but I shall not quit you whatever you may do, for I
have vowed to King Arthur to relieve the lady in the castle, and I shall
set her free or die fighting for her.” “Fie on you, Scullion,” answered
she. “You will meet with one who will make you such a welcome that you
would give all the broth you ever cooked never to have seen his face.”
“I shall do my best to fight him,” said Beaumains, and held his peace.

Soon they entered the wood, and there came a man flying towards them,
galloping with all his might. “Oh, help! help! lord,” cried he, “for my
master lies in a thicket, bound by six thieves, and I greatly fear they
will slay him.” “Show me the way,” said Sir Beaumains, and they rode
together till they reached the place where the Knight lay bound. Then
Sir Beaumains charged the six thieves, and struck one dead, and another,
and another still, and the other three fled, not liking the battle. Sir
Beaumains pursued them till they turned at bay, and fought hard for
their lives; but in the end Sir Beaumains slew them, and returned to the
Knight and unbound him. The Knight thanked Beaumains heartily for his
deliverance, and prayed him to come to his castle, where he would reward
him. “Sir,” said Beaumains, “I was this day made Knight by noble Sir
Lancelot, and that is reward enough for anything I may do. Besides, I
must follow this damsel.” But when he came near her she reviled him as
before, and bade him ride far from her. “Do you think I set store by
what you have done? You will soon see a sight that will make you tell a
very different tale.” At this the Knight whom Beaumains had rescued rode
up to the damsel, and begged that she would rest in his castle that
night, as the sun was now setting. The damsel agreed, and the Knight
ordered a great supper, and gave Sir Beaumains a seat above the seat of
the damsel, who rose up in anger. “Fie! fie! Sir Knight,” cried she,
“you are uncourteous to set a mere kitchen page before me; he is not fit
to be in the company of highborn people.” Her words struck shame into
the Knight, and he took Beaumains and set him at a side table, and
seated himself before him.

In the early morning Sir Beaumains and the damsel bade farewell to the
Knight, and rode through the forest till they came to a great river,
where stood two Knights on the further side, guarding the passage.
“Well, what do you say now?” asked the damsel. “Will you fight them or
turn back?” “I would not turn if there were six more of them,” answered
Sir Beaumains, and he rushed into the water and so did one of the
Knights. They came together in the middle of the stream, and their
spears broke in two with the force of the charge, and they drew their
swords, hitting hard at each other. At length Sir Beaumains dealt the
other Knight such a blow that he fell from his horse, and was drowned in
the river. Then Beaumains put his horse at the bank, where the second
Knight was waiting for him, and they fought long together, till Sir
Beaumains clave his helmet in two. So he left him dead, and rode after
the damsel.

               [Illustration: LINET AND THE BLACK KNIGHT]

“Alas!” she cried, “that even a kitchen page should have power to
destroy two such Knights! You think you have done mighty things, but you
are wrong! As to the first Knight, his horse stumbled, and he was
drowned before you ever touched him. And the other you took from behind,
and struck him when he was defenceless.” “Damsel!” answered Beaumains,
“you may say what you will, I care not what it is, so I may deliver this
lady.” “Fie, foul kitchen knave, you shall see Knights that will make
you lower your crest.” “I pray you be more civil in your language,”
answered Beaumains, “for it matters not to me what Knights they be, I
will do battle with them.” “I am trying to turn you back for your own
good,” answered she, “for if you follow me you are certainly a dead man,
as well I know all you have won before has been by luck.” “Say what you
will, damsel,” said he, “but where you go I will follow you,” and they
rode together till eventide, and all the way she chid him and gave him
no rest.

At length they reached an open space where there was a black lawn, and
on the lawn a black hawthorn, whereon hung a black banner on one side,
and a black shield and spear, big and long, on the other. Close by stood
a black horse covered with silk, fastened to a black stone. A Knight,
covered with black armour, sat on the horse, and when she saw him the
damsel bade him ride away, as his horse was not saddled. But the Knight
drew near and said to her, “Damsel, have you brought this Knight from
King Arthur’s Court to be your champion?” “No, truly,” answered she,
“this is but a kitchen boy, fed by King Arthur for charity.” “Then why
is he clad in armour?” asked the Knight; “it is a shame that he should
even bear you company.” “I cannot be rid of him,” said she, “he rides
with me against my will. I would that you were able to deliver me from
him! Either slay him or frighten him off, for by ill fortune he has this
day slain the two Knights of the passage.” “I wonder much,” said the
Black Knight, “that any man who is well born should consent to fight
with him.” “They do not know him,” replied the damsel, “and they think
he must be a famous Knight because he rides with me.” “That may be,”
said the Black Knight, “but he is well made, and looks likely to be a
strong man; still I promise you I will just throw him to the ground, and
take away his horse and armour, for it would be a shame to me to do
more.” When Sir Beaumains heard him talk thus he looked up and said,
“Sir Knight, you are lightly disposing of my horse and armour, but I
would have you know that I will pass this lawn against your will or not,
and you will only get my horse and armour if you win them in fair fight.
Therefore let me see what you can do.” “Say you so?” answered the
Knight, “now give up the lady at once, for it ill becomes a kitchen page
to ride with a lady of high degree.” “It is a lie,” said Beaumains, “I
am a gentleman born, and my birth is better than yours, as I will prove
upon your body.”

With that they drew back their horses so as to charge each other hotly,
and for the space of an hour and a half they fought fiercely and well,
but in the end a blow from Beaumains threw the Knight from his horse,
and he swooned and died. Then Beaumains jumped down, and seeing that the
Knight’s horse and armour were better than his own, he took them for
himself and rode after the damsel. While they were thus riding together,
and the damsel was chiding him as ever she did, they saw a Knight coming
towards them dressed all in green. “Is that my brother the Black Knight
who is with you?” asked he of the damsel. “No, indeed,” she replied,
“this unhappy kitchen knave has slain your brother, to my great sorrow.”
“Alas!” sighed the Green Knight, “that my brother should die so meanly
at the hand of a kitchen knave. Traitor!” he added, turning to
Beaumains, “thou shalt die for slaying my brother, for he was a noble
Knight, and his name was Sir Percard.” “I defy you,” said Beaumains,
“for I slew him as a good Knight should.”

Then the Green Knight seized a horn which hung from a thorn tree, and
blew three notes upon it, and two damsels came and armed him, and
fastened on him a green shield and a green spear. So the fight began and
raged long, first on horseback and then on foot, till both were sore
wounded. At last the damsel came and stood beside them, and said, “My
lord the Green Knight, why for very shame do you stand so long fighting
a kitchen knave? You ought never to have been made a Knight at all!”
These scornful words stung the heart of the Green Knight, and he dealt a
mighty stroke which cleft asunder the shield of Beaumains. And when
Beaumains saw this, he struck a blow upon the Knight’s helmet which
brought him to his knees, and Beaumains leapt on him, and dragged him to
the ground. Then the Green Knight cried for mercy, and offered to yield
himself prisoner unto Beaumains. “It is all in vain,” answered
Beaumains, “unless the damsel prays me for your life,” and therewith he
unlaced his helmet as though he would slay him. “Fie upon thee, false
kitchen page!” said the damsel, “I will never pray to save his life, for
I am sure he is in no danger.” “Suffer me not to die,” entreated the
Knight, “when a word may save me! Fair Knight,” he went on, turning to
Beaumains, “save my life, and I will forgive you the death of my
brother, and will do you service for ever, and will bring thirty of my
Knights to serve you likewise.” “It is a shame,” cried the damsel, “that
such a kitchen knave should have you and thirty Knights besides.” “Sir
Knight,” said Beaumains, “I care nothing for all this, but if I am to
spare your life the damsel must ask for it,” and he stepped forward as
if to slay him. “Let be, foul knave,” then said the damsel, “do not slay
him. If you do, you will repent it.” “Damsel,” answered Beaumains, “it
is a pleasure to me to obey you, and at your wish I will save his life.
Sir Knight with the green arms, I release you at the request of this
damsel, and I will fulfil all she charges me.”

Then the Green Knight kneeled down, and did him homage with his sword.
“I am sorry,” said the damsel, “for the wounds you have received, and
for your brother’s death, for I had great need of you both, and have
much dread of passing the forest.” “Fear nothing,” answered the Green
Knight, “for this evening you shall lodge in my house, and to-morrow I
will show you the way through the forest.” And they went with the Green
Knight. But the damsel did not mend her ways with Beaumains, and ever
more reviled him, till the Green Knight rebuked her, saying Beaumains
was the noblest Knight that held a spear, and that in the end she would
find he had sprung from some great King. And the Green Knight summoned
the thirty Knights who did him service, and bade them henceforth do
service to Beaumains, and guard him from treachery, and when he had need
of them they would be ready to obey his orders. So they bade each other
farewell, and Beaumains and the damsel rode forth anew. In like manner
did Sir Beaumains overcome the Red Knight, who was the third brother,
and the Red Knight cried for mercy, and offered to bring sixty Knights
to do him service, and Beaumains spared his life at the request of the
damsel, and likewise it so happened to Sir Persant of Inde.

And this time the damsel prayed Beaumains to give up the fight, saying,
“Sir, I wonder who you are and of what kindred you have come. Boldly you
speak, and boldly you have done; therefore I pray you to depart and save
yourself while you may, for both you and your horse have suffered great
fatigues, and I fear we delay too long, for the besieged castle is but
seven miles from this place, and all the perils are past save this one
only. I dread sorely lest you should get some hurt; yet this Sir Persant
of Inde is nothing in might to the Knight who has laid siege to my
lady.” But Sir Beaumains would not listen to her words, and vowed that
by two hours after noon he would have overthrown him, and that it would
still be daylight when they reached the castle. “What sort of a man can
you be?” answered the damsel, looking at him in wonder, “for never did a
woman treat a Knight as ill and shamefully as I have done you, while you
have always been gentle and courteous to me, and no one bears himself
like that save he who is of noble blood.” “Damsel,” replied Beaumains,
“your hard words only drove me to strike the harder, and though I ate in
King Arthur’s kitchen, perhaps I might have had as much food as I wanted
elsewhere. But all I have done was to make proof of my friends, and
whether I am a gentleman or not, fair damsel, I have done you
gentleman’s service, and may perchance do you greater service before we
part from each other.” “Alas, fair Beaumains, forgive me all that I have
said and done against you.” “With all my heart,” he answered, “and since
you are pleased now to speak good words to me, know that I hear them
gladly, and there is no Knight living but I feel strong enough to meet

So Beaumains conquered Sir Persant of Inde, who brought a hundred
Knights to be sworn into his service, and the next morning the damsel
led him to the castle, where the Red Knight of the Red Lawn held fast
the lady. “Heaven defend you,” cried Sir Persant, when they told him
where they were going; “that is the most perilous Knight now living, for
he has the strength of seven men. He has done great wrong to that lady,
who is one of the fairest in all the world, and it seems to me that this
damsel must be her sister. Is not her name Linet?” “Yes, Sir,” answered
she, “and my lady my sister’s name is dame Lyonesse.” “The Red Knight
has drawn out the siege for two years,” said Sir Persant, “though he
might have forced an entrance many a time, but he hoped that Sir
Lancelot du Lake or Sir Tristram or Sir Gawaine should come to do battle
with him.” “My Lord Sir Persant of Inde,” said the damsel, “I bid you
knight this gentleman before he fight with the Red Knight.” “That I will
gladly,” replied Sir Persant, “if it please him to take the order of
knighthood from so simple a man as I am.” “Sir,” answered Beaumains, “I
thank you for your goodwill, but at the beginning of this quest I was
made a Knight by Sir Lancelot. My name is Sir Gareth of Orkney and Sir
Gawaine is my brother, though neither he nor King Arthur, whose sister
is my mother, knows of it. I pray you to keep it close also.”

Now word was brought unto the besieged lady by the dwarf that her sister
was coming to her with a Knight sent by King Arthur. And when the lady
heard all that Beaumains had done, and how he had overthrown all who
stood in his way, she bade her dwarf take baked venison, and fat capons,
and two silver flagons of wine and a gold cup, and put them into the
hands of a hermit that dwelt in a hermitage close by. The dwarf did so,
and the lady then sent him to greet her sister and Sir Beaumains, and to
beg them to eat and drink in the hermit’s cell, and rest themselves,
which they did. When they drew near the besieged castle Sir Beaumains
saw full forty Knights, with spurs on their heels and swords in their
hands, hanging from the tall trees that stood upon the lawn. “Fair Sir,”
said the damsel, “these Knights came hither to rescue my sister, dame
Lyonesse; and if you cannot overthrow the Knight of the Red Lawn, you
will hang there too.”

          [Illustration: The Lady of Lyonesse sees Sir Gareth]

“Truly,” answered Beaumains, “it is a marvel that none of King Arthur’s
Knights has dealt with the Knight of the Red Lawn ere this;” and they
rode up to the castle, which had round it high walls and deep ditches,
till they came to a great sycamore tree, where hung a horn. And whoso
desired to do battle with the Red Knight must blow that horn loudly.

“Sir, I pray you,” said Linet, as Beaumains bent forward to seize it,
“do not blow it till it is full noontide, for during three hours before
that the Red Knight’s strength so increases that it is as the strength
of seven men; but when noon is come, he has the might of one man only.”

“Ah! for shame, damsel, to say such words. I will fight him as he is, or
not at all,” and Beaumains blew such a blast that it rang through the
castle. And the Red Knight buckled on his armour, and came to where
Beaumains stood. So the battle began, and a fierce one it was, and much
ado had Beaumains to last out till noon, when the Red Knight’s strength
began to wane; they rested, and came on again, and in the end the Red
Knight yielded to Sir Beaumains, and the lords and barons in the castle
did homage to the victor, and begged that the Red Knight’s life might be
spared on condition they all took service with Beaumains. This was
granted to them, and Linet bound up his wounds and put ointment on them,
and so she did likewise to Sir Beaumains. But the Red Knight was sent to
the Court of King Arthur, and told him all that Sir Beaumains had done.
And King Arthur and his Knights marvelled.

Now Sir Beaumains had looked up at the windows of Castle Perilous before
the fight, and had seen the face of the Lady Lyonesse, and had thought
it the fairest in all the world. After he had subdued the Red Knight, he
hasted into the castle, and the Lady Lyonesse welcomed him, and he told
her he had bought her love with the best blood in his body. And she did
not say him nay, but put him off for a time. Then the King sent letters
to her to bid her, and likewise Sir Gareth, come to his Court, and by
the counsel of Sir Gareth she prayed the King to let her call a
tournament, and to proclaim that the Knight who bore himself best
should, if he was unwedded, take her and all her lands. But if he had a
wife already he should be given a white ger-falcon, and for his wife a
crown of gold, set about with precious stones.

So the Lady Lyonesse did as Sir Gareth had counselled her, and answered
King Arthur that where Sir Gareth was she could not tell, but that if
the King would call a tourney he might be sure that Sir Gareth would
come to it. “It is well thought of,” said Arthur, and the Lady Lyonesse
departed unto Castle Perilous, and summoned all her Knights around her,
and told them what she had done, and how they were to make ready to
fight in the tournament. She began at once to set her castle in order,
and to think what she should do with the great array of Knights that
would ride hither from the furthest parts—from Scotland and Wales and
Cornwall—and to lodge fitly the Kings, Dukes, Earls, and Barons that
should come with Arthur. Queen Guenevere also she awaited, and the Queen
of Orkney, Sir Gareth’s mother. But Sir Gareth entreated the Lady
Lyonesse and those Knights that were in the castle with him not to let
his name be known, and this they agreed to.

“Sir Gareth,” said dame Lyonesse, “I will lend you a ring, which I
beseech you for the love you bear me to give me back when the tournament
is done, for without it I have but little beauty. This ring is like no
other ring, it will turn green red, and blue white, and the bearer shall
lose no blood, however sore he may be wounded.”

“Truly, my own lady,” answered Sir Gareth, “this ring will serve me
well, and by its help I shall not fear that any man shall know me.” And
Sir Gringamore, brother to the Lady Lyonesse, gave him a bay horse, and
strong armour, and a sharp sword that had once belonged to his father.
On the morning of the fifteenth of August, when the Feast of the
Assumption was kept, the King commanded his heralds to blow loudly their
trumpets, so that every Knight might know that he must enter the lists.
It was a noble sight to see them flocking clad in shining armour, each
man with his device upon his shield. And the heralds marked who bare
them best, and who were overthrown. All marvelled as to who the Knight
could be whose armour sometimes seemed green, and sometimes white, but
no man knew it was Sir Gareth. And whosoever Sir Gareth tilted with was
straightway overthrown. “Of a truth,” cried King Arthur, “that Knight
with the many colours is a good Knight,” and he called Sir Lancelot and
bade him to challenge that Knight to combat. But Sir Lancelot said that
though the Knight had come off victor in every fight, yet his limbs must
be weary, for he had fought as a man fights under the eyes of his lady,
“and for this day,” said Sir Lancelot, “he shall have the honour. Though
it lay in my power to put it from him, I would not.”

Then they paused for a while to rest, and afterwards the tournament
began again more fiercely than before, and Sir Lancelot was set upon by
two Knights at once. When Sir Gareth saw that, he rode in between them,
but no stroke would he deal Sir Lancelot, which Sir Lancelot noted, and
guessed that it was the good Knight Sir Gareth. Sir Gareth went hither
and thither, smiting any one that came in his way, and by fortune he met
with his brother Sir Gawaine, and knocked off his helmet. Now it
happened that while he was fighting a Knight dealt Sir Gareth a fierce
blow on his helm, and he rode off the field to mend it. Then his dwarf
who had been watching eagerly, cried out to Sir Gareth to leave the ring
with him, lest he should lose it while he was drinking, which Sir Gareth
did; and when he had drunk and mended his helm he forgot the ring, at
which the dwarf was glad, for he knew his name could no longer be hid.
And when Sir Gareth returned to the field, his armour shone yellow like
gold, and King Arthur marvelled what Knight he was, for he saw by his
hair that he was the same Knight who had worn the many colours. “Go,” he
said to his heralds, “ride near him and see what manner of Knight he is,
for none can tell me his name.” So a herald drew close to him, and saw
that on his helm was written in golden letters “This helm belongs to Sir
Gareth of Orkney”; and the herald cried out and made proclamation, and
the Kings and Knights pressed to behold him. And when Sir Gareth saw he
was discovered, he struck more fiercely than before, and smote down Sir
Sagramore, and his brother Sir Gawaine. “O brother,” said Sir Gawaine,
“I did not think you would have smitten me!” When Sir Gareth heard him
say that he rode out of the press, and cried to his dwarf, “Boy, you
have played me foul, for you have kept my ring. Give it to me now, that
I may hide myself,” and he galloped swiftly into the forest, and no one
knew where he had gone. “What shall I do next?” asked he of the dwarf.
“Sir,” answered the dwarf, “send the Lady Lyonesse back her ring.” “Your
counsel is good,” said Gareth; “take it to her, and commend me to her
grace, and say I will come when I may, and bid her to be faithful to me,
as I am to her.” After that Sir Gareth rode deeper into the forest.

Though Sir Gareth had left the tournament he found that there were as
many fights awaiting him as if he had remained there. He overcame all
his foes, and sent them and their followers to do homage to King Arthur,
but he himself stayed behind. He was standing alone after they had gone,
when he beheld an armed Knight coming towards him. Sir Gareth sprang on
his horse, and without a word the two crashed together like thunder, and
strove hard for two hours, till the ground was wet with blood. At that
time the damsel Linet came riding by, and saw what was doing, and knew
who were the fighters. And she cried “Sir Gawaine, Sir Gawaine, leave
fighting with your brother Sir Gareth.” Then he threw down his shield
and sword, and ran to Sir Gareth, and first took him in his arms and
next kneeled down and asked mercy of him. “Why do you, who were but now
so strong and mighty, so suddenly yield to me?” asked Sir Gareth, who
had not perceived the damsel. “O Gareth, I am your brother, and have had
much sorrow for your sake.” At this Sir Gareth unlaced his helm and
knelt before Sir Gawaine, and they rose and embraced each other. “Ah, my
fair brother,” said Sir Gawaine, “I ought rightly to do you homage, even
if you were not my brother, for in this twelvemonth you have sent King
Arthur more Knights than any six of the best men of the Round Table.”
While he was speaking there came the Lady Linet, and healed the wounds
of Sir Gareth and of Sir Gawaine. “What are you going to do now?” asked
she. “It is time that King Arthur had tidings of you both, and your
horses are not fit to bear you.”

“Ride, I pray you,” said Sir Gawaine, “to my uncle King Arthur, who is
but two miles away, and tell him what adventure has befallen me.” So she
mounted her mule, and when she had told her tale to King Arthur, he bade
them saddle him a palfrey and invited all the Knights and ladies of his
Court to ride with him. When they reached the place they saw Sir Gareth
and Sir Gawaine sitting on the hill-side. The King jumped off his horse,
and would have greeted them, but he swooned away for gladness, and they
ran and comforted him, and also their mother.

The two Knights stayed in King Arthur’s Court for eight days, and rested
themselves and grew strong. Then said the King to Linet, “I wonder that
your sister, dame Lyonesse, does not come here to visit me, or more
truly to visit my nephew, Sir Gareth, who has worked so hard to win her

“My lord,” answered Linet, “you must, by your grace, hold her excused,
for she does not know that Sir Gareth is here.”

“Go and fetch her, then,” said Arthur.

“That I will do quickly,” replied Linet, and by the next morning she had
brought dame Lyonesse, and her brother Sir Gringamore, and forty
Knights, but among the ladies dame Lyonesse was the fairest, save only
Queen Guenevere. They were all welcomed of King Arthur, who turned to
his nephew Sir Gareth and asked him whether he would have that lady to
his wife.

“My lord,” replied Sir Gareth, “you know well that I love her above all
the ladies in the world.”

“And what say you, fair lady?” asked the King.

“Most noble King,” said dame Lyonesse, “I would sooner have Sir Gareth
as my husband than any King or Prince that may be christened, and if I
may not have him I promise you I will have none. For he is my first
love, and shall be my last. And if you will suffer him to have his will
and choice, I dare say he will have me.”

“That is truth,” said Sir Gareth.

“What, nephew,” cried the King, “sits the wind in that door? Then you
shall have all the help that is in my power,” and so said Gareth’s
mother. And it was fixed that the marriage should be at Michaelmas, at
Kin-Kenadon by the seashore, and thus it was proclaimed in all places of
the realm. Then Sir Gareth sent his summons to all the Knights and
ladies that he had won in battle that they should be present, and he
gave a rich ring to the Lady Lyonesse, and she gave him one likewise.
And before she departed she had from King Arthur a shining golden bee,
as a token. After that Sir Gareth set her on her way towards her castle,
and returned unto the King. But he would ever be in Sir Lancelot’s
company, for there was no Knight that Sir Gareth loved so well as Sir
Lancelot. The days drew fast to Michaelmas, and there came the Lady
Lyonesse with her sister Linet and her brother Sir Gringamore to
Kin-Kenadon by the sea, and there were they lodged by order of King
Arthur. And upon Michaelmas Day the Bishop of Canterbury wedded Sir
Gareth and the Lady Lyonesse with great ceremonies, and King Arthur
commanded that Sir Gawaine should be joined to the damsel Linet, and Sir
Agrawaine to the niece of dame Lyonesse, whose name was Laurel. Then the
Knights whom Sir Gareth had won in battle came with their followings and
did homage to him, and the Green Knight besought him that he might act
as chamberlain at the feast, and the Red Knight that he might be his
steward. As soon as the feast was ended, they had all manner of
minstrelsy and games and a great tournament that lasted three days, but
at the prayer of dame Lyonesse the King would not suffer that any man
who was wedded should fight at that feast.


King Arthur had a sister called Morgan le Fay, who was skilled in magic
of all sorts, and hated her brother because he had slain in battle a
Knight whom she loved. The better to gain her own ends, and to revenge
herself upon the King, she kept a smiling face, and let none guess the
passion in her heart.

One day Morgan le Fay went to Queen Guenevere, and asked her leave to go
into the country. The Queen wished her to wait till Arthur returned, but
Morgan le Fay said she had had bad news and could not wait. Then the
Queen let her depart without delay.

Early next morning at break of day Morgan le Fay mounted her horse and
rode all day and all night, and at noon next day reached the Abbey of
nuns where King Arthur had gone to rest, for he had fought a hard
battle, and for three nights had slept but little. “Do not wake him,”
said Morgan le Fay, who had come there knowing she would find him, “I
will rouse him myself when I think he has had enough sleep,” for she
thought to steal his sword Excalibur from him. The nuns dared not
disobey her, so Morgan le Fay went straight into the room where King
Arthur was lying fast asleep in his bed, and in his right hand was
grasped his sword Excalibur. When she beheld that sight, her heart fell,
for she dared not touch the sword, knowing well that if Arthur waked and
saw her she was a dead woman. So she took the scabbard, and went away on

When the King awoke and missed his scabbard, he was angry, and asked who
had been there; and the nuns told him that it was his sister Morgan le
Fay, who had gone away with a scabbard under her mantle.—“Alas!” said
Arthur, “you have watched me badly!”

“Sir,” said they, “we dared not disobey your sister.”

“Saddle the best horse that can be found,” commanded the King, “and bid
Sir Ontzlake take another and come with me.” And they buckled on their
armour and rode after Morgan le Fay.

They had not gone far before they met a cowherd, and they stopped to ask
if he had seen any lady riding that way. “Yes,” said the cowherd, “a
lady passed by here, with forty horses behind her, and went into the
forest yonder.” Then they galloped hard till Arthur caught sight of
Morgan le Fay, who looked back, and, seeing that it was Arthur who gave
chase, pushed on faster than before. And when she saw she could not
escape him, she rode into a lake that lay in the plain on the edge of
the forest, and, crying out, “Whatever may befall me, my brother shall
not have the scabbard,” she threw the scabbard far into the water, and
it sank, for it was heavy with gold and jewels. After that she fled into
a valley full of great stones, and turned herself and her men and her
horses into blocks of marble. Scarcely had she done this when the King
rode up, but seeing her nowhere thought some evil must have befallen her
in vengeance of her misdeeds. He then sought high and low for the
scabbard, but being unable to find it, he returned to the Abbey. When
Arthur was gone, Morgan le Fay turned herself and her horses and her men
back into their former shapes and said, “Now, Sirs, we may go where we
will.” And she departed into the country of Gore, and made her towns and
castles stronger than before, for she feared King Arthur greatly.
Meanwhile King Arthur had rested himself at the Abbey, and afterwards he
rode to Camelot, and was welcomed by his Queen and all his Knights. And
when he told his adventures and how Morgan le Fay sought his death they
longed to burn her for her treason.


The next morning there arrived a damsel at the Court with a message from
Morgan le Fay, saying that she had sent the King her brother a rich
mantle for a gift, covered with precious stones, and begged him to
receive it and to forgive her in whatever she might have offended him.
The King answered little, but the mantle pleased him, and he was about
to throw it over his shoulders when the Lady of the Lake stepped
forward, and begged that she might speak to him in private. “What is
it?” asked the King. “Say on here, and fear nothing.” “Sir,” said the
lady, “do not put on this mantle, or suffer your Knights to put it on,
till the bringer of it has worn it in your presence.” “Your words are
wise,” answered the King, “I will do as you counsel me. Damsel, I desire
you to put on this mantle that you have brought me, so that I may see
it.” “Sir,” said she, “it does not become me to wear a King’s garment.”
“By my head,” cried Arthur, “you shall wear it before I put it on my
back, or on the back of any of my Knights,” and he signed to them to put
it on her, and she fell down dead, burnt to ashes by the enchanted
mantle. Then the King was filled with anger, more bitter than before,
that his sister should have dealt so wickedly by him.

                         THE PASSING OF MERLIN.

Many of King Arthur’s Knights set out on journeys in search of
adventure, and one of them, Sir Pellinore, brought a damsel of the lake
to Arthur’s Court, and when Merlin saw her he fell in love with her, so
that he desired to be always in her company. The damsel laughed in
secret at Merlin, but made use of him to tell her all she would know,
and the wizard had no strength to say her nay, though he knew what would
come of it. For he told King Arthur that before long he should be put
into the earth alive, for all his cunning. He likewise told the King
many things that should befall him, and warned him always to keep the
scabbard as well as the sword Excalibur, and foretold that both sword
and scabbard should be stolen from him by a woman whom he most trusted.
“You will miss my counsel sorely,” added Merlin, “and would give all
your lands to have me back again.” “But since you know what will
happen,” said the King, “you may surely guard against it.” “No,”
answered Merlin, “that will not be.” So he departed from the King, and
the maiden followed him whom some call Nimue and others Vivien, and
wherever she went Merlin went also.

They journeyed together to many places, both at home and across the
seas, and the damsel was wearied of him, and sought by every means to be
rid of him, but he would not be shaken off. At last these two wandered
back to Cornwall, and one day Merlin showed Vivien a rock under which he
said great marvels were hidden. Then Vivien put forth all her powers,
and told Merlin how she longed to see the wonders beneath the stone,
and, in spite of all his wisdom, Merlin listened to her and crept under
the rock to bring forth the strange things that lay there. And when he
was under the stone she used the magic he had taught her, and the rock
rolled over him, and buried him alive, as he had told King Arthur. But
the damsel departed with joy, and thought no more of him, now that she
knew all the magic he could teach her.

                   [Illustration: MERLIN and VIVIEN]

                                PART II.
                      THE QUEST OF THE HOLY GRAAL.

  How the King went on Pilgrimage and his Squire was slain in a Dream.

Now the King was minded to go on a pilgrimage, and he agreed with the
Queen that he would set forth to seek the holy chapel at St. Augustine,
which is in the White Forest, and may only be found by adventure. Much
he wished to undertake the quest alone, but this the Queen would not
suffer, and to do her pleasure he consented that a youth, tall and
strong of limb, should ride with him as his squire. Chaus was the
youth’s name, and he was son to Gwain li Aoutres. “Lie within to-night,”
commanded the King, “and take heed that my horse be saddled at break of
day, and my arms ready.” “At your pleasure, Sir,” answered the youth,
whose heart rejoiced because he was going alone with the King.

As night came on, all the Knights quitted the hall, but Chaus the squire
stayed where he was, and would not take off his clothes or his shoes,
lest sleep should fall on him and he might not be ready when the King
called him. So he sat himself down by the great fire, but in spite of
his will sleep fell heavily on him, and he dreamed a strange dream.

In his dream it seemed that the King had ridden away to the quest, and
had left his squire behind him, which filled the young man with fear.
And in his dream he set the saddle and bridle on his horse, and fastened
his spurs, and girt on his sword, and galloped out of the castle after
the King. He rode on a long space, till he entered a thick forest, and
there before him lay traces of the King’s horse, and he followed till
the marks of the hoofs ceased suddenly at some open ground and he
thought that the King had alighted there. On the right stood a chapel,
and about it was a graveyard, and in the graveyard many coffins, and in
his dream it seemed as if the King had entered the chapel, so the young
man entered also. But no man did he behold save a Knight that lay dead
upon a bier in the midst of the chapel, covered with a pall of rich
silk, and four tapers in golden candlesticks were burning round him. The
squire marvelled to see the body lying there so lonely, with no one near
it, and likewise that the King was nowhere to be seen. Then he took out
one of the tall tapers, and hid the candlestick under his cloak, and
rode away until he should find the King.

On his journey through the forest he was stopped by a man black and
ill-favoured, holding a large knife in his hand.

“Ho! you that stand there, have you seen King Arthur?” asked the squire.

“No, but I have met you, and I am glad thereof, for you have under your
cloak one of the candlesticks of gold that was placed in honour of the
Knight who lies dead in the chapel. Give it to me, and I will carry it
back; and if you do not this of your own will, I will make you.”

“By my faith!” cried the squire, “I will never yield it to you! Rather,
will I carry it off and make a present of it to King Arthur.”

“You will pay for it dearly,” answered the man, “if you yield it not up

To this the squire did not make answer, but dashed forward, thinking to
pass him by; but the man thrust at him with his knife, and it entered
his body up to the hilt. And when the squire dreamed this, he cried,
“Help! help! for I am a dead man!”

As soon as the King and the Queen heard that cry they awoke from their
sleep, and the Chamberlain said, “Sir, you must be moving, for it is
day;” and the King rose and dressed himself, and put on his shoes. Then
the cry came again: “Fetch me a priest, for I die!” and the King ran at
great speed into the hall, while the Queen and the Chamberlain followed
him with torches and candles. “What aileth you?” asked the King of his
squire, and the squire told him of all that he had dreamed. “Ha,” said
the king, “is it, then, a dream?” “Yes, Sir,” answered the squire, “but
it is a right foul dream for me, for right foully it hath come true,”
and he lifted his left arm, and said, “Sir, look you here! Lo, here is
the knife that was struck in my side up to the haft.” After that, he
drew forth the candlestick, and showed it to the King. “Sir, for this
candlestick that I present to you was I wounded to the death!” The King
took the candlestick in his hands and looked at it, and none so rich had
he seen before, and he bade the Queen look also. “Sir,” said the squire
again, “draw not forth the knife out of my body till I be shriven of the
priest.” So the King commanded that a priest should be sent for, and
when the squire had confessed his sins, the King drew the knife out of
the body and the soul departed forthwith. Then the King grieved that the
young man had come to his death in such strange wise, and ordered him a
fair burial, and desired that the golden candlestick should be sent to
the Church of Saint Paul in London, which at that time was newly built.

After this King Arthur would have none to go with him on his quest, and
many strange adventures he achieved before he reached the chapel of St.
Augustine, which was in the midst of the White Forest. There he alighted
from his horse, and sought to enter, but though there was neither door
nor bar he might not pass the threshold. But from without be heard
wondrous voices singing, and saw a light shining brighter than any that
he had seen before, and visions such as he scarcely dared to look upon.
And he resolved greatly to amend his sins, and to bring peace and order
into his kingdom. So he set forth, strengthened and comforted, and after
divers more adventures returned to his Court.

                     The Coming of the Holy Graal.

It was on the eve of Pentecost that all the Knights of the Table Round
met together at Camelot, and a great feast was made ready for them. And
as they sat at supper they heard a loud noise, as of the crashing of
thunder, and it seemed as if the roof would fall on them. Then, in the
midst of the thunder, there entered a sunbeam, brighter by seven times
than the brightest day, and its brightness was not of this world. The
Knights held their peace, but every man looked at his neighbour, and his
countenance shone fairer than ever it had done before. As they sat dumb,
for their tongues felt as if they could speak nothing, there floated in
the hall the Holy Graal, and over it a veil of white samite, so that
none might see it nor who bare it. But sweet odours filled the place,
and every Knight had set before him the food he loved best; and after
that the Holy Vessel departed suddenly, they wist not where. When it had
gone their tongues were loosened, and the King gave thanks for the
wonders that they had been permitted to see. After that he had finished,
Sir Gawaine stood up and vowed to depart the next morning in quest of
the Holy Graal, and not to return until he had seen it. “But if after a
year and a day I may not speed in my quest,” said he, “I shall come
again, for I shall know that the sight of it is not for me.” And many of
the Knights there sitting swore a like vow.

But King Arthur, when he heard this, was sore displeased. “Alas!” cried
he unto Sir Gawaine, “you have undone me by your vow. For through you is
broken up the fairest fellowship, and the truest of knighthood, that
ever the world saw, and when they have once departed they shall meet no
more at the Table Round, for many shall die in the quest. It grieves me
sore, for I have loved them as well as my own life.” So he spoke, and
paused, and tears came into his eyes. “Ah, Gawaine, Gawaine! you have
set me in great sorrow.”

“Comfort yourself,” said Sir Lancelot, “for we shall win for ourselves
great honour, much more if we die in this wise than in any other, since
die we must.” But the King would not be comforted, and the Queen and all
the Court were troubled also for the love which they bore these Knights.
Now among the company sat a young Knight whose name was Galahad. He had
already achieved fame by his deeds in the field and tourney, and the
Queen marvelled at the likeness he bore to Sir Lancelot. She asked him
whence he came, and of what country, and if he was son to Sir Lancelot.
And King Arthur did him great honour, and he rested him in his own bed.
And next morning the King and Queen went into the Minster, and the
Knights followed them, dressed all in armour, save only their shields
and their helmets. When the service was finished the King would know how
many of the fellowship had sworn to undertake the quest of the Graal,
and they were counted, and found to number a hundred and fifty. They
bade farewell, and mounted their horses, and rode through the streets of
Camelot, and there was weeping of both rich and poor, and the King could
not speak for weeping. And at sunrise they all parted company with each
other, and every Knight took the way he best liked.

                     The Adventure of Sir Galahad.

Now Sir Galahad had as yet no shield, and he rode four days without
meeting any adventure, till at last he came to a White Abbey, where he
dismounted and asked if he might sleep there that night. The brethren
received him with great reverence, and led him to a chamber, where he
took off his armour, and then saw that he was in the presence of two
Knights. “Sirs,” said Sir Galahad, “what adventure brought you hither?”
“Sir,” replied they, “we heard that within this Abbey is a shield that
no man may hang round his neck without being dead within three days, or
some mischief befalling him. And if we fail in the adventure, you shall
take it upon you.” “Sirs,” replied Sir Galahad, “I agree well thereto,
for as yet I have no shield.”

So on the morn they arose and heard Mass, and then a monk led them
behind an altar where hung a shield white as snow, with a red cross in
the middle of it. “Sirs,” said the monk, “this shield can be hung round
no Knight’s neck, unless he be the worthiest Knight in the world, and
therefore I counsel you to be well advised.”

“Well,” answered one of the Knights, whose name was King Bagdemagus, “I
know truly that I am not the best Knight in the world, but yet shall I
try to bear it,” and he bore it out of the Abbey. Then he said to Sir
Galahad, “I pray you abide here still, till you know how I shall speed,”
and he rode away, taking with him a squire to send tidings back to Sir

After King Bagdemagus had ridden two miles he entered a fair valley, and
there met him a goodly Knight seated on a white horse and clad in white
armour. And they came together with their spears, and Sir Bagdemagus was
borne from his horse, for the shield covered him not at all. Therewith
the strange Knight alighted and took the white shield from him, and gave
it to the squire, saying, “Bear this shield to the good Knight Sir
Galahad that thou hast left in the Abbey, and greet him well from me.”

“Sir,” said the squire, “what is your name?”

“Take thou no heed of my name,” answered the Knight, “for it is not for
thee to know, nor for any earthly man.”

“Now, fair Sir,” said the squire, “tell me for what cause this shield
may not be borne lest ill befalls him who bears it.”

“Since you have asked me,” answered the Knight, “know that no man shall
bear this shield, save Sir Galahad only.”

Then the squire turned to Bagdemagus, and asked him whether he were
wounded or not. “Yes, truly,” said he, “and I shall hardly escape from
death;” and scarcely could he climb on to his horse’s back when the
squire brought it near him. But the squire led him to a monastery that
lay in the valley, and there he was treated of his wounds, and after
long lying came back to life. After the squire had given the Knight into
the care of the monks, he rode back to the Abbey, bearing with him the
shield. “Sir Galahad,” said he, alighting before him, “the Knight that
wounded Bagdemagus sends you greeting, and bids you bear this shield,
which shall bring you many adventures.”

“Now blessed be God and fortune,” answered Sir Galahad, and called for
his arms, and mounted his horse, hanging the shield about his neck.
Then, followed by the squire, he set out. They rode straight to the
hermitage, where they saw the White Knight who had sent the shield to
Sir Galahad. The two Knights saluted each other courteously, and then
the White Knight told Sir Galahad the story of the shield, and how it
had been given into his charge. Afterwards they parted, and Sir Galahad
and his squire returned unto the Abbey whence they came.

The monks made great joy at seeing Sir Galahad again, for they feared he
was gone for ever; and as soon as he was alighted from his horse they
brought him unto a tomb in the churchyard where there was night and day
such a noise that any man who heard it would be driven nigh mad, or else
lose his strength. “Sir,” they said, “we deem it a fiend.” Sir Galahad
drew near, all armed save his helmet, and stood by the tomb. “Lift up
the stone,” said a monk, and Galahad lifted it, and a voice cried, “Come
thou not nigh me, Sir Galahad, for thou shalt make me go again where I
have been so long.” But Galahad took no heed of him, and lifted the
stone yet higher, and there rushed from the tomb a foul smoke, and in
the midst of it leaped out the foulest figure that ever was seen in the
likeness of a man. “Galahad,” said the figure, “I see about thee so many
angels that my power dare not touch thee.” Then Galahad, stooping down,
looked into the tomb, and he saw a body all armed lying there, with a
sword by his side. “Fair brother,” said Galahad, “let us remove this
body, for he is not worthy to be in this churchyard, being a false
Christian man.”

               [Illustration: SIR GALAHAD opens the tomb]

This being done they all departed and returned unto the monastery, where
they lay that night, and the next morning Sir Galahad knighted Melias
his squire, as he had promised him aforetime. So Sir Galahad and Sir
Melias departed thence, in quest of the Holy Graal, but they soon went
their different ways and fell upon different adventures. In his first
encounter Sir Melias was sore wounded, and Sir Galahad came to his help,
and left him to an old monk who said that he would heal him of his
wounds in the space of seven weeks, and that he was thus wounded because
he had not come clean to the quest of the Graal, as Sir Galahad had
done. Sir Galahad left him there, and rode on till he came to the Castle
of Maidens, which he alone might enter who was free from sin. There he
chased away the Knights who had seized the castle seven years agone, and
restored all to the Duke’s daughter, who owned it of right. Besides this
he set free the maidens who were kept in prison, and summoned all those
Knights in the country round who had held their lands of the Duke,
bidding them do homage to his daughter. And in the morning one came to
him and told him that as the seven Knights fled from the Castle of
Maidens they fell upon the path of Sir Gawaine, Sir Gareth, and Sir
Lewaine, who were seeking Sir Galahad, and they gave battle: and the
seven Knights were slain by the three Knights. “It is well,” said
Galahad, and he took his armour and his horse and rode away.

So when Sir Galahad left the Castle of Maidens he rode till he came to a
waste forest, and there he met with Sir Lancelot and Sir Percivale; but
they knew him not, for he was now disguised. And they fought together,
and the two knights were smitten down out of the saddle. “God be with
thee, thou best Knight in the world,” cried a nun who dwelt in a
hermitage close by; and she said it in a loud voice, so that Lancelot
and Percivale might hear. But Sir Galahad feared that she would make
known who he was, so he spurred his horse and struck deep into the
forest before Sir Lancelot and Sir Percivale could mount again. They
knew not which path he had taken, so Sir Percivale turned back to ask
advice of the nun, and Sir Lancelot pressed forward.

        How Sir Lancelot saw a Vision, and repented of his Sins.

He halted when he came to a stone cross, which had by it a block of
marble, while nigh at hand stood an old chapel. He tied his horse to a
tree, and hung his shield on a branch, and looked into the chapel, for
the door was waste and broken. And he saw there a fair altar covered
with a silken cloth, and a candlestick which had six branches, all of
shining silver. A great light streamed from it, and at this sight Sir
Lancelot would fain have entered in, but he could not. So he turned back
sorrowful and dismayed, and took the saddle and bridle off his horse,
and let him pasture where he would, while he himself unlaced his helm,
and ungirded his sword, and lay down to sleep upon his shield, at the
foot of the cross.

As he lay there, half waking and half sleeping, he saw two white
palfreys come by, drawing a litter, wherein lay a sick Knight. When they
reached the cross they paused, and Sir Lancelot heard the Knight say, “O
sweet Lord, when shall this sorrow leave me, and when shall the Holy
Vessel come by me through which I shall be blessed? For I have endured
long, though my ill deeds were few.” Thus he spoke, and Sir Lancelot
heard it, and of a sudden the great candlestick stood before the cross,
though no man had brought it. And with it was a table of silver and the
Holy Vessel of the Graal, which Lancelot had seen aforetime. Then the
Knight rose up, and on his hands and knees he approached the Holy
Vessel, and prayed, and was made whole of his sickness. After that the
Graal went back into the chapel, and the light and the candlestick also,
and Sir Lancelot would fain have followed, but could not, so heavy was
the weight of his sins upon him. And the sick Knight arose and kissed
the cross, and saw Sir Lancelot lying at the foot with his eyes shut. “I
marvel greatly at this sleeping Knight,” he said to his squire, “that he
had no power to wake when the Holy Vessel was brought hither.” “I dare
right well say,” answered the squire, “that he dwelleth in some deadly
sin, whereof he was never confessed.” “By my faith,” said the Knight,
“he is unhappy, whoever he is, for he is of the fellowship of the Round
Table, which have undertaken the quest of the Graal.” “Sir,” replied the
squire, “you have all your arms here, save only your sword and your
helm. Take therefore those of this strange Knight, who has just put them
off.” And the Knight did as his squire said, and took Sir Lancelot’s
horse also, for it was better than his own.

After they had gone Sir Lancelot waked up wholly, and thought of what he
had seen, wondering if he were in a dream or not. Suddenly a voice spoke
to him and it said, “Sir Lancelot, more hard than is the stone, more
bitter than is the wood, more naked and barren than is the leaf of the
fig tree, art thou; therefore go from hence and withdraw thee from this
holy place.” When Sir Lancelot heard this, his heart was passing heavy,
and he wept, cursing the day when he had been born. But his helm and
sword had gone from the spot where he had laid them at the foot of the
cross, and his horse was gone also. And he smote himself and cried, “My
sin and my wickedness have done me this dishonour; for when I sought
worldly adventures I ever achieved them and had the better in every
place, and never was I discomfited in any quarrel, were it right or
wrong. But now I take upon me the adventures of holy things, I see and
understand that my old sin hinders me, so that I could not move or speak
when the Holy Graal passed by.” Thus he sorrowed till it was day, and he
heard the birds sing, and at that he felt comforted. And as his horse
was gone also, he departed on foot with a heavy heart.

                    The Adventure of Sir Percivale.

All this while Sir Percivale had pursued adventures of his own, and came
nigh unto losing his life, but he was saved from his enemies by the good
Knight, Sir Galahad, whom he did not know, although he was seeking him,
for Sir Galahad now bore a red shield, and not a white one. And at last
the foes fled deep into the forest, and Sir Galahad followed; but Sir
Percivale had no horse and was forced to stay behind. Then his eyes were
opened, and he knew it was Sir Galahad who had come to his help, and he
sat down under a tree and grieved sore.

While he was sitting there a Knight passed by riding a black horse, and
when he was out of sight a yeoman came pricking after as fast as he
could, and, seeing Sir Percivale, asked if he had seen a Knight mounted
on a black horse. “Yes, Sir, forsooth,” answered Sir Percivale, “why do
you want to know?” “Ah, Sir, that is my steed which he has taken from
me, and wherever my lord shall find me, he is sure to slay me.” “Well,”
said Sir Percivale, “thou seest that I am on foot, but had I a good
horse I would soon come up with him.” “Take my hackney,” said the
yeoman, “and do the best you can, and I shall follow you on foot to
watch how you speed.” So Sir Percivale rode as fast as he might, and at
last he saw that Knight, and he hailed him. The Knight turned and set
his spear against Sir Percivale, and smote the hackney in the breast, so
that he fell dead to the earth, and Sir Percivale fell with him; then
the Knight rode away. But Sir Percivale was mad with wrath, and cried to
the Knight to return and fight with him on foot; but the Knight answered
not and went on his way. When Sir Percivale saw that he would not turn,
he threw himself on the ground, and cast away his helm and sword, and
bemoaned himself for the most unhappy of all Knights; and there he abode
the whole day, and, being faint and weary, slept till it was midnight.
At midnight he waked and saw before him a woman, who said to him right
fiercely, “Sir Percivale, what doest thou here?” “Neither good nor great
ill,” answered he. “If thou wilt promise to do my will when I call upon
thee,” said she, “I will lend thee my own horse, and he shall bear thee
whither thou shalt choose.” This Sir Percivale promised gladly, and the
woman went and returned with a black horse, so large and well-apparelled
that Sir Percivale marvelled. But he mounted him gladly, and drove in
his spurs, and within an hour and less the horse bare him four days’
journey thence, and would have borne him into a rough water, had not Sir
Percivale pulled at his bridle. The Knight stood doubting, for the water
made a great noise, and he feared lest his horse could not get through
it. Still, wishing greatly to pass over, he made himself ready, and
signed the sign of the cross upon his forehead.

At that the fiend which had taken the shape of a horse shook off Sir
Percivale and dashed into the water, crying and making great sorrow; and
it seemed to him that the water burned. Then Sir Percivale knew that it
was not a horse but a fiend which would have brought him to perdition,
and he gave thanks and prayed all that night long. As soon as it was day
he looked about him, and saw he was in a wild mountain, girt round with
the sea and filled with wild beasts. Then he rose and went into a
valley, and there he saw a young serpent bring a young lion by the neck,
and after that there passed a great lion, crying and roaring after the
serpent, and a fierce battle began between them. Sir Percivale thought
to help the lion, as he was the more natural beast of the twain, and he
drew his sword and set his shield before him, and gave the serpent a
deadly buffet. When the lion saw that, he made him all the cheer that a
beast might make a man, and fawned about him like a spaniel, and stroked
him with his paws. And about noon the lion took his little whelp, and
placed him on his back, and bare him home again, and Sir Percivale,
being left alone, prayed till he was comforted. But at eventide the lion
returned, and couched down at his feet, and all night long he and the
lion slept together.

            [Illustration: SIR PERCIVALE SLAYS THE SERPENT]

                     An Adventure of Sir Lancelot.

As Lancelot went his way through the forest he met with many hermits who
dwelled therein, and had adventure with the Knight who stole his horse
and his helm, and got them back again. And he learned from one of the
hermits that Sir Galahad was his son, and that it was he who at the
Feast of Pentecost had sat in the Siege Perilous, which it was ordained
by Merlin that none should sit in save the best Knight in the world. All
that night Sir Lancelot abode with the hermit and laid him to rest, a
hair shirt always on his body, and it pricked him sorely, but he bore it
meekly and suffered the pain. When the day dawned he bade the hermit
farewell. As he rode he came to a fair plain, in which was a great
castle set about with tents and pavilions of divers hues. Here were full
five hundred Knights riding on horseback, and those near the castle were
mounted on black horses with black trappings, and they that were without
were on white horses and their trappings white. And the two sides fought
together, and Sir Lancelot looked on.

At last it seemed to him that the black Knights nearest the castle fared
the worst, so, as he ever took the part of the weaker, he rode to their
help and smote many of the white Knights to the earth and did marvellous
deeds of arms. But always the white Knights held round Sir Lancelot to
tire him out. And as no man may endure for ever, in the end Sir Lancelot
waxed so faint of fighting that his arms would not lift themselves to
deal a stroke; then they took him, and led him away into the forest and
made him alight from his horse and rest, and when he was taken the
fellowship of the castle were overcome for want of him. “Never ere now
was I at tournament or jousts but I had the best,” moaned Sir Lancelot
to himself, as soon as the Knights had left him and he was alone. “But
now am I shamed, and I am persuaded that I am more sinful than ever I
was.” Sorrowfully he rode on till he passed a chapel, where stood a nun,
who called to him and asked him his name and what he was seeking.

So he told her who he was, and what had befallen him at the tournament,
and the vision that had come to him in his sleep. “Ah, Lancelot,” said
she, “as long as you were a knight of earthly knighthood you were the
most wonderful man in the world and the most adventurous. But now, since
you are set among Knights of heavenly adventures, if you were worsted at
that tournament it is no marvel. For the tournament was meant for a
sign, and the earthly Knights were they who were clothed in black in
token of the sins of which they were not yet purged. And the white
Knights were they who had chosen the way of holiness, and in them the
quest has already begun. Thus you beheld both the sinners and the good
men, and when you saw the sinners overcome you went to their help, as
they were your fellows in boasting and pride of the world, and all that
must be left in that quest. And that caused your misadventure. Now that
I have warned you of your vain-glory and your pride, beware of
everlasting pain, for of all earthly Knights I have pity of you, for I
know well that among earthly sinful Knights you are without peer.”

                      An Adventure of Sir Gawaine.

When Sir Gawaine departed he rode long without any adventure. From
Whitsunday to Michaelmas he rode and found not the tenth part of the
adventures he was wont to do. But it befell on a day that he met Sir
Ector de Maris, at which they rejoiced exceedingly, complaining to one
another of the lack of adventure in the quest on which they were set.

“Truly,” said Sir Gawaine to Sir Ector, “I am nigh weary of this quest,
and loth to follow it to further strange countries.”

“One thing seems strange to me,” said Sir Ector, “I have met with twenty
Knights, and they all complain as I do.”

“I wonder,” said Sir Gawaine, “where your brother is.” “I can hear
nothing of him,” answered Sir Ector, “nor of Sir Galahad, Sir Percivale,
or Sir Bors, but they fare well, no doubt, for they have no peers.”

As they sat talking there appeared before them a hand showing unto the
elbow covered with red samite, and holding a great candle that burned
right clear; and the hand passed into the chapel and vanished, they knew
not where. Then they heard a voice which said, “Knights full of evil
faith and poor belief, these two things have failed you, and therefore
you may not come to the adventure of the Holy Graal.” And thereat they
went to a holy man to whom they confessed their sins. Said he, “This is
the meaning of the vision: you have failed in three things, charity,
fasting, and truth, and have been great murderers.”

“Sir,” said Gawaine, “by your words it seems that our sins will not let
us labour in that quest?” “Truly,” answered the hermit, “there be an
hundred such as you to whom it will bring naught but shame.” So Gawaine
departed and followed Sir Ector, who had ridden on before.

                       The Adventure of Sir Bors.

When Sir Bors left Camelot on his quest he met a holy man riding on an
ass, and Sir Bors saluted him. Anon the good man knew him to be one of
the Knights who were in quest of the Holy Graal. “What are you?” said
he, and Sir Bors answered, “I am a Knight that fain would be counselled
in the quest of the Graal, for he shall have much earthly worship that
brings it to an end.” “That is true,” said the good man, “for he will be
the best Knight in the world, but know well that there shall none attain
it but by holiness and by confession of sin.” So they rode together till
they came to the hermitage, and the good man led Sir Bors into the
chapel, where he made confession of his sins, and they ate bread and
drank water together. “Now,” said the hermit, “I pray you that you eat
none other till you sit at the table where the Holy Graal shall be.”
“Sir,” answered Sir Bors, “I agree thereto, but how know you that I
shall sit there?” “That know I,” said the holy man, “but there will be
but few of your fellows with you. Also instead of a shirt you shall wear
this garment until you have achieved your quest,” and Sir Bors took off
his clothes, and put on instead a scarlet coat. Then the good man
questioned him, and marvelled to find him pure in life, and he armed him
and bade him go.


After this Sir Bors rode through many lands, and had many adventures,
and was often sore tempted, but remembered the words of the holy man and
kept his life clean of wrong. And once he had by mischance almost slain
his own brother, but a voice cried, “Flee, Bors, and touch him not,” and
he hearkened and stayed his hand. And there fell between them a fiery
cloud, which burned up both their shields, and they two fell to the
earth in a great swoon; but when they awakened out of it Bors saw that
his brother had no harm. With that the voice spoke to him saying, “Bors,
go hence and bear your brother fellowship no longer; but take your way
to the sea, where Sir Percivale abides till you come.” Then Sir Bors
prayed his brother to forgive him all he had unknowingly done, and rode
straight to the sea. On the shore he found a vessel covered with white
samite, and as soon as he stepped in the vessel it set sail so fast it
might have been flying, and Sir Bors lay down and slept till it was day.
When he waked he saw a Knight lying in the midst of the ship, all armed
save for his helm, and he knew him for Sir Percivale, and welcomed him
with great joy; and they told each other of their adventures and of
their temptations, and had great happiness in each other’s company. “We
lack nothing but Galahad, the good Knight,” Sir Percivale said.

                       Adventure of Sir Galahad.

Sir Galahad rested one evening at a hermitage. And while he was resting,
there came a gentlewoman and asked leave of the hermit to speak with Sir
Galahad, and would not be denied, though she was told he was weary and
asleep. Then the hermit waked Sir Galahad and bade him rise, as a
gentlewoman had great need of him, so Sir Galahad rose and asked her
what she wished. “Galahad,” said she, “I will that you arm yourself, and
mount your horse and follow me, and I will show you the highest
adventure that ever any Knight saw.” And Sir Galahad bade her go, and he
would follow wherever she led. In three days they reached the sea, where
they found the ship where Sir Bors and Sir Percivale were lying. And the
lady bade him leave his horse behind and said she would leave hers also,
but their saddles and bridles they would take on board the ship. This
they did, and were received with great joy by the two Knights; then the
sails were spread, and the ship was driven before the wind at a
marvellous pace till they reached the land of Logris, the entrance to
which lies between two great rocks with a whirlpool in the middle.

Their own ship might not get safely through; but they left it and went
into another ship that lay there, which had neither man nor woman in it.
At the end of the ship was written these words: “Thou man which shalt
enter this ship beware thou be in steadfast belief; if thou fail, I
shall not help thee.” Then the gentlewoman turned and said, “Percivale,
do you know who I am?” “No, truly,” answered he. “I am your sister, and
therefore you are the man in the world that I most love. If you are
without faith, or have any hidden sin, beware how you enter, else you
will perish.” “Fair sister,” answered he, “I shall enter therein, for if
I am an untrue Knight then shall I perish.” So they entered the ship,
and it was so rich and well adorned, that they all marvelled.

In the midst of it was a fair bed, and Sir Galahad went thereto and
found on it a crown of silk, and a sword drawn out of its sheath half a
foot and more. The sword was of divers fashions, and the pommel was of
stone, wrought about with colours, and every colour with its own virtue,
and the handle was of the ribs of two beasts. The one was the bone of a
serpent, and no hand that handles it shall ever become weary or hurt;
and the other was a bone of a fish that swims in Euphrates, and whoso
handles it shall not think on joy or sorrow that he has had, but only on
that which he beholds before him. And no man shall grip this sword but
one that is better than other men. So first Sir Percivale stepped
forward and set his hand to the sword, but he might not grasp it. Next
Sir Bors tried to seize it, but he also failed. When Sir Galahad beheld
the sword, he saw that there was written on it, in letters of blood,
that he who tried to draw it should never fail of shame in his body or
be wounded to the death. “By my faith,” said Galahad, “I would draw this
sword out of its sheath, but the offending is so great I shall not lay
my hand thereto.” “Sir,” answered the gentlewoman, “know that no man can
draw this sword save you alone;” and she told him many tales of the
Knights who had set their hands to it, and of the evil things that had
befallen them. And they all begged Sir Galahad to grip the sword, as it
was ordained that he should. “I will grip it,” said Galahad, “to give
you courage, but it belongs no more to me than it does to you.” Then he
gripped it tight with his fingers, and the gentlewoman girt him about
the middle with the sword, and after that they left that ship and went
into another, which brought them to land, where they fell upon many
strange adventures. On the shore they saw three score Knights by a
castle to which they repaired. And the owner of this castle was a
gentlewoman on whom years ago had befallen a great malady of which there
was but one remedy. It was that she must be anointed with a dish of the
blood of a maid pure and fair, and a King’s daughter withal.

And the Knights accosted them, and counselled them to withdraw, saying
they might go without harm, only they must needs have their custom. And
this custom was the blood of Sir Percivale’s sister.

And Sir Galahad drew his sword with the two handles, and slew whatever
withstood him. But night fell, and a good Knight promised to harbour
them for the night safely and surely, saying, “On the morrow we dare say
you will accord with the custom.”

“Then,” said Sir Percivale’s sister, “fair Knights, I fain would heal
this fair lady, for thus shall I gain great worship and my lineage
withal, and better is one harm than twain. And therefore there shall be
no battle, but to-morrow at morn I shall yield you your custom of this
castle.” And then there was great joy. It chanced that while she bled on
the morrow, she lifted her hands and blessed them, and she said, “Madam,
I die to make you whole, for God’s love pray for me.” With that she fell
in a swoon. Then Galahad and his fellows lifted her up and stanched her,
but she died, and weeping, they put her body in a barge as she had
wished. In her hand Sir Percivale put a letter showing how she had
helped them, and they covered her with black silk; so the wind arose and
drove the barge from the land, and all Knights beheld it disappear from

        Sir Lancelot meets Sir Galahad, and they part for Ever.

Now we must tell what happened to Sir Lancelot.

When he was come to a water called Mortoise he fell asleep, awaiting for
the adventure that should be sent to him, and in his sleep a voice spoke
to him, and bade him rise and take his armour, and enter the first ship
he should find. So he started up and took his arms and made him ready,
and on the strand he found a ship that was without sail or oar. As soon
as he was within the ship, he felt himself wrapped round with a
sweetness such as he had never known before, as if all that he could
desire was fulfilled. And with this joy and peace about him he fell
asleep. When he woke he found near him a fair bed, with a dead lady
lying on it, whom he knew to be Sir Percivale’s sister, and in her hand
was the tale of her adventures, which Sir Lancelot took and read. For a
month or more they dwelt in that ship together, and one day, when it had
drifted near the shore, he heard a sound as of a horse; and when the
steps came nearer he saw that a Knight was riding him. At the sight of
the ship the Knight alighted and took the saddle and bridle, and entered
the ship. “You are welcome,” said Lancelot, and the Knight saluted him
and said, “What is your name? for my heart goeth out to you.”

“Truly,” answered he, “my name is Sir Lancelot du Lake.”

“Sir,” said the new Knight, “you are welcome, for you are my father.”

“Ah,” cried Sir Lancelot, “is it you, then, Galahad?”

“Yes, in sooth,” said he, and kneeled down and asked Lancelot’s
blessing, and then took off his helm and kissed him. And there was great
joy between them, and they told each other all that had befallen them
since they left King Arthur’s Court. Then Galahad saw the gentlewoman
dead on the bed, and he knew her, and said he held her in great worship,
and that she was the best maid in the world, and how it was great pity
that she had come to her death. But when Lancelot heard that Galahad had
won the marvellous sword he prayed that he might see it, and kissed the
pommel and the hilt, and the scabbard. “In truth,” he said, “never did I
know of adventures so wonderful and strange.” So dwelled Lancelot and
Galahad in that ship for half a year, and served God daily and nightly
with all their power. And after six months had gone it befell that on a
Monday they drifted to the edge of the forest, where they saw a Knight
with white armour bestriding one horse and holding another all white, by
the bridle. And he came to the ship, and saluted the two Knights and
said, “Galahad, you have been long enough with your father, therefore
leave that ship and start upon this horse, and go on the quest of the
Holy Graal.” So Galahad went to his father and kissed him, saying, “Fair
sweet father, I know not if I shall see you more till I have beheld the
Holy Graal.” Then they heard a voice which said, “The one shall never
see the other till the day of doom.” “Now, Galahad,” said Lancelot,
“since we are to bid farewell for ever now, I pray to the great Father
to preserve you and me both.” “Sir,” answered Galahad, “no prayer
availeth so much as yours.”

The next day Sir Lancelot made his way back to Camelot, where he found
King Arthur and Guenevere; but many of the Knights of the Round Table
were slain and destroyed, more than the half. All the Court was passing
glad to see Sir Lancelot, and the King asked many tidings of his son Sir

       How Sir Galahad found the Graal and died of that Finding.

Sir Galahad rode on till he met Sir Percivale and afterwards Sir Bors,
whom they greeted most gladly, and they bare each other company. First
they came to the Castle of Carbonek, where dwelled King Pelles, who
welcomed them with joy, for he knew by their coming the quest of the
Graal would be fulfilled. They then departed on other adventures, and it
is told how Galahad cured the maimed King by anointing him with blood
from a certain holy spear. That same night at midnight a voice bade them
arise and quit the castle, which they did, followed by three Knights of
Gaul. Then Galahad prayed every one of them that if they reached King
Arthur’s Court they should salute Sir Lancelot his father, and those
Knights of the Round Table that were present, and with that he left
them, and Sir Bors and Sir Percivale with him. For three days they rode
till they came to a shore, and found a ship awaiting them. And in the
midst of it was the table of silver, and the Holy Graal which was
covered with red samite. Then were their hearts right glad, and they
made great reverence thereto, and Galahad prayed that at what time he
asked, he might depart out of this world. So long he prayed that at
length a voice said to him, “Galahad, thou shalt have thy desire, and
when thou askest the death of the body thou shalt have it, and shalt
find the life of the soul.” Percivale likewise heard the voice, and
besought Galahad to tell him why he asked such things. And Galahad
answered, “The other day when we saw a part of the adventures of the
Holy Graal, I was in such a joy of heart that never did man feel before,
and I knew well that when my body is dead my soul shall be in joy of
which the other was but a shadow.”

Some time were the three Knights in that ship, till at length they saw
before them the city of Sarras. Then they took from the ship the table
of silver, and Sir Percivale and Sir Bors went first, and Sir Galahad
followed after to the gate of the city, where sat an old man that was
crooked. At the sight of the old man Sir Galahad called to him to help
them carry the table, for it was heavy. “Truly,” answered the old man,
“it is ten years since I have gone without crutches.” “Care not for
that,” said Galahad, “but rise up and show your good will.” So he arose
and found himself as whole as ever he was, and he ran to the table and
held up the side next Galahad. And there was much noise in the city that
a cripple was healed by three Knights newly entered in. This reached the
ears of the King, who sent for the Knights and questioned them. And they
told him the truth, and of the Holy Graal; but the King listened nothing
to all they said, but put them into a deep hole in the prison. Even here
they were not without comfort, for a vision of the Holy Graal sustained
them. And at the end of a year the King lay sick and felt he should die,
and he called the three Knights and asked forgiveness of the evil he had
done to them, which they gave gladly. Then he died, and the whole city
was afraid and knew not what to do, till while they were in counsel a
voice came to them and bade them choose the youngest of the three
strange Knights for their King. And they did so. After Galahad was
proclaimed King, he ordered that a coffer of gold and precious stones
should be made to encompass the table of silver, and every day he and
the two Knights would kneel before it and make their prayers.

Now at the year’s end, and on the selfsame day that Galahad had been
crowned King, he arose up early and came with the two Knights to the
Palace; and he saw a man in the likeness of a Bishop, encircled by a
great crowd of angels, kneeling before the Holy Vessel. And he called to
Galahad and said to him, “Come forth, thou servant of Christ, and thou
shalt see what thou hast much desired to see.” Then Galahad began to
tremble right hard, when the flesh first beheld the things of the
spirit, and he held up his hand to heaven and said, “Lord, I thank thee,
for now I see that which hath been my desire for many a day. Now,
blessed Lord, I would no longer live, if it might please Thee.” Then
Galahad went to Percivale and kissed him, and commended him to God; and
he went to Sir Bors and kissed him, and commended him to God, and said,
“Fair lord, salute me to my lord Sir Lancelot, my father, and bid him
remember this unstable world.” Therewith he kneeled down before the
table and made his prayers, and while he was praying his soul suddenly
left the body and was carried by angels up into heaven, which the two
Knights right well beheld. Also they saw come from heaven a hand, but no
body behind it, and it came unto the Vessel, and took it and the spear,
and bare them back to heaven. And since then no man has dared to say
that he has seen the Holy Graal.

When Percivale and Bors saw Galahad lying dead they made as much sorrow
as ever two men did, and the people of the country and of the city were
right heavy. And they buried him as befitted their King. As soon as
Galahad was buried, Sir Percivale sought a hermitage outside the city,
and put on the dress of a hermit, and Sir Bors was always with him, but
kept the dress that he wore at Court. When a year and two months had
passed Sir Percivale died also, and was buried by the side of Galahad;
and Sir Bors left that land, and after long riding came to Camelot. Then
was there great joy made of him in the Court, for they had held him as
dead; and the King ordered great clerks to attend him, and to write down
all his adventures and those of Sir Percivale and Sir Galahad. Next, Sir
Lancelot told the adventures of the Graal which he had seen, and this
likewise was written and placed with the other in almonries at
Salisbury. And by-and-by Sir Bors said to Sir Lancelot, “Galahad your
son saluteth you by me, and after you King Arthur and all the Court, and
so did Sir Percivale; for I buried them with mine own hands in the City
of Sarras. Also, Sir Lancelot, Galahad prayeth you to remember of this
uncertain world, as you promised when you were together!” “That is
true,” said Sir Lancelot, “and I trust his prayer may avail me.” But the
prayer but little availed Sir Lancelot, for he fell to his old sins
again. And now the Knights were few that survived the search for the
Graal, and the evil days of Arthur began.

                               PART III.
                        THE FIGHT FOR THE QUEEN.

So the quest of the Holy Graal had been fulfilled, and the few Knights
that had been left alive returned to the Round Table, and there was
great joy in the Court. To do them honour the Queen made them a dinner;
and there were four and twenty Knights present, and among them Sir
Patrise of Ireland, and Sir Gawaine and his brethren, the King’s
nephews, which were Sir Agrawaine, Sir Gaheris, Sir Gareth, and Sir
Mordred. Now it was the custom of Sir Gawaine daily at dinner and supper
to eat all manner of fruit, and especially pears and apples, and this
the Queen knew, and set fruit of all sorts before him. And there was
present at the dinner one Sir Pinel le Savage, who hated Sir Gawaine
because he and his brethren had slain Sir Lamorak du Galis, cousin to
Sir Pinel; so he put poison into some of the apples, hoping that Sir
Gawaine would eat one and die. But by ill fortune it befell that the
good Knight Sir Patrise took a poisoned apple, and in a few moments he
lay dead and stark in his seat. At this sight all the Knights leapt to
their feet, but said nothing, for they bethought them that Queen
Guenevere had made them the dinner, and feared that she had poisoned the

“My lady, the Queen,” said Sir Gawaine, who was the first to speak,
“this fruit was brought for me, for all know how well I love it;
therefore, Madam, the shame of this ill deed is yours.” The Queen stood
still, pale and trembling, but kept silence, and next spoke Sir Mador de
la Porte.

“This shall not be ended so,” said he, “for I have lost a noble Knight
of my blood, and I will be avenged of the person who has wrought this
evil.” And he turned to the Queen and said “Madam, it is you who have
brought about the death of my cousin Sir Patrise!” The Knights round
listened in silence, for they too thought Sir Mador spake truth. And the
Queen still said nothing, but fell to weeping bitterly, till King Arthur
heard and came to look into the matter. And when they told him of their
trouble his heart was heavy within him.

“Fair lords,” said the King at last, “I grieve for this ill deed; but I
cannot meddle therein, or do battle for my wife, for I have to judge
justly. Sure I am that this deed is none of hers, therefore many a good
Knight will stand her champion that she be not burned to death in a
wrong quarrel. And Sir Mador, hold not your head so high, but fix the
day of battle, when you shall find a Knight to answer you, or else it
were great shame to all my Court.”

“My gracious lord,” said Sir Mador, “you must hold me excused. But
though you are a King you are also a Knight, and must obey the laws of
Knighthood. Therefore I beseech your forgiveness if I declare that none
of the four and twenty Knights here present will fight that battle. What
say you, my lords?” Then the Knights answered that they could not hold
the Queen guiltless, for as the dinner was made by her either she or her
servants must have done this thing.

“Alas!” said the Queen, “no evil was in my heart when I prepared this
feast, for never have I done such foul deeds.”

“My lord the King,” cried Sir Mador, “I require of you, as you are a
just King, to fix a day that I may get ready for the fight!”

“Well,” answered the King, “on the fifteenth day from this come on
horseback to the meadow that is by Westminster. And if it happens that
there be a Knight to fight with you, strike as hard as you will, God
will speed the right. But if no Knight is there, then must my Queen be
burned, and a fire shall be made in the meadow.”

“I am answered,” said Sir Mador, and he and the rest of the Knights

When the King and Queen were left alone he asked her what had brought
all this about. “God help me, that I know not,” said the Queen, “nor how
it was done.”

“Where is Sir Lancelot?” said King Arthur, looking round. “If he were
here he would not grudge to do battle for you.”

“Sir,” replied the Queen, “I know not where he is, but his brother and
his kinsmen think he is not in this realm.”

“I grieve for that,” said the King, “for he would soon stop this strife.
But I counsel you, ask Sir Bors, and he will not refuse you. For well I
see that none of the four and twenty Knights who were with you at dinner
will be your champion, and none will say well of you, but men will speak
evil of you at the Court.”

“Alas!” sighed the Queen, “I do indeed miss Sir Lancelot, for he would
soon ease my heart.”

“What ails you?” asked the King, “that you cannot keep Sir Lancelot at
your side, for well you know that he who Sir Lancelot fights for has the
best Knight in the world for his champion. Now go your way, and command
Sir Bors to do battle with you for Sir Lancelot’s sake.” So the Queen
departed from the King, and sent for Sir Bors into her chamber, and when
he came she besought his help.

              [Illustration: SIR MADOR ACCUSES GUENEVERE]

“Madam,” said he, “what can I do? for I may not meddle in this matter
lest the Knights who were at the dinner have me in suspicion, for I was
there also. It is now, Madam, that you miss Sir Lancelot, whom you have
driven away, as he would have done battle for you were you right or
wrong, and I wonder how for shame’s sake you can ask me, knowing how I
love and honour him.”

“Alas,” said the Queen, “I throw myself on your grace,” and she went
down on her knees and besought Sir Bors to have mercy on her, “else I
shall have a shameful death, and one I have never deserved.” At that
King Arthur came in, and found her kneeling before Sir Bors. “Madame!
you do me great dishonour,” said Sir Bors, raising her up.

“Ah, gentle Knight,” cried the King, “have mercy on my Queen, for I am
sure that they speak falsely. And I require by the love of Sir Lancelot
that you do battle for her instead of him.”

“My lord,” answered Sir Bors, “you require of me the hardest thing that
ever any one asked of me, for well you know that if I fight for the
Queen I shall anger all my companions of the Round Table; but I will not
say nay, my lord, for Sir Lancelot’s sake and for your own sake! On that
day I will be the Queen’s champion, unless a better Knight is found to
do battle for her.”

“Will you promise me this?” asked the King.

“Yes,” answered Sir Bors, “I will not fail you nor her, unless there
should come a better Knight than I, then he shall have the battle.” Then
the King and Queen rejoiced greatly, and thanked Sir Bors with all their

So Sir Bors departed and rode unto Sir Lancelot, who was with the hermit
Sir Brasias, and told him of this adventure. “Ah,” said Sir Lancelot,
“this has befallen as I would have it, and therefore I pray you make
ready to do battle, but delay the fight as long as you can that I may
appear. For I am sure that Sir Mador is a hot Knight, and the longer he
waits the more impatient he will be for the combat.”

“Sir,” answered Sir Bors, “let me deal with him. Doubt not you shall
have all your will.” And he rode away, and came again to the Court.

It was soon noised about that Sir Bors would be the Queen’s champion,
and many Knights were displeased with him; but there were a few who held
the Queen to be innocent. Sir Bors spoke unto them all and said, “It
were shameful, my fair lords, if we suffered the most noble Queen in the
world to be disgraced openly, not only for her sake, but for the
King’s.” But they answered him: “As for our lord King Arthur, we love
him and honour him as much as you; but as for Queen Guenevere, we love
her not, for she is the destroyer of good Knights.”

“Fair lords,” said Sir Bors, “you shall not speak such words, for never
yet have I heard that she was the destroyer of good Knights. But at all
times, as far as I ever knew, she maintained them and gave them many
gifts. And therefore it were a shame to us all if we suffered our noble
King’s wife to be put to death, and I will not suffer it. So much I will
say, that the Queen is not guilty of Sir Patrise’s death; for she owed
him no ill will, and bade him and us to the dinner for no evil purpose,
which will be proved hereafter. And in any case there was foul dealing
among us.”

“We may believe your words,” said some of the Knights, but others held
that he spoke falsely.

The days passed quickly by until the evening before the battle, when the
Queen sent for Sir Bors and asked him if he was ready to keep his

“Truly, Madam,” answered he, “I shall not fail you, unless a better
Knight than I am come to do battle for you. Then, Madam, I am discharged
of my promise.”

“Shall I tell this to my lord Arthur?” said the Queen.

“If it pleases you, Madam,” answered Sir Bors. So the Queen went to the
King, and told him what Sir Bors had said, and the King bade her to be
comforted, as Sir Bors was one of the best Knights of the Round Table.

The next morning the King and Queen, and all manner of Knights, rode
into the meadow of Westminster, where the battle was to be; and the
Queen was put into the charge of the High Constable, and a stout iron
stake was planted, and a great fire made about it, at which the Queen
should be burned if Sir Mador de la Porte won the fight. For it was the
custom in those days that neither fear nor favour, love nor kinship,
should hinder right judgment. Then came Sir Mador de la Porte, and made
oath before the King that the Queen had done to death his cousin Sir
Patrise and he would prove it on her Knight’s body, let who would say
the contrary. Sir Bors likewise made answer that Queen Guenevere had
done no wrong, and that he would make good with his two hands. “Then get
you ready,” said Sir Mador. “Sir Mador,” answered Sir Bors, “I know you
for a good Knight, but I trust to be able to withstand your malice; and
I have promised King Arthur and my Lady the Queen that I will do battle
for her to the uttermost, unless there come forth a better Knight than I

“Is that all?” asked Sir Mador; “but you must either fight now or own
that you are beaten.”

“Take your horse,” said Sir Bors, “for I shall not tarry long,” and Sir
Mador forthwith rode into the field with his shield on his shoulder, and
his spear in his hand, and he went up and down crying unto King Arthur,
“Bid your champion come forth if he dare.” At that Sir Bors was ashamed,
and took his horse, and rode to the end of the lists. But from a wood
hard by appeared a Knight riding fast on a white horse, bearing a shield
full of strange devices. When he reached Sir Bors he drew rein and said,
“Fair Knight, be not displeased, but this battle must be to a better
Knight than you. For I have come a great journey to fight this fight, as
I promised when I spoke with you last, and I thank you heartily for your
goodwill.” So Sir Bors went to King Arthur and told him that a Knight
had come who wished to do battle for the Queen. “What Knight is he?”
asked the King.

“That I know not,” said Sir Bors; “but he made a covenant with me to be
here this day, and now I am discharged,” said Sir Bors.

Then the King called to that Knight and asked him if he would fight for
the Queen. “For that purpose I came hither,” replied he, “and therefore,
Sir King, delay me no longer, for as soon as I have ended this battle I
must go hence, as I have many matters elsewhere. And I would have you
know that it is a dishonour to all the Knights of the Round Table to let
so noble a lady and so courteous a Queen as Queen Guenevere be shamed
amongst them.”

The Knights who were standing round looked at each other at these words,
and wondered much what man this was who took the battle upon him, for
none knew him save Sir Bors.


“Sir,” said Sir Mador de la Porte unto the King, “let me know the name
of him with whom I have to do.” But the King answered nothing, and made
a sign for the fight to begin. They rode to the end of the lists, and
couched their spears and rushed together with all their force, and Sir
Mador’s spear broke in pieces. But the other Knight’s spear held firm,
and he pressed on Sir Mador’s horse till it fell backward with a great
fall. Sir Mador sprang from his horse, and, placing his shield before
him, drew his sword, and bade his foe dismount from his horse also, and
do battle with him on foot, which the unknown Knight did. For an hour
they fought thus, as Sir Mador was a strong man, and had proved himself
the victor in many combats. At last the Knight smote Sir Mador
grovelling to his knees, and the Knight stepped forward to have struck
him flat upon the ground. Therewith Sir Mador suddenly rose, and smote
the Knight upon the thigh, so that the blood ran out fiercely. But when
the Knight felt himself wounded, and saw his blood, he let Sir Mador
rise to his feet, and then he gave him such a buffet on the helm that
this time Sir Mador fell his length on the earth, and the Knight sprang
to him, to unloose his helm. At this Sir Mador prayed for his life,
acknowledging that he was overcome, and confessed that the Queen’s
innocence had been proved. “I will only grant you your life,” said the
Knight, “if you will proclaim publicly that you have foully slandered
the Queen, and that you make no mention, on the tomb of Sir Patrise,
that ever Queen Guenevere consented to his murder.” “All that will I
do,” said Sir Mador, and some Knights took him up, and carried him away
to heal his wounds. And the other knight went straight to the foot of
the steps where sat King Arthur, and there the Queen had just come, and
the King and the Queen kissed each other before all the people. When
King Arthur saw the Knight standing there he stooped down to him and
thanked him, and so likewise did the Queen; and they prayed him to put
off his helmet, and commanded wine to be brought, and when he unlaced
his helmet to drink they knew him to be Sir Lancelot du Lake. Then
Arthur took the Queen’s hand and led her to Sir Lancelot and said, “Sir,
I give you the most heartfelt thanks of the great deed you have done
this day for me and my Queen.”

“My lord,” answered Sir Lancelot, “you know well that I ought of right
ever to fight your battles, and those of my lady the Queen. For it was
you who gave me the high honour of Knighthood, and that same day my lady
the Queen did me a great service, else I should have been put to shame
before all men. Because in my hastiness I lost my sword, and my lady the
Queen found it and gave it to me when I had sore need of it. And
therefore, my lord Arthur, I promised her that day that I would be her
Knight in right or in wrong.”

“I owe you great thanks,” said the King, “and some time I hope to repay
you.” The Queen, beholding Sir Lancelot, wept tears of joy for her
deliverance, and felt bowed to the ground with sorrow at the thought of
what he had done for her, when she had sent him away with unkind words.
Then all the Knights of the Round Table and his kinsmen drew near to him
and welcomed him, and there was great mirth in the Court.

                       THE FAIR MAID OF ASTOLAT.

Soon after this it befell that the damsel of the lake, called by some
Nimue and by others Vivien, wedded Sir Pelleas, and came to the Court of
King Arthur. And when she heard the talk of the death of Sir Patrise and
how the Queen had been accused of it, she found out by means of her
magic that the tale was false, and told it openly that the Queen was
innocent and that it was Sir Pinel who had poisoned the apple. Then he
fled into his own country, where none might lay hands on him. So Sir
Patrise 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, that empoisoned apples to have slain Sir Gawaine, and by
misfortune Sir Patrise ate one of those apples and then suddenly he
burst.” Also there was put upon the tomb that Queen Guenevere was
accused of the death of Sir Patrise by Sir Mador de la Porte, and how
Sir Lancelot fought with him and overcame him in battle. All this was
written on the tomb.

And daily Sir Mador prayed to have the Queen’s grace once more, and by
means of Sir Lancelot he was forgiven. It was now the middle of the
summer, and King Arthur proclaimed that in fifteen days a great tourney
should be held at Camelot, which is now called Winchester, and many
Knights and Kings made ready to do themselves honour. But the Queen said
she would stay behind, for she was sick, and did not care for the noise
and hustle of a tourney. “It grieves me you should say that,” said the
King, “for you will not have seen so noble a company gathered together
this seven years past, save at the Whitsuntide when Galahad departed
from the Court.”

“Truly,” answered the Queen, “the sight will be grand. Nevertheless you
must hold me excused, for I cannot be there.”

Sir Lancelot likewise declared that his wounds were not healed and that
he could not bear himself in a tourney as he was wont to do. At this the
King was wroth, that he might not have either his Queen or his best
Knight with him, and he departed towards Winchester and by the way
lodged in a town now called Guildford, but then Astolat. And when the
King had set forth, the Queen sent for Sir Lancelot, and told him he was
to blame for having excused himself from going with the King, who set
such store by his company; and Sir Lancelot said he would be ruled by
her, and would ride forth next morning on his way to Winchester; “but I
should have you know,” said he, “that at the tourney I shall be against
the King and his Knights.”

“You must do as you please,” replied the Queen, “but if you will be
ruled by my counsel, you will fight on his side.”

“Madam,” said Sir Lancelot, “I pray you not to be displeased with me. I
will take the adventure as it comes,” and early next morning he rode
away till at eventide he reached Astolat. He went through the town till
he stopped before the house of an old Baron, Sir Bernard of Astolat, and
as he dismounted from his horse, the King spied him from the gardens of
the castle. “It is well,” he said, smiling to the Knights that were
beside him, “I see one man who will play his part in the jousts, and I
will undertake that he will do marvels.”

“Who is that?” asked they all. “You must wait to know that,” replied the
King, and went into the castle. Meantime Sir Lancelot had entered his
lodging, and the old Baron bade him welcome, but he knew not it was Sir
Lancelot. “Fair Sir,” said Sir Lancelot, “I pray you lend me, if you
can, a shield with a device which no man knows, for mine they know

“Sir,” answered Sir Bernard, “you shall have your wish, for you seem one
of the goodliest Knights in the world. And, Sir, I have two sons, both
but lately knighted, Sir Tirre who was wounded on the day of his
Knighthood, and his shield you shall have. My youngest son, Sir Lavaine,
shall ride with you, if you will have his company, to the jousts. For my
heart is much drawn to you, and tell me, I beseech you, what name I
shall call you by.”

“You must hold me excused as to that, just now,” said Sir Lancelot, “but
if I speed well at the jousts, I will come again and tell you. But let
me have Sir Lavaine with me, and lend me, as you have offered, his
brother’s shield.” “This shall be done,” replied Sir Bernard.

Besides these two sons, Sir Bernard had a daughter whom every one called
The Fair Maid of Astolat, though her real name was Elaine le Blanc. And
when she looked on Sir Lancelot, her love went forth to him and she
could never take it back, and in the end it killed her. As soon as her
father told her that Sir Lancelot was going to the tourney she besought
him to wear her token in the jousts, but he was not willing. “Fair
damsel,” he said, “if I did that, I should have done more for your sake
than ever I did for lady or damsel.” But then he remembered that he was
to go disguised to the tourney, and because he had before never worn any
manner of token of any damsel, he bethought him that, if he should take
one of hers, none would know him. So he said to her, “Fair damsel, I
will wear your token on my helmet, if you will show me what it is.”

“Sir,” she answered, “it is a red sleeve, embroidered in great pearls,”
and she brought it to him. “Never have I done so much for any damsel,”
said he, and gave his own shield into her keeping, till he came again.
Sir Arthur had waited three days in Astolat for some Knights who were
long on the road, and when they had arrived they all set forth, and were
followed by Sir Lancelot and Sir Lavaine, both with white shields, and
Sir Lancelot bore besides the red sleeve that was a token. Now Camelot
was filled with a great number of Kings and Lords and Knights, but Sir
Lavaine found means to lodge both himself and Sir Lancelot secretly with
a rich burgess, and no man knew who they were or whence they came. And
there they stayed till the day of the tourney. At earliest dawn the
trumpets blew, and King Arthur took his seat upon a high scaffold, so
that he might see who had done best; but he would not suffer Sir Gawaine
to go from his side, for Sir Gawaine never won the prize when Sir
Lancelot was in the field, and as King Arthur knew, Sir Lancelot
oftentimes disguised himself.


Then the Knights formed into two parties and Sir Lancelot made him
ready, and Elaine fastened the red sleeve upon his helmet. Then he and
Sir Lavaine rode into a little wood that lay behind the Knights who
should fight against those of the Round Table. “Sir,” said Sir Lancelot,
“yonder is a company of good Knights and they hold together as boars
that are vexed with dogs.”

“That is truth,” said Sir Lavaine.

“Now,” said Sir Lancelot, “if you will help me a little, you shall see
King Arthur’s side, which is winning, driven back as fast as they came.”

“Spare not, Sir,” answered Sir Lavaine, “for I shall do what I may.” So
they rode into the thickest of the press, and smote so hard both with
spear and sword that the Knights of the Round Table fell back. “O
mercy!” cried Sir Gawaine, “what Knight is that yonder who does such
marvellous deeds?”

“I know well who it is,” said King Arthur, “but I will not tell you

“Sir,” answered Sir Gawaine, “I should say it was Sir Lancelot by the
blows he deals and the manner that he rides, but it cannot be he, for
this man has a red sleeve upon his helmet, and Sir Lancelot has never
borne the token of any lady.”

“Let him be,” said Sir Arthur, “you will find out his name, and see him
do greater deeds yet, before he departs.” And the Knights that were
fighting against the King’s party took heart again, for before they
feared they would be beaten. But when Sir Bors saw this, he called unto
him the Knights that were of kin to Sir Lancelot, and they banded
together to make a great charge, and threw Sir Lancelot’s horse to the
ground, and by misfortune the spear of Sir Bors broke, and its head was
left in Sir Lancelot’s side. When Sir Lavaine saw that, he unhorsed the
King of Scots, and brought his horse to Sir Lancelot, and helped him to
mount thereon and gave him a spear, with which Sir Lancelot smote Sir
Bors to the earth and Sir Ector de Maris, the foster-father of King
Arthur, and buffeted sorely the Knights that were with them. Afterward
he hurled himself into the thick _mêlée_ of them all, and did the most
wonderful deeds that ever were heard of. And Sir Lavaine likewise did
well that day, for he smote down full two Knights of the Round Table.
“Mercy,” again cried Sir Gawaine to Arthur, “I marvel what Knight that
is with the red sleeve.”

“That you shall know soon,” said King Arthur, and commanded that the
trumpets should be blown, and declared that the prize belonged to the
Knight with the white shield, who bare the red sleeve, for he had
unhorsed more than thirty Knights. And the Kings and Lords who were of
his party came round him and thanked him for the help he had given them,
by which means the honours of the day had been theirs.

“Fair Lords,” said Sir Lancelot, “if I have deserved thanks, I have paid
for them sorely, for I shall hardly escape with my life, therefore I
pray you let me depart, for my hurt is grievous.” Then he groaned
piteously, and galloped from them to a wood’s side, followed by Sir
Lavaine. “Oh help me, Sir Lavaine,” said he, “to get this spear’s head
out of my side, for it is killing me.” But Sir Lavaine feared to touch
it, lest Sir Lancelot should bleed to death. “I charge you,” said Sir
Lancelot, “if you love me, draw out the head,” so Sir Lavaine drew it
out. And Sir Lancelot gave a great shriek, and a marvellous grisly
groan, and his blood flowed out so fast that he fell into a swoon. “Oh
what shall I do?” cried Sir Lavaine, and he loosed Sir Lancelot’s helm
and coat of mail, and turned him so that the wind might blow on him, but
for full half an hour he lay as if he had been dead. And at last Sir
Lancelot opened his eyes, and said, “O Lavaine, help me on my horse, for
two miles from this place there lives a hermit who once was a Knight of
the Round Table, and he can heal my wounds.” Then Sir Lavaine, with much
ado, helped him on his horse, and brought him bleeding to the hermit.
The hermit looked at him as he rode up, leaning piteously on his
saddle-bow, and he thought that he should know him, but could not tell
who he was for the paleness of his face, till he saw by a wound on his
cheek that it was Sir Lancelot.

“You cannot hide your name from me,” said the hermit, “for you are the
noblest Knight in the world, and well I know you to be Sir Lancelot.”

“Since you know me, Sir,” said he, “help me for God’s sake, and for
death or life put me out of this pain.”

“Fear nothing,” answered the hermit, “your pain will soon be gone,” and
he called his servants to take the armour off the Knight, and laid him
in bed. After that he dressed the wound, and gave him good wine to
drink, and Sir Lancelot slept and awoke free of his pain. So we will
leave him to be healed of his wound, under the care of the hermit, and
go back to King Arthur.

Now, it was the custom in those days that after a tourney was finished,
a great feast should be held at which both parties were assembled, so
King Arthur sent to ask the King of Northgalis, where was the Knight
with the red sleeve, who had fought on his side. “Bring him before me,”
he said, “that he may have the prize he has won, which is his right.”
Then answered the King with the hundred Knights, “We fear the Knight
must have been sore hurt, and that neither you nor we are ever like to
see him again, which is grievous to think of.”

“Alas!” said King Arthur, “is he then so badly wounded? What is his

“Truly,” said they all, “we know not his name, nor whence he came, nor
whither he went.”

“As for me,” answered King Arthur, “these tidings are the worst that I
have heard these seven years, for I would give all the lands I hold that
no harm had befallen this Knight.”

“Do you know him?” asked they all.

“Whether I know him or not,” said King Arthur, “I shall not tell you,
but may Heaven send me good news of him.” “Amen,” answered they.

“By my head,” said Sir Gawaine, “if this good Knight is really wounded
unto death, it is a great evil for all this land, for he is one of the
noblest that ever I saw for handling a sword or spear. And if he may be
found, I shall find him, for I am sure he is not far from this town;” so
he took his Squire with him, and they rode all round Camelot, six or
seven miles on every side, but nothing could they hear of him. And he
returned heavily to the Court of King Arthur.

Two days after the King and all his company set out for London, and by
the way, it happened to Sir Gawaine to lodge with Sir Bernard at
Astolat. And when he was in his chamber, Sir Bernard and his daughter
Elaine came unto Sir Gawaine, to ask him tidings of the Court, and who
did best in the tourney at Winchester.

“Truly,” said Sir Gawaine, “there were two Knights that bare white
shields, but one of them had a red sleeve upon his helm, and he was one
of the best Knights that ever I saw joust in the field, for I dare say
he smote down forty Knights of the Table Round.”

“Now blessed be God,” said the Maid of Astolat, “that that Knight sped
so well, for he is the man in the world that I loved first, and he will
also be the last that ever I shall love.”

“Fair Maid,” asked Sir Gawaine, “is that Knight your love?”

“Certainly he is my love,” said she.

“Then you know his name?” asked Sir Gawaine.

“Nay, truly,” answered the damsel, “I know neither his name, nor whence
he cometh, but I love him for all that.”

“How did you meet him first?” asked Sir Gawaine. At that she told him
the whole story, and how her brother went with Sir Lancelot to do him
service, and lent him the white shield of her brother Sir Tirre and left
his own shield with her. “Why did he do that?” asked Sir Gawaine.

“For this cause,” said the damsel, “his shield was too well known among
many noble Knights.”

“Ah, fair damsel,” said Sir Gawaine, “I beg of you to let me have a
sight of that shield.”

“Sir,” answered she, “it is in my chamber covered with a case, and if
you will come with me, you shall see it.”

“Not so,” said Sir Bernard, and sent his Squire for it. And when Sir
Gawaine took off the case and beheld the shield, and saw the arms, he
knew it to be Sir Lancelot’s. “Ah mercy,” cried he, “my heart is heavier
than ever it was before!”

“Why?” asked Elaine.

“I have great cause,” answered Sir Gawaine. “Is that Knight who owns
this shield your love?”

“Yes, truly,” said she; “I would I were his love.”

“You are right, fair damsel,” replied Gawaine, “for if you love him, you
love the most honourable Knight in the world. I have known him for four
and twenty years, and never did I or any other Knight see him wear a
token of either lady or damsel at a tournament. Therefore, damsel, he
has paid you great honour. But I fear that I may never behold him again
upon earth, and that is grievous to think of.”

“Alas!” said she, “how may this be? Is he slain?”

“I did not say that,” replied Sir Gawaine, “but he is sorely wounded,
and is more likely to be dead than alive. And, maiden, by this shield I
know that he is Sir Lancelot.”

“How can this be?” said the Maid of Astolat, “and what was his hurt?”

“Truly,” answered Sir Gawaine, “it was the man that loved him best who
hurt him so, and I am sure that if that man knew that it was Sir
Lancelot whom he had wounded, he would think it was the darkest deed
that ever he did.”

“Now, dear father,” said Elaine, “give me leave to ride and to seek him,
for I shall go out of my mind unless I find him and my brother.”

“Do as you will,” answered her father, “for I am grieved to hear of the
hurt of that noble Knight.” So the damsel made ready.

On the morn Sir Gawaine came to King Arthur and told him how he had
found the shield in the keeping of the Maid of Astolat. “All that I knew
beforehand,” said the King, “and that was why I would not suffer you to
fight at the tourney, for I had espied him when he entered his lodging
the night before. But this is the first time that ever I heard of his
bearing the token of some lady, and much I marvel at it.”

“By my head,” answered Sir Gawaine, “the Fair Maiden of Astolat loves
him wondrous well. What it all means, or what will be the end, I cannot
say, but she has ridden after him to seek him.” So the King and his
company came to London, and every one in the Court knew that it was Sir
Lancelot who had jousted the best.

And when the tidings came to Sir Bors, his heart grew heavy, and also
the hearts of his kinsmen. But when the Queen heard that Sir Lancelot
bore the red sleeve of the Fair Maid of Astolat, she was nearly mad with
wrath, and summoned Sir Bors before her in haste.

“Ah, Sir Bors,” she cried when he was come, “have the tidings reached
you that Sir Lancelot has been a false Knight to me?”

“Madam,” answered Sir Bors, “I pray you say not so, for I cannot hear
such language of him.”

“Why, is he not false and a traitor when, after swearing that for right
or wrong he would be my Knight and mine only, he bore the red sleeve
upon his helm at the great jousts at Camelot?”

“Madam,” said Sir Bors, “I grieve bitterly as to that sleeve-bearing,
but I think he did it that none of his kin should know him. For no man
before that had seen him bear the token of any lady, be she what she

“Fie on him!” said the Queen, “I myself heard Sir Gawaine tell my lord
Arthur of the great love that is between the Fair Maiden of Astolat and

“Madam,” answered Sir Bors, “I cannot hinder Sir Gawaine from saying
what he pleases, but as for Sir Lancelot, I am sure that he loves no one
lady or maiden better than another. And therefore I will hasten to seek
him wherever he be.”

Meanwhile fair Elaine came to Winchester to find Sir Lancelot, who lay
in peril of his life in the hermit’s dwelling. And when she was riding
hither and thither, not knowing where she should turn, she fell on her
brother Sir Lavaine, who was exercising his horse. “How doth my lord Sir
Lancelot?” asked she.

“Who told you, sister, that my lord’s name was Sir Lancelot?” answered
Sir Lavaine.

“Sir Gawaine, who came to my father’s house to rest after the tourney,
knew him by his shield,” said she, and they rode on till they reached
the hermitage, and Sir Lavaine brought her to Sir Lancelot. And when she
saw him so pale, and in such a plight, she fell to the earth in a swoon,
but by-and-by she opened her eyes and said, “My lord Sir Lancelot, what
has brought you to this?” and swooned again. When she came to herself
and stood up, Sir Lancelot prayed her to be of good cheer, for if she
had come to comfort him she was right welcome, and that his wound would
soon heal. “But I marvel,” said he, “how you know my name.” Then the
maiden told him how Sir Gawaine had been at Astolat and had seen his

“Alas!” sighed Sir Lancelot, “it grieves me that my name is known, for
trouble will come of it.” For he knew full well that Sir Gawaine would
tell Queen Guenevere, and that she would be wroth. And Elaine stayed and
tended him, and Sir Lancelot begged Sir Lavaine to ride to Winchester
and ask if Sir Bors was there, and said that he should know him by token
of a wound which Sir Bors had on his forehead. “For well I am sure,”
said Sir Lancelot, “that Sir Bors will seek me, as he is the same good
Knight that hurt me.”

Therefore as Sir Lancelot commanded, Sir Lavaine rode to Winchester and
inquired if Sir Bors had been seen there, so that when he entered the
town Sir Lavaine readily found him. Sir Bors was overjoyed to hear good
tidings of Sir Lancelot, and they rode back together to the hermitage.
At the sight of Sir Lancelot lying in his bed, pale and thin, Sir Bors’
heart gave way, and he wept long without speaking. “Oh, my lord Sir
Lancelot,” he said at last, “God send you hasty recovery; great is my
shame for having wounded you thus, you who are the noblest Knight in the
world. I wonder that my arm would lift itself against you, and I ask
your mercy.”

“Fair cousin,” answered Sir Lancelot, “such words please me not at all,
for it is the fault of my pride which would overcome you all, that I lie
here to-day. We will not speak of it any more, for what is done cannot
be undone, but let us find a cure so that I may soon be whole.” Then Sir
Bors leaned upon his bed, and told him how the Queen was filled with
anger against him, because he wore the red sleeve at the jousts.

“I am sorrowful at what you tell me,” replied Sir Lancelot, “for all I
did was to hinder my being known.”

“That I said to excuse you,” answered Sir Bors, “though it was all in
vain. But is this damsel that is so busy about you the Fair Maid of

“She it is, and she will not go from me!”

“Why should she go from you?” asked Sir Bors. “She is a passing fair
damsel, and of gentle breeding, and I would that you could love her, for
it is easy to see by her bearing that she loves you entirely.”

“It grieves me to hear that,” said Sir Lancelot.

After this they talked of other things, till in a few days Sir
Lancelot’s wounds were whole again. When Sir Lancelot felt his strength
return, Sir Bors made him ready, and departed for the Court of King
Arthur, and told them how he had left Sir Lancelot. And there was on All
Hallows a great tournament, and Sir Bors won the prize for the unhorsing
of twenty Knights, and Sir Gareth did great deeds also, but vanished
suddenly from the field, and no man knew where he had gone. After the
tourney was over, Sir Bors rode to the hermitage to see Sir Lancelot,
whom he found walking on his feet, and on the next morning they bade
farewell to the hermit, taking with them Elaine le Blanc. They went
first to Astolat, where they were well lodged in the house of Sir
Bernard, but when the morrow came, and Sir Lancelot would have departed
from them, Elaine called to her father and to her brothers Sir Tirre and
Sir Lavaine, and thus she said—

“My lord Sir Lancelot, fair Knight, leave me not, I pray you, but have
mercy upon me, and suffer me not to die of love of thee.”

“What do you wish me to do?” asked Sir Lancelot.

“I would have you for my husband,” answered she.

“Fair damsel, I thank you,” said Sir Lancelot, “but truly I shall never
have a wife. But in token and thanks of all your good will towards me,
gladly will I give a thousand pounds yearly when you set your heart upon
some other Knight.”

“Of such gifts I will have none,” answered Elaine, “and I would have you
know, Sir Lancelot, that if you refuse to wed me, my good days are

“Fair damsel,” said Sir Lancelot, “I cannot do the thing that you ask.”

At these words she fell down in a swoon, and her maids bore her to her
chamber, where she made bitter sorrow. Sir Lancelot thought it would be
well for him to depart before she came to her senses again, and he asked
Sir Lavaine what he would do.

“What should I do?” asked Sir Lavaine, “but follow you, if you will have
me.” Then Sir Bernard came and said to Sir Lancelot, “I see well that my
daughter Elaine will die for your sake.”

“I cannot marry her,” answered Sir Lancelot, “and it grieves me sorely,
for she is a good maiden, fair and gentle.”

“Father,” said Sir Lavaine, “she is as pure and good as Sir Lancelot has
said, and she is like me, for since first I saw him I can never leave
him.” And after that they bade the old man farewell and came unto
Winchester, where the King and all the Knights of the Round Table made
great joy of him, save only Sir Agrawaine and Sir Mordred. But the Queen
was angry and would not speak to him, though he tried by all means to
make her. Now when the Fair Maid of Astolat knew he was gone, she would
neither eat nor sleep, but cried after Sir Lancelot all the day long.
And when she had spent ten days in this manner, she grew so weak that
they thought her soul must quit this world, and the priest came to her,
and bade her dwell no more on earthly things. She would not listen to
him, but cried ever after Sir Lancelot, and how she had loved none
other, no, nor ever would, and that her love would be her death. Then
she called her father Sir Bernard, and her brother Sir Tirre, and begged
her brother to write her a letter as she should tell him, and her father
that he would have her watched till she was dead. “And while my body is
warm,” said she, “let this letter be put in my right hand, and my hand
bound fast with the letter until I be cold, and let me be dressed in my
richest clothes and be lain on a fair bed, and driven in a chariot to
the Thames. There let me be put on a barge, and a dumb man with me, to
steer the barge, which shall be covered over with black samite. Thus,
father, I beseech you, let it be done.” And her father promised her
faithfully that so it should be done to her when she was dead.

                    [Illustration: THE BLACK BARGET]

Next day she died, and her body was lain on the bed, and placed in a
chariot, and driven to the Thames, where the man awaited her with the
barge. When she was put on board, he steered the barge to Westminster
and rowed a great while to and fro, before any espied it. At last King
Arthur and Queen Guenevere withdrew into a window, to speak together,
and espied the black barge, and wondered greatly what it meant. The King
summoned Sir Kay, and bade him take Sir Brandiles and Sir Agrawaine, and
find out who was lying there, and they ran down to the river side, and
came and told the King. “That fair corpse will I see,” returned the
King, and he took the Queen’s hand and led her thither. Then he ordered
the barge to be made fast, and he entered it, and the Queen likewise,
and certain Knights with them. And there he saw a fair woman on a rich
bed, and her clothing was of cloth of gold, and she lay smiling. While
they looked, all being silent, the Queen spied a letter in her right
hand, and pointed it out to the King, who took it saying, “Now I am sure
this letter will tell us what she was, and why she came hither.” So
leaving the barge in charge of a trusty man, they went into the King’s
chamber, followed by many Knights, for the King would have the letter
read openly. He then broke the seal himself, and bade a clerk read it,
and this was what it said—

“Most noble Knight Sir Lancelot, I was your lover, whom men called the
Fair Maid of Astolat: therefore unto all ladies I make my moan; yet pray
for my soul, and bury me. This is my last request. Pray for my soul, Sir
Lancelot, as thou art peerless.”

This was all the letter, and the King and Queen and all the Knights wept
when they heard it.

“Let Sir Lancelot be sent for,” presently said the King, and when Sir
Lancelot came the letter was read to him also.

“My lord Arthur,” said he, after he had heard it all, “I am right
grieved at the death of this damsel. God knows I was not, of my own
will, guilty of her death, and that I will call on her brother, Sir
Lavaine, to witness. She was both fair and good, and much was I beholden
to her, but she loved me out of measure.”

“You might have been a little gentle with her,” answered the Queen, “and
have found some way to save her life.”

“Madam,” said Sir Lancelot, “she would have nothing but my love, and
that I could not give her, though I offered her a thousand pounds yearly
if she should set her heart on any other Knight. For, Madam, I love not
to be forced to love; love must arise of itself, and not by command.”

“That is truth,” replied the King, “love is free in himself, and never
will be bounden; for where he is bounden he looseth himself. But, Sir
Lancelot, be it your care to see that the damsel is buried as is

                                PART IV.

                        LANCELOT AND GUENEVERE.

Now we come to the sorrowful tale of Lancelot and Guenevere, and of the
death of King Arthur. Already it has been told that King Arthur had
wedded Guenevere, the daughter of Leodegrance, King of Cornwall, a
damsel who seemed made of all the flowers, so fair was she, and slender,
and brilliant to look upon. And the Knights in her father’s Court bowed
down before her, and smote their hardest in the jousts where Guenevere
was present, but none dared ask her in marriage till Arthur came. Like
the rest he saw and loved her, but, unlike them, he was a King, and
might lift his eyes even unto Guenevere. The maiden herself scarcely saw
or spoke to him, but did her father’s bidding in all things, and when he
desired her to make everything ready to go clothed as beseemed a
Princess to King Arthur’s Court, her heart beat with joy at the sight of
rich stuffs and shining jewels. Then one day there rode up to the Castle
a band of horsemen sent by the King to bring her to his Court, and at
the head of them Sir Lancelot du Lake, friend of King Arthur, and winner
of all the jousts and tournaments where Knights meet to gain honour. Day
by day they rode together apart and he told her tales of gallant deeds
done for love of beautiful ladies, and they passed under trees gay with
the first green of spring, and over hyacinths covering the earth with
sheets of blue, till at sunset they drew rein before the silken
pavilion, with the banner of Uther Pendragon floating on the top. And
Guenevere’s heart went out to Lancelot before she knew. One evening she
noted, far across the plain, towers and buildings shining in the sun,
and an array of horsemen ride forth to meet her. One stopped before her
dazzled eyes, and leaping from his horse bowed low. Arthur had come to
welcome her, and do her honour, and to lead her home. But looking up at
him, she thought him cold, and, timid and alone, her thoughts turned
again to Lancelot. After that the days and years slipped by, and these
two were ever nearest the King, and in every time of danger the King
cried for Lancelot, and trusted his honour and the Queen’s to him. Sir
Lancelot spoke truly when he told Elaine that he had never worn the
badge of lady or maiden, but for all that every one looked on Sir
Lancelot as the Queen’s Knight, who could do no worship to any other
woman. The King likewise held Sir Lancelot bound to fight the Queen’s
battles, and if he was absent on adventures of his own, messengers
hastened to bring him back, as in the fight with Sir Mador. So things
went on for many years, and the King never guessed that the Queen loved
Lancelot best.

It befell one spring, in the month of May, that Queen Guenevere
bethought herself that she would like to go a-maying in the woods and
fields that lay round the City of Westminster on both sides of the
river. To this intent she called her own especial Knights, and bade them
be ready the next morning clothed all in green, whether of silk or
cloth, “and,” said she, “I shall bring with me ten ladies, and every
Knight shall have a lady behind him, and be followed by a Squire and two
yeomen, and I will that you shall all be well horsed.” Thus it was done,
and the ten Knights, arrayed in fresh green, the emblem of the spring,
rode with the Queen and her ladies in the early dawn, and smelt the
sweet of the year, and gathered flowers which they stuck in their
girdles and doublets. The Queen was as happy and light of heart as the
youngest maiden, but she had promised to be with the King at the hour of
ten, and gave the signal for departure unwillingly. The Knights were
mounting their horses, when suddenly out of a wood on the other side
rode Sir Meliagraunce, who for many years had loved the Queen, and had
sought an occasion to carry her off, but found none so fair as this. Out
of the forest he rode, with two score men in armour, and a hundred
archers behind him, and bade the Queen and her followers stay where they
were, or they would fare badly. “Traitor,” cried the Queen, “what evil
deed would you do? You are a King’s son and a Knight of the Round Table,
yet you seek to shame the man who gave you knighthood. But I tell you
that you may bring dishonour on yourself, but you will bring none on me,
for rather would I cut my throat in twain.”

“As for your threats, Madam, I pay them no heed,” returned Sir
Meliagraunce; “I have loved you many a year, and never could I get you
at such an advantage as I do now, and therefore I will take you as I
find you.” Then all the Knights spoke together saying, “Sir
Meliagraunce, bethink yourself that in attacking men who are unarmed you
put not only our lives in peril but your own honour. Rather than allow
the Queen to be shamed we will each one fight to the death, and if we
did aught else we should dishonour our knighthood for ever.”

“Fight as well as you can,” answered Sir Meliagraunce, “and keep the
Queen if you may.” So the Knights of the Round Table drew their swords,
and the men of Sir Meliagraunce ran at them with spears; but the Knights
stood fast, and clove the spears in two before they touched them. Then
both sides fought with swords, and Sir Kay and five other Knights were
felled to the ground with wounds all over their bodies. The other four
fought long, and slew forty of the men and archers of Sir Meliagraunce;
but in the end they too were overcome. When the Queen saw that she cried
out for pity and sorrow, “Sir Meliagraunce, spare my noble Knights and I
will go with you quietly on this condition, that their lives be saved,
and that wherever you may carry me they shall follow. For I give you
warning that I would rather slay myself than go with you without my
Knights, whose duty it is to guard me.”

“Madam,” replied Sir Meliagraunce, “for your sake they shall be led with
you into my own castle, if you will consent to ride with me.” So the
Queen prayed the four Knights to fight no more, and she and they would
not part, and to this, though their hearts were heavy, they agreed.

The fight being ended the wounded Knights were placed on horseback, some
sitting, some lying across the saddle, according as they were hurt, and
Sir Meliagraunce forbade any one to leave the castle (which had been a
gift to him from King Arthur), for sore he dreaded the vengeance of Sir
Lancelot if this thing should reach his ears. But the Queen knew well
what was passing in his mind, and she called a little page who served
her in her chamber and desired him to take her ring and hasten with all
speed to Sir Lancelot, “and pray him, if he loves me, to rescue me.
Spare not your horse, neither for water nor for land.” And the boy bided
his time, then mounted his horse, and rode away as fast as he might. Sir
Meliagraunce spied him as he flew, and knew whither he went, and who had
sent him; and he commanded his best archers to ride after him and shoot
him ere he reached Sir Lancelot. But the boy escaped their arrows, and
vanished from their sight. Then Sir Meliagraunce said to the Queen, “You
seek to betray me, Madam; but Sir Lancelot shall not so lightly come at
you.” And he bade his men follow him to the castle in haste, and left an
ambush of thirty archers in the road, charging them that if a Knight
mounted on a white horse came along that way they were to slay the horse
but to leave the man alone, as he was hard to overcome. After Sir
Meliagraunce had given these orders his company galloped fast to the
castle; but the Queen would listen to nothing that he said, demanding
always that her Knights and ladies should be lodged with her, and Sir
Meliagraunce was forced to let her have her will.


The castle of Sir Meliagraunce was distant seven miles from Westminster,
so it did not take long for the boy to find Sir Lancelot, and to give
him the Queen’s ring and her message. “I am ashamed for ever,” said Sir
Lancelot, “unless I can rescue that noble lady,” and while he put on his
armour, he called to the boy to tell him the whole adventure. When he
was armed and mounted, he begged the page to warn Sir Lavaine where he
had gone, and for what cause. “And pray him, as he loves me, that he
follow me to the castle of Sir Meliagraunce, for if I am a living man,
he will find me there.”

Sir Lancelot put his horse into the water at Westminster, and he swam
straight over to Lambeth, and soon after he landed he found traces of
the fight. He rode along the track till he came to the wood, where the
archers were lying waiting for him, and when they saw him, they bade him
on peril of his life to go no further along that path.

“Why should I, who am a Knight of the Round Table, turn out of any path
that pleases me?” asked Sir Lancelot.

             [Illustration: THE ARCHERS THREATEN LANCELOT]

“Either you will leave this path or your horse will be slain,” answered
the archers.

“You may slay my horse if you will,” said Sir Lancelot, “but when my
horse is slain I shall fight you on foot, and so would I do, if there
were five hundred more of you.” With that they smote the horse with
their arrows, but Sir Lancelot jumped off, and ran into the wood, and
they could not catch him. He went on some way, but the ground was rough,
and his armour was heavy, and sore he dreaded the treason of Sir
Meliagraunce. His heart was near to fail him, when there passed by a
cart with two carters that came to fetch wood. “Tell me, carter,” said
Sir Lancelot, “what will you take to suffer me to go in your cart till
we are within two miles of the castle of Sir Meliagraunce?”

“I cannot take you at all,” answered the carter, “for I am come to fetch
wood for my lord Sir Meliagraunce.”

“It is with him that I would speak.”

“You shall not go with me,” said the carter, but hardly had he uttered
the words when Sir Lancelot leapt up into the cart, and gave him such a
buffet that he fell dead on the ground. At this sight the other carter
cried that he would take the Knight where he would if he would only
spare his life. “Then I charge you,” said Sir Lancelot, “that you bring
me to the castle gate.” So the carter drove at a great gallop, and Sir
Lancelot’s horse, who had espied his master, followed the cart, though
more than fifty arrows were standing in his body. In an hour and a half
they reached the castle gate, and were seen of Guenevere and her ladies,
who were standing in a window. “Look, Madam,” cried one of her ladies,
“in that cart yonder is a goodly armed Knight. I suppose he is going to
his hanging.”

“Where?” asked the Queen, and as she spoke she espied that it was Sir
Lancelot, and that his horse was following riderless. “Well is he that
has a trusty friend,” said she, “for a noble Knight is hard pressed when
he rides in a cart,” and she rebuked the lady who had declared he was
going to his hanging. “It was foul talking, to liken the noblest Knight
in the world to one going to a shameful death.” By this Sir Lancelot had
come to the gate of the castle, and he got down and called till the
castle rang with his voice. “Where is that false traitor Sir
Meliagraunce, Knight of the Round Table? Come forth, you and your
company, for I, Sir Lancelot du Lake, am here to do battle with you.”
Then he burst the gate open wide, and smote the porter who tried to hold
it against him. When Sir Meliagraunce heard Sir Lancelot’s voice, he ran
into Queen Guenevere’s chamber and fell on his knees before her: “Mercy,
Madam, mercy! I throw myself upon your grace.”

“What ails you now?” said she; “of a truth I might well expect some good
Knight to avenge me, though my lord Arthur knew not of your work.”

“Madame, I will make such amends as you yourself may desire,” pleaded
Sir Meliagraunce, “and I trust wholly to your grace.”

“What would you have me do?” asked the Queen.

“Rule in this castle as if it were your own, and give Sir Lancelot cheer
till to-morrow, and then you shall all return to Westminster.”

“You say well,” answered the Queen. “Peace is ever better than war, and
I take no pleasure in fighting.” So she went down with her ladies to Sir
Lancelot, who still stood full of rage in the inner court, calling as
before “Traitor Knight, come forth!”

“Sir Lancelot,” asked the Queen, “what is the cause of all this wrath?”

“Madam,” replied Sir Lancelot, “does such a question come from you?
Methinks your wrath should be greater than mine, for all the hurt and
the dishonour have fallen upon you. My own hurt is but little, but the
shame is worse than any hurt.”

“You say truly,” replied the Queen, “but you must come in with me
peaceably, as all is put into my hand, and the Knight repents bitterly
of his adventure.”

“Madam,” said Sir Lancelot, “since you have made agreement with him, it
is not my part to say nay, although Sir Meliagraunce has borne himself
both shamefully and cowardly towards me. But had I known you would have
pardoned him so soon, I should not have made such haste to come to you.”

“Why do you say that?” asked the Queen; “do you repent yourself of your
good deeds? I only made peace with him to have done with all this noise
of slanderous talk, and for the sake of my Knights.”

“Madam,” answered Sir Lancelot, “you understand full well that I was
never glad of slander nor noise, but there is neither King, Queen, nor
Knight alive, save yourself, Madam, and my lord Arthur, that should
hinder me from giving Sir Meliagraunce a cold heart before I departed

“That I know well,” said the Queen, “but what would you have more?
Everything shall be ordered as you will.”

“Madam,” replied Sir Lancelot, “as long as you are pleased, that is all
I care for,” so the Queen led Sir Lancelot into her chamber, and
commanded him to take off his armour, and then took him to where her ten
Knights were lying sore wounded. And their souls leapt with joy when
they saw him, and he told them how falsely Sir Meliagraunce had dealt
with him, and had set archers to slay his horse, so that he was fain to
place himself in a cart. Thus they complained each to the other, and
would have avenged themselves on Sir Meliagraunce but for the peace made
by the Queen. And in the evening came Sir Lavaine, riding in great
haste, and Sir Lancelot was glad that he was come.

Now, Sir Lancelot was right when he feared to trust Sir Meliagraunce,
for that Knight only sought to work ill both to him and to the Queen,
for all his fair words. And first he began to speak evil of the Queen to
Sir Lancelot, who dared him to prove his foul words, and it was settled
between them that a combat should take place in eight days in the field
near Westminster. “And now,” said Sir Meliagraunce, “since it is decided
that we must fight together, I beseech you, as you are a noble Knight,
do me no treason nor villainy in the mean time.”

“Any Knight will bear me witness,” answered Sir Lancelot, “that never
have I broken faith with any man, nor borne fellowship with those that
have done so.” “Then let us go to dinner,” said Sir Meliagraunce, “and
afterwards you may all ride to Westminster. Meanwhile would it please
you to see the inside of this castle?” “That I will gladly,” said Sir
Lancelot, and they went from chamber to chamber, till they reached the
floor of the castle, and as he went Sir Lancelot trod on a trap and the
board rolled, and he fell down in a cave which was filled with straw,
and Sir Meliagraunce departed and no man knew where Sir Lancelot might
be. The Queen bethought herself that he was wont to disappear suddenly,
and as Sir Meliagraunce had first removed Sir Lavaine’s horse from the
place where it had been tethered, the Knights agreed with her. So time
passed until dinner had been eaten, and then Sir Lavaine demanded
litters for the wounded Knights, that they might be carried to
Westminster with as little hurt as might be. And the Queen and her
ladies followed. When they arrived the Knights told of their adventure,
and how Sir Meliagraunce had accused the Queen of treason, and how he
and Sir Lancelot were to fight for her good name in eight days.

“Sir Meliagraunce has taken a great deal upon him,” said the King, “but
where is Sir Lancelot?”

“Sir,” answered they all, “we know not, but we think he has ridden to
some adventure.” “Well, leave him alone,” said the King. “He will be
here when the day comes, unless some treason has befallen him.”

All this while Sir Lancelot was lying in great pain within the cave, and
he would have died for lack of food had not one of the ladies in the
castle found out the place where he was held captive, and brought him
meat and drink, and hoped that he might be brought to love her. But he
would not. “Sir Lancelot,” said she, “you are not wise, for without my
help you will never get out of this prison, and if you do not appear on
the day of battle, your lady, Queen Guenevere, will be burnt in
default.” “If I am not there,” replied Sir Lancelot, “the King and the
Queen and all men of worship will know that I am either dead or in
prison. And sure I am that there is some good Knight who loves me or is
of my kin, that will take my quarrel in hand, therefore you cannot
frighten me by such words as these. If there was not another woman in
the world, I could give you no different answer.” “Then you will be
shamed openly,” replied the lady, and left the dungeon. But on the day
that the battle was to be fought she came again, and said, “Sir
Lancelot, if you will only kiss me once, I will deliver you, and give
you the best horse in Sir Meliagraunce’s stable.” “Yes, I will kiss
you,” answered Sir Lancelot, “since I may do that honourably; but if I
thought it were any shame to kiss you, I would not do it, whatever the
cost.” So he kissed her, and she brought him his armour, and led him to
a stable where twelve noble horses stood, and bade him choose the best.
He chose a white courser, and bade the keepers put on the best saddle
they had, and with his spear in his hand and his sword by his side, he
rode away, thanking the lady for all she had done for him, which some
day he would try to repay.

As the hours passed on and Sir Lancelot did not come, Sir Meliagraunce
called ever on King Arthur to burn the Queen, or else bring forth Sir
Lancelot, for he deemed full well that he had Sir Lancelot safe in his
dungeon. The King and Queen were sore distressed that Sir Lancelot was
missing, and knew not where to look for him, and what to do. Then
stepped forth Sir Lavaine and said, “My lord Arthur, you know well that
some ill-fortune has happened to Sir Lancelot, and if he is not dead, he
is either sick or in prison. Therefore I beseech you, let me do battle
instead of my lord and master for my lady the Queen.”

“I thank you heartily, gentle Knight,” answered Arthur, “for I am sure
that Sir Meliagraunce accuses the Queen falsely, and there is not one of
the ten Knights who would not fight for her were it not for his wounds.
So do your best, for it is plain that some evil has been wrought on Sir
Lancelot.” Sir Lavaine was filled with joy when the King gave him leave
to do battle with Sir Meliagraunce, and rode swiftly to his place at the
end of the lists. And just as the heralds were about to cry “Lesses les
aller!” Sir Lancelot dashed into the middle on his white horse. “Hold
and abide!” commanded the King, and Sir Lancelot rode up before him, and
told before them all how Sir Meliagraunce had treated him. When the King
and Queen and all the Lords heard Sir Lancelot’s tale, their hearts
stirred within them with anger, and the Queen took her seat by the King,
in great trust of her champion. Sir Lancelot and Sir Meliagraunce
prepared themselves for battle, and took their spears, and came together
as thunder, and Sir Lancelot bore Sir Meliagraunce right over his horse.
Then Sir Lancelot jumped down, and they fought on foot, till in the end
Sir Meliagraunce was smitten to the ground by a blow on his head from
his enemy. “Most noble Knight, save my life,” cried he, “for I yield
myself unto you, and put myself into the King’s hands and yours.” Sir
Lancelot did not know what to answer, for he longed above anything in
the world to have revenge upon him; so he looked at the Queen to see
whether she would give him any sign of what she would have done. The
Queen wagged her head in answer, and Sir Lancelot knew by that token
that she would have him dead, and he understood, and bade Sir
Meliagraunce get up, and continue the fight. “Nay,” said Sir
Meliagraunce, “I will never rise till you accept my surrender.”
“Listen,” answered Sir Lancelot. “I will leave my head and left side
bare, and my left arm shall be bound behind me, and in this guise I will
fight with you.” At this Sir Meliagraunce started to his feet, and
cried, “My lord Arthur, take heed to this offer, for I will take it,
therefore let him be bound and unarmed as he has said.” So the Knights
disarmed Sir Lancelot, first his head and then his side, and his left
hand was bound behind his back, in such a manner that he could not use
his shield, and full many a Knight and lady marvelled that Sir Lancelot
would risk himself so. And Sir Meliagraunce lifted his sword on high and
would have smitten Sir Lancelot on his bare head, had he not leapt
lightly to one side, and, before Sir Meliagraunce could right himself,
Sir Lancelot had struck him so hard upon his helmet that his skull split
in two, and there was nothing left to do but to carry his dead body from
the field. And because the Knights of the Round Table begged to have him
honourably buried, the King agreed thereto, and on his tomb mention was
made of how he came by his death, and who slew him. After this Sir
Lancelot was more cherished by the King and Queen than ever he was

Among the many Knights at Arthur’s Court who were the sons of Kings were
Sir Mordred and Sir Agrawaine, who had three brothers, Sir Gawaine, Sir
Gaheris and Sir Gareth. And their mother was Queen of Orkney, sister to
King Arthur. Now Sir Agrawaine and Sir Mordred had evil natures, and
loved both to invent slanders and to repeat them. And at this time they
were full of envy of the noble deeds Sir Lancelot had done, and how men
called him the bravest Knight of the Table Round, and said that he was
the friend of the King, and the sworn defender of the Queen. So they
cast about how they might ruin him, and found the way by putting jealous
thoughts into the mind of Arthur.

As was told in the tale of the marriage of Arthur, Queen Guenevere’s
heart had gone out to Lancelot on the journey to the Court, and ever she
loved to have him with her. This was known well to Sir Mordred, who
watched eagerly for a chance to work her ill.

It came one day when Arthur proclaimed a hunt. Sir Mordred guessed that
Sir Lancelot, who did not love hunting, would stay behind, and would
spend the time holding talk with the Queen. Therefore he went to the
King and began to speak evil of the Queen and Sir Lancelot. At first
King Arthur would listen to nothing, but slowly his jealousy burned
within him, and he let the ill words that accused the Queen of loving
Sir Lancelot the best, sink into his mind, and told Sir Mordred and Sir
Agrawaine that they might do their worst, and he would not meddle with
them. But they let so many of their fellowship into the secret of their
foul plot, that at last it came to the ears of Sir Bors, who begged Sir
Lancelot not to go near the Queen that day, or harm would come of it.
But Sir Lancelot answered that the Queen had sent for him, and that she
was his liege lady, and never would he hold back when she summoned him
to her presence. Therefore Sir Bors went heavily away. By ill fortune,
Sir Lancelot only wore his sword under his great mantle, and scarcely
had he passed inside the door when Sir Agrawaine and Sir Mordred, and
twelve other Knights of the Table Round, all armed and ready for battle,
cried loudly upon Sir Lancelot, that all the Court might hear.

“Madam,” said Sir Lancelot, “is there any armour within your chamber
that I might cover my body withal, for if I was armed as they are I
would soon crush them?”

“Alas!” replied the Queen, “I have neither sword nor spear nor armour,
and how can you resist them? You will be slain and I shall be burnt. If
you could only escape their hands, I know you would deliver me from

“It is grievous,” said Sir Lancelot, “that I who was never conquered in
all my life should be slain for lack of armour.”

“Traitor Knight,” cried Sir Mordred again, “come out and fight us, for
you are so sore beset that you cannot escape us.”

“Oh, mercy,” cried Sir Lancelot, “I may not suffer longer this shame and
noise! For better were death at once than to endure this pain.” Then he
took the Queen in his arms and kissed her, and said, “Most noble
Christian Queen, I beseech you, as you have ever been my special good
lady, and I at all times your true poor Knight, and as I never failed
you in right or in wrong, since the first day that King Arthur made me
Knight, that you will pray for my soul, if I be here slain. For I am
well assured that Sir Bors, my nephew, and Sir Lavaine and many more,
will rescue you from the fire, and therefore, mine own lady, comfort
yourself whatever happens to me, and go with Sir Bors, my nephew, and
you shall live like a Queen on my lands.”


“Nay, Lancelot,” said the Queen, “I will never live after your days, but
if you are slain I will take my death as meekly as ever did any
Christian Queen.”

“Well, Madam,” answered Lancelot, “since it is so, I shall sell my life
as dear as I may, and a thousandfold I am more heavy for you than for

Therewith Sir Lancelot wrapped his mantle thickly round his arm, and
stood beside the door, which the Knights without were trying to break in
by aid of a stout wooden form.

“Fair Lords,” said Sir Lancelot, “leave this noise, and I will open the
door, and you may do with me what you will.”

“Open it then,” answered they, “for well you know you cannot escape us,
and we will save your life and bring you before King Arthur.” So Sir
Lancelot opened the door and held it with his left hand, so that but one
man could come in at once. Then came forward a strong Knight, Sir
Colegrevance of Gore, who struck fiercely at Lancelot with his sword.
But Sir Lancelot stepped on one side, that the blow fell harmless, and
with his arm he gave Sir Colgrevance a buffet on the head so that he
fell dead. And Sir Lancelot drew him into the chamber, and barred the

Hastily he unbuckled the dead Knight’s armour, and the Queen and her
ladies put it on him, Sir Agrawaine and Sir Mordred ever calling to him
the while, “Traitor Knight, come out of that chamber!” But Sir Lancelot
cried to them all to go away and he would appear next morning before the
King, and they should accuse him of what they would, and he would answer
them, and prove his words in battle. “Fie on you, traitor,” said Sir
Agrawaine, “we have you in our power, to save or to slay, for King
Arthur will listen to our words, and will believe what we tell him.”

“As you like,” answered Sir Lancelot, “look to yourself,” and he flung
open the chamber door, and strode in amongst them and killed Sir
Agrawaine with his first blow, and in a few minutes the bodies of the
other twelve Knights lay on the ground beside his, for no man ever
withstood that buffet of Sir Lancelot’s. He wounded Sir Mordred also, so
that he fled away with all his might. When the clamour of the battle was
still, Sir Lancelot turned back to the Queen and said, “Alas, Madam,
they will make King Arthur my foe, and yours also, but if you will come
with me to my castle, I will save you from all dangers.”

“I will not go with you now,” answered the Queen, “but if you see
to-morrow that they will burn me to death, then you may deliver me as
you shall think best.”

“While I live I will deliver you,” said Sir Lancelot, and he left her
and went back to his lodging. When Sir Bors, who was awaiting him, saw
Sir Lancelot, he was gladder than he ever had been in his whole life
before. “Mercy!” cried Sir Lancelot, “why you are all armed!”

“Sir,” answered Sir Bors, “after you had left us, I and your friends and
your kinsmen were so troubled that we felt some great strife was at
hand, and that perchance some trap had been laid for you. So we put on
armour that we might help you whatever need you were in.” “Fair nephew,”
said Lancelot, “but now I have been more hardly beset than ever I was in
my life, and yet I escaped,” and he told them all that had happened. “I
pray you, my fellows, that you will be of good courage and stand by me
in my need, for war is come to us all.”

“Sir,” answered Sir Bors, “all is welcome that God sends us, and we have
had much good with you and much fame, so now we will take the bad as we
have taken the good.” And so said they all.

“I thank you for your comfort in my great distress,” replied Sir
Lancelot, “and you, fair nephew, haste to the Knights who are in this
place, and find who is with me and who is against me, for I would know
my friends from my foes.”

“Sir,” said Sir Bors, “before seven of the clock in the morning you
shall know.”

By seven o’clock, as Sir Bors had promised, many noble Knights stood
before Sir Lancelot, and were sworn to his cause. “My lords,” said he,
“you know well that since I came into this country I have given faithful
service unto my lord King Arthur and unto my lady Queen Guenevere. Last
evening my lady, the Queen, sent for me to speak to her, and certain
Knights that were lying in wait for me cried ‘Treason,’ and much ado I
had to escape their blows. But I slew twelve of them, and Sir Agrawaine,
who is Sir Gawaine’s brother; and for this cause I am sure of mortal
war, as these Knights were ordered by King Arthur to betray me, and
therefore the Queen will be judged to the fire, and I may not suffer
that she should be burnt for my sake.”

And Sir Bors answered Sir Lancelot that it was truly his part to rescue
the Queen, as he had done so often before, and that if she was burned
the shame would be his. Then they all took counsel together how the
thing might best be done, and Sir Bors deemed it wise to carry her off
to the Castle of Joyous Gard, and counselled that she should be kept
there, a prisoner, till the King’s anger was past and he would be
willing to welcome her back again. To this the other Knights agreed, and
by the advice of Sir Lancelot they hid themselves in a wood close by the
town till they saw what King Arthur would do. Meanwhile Sir Mordred, who
had managed to escape the sword of Sir Lancelot, rode, wounded and
bleeding, unto King Arthur, and told the King all that had passed, and
how, of the fourteen Knights, he only was left alive. The King grieved
sore at his tale, which Sir Mordred had made to sound as ill as was
possible; for, in spite of all, Arthur loved Sir Lancelot. “It is a
bitter blow,” he said, “that Sir Lancelot must be against me, and the
fellowship of the Table Round is broken for ever, as many a noble Knight
will go with him. And as I am the judge, the Queen will have to die, as
she is the cause of the death of these thirteen Knights.”

“My lord Arthur,” said Sir Gawaine, “be not over-hasty; listen not to
the foul tongue of Sir Mordred, who laid this trap for Sir Lancelot,
that we all know to be the Queen’s own Knight, who has done battle for
her when none else would. As for Sir Lancelot, he will prove the right
on the body of any Knight living that shall accuse him of wrong—either
him, or my lady Guenevere.”

“That I believe well,” said King Arthur, “for he trusts so much in his
own might that he fears no man; and never more shall he fight for the
Queen, for she must suffer death by the law. Put on, therefore, your
best armour, and go with your brothers, Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth, and
bring the Queen to the fire, there to have her judgment and suffer her

“Nay, my lord, that I will never do,” cried Sir Gawaine; “my heart will
never serve me to see her die, and I will never stand by and see so
noble a lady brought to a shameful end.”

“Then,” said the King, “let your brothers Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth be

“My lord,” replied Sir Gawaine, “I know well how loth they will be, but
they are young and unable to say you nay.”

At this Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth spoke to King Arthur: “Sir, if you
command us we will obey, but it will be sore against our will. And if we
go we shall be dressed as men of peace, and wear no armour.”

“Make yourselves ready, then,” answered the King, “for I would delay no
longer in giving judgment.”

“Alas!” cried Sir Gawaine, “that I should have lived to see this day;”
and he turned and wept bitterly, and went into his chamber.

So the Queen was led outside the gates, and her rich dress was taken
off, while her lords and ladies wrung their hands in grief, and few men
wore armour, for in that day it was held that the presence of mail-clad
Knights made death more shameful. Now among those present was one sent
by Sir Lancelot, and when he saw the Queen’s dress unclasped, and the
priest step forth to listen to her confession, he rode to warn Sir
Lancelot that the hour had come. And suddenly there was heard a sound as
of rushing horses, and Sir Lancelot dashed up to the fire, and all the
Knights that stood around were slain, for few men wore armour. Sir
Lancelot looked not where he struck, and Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth were
found in the thickest of the throng. At last he reached the Queen, and,
throwing a mantle over her, he caught her on to his saddle and rode away
with her. Right thankful was the Queen at being snatched from the fire,
and her heart was grateful to Sir Lancelot, who took her to his Castle
of Joyous Gard, and many noble Knights and Kings had fellowship with

After King Arthur had given judgment for the Queen to die, he went back
into his Palace of Westminster, where men came and told him how Sir
Lancelot had delivered her, and of the death of his Knights, and in
especial of Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth, and he swooned away from sorrow.
“Alas!” he cried, when he recovered from his swoon, “alas! that a crown
was ever on my head, for in these two days I have lost forty Knights and
the fellowship of Sir Lancelot and his kinsmen, and never more will they
be of my company. But I charge you that none tell Sir Gawaine of the
death of his brothers, for I am sure that when he hears of Sir Gareth he
will go out of his mind. Oh, why did Sir Lancelot slay them? for Sir
Gareth loved Sir Lancelot more than any other man.”

“That is true,” answered some of the Knights, “but Sir Lancelot saw not
whom he smote, and therefore were they slain.”

“The death of those two,” said Arthur, “will cause the greatest mortal
war that ever was. I am sure that when Sir Gawaine knows Sir Gareth is
slain he will never suffer me to rest till I have destroyed Sir Lancelot
and all his kin, or till they have destroyed me. My heart was never so
heavy as it is now, and far more grievous to me is the loss of my good
Knights, than of my Queen; for Queens I might have in plenty, but no man
had ever such a company of Knights, and it hurts me sore that Sir
Lancelot and I should be at war. It is the ill will borne by Sir
Agrawaine and Sir Mordred to Sir Lancelot that has caused all this
sorrow.” Then one came to Sir Gawaine and told him that Sir Lancelot had
borne off the Queen, and that twenty-four Knights had been slain in the
combat. “I knew well he would deliver her,” said Sir Gawaine, “and in
that, he has but acted as a Knight should and as I would have done
myself. But where are my brethren? I marvel they have not been to seek

“Truly,” said the man, “Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth are slain.”

“Heaven forbid any such thing,” returned Sir Gawaine. “I would not for
all the world that that had happened, especially to my brother Sir

“He is slain,” said the man, “and it is grievous news.”

“Who slew him?” asked Sir Gawaine.

“Sir Lancelot slew them both,” answered the man.

“He cannot have slain Sir Gareth,” replied Sir Gawaine, “for my brother
Gareth loved him better than me and all his brethren, and King Arthur
too. And had Sir Lancelot desired my brother to go with him, he would
have turned his back on us all. Therefore I can never believe that Sir
Lancelot slew my brother.”

“Sir, it is in every one’s mouth,” said the man. At this Sir Gawaine
fell back in a swoon and lay long as if he were dead. Then he ran to the
King, crying, “O King Arthur, mine uncle, my good brother Sir Gareth is
slain, and Sir Gaheris also,” and the King wept with him. At length Sir
Gawaine said, “Sir, I will go and see my brother Sir Gareth.”

“You cannot do that,” returned the King, “for I have caused him to be
buried with Sir Gaheris, as I knew well that the sight would cause you
overmuch sorrow.”

“How came he, Sir Lancelot, to slay Sir Gareth?” asked Sir Gawaine;
“mine own good lord, I pray you tell me, for neither Sir Gareth nor Sir
Gaheris bore arms against him.”

“It is said,” answered the King, “that Sir Lancelot slew them in the
thickest of the press and knew them not. Therefore let us think upon a
plan to avenge their deaths.”

“My King, my lord and mine uncle,” said Sir Gawaine, “I swear to you by
my knighthood that from this day I will never rest until Sir Lancelot or
I be slain. And I will go to the world’s end till I find him.”

“You need not seek him so far,” answered the King, “for I am told that
Sir Lancelot will await me and you in the Castle of Joyous Gard, and
many people are flocking to him. But call your friends together, and I
will call mine;” and the King ordered letters to be sent throughout all
England summoning his Knights and vassals to the siege of Joyous Gard.
The Castle of Joyous Gard was strong, and after fifteen weeks had passed
no breach had been made in its walls. And one day, at the time of
harvest, Sir Lancelot came forth on a truce, and the King and Sir
Gawaine challenged him to do battle.

“Nay,” answered Sir Lancelot, “with yourself I will never strive, and I
grieve sorely that I have slain your Knights. But I was forced to it,
for the saving of my life and that of my lady the Queen. And except
yourself, my lord, and Sir Gawaine, there is no man that shall call me
traitor but he shall pay for it with his body. As to Queen Guenevere,
ofttimes, my lord, you have consented in the heat of your passion that
she should be burnt and destroyed, and it fell to me to do battle for
her, and her enemies confessed their untruth, and acknowledged her
innocent. And at such times, my lord Arthur, you loved me and thanked me
when I saved your Queen from the fire, and promised ever to be my good
lord, for I have fought for her many times in other quarrels than my
own. Therefore, my gracious lord, take your Queen back into your grace

To these words of Sir Lancelot’s King Arthur answered nothing, but in
his heart he would fain have made peace with Sir Lancelot, but Sir
Gawaine would not let him. He reproached Sir Lancelot bitterly for the
deaths of his brothers and kinsmen, and called Sir Lancelot a craven and
other ill names that he would not fight with King Arthur. So at the last
Sir Lancelot’s patience and courtesy failed him, and he told them that
the next morning he would give them battle.

The heart of Sir Gawaine leaped with joy when he heard these words of
Sir Lancelot, and he summoned all his friends and his kinsfolk, and bade
them watch well Sir Lancelot, and to slay him if a chance offered. But
he knew not that Sir Lancelot had bidden the Knights of his following in
no wise to touch King Arthur or Sir Gawaine. And when the dawn broke a
great host marched out of the Castle of Joyous Gard, with Sir Lancelot
at the head, and Sir Bors and Sir Lionel commanding on either side. All
that day they fought, and sometimes one army seemed to be gaining, and
sometimes the other. Many times King Arthur drew near Sir Lancelot, and
would have slain him, and Sir Lancelot suffered him, and would not
strike again. But the King was unhorsed by Sir Bors, and would have been
slain but for Sir Lancelot, who stayed his hand. “My lord Arthur,” he
said, “for God’s love, stop this strife. I cannot strike you, so you
will gain no fame by it, though your friends never cease from trying to
slay me. My lord, remember what I have done in many places, and how evil
is now my reward.” Then when King Arthur was on his horse again he
looked on Sir Lancelot, and tears burst from his eyes, thinking of the
great courtesy that was in Sir Lancelot more than in any other man. He
sighed to himself, saying softly, “Alas! that ever this war began,” and
rode away, while the battle ended for that time and the dead were

But Sir Gawaine would not suffer the King to make peace, and they fought
on, now in one place, and now in another, till the Pope heard of the
strife and sent a noble clerk, the Bishop of Rochester, to charge the
King to make peace with Sir Lancelot, and to take back unto him his
Queen, the Lady Guenevere. Now, the King, as has been said, would fain
have followed the Pope’s counsel and have accorded with Sir Lancelot,
but Sir Gawaine would not suffer him. However, as to the Queen Sir
Gawaine said nothing; and King Arthur gave audience to the Bishop, and
swore on his great seal that he would take back the Queen as the Pope
desired, and that if Sir Lancelot brought her he should come safe and go
safe. So the Bishop rode to Joyous Gard and showed Sir Lancelot what the
Pope had written and King Arthur had answered, and told him of the
perils which would befall him if he withheld the Queen. “It was never in
my thought,” answered Sir Lancelot, “to withhold the Queen from King
Arthur, but as she would have been dead for my sake it was my part to
save her life, and to keep her from danger till better times came. And I
thank God that the Pope has made peace, and I shall be a thousand times
gladder to bring her back than I was to take her away. Therefore ride to
the King, and say that in eight days I myself will bring the Lady
Guenevere unto him.” So the Bishop departed, and came to the King at
Carlisle, and told him what Sir Lancelot had answered, and tears burst
from the King’s eyes once more.

A goodly host of a hundred Knights rode eight days later from the Castle
of Joyous Gard; every Knight was clothed in green velvet, and held in
his hand a branch of olive, and bestrode a horse with trappings down to
his heels. And behind the Queen were four and twenty gentlewomen clad in
green likewise, while twelve esquires attended on Sir Lancelot. He and
the Queen wore dresses of white and gold tissue, and their horses were
clothed in housings of the same, set with precious stones and pearls;
and no man had ever gazed on such a noble pair, as they rode from Joyous
Gard to Carlisle. When they reached the castle, Sir Lancelot sprang from
his horse and helped the Queen from hers, and led her to where King
Arthur sat, with Sir Gawaine and many lords around him. He kneeled down,
and the Queen kneeled with him, and many Knights wept as though it had
been their own kin. But Arthur sat still and said nothing. At that Sir
Lancelot rose, and the Queen likewise, and, looking straight at the
King, he spoke—

“Most noble King, I have brought to you my lady the Queen, as right
requires; and time hath been, my lord Arthur, that you have been greatly
pleased with me when I did battle for my lady your Queen. And full well
you know that she has been put to great wrong ere this, and it seems to
me I had more cause to deliver her from this fire, seeing she would have
been burnt for my sake.”

“Well, well, Sir Lancelot,” said the King, “I have given you no cause to
do to me as you have done, for I have held you dearer than any of my
Knights.” But Sir Gawaine would not suffer the King to listen to
anything Sir Lancelot said, and told him roughly that while one of them
lived peace could never be made, and desired on behalf of the King that
in fifteen days he should be gone out of the country. And still King
Arthur said nothing, but suffered Sir Gawaine to talk as he would; and
Sir Lancelot took farewell of him and of the Queen, and rode, grieving
sorely, out of the Court, and sailed to his lands beyond the sea.

Though the Queen was returned again, and Sir Lancelot was beyond the
sea, the hate of Sir Gawaine towards him was in no way set at rest, but
he raised a great host and persuaded the King to follow him. And after
many sieges and long fighting it befell upon a day, that Sir Gawaine
came before the gates of Sir Lancelot’s town, armed at all points, and
sitting on a noble horse, with a great spear in his hand. And he cried
with a great voice, “Where art thou now, thou false traitor, Sir
Lancelot? Why hidest within holes and walls like a coward?”

At this language Sir Lancelot’s kin and his Knights drew round him, and
they said, “Now must you defend yourself like a Knight or be shamed for
ever. You have slept already too long and suffered overmuch.”

Then Sir Lancelot bade them saddle his strongest horse and fetch his
arms, and he spoke aloud to King Arthur.

“My lord Arthur and noble King, I am right sad for your sake, for had I
been vengeful then could I have met you in the field. But for half a
year I have forborne to come near you, and now I can endure it no

Then Sir Gawaine said, “Sir Lancelot, if thou darest do battle, leave
thy babbling and come forth, and let us ease our hearts.” Then Sir
Lancelot and his noble Knights came out of the city, and their number
was so great that Arthur marvelled, and sorrowed that he and Sir
Lancelot should be estranged. Then Sir Gawaine and Sir Lancelot rode for
each other, and at the word came together with a great shock, and smote
each other in the middle of their shields. But the Knights were so
strong, and their spears so big, that the horses could not endure their
buffets, and fell to the earth. Then they fought together, and struck
each other on their sides so that the blood burst forth in many places.

Now, Sir Gawaine, by a gift from a holy man, grew thrice as strong in
the three hours before noon than at any other time, and this being the
hour of the combat, Sir Gawaine won great honour. For his sake the King
had all battles before him take place just before noon, and few knew of
this advantage save King Arthur.

Thus Sir Lancelot fought with Sir Gawaine, and felt his might increase
and wondered, dreading that he might be shamed. And he thought that this
must be a fiend and no earthly man, so he covered himself with his
shield, and kept his might and breath until the three hours were past
and Sir Gawaine had no more than his own might. Then Sir Lancelot
doubled his strokes, and gave him a buffet on the helmet, and Sir
Gawaine fell down on his side. And Sir Lancelot returned to his city,
and Sir Gawaine was carried to the King’s pavilion. While he lay
wounded, news came from England that caused King Arthur to give up his
war with Sir Lancelot, and return in haste to his own country.

                           THE END OF IT ALL.

Now, when King Arthur left England to fight with Sir Lancelot, he
ordered his nephew Sir Mordred to govern the land, which that false
Knight did gladly. And as soon as he thought he might safely do so he
caused some letters to be written saying that King Arthur had been slain
in battle, and he had himself crowned King at Canterbury, where he made
a great feast which lasted fifteen days. After it was over, he went to
Winchester and summoned Queen Guenevere, and told her that on a certain
day he would wed her and that she should make herself ready. Queen
Guenevere’s soul grew cold and heavy as she heard these words of Sir
Mordred’s, for she hated him with all her might, as he hated her; but
she dared show nothing, and answered softly that she would do his
bidding, only she desired that first she might go to London to buy all
manner of things for her wedding. Sir Mordred trusted her because of her
fair speech, and let her go. Then the Queen rode to London with all
speed, and went straight to the Tower, which she filled in haste with
food, and called her men-at-arms round her. When Sir Mordred knew how
she had beguiled him he was wroth out of measure, and besieged the
Tower, and assaulted it many times with battering rams and great
engines, but could prevail nothing, for the Queen would never, for fair
speech nor for foul, give herself into his hands again.

The Bishop of Canterbury hastened unto Sir Mordred, and rebuked him for
wishing to marry his uncle’s wife. “Leave such desires,” said the
Bishop, “or else I shall curse you with bell, book, and candle. Also,
you noise abroad that my lord Arthur is slain, and that is not so, and
therefore you will make ill work in the land.” At this Sir Mordred waxed
very wroth, and would have killed the Bishop had he not fled to
Glastonbury, where he became a hermit, and lived in poverty and prayed
all day long for the realm, for he knew that a fierce war was at hand.
Soon word came to Sir Mordred that King Arthur was hurrying home across
the seas, to be avenged on his nephew, who had proved traitor. Wherefore
Sir Mordred sent letters to all the people throughout the kingdom, and
many followed after him, for he had cunningly sown among them that with
him was great joy and softness of life, while King Arthur would bring
war and strife with him. So Sir Mordred drew with a great host to Dover,
and waited for the King. Before King Arthur and his men could land from
the boats and ships that had brought them over the sea Sir Mordred set
upon them, and there was heavy slaughter. But in the end he and his men
were driven back, and he fled, and his people with him. After the fight
was over, the King ordered the dead to be buried; and there came a man
and told him that he had found Sir Gawaine lying in a boat, and that he
was sore wounded. And the King went to him and made moan over him: “You
were ever the man in the world that I loved most,” said he, “you and Sir
Lancelot.” “Mine uncle King Arthur,” answered Sir Gawaine, “my death day
has come, and all through my own fault. Had Sir Lancelot been with you
as he used to be this unhappy war had never begun, and of that I am the
cause, for I would not accord with him. And therefore, I pray you, give
me paper, pen, and ink that I may write to him.” So paper and ink were
brought, and Sir Gawaine was held up by King Arthur, and a letter was
writ wherein Sir Gawaine confessed that he was dying of an old wound
given him by Sir Lancelot in the siege of one of the cities across the
sea, and thus was fulfilled the prophecy of Merlin. “Of a more noble man
might I not be slain,” said he. “Also, Sir Lancelot, make no tarrying,
but come in haste to King Arthur, for sore bested is he with my brother
Sir Mordred, who has taken the crown, and would have wedded my lady
Queen Guenevere had she not sought safety in the Tower of London. Pray
for my soul, I beseech you, and visit my tomb.” And after writing this
letter, at the hour of noon, Sir Gawaine gave up his spirit, and was
buried by the King in the chapel within Dover Castle. Then was it told
King Arthur that Sir Mordred had pitched a new field upon Barham Down,
and the next morning the King rode hither to him, and there was a fierce
battle between them, and many on both sides were slain. But at the last
King Arthur’s party stood best, and Sir Mordred and his men fled to

After the Knights which were dead had been buried, and those that were
wounded tended with healing salves, King Arthur drew westwards towards
Salisbury, and many of Sir Mordred’s men followed after him, but they
that loved Sir Lancelot went unto Sir Mordred. And a day was fixed
between the King and Sir Mordred that they should meet upon a down near
Salisbury, and give battle once more. But the night before the battle
Sir Gawaine appeared unto the King in a vision, and warned him not to
fight next day, which was Trinity Sunday, as he would be slain and many
of his Knights also; but to make a truce for a month, and at the end of
that time Sir Lancelot would arrive, and would slay Sir Mordred, and all
his Knights with him. As soon as he awoke the King called the Bishops
and the wisest men of his army, and told them of his vision, and took
counsel what should be done. And it was agreed that the King should send
an embassage of two Knights and two Bishops unto Sir Mordred, and offer
him as much goods and lands as they thought best if he would engage to
make a treaty for a month with King Arthur.

So they departed, and came to Sir Mordred, where he had a grim host of
an hundred thousand men. For a long time he would not suffer himself to
be entreated, but at the last he agreed to have Cornwall and Kent in
King Arthur’s days, and after all England. Furthermore, it was decided
that King Arthur and Sir Mordred should meet in the plain between their
hosts, each with fourteen persons. “I am glad of this,” said King
Arthur, when he heard what had been done; but he warned his men that if
they were to see a sword drawn they were to come on swiftly and slay
that traitor, Sir Mordred, “for I in no wise trust him.” And in like
wise spake Sir Mordred unto his host. Then they two met, and agreed on
the truce, and wine was fetched and they drank, and all was well. But
while they were drinking an adder crept out of a bush, and stung one of
the fourteen Knights on his foot, and he drew his sword to slay the
adder, not thinking of anything but his pain. And when the men of both
armies beheld that drawn sword, they blew trumpets and horns and shouted
grimly, and made them ready for battle. So King Arthur leaped on his
horse, and Sir Mordred on his, and they went back to their own armies,
and thus began the fight, and never was there seen one more doleful in
any Christian land. For all day long there was rushing and riding,
spearing and striking, and many a grim word was there spoken, and many a
deadly stroke given. And at the end full an hundred thousand dead men
lay upon the down, and King Arthur had but two Knights left living, Sir
Lucan and his brother Sir Bedivere. “Alas! that I should have lived to
see this day,” cried the King, “for now I am come to mine end; but would
to God that I knew where were that traitor Sir Mordred that hath caused
all this mischief.” Then suddenly he saw Sir Mordred leaning on his
sword among a great heap of dead men.

“Give me my spear,” said King Arthur unto Sir Lucan.

“Sir, let him be,” answered Sir Lucan. “Remember your dream, and leave
off by this. For, blessed be God, you have won the field, and we three
be alive, and of the others none is alive save Sir Mordred himself. If
you leave off now, the day of destiny is past.”

“Tide me death, tide me life,” said the King, “he shall not escape my
hands, for a better chance I shall never have;” and he took his spear in
both hands and ran towards Sir Mordred, crying, “Traitor! now is your
death day come,” and smote him under the shield, so that the spear went
through his body. And when Sir Mordred felt he had his death wound, he
raised himself up and struck King Arthur such a blow that the sword
clave his helmet, and then fell stark dead on the earth again. When Sir
Lucan and Sir Bedivere saw that sight they carried the King to a little
chapel, but they hoped not to leave him there long, for Sir Lucan had
noted that many people were stealing out to rob the slain of the
ornaments on their armour. And those that were not dead already they

             [Illustration: THE LAST BATTLE / Sir Mordred]

“Would that I could quit this place to go to some large town,” said the
King, when he had heard this, “but I cannot stand, my head works so. Ah,
Lancelot, sorely have I missed thee.” At that Sir Lucan and Sir Bedivere
tried to lift him, but Sir Lucan had been grievously wounded in the
fight, and the blood burst forth again as he lifted Arthur, and he died
and fell at the feet of the King.

“Alas!” said the King, “he has died for my sake, and he had more need of
help than I. But he would not complain, his heart was so set to help me.
And I should sorrow yet more if I were still to live long, but my time
flieth fast. Therefore, Sir Bedivere, cease moaning and weeping, and
take Excalibur, my good sword, and go with it to yonder water-side, and
when thou comest there, I charge thee, throw my sword in that water, and
come again and tell me what thou hast seen.”

“My lord,” answered Sir Bedivere, “your commandment shall be done,” and
he departed. But when he looked at that noble sword, and beheld the
jewels and gold that covered the pommel and hilt, he said to himself,
“If I throw this rich sword into the water no good will come of it, but
only harm and loss;” so he hid Excalibur under a tree, and returned unto
the King and told him his bidding was done. “What did you see there?”
asked the King.

“Sir,” answered Sir Bedivere. “I saw nothing but the winds and the

“You have not dealt truly with me,” said the King. “Go back, and do my
command; spare not, but throw it in.” But again Sir Bedivere’s heart
failed him, and he hid the sword, and returned to tell the King he had
seen nothing but the wan water.

“Ah, traitor!” cried King Arthur, “this is twice you have betrayed me.
If you do not now fulfil my bidding, with mine own hands will I slay
you, for you would gladly see me dead for the sake of my sword.” Then
Sir Bedivere was shamed at having disobeyed the King, and drew forth the
sword from its hiding-place, and carried it to the water-side, and with
a mighty swing threw it far into the water. And as it flew through the
air, an arm and hand lifted itself out of the water, and caught the
hilt, and brandished the sword thrice, and vanished with it beneath the
water. So Sir Bedivere came again unto the King, and told him what he

“Alas!” said the King, “help me hence, for I have tarried overlong;” and
Sir Bedivere took him on his back, and bare him to the water-side. And
when they stood by the bank, a little barge containing many fair ladies
and a Queen, all in black hoods, drew near, and they wept and shrieked
when they beheld King Arthur.

“Now put me into the barge,” said the King, and Sir Bedivere laid him
softly down, and the ladies made great mourning, and the barge rowed
from the land.

“Ah, my lord Arthur!” cried Sir Bedivere, “what shall become of me now
you go from me, and I am left here alone with my enemies?”

             [Illustration: EXCALIBVR RETVRNS TO THE MERE]

“Comfort yourself,” replied the King, “and do as well as you may, for I
go unto the valley of Avilion, to be healed of my grievous wound. And if
you never more hear of me, pray for my soul.” But Sir Bedivere watched
the barge till it was beyond his sight, then he rode all night till he
came to a hermitage. Now when Queen Guenevere heard of the battle, and
how that King Arthur was slain and Sir Mordred and all their Knights,
she stole away, and five ladies with her, and rode to Amesbury; and
there she put on clothes of black and white, and became a nun, and did
great penance, and many alms deeds, and people marvelled at her and at
her godly life. And ever she wept and moaned over the years that were
past, and for King Arthur.

As soon as the messenger whom the King had sent with Sir Gawaine’s
letter reached Sir Lancelot, and he learned that Sir Mordred had taken
for himself the crown of England, he rose up in wrath, and, calling Sir
Bors, bid him collect their host, that they should pass at once over the
sea to avenge themselves on that false Knight. A fair wind blew them to
Dover, and there Sir Lancelot asked tidings of King Arthur. Then the
people told him that the King was slain, and Sir Mordred, and an hundred
thousand men besides, and that the King had buried Sir Gawaine in the
chapel at Dover Castle. “Fair Sirs,” said Sir Lancelot, “show me that
tomb;” and they showed it to him, and Sir Lancelot kneeled before it,
and wept and prayed, and this he did for two days. And on the third
morning he summoned before him all the great lords and leaders of his
host, and said to them, “Fair lords, I thank you all for coming here
with me, but we come too late, and that will be bitter grief to me as
long as I shall live. But since it is so, I will myself ride and seek my
lady Guenevere in the west country, where they say she has gone, and
tarry you here, I entreat you, for fifteen days, and if I should not
return take your ships and depart into your own country.”

Sir Bors strove to reason with him that the quest was fruitless, and
that in the west country he would find few friends; but his words
availed nothing. For seven days Sir Lancelot rode, and at last he came
to a nunnery, where Queen Guenevere was looking out from her lattice,
and was ware of his presence as he walked in the cloister. And when she
saw him she swooned, and her ladies and gentlewomen tended her. When she
was recovered, she spoke to them and said, “You will marvel, fair
ladies, why I should swoon. It was caused by the sight of yonder Knight
who stands there, and I pray you bring him to me.” As soon as Sir
Lancelot was brought, she said to her ladies, “Through me and this man
has this war been wrought, for which I repent me night and day.
Therefore, Sir Lancelot, I require and pray you never to see my face
again, but go back to your own land, and govern it and protect it; and
take to yourself a wife, and pray that my soul may be made clean of its
ill doing.”

“Nay, Madam,” answered Sir Lancelot, “that shall I never do; but the
same life that you have taken upon you, will I take upon me likewise.”

“If you will do so,” said the Queen, “it is well; but I may never
believe but that you will turn to the world again.”

“Well, Madam,” answered he, “you speak as it pleases you, but you never
knew me false to my promise, and I will forsake the world as you have
done. For if in the quest of the Sangreal I had forsaken its vanities
with all my heart and will, I had passed all Knights in the quest,
except Sir Galahad my son. And therefore, lady, since you have taken you
to perfection, I must do so also, and if I may find a hermit that will
receive me I will pray and do penance while my life lasts. Wherefore,
Madam, I beseech you to kiss me once again.”

“No,” said the Queen, “that I may not do,” and Sir Lancelot took his
horse and departed in great sorrow. All that day and the next night he
rode through the forest till he beheld a hermitage and a chapel between
two cliffs, and heard a little bell ring to Mass. And he that sang Mass
was the Bishop of Canterbury, and Sir Bedivere was with him. After Mass
Sir Bedivere told Sir Lancelot how King Arthur had thrown away his sword
and had sailed to the valley of Avilion, and Sir Lancelot’s heart almost
burst for grief. Then he kneeled down and besought the Bishop that he
might be his brother. “That I will gladly,” said the Bishop, and put a
robe upon him.

After the fifteen days were ended, and still Sir Lancelot did not
return, Sir Bors made the great host go back across the sea, while he
and some of Sir Lancelot’s kin set forth to seek all over England till
they found Sir Lancelot. They rode different ways, and by fortune Sir
Bors came one day to the chapel where Sir Lancelot was. And he prayed
that he might stay and be one of their fellowship, and in six months six
other Knights were joined to them, and their horses went where they
would, for the Knights spent their lives in fasting and prayer, and kept
no riches for themselves.

In this wise six years passed, and one night a vision came to Sir
Lancelot in his sleep charging him to hasten unto Amesbury. “By the time
that thou come there,” said the vision, “thou shalt find Queen Guenevere
dead; therefore take thy fellows with thee and fetch her corpse, and
bury it by the side of her husband, the noble King Arthur.”

Then Sir Lancelot rose up and told the hermit, and the hermit ordered
him to make ready and to do all as the vision had commanded. And Sir
Lancelot and seven of the other Knights went on foot from Glastonbury to
Amesbury, and it took them two days to compass the distance, for it was
far and they were weak with fasting. When they reached the nunnery Queen
Guenevere had been dead but half an hour, and she had first summoned her
ladies to her, and told them that Sir Lancelot had been a priest for
near a twelvemonth. “And hither he cometh as fast as he may,” she said,
“to fetch my corpse, and beside my lord King Arthur he shall bury me.
And I beseech Almighty God that I may never have power to see Sir
Lancelot with my bodily eyes.” “Thus,” said the ladies, “she prayed for
two days till she was dead.” Then Sir Lancelot looked upon her face and
sighed, but wept little, and next day he sang Mass. After that the Queen
was laid on a bier drawn by horses, and an hundred torches were carried
round her, and Sir Lancelot and his fellows walked behind her singing
holy chants, and at times one would come forward and throw incense on
the dead. So they came to Glastonbury, and the Bishop of Canterbury sang
a Requiem Mass over the Queen, and she was wrapped in cloth, and placed
first in a web of lead, and then in a coffin of marble, and when she was
put into the earth Sir Lancelot swooned away.

“You are to blame,” said the hermit, when he awaked from his swoon, “you
ought not make such manner of sorrow.”

“Truly,” answered Sir Lancelot, “I trust I do not displease God, but
when I remember her beauty, and her nobleness, and that of the King, and
when I saw his corpse and her corpse lie together, my heart would not
bear up my body. And I remembered, too, that it was through me and my
pride that they both came to their end.”

From that day Sir Lancelot ate so little food that he dwined away, and
for the most part was found kneeling by the tomb of King Arthur and
Queen Guenevere. None could comfort him, and after six weeks he was too
weak to rise from his bed. Then he sent for the hermit and to his
fellows, and asked in a weary voice that they would give him the last
rites of the Church; and begged that when he was dead his body might be
taken to Joyous Gard, which some say is Alnwick and others Bamborough.
That night the hermit had a vision that he saw Sir Lancelot being
carried up to heaven by the angels, and he waked Sir Bors and bade him
go and see if anything ailed Sir Lancelot. So Sir Bors went and Sir
Lancelot lay on his bed, stark dead, and he smiled as he lay there. Then
was there great weeping and wringing of hands, more than had been made
for any man; but they placed him on the horse bier that had carried
Queen Guenevere, and lit a hundred torches, and in fifteen days they
reached Joyous Gard. There his body was laid in the choir, with his face
uncovered, and many prayers were said over him. And there, in the midst
of their praying, came Sir Ector de Maris, who for seven years had
sought Sir Lancelot through all the land.

“Ah, Lancelot,” he said, when he stood looking beside his dead body,
“thou wert head of all Christian Knights. Thou wert the courtliest
Knight that ever drew sword, and the faithfulest friend that ever
bestrode a horse. Thou wert the goodliest Knight that ever man has seen,
and the truest lover that ever loved a woman.”


Page 2, l. 16. tourney, tournament; a fight in which many knights

Page 3, l. 31. Arthur’s parentage. Uther Pendragon was King Arthur’s
father. In Malory’s “Morte d’Arthur,” it is explained how he, when King
of all England, marched into Cornwall against the powerful Duke of
Tintagil. In the siege that followed the Duke of Tintagil was killed,
and his lady, the dame Igraine, afterwards became the wife of King
Uthur. It is also explained how, on the advice of Merlin, their son
Arthur was fostered by the wife of a certain Sir Ector, and brought up
with his son Kay. Uther Pendragon died two years after this, and on his
deathbed Merlin asked if Arthur should not be proclaimed his successor.
To this Uther Pendragon replied, “I give him my blessing, and
righteously may he claim the crown on forfeiture of my blessing.” Merlin
had to provide some other means therefore to enable Arthur to succeed to
his heritage, and this we have in the tale of the “Drawing of the

Page 3, l. 32. Merlin. A magician. One of the chief characters in the
earlier tales.

Page 5, l. 7. seneschal, steward.

Page 5, l. 13. Twelfth Day, twelve days after Christmas.

Page 5, l. 18. Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin
Mary, called Candlemas on account of the number of lighted candles used.

Page 6, l. 29. barge here means pleasure-boat.

Page 7, l. 14. Carlion, or Carleon, at that time an important city in
South Wales, situated about six miles from the mouth of the river Usk.

Page 7, l. 27. Round Table, the famous table at which King Arthur’s
knights sat. There are several accounts of its origin. One of the
reasons suggested for its shape is that, being round, no dispute could
arise between the knights for the higher places.

Page 8, l. 32. Sir Lancelot, the best loved and bravest of King Arthur’s
knights, famed for his chivalry.

Page 9, l. 13. Sir Gawaine was one of the five nephews of the King (the
other brothers being Mordred, Agrawaine, Gaheris, and Gareth).

Page 11, l. 14. Avelion, or Avalon, is generally associated with

Page 18, l. 18. Pentecost, Whitsuntide.

Page 19, l. 16. daïs, a raised platform in the hall at which the highly
born sat.

Page 25, l. 16. scullion, the lowest servant of the kitchen; washer of

Page 29, l. 19. high degree, high station in life.

Page 33, l. 28. venison, the flesh of the deer.

Page 33, l. 28. capons, large chickens.

Page 36, l. 14. ger-falcon, or gyrfalcon, a large and fierce kind of

Page 37, l. 12. Feast of the Assumption. This took place on the 15th of
August (Lady Day).

Page 37, l. 16. device, badge; distinguishing mark; coat of arms.

Page 37, l. 17. bare them. _Bare_ is the old form of bore; _them_ is

Page 41, l. 5. Michaelmas, the 29th of September.

Page 41, l. 28. chamberlain, a high officer of the court; master of the

Page 43, l. 31. Gore, or Gower, is a strip of hilly country in
Glamorganshire, running out into the sea, and ending in Worm’s Head.

Page 46, l. 18. Nimue is the Lady of the Lake mentioned in the story of
“Excalibur.” She is generally a good friend to King Arthur.

Page 48. the Holy Graal. The graal is the vessel which our Lord used at
the Last Supper.

Page 49, l. 15. pall, a covering thrown over the dead.

Page 49, l. 23. ill-favoured, with unpleasant features.

Page 50, l. 28. “till I be shriven of the priest,” “till my sins have
been confessed to a priest, and I have been absolved.”

Page 50, l. 33. wise, fashion.

Page 51, l. 14. divers, several, sundry.

Pegs 51, l. 28. samite, a kind of silk stuff.

Page 52, l. 4. wist, knew.

Page 52, l. 30. Sir Galahad, son of Sir Lancelot, the truest of knights
in thought and deed.

Page 53, l. 16. White Abbey. The Benedictines wore black garments. This
abbey belonged, no doubt, to one of the other orders of monks.

Page 53, l. 28. Mass. A service of the Catholic Church. There was, of
course, only one Church in those days, Protestantism being of much later

Page 59, l. 4. palfrey, a horse for riding; distinct from a war-horse.

Page 59, l. 31. helm, helmet.

Page 60, l. 15. discomfited, routed, defeated.

Page 64, l. 9. hair shirt. The irritation caused by wearing a hair shirt
was a penance for sins committed. This was a common form of penance.

Page 65, l. 17. purged, purified.

Page 65, l. 27. peer, equal.

Page 66, l. 1. Sir Ector de Maris, Sir Lancelot’s brother.

Page 66, l. 13. Sir Percivale and his sister were the daughter of King

Page 74, l. 18. King Pelles, the father of Elaine.

Page 77, l. 22. almonries, or almories, cupboards. (Literally places
where alms were distributed; places for broken victuals.)

Page 85, l. 10. made a covenant, made an agreement; undertook.

Page 85, l. 29. couched their spears, put their spears in rest, and
levelled them for the charge.

Page 89, l. 13. Camelot is identified by Malory with Winchester, but
there is reason to believe that actually it was in Somerset.

Page 90, l. 15. a joust was a trial of strength between two knights.

Page 91, l. 10. token. It was the custom for knights to wear their
ladies’ “tokens.”

Page 91, l. 31. burgess, citizen.

Page 93, l. 2. Sir Gawaine. Being the King’s nephew, the King took
special interest in him.

Page 93, l. 18. press, throng, fight.

Page 94, l. 11. mêlée, thick of the fight.

Page 95, l. 32. Northgalis, North Wales.

Page 105, l. 10. Sir Brandiles, one of the knights of the Round Table.

Page 108, l. 2. pavilion, tent.

Page 109, l. 4. doublet, the upper part of a man’s dress.

Page 119, l. 28. lesses les aller, the old French form of the “Laissez
aller” in “Ivanhoe,” meaning “Go!”

Page 131, l. 34. craven, coward.

Page 132, l. 13. Sir Lionel, Sir Bors’ brother.

Page 133, l. 28. olive, the token of peace.

Page 137, l. 14. bell, book, and candle. This curse was so called
because a bell was rung while it was being read from a book, and as soon
as it was over a candle was solemnly extinguished. The last part of the
ceremony was meant to show more clearly to the offender how completely
he was put beyond the grace of the Church.

Page 137, l. 17. waxed, grew.

Page 138, l. 34. salves, ointments.

Page 140, l. 28. tide me death, though death betide me.

Page 142, l. 2. stark, more commonly used with the word stiff (stiff and
stark) to denote death.

Page 143, l. 5. wan, pale, grey.

Page 145, l. 6. alms deeds, deeds of charity.

Page 148, l. 32. dwined, dwindled.

                                THE END.


                          Transcriber’s Notes

--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--Silently corrected a few palpable typos; left intentionally
  non-standard spellings and dialect unchanged.

--Only in the text versions, delimited italicized text (or
  non-italicized text within poetry) in _underscores_ (the HTML version
  reproduces the font form of the printed book.)

--Omitted marginal line numbers (which must be dynamic in the electronic
  edition), but turned endnotes into hyperlinks.

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