By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights
Author: Knowles, James, Sir, Malory, Thomas, Sir
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights" ***

The Legends of KING ARTHUR and his KNIGHTS

Sir James Knowles

Illustrated by Lancelot Speed





The Publishers have asked me to authorise a new edition, in my own name,
of this little book--now long out of print--which was written by me
thirty-five years ago under the initials J.T.K.

In acceding to their request I wish to say that the book as now published
is merely a word-for-word reprint of my early effort to help to popularise
the Arthur legends.

It is little else than an abridgment of Sir Thomas Malory's version of
them as printed by Caxton--with a few additions from Geoffrey of Monmouth
and other sources--and an endeavour to arrange the many tales into a more
or less consecutive story.

The chief pleasure which came to me from it was, and is, that it began for
me a long and intimate acquaintance with Lord Tennyson, to whom, by his
permission, I Dedicated it before I was personally known to him.


_Addendum by Lady Knowles_

In response to a widely expressed wish for a fresh edition of this little
book--now for some years out of print--a new and ninth edition has been

In his preface my husband says that the intimacy with Lord Tennyson to
which it led was the chief pleasure the book brought him. I have been
asked to furnish a few more particulars on this point that may be
generally interesting, and feel that I cannot do better than give some
extracts from a letter written by himself to a friend in July 1896.

"DEAR ----,

"I am so _very_ glad you approve of my little effort to popularise the
Arthur Legends. Tennyson had written his first four 'Idylls of the King'
before my book appeared, which was in 1861. Indeed, it was in consequence
of the first four Idylls that I sought and obtained, while yet a stranger
to him, leave to dedicate my venture to him. He was extremely kind about
it--declared 'it ought to go through forty editions'--and when I came to
know him personally talked very frequently about it and Arthur with me,
and made constant use of it when he at length yielded to my perpetual
urgency and took up again his forsaken project of treating the whole
subject of King Arthur.

"He discussed and rediscussed at any amount of length the way in which
this could now be done--and the Symbolism, which had from his earliest
time haunted him as the inner meaning to be given to it, brought him back
to the Poem in its changed shape of separate pictures.

"He used often to say that it was entirely my doing that he revived his
old plan, and added, 'I know more about Arthur than any other man in
England, and I think you know next most.' It would amuse you to see in
what intimate detail he used to consult with me--and often with my little
book in front of us--over the various tales, and when I wrote an article
(in the shape of a long letter) in the _Spectator_ of January 1870 he
asked to reprint it, and published it with the collected Idylls.

"For years, while his boys were at school and college, I acted as his
confidential friend in business and many other matters, and I suppose he
told me more about himself and his life than any other man now living




The Finding of Merlin--The Fight of the Dragons--The Giants' Dance--The
Prophecies of Merlin and the Birth of Arthur--Uther attacks the
Saxons--The Death of Uther


Merlin's Advice to the Archbishop--The Miracle of the Sword and Stone--The
Coronation of King Arthur--The Opposition of the Six Kings--The Sword
Excalibur--The Defeat of the Six Kings--The War with the Eleven Kings


The Adventure of the Questing Beast--The Siege of York--The Battles of
Celidon Forest and Badon Hill--King Arthur drives the Saxons from the
Realm--The Embassy from Rome--The King rescues Merlin--The Knight of the


King Arthur conquers Ireland and Norway--Slays the Giant of St. Michael's
Mount and conquers Gaul--King Ryence's Insolent Message--The Damsel and
the Sword--The Lady of the Lake--The Adventures of Sir Balin


Sir Balin kills Sir Lancear--The Sullen Knight--The Knight Invisible is
killed--Sir Balin smites the Dolorous Stroke, and fights with his brother
Sir Balan


The Marriage of King Arthur and Guinevere--The Coronation of the
Queen--The Founding of the Round Table--The Quest of the White Hart--The
Adventures of Sir Gawain--The Quest of the White Hound--Sir Tor kills
Abellius--The Adventures of Sir Pellinore--The Death of Sir
Hantzlake--Merlin saves King Arthur


King Arthur and Sir Accolon of Gaul are entrapped by Sir Damas--They fight
each other through Enchantment of Queen Morgan le Fay--Sir Damas is
compelled to surrender all his Lands to Sir Outzlake his Brother their
Rightful Owner--Queen Morgan essays to kill King Arthur with a Magic
Garment--Her Damsel is compelled to wear it and is thereby burned to


A Second Embassy from Rome--King Arthur's Answer--The Emperor assembles
his Armies--King Arthur slays the Emperor--Sir Gawain and Sir
Prianius--The Lombards are defeated--King Arthur crowned at Rome


The Adventures of Sir Lancelot--He and his Cousin Sir Lionel set
forth--The Four Witch-Queens--King Bagdemagus--Sir Lancelot slays Sir
Turquine and delivers his Captive Knights--The Foul Knight--Sir Gaunter
attacks Sir Lancelot--The Four Knights--Sir Lancelot comes to the Chapel
Perilous--Ellawes the Sorceress--The Lady and the Falcon--Sir Bedivere and
the Dead Lady


Beaumains is made a Kitchen Page by Sir Key--He claims the Adventure of
the Damsel Linet--He fights with Sir Lancelot and is knighted by him in
his True Name of Gareth--Is flouted by the Damsel Linet--But overthrows
all Knights he meets and sends them to King Arthur's Court--He delivers
the Lady Lyones from the Knight of the Redlands--The Tournament before
Castle Perilous--Marriage of Sir Gareth and the Lady Lyones


The Adventures of Sir Tristram--His Stepmother--He is knighted--Fights
with Sir Marhaus--Sir Palomedes and La Belle Isault--Sir Bleoberis and Sir
Segwarides--Sir Tristram's Quest--His Return--The Castle Pluere--Sir
Brewnor is slain--Sir Kay Hedius--La Belle Isault's Hound--Sir Dinedan
refuses to fight--Sir Pellinore follows Sir Tristram--Sir
Brewse-without-pity--The Tournament at the Maiden's Castle--Sir Palomedes
and Sir Tristram


Merlin is bewitched by a Damsel of the Lady of the Lake--Galahad knighted
by Sir Lancelot--The Perilous Seat--The Marvellous Sword--Sir Galahad in
the Perilous Seat--The Sangreal--The Knights vow themselves to its
Quest--The Shield of the White Knight--The Fiend of the Tomb--Sir Galahad
at the Maiden's Castle--The Sick Knight and the Sangreal--Sir Lancelot
declared unworthy to find the Holy Vessel--Sir Percival seeks Sir
Galahad--The Black Steed--Sir Bors and the Hermit--Sir Pridan le Noir--Sir
Lionel's Anger--He meets Sir Percival--The ship "Faith"--Sir Galahad and
Earl Hernox--The Leprous Lady--Sir Galahad discloses himself to Sir
Lancelot--They part--The Blind King Evelake--Sir Galahad finds the
Sangreal--His Death


The Queen quarrels with Sir Lancelot--She is accused of Murder--Her
Champion proves her innocence--The Tourney at Camelot--Sir Lancelot in the
Tourney--Sir Baldwin the Knight-Hermit--Elaine, the Maid of Astolat, seeks
for Sir Lancelot--She tends his Wounds--Her Death--The Queen and Sir
Lancelot are reconciled


Sir Lancelot attacked by Sir Agravaine, Sir Modred, and thirteen other
Knights--He slays them all but Sir Modred--He leaves the Court--Sir Modred
accuses him to the King--The Queen condemned to be burnt--Her rescue by
Sir Lancelot and flight with him--The War between Sir Lancelot and the
King--The Enmity of Sir Gawain--The Usurpation of Sir Modred--The Queen
retires to a Nunnery--Sir Lancelot goes on Pilgrimage--The Battle of
Barham Downs--Sir Bedivere and the Sword Excalibur--The Death of King


Of scenes from the Legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round
Table many lovely pictures have been painted, showing much diversity of
figures and surroundings, some being definitely sixth-century British or
Saxon, as in Blair Leighton's fine painting of the dead Elaine;
others--for example, Watts' Sir Galahad--show knight and charger in
fifteenth-century armour; while the warriors of Burne Jones wear strangely
impracticable armour of some mystic period. Each of these painters was
free to follow his own conception, putting the figures into whatever
period most appealed to his imagination; for he was not illustrating the
actual tales written by Sir Thomas Malory, otherwise he would have found
himself face to face with a difficulty.

King Arthur and his knights fought, endured, and toiled in the sixth
century, when the Saxons were overrunning Britain; but their achievements
were not chronicled by Sir Thomas Malory until late in the fifteenth

Sir Thomas, as Froissart has done before him, described the habits of
life, the dresses, weapons, and armour that his own eyes looked upon in
the every-day scenes about him, regardless of the fact that almost every
detail mentioned was something like a thousand years too late.

Had Malory undertaken an account of the landing of Julius Caesar he would,
as a matter of course, have protected the Roman legions with bascinet or
salade, breastplate, pauldron and palette, coudiére, taces and the rest,
and have armed them with lance and shield, jewel-hilted sword and slim
misericorde; while the Emperor himself might have been given the very suit
of armour stripped from the Duke of Clarence before his fateful encounter
with the butt of malmsey.

Did not even Shakespeare calmly give cannon to the Romans and suppose
every continental city to lie majestically beside the sea? By the old
writers, accuracy in these matters was disregarded, and anachronisms were
not so much tolerated as unperceived.

In illustrating this edition of "The Legends of King Arthur and his
Knights," it has seemed best, and indeed unavoidable if the text and the
pictures are to tally, to draw what Malory describes, to place the fashion
of the costumes and armour somewhere about A.D. 1460, and to arm the
knights in accordance with the Tabard Period.



The Marriage of King Arthur

Then fell Sir Ector down upon his knees upon the ground before young
Arthur, and Sir Key also with him.

The Lady of the Lake

The giant sat at supper, gnawing on a limb of a man, and baking his huge
frame by the fire

The castle rocked and rove throughout, and all the walls fell crashed and
breaking to the earth

Came forth twelve fair damsels, and saluted King Arthur by his name

Prianius was christened, and made a duke and knight of the Round Table

Sir Lancelot smote down with one spear five knights, and brake the backs
of four, and cast down the King of Northgales

Beyond the chapel, he met a fair damsel, who said, "Sir Lancelot, leave
that sword behind thee, or thou diest"

"Lady," replied Sir Beaumains, "a knight is little worth who may not bear
with a damsel"

So he rode into the hall and alighted

Then they began the battle, and tilted at their hardest against each other

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

By the time they had finished drinking they loved each other so well that
their love never more might leave them

Waving her hands and muttering the charm, and presently enclosed him fast
within the tree

Galahad ... quickly lifted up the stone, and forthwith came out a foul

"This girdle, lords," said she, "is made for the most part of mine own
hair, which, while I was yet in the world, I loved full well"

At last the strange knight smote him to the earth, and gave him such a
buffet on the helm as wellnigh killed him

Then was Sir Lancelot sent for, and the letter read aloud by a clerk

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



_The Prophecies of Merlin, and the Birth of Arthur_

King Vortigern the usurper sat upon his throne in London, when, suddenly,
upon a certain day, ran in a breathless messenger, and cried aloud--

"Arise, Lord King, for the enemy is come; even Ambrosius and Uther, upon
whose throne thou sittest--and full twenty thousand with them--and they
have sworn by a great oath, Lord, to slay thee, ere this year be done; and
even now they march towards thee as the north wind of winter for
bitterness and haste."

At those words Vortigern's face grew white as ashes, and, rising in
confusion and disorder, he sent for all the best artificers and craftsmen
and mechanics, and commanded them vehemently to go and build him
straightway in the furthest west of his lands a great and strong castle,
where he might fly for refuge and escape the vengeance of his master's
sons--"and, moreover," cried he, "let the work be done within a hundred
days from now, or I will surely spare no life amongst you all."

Then all the host of craftsmen, fearing for their lives, found out a
proper site whereon to build the tower, and eagerly began to lay in the
foundations. But no sooner were the walls raised up above the ground than
all their work was overwhelmed and broken down by night invisibly, no man
perceiving how, or by whom, or what. And the same thing happening again,
and yet again, all the workmen, full of terror, sought out the king, and
threw themselves upon their faces before him, beseeching him to interfere
and help them or to deliver them from their dreadful work.

Filled with mixed rage and fear, the king called for the astrologers and
wizards, and took counsel with them what these things might be, and how to
overcome them. The wizards worked their spells and incantations, and in
the end declared that nothing but the blood of a youth born without mortal
father, smeared on the foundations of the castle, could avail to make it
stand. Messengers were therefore sent forthwith through all the land to
find, if it were possible, such a child. And, as some of them went down a
certain village street, they saw a band of lads fighting and quarrelling,
and heard them shout at one--"Avaunt, thou imp!--avaunt! Son of no mortal
man! go, find thy father, and leave us in peace."

At that the messengers looked steadfastly on the lad, and asked who he
was. One said his name was Merlin; another, that his birth and parentage
were known by no man; a third, that the foul fiend alone was his father.
Hearing the things, the officers seized Merlin, and carried him before the
king by force.

But no sooner was he brought to him than he asked in a loud voice, for
what cause he was thus dragged there?

"My magicians," answered Vortigern, "told me to seek out a man that had no
human father, and to sprinkle my castle with his blood, that it may

"Order those magicians," said Merlin, "to come before me, and I will
convict them of a lie."

The king was astonished at his words, but commanded the magicians to come
and sit down before Merlin, who cried to them--

"Because ye know not what it is that hinders the foundation of the castle,
ye have advised my blood for a cement to it, as if that would avail; but
tell me now rather what there is below that ground, for something there is
surely underneath that will not suffer the tower to stand?"

The wizards at these words began to fear, and made no answer. Then said
Merlin to the king--

"I pray, Lord, that workmen may be ordered to dig deep down into the
ground till they shall come to a great pool of water."

This then was done, and the pool discovered far beneath the surface of the

Then, turning again to the magicians, Merlin said, "Tell me now, false
sycophants, what there is underneath that pool?"--but they were silent.
Then said he to the king, "Command this pool to be drained, and at the
bottom shall be found two dragons, great and huge, which now are sleeping,
but which at night awake and fight and tear each other. At their great
struggle all the ground shakes and trembles, and so casts down thy towers,
which, therefore, never yet could find secure foundations."

The king was amazed at these words, but commanded the pool to be forthwith
drained; and surely at the bottom of it did they presently discover the
two dragons, fast asleep, as Merlin had declared.

But Vortigern sat upon the brink of the pool till night to see what else
would happen.

Then those two dragons, one of which was white, the other red, rose up and
came near one another, and began a sore fight, and cast forth fire with
their breath. But the white dragon had the advantage, and chased the other
to the end of the lake. And he, for grief at his flight, turned back upon
his foe, and renewed the combat, and forced him to retire in turn. But in
the end the red dragon was worsted, and the white dragon disappeared no
man knew where.

When their battle was done, the king desired Merlin to tell him what it
meant. Whereat he, bursting into tears, cried out this prophecy, which
first foretold the coming of King Arthur.

"Woe to the red dragon, which figureth the British nation, for his
banishment cometh quickly; his lurkingholes shall be seized by the white
dragon--the Saxon whom thou, O king, hast called to the land. The
mountains shall be levelled as the valleys, and the rivers of the valleys
shall run blood; cities shall be burned, and churches laid in ruins; till
at length the oppressed shall turn for a season and prevail against the
strangers. For a Boar of Cornwall shall arise and rend them, and trample
their necks beneath his feet. The island shall be subject to his power,
and he shall take the forests of Gaul. The house of Romulus shall dread
him--all the world shall fear him--and his end shall no man know; he shall
be immortal in the mouths of the people, and his works shall be food to
those that tell them.

"But as for thee, O Vortigern, flee thou the sons of Constantine, for they
shall burn thee in thy tower. For thine own ruin wast thou traitor to
their father, and didst bring the Saxon heathens to the land. Aurelius and
Uther are even now upon thee to revenge their father's murder; and the
brood of the white dragon shall waste thy country, and shall lick thy
blood. Find out some refuge, if thou wilt! but who may escape the doom of

The king heard all this, trembling greatly; and, convicted of his sins,
said nothing in reply. Only he hasted the builders of his tower by day and
night, and rested not till he had fled thereto.

In the meantime, Aurelius, the rightful king, was hailed with joy by the
Britons, who flocked to his standard, and prayed to be led against the
Saxons. But he, till he had first killed Vortigern, would begin no other
war. He marched therefore to Cambria, and came before the tower which the
usurper had built. Then, crying out to all his knights, "Avenge ye on him
who hath ruined Britain and slain my father and your king!" he rushed with
many thousands at the castle walls. But, being driven back again and yet
again, at length he thought of fire, and ordered blazing brands to be cast
into the building from all sides. These finding soon a proper fuel, ceased
not to rage, till spreading to a mighty conflagration, they burned down
the tower and Vortigern within it.

Then did Aurelius turn his strength against Hengist and the Saxons, and,
defeating them in many places, weakened their power for a long season, so
that the land had peace.

Anon the king, making many journeys to and fro, restoring ruined churches
and, creating order, came to the monastery near Salisbury, where all those
British knights lay buried who had been slain there by the treachery of
Hengist. For when in former times Hengist had made a solemn truce with
Vortigern, to meet in peace and settle terms, whereby himself and all his
Saxons should depart from Britain, the Saxon soldiers carried every one of
them beneath his garment a long dagger, and, at a given signal, fell upon
the Britons, and slew them, to the number of nearly five hundred.

The sight of the place where the dead lay moved Aurelius to great sorrow,
and he cast about in his mind how to make a worthy tomb over so many noble
martyrs, who had died there for their country.

When he had in vain consulted many craftsmen and builders, he sent, by the
advice of the archbishop, for Merlin, and asked him what to do. "If you
would honour the burying-place of these men," said Merlin, "with an
everlasting monument, send for the Giants' Dance which is in Killaraus, a
mountain in Ireland; for there is a structure of stone there which none of
this age could raise without a perfect knowledge of the arts. They are
stones of a vast size and wondrous nature, and if they can be placed here
as they are there, round this spot of ground, they will stand for ever."

At these words of Merlin, Aurelius burst into laughter, and said, "How is
it possible to remove such vast stones from so great a distance, as if
Britain, also, had no stones fit for the work?"

"I pray the king," said Merlin, "to forbear vain laughter; what I have
said is true, for those stones are mystical and have healing virtues. The
giants of old brought them from the furthest coast of Africa, and placed
them in Ireland while they lived in that country: and their design was to
make baths in them, for use in time of grievous illness. For if they
washed the stones and put the sick into the water, it certainly healed
them, as also it did them that were wounded in battle; and there is no
stone among them but hath the same virtue still."

When the Britons heard this, they resolved to send for the stones, and to
make war upon the people of Ireland if they offered to withhold them. So,
when they had chosen Uther the king's brother for their chief, they set
sail, to the number of 15,000 men, and came to Ireland. There Gillomanius,
the king, withstood them fiercely, and not till after a great battle could
they approach the Giants' Dance, the sight of which filled them with joy
and admiration. But when they sought to move the stones, the strength of
all the army was in vain, until Merlin, laughing at their failures,
contrived machines of wondrous cunning, which took them down with ease,
and placed them in the ships.

When they had brought the whole to Salisbury, Aurelius, with the crown
upon his head, kept for four days the feast of Pentecost with royal pomp;
and in the midst of all the clergy and the people, Merlin raised up the
stones, and set them round the sepulchre of the knights and barons, as
they stood in the mountains of Ireland.

Then was the monument called "Stonehenge," which stands, as all men know,
upon the plain of Salisbury to this very day.

Soon thereafter it befell that Aurelius was slain by poison at Winchester,
and was himself buried within the Giants' Dance.

At the same time came forth a comet of amazing size and brightness,
darting out a beam, at the end whereof was a cloud of fire shaped like a
dragon, from whose mouth went out two rays, one stretching over Gaul, the
other ending in seven lesser rays over the Irish sea.

At the appearance of this star a great dread fell upon the people, and
Uther, marching into Cambria against the son of Vortigern, himself was
very troubled to learn what it might mean. Then Merlin, being called
before him, cried with a loud voice: "O mighty loss! O stricken Britain!
Alas! the great prince is gone from us. Aurelius Ambrosius is dead, whose
death will be ours also, unless God help us. Haste, therefore, noble
Uther, to destroy the enemy; the victory shall be thine, and thou shalt be
king of all Britain. For the star with the fiery dragon signifies thyself;
and the ray over Gaul portends that thou shalt have a son, most mighty,
whom all those kingdoms shall obey which the ray covers."

Thus, for the second time, did Merlin foretell the coming of King Arthur.
And Uther, when he was made king, remembered Merlin's words, and caused
two dragons to be made in gold, in likeness of the dragon he had seen in
the star. One of these he gave to Winchester Cathedral, and had the other
carried into all his wars before him, whence he was ever after called
Uther Pendragon, or the dragon's head.

Now, when Uther Pendragon had passed through all the land, and settled
it--and even voyaged into all the countries of the Scots, and tamed the
fierceness of that rebel people--he came to London, and ministered justice
there. And it befell at a certain great banquet and high feast which the
king made at Easter-tide, there came, with many other earls and barons,
Gorloïs, Duke of Cornwall, and his wife Igerna, who was the most famous
beauty in all Britain. And soon thereafter, Gorloïs being slain in battle,
Uther determined to make Igerna his own wife. But in order to do this, and
enable him to come to her--for she was shut up in the high castle of
Tintagil, on the furthest coast of Cornwall--the king sent for Merlin, to
take counsel with him and to pray his help. This, therefore, Merlin
promised him on one condition--namely, that the king should give him up
the first son born of the marriage. For Merlin by his arts foreknew that
this firstborn should be the long-wished prince, King Arthur.

When Uther, therefore, was at length happily wedded, Merlin came to the
castle on a certain day, and said, "Sir, thou must now provide thee for
the nourishing of thy child."

And the king, nothing doubting, said, "Be it as thou wilt."

"I know a lord of thine in this land," said Merlin, "who is a man both
true and faithful; let him have the nourishing of the child. His name is
Sir Ector, and he hath fair possessions both in England and in Wales.
When, therefore, the child is born, let him be delivered unto me,
unchristened, at yonder postern-gate, and I will bestow him in the care of
this good knight."

So when the child was born, the king bid two knights and two ladies to
take it, bound in rich cloth of gold, and deliver it to a poor man whom
they should discover at the postern-gate. And the child being delivered
thus to Merlin, who himself took the guise of a poor man, was carried by
him to a holy priest and christened by the name of Arthur, and then was
taken to Sir Ector's house, and nourished at Sir Ector's wife's own
breasts. And in the same house he remained privily for many years, no man
soever knowing where he was, save Merlin and the king.

Anon it befell that the king was seized by a lingering distemper, and the
Saxon heathens, taking their occasion, came back from over sea, and
swarmed upon the land, wasting it with fire and sword. When Uther heard
thereof, he fell into a greater rage than his weakness could bear, and
commanded all his nobles to come before him, that he might upbraid them
for their cowardice. And when he had sharply and hotly rebuked them, he
swore that he himself, nigh unto death although he lay, would lead them
forth against the enemy. Then causing a horse-litter to be made, in which
he might be carried--for he was too faint and weak to ride--he went up
with all his army swiftly against the Saxons.

But they, when they heard that Uther was coming in a litter, disdained to
fight with him, saying it would be shame for brave men to fight with one
half dead. So they retired into their city; and, as it were in scorn of
danger, left the gates wide open. But Uther straightway commanding his men
to assault the town, they did so without loss of time, and had already
reached the gates, when the Saxons, repenting too late of their haughty
pride, rushed forth to the defence. The battle raged till night, and was
begun again next day; but at last, their leaders, Octa and Eosa, being
slain, the Saxons turned their backs and fled, leaving the Britons a full

The king at this felt so great joy, that, whereas before he could scarce
raise himself without help, he now sat upright in his litter by himself,
and said, with a laughing and merry face, "They called me the half-dead
king, and so indeed I was; but victory to me half dead is better than
defeat and the best health. For to die with honour is far better than to
live disgraced."

But the Saxons, although thus defeated, were ready still for war. Uther
would have pursued them; but his illness had by now so grown, that his
knights and barons kept him from the adventure. Whereat the enemy took
courage, and left nothing undone to destroy the land; until, descending to
the vilest treachery, they resolved to kill the king by poison.

To this end, as he lay sick at Verulam, they sent and poisoned stealthily
a spring of clear water, whence he was wont to drink daily; and so, on the
very next day, he was taken with the pains of death, as were also a
hundred others after him, before the villainy was discovered, and heaps of
earth thrown over the well.

The knights and barons, full of sorrow, now took counsel together, and
came to Merlin for his help to learn the king's will before he died, for
he was by this time speechless. "Sirs, there is no remedy," said Merlin,
"and God's will must be done; but be ye all to-morrow before him, for God
will make him speak before he die."

So on the morrow all the barons, with Merlin, stood round the bedside of
the king; and Merlin said aloud to Uther, "Lord, shall thy son Arthur be
the king of all this realm after thy days?"

Then Uther Pendragon turned him about, and said, in the hearing of them
all, "God's blessing and mine be upon him. I bid him pray for my soul, and
also that he claim my crown, or forfeit all my blessing;" and with those
words he died.

Then came together all the bishops and the clergy, and great multitudes of
people, and bewailed the king; and carrying his body to the convent of
Ambrius, they buried it close by his brother's grave, within the "Giants'


_The Miracle of the Sword and Stone, and the Coronation of King
Arthur--The Sword Excalilur--The War with the Eleven Kings_

Now Arthur the prince had all this time been nourished in Sir Ector's
house as his own son, and was fair and tall and comely, being of the age
of fifteen years, great in strength, gentle in manner, and accomplished in
all exercises proper for the training of a knight.

But as yet he knew not of his father; for Merlin had so dealt, that none
save Uther and himself knew aught about him. Wherefore it befell, that
many of the knights and barons who heard King Uther speak before his
death, and call his son Arthur his successor, were in great amazement; and
some doubted, and others were displeased.

Anon the chief lords and princes set forth each to his own land, and,
raising armed men and multitudes of followers, determined every one to
gain the crown for himself; for they said in their hearts, "If there be
any such a son at all as he of whom this wizard forced the king to speak,
who are we that a beardless boy should have rule over us?"

So the land stood long in great peril, for every lord and baron sought but
his own advantage; and the Saxons, growing ever more adventurous, wasted
and overran the towns and villages in every part.

Then Merlin went to Brice, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and advised him
to require all the earls and barons of the realm and all knights and
gentlemen-at-arms to come to him at London, before Christmas, under pain
of cursing, that they might learn the will of Heaven who should be king.
This, therefore, the archbishop did, and upon Christmas Eve were met
together in London all the greatest princes, lords, and barons; and long
before day they prayed in St. Paul's Church, and the archbishop besought
Heaven for a sign who should be lawful king of all the realm.

And as they prayed, there was seen in the churchyard, set straight before
the doorways of the church, a huge square stone having a naked sword stuck
in the midst of it. And on the sword was written in letters of gold,
"Whoso pulleth out the sword from this stone is born the rightful King of

At this all the people wondered greatly; and, when Mass was over, the
nobles, knights, and princes ran out eagerly from the church to see the
stone and sword; and a law was forthwith made that whoso should pull out
the sword should be acknowledged straightway King of Britain.

Then many knights and barons pulled at the sword with all their might, and
some of them tried many times, but none could stir or move it.

When all had tried in vain, the archbishop declared the man whom Heaven
had chosen was not yet there. "But God," said he, "will doubtless make
him known ere many days."

So ten knights were chosen, being men of high renown, to watch and keep
the sword; and there was proclamation made through all the land that
whosoever would, had leave and liberty to try and pull it from the stone.
But though great multitudes of people came, both gentle and simple, for
many days, no man could ever move the sword a hair's breadth from its

Now, at the New Year's Eve a great tournament was to be held in London,
which the archbishop had devised to keep together lords and commons, lest
they should grow estranged in the troublous and unsettled times. To the
which tournament there came, with many other knights, Sir Ector, Arthur's
foster-father, who had great possessions near to London; and with him came
his son, Sir Key, but recently made knight, to take his part in the
jousting, and young Arthur also to witness all the sports and fighting.

But as they rode towards the jousts, Sir Key found suddenly he had no
sword, for he had left it at his father's house; and turning to young
Arthur, he prayed him to ride back and fetch it for him. "I will with a
good will," said Arthur; and rode fast back after the sword.

But when he came to the house he found it locked and empty, for all were
gone forth to see the tournament. Whereat, being angry and impatient, he
said within himself, "I will ride to the churchyard and take with me the
sword that sticketh in the stone, for my brother shall not go without a
sword this day."

So he rode and came to the churchyard, and alighting from his horse he
tied him to the gate, and went to the pavilion, which was pitched near
the stone, wherein abode the ten knights who watched and kept it; but he
found no knights there, for all were gone to see the jousting.

Then he took the sword by its handle, and lightly and fiercely he pulled
it out of the stone, and took his horse and rode until he came to Sir Key
and delivered him the sword. But as soon as Sir Key saw it he knew well it
was the sword of the stone, and, riding swiftly to his father, he cried
out, "Lo! here, sir, is the sword of the stone, wherefore it is I who must
be king of all this land."

When Sir Ector saw the sword, he turned back straight with Arthur and Sir
Key and came to the churchyard, and there alighting, they went all three
into the church, and Sir Key was sworn to tell truly how he came by the
sword. Then he confessed it was his brother Arthur who had brought it to

Whereat Sir Ector, turning to young Arthur, asked him--"How gottest thou
the sword?"

"Sir," said he, "I will tell you. When I went home to fetch my brother's
sword, I found nobody to deliver it to me, for all were abroad to the
jousts. Yet was I loath to leave my brother swordless, and, bethinking me
of this one, I came hither eagerly to fetch it for him, and pulled it out
of the stone without any pain."

Then said Sir Ector, much amazed and looking steadfastly on Arthur, "If
this indeed be thus, 'tis thou who shalt be king of all this land--and God
will have it so--for none but he who should be rightful Lord of Britain
might ever draw this sword forth from that stone. But let me now with mine
own eyes see thee put back the sword into its place and draw it forth

"That is no mystery," said Arthur; and straightway set it in the stone.
And then Sir Ector pulled at it himself, and after him Sir Key, with all
his might, but both of them in vain: then Arthur reaching forth his hand
and grasping at the pommel, pulled it out easily, and at once.

Then fell Sir Ector down upon his knees upon the ground before young
Arthur, and Sir Key also with him, and straightway did him homage as their
sovereign lord.

[Illustration: Then fell Sir Ector down upon his knees upon the ground
before young Arthur, and Sir Key also with him.]

But Arthur cried aloud, "Alas! mine own dear father and my brother, why
kneel ye thus to me?"

"Nay, my Lord Arthur," answered then Sir Ector, "we are of no
blood-kinship with thee, and little though I thought how high thy kin
might be, yet wast thou never more than foster-child of mine." And then he
told him all he knew about his infancy, and how a stranger had delivered
him, with a great sum of gold, into his hands to be brought up and
nourished as his own born child, and then had disappeared.

But when young Arthur heard of it, he fell upon Sir Ector's neck, and
wept, and made great lamentation, "For now," said he, "I have in one day
lost my father and my mother and my brother."

"Sir," said Sir Ector presently, "when thou shalt be made king be good and
gracious unto me and mine."

"If not," said Arthur, "I were no true man's son at all, for thou art he
in all the world to whom I owe the most; and my good lady and mother, thy
wife, hath ever kept and fostered me as though I were her own; so if it be
God's will that I be king hereafter as thou sayest, desire of me whatever
thing thou wilt and I will do it; and God forbid that I should fail thee
in it."

"I will but pray," replied Sir Ector, "that thou wilt make my son Sir Key,
thy foster-brother, seneschal of all the lands."

"That shall he be," said Arthur; "and never shall another hold that
office, save thy son, while he and I do live."

Anon, they left the church and went to the archbishop to tell him that the
sword had been achieved. And when he saw the sword in Arthur's hand he set
a day and summoned all the princes, knights, and barons to meet again at
St. Paul's Church and see the will of Heaven signified. So when they came
together, the sword was put back in the stone, and all tried, from the
greatest to the least, to move it; but there before them all not one could
take it out save Arthur only.

But then befell a great confusion and dispute, for some cried out it was
the will of Heaven, and, "Long live King Arthur," but many more were full
of wrath and said, "What! would ye give the ancient sceptre of this land
unto a boy born none know how?" And the contention growing greatly, till
nothing could be done to pacify their rage, the meeting was at length
broken up by the archbishop and adjourned till Candlemas, when all should
meet again.

But when Candlemas was come, Arthur alone again pulled forth the sword,
though more than ever came to win it; and the barons, sorely vexed and
angry, put it in delay till Easter. But as he had sped before so he did at
Easter, and the barons yet once more contrived delays till Pentecost.

But now the archbishop, fully seeing God's will, called together, by
Merlin's counsel, a band of knights and gentlemen-at-arms, and set them
about Arthur to keep him safely till the feast of Pentecost. And when at
the feast Arthur still again alone prevailed to move the sword, the people
all with one accord cried out, "Long live King Arthur! we will have no
more delay, nor any other king, for so it is God's will; and we will slay
whoso resisteth Him and Arthur;" and wherewithal they kneeled down all at
once, and cried for Arthur's grace and pardon that they had so long
delayed him from his crown. Then he full sweetly and majestically pardoned
them; and taking in his hand the sword, he offered it upon the high altar
of the church.

Anon was he solemnly knighted with great pomp by the most famous knight
there present, and the crown was placed upon his head; and, having taken
oath to all the people, lords and commons, to be true king and deal in
justice only unto his life's end, he received homage and service from all
the barons who held lands and castles from the crown. Then he made Sir
Key, High Steward of England, and Sir Badewaine of Britain, Constable, and
Sir Ulfius, Chamberlain: and after this, with all his court and a great
retinue of knights and armed men, he journeyed into Wales, and was crowned
again in the old city of Caerleon-upon-Usk.

Meanwhile those knights and barons who had so long delayed him from the
crown, met together and went up to the coronation feast at Caerleon, as if
to do him homage; and there they ate and drank such things as were set
before them at the royal banquet, sitting with the others in the great

But when after the banquet Arthur began, according to the ancient royal
custom, to bestow great boons and fiefs on whom he would, they all with
one accord rose up, and scornfully refused his gifts, crying that they
would take nothing from a beardless boy come of low or unknown birth, but
would instead give him good gifts of hard sword-strokes between neck and

Whereat arose a deadly tumult in the hall, and every man there made him
ready to fight. But Arthur leaped up as a flame of fire against them, and
all his knights and barons drawing their swords, rushed after him upon
them and began a full sore battle; and presently the king's party
prevailed, and drave the rebels from the hall and from the city, closing
the gates behind them; and King Arthur brake his sword upon them in his
eagerness and rage.

But amongst them were six kings of great renown and might, who more than
all raged against Arthur and determined to destroy him, namely, King Lot,
King Nanters, King Urien, King Carados, King Yder, and King Anguisant.
These six, therefore, joining their armies together, laid close siege to
the city of Caerleon, wherefrom King Arthur had so shamefully driven them.

And after fifteen days Merlin came suddenly into their camp and asked them
what this treason meant. Then he declared to them that Arthur was no base
adventurer, but King Uther's son, whom they were bound to serve and honour
even though Heaven had not vouchsafed the wondrous miracle of the sword.
Some of the kings, when they heard Merlin speak thus, marvelled and
believed him; but others, as King Lot, laughed him and his words to scorn,
and mocked him for a conjurer and wizard. But it was agreed with Merlin
that Arthur should come forth and speak with the kings.

So he went forth to them to the city gate, and with him the archbishop and
Merlin, and Sir Key, Sir Brastias, and a great company of others. And he
spared them not in his speech, but spoke to them as king and chieftain
telling them plainly he would make them all bow to him if he lived, unless
they choose to do him homage there and then; and so they parted in great
wrath, and each side armed in haste.

"What will ye do?" said Merlin to the kings; "ye had best hold your hands,
for were ye ten times as many ye should not prevail."

"Shall we be afraid of a dream-reader?" quoth King Lot in scorn.

With that Merlin vanished away and came to King Arthur.

Then Arthur said to Merlin, "I have need now of a sword that shall
chastise these rebels terribly."

"Come then with me," said Merlin, "for hard by there is a sword that I can
gain for thee."

So they rode out that night till they came to a fair and broad lake, and
in the midst of it King Arthur saw an arm thrust up, clothed in white
samite, and holding a great sword in the hand.

"Lo! yonder is the sword I spoke of," said Merlin.

Then saw they a damsel floating on the lake in the Moonlight. "What damsel
is that?" said the king.

"The lady of the lake," said Merlin; "for upon this lake there is a rock,
and on the rock a noble palace, where she abideth, and she will come
towards thee presently, thou shalt ask her courteously for the sword."

[Illustration: The lady of the lake.]

Therewith the damsel came to King Arthur, and saluted him, and he saluted
her, and said, "Lady, what sword is that the arm holdeth above the water?
I would that it were mine, for I have no sword."

"Sir King," said the lady of the lake, "that sword is mine, and if thou
wilt give me in return a gift whenever I shall ask it of thee, thou shalt
have it."

"By my faith," said he, "I will give thee any gift that thou shalt ask."

"Well," said the damsel, "go into yonder barge, and row thyself unto the
sword, and take it and the scabbard with thee, and I will ask my gift of
thee when I see my time."

So King Arthur and Merlin alighted, and tied their horses to two trees,
and went into the barge; and when they came to the sword that the hand
held, King Arthur took it by the handle and bore it with him, and the arm
and hand went down under the water; and so they came back to land, and
rode again to Caerleon.

On the morrow Merlin bade King Arthur to set fiercely on the enemy; and in
the meanwhile three hundred good knights went over to King Arthur from the
rebels' side. Then at the spring of day, when they had scarce left their
tents, he fell on them with might and main, and Sir Badewaine, Sir Key,
and Sir Brastias slew on the right hand and on the left marvellously; and
ever in the thickest of the fight King Arthur raged like a young lion, and
laid on with his sword, and did wondrous deeds of arms, to the joy and
admiration of the knights and barons who beheld him.

Then King Lot, King Carados, and the King of the Hundred Knights--who also
rode with them--going round to the rear, set on King Arthur fiercely from
behind; but Arthur, turning to his knights, fought ever in the foremost
press until his horse was slain beneath him. At that, King Lot rode
furiously at him, and smote him down; but rising straightway, and being
set again on horseback, he drew his sword Excalibur that he had gained by
Merlin from the lady of the lake, which, shining brightly as the light of
thirty torches, dazzled the eyes of his enemies. And therewith falling on
them afresh with all his knights, he drove them back and slew them in
great numbers, and Merlin by his arts scattered among them fire and pitchy
smoke, so that they broke and fled. Then all the common people of
Caerleon, seeing them give way, rose up with one accord, and rushed at
them with clubs and staves, and chased them far and wide, and slew many
great knights and lords, and the remainder of them fled and were seen no
more. Thus won King Arthur his first battle and put his enemies to shame.

But the six kings, though sorely routed, prepared for a new war, and
joining to themselves five others swore together that, whether for weal or
woe, they would keep steadfast alliance till they had destroyed King
Arthur. Then, with a host of 50,000 men-at-arms on horseback, and 10,000
foot, they were soon ready, and sent forth their fore-riders, and drew
from the northern country towards King Arthur, to the castle of Bedgraine.

But he by Merlin's counsel had sent over sea to King Ban of Benwick and
King Bors of Gaul, praying them to come and help him in his wars, and
promising to help in return against King Claudas, their foe. To which
those kings made answer that they would joyfully fulfil his wish, and
shortly after came to London with 300 knights, well arrayed for both peace
and war, leaving behind them a great army on the other side of the sea
till they had consulted with King Arthur and his ministers how they might
best dispose of it.

And Merlin being asked for his advice and help, agreed to go himself and
fetch it over sea to England, which in one night he did; and brought with
him 10,000 horsemen and led them northward privately to the forest of
Bedgraine, and there lodged them in a valley secretly.

Then, by the counsel of Merlin, when they knew which way the eleven kings
would ride and sleep, King Arthur with Kings Ban and Bors made themselves
ready with their army for the fight, having yet but 30,000 men, counting
the 10,000 who had come from Gaul.

"Now shall ye do my advice," said Merlin; "I would that King Ban and King
Bors, with all their fellowship of 10,000 men, were led to ambush in this
wood ere daylight, and stir not therefrom until the battle hath been long
waged. And thou, Lord Arthur, at the spring of day draw forth thine army
before the enemy, and dress the battle so that they may at once see all
thy host, for they will be the more rash and hardy when they see you have
but 20,000 men."

To this the three knights and the barons heartily consented, and it was
done as Merlin had devised. So on the morrow when the hosts beheld each
other, the host of the north was greatly cheered to find so few led out
against them.

Then gave King Arthur the command to Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias to take
3000 men-at-arms, and to open battle. They therefore setting fiercely on
the enemy slew them on the right hand and the left till it was wonderful
to see their slaughter.

When the eleven kings beheld so small a band doing such mighty deeds of
arms they were ashamed, and charged them fiercely in return. Then was Sir
Ulfius' horse slain under him; but he fought well and marvellously on foot
against Duke Eustace and King Clarience, who set upon him grievously, till
Sir Brastias, seeing his great peril, pricked towards them swiftly, and so
smote the duke through with his spear that horse and man fell down and
rolled over. Whereat King Clarience turned upon Sir Brastias, and rushing
furiously together they each unhorsed the other and fell both to the
ground, and there lay a long time stunned, their horses' knees being cut
to the bone. Then came Sir Key the seneschal with six companions, and did
wondrous well, till the eleven kings went out against them and overthrew
Sir Griflet and Sir Lucas the butler. And when Sir Key saw Sir Griflet
unhorsed and on foot, he rode against King Nanters hotly and smote him
down, and led his horse to Griflet and horsed him again; with the same
spear did Sir Key smite down King Lot and wounded him full sore.

But seeing that, the King of the Hundred Knights rushed at Sir Key and
overthrew him in return, and took his horse and gave it to King Lot. And
when Sir Griflet saw Sir Key's mischance, he set his spear in rest, and
riding at a mighty man-at-arms, he cast him down headlong and caught his
horse and led it straightway to Sir Key.

By now the battle was growing perilous and hard, and both sides fought
with rage and fury. And Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias were both afoot and
in great danger of their death, and foully stained and trampled under
horses' feet. Then King Arthur, putting spurs to his horse, rushed forward
like a lion into the midst of all the _mêlée_, and singling out King
Cradlemont of North Wales, smote him through the left side and overthrew
him, and taking his horse by the rein he brought it to Sir Ulfius in haste
and said, "Take this horse, mine old friend, for thou hast great need of
one, and charge by side of me." And even as he spoke he saw Sir Ector, Sir
Key's father, smitten to the earth by the King of the Hundred Knights, and
his horse taken to King Cradlemont.

But when King Arthur saw him ride upon Sir Ector's horse his wrath was
very great, and with his sword he smote King Cradlemont upon the helm, and
shore off the fourth part thereof and of the shield, and drave the sword
onward to the horse's neck and slew the horse, and hurled the king upon
the ground.

And now the battle waxed so great and furious that all the noise and sound
thereof rang out by water and by wood, so that Kings Ban and Bors, with
all their knights and men-at-arms in ambush, hearing the tumult and the
cries, trembled and shook for eagerness, and scarce could stay in secret,
but made them ready for the fray and dressed their shields and harness.

But when King Arthur saw the fury of the enemy, he raged like a mad lion,
and stirred and drove his horse now here, now there, to the right hand and
to the left, and stayed not in his wrath till he had slain full twenty
knights. He wounded also King Lot so sorely in the shoulder that he left
the field, and in great pain and dolour cried out to the other kings, "Do
ye as I devise, or we shall be destroyed. I, with the King of the Hundred
Knights, King Anguisant, King Yder, and the Duke of Cambinet, will take
fifteen thousand men and make a circuit, meanwhile that ye do hold the
battle with twelve thousand. Then coming suddenly we will fall fiercely on
them from behind and put them to the rout, but else shall we never stand
against them."

So Lot and four kings departed with their party to one side, and the six
other kings dressed their ranks against King Arthur and fought long and

But now Kings Ban and Bors, with all their army fresh and eager, broke
from their ambush and met face to face the five kings and their host as
they came round behind, and then began a frantic struggle with breaking of
spears and clashing of swords and slaying of men and horses. Anon King
Lot, espying in the midst King Bors, cried out in great dismay, "Our Lady
now defend us from our death and fearful wounds; our peril groweth great,
for yonder cometh one of the worshipfullest kings and best knights in all
the world."

"Who is he?" said the King of the Hundred Knights.

"It is King Bors of Gaul," replied King Lot, "and much I marvel how he may
have come with all his host into this land without our knowledge."

"Aha!" cried King Carados, "I will encounter with this king if ye will
rescue me when there is need."

"Ride on," said they.

So King Carados and all his host rode softly till they came within a
bow-shot of King Bors, and then both hosts, spurring their horses to their
greatest swiftness, rushed at each other. And King Bors encountered in
the onset with a knight, and struck him through with a spear, so that he
fell dead upon the earth; then drawing his sword, he did such mighty feats
of arms that all who saw him gazed with wonder. Anon King Ban came also
forth upon the field with all his knights, and added yet more fury, sound,
and slaughter, till at length both hosts of the eleven kings began to
quake, and drawing all together into one body, they prepared to meet the
worst, while a great multitude already fled.

Then said King Lot, "Lords, we must take yet other means, or worse loss
still awaits us. See ye not what people we have lost in waiting on the
footmen, and that it costs ten horsemen to save one of them? Therefore it
is my counsel to put away our footmen from us, for it is almost night, and
King Arthur will not stay to slaughter them. So they can save their lives
in this great wood hard by. Then let us gather into one band all the
horsemen that remain, and whoso breaketh rank or leaveth us, let him be
straightway slain by him that seeth him, for it is better that we slay a
coward than through a coward be all slain. How say ye?" said King Lot;
"answer me, all ye kings."

"It is well said," replied they all.

And swearing they would never fail each other, they mended and set right
their armour and their shields, and took new spears and set them
steadfastly against their thighs, waiting, and so stood still as a clump
of trees stands on the plain; and no assaults could shake them, they held
so hard together; which when King Arthur saw he marvelled greatly, and was
very wroth. "Yet," cried he, "I may not blame them, by my faith, for they
do as brave men ought to do, and are the best fighting men and knights of
most prowess that I ever saw or heard tell of." And so said also Kings Ban
and Bors, and praised them greatly for their noble chivalry.

But now came forty noble knights out of King Arthur's host, and prayed
that he would suffer them to break the enemy. And when they were allowed,
they rode forth with their spears upon their thighs, and spurred their
horses to their hottest. Then the eleven kings, with a party of their
knights, rushed with set spears as fast and mightily to meet them; and
when they were encountered, all the crash and splinter of their spears and
armour rang with a mighty din, and so fierce and bloody was their onset
that in all that day there had been no such cruel press, and rage, and
smiting. At that same moment rode fiercely into the thickest of the
struggle King Arthur and Kings Ban and Bors, and slew downright on both
hands right and left, until their horses went in blood up to the fetlocks.

And while the slaughter and the noise and shouting were at their greatest,
suddenly there came down through the battle Merlin the Wizard, upon a
great black horse, and riding to King Arthur, he cried out, "Alas, my
Lord! will ye have never done? Of sixty thousand have ye left but fifteen
thousand men alive. Is it not time to stay this slaying? for God is ill
pleased with ye that ye have never ended, and yonder kings shall not be
altogether overthrown this time. But if ye fall upon them any more, the
fortune of this day will turn, and go to them. Withdraw, Lord, therefore,
to thy lodging, and there now take thy rest, for to-day thou hast won a
great victory, and overcome the noblest chivalry of all the world. And now
for many years those kings shall not disturb thee. Therefore, I tell
thee, fear them no more, for now they are sore beaten, and have nothing
left them but their honour; and why shouldest thou slay them to take

Then said King Arthur, "Thou sayest well, and I will take thy counsel."
With that he cried out, "Ho!" for the battle to cease, and sent forth
heralds through the field to stay more fighting. And gathering all the
spoil, he gave it not amongst his own host, but to Kings Ban and Bors and
all their knights and men-at-arms, that he might treat them with the
greater courtesy as strangers.

Then Merlin took his leave of Arthur and the two other kings, and went to
see his master, Blaise, a holy hermit, dwelling in Northumberland, who had
nourished him through all his youth. And Blaise was passing glad to see
him, for there was a great love ever between them; and Merlin told him how
King Arthur had sped in the battle, and how it had ended; and told him the
names of every king and knight of worship who was there. So Blaise wrote
down the battle, word for word, as Merlin told him; and in the same way
ever after, all the battles of King Arthur's days Merlin caused Blaise,
his master, to record.


_The Adventure of the Questing Beast--King Arthur drives the Saxons from
the Realm--The Battles of Celidon Forest and Badon Hill_

Anon, thereafter, came word to King Arthur that Ryence, King of North
Wales, was making war upon King Leodegrance of Camelgard; whereat he was
passing wroth, for he loved Leodegrance well, and hated Ryence. So he
departed with Kings Ban and Bors and twenty thousand men, and came to
Camelgard, and rescued Leodegrance, and slew ten thousand of Ryence's men
and put him to flight. Then Leodegrance made a great festival to the three
kings, and treated them with every manner of mirth and pleasure which
could be devised. And there had King Arthur the first sight of Guinevere,
daughter of Leodegrance, whom in the end he married, as shall be told

Then did Kings Ban and Bors take leave, and went to their own country,
where King Claudas worked great mischief. And King Arthur would have gone
with them, but they refused him, saying, "Nay, ye shall not at this time,
for ye have yet much to do in these lands of your own; and we with the
riches we have won here by your gifts shall hire many good knights, and,
by the grace of God, withstand the malice of King Claudas; and if we have
need we will send to ye for succour; and likewise ye, if ye have need,
send for us, and we will not tarry, by the faith of our bodies."

When the two kings had left, King Arthur rode to Caerleon, and thither
came to him his half-sister Belisent, wife to King Lot, sent as a
messenger, but in truth to espy his power; and with her came a noble
retinue, and also her four sons--Gawain, Gaheris, Agravaine, and Gareth.
But when she saw King Arthur and his nobleness, and all the splendour of
his knights and service, she forbore to spy upon him as a foe, and told
him of her husband's plots against him and his throne. And the king, not
knowing that she was his half-sister, made great court to her; and being
full of admiration for her beauty, loved her out of measure, and kept her
a long season at Caerleon. Wherefore her husband, King Lot, was more than
ever King Arthur's enemy, and hated him till death with a passing great

At that time King Arthur had a marvellous dream, which gave him great
disquietness of heart. He dreamed that the whole land was full of many
fiery griffins and serpents, which burnt and slew the people everywhere;
and then that he himself fought with them, and that they did him mighty
injuries, and wounded him nigh to death, but that at last he overcame and
slew them all. When he woke, he sat in great heaviness of spirit and
pensiveness, thinking what this dream might signify, but by-and-by, when
he could by no means satisfy himself what it might mean, to rid himself of
all his thoughts of it, he made ready with a great company to ride out

As soon as he was in the forest, the king saw a great hart before him, and
spurred his horse, and rode long eagerly after it, and chased until his
horse lost breath and fell down dead from under him. Then, seeing the hart
escaped and his horse dead, he sat down by a fountain, and fell into deep
thought again. And as he sat there alone, he thought he heard the noise of
hounds, as it were some thirty couple in number, and looking up he saw
coming towards him the strangest beast that ever he had seen or heard tell
of, which ran towards the fountain and drank of the water. Its head was
like a serpent's, with a leopard's body and a lion's tail, and it was
footed like a stag; and the noise was in its belly, as it were the baying
or questing of thirty couple of hounds. While it drank there was no noise
within it; but presently, having finished, it departed with a greater
sound than ever.

The king was amazed at all this; but being greatly wearied, he fell
asleep, and was before long waked up by a knight on foot, who said,
"Knight, full of thought and sleepy, tell me if thou sawest a strange
beast pass this way?"

"Such a one I saw," said King Arthur to the knight, "but that is now two
miles distant at the least. What would you with that beast?"

"Sir," said the knight, "I have followed it for a long time, and have
killed my horse, and would to heaven I had another to pursue my quest

At that moment came a yeoman with another horse for the king, which, when
the knight saw, he earnestly prayed to be given him. "For I have followed
this quest," said he, "twelve months, and either I shall achieve him or
bleed of the best blood of my body."

It was King Pellinore who at that time followed the questing beast, but
neither he nor King Arthur knew each other.

"Sir Knight," said King Arthur, "leave that quest and suffer me to have
it, and I will follow it other twelve months."

"Ah, fool," said the knight, "thy desire is utterly in vain, for it shall
never be achieved but by me, or by my next of kin."

Therewith he started to the king's horse, and mounted to the saddle,
crying out, "Grammercy, this horse is mine!"

"Well," said the king, "thou mayest take my horse by force, and I will not
say nay; but till we prove whether thou or I be best on horseback, I shall
not rest content."

"Seek me here," said the knight, "whenever thou wilt, and here by this
fountain thou shalt find me;" and so he passed forth on his way.

Then sat King Arthur in a deep fit of study, and bade his yeomen fetch him
yet another horse as quickly as they could. And when they left him all
alone came Merlin, disguised as a child of fourteen years of age, and
saluted the king, and asked him why he was so pensive and heavy.

"I may well be pensive and heavy," he replied, "for here even now I have
seen the strangest sight I ever saw."

"That know I well," said Merlin, "as well as thyself, and also all thy
thoughts; but thou art foolish to take thought, for it will not amend
thee. Also I know what thou art, and know thy father and thy mother."

"That is false," said King Arthur; "how shouldst thou know? thy years are
not enough."

"Yea," said Merlin, "but I know better than thou how thou wast born, and
better than any man living."

"I will not believe thee," said King Arthur, and was wroth with the child.

So Merlin departed, and came again in the likeness of an old man of
fourscore years of age; and the king was glad at his coming, for he seemed
wise and venerable. Then said the old man, "Why art thou so sad?"

"For divers reasons," said King Arthur; "for I have seen strange things
to-day, and but this moment there was here a child who told me things
beyond his years to know."

"Yea," said the old man, "but he told thee truth, and more he would have
told thee hadst thou suffered him. But I will tell thee wherefore thou art
sad, for thou hast done a thing of late for which God is displeased with
thee, and what it is thou knowest in thy heart, though no man else may

"What art thou," said King Arthur, starting up all pale, "that tellest me
these tidings?"

"I am Merlin," said he, "and I was he in the child's likeness, also."

"Ah," said King Arthur, "thou art a marvellous and right fearful man, and
I would ask and tell thee many things this day."

As they talked came one with the king's horses, and so, King Arthur
mounting one, and Merlin another, they rode together to Caerleon; and
Merlin prophesied to Arthur of his death, and also foretold his own end.

And now King Arthur, having utterly dispersed and overwhelmed those kings
who had so long delayed his coronation, turned all his mind to overthrow
the Saxon heathens who yet in many places spoiled the land. Calling
together, therefore, his knights and men-at-arms, he rode with all his
hosts to York, where Colgrin, the Saxon, lay with a great army; and there
he fought a mighty battle, long and bloody, and drove him into the city,
and besieged him. Then Baldulph, Colgrin's brother, came secretly with six
thousand men to assail King Arthur and to raise the siege. But King Arthur
was aware of him, and sent six hundred horsemen and three thousand foot to
meet and fall on him instead. This therefore they did, encountering them
at midnight, and utterly defeated them, till they fled away for life. But
Baldulph, full of grief, resolved to share his brother's peril; wherefore
he shaved his head and beard, and disguised himself as a jester, and so
passed through King Arthur's camp, singing and playing on a harp, till by
degrees he drew near to the city walls, where presently he made himself
known, and was drawn up by ropes into the town.

Anon, while Arthur closely watched the city, came news that full six
hundred ships had landed countless swarms of Saxons, under Cheldric, on
the eastern coast. At that he raised the siege, and marched straight to
London, and there increased his army, and took counsel with his barons how
to drive the Saxons from the land for evermore.

Then with his nephew, Hoel, King of the Armorican Britons, who came with a
great force to help him, King Arthur, with a mighty multitude of barons,
knights, and fighting men, went swiftly up to Lincoln, which the Saxons
lay besieging. And there he fought a passing fierce battle, and made
grievous slaughter, killing above six thousand men, till the main body of
them turned and fled. But he pursued them hotly into the wood of Celidon,
where, sheltering themselves among the trees from his arrows, they made a
stand, and for a long season bravely defended themselves. Anon, he ordered
all the trees in that part of the forest to be cut down, leaving no
shelter or ambush; and with their trunks and branches made a mighty
barricade, which shut them in and hindered their escape. After three days,
brought nigh to death by famine, they offered to give up their wealth of
gold and silver spoils, and to depart forthwith in their empty ships;
moreover, to pay tribute to King Arthur when they reached their home, and
to leave him hostages till all was paid.

This offer, therefore, he accepted, and suffered them to depart. But when
they had been a few hours at sea, they repented of their shameful flight,
and turned their ships back again, and landing at Totnes, ravaged all the
land as far as the Severn, and, burning and slaying on all sides, bent
their steps towards Bath.

When King Arthur heard of their treachery and their return, he burned with
anger till his eyes shone like two torches, and then he swore a mighty
oath to rest no more until he had utterly destroyed those enemies of God
and man, and had rooted them for ever out of the land of Britain. Then
marching hotly with his armies on to Bath, he cried aloud to them, "Since
these detestable impious heathens disdain to keep their faith with me, to
keep faith with God, to whom I sware to cherish and defend this realm,
will now this day avenge on them the blood of all that they have slain in

In like manner after him spoke the archbishop, standing upon a hill, and
crying that to-day they should fight both for their country and for
Paradise, "For whoso," he said, "shall in this holy war be slain, the
angels shall forthwith receive him; for death in this cause shall be
penance and absolution for all sins."

At these words every man in the whole army raged with hatred, and pressed
eagerly to rush upon those savages.

Anon King Arthur, dressed in armour shining with gold and jewels, and
wearing on his head a helmet with a golden dragon, took a shield painted
with the likeness of the blessed Mary. Then girding on Excalibur and
taking in his right hand his great lance Ron, he placed his men in order
and led them out against the enemy, who stood for battle on the slope of
Badon Hill, ranged in the form of a wedge, as their custom was. And they,
resisting all the onslaughts of King Arthur and his host, made that day a
stout defence, and at night lay down upon the hill.

But on the next day Arthur led his army once again to the attack, and with
wounds and slaughter such as no man had ever seen before, he drove the
heathen step by step before him, backwards and upwards, till he stood with
all his noblest knights upon the summit of the hill.

And then men saw him, "red as the rising sun from spur to plume," lift up
his sword, and, kneeling, kiss the cross of it; and after, rising to his
feet, set might and main with all his fellowship upon the foe, till, as a
troop of lions roaring for their prey, they drove them like a scattered
herd along the plains, and cut them down till they could cut no more for

That day King Arthur by himself alone slew with his word Excalibur four
hundred and seventy heathens. Colgrin also, and his brother Baldulph, were

Then the king bade Cador, Duke of Cornwall, follow Cheldric, the chief
leader, and the remnant of his hosts, unto the uttermost. He, therefore,
when he had first seized their fleet, and filled it with chosen men, to
beat them back when they should fly to it at last, chased them and slew
them without mercy so long as he could overtake them. And though they
crept with trembling hearts for shelter to the coverts of the woods and
dens of mountains, yet even so they found no safety, for Cador slew them,
even one by one. Last of all he caught and slew Cheldric himself, and
slaughtering a great multitude took hostages for the surrender of the

Meanwhile, King Arthur turned from Badon Hill, and freed his nephew Hoel
from the Scots and Picts, who besieged him in Alclud. And when he had
defeated them in three sore battles, he drove them before him to a lake,
which was one of the most wondrous lakes in all the world, for it was fed
by sixty rivers, and had sixty islands, and sixty rocks, and on every
island sixty eagles' nests. But King Arthur with a great fleet sailed
round the rivers and besieged them in the lake for fifteen days, so that
many thousands died of hunger.

Anon the King of Ireland came with an army to relieve them; but Arthur,
turning on him fiercely, routed him, and compelled him to retreat in
terror to his land. Then he pursued his purpose, which was no less to
destroy the race of Picts and Scots, who, beyond memory, had been a
ceaseless torment to the Britons by their barbarous malice.

So bitterly, therefore, did he treat them, giving quarter to none, that at
length the bishops of that miserable country with the clergy met together,
and, bearing all the holy relics, came barefooted to the king to pray his
mercy for their people. As soon as they were led before him they fell down
upon their knees, and piteously besought him to spare the few survivors of
their countrymen, and grant them any corner of the land where they might
live in peace. When he thus heard them, and knew that he had now fully
punished them, he consented to their prayer, and withdrew his hosts from
any further slaughter.

Then turned he back to his own realm, and came to York for Christmas, and
there with high solemnity observed that holy tide; and being passing
grieved to see the ruin of the churches and houses, which the rage or the
pagans had destroyed, he rebuilt them, and restored the city to its
ancient happy state.

And on a certain day, as the king sat with his barons, there came into the
court a squire on horseback, carrying a knight before him wounded to the
death, and told the king that hard by in the forest was a knight who had
reared up a pavilion by the fountain, "and hath slain my master, a valiant
knight, whose name was Nirles; wherefore I beseech thee, Lord, my master
may be buried, and that some good knight may avenge his death."

At that stepped forth a squire named Griflet, who was very young, being of
the same age with King Arthur, and besought the king, for all the service
he had done, to give him knighthood.

"Thou art full young and tender of age," said King Arthur, "to take so
high an order upon thee."

"Sir," said Griflet, "I beseech thee make me a knight;" and Merlin also
advising the king to grant his request, "Well," said Arthur, "be it then
so," and knighted him forthwith. Then said he to him, "Since I have
granted thee this favour, thou must in turn grant me a gift."

"Whatsoever thou wilt, my lord," replied Sir Griflet.

"Promise me," said King Arthur, "by the faith of thy body, that when thou
hast jousted with this knight at the fountain, thou wilt return to me
straightway, unless he slay thee."

"I promise," said Sir Griflet; and taking his horse in haste, he dressed
his shield, and took a spear in his hand and rode full gallop till he came
to the fountain, by the side of which he saw a rich pavilion, and a great
horse standing well saddled and bridled, and on a tree close by there hung
a shield of many colours and a long lance.

Then Sir Griflet smote upon the shield with the butt of his spear until he
cast it to the ground. At that a knight came out of the pavilion and said,
"Fair knight, why smote ye down my shield?"

"Because," said Griflet, "I would joust with thee."

"It were better not," replied the knight; "for thou art young and but
lately made a knight, and thy strength is small compared to mine."

"For all that," said Sir Griflet, "I will joust with ye."

"I am full loath," replied the knight; "but if I must I must."

Then did they wheel their horses far apart, and running them together,
the strange knight shivered Sir Griflet's spear to fragments, and smote
him through the shield and the left side, and broke his own spear into Sir
Griflet's body, so that the truncheon stuck there, and Sir Griflet and his
horse fell down. But when the strange knight saw him overthrown, he was
sore grieved, and hastily alighted, for he thought that he had slain him.
Then he unlaced his helm and gave him air, and tended him carefully till
he came out of his swoon, and leaving the truncheon of his spear in his
body, he set him upon horse, and commended him to God, and said he had a
mighty heart, and if he lived would prove a passing good knight. And so
Sir Griflet rode to the court, where, by aid of good physicians, he was
healed in time and his life saved.

At that same time there came before the king twelve old men, ambassadors
from Lucius Tiberius, Emperor of Rome, and demanded of Arthur tribute unto
Caesar for his realm, or else, said they, the emperor would destroy both
him and his land. To whom King Arthur answered that he owed the emperor no
tribute, nor would send him any; but said he, "On a fair field I will pay
him his proper tribute--with a sharp spear and sword; and by my father's
soul that tribute shall he take from me, whether he will or not." So the
ambassadors departed passing wroth, and King Arthur was as wroth as they.

But on the morrow of Sir Griflet's hurt, the king commanded to take his
horse and armour secretly outside the city walls before sunrise of the
next morning, and, rising a long while before dawn, he mounted up and took
his shield and spear, and bade his chamberlain tarry till he came again;
but he forbore to take Excalibur, for he had given it for safety into
charge of his sister, Queen Morgan le Fay. And as the king rode at a soft
pace he saw suddenly three villains chasing Merlin and making to attack
and slay him. Clapping spurs to his horse, he rushed towards them, and
cried out in a terrible voice, "Flee, churls, or take your deaths;" but
they, as soon as they perceived a knight, fled away with the haste of

"O Merlin," said the king; "here hadst thou been killed, despite thy many
crafts, had I not chanced to pass."

"Not so," said Merlin, "for when I would, I could have saved myself; but
thou art nearer to thy death than I, for without special help from heaven
thou ridest now towards thy grave."

And as they were thus talking, they came to the fountain and the rich
pavilion pitched beside it, and saw a knight sitting all armed on a chair
in the opening of the tent. "Sir knight," said King Arthur, "for what
cause abidest thou here? to joust with any knight that passeth by? If so,
I caution thee to quit that custom."

"That custom," said the knight, "have I followed and will follow, let
whosoever will say nay, and if any is aggrieved at it, let him who will
amend it."

"I will amend it," said King Arthur.

"And I will defend it," answered the knight.

Then the knight mounted his horse and made himself ready, and charging at
each other they met so hard that both their lances splintered into pieces.
Then King Arthur drew his sword, but the knight cried out, "Not so; but
let us run another tilt together with sharp spears."

"I would with a good will," said King Arthur; "but I have no more spears."

"I have enough of spears," replied the knight, and called a squire, who
brought two good new lances.

Then spurring their horses, they rushed together with all their might, and
broke each one his own spear short off in his hand. Then the king again
put his hand to his sword, but the knight once more cried out, "Nay, yet
abide awhile; ye are the best jouster that I ever met with; for the love
of knighthood, let us joust yet once again."

So once again they tilted with their fullest force, and this time King
Arthur's spear was shivered, but the knight's held whole, and drove so
furiously against the king that both his horse and he were hurled to the

At that, King Arthur was enraged and drew his sword and said, "I will
attack thee now, Sir knight, on foot, for on horseback I have lost the

"I will be on horseback," said the knight. But when he saw him come on
foot, he lighted from his horse, thinking it shame to have so great

And then began they a strong battle, with many great strokes and grievous
blows, and so hewed with their swords that the fragments of their armour
flew about the fields, and both so bled that all the ground around was
like a marsh of blood. Thus they fought long and mightily, and anon, after
brief rest fell to again, and so hurtled together like two wild boars that
they both rolled to the ground. At last their swords clashed furiously
together, and the knight's sword shivered the king's in two.

Then said the knight, "Now art thou in my power, to save thee or to slay.
Yield therefore as defeated, and a recreant knight, or thou shall surely

"As for death," replied King Arthur, "welcome be it when it cometh; but as
for yielding me to thee as a recreant because of this poor accident upon
my sword, I had far liefer die than be so shamed."

So saying, he sprang on the knight, and took him by the middle and threw
him down, and tore off his helm. But the knight, being a huge man,
wrestled and struggled in a frenzy with the king until he brought him
under, and tore off his helm in turn, and would have smitten off his head.

At that came Merlin and said, "Knight, hold thy hand, for if thou slayest
yonder knight, thou puttest all this realm to greater loss and damage than
ever realm was in; for he is a man of greater worship than thou dreamest

"Who then is he?" cried the knight.

"Arthur Pendragon!" answered Merlin.

Then would he have slain him for dread of his wrath, but Merlin cast a
spell upon the knight, so that he fell suddenly to the earth in a deep
sleep. Then raising up the king, he took the knight's horse for himself
and rode away.

"Alas," said King Arthur, "what hast thou done, Merlin? hast thou slain
this good knight by thy crafts? There never lived a better knight; I had
rather lose my kingdom for a year than have him dead."

"Be not afraid," said Merlin; "he is more whole and sound than thou art,
and is but in a sleep, wherefrom in three hours' time he will awake. I
told thee what a knight he was, and how near thou wast to death. There
liveth not a better knight than he in all the world, and hereafter he
shall do thee good service. His name is King Pellinore, and he shall have
two sons, who shall be passing valiant men, and, save one another, shall
have no equal in prowess and in purity of life. The one shall be named
Percival, and the other Lamoracke of Wales."

So they rode on to Caerleon, and all the knights grieved greatly when they
heard of this adventure, that the king would jeopardise his person thus
alone. Yet could they not hide their joy at serving under such a noble
chief, who adventured his own life as much as did the poorest knight among
them all.


_King Arthur Conquers Ireland and Norway, Slays the Giant of St. Michael's
Mount, and Conquers Gaul--The Adventures of Sir Balin_

The land of Britain being now in peace, and many great and valiant knights
therein ready to take part in whatsoever battles or adventures might
arise, King Arthur resolved to follow all his enemies to their own coasts.
Anon he fitted out a great fleet, and sailing first to Ireland, in one
battle he miserably routed the people of the country. The King of Ireland
also he took prisoner, and forced all earls and barons to pay him homage.

Having conquered Ireland, he went next to Iceland and subdued it also, and
the winter being then arrived, returned to Britain.

In the next year he set forth to Norway, whence many times the heathen had
descended on the British coasts; for he was determined to give so terrible
a lesson to those savages as should be told through all their tribes both
far and near, and make his name fearful to them.

As soon as he was come, Riculf, the king, with all the power of that
country, met and gave him battle; but, after mighty slaughter, the Britons
had at length the advantage, and slew Riculf and a countless multitude

Having thus defeated them, they set the cities on fire, dispersed the
country people, and pursued the victory till they had reduced all Norway,
as also Dacia, under the dominion of King Arthur.

Now, therefore, having thus chastised those pagans who so long had
harassed Britain, and put his yoke upon them, he voyaged on to Gaul, being
steadfastly set upon defeating the Roman governor of that province, and so
beginning to make good the threats which he had sent the emperor by his

So soon as he was landed on the shores of Gaul, there came to him a
countryman who told him of a fearful giant in the land of Brittany, who
had slain, murdered, and devoured many people, and had lived for seven
years upon young children only, "insomuch," said the man, "that all the
children of the country are destroyed; and but the other day he seized
upon our duchess, as she rode out with her men, and took her away to his
lodging in a cave of a mountain, and though five hundred people followed
her, yet could they give her no help or rescue, but left her shrieking and
crying lamentably in the giant's hands; and, Lord, she is thy cousin
Hoel's wife, who is of thy near kindred; wherefore, as thou art a rightful
king, have pity on this lady; and as thou art a valiant conqueror, avenge
us and deliver us."

"Alas!" said King Arthur, "this is a great mischief that ye tell of. I had
rather than the best realm I have, that I had rescued that lady ere the
giant laid his hand on her; but tell me now, good fellow, canst thou bring
me where this giant haunteth?"

"Yea, Lord!" replied the man; "lo, yonder, where thou seest two great
fires, there shall thou find him, and more treasure also than is in all
Gaul besides."

Then the king returned to his tent, and, calling Sir Key and Sir Bedwin,
desired them to get horses ready for himself and them, for that after
evensong he would ride a pilgrimage with them alone to St. Michael's
Mount. So in the evening they departed, and rode as fast as they could
till they came near the mount, and there alighted; and the king commanded
the two knights to await him at the hill foot, while he went up alone.

Then he ascended the mountain till he came to a great fire. And there he
found a sorrowful widow wringing her hands and weeping miserably, sitting
by a new-made grave. And saluting her, King Arthur prayed her wherefore
she made such heavy lamentations.

"Sir knight," she said, "speak softly, for yonder is a devil, who, if he
hear thy voice, will come and straightway slay thee. Alas! what dost thou
here? Fifty such men as thou were powerless to resist him. Here lieth dead
my lady, Duchess of Brittany, wife to Sir Hoel, who was the fairest lady
in the world, foully and shamefully slaughtered by that fiend! Beware that
thou go not too nigh, for he hath overcome and vanquished fifteen kings,
and hath made himself a coat of precious stones, embroidered with their
beards; but if thou art hardy, and wilt speak with him, at yonder great
fire he is at supper."

"Well," said King Arthur, "I will accomplish mine errand, for all thy
fearful words;" and so went forth to the crest of the hill, and saw where
the giant sat at supper, gnawing on a limb of a man, and baking his huge
frame by the fire, while three damsels turned three spits whereon were
spitted, like larks, twelve young children lately born.

[Illustration: The giant sat at supper, gnawing on a limb of a man, and
baking his huge frame by the fire.]

When King Arthur saw all that, his heart bled for sorrow, and he trembled
for rage and indignation; then lifting up his voice he cried aloud--"God,
that wieldeth all the world, give thee short life and shameful death, and
may the devil have thy soul! Why hast thou slain those children and that
fair lady? Wherefore arise, and prepare thee to perish, thou glutton and
fiend, for this day thou shalt die by my hands."

Then the giant, mad with fury at these words, started up, and seizing a
great club, smote the king, and struck his crown from off his head. But
King Arthur smote him with his sword so mightily in return, that all his
blood gushed forth in streams.

At that the giant, howling in great anguish, threw away his club of iron,
and caught the king in both his arms and strove to crush his ribs
together. But King Arthur struggled and writhed, and twisted him about, so
that the giant could not hold him tightly; and as they fiercely wrestled,
they both fell, and rolling over one another, tumbled--wrestling, and
struggling, and fighting frantically--from rock to rock, till they came to
the sea.

And as they tore and strove and tumbled, the king ever and anon smote at
the giant with his dagger, till his arms stiffened in death around King
Arthur's body, and groaning horribly, he died. So presently the two
knights came and found the king locked fast in the giant's arms, and very
faint and weary, and loosed him from their hold.

Then the king bade Sir Key to "smite off the giant's head and set it on
the truncheon of a spear, and bear it to Sir Hoel, and tell him that his
enemy is slain; and afterwards let it be fastened to the castle gate, that
all the people may behold it. And go ye two up on the mountain and fetch
me my shield and sword, and also the great club of iron ye will see there;
and as for the treasure, ye shall find there wealth beyond counting, but
take as much as ye will, for if I have his kirtle and the club, I desire
no more."

Then the knights fetched the club and kirtle, as the king had ordered, and
took the treasure to themselves, as much as they could carry, and returned
to the army. But when this deed was noised abroad, all the people came in
multitudes to thank the king, who told them "to give thanks to God, and to
divide the giant's spoils amongst them equally." And King Arthur desired
Sir Hoel to build a church upon the mount, and dedicate it to the
Archangel Michael.

On the morrow, all the host moved onwards into the country of Champagne,
and Flollo, the Roman tribune, retired before them into Paris. But while
he was preparing to collect more forces from the neighbouring countries,
King Arthur came upon him unawares, and besieged him in the town.

And when a month had passed, Flollo--full of grief at the starvation of
his people, who died in hundreds day by day--sent to King Arthur, and
desired that they two might fight together; for he was a man of mighty
stature and courage, and thought himself sure of the victory. This
challenge, King Arthur, full weary the siege, accepted with great joy, and
sent back word to Flollo that he would meet him whensoever he appointed.

And a truce being made on both sides, they met together the next day on
the island without the city, where all the people also were gathered to
see the issue. And as the king and Flollo rode up to the lists, each was
so nobly armed and horsed, and sat so mightily upon his saddle, that no
man could tell which way the battle would end.

When they had saluted one another, and presented themselves against each
other with their lances aloft, they put spurs to their horses and began a
fierce encounter. But King Arthur, carrying his spear more warily, struck
it on the upper part of Flollo's breast, and flung him from his saddle to
the earth. Then drawing his sword, he cried to him to rise, and rushed
upon him; but Flollo, starting up, met him with his spear couched, and
pierced the breast of King Arthur's horse, and overthrew both horse and

The Britons, when they saw their king upon the ground, could scarcely keep
themselves from breaking up the truce and falling on the Gauls. But as
they were about to burst the barriers, and rush upon the lists, King
Arthur hastily arose, and, guarding himself with his shield, ran with
speed on Flollo. And now they renewed the assault with great rage, being
sorely bent upon each other's death.

At length, Flollo, seizing his advantage, gave King Arthur a huge stroke
upon the helm, which nigh overthrew him, and drew forth his blood in

But when King Arthur saw his armour and shield red with blood, he was
inflamed with fury, and lifting up Excalibur on high, with all his might,
he struck straight through the helmet into Flollo's head, and smote it
into halves; and Flollo falling backwards, and tearing up the ground with
his spurs, expired.

As soon as this news spread, the citizens all ran together, and, opening
the gates, surrendered the city to the conqueror.

And when he had overrun the whole province with his arms, and reduced it
everywhere to subjection, he returned again to Britain, and held his court
at Caerleon, with greater state than ever.

Anon he invited thereto all the kings, dukes, earls, and barons, who owed
him homage, that he might treat them royally, and reconcile them to each
other, and to his rule.

And never was there a city more fit and pleasant for such festivals. For
on one side it was washed by a noble river, so that the kings and princes
from the countries beyond sea might conveniently sail up to it; and on the
other side, the beauty of the groves and meadows, and the stateliness and
magnificence of the royal palaces, with lofty gilded roofs, made it even
rival the grandeur of Rome. It was famous also for two great and noble
churches, whereof one was built in honour of the martyr Julius, and
adorned with a choir of virgins who had devoted themselves wholly to the
service of God; and the other, founded in memory of St. Aaron, his
companion, maintained a convent of canons, and was the third metropolitan
church of Britain. Besides, there was a college of two hundred
philosophers, learned in astronomy, and all the other sciences and arts.

In this place, therefore, full of such delights, King Arthur held his
court, with many jousts and tournaments, and royal huntings, and rested
for a season after all his wars.

And on a certain day there came into the court a messenger from Ryence,
King of North Wales, bearing this message from his master: That King
Ryence had discomfited eleven kings, and had compelled each one of them to
cut off his beard; that he had trimmed a mantle with these beards, and
lacked but one more beard to finish it; and that he therefore now sent for
King Arthur's beard, which he required of him forthwith, or else he would
enter his lands and burn and slay, and never leave them till he had taken
by force not his beard only, but his head also.

When King Arthur heard these words he flushed all scarlet, and rising in
great anger said, "Well is it for thee that thou speakest another man's
words with thy lips, and not thine own. Thou hast said thy message, which
is the most insolent and villainous that ever man heard sent to any king:
now hear my reply. My beard is yet too young to trim that mantle of thy
master's with; yet, young although I be, I owe no homage either to him or
any man--nor will ever owe. But, young although I be, I will have thy
master's homage upon both his knees before this year be past, or else he
shall lose his head, by the faith of my body, for this message is the
shamefullest I ever heard speak of. I see well thy king hath never yet met
with a worshipful man; but tell that King Arthur will have his head or his
worship right soon."

Then the messenger departed, and Arthur, looking round upon his knights,
demanded of them if any there knew this King Ryence. "Yea," answered Sir
Noran, "I know him well, and there be few better or stronger knights upon
a field than he; and he is passing proud and haughty in his heart;
wherefore I doubt not, Lord, he will make war on thee with mighty power."

"Well," said King Arthur, "I shall be ready for him, and that shall he

While the king thus spoke, there came into the hall a damsel having on a
mantle richly furred, which she let fall and showed herself to be girded
with a noble sword. The king being surprised at this, said, "Damsel,
wherefore art thou girt with that sword, for it beseemeth thee not?"
"Sir," said she, "I will tell thee. This sword wherewith I am thus girt
gives me great sorrow and encumbrance, for I may not be delivered from it
till I find a knight faithful and pure and true, strong of body and of
valiant deeds, without guile or treachery, who shall be able to draw it
from its scabbard, which no man else can do. And I have but just now come
from the court of King Ryence, for there they told me many great and good
knights were to be ever found; but he and all his knights have tried to
draw it forth in vain--for none of them can move it."

"This is a great marvel," said King Arthur; "I will myself try to draw
forth this sword, not thinking in my heart that I am the best knight, but
rather to begin and give example that all may try after me." Saying this,
he took the sword and pulled at it with all his might, but could not shake
or move it.

"Thou needest not strive so hard, Lord," said the damsel, "for whoever may
be able to pull it forth shall do so very easily." "Thou sayest well,"
replied the king, remembering how he had himself drawn forth the sword
from the stone before St. Paul's. "Now try ye, all my barons; but beware
ye be not stained with shame, or any treachery, or guile." And turning
away his face from them, King Arthur mused full heavily of sins within his
breast he knew of, and which his failure brought to mind right sadly.

Then all the barons present tried each after other, but could none of them
succeed; whereat the damsel greatly wept, and said, "Alas, alas! I thought
in this court to have found the best knight, without shame or treachery or

Now by chance there was at that time a poor knight with King Arthur, who
had been prisoner at his court for half a year and more, charged with
slaying unawares a knight who was a cousin of the king's. He was named
Balin le Savage, and had been by the good offices of the barons delivered
from prison, for he was of good and valiant address and gentle blood. He
being secretly present at the court saw this adventure, and felt his heart
rise high within him, and longed to try the sword as did the others; but
being poor and poorly clad, he was ashamed to come forward in the press of
knights and nobles. But in his heart he felt assured that he could do
better--if Heaven willed--than any knight among them all.

So as the damsel left the king, he called to her and said, "Damsel, I pray
thee of thy courtesy, suffer me to try the sword as well as all these
lords; for though I be but poorly clad, I feel assurance in my heart."

The damsel looking at him, saw in him a likely an honest man, but because
of his poor garments could not think him to be any knight of worship, and
said, "Sir, there is no need to put me to any more pain or labour; why
shouldst thou succeed where so many worthy ones have failed?"

"Ah, fair lady," answered Balin, "worthiness and brave deeds are not shown
by fair raiment, but manhood and truth lie hid within the heart. There be
many worshipful knights unknown to all the people."

"By my faith, thou sayest truth," replied the damsel; "try therefore, if
thou wilt, what thou canst do."

So Balin took the sword by the girdle and hilt, and drew it lightly out,
and looking on its workmanship and brightness, it pleased him greatly.

But the king and all the barons marvelled at Sir Balin's fortune, and many
knights were envious of him, for, "Truly," said the damsel, "this is a
passing good knight, and the best man I have ever found, and the most
worshipfully free from treason, treachery, or villainy, and many wonders
shall he achieve."

"Now, gentle and courteous knight," continued she, turning to Balin, "give
me the sword again."

"Nay," said Sir Balin, "save it be taken from me by force, I shall
preserve this sword for evermore."

"Thou art not wise," replied the damsel, "to keep it from me; for if thou
wilt do so, thou shalt slay with it the best friend thou hast, and the
sword shall be thine destruction also."

"I will take whatever adventure God may send," said Balin; "but the sword
will I keep, by the faith of my body."

"Thou will repent it shortly," said the damsel; "I would take the sword
for thy sake rather than for mine for I am passing grieved and heavy for
thy sake, who wilt not believe the peril I foretell thee." With that she
departed, making great lamentation.

Then Balin sent for his horse and armour, and took his leave of King
Arthur, who urged him to stay at his court. "For," said he, "I believe
that thou art displeased that I showed thee unkindness; blame me not
overmuch, for I was misinformed against thee, and knew not truly what a
knight of worship thou art. Abide in this court with my good knights, and
I will so advance thee that thou shalt be well pleased."

"God thank thee, Lord," said Balin, "for no man can reward thy bounty and
thy nobleness; but at this time I must needs depart, praying thee ever to
hold me in thy favour."

"Truly," said King Arthur, "I am grieved for thy departure; but tarry not
long, and thou shalt be right welcome to me and all my knights when thou
returnest, and I will repair my neglect and all that I have done amiss
against thee."

"God thank thee, Lord," again said Balin, and made ready to depart.

But meanwhile came into the court a lady upon horseback, full richly
dressed, and saluted King Arthur, and asked him for the gift that he had
promised her when she gave him his sword Excalibur, "for," said she, "I am
the lady of the lake."

"Ask what thou wilt," said the king, "and thou shalt have it, if I have
power to give."

"I ask," said she, "the head of that knight who hath just achieved the
sword, or else the damsel's head who brought it, or else both; for the
knight slew my brother, and the lady caused my father's death."

"Truly," said King Arthur, "I cannot grant thee this desire; it were
against my nature and against my name; but ask whatever else thou wilt,
and I will do it."

"I will demand no other thing," said she.

And as she spake came Balin, on his way to leave the court, and saw her
where she stood, and knew her straightway for his mother's murderess, whom
he had sought in vain three years. And when they told him that she had
asked King Arthur for his head, he went up straight to her and said, "May
evil have thee! Thou desirest my head, therefore shalt thou lose thine;"
and with his sword he lightly smote her head off, in the presence of the
king and all the court.

"Alas, for shame!" cried out King Arthur, rising up in wrath; "why hast
thou done this, shaming both me and my court? I am beholden greatly to
this lady, and under my safe conduct came she here; thy deed is passing
shameful; never shall I forgive thy villainy."

"Lord," cried Sir Balin, "hear me; this lady was the falsest living, and
by her witchcraft hath destroyed many, and caused my mother also to be
burnt to death by her false arts and treachery."

"What cause soever thou mightest have had," said the king, "thou shouldst
have forborne her in my presence. Deceive not thyself, thou shalt repent
this sin, for such a shame was never brought upon my court; depart now
from my face with all the haste thou mayest."

Then Balin took up the head of the lady and carried it to his lodgings,
and rode forth with his squire from out the town. Then said he, "Now must
we part; take ye this head and bear it to my friends in Northumberland,
and tell them how I speed, and that our worst foe is dead; also tell them
that I am free from prison, and of the adventure of my sword."

"Alas!" said the squire, "ye are greatly to blame to have so displeased
King Arthur."

"As for that," said Sir Balin, "I go now to find King Ryence, and destroy
him or lose my life; for should I take him prisoner, and lead him to the
court, perchance King Arthur would forgive me, and become my good and
gracious lord."

"Where shall I meet thee again?" said the squire.

"In King Arthur's court," said Balin.


_Sir Balin Smites the Dolorous Stroke, and Fights with his Brother, Sir

Now there was a knight at the court more envious than the others of Sir
Balin, for he counted himself one of the best knights in Britain. His name
was Lancear; and going to the king, he begged leave to follow after Sir
Balin and avenge the insult he had put upon the court. "Do thy best,"
replied the king, "for I am passing wroth with Balin."

In the meantime came Merlin, and was told of this adventure of the sword
and lady of the lake.

"Now hear me," said he, "when I tell ye that this lady who hath brought
the sword is the falsest damsel living."

"Say not so," they answered, "for she hath a brother a good knight, who
slew another knight this damsel loved; so she, to be revenged upon her
brother, went to the Lady Lile, of Avilion, and besought her help. Then
Lady Lile gave her the sword, and told her that no man should draw it
forth but one, a valiant knight and strong, who should avenge her on her
brother. This, therefore, was the reason why the damsel came here." "I
know it all as well as ye do," answered Merlin; "and would to God she had
never come hither, for never came she into any company but to do harm; and
that good knight who hath achieved the sword shall be himself slain by it,
which shall be great harm and loss, for a better knight there liveth not;
and he shall do unto my lord the king great honour and service."

Then Sir Lancear, having armed himself at all points, mounted, and rode
after Sir Balin, as fast as he could go, and overtaking him, he cried
aloud, "Abide, Sir knight! wait yet awhile, or I shall make thee do so."

Hearing him cry, Sir Balin fiercely turned his horse, and said, "Fair
knight, what wilt thou with me? wilt thou joust?"

"Yea," said Sir Lancear, "it is for that I have pursued thee."

"Peradventure," answered Balin, "thou hadst best have staid at home, for
many a man who thinketh himself already victor, endeth by his own
downfall. Of what court art thou?"

"Of King Arthur's court," cried Lancear, "and I am come to revenge the
insult thou hast put on it this day."

"Well," said Sir Balin, "I see that I must fight thee, and I repent to be
obliged to grieve King Arthur or his knights; and thy quarrel seemeth full
foolish to me, for the damsel that is dead worked endless evils through
the land, or else I had been loath as any knight that liveth to have slain
a lady."

"Make thee ready," shouted Lancear, "for one of us shall rest for ever in
this field."

But at their first encounter Sir Lancear's spear flew into splinters from
Sir Balin's shield, and Sir Balin's lance pierced with such might through
Sir Lancear's shield that it rove the hauberk also, and passed through the
knight's body and the horse's crupper. And Sir Balin turning fiercely
round again, drew out his sword, and knew not that he had already slain
him; and then he saw him lie a corpse upon the ground.

At that same moment came a damsel riding towards him as fast as her horse
could gallop, who, when she saw Sir Lancear dead, wept and sorrowed out of
measure, crying, "O, Sir Balin, two bodies hast thou slain, and one heart;
and two hearts in one body; and two souls also hast thou lost."

Therewith she took the sword from her dead lover's side--for she was Sir
Lancear's lady-love--and setting the pommel of it on the ground, ran
herself through the body with the blade.

When Sir Balin saw her dead he was sorely hurt and grieved in spirit, and
repented the death of Lancear, which had also caused so fair a lady's
death. And being unable to look on their bodies for sorrow, he turned
aside into a forest, where presently as he rode, he saw the arms of his
brother, Sir Balan. And when they were met they put off their helms, and
embraced each other, kissing, and weeping for joy and pity. Then Sir Balin
told Sir Balan all his late adventures, and that he was on his way to King
Ryence, who at that time was besieging Castle Terrabil. "I will be with
thee," answered Sir Balan, "and we will help each other, as brethren ought
to do."

Anon by chance, as they were talking, came King Mark, of Cornwall, by that
way, and when he saw the two dead bodies of Sir Lancear and his lady lying
there, and heard the story of their death, he vowed to build a tomb to
them before he left that place. So pitching his pavilion there, he sought
through all the country round to find a monument, and found at last a rich
and fair one in a church, which he took and raised above the dead knight
and his damsel, writing on it--"Here lieth Lancear, son of the King of
Ireland, who, at his own request, was slain by Balin; and here beside him
also lieth his lady Colombe, who slew herself with her lover's sword for
grief and sorrow."

Then as Sir Balin and Sir Balan rode away, Merlin met with them, and said
to Balin, "Thou hast done thyself great harm not to have saved that lady's
life who slew herself; and because of it, thou shalt strike the most
Dolorous Stroke that ever man struck, save he that smote our Lord. For
thou shalt smite the truest and most worshipful of living knights, who
shall not be recovered from his wounds for many years, and through that
stroke three kingdoms shall be overwhelmed in poverty and misery."

"If I believed," said Balin, "what thou sayest, I would slay myself to
make thee a liar."

At that Merlin vanished suddenly away; but afterwards he met them in
disguise towards night, and told them he could lead them to King Ryence,
whom they sought. "For this night he is to ride with sixty lances only
through a wood hard by."

So Sir Balin and Sir Balan hid themselves within the wood, and at midnight
came out from their ambush among the leaves by the highway, and waited for
the king, whom presently they heard approaching with his company. Then did
they suddenly leap forth and smote at him and overthrew him and laid him
on the ground, and turning on his company wounded and slew forty of them,
and put the rest to flight. And returning to King Ryence they would have
slain him there, but he craved mercy, and yielded to their grace, crying,
"Knights full of prowess, slay me not; for by my life ye may win
something--but my death can avail ye nought."

"Ye say truth," said the two knights, and put him in a horse-litter, and
went swiftly through all the night, till at cock-crow they came to King
Arthur's palace. There they delivered him to the warders and porters, to
be brought before the king, with this message--"That he was sent to King
Arthur by the knight of the two swords (for so was Balin known by name,
since his adventure with the damsel) and by his brother." And so they rode
away again ere sunrise.

Within a month or two thereafter, King Arthur being somewhat sick, went
forth outside the town, and had his pavilion pitched in a meadow, and
there abode, and laid him down on a pallet to sleep, but could get no
rest. And as he lay he heard the sound of a great horse, and looking out
of the tent door, saw a knight ride by, making great lamentation.

"Abide, fair sir," said King Arthur, "and tell me wherefore thou makest
this sorrow."

"Ye may little amend it," said the knight, and so passed on.

Presently after Sir Balin, rode, by chance, past that meadow, and when he
saw the king he alighted and came to him on foot, and kneeled and saluted

"By my head," said King Arthur, "ye be welcome, Sir Balin;" and then he
thanked him heartily for revenging him upon King Ryence, and for sending
him so speedily a prisoner to his castle, and told him how King Nero,
Ryence's brother, had attacked him afterwards to deliver Ryence from
prison; and how he had defeated him and slain him, and also King Lot, of
Orkney who was joined with Nero, and whom King Pellinore had killed in the
battle. Then when they had thus talked, King Arthur told Sir Balin of the
sullen knight that had just passed his tent, and desired him to pursue him
and to bring him back.

So Sir Balin rode and overtook the knight in a forest with a damsel, and
said, "Sir knight, thou must come back with me unto my lord, King Arthur,
to tell him the cause of thy sorrow, which thou hast refused even now to

"That will I not," replied the knight, "for it would harm me much, and do
him no advantage."

"Sir," said Sir Balin, "I pray thee make ready, for thou must needs go
with me--or else I must fight with thee and take thee by force."

"Wilt thou be warrant for safe conduct, if I go with thee?" inquired the

"Yea, surely," answered Balin, "I will die else."

So the knight made ready to go with Sir Balin, and left the damsel in the

But as they went, there came one invisible, and smote the knight through
the body with a spear. "Alas," cried Sir Herleus (for so was he named), "I
am slain under thy guard and conduct, by that traitor knight called
Garlon, who through magic and witchcraft rideth invisibly. Take,
therefore, my horse, which is better than thine, and ride to the damsel
whom we left, and the quest I had in hand, as she will lead thee--and
revenge my death when thou best mayest."

"That will I do," said Sir Balin, "by my knighthood, and so I swear to

Then went Sir Balin to the damsel, and rode forth with her; she carrying
ever with her the truncheon of the spear wherewith Sir Herleus had been
slain. And as they went, a good knight, Perin de Mountbelgard, joined
their company, and vowed to take adventure with them wheresoever they
might go. But presently as they passed a hermitage fast by a churchyard,
came the knight Garlon, again invisible, and smote Sir Perin through the
body with a spear, and slew him as he had slain Sir Herleus. Whereat, Sir
Balin greatly raged, and swore to have Sir Garlon's life, whenever next he
might encounter and behold him in his bodily shape. Anon, he and the
hermit buried the good knight Sir Perin, and rode on with the damsel till
they came to a great castle, whereinto they were about to enter. But when
Sir Balin had passed through the gateway, the portcullis fell behind him
suddenly, leaving the damsel on the outer side, with men around her,
drawing their swords as if to slay her.

When he saw that, Sir Balin climbed with eager haste by wall and tower,
and leaped into the castle moat, and rushed towards the damsel and her
enemies, with his sword drawn, to fight and slay them. But they cried out,
"Put up thy sword, Sir knight, we will not fight thee in this quarrel, for
we do nothing but an ancient custom of this castle."

Then they told him that the lady of the castle was sick, and had lain ill
for many years, and might never more be cured, unless she had a silver
dish full of the blood of a pure maid and a king's daughter. Wherefore the
custom of the castle was, that never should a damsel pass that way but she
must give a dish full of her blood. Then Sir Balin suffered them to bleed
the damsel with her own consent, but her blood helped not the lady of the
castle. So on the morrow they departed, after right good cheer and rest.

Then they rode three or four days without adventure and came at last to
the abode of a rich man, who sumptuously lodged and fed them. And while
they sat at supper Sir Balin heard a voice of some one groaning
grievously. "What noise is this?" said he.

"Forsooth," said the host, "I will tell you. I was lately at a tournament,
and there I fought a knight who is brother to King Pelles, and overthrew
him twice, for which he swore to be revenged on me through my best friend,
and so he wounded my son, who cannot be recovered till I have that
knight's blood, but he rideth through witchcraft always invisibly, and I
know not his name."

"Ah," said Sir Balin, "but I know him; his name is Garlon, and he hath
slain two knights, companions of mine own, in the same fashion, and I
would rather than all the riches in this realm that I might meet him face
to face."

"Well," said his host, "let me now tell thee that King Pelles hath
proclaimed in all the country a great festival, to be held at Listeniss,
in twenty days from now, whereto no knight may come without a lady. At
that great feast we might perchance find out this Garlon, for many will be
there; and if it please thee we will set forth together."

So on the morrow they rode all three towards Listeniss, and travelled
fifteen days, and reached it on the day the feast began. Then they
alighted and stabled their horses, and went up to the castle, and Sir
Balin's host was denied entrance, having no lady with him. But Sir Balin
was right heartily received, and taken to a chamber, where they unarmed
him, and dressed him in rich robes, of any colour that he chose, and told
him he must lay aside his sword. This, however, he refused, and said, "It
is the custom of my country for a knight to keep his sword ever with him;
and if I may not keep it here, I will forthwith depart." Then they gave
him leave to wear his sword. So he went to the great hall, and was set
among knights of rank and worship, and his lady before him.

Soon he found means to ask one who sat near him, "Is there not here a
knight whose name is Garlon?"

"Yonder he goeth," said his neighbour, "he with that black face; he is the
most marvellous knight alive, for he rideth invisibly, and destroyeth whom
he will."

"Ah, well," said Balin, drawing a long breath, "is that indeed the man? I
have aforetime heard of him."

Then he mused long within himself, and thought, "If I shall slay him here
and now, I shall not escape myself; but if I leave him, peradventure I
shall never meet with him again at such advantage; and if he live, how
much more harm and mischief will he do!"

But while he deeply thought, and cast his eyes from time to time upon Sir
Garlon, that false knight saw that he watched him, and thinking that he
could at such a time escape revenge, he came and smote Sir Balin on the
face with the back of his hand, and said, "Knight, why dost thou so watch
me? be ashamed, and eat thy meat, and do that which thou camest for."

"Thou sayest well," cried Sir Balin, rising fiercely; "now will I
straightway do that which I came to do, as thou shalt find." With that he
whirled his sword aloft and struck him downright on the head, and clove
his skull asunder to the shoulder.

"Give me the truncheon," cried out Sir Balin to his lady, "wherewith he
slew thy knight." And when she gave it him--for she had always carried it
about with her, wherever she had gone--he smote him through the body with
it, and said, "With that truncheon didst thou treacherously murder a good
knight, and now it sticketh in thy felon body."

Then he called to the father of the wounded son, who had come with him to
Listeniss, and said, "Now take as much blood as thou wilt, to heal thy son

But now arose a terrible confusion, and all the knights leaped from the
table to slay Balin, King Pelles himself the foremost, who cried out,
"Knight, thou hast slain my brother at my board; die, therefore, die, for
thou shalt never leave this castle."

"Slay me, thyself, then," shouted Balin.

"Yea," said the king, "that will I! for no other man shall touch thee, for
the love I bear my brother."

Then King Pelles caught in his hand a grim weapon and smote eagerly at
Balin, but Balin put his sword between his head and the king's stroke, and
saved himself but lost his sword, which fell down smashed and shivered
into pieces by the blow. So being weaponless he ran to the next room to
find a sword, and so from room to room, with King Pelles after him, he in
vain ever eagerly casting his eyes round every place to find some weapon.

At last he ran into a chamber wondrous richly decked, where was a bed all
dressed with cloth of gold, the richest that could be thought of, and one
who lay quite still within the bed; and by the bedside stood a table of
pure gold borne on four silver pillars, and on the table stood a
marvellous spear, strangely wrought.

When Sir Balin saw the spear he seized it in his hand, and turned upon
King Pelles, and smote at him so fiercely and so sore that he dropped
swooning to the ground.

But at that Dolorous and awful Stroke the castle rocked and rove
throughout, and all the walls fell crashed and breaking to the earth, and
Balin himself fell also in their midst, struck as it were to stone, and
powerless to move a hand or foot. And so three days he lay amidst the
ruins, until Merlin came and raised him up and brought him a good horse,
and bade him ride out of that land as swiftly as he could.

[Illustration: The castle rocked and rove throughout, and all the walls
fell crashed and breaking to the earth.]

"May I not take the damsel with me I brought hither?" said Sir Balin.

"Lo! where she lieth dead," said Merlin. "Ah, little knowest thou, Sir
Balin, what thou hast done; for in this castle and that chamber which thou
didst defile, was the blood of our Lord Christ! and also that most holy
cup--the Sangreal--wherefrom the wine was drunk at the last supper of our
Lord. Joseph of Arimathea brought it to this land, when first he came here
to convert and save it. And on that bed of gold it was himself who lay,
and the strange spear beside him was the spear wherewith the soldier
Longus smote our Lord, which evermore had dripped with blood. King Pelles
is the nearest kin to Joseph in direct descent, wherefore he held these
holy things in trust; but now have they all gone at thy dolorous stroke,
no man knoweth whither; and great is the damage to this land, which until
now hath been the happiest of all lands, for by that stroke thou hast
slain thousands, and by the loss and parting of the Sangreal the safety of
this realm is put in peril, and its great happiness is gone for evermore."

Then Balin departed from Merlin, struck to his soul with grief and sorrow,
and said, "In this world shall we meet never more."

So he rode forth through the fair cities and the country, and found the
people lying dead on every side. And all the living cried out on him as he
passed, "O Balin, all this misery hast thou done! For the dolorous stroke
thou gavest King Pelles, three countries are destroyed, and doubt not but
revenge will fall on thee at last!"

When he had passed the boundary of those countries, he was somewhat
comforted, and rode eight days without adventure. Anon he came to a cross,
whereon was written in letters of gold, "It is not for a knight alone to
ride towards this castle." Looking up, he saw a hoary ancient man come
towards him, who said, "Sir Balin le Savage, thou passest thy bounds this
way; therefore turn back again, it will be best for thee;" and with these
words he vanished.

Then did he hear a horn blow as it were the deathnote of some hunted
beast. "That blast," said Balin, "is blown for me, for I am the prey;
though yet I be not dead." But as he spoke he saw a hundred ladies with a
great troop of knights come forth to meet him, with bright faces and
great welcome, who led him to the castle and made a great feast, with
dancing and minstrelsy and all manner of joy.

Then the chief lady of the castle said, "Knight with the two swords, thou
must encounter and fight with a knight hard by, who dwelleth on an island,
for no man may pass this way without encountering him."

"It is a grievous custom," answered Sir Balin.

"There is but one knight to defeat," replied the lady.

"Well," said Sir Balin, "be it as thou wilt. I am ready and quite willing,
and though my horse and my body be full weary, yet is my heart not weary,
save of life. And truly I were glad if I might meet my death."

"Sir," said one standing by, "methinketh your shield is not good; I will
lend you a bigger."

"I thank thee, sir," said Balin, and took the unknown shield and left his
own, and so rode forth, and put himself and horse into a boat and came to
the island.

As soon as he had landed, he saw come riding towards him, a knight dressed
all in red, upon a horse trapped in the same colour. When the red knight
saw Sir Balin, and the two swords he wore, he thought it must have been
his brother (for the red knight was Sir Balan), but when he saw the
strange arms on his shield, he forgot the thought, and came against him
fiercely. At the first course they overthrew each other, and both lay
swooning on the ground; but Sir Balin was the most hurt and bruised, for
he was weary and spent with travelling. So Sir Balan rose up first to his
feet and drew his sword, and Sir Balin painfully rose against him and
raised his shield.

Then Sir Balan smote him through the shield and brake his helmet; and Sir
Balin, in return, smote at him with his fated sword, and had wellnigh
slain his brother. So they fought till their breaths failed.

Then Sir Balin, looking up, saw all the castle towers stand full of
ladies. So they went again to battle, and wounded each other full sore,
and paused, and breathed again, and then again began the fight; and this
for many times they did, till all the ground was red with blood. And by
now, each had full grievously wounded the other with seven great wounds,
the least of which might have destroyed the mightiest giant in the world.
But still they rose against each other, although their hauberks now were
all unnailed, and they smiting at each other's naked bodies with their
sharp swords. At the last, Sir Balan, the younger brother, withdrew a
little space and laid him down.

Then said Sir Balin le Savage, "What knight art thou? for never before
have I found a knight to match me thus."

"My name," said he, all faintly, "is Balan, brother to the good knight Sir

"Ah, God!" cried Balin, "that ever I should see this day!" and therewith
fell down backwards in a swoon.

Then Sir Balan crept with pain upon his feet and hands, and put his
brother's helmet off his head, but could not know him by his face, it was
so hewed and bloody. But presently, when Sir Balin came to, he said, "Oh!
Balan, mine own brother, thou hast slain me, and I thee! All the wide
world saw never greater grief!"

"Alas!" said Sir Balan, "that I ever saw this day; and through mishap
alone I knew thee not, for when I saw thy two swords, if it had not been
for thy strange shield, I should have known thee for my brother."

"Alas!" said Balin, "all this sorrow lieth at the door of one unhappy
knight within the castle, who made me change my shield. If I might live, I
would destroy that castle and its evil customs."

"It were well done," said Balan, "for since I first came hither I have
never been able to depart, for here they made me fight with one who kept
this island, whom I slew, and by enchantment I might never quit it more;
nor couldst thou, brother, hadst thou slain me, and escaped with thine own

Anon came the lady of the castle, and when she heard their talk, and saw
their evil case, she wrung her hands and wept bitterly. So Sir Balan
prayed the lady of her gentleness that, for his true service, she would
bury them both together in that place. This she granted, weeping full
sore, and said it should be done right solemnly and richly, and in the
noblest manner possible. Then did they send for a priest, and received the
holy sacrament at his hands. And Balin said, "Write over us upon our tomb,
that here two brethren slew each other; then shall never good knight or
pilgrim pass this way but he will pray for both our souls." And anon Sir
Balan died, but Sir Balin died not till the midnight after; and then they
both were buried.

On the morrow of their death came Merlin, and took Sir Balin's sword and
fixed on it a new pommel, and set it in a mighty stone, which then, by
magic, he made float upon the water. And so, for many years, it floated to
and fro around the island, till it swam down the river to Camelot, where
young Sir Galahad achieved it, as shall be told hereafter.


_The Marriage of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, and the Founding of the
Round Table--The Adventure of the Hart and Hound_

It befell upon a certain day, that King Arthur said to Merlin, "My lords
and knights do daily pray me now to take a wife; but I will have none
without thy counsel, for thou hast ever helped me since I came first to
this crown."

"It is well," said Merlin, "that thou shouldst take a wife, for no man of
bounteous and noble nature should live without one; but is there any lady
whom thou lovest better than another?"

"Yea," said King Arthur, "I love Guinevere, the daughter of King
Leodegrance, of Camelgard, who also holdeth in his house the Round Table
that he had from my father Uther; and as I think, that damsel is the
gentlest and the fairest lady living."

"Sir," answered Merlin, "as for her beauty, she is one of the fairest that
do live; but if ye had not loved her as ye do, I would fain have had ye
choose some other who was both fair and good. But where a man's heart is
set, he will be loath to leave." This Merlin said, knowing the misery
that should hereafter happen from this marriage.

Then King Arthur sent word to King Leodegrance that he mightily desired to
wed his daughter, and how that he had loved her since he saw her first,
when with Kings Ban and Bors he rescued Leodegrance from King Ryence of
North Wales.

When King Leodegrance heard the message, he cried out "These be the best
tidings I have heard in all my life--so great and worshipful a prince to
seek my daughter for his wife! I would fain give him half my lands with
her straightway, but that he needeth none--and better will it please him
that I send him the Round Table of King Uther, his father, with a hundred
good knights towards the furnishing of it with guests, for he will soon
find means to gather more, and make the table full."

Then King Leodegrance delivered his daughter Guinevere to the messengers
of King Arthur, and also the Round Table with the hundred knights.

So they rode royally and freshly, sometimes by water and sometimes by
land, towards Camelot. And as they rode along in the spring weather, they
made full many sports and pastimes. And, in all those sports and games, a
young knight lately come to Arthur's court, Sir Lancelot by name, was
passing strong, and won praise from all, being full of grace and
hardihood; and Guinevere also ever looked on him with joy. And always in
the eventide, when the tents were set beside some stream or forest, many
minstrels came and sang before the knights and ladies as they sat in the
tent-doors, and many knights would tell adventures; and still Sir Lancelot
was foremost, and told the knightliest tales, and sang the goodliest
songs, of all the company.

And when they came to Camelot, King Arthur made great joy, and all the
city with him; and riding forth with a great retinue he met Guinevere and
her company, and led her through the streets all filled with people, and
in the midst of all their shoutings and the ringing of church bells, to a
palace hard by his own.

Then, in all haste, the king commanded to prepare the marriage and the
coronation with the stateliest and most honourable pomp that could be
made. And when the day was come, the archbishops led the king to the
cathedral, whereto he walked, clad in his royal robes, and having four
kings, bearing four golden swords, before him; a choir of passing sweet
music going also with him.

In another part, was the queen dressed in her richest ornaments, and led
by archbishops and bishops to the Chapel of the Virgins, the four queens
also of the four kings last mentioned walked before her, bearing four
white doves, according to ancient custom; and after her there followed
many damsels, singing and making every sign of joy.

And when the two processions were come to the churches, so wondrous was
the music and the singing, that all the knights and barons who were there
pressed on each other, as in the crowd of battle, to hear and see the most
they might.

When the king was crowned, he called together all the knights that came
with the Round Table from Camelgard, and twenty-eight others, great and
valiant men, chosen by Merlin out of all the realm, towards making up the
full number of the table. Then the Archbishop of Canterbury blessed the
seats of all the knights, and when they rose again therefrom to pay their
homage to King Arthur there was found upon the back of each knight's seat
his name, written in letters of gold. But upon one seat was found written,
"This is the Siege Perilous, wherein if any man shall sit save him whom
Heaven hath chosen, he shall be devoured by fire."

Anon came young Gawain, the king's nephew, praying to be made a knight,
whom the king knighted then and there. Soon after came a poor man, leading
with him a tall fair lad of eighteen years of age, riding on a lean mare.
And falling at the king's feet, the poor man said, "Lord, it was told me,
that at this time of thy marriage thou wouldst give to any man the gift he
asked for, so it were not unreasonable."

"That is the truth," replied King Arthur, "and I will make it good."

"Thou sayest graciously and nobly," said the poor man. "Lord, I ask
nothing else but that thou wilt make my son here a knight."

"It is a great thing that thou askest," said the king. "What is thy name?"

"Aries, the cowherd," answered he.

"Cometh this prayer from thee or from thy son?" inquired King Arthur.

"Nay, lord, not from myself," said he, "but from him only, for I have
thirteen other sons, and all of them will fall to any labour that I put
them to. But this one will do no such work for anything that I or my wife
may do, but is for ever shooting or fighting, and running to see knights
and joustings, and torments me both night and day that he be made a

"What is thy name?" said the king to the young man.

"My name is Tor," said he.

Then the king, looking at him steadfastly, was well pleased with his face
and figure, and with his look of nobleness and strength.

"Fetch all thy other sons before me," said the king to Aries. But when he
brought them, none of them resembled Tor in size or shape or feature.

Then the king knighted Tor, saying, "Be thou to thy life's end a good
knight and a true, as I pray God thou mayest be; and if thou provest
worthy, and of prowess, one day thou shall be counted in the Round Table."
Then turning to Merlin, Arthur said, "Prophesy now, O Merlin, shall Sir
Tor become a worthy knight, or not?"

"Yea, lord," said Merlin, "so he ought to be, for he is the son of that
King Pellinore whom thou hast met, and proved to be one of the best
knights living. He is no cowherd's son."

Presently after came in King Pellinore, and when he saw Sir Tor he knew
him for his son, and was more pleased than words can tell to find him
knighted by the king. And Pellinore did homage to King Arthur, and was
gladly and graciously accepted of the king; and then was led by Merlin to
a high seat at the Table Round, near to the Perilous Seat.

But Sir Gawain was full of anger at the honour done King Pellinore, and
said to his brother Gaheris, "He slew our father, King Lot, therefore will
I slay him."

"Do it not yet," said he; "wait till I also be a knight, then will I help
ye in it: it is best ye suffer him to go at this time, and not trouble
this high feast with bloodshed."

"As ye will, be it," said Sir Gawain.

Then rose the king and spake to all the Table Round, and charged them to
be ever true and noble knights, to do neither outrage nor murder, nor any
unjust violence, and always to flee treason; also by no means ever to be
cruel, but give mercy unto him that asked for mercy, upon pain of
forfeiting the liberty of his court for evermore. Moreover, at all times,
on pain of death, to give all succour unto ladies and young damsels; and
lastly, never to take part in any wrongful quarrel, for reward or payment.
And to all this he swore them knight by knight.

Then he ordained that, every year at Pentecost, they should all come
before him, wheresoever he might appoint a place, and give account of all
their doings and adventures of the past twelvemonth. And so, with prayer
and blessing, and high words of cheer, he instituted the most noble order
of the Round Table, whereto the best and bravest knights in all the world
sought afterwards to find admission.

Then was the high feast made ready, and the king and queen sat side by
side, before the whole assembly; and great and royal was the banquet and
the pomp.

And as they sat, each man in his place, Merlin went round and said, "Sit
still awhile, for ye shall see a strange and marvellous adventure."

So as they sat, there suddenly came running through the hall, a white
hart, with a white hound next after him, and thirty couple of black
running hounds, making full cry; and the hart made circuit of the Table
Round, and past the other tables; and suddenly the white hound flew upon
him and bit him fiercely, and tore out a piece from his haunch. Whereat
the hart sprang suddenly with a great leap, and overthrew a knight sitting
at the table, who rose forthwith, and, taking up the hound, mounted, and
rode fast away.

But no sooner had he left, than there came in a lady, mounted on a white
palfrey, who cried out to the king, "Lord, suffer me not to have this
injury!--the hound is mine which that knight taketh." And as she spake, a
knight rode in all armed, on a great horse, and suddenly took up the lady
and rode away with her by force, although she greatly cried and moaned.

Then the king desired Sir Gawain, Sir Tor, and King Pellinore to mount and
follow this adventure to the uttermost; and told Sir Gawain to bring back
the hart, Sir Tor the hound and knight, and King Pellinore the knight and
the lady.

So Sir Gawain rode forth at a swift pace, and with him Gaheris, his
brother, for a squire. And as they went, they saw two knights fighting on
horseback, and when they reached them they divided them and asked the
reason of their quarrel. "We fight for a foolish matter," one replied,
"for we be brethren; but there came by a white hart this way, chased by
many hounds, and thinking it was an adventure for the high feast of King
Arthur, I would have followed it to have gained worship; whereat my
younger brother here declared he was the better knight and would go after
it instead, and so we fight to prove which of us be the better knight."

"This is a foolish thing," said Sir Gawain. "Fight with all strangers, if
ye will, but not brother with brother. Take my advice, set on against me,
and if ye yield to me, as I shall do my best to make ye, ye shall go to
King Arthur and yield ye to his grace."

"Sir knight," replied the brothers, "we are weary, and will do thy wish
without encountering thee; but by whom shall we tell the king that we were

"By the knight that followeth the quest of the white hart," said Sir
Gawain. "And now tell me your names, and let us part."

"Sorlous and Brian of the Forest," they replied; and so they went their
way to the king's court.

Then Sir Gawain, still following his quest by the distant baying of the
hounds, came to a great river, and saw the hart swimming over and near to
the further bank. And as he was about to plunge in and swim after, he saw
a knight upon the other side, who cried, "Come not over here, Sir knight,
after that hart, save thou wilt joust with me."

"I will not fail for that," said Sir Gawain; and swam his horse across the

Anon they got their spears, and ran against each other fiercely; and Sir
Gawain smote the stranger off his horse, and turning, bade him yield.

"Nay," replied he, "not so; for though ye have the better of me on
horseback, I pray thee, valiant knight, alight, and let us match together
with our swords on foot."

"What is thy name?" quoth Gawain.

"Allardin of the Isles," replied the stranger.

Then they fell on each other; but soon Sir Gawain struck him through the
helm, so deeply and so hard, that all his brains were scattered, and Sir
Allardin fell dead. "Ah," said Gaheris, "that was a mighty stroke for a
young knight!"

Then did they turn again to follow the white hart, and let slip three
couple of greyhounds after him; and at the last they chased him to a
castle, and there they overtook and slew him, in the chief courtyard.

At that there rushed a knight forth from a chamber, with a drawn sword in
his hand, and slew two of the hounds before their eyes, and chased the
others from the castle, crying, "Oh, my white hart! alas, that thou art
dead! for thee my sovereign lady gave to me, and evil have I kept thee;
but if I live, thy death shall be dear bought." Anon he went within and
armed, and came out fiercely, and met Sir Gawain face to face.

"Why have ye slain my hounds?" said Sir Gawain; "they did but after their
nature: and ye had better have taken vengeance on me than on the poor dumb

"I will avenge me on thee, also," said the other, "ere thou depart this

Then did they fight with each other savagely and madly, till the blood ran
down to their feet. But at last Sir Gawain had the better, and felled the
knight of the castle to the ground. Then he cried out for mercy, and
yielded to Sir Gawain, and besought him as he was a knight and gentleman
to save his life. "Thou shalt die," said Sir Gawain, "for slaying my

"I will make thee all amends within my power," replied the knight.

But Sir Gawain would have no mercy, and unlaced his helm to strike his
head off; and so blind was he with rage, that he saw not where a lady ran
out from her chamber and fell down upon his enemy. And making a fierce
blow at him, he smote off by mischance the lady's head.

"Alas!" cried Gaheris, "foully and shamefully have ye done--the shame
shall never leave ye! Why give ye not your mercy unto them that ask it? a
knight without mercy is without worship also."

Then Sir Gawain was sore amazed at that fair lady's death, and knew not
what to do, and said to the fallen knight, "Arise, for I will give thee

"Nay, nay," said he, "I care not for thy mercy now, for thou hast slain my
lady and my love--that of all earthly things I loved the best."

"I repent me sorely of it," said Sir Gawain, "for I meant to have struck
thee: but now shalt thou go to King Arthur and tell him this adventure,
and how thou hast been overcome by the knight that followeth the quest of
the white hart."

"I care not whether I live or die, or where I go," replied the knight.

So Sir Gawain sent him to the court to Camelot, making him bear one dead
greyhound before and one behind him on his horse. "Tell me thy name before
we part," said he.

"My name is Athmore of the Marsh," he answered.

Then went Sir Gawain into the castle, and prepared to sleep there and
began to unarm; but Gaheris upbraided him, saying, "Will ye disarm in this
strange country? bethink ye, ye must needs have many enemies about."

No sooner had he spoken than there came out suddenly four knights, well
armed, and assailed them hard, saying to Sir Gawain, "Thou new-made
knight, how hast thou shamed thy knighthood! a knight without mercy is
dishonoured! Slayer of fair ladies, shame to thee evermore! Doubt not thou
shalt thyself have need of mercy ere we leave thee."

Then were the brothers in great jeopardy, and feared for their lives, for
they were but two to four, and weary with travelling; and one of the four
knights shot Sir Gawain with a bolt, and hit him through the arm, so that
he could fight no more. But when there was nothing left for them but
death, there came four ladies forth and prayed the four knights' mercy for
the strangers. So they gave Sir Gawain and Gaheris their lives, and made
them yield themselves prisoners.

On the morrow, came one of the ladies to Sir Gawain, and talked with him,
saying, "Sir knight, what cheer?"

"Not good," said he.

"It is your own default, sir," said the lady, "for ye have done a passing
foul deed in slaying that fair damsel yesterday--and ever shall it be
great shame to you. But ye be not of King Arthur's kin."

"Yea, truly am I," said he; "my name is Gawain, son of King Lot of Orkney,
whom King Pellinore slew--and my mother, Belisent, is half-sister to the

When the lady heard that, she went and presently got leave for him to quit
the castle; and they gave him the head of the white hart to take with him,
because it was in his quest; but made him also carry the dead lady with
him--her head hung round his neck and her body lay before him on his
horse's neck.

So in that fashion he rode back to Camelot; and when the king and queen
saw him, and heard tell of his adventures, they were heavily displeased,
and, by the order of the queen, he was put upon his trial before a court
of ladies--who judged him to be evermore, for all his life, the knight of
ladies' quarrels, and to fight always on their side, and never against
any, except he fought for one lady and his adversary for another; also
they charged him never to refuse mercy to him that asked it, and swore him
to it on the Holy Gospels. Thus ended the adventure of the white hart.

Meanwhile, Sir Tor had made him ready, and followed the knight who rode
away with the hound. And as he went, there suddenly met him in the road a
dwarf, who struck his horse so viciously upon the head with a great staff,
that he leaped backwards a spear's length.

"Wherefore so smitest thou my horse, foul dwarf?" shouted Sir Tor.

"Because thou shall not pass this way," replied the dwarf, "unless thou
fight for it with yonder knights in those pavilions," pointing to two
tents, where two great spears stood out, and two shields hung upon two
trees hard by.

"I may not tarry, for I am on a quest I needs must follow," said Sir Tor.

"Thou shalt not pass," replied the dwarf, and therewith blew his horn.
Then rode out quickly at Sir Tor one armed on horseback, but Sir Tor was
quick as he, and riding at him bore him from his horse, and made him
yield. Directly after came another still more fiercely, but with a few
great strokes and buffets Sir Tor unhorsed him also, and sent them both to
Camelot to King Arthur. Then came the dwarf and begged Sir Tor to take
him in his service, "for," said he, "I will serve no more recreant

"Take then a horse, and come with me," said Tor.

"Ride ye after the knight with the white hound?" said the dwarf; "I can
soon bring ye where he is."

So they rode through the forest till they came to two more tents. And Sir
Tor alighting, went into the first, and saw three damsels lie there,
sleeping. Then went he to the other, and found another lady also sleeping,
and at her feet the white hound he sought for, which instantly began to
bay and bark so loudly, that the lady woke. But Sir Tor had seized the
hound and given it to the dwarfs charge.

"What will ye do, Sir knight?" cried out the lady; "will ye take away my
hound from me by force?"

"Yea, lady," said Sir Tor; "for so I must, having the king's command; and
I have followed it from King Arthur's court, at Camelot, to this place."

"Well" said the lady, "ye will not go far before ye be ill handled, and
will repent ye of the quest."

"I shall cheerfully abide whatsoever adventure cometh, by the grace of
God," said Sir Tor; and so mounted his horse and began to ride back on his
way. But night coming on, he turned aside to a hermitage that was in the
forest, and there abode till the next day, making but sorrowful cheer of
such poor food as the hermit had to give him, and hearing a Mass devoutly
before he left on the morrow.

And in the early morning, as he rode forth with the dwarf towards Camelot,
he heard a knight call loudly after him, "Turn, turn! Abide, Sir knight,
and yield me up the hound thou tookest from my lady." At which he turned,
and saw a great and strong knight, armed full splendidly, riding down upon
him fiercely through a glade of the forest.

Now Sir Tor was very ill provided, for he had but an old courser, which
was as weak as himself, because of the hermit's scanty fare. He waited,
nevertheless, for the strange knight to come, and at the first onset with
their spears, each unhorsed the other, and then fell to with their swords
like two mad lions. Then did they smite through one another's shields and
helmets till the fragments flew on all sides, and their blood ran out in
streams; but yet they carved and rove through the thick armour of the
hauberks, and gave each other great and ghastly wounds. But in the end,
Sir Tor, finding the strange knight faint, doubled his strokes until he
beat him to the earth. Then did he bid him yield to his mercy.

"That will I not," replied Abellius, "while my life lasteth and my soul is
in my body, unless thou give me first the hound."

"I cannot," said Sir Tor, "and will not, for it was my quest to bring
again that hound and thee unto King Arthur, or otherwise to slay thee."

With that there came a damsel riding on a palfrey, as fast as she could
drive, and cried out to Sir Tor with a loud voice, "I pray thee, for King
Arthur's love, give me a gift."

"Ask," said Sir Tor, "and I will give thee."

"Grammercy," said the lady, "I ask the head of this false knight Abellius,
the most outrageous murderer that liveth."

"I repent me of the gift I promised," said Sir Tor. "Let him make thee
amends for all his trespasses against thee."

"He cannot make amends," replied the damsel, "for he hath slain my
brother, a far better knight than he, and scorned to give him mercy,
though I kneeled for half an hour before him in the mire, to beg it, and
though it was but by a chance they fought, and for no former injury or
quarrel. I require my gift of thee as a true knight, or else will I shame
thee in King Arthur's court; for this Abellius is the falsest knight
alive, and a murderer of many."

When Abellius heard this, he trembled greatly, and was sore afraid, and
yielded to Sir Tor, and prayed his mercy.

"I cannot now, Sir knight," said he, "lest I be false to my promise. Ye
would not take my mercy when I offered it; and now it is too late."

Therewith he unlaced his helmet, and took it off; but Abellius, in dismal
fear, struggled to his feet, and fled, until Sir Tor overtook him, and
smote off his head entirely with one blow.

"Now, sir," said the damsel, "it is near night, I pray ye come and lodge
at my castle hard by."

"I will, with a good will," said he, for both his horse and he had fared
but poorly since they left Camelot.

So he went to the lady's castle and fared sumptuously, and saw her
husband, an old knight, who greatly thanked him for his service, and urged
him oftentimes to come again.

On the morrow he departed, and reached Camelot by noon, where the king and
queen rejoiced to see him, and the king made him Earl; and Merlin
prophesied that these adventures were but little to the things he should
achieve hereafter.

Now while Sir Gawain and Sir Tor had fulfilled their quests, King
Pellinore pursued the lady whom the knight had seized away from the
wedding-feast. And as he rode through the woods, he saw in a valley a fair
young damsel sitting by a well-side, and a wounded knight lying in her
arms, and King Pellinore saluted her as he passed by.

As soon as she perceived him she cried out, "Help, help me, knight, for
our Lord's sake!" But Pellinore was far too eager in his quest to stay or
turn, although she cried a hundred times to him for help; at which she
prayed to heaven he might have such sore need before he died as she had
now. And presently thereafter her knight died in her arms; and she, for
grief and love slew herself with his sword.

But King Pellinore rode on till he met a poor man and asked him had he
seen a knight pass by that way leading by force a lady with him.

"Yea, surely," said the man, "and greatly did she moan and cry; but even
now another knight is fighting with him to deliver the lady; ride on and
thou shalt find them fighting still."

At that King Pellinore rode swiftly on, and came to where he saw the two
knights fighting, hard by where two pavilions stood. And when he looked in
one of them he saw the lady that was his quest, and with her the two
squires of the two knights who fought.

"Fair lady," said he, "ye must come with me unto Arthur's court."

"Sir knight," said the two squires, "yonder be two knights fighting for
this lady; go part them, and get their consent to take her, ere thou touch

"Ye say well," said King Pellinore, and rode between the combatants, and
asked them why they fought.

"Sir knight," said the one, "yon lady is my cousin, mine aunt's daughter,
whom I met borne away against her will, by this knight here, with whom I
therefore fight to free her."

"Sir knight," replied the other, whose name was Hantzlake of Wentland,
"this lady got I, by my arms and prowess, at King Arthur's court to-day."

"That is false," said King Pellinore; "ye stole the lady suddenly, and
fled away with her, before any knight could arm to stay thee. But it is my
service to take her back again. Neither of ye shall therefore have her;
but if ye will fight for her, fight with me now and here."

"Well," said the knights, "make ready, and we will assail thee with all
our might."

Then Sir Hantzlake ran King Pellinore's horse through with his sword, so
that they might be all alike on foot. But King Pellinore at that was
passing wroth, and ran upon Sir Hantzlake, with a cry, "Keep well thy
head!" and gave him such a stroke upon the helm as clove him to the chin,
so that he fell dead to the ground. When he saw that, the other knight
refused to fight, and kneeling down said, "Take my cousin the lady with
thee, as thy quest is; but as thou art a true knight, suffer her to come
to neither shame nor harm."

So the next day King Pellinore departed for Camelot, and took the lady
with him; and as they rode in a valley full of rough stones, the damsel's
horse stumbled and threw her, so that her arms were sorely bruised and
hurt. And as they rested in the forest for the pain to lessen, night came
on, and there they were compelled to make their lodging. A little before
midnight they heard the trotting of a horse. "Be ye still," said King
Pellinore, "for now we may hear of some adventure," and therewith he armed
him. Then he heard two knights meet and salute each other, in the dark;
one riding from Camelot, the other from the north.

"What tidings at Camelot?" said one.

"By my head," said the other, "I have but just left there, and have espied
King Arthur's court, and such a fellowship is there as never may be broke
or overcome; for wellnigh all the chivalry of the world is there, and all
full loyal to the king, and now I ride back homewards to the north to tell
our chiefs, that they waste not their strength in wars against him."

"As for all that," replied the other knight, "I am but now from the north,
and bear with me a remedy, the deadliest poison that ever was heard tell
of, and to Camelot will I with it; for there we have a friend close to the
king, and greatly cherished of him, who hath received gifts from us to
poison him, as he hath promised soon to do."

"Beware," said the first knight, "of Merlin, for he knoweth all things, by
the devil's craft."

"I will not fear for that," replied the other, and so rode on his way.

Anon King Pellinore and the lady passed on again; and when they came to
the well at which the lady with the wounded knight had sat, they found
both knight and Damsel utterly devoured by lions and wild beasts, all save
the lady's head.

When King Pellinore saw that, he wept bitterly, saying, "Alas! I might
have saved her life had I but tarried a few moments in my quest."

"Wherefore make so much sorrow now?" said the lady.

"I know not," answered he, "but my heart grieveth greatly for this poor
lady's death, so fair she was and young."

Then he required a hermit to bury the remains of the bodies, and bare the
lady's head with him to Camelot, to the court.

When he was arrived, he was sworn to tell the truth of his quest before
the King and Queen, and when he had entered the Queen somewhat upbraided
him, saying, "Ye were much to blame that ye saved not that lady's life."

"Madam," said he, "I shall repent it all my life."

"Ay, king," quoth Merlin, who suddenly came in, "and so ye ought to do,
for that lady was your daughter, not seen since infancy by thee. And she
was on her way to court, with a right good young knight, who would have
been her husband, but was slain by treachery of a felon knight, Lorraine
le Savage, as they came; and because thou wouldst not abide and help her,
thy best friend shall fail thee in thine hour of greatest need, for such
is the penance ordained thee for that deed."

Then did King Pellinore tell Merlin secretly of the treason he had heard
in the forest, and Merlin by his craft so ordered that the knight who bare
the poison was himself soon after slain by it, and so King Arthur's life
was saved.


_King Arthur and Sir Accolon of Gaul_

Being now happily married, King Arthur for a season took his pleasure,
with great tournaments, and jousts, and huntings. So once upon a time the
king and many of his knights rode hunting in a forest, and Arthur, King
Urience, and Sir Accolon of Gaul, followed after a great hart, and being
all three well mounted, they chased so fast that they outsped their
company, and left them many miles behind; but riding still as rapidly as
they could go, at length their horses fell dead under them. Then being all
three on foot, and seeing the stag not far before them, very weary and
nigh spent--"What shall we do," said King Arthur, "for we are hard
bested?" "Let us go on afoot," said King Urience, "till we can find some
lodging." At that they saw the stag lying upon the bank of a great lake,
with a hound springing at his throat, and many other hounds trooping
towards him. So, running forward, Arthur blew the death-note on his horn,
and slew the hart. Then lifting up his eyes he saw before him on the lake
a barge, all draped down to the water's edge, with silken folds and
curtains, which swiftly came towards him, and touched upon the sands; but
when he went up close and looked in, he saw no earthly creature. Then he
cried out to his companions, "Sirs, come ye hither, and let us see what
there is in this ship." So they all three went in, and found it everywhere
throughout furnished, and hung with rich draperies of silk and gold.

By this time eventide had come, when suddenly a hundred torches were set
up on all sides of the barge, and gave a dazzling light, and at the same
time came forth twelve fair damsels, and saluted King Arthur by his name,
kneeling on their knees, and telling him that he was welcome, and should
have their noblest cheer, for which the king thanked them courteously.
Then did they lead him and his fellows to a splendid chamber, where was a
table spread with all the richest furniture, and costliest wines and
viands; and there they served them with all kinds of wines and meats, till
Arthur wondered at the splendour of the feast, declaring he had never in
his life supped better, or more royally. After supper they led him to
another chamber, than which he had never beheld a richer, where he was
left to rest. King Urience, also, and Sir Accolon were each conducted into
rooms of like magnificence. And so they all three fell asleep, and being
very weary slept deeply all that night.

[Illustration: Came forth twelve fair damsels, and saluted King Arthur by
his name.]

But when the morning broke, King Urience found himself in his own house in
Camelot, he knew not how; and Arthur awaking found himself in a dark
dungeon, and heard around him nothing but the groans of woful knights,
prisoners like himself. Then said King Arthur, "Who are ye, thus groaning
and complaining?" And some one answered him, "Alas, we be all prisoners,
even twenty good knights, and some of us have lain here seven years--some
more--nor seen the light of day for all that time." "For what cause?" said
King Arthur. "Know ye not then yourself?" they answered--"we will soon
tell you. The lord of this strong castle is Sir Damas, and is the falsest
and most traitorous knight that liveth; and he hath a younger brother, a
good and noble knight, whose name is Outzlake. This traitor Damas,
although passing rich, will give his brother nothing of his wealth, and
save what Outzlake keepeth to himself by force, he hath no share of the
inheritance. He owneth, nevertheless, one fair rich manor, whereupon he
liveth, loved of all men far and near. But Damas is as altogether hated as
his brother is beloved, for he is merciless and cowardly: and now for many
years there hath been war between these brothers, and Sir Outzlake
evermore defieth Damas to come forth and fight with him, body to body, for
the inheritance; and if he be too cowardly, to find some champion knight
that will fight for him. And Damas hath agreed to find some champion, but
never yet hath found a knight to take his evil cause in hand, or wager
battle for him. So with a strong band of men-at-arms he lieth ever in
ambush, and taketh captive every passing knight who may unwarily go near,
and bringeth him into this castle, and desireth him either to fight Sir
Outzlake, or to lie for evermore in durance. And thus hath he dealt with
all of us, for we all scorned to take up such a cause for such a false
foul knight--but rather one by one came here, where many a good knight
hath died of hunger and disease. But if one of us would fight, Sir Damas
would deliver all the rest."

"God of his mercy send you deliverance," said King Arthur, and sat
turning in his mind how all these things should end, and how he might
himself gain freedom for so many noble hearts.

Anon there came a damsel to the king, saying, "Sir if thou wilt fight for
my lord thou shalt be delivered out of prison, but else nevermore shalt
thou escape with thy life." "Nay," said King Arthur, "that is but a hard
choice, yet had I rather fight than die in prison, and if I may deliver
not myself alone, but all these others, I will do the battle." "Yea," said
the damsel, "it shall be even so." "Then," said King Arthur, "I am ready
now, if but I had a horse and armour." "Fear not," said she, "that shalt
thou have presently, and shalt lack nothing proper for the fight." "Have I
not seen thee," said the king, "at King Arthur's court? for it seemeth
that thy face is known to me." "Nay," said the damsel, "I was never there;
I am Sir Damas' daughter, and have never been but a day's journey from
this castle." But she spoke falsely, for she was one of the damsels of
Morgan le Fay, the great enchantress, who was King Arthur's half-sister.

When Sir Damas knew that there had been at length a knight found who would
fight for him, he sent for Arthur, and finding him a man so tall and
strong, and straight of limb, he was passingly well pleased, and made a
covenant with him, that he should fight unto the uttermost for his cause,
and that all the other knights should be delivered. And when they were
sworn to each other on the holy gospels, all those imprisoned knights were
straightway led forth and delivered, but abode there one and all to see
the battle.

In the meanwhile there had happened to Sir Accolon of Gaul a strange
adventure; for when he awoke from his deep sleep upon the silken barge, he
found himself upon the edge of a deep well, and in instant peril of
falling thereinto. Whereat, leaping up in great affright, he crossed
himself and cried aloud, "May God preserve my lord King Arthur and King
Urience, for those damsels in the ship have betrayed us, and were
doubtless devils and no women; and if I may escape this misadventure, I
will certainly destroy them wheresoever I may find them." With that there
came to him a dwarf with a great mouth, and a flat nose, and saluted him,
saying that he came from Queen Morgan le Fay. "And she greeteth you well,"
said he, "and biddeth you be strong of heart, for to-morrow you shall do
battle with a strange knight, and therefore she hath sent you here
Excalibur, King Arthur's sword, and the scabbard likewise. And she
desireth you as you do love her to fight this battle to the uttermost, and
without any mercy, as you have promised her you would fight when she
should require it of you; and she will make a rich queen for ever of any
damsel that shall bring her that knight's head with whom you are to

"Well," said Sir Accolon, "tell you my lady Queen Morgan, that I shall
hold to that I promised her, now that I have this sword--and," said he, "I
suppose it was to bring about this battle that she made all these
enchantments by her craft." "You have guessed rightly," said the dwarf,
and therewithal he left him.

Then came a knight and lady, and six squires, to Sir Accolon, and took him
to a manor house hard by, and gave him noble cheer; and the house belonged
to Sir Outzlake, the brother of Sir Damas, for so had Morgan le Fay
contrived with her enchantments. Now Sir Outzlake himself was at that time
sorely wounded and disabled, having been pierced through both his thighs
by a spear-thrust. When, therefore, Sir Damas sent down messengers to his
brother, bidding him make ready by to-morrow morning, and be in the field
to fight with a good knight, for that he had found a champion ready to do
battle at all points, Sir Outzlake was sorely annoyed and distressed, for
he knew he had small chance of victory, while yet he was disabled by his
wounds; notwithstanding, he determined to take the battle in hand,
although he was so weak that he must needs be lifted to his saddle. But
when Sir Accolon of Gaul heard this, he sent a message to Sir Outzlake
offering to take the battle in his stead, which cheered Sir Outzlake
mightily, who thanked Sir Accolon with all his heart, and joyfully
accepted him.

So, on the morrow, King Arthur was armed and well horsed, and asked Sir
Damas, "When shall we go to the field?" "Sir," said Sir Damas, "you shall
first hear mass." And when mass was done, there came a squire on a great
horse, and asked Sir Damas if his knight were ready, "for our knight is
already in the field." Then King Arthur mounted on horseback, and there
around were all the knights, and barons, and people of the country; and
twelve of them were chosen to wait upon the two knights who were about to
fight. And as King Arthur sat on horseback, there came a damsel from
Morgan le Fay, and brought to him a sword, made like Excalibur, and a
scabbard also, and said to him, "Morgan le Fay sendeth you here your sword
for her great love's sake." And the king thanked her, and believed it to
be as she said; but she traitorously deceived him, for both sword and
scabbard were counterfeit, brittle, and false, and the true sword
Excalibur was in the hands of Sir Accolon. Then, at the sound of a
trumpet, the champions set themselves on opposite sides of the field, and
giving rein and spur to their horses urged them to so great a speed that
each smiting the other in the middle of the shield, rolled his opponent to
the ground, both horse and man. Then starting up immediately, both drew
their swords and rushed swiftly together. And so they fell to eagerly, and
gave each other many great and mighty strokes.

And as they were thus fighting, the damsel Vivien, lady of the lake, who
loved King Arthur, came upon the ground, for she knew by her enchantments
how Morgan le Fay had craftily devised to have King Arthur slain by his
own sword that day, and therefore came to save his life. And Arthur and
Sir Accolon were now grown hot against each other, and spared not strength
nor fury in their fierce assaults; but the king's sword gave way
continually before Sir Accolon's, so that at every stroke he was sore
wounded, and his blood ran from him so fast that it was a marvel he could
stand. When King Arthur saw the ground so sore be-blooded, he bethought
him in dismay that there was magic treason worked upon him, and that his
own true sword was changed, for it seemed to him that the sword in Sir
Accolon's hand was Excalibur, for fearfully it drew his blood at every
blow, while what he held himself kept no sharp edge, nor fell with any
force upon his foe.

"Now, knight, look to thyself, and keep thee well from me," cried out Sir
Accolon. But King Arthur answered not, and gave him such a buffet on the
helm as made him stagger and nigh fall upon the ground. Then Sir Accolon
withdrew a little, and came on with Excalibur on high, and smote King
Arthur in return with such a mighty stroke as almost felled him; and both
being now in hottest wrath, they gave each other grievous and savage
blows. But Arthur all the time was losing so much blood that scarcely
could he keep upon his feet yet so full was he of knighthood, that
knightly he endured the pain, and still sustained himself, though now he
was so feeble that he thought himself about to die. Sir Accolon, as yet,
had lost no drop of blood, and being very bold and confident in Excalibur,
even grew more vigorous and hasty in his assaults. But all men who beheld
them said they never saw a knight fight half so well as did King Arthur;
and all the people were so grieved for him that they besought Sir Damas
and Sir Outzlake to make up their quarrel and so stay the fight; but they
would not.

So still the battle raged, till Arthur drew a little back for breath and a
few moments' rest; but Accolon came on after him, following fiercely and
crying loud, "It is no time for me to suffer thee to rest," and therewith
set upon him. Then Arthur, full of scorn and rage, lifted up his sword and
struck Sir Accolon upon the helm so mightily that he drove him to his
knees; but with the force of that great stroke his brittle, treacherous
sword broke short off at the hilt, and fell down in the grass among the
blood, leaving the pommel only in his hand. At that, King Arthur thought
within himself that all was over, and secretly prepared his mind for
death, yet kept himself so knightly sheltered by his shield that he lost
no ground, and made as though he yet had hope and cheer. Then said Sir
Accolon, "Sir knight, thou now art overcome and canst endure no longer,
seeing thou art weaponless, and hast lost already so much blood. Yet am I
fully loth to slay thee; yield, then, therefore, to me as recreant."
"Nay," said King Arthur, "that may I not, for I have promised to do battle
to the uttermost by the faith of my body while my life lasteth; and I had
rather die with honour than live with shame; and if it were possible for
me to die an hundred times, I had rather die as often than yield me to
thee, for though I lack weapons, I shall lack no worship, and it shall be
to thy shame to slay me weaponless." "Aha," shouted then Sir Accolon, "as
for the shame, I will not spare; look to thyself, sir knight, for thou art
even now but a dead man." Therewith he drove at him with pitiless force,
and struck him nearly down; but Arthur evermore waxing in valour as he
waned in blood, pressed on Sir Accolon with his shield, and hit at him so
fiercely with the pommel in his hand, as hurled him three strides

This, therefore, so confused Sir Accolon, that rushing up, all dizzy, to
deliver once again a furious blow, even as he struck, Excalibur, by
Vivien's magic, fell from out his hands upon the earth. Beholding which,
King Arthur lightly sprang to it, and grasped it, and forthwith felt it
was his own good sword, and said to it, "Thou hast been from me all too
long, and done me too much damage." Then spying the scabbard hanging by
Sir Accolon's side, he sprang and pulled it from him, and cast it away as
far as he could throw it; for so long as he had worn it, Arthur new his
life would have been kept secure. "Oh, knight!" then said the king, "thou
hast this day wrought me much damage by this sword, but now art thou come
to thy death, for I shall not warrant thee but that thou shalt suffer, ere
we part, somewhat of that thou hast made me suffer." And therewithal King
Arthur flew at him with all his might, and pulled him to the earth, and
then struck off his helm, and gave him on the head a fearful buffet, till
the blood leaped forth. "Now will I slay thee!" cried King Arthur; for his
heart was hardened, and his body all on fire with fever, till for a moment
he forgot his knightly mercy. "Slay me thou mayest," said Sir Accolon,
"for thou art the best knight I ever found, and I see well that God is
with thee; and I, as thou hast, have promised to fight this battle to the
uttermost, and never to be recreant while I live; therefore shall I never
yield me with my mouth, and God must do with my body what he will." And as
Sir Accolon spoke, King Arthur thought he knew his voice; and parting all
his blood-stained hair from out his eyes, and leaning down towards him,
saw, indeed, it was his friend and own true knight. Then said he--keeping
his own visor down--"I pray thee tell me of what country art thou, and
what court?" "Sir knight," he answered, "I am of King Arthur's court, and
my name is Sir Accolon of Gaul." Then said the king, "Oh, sir knight! I
pray thee tell me who gave thee this sword? and from whom thou hadst it?"

Then said Sir Accolon, "Woe worth this sword, for by it I have gotten my
death. This sword hath been in my keeping now for almost twelve months,
and yesterday Queen Morgan le Fay, wife of King Urience, sent it to me by
a dwarf, that therewith I might in some way slay her brother, King Arthur;
for thou must understand that King Arthur is the man she hateth most in
all the world, being full of envy and jealousy because he is of greater
worship and renown than any other of her blood. She loveth me also as much
as she doth hate him; and if she might contrive to slay King Arthur by her
craft and magic, then would she straightway kill her husband also, and
make me the king of all this land, and herself my queen, to reign with me;
but now," said he, "all that is over, for this day I am come to my death."

"It would have been sore treason of thee to destroy thy lord," said
Arthur. "Thou sayest truly," answered he; "but now that I have told thee,
and openly confessed to thee all that foul treason whereof I now do
bitterly repent, tell me, I pray thee, whence art thou, and of what
court?" "O, Sir Accolon!" said King Arthur, "learn that I am myself King
Arthur." When Sir Accolon heard this he cried aloud, "Alas, my gracious
lord! have mercy on me, for I knew thee not." "Thou shalt have mercy,"
said he, "for thou knewest not my person at this time; and though by thine
own confession thou art a traitor, yet do I blame thee less, because thou
hast been blinded by the false crafts of my sister Morgan le Fay, whom I
have trusted more than all others of my kin, and whom I now shall know
well how to punish." Then did Sir Accolon cry loudly, "O, lords, and all
good people! this noble knight that I have fought with is the noblest and
most worshipful in all the world; for it is King Arthur, our liege lord
and sovereign king; and full sorely I repent that I have ever lifted lance
against him, though in ignorance I did it."

Then all the people fell down on their knees and prayed the pardon of the
king for suffering him to come to such a strait. But he replied, "Pardon
ye cannot have, for, truly, ye have nothing sinned; but here ye see what
ill adventure may ofttimes befall knights-errant, for to my own hurt, and
his danger also, I have fought with one of my own knights."

Then the king commanded Sir Damas to surrender to his brother the whole
manor, Sir Outzlake only yielding him a palfrey every year; "for," said he
scornfully, "it would become thee better to ride on than a courser;" and
ordered Damas, upon pain of death, never again to touch or to distress
knights-errant riding on their adventures; and also to make full
compensation and satisfaction to the twenty knights whom he had held in
prison. "And if any of them," said the king, "come to my court complaining
that he hath not had full satisfaction of thee for his injuries, by my
head, thou shalt die therefor."

Afterwards, King Arthur asked Sir Outzlake to come with him to his court,
where he should become a knight of his, and, if his deeds were noble, be
advanced to all he might desire.

So then he took his leave of all the people and mounted upon horseback,
and Sir Accolon went with him to an abbey hard by, where both their wounds
were dressed. But Sir Accolon died within four days after. And when he was
dead, the king sent his body to Queen Morgan, to Camelot, saying that he
sent her a present in return for the sword Excalibur which she had sent
him by the damsel.

So, on the morrow, there came a damsel from Queen Morgan to the king, and
brought with her the richest mantle that ever was seen, for it was set as
full of precious stones as they could stand against each other, and they
were the richest stones that ever the king saw. And the damsel said, "Your
sister sendeth you this mantle, and prayeth you to take her gift, and in
whatsoever thing she hath offended you, she will amend it at your
pleasure." To this the king replied not, although the mantle pleased him
much. With that came in the lady of the lake, and said, "Sir, put not on
this mantle till thou hast seen more; and in nowise let it be put upon
thee, or any of thy knights, till ye have made the bringer of it first put
it on her." "It shall be done as thou dost counsel," said the king. Then
said he to the damsel that came from his sister, "Damsel, I would see this
mantle ye have brought me upon yourself." "Sir," said she, "it will not
beseem me to wear a knight's garment." "By my head," said King Arthur,
"thou shall wear it ere it go on any other person's back!" And so they put
it on her by force, and forthwith the garment burst into a flame and
burned the damsel into cinders. When the king saw that, he hated that
false witch Morgan le Fay with all his heart, and evermore was deadly
quarrel between her and Arthur to their lives' end.


_King Arthur conquers Rome, and is crowned Emperor_

And now again the second time there came ambassadors from Lucius Tiberius,
Emperor of Rome, demanding, under pain of war, tribute and homage from
King Arthur, and the restoration of all Gaul, which he had conquered from
the tribune Flollo.

When they had delivered their message, the king bade them withdraw while
he consulted with his knights and barons what reply to send. Then some of
the younger knights would have slain the ambassadors, saying that their
speech was a rebuke to all who heard the king insulted by it. But when
King Arthur heard that, he ordered none to touch them upon pain of death;
and sending officers, he had them taken to a noble lodging, and there
entertained with the best cheer. "And," said he, "let no dainty be spared,
for the Romans are great lords; and though their message please me not,
yet must I remember mine honour."

Then the lords and knights of the Round Table were called on to declare
their counsel--what should be done upon this matter; and Sir Cador of
Cornwall speaking first, said, "Sir, this message is the best news I have
heard for a long time, for we have been now idle and at rest for many
days, and I trust that thou wilt make sharp war upon the Romans, wherein,
I doubt not, we shall all gain honour."

"I believe well," said Arthur, "that thou art pleased, Sir Cador; but that
is scarce an answer to the Emperor of Rome, and his demand doth grieve me
sorely, for truly I will never pay him tribute; wherefore, lords, I pray
ye counsel me. Now, I have understood that Belinus and Brennius, knights
of Britain, held the Roman Empire in their hands for many days, and also
Constantine, the son of Helen, which is open evidence, not only that we
owe Rome no tribute, but that I, being descended from them, may, of right,
myself claim the empire."

Then said King Anguish of Scotland, "Sir, thou oughtest of right to be
above all other kings, for in all Christendom is there not thine equal;
and I counsel thee never to obey the Romans. For when they reigned here
they grievously distressed us, and put the land to great and heavy
burdens; and here, for my part, I swear to avenge me on them when I may,
and will furnish thee with twenty thousand men-at-arms, whom I will pay
and keep, and who shall wait on thee with me, when it shall please thee."

Then the King of Little Britain rose and promised King Arthur thirty
thousand men; and likewise many other kings, and dukes, and barons,
promised aid--as the lord of West Wales thirty thousand men, Sir Ewaine
and his cousin thirty thousand men, and so forth; Sir Lancelot also, and
every other knight of the Round Table, promised each man a great host.

So the king, passing joyful at their courage and good will, thanked them
all heartily, and sent for the ambassadors again, to hear his answer. "I
will," said he, "that ye now go back straightway unto the Emperor your
master and tell him that I give no heed to his words, for I have conquered
all my kingdoms by the will of God and by my own right arm, and I am
strong enough to keep them, without paying tribute to any earthly
creature. But, on the other hand, I claim both tribute and submission from
himself, and also claim the sovereignty of all his empire, whereto I am
entitled by the right of my own ancestors--sometime kings of this land.
And say to him that I will shortly come to Rome, and by God's grace will
take possession of my empire and subdue all rebels. Wherefore, lastly, I
command him and all the lords of Rome that they forthwith pay me their
homage, under pain of my chastisement and wrath."

Then he commanded his treasurers to give the ambassadors great gifts, and
defray all their charges, and appointed Sir Cador to convey them
worshipfully out of the land.

So when they returned to Rome and came before Lucius, he was sore angry at
their words, and said, "I thought this Arthur would have instantly obeyed
my orders and have served me as humbly as any other king; but because of
his fortune in Gaul, he hath grown insolent."

"Ah, lord," said one of the ambassadors, "refrain from such vain words,
for truly I and all with me were fearful at his royal majesty and angry
countenance. I fear me thou hast made a rod for thee more sharp than thou
hast counted on. He meaneth to be master of this empire; and is another
kind of man than thou supposest, and holdeth the most noble court of all
the world. We saw him on the new year's day, served at his table by nine
kings, and the noblest company of other princes, lords, and knights that
ever was in all the world; and in his person he is the most manly-seeming
man that liveth, and looketh like to conquer all the earth."

Then Lucius sent messengers to all the subject countries of Rome, and
brought together a mighty army, and assembled sixteen kings, and many
dukes, princes, lords, and admirals, and a wondrous great multitude of
people. Fifty giants also, born of fiends, were set around him for a
body-guard. With all that host he straightway went from Rome, and passed
beyond the mountains into Gaul, and burned the towns and ravaged all the
country of that province, in rage for its submission to King Arthur. Then
he moved on towards Little Britain.

Meanwhile, King Arthur having held a parliament at York, left the realm in
charge of Sir Badewine and Sir Constantine, and crossed the sea from
Sandwich to meet Lucius. And so soon as he was landed, he sent Sir Gawain,
Sir Bors, Sir Lionel, and Sir Bedivere to the Emperor, commanding him "to
move swiftly and in haste out of his land, and, if not, to make himself
ready for battle, and not continue ravaging the country and slaying
harmless people." Anon, those noble knights attired themselves and set
forth on horseback to where they saw, in a meadow, many silken tents of
divers colours, and the Emperor's pavilion in the midst, with a golden
eagle set above it.

Then Sir Gawain and Sir Bors rode forward, leaving the other two behind
in ambush, and gave King Arthur's message. To which the Emperor replied,
"Return, and tell your lord that I am come to conquer him and all his

At this, Sir Gawain burned with anger, and cried out, "I had rather than
all France that I might fight with thee alone!"

"And I also," said Sir Bors.

Then a knight named Ganius, a near cousin of the Emperor, laughed out
aloud, and said, "Lo! how these Britons boast and are full of pride,
bragging as though they bare up all the world!"

At these words, Sir Gawain could refrain no longer, but drew forth his
sword and with one blow shore oft Ganius' head; then with Sir Bors, he
turned his horse and rode over waters and through woods, back to the
ambush, where Sir Lionel and Sir Bedivere were waiting. The Romans
followed fast behind them till the knights turned and stood, and then Sir
Bors smote the foremost of them through the body with a spear, and slew
him on the spot. Then came on Calibere, a huge Pavian, but Sir Bors
overthrew him also. And then the company of Sir Lionel and Sir Bedivere
brake from their ambush and fell on the Romans, and slew and hewed them
down, and forced them to return and flee, chasing them to their tents.

But as they neared the camp, a great host more rushed forth, and turned
the battle backwards, and in the turmoil, Sir Bors and Sir Berel fell into
the Romans' hands. When Sir Gawain saw that, he drew his good sword
Galotine, and swore to see King Arthur's face no more if those two knights
were not delivered; and then, with good Sir Idrus, made so sore an
onslaught that the Romans fled and left Sir Bors and Sir Berel to their
friends. So the Britons returned in triumph to King Arthur, having slain
more than ten thousand Romans, and lost no man of worship from amongst

When the Emperor Lucius heard of that discomfiture he arose, with all his
army, to crush King Arthur, and met him in the vale of Soissons. Then
speaking to all his host, he said, "Sirs, I admonish you that this day ye
fight and acquit yourselves as men; and remembering how Rome is chief of
all the earth, and mistress of the universal world, suffer not these
barbarous and savage Britons to abide our onset." At that, the trumpets
blew so loud, that the ground trembled and shook.

Then did the rival hosts draw near each other with great shoutings; and
when they closed, no tongue can tell the fury of their smiting, and the
sore struggling, wounds, and slaughter. Then King Arthur, with his
mightiest knights, rode down into the thickest of the fight, and drew
Excalibur, and slew as lightning slays for swiftness and for force. And in
the midmost crowd he met a giant, Galapas by name, and struck off both his
legs at the knee-joints; then saying, "Now art thou a better size to deal
with!" smote his head off at a second blow: and the body killed six men in
falling down.

Anon, King Arthur spied where Lucius fought and worked great deeds of
prowess with his own hands. Forthwith he rode at him, and each attacked
the other passing fiercely; till at the last, Lucius struck King Arthur
with a fearful wound across the face, and Arthur, in return, lifting up
Excalibur on high, drove it with all his force upon the Emperor's head,
shivering his helmet, crashing his head in halves, and splitting his body
to the breast. And when the Romans saw their Emperor dead they fled in
hosts of thousands; and King Arthur and his knights, and all his army
followed them, and slew one hundred thousand men.

Then returning to the field, King Arthur rode to the place where Lucius
lay dead, and round him the kings of Egypt and Ethiopia, and seventeen
other kings, with sixty Roman senators, all noble men. All these he
ordered to be carefully embalmed with aromatic gums, and laid in leaden
coffins, covered with their shields and arms and banners. Then calling for
three senators who were taken prisoners, he said to them, "As the ransom
of your lives, I will that ye take these dead bodies and carry them to
Rome, and there present them for me, with these letters saying I will
myself be shortly there. And I suppose the Romans will beware how they
again ask tribute of me; for tell them, these dead bodies that I send them
are for the tribute they have dared to ask of me; and if they wish for
more, when I come I will pay them the rest."

So, with that charge, the three senators departed with the dead bodies,
and went to Rome; the body of the Emperor being carried in a chariot
blazoned with the arms of the empire, all alone, and the bodies of the
kings two and two in chariots following.

After the battle, King Arthur entered Lorraine, Brabant, and Flanders, and
thence, subduing all the countries as he went, passed into Germany, and so
beyond the mountains into Lombardy and Tuscany. At length he came before a
city which refused to obey him, wherefore he sat down before it to besiege
it. And after a long time thus spent, King Arthur called Sir Florence,
and told him they began to lack food for his hosts--"And not far from
hence," said he, "are great forests full of cattle belonging to my
enemies. Go then, and bring by force all that thou canst find; and take
with thee Sir Gawain, my nephew, and Sir Clegis, Sir Claremond the Captain
of Cardiff, and a strong band."

Anon, those knights made ready, and rode over holts and hills, and through
forests and woods, till they came to a great meadow full of fair flowers
and grass, and there they rested themselves and their horses that night.
And at the dawn of the next day, Sir Gawain took his horse and rode away
from his fellows to seek some adventure. Soon he saw an armed knight
walking his horse by a wood's side, with his shield laced to his shoulder,
and no attendant with him save a page, bearing a mighty spear; and on his
shield were blazoned three gold griffins. When Sir Gawain spied him, he
put his spear in rest, and riding straight to him, asked who he was. "A
Tuscan," said he; "and they mayest prove me when thou wilt, for thou shalt
be my prisoner ere we part."

Then said Sir Gawain, "Thou vauntest thee greatly, and speakest proud
words; yet I counsel thee, for all thy boastings, look to thyself the best
thou canst."

At that they took their spears and ran at each other with all the might
they had, and smote each other through their shields into their shoulders;
and then drawing swords smote with great strokes, till the fire sprang out
of their helms. Then was Sir Gawain enraged, and with his good sword
Galotine struck his enerny through shield and hauberk, and splintered into
pieces all the precious stones of it, and made so huge a wound that men
might see both lungs and liver. At that the Tuscan, groaning loudly,
rushed on to Sir Gawain, and gave him a deep slanting stroke, and made a
mighty wound and cut a great vein asunder, so that he bled fast. Then he
cried out, "Bind thy wound quickly up, Sir knight, for thou be-bloodest
all thy horse and thy fair armour, and all the surgeons of the world shall
never staunch thy blood; for so shall it be to whomsoever is hurt with
this good sword."

Then answered Sir Gawain, "It grieveth me but little, and thy boastful
words give me no fear, for thou shalt suffer greater grief and sorrow ere
we part; but tell me quickly who can staunch this blood."

"That can I do," said the strange knight, "and will, if thou wilt aid and
succour me to become christened, and to believe on God, which now I do
require of thee upon thy manhood."

"I am content," said Sir Gawain; "and may God help me to grant all thy
wishes. But tell mefirst, what soughtest thou thus here alone, and of what
land art thou?"

"Sir," said the knight, "my name is Prianius, and my father is a great
prince, who hath rebelled against Rome. He is descended from Alexander and
Hector, and of our lineage also were Joshua and Maccabaeus. I am of right
the king of Alexandria, and Africa, and all the outer isles, yet I would
believe in the Lord thou worshippest, and for thy labour I will give thee
treasure enough. I was so proud in heart that I thought none my equal, but
now have I encountered with thee, who hast given me my fill of fighting;
wherefore, I pray thee, Sir knight, tell me of thyself."

"I am no knight," said Sir Gawain; "I have been brought up many years in
the wardrobe of the noble prince King Arthur, to mind his armour and

"Ah," said Prianius, "if his varlets be so keen and fierce, his knights
must be passing good! Now, for the love of heaven, whether thou be knight
or knave, tell me thy name."

"By heaven!" said Gawain, "now will I tell thee the truth. My name is Sir
Gawain, and I am a knight of the Round Table."

"Now am I better pleased," said Prianius, "than if thou hadst given me all
the province of Paris the rich. I had rather have been torn by wild horses
than that any varlet should have won such victory over me as thou hast
done. But now, Sir knight, I warn thee that close by is the Duke of
Lorraine, with sixty thousand good men of war; and we had both best flee
at once, for he will find us else, and we be sorely wounded and never
likely to recover. And let my page be careful that he blow no horn, for
hard by are a hundred knights, my servants; and if they seize thee, no
ransom of gold or silver would acquit thee."

Then Sir Gawain rode over a river to save himself, and Sir Prianius after
him, and so they both fled till they came to his companions who were in
the meadow, where they spent the night. When Sir Whishard saw Sir Gawain
so hurt, he ran to him weeping, and asked him who it was had wounded him;
and Sir Gawain told him how he had fought with that man--pointing to
Prianius--who had salves to heal them both. "But I can tell ye other
tidings," said he--"that soon we must encounter many enemies, for a great
army is close to us in our front."

Then Prianius and Sir Gawain alighted and let their horses graze while
they unarmed, and when they took their armour and their clothing off, the
hot blood ran down freshly from their wounds till it was piteous to see.
But Prianius took from his page a vial filled from the four rivers that
flow out of Paradise, and anointed both their wounds with a certain balm,
and washed them with that water, and within an hour afterwards they were
both as sound and whole as ever they had been. Then, at the sound of a
trumpet, all the knights were assembled to council; and after much
talking, Prianius said, "Cease your words, for I warn you in yonder wood
ye shall find knights out of number, who will put out cattle for a decoy
to lead you on; and ye are not seven hundred!"

"Nevertheless," said Sir Gawain, "let us at once encounter them, and see
what they can do; and may the best have the victory."

Then they saw suddenly an earl named Sir Ethelwold, and the Duke of
Duchmen come leaping out of ambush of the woods in front, with many a
thousand after them, and all rode straight down to the battle. And Sir
Gawain, full of ardour and courage, comforted his knights, saying, "They
all are ours." Then the seven hundred knights, in one close company, set
spurs to their horses and began to gallop, and fiercely met their enemies.
And then were men and horses slain and overthrown on every side, and in
and out amidst them all, the knights of the Round Table pressed and
thrust, and smote down to the earth all who withstood them, till at length
the whole of them turned back and fled.

"By heaven!" said Sir Gawain, "this gladdeneth well my heart, for now
behold them as they flee! they are full seventy thousand less in number
than they were an hour ago!"

Thus was the battle quickly ended, and a great host of high lords and
knights of Lombardy and Saracens left dead upon the field. Then Sir Gawain
and his company collected a great plenty of cattle, and of gold and
silver, and all kind of treasure, and returned to King Arthur, where he
still kept the siege.

"Now God be thanked," cried he; "but who is he that standeth yonder by
himself, and seemeth not a prisoner?"

"Sir," said Sir Gawain, "he is a good man with his weapons, and hath
matched me; but cometh hither to be made a Christian. Had it not been for
his warnings, we none of us should have been here this day. I pray thee,
therefore, let him be baptized, for there can be few nobler men, or better

So Prianius was christened, and made a duke and knight of the Round Table.

[Illustration: Prianius was christened, and made a duke and knight of the
Round Table.]

Presently afterwards, they made a last attack upon the city, and entered
by the walls on every side; and as the men were rushing to the pillage,
came the Duchess forth, with many ladies and damsels, and kneeled before
King Arthur; and besought him to receive their submission. To whom the
king made answer, with a noble countenance, "Madam, be well assured that
none shall harm ye, or your ladies; neither shall any that belong to thee
be hurt; but the Duke must abide my judgment." Then he commanded to stay
the assault and took the keys from the Duke's eldest son, who brought them
kneeling. Anon the Duke was sent a prisoner to Dover for his life, and
rents and taxes were assigned for dowry of the Duchess and her children.

Then went he on with all his hosts, winning all towns and castles, and
wasting them that refused obedience, till he came to Viterbo. From thence
he sent to Rome, to ask the senators whether they would receive him for
their lord and governor. In answer, came out to him all the Senate who
remained alive, and the Cardinals, with a majestic retinue and procession;
and laying great treasures at his feet, they prayed him to come in at once
to Rome, and there be peaceably crowned as Emperor. "At this next
Christmas," said King Arthur, "will I be crowned, and hold my Round Table
in your city."

Anon he entered Rome, in mighty pomp and state; and after him came all his
hosts, and his knights, and princes, and great lords, arrayed in gold and
jewels, such as never were beheld before. And then was he crowned Emperor
by the Pope's hands, with all the highest solemnity that could be made.

Then after his coronation, he abode in Rome for a season, settling his
lands and giving kingdoms to his knights and servants, to each one after
his deserving, and in such wise fashion that no man among them all
complained. Also he made many dukes and earls, and loaded all his
men-at-arms with riches and great treasures.

When all this was done, the lords and knights, and all the men of great
estate, came together before him, and said, "Noble Emperor! by the
blessing of Eternal God, thy mortal warfare is all finished, and thy
conquests all achieved; for now in all the world is none so great and
mighty as to dare make war with thee. Wherefore we beseech and heartily
pray thee of thy noble grace, to turn thee homeward, and to give us also
leave to see our wives and homes again, for now we have been from them a
long season, and all thy journey is completed with great honour and

"Ye say well," replied he, "and to tempt God is no wisdom; therefore make
ready in all haste, and turn we home to England."

So King Arthur returned with his knights and lords and armies, in great
triumph and joy, through all the countries he had conquered, and commanded
that no man, upon pain of death, should rob or do any violence by the way.
And crossing the sea, he came at length to Sandwich, where Queen Guinevere
received him, and made great joy at his arrival. And through all the realm
of Britain was there such rejoicing as no tongue can tell.


_The Adventures of Sir Lancelot du Lake_

Then, at the following Pentecost, was held a feast of the Round Table at
Caerleon, with high splendour; and all the knights thereof resorted to the
court, and held many games and jousts. And therein Sir Lancelot increased
in fame and worship above all men, for he overthrew all comers, and never
was unhorsed or worsted, save by treason and enchantment.

When Queen Guinevere had seen his wondrous feats, she held him in great
favour, and smiled more on him than on any other knight. And ever since he
first had gone to bring her to King Arthur, had Lancelot thought on her as
fairest of all ladies, and done his best to win her grace. So the queen
often sent for him, and bade him tell of his birth and strange adventures:
how he was only son of great King Ban of Brittany, and how, one night, his
father, with his mother Helen and himself, fled from his burning castle;
how his father, groaning deeply, fell to the ground and died of grief and
wounds, and how his mother, running to her husband, left himself alone;
how, as he thus lay wailing, came the lady of the lake, and took him in
her arms and went with him into the midst of the waters, where, with his
cousins Lionel and Bors he had been cherished all his childhood until he
came to King Arthur's court; and how this was the reason why men called
him Lancelot du Lake.

Anon it was ordained by King Arthur, that in every year at Pentecost there
should be held a festival of all the knights of the Round Table at
Caerleon, or such other place as he should choose. And at those festivals
should be told publicly the most famous adventures of any knight during
the past year.

So, when Sir Lancelot saw Queen Guinevere rejoiced to hear his wanderings
and adventures, he resolved to set forth yet again, and win more worship
still, that he might more increase her favour. Then he bade his cousin Sir
Lionel make ready, "for," said he, "we two will seek adventure." So they
mounted their horses--armed at all points--and rode into a vast forest;
and when they had passed through it, they came to a great plain, and the
weather being very hot about noontide, Sir Lancelot greatly longed to
sleep. Then Sir Lionel espied a great apple-tree standing by a hedge, and
said, "Brother, yonder is a fair shadow where we may rest ourselves and

"I am full glad of it," said Sir Lancelot, "for all these seven years I
have not been so sleepy."

So they alighted there, and tied their horses up to sundry trees; and Sir
Lionel waked and watched while Sir Lancelot fell asleep, and slept passing

In the meanwhile came three knights, riding as fast flying as ever they
could ride, and after them followed a single knight; but when Sir Lionel
looked at him, he thought he had never seen so great and strong a man, or
so well furnished and apparelled. Anon he saw him overtake the last of
those who fled, and smite him to the ground; then came he to the second,
and smote him such a stroke that horse and man went to the earth; then
rode he to the third, likewise, and struck him off his horse more than a
spear's length. With that he lighted from his horse, and bound all three
knights fast with the reins of their own bridles.

When Sir Lionel saw this he thought the time was come to prove himself
against him, so quietly and cautiously, lest he should wake Sir Lancelot,
he took his horse and mounted and rode after him. Presently overtaking
him, he cried aloud to him to turn, which instantly he did, and smote Sir
Lionel so hard that horse and man went down forthwith. Then took he up Sir
Lionel, and threw him bound over his own horse's back; and so he served
the three other knights, and rode them away to his own castle. There they
were disarmed, stripped naked, and beaten with thorns, and afterwards
thrust into a deep prison, where many more knights, also, made great moans
and lamentations, saying, "Alas, alas! there is no man can help us but Sir
Lancelot, for no other knight can match this tyrant Turquine, our

But all this while, Sir Lancelot lay sleeping soundly under the
apple-tree. And, as it chanced, there passed that way four queens, of high
estate, riding upon four white mules, under four canopies of green silk
borne on spears, to keep them from the sun. As they rode thus, they heard
a great horse grimly neigh, and, turning them about, soon saw a sleeping
knight that lay all armed under an apple-tree; and when they saw his
face, they knew it was Lancelot of the Lake.

Then they began to strive which of them should have the care of him. But
Queen Morgan le Fay, King Arthur's half sister, the great sorceress, was
one of them, and said "We need not strive for him, I have enchanted him,
so that for six hours more he shall not wake. Let us take him to my
castle, and, when he wakes, himself shall choose which one of us he would
rather serve." So Sir Lancelot was laid upon his shield and borne on
horseback between two knights, to the castle, and there laid in a cold
chamber, till the spell should pass.

Anon, they sent him a fair damsel, bearing his supper, who asked him,
"What cheer?"

"I cannot tell, fair damsel," said he, "for I know not how I came into
this castle, if it were not by enchantment."

"Sir," said she, "be of good heart, and to-morrow at the dawn of day, ye
shall know more."

And so she left him alone, and there he lay all night. In the morning
early came the four queens to him, passing richly dressed; and said, "Sir
knight, thou must understand that thou art our prisoner, and that we know
thee well for King Ban's son, Sir Lancelot du Lake. And though we know
full well there is one lady only in this world may have thy love, and she
Queen Guinevere--King Arthur's wife--yet now are we resolved to have thee
to serve one of us; choose, therefore, of us four which thou wilt serve. I
am Queen Morgan le Fay, Queen of the land of Gore, and here also is the
Queen of Northgales, and the Queen of Eastland, and the Queen of the Out
Isles. Choose, then, at once, for else shall thou abide here, in this
prison, till thy death."

"It is a hard case," said Sir Lancelot, "that either I must die, or choose
one of you for my mistress! Yet had I rather die in this prison than serve
any living creature against my will. So take this for my answer. I will
serve none of ye, for ye be false enchantresses. And as for my lady, Queen
Guinevere, whom lightly ye have spoken of, were I at liberty I would prove
it upon you or upon yours she is the truest lady living to her lord the

"Well," said the queen, "is this your answer, that ye refuse us all?"

"Yea, on my life," said Lancelot, "refused ye be of me."

So they departed from him in great wrath, and left him sorrowfully
grieving in his dungeon.

At noon the damsel came to him and brought his dinner, and asked him as
before, "What cheer?"

"Truly, fair damsel," said Sir Lancelot, "in all my life never so ill."

"Sir," replied she, "I grieve to see ye so, but if ye do as I advise, I
can help ye out of this distress, and will do so if you promise me a

"Fair damsel," said Sir Lancelot, "right willingly will I grant it thee,
for sorely do I dread these four witch-queens, who have destroyed and
slain many a good knight with their enchantments."

Then said the damsel, "Sir, wilt thou promise me to help my father on next
Tuesday, for he hath a tournament with the King of Northgales, and last
Tuesday lost the field through three knights of King Arthur's court, who
came against him. And if next Tuesday thou wilt aid him, to-morrow,
before daylight, by God's grace, I will deliver thee."

"Fair maiden," said Sir Lancelot, "tell me thy father's name and I will
answer thee."

"My father is King Bagdemagus," said she.

"I know him well," replied Sir Lancelot, "for a noble king and a good
knight; and by the faith of my body I will do him all the service I am
able on that day."

"Grammercy to thee, Sir knight," said the damsel.

"To-morrow, when thou art delivered from this place, ride ten miles hence
unto an abbey of white monks, and there abide until I bring my father to

"So be it," said Sir Lancelot, "as I am a true knight."

So she departed, and on the morrow, early, came again, and let him out of
twelve gates, differently locked, and brought him to his armour; and when
he was all armed, she brought him his horse also, and lightly he saddled
him, and took a great spear in his hand, and mounted and rode forth,
saying, as he went, "Fair damsel, I shall not fail thee, by the grace of

And all that day he rode in a great forest, and could find no highway, and
spent the night in the wood; but the next morning found his road, and came
to the abbey of white monks. And there he saw King Bagdemagus and his
daughter waiting for him. So when they were together in a chamber, Sir
Lancelot told the king how he had been betrayed by an enchantment, and how
his brother Lionel was gone he knew not where, and how the damsel had
delivered him from the castle of Queen Morgan le Fay. "Wherefore while I
live," said he, "I shall do service to herself and all her kindred."

"Then am I sure of thy aid," said the king, "on Tuesday now next coming?"

"Yea, sir, I shall not fail thee," said Sir Lancelot; "but what knights
were they who last week defeated thee, and took part with the King of

"Sir Mador de la Port, Sir Modred, and Sir Gahalatine," replied the king.

"Sir," said Sir Lancelot, "as I understand, the tournament shall take
place but three miles from this abbey; send then to me here, three knights
of thine, the best thou hast, and let them all have plain white shields,
such as I also will; then will we four come suddenly into the midst
between both parties, and fall upon thy enemies, and grieve them all we
can, and none will know us who we are."

So, on the Tuesday, Sir Lancelot and the three knights lodged themselves
in a small grove hard by the lists. Then came into the field the King of
Northgales, with one hundred and sixty helms, and the three knights of
King Arthur's court, who stood apart by themselves. And when King
Bagdemagus had arrived, with eighty helms, both companies set all their
spears in rest and came together with a mighty clash, wherein were slain
twelve knights of King Bagdemagus, and six of the King of Northgales; and
the party of King Bagdemagus was driven back.

With that, came Sir Lancelot, and thrust into the thickest of the press,
and smote down with one spear five knights, and brake the backs of four,
and cast down the King of Northgales, and brake his thigh by the fall.
When the three knights of Arthur's court saw this, they rode at Sir
Lancelot, and each after other attacked him; but he overthrew them all,
and smote them nigh to death. Then taking a new spear, he bore down to the
ground sixteen more knights, and hurt them all so sorely, that they could
carry arms no more that day. And when his spear at length was broken, he
took yet another, and smote down twelve knights more, the most of whom he
wounded mortally, till in the end the party of the King of Northgales
would joust no more, and the victory was cried to King Bagdemagus.

[Illustration: Sir Lancelot smote down with one spear five knights, and
brake the backs of four, and cast down the King of Northgales.]

Then Sir Lancelot rode forth with King Bagdemagus to his castle, and there
he feasted with great cheer and welcome, and received many royal gifts.
And on the morrow he took leave and went to find his brother Lionel.

Anon, by chance, he came to the same forest where the four queens had
found him sleeping, and there he met a damsel riding on a white palfrey.
When they had saluted each other, Sir Lancelot said, "Fair damsel, knowest
thou where any adventures may be had in this country?"

"Sir knight," said she, "there are adventures great enough close by if
thou darest prove them."

"Why should I not," said he, "since for that cause I came here?"

"Sir," said the damsel, "hard by this place there dwelleth a knight that
cannot be defeated by any man, so great and perilously strong he is. His
name is Sir Turquine, and in the prisons of his castle lie three score
knights and four, mostly from King Arthur's court, whom he hath taken with
his own hands. But promise me, ere thou undertakest their deliverance, to
go and help me afterwards, and free me and many other ladies that are
distressed by a false knight." "Bring me but to this felon Turquine,"
quoth Sir Lancelot, "and I will afterwards fulfil all your wishes."

So the damsel went before, and brought him to a ford, and a tree whereon a
great brass basin hung; and Sir Lancelot beat with his spear-end upon the
basin, long and hard, until he beat the bottom of it out, but he saw
nothing. Then he rode to and fro before the castle gates for well-nigh
half an hour, and anon saw a great knight riding from the distance,
driving a horse before him, across which hung an armed man bound. And when
they came near, Sir Lancelot knew the prisoner for a knight of the Round
Table. By that time, the great knight who drove the prisoner saw Sir
Lancelot, and each of them began to settle his spear, and to make ready.

"Fair sir," then said Sir Lancelot, "put off that wounded knight, I pray
thee, from his horse, and let him rest while thou and I shall prove our
strength upon each other; for, as I am told, thou doest, and hast done,
great shame and injury to knights of the Round Table. Wherefore, I warn
thee now, defend thyself."

"If thou mayest be of the Round Table," answered Turquine, "I defy thee,
and all thy fellows."

"That is saying overmuch," said Sir Lancelot.

Then, setting their lances in rest, they spurred their horses towards each
other, as fast as they could go, and smote so fearfully upon each other's
shields, that both their horses' backs brake under them. As soon as they
could clear their saddles, they took their shields before them, and drew
their swords, and came together eagerly, and fought with great and
grievous strokes; and soon they both had many grim and fearful wounds, and
bled in streams. Thus they fought two hours and more, thrusting and
smiting at each other, wherever they could hit.

Anon, they both were breathless, and stood leaning on their swords.

"Now, comrade," said Sir Turquine, "let us wait awhile, and answer me what
I shall ask thee."

"Say on," said Lancelot.

"Thou art," said Turquine, "the best man I ever met, and seemest like one
that I hate above all other knights that live; but if thou be not he, I
will make peace with thee, and for sake of thy great valour, will deliver
all the three score prisoners and four who lie within my dungeons, and
thou and I will be companions evermore. Tell me, then, thy name."

"Thou sayest well," replied Sir Lancelot; "but who is he thou hatest so
above all others?"

"His name," said Turquine, "is Sir Lancelot of the Lake; and he slew my
brother Sir Carados, at the dolorous tower; wherefore, if ever I shall
meet with him, one of us two shall slay the other; and thereto I have
sworn by a great oath. And to discover and destroy him I have slain a
hundred knights, and crippled utterly as many more, and many have died in
my prisons; and now, as I have told thee, I have many more therein, who
all shall be delivered, if thou tell me thy name, and it be not Sir

"Well," said Lancelot, "I am that knight, son of King Ban of Benwick, and
Knight of the Round Table; so now I defy thee to do thy best!"

"Aha!" said Turquine, with a shout, "is it then so at last! Thou art more
welcome to my sword than ever knight or lady was to feast, for never
shall we part till one of us be dead."

Then did they hurtle together like two wild bulls, slashing and lashing
with their shields and swords, and sometimes falling both on to the
ground. For two more hours they fought so, and at the last Sir Turquine
grew very faint, and gave a little back, and bare his shield full low for
weariness. When Sir Lancelot saw him thus, he leaped upon him fiercely as
a lion, and took him by the crest of his helmet, and dragged him to his
knees; and then he tore his helmet off and smote his neck asunder.

Then he arose, and went to the damsel who had brought him to Sir Turquine,
and said, "I am ready, fair lady, to go with thee upon thy service, but I
have no horse."

"Fair sir," said she, "take ye this horse of the wounded knight whom
Turquine but just now was carrying to his prisons, and send that knight on
to deliver all the prisoners."

So Sir Lancelot went to the knight and prayed him for the loan of his

"Fair lord," said he, "ye are right welcome, for to-day ye have saved both
me and my horse; and I see that ye are the best knight in all the world,
for in my sight have ye slain the mightiest man and the best knight,
except thyself, I ever saw."

"Sir," said Sir Lancelot, "I thank thee well; and now go into yonder
castle, where thou shall find many noble knights of the Round Table, for I
have seen their shields hung on the trees around. On yonder tree alone
there are Sir Key's, Sir Brandel's, Sir Marhaus', Sir Galind's, and Sir
Aliduke's, and many more; and also my two kinsmen's shields, Sir Ector de
Maris' and Sir Lionel's. And I pray you greet them all from me, Sir
Lancelot of the Lake, and tell them that I bid them help themselves to any
treasures they can find within the castle; and that I pray my brethren,
Lionel and Ector, to go to King Arthur's court and stay there till I come.
And by the high feast at Pentecost I must be there; but now I must ride
forth with this damsel to fulfil my promise."

So, as they went, the damsel told him, "Sir, we are now near the place
where the foul knight haunteth, who robbeth and distresseth all ladies and
gentlewomen travelling past this way, against whom I have sought thy aid."

Then they arranged that she should ride on foremost, and Sir Lancelot
should follow under cover of the trees by the roadside, and if he saw her
come to any mishap, he should ride forth and deal with him that troubled
her. And as the damsel rode on at a soft ambling pace, a knight and page
burst forth from the roadside and forced the damsel from her horse, till
she cried out for help.

Then came Sir Lancelot rushing through the wood as fast as he might fly,
and all the branches of the trees crackled and waved around him. "O thou
false knight and traitor to all knighthood!" shouted he, "who taught thee
to distress fair ladies thus?"

The foul knight answered nothing, but drew out his sword and rode at Sir
Lancelot, who threw his spear away and drew his own sword likewise, and
struck him such a mighty blow as clave his head down to the throat. "Now
hast thou the wages thou long hast earned!" said he; and so departed from
the damsel.

Then for two days he rode in a great forest, and had but scanty food and
lodging, and on the third day he rode over a long bridge, when suddenly
there started up a passing foul churl, and smote his horse across the
nose, so that he started and turned back, rearing with pain. "Why ridest
thou over here without my leave?" said he.

"Why should I not?" said Sir Lancelot; "there is no other way to ride."

"Thou shalt not pass by here," cried out the churl, and dashed at him with
a great club full of iron spikes, till Sir Lancelot was fain to draw his
sword and smite him dead upon the earth.

At the end of the bridge was a fair village, and all the people came and
cried, "Ah, sir! a worse deed for thyself thou never didst, for thou hast
slain the chief porter of the castle yonder!" But he let them talk as they
pleased, and rode straight forward to the castle.

There he alighted, and tied his horse to a ring in the wall; and going in,
he saw a wide green court, and thought it seemed a noble place to fight
in. And as he looked about, he saw many people watching him from doors and
windows, making signs of warning, and saying, "Fair knight, thou art
unhappy." In the next moment came upon him two great giants, well armed
save their heads, and with two horrible clubs in their hands. Then he put
his shield before him, and with it warded off one giant's stroke, and
clove the other with his sword from the head downward to the chest. When
the first giant saw that, he ran away mad with fear; but Sir Lancelot ran
after him, and smote him through the shoulder, and shore him down his
back, so that he fell dead.

Then he walked onward to the castle hall, and saw a band of sixty ladies
and young damsels coming forth, who knelt to him, and thanked him for
their freedom. "For, sir," said they, "the most of us have been prisoners
here these seven years; and have been kept at all manner of work to earn
our meat, though we be all great gentlewomen born. Blessed be the time
that thou wast born, for never did a knight a deed of greater worship than
thou hast this day, and thereto will we all bear witness in all times and
places! Tell us, therefore, noble knight, thy name and court, that we may
tell them to our friends!" And when they heard it, they all cried aloud,
"Well may it be so, for we knew that no knight save thou shouldst ever
overcome those giants; and many a long day have we sighed for thee; for
the giants feared no other name among all knights but thine."

Then he told them to take the treasures of the castle as a reward for
their grievances, and to return to their homes, and so rode away into many
strange and wild countries. And at last, after many days, by chance he
came, near the night time, to a fair mansion, wherein he found an old
gentlewoman, who gave him and his horse good cheer. And when bed time was
come, his host brought him to a chamber over a gate, and there he unarmed,
and went to bed and fell asleep.

But soon thereafter came one riding in great haste, and knocking
vehemently at the gate below, which when Sir Lancelot heard, he rose and
looked out of the window, and, by the moonlight, saw three knights come
riding fiercely after one man, and lashing on him all at once with their
swords, while the one knight nobly fought all.

Then Sir Lancelot quickly armed himself, and getting through the window,
let himself down by a sheet into the midst of them, crying out, "Turn ye
on me, ye cowards, and leave fighting with that knight!" Then they all
left Sir Key, for the first knight was he, and began to fall upon Sir
Lancelot furiously. And when Sir Key would have come forward to assist
him, Sir Lancelot refused, and cried, "Leave me alone to deal with them."
And presently, with six great strokes, he felled them all.

Then they cried out, "Sir knight, we yield us unto thee, as to a man of

"I will not take your yielding!" said he; "yield ye to Sir Key, the
seneschal, or I will have your lives."

"Fair knight," said they, "excuse us in that thing, for we have chased Sir
Key thus far, and should have overcome him but for thee."

"Well," said Sir Lancelot, "do as ye will, for ye may live or die; but, if
ye live, ye shall be holden to Sir Key."

Then they yielded to him; and Sir Lancelot commanded them to go unto King
Arthur's court at the next Pentecost, and say, Sir Key had sent them
prisoners to Queen Guinevere. And this they sware to do upon their swords.

Then Sir Lancelot knocked at the gate with his sword-hilt till his hostess
came and let him in again, and Sir Key also. And when the light came, Sir
Key knew Sir Lancelot, and knelt and thanked him for his courtesy, and
gentleness, and kindness. "Sir," said he, "I have done no more than what I
ought to do, and ye are welcome; therefore let us now take rest."

So when Sir Key had supped, they went to sleep, and Sir Lancelot and he
slept in the same bed. On the morrow, Sir Lancelot rose early, and took
Sir Key's shield and armour and set forth. When Sir Key arose, he found
Sir Lancelot's armour by his bedside, and his own arms gone. "Now, by my
faith," thought he, "I know that he will grieve some knights of our king's
court; for those who meet him will be bold to joust with him, mistaking
him for me, while I, dressed in his shield and armour, shall surely ride
in peace."

Then Sir Lancelot, dressed in Sir Key's apparel, rode long in a great
forest, and came at last to a low country, full of rivers and fair
meadows, and saw a bridge before him, whereon were three silk tents of
divers colours, and to each tent was hung a white shield, and by each
shield stood a knight. So Sir Lancelot went by without speaking a word.
And when he had passed, the three knights said it was the proud Sir Key,
"who thinketh no knight equal to himself, although the contrary is full
often proved upon him."

"By my faith!" said one of them, named Gaunter, "I will ride after and
attack him for all his pride, and ye shall watch my speed."

Then, taking shield and spear, he mounted and rode after Sir Lancelot, and
cried, "Abide, proud knight, and turn, for thou shalt not pass free!"

So Sir Lancelot turned, and each one put his spear in rest and came with
all his might against the other. And Sir Gaunter's spear brake short, but
Sir Lancelot smote him down, both horse and man.

When the other knights saw this, they said, "Yonder is not Sir Key, but a
bigger man."

"I dare wager my head," said Sir Gilmere, "yonder knight hath slain Sir
Key, and taken his horse and harness."

"Be it so, or not," said Sir Reynold, the third brother; "let us now go to
our brother Gaunter's rescue; we shall have enough to do to match that
knight, for, by his stature, I believe it is Sir Lancelot or Sir

Anon, they took their horses and galloped after Sir Lancelot; and Sir
Gilmere first assailed him, but was smitten down forthwith, and lay
stunned on the earth. Then said Sir Reynold, "Sir knight, thou art a
strong man, and, I believe, hast slain my two brothers, wherefore my heart
is sore against thee; yet, if I might with honour, I would avoid thee.
Nevertheless, that cannot be, so keep thyself." And so they hurtled
together with all their might, and each man shivered his spear to pieces;
and then they drew their swords and lashed out eagerly.

And as they fought, Sir Gaunter and Sir Gilmere presently arose and
mounted once again, and came down at full tilt upon Sir Lancelot. But,
when he saw them coming, he put forth all his strength, and struck Sir
Reynold off his horse. Then, with two other strokes, he served the others

Anon, Sir Reynold crept along the ground, with his head all bloody, and
came towards Sir Lancelot. "It is enough," said Lancelot, "I was not far
from thee when thou wast made a knight, Sir Reynold, and know thee for a
good and valiant man, and was full loth to slay thee."

"Grammercy for thy gentleness!" said Sir Reynold. "I and my brethren will
straightway yield to thee when we know thy name, for well we know that
thou art not Sir Key."

"As for that," said Sir Lancelot, "be it as it may, but ye shall yield to
Queen Guinevere at the next feast of Pentecost as prisoners, and say that
Sir Key sent ye."

Then they swore to him it should be done as he commanded. And so Sir
Lancelot passed on, and the three brethren helped each other's wounds as
best they might.

Then rode Sir Lancelot forward into a deep forest, and came upon four
knights of King Arthur's court, under an oak tree--Sir Sagramour, Sir
Ector, Sir Gawain, and Sir Ewaine. And when they spied him, they thought
he was Sir Key. "Now by my faith," said Sir Sagramour, "I will prove Sir
Key's might!" and taking his spear he rode towards Sir Lancelot.

But Sir Lancelot was aware of him, and, setting his spear in rest, smote
him so sorely, that horse and man fell to the earth.

"Lo!" cried Sir Ector, "I see by the buffet that knight hath given our
fellow he is stronger than Sir Key. Now will I try what I can do against
him!" So Sir Ector took his spear, and galloped at Sir Lancelot; and Sir
Lancelot met him as he came, and smote him through shield and shoulder, so
that he fell, but his own spear was not broken.

"By my faith," cried Sir Ewaine, "yonder is a strong knight, and must have
slain Sir Key, and taken his armour! By his strength, I see it will be
hard to match him." So saying he rode towards Sir Lancelot, who met him
halfway and struck him so fiercely, that at one blow he overthrew him

"Now," said Sir Gawain, "will I encounter him." So he took a good spear in
his hand, and guarded himself with his shield. And he and Sir Lancelot
rode against each other, with their horses at full speed, and furiously
smote each other on the middle of their shields; but Sir Gawain's spear
broke short asunder, and Sir Lancelot charged so mightily upon him, that
his horse and he both fell, and rolled upon the ground.

"Ah," said Sir Lancelot, smiling, as he rode away from the four knights,
"heaven give joy to him who made this spear, for never held I better in my

But the four knights said to each other, "Truly one spear hath felled us

"I dare lay my life," said Sir Gawain, "it is Sir Lancelot. I know him by
his riding."

So they all departed for the court.

And as Sir Lancelot rode still in the forest, he saw a black bloodhound,
running with its head towards the ground, as if it tracked a deer. And
following after it, he came to a great pool of blood. But the hound, ever
and anon looking behind, ran through a great marsh, and over a bridge,
towards an old manor house. So Sir Lancelot followed, and went into the
hall, and saw a dead knight lying there, whose wounds the hound licked.
And a lady stood behind him, weeping and wringing her hands, who cried, "O
knight! too great is the sorrow which thou hast brought me!"

"Why say ye so?" replied Sir Lancelot; "for I never harmed this knight,
and am full sorely grieved to see thy sorrow."

"Nay, sir," said the lady, "I see it is not thou hast slain my husband,
for he that truly did that deed is deeply wounded, and shall never more

"What is thy husband's name?" said Sir Lancelot.

"His name," she answered, "was Sir Gilbert--one of the best knights in all
the world; but I know not his name who hath slain him."

"God send thee comfort," said Sir Lancelot, and departed again into the

And as he rode, he met with a damsel who knew him, who cried out, "Well
found, my lord! I pray ye of your knighthood help my brother, who is sore
wounded and ceases not to bleed, for he fought this day with Sir Gilbert,
and slew him, but was himself well nigh slain. And there is a sorceress,
who dwelleth in a castle hard by, and she this day hath told me that my
brother's wound shall never be made whole until I find a knight to go into
the Chapel Perilous, and bring from thence a sword and the bloody cloth in
which the wounded knight was wrapped."

"This is a marvellous thing!" said Sir Lancelot; "but what is your
brother's name?"

"His name, sir," she replied, "is Sir Meliot de Logres."

"He is a Fellow of the Round Table," said Sir Lancelot, "and truly will I
do my best to help him."

"Then, sir," said she, "follow this way, and it will bring ye to the
Chapel Perilous. I will abide here till God send ye hither again; for if
ye speed not, there is no living knight who may achieve that adventure."

So Sir Lancelot departed, and when he came to the Chapel Perilous he
alighted, and tied his horse to the gate. And as soon as he was within
the churchyard, he saw on the front of the chapel many shields of knights
whom he had known, turned upside down. Then saw he in the pathway thirty
mighty knights, taller than any men whom he had ever seen, all armed in
black armour, with their swords drawn; and they gnashed their teeth upon
him as he came. But he put his shield before him, and took his sword in
hand, ready to do battle with them. And when he would have cut his way
through them, they scattered on every side and let him pass. Then he went
into the chapel, and saw therein no light but of a dim lamp burning. Then
he was aware of a corpse in the midst of the chapel, covered with a silken
cloth, and so stooped down and cut off a piece of the cloth, whereat the
earth beneath him trembled. Then saw he a sword lying by the dead knight,
and taking it in his hand, he hied him from the chapel. As soon as he was
in the churchyard again, all the thirty knights cried out to him with
fierce voices, "Sir Lancelot! lay that sword from thee, or thou diest!"

"Whether I live or die," said he, "ye shall fight for it ere ye take it
from me."

With that they let him pass.

And further on, beyond the chapel, he met a fair damsel, who said, "Sir
Lancelot, leave that sword behind thee, or thou diest."

[Illustration: Beyond the chapel, he met a fair damsel, who said, "Sir
Lancelot, leave that sword behind thee, or thou diest."]

"I will not leave it," said Sir Lancelot, "for any asking."

"Then, gentle knight," said the damsel, "I pray thee kiss me once."

"Nay," said Sir Lancelot, "that God forbid!"

"Alas!" cried she, "I have lost all my labour! but hadst thou kissed me,
thy life's days had been all done!"

"Heaven save me from thy subtle crafts!" said Sir Lancelot; and therewith
took his horse and galloped forth.

And when he was departed, the damsel sorrowed greatly, and died in fifteen
days. Her name was Ellawes, the sorceress.

Then came Sir Lancelot to Sir Meliot's sister, who, when she saw him,
clapped her hands and wept for joy, and took him to the castle hard by,
where Sir Meliot was. And when Sir Lancelot saw Sir Meliot, he knew him,
though he was pale as ashes for loss of blood. And Sir Meliot, when he saw
Sir Lancelot, kneeled to him and cried aloud, "O lord, Sir Lancelot! help

And thereupon, Sir Lancelot went to him and touched his wounds with the
sword, and wiped them with the piece of bloody cloth. And immediately he
was as whole as though he had been never wounded. Then was there great joy
between him and Sir Meliot; and his sister made Sir Lancelot good cheer.
So on the morrow, he took his leave, that he might go to King Arthur's
court, "for," said he, "it draweth nigh the feast of Pentecost, and there,
by God's grace, shall ye then find me."

And riding through many strange countries, over marshes and valleys, he
came at length before a castle. As he passed by he heard two little bells
ringing, and looking up, he saw a falcon flying overhead, with bells tied
to her feet, and long strings dangling from them. And as the falcon flew
past an elm-tree, the strings caught in the boughs, so that she could fly
no further.

In the meanwhile, came a lady from the castle and cried, "Oh, Sir
Lancelot! as thou art the flower of all knights in the world, help me to
get my hawk, for she hath slipped away from me, and if she be lost, my
lord my husband is so hasty, he will surely slay me!"

"What is thy lord's name?" said Sir Lancelot.

"His name," said she, "is Sir Phelot, a knight of the King of Northgales."

"Fair lady," said Sir Lancelot, "since you know my name, and require me,
on my knighthood, to help you, I will do what I can to get your hawk."

And thereupon alighting, he tied his horse to the same tree, and prayed
the lady to unarm him. So when he was unarmed, he climbed up and reached
the falcon, and threw it to the lady.

Then suddenly came down, out of the wood, her husband, Sir Phelot, all
armed, with a drawn sword in his hand, and said, "Oh, Sir Lancelot! now
have I found thee as I would have thee!" and stood at the trunk of the
tree to slay him.

"Ah, lady!" cried Sir Lancelot, "why have ye betrayed me?"

"She hath done as I commanded her," said Sir Phelot, "and thine hour is
come that thou must die."

"It were shame," said Lancelot, "for an armed to slay an unarmed man."

"Thou hast no other favour from me," said Sir Phelot.

"Alas!" cried Sir Lancelot, "that ever any knight should die weaponless!"
And looking overhead, he saw a great bough without leaves, and wrenched it
off the tree, and suddenly leaped down. Then Sir Phelot struck at him
eagerly, thinking to have slain him, but Sir Lancelot put aside the stroke
with the bough, and therewith smote him on the side of the head, till he
fell swooning to the ground. And tearing his sword from out his hands, he
shore his neck through from the body. Then did the lady shriek dismally,
and swooned as though she would die. But Sir Lancelot put on his armour,
and with haste took his horse and departed thence, thanking God he had
escaped that peril.

And as he rode through a valley, among many wild ways, he saw a knight,
with a drawn sword, chasing a lady to slay her. And seeing Sir Lancelot,
she cried and prayed to him to come and rescue her.

At that he went up, saying, "Fie on thee, knight! why wilt thou slay this
lady? Thou doest shame to thyself and all knights."

"What hast thou to do between me and my wife?" replied the knight. "I will
slay her in spite of thee."

"Thou shall not harm her," said Sir Lancelot, "till we have first fought

"Sir," answered the knight, "thou doest ill, for this lady hath betrayed

"He speaketh falsely," said the lady, "for he is jealous of me without
cause, as I shall answer before Heaven; but as thou art named the most
worshipful knight in the world, I pray thee of thy true knighthood to save
me, for he is without mercy."

"Be of good cheer," said Sir Lancelot; "it shall not lie within his power
to harm thee."

"Sir," said the knight, "I will be ruled as ye will have me."

So Sir Lancelot rode between the knight and the lady. And when they had
ridden awhile, the knight cried out suddenly to Sir Lancelot to turn and
see what men they were who came riding after them; and while Sir Lancelot,
thinking not of treason, turned to look, the knight, with one great
stroke, smote off the lady's head.

Then was Sir Lancelot passing wroth, and cried, "Thou traitor! Thou hast
shamed me for ever!" and, alighting from his horse, he drew his sword to
have slain him instantly; but the knight fell on the ground and clasped
Sir Lancelot's knees, and cried out for mercy. "Thou shameful knight,"
answered Lancelot, "thou mayest have no mercy, for thou showedst none,
therefore arise and fight with me."

"Nay," said the knight, "I will not rise till thou dost grant me mercy."

"Now will I deal fairly by thee," said Sir Lancelot; "I will unarm me to
my shirt, and have my sword only in my hand, and if thou canst slay me
thou shall be quit for ever."

"That will I never do," said the knight.

"Then," answered Sir Lancelot, "take this lady and the head, and bear it
with thee, and swear to me upon thy sword never to rest until thou comest
to Queen Guinevere."

"That will I do," said he.

"Now," said Sir Lancelot, "tell me thy name."

"It is Pedivere," answered the knight.

"In a shameful hour wert thou born," said Sir Lancelot.

So Sir Pedivere departed, bearing with him the dead lady and her head. And
when he came to Winchester, where the Queen was with King Arthur, he told
them all the truth; and afterwards did great and heavy penance many
years, and became an holy hermit.

"So, two days before the Feast of Pentecost, Sir Lancelot returned to the
court, and King Arthur was full glad of his coming. And when Sir Gawain,
Sir Ewaine, Sir Sagramour, and Sir Ector, saw him in Sir Key's armour,
they knew well it was he who had smitten them all down with one spear.
Anon, came all the knights Sir Turquine had taken prisoners, and gave
worship and honour to Sir Lancelot. Then Sir Key told the King how Sir
Lancelot had rescued him when he was in near danger of his death; "and,"
said Sir Key, "he made the knights yield, not to himself, but me. And by
Heaven! because Sir Lancelot took my armour and left me his, I rode in
peace, and no man would have aught to do with me." Then came the knights
who fought with Sir Lancelot at the long bridge and yielded themselves
also to Sir Key, but he said nay, he had not fought with them. "It is Sir
Lancelot," said he, "that overcame ye." Next came Sir Meliot de Logres,
and told King Arthur how Sir Lancelot had saved him from death.

And so all Sir Lancelot's deeds and great adventures were made known; how
the four sorceress-queens had him in prison; how he was delivered by the
daughter of King Bagdemagus, and what deeds of arms he did at the
tournament between the King of North Wales and King Bagdemagus. And so, at
that festival, Sir Lancelot had the greatest name of any knight in all the
world, and by high and low was he the most honoured of all men.


_Adventures of Sir Beaumains or Sir Gareth_

Again King Arthur held the Feast of Pentecost, with all the Table Round,
and after his custom sat in the banquet hall, before beginning meat,
waiting for some adventure. Then came there to the king a squire and said,
"Lord, now may ye go to meat, for here a damsel cometh with some strange
adventure." So the king was glad, and sat down to meat.

Anon the damsel came in and saluted him, praying him for succour. "What
wilt thou?" said the king. "Lord," answered she, "my mistress is a lady of
great renown, but is at this time besieged by a tyrant, who will not
suffer her to go out of her castle; and because here in thy court the
knights are called the noblest in the world, I come to pray thee for thy
succour. "Where dwelleth your lady?" answered the king. "What is her name,
and who is he that hath besieged her?" "For her name," replied the damsel,
"as yet I may not tell it; but she is a lady of worship and great lands.
The tyrant that besiegeth her and wasteth her lands is called the Red
Knight of the Redlands." "I know him not," said Arthur. "But I know him,
lord," said Sir Gawain, "and he is one of the most perilous knights in all
the world. Men say he hath the strength of seven; and from him I myself
once hardly escaped with life." "Fair damsel," said the king, "there be
here many knights that would gladly do their uttermost to rescue your
lady, but unless ye tell me her name, and where she dwelleth, none of my
knights shall go with you by my leave."

Now, there was a stripling at the court called Beaumains, who served in
the king's kitchen, a fair youth and of great stature. Twelve months
before this time he had come to the king as he sat at meat, at
Whitsuntide, and prayed three gifts of him. And being asked what gifts, he
answered, "As for the first gift I will ask it now, but the other two
gifts I will ask on this day twelve months, wheresoever ye hold your high
feast." Then said King Arthur, "What is thy first request?" "This, lord,"
said he, "that thou wilt give me meat and drink enough for twelve months
from this time, and then will I ask my other two gifts." And the king
seeing that he was a goodly youth, and deeming that he was come of
honourable blood, had granted his desire, and given him into the charge of
Sir Key, the steward. But Sir Key scorned and mocked the youth, calling
him Beaumains, because his hands were large and fair, and putting him into
the kitchen, where he had served for twelve months as a scullion, and, in
spite of all his churlish treatment, had faithfully obeyed Sir Key. But
Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain were angered when they saw Sir Key so churlish
to a youth that had so worshipful a bearing, and ofttimes had they given
him gold and clothing.

And now at this time came young Beaumains to the king, while the damsel
was there, and said, "Lord, now I thank thee well and heartily that I have
been twelve months kept in thy kitchen, and have had full sustenance. Now
will I ask my two remaining gifts." "Ask," said King Arthur, "on my good
faith." "These, lord," said he, "shall be my two gifts--the one, that thou
wilt grant me this adventure of the damsel, for to me of right it
belongeth; and the other, that thou wilt bid Sir Lancelot make me a
knight, for of him only will I have that honour; and I pray that he may
ride after me and make me a knight when I require him." "Be it as thou
wilt," replied the king. But thereupon the damsel was full wroth, and
said, "Shall I have a kitchen page for this adventure?" and so she took
horse and departed.

Then came one to Beaumains, and told him that a dwarf with a horse and
armour were waiting for him. And all men marvelled whence these things
came. But when he was on horseback and armed, scarce any one at the court
was a goodlier man than he. And coming into the hall, he took his leave of
the king and Sir Gawain, and prayed Sir Lancelot to follow him. So he rode
after the damsel, and many of the court went out to see him, so richly
arrayed and horsed; yet he had neither shield nor spear. Then Sir Key
cried, "I also will ride after the kitchen boy, and see whether he will
obey me now." And taking his horse, he rode after him, and said, "Know ye
not me, Beaumains?" "Yea," said he, "I know thee for an ungentle knight,
therefore beware of me." Then Sir Key put his spear in rest and ran at
him, but Beaumains rushed upon him with his sword in his hand, and
therewith, putting aside the spear, struck Sir Key so sorely in the side,
that he fell down, as if dead. Then he alighted, and took his shield and
spear, and bade his dwarf ride upon Sir Key's horse.

By this time, Sir Lancelot had come up, and Beaumains offering to tilt
with him, they both made ready. And their horses came together so fiercely
that both fell to the earth, full sorely bruised. Then they arose, and
Beaumains, putting up his shield before him, offered to fight Sir
Lancelot, on foot. So they rushed upon each other, striking, and
thrusting, and parrying, for the space of an hour. And Lancelot marvelled
at the strength of Beaumains, for he fought more like a giant than a man,
and his fighting was passing fierce and terrible. So, at the last, he
said, "Fight not so sorely, Beaumains; our quarrel is not such that we may
not now cease." "True," answered Beaumains; "yet it doth me good to feel
thy might, though I have not yet proved my uttermost." "By my faith," said
Lancelot, "I had as much as I could do to save myself from you unshamed,
therefore be in no doubt of any earthly knight." "May I, then, stand as a
proved knight?" said Beaumains. "For that will I be thy warrant," answered
Lancelot. "Then, I pray thee," said he, "give me the order of knighthood."
"First, then, must thou tell me of thy name and kindred," said Sir
Lancelot. "If thou wilt tell them to no other, I will tell thee," answered
he. "My name is Gareth of Orkney, and I am own brother to Sir Gawain."
"Ah!" said Sir Lancelot, "at that am I full glad; for, truly, I deemed
thee to be of gentle blood." So then he knighted Beaumains, and, after
that, they parted company, and Sir Lancelot, returning to the court, took
up Sir Key on his shield. And hardly did Sir Key escape with his life,
from the wound Beaumains had given him; but all men blamed him for his
ungentle treatment of so brave a knight.

Then Sir Beaumains rode forward, and soon overtook the damsel; but she
said to him, in scorn, "Return again, base kitchen page! What art thou,
but a washer-up of dishes!" "Damsel," said he, "say to me what thou wilt,
I will not leave thee; for I have undertaken to King Arthur to relieve thy
adventure, and I will finish it to the end, or die." "Thou finish my
adventure!" said she--"anon, thou shalt meet one, whose face thou wilt not
even dare to look at." "I shall attempt it," answered he. So, as they rode
thus, into a wood, there met them a man, fleeing, as for his life.
"Whither fleest thou?" said Sir Beaumains. "O lord!" he answered, "help
me; for, in a valley hard by, there are six thieves, who have taken my
lord, and bound him, and I fear will slay him." "Bring me thither," said
Sir Beaumains. So they rode to the place, and Sir Beaumains rushed after
the thieves, and smote one, at the first stroke, so that he died; and
then, with two other blows, slew a second and third. Then fled the other
three, and Sir Beaumains rode after them, and overtook and slew them all.
Then he returned and unbound the knight. And the knight thanked him, and
prayed him to ride to his castle, where he would reward him. "Sir,"
answered Sir Beaumains, "I will have no reward of thee, for but this day
was I made knight by the most noble Sir Lancelot; and besides, I must go
with this damsel." Then the knight begged the damsel to rest that night at
his castle. So they all rode thither, and ever the damsel scoffed at Sir
Beaumains as a kitchen boy, and laughed at him before the knight their
host, so that he set his meat before him at a lower table, as though he
were not of their company.

And on the morrow, the damsel and Sir Beaumains took their leave of the
knight, and thanking him departed. Then they rode on their way till they
came to a great forest, through which flowed a river, and there was but
one passage over it, whereat stood two knights armed to hinder the way.
"Wilt thou match those two knights," said the damsel to Sir Beaumains, "or
return again?" "I would not return," said he, "though they were six."
Therewith he galloped into the water, and swam his horse into the middle
of the stream. And there, in the river, one of the knights met him, and
they brake their spears together, and then drew their swords, and smote
fiercely at each other. And at the last, Sir Beaumains struck the other
mightily upon the helm, so that he fell down stunned into the water, and
was drowned. Then Sir Beaumains spurred his horse on to the land, where
instantly the other knight fell on him. And they also brake their spears
upon each other, and then drew their swords, and fought savagely and long
together. And after many blows, Sir Beaumains clove through the knight's
skull down to the shoulders. Then rode Sir Beaumains to the damsel, but
ever she still scoffed at him, and said, "Alas! that a kitchen page should
chance to slay two such brave knights! Thou deemest now that thou hast
done a mighty deed, but it is not so; for the first knight's horse
stumbled, and thus was he drowned--not by thy strength; and as for the
second knight, thou wentest by chance behind him, and didst kill him
shamefully." "Damsel," said Sir Beaumains, "say what ye list, I care not
so I may win your lady; and wouldst thou give me but fair language, all
my care were past; for whatsoever knights I meet, I fear them not." "Thou
shalt see knights that shall abate thy boast, base kitchen knave," replied
she; "yet say I this for thine advantage, for if thou followest me thou
wilt be surely slain, since I see all thou doest is but by chance, and not
by thy own prowess." "Well damsel," said he, "say what ye will, wherever
ye go I will follow."

So they rode on until the eventide, and still the damsel evermore kept
chiding Sir Beaumains. Then came they to a black space of land, whereon
was a black hawthorn tree, and on the tree there hung a black banner, and
on the other side was a black shield and spear, and by them a great black
horse, covered with silk; and hard by sat a knight armed in black armour,
whose name was the Knight of the Blacklands. When the damsel saw him, she
cried out to Beaumains, "Flee down the valley, for thy horse is not
saddled!" "Wilt thou for ever deem me coward?" answered he. With that came
the Black Knight to the damsel, and said, "Fair damsel, hast thou brought
this knight from Arthur's court to be thy champion?" "Not so, fair
knight," said she; "he is but a kitchen knave." "Then wherefore cometh he
in such array?" said he; "it is a shame that he should bear thee company."
"I cannot be delivered from him," answered she: "for in spite of me he
rideth with me; and would to Heaven you would put him from me, or now slay
him, for he hath slain two knights at the river passage yonder, and done
many marvellous deeds through pure mischance." "I marvel," said the Black
Knight, "that any man of worship will fight with him." "They know him
not," said the damsel, "and think, because he rideth with me, that he is
well born." "Truly, he hath a goodly person, and is likely to be a strong
man," replied the knight; "but since he is no man of worship, he shall
leave his horse and armour with me, for it were a shame for me to do him
more harm."

When Sir Beaumains heard him speak thus, he said, "Horse or armour gettest
thou none of me, Sir knight, save thou winnest them with thy hands;
therefore defend thyself, and let me see what thou canst do." "How sayest
thou?" answered the Black Knight. "Now quit this lady also, for it
beseemeth not a kitchen knave like thee to ride with such a lady." "I am
of higher lineage than thou," said Sir Beaumains, "and will straightway
prove it on thy body." Then furiously they drove their horses at each
other, and came together as it had been thunder. But the Black Knight's
spear brake short, and Sir Beaumains thrust him through the side, and his
spear breaking at the head, left its point sticking fast in the Black
Knight's body. Yet did the Black Knight draw his sword, and smite at Sir
Beaumains with many fierce and bitter blows; but after they had fought an
hour and more, he fell down from his horse in a swoon, and forthwith died.
Then Sir Beaumains lighted down and armed himself in the Black Knight's
armour, and rode on after the damsel. But notwithstanding all his valour,
still she scoffed at him, and said, "Away! for thou savourest ever of the
kitchen. Alas! that such a knave should by mishap destroy so good a
knight; yet once again I counsel thee to flee, for hard by is a knight who
shall repay thee!" "It may chance that I am beaten or slain," answered Sir
Beaumains, "but I warn thee, fair damsel, that I will not flee away, nor
leave thy company or my quest, for all that ye can say."

Anon, as they rode, they saw a knight come swiftly towards them, dressed
all in green, who, calling to the damsel said, "Is that my brother, the
Black Knight, that ye have brought with you?" "Nay, and alas!" said she,
"this kitchen knave hath slain thy brother through mischance." "Alas!"
said the Green Knight, "that such a noble knight as he was should be slain
by a knave's hand. Traitor!" cried he to Sir Beaumains, "thou shalt die
for this! Sir Pereard was my brother, and a full noble knight." "I defy
thee," said Sir Beaumains, "for I slew him knightly and not shamefully."
Then the Green Knight rode to a thorn whereon hung a green horn, and, when
he blew three notes, there came three damsels forth, who quickly armed
him, and brought him a great horse and a green shield and spear. Then did
they run at one another with their fullest might, and break their spears
asunder; and, drawing their swords, they closed in fight, and sorely smote
and wounded each other with many grievous blows.

At last, Sir Beaumains' horse jostled against the Green Knight's horse,
and overthrew him. Then both alighted, and, hurtling together like mad
lions, fought a great while on foot. But the damsel cheered the Green
Knight, and said, "My lord, why wilt thou let a kitchen knave so long
stand up against thee?" Hearing these words, he was ashamed, and gave Sir
Beaumains such a mighty stroke as clave his shield asunder. When Sir
Beaumains heard the damsel's words, and felt that blow, he waxed passing
wroth, and gave the Green Knight such a buffet on the helm that he fell on
his knees, and with another blow Sir Beaumains threw him on the ground.
Then the Green Knight yielded, and prayed him to spare his life. "All thy
prayers are vain," said he, "unless this damsel who came with me pray for
thee." "That will I never do, base kitchen knave," said she. "Then shall
he die," said Beaumains. "Alas! fair lady," said the Green Knight, "suffer
me not to die for a word! O, Sir knight," cried he to Beaumains, "give me
my life, and I will ever do thee homage; and thirty knights, who owe me
service, shall give allegiance to thee." "All availeth not," answered Sir
Beaumains, "unless the damsel ask me for thy life;" and thereupon he made
as though he would have slain him. Then cried the damsel, "Slay him not;
for if thou do thou shalt repent it." "Damsel," said Sir Beaumains, "at
thy command, he shall obtain his life. Arise, Sir knight of the green
armour, I release thee!" Then the Green Knight knelt at his feet, and did
him homage with his words. "Lodge with me this night," said he, "and
to-morrow will I guide ye through the forest." So, taking their horses,
they rode to his castle, which was hard by.

Yet still did the damsel rebuke and scoff at Sir Beaumains, and would not
suffer him to sit at her table. "I marvel," said the Green Knight to her,
"that ye thus chide so noble a knight, for truly I know none to match him;
and be sure, that whatsoever he appeareth now, he will prove, at the end,
of noble blood and royal lineage." But of all this would the damsel take
no heed, and ceased not to mock at Sir Beaumains. On the morrow, they
arose and heard mass; and when they had broken their fast, took their
horses and rode on their way, the Green Knight conveying them through the
forest. Then, when he had led them for a while, he said to Sir Beaumains,
"My lord, my thirty knights and I shall always be at thy command
whensoever thou shalt send for us." "It is well said," replied he; "and
when I call upon you, you shall yield yourself and all your knights unto
King Arthur." "That will we gladly do," said the Green Knight, and so

And the damsel rode on before Sir Beaumains, and said to him, "Why dost
thou follow me, thou kitchen boy? I counsel thee to throw aside thy spear
and shield, and flee betimes, for wert thou as mighty as Sir Lancelot or
Sir Tristram, thou shouldest not pass a valley near this place, called the
Pass Perilous." "Damsel," answered he, "let him that feareth flee; as for
me, it were indeed a shameful thing to turn after so long a journey." As
he spake, they came upon a tower as white as snow, with mighty
battlements, and double moats round it, and over the tower-gate hung fifty
shields of divers colours. Before the tower walls, they saw a fair meadow,
wherein were many knights and squires in pavilions, for on the morrow
there was a tournament at that castle.

Then the lord of the castle, seeing a knight armed at all points, with a
damsel and a page, riding towards the tower, came forth to meet them; and
his horse and harness, with his shield and spear, were all of a red
colour. When he came near Sir Beaumains, and saw his armour all of black,
he thought him his own brother, the Black Knight, and so cried aloud,
"Brother! what do ye here, within these borders?" "Nay!" said the damsel,
"it is not thy brother, but a kitchen knave of Arthur's court, who hath
slain thy brother, and overcome thy other brother also, the Green Knight."
"Now do I defy thee!" cried the Red Knight to Sir Beaumains, and put his
spear in rest and spurred his horse. Then both knights turned back a
little space, and ran together with all their might, till their horses
fell to the earth. Then, with their swords, they fought fiercely for the
space of three hours. And at last, Sir Beaumains overcame his foe, and
smote him to the ground. Then the Red Knight prayed his mercy, and said,
"Slay me not, noble knight, and I will yield to thee with sixty knights
that do my bidding." "All avails not," answered Sir Beaumains, "save this
damsel pray me to release thee." Then did he lift his sword to slay him;
but the damsel cried aloud, "Slay him not, Beaumains, for he is a noble
knight." Then Sir Beaumains bade him rise up and thank the damsel, which
straightway he did, and afterwards invited them to his castle, and made
them goodly cheer.

But notwithstanding all Sir Beaumains' mighty deeds, the damsel ceased not
to revile and chide him, at which the Red Knight marvelled much; and
caused his sixty knights to watch Sir Beaumains, that no villainy might
happen to him. And on the morrow, they heard mass and broke their fast,
and the Red Knight came before Sir Beaumains, with his sixty knights, and
proffered him homage and fealty. "I thank thee," answered he; "and when I
call upon thee thou shalt come before my lord King Arthur at his court,
and yield yourselves to him." "That will we surely do," said the Red
Knight. So Sir Beaumains and the damsel departed.

And as she constantly reviled him and tormented him, he said to her,
"Damsel, ye are discourteous thus always to rebuke me, for I have done you
service; and for all your threats of knights that shall destroy me, all
they who come lie in the dust before me. Now, therefore, I pray you
rebuke me no more till you see me beaten or a recreant, and then bid me go
from you." "There shall soon meet thee a knight who shall repay thee all
thy deeds, thou boaster," answered she, "for, save King Arthur, he is the
man of most worship in the world." "It will be the greater honour to
encounter him," said Sir Beaumains.

Soon after, they saw before them a city passing fair, and between them and
the city was a meadow newly mown, wherein were many goodly tents. "Seest
thou yonder blue pavilion?" said the damsel to Sir Beaumains; "it is Sir
Perseant's, the lord of that great city, whose custom is, in all fair
weather, to lie in this meadow, and joust with his knights."

And as she spake, Sir Perseant, who had espied them coming, sent a
messenger to meet Sir Beaumains, and to ask him if he came in war or
peace. "Say to thy lord," he answered, "that I care not whether of the
twain it be." So when the messenger gave this reply, Sir Perseant came out
to fight with Sir Beaumains. And making ready, they rode their steeds
against each other; and when their spears were shivered asunder, they
fought with their swords. And for more than two hours did they hack and
hew at each other, till their shields and hauberks were all dinted with
many blows, and they themselves were sorely wounded. And at the last, Sir
Beaumains smote Sir Perseant on the helm, so that he fell grovelling on
the earth. And when he unlaced his helm to slay him, the damsel prayed for
his life. "That will I grant gladly," answered Sir Beaumains, "for it were
pity such a noble knight should die." "Grammercy!" said Sir Perseant,
"for now I certainly know that it was thou who slewest my brother, the
Black Knight, Sir Pereard; and overcame my brothers, the Green Knight, Sir
Pertolope, and the Red Knight, Sir Perimones; and since thou hast overcome
me also, I will do thee homage and fealty, and place at thy command one
hundred knights to do thy bidding."

But when the damsel saw Sir Perseant overthrown, she marvelled greatly at
the might of Sir Beaumains, and said, "What manner of man may ye be, for
now am I sure that ye be come of noble blood? And truly, never did woman
revile knight as I have done thee, and yet ye have ever courteously borne
with me, which surely never had been were ye not of gentle blood and

"Lady," replied Sir Beaumains, "a knight is little worth who may not bear
with a damsel; and so whatsoever ye said to me I took no heed, save only
that at times when your scorn angered me, it made me all the stronger
against those with whom I fought, and thus have ye furthered me in my
battles. But whether I be born of gentle blood or no, I have done you
gentle service, and peradventure will do better still, ere I depart from

[Illustration: "Lady," replied Sir Beaumains, "a knight is little worth
who may not bear with a damsel."]

"Alas!" said she, weeping at his courtesy, "forgive me, fair Sir
Beaumains, all that I have missaid and misdone against you." "With all my
heart," said he; "and since you now speak fairly to me, I am passing glad
of heart, and methinks I have the strength to overcome whatever knights I
shall henceforth encounter."

Then Sir Perseant prayed them to come to his pavilion, and set before them
wines and spices, and made them great cheer. So they rested that night;
and on the morrow, the damsel and Sir Beaumains rose, and heard mass. And
when they had broken their fast, they took their leave of Sir Perseant.
"Fair damsel," said he "whither lead ye this knight?" "Sir," answered she,
"to the Castle Dangerous, where my sister is besieged by the Knight of the
Redlands." "I know him well," said Sir Perseant, "for the most perilous
knight alive--a man without mercy, and with the strength of seven men. God
save thee, Sir Beaumains, from him! and enable thee to overcome him, for
the Lady Lyones, whom he besiegeth, is as fair a lady as there liveth in
this world." "Thou sayest truth, sir," said the damsel; "for I am her
sister; and men call me Linet, or the Wild Maiden." "Now, I would have
thee know," said Sir Perseant to Sir Beaumains, "that the Knight of the
Redlands hath kept that siege more than two years, and prolongeth the time
hoping that Sir Lancelot, or Sir Tristram, or Sir Lamoracke, may come and
battle with him; for these three knights divide between them all
knighthood; and thou if thou mayest match the Knight of the Redlands,
shall well be called the fourth knight of the world." "Sir," said Sir
Beaumains, "I would fain have that good fame; and truly, I am come of
great and honourable lineage. And so that you and this fair damsel will
conceal it, I will tell ye my descent." And when they swore to keep it
secret, he told them, "My name is Sir Gareth of Orkney, my father was King
Lot, and my mother the Lady Belisent, King Arthur's sister. Sir Gawain,
Sir Agravain, and Sir Gaheris, are my brethren, and I am the youngest of
them all. But, as yet King Arthur and the court know me not, who I am."
When he had thus told them, they both wondered greatly.

And the damsel Linet sent the dwarf forward to her sister, to tell her of
their coming. Then did Dame Lyones inquire what manner of man the knight
was who was coming to her rescue. And the dwarf told her of all Sir
Beaumains' deeds by the way: how he had overthrown Sir Key, and left him
for dead; how he had battled with Sir Lancelot, and was knighted of him;
how he had fought with, and slain, the thieves; how he had overcome the
two knights who kept the river passage; how he had fought with, and slain,
the Black Knight; and how he had overcome the Green Knight, the Red
Knight, and last of all, the Blue Knight, Sir Perseant. Then was Dame
Lyones passing glad, and sent the dwarf back to Sir Beaumains with great
gifts, thanking him for his courtesy, in taking such a labour on him for
her sake, and praying him to be of good heart and courage. And as the
dwarf returned, he met the Knight of the Redlands, who asked him whence he
came. "I came here with the sister of my lady of the castle," said the
dwarf, "who hath been now to King Arthur's court and brought a knight with
her to take her battle on him." "Then is her travail lost," replied the
knight; "for, though she had brought Sir Lancelot, Sir Tristram, Sir
Lamoracke, or Sir Gawain, I count myself their equal, and who besides
shall be so called?" Then the dwarf told the knight what deeds Sir
Beaumains had done; but he answered, "I care not for him, whosoever he be,
for I shall shortly overcome him, and give him shameful death, as to so
many others I have done."

Then the damsel Linet and Sir Beaumains left Sir Perseant, and rode on
through a forest to a large plain, where they saw many pavilions, and hard
by, a castle passing fair.

But as they came near Sir Beaumains saw upon the branches of some trees
which grew there, the dead bodies of forty knights hanging, with rich
armour on them, their shields and swords about their necks, and golden
spurs upon their heels. "What meaneth this?" said he, amazed. "Lose not
thy courage, fair sir," replied the damsel, "at this shameful sight, for
all these knights came hither to rescue my sister; and when the Knight of
the Redlands had overcome them, he put them to this piteous death, without
mercy; and in such wise will he treat thee also unless thou bearest thee
more valiantly than they." "Truly he useth shameful customs," said Sir
Beaumains; "and it is a marvel that he hath endured so long."

So they rode onward to the castle walls, and found them double-moated, and
heard the sea waves dashing on one side the walls. Then said the damsel,
"See you that ivory horn hanging upon the sycamore-tree? The Knight of the
Redlands hath hung it there, that any knight may blow thereon, and then
will he himself come out and fight with him. But I pray thee sound it not
till high noontide, for now it is but daybreak, and till noon his strength
increases to the might of seven men." "Let that be as it may, fair
damsel," answered he, "for were he stronger knight than ever lived, I
would not fail him. Either will I defeat him at his mightiest, or die
knightly in the field." With that he spurred his horse unto the sycamore,
and blew the ivory horn so eagerly, that all the castle rang its echoes.
Instantly, all the knights who were in the pavilions ran forth, and those
within the castle looked out from the windows, or above the walls. And the
Knight of the Redlands, arming himself quickly in blood-red armour, with
spear, and shield, and horse's trappings of like colour, rode forth into a
little valley by the castle walls, so that all in the castle, and at the
siege, might see the battle.

"Be of good cheer," said the damsel Linet to Sir Beaumains, "for thy
deadly enemy now cometh; and at yonder window is my lady and sister, Dame
Lyones." "In good sooth," said Sir Beaumains, "she is the fairest lady I
have ever seen, and I would wish no better quarrel than to fight for her."
With that, he looked up to the window, and saw the Lady Lyones, who waved
her handkerchief to her sister and to him to cheer them. Then called the
Knight of the Redlands to Sir Beaumains, "Leave now thy gazing, Sir
knight, and turn to me, for I warn thee that lady is mine." "She loveth
none of thy fellowship," he answered; "but know this, that I love her, and
will rescue her from thee, or die." "Say ye so!" said the Red Knight.
"Take ye no warning from those knights that hang on yonder trees?" "For
shame that thou so boastest!" said Sir Beaumains. "Be sure that sight hath
raised a hatred for thee that will not lightly be put out, and given me
not fear, but rage." "Sir knight, defend thyself," said the Knight of the
Redlands, "for we will talk no longer."

Then did they put their spears in rest, and came together at the fullest
speed of their horses, and smote each other in the midst of their shields,
so that their horses' harness sundered by the shock, and they fell to the
ground. And both lay there so long time, stunned, that many deemed their
necks were broken. And all men said the strange knight was a strong man,
and a noble jouster, for none had ever yet so matched the Knight of the
Redlands. Then, in a while, they rose, and putting up their shields before
them, drew their swords, and fought with fury, running at each other like
wild beasts--now striking such buffets that both reeled backwards, now
hewing at each other till they shore the harness off in pieces, and left
their bodies naked and unarmed. And thus they fought till noon was past,
when, for a time they rested to get breath, so sorely staggering and
bleeding, that many who beheld them wept for pity. Then they renewed the
battle--sometimes rushing so furiously together, that both fell to the
ground, and anon changing swords in their confusion. Thus they endured,
and lashed, and struggled, until eventide, and none who saw knew which was
the likeliest to win; for though the Knight of the Redlands was a wily and
subtle warrior, his subtlety made Sir Beaumains wilier and wiser too. So
once again they rested for a little space, and took their helms off to
find breath.

But when Sir Beaumains' helm was off, he looked up to Dame Lyones, where
she leaned, gazing and weeping, from her window. And when he saw the
sweetness of her smiling, all his heart was light and joyful, and starting
up, he bade the Knight of the Redlands make ready. Then did they lace
their helms and fight together yet afresh, as though they had never fought
before. And at the last, the Knight of the Redlands with a sudden stroke
smote Sir Beaumains on the hand, so that his sword fell from it, and with
a second stroke upon the helm he drove him to the earth. Then cried aloud
the damsel Linet, "Alas! Sir Beaumains, see how my sister weepeth to
behold thee fallen!" And when Sir Beaumains heard her words, he sprang
upon his feet with strength, and leaping to his sword, he caught it; and
with many heavy blows pressed so sorely on the Knight of the Redlands,
that in the end he smote his sword from out his hand, and, with a mighty
blow upon the head, hurled him upon the ground.

Then Sir Beaumains unlaced his helm, and would have straightway slain him,
but the Knight of the Redlands yielded, and prayed for mercy. "I may not
spare thee," answered he, "because of the shameful death which thou hast
given to so many noble knights." "Yet hold thy hand, Sir knight," said he,
"and hear the cause. I loved once a fair damsel, whose brother was slain,
as she told me, by a knight of Arthur's court, either Sir Lancelot, or Sir
Gawain; and she prayed me, as I truly loved her, and by the faith of my
knighthood, to labour daily in deeds of arms, till I should meet with him;
and to put all knights of the Round Table whom I should overcome to a
villainous death. And this I swore to her." Then prayed the earls, and
knights, and barons, who stood round Sir Beaumains, to spare the Red
Knight's life. "Truly," replied he, "I am loth to slay him,
notwithstanding he hath done such shameful deeds. And inasmuch as what he
did was done to please his lady and to gain her love, I blame him less,
and for your sakes I will release him. But on this agreement only shall he
hold his life--that straightway he depart into the castle, and yield him
to the lady there, and make her such amends as she shall ask, for all the
trespass he hath done upon her lands; and afterwards, that he shall go
unto King Arthur's court, and ask the pardon of Sir Lancelot and Sir
Gawain for all the evil he hath done against them." "All this, Sir knight,
I swear to do," said the Knight of the Redlands; and therewith he did him
homage and fealty.

Then came the damsel Linet to Sir Beaumains and the Knight of the
Redlands, and disarmed them, and staunched their wounds. And when the
Knight of the Redlands had made amends for all his trespasses, he departed
for the court.

Then Sir Beaumains, being healed of his wounds, armed himself, and took
his horse and spear and rode straight to the castle of Dame Lyones, for
greatly he desired to see her. But when he came to the gate they closed it
fast, and pulled the drawbridge up. And as he marvelled thereat, he saw
the Lady Lyones standing at a window, who said, "Go thy way as yet, Sir
Beaumains, for thou shalt not wholly have my love until thou be among the
worthiest knights of all the world. Go, therefore, and labour yet in arms
for twelve months more, and then return to me." "Alas! fair lady," said
Sir Beaumains, "I have scarce deserved this of thee, for sure I am that I
have bought thy love with all the best blood in my body." "Be not
aggrieved, fair knight," said she, "for none of thy service is forgot or
lost. Twelve months will soon be passed in noble deeds; and trust that to
my death I shall love thee and not another." With that she turned and left
the window.

So Sir Beaumains rode away from the castle very sorrowrul at heart, and
rode he knew not whither, and lay that night in a poor man's cottage. On
the morrow he went forward, and came at noon to a broad lake, and thereby
he alighted, being very sad and weary, and rested his head upon his
shield, and told his dwarf to keep watch while he slept.

Now, as soon as he had departed, the Lady Lyones repented, and greatly
longed to see him back, and asked her sister many times of what lineage he
was; but the damsel would not tell her, being bound by her oath to Sir
Beaumains, and said his dwarf best knew, So she called Sir Gringamors,
her brother, who dwelt with her, and prayed him to ride after Sir
Beaumains till he found him sleeping, and then to take his dwarf away and
bring him back to her. Anon Sir Gringamors departed, and rode till he came
to Sir Beaumains, and found him as he lay sleeping by the water-side. Then
stepping stealthily behind the dwarf he caught him in his arms and rode
off in haste. And though the dwarf cried loudly to his lord for help, and
woke Sir Beaumains, yet, though he rode full quickly after him, he could
not overtake Sir Gringamors.

When Dame Lyones saw her brother come back, she was passing glad of heart,
and forthwith asked the dwarf his master's lineage. "He is a king's son,"
said the dwarf, "and his mother is King Arthur's sister. His name is Sir
Gareth of Orkney, and he is brother to the good knight, Sir Gawain. But I
pray you suffer me to go back to my lord, for truly he will never leave
this country till he have me again." But when the Lady Lyones knew her
deliverer was come of such a kingly stock, she longed more than ever to
see him again.

Now as Sir Beaumains rode in vain to rescue his dwarf, he came to a fair
green road and met a poor man of the country, and asked him had he seen a
knight on a black horse, riding with a dwarf of a sad countenance behind
him. "Yea," said the man, "I met with such a knight an hour agone, and his
name is Sir Gringamors. He liveth at a castle two miles from hence; but he
is a perilous knight, and I counsel ye not to follow him save ye bear him
goodwill." Then Sir Beaumains followed the path which the poor man showed
him, and came to the castle. And riding to the gate in great anger, he
drew his sword, and cried aloud, "Sir Gringamors, thou traitor! deliver
me my dwarf again, or by my knighthood it shall be ill for thee!" Then Sir
Gringamors looked out of a window and said, "Sir Gareth of Orkney, leave
thy boasting words, for thou wilt not get thy dwarf again." But the Lady
Lyones said to her brother, "Nay brother, but I will that he have his
dwarf, for he hath done much for me, and delivered me from the Knight of
the Redlands, and well do I love him above all other knights." So Sir
Gringamors went down to Sir Gareth and cried him mercy, and prayed him to
alight and take good cheer.

Then he alighted, and his dwarf ran to him. And when he was in the hall
came the Lady Lyones dressed royally like a princess. And Sir Gareth was
right glad of heart when he saw her. Then she told him how she had made
her brother take away his dwarf and bring him back to her. And then she
promised him her love, and faithfully to cleave to him and none other all
the days of her life. And so they plighted their troth to each other. Then
Sir Gringamors prayed him to sojourn at the castle, which willingly he
did. "For," said he, "I have promised to quit the court for twelve months,
though sure I am that in the meanwhile I shall be sought and found by my
lord King Arthur and many others." So he sojourned long at the castle.

Anon the knights, Sir Perseant, Sir Perimones, and Sir Pertolope, whom Sir
Gareth had overthrown, went to King Arthur's court with all the knights
who did them service, and told the king they had been conquered by a
knight of his named Beaumains. And as they yet were talking, it was told
the king there came another great lord with five hundred knights, who,
entering in, did homage, and declared himself to be the Knight of the
Redlands. "But my true name," said he, "is Ironside, and I am hither sent
by one Sir Beaumains, who conquered me, and charged me to yield unto your
grace." "Thou art welcome," said King Arthur, "for thou hast been long a
foe to me and mine, and truly I am much beholden to the knight who sent
thee. And now, Sir Ironside, if thou wilt amend thy life and hold of me, I
will entreat thee as a friend, and make thee Knight of the Round Table;
but thou mayst no more be a murderer of noble knights." Then the Knight of
the Redlands knelt to the king, and told him of his promise to Sir
Beaumains to use never more such shameful customs; and how he had so done
but at the prayer of a lady whom he loved. Then knelt he to Sir Lancelot
and Sir Gawain, and prayed their pardon for the hatred he had borne them.

But the king and all the court marvelled greatly who Sir Beaumains was.
"For," said the king, "he is a full noble knight." Then said Sir Lancelot,
"Truly he is come of honourable blood, else had I not given him the order
of knighthood; but he charged me that I should conceal his secret."

Now as they talked thus it was told King Arthur that his sister, the Queen
of Orkney, was come to the court with a great retinue of knights and
ladies. Then was there great rejoicing, and the king rose and saluted his
sister. And her sons, Sir Gawain, Sir Agravain, and Sir Gaheris knelt
before her and asked her blessing, for during fifteen years last past they
had not seen her. Anon she said, "Where is my youngest son, Sir Gareth?
for I know that he was here a twelvemonth with you, and that ye made a
kitchen knave of him. Then the king and all the knights knew that Sir
Beaumains and Sir Gareth were the same. "Truly," said the king, "I knew
him not." "Nor I," said Sir Gawain and both his brothers. Then said the
king, "God be thanked, fair sister, that he is proved as worshipful a
knight as any now alive, and by the grace of Heaven he shall be found
forthwith if he be anywhere within these seven realms." Then said Sir
Gawain and his brethren, "Lord, if ye will give us leave we will go seek
him." But Sir Lancelot said, "It were better that the king should send a
messenger to Dame Lyones and pray her to come hither with all speed, and
she will counsel where ye shall find him." "It is well said," replied the
king; and sent a messenger quickly unto Dame Lyones.

When she heard the message she promised she would come forthwith, and told
Sir Gareth what the messenger had said, and asked him what to do. "I pray
you," said he, "tell them not where I am, but when my lord King Arthur
asketh for me, advise him thus--that he proclaim a tournament before this
castle on Assumption Day, and that the knight who proveth best shall win
yourself and all your lands." So the Lady Lyones departed and came to King
Arthur's court, and there was right nobly welcomed. And when they asked
her where Sir Gareth was, she said she could not tell. "But, lord," said
she, "with thy goodwill I will proclaim a tournament before my castle on
the Feast of the Assumption, whereof the prize shall be myself and all my
lands. Then if it be proclaimed that you, lord, and your knights will be
there, I will find knights on my side to fight you and yours, and thus am
I sure ye will hear tidings of Sir Gareth." "Be it so done," replied the

So Sir Gareth sent messengers privily to Sir Perseant and Sir Ironside,
and charged them to be ready on the day appointed, with their companies of
knights to aid him and his party against the king. And when they were
arrived he said, "Now be ye well assured that we shall be matched with the
best knights of the world, and therefore must we gather all the good
knights we can find."

So proclamation was made throughout all England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland,
and Cornwall, and in the out isles and other countries, that at the Feast
of the Assumption of our Lady, next coming, all knights who came to joust
at Castle Perilous should make choice whether they would side with the
king or with the castle. Then came many good knights on the side of the
castle. Sir Epinogris, the son of the King of Northumberland, and Sir
Palomedes the Saracen, and Sir Grummore Grummorsum, a good knight of
Scotland, and Sir Brian des Iles, a noble knight, and Sir Carados of the
Tower Dolorous, and Sir Tristram, who as yet was not a knight of the Round
Table, and many others. But none among them knew Sir Gareth, for he took
no more upon him than any mean person.

And on King Arthur's side there came the King of Ireland and the King of
Scotland, the noble prince Sir Galahaut, Sir Gawain and his brothers Sir
Agravain and Sir Gaheris, Sir Ewaine, Sir Tor, Sir Perceval, and Sir
Lamoracke, Sir Lancelot also and his kindred, Sir Lionel, Sir Ector, Sir
Bors and Sir Bedivere, likewise Sir Key and the most part of the Table
Round. The two queens also, Queen Guinevere and the Queen of Orkney, Sir
Gareth's mother, came with the king. So there was a great array both
within and without the castle, with all manner of feasting and minstrelsy.

Now before the tournament began, Sir Gareth privily prayed Dame Lyones,
Sir Gringamors, Sir Ironside, and Sir Perseant, that they would in nowise
disclose his name, nor make more of him than of any common knight. Then
said Dame Lyones, "Dear lord, I pray thee take this ring, which hath the
power to change the wearer's clothing into any colour he may will, and
guardeth him from any loss of blood. But give it me again, I pray thee,
when the tournament is done, for it greatly increaseth my beauty
whensoever I wear it." "Grammercy, mine own lady," said Sir Gareth, "I
wished for nothing better, for now I may be certainly disguised as long as
I will." Then Sir Gringamors gave Sir Gareth a bay courser that was a
passing good horse, with sure armour, and a noble sword, won by his father
from a heathen tyrant. And then every knight made him ready for the

So on the day of the Assumption, when mass and matins were said, the
heralds blew their trumpets and sounded for the tourney. Anon came out the
knights of the castle and the knights of King Arthur, and matched
themselves together.

Then Sir Epinogris, son of the King of Northumberland, a knight of the
castle, encountered Sir Ewaine, and both broke off their spears short to
their hands. Then came Sir Palomedes from the castle, and met Sir Gawain,
and they so hardly smote each other, that both knights and horses fell to
the earth. Then Sir Tristram, from the castle, encountered with Sir
Bedivere, and smote him to the earth, horse and man. Then the Knight of
the Redlands and Sir Gareth met with Sir Bors and Sir Bleoberis; and the
Knight of the Redlands and Sir Bors smote together so hard that their
spears burst, and their horses fell grovelling to the ground. And Sir
Bleoberis brake his spear upon Sir Gareth, but himself was hurled upon
the ground. When Sir Galihodin saw that, he bade Sir Gareth keep him, but
Sir Gareth lightly smote him to the earth. Then Sir Galihud got a spear to
avenge his brother, but was served in like manner. And Sir Dinadam, and
his brother La-cote-male-taile, and Sir Sagramour le Desirous, and Dodinas
le Savage, he bore down all with one spear.

When King Anguish of Ireland saw this, he marvelled what that knight could
be who seemed at one time green and at another blue; for so at every
course he changed his colour that none might know him. Then he ran towards
him and encountered him, and Sir Gareth smote the king from his horse,
saddle and all. And in like manner he served the King of Scotland, and
King Urience of Gore, and King Bagdemagus.

Then Sir Galahaut, the noble prince, cried out, "Knight of the many
colours! thou hast jousted well; now make thee ready to joust with me."
When Sir Gareth heard him, he took a great spear and met him swiftly. And
the prince's spear broke off, but Sir Gareth smote him on the left side of
the helm, so that he reeled here and there, and had fallen down had not
his men recovered him. "By my faith," said King Arthur, "that knight of
the many colours is a good knight. I pray thee, Sir Lancelot du Lake,
encounter with him." "Lord," said Sir Lancelot, "by thy leave I will
forbear. I find it in my heart to spare him at this time, for he hath done
enough work for one day; and when a good knight doth so well it is no
knightly part to hinder him from this honour. And peradventure his quarrel
is here to-day, and he may be the best beloved of the Lady Lyones of all
that be here; for I see well he paineth and forceth himself to do great
deeds. Therefore, as for me, this day he shall have the honour; for
though I were able to put him from it, I would not." "You speak well and
truly," said the king.

Then after the tilting, they drew swords, and there began a great
tournament, and there Sir Lancelot did marvellous deeds of arms, for first
he fought with both Sir Tristram and Sir Carados, albeit they were the
most perilous in all the world. Then came Sir Gareth and put them asunder,
but would not smite a stroke against Sir Lancelot, for by him he had been
knighted. Anon Sir Gareth's helm had need of mending, and he rode aside to
see to it and to drink water, for he was sore athirst with all his mighty
feats of strength. And while he drank, his dwarf said to him, "Give me
your ring, lest ye lose it while ye drink." So Sir Gareth took it off. And
when he had finished drinking, he rode back eagerly to the field, and in
his haste forgot to take the ring again. Then all the people saw that he
wore yellow armour. And King Arthur told a herald, "Ride and espy the
cognizance of that brave knight, for I have asked many who he is, and none
can tell me."

Then the herald rode near, and saw written round about his helmet in
letters of gold, "Sir Gareth of Orkney." And instantly the herald cried
his name aloud, and all men pressed to see him.

But when he saw he was discovered, he pushed with haste through all the
crowd, and cried to his dwarf, Boy, thou hast beguiled me foully in
keeping my ring; give it me again, that I may be hidden." And as soon as
he had put it on, his armour changed again, and no man knew where he had
gone. Then he passed forth from the field; but Sir Gawain, his brother,
rode after him.

And when Sir Gareth had ridden far into the forest, he took off his ring,
and sent it back by the dwarf to the Lady Lyones, praying her to be true
and faithful to him while he was away.

Then rode Sir Gareth long through the forest, till night fell, and coming
to a castle he went up to the gate, and prayed the porter to let him in.
But churlishly he answered "that he should not lodge there." Then said Sir
Gareth, "Tell thy lord and lady that I am a knight of King Arthur's court,
and for his sake I pray their shelter." With that the porter went to the
duchess who owned the castle. "Let him in straightway," cried she; "for
the king's sake he shall not be harbourless!" and went down to receive
him. When Sir Gareth saw her coming, he saluted her, and said, "Fair lady,
I pray you give me shelter for this night, and if there be here any
champion or giant with whom I must needs fight, spare me till to-morrow,
when I and my horse shall have rested, for we are full weary." "Sir
knight," she said, "thou speakest boldly; for the lord of this castle is a
foe to King Arthur and his court, and if thou wilt rest here to-night thou
must agree, that wheresoever thou mayest meet my lord, thou must yield to
him as a prisoner." "What is thy lord's name, lady?" said Sir Gareth. "The
Duke de la Rowse," said she. "I will promise thee," said he, "to yield to
him, if he promise to do me no harm; but if he refuse, I will release
myself with my sword and spear."

"It is well," said the duchess; and commanded the drawbridge to be let
down. So he rode into the hall and alighted. And when he had taken off his
armour, the duchess and her ladies made him passing good cheer. And after
supper his bed was made in the hall, and there he rested that night. On
the morrow he rose and heard mass, and having broken his fast, took his
leave and departed.

[Illustration: So he rode into the hall and alighted.]

And as he rode past a certain mountain there met him a knight named Sir
Bendelaine, and cried unto him "Thou shalt not pass unless thou joust with
me or be my prisoner!" "Then will we joust," replied Sir Gareth. So they
let their horses run at full speed, and Sir Gareth smote Sir Bendelaine
through his body so sorely that he scarcely reached his castle ere he fell
dead. And as Sir Gareth presently came by the castle, Sir Bendelaine's
knights and servants rode out to revenge their lord. And twenty of them
fell on him at once, although his spear was broken. But drawing his sword
he put his shield before him. And though they brake their spears upon him,
one and all, and sorely pressed on him, yet ever he defended himself like
a noble knight. Anon, finding they could not overcome him, they agreed to
slay his horse; and having killed it with their spears, they set upon Sir
Gareth as he fought on foot. But every one he struck he slew, and drave at
them with fearful blows, till he had slain them all but four, who fled.
Then taking the horse of one of those that lay there dead, he rode upon
his way.

Anon he came to another castle and heard from within a sound as of many
women moaning and weeping. Then said he to a page who stood without, "What
noise is this I hear?" "Sir knight," said he, "there be within thirty
ladies, the widows of thirty knights who have been slain by the lord of
this castle. He is called the Brown Knight without pity, and is the most
perilous knight living, wherefore I warn thee to flee." "That will I never
do," said Sir Gareth, "for I fear him not." Then the page saw the Brown
Knight coming and said to Gareth, "Lo! my lord is near."

So both knights made them ready and galloped their horses towards each
other, and the Brown Knight brake his spear upon Sir Gareth's shield; but
Sir Gareth smote him through the body so that he fell dead. At that he
rode into the castle and told the ladies he had slain their foe. Then were
they right glad of heart and made him all the cheer they could, and
thanked him out of measure. But on the morrow as he went to mass he found
the ladies weeping in the chapel upon divers tombs that were there. And he
knew that in those tombs their husbands lay. Then he bade them be
comforted, and with noble and high words he desired and prayed them all to
be at Arthur's court on the next Feast of Pentecost.

So he departed and rode past a mountain where was a goodly knight waiting,
who said to him, "Abide, Sir knight, and joust with me!" "How are ye
named?" said Sir Gareth. "I am the Duke de la Rowse," answered he. "In
good sooth," then said Sir Gareth, "not long ago I lodged within your
castle, and there promised I would yield to you whenever we might meet."
"Art thou that proud knight," said the duke, "who was ready to fight with
me? Guard thyself therefore and make ready." So they ran together, and Sir
Gareth smote the duke from his horse. Then they alighted and drew their
swords, and fought full sorely for the space of an hour; and at the last
Sir Gareth smote the duke to the earth and would have slain him, but he
yielded. "Then must ye go," said Sir Gareth, "to my lord King Arthur at
the next Feast of Pentecost and say that I, Sir Gareth, sent ye." "As ye
will be it," said the duke; and gave him up his shield for pledge.

And as Sir Gareth rode alone he saw an armed knight coming towards him.
And putting the duke's shield before him he rode fast to tilt with him;
and so they ran together as it had been thunder, and brake their spears
upon each other. Then fought they fiercely with their swords and lashed
together with such mighty strokes that blood ran to the ground on every
side. And after they had fought together for two hours and more, it
chanced the damsel Linet passed that way; and when she saw them she cried
out, "Sir Gawain and Sir Gareth, leave your fighting, for ye are
brethren!" At that they threw away their shields and swords, and took each
other in their arms and wept a great while ere they could speak. And each
gave to the other the honour of the battle, and there was many a kind word
between them. Then said Sir Gawain, "O my brother, for your sake have I
had great sorrow and labour! But truly I would honour you though ye were
not my brother, for ye have done great worship to King Arthur and his
court, and sent more knights to him than any of the Table Round, except
Sir Lancelot."

Then the damsel Linet staunched their wounds, and their horses being weary
she rode her palfrey to King Arthur and told him of this strange
adventure. When she had told her tidings, the king himself mounted his
horse and bade all come with him to meet them. So a great company of lords
and ladies went forth to meet the brothers. And when King Arthur saw them
he would have spoken hearty words, but for gladness he could not. And both
Sir Gawain and Sir Gareth fell down at their uncle's knees and did him
homage, and there was passing great joy and gladness among them all.

Then said the king to the damsel Linet, "Why cometh not the Lady Lyones to
visit her knight, Sir Gareth, who hath had such travail for her love?"
"She knoweth not, my lord, that he is here," replied the damsel, "for
truly she desireth greatly to see him." "Go ye and bring her hither,"
said the king. So the damsel rode to tell her sister where Sir Gareth was,
and when she heard it she rejoiced full heartily and came with all the
speed she could. And when Sir Gareth saw her, there was great joy and
comfort between them.

Then the king asked Sir Gareth whether he would have that lady for his
wife? "My lord," replied Sir Gareth, "know well that I love her above all
ladies living." "Now, fair lady," said King Arthur, "what say ye?" "Most
noble king," she answered, "my lord, Sir Gareth, is my first love and
shall be my last, and if I may not have him for my husband I will have
none." Then said the king to them, "Be well assured that for my crown I
would not be the cause of parting your two hearts."

Then was high preparation made for the marriage, for the king desired it
should be at the Michaelmas next following, at Kinkenadon-by-the-Sea.

So Sir Gareth sent out messages to all the knights whom he had overcome in
battle that they should be there upon his marriage-day.

Therefore, at the next Michaelmas, came a goodly company to
Kinkenadon-by-the-Sea. And there did the Archbishop of Canterbury marry
Sir Gareth and the Lady Lyones with all solemnity. And all the knights
whom Sir Gareth had overcome were at the feast; and every manner of revels
and games was held with music and minstrelsy. And there was a great
jousting for three days. But because of his bride the king would not
suffer Sir Gareth to joust. Then did King Arthur give great lands and
fair, with store of gold, to Sir Gareth and his wife, that so they might
live royally together to their lives' end.


_The Adventures of Sir Tristram of Lyonesse_

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: Then they began the battle, and tilted at their hardest
against each other.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who is it?" said the king.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What tidings?" said Sir Tristram.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Wherefore askest thou that?" said Tristram.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What were their names?" said Sir Bleoberis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: By the time they had finished drinking they loved each
other so well that their love never more might leave them.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Do thy best," said he.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And mine, Sir Lamoracke of Gaul."

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

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

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

Then did they swear as he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"With a good will," said he.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Is he Sir Lancelot?" said Sir Tristram.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


_The Quest of the Sangreal, and the Adventures of Sir Percival, Sir Bors,
and Sir Galahad_

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

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

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

[Illustration: Waving her hands and muttering the charm, and presently
enclosed him fast within the tree.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yea," answered Galahad and all the nuns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What be they?" said King Arthur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I will abide thee," said he.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Lead me thither," said Sir Galahad.

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

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

[Illustration: Galahad ... quickly lifted up the stone, and forthwith came
out a foul smoke.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Where is the maiden?" asked Sir Galahad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Sir Lancelot promised him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yea," said Sir Percival.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: "This girdle, lords," said she, "is made for the most part
of mine own hair, which, while I was yet in the world, I loved full

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

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

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

"We are," said they.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


_Sir Lancelot and the Fair Maid of Astolat_

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who is he?" said King Arthur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: At last the strange knight smote him to the earth, and gave
him such a buffet on the helm as well-nigh killed him. ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who is it?" asked they.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Wherefore?" said fair Elaine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So with that he departed to find Sir Lancelot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: Then was Sir Lancelot sent for, and the letter read aloud
by a clerk.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"God speed you well," said Sir Bedivere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What saw ye?" said King Arthur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the three queens received him, and he laid his head upon the lap of
one of them, who cried, "Alas! dear brother, why have ye tarried so long,
for your wound hath taken cold?"

With that the barge put from the land, and when Sir Bedivere saw it
departing, he cried with a bitter cry, "Alas! my lord King Arthur, what
shall become of me now ye have gone from me?"

"Comfort ye," said King Arthur, "and be strong, for I may no more help ye.
I go to the Vale of Avilion to heal me of my grievous wound, and if ye see
me no more, pray for my soul."

Then the three queens kneeled down around the king and sorely wept and
wailed, and the barge went forth to sea, and departed slowly out of Sir
Bedivere's sight.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights" ***