The next day he awoke in a fever, and would have died but for his faithful lion. The poor animal tried to make Sir Ivaine rise, but seeing that he could not, dragged him to the edge of a brook, where he could drink when he was thirsty. The lion also brought him game. At first Sir Ivaine would not touch it, but finally began to eat it raw.
After a time he became better, physically, but his senses were gone. In his madness he wandered all through the woods, fighting with the trees and bushes. The lion always followed him, protecting him from other animals and from men.
One day when the lion was absent finding food, Sir Ivaine lay asleep. A good hermit came up to him, and pitying his condition, lifted him in his arms and carried him to his hut. He bathed the poor knight, cut his hair, and put a robe upon him. He was laying him upon a bed when the lion came roaring to the door and dashed it open.
When it saw the hermit tending its master, it fawned at his feet. After that Sir Ivaine spent much of his time in the hut. The lion supplied him with food, bringing meat to the hermit, who always divided it into four parts: three parts he gave to the lion, and one he cooked for Sir Ivaine and himself.
Sometimes Sir Ivaine would run away from the hermit and wander for days in the forest. The lion took care of him, and always led him back to the hermit's hut. Once, however, Sir Ivaine set forth in the direction of his wife's castle. At night the lion tried to take him to the hut, but in vain. For days he wandered, always in the same direction, until at last he reached the wood where the stone platform was. He laid himself down upon it and slept. Soon a lady and a maid appeared. The lion sprang at them, but when it reached their feet, it licked the lady's hand, for she was its mistress.
It took her robe in its teeth and pulled her gently to the spot where Sir Ivaine lay. At first she would not look at him, because she had not forgiven him for breaking his promise. But the little maiden said:
"Dear mistress, look at him. The story which the knights of Arthur's Court told us about his madness must be true. If you will but look at his face you will see that it is the face of a man who has lost his senses."
Then the lady knelt beside him. When she saw his worn features and his tattered garments, she began to believe that he really had lost his senses from grief. She sent the little maiden to the castle for an ointment she had. It was so powerful that if it were rubbed over a person who was ill, it would cure him, no matter what his disease was. When the little maid brought it, the lady put it upon Sir Ivaine, but so gently as not to rouse him.
After several hours, Sir Ivaine awoke. At first he hardly knew where he was, but soon he recollected all that had happened, and seeing his lady near, begged her to forgive him. This she did, and they were reconciled. Sir Ivaine was sure that he would never again forget to keep a promise.
For some months they lived very happily in the castle. Then they went to Camelot in order to be near to Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
In Arthur's Court there dwelt a poor knight named Balin, who had accidentally killed the cousin of King Arthur, and had been taken to the court of the king for trial. He had lived there almost as a prisoner for six months, until it was decided that he had not meant to do wrong. All his money was gone, and his clothes and armor were poor. He was sorry for this, but he was still more sorry that he was not doing brave deeds like the other knights.
One day when he sat in the great hall at Camelot, looking at the shields which were carved or covered with gold, a damsel entered who wore a rich mantle, trimmed with fur. As Arthur and the knights looked at her, she let it fall to the floor, and they saw that she wore a heavy sword.
"Damsel," said Arthur, "why do you, a maiden, wear a sword?"
"Alas!" said the maiden, "I should be glad if I did not wear it. It is very heavy, and causes me pain. But I am forced to wear it until I meet a knight who can take it from me."
"Surely many knights could do that, and gladly," the lords said.
"No," said the lady. "It seems that there is but one knight in all the world who is to take the sword. I heard that there were brave knights at the Court of King Rience, the enemy of King Arthur, and I went there. Yet no one could unfasten the sword. Now am I come here on the same errand."
"In truth, damsel," said the king, "you are right welcome. My knights shall try to take your weapon."
Then, at a sign from Arthur, a knight stepped forward. But, even though he exerted all his strength, the sword could not be unfastened.
"Sir, you need not pull so hard," said the damsel. "The one who is to take the sword will do so easily."
All the knights tried except Sir Balin, who stood back because of his poor clothes. Yet he wanted very much to see if he was the chosen knight, and just as the damsel was going away, he said:
"Damsel, will you let me try? I am poorly clothed, but my heart tells me that I may succeed."
The damsel saw that he had a good face. But his clothes were so poor she doubted if he were really a knight.
"I am afraid you will fail," she said.
"Ah, maiden," he returned, "poor clothes are but the outside. Good deeds are just as worthy, whether done by a rich person or a poor one. Many a man who is badly clothed has real valor and kindness."
"That is very true," she said; "so try, good sir."
Then Sir Balin seized the hilt of the sword, and the weapon came away easily. All the lords wondered, and the lady said:
"You are a good knight, the best I have met. You shall do many brave deeds. And now, give me my sword again."
"No," said Sir Balin, "I should like to keep this sword, for I have no other."
"Alas!" said the maiden, "I am sorry to hear these words, for now I must give you the sword."
"Surely he deserves it," said Arthur, "for it weighed heavily on you."
"Yes," she replied, "but it is a misfortune for him to keep it. He shall slay with it the best friend he has in the world. It is going to prove his destruction."
Sir Balin would not believe her.
"I could not slay my best friend," he said. "Besides, I am willing to meet whatever happens, and I wish to keep the sword."
Then the maiden departed in great sorrow, while Balin said to the king:
"My lord, give me permission to leave your court."
"I do not like to lose you," said the king. "Perhaps you are angry because you were in prison so long. You must know that it takes time to find out who is innocent and who is guilty."
"My lord," answered Sir Balin, "I know it is not wise to make a judgment hastily, and I do not blame you for keeping me in prison. I love you, and wish to leave your court that I may do some deed worthy of the Round Table."
Then Arthur said that he might go. Soon a servant brought to Balin a fine horse and good armor which were the gifts of the king. Balin at once took leave of Arthur and the knights, and rode away, singing as he rode, for he was very happy. Sometimes he stopped to lift up his shield and admire it. It had a blue emblem upon it, and to Sir Balin's eyes its beauty was that of the sky, the soft blue of heaven.
Sir Balin rode until he was tired. At last, from the crest of a hill, he saw a gloomy stone castle, and galloped towards it joyfully, hoping to rest there.
At a turn of the road, he saw a cross with gold letters upon it. He stopped to read the words, which were: "Let no knight go to the castle, for great danger is there."
"Oh," said Sir Balin, "I am used to danger. I fear nothing," and he went on.
Presently an old man started up beside the road. He had a long gray beard, and was dressed in a long gray robe that sparkled with little specks of frost. The old man said to Sir Balin:
"Did you not read the letters on the cross?"
"Yes," replied Sir Balin, "but I am not afraid."
"Oh, Sir Balin, you of all men should fear to go to that castle," the old man said.
"Why?" he asked in amazement. "Nevertheless, I shall go."
"Sir Balin, Sir Balin!" cried the old man after him, "you are too self-willed. You will be very sorry for what you have done before you die."
But Sir Balin rode on without fear, and soon reached the gate of the castle. A hundred beautiful ladies and many knights welcomed him. They took off his armor and put a rich crimson cloak upon his shoulders. Then they led him into a banquet hall where there was music and dancing. They set food before him, and he ate, thankfully. He was very happy, feeling sure that he could rest here for many days.
Just as he was thinking this, the lady who was mistress of the castle said:
"Sir knight, it is the rule of this castle that every lord who comes here as a guest must fight."
"That is a hard custom," said Sir Balin.
"Yet you need fight but once," answered the lady. "We have here the knight who entered just before you came."
"Alas!" said Sir Balin, "I would rather not fight, for I wish to rest. Since such is the custom of the castle, however, I must do my part. Let some one bring my armor."
A servant at once came up to him with a suit of black armor.
"This is not my armor," said Sir Balin. "My armor is not painted black. It is honest gray steel, decorated with blue."
"It is the custom of the castle to wear black," they told him. "This armor is as good as your own."
Sir Balin felt sad, he could hardly tell why; and was very sorry that he had ever come to the castle. Putting on the armor, however, he went into the courtyard and mounted his horse. No sooner was he ready than another knight, clad all in black, entered the courtyard.
The two knights rode together so fiercely that the shock threw them both off their horses in a swoon. After a time they recovered and began to fight on foot, pressing each other near the walls of the castle.
Sir Balin was fighting with the sword that he had taken from the damsel in King Arthur's Court. It was a strong sword, and whenever it struck, the armor of his opponent cracked. They fought till their breath failed, and then they rested. Each knew that never before had he dealt with such a strong enemy.
Then they fought again, and gave each other seven deep wounds, the least of which would prove fatal. All the ground was red with blood, but Sir Balin fought on still, for the people of the castle were watching from the walls, and he wished to be thought a great warrior. So at last he used all his remaining strength and gave the other knight such a hard blow that he fell to the ground. Sir Balin knew that it was a death stroke. He felt that he, too, was about to die, and said:
"Who are you? I never fought with such a strong knight before."
The other answered faintly:
"I am Sir Balan, the brother to the good knight Sir Balin."
Then Sir Balin cried out:
"Alas, alas! that I should live to see this day!" and he fell backward in a swoon.
Sir Balan was dying, but he crawled on his hands and knees to where Sir Balin lay, and took off his helmet only to discover the face of his brother. Then he wept bitterly till Sir Balin recovered from his swoon.
"Alas!" said Sir Balan, "if we had but worn our own armor we should have known each other. And now we must die; we have killed each other."
Sir Balin was too full of remorse to weep.
"All this is my fault," he said. "As the old man on the road told me, I have been too self-willed. First, I would have the damsel's sword, although she told me that I should slay with it the best friend I had. That is you, Balan. And then I would enter this castle in spite of warnings. I deserve to die, but it is a hard punishment that I should have killed you, my brother."
Soon some ladies came from the wall into the courtyard, and to them Sir Balin said:
"We are two dear brothers who have killed each other. I pray you, promise to bury us in the same grave."
The ladies wept as they made the promise. The two brothers put their arms about each other and waited for death. They hoped to die together, but Sir Balan died first. Soon after, when Sir Balin had also died, the ladies buried them together, and put a stone above the grave, telling the sad story of their combat and death.
SIR GERAINT AND ENID
One of the bravest knights in King Arthur's Court was Sir Geraint. Once he was in the forest with Queen Guinevere and one of her maidens, when a lady, a knight, and a dwarf rode by. The queen told the maiden to go to the dwarf and ask who his master was.
As the maiden approached them, she saw that the knight had a very proud face. She asked the dwarf his master's name, but he said, roughly:
"I do not know."
"If you do not know," answered the maiden, "I will ask him myself."
She started to ride up to the knight, but the dwarf struck at her with his whip. Upon this, she went back and told the queen and Sir Geraint what had passed. Sir Geraint was very angry, and he said to the queen:
"Fair queen, I will ride after this knight and his dwarf and avenge the insult done to your maiden. If I succeed, I shall return in three days."
"Do so," said the queen, "and I trust you will succeed, not only in this, but in all things which you attempt. Some day you will love some fair lady. Before you marry her, bring her to me, and no matter how poor or how rich she may be, I will clothe her for her wedding in the most beautiful garments in the world. They shall shine like the sun."
So off rode Sir Geraint, keeping at some distance behind the lady, the knight, and the dwarf. At last, after passing through many woods, he lost sight of them as they disappeared beyond the top of a hill. Sir Geraint rode up, and saw below him, in a valley, the one street of a little town. On one side was a fortress, so new that the stone of which it was built was still white; while on the other side stood a gray old castle, fast falling into decay. He saw the three people he was following enter the fortress.
In the little town there was a great deal of noise and bustle. At first Sir Geraint could not find any place to stay, for the houses were all full. He stopped before a servant who was scouring his master's armor, and asked what all the noise meant. The servant said:
"The Sparrow-hawk," and went on working.
Then he met an old man carrying a sack of corn, and asked him the same question. The old man made the same reply. Next Sir Geraint approached one who was making armor, and questioned him. Without looking up the man replied:
"Friend, he who works for the Sparrow-hawk has little time for answering questions."
Sir Geraint was vexed, and said:
"I am weary of hearing of your Sparrow-hawk. I do not understand what you mean. Will you not tell me where I can find a place to stay for to-night? And will you not sell me some armor? I have but my sword."
Then the man looked up, and said:
"Your pardon, sir. We are all very busy here, for to-morrow we hold a tournament, and our work is not half done. I cannot give you armor, for we need all that we have in the town. As to lodging, all the room is taken. However, perhaps Earl Iniol in the castle will receive you."
Sir Geraint rode over to the gray old castle, and as the gate was open, entered the ruined courtyard. Dismounting, he went into the hall. Here he found the earl, an elderly man dressed in clothes which had once been handsome, but were now old and worn. To him Sir Geraint said:
"Good sir, I seek lodging for the night."
The old Earl Iniol answered:
"Sir, I was once rich and am now poor; nevertheless, I will gladly give you the best I have."
As he spoke, some one in the castle began to sing. The voice was very sweet. Sir Geraint thought he had never heard anyone sing so wonderfully.
"That is my daughter Enid," said the earl.
Then he took Sir Geraint into a room in which sat an old lady in a faded velvet gown. She was the earl's wife. By her side stood Enid in a faded silk gown. She was as beautiful as her voice was sweet, and after watching her, Sir Geraint said to himself:
"I already love this maiden."
He said nothing out loud, only looked at her. Earl Iniol spoke to her:
"Enid, this good knight will stay with us. His horse is in the courtyard; take it to the stall and give it corn. Then go into the town and buy us some food."
Sir Geraint wished to put away his horse himself, but the old earl said:
"Sir, we are very poor, but we cannot permit our guest to do any work. I pray you, stay here."
So Enid took the horse to the stall. After that, she went into the town and soon returned with meat and sweet cakes. Then, because most of the rooms in the old castle were in ruins, she cooked the meat in the same hall in which they were to eat. When the meal was ready, she waited on her father and her mother and Sir Geraint. The knight watched her and loved her more and more.
When they had risen from the table, he said to the earl:
"My lord, pray tell me what the people of this town mean when they speak of the Sparrow-hawk."
The earl's face grew sad, as he said:
"That is the name given to the young knight who rules in this town."
"Does he live in the fortress?" asked Sir Geraint. "And do a lady and a dwarf ride with him?"
"Yes," said the earl.
"Ah, then he is the man I am in search of," said Sir Geraint. "I must fight with him before three days are over. I am Geraint of King Arthur's Court."
"I know your name well," said the earl. "We often hear of your great deeds at Camelot. Many times have I related to my Enid the story of your brave deeds."
"I am bound to do my duty with the other knights," answered Sir Geraint. "And now tell me more of this Sparrow-hawk."
"Alas! he is my nephew," said the earl. "At one time I ruled this town. My nephew, the Sparrow-hawk, was powerful, too, and he asked to unite our power by marrying Enid, but neither she nor I wished it. Then he collected a body of men and attacked me, and took all my wealth, leaving me nothing but this old castle."
"To-morrow," said Sir Geraint, "I will fight in the tournament with this Sparrow-hawk, and conquer him, and give you back your lands. But I lack armor."
"I can give you armor, although it is old and rusty," said the earl. "But no one is allowed to fight in this tournament unless there is some lady he loves best in all the world. Then he fights for the sake of this lady, and if he wins, receives the prize, which he in turn gives to her."
"What is the prize?" asked Sir Geraint.
"A hawk, a sparrow-hawk made of gold. This nephew of mine is very strong and has always overcome every knight who has opposed him in these tournaments, which are held yearly. It is because he has won the prize so often that he is called the Sparrow-hawk. But tell me, is there some lady whom you love?"
Then Sir Geraint said:
"I love this child of yours, my lord, and will gladly make her my wife if you will permit it."
The earl was very glad, but Enid was afraid, for she thought she was not worthy of such a great knight. Yet, she knew she loved him, and said so, and soon promised to go with him to Arthur's Court within three days.
The next morning, the earl and Sir Geraint and Enid went to the field where the tournament was to take place. Many knights and ladies were there. The ladies sat under a pavilion which was draped in purple velvet ornamented with gold, while the knights were on horseback. A herald blew a trumpet, and the knight who was called the Sparrow-hawk galloped into the field.
He rode around it three times, and then went up to the pavilion and said to his lady:
"I give you the gold sparrow-hawk again, because no one dares to fight with me for it."
Then Sir Geraint rode forward in his rusty armor and said:
"I will fight with you."
The knight looked upon him, and gave a very scornful laugh as he rode at Sir Geraint. The two clashed together and began to fight fiercely, while all the people watched. Twice they had to stop and rest. For a long time they seemed evenly matched, and no one could decide which would win. But when Sir Geraint looked to where Enid sat in her faded silk gown among the richly dressed ladies in the pavilion, he grew very strong and struck his enemy such a blow that he fell to the earth.
"Now, Sparrow-hawk," said Sir Geraint, "I have overthrown you. You must do two things: you must ride with your lady and your dwarf to Arthur's Court and ask pardon of Queen Guinevere because your dwarf struck her maiden; and you must restore all the riches you have taken from your good uncle, Earl Iniol."
This the knight promised to do. And afterwards, in Arthur's Court, he grew very sorry for his evil deeds, and became a good man.
Meanwhile, Enid was making ready to go to Arthur's Court with Sir Geraint. She was sorry that she had only her robe of faded silk. She remembered a robe her mother had given her before the Sparrow-hawk took their riches. It was of velvet, the color of mother-of-pearl, with gold leaves and flowers and birds embroidered upon it.
While she was thinking of this beautiful robe, her mother entered the room, carrying it. Enid gave a cry of joy, and her mother told her that the Sparrow-hawk had just given it back, together with other robes and gold and jewels. "Put it on, Enid," she said, and helped her daughter to array herself in the handsome gown, exclaiming: "How beautiful you look, my dear child! Sir Geraint may well be proud to fetch such a fair lady to King Arthur's Court."
Just then the earl entered to tell them that the knight wanted Enid to ride with him to Camelot in the faded silk dress in which he had first seen her.
Enid, although she was deeply disappointed, at once put on again her faded gown. When Sir Geraint came in he saw that the earl's wife was also disappointed, so he told them that the queen had promised to dress his bride in the most beautiful robes in the world for her wedding. At this both the ladies were much pleased.
So after bidding farewell to her parents, Enid rode with Sir Geraint to Camelot, where the queen welcomed her, and gave her a robe that was as bright as the sun. Then the good Archbishop of Canterbury married Sir Geraint and Enid amid great rejoicings.
ARTHUR AND SIR ACCALON
There was a woman in Arthur's Court named Morgan le Fay, who had learned a great deal about magic. She was a wicked woman, and hated the king because he was more powerful than she, and because he was so good.
However, she pretended to be a true friend to him, and the king believed in her. One day when they were talking together, she asked him if he would not let her take charge of his wonderful sword Excalibur, and its scabbard. She said that she would guard them so carefully that they would never be stolen. As she was very eager, Arthur granted her request.
One day in time of peace, King Arthur went out hunting with a certain knight named Sir Accalon, who was the lover of Morgan le Fay. They rode for a long time, and when they were tired, stopped to rest beside a great lake. As they looked over its shining waters, they saw a beautiful little ship, which sailed straight towards them, and ran up to the sands at their feet. It was all covered with golden silks, which waved in the gentle wind. King Arthur and Sir Accalon climbed into it and examined it thoroughly, but they found no one on board.
They rested on two couches which were on the deck, until it grew dark. Then they were about to return home, when all at once, a hundred torches, set on the sides of the ship were lighted, and suddenly there appeared twelve beautiful damsels who told the two that they were welcome, and that they should be served with a banquet.
Presently the maidens led the king and the knight into a room which had a table covered with a white cloth embroidered in purple. It bore many golden dishes, and each dish had a beautiful design carved upon it. Some dishes had vine-leaves, others ivy-leaves; some had angels with long robes sweeping back in graceful lines; and all these dishes held choice food. The king and Sir Accalon ate to their hearts' content.
Then the damsels led them into two separate chambers. King Arthur was tired and so sleepy that he gave but one glance at his bedroom. He saw that it was hung in red silk embroidered with gold dragons and griffins. Then he threw himself on his bed and slept very soundly.
When he awoke, he found himself not in the pretty bed-chamber, but in a dark place. He could see nothing, but all about him he heard the sound of complaining and weeping. He was much bewildered, but in a moment he cried:
"What is this? Where am I?"
Then a voice answered:
"You are in prison, as we are."
"Who are you?" asked Arthur.
The voice replied:
"We are twenty knights, prisoners, and some of us have been here as long as seven years. We are in the dungeons of a wicked lord named Sir Damas. He has a younger brother, and the two brothers are enemies, quarreling about their inheritance. Now the younger brother, Sir Ontzlake, is very strong, but Sir Damas is not strong, and moreover, he is a coward. So he tries to find a knight who will fight for him against Sir Ontzlake.
"But Sir Damas is so much hated that no one will fight for him. So he goes about the country with a body of rough men, and whenever he sees a knight, he captures him. Then he asks him to fight with Sir Ontzlake. So far, all the knights have refused, and have been thrown into prison. We do not have food enough, but we would rather die here than fight for Sir Damas, who is so wicked."
At that moment a damsel entered the prison with a torch, which faintly lighted the dismal place, and advanced to the king.
"Sir," she said, "will you fight for my lord, Sir Damas? If you will, you shall be taken from this prison. If you will not, you shall die here."
Arthur considered for some time, and then said:
"I would rather fight than die in prison. If I fight, will you deliver also all these prisoners?"
The damsel promised, and Arthur consented to fight. While she went to tell Sir Damas, Arthur said to the other prisoners:
"My friends, I do not know Sir Damas, and I do not know Sir Ontzlake. I do not know whether they are bad or good. But I will fight, and then, when I have conquered, I shall judge between them, and do justice to both."
"That is a good plan," said the knights, "but why are you so sure that you will conquer?"
"I am Arthur, the King," he replied.
At that the knights set up a great cry of joy, and the king continued:
"I shall send for my good sword Excalibur and the scabbard, and with these I shall surely win."
So when Arthur and the knights were led out of prison, the king sent the damsel who had visited them to Morgan le Fay for his sword and scabbard.
Meantime, the knight who had accompanied Arthur on the little ship, Sir Accalon, also awoke. He found himself in the palace of Morgan le Fay, and he wondered very much where Arthur was. He went to the lady, who said to him:
"My dear lord, the day has come when you can have great power if you want it. Should you like to be king of this land, instead of Arthur?"
Now Sir Accalon was a traitor at heart. He wanted very much to be king, even if the good Arthur was to be killed; so he said:
Then she said:
"You shall be king, and I shall be your queen. All you need to do is to fight a great battle, which you shall win. I have been using my magic. It was I who sent the ship of silk to you and Arthur. I had him put into prison, and I had you brought here."
Sir Accalon wondered very much. Then she told him of the fight King Arthur was to make against Sir Ontzlake.
"But I have caused Sir Ontzlake to fall sick," she said, "and he cannot fight. I shall go with you to his castle and you can offer to fight for him."
"I to fight with the king!" cried Sir Accalon. "He would surely overthrow me."
"He cannot," said Morgan le Fay, "because you are to fight with his sword. A little while ago he sent to me for Excalibur and the scabbard, but I returned him a false sword which looks like Excalibur, and a false scabbard. You shall take the true ones, and then you shall surely overcome him and rule this land."
Then Sir Accalon was glad, and he hastened with the lady to the castle of Sir Ontzlake. They found him groaning because he was ill and because Sir Damas had sent him a challenge to fight with a knight, and he could not accept it. He was much relieved when Morgan le Fay told him that Sir Accalon would fight in his place.
Early in the afternoon, King Arthur and Sir Accalon rode into the field where the combat was to be held. Arthur did not know who Sir Accalon was, nor did any one else, except Morgan le Fay. Two sides of the field were full of people who came to watch, half of whom were friends of Sir Damas, and the other half were friends of Sir Ontzlake.
Arthur and Sir Accalon rode at each other so furiously that at the shock of the meeting both fell off their horses. Then they began to fight fiercely with their swords. The king could make no headway with his false steel, but whenever Sir Accalon struck at Arthur he drew blood.
The king was much amazed. He grew weaker and weaker, but still he kept on his feet. Those who watched him were sorry for him; they thought they had never seen a man fight so bravely. At last Arthur's sword broke, and fell in two pieces on the ground. When Sir Accalon saw this, he cried:
"Now, yield to me."
"I will never yield," said the king, "and if you do not get me another sword, you will be shamed before all men, for it is an unknightly thing to fight with a defenseless man."
"I do not care," said Sir Accalon. "If you will not yield, defend yourself with your shield as best you can."
He rushed at the king. Arthur was so weak that he could hardly stand, but he guarded himself as well as he could with his shield. Soon he could do no more, and fell to the ground.
At this moment the Lady of the Lake, who had given Arthur his sword, came upon the field. She was invisible, but anyone who had listened intently could have heard a sound like the ripple of water as she walked. She caused Excalibur to fall out of the hand of Sir Accalon and drop near Arthur.
When it fell, Arthur saw that it was his own Excalibur. He grasped its handle and some of his strength came back. He struggled to his feet, and rushing up to Sir Accalon, seized the scabbard of Excalibur and threw it far over the field.
"Now," he said, "send for a second sword and fight with me."
Then Sir Accalon was afraid. Yet he thought that Arthur was so weak that he could still be overcome. So he sent for a second sword, and they began to fight again. Arthur's strength, however, had largely returned, and in a short time he gave Sir Accalon a mortal stroke.
Sir Accalon fell to the ground, and the king, leaning over him, cried:
"Tell me who you are."
Then Sir Accalon was filled with remorse, and he said:
"Oh, my king, I have been a traitor to you, but now I am dying, and I am sorry for what I have done. I deserve my death."
He told the king his name, and all about his treachery, and that of Morgan le Fay.
King Arthur was sad.
"It is very hard to be deceived in a friend," he said, "but I forgive you freely. I will try to cure your wound, and sometime I shall trust you again."
"You cannot cure me," said Sir Accalon. "I am dying. Let them carry me off the field."
So he was taken to a neighboring abbey, while the people crowded about the king to congratulate him, but Arthur said:
"I am sad at heart. My victory is no comfort to me, for to-day I have lost a friend whom I believed true."
Then he called the two brothers, Sir Damas and Sir Ontzlake, and judged their cause. He decided that their property must be divided equally between them, and that they must be friends. They promised never to quarrel again. Arthur told them that they must be kind to other knights and to all people. He said that if he heard that they were not, he would come and punish them.
After this, Sir Damas gave back to the twenty knights all their money, and they went on their way rejoicing. King Arthur mounted his horse and rode over to the abbey, where he sat by the bed of Sir Accalon till the poor knight died. Then the king went back alone to his Court at Camelot.
HOW ARTHUR FOUGHT WITH A GIANT
Once upon a time King Arthur and some of his knights were sailing in a ship. The king, being tired, went to sleep in his cabin, and began to dream. It seemed to him that he was sailing with his people when a great dragon flew out of the west. This dragon had a blue head and a gold back. Underneath he shone like a rainbow. Flames of fire rushed out of his mouth and covered land and sea.
As he flew, there came out of the east a great bear, very rough, and as black as coal, and with wings that flapped like windmills. The bear and the dragon roared loudly, and they began to fight and struggle till the sea was all red with blood. At last the dragon conquered.
When the king awoke from this dream he sent for Merlin and told him of it, and asked for an explanation.
"My lord," Merlin replied, "the dragon betokens yourself; the colors on its body are signs of your glory. The bear betokens some tyrant who torments the people and whom you will slay."
Soon after this, the ship in which the company was, came in sight of land. When they had anchored, the knights noticed on the beach a crowd of people who were weeping. Descending from the ship, Arthur asked one of the men what troubled them, and what was the name of their country.
"Good sir," returned the man, "this is the country of Brittany, and we weep because our county is desolated by a giant. He makes us bring him food. First, he ate up all the oxen we had, and then our horses. Next he demanded our children, and now there are no little ones in the land. To-day he took our good duchess of Brittany, and carried her off to his mountain."
"Alas!" said the king. "It grieves me to hear this, not only because a cruel deed has been done, but because the duchess of Brittany is my cousin's wife. I must save this lady. I will fight with the giant."
"Good sir," cried the people in amazement, "it is not possible! A whole company of us dare not attack him, and yet we account ourselves brave men."
"That may well be," replied Arthur, "and yet with my good sword and scabbard, I have no fear."
Then the men said:
"If you will go, my lord, yonder is the great mountain where the giant lives. At the top, two huge fires burn continually in front of a cave, and in that cave are greater treasures than you can dream of. They are all yours if you will but slay this monster."
Arthur replied nothing to them, but called Sir Kay and Sir Bedivere, and rode with them to the foot of the mountain. From that point he ascended alone. When he was nearly to the top he came upon a woman, clad all in black, who sat weeping by the side of a newly-made grave.
"Good woman, why do you weep?" asked Arthur.
"Hush, hush!" she cried, "or the giant will hear you and come and kill you. He can hear me, but the sound of weeping delights him, and therefore I need not restrain my grief."
"Why do you grieve?" the king asked.
"Alas! Because my good mistress, the duchess of Brittany, is dead. The giant has killed her."
At that Arthur gripped tightly the handle of his sword and said:
"I will kill this wretch before I am an hour older."
"Ah, my lord," said the woman, "the greatest kings in the country are afraid of him. He has a coat embroidered with the beards of fifteen of them. He demanded these beards as a sign that they acknowledged him as lord."
"There is at least one king who does not acknowledge him as lord," shouted Arthur, as he strode hastily forward.
When he reached the top he saw the giant asleep in front of the two great fires before the cave. He was taller than the tallest pine that ever grew. His arms were as big as the trunk of an oak tree. His mouth was as large as a cave, and from it and his nostrils came forth fire and flame like that from the mountain of Vesuvius. Although his huge eyes were closed, flashes of lightning seemed to shoot from beneath the lids. At his side was an iron club as large as a steeple. About him stood trembling old women fanning him as he slept.
King Arthur approached the monster, and said to him:
"Wretch, awake and fight, for your hour has come."
The giant, starting up, looked down scornfully upon the king and, laughing, threw his great club at Arthur. But the king leapt aside and the club fell harmlessly on the ground, making a hollow where it struck.
Then Arthur rushed toward the giant, waving his good sword Excalibur. The giant caught him in his arms, in order to squeeze him to death. The king's armor pressed closer and closer about him, and he began to lose his strength. But he kept his hand upon his scabbard, and so did not die.
In a few minutes the monster, making sure that Arthur was dead, dropped him to the ground. After the king had recovered himself, he sprang to his feet, and taking his sword, threw it at the giant. The good steel pierced his neck, and he sank to the ground, shouting so loudly that Sir Kay and Sir Bedivere at the foot of the mountain heard, and trembled for their master's safety.
Then the giant again seized Arthur in his arms, and the two began to roll down the mountain side. Whenever Arthur was able to, he struck at the giant with his dagger, wounding him sorely. At last, still struggling and rolling, they came to the spot where Sir Kay and Sir Bedivere were. These two loosed the giant's arms from the king, who then gave one last blow to the monster, killing him. Then he sent Sir Kay and Sir Bedivere for his sword Excalibur.
When the people on the seashore heard what Arthur had done, they fell on their knees and thanked him, offering him all the giant's treasure. He said, however, that he would leave it with them to divide among the poor people of the country. For himself, all he wanted was the giant's iron club.
The people sent fifty men to the top of the mountain to get it for him. As they had no horses, it was a long time before they could drag the club to the seashore. There they put it on a barge. It was so heavy that it pressed the barge down till the water came almost to the edge of the vessel. Then King Arthur bade the people good-by, and took ship with his knights. The grateful men of Brittany stood on the shore, and shouted and waved until the ship could no longer be seen.
HOW ARTHUR FOUGHT WITH ROME
In the time of the great Roman, Julius Caesar, about five hundred years before King Arthur was born, the people of Rome conquered Britain. They made many improvements in the land, building roads and walls, the remains of which may be seen to this day. But they also forced the Britons to pay them much money. All the kings did this up to the time of Arthur. He, however, considered that England was his own. He had conquered the lesser kings, and made one realm of all the land, over which he ruled with wise government. So he refused to send any money to Rome.
Once King Arthur's knights were all together in the great hall. It was a time of peace, and they spent the days in riding and hunting. On this day, while the king was sitting on his throne, twelve old men entered, each bearing a branch of olive, as a sign that they came in peace. They were the messengers of the emperor of Rome, and, after bowing to the king, they said:
"Sir, our mighty emperor sends you greeting, and commands you to acknowledge him as lord, and to send him the money due him from your realm. Your father and his predecessors did this, and so must you. If you refuse, the emperor will make such war against you that it will be an example to all the world."
At this the young knights laid their hands to their swords, but the older knights, who had self-control enough to hide their feelings, waited to see what the king would do.
Arthur bowed courteously to the messengers, and told them that he would soon give them an answer. He commanded a knight to take them to a lodging, and to see that they had all they needed, and he ordered that no harm should be done them. Then he called a council of his great lords and asked their advice.
Sir Lancelot, Arthur's favorite lord, spoke first, saying:
"My lord, we have rested for many weeks, and can make sharp war now. In days gone by, we should not have dared attack the Romans, and indeed, our attempt will make the world wonder. But of a truth, we ought to fight."
Then spoke King Angus of Scotland:
"My lord Arthur, you are the greatest lord on earth. You have made all of us lesser kings your subjects, and bound the kingdom together, and stopped our civil wars. We love you and we will help you. We pray you to make war on these Romans. When they ruled our elders, they demanded much gold and made our people very poor. If you will fight, I will furnish you with twenty thousand men, and will bear all the cost of them myself."
Then all the other lords promised to furnish men and arms. When Arthur heard this, he was glad of their courage and good will. He called in the messengers and said to them:
"Return to your emperor. Tell him that I refuse his command, for I owe him nothing. I have won this kingdom by my own strength. Tell him that I shall come with all my army to Rome and make him acknowledge me as lord."
Then Arthur told his treasurer to give the messengers gifts, and to take them safely out of the country. Sir Lancelot conducted them to the sea, where they took ship and sailed to France. On they journeyed over the Alps and into Italy. When they told the emperor of Rome their message, he said:
"I had thought Arthur would yield."
But the messengers said:
"Sir, his face would have told you, if you had seen it, that he would never yield. In truth, there is need of fear, for he is a great king and surrounded by great knights."
"This is foolish talk," the emperor said. "Remember that we are Romans. We have ruled the world for centuries, and a little king of little England shall not make us fear. You say that he is coming to fight with us. We will take a few troops and go forthwith to France to meet him."
The messengers begged the emperor to take many troops.
"My lord emperor," they said, "these men of Arthur are very numerous and very brave."
So at last the emperor brought all his men to France, and there, whenever he found people who were loyal to Arthur, he killed and laid waste.
Meanwhile, Arthur had gathered together all his troops. He bade farewell to Queen Guinevere, who was so grieved that she fell in a swoon. Then he rode off at the head of his men till they came to the sea, and there they embarked in ten thousand boats and sailed to France.
They marched till they came near to the troops of the emperor of Rome, where they rested for the night. In the morning they rose at dawn and looked at the Roman legions. These were encamped in a green field which glittered with the gold on their tents and armor. The emperor's tent was of purple silk and bore on the top a golden eagle, the emblem of Rome.
Two of Arthur's knights, Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain, rode out to the emperor, and told him that their king had come.
"That I see," said the emperor laughing, "and he shall soon return."
The two knights made no answer, but rode back to Arthur. Soon all the soldiers on each side made ready for fighting. The preparation was careful, for they knew that the contest was to be a great one. The emperor of Rome addressed his soldiers:
"Romans, remember that Rome is the chief city of the world. I do not say fight as men; I say to you, fight as Romans. Then you will surely conquer these Britains."
King Arthur galloped up and down before the front rank of his men, looking at them carefully. He was on a beautiful white horse whose mane rose and fell in the wind like a wave of the sea. His soldiers cheered lustily for their beloved commander. Then King Arthur raised his hand for silence, and spoke in a loud, clear voice:
"My knights and men whom I love, remember that you are fighting to-day for your rights and for the independence of Britain. Strike well, and do not forget that great courage is as powerful as great numbers."
With that, he gave the signal for attack. The Romans stood in full battle array with their emperor in front. Beside him were sixteen kings with gold helmets and silver armor. The English approached, shouting a battle-cry.
Then the Romans, at the call of the trumpet, rushed forward, and in a moment the two great armies clashed together. Clouds of dust arose through which could be seen at intervals the heads of horses and the helmets of men. The few poor shepherds and women who stood on the outside did not know that the greatest battle of the time was going on under that cloud of dust.
Inside the cloud there was great confusion. Britains and Romans were fighting side by side, so closely packed that sometimes it was hard to strike. All fought bravely, but no one did so well as Arthur and Sir Lancelot. The battle did not cease until it was dark. Each side had lost many men. King Arthur wept as he rode over the field and counted his dead knights, and even his beautiful horse drooped its head as if it, also, understood.
But the next day the two armies began to fight again, and when the emperor finally saw that his men were losing and that most of the kings who were helping him were dead, he said:
"This Arthur is a demon and not a man. I will fight with him myself and end this battle." And before any one could stop him, he spurred up to King Arthur and said:
"You on the white horse who refuse to pay me tribute, come out that I may kill you."
Then Arthur rode quickly towards the emperor. The two men began to fight, and Arthur soon saw that he was contending with a powerful man. He gave the emperor many a stroke with Excalibur, but he himself received deep blows. At last the emperor pierced Arthur's helmet, and wounded him deeply in the cheek.
King Arthur raised his good Excalibur with a last effort and struck his enemy with it so fiercely on the head that the blow cleft the helmet and pierced to the emperor's chin. He fell from his horse without a moan. When the Romans near by saw that their ruler was dead, they gave a great cry of grief and rushed upon Arthur, but his good knights protected him.
At last, seeing themselves conquered, the Romans surrendered. Arthur found among his prisoners three senators, and among the dead, sixty senators, the sixteen kings, and the emperor.
He was sorrowful, for he knew that they were great men. So he had them embalmed and laid in chests of lead. Around each chest flags were wound, and the shields of the dead warriors placed on top. Then he said to the three surviving senators:
"Take these noble dead bodies back to Rome. When the Romans see them they will never again dare ask tax or tribute of me. I will not go to Rome and take the city from you, but if ever you send to me for gold, I shall invade your land and never rest till all Italy is mine."
The senators bowed their heads. Then they laid the body of the emperor on a car, all alone, with the gold eagle above him. They laid the bodies of the kings and the senators two by two on chariots, and so went slowly towards Rome. And never again did the kings of Britain have to pay a tax to the Romans.
THE KNIGHT WITH the BADLY MADE COAT
One day when Arthur and his knights were in the hall of the Round Table, a young man entered. He was so large that his shoulders were as wide as the doorway, and he could hardly squeeze through. The knights looked at him in amazement, for he was almost a giant.
When he came closer to them, they saw that he had on a coat which was far too large for him. It hung in wrinkles and folds all over his back, and the sleeves were so long that he had to turn them up almost to the elbow. The coat was of rich material, gold cloth, but it was old and blood-stained.
The young man strode up to the king and said:
"My lord, my name is Brune. I can tell you no more than that. I beg you to make me a knight."
At this Sir Kay laughed and said:
"He must be called The Knight with the Badly Made Coat."
"Call me what you will," said the young man. "Yes, I take that name, for I will not tell my real one."
Then Arthur spoke to him gently:
"Young man, you ask a great thing. All those in my Court who are made knights must serve for a long time as squires. If they prove themselves loyal and brave, I make them knights. But I must always know whence they come, and who their fathers are."
"My lord," said the young man, "I do indeed ask a great thing. I would gladly tell you more of myself, but I am under a vow to reveal no more than you already know. Yet I will tell you this, further. I am the son of a noble who was as big as a giant. My good father was very peaceable and did not care to fight; so he never came to your Court, and you did not hear of him. He lived at home with my mother and me, and the simple people who plowed the land about our castle.
"Every one ought to have loved him; but he had one enemy. One day, six years ago, when I was only a boy, my father and I were in the forest. My father was sleeping at the foot of a tree, and I was bathing in a brook near by. This enemy, who wanted my father's lands, came up and drove his sword into my father's heart. Then he rode away. I ran up to my dead father and took off the coat which he wore and put it on. I swore never to take it off, and never to tell my father's name or where I came from, till I had avenged his death.
"Then I rode home to our castle, but our enemy had taken possession of it, and had made my mother prisoner. As I was not yet grown up I vowed that I would stay with the good shepherds near by till I was strong enough to pull up a young tree by the roots. Then I would go to King Arthur's Court and ask to be made a knight. So every month I have tried to uproot a young tree. This morning I succeeded, and here, my lords, I am."
The knights were much moved and prayed the king to make him a knight. They said that they would teach him to use arms. The king said that he would wait to see what sort of man Brune was.
A few days after this all the knights rode off to a tournament and Brune was left at home with a few soldiers. He was in the castle yard practicing some of the lessons in warfare which the knights had been teaching him. While he was hard at work, Queen Guinevere with twelve soldiers who were her bodyguard passed by.
As she was speaking kindly to Brune, they heard a terrible noise, and looking in the direction from which it came, saw a dreadful sight. A fierce lion which had been confined in a tower of stone had broken out of its prison and was rushing towards them. The twelve soldiers fled, leaving the queen and Brune alone.
"Ah," said Brune, "not all the cowards in the world are dead."
He stood still while the lion bounded towards him. He had dropped his sword, and as the beast leaped upon him, he seized its head in his hands. Then he slowly, slowly, bent its head back. It was a strong lion, and with the effort the muscles on Brune's neck stood out like great ropes. Presently, the queen and Brune heard a loud crack and they knew that the lion's neck was broken. Brune loosed his hold, and the huge tawny body dropped to the ground, quivered a moment, and was still.
While this was going on, the king and his knights returned. They saw at a glance what Brune had done, and cheered him loudly. The king rode up to him.
"Kneel down," he said.
Brune knelt down by the body of the lion, and the king touched him lightly with his sword, saying:
"Sir Brune, I make you a knight of my Round Table. Be always loyal, brave, and merciful."
Then all the knights were glad, but Sir Brune was gladdest of all.
SIR LANCELOT & SIR BRUNE
After Sir Brune, the Knight with the Badly Made Coat, had been at Arthur's Court for some months, he became eager to seek for the enemy of his father. Sir Lancelot, who took an interest in the big young knight, advised him to wait and try his strength at some smaller adventure first.
One day, when Sir Lancelot was away hunting, a damsel entered Arthur's hall. She carried a black shield which had painted on it a white hand holding a sword. She bowed to the king and said:
"My lord, I come for a knight to undertake the adventure of the black shield."
"And what is that adventure, fair damsel?" asked the king.
"That I may not tell you," answered the damsel, "except that it will cause much fighting and bloodshed to the knight who chooses it."
Some of the knights were eager to go, and Sir Kay pressed forward to finger the shield.
"Do not touch it, good Sir Kay," said the maiden, "for this adventure is not for you. I am to choose the knight."
She passed up and down the hall, looking into the face of each one. When she had seen them all she came back to Sir Brune and said:
"Young Knight with the Ugly Coat, will you take this shield?"
"Gladly, if my king allows," said the knight.
Then Arthur gave his permission, and Sir Brune followed the damsel out of the hall. Her horse was black, and wore white trappings. Sir Brune's horse was as brown as an autumn leaf. The two mounted and rode away. Sir Brune began to talk to the damsel, whose name was Elinor. At first she was agreeable, but after they had ridden many miles she became scornful, and told him she was sorry she had chosen him.
Sir Brune felt sad, because he had begun to love the damsel. He was afraid she did not like him because his coat was poor. He did not speak to her any more, but rode on sorrowfully beside her. After a long time they came to a castle enclosed by high walls. The gate stood open, and the damsel Elinor pointed to it and said, sighing:
"Since you have not left me as I hoped you would, go in there. You will find your first adventure. I may not tell you what it is."
Sir Brune galloped inside the gate. There he saw a hundred knights on horseback, armed and waiting for him. He had to think and act quickly. So he decided to rush in between the knights and put his back against the castle wall. Then he could fight with his back protected. He did this, though not without receiving some spear-wounds. Then he began to fight.
The lady of the castle, whom the knights were keeping prisoner, watched the fight out of the window, and grieved for the brave young man who had so many against him. She began to speak to him in a low voice:
"Young knight, if you can only get to the left side of the castle wall, there is a secret door through which you can escape. If you look, you will see that one portion of the wall is made of black stones. Strike the stones with the hilt of your sword, and a door will open through which you can ride out."
The other knights did not hear what the lady said, for they were farther away from her than Sir Brune was. Even he could hardly catch her words. He took a quick glance to the left and saw that there was indeed a portion of the wall marked with black stones. Then he began to work his way carefully towards the secret gate.
He was obliged to move slowly for fear the knights would guess what he was doing. Moreover, it was becoming very hard to fight, because of his many wounds. However, he at last came near the door; then he backed his brown horse up against it, struck the black stones with the handle of his sword, and the door opened. The knights shouted with rage, but they were unable to reach him in time. Sir Brune escaped, leaving behind him twelve men dead.
He was very weak, and he made his way painfully to the side of the wall where the maiden Elinor waited for him. She ran to meet him, and led him gently to a brook in a forest near by. There she took off his armor and bathed his wounds, anointing them with a precious salve she carried.
Sir Brune thought that she was sorry because she had been scornful of him, and he began to talk to her. But she said:
"Do not talk to me. If you want to please me, go back to Arthur's Court."
Sir Brune did not know why she spoke so, but he was too tired to think. So he lay down on the grass by the brook and went to sleep.
Meantime, at Arthur's Court Sir Lancelot had returned from his hunting expedition, and was told how Sir Brune had gone out with a damsel on the adventure of the shield.
"Oh!" cried Sir Lancelot, "what have you done! He will surely be killed. Merlin has told me what this adventure of the shield is. Many and many a knight has taken it up and each has been killed. A knight who vows to follow this adventure has to meet dangers of all sorts. This young untried Sir Brune will certainly be killed."
He called for his horse and arms, and said to the king:
"My lord, I will ride after this poor young man and give him what help I can. Perhaps I shall be too late; but if not, I shall ask him to give me this adventure of the shield."
Then Sir Lancelot mounted his horse and rode after Sir Brune. When he came near the brook where Sir Brune and the damsel had rested, he heard the sound of a great combat. Spurring forward he saw Sir Brune, fighting single-handed against six knights. Sir Lancelot rushed to the rescue and quickly overthrew the enemy. He found that they belonged to the company of the hundred knights whom Sir Brune had attacked. He ordered them, first of all, to free the lady of the castle, and then to go to Arthur's Court and surrender themselves to the mercy of the king.
Poor Sir Brune was almost dead, but Sir Lancelot revived him, and in a feeble voice he thanked Sir Lancelot for his help. But the damsel begged:
"Take him back to the Court of your king. I do not want him to follow this quest any longer."
"This is surely ungrateful of you," said Sir Lancelot. "He has fought bravely and well."
"The maiden scorns me, though I love her," bitterly said Sir Brune.
Then the damsel Elinor cried out:
"I will tell the truth. I love you and I am afraid you will be killed. Therefore, I wish you to return to Camelot."
Sir Brune was very glad, and he said:
"I have pledged my word and must follow this quest. When I have succeeded we shall go together back to Arthur's Court."
"Give this adventure to me," said Sir Lancelot, "and go back now with the damsel."
But Sir Brune refused. Then Sir Lancelot said that they must undertake the adventure together, and Sir Brune consenting, they rode slowly forward. Soon they came to an abbey, where they rested for some days until Sir Brune was well.
Then they traveled as the damsel gave directions. She always knew what they had to do. At times they passed through woods full of wild beasts, some of which attacked them. Again they passed over enchanted meadows where wicked magicians tried to cast spells over them. They also fought with many knights. However, they escaped all dangers, although it is certain that Sir Brune would never have succeeded without the help of Sir Lancelot.
At length the damsel Elinor told them that they were nearing the last adventure. She pointed to a castle on a hill; a square structure built of black stones, with a turret on top. The damsel told them that at the gate of the castle were two huge dragons. These they must slay.
"Whose is the castle?" asked Sir Brune.
"It belongs now to the wicked Lord Brian of the Isles," answered the damsel.
At this Sir Brune gave such a loud shout that the dragons on top of the hill heard him and roared in reply.
"Ah!" cried he, "that is the name of my enemy, who killed my dear father. At last I shall slay him."
He rode off so quickly that Sir Lancelot had much trouble to keep up with him. It seemed scarcely five minutes before they came to the dragons; terrible creatures, all of green, with eyes and tongues of flame. And their wings were as large as the sails of a ship.
Sir Brune had never before seen a dragon, but he was not afraid. He fought very bravely, and even when the teeth of the dragons crunched on his helmet, he did not lose courage. After a fierce fight of half an hour, the two knights had killed the dragons.
They hoped to rest, but at that moment the castle gate opened and a porter appeared.
"Enter and fight," he said.
Both spurred forward, but the porter said:
"One only may enter."
"Let me go," said Sir Brune to Sir Lancelot. "Remember I am to avenge my father's death. It may be that Lord Brian of the Isles is waiting just inside the gate."
Sir Lancelot consented, and the porter led in Sir Brune and locked the gate. Inside were two great knights, the brothers of Lord Brian of the Isles. They were almost as large as Sir Brune. Together they set upon him. He was already tired from his fight with the dragons, but his desire to avenge his father strengthened his arm. One brother was soon overthrown. When the other saw that, he yielded. Then Sir Brune sent them both to Sir Lancelot outside the gate.
While Sir Brune was looking about him, a third knight appeared at the end of the courtyard. He was quite as large as Sir Brune, and as he came spurring up, the noise of his horse's hoofs was deafening. Sir Brune recognized him as Sir Plenorius, the cousin of Lord Brian.
"Ah!" cried he, "where is that wretch, Lord Brian? Am I to fight with all his family before I meet with him?"
Sir Plenorius wasted no words. He rushed upon Sir Brune and struck him with his long spear. The blow broke Sir Brune's helmet, and he had much trouble to guard his head with his shield. He fought courageously, but he became weaker and weaker. Then Sir Plenorius stopped fighting.
"I know you will never yield," he said. "You are the bravest knight I have yet seen. In truth, I loved your good father, and grieved because my cousin slew him. I have no love for my cousin, Lord Brian of the Isles, but I am vowed to fight for him as long as he lives, or until I am overcome."
Sir Brune was about to answer, but he fell back in a swoon. Sir Plenorius lifted him gently in his arms and bore him into the castle. He carried him up the winding stairs to the turret room, and gently laid him on a bed. Then he went back to the courtyard.
Meantime, Sir Lancelot, hearing the porter shout that Sir Brune was killed, beat on the gate, but nobody would let him in. Then with great difficulty he climbed the castle wall and leaped down. Sir Plenorius was just about to care for the horse of Sir Brune.
"Give me back my friend!" cried Sir Lancelot, fiercely. "Where is my friend?"
Then he began to fight with Sir Plenorius. Sir Plenorius was so much larger than Sir Lancelot that he thought he could easily overcome him. As the fight went on, however, he found himself all but defeated.
"Yield now to me," said Sir Lancelot. "I am Sir Lancelot of the Lake."
Then Sir Plenorius said:
"Ah, my good lord, I know of your fame. If we go on fighting, you will certainly kill me. Yet I do not want to yield, so I ask you to treat me as I have treated Sir Brune."
When Sir Lancelot heard how Sir Plenorius had spared Sir Brune, he said:
"You are a gentle knight. I am sorry you are vowed to the service of Lord Brian of the Isles. He shall surely die."
Sir Plenorius answered:
"When he is dead, I will come to Arthur's Court as one of his followers."
All this time Sir Brune was lying in a swoon on the bed in the turret room. But at last he came to himself and looked about him. He saw near him his sword and shield; so he lifted them up beside him. As he lay still, trying to recover his strength, he heard stealthy footsteps coming up the turret stairs. They came nearer and nearer. Suddenly, in rushed Lord Brian of the Isles. He knew that Sir Brune was there, alone and wounded, and he intended to kill him as he lay defenseless. Sir Brune understood this and he cried:
"Ah, wretch, you were ever a coward. You come to kill me as I lie wounded here, just as you killed my poor father while he slept. But the sight of you makes me forget my wounds."
At these words, and at the fierce rage which shone in Sir Brune's eyes, Lord Brian, who was indeed a coward, tried to retreat. But Sir Brune sprang to the doorway.
"You shall never go down by these stairs, villain," he said, "for I will kill you!"
Lord Brian rushed to the window and sprang out upon the battlements. Sir Brune followed him, though with difficulty. The two began to fight, and Sir Brune soon saw that his enemy was trying to push him close to the edge of the battlements, that he might fall down into the courtyard below.
Sir Brune, at this, put himself behind Lord Brian, determined to cast him off instead. Slowly he pushed him, until Lord Brian was but a step from the edge. Then Sir Brune lifted his shield and struck his enemy with it. The wicked lord lost his footing, and was dashed to pieces at the feet of Sir Lancelot and Sir Plenorius in the courtyard below.
They ordered his soldiers to bury him, and while Sir Lancelot went to care for Sir Brune, Sir Plenorius went down the hill to find the damsel Elinor. She came back with tears of joy to Sir Brune.
When Sir Brune was well enough to travel, he visited all the castles of Lord Brian, in search of his lost mother. He was very much afraid that she was dead, but at last he found her alive, in the very castle which had belonged to his father. There was great joy at their meeting. He took her to Arthur's Court, whither Sir Lancelot had already conducted the damsel Elinor. A few days afterward Sir Brune and the damsel were married amid great festivities.
THE ADVENTURE OF KING PELLENORE
In Arthur's Court, every knight or lady who was found unworthy was banished; yet it often took some time to discover one's real character.
One of the ladies of Arthur's Court was named Vivien. She was very pretty, and as graceful as a willow wand, and so bright and attractive in her ways that no one suspected her of being very wicked.
Among Arthur's bravest warriors was King Pellenore. He had once had a great fight with Arthur, but after that they had become friends, and King Pellenore had been made a Knight of the Round Table. He was not often at court, for he spent much of his time seeking for adventures. Now and then he would return and put away his armor. Then he rode with the ladies or talked to the other knights.
The lady Vivien admired King Pellenore for his valor and his mighty deeds, and whenever she could she talked with him about his adventures. One afternoon she begged him to go for a long ride with her through the forest. So their horses were brought and they set forth. Just as they were passing a thick part of the wood, a beautiful golden-haired lady stepped out.
"Good sir knight," she cried to King Pellenore, "I ask your help. I am here in the wood with the dear lord who is to be my husband. He is sore wounded, for an enemy crept up behind him as we were riding to Arthur's Court, and thrust a sword in his back."
Then King Pellenore turned his horse's head toward the maiden.
"Gladly will I help," he said; "lead me, maiden."
But Vivien called him back.
"Do not go with her," she said. "She may be a witch. Ride on with me."
"She is no witch, but a good maiden," said King Pellenore.
Then the golden-haired lady spoke again. "Oh, sir knight, help me! I must go to Arthur's Court to see my father. My dear lover is going to ask permission to marry me. Help us or he will die."
"Assuredly I will help you, damsel," said King Pellenore.
Vivien held his arm, but he put her gently aside. When the wicked woman saw that he was going to leave her, she made her horse plunge and throw her to the ground. There she lay as if in a faint.
King Pellenore did not know what to do. He felt as if he must help the beautiful lady, and yet he could not leave Vivien. So he said:
"Fair damsel, you shall have my help. I have never wanted to aid anyone so much as I do you. I must save your lover and bring you both to Arthur's Court. But let me first ride back with this lady who has swooned. Then I will return here to you."
"Alas, alas, I fear it will be too late," cried the damsel, turning back into the forest.
Then King Pellenore lifted Vivien on her horse, and tied her to its back by her long green scarf. At this she opened her eyes and groaned, and said that she was very sick. She made him ride very slowly to the court.
King Pellenore did not talk to her. He was thinking all the time of the golden-haired maiden. As soon as he reached the city gate he gave Vivien over into the care of a knight who was passing, and galloped back to the woods.
When he reached the spot where the beautiful damsel had spoken to him, he turned into the thick part of the wood and followed a narrow path. It was so narrow that the branches of the trees on both sides struck his shoulders, but still he hurried on. The path ended in a glade, and there he saw the lady and her lover lying on the grass.
"Alas, alas!" the lady said, "my dear lord is dead and I am dying."
Then King Pellenore saw that the fair young knight who lay on the ground was very pale and quiet, and that all the grass about was blood-stained.
"Ah, good knight," said the lady, "after you left me, a lion ran out of the wood and slew my lover with one stroke of his paw. He has wounded me so sorely that I too shall die."
Then King Pellenore wept.
"I wish that I had made Vivien wait here," he said, "and had helped you. I fear I have done wrong."
He sat down and took her golden head on his knee, and spoke to her gently till she died. Then he put her body and her lover's body on his horse, and walked beside them sorrowfully until he reached Arthur's Court.
Near the great hall he met Arthur and Merlin and several knights.
"I am a miserable man," he said.
Then the wise Merlin said: "You are more miserable than you know. This beautiful lady was your own daughter who was stolen from you as a child. Only lately she learned who her father was. She was coming here to seek you."
Then King Pellenore wept loudly.
"This is my punishment," he cried, "for not aiding the maiden. The one who needs help most should be given it first, and she needed it more than Vivien. I am indeed punished."
"And you shall be punished yet more," said Merlin; "and in good time, Vivien also for the part she took. Some day the friend whom you most trust shall deceive you, and you shall be betrayed to death."
King Pellenore bowed his head meekly.
"I have deserved it," he said. "And now I must bury my dear child and her lover."
The beautiful golden-haired lady and her lover were buried with great mourning, and it was many a day before King Pellenore cared to seek for adventures.
SIR LANCELOT & HIS FRIENDS
Sir Lancelot was acknowledged by all the knights of the Round Table to be the bravest of their number, and the one whom the king loved most. He was not often at court, because he was nearly always engaged in adventures which took him away from the town of Camelot. The knights were always sorry when he went away, yet they were sure he would return safely and with much to tell them.
One day Sir Lancelot called his nephew Sir Lionel, and told him to mount his horse, for they must go to seek adventures. Sir Lionel was very glad, for it was a great honor to be chosen as a companion by Sir Lancelot. They rode off through a deep forest, and then across a wide, treeless plain. The sun was shining hot and bright, and when they reached a clump of trees, Sir Lancelot bade Sir Lionel dismount. Then the two sat in the shade to rest.
It was not long before Sir Lancelot fell asleep. While Sir Lionel kept guard, he saw three knights furiously pursued by another knight, who was very large. This knight overtook the three knights, one after another, and overthrew them, and bound them by the reins of their bridles. Sir Lionel, who was young and self-confident, thought that he would like to fight with this knight. So he mounted his horse very quietly without waking his uncle, and rode into the plain.
When the big knight saw him coming, he laughed and rode up quickly. At the very first stroke, young Sir Lionel fell to the earth. The strong knight bound him fast to the other three knights and drove them all to his castle. There he took off their armor and clothes, and beat them with thorny sticks. After that he threw them into a deep dungeon where there were many other knights.
Meanwhile Sir Hector, the foster father of King Arthur, hearing that Sir Lancelot and Sir Lionel had gone in search of adventures, determined to join them; so he rode hastily in pursuit. When he had gone some distance through the forest, he met a wood-cutter, and asked him if he had seen Sir Lancelot and Sir Lionel. The man replied that he had not.
"Then do you know of any adventure which I can seek?" asked Sir Hector.
The man answered:
"Sir, a mile from here is a strong castle. On one side of it is a large stream, and by that stream a large tree. At the foot of the tree is a basin of copper. Go and strike on that three times with your spear and you will meet with an adventure."
"Thank you heartily," said Sir Hector.
He rode on and soon came to the tree. Hanging on it were a great many shields, and among them Sir Lionel's. There were also shields which belonged to other knights of the Round Table. Sir Hector knew that the knights must be prisoners, and he grew very angry.
He struck sharply on the copper basin, and at once a huge knight appeared.
"Come forward and fight!" cried the knight.
"That I will," said Sir Hector.
"But I shall win," said the knight, "for I am the great Sir Turquaine."
Sir Hector had heard of this powerful knight whom so many of Arthur's lords had tried in vain to overthrow. But he was a brave old man, and so he began to fight fearlessly. He wounded the big knight once, but the knight wounded him many times, and at last overcame him. He picked Sir Hector up and carried him under his right arm into the castle.
"You are very brave," he said, when they had reached the great hall. "You are the first knight who has wounded me these twelve years. Now I shall give you your freedom if you will swear to be a follower of mine."
"I shall never swear that," said Sir Hector; "I am a follower of King Arthur."
"I am sorry for that," said Sir Turquaine, "for now I must treat you as I do all my other prisoners."
Then he took off Sir Hector's armor and clothes, and beat him with the thorny stick, and threw him into the dungeon. There the old man found Sir Lionel and many other knights.
"Is Sir Lancelot here?" asked Sir Hector, feebly.
"No," said Sir Lionel, and told how he had left Sir Lancelot sleeping.
Then Sir Hector became cheerful.
"Sir Lancelot will surely find us," he said, "and give us our freedom."
But Sir Lancelot still slept on under the tree. Soon four beautiful ladies rode by, and, seeing a sleeping knight, dismounted to look at him. They at once recognized him as Sir Lancelot, the bravest knight in the land. One of these ladies was Morgan le Fay, whom Arthur had forgiven for her treachery to him. She said to her companions:
"I will cast a spell over him, and we will carry him to my castle. Then, when he wakes, we will make him choose one of us as his wife."
The other three agreed, and Morgan le Fay cast her spell. Then the four women lifted the knight upon his horse and went with him to the castle of Morgan le Fay. They put the knight in a richly decorated chamber and left him.
In the morning he awoke and wondered where he was. Soon a fair damsel entered with food, and he asked her to explain how he came to be in that place.
"Sir, I cannot," she said. "But I can tell you this much: you are under a spell. In twelve hours the spell will break, and perhaps I can help you then."
After the damsel had gone out, the four ladies entered. They were clad in most beautiful robes. One had on silk that looked like the foam of the sea. Another had on velvet that seemed like moss from the forest. The third wore satin that was the color of maple leaves in autumn. Morgan le Fay wore a robe that looked like a storm-cloud, and her diamonds were like stars.
"Choose one of us for your wife," she said, "and you shall be very happy."
But Sir Lancelot said:
"Fair ladies, I have no wish to marry. I would rather fight for my good King Arthur who needs me."
At this the ladies were angry.
"You shall stay here till you choose," they said. "And if you will not choose, then you shall die in prison."
They went out, and Sir Lancelot remained alone all day. At dusk the fair damsel came to him.
"My lord," she said, "the spell is broken now, and I can help you. These ladies are not kind to me, and I am going to run away. I will take you with me on one condition."
"Name it, damsel," he said.
"I am a king's daughter," she said. "My father is King Bagdemagus."
"He is a good man," Sir Lancelot said. "I know him well."
"My father has been fighting in a tournament," said the maiden, "and has been overcome, with all his knights. He feels very sad. Now, in two days there will be another tournament at which he must fight. If you help him, he will surely win and be happy again."
"I will gladly help him," said Sir Lancelot.
Then the damsel bade him walk softly with her. She opened twelve great doors one after another. Each had a lock with a key so heavy that the maiden had to use both hands to turn it. At last they reached the courtyard, and there she gave Sir Lancelot his horse and armor. She also mounted a horse, and the two rode away.
After riding all night, they came to the court of King Bagdemagus. He was overjoyed to welcome Sir Lancelot, for well he knew that none could overcome that good knight in combat. All day there was music and dancing and feasting. Sir Lancelot, however, could not be merry. He kept thinking of his nephew, Sir Lionel, and wondering where he was.
On the morning of the tournament Sir Lancelot asked King Bagdemagus to furnish him with a white shield, because he did not want to be known. The king did so, and also gave each of the three knights who rode with him a shield of the same color. Sir Lancelot went with the knights into a little leafy wood near the field where the tournament was to be held.
Meanwhile King Bagdemagus rode to the tournament with sixty men, and met there the king of Northgalis with eighty men. They began to fight, and soon those on the side of King Bagdemagus began to be worsted. Then Sir Lancelot, with the three knights, dashed out of the little wood and into the thick of the fight.
No one could stand against Sir Lancelot. One of King Arthur's knights, Sir Modred, the brother of Sir Gawain and Sir Gareth, was fighting against King Bagdemagus. Not knowing who Sir Lancelot was, he rushed upon him. Sir Lancelot unhorsed him, but would not hurt him, because he was a Knight of the Round Table. Years afterward he was sorry he had not killed him, for Sir Modred proved to be a traitor to King Arthur.
Sir Lancelot fought so well that, for his sake, all the prizes of the tournament were given to King Bagdemagus, who was greatly rejoiced, and offered large gifts to Sir Lancelot, and begged him to be his guest for a time. But Sir Lancelot was so anxious to find out what had become of Sir Lionel that he could not remain. So the next day he set forth.
He rode back towards the clump of trees where he had fallen asleep while Sir Lionel kept watch. On the highway he met a damsel riding on a white palfrey.
"Fair damsel," said Sir Lancelot, "can you tell me of any adventures hereabouts? I am Sir Lancelot of the Lake."
"Oh, Sir Lancelot," said she, "it is indeed fortunate that you have come, for there is here a knight named Sir Turquaine who has put in prison many of the knights of the Round Table. You shall fight with him for the freedom of your friends."
Then she turned her horse, and Sir Lancelot gladly followed her. She brought him to the tree on which hung the shields of his brother knights. Sir Lancelot let his horse drink a little water, and then he struck on the iron basin at the foot of the tree so fiercely that the bottom fell out.
No one appeared, however. Then he rode up to the castle of Sir Turquaine. Near the gate he met the big knight. He was on foot, driving his horse before him. On the horse lay a knight, securely bound. Sir Lancelot recognized him as Sir Gaheris, the brother of Sir Gawain and Sir Gareth.
"Put down the knight," said Sir Lancelot. "Mount and fight."
"Gladly," said Sir Turquaine. "Before long you will be sorry for your challenge."
Then the two rode at each other. Their horses' feet beat the dust into clouds, and they used their swords so fiercely that their armor rang continually like the clanging of heavy bells. They fought until they were breathless, each bleeding from many wounds. Then Sir Turquaine, leaning on his sword, said:
"By my faith, never have I fought with such a strong man before. I admire you, and I would be your friend. You fight as they say that knight does whom I hate most in all this world. If you are not that knight, I give you my friendship, and shall free all my prisoners for your sake."
"That is well said," replied Sir Lancelot. "Tell me who this knight is whom you hate so much."
"He is Sir Lancelot of the Lake. For hatred of him, I kill or imprison all the knights of the Round Table whom I can find."
"Then let us begin to fight again," said Sir Lancelot, "for I am Sir Lancelot of the Lake."
Then they struck at each other furiously, and soon gave each other so many wounds that the ground was covered with blood. Sir Turquaine was a brave man, but he was not so strong as Sir Lancelot. After a long conflict he fell, mortally wounded, to the ground. Then Sir Lancelot unlaced his helmet and eased him as well as he could till he died. Afterwards he left Sir Turquaine, and went to the porter who held the keys of the castle.
Sir Lancelot took the keys and unlocked the doors of the prison. He led the poor knights out into the daylight and struck off their chains. Sir Lionel and Sir Hector were overjoyed to see that their deliverer was indeed Sir Lancelot. Each knight found his own armor in the armory, and his own horse in the stables. After that a servant came with four horses laden down with venison, and the poor knights, who for a long time had had nothing but bread and water, enjoyed a good meal. Then Sir Lancelot rode away in search of new adventures.
HOW SIR LANCELOT SAVED THE QUEEN
One day in May Queen Guinevere invited ten ladies and ten knights to ride a-Maying with her the next morning in the woods. So at the appointed time they assembled, all dressed in green silk and green velvet, the color of young grass. The knights wore white plumes in their helmets, and the ladies wore white May-blossoms in their hair. They rode off very happily, telling the king that they would return before noon.
Now the good King Bagdemagus, for whom Sir Lancelot had fought, had a bad son named Sir Malgrace. For a long time he had wanted to capture the queen and carry her off to his castle. He had been afraid to try, however, because of her large bodyguard. All the young knights of the Round Table liked to ride with her and protect her. They took good care of all the ladies of the Court, but they loved the queen most.
When Sir Malgrace heard that the queen was out a-Maying with only a few knights, and these not fully armed, he determined to take her prisoner. So he called together eighty men-at-arms and a hundred archers, and set out. Soon he came upon her and her attendants. They were sitting on a little hill, with wreaths of flowers and leaves on their arms and necks. Before they could rise to their feet, Sir Malgrace and his men dashed upon them.
"Traitor!" cried the queen. "What would you do?"
"I will carry you to my castle, fair queen," he said. "And never again shall you go free."
"I will not go with you," said the queen.
Then the ten knights drew their swords and set on the hundred and eighty men of Sir Malgrace. They fought so well that they overthrew forty. Still, they could do little against such numbers, and soon all were wounded. When the queen saw this, she cried out:
"Sir Malgrace, do not slay my noble knights, and I will go with you. I would rather die than cause them further harm."
The knights said that they would rather perish than be prisoners to Sir Malgrace. However, upon an order from their lord, the archers tied up the wounds of the queen's followers, and put them on horseback. Then the whole company rode slowly towards the castle of Sir Malgrace.
Sir Malgrace kept close to the queen for fear she would escape. Once when they were in a thick part of the wood he rode ahead to break the branches so that they should not strike her face. Then the queen whispered to a little maiden who rode near her:
"If you can do so, slip away from the company. You are so small that perhaps they will not notice you. Take this ring and give it to our greatest knight, Sir Lancelot, and pray him to come and rescue me."
The little maid waited until she thought the time for escape had come, and rode off as quietly as she could. Sir Malgrace saw her go, and suspected that the queen had sent her. He ordered his archers to shoot at the child, but she escaped unhurt.
"Madam," said Sir Malgrace to the queen, "I know well that you have sent for Sir Lancelot, but you may be sure that hither he shall never come."
Then Sir Malgrace ordered his archers to stand guard on the road and shoot down any knight they saw.
"But if he should be Sir Lancelot," he said, "be sure that you do not venture very close to him, for he is hard to overcome."
Meantime the little maid reached Arthur's Court in safety. She found the king and his knights very anxious because the queen had not returned. She told her story, and gave the queen's ring to Sir Lancelot.
"Bring me my armor!" shouted Sir Lancelot. "I will rescue my good and dear queen before the night falls. I would rather see her safe here again than own all France."
He put on his armor and mounted his white horse and rode off without delay. The little maid led him to the place where the ten knights had fought with the hundred and eighty. From this point he traced them by the blood on the grass and on the road. At last he reached the archers.
"Turn back," they said. "No one may pass here."
"That I will not," said Sir Lancelot. "I am a Knight of the Round Table, and therefore have the right of way throughout the land."
At that they shot their arrows at him. He was wounded with many of them, and his white horse was killed. Sir Lancelot tried to reach the men, but there were so many hedges and ditches in the way that he could not. They hastened back to tell Sir Malgrace that a knight whom they had not succeeded in killing was coming to the castle.
Sir Lancelot tried to walk, but his armor was too heavy for him to carry in his wounded state. He dared not leave any of it behind, for he would need it all in fighting. Just as he was wondering what he could do, a carter passed him, driving a rough wagon.
"Carter," said Sir Lancelot, "let me ride in your wagon to the castle of Sir Malgrace."
The carter was amazed, for in that day a knight never entered into a cart unless he was a condemned man going to be hanged. Sir Lancelot, however, did not stop to explain. He jumped into the cart and told the driver to go quickly.
Some of the ladies of Queen Guinevere were looking out of their window, and one said to her:
"See, my queen, there is a poor knight going to be hanged."
The queen looked out of the window and recognized Sir Lancelot by the three lions blazoned upon his shield. She was overjoyed, and waved him a glad greeting as he came up to the castle gate.
Sir Lancelot beat on the gate with his shield, and cried:
"Come out, false traitor, Sir Malgrace; come out and fight. If you do not, you will be branded as a coward forever."
At first Sir Malgrace thought that he would keep his gates shut fast and not answer the challenge. But in those days it was a sign of great cowardice not to accept a challenge. Moreover, since Sir Lancelot had been able to reach the castle in spite of the archers, he was afraid other knights of the Round Table might do the same. Then they would besiege him and force him to surrender. Still he was afraid to fight. So he went to Queen Guinevere and said:
"Fair queen, remember how I saved your ten knights when I could have killed them. Now I am sorry I took you prisoner. I beg that you will go to Sir Lancelot and urge him not to fight. Then I will entertain him in this castle with the best I have, and to-morrow you shall all go back to the court."
Then the queen said:
"Peace is always better than war. I will do the best I can."
So she went down to Sir Lancelot, who still beat upon the gate, and besought him to come in peaceably, for Sir Malgrace was sorry for what he had done. Sir Lancelot was unwilling, for he knew that Sir Malgrace was a traitor, deserving punishment. Still, he could not refuse the queen anything she asked him, and, therefore, he entered the castle.
Sir Malgrace greeted him with politeness, and served to him and to the others of Arthur's Court, a great banquet. After that, to the surprise of everyone, he rose and accused the queen of treason. All the company was astonished. Sir Lancelot was very angry.
"If you say the queen is a traitress," he cried, "you shall fight with me, although you were afraid just now."
"I am not afraid to fight," said Sir Malgrace.
"When and where will you meet me in combat?" asked Sir Lancelot.
"In eight days," replied Sir Malgrace, "in the field near Westminster."
Sir Lancelot agreed to this. Then Queen Guinevere rose with all her attendants and went into the courtyard. Their horses were brought them and they mounted. Sir Lancelot was the last to pass out of the banquet hall. As he was going through the door he stepped upon a trap which Sir Malgrace had prepared for him. The trapdoor fell and dropped him into a dark dungeon.
When the queen and her knights and ladies had ridden out of the courtyard, they noticed that Sir Lancelot was not with them. They supposed, however, that he had ridden off by himself, as was often his custom, so they went without him to Camelot, and told the king what had happened. He was very angry at Sir Malgrace's accusation, but he was sure that Sir Lancelot would punish Sir Malgrace, and so vindicate Queen Guinevere.
Meantime, the unhappy Sir Lancelot lay bruised in the dungeon, feeling very sure that Sir Malgrace meant to starve him to death. He lay hungry and thirsty for nearly two days. Then Sir Malgrace peeped in to see if he were dead.
"Ah, traitor!" cried Sir Lancelot, "I shall overcome you yet."
At that Sir Malgrace shut the trapdoor hastily, as if he were afraid that Sir Lancelot could leap up ten feet in the air. That one look, however, cost the wicked knight dear, for the daughter of the porter saw him shutting the trapdoor, and was curious to know who was in the dungeon. So at night she opened the trapdoor and let herself down by a rope.
When she saw Sir Lancelot she was very sorry for him. He offered her much money if she would free him. At last she said:
"I will do it for love of Queen Guinevere and not for money."
She let him climb up by the rope, and took him out of the courtyard. He was so sick that he went to a hermit's hut and rested for several days. When next Sir Malgrace looked into the dungeon he heard no movement. Then he rejoiced greatly, for he thought Sir Lancelot was dead.
When the eighth day had come, all the knights of the Round Table assembled in the tournament field and waited for Sir Lancelot to appear. They all thought he would surely come. But Sir Malgrace rode jauntily about the field. Many of the knights wondered at his courage, not knowing the reason for his confidence.
The herald blew his trumpet once, but Sir Lancelot did not appear; twice, and still he did not come. Then up started several knights and begged the king to let them fight instead of Sir Lancelot.
"He has been trapped," they said, "or he would be here."
While the king was hesitating whom to choose, in rode Sir Lancelot. He dashed up to Sir Malgrace.
"Here I am, traitor," he said. "Now do your worst."
Then they fought, but at the first stroke Sir Malgrace fell to the earth.
"Mercy!" he cried, "I yield to you, Sir Knight. Do not slay me. I put myself in the king's hands and yours."
Sir Lancelot was much vexed. He wanted to kill Sir Malgrace for his treachery, and yet, since the man had asked for mercy, he could not. So he said: