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Stories of King Arthur and His Knights - Retold from Malory's "Morte dArthur"
by U. Waldo Cutler
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CHAPTER XXII

HOW KING MARK WAS SORRY FOR THE GOOD RENOWN OF SIR TRISTRAM

The queen departed from Sir Tristram but the little dog would not from him. Therewithal came King Mark, and the dog set upon him and bayed at all the barons. Thereupon Sir Andred saw by the dog that it was Sir Tristram, and King Mark repented that he had brought the mad man in from the forest. Then he let call his barons to judge Sir Tristram to death. They would not assent thereto, but by the advice of them all he was banished out of the country for ten years.

So Sir Tristram was made to depart out of the country of Cornwall, and there were many barons brought him into his ship. When he was ready to set sail he said: "Greet well King Mark and all mine enemies, and say I will come again when I may. And well am I rewarded for the fighting with Sir Marhaus, and delivering all this country from servage, and well am I rewarded for the fetching of the Fair Isoud out of Ireland, and the danger I was in first and last."

So Sir Tristram departed over sea, and arrived in Wales. As he rode there through the Forest Perilous, a lady in great distress met him, that said: "O my lord, come with me, and that in all the haste ye may, for ye shall see the most honourable knight of the world hard bestead, and he is none other than the noble King Arthur himself."

"God defend," said Sir Tristram, "that ever he should be in such distress. I am ready to help him if I may."

So they rode at a great pace, till they saw a knight, that was King Arthur, on foot fighting with two knights, and anon the one knight was smitten down, and they unlaced his helm to slay him. Therewithal came Sir Tristram with all his might, and smote the two traitors so that they fell dead. Then he horsed King Arthur, and as they rode forth together, the King thanked heartily Sir Tristram and desired to wit his name. He would not tell him, but said that he was a poor knight adventurous. So he bare King Arthur fellowship, till he met with some of his knights.

Then departed Sir Tristram, and rode straight toward Camelot. Then was he ware of a seemly knight riding against him with a covered shield. They dressed their shields and spears, and came together with all the mights of their horses. They met so fiercely that both horses and knights fell to the earth. As fast as they were able they then gat free from their horses, and put their shields before them; and they strake together with bright swords, like men of might, and either wounded other wonderly sore, so that the blood ran out upon the grass.

Thus they two fought the space of four hours. Never one would speak to other one word, and of their harness they hewed off many pieces. Then at the last spake the one with the covered shield; "Knight, thou fightest wonderly well as ever I saw knight; therefore if it please you tell me your name."

"Sir," said Sir Tristram, "that is me loath to tell any man my name."

"Truly," said the other, "if I was requested, I was never loath to tell my name. I am Sir Launcelot of the Lake."

"Alas," said Sir Tristram, "what have I done, for ye are the man in the world that I love best."

"Fair knight," said Sir Launcelot, "tell me now your name."

"Truly," said he, "my name is Sir Tristram of Lyonesse."

"Oh," said Sir Launcelot, "what adventure is befallen me!"

Therewith Sir Launcelot kneeled adown, and yielded him up his sword. And therewithal Sir Tristram kneeled adown, and yielded him up his sword. So either gave other the victory. Thereupon they both forthwithal went to a stone, and sat down upon it, and took off their helms to cool themselves. Then after a while they took their helms and rode together to Camelot.

There soon they met King Arthur, and when he wist that it was Sir Tristram, he ran unto him and took him by the hand and said, "Sir Tristram, ye be as welcome as any knight that ever came to this court." Then they went to the Table Round, where Queen Guenever came, and many ladies with her, and all the ladies said at one voice, "Welcome, Sir Tristram." "Welcome," said the damsels; "Welcome," said the knights; "Welcome," said Arthur, "for one of the best knights and the gentlest of the world, and the man of most honour. For of all manner of hunting ye bear the prize; and of all the terms of hunting and hawking ye are the beginner; of all instruments of music ye are the best. Therefore, gentle knight, ye are welcome to this court. Now I pray you, grant me a boon."

"It shall be at your commandment," said Tristram.

"Well," said Arthur, "I will desire of you that ye will abide in my court."

"Sir," said Sir Tristram, "thereto is me loath, for I have ado in many countries."

"Not so," said Arthur; "ye have promised it me, and ye may not say nay."

So Tristram agreed to remain with King Arthur, who then went unto the sieges about the Round Table, and looked in every siege that lacked a knight. Then the King saw in the siege of Marhaus letters that said, "This is the siege of the noble knight Sir Tristram." And then Arthur made Sir Tristram knight of the Table Round with great splendour and great feast, as might be thought. For that Sir Marhaus, a worthy knight, was slain afore by the hands of Sir Tristram was well known at that time in the court of Arthur; and that for evil deeds that he did unto the country of Cornwall Sir Tristram and he fought; and that they fought so long tracing and traversing till they fell bleeding to the earth, for they were so sore wounded that they might not stand; and that Sir Tristram by fortune recovered, and Sir Marhaus died through the stroke on the head.

King Mark had had great despite of the renown of Sir Tristram, and therefore had chased him out of Cornwall. When now he heard of the great prowess that Sir Tristram did in England he was sore grieved, and sent men to espy what deeds he did. The Queen Isoud also on her part sent privily spies to know what deeds he had done, for great love was between them twain. When the messengers came home, and told that Sir Tristram passed all other knights at Arthur's court unless it were Sir Launcelot, King Mark was right heavy of the tidings, and as glad was the Fair Isoud. Then in great despite King Mark took with him two good knights and two squires, disguised himself, and took his way into England, to the intent to slay Sir Tristram.

So King Mark came into England, where he soon became known as the most horrible coward that ever bestrode horse; and there was much laughing and jesting at the knight of Cornwall, and much he was despised. Sir Dagonet, King Arthur's fool, at one time chased him through thick and thin over the forests; and when on a day Sir Launcelot overtook him and bade him turn and fight, he made no defence, but tumbled down out off the saddle to the earth as a sack, and there he lay still, and cried Sir Launcelot mercy.

So King Mark was soon brought as recreant before King Arthur, who already knew wherefore he was come into his country, and that he had not done the service and homage he owed as King Arthur's under-lord. But King Mark promised to make large amends for the wrongs he had done, for he was a fair speaker, and false thereunder. So on a day King Arthur prayed of him one gift, and King Mark promised to give him whatsoever he desired, if it were in his power. Then King Arthur asked him to be good lord unto Sir Tristram, and to take him back into Cornwall, and to cherish him for Arthur's sake. King Mark promised this, and swore upon a book afore Arthur and all his knights. Therewith King Arthur forgave him all the evil will that ever he owed him, and King Mark and Sir Tristram took either other by the hands hard knit together. But for all this King Mark thought falsely, as it proved afterward.

Then soon afterward King Mark took his leave to ride into Cornwall, and Sir Tristram rode with him; wherefore the most part of the Round Table were passing heavy, and some were wroth, knowing that King Mark was the most coward and the villainest knight living.

After a while letters came out of Cornwall that spake ill of Sir Tristram and showed plainly that King Mark took Sir Tristram for his mortal enemy. Sir Launcelot in especial made great sorrow for anger, wherefore Dinadan, a gentle, wise, and courteous knight, said to him: "King Mark is so villainous that by fair speech shall never man get of him. But ye shall see what I shall do. I will make a lay for him, and when it is made I shall make a harper sing it afore him."

So anon Dinadan went and made the lay, hoping thereby to humble the crafty king; and he taught it an harper named Eliot, and when he knew it, he taught it to many harpers. And so, by the will of Sir Launcelot and of Arthur, the harpers went straight into Wales and into Cornwall, to sing the lay that Sir Dinadan made of King Mark, which was the worst lay that ever harper sang with harp or with any other instrument.

At a great feast that King Mark made came in Eliot the harper, and because he was a curious harper, men heard him sing the lay that Dinadan had made, the which spake the most villainy of King Mark's treason that ever man heard. When the harper had sung his song to the end, King Mark was wonderly wroth, for he deemed that the lay that was sung afore him was made by Sir Tristram's counsel, wherefore he thought to slay him and all his well willers in that country.

So King Mark grew ever more jealous of Sir Tristram because of his prowess as knight and his great love and loyal devotion to the queen, the Fair Isoud; and by treason King Mark let take him and put him in prison, contrary to his promise that he made unto King Arthur. When Queen Isoud understood that Sir Tristram was in prison, she made as great sorrow as ever made lady or gentlewoman. Then Sir Tristram sent a letter unto her, and prayed her to be his good lady; and if it pleased her to make a vessel ready for her and him, he would go with her unto the realm of Logris, that is this land.

When the Fair Isoud understood Sir Tristram's letter and his intent, she sent him another, and bade him be of good comfort, for she would make the vessel ready, and all things to purpose. Then she had King Mark taken and put in prison, until the time that she and Sir Tristram were departed unto the realm of Logris. And then Sir Tristram was delivered out of prison, and anon in all haste they took their vessel, and came by water into England.

When Sir Launcelot understood that Sir Tristram was there, he was full glad. He espied whither he went, and after him he rode, and then either made of other great joy. And so Sir Launcelot brought Sir Tristram and the Fair Isoud unto Joyous Gard, that was Sir Launcelot's own castle that he had won with his own hands. And he charged all his people to honour them and love them as they would do himself.

Near three years Sir Tristram kept the Fair Isoud with him in Joyous Gard, and then by means of treaties he brought her again unto King Fox, which was the name Sir Launcelot gave unto Mark because of his wiles and treason. But ever the malice of King Fox followed his brave nephew, and in the end he slew him as he sat harping afore his lady, the Fair Isoud, with a trenchant glaive, thrust in behind to the heart.

For his death was much bewailing of every knight that ever was in Arthur's days, for he was traitorously slain. And the Fair Isoud died, swooning upon the cross of Sir Tristram, whereof was great pity. And all that were with King Mark that were consenting to the death of Sir Tristram were slain, as Sir Andred and many others.



CHAPTER XXIII

HOW SIR PERCIVALE OF GALIS SOUGHT AND FOUND SIR LAUNCELOT

While King Arthur and his knights were still sorrowful over Sir Tristram's return to Cornwall, greatly fearing mischief to the good knight by some manner of falsehood or treason of King Mark, there came to the court a knight bringing a young squire with him. It was Sir Aglovale, King Pellinore's son, and the squire was his brother, Percivale, that he wished King Arthur to make knight. The boy was the youngest of five sons, and for love of the father and the brothers, good knights all, the King made him a knight the next day in Camelot; yet the King and all the knights thought it would be long ere he proved a man of prowess, and Sir Kay and Sir Mordred made sport of his rude manner.

At the dinner, when every knight was set after his honour, the King commanded Sir Percivale to be placed among mean knights. But there was a maiden in the Queen's court that was come of high blood, yet she was dumb, and never spake a word. Right so she came straight into the hall, went unto Sir Percivale, took him by the hand, and said aloud, that the King and all the knights might hear it, "Arise, Sir Percivale, the noble knight and God's knight, and go with me."

So he did, and she brought him to the right side of the Siege Perilous, and said, "Fair knight, take here thy siege, for that siege appertaineth to thee, and to none other." Right so she departed, and soon afterward she died. Then the King and all the court made great joy of Sir Percivale.

Then Sir Percivale rode forth upon adventures, and came unto Cornwall to seek Sir Tristram. And he delivered him from a prison where King Mark had placed him, and then rode straight unto King Mark and told him he had done himself great shame to treat so falsely Sir Tristram, the knight of most renown in all the world. Then Sir Percivale departed, but anon King Mark bethought him of more treason, notwithstanding his promise never by any manner of means to hurt Sir Tristram, and he let take him and put him again in prison. How he then escaped with Isoud into England we have already read in the tale of Sir Tristram.

Now it chanced that Sir Launcelot of the Lake had sore offended the Queen Guenever, and she rebuked him harshly, called him false traitor knight, and sent him from her court. Therewith he took such an hearty sorrow at her words that he went clean out of his mind, and leaped out at a bay window into a garden, and there with thorns he was all scratched up in his visage. So he ran forth he wist not whither, and for a long while none of his kin wist what was become of him.

Soon Queen Guenever was right sorry that she had been so angry with her faithful knight, and on her knees besought Sir Bors and many others to seek Sir Launcelot throughout all England, Wales, and Scotland. So these noble knights by one assent rode forth by twos and threes; and ever they assigned where they should meet.

Sir Aglovale and Sir Percivale rode together unto their mother that was a queen in those days. And when she saw her two sons, for joy she wept tenderly and said, "Ah my dear sons, when your father was slain he left me five sons, of the which now be three slain; my heart shall never be glad more." Then she kneeled down tofore Aglovale and Percivale, and besought them to abide at home with her.

"Ah, sweet mother," said Sir Percivale, "we may not, for we be come of king's blood on both sides, and therefore, mother, it is our kind to follow arms and noble deeds."

Then there was but weeping and sobbing when they should depart, and after they were gone, she sent a squire after them with spending enough. When the squire had overtaken them, they would not suffer him to ride with them, but sent him home again to comfort their mother, praying her meekly for her blessing.

So this squire was benighted as he rode homeward, and by misfortune happened to come into the castle of a baron whose brother (a false knight and betrayer of ladies and of good knights) Sir Aglovale had slain. When this baron knew from the squire that he served a good knight called Sir Aglovale, he commanded his men to have him away without mercy.

On the morn came Sir Aglovale and Sir Percivale riding by a churchyard where men and women were busy in burying this same dead squire. When the brothers heard from a good man of the company how the baron had shamefully slain the squire that night, they alighted both, left their horses with their men, and went on foot to the castle. All so soon as they were within the castle gate Sir Aglovale bade the porter "Go thou unto thy lord and tell him that I am Sir Aglovale, for whom the squire was slain this night."

Anon the lord of the castle, whose name was Goodewin, came armed into the court, and he and Sir Aglovale lashed together as eagerly as it had been two lions. Sir Percivale fought with all the remnant that would fight, and within a while had slain all that would withstand him, for he dealt so his strokes that there durst no man abide him. Within a while Sir Aglovale had Sir Goodewin also at the earth, and so the two brethren departed and took their horses. Then they let carry the dead squire unto a priory, and there they interred him. When this was done they rode their way into many countries, ever inquiring after Sir Launcelot, but never they could hear of him.

At last, at a castle that was called Cardican, Sir Percivale parted from Sir Aglovale, and with his squire rode alone. In the afternoon he came upon a bridge of stone, where he found a knight that was bound with a chain fast about unto a pillar of stone. This was Sir Persides, a knight of the Table Round, who by adventure came this way and lodged in the castle at the bridge foot. There by an evil custom of the castle men set upon him suddenly or ever he might come to his weapon, and bound him, and chained him at the bridge. There he knew he should die unless some man of honour brake his bands.

"Be ye of good cheer," said Sir Percivale, "and because ye are a knight of the Round Table as well as I, I trust to God to make you free."

Therewith Sir Percivale drew out his sword, and struck at the chain with such a might that he cut a-two the chain, and through Sir Persides' hauberk, and hurt him a little.

"Truly," said Sir Persides, "that was a mighty stroke if ever I felt one, for had it not been for the chain, ye had slain me."

Therewithal Sir Persides saw a knight coming out of the castle, flying all that ever he might. "Beware, sir," said he; "yonder cometh a man that will have ado with you."

"Let him come," said Sir Percivale.

So he met with that knight in the midst of the bridge, and gave him such a buffet that he smote him quite from his horse and over a part of the bridge so that, had there not been a little vessel under the bridge, that knight had been drowned. Then Sir Percivale took the knight's horse, and made Sir Persides to mount upon him. So they rode to the castle, and made the lady deliver Sir Persides' servants.

Had he not had a great matter in hand, he would have remained to do away with the evil customs there. But Sir Percivale might not long abide, for he rode to seek Sir Launcelot.

Sir Persides brought him unto his own castle, and there made him great cheer for that night. Then on the morn, when Sir Percivale had heard mass and broken his fast, he said to Sir Persides: "Ride unto King Arthur, and tell the King how that ye met with me, and tell my brother Sir Aglovale how I rescued you, and bid him seek not after me, for I am in the quest to seek Sir Launcelot of the Lake, and will not see him or the court till Sir Launcelot is found. Also tell Sir Kay and Sir Mordred that I trust to God to be of as good worthiness as either of them, and that I will never see that court till men speak more honour of me than ever men did of any of them both."

So Sir Persides departed from Sir Percivale, and rode unto King Arthur, and told there of Sir Percivale. And King Arthur said he must needs prove a good knight, for his father and his brethren were noble knights.

Now turn we to Sir Launcelot, and speak we of his care and woe and what pain he endured from cold, hunger, and thirst. As he wandered like a mad man here and there, he by fortune came to the castle of King Pelles. There he was healed of his madness, and when he was recovered he was sore ashamed that he had thus been clean out of his wit. And King Pelles gave him his castle of Bliant, that stood in an island enclosed with a fair water, deep and large. Sir Launcelot called it the Joyous Isle, and here he dwelt a long while. Because he was driven from King Arthur's court he desired not to be known, and he named himself "The knight that hath trespassed."

Now it fell at that time that Sir Launcelot heard of a jousting hard by his castle, and he sent word thither that there was one knight in the Joyous Isle, by name "The knight that hath trespassed," that will joust against any knights that will come to him. When this cry was made, unto Joyous Isle drew many knights, and wit you well there was not seen at Arthur's court one knight that did so much deeds of arms as were done in that gay castle.

And in the meanwhile came also Sir Percivale nigh to Joyous Isle, and would have gone to that castle, but might not for the broad water. Then he saw on the other side a lady, and he called unto her and asked who was in that castle.

"Fair knight," she said, "here within this castle is the fairest knight and the mightiest man that is, I dare say, living, and he calleth himself 'The knight that hath trespassed.' He came into this country like a mad man, with dogs and boys chasing him, and by miracle he was brought into his wit again. If ye list to come into the castle, ye must ride unto the farther side of the isle, and there ye shall find a vessel that will bear you and your horse."

Then Sir Percivale came unto the vessel, and passed the water. When he came to the castle gate, he bade the porter, "Go thou to the good knight within the castle, and tell him here is come an errant knight to joust with him."

Sir Percivale now rode within the castle, and anon Sir Launcelot had warning, he was soon ready. And there Sir Percivale and Sir Launcelot encountered with such a might that both the horses and the knights fell to the earth. Then they left their horses, swung out noble swords, and hewed away pieces of their shields, and dashed together like two boars, and either wounded other passing sore.

At the last Sir Percivale spake, when they had fought there more than two hours: "Fair knight," saith he, "I pray thee tell me thy name, for I met never with such a knight."

"Sir," said Sir Launcelot, "my name is 'The knight that hath trespassed.' Now tell me your name, I pray you, gentle knight."

"Truly," said Sir Percivale, "my name is Sir Percivale of Galis; King Pellinore was my father and Sir Aglovale is my brother."

"Alas," said Sir Launcelot, "what have I done to fight with you that art a knight of the Table Round, that sometime was your fellow."

Therewithal Sir Launcelot kneeled down upon his knees, and threw away his shield and his sword from him. When Sir Percivale saw him do so, he marvelled what he meant. Then he begged him upon the high order of knighthood to tell his true name, and Sir Launcelot told him all.

"Alas," said Sir Percivale, "what have I done! I was sent by the Queen for to seek you, and so I have sought you nigh these two years. I pray you forgive me mine offence that I have here done."

"It is soon forgiven," said Sir Launcelot.

Then Sir Percivale told him how King Arthur and all his knights, and in especial Queen Guenever, made great dole and sorrow that ever he departed from them, and that never knight was better welcome back to the court than he would be. So Sir Launcelot agreed to do after Sir Percivale's counsel, and ride with him to the King.

So then they took their horses and departed from the Joyous Isle, and within five days' journey they came to Camelot, that is called in English Winchester. And when Sir Launcelot was come among them, the King and all the knights made great joy of him. Then Sir Percivale of Galis began and told the whole adventures, and all the tales of Sir Launcelot. And the Queen made great cheer, and there were great feasts made, and many great lords and ladies, when they heard that Sir Launcelot was come to the court again, made great joy.



CHAPTER XXIV

OF THE COMING OF SIR GALAHAD

At the vigil of Pentecost, when all the fellowship of the Round Table were come unto Camelot, and the tables were set ready to the meat, right so entered into the hall a full fair gentlewoman before the King, and on behalf of King Pelles requested that Sir Launcelot should go with her hereby into a forest. Sir Launcelot bade his squire saddle his horse and bring his arms, and right so he departed with the gentlewoman, and rode until that he came into a great valley, where they saw an abbey of nuns. There was a squire ready, and opened the gates; and so they entered and descended off their horses, and there came a fair fellowship about Sir Launcelot and welcomed him, and were passing glad of his coming.

In the meanwhile there came twelve nuns which brought with them Galahad, the which was passing fair and well made, so that in the world men might scarcely find his match. "Sir," said the ladies, "we bring you here this child, the which we have nourished, and we pray you to make him a knight; for of a worthier man's hand may he not receive the order of knighthood."

Sir Launcelot beheld that young squire, and saw him seemly and demure as a dove, with all manner of good features, and he thought of his age never to have seen so fair a man of form. Then said Sir Launcelot, "Cometh this desire of himself?"

He and all they said, "Yea."

"Then shall he," said Sir Launcelot, "receive the high order of knighthood to-morrow."

That night Sir Launcelot had passing good cheer, and on the morn at the hour of prime, at Galahad's desire, he made him knight, and said, "God make you a good man, for beauty faileth you not as any that liveth."

Then Sir Launcelot departed from them, and came again unto Camelot by the hour of nine on Whitsunday morning. By that time the King and the Queen and all the fellowship were gone to the minster to hear the service.

When they were come from service all were passing glad of Sir Launcelot's return. And as they entered the hall each of the barons sought his name, written with gold letters, in the sieges of the Round Table. Thus they went along from seat to seat, until that they came to the Siege Perilous, where they found letters newly written of gold, that said: "Four hundred winters and fifty-four accomplished after the passion of our Lord Jesu Christ ought this siege to be filled."

All thought this a marvellous thing, and an adventurous. And then Sir Launcelot accounted the term of the writing from the birth of our Lord unto that day, and said: "It seemeth me this siege ought to be filled this same day, for this is the feast of Pentecost after the four hundred and four and fifty years; and if it would please all parties, I would none of these letters were seen this day, till he be come that ought to achieve this adventure."

Then they provided a cloth of silk for to cover these letters in the Siege Perilous, and the King bade haste unto dinner.

It was an old custom of Arthur's court that on this day they should not sit at their meat until they had seen some adventure. As they stood waiting therefor, in came a squire bringing the marvellous tidings that beneath at the river there was a great stone, as it were of red marble, floating above the water, wherein a sword stuck. So the King and all the knights went unto the river to see this marvel, and they found it even as the squire had said. There in the stone was the fair rich sword, and in the pommel thereof were precious stones and subtile letters wrought with gold. Then the barons read the letters, which said in this wise: "Never shall man take me hence but only he by whose side I ought to hang, and he shall be the best knight of the world."

When the King had seen these letters, he said unto Sir Launcelot, "Fair sir, this sword ought to be yours, for I am sure ye be the best knight of the world."

Then Sir Launcelot answered full soberly, conscious of a great sin: "Certes, sir, it is not my sword; also, sir, wit ye well I have no hardiness to set my hand thereto, for it belongs not by my side."

"Now, fair nephew," said the King unto Sir Gawaine, "assay ye to take the sword for my love."

Therewith Sir Gawaine took the sword by the handles, though unwillingly and only at the King's commandment, but he might not stir it. Then the King said unto Sir Percivale that he should assay. So he set his hand on the sword and drew it strongly, but he might not move it. Then were there more that durst be so hardy as to set their hands thereto, but all failed.

"Now may ye go to your dinner," said Sir Kay unto King Arthur, "for a marvellous adventure have ye seen."

So the King and all went in, and every knight knew his own place and set himself therein, and all sieges were filled save only the Siege Perilous. Anon there befell a marvellous adventure, for all the doors and the windows of the place shut of themselves, yet then the hall was not greatly darkened, and therewith they were amazed, both one and other.

While they sat there in suspense as to what should happen, came in a good old man, and an ancient, clothed all in white, and there was no knight knew from whence he came. With him he brought a young knight in red arms, without sword or shield, save a scabbard hanging by his side. Then the old man said unto Arthur, "Sir, I bring here a young knight the which is of king's lineage and of the kindred of Joseph of Arimathea, whereby the marvels of this court and of strange realms shall be fully accomplished."

The King was right glad of the good man's words, and bade him and the young knight welcome. Then the old man made the young man unarm; and he was in a coat of red silk, and bore a mantle upon his shoulder that was furred with ermine. Anon the old knight led him unto the Siege Perilous, where beside sat Sir Percivale and Sir Launcelot. The good man lifted up the cloth, and found there letters that said thus: "This is the siege of Galahad, the high prince." He set him down surely in that siege, saying, "Wit ye well that place is yours," and then, departed and went his way.

All the knights of the Table Round marvelled greatly that Sir Galahad durst sit there in that Siege Perilous, and was so tender of age; for never before had anyone sat therein but he was mischieved. And they foresaw that Sir Galahad would come to great honour, and outdo them all in knightly courtesy.

Then the King bade him welcome to the court, and taking him by the hand, went down from the palace to show Galahad the adventures of the stone. "Sir" said the King unto him, "here is a great marvel as ever I saw, and right good knights have assayed and failed."

"Sir," said Galahad, "that is no marvel, for this adventure is not theirs but mine, and for the surety of this sword I brought none with me; for here by my side hangeth the scabbard."

Anon he laid his hand on the sword, and lightly drew it out of the stone and put it in the sheath, saying, "Now it goeth better than it did aforehand."



CHAPTER XXV

HOW THE QUEST OF THE HOLY GRAIL WAS BEGUN

The dish from which our Lord Jesu Christ ate the paschal lamb at His last supper with His disciples men call the Holy Grail. Therein also Joseph of Arimathea caught the last drops of sacred blood, and after the passion of our Lord that gentle knight, the which took down the body off the holy cross, at that time departed from Jerusalem with a great party of his kindred, bearing the Holy Grail with them.

It befell that they came first to a city that was called Sarras, and at the last they crossed to Britain, and through them all the heathen people of this land were turned to the Christian faith.

Ever as years went by the Holy Grail became more precious, and the possession of it ever more a sacred trust. But after a long while it was lost from the world through men's sinfulness, and only those of pure heart and life might from time to time see it.

Merlin, before he was put under the stone, had foreseen that by them which should be fellows of the Round Table the truth of the Holy Grail would be well known, and in the good days of King Arthur the longing grew to be worthy of the vision of this sign of the Lord's presence among men. Moreover a holy hermit had said that, when the Siege Perilous was filled, the achieving of the Holy Grail should be near.

After Galahad drew the sword out of the stone the King and all estates went thoughtful home unto Camelot, and so to even-song in the great minster. After that they went to supper, and every knight sat in his own place at the Round Table. Then anon they heard cracking and crying of thunder that should, as it seemed to them, shake the place all to pieces. In the midst of this blast entered a sunbeam more clear by seven times than ever they saw day, and all they were alighted of the grace of the Holy Ghost.

Then began every knight to behold other, and either saw other by their seeming fairer than ever they looked afore. There was no knight might speak one word, and so they looked every man on his fellows, as if they were dumb. Then there entered into the hall the Holy Grail, covered with white samite, but there was none might see it, or who bare it. And there was all the hall filled full with good odours, and every knight was nourished in his soul. When the Holy Grail had been borne through the hall, then it departed suddenly, so that they wist not what became of it.

Then had they all breath to speak, and the King yielded thankings unto God for His good grace that He had sent them. "Now," said Sir Gawaine, "we have been richly blessed this day, but one thing beguiled us,—we might not see the Holy Grail, it was so preciously covered. Wherefore I will make here avow, that to-morn, without longer abiding, I shall labour in the quest of the Holy Grail a twelvemonth and a day, or more if need be, and shall not return unto the court till I have seen it more openly than it hath been seen here; and if I may not speed, I shall return again at the end of the time as he that may not be against the will of our Lord Jesu Christ."

When they of the Table Round heard Sir Gawaine say so, the most part of them arose, and made such avows as Sir Gawaine had made. Anon as King Arthur heard this he was greatly grieved, for he wist well that they might not gainsay their avows, and he should be bereft of the fairest fellowship and the truest knighthood that ever were seen together in any realm of the world. For, when they departed from hence, they should never all meet again in this world, and many of his true fellowship of noble knights should die in the quest.

When the Queen also and all the court wist these tidings, they had such sorrow and heaviness that there might no tongue tell it. Many of the ladies would have gone with the knights that they loved, had not an old man in religious clothing said on high that none in this quest should lead wife with him. Moreover he warned the knights plainly that he that was not clean of his sins should not see the mysteries of our Lord Jesu Christ. Then they went to rest themselves, and in honour of the highness of Galahad he was led into King Arthur's chamber, and there rested in his own bed.

As soon as it was day the King arose, for he had no rest all that night for sorrow. Then the King and the Queen went unto the minster, and all the knights, armed fully save their shields and their helms, followed them to hear the service.

Then after the service was done, the King would wit how many had taken the quest of the Holy Grail, and found by tale there were an hundred and fifty, all knights of the Round Table. Then they put on their helms, and so mounted upon their horses, and rode through the streets of Camelot. And there was weeping of rich and poor, and the King turned away, and might not speak for weeping.

Within a while they came to a city and a castle called Vagon. The lord of that castle was a good old man and set open the gates, and made them all the good cheer that he might. On the morrow they were all accorded that they should ride every each from other. Then they departed with weeping and mourning cheer, and every knight took the way that him best liked.



CHAPTER XXVI

HOW GALAHAD GAT HIM A SHIELD

Now Sir Galahad was yet without shield, and so he rode four days without any adventure. After even-song of the fourth day he came to a white abbey, and there he was received with great reverence, and led to a chamber wherein he was ware of two knights of the Round Table, the one King Bagdemagus and the other Sir Uwaine. They went unto him and made of him great solace; and they told him that within this place was a shield that no man might bear about his neck without great harm to himself, unless he were the worthiest knight of the world.



"Ah, sir," said King Bagdemagus to Galahad, "I shall to-morrow assay this strange adventure, and if I may not achieve it ye shall take it upon you, for I am sure ye shall not fail."

"Sir," said Galahad, "I agree right well thereto, for I have no shield."

So on the morn they arose and heard mass. Then King Bagdemagus asked where the adventurous shield was. Anon a monk led him behind an altar, where the shield hung as white as any snow, but in the midst was a red cross. The monk counselled him to be well advised before taking it, and King Bagdemagus answered:

"Well, I wot well that I am not the best knight of the world, but yet shall I assay to bear it."

And so, bidding Sir Galahad to abide there still, till it was known how he sped, King Bagdemagus bore the red cross shield out of the monastery, took with him a squire, the which should bring tidings unto Sir Galahad how he sped, and rode away.

Two miles off they came into a fair valley afore a hermitage, and there they saw a goodly knight in white armour, horse and all. He came as fast as his horse might run, with his spear in the rest, and King Bagdemagus dressed his spear against him, and brake it upon the White Knight. The other struck him so hard that he brake the mails, and thrust him through the right shoulder, for the shield covered him not at that time, and so he bare him from his horse.

Therewith the White Knight alighted and took the white shield from King Bagdemagus, saying, "Knight, thou hast done thyself great folly, for this shield ought not to be borne but by him that shall have no peer that liveth." Then he came to the squire, and said, "Bear this shield unto the good knight Sir Galahad, that thou left in the abbey, and greet him well from me."

The squire first went unto Bagdemagus, and asked him whether he were sore wounded or not. "Yea, forsooth," said he, "I shall escape hard from death." Then the squire fetched his horse, and brought him with great pain unto an abbey. Then was he taken down safely, and unarmed, and laid in a bed. There his wounds were looked to, and, as the book telleth, he lay there long, and escaped hard with life.

"Sir," said the squire, when he came to Galahad, "that knight that wounded Bagdemagus sendeth you greeting, and bade that ye should bear this shield, wherethrough great adventures should befall."

"Now blessed be God," said Sir Galahad. Then he asked his arms, mounted upon his horse, and, commending himself unto God, hung the white shield about his neck. So he departed, and within a while came by the hermitage, where the White Knight awaited him. Every each saluted other courteously, and the knight told Sir Galahad the marvels of the shield.

"Sir," said he, "at that same hour that Joseph of Arimathea came to Sarras, there was a king in that city called Evelake, that had great war against the Saracens, and there Joseph made this shield for him in the name of Him that died upon the cross. Then through his good belief he had the better of his enemies; for when King Evelake was in the battle, there was a cloth set afore the shield, and when he was in the greatest peril he let put away the cloth, and then his enemies saw a figure of a man on the cross, wherethrough they all were discomfited.

"Soon afterwards Joseph departed from Sarras, and King Evelake would go with him whether he would or nould, and they came unto this land of Britain. Not long after this, when Joseph lay on his death-bed, King Evelake begged of him some token that would lead him to think on the old knight for love of whom he had left his own country. So Joseph took this shield, and thereupon he made a cross with his own blood; that should be Evelake's token. Then he said that no man should bear this shield until the time that Galahad come, the last of Joseph's lineage, that should do many marvellous deeds while bearing it about his neck. To-day is the time they then set when ye shall have King Evelake's shield."

So spake the White Knight, and then vanished away; and Sir Galahad rode with the squire back to the abbey.



CHAPTER XXVII

SIR GALAHAD AT THE CASTLE OF MAIDENS

The men of the abbey made great joy of Sir Galahad, and he rested there that night. Upon the morn he gave the order of knighthood to the squire who had brought him the red-cross shield, and asked him his name, and of what kindred he was come.

"Sir," said he, "men call me Melias of Lile, and I am the son of the King of Denmark."

"Now, fair sir," said Galahad, "since ye are of noble birth, see that knighthood be well placed in you, for ye ought to be a mirror unto all chivalry."

"Sir," said Melias, "ye say truly. But, sir, since ye have made me a knight, ye must of right grant me my first desire that is reasonable."

"Ye say truly," said Galahad.

Then Melias said, "Suffer me to ride with you in this quest of the Holy Grail till some adventure part us."

"I grant you, sir," said Galahad.

Then men brought Sir Melias his armour and his spear and his horse; and so Sir Galahad and he rode forth all that week ere they found any adventure. And then upon a Monday, in the morning, as they had departed from an abbey, they came to a fork in the road, where stood written these words: "Now ye knights errant, who go to seek knights adventurous, see here two ways; the right-hand road ye are warned against, for knight shall never ride out of that place again unless he be a good man and a worthy knight; and if ye go to the left hand ye shall not there easily win prowess, for ye shall in this road be soon attacked."

"Sir," said Melias to Galahad, "if ye are pleased to suffer me to take the way on the left hand, tell me, for there I shall well prove my strength."

"It were better," said Galahad, "ye rode not that way, for I believe I should better escape in that way than ye."

"Nay, my lord," said Melias, "I pray you, let me have that adventure."

"Take it, in God's name," said Galahad.

So Melias rode far through an old forest, and after two days or more came into a fair meadow. Here in a fair lodge of boughs he espied a chair wherein was a subtilely-wrought crown of gold, and near by was a cloth spread upon the ground with many delicious meats upon it. Sir Melias had no desire for the food, but the crown of gold pleased him much, so he stooped down and took it and rode his way with it. And anon he saw a knight come riding after him, who called upon him to set down the crown that was not his, and to defend himself.

The new-made knight was glad of this adventure, and the two let their horses run as fast as they might, so that the other knight smote Sir Melias through his hauberk and through the left side, and he fell to the earth nigh dead. Then the knight took the crown and went his way, and Sir Melias lay still, and had no power to stir. In the meanwhile by good fortune there came Sir Galahad and found him there in peril of death.

Then he said, "Ah, Melias, who hath wounded you? It would have been better to ride the other way."

And when Sir Melias heard him speak, "Sir," he said, "for God's love let me not die in this forest, but bear me unto the abbey near at hand."

"It shall be done," said Galahad, "but where is he that hath wounded you?"

With that Sir Galahad heard some one cry, "Knight, keep thee from me!"

"Ah, sir," said Melias, "beware, for that is he that hath slain me."

Sir Galahad answered, "Sir knight, come at your peril."

So they came together as fast as their horses might run; and Galahad smote the other so that his spear went through the knight's shoulder and smote him down off his horse, and in the falling Galahad's spear brake. With that came out another knight from the leaves, and brake a spear upon Galahad before he might turn about. Then Galahad drew out his sword and smote this one so that he fled away, and Sir Galahad pursued fast after him. But soon he turned again unto Sir Melias, and there he alighted and placed him softly on his horse before him, and Sir Galahad climbed up behind, and held him in his arms, and so brought him to the abbey and into his chamber. Here he placed the wounded knight in the care of an old monk, that promised to heal him of his wounds.

"Now I will depart," said Galahad, "for I have much on hand; many good knights be full busy about it, and this knight and I were in the same quest of the Holy Grail."

"Sir," said the good monk, "for his sins he was thus wounded; and I marvel," said he to Melias, "how ye durst take upon you so rich a thing as the high order of knighthood without clean confession, and that was the cause ye were bitterly wounded. For the way on the right hand betokeneth the high way of our Lord Jesu Christ, and the way of a true good liver. And the other way betokeneth the way of sinners and of misbelievers. Your pride and presumption in taking the quest of the blessed Holy Grail made you to be overthrown, for it may not be achieved but by virtuous living. Pride is head of all deadly sins, and that caused you to depart from Sir Galahad. And when ye took the crown of gold your sin was covetousness and theft. But this Galahad, the holy knight, the which fought with the two knights that signify the two deadly sins which were wholly in you, was able to overthrow them, for he is pure in his heart."

"My lord Galahad," said Sir Melias, "as soon as I may ride I shall seek you."

"God send you health," said Galahad, and so he took his horse and departed, and rode many journeys forward and backward, as adventure would lead him.

Then Sir Galahad came unto a mountain. There he found an old chapel, where all was desolate, and he knelt before the altar and besought of God wholesome counsel. As he prayed, he heard a voice that said, "Go thou now, thou adventurous knight, to the Castle of Maidens, and there do thou away the wicked customs."

When Sir Galahad heard this, he thanked God and took his horse, and he had ridden but half a mile when he saw in a valley afore him a strong castle with deep ditches, and there ran beside it a fair river, that was called Severn. Then he met with a man of great age. Either saluted other, and Galahad asked him the castle's name. "Fair sir," said he, "it is the Castle of Maidens."

"That is a cursed castle," said Galahad, "and all who have intercourse therein are cursed, for all pity is lacking there, and all cruelty and mischief are therein."

"Therefore I counsel you, sir knight," said the other, "that ye turn back."

"Sir," said Sir Galahad, "ye may be sure I shall not turn back."

Then Sir Galahad looked on his armour to see that nothing was lacking, and he put his shield afore him, and anon there met him seven fair maidens, which said unto him, "Sir knight, ye ride here in great folly, for ye have the water to pass over."

"Why should I not pass the water?" said Galahad. So he rode away from them, and met with a squire, who said. "Knight, those knights in the castle defy you, and forbid you to go farther till they know what ye would."

"Fair sir," said Galahad, "I come to destroy the wicked customs of this castle."

"Sir," said the squire, "if ye will abide by that, ye shall have enough to do."

The squire entered into the castle, and anon there came out seven knights, all brethren. And when they saw Galahad they cried, "Knight, defend thyself, for we assure thee nothing but death."

Then Galahad put forth his spear, and smote the foremost to the earth. And therewith all the others smote him on his shield great strokes so that their spears brake. Then Sir Galahad drew out his sword, and set upon them so hard that it was marvel to see it, and so, through great force, he made them to forsake the field. Galahad chased them till they entered into the castle, and then passed through the castle and out at another gate.

Now there met Sir Galahad an old man, who said, "Sir, have here the keys of this castle."

Then Sir Galahad opened the gates, and saw so many people in the passages that he might not number them, and all said, "Sir, ye be welcome, for long have we awaited here our deliverance."

Then came to him a gentlewoman, and said, "These knights are fled, but they will come again this night, and here begin again their evil practices."

"What will ye that I shall do?" said Galahad.

"Sir," said the gentlewoman, "that ye send after all the knights hither that hold their lands of this castle, and make them to swear to use the customs that were used heretofore of old time."

"I will well," said Galahad.

She brought him a horn of ivory, richly bound with gold, and said, "Sir, blow this horn, which will be heard two miles about this castle."

When Sir Galahad had blown the horn he set himself down upon a bed. Then a priest came and told him of the evil practices of the castle, and why it was called the Castle of Maidens. "It chanced in this wise," said he: "More than seven years agone the seven brethren came, and lodged with the lord of this castle and of all the country round about. When they espied the duke's daughter, a full fair woman, they plotted falsely betwixt themselves and slew the duke and his eldest son. Then they took the maiden and the treasure of the castle, and by great force they held all the knights of this castle against their will under their power in great slavery, and robbed and pillaged the poor common people of all that they had. Then it happened on a day the duke's daughter said, 'Ye have done unto me great wrong to slay my own father and my brother, and thus to hold our lands. But ye shall not hold this castle many years, for by one knight ye shall be overcome.' Thus she had prophesied seven years agone.

"'Well,' said the seven knights, 'if that be so, there shall never lady nor knight pass by this castle but they shall abide here, whether they will or not, or die for it, till that knight be come by whom we shall lose this castle.' Therefore it is called the Maidens' Castle, for many maidens have here been destroyed."

By the time the priest had finished, the knights of the country were come at the call from the ivory horn. Then Sir Galahad made them do homage and fealty to the duke's daughter, and set the people in great ease of heart.

And the next morning one came to Galahad and told him how Gawaine, Gareth, and Uwaine had slain the seven brethren. "I am glad to hear it," said Sir Galahad, and he took his armour, mounted his horse, and commended the people of the Castle of Maidens unto God, and so rode away.



CHAPTER XXVIII

SIR LAUNCELOT'S REPENTANCE

When Sir Galahad was departed from the Castle of Maidens, he rode till he came to a waste forest, and there he met with Sir Launcelot and Sir Percivale, but they knew him not, for he was new disguised. Right so, Sir Launcelot dressed his spear, and brake it upon Sir Galahad; and Sir Galahad smote him so again, that he smote down horse and man. Then he drew his sword, and dressed him unto Sir Percivale, and smote him so on the helm that, had not the sword swerved, Sir Percivale had been slain, and with the stroke he fell out of his saddle.

This joust was done tofore the hermitage where a recluse dwelt, and, when she saw Sir Galahad ride, she said, "God be with thee, best knight of the world. Ah, verily, if yonder two knights had known thee as well as I do, they would not have encountered with thee."

When Sir Galahad heard her say so, he was sore adread to be known. Therefore he smote his horse with his spurs, and rode at a great pace away from them. Then perceived they both that he was Galahad, and up they gat on their horses, and rode fast after him, but in a while he was out of their sight. Then they turned again with heavy cheer, and Sir Percivale said, "Let us ask some tidings at yonder recluse."

"Do as ye list," said Sir Launcelot. So Sir Percivale turned back, but Sir Launcelot rode on across and endlong in a wild forest, and held no path, but as wild adventure led him. At last he came to a stone cross, which pointed two ways, and by the cross was a stone that was of marble; but it was so dark that he might not wit what it was.

Sir Launcelot looked about him, and saw an old chapel. There he expected to find people, so he tied his horse, and took off his shield and hung it upon a tree. Then he went to the chapel door, and found it waste and broken. Within he saw a fair altar full richly arrayed with cloth of clean silk, and there stood a fair clean candlestick of silver which bare six great candles.

When Sir Launcelot saw this light, he had great will to enter into the chapel, but he could find no place where he might enter. Then was he passing heavy and dismayed. He returned to his horse, took off his saddle and bridle, and let him pasture. Then he unlaced his helm, and ungirded his sword, and laid himself down to sleep upon his shield tofore the cross.



So he fell on sleep, and half waking and half sleeping he saw in a vision two fair white palfreys come toward him, bearing in a litter a sick knight. When he was nigh the cross he abode still, and Sir Launcelot heard him say, "Oh, sweet Lord, when shall this sorrow leave me? and when shall the holy vessel come by me, wherethrough I shall be blessed? For I have endured thus long for little trespass."

A full great while lamented the knight thus, and always Sir Launcelot heard it. Then he saw the candlestick with the six tapers come before the cross, yet he saw nobody that brought it. Also there came a table of silver, and the sacred vessel of the Holy Grail upon it.

Therewith the sick knight sat up, and, holding up both hands, he prayed that he might be whole of his malady. Then on his hands and knees he went so nigh that he touched the holy vessel, and kissed it, and anon he was whole. Then he said, "Lord God, I thank thee, for I am healed of this sickness."

When the holy vessel had been there a great while, it went unto the chapel, with the candlestick and the light, so that Launcelot wist not what became of it, for he was overtaken with a feeling of his sin, so that he had no power to arise and follow the holy vessel.

Then the sick knight raised himself up, and kissed the cross. Anon his squire brought him his arms, and asked his lord how he did. "Verily," said he, "I thank God, right well; through the holy vessel I am healed. But I have great marvel of this sleeping knight, that had no power to awake when the Holy Grail was brought hither."

"I dare right well say," said the squire, "that he dwelleth in some deadly sin, whereof he has never repented."

"By my faith," said the knight, "whatsoever he be, he is unhappy, for, as I deem, he is of the fellowship of the Round Table, the which is entered into the quest of the Holy Grail."

"Sir," said the squire, "here I have brought you all your arms, save your helm and your sword. By my assent now may ye take this knight's helm and his sword."

So he did, and when he was clean armed, he took Sir Launcelot's horse, for he was better than his own, and so they departed from the cross. Anon Sir Launcelot awoke, and bethought him what he had seen there, and whether it were a dream or not. Right so heard he a voice that said: "Sir Launcelot, more hard than is stone, more bitter than is wood, and more naked and barer than is the fig tree, go thou from hence, and withdraw thee from this holy place."

When Sir Launcelot heard this he was passing heavy, and wist not what to do. So he arose, sore weeping, and cursed the time when he was born, for he thought never to have honour more. Then he went to the cross, and found his helm, his sword, and his horse taken away. Then he called himself a very wretch, and the most unhappy of all knights. And he said: "My sin and my wickedness have brought me unto great dishonour. When I sought worldly adventures from worldly desires, I ever achieved them, and had the better in every place, and never was I discomfited in any quarrel, were it right or wrong. But now when I take upon me the adventures of holy things, I see and understand that mine old sin hindereth and shameth me, so that I had no power to stir or to speak when the Holy Grail appeared afore me."

Thus he sorrowed till it was day, and he heard the birds sing. Then somewhat he was comforted, but, when he missed his horse and his harness, he wist well God was displeased with him. He departed from the cross on foot into a forest, and came to a hermitage, and a hermit therein. There Launcelot kneeled down and cried on the Lord for mercy, and begged the hermit for charity to hear his confession.

"With a good will," said the good man; "art thou of King Arthur's court, and of the fellowship of the Round Table?"

"Yea, forsooth," was the answer, "and my name is Sir Launcelot of the Lake, that hath been right well said of; but now my good fortune is changed, for I am the worst wretch of the world."

The hermit beheld him, and had marvel how he was humbled.

"Sir," said he, "thou oughtest to thank God more than any knight living, for He hath caused thee to have more worldly honour than any other knight that now liveth. For thy presumption in taking upon thee, while in deadly sin, to be in His presence through the sacred vessel, that was the cause that thou mightest not see it with worldly eyes, for He will not appear where such sinners be, unless to their great hurt and shame. There is no knight living now that ought to give God so great thanks as thou; for He hath given thee beauty, seemliness, and great strength, above all other knights. Therefore thou art the more beholden unto God than any other man to love Him and fear Him; for thy strength and manhood will little avail thee if God be against thee."

Then Sir Launcelot wept with heavy cheer, for he knew the hermit said sooth.

"Sir," said the good man, "hide none old sin from me."

"Truly," said Sir Launcelot, "that were me full loath to disclose, for one thing that I have done I never disclosed these fourteen years, and for that may I now blame my shamelessness and my misadventure."

Then he told there that good man all his life, and how he had loved a queen unmeasurably, and out of measure long. "And," said he, "all my great deeds of arms that I have done, I did the most part for that queen's sake. For her sake would I battle, were it right or wrong; and never did I battle wholly for God's sake, but for to win honour and to make myself better beloved, and little or naught I thanked God for it. I pray you counsel me."

"I will counsel thee," said the hermit, "if thou wilt assure me that thou wilt never come into that queen's companionship when thou canst prevent it." This Sir Launcelot solemnly promised, whereupon the good man said, "Look that thy heart and mouth accord, and I assure thee that thou shalt have more honour than ever thou hadst. For it seemeth well God loveth thee, and in all the world men shall not find one knight to whom He hath given so much grace as He hath given thee; He hath given thee beauty with seemliness; He hath given thee wit, discretion to know good from evil; He hath given thee prowess and hardiness; and He hath given thee to work so largely that thou hast had at all times the better wheresoever thou camest. And now our Lord will suffer thee no longer, but that thou shalt know Him, whether thou wilt or nilt.

"Why the voice called thee bitterer than wood was because, where overmuch sin dwelleth, there may be but little sweetness; wherefore thou art likened to an old rotten tree. Why thou art harder than stone is because thou wilt not leave thy sin for any goodness that God hath sent thee; therefore thou art more than any stone, and never wouldest thou be made soft, neither by water nor by fire,—that is, the heat of the Holy Ghost may not enter in thee.

"Now shall I show thee why thou art more naked and barer than the fig tree. It befell that our Lord on Palm Sunday preached in Jerusalem, and there He found in the people that all hardness was harboured in them, and there He found in all the town not one that would harbour Him. And then He went without the town, and found in the midst of the way a fig tree, the which was right fair and well garnished of leaves, but fruit had it none. Then our Lord cursed the tree that bare no fruit; that likeneth the fig tree unto Jerusalem, that had leaves and no fruit. So thou, Sir Launcelot, when the Holy Grail was brought afore thee, He found in thee no fruit, nor good thought, nor good will, and thou wert befouled with sin."

"Verily," said Sir Launcelot, "all that ye have said is true, and from henceforward I undertake by the grace of God never to be so wicked as I have been, but to follow knighthood and to do feats of arms."

Then the good man enjoined Sir Launcelot to such penance as he might do, and to sue knighthood, and so blessed him, and prayed him to abide there all that day. "I will well," said Sir Launcelot, "for I have neither helm, nor horse, nor sword."

"As for that," said the good man, "I shall help you ere to-morn to a horse and all that belongeth unto you." And so Sir Launcelot repented him greatly.



CHAPTER XXIX

SIR PERCIVALE'S TEMPTATION

When Sir Percivale departed from the recluse to seek Sir Galahad, he rode till the hour of noon, when he met in a valley about twenty men of arms. As they saw him they asked him whence he was, and he answered, "Of the court of King Arthur." Then they cried all at once, "Slay him." Then Sir Percivale smote the first to the earth, and his horse upon him. Thereupon seven of the knights smote upon his shield all at once, and the remnant slew his horse, so that he fell to the earth.

So had they slain him or taken him, had not the good knight Sir Galahad, with the red arms, come there by adventure into those parts. And when he saw all those knights upon one knight, he cried, "Save me that knight's life." Then he dressed him towards the twenty men of arms as fast as his horse might drive, with his spear in the rest, and smote the foremost horse and man to the earth. And when his spear was broken he set his hand to his sword, and smote on the right hand and on the left hand, that it was marvel to see. At every stroke he smote one down, or put him to rebuke, so that they would fight no more, but fled to a thick forest, and Sir Galahad followed them.

When Sir Percivale saw him chase them so, he made great sorrow that his horse was away, for he wist well it was Sir Galahad. Then he cried aloud, "Ah, fair knight, abide and suffer me to do thankings unto thee, for much have ye done for me!"

But ever Sir Galahad rode so fast, that at the last he passed out of his sight, and Sir Percivale went after him on foot as fast as he might. Soon he met a yeoman riding upon a hackney, who led in his hand a great black steed, blacker than any bear.

"Ah, fair friend," said Sir Percivale, "as ever I may do for you and be your true knight in the first place ye will require me, I beg ye will lend me that black steed, that I may overtake a knight, the which rideth afore me."

"Sir knight," said the yeoman, "I pray you hold me excused of that, for that I may not do; for wit ye well, the horse belongs to a man that, if I lent it you or any other man, would slay me."

"Alas," said Sir Percivale, "I had never so great sorrow as I have for losing of yonder knight."

"Sir," said the yeoman, "I am right heavy for you, for a good horse would beseem you well, but I dare not deliver you this horse unless ye take it from me."

"That will I not do," said Sir Percivale.

So they departed, and Sir Percivale sat him down under a tree, and made sorrow out of measure. Anon the yeoman came pricking after as fast as ever he might, and asked Sir Percivale, "Saw ye, sir, any knight riding on my black steed? It hath been taken from me by force, wherefore my lord will slay me in what place he findeth me."

"Well," said Sir Percivale, "what wouldest thou that I did? Thou seest well that I am on foot, but had I a good horse I should bring him soon again."

"Sir," said the yeoman, "take my hackney and do the best ye can, and I shall follow you on foot, to wit how that ye shall speed."

Then Sir Percivale mounted upon that hackney, and rode as fast as he might. At the last he saw the knight on the black steed, and cried out to him to turn again. And he turned, and set his spear against Sir Percivale; and he smote the hackney in the midst of the breast, that he fell down dead to the earth. There Sir Percivale had a great fall, and the other rode his way.

Sir Percivale was very wroth, and cried, "Abide, wicked knight, coward and false-hearted knight, turn again and fight with me on foot."

He answered not, but passed on his way. When Sir Percivale saw he would not turn, he cast away his helm and sword, and thought himself unhappy above all other knights.

In this sorrow he abode all that day till it was night. Then he was faint, and laid him down and slept till it was midnight. Then he awaked, and saw afore him a woman which said unto him right fiercely, "Sir Percivale, abide here, and I shall go fetch you a horse, which shall bear you whither you will."

So she came soon again, and brought a horse with her that was inky black. When Sir Percivale beheld that horse, he marvelled that it was so great and so well apparelled. Courageously he leaped upon him, and took no heed of himself. As soon as ever he was mounted he thrust in the spurs, and so rode away by the forest, and the moon shone clear.

Within an hour, and less, the black steed bare him four day's journey thence, till he came to a rough water the which roared, and his horse would have borne him into it. And when Sir Percivale came nigh the brim, and saw the water so boisterous, he feared to overpass it. Then he made a sign of the cross in his forehead, whereupon the horse shook off Sir Percivale, and he fell into the water, crying and roaring, making great sorrow; and it seemed unto him that the water burned. Then Sir Percivale perceived the steed was a fiend, the which would have brought him unto his perdition. Then he commended himself unto God, and prayed our Lord to keep him from all such temptations.

So he prayed all that night till it was day. Then he saw that he was in a wild mountain the which was closed with the sea nigh all about, so that he might see no land about him which might relieve him. Then was Sir Percivale ware in the sea, and saw a ship come sailing towards him; and he went unto the ship, and found it covered within and without with white samite. At the board stood an old man clothed in a surplice in likeness of a priest.

"Sir," said Sir Percivale, "ye be welcome."

"God keep you," said the good man, "of whence be ye?"

"Sir," said Sir Percivale, "I am of King Arthur's court, and a knight of the Table Round, the which am in the quest of the Holy Grail. Here I am in great duress, and never likely to escape out of this wilderness."

"Doubt not," said the good man, "if ye be so true a knight as the order of chivalry requireth, and of heart as ye ought to be, ye need not fear that any enemy shall slay you."

"What are ye?" said Sir Percivale.

"Sir," said the old man, "I am of a strange country, and hither I come to comfort you, and to warn you of your great battle that shall befall you."

"With whom," said Sir Percivale, "shall I fight?"

"With the most champion of the world," said the old man, "but, if ye quit you well, ye shall lose no limb, even though vanquished and seemingly shamed to the world's end."

Then the good man leaped over the board, and the ship and all went away, Sir Percivale wist not whither. He abode there till midday, when he saw a ship come rowing in the sea as if all the winds of the world had driven it. It drove under the rock on which he sat; and when he hied thither he found the ship covered with silk blacker than any bier, and therein was a gentlewoman of great beauty, and she was clothed richly that none might be better.

When she saw Sir Percivale, she said, "Who brought you in this wilderness where ye be never like to pass hence? for ye shall die here for hunger and mischief."

"Damsel," said Sir Percivale, "I serve the best man of the world, and in His service He will not suffer me to die, for who that knocketh shall enter, and who that asketh shall have, and from the man that seeketh Him, He hideth Him not."

"And I came out of the waste forest where I found the red knight with the white shield," said the damsel.

"Ah, damsel," said he, "with that knight would I meet passing fain."

"Sir," said she, "if ye will ensure me, by the faith that ye owe unto knighthood, that ye will do my will what time I summon you, I shall bring you unto that knight."

"Yea," said he, "I shall promise you to fulfil your desire. But what are ye that proffereth me thus great kindness?"

"I am," said she, "a gentlewoman that am disherited, which was sometime the richest woman of the world."

"Damsel," said Sir Percivale, "who hath disherited you? for I have great pity of you."

"Sir," said she, "I dwell with the greatest man of the world, and he made me so fair and so clear that there was none like me, and of that great beauty I had a little pride, more than I ought to have had. Also I said a word that pleased him not, and then he would not suffer me to be any longer in his company. He drove me from mine heritage, and so disowned me, and he had never pity for me, and would none of my council nor of my court. Since, sir knight, it hath befallen me so, I and mine have taken from him many of his men, and have made them to become my men, for they ask never anything of me, but I give it them, that and much more. Therefore I and my servants war against him night and day. I know now no good knight and no good man but I get on my side, if I may. And since I know that ye are a good knight I beseech you to help me; and since ye are a fellow of the Round Table, ye ought not to fail any gentlewoman which is disherited, if she beseech you of help."

Then Sir Percivale promised her all the help that he might. She thanked him, and since the weather was at that time hot, she bade a gentlewoman bring a pavilion. So she did, and pitched it there upon the gravel. He slept a great while there in the heat of the day; and when he awoke, there was set before him upon a table all manner of meats that he could think of. Also he drank there the strongest wine that ever he drank, him thought, and therewith he was a little heated more than he ought to be. With that he beheld the gentlewoman, and him thought that she was the fairest creature that ever he saw.

When she saw him well refreshed, then she said, "Sir Percivale, wit ye well, I shall not fulfil your will, but if ye swear from henceforth to be my true servant, and do nothing but that I shall command you. Will ye ensure me this as ye be a true knight?"

Sir Percivale was on the point of promising her all, when by adventure and grace he saw his sword lie upon the ground, all naked, in whose pommel was a red cross. Then he bethought him of his knighthood and the warning spoken toforehand by the good man, and he made the sign of the cross in his forehead. Thereupon the pavilion turned up-so-down, and changed unto a smoke and a black cloud.

Sir Percivale was adread at this, and cried aloud, "Fair sweet Father, Jesu Christ, let me not be shamed, that was nigh lost, had not Thy good grace been!"

Then he looked upon the ship, and saw the damsel enter therein, which said, "Sir Percivale, ye have betrayed me." So she went with the wind roaring and yelling, that it seemed that all the water burned after her.

Then Sir Percivale made great sorrow, and drew his sword unto him saying, "Since my flesh will be my master, I shall punish it." Therewith he stabbed himself through the thigh so that the blood started, and he said, "O good Lord, take this in recompensation of that I have done against Thee, my Lord." Then he clothed him and armed him, and called himself a wretch, saying, "How nigh was I lost, and to have lost that I should never have gotten again, my honour as a pure man and worthy knight, for that may never be recovered after it is once lost."

As he thus made his moan, he saw the same ship come from the Orient that the good man was in the day before, and the noble knight was ashamed with himself, and therewith he fell in a swoon. When he awoke he went unto this good man weakly, and saluted him. Then he asked Sir Percivale, "How hast thou done since I departed?"

"Sir," said he, "here was a gentlewoman that led me into deadly sin," and there he told him all his temptation.

"Knew ye not the maid?" said the good man.

"Sir," said he, "nay; but well I wot the fiend sent her hither to shame me."

"Oh, good knight," said he, "that gentlewoman was the master fiend of hell, the champion that thou foughtest withal, the which would have overcome thee, had it not been for the grace of God. Now, beware, Sir Percivale, and take this for an ensample."

Then the good man vanished away, and Sir Percivale took his arms, and entered into the ship and so departed from thence.



CHAPTER XXX

THE VICTORY OF SIR BORS OVER HIMSELF

When Sir Bors was departed from Vagon, he met with a religious man riding on an ass, and Sir Bors saluted him. Anon the good man knew him to be one of the knights errant that was in the quest of the Holy Grail.

"What are ye?" said the good man.

"Sir," said he, "I am a knight that fain would be counselled in the quest of the Holy Grail, for he shall have much earthly honour that may bring it to an end."

"Verily," said the good man, "that is sooth, for he shall be the best knight of the world, and the fairest of all the fellowship. But wit ye well, there shall none attain it but by cleanness of heart and of life."

So rode they together till they came to a hermitage, and there he prayed Bors to dwell all that night with him. So he alighted and put away his armour, and prayed him that he might be confessed. So they went into the chapel, and there he was clean confessed; and they ate bread and drank water together.

"Now," said the good man, "I pray thee that thou eat none other, till that thou sit at the table where the Holy Grail shall be."

"Sir," said he, "I agree thereto; but how wit ye that I shall sit there?"

"Yes," said the good man, "that know I, but there shall be few of your fellowship with you."

"All is welcome," said Sir Bors, "that God sendeth me."

Also the good man in sign of chastisement put on him a scarlet coat, instead of his shirt, and found him in so vigorous a life, and so stable, that he marvelled, and felt that he was never corrupt in fleshly lusts. Then Sir Bors put on his armour, and took his leave, and so departed.

After he had ridden a day or two on his road, he met about the hour of noon at the parting of two ways two knights, that led Lionel, his brother, bound upon a strong hackney and his hands bound tofore his breast. Each of the two held in his hands thorns, wherewith they went beating him so sore that the blood trailed down more than in a hundred places of his body. But he said never a word, as he which was great of heart; he suffered all that ever they did to him as though he had felt none anguish.

Anon Sir Bors dressed him to rescue him that was his brother. Just then he chanced to look upon his other side, and saw a knight which brought a fair gentlewoman, and would have dragged her into the thickest part of the forest out of the way of them that sought to rescue her.

Anon she espied where Sir Bors came riding. She deemed him a knight of the Round Table, wherefore she hoped to have some comfort; and she conjured him by the faith that he owed unto him in whose service he had entered, and the fidelity he owed unto the high order of knighthood, and for the noble King Arthur's sake, to help her in her sore distress.

When Sir Bors heard her cry, he had so much sorrow he knew not what to do. "For," said he, "if I let my brother be in adventure he must be slain, and that would I not for all the earth. And if I help not the maid in her peril, I am shamed for ever." Then he lifted up his eyes, and said weeping, "Fair Lord Jesu Christ, whose liege man I am, keep Lionel my brother, that these knights slay him not; and for Mary's sake, I shall succour this maid."

Then dressed he him unto the knight the which had the gentlewoman, and cried, "Sir knight, let your hand off that maiden, or ye be but a dead man."

The knight set down the maiden, and drew out his sword, but Bors smote him so hard that he beat him down to the earth. Then came twelve knights seeking the gentlewoman, and anon she told them all how Bors had delivered her. They made great joy, and besought him to come to her father, a noble lord; but Bors had a great adventure in hand, and might not delay. So he commended them unto God, and departed.

Then Sir Bors rode after Lionel his brother by the trace of their horses. He sought a great while; and at the last he overtook a man clothed in religious clothing, that told him Lionel was dead, and showed him a slain body, lying in a thicket, that well seemed to him the body of Lionel. Then he made such a sorrow that he fell to the earth all in a swoon, and lay a great while there.

When he came to himself he said, "Fair brother, since the company of you and me is parted, shall I never have joy in my heart; and now He which I have taken as to my Master, He be my help."

When he had said thus, he took the body lightly in his arms and put it upon the bow of his saddle, and so rode to an old feeble chapel fast by, and put him into a tomb of marble.

Then went Sir Bors from thence, and rode all that day, and then turned to a hermitage, at the entry of a forest. There he found Lionel his brother, which sat all armed at the chapel door. For he was yet on life, and a fiend had deceived Bors with the body left in the chapel, for to put him in error so that he might not find the blessed adventure of the Holy Grail.

When Sir Bors saw his brother alive he had great joy of him, that it was marvel to tell of his joy. And then he alighted off his horse, and said, "Fair sweet brother, when came ye thither?"

Anon as Sir Lionel saw him he said, "Ah, Bors, ye may make no boast. For all you I might have been slain. When ye saw two knights leading me away, beating me, ye left me for to succour a gentlewoman, and suffered me to remain in peril of death. Never before did any brother to another so great an untruth. And for that misdeed now I ensure you but death, for well have ye deserved it. Therefore guard yourself from henceforward, and that shall ye find needful as soon as I am armed."

When Sir Bors understood his brother's wrath, he kneeled down to the earth and cried him mercy, holding up both his hands, and prayed him to forgive him his evil will; but Lionel would show no pity, and made his avow to God that he should have only death. Right so he went in and put on his harness; then he mounted upon his horse and came tofore him, and said, "Bors, keep thee from me, for I shall do to thee as I would to a felon or a traitor, for ye be the untruest knight that ever came out of so worthy a house as was that of our father, King Bors of Ganis."

When Sir Bors saw that he must fight with his brother or else die, he wist not what to do. Then his heart counselled him not to fight, inasmuch as Lionel was born before him, wherefore he ought to bear him reverence. Again kneeled he down afore Lionel's horse's feet, and said, "Fair sweet brother, have mercy upon me and slay me not, and have in remembrance the great love which ought to be between us twain."

What Sir Bors said Lionel recked not, for the fiend had brought him in such a will that he was determined to slay him. Then when Lionel saw he would none other, and that he would not rise to give him battle, he rushed over him, so that his horse's feet smote Bors to the earth, and hurt him so sore that he swooned of distress. When Lionel saw this, he alighted from his horse to smite off his head. So he took him by the helm, and would have rent it from his head, had not the hermit come running unto him, which was a good man and of great age. Well had he heard all the words that were between them, and so fell down upon Sir Bors.

Then he said to Lionel, "Ah, gentle knight, have mercy upon me and on thy brother, for if thou slay him thou shalt commit a deadly sin, and that were sorrowful; for he is one of the worthiest knights of the world, and of the best conditions."

"So God me help," said Lionel, "sir priest, unless ye flee from him I shall slay you, and he shall never the sooner be quit."

"Verily," said the good man, "I had rather ye slay me than him, for my death shall not be great harm, not half so much as his."

"Well," said Lionel, "I am agreed"; and he set his hand to his sword, and smote the hermit so hard that his head went backward.

For all that, he restrained him not of his evil will, but took his brother by the helm, and unlaced it to strike off his head. And he would have slain him without fail, but so it happened that Colgrevance, a fellow of the Round Table, came at that time thither, as our Lord's will was. First he saw the good man slain, then he beheld how Lionel would slay his brother, whom he knew and loved right well. Anon he sprang down and took Lionel by the shoulders, and drew him strongly back from Bors, and said, "Lionel, will ye slay your brother, one of the worthiest knights of the world? That should no good man suffer."

"Why," said Sir Lionel, "will ye hinder me? If ye interfere in this, I shall slay you, and him after."

Then Lionel ran upon Bors, and would have smitten him through the head, but Sir Colgrevance ran betwixt them, and said, "If ye be so hardy as to do so more, we two shall meddle together."

Then Lionel defied him, and gave a great stroke through the helm. Now Colgrevance drew his sword, for he was a passing good knight, and defended himself right manfully. So long endured the battle that Sir Bors awoke from his swoon, and rose up all anguishly, and beheld Sir Colgrevance, the good knight, fight with his brother for his quarrel. Then was he full sorry and heavy, and would have risen to part them. But he had not so much might as to stand on foot, and must abide so long till Colgrevance had the worse, for Sir Lionel was of great chivalry and right hardy.

Only death awaited Colgrevance, when he beheld Sir Bors assaying to rise, and he cried, "Ah, Bors, come ye and cast me out of peril of death, wherein I have put me to succour you, which were right now nigh to death."

When Bors heard that, he did so much as to rise and put on his helm, making a marvellous sorrow at the sight of the dead hermit hard by. With that Lionel smote Colgrevance so sore that he bare him to the earth.

When he had slain Colgrevance, he ran upon his brother as a fiendly man, and gave him such a stroke that he made him stoop; and he, full of humility, prayed him for God's love to leave this battle. But Lionel would not, and then Bors drew his sword, all weeping, and said, "Fair brother, God knoweth mine intent. Ah, brother, ye have done full evil this day to slay such a holy priest, the which never trespassed. Also ye have slain a gentle knight, one of our fellows. And well wot ye that I am not afraid of you greatly, but I dread the wrath of God. This is an unkindly war; therefore may God show miracle upon us both. Now God have mercy upon me, though I defend my life against my brother."

With that Bors lifted up his hands, and would have smitten Lionel, but even then he heard a voice that said, "Flee, Bors, and touch him not."

Right so came a cloud betwixt them in likeness of a fire, so that both their shields burned. Then were they sore afraid, and fell both to the earth, and lay there a great while in a swoon. When they came to themselves, Bors saw that his brother had no harm, wherefore he gave thanks, for he feared God had taken vengeance upon him. With that he heard a voice say, "Bors, go hence and bear thy brother no longer fellowship, but take thy way anon right to the sea, for Sir Percivale abideth thee there."

So Sir Bors departed from Lionel, and rode the next way to the sea. On the strand he found a ship covered all with white samite. He alighted from his horse and entered into the ship, and anon it departed into the sea, and went so fast that him seemed the ship went flying. Then he saw in the midst of the ship a knight lie, all armed save his helm, and he knew that it was Sir Percivale. And either made great joy of other, that it was marvel to hear.

Then Sir Bors told Sir Percivale how he came into the ship, and by whose admonishment, and either told other of his temptations, as ye have heard toforehand. So went they downward in the sea, one while backward, another while forward, and each comforted other, and oft were they in their prayers. Then said Sir Percivale, "We lack nothing but Galahad, the good knight."



CHAPTER XXXI

HOW SIR LAUNCELOT FOUND THE HOLY GRAIL

When the hermit had kept Sir Launcelot three days, he gat him a horse, a helm, and a sword. So he departed, and took the adventure that God would send him. On a night, as he slept, there came a vision unto him, and a voice said, "Launcelot, arise up, and take thine armour, and enter into the first ship that thou shalt find."

When he heard these words, he started up and saw great clearness about him. Then he lifted up his hand in worship, and so took his arms, and made him ready. By adventure he came by a strand, and found a ship, the which was without sail or oar. And as soon as he was within the ship, he felt the most sweetness that ever he felt, and he was filled with a peace such as he had never known before. In this joy he laid himself down on the ship's board, and slept till day.

So Sir Launcelot was a month and more on the ship, and if ye would ask how he lived, as God fed the people of Israel with manna in the desert, so was he fed. On a night he went to play him by the waterside, for he was somewhat weary of the ship. And then he listened, and heard a horse come, and one riding upon him. When he came nigh he seemed a knight, and soon he saw that it was Galahad. And there was great joy between them, for there is no tongue can tell the joy that they made either of other; and there was many a friendly word spoken between them, the which need not here be rehearsed. And there each told other of the adventures and marvels that were befallen to them in many journeys since they were departed from the court.

So dwelled Launcelot and Galahad within that ship half a year, and served God daily and nightly with all their power. And often they arrived in isles far from folk, where there repaired none but wild beasts. There they found many strange adventures and perilous, which they brought to an end. But because the adventures were with wild beasts, and not in the quest of the Holy Grail, therefore the tale maketh here no mention thereof, for it would be too long to tell of all those adventures that befell them.

Thereafter it befell that they arrived in the edge of a forest tofore a cross, and then saw they a knight, armed all in white and richly horsed, leading in his right hand a white horse. He came to the ship and saluted the two knights on the high Lord's behalf, and said, "Galahad, sir, ye have been long enough with Launcelot. Come out of the ship, and start upon this horse, and go where the adventures shall lead thee in the quest of the Holy Grail."

So Galahad took sorrowful leave of Sir Launcelot, for they knew that one should never see the other before the dreadful day of doom. Galahad took his horse and entered into the forest, and the wind arose and drove Launcelot more than a month throughout the sea, where he slept little, but prayed to God that he might see some tidings of the Holy Grail.

And it befell on a night, at midnight, he arrived afore a castle, on the back side, which was rich and fair. There was a postern opened towards the sea, and was open without any keeping, save two lions kept the entry; and the moon shone clear. Anon Sir Launcelot heard a voice that said, "Launcelot, go out of this ship, and enter into the castle, where thou shalt see a great part of thy desire."

Then he ran for his arms, and so he went to the gate, and saw the lions. He set his hand to his sword, and drew it, whereupon there came a dwarf suddenly, and smote him on the arm so sore that the sword fell out of his hand. Then heard he a voice say, "Oh, man of evil faith and poor belief, wherefore trowest thou more on thy harness than in thy Maker? He in whose service thou art set might more avail thee than thine armour."

Then said Launcelot, "Fair Father Jesu Christ, I thank thee of Thy great mercy, that Thou reprovest me of my misdeed. Now see I well that ye hold me for your servant."

Then took he again his sword, and put it up in his sheath, and came to the lions, and they made semblant[1] to do him harm. Notwithstanding he passed by them without hurt, and entered into the castle to the chief fortress, and there were all at rest. Launcelot entered in so armed, for he found no gate nor door but it was open. At last he found a chamber whereof the door was shut, and he set his hand thereto to open it, but he might not, though he enforced himself much to undo the door.

Then he listened, and heard a voice which sang so sweetly that it seemed none earthly thing. Launcelot kneeled down tofore the chamber, for well wist he that there was the Holy Grail within that chamber. Then said he: "Fair sweet Father Jesu Christ, if ever I did thing that pleased Thee, for Thy pity have me not in despite for my sins done aforetime, and show me something of that I seek!"

With that he saw the chamber door open, and there came out a great clearness, so that the house was as bright as if all the torches of the world had been there. So came he to the chamber door, and would have entered, but anon a voice said to him, "Flee, Launcelot, and enter not, for thou oughtest not to do it; and if thou enter thou shalt repent it."

He withdrew himself back right heavy, and then looked he up in the midst of the chamber, and saw a table of silver, and the holy vessel covered with red samite, and many angels about it. Right so came he to the door at a great pace, entered into the chamber, and drew towards the table of silver.

When he came nigh he felt a breath that seemed intermingled with fire, which smote him so sore in the visage that he thought it burned his visage. Therewith he fell to the earth, and had no power to arise. Then felt he many hands about him, which took him up and bare him out of the chamber door, and left him there seeming dead to all people.

Upon the morrow, when it was fair day, they within were arisen, and found Launcelot lying afore the chamber door, and all they marvelled how he came in. They looked upon him, and felt his pulse, to wit whether there were any life in him. And so they found life in him, but he might neither stand nor stir any limb that he had. They took him up, and bare him into a chamber, and laid him in a rich bed, far from all folk, and so he lay still as a dead man four and twenty days, in punishment, he afterwards thought, for the twenty-four years that he had been a sinner.

At the twenty-fifth day it befell that he opened his eyes, and the folk asked how it stood with him. He answered that he was whole of body, and then he would know where he was. They told him he was in the castle of Carboneck, and that the quest of the Holy Grail had been achieved by him, and that he should never see the sacred vessel more nearly than he had seen it.

Soon Sir Launcelot took his leave of all the fellowship that were there at the castle, and thanked them for the great labour. So he took his armour and departed, and said that he would go back to the realm of Logris.



[1] Made semblant: threatened.



CHAPTER XXXII

THE END OF THE QUEST

Now, saith the story, Sir Galahad rode into a vast forest, wherein he rode many journeys, and he found many adventures, the which he brought to an end, whereof the story maketh here no mention. And on a day it befell him that he was benighted in a hermitage. The good man there was glad when he saw a knight-errant, and made him what cheer he might. Then when they were at rest, there came a gentlewoman knocking at the door, and called Galahad. So the hermit came to the door to wit what she would, and she said to him that she would speak with the knight that was lodged there. The good man awoke Galahad, and bade him arise and speak with a gentlewoman that seemed to have great need of him.

Then Galahad went to her, and asked her what she would. "Galahad," said she, "I will that ye arm you, and mount upon your horse and follow me, for I shall show you within these three days the highest adventure that ever any knight saw." Anon Galahad armed him, and took his horse, and bade the gentlewoman go, and he would follow as she liked.

So she rode as fast as her palfrey might bear her, till they came to the seaside, and there they found the ship wherein were Bors and Percivale, the which cried on the ship's board, "Sir Galahad, ye be welcome; we have awaited you long."

So, leaving his horse behind, Galahad entered into the ship, where the two knights received him with great joy. And the wind arose, and drove them through the sea marvellously.

Now saith the story that they rode a great while till they came to the castle of Carboneck, where Sir Launcelot had been tofore. They entered within the castle, and then there was great joy, for they wist well that they had fulfilled the quest of the Holy Grail.

As they were alone in the hall, it seemed to them that there came a man, in likeness of a bishop, with four angels from heaven, and held mass about a table of silver, whereupon the Holy Grail was. And in a vision they saw in the bread of the sacrament a figure in likeness of a child, and the visage was as bright as any fire.

Then said the bishop to them, "Servants of Jesu Christ, ye shall be fed afore this table with sweet food, that never knights tasted."

When he had said, he vanished away; and they sat them at the table in great reverence, and made their prayers. Then looked they, and saw a man that had all the signs of the passion of Jesu Christ, and he said: "My knights and my servants and my true children, which be come out of deadly life into spiritual life, I will now no longer hide me from you, but ye shall see now a part of my secrets and of my hid things; now hold and receive the high meat which ye have so much desired."

Then took He Himself the holy vessel, and came to Galahad, who knelt down and there he received the sacrament, and after him so received all his fellows; and they thought it so sweet that it was marvellous to tell.

Then said He to Galahad, "Son, knowest thou what I hold betwixt my hands?"

"Nay," said he, "unless ye will tell me."

"This is," said He, "the holy dish wherein I ate the lamb at the Last Supper. And now hast thou seen that thou most desiredst to see, but yet hast thou not seen it so openly as thou shalt see it in the city of Sarras, in the spiritual place. Therefore thou must go hence, and bear with thee this holy vessel, for this night it shall depart from the realm of Logris, that it shall never be seen more here. And knowest thou wherefore? Because they of this land be turned to evil living; therefore I shall disinherit them of the honour which I have done them. Therefore go ye three unto the sea, where ye shall find your ship ready."

Right so departed Galahad, Percivale and Bors with him. They rode three days, and then they came to a rivage[1], where they found the ship whereof the tale speaketh tofore. When they came to the board, they found in the midst the table of silver, which they had left in the castle of Carboneck, and the Holy Grail, which was covered with red samite. Then were they glad to have such things in their fellowship.

They had remained some time in the ship, when they awoke of a morning to see the city of Sarras afore them. Here they landed, and took out of the ship the table of silver, Percivale and Bors going tofore and Galahad behind. Right so they went to the city, and at the gate of the city they saw an old bent man. Then Galahad called him, and bade him help to bear this heavy thing.

"Truly," said the old man, "it is ten years since I might go without crutches."

"Care thou not," said Galahad; "arise up and show thy good will."

So he assayed, and found himself as whole as ever he was. Then ran he to the table, and took one part opposite Galahad.

Anon arose there great noise in the city, that a cripple was made whole by knights marvellous that entered into the city. When the king of the city, which was called Estorause, saw the fellowship, he asked them from whence they were, and what thing it was that they had brought upon the table of silver. And they told him the truth of the Holy Grail, and the power which God had set there.

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