Skip to main content

Full text of "The legends of King Arthur and his knights"

See other formats

LE( =->0F 






A lB s IS 



K.C.V O. 



tt^rt ~. 

OlC 9 







see p. 85. 

The marriage of King Arthur 

I- 1 1 >ut is piece. 








A glorious company, the flower of men " 








Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd., 


PrinUd in Greta Britain. 














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

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

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

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

James Knowles. 

Addendum by Lady Knowles 

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

In his preface my husband says that the intimacy 
with Lord Tennyson to which it led was the chief 
pleasure the book brought him. I have been asked 
to furnish a few more particulars on this point that 
may be generally interesting, and feel that I cannot 


viii Preface 

do better than give some extracts from a letter written 
by himself to a friend in July 1896. 

"Dear , 

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

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

• ••••• 

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

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

Isabel Knowles. 



The Finding of Merlin— The Fight of the Dragons— 
The Giants' Dance — The Prophecies of Merlin 
and the Birth of Arthur — Uther attacks the Saxons 
—The Death of Uther . . .Pp. 1-13 


Merlin's Advice to the Archbishop — The Miracle of 
the Sword and Stone — The Coronation of King 
Arthur— The Opposition of the Six Kings— The 
Sword Excalibur— The Defeat of the Six Kings— 
The War with the Eleven Kings . Pp. 14-33 


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

Pp- 34-50 


King Arthur conquers Ireland and Norway — Slays 
the Giant of St. Michael's Mount and conquers 
Gaul — King Ryence's Insolent Message — The Dam- 
sel and the Sword— The Lady of the Lake— The 
Adventures of Sir Balin . . .Pp. 5 I_6 5 


x Contents 


Sir Balin kills Sir Lancear— The Sullen Knight — The 
Knight Invisible is killed — Sir Balin smites the 
Dolorous Stroke, and fights with his brother Sir 
Balan Pp. 66-82 


The Marriage of King Arthur and Guinevere — The 
Coronation of the Queen — The Founding of the 
Round Table— The Quest of the White Hart— 
The Adventures of Sir Gawain — The Quest of the 
White Hound — Sir Tor kills Abellius — The Adven- 
tures of King Pellinore — The Death of Sir Hantzlake 
— Merlin saves King Arthur . . Pp. 83-103 


King Arthur and Sir Accolon of Gaul are entrapped by 
Sir Damas — They fight each other through Enchant- 
ment of Queen Morgan le Fay — Sir Damas is 
compelled to surrender all his Lands to Sir Outzlake 
his Brother their Rightful Owner — Queen Morgan 
essays to kill King Arthur with a Magic Garment 
— Her Damsel is compelled to wear it and is 
thereby burned to Cinders . . Pp. 104-117 


A Second Embassy from Rome — King Arthur's Answer 
— The Emperor assembles his Armies — King Arthur 
slays the Emperor — Sir Gawain and Sir Prianius — 
The Lombards are defeated — King Arthur crowned 
at Rome Pp. 118-132 


The Adventures of Sir Lancelot — He and his Cousin 
Sir Lionel set forth — The Four Witch-Queens — 
King Bagdemagus — Sir Lancelot slays Sir Turquine 
and delivers his Captive Knights — The Foul 

Contents xi 

Knight — Sir Gaunter attacks Sir Lancelot — The 
Four Knights — Sir Lancelot comes to the Chapel 
Perilous — Ellawes the Sorceress — The Lady and 
the Falcon— Sir Bedivere and the Dead Lady 

Pp. 133-160 


Beaumains is made a Kitchen Page by Sir Key — 
He claims the Adventure of the Damsel Linet — 
He fights with Sir Lancelot and is knighted by 
him in his True Name of Gareth — Is flouted by 
the Damsel Linet — But overthrows all Knights 
he meets and sends them to King Arthur's Court 
— He delivers the Lady Lyones from the Knight 
of the Redlands — The Tournament before Castle 
Perilous — Marriage of Sir Gareth and the Lady 
Lyones Pp. 161-199 


The Adventures of Sir Tristram — His Stepmother — 
He is knighted — Fights with Sir Marhaus — Sir 
Palomedes and La Belle Isault— Sir Bleoberis and 
Sir Segwarides— Sir Tristram's Quest— His Return 
—The Castle Pleure— Sir Brewnor is slain— Sir 
Kay Hedius— La Belle Isault's Hound— Sir Dinedan 
refuses to fight — Sir Pellinore follows Sir Tristram 
— Sir Brewse-without-pity — The Tournament at 
the Maiden's Castle — Sir Palomedes and Sir 
Tristram Pp. 200-243 


Merlin is bewitched by a Damsel of the Lady of the 
Lake— Galahad knighted by Sir Lancelot — The 
Perilous Seat — The Marvellous Sword — Sir Galahad 
in the Perilous Seat— The Sangreal— The Knights 
vow themselves to its Quest — The Shield of the 
White Knight— The Fiend of the Tomb— Sir 

xii Contents 

Galahad at the Maiden's Castle — The Sick Knight 
and the Sangreal — Sir Lancelot declared unworthy 
to find the Holy Vessel — Sir Percival seeks Sir 
Galahad— The Black Steed— Sir Bors and the 
Hermit — Sir Pridan le Noir — Sir Lionel's Anger — 
He meets Sir Percival — The ship "Faith" — Sir 
Galahad and Earl Hernox — The Leprous Lady — 
Sir Galahad discloses himself to Sir Lancelot — 
They part — The Blind King Evelake — Sir Galahad 
finds the Sangreal — His Death Pp. 244-297 


The Queen quarrels with Sir Lancelot — She is accused 
of Murder — Her Champion proves her Innocence 
— The Tourney at Camelot — Sir Lancelot in the 
Tourney — Sir Baldwin the Knight-Hermit — Elaine, 
the Maid of Astolat, seeks for Sir Lancelot — She 
tends his Wounds — Her Death — The Queen and 
Sir Lancelot are reconciled . . Pp. 298-322 


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

Pp- 323-340 



The Prophecies of Merlin, and the Birth of Arthur 

KING VORTIGERN the usurper sat upon 
his throne in London, when, suddenly, 
upon a certain day, ran in a breathless 
messenger, and cried aloud — 

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

At those words Vortigern's face grew white as 
ashes, and, rising, in confusion and disorder, he 
sent for all the best artificers and craftsmen and 
mechanics, and commanded them vehemently to 
go and build him straightway in the furthest 
west of his lands a great and strong castle, where 
he might fly for refuge and escape the vengeance 
of his master's sons — " and, moreover," cried he, 
" let the work be done within a hundred days 


2 The Legends of King Arthur 

from now, or I will surely spare no life amongst 
you all." 

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

Filled with mixed rage and fear, the king called 
for the astrologers and wizards, and took counsel 
with them what these things might be, and how 
to overcome them. The wizards worked their 
spells and incantations, and in the end declared 
that nothing but the blood of a youth born with- 
out mortal father, smeared on the foundations of 
the castle, could avail to make it stand. Messen- 
gers were therefore sent forthwith through all the 
land to find, if it were possible, such a child. 
And, as some of them went down a certain village 
street, they saw a band of lads fighting and 
quarrelling, and heard them shout at one — 
" Avaunt, thou imp ! — a vaunt 1 Son of no 
mortal man ! go, find thy father, and leave us in 

At that the messengers looked steadfastly on 
the lad, and asked who he was. One said his 

Merlin 3 

name was Merlin ; another, that his birth and 
parentage were known by no man ; a third, that 
the foul fiend alone was his father. Hearing these 
things, the officers seized Merlin, and carried him 
before the king by force. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, turning again to the magicians, Merlin 
said, " Tell me now, false sycophants, what there 

4 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

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

" Woe to the red dragon, which figureth the 
British nation, for his banishment cometh quickly; 
his lurking-holes shall be seized by the white 

Vortigern's Tower 5 

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

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

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

In the meantime, Aurelius, the rightful king, 
was hailed with joy by the Britons, who flocked 
to his standard, and prayed to be led against the 
Saxons. But he, till he had first killed Vortigern, 


6 The Legends of King Arthur 

would begin no other war. He marched there- 
fore to Cambria, and came before the tower 
which the usurper had built. Then, crying out 
to all his knights, " Avenge ye on him who hath 
ruined Britain and slain my father and your 
king 1 " he rushed with many thousands at the 
castle walls. But, being driven back again and 
yet again, at length he thought of fire, and ordered 
blazing brands to be cast into the building from 
all sides. These finding soon a proper fuel, 
ceased not to rage, till spreading to a mighty con- 
flagration, they burned down the tower and 
Vortigern within it. 

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

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

The sight of the place where the dead lay 
moved Aurelius to great sorrow, and he cast 
about in his mind how to make a worthy tomb 

The Giants' Dance y 

over so many noble martyrs, who had died there 
for their country. 

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

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

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

When the Britons heard this, they resolved to 

8 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

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

Uther becomes King 9 

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

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

Now, when Uther Pendragon had passed 
through all the land, and settled it — and even 
voyaged into all the countries of the Scots, and 
tamed the fierceness of that rebel people — he 
came to London, and ministered justice there. 
And it befell at a certain great banquet and high 
feast which the king made at Easter-tide, there 
came, with many other earls and barons, Gorloi's, 
Duke of Cornwall, and his wife Igerna, who was 

io The Legends of King Arthur 

the most famous beauty in all Britain. And soon 
thereafter, Gorloi's being slain in battle, Uther 
determined to make Igerna his own wife. But in 
order to do this, and enable him to come to her — 
for she was shut up in the high castle of Tintagil, 
on the furthest coast of Cornwall — the king sent 
for Merlin, to take counsel with him and to pray 
his help. This, therefore, Merlin promised him 
on one condition — namely, that the king should 
give him up the- first son born of the marriage. 
For Merlin by his arts foreknew that this first- 
born should be the long-wished prince, King 

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

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

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

So when the child was born, the king bid two 
knights and two ladies to take it, bound in rich 
cloth of gold, and deliver it to a poor man whom 
they should discover at the postern-gate. And the 
child being delivered thus to Merlin, who himself 
took the guise of a poor man, was carried by him 

Uther Attacks the Saxons II 

to a holy priest and christened by the name of 
Arthur, and then was taken to Sir Ector's house, 
and nourished at Sir Ector's wife's own breasts. 
And in the same house he remained privily 
for many years, no man soever knowing where he 
was, save Merlin and the king. 

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

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

12 The Legends of King Arthur 

being slain, the Saxons turned their backs and 
fled, leaving the Britons a full triumph. 

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

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

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

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

So on the morrow all the barons, with Merlin, 

The Death of Uther 13 

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

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

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


The Miracle of the Sword and Stone, and the 

Coronation of King Arthur — The Sword 

Excalibur — The War with the Eleven Kings 

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

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

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

So the land stood long in great peril, for every 


The Sword of the Stone 15 

lord and baron sought but his own advantage ; 
and the Saxons, growing ever more adventurous, 
wasted and overran the towns and villages in 
every part. 

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

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

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

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

When all had tried in vain, the archbishop 

16 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

But when he came to the house he found it 
locked and empty, for all were gone forth to see 
the tournament. Whereat, being angry and 
impatient, he said within himself, " I will ride to 
the churchyard and take with me the sword 

Arthur draweth forth the Sword 17 

that sticketh in the stone, for my brother shall 
not go without a sword this day." 

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

Then he took the sword by its handle, and 
lightly and fiercely he pulled it out of the stone, 
and took his horse and rode until he came to 
Sir Key and delivered him the sword. But as 
soon as Sir Key saw it he knew well it was the 
sword of the stone, and, riding swiftly to his 
father, he cried out, " Lo 1 here, sir, is the sword 
of the stone, wherefore it is I who must be king 
of all this land." 

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

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

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

1 8 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

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

But when young Arthur heard of it, he fell 
upon Sir Ector's neck, and wept, and made 

Arthur draweth forth the Sword 19 

great lamentation, " For now," said he, " I have 
in one day lost my father and my mother and my 

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

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

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

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

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

But then befell a great confusion and dispute, 
for some cried out it was the will of Heaven, and, 

20 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

Anon was he solemnly knighted with great 
pomp by the most famous knight there present, 

The Coronation Banquet 21 

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

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

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

Whereat arose a deadly tumult in the hall, and 
every man there made him ready to fight. But 
Arthur leaped up as a flame of fire against them, 
and all his knights and barons drawing their 
swords, rushed after him upon them and began 
a full sore battle ; and presently the king's party 


22 The Legends of King Arthur 

prevailed, and drave the rebels from the hall 
and from the city, closing the gates behind them ; 
and King Arthur brake his sword upon them in 
his eagerness and rage. 

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

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

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

The Sword Excalibur 23 

then ; and so they parted in great wrath, and 
each side armed in haste. 

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

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

With that Merlin vanished away and came to 
King Arthur. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

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

Then King Lot, King Carados, and the King 
of the Hundred Knights — who also was with 
them — going round to the rear, set on King 

The Battle with the Eleven Kings 25 

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

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

But he by Merlin's counsel had sent over sea 
to King Ban of Benwick and King Bors of Gaul, 

26 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

To this the three knights and the barons 

The Battle with the Eleven Kings 27 

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

Then gave King Arthur the command to Sir 
Ulfius and Sir Brastias to take 3,000 men-at- 
arms, and to open battle. They therefore setting 
fiercely on the enemy slew them on the right 
hand and the left till it was wonderful to see their 

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

28 The Legends of King Arthur 

Sir Key smite down King Lot and wounded him 
full sore. 

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

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

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

The Battle with the Eleven Kings 29 

neck and slew the horse, and hurled the king 
upon the ground. 

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

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

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

But now Kings Ban and Bors, with all their 
army fresh and eager, broke from their ambush 

30 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

11 Ride on," said they. 

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

The Battle with the Eleven Kings 31 

into one body, they prepared to meet the worst, 
while a great multitude already fled. 

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

" It is well said," replied they all. 

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

But now came forty noble knights out of 

32 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

And while the slaughter and the noise and 
shouting were at their greatest, suddenly there 
came down through the battle Merlin the Wizard 
upon a great black horse, and riding to King 
Arthur, he cried out, " Alas, my lord ! Will ye 
have never done ? Of sixty thousand have ye 
left but fifteen thousand men alive. Is it not 
time to stay this slaying ? For God is ill pleased 
with ye that ye have never ended, and yonder 
kings shall not be altogether overthrown this 
time. But if ye fall upon them any more, the 
fortune of this day will turn, and go to them. 
Withdraw, lord, therefore, to thy lodging, and 
there now take thy rest, for to-day thou hast 
won a great victory, and overcome the noblest 
chivalry of all the world. And now for many 

Merlin ends the Battle 33 

years those kings shall not disturb thee. There- 
fore, I tell thee, fear them no more, for now they 
are sore beaten, and have nothing left them but 
their honour ; and why shouldest thou slay them 
to take that ? " 

Then said King Arthur, " Thou say est well, 
and I will take thy counsel." With that he 
cried out, " Ho 1 " for the battle to cease, and 
sent forth heralds through the field to stay more 
fighting. And gathering all the spoil, he gave 
it not amongst his own host, but to Kings Ban 
and Bors and all their knights and men-at- 
arms, that he might treat them with the greater 
courtesy as strangers. 

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


The Adventure of the Questing Beast — King Arthur 

drives the Saxons from the Realm — The 

Battles of Celidon Forest and Badon Hill 

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

Then did Kings Ban and Bors take leave, and 
went to their own country, where King Claudas 
worked great mischief. And King Arthur would 
have gone with them, but they refused him, 
saying, " Nay, ye shall not at this time, for ye 
have yet much to do in these lands of your own ; 
and we with the riches we have won here by 


Belisent visits King Arthur 35 

your gifts shall hire many good knights, and, by 
the grace of God, withstand the malice of King 
Claudas ; and if we have need we will send to ye 
for succour ; and likewise ye, if ye have need, 
send for us, and we will not tarry, by the faith of 
our bodies." 

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

At that time King Arthur had a marvellous 
dream, which gave him great quietness of heart. 
He dreamed that the whole land was full of many 
fiery griffins and serpents, which burnt and slew 
the people everywhere ; and then that he himself 
fought with them, and that they did him mighty 
injuries, and wounded him nigh to death, but 
that at last he overcame and slew them all. 
When he woke, he sat in great heaviness of spirit 
and pensiveness, thinking what this dream might 

36 The Legends of King Arthur 

signify, but by-and-by, when he could by no 
means satisfy himself what it might mean, to rid 
himself of all his thoughts of it, he made ready 
with a great company to ride out hunting. 

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

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

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

" Sir," said the knight, " I have followed it for 
a long time, and have killed my horse, and would 

The Questing Beast 37 

to heaven I had another to pursue my quest 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


38 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merlin's Prophecy 39 

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

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

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

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

40 The Legends of King Arthur 

where presently he made himself known, and was 
drawn up by ropes into the town. 

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

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

King Arthur's Oath 41 

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

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

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

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

Anon King Arthur, dressed in armour shining 
with gold and jewels, and wearing on his head a 
helmet with a golden dragon, took a shield 

42 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

Then the king bade Cador, Duke of Cornwall, 
follow Cheldric, the chief leader, and the remnant 
of his hosts, unto the uttermost. He, therefore, 
when he had first seized their fleet, and filled it 
with chosen men, to beat them back when they 
should fly to it at last, chased them and slew them 

A Fifteen Days* Siege 43 

without mercy so long as he could overtake them. 
And though they crept with trembling hearts 
for shelter to the coverts of the woods and dens of 
mountains, yet even so they found no safety, for 
Cador slew them, even one by one. Last of all he 
caught and slew Cheldric himself, and slaughter- 
ing a great multitude took hostages for the sur- 
render of the rest. 

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

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

So bitterly, therefore, did he treat them, giving 
quarter to none, that at length the bishops of 
that miserable country with the clergy met 
together, and, bearing all the holy relics, came 
barefooted to the king to pray his mercy for their 

44 The Legends of King Arthur 

people. As soon as they were led before him they 
fell down upon their knees, and piteously be- 
sought him to spare the few survivors of their 
countrymen, and grant them any corner of the 
land where they might live in peace. When he 
thus heard them, and knew that he had now fully 
punished them, he consented to their prayer, and 
withdrew his hosts from any further slaughter. 

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

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

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

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

" Sir," said Griflet, " I beseech thee make me 

Sir Griflet and the Strange Knight 45 

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

" Whatsoever thou wilt, my lord," replied Sir 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then did they wheel their horses far apart, and 

46 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

But on the morrow of Sir Griflet's hurt, the 
king commanded to take his horse and armour 
secretly outside the city walls before sunrise of 

The King rescues Merlin 47 

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

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

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

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

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

" I will amend it," said King Arthur. 

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

48 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then began they a strong battle, with 

The Knight of the Fountain 49 

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

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

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

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

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

" Who then is he ? " cried the knight. 

" Arthur Pendragon ! " answered Merlin. 

Then would he have slain him for dread of his 

50 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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


King Arthur Conquers Ireland and Norway, Slays 

the Giant of St. Michael's Mount, and Conquers 

Gaul — The Adventures of Sir Balin 

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

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

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

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


52 The Legends of King Arthur 

and slew Riculf and a countless multitude 

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

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

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

11 Alas ! " said King Arthur, " this is a great 
mischief that ye tell of. I had rather than the 
best realm I have, that I had rescued that lady 


see p. 54. 

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


The Giant of St. Michael's Mount 53 

ere the giant laid his hand on her ; but tell me 
now, good fellow, canst thou bring me where this 
giant haunteth ? " 

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

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

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

" Sir knight," she said, " speak softly, for 
yonder is a devil, who, if he hear thy voice, will 
come and straightway slay thee. Alas I What 
dost thou here ? Fifty such men as thou were 
powerless to resist him. Here lieth dead my 
lady, Duchess of Brittany, wife to Sir Hoel, who 
was the fairest lady in the world, foully and shame- 
fully slaughtered by that fiend ! Beware that 
thou go not too nigh, for he hath overcome and 
vanquished fifteen kings, and hath made himself 

54 The Legends of King Arthur 

a coat of precious stones, embroidered with their 
beards ; but if thou art so hardy, and wilt speak 
with him, at yonder great fire he is at supper." 

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

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

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

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

The Giant of St. Michael's Mount 55 

another, tumbled — wrestling, and struggling, and 
fighting frantically — from rock to rock, till they 
came to the sea. 

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

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

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

On the morrow, all the host moved onwards 

56 The Legends of King Arthur 

into the country of Champagne, and FIollo, the 
Roman tribune, retired before them into Paris. 
But while he was preparing to collect more forces 
from the neighbouring countries, King Arthur 
came upon him unawares, and besieged him in the 

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

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

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

F lotto's Duel with King Arthur 57 

Arthur's horse, and overthrew both horse and 

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

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

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

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

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

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

58 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

And on a certain day there came into the court 
a messenger from Ryence, King of North Wales, 
bearing this message from his master : That 
King Ryence had discomfited eleven kings, and 
had compelled each one of them to cut off his 
beard ; that he had trimmed a mantle with these 
beards, and lacked but one more beard to finish 
it ; and that he therefore now sent for King 
Arthur's beard, which he required of him forth- 
with, or else he would enter his lands and burn 

King Arthur at Caerleon 59 

and slay, and never leave them till he had taken 
by force not his beard only, but his head also. 

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

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

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

While the king thus spoke, there came into the 
hall a damsel having on a mantle richly furred, 

60 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

" Thou needest not strive so hard, lord," said 
the damsel, " for whoever may be able to pull it 
forth shall do so very easily." 

" Thou say est well," replied the king, remem- 
bering how he had himself drawn forth the sword 
from the stone before St. Paul's. " Now try ye, 
all my barons ; but beware ye be not stained with 
shame, or any treachery, or guile." And turning 
away his face from them, King Arthur mused 

The Damsel and the Sword 61 

full heavily of sins within his breast he knew of, 
and which his failure brought to mind right sadly. 

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

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

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

The damsel looking at him, saw in him a likely 
and an honest man, but because of his poor gar- 
ments could not think him to be any knight of 
worship, and said, " Sir, there is no need to put 
me to any more pain or labour ; why shouldst 

62 The Legends of King Arthur 

thou succeed where so many worthy ones have 
failed ? " 

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

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

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

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

" Now, gentle and courteous knight," con- 
tinued she, turning to Balin, " give me the sword 

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

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

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

The Lady of the Lake 63 

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

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

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

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

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

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

64 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sir Balin Departs 65 

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

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

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

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

" Where shall I meet thee again ? " said the 

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


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

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

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

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

" Say not so," they answered, " for she hath 
a brother a good knight, who slew another knight 
this damsel loved ; so she, to be revenged upon 
her brother, went to the Lady Lile, of Avilion, 
and besought her help. Then Lady Lile gave her 
the sword, and told her that no man should draw 
it forth but one, a valiant knight and strong, 
who should avenge her on her brother. This, 
therefore, was the reason why the damsel came 


Sir Lancear's Challenge 67 

" I know it all as well as ye do," answered 
Merlin ; " and would to God she had never come 
hither, for never came she into any company 
but to do harm ; and that good knight who hath 
achieved the sword shall be himself slain by it, 
which shall be great harm and loss, for 
a better knight there liveth not ; and he 
shall do unto my lord the king great honour and 

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

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

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

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

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

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

68 .The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

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

Sir Balin and Sir Balan 69 

that time was besieging Castle Terrabil. " I will 
be with thee," answered Sir Balan, " and we will 
help each other, as brethren ought to do." 

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

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

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

At that Merlin vanished suddenly away ; but 
afterwards he met them in disguise towards night, 


yo The Legends of King Arthur 

and told them he could lead them to King 
Ryence, whom they sought. " For this night 
he is to ride with sixty lances only through a 
wood hard by." 

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

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

Within a month or two thereafter, King Arthur 
being somewhat sick, went forth outside the town, 
and had his pavilion pitched in a meadow, and 
there abode, and laid him down on a pallet to 
sleep, but could get no rest. And as he lay he 

The Sullen Knight yi 

heard the sound of a great horse, and looking 
out of the tent door, saw a knight ride by, making 
great lamentation. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

" Sir," said Sir Balin, " I pray thee make ready, 

72 The Legends of King Arthur 

for thou must needs go with me — or else I must 
fight with thee and take thee by force." 

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

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

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

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

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

Then went Sir Balin to the damsel, and rode 
forth with her ; she carrying ever with her the 
truncheon of the spear wherewith Sir Herleus 
had been slain. And as they went, a good knight, 
Perin de Mountbelgard, joined their company, 
and vowed to take adventure with them whereso- 
ever they might go. But presently as they passed 
a hermitage fast by a churchyard, came the 
knight Garlon, again invisible, and smote Sir 
Perin through the body with a spear, and slew 
him as he had slain Sir Herleus. Whereat, Sir 
Balin greatly raged, and swore to have Sir 
Garlon 's life, whenever next he might encounter 

The Knight Invisible 73 

and behold him in his bodily shape. Anon, he 
and the hermit buried the good knight Sir Perin, 
and rode on with the damsel till they came to a 
great castle, whereinto they were about to enter. 
But when Sir Balin had passed through the gate- 
way, the portcullis fell behind him suddenly, 
leaving the damsel on the outer side, with men 
around her, drawing their swords as if to slay her. 

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

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

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

74 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

So on the morrow they rode all three towards 
Listeniss, and travelled fifteen days, and reached 
it on the day the feast began. Then they alighted 
and stabled their horses, and went up to the 
castle, and Sir Balin 's host was denied entrance, 
having no lady with him. But Sir Balin was 
right heartily received, and taken to a chamber, 
where they unarmed him, and dressed him in 
rich robes, of any colour that he chose, and told 
him he must lay aside his sword. This, however, 
he refused, and said, " It is the custom of my 

Sir Balin Meets the Invisible Knight 75 

country for a knight to keep his sword ever with 
him ; and if I may not keep it here, I will forth- 
with depart." Then they gave him leave to wear 
his sword. So he went to the great hall, and was 
set among knights of rank and worship, and his 
lady before him. 

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

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

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

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

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

11 Thou say est well," cried Sir Balin, rising 
fiercely ; " now will I straightway do that which 
I came to do, as thou shalt find." With that he 

76 The Legends of King Arthur 

whirled his sword aloft and struck him downright 
on the head, and clove his skull asunder to the 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dolorous Stroke yy 

ever eagerly casting his eyes round every place 
to find some weapon. 

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

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

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

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

" Lo ! where she lieth dead," said Merlin. 
" Ah, little knowest thou, Sir Balin, what thou 
hast done ; for in this castle and that chamber 
which thou didst defile, was the blood of our Lord 
Christ, and also that most holy cup — the 
Sangreal — wherefrom the wine was drunk at the 
Last Supper of our Lord. Joseph of Arimathea 
brought it to this land, when first he came here 
to convert and save it. And on that bed of gold 

yS The Legends of King Arthur 

it was himself who lay, and the strange spear 
beside him was the spear wherewith the soldier 
Longus smote our Lord, which evermore had 
dripped with blood. King Pelles is the nearest 
kin to Joseph in direct descent, wherefore he held 
these holy things in trust ; but now have they 
all gone at thy Dolorous Stroke, no man knoweth 
whither ; and great is the damage to this land, 
which until now hath been the happiest of all 
lands, for by that stroke thou hast slain thousands 
and by the loss and parting of the Sangreal, the 
safety of this realm is put in peril, and its great 
happiness is gone for evermore." 

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

So he rode forth through the fair cities and the 
country, and found the people lying dead on 
every side. And all the living cried out to him 
as he passed, " O Balin, all this misery hast thou 
done ! For the Dolorous Stroke thou gavest 
King Pelles, three countries are destroyed, and 
doubt not but revenge will fall on thee at last 1 " 

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

Sir Balin and Sir Balan 79 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As soon as he had landed, he saw come riding 
towards him, a knight dressed all in red, upon a 
horse trapped in the same colour. When the 
red knight saw Sir Balin, and the two swords he 
wore, he thought it must have been his brother 

80 The Legends of King Arthur 

(for the red knight was Sir Balan), but when he 
saw the strange arms on his shield, he forgot the 
thought, and came against him fiercely. At the 
first course they overthrew each other, and both 
lay swooning on the ground ; but Sir Balin was 
the most hurt and bruised, for he was weary and 
spent for travelling. So Sir Balan rose up first 
to his feet and drew his sword, and Sir Balin 
painfully rose against him and raised his shield. 
Then Sir Balan smote him through the shield 
and brake his helmet ; and Sir Balin, in return, 
smote at him with his fated sword, and had well- 
nigh slain his brother. And so they fought till 
their breaths failed. 

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

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

" My name," said he, all faintly, " is 

Sir Balin and Sir Balan 81 

Balan, brother to the good knight Sir 

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

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

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

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

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

Anon came the lady of the castle, and when she 
heard their talk, and saw their evil case, she 
wrung her hands and wept bitterly. So Sir 
Balan prayed the lady of her gentleness that, for 

82 The Legends of King Arthur 

ljis true service, she would bury them both to- 
gether in that place. This she granted, weeping 
full sore, and said it should be done right solemnly 
and richly, and in the noblest manner possible. 
Then did they send for a priest, and received the 
holy sacrament at his hands. And Balin said, 
" Write over us upon our tomb, that here two 
brethren slew each other ; then shall never good 
knight or pilgrim pass this way but he will pray 
for both our souls." And anon Sir Balan died, 
but Sir Balin died not till the midnight after ; 
and then they both were buried. 

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


The Marriage of King Arthur and Queen 
Guinevere, and the Founding of the Round 
Table — The Adventure of the Hart 
and Hound 

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

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

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

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


84 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

A Fateful Journey 85 

would tell adventures ; and still Sir Lancelot was 
foremost, and told the knightliest tales, and sang 
the goodliest songs, of all the company. 

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

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

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

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

When the king was crowned, he called together 


86 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

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

" Aries, the cowherd," answered he. 

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

" Nay, lord, not from myself," said he, " but 

A Strange Request 87 

from him only, for I have thirteen other sons, and 
all of them will fall to any labour that I put them 
to. But this one will do no such work for any- 
thing that I or my wife may do, but is for ever 
shooting or fighting, and running to see knights 
and joustings, and torments me both night and 
day that he be made a knight." 

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

" My name is Tor," said he. 

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

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

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

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

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

88 The Legends of King Arthur 

to a high seat at the Table Round, near to the 
Perilous Seat. 

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

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

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

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

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

Then was the high feast made ready, and the 

The White Hart 89 

king and queen sat side by side, before the whole 
assembly ; and great and royal was the banquet 
and the pomp. 

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

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

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

Then the king desired Sir Gawain, Sir Tor, and 
King Pellinore to mount and follow this ad- 
venture to the uttermost ; and told Sir Gawain 
to bring back the hart, Sir Tor the hound and 
knight, and King Pellinore the knight and the 

So Sir Gawain rode forth at a swift pace, and 

90 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

" Sorlous and Brian of the Forest," they re- 
plied ; and so they went their way to the king's 

Then Sir Gawain, still following his quest by 
the distant baying of the hounds, came to a great 
river, and saw the hart swimming over and near 
to the further bank. And as he was about to 

The Quest of the White Hart 91 

plunge in and swim after, he saw a knight upon 
the other side, who cried, " Come not over here, 
Sir knight, after that hart, save thou wilt joust 
with me." 

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

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

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

" What is thy name ? " quoth Gawain. 

" Allardin of the Isles," replied the stranger. 

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

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

At that there rushed a knight forth from a 
chamber, with a drawn sword in his hand, and 
slew two of the hounds before their eyes, and 
chased the others from the castle, crying " Oh, 
my white hart ! Alas, that thou art dead ! For 
thee my sovereign lady gave to me, and evil have 
I kept thee ; but if I live, thy death shall be dear 

92 The Legends of King Arthur 

bought." Anon he went within and armed, and 
came out fiercely, and met Sir Gawain face to 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Sir Gawain was sore amazed at that fair 
lady's death, and knew not what to do, and said 

Athmore of the Marsh 93 

to the fallen knight, " Arise, for I will give thee 

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

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

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

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

" My name is Athmore of the Marsh," he 

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

No sooner had he spoken than there came out 
suddenly four knights, well armed, and assailed 
them hard, saying to Sir Gawain, " Thou new- 
made knight, how hast thou shamed thy knight- 
hood 1 A knight without mercy is dishonoured ! 
Slayer of fair ladies, shame to thee evermore ! 
Doubt not thou shalt thyself have need of mercy 
ere we leave thee." 

Then were the brothers in great jeopardy, and 
feared for their lives, for they were but two to 

94 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

" Not good," said he. 

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

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

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

So in that fashion he rode back to Camelot ; 
and when the king and queen saw him and heard 
tell of his adventures, they were heavily dis- 
pleased, and, by the order of the queen, he was 
put upon his trial before a court of ladies — who 

Sir Tor and the Dwarf 95 

judged him to be evermore, for all his life, the 
knight of ladies' quarrels, and to fight always on 
their side, and never against any, except he 
fought for one lady and his adversary for another ; 
also they charged him never to refuse mercy to 
him that asked it, and swore him to it on the 
Holy Gospels. Thus ended the adventure of the 
white hart. 

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

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

11 Because thou shalt not pass this way," re- 
plied the dwarf, " unless thou fight for it with 
yonder knights in those pavilions," pointing 
to two tents, where two great spears stood 
out, and two shields hung upon two trees hard 

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

" Thou shalt not pass," replied the dwarf, and 
therewith blew his horn. Then rode out quickly 
at Sir Tor one armed on horseback, but Sir Tor 
was quick as he, and riding at him bore him from 
his horse, and made him yield. Directly after 
came another still more fiercely, but with a few 
great strokes and buffets Sir Tor unhorsed him 
also, and sent them both to Camelot to King 
Arthur. Then came the dwarf and begged Sir 

96 The Legends of King Arthur 

Tor to take him in his service, " for," said he, 
" I will serve no more recreant knights." 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abellius, the False Knight 97 

give him, and hearing a Mass devoutly before he 
left on the morrow. 

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

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

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

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

With that there came a damsel riding on a 
palfrey, as fast as she could drive, and cried out 

98 The Legends of King Arthur 

to Sir Tor with a loud voice, " I pray thee, for 
King Arthur's love, give me a gift." 

" Ask," said Sir Tor, " and I will give thee." 
" Grammercy," said the lady, " I ask the head 
of this false knight Abellius, the most out- 
rageous murderer that liveth." 

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

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

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

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

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

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

" I will, with a good will," said he, for both his 

King Pellinore's Quest 99 

horse and he had fared but poorly since they left 

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

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

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

As soon as she perceived him she cried out, 
" Help, help me, knight, for our Lord's sake 1 " 
But Pellinore was far too eager in his quest to 
stay or turn, although she cried a hundred times 
to him for help ; at which she prayed to heaven 
he might have such sore need before he died as 
she had now. And presently thereafter her 
knight died in her arms ; and she, for grief and 
love, slew herself with his sword. 

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

" Yea, surely," said the man, " and greatly 
did she moan and cry ; but even now another 

ioo The Legends of King Arthur 

knight is fighting with him to deliver the lady ; 
ride on and thou shalt find them fighting still." 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Two Knights 101 

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

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

" What tidings at Camelot ? " said one. 

" By my head," said the other, " I have but 
just left there, and have espied King Arthur's 
court, and such a fellowship is there as never may 
be broke or overcome ; for wellnigh all the 
chivalry of the world is there, and all full loyal 
to the king, and now I ride back homewards to 


102 The Legends of King Arthur 

the north to tell our chiefs, that they waste not 
their strength in wars against him." 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When he was arrived, he was sworn to tell the 
truth of his quest before the king and queen, and 
when he had entered the queen somewhat 

Merlin Saves King Arthur 103 

upbraided him, saying, " Ye were much to blame 
that ye saved not that lady's life." 

11 Madam," said he, " I shall repent it all my 

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

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

King Arthur and Sir Accolon of Gaul 

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


King Arthur and Sir Accolon of Gaul 105 

creature. Then he cried out to his companions, 
" Sirs, come ye hither, and let us see what there 
is in this ship." So they all three went in, and 
found it everywhere throughout furnished, and 
hung with rich draperies of silk and gold. 

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

But when the morning broke, King Urience 
found himself in his own house in Camelot, 
he knew not how ; and Arthur awaking found 
himself in a dark dungeon, and heard around 
him nothing but the groans of woful knights, 
prisoners like himself. Then said King Arthur, 
11 Who are ye, thus groaning and complaining ? ' 

io6 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

King Arthur and Sir Accolon of Gaul 107 

such a cause for such a false foul knight — but 
rather one by one came here, where many a good 
knight hath died of hunger and disease. But if 
one of us would fight, Sir Damas would deliver 
all the rest." 

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

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

When Sir Damas knew that there had been at 
length a knight found who would fight for him, 
he sent for Arthur, and finding him a man so 
tall and strong, and straight of limb, he was 

io8 The Legends of King Arthur 

passingly well pleased, and made a covenant 
with him that he should fight unto the uttermost 
for his cause, and that all the other knights should 
be delivered. And when they were sworn to each 
other on the holy gospels, all those imprisoned 
knights were straightway led forth and delivered, 
but abode there one and all to see the battle. 

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

King Arthur and Sir Accolon of Gaul 109 

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

Then came a knight and lady, and six squires, 
to Sir Accolon, and took him to a manor house 
hard by, and gave him noble cheer ; and the 
house belonged to Sir Outzlake, the brother of 
Sir Damas, for so had Morgan le Fay contrived 
with her enchantments. Now Sir Outzlake him- 
self was at that time sorely wounded and disabled, 
having been pierced through both his thighs by a 
spear-thrust. When, therefore, Sir Damas sent 
down messengers to his brother, bidding him 
make ready by to-morrow morning, and be in the 
field to fight with a good knight, for that he had 
found a champion ready to do battle at all points, 
Sir Outzlake was sorely annoyed and distressed, 
for he knew he had small chance of victory, 
while yet he was disabled by his wounds ; not- 
withstanding, he determined to take the battle 
in hand, although he was so weak that he must 
needs be lifted to his saddle. But when Sir 
Accolon of Gaul heard this, he sent a message to 
Sir Outzlake offering to take the battle in his 
stead, which cheered Sir Outzlake mightily, who 
thanked Sir Accolon with all his heart, and 
joyfully accepted him. 

So, on the morrow, King Arthur was armed and 
well horsed, and asked Sir Damas, " When shall 

no The Legends of King Arthur 

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

And as they were thus fighting, the damsel 
Vivien, lady of the lake, who loved King Arthur, 
came upon the ground, for she knew by her en- 
chantments how Morgan le Fay had craftily 

King Arthur and Sir Accolon of Gaul in 

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

" Now, knight, look to thyself, and keep thee 
well from me," cried out Sir Accolon. But King 
Arthur answered not, and gave him such a buffet 
on the helm as made him stagger and nigh fall 
upon the ground. Then Sir Accolon withdrew a 
little, and came on with Excalibur on high, and 
smote King Arthur in return with such a mighty 
stroke as almost felled him ; and both being 
now in hottest wrath, they gave each other 
grievous and savage blows. But Arthur all the 
time was losing so much blood that scarcely 
could he keep upon his feet, yet so full was he of 
knighthood, that knightly he endured the pain, 
and still sustained himself, though now he was 
so feeble that he thought himself about to die. 
Sir Accolon, as yet, had lost no drop of blood, and 

112 The Legends of King Arthur 

being very bold and confident in Excalibur, even 
grew more vigorous and hasty in his assaults. 
But all men who beheld them said they never 
saw a knight fight half so well as did King 
Arthur ; and all the people were so grieved for 
him that they besought Sir Damas and Sir 
Outzlake to make up their quarrel and so stay 
the fight ; but they would not. 

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

King Arthur and Sir Accolon of Gaul 113 

and if it were possible for me to die a hundred 
times, I had rather die as often than yield me to 
thee, for though I lack weapons, I shall lack no 
worship, and it shall be to thy shame to slay me 
weaponless." " Aha," shouted then Sir Accolon, 
" as for the shame, I will not spare ; look to thyself, 
Sir knight, for thou art even now but a dead 
man." Therewith he drove at him with pitiless 
force, and struck him nearly down ; but Arthur 
evermore waxing in valour as he waned in blood, 
pressed on Sir Accolon with his shield, and hit 
at him so fiercely with the pommel in his hand, 
as hurled him three strides backwards. 

This, therefore, so confused Sir Accolon, that 
rushing up, all dizzy, to deliver once again a 
furious blow, even as he struck, Excalibur, by 
Vivien's magic, fell from out his hands upon the 
earth. Beholding which, King Arthur lightly 
sprang to it, and grasped it, and forthwith felt it 
was his own good sword, and said to it, " Thou 
hast been from me all too long, and done me too 
much damage." Then spying the scabbard 
hanging by Sir Accolon 's side, he sprang and 
pulled it from him, and cast it away as far as he 
could throw it ; for so long as he had worn it, 
Arthur knew his life would have been kept 
secure. " Oh, knight ! " then said the king, 
" thou hast this day wrought me much damage 
by this sword, but now art thou come to thy 
death, for I shall not warrant thee but that thou 
shalt suffer, ere we part, somewhat of that thou 
hast made me suffer." And therewithal King 
Arthur flew at him with all his might, and pulled 

ii4 The Legends of King Arthur 

him to the earth, and then struck off his helm, 
and gave him on the heaji a fearful buffet, till the 
bJood leaped forth. " Now will I slay thee ! " 
cried King Arthur ; for his heart was hardened, 
and his body all on fire with fever, till for a 
moment he forgot his knightly mercy. " Slay 
me thou mayest," said Sir Accolon, " for thou art 
the best knight I ever found, and I see well that 
God is with thee ; and I as thou hast, have prom- 
ised to fight this battle to the uttermost, and 
never to be recreant while I live ; therefore shall 
I never yield me with my mouth, and God must 
do with my body what He will." And as Sir 
Accolon spoke, King Arthur thought he knew 
his voice ; and parting all his blood-stained hair 
from out his eyes, and leaning down towards 
him, saw, indeed, it was his friend and own true 
knight. Then said he — keeping his own visor down 
— " I pray thee tell me of what country art 
thou, and what court ? " " Sir knight," he 
answered, " I am of King Arthur's court, and my 
name is Sir Accolon of Gaul." Then said the 
king, " Oh, Sir knight ! I pray thee tell me who 
gave thee this sword, and from whom thou 
hadst it ? " 

Then said Sir Accolon, " Woe worth this sword, 
for by it I have gotten my death. This sword 
hath been in my keeping now for almost twelve 
months, and yesterday Queen Morgan le Fay, 
wife of King Urience, sent it to me by a dwarf 
that therewith I might in some way slay her 
brother, King Arthur ; for thou must under- 
stand that King Arthur is the man she hateth 

King Arthur and Sir Accolon of Gaul 115 

most in all the world, being full of envy and 
jealousy because he is of greater worship and 
renown than any other of her blood. She loveth 
me also as much as she doth hate him ; and if 
she might contrive to slay King Arthur by her 
craft and magic, then would she straightway kill 
her husband also, and make me the king of all 
this land, and herself my queen, to reign with me ; 
but now," said he, " all that is over, for this day 
I am come to my death." 

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

n6 The Legends of King Arthur 

have ever lifted lance against him, though in 
ignorance I did it." 

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

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

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

So then he took his leave of all the people and 
mounted upon horseback, and Sir Accolon went 
with him to an abbey hard by, where both their 
wounds were dressed. But Sir Accolon died 
within four days after. And when he was dead, 

King Arthur and Sir Accolon of Gaul ny 

the king sent his body to Queen Morgan, to 
Camelot, saying that he sent her a present in 
return for the sword Excalibur, which she had 
sent him by the damsel. 

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


King Arthur conquers Rome, and is crowned 


AND now again the second time there came 
ambassadors from Lucius Tiberius, Em- 
peror of Rome, demanding, under pain of 
war, tribute and homage from King Arthur, and 
the restoration of all Gaul, which he had con- 
quered from the tribune Flollo. 

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

Then the lords and knights of the Round Table 
were called on to declare their counsel — what 
should be done upon this matter ; and Sir Cador 
of Cornwall speaking first, said, " Sir, this mes- 


King Arthur's Message to Rome 119 

sage is the best news I have heard for a long time 
for we have been now idle and at rest for many- 
days, and I trust that thou wilt make sharp 
war upon the Romans, wherein, I doubt not, we 
shall all gain honour." 

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

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

Then the King of Little Britain rose and prom- 
ised King Arthur thirty thousand men ; and 
likewise many other kings, and dukes, and barons, 
promised aid — as the lord of West Wales thirty 
thousand men, Sir Ewaine and his cousin thirty 

120 The Legends of King Arthur 

thousand men, and so forth ; Sir Lancelot also, 
and every other knight of the Round Table, 
promised each man a great host. 

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

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

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

The- Emperor's Host 121 

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

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

Meanwhile, King Arthur having held a parlia- 
ment at York, left the realm in charge of Sir 
Badewine and Sir Constantine, and crossed the 
sea from Sandwich to meet Lucius. And so soon 
as he was landed, he sent Sir Gawain, Sir Bors, Sir 
Lionel, and Sir Bedivere to the Emperor, com- 
manding him " to move swiftly and in haste out 

122 The Legends of King Arthur 

of his land, and, if not, to make himself ready 
for battle, and not continue ravaging the country 
and slaying harmless people." Anon, those noble 
knights attired themselves and set forth on horse- 
back to where they saw, in a meadow, many 
silken tents of divers colours, and the Emperor's 
pavilion in the midst, with a golden eagle set 
above it. 

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

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

" And I also," said Sir Bors. 

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

At these words, Sir Gawain could refrain no 
longer, but drew forth his sword and with one 
blow shore off Ganius 's head ; then with Sir Bors, 
he turned his horse and rode over waters and 
through woods, back to the ambush, where Sir 
Lionel and Sir Bedivere were waiting. The 
Romans followed fast behind them till the 
knights turned and stood, and then Sir Bors 
smote the foremost of them through the body 
with a spear, and slew him on the spot. Then 
came on Calibere, a huge Pavian, but Sir Bors 

The Emperor Attacks 123 

overthrew him also. And then the company of 
Sir Lionel and Sir Bedivere brake from their 
ambush and fell on the Romans, and slew and 
hewed them down, and forced them to return and 
flee, chasing them to their tents. 

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

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

Then did the rival hosts draw near each other 
with great shoutings ; and when they closed, no 
tongue can tell the fury of their smiting, and the 
sore struggling, wounds, and slaughter. Then 

124 The Legends of King Arthur 

King Arthur, with his mightiest knights, rode 
down into the thickest of the fight, and drew 
Excalibur, and slew as lightning slays for swift- 
ness and for force. And in the midmost crowd 
he met a giant, Galapas by name, and struck off 
both his legs at the knee-joints ; then saying, 
" Now art thou a better size to deal with ! " 
smote his head off at a second blow : and the 
body killed six men in falling down. 

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

Then returning to the field, King Arthur rode 
to the place where Lucius lay dead, and round 
him the kings of Egypt and Ethiopia, and seven- 
teen other kings, with sixty Roman senators, all 
noble men. All these he ordered to be carefully 
embalmed with aromatic gums, and laid in 
leaden coffins, covered with their shields and 
arms and banners. Then calling for three 
senators who were taken prisoners, he said to 
them, " As the ransom of your lives, I will that 

Arthur's Message to Rome 125 

ye take these dead bodies and carry them to 
Rome, and there present them for me, with these 
letters saying I will myself be shortly there. 
And I suppose the Romans will beware how they 
again ask tribute of me ; for tell them, these 
dead bodies that I send them are for the tribute 
they have dared to ask of me ; and if they wish 
for more, when I come I will pay them the rest." 

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

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

Anon, these knights made ready, and rode over 
holts and hills, and through forests and woods, 
till they came to a great meadow full of fair 
flowers and grass, and there they rested them- 

126 The Legends of King Arthur 

selves and their horses that night. And at the 
dawn of the next day, Sir Gawain took his horse 
and rode away from his fellows to seek some 
adventure. Soon he saw an armed knight 
walking his horse by a wood's side, with his 
shield laced to his shoulder, and no attendant 
with him save a page, bearing a mighty spear ; 
and on his shield were blazoned three gold 
griffins. When Sir Gawain spied him, he put his 
spear in rest, and riding straight to him, asked who 
he was. " A Tuscan," said he ; " and thou 
mayest prove me when thou wilt, for thou shalt 
be my prisoner ere we part." 

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

At that they took their spears and ran at each 
other with all the might they had, and smote 
each other through their shields into their 
shoulders ; and then drawing swords smote with 
great strokes, till the fire sprang out of their 
helms. Then was Sir Gawain enraged, and with 
his good sword Galotine struck his enemy 
through shield and hauberk, and splintered into 
pieces all the precious stones of it, and made so 
huge a wound that men might see both lungs 
and liver. At that the Tuscan, groaning loudly, 
rushed on to Sir Gawain, and gave him a deep 
slanting stroke, and made a mighty wound and 
cut a great vein asunder, so that he bled fast. 
Then he cried out, " Bind thy wound quickly up, 
Sir knight, for thou be-bloodest all thy horse and 

Sir Gawain and Sir Prianius 127 

thy fair armour, and all the surgeons of the world 
shall never staunch thy blood ; for so shall it 
be to whomsoever is hurt with this good sword." 

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

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

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

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

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

128 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

Sir Gawain and Sir Prianius 129 

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

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

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

130 The Legends of King Arthur 

down to the earth all who withstood them, till at 
length the whole of them turned back and fled. 

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

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

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

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

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

Presently afterwards, they made a last attack 
upon the city, and entered by the walls on every 
side ; and as the men were rushing to the pillage, 
came the Duchess forth, with many ladies and 
damsels, and kneeled before King Arthur ; and 
besought him to receive their submission. To 
whom the king made answer, with a noble coun- 
tenance, " Madam, be well assured that none 

Arthur crowned Emperor 131 

shall harm ye, or your ladies ; neither shall any 
that belong to thee be hurt ; but the Duke must 
abide my judgment." Then he commanded to 
stay the assault and took the keys from the 
Duke's eldest son, who brought them kneeling. 
Anon the Duke was sent a prisoner to Dover for 
his life, and rents and taxes were assigned for 
dowry of the Duchess and her children. 

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

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

Then after his coronation, he abode in Rome 
for a season, settling his lands and giving king- 
doms to his knights and servants, to each one 
after his deserving, and in such wise fashion that 
no man among them all complained. Also he 

132 The Legends of King Arthur 

made many dukes and earls, and loaded all his 
men-at-arms with riches and great treasures. 

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

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

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


The Adventures of Sir Lancelot du Lake 

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

When Queen Guinevere had seen his wondrous 
feats, she held him in great favour, and smiled 
more on him than on any other knight. And 
ever since he first had gone to bring her to King 
Arthur, had Lancelot thought on her as fairest 
of all ladies, and done his best to win her grace. 
So the queen often sent for him, and bade him 
tell of his birth and strange adventures : how he 
was only son of great King Ban of Brittany, and 
how, one night, his father, with his mother Helen 
and himself, fled from his burning castle ; how 
his father, groaning deeply, fell to the ground and 
died of grief and wounds, and how his mother, 
running to her husband, left himself alone ; how, 
as he thus lay wailing, came the lady of the lake, 
and took him in her arms and went with him into 
K 133 

134 The Legends of King Arthur 

the midst of the waters, where, with his cousins 
Lionel and Bors, he had been cherished all his 
childhood until he came to King Arthur's court ; 
and how this was the reason why men called him 
Lancelot du Lake. 

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

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

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

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

Sir Turquine 135 

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

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

But all this while, Sir Lancelot lay sleeping 

136 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

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

And so she left him alone, and there he lay all 
night. In the morning early came the four 
queens to him, passing richly dressed ; and said, 
" Sir knight, thou must understand that thou art 
our prisoner, and that we know thee well for 

The Four Witch-Queens 137 

King Ban's son, Sir Lancelot du Lake. And 
though we know full well there is one lady only 
in this world may have thy love, and she Queen 
Guinevere — King Arthur's wife — yet now are we 
resolved to have thee to serve one of us ; choose, 
therefore, of us four which thou wilt serve. I am 
Queen Morgan le Fay, Queen of the land of Gore, 
and here also is the Queen of Northgales, and the 
Queen of Eastland, and the Queen of the Out 
Isles. Choose, then, at once, for else shalt thou 
abide here, in this prison, till thy death." 

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

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

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

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

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

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

" Sir," replied she, " I grieve to see ye so, but 

138 The Legends of King Arthur 

if ye do as I advise, I can help ye out of this 
distress, and will do so if you promise me a boon." 

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

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

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

" My father is King Bagdemagus," said she. 

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

" Grammercy to thee, Sir knight," said the 
damsel. " To-morrow, when thou art delivered 
from this place, ride ten miles hence unto an 
abbey of white monks, and there abide until I 
bring my father to thee." 

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

So she departed, and on the morrow, early, 
came again, and let him out of twelve gates, 
differently locked, and brought him to his 
armour ; and when he was all armed, she brought 

Sir Lancelot and the Damsel 139 

him his horse also, and lightly he saddled him, 
and took a great spear in his hand, and 
mounted and rode forth, saying, as he went, 
" Fair damsel, I shall not fail thee, by the grace 
of God." 

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

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

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

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

" Sir," said Sir Lancelot, " as I understand, the 
tournament shall take place but three miles from 
this abbey ; send then to me here three knights 
of thine, the best thou hast, and let them all have 
plain white shields, such as I also will ; then will 
we four come suddenly into the midst between 
both parties, and fall upon thy enemies, and 

140 The Legends of King Arthur 

grieve them all we can, and none will know us 
who we are." 

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

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

Then Sir Lancelot rode forth with King 

Sir Lancelot and Sir Turquine 141 

Bagdemagus to his castle, and there he feasted 
with great cheer and welcome, and received 
many royal gifts. And on the morrow he took 
leave and went to find his cousin Lionel. 

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

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

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

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

" Bring me but to this felon Turquine," quoth 
Sir Lancelot, " and I will afterwards fulfil all 
your wishes." 

So the damsel went before, and brought him 
to a ford, and a tree whereon a great brass basin 
hung ; and Sir Lancelot beat with his spear-end 
upon the basin, long and hard, until he beat the 
bottom of it out, but he saw nothing. Then he 
rode to and fro before the castle gates for well- 

142 The Legends of King Arthur 

nigh half-an-hour, and anon saw a great knight 
riding from the distance, driving a horse before 
him, across which hung an armed man bound. 
And when they came near, Sir Lancelot knew the 
prisoner for a knight of the Round Table. By 
that time, the great knight who drove the prisoner 
saw Sir Lancelot, and each of them began to 
settle his spear, and to make ready. 

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

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

" That is saying overmuch," said Sir Lancelot. 

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

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

Sir Lancelot and Sir Turquine 143 

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

" Say on," said Lancelot. 

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

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

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

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

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

Then did they hurtle together like two wild 
bulls, slashing and lashing with their shields and 

144 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

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

" Sir," said Sir Lancelot, " I thank thee well ; 
and now go into yonder castle, where thou shalt 
find many noble knights of the Round Table, for 
I have seen their shields hung on the trees around. 
On yonder tree alone there are Sir Key's, Sir 
Brandel's, Sir Marhaus's, Sir Galind's, and Sir 
Aliduke's, and many more ; and also my two 
kinsmen's shields, Sir Ector de Maris 's and Sir 
Lionel's. And I pray you greet them all from 

Sir Lancelot slays the Foul Knight 145 

me, Sir Lancelot of the Lake, and tell them that 
I bid them help themselves to any treasures they 
can find within the castle ; and that I pray my 
brethren, Lionel and Ector, to go to King Arthur's 
court and stay there till I come. And by the 
high feast at Pentecost I must be there ; but now 
I must ride forth with this damsel to fulfil my 

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

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

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

The foul knight answered nothing, but drew 
out his sword and rode at Sir Lancelot, who 
threw his spear away and drew his own sword 
likewise, and struck him such a mighty blow as 
clave his head down to the throat. " Now hast 

146 The Legends of King Arthur 

thou the wages thou long hast earned ! " said 
he ; and so departed from the damsel. 

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

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

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

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

There he alighted, and tied his horse to a ring 
in the wall ; and going in, he saw a wide green 
court, and thought it seemed a noble place to 
fight in. And as he looked about, he saw many 
people watching him from doors and windows, 
making signs of warning, and saying, " Fair 
knight, thou art unhappy." In the next moment 
came upon him two great giants, well armed save 
their heads, and with two horrible clubs in their 
hands. Then he put his shield before him, and 
with it warded off one giant's stroke, and clove 

Sir Lancelot delivers the Ladies 147 

the other with his sword from the head down- 
ward to the chest. When the first giant saw that, 
he ran away mad with fear ; but Sir Lancelot 
ran after him, and smote him through the 
shoulder, and shore him down his back, so that 
he fell dead. 

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

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

148 The Legends of King Arthur 

host brought him to a chamber over a gate, and 
there he unarmed, and went to bed and fell 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The White Shields 149 

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

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

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

Then Sir Lancelot, dressed in Sir Key's apparel, 
rode long in a great forest, and came at last to a 
low country, full of rivers and fair meadows, and 
saw a bridge before him, whereon were three silk 
tents of divers colours, and to each tent was hung 
a white shield, and by each shield stood a knight. 
So Sir Lancelot went by without speaking a 
word. And when he had passed, the three knights 


150 The Legends of King Arthur 

said it was the proud Sir Key, " who thinketh no 
knight equal to himself, although the contrary- 
is full often proved upon him." 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sir Gaunter attacks Sir Lancelot 151 

together with all their might, and each man 
shivered his spear to pieces ; and then they drew 
their swords and lashed out eagerly. 

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

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

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

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

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

Th'en rode Sir Lancelot, forward into a deep 
forest, and came upon four knights of King 
Arthur's court, under an oak tree — Sir Sagramour, 
Sir Ector, Sir Gawain, and Sir Ewaine. And 
when they spied him, they thought he was Sir 

152 The Legends of King Arthur 

Key. " Now by my faith," said Sir Sagramour, 
" I will prove Sir Key's might ! " and taking his 
spear he rode towards Sir Lancelot. 

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

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

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

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

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

The Dead Knight 153 

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

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

So they all departed for the court. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

And as he rode, he met with a damsel who 
knew him, who cried out, " Well found, my lord ! 

154 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

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

So Sir Lancelot departed, and when he came to 
the Chapel Perilous he alighted, and tied his horse 
to the gate. And as soon as he was within the 
churchyard, he saw on the front of the chapel 
many shields of knights whom he had known, 
turned upside down. Then saw he in the path- 
way thirty mighty knights, taller than any men 
whom he had ever seen, all armed in black ar- 
mour, with their swords drawn ; and they 
gnashed their teeth upon him as he came. But 
he put his shield before him, and took his sword 
in hand, ready to do battle with them. And 

The Chapel Perilous 155 

when he would have cut his way through them, 
they scattered on every side and let him pass. 
Then he went into the chapel, and saw therein 
no light but of a dim lamp burning. Then he 
was aware of a corpse in the midst of the chapel 
covered with a silken cloth, and so stooped down 
and cut off a piece of the cloth, whereat the earth 
beneath him trembled, Then saw he a sword 
lying by the dead knight, and taking it in his 
hand, he hied him from the chapel. As soon as 
he was in the churchyard again, all the thirty 
knights cried out to him with fierce voices, " Sir 
Lancelot ! lay that sword from thee, or thou diest ! " 

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

With that they let him pass. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

156 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

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

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

Sir Lancelot and Sir Phelot 157 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

" Alas ! " cried Sir Lancelot, " that ever any 
knight should die weaponless ! " And looking 
overhead, he saw a great bough without leaves, 
and wrenched it off the tree, and suddenly 
leaped down. Then Sir Phelot struck at him 
eagerly, thinking to have slain him, but Sir 
Lancelot put aside the stroke with the bough, 
and therewith smote him on the side of the head, 
till he fell swooning to the ground. And tearing 
his sword from out his hands, he shore his neck 

158 The Legends of King Arthur 

through from the body. Then did the lady shriek 
dismally, and swooned as though she would 
die. But Sir Lancelot put on his armour, and 
with haste took his horse and departed thence, 
thanking God he had escaped that peril. 

And as he rode through a valley, among many 
wild ways, he sawa knight, witha drawn sword, chas- 
ing a lady to slay her. And seeing Sir Lancelot, 
she cried and prayed to him to come and rescue her. 

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

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

" Thou shalt not harm her," said Sir Lancelot, 
" till we have first fought together." 

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

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

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

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

So Sir Lancelot rode between the knight and 
the lady. And when they had ridden awhile, 
the knight cried out suddenly to Sir Lancelot to 
turn and see what men they were who came 
riding after them ; and while Sir Lancelot, 

Sir Lancelot and Sir Pedivere 159 

thinking not of treason, turned to look, the knight, 
with one great stroke, smote off the lady's head. 

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

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

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

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

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

" That will I do," said he. 

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

" It is Pedivere," answered the knight. 

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

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

160 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

The Adventures of Sir Beaumains or Sir Gareth 

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

Anon the damsel came in and saluted him, 
praying him for succour. " What wilt thou ? " 
said the king. " Lord," answered she, " my 
mistress is a lady of great renown, but is at this 
time besieged by a tyrant, who will not suffer her 
to go out of her castle ; and because here in thy 
court the knights are called the noblest in the 
world, I come to pray thee for thy succour." 
" Where dwelleth your lady ? " answered the 
king. " What is her name, and who is he that 
hath besieged her ? " " For her name," replied 
the damsel, " as yet I may not tell it ; but she is 
a lady of worship and great lands. The tyrant 
that besiegeth her and wasteth her lands is called 
the Red Knight of the Redlands." " I know 
him not," said Arthur. " But I know him, lord," 
said Sir Gawain, " and he is one of the most 


162 The Legends of King Arthur 

perilous knights in all the world. Men say he 
hath the strength of seven ; and from him I 
myself once hardly escaped with life." " Fair 
damsel," said the king, " there be here many 
knights that would gladly do their uttermost to 
rescue your lady, but unless ye tell me her name, 
and where she dwelleth, none of my knights shall 
go with you by my leave." 

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

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 163 

worshipful a bearing, and ofttimes had they 
given him gold and clothing. 

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

Then came one to Beaumains, and told him 
that a dwarf with a horse and armour were 
waiting for him. And all men marvelled whence 
these things came. But when he was on horse- 
back and armed, scarce any one at the court was 
a goodlier man than he. And coming into the 
hall, he took his leave of the king and Sir Gawain, 
and prayed Sir Lancelot to follow him. So he 
rode after the damsel, and many of the court 
went out to see him, so richly arrayed and horsed ; 
yet he had neither shield nor spear. Then Sir 
Key cried, " I also will ride after the kitchen boy, 
and see whether he will obey me now." And 

164 The Legends of King Arthur 

taking his horse, he rode after him, and said, 
" Know ye not me, Beaumains ? " " Yea," said 
he, " I know thee for an ungentle knight, there- 
fore beware of me." Then Sir Key put his spear 
in rest and ran at him, but Beaumains rushed 
upon him with his sword in his hand, and there- 
with, putting aside the spear, struck Sir Key so 
sorely in the side, that he fell down, as if dead. 
Then he alighted, and took his shield and spear, 
and bade his dwarf ride upon Sir Key's horse. 

By this time, Sir Lancelot had come up, and 
Beaumains offering to tilt with him, they both 
made ready. And their horses came together 
so fiercely that both fell to the earth, full sorely 
bruised. Then they arose, and Beaumains, 
putting up his shield before him, offered to fight 
Sir Lancelot on foot. So they rushed upon each 
other, striking, and thrusting, and parrying, for 
the space of an hour. And Lancelot marvelled 
at the strength of Beaumains, for he fought more 
like a giant than a man, and his fighting was 
passing fierce and terrible. So, at the last, he 
said, " Fight not so sorely, Beaumains ; our 
quarrel is not such that we may not now cease." 
" True," answered Beaumains ; " yet it doth me 
good to feel thy might, though I have not yet 
proved my uttermost." " By my faith," said 
Lancelot, " I had as much as I could do to save 
myself from you unshamed, therefore be in no 
doubt of any earthly knight." " May I, then, 
stand as a proved knight ? " said Beaumains. 
" For that will I be thy warrant," answered 
Lancelot. " Then, I pray thee," said he, " give 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 165 

me the order of knighthood." " First, then, 
must thou tell me of thy name and kindred," said 
Sir Lancelot. " If thou wilt tell them to no 
other, I will tell thee," answered he. " My name 
is Gareth of Orkney, and I am own brother to 
Sir Gawain." " Ah ! " said Sir Lancelot, " at 
that am I full glad ; for, truly, I deemed thee to 
be of gentle blood." So then he knighted Beau- 
mains, and, after that, they parted company, and 
Sir Lancelot, returning to the court, took up 
Sir Key on his shield. And hardly did Sir Key 
escape with his life, from the wound Beaumains 
had given him ; but all men blamed him for his 
ungentle treatment of so brave a knight. 

Then Sir Beaumains rode forward, and soon 
overtook the damsel ; but she said to him, in 
scorn, " Return again, base kitchen page ! What 
art thou, but a washer-up of dishes ! " " Damsel," 
said he, " say to me what thou wilt, I will not 
leave thee ; for I have undertaken to King 
Arthur to relieve thy adventure, and I will finish 
it to the end, or die." " Thou finish my adven- 
ture ! " said she — " anon, thou shalt meet one, 
whose face thou wilt not even dare to look at." 
" I shall attempt it," answered he. So, as they 
rode thus, into a wood, there met them a man, 
fleeing as for his life. " Whither fleest thou ? " 
said Sir Beaumains. " O lord ! " he answered, 
" help me ; for, in a valley hard by, there are 
six thieves, who have taken my lord, and bound 
him, and I fear will slay him." " Bring me 
thither," said Sir Beaumains. So they rode to 
the place, and Sir Beaumains rushed after the 


1 66 The Legends of King Arthur 

thieves, and smote one, at the first stroke, so that 
he died ; and then, with two other blows, slew 
a second and third. Then fled the other three, 
and Sir Beaumains rode after them, and overtook 
and slew them all. Then he returned and un- 
bound the knight. And the knight thanked him, 
and prayed him to ride to his castle, where he 
would reward him. " Sir," answered Sir Beau- 
mains, " I will have no reward of thee, for but 
this day was I made knight by the most noble 
Sir Lancelot ; and besides, I must go with this 
damsel." Then the knight begged the damsel 
to rest that night at his castle. So they all rode 
thither, and ever the damsel scoffed at Sir 
Beaumains as a kitchen boy, and laughed at him 
before the knight their host, so that he set his 
meat before him at a lower table, as though he 
were not of their company. 

And on the morrow, the damsel and Sir 
Beaumains took their leave of the knight, and 
thanking him departed. Then they rode on 
their way till they came to a great forest, through 
which flowed a river, and there was but one 
passage over it, whereat stood two knights 
armed to hinder the way. " Wilt thou match 
those two knights," said the damsel to Sir 
Beaumains, " or return again ? " "I would not 
return," said he, " though they were six." 
Therewith he galloped into the water, and swam 
his horse into the middle of the stream. And 
there, in the river, one of the knights met him, and 
they brake their spears together, and then drew 
their swords, and smote fiercely at each other. 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 167 

And at the last, Sir Beaumains struck the other 
mightily upon the helm, so that he fell down 
stunned into the water, and was drowned. Then 
Sir Beaumains spurred his horse on to the land, 
where instantly the other knight fell on him. 
And they also brake their spears upon each other, 
and then drew their swords, and fought savagely 
and long together. And after many blows, Sir 
Beaumains clove through the knight's skull down 
to the shoulders. Then rode Sir Beaumains to 
the damsel, but ever she still scoffed at him, and 
said, " Alas ! that a kitchen page should chance 
to slay two such brave knights ! Thou deemest 
now that thou hast done a mighty deed, but it is 
not so ; for the first knight's horse stumbled, and 
thus was he drowned — not by thy strength ; and 
as for the second knight, thou wentest by chance 
behind him, and didst kill him shamefully." 
" Damsel," said Sir Beaumains, " say what ye 
list, I care not so I may win your lady ; and 
wouldst thou give me but fair language, all my 
care were past ; for whatsoever knights I meet, 
I fear them not." " Thou shalt see knights that 
shall abate thy boast, base kitchen knave," 
replied she ; " yet say I this for thine advantage, 
for if thou followest me thou wilt be surely slain, 
since I see all thou doest is but by chance, and 
not by thy own prowess." " Well, damsel," 
said he, " say what ye will, wherever ye go I will 

So they rode on until the eventide, and still the 
damsel evermore kept chiding Sir Beaumains. 
Then came they to a black space of land, whereon 

1 68 The Legends of King Arthur 

was a black hawthorn tree, and on the tree there 
hung a black banner, and on the other side was 
a black shield and spear, and by them a great 
black horse, covered with silk ; and hard by sat a 
knight armed in black armour, whose name was 
the Knight of the Blacklands. When the damsel 
saw him, she cried out to Beaumains, " Flee 
down the valley, for thy horse is not saddled 1 " 
" Wilt thou for ever deem me coward ? " an- 
swered he. With that came the Black Knight 
to the damsel, and said, " Fair damsel, hast thou 
brought this knight from Arthur's court to be thy 
champion ? " " Not so, fair knight," said she ; 
" he is but a kitchen knave." " Then wherefore 
cometh he in such array ? " said he ; " it is a 
shame that he should bear thee company." " I 
cannot be delivered from him," answered she : 
" for in spite of me he rideth with me ; and would 
to Heaven you would put him from me, or now 
slay him, for he hath slain two knights at the river 
passage yonder, and done many marvellous deeds 
through pure mischance." " I marvel," said the 
Black Knight, " that any man of worship will 
fight with him." " They know him not," said 
the damsel, " and think, because he rideth with 
me, that he is well born." " Truly, he hath a 
goodly person, and is likely to be a strong man," 
replied the knight ; " but since he is no man of 
worship, he shall leave his horse and armour with 
me, for it were a shame for me to do him more 

When Sir Beaumains heard him speak thus, he 
said, " Horse or armour gettest thou none of me, 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 169 

Sir knight, save thou winnest them with thy 
hands ; therefore defend thyself, and let me see 
what thou canst do." "How sayest thou?" 
answered the Black Knight. " Now quit this 
lady also, for it beseemeth not a kitchen knave 
like thee to ride with such a lady." " I am of 
higher lineage than thou," said Sir Beaumains, 
11 and will straightway prove it on thy body." 
Then furiously they drove their horses at each 
other, and came together as it had been thunder. 
But the Black Knight's spear brake short, and 
Sir Beaumains thrust him through the side, and 
his spear breaking at the head, left its point stick- 
ing fast in the Black Knight's body. Yet did 
the Black Knight draw his sword, and smite at 
Sir Beaumains with many fierce and bitter blows ; 
but after they had fought an hour and more, he 
fell down from his horse in a swoon, and forth- 
with died. Then Sir Beaumains lighted down 
and armed himself in the Black Knight's armour, 
and rode on after the damsel. But notwith- 
standing all his valour, still she scoffed at him, and 
said, " Away ! for thou savourest ever of the 
kitchen. Alas ! that such a knave should by 
mishap destroy so good a knight ; yet once again 
I counsel thee to flee, for hard by is a knight who 
shall repay thee ! " " It may chance that I am 
beaten or slain," answered Sir Beaumains, " but 
I warn thee, fair damsel, that I will not flee away, 
nor leave thy company, or my quest, for all that 
ye can say." 

Anon, as they rode, they saw a knight come 
swiftly towards them, dressed all in green, who 

170 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

At last, Sir Beaumains 's horse jostled against 
the Green Knight's horse, and overthrew him. 
Then both alighted, and, hurtling together like 
mad lions, fought a great while on foot. But the 
damsel cheered the Green Knight, and said, " My 
lord, why wilt thou let a kitchen knave so long 
stand up against thee ? " Hearing these words, he 
was ashamed, and gave Sir Beaumains such a 
mighty stroke as clave his shield asunder. When 
Sir Beaumains heard the damsel's words, and felt 
that blow, he waxed passing wroth, and gave the 
Green Knight such a buffet on the helm that he 
fell on his knees, and with another blow Sir 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 171 

Beaumains threw him on the ground. Then the 
Green Knight yielded, and prayed him to spare 
his life. " All thy prayers are vain," said he, 
" unless this damsel who came with me pray for 
thee." " That will I never do, base kitchen 
knave," said she. " Then shall he die," said 
Beaumains. " Alas ! fair lady," said the Green 
Knight, " suffer me not to die for a word ! O, 
Sir knight," cried he to Beaumains, " give me my 
life, and I will ever do thee homage ; and thirty 
knights, who owe me service, shall give allegiance 
to thee." " All availeth not," answered Sir 
Beaumains, " unless the damsel ask me for thy 
life ; " and thereupon he made as though he 
would have slain him. Then cried the damsel, 
" Slay him not ; for if thou do thou shalt repent 
it." " Damsel," said Sir Beaumains, " at thy 
command, he shall obtain his life. Arise, Sir 
knight of the green armour, I release thee ! " 
Then the Green Knight knelt at his feet, and did 
him homage with his words. " Lodge with me this 
night," said he, " and to-morrow will I guide ye 
through the forest." So, taking their horses, 
they rode to his castle, which was hard by. 

Yet still did the damsel rebuke and scoff at 
Sir Beaumains, and would not suffer him to sit 
at her table. " I marvel," said the Green Knight 
to her, " that ye thus chide so noble a knight, for 
truly I know none to match him ; and be sure, 
that whatsoever he appeareth now, he will 
prove, at the end, of noble blood and royal 
lineage." But of all this would the damsel take 
no heed, and ceased not to mock at Sir Beaumains. 

172 The Legends of King Arthur 

On the morrow, they arose and heard mass ; and 
when they had broken their fast, took their 
horses and rode on their way, the Green Knight 
conveying them through the forest. Then, when 
he had led them for a while, he said to Sir Beau- 
mains, " My lord, my thirty knights and I shall 
always be at thy command whensoever thou shalt 
send for us." " It is well said," replied he ; 
" and when I call upon you, you shall yield 
yourself and all your knights unto King Arthur." 
" That will we gladly do," said the Green Knight, 
and so departed. 

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

Then the lord of the castle, seeing a knight 
armed at all points, with a damsel and a page, 
riding towards the tower, came forth to meet 
them ; and his horse and harness, with his shield 

PL 3. 

see p. 17(i. 

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


The Adventures of Sir Gareth 173 

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

But notwithstanding all Sir Beaumains 's mighty 
deeds, the damsel ceased not to revile and chide 
him, at which the Red Knight marvelled much ; 
and caused his sixty knights to watch Sir Beau- 
mains, that no villainy might happen to him. 

174 The Legends of King Arthur 

And on the morrow, they heard mass and broke 
their fast, and the Red Knight came before Sir 
Beaumains, with his sixty knights, and proffered 
him homage and fealty. " I thank thee," an- 
swered he ; " and when I call upon thee thou 
shalt come before my lord King Arthur at his 
court, and yield yourselves to him." " That will 
we surely do," said the Red Knight. So Sir 
Beaumains and the damsel departed. 

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

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

And as she spake, Sir Perseant, who had espied 
them coming, sent a messenger to meet Sir 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 175 

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

But when the damsel saw Sir Perseant over- 
thrown, she marvelled greatly at the might of Sir 
Beaumains, and said, " What manner of man may 
ye be, for now am 1 sure that ye be come of noble 
blood ? And truly, never did woman revile knight 
as I have done thee, and yet ye have ever courte- 
ously borne with me, which surely never had 

176 The Legends of King Arthur 

been were ye not of gentle blood and line- 

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

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

Then Sir Perseant prayed them to come to his 
pavilion, and set before them wines and spices, 
and made them great cheer. So they rested that 
night ; and on the morrow, the damsel and Sir 
Beaumains rose, and heard mass. And when 
they had broken their fast, they took their leave 
of Sir Perseant. " Fair damsel," said he, 
" whither lead ye this knight ? " " Sir," an- 
swered she, " to the Castle Dangerous, where my 
sister is besieged by the Knight of the Redlands." 
" I know him well," said Sir Perseant, " for the 
most perilous knight alive — a man without mercy, 
and with the strength of seven men. God save 
thee, Sir Beaumains, from him, and enable thee 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 177 

to overcome him, for the Lady Lyones, whom he 
besiegeth, is as fair a lady as there liveth in this 
world." " Thou sayest truth, sir," said the 
damsel ; " for I am her sister ; and men call me 
Linet, or the Wild Maiden." " Now, I would 
have thee know," said Sir Perseant to Sir Beau- 
mains, " that the Knight of the Redlands hath 
kept that siege more than two years, and pro- 
longeth the time hoping that Sir Lancelot, or Sir 
Tristram, or Sir Lamoracke, may come and battle 
with him ; for these three knights divide between 
them all knighthood ; and thou if thou mayest 
match the Knight of the Redlands, shalt well be 
called the fourth knight of the world." " Sir," 
said Sir Beaumains, " I would fain have that 
good fame ; and truly, I am come of great and 
honourable lineage. And so that you and this 
fair damsel will conceal it, I will tell ye my 
descent." And when they swore to keep it 
secret, he told them, " My name is Sir Gareth of 
Orkney, my father was King Lot, and my mother 
the Lady Belisent, King Arthur's sister. Sir 
Gawain, Sir Agravain, and Sir Gaheris, are my 
brethren, and I am the youngest of them all. 
But, as yet King Arthur and the court know me 
not, who I am." When he had thus told them, 
they both wondered greatly. 

And the damsel Linet sent the dwarf forward 
to her sister, to tell her of their coming. Then 
did Dame Lyones inquire what manner of man 
the knight was who was coming to her rescue. 
And the dwarf told her of all Sir Beaumains 's deeds 
by the way : how he had overthrown Sir Key, 

178 The Legends of King Arthur 

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

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

But as they came near Sir Beaumains saw upon 
the branches of some trees which grew there, the 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 179 

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

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

180 The Legends of King Arthur 

castle looked out from the windows, or above the 
walls. And the Knight of the Redlands, arming 
himself quickly in blood-red armour, with spear, 
and shield, and horse's trappings of like colour, 
rode forth into a little valley by the castle walls, 
so that all in the castle, and at the siege, might 
see the battle. 

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

Then did they put their spears in rest, and came 
together at the fullest speed of their horses, and 
smote each other in the midst of their shields, so 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 181 

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

But when Sir Beaumains 's helm was off, he 
looked up to Dame Lyones, where she leaned, 
gazing and weeping, from her window. And when 
he saw the sweetness of her smiling, all his heart 
was light and joyful, and starting up, he bade the 
Knight of the Redlands make ready. Then did 


1 82 The Legends of King Arthur 

they lace their helms and fight together yet 
afresh, as though they had never fought before. 
And at the last, the Knight of the Redlands with 
a sudden stroke smote Sir Beaumains on the 
hand, so that his sword fell from it, and with a 
second stroke upon the helm he drove him to 
the earth. Then cried aloud the damsel Linet, 
" Alas ! Sir Beaumains, see how my sister weep- 
eth to behold thee fallen ! " And when Sir 
Beaumains heard her words, he sprang upon his 
feet with strength, and leaping to his sword, he 
caught it ; and with many heavy blows pressed 
so sorely on the Knight of the Redlands, that in 
the end he smote his sword from out his hand, 
and, with a mighty blow upon the head, hurled 
him upon the ground. 

Then Sir Beaumains unlaced his helm, and 
would have straightway slain him, but the 
Knight of the Redlands yielded, and prayed for 
mercy. " I may not spare thee," answered he, 
" because of the shameful death which thou hast 
given to so many noble knights." " Yet hold 
thy hand, Sir knight," said he, " and hear the 
cause. I loved once a fair damsel, whose brother 
was slain, as she told me, by a knight of Arthur's 
court, either Sir Lancelot, or Sir Gawain ; and 
she prayed me, as I truly loved her, and by the 
faith of my knighthood, to labour daily in deeds 
of arms, till I should meet with him ; and to put 
all knights of the Round Table whom I should 
overcome to a villainous death. And this I 
swore to her." Then prayed the earls, and 
knights, and barons, who stood round Sir Beau- 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 183 

mains, to spare the Red Knight's life. " Truly," 
replied he, " I am loth to slay him, notwithstand- 
ing he hath done such shameful deeds. And inas- 
much as what he did was done to please his lady 
and to gain her love, I blame him less, and for 
your sakes I will release him. But on this agree- 
ment only shall he hold his life — that straightway 
he depart into the castle, and yield him to the 
lady there, and make her such amends as she 
shall ask, for all the trespass he hath done upon 
her lands ; and afterwards, that he shall go unto 
King Arthur's court, and ask the pardon of Sir 
Lancelot and Sir Gawain for all the evil he hath 
done against them." " All this, Sir knight, I 
swear to do," said the Knight of the Redlands ; 
and therewith he did him homage and fealty. 

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

Then Sir Beaumains, being healed of his 
wounds, armed himself, and took his horse and 
spear and rode straight to the castle of Dame 
Lyones, for greatly he desired to see her. But 
when he came to the gate they closed it fast, and 
pulled the drawbridge up. And as he marvelled 
thereat, he saw the Lady Lyones, standing at a 
window, who said, " Go thy way as yet, Sir 
Beaumains, for thou shalt not wholly have my 
love until thou be among the worthiest knights 
of all the world. Go, therefore, and labour yet 
in arms for twelve months more, and then return 

184 The Legends of King Arthur 

to me." " Alas ! fair lady," said Sir Beaumains, 
" I have scarce deserved this of thee, for sure I am 
that I have bought thy love with all the best 
blood in my body." " Be not aggrieved, fair 
knight," said she, " for none of thy service is 
forgot or lost. Twelve months will soon be 
passed in noble deeds ; and trust that to my 
death I shall love thee and not another." With 
that she turned and left the window. 

So Sir Beaumains rode away from the castle 
very sorrowful at heart, and rode he knew not 
whither, and lay that night in a poor man's 
cottage. On the morrow he went forward, and 
came at noon to a broad lake, and thereby he 
alighted, being very sad and weary, and rested 
his head upon his shield, and told his dwarf to 
keep watch while he slept. 

Now, as soon as he had departed, the Lady 
Lyones repented, and greatly longed to see him 
back, and asked her sister many times of what 
lineage he was ; but the damsel would not tell 
her, being bound by her oath to Sir Beaumains, 
and said his dwarf best knew. So she called Sir 
Gringamors, her brother, who dwelt with her, 
and prayed him to ride after Sir Beaumains till 
he found him sleeping, and then to take his dwarf 
away and bring him back to her. Anon Sir 
Gringamors departed, and rode till he came to 
Sir Beaumains, and found him as he lay sleeping 
by the water-side. Then stepping stealthily 
behind the dwarf he caught him in his arms and 
rode off in haste. And though the dwarf cried 
loudly to his lord for help, and woke Sir Beau- 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 185 

mains, yet, though he rode full quickly after him, 
he could not overtake Sir Gringamors. 

When Dame Lyones saw her brother come back, 
she was passing glad of heart, and forthwith 
asked the dwarf his master's lineage. " He is a 
king's son," said the dwarf, " and his mother is 
King Arthur's sister. His name is Sir Gareth of 
Orkney, and he is brother to the good knight, Sir 
Gawain. But I pray you suffer me to go back to 
my lord, for truly he will never leave this country 
till he have me again." But when the Lady 
Lyones knew her deliverer was come of such a 
kingly stock, she longed more than ever to see 
him again. 

Now as Sir Beaumains rode in vain to rescue 
his dwarf, he came to a fair green road and met a 
poor man of the country, and asked him had he 
seen a knight on a black horse, riding with a 
dwarf of a sad countenance behind him. " Yea," 
said the man, " I met with such a knight an hour 
agone, and his name is Sir Gringamors. He 
liveth at a castle two miles from hence ; but he is 
a perilous knight, and I counsel ye not to follow 
him save ye bear him goodwill." Then Sir 
Beaumains followed the path which the poor man 
showed him, and came to the castle. And riding 
to the gate in great anger, he drew his sword, and 
cried aloud, " Sir Gringamors, thou traitor ! 
deliver me my dwarf again or by my knighthood 
it shall be ill for thee 1 " Then Sir Gringamors 
looked out of a window and said, " Sir Gareth 
of Orkney, leave thy boasting words, for thou 
wilt not get thy dwarf again." But the Lady 

186 The Legends of King Arthur 

Lyones said to her brother, " Nay, brother, but 
I will that he have his dwarf, for he hath done 
much for me, and delivered me from the Knight 
of the Redlands, and well do I love him above all 
other knights." So Sir Gringamors went down 
to Sir Gareth and cried him mercy, and prayed 
him to alight and take good cheer. 

Then he alighted, and his dwarf ran to him. 
And when he was in the hall came the Lady 
Lyones dressed royally like a princess. And Sir 
Gareth was right glad of heart when he saw her. 
Then she told him how she had made her brother 
take away his dwarf and bring him back to her. 
And then she promised him her love, and faith- 
fully to cleave to him and none other all the days 
of her life. And so they plighted their troth to 
each other. Then Sir Gringamors prayed him 
to sojourn at the castle, which willingly he did. 
" For," said he, " I have promised to quit the 
court for twelve months, though sure I am that 
in the meanwhile I shall be sought and found by 
my lord King Arthur and many others." So he 
sojourned long at the castle. 

Anon the knights, Sir Perseant, Sir Perimones, 
and Sir Pertolope, whom Sir Gareth had over- 
thrown, went to King Arthur's court with all the 
knights who did them service, and told the king 
they had been conquered by a knight of his 
named Beaumains. And as they yet were talk- 
ing, it was told the king there came another great 
lord with five hundred knights, who, entering in, 
did homage, and declared hinself to be the Knight 
of the Redlands. " But my true name," said he, 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 187 

" is Ironside, and I am hither sent by one Sir 
Beaumains, who conquered me, and charged me 
to yield unto your grace." " Thou art wel- 
come," said King Arthur, " for thou hast been 
long a foe to me and mine, and truly I am much 
beholden to the knight who sent thee. And 
now, Sir Ironside, if thou wilt amend thy life 
and hold of me, I will entreat thee as a friend, 
and make thee Knight of the Round Table ; but 
thou mayst no more be a murderer of noble 
knights." Then the Knight of the Redlands 
knelt to the king, and told him of his promise to 
Sir Beaumains to use never more such shameful 
customs ; and how he had so done but at the 
prayer of a lady whom he loved. Then knelt he 
to Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain, and prayed their 
pardon for the hatred he had borne them. 

But the king and all the court marvelled 
greatly who Sir Beaumains was. " For," said 
the king, " he is a full noble knight." Then said 
Sir Lancelot, " Truly he is come of honourable 
blood, else had I not given him the order of 
knighthood ; but he charged me that I should 
conceal his secret." 

Now as they talked thus it was told King 
Arthur that his sister, the Queen of Orkney, was 
come to the court with a great retinue of knights 
and ladies. Then was there great rejoicing, and 
the king rose and saluted his sister. And her 
sons, Sir Gawain, Sir Agravain, and Sir Gaheris 
knelt before her and asked her blessing, for during 
fifteen years last past they had not seen her. 
Anon she said, " Where is my youngest son, Sir 

1 88 The Legends of King Arthur 

Gareth ? For I know that he was here a twelve- 
month with you, and that ye made a kitchen 
knave of him." Then the king and all the knights 
knew that Sir Beaumains and Sir Gareth were the 
same. " Truly," said the king, " I knew him 
not." " Nor I," said Sir Gawain, and both his 
brothers. Then said the king, " God be thanked, 
fair sister, that he is proved as worshipful a 
knight as any now alive, and by the grace of 
Heaven he shall be found forthwith if he be any- 
where within these seven realms." Then said 
Sir Gawain and his brethren, " Lord, if ye will 
give us leave we will go seek him." But Sir 
Lancelot said, " It were better that the king 
should send a messenger to Dame Lyones and 
pray her to come hither with all speed, and she 
will counsel where ye shall find him." " It is 
well said," replied the king ; and sent a messen- 
ger quickly unto Dame Lyones. 

When she heard the message she promised she 
would come forthwith, and told Sir Gareth what 
the messenger had said, and asked him what to 
do. " I pray you," said he, " tell them not where 
I am, but when my lord King Arthur asketh for 
me, advise him thus — that he proclaim a tourna- 
ment before this castle on Assumption Day, and 
that the knight who proveth best shall win your- 
self and all your lands." So the Lady Lyones 
departed and came to King Arthur's court, and 
there was right nobly welcomed. And when 
they asked her where Sir Gareth was, she said she 
could not tell. " But, lord," said she, " with thy 
goodwill I will proclaim a tournament before my 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 189 

castle on the Feast of the Assumption, whereof 
the prize shall be myself and all my lands. Then 
if it be proclaimed that you, lord, and your 
knights will be there, I will find knights on my 
side to fight you and yours, and thus am I sure 
ye will hear tidings of Sir Gareth." " Be it so 
done," replied the king. 

So Sir Gareth sent messengers privily to Sir 
Perseant and Sir Ironside, and charged them to 
be ready on the day appointed, with their com- 
panies of knights to aid him and his party against 
the king. And when they were arrived he said, 
" Now be ye well assured that we shall be 
matched with the best knights of the world, and 
therefore must we gather all the good knights we 
can find." 

So proclamation was made throughout all 
England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Cornwall, 
and in the out isles and other countries, that at 
the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady, next 
coming, all knights who came to joust at Castle 
Perilous should make choice whether they would 
side with the king or with the castle. Then 
came many good knights on the side of the castle. 
Sir Epinogris, the son of the King of N orthumber- 
land, and Sir Palomedes the Saracen, and Sir 
Grummore Grummorsum, a good knight of 
Scotland, and Sir Brian des lies, a noble knight, 
and Sir Carados of the Tower Dolorous, and Sir 
Tristram, who as yet was not a knight of the 
Round Table, and many others. But none among 
them knew Sir Gareth, for he took no more upon 
him than any mean person. 

190 The Legends of King Arthur 

And on King Arthur's side there came the 
King of Ireland and the King of Scotland, 
the noble prince Sir Galahaut, Sir Gawain and 
his brothers Sir Agravain and Sir Gaheris, Sir 
Ewaine, Sir Tor, Sir Perceval, and Sir Lamoracke, 
Sir Lancelot also and his kindred, Sir Lionel, Sir 
Ector, Sir Bors and Sir Bedivere, likewise Sir 
Key and the most part of the Table Round. The 
two queens also, Queen Guinevere and the Queen 
of Orkney, Sir Gareth's mother, came with the 
king. So there was a great array both within 
and without the castle, with all manner of feast- 
ing and minstrelsy. 

Now before the tournament began, Sir Gareth 
privily prayed Dame Lyones, Sir Gringamors, 
Sir Ironside, and Sir Perseant, that they would in 
nowise disclose his name, nor make more of him 
than of any common knight. Then said Dame 
Lyones, " Dear lord, I pray thee take this ring, 
which hath the power to change the wearer's 
clothing into any colour he may will, and guard- 
eth him from any loss of blood. But give it me 
again, I pray thee, when the tournament is done, 
for it greatly increaseth my beauty whensoever 
I wear it." " Grammercy, mine own lady," 
said Sir Gareth, " I wished for nothing better, for 
now I may be certainly disguised as long as I 
will." Then Sir Gringamors gave Sir Gareth a 
bay courser that was a passing good horse, with 
sure armour, and a noble sword, won by his 
father from a heathen tyrant. And then every 
knight made him ready for the tournament. 

So on the day of the Assumption, when mass 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 191 

and matins were said, the heralds blew their 
trumpets and sounded for the tourney. Anon 
came out the knights of the castle and the knights 
of King Arthur, and matched themselves to- 

Then Sir Epinogris, son of the King of Northum- 
berland, a knight of the castle, encountered Sir 
Ewaine, and both broke off their spears short to 
their hands. Then came Sir Palomedes from the 
castle, and met Sir Gawain, and they so hardly 
smote each other, that both knights and horses 
fell to the earth. Then Sir Tristram, from the 
castle, encountered with Sir Bedivere, and smote 
him to the earth, horse and man. Then the 
Knight of the Redlands and Sir Gareth met with 
Sir Bors and Sir Bleoberis ; and the Knight of 
the Redlands and Sir Bors smote together so 
hard that their spears burst, and their horses 
fell grovelling to the ground. And Sir Bleoberis 
brake his spear upon Sir Gareth, but himself was 
hurled upon the ground. When Sir Galihodin 
saw that, he bade Sir Gareth keep him, but Sir 
Gareth lightly smote him to the earth. Then 
Sir Galihud got a spear to avenge his brother, 
but was served in like manner. And Sir Dina- 
dam, and his brother La-cote-male-taile, and Sir 
Sagramour le Desirous, and Dodinas le Savage, 
he bore down all with one spear. 

When King Anguish of Ireland saw this, he 
marvelled what that knight could be who seemed 
at one time green and at another blue ; for so at 
every course he changed his colour that none 
might know him. Then he ran towards him and 

192 The Legends of King Arthur 

encountered him, and Sir Gareth smote the king 
from his horse, saddle and all. And in like 
manner he served the King of Scotland, and 
King Urience of Gore, and King Bagdemagus. 

Then Sir Galahaut, the noble prince, cried out, 
" Knight of the many colours ! thou hast 
jousted well ; now make thee ready to joust with 
me." When Sir Gareth heard him, he took a 
great spear and met him swiftly. And the 
prince's spear broke off, but Sir Gareth smote 
him on the left side of the helm, so that he reeled 
here and there, and had fallen down had not his 
men recovered him. " By my faith," said King 
Arthur, " that knight of the many colours is a 
good knight. I pray thee, Sir Lancelot du Lake, 
encounter with him." " Lord," said Sir Lancelot, 
" by thy leave I will forbear. I find it in my 
heart to spare him at this time, for he hath done 
enough work for one day ; and when a good 
knight doth so well it is no knightly part to hinder 
him from this honour. And peradventure his 
quarrel is here to-day, and he may be the best 
beloved of the Lady Lyones of all that be here ; 
for I see well he paineth and forceth himself to 
do great deeds. Therefore, as for me, this day 
he shall have the honour ; for though I were able 
to put him from it, I would not." " You speak 
well and truly," said the king. 

Then after the tilting, they drew swords, and 
there began a great tournament, and there Sir 
Lancelot did marvellous deeds of arms, for first 
he fought with both Sir Tristram and Sir Carados, 
albeit they were the most perilous in all the world. 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 193 

Then came Sir Gareth and put them asunder, but 
would not smite a stroke against Sir Lancelot, 
for by him he had been knighted. Anon Sir 
Gareth 's helm had need of mending, and he rode 
aside to see to it and to drink water, for he was 
sore athirst with all his mighty feats of strength. 
And while he drank, his dwarf said to him, 
" Give me your ring, lest ye lose it while ye 
drink." So Sir Gareth took it off. And when 
he had finished drinking, he rode back eagerly 
to the field, and in his haste forgot to take the 
ring again. Then all the people saw that he 
wore yellow armour. And King Arthur told a 
herald, " Ride and espy the cognizance of that 
brave knight, for I have asked many who he is, 
and none can tell me." 

Then the herald rode near, and saw written 
round about his helmet in letters of gold, " Sir 
Gareth of Orkney." And instantly the herald cried 
his name aloud, and all men pressed to see him. 

But when he saw he was discovered, he pushed 
with haste through all the crowd, and cried to his 
dwarf, " Boy, thou hast beguiled me foully in 
keeping my ring ; give it me again, that I may 
be hidden." And as soon as he had put it on, 
his armour changed again, and no man knew 
where he had gone. Then he passed forth from 
the field ; but Sir Gawain, his brother, rode after 

And when Sir Gareth had ridden far into the 
forest, he took off his ring, and sent it back by 
the dwarf to the Lady Lyones, praying her to be 
true and faithful to him while he was away. 

194 The Legends of King Arthur 

Then rode Sir Gareth long through the forest, 
till night fell, and coming to a castle he went up 
to the gate, and prayed the porter to let him in. 
But churlishly he answered " that he should not 
lodge there." Then said Sir Gareth, " Tell thy 
lord and lady that I am a knight of King Arthur's 
court, and for his sake I pray their shelter." 
With that the porter went to the duchess who 
owned the castle. " Let him in straightway," 
cried she ; " for the king's sake he shall not be 
harbourless ! " and went down to receive him. 
When Sir Gareth saw her coming, he saluted her, 
and said, " Fair lady, I pray you give me shelter 
for this night, and if there be here any champion 
or giant with whom I must needs fight, spare me 
till to-morrow, when I and my horse shall have 
rested, for we are full weary." " Sir knight," she 
said, " thou speakest boldly ; for the lord of this 
castle is a foe to King Arthur and his court, and 
if thou wilt rest here to-night thou must agree, 
that wheresoever thou mayest meet my lord, 
thou must yield to him a prisoner." " What is 
thy lord's name, lady ? " said Sir Gareth. " The 
Duke de la Rowse," said she. " I will promise 
thee," said he, " to yield to him, if he promise to 
do me no harm ; but if he refuse, I will release 
myself with my sword and spear." 

" It is well," said the duchess ; and com- 
manded the drawbridge to be let down. So he 
rode into the hall and alighted. And when he 
had taken off his armour, the duchess and her 
ladies made him passing good cheer. And after 
supper his bed was made in the hall, and there he 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 195 

rested that night. On the morrow he rose and 
heard mass, and having broken his fast, took his 
leave and departed. 

And as he rode past a certain mountain there 
met him a knight named Sir Bendelaine, and 
cried unto him, " Thou shalt not pass unless thou 
joust with me or be my prisoner ! " " Then will 
we joust," replied Sir Gareth. So they let their 
horses run at full speed, and Sir Gareth smote Sir 
Bendelaine through his body so sorely that he 
scarcely reached his castle ere he fell dead. And 
as Sir Gareth presently came by the castle, Sir 
Bendelaine's knights and servants rode out to 
revenge their lord. And twenty of them fell on 
him at once, although his spear was broken. 
But drawing his sword he put his shield before 
him. And though they break their spears upon 
him, one and all, and sorely pressed on him, yet 
ever he defended himself like a noble knight. 
Anon, finding they could not overcome him, 
they agreed to slay his horse ; and having killed 
it with their spears, they set upon Sir Gareth as 
he fought on foot. But every one he struck he 
slew, and drave at them with fearful blows, till 
he had slain them all but four, who fled. Then 
taking the horse of one of those that lay there 
dead, he rode upon his way. 

Anon he came to another castle and heard from 
within a sound as of many women moaning and 
weeping, Then said he to a page who stood 
without, " What noise is this I hear ? " " Sir 
knight," said he, " there be within thirty ladies, 
the widows of thirty knights who have been slain 

196 The Legends of King Arthur 

by the lord of this castle. He is called the Brown 
Knight without pity, and is the most perilous 
knight living, wherefore I warn thee to flee." 
" That will I never do," said Sir Gareth, " for I 
fear him not." Then the page saw the Brown 
Knight coming and said to Gareth, " Lo ! my 
lord is near." 

So both knights made them ready and galloped 
their horses towards each other, and the Brown 
Knight brake his spear upon Sir Gareth 's shield ; 
but Sir Gareth smote him through the body so 
that he fell dead. At that he rode into the castle 
and told the ladies he had slain their foe. Then 
were they right glad of heart and made him all 
the cheer they could, and thanked him out of 
measure. But on the morrow as he went to 
mass he found the ladies weeping in the chapel 
upon divers tombs that were there. And he 
knew that in those tombs their husbands lay. 
Then he bade them be comforted, and with noble 
and high words he desired and prayed them all 
to be at Arthur's court on the next Feast of 

So he departed and rode past a mountain 
where was a goodly knight waiting, who said to 
him, " Abide, Sir knight, and joust with me ! " 
" How are ye named ? " said Sir Gareth. " I 
am the Duke de la Rowse," answered he. " In 
good sooth," then said Sir Gareth, " not long ago 
I lodged within your castle, and there promised 
I would yield to you whenever we might meet." 
" Art thou that proud knight," said the duke, 
" who was ready to fight with me ? Guard thy- 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 197 

self therefore and make ready." So they ran 
together, and Sir Gareth smote the duke from 
his horse. Then they alighted and drew their 
swords, and fought full sorely for the space of 
an hour ; and at the last Sir Gareth smote the 
duke to the earth and would have slain him, but 
he yielded. " Then must ye go," said Sir Gareth, 
" to my lord King Arthur at the next Feast of 
Pentecost and say that I, Sir Gareth, sent ye." 
" As ye will, be it," said the duke ; and gave 
him up his shield for pledge. 

And as Sir Gareth rode alone he saw an armed 
knight coming towards him. And putting the 
duke's shield before him he rode fast to tilt with 
him ; and so they ran together as it had been 
thunder, and brake their spears upon each other. 
Then fought they fiercely with their swords, and 
lashed together with such mighty strokes that 
blood ran to the ground on every side. And 
after they had fought together for two hours or 
more, it chanced the damsel Linet passed that 
way ; and when she saw them, she cried out, 
" Sir Gawain and Sir Gareth, leave your fighting, 
for ye are brethren ! " At that they threw away 
their shields and swords, and took each other in 
their arms, and wept a great while ere they could 
speak. And each gave to the other the honour 
of the battle, and there was many a kind word 
between them. Then said Sir Gawain, " O my 
brother, for your sake have I had great sorrow 
and labour 1 But truly I would honour you 
though ye were not my brother, for ye have done 
great worship to King Arthur and his court, and 


198 The Legends of King Arthur 

sent more knights to him than any of the Table 
Round, except Sir Lancelot." 

Then the damsel Linet staunched their wounds, 
and their horses being weary she rode her palfrey 
to King Arthur and told him of this strange 
adventure. When she had told her tidings, the 
king himself mounted his horse and bade all 
come with him to meet them. So a great com- 
pany of lords and ladies went forth to meet the 
brothers. And when King Arthur saw them he 
would have spoken hearty words, but for gladness 
he could not. And both Sir Gawain and Sir 
Gareth fell down at their uncle's knees and did 
him homage, and there was passing great joy and 
gladness among them all. 

Then said the king to the damsel Linet, " Why 
cometh not the Lady Lyones to visit her knight, 
Sir Gareth, who hath had such travail for her 
love ? " " She knoweth not, my lord, that he is 
here," replied the damsel, " for truly she desireth 
greatly to see him." " Go ye and bring her 
hither," said the king. So the damsel rode to 
tell her sister where Sir Gareth was, and when she 
heard it she rejoiced full heartily and came with 
all the speed she could. And when Sir Gareth 
saw her, there was great joy and comfort between 

Then the king asked Sir Gareth whether he 
would have that lady for his wife ? " My lord," 
replied Sir Gareth, " know well that I love her 
above all ladies living." " Now, fair lady," said 
King Arthur, "what say ye?" "Most noble 
king," she answered, " my lord, Sir Gareth, is my 

The Adventures of Sir Gareth 199 

first love and shall be my last, and if I may not 
have him for my husband I will have none." 
Then said the king to them, " Be well assured that 
for my crown I would not be the cause of parting 
your two hearts." 

Then was high preparation made for the mar- 
riage, for the king desired it should be at the 
Michaelmas next following, at Kinkenadon-by- 

So Sir Gareth sent out messages to all the 
knights whom he had overcome in battle that 
they should be there upon his marriage-day. 

Therefore, at the next Michaelmas, came a 
goodly company to Kinkenadon-by-the-Sea. And 
there did the Archbishop of Canterbury marry 
Sir Gareth and the Lady Lyones with all solem- 
nity. And all the knights whom Sir Gareth had 
overcome were at the feast ; and every manner 
of revels and games was held with music and 
minstrelsy. And there was a great jousting for 
three days. But because of his bride the king 
would not suffer Sir Gareth to joust. Then did 
King Arthur give great lands and fair, with store 
of gold, to Sir Gareth and his wife, that so they 
might live royally together to their lives' end. 


The Adventures of Sir Tristram of Lyonesse 

AGAIN King Arthur held high festival at 
Caerleon, at Pentecost, and gathered 
round him all the fellowship of the Round 
Table, and so, according to his custom, sat and 
waited till some adventure should rise, or some 
knight return to court whose deeds and perils 
might be told. 

Anon he saw Sir Lancelot and a crowd of 
knights coming through the doors and leading in 
their midst the mighty knight, Sir Tristram. As 
soon as King Arthur saw him, he rose up and 
went through half the hall, and held out both his 
hands and cried, " Right welcome to thee, good 
Sir Tristram, as welcome art thou as any knight 
that ever came before into this court. A long 
time have I wished for thee amongst my fellow- 
ship." Then all the knights and barons rose up 
with one accord and came around, and cried out, 
" Welcome." Queen Guinevere came also, and 
many ladies with her, and all with one voice said 
the same. 

Then the king took Sir Tristram by the hand 
and led him to the Round Table and said, " Wel- 
come again for one of the best and gentlest knights 
in all the world ; a chief in war, a chief in peace, 


Birth of Tristram 20 1 

a chief in field and forest, a chief in the ladies' 
chamber — right heartily welcome to this court, 
and mayest thou long abide in it." 

When he had so said he looked at every empty 
seat until he came to what had been Sir Marhaus's, 
and there he found written in gold letters, " This 
is the seat of the noble knight, Sir Tristram." 
Whereat they made him, with great cheer and 
gladness, a Fellow of the Round Table. 
(Now the story of Sir Tristram was as follows : — ' 

There was a king of Lyonesse, named Meliodas, 
married to the sister of King Mark of Cornwall, a 
right fair lady and a good. And so it happened 
that King Meliodas hunting in the woods was 
taken by enchantment and made prisoner in a 
castle. When his wife Elizabeth heard it she was 
nigh mad with grief, and ran into the forest to 
seek out her lord. But after many days of wan- 
dering and sorrow she found no trace of him, and 
laid her down in a deep valley and prayed to meet 
her death. And so indeed she did, but ere she 
died she gave birth in the midst of all her sorrow 
to a child, a boy, and called him with her latest 
breath Tristram ; for she said, " His name shall 
show how sadly he hath come into this world." 

Therewith she gave up her ghost, and the 
gentlewoman who was with her took the child and 
wrapped it from the cold as well as she was able, 
and lay down with it in her arms beneath the 
shadow of a tree hard by, expecting death to 
come to her in turn. 

But shortly after came a company of lords and 
barons seeking for the queen, and found the lady 

202 The Legends of King Arthur 

and the child and took them home. And on the 
next day came King Meliodas, whom Merlin had 
delivered, and when he heard of the queen's death 
his sorrow was greater than tongue can tell. And 
anon he buried her solemnly and nobly, and called 
the child Tristram as she had desired. 

Then for seven years King Meliodas mourned 
and took no comfort, and all that time young 
Tristram was well nourished ; but in a while he 
wedded with the daughter of Howell, King of 
Brittany, who, that her own children might enjoy 
the kingdom, cast about in her mind how she 
might destroy Tristram. So on a certain day 
she put poison in a silver cup, where Tristram and 
her children were together playing, that when he 
was athirst he might drink of it and die. But so 
it happened that her own son saw the cup, and, 
thinking it must hold good drink, he climbed and 
took it, and drank deeply of it, and suddenly 
thereafter burst and fell down dead. 

When the queen heard that, her grief was very 
great, but her anger and envy were fiercer than 
before, and soon again she put more poison in the 
cup. And by chance one day her husband find- 
ing it when thirsty, took it up and was about to 
drink therefrom, when, seeing him, she sprang 
up with a mighty cry and dashed it from his 

At that King Meliodas, wondering greatly, 
called to mind the sudden death of his young 
child, and taking her fiercely by the hand he 
cried : 

" Traitress, tell me what drink is in this cup or 

Tristram's Stepmother 203 

I will slay thee in a moment ; " and therewith 
pulling out his sword he swore by a great oath to 
slay her if she straightway told him not the truth. 

" Ah, mercy, lord," said she, and fell down at 
his feet ; " mercy, and I will tell thee all." 

And then she told him of her plot to murder 
Tristram, that her own sons might enjoy the 

" The law shall judge thee," said the king. 

And so anon she was tried before the barons, 
and condemned to be burnt to death. 

But when the fire was made, and she brought 
out, came Tristram kneeling at his father's feet 
and besought of him a favour. 

" Whatsoever thou desirest I will give thee," 
said the king. 

" Give me the life, then, of the queen, my step- 
mother," said he. 

" Thou doest wrong to ask it," said Meliodas ; 
" for she would have slain thee with her poisons 
if she could, and chiefly for thy sake she ought to 

" Sir," said he, " as for that, I beseech thee of 
thy mercy to forgive it her, and for my part may 
God pardon her as I do ; and so I pray thee grant 
me my boon, and for God's sake hold thee to thy 

" If it must be so," said the king, " take thou 
her life, for to thee I give it, and go and do with 
her as thou wilt." 

Then went young Tristram to the fire and 
loosed the queen from all her bonds and delivered 
her from death. 

204 The Legends of King Arthur 

And after a great while by his good means the 
king again forgave and lived in peace with her, 
though never more in the same lodgings. 

Anon was Tristram sent abroad to France in 
care of one named Governale. And there for 
seven years he learned the language of the land, 
and all knightly exercises and gentle crafts, and 
especially was he foremost in music and in hunt- 
ing, and was a harper beyond all others. And 
when at nineteen years of age he came back to 
his father, he was as lusty and strong of body and 
as noble of heart as ever man was seen. 

Now shortly after his return it befell that King 
Anguish of Ireland sent to King Mark of Cornwall 
for the tribute due to Ireland, but which was now 
seven years behindhand. To whom King Mark 
sent answer, if he would have it he must send and 
fight for it, and they would find a champion to 
fight against it. 

So King Anguish called for Sir Marhaus, his 
wife's brother, a good knight of the Round Table, 
who lived then at his court, and sent him with a 
knightly retinue in six great ships to Cornwall. 
And, casting anchor by the castle of Tintagil, 
he sent up daily to King Mark for the tribute or 
the champion. But no knight there would 
venture to assail him, for his fame was very high 
in all the realm for strength and hardihood. 

Then made King Mark a proclamation through- 
out Cornwall, that if any knight would fight Sir 
Marhaus he should stand at the king's right hand 
for evermore, and have great honour and riches 
all the rest of his days. Anon this news came to 

Tristram Knighted 205 

the land of Lyonesse, and when young Tristram 
heard it he was angry and ashamed to think no 
knight of Cornwall durst assail the Irish cham- 
pion. " Alas," said he, " that I am not a knight, 
that I might match this Marhaus ! I pray you 
give me leave, sir, to depart to King Mark's court 
and beg him of his grace to make me knight." 

" Be ruled by thy own courage," said his father. 

So Tristram rode away forthwith to Tintagil to 
King Mark, and went up boldly to him and said, 
" Sir, give me the order of knighthood, and I will 
fight to the uttermost with Sir Marhaus of Ire- 

" What are ye, and whence come ye ? " said 
the king, seeing he was but a young man, though 
strong and well made both in body and limb. 

" My name is Tristram," said he, " and I was 
born in the country of Lyonesse." 

" But know ye," said the king, " this Irish 
knight will fight with none who be not come of 
royal blood and near of kin to kings or queens, as 
he himself is, for his sister is the Queen of Ireland." 

Then said Tristram, " Let him know that I am 
come both on my father's and my mother's side 
of blood as good as his, for my father is King 
Meliodas and my mother was that Queen Eliza- 
beth, thy sister, who died in the forest at my 

When King Mark heard that he welcomed him 
with all his heart, and knighted him forthwith, 
and made him ready to go forth as soon as he 
would choose, and armed him royally in armour 
covered with gold and silver. 

206 The Legends of King Arthur 

Then he sent Sir Marhaus word, " That a better 
man than he should fight with him, Sir Tristram 
of Lyonesse, son of King Meliodas and of King 
Mark's own sister." So the battle was ordained 
to be fought in an island near Sir Marhaus's ships, 
and there Sir Tristram landed on the morrow, 
with Governale alone attending him for squire, 
and him he sent back to the land when he had 
made himself ready. 

When Sir Marhaus and Sir Tristram were thus 
left alone, Sir Marhaus said, " Young knight Sir 
Tristram, what doest thou here ? I am full sorry 
for thy rashness, for ofttimes have I been assailed 
in vain, and by the best knights of the world. 
Be warned in time, return to them that sent thee." 

" Fair knight, and well-proved knight," replied 
Sir Tristram, " be sure that I shall never quit 
this quarrel till one of us be overcome. For this 
cause have I been made knight, and thou shalt 
know before we part that though as yet unproved, 
I am a king's son and first-born of a queen. 
Moreover I have promised to deliver Cornwall 
from this ancient burden, or to die. Also, thou 
shouldst have known, Sir Marhaus, that thy 
valour and thy might are but the better reasons 
why I should assail thee ; for whether I win or 
lose I shall gain honour to have met so great a 
knight as thou art." 

Then they began the battle, and tilted at their 
hardest against each other, so that both knights 
and horses fell to the earth. But Sir Marhaus's 
spear smote Sir Tristram a great wound in the 
side. Then, springing up from their horses, they 

Sir Tristram and Sir Marhaus 207 

lashed together with their swords like two wild 
boars. And when they had stricken together 
a great while they left off strokes and lunged at 
one another's breasts and visors ; but seeing this 
availed not they hurtled together again to bear 
each other down. 

Thus fought they more than half the day, till 
both were sorely spent and blood ran from them 
to the ground on every side. But by this time 
Sir Tristram remained fresher than Sir Marhaus 
and better winded, and with a mighty stroke he 
smote him such a buffet as cut through his helm 
into his brain-pan, and there his sword stuck in 
so fast that thrice Sir Tristram pulled ere he could 
get it from his head. Then fell Sir Marhaus down 
upon his knees, and the edge of Sir Tristram's 
sword broke off into his brain-pan. And sudden- 
ly when he seemed dead, Sir Marhaus rose and 
threw his sword and shield away from him and 
ran and fled into his ship. And Tristram cried 
out after him, " Aha ! Sir knight of the Round 
Table, dost thou withdraw thee from so young a 
knight ? It is a shame to thee and all thy kin ; I 
would rather have been hewn into a hundred 
pieces than have fled from thee." 

But Sir Marhaus answered nothing, and sorely 
groaning fled away. 

" Farewell, Sir knight, farewell," laughed Tris- 
tram, whose own voice now was hoarse and faint 
with loss of blood ; " I have thy sword and shield 
in my safe keeping, and will wear them in all 
places where I ride on my adventures, and before 
King Arthur and the Table Round." 

208 The Legends of King Arthur 

Then was Sir Marhaus taken back to Ireland by 
his company ; and as soon as he arrived his 
wounds were searched, and when they searched 
his head they found therein a piece of Tristram's 
sword ; but all the skill of surgeons was in vain 
to move it out. So anon Sir Marhaus died. 

But the queen, his sister, took the piece of 
sword-blade, and put it safely by, for she thought 
that some day it might help her to revenge her 
brother's death. 

Meanwhile, Sir Tristram, being sorely wounded, 
sat down softly on a little mound and bled passing 
fast ; and in that evil case was found anon by 
Governale and King Mark's knights. Then they 
gently took him up and brought him in a barge 
back to the land, and lifted him into a bed within 
the castle, and had his wounds dressed carefully. 

But for a great while he lay sorely sick, and was 
likely to have died of the first stroke Sir Marhaus 
had given him with the spear, for the point of it 
was poisoned. And, though the wisest surgeons 
and leeches — both men and women — came from 
every part, yet could he be by no means cured. 
At last came a wise lady, and said plainly that 
Sir Tristram never should be healed, until he 
went and stayed in that same country whence the 
poison came. When this was understood, the 
king sent Sir Tristram in a fair and goodly ship 
to Ireland, and by fortune he arrived fast by a 
castle where the king and queen were. And as 
the ship was being anchored, he sat upon his bed 
and harped a merry lay, and made so sweet a 
music as was never equalled. 

Sir Palomedes and La Belle Isault 209 

When the king heard that the sweet harper was 
a wounded knight, he sent for him, and asked his 
name. " I am of the country of Lyonesse," he 
answered, " and my name is Tramtrist ; " for he 
dared not tell his true name lest the vengeance of 
the queen should fall upon him for her brother's 

" Well," said King Anguish, " thou art right 
welcome here and shalt have all the help this land 
can give thee ; but be not anxious if I am at 
times cast down and sad, for but lately in Corn- 
wall the best knight in the world, fighting for my 
cause, was slain ; his name was Sir Marhaus, a 
knight of King Arthur's Round Table." And 
then he told Sir Tristram all the story of Sir Mar- 
haus 's battle, and Sir Tristram made pretence of 
great surprise and sorrow, though he knew all far 
better than the king himself. 

Then was he put in charge of the king's 
daughter, La Belle Isault, to be healed of his 
wound, and she was as fair and noble a lady as 
men's eyes might see. And so marvellously was 
she skilled in medicine, that in a few days she 
fully cured him ; and in return Sir Tristram 
taught her the harp ; so, before long, they two 
began to love each other greatly. 

But at that time a heathen knight, Sir Palo- 
medes, was in Ireland, and much cherished by the 
king and queen. He also loved mightily La 
Belle Isault, and never wearied of making her 
great gifts, and seeking for her favour, and was 
ready even to be christened for her sake. Sir 
Tristram therefore hated him out of measure, and 

210 The Legends of King Arthur 

Sir Palomedes was full of rage and envy against 

And so it befell that King Anguish proclaimed 
a great tournament to be held, the prize whereof 
should be a lady called the Lady of the Launds, 
of near kindred to the king : and her the winner 
of the tournament should wed in three days after- 
wards, and possess all her lands. When La Belle 
Isault told Sir Tristram of this tournament, he 
said, " Fair lady ! I am yet a feeble knight, and 
but for thee had been a dead man now : what 
wouldest thou I should do ? Thou knowest well 
I may not joust." 

" Ah, Tramtrist," said she, " why wilt thou not 
fight in this tournament ? Sir Palomedes will be 
there, and will do his mightiest ; and therefore 
be thou there, I pray thee, or else he will be winner 
of the prize." 

" Madam," said Tristram, " I will go, and for 
thy sake will do my best ; but let me go unknown 
to all men ; and do thou, I pray thee, keep my 
counsel, and help me to a disguise." 

So on the day of jousting came Sir Palomedes, 
with a black shield, and overthrew many knights. 
And all the people wondered at his prowess ; for 
on the first day he put to the worse Sir Gawain, 
Sir Gaheris, Sir Agravaine, Sir Key, and many 
more from far and near. And on the morrow he 
was conqueror again, and overthrew the king 
with a hundred knights and the King of Scotland. 
But presently Sir Tristram rode up to the lists, 
having been let out at a privy postern of the 
castle, where none could see. La Belle Isault had 

Sir Palomedes and La Belle Isault 211 

dressed him in white armour and given him a 
white horse and shield, and so he came suddenly 
into the field as it had been a bright angel. 

As soon as Sir Palomedes saw him he ran at 
him with a great spear in rest, but Sir Tristram 
was ready, and at the first encounter hurled him 
to the ground. Then there arose a great cry that 
the knight with the black shield was overthrown. 
And Palomedes, sorely hurt and shamed, sought 
out a secret way and would have left the field ; 
but Tristram watched him, and rode after him, 
and bade him stay, for he had not yet done with 
him. Then did Sir Palomedes turn with fury, 
and lash at Sir Tristram with his sword ; but at 
the first stroke Sir Tristram smote him to the 
earth, and cried, " Do now all my commands, or 
take thy death." Then he yielded to Sir Tris- 
tram's mercy, and promised to forsake La Belle 
Isault, and for twelve months to wear no arms or 
armour. And rising up, he cut his armour off 
him into shreds with rage and madness, and 
turned and left the field : and Sir Tristram also 
left the lists, and rode back to the castle through 
the postern gate. 

Then was Sir Tristram long cherished by the 
King and Queen of Ireland, and ever with La 
Belle Isault. But on a certain day, while he was 
bathing, came the queen with La Belle Isault by 
chance into his chamber, and saw his sword lie 
naked on the bed : anon she drew it from the 
scabbard and looked at it a long while, and both 
thought it a passing fair sword ; but within a foot 
and a half of the end there was a great piece 

212 The Legends of King Arthur 

broken out, and while the queen was looking at 
the gap, she suddenly remembered the piece 
of sword-blade that was found in the brain-pan 
of her brother Sir Marhaus. 

Therewith she turned and cried, " By my faith, 
this is the felon knight who slew thy uncle ! " 
And running to her chamber she sought in her 
casket for the piece of iron from Sir Marhaus 's 
head and brought it back, and fitted it in Tris- 
tram's sword ; and surely did it fit therein as 
closely as it had been but yesterday broke out. 

Then the queen caught the sword up fiercely in 
her hand, and ran into the room where Sir Tris- 
tram was yet in his bath, and making straight 
for him, had run him through the body, had not 
his squire, Sir Hebes, got her in his arms, and 
pulled the sword away from her. 

Then ran she to the king, and fell upon her 
knees before him, saying, " Lord and husband, 
thou hast here in thy house that felon knight who 
slew my brother Marhaus ! " 

" Who is it ? " said the king. 

" It is Sir Tramtrist," said she, " whom Isault 
hath healed." 

" Alas ! " replied the king, " I am full grieved 
thereat, for he is a good knight as ever I have 
seen in any field ; but I charge thee leave thou 
him, and let me deal with him." 

Then the king went to Sir Tristram's chamber 
and found him all armed and ready to mount his 
horse, and said to him, " Sir Tramtrist, it is not 
to prove me against thee I come, for it were 
shameful of thy host to seek thy life. Depart in 

Sir Tristram tells his Name 213 

peace, but tell me first thy name, and whether 
thou slewest my brother, Sir Marhaus." 

Then Sir Tristram told him all the truth, and 
how he had hid his name, to be unknown in 
Ireland ; and when he had ended, the king 
declared he held him in no blame. " Howbeit, I 
cannot for mine honour's sake retain thee at this 
court, for so I should displease my barons, and 
my wife, and all her kin." 

" Sir," said Sir Tristram, " I thank thee for the 
goodness thou hast shown me here, and for the 
great goodness my lady, thy daughter, hath 
shown me ; and it may chance to be more for thy 
advantage if I live than if I die ; for wheresoever 
I may be, I shall ever seek thy service, and shall 
be my lady thy daughter's servant in all places, 
and her knight in right and wrong, and shall 
never fail to do for her as much as knight can do." 

Then Sir Tristram went to La Belle Isault, and 
took his leave of her. " O gentle knight," said 
she, " full of grief am I at your departing, for 
never yet I saw a man to love so well." 

" Madam," said he, " I promise faithfully that 
all my life I shall be your knight." 

Then Sir Tristram gave her a ring, and she 
gave him another, and after that he left her, 
weeping and lamenting, and went among the 
barons, and openly took his leave of them all, 
saying, " Fair lords, it so befalleth that I now must 
depart hence ; therefore, if there be any here 
whom I have offended or who is grieved with me, 
let him now say it, and before I go I will amend 
it to the utmost of my power. And if there be 


214 The Legends of King Arthur 

but one who would speak shame of me behind my 
back, let him say it now or never, and here is my 
body to prove it on — body against body." 

And all stood still and said no word, though 
some there were of the queen's kindred who would 
have assailed him had they dared. 

So Sir Tristram departed from Ireland and took 
the sea and came with a fair wind to Tintagil. 
And when the news came to King Mark that Sir 
Tristram was returned, healed of his wound, he 
was passing glad, and so were all his barons. And 
when he had visited the king his uncle, he rode to 
his father King Meliodas, and there had all the 
heartiest welcome that could be made him. And 
both the king and queen gave largely to him of 
their lands and goods. 

Anon he came again to King Mark's court, and 
there lived in great joy and pleasure, till within 
a while the king grew jealous of his fame, and of 
the love and favour shown him by all damsels. 
And as long as King Mark lived, he never after 
loved Sir Tristram, though there was much fair 
speech between them. 

Then it befell upon a certain day that the good 
knight Sir Bleoberis de Ganis, brother to Sir 
Blamor de Ganis, and nigh cousin to Sir Lancelot 
of the Lake, came to King Mark's court and asked 
of him a favour. And though the king marvelled, 
seeing he was a man of great renown, and a knight 
of the Round Table, he granted him all his asking. 
Then said Sir Bleoberis, " I will have the fairest 
lady in your court, at my own choosing." 

" I may not say thee nay," replied the king ; 

Sir Bleoberis de Ganis 215 

" choose therefore, but take all the issues of thy 

So when he had looked around, he chose the 
wife of Earl Segwarides, and took her by the hand, 
and set her upon horseback behind his squire, and 
rode forth on his way. 

Presently thereafter came in the earl, and rode 
out straightway after him in rage. But all the 
ladies cried out shame upon Sir Tristram that he 
had not gone, and one rebuked him foully and 
called him coward knight, that he would stand 
and see a lady forced away from his uncle's 
court. But Sir Tristram answered her, " Fair 
lady, it is not my place to take part in this 
quarrel while her lord and husband is here to do 
it. Had he not been at this court, peradventure 
I had been her champion. And if it so befall 
that he speed ill, then may it happen that I 
speak with that foul knight before he pass out of 
this realm." 

Anon ran in one of Sir Segwarides 's squires, and 
told that his master was sore wounded, and at 
the point of death. When Sir Tristram heard 
that, he was soon armed and on his horse, and 
Governale, his servant, followed him with shield 
and spear. 

And as he rode, he met his cousin Sir Andret, 
who had been commanded by King Mark to bring 
home to him two knights of King Arthur's court 
who roamed the country thereabouts seeking 

" What tidings ? " said Sir Tristram. 

" God help me, never worse," replied his 

216 The Legends of King Arthur 

cousin ; "for those I went to bring have beaten 
and defeated me, and set my message at naught." 

" Fair cousin," said Sir Tristram, " ride ye on 
your way, perchance if I should meet them ye may 
be revenged." 

So Sir Andret rode into Cornwall, but Sir 
Tristram rode after the two knights who had 
misused him, namely, Sir Sagramour le Desirous, 
and Sir Dodinas le Savage. And before long he 
saw them but a little way before him. 

11 Sir," said Governale, " by my advice thou 
wilt leave them alone, for they be two well- 
proved knights of Arthur's court." 

" Shall I not therefore rather meet them ? " 
said Sir Tristram, and, riding swiftly after them, 
he called to them to stop, and asked them whence 
they came, and whither they were going, and 
what they were doing in those marches. 

Sir Sagramour looked haughtily at Sir Tristram, 
and made mocking at his words, and said, " Fair 
knight, be ye a knight of Cornwall ? " 

" Wherefore askest thou that ? " said Tristram. 

" Truly, because it is full seldom seen," replied 
Sir Sagramour, " that Cornish knights are valiant 
with their arms as with their tongues. It is but 
two hours since there met us such a Cornish 
knight, who spoke great words with might and 
prowess, but anon, with little mastery, he 
was laid on earth, as I trow wilt thou be also." 

" Fair lords," said Sir Tristram, " it may chance 
I be a better man than he ; but, be that as it 
may, he was my cousin, and for his sake I will 
assail ye both ; one Cornish knight against ye two." 

Sir Tristram's Quest 217 

When Sir Dodinas le Savage heard this speech, 
he caught at his spear and said, " Sir knight, keep 
well thyself ; " and then they parted and came 
together as it had been thunder, and Sir Dodinas 's 
spear split asunder ; but Sir Tristram smote him 
with so full a stroke as hurled him over his horse's 
crupper, and nearly brake his neck. Sir Sagra- 
mour, seeing his fellow's fall, marvelled who this 
new knight might be, and dressed his spear, and 
came against Sir Tristram as a whirlwind ; but 
Sir Tristram smote him a mighty buffet, and 
rolled him with his horse down on the ground ; 
and in the falling he brake his thigh. 

Then, looking at them both as they lay grovel- 
ling on the grass, Sir Tristram said, " Fair 
knights, will ye joust any more ? Are there no 
bigger knights in King Arthur's court ? Will ye 
soon again speak shame of Cornish knights ? " 

" Thou hast defeated us, in truth," replied Sir 
Sagramour, " and on the faith of knighthood I 
require thee tell us thy right name." 

" Ye charge me by a great thing," said Sir 
Tristram, " and I will answer ye." 

And when they heard his name the two knights 
were right glad that they had met Sir Tristram, 
for his deeds were known through all the land, 
and they prayed him to abide in their company. 

" Nay," said he, " I must find a fellow-knight 
of yours, Sir Bleoberis de Ganis, whom I seek." 

" God speed you well," said the two knights ; 
and Sir Tristram rode away. 

Soon he saw before him in a valley Sir Bleoberis 
with Sir Segwarides's wife riding behind his squire 

218 The Legends of King Arthur 

upon a palfrey. At that he cried out aloud, 
" Abide, Sir knight of King Arthur's court, bring 
back again that lady or deliver her to me." 

" I will not," said Bleoberis, "for I dread no 
Cornish knight." 

" Why," said Sir Tristram, " may not a Cor- 
nish knight do well as any other ? This day, but 
three miles back, two knights of thy own court 
met me, and found one Cornish knight enough for 
both before we parted." 

" What were their names ? " said Sir Bleoberis. 

" Sir Sagramour le Desirous and Sir Dodinas 
le Savage," said Sir Tristram. 

" Ah," said Sir Bleoberis, amazed ; " hast thou 
then met with them ? By my faith, they were 
two good knights and men of worship, and if thou 
hast beat both thou must needs be a good knight ; 
but for all that thou shalt beat me also ere thou 
hast this lady." 

" Defend thee, then," cried out Sir Tristram, 
and came upon him swiftly with his spear in rest. 
But Sir Bleoberis was as swift as he, and each 
bore down the other, horse and all, on to the 

Then they sprang clear of their horses, and 
lashed together full eagerly and mightily with 
their swords, tracing and traversing on the right 
hand and on the left more than two hours, and 
sometimes rushing together with such fury that 
they both lay grovelling on the ground. At last 
Sir Bleoberis started back and said, " Now, gentle 
knight, hold hard awhile, and let us speak 

Sir Tristram and Sir Bleoberis 219 

" Say on," said Sir Tristram, " and I will 
answer thee." 

" Sir," said Sir Bleoberis, " I would know thy 
name, and court, and country." 

" I have no shame to tell them," said Sir Tris- 
tram. " I am King Meliodas's son, and my 
mother was sister to King Mark, from whose court 
I now come. My name is Sir Tristram de 

" Truly," said Sir Bleoberis, " I am right glad 
to hear it, for thou art he that slew Sir Marhaus 
hand-to-hand, fighting for the Cornish tribute ; 
and overcame Sir Palomedes at the great Irish 
tournament, where also thou didst overthrow Sir 
Gawain and his nine companions." 

" I am that knight," said Sir Tristram, " and 
now I pray thee tell me thy name." 

" I am Sir Bleoberis de Ganis, cousin of Sir 
Lancelot of the Lake, one of the best knights in 
all the world," he answered. 

" Thou say est truth," said Sir Tristram ; " for 
Sir Lancelot, as all men know, is peerless in 
courtesy and knighthood, and for the great love 
I bear to his name I will not willingly fight more 
with thee his kinsman." 

" In good faith, sir," said Sir Bleoberis, " I am 
as loth to fight thee more ; but since thou hast 
followed me to win this lady, I proffer thee kind- 
ness, courtesy, and gentleness ; this lady shall 
be free to go with which of us she pleaseth best." 

" I am content," said Sir Tristram, " for I 
doubt not she will come to me." 

" That shalt thou shortly prove," said he, and 

220 The Legends of King Arthur 

called his squire, and set the lady in the midst 
between them, who forthwith walked to Sir 
Bleoberis and elected to abide with him. Which, 
when Sir Tristram saw, he was in wondrous anger 
with her, and felt that he could scarce for shame 
return to King Mark's court. But Sir Bleoberis 
said, " Hearken to me, good knight, Sir Tristram, 
because King Mark gave me free choice of any 
gift, and because this lady chose to go with me, 
I took her ; but now I have fulfilled my quest and 
my adventure, and for thy sake she shall be sent 
back to her husband at the abbey where he lieth." 

So Sir Tristram rode back to Tintagil, and Sir 
Bleoberis to the abbey where Sir Segwarides lay 
wounded, and there delivered up his lady, and 
departed as a noble knight. 

After this adventure Sir Tristram abode still at 
his uncle's court, till in the envy of his heart King 
Mark devised a plan to be rid of him. So on a 
certain day he desired him to depart again to 
Ireland, and there demand La Belle Isault on his 
behalf, to be his queen — for ever had Sir Tristram 
praised her beauty and her goodness, till King 
Mark desired to wed her for himself. Moreover, 
he believed his nephew surely would be slain by 
the queen's kindred if he once were found again 
in Ireland. 

But Sir Tristram, scorning fear, made ready to 
depart, and took with him the noblest knights 
that could be found, arrayed in the richest fashion. 

And when they were come to Ireland, upon a 
certain day Sir Tristram gave his uncle's message, 
and King Anguish consented thereto. 

Sir Tristram and La Belle Isault 221 

But when La Belle Isault was told the tidings 
she was very sorrowful and loth — yet made she 
ready to set forth with Sir Tristram, and took with 
her Dame Bragwaine, her chief gentlewoman. 
Then the queen gave Dame Bragwaine, and 
Governale, Sir Tristram's servant, a little flask, 
and charged them that La Belle Isault and King 
Mark should both drink of it on their marriage 
day, and then should they surely love each other 
all their lives. 

Anon, Sir Tristram and Isault, with a great 
company, took the sea and departed. And so it 
chanced that one day sitting in their cabin they 
were athirst, and saw a little flask of gold which 
seemed to hold good wine. So Sir Tristram took 
it up, and said, " Fair lady, this looketh to be the 
best of wines, and your maid, Dame Bragwaine, 
and my servant, Governale, have kept it for 
themselves." Thereat they both laughed merri- 
ly, and drank each after other from the flask, and 
never before had they tasted any wine which 
seemed so good and sweet. But by the time they 
had finished drinking they loved each other so 
well that their love nevermore might leave them 
for weal or woe. And thus it came to pass that 
though Sir Tristram might never wed La Belle 
Isault, he did the mightiest deeds of arms for her 
sake only all his life. 

Then they sailed onwards till they came to a 
castle called Pluere, where they would have 
rested. But anon there ran forth a great com- 
pany and took them prisoners. And when they 
were in prison, Sir Tristram asked a knight and 

222 The Legends of King Arthur 

lady whom they found therein wherefore they 
were so shamefully dealt with ; " for," said he, 
" it was never the custom of any place of honour 
that I ever came unto to seize a knight and lady 
asking shelter and thrust them into prison, and a 
full evil and discourteous custom is it." 

" Sir," said the knight, " know ye not that this 
is called the Castle Pluere, or the weeping castle, 
and that it is an ancient custom here that what- 
soever knight abideth in it must needs fight the 
lord of it, Sir Brewnor, and he that is the weakest 
shall lose his head. And if the lady he hath with 
him be less fair than the lord's wife, she shall lose 
her head ; but if she be fairer, then must the lady 
of the castle lose her head." 

" Now Heaven help me," said Sir Tristram, 
" but this is a foul and shameful custom. Yet 
have I one advantage, for my lady is the fairest 
that doth live in all the world, so that I nothing 
fear for her ; and as for me, I will full gladly fight 
for my own head in a fair field." 

Then said the knight, " Look ye be up betimes 
to-morrow, and make you ready and your lady." 

And on the morrow came Sir Brewnor to Sir 
Tristram, and put him and Isault forth out of 
prison, and brought him a horse and armour, and 
bade him make ready, for all the commons and 
estates of that lordship waited in the field to see 
and judge the battle. 

Then Sir Brewnor, holding his lady by the hand, 
all muffled, came forth, and Sir Tristram went 
to meet him with La Belle Isault beside him, 
muffled also. Then said Sir Brewnor, " Sir 

The Castle Pluere 223 

knight, if thy lady be fairer than mine, with thy 
sword smite off my lady's head ; but if my lady 
be fairer than thine, with my sword I will smite 
off thy lady's head. And if I overcome thee thy 
lady shall be mine, and thou shalt lose thy head." 

" Sir knight," replied Sir Tristram, " this is a 
right foul and felon custom, and rather than my 
lady shall lose her head will I lose my own." 

" Nay," said Sir Brewnor, " but the ladies shall 
be now compared together and judgment shall be 

" I consent not," cried Sir Tristram, " for who 
is here that will give rightful judgment ? Yet 
doubt not that my lady is far fairer than thine 
own, and that will I prove and make good." 
Therewith Sir Tristram lifted up the veil from off 
La Belle Isault, and stood beside her with his 
naked sword drawn in his hand. 

Then Sir Brewnor unmuffled his lady and did 
in like manner. But when he saw La Belle Isault 
he knew that none could be so fair, and all there 
present gave their judgment so. Then said Sir 
Tristram, " Because thou and thy lady have long 
used this evil custom, and have slain many good 
knights and ladies, it were a just thing to destroy 
thee both." 

" In good sooth," said Sir Brewnor, " thy lady 
is fairer than mine, and of all women I never saw 
any so fair. Therefore, slay my lady if thou wilt, 
and I doubt not but I shall slay thee and have 

" Thou shalt win her," said Sir Tristram, " as 
dearly as ever knight won lady ; and because of thy 

224 The Legends of King Arthur 

own judgment and of the evil custom that thy lady 
hath consented to, I will slay her as thou sayest." 

And therewithal Sir Tristram went to him and 
took his lady from him, and smote off her head at 
a stroke. 

" Now take thy horse," cried out Sir Brewnor, 
" for since I have lost my lady I will win thine 
and have thy life." 

So they took their horses and came together as 
fast as they could fly, and Sir Tristram lightly 
smote Sir Brewnor from his horse. But he rose 
right quickly, and when Sir Tristram came again 
he thrust his horse through both the shoulders, so 
that it reeled and fell. But Sir Tristram was 
light and nimble, and voided his horse, and rose 
and dressed his shield before him, though mean- 
while, ere he could draw out his sword, Sir Brew- 
nor gave him three or four grievous strokes. Then 
they rushed furiously together like two wild boars, 
and fought hurtling and hewing here and there 
for nigh two hours, and wounded each other full 
sorely. Then at the last Sir Brewnor rushed upon 
Sir Tristram and took him in his arms to throw 
him, for he trusted in his strength. But Sir 
Tristram was at that time called the strongest 
and biggest knight of the world ; for he was 
bigger than Sir Lancelot, though Sir Lancelot 
was better breathed. So anon he thrust Sir 
Brewnor grovelling to the earth, and then un- 
laced his helm and struck off his head. Then all 
they that belonged to the castle came and did him 
homage and fealty, and prayed him to abide there 
for a season and put an end to that foul custom. 

King Mark weds La Belle Isault 225 

But within a while he departed and came to 
Cornwall, and there King Mark was forthwith 
wedded to La Belle Isault with great joy and 

And Sir Tristram had high honour, and ever 
lodged at the king's court. But for all he had 
done him such services King Mark hated him, and 
on a certain day he set two knights to fall upon 
him as he rode in the forest. But Sir Tristram 
lightly smote one's head off, and sorely wounded 
the other, and made him bear his fellow's body to 
the king. At that the king dissembled and hid 
from Sir Tristram that the knights were sent by 
him ; yet more than ever he hated him in secret, 
and sought to slay him. 

So on a certain day, by the assent of Sir Andret, 
a false knight, and forty other knights, Sir Tris- 
tram was taken prisoner in his sleep and carried 
to a chapel on the rocks above the sea to be cast 
down. But as they were about to cast him in, 
suddenly he brake his bonds asunder, and rushing 
at Sir Andret, took his sword and smote him down 
therewith. Then, leaping down the rocks where 
none could follow, he escaped them. But one 
shot after him and wounded him full sorely with 
a poisoned arrow in the arm. 

Anon, his servant Governale, with Sir Lam- 
begus, sought him and found him safe among the 
rocks, and told him that King Mark had banished 
him and all his followers to avenge Sir Andret 's 
death. So they took ship and came to Brittany. 

Now Sir Tristram, suffering great anguish from 
his wound, was told to seek Isoude, the daughter 

226 The Legends of King Arthur 

of the King of Brittany, for she alone could cure 
such wounds. Wherefore he went to King 
Howell's court, and said, " Lord, I am come into 
this country to have help from thy daughter, for 
men tell me none but she may help me." And 
Isoude gladly offering to do her best, within a 
month he was made whole. 

While he abode still at that court, an earl named 
Grip made war upon King Howell, and besieged 
him ; and Sir Kay Hedius, the king's son, went 
forth against him, but was beaten in battle and 
sore wounded. Then the king praying Sir Tris- 
tram for his help, he took with him such knights 
as he could find, and on the morrow, in another 
battle, did such deeds of arms that all the land 
spake of him. For there he slew the earl with his 
own hands, and more than a hundred knights 

When he came back King Howell met him, and 
saluted him with every honour and rejoicing that 
could be thought of, and took him in his arms, 
and said, " Sir Tristram, all my kingdom will I 
resign to thee." 

" Nay," answered he, " God forbid, for truly 
am I beholden to you for ever for your daughter's 

Then the king prayed him to take Isoude in 
marriage, with a great dower of lands and castles. 
To this Sir Tristram presently consenting, anon 
they were wedded at the court. 

But within a while Sir Tristram greatly longed 
to see Cornwall, and Sir Kay Hedius desired to go 
with him. So they took ship ; but as soon as 

Sir Kay Hedius 227 

they were at sea the wind blew them upon the 
coast of North Wales, nigh to Castle Perilous, 
hard by a forest wherein were many strange 
adventures ofttimes to be met. Then said Sir 
Tristram to Sir Kay Hedius, " Let us prove some 
of them ere we depart." So they took their 
horses and rode forth. 

When they had ridden a mile or more, Sir 
Tristram spied a goodly knight before him well 
armed, who sat by a clear fountain with a strong 
horse near him, tied to an oak-tree. " Fair sir," 
said he, when they came near, " ye seem to be a 
knight errant by your arms and harness, therefore 
make ready now to joust with one of us, or both." 

Thereat the knight spake not, but took his 
shield and buckled it round his neck, and leaping 
on his horse caught a spear from his squire's hand. 

Then said Sir Kay Hedius to Sir Tristram, 
" Let me assay him." 

" Do thy best," said he. 

So the two knights met, and Sir Kay Hedius 
fell sorely wounded in the breast. 

" Thou hast well jousted," cried Sir Tristram 
to the knight ; " now make ready for me ! " 

" I am ready," answered he, and encountered 
him, and smote him so heavily that he fell down 
from his horse. Whereat being ashamed, he put 
his shield before him, and drew his sword, crying 
to the strange knight to do likewise. Then they 
fought on foot for well nigh two hours, till they 
were both weary. 

At last Sir Tristram said, " In all my life I never 
met a knight so strong and well-breathed as ye 

228 The Legends of King Arthur 

be. It were a pity we should further hurt each 
other. Hold thy hand, fair knight, and tell me 
thy name." 

" That will I," answered he, " if thou wilt tell 
me thine." 

" My name," said he, " is Sir Tristram of 

" And mine, Sir Lamoracke of Gaul." 

Then both cried out together, " Well met ; " 
and Sir Lamoracke said, " Sir, for your great 
renown, I will that ye have all the worship of this 
battle, and therefore will I yield me unto you." 
And therewith he took his sword by the point to 
yield him. 

" Nay," said Sir Tristram, " ye shall not do so, 
for well I know ye do it of courtesy, and not of 
dread." And therewith he offered his sword to 
Sir Lamoracke, saying, " Sir, as an overcome 
knight, I yield me unto you as unto the man of 
noblest powers I have ever met with." 

" Hold," said Sir Lamoracke, " let us now swear 
together never more to fight against each other." 

Then did they swear as he said. 

Then Sir Tristram returned to Sir Kay Hedius, 
and when he was whole of his wounds, they de- 
parted together in a ship, and landed on the coast 
of Cornwall. And when they came ashore, Sir 
Tristram eagerly sought news of La Belle Isault. 
And one told him in mistake that she was dead. 
Whereat, for sore and grievous sorrow, he fell 
down in a swoon, and so lay for three days and 

When he awoke therefrom he was crazed, and 

Sir Tristram kills Tauleas 229 

ran into the forest and abode there like a wild man 
many days ; whereby he waxed lean and weak 
of body, and would have died, but that a hermit 
laid some meat beside him as he slept. Now in 
that forest was a giant named Tauleas, who, for 
fear of Tristram, had hid himself within a castle, 
but when they told him he was mad, came forth 
and went at large again. And on a certain day 
he saw a knight of Cornwall, named Sir Dinaunt, 
pass by with a lady, and when he had alighted by 
a well to rest, the giant leaped out from his am- 
bush, and took him by the throat to slay him. 
But Sir Tristram, as he wandered through the 
forest, came upon them as they struggled ; and 
when the knight cried out for help, he rushed 
upon the giant, and taking up Sir Dinaunt 's 
sword, struck off therewith the giant's head, and 
straightway disappeared among the trees. 

Anon, Sir Dinaunt took the head of Tauleas, 
and bare it with him to the court of King Mark, 
whither he was bound, and told of his adventures. 
' ' Where had ye this adventure ? ' ' said King Mark. 

" At a fair fountain in thy forest," answered he. 

" I would fain see that wild man," said the king. 

So within a day or two he commanded his 
knights to a great hunting in the forest. And 
when the king came to the well, he saw a wild man 
lying there asleep, having a sword beside him ; 
but he knew not that it was Sir Tristram. Then 
he blew his horn, and summoned all his knights 
to take him gently up and bear him to the court. 

And when they came thereto they bathed and 
washed him, and brought him somewhat to his 


230 The Legends of King Arthur 

right mind. Now La Belle Isault knew not that 
Sir Tristram was in Cornwall ; but when she 
heard that a wild man had been found in the 
forest, she came to see him. And so sorely was he 
changed, she knew him not. " Yet," said she to 
Dame Bragwaine, " in good faith I seem to have 
beheld him ofttimes before." 

As she thus spoke a little hound, which Sir 
Tristram had given her when she first came to 
Cornwall, and which was ever with her, saw Sir 
Tristram lying there, and leapt upon him, licking 
his hands and face, and whined and barked for joy. 

" Alas," cried out La Belle Isault, "it is my 
own true knight, Sir Tristram 1" 

And at her voice Sir Tristram's senses wholly 
came again and wellnigh he wept for joy to see his 
lady living. 

But never would the hound depart from Tris- 
tram ; and when King Mark and other knights 
came up to see him, it sat upon his body and 
bayed at all who came too near. Then one of the 
knights said, " Surely this is Sir Tristram ; I see 
it by the hound." 

11 Nay," said the king, " it cannot be," and 
asked Sir Tristram on his faith who he was. 

" My name," said he, " is Sir Tristram of 
Lyonesse, and now ye may do what ye list with 

Then the king said, " It repents me that ye are 
recovered," and sought to make his barons slay 
him. But most of them would not assent thereto, 
and counselled him instead to banish Tristram 
for ten years again from Cornwall, for returning 

Sir Tristram and Sir Bors 231 

without orders from the king. So he was sworn 
to depart forthwith. 

And as he went towards the ship a knight of 
King Arthur, named Sir Dinadan, who sought 
him, came and said, " Fair knight, ere that you 
pass out of this country, I pray you joust with me ! ' ' 

" With a good will," said he. 

Then they ran together, and Sir Tristram lightly 
smote him from his horse. Anon he prayed Sir 
Tristram's leave to bear him company, and when 
he had consented they rode together to the ship. 

Then was Sir Tristram full of bitterness of 
heart, and said to all the knights who took him to 
the shore, " Greet well King Mark and all mine 
enemies from me, and tell them I will come again 
when I may. Well am I now rewarded for slay- 
ing Sir Marhaus, and delivering his kingdom from 
its bondage, and for the perils wherewithal I 
brought La Belle Isault from Ireland to the king, 
and rescued her at the Castle Pluere, and for the 
slaying of the giant Tauleas, and all the other 
deeds that I have done for Cornwall and King 
Mark." Thus angrily and passing bitterly he 
spake, and went his way. 

And after sailing awhile the ship stayed at a 
landing-place upon the coast of Wales ; and there 
Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan alighted, and on 
the shore they met two knights, Sir Ector and 
Sir Bors. And Sir Ector encountered with Sir 
Dinadan and smote him to the ground ; but Sir 
Bors would not encounter with Sir Tristram. 
11 For," said he, " no Cornish knights are men of 
worship." Thereat Sir Tristram was full wroth, 

232 The Legends of King Arthur 

but presently there met them two more knights, 
Sir Bleoberis and Sir Driant ; and Sir Bleoberis 
proffered to joust with Sir Tristram, who shortly 
smote him down. 

" I had not thought," cried out Sir Bors, " that 
any Cornish knight could do so valiantly." 

Then Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan departed, 
and rode into a forest, and as they rode a 
damsel met them, who for Sir Lancelot's sake was 
seeking any noble knights to rescue him. For 
Queen Morgan le Fay, who hated him, had 
ordered thirty men-at-arms to lie in ambush for 
him as he passed, with the intent to kill him. So 
the damsel prayed them to rescue him. 

Then said Sir Tristram, " Bring me to that 
place, fair damsel." 

But Sir Dinadan cried out, " It is not possible 
for us to meet with thirty knights ! I will take no 
part in such a hardihood, for to match one or two 
or three knights is enough ; but to match fifteen 
I will never assay." 

" For shame," replied Sir Tristram, " do but 
your part." 

" That will I not," said he ; " wherefore, I pray 
ye, lend me your shield, for it is of Cornwall, and 
because men of that country are deemed cowards, 
ye are but little troubled as ye ride with knights 
to joust with." 

" Nay," said Sir Tristram, " I will never give 
my shield up for her sake who gave it me ; but if 
thou wilt not stand by me to-day I will surely 
slay thee ; for I ask no more of thee than to fight 
one knight, and if thy heart will not serve thee 

Sir Dinadan refuses to fight 233 

that much, thou shalt stand by and look on me 
and them." 

11 Would God that I had never met with ye ! " 
cried Sir Dinadan ; " but I promise to look on 
and do all that I may to save myself." 

Anon they came to where the thirty knights lay 
waiting, and Sir Tristram rushed upon them, 
saying, " Here is one who fights for love of Lance- 
lot ! " Then slew he two of them at the first onset 
with his spear, and ten more swiftly after with his 
sword. At that Sir Dinadan took courage, and as- 
sailed the others with him, till they turned and fled. 

But Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan rode on till 
nightfall, and meeting with a shepherd, asked 
him if he knew of any lodging thereabouts. 

" Truly, fair lords," said he, " there is good 
lodging in a castle hard by, but it is a custom 
there that none shall lodge therein save ye first 
joust with two knights, and as soon as ye be 
within, ye shall find your match." 

11 That is an evil lodging," said Sir Dinadan ; 
11 lodge where ye will, I will not lodge there." 

" Shame on thee ! " said Sir Tristram ; "art 
thou a knight at all ? " 

Then he required him on his knighthood to go 
with him, and they rode together to the castle. 
As soon as they were near, two knights came out 
and ran full speed against them ; but both of 
them they overthrew, and went within the castle, 
and had noble cheer. Now, when they were un- 
armed and ready to take rest, there came to the 
castle-gate two knights, Sir Palomedes and Sir 
Gaheris, and desired the custom of the castle. 

234 The Legends of King Arthur 

" I would far rather rest than fight," said Sir 

" That may not be," replied Sir Tristram, " for 
we must needs defend the custom of the castle, 
seeing we have overcome its lords ; therefore, 
make ready." 

" Alas that I ever came into your company !" 
said Sir Dinadan. 

So they made ready, and Sir Gaheris encount- 
ered Sir Tristram and fell before him ; but Sir 
Palomedes overthrew Sir Dinadan, Then would 
all fight on foot save Sir Dinadan, for he was 
sorely bruised and frightened by his fall. And 
when Sir Tristram prayed him to fight, " I will 
not," answered he, " for I was wounded by those 
thirty knights with whom we fought this morn- 
ing ; and as to you, ye are in truth like one gone 
mad, and who would cast himself away ! There 
be but two knights in the world so mad, and the 
other is Sir Lancelot, with whom I once rode 
forth, who kept me evermore at battling so that 
for a quarter of a year thereafter I lay in my bed. 
Heaven defend me again from either of your 
fellowships ! " 

" Well," said Sir Tristram, " if it must be, I 
will fight them both." 

Therewith he drew his sword and assailed Sir 
Palomedes and Sir Gaheris together ; but Sir 
Palomedes said, " Nay, but it is a shame for two 
to fight with one." So he bade Sir Gaheris stand 
by, and he and Sir Tristram fought long together ; 
but in the end Sir Tristram drave him backward, 
whereat Sir Gaheris and Sir Dinadan with one 

Sir Tristram overthrows Sir Pellinore 235 

accord sundered them . Then Sir Tristram prayed 
the two knights to lodge there ; but Sir Dinadan 
departed and rode away into a priory hard by, 
and there he lodged that night. 

And on the morrow came Sir Tristram to the 
priory to find him, and seeing him so weary that 
he could not ride, he left him, and departed. At 
that same priory was lodged Sir Pellinore, who 
asked Sir Dinadan Sir Tristram's name, but could 
not learn it, for Sir Tristram had charged that he 
should remain unknown. Then said Sir Pellinore, 
" Since ye will not tell it me, I will ride after him 
and find it myself." 

" Beware, Sir knight," said Sir Dinadan, " ye 
will repent it if ye follow him." 

But Sir Pellinore straightway mounted and 
overtook him, and cried to him to joust ; whereat 
Sir Tristram forthwith turned and smote him 
down, and wounded him full sorely in the shoulder. 

On the day after, Sir Tristram met a herald, 
who told him of a tournament proclaimed be- 
tween King Carados of Scotland, and the King of 
North Wales, to be held at the Maiden's Castle. 
Now King Carados sought Sir Lancelot to fight 
there on his side, and the King of North Wales 
sought Sir Tristram. And Sir Tristram purposed 
to be there. So as he rode, he met Sir Key, the 
seneschal, and Sir Sagramour, and Sir Key 
proffered to joust with him. But he refused, de- 
siring to keep himself unwearied for the tourney. 
Then Sir Key cried, " Sir knight of Cornwall, joust 
with me, or yield as recreant." When Sir Tristram 
heard that, he fiercely turned and set his spear in 

236 The Legends of King Arthur 

rest, and spurred his horse towards him. But 
when Sir Key saw him so madly coming on, he in 
his turn refused, whereat Sir Tristram called him 
coward, till for shame he was compelled to meet 
him. Then Sir Tristram lightly smote him down, 
and rode away. But Sir Sagramour pursued him, 
crying loudly to joust with him also. So Sir 
Tristram turned and quickly overthrew him 
likewise, and departed. 

Anon a damsel met him as he rode, and told 
him of a knight adventurous who did great harm 
thereby, and prayed him for his help. But as he 
went with her he met Sir Gawain, who knew the 
damsel for a maiden of Queen Morgan le Fay. 
Knowing, therefore, that she needs must have 
evil plots against Sir Tristram, Sir Gawain de- 
manded of him courteously whither he went. 

11 I know not whither," said he, " save as this 
damsel leadeth me." 

" Sir," said Sir Gawain, " ye shall not ride with 
her, for she and her lady never yet did good to 
any ; " and, drawing his sword, he said to the 
damsel, " Tell me now straightway for what cause 
thou leadest this knight, or else shalt thou die ; 
for I know of old thy lady's treason." 

" Mercy, Sir Gawain," cried the damsel, " and 
I will tell thee all." Then she told him that 
Queen Morgan had ordained thirty fair damsels to 
seek out Sir Lancelot and Sir Tristram, and by 
their wiles persuade them to her castle, where she 
had thirty knights in wait to slay them. 

" Oh, shame ! " cried Sir Gawain, " that ever 
such foul treason should be wrought by a queen, 

Tournament at the Maiden's Castle 237 

and a king's sister." Then said he to Sir Tristram, 
" Sir knight, if ye will stand with me, we will 
together prove the malice of these thirty knights." 

" I will not fail you," answered he, " for but 
few days since I had to do with thirty knights of 
that same queen, and trust we may win honour as 
lightly now as then." 

So they rode together, and when they came to 
the castle, Sir Gawain cried aloud, " Queen 
Morgan le Fay, send out thy knights that we may 
fight with them." 

Then the queen urged her knights to issue forth, 
but they durst not, for they well knew Sir Tris- 
tram, and feared him greatly. 

So Sir Tristram and Sir Gawain went on their 
way, and as they rode they saw a knight, named 
Sir Brewse-without-pity, chasing a lady, with in- 
tent to slay her. Then Sir Gawain prayed Sir 
Tristram to hold still and let him assail that 
knight. So he rode up between Sir Brewse and 
the lady, and cried, " False knight, turn thee to 
me and leave that lady." Then Sir Brewse 
turned and set his spear in rest, and rushed 
against Sir Gawain and overthrew him, and rode 
his horse upon him as he lay, which when Sir 
Tristram saw, he cried, " Forbear that villainy," 
and galloped at him. But when Sir Brewse saw 
by the shield it was Sir Tristram, he turned 
and fled. And though Sir Tristram followed 
swiftly after him, yet he was so well horsed 
that he escaped. 

Anon Sir Tristram and Sir Gawain came nigh 
the Maiden's Castle, and there an old knight 

238 The Legends of King Arthur 

named Sir Pellonnes gave them lodging. And 
Sir Persides, the son of Sir Pellonnes, a good 
knight, came out to welcome them. And, as they 
stood talking at a bay window of the castle, they 
saw a goodly knight ride by on a black horse, and 
carrying a black shield. " What knight is 
that ? " asked Tristram. 

" One of the best knights in all the world," said 
Sir Persides. 

" Is he Sir Lancelot ? " said Sir Tristram. 

" Nay," answered Sir Persides, "it is Sir 
Palomedes, who is yet unchristened." 

Within a while one came and told them that a 
knight with a black shield had smitten down 
thirteen knights. " Let us go and see this joust- 
ing," said Sir Tristram. So they armed them- 
selves and went down. And when Sir Palomedes 
saw Sir Persides, he sent a squire to him and 
proffered him to joust. So they jousted, and Sir 
Persides was overthrown. Then Sir Tristram 
made ready to joust, but ere he had his spear in 
rest, Sir Palomedes took him at advantage, and 
struck him on the shield so that he fell. At that 
Sir Tristram was wroth out of measure and sore 
ashamed, wherefore he sent a squire and prayed 
Sir Palomedes to joust once again. But he would 
not, saying, " Tell thy master to revenge himself 
to-morrow at the Maiden's Castle, where he shall 
see me again." 

So on the morrow Sir Tristram commanded his 
servant to give him a black shield with no cog- 
nizance thereon, and he and Sir Persides rode into 
the tournament and joined King Carados's side. 

Tournament at the Maiden s Castle 239 

Then the knights of the King of North Wales 
came forth, and there was a great fighting and 
breaking of spears, and overthrow of men and 

Now King Arthur sat above in a high gallery to 
see the tourney and give the judgment, and Sir 
Lancelot sat beside him. Then came against 
Sir Tristram and Sir Persides, two knights with 
them of North Wales, Sir Bleoberis and Sir 
Gaheris ; and Sir Persides was smitten down and 
nigh slain, for four horsemen rode over him. But 
Sir Tristram rode against Sir Gaheris and smote 
him from his horse, and when Sir Bleoberis next 
encountered him, he overthrew him also. Anon 
they horsed themselves again, and with them 
came Sir Dinadan, whom Sir Tristram forthwith 
smote so sorely, that he reeled off his saddle. 
Then cried he, " Ah ! Sir knight, I know ye better 
than ye deem, and promise nevermore to come 
against ye." Then rode Sir Bleoberis at him the 
second time, and had a buffet that felled him to 
the earth. And soon thereafter the king com- 
manded to cease for that day, and all men mar- 
velled who Sir Tristram was, for the prize of the 
first day was given him in the name of the Knight 
of the Black Shield. 

Now Sir Palomedes was on the side of the King 
of North Wales, but knew not Sir Tristram again. 
And, when he saw his marvellous deeds, he sent 
to ask his name. " As to that," said Sir Tris- 
tram, " he shall not know at this time, but tell 
him he shall know when I have broken two spears 
upon him, for I am the knight he smote down 

240 The Legends of King Arthur 

yesterday, and whatever side he taketh, I will 
take the other." 

So when they told him that Sir Palomedes 
would be on King Carados's side — for he was 
kindred to King Arthur — " Then will I be on the 
King of North Wales's side," said he, " but else 
would I be on my lord King Arthur's." 

Then on the morrow, when King Arthur was 
come, the heralds blew unto the tourney. And 
King Carados jousted with the King of a Hundred 
Knights and fell before him, and then came in 
King Arthur's knights and bare back those of 
North Wales. But anon Sir Tristram came to 
aid them and bare back the battle, and fought: so 
mightily that none could stand against him, for he 
smote down on the right and on the left, so that all 
the knights and common people shouted his praise. 

" Since I bare arms," said King Arthur, "never 
saw I a knight do more marvellous deeds." 

Then the King of the Hundred Knights and 
those of North Wales, set upon twenty knights 
who were of Sir Lancelot's kin, who fought all 
together, none failing the others. When Sir 
Tristram beheld their nobleness and valour, he 
marvelled much. " Well may he be valiant and 
full of prowess," said he, " who hath such noble 
knights for kindred." So, when he had looked on 
them awhile, he thought it shame to see two 
hundred men assailing twenty, and riding to the 
King of a Hundred Knights, he said, " I pray thee, 
Sir king, leave your fighting with those twenty 
knights, for ye be too many and they be too few. 
For ye shall gain no honour if ye win, and that I 

Sir Palomedes and Sir Tristram 241 

see verily ye will not do unless ye slay them ; but 
if ye will not stay, I will ride with them and help 

" Nay," said the king, " ye shall not do so ; for 
full gladly I will do you courtesy," and with that 
he withdrew his knights. 

Then Sir Tristram rode his way into the forest, 
that no man might know him. And King Arthur 
caused the heralds to blow that the tourney 
should end that day, and he gave the King 
of North Wales the prize, because Sir Tristram 
was on his side. And in all the field there 
was such a cry that the sound thereof was heard 
two miles away — " The Knight with the Black 
Shield hath won the field." 

" Alas ! " said King Arthur, " where is that 
knight ? It is shame to let him thus escape us." 
Then he comforted his knights, and said, " Be 
not dismayed, my friends, howbeit ye have lost 
the day ; be of good cheer ; to-morrow I myself 
will be in the field, and fare with you." So they 
all rested that night. 

And -on the morrow the heralds blew unto the 
field. So the King of North Wales and the King 
of a Hundred Knights encountered with- King 
Carados and the King of Ireland, and overthrew 
them. With that came King Arthur, and did 
mighty deeds of arms, and overthrew the King 
of North Wales and his fellows, and put twenty 
valiant knights to the worse. Anon came in Sir 
Palomedes, and made great fight upon King 
Arthur's side. But Sir Tristram rode furiously 
against him, and Sir Palomedes was thrown from 

242 The Legends of King Arthur 

his horse. Then cried King Arthur, " Knight of 
the Black Shield, keep thyself." And as he spake 
he came upon him, and smote him from his saddle 
to the ground, and so passed on to other knights. 
Then Sir Palomedes having now another horse 
rushed at Sir Tristram, as he was on foot, thinking 
to run over him. But he was aware of him, and 
stepped aside, and grasped Sir Palomedes by the 
arms, and pulled him off his horse. Then they 
rushed together with their swords, and many 
stood still to gaze on them. And Sir Tristram 
smote Sir Palomedes with three mighty strokes 
upon the helm, crying at each stroke, " Take this 
for Sir Tristram's sake," and with that Sir Palo- 
medes fell to the earth. 

Anon the King of North Wales brought Sir 
Tristram another horse, and Sir Palomedes found 
one also. Then did they joust again with passing 
rage, for both by now were like mad lions. But 
Sir Tristram avoided his spear, and seized Sir 
Palomedes by the neck, and pulled him from his 
saddle, and bore him onward ten spears' length, 
and so let him fall. Then King Arthur drew 
forth his sword and smote the spear asunder, and 
gave Sir Tristram two or three sore strokes ere he 
could get at his own sword. But when he had it 
in his hand he mightily assailed the king. With 
that eleven knights of Lancelot's kin went forth 
against him, but he smote them all down to the 
earth, so that men marvelled at his deeds. 

And the cry was now so great that Sir Lancelot 
got a spear in his hand, and came down to assay 
Sir Tristram, saying, " Knight with the Black 

Sir Tristram and Sir Lancelot 243 

Shield, make ready." When Sir Tristram heard 
him he levelled his spear, and both stooping their 
heads, they ran together mightily, as it had been 
thunder. And Sir Tristram's spear brake short, 
but Sir Lancelot struck him with a deep wound 
in the side and broke his spear, yet overthrew him 
not. Therewith Sir Tristram, smarting at his 
wound, drew forth his sword, and rushing at Sir 
Lancelot, gave him mighty strokes upon the helm, 
so that the sparks flew from it, and Sir Lancelot 
stooped his head down to the saddle-bow. But 
then Sir Tristram turned and left the field, for he 
felt his wound so grievous that he deemed he 
should soon die. Then did Sir Lancelot hold the 
field against all comers, and put the King of 
North Wales and his party to the worse. And 
because he was the last knight in the field the 
prize was given him. 

But he refused to take it, and when the cry 
was raised, " Sir Lancelot hath won the day," he 
cried out, " Nay, but Sir Tristram is the victor, 
for he first began and last endured, and so hath 
he done each day." And all men honoured 
Lancelot more for his knightly words than if he 
had taken the prize. 

Thus was the tournament ended, and King 
Arthur departed to Caerleon, for the Whitsun 
feast was now nigh come, and all the knights 
adventurous went their ways. And many sought 
Sir Tristram in the forest whither he had gone, 
and at last Sir Lancelot found him, and brought 
him to King Arthur's court, as hath been told 


The Quest of the Sangreal, and the Adventures of 
Sir Percival, Sir Bors, and Sir Galahad 

AFTER these things, Merlin fell into a 
dotage of love for a damsel of the lady of 
the lake, and would let her have no rest, 
but followed her in every place. And ever she 
encouraged him, and made him welcome till she 
had learned all his crafts that she desired to know. 
Then upon a time she went with him beyond 
the sea to the land of Benwick, and as they went 
he showed her many wonders, till at length she 
was afraid, and would fain have been delivered 
from him. 

And as they were in the forest of Broceliande, 
they sat together under an oak-tree, and the 
damsel prayed to see all that charm whereby men 
might be shut up yet alive in rocks or trees. But 
he refused her a long time, fearing to let her know, 
yet in the end, her prayers and kisses overcame 
him, and he told her all. Then did she make 
him great cheer, but anon, as he lay down to sleep, 
she softly rose, and walked about him waving her 
hands and muttering the charm, and presently 
enclosed him fast within the tree whereby he slept. 
And therefrom nevermore he could by any means 


Sir Lancelot departs 245 

come out for all the crafts that he could do. And 
so she departed and left Merlin. 

At the vigil of the next Feast of Pentecost, 
when all the Knights of the Round Table were 
met together at Camelot, and had heard mass, 
and were about to sit down to meat, there rode 
into the hall a fair lady on horseback, who went 
straight up to King Arthur where he sat upon his 
throne, and reverently saluted him. 

" God be with thee, fair damsel," quoth the 
king ; " what desireth thou of me ? " 

" I pray thee tell me, lord," she answered, 
" where Sir Lancelot is." 

11 Yonder may ye see him," said King Arthur. 

Then went she to Sir Lancelot and said, " Sir, 
I salute thee in King Pelles's name, and require 
thee to come with me into the forest hereby." 

Then asked he her with whom she dwelt, and 
what she wished of him. 

" I dwell with King Pelles," said she, " whom 
Balin erst so sorely wounded when he smote 
the Dolorous Stroke. It is he who hath sent me 
to call thee." 

11 I will go with thee gladly," said Sir Lancelot, 
and bade his squire straightway saddle his horse 
and bring his armour. 

Then came the queen to him and said, " Sir 
Lancelot, will ye leave me thus at this high 
feast ? " 

" Madam," replied the damsel, " by dinner- 
time to-morrow he shall be with you." 

" If I thought not," said the queen, " he should 
not go with thee by my goodwill." 


246 The Legends of King Arthur 

Then Sir Lancelot and the lady rode forth till 
they came to the forest, and in a valley thereof 
found an abbey of nuns, whereby the squire stood 
ready to open the gates. When they had en- 
tered, and descended from their horses, a joyful 
crowd pressed round Sir Lancelot and heartily 
saluted him, and led him to the abbess's chamber, 
and unarmed him. Anon he saw his cousins 
likewise there, Sir Bors and Sir Lionel, who also 
made great joy at seeing him, and said, " By 
what adventure art thou here, for we thought to 
have seen thee at Camelot to-morrow ? " 

" A damsel brought me here," said he, " but as 
yet I know not for what service." 

As they thus talked twelve nuns came in, who 
brought with them a youth so passing fair and 
well made, that in all the world his match could 
not be found. His name was Galahad, and 
though he knew him not, nor Lancelot him, Sir 
Lancelot was his father. 

" Sir," said the nuns, " we bring thee here this 
child whom we have nourished from his youth, 
and pray thee to make him a knight, for from no 
worthier hand can he receive that order." 

Then Sir Lancelot, looking on the youth, saw 
that he was seemly and demure as a dove, with 
every feature good and noble, and thought he 
never had beheld a better fashioned man of his 
years. "Cometh this desire from himself?" 
said he. 

" Yea," answered Galahad and all the nuns. 

" To-morrow, then, in reverence for the feast, 
he shall have his wish," said Sir Lancelot. 

Galahad knighted by Sir Lancelot 247 

And the next day at the hour of prime, he 
knighted him, and said, " God make of thee as 
good a man as He hath made thee beautiful." 

Then with Sir Lionel and Sir Bors he returned 
to the court, and found all gone to the minster to 
hear service. When they came into the banquet- 
hall each knight and baron found his name 
written in some seat in letters of gold, " as here 
ought to sit Sir Lionel," " here ought to sit Sir 
Gawain," — and so forth. And in the Perilous 
Seat, at the high centre of the table, a name was 
also written, whereat they marvelled greatly, for 
no living man had ever yet dared sit upon that 
seat, save one, and him a flame leaped forth and 
drew down under earth, so that he was no more 

Then came Sir Lancelot and read the letters in 
that seat, and said, " My counsel is that this in- 
scription be now covered up until the knight be 
come who shall achieve this great adventure." 
So they made a veil of silk and put it over the 

In the meanwhile came Sir Gawain to the court 
and told the king he had a message to him from 
beyond the sea, from Merlin. 

" For," said he, " as I rode through the forest 
of Broceliande but five days since, I heard the 
voice of Merlin speaking to me from the midst of 
an oak-tree, whereat, in great amazement, I 
besought him to come forth. But he, with many 
groans, replied he never more might do so, for 
that none could free him, save the damsel of the 
lake, who had enclosed him there by his own 

248 The Legends of King Arthur 

spells which he had taught her. ' But go,' said 
he, ' to King Arthur, and tell him, that he now 
prepare his knights and all his Table Round to 
seek the Sangreal, for the time is come when it 
shall be achieved.' " 

When Sir Gawain had spoken thus, King Arthur 
sat pensive in spirit, and mused deeply of the 
Holy Grale and what saintly knight should come 
who might achieve it. 

Anon he bade them hasten to set on the ban- 
quet. " Sir," said Sir Key, the seneschal, " if 
ye go now to meat ye will break the ancient 
custom of your court, for never have ye dined at 
this high feast till ye have seen some strange 

11 Thou sayest truly," said the king, " but my 
mind was full of wonders and musings, till I 
bethought me not of mine old custom." 

As they stood speaking thus, a squire ran in and 
cried, " Lord, I bring thee marvellous tidings." 

" What be they ? " said King Arthur. 

" Lord," said he, " hereby at the river is a 
marvellous great stone, which I myself saw swim 
down hitherwards upon the water, and in it there 
is set a sword, and ever the stone heaveth and 
swayeth on the water, but floateth down no 
further with the stream." 

" I will go and see it," said the king. So all 
the knights went with him, and when they came 
to the river, there surely found they a mighty 
stone of red marble floating on the water, as the 
squire had said, and therein stuck a fair and rich 
sword, on the pommel whereof were precious 

The Marvellous Sword 249 

stones wrought skilfully with gold into these 
words : "No man shall take me hence but he 
by whose side I should hang, and he shall be the 
best knight in the world." 

When the king read this he turned round to Sir 
Lancelot, and said, " Fair sir, this sword ought 
surely to be thine, for thou art the best knight in 
all the world." 

But Lancelot answered soberly, " Certainly, 
sir, it is not for me ; nor will I have the hardihood 
to set my hand upon it. For he that toucheth 
it and faileth to achieve it shall one day be 
wounded by it mortally. But I doubt not, lord, 
this day will show the greatest marvels that we 
yet have seen, for now the time is fully come, as 
Merlin hath forewarned us, when all the pro- 
phecies about the Sangreal shall be fulfilled." 

Then stepped Sir Gawain forward and pulled at 
the sword, but could not move it, and after him 
Sir Percival, to keep him fellowship in any peril 
he might suffer. But no other knight durst be 
so hardy as to try. 

" Now may ye go to your dinner," said Sir 
Key, " for a marvellous adventure ye have had." 

So all returned from the river, and every knight 
sat down in his own place, and the high feast and 
banquet then was sumptuously begun, and all the 
hall was full of laughter and loud talk and jests, 
and running to and fro of squires who served 
their knights, and noise of jollity and mirth. 

Then suddenly befell a wondrous thing, for all 
the doors and windows of the hall shut violently 
of themselves, and made thick darkness ; and 

250 The Legends of King Arthur 

presently there came a fair and gentle light from 
out of Perilous Seat, and filled the place with its 
beams. Then a dead silence fell on all the 
knights, and each man anxiously beheld his 

But King Arthur rose and said, " Lords and 
fair knights, have ye no fear, but rejoice ; we have 
seen strange things to-day, but stranger yet 
remain. For now I know we shall to-day see him 
who may sit in the Siege Perilous, and shall 
achieve the Sangreal. For as ye all well know, 
that holy vessel, wherefrom at the Supper of our 
Lord before His death He drank the wine with 
His disciples, hath been held ever since the holiest 
treasure of the world, and wheresoever it hath 
rested peace and prosperity have rested with it on 
the land. But since the Dolorous Stroke which 
Balin gave King Pelles none have seen it, for 
Heaven, wroth with that presumptuous blow, 
hath hid it none know where. Yet somewhere 
in the world it still may be, and may be it is left 
to us, and to this noble order of the Table 
Round, to find and bring it home, and make of 
this our realm the happiest in the earth. Many 
great quests and perilous adventures have ye all 
taken and achieved, but this high quest he only 
shall attain who hath clean hands and a pure heart, 
and valour and hardihood beyond all other men." 

While the king spoke there came in softly an 
old man robed all in white, leading with him a 
young knight clad in red from top to toe, but 
without armour or shield, and having by his side 
an empty scabbard. 

Sir Galahad in the Perilous Seat 251 

The old man went up to the king, and said, 
" Lord, here I bring thee this young knight of 
royal lineage, and of the blood of Joseph of 
Arimathea, by whom the marvels of thy court 
shall fully be accomplished." 

The king was right glad at his words, and said, 
" Sir, ye be right heartily welcome, and the young 
knight also." 

Then the old man put on Sir Galahad (for it was 
he) a crimson robe trimmed with fine ermine, and 
took him by the hand and led him to the Perilous 
Seat, and lifting up the silken cloth which hung 
upon it, read these words written in gold letters, 
" This is the seat of Sir Galahad, the good knight." 

" Sir," said the old man, " this place is thine." 

Then sat Sir Galahad down firmly and surely, 
and said to the old man, " Sir, ye may now go 
your way, for ye have done well and truly all ye 
were commanded, and commend me to my grand- 
sire, King Pelles, and say that I shall see him 
soon." So the old man departed with a retinue 
of twenty noble squires. 

But all the knights of the Round Table mar- 
velled at Sir Galahad, and at his tender age, and 
at his sitting there so surely in the Perilous Seat. 

Then the king led Sir Galahad forth from the 
palace, to show him the adventure of the floating 
stone. " Here," said he, "is as great a marvel 
as I ever saw, and right good knights have tried 
and failed to gain that sword." 

" I marvel not thereat," said Galahad, " for 
this adventure is not theirs, but mine ; and for 
the certainty I had thereof, I brought no sword 

252 The Legends of King Arthur 

with me, as thou mayst see here by this empty 

Anon he laid his hand upon the sword, and 
lightly drew it from the stone, and put it in his 
sheath, and said, " This sword was that enchanted 
one which erst belonged to the good knight, Sir 
Balin, wherewith he slew through piteous mis- 
take his brother Balan ; who also slew him at the 
same time : all which great woe befell him 
through the Dolorous Stroke he gave my grand- 
sire, King Pelles, the wound whereof is not yet 
whole, nor shall be till I heal him." 

As he stood speaking thus, they saw a lady 
riding swiftly down the river's bank towards 
them, on a white palfrey ; who, saluting the king 
and queen, said, " Lord king, Nacien the hermit 
sendeth thee word that to thee shall come to-day 
the greatest honour and worship that hath yet 
ever befallen a king of Britain ; for this day shall 
the Sangreal appear in thy house." 

With that the damsel took her leave, and de- 
parted the same way she came. 

" Now," said the king, " I know that from 
to-day the quest of the Sangreal shall begin, and 
all ye of the Round Table will be scattered so that 
nevermore shall I see ye again together as ye are 
now ; let me then see a joust and tournament 
amongst ye for the last time before ye go." 

So they all took their harness and met together 
in the meadows by Camelot, and the queen and 
all her ladies sat in a tower to see. 

Then Sir Galahad, at the prayer of the king and 
queen, put on a coat of light armour, and a 

The Sangreal 253 

helmet, but shield he would take none, and 
grasping a lance, he drove into the middle of the 
press of knights, and began to break spears mar- 
vellously, so that all men were full of wonder. 
And in so short a time he had surmounted and 
exceeded the rest, save Sir Lancelot and Sir 
Percival, that he took the chief worship of thefield. 

Then the king and all the court and fellowship 
of knights went back to the palace, and so to 
evensong in the great minster, a royal and goodly 
company, and after that sat down to supper in 
the hall, every knight in his own seat, as they had 
been before. 

Anon suddenly burst overhead the cracking 
and crying of great peals of thunder, till the 
palace walls were shaken sorely, and they thought 
to see them riven all to pieces. 

And in the midst of the blast there entered in a 
sunbeam, clearer by seven times than ever they 
saw day, and a marvellous great glory fell upon 
them all. Then each knight, looking on his 
neighbour, found his face fairer than he had ever 
seen, and so, all standing on their feet, they 
gazed as dumb men on each other, not knowing 
what to say. 

Then entered into the hall the Sangreal, borne 
aloft without hands through the midst of the sun- 
beam, and covered with white samite, so that 
none might see it. And all the hall was filled 
with perfume and incense, and every knight was 
fed with the food he best loved. And when the 
holy vessel had been thus borne through the hall, 
it suddenly departed, no man saw whither. 

254 The Legends of King Arthur 

When they recovered breath to speak, King 
Arthur first rose up, and yielded thanks to God 
and to our Lord. 

Then Sir Gawain sprang up and said, " Now 
have we all been fed by miracle with whatsoever 
food we thought of or desired ; but with our eyes 
we have not seen the blessed vessel whence it 
came, so carefully and preciously it was concealed. 
Therefore, I make a vow, that from to-morrow I 
shall labour twelve months and a day in quest 
of the Sangreal, and longer if needs be ; nor will 
I come again into this court until mine eyes have 
seen it evidently." 

When he had spoken thus, knight after knight 
rose up and vowed himself to the same quest, till 
the most part of the Round Table had thus 

But when King Arthur heard them all, he could 
not refrain his eyes from tears, and said, " Sir 
Gawain, Sir Gawain, thou hast set me in great 
sorrow, for I fear me my true fellowship shall 
never meet together here again ; and surely never 
Christian king had such a company of worthy 
knights around his table at one time." 

And when the queen and her ladies and gentle- 
women heard the vows, they had such grief and 
sorrow as no tongue could tell ; and Queen 
Guinevere cried out, " I marvel that my lord will 
suffer them to depart from him." And many of 
the ladies who loved knights would have gone 
with them, but were forbidden by the hermit 
Nacien, who sent this message to all who had 
sworn themselves to the quest : " Take with ye 

Departure of the Knights 255 

no lady nor gentlewoman, for into so high a ser- 
vice as ye go in, no thought but of our Lord and 
heaven may enter." 

On the morrow morning all the knights rose 
early, and when they were fully armed, save 
shields and helms, they went in with the king and 
queen to service in the minster. Then the king 
counted all who had taken the adventure on 
themselves, and found them a hundred and fifty 
knights of the Round Table ; and so they all put 
on their helms, and rode away together in the 
midst of cries and lamentations from the court, 
and from the ladies, and from all the town. 

But the queen went alone to her chamber, that 
no man might see her sorrow ; and Sir Lancelot 
followed her to say farewell. 

When she saw him she cried out, " Oh, Sir 
Lancelot, thou hast betrayed me ; thou hast put 
me to death thus to depart and leave my lord the 

11 Ah, madam," said he, " be not displeased or 
angry, for I shall come again as soon as I can with 

11 Alas ! " said she, " that ever I saw thee ; but 
He that suffered death upon the Cross for all 
mankind be to thee safety and good conduct, 
and to all thy company." 

Then Sir Lancelot saluted her and the king, and 
went forth with the rest, and came with them that 
night to Castle Vagon, where they abode, and on 
the morrow they departed from each other on 
their separate ways, every knight taking the way 
that pleased him best. 

256 The Legends of King Arthur 

Now Sir Galahad went forth without a shield, 
and rode so four days without adventure ; and 
on the fourth day, after evensong, he came to an 
abbey of white monks, where he was received in 
the house, and led into a chamber. And there 
he was unarmed, and met two knights of the 
Round Table, King Bagdemagus and Sir Uwaine. 

" Sirs," said Sir Galahad, " what adventure 
hath brought ye here ? " 

" Within this place, as we are told," they 
answered, " there is a shield no man may bear 
around his neck without receiving sore mischance, 
or death within three days." 

" To-morrow," said King Bagdemagus, " I 
shall attempt the adventure ; and if I fail, do 
thou, Sir Galahad, take it up after me." 

" I will willingly," said he ; " for as ye see I 
have no shield as yet." 

So on the morrow they arose and heard mass, 
and afterwards King Bagdemagus asked where 
the shield was kept. Then a monk led him 
behind the altar, where the shield hung, as white 
as any snow, and with a blood-red cross in the 
midst of it. 

" Sir," said the monk, " this shield should 
hang from no knight's neck unless he be the 
worthiest in the world. I warn ye, therefore, 
knights ; consider well before ye dare to touch 

" Well," said King Bagdemagus, " I know well 
that I am far from the best knight in all the 
world, yet shall I make the trial ; " and so he 
took the shield, and bore it from the monastery. 

The Shield of the White Knight 257 

" If it please thee," said he to Sir Galahad, 
" abide here till thou nearest how I speed." 

" I will abide thee," said he. 

Then taking with him a squire who might 
return with any tidings to Sir Galahad, the king 
rode forth ; and before he had gone two miles, he 
saw in a fair valley a hermitage, and a knight who 
came forth dressed in white armour, horse and all, 
who rode fast against him. When they encount- 
ered, Bagdemagus brake his spear upon the White 
Knight's shield, but was himself struck through 
the shoulder with a sore wound, and hurled down 
from his horse. Then the White Knight alight- 
ing, came and took the white shield from the king, 
and said, " Thou hast done great folly, for this 
shield ought never to be borne but by one who 
hath no living peer." And turning to the squire, 
he said, " Bear thou this shield to the good 
knight, Sir Galahad, and greet him well from me." 

" In whose name shall I greet him ? " said the 

11 Take thou no heed of that," he answered ; 
" it is not for thee or any earthly man to know." 

" Now tell me, fair sir, at the least," said the 
squire, " why may this shield be never borne 
except its wearer come to injury or death ? " 

" Because it shall belong to no man save its 
rightful owner, Galahad," replied the knight. 

Then the squire went to his master, and found 
him wounded nigh to death, wherefore he fetched 
his horse, and bore him back with him to the 
abbey. And there they laid him in a bed, and 
looked to his wounds : and when he had lain 

258 The Legends of King Arthur 

many days grievously sick, he at the last barely 
escaped with his life. 

" Sir Galahad," said the squire, " the knight 
who overthrew King Bagdemagus sent you greet- 
ing, and bade you bear this shield." 

" Now blessed be God and fortune," said Sir 
Galahad, and hung the shield about his neck, 
and armed him, and rode forth. 

Anon he met the White Knight by the hermit- 
age, and each saluted courteously the other. 

" Sir," said Sir Galahad, " this shield I bear 
hath surely a full marvellous history." 

" Thou sayest rightly," answered he. " That 
shield was made in the days of Joseph of Arima- 
thea, the gentle knight who took our Lord down 
from the cross. He, when he left Jerusalem with 
his kindred, came to the country of King Eve- 
lake, who warred continually with one Tollome ; 
and when, by the teaching of Joseph, King Eve- 
lake became a Christian, this shield was made for 
him in our Lord's name ; and through its aid 
King Tollome was defeated. For when King 
Evelake met him next in battle, he hid it in a veil, 
and suddenly uncovering it, he showed his ene- 
mies the figure of a bleeding man nailed to a cross, 
at sight of which they were discomfited and fled. 
Presently after that, a man whose hand was 
smitten off touched the cross upon the shield, 
and had his hand restored to him ; and many 
other miracles it worked. But suddenly the cross 
that was upon it vanished away. Anon both 
Joseph and King Evelake came to Britain, and 
by the preaching of Joseph the people were made 

The Fiend of the Tomb 259 

Christians. And when at length he lay upon his 
death-bed, King Evelake begged of him some 
token ere he died. Then, calling for his shield, 
he dipped his finger in his own blood, for he was 
bleeding fast, and none could staunch the wound, 
and marked that cross upon it, saying, ' This 
cross shall ever show as bright as now, and the 
last of my lineage shall wear this shield about his 
neck, and go forth to all the marvellous deeds he 
will achieve.' " 

When the White Knight had thus spoken he 
vanished suddenly away, and Sir Galahad re- 
turned to the abbey. 

As he alighted, came a monk, and prayed him 
to go see a tomb in the churchyard, wherefrom 
came such a great and hideous noise, that none 
could hear it but they went nigh mad, or lost all 
strength. " And sir," said he, "I deem it is a 

" Lead me thither," said Sir Galahad. 

When they were come near the place, " Now," 
said the monk, " go thou to the tomb, and lift it 

And Galahad, nothing afraid, quickly lifted up 
the stone, and forthwith came out a foul smoke, 
and from the midst thereof leaped up the loath- 
liest figure that ever he had seen in the likeness 
of man ; and Galahad blessed himself, for he 
knew it was a fiend of hell. Then he heard a 
voice crying out, " Oh, Galahad, I cannot tear 
thee as I would ; I see so many angels round thee, 
that I may not come at thee." 

Then the fiend suddenly disappeared with a 

260 The Legends of King Arthur 

marvellous great cry ; and Sir Galahad, looking 
in the tomb, saw there a body all armed, with a 
sword beside it. " Now, fair brother/' said he 
to the monk, " let us remove this cursed body, 
which is not fit to lie in a churchyard, for when it 
lived, a false and perjured Christian man dwelt 
in it. Cast it away, and there shall come no 
more hideous noises from the tomb." 

" And now must I depart," he added, " for I 
have much in hand, and am upon the holy quest 
of the Sangreal, with many more good knights." 

So he took his leave, and rode many journeys 
backwards and forwards as adventure would 
lead him ; and at last one day he departed from 
a castle without first hearing mass, which was 
it ever his custom to hear before he left his lodg- 
ing. Anon he found a ruined chapel on a moun- 
tain, and went in and kneeled before the altar, 
and prayed for wholesome counsel what to do ; 
and as he prayed he heard a voice, which said, 
" Depart, adventurous knight, unto the Maiden's 
Castle, and redress the violence and wrongs there 
done ! " 

Hearing these words, he cheerfully arose, and 
mounted his horse, and rode but half a mile, 
when he saw before him a strong castle, with deep 
ditches round it, and a fair river running past. 
And seeing an old churl hard by, he asked him 
what men called that castle. 

" Fair sir," said he, " it is the Maiden's Castle." 

" It is a cursed place," said Galahad, " and all 
its masters are but felons, full of mischief and 
hardness and shame." 

Sir Galahad at the Maiden's Castle 261 

" For that good reason," said the old man, 
" thou wert well-advised to turn thee back." 

" For that same reason," quoth Sir Galahad, 
" will I the more certainly ride on." 

Then, looking at his armour carefully, to see 
that nothing failed him, he went forward, and 
presently there met him seven damsels, who cried 
out, " Sir knight, thou ridest in great peril, for 
thou hast two waters to pass over." 

11 Why should I not pass over them ? " said 
he, and rode straight on. 

Anon he met a squire, who said, " Sir knight, 
the masters of this castle defy thee, and bid thee 
go no further, till thou showest them thy business 

" Fair fellow," said Sir Galahad, " I am come 
here to destroy their wicked customs." 

"If that be thy purpose," answered he, " thou 
wilt have much to do." 

" Go thou," said Galahad, " and hasten with 
my message." 

In a few minutes after rode forth furiously from 
the gateways of the castle seven knights, all 
brothers, and crying out, " Knight, keep thee," 
bore down all at once upon Sir Galahad. But 
thrusting forth his spear, he smote the foremost 
to the earth, so that his neck was almost broken, 
and warded with his shield the spears of all the 
others, which every one brake off from it, and 
shivered into pieces. Then he drew out his sword , 
and set upon them hard and fiercely, and by his 
wondrous force drave them before him, and chased 
them to the castle gate, and there he slew them. 


262 The Legends of King Arthur 

At that came out to him an ancient man, in 
priest's vestments, saying, " Behold, sir, here, the 
keys of this castle." 

Then he unlocked the gates, and found within 
a multitude of people, who cried out, " Sir knight, 
ye be welcome, for long have we waited thy 
deliverance," and told him that the seven felons 
he had slain had long enslaved the people round 
about, and killed all knights who passed that 
way, because the maiden whom they had robbed 
of the castle had foretold that by one knight they 
should themselves be overthrown. 

" Where is the maiden ? " asked Sir Galahad. 

" She lingereth below in a dungeon," said they. 

So Sir Galahad went down and released her, and 
restored her her inheritance ; and when he had 
summoned the barons of the country to do her 
homage, he took his leave, and departed. 

Presently thereafter, as he rode, he entered a 
great forest, and in a glade thereof met two 
knights, disguised, who proffered him to joust. 
These were Sir Lancelot, his father, and Sir 
Percival, but neither knew the other. So he and 
Sir Lancelot encountered first, and Sir Galahad 
smote down his father. Then drawing his sword, 
for his spear was broken, he fought with Sir 
Percival, and struck so mightily that he clave 
Sir Percival's helm, and smote him from his horse. 

Now hard by where they fought there was a 
hermitage, where dwelt a pious woman, a recluse, 
who, when she heard the sound, came forth, and 
seeing Sir Galahad ride, she cried, " God be with 
thee, the best knight in the world ; had yonder 

The Sick Knight and the Sangreal 263 

knights known thee as well as I do, they would 
not have encountered with thee." 

When Sir Galahad heard that, fearing to be 
made known, he forthwith smote his horse with 
his spurs, and departed at a great pace. 

Sir Lancelot and Sir Percival heard her words 
also, and rode fast after him, but within a while 
he was out of their sight. Then Sir Percival rode 
back to ask his name of the recluse ; but Sir 
Lancelot went forward on his quest, and following 
any path his horse would take, he came by-and- 
by after nightfall to a stone cross hard by an 
ancient chapel. When he had alighted and tied 
his horse up to a tree, he went and looked in 
through the chapel door, which was all ruinous 
and wasted, and there within he saw an altar, 
richly decked with silk, whereon there stood a fair 
candlestick of silver, bearing six great lights. And 
when Sir Lancelot saw the light, he tried to get 
within the chapel, but could find no place. So 
being passing weary and heavy, he came again 
to his horse, and when he had unsaddled him, and 
set him free to pasture, he unlaced his helm, and 
ungirded his sword, and laid him down to sleep 
upon his shield before the cross. 

And while he lay between waking and sleeping, 
he saw come by him two white palfreys bearing 
a litter, wherein a sick knight lay, and the palfreys 
stood still by the cross. Then Sir Lancelot heard 
the sick man say, " O sweet Lord, when shall this 
sorrow leave me, and the holy vessel pass by me, 
wherethrough I shall be blessed ? For I have long 

264 The Legends of King Arthur 

With that Sir Lancelot saw the chapel open, 
and the candlestick with the six tapers come 
before the cross, but he could see none who bare 
it. Then came there also a table of silver, and 
thereon the holy vessel of the Sangreal. And 
when the sick knight saw that, he sat up, and 
lifting both his hands, said, " Fair Lord, sweet 
Lord, who art here within this holy vessel, have 
mercy on me, that I may be whole ; " and there- 
with he crept upon his hands and knees so nigh, 
that he might touch the vessel ; and when he had 
kissed it, he leaped up, and stood and cried aloud, 
" Lord God, I thank Thee, for I am made whole." 
Then the Holy Grale departed with the table and 
the silver candlestick into the chapel, so that Sir 
Lancelot saw it no more, nor for his sins' sake 
could he follow it. And the knight who was 
healed went on his way. 

Then Sir Lancelot awake, and marvelled 
whether he had seen aught but a dream. And as 
he marvelled, he heard a voice saying, " Sir 
Lancelot, thou art unworthy, go thou hence, and 
withdraw thee from this holy place." And when 
he heard that, he was passing heavy, for he be- 
thought him of his sins. 

So he departed weeping, and cursed the day 
of his birth, for the words went into his heart, 
and he knew wherefore he was thus driven forth. 
Then he went to seek his arms and horse, but 
could not find them ; and then he called himself 
the wretchedest and most unhappy of all knights, 
and said, " My sin hath brought me unto great 
dishonour : for when I sought earthly honours, I 

Sir Lancelot's Promise 265 

achieved them ever ; but now I take upon me 
holy things, my guilt doth hinder me, and 
shameth me ; therefore had I no power to stir 
or speak when the holy blood appeared before me. ' ' 

So thus he sorrowed till it was day, and he 
heard the birds sing ; then was he somewhat 
comforted, and departing from the cross on foot, 
he came into a wild forest, and to a high mountain 
and there he found a hermitage ; and, kneeling 
before the hermit down upon both his knees, he 
cried for mercy for his wicked works, and prayed 
him to hear his confession. But when he told 
his name, the hermit marvelled to see him in so 
sore a case, and said, " Sir, ye ought to thank God 
more than any knight living, for He hath given 
thee more honour than any ; yet for thy pre- 
sumption, while in deadly sin to come into the 
presence of His flesh and blood, He suffered thee 
neither to see nor follow it. Wherefore, believe 
that all thy strength and manhood will avail 
thee little, when God is against thee." 

Then Sir Lancelot wept and said, " Now know 
I well ye tell me truth." 

Then he confessed to him, and told him all his 
sins, and how he had for fourteen years served but 
Queen Guinevere only, and forgotten God, and 
done great deeds of arms for her, and not for 
Heaven, and had little or nothing thanked God 
for the honour that he won. And then Sir 
Lancelot said, " I pray you counsel me." 

' ' I will counsel thee, ' ' said he : " never more enter 
into that queen's company when ye can avoid it." 

So Sir Lancelot promised him. 

266 The Legends of King Arthur 

" Look that your heart and your mouth ac- 
cord," said the good man, " and ye shall have 
more honour and more nobleness than ever ye 
have had." 

Then were his arms and horse restored to him, 
and so he took his leave, and rode forth, repenting 

Now Sir Percival had ridden back to the re- 
cluse, to learn who that knight was whom she 
had called the best in the world. And when he 
had told her that he was Sir Percival, she made 
passing great joy of him, for she was his mother's 
sister, wherefore she opened her door to him, and 
made him good cheer. And on the morrow she 
told him of her kindred to him, and they both 
made great rejoicing. Then he asked her who 
that knight was, and she told him, " He it is who 
on Whit Sunday last was clad in the red robe, 
and bare the red arms ; and he hath no peer, for 
he worketh all by miracle, and shall be never 
overcome by any earthly hands." 

" By my good will," said Sir Percival, " I will 
never after these tidings have to do with Sir 
Galahad but in the way of kindness ; and I would 
fain learn where I may find him." 

" Fair nephew," said she, " ye must ride to the 
Castle of Goth, where he hath a cousin ; by him 
ye may be lodged, and he will teach you the way 
to go ; but if he can tell you no tidings, ride 
straight to the Castle of Carbonek, where the 
wounded king is lying, for there shall ye surely 
hear true tidings of him." 

So Sir Percival departed from his aunt, and 

Sir Per civ al seeks Sir Galahad 267 

rode till evensong time, when he was ware of a 
monastery closed round with walls and deep 
ditches, where he knocked at the gate, and anon 
was let in. And there he had good cheer that 
night, and on the morrow heard mass. And 
beside the altar where the priest stood, was a 
rich bed of silk and cloth of gold ; and on the bed 
there lay a man passing old, having a crown of 
gold upon his head, and all his body was full of 
great wounds, and his eyes almost wholly blind ; 
and ever he held up his hands and said, " Sweet 
Lord, forget me not ! " 

Then Sir Percival asked one of the brethren 
who he was. 

" Sir," said the good man, " ye have heard of 
Joseph of Arimathea, how he was sent of Jesus 
Christ into this land to preach and teach the 
Christian faith. Now, in the city of Sarras he 
converted a king named Evelake, and this is he. 
He came with Joseph to this land, and ever de- 
sired greatly to see the Sangreal ; so on a time he 
came nigh thereto, and was struck almost blind. 
Then he cried out for mercy, and said, ' Fair 
Lord, I pray thee let me never die until a good 
knight of my blood achieve the Sangreal, and I 
may see and kiss him.' When he had thus 
prayed, he heard a voice that said, ' Thy prayers 
be heard and answered, for thou shalt not die till 
that knight kiss thee ; and when he cometh shall 
thine eyes be opened and thy wounds be healed.' 
And now hath he lived here for three hundred 
winters in a holy life, and men say a certain knight 
of King Arthur's court shall shortly heal him." 

268 The Legends of King Arthur 

Thereat Sir Percival marvelled greatly, for he 
well knew who that knight should be ; and so, 
taking his leave of the monk, departed. 

Then he rode on till noon, and came into a 
valley where he met twenty men-at-arms bearing 
a dead knight on a bier. And they cried to him, 
11 Whence comest thou ? " 

11 From King Arthur's court," he answered. 

Then they all cried together, " Slay him," and 
set upon him. 

But he smote down the first man to the ground, 
and his horse upon him ; whereat seven of them 
all at once assailed him, and others slew his horse. 
Thus he had been either taken or slain, but by 
good chance Sir Galahad was passing by that 
way, who, seeing twenty men attacking one, cried, 
" Slay him not," and rushed upon them ; and, 
as fast as his horse could drive, he encountered 
with the foremost man, and smote him down. 
Then, his spear being broken, he drew forth his 
sword and struck out on the right hand and on the 
left, at each blow smiting down a man, till the 
remainder fled, and he pursued them. 

Then Sir Percival, knowing that it was Sir 
Galahad, would fain have overtaken him, but 
could not, for his horse was slain. Yet followed 
he on foot as fast as he could go ; and as he went 
there met him a yeoman riding on a palfrey, and 
leading in his hand a great black steed. So Sir 
Percival prayed him to lend him the steed, that he 
might overtake Sir Galahad. But he replied, 
" That can I not do, fair sir, for the horse is my 
master's, and should I lend it he would slay me." 

Sir Percival and the Black Steed 269 

So he departed, and Sir Percival sat down be- 
neath a tree in heaviness of heart. And as he sat, 
anon a knight went riding past on the black steed 
which the yeoman had led. And presently after 
came the yeoman back in haste, and asked Sir 
Percival if he had seen a knight riding his horse. 

" Yea," said Sir Percival. 

" Alas," said the yeoman, " he hath reft him 
from me by strength, and my master will slay me." 

Then he besought Sir Percival to take his 
hackney and follow, and get back his steed. So 
he rode quickly, and overtook the knight, and 
cried, " Knight, turn again." Whereat he turned 
and set his spear, and smote Sir Percival's hackney 
in the breast, so that it fell dead, and then went 
on his way. Then cried Sir Percival after him, 
" Turn now, false knight, and fight with me on 
foot ; " but he would not, and rode out of sight. 

Then was Sir Percival passing wroth and heavy 
of heart, and lay down to rest beneath a tree, and 
slept till midnight. When he awoke he saw a 
woman standing by him, who said to him right 
fiercely, " Sir Percival, what doest thou here ? " 

" I do neither good nor evil," said he. 

" If thou wilt promise me," said she, " to do 
my will whenever I shall ask thee, I will bring thee 
here a horse that will bear thee wheresoever 
thou desirest." 

At that he was full glad, and promised as she 
asked. Then anon she came again, with a great 
black steed, strong and well apparelled. So Sir 
Percival mounted, and rode through the clear 
moonlight, and within less than an hour had gone 

270 The Legends of King Arthur 

a four days' journey, till he came to a rough water 
that roared ; and his horse would have borne him 
into it, but Sir Percival would not suffer him, yet 
could he scarce restrain him. And seeing the 
water so furious, he made the sign of the cross 
upon his forehead, whereat the horse suddenly 
shook him off, and with a terrible sound leaped 
into the water and disappeared, the waves all 
burning up in flames around him. Then Sir 
Percival knew it was a fiend which had brought 
him the horse ; so he commended himself to God, 
and prayed that he might escape temptations, 
and continued in prayer till it was day. 

Then he saw that he was on a wild mountain, 
nigh surrounded on all sides by the sea, and filled 
with wild beasts ; and going on into a valley, he 
saw a serpent carrying a young lion by the neck. 
With that came another lion, crying and roaring 
after the serpent, and anon overtook him, and 
began to battle with him. And Sir Percival 
helped the lion, and drew his sword, and gave the 
serpent such a stroke that it fell dead. Thereat the 
lion fawned upon him like a dog, licking his hands, 
and crouching at his feet, and at night lay down 
by him and slept at his side. 

And at noon the next day Sir Percival saw a 
ship come sailing before a strong wind upon the 
sea towards him, and he rose and went towards it. 
And when it came to shore, he found it covered 
with white samite, and on the deck there stood an 
old man dressed in priest's robes, who said, 
" God be with you, fair sir ; whence come 

Sir Bors and the Hermit 271 

" I am a knight of King Arthur's court," said 
he, " and follow the quest of the Sangreal ; but 
here have I lost myself in this wilderness." 

" Fear nothing," said the old man, " for I have 
come from a strange country to comfort thee." 

Then he told Sir Percival it was a fiend of hell 
upon which he had ridden to the sea, and that the 
lion, whom he had delivered from the serpent, 
meant the Church. And Sir Percival rejoiced at 
these tidings, and entered into the ship, which 
presently sailed from the shore into the sea. 

Now when Sir Bors rode forth from Camelot to 
seek the Sangreal, anon he met a holy man riding 
on an ass, and courteously saluted him. 

" Who are ye, son ? " said the good man. 

" I am a knight," said he, " in quest of the 
Sangreal, and would fain have thy counsel, for he 
shall have much earthly honour who may bring 
it to a favourable end." 

" That is truth," said the good man, " for he 
shall be the best knight of the world ; yet know 
that none shall gain it save by sinless living." 

So they rode to his hermitage together, and 
there he prayed Sir Bors to abide that night, and 
anon they went into the chapel, and Sir Bors 
was confessed. And they eat bread and drank 
water together. 

" Now," said the hermit, " I pray thee eat no 
other food till thou sit at the table where the 
Sangreal shall be." Thereto Sir Bors agreed. 

" Also," said the hermit, " it were wise that ye 
should wear a sackcloth garment next your skin, 
for penance ; " and in this also did Sir Bors as he 

272 The Legends of King Arthur 

was counselled. And afterwards he armed him- 
self and took his leave. 

Then rode he onwards all that day, and as he 
rode he saw a passing great bird sit in an old dry 
tree, whereon no leaves were left ; and many little 
birds lay round the great one, nigh dead with 
hunger. Then did the big bird smite himself 
with his own bill, and bled till he died amongst 
his little ones, and they recovered life in drinking 
up his blood. When Sir Bors saw this he knew 
it was a token, and rode on full of thought. And 
about eventide he came to a tower, whereto he 
prayed admission, and he was received gladly by 
the lady of the castle. But when a supper of 
many meats and dainties was set before him, he 
remembered his vow, and bade a squire to bring 
him water, and therein he dipped his bread, and 

Then said the lady, " Sir Bors, I fear ye like 
not my meat." 

" Yea, truly," said he ; " God thank thee, 
madam ; but I may eat no other meat this day." 

After supper came a squire, and said, " Madam, 
bethink thee to provide a champion for thee to- 
morrow for the tourney, or else shall thy sister 
have thy castle." 

At that the lady wept, and made great sorrow. 
But Sir Bors prayed her to be comforted, and 
asked her why the tournament was held. Then 
she told him how she and her sister were the 
daughters of King Anianse, who left all his lands 
between them ; and how her sister was the wife 
of a strong knight, named Sir Pridan le Noir, who 

Sir Bors and Sir Pridan le Noir 273 

had taken from herself all her lands, save the one 
tower wherein she dwelt. " And now," said she, 
" this also will they take, unless I find a champion 
by to-morrow." 

Then said Sir Bors, " Be comforted ; to-morrow 
I will fight for thee ; " whereat she rejoiced not 
a little, and sent word to Sir Pridan that she was 
provided and ready. And Sir Bors lay on the 
floor, and in no bed, nor ever would do otherwise 
till he had achieved his quest. 

On the morrow he arose and clothed himself, 
and went into the chapel, where the lady met him, 
and they heard mass together. Anon he called 
for his armour, and went with a goodly company 
of knights to the battle. And the lady prayed 
him to refresh himself ere he should fight, but he 
refused to break his fast until the tournament 
were done. So they all rode together to the lists, 
and there they saw the lady's eldest sister, and 
her husband, Sir Pridan le Noir. And a cry was 
made by the heralds that, whichever should win, 
his lady should have all the other's lands. 

Then the two knights departed asunder a little 
space, and came together with such force, that 
both their spears were shivered, and their shields 
and hauberks pierced through ; and both fell to 
the ground sorely wounded, with their horses 
under them. But swiftly they arose, and drew 
their swords, and smote each other on the head 
with many great and heavy blows, till the blood 
ran down their bodies ; and Sir Pridan was a full 
good knight, so that Sir Bors had more ado than 
he had thought for to overcome him. 

274 The Legends of King Arthur 

But at last Sir Pridan grew a little faint ; that 
instantly perceived Sir Bors, and rushed upon 
him the more vehemently, and smote him fiercely 
till he rent off his helm, and then gave him great 
strokes upon his visage with the flat of his sword, 
and bade him yield or be slain. 

And then Sir Pridan cried him mercy, and said, 
" For God's sake slay me not, and I will never 
war against thy lady more." So Sir Bors let him 
go, and his wife fled away with all her knights. 

Then all those who had held lands of the lady 
of the tower came and did homage to her again, 
and swore fealty. And when the country was at 
peace Sir Bors departed, and rode forth into a 
forest until it was mid-day, and there befell him 
a marvellous adventure. 

For at a place where two ways parted, there met 
him two knights, bearing Sir Lionel, his brother, 
all naked, bound on a horse, and as they rode, 
they beat him sorely with thorns, so that the 
blood trailed down in more than a hundred places 
from his body ; but for all this he uttered no word 
or groan, so great he was of heart. As soon as 
Sir Bors knew his brother, he put his spear in 
rest to run and rescue him ; but in the same 
moment heard a woman's voice cry close beside 
him in the wood, " St. Mary, succour thy maid ; " 
and looking round, he saw a damsel whom a felon 
knight dragged after him into the thickets ; and 
she, perceiving him, cried piteously for help, and 
adjured him to deliver her as he was a sworn 
knight. Then was Sir Bors sore troubled, and 
knew not what to do, for he thought within him- 

Sir Bors and the Captive Maid 275 

self, " If I let my brother be, he will be murdered ; 
but if I help not the maid, she is shamed for ever, 
and my vow compelleth me to set her free ; 
wherefore must I first help her, and trust my 
brother unto God." 

So, riding to the knight who held the damsel, 
he cried out, " Sir knight, lay your hand off that 
maid, or else ye be but dead." 

At that the knight set down the maid, and 
dropped his shield, and drew forth his sword 
against Sir Bors, who ran at him, and smote him 
through both shield and shoulder, and threw him 
to the earth ; and when he pulled his spear forth, 
the knight swooned. Then the maid thanked 
Sir Bors heartily, and he set her on the knight's 
horse, and brought her to her men-at-arms, who 
presently came riding after her. And they made 
much joy, and besought him to come to her 
father, a great lord, and he should be right 
welcome. But " truly," said he, " I may not at 
this time, for I have a great adventure yet to do ; " 
and commending them to God, he departed in 
great haste to find his brother. 

So he rode seeking him by the track of the 
horses a great while. Anon he met a seeming 
holy man riding upon a strong black horse, and 
asked him, had he seen pass by that way a knight 
led bound and beaten with thorns by two others. 

" Yes, truly, such an one I saw," said the man ; 
" but he is dead, and lo 1 his body is hard by in 
a bush." 

Then he showed him a newly slain body lying 
in a thick bush, which seemed indeed to be Sir 

276 The Legends of King Arthur 

Lionel. Then made Sir Bors such mourning and 
sorrow that by-and-by he fell into a swoon upon 
the ground. And when he came to himself again, 
he took the body in his arms and put it on his 
horse's saddle, and bore it to a chapel hard by, 
and would have buried it. But when he made 
the sign of the cross, he heard a full great noise 
and cry as though all the fiends of hell had been 
about him, and suddenly the body and the chapel 
and the old man vanished all away. Then he 
knew that it was the devil who had thus beguiled 
him, and that his brother yet lived. 

Then held he up his hands to heaven, and 
thanked God for his own escape from hurt, and 
rode onwards ; and anon, as he passed by an 
hermitage in a forest, he saw his brother sitting 
armed by the door. And when he saw him he 
was filled with joy, and lighted from his horse, 
and ran to him and said, " Fair brother, when 
came ye hither ? " 

But Sir Lionel answered, with an angry face, 
" What vain words be these, when for you I might 
have been slain ? Did ye not see me bound and 
led away to death, and left me in that peril to go 
succouring a gentlewoman, the like whereof no 
brother ever yet hath done ? Now, for thy false mis- 
deed, I do defy thee, and ensure thee speedy death." 

Then Sir Bors prayed his brother to abate his 
anger, and said, " Fair brother, remember the 
love that should be between us twain." 

But Sir Lionel would not hear, and prepared to 
fight, and mounted his horse and came before 
him, crying, " Sir Bors, keep thee from me, for I 

PL 4. 

see p. 282. 

'This girdle, lords," said she, "is made for the most 

part of mine own hair, which, while I was yet in the 

world, I loved full well." 


Sir Lionel fights his Brother 277 

shall do to thee as a felon and a traitor ; therefore 
start upon thy horse, for if thou wilt not, I will 
run upon thee as thou standest." 

But for all his words Sir Bors would not defend 
himself against his brother. And anon the fiend 
stirred up Sir Lionel to such rage, that he rushed 
over him and overthrew him with his horse's 
hoofs, so that he lay swooning on the ground. 
Then would he have rent off his helm and slain 
him, but the hermit of that place ran out, and 
prayed him to forbear, and shielded Sir Bors with 
his body. 

Then Sir Lionel cried out, " Now, God so help 
me, Sir priest, but I shall slay thee else thou de- 
part, and him too after thee." 

And when the good man utterly refused to leave 
Sir Bors, he smote him on the head until he died, 
and then he took his brother by the helm and 
unlaced it, to have stricken off his head, and so he 
would have done, but suddenly was pulled off 
backwards by a knight of the Round Table, who, 
by the will of Heaven, was passing by that place 
— Sir Colgrevance by name. 

" Sir Lionel," he cried, " will ye slay your 
brother, one of the best knights of all the world ? 
That ought no man to suffer." 

" Why," said Sir Lionel, " will ye hinder me 
and meddle in this strife ? Beware, lest I shall slay 
both thee and him." 

And when Sir Colgrevance refused to let them 
be, Sir Lionel defied him, and gave him a great 
stroke through the helmet, whereat Sir Col- 
grevance drew his sword, and smote again right 


278 The Legends of King Arthur 

manfully. And so long they fought together 
that Sir Bors awoke from his swoon, and tried to 
rise and part them, but had no strength to stand 
upon his feet. 

Anon Sir Colgrevance saw him, and cried out to 
him for help, for now Sir Lionel had nigh defeated 
him. When Sir Bors heard that, he struggled to 
his feet, and put his helmet on, and took his 
sword. But before he could come to him, Sir 
Lionel had smitten off Sir Colgrevance 's helm, 
and thrown him to the earth and slain him. Then 
turned he to his brother as a man possessed by 
fiends, and gave him such a stroke as bent him 
nearly double. 

But still Sir Bors prayed him for God's sake to 
quit that battle, " For if it befell us that we either 
slew the other we should die for care of that sin." 

11 Never will I spare thee if I master thee," 
cried out Sir Lionel. 

Then Sir Bors drew his sword all weeping, and 
said, " Now, God have mercy on me, though I 
defend my life against my brother ; " with that 
he lifted up his sword to strike, but suddenly he 
heard a mighty voice, " Put up thy sword, Sir 
Bors, and flee, or thou shalt surely slay him." 
And then there fell upon them both a fiery cloud, 
which flamed and burned their shields, and they 
fell to the earth in sore dread. 

Anon Sir Bors rose to his feet, and saw that Sir 
Lionel had taken no harm. Then came the voice 
again, and said, " Sir Bors, go hence and leave 
thy brother, and ride thou forward to the sea, 
for there Sir Percival abideth thee. " 

Sir Galahad fights Sir Gawain 279 

Then he said to his brother, " Brother, forgive 
me all my trespass against thee." 

And Sir Lionel answered, " God forgive it 
thee, as I do." 

Then he departed and rode to the sea, and on 
the strand he found a ship all covered with white 
samite, and as soon as he had entered thereinto, 
it put forth from the shore. And in the midst of 
the ship there stood an armed knight, whom he 
knew to be Sir Percival. Then they rejoiced 
greatly over each other, and said, " We lack 
nothing now but the good knight Sir Galahad." 

Now when Sir Galahad had rescued Sir Percival 
from the twenty knights he rode into a vast 
forest. And after many days it befell that he 
came to a castle whereat was a tournament. And 
the knights of the castle were put to the worse ; 
which when he saw, he set his spear in rest and 
ran to help them, and smote down many of then- 
adversaries. And as it chanced, Sir Gawain was 
amongst the stranger knights, and when he saw 
the white shield with the red cross, he knew it was 
Sir Galahad, and proffered to joust with him. 
So they encountered, and having broken their 
spears, they drew their swords, and Sir Galahad 
smote Sir Gawain so sorely on the helm that he 
clove it through, and struck on slanting to the 
earth, carving the horse's shoulder in twain, and 
Sir Gawain fell to the earth. Then Sir Galahad 
beat back all who warred against the castle, yet 
would he not wait for thanks, but rode away that 
no man might know him. 

And he rested that night at a hermitage, and 

280 The Legends of King Arthur 

when he was asleep, he heard a knocking at the 
door. So he rose, and found a damsel there, who 
said, " Sir Galahad, I will that ye arm you, and 
mount upon your horse and follow me, for I will 
show you within these three days the highest 
adventure that ever any knight saw." 

Anon Sir Galahad armed him, and took his 
horse, and commended himself to God, and bade 
the gentlewoman go, and he would follow where 
she liked. 

So they rode onwards to the sea as fast as their 
horses might gallop, and at night they came to a 
castle in a valley, inclosed by running water, and 
by strong and high walls, whereinto they entered 
and had great cheer, for the lady of the castle 
was the damsel's mistress. 

And when he was unarmed, the damsel said to 
her lady , " Madam, shall we abide here this night ? ' ' 

" Nay," said she, " but only till he hath dined 
and slept a little." 

So he ate and slept a while, till the maid called 
him, and armed him by torchlight ; and when he 
had saluted the lady of the castle, the damsel and 
Sir Galahad rode on. 

Anon they came to the seaside, and lo ! the 
ship, wherein were Sir Percival and Sir Bors, 
abode by the shore. Then they cried, " Welcome, 
Sir Galahad, for we have awaited thee long." 

Then they rejoiced to see each other, and told of 
all their adventures and temptations. And the 
damsel went into the ship with them, and spake 
to Sir Percival : " Sir Percival, know ye not who 

The Ship "Faith" 281 

And he replied, " Nay, certainly, I know thee 

Then said she, "lam thy sister, the daughter 
of King Pellinore, and am sent to help thee and 
these knights, thy fellows, to achieve the quest 
which ye all follow." 

So Sir Percival rejoiced to see his sister, and 
they departed from the shore. And after a while 
they came upon a whirlpool, where their ship 
could not live. Then saw they another greater 
ship hard by and went towards it, but saw neither 
man nor woman therein. And on the end of it 
these words were written, " Thou who shalt enter 
me, beware that thou be in steadfast belief, for I 
am Faith ; and if thou doubtest, I cannot help 
thee." Then were they all adread, but, com- 
mending themselves to God, they entered in. 

As soon as they were on board they saw a fair 
bed whereon lay a crown of silk, and at the foot 
was a fair and rich sword drawn from its scabbard 
half a foot and more. The pommel was of 
precious stones of many colours, every colour 
having a different virtue, and the scales of the 
haft were of two ribs of different beasts. The one 
was bone of a serpent from Calidone forest, named 
the serpent of the fiend ; and its virtue saveth all 
men who hold it from weariness. The other was 
of a fish that haunteth the floods of Euphrates, 
named Ertanax ; and its virtue causeth whoever 
holdeth it to forget all other things, whether of 
joy or pain, save the thing he seeth before him. 

" In the name of God," said Sir Percival, " I 
shall essay to handle this sword ; " and set his 

282 The Legends of King Arthur 

hand to it, but could not grasp it. "By my faith," 
said he, " now have I failed." 

Sir Bors set his hand to it, and failed also. 

Then came Sir Galahad, and saw these letters 
written red as blood, " None shall draw me forth 
save the hardiest of all men ; but he that draweth 
me shall never be ashamed or wounded to death." 
" By my faith," said Sir Galahad, " I would draw 
it forth, but dare not try." 

" Ye may try safely," said the gentlewoman, 
Sir Percival's sister, " for be ye well assured the 
drawing of this sword is forbid to all but you. 
For this was the sword of David, King of Israel, 
and Solomon his son made for it this marvellous 
pommel and this wondrous sheath, and laid it 
on this bed till thou shouldest come and take it 
up ; and though before thee some have dared to 
raise it, yet have they all been maimed or wounded 
for their daring." 

" Where," said Sir Galahad, " shall we find a 
girdle for it ? " 

" Fair sir," said she, " dismay you not ; " and 
therewith took from out a box a girdle, nobly 
wrought with golden thread, set full of precious 
stones, and with a rich gold buckle. " This 
girdle, lords," said she, " is made for the most 
part of mine own hair, which, while I was yet in 
the world, I loved full well, but when I knew that 
this adventure was ordained me, I cut off and 
wove as ye now see." 

Then they all prayed Sir Galahad to take the 
sword, and so anon he gripped it in his fingers ; 
and the maiden girt it round his waist, saying, 

The Castle of Carteloise 283 

" Now reck I not though I die, for I have made 
thee the worthiest knight of all the world." 

" Fair damsel," said Sir Galahad, " ye have 
done so much that I shall be your knight all the 
days of my life." 

Then the ship sailed a great way on the sea, 
and brought them to land near the Castle of 
Carteloise. When they were landed came a 
squire and asked them, " Be ye of King Arthur's 
court ? " 

" We are," said they. 

" In an evil hour are ye come," said he, and 
went back swiftly to the castle. 

Within a while they heard a great horn blow, 
and saw a multitude of well-armed knights come 
forth, who bade them yield or die. At that they 
ran together, and Sir Percival smote one to the 
earth and mounted his horse, and so likewise did 
Sir Bors and Sir Galahad, and soon had they 
routed all their enemies and alighted on foot, and 
with their swords slew them downright, and 
entered into the castle. 

Then came there forth a priest, to whom Sir 
Galahad kneeled and said, " In sooth, good father, 
I repent me of this slaughter ; but we were first 
assailed, or else it had not been." 

" Repent ye not," said the good man, " for if 
ye lived as long as the world lasted ye could do 
no better deed, for these were all the felon sons 
of a good knight, Earl Hernox, whom they have 
thrown into a dungeon, and in his name have 
slain priests and clerks, and beat down chapels 
far and near." 

284 The Legends of King Arthur 

Then Sir Galahad prayed the priest to bring 
him to the earl ; who, when he saw Sir Galahad, 
cried out, " Long have I waited for thy coming, 
and now I pray thee hold me in thine arms that I 
may die in peace." 

And therewith, when Sir Galahad had taken 
him in his arms, his soul departed from his body. 

Then came a voice in the hearing of them all, 
" Depart now, Sir Galahad, and go quickly to the 
maimed king, for he hath long abided to receive 
health from thy hand." 

So the three knights departed, and Sir Percival's 
sister with them, and came to a vast forest, and 
saw before them a white hart, exceeding fair, led 
by four lions ; and marvelling greatly at that 
sight, they followed. 

Anon they came to a hermitage and a chapel, 
whereunto the hart entered, and the lions with it. 
Then a priest offered mass, and presently they 
saw the hart change into the figure of a man, most 
sweet and comely to behold ; and the four lions 
also changed and became a man, an eagle, a lion, 
and an ox. And suddenly all those five figures 
vanished without sound. Then the knights 
marvelled greatly, and fell upon their knees, and 
when they rose they prayed the priest to tell them 
what that sight might mean. 

" What saw ye, sirs ? " said he, "for I saw 
nothing." Then they told him. 

11 Ah, lords ! " said he, " ye are full welcome ; 
now know I well ye be the knights who shall 
achieve the Sangreal, for unto them alone such 
mysteries are revealed. The hart ye saw is One 

The Castle of the Leprous Lady 285 

above all men, white and without blemish, and 
the four lions with Him are the four evangelists." 

When they heard that they heartily rejoiced, 
and thanking the priest, departed. 

Anon, as they passed by a certain castle, an 
armed knight suddenly came after them, and 
cried out to the damsel, " By the Holy Cross, ye 
shall not go till ye have yielded to the custom of 
the castle." 

11 Let her go," said Sir Percival, " for a maiden 
wheresoever she cometh, is free." 

" Whatever maiden passeth here," replied the 
knight, " must give a dishful of her blood from 
her right arm." 

" It is a foul and shameful custom," cried Sir 
Galahad and both his fellows, " and sooner will 
we die than let this maiden yield thereto." 

" Then shall ye die," replied the knight, and as 
he spake there came out from a gate hard by, ten 
or twelve more, and encountered with them, 
running upon them vehemently with a great cry. 
But the three knights withstood them, and set 
their hands to their swords, and beat them down 
and slew them. 

At that came forth a company of threescore 
knights, all armed. " Fair lords," said Sir 
Galahad, " have mercy on yourselves and keep 
from us." 

" Nay, fair lords," they answered, " rather be 
advised by us, and yield ye to our custom." 

" It is an idle word," said Galahad, " in vain ye 
speak it." 

" Well," said they, " will ye die ? " 

286 The Legends of King Arthur 

" We be not come thereto as yet," replied Sir 

Then did they fall upon each other, and Sir 
Galahad drew forth his sword, and smote on the 
right hand and on the left, and slew so mightily 
that all who saw him thought he was a monster 
and no earthly man. And both his comrades 
helped him well, and so they held the field against 
that multitude till it was night. Then came a 
good knight forward from the enemy and said, 
" Fair knights, abide with us to-night, and be 
right welcome ; by the faith of our bodies as we 
are true knights, to-morrow ye shall rise un- 
harmed, and meanwhile maybe ye will, of your 
own accord, accept the custom of the castle when 
ye know it better." 

So they entered and alighted and made great 
cheer. Anon, they asked them whence that 
custom came. ' ' The lady of this castle is a leper, ' ' 
said they, " and can be no way cured save by the 
blood of a pure virgin and a king's daughter ; 
therefore to save her life are we her servants 
bound to stay every maid that passeth by, and 
try if her blood may not cure our mistress." 

Then said the damsel, " Take ye of my blood 
as much as ye will, if it may avail your lady." 

And though the three knights urged her not to 
put her life in that great peril, she replied, " If I 
die to heal another's body, I shall get health to my 
soul," and would not be persuaded to refuse. 

So on the morrow she was brought to the sick 
lady, and her arm was bared, and a vein thereof 
was opened, and the dish filled with her blood. 

Death of Sir Percival's Sister 287 

Then the sick lady was anointed therewith, and 
anon she was whole of her malady. With that 
Sir Percival's sister lifted up her hand and blessed 
her, saying, " Madam, I am come to my death 
to make you whole ; for God's love pray for 
me ; " and thus saying she fell down in a swoon. 

Then Sir Galahad, Sir Percival, and Sir Bors 
started to lift her up and staunch her blood, but 
she had lost too much to live. So when she came 
to herself she said to Sir Percival, " Fair brother, 
I must die for the healing of this lady, and now, 
I pray thee, bury me not here, but when I am 
dead put me in a boat at the next haven and let 
me float at venture on the sea. And when ye 
come to the city of Sarras, to achieve the Sangreal, 
shall ye find me waiting by a tower, and there I 
pray thee bury me, for there shall Sir Galahad and 
ye also be laid." Thus having said, she died. 

Then Sir Percival wrote all the story of her life 
and put it in her right hand, and so laid her in a 
barge and covered it with silk. And the wind 
arising drove the barge from land, and all the 
knights stood watching it till it was out of sight. 

Anon they returned to the castle, and forth- 
with fell a sudden tempest of thunder and light- 
ning and rain, as if the earth were broken up : 
and half the castle was thrown down. Then came 
a voice to the three knights which said, " Depart 
ye now asunder till ye meet again where the 
maimed king is lying." So they parted and rode 
divers ways. 

Now after Sir Lancelot had left the hermit, he 
rode a long while till he knew not whether to turn, 

288 The Legends of King Arthur 

and so he lay down to sleep, if haply he might 
dream whither to go. 

And in his sleep a vision came to him saying, 
" Lancelot, rise up and take thine armour, and 
enter the first ship that thou shalt find." 

When he awoke he obeyed the vision, and rode 
till he came to the sea-shore, and found there a 
ship without sails or oars, and as soon as he was 
in it he smelt the sweetest savour he had ever 
known, and seemed filled with all things he could 
think of or desire. And looking round he saw a 
fair bed, and thereon a gentlewoman lying dead, 
who was Sir Percival's sister. And as Sir Lance- 
lot looked on her he spied the writing in her right 
hand, and taking it, he read therein her story. 
And more than a month thereafter he abode in 
that ship and was nourished by the grace of 
Heaven, as Israel was fed with manna in the 

And on a certain night he went ashore to pass 
the time, for he was somewhat weary, and, listen- 
ing, he heard a horse come towards him, from 
which a knight alighted and went up into the 
ship ; who, when he saw Sir Lancelot, said, " Fair 
sir, ye be right welcome to mine eyes, for I am thy 
son Galahad, and long time I have sought for 
thee." With that he kneeled and asked his 
blessing, and took off his helm and kissed him, 
and the great joy there was between them no 
tongue can tell. 

Then for half a year they dwelt together in the 
ship, and served God night and day with all their 
powers, and went to many unknown islands, 

Sir Galahad parts from his Father 289 

where none but wild beasts haunted, and there 
found many strange and perilous adventures. 

And upon a time they came to the edge of a 
forest, before a cross of stone, and saw a knight 
armed all in white, leading a white horse. Then 
the knight saluted them, and said to Galahad, 
" Ye have been long time enough with your 
father; now, therefore, leave him and ride this 
horse till ye achieve the Holy Quest." 

Then went Sir Galahad to his father and kissed 
him full courteously, and said, " Fair father, I 
know not when I shall see thee again." 

And as he took his horse a voice spake in their 
hearing, " Ye shall meet no more in this life." 

11 Now, my son, Sir Galahad," said Sir Lance- 
lot, " since we must so part and see each other 
never more, I pray the High Father of Heaven 
to preserve both you and me." 

Then they bade farewell, and Sir Galahad 
entered the forest, and Sir Lancelot returned to 
the ship, and the wind rose and drove him more 
than a month through the sea, whereby he slept 
but little, yet ever prayed that he might see the 

So it befell upon a certain midnight, the moon 
shining clear, he came before a fair and rich castle, 
whereof the postern gate was open towards the 
sea, having no keeper save two lions in the entry. 

Anon Sir Lancelot heard a voice : " Leave now 
thy ship and go within the castle, and thou shalt 
see a part of thy desire." 

Then he armed and went towards the gate, and 
coming to the lions he drew out his sword, but 

290 The Legends of King Arthur 

suddenly a dwarf rushed out and smote him on 
the arm, so that he dropt his sword, and heard 
again the voice, " Oh, man of evil faith, and poor 
belief, wherefore trustest thou thine arms above 
thy Maker ? " Then he put up his sword and 
signed the cross upon his forehead, and so passed 
by the lions without hurt. 

And going in, he found a chamber with the 
door shut, which in vain he tried to open. And 
listening thereat he heard a voice within, which 
sang so sweetly that it seemed no earthly thing, 
11 Joy and honour be to the Father of Heaven ! " 
Then he kneeled down at the door, for he knew 
well the Sangreal was there within. 

Anon the door was opened without hands, and 
forthwith came thereout so great a splendour as 
if all the torches of the world had been alight 
together. But when he would have entered in, a 
voice forbad him ; wherefore he drew back, and 
looked, standing upon the threshold of the door. 
And there he saw a table of silver, and the holy 
vessel covered with red samite, and many angels 
round it holding burning candles and a cross and 
all the ornaments of the altar. 

Then a priest stood up and offered mass, and 
when he took the vessel up, he seemed to sink 
beneath that burden. At that Sir Lancelot 
cried, " O Father, take it not for sin that I go in 
to help the priest, who hath much need thereof." 
So saying, he went in, but when he came towards 
the table he felt a breath of fire which issued out 
therefrom and smote him to the ground, so that 
he had no power to rise. 

Sir Galahad and King Evelake 291 

Then felt he many hands about him, which 
took him up and laid him down outside the chapel 
door. There lay he in a swoon all through that 
night, and on the morrow certain people found 
him senseless, and bore him to an inner chamber 
and laid him on a bed. And there he rested, 
living, but moving no limbs, twenty-four days 
and nights. 

On the twenty-fifth day he opened his eyes and 
saw those standing round, and said, " Why have 
ye waked me ? For I have seen marvels that no 
tongue can tell, and more than any heart can 

Then he asked where he was, and they told him, 
" In the Castle of Carbonek." 

" Tell your lord, King Pelles," said he, " that I 
am Sir Lancelot." 

At that they marvelled greatly, and told their 
lord it was Sir Lancelot who had lain there so long. 

Then was King Pelles wondrous glad and went 
to see him, and prayed him to abide there for a 
season. But Sir Lancelot said, " I know well 
that I have now seen as much as mine eyes may 
behold of the Sangreal ; wherefore I will return 
to my own country." So he took leave of King 
Pelles, and departed towards Logris. 

Now after Sir Galahad had parted from Sir 
Lancelot, he rode many days, till he came to the 
monastery where the blind King Evelake lay, 
whom Sir Percival had seen. And on the morrow, 
when he had heard mass, Sir Galahad desired to 
see the king, who cried out, " Welcome, Sir 
Galahad, servant of the Lord ! Long have I abided 

292 The Legends of King Arthur 

thy coming. Take me now in thine arms, that 
I may die in peace." 

At that Sir Galahad embraced him ; and when 
he had so done the king's eyes were opened, and 
he said, " Fair Lord Jesus, suffer me now to come 
to Thee ; " and anon his soul departed. 

Then they buried him royally, as a king should 
be ; and Sir Galahad went on his way. 

Within a while he came to a chapel in a forest, 
in the crypt whereof he saw a tomb which always 
blazed and burnt. And asking the brethren what 
that might mean, they told him, " Joseph of 
Arimathea's son did found this monastery, and 
one who wronged him hath lain here these three 
hundred and fifty years and burneth evermore, 
until that perfect knight who shall achieve the 
Sangreal doth quench the fire." 

Then said he, " I pray ye bring me to the tomb." 

And when he touched the place immediately 
the fire was quenched, and a voice came from the 
grave and cried, " Thanks be to God, who now 
hath purged me of my sin, and draweth me from 
earthly pain into the joys of Paradise." 

Then Sir Galahad took the body in his arms and 
bore it to the abbey, and on the morrow put it 
in the earth before the high altar. 

Anon he departed from thence and rode five 
days in a great forest ; and after that he met Sir 
Percival, and a little further on Sir Bors. When 
they had told each other their adventures, they 
rode together to the Castle of Carbonek : and 
there King Pelles gave them hearty welcome, for 
he knew they should achieve the Holy Quest. 

The Sangreal 293 

As soon as they were come into the castle, a 
voice cried in the midst of the chamber, " Let 
them who ought not now to sit at the table of the 
Lord rise and depart hence ! " Then all, save 
those three knights, departed. 

Anon they saw other knights come in with 
haste at the hall doors and take their harness off, 
who said to Sir Galahad, " Sir, we have tried sore 
to be with you at this table." 

" Ye be welcome," said he, " but whence are 

So three of them said they were from Gaul ; and 
three from Ireland ; and three from Denmark. 

Then came forth the likeness of a bishop, with 
a cross in his hand, and four angels stood by him, 
and a table of silver was before them, whereon 
was set the vessel of the Sangreal. Then came 
forth other angels also — two bearing burning 
candles, and the third a towel, and the fourth a 
spear which bled marvellously, the drops where- 
from fell into a box he held in his left hand. Anon 
the bishop took the wafer up to consecrate it, 
and at the lifting up, they saw the figure of a 
Child, whose visage was as bright as any fire, 
which smote itself into the midst of the wafer and 
vanished, so that all saw the flesh made bread. 

Thereat the bishop went to Galahad and kissed 
him, and bade him go and kiss his fellows ; and 
said, " Now, servants of the Lord, prepare for 
food such as none ever yet were fed with since the 
world began." 

With that he vanished, and the knights were 
filled with a great dread and prayed devoutly. 


294 The Legends of King Arthur 

Then saw they come forth from the holy vessel 
the vision of a man bleeding all openly, whom they 
knew well by the tokens of His passion for the 
Lord Himself. At that they fell upon their faces 
and were dumb. Anon he brought the Holy 
Grale to them and spake high words of comfort, 
and, when they drank therefrom, the taste thereof 
was sweeter than any tongue could tell or heart 
desire. Then a voice said to Galahad, " Son, with 
this blood which drippeth from the spear anoint 
thou the maimed king and heal him. And when 
thou hast this done, depart hence with thy 
brethren in a ship that ye shall find, and go to the 
city of Sarras. And bear with thee the holy 
vessel, for it shall no more be seen in the realm 
of Logris." 

At that Sir Galahad walked to the bleeding 
spear, and therefrom anointing his fingers went 
out straightway to the maimed King Pelles, and 
touched his wound. Then suddenly he uprose 
from his bed as whole a man as ever he was, and 
praised God passing thankfully with all his heart. 

Then Sir Galahad, Sir Bors, and Sir Percival 
departed as they had been told ; and when they 
had ridden three days they came to the sea-shore, 
and found the ship awaiting them. Therein they 
entered, and saw in the midst the silver table and 
the vessel of the Sangreal, covered with red samite. 
Then were they passing glad, and made great 
reverence thereto. And Sir Galahad prayed that 
now he might leave the world and pass to God. 
And presently, the while he prayed, a voice said 
to him, " Galahad, thy prayer is heard, and when 

The Sangreal 295 

thou asketh the death of the body thou shalt have 
it, and find the life of thy soul." 

But while they prayed and slept the ship sailed 
on, and when they woke they saw the city of 
Sarras before them, and the other ship wherein 
was Sir Percival's sister. Then the three knights 
took up the holy table and the Sangreal and went 
into the city ; and there, in a chapel, they buried 
Sir Percival's sister right solemnly. 

Now at the gate of the town they saw an old 
cripple sitting, whom Sir Galahad called to help 
them bear their weight. 

" Truly," said the old man, "it is ten years 
since I have gone a step without these crutches." 

" Care ye not," said Sir Galahad ; " rise now 
and show goodwill." 

So he essayed to move, and found his limbs as 
strong as any man's might be, and running to the 
table helped to carry it. 

Anon there rose a rumour in the city that a 
cripple had been healed by certain marvellous 
strange knights. 

But the king, named Estouranse, who was a 
heathen tyrant, when he heard thereof took Sir 
Galahad and his fellows, and put them in prison 
in a deep hole. Therein they abode a great 
while, but ever the Sangreal was with them and 
fed them with marvellous sweet food, so that they 
fainted not, but had all joy and comfort they 
could wish. 

At the year's end the king fell sick and felt that 
he should die. Then sent he for the three knights, 
and when they came before him prayed their 

296 The Legends of King Arthur 

mercy for his trespasses against them. So they 
forgave him gladly, and anon he died. 

Then the chief men of the city took counsel 
together who should be king in his stead, and as 
they talked, a voice cried in their midst, " Choose 
ye the youngest of the three knights King 
Estouranse cast into prison for your king." At 
that they sought Sir Galahad and made him 
king with the assent of all the city, and else they 
would have slain him. 

But within a twelvemonth came to him, upon 
a certain day, as he prayed before the Sangreal, a 
man in likeness of a bishop, with a great company 
of angels round about him, who offered mass, and 
afterwards called to Sir Galahad, " Come forth, 
thou servant of the Lord, for the time hath come 
thou hast desired so long." 

Then Sir Galahad lifted up his hands and 
prayed, " Now, blessed Lord ! would I no longer 
live if it might please Thee." 

Anon the bishop gave him the sacrament, and 
when he had received it with unspeakable glad- 
ness, he said, " Who art thou, father ? " 

" I am Joseph of Arimathea," answered he, 
11 whom our Lord hath sent to bear thee fellow- 

When he heard that, Sir Galahad went to Sir 
Percival and Sir Bors and kissed them and com- 
mended them to God, saying, " Salute for me Sir 
Lancelot, my father, and bid him remember this 
unstable world." 

Therewith he kneeled down and prayed, and 
suddenly his soul departed, and a multitude of 

The Death of Sir Galahad 297 

angels bare it up to heaven. Then came a hand 
from heaven and took the vessel and the spear 
and bare them out of sight. 

Since then was never man so hardy as to say- 
that he had seen the Sangreal. 

And after these things, Sir Percival put off his 
armour and betook him to an hermitage, and 
within a little while passed out of this world. And 
Sir Bors, when he had buried him beside his sister, 
returned, weeping sore for the loss of his two 
brethren, to King Arthur, at Camelot. 

Sir Lancelot and the Fair Maid of Astolat 

NOW after the quest of the Sangreal was 
fulfilled and all the knights who were left 
alive were come again to the Round Table, 
there was great joy in the court. And passing 
glad were King Arthur and Queen Guinevere to 
see Sir Lancelot and Sir Bors, for they had been 
long absent in that quest. 

And so greatly was Sir Lancelot's fame now 
spread abroad that many ladies and damsels daily 
resorted to him and besought him for their cham- 
pion ; and all right quarrels did he gladly under- 
take for the pleasure of our Lord Christ. And 
always as much as he might he withdrew him 
from the queen. • 

Wherefore Queen Guinevere, who counted him 
for her own knight, grew wroth with him, and on 
a certain day she called him to her chamber, and 
said thus : "Sir Lancelot, I daily see thy loyalty 
to me doth lack, for ever thou art absent from 
this court, and takest other ladies' quarrels on 
thee more than ever thou wert wont. Now do I 
understand thee, false knight, and therefore shall 
I never trust thee more. Depart now from my 


Sir Patrice poisoned 299 

sight, and come no more within this court upon 
pain of thy head." With that she turned from 
him and would hear no excuses. 

So Sir Lancelot departed in heaviness of heart, 
and calling Sir Bors, Sir Ector, and Sir Lionel, he 
told them how the queen had dealt with him. 

" Fair sir," replied Sir Bors, " remember what 
honour ye have in this country, and how ye are 
called the noblest knight in the world ; wherefore 
go not, for women are hasty, and do often what 
they sore repent of afterwards. Be ruled by my 
advice. Take horse and ride to the hermitage 
beside Windsor, and there abide till I send ye 
better tidings." 

To that Sir Lancelot consented, and departed 
with a sorrowful countenance. 

Now when the queen heard of his leaving she 
was inwardly sorry, but made no show of grief, 
bearing a proud visage outwardly. And on a cer- 
tain day she made a costly banquet to all the 
knights of the Round Table, to show she had as 
great joy in all others as in Sir Lancelot. And at 
the banquet were Sir Gawain, and his brothers 
Sir Agravaine, Sir Gaheris, and Sir Gareth ; also 
Sir Modred, Sir Bors, Sir Blamor, Sir Bleoberis, 
Sir Ector, Sir Lionel, Sir Palomedes, Sir Mador 
de la Port, and his cousin Sir Patrice — a knight 
of Ireland, Sir Pinell le Savage, and many more. 

Now Sir Pinell hated Sir Gawain because he had 
slain one of his kinsmen by treason ; and Sir 
Gawain had a great love for all kinds of fruit, 
which, when Sir Pinell knew, he poisoned certain 
apples that were set upon the table, with intent 

300 The Legends of King Arthur 

to slay him. And so it chanced as they ate and 
made merry, Sir Patrice, who sat next to Sir 
Gawain, took one of the poisoned apples and eat 
it, and when he had eaten he suddenly swelled 
up and fell down dead. 

At that every knight leapt from the board 
ashamed and enraged nigh out of their wits, for 
they knew not what to say, yet seeing that the 
queen had made the banquet they all had sus- 
picion of her. 

" My lady the queen," said Sir Gawain, " I wit 
well this fruit was meant for me, for all men know 
my love for it, and now had I been nearly slain; 
wherefore, I fear me, ye will be ashamed." 

" This shall not end so," cried Sir Mador de la 
Port ; " now have I lost a noble knight of my 
own blood, and for this despite and shame I will 
be revenged to the uttermost." 

Then he challenged Queen Guinevere concern- 
ing the death of his cousin, but she stood still, 
sore abashed, and anon with her sorrow and dread 
she swooned. 

At the noise and sudden cry came in King 
Arthur, and to him appealed Sir Mador, and 
impeached the queen. 

" Fair lords," said he, " full sorely am I 
troubled at this matter, for I must be rightful 
judge, and therein it repenteth me I may not do 
battle for my wife, for, as I deem, this deed was 
none of hers. But I suppose she will not lack a 
champion, and some good knight surely will put 
his body in jeopardy to save her." 

But all who had been bidden to the banquet 

PI. 5. 

see p. 304. 

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


r son 

The Queen sends for Sir Bors 301 

said they could not hold the queen excused, or be 
her champions, for she had made the feast, and 
either by herself or servants must it have come. 

" Alas ! " said the queen, " I made this dinner 
for a good intent, and no evil, so God help me in 
my need." 

" My lord the king," said Sir Mador, " I require 
you heartily as you be a righteous king give me a 
day when I may have justice." 

" Well," said the king, " I give ye this day 
fifteen days, when ye shall be ready and armed in 
the meadow beside Westminster, and if there be 
a knight to fight with you, God speed the right, 
and if not, then must my queen be burnt." 

When the king and queen were alone together 
he asked her how this case befell. 

" I wot not how or in what manner," answered 

" Where is Sir Lancelot ? " said King Arthur, 
" for he would not grudge to do battle for thee." 

11 Sir," said she, " I cannot tell you, but all his 
kinsmen deem he is not in this realm." 

" These be bad tidings," said the king ; "I 
counsel ye to find Sir Bors, and pray him for Sir 
Lancelot's sake to do this battle for you." 

So the queen departed and sent for Sir Bors to 
her chamber,, and besought his succour. 

11 Madam," said he, " what would you have me 
do ? For I may not with my honour take this 
matter on me, for I was at that same dinner, and 
all the other knights would have me ever in sus- 
picion. Now do ye miss Sir Lancelot, for he 
would not have failed you in right nor yet in 

302 The Legends of King Arthur 

wrong, as ye have often proved, but now ye have 
driven him from the country." 

" Alas ! fair knight," said the queen, " I put 
me wholly at your mercy, and all that is done 
amiss I will amend as ye will counsel me." 

And therewith she kneeled down upon both 
her knees before Sir Bors, and besought him to 
have mercy on her. 

Anon came in King Arthur also, and prayed 
him of his courtesy to help her, saying, "I re- 
quire you for the love of Lancelot." 

" My lord," said he, " ye require the greatest 
thing of me that any man can ask, for if I do this 
battle for the queen I shall anger all my fellows 
of the Table Round ; nevertheless, for my lord 
Sir Lancelot's sake, and for yours, I will that day 
be the queen's champion, unless there chance to 
come a better knight than I am to do battle for 
her." And this he promised on his faith. 

Then were the king and queen passing glad, and 
thanked him heartily, and so departed. 

But Sir Bors rode in secret to the hermitage 
where Sir Lancelot was, and told him all these 

" It has chanced as I would have it," said Sir 
Lancelot ; " yet make ye ready for the battle, 
but tarry till ye see me come." 

" Sir," said Sir Bors, " doubt not but ye shall 
have your will." 

But many of the knights were greatly wroth 
with him when they heard he was to be the queen's 
champion, for there were few in the court but 
deemed her guilty. 

The Queen's Champion 303 

Then said Sir Bors, " Wit ye well, fair lords, it 
were a shame to us all to suffer so fair and noble 
a lady to be burnt for lack of a champion, for ever 
hath she proved herself a lover of good knights ; 
wherefore I doubt not she is guiltless of this 

At that were some well pleased, but others 
rested passing wroth. 

And when the day was come, the king and 
queen and all the knights went to the meadow 
beside Westminster, where the battle should be 
fought. Then the queen was put in ward, and 
a great fire was made round the iron stake, 
where she must be burnt if Sir Mador won the 

So when the heralds blew, Sir Mador rode forth, 
and took oath that Queen Guinevere was guilty 
of Sir Patrice's death, and his oath he would 
prove with his body against any who would say 
the contrary. Then came forth Sir Bors, and 
said, " Queen Guinevere is in the right, and that 
will I prove with my hands." 

With that they both departed to their tents 
to make ready for the battle. But Sir Bors 
tarried long, hoping Sir Lancelot would come, till 
Sir Mador cried out to King Arthur, " Bid thy 
champion come forth, unless he dare not." Then 
was Sir Bors ashamed, and took his horse and 
rode to the end of the lists. 

But ere he could meet Sir Mador he was ware 
of a knight upon a white horse, armed at all 
points, and with a strange shield, who rode to 
him and said, " I pray you withdraw from this 

304 The Legends of King Arthur 

quarrel, for it is mine, and I have ridden far to 
fight in it." 

Thereat Sir Bors rode to King Arthur, and told 
him that another knight was come who would 
do battle for the queen. 

11 Who is he ? " said King Arthur. 

" I may not tell you," said Sir Bors ; " but he 
made a covenant with me to be here to-day, 
wherefore I am discharged." 

Then the king called that knight, and asked 
him if he would fight for the queen. 

" Therefore came I hither, Sir king," answered 
he ; " but let us tarry no longer, for anon I have 
other matters to do. But wit ye well," said he 
to the Knights of the Round Table, " it is shame 
to ye for such a courteous queen to suffer this 

And all men marvelled who this knight might 
be, for none knew him save Sir Bors. 

Then Sir Mador and the knight rode to either 
end of the lists, and couching their spears, ran one 
against the other with all their might ; and Sir 
Mador's spear broke short, but the strange knight 
bore both him and his horse down to the ground. 
Then lightly they leaped from their saddles and 
drew their swords, and so came eagerly to the 
battle, and either gave the other many sad 
strokes and sore and deep wounds. 

Thus they fought nigh an hour, for Sir Mador was 
a full strong and valiant knight. But at last the 
strange knight smote him to the earth, and gave 
him such a buffet on the helm as wellnigh killed 
him. Then did Sir Mador yield, and prayed his life. 

The Queen's Champion 305 

" I will but grant it thee," said the strange 
knight, " if thou wilt release the queen from this 
quarrel for ever, and promise that no mention 
shall be made upon Sir Patrice's tomb that ever 
she consented to that treason." 

" All this shall be done," said Sir Mador. 

Then the knights parters took up Sir Mador and 
led him to his tent, and the other knight went 
straight to the stair foot of King Arthur's throne ; 
and by that time was the queen come to the king 
again, and kissed him lovingly. 

Then both the king and she stooped down, and 
thanked the knight, and prayed him to put off 
his helm and rest him, and to take a cup of wine. 
And when he put his helmet off to drink, all 
people saw it was Sir Lancelot. But when the 
queen beheld him she sank almost to the ground 
weeping for sorrow and for joy, that he had done 
her such great goodness when she had showed 
him such unkindness. 

Then the knights of his blood gathered round 
him, and there was great joy and mirth in the 
court. And Sir Mador and Sir Lancelot were 
soon healed of their wounds ; and not long after 
came the lady of the lake to the court, and told 
all there by her enchantments how Sir Pinell, and 
not the queen, was guilty of Sir Patrice's death. 
Whereat the queen was held excused of all men, 
and Sir Pinell fled the country. 

So Sir Patrice was buried in the church of 
Winchester, and it was written on his tomb that 
Sir Pinell slew him with a poisoned apple, in 
error for Sir Gawain. Then, through Sir Lance- 

306 The Legends of King Arthur 

lot's favour, the queen was reconciled to Sir 
Mador, and all was forgiven. 

Now fifteen days before the Feast of the 
Assumption of our Lady, the king proclaimed a 
tourney to be held that feast-day at Camelot, 
whereat himself and the King of Scotland would 
joust with all who should come against them. So 
thither went the King of North Wales, and King 
Anguish of Ireland, and Sir Galahaut the noble 
prince, and many other nobles of divers countries. 

And King Arthur made ready to go, and would 
have had the queen go with him, but she said that 
she was sick. Sir Lancelot, also, made excuses, 
saying he was not yet whole of his wounds. 

At that the king was passing heavy and grieved, 
and so departed alone towards Camelot. And 
by the way he lodged in a town called Astolat, 
and lay that night in the castle. 

As soon as he had gone, Sir Lancelot said to the 
queen, " This night I will rest, and to-morrow 
betimes will I take my way to Camelot ; for at 
these jousts I will be against the king and his 

" Ye may do as ye list," said Queen Guinevere ; 
" but by my counsel ye will not be against the 
king, for in his company are many hardy knights, 
as ye well know." 

" Madam," said Sir Lancelot, " I pray ye be 
not displeased with me, for I will take the ad- 
venture that God may send me." 

And on the morrow he went to the church and 
heard mass, and took his leave of the queen, and 
so departed. 

The Fair Maid of Astolat 307 

Then he rode long till he came to Astolat, and 
there lodged at the castle of an old baron called 
Sir Bernard of Astolat, which was near the castle 
where King Arthur lodged. And as Sir Lancelot 
entered the king espied him, and knew him. 
Then said he to the knights, " I have just seen 
a knight who will fight full well at the joust 
towards which we go." 

" Who is it ? " asked they. 

11 As yet ye shall not know," he answered, 

When Sir Lancelot was in his chamber unarm- 
ing, the old baron came to him saluting him, 
though as yet he knew not who he was. 

Now Sir Bernard had a daughter passing 
beautiful, called the Fair Maid of Astolat, and 
when she saw Sir Lancelot she loved him from that 
instant with her whole heart, and could not stay 
from gazing on him. 

On the morrow, Sir Lancelot asked the old 
baron to lend him a strange shield. " For," said 
he, " I would be unknown." 

" Sir," said his host, " ye shall have your desire, 
for here is the shield of my eldest son, Sir Torre, 
who was hurt the day he was made knight, so 
that he cannot ride ; and his shield, therefore, 
is not known. And, if it please you, my youngest 
son, Sir Lavaine, shall ride with you to the 
jousts, for he is of his age full strong and mighty ; 
and I deem ye be a noble knight, wherefore I pray 
ye tell me your name." 

" As to that," said Sir Lancelot, " ye must 
hold me excused at this time, but if I speed well 

308 The Legends of King Arthur 

at the jousts, I will come again and tell you ; 
but in anywise let me have your son, Sir Lavaine, 
with me, and lend me his brother's shield." 

Then, ere they departed, came Elaine, the 
baron's daughter, and said to Sir Lancelot, " I 
pray thee, gentle knight, to wear my token at 
to-morrow's tourney." 

" If I should grant you that, fair damsel," said 
he, " ye might say that I did more for you than 
ever I have done for lady or damsel." 

Then he bethought him that if he granted her 
request he would be the more disguised, for never 
before had he worn any lady's token. So anon 
he said, " Fair damsel, I will wear thy token on 
my helmet if thou wilt show it me." 

Thereat was she passing glad, and brought him 
a scarlet sleeve broidered with pearls, which Sir 
Lancelot took, and put upon his helm. Then he 
prayed her to keep his shield for him until he 
came again, and taking Sir Torre's shield instead, 
rode forth with Sir Lavaine towards Camelot. 

On the morrow the trumpets blew for the 
tourney, and there was a great press of dukes 
and earls and barons and many noble knights ; 
and King Arthur sat in a gallery to behold who 
did the best. So the King of Scotland and his 
knights, and King Anguish of Ireland rode forth 
on King Arthur's side ; and against them came 
the King of North Wales, the King of a Hundred 
Knights, the King of Northumberland, and the 
noble prince Sir Galahaut. 

But Sir Lancelot and Sir Lavaine rode into a 
little wood behind the party which was against 

The Tourney at Camelot 309 

King Arthur, to watch which side should prove 
the weakest. 

Then was there a strong fight between the two 
parties, for the King of a Hundred Knights smote 
down the King of Scotland ; and Sir Palomedes, 
who was on King Arthur's side, overthrew Sir 
Galahaut. Then came fifteen Knights of the 
Round Table and beat back the Kings of North- 
umberland and North Wales with their knights. 

" Now," said Sir Lancelot to Sir Lavaine, " if 
ye will help me, ye shall see yonder fellowship 
go back as fast as they came." 

" Sir," said Sir Lavaine, " I will do what I can." 

Then they rode together into the thickest of the 
press, and there, with one spear, Sir Lancelot 
smote down five Knights of the Round Table, 
one after other, and Sir Lavaine overthrew two. 
And taking another spear, for his own was 
broken, Sir Lancelot smote down four more 
knights, and Sir Lavaine a fifth. Then, drawing 
his sword, Sir Lancelot fought fiercely on the 
right hand and the left, and unhorsed Sir Safire, 
Sir Epinogris, and Sir Galleron. At that the 
Knights of the Round Table withdrew themselves 
as well as they were able. 

11 Now, mercy," said Sir Gawain, who sat by 
King Arthur ; " what knight is that who doth 
such marvellous deeds of arms ? I should deem 
him by his force to be Sir Lancelot, but that he 
wears a lady's token on his helm as never Lance- 
lot doth." 

" Let him be," said King Arthur ; " he will be 
better known, and do more ere he depart." 


310 The Legends of King Arthur 

Thus the party against King Arthur prospered 
at this time, and his knights were sore ashamed. 
Then Sir Bors, Sir Ector, and Sir Lionel called 
together the knights of their blood, nine in num 
ber, and agreed to join together in one band 
against the two strange knights. So they en- 
countered Sir Lancelot all at once, and by main 
force smote his horse to the ground ; and by 
misfortune Sir Bors struck Sir Lancelot through 
the shield into the side, and the spear broke off 
and left the head in the wound. 

When Sir Lavaine saw that, he ran to the King 
of Scotland and struck him off his horse, and 
brought it to Sir Lancelot, and helped him to 
mount. Then Sir Lancelot bore Sir Bors and his 
horse to the ground, and in like manner served 
Sir Ector and Sir Lionel ; and turning upon three 
other knights he smote them down also ; while 
Sir Lavaine did many gallant deeds. 

But feeling himself now sorely wounded Sir 
Lancelot drew his sword, and proffered to fight 
with Sir Bors, who, by this time, was mounted 
anew. And as they met, Sir Ector and Sir 
Lionel came also, and the swords of all three drave 
fiercely against him. When he felt their buffets, 
and his wound that was so grievous, he deter- 
mined to do all his best while he could yet endure, 
and smote Sir Bors a blow that bent his head 
down nearly to the ground and razed his helmet 
off and pulled him from his horse. 

Then rushing at Sir Ector and Sir Lionel, he 
smote them down, and might have slain all 
three, but when he saw their faces his heart 

Sir Lancelot in the Tourney 311 

forbade him. Leaving them, therefore, on the 
field, he hurled into the thickest of the press, and 
did such feats of arms as never were beheld before. 

And Sir Lavaine was with him through it all, 
and overthrew ten knights ; but Sir Lancelot 
smote down more than thirty, and most of them 
Knights of the Round Table. 

Then the king ordered the trumpets to blow for 
the end of the tourney, and the prize to be given 
by the heralds to the knight with the white shield 
who bore the red sleeve. 

But ere Sir Lancelot was found by the heralds, 
came the King of the Hundred Knights, the King 
of North Wales, the King of Northumberland, 
and Sir Galahaut, and said to him, " Fair knight, 
God bless thee, for much have ye done this day 
for us ; wherefore we pray ye come with us and 
receive the honour and the prize as ye have 
worshipfully deserved it." 

" My fair lords," said Sir Lancelot, " wit ye 
well if I have deserved thanks, I have sore bought 
them, for I am like never to escape with my life ; 
therefore I pray ye let me depart, for I am sore 
hurt. I take no thought of honour, for I had 
rather rest me than be lord of all the world." 
And therewith he groaned piteously, and rode a 
great gallop away from them. 

And Sir Lavaine rode after him, sad at heart, 
for the broken spear still stuck fast in Sir Lance- 
lot's side, and the blood streamed sorely from the 
wound. Anon they came near a wood more than 
a mile from the lists, where he knew he could be 

312 The Legends of King Arthur 

Then said he to Sir Lavaine, " O gentle knight, 
help me to pull out this spear-head from my side, 
for the pain thereof nigh killeth me." 

" Dear lord," said he, " I fain would help ye ; 
but I dread to draw it forth, lest ye should die 
for loss of blood." 

" I charge you as you love me," said Sir 
Lancelot, " draw it out." 

So they dismounted, and with a mighty wrench 
Sir Lavaine drew the spear forth from Sir Lance- 
lot's side ; whereat he gave a marvellous great 
shriek and ghastly groan, and all his blood leaped 
forth in a full stream. Then he sank swooning 
to the earth, with a visage pale as death. 

" Alas ! " cried Sir Lavaine, " what shall I do 
now ? " 

And then he turned his master's face towards 
the wind, and sat by him nigh half an hour while 
he lay quiet as one dead. But at the last he 
lifted up his eyes, and said, " I pray ye bear me 
on my horse again, and lead me to a hermit who 
dwelleth within two miles hence, for he was 
formerly a knight of Arthur's court, and now hath 
mighty skill in medicine and herbs." 

So with great pain Sir Lavaine got him to his 
horse> and led him to the hermitage within the 
wood, beside a stream. Then knocked he with 
his spear upon the door, and prayed to enter. At 
that a child came out, to whom he said, " Fair 
child, pray the good man thy master to 
come hither and let in a knight who is sore 

Anon came out the knight-hermit, whose name 

Sir Baldwin the Knight-Hermit 313 

was Sir Baldwin, and asked, " Who is this 
wounded knight ? " 

" I know not," said Sir Lavaine, " save that he 
is the noblest knight I ever met with, and hath 
done this day such marvellous deeds of arms 
against Sir Arthur that he hath won the prize of 
the tourney." 

Then the hermit gazed long on Sir Lancelot, and 
hardly knew him, so pale he was with bleeding, 
yet said he at the last, " Who art thou, lord ? " 

Sir Lancelot answered feebly, " I am a stranger 
knight adventurous, who laboureth through 
many realms to win worship." 

" Why hidest thou thy name, dear lord, from 
me ? " cried Sir Baldwin. " For in sooth I know 
thee now to be the noblest knight in all the world 
— my lord Sir Lancelot du Lake, with whom I 
long had fellowship at the Round Table." 

" Since ye know me, fair sir," said he, " I pray 
ye, for Christ's sake, to help me if ye may." 

" Doubt not," replied he, " that ye shall live 
and fare right well." 

Then he staunched his wound, and gave him 
strong medicines and cordials till he was refreshed 
from his faintness and came to himself again. 

Now after the jousting was done King Arthur 
held a feast, and asked to see the knight with the 
red sleeve that he might take the prize. So they 
told him how that knight had ridden from the 
field wounded nigh to death. " These be the 
worst tidings I have heard for many years," cried 
out the king ; " I would not for my kingdom he 
were slain." 

314 The Legends of King Arthur 

Then all men asked, " Know ye him, lord ? " 

" I may not tell ye at this time," said he ; " but 
would to God we had good tidings of him." 

Then Sir Gawain prayed leave to go and seek 
that knight, which the king gladly gave him. So 
forthwith he mounted and rode many leagues 
round Camelot, but could hear no tidings. 

Within two days thereafter King Arthur and 
his knights returned from Camelot, and Sir 
Gawain chanced to lodge at Astolat, in the house 
of Sir Bernard. And there came in the fair 
Elaine to him, and prayed him news of the tour- 
nament, and who won the prize. " A knight 
with a white shield," said he, " who bare a red 
sleeve in his helm, smote down all comers and 
won the day." 

At that the visage of Elaine changed suddenly 
from white to red, and heartily she thanked our 

Then said Sir Gawain, " Know ye that knight?" 
and urged her till she told him that it was her 
sleeve he wore. So Sir Gawain knew it was for 
love that she had given it ; and when he heard 
she kept his proper shield he prayed to see it. 

As soon as it was brought he saw Sir Lancelot's 
arms thereon, and cried, " Alas ! now am I 
heavier of heart than ever yet." 

" Wherefore ? " said fair Elaine. 

" Fair damsel," answered he, " know ye not 
that the knight ye love is of all knights the noblest 
in the world, Sir Lancelot du Lake ? With all my 
heart I pray ye may have joy of each other, but 
hardly dare I think that ye shall see him in this 

Elaine seeks for Sir Lancelot 315 

world again, for he is so sore wounded he may 
scarcely live, and is gone out of sight where none 
can find him." 

Then was Elaine nigh mad with grief and sor- 
row, and with piteous words she prayed her 
father that she might go seek Sir Lancelot and 
her brother. So in the end her father gave her 
leave, and she departed. 

And on the morrow came Sir Gawain to the 
court, and told how he had found Sir Lancelot's 
shield in Elaine's keeping, and how it was her 
sleeve which he had worn ; whereat all marvelled, 
for Sir Lancelot had done for her more than he 
had ever done for any woman. 

But when Queen Guinevere heard it she was 
beside herself with wrath, and sending privily for 
Sir Bors, who sorrowed sorely that through him 
Sir Lancelot had been hurt — " Have ye now 
heard," said she, " how falsely Sir Lancelot hath 
betrayed me ? " 

" I beseech thee, madam," said he, " speak not 
so, for else I may not hear thee." 

" Shall I not call him traitor," cried she, " who 
hath worn another lady's token at the jousting ? " 

" Be sure he did it, madam, for no ill intent," 
replied Sir Bors, " but that he might be better 
hidden, for never did he in that wise before." 

" Now shame on him, and thee who wouldest 
help him," cried the queen. 

" Madam, say what ye will," said he ; " but I 
must haste to seek him, and God send me soon 
good tidings of him." 

So with that he departed to find Sir Lancelot. 

316 The Legends of King Arthur 

Now Elaine had ridden with full haste from 
Astolat, and come to Camelot, and there she 
sought throughout the country for any news of 
Lancelot. And so it chanced that Sir Lavaine 
was riding near the hermitage to exercise his 
horse, and when she saw him she ran up and 
cried aloud, " How doth my lord Sir Lancelot 
fare ? " 

Then said Sir Lavaine, marvelling greatly, 
" How know ye my lord's name, fair sister ? " 

So she told him how Sir Gawain had lodged with 
Sir Bernard, and knew Sir Lancelot's shield. 

Then prayed she to see his lord forthwith, and 
when she came to the hermitage and found him 
lying there sore sick and bleeding, she swooned 
for sorrow. Anon, as she revived, Sir Lancelot 
kissed her, and said, " Fair maid, I pray ye take 
comfort, for, by God's grace, I shall be shortly 
whole of this wound, and if ye be come to tend 
me, I am heartily bounden to your great kind- 
ness." Yet was he sore vexed to hear Sir Gawain 
had discovered him, for he knew Queen Guinevere 
would be full wroth because of the red sleeve. 

So Elaine rested in the hermitage, and ever 
night and day she watched and waited on Sir 
Lancelot, and would let none other tend him. 
And as she saw him more, the more she set her 
love upon him, and could by no means withdraw 
it. Then said Sir Lancelot to Sir Lavaine, " I 
pray thee set some to watch for the good knight 
Sir Bors, for as he hurt me, so will he surely seek 
for me." 

Now Sir Bors by this time had come to Came- 

PI. 0. 

see p. 321. 

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

by a clerk. 


Sir Lancelot tended by Elaine 317 

lot, and was seeking for Sir Lancelot everywhere, 
so Sir Lavaine soon found him, and brought him 
to the hermitage. 

And when he saw Sir Lancelot pale and feeble, 
he wept for pity and sorrow that he had given 
him that grievous wound. " God send thee a 
right speedy cure, dear lord," said he ; " for I am 
of all men most unhappy to have wounded thee, 
who art our leader, and the noblest knight in all 
the world." 

" Fair cousin," said Sir Lancelot, " be com- 
forted, for I have but gained what I sought, and 
it was through pride that I was hurt, for had I 
warned ye of my coming it had not been ; where- 
fore let us speak of other things." 

So they talked long together, and Sir Bors told 
him of the queen's anger. Then he asked Sir 
Lancelot, " Was it from this maid who tendeth 
you so lovingly ye had the token ? " 

" Yea," said Sir Lancelot ; " and would I could 
persuade her to withdraw her love from me." 

" Why should ye do so ? " said Sir Bors. " For 
she is passing fair and loving. I would to heaven 
ye could love her." 

" That may not be," replied he ; " but it 
repenteth me in sooth to grieve her." 

Then they talked of other matters, and of the 
great jousting at Allhallowtide next coming, 
between King Arthur and the King of North 

" Abide with me till then," said Sir Lancelot, 
" for by that time I trust to be all whole again, 
and we will go together." 

318 The Legends of King Arthur 

So Elaine daily and nightly tending him, within 
a month he felt so strong he deemed himself full 
cured. Then on a day, when Sir Bors and Sir 
Lavaine were from the hermitage, and the knight- 
hermit also was gone forth, Sir Lancelot prayed 
Elaine to bring him some herbs from the 

When she was gone he rose and made haste to 
arm himself, and try if he were whole enough to 
joust, and mounted on his horse, which was fresh 
with lack of labour for so long a time. But when 
he set his spear in the rest and tried his armour, 
the horse bounded and leapt beneath him, so that 
Sir Lancelot strained to keep him back. And 
therewith his wound, which was not wholly 
healed, burst forth again, and with a mighty 
groan he sank down swooning on the ground. 

At that came fair Elaine and wept and piteously 
moaned to see him lying so. And when Sir Bors 
and Sir Lavaine came back, she called them 
traitors to let him rise, or to know any rumour of 
the tournament. Anon the hermit returned and 
was wroth to see Sir Lancelot risen, but within 
a while he recovered him from his swoon and 
staunched the wound. Then Sir Lancelot told 
him how he had risen of his own will to assay his 
strength for the tournament. But the hermit 
bad him rest and let Sir Bors go alone, for else 
would he sorely peril his life. And Elaine, with 
tears, prayed him in the same wise, so that Sir 
Lancelot in the end consented. 

So Sir Bors departed to the tournament, and 
there he did such feats of arms that the prize was 

Elaine's Request 319 

given between him and Sir Gawain, who did like 

And when all was over he came back and told 
Sir Lancelot, and found him so nigh well that he 
could rise and walk. And within a while there- 
after he departed from the hermitage and went 
with Sir Bors, Sir Lavaine, and fair Elaine to 
Astolat, where Sir Bernard joyfully received them. 

But after they had lodged there a few days Sir 
Lancelot and Sir Bors must needs depart and 
return to King Arthur's court. 

So when Elaine knew Sir Lancelot must go, she 
came to him and said, " Have mercy on me, fair 
knight, and let me not die for your love." 

Then said Sir Lancelot, very sad at heart, 
" Fair maid, what would ye that I should do for 
you ? " 

" If I may not be your wife, dear lord," she 
answered, " I must die." 

" Alas ! " said he, " I pray heaven that may 
not be ; for in sooth I may not be your husband. 
But fain would I show ye what thankfulness I can 
for all your love and kindness to me. And ever 
will I be your knight, fair maiden ; and if it 
chance that ye shall ever wed some noble knight, 
right heartily will I give ye such a dower as half 
my lands will bring." 

" Alas ! what shall that aid me ? " answered 
she. " For I must die," and therewith she fell to 
the earth in a deep swoon. 

Then was Sir Lancelot passing heavy of heart, 
and said to Sir Bernard and Sir Lavaine, " What 
shall I do for her ? " 

320 The Legends of King Arthur 

" Alas I " said Sir Bernard, " I know well that 
she will die for your sake." 

And Sir Lavaine said, " I marvel not that she 
so sorely mourneth your departure, for truly I do 
as she doth, and since I once have seen you, lord, 
I cannot leave you." 

So anon, with a full sorrowful heart, Sir Lance- 
lot took his leave, and Sir Lavaine rode with him 
to the court. And King Arthur and the Knights 
of the Round Table joyed greatly to see him 
whole of his wound, but Queen Guinevere was 
sorely wroth, and neither spake with him nor 
greeted him. 

Now when Sir Lancelot had departed, the Maid 
of Astolat could neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep 
for sorrow ; and having thus endured ten days, 
she felt within herself that she must die. 

Then sent she for a holy man, and was shriven 
and received the sacrament. But when he told 
her she must leave her earthly thoughts, she 
answered, " Am I not an earthly woman ? What 
sin is it to love the noblest knight of all the 
world ? And, by my truth, I am not able to with- 
stand the love whereof I die ; wherefore, I pray 
the High Father of Heaven to have mercy on my 

Then she besought Sir Bernard to indite a letter 
as she should devise and said, " When I am dead 
put this within my hand, and dress me in my 
fairest clothes, and lay me in a barge all covered 
with black samite, and steer it down the river till 
it reach the court. Thus, father, I beseech thee, 
let it be." 

The Death of Elaine 321 

Then, full of grief, he promised her it should be 
so. And anon she died, and all the household 
made a bitter lamentation over her. 

Then did they as she had desired, and laid her 
body, richly dressed, upon a bed within the barge, 
and a trusty servant steered it down the river 
towards the court. 

Now King Arthur and Queen Guinevere sat at 
a window of the palace, and saw the barge come 
floating with the tide, and marvelled what was 
laid therein, and sent a messenger to see, who, 
soon returning, prayed them to come forth. 

When they came to the shore they marvelled 
greatly, and the king asked of the serving-man 
who steered the barge what this might mean. 
But he made signs that he was dumb, and pointed 
to the letter in the damsel's hands. So King 
Arthur took the letter from the hand of the corpse, 
and found thereon written, " To the noble knight, 
Sir Lancelot du Lake." 

Then was Sir Lancelot sent for, and the letter 
read aloud by a clerk, and thus it was written : — 

" Most noble knight, my lord Sir Lancelot, now 
hath death for ever parted us. I, whom men call 
the Maid of Astolat, set my love upon you, and 
have died for your sake. This is my last request, 
that ye pray for my soul and give me burial. 
Grant me this, Sir Lancelot, as thou art a peerless 

At these words the queen and all the knights 
wept sore for pity. 

Then said Sir Lancelot, " My lord, I am right 
heavy for the death of this fair damsel ; and God 

322 The Legends of King Arthur 

knoweth that right unwillingly I caused'it, for she 
was good as she was fair, and much was I beholden 
to her ; but she loved me beyond measure, and 
asked me that I could not give her." 

" Ye might have shown her gentleness enough 
to save her life," answered the queen. 

" Madam," said he, " she would but be repaid 
by my taking her to wife, and that I could not 
grant her, for love cometh of the heart and not 
by constraint." 

" That is true," said the king ; "for love is 

" I pray you," said Sir Lancelot, " let me now 
grant her last asking, to be buried by me." 

So on the morrow, he caused her body to be 
buried richly and solemnly, and ordained masses 
for her soul, and made great sorrow over her. 

Then the queen sent for Sir Lancelot, and 
prayed his pardon for her wrath against him with- 
out cause. " This is not the first time it hath 
been so," answered he ; " yet must I ever bear 
with ye, and so do I now forgive you." 

So Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot were 
made friends again ; but anon such favour did 
she show him, as in the end brought many evils 
on them both and all the realm. 


The War between King Arthur and Sir Lancelot 
and the Death of King Arthur 

WITHIN a while thereafter was a jousting 
at the court, wherein Sir Lancelot won 
the prize. And two of those he smote 
down were Sir Agravaine, the brother of Sir 
Gawain, and Sir Modred, his false brother — King 
Arthur's son by Belisent. And because of his 
victory they hated Sir Lancelot, and sought how 
they might injure him. 

So on a night, when King Arthur was hunting 
in the forest, and the queen sent for Sir Lancelot 
to her chamber, they two espied him ; and 
thinking now to make a scandal and a quarrel be- 
tween Lancelot and the king, they found twelve 
others, and said Sir Lancelot was ever now in the 
queen's chamber, and King Arthur was dis- 

Then, all armed, they came suddenly round the 
queen's door, and cried, " Traitor ! now art thou 

" Madam, we be betrayed," said Sir Lancelot ; 
" yet shall my life cost these men dear." 

Then did the queen weep sore, and dismally she 
cried, " Alas ! there is no armour here whereby 
ye might withstand so many ; wherefore ye will 


324 The Legends of King Arthur 

be slain, and I be burnt for the dread crime they 
will charge on me." 

But while she spake the shouting of the knights 
was heard without, " Traitor, come forth, for now 
thou art snared ! " 

" Better were twenty deaths at once than this 
vile outcry," said Sir Lancelot. 

Then he kissed her and said, " Most noble lady, 

I beseech ye, as I have ever been your own true 
knight, take courage ; pray for my soul if I be 
now slain, and trust my faithful friends, Sir Bors 
and Sir Lavaine, to save you from the fire." 

But ever bitterly she wept and moaned, and 
cried, " Would God that they would take and 
slay me, and that thou couldest escape." 

" That shall never be," said he. And wrapping 
his mantle round his arm he unbarred the door a 
little space, so that but one could enter. 

Then first rushed in Sir Chalaunce, a full 
strong knight, and lifted up his sword to smite 
Sir Lancelot ; but lightly he avoided him, and 
struck Sir Chalaunce with his hand, such a sore 
buffet on the head as felled him dead upon the floor. 

Then Sir Lancelot pulled in his body and 
barred the door again, and dressed himself in his 
armour, and took his drawn sword in his hand. 

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

11 Be silent and depart," replied Sir Lancelot ; 

II for be ye sure ye will not take me, and to- 
morrow will I meet ye face to face before the king. " 

11 Ye shall have no such grace," they cried ; 
" but we will slay thee, or take thee as we list." 

Sir Lancelot attacked by the Knights 325 

" Then save yourselves who may," he thun- 
dered, and therewith suddenly unbarred the door 
and rushed forth at them. And at the first blow 
he slew Sir Agravaine, and after him twelve other 
knights, with twelve more mighty buffets. And 
none of all escaped him save Sir Modred, who, 
sorely wounded, fled away for life. 

Then returned he to the queen, and said, 
" Now, madam, will I depart, and if ye be in any 
danger I pray ye come to me." 

" Surely will I stay here, for I am queen," she 
answered ; " yet if to-morrow any harm come to 
me I trust to thee for rescue." 

" Have ye no doubt of me," said he, " for ever 
while I live am I your own true knight." 

Therewith he took his leave, and went and told 
Sir Bors and all his kindred of this adventure. 
" We will be with thee in this quarrel," said they 
all ; " and if the queen be sentenced to the fire, 
we certainly will save her." 

Meanwhile Sir Modred, in great fear and pain, 
fled from the court, and rode until he found King 
Arthur, and told him all that had befallen. But 
the King would scarce believe him till he came and 
saw the bodies of Sir Agravaine and all the other 

Then felt he in himself that all was true, and 
with his passing grief his heart nigh broke. 
" Alas 1 " cried he, " now is the fellowship of 
the Round Table for ever broken : yea, woe is 
me 1 I may not with my honour spare my 

Anon it was ordained that Queen Guinevere 


326 The Legends of King Arthur 

should be burned to death, because she had dis- 
honoured King Arthur. 

But when Sir Gawain heard thereof, he came 
before the king, and said, " My lord, I counsel 
thee be not too hasty in this matter, but stay the 
judgment of the queen a season, for it may well be 
that Sir Lancelot was in her chamber for no evil, 
seeing she is greatly beholden to him for so many 
deeds done for her sake, and peradventure she 
had sent to him to thank him, and did it secretly 
that she might avoid slander." 

But King Arthur answered, full of grief, 
" Alas ! I may not help her ; she is judged as any 
other woman." 

Then he required Sir Gawain and his brethren 
Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth, to be ready to bear 
the queen to-morrow to the place of execution. 

" Nay, noble lord," replied Sir Gawain, " that 
can I never do ; for neither will my heart suffer 
me to see the queen die, nor shall men ever say 
I was of your counsel in this matter." 

Then said his brothers, " Ye may command us 
to be there, but since it is against our will, we will 
be without arms, that we may do no battle 
against her." 

So on the morrow was Queen Guinevere led 
forth to die by fire, and a mighty crowd was there, 
of knights and nobles, armed and unarmed. And 
all the lords and ladies wept sore at that piteous 
sight. Then was she shriven by a priest, and the 
men came nigh to bind her to the stake and light 
the fire. 

At that Sir Lancelot's spies rode hastily and told 

Flight of Sir Lancelot and the Queen 327 

him and his kindred, who lay hidden in a wood hard 
by, and suddenly, with twenty knights, he rushed 
into the midst of all the throng to rescue her. 

But certain of King Arthur's knights rose up 
and fought with them, and there was a full great 
battle and confusion. And Sir Lancelot drave 
fiercely here and there among the press, and 
smote on every side, and at every blow struck 
down a knight, so that many were slain by him 
and his fellows. 

Then was the queen set free, and caught up on 
Sir Lancelot's saddle and fled away with him and 
all his company to the Castle of La Joyous Garde. 

Now so it chanced that, in the turmoil of the 
fighting, Sir Lancelot had unawares struck down 
and slain the two good knights Sir Gareth and 
Sir Gaheris, knowing it not, for he fought wildly, 
and saw not that they were unarmed. 

When King Arthur heard thereof, and of all 
that battle, and the rescue of the queen, he sor- 
rowed heavily for those good knights, and was 
passing wroth with Lancelot and the queen. 

But when Sir Gawain heard of his brethren's 
death he swooned for sorrow and wrath, for he 
wist that Sir Lancelot had killed them in malice. 
And as soon as he recovered he ran in to the king, 
and said, " Lord king and uncle, hear this oath 
which now I swear, that from this day I will not 
fail Sir Lancelot till one of us hath slain the other. 
And now, unless ye haste to war with him, that we 
may be avenged, will I myself alone go after him." 

Then the king, full of wrath and grief, agreed 
thereto, and sent letters throughout the realm to 

328 The Legends of King Arthur 

summon all his knights, and went with a vast 
army to besiege the Castle of La Joyous Garde. 
And Sir Lancelot, with his knights, mightily 
defended it ; but never would he suffer any to go 
forth and attack one of the king's army, for he 
was right loth to fight against him. 

So when fifteen weeks were passed, and King 
Arthur's army wasted itself in vain against the 
castle, for it was passing strong, it chanced upon 
a day Sir Lancelot was looking from the walls and 
espied King Arthur and Sir Gawain close beside. 

" Come forth, Sir Lancelot," said King Arthur 
right fiercely, " and let us two meet in the midst 
of the field." 

" God forbid that I should encounter with thee, 
lord, for thou didst make me a knight," replied 
Sir Lancelot. 

Then cried Sir Gawain, " Shame on thee, traitor 
and false knight, yet be ye well assured we will 
regain the queen and slay thee and thy company ; 
yea, double shame on ye to slay my brother 
Gaheris unarmed, Sir Gareth also, who loved ye 
so well. For that treachery, be sure I am thine 
enemy till death." 

" Alas ! " cried Sir Lancelot, " that I hear such 
tidings, for I knew not I had slain those noble 
knights, and right sorely now do I repent it with 
a heavy heart. Yet abate thy wrath, Sir Gawain, 
for ye know full well I did it by mischance, for I 
loved them ever as my own brothers." 

" Thou liest, false recreant," cried Sir Gawain, 

At that Sir Lancelot was wroth, and said, " I 

War between Sir Lancelot and the King 329 

well see thou art now mine enemy, and that there 
can be no more peace with thee, or with my lord 
the king, else would I gladly give back the queen." 

Then the king would fain have listened to Sir 
Lancelot, for more than all his own wrong did he 
grieve at the sore waste and damage of the realm, 
but Sir Gawain persuaded him against it, and 
ever cried out foully on Sir Lancelot. 

When Sir Bors and the other knights of Lance- 
lot's party heard the fierce words of Sir Gawain, 
they were passing wroth, and prayed to ride forth 
and be avenged on him, for they were weary of 
so long waiting to no good. And in the end Sir 
Lancelot, with a heavy heart, consented. 

So on the morrow the hosts on either side met 
in the field, and there was a great battle. And 
Sir Gawain prayed his knights chiefly to set upon 
Sir Lancelot ; but Sir Lancelot commanded his 
company to forbear King Arthur and Sir Gawain. 

So the two armies jousted together right 
fiercely, and Sir Gawain proffered to encounter 
with Sir Lionel, and overthrew him. But Sir 
Bors, and Sir Blamor, and Sir Palomedes, who 
were on Sir Lancelot's side, did great feats of arms, 
and overthrew many of King Arthur's knights. 

Then the king came forth against Sir Lancelot, 
but Sir Lancelot forbore him and would not strike 

At that Sir Bors rode up against the king and 
smote him down. But Sir Lancelot cried, 
" Touch him not on pain of thy head," and going 
to King Arthur he alighted and gave him his own 
horse, saying, " My lord, I pray thee forbear this 


330 The Legends of King Arthur 

strife, for it can bring to neither of us any hon- 


And when King Arthur looked on him the tears 
came to his eyes as he thought of his noble 
courtesy, and he said within himself, " Alas I 
that ever this war began." 

But on the morrow Sir Gawain led forth the 
army again, and Sir Bors commanded on Sir 
Lancelot's side. And they two struck together so 
fiercely that both fell to the ground sorely 
wounded ; and all the day they fought till night 
fell, and many were slain on both sides, yet in 
the end neither gained the victory. 

But by now the fame of this fierce war spread 
through all Christendom, and when the Pope heard 
thereof he sent a Bull, and charged King Arthur to 
make peace with Lancelot, and receive back Queen 
Guinevere ; and for the offence imputed to her 
absolution should be given by the Pope. 

Thereto would King Arthur straightway have 
obeyed, but Sir Gawain ever urged him to refuse. 

When Sir Lancelot heard thereof, he wrote thus 
to the king : " It was never in my thought, lord, 
to withhold thy queen from thee ; but since she 
was condemned for my sake to death, I deemed it 
but a just and knightly part to rescue her there- 
from ; wherefore I recommend me to your grace, 
and within eight days will I come to thee and 
bring the queen in safety." 

Then, within eight days, as he had said, Sir 
Lancelot rode from out the castle with Queen 
Guinevere, and a hundred knights for company, 
each carrying an olive branch, in sign of peace. 

The Enmity of Sir Gawain 331 

And so they came to the court, and found King 
Arthur sitting on his throne, with Sir Gawain and 
many other knights around him. And when Sir 
Lancelot entered with the queen, they both 
kneeled down before the king. 

Anon Sir Lancelot rose and said, " My lord, I 
have brought hither my lady the queen again, as 
right requireth, and by commandment of the 
Pope and you. I pray ye take her to your heart 
again and forget the past. For myself I may ask 
nothing, and for my sin I shall have sorrow and 
sore punishment ; yet I would to heaven I might 
have your grace." 

But ere the king could answer, for he was 
moved with pity at his words, Sir Gawain cried 
aloud, " Let the king do as he will, but be sure, 
Sir Lancelot, thou and I shall never be accorded 
while we live, for thou hast slain my brethren 
traitorously and unarmed." 

" As heaven is my help," replied Sir Lancelot, 
" I did it ignorantly, for I loved them well, and 
while I live I shall bewail their death ; but to 
make war with me were no avail, for I must needs 
fight with thee if thou assailest, and peradventure 

I might kill thee also, which I were right loth to do. " 

" I will forgive thee never," cried Sir Gawain, 
" and if the king accordeth with thee he shall lose 
my service." 

Then the knights who stood near tried to recon- 
cile Sir Gawain to Sir Lancelot, but he would not 
hear them. So, at the last, Sir Lancelot said, 

II Since peace is vain, I will depart, lest I bring 
more evil on my fellowship." 

332 The Legends of King Arthur 

And as he turned to go, the tears fell from him, 
and he said, " Alas, most noble Christian realm, 
which I have loved above all others, now shall I 
see thee never more ! " Then said he to the queen, 
" Madam, now must I leave ye and this noble 
fellowship for ever. And, I beseech ye, pray for 
me, and if ye ever be defamed of any, let me hear 
thereof, and as I have been ever thy true knight 
in right and wrong, so will I be again." 

With that he kneeled and kissed King Arthur's 
hands, and departed on his way. And there was 
none in all that court, save Sir Gawain alone, but 
wept to see him go. 

So he returned with all his knights to the Castle 
of La Joyous Garde, and, for his sorrow's sake, 
he named it Dolorous Garde thenceforth. 

Anon he left the realm, and went with many of 
his fellowship beyond the sea to France, and there 
divided all his lands among them equally, he 
sharing but as the rest. 

And from that time forward peace had been 
between him and King Arthur, but for Sir Gawain, 
who left the king no rest, but constantly per- 
suaded him that Lancelot was raising mighty 
hosts against him. 

So in the end his malice overcame the king, who 
left the government in charge of Modred, and 
made him guardian of the queen, and went with 
a great army to invade Sir Lancelot's lands. 

Yet Sir Lancelot would make no war upon the 
king, and sent a message to gain peace on any 
terms King Arthur chose. But Sir Gawain met 
the herald ere he reached the king, and sent him 

Sir Lancelot fights Sir Gawain 333 

back with taunting and bitter words, Whereat Sir 
Lancelot sorrowfully called his knights together 
and fortified the Castle of Benwick, and there was 
shortly besieged by the army of King Arthur. 

And every day Sir Gawain rode up to the walls, 
and cried out foully on Sir Lancelot, till, upon a 
time, Sir Lancelot answered him that he would 
meet him in the field and put his boasting to the 
proof. So it was agreed on both sides that there 
should none come nigh them or separate them till 
one had fallen or yielded ; and they two rode forth. 

Then did they wheel their horses apart, and 
turning, came together as it had been thunder, so 
that both horses fell, and both their lances broke. 
At that they drew their swords and set upon each 
other fiercely, with passing grievous strokes. 

Now Sir Gawain had through magic a marvel- 
lous great gift. For every day, from morning till 
noon, his strength waxed to the might of seven 
men, but after that waned to his natural force. 
Therefore till noon he gave Sir Lancelot many 
mighty buffets, which scarcely he endured. Yet 
greatly he forbore Sir Gawain, for he was aware 
of his enchantment, and smote him slightly till 
his own knights marvelled. But after noon Sir 
Gawain's strength sank fast, and then, with one 
full blow, Sir Lancelot laid him on the earth. 
Then Sir Gawain cried out, " Turn not away, 
thou traitor knight, but slay me if thou wilt, or 
else I will arise and fight with thee again some 
other time." 

" Sir knight," replied Sir Lancelot, " I never 
yet smote a fallen man." 

334 The Legends of King Arthur 

At that they bore Sir Gawain sorely wounded 
to his tent, and King Arthur withdrew his men, for 
he was loth to shed the blood of so many knights 
of his own fellowship. 

But now came tidings to King Arthur from 
across the sea, which caused him to return in 
haste. For thus the news ran, that no sooner was 
Sir Modred set up in his regency, than he had 
forged false tidings from abroad that the king had 
fallen in a battle with Sir Lancelot. Whereat he 
had proclaimed himself the king, and had been 
crowned at Canterbury, where he had held a coro- 
nation feast for fifteen days. Then he had gone 
to Winchester, where Queen Guinevere abode, 
and had commanded her to be his wife ; whereto, 
for fear and sore perplexity, she had feigned con- 
sent, but, under pretext of preparing for the 
marriage, had fled in haste to London and taken 
shelter in the Tower, fortifying it and providing 
it with all manner of victuals, and defending it 
against Sir Modred, and answering to all his 
threats that she would rather slay herself than be 
his queen. 

Thus was it written to King Arthur. Then, in 
passing great wrath and haste, he came with all 
his army swiftly back from France and sailed to 
England. But when Sir Modred heard thereof, 
he left the Tower and marched with all his host 
to meet the king at Dover. 

Then fled Queen Guinevere to Amesbury to a 
nunnery, and there she clothed herself in sack- 
cloth, and spent her time in praying for the king 
and in good deeds and fasting. And in that 

Death of Sir Gawain 335 

nunnery evermore she lived, sorely repenting and 
mourning for her sin, and for the ruin she had 
brought on all the realm. And there anon she 

And when Sir Lancelot heard thereof, he put his 
knightly armour off, and bade farewell to all his 
kin, and went a mighty pilgrimage for many 
years, and after lived a hermit till his death. 

When Sir Modred came to Dover, he found 
King Arthur and his army but just landed ; and 
there they fought a fierce and bloody battle, and 
many great and noble knights fell on both sides. 

But the king's side had the victory, for he was 
beyond himself with might and passion, and all 
his knights so fiercely followed him, that, in spite 
of all their multitude, they drove Sir Modred 's 
army back with fearful wounds and slaughter, 
and slept that night upon the battle-field. 

But Sir Gawain was smitten by an arrow in the 
wound Sir Lancelot gave him, and wounded to 
the death. Then was he borne to the king's tent, 
and King Arthur sorrowed over him as it had 
been his own son. " Alas ! " said he ; ' in Sir 
Lancelot and in you I had my greatest earthly 
joy, and now is all gone from me." 

And Sir Gawain answered, with a feeble voice, 
" My lord and king, I know well my death is 
come, and through my own wilfulness, for I am 
smitten in the wound Sir Lancelot gave me. Alas I 
that I have been the cause of all this war, for but 
for me thou hadst been now at peace with Lance- 
lot, and then had Modred never done this treason. 
I pray ye, therefore, my dear lord, be now agreed 

336 The Legends of King Arthur 

with Lancelot, and tell him, that although he 
gave me my death wound, it was through my 
own seeking ; wherefore I beseech him to come 
back to England, and here to visit my tomb, and 
pray for my soul." 

When he had thus spoken, Sir Gawain gave up 
his ghost, and the king grievously mourned for 

Then they told him that the enemy had camped 
on Barham Downs, whereat, with all his hosts, he 
straightway marched there, and fought again a 
bloody battle, and overthrew Sir Modred utterly. 
Howbeit, he raised yet another army, and re- 
treating ever from before the king, increased his 
numbers as he went, till at the farthest west 
in Lyonesse, he once more made a stand. 

Now, on the night of Trinity Sunday, being the 
eve of the battle, King Arthur had a vision, and 
saw Sir Gawain in a dream, who warned him not 
to fight with Modred on the morrow, else he would 
be surely slain ; and prayed him to delay till 
Lancelot and his knights should come to aid him. 

So when King Arthur woke he told his lords and 
knights that vision, and all agreed to wait the 
coming of Sir Lancelot. Then a herald was sent 
with a message of truce to Sir Modred, and a 
treaty was made that neither army should assail 
the other. 

But when the treaty was agreed upon, and the 
heralds returned, King Arthur said to his knights, 
11 Beware, lest Sir Modred deceive us, for I in no 
wise trust him, and if swords be drawn be ready 
to encounter ! " And Sir Modred likewise gave 

The Battle in Lyonesse 337 

an order, that if any man of the king's army drew 
his sword, they should begin to fight. 

And as it chanced, a knight of the king's side 
was bitten by an adder in the foot, and hastily 
drew forth his sword to slay it. That saw Sir 
Modred, and forthwith commanded all his army 
to assail the king's. 

So both sides rushed to battle, and fought pass- 
ing fiercely. And when the king saw there was 
no hope to stay them, he did right mightily and 
nobly as a king should do, and ever, like a lion, 
raged in the thickest of the press, and slew on the 
right hand and on the left, till his horse went fet- 
lock deep in blood. So all day long they fought, 
and stinted not till many a noble knight was slain. 

But the king was passing sorrowful to see his 
trusty knights lie dead on every side. And at the 
last but two remained beside him, Sir Lucan, and 
his brother, Sir Bedivere, and both were sorely 

" Now am I come to mine end," said King 
Arthur ; " but lo ! that traitor Modred liveth 
yet, and I may not die till I have slain him. Now, 
give me my spear, Sir Lucan." 

" Lord, let him be," replied Sir Lucan ; "for 
if ye pass through this unhappy day, ye shall be 
right well revenged upon him. My good lord, 
remember well your dream, and what the spirit 
of Sir Gawain did forewarn ye." 

" Betide me life, betide me death," said the 
king ; " now I see him yonder alone, he shall 
never escape my hands, for at a better vantage 
shall I never have him." 

338 The Legends of King Arthur 

" God speed you well," said Sir Bedivere. 

Then King Arthur got his spear in both his 
hands, and ran towards Sir Modred, crying, 
" Traitor, now is thy death-day come ! " And 
when Sir Modred heard his words, and saw him 
come, he drew his sword and stood to meet him. 
Then King Arthur smote Sir Modred through the 
body more than a fathom. And when Sir Modred 
felt he had his death wound, he thrust himself 
with all his might up to the end of King Arthur's 
spear, and smote his father, Arthur, with his 
sword upon the head, so that it pierced both 
helm and brain-pan. 

And therewith Sir Modred fell down stark dead 
to the earth, and King Arthur fell down also in a 
swoon, and swooned many times. 

Then Sir Lucan and Sir Bedivere came and 
bare him away to a little chapel by the sea-shore. 
And there Sir Lucan sank down with the bleeding 
of his own wounds, and fell dead. 

And King Arthur lay long in a swoon, and when 
he came to himself, he found Sir Lucan lying dead 
beside him, and Sir Bedivere weeping over the 
body of his brother. 

Then said the king to Sir Bedivere, " Weeping 
will avail no longer, else would I grieve for ever- 
more. Alas ! now is the fellowship of the Round 
Table dissolved for ever, and all my realm I have 
so loved is wasted with war. But my time hieth 
fast, wherefore take thou Excalibur, my good 
sword, and go therewith to yonder water-side 
and throw it in, and bring me word what thing 
thou seest." 

Sir Bedivere and the Sword Excalibur 339 

So Sir Bedivere departed ; but as he went he 
looked upon the sword, the hilt whereof was all 
inlaid with precious stones exceeding rich. And 
presently he said within himself, " If I now throw 
this sword into the water, what good should come 
of it ? " So he hid the sword among the reeds, 
and came again to the king. 

" What sawest thou ? " said he to Sir Bedivere. 

11 Lord," said he, " I saw nothing else but wind 
and waves." 

11 Thou hast untruly spoken," said the king ; 
" wherefore go lightly back and throw it in, and 
spare not." 

Then Sir Bedivere returned again, and took the 
sword up in his hand ; but when he looked on it, 
he thought it sin and shame to throw away a 
thing so noble. Wherefore he hid it yet again, 
and went back to the king. 

11 What saw ye ? " said King Arthur. 

" Lord," answered he, " I saw nothing but the 
water ebbing and flowing." 

" Oh, traitor and untrue ! " cried out the king ; 
" twice hast thou now betrayed me. Art thou 
called of men a noble knight, and wouldest betray 
me for a jewelled sword ? Now, therefore, go 
again for the last time, for thy tarrying hath put 
me in sore peril of my life, and I fear my wound 
hath taken cold ; and if thou do it not this time, 
by my faith I will arise and slay thee with my 

Then Sir Bedivere ran quickly and took up the 
sword, and went down to the water's edge, and 
bound the girdle round the hilt and threw it far 

340 The Legends of King Arthur 

into the water. And lo ! an arm and hand came 
forth above the water, and caught the sword, and 
brandished it three times, and vanished. 

So Sir Bedivere came again to the king and 
told him what he had seen. 

" Help me from hence," said King Arthur ; 
" for I dread me I have tarried over long." 

Then Sir Bedivere took the king up in his arms, 
and bore him to the water's edge. And by the 
shore they saw a barge with three fair queens 
therein, all dressed in black, and when they saw 
King Arthur they wept and wailed. 

" Now put me in the barge," said he to Sir 
Bedivere, and tenderly he did so. 

Then the three queens received him, and he laid 
his head upon the lap of one of them, who cried, 
" Alas I dear brother, why have ye tarried so 
long, for your wound hath taken cold ? " 

With that the barge put from the land, and 
when Sir Bedivere saw it departing, he cried with 
a bitter cry, " Alas ! my lord King Arthur, what 
shall become of me now ye have gone from me ? " 

" Comfort ye," said King Arthur, " and be 
strong, for I may no more help ye. I go to the 
Vale of Avilion to heal me of my grievous wound, 
and if ye see me no more, pray for my soul." 

Then the three queens kneeled down around 
the king and sorely wept and wailed, and the 
barge went forth to sea, and departed slowly out 
of Sir Bedivere 's sight. 


Printed for the Publishers by Butler & Tanner Ltd, Frome and London 



398. 2X Knowles, J. 
K']3 The legends of King Arthur 

and his knights.