Beatrice Clay.

Stories from Le Morte D'Arthur and the Mabinogion online

. (page 8 of 12)
Online LibraryBeatrice ClayStories from Le Morte D'Arthur and the Mabinogion → online text (page 8 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


church, fail not to say thy prayers, and whatsoever woman demands
thy aid, refuse her not."

So, bidding his mother farewell, Peredur mounted his horse, and
took in his hand a long, sharp-pointed stake. He journeyed many
days till, at last, he had come to Caerleon, where Arthur held his
court, and dismounting at the door, he entered the hall. Even as he
did so, a stranger knight, who had passed in before him, seized a
goblet and, dashing the wine in the face of Queen Guenevere, held
the goblet aloft and cried: "If any dare dispute this goblet with
me or venture to avenge the insult done to Arthur's Queen, let him
follow me to the meadow without, where I will await him."

And for sheer amazement at this insolence, none moved save Peredur,
who cried aloud: "I will seek out this man and do vengeance upon
him." Then a voice exclaimed: "Welcome, goodly Peredur, thou flower
of knighthood"; and all turned in surprise to look upon a little
misshapen dwarf, who, a year before, had craved and obtained
shelter in Arthur's court, and since then had spoken no word. But
Kay the Seneschal, in anger that a mere boy, and one so strangely
equipped as Peredur, should have taken up the Queen's quarrel when
proven knights had remained mute, struck the dwarf, crying: "Thou
art ill-bred to remain mute a year in Arthur's court, and then to
break silence in praise of such a fellow." Then Peredur, who saw
the blow, cried, as he left the hall: "Knight, hereafter ye shall
answer to me for that blow." Therewith, he mounted his piebald and
rode in haste to the meadow. And when the knight espied him, he
cried to him: "Tell me, youth, saw'st thou any coming after me from
the court?" "I am come myself," said Peredur. "Hold thy peace,"
answered the knight angrily, "and go back to the court and say
that, unless one comes in haste, I will not tarry, but will ride
away, holding them all shamed." "By my faith," said Peredur,
"willingly or unwillingly, thou shalt answer to me for thine
insolence; and I will have the goblet of thee, ay, and thy horse
and armour to boot." With that, in a rage, the knight struck
Peredur a violent blow between the neck and the shoulder with the
butt-end of his lance. "So!" cried Peredur, "not thus did my
mother's servants play with me; and thus will I play with thee";
and drove at him with his pointed stake that it entered the eye of
the knight, who forthwith fell dead from his horse. Then Peredur
dismounted and began wrenching at the fastenings of the dead man's
armour, for he saw in the adventure the means of equipping himself
as a knight should ride; but knowing not the trick of the
fastenings, his efforts were in vain. While he yet struggled, there
rode up Sir Owain who had followed in hot haste from the court; and
when he saw the fallen knight, he was amazed that a mere lad,
unarmed and unskilled in knightly exercises, should thus have
prevailed. "Fair youth," said he, "what would ye?" "I would have
this knight's iron coat, but I cannot stir it for all my efforts."
"Nay, young Sir," said Sir Owain, "leave the dead his arms, and
take mine and my horse, which I give you right gladly; and come
with me to the King to receive the order of knighthood, for, by my
faith, ye have shown yourself worthy of it." "I thank you, noble
Sir," answered Peredur, "and gladly I accept your gift; but I will
not go with you now. Rather will I seek other adventures and prove
me further first; nor will I seek the King's presence until I have
encountered with the tall knight that so misused the dwarf, and
have called him to account. Only, I pray you, take this goblet to
Queen Guenevere, and say to my lord, King Arthur, that, in all
places and at all times, I am his true vassal, and will render him
such service as I may." Then, with Sir Owain's help, Peredur put on
the armour, and mounting his horse, after due salutation, rode on
his way.

So, for many days, Peredur followed his adventures, and many a
knight he met and overthrew. To all he yielded grace, requiring
only that they should ride to Caerleon, there to give themselves up
to the King's pleasure, and say that Peredur had sent them. At last
he came to a fair castle that rose from the shores of a lake, and
there he was welcomed by a venerable old man who pressed him to
make some stay. So, as they sat at supper, the old man asked
Peredur many questions of himself and his adventure, gazing
earnestly on him the while; and, at last, he said: "I know thee who
thou art. Thou art my sister's son. Stay now with me, and I will
teach thee the arts and courtesy and noble bearing of a gentle
knight, and give thee the degree when thou art accomplished in all
that becomes an honourable knight." Thereto Peredur assented
gladly, and remained with his uncle until he had come to a perfect
knowledge of chivalry; after that, he received the order of
knighthood at the old man's hands, and rode forth again to seek
adventures. Presently he came to the city of Caerleon, but though
Arthur was there with all his court, Sir Peredur chose to make
himself known to none; for he had not yet avenged the dwarf on Sir
Kay. Now it chanced, as he walked through the city, he saw at her
casement a beautiful maiden whose name was Angharad; and at once he
knew that he had seen the damsel whom he must love his life long.
So he sought to be acquainted with her, but she scorned him,
thinking him but some unproved knight, since he consorted not with
those of Arthur's court; and, at last, finding he might in no wise
win her favour at that time, he made a vow that never would he
speak to Christian man or woman until he had gained her love, and
forthwith rode away again. After long journeyings, he came one
night to a castle, and, knocking, gained admittance and courteous
reception from the lady who owned it. But it seemed to Sir Peredur
that there hung over all a gloom, none caring to talk or make
merry, though there was no lack of the consideration due to a
guest. Then when the evening hour was come, they took their places
at the board, Peredur being set at the Countess' right hand; and
two nuns entered and placed before the lady a flagon of wine and
six white loaves, and that was all the fare. Then the Countess gave
largely of the food to Sir Peredur, keeping little for herself and
her attendants; but this pleased not the knight, who, heedless of
his oath, said: "Lady, permit me to fare as do the others," and he
took but a small portion of that which she had given him. Then the
Countess, blushing as with shame, said to him: "Sir Knight, if we
make you poor cheer, far otherwise is our desire, but we are in
sore straits." "Madam," answered Peredur courteously, "for your
welcome I thank you heartily; and, I pray you, if there is aught in
which a knight may serve you, tell me your trouble." Then the
Countess told him how she had been her father's one child, and heir
to his broad lands; and how a neighbouring baron had sought her
hand; but she, misliking him, had refused his suit, so that his
wrath was great. Then, when her father died, he had made war upon
her, overrunning all her lands till nothing was left to her but the
one castle. Long since, all the provision stored therein was
consumed, and she must have yielded her to the oppressor but for
the charity of the nuns of a neighbouring monastery, who had
secretly supplied her with food when, for fear, her vassals had
forsaken her. But that day the nuns had told her that no longer
could they aid her, and there was naught left save to submit to the
invader. This was the story that, with many tears, the Countess
related to Peredur. "Lady," said he, "with your permission, I will
take upon me your quarrel, and to-morrow I will seek to encounter
this felon." The Countess thanked him heartily and they retired to
rest for that night.

In the morning betimes, Sir Peredur arose, donned his armour and,
seeking the Countess, desired that the portcullis might be raised,
for he would sally forth to seek her oppressor. So he rode out from
the castle and saw in the morning light a plain covered with the
tents of a great host. With him he took a herald to proclaim that
he was ready to meet any in fair fight, in the Countess' quarrel.
Forthwith, in answer to his challenge, there rode forward the baron
himself, a proud and stately knight mounted on a great black
horse. The two rushed together, and, at the first encounter, Sir
Peredur unhorsed his opponent, bearing him over the crupper with
such force that he lay stunned, as one dead. Then, Peredur, drawing
his sword, dismounted and stood over the fallen knight, who, when
he was recovered a little, asked his mercy. "Gladly will I grant
it," answered Peredur, "but on these conditions. Ye shall disband
this host, restore to the Countess threefold all of which ye have
deprived her, and, finally, ye shall submit yourself unto her as
her vassal." All this the baron promised to do, and Peredur
remained with the Countess in her castle until she was firmly
established in that which was rightfully hers. Then he bade her
farewell, promising his aid if ever she should need his services,
and so rode forth again.

And as he rode, at times he was troubled, thinking on the scorn
with which the fair Angharad had treated him, and reproaching
himself bitterly for having broken his vow of silence. So he
journeyed many days, and at length, one morn, dismounting by a
little woodland stream, he stood lost in thought, heedless of his
surroundings. Now, as it chanced, Arthur and a company of his
knights were encamped hard by; for, returning from an expedition,
the King had been told of Peredur and how he had taken upon him the
Queen's quarrel, and forthwith had ridden out in search of him.
When the King espied Sir Peredur standing near the brook, he said
to the knights about him: "Know ye yonder knight?" "I know him
not," said Sir Kay, "but I will soon learn his name." So he rode
up to Sir Peredur and spoke to him, demanding his name. When
Peredur answered not, though questioned more than once, Sir Kay in
anger, struck him with the butt-end of his spear. On the instant,
Sir Peredur caught him with his lance under the jaw, and, though
himself unmounted, hurled Kay from the saddle. Then when Kay
returned not, Sir Owain mounted his horse and rode forth to learn
what had happened, and by the brook he found Sir Kay sore hurt, and
Peredur ready mounted to encounter any who sought a quarrel. But at
once Sir Owain recognised Sir Peredur and rejoiced to see him; and
when he found Sir Peredur would speak no word, being himself an
honourable knight, he thought no evil, but urged him to ride back
with him to Arthur's camp. And Sir Peredur, still speaking never a
word, went with Sir Owain, and all respected his silence save Kay,
who was long healing of the injuries he had received, and whose
angry words none heeded. So they returned to Caerleon and soon,
through the city, were noised the noble deeds of Sir Peredur, each
new-comer bringing some fresh story of his prowess. Then when
Angharad learnt how true and famous was the knight whom she had
lightly esteemed, she was sore ashamed; and seeing him ever
foremost in the tournament and courteous to all in deed, though
speaking not a word; she thought that never had there been so noble
a knight, or one so worthy of a lady's love. Thus in the winning of
her favour, Sir Peredur was released from his vow, and his marriage
was celebrated with much pomp before the King and Queen. Long and
happily he lived, famed through all Britain as one of the most
valiant and faithful knights of King Arthur's Round Table.




BOOK VIII

THE HOLY GRAIL




CHAPTER XXIII

THE COMING OF SIR GALAHAD


Many times had the Feast of Pentecost come round, and many were the
knights that Arthur had made since first he founded the Order of
the Round Table; yet no knight had appeared who dared claim the
seat named by Merlin the Siege Perilous. At last, one vigil of the
great feast, a lady came to Arthur's court at Camelot and asked Sir
Launcelot to ride with her into the forest hard by, for a purpose
not then to be revealed. Launcelot consenting, they rode together
until they came to a nunnery hidden deep in the forest; and there
the lady bade Launcelot dismount, and led him into a great and
stately room. Presently there entered twelve nuns and with them a
youth, the fairest that Launcelot had ever seen. "Sir," said the
nuns, "we have brought up this child in our midst, and now that he
is grown to manhood, we pray you make him knight, for of none
worthier could he receive the honour." "Is this thy own desire?"
asked Launcelot of the young squire; and when he said that so it
was, Launcelot promised to make him knight after the great festival
had been celebrated in the church next day.

So on the morrow, after they had worshipped, Launcelot knighted
Galahad - for that was the youth's name - and asked him if he would
ride at once with him to the King's court; but the young knight
excusing himself, Sir Launcelot rode back alone to Camelot, where
all rejoiced that he was returned in time to keep the feast with
the whole Order of the Round Table.

Now, according to his custom, King Arthur was waiting for some
marvel to befall before he and his knights sat down to the banquet.
Presently a squire entered the hall and said: "Sir King, a great
wonder has appeared. There floats on the river a mighty stone, as
it were a block of red marble, and it is thrust through by a sword,
the hilt of which is set thick with precious stones." On hearing
this, the King and all his knights went forth to view the stone
and found it as the squire had said; moreover, looking closer, they
read these words: "None shall draw me hence, but only he by whose
side I must hang; and he shall be the best knight in all the
world." Immediately, all bade Launcelot draw forth the sword, but
he refused, saying that the sword was not for him. Then, at the
King's command, Sir Gawain made the attempt and failed, as did Sir
Percivale after him. So the knights knew the adventure was not for
them, and returning to the hall, took their places about the Round
Table.

No sooner were they seated than an aged man, clothed all in white,
entered the hall, followed by a young knight in red armour, by
whose side hung an empty scabbard. The old man approached King
Arthur and bowing low before him, said: "Sir, I bring you a young
knight of the house and lineage of Joseph of Arimathea, and through
him shall great glory be won for all the land of Britain." Greatly
did King Arthur rejoice to hear this, and welcomed the two right
royally. Then when the young knight had saluted the King, the old
man led him to the Siege Perilous and drew off its silken cover;
and all the knights were amazed, for they saw that where had been
engraved the words, "The Siege Perilous," was written now in
shining gold: "This is the Siege of the noble prince, Sir Galahad."
Straightway the young man seated himself there where none other had
ever sat without danger to his life; and all who saw it said, one
to another: "Surely this is he that shall achieve the Holy Grail."
Now the Holy Grail was the blessed dish from which Our Lord had
eaten the Last Supper, and it had been brought to the land of
Britain by Joseph of Arimathea; but because of men's sinfulness, it
had been withdrawn from human sight, only that, from time to time,
it appeared to the pure in heart.

When all had partaken of the royal banquet, King Arthur bade Sir
Galahad come with him to the river's brink; and showing him the
floating stone with the sword thrust through it, told him how his
knights had failed to draw forth the sword. "Sir," said Galahad,
"it is no marvel that they failed, for the adventure was meant for
me, as my empty scabbard shows." So saying, lightly he drew the
sword from the heart of the stone, and lightly he slid it into the
scabbard at his side. While all yet wondered at this adventure of
the sword, there came riding to them a lady on a white palfrey who,
saluting King Arthur, said: "Sir King, Nacien the hermit sends thee
word that this day shall great honour be shown to thee and all
thine house; for the Holy Grail shall appear in thy hall, and thou
and all thy fellowship shall be fed therefrom." And to Launcelot
she said: "Sir Knight, thou hast ever been the best knight of all
the world; but another has come to whom thou must yield
precedence." Then Launcelot answered humbly: "I know well I was
never the best." "Ay, of a truth thou wast and art still, of sinful
men," said she, and rode away before any could question her
further.

So, that evening, when all were gathered about the Round Table,
each knight in his own siege, suddenly there was heard a crash of
thunder, so mighty that the hall trembled, and there flashed into
the hall a sun-beam, brighter far than any that had ever before
been seen; and then, draped all in white samite, there glided
through the air what none might see, yet what all knew to be the
Holy Grail. And all the air was filled with sweet odours, and on
every one was shed a light in which he looked fairer and nobler
than ever before. So they sat in an amazed silence, till presently
King Arthur rose and gave thanks to God for the grace given to him
and to his court. Then up sprang Sir Gawain and made his avow to
follow for a year and a day the Quest of the Holy Grail, if
perchance he might be granted the vision of it. Immediately other
of the knights followed his example, binding themselves to the
Quest of the Holy Grail until, in all, one hundred and fifty had
vowed themselves to the adventure.

Then was King Arthur grieved, for he foresaw the ruin of his noble
Order. And turning to Sir Gawain, he said: "Nephew ye have done
ill, for through you I am bereft of the noblest company of knights
that ever brought honour to any realm in Christendom. Well I know
that never again shall all of you gather in this hall, and it
grieves me to lose men I have loved as my life and through whom I
have won peace and righteousness for all my realm." So the King
mourned and his knights with him, but their oaths they could not
recall.




CHAPTER XXIV

HOW SIR GALAHAD WON THE RED-CROSS SHIELD


Great woe was there in Camelot next day when, after worship in the
Cathedral, the knights who had vowed themselves to the Quest of the
Holy Grail got to horse and rode away. A goodly company it was that
passed through the streets, the townfolk weeping to see them go;
Sir Launcelot du Lac and his kin, Sir Galahad of whom all expected
great deeds, Sir Bors and Sir Percivale, and many another scarcely
less famed than they. So they rode together that day to the Castle
of Vagon, where they were entertained right hospitably, and the
next day they separated, each to ride his own way and see what
adventures should befall him.

So it came to pass that, after four days' ride, Sir Galahad reached
an abbey. Now Sir Galahad was still clothed in red armour as when
he came to the King's court, and by his side hung the wondrous
sword; but he was without a shield. They of the abbey received him
right heartily, as also did the brave King Bagdemagus, Knight of
the Round Table, who was resting there. When they had greeted each
other, Sir Galahad asked King Bagdemagus what adventure had brought
him there. "Sir," said Bagdemagus, "I was told that in this abbey
was preserved a wondrous shield which none but the best knight in
the world might bear without grievous harm to himself. And though I
know well that there are better knights than I, to-morrow I purpose
to make the attempt. But, I pray you, bide at this monastery awhile
until you hear from me; and if I fail, do ye take the adventure
upon you." "So be it," said Sir Galahad.

The next day, at their request, Sir Galahad and King Bagdemagus
were led into the church by a monk and shown where, behind the
altar, hung the wondrous shield, whiter than snow save for the
blood-red cross in its midst. Then the monk warned them of the
danger to any who, being unworthy, should dare to bear the shield.
But King Bagdemagus made answer: "I know well that I am not the
best knight in the world, yet will I try if I may bear it." So he
hung it about his neck, and, bidding farewell, rode away with his
squire.

The two had not journeyed far before they saw a knight approach,
armed all in white mail and mounted upon a white horse. Immediately
he laid his spear in rest and, charging King Bagdemagus, pierced
him through the shoulder and bore him from his horse; and standing
over the wounded knight, he said: "Knight, thou hast shown great
folly, for none shall bear this shield save the peerless knight,
Sir Galahad." Then, taking the shield, he gave it to the squire and
said: "Bear this shield to the good Knight Galahad and greet him
well from me." "What is your name?" asked the squire, "That is not
for thee or any other to know." "One thing, I pray you," said the
squire; "why may this shield be borne by none but Sir Galahad
without danger?" "Because it belongs to him only," answered the
stranger knight, and vanished.

Then the squire took the shield and, setting King Bagdemagus on his
horse, bore him back to the abbey where he lay long, sick unto
death. To Galahad the squire gave the shield and told him all that
had befallen. So Galahad hung the shield about his neck and rode
the way that Bagdemagus had gone the day before; and presently he
met the White Knight, whom he greeted courteously, begging that he
would make known to him the marvels of the red-cross shield. "That
will I gladly," answered the White Knight. "Ye must know, Sir
Knight, that this shield was made and given by Joseph of Arimathea
to the good King Evelake of Sarras, that, in the might of the holy
symbol, he should overthrow the heathen who threatened his kingdom.
But afterwards, King Evelake followed Joseph to this land of
Britain where they taught the true faith unto the people who before
were heathen. Then when Joseph lay dying, he bade King Evelake set
the shield in the monastery where ye lay last night, and foretold
that none should wear it without loss until that day when it should
be taken by the knight, ninth and last in descent from him, who
should come to that place the fifteenth day after receiving the
degree of knighthood. Even so has it been with you, Sir Knight." So
saying, the unknown knight disappeared and Sir Galahad rode on his
way.




CHAPTER XXV

THE ADVENTURES OF SIR PERCIVALE


After he had left his fellows, Sir Percivale rode long through the
forest until, one evening, he reached a monastery where he sought
shelter for the night. The next morning, he went into the chapel to
hear mass and there he espied the body of an old, old man, laid on
a richly adorned couch. At first it seemed as if the aged man were
dead, but presently, raising himself in his bed, he took off his
crown, and, delivering it to the priest, bade him place it on the
altar. So when the service was concluded, Sir Percivale asked who
the aged king might be. Then he was told that it was none other
than King Evelake who accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to Britain.
And on a certain occasion, the King had approached the Holy Grail
nigher than was reverent and, for his impiety, God had punished him
with blindness. Thereupon he repented and, entreating God
earnestly, had obtained his petition that he should not die until
he had seen the spotless knight who should be descended from him in
the ninth degree. (This his desire was fulfilled later when Sir
Galahad came thither; after which, he died and was buried by the
good knight.)

The next day, Sir Percivale continued his journey and presently met
with twenty knights who bore on a bier the body of a dead knight.
When they espied Sir Percivale, they demanded of him who he was and
whence he came. So he told them, whereupon they all shouted, "Slay
him! slay him!" and setting upon him all at once, they killed his
horse and would have slain him but that the good knight, Sir
Galahad, passing that way by chance, came to his rescue and put his
assailants to flight. Then Galahad rode away as fast as he might,
for he would not be thanked, and Sir Percivale was left, horseless
and alone, in the forest.

So Sir Percivale continued his journey on foot as well as he might;
and ever the way became lonelier, until at last he came to the
shores of a vast sea. There Sir Percivale abode many days, without
food and desolate, doubting whether he should ever escape thence.
At last it chanced that, looking out to sea, Sir Percivale descried
a ship and, as it drew nearer, he saw how it was all hung with


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12

Online LibraryBeatrice ClayStories from Le Morte D'Arthur and the Mabinogion → online text (page 8 of 12)