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Then, at the following Pentecost, was held a feast of the Round Table at Caerleon, with high splendor; and all the knights thereof resorted to the court, and held many games and jousts. And therein Sir Lancelot increased in fame and worship above all men, for he overthrew all comers, and never was unhorsed or worsted, save by treason and enchantment.
When Queen Guinevere had seen his wondrous feats, she held him in great favor, and smiled more on him than on any other knight. And ever since he first had gone to bring her to King Arthur, had Lancelot thought on her as fairest of all ladies, and done his best to win her grace. So the queen often sent for him, and bade him tell of his birth and strange adventures: how he was only son of great King Ban of Brittany, and how, one night, his father, with his mother Helen and himself, fled from his burning castle; how his father, groaning deeply, fell to the ground and died of grief and wounds, and how his mother, running to her husband, left himself alone; how, as he thus lay wailing, came the lady of the lake, and took him in her arms and went with him into the midst of the waters, where, with his cousins Lionel and Bors, he had been cherished all his childhood until he came to King Arthur's court; and how this was the reason why men called him Lancelot du Lake.
Anon it was ordained by King Arthur, that in every year at Pentecost there should be held a festival of all the knights of the Round Table at Caerleon, or such other place as he should choose. And at those festivals should be told publicly the most famous adventures of any knight during the past year.
So, when Sir Lancelot saw Queen Guinevere rejoiced to hear his wanderings and adventures, he resolved to set forth yet again, and win more worship still, that he might more increase her favor. Then he bade his cousin Sir Lionel make ready, "for," said he, "we two will seek adventure." So they mounted their horses—armed at all points—and rode into a vast forest; and when they had passed through it, they came to a great plain, and the weather being very hot about noontide, Sir Lancelot greatly longed to sleep. Then Sir Lionel espied a great apple-tree standing by a hedge, and said, "Brother, yonder is a fair shadow where we may rest ourselves and 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 fast.
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 appareled. Anon he saw him overtake the last of those who fled, and smite him to the ground; then came he to the second, and smote him such a stroke that horse and man went to the earth; then rode he to the third, likewise, and struck him off his horse more than a spear's length. With that he lighted from his horse, and bound all three knights fast with the reins of their own bridles.
When Sir Lionel saw this he thought the time was come to prove himself against him, so quietly and cautiously, lest he should wake Sir Lancelot, he took his horse and mounted and rode after him. Presently overtaking him, he cried aloud to him to turn, which instantly he did, and smote Sir Lionel so hard that horse and man went down forthwith. Then took he up Sir Lionel, and threw him bound over his own horse's back; and so he served the three other knights, and rode them away to his own castle. There they were disarmed, stripped naked, and beaten with thorns, and afterwards thrust into a deep prison, where many more knights, also, made great moans and lamentations, saying, "Alas, alas! there is no man can help us but Sir Lancelot, for no other knight can match this tyrant Turquine, our conqueror."
But all this while, Sir Lancelot lay sleeping soundly under the apple-tree. And, as it chanced, there passed that way four queens, of high estate, riding upon four white mules, under four canopies of green silk borne on spears, to keep them from the sun. As they rode thus, they heard a great horse grimly neigh, and, turning them about, soon saw a sleeping knight that lay all armed under an apple-tree; and when they saw his face, they knew it was 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 dawn of day, ye shall know more."
And so she left him alone, and there he lay all night. In the morning early came the four queens to him, passing richly dressed; and said, "Sir knight, thou must understand that thou art our prisoner, and that we know thee well for King Ban's son, Sir Lancelot du Lake. And though we know full well there is one lady only in this world may have thy love, and she Queen Guinevere—King Arthur's wife—yet now are we resolved to have thee to serve one of us; choose, therefore, of us four which thou wilt serve. I am Queen Morgan le Fay, Queen of the land of Gore, and here also is the Queen of Northgales, and the Queen of Eastland, and the Queen of the Out Isles. Choose, then, at once, for else 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?"
"Yea, on my life," said Lancelot, "refused ye be of me."
So they departed from him in great wrath, and left him sorrowfully grieving in his dungeon.
At noon the damsel came to him and brought his dinner, and asked him as before, "What cheer?"
"Truly, fair damsel," said Sir Lancelot, "in all my life never so ill."
"Sir," replied she, "I grieve to see ye so, but if ye do as I advise, I can help ye out of this distress, and will do so if you promise me a 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 enchantments."
Then said the damsel, "Sir, wilt thou promise me to help my father on next Tuesday, for he hath a tournament with the King of Northgales, and last Tuesday lost the field through three knights of King Arthur's court, who came against him. And if next Tuesday thou wilt aid him, to-morrow, before daylight, by God's grace, I will deliver thee."
"Fair maiden," said Sir Lancelot, "tell me thy father's name and I will answer thee."
"My father is King Bagdemagus," said she.
"I know him well," replied Sir Lancelot, "for a noble king and a good knight; and by the faith of my body I will do him all the service I am able on that day."
"Gramercy 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 knight."
So she departed, and on the morrow, early, came again, and let him out of twelve gates, differently locked, and brought him to his armor; and when he was all armed, she brought him his horse also, and lightly he saddled him, and took a great spear in his hand, and mounted and rode forth, saying, as he went, "Fair damsel, I shall not fail thee, by the grace of 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 brother Lionel was gone he knew not where, and how the damsel had delivered him from the castle of Queen Morgan le Fay. "Wherefore while I live," said he, "I shall do service to herself and all her kindred."
"Then am I sure of thy aid," said the king, "on Tuesday now next coming?"
"Yea, sir, I shall not fail thee," said Sir Lancelot; "but what knights were they who last week defeated thee, and took part with the King of Northgales?"
"Sir Mador de la Port, Sir Modred, and Sir Gahalatine," replied the king.
"Sir," said Sir Lancelot, "as I understand, the tournament shall take place but three miles from this abbey; send then to me here, three knights of thine, the best thou hast, and let them all have plain white shields, such as I also will; then will we four come suddenly into the midst between both parties, and fall upon thy enemies, and grieve them all we can, and none will know us who we are."
So, on the Tuesday, Sir Lancelot and the three knights lodged themselves in a small grove hard by the lists. Then came into the field the King of Northgales, with one hundred and sixty helms, and the three knights of King Arthur's court, who stood apart by themselves. And when King Bagdemagus had arrived, with eighty helms, both companies set all their spears in rest and came together with a mighty clash, wherein were slain twelve knights of King Bagdemagus, and six of the King of Northgales; and the party of King Bagdemagus was driven back.
With that, came Sir Lancelot, and thrust into the thickest of the press, and smote down with one spear five knights, and brake the backs of four, and cast down the King of Northgales, and brake his thigh by the fall. When the three knights of Arthur's court saw this, they rode at Sir Lancelot, and each after other attacked him; but he overthrew them all, and smote them nigh to death. Then, taking a new spear, he bore down to the ground sixteen more knights, and hurt them all so sorely, that they could carry arms no more that day. And when his spear at length was broken, he took yet another, and smote down twelve knights more, the most of whom he wounded mortally, till in the end the party of the King of Northgales would joust no more, and the victory was cried to King Bagdemagus.
Then Sir Lancelot rode forth with King Bagdemagus to his castle, and there he feasted with great cheer and welcome, and received many royal gifts. And on the morrow he took leave and went to find his brother Lionel.
Anon, by chance, he came to the same forest where the four queens had found him sleeping, and there he met a damsel riding on a white palfrey. When they had saluted each other, Sir Lancelot said, "Fair damsel, knowest thou where any adventures may be had in this country?"
"Sir knight," said she, "there are adventures great enough close by if thou darest prove them."
"Why should I not," said he, "since for that cause I came here?"
"Sir," said the damsel, "hard by this place there dwelleth a knight that cannot be defeated by any man, so great and perilously strong he is. His name is Sir Turquine, and in the prisons of his castle lie three score knights and four, mostly from King Arthur's court, whom he hath taken with his own hands. But promise me, ere thou undertakest their deliverance, to go and help me afterwards, and free me and many other ladies that are distressed by a false knight."
"Bring me but to this felon Turquine," quoth Sir Lancelot, "and I will afterwards fulfill 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 wellnigh half an hour, and anon saw a great knight riding from the distance, driving a horse before him, across which hung an armed man bound. And when they came near, Sir Lancelot knew the prisoner for a knight of the Round Table. By that time, the great knight who drove the prisoner saw Sir Lancelot, and each of them began to settle his spear, and to make ready.
"Fair sir," then said Sir Lancelot, "put off that wounded knight, I pray thee, from his horse, and let him rest while thou and I shall prove our strength upon each other; for, as I am told, thou doest, and hast done, great shame and injury to knights of the Round Table. Wherefore, I warn thee now, defend thyself."
"If thou mayest be of the Round Table," answered Turquine, "I defy thee, and all thy fellows."
"That is saying overmuch," said Sir Lancelot.
Then, setting their lances in rest, they spurred their horses towards each other, as fast as they could go, and smote so fearfully upon each other's shields, that both their horses' backs brake under them. As soon as they could clear their saddles, they took their shields before them, and drew their swords, and came together eagerly, and fought with great and grievous strokes; and soon they both had many grim and fearful wounds, and bled in streams. Thus they fought two hours and more, thrusting and smiting at each other, wherever they could hit.
Anon, they both were breathless, and stood leaning on their swords.
"Now, comrade," said Sir Turquine, "let us wait awhile, and answer me what I shall ask thee."
"Say on," said Lancelot.
"Thou art," said Turquine, "the best man I ever met, and seemest like one that I hate above all other knights that live; but if thou be not he, I will make peace with thee, and for sake of thy great valor, will deliver all the three score prisoners and four who lie within my dungeons, and thou and I will be companions evermore. Tell me, then, thy name."
"Thou sayest well," replied Sir Lancelot; "but who is he thou hatest so above all others?"
"His name," said Turquine, "is Sir Lancelot of the Lake; and he slew my brother Sir Carados, at the dolorous tower; wherefore, if ever I shall meet with him, one of us two shall slay the other; and thereto I have sworn by a great oath. And to discover and destroy him I have slain a hundred knights, and crippled utterly as many more, and many have died in my prisons; and now, as I have told thee, I have many more therein, who all shall be delivered, if thou tell me thy name, and it be not Sir 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 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 both me and my horse; and I see that ye are the best knight in all the world, for in my sight have ye slain the mightiest man and the best knight, except thyself, I ever saw."
"Sir," said Sir Lancelot, "I thank thee well; and now go into yonder castle, where thou 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', Sir Galind's, and Sir Aliduke's, and many more; and also my two kinsmen's shields, Sir Ector de Maris' and Sir Lionel's. And I pray you greet them all from me, Sir Lancelot of the Lake, and tell them that I bid them help themselves to any treasures they can find within the castle; and that I pray my brethren, Lionel and Ector, to go to King Arthur's court and stay there till I come. And by the high feast at Pentecost I must be there; but now I must ride forth with this damsel to fulfill my promise."
So, as they went, the damsel told him, "Sir, we are now near the place where the foul knight haunteth, who robbeth and distresseth all ladies and gentlewomen traveling past this way, against whom I have sought thy aid."
Then they arranged that she should ride on foremost, and Sir Lancelot should follow under cover of the trees by the roadside, and if he saw her come to any mishap, he should ride forth and deal with him that troubled her. And as the damsel rode on at a soft ambling pace, a knight and page burst forth from the roadside and forced the damsel from her horse, till she cried out for help.
Then came Sir Lancelot rushing through the wood as fast as he might fly, and all the branches of the trees crackled and waved around him. "O thou false knight and traitor to all knighthood!" shouted he, "who taught thee to distress fair ladies thus?"
The foul knight answered nothing, but drew out his sword and rode at Sir Lancelot, who threw his spear away and drew his own sword likewise, and struck him such a mighty blow as clave his head down to the throat. "Now hast thou the wages thou long hast earned!" said he; and so departed from the damsel.
Then for two days he rode in a great forest, and had but scanty food and lodging, and on the third day he rode over a long bridge, when suddenly there started up a passing foul churl, and smote his horse across the nose, so that he started and turned back, rearing with pain. "Why ridest thou over here without my leave?" said he.
"Why should I not?" said Sir Lancelot; "there is no other way to ride."
"Thou shalt not pass by here," cried out the churl, and dashed at him with a great club full of iron spikes, till Sir Lancelot was fain to draw his sword and smite him dead upon the earth.
At the end of the bridge was a fair village, and all the people came and cried, "Ah, sir! a worse deed for thyself thou never didst, for thou hast slain the chief porter of the castle yonder!" But he let them talk as they pleased, and rode straight forward to the castle.
There he alighted, and tied his horse to a ring in the wall; and going in, he saw a wide green court, and thought it seemed a noble place to fight in. And as he looked about, he saw many people watching him from doors and windows, making signs of warning, and saying, "Fair knight, thou art unhappy." In the next moment came upon him two great giants, well armed save their heads, and with two horrible clubs in their hands. Then he put his shield before him, and with it warded off one giant's stroke, and clove the other with his sword from the head downward to the chest. When the first giant saw that, he ran away mad with fear; but Sir Lancelot ran after him, and smote him through the shoulder, and shore him down his back, so that he fell dead.
Then he walked onward to the castle hall, and saw a band of sixty ladies and young damsels coming forth, who knelt to him, and thanked him for their freedom. "For, sir," said they, "the most of us have been prisoners here these seven years; and have been kept at all manner of work to earn our meat, though we be all great gentlewomen born. Blessed be the time that thou wast born, for never did a knight a deed of greater worship than thou hast this day, and thereto will we all bear witness in all times and places! Tell us, therefore, noble knight, thy name and court, that we may tell them to our friends!" And when they heard it, they all cried aloud, "Well may it be so, for we knew that no knight save thou shouldst ever overcome those giants; and many a long day have we sighed for thee; for the giants feared no other name among all knights but thine."
Then he told them to take the treasures of the castle as a reward for their grievances; and to return to their homes, and so rode away into many strange and wild countries. And at last, after many days, by chance he came, near the night time, to a fair mansion, wherein he found an old gentlewoman, who gave him and his horse good cheer. And when bed time was come, his host brought him to a chamber over a gate, and there he unarmed, and went to bed and fell asleep.
But soon thereafter came one riding in great haste, and knocking vehemently at the gate below, which when Sir Lancelot heard, he rose and looked out of the window, and, by the moonlight, saw three knights come riding fiercely after one man, and lashing on him all at once with their swords, while the one knight nobly fought 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."
Then they yielded to him; and Sir Lancelot commanded them to go unto King Arthur's court at the next Pentecost, and say, Sir Key had sent them prisoners to Queen Guinevere. And this they sware to do upon their swords.
Then Sir Lancelot knocked at the gate with his sword-hilt till his hostess came and let him in again, and Sir Key also. And when the light came, Sir Key knew Sir Lancelot, and knelt and thanked him for his courtesy, and gentleness, and kindness. "Sir," said he, "I have done no more than what I ought to do, and ye are welcome; therefore let us now take rest."
So when Sir Key had supped, they went to sleep, and Sir Lancelot and he slept in the same bed. On the morrow, Sir Lancelot rose early, and took Sir Key's shield and armor and set forth. When Sir Key arose, he found Sir Lancelot's armor 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 armor, 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 colors, and to each tent was hung a white shield, and by each shield stood a knight. So Sir Lancelot went by without speaking a word. And when he had passed, the three knights said it was the proud Sir Key, "who thinketh no knight equal to himself, although the contrary is full often proved upon him."
"By my faith!" said one of them, named Gaunter, "I will ride after and attack him for all his pride, and ye shall watch my speed."
Then, taking shield and spear, he mounted and rode after Sir Lancelot, and cried, "Abide, proud knight, and turn, for thou shalt not pass free!"
So Sir Lancelot turned, and each one put his spear in rest and came with all his might against the other. And Sir Gaunter's spear brake short, but Sir Lancelot smote him down, both horse and man.
When the other knights saw this, they said, "Yonder is not Sir Key, but a bigger man."
"I dare wager my head," said Sir Gilmere, "yonder knight hath slain Sir Key, and taken his horse and harness."
"Be it so, or not," said Sir Reynold, the third brother; "let us now go to our brother Gaunter's rescue; we shall have enough to do to match that knight, for, by his stature, I believe it is Sir Lancelot or Sir 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 honor, I would avoid thee. Nevertheless, that cannot be, so keep thyself." And so they hurtled together with all their might, and each man shivered his spear to pieces; and then they drew their swords and lashed out eagerly.
And as they fought, Sir Gaunter and Sir Gilmere presently arose and mounted once again, and came down at full tilt upon Sir Lancelot. But, when he saw them coming, he put forth all his strength, and struck Sir Reynold off his horse. Then, with two other strokes, he served the others likewise.
Anon, Sir Reynold crept along the ground, with his head all bloody, and came towards Sir Lancelot. "It is enough," said Lancelot, "I was not far from thee when thou wast made a knight, Sir Reynold, and know thee for a good and valiant man, and was full loth to slay thee."
"Gramercy for thy gentleness!" said Sir Reynold. "I and my brethren will straightway yield to thee when we know thy name, for well we know that thou art not Sir Key."
"As for that," said Sir Lancelot, "be it as it may, but ye shall yield to Queen Guinevere at the next Feast of Pentecost as prisoners, and say that Sir Key sent ye."
Then they swore to him it should be done as he commanded. And so Sir Lancelot passed on, and the three brethren helped each other's wounds as best they might.
Then rode Sir Lancelot forward into a deep forest, and came upon four knights of King Arthur's court, under an oak tree—Sir Sagramour, Sir Ector, Sir Gawain, and Sir Ewaine. And when they spied him, they thought he was Sir Key. "Now by my faith," said Sir Sagramour, "I will prove Sir Key's might!" and taking his spear he rode towards Sir Lancelot.
But Sir Lancelot was aware of him, and, setting his spear in rest, smote him so sorely, that horse and man fell to the earth.
"Lo!" cried Sir Ector, "I see by the buffet that knight hath given our fellow he is stronger than Sir Key. Now will I try what I can do against him!" So Sir Ector took his spear, and galloped at Sir Lancelot; and Sir Lancelot met him as he came, and smote him through shield and shoulder, so that he fell, but his own spear was not broken.
"By my faith," cried Sir Ewaine, "yonder is a strong knight, and must have slain Sir Key, and taken his armor! 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."
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 Lancelot.
"His name," she answered, "was Sir Gilbert—one of the best knights in all the world; but I know not his name who hath slain him."
"God send thee comfort," said Sir Lancelot, and departed again into the forest.
And as he rode, he met with a damsel who knew him, who cried out, "Well found, my lord! I pray ye of your knighthood help my brother, who is sore wounded and ceases not to bleed, for he fought this day with Sir Gilbert, and slew him, but was himself well nigh slain. And there is a sorceress, who dwelleth in a castle hard by, and she this day hath told me that my brother's wound shall never be made whole until I find a knight to go into the Chapel Perilous, and bring from thence a sword and the bloody cloth in which the wounded knight was wrapped."
"This is a marvelous thing!" said Sir Lancelot; "but what is your brother's name?"
"His name, sir," she replied, "is Sir Meliot de Logres."
"He is a Fellow of the Round Table," said Sir Lancelot, "and truly will I do my best to help him."
"Then, sir," said she, "follow this way, and it will bring ye to the Chapel Perilous. I will abide here till God send ye hither again; for if ye speed not, there is no living knight who may achieve that adventure."
So Sir Lancelot departed, and when he came to the Chapel Perilous he alighted, and tied his horse to the gate. And as soon as he was within the churchyard, he saw on the front of the chapel many shields of knights whom he had known, turned upside down. Then saw he in the pathway thirty mighty knights, taller than any men whom he had ever seen, all armed in black armor, with their swords drawn; and they gnashed their teeth upon him as he came. But he put his shield before him, and took his sword in hand, ready to do battle with them. And when he would have cut his way through them, they scattered on every side and let him pass. Then he went into the chapel, and saw therein no light but of a dim lamp burning. Then he was aware of a corpse in the midst of the chapel, covered with a silken cloth, and so stooped down and cut off a piece of the cloth, whereat the earth beneath him trembled. Then saw he a sword lying by the dead knight, and taking it in his hand, he hied him from the chapel. As soon as he was in the churchyard again, all the thirty knights cried out to him with fierce voices, "Sir Lancelot! lay that sword from thee, or thou diest!"
"Whether I live or die," said he, "ye shall fight for it ere ye take it from me."
With that they let him pass.
And further on, beyond the chapel, he met a fair damsel, who said, "Sir Lancelot, leave that sword behind thee, or thou diest."
"I will not leave it," said Sir Lancelot, "for any asking."
"Then, gentle knight," said the damsel, "I pray thee kiss me once."
"Nay," said Sir Lancelot, "that God forbid!"
"Alas!" cried she, "I have lost all my labor! but hadst thou kissed me, thy life's days had been all done!"
"Heaven save me from thy subtle crafts!" said Sir Lancelot; and therewith took his horse and galloped forth.
And when he was departed, the damsel sorrowed greatly, and died in fifteen days. Her name was Ellawes, the sorceress.
Then came Sir Lancelot to Sir Meliot's sister, who, when she saw him, clapped her hands and wept for joy, and took him to the castle hard by, where Sir Meliot was. And when Sir Lancelot saw Sir Meliot, he knew him, though he was pale as ashes for loss of blood. And Sir Meliot, when he saw Sir Lancelot, kneeled to him and cried aloud, "O lord, Sir Lancelot! help 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 immediately he was as whole as though he had been never wounded. Then was there great joy between him and Sir Meliot; and his sister made Sir Lancelot good cheer. So on the morrow, he took his leave, that he might go to King Arthur's court, "for," said he, "it draweth nigh the Feast of Pentecost, and there, by God's grace, shall ye then find me."
And riding through many strange countries, over marshes and valleys, he came at length before a castle. As he passed by he heard two little bells ringing, and looking up, he saw a falcon flying overhead, with bells tied to her feet, and long strings dangling from them. And as the falcon flew past an elm-tree, the strings caught in the boughs, so that she could fly no further.
In the meanwhile, came a lady from the castle, and cried, "Oh, Sir Lancelot! as thou art the flower of all knights in the world, help me to get my hawk, for she hath slipped away from me, and if she be lost, my lord my husband is so hasty, he will surely slay me!"
"What is thy lord's name?" said Sir Lancelot.
"His name," said she, "is Sir Phelot, a knight of the King of Northgales."
"Fair lady," said Sir Lancelot, "since you know my name, and require me, on my knighthood, to help you, I will do what I can to get your hawk."
And thereupon alighting, he tied his horse to the same tree, and prayed the lady to unarm him. So when he was unarmed, he climbed up and reached the falcon, and threw it to the lady.
Then suddenly came down, out of the wood, her husband, Sir Phelot, all armed, with a drawn sword in his hand, and said, "Oh, Sir Lancelot! now have I found thee as I would have thee!" and stood at the trunk of the tree to slay him.
"Ah, lady!" cried Sir Lancelot, "why have ye betrayed me?"
"She hath done as I commanded her," said Sir Phelot, "and thine hour is come that thou must die."
"It were shame," said Lancelot, "for an armed to slay an unarmed man."
"Thou hast no other favor from me," said Sir Phelot.
"Alas!" cried Sir Lancelot, "that ever any knight should die weaponless!" And looking overhead, he saw a great bough without leaves, and wrenched it off the tree, and suddenly leaped down. Then Sir Phelot struck at him eagerly, thinking to have slain him, but Sir Lancelot put aside the stroke with the bough, and therewith smote him on the side of the head, till he fell swooning to the ground. And tearing his sword from out his hands, he shore his neck through from the body. Then did the lady shriek dismally, and swooned as though she would die. But Sir Lancelot put on his armor, and with haste took his horse and departed thence, thanking God he had escaped that peril.
And as he rode through a valley, among many wild ways, he saw a knight, with a drawn sword, chasing a lady to slay her. And seeing Sir Lancelot, she cried and prayed to him to come and rescue her.
At that he went up, saying, "Fie on thee, knight! why wilt thou slay this lady? Thou doest shame to thyself and all knights."
"What hast thou to do between me and my wife?" replied the knight. "I will slay her in spite of thee."
"Thou shalt not harm her," said 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 true knighthood to save me, for he is without mercy."
"Be of good cheer," said Sir Lancelot; "it shall not lie within his power to harm thee."
"Sir," said the knight, "I will be ruled as ye will have me."
So Sir Lancelot rode between the knight and the lady. And when they had ridden awhile, the knight cried out suddenly to Sir Lancelot to turn and see what men they were who came riding after them; and while Sir Lancelot, thinking not of treason, turned to look, the knight, with one great stroke, smote off the lady's head.
Then was Sir Lancelot passing wroth, and cried, "Thou traitor! Thou hast shamed me forever!" and, alighting from his horse, he drew his sword to have slain him instantly; but the knight fell on the ground and clasped Sir Lancelot's knees, and cried out for mercy. "Thou shameful knight," answered Lancelot, "thou mayest have no mercy, for thou showedst none, therefore arise and fight with me."
"Nay," said the knight, "I will not rise till thou dost grant me mercy."
"Now will I deal fairly by thee," said Sir Lancelot; "I will unarm me to my shirt, and have my sword only in my hand, and if thou canst slay me thou shalt be quit forever."
"That will I never do," said the knight.
"Then," answered Sir Lancelot, "take this lady and the head, and bear it with thee, and swear to me upon thy sword never to rest until thou comest to Queen Guinevere."
"That will I do," said he.
"Now," said Sir Lancelot, "tell me thy name."
"It is Pedivere," answered the knight.
"In a shameful hour wert thou born," said Sir Lancelot.
So Sir Pedivere departed, bearing with him the dead lady and her head. And when he came to Winchester, where the Queen was with King Arthur, he told them all the truth; and afterwards did great and heavy penance many years, and became an holy hermit.
So, two days before the Feast of Pentecost, Sir Lancelot returned to the court, and King Arthur was full glad of his coming. And when Sir Gawain, Sir Ewaine, Sir Sagramour, and Sir Ector, saw him in Sir Key's armor, 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 honor to Sir Lancelot. Then Sir Key told the King how Sir Lancelot had rescued him when he was in near danger of his death; "and," said Sir Key, "he made the knights yield, not to himself, but me. And by Heaven! because Sir Lancelot took my armor and left me his, I rode in peace, and no man would have aught to do with me." Then came the knights who fought with Sir Lancelot at the long bridge and yielded themselves also to Sir Key, but he said nay, he had not fought with them. "It is Sir Lancelot," said he, "that overcame ye." Next came Sir Meliot de Logres, and told King Arthur how Sir Lancelot had saved him from death.
And so all Sir Lancelot's deeds and great adventures were made known; how the four sorceress-queens had him in prison; how he was delivered by the daughter of King Bagdemagus, and what deeds of arms he did at the tournament between the King of North Wales and King Bagdemagus. And so, at that festival, Sir Lancelot had the greatest name of any knight in all the world, and by high and low was he the most honored of all men.
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