KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS
By Maude L. Radford
Illustrated by Walter J. Enright
Rand, M^cNally & Company CHICAGO . NEW YORK . LONDON
Copyright, 1903, By MAUDE L. RADFORD
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE A List of Illustrations 8
How Arthur Became King 11
The Good Sword Excalibur 29
The Great Feast and What Followed 35
Arthur's Court and the Order of the Round Table 49
King Arthur and the Princess Guinevere 64
The Coming of Gareth 73
The Story of Sir Gareth and Lynette 85
Sir Ivaine 99
Sir Balin 120
Sir Geraint and Enid 131
Arthur and Sir Accalon 142
How Arthur Fought with a Giant 153
How Arthur Fought with Rome 160
The Knight with the Badly Made Coat 171
Sir Lancelot and Sir Brune 177
The Adventure of King Pellenore 193
Sir Lancelot and His Friends 199
How Sir Lancelot Saved the Queen 213
Sir Lancelot and Elaine 226
The Search for the Holy Grail 243
The Death of Arthur 260
A LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table Frontispiece
"All about him old oaks stood like giant guardians" 10
"He hardly more than touched the sword" 25
Arthur and the Lady of the Lake 31
King Bors and King Ban 41
"Arthur saw Guinevere bending over the wall" 65
"Gareth rode at him fiercely" 93
"He dismounted and poured water into the fountain" 105
"They fought till their breath failed" 129
"King Arthur raising his hand for silence" 167
"The king touched him lightly with his sword" 175
"He pushed him until he was but a step from the edge" 191
"He struck so fiercely the bottom fell out" 209
"She staid near it all day long in the turret" 231
"And across it slowly moved the Holy Grail" 253
TO DWIGHT AND ROGER
King Arthur and His Knights
HOW ARTHUR BECAME KING
Once upon a time, a thousand years before Columbus discovered America, and when Rome was still the greatest city in the world, there lived a brave and beautiful youth whose name was Arthur. His home was in England, near London; and he lived with the good knight Sir Hector, whom he always called father.
They dwelt in a great square castle of gray stone, with a round tower at each corner. It was built about a courtyard, and was surrounded by a moat, across which was a drawbridge that could be raised or lowered. When it was raised the castle was practically a little island and very hard for enemies to attack.
On one side of the moat was a large wood, and here Arthur spent a great deal of his time. He liked to lie under the trees and gaze up at the blue of the sky. All about him old oaks stood like giant guardians watching sturdily over the soil where they had grown for centuries. Arthur could look between the trunks and see rabbits and squirrels whisking about. Sometimes a herd of brown deer with shy dark eyes would pass, holding their graceful heads high in the air; sometimes a flock of pheasants with brilliant plumage rose from the bushes. Again there was no sound except the tapping of a bright-crested woodpecker, and no motion but the fluttering of leaves and the trembling of violets half buried in green moss.
At times, when it was dim and silent in the wood, Arthur would hear bursts of merry laughter, the tinkling of bells, and the jingling of spurs. Then he would know that knights and ladies were riding down the road which ran beside the trees. Soon the knights would appear on horses, brown, black, and white, with gaily ornamented saddles, and bridles from which hung silver bells. Often the saddles were made of ivory or ebony, set with rubies or emeralds. The knights wore helmets laced with slender gold chains, and coats of mail made of tiny links of steel, so fine and light that all together hardly weighed more than a coat of cloth. Usually the legs of the knights were sheathed in steel armor; and their spurs were steel, or even gold. The ladies sat on horses with long trappings of silk, purple, white, or scarlet, with ornamented saddles and swinging bells. The robes of the ladies were very beautiful, being made of velvet or silk trimmed with ermine. Arthur liked to watch them, flashing by; crimson, and gold, and blue, and rose-colored. Better still, he liked to see the pretty happy faces of the ladies, and hear their gay voices. In those troublous times, however, the roads were so insecure that such companies did not often pass.
Sometimes the knights and ladies came to visit Sir Hector. Then Arthur would hurry from the forest to the castle. Sir Hector would stand on the lowered drawbridge to greet his guests, and would lead them, with many expressions of pleasure, into the courtyard. Then he would take a huge hammer hanging from a post, and beat with it on a table which stood in a corner of the courtyard. Immediately from all parts of the castle the squires and servants would come running to take the horses of the knights and ladies. Sir Hector's wife and daughters would then appear, and with their own hands remove the armor of the knights. They would offer them golden basins of water, and towels for washing, and after that put velvet mantles upon their shoulders. Then the guests would be brought to the supper table.
But Arthur did not spend all his time dreaming in the woods or gazing at knights and ladies. For many hours of the day he practiced feats of arms in the courtyard. It was the custom in England to train boys of noble birth to be knights. As soon as they were old enough they were taught to ride. Later on, they lived much among the ladies and maidens, learning gentle manners. Under the care of the knights, they learned to hunt, to carry a lance properly, and to use the sword; and having gained this skill, they were made squires if they had shown themselves to be of good character.
Then, day by day, the squires practiced at the quintain. This was an upright post, on the top of which turned a crosspiece, having on one end a broad board, and on the other a bag of sand. The object was to ride up at full gallop, strike the board with a long lance, and get away without being hit by the sand bag.
Besides this, the squires had services to do for the knights, in order that they might learn to be useful in as many ways as possible, and to be always humble. For instance, they took care of the armor of the knights, carried letters and messages for them, accompanied them at joustings and tournaments, being ready with extra weapons or assistance; and in the castle they helped to serve the guests at table. After months of such service, they went through a beautiful ceremony and were made knights. In the country round about, Arthur, of all the squires, was the most famous for his skill in the use of the lance and the sword, for his keenness in the hunt, and for his courtesy to all people.
Now, at this time there was no ruler in England. The powerful Uther of Wales, who had governed England, was dead, and all the strong lords of the country were struggling to be king in his place. This gave rise to a great deal of quarreling and bloodshed.
There was in the land a wise magician named Merlin. He was so old that his beard was as white as snow, but his eyes were as clear as a little child's. He was very sorry to see all the fighting that was going on, because he feared that it would do serious harm to the kingdom.
In those days the great and good men who ruled in the church had power almost equal to that of the monarch. The kings and the great lords listened to their advice, and gave them much land, and money for themselves and for the poor. So Merlin went to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the churchman who in all England was the most beloved, and said:
"Sir, it is my advice that you send to all the great lords of the realm and bid them come to London by Christmas to choose a king."
The archbishop did as Merlin advised, and at Christmas all the great lords came to London. The largest church in the city stood not far from the north bank of the Thames. A churchyard surrounded it, filled with yew trees, the trunks of which were knotted with age. The powerful lords rode up in their clanking armor to the gate, where they dismounted, and giving their horses into the care of their squires, reverently entered the church.
There were so many of them that they quite filled the nave and side-aisles of the building. The good archbishop, from where he stood in the chancel, looked down on them all. Just behind him was the altar covered with a cloth of crimson and gold, and surmounted by a golden crucifix and ten burning candles. In front of him, kneeling under the gray arches which spanned the church, were the greatest men in the kingdom. He looked at their stern bronzed faces, their heavy beards, their broad shoulders, and their glittering armor, and prayed God to make the best man in the land king.
Then began the service. At the close of the first prayer some of the knights looked out of the window, and there in the churchyard they saw a great square stone. In the middle of it was an anvil of steel a foot high, and fixed therein was a beautiful sword. On the sword was some writing set in with gold which said:
"Whosoever pulls this sword out of this stone and anvil is the real king of all England."
The knights who read this told the archbishop, but he said:
"I command you all to keep within the church and still pray to God. No man is to touch the sword until all the prayers are said."
After the service was over, the lords went into the churchyard. They each pulled at the sword, but none could stir it.
"The king is not here," said the archbishop, "but God will make him known. Meantime, let ten good knights keep watch over this sword."
The knights were soon chosen, and then the archbishop said that on a fixed day every man in the kingdom should try to pull the sword out of the anvil. He ordered that on New Year's day all the people should be brought together for a great tournament to be held on the south bank of the Thames, near London bridge. After a few days spent in jousting among the knights, each man should make the trial to find out whether or not he was to be king.
The brave youth Arthur did not know of the contest that was to be made for the sword. Sir Hector told him that he was to go to a tournament, but he did not tell him the reason for holding the tournament. So Arthur rode to London with Sir Hector; and Sir Kay, who was Sir Hector's oldest son, was with them.
Sir Hector and Sir Kay rode soberly in front. They were tall, stalwart men and rode black horses, their dark figures making shadows on the light snow that had fallen. Arthur, riding behind them, felt exhilarated by the crisp winter air which caused the blood to dance in his veins. Sometimes he stood up in his saddle and flicked with his sword the dead leaves on the oaks. Again he made his horse crush the thin crust of ice that had formed in tiny pools on the road. He was so happy in the thought of the tournament he was to see, that he could have sung for joy.
The road was not very wide, for few carts passed upon it, but it had been well worn by riders. Sometimes it wound through a bit of thick woods; again it rose up over a gently rolling hill. From the hilltops the riders could see London far in the distance. It looked at first like a gray haze; then, as the three came nearer, the buildings, large and small, grew plain to the sight. The castles and huts, barns and sheds, smithies, shops and mills, stood out in the keen sunlight. A high wall surrounded them, while on one side flowed the river Thames.
After they had entered the city, and had passed the churchyard, and had almost reached London bridge, Sir Kay discovered that he had left his sword at home.
"Will you go back for it?" he asked Arthur.
"That I will," said Arthur, glad of the chance to ride longer in the delightful air.
But when he reached their dwelling, he could not get in. The drawbridge was raised, and he could not make the warden hear his calling. Then Arthur was disturbed and said to himself:
"I will hasten to the churchyard we passed, and take the beautiful sword which I saw in the stone. It does not seem to belong to anyone, and my brother Kay must have a weapon."
So he rode on till he reached the churchyard, dismounted, and tied his horse to a sapling. The ten knights who guarded the sword had gone away to see the combats in the tournament. Arthur ran up and pulled lightly but eagerly at the sword. It came at once from the anvil. He hurried to Sir Kay, who was waiting for him on London bridge. Sir Kay knew that the weapon was the one that had been fixed fast in the stone, but he said nothing to Arthur, and the two soon overtook Sir Hector, who had ridden slowly to the field where the tournament was taking place. Sir Kay immediately told his father what had happened.
The good knight at once spoke with great respect to Arthur.
"Sir," he said, "you must be the king of this land."
"What mean you, sir?" asked Arthur.
Sir Hector told the wondering youth the reason why he was destined to be king. Then he said:
"Can you put this sword back in its place and pull it out again?"
"Easily," replied Arthur.
The three returned to the great stone, and Arthur put back the sword. Sir Hector tried to take it out, but failed.
"Now, you try," he said to Sir Kay.
But Sir Kay, in spite of great efforts, also failed. Then Arthur, at Sir Hector's bidding, tried, and at once pulled forth the sword. At that Sir Hector and Sir Kay knelt before Arthur.
"Alas," said Arthur, raising them from the ground, "my own dear father and my brother, why do you kneel to me?"
"Nay, my lord Arthur," said Sir Hector, "I am not your father. You are of higher blood than I am. Long ago, when you were a little baby, Merlin brought you to me to take care of, telling me that you were to be the king."
"Then whose son am I?" cried Arthur.
"There are two stories: the one that Merlin tells, and the one that old Bleys, the master of Merlin, tells. Merlin brought you to me, saying that you were the son of King Uther and Yguerne his wife. But because the king was dead and the lords powerful and jealous, he told me to guard you in secrecy lest your life be taken. I did not know whether the story was true or false then, but you were a helpless child, and Merlin was a wise sage, and so I took you and brought you up as my own."
Arthur was so astonished that he did not ask to hear the tale that Bleys told. He stood gazing at Sir Hector, who said:
"And now, my gracious lord, will you be good to me and mine when you are king?"
"I will, indeed," replied Arthur, "for I am more beholden to you than to any one else in the world, and also to my good lady and foster mother, your wife, who has reared me as if I were her own child. If it be God's will that I shall sometime become king, ask of me then what you will."
"Sir," said Sir Hector, "I ask that you make my son Sir Kay, your foster brother, the steward of all your lands."
"That shall be done," said Arthur, "and more. He shall have that office as long as I live."
Then the three went to the Archbishop of Canterbury and related to him the story of Merlin and all that had occurred. At his request they told no one else.
At the command of the archbishop on Twelfth day, which is the sixth of January, all the great lords assembled in the churchyard. Each tried to draw forth the sword, and each failed. Then the untitled people came and tried. Everyone failed until at last Arthur stepped forward. He hardly more than touched the sword when it came away in his hand.
At this many of the great lords were angry.
"He is but a boy," they said, "and not of high blood."
They refused to believe the story of his birth told by Merlin and Sir Hector. And because of all the quarreling, it was decided to have another trial at Candlemas, which fell in the month of February. Again Arthur was victorious. Then the great lords decreed that there should be another trial at Easter, and again Arthur succeeded. Next they decided to have a final trial at the feast of the Pentecost, which fell in May.
Meanwhile, Merlin advised the archbishop to see that Arthur had a bodyguard. So the archbishop selected several knights whom the former king, Uther, had trusted. These were Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias and Sir Bedivere; Sir Geraint and Sir Hector and Sir Kay were also chosen. These brave men formed a bodyguard for Arthur until the feast of the Pentecost.
At this time Arthur again drew out the sword from the anvil. Then the common people, who had so far let the lords have their will, cried out:
"We will have Arthur for our king, and we will have no more delay, for we see that it is God's will that he shall be our ruler."
Then all the people knelt down, high and low, rich and poor, and begged Arthur's pardon for the delay he had undergone. Arthur forgave them, and taking his sword, reverently placed it on the great altar beside which the archbishop stood. This was a sign that he meant to dedicate himself and his sword to God.
Afterward the crowning was held, and all the brave men and fair ladies in the land were present. The lords wore beautiful robes of velvet and ermine, with gold and jewels on their breast-plates. The ladies' robes were of purple and white and scarlet and gold and blue, and they wore many pearls and rubies and diamonds, so that all the place where they were assembled was glowing with light and color.
But Arthur, who wore a plain white robe, did not think of the beauty and richness. He was very grave, knowing that he was about to take a solemn oath. He bowed his head, while the archbishop set upon it the golden crown, which gleamed with jewels. Then he stood up before his people, and vowed that he would be a good king and always do justice. All the people uncovered their heads and vowed to serve and obey him; and when he smiled kindly on them as he rode slowly through the throng, they threw up their caps and shouted joyfully: "Long live King Arthur! Long live the King!"
King Arthur chose worthy men for his officers, making Sir Kay steward as he had promised; Sir Ulfius he made chamberlain, and Sir Brastias warden. Arthur gave offices also to Sir Hector and Sir Bedivere and Sir Geraint.
After his crowning the king set about righting all the wrongs that had been done since the death of King Uther. He gave back the lands and money that had been taken from widows and orphans, and would permit no unkindness to any of his subjects. Thus, at the very beginning of his reign, his people began to call him
"Good King Arthur"
THE GOOD SWORD EXCALIBUR
Soon after the crowning of King Arthur, he was journeying through the land with Merlin, the wise old magician, when they met a knight who challenged Arthur to a combat. The two fought, and at last the knight wounded Arthur severely. In the end the king was victorious, but he had lost so much blood that he could go no farther. Merlin took him to a good hermit who healed his wound in three days. Then the king departed with Merlin, and as they were slowly riding along he said:
"I am still weak from the blood I have lost, and my sword is broken."
"Do not fear," said Merlin. "You shall lose no more blood and you shall have a good sword. Ride on trustfully with me."
They rode in silence until they came to a lake, large and quiet, and as beautiful in color as a pearl. While Arthur was looking at its beauty, he became suddenly aware of three tall women, with fair, sweet faces, standing on the bank.
"Who are they?" the king asked.
"Three queens who shall help you at your worst need," answered Merlin. "Now look out upon the lake again."
Arthur turned his eyes upon the lake and saw that in the distance a slight mist had arisen. Through it the figure of a lady glided over the surface of the water. Her robe appeared to be made of waves which streamed away in flowing curves from her body. Her head and shoulders seemed wrapped in foam tinted with the colors of the rainbow, and her arms glittered with sparkles which came from bubbles of water. She was so wonderful that Arthur looked at her for some time before he asked softly:
"Who is she?"
"She is the Lady of the Lake," said Merlin. "She lives in a rock in the middle of the lake. See, she is coming toward us. Look at what is beyond her in the water."
Arthur looked and saw rising above the surface of the water an arm clothed in pure white. This arm held a huge cross-hilted sword, so brilliant that Arthur's eyes were dazzled.
When the Lady of the Lake approached nearer, he said:
"Damsel, what sword is that? I wish it were mine, for I have none."
The lady smiled, saying:
"Step into yonder boat, row to the sword, and take it, together with the scabbard."
So Arthur entered a little boat that was tied to the shore, and rowed out to the sword. As he took it and the scabbard, all gleaming with jewels, the hand and arm vanished into the water. And when Arthur looked about, the three queens and the Lady of the Lake were also gone.
As Arthur, still gazing at the sword, rowed to shore, Merlin said to him:
"My lord Arthur, which pleases you more, sword or scabbard?"
"In truth, the sword," replied the king.
"Let me assure you," said Merlin, smiling gravely, "that the scabbard is worth ten of the sword. While you have it with you you shall never lose blood, no, no matter how sorely you are wounded. So see that you guard it well."
The king, who was looking at the sword, sighed.
"There is writing on the sword," he said.
"True, my lord, written in the oldest tongue in the world."
"Take me on one side," said Arthur, "and Cast me away on the other. I am glad to take the sword, but it saddens me to think of casting it away."
Merlin's face grew sad, too. He was so wise that he knew what was going to happen in the future, and he was well aware that when the time came to cast the sword away, much evil would have befallen the good King Arthur. But he knew that the time was yet very far off; so he said:
"You have taken the sword. Now use it to make justice and right prevail in all the land. Do not think of casting it away until you must."
Arthur grew joyful again as he felt the strength of the good sword in his hand, and the two rode cheerfully forward through the country.
THE GREAT FEAST & WHAT FOLLOWED
Although Arthur had been crowned king, he was by no means sure that all the nobles of the land would accept him as ruler. In accordance with the custom of the time, he gave a feast in order to find out who were his friends and who his enemies. All who came to the feast would, he supposed, consent to be his followers.
He chose the largest hall in London, and had the walls hung with rich cloths. Upon the floor, strewn with rushes, were placed trestles, and across these, boards were laid. Upon them fine white linen was spread, and golden saltcellars, wine-bowls, and water-jugs set about.
When the guests assembled there were so many that Arthur was delighted, for he thought they were all his friends. He sat at the head of one table, and Sir Hector sat at the head of the other. Arthur wore a gold crown on his head, but it was no brighter than his hair, and the blue turquoises with which it was set were no bluer than his eyes. From his shoulders to the ground hung a magnificent red robe with gold dragons embroidered upon it.
The cooks and squires came in from the kitchen carrying food, their ruddy faces beaming from the heat of the fires. First of all, sixty boars' heads were borne in on silver platters. Then followed, on golden dishes, peacocks and plovers which had been so skillfully cooked that their bright colors were preserved. After the guests had eaten all they cared for of this food, tiny roasted pigs were brought in, and set on all fours upon the tables. By this time, all the gold and silver goblets which had been filled with wine needed refilling. Then the squires carried in beautiful white swans on silver platters, and roasted cranes and curlews on plates that glowed like the sun. After that came rabbits stewed in sweet sauce, and hams and curries. The last course consisted of tarts and preserves, dates and figs and pomegranates.
The supper began about five o'clock, and the guests ate and drank into the night. Although it was past Easter time, the weather was a little cold, and so upon the stone flagging between the two long tables the king ordered fires to be lighted. The bright flames darted up, flashing on the gold threads woven in the hangings of the walls, and on the steel armor of the lords, and gleaming on the jewels set in the gold and silver goblets which the squires were carrying about. At one side sat a band of musicians singing of the glories of King Arthur, and of the folk-tales of his ancestors and people, accompanying themselves on their harps.
After the guests had risen from the tables and gone to their camps, Arthur sent messengers to them with rich gifts of horses and furs and gold. But most of the lords received the messengers scornfully.
"Take back these gifts to the beardless boy who has come of low blood," they said; "we do not want them. We have come here to give him gifts of hard blows with our hard swords."
The messengers were astonished to hear these things spoken of their good king. Nevertheless, they told Arthur all that had been said to them. He sent no answer back, but he called together all the lords whom he was sure were loyal to him, and asked their advice. They said to him:
"We cannot give you advice, but we can fight."
"You speak well, my lords," answered Arthur, "and I thank you for your courage. Will you take the advice of Merlin? You know that he has done much for me, and he is very wise."
The lords and barons answered that they would do whatever Merlin advised. When Merlin came to the council hall he said:
"I warn you that your enemies are very strong. They have added to their numbers so that now you have against you eleven mighty kings."
At this the lords looked dismayed.
"Unless our lord Arthur has more men than he can find in his own realm," said Merlin, "he will be overcome and slain. Therefore I give you this counsel. There are two brothers across the sea; both are monarchs and both very strong. One is King Ban of Benwick, and the other is King Bors of Gaul. Now these two have an enemy, also a powerful ruler. Therefore, send to the brothers, King Bors and King Ban who are now both in Benwick, and say to them that if they will help Arthur in his war against the eleven kings, Arthur will help them against their common enemy."
"That is very good counsel," said the king and the lords.
So they chose Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias as messengers, and these two hurried away, hopeful of success. When they reached the town in Benwick where King Bors and King Ban were, knights came forth to receive them and to hear their message. As soon as it was learned from whom they had come they were led into the presence of the brothers. Both were very large men. King Bors was dark, and was dressed in black armor. King Ban was dark, too; the colors that he wore on his shield were green and gold. He was the father of Sir Lancelot, the knight who afterwards became the most powerful of the followers of Arthur.
The two kings received Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias with much favor.
"Tell King Arthur," they said, "that we will come to him as quickly as we can."
Then they gave splendid gifts to Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias, who hurried back to Arthur with the message.
In a short time King Bors and King Ban arrived with ten thousand of their soldiers, and as Arthur had ten thousand, they felt certain of victory. They went into Wales, a country which Arthur's followers knew well, and waited confidently for the enemy.
The eleven kings collected a great host of sixty thousand men, fifty thousand on horseback and ten thousand on foot. They marched towards the place where Arthur was, and set up their camp near a wood about a mile distant. When Merlin knew this, he said to Arthur and the two kings:
"This is my advice: Set upon your enemies at midnight when they are unprepared, and then you will have the advantage."
So Arthur and the two royal brothers and the twenty thousand soldiers crept up to where the eleven kings and their men lay. They took a road circling round the wood. Moving with great caution, they drew nearer and nearer until they could see first the camp fires in a circle around the white tents; and then, against the flashing flames, the dark figures of the men who were keeping guard. Sometimes they were afraid that the noise they made would alarm their enemies, but on account of a heavy windstorm, they were unheard. When his men were quite near, Arthur gave the word of command. The whole army uttered a great shout, and ran forward in companies upon their enemies. In a few minutes they had knocked down most of the tents, and killed many soldiers.
It was a dreadful thing to be attacked in the dark without warning. But the eleven kings were brave men, even though they were so unjust to Arthur in trying to take his kingdom from him, and made a good fight. Perhaps they would have made a better one if they had known how few the men were under Arthur.
Before day dawned, Merlin told Arthur to draw back his troops. This he did, leaving about ten thousand of the enemy dead behind him. He, however, had not lost very many men.
At daybreak Arthur and his followers saw that the lay of the land could be used to their advantage. Between them and the enemy was a narrow road, bounded on one side by a lake, and on the other side by a dense wood. One part of this wood, however, was thin enough to allow men to hide in it.
"Now," said Merlin, "let King Bors and King Ban take their soldiers and hide in the wood for a long time. Then, my lord Arthur, stand up before the enemy with your men."
"Why shall we do this?" asked Arthur.
"Because," said the wise old man, "when the eleven kings see how few in number your troops are, they will let you proceed down the passage. They will think that if you march close to them they can overcome you. But you can fill up this narrow road with more and more men from the wood. Then the enemy cannot surround you."
"That seems very good," said Arthur.
"And at last," continued Merlin, "when the eleven kings are weary, let King Bors and King Ban come forth. Then surely the courage of our enemies will fail."
The plan was carried out. Arthur's men marched down the passage. The green wood was on one side, and on the other was the lake, the water of which was so clear that it reflected the bodies of the soldiers with their shields and helmets. The sun shone on their armor. The little birds in the woods sang as they passed. But the men were thinking of nothing but the expected battle.
When they had come close to the enemy, they saw the eleven kings all in a row, mounted on big handsome horses. Their fifty thousand men were behind them. Suddenly these rode forward and the battle began.
It was a fierce fight. In a very short time the field was covered with overthrown men and horses. Broken shields and helmets lay on the ground, and many of the knights who had been fighting on horseback were unhorsed, and were fighting on foot. Arthur galloped here and there among his enemies, conquering with his trusty sword all with whom he fought. The woods and the water rang with his sword strokes. The noise drowned the sweet songs of the birds, but still they sang, and flew about gaily, all unaware of the grim death-struggle going on beneath them.
Finally the time arrived for bringing forward King Bors and his men. The great dark king went thundering down upon his enemies. When the King of Orkney saw him coming, he cried:
"Oh, we are in great danger! I see King Bors, one of the best and bravest kings in the world, and he is helping our enemy."
Then the other kings were astonished, for they did not know that Arthur had sent outside his country for help.
"But we will fight on," they said, "no matter how powerful he is."
While they were still fighting, but with great loss of courage, they heard the loud sounds made by the hoofs of other tramping horses, and King Ban rode down on them, followed by his men. His black brows were frowning, and his green and gold colors glittered in the sun.
"Alas, alas!" cried the King of Orkney, "now in truth are we lost, for here is another king, no less great than his brother Bors. But we must neither flee nor yield."
The eleven kings, being agreed to this, continued the battle, though so many of their men were killed that the King of Orkney wept. When he saw some of his men running away, he wept still more, for he thought it was better to die than to be a coward.
Though they did not intend to run away, the eleven kings thought it would be wise to retreat to a little copse near by. It was late and they were tired and wished to rest before fighting again. King Bors and King Ban could not help admiring these rulers.
"In truth," said King Ban, "they are the bravest men I ever saw. I would they were your friends."
"Indeed, so would I," replied Arthur; "but I have no hope of that, for they are determined to destroy me, and so we must fight on."
At this moment Merlin rode up on his great black horse.
"Have you not done enough?" he cried to Arthur. "Of their sixty thousand men there are left but fifteen thousand. It is time to stop, I say. If you fight on, they will win the day. The tide will turn against you."
Arthur hesitated and Merlin said:
"The eleven kings have a great trouble coming of which they are ignorant. The Saracens have landed in their countries to the number of over forty thousand. So your enemies will have so much fighting to do that they will not attack you again for three years."
Then Arthur was glad, for it had grieved him deeply to fight so long and to lose his good soldiers.
"We will fight no more," he said.
"That is well," replied Merlin. "Now give presents to your soldiers, for to-day they have proved themselves equal to the best fighters in the world."
"True, indeed!" exclaimed King Bors and King Ban.
So Arthur gave gifts to his own men; and a great deal of gold to the brother kings, both for themselves and for their soldiers. And the two kings went home rejoicing.
ARTHUR'S COURT & THE ORDER OF THE ROUND TABLE
After Arthur had proved his prowess in his contest with the eleven kings, he decided to establish his Court and the Order of the Round Table. The place he chose was the city of Camelot in Wales, which had a good situation, being built upon a hill. He called the wise Merlin and ordered him to make a great palace on the summit of the hill. Through his powers of enchantment, Merlin was able to do this very quickly, and within a week the king and his personal attendants were settled in the palace.
The main part consisted of a great Assembly Hall built of white marble, the roof of which seemed to be upheld by pillars of green and red porphyry, and was surmounted by magnificent towers. The outside walls of the hall were covered with beautiful rows of sculpture. The lowest row represented wild beasts slaying men. The second row represented men slaying wild beasts. The third represented warriors who were peaceful, good men. The fourth showed men with growing wings. Over all was a winged statue with the face of Arthur. Merlin meant to show by means of the first row that formerly evil in men was greater than good; by the second that men began to conquer the evil in themselves, which in time caused them to become really good, noble, and peace-loving men, as in the third row. And finally, through the refining influence of Good King Arthur and his wise helpers, men would grow to be almost as perfect as the angels.
The main doorway was in the shape of an arch, upheld by pillars of dark yellow marble. The hall was lighted by fourteen great windows, through which the light streamed in soft colors upon the marble floors. Between these windows, and along the cornices, were beautiful decorations. There were carvings in white marble of birds and beasts and twining vines. There was mosaic work of black and yellow and pink marble and of lapis lazuli, as blue as a lake when the clear sun shines full upon its surface. Under the windows were many stone shields, beneath each of which was the name of a knight. Some shields were blazoned with gold, some were carved, and some were blank. The walls were hung with beautiful tapestries which had been woven by the ladies of the land for Arthur's new palace. On each had been pictured some episode from the life of King Arthur; the drawing of the magic sword from the anvil, the finding of the good sword Excalibur, his deeds of justice and acts of kindness, and his many battles and wars.
The two wings of the palace contained the dining hall and kitchen and the living apartments of all the members of the court who made their home with the king. The dining hall was only a little less beautiful than Arthur's great Assembly Hall. The walls were hung with cloths of scarlet and gold. The deep fireplace was supported by four bronze pillars. In the middle of the room were long tables made of oak boards set on ivory trestles. At a banquet the walls were hung with garlands of flowers or festoons of branches.
The great kitchen had stone walls and stone flagging. The fireplace was so large that there was room for a whole ox to be roasted, and above hung cranes from which half a dozen kettles could be suspended, and pots of such a size that pigs could be boiled whole in them. All about the walls were cupboards. Some were full of plates of wood, iron, steel, silver, and gold, and flagons, cups, bowls, and saltcellars of gold and silver. Others were used for the storing of cold meats and fruits. There were several tables on which the cooked food was cut, and benches upon which the cooks rested when they were tired of serving the hungry eaters.
Well might they have grown tired.
Supper, the most important meal of the day, lasted from three until six, and often longer. But the cooks, and the little scullion boys who washed the pots and pans, and the attendants who carried in the food to the dining hall, all wore contentment and happiness on their faces as they hurried about with their long blouses tucked out of harm's way; for to serve King Arthur and his guests was considered a real privilege.
The sleeping rooms were furnished with chests, and chairs, and beds spread with fine linen and with ermine-lined covers. Hangings of various colors were upon the walls. On the floors were strewn rushes, and among them was thrown mint which gave forth an agreeable odor.
After Arthur, his officers, and his servants had been in the palace a few days, the king formally established his Court. He invited all the knights who cared to do so to come with their families and retinues and live with him. Some preferred to remain in their own castles, but others gladly went to live with the king. Soon all were comfortably settled.
The king's officers were very important members of Arthur's court. First of these came the Archbishop of Canterbury, who held the highest place in the king's regard. It was his duty to conduct the church services for Arthur and his followers, and to christen, marry, and bury the people of Camelot. Next, Sir Ulfius as chamberlain superintended the care of the king's rooms. Sir Brastias, who was warden, superintended the servants. Sir Kay, who was steward, had charge of all the food and the kitchen. Sir Hector, as treasurer, took care of the king's gold and rendered the accounts. Sir Geraint managed all the tournaments and outdoor sports of the knights and squires. There were other officers to help these, and all did their work faithfully and lovingly.
The knights whom Arthur chose to be members of his Round Table were mostly selected from these officers. As members of this order there were one hundred and fifty of the knights who had shown themselves especially brave in battle and who were devoted followers of the king. Next to being king, the greatest honor which could fall to a warrior was to be made a member of the Round Table, for all who belonged to the order were dedicated to the service of God and mankind. There is no glory greater than such a dedication.
In his great hall Arthur had placed a huge table, made round in shape so that there should be neither head nor foot, a higher place nor a lower place. Arthur wished all who sat there to be equals. These chosen knights were to give him council in times of peace and of war.
It was a solemn hour when the knights took their places. The Archbishop of Canterbury blessed them and their seats. Then each one came to Arthur, who stood at the top of the Assembly Hall, and did him homage. Next they took their vows. They promised to be brave and good, never false, or mean, or cruel. If anyone with whom they fought begged for mercy, they would show him mercy. And they vowed never to fight for a wrong cause or for money. Each year at the feast of the Pentecost they were to repeat these vows.
Other members of Arthur's Court were old, brave knights who could no longer fight, but who liked to be near the king and his warriors, and gave the wisdom of age and experience to his councils; young, ambitious, and promising knights who had had but little real experience in battle; and faithful squires who had had no real experience at all. Boys from six to fourteen years were pages. There were others who transformed Arthur's Court to a place of grace and beauty,—the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of the warriors.
Although they did not help in the councils of war, these ladies were of great assistance in training the knights to be tender and courteous. They taught the little pages good manners and unselfishness. They assisted the knights in removing their armor when they came in tired from riding or fighting. They sat with Arthur and the knights in the evening in the dining-hall, singing or playing upon harps, or listening to the tales that were told. When the knights were away the ladies stayed in their own chambers, hearing wise readings from the Archbishop of Canterbury, or other learned men, listening to Merlin's words of wisdom, and embroidering the beautiful hangings and cushions which were to adorn the palace.
It was a month before Arthur's Court was established, and during that time the city of Camelot was a scene of continual merriment. The people of the place were glad that the king had come, for that meant much gain for them. Those of them who did not live in the palace had their houses or shops on the streets which wound about the foot of the hill. Many of the shops belonged to armorers, who had armor of all sorts for any one who would buy. They were glad in their turn to buy the swords of famous knights which had been used in great battles, for such weapons they could always sell again at a good price. These shopkeepers and the servants and the squires and the warriors all united to make the city of Camelot a beautiful one, for the sake of their king. The streets were kept strewn with rushes and flowers. Rich awnings and silken draperies were hung from the houses.
All day long processions passed, made up of the followers of all those lords who gave allegiance to the king. They carried the banners of their masters, crimson, white, or scarlet, gold, silver, or azure, making the streets glow with color. The marching squires wore ornamented blouses, drawn in at the waist, long silk stockings, and shoes of embroidered leather. The bowmen were dressed in green kirtles, rather shorter than those of the squires, and wore dark woolen hose; they carried their bows and arrows slung across their shoulders. The servants were dressed in much the same way, except that their blouses were longer and of various colors. Many knights rode in the processions, their long plumes waving in the wind, their armor shining, and their falcons perched upon their wrists.
All day long, too, bands of musicians played on flutes and timbrels and tabors and harps; bands of young men and women sang songs in praise of the king; story-tellers went about relating old tales of famous heroes. The young men showed their strength by tumbling and wrestling, and their grace by dancing; the young women also danced.
The wise Merlin often passed along the streets, walking silently among the merry throngs of people. Sometimes the little Dagonet danced at his side, Dagonet the king's jester, a tiny man who made merriment for the Court with his witty sayings. He always wore a tight-fitting red blouse and a peaked cap ornamented with bells, and he carried a mock scepter in the shape of a carved ivory stick.
Whenever Arthur appeared before his people, church-bells were joyously rung and trumpets were sounded. The king, as he rode, distributed presents to the poor people:—capes, coats, and mantles of serge, and bushels of pence. In a dining-hall at the palace, feasts were held on those days for them, and they were also open for all the people who might come.
When the weather was beautiful, tables were placed on the sward outside the palace, and those who cared to, ate under the shade of the trees, listening to the music of the blackbirds, whose singing was almost as loud as that of the chorus of damsels who sang in the palace. Every hour the servants carried in and out great quarters of venison, roasted pheasants and herons, and young hawks, ducks, and geese, all on silver platters. Curries and stews and tarts were innumerable. In the midst of the sward a silver fountain had been set from which flowed sweet wine. Even the great feasts of the year, which were held at Christmas, upon the day of the Passover, at Pentecost, upon Ascension day, and upon St. John's day, were not as wonderful as these feasts, when the king held holiday with his people.
On these days of merriment, when the people were not eating or drinking or marching in processions, they were at the tournament field, watching the combats. Here the best of Arthur's knights, mounted on strong horses and wearing heavy armor, were ranged on two sides of the field. Behind each row was a pavilion filled with ladies. Four heralds stood ready to blow the trumpets which gave the signal for the combats. Each herald wore crimson silk stockings and crimson velvet kirtles, tight at the waist, and reaching half-way to the knee.
When it was time to begin the heralds blew the trumpets, the ladies bent over eagerly, and the knights spurred their horses forward, riding with their lances in rest. In a moment clouds of dust arose, circling up as high as the plumes on the knights' helmets, and their lances crashed against each other's shields. Many of the lances broke. Sometimes the shock of contact overthrew a knight. But no one was hurt, for the good King Arthur had ordered that the combats should be friendly.
When the jousting had lasted for several hours, those knights who had shown themselves the stronger, received prizes from the ladies. The prizes were suits of armor ornamented with gold, and swords with jeweled hilts. The knight who, of all, was the strongest, chose the lady whom he considered most beautiful, and crowned her "The Queen of Love and Beauty."
During the month of feasting, Arthur made knights of some of the squires. A young squire was first obliged to show his skill in tilting at the quintain. Then his father presented him with falcons and sparrowhawks for hunting, and arms and robes. He also gave robes and arms to his son's companions, and, to their mothers and sisters, furs and embroidered robes, and belts of gold. Finally he gave money to the singers and players, and servants, and to the poor people of Camelot.
At about sunset the young squire went into the church, where the Archbishop of Canterbury held a solemn service. The youth took the armor which he had chosen, and placed it on the floor in front of the altar. He was then left alone, and all night long he prayed fervently to God to give him strength to be a noble and true knight. In the morning the king came to the church, attended by his nobles and by the archbishop. The squire laid his sword on the altar, thus signifying his devotion to Christ and his determination to lead a holy life. King Arthur bound the sword and spurs on the young man, and, taking Excalibur, he smote him lightly on the shoulder with it, saying, "Be thou a true and faithful knight."
Then the squire took a solemn oath to protect all who were in distress, to do right, to be a pure knight, and to have faith in God. After that the Archbishop of Canterbury preached a solemn sermon.
When the month of feasting and holiday was ended, the members of the Court returned to their usual habits of life. The Knights of the Round Table went forth to right wrongs and to enforce the law. All who were in distress came to the king for help. And to the whole country Arthur's Court was famous as a place where unkindness was never done, and where truth, justice, and love reigned.
KING ARTHUR & THE PRINCESS GUINEVERE
After Arthur had been established in his Court for some time, his neighbor, Leodogran, the king of Cameliard, asked him for help in a battle. To this Arthur cheerfully consented, and gathered his warrior men about him.
It chanced, as he and his men were marching past the castle of Leodogran to meet the enemy, the king's daughter, Guinevere, who was the most beautiful lady in all that land, stood on the castle wall to watch her father's allies pass. Now she did not know, of all the knights who rode by, which was Arthur. Many wore gold and jewels on their armor, while the king's armor was plain.
But Arthur saw her bending over the wall. She was slender and graceful; her black hair fell in two long heavy braids over each shoulder; her eyes were large and black. And Arthur felt a warm love spring from his heart for her, and said to himself:
"If I win this battle for Leodogran, I shall ask him to give me the princess Guinevere for wife."
His love for Guinevere made him fight even more bravely than usual, and he soon won the battle. After he had returned to Camelot, he told his knights that he wished to marry the princess. They were very glad, because they, too, had seen her and thought her the most beautiful lady they had ever beheld.
Then Arthur said:
"I will send my three good knights, Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias and Sir Bedivere, to King Leodogran to ask for Guinevere."
The three knights set forth gayly, feeling certain that King Leodogran would be glad to marry his daughter to their great Arthur. When, however, they came to the castle of Leodogran with their request, the king hesitated. He bade them wait for a little while in the room adjoining his large hall. Then he said to himself:
"Arthur has helped me, indeed. I know, too, that he is powerful. But I hear strange stories of his birth. There are people who say that he is not a king's son. However great he is, I cannot give him my only daughter unless he is really a true king, born of royal blood."
He called the oldest knight in his kingdom and said to him:
"Do you know anything about Arthur's birth?"
The old man looked very wise and said:
"There are two men who do know; the younger of them is twice as old as I am. They are Merlin, and Bleys, the master of Merlin. Bleys has written down the secret of Arthur's birth in a book."
Then King Leodogran laughed a little and said:
"My friend, your words have not helped me much. If Arthur had not helped me in my time of need more than you have helped me now, I should have been lost indeed. Go and call Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias and Sir Bedivere."
So the old man brought in the three knights, and Leodogran said to them:
"I hear strange tales of your king's birth. Some say that he is indeed the son of the late King Uther, but others say that he is the son of Sir Hector. Do you believe that he is Uther's son?"
They said "Yes," and then told King Leodogran that Sir Hector had brought up King Arthur as his son, for fear that those who wanted the throne would kill the child; and that Arthur was undoubtedly Uther's son.
Still King Leodogran could not make up his mind. He bade the three lords remain with him for a few days.
Meanwhile the beautiful Queen Bellicent came to the Court, and Leodogran asked her advice.
"Do you think Arthur is a great king?" he asked. "Will he always be great?"
"He is very great," said the queen. "And all his people love him. Perhaps he has not many lords, but their deep love makes up for their small number."
"That may be true," replied the king.
"Besides that," added the queen, "they are good men. As you know, the Knights of the Round Table are bound by vows to be kind and true and merciful and helpful."
"I have heard it," said the king.
"Moreover," went on Queen Bellicent, "Arthur has powerful friends: Merlin, the magician, and the Lady of the Lake, who gave him his sword Excalibur, and the three fair queens, who will help him when he needs help most."
"Yes, yes," said King Leodogran, "if all this is true, Arthur must prevail over his enemies. But is he the son of King Uther and Queen Yguerne? You are the daughter of Queen Yguerne by an earlier marriage, and, therefore, Arthur's half-sister if Arthur is really Uther's son. You ought surely to know the truth."
Bellicent waited a little while, and then said:
"King Leodogran, I do not know what the truth is. There are two stories: the story Merlin tells and the story Bleys tells. Merlin says that Arthur is Uther's son, and indeed I should like to believe it."
"But you are not sure?" asked the king.
"I am not sure. For my mother Yguerne was dark, and King Uther was dark. Their hair and eyes were black like mine. Yet Arthur's hair is as bright as gold. Besides, there is the story of old Bleys."
"What is his story?"
"He says that Uther died, weeping because he had no heir. Then Bleys and Merlin, who were present at his death, passed together out of the castle. It was a stormy night, and as they walked along by the lake they were forced by the roar of the tempest to look out upon the waves, whipped by the wind.
"Suddenly they saw a ship on the water. It had the shape of a winged dragon. All over its decks stood a multitude of people shining like gold. Then the ship vanished, and a number of great waves began to roll in towards shore. The ninth of these waves seemed as large as half the sea. It was murmuring with strange voices and rippling with flames. In the midst of the flames was a little fair-haired baby who was borne to Merlin's feet. Merlin stooped and picked it up, and cried, 'The King! Here is an heir for Uther!' This, King Leodogran, is the story Bleys told me before he died."
King Leodogran wondered very much. Then he said:
"But did you not question Merlin about this?"
"Yes," answered Queen Bellicent. "I asked him if this story of Bleys was true. He would only answer me with a riddle."
As King Leodogran was still silent, she said:
"Do not fear to give your daughter to Arthur, for he will be the greatest king the world has ever seen."
Leodogran felt less doubtful. While he was thinking, he fell asleep and had a dream. He saw in his dream a field covered with mist and smoke, and a phantom king standing in the cloud. He heard a voice which said, "This is not our king; this is not the son of Uther." But suddenly the mist disappeared and the king stood out in heaven, crowned.
King Leodogran took this dream for a good sign. He called the three knights, Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias and Sir Bedivere, and said to them:
"Say to your king that I will give him Guinevere for his wife."
So the three hastily returned to King Arthur, who was overjoyed with their message.
In the month of May he sent Sir Lancelot, the son of King Ban, for Guinevere. When she came, the Archbishop of Canterbury married them. And he blessed them and said that they, with the help of the Knights of the Round Table, must do much good for the land.
THE COMING of GARETH
The beautiful Queen Bellicent had many sons, all of whom had gone out in the world except the youngest. His name was Gareth. His two brothers, Gawain and Modred, were with the good King Arthur, and Gareth longed to join them. His mother, however, would not let him go.
"You are not yet a man," she said. "You are only a child. Stay a little longer with me."
So Gareth stayed. One day he came to his mother and said:
"Mother, may I tell you a story?"
"Gladly," she replied.
"Then, mother, once there was a golden egg which a royal eagle had laid, away up in a tree. It was so high up that it could hardly be seen. But a youth, who though poor was brave, saw it, and longed for it. He knew that if he could get it, it would bring wealth and prosperity to him. So he tried to climb. One who loved him stopped him, saying, 'You will fall and be killed if you try to reach that height.' Therefore the poor boy did not climb, and so did not fall; but he pined away with longing till his heart broke and he died."
Queen Bellicent answered:
"If the person who held him back had loved him, that person would have climbed, and found the egg, and given it to the youth."
"That could not be," said Gareth. "Mother, suppose the egg were not gold, but steel, the same steel that Arthur's sword Excalibur is made of."
The queen grew pale, for she now understood his meaning.
But Gareth spoke on:
"Dear mother, the gold egg is the glory to be won at Arthur's Court; I am the poor youth, and you are the one who holds me back. Mother, let me go!"
Then Bellicent wept, and she said:
"Oh, my son, do not leave me. You love me more than Gawain and Modred. You are all I have left in the world."
But Gareth replied:
"Mother, I waste my strength here."
"No, no," she said. "You shall hunt; you shall follow the deer and the fox, and so grow strong. Then I will find you a beautiful wife, and we shall all live together till I die."
Gareth shook his head.
"No, mother. I do not want a wife until I have proved myself to be a worthy and brave knight. I wish to follow Arthur, my good king and uncle."
"Perhaps he is not the true king and your uncle," Bellicent said. "At least wait a little till he has shown himself to be the greatest king in the world. Stay with me."
"Nay, mother," he said. "I must go."
Then the queen thought of a plan which she hoped would soon make him willing to stay home.
"If I let you go, my son, you must make me a promise. The promise will prove your love to me."
"I will make a hundred promises," cried young Gareth, "if you will only let me go."
"Then," she said, "you must go in disguise to the court of Arthur. You must hire yourself out as a kitchen boy. You shall wash the pots and pans for a whole year and tell no one that you are the son of a queen."
Queen Bellicent was sure that Gareth would not wish to make such a promise. He was silent a long, long time. He had hoped to take part at once with the Knights of the Round Table in great deeds. At last he said:
"I may be a kitchen boy and still be noble in heart and mind. Besides, I can look on at the tournaments. I shall see King Arthur and Sir Lancelot and Sir Kay. Yes, mother, I will go."
Queen Bellicent was very sad. All the days before Gareth's departure her eyes followed him until he felt that he could not bear to see her grieve longer. So in the middle of the night he rose quietly and woke two of his faithful servants. They dressed themselves like plowmen and started towards Camelot.
It was Easter time and the young grass was a bright green. The birds were beginning their chirping, although it was not yet light. As the dawn came, they saw the early morning mist sweeping over the mountain and forest near Arthur's city of Camelot. Sometimes the mist drew away and showed in the distance the towers gleaming like silver.
One of the servants said:
"Let us go no farther, my lord Gareth. I am afraid. That is a fairy city."
The second said:
"Yes, lord, let us turn back. I have heard that Arthur is not the real king, but a changeling brought from fairyland in a great wave all flame. He has done all his deeds with the help of Merlin's enchantment."
The first one spoke again:
"Lord Gareth, that is no real city. It is a vision."
But Gareth laughed and said:
"Arthur is real flesh and blood, a brave man, and a just king. Come with me to the gate of his city, and do not be afraid."
When they reached the gate of the city, they stared in amazement. It was made of silver and mother-of-pearl. In the center was carved the figure of the Lady of the Lake, with her arms outstretched in the form of a cross. In one hand she held a sword, and in the other a censer. On both sides of her figure was carved the story of the wars of King Arthur. Above all were the figures of the three queens who were to help Arthur in time of need.
The three looked till their eyes were dazzled. Then they heard a peal of music, and the gate slowly opened. An old man with a long gray beard came out to greet them, and returning led them up past the gardens and groves and roofs and towers of Camelot to Arthur's great palace on the summit of the hill.
Gareth hardly thought of the splendors of the palace. He approached the arched doorway of the Assembly Hall, thinking only as his heart beat quickly, that at last he was to see the good King Arthur. Even before he entered he heard the voice of the king. For it was one of the days when Arthur was giving judgment to his people.
The king sat on a throne made of gold and ivory and ebony. On its arms and back were carved great dragons. Arthur wore a gold crown which was not brighter than his own beautiful hair and beard. His blue eyes were as calm and clear as the sky in summer time. His trusty knights stood about him on each side of the throne. The tallest of these, who had a worn, browned face, and piercing dark eyes, under frowning brows, must be, Gareth knew, the famous knight, Sir Lancelot.
As Gareth entered, a widow came forward and cried to Arthur:
"Hear me, oh, King! Your father, King Uther, took away a field from my husband, who is now dead. The king promised us gold, but he gave us no gold, nor would he return our field."
Then Arthur said:
"Which would you rather have, the gold or the field?"
The woman wept, saying:
"Oh, King, my dead husband loved the field. Give it back to me."
"You shall have your field again," said Arthur, "and besides I will give you three times the amount of gold it is worth to pay you for the years King Uther had it."
Gareth thought that Arthur was indeed a just king. And while this was passing through his mind, another widow came forward and cried:
"Hear me, oh, King! Heretofore you have been my enemy. You killed my husband with your own hands. It is hard for me to ask justice or favor of you. Yet I must. My husband's brother took my son and had him slain, and has now stolen his land. So I ask you for a knight who will do battle and get my son's land for me, and revenge me for his death."
Then a good knight stepped forward and said:
"Sir King, I am her kinsman. Let me do battle for her and right her wrongs."
But Sir Kay, Arthur's foster brother, said:
"Lord Arthur, do not help a woman who has called you her enemy in your own hall."
"Sir Kay," replied Arthur, "I am here to help all those who need help in my land. This woman loved her lord, and I killed him because he rebelled against me. Let her kinsman go and do battle against the man who has wronged her. Bring him here, and I shall judge him. If he is guilty he shall suffer."
While Gareth was still listening to the king's words, a messenger entered from Mark, the king of Cornwall. He carried a wonderful gold cloth which he laid at Arthur's feet, saying:
"My lord, King Mark sends you this as a sign that he is your true friend."
But Arthur said:
"Take back the cloth. When I fight with kings who are worthy men, after I have conquered them I give them back their lands, and make them my subject-kings and Knights of the Round Table. But Mark is not fit to be a king. He is cruel and false. I will not call him friend."
The messenger stepped back in alarm. Arthur said to him kindly:
"It is not your fault that Mark is unworthy. Stay in this city until you are refreshed and then go back home in safety."
While the king judged other cases, Gareth looked around the great hall. Underneath the fourteen windows he saw three rows of stone shields, and under each shield was the name of a knight. If a knight had done one great deed, there was carving on his shield; if he had done two or more, there were gold markings. If he had done none, the shield was blank. Gareth saw that Sir Lancelot's shield and Sir Kay's glittered with gold. He looked for the shields of his brothers, Sir Gawain and Sir Modred. Sir Gawain's was marked with gold, but Sir Modred's was blank.
Meanwhile, Arthur had judged all the cases. Then Gareth came forward timidly and said:
"Lord King, you see my poor clothes; give me leave to serve for twelve months in your kitchen without telling my name. After that I will fight."
"You are a fair youth," Arthur replied, "and you deserve a better gift. However, since this is all you ask, I will put you under the care of Sir Kay, who is master of the kitchen."
Sir Kay looked at Gareth with scorn.
"This youth has come from some place where he did not get enough to eat," he said, "and so he thinks of nothing but food. Yet if he wants food, he shall have it, provided he does his work well."
Sir Lancelot, who stood near by, said:
"Sir Kay, you understand dogs and horses well, but not men. Look at this youth's face; see his broad forehead and honest eyes, and beautiful hands. I believe he is of noble birth, and you should treat him well."
"Perhaps he is a traitor," Sir Kay said. "Perhaps he will poison King Arthur's food. Yet I believe he is too stupid to be a traitor. If he were not stupid, or if he were noble, he would have asked for a different gift. He would have asked for a horse and armor. Let him go to my kitchen."
So Gareth went to the kitchen. And there he worked faithfully at hard tasks, such as cutting wood and drawing water. Sir Lancelot spoke to him kindly whenever he passed him, but Sir Kay was always very strict and severe. Sometimes Gareth grew discouraged and wished his mother had not exacted such a promise of him.
Whenever there was a tournament he was happy. He liked to watch the horses prancing, and the brave knights riding, with the sun shining on their helmets and lances. And he would say to himself:
"Only wait till the twelve months have passed, and then I shall ask King Arthur to let me do some brave deed. Perhaps some one will come to the hall and demand to have a wrong righted. Then I will beg the king to let me do that act of justice."
Such thoughts kept him cheerful. And indeed, before many weeks, his chance came for doing a great deed.
THE STORY OF SIR GARETH & LYNETTE
Gareth served in the kitchen of the king only one month, for his mother became sorry for the promise she had asked of him, and sent armor for him to Arthur's Court, with a letter to the king telling who the youth was. With great joy Gareth then went to Arthur and said:
"My lord, I can fight as well as my brother Gawain. At home we have proved it. Then make me a knight,—in secret, for I do not want the other knights to know my name. Make me a knight, and give me permission to right the first wrong that we hear of."
The king said gravely:
"You know all that my knights must promise?"
"Yes, my lord Arthur. I am willing to promise all."
"I will make you my knight in secret, since you wish it," Arthur said, "except that I must tell Sir Lancelot. He is my dearest knight, and I keep no secrets from him."
Gareth said that he would be glad to have Sir Lancelot know. Accordingly the king spoke to Sir Lancelot about Gareth.
"I have promised him that he may right the first wrong we hear of," said Arthur, "but as he has not yet proved what he can do, I want you to take a horse and follow him when he sets forth. Cover up the great lions on your shield so that he will not know who you are." Sir Lancelot agreed. Then Gareth was secretly made a knight.
That same day a beautiful young damsel came into Arthur's hall. She had cheeks as pink as apple blossoms, and very sharp eyes.
"Who are you, damsel?" asked the king, "and what do you need?"
"My name is Lynette," she said, "and I am of noble blood. I need a knight to fight for my sister Lyonors, a lady, also noble, rich, and most beautiful."
"Why must she have a knight?" questioned Arthur.
"My Lord King, she lives in Castle Perilous. Around this castle a river circles three times, and there are three passing-places, one over each circle of the river. Three knights, who are brothers, keep a constant guard over these passing-places. A fourth knight, also a brother, clad in black armor, stands guard in front of my sister's castle. We have never seen this knight's face or heard his voice, but his brothers tell us he is the most powerful and daring knight in the world. All these four keep my sister a prisoner."
"Because they want her to marry one of them so that they can have her great wealth. She refuses, but they say that they will have their way. In the meantime, they demand that you send Sir Lancelot to fight with them. They hope to overthrow Sir Lancelot, thus proving themselves the greatest warriors in the land. But I believe that Sir Lancelot could overthrow them; therefore, I have come for him."
Arthur remembered his promise to Sir Gareth, and did not speak of Sir Lancelot, but asked:
"Tell me what these four knights, your enemies, are like."
"The three I have talked to are vain and foolish knights, my lord," answered the damsel. "They have no law, and they acknowledge no king. Yet they are very strong, and therefore am I come for Sir Lancelot."
Then Sir Gareth rose up, crying:
"Sir King, give me this adventure."
At this, Sir Kay started up in anger, but Gareth continued:
"My king, you know that I am but your kitchen boy, yet I have grown so strong on your meat and drink that I can overthrow an hundred such knights."
The king looked at him a moment, and said:
At this all the knights were amazed. The damsel's face flushed with anger.
"Shame, King!" she cried. "I asked you for your chief knight, and you give me a kitchen boy!"
Then, before any one could prevent, she ran from the hall, mounted her horse, and rode out of the city gate. Gareth followed, and at the doorway found a noble war horse which the king had ordered to be given him. Near by were the two faithful servants who had followed him from his mother's home. They held his armor. Gareth put it on, seized his lance and shield, jumped upon his horse, and rode off joyfully.
Sir Kay, who was watching, said to Sir Lancelot:
"Why does the king send my kitchen lad to fight? I will go after the boy and put him to his pots and pans again."
"Sir Kay, do not attempt to do that," said Sir Lancelot. "Remember that the king commanded him to go."
But Sir Kay leaped on his horse and followed Gareth.
Meanwhile, Sir Gareth overtook the damsel and said:
"Lady, I am to right your wrong. Lead and I follow."
But she cried:
"Go back! I smell kitchen grease when you are near. Go back! your master has come for you."
Gareth looked behind and saw that Sir Kay was riding up to him. When Sir Kay was within hearing distance, he shouted:
"Come back with me to the kitchen."
"I will not," said Gareth.
Then Sir Kay rode fiercely at the youth. Gareth, however, struck him from his horse, and then turned to the damsel, saying:
"Lead on; I follow."
She rode for a long time in silence, with Gareth a few paces behind her. At last she stopped and said:
"You have overthrown your master, you kitchen boy, but I do not like you any better for it. I still smell the kitchen grease."
Sir Gareth said, very gently:
"You may speak to me as you will, but I shall not leave you till I have righted your wrong."
"Ah!" she said, scornfully, "you talk like a noble knight, but you are not one," and she again galloped in front of him.
Presently, as they passed a thick wood, a man broke out of it and spoke to them:
"Help! help! they are drowning my lord!"
"Follow! I lead!" shouted Gareth to the damsel, and rushed into the wood. There he found six men trying to drown a seventh. Gareth attacked them with such vigor that they fled. When the rescued man had recovered, he thanked Gareth warmly.
"I am the lord of the castle yonder," he said, "and these are my enemies. You came in time."
Then he begged Gareth and the lady to stay all night in his castle. They agreed, and he led the way. He took them into his large hall and was about to seat them side by side at a dining table. But the damsel said in scorn:
"This is a kitchen boy, and I will not sit by him."
The lord looked surprised. He took Gareth to another table and sat beside him. After they had eaten, he said:
"You may be a kitchen boy, or the damsel may be out of her mind, but whichever is the case, you are a good fighter and you have saved my life."
The next morning Gareth and the damsel set forth. They rode for a while in silence, and then she said:
"Sir Kitchen Boy, although you are so low, I would like to save your life. Soon we are coming to one who will overthrow you; so turn back."
But Gareth refused. In a little while they came to the first circle of the river. The passing-place was spanned by a bridge. On the farther side of the bridge was a beautiful pavilion, draped in silk of gold and crimson colors. In front of it passed a warrior without armor.
"Damsel," he cried, "is this the knight you have brought from Arthur's Court to fight with me?"
"Ah!" she said, "the king scorns you so much that he has sent a kitchen boy to fight with you. Take care that he does not fall on you before you are armed, for he is a knave."
The warrior went inside his tent for his armor, and the damsel said to Gareth:
"Are you afraid?"
"Damsel," he said, "I am not afraid. I would rather fight twenty times than hear you speak so unkindly of me. Yet your cruel words have put strength into my arm. I shall fight well."
Then the knight came forth all in armor, and he said:
"Youth, you are a kitchen boy. Go back to your king; you are not fit to fight with me."
Gareth rode at him fiercely, saying:
"I am of nobler blood than you."
He fought so well that soon his enemy was overcome. Then Gareth said:
"Go to Arthur's Court and say that his kitchen boy sent you."
When the knight had departed, Gareth rode on, with the damsel in advance. After a little while she stopped her horse, and when he had caught up with her, she said:
"Youth, I do not smell the kitchen grease so much as I did."
Then she galloped off, laughing over her shoulder, while Gareth followed her, a little more slowly.
When they reached the second circle of the river, the damsel said:
"Here is the brother of the knight you overthrew. He is stronger than the first. You had better go home, kitchen boy."
Gareth answered nothing. Out of the tent by the bridge which crossed the second circle of water, came a knight, clad in armor which glowed like the sun. Lynette shouted to him:
"I bring a kitchen boy who has overthrown your brother."
"Ah!" shouted the knight, and rode fiercely at Sir Gareth.
The two fought for a long time. The warrior was strong, but Sir Gareth was stronger, and at last overthrew him, and sent him back to Arthur's Court.
The damsel Lynette had ridden far ahead of him. When he came near her, she said:
"The knight's horse slipped, and that is why you overcame him. And now are you ready to fight with the third knight, for there he stands?"
At the third and innermost circle of the river stood the third knight, clad not in armor, but in hardened skins. Sir Gareth saw that he was more powerful than his brothers. The two at once began to fight on the bridge, but Sir Gareth's sword could not pierce the hard skins. Again and again he tried and failed. He grew tired, and began to fear that he should be conquered. But all at once, when his strokes were becoming feeble, Lynette cried out to him:
"Well done, good knight! You are no kitchen boy, but a brave lord. Strike for me! Do not lose. You are worthy to be a Knight of the Round Table."
When Sir Gareth heard this, he was so encouraged that he made a final great effort and threw his enemy over the bridge into the water. Then he turned to Lynette, saying:
"Lead; I follow."
But Lynette, proud now of her valiant escort, and humbled and ashamed at her misjudging of him, said:
"No, we shall ride side by side. I am very sorry I called you a kitchen boy, for I know that you are a noble knight."
They rode happily side by side till dusk, when they came in sight of Castle Perilous. Just as they were about to cross the moat, a knight overtook them. It was Sir Lancelot, who had been delayed because he had stopped to help Sir Kay after Sir Gareth had thrown him from his horse.
The great knight, as he rode up to the two in the twilight, seeing only the shields which Sir Gareth had taken from the three knights, thought the young man was an enemy, and attacked him. Sir Lancelot was so strong that he soon overcame the youth.
As he fell, Lynette cried out in shame and sorrow, and Sir Gareth said:
"Oh, I am thrown."
Sir Lancelot knew Sir Gareth's voice, and raised him up, saying:
"I am Lancelot, and I am sorry to have overthrown you, my friend."
Sir Gareth said that it was no dishonor to be beaten by Sir Lancelot. Then the three rode into the castle, and there they met the fourth knight, who was all covered with black armor.
Sir Lancelot wished to fight with him, but Sir Gareth would not permit it.
"This must be my adventure," he said.
Sir Gareth rode at the knight, expecting to meet a very strong man, but he easily unhorsed him. His enemy cried:
"Oh spare my life; I am not a knight."
Then he took off his helmet and showed the face of a young boy.
"My three brothers made me pretend to be a fierce knight," he explained. "They thought it would make people more afraid if they believed we were four strong knights."
Sir Lancelot and Sir Gareth laughed heartily, and so did Lynette. They took the boy into the castle, where Lynette's sister, Lyonors, who was now freed from her money-loving captors, greeted them with much joy. She put before them a great feast, and this time Sir Gareth and Lynette sat side by side. Afterwards a marriage was made between them, and they went to live with King Arthur in Camelot.
Among Arthur's Knights of the Round Table was one who was a mixture of good and bad, as indeed most people are. His name was Sir Ivaine; brave, kind-hearted, and merry; but at the same time fickle, sometimes forgetful of his promises, and inclined to make light of serious things.
One night, in the early spring, the knights and ladies of Arthur's Court were sitting in the dining-hall. The king and Guinevere had withdrawn, but were expected to return. Supper had been served, and the last course, consisting of pomegranate seeds and dates, had just been carried off. A fire had been built in the deep hearth, and the four bronze pillars in front were lighted by the flames. Four little pages in blue and white velvet kirtles sat on stools watching the fire, and perhaps dreaming of the days when they, too, should be warriors and have adventures.
Sir Ivaine was telling of his experience with the Black Knight.
"It was when I was very young," he said; "indeed, I had just been made a knight. Some one told me of the wicked Black Knight who lived, and still lives, in a wood a long way from here. Knowing that he did much evil, I determined to kill him. I rode to the wood where he lived, and in which I found a marble platform. In the middle of it was a sunken space holding a fountain. I walked to this, and following the directions of some writing which was on the stone, picked up a cup that lay at hand, and filling it with water, poured it into the fountain.
"Then a great storm of wind and rain arose, and when it was at its height the Black Knight rode up and began to attack me. We fought for a little while, but he easily overthrew me. Thinking me dead, he rode back, leaving me on the ground. But after a time I was able to mount my horse, and went back to my mother's castle."
At this moment the king and the queen entered, unperceived by any one except Sir Ivaine. The young man, who was always polite, sprang to his feet; then the other knights rose. Sir Kay, who was not always sweet-tempered, said to Sir Ivaine:
"We all know that you are very polite, but you have more courtesy than bravery."
At that Sir Ivaine said:
"I was almost a boy when the Black Knight overthrew me, but I could conquer him now."
"It is very easy to say that after you have eaten," said Sir Kay. "Almost any knight feels brave and self-satisfied when he has had a good supper of venison."
The king asked what the conversation was about, and Sir Ivaine repeated the story of his adventure, adding:
"And, Sir King, I crave your permission to set forth to-morrow to slay this Black Knight who is a pest in the land."
"I have heard of this man," said the king, "and have often thought of sending some one to punish him. But he lives far away, and it has been necessary heretofore to right first the wrongs nearest home. Yet now his evil deeds and persecutions must cease. To-morrow a company of us will set forth and conquer him and all his people."
The king named some half-dozen of his knights, Sir Ivaine among them, who were to undertake this adventure.
Sir Ivaine was displeased; he thought that the adventure should be his alone. So he rose in the middle of the night and stole away unattended, determined to go in advance of the others and kill the Black Knight. It did not occur to him that in proving himself brave, he was also proving himself disobedient.
He rode forth in the darkness, humming merrily to himself. At daybreak he reached a valley, and as he went through it, saw a great serpent fighting with a lion. Sir Ivaine stopped to watch this curious combat. At first the two fighters seemed evenly matched, but soon the huge serpent wrapped all its folds about the lion and began squeezing it to death. When Sir Ivaine saw this, he drew his sword and killed the serpent.
When the lion was free, it bounded up to Sir Ivaine, and he was afraid that it meant to kill him; but it fawned at his feet like a spaniel. He stroked it, and put his arms about its neck. When he mounted his horse, the beast followed him, refusing to go away. Then Sir Ivaine made up his mind that they were to be companions.
For many days the two kept close together, and at night Sir Ivaine would go to sleep with his head on the lion's neck. One day, as they came to a square castle set in a meadow, some people who stood on the castle walls began to shoot arrows at the lion, but Sir Ivaine stopped them, telling them that the animal was tame.
Then they told him that it was their rule that no one should pass by that castle without doing battle with their lord. Sir Ivaine told them that he was quite willing to obey their rule; so they opened the castle gate. They said he must make his lion stay outside, but Sir Ivaine refused to do this. He promised, however, to make the lion lie down quietly; then the two were allowed to enter.
The courtyard was a large paved place, in which there were a score of armed men. Presently the lord of the castle came forward. This lord was much larger than Sir Ivaine, and the lion, on seeing him, began to lash its tail. But Sir Ivaine ordered it to be still, and it at once obeyed.
Then Sir Ivaine and the knight battled together. The knight was powerful, but Sir Ivaine was very agile and skillful. He was not able to strike so hard as could his enemy, but he was better able to avoid blows. Therefore it was not long before he got the advantage and overthrew the lord.
When this happened, the lord called for help, and ordered his armed men to kill Sir Ivaine. The whole twenty began to obey this treacherous order, but just as they were about to fall upon Sir Ivaine, the lion bounded among them, roaring savagely. With a few strokes of its powerful paws it disabled the men. Sir Ivaine told the lord of the castle that he must ride to Camelot and give himself up to Arthur to be judged for his treachery. Then Sir Ivaine rode away from the castle; and now that the lion had saved his life, he became very fond of the animal.
After many days of travel, Sir Ivaine reached the forest in the midst of which was the castle of the Black Knight. He rode to the platform of stone, dismounted and poured water into the fountain. As before, a storm arose, and at its height the Black Knight appeared.
He recognized the armor of Sir Ivaine, and said:
"Aha! I see I did not kill you before, but you shall not escape me this time."
"The best man shall win," said Sir Ivaine, cheerfully.
Then the two began a great combat. Their swords clashed so that the noise of the fountain was drowned; they fought so eagerly that they were not even aware of the storm. It was not long before the Black Knight began to grow weak from the many powerful and death-dealing strokes from Sir Ivaine's sword. At last, seeing that he was mortally wounded, the Black Knight turned his horse and galloped in the direction of his castle.
Ordering the lion to stay where it had lain during the combat, Sir Ivaine followed. But he could not quite catch up with the Black Knight, although gaining on him inch by inch. By the time the castle moat was reached, Sir Ivaine was only five feet behind. The horses thundered one after the other over the bridge. The Black Knight rode under the portcullis, or sharp iron gate, which was raised. The instant he was inside, the portcullis fell, in order to shut out Sir Ivaine.
But Sir Ivaine had already passed beneath it, and as it fell his horse was cut in two. Even the long plume in Sir Ivaine's helmet was shorn off, and lay outside the gate.
Sir Ivaine sprang to his feet and drew his sword to renew his attack upon the Black Knight, but he was already dead, and lay across his panting horse's neck.
Then Sir Ivaine realized what his recklessness had cost him. There he was, alone in a strange castle, the lord of which he had killed. Soon the people of the castle would come and capture him, for he could not escape, since the portcullis was down.
He ran into the castle, and up the stairs leading to the turret. He was fast growing weak from the wounds he had received, and his armor was heavy. Moreover, in spite of his care, it clashed at every step, and he was afraid some one would soon hear him. He had all but reached the top of the stairs when the door of the turret room opened, and a little maiden looked down upon him. He begged her not to cry out, and telling her who he was and what he had done, asked her to hide him.
"I will," she said, "because you are brave and you are wounded, and because you have killed that wicked tyrant, the Black Knight. He does not own this castle at all; it belongs to a beautiful lady, his cousin, who is my mistress. He keeps her here a prisoner because she will not marry him."
Then the little maiden led him into the turret room. She concealed his armor in a hole in the side of the wall, and told him to hide himself between the two mattresses of the bed. Before he had time to do so, however, they heard a great noise in the courtyard, and looking down, saw that the body of the Black Knight had been discovered. Near it stood a beautiful lady, more beautiful than any Sir Ivaine had ever seen, except Queen Guinevere. She was dark like the queen, and her eyes were as bright as stars. He would have looked at her a long time, but the little maiden begged him to hide without delay.
"Quick!" she cried. "The men have seen that there is the front part of a horse inside the gate, and know that the person who has killed our lord must be here. Even now they have begun the search, for they all love the Black Knight, although my mistress does not, and they will hang you if they find you."
So Sir Ivaine crept between the mattresses, and the little maiden hurried down the stairs and went to her beautiful mistress. Presently Sir Ivaine heard men tramping up the turret steps. They often stopped, trying all the doors they came to, and at last entered the room in which he lay. One of them, peering into the hole in the wall where his armor was, said:
"Here is armor."
But another replied:
"That is some that once was used by our master; there is no need to drag it into the light."
Then they searched among all the furnishings of the room, but found no one. At last, as they were leaving, one of the men thrust his sword twice through the mattress. The second thrust cut deeply into Sir Ivaine's arm; but as the knight was brave, he did not utter a cry.
When the men had gone, he crept out, and found that the cut in his arm and his other wounds were bleeding badly. Just then the little maiden came in with food. She cried out in alarm when she saw the blood, and quickly tore a piece of linen from her robe for bandages. When all the wounds had been carefully attended to, she gave him a plentiful supper and promised to take care of him until there was a good opportunity for him to escape.
She visited him every morning, and told him the day's news in the castle. He learned that a lion kept roaring about the walls, and that the bowmen had tried to kill it, but could not. Sir Ivaine was sure that it was his lion, and longed to have it, but knew that this was impossible. And she told him how the people of the castle had been angry at their lady because she would not marry the Black Knight; but now that he was dead, acknowledged her as mistress and obeyed her in everything. The little maiden said she thought that if the lady were told that Sir Ivaine was hidden she would probably see that he had a safe conduct out of the castle.
"I want never to leave this castle," said Sir Ivaine; "for I love your lady."
This pleased the little maiden, for she had learned to respect Sir Ivaine. So she went to the lady of the castle and told her all about the stranger. The lady had Sir Ivaine moved to a rich apartment where she could visit him often and help the little maid in her care of him. She did not tell her people, however, that this stranger knight had killed their lord.
As Sir Ivaine recovered, he soon found courage to tell her how beautiful she was, and that he loved her more than anything in the world. He said that if she would marry him, he would stay with her forever, and never seek for more adventures. All he asked was that she would let in his lion, which still continued to roar outside the castle walls. When the lady heard the story of the lion, it seemed to her that if Sir Ivaine were so kind to an animal, he would probably be much kinder to her.
So she said that she would marry him. The people of the castle saw and liked him, and agreed to obey him as their lord. When they were told that the lion they had tried to kill belonged to him and must be admitted to the castle, they showed some fear. Sir Ivaine told them that there was no need of this, for the beast was very gentle, and was making noise only because of its desire for its master. He went outside the castle walls and called. Soon there was heard a loud roaring; a big yellow body bounded out of the forest, and the lion came leaping to its master's feet. It frisked about him, and rubbed its head on his arm, just as a favorite dog might do. When the people saw how tame it was, they were no longer afraid.
Sir Ivaine and the beautiful lady were soon married, and for a long time everyone was very happy. Sir Ivaine sent a letter to King Arthur telling the result of his adventure. Soon the messenger returned bearing rich gifts from the king and Guinevere, and an invitation to come to Camelot whenever they wished to. The lady, however, persuaded Sir Ivaine to promise to remain with her in her castle.
One day a party of the Knights of the Round Table rode into the courtyard. They were going on a great adventure, and stopped by the way to see how Sir Ivaine and his beautiful wife fared. When Sir Ivaine saw them, all his old-time love of fighting came back, and he went to his lady and begged her to let him go with the knights.
"Ah, my Ivaine," she said, "you told me that you would never leave me."
"A knight ought to seek adventures," he said. "And I will return to you."
She paused for a while and then said:
"I will let you go if you will promise to come back in a year and a day; that is, next Whitsuntide."
He gladly promised, and she said:
"If you break this promise, I will never see you again."
But Sir Ivaine was sure he would not break the promise, because he loved her too much for that.
So off he rode with the knights, followed by his faithful lion. The lady and the little maiden waved farewells to Sir Ivaine from the tower until they could no longer see him; then they again took up the life they had lived before he came to the castle.
Sir Ivaine rode with the knights for many months, and had many adventures. At last, just as the year was drawing to a close, he started homeward. On the way, however, he stopped at Arthur's Court to pay his respects to the king and the queen. They both remembered him and greeted him kindly.
A great tournament was being held at that time in Camelot, and the king asked Sir Ivaine if he would like to take part. Sir Ivaine was pleased, for he loved the display of such combats. During the three days of the tournament he distinguished himself greatly.
On the evening of the third day, as the knights were sitting in the great hall of the Round Table, a little maiden entered. She went up to King Arthur and gave him a ring.
"This ring," she said, "is one Sir Ivaine gave my lady. She returns it, and has vowed never to see him again because he has broken his promise to her."
Then, before any one could stop her, she left the hall, mounted her horse, and rode away. Sir Ivaine sprang to his feet, staring wildly. Whitsuntide had fallen on the first day of the tournament, his year and a day had more than passed, and he had forgotten his promise!
He rushed from the hall and down the hill through the streets of Camelot, out of the city gate, and into the forest. He ran on and on until he fell exhausted.