THE HIGH HISTORY OF THE HOLY GRAAL
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #19
Another branch of the Graal again beginneth in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
And the story is here silent of Perceval, and saith that Lancelot goeth his way and rideth by a forest until he findeth a castle amidst his way at the head of a launde, and seeth at the gateway of the castle an old knight and two damsels sitting on a bridge. Thitherward goeth he, and the knight and damsels rise up to meet him, and Lancelot alighteth.
"Sir," saith the Vavasour, "Welcome may you be."
The damsels make great joy of him and lead him into the castle. "Sir," saith the Vavasour, "Sore need had we of your coming."
He maketh him go up into the hall above and be disarmed of his arms. "Sir," saith the Vavasour, "Now may you see great pity of these two damsels that are my daughters. A certain man would reave them of this castle for that no aid nor succour have they save of me alone. And little enough can I do, for I am old and feeble, and my kin also are of no avail, insomuch that hitherto have I been able to find no knight that durst defend me from the knight that is fain to reave this castle from me. And you seem to be of so great valiance that you will defend me well herein to-morrow, for the truce cometh to an end to-night."
"How?" saith Lancelot, "I have but scarce come in hither to lodge, and you desire me so soon already to engage myself in battle?"
"Sir," saith the Vavasour, "Herein may it well be proven whether there be within you as much valour as there seemeth from without to be. For, and you make good the claim of these two damsels that are my daughters to the fiefs that are of right their own, you will win thereby the love of God as well as praise of the world."
They fall at his feet weeping, and pray him of mercy that they may not be disherited. And he raiseth them forthwith, as one that hath great pity thereof.
"Damsels," saith he, "I will aid you to my power. But I would fain that the term be not long."
"Sir," say they, "to-morrow is the day, and to-morrow, so we have no knight to meet him that challengeth this castle, we shall have lost it. And our father is an old knight, and hath no longer lustihood nor force whereby he might defend it for us, and all of our lineage are fallen and decayed. This hatred hath fallen on us on account of Messire Gawain, whom we harboured."
Lancelot lay there the night within the castle and was right well lodged and worshipfully entreated. And on the morrow he armed himself when he had heard mass, and leant at the windows of the hall and seeth the gate shut and barred, and heareth a horn sound without the gate three times right loud.
"Sir," saith the Vavasour, "the knight is come, and thinketh that within here is no defence."
"By my head," saith Lancelot, "but there is, please God!"
The knight bloweth another blast of his horn.
"Hearken, Sir," saith the Vavasour, "It is nigh noon, and he thinketh him that none will issue hence to meet him."
Lancelot cometh down below and findeth his horse saddled and is mounted as soon. The damsels are at his stirrup, and pray him for God's sake remember to defend the honour that is theirs of the castle, for, save only he so doth, they must flee like beggars into other lands. Thereupon the Knight soundeth his horn again. Lancelot, when he heareth the blast, hath no mind to abide longer, and forthwith issueth out of the castle all armed, lance in hand and shield at his neck. He seeth the knight at the head of the bridge, all armed under a tree. Thitherward cometh Lancelot full speed. The knight seeth him coming, and crieth to him.
"Sir Knight," saith he, "What demand you? Come you hither to do me evil?"
"Yea," saith Lancelot, "for that evil are you fain to do to this castle; wherefore on behalf of the Vavasour and his daughters do I defy you."
He moveth against the knight and smiteth him on the shield with his spear and the knight him. But Lancelot pierceth his shield for him with his sword, and smiteth him so stiffly that he pinneth his arm to his side, and hurtleth against him so passing stoutly that he thrusteth him to the ground, him and his horse, and runneth over him, sword drawn.
"Ha," saith the knight to Lancelot, "withdraw a little from over me, and slay me not, and tell me your name, of your mercy."
"What have you to do with my name?" saith Lancelot.
"Sir," saith he, "Gladly would I know it, for a right good knight seem you to be, and so have I well proven in the first encounter."
"Sir" saith he, "I am called Lancelot of the Lake. And what is your name?"
"Sir." saith he, "I am called Marin of the castle of Gomeret. So am I -- father of Meliot of Logres. I pray you, by that you most love in the world, that you slay me not."
"So will I do," saith Lancelot, "and you renounce not your feud against this castle."
"By my faith," saith the knight, "thus do I renounce it, and I pledge myself that thenceforth for ever shall it have no disturbance of me."
"Your pledge," saith Lancelot, "will I not accept save you come in thither."
"Sir," saith the knight, "You have sore wounded me in such sort that I cannot mount but with right great pain."
Lancelot helpeth him until he was mounted again on his horse, and leadeth him into the castle with him, and maketh him present his sword to the Vavasour and his daughters, and yield up his shield and his arms, and afterward swear upon hallows that never again will he make war upon them. Lancelot thereupon receiveth his pledge to forego all claim to the castle and Marin turneth him back to Gomeret. The Vavasour and his daughters abide in great joy.
The story saith that Lancelot went his way by strange lands and by forests to seek adventure, and rode until he found a plain land lying without a city that seemed to be of right great lordship. As he was riding by the plain land, he looketh toward the forest and seeth the plain fair and wide and the land right level. He rideth all the plain, and looketh toward the city and seeth great plenty of folk issuing forth thereof. And with them was there much noise of bag-pipes and flutes and viols and many instruments of music, and they came along the way wherein was Lancelot riding. When the foremost came up to him, they halted and redoubled their joy.
"Sir," say they, "Welcome may you be!"
"Lords," saith Lancelot, "Whom come ye to meet with such joy?"
"Sir," say they, "they that come behind there will tell you clearly that whereof we are in need."
Thereupon behold you the provosts and the lords of the city, and they come over against Lancelot.
"Sir," say they, "All this joy is made along of you, and all these instruments of music are moved to joy and sound of gladness for your coming."
"But wherefore for me," saith Lancelot.
"That shall you know well betimes," say they. "This city began to burn and to melt in one of the houses from the very same hour that our king was dead, nor might the fire be quenched, nor never will be quenched until such time as we have a king that shall be lord of the city and of the honour thereunto belonging, and on New Year's Day behoveth him to be crowned in the midst of the fire, and then shall the fire be quenched, for otherwise may it never be put out nor extinguished. Wherefore have we come to meet you to give you the royalty, for we have been told that you are a good knight."
"Lords," saith Lancelot, "Of such a kingdom have I no need, and God defend me from it."
"Sir," they say, "You may not be defended thereof, for you come into this land at hazard, and great grief would it be that so good land as you see this is were burnt and melted away by the default of one single man, and the lordship is right great, and this will be right great worship to yourself, that on New Year's Day you should be crowned in the fire and thus save this city and this great people, and thereof shall you have great praise."
Much marvelleth Lancelot of this that they say. They come round about him on all sides and lead him into the city. The ladies and damsels are mounted to the windows of the great houses and make great joy, and say the one to another, "Look at the new king here that they are leading in. Now will he quench the fire on New Year's Day."
"Lord!" say the most part, "What great pity is it of so comely a knight that he shall end on such-wise!"
"Be still!" say the others. "Rather should there be great joy that so fair city as is this should be saved by his death, for prayer will be made throughout all the kingdom for his soul for ever!"
Therewith they lead him to the palace with right great joy and say that they will crown him. Lancelot found the palace all strown with rushes and hung about with curtains of rich cloths of silk, and the lords of the city all apparelled to do him homage. But he refuseth right stoutly, and saith that their king nor their lord will he never be in no such sort. Thereupon behold you a dwarf that entereth into the city, leading one of the fairest dames that be in any kingdom, and asketh whereof this joy and this murmuring may be. They tell him they are fain to make the knight king, but that he is not minded to allow them, and they tell him the whole manner of the fire.
The dwarf and the damsel are alighted, then they mount up to the palace. The dwarf calleth the provosts of the city and the greater lords.
"Lords," saith he, "sith that this knight is not willing to be king, I will be so willingly, and I will govern the city at your pleasure and do whatsoever you have devised to do."
"In faith, sith that the knight refuseth this honour and you desire to have it, willingly will we grant it you, and he may go his way and his road, for herein do we declare him wholly quit."
Therewithal they set the crown on the dwarf's head, and Lancelot maketh great joy thereof. He taketh his leave, and they command him to God, and so remounteth he on his horse and goeth his way through the midst of the city all armed. The dames and damsels say that he would not be king for that he had no mind to die so soon. When he came forth of the city right well pleased was he. He entereth a great forest and rideth on till daylight began to fall, and seeth before him a hermitage newly stablished, for the house and the chapel were all builded new. He cometh thitherward and alighteth to lodge. The hermit, that was young without beard or other hair on his face, issued from his chapel.
"Sir," saith he to Lancelot, "you are he that is welcome."
"And you, sir, good adventure to you," saith Lancelot. "Never have I seen hermit so young as you."
"Sir, of this only do I repent me, that I came not hither ere now."
Therewith he maketh his horse be stabled, and leadeth him into his hermitage, and so maketh disarm him and setteth him at ease as much as he may.
"Sir," saith the hermit, "Can you tell me any tidings of a knight that hath lain sick of a long time in the house of a hermit?"
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "it is no long time agone sithence I saw him in the house of the good King Hermit, that hath tended me and healed me right sweetly of the wounds that the knight gave me."
"And is the knight healed, then?" saith the hermit.
"Yea, Sir," saith Lancelot, "Whereof is right great joy. And wherefore do you ask me?"
"Well ought I to ask it," saith the hermit, "For my father is King Pelles, and his mother is my father's own sister."
"Ha, Sir, then is the King Hermit your father?"
"Yea, Sir, certes."
"Thereof do I love you the better," saith Lancelot, "For never found I any man that hath done me so much of love as hath he. And what, Sir, is your name?"
"Sir," saith he, "My name is Joseus, and yours, what?"
"Sir," saith he, "I am called Lancelot of the Lake."
"Sir," saith the hermit, "Right close are we akin, I and you."
"By my head," saith Lancelot, "Hereof am I right glad at heart."
Lancelot looketh and seeth in the hermit's house shield and spear, javelins and habergeon. "Sir," saith Lancelot, "What do you with these arms?"
"Sir," saith he, "this forest is right lonely", and this hermitage is far from any folk, and none are there here-within save me and my squire. So, when robbers come hither, we defend ourselves therewith."
"But hermits, methought, never assaulted nor wounded nor slew."
"Sir," saith the hermit, "God forbid I should wound any man or slay!"
"And how, then, do you defend yourselves?" saith Lancelot.
"Sir, I will tell you thereof. When robbers come to us, we arm ourselves accordingly. If I may catch hold of any in my hands, he cannot escape me. Our squire is so well-grown and hardy that he slayeth him forthwith or handleth him in such sort that he may never help himself after."
"By my head," saith Lancelot, "Were you not hermit, you would be valiant throughout."
"By my head," saith the squire. "You say true, for methinketh there is none so strong nor so hardy as he in all the kingdom of Logres."
The lodged Lancelot the night the best he could.
When as they were in their first sleep, come four robber-knights of the forest that knew how a knight was lodged therewithin, and had coveted his horse and his arms. The hermit that was in his chapel saw them first, and awoke his squire and made him bring his arms all secretly; then he made his squire arm. "Sir," saith the squire, "Shall I waken the knight?"
"In nowise," saith the hermit, "until such time as we shall know wherefore."
He maketh open the door of the chapel and taketh a great coil of rope, and they issue forth, he and his squire, and they perceived the robbers in the stable where Lancelot's horse was. The hermit crieth out: the squire cometh forward and thereupon beareth one to the ground with his spear. The hermit seizeth him and bindeth him to a tree so strait that he may not move. The other three think to defend them and to rescue their fellow. Lancelot leapeth up all startled when he heareth the noise and armeth himself as quickly as he may, albeit not so quickly but that or ever he come, the hermit hath taken the other three and bound them with the fourth. But of them were some that were wounded right sore.
"Sir," saith the hermit to Lancelot, "It grieveth me that you have been awakened."
"Rather," saith Lancelot, "have you done me great wrong for that you ought to have awakened me sooner."
"Sir," saith the hermit, "We have assaults such as this often enough."
The four robbers cry mercy of Lancelot that he will pray the hermit to have pity upon them. And Lancelot saith God help not him that shall have pity on thieves! As soon as it was daylight, Lancelot and the squire led them into the forest, their hands all tied behind their backs, and have hanged them in a waste place far away from the hermitage. Lancelot cometh back again and taketh leave of Joseus the young hermit, and saith it is great loss to the world that he is not knight.
"Sir," saith the squire, "to me is it great joy, for many a man should suffer thereby."
Lancelot is mounted, and Joseus commendeth him to God, praying him much that he salute his father and cousin on his behalf, and Messire Gawain likewise that he met in the forest what time he came all weeping to the hermitage.
Lancelot hath set him forth again upon his way, and rideth by the high forests and findeth holds and hermitages enough, but the story maketh not remembrance of all the hostels wherein he harboured him. So far hath he ridden that he is come forth of the forest and findeth a right fair meadow-land all loaded with flowers, and a river ran in the midst there of that was right fair and broad, and there was forest upon the one side and the other, and the meadow lands were wide and far betwixt the river and the forest. Lancelot looketh on the river before him and seeth a man rowing a great boat, and seeth within the boat two knights, white and bald, and a damsel, as it seemed him, that held in her lap the head of a knight that lay upon a mattress of straw and was covered with a coverlid of marten's fur, and another damsel sate at his feet. There was a knight within in the midst of the boat that was fishing with an angle, the rod whereof seemeth of gold, and right great fish he took. A little cock-boat followed the boat, wherein he set the fish he took. Lancelot cometh anigh the bank the swiftest he may, and so saluteth the knights and damsels, and they return his salute right sweetly.
"Lords," saith Lancelot, "is there no castle nigh at hand nor no harbour?"
"Yea, Sir," say they, "Beyond that mountain, right fair and rich, and this river runneth thither all round about it."
"Lords, whose castle is it?"
"Sir," say they, "It is King Fisherman's, and the good knights lodge there when he is in this country; but such knights have been harboured there as that the lord of the land hath had good right to plain him thereof."
The knights go rowing along the river, and Lancelot rideth until he cometh to the foot of the mountain and findeth a hermitage beside a spring, and bethinketh him, since it behoveth him to go to so high a hostel and so rich, where the Holy Graal appeareth, he will confess him to the good man. He alighteth and confesseth to the good man, and rehearseth all his sins, and saith that of all thereof doth he repent him save only one, and the hermit asketh him what it is whereof he is unwilling to repent.
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "it seemeth to me the fairest sin and the sweetest that ever I committed."
"Fair Sir," saith the hermit, "Sin is sweet to do, but right bitter be the wages thereof; neither is there any sin that is fair nor seemly, albeit there be some sins more dreadfuller than other."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "this sin will I reveal to you of my lips, but of my heart may I never repent me thereof. I love my Lady, which is the Queen, more than aught else that liveth, and albeit one of the best Kings on live hath her to wife. The affection seemeth me so good and so high that I cannot let go thereof, for, so rooted is it in my heart that thence may it nevermore depart, and the best knighthood that is in me cometh to me only of her affection."
"Alas!" saith the hermit, "Sinner of mortal sin, what is this that you have spoken? Never may no knighthood come of such wantonness that shall not cost you right dear! A traitor are you toward our earthly lord, and a murderer toward Our Saviour. Of the seven deadly sins, you are labouring under the one whereof the delights are the falsest of any, wherefore dearly shall you aby thereof, save you repent you forthwith."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "never the more do I desire to cast it from me."
"As much," saith the hermit, "is that as to say that you ought long since to have cast it from you and renounced it. For so long as you maintain it, so long are you an enemy of the Saviour!"
"Ha, Sir," saith Lancelot, "She hath in her such beauty and worth and wisdom and courtesy and nobleness that never ought she to be forgotten of any that hath loved her!"
"The more of beauty and worth she hath in her," saith the hermit, "so much the more blame hath she of that she doeth, and you likewise. For of that which is of little worth is the loss not so great as of that which is much worth. And this is a Queen, blessed and anointed, that was thus, therefore, in her beginning vowed to God; yet now is she given over to the Devil of her love for you, and you of your love for her. Fair, sweet my friend," saith the hermit, "Let go this folly, which is so cruel, that you have taken in hand, and be repentant of these sins! So every day will I pray to the Saviour for you, that so truly as He pardoned His death to him that smote Him with a lance in His side, so may He pardon you of this sin that you have maintained, and that so you be repentant and truly confessed thereof, I may take the penance due thereunto upon myself!"
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "I thank you much, but I am not minded to renounce it, nor have I no wish to speak aught wherewith my heart accordeth not. I am willing enough to do penance as great as is enjoined of this sin, but my lady the Queen will I serve so long as it may be her pleasure, and I may have her good will. So dearly do I love her that I wish not even that any will should come to me to renounce her love, and God is so sweet and so full of right merciful mildness, as good men bear witness, that He will have pity upon us, for never no treason have I done toward her, nor she toward me."
"Ha, fair sweet friend," saith the hermit, "Nought may you avail you of whatsoever I may say, wherefore God grant her such will and you also, that you may be able to do the will of Our Saviour. But so much am I fain to tell you, that and if you shall lie in the hostel of King Fisherman, yet never may you behold the Graal for the mortal sin that lieth at your heart."
"May our Lord God," saith Lancelot, "counsel me therein at His pleasure and at His will!"
"So may He do!" saith the hermit, "For of a truth you may know thereof am I right fain."
Lancelot taketh leave of the hermit, and is mounted forthwith and departeth from the hermitage. And evening draweth on, and he seeth that it is time to lodge him. And he espieth before him the castle of the rich King Fisherman. He seeth the bridges, broad and long, but they seem not to him the same as they had seemed to Messire Gawain. He beholdeth the rich entrance of the gateway there where Our Lord God was figured as He was set upon the rood, and seeth two lions that guard the entrance of the gate. Lancelot thinketh that sith Messire Gawain had passed through amidst the lions, he would do likewise. He goeth toward the gateway, and the lions that were unchained prick up their ears and look at him. Howbeit Lancelot goeth his way between them without heeding them, and neither of them was fain to do him any hurt. He alighteth before the master-palace, and mounteth upward all armed. Two other knights come to meet him and receive him with right great joy, then they make him be seated on a couch in the midst of the hall and be disarmed of two servants. Two damsels bring him a right rich robe and make him be apparelled therewithal. Lancelot beholdeth the richness of the hall and seeth nought figured there save images of saints, men or women, and he seeth the hall hung about with cloths of silk in many places. The knights lead him before King Fisherman in a chamber where he lay right richly. He findeth the King, that lieth on a bed so rich and so fair apparelled as never was seen a better, and one damsel was at his head and another at his feet. Lancelot saluteth him right nobly, and the King answereth him full fairly as one that is a right worshipful man. And such a brightness of light was there in the chamber as that it seemed the sun were beaming on all sides, and albeit the night was dark, no candles, so far as Lancelot might espy, were lighted therewithin.
"Sir," saith King Fisherman, "Can you tell me tidings of my sister's son, that was son of Alain li Gros of the Valleys of Camelot, whom they call Perceval?"
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "I saw him not long time sithence in the house of King Hermit, his uncle."
"Sir," saith the King, "They tell me he is a right good knight?"
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "He is the best knight of the world. I myself have felt the goodness of his knighthood and his valour, for right sorely did he wound me or ever I knew him or he me."
"And what is your name?" saith the King.
"Sir, I am called Lancelot of the Lake, King Ban's son of Benoic."
"Ha," saith the King, "you are nigh of our lineage, you ought to be good knight of right, and so are you as I have heard witness, Lancelot," saith the King. "Behold there the chapel where the most Holy Graal taketh his rest, that appeared to two knights that have been herewithin. I know not what was the name of the first, but never saw I any so gentle and quiet, nor had better likelihood to be good knight. It was through him that I have fallen into languishment. The second was Messire Gawain."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "the first was Perceval your nephew."
"Ha!" saith King Fisherman, "take heed that you speak true!"
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "I ought to know him well!"
"Ha, God!" saith the King, "Wherefore then did I know him not? Through him have I fallen into this languishment, and had I only known then that it was he, should I now be all whole of my limbs and of my body, and right instantly do I pray you, when you shall see him, that he come to see me or ever I die, and that he be fain to succour and help his mother, whose men have been slain, and whose land hath been reaved in such sort that never may she have it again save by him alone. And his sister hath gone in quest of him throughout all kingdoms."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "This will I tell him gladly, if ever I may find him in any place, but it is great adventure of finding him, for oft-times will he change his cognizance in divers fashion and conceal his name in many places."
King Fisherman is right joyous of the tidings he hath heard of his nephew, wherefore he maketh Lancelot be honoured greatly. The knights seat them in the hall at a table of ivory at meat, and the King remaineth in his chamber. When they had washen, the table was dight of rich sets of vessels of gold and silver, and they were served of rich meats of venison of hart and wild boar. But the story witnesseth that the Graal appeared not at this feast. It held not aloof for that Lancelot was not one of the three knights of the world of the most renown and mightiest valour, but for his great sin as touching the Queen, whom he loved without repenting him thereof, for of nought did he think so much as of her, nor never might he remove his heart therefrom. When they had eaten they rose from the tables. Two damsels waited on Lancelot at his going to bed, and he lay on a right rich couch, nor were they willing to depart until such time as he was asleep. He rose on the morrow as soon as he saw the day, and went to hear mass. Then he took leave of King Fisherman and the knights and damsels, and issued forth of the castle between the two lions, and prayeth God that He allow him to see the Queen again betimes, for this is his most desire. He rideth until he hath left the castle far behind and entereth the forest, and is in right great desire to see Perceval, but the tidings of him were right far away. He looketh before him in the forest and seeth come right amidst the launde a knight, and a damsel clad in the richest robe of gold and silk that ever he had seen tofore.
The damsel came weeping by the side of the knight and prayed him oftentimes that he would have mercy upon her. The knight is still and holdeth his peace, and saith never a word.
"Ha, Sir," saith the damsel to Lancelot, "Be pleased to beseech this knight on my behalf."
"In what manner?" saith Lancelot.
"Sir," saith she, "I will tell you. He hath shown me semblance of love for more than a year, and had me in covenant that he would take me to wife, and I apparelled myself in the richest garments that I had to come to him. But my father is of greater power and riches than is he, and therefore was not willing to allow the marriage. Wherefore come I with him in this manner, for I love him better than ever another knight beside. Now will he do nought of that he had me in covenant to do, for he loveth another, better, methinketh, than me. And this hath he done, as I surmise, to do shame to my friends and to me."
Lancelot seeth the damsel of right great beauty and weeping tenderly, whereof hath he passing great pity.
"Hold, Sir!" saith Lancelot to the knight, "this shall you not do! You shall not do such shame to so fair a damsel as that you shall fail to keep covenant with her. For not a knight is there in the kingdom of Logres nor in that of Wales but ought to be right well pleased to have so fair a damsel to wife, and I pray and require that you do to the damsel that whereof you held her in covenant. This will be a right worshipful deed, and I pray and beseech that you do it, and thereof shall I be much beholden unto you."
"Sir, saith the knight, "I have no will thereunto, nor for no man will I do it, for ill would it beseem me."
"By my head, then," saith Lancelot, "the basest knight are you that ever have I seen, nor ought dame nor damsel ever hereafter put trust in you, sith that you are minded to put such disgrace upon this lady."
"Sir," saith the knight, "a worthier lover have I than this, and one that I more value; wherefore as touching this damsel will I do nought more than I have said."
"And whither, then, mean you to take her?" saith Lancelot.
"I mean to take her to a hold of mine own that is in this forest, and to give her in charge to a dwarf of mine that looketh after my house, and I will marry her to some knight or some other man."
"Now never God help me," saith Lancelot, "but this is foul churlishness you tell me, and, so you do not her will, it shall betide you ill of me myself, and, had you been armed as I am, you should have felt my first onset already."
"Ha," saith the damsel to Lancelot, "Be not so ready to do him any hurt, for nought love I so well as I love his body, whatsoever he do unto me. But for God's sake pray him that he do me the honour he hath promised me."
"Willingly," saith Lancelot. "Sir Knight, will you do this whereof you had the damsel in covenant?"
"Sir," saith the knight, "I have told you plainly that I will not."
"By my head," saith Lancelot, "you shall do it, or otherwise sentence of death hath passed upon you, and this not so much for the sake of the damsel only, but for the churlishness that hath taken possession of you, that it be not a reproach to other knights. For promise that knight maketh to dame or damsel behoveth him to keep. And you, as you tell me, are knight, and no knight ought to do churlishly to his knowledge, and this churlishness is so far greater than another, that for no prayer that the damsel may make will I suffer that it shall be done, but that if you do not that whereof you held her in covenant, I shall slay you, for that I will not have this churlishness made a reproach unto other knights."
He draweth his sword and would have come toward him, when the knight cometh over against him and saith to him: "Slay me not. Tell me rather what you would have me do?"
"I would," saith he, "that you take the damsel to wife without denial."
"Sir," saith he, "it pleaseth me better to take her than to die. Sir, I will do your will."
"I thank you much therefor," saith Lancelot. "Damsel, is this your pleasure also?"
"Yea, Sir, but, so please you, take not your departure from us until such time as he shall have done that which you tell him."
"I will, well that so it be," saith Lancelot, "for love of you."
They ride together right through the forest, until they came to a chapel at a hermitage, and the hermit wedded them and made much joy thereof. When it cometh to after-mass, Lancelot would fain depart, but the damsel prayeth him right sweetly that he should come right to her father's house to witness that the knight had wedded her.
"Sir," saith she, "My father's hold is not far away."
"Lady," saith Lancelot, "Willingly will I go sith that you beseech me thereof."
They ride so long right amidst the forest, that presently they come to the castle of the Vavasour, that was sitting on the bridge of his castle, right sorrowful and troubled because of his daughter. Lancelot is gone on before and alighteth. The Vavasour riseth up to meet him, and Lancelot recounteth unto him how his daughter hath been wedded, and that he hath been at the wedding. Thereof the Vavasour maketh right great joy. Therewithal, behold you, the knight and the Vavasour"s daughter that are straightway alighted, and the Vavasour thanketh Lancelot much of the honour he hath done his daughter. Therewith he departeth from the castle and rideth amidst the forest the day long, and meeteth a damsel and a dwarf that came a great gallop.
"Sir," saith the damsel to Lancelot, "From whence come you?"
"Damsel," saith he, "I come from the Vavasour's castle that is in this forest."
"Did you meet," saith she, "a knight and a damsel on your way?"
"Yea," saith Lancelot, "He hath wedded her."
"Say you true?" saith she.
"I tell you true," saith Lancelot, "But had I not been there, he would not have wedded her."
"Shame and ill adventure may you have thereof, for you have reft me of the thing in the world that most I loved. And know you well of a truth that joy of him shall she never have, and if the knight had been armed as are you, never would he have done your will, but his own. And this is not the first harm you have done me; you and Messire Gawain between you have slain my uncle and my two cousins-german in the forest, whom behoved me bury in the chapel where you were, there where my dwarf that you see here was making the graves in the burial-ground."
"Damsel," saith Lancelot, "true it is that I was there, but I departed from the grave-yard, honour safe."
"True," saith the dwarf, "For the knights that were there were craven, and failed."
"Fair friend," saith Lancelot, "Rather would I they should be coward toward me than hardy."
"Lancelot," saith the damsel, "Much outrage have you done, for you slew the Knight of the Waste House, there whither the brachet led Messire Gawain, but had he there been known, he would not have departed so soon, for he was scarce better loved than you, and God grant you may find a knight that may abate the outrages that are in your heart and in his; for great rejoicing would there be thereof, for many a good knight have you slain, and I myself will bring about trouble for you, so quickly as I may."
Thereupon the dwarf smiteth the mule with his whip, and she departeth. Lancelot would answer none of her reviling, wherefore he departed forthwith, and rideth so long on his journeys that he is come back to the house of the good King Hermit, that maketh right great joy of him. And he telleth him that he hath been unto the house of King Fisherman, his brother that lieth in languishment, and telleth him also how he hath been honoured in his hostel, and of the salutations that he sent him. King Hermit is right joyous thereof, and asketh him of his nephew, and he telleth him he hath seen him not since he departed thence. King Hermit asketh him whether he hath seen the Graal, and he telleth him he hath seen it not at all.
"I know well," saith the King, "wherefore this was so. And you had had the like desire to see the Graal that you have to see the Queen, the Graal would you have seen."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "The Queen do I desire to see for the sake of her good intent, her wisdom, courtesy and worth, and so ought every knight to do. For in herself hath she all honourable conditions that a lady may have."
"God grant you good issue therein," saith King Hermit, "and that you do nought whereof He may visit you with His wrath at the Day of Judgment."
Lancelot lay the night in the hermitage, and on the morrow departed thence and took leave when he had heard mass, and cometh back as straight as he may to Pannenoisance on the sea of Wales, where were the King and Queen with great plenty of knights and barons.
Go to Branch XI