THE HIGH HISTORY OF THE HOLY GRAAL
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #19
Here beginneth the last branch of the Graal in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
The story saith that Perceval went his way through the forest. He saw pass before him two squires, and each carried a wild deer trussed behind him that had been taken by hounds. Perceval cometh to them a great pace and maketh them abide.
"Lords," saith he, "Whither will you carry this venison?"
"Sir," say the squires, "To the castle of Ariste, whereof Aristor is lord."
"Is there great throng of knights at the castle?" saith Perceval.
"Sir," say the squires, "Not a single one is there, but within four days will be a thousand there, for Messire is about to marry, whereof is great preparation toward. He is going to take the daughter of the Widow Lady, whom he carried off by force before her castle of Camelot, and hath set her in the house of one of his vavasours until such time as he shall espouse her. But we are right sorrowful, for she is of most noble lineage and of great beauty and of the most worth in the world. So is it great dole that he shall have her, for he will cut her head off on the day of the New Year, sith that such is his custom."
"And one might carry her off," saith Perceval, "would he not do well therein?"
"Yea, Sir!" say the squires, "Our Lord God would be well pleased thereof, for such cruelty is the greatest that ever any knight may have. Moreover, he is much blamed of a good hermit that he hath slain, and every day desireth he to meet the brother of the damsel he is about to take, that is one of the best knights in the world. And he saith that he would slay him more gladly than ever another knight on live."
"And where is your lord?" saith Perceval, "Can you give me witting?"
"Yea, Sir," say the squires, "We parted from him but now in this forest, where he held melly with a knight that seemeth us to be right worshipful and valiant, and saith that he hath for name the Knight Hardy. And for that he told Aristor that he was a knight of Perceval's and of his fellowship, he ran upon him, and then commanded us to come on, and said that he should vanquish him incontinent. We could still hear just now the blows of the swords yonder where we were in the forest, and Aristor is of so cruel conditions that no knight may pass through this forest, but he is minded to slay him."
When Perceval heard these tidings, he departed from the squires, and so soon as they were out of sight he goeth as great pace thither as they had come thence. He had ridden half a league Welsh when he heard the buffets they were dealing one another on the helm with their swords, and right well pleased was he for that the Knight Hardy held so long time melly with Aristor in whom is there so much cruelty and felony. But Perceval knew not to what mischief the Knight Hardy had been wounded through the body of a spear, so that the blood rayed out on all sides; and Aristor had not remained whole, for he was wounded in two places. So soon as Perceval espied them, he smiteth his horse of his spurs, lance in rest, and smiteth Aristor right through the breast with such force that he maketh him lose his stirrups and lie down backwards over the hinder bow of the saddle. After that saith he: "I am come to my sister's wedding, of right ought it not to be made without me."
Aristor, that was full hardy, set himself again betwixt the bows of the saddle in great wrath when he seeth Perceval, and cometh towards him like as if he were wood mad, sword in hand, and dealeth him such a buffet on the helm as that it is all dinted in thereby. The Knight Hardy draweth back when he seeth Perceval, for he is wounded to the death through the body. He had held the stout so long time that he could abide no more. But or ever he departed, he had wounded Aristor in two places right grievously. Perceval felt the blow that was heavy, and that his helmet was dinted in. He cometh back to Aristor and smiteth him so passing strongly that he thrusteth the spear right through his body and overthroweth him and his horse all of a heap. Then he alighteth over him and taketh off the coif of his habergeon and unlaceth his ventail.
"What have you in mind to do?" said Aristor.
"I will cut off your head," said Perceval, "and present it to my sister whom you have failed."
"Do not so!" saith Aristor, "But let me live, and I will forgo my hatred."
"Your hatred might I well abide henceforward, meseemeth," saith Perceval, "But one may not abide you any longer, for well have you deserved this, and God willeth not to bear with you."
He smiteth off his head incontinent and hangeth it at his saddle- bow, and cometh to the Knight Hardy, and asketh him how it is with him.
"Sir," saith he, "I am very nigh my death, but I comfort me much of this that I see you tofore I die."
Perceval is remounted on his horse, then taketh his spear and leaveth the body of the knight in the midst of the launde, and so departeth forthwith and leadeth the Knight Hardy to a hermitage that was hard by there, and lifteth him down of his horse as speedily as he may. After that, he disarmed him and made him confess to the hermit, and when he was shriven of his sins and repentant, and his soul had departed, he made him be enshrouded of the damsel that followed him, and bestowed his arms and his horse on the hermit for his soul, and the horse of Aristor likewise.
When mass had been sung for the knight that was dead, and the body buried, Perceval departed.
"Sir," saith the damsel that followed him, "Even now have you much to do. Of this cruel knight and felonous you have avenged this country. Now, God grant you find betimes the Red Knight that slew your uncle's son. I doubt not but that you will conquer him, but great misgiving have I of the lion, for it is the cruellest beast that saw I ever, and he so loveth his lord and his horse as never no beast loved another so much, and he helpeth his lord right hardily to defend him."
Perceval goeth toward the great Deep Forest without tarrying, and the damsel after. But, or ever he came thither, he met a knight that was wounded right sore, both he and his horse.
"Ha, Sir," saith he to Perceval, "Enter not into this forest, whence I have scarce escaped with much pains. For therein is a knight that had much trouble of rescuing me from his lion; and no less am I in dread to pass on forward, for there is a knight that is called Aristor, that without occasion runneth upon the knights that pass through the forest."
"Of him," saith the damsel, "need you have no fear, for you may see his head hanging at the knight's saddle-bow."
"Certes," saith the knight, "Never yet was I so glad of any tidings I have heard, and well know I that he that slew him is not lacking of great hardiment."
The knight departeth from Perceval, but the lion had wounded his horse so passing sore in the quarters that scarce could he go.
"Sir Knight," saith Perceval, "Go to the hermit in the Deep Forest, and say I bade him give you the destrier I left with him, for well I see that you have sore need thereof, and you may repay him in some other manner, for rather would he have something else than the horse."
The knight goeth him much thanks of this that he saith. He cometh to the hermit the best he may, and telleth him according as he had been charged, and the hermit biddeth him take which destrier he will for the love of the knight that had slain the evil-doer, that did so many evil deeds in this forest.
"And I will lend you them both twain if you will."
"Sir," saith the knight, "I ask but for one of them."
He taketh Aristor's horse, that seemed him the better, and straightway mounteth thereon, and abandoneth his own, that might go no further. He taketh leave of the hermit, and telleth him he will right well repay him, but better had it befallen him and he had not taken the horse, for thereof was he slain without reason thereafter. A knight that was of the household of Aristor overtook him at the corner of the forest, and knew his lord's horse and had heard tell that Aristor was dead, wherefore he went into the forest to bury him. He smote the knight through the body with his spear and so slew him, then took the horse and went away forthwith. But, had Perceval known thereof, he would have been little glad, for that he asked the knight to go for the horse, but he did it only for the best, and for that he rode in great misease.
Perceval goeth toward the Deep Forest, that is full broad and long and evil seeming, and when he was entered in he had scarce ridden a space when he espied the lion that lay in the midst of a launde under a tree and was waiting for his master, that was gone afar into the forest, and the lion well knew that just there was the way whereby knights had to pass, and therefore had abided there. The damsel draweth her back for fear, and Perceval goeth toward the lion that had espied him already, and came toward him, eyes on fire and jaws yawning wide. Perceval aimeth his spear and thinketh to smite him in his open mouth, but the lion swerved aside and he caught him in the fore-leg and so dealt him a great wound, but the lion seizeth the horse with his claws on the croup, and rendeth the skin and the flesh above the tail. The horse, that feeleth himself wounded, catcheth him with his two hinder feet or ever he could get away, so passing strongly that he breaketh the master-teeth in his jaw. The lion gave out a roar so loud that all the forest resounded thereof. The Red Knight heareth his lion roar, and so cometh thither a great gallop, but, or ever he was come thither, Perceval had slain the lion. When the knight saw his lion dead, right sorry was he thereof.
"By my head," saith he to Perceval, "When you slew my lion you did it as a traitor!"
"And you," saith Perceval, "adjudged your own death when you slew my uncle's son, whose head this damsel beareth."
Perceval cometh against him without more words, and the knight in like manner with a great rushing, and breaketh his spear upon his shield. Perceval smiteth him with such force that he thrusteth his spear right through his body and beareth him to the ground dead beside his horse. Perceval alighteth of his own when he hath slain the knight, and then mounteth him on the Red Knight's horse for that his own might carry him no longer.
"Sir," saith the damsel, "My castle is in the midst of this forest, that the Red Knight reft away from me long ago. I pray you now come with me thither that I may be assured thereof in such sort as that I may have it again wholly."
"Damsel," saith Perceval, "This have I no right to deny you."
They ride amidst the forest so long as that they come to the castle where the damsel ought to be. It stood in the fairest place of all the forest, and was enclosed of high Walls battlemented, and within were fair-windowed halls. The tidings were come to the castle that their lord was dead. Perceval and the damsel entered in. He made the damsel be assured of them that were therein, and made them yield up her castle that they well knew was hers of right inheritance. The damsel made the head be buried that she had carried so long, and bade that every day should mass be done within for the soul of him. When Perceval had sojourned therein as long as pleased him, he departed thence. The damsel thanked him much of the bounty he had done her as concerning the castle that she had again by him, for never again should it be reconquered of another, as well she knew.
Josephus telleth us in the scripture he recordeth for us, whereof this history was drawn out of Latin into Romance, that none need be in doubt that these adventures befell at that time in Great Britain and in all the other kingdoms, and plenty enow more befell than I record, but these were the most certain. The history saith that Perceval is come into a hold, there where his sister was in the house of a vavasour that was a right worshipful man. Each day the damsel made great dole of the knight that was to take her, for the day was already drawing somewhat nigh, and she knew not that he was dead. Full often lamented she the Widow Lady her mother, that in like sort made great dole for her daughter. The vavasour comforted the damsel right sweetly and longed for her brother Perceval, but little thought he that he was so near him. And Perceval is come to the hold all armed, and alighteth at the mounting-stage before the hall. The vavasour cometh to meet him, and marvelleth much who he is, for the more part believed that he was one of Aristor's knights.
"Sir," saith the vavasour, "Welcome may you be!"
"Good adventure may you have, Sir!" saith Perceval. He holdeth Aristor's head in his hand by the hair, whereof the vavasour marvelled much that he should carry a knight's head in such-wise. Perceval cometh to the master-chamber of the hall, where his sister was, that bewailed her right sore.
"Damsel," saith he to his sister, "Weep not, for your wedding hath failed. You may know it well by this token!"
He throweth the head of Aristor before her on the ground, then saith unto her: "Behold here the head of him that was to take you!"
The damsel heareth Perceval her brother that was armed, and thereby she knoweth him again. She leapeth up and maketh him the greatest joy that ever damsel made to knight. She knoweth not what to do. So joyful is she, that all have pity on her that see her of her weeping for the joy that she maketh of her brother. The story saith that they sojourned therewithin and that the vavasour showed them much honour. The damsel made cast the knight's head into a river that ran round about the hold. The vavasour was right glad of his death for the great felony that he had in him, and for that needs must the damsel die in less than a year and she had espoused him.
When Perceval had been therein as long as it pleased him, he thanked the vavasour much of the honour he had done him and his sister, and departed, he and his sister along with him on the mule whereon she had been brought thither. Perceval rode so long on his journeys that he is come to Camelot and findeth his mother in great dole for her daughter that should be Queen, for she thought surely that never should she see her more. Full sorrowful was she moreover of her brother, the King Hermit that had been killed in such-wise. Perceval cometh to the chamber where his mother was lying and might not stint of making dole. He taketh his sister by the hand and cometh before her. So soon as she knoweth him she beginneth to weep for joy, and kisseth them one after the other.
"Fair son," saith she, "Blessed be the hour that you were born for by you all my great joy cometh back to me! Now well may I depart, for I have lived long enow."
"Lady," saith he, "Your life ought to be an offence to none, for to none hath it ever done ill, but, please God, you shall not end in this place, but rather you shall end in the castle that was your cousin's german, King Fisherman, there where is the most Holy Graal and the sacred hallows are."
"Fair son," saith she, "You say well, and there would I fain be."
"Lady," saith he, "God will provide counsel and means whereby you shall be there; and my sister, and she be minded to marry, will we set in good place, where she may live worshipfully."
"Certes, fair brother," saith she, "None shall I never marry, save God alone."
"Fair son," saith the Widow Lady, "The Damsel of the Car goeth to seek you, and I shall end not until such time as she hath round you."
"Lady," saith he, "In some place will she have tidings of me and I of her."
"Fair son," saith the Lady, "The damsel is here within that the felonous knight wounded through the arm, that carried of your sister, but she is healed."
"Lady," saith he, "I am well avenged."
He telleth her all the adventures until the time when he reconquered the castle that was his uncle's. He sojourned long time with his mother in the castle, and saw that the land was all assured and peaceable. He departed thence and took his leave, for he had not yet achieved all that he had to do. His mother remained long time, and his sister, at Camelot, and led a good life and a holy. The lady made make a chapel right rich about the sepulchre that lay between the forest and Camelot, and had it adorned of rich vestments, and stablished a chaplain that should sing mass there every day. Sithence then hath the place been so builded up as that there is an abbey there and folk of religion, and many bear witness that there it is still, right fair. Perceval was departed from Camelot and entered into the great forest, and so rode of a long while until he had left his mother's castle far behind, and came toward evening to the hold of a knight that was at the head of the forest. He harboured him therein, and the knight showed him much honour and made him be unarmed, and brought him a robe to do on. Perceval seeth that the knight is a right simple man, and that he sigheth from time to time.
"Sir," saith he, "Meseemeth you are not over joyous."
"Certes, Sir," saith the knight, "I have no right to be, for a certain man slew mine own brother towards the Deep Forest not long since, and no right have I to be glad, for a worshipful man was he and a loyal."
"Fair Sir," saith Perceval, "Know you who slew him?"
"Fair Sir, it was one of Aristor's knights, for that he was sitting upon a horse that had been Aristor's, and whereon another knight had slain him, and a hermit had lent him to my brother for that the Red Knight's lion had maimed his own."
Perceval was little glad of these tidings, for that he had sent him that had been slain on account of the horse.
"Sir," saith Perceval, "Your brother had not deserved his death, methinketh, for it was not he that slew the knight."
"No, Sir, I know it all of a truth, but another, that slew the Red Knight of the Deep Forest."
Perceval was silent thereupon. He lay the night at the hostel and was harboured right well, and on the morrow departed when he had taken leave. He wandered until he came to a hermitage there where he heard mass. After the service, the hermit came unto him and said: "Sir," saith he, "In this forest are knights all armed that are keeping watch for the knight that slew Aristor and the Red Knight and his lion as well. Wherefore they meet no knight in this forest but they are minded to slay him for the knight that slew these twain."
"Sir," saith Perceval, "God keep me from meeting such folk as would do me evil."
With that he departed from the hermitage and took leave of the hermit, and rideth until that he is come into the forest and espieth the knight that sitteth on Aristor's horse for that he hath slain the other knight. A second knight was with him. They abide when they see Perceval.
"By my head," saith one of them, "This same shield bare he that slew Aristor, as it was told us, and, like enough, it may be he."
They come toward him, full career. Perceval seeth them coming, and forgetteth not his spurs, but rather cometh against them the speediest he may. The two knights smote him upon the shield and brake their spears. Perceval overtaketh him that sitteth on Aristor's horse and thrusteth an ell's length of his spear through his body and so overthroweth him dead.
After that, he cometh to the other knight, that fain would have fled, and smiteth off the shoulder close to his side, and he fell dead by the side of the other. He taketh both twain of their destriers, and knotteth the reins together and driveth them before him as far as the house of the hermit, that had issued forth of his hermitage. He delivered unto him the horse of Aristor and the other of the knight that he had sent thither.
"Sir," saith Perceval, "Well I know that and you shall see any knight that hath need of it and shall ask you, you will lend him one of these horses, for great courtesy is it to aid a worshipful man when one seeth him in misfortune."
"Sir," saith the hermit, "But now since, were here three knights. So soon as they knew that the two were dead whose horses you had delivered unto me, they departed, fleeing the speediest they might. I praised them much of their going, and told them they did well not to die on such occasion, for that the souls of knights that die under arms are nigher to Hell than to Paradise."
Perceval, that never was without sore toil and travail so long as he lived, departed from the hermitage and went with great diligence right through the midst of the forest, and met a knight that came a great gallop over against him. He knew Perceval by the shield that he bare.
"Sir," saith he, "I come from the Castle of the Black Hermit, there where you will find the Damsel of the Car as soon as you arrive, wherefore she sendeth you word by me that you speed your way and go to her to ask for the chess-board that was taken away from before Messire Gawain, or otherwise never again will you enter into the castle you have won. Sir," saith he, "Haste, moreover, on account of a thing most pitiful that I heard in this forest. I heard how a knight was leading a damsel against her will, beating her with a great scourge. I passed by the launde on the one side and he on the other, so that I espied him through the underwood that was between us; but it seemed me that the damsel was bemoaning her for the son of the Widow Lady that had given her back her castle, and the knight said that for love of him he would put her into the Servent's pit. An old knight and a priest went after the knight to pray him have mercy on the damsel, but so cruel is he, that so far from doing so, he rather waxed sore wroth for that they prayed it of him, and made cheer and semblant as though he would have slain them."
The knight departed from Perceval and taketh leave and Perceval goeth along the way that the knight had come, thinking that he would go after the damsel for he supposeth certainly that it is she to whom he gave back her castle, and would fain know what knight it is that entreateth her in such fashion. He hath ridden until he is come into the deepest of the forest and the thickest. He bideth awhile and listeneth and heareth the voice of the damsel, that was in a great valley where the Serpent's pit was, wherein the knight was minded to set her. She cried right loud for mercy, and wept, and the knight gave her great strokes of the scourge to make her be still. Perceval had no will to tarry longer, but rather cometh thither as fast as he may.
So soon as the damsel seeth Perceval, she knoweth him again. She claspeth her two hands together and saith, "Ha, Sir, for God's sake have mercy! Already have you given me back the castle whereof this knight would reave me."
The horse whereon Perceval sat, the knight knew him.
"Sir," saith he, "This horse was the horse of Messire the Red Knight of the Deep Forest! Now at last know I that it was you that slew him!"
"It may well be," saith Perceval, "And if that I slew him, good right had I to do so, for he had cut off the head of a son of mine uncle, the which head this damsel carried of a long time."
"By my head," saith the knight, "Sith that you slew him, you are my mortal enemy!"
So he draweth off in the midst of the launde and Perceval likewise, and then they come together as fast as their horses may carry them, and either giveth other great buffets in the midst of their breast with their spears the most they may. Perceval smiteth the knight so passing hard that he overthroweth him to the ground right over the croup of his horse, and in the fall that he made, he to-brake him the master-bone of his leg so that he might not move. And Perceval alighteth to the ground and cometh where the knight lay. And he crieth him mercy that he slay him not. And Perceval telleth him he need not fear death, nor that he is minded to slay him in such plight as he is, but that like as he was fain to make the damsel do he will make him do. He maketh alight the other old knight and the priest, then maketh the knight be carried to the Pit of the Serpent and the worms, whereof was great store. The pit was dark and deep. When that the knight was therein he might not live long for the worms that were there. The damsel thanked Perceval much of this goodness and of the other that he had done her. She departeth and returneth again to her castle, and was assured therein on all sides, nor never thereafter had she dread of no knight, for the cruel justice that Perceval had done on this one.
The son of the Widow Lady of his good knighthood knoweth not how to live without travail. He well knoweth that when he hath been at the Black Hermit's castle, he will in some measure have achieved his task. But many another thing behoveth him to do tofore, and little toil he thinketh it, whereof shall God be well pleased. He hath ridden so far one day and another, that he came into a land where he met knights stout and strong there where God was neither believed in nor loved, but where rather they adored false images and false Lord-Gods and devils that made themselves manifest. He met a knight at the entrance of a forest.
"Ha, Sir!" saith he to Perceval, "Return you back! No need is there for you to go further, for the folk of this island are not well-believers in God. I may not pass through the land but by truce only. The Queen of this land was sister of the King of Oriande, that Lancelot killed in the battle and all his folk, and seized his land, wherein all the folk were misbelievers. Now throughout all the land they believe in the Saviour of the World. Thereof is she passing sorrowful, and hateth all them that believe in the New Law, insomuch as that she would not look upon any that believed, and prayed to her gods that never might she see none until such time as the New Law should be overthrown; and God, that hath power to do this, blinded her forthwith. Now she supposeth that the false gods wherein she believeth have done this, and saith that when the New Law shall fall, she will have her sight again by the renewal of these gods, and by their virtue, nor, until this hour, hath she no desire to see. And I tell you this," saith the knight, "because I would not that you should go thither as yet, for that I misdoubt of your being troubled thereby."
"Sir, Gramercy," saith Perceval, "But no knighthood is there so fair as that which is undertaken to set forward the Law of God, and for Him ought one to make better endeavour than for all other. In like manner as He put His body in pain and travail for us, so ought each to put his own for Him."
He departeth from the knight, and was right joyous of this that he heard him say that Lancelot had won a kingdom wherein he had done away the false Law. But and he knew the tidings that the King had put him in prison, he would not have been glad at all, for Lancelot was of his lineage and was therefore good knight, and for this he loved him right well.
Perceval rideth until nightfall, and findeth a great castle fortified with a great drawbridge, and there were tall ancient towers within. He espied at the door a squire that had the weight of a chain on his neck, and at the other end the chain was fixed to a great bulk of iron. The chain was as long as the length of the bridge. Then cometh he over against Perceval when he seeth him coming.
"Sir," saith he, "Meseemeth you believe in God?"
"Fair friend, so do I, the best I may."
"Sir, for God's sake, enter not this castle!"
"Wherefore, fair friend?" saith Perceval.
"Sir," saith he, "I will tell you. I am Christian, even as are you, and I am thrall within there and guard this gate, as you see. But it is the most cruel castle that I know, and it is called the Raving Castle. There be three knights within there, full young and comely, but so soon as they see a knight of the New Law, forthwith are they out of their senses, and all raving mad, so that nought may endure between them. Moreover, there is within one of the fairest damsels that saw I ever. She guardeth the knights so soon as they begin to rave, and so much they dread her that they durst not disobey her commandment in aught that she willeth, for many folk would they evilly entreat were it not for her. And for that I am their thrall they put up with me, and I have no fear of them, but many is the Christian knight that hath come in hither that never hath issued hence."
"Fair sweet friend," saith Perceval, "I will enter in thither and I may, for I should not know this day how to go elsewhither, and true it is that greater power hath God than the devil."
He entereth into the castle and alighteth in the midst of the courtyard.
The damsel was at the windows of the hall, that was of passing great beauty. She cometh down as soon as she may, and seeth Perceval come in and the cross on his shield, and knoweth well thereby that he is Christian.
"Ha, Sir, for God's sake," saith she, "Come not up above, for there be three of the comeliest knights that ever were seen that are playing at tables and at dice in a chamber, and they are brothers-german. They will all go out of their senses so soon as they shall see you!"
"Damsel," saith Perceval, "Please God, so shall they not, and such a miracle is good to see, for it is only right that all they who will not believe in God should be raving mad when they see the things that come of Him."
Perceval goeth up into the hall, all armed, for all that the damsel saith. She followeth him as fast as she may. The three knights espied Perceval all armed and the cross on his shield, and forthwith leapt up and were beside themselves. They rolled their eyes and tore themselves and roared like devils. There were axes and swords in the hall that they go to lay hold on, and they are fain to leap upon Perceval, but no power have they to do so, for such was the will of God. When they saw that they might not come a-nigh him, they ran either on other and so slew themselves between them, nor would they stint their fighting together for the damsel. Perceval beheld the miracle of these folks that were thus killed, and the damsel that made right great dole thereof.
"Ha, damsel," saith he, "Weep not, but repent you of this false belief, for they that are unwilling to believe in God shall die like mad folks and devils!"
Perceval made the squires that were there within bear the bodies out of the hall, and made them be cast into a running water, and straightway slew all the other, for that they were not minded to believe. The castle was all emptied of the misbelieving folk save only the damsel and those that waited upon her, and the Christian thrall that guarded the gate. Perceval set him forth of the chain, then led him up into the hall and made him disarm him. He found sundry right rich robes. The damsel, that was of right great beauty, looked at him and saw that he was a full comely knight, and well pleased she was with him. She honoured him in right great sort, but she might not forget the three knights that were her brothers, and made sore dole for them.
"Damsel," saith Perceval, "Nought availeth it to make this dole, but take comfort on some other manner."
Perceval looked at the hall from one end to the other and saw that it was right rich, and the damsel, in whom was full great beauty, stinted of making dole to look at Perceval. She seeth that he is comely knight and gentle and tall and well furnished of good conditions, wherefore he pleaseth her much, and forthwith beginneth she to love him, and saith to herself that, so he would leave his God for the god in whom she believed, right glad would she be thereof, and would make him lord of her castle, for it seemed her that better might she not bestow it, and sith that her brothers are dead, there may be no bringing of them back, and therefore better would it be to forget her dole. But little knew she Perceval's thought, for had she known that which he thinketh, she would have imagined not this; for, and had she been Christian he might not have been drawn to love her in such sort as she thinketh, sith that Josephus telleth us that never did he lose his virginity for woman, but rather died virgin and chaste and clean of his body. In this mind was she still, nor never might she refrain her heart from him. Thinketh she rather that, and he knew she was minded to love him, right joyous would he be thereof, for that she is of so passing beauty. Perceval asketh the damsel what she hath in her thought?
" Sir," saith she, "Nought think I but only good and you will."
"Damsel," saith Perceval, "Never, please God, shall there be hindrance of me but that you renounce this evil Law and believe in the good."
"Sir," saith she, "Do you renounce yours for love of me, and I will do your commandment and your will."
"Damsel," saith Perceval, "Nought availeth to tell me this. Were you man like as you are woman, your end would have come with the others. But, please God, your tribulation shall tend itself to good."
"Sir," saith she, "So you are willing to promise me that you will love me like as knight ought to love damsel, I am well inclined to believe in your God."
"Damsel, I promise you as I am a Christian that so you are willing to receive baptism, I will love you as he that firmly believeth in God ought to love damsel."
"Sir," saith she, "I ask no more of you."
She biddeth send for a holy man, a hermit that was in the forest appurtenant, and right gladly came he when he heard the tidings. They held her up and baptized her, both her and her damsels with her. Perceval held her at the font. Josephus witnesseth us in this history that she had for name Celestre. And great joy made she of her baptism, and her affections turned she unto good. The hermit remained there with her, and taught her to understand the firm believe, and did the service of Our Lord. The damsel was of right good life and right holy, and ended thereafter in many good works.
Perceval departed from the castle, and gave thanks to Our Lord and praise, that He hath allowed him to conquer a castle so cruel and to attorn it to the Law. He went his way a great pace, all armed, until he came into a country wherein was great grief being made, and the more part said that he was come that should destroy their Law, for that already had he won their strongest castle. He is come towards an ancient castle that was at the head of a forest. He looketh and seeth at the entrance of the gateway a full great throng of folk. He seeth a squire come forth thence, and asketh him unto whom belongeth the castle.
"Sir," saith he, "It is Queen Jandree's, that hath made her be brought before her gate with the folk you see yonder, for she hath heard tell how the knights of the Raving Castle are dead, and another knight that hath conquered the castle hath made the damsel be baptized, wherefore much she marvelleth how this may be. She is in much dread of losing her land, for her brother Madeglant of Oriande is dead, so that she may no longer look to none for succour, and she hath been told how the knight that conquered the Raving Castle is the Best Knight of the World, and that none may endure against him. For this doubtance and fear of him she is minded to go to one of her own castles that is somewhat stronger."
Perceval departeth from the squire and rideth until they that were at the entrance of the gateway espied him. They saw the Red Cross that he bare on his shield, and said to the Queen, "Lady, a Christian knight is coming into this castle."
"Take heed," saith she, "that it be not he that is about to overthrow our Law!"
Perceval cometh thither and alighteth, and cometh before the Queen all armed. The Queen asketh what he seeketh.
"Lady," saith he, "Nought seek I save good only to yourself so you hinder it not."
"You come," saith she, "from the Raving Castle, there where three brothers are slain, whereof is great loss."
"Lady," saith he, "At that castle was I, and now fain would I that your own were at the will of Jesus Christ, in like manner as is that."
"By my head," saith she, "And your Lord hath so great power as is said, so will it be."
"Lady, His virtue and His puissance are far greater than they say."
"That would I fain know," saith she, "presently, and I am fain to pray you that you depart not from me until that it hath been proven."
Perceval granteth it gladly. She returned into her castle and Perceval with her. When he was alighted he went up into the hall. They that were within marvelled them much that she should thus give consent, for never, sithence that she had been blind, might she allow no knight of the New Law to be so nigh her, and made slay all them that came into her power, nor might she never see clear so long as she had one of them before her. Now is her disposition altered in such sort as that she would fain she might see clear him that hath come in, for she hath been told that he is the comeliest knight of the world and well seemeth to be as good as they witness of him.
Perceval remained there gladly for that he saw the lady's cruelty was somewhat slackened, and it seemed him that it would be great joy and she were willing to turn to God, and they that are within there, for well he knoweth that so she should hold to the New Law, all they of the land would be of the same mind. When Perceval had lain the night at the castle, the Lady on the morrow sent for all the more powerful of her land, and came forth of her chamber into the hall where Perceval was, seeing as clear as ever she had seen aforetime.
"Lords," saith she, "Hearken ye all, for now will I tell you the truth like as it hath befallen me. I was lying in my bed last night, and well know ye that I saw not a whit, and made my orisons to our gods that they would restore me my sight. It seemed me they made answer that they had no power so to do, but that I should make be slain the knight that was arrived here, and that and I did not, sore wroth would they be with me. And when I had heard their voices say that nought might they avail me as for that I had prayed of them, I remembered me of the Lord in whom they that hold the New Law believe. And I prayed Him right sweetly that, and so it were that He had such virtue and such puissance as many said, He would make me see clear, so as that I might believe in Him. At that hour I fell on sleep, and meseemed that I saw one of the fairest Ladies in the world, and she was delivered of a Child therewithin, and He had about Him a great brightness of light like it were the sun shone at right noonday."
"When the Child was born, so passing fair was He and so passing gentle and of so sweet semblant that the looks of Him pleased me well; and meseemed that at His deliverance there was a company of folk the fairest that were seen ever, and they were like as it had been birds and made full great joy. And methought that an ancient man that was with Her, told me that My Lady had lost no whit of her maidenhood for the Child. Well pleased was I the while this thing lasted me. It seemed me that I saw it like as I do you. Thereafter, methought I saw a Man bound to a stake, in whom was great sweetness and humility, and an evil folk beat Him with scourges and rods right cruelly, so that the blood ran down thereof. They would have no mercy on Him. Of this might I not hold myself but that I wept for pity of Him. Therewithal I awoke and marvelled much whence it should come and what it might be. But in anyway it pleased me much that I had seen it. It seemed me after this, that I saw the same Man that had been bound to the stake set upon a cross, and nailed thereon right grievously and smitten in the side with a spear, whereof had I such great pity that needs must I weep of the sore pain that I saw Him suffer. I saw the Lady at the feet of the cross, and knew her again that I had seen delivered of the Child, but none might set in writing the great dole that she made. On the other side of the cross was a man that seemed not joyful, but he recomforted the Lady the fairest he might. And another folk were there that collected His blood in a most holy Vessel that one of them held for it."
"Afterward, methought I saw Him taken down of hanging on the cross, and set in a sepulchre of stone. Thereof had I great pity for, so long as meseemed I saw Him thus never might I withhold me from weeping. And so soon as the pity came into my heart, and the tears into my eyes, I had my sight even as you see. In such a Lord as this ought one to believe, for He suffered death when He might lightly have avoided it had He so willed, but He did it to save His people. In this Lord I will that ye all believe, and so renounce our false gods, for they be devils and therefore may not aid us nor avail us. And he that will not believe, him will I make be slain or die a shameful death."
The Lady made her be held up and baptized, and all them that would not do the same she made be destroyed and banished. This history telleth us that her name was Salubre. She was good lady and well believed in God, and so holy life led she thereafter that in a hermitage she died. Perceval departed from the castle right joyous in his heart of the Lady and her people that believed in the New Law.
Go to Branch XXXIII