In the early days of Britain there lived a noble king, Arthur, and
his brave knights of the Round Table. The king and his knights were
famous for their feats of arms, their deeds of valor, and their many
adventures. Among them none was nobler and braver than King Arthur,
until Galahad came; but Galahad surpassed them all, because he
accomplished the feat in which so many failed–he conquered himself, as
you shall hear.
Now King Arthur held his court three times a year, at Christmas, at
Easter, and at Pentecost, in the lovely town of Camelot. Here stood
Camelot Castle, with its high towers and great jousting field in the
meadow by the river, where the knights held their tournaments and
performed their feats of arms.
At these times all the brave knights of Christendom flocked to Camelot,
and the bravest were chosen to sit at the Round Table, where they
feasted, told their adventures, and planned new deeds of valor. Here
King Arthur would charge them to commit no murder, outrage, or treason;
also to be courteous and never to refuse mercy; always to defend women
and children on pain of death; and never to fight in a wrong quarrel
for law or worldly goods; and to this he pledged both old and young
every year at the high feast of Pentecost.
In the center of the great hall of the castle, with its lofty arches
and high windows, stood the Round Table. “Merlin, the magician,” so
the tale goes, “made the Round Table in token of the roundness of the
world; for all the bravest of the world, Christian and heathen, resort
to the Round Table; and when they are chosen to be of that company,
they think themselves more happy and more in honor, than if they had
gotten half the world.”
When Merlin had made this wonderful table he said that, by the knights
who sat about it, the truth of the Holy Grail should be well known.
Now, the Holy Grail was the cup which was supposed to have been used by
our Saviour at the Last Supper, and was said to have been brought into
Britain by Joseph of Arimathea. After a time, through the sin of those
who had charge of it, this holy vessel became lost, and the knights
of the Round Table sought to recover it; but only a knight who was
perfectly blameless in thought, word, and act could hope to succeed.
When Merlin was asked who was best fitted for this quest, he said that
three blameless knights should achieve it; and that one of the three
should surpass his father as much as the lion surpasses the leopard,
both in strength and boldness.
Those who heard Merlin say this, said, “Since there is to be such a
knight, you should make by your skill a seat for him to sit in.”
Merlin answered that he would do this; and so he made the Perilous
Seat, in which no man dare sit on pain of being hurt, except the knight
for whom the seat was made. This knight was Sir Galahad, of whom the
poet Tennyson writes:
“My good sword carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.”
The tales themselves are from an old book, “Le Morte d’ Arthur,”
written by Sir Thomas Malory in the fifteenth century.
_Galahad Receives the Order of Knighthood_
One day, at Pentecost, when the tables were set, ready for the
feasting to begin, there rode into the great hall of the castle a
fair gentlewoman on horseback, her horse covered with sweat and foam.
Quickly alighting, she came to King Arthur, who was surrounded by his
knights, and saluted him.
“Damsel, God bless you,” said the king.
“Sir,” said she, “show me where Sir Launcelot is.”
“There you may see him,” said the king, pointing to the knight.
She went to Sir Launcelot and said, “Sir Launcelot, I salute you and
require that you come with me.”
“What is your will with me?” asked Sir Launcelot.
“You shall soon know and understand,” she replied.
“Well,” said he, “I will gladly go with you.”
Sir Launcelot bade his squire saddle his horse and bring his armor.
The queen then came to Sir Launcelot and asked in surprise, “Will you
leave us at the high feast?”
The gentlewoman answered for him: “Madam, he shall be with you again
to-morrow at mid-day.”
So Sir Launcelot departed with the gentlewoman and rode into a great
forest till he came to an abbey. When the squire opened the gates he
entered and descended from his horse, and there met two of his cousins,
Sir Bors and Sir Lionel, who were very glad to see him.
“Sir,” said Sir Bors, “what adventure brings you here? We thought to
see you at Camelot to-morrow.”
“A gentlewoman brought me here,” said Sir Launcelot, “but I know not
While they were talking, twelve nuns came in, bringing with them
Galahad, a youth so handsome and well-made that scarcely in the world
might men find his match; and all the ladies wept.
“Sir,” said one of the ladies, “we bring here your son, whom we have
nourished for you; and we pray you now to make him a knight, for he
could not receive the order of knighthood from a worthier man’s hand.”
Sir Launcelot looked at the young squire and thought that, for his age,
he had never seen so fine a man.
“Is this your own desire?” he asked.
“Yes,” replied his son.
“Then you shall receive the high order of knighthood to-morrow,” said
Early in the morning at Galahad’s desire he made him a knight, and
said, “God make him a good man, for he is as handsome as any man that
lives.” This he did in the presence of his two cousins and the ladies
of the abbey.
“Now, fair sir,” said he, “will you come with me to the court of King
“Sir,” said Sir Galahad, “I cannot go with you at this time, but
shortly I will come.”
Sir Launcelot then departed with his cousins and returned to Camelot,
and the king and queen and all the knights were exceeding glad to see
_The Adventure of the Sword in the Stone_
When the king and his knights entered the great hall for the feast,
they were surprised to see on the seats about the Round Table their
names in letters of gold, which told where each one ought to sit. When
they came to the Perilous Seat, they saw letters newly-written which
“Four hundred and fifty-four winters have now passed since the
birth of our Lord, and this seat ought to be filled.”
They all said, “This is a strange and a marvelous thing.”
Sir Launcelot then counted the time and said, “It seems to me this
seat ought to be filled to-day; for this is the feast of Pentecost
after the four hundred and fifty-fourth year; and, if it please all
here, let no one see these words till he arrives who ought to achieve
Then they took a silken cloth and covered the letters in the Perilous
Seat, and the king ordered the dinner to be served.
“Sir,” said Sir Kay, the steward, “if you go now to dinner you will
break an old custom of your court, for you never sit down on this day
until you have seen some adventure.”
“You speak the truth,” said King Arthur, “but I was so glad to see Sir
Launcelot and his cousins that I forgot the custom.”
While they were still speaking, a squire came in and said to the king,
“Sir, I bring you marvelous tidings.”
“What are they?” he asked.
“Sir, I saw in the river below a great stone floating on the water, and
in it a sword sticking.”
“Then,” said the king, “I will see that marvel.”
The knights went with him down to the river and saw there a stone of
red marble floating, like a great millstone, and in the middle was
stuck a beautiful sword, in the handle of which were words formed of
precious stones set in gold, which said:
“Never shall man draw me out, save the one by whose side I ought
to hang, and he shall be the best knight of the world.”
When the king read the letters, he said to Sir Launcelot, “Fair sir,
this sword ought to be yours; for I am sure you are the best knight of
“Sir,” answered Sir Launcelot soberly, “it is not my sword, nor am I
bold enough to grasp it, for it ought not to hang by my side; also,
whoever attempts to draw it and fails, will receive a wound and will
not live long after; and I am sure you must know that to-day the
adventures of the Holy Grail will begin.”
“Now, fair nephew,” said the king to Sir Gawain, “attempt it once for
“Sir,” said Sir Gawain, “I will obey your command.”
Immediately he grasped the sword by the handle, but could not stir it.
“I thank you,” said King Arthur.
“Sir Gawain,” said Sir Launcelot, “this sword will one day hurt you so
sorely that you will wish you had never put your hand to it for the
best castle of the realm.”
“Sir,” said Sir Gawain, “I might not resist my uncle’s command.”
When King Arthur heard this he was sorry, and then he bade Sir Percival
try it, who said that he would gladly, to bear Sir Gawain company.
Thereupon he took hold of the sword and drew it strongly, but he could
not even move it. After that there was no one who was bold enough to
“Now you may go to dinner,” said Sir Kay, “for you have seen a
_Sir Galahad Sits in the Perilous Seat_
The king and all the knights then returned to the castle and each
knight sat in his own place at the table, and the young men who were
not knights served them. When all were served and all the seats were
filled except the Perilous Seat, a strange thing happened; for all the
windows and doors of the castle shut by themselves; yet, for all that,
the hall was not greatly darkened.
King Arthur was the first to speak. “Fair comrades,” he said, “we have
seen marvels to-day; but methinks ere night we shall see still greater
Even while he was speaking, an old man came in, clothed all in white;
and none of the knights knew who he was or where he came from. With him
was a young knight in red armor, without sword or shield; but an empty
scabbard hung by his side.
“Peace be with you, gentlemen,” said the old man; then to King Arthur,
“Sir, I bring you a young knight who is of king’s lineage, and of the
kindred of Joseph of Arimathea; therefore the marvels of this court,
and of strange countries, shall be fully accomplished.”
[Illustration: IMMEDIATELY HE GRASPED THE SWORD BY THE HANDLE, BUT
COULD NOT STIR IT]
The king was truly glad to hear this, and said, “Sir, you are heartily
welcome, and the young knight with you.”
When the young knight had taken off his armor he stood in a coat of red
silk, and the old man put on his shoulder a mantle, furred with fine
ermine, and said: “Sir, follow me.”
Then he led the way to the Perilous Seat, beside which sat Sir
Launcelot; and then lifted up the cloth and found new letters which
“This is the seat of Sir Galahad, the good knight.”
“Sir,” said the old man, “know well this place is yours.”
Sir Galahad sat down safely in the Perilous Seat, and then said to his
guide, “Sir, you may now go your way, for you have done as you were
commanded to do; and recommend me to my grandfather, King Pelleas, and
say that I shall come to see him as soon as I may.”
When the old man departed twenty squires met him, and they took their
horses and rode away.
The knights of the Round Table wondered greatly at Sir Galahad, because
he was so youthful, and because he dared to sit in the Perilous Seat;
and they did not know where he was from, save from God, and they said,
“This is he by whom the Holy Grail shall be achieved, for no man ever
before sat there unhurt.”
Sir Launcelot looked at his son with great joy, and Sir Bors said to
his comrades, “Upon pain of my life, this young knight shall come to
There was so much noise in the hall that the queen heard it, and she
had a great desire to see the knight who dared such an adventure. When
dinner was done the king rose and went to Sir Galahad’s seat and lifted
the cloth and read his name. Then he showed it to Sir Gawain and said,
“Fair nephew, now we have among us the blameless knight who will bring
honor to us all; and, upon pain of my life, he shall achieve the Holy
Grail, as Sir Launcelot has given us to understand.”
King Arthur then came to Sir Galahad and said, “Sir, you are welcome,
for you shall move many good knights to seek the Holy Grail, and you
shall achieve what no other knight has been able to accomplish.”
_Sir Galahad Wins the Sword of Balin Le Savage_
The king then took Sir Galahad by the hand, and went down to the river
to show him the adventure of the stone, and the queen and many ladies
went with them and saw the stone floating in the water.
“Sir,” said the king to him, “here is a great marvel as ever I saw, and
right good knights have attempted it and failed.”
“Sir,” answered Sir Galahad, “that is no marvel, for the adventure is
not theirs, but mine; and because of this sword I brought none with me,
for its empty scabbard hangs by my side.”
Then he grasped the sword quickly, and drew it out of the stone, and
put it into his scabbard, and said, “Now it goes better than it did
“Sir,” said the king, “a shield also God shall send you.”
“Now,” said Sir Galahad, “I have the sword that once belonged to the
good knight, Sir Balin le Savage; with this sword he slew his brother
Balan, and that was a great pity, for neither knew that he fought his
brother until wounded to death.”
With that they saw a lady on a white horse riding along the river bank
toward them. She saluted the king and queen and asked for Sir Launcelot.
“I am here, fair lady,” said Sir Launcelot.
Then she said, weeping, “Your great doings are changed since this
“Damsel, why do you say so?” demanded Sir Launcelot.
“I say truth,” said she, “for you were to-day the best knight in the
world, but whoever said so now would be proved a liar. There is one
better than you, for you dared not grasp the sword! Therefore, I ask
you to remember that you are no longer the best knight in the world.”
“As to that,” said he, “I know well I was never the best.”
“Yes,” said the damsel, “you were, and are yet of any sinful man of
the world: and, Sir,” she said to the king, “Nacien, the hermit, sends
word of the greatest honor that ever befell king in Britain, for to-day
the Holy Grail shall appear to thee and all thy comrades of the Round
Having thus spoken, the damsel took her leave and departed the same way
that she came.
“Now,” said the king, “I am sure that all of you who sit at the Round
Table will set out in quest of the Holy Grail, and I shall never see
you together again; therefore let us go to the meadow of Camelot and
hold a tournament, so that after your death men may say that we were
all together on this day.”
To this they all agreed, and assembled with their arms in the jousting
field. Now the king wished to prove Sir Galahad and to see what he
would do. At the king’s request he put on his armor, but would not take
a shield. Then Sir Gawain begged him to take a spear, which he did. And
the queen sat in a tower with all her ladies to see the tournament.
Then Sir Galahad took his place in the field and began to break
marvelously the spears of those who rode against him, so that men
wondered. In a short while he overthrew and unhorsed many of the good
knights of the Round Table, save two, Sir Launcelot and Sir Percival.
Then the king made Sir Galahad alight from his horse and unlace his
helmet so that Queen Guinevere might see him closely. When she saw him
she said, “Truly, he is the son of Sir Launcelot, for never did two men
more resemble each other; it is no wonder that he has great valor.”
A lady who stood by said, “Madam, ought he of right to be so good a
[Illustration: THEN SIR GALAHAD TOOK HIS PLACE IN THE FIELD]
“Yes,” said she, “for he comes of the best knights in the world, and of
the highest lineage.”
_The Knights of the Round Table Set Out in Quest of the Holy Grail_
The king and all his knights then left the jousting field, and rode to
Camelot Church to evensong; and after that they went home to supper. At
supper, as each knight sat in his own place at the Round Table, there
arose a great storm, and the cracking and crying of the thunder was
so terrible that they thought the roof and walls of the castle were
In the midst of the blast a sunbeam entered the great window, seven
times whiter than the light of day. Then every knight seemed fairer
than his comrades had ever seen him, and no one dared speak for a long
while, but all looked at each other as if they had been dumb.
Then there entered on the sunbeam the Holy Grail, but it was covered
with a white silken cloth, so that no one could see it, or who bore it.
Then the hall was filled with sweet odors, and every knight had such
meat and drink as he liked best; and when the Holy Grail had been borne
through the hall, it departed as suddenly as it came and the marvelous
light with it, but no one knew where. When they had breath to speak,
the king gave thanks.
“Certainly,” said he, “we ought greatly to thank our Lord for what he
has shown us to-day at this high feast of Pentecost.”
“Now,” said Sir Gawain, “we have been served to-day with the food we
liked best, but are sorry that we did not see the Holy Grail uncovered.
Therefore, I will here make a vow to set forth on its quest to-morrow
to be gone a year and a day, or longer if need be, and I shall not
return till I have seen it more openly than to-day. If I do not find
it, I shall return again, if it be not contrary to the will of our
When the knights of the Round Table heard this, the most part of them
arose and made the same vow. But King Arthur was greatly displeased,
for he well knew that they might not break their vows.
“Alas,” said he, “your vows will nearly slay me; they will rob me of
the bravest comrades and the truest knights ever seen together in any
realm; and I foresee that we shall never meet in fellowship again,
for many of you that I have loved as well as my life will die in this
With that the tears came into his eyes, and he said, “Sir Gawain, Sir
Gawain, you have given me great sorrow, for I much doubt that my true
fellowship shall ever meet here again.”
“Ah,” said Sir Launcelot, “comfort yourself; it will bring us greater
honor than if we had died in any other quest, for of death we are sure.”
“Ah, Sir Launcelot,” said the king, “the great love I have had for
you all the days of my life makes me say such sorrowful words; for
Christian king never had so many worthy men at his table as I have had
at the Round Table to-day.”
When the queen and her gentlewomen heard these things, they were filled
with sorrow, for their knights held them in great honor and affection,
but the queen was the most sorely grieved of all.
“I marvel,” said she, “that the king will permit them to leave him.”
Thus all the court was troubled that night, and many of the ladies
desired to accompany their husbands; but an old knight arose and said
this could not be, for in so high and dangerous a service they must go
After a while they all went to rest, and Sir Galahad was put to bed in
the king’s own chamber. As soon as it was daylight the king arose, for
he had no sleep that night for sorrow. He went at once to Sir Gawain
and Sir Launcelot and said again, “Ah! Sir Gawain! Sir Gawain! You have
betrayed me, for my court will never be restored; but you will never be
as sorry for me as I am for you.”
With that the tears began to run down his face, and he said, “Ah!
knight, Sir Launcelot! I ask that you counsel me, for I wish this quest
to be undone, and it can be.”
“Sir,” said Sir Launcelot, “you saw yesterday that many worthy knights
were sworn to this quest, and they cannot break their vows.”
“That I know well,” said the king, “but my grief at their going is so
great that no joy will ever heal it.”
After the king had gone, the two knights ordered their squires to bring
their arms, and when they were armed they joined their comrades and all
went to the church to hear their service.
After the service was over the king took count of those who had taken
the vow to search for the Holy Grail and found that there were a
hundred and fifty, all knights of the Round Table.
When they had bidden the queen and their ladies farewell, they put on
their helmets and were ready to set forth, and there was weeping and
great sorrow. Then the queen departed to her chamber to hide her grief.
So the knights mounted their horses and rode through the streets of
Camelot, and there was much weeping of both rich and poor; and the king
turned away, for he could not speak for weeping.
After leaving the town, the men at arms rode all day, and toward
evening arrived at a castle called Vagon. The lord of the castle was
a good old man and he opened his gates and made them welcome and gave
them good cheer, and there they passed the night. In the morning they
all agreed that they should separate; so, bidding each other farewell,
they departed, and each knight took the way that pleased him best.
_Sir Galahad Finds a White Shield With a Red Cross_
Now Sir Galahad rode four days without adventure, for as yet he had no
shield. On the fourth day, toward evening, he arrived at a white abbey
where he was received with great honor. There he found two knights of
the Round Table, Sir Badgemagus and Sir Uwaine, who were delighted to
see him, and they went to supper together.
“Sirs,” said Sir Galahad, “what adventure brought you here?”
“Sir,” they answered, “we are told there is a shield in this place, and
whoever wears it about his neck will be wounded to death within three
days, or else be maimed forever.”
“Ah! Sir,” said Sir Badgemagus, “I shall wear it to-morrow and attempt
this strange adventure.”
“By my faith!” cried Sir Galahad.
“Sir,” said Sir Badgemagus, “if I do not achieve the adventure of the
shield, you shall try it, for I am sure you shall not fail.”
“Sir,” said Sir Galahad, “I agree right well to that, for I have no
The next day when Sir Badgemagus inquired for the shield a monk led him
behind the altar, where the shield hung as white as snow, but in the
center was a red cross.
“Sir,” said the monk, “no knight ought to hang this shield about his
neck, unless he be the worthiest in the world, therefore I counsel you
to be well-advised.”
“Well,” said Sir Badgemagus, “I know I am not the worthiest knight in
the world, yet I shall attempt to wear it.”
He then took the shield and said to Sir Galahad, “If it please you, I
pray you remain here, till you know how I succeed.”
“I shall await you here,” said he.
After riding two miles, Sir Badgemagus and his squire came to a
hermit’s house, from which a goodly knight rode forth to meet him. This
knight was in white armor, horse and all, and he came as fast as his
horse might run, with his spear in rest. Sir Badgemagus ran against
him with such violence that he broke his spear upon the white knight’s
shield; but the other struck him so hard that he broke his armor,
pierced him through the shoulder and threw him from his horse.
With that the white knight alighted and took the white shield from
him, saying, “Knight, thou hast done a foolish act, for this shield
ought not be borne save by one that shall have no equal.”
Then he said to the wounded knight’s squire, “Bear this shield to the
good knight, Sir Galahad, and greet him well for me.”
“Sir,” said the squire, “what is your name?”
“Take no heed of my name,” said the white knight; “it is not for you to
know, nor any earthly man.”
“Now, fair sir,” said the squire, “tell me why this shield cannot be
borne without injury to the bearer.”
“Now, since you ask me,” said he, “this shield belongs to no man but
Then he set the wounded man on his horse and brought him to the
hermit’s house and laid him gently in a bed, where his wound was
dressed. There he lay a long time, and hardly escaped with his life.
“Sir Galahad,” said the squire on his return, “the knight who wounded
Sir Badgemagus sends you greeting, and bids you bear this shield, for
through it great adventures shall befall.”
“Now blessed be God and fortune,” said Sir Galahad.
He then put on his armor, mounted his horse, hung the shield about his
neck and commended them to God. Sir Uwaine said that if it pleased him
he would accompany him.
“Sir,” said Sir Galahad, “that cannot be, for I must ride alone.”
After awhile he came to the hermit’s house, where he met the white
knight and saluted him courteously.
“Sir,” said he, “this shield must have seen many marvelous things.”
[Illustration: A MONK LED HIM BEHIND THE ALTAR WHERE THE SHIELD
HUNG WHITE AS SNOW, BUT IN THE CENTER WAS A RED CROSS]
“Sir,” said the knight, “the legend says that, thirty years after the
crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea, the gentle knight who took down our
Lord from the cross, departed from Jerusalem and his people with him,
and came to a city called Sarras. Now, Evelake, the king of Sarras,
had a war against the Saracens. Joseph told the king that he would be
defeated and slain unless he gave up his belief of the old law and
believed in the new.
“He then showed him the right belief, to which he agreed with all his
heart, and this white shield was made for Evelake in the name of Him
who died on the cross. After he had overcome his enemies with the help
of this shield, he was baptized and, for the most part, all the people
of the city.
“Soon after this Joseph departed from Sarras and Evelake with him;
and, so the tale goes, Joseph carried the holy vessel and Evelake the
shield, till, by good fortune, they came into the land of Britain.
“In due time Joseph lay on his death-bed and Evelake was full of sorrow
and said, ‘For thy love I left my country; now, since thou art going
out of the world, leave me some token of remembrance.’
“‘I will do that gladly,’ said Joseph; ‘bring me the shield.’
“Now Joseph made a cross on this shield with his own blood, and said,
‘Now you may know that I love you, for when you see this cross you
shall think of me, for it shall always be as clear as it is now; and no
man shall bear this shield without injury, except the good knight, Sir
Galahad, who shall do many marvelous things.’
“Now know, Sir Galahad, that this is the day set for you to have this
shield.” When he had thus spoken the white knight vanished from his
_Sir Launcelot and Sir Percival Attack Sir Galahad_
Thus equipped with a shield, Sir Galahad set out on his quest; and,
after many adventures, found himself in a vast forest. There he saw Sir
Launcelot and Sir Percival riding along, but neither knew him, for he
had newly disguised himself.
Sir Launcelot, his father, at once put his spear in rest and rode at
his son, Sir Galahad, who struck so hard in his own defense that he
threw both horse and man. Then he drew his sword to defend himself
against Sir Percival who now attacked him. He dealt him such a blow
that it broke his cap of steel; and, if the sword had not swerved, Sir
Percival might have been slain. As it was, he fell out of his saddle.
These encounters took place near the hermitage of a lady who was a
recluse. When she saw Sir Galahad ride she said, “God be with you, the
best knight of the world.”
Then she cried aloud, so that Sir Launcelot and Sir Percival might
hear, “Ah! certainly, if those two knights had known thee as well as I
do, they would not have dared the encounter.”
When Sir Galahad heard her say this, he was much afraid of being known;
so he put spurs to his horse and rode away at a great pace. Then both
knights knew that it was Sir Galahad, and quickly mounted their horses
and rode after him, but he was soon out of their sight, and they turned
back with heavy hearts.
“Let us make inquiry of yonder recluse,” said Sir Percival.
“Do as you please,” said Sir Launcelot; and then rode headlong, keeping
no path, but as wild adventure led him, and was soon lost in the depths
of the forest.
But Sir Percival went to the door of the recluse, who asked what he
“Madam,” he replied, “I am a knight of King Arthur’s court, Sir
Percival de Galis. Do you know the knight with the white shield?”
When the recluse heard his name she was exceeding glad, for she greatly
loved him, as she had a right to do, for she was an aunt of his whom he
had never seen.
“Sir,” said she, “why would you know?”
“Truly, madam,” said he, “that I may fight with him, for I am ashamed
of my defeat.”
“Ah! Sir Percival,” said she, “I see that you have a great will to be
slain as your father was through recklessness.”
“Madam,” said he, “it seems by your words that you know me.”
“Yes,” said she, “I ought to know you, for I am your aunt.”
Then Sir Percival wept, when he knew who she was.
“Ah! fair nephew,” said she, “when have you heard from your mother?”
“Truly,” said he, “not in a great while, but I often dream of her in my
“Fair nephew,” said she, “your mother is dead; for after you set out on
this quest, she fell into such sorrow that she soon died.”
“Now may God have mercy on her soul,” said he sadly, “for I was sorely
afraid of it; but we must all change our life. Now, tell me, fair aunt,
was that knight he who bore the red arms at Pentecost?”
“That is he,” said his aunt; “he is without equal, for he works by
miracle, and cannot be overcome by the hands of any earthly man.”
“Now, madam,” said he, “since I know this I will never have to do with
Sir Galahad except by way of kindness. Tell me how I may find him, for
I would much love his company.”
“Fair nephew,” said she, “you must ride to the castle of Goothe, where
his first cousin lives, and there you may lodge for the night. If you
get no word of him there, ride straight to the castle of Carbonek where
the crippled king lives and there you will hear tidings.”
Sir Percival left his aunt sorrowing, and rode till evensong when he
heard a clock strike. Then he came upon a castle closed in with high
walls and deep ditches, and knocked at the gate, but could get no word
of Sir Galahad. There he passed the night, and in the morning departed
and rode till the hour of noon.
In a valley he overtook a company of about twenty men at arms who bore
a dead knight upon a hearse. When they saw Sir Percival they asked him
who he was.
“A knight of King Arthur’s court,” he answered.
Then they cried all at once, “Kill him!”
Straightway Sir Percival struck the first to the ground and his horse
upon him. Then seven of them at once ran at him and threw him and slew
Now, had not the good knight, Sir Galahad, happened by adventure in
those parts, they would have killed or captured Sir Percival instantly.
But when he saw so many knights attacking one man, he cried, “Spare
that knight’s life!”
With that he charged the twenty men at arms as fast as his horse might
drive with spear in rest, and hurled the foremost horse and man to the
ground. When his spear was broken he seized his sword and struck out
right and left, so that it was a marvel to see. At every blow he cut
one down or wounded him, so that the rest became frightened and fled
into a thick forest and Sir Galahad followed hard after them.
When Sir Percival saw him chase them so, he knew it was Sir Galahad and
wept with rage, for his horse was dead. He ran after him afoot, crying
for him to stop while he thanked him.
But Sir Galahad rode fast after the knights he was chasing and was soon
out of sight. And as fast as he could Sir Percival went after him on
foot, crying, but could not overtake him.
_The Adventure of the Gentlewoman, the Mysterious Ship, and the Sword
of the Strange Belt_
Now, says the tale, when Sir Galahad had rescued Sir Percival, he
went into a vast forest, where he rode many journeys and found many
One day, after many weary hours on horseback, as night was falling, he
arrived at a lonely hermitage and knocked. The good man was very glad
to welcome a knight-errant and to hear his tales, and so they talked
till late. Soon after they had gone to rest, there was a knocking at
When the hermit asked who was there, a voice said, “I am a gentlewoman
who would speak with the knight that is with you.”
Then the good man awoke Sir Galahad and bade him arise and speak with
the gentlewoman, who, said he, “seems to have great need of you.” So
Sir Galahad arose and asked her wish.
“Sir Galahad,” said she, “I wish you to arm yourself, mount your horse
and follow me, and I will show you within three days the highest
adventure that any knight ever saw.”
Sir Galahad took his arms at once, mounted his horse, commended himself
to God, and bade the gentlewoman go and he would follow where she
The damsel rode as fast as her horse would gallop that night and all
the next day till they came within reach of the sea. Toward night they
halted at a castle that was enclosed with running water and high walls.
Here Sir Galahad had great welcome, for the lady of the castle was the
When he was unarmed the damsel said to the lady, “Madam, shall we lodge
“No,” said she, “but only till he has dined and slept a little.”
So he ate and slept till the maid called him, and then armed himself
by torchlight. When the maid and he were both mounted they left the
castle and rode till they reached the seaside. There they found in the
darkness a ship awaiting them, and two voices cried from on shipboard,
“Welcome, Sir Galahad; we have long waited for you.”
When he heard these words, he asked them who they were.
“Sir,” said the damsel, “Leave your horse here and I shall leave mine.”
When they entered the ship he was welcomed with great joy by those
whose voices he had heard, who were none other than Sir Bors and Sir
Percival, and he was exceeding glad of their company. As soon as they
were on board the wind arose and drove them through the sea. After a
while morning dawned and Sir Galahad took off his helmet and his sword
and asked his comrades where the ship was from.
“Truly,” said they, “you know as well as we, but of God’s grace.”
[Illustration: THE DAMSEL RODE AS FAST AS HER HORSE WOULD GALLOP
THAT NIGHT AND ALL THE NEXT DAY TILL THEY CAME IN SIGHT OF THE
Then they told of their adventures since they last parted and of their
“Truly,” said Sir Galahad, “you are much indebted to God for escaping
great dangers; and had it not been for this gentlewoman, I should
not have come here; for I never thought to find you in this strange
“Ah, Sir Galahad,” said Sir Bors, “if your father, Sir Launcelot, were
here, it seems to me we should lack nothing.”
“That may not be,” said he, “except it please our Lord.”
Now, neither Sir Percival nor Sir Bors knew the gentlewoman, for she
was veiled. By this time the ship was far distant from the land of
Britain, and, by chance, had arrived between two great rocks which were
exceeding dangerous. Neither could they land, for there was a great
whirlpool of the sea. After buffeting about, they escaped the danger
and came into a calmer sea, and there saw another ship at anchor to
which they might go in safety.
“Let us go there,” said the gentlewoman, “and we shall see adventures,
if our Lord wills.”
When they came alongside, they found a fine ship, but no one appeared
to be on board. On the stern they read these strange and dreadful words:
“Whoever enters this ship must be steadfast in his belief, for I
am faith; therefore, beware, for if thou fail, I shall not help
Then the gentlewoman asked, “Do you know who I am?”
“Truly,” said Sir Percival, “I do not know you.”
“Know well,” said she, “I am your sister, the daughter of King
Pellinore; therefore you are the man in the world I most like. If you
are not in perfect belief and enter the ship, you will perish, for it
will suffer no sin in it.”
Now, when Sir Percival knew she was his sister, he was very glad and
said, “Fair sister, I shall enter therein, for if I be worthless, or an
untrue knight, there shall I perish.”
Without further parley Sir Galahad stepped on board the strange ship,
followed by the gentlewoman, Sir Bors, and Sir Percival.
The fittings were so rich and perfect that they wondered, for they had
never seen the like. In the cabin in the midst of the ship there stood
a beautiful bed with a coverlet of fine silk, and on it at the foot lay
a great sword of marvelous beauty, which was drawn out of its scabbard
half a foot and more, as if one had tried to draw it and could not.
“Here is a mystery,” cried Sir Percival, “I shall attempt to handle the
sword.” So he tried to grasp it; but, try as he might, he could not.
“Now, by my faith,” said he, “I have failed.”
Sir Bors also set his hand to the sword and failed. Sir Galahad looked
at it more closely, and saw on it letters as red as blood which said:
“Let him who would draw me from my scabbard see that he be bolder
than other men, for whoso draweth me shall not escape injury to
his body, or wounding unto death.”
“By my faith,” said Sir Galahad, “I would like to draw this sword out
of its scabbard, but the penalty is so great that I shall not try it.”
“Sir,” said the gentlewoman, “know that all men are warned against
drawing this sword, save you.”
As they looked closer they saw that the sword-belt was made of hempen
cord of such poor account that it did not seem strong enough to bear
so heavy a weight. The scabbard was of serpent’s skin and on it were
letters of gold and silver which said:
“Whoever bears me as I ought to be borne should be bolder than
other men; for the body of him by whose side I ought to hang
shall not suffer shame while he wears this belt, and no one
shall dare change this belt except a maid who is a king’s
“Sir,” said the gentlewoman to Sir Galahad, “there was a king called
Pelleas, the maimed king, who, while he was able to ride, strongly
supported Christendom and the holy church. Upon a day he hunted in a
wood, which bordered the sea, and at last he lost his hounds and his
knights, and found this ship. When he saw the letters he entered, for
he was right perfect in his life; here he found this sword and drew
it out as far as you now see. With that, there entered a spear and
wounded him in both his thighs. His wounds have never healed and never
shall until we come to him. Thus,” said she, “was not Pelleas, your
grandfather, maimed for his boldness?”
“By my faith!” said Sir Galahad.
Then, as they stood looking at the bed in wonder, Sir Percival lifted
the coverlet and found a writing which told of the ship, by whom it was
made and how it came there, but that does not belong to this tale.
“Now,” said Sir Galahad, “where shall we find the maid who shall make a
belt strong enough to carry this sword?”
“Fair sir,” said Sir Percival’s sister, “do not fear, for I shall show
you a belt fit for such a sword.”
She then opened a box and took out a belt, wrought with golden threads,
and set with precious stones, and a rich buckle of gold.
“Lo! sirs,” said she, “here is a belt that ought to bear this sword;
for the greatest part of it is woven of my own hair, which I loved
full well when I was a woman of the world; but as soon as I knew this
adventure was appointed to me, I clipped off my hair and made this
“We are truly grateful,” said Sir Bors, “for without your help, we
should have endured much suffering.”
The gentlewoman then put the new belt on the sword.
“Now,” said the three knights, “what is the name of the sword and what
shall we call it?”
“Truly,” said she, “the Sword of the Strange Belt.”
They then said to Sir Galahad, “We pray you to gird yourself with the
sword, which hath been so long desired in the land of Britain.”
“Now let me begin,” said Sir Galahad, “to grip this sword to give you
courage; but know that it belongs to me no more than it does to you.”
He then gripped it with his fingers and drew it forth, and Sir
Percival’s sister girded him with the sword.
“Now I care not if I die,” said she, “for I have made thee now the
worthiest knight in the world.”
“Fair damsel,” said Sir Galahad, “you have done so much, that I shall
be your knight all the days of my life.”
_The Gentlewoman Risks Her Life for Another_
When they had achieved the adventure of the mysterious sword, they
returned to their own ship, and the wind arose and drove them out to
sea at a great pace. All that day and night they went before the south
wind, and on the morrow came to the borders of Scotland where they were
forced to land, for they were without food. Here, after leaving the
ship, they were attacked by wicked knights because they were of King
Arthur’s court, and had many other adventures, which are no part of
Then on a day all heard a voice which said:
“Sir Galahad, thou hast well avenged me on God’s enemies, now hasten to
the maimed king that he may receive his health, for which he has waited
On the way they came to a castle which belonged to a gentlewoman who
had lain for many years under a strange malady which no doctor could
cure. But an old man had said, “If she were anointed with the blood of
a maid who is a king’s daughter, she would recover her health.”
“Now,” said Sir Percival’s sister, when she heard this, “fair knights,
I foresee that this gentlewoman will die, unless she have part of my
Straightway the knights opposed her and Sir Galahad said, “Certainly,
if ye bleed so much ye will die.”
“Truly,” said she, “if I die to heal her, I shall have great honor and
soul’s health, and I shall do it to-morrow;” and nothing they said
could change her.
The next day, after they had heard service, Sir Percival’s sister bade
them bring the sick lady.
Then said she, “Who shall let my blood?”
So they brought a doctor who did as she desired; but she bled so much
that the dish was full, and no one could stop it.
Then she said to the sick lady, “Madam, if I come by my death to make
you well, for God’s love pray for me.”
With that she fell into a swoon. Sir Galahad, Sir Percival, and Sir
Bors quickly lifted her up and tried to staunch her blood; but she had
bled so much that she could not live.
When she awoke out of her swoon she said, “Fair brother, Sir Percival,
I must die for the healing of this lady; so I require that you bury
me not in this country, but as soon as I am dead take me down to the
sea, put me in a boat and let me go as adventure will lead me; and as
soon as you three come to the city of Sarras, there to achieve the Holy
Grail, you shall find me arrived under a tower, and there bury me in
the spiritual place. For there Sir Galahad shall be buried, and you
also, my brother, in the same place.”
When Sir Percival heard these words he promised her, weeping, and her
soul departed from the body. As they knelt beside her they again heard
a voice which said, “To-morrow early you three shall separate from each
other till the adventure bring you to the maimed king.”
The same day the sick lady was healed, but she sorrowed exceedingly for
the death of the maiden.
Sir Percival wrote a letter telling how his sister had helped them
in strange adventures and put it in her right hand. Then the knights
carried her to the sea and laid her in a boat and covered her with
silk, and the wind arose and drove the boat from the land, and they all
watched it till it was lost to their sight.
Then they returned to the castle and forthwith there fell a sudden
tempest of thunder, lightning and rain that shook the earth, and
evensong was passed ere the tempest ceased.
On the morrow the three knights separated and each went his own way.
_Sir Galahad Meets a Knight in White Armor_
The story says that after Sir Launcelot rode into the forest after Sir
Galahad and was lost, he escaped many perils, but at last came to the
water of Morteise as the night was falling. Not knowing what to do, he
lay down to sleep and await what adventure God would send him.
When he was asleep he heard a voice in a dream which said, “Launcelot,
rise up, take thine armor and enter the first ship thou shalt find.”
When he heard these words he rose up and set out toward the sea. By
good fortune he found a ship which was without sail and oars, and he
saw no one.
As soon as he was on shipboard he was filled with joy such as he had
never felt before, and in this joy he lay down and slept till daylight.
When he awoke he was astonished to see there a fair bed in which lay a
dead gentlewoman. As he looked he saw in her right hand Sir Percival’s
letter, which told who she was and what she had achieved.
There Sir Launcelot spent some days, not knowing what to do. One night
as he was sitting on the shore, he heard a horseman coming that way and
waited to see what would happen. The rider, who seemed to be a knight,
rode to where the ship was, alighted, and went on board.
Sir Launcelot went toward him and said, “Sir, you are welcome.”
The other returned his salute and asked his name, “for,” said he, “my
heart goes out to you.”
“Truly,” said Sir Launcelot, “my name is Sir Launcelot of the Lake.”
“Sir,” said the other, “then you are welcome, for you were the
beginning of me in this world.”
“Ah! Are you Sir Galahad?”
“Yes, in truth.” With that Sir Galahad leaped to the shore, kneeled
down and asked Sir Launcelot’s blessing, and then took off his helmet
and kissed him.
With great joy they told of the marvels and adventures that had
happened to them since they left the court. Sir Galahad told of the
high honor of Sir Percival’s sister, that she was the best maid living,
and that her death was a great pity. When Sir Launcelot heard how the
marvelous sword was gotten, he asked to see it, and kissed the hilt and
“Truly,” said he, “I never heard of such high and strange adventures
So Sir Launcelot and Sir Galahad spent many days together in the ship,
and served God daily and nightly with all their power; and often the
ship carried them to far islands where they met with many strange and
Upon a Monday it happened that they landed at the edge of a forest
which was by the sea. Standing by a cross of stone they saw a knight
on horseback, armed all in white, who held by his right hand a white
horse. He came to the ship, saluted the two knights and said, “Sir
Galahad, you have been with your father long enough; leap upon this
horse and ride where adventure shall lead in quest of the Holy Grail.”
Sir Galahad turned to his father and kissed him full courteously and
said, “Father, I do not know that I shall see you again till I find the
“I pray you,” said Sir Launcelot, “that you will pray our Father in
heaven to keep me in his service.”
Sir Galahad mounted his horse and then they all heard a voice that
said, “Think to do well, for the one shall never see the other till the
dreadful day of doom.”
“Now, my son, Sir Galahad,” said Sir Launcelot, “since we shall never
see each other again, I pray the high Father of heaven to preserve both
you and me.”
“Sir,” said Sir Galahad, “no prayer avails so much as yours.” So
saying, he rode into the forest and his father saw him no more.
The knight in white armor then vanished as he came, and Sir Launcelot
returned to the ship, and the wind arose and drove him many days across
the sea to a distant land. Soon after that he left the ship, which kept
on its lonely journey, until at last it arrived at the city of Sarras
with its fair burden.
Now Sir Launcelot began to long for the realm of Britain which he had
not seen for a year and more. So, commending himself to God, he rode
through many countries and came at last to Camelot.
Here he found King Arthur and Queen Guinevere; but many of the knights
of the Round Table were missing, for already more than half of them
had been slain. However, Sir Gawain, Sir Ector, and Sir Lionel had
returned, and many others who had failed in their quest of the Holy
All the court was exceedingly glad to see Sir Launcelot, who told of
his adventures since he had departed; and also those of Sir Galahad,
Sir Percival, and Sir Bors, which he knew by the letter of the dead
gentlewoman, and from Sir Galahad himself.
“Now, would God,” said the king, “that all three were here.”
“That cannot be,” said Sir Launcelot, “for two of them you shall never
see, but one of them shall come again.”
_Sir Galahad Achieves His Quest, and Bears the Holy Grail Across the
Now after Sir Galahad bade his father farewell and entered the forest,
he rode many journeys in vain. At last he found his way out of the
forest and rode five days toward the castle of the maimed king; and
ever Sir Percival followed after till he overtook him, and they went on
in company. At a crossroads they met Sir Bors who was riding alone, and
so to their great joy the three knights were together again.
“In more than a year and half,” said Sir Bors, “I have not slept ten
times in a bed, only in wild forests and mountains; but God was always
Thus they rode a long time till they came to the castle of Carbonek,
where lived Pelleas, the maimed king, who was the grandfather of Sir
When they entered the castle hall, a bed was brought in whereon lay the
good old man they had come so far to see. King Pelleas was very happy,
for he knew that the quest of the Holy Grail was about to be achieved.
“Sir Galahad,” said he, lifting up his head, “you are welcome, for I
have long prayed for your coming, but now I trust that my suffering
shall be allayed.”
Eliazar, King Pelleas’ son, then brought the broken sword with which
Joseph was wounded in the thigh after he came to Britain. Sir Bors took
the two pieces and tried to force them together again, but he could
not. Then Sir Percival tried, but he had no more power than Sir Bors.
“Now it is your turn,” said they to Sir Galahad, “for if an earthly man
can achieve it, you can.”
Sir Galahad then took the pieces and set them together, and the sword
seemed as if it had just been forged and never broken. When they
recovered from their astonishment they gave the sword to Sir Bors, for
he was a good knight and a worthy man.
A little before evening a strange thing happened; the sword became
wondrously heated so that no one could handle it, and a voice was heard
which said, “They that ought not to sit at the table of our Lord arise,
for now shall true knights be fed.”
So all went out save King Pelleas and his son and a maid who was his
niece, and the three knights; and a table of silver was before them
with the holy vessel, covered with a cloth of silk.
With that they saw nine knights all armed come in at the hall door, who
took off their armor and said to Sir Galahad, “Sir, we have ridden hard
to be with you at this table.”
“You are welcome,” said he, “but whence come you?”
Three of them said they were from Gaul, three from Ireland, and three
Upon that a voice said, “Let those among you who are not in quest of
the Holy Grail depart.” So King Pelleas and his son and niece departed.
As the knights sat waiting, it seemed to them that there appeared a man
from heaven, before the table on which the Holy Grail was, and they saw
letters in his forehead which said:
“This is Joseph, the first bishop of Christendom, whom our Lord
rescued in the city of Sarras.”
With him were angels who bore a spear which bled marvelously.
Then the knights wondered, for Joseph had died more than three hundred
“Oh, knights,” said he, “wonder not, for at one time I was an earthly
man. Now shall ye have such food as never knights tasted.”
When he had said this, he and the angels vanished, and they sat there
in great dread. Then they looked and saw, as it were, another man enter
“My knights and my servants who are come out of this earthly life, ye
shall now see a part of my secrets and my hidden things.” Then he took
the holy vessel and proffered it to Sir Galahad, who kneeled down and
partook; and so after him all the knights.
“Galahad,” said he, “dost thou know what I hold in my hands?”
“Nay,” said Sir Galahad, “unless ye tell me.”
“This,” said he, “is the holy vessel in which I ate the Last Supper,
but thou hast not seen it openly as thou shalt see it in the city of
Sarras; therefore, thou must go hence, and bear this vessel with thee.
This night it shall depart from the realm of Britain to be seen no
more, for it is not honored as it ought to be by the people of this
land, who are turned to evil living. Therefore, go to-morrow down to
the sea where you shall find a ship ready; and with you take the sword
with the strange belt, and Sir Bors and Sir Percival. Also I will that
ye take the blood of the spear and anoint the maimed king, and he shall
have his health.”
Then he gave them his blessing and vanished away. Sir Galahad went at
once to the spear which lay on the table and touched the blood with his
fingers and came to his grandfather, the maimed king, and anointed him.
Immediately he stood upon his feet a whole man, and gave thanks for his
That same night, about midnight, they heard a voice that said, “Go ye
hence as I bade you.”
“Lord, we thank thee,” said they; “now may we prove ourselves worthy.”
In all haste they took their armor, ready to depart. Now, the three
knights of Gaul were great gentlemen, and Sir Galahad said to them:
“If you come to King Arthur’s court I pray you salute my father, Sir
Launcelot, and all the company of the Round Table,” and they promised
to do so.
Sir Galahad, Sir Percival, and Sir Bors then departed and rode three
days, till they came to the seashore and found their ship. When they
went on board they saw the table of silver and the Holy Grail covered
with a cloth of red silk, and were exceeding glad to have them in their
Now, on the voyage Sir Galahad spent a long time in prayer, asking that
he might pass out of this world; he prayed so earnestly that at last a
voice said to him, “Galahad, thou shalt have thy request.”
Sir Percival heard this and asked him why he prayed for such things.
“That shall I tell you,” said he. “The other day when we saw part of
our adventures of the Holy Grail, I was filled with such joy as I
supposed no earthly man could feel; therefore, I know well that when my
body is dead, my soul shall have the great joy of heaven.”
Then he lay down and slept a great while, and when he awoke he saw
before him the city of Sarras; and as they were about to land they saw
the ship in which Sir Percival had put his sister.
“Truly,” said Sir Percival, “well has my sister kept her word.”
They first took out of their ship the table of silver and the holy
vessel, and Sir Percival and Sir Bors went before, and Sir Galahad
behind. At the city gate they saw a crooked old man. Then Sir Galahad
called him and bade him help bear the heavy table.
“Truly,” said the old man, “for ten years I have not been able to walk
“Care not,” said Sir Galahad. “Rise up and show thy good will.”
On getting up he found himself whole as he ever was; so he ran and took
hold with Sir Galahad. At once the report spread that a cripple had
been cured by a strange knight that had entered the city.
The three knights then returned to the water and brought Sir Percival’s
sister into the spiritual place, and buried her richly as a king’s
daughter ought to be.
When the king of the city, who was called Estorause, saw the three
comrades he asked them who they were and what they brought upon the
table of silver, and they told him the truth of the Holy Grail. Now the
king was a tyrant of heathen birth, and he took them and put them in
prison in a deep hole.
At the year’s end King Estorause fell sick and knew that he would die;
then he sent for the three knights and asked pardon for what he had
done, and they forgave him freely, and so he died.
When the king was dead all the city was disheartened and knew not who
might be their king. As they were in council there came a voice that
bade them choose the youngest of the three knights. So they made Sir
Galahad king with the assent of all the people of the city.
His first act was to have made a chest of gold and precious stones to
cover the holy vessel, and every morning the three comrades came to the
palace where it was kept and said their devotions.
_The Passing of Sir Galahad, The End of Sir Percival, and the Return of
Sir Bors to Camelot_
Now, after Sir Galahad had been king a year, the three friends rose
early, as was their custom, and came to the palace and saw the holy
vessel and a man kneeling there, who had about him a great company of
He called Sir Galahad and said, “Come forth, good and faithful servant,
and thou shalt see what thou hast much desired to see.”
Then Sir Galahad began to tremble greatly, for he knew his time had
“Now,” said the good man, “knowest thou who I am?”
“Nay,” said Sir Galahad.
“I am Joseph of Arimathea, whom our Lord sent here to bear thee
fellowship; for thou art like me more than any other in two things. One
is, thou hast seen the Holy Grail; and the other is, thou hast been a
blameless knight as I am.”
When he had said these words, Sir Galahad went to Sir Percival and Sir
Bors and kissed them and commended them to God, and said, “Salute me to
my father, Sir Launcelot, as soon as ye see him and bid him remember
this unstable world.”
He then kneeled before the table and prayed, and suddenly his soul
departed and a great company of angels bore his soul up to heaven. And
his two friends saw a hand take the holy vessel and bear it up to
heaven. Since then no man has ever been so bold as to say that he had
seen the Holy Grail.
* * * * *
When Sir Percival and Sir Bors saw Sir Galahad dead, they sorrowed as
much as ever did two men, and if they had not been good men they might
easily have fallen into despair; and the people of the city sorrowed
As soon as Sir Galahad was buried, Sir Percival retired to a hermitage
outside the city and Sir Bors was always with him. Thus Sir Percival
lived a year and two months, and then passed out of this world, and Sir
Bors buried him by his sister and Sir Galahad in the spiritual place.
Now, when Sir Bors saw that he was alone in a far country, as far away
as Babylon, he took his armor and departed from Sarras and entered a
ship, and so at last came to the realm of Britain and to Camelot where
King Arthur was. On his return there was great rejoicing at the court,
for they thought that he was dead, he had been so long out of the
Then King Arthur sent for the best clerks to make a chronicle of the
adventures of the good knights. Sir Bors told of Sir Percival and his
sister, and of Sir Galahad and the Holy Grail. Sir Launcelot told what
he had seen; and all the tales were written in great books and put in
the armory at Salisbury.
Sir Bors said to Sir Launcelot, “Sir Galahad, your son, saluted you
by me, and after you, King Arthur and all the court, and so did Sir
Percival; for I buried them with mine own hands in the far city of
Sarras. Also, Sir Launcelot, Sir Galahad bids you remember this
unstable world, as ye promised when ye were together more than half a
“That is true,” said Sir Launcelot; “now I trust to God his prayer
shall avail me.”
Then Sir Launcelot put his arms about Sir Bors and said, “Gentle
cousin, you are welcome to me, and all that ever I may do for you and
yours, you shall find me ready at all times, while I have life, and
this I promise you faithfully, and never to fail you: and know well,
gentle cousin, Sir Bors, that you and I will never separate while our
lives shall last.”
“Sir,” said he, “I will as ye will.”
* * * * *
“Sir Galahad was not the only knight who found the Holy Grail,” added
the Story Lady after a pause.
“But I thought from the story,” said Mary Frances, “that Sir Galahad
and his two comrades were the only ones who were permitted to find it.”
“No, there were others,” said the Story Lady. “Your own American poet,
James Russell Lowell, tells of another, Sir Launfal, who found the
Grail in a place he had never thought to look.”
The Story People listened eagerly, for they liked the tale of Sir
Galahad so much that they were ready for more; so the Story Lady told
the tale of a fourth knight who succeeded.
ONCE upon a time there was a young knight, Sir Launfal, who had read of
the success of Sir Galahad, and of the failure of many of the knights
of the Round Table. This made him very eager to try his fortune; so he
vowed that some day he too would set out in quest of the Holy Grail.
Now, Sir Launfal lived in a cold gray castle in the North Country,
whose gates were never opened save to knights or ladies of high degree,
who were as proud and haughty as himself.
One beautiful June day, Sir Launfal was in the happy mood which often
comes to people after the passing of a cold, bleak winter; a day when
it seems easy for the grass to be green, the sky to be blue, and the
heart to be brave.
On this lovely day Sir Launfal remembered his vow and called his
squire, and said, “Bring me my best armor and my golden spurs and get
my horse ready, for to-morrow I shall set out over land and sea in
quest of the Holy Grail.”
When the squire brought his shining armor, the knight put it on, and
said to himself, “I will never sleep in a bed nor lay my head on a soft
pillow till I have performed my vow.”
With that he lay down in the tall grasses by the brook, his golden
spurs by his side, to think and plan what he would do. Slowly his
eyelids closed; slowly sleep came upon him and he dreamed, and this was
It is summer. The crows flap their wings and fly by twos and threes
overhead in the deep blue sky. The cattle stand in the shallow brook,
and the water runs along with a sweet gurgling music. The little
birds sing in the branches of the trees as if trying to burst their
throats telling of the joy of living. Even the leaves seem to sing on
the trees, the earth is so beautiful and gay. But the castle stands
encircled by its high walls and deep ditch full of water, proud,
haughty and forbidding, untouched by the loveliness round about it.
The drawbridge drops over the water with a surly clang, and through the
dark arch across the bridge springs a charger, bearing Sir Launfal,
dressed in his gilded armor which gleams brightly in the sun. He is
setting forth wherever adventure may lead him in quest of the Holy
Just as he passes out, he is aware of a beggar who sits crouching
by the dark gate. The beggar is a leper; he holds out his hands and
begs an alms. The sight of so much misery fills the young knight with
loathing, but he scornfully tosses him a piece of gold and rides on.
Strange to say, the beggar leaves the gold on the ground and says,
“Better turn away empty from the rich man’s door, and take the poor
man’s crust and his blessing, than such a worthless gift as that.”
Now the scene changes; it is winter. There are no leaves on the bushes
and trees. The bare boughs rattle shudderingly as the winds sweep
through them. The brook is frozen over and the cattle are huddled in
their stalls. A single crow sits high up in a tree-top in the wintry
sunlight, and the cold snow covers the ground.
At the castle gate stands a bent old man, worn out and frail. The
wind rustles through his wiry gray hair, and blows through his ragged
clothing. He peers eagerly through the window slits at the joyous scene
within, for it is Christmas time, and then turns away.
[Illustration: SLOWLY SLEEP CAME UPON HIM AND HE DREAMED]
The bent old man is Sir Launfal. After many weary years he has returned
to his castle disappointed, for he has not found the Holy Grail, and
another heir who thinks him long dead rules in his place. He sinks
down by the gate and his mind wanders. He sees again the scenes of the
desert, the camels as they pass over the hot sands, the vain search of
the caravan for water, and then the slender necklace of grass about the
little spring as it leaps and laughs in the shade.
Suddenly he hears a voice. “For Christ’s sweet sake I beg an alms.”
Sir Launfal is startled and looks around him. There at his side he sees
the leper cowering, more wretched, more miserable, more loathsome than
before. But he does not look at him in scorn this time. Instead, he
says, “I will share with you the little that I have, for in giving to
you I shall be giving to Him who has given so much for me.”
So he divides his crust of coarse bread and gives half to the beggar,
and he goes to the brook, breaks open the ice, and gives him a drink of
water from his wooden bowl.
Then suddenly a light shines round about the place, and the leper no
longer crouches at his side, but stands a glorified figure who says:
“Lo, it is I, be not afraid!
In many climes, without avail,
Thou hast spent thy life for the Holy Grail;
Behold, it is here–this cup which thou
Did’st fill at the streamlet for me but now;
This crust is my body broken for thee,
This water His blood that died on the tree.
* * * * *
Not what we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare;
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three,
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me.”
Sir Launfal awoke, sat up and rubbed his eyes, and looked about him.
Here were the tall grasses, the brook, the cattle, just as he had left
them when he went to sleep and dreamed. He was not in rags and tatters,
but was a young knight clad in gleaming armor, his spurs at his feet.
It was not winter, but a beautiful June day, with birds flying about,
singing songs of gladness, and cattle browsing in the meadows.
Sir Launfal quickly arose and made his way into the great hall of the
castle where every one met him with surprise.
“Why, sir knight,” said his sister, “we thought by now you would be far
on your journey in quest of the Holy Grail.”
“I have found it,” cried Sir Launfal, “here at my castle gate!”
Then he laid aside his arms and said to his squire, “Hang these idle
weapons upon the walls and let the spiders weave their webs about them.
Whoever would find the Holy Grail must wear another sort of armor–the
armor of unselfish kindness.”
Now, the castle gates stand wide open and those in need are as welcome
there as the birds in the elm-tree’s branches. No matter what the
weather outside, it is summer in the castle the year round, for hearts
are happy in giving and sharing the great blessings there bestowed; and
the happiest of all is the good knight himself.
* * * * *
“So you see, Sir Launfal found the Holy Grail, and he did something
even better,” said the Story Lady as she finished the tale; “he showed
others how to find it.”
WHEN all the Story People were assembled, the Story King in his place,
Mary Frances in the blue velvet chair beside the Story Queen, the Ready
Writer with pen upraised, the Story Lady began:
“To-day we have six short stories. The first is about a school boy
named Bob, and how he conquered his worst enemies.”
* * * * *
_Bob’s Three Foes_
Thud! thud! thud! “Hit him in the eye!” “Knock the pipe out of his
mouth!” “Ha! ha! there goes his nose! I hit him that time!”
These dreadful sounds seemed to say that some barbarous piece of
cruelty was going on; but the victim was only a snow-man, which the
boys of Strappington School had set up in their playground. Truth to
tell, the snow-man did not like it much, but boys cannot be expected to
understand the feelings of a snow-man, so he bore it very patiently,
and when one snowball came in each eye, and a third in his mouth, he
never spoke a word or flinched a muscle.
But how was the schoolmaster to know that it was only a snow-man? And
what was more natural than that he should peep over the playground
wall to see what was going on? And how was little Ralph Ruddy to know
that the schoolmaster was there? And how was he to know that the
snowball which was meant for the snow-man’s pipe would land itself on
the schoolmaster’s nose? Oh, the horror that seized upon the school at
that dire event! and the dead silence that reigned in that playground!
For those were the good old times of long ago when anything that went
wrong was set right with a birch rod. Little Ralph Ruddy knew only too
well what was coming when the angry schoolmaster ordered him into the
The snow-man, of course, was left in the playground all alone. He saw
the boys troop indoors and heard some angry words and some cries of
pain and saw poor little Ralph thrust into the cold playground, and
heard the door slam behind him, and stared without once turning his
head or blinking his eyes, while the little fellow sat on the snowy
doorstep, with a knuckle screwed into each eye; and indeed the good
snow-man himself felt half inclined to cry, only the tears froze inside
before they got out of his eyes. So he couldn’t.
When the bell rang at four o’clock, the boys came out, and among them
Bob Hardy, the son of a poor farm laborer.
“A cruel shame I call it,” muttered Bob, “to whip a little chap like
that, and then shut him out in the cold. I told him Ralph Ruddy never
meant to do it, and then he caned me as well. A real brute I call him,
and I’ll pay him out, too. I declare I’ll break his bedroom windows
this very night, and let him try how he likes the winter wind!”
And Bob meant to do it, too. He climbed out of the cottage window when
all were asleep, and made his way down to the schoolhouse by moonlight,
with a pocketfull of stones, and climbed the wall of the playground,
and stood there all ready to open fire, when a voice startled him, a
sort of shivering whisper.
“Better not, Bob! Better wait a bit!” said the voice.
Bob dropped the stone and looked about, but there was no one near
except the snow-man shining weirdly in the pale moonlight. However, the
words, whoever spoke them, set Bob a thinking, and instead of breaking
the schoolmaster’s windows, he went home again and got into bed.
That was in January, and when January was done February came, as
happens in most years. February brought good fortune–at least Bob’s
mother said so, for she got a job as charwoman at the squire’s, for
which she was well paid.
It did not turn out so very well, though, after all, for the butler
said she stole a silver spoon, and told the squire so; and if the
butler could have proved what he said, the squire would have sent her
to prison; only he could not, so she got off, and Bob’s mother declared
that she had no doubt the butler took the spoon himself.
“All right,” said Bob to himself, “I’ll try the strength of my new
oaken stick across that butler’s back.”
And he meant it, too, for that very evening he shouldered his cudgel
and tramped away to the big house. And when he got there the door stood
wide open, so in he walked.
Now there hung in the hall the portrait of a queer old lady in a stiff
frill and a long waist, and an old-fashioned hoop petticoat; and when
Bob entered the house what should this old lady do but shake her head
at him! To be sure there was only a flickering lamp in the entry, and
Bob thought at first it must have been the dim light and his own fancy,
so he went striding through the hall with his cudgel in his hand.
“Better not, Bob!” said the old lady. “Better wait a bit!”
“Why, they won’t let me do anything!” grumbled Bob; but he went home
without thrashing the butler, all the same.
That was in February, you know. Well, when February was done, March
came, and with it came greater ill-fortune than ever; for Bob’s father
was driving his master’s horse and cart to market, when, what should
jump out of the ditch but old Nanny Jones’s donkey, an ugly beast at
the best of times, and enough to frighten any horse; but what must the
brute do on this occasion but set up a terrific braying, which sent
Farmer Thornycroft’s new horse nearly out of his wits, so that he
backed the cart and all that was in it–including Bob’s father–into
the ditch. A pretty sight they looked there, for the horse was sitting
where the driver ought to be, and Bob’s father was seated, much against
his wish, in a large basket full of eggs, with his legs sticking out
one side and his head the other.
Of course Farmer Thornycroft did not like to lose his eggs–who
would?–for even the most obliging hens cannot be persuaded to lay an
extra number in order to make up for those that are broken; but for
all that Farmer Thornycroft had no right to lay all the blame on Bob’s
father, and stop two shillings out of his week’s wage. So Bob’s father
protested, and that made Farmer Thornycroft angry, and then, since fire
kindles fire, Bob’s father grew angry too, and called the farmer a
cruel brute; so the farmer dismissed him, and gave him no wages at all.
We can hardly be surprised that when Bob heard of all this he felt a
trifle out of sorts, but the desire for vengeance which he felt could
hardly be justified. He went pelting over the fields, and all the way
he went he muttered to himself:
“A cruel shame I call it, but I’ll pay him out; I mean to let his sheep
out of the pen, and then I will just go and tell him that I’ve done it.”
Now, the field just before you come to Farmer Thornycroft’s sheep-pen
was sown with spring wheat, and they had put up a scarecrow there
to frighten the birds away. The scarecrow was very much down in the
world–his coat had no buttons and his hat had no brim, and his
trousers had only a leg and a half–his well-to-do relations in the
tailors’ windows would not have cared to meet him in the street at
all. But even the ragged and unfortunate have their feelings, and the
scarecrow was truly sorry to see Bob scouring across the field in such
a temper; so just as Bob passed him, he flapped out at him with one
sleeve, and the boy turned sharply round to see who it was.
“Only a scarecrow,” said he, “blown about by the wind,” and went on
his way. But as he went, strange to say, he heard, or thought he heard,
a voice call after him, “Better not, Bob! Better wait a bit!”
So Bob went home again and never let the sheep astray after all, but he
thought it very hard that he might not punish either the schoolmaster,
or the butler, or the farmer.
_Father Pan’s Revenge_
Now the folk that hide behind the shadows thought well of Bob for his
self-restraint, and they determined that they would work for him and
make all straight again; so when Bob went down to the river side next
day, and took out his knife to cut some reeds for “whistle-pipes,”
Father Pan breathed upon the reeds and enchanted them.
“What a breeze!” exclaimed Bob; but he knew nothing at all of what had
in reality happened.
Bob finished his pan-pipes, and trudged along and whistled on them to
his heart’s content. When he got to the village he was surprised to
see a little girl begin to dance to his tune, and then another little
girl, and then another. Bob was so astonished that he left off playing
and stood looking at them, open-mouthed, with wonder; but so soon as
ever he left off playing, the little girls ceased to dance; and as soon
as they had recovered their breath they began to beg him not to play
again, for the whistle-pipes, they were sure, must be bewitched.
“Ho! ho!” cried Bob, “here’s a pretty game; I’ll just give the
schoolmaster a turn. Come, that will not do him any harm, at any rate!”
Strange to say, at that very moment the schoolmaster came along the
“Toot! toot! toot! tweedle, tweedle, toot!” went the pan-pipes, and
away went the schoolmaster’s legs, cutting such capers as the world
never looked upon before. Gayly trudged Bob along the street, and gayly
danced the schoolmaster. The people looked out of their windows and
laughed, and the poor schoolmaster begged Bob to leave off playing.
“No, no,” answered Bob; “I saw you make poor little Ralph Ruddy dance
with pain. It is your turn now.”
Just then the squire’s butler came down the street. Of course he was
much puzzled to see the schoolmaster dancing to the sound of a boy’s
whistle, but he was presently more surprised to find himself doing the
very same thing. He tried with all his might to retain his stately
gait; but it was all of no use, his legs flew up in spite of himself,
and away he went behind the schoolmaster, following Bob all through the
The best sight was still to come; for the tyrannical Farmer Thornycroft
was just then walking home from market in a great heat, with a big
sample of corn in each of his side-pockets, and turning suddenly round
a corner, went right into the middle of the strange procession and
caught the infection in a moment. Up flew his great fat legs, and away
he went, pitching and tossing, and jumping and twirling, and jigging up
and down like an elephant in a fit.
How the people laughed, to be sure, standing in their doorways and
viewing this odd trio! It was good for them that they did not come
too near, or they would have been seized with the fit as well. The
schoolmaster was nearly fainting, the butler was in despair, and the
perspiration poured down the farmer’s face; but that mattered not to
Bob; he had promised himself to take them for a dance all round the
village, and he did it; and, at length, when he had completed the tour,
he stopped for just one minute, and asked the schoolmaster whether he
would beg Ralph Ruddy’s pardon, and the schoolmaster said he would if
only Bob would leave off playing. Then he asked the farmer if he would
take his father back and pay him his wages, and the farmer said he
would; and finally he asked the butler if he would give up the spoon
that he had stolen, and confess to the squire that Bob’s mother had
nothing to do with it, but the butler said, “Oh, no, indeed!”
[Illustration: AWAY WENT THE SCHOOLMASTER’S LEGS, CUTTING SUCH CAPERS
AS THE WORLD NEVER LOOKED UPON BEFORE]
So Bob began to play again, and they all began to dance again, till
at last the schoolmaster and the farmer both punched the butler until
he promised; and then Bob left off playing. The three poor men went
home in a terrible plight; and the schoolmaster begged little Ralph’s
pardon, and the butler cleared the stain from Bob’s mother’s character,
and Bob’s father went back to work, and Farmer Thornycroft soon
afterwards took Bob on too, and he made the best farm-boy that ever
* * * * *
The Story Lady rested a minute while the Story People were laughing
and talking about what they had heard. As she began again, there was
“The next story,” she said, “is that of a brave girl who lived in the