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The Romance of Morien by Jessie L. Weston

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ARTHURIAN ROMANCES

Unrepresented in Malory's "Morte d'Arthur"

No. IV.

MORIEN ARTHURIAN ROMANCES

UNREPRESENTED IN MALORY'S "MORTE D'ARTHUR"

I. SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT.

A Middle-English Romance retold in Modern Prose, with Introduction and
Notes, by JESSIE L. WESTON. With Designs by M. M. CRAWFORD. 1898. 2s.
net.

II. TRISTAN AND ISEULT.

Rendered into English from the German of Gottfried of Strassburg by
JESSIE L. WESTON. With Designs by CAROLINE WATTS. Two vols. 1899. 4s.
net.

III. GUINGAMOR, LANVAL, TYOLET, LE BISCLAVERET.

Four Lays rendered into English Prose from the French of Marie de France
and others by JESSIE L. WESTON. With Designs by CAROLINE WATTS. 1900.
2s. net. [Illustration: They deemed they had seen the Foul Fiend
himself]

MORIEN

A Metrical Romance rendered into English prose from the Mediaeval Dutch
by Jessie L. Weston, with designs by Caroline Watts. Preface

The metrical romance of which the following pages offer a prose
translation is contained in the mediaeval Dutch version of the
_Lancelot_, where it occupies upwards of five thousand lines, forming
the conclusion of the first existing volume of that compilation. So far
as our present knowledge extends, it is found nowhere else.

Nor do we know the date of the original poem, or the name of the author.
The Dutch MS. is of the commencement of the fourteenth century, and
appears to represent a compilation similar to that with which Sir Thomas
Malory has made us familiar, _i.e._, a condensed rendering of a number
of Arthurian romances which in their original form were independent of
each other. Thus, in the Dutch _Lancelot_ we have not only the latter
portion of the _Lancelot_ proper, the _Queste_, and the _Morte Arthur_,
the ordinary component parts of the prose _Lancelot_ in its most fully
developed form, but also a portion of a _Perceval_ romance, having for
its basis a version near akin to, if not identical with, the poem
of Chretien de Troyes, and a group of episodic romances, some of
considerable length, the majority of which have not yet been discovered
elsewhere. [Footnote: _Cf_. my _Legend of Sir Lancelot du Lac_;
Grimm Library, vol. xii., chapter ix., where a brief summary of the
contents of the Dutch _Lancelot_ is given.]

Unfortunately, the first volume of this compilation, which was
originally in four parts, has been lost; consequently we are without any
of the indications, so often to be found in the opening lines of similar
compositions, as to the personality of the compiler, or the material at
his disposal; but judging from those sections in which comparison is
possible, the _Lancelot_, _Queste_, and _Morte Arthur_, the entire work
is a translation, and a very faithful translation, of a French original.
It is quite clear that the Dutch compiler understood his text well, and
though possibly somewhat hampered by the necessity of turning prose into
verse (this version, contrary to the otherwise invariable rule of the
later _Lancelot_ romances, being rhymed), he renders it with remarkable
fidelity. The natural inference, and that drawn by M. Gaston Paris,
who, so far, appears to be the only scholar who has seriously occupied
himself with this interesting version, is that those episodic romances,
of which we possess no other copy, are also derived from a French
source. Most probably, so far as these shorter romances are concerned,
the originals would be metrical, not prose versions, as in the case of
the _Lancelot_ sections.

It is true that with regard to the romance here translated, _Morien_,
the Dutch scholars responsible for the two editions in which it has
appeared, MM. Jonckbloet and Te Winkel, the former the editor of the
whole compilation, the latter of this section only, are both inclined to
regard the poem as an original Dutch composition; but M. Gaston Paris,
in his summary of the romance (_Histoire Litteraire_, vol. xxx. p. 247)
rejects this theory as based on inadequate grounds. It must be admitted
that an original Arthurian romance of the twelfth or thirteenth century,
when at latest such a poem would be written, in a language other than
French, is so far unknown to us; and although as a matter of fact the
central _motif_ of the poem, the representation of a Moor as near akin
to the Grail Winner, Sir Perceval, has not been preserved in any known
French text, while it does exist in a famous German version, I for one
find no difficulty in believing that the tradition existed in French,
and that the original version of our poem was a metrical romance in that
tongue.

So far as the story of _Morien_ is concerned, the form is probably later
than the tradition it embodies. In its present shape it is certainly
posterior to the appearance of the Galahad _Queste_, to which it
contains several direct references; such are the hermit's allusion to
the predicted circumstances of his death, which are related in full in
the _Queste_; the prophecy that Perceval shall "aid" in the winning
of the Holy Grail, a quest of which in the earlier version he is sole
achiever; and the explicit statements of the closing lines as to
Galahad's arrival at Court, his filling the Siege Perilous, and
achieving the Adventures of the Round Table. As the romance now stands
it is an introduction to the _Queste_, with which volume iii. (volume
ii. of the extant version) of the Dutch _Lancelot_ opens.

But the opening lines of the present version show clearly that in
one important point, at least, the story has undergone a radical
modification. Was it the Dutch translator or his source who substituted
Agloval, Perceval's brother, for the tradition which made Perceval
himself the father of the hero? M. Gaston Paris takes the former view;
but I am inclined to think that the alteration was already in the
French source. The Grail of Sir Agloval's vision is the Grail of Castle
Corbenic and the _Queste_; unless we are to consider this vision as the
addition of the Dutch compiler (who, when we are in a position to test
his work does not interpolate such additions), we must, I think, admit
that the romance in the form in which it reached him was already at a
stage in which Perceval could not, without violence to the then existing
conception of his character, be considered as the father, or the
brother, of Morien. To reconstruct the original story it would be
necessary not merely to eliminate all mention of Agloval, as suggested
by M. Gaston Paris, but the Grail references would also require
modification. As it stands, the poem is a curious mixture of conflicting
traditions.

In this connection it appears to me that the evidence of the _Parzival_
is of primary importance; the circumstances attending the birth of
Feirefis are exactly parallel with those of Morien--in both a Christian
knight wins the love of a Moorish princess; in both he leaves her before
the birth of her son, in the one case with a direct, in the other with
a conditional, promise to return, which promise is in neither instance
kept; in both the lad, when grown to manhood, sets out to seek his
father; in both he apparently makes a practice of fighting with every
one whom he meets; in the one version he is brother, in the other son or
nephew, to Perceval. The points of difference are that whereas Morien is
black all over, save his teeth, Feirefis is parti-coloured, black and
white--a curious conception, which seems to point to an earlier
stage of thought; Morien is a Christian, Feirefis a heathen--the more
probable version.

It is easy to understand why the hero ceased to be considered Perceval's
son--the opening lines of the poem describe the situation perfectly; but
I do not think it has been sufficiently realised that precisely the same
causes which would operate to the suppression of this relationship would
equally operate to the suppression of that of the _Parzival_. Perceval,
the virgin winner of the Grail, could not have a _liaison_ with a
Moorish princess, but neither could Perceval's father, the direct
descendant of Joseph of Arimathea, and hereditary holder of the Grail.
The _Early History_ of that talisman, as related by Robert de Borron,
once generally accepted, the relationship of _brother_ was as impossible
as that of _son_.

It seems clear that if a genuine tradition of a Moor as near kinsman to
Perceval really existed--and I see no reason to doubt that it did--it
must have belonged to the Perceval story prior to the development of
the Grail tradition, _e.g._, to such a stage as that hinted at by the
chess-board adventure of the "Didot" _Perceval_ and Gautier's poem, when
the hero was as ready to take advantage of his _bonnes fortunes_ as
other heroes of popular folk tales.

Further, judging from these stories it would seem probable that the
requisite modification began with the earlier generation, _i.e._,
Perceval himself still retaining traces of his secular and folk-tale
origin, while his father and mother have already been brought under the
influence of the ecclesiasticised Grail tradition. That this would be
the case appears only probable when we recall the vague and conflicting
traditions as to the hero's parentage; it was Perceval himself, and not
his father or his mother, who was the important factor in the tale;
hence the change in his character was a matter of gradual evolution.
Thus I am of opinion that the Moor as Perceval's brother is likely to be
an earlier conception than the Moor as Perceval's son. It is, I think,
noticeable that the romance containing this feature, the _Parzival_,
also, contrary to the _Early History_ versions, connects him with the
Grail through his mother, instead of through his father.

The _Morien_ is for me a welcome piece of evidence in support of the
theory that sees in the poem of Wolfram von Eschenbach the survival of
a genuine variant of the _Perceval_ story, differing in important
particulars from that preserved by Chretien de Troyes, and based upon a
French original, now, unfortunately, lost.

For this, if for no other reason, the poem would, it seems to me, be
worth introducing to a wider circle of readers than that to which in its
present form it can appeal. The students of old Dutch are few in number,
and the bewildering extent of the _Lancelot_ compilation, amounting as
it does, even in its incomplete state, to upwards of 90,000 lines, is
sufficient in itself to deter many from its examination. _Morien_ in its
original form is, and can be, known to but few. But not only does it
represent a tradition curious and interesting in itself, it has other
claims to attention; even in a translation it is by no means ill
written; it is simple, direct, and the adventures are not drawn out
to wearisome length by the introduction of unnecessary details. The
characterisation too, is good; the hero is well realised, and Gawain,
in particular, appears in a most favourable light, one far more in
accordance with the earlier than with the later stage of Arthurian
tradition; the contrast between his courteous self-restraint and the
impetuous ardour of the young savage is well conceived, and the manner
in which he and Gareth contrive to check and manage the turbulent
youth without giving him cause for offence is very cleverly indicated.
Lancelot is a much more shadowy personage; if, as suggested above, the
original story took shape at a period before he had attained to his
full popularity, and references to his valour were added later we can
understand this. It is noticeable that the adventure assigned to him is
much less original in character, and told with far less detail than that
ascribed to Gawain.

The romance as we have it presents, as remarked before, a curious
mixture of earlier and later elements. None of the adventures it relates
are preserved in any English text. Alike as a representative of a lost
tradition, and for its own intrinsic merit it has seemed to me, though
perhaps inferior in literary charm to the romances previously published
in this series, to be yet not unworthy of inclusion among them.

BOURNEMOUTH, _July_ 1901 Morien _Herein doth the adventure tell of a
knight who was named Morien. Some of the books give us to wit that he
was Perceval's son, and some say that he was son to Agloval, who was
Perceval's brother, so that he was nephew unto that good knight. Now we
find it written for a truth that Perceval and Galahad alike died virgin
knights in the quest of the Holy Grail; and for that cause I say of
Perceval that in sooth he was not Morien's father, but that rather was
Morien his brother's son. And of a Moorish princess was he begotten at
that time when Agloval sought far and wide for Lancelot, who was lost,
as ye have read here afore._

_I ween that he who made the tale of Lancelot and set it in rhyme
forgot, and was heedless of, the fair adventure of Morien. I marvel much
that they who were skilled in verse and the making of rhymes did not
bring the story to its rightful ending._ Now as at this time King Arthur
abode in Britain, and held high court, that his fame might wax the
greater; and as the noble folk sat at the board and ate, there came
riding a knight; for 'twas the custom in Arthur's days that while the
king held court no door, small nor great, should be shut, but all men
were free to come and go as they willed.

Thus the knight came riding where the high folk sat, and would fain have
dismounted, but so sorely was he wounded that he might not do so. In
sooth he was in evil case, for he had more than ten wounds, and from the
least of them a man might scarce recover; he came in such guise that his
weapons and his vesture and his steed, which was fair and tall, were
all dyed red with his own blood. The knight was sad at heart and sorely
wounded, yet he greeted, as best he might, all the lords then in the
hall; but more he might not speak, for the pain of his wounds.

Then my lord, Sir Gawain, who did full many a courtesy (for such was his
wont all his life long), so soon as he saw the knight, sprang up with no
delay, and lifted him from the saddle and set him upon the ground, but
he might neither sit, nor walk, nor so much as stand upon his feet, but
fell upon the earth.

Then Sir Gawain bade them carry him softly on a couch to the side of the
hall in the sight of the chief guests, that they might hear his tale.
But since he might scarce speak he made him to be disarmed, and stripped
to the skin, and wrapped in warm coverings and gave him a sop
steeped in clear wine.

Then Sir Gawain began to search his wounds, for in those days, so far
as God suffered the sun to shine might no man find one so skilled in
leech-craft, for that man whom he took in his care, were the life but
left in him, would neither lack healing nor die of any wound.

Then spake the knight who lay there: "Woe is me, for I may neither eat
nor drink; my heart beginneth to sink, mine eyes fail me, methinks I am
about to die! Yet might I live, and would God grant to me that all ye
who sit here beside me might hear my words, I had fain spoken with the
king, whom I sought as best I might, in that I would not be forsworn;
needs must I come hither!"

Then quoth Sir Gawain the good: "Sir Knight, have ye no dread of death
as at this time, for I shall help you to a respite." He drew forth from
his pouch a root that had this virtue, that it stayed the flow of blood
and strengthened the feeble; he placed it in the knight's mouth, and
bade him eat a little; therewith was his heart lightened, and he began
to eat and to drink, and forgat somewhat of his pain.

Erst when the service was ended came King Arthur to the knight as he
lay, and said: "God give ye good-day, dear Sir Knight; tell me who hath
wounded ye so sorely, and how came ye by your hurt? Did the knight who
wrought such harm depart from ye unscathed?"

Then spake the knight to the king, who stood before him: "That will I
tell ye, for I am sworn and pledged thereto. 'Tis seven years past that
I lost all my goods, and poverty pressed me so sorely that I knew not
what I might do. Thus would I keep myself by robbery. My tithes had I
sold, I had spent all my goods, and pledged all my heritage, so that of
all that my father left when he departed from this world there remained
to me nothing. Naught, not a straw, had I left. Yet had I given much in
largesse, for I had frequented many a tourney and Table Round where I
had scattered my goods; whosoever craved aught of me, whether for want
or for reward, were he page, were he messenger, never did he depart
empty-handed. Never did I fail any who besought aid of me. Thus I spent
all my goods. Then must I fare through the land; and did I meet folk
(though at first I shamed me) whomsoever I met, whether pilgrim or
merchant, did he bear goods or money with him, so did I deal with him
that I won it for myself. But little might escape me. I have done many
an evil deed! Now is it three days past since, as I fared on my way, a
knight met me, and I deemed his steed so good that I coveted it above
all things, but when I laid hands upon the bridle and bade the knight
dismount then was he ready with his sword and repaid me with such a blow
that I forgot who I was and all that had befallen me; so fierce was the
stroke he dealt me! And though I betook me to arms they profited me not
a jot; his blows were so heavy, they weighed even as lead. He pierced
through my harness, as ye may see in many places, smiting through flesh
and bone. But from me did he receive no blow that might turn to his
loss. Therefore must I yield myself to him, and swear by my troth, would
I save my life, to come hither to ye as swiftly as I might, and delay no
whit, but yield me your prisoner. And this have I now done, and I yield
myself to your grace, Sir King, avowing my misdeeds that I have wrought
in this world, whether in thought or deed."

Then quoth the king: "Wit ye well who he was, and how he was hight, who
sent ye hither? Of what fashion was his steed, and what tokens did he
bear?"

And the knight answered: "Of that ye would ask me may I tell ye naught,
save only that the knight's steed and armour were red as blood, and he
seemed to me of Wales by his speech, and by all I might discern of him.
Thereto is he of such might that I ween his equal may scarce be found in
Christendom; that may I also say in truth, since such ill chance befell
me that I met with him when my intent was evil, and not good."

Then King Arthur cried aloud that all might hear him, that the knight
was surely none other than Sir Perceval. He tore his hair, and demeaned
himself as one sorely vexed, and spake: "Though I be lord of riches yet
may I say that I am friendless! This may I say forsooth; since I lost
Perceval, and the ill chance befell me that he had the will and the
desire to seek the Grail and the spear (which he may not find) many a
wounded knight hath he sent as captive to my court, whom, for their
misdoing, he hath vanquished by his might. Ever shall he be thanked
therefor. Now have I no knight so valiant of mind that for my sake will
seek Perceval and bring him to court. Yet I and my court and my country
alike are shamed and dishonoured in that we have so long lacked his
presence, and for this am I above measure sorrowful."

Then spake Sir Kay the seneschal: "God-wot I shall fetch Perceval,
whether he will or no, and bring hither to court him whom ye praise so
highly, and believe me well, were he wrought of iron, by the God who
made me I will bring him living or dead! Does this content ye, my lord
king?"

Then stood Arthur and laughed aloud, and likewise did all the knights
who heard Sir Kay speak. And the king said: "Sir Kay, let this talk be;
ye should of right be shamed when ye hear the Welshman's name! Have ye
altogether forgot how ye boasted yourself aforetime, even as ye have now
done, and then how ye met Perceval, whom ye had scarce sought? There
were ye ill-counselled; ye thought to bring him without his will,
but the knight was not so feeble, he gave ye a blow that brake your
collar-bone and thrust ye from your steed, feet upward, with little
honour! Had he so willed he had slain ye. Idle boasting is great shame.
An I hear ye make further boast of seeking knights I shall owe ye small
thanks. Little would he heed your compelling! In such quest must another
ride would I be comforted by the coming of this knight!"

Quoth Sir Gawain, "Ye mind me of an old saying, Sir Kay, how if some men
grow old, and God should spare them even to an hundred years, then would
they be but the more foolish--such an one, methinks, are ye! Now believe
ye my tale; did ye once find Perceval, an ye thought to say to him other
than he chose to hear, by the Lord above us ye dare not do it for the
king's crown, who is lord of this land, he would put ye to such great
shame! Of long time, and full well, do I know his ways! When he is well
entreated, and men do naught to vex him, then is he gentle as a lamb,
but an ye rouse him to wrath then is he the fiercest wight of God's
making--in such wise is he fashioned. Gentle and courteous is he to all
the world, rich and poor, so long as men do him no wrong, but let his
temper be changed, and nowhere shall ye find his fellow!"

After this manner also spake Sir Lancelot, and all who were in the hall
took up the word of Sir Gawain, and praised Perceval. But there were
many in the court heavy at heart, and sore vexed with the king their
lord for that he held them so cheap.

Quoth the Father of Adventure, "By the might of our Lord, and by His
name, who ruleth in heaven, henceforth I will not rest in one place more
than one night or two, but will ride ever till I have found Perceval, or
learnt certain tidings of his doings; and I will bring him to court an
he be minded to ride with me--further will I not vaunt myself."

Then spake Arthur, "God wot, here have I both joy and sorrow. Fain am I
to behold Perceval, an such fortune befall me, and ill may I spare thee.
Thus have I joy and sorrow. Yet, nephew, trow me well, I were loth to
bid thee break thine oath; now, therefore, make ready as befits thee,
and depart as swiftly as may be, and seek me Perceval."

With these words up sprang Sir Lancelot of the Lake, and stepped
forward, and spake, and said he would adventure himself and take what
fortune should send, and go seek Perceval hither and thither through all
lands; "And may I but find that proud knight, an it lieth in my power,
hither will I bring him! Now will I make me ready, and ride hence
without longer tarrying; methinks, from the king's word, an he have
Perceval he shall be freed from care--so will I ride hence for his
honour."

Quoth Arthur the king: "Sir Lancelot, of this thing it behoves ye take
better rede; lightly might it turn to my shame if all my knights rode
forth, and I thereafter were beset with strife and warfare, as full oft
hath chanced aforetime! So might it in sooth be mine undoing. It hath
chanced afore this that I had lost crown and lands, save for my knights;
by them have I been victorious!"

Quoth Sir Lancelot: "By the Lord who made me, and who shall be
Doom's-man at the last day, come what may thereof, since Sir Gawain
rideth hence 'tis not I will bide behind! Rather will I try what may
chance, and adventure all that God hath given me, for he sought me with
all his power when I was in secret case, and brought me once more to
court--for that do I owe him faith and fellowship."

Then they all wept, wives and maidens, knights and squires, when they
knew Sir Lancelot would ride thence.

Sir Gawain, who forgat not the wounded knight and his need of healing,
went to him as he lay, and bound up his wounds, and so tended him at
that time that he was healed ere long--needs must he be healed, even
against his will, on whom Sir Gawain laid hands. All they of the court
were sad and sorry at their departing; that eve they ate but little, for
thinking of the knights who should ride forth with the morning.

But now will we be silent on their lamentations, and tell henceforth of
Sir Gawain and Sir Lancelot, who rode both on their way.

* * * * *

The adventure doeth us to wit that in the morning, so soon as it was
day, they rode forth together through many a waste land, over many a
heath and high hill, adown many a valley to seek Sir Perceval, but
little did it profit them, for of him might they learn naught. Thus were
they sorely vexed.

On the ninth day there came riding towards them a knight on a goodly
steed, and well armed withal. He was all black, even as I tell ye: his
head, his body, and his hands were all black, saving only his teeth. His
shield and his armour were even those of a Moor, and black as a raven.
He rode his steed at full gallop, with many a forward bound. When he
beheld the knights, and drew nigh to them, and the one had greeted the
other, he cried aloud to Sir Lancelot: "Knight, now give me to wit of
one thing which I desire, or guard ye against my spear. The truth will I
know. I shall tell ye herewith my custom; what knight soever I may meet,
were he stronger than five men, and I knew it well, yet would I not hold
my hand for fear or favour, but he should answer me, or I should fight
against him. Now, Sir Knight, give me answer, by your troth, so truly as
ye know, to that which I shall ask ye, and delay not, otherwise may ye
well rue it!"

Quoth Sir Lancelot: "I were liefer dead than that a knight should force
me to do that to which I had no mind--so were the shame equal. Hold to
your custom an ye will; I were more fain to fight than to let ye be, if
but to fell your pride. I ask naught but peace, yet will I chastise your
discourtesy, or die in that will!"

The Moor, who was wroth with Sir Lancelot, abode not still, but reined
back his steed, and laid his spear in rest as one who was keen to fight.
Sir Gawain drew on one side, since the twain would fight, and thought in
himself, as was right and courteous, that it were folly, and the custom
of no good knight, for twain to fall on one man, since life stood not at
stake. 'Twere time enough for him to take hand therein, and stand by his
comrade, did he see him hard pressed. Therefore stood Sir Gawain still,
as one who had no mind to fight, nor to break the laws of courtesy.
Nevertheless he deemed that this was a devil rather than a man whom they
had come upon! Had they not heard him call upon God no man had dared
face him, deeming that he was the devil or one of his fellows out of
hell, for that his steed was so great, and he was taller even than Sir
Lancelot, and black withal, as I said afore.

Thus came the two together, the Moor and Sir Lancelot; each had a great
spear and brake it in two, as a reed, yet neither felled the other, but
each abode upon his steed. Then each drew his sword from its sheath, and
set to work therewith, and of a sooth, had not God Himself so willed it
both had died there; so mighty were their strokes that by right no man
should escape alive. Had it been midnight, and dark as night is wont to
be, yet had ye seen the grass and the flowers by the light of the sparks
that flew so thick from helmet and sword and fell upon the earth. The
smith that wrought their weapons I say he wrought them not amiss, he
merited a fairer reward than Arthur ever gave to any man for such
desert.

The knight and Sir Lancelot, neither would yield to the other till Sir
Gawain parted them by his prayer, and made them withdraw each from the
other, for great pity he deemed it should either there be slain; yet so
fell were the blows that they smote, and so great their wrath withal,
that he saw well did the strife endure but short while longer they had
received such wounds as should be the death of one, or it might well be
of both.

When Sir Gawain had parted the twain, whom he saw to be weary enow, he
spake to the Moor: "'Tis an ill custom this to which ye are given; ye
shall here renounce it. Had ye but asked in courteous wise that which ye
have a mind to know, this knight had hearkened, and had answered ye of
right goodwill; he had not refused, that do I know well. Ye be both rash
and foolish, and one of the twain, ye, or he, shall lose by it, and from
that do I dissent, an ye show me not better reason therefore."

Quoth the Moor: "How come ye to speak thus to me? Wot ye that I be
afraid to fight against the twain of ye; or that I have held my hand
through fear of death? Were the one of ye Sir Lancelot, and the other
King Arthur's sister's son (these twain are wont to be praised above all
in Arthur's court as I have ofttimes heard, though never have I seen
them), yet would I not yield a foot to them!"

Then thought Sir Gawain with himself, "We were foolish and unwise an we
failed to show courtesy to one who praises us so highly."

But Sir Lancelot had great lust either to win the fight or to play it to
a loss, and Sir Gawain, who was well ware of this, prayed him straitly,
by the love he bare to him, and to King Arthur his lord, that for their
honour he should hold his peace awhile, and let him say his will: "And
this I charge ye, by the faith ye owe to my lady, my uncle's wife."

Sir Lancelot spake: "Of a sooth, an ye had not thus charged me I should
have avenged myself or here been slain, in that this knight forced the
strife upon me without cause, and loaded me with blows; but in that ye
so conjure me, I am he that will harm no man for profit to myself save
that he first attack me. And since it seemeth good to ye I will e'en lay
the strife in respite. God grant me good counsel therein, since I do it
not for cowardice, but for love of ye and for your prayer."

Thus stood the three in the open, and Sir Gawain spake to the Moor: "Ye
be foolish in that ye do such things--now, neither we nor ye are harmed,
yet might ye lightly do that which should cost ye your life. Tell me
what ye seek, and I will give ye good counsel withal. If I may I shall
tell ye that which ye should courteously have asked of this knight, who
never yet was so hardly bestead by any man that he fell from his steed."

Quoth the Moor: "Ye say well. Now I pray ye by all who own the laws of
knighthood, and by Sir Gawain afore all, since he is reckoned the best,
he and Sir Lancelot, wherever it may be, in whatever need, far and wide
throughout the world, of all men are these twain most praised (I myself
know naught save that which I have heard tell), know ye aught of Sir
Agloval, brother to Sir Perceval of Wales? Of him have I asked many,
this long while past; I have ridden hither and thither this half year,
and here and there have I sought him. For this have I dared many
a peril, and here will I lie dead save that ye twain tell me, in
friendship or in fight, if ye know aught of Sir Agloval. Now have we had
enow of this talk; 'tis full time ye answer, or we take up our strife
once again, and see the which of us hath the sooner his full."

Sir Gawain hearkened, and smiled at the black knight's speech, and spake
soothfastly: "Now tell me what ye will of Sir Agloval that ye thus seek
him, and thereafter will I tell ye that which I know."

And the Moor answered straightway: "So will I tell ye all. Sir Agloval
is my father, 'twas he begat me. And more will I tell ye; it chanced
aforetime as ye may now learn, when he came into the land of the Moors;
there through his valiant deeds he won the heart of a maiden, she was my
mother, by my troth. So far went the matter between them through their
words and through his courtesy, and because he was so fair to look upon,
that she gave him all his will--the which brought her small reward, and
great sorrow. Each plighted their troth to the other ere she granted
him her favours. Therein was she ill-counselled, for he forsook her
thereafter--'tis more than fourteen years past; and when he parted from
her she bare me, though he knew it not. He told her his quest, whereof
he was sore troubled, and how it came about that he must needs leave
her, and that will I now tell ye. My father was seeking a noble knight,
who was lost as at that time, and who was hight Sir Lancelot. Still more
may I tell ye; he told my mother that he and many of his fellows had
sworn a great oath to seek Sir Lancelot, and their quest should endure
two years or more an they found him not, or could learn no tidings of
him. Nor should they tarry in any land more than one night or two. This
vexed my father sorely, that for this cause, and to keep his oath, he
must needs leave my mother. But ere he departed he sware to her that he
would return when he had achieved his quest; but he kept not his oath.
Thus have I sought him in many a court. All this did my lady mother tell
me, and also of the troth-plight. Little good hath it done me that he be
my father, and that he sware to my mother, ere he departed, that for her
honour, and for her profit, he would return to her without fail. Doth he
live, God send him mocking (this I pray in all humility), but an he be
already dead, then may God forgive him his sins. I and my mother are
disinherited, since that he hath deserted us, of great goods and of
a fair heritage, that which fell to her from her father have we lost
altogether. It hath been denied us by the law of the land. Thereto was I
greatly shamed, for they called me fatherless, and I could shew naught
against it, nor tell them who it was that begat me, since my father had
thus fled. So did I cause myself to be dubbed knight, and sware a great
oath (I were loth to break it) that never should I meet a knight but I
would fight him, or he should tell me if he perchance knew any tidings
of my father, that I might learn somewhat concerning him. Did I meet
mine own brother, I would not break mine oath, nor my vow; and till now
have I kept it well, nor broken it by my default. And here would I bid
ye twain, if ye would part from me in friendship, that ye tell me what
ye may know thereof, out and out, by your troth, and therewith end this
talk. Otherwise let us end this matter even as we began it, for there
liveth no knight under the sun for whom I would break mine oath, were it
for my hurt, or for my profit."

Then was there neither of the twain, Sir Gawain nor Sir Lancelot, but
the tears fell from their eyes when they heard the knight's tale. Such
pity had they for him, they waxed pale, and red, and discovered their
faces, when they heard his plaint.

Quoth Sir Lancelot: "By my good days, nevermore will I be wrathful, nor
bear rancour against ye for any lack of courtesy; ye need no longer
stand on guard against me, my heart is not evil towards ye, and we will
counsel ye well."

Then was the black knight blithe, and drew near to Sir Lancelot, and
bared his head, which was black as pitch; that was the fashion of his
land--Moors are black as burnt brands. But in all that men would praise
in a knight was he fair; after his kind. Though he were black, what was
he the worse? In him was naught unsightly; he was taller by half a foot
than any knight who stood beside him, and as yet was he scarce more than
a child! It pleased him so well when he heard them speak thus of Sir
Agloval that he knelt him straightway on the earth; but Sir Gawain
raised him up, and told him their tidings, how they were but as
messengers, and belonged to the court of King Arthur, which was of high
renown, and that they rode at that time seeking Sir Perceval and Sir
Agloval, since the king desired them both. "And his mind is to see and
speak with them; may we by any means persuade those noble knights we
shall return straightway to the king's court, an it be so that they will
ride with us (further will we not vaunt ourselves, 'tis of our good
will, and their pleasure), thereby shall the king be the more honoured.
They belong to the Round Table, and have done so of long time; both are
of the king's court, and knights of high renown. Now an ye will work
wisely, and shun your own harm, ye will mount, and ride to King Arthur's
court, and delay not. I hope in God that Sir Agloval shall come thither
within short space, or that ye shall hear tidings of him; for there come
full oft tidings from afar. Go ye to court without tarrying, the king
will receive ye well. Tell him, and give him to wit who ye be, and
whence ye come, and the quest upon which ye ride; he will not let ye
depart ere we come and bring with us your father, an God prosper us.
Should ye ride thus through the land, and fight with every knight whom
ye may meet, ye will need great good fortune to win every conflict
without mischance or ill-hap! They who will be ever fighting, and ne'er
avoid a combat, an they hold such custom for long, though at whiles they
escape, yet shall they find their master, who will perforce change their
mood! Now Sir Knight do our bidding, for your own honour's sake, and
ride ye to court; grant us this grace, for ere ye have abode long time
there I hope that ye shall behold your father or receive tidings of him.
But till that time abide ye at the court, there shall ye be well at ease
in many ways. Now promise us this; we shall seek your father, and may we
find him, and God give us honour in our quest, then will we return as
swiftly as may be, and rejoice ye and the king!"

When the Moor heard these words he laughed with heart and mouth (his
teeth were white as chalk, otherwise was he altogether black), and he
spake, "God our Father reward ye, noble knights, for the good will and
the honour ye have done me, and also for the great comfort wherewith ye
have lightened mine heart that long hath been all too heavy. An my steed
fail me not I shall ride whither ye bid me to this king whom ye praise
so highly."

With that he pledged to the knights hand and knighthood, and called
God to witness that he would do their bidding, faithfully, and without
dispute, so long as he might live.

Then quoth Sir Lancelot: "Knight, an ye be in any need, when ye come
into Arthur's land,--I ween 'tis all unknown to ye,--speak but of
us twain whom ye see here and men shall do ye naught but honour and
courtesy, where'er ye come, in any place. And when ye come to the king,
ere ye tell him aught beside, say that ye have seen and have spoken with
us; and trow me, without fail, ye shall be well received!" The Moor
spake: "'Tis well said--God reward ye for this courtesy; but were it
your will and pleasing to ye that I knew the names of ye two then
i'sooth were I the blither withal!"

Then straightway Sir Gawain did him to wit who they were, and how they
were hight; and the Moor made no delay, but fell on his knees before
them. Sir Gawain raised him up, but the Moor laid his hands together and
spake, "God the Father of all, and Ruler of the World, grant that I may
amend my misdoing to your honour. Sir Lancelot, very dear lord, I own
myself right guilty, for I did evil, and naught else!"

Sir Gawain spake: "Take ye not to heart that which has here chanced, it
shall be naught the worse for ye."

Sir Gawain and Sir Lancelot were both mounted upon their steeds. The
Moor spake: "'Tis labour lost. Such good knights as ye be, since ye at
this time fare to seek my father, by the power of our Lord I will not
stay behind; 'twere shame an I did. I shall ride with ye twain!"

Quoth Sir Gawain: "Then must ye lay aside all outrageousness, and ride
peaceably on your way, and whatever knight shall meet ye, and greet ye
courteously, him shall ye greet and let pass on his way without strife
or contention; and be his friend an he hath done ye no wrong--this do
I counsel ye straitly. But he that is fierce and fell towards ye or
towards another, on him shall ye prove your prowess, and humble his
pride, if ye may. And honour all women, and keep them from shame, first
and last, as best ye may. Be courteous and of gentle bearing to all ye
meet who be well-mannered toward ye, and he who hath no love for virtue
against him spare neither sword, nor spear, nor shield!"

The Moor spake: "Since that ye will it so, I will at your bidding
forbear, otherwise might I rue it! May God be gracious to me."

So rode they all three together till they came to a parting of the ways
where stood a fair cross, and thereon letters red as blood. Sir Gawain
was learned in clerkly lore, he read the letters wherein was writ that
here was the border of Arthur's land, and let any man who came to the
cross, and who bare the name of knight, bethink him well, since he
might not ride far without strife and conflict, and the finding of such
adventures as might lightly turn to his harm, or even to his death--the
land was of such customs.

This did Sir Gawain tell to the twain. Then they saw, by the parting of
the ways, a hermit's cell, fairly builded, and the knights bethought
them that they would turn them thither that they might hear and see, and
know what the words boded.

There saw they the hermit, who seemed to them a right good man; and they
dismounted at his little window, and asked his tidings, if perchance a
knight in red armour had passed that way? And the good man answered and
said 'twas but the other day, afore noon, that he had seen two knights
who were wondrous like unto each other. "Of a truth it seemed to me,
by their features and by their gestures, that they should be brothers.
Their steeds seemed beyond measure weary. They came that self-same road
that cometh from that land that men here call Britain; they were both in
seeming men of might, and the one had steed and armour that were even
red as blood. They dismounted, both of them, at the foot of that cross
ye see there. There many a judgment is given. There did a knight lose
his life, he and his wife with him; well did they deserve that their
memory should be held in honour by the friends of our Lord, for they
made a right good ending! They had sought the shrine of a saint, with
them they had money and steeds, beside other goods, as befitted folk of
high degree. Here did they fall in with a company of robbers, who slew
the good knight, and took his steed and his money, and all that he had.
Of this was his wife so sorrowful that for grief and woe her heart
brake, and so did they die here, the twain of them, even at the cross
roads, where ye see the fair cross, where now many a judgment is spoken.
'Twas made through the knight's will. Hither come folk stripped and
bare-foot, doing penance for their sins; and they who pass ahorse or
afoot have here had many a prayer granted. The knights of whom ye ask
did there their orisons, as well became them, but I may not tell ye
whither they went at their departing; in sooth I know naught, for I said
my prayers here within and forgat them. But they were tall and strong,
and the one wore red armour, and the other bare the badge of King
Arthur."

Then were the knights sorely grieved, and kindled as a coal for sorrow,
in that they might not know, by any craft, whitherward they rode. Then
they asked the manner of the land, and whither led the roads which they
saw before them.

Then answered the good hermit, "I will tell ye as best I may. The road
by which ye came, that do ye know; and the road that runneth straight
therefrom that will ye shun, an ye heed my counsel. 'Tis a land of
ill-fame, where men follow evil customs; their best, 'tis but others'
worst! He who will keep his horse, his weapons and his life will shun
that road. And the right-hand way goeth to a wild waste land, wherein no
man dwelleth; an I bethink me well 'tis over a year and a day since
I saw man or woman come from thence. An it so befall that ye fare
thitherward ye shall find such a marvel that would ye dare the venture,
and amend the wrong it shall cost ye life and limb, that do I tell ye
here. For there shall ye find the most fell beast ever man heard or read
of; take ye good heed thereof, 'tis the Foul Fiend himself, that know I
well, that roameth in the guise of a beast. Against him may no weapon
serve, there was never spear so sharp nor sword so well tempered, as I
know of a truth, that may harm that devil, but it will break or bend as
hath full oft been proven in time past. Now hath the beast chosen his
dwelling in a little forest, there will he abide all night, but the day
he prowleth by straight and winding ways. He devoureth man and beast
alike, nor may I tell ye the marvels I have heard concerning him. He
hath laid waste a broad land, and driven thereout all the country-folk,
so that none remain. Now have I told ye the truth concerning these two
roads, and what may befall ye therein; for the third, it leadeth hereby
to the sea coast; I know not what I may say more."

Quoth Sir Lancelot: "By the Lord who made me, Sir Gawain, we must needs
depart from each other here and now, would we find these knights. And
I will dare that which I deem the most perilous venture. Ye shall ride
straightway whichever road ye will, otherwise shall we lose the knights
who were lately here, they shall not have ridden far as yet. And if it
be that ye find them, then I charge and conjure ye, by my will and your
valour, that if ye may, ye shall bring them with ye and return hither to
this place. Do this, Sir Knight, for my prayer. And do the hermit to wit
how matters have gone with ye, that he may tell me the truth thereof if
peradventure I too come hither, and the knight shall go with ye, and God
keep ye both since we be now come to this point. Do him honour as a good
man and true, in whatsoever place ye may be, this I pray ye of your
valour."

Sir Gawain gave him answer: "Dear comrade, I am fain to do your bidding,
and may God keep us in life and limb, and in worldly honour. Now choose
ye first which road ye will take, for here will we abide no longer."

Then said Sir Lancelot: "I ween that 'tis the most pressing need to go
fight against the beast whereof the good man telleth us; methinks 'twere
well that I ride thither."

And the hermit answered: "Alas, Sir Knight, ye be so fair that I deem
below the throne one might scarce find your equal, and will ye brave a
venture which no man may achieve! The folk hath fled out of the land,
none may withstand that beast, no shaft is so fell as the venom which
he shooteth on all who near him; and the man whom it reacheth, and upon
whom it shall light (I am he who lieth not), he dieth ere the third day
be past, had he never a wound upon him. This hath been the worse for
many. Then is the beast greater than a horse, and runneth more swiftly
than any horse may. Ye are wise an ye shun the fiend. This do I tell ye
beforehand. Had he not chosen his lair, and did he wander from the land,
as well might be, by the Lord who made us he had laid the world waste!
Ye would do well to turn back."

But 'twas labour lost; not for all the riches that belonged to King
Arthur would he have taken back his word and his covenant, for any
prayer that might be made him, nor have yielded aught through fear.

Then would the knights take leave of each other that they might depart.
The Moor spake to the twain: "For what do ye take me? Am I a lesser or a
weaker man than either of ye that Sir Gawain must needs ride with me?
I will not have it so. There is no knight so bold but I dare well
withstand him. I know well what is unfitting. Now say whither ye will
betake ye, and send me what road ye will; I will dare the venture, be it
never so perilous. By my knighthood, and by all who follow Christendom,
I shall adventure alone, and take that which may chance."

Then said Sir Gawain: "It liketh me ill that ye sware such an oath, yet
since such is your will, take ye the road that leadeth to the sea (this
seemeth to me the best), ride swiftly and spare not, but seek your
father. And do in all things after my counsel; if any man meet ye, when
ye have given him courteous greeting, ask him if he saw riding, or
otherwise met with, two knights, the one of whom ware red armour, and
the other bare King Arthur's badge. This shall ye first beseech of them.
When ye come to the crossing, pray that men tell ye the truth, and
ask for the sea-coast withal, wherever ye come. And if so be that men
understand ye not then return straightway to this place, and follow the
road which I shall take, swiftly, and with no delay. We might lightly
depart so far from each other that we met not again. But follow me soon,
and not too late; and do according as I counsel ye, and I tell ye truly,
no harm shall befall ye."

The Moor spake: "God reward ye." Then took they leave each of the other,
and departed asunder. Now will I tell ye how it fared with Sir Gawain.

The adventure telleth us forthwith that when prime was now already past
Sir Gawain came to a wide and deep river. 'Twas a great stream, and
deep, and the current ran swift and strong. Then Sir Gawain marked well,
and took heed, how on the further side, in a land of which he knew
naught, there came a knight riding on a fair steed, and armed as if for
combat. Before him he drave captive a maiden. Sir Gawain beheld how
he smote her, many a time and oft, blow upon blow, with his fist that
weighed heavily for the mailed gauntlet that he ware. Pain enough did he
make her bear for that she desired not to ride with him. He smote her
many a time and oft with his shield as he would revenge himself upon her
in unseemly fashion. The maiden ware a robe of green silk, that was rent
in many places, 'twas the cruel knight had wrought the mischief. She
rode a sorry hack, bare backed, and her matchless hair, which was yellow
as silk, hung even to the horse's croup--but in sooth she had lost well
nigh the half thereof, which that fell knight had afore torn out. 'Twas
past belief, the maiden's sorrow and shame; how she scarce might bear to
be smitten by the cruel knight; she wept and wrung her hands.

This Sir Gawain beheld, and he deemed 'twere shame an he avenged not her
wrong. He looked before and behind and saw no bridge, great or small, by
which he might cross over, nor saw he living soul of whom he might ask,
then did he delay no longer, but turned his bridle, and set his horse
toward the river bank; he struck his spurs sharply and sprang into the
midst of the stream. The good steed breasted the current, swimming as
best it might and brought its master to the further side. 'Twas great
marvel that they were not drowned, horse and man, for the river was
deep, and the stream ran swiftly.

When Sir Gawain came to the other side of the river, which was both wide
and deep, then saw he a great company of folk riding after the knight
who bare away the maiden by force, and thus misused her, but he wist not
if it was to aid the knight that they thus followed him, or to wreak
vengeance on him. He saw many men clad in hauberks, but they were as yet
a good mile distant. Sir Gawain rode swiftly after the maiden who went
afore, whom the knight thus mishandled, to avenge her wrong; and as he
drew near so that she might see him, she smote her hands together more
than before, and cried to Gawain, "Noble knight, for the honour of
womanhood, save me! This knight doeth me undeserved shame. Did there
come hither any friend of God who would help me in this my need, an he
had slain his own father it should be forgiven him!"

Her prayers and entreaties, her tears and lamentations, would have
stirred any man to pity; she cried upon Sir Gawain as he came riding
into the plain, to come to her aid and fell the knight's pride. As Sir
Gawain heard her his heart was rent with sorrow and compassion and he
spake to that evil knight: "Sir Knight, 'tis folly and discourtesy that
which ye do to this maiden; were ye wise ye would forbear; even had the
maiden wronged ye, ye should deal courteously; he hath small honour who
thus smiteth a maiden."

Then said the cruel knight: "For ye, fool and meddler, whether ye be
knight or no, will I not stay my hand, nay, rather for your shame, will
I chastise her the more; and should ye but speak another word to her I
shall thrust ye straightway from your steed with my spear!"

Quoth Sir Gawain: "Then were I but afoot Sir Knight! Natheless I
counsel ye, an ye be wise, that ye spare the maiden. Ye will find me not
so craven this day as to let ye harm her; I shall defend her and avenge
her wrong if my life be risked upon it. But, Sir Knight, hearken to my
prayer, for God and for your honour, and the sake of knighthood!"

But that evil knight answered and said he would in no wise do this: "An
ye get not hence, and fly, by heaven it shall be your doomsday! I have
no need of your sermons."

Quoth Sir Gawain: "An ye be so bold, lay but your hand again upon her,
and I shall take so stern a pledge as, wist ye, shall dismay your heart,
an it cost me my life. Let the maiden go in peace, or be on your guard
against my spear, for I defy ye!"

The other was high and scornful that Sir Gawain so threatened him. He
thought to quell his pride, and rode against him straightway, and Sir
Gawain, on his side, did even the same. They came together so keenly
that both spears brake, and the crash might be heard afar; they came
together so swiftly that the knight was thrust from his saddle, and fell
to the ground, and he fell so heavily that he felt the smart in every
limb, and lay in anguish from the fall--so stayed he prone upon the
ground.

Sir Gawain took the horse whereon the knight had ridden. He forgat not
his courtesy, but gave it into the hand of the maiden, and drew forth
his good sword. Therewith was the knight come to himself, and had taken
his sword, and stood up as best he might. Evil was his thought, and
he cried: "Vassal, how were ye so bold as to do me this hurt and this
shame? My father is lord of this land, and after him shall it be mine.
Think not to escape, 'tis folly that which ye do. Even to day shall ye
be repaid by those who follow me, and chastised in such wise as ye would
not have for all the riches King Arthur holds or ne'er may hold! My men
will be here anon and ye shall not escape, for in this land hath no man
power or might to withstand me."

Sir Gawain spake: "That may I well believe, and therefore are ye so
cruel and so outrageous. That one who is noble of birth, and rich
withal, should be false of heart, by my troth, 'tis great pity and
bringeth many to shame. Now ye are not yet at such a pass but that I may
teach ye moderation ere ye part from me. Methinks that to-day ye shall
rue the evil ye have done. I counsel ye, an ye be wise, that ye make
known to me wherein this lady hath wronged ye. Hath she indeed deserved
that ye be thus cruel, then 'tis a matter 'twixt ye twain, I meddle no
further. But hath the maiden not deserved this, then hold your hand,
and make peace with me, otherwise is your life forfeit were ye never so
highly born. I take the maiden with me when I ride hence." The knight
would not hearken, and the maiden spake: "Noble knight I will tell ye
wherefore he doeth me this wrong. He would have me for his love, why
should I deny the truth? 'Tis many a day since he first spake to me, but
I would not hearken to him, other sorrows vexed me; poverty grieveth me
sore; thereto have I griefs that I may not lightly tell. My father was a
knight, and a good man, and of high birth in this land. Dear Sir Knight,
I will tell thee openly, though it be shame. My father hath lain sick,
seven year long, and hath lost his goods, and now lieth in sore straits;
he may neither ride nor walk nor stand upon his feet, he suffereth much.
Now have I nursed and tended and otherwise served my father--friends
hath he few save myself, and I had fain stayed by him and kept him all
my life, doing for him all that within me lay. To-day came this knight
within our hold, which is sore broken down and ruined, and hath done me
sore wrong. He took me thence by force, ere I was well aware, nor stayed
his hand for God or man. Thus did he carry me away, and now he doeth
me this shame. He hath left his folk behind that they may hinder my
friends, lest they follow him to his hurt. I fear lest they be here
anon. And should they find ye here ye may scarce escape. Would ye save
your life, then, Sir Knight, make a swift end of this combat. I fear it
dureth over long an ye will aid me, by our Lord's grace. So bethink ye,
Sir Knight, what ye may do."

Quoth Sir Gawain: "An ye be wise, Sir Knight, ye will now speak; here
will I tarry no longer. Will ye right this maiden of the wrong ye have
done her, or fight with me? The one or the other must ye do. An ye will,
I will alight and meet ye afoot, or ye may mount your steed again, by
covenant that ye flee not, nor escape, but abide your fortune."

The knight made answer: "Now do ye hold me over feeble, an ye think I
shall thus yield. Ye will do well to dismount straightway, an ye have
lust to fight." He covered himself with his shield, and drew forth his
sword from the scabbard. Sir Gawain dismounted, whether he liked it well
or ill, and let his horse that men call the Gringalet, stand beside him;
never a foot would that steed stir till its lord came, and once more
laid hand on it. Forthwith they betook them to fight, and dealt each
other fierce thrusts, with mighty and strong strokes, so that one saw
their blood stream out through the mails of their hauberk, and the
sparks sprang out when the helmets were smitten till they seemed to glow
even as doth hot iron when it be thrust into the furnace, and waxeth red
from the fire; so fierce were the blows which each dealt to the other.
That which most sorely vexed Sir Gawain was that his sword scarce seemed
worth a groat, the knight's armour was so good that Sir Gawain's weapon
was stayed upon it. Though one saw the blood well through, yet had the
hauberk never a score. This Sir Gawain deemed a great marvel. He fetched
a mighty blow upward and smote the knight above the hauberk, in the
neck, to the very middle of the throat. Therewith was the matter ended
for him; his head fell forward upon his breast, and he fell dead beneath
the blow.

His friends and kinsmen had beheld from afar and came therewith, sore
distressed and very wrath when they saw their lord thus lying dead upon
the field. Sir Gawain, the good and the valiant, was once more mounted
upon Gringalet. There might he fear no foe; the steed was so strong and
so great, and even as his lord had need would the horse watch and follow
every sign that he might give.

Those who had come thither, and had, as it were, found Sir Gawain in the
very act of slaying, were of one mind that they should beset him, behind
and afore, on horse and afoot, and if it might be take his life. And Sir
Gawain who saw that he was sore bestead, commended himself to the grace
of God with a good heart and received his foes with drawn sword. With
each blow that he smote he wounded one, or two, and wrought them much
harm. None might withstand him, and he that wrought the most valiantly
he abode there dead, or went hence so sorely wounded that he might never
more find healing. Thus Gawain, the Father of Adventure, so daunted them
with the blows that he smote that many drew aside and turned from the
strife with deep wounds and wide. 'Twas a good cause for which Sir
Gawain fought, and for which he desired vengeance, and for that did it
fall to his profit. He brought many of them in sore stress, some of
life, some of limb. With that there came riding a company of the
maiden's folk, who were fain to avenge her shame. So soon as she beheld
them, and they drew nigh, was she glad and blithe and drew aside from
the strife where Sir Gawain did right manfully. The maiden turned to her
own folk, and betook her with that company again to her father. They
were right joyful that she was once more in their power, and they left
Sir Gawain on the field where he was sore bestead--they durst not take
part with him against their overlord, so greatly did they fear his kin.

But Sir Gawain, who marked this not, went smiting blow after blow on
all that came nigh him, and so blinded and drave them backward with his
strokes that he was left alone on the field. So weary and so weak were
they that they lay all along the road, discomfited, prone on the earth,
as those who have sore need of rest. But few of them were whole, for Sir
Gawain had so wounded them that men may well tell the tale from now even
unto Doomsday!

Then thought Sir Gawain within himself, since he had so long wielded his
weapons and no man durst withstand him further he might find no better
counsel than to fare on his way. He thanked God of true heart that he
had thus won honour on this evil folk, and that he had escaped with his
life, and free from mortal wound, he and his steed, and that God had
thus protected them. Men say oft, and 'tis true, as was here well
proven, that he who recks not of his ways, but doeth that which is
displeasing alike to God and to the world, he was born in an evil hour.

Now when Sir Gawain had won the fight, and God had shown him favour by
granting him good knighthood and the discomfiting of his foes, the day
was well past nones, and Sir Gawain, the bold, had neither eaten nor
drunk, nor done aught save fight that day and receive great blows. He
rode on his way sore perplexed and unknowing where he might seek for
lodging. So long did he ride that he was ware how it drew towards
evening, and therewith did he behold a castle. Never was a man more
oppressed with hunger and thirst and weariness; and he thought in his
heart that he could do naught better than ride thither, and see if by
hap he might find lodging for the night.

He found by the castle moat the lord of that burg and many of his
folk with him; when he had dismounted on the turf he greeted them
courteously, and the lord answered "God reward ye."

Quoth Sir Gawain, "Were it your command, and your will and pleasure,
right gladly would I abide here within this night! I know not otherwise
how I may win shelter. I have ridden all this day, and have seen naught
save wilderness and waste land, and there found I no man with whom I
might abide the night."

And the host spake, "So may good befall me in soul and body as I shall
give to you in friendship, even to the uttermost, all that belongeth
unto this even; lodging will I give ye, and food, ham and venison. My
lodging is ever free, and ne'er refused to any knight who would fain be
my guest. He hath safe conduct, good and sure, against all whom he may
meet in this land, were it against mine own son, whom I love above all
who own the laws of knighthood. My safe conduct is so well assured that
whosoe'er should wrong my guest it should cost him his life and all that
he had, had he not more than good fortune! This on my knighthood and by
the Blessed Maid, Our Lady!"

But Sir Gawain, the Father of Adventure, who was wont to be received
with honour, wist not that the knight whom he had slain was son to the
lord of the castle. Now first shall ye hear of marvellous adventures
whereof some be good and some evil.

Sir Gawain had come to that point that he deemed he was well assured of
shelter for the night, nor was he on guard against his heavy mischance.
The host, who would do his guest all honour, took the knight by the
hand, and led him through three portals into a fair hall where he was
received with courteous words. They disarmed him straightway, and
stabled his steed right well. The host bade them take in ward Sir
Gawain's armour and his sword; too far did they carry them! For that was
he vexed and wrathful, and he would not it had so chanced for all his
host's halls, were they of wroughten gold! For as they sat at table
and ate and drank and had enow of all the earth might bear for the
sustenance of man, and forgat thereby all sorrow, they heard sore
wailing and lamentation, and the smiting together of hands, and knew not
what it might mean. They heard folk who stood without the walls, at the
master gate, who cried with loud voice, "Alas, alas! Undo and let us in!"

Then Sir Gawain's mood was changed, and his heart forbade him that
sorrow and mischief drew near. He changed colour and grew red. The
lord gave command from within that they should ask what company stood
without, and what tidings they bare. Then they sprang to the gate, and
opened it, even as their lord bade.

Then came they in, who stood without, bearing a bier, and making so
great cry and lamentation that men heard it far and near through the
open doorways. So came they into the hall, a great company of folk, and
cried with a loud voice to the lord of the castle, "Alas, master, here
lieth dead the best knight that one might find in the wide world, even
your dear son. There liveth not his like on earth, so strong, so bold,
so skilled in valiant deeds!"

Then was all the burg aghast; and the host, the father of the knight who
lay dead upon the bier, felt his heart die within him. Scarce might he
find words; and he cried, "Who hath robbed him of life, mine own dear
son, whom I loved above all the world? How came he by his death? I fear
me 'twas by his own deed, for well I know that he was fierce of heart,
and spared neither foe nor friend. I fear lest he have merited his
death. Now do I conjure ye all here present, by God, our Righteous
Father (so spake the lord of the castle) that ye speak, and make known
to me the whole truth; fain would I hear how he came by his death, my
dear son, who lieth here, and for whom my heart doth sorely grieve."

Then said they all who brought the dead man thither, that forsooth 'twas
a stranger knight who did this by his great valour; "Though we saw it
not with our eyes, yet may we well bear witness to the death of many of
our folk; and others are so sorely wounded that they may never more be
healed. Man may scarce tell all the mischief wrought by that stranger
knight who slew your son, the best knight on earth; nor may we tell who
he might be." But Sir Gawain, who was there within, and knew well that
he was guilty, saw that he might scarce escape either by will or by
valour, since he had laid aside his weapons and stood all unarmed in his
robes; thereof was he grieved at heart.

As they stood and spake thus, sudden they saw the blood of the knight
who lay there dead, and which afore was stanched, leap forth afresh, and
run crimson down the hall. With this were they ware of Sir Gawain, their
lord's guest, and all they who were there present said, the one taking
up the tale of the other, that forsooth he who had slain the knight was
within that hall, as might be seen of men, for the blood had ceased to
flow a little after midday, nor had any man seen the wounds bleed since.
Now was it open and manifest to all that he was there who had done the
deed. Herein were they all of one mind who were there present, and they
drew together and looked upon Sir Gawain the Father of Adventure, with
fierce and cruel eyes.

Sir Gawain saw many an unfriendly countenance turned towards him. They
straitly prayed their lord that he would make the knight known to them;
how he came thither; who he was, whence he came, and whither he went,
and what might be his name?

Then spake the host: "He is my guest, and he hath my safe conduct, good
and fast, the while he is within; and be ye sure of this, that if any
wrong him by word or deed, he shall rue it in such wise that it shall
cost him goods and life. Nor will I change for prayer of man or woman.
My surety that I will hold to every guest standeth so fast that no
word I have spoken shall be broken with my knowledge or my will. Have
patience and hold ye still, on peril of your lives and goods. I know so
good counsel withal that I may speedily be ware of him who hath wrought
this deed."

Then he called together his folk to one side of the hall, and said that
his oath and his safe conduct might in no wise be broken, for his son
were thereby but ill-avenged, valiant knight though he was. He might
well rue it if he slew his guest, for thereof should he have great shame
wherever men told the tale. "I shall avenge him more discreetly, if I be
well-assured of the truth that my guest hath indeed wrought this murder
and this great outrage."

He spake further to his folk: "Now do ye all my bidding. Ye shall abide
here within this hall; no man shall follow me a foot, but do ye even as
I command. I will lead my guest without, and ye shall close the door
behind us. Doth the dead man cease to bleed, then shall we all be
well-assured that he hath done the deed; and thereafter shall I take
counsel how I may avenge my son, fittingly, and without shame." Then all
agreed to his counsel, and held their peace.

Thus came the host to where Sir Gawain stood, and spake: "Sir Knight,
be not wroth that my folk entreat ye not better. We are in grief, as ye
see, and therefore are ye the worse served. Now shall ye come with me,
and I shall amend what hath here been lacking. My folk and my household
make great lamentation, as ye see, and I with them. Now come with me,
and tarry not; I will lead ye hence where ye may be at ease, and sleep
softly till the daylight. Here would we make our moan."

Sir Gawain thought within himself he was sorely over-matched within
those (to be bare of weapons 'tis a heavy blow at need), and he knew
well that the folk looked on him with unfriendly eyes, and that none
were on his side, that might be seen from their mien; and therefore he
thought within himself that there was no better counsel save to put
himself in his host's grace, and do that which he bade him. He had no
weapon upon him, and there were within of his host's folk full five
hundred men whom he saw to be armed. Thus he went his way with his host,
whether the adventure should turn to his harm or to his helping. The
lord of the castle led him through the doorway, and his men locked it as
they went forth.

Then quoth the lord of those within: "Sir Knight and dear guest, I will
that ye be right well entreated here within this night." He led him to
a strong tower, wherein were fair beds. He bade them bear tapers before
them, and all that he knew or could in any wise deem needful for Sir
Gawain, his guest. The host, sorely mourning, bade them pour out clear
wine, and make ready a fair couch whereon he might sleep even as he had
the will thereto. He left with him squires enow, and turned him again to
the castle.

Then did they bear the dead man from where he lay, his wounds were
stanched, and bled no whit. Then said all who saw it it booted not to
seek another man, they were well assured 'twas their guest had slain
him. The word ran through the hall; and the host turned him again to
where he had left his guest, as if he marked naught. He made no sign to
his folk, but locked the door of the tower so fast that none might come
therein to Sir Gawain to do him harm, nor overpower him, so safely was
he in his keeping. Also, I tell ye, he himself kept the keys of the
strong tower wherein he had locked his guest. He would bethink him what
'twere best to do ere he let him be slain or maimed; thus did he hold
him within his fortress.

What might Sir Gawain do? He must even abide his fate; he had come
thither as guest, and now was he locked in a strong tower, within many
doors, and in a strange place withal. He was bare of arms, and had he
revealed himself and demanded his weapons they had scarce given them
to him; rather had they slain him, and drawn blood-guiltiness upon
themselves had not God protected him.

Thus was Sir Gawain a captive, and knew not what he might do. 'Twixt
constraint and ill-fortune the night seemed to him over long; though he
feared him no whit yet he deemed his end was come. He knew well that the
folk were evil-disposed and bare malice and rancour towards him for the
sake of the dead man who lay there, in that they had seen his wounds
bleed afresh, and had thereby known his slayer. Thus was his heart
sorely troubled.

Now leave we speaking of Sir Gawain. The host was within the hall, with
his folk until daylight; with sorrow and lamentation did they pass the
night, bemoaning their bitter loss. For though the knight had well
deserved his death yet had he there many friends who lamented the loss
that they had thereby suffered. They were loth to own that he was evil
and cruel of heart.

So soon as they saw the fair day light the host took counsel with his
folk that they might advise him well by what means, and in what way,
they might avenge themselves for their heavy loss. Said the host, their
lord, did he let the guest, whom he held there captive, and who had
smitten his son to death, depart in safety, "Men would say I were but
a coward, and durst not avenge myself, and would speak scorn of me;
so many have seen how the matter fell out that it may not well remain
hidden. Yet should I slay my guest then from henceforward would they cry
shame upon me in every land where the tale be told."

Thus was he of two minds, and thought in his heart that to save himself
from shame 'twere best to let his guest depart so soon as he arose,
armed in all points as he came thither, and harm him in no wise, but
bring him, unhurt by any man, without the borders of his land and his
safe conduct, and there bid him farewell and return hither; while that
his friends, who would fain see him avenged, waylaid Sir Gawain, and
wrought their will upon him, and, if they would, slew him. Or if they
took him captive they might deal with him as they thought best, either
by burning him in the fire, to cool their rage, or by breaking him upon
the wheel--as might seem best to them at the time. "Thus shall I put the
shame from me, that neither near nor afar, now or henceforward, men
make scorn of me. This seemeth to me the wisest rede in this matter,
howsoe'er it stand!"

This did he tell to his folk, and it pleased them well, and they spake
with one mouth that he had found the best counsel. They made no further
questioning, but armed themselves, and rode forth, as they who would
waylay Sir Gawain, when his host had sent him on his way. Thus they went
forth from thence a great company, and well armed. Very wrathful were
they, and they went right willingly. The host who would follow them
called to him his seneschal, who was cruel and cunning, and bade him
carry his armour to their guest straightway, and deliver it to him as if
he should ride thence as soon as he had arisen, and delay no whit.

Straightway the seneschal betook him to a fair chamber (hearken ye to an
evil tale!) where he found Sir Gawain's weapons and his good armour. He
stole from Sir Gawain his good sword, that which he placed in its sheath
was not worth twopence; he cut the straps of the harness well nigh in
twain in the midst, and made a great score in the stirrup leathers
so cunningly that no man might see or know aught thereof beneath the
covering of the harness. And the saddle-girths did the traitor so handle
that Sir Gawain was sore grieved there-for ere he had ridden a mile; he
would not that it had so chanced for all King Arthur's kingdom--that
shall ye hear anon.

When the seneschal who had wrought this treason had brought Sir Gawain's
weapons and his horse that had been well cared for that night--they
deemed it should be theirs ere long, 'twas a strong steed and well
standing, and since they thought to have their pleasure of it they
gave it provender enow--the host bade them undo the door and hold Sir
Gawain's steed there without. The harness was in place, whereof I have
told ye that it was so traitorously handled; then came forth the knight,
who had arisen, and clad himself in fair robes, and descended the
stairway. Little thought had he of the treason which in short while
befell him. The seneschal held in his hand the false sword, well hidden
in its sheath, and the while Sir Gawain made him ready did he gird it at
his side--for that was the knight thereafter unblithe.

The while they thus made ready came the lord of the castle to Sir
Gawain, and said: "Ye are early astir Sir Knight; how comes it that ye
be thus hurried at this time? Scarce have ye slept, and arisen, ere
ye would ride hence. Have ye heard Mass, and broken your fast ere ye
depart?"

Quoth Sir Gawain: "Dear mine host, I grieve that ye yet sorrow; so may
God guard me and bring me to His grace when I die as I truly mourn for
your mischance. I will it were yet to do!" Quoth Sir Gawain the bold:
"Though 'twere hard and painful to me yet would I for seven years long
wear haircloth next my body, wherever I fared, for this that ye have
received me so well. Nevertheless be ye sure of a truth--I may not deny
it this day for any man, how strong soever he might be, nor through fear
of any that may hear me, foe or friend--but I must needs say in sooth
your son had merited his death many a time and oft ere the day came that
he died! Now may God have mercy upon him! And God reward ye for the
great good, and the honour, that ye do to me, all ye here, in that I
have been at your charges."

Then was the host sore vexed, and he said: "I will do ye no harm for
aught that hath chanced by ye; nevertheless, there be here many a man
who had fain fallen upon ye, but I tell ye I will not that aught befall
ye here; nor that my peace be broken, nor vengeance taken upon ye. I
shall go with ye as ye ride hence, and ride with ye so far that ye be
not led astray by any who remain behind. I were loth that harm befell
ye."

Sir Gawain spake: "For that may God, who ruleth over all, reward ye." He
took the bridle in his hand and rode forth, the host nigh to him; and at
his side went he who had betrayed him aforehand. Now cometh great sorrow
upon Sir Gawain. He deemed that he had safe conduct, but he had lost
from its sheath his sword, which had been stolen from him; and that
which the seneschal had put in its place when he drew forth the good
brand was more brittle than glass. Thereto had he cunningly handled the
harness, girths and stirrup-leather, whereof Sir Gawain knew naught, and
the lord of the castle had sent afore the strongest and most valiant
of his folk, to waylay Sir Gawain, and to take his life, A man's heart
might well fail him for doubt, and great fear, did he come in such a
pass, and know no wile whereby he might escape.

Sir Gawain, who knew naught of these tricks and snares rode on his way,
discoursing of many things with his host, until they drew nigh to the
place where his foes lay, ambushed in the thicket, who would fain slay
him. When he came nigh to the place the host took leave of the knight,
and turned him again towards the castle. Sir Gawain sat upon his steed
and deemed that he should ride thence without strife or combat. As he
laid his hand on the saddle-bow, and thrust his feet into the stirrups
and thought to rise in the saddle, the girths brake asunder, the saddle
turned over the left stirrup beneath the horse, and left him standing.
Then Sir Gawain saw a great company of folk spring forth and come
towards him with all their might. Some came from the ditches where they
had lain hidden, some out of bushes, some out of thickets, and some came
forth from the hollow ways. God confound traitors, since He may not mend
them!

Sir Gawain abode not still; he saw well that he was betrayed, and
over-matched. He drew forth from its sheath the sword, which was little
worth to him, and deemed he would defend himself, as he oft had done
aforetime, against those who would harm him. But ere he might smite
three blows that sword brake, as it were tin--this was an ill beginning
would a man defend his life. This Sir Gawain saw, and was dismayed, he
wist well that he was betrayed. They who would harm him came upon him
from every side, a great company and fierce, all thirsting for his life;
there was a great clash of swords; they thrust at him with their spears.
His sword protected him not a whit--he who gave it to him God give him
woe! It brake in twain at the hilt, and fell into the sand. Sir Gawain
stood empty-handed, small chance had he of escape, and they who beset
him were chosen men, over-strong and over-fierce, as was there well
proven. Like as a wild boar defends himself against the hounds that
pursue him, even so did Sir Gawain defend himself, but it helped him
naught. They harmed him most who stood afar, and thrust at him with
spears to sate their rage. There was among them no sword so good but had
Sir Gawain held it, and smote with it three such blows as he was oft
wont to deal with his own, it had broken, or bent, and profited them no
whit. But of those things which had stood him in good stead many a time
before, when he was hard beset, his good steed, and his sword, the which
was a very haven, of these was he now robbed.

Thus was Sir Gawain overcome, and me thinks 'twas little marvel! There
lives no man so strong or so valiant but he may some time be vanquished
by force, or by fraud. Sir Gawain must needs yield him; he was felled to
the ground, yet were there some to whom it cost their life ere he was
captive, and some it cost a limb, or twain, that might never more be
healed; and he himself was so sore mis-handled that all he ware, whether
it were armour or other clothing, was rent in many a place, so that the
flesh might be seen. There lived on earth no man so wise that he might
aid him in this stress, nor leech who might heal him; yet, an God will,
he shall he healed of his smart and of his shame.

They bound Sir Gawain's hands, and set him on a sorry hack, and to anger
him they led beside him Gringalet, his steed. This they did that he
might be the more sorrowful when he beheld his horse, which he had now
lost, and his own life withal! For of this would they deprive him, and
make him to die a shameful death; burn him they would, or break him upon
the wheel, that they might wreak their vengeance upon him. There were
among them knights and squires, the richest, and the most nobly born
after the lord of the land; and all had sworn an oath that they would
lead Sir Gawain to the cross-roads, at the entering in of their land for
the greater shaming of King Arthur's Court. To this had they pledged
themselves, that they would there slay him without respite or delay; and
were it not that 'twere shame to themselves, and too great dishonour to
one who bare the name of knight, they had hung him by the neck, on the
border of the two lands, to shame King Arthur; so that all his folk
who were of the knightly order, and dwelt at his court, and sought for
adventure, should shun their land when they heard the tidings of the
vengeance wrought by them upon knights-errant who would prove their
fate within those borders.

Thus it fell out that they brought Sir Gawain on the horse, sorely
wounded and mishandled, within the nearness of half a mile, so that
the knight knew he was nigh to the cell of the Hermit of whom at that
self-same cross-road he had asked tidings of King Arthur's knights, and
of that bad and evil land where many were brought to shame. And they who
had brought him thither were of one mind that they should make a wheel,
and break the knight upon it at the Cross by the parting of the ways
whereof I have told ye afore.

Now shall I leave speaking of this matter till I come again thereto,
and will forthwith tell ye how it fared with Morien when the three
had parted asunder, as I told ye afore (Sir Gawain, Morien, and Sir
Lancelot, he was the third), since they would fain make proof of that
which the Hermit had told them. Now will I tell ye of Morien ere that
I end the tale of Sir Gawain. Now doth the adventure tell that Morien,
that bold knight, rode the seaward way, and came safely to the passage
of the ford nigh unto the open sea. And all the day he met no man of
whom he might ask concerning his father; 'twas labour wasted, for all
who saw him fled from him. Little good might his asking do him, since
none who might walk or ride would abide his coming. But he saw there the
hoof-prints of horses, which lay before him and were but newly made; by
this he deemed that his father had passed that way but a short while
before.

Thus he followed the hoof-tracks to the passage of the sea. That night
had he neither rest nor slumber, nor found he place where he might
shelter, or where it seemed to him he might ask for food or lodging
beneath a roof.

The morning early, even as it dawned and men might see clearly and well
(which comforted him much), he came safely ahorse to where one might
make the crossing, but he saw never a soul; no man dwelt thereabout, for
the robbers had laid waste the land, and driven away the folk so that
none remained. 'Twas all heath and sand, and no land beside; there grew
neither barley nor wheat. He saw and heard no man, nor did folk come and
go there, but he saw ships at anchor, and shipmen therein, who were wont
to take over those folk who would cross into Ireland.

Morien came riding over the sea-sand, and cried with a loud voice
shipward: "Ye who be within tell me that which I ask lest it be to your
own loss, as also I would fain know for my own profit and rejoicing.
Know ye if any within these few days past have carried a knight over the
water?"

But all they who lay in the ships, when they beheld Morien who had
doffed his helm, were so afeard for him that they might neither hear nor
understand question nor answer. They were altogether in fear of him,
since he was so tall, and black withal. Each man turned his boat
seaward, and put off from the shore, for Morien was to look upon even as
if he were come out of hell. They deemed they had seen the Foul Fiend
himself, who would fain deceive them, so they departed as swiftly as
they might and would in no wise abide his coming. Then must Morien turn
him again, for none would hearken to his speech nor tell him that which
he fain would know; all were of one mind that 'twas the Devil, and none
else, who rode there upon the sand, so they fled with one consent from
the shore.

Morien saw well that his labour was in vain, for would he make the
crossing there was no man would abide his coming or receive him into his
boat. Thus must he needs turn him back, and great lamentation did he
make thereof. He saw the footprints where two horses had ridden afore
him, and ever he hoped that 'twas his father who rode there, and that
he had crossed the water, but he thought within himself: "What doth it
profit a man to labour if he know it to be in vain? None will take me
over the water since I am a Moor, and of other countenance than the
dwellers in this land; this my journey is for naught. I may not do
better than return to the Hermit, that good man, there where I parted
from my comrades." He had neither eaten nor drunk since that he rode
thence; his head was dazed with hunger and with grief. He looked behind
and afore, and saw nowhere where food was in preparing, nor saw he man
nor woman, nor creature that had life, upon the seashore.

Then he rode swiftly upon the backward trail till he came once more
to the parting of the ways; there found he carpenter-folk hewing and
shaping timber, whereof they had made a great wheel. He saw a knight
sitting upon the ground, in sore distress, naked and covered with blood;
he had been brought thither to be broken upon the wheel, so soon as it
might be made ready. Well might his heart misgive him!

Morien who came thither saw the gleam of many a hauberk; there were
armed folk enow! Others there were who were but in evil case, unarmed,
and unclad, who were scarce whole. Their limbs were bandaged, some
the arm, some the leg, some the head, and stained with blood. And Sir
Gawain, who sat there sore mishandled, knew that well, and as Morien
came nigh, he cried, so that all might hear: "Dear my comrade, ye be
welcome. God give me joy of your coming hither! I am Gawain, your
comrade; little did I foresee this mischance when we parted, you and I,
at this cross-way! Have pity upon the sore stress in which ye see me.
May God who hath power over us all strengthen ye well; would that He
might here show forth His power!"

When Morien who was hard beset by them who stood there heard this, never
might one hear in book or song that any man smote such fierce blows as
he smote with the sword which he drew forth. Do what he might with
that sword it suffered neither dint nor scar; he smote straight to the
mid-ward; nor was their harness so good that it might withstand him.
Thereto helped his great strength, that he fought so fiercely against
them who withstood him, and smote such ghastly wounds that nevermore
might they be healed, nor salved by the hand of any leech. He clave many
to the teeth, through helm and coif, so that they fell to the ground.
And ever as he cast his eyes around and they lighted upon Sir Gawain,
who was in such evil case, his courage waxed so great that were the
Devil himself against him he had slain him even as a man; might he die,
he had there lost his life. Sir Gawain sat by the wayside in sorry
plight, with his hands bound; but the good knight Morien so drave aback
the folk who had brought him thither that they had little thought for
him. He defended him so well with his mighty blows that none might come
at him to harm him; he felled them by twos and by threes, some under
their horses, some beside them. The space began to widen round Sir
Gawain and Morien; for all there deemed that he came forth from hell,
and was hight Devil, in that he so quelled them and felled them
underfoot that many hereafter spake thereof. That men thrust and smote
at him troubled him little, therein was he like to his father, the noble
knight Sir Agloval; he held parley with no man, but smote ever, blow
after blow, on all who came nigh him. His blows were so mighty; did a
spear fly towards him, to harm him, it troubled him no whit, but he
smote it in twain as it were a reed; naught might endure before him.
He ware a hauberk that bold overstrong hero, wherewith he was none
too heavy laden, yet none might harm him with any weapon they brought
thither. Then might ye see the blood run red upon the ground for the
good knight's sword spared neither horse nor man. There might ye see
lying heads and hands, arms and legs; some hewn from the body, some
smitten in twain. They who might escape death fared little better, for
good fortune had departed from them--thus many chose their end. He who
came betimes to the conflict, and fled without waiting to see what might
chance further, he was blithe! Thus were they put to rout, and either
slain or driven from the field, or helpless of limb; some who came
thither ahorse had lost their steeds, and must rue their journey. They
might no longer ride, but must go hence afoot.

Then Morien dismounted, and took Sir Gawain in his arms, and said full
oft, "Alas, my comrade, how were ye thus betrayed? I fear physician may
aid ye never more, ye have wounds so many and so sore."

With that he had unbound his hands; and Sir Gawain said: "Of physician
have I no need." He thanked God and Morien a hundredfold, that he was
thus delivered from peril, and comforted in his need; his heart was
light within him, and he said he should speedily mend might he but have
repose for two days, and neither walk nor ride; by the help of God, and
by leechcraft and the aid of certain herbs the virtue of which he knew
well, so might he regain all his strength.

Now had they left upon the field Gringalet and certain other steeds,
the masters whereof were slain or had fled afar. Gringalet was bare of
harness, he had lost his saddle as ye heard afore, and therefore no man
had mounted him. He who had brought him thither had forgat him upon that
field, his journey had been dearly bought and he lay there dead in the
green grass. And Sir Gawain when he was ware of that was fain to forget
all his pain. He arose from where he sat, and went towards his steed,
and as he looked upon him his heart rose high within him, and he deemed
that he was well-nigh healed. And even as he came Gringalet knew his
lord, nor would flee from him, but came towards him, and for very
friendship seized him with his teeth.

Then did they abide no longer, but betook them to the hermit who had
been sore afeard for all that he heard and saw through the window of his
cell. He knew the two knights well, when he heard their tale, and how
that they were even the same who had but lately passed his way, and he
spake to the Father of Adventure: "Even so did I foretell ye when ye
would ride toward that land, and I prayed ye to refrain. But that would
ye not do, and so have ye come to harm therein! They who are fain to
despise counsel ofttimes do so to their own mischief. But since it hath
so befallen, think ye what may best profit ye, and abide overnight with
me, here within; for an ye depart hence I know not where ye may find
shelter. That evil beast whereof I spake when ye were here afore hath so
laid waste the land that no man dwelleth herein. If I still dwell here
'tis that I have no need to flee nor to fear death ere my day come,
when as it hath been foretold and declared I shall break the rule of my
order. A long tale is ill to hear, I will weary ye not, but see that
naught be lacking to your ease. Ye shall stable your steeds, and abide
this night within my chapel. That which I have will I give ye, for the
love of God and the honour of knighthood." Then Sir Gawain and Morien
his comrade thanked him much, and went their way to the chapel, where
they abode throughout the day; each told to the other his adventures as
they had befallen, neither more nor less. The hermit tended the horses
well with all that was needful to them; he bade the lad who served him,
as a good man doth his friend, bring forth all the store that he had
within, and fetch water from the spring, and warm it to Sir Gawain's
liking that he might therewith wash his limbs, and cleanse them from
the blood. He had upon him no mortal wound, so good was his hauberk,
otherwise had he lost his life from the blows he had received.

With that came the hermit into the chapel, and spake, and told them how
he had heard tidings from pilgrims who had come thither that the Red
Knight and his companions had but late ridden the road that led toward
the sea coast, though he had marked it not; 'twas but yesterday he had
been told thereof.

Then spake the knight Morien and said by his troth he had even followed
the hoof prints of horses that were but newly made till he came to where
one must needs cross over the water; "and then did I lose all sign of
their further track; but howsoever I might pray, or call upon those who
lay there in their ships, when they saw me they were terrified as hares,
and would tell me nought, the fools, of that I asked them! One and all
fled, and put them out to sea. Methinks they were afraid of me. But by
the faith that I owe to God and Our Lady, and the honour of knighthood,
it shall avail them naught that they thus refuse me; I shall turn again
from here, and otherwise take my way; may I but find on shore one of
those who were there, and who belongeth to the ships, in sooth he were
born in an evil hour! An he carry me not over the water I will thrust
him through with my spear, or deal him such a stroke with my sword, that
he shall fall dead upon the earth. My heart forbode me that he who went
before me was my father! But in all my journey I met no living soul of
whom I might ask aught. Then I began to wax fearful, for hunger beset
me, and therein I found neither man nor woman, nor aught but heather
and waste land wherein I was a stranger. No man might I see or hear, no
wheat or barley grew there; 'tis the truth I tell ye, thither cometh no
man save that he desire to cross the wide water in the ships that there
lie ready. Thus had I my pain for naught. But whatsoe'er befall me since
that I have heard from our host, that good man, that my father in sooth
rode that way I shall follow hard after, if so be that I may but cross
over, and will but await tomorrow's dawn. Since that I have heard he
rideth not so far ahead I may well overtake him, an my steed, which is
so swift, and strong, and good, foil me not!"

"God speed ye!" quoth Sir Gawain. Such was indeed his counsel, and he
sore lamented his own evil plight. But ill had it chanced with him;
within the castle had they stolen from him his good sword wherewith
he should defend himself. God give him shame who stole it! His
saddle-girth, his stirrup-leathers, were cut midway through; as he
thought to sit upon his steed they brake clean in twain, and left him
standing upon his feet. This did Sir Gawain tell them there, even as
ye have heard aforetime. If his heart were heavy when he took count of
this, 'twas small marvel!

Then did they wash Sir Gawain's limbs, and he himself searched his
wounds. So good a leech might no man find since the day of Mother Eve as
was Sir Gawain; whatever wound he tended, 'twas healed even as ye looked
upon it!

That night had they all the comfort that the hermit might prepare till
that they saw the fair day dawn and the sun begin to rise. Sir Gawain
was somewhat troubled, since he lacked alike arms and clothing: also his
wounds, which were sore, pained him the more. Nor did there live any
near at hand whom he knew, and who might give them what was lacking.
Neither bread, meat, nor wine had they; naught remained to the hermit,
he had given the knights all his store. Morien's heart was set upon
following his father, and Sir Gawain was of a mind to ride in quest of
Sir Lancelot, and learn how it had fared with him. He was loth to delay
or abide there, for he would fain, so soon as he might ride, fare in
search of his comrade. Yet must he tarry a day ere he might mount his
steed, such was his stress from the wounds he had received--sooth, it
was a marvel that he escaped! And now food had failed them, and that was
a sore lack. Even had they money or pledge to offer there dwelt none
that side of the border, as they too well knew, but their bitter foes,
who had fain wrought them woe. 'Twas seven miles and more hard riding,
ere they might find village or fort in King Arthur's land. Hereof was
Sir Gawain troubled. He might neither ride nor walk for his own aid.
Thus both were ill at ease and sore oppressed.

Morien was loth to remain, yet he thought it shame to forsake his
comrade, Sir Gawain, and thus he abode with him in the chapel.

Then as Morien stood by the window, it seemed to him that he saw a
knight come riding in great haste, on a horse tall and swift; he was
well armed, and seemed a goodly knight withal. Morien spake to Sir
Gawain as he lay there. "What may this be? Here cometh a knight, and I
know not whither he goeth!"

Sir Gawain abode not still, but went as best he might to the window; he
looked upon the knight, and deemed by his armour and the tokens whereby
a man may be known of men, that 'twas his own brother, Sir Gariet, the
son alike of his father and of his mother. He came riding, as one sore
pressed, on that self-same road that led from Britain. The more Sir
Gawain looked upon him the more he deemed he knew him; and when he came
nigh to the Hermitage he knew well the arms that he bare. Then was Sir
Gawain gladder at heart than I may tell ye, for Sir Gariet his brother,
that strong and valiant knight, brought with him that of which they were
sorely in need, bread and meat, and wine fresh and clear.

'Twas sore need brought him hither, as ye shall now hear: They of
Britain had lost King Arthur their lord, and were in sore danger of
losing all their land, therefore had they sent Sir Gariet to seek Sir
Gawain, and Sir Lancelot, since they twain were without peer, the most
valiant knights of the court. Sir Perceval might well be accounted the
third, but 'twas not for long that he practised knighthood; nevertheless
he brought many into sore stress, even as ye have heard.

When Sir Gariet had come before the hermitage, Sir Gawain came forth
with haste from the chapel on to the road, as one who was blithe beyond
measure when he beheld his brother; and he said, "God give ye good day,
that ye come, brother, and that I see ye! Never was I so joyful of
aught, since that I was born."

Sir Gariet alighted on the turf when he saw his brother; and as he came
nigh to him he took him in his arms saying: "Alas, brother, woe is me!
How hath this so chanced? Methinks ye have suffered harm, and been in
such sore strife that 'tis a marvel an ye be healed, and escape with
life, ye seem to me in such evil case." Thus spake Sir Gariet. And Sir
Gawain said, "I have never a limb but feeleth the smart of wounds, yet
am I whole of heart, and shall heal myself right well. But let that tale
be, and make known to me the errand upon which ye ride that ye be now
come hither. Fain would I know the truth."

Quoth Sir Gariet, "That will I tell ye."

Thus went the twain into the chapel, where they found that good man,
the hermit, and Morien, who was black of face and of limb. Then was Sir
Gariet somewhat in fear, when he saw him so great of limb and of such
countenance. This marked well his brother, Sir Gawain, and he gave him
to wit of the knight, and of his name, who he was, and whence he came,
ere he asked him aught; for he saw well that he somewhat misdoubted him
when he saw the good knight Morien of such countenance.

So sat they down together, and each bade the other welcome, and made
much joy of their meeting. But Sir Gawain was more desirous than I may
tell ye of knowing wherefore Sir Gariet, his brother, came thither, till
he brought him to that point that he spake the truth concerning what had
chanced to King Arthur, and told how the worst had befallen him. "King
Arthur is taken captive! As he fared on a day to hunt in a great forest,
as he was wont to do, there came upon him the greatest company of armed
men that I may tell ye of, in these few words, who were all the King of
the Saxons' men. They were in such force that they took King Arthur, who
foresaw naught of this, and had but few folk with him, as he but went
a-hunting. Thereof are his people sore troubled, and the queen above
all--she is well nigh distraught in that the king is captive. She knows
not whither the folk who took him in the forest have led him, or what
may since have befallen him. Thereof is many a heart sorrowful. The
forest standeth by the sea shore, whence came the folk who took the king
by force, and led him whither they would. They who rode with King Arthur
were unarmed, and defenceless; their strength was not worth a groat.
Thereto have we another woe; the Irish King hath come into the land, and
made war; one town hath he already won, and layeth siege to another. He
hath made his boast that he will win all Arthur's land, hill and vale,
castle and town (this is his intent), and bring all under his hand ere
he quit our land. Of this is the queen sore afraid, and they who be with
her, they look not to escape. Had ye, brother, been in the land, and
Perceval, and Lancelot, then had we never come to such a pass, for there
liveth no man so bold that he durst withstand ye three in any venture
that might chance. Now hath my lady the queen taken counsel, and sent
messengers far and near into every land to seek ye and Lancelot in this
her sore need. And I be one of these messengers, and have ridden as
swiftly as my steed might bear me from Arthur's Court hitherward, and
ever have I sought tidings of ye, till at length men told me, and I knew
that ye twain had come over to this cross, to this parting of the ways.
And beyond the border did men tell me that would I ride hither I must
fare for long upon the road ere I found a soul, man or woman, who lived,
and was of the faith of Christendom. Against this did I prepare myself,
and brought with me food, meat and bread, lest I had need thereof, and
cool clear wine in two flasks that hang here by my saddle, that I might
lay my hand on them when I had need thereto."

Then laughed Sir Gawain the bold when he heard him speak of food, and
said that he had come thither in a good hour since they had no victuals,
much or little, nor drink there within, nor knew they where they might
find any had he brought none with him. But God had thought upon them
betimes, and Mary, His Blessed Mother.

Then quoth Sir Gariet his brother, "Let us eat and drink, and begin our
meal, as we have need to do--but where is Sir Lancelot, that I see
him not here? Sir Gawain, brother, tell me, for fain would I know the
truth?"

And Sir Gawain spake, "He rode hence a while ago to seek Sir Perceval."

Sir Gariet answered and said, "That ye vex yourselves thus to seek him,
'tis labour lost, for tidings have come to court that Perceval hath
become hermit, and doeth penance for his sins. He hath learnt the truth;
did he seek till Doomsday that which he went forth to seek, the spear
and the grail, he would find them not; that cometh altogether from his
sin against his mother whereas he left her in the forest, and would
no more remain with women--then did she die for sorrow. That sin hath
hindered him, did he otherwise come upon them, of winning the spear and
the grail. He must be pure and clean from all stain, from all sin (so is
it now declared for truth) who would have the spear at his will, and the
grail. For sorrow at this hath Perceval betaken himself to a hermitage,
thereof have tidings come to court, even as he willed that it should be
made known. And concerning his brother Sir Agloval, of him did they tell
that he lay sick, with his uncle, sorely wounded; but the messenger did
us to wit that he was like to be healed, that do I tell ye, Sir Gawain.
Now let us eat, and go on our way to the queen with honour, that doth my
lady require of ye and of Sir Lancelot, upon your faith to her. But I am
sore vexed that he hath thus escaped me!"

When Morien, the son of Sir Agloval, had heard and understood this tale,
he asked forthwith if any there within could give him true tidings
and make known to him the road to the hermitage whither his uncle had
betaken himself, and where his father lay wounded; since he would fain
know thereof.

Their host quoth straightway, "He that had a boat at his will and a
favouring wind might be there ere even." He said that he knew the
hermit; "And 'twixt water and land 'tis a good fifteen mile thither,
that do I know for a truth, for oft-times have I heard men speak thereof
since I came hither. Now hearken to what I tell ye," (thus he spake to
Morien) "over the arm of the sea, there where ye cross, neither more
nor less, on the further shore is there a forest, to all seeming the
greatest men may wot of, and the wildest--'tis long withal and wide. But
as ye come thither, to one side, at the entering in of the forest, they
who would seek it may find the hermitage within but a short distance,
even as it were the mountance of a mile. Of this be ye sure, with never
a doubt."

"So help me God," quoth Morien, "an it fall out according to my will
there shall I be ere even. And may I but see my father, an good luck
befall me, I turn not from that goal, e'en if I find the man who gave me
life, but ere I depart he shall keep the vow that he sware to my mother
when he aforetime parted from her, and left her sorrowing sore, even
that he would wed her, and make her his wife. Rather would I, ere even,
be flayed with a sharp knife than refrain from this. Were he twofold my
father he might well be in fear of death, should he fail to keep his
oath, and ride with me to the Moorish land." He began to make ready as
one who would straightway ride thence.

Then spake Sir Gariet, "An God will, it shall fall out better than ye
say, 'twixt ye and your father; we will eat and drink, and I rede ye, an
ye be wise, ye shall bethink ye well ere ye do aught save good to your
father. I conjure ye by the faith that ye owe to our Lady, and by the
honour of knighthood, that ye do my bidding, and let your thoughts be
of good, and not of evil, and hearken Sir Gawain's rede, thereof shall
never harm befall ye--he shall give ye the best counsel."

And Morien answered that were he fain to do.

Herewith they left speaking of this matter, and Sir Gariet brought forth
a napkin, white and clean, and spread it before the knights, as is meet
for noble folk, and those worthy of honour. Then he brought forth more
than seven loaves, white as snow, that he had with him, and laid them
upon the napkin before the knights. He brought forth ham and venison
that he had bidden make ready, there, where he had lain over night,
since that men told him he drew near to the wilderness whither had gone
the knights whom he sought, and who rode before him. Since he was upon
their track he had risen long ere 'twas day, and now came thither with
the sun-rising. He brought forth also clear wine, two good bottles full.
He was not altogether dull in that he had so well bethought him, and
brought food with him lest peradventure he have need thereof. 'Twas
right welcome to them who now partook of it; and through these good
victuals forgat they all their tribulation, as they ate and drank. They
were above measure joyful, those three knights, at that time, and with
them the hermit, for they would in no wise forget him, but he must eat
and drink with them.

When the meal was ended then Morien thought to ride on his way. But the
good knight Sir Gariet said, "Sir Knight ye will do better to abide than
to depart in this haste, in short while shall ye have trouble an ye seek
your father. Follow ye our counsel; 'tis now high day, did ye come in
safety to the ships it would be o'er late ere ye came to the other
side."

Quoth Sir Gawain his brother, as one wise in counsel, "Knight I will
tell ye what ye shall do; from haste cometh seldom good that abideth to
honour. Therefore tarry over night with us, since ye may not achieve
your goal this day; and I will make ready my weapons as best I may; I
must needs be better healed ere I have strength to ride whither I would.
Tomorrow shall it fare better with me. Then will we ride, without delay,
so soon as it be daylight. If God will I shall be more at ease in limbs
and at heart, and I shall have less pain than I have as at this while. I
have no mind to abide here behind ye, nor to hinder ye and cause ye to
delay when ye would fain ride hence, as I know right well! Here have I
foes nigh at hand, who have wrought me harm, and were ready to do yet
more did they know me to be here, in this place."

Then did Morien after his counsel, and abode there throughout the night,
and told all the adventures that had befallen him. And Sir Gawain made
ready his harness and his weapons, and scoured and polished them, and
tested them where they were mishandled. But that which grieved him the
most was his sorrow for his good sword which he had thus lost, for it
was a sword of choice.

What boots it to make long my tale? The morrow as the day dawned, and
shed beauty over hill and vale, they rode forth together, and Sir Gawain
the Father of Adventure with them. They would not spare themselves. Then
said Sir Gawain he would fare in quest of Sir Lancelot who departed with
him from court when he left King Arthur, since he might not well, for
his honour, return without him. He wist not how it had gone with him;
and would fain learn how his venture had fallen out and return in short
space, would God prosper him, and bring Sir Lancelot with him to the aid
of the queen. On this was his mind set, nor would he do otherwise, for
any man's prayer.

With this was Sir Gariet but ill-pleased; he said Sir Gawain would do
better to return, and take the place of his uncle, and care for the land
and comfort the folk. But this he would not do, howsoe'er he prayed him,
but said he must first seek Sir Lancelot, and learn if harm had befallen
him. Sir Gariet gave him his sword, which was good and bright; then took
they leave, each of the other, for Sir Gawain would not return ere he
had spoken with Sir Lancelot, saying that the good fellowship betwixt
them twain should not be broken by his default; but that he would bring
him again to the court of King Arthur, and keep his covenant.

When they were thus made ready, armed and fittingly clad, they mounted
their steeds as they who would ride on their way. They took leave of the
good man, their host, and departed thence.

Sir Gawain had chosen his road, and Sir Gariet and Sir Morien bare him
company for a space, as it were the mountance of a mile. Each spake his
mind to the other. Sir Gawain said he would return with Sir Lancelot as
swiftly as he might, and put to shame the folk who had led his uncle
captive; and he quoth, "Brother, tell this to my lady the queen, and
bear her greeting in all good faith and loyalty. 'Tis not my will that
ye ride further, nor tarry longer with me, since 'twill profit ye
naught!"

Then Sir Gariet and Sir Morien turned their bridle. They commended Sir
Gawain to the care of God and all His saints, and so did he them. Each
saw the other's tears spring from their eyes and run down even to their
beards when they parted asunder. I may not tell ye how oft and how
warmly Sir Gawain thanked Morien, that he had saved his life that day on
the field, where he had of a surety been slain had not God and that good
knight come to his aid. Now will I here cease speaking of Sir Gawain and
tell of Sir Morien. The adventure doeth us to wit that when Sir Morien
and Sir Gariet had parted from Sir Gawain, they rode once more to the
crossways, for they had made a compact that they should not part before
that they had found his father, Sir Agloval. Thus they rode both
together, for Morien sware an oath that, would Sir Gariet ride with him,
he would e'en pray his uncle and his father to come to the aid of the
queen, King Arthur's wife, and help her to win back her land. On this
covenant and on this behest would Sir Gariet ride with him and bear
Morien company.

As they came to the ships, Morien told him how it had fared with him
before when he thought to make the crossing, and he said that he found
no living soul among all that he saw there who would let him into his
ship, since he seemed to them so huge, and black withal.

"They counted themselves for lost, deeming that I were the devil, and
were sore afeard, and put out to sea. Now see, Sir Gariet, what counsel
ye may find, and how we may so contrive that we cross the water; doubt
ye not that an they once behold me and know me they will straightway set
sail again and put to sea. I fear me we may not cross over!"

Quoth Sir Gariet: "By what ye tell me, methinks 'twere better that I
ride on ahead, and hire me a ship. Ye shall follow on softly; and let me
once come therein, and have my steed aboard and the boatman in my power,
he shall not depart hence ere that ye be come thither. May my soul be
lost if he do!" Further spake the knight Sir Gariet: "Even should he be
beside himself when he first see ye, I shall not let him free ere he
have taken us to the further shore, or I shall have from him such
forfeit 'twere better for him to be sunken and drowned in the depths of
the sea!"

Then answered Morien: "Ye have found the best counsel that may be
devised. Now ride ye without delay, and hire us a boat, good and strong,
that may well carry us over the water. I shall abide behind, and wait
till ye have done your part. I will do even as ye shall counsel!"

Thus they agreed together, and Sir Gariet rode alone till he came to
the ships, where he found a boat that pleased him well. He offered the
boatman money enow to take him to the further side with no delay. He
gave him the gold in his hand, and he made him ready and hoisted sail
and rigging. Of this did he swiftly repent. Even as the steed was aboard
and all was ready for the crossing came Morien riding, blacker than any
son of man whom Christian eyes had e'er beheld. And the boatman was fain
to flee when he beheld him and he drew nigh to him, for he had seen him
aforetime. He deemed that he should surely die of fear, and scarce might
move a limb.

Then Sir Gariet asked him: "Sir boatman, what aileth thee? By Heaven, it
availeth thee naught; thou shall ferry us over swiftly. Now make us no
ado, or this shall be thy last day. By the Lord who made us, of what art
thou afraid? This is not the devil! Hell hath he never seen! 'Tis but my
comrade; let him in. I counsel thee straitly!"

Then must the boatman obey, though he liked it but ill. He saw that
better might not be: he might neither leap out of the boat nor otherwise
escape. So soon as he had in his boat Morien, of whom he was sore
afraid, in that he was so huge, and had shipped his steed, which was in
seeming over-strong, he pushed the boat from shore and put out to sea.
He feared him greatly, even as one who deems that he is lost.

When Morien had sat himself down he did off his helmet of steel. Then
the boatman deemed that he was a dead man, and prayed for mercy,
beholding his face, for he though he might scarce be a Christian. Sir
Gariet asked of him tidings, if there had passed that way two knights,
of whom the one bestrode a red horse and wore red armour, and the other
bare the badge of King Arthur. If he might tell him aught of them he
besought him to do so; an he knew where they yet abode he would give him
great thanks.

The boatman said: "'Tis not long since that they were even in my boat;
the one knight ware red armour and had with him a red steed, and the
other was wounded and bare King Arthur's badge; and I know full well,"
quoth the boatman, "the knights who bear that badge, by that same token
shall ye yourself be one of King Arthur's knights. They would both cross
over, and I ferried them to the further side. 'Twas to them an unknown
land; that did I hear well from their speech. Methought that they were
ill at ease, I wist not wherefore. I saw that the one wept so that the
tears fell thick adown his face. And when I had brought them to the
other side the knight, who was glad thereof, asked me if I knew where
stood a hermitage wherein a hermit dwelt. That did I shew him--no more
and no less."

Thus fared they, having heard the tale and speaking of the twain, till
that they touched the sand. Then did the boatman shew them the way they
should ride thence to where the hermitage stood, and declared to them
the road. Thus left they the boatman, who was much rejoiced to be safely
quit of them. But the knights went on their way till they knew that they
drew near to the hermitage, and came even unto it. Then they dismounted,
and made fast their steeds before the door, and cried with a loud voice
to those within: "Let us in! Open of your goodwill!" A lad came to the
door and asked them what they desired, and if aught ailed them that they
required aid.

Then Sir Gariet spake, and said that an it were pleasing to them, they
would fain have speech with the hermit and with Sir Agloval. And the
messenger went his way to the twain, and told them how two knights stood
without the gate. "The one is a goodly man to look upon and well armed,
and so, forsooth, is the other, but his armour and his limbs, so far as
I might see, were blacker than soot or pitch. I wot not if ye know aught
of them or of their errand. They said that they would fain speak with
ye, and they prayed me straitly, the twain of them, that I should come
hither and tell ye this."

Sir Agloval, who deemed this passing strange, went, as best he might,
to the gate, and his uncle the hermit followed him with no delay. Sir
Agloval looked through the wicket, and was ware of Sir Gariet, Sir
Gawain's brother, and bethought him how that he belonged to King
Arthur's court and was worthy of great honour, for though he were not so
well known throughout the land as was his brother Sir Gawain, yet was he
a strong knight and bold, and a doer of valiant deeds.

When they beheld each other they gave fair and courteous greeting, the
one to the other, and Sir Gariet spake. "May He who can do all things
shew favour and honour to ye Sir Knight, and to all who be with ye there
within!"

Sir Agloval looked upon Morien, and marked right well the fashion of
him, and marvelled within himself what manner of knight he might well be
who bare such guise. And Morien stood before him and asked him if he yet
remembered how, seeking for Sir Lancelot, he came into the land of the
Moors, and how he there loved a maiden, and plighted to her his troth,
and how she granted to him her favours ere he departed from her upon his
quest. He asked him if he yet thought thereupon, how, when he departed
from the land he pledged his word to her that he would return, so soon
as might be, to the country of the Moors, for her profit and for her
honour? Did he yet think upon this?

Sir Agloval made answer: "Sir Knight, I make no denial, yet have I
but seldom been at rest. I rode in quest of Sir Lancelot awhile; and
thereafter had I but little respite, since I brought my brother to
court, where he was held in high honour, and so soon as he was made
knight must I ride forth with him upon a journey which he would in no
wise delay; for he was fain to avenge the harm done to our father many a
year agone--that must ye understand. My brother knew well that our foes
had taken to themselves the heritage that should have been ours, when
they drave my father forth. This would he avenge, and spare not, and
herein had we much strife ere we might regain it; but now have we done
so much that we have won back our heritage and slain all those who had
possessed themselves of our land. That so many years have fled since I
sware to the maiden that I would return to her, that came of necessity.
Now have I failed to keep mine oath, and needs must that I bethink me
well, and seek counsel in the matter. I know not, and have no true
tidings, whether that lady of whom ye speak be living or dead; naught do
I know thereof!"

Quoth Morien: "But I shall tell ye more thereof! She to whom ye gave
your troth yet liveth and is my mother, and ye, Sir Knight, are my
father! If ye will come with me, at her prayer and mine, then will ye do
well and courteously. Ye begat me upon her who should be your wife, had
ye kept your oath. Now bethink ye well, and say if ye will come or no.
When ye parted from my mother she bare me though she knew it not. Thus,
Sir Knight, did the matter fall out."

Sir Agloval made answer: "By Heaven Sir Knight, I believe ye, every
whit. That which the lady claimeth from me, in that I have thus betrayed
her and foresworn mine oath, that will I make good, by the help of God.
I will yet win her grace. Come ye to me here within to mine uncle and my
brother, they shall counsel us well when they hear our tale--so shall we
be more at ease."

With that he undid the wicket. 'Twould have done any heart good, who
understood their speech, to see how Sir Agloval and Morien embraced and
kissed each other. Any heart would have been the gladder who had
seen and heard their gestures and their words, and in what love and
friendship they betook themselves within, where they were right well
received. Sir Agloval forthwith made known to his uncle and to Sir
Perceval the true tale of his doings, and how that his son had come
hither.

When Sir Perceval heard this, never did knight receive so glad a welcome
as that which he gave unto his nephew; so likewise did the hermit. 'Twas
bliss and fair speech there betwixt those knights, and in their honour
did they bring forth such food and drink as was there within, and
did all they might for their comfort. That even was there naught but
gladness; each made great joy of the other, and erst as the knights were
weary did they get them to sleep, as men are wont to do, till the day
brake, and the sun shone forth.

The knights lay longer abed than did the hermit, who had said and sung
his orisons and his Mass ere day had dawned, or that the knights had
arisen and done on their garments. Then spake Morien to his father, even
as ye shall hear, and said he would ride thence, and was fain to know,
without contention, if he would come with him to his mother, and do that
which he promised when he departed from her, for the sake of God and of
his own honour, and for their profit. He told how they had been deprived
of their rightful heritage which had fallen to his mother from her
father. "'Twas altogether denied her by the law of the land; yet 'twas
the shame rather than the loss that grieved her, in that men called her
son fatherless, and she might bring no proof of her word, nor shew them
to their face the man who had begotten me!"

Then said Sir Agloval, his father: "I will tell ye out and out how the
thing stands with me, and tell ye all my counsel. Believe me well, I
will not lie to ye in one word." And Morien hearkened and answered that
he believed him fully.

Thus they abode that day with the hermit, and were better served, in all
that men might prepare for them, than I may well tell ye; and Morien
prayed his father straitly that he would delay not, but would tell him
what was in his thought and in his intent. Thus did he urge his father,
till Sir Agloval told him all his mind.

He said that he beheld a vision in a dream; it seemed to him that he
rode throughout the day in a land where he saw naught but wilderness and
wood, and trees, many and fair. By whiles he rode through hail and snow,
by whiles through noontide heat, so that he was sore vexed. Whiles he
saw the sun shine bright, whiles it was as if the twilight fell. He saw
all kinds of beasts run through the forest, and folk, young and old, go
up and down the woods. All this did he see in his dream, but nowhere in
all this land did he come to where he might find shelter. But as it drew
towards evening, and the light failed, did he think to see a tower, so
strongly builded that none by force might lightly win their way within;
but no doorway might he see, only, as it were, another tower that stood
there. Within this he beheld a stairway, that wound upward to a doorway
at the end. The door seemed to him high as a church, and of wrought
ironwork. Were a man sick he might well be healed by the light that
streamed forth from within, for, as he saw and looked upon it, it seemed
as it might well be Heaven. And every step of the stairway was of good
red gold. And he thought within himself that since those steps were so
fair he might well set foot thereon, and tell the tale of them, how many
they might be, that hereafter he might speak of the great marvel he had
seen. But as he had counted sixty, and would set foot upon the next, lo!
he saw none of all those he had left below him, save that upon which he
stood, and on which his foot was set, and above him he saw naught. And
it seemed to him that the door was distant from the step as high as one
might shoot with a bow. Thus might he go neither forward nor backward.
Then he beheld, and on the ground beneath were serpents and wild bears,
even as if they would tear him; they gnashed their teeth as if they
would seize him, and gaped with their jaws as they would swallow him. It
seemed to him as if they were even at his heels, and he saw the snakes
and dragons all twist themselves upwards. "And as I was thus fearful the
step brake beneath me, and I fell downwards." From his great discomfort
and his fear of the dragons he awoke, and slept no more.

The dream vexed him sorely whenever he thought thereon; he was angry and
wroth, and wist not what the portent of the vision might be. But his
heart forbode him that pain and mischief, and sore labour withal, drew
nigh to him. Then it fell out that he met with a learned clerk, to whom
he told the vision even as it had appeared to him; and when he had
hearkened to his tale, and understood it well, he interpreted it in this
wise: "Concerning our lands, great and small, that we thereof should be
in great stress and fear ere we might win to them again; for strong were
the castles and mighty the armies, therefore did the vision foretell
ill to my brother and myself each and singly. And further he spake
concerning my brother Perceval, and the Spear, and the Grail; for that
golden stairway betokened the Holy Grail, and that Perceval should aid
in the winning thereof, and in that service should he die. Thus did he
foretell me. And the door that stood above and the stairway itself both
alike betokened the heavenly kingdom, as might well be known by the
light that shone within; and the steps that lay before it they betokened
the days of Perceval's life. 'This I tell ye of a truth, each betokeneth
a day, or a week, or it may be a month; but of this be ye sure, and
doubt not, so long shall he live, and then shall he yield up his life.
And that the steps brake beneath ye, 'twas for your sins; ye had
well-nigh climbed them had not sin laid hold on ye. The bears, and the
dragons, and the serpents that there lay in wait, know ye well that they
gave sure and certain sign that the fiends deemed they had ye for their
own in that hour, and would carry ye to Hell.'" Thus did the wise master
make known to him his dream, and bade him thereof take warning and order
his ways with wisdom, and that speedily, and delay not, for here should
he abide no long time, but drew nigh to his end.

"Dear son," quoth Sir Agloval, "then did my brother cease his quest for
the Spear and the Grail, and the adventure on which he was bound, and
came hither as swiftly as he might to mine uncle the hermit, and clothed
himself in this habit, through that which the clerk foretold me. Thus
are we here together, and my brother would fain amend his life. Nor am
I yet whole; for I was wounded wellnigh to death, and bruised and
mishandled, so that I had no power left, and am yet scarce healed. Thus
would I abide here awhile with my brother and mine uncle, that my wounds
might be tended, and that with them I might save my soul. Now ye will
that I journey with ye to your mother in the Moorish land, and I were
fain to ride thither were I but healed. Yet is there another matter. I
would gladly go with ye, that may ye know of a truth, for your honour,
and to do away your shame, were it not that I thus brought about my
death; nevertheless, I have trust in mine uncle, who is so wise, that he
shall make my peace with God, and bring me to eternal bliss. Now, son,
bethink ye of our profit, yours and mine, according to that which has
befallen me, and that ye have now heard even as I tell ye. Counsel me as
it seemeth ye best; since that I be your father, according as matters
went afore 'twixt me and your mother, it behoves ye well so to do."

Then quoth Morien: "Were ye better healed I would ride gladly, but it
becometh me well to shun aught that might do ye harm or mischief. I can
give ye none other counsel than that ye abide here till ye be once more
whole. King Arthur is captive and his land is beset and in sore stress.
Here is his nephew Sir Gariet, who hath come hither with me, and now
that I have learnt the truth I shall ride with him to court, to do him
honour, and there abide till that ye be whole and healed; and I will
return hither in the hour that I know ye be cured of your wounds and may
keep the oath that ye sware to my mother, that ye be praised of men and
in favour with God. So shall my mother once more be possessed of the
lands of which she hath been disinherited, and which she hath this long
time lacked. I shall depart and ye shall abide here, where may all good
befall ye! I will aid the queen, and God grant that I may win such fame
as shall be for the bettering of her cause and mine own honour and
profit. I shall return, be ye sure of it, when the time is ripe, and
shall ever think of ye as my father."

Then all thanked Morien, deeming that as at that time no better counsel
might be found; and Sir Gariet and Morien alike besought of Sir Perceval
that he would ride with them, to aid the queen and release King Arthur,
and bring comfort to his land. This he sware to do would his uncle grant
him leave thereto. Then did they all, and Sir Agloval with them, so
straitly pray the uncle that he granted their request, and never might
ye see at any time folk so blithe as were these knights in that Sir
Perceval would ride with them. Thus did they take their leave and wend
on their way. But now will I leave speaking of them and tell how it
fared with Sir Lancelot, who would slay the evil beast. Now doth the
adventure tell us that when Sir Lancelot departed from Sir Gawain at the
cross-roads he delayed not, but rode that same hour till he came to the
waste land wherein the beast had wrought havoc. Now in that land there
dwelt a maiden who had caused it to be made known far and wide that
whosoever might slay that beast him would she take for her husband.
Never might man behold a fairer maiden, and the land was all in her own
power. Now there dwelt also therein a traitor, a knight who loved the
maiden, but had little mind to risk his life for her; he kept close
watch upon that beast if so be that any man should slay it that he might
play the traitor, so should the slayer pay with his life for the deed,
and he should spread abroad that he himself had, of a verity, slain the
monster.

Thus Sir Lancelot rode so far into the land that he came nigh to the
place where he had heard that the fearful beast had made its lair. There
did he see many a helm, and spear, and weapon of the knights it had
slain, whose bones lay there stripped of flesh, which the monster had
devoured; he might well be afraid! So soon as Lancelot might know where
the beast was wont to lie, he made haste thitherward, and so soon as it
was ware of his coming it came flying in such guise as it had been the
Devil, and set upon Sir Lancelot straightway. It feared neither sword
nor spear, nor armour, nor might of man. And Lancelot smote at the
monster so that his spear brake in twain, yet had he not bruised it a
whit, or pierced its hide; then he drew forth his sword and smote with
great force, but he harmed it not, and it seized Lancelot by the throat
and scored him in such wise that the knight was wroth thereof, for it
tare a great rent through the hauberk even to the flesh, and wounded him
sore. Many a time did Sir Lancelot strike and smite at the beast, but
never a groat might he harm it; but the monster fell upon Sir Lancelot
and scored him even to the feet, and dealt him many a wound, and
breathed out venom upon him; had it not been for a ring which Sir
Lancelot ware upon his finger he had fallen dead where he stood from the
poison. Then the monster sprang towards him with gaping jaws, as it were
fain to swallow him, and Lancelot watched his chance, and thrust his
sword into its mouth, and clave the heart in sunder, and the beast gave
a cry so terrible that 'twas heard a good two mile off.

Then the traitor who spied all from afar, when he heard the cry delayed
not, but rode swiftly towards the lair, for he knew well from the cry
that the monster was slain. When he came to the place he found Sir
Lancelot sitting, binding up his wounds, which were many and deep. The
knight began to bemoan his plight, and went towards him saying that he
would bind his wounds for him. That cowardly and wicked knight, he came
even to Sir Lancelot's side, and snatched stealthily at his sword, and
sprang backward and smote at him, wounding him so that he fell as one
dead.

When the false traitor saw this he deemed that he was dead, and left him
lying, and went there, where the monster lay, and smote off the right
foot, thinking to take it to the maiden of whom I have told ye, that he
might therewith win her to wife.

But in this while had Sir Gawain ridden so far that he had learned the
truth how that Sir Lancelot had found the beast, and at this time he had
followed upon his tracks and came unto the lair even as the traitor had
wounded Sir Lancelot, and cut off the foot, and was mounted upon Sir
Lancelot's steed, which that good knight, Sir Gawain, knew right well.

So soon as he saw the stranger upon the steed, and Lancelot, who lay
there wounded, he rode fast towards him, and drew out his good sword,
and cried, "Abide ye still, Sir Murderer, for this beast have ye slain
my comrade, that do I see right well." That false and cruel knight had
fain ridden thence, but Sir Gawain was so nigh to him that he could not
avoid, and smote at him so fiercely that he must needs abide, and draw
bridle, and pray for mercy.

Sir Gawain was of a mind to bring him to Sir Lancelot ere he made terms
with him. Thus they came together, and Lancelot, who was now recovered
from the swoon in which he had lain, and was ware of Sir Gawain, cried
to him concerning the traitor who had smitten him all unarmed, "Dear
comrade, slay him. I shall die the easier, knowing that he be already
dead." As he spake thus, Sir Gawain made no more ado but smote off the
traitor's head.

Then did he forthwith go to bemoan his comrade, and quoth, "Sir Knight,
may ye not be healed? Tell me now the truth; I will aid ye as I may."
Then Sir Lancelot did him to wit how he had fared with the beast, and
how the traitor had thereafter wounded him. "And this hath wrought me
the greater harm; yet might I but find a place wherein to rest methinks
I might well be healed."

Then was Sir Gawain glad at heart, and he bound up his wounds forthwith
with herbs of such virtue as should stay the bleeding; and he took Sir
Lancelot and set him upon his steed, and turned him again towards the
hermit's cell as best he might, for 'twas in both their minds that might
they but come thither Sir Gawain should surely heal him. Thus did they
ride until they had found the hermitage, and scarce had they come
thither when they were ware of Morien with Sir Gariet and Sir Perceval,
who came thither as at that time.

Then was there joy and gladness manifold. The Hermit made ready food for
his guests, and prepared a couch for Sir Lancelot as best he might. Each
told the other how matters had fallen out with them, and Morien gave
them to wit how it had fared with his father.

That night were they well entreated by the hermit, but the morrow so
soon as Sir Lancelot heard how it went with the queen, even should he
gain the world thereby he had remained no longer, neither for wounds nor
for weariness, for, he said, he was surely healed, and was fain to be at
strife. Thus must they all ride forth, whether they would or no, with
the early morning, for they might not lose a day. Sir Gawain would tend
Sir Lancelot's wounds even as they rode on their way.

Thus they journeyed till they heard true tidings of their lady, the
queen; how that she was beset on all sides by the King of Ireland. He
had burnt and laid waste so much men scarce knew the tale thereof, and
the queen had he beset in a castle to which he himself laid siege. For
he had sworn a great oath, nor would he lightly break it, that might
he win the castle he should spare no man of all that were within, but
should put such shame upon them, and on the queen, that men should speak
thereof for all time. Thus had the king sworn by his crown, and by all
that may bind a king, that he would do them bitter shame.

When the knights of whom I tell ye came into Arthur's land they saw
there a castle, around which ran a swift water, broad and deep. He who
builded that burg was well counselled. The castle was of grey hewn
stone. King Arthur had never a stronghold in the losing of which he had
lost so much, and this was not yet lost. But the folk that were within
had no more than a day's grace left to them, on the morrow must they
fare forth, for would they defend it no quarter should be shown them,
but they should be seethed or roasted alive. This had the king sworn and
on the morrow would he come thither; he had laid waste the country and
destroyed the churches, and made many widows and orphans; all the land
was in terror for the harm thus wrought upon them. The knights who
came thither saw the folk as they fled with all their goods and their
foodstuff, they deemed theirs was a lost cause. They met many folk, men
women and children who would flee the land; they drave their cattle
before them and were laden with their goods; some were ahorse, some
afoot, 'twas the best they might do to their thinking.

Then Sir Gariet gave courteous greeting to one whom he met, and asked
who were this folk, and wherefore they fled thus in haste? And the
goodman answered straight-way: "They deem that all is lost; the King
cometh hither to this castle that standeth here, and the people of the
land know not what they may do, they must lose their goods and all they
possess. Here hath a great misfortune chanced, the ordeal hath gone over
us; King Arthur hath been taken captive and we know not where he may be,
he was waylaid and betrayed in a forest, whither he went to hunt, and we
saw him never more. The King of Ireland hath seized upon all this land,
he who would save his life must perforce yield to him, for he hath with
him a mighty army and our folk are defenceless. We lack leaders--Sir
Gawain and Sir Lancelot have both of them left the land, and thereof
hath great shame come to us--we are without king, or leaders, or
counsel."

Quoth Morien: "This castle that standeth here, is there yet any man
within?"

The goodman said: "I tell ye there are ten knights within (and they have
naught but death before them), and a great company of foot soldiers.
Now must they reap that mischance which hath fallen upon the land. They
might well have held the castle for a year to come, so strong is it,
and they have within weapons and victuals, and men enough for the
defence--it might scarce be taken by force so long as they had food,
nor might any man lightly make his way therein. But methinks God hath
forsaken us. The king hath sworn an oath that if need be he will besiege
the castle seven years, and all they who withstand him, and whom he
shall find within at his coming thither, shall lose their lives; this
hath he made known to them. And their wives and their children, though
their lives be spared, shall be deprived of their goods and their
heritage. Thus, since we may not hope for aid, we are forsaking the
castle and taking to flight."

Quoth Sir Gawain: "Good friend, God reward ye for your tidings."

Then Sir Gawain bethought him that 'twere best they rode within the
castle which was a fair burg, and strong; and that they should there
greet the knights and strangers who might be within, bidding them trust
in God that He would bring their matter to a good ending. The knights
were right well received, for all knew them well, and made great
rejoicing over the coming of Sir Gawain and Sir Lancelot. Then did Sir
Gawain give them to wit of the good knight Sir Morien, what he had done
for them, and how he was one of the best knights the sun ever shone
upon. Thus spake Sir Gawain.

Then said Sir Morien: "'Tis good that we abide here within, and brave
the venture for the sake of the king our lord. 'Twere a sin and a
disgrace to yield up the castle, we should better adventure our lives
and see the matter to an end."

Sir Gawain and Sir Lancelot took up the word and said: "He who faileth
his king 'tis right that men speak shame of him thereafter throughout
the world. Would ye have good fortune ye must await what cometh, and I
have good hope that heaven shall shortly send us help. Here may we well
win fame for ourselves and uphold the honour of our lord King Arthur.
Though he be now a captive yet, an God will, he shall escape. My heart
and my mind fore-tell me that will we but hold out here within it
shall be to our honour!"

Thus did Sir Gawain and Sir Lancelot admonish them, even as I tell ye,
and when they had hearkened to their words those who were within,
and had thought to depart, when they knew what was the mind of those
knights, sware that never a knight nor squire, nor man-at-arms would
give himself up, or forsake that good castle. Morien's counsel seemed to
them good, and although he were not fair to look upon yet when he stood
upon his feet it seemed to them that had he the chance he might put to
the rout a whole army! Each man there gave his surety to abide with them
at that time, nor to surrender through fear of death, but to hearken to
other counsel.

When all had sworn the oath, and given surety, then did they shut fast
the portals upon all their food and all the aid they might win against
the king and his army who were nigh at hand.

Ere the day darkened came the king himself, in great wrath, and with him
many knights who belonged to his household, and many other folk, warlike
to behold, and came even to the castle. Then the king demanded of those
who were within if they would yield up the burg, and thus save their
lives. And they within answered that so long as life remained to them
they would not give up the castle, or betray their rightful lord. Then
swore the king an oath that an they yielded them not up straight-way
they should in no wise escape the uttermost that he might do unto them.
But for that they cared little, and made them ready for the defence.
They thought to remain upon the battlements, and throw from the castle
stones so great and so heavy that the king should be driven from the
walls out on to the open field where he had pitched his tents.

With that had the night fallen, and they who had come into the land set
up tents and pavilions, and would lodge in the green-wood. When they of
within saw that they took counsel together, and said did they leave them
in peace that night the king would, doubtless, send for a greater force
of knights and other folk, and assemble a mighty army, and it were
better that they should now adventure themselves, and ride forth from
the castle ere they were yet more outnumbered. Hereof had they bethought
them ere yet they came to counsel.

Sir Lancelot spake thus: "Flee we may not, nor dare we hope for aid, nor
may we surrender the castle; in this way shall we profit better." Thus
were they that night within the castle, neither with game nor with
revel, but they held together as true knights and good comrades. They
ate and drank of such victuals as they had, and never a man of them
wavered as it drew nigh to the dawning; they were fain to do great
deeds; each looked to his armour as one who will fight for his life, and
gave his steed a feed of corn.

What boots it to make long my tale? With the dawning of the day were
they of within ready, each man well armed and mounted on a good steed.
They rode out betimes, and bade undo the gates. Thus did they ride forth
in all their strength.

They who kept shield-watch without were ware of them, and led their
company against them, but it harmed them naught. Morien's weapons were
so strong; 'twas he led the vanguard, nor would he yield an inch when
he began the strife. Never might one behold mortal man who smote such
strokes. They fought their way through that camp. Sir Gawain, Sir
Perceval, and Sir Lancelot smote many to death, and came even to the
king's tents, and seized their weapons, shields, and spears, ere his
folk might come at their arms. They knew not what had befallen them. No
quarter would the knights give. They who were with the king slept sound
in their ranks, and were sore afeard when they awoke and beheld the
armed men who beset them with stern intent; they had many a sore wound
ere they fled from the field.

They took the king by main force; there was no man at his side but was
glad and blithe might he escape with his life. The king must yield
himself a prisoner, thereto did need compel him, otherwise had he been
slain and all his folk with him.

They led the king within the castle, and shut him fast in a tower.
Never had they so welcome a guest, nor one at whose coming they were so
blithe. They on the field must escape as best they might. Little did
they reck of all they brought with them; he might win it who had a mind
thereto. When the fight was ended King Arthur's men had taken captive
much folk and the King of Ireland. Matters had gone well for them. They
held there within that which they deemed many would buy dearly, nor
count the gold therefor, nor might they well tell how they had lost it.
But 'twas their dread of Morien's mighty blows, and of Sir Lancelot, Sir
Gawain, and Sir Perceval, who, on the field, had brought many in sore
terror and dread of death.

So brought they their guests within the walls, and shut fast their
gates, and hung out their shields, as men who might well defend
themselves. Then when men beheld Sir Gawain's badge, and Sir Lancelot's
pennon beside it, tidings of the combat ran far and wide through the
land. The king's folk who lay there were sore vexed thereat. So soon as
they who had besieged the queen heard what had chanced they drew off
their forces; and all they who served the king, and who came with him
into the lands, were greatly shamed, and desired of Sir Gawain in what
wise they might make peace.

Sir Gawain took counsel with his comrades, and this was their rede, that
they must bring King Arthur there before their eyes ere they might make
terms for their lord, the king. "Then shall we have such good counsel on
all points that peace may thereby be made."

Wherefore should I make my tale over long? Little as they liked it they
must needs bring King Arthur thither, and thereby make terms for the
king, their lord. When the tidings ran through the land that the King of
Ireland was captive, and that King Arthur was brought thither to treat
with him, then was there so great a gathering of Britons that they
surrounded Arthur, and took him from the men of Ireland, and brought him
with armed hand into the castle despite them all. Thus did it fall out
well for King Arthur, since he thus escaped, and held captive the king
who had erstwhile made him a prisoner.

Now shall ye hear of the King of Ireland, who lay thus in the prison of
the knights. When he heard and beheld with his eyes that King Arthur was
in very deed free, then did he betake himself to him straight-way, and
offered him goods and gold that he might be set at liberty, and he sware
that he would be the king's man, and hold all his lands henceforward
from him, and would depart from the kingdom with all his folk. Thus must
the king, being captive, stand at King Arthur's pleasure to pay him such
ransom as he might think good. Of him will I speak no more.

Now was King Arthur so blithe thereof that he bid hold a great court,
that he might give largesse to all who desired. Thither came many, but
none were there of such renown, or who had wrought such valiant deeds,
as Sir Perceval and Morien. The reward that Arthur gave them was
exceeding great. Sir Gawain told the king all the matter of Morien and
of his father, and the chance that had parted them. All this did he tell
afore the folk, wherefore was Morien much gazed upon. Now will I leave
this tale and tell ye how Morien rode again to his father, whom he had
left sick with his uncle, as I gave ye to wit afore.

The adventure maketh known that when the strife was ended, and Arthur's
land once more at peace, Morien bethought him that he would make his
father be wedded to the lady, his mother; and he prayed his uncle
to journey with him if he would, and Sir Perceval was right willing
thereto. Further, said Sir Gawain and Sir Lancelot, that they twain
would ride with them for honour and for good fellowship. For this did
Morien thank them much. Thus they departed and went their way towards
the hermitage. They rode blithely in company, telling of many things
that had chanced here and elsewhere, until they came to the seashore,
where they took ship and crossed over; and when they had passed the
water they came straightway to Perceval's uncle, who received them with
right goodwill.

By this was Sir Agloval whole, who had been wounded, and Morien asked
him straightway if he were rightly healed, and would now keep the oath
which he had aforetime sworn unto his mother. Sir Agloval answered that
he was whole and sound, and ready thereto. "The troth that I swear to
your mother will I keep what time as it shall please ye. As God is my
witness I be altogether ready to do this."

Quoth Sir Perceval, "Then wherefore delay? Your son is so good a knight,
and stout a warrior, that ye may well thank heaven that ye begat him.
Make you ready straightway, and we will fare with ye. Sir Gawain and Sir
Lancelot be come hither in faith and good fellowship, and with us will
they journey to the Moorish land."

Then was there no longer delaying, but they made them ready for the
journey, and went their way with Sir Morien, who knew the road better
than any man of them all. They rode so long that they came thither; and
when they of the land heard tell how that Morien had brought his father
with him they assembled themselves together, and some were for refusing
them entry into the kingdom, since they would fain keep the heritage for
themselves. But when Morien heard this he waxed so wrathful that he drew
his sword and rode among them where there was the greatest press,
and slew there fifteen of the nobles who were fain to deny him his
inheritance.

When the others knew of this they came to him and besought his grace,
and yielded to him all his heritage, and gave it into the hand of his
mother, and became her men, to hold their lands henceforward from her.
When this was done, and they had proclaimed her queen over all the
kingdom of the Moors, then did they hold the bridal feast of Sir Agloval
and the queen, and thus were they wedded to each other. There was bliss
and great rejoicing fourteen days, even till nightfall did they hold
high feast with open doors; never a portal was shut. There was feasting
and great merriment; there were all well served with everything on earth
that they might desire. Many rich gifts were given, good steeds, raiment
of fair colours, many shillings, many pounds, great plenty of all things
by which men may the more blithely live. The minstrels and the heralds
received great largesse, for there was gold enow; each had that which he
desired.

There would Sir Gawain and Sir Lancelot abide till that the feast was
ended; be ye sure that Sir Perceval and Sir Agloval the bridegroom
prayed them thus to honour the bridal, and this they did, in right
courteous wise. No man of them all, were he poor or rich, but had enough
and to spare.

What more shall I say hereof? When the feast was ended, and all the
nobles departed, and all had taken leave, then was it in the mind of Sir
Gawain, Sir Lancelot, and Sir Perceval to betake them straightway to
King Arthur's court, for 'twas nigh to Pentecost, and the king (thus
do I read the tale) would hold high court (greater was never held) on
behalf of Galahad, Sir Lancelot's son, for that this hero should then
come to court, and receive the honour of knighthood. And thereof did the
tale wax great; how that he should achieve the quest of the Grail, and
all the adventures, small and great, which appertained to the Round
Table, for 'twas said that he should sit in the Perilous Seat, wherein
durst never man sit. To behold these marvels would many a man come to
court, for the king had bidden all the great folk of the land thither,
and many a knight of praise had obeyed his command.

And for this cause would not Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain and Sir
Perceval remain afar, but took their leave of Sir Agloval and of Morien
and of his mother, and rode on their way till they came to King Arthur
at Camelot, where he abode, as it pleased him well to do when he would
fain be at peace. And when the king heard of the coming of these three
knights, then was he right joyful at that time; and when he learnt
concerning Sir Agloval, how his wedding feast had been held, and of the
valiant deeds that Morien had done in his own land, then were king and
queen alike glad at heart.

Here will I leave this tale and speak further concerning the Grail,
and the winning thereof. That shall ye find set forth in the book that
followeth hereafter; the other part, that which concerneth Lancelot,
here cometh to an end. Now do I pray God in words straitly, that He have
mercy upon me when my life shall come to an end, and bring my soul to
His heavenly kingdom. May He grant this my prayer!

AMEN. NOTES

1. INTRODUCTION.--In the preface I have dwelt with some fulness on the
interesting questions connected with these opening lines; here it
will be sufficient to point out that in the earlier versions of the
_Perceval_ story the hero is either the only, or the sole surviving, son
of his parents. The introduction of a brother, as a definite character,
belongs to the later stages of Arthurian tradition. The brothers vary in
number and name, but the most noted are Sir Agloval and Sir Lamorak, who
appear to belong to distinct lines of development, Sir Agloval belonging
mainly to the _Lancelot_, Sir Lamorak to the _Tristan_ tradition. So far
I have not met with the latter in any version of the prose _Lancelot_,
though Dr. Sommer in his _Studies on the Sources of Malory_, refers to
him as mentioned in that romance; in the _Tristan_, on the contrary,
he is a leading figure. The _Morien_ story, as I have remarked in the
preface, has obviously been modified by the influence of the later
_Lancelot_ legend, hence, probably, the _role_ assigned to Agloval.

2. PAGE 20.--_Gawain as physician_. The representation of Gawain as
an expert in medical skill is an interesting feature which appears to
belong to early tradition. The references in the poem before us are the
most copious and explicit, but we also find the same accomplishment
referred to in the romance of _Lancelot et le cerf au pied blanc_ (D. L.
vol. ii. 1. 22825) where Gawain instructs the physician as to the proper
treatment of Lancelot's wounds; and the _Parzival_ of Wolfram von
Eschenbach (Book X. 1. 104) also refers to this tradition. It is
noticeable that Chretien de Troyes in the parallel passage of his poem
has no such allusion, nor can I recall any passage in the works of that
poet which indicates any knowledge, on his part, of this characteristic
of Gawain. This is one of the points of variance between Chretien and
Wolfram which, slight in itself, offers when examined valuable evidence
as to a difference of sources.

3. PAGE 24.--_The boast of Sir Kay._ Arthur's reproof to Kay is a
reference to the well-known adventure related both by Chretien and
Wolfram and found moreover in the _Peredur_. The hero, thrown into a
love-trance by the sight of blood-drops on the snow, gives no answer to
the challenge addressed to him successively by Segramore and Kay,
and being rudely attacked by these knights overthrows them both. The
allusion to this incident, which is not related in the prose _Lancelot_,
shows clearly that while, on the whole, he is harmonising his romance
with the indications of the later traditions, the writer is yet quite
conversant with the earlier forms.

4. PAGE 26.--_The Father of Adventure._ "Der Aventuren Fader." The
Middle English poem of _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_ (No. 1 of this
Series) speaks of the knight in somewhat similar terms as "the fine
father of courtesy." Gawain was from the first the adventurous hero,
_par excellence_ of the cycle, but I know no other instance in which
this characteristic is so quaintly and forcibly expressed.

5. PAGE 28.--_In secret case_. The original words are "in hemeliker
stede." To which particular adventure of Lancelot this refers it is not
easy to decide; on more than one occasion he disappears from court, and
the knights headed by Gawain, ride in quest of him. Perhaps this refers
to his imprisonment by Morgain le Fay (_cf_. summary of _D.L._ in
_Legend of Sir Lancelot du Lac_. Grimm's Library XII. pp. 236-7).

6. PAGE 35.--_Sir Agloval, he is my father._ This should be compared
with the account of Gamuret's wooing and desertion of the Moorish queen,
Belakane, in Book I. of the _Parzival_; also with the meeting of the
unknown brothers in Book XV. of the same poem. It is perhaps worth
noticing as indicative of the source of the tradition that Wolfram
distinctly states that his Moor speaks in _French_.

7. PAGE 67,--_The slain and the slayer_. The belief that the blood of
a corpse would flow afresh, did the murderer approach it, was very
prevalent in the middle ages. In Chretien de Troyes' _Chevalier au lion_
(ll. 1177 et seq.) we find a similar situation, complicated by the fact
that Yvain (the slayer) protected by a magic ring is invisible to the
bystanders. The best known instance, however, is probably that of the
_Nibelungenlied_ where Kriemhild's suspicions that Hagen is Siegfred's
murderer are in this manner verified.

8. PAGE 91.--_I have no call to flee, nor to fear death_. This is
evidently the hermit whom Lancelot in the _Queste_ finds dead under
circumstances agreeing with those here hinted at. The story will be
found in Malory Book XV.

9. PAGE 102.--_That cometh altogether from his sin against his mother_.
The reason here alleged for Perceval's failure to find the Grail is that
given by Chretien and Wolfram, and is another indication of the writer's
familiarity with the early _Perceval_ story.

10. PAGE 116.--_Sir Agloval's explanation, (a) The Lancelot quest_. The
special quest here referred to is that undertaken in search of Lancelot
when he fled from court in a frenzy, induced by Guinevere's jealousy of
King Pelles' daughter. During this quest Agloval visits his mother, sees
Perceval, and brings him to court (_cf. Legend of Sir Lancelot_ pp.
161-2).

_(b) The lost heritage_. The fact that Perceval regains possession
of the heritage of which he has, before his birth, been deprived is
recorded in certain of the _Perceval_ romances; the _Parzival_ of
Wolfram von Eschenbach, the prose _Perceval li Gallois_, and the English
_Sir Percyvelle of Galles_, but it is not found in Chretien. It is
clear, to a close observer, that the compiler of the Dutch _Lancelot_
knew the early _Perceval_ tradition in a form closer to the version of
the German, than that of the French poet. Later on, in the _Queste_
section, he introduces a reference to this inheritance, where none
exists in the French versions I have examined (_cf. Legend of Sir
Lancelot_ p. 174).

11. PAGE 127.--_Lancelot's adventure with the beast._ This is a
condensed account of the well known story of _The Fahe Claimant_. Two
versions of this story have already been given in this series, the
dragon adventure in _Tristan_ (No. II) and that of the stag in _Tyolet_
(No. III.); this is inferior to either, but appears to combine
characteristics of both. I have discussed it fully in Chapter III. of
the _Lancelot_ studies, before referred to, and have there compared it
with the similar adventure also attributed to that knight in the Dutch
compilation.

12. PAGE 128.--_Had it not been for a ring which Lancelot wore._ This is
evidently the ring given him by the Lady of the Lake, and referred to
in _The Charrette_ (ll. 2348 et seq). It had the power of detecting
enchantments.

13. PAGE 142.--_King Arthur--held captive the king, who had erst made
him a prisoner._ There seems to be a confusion here; from Gariet's
account it was the King of the Saxons who captured Arthur; here he
has disappeared and everything is attributed to the King of Ireland.
Probably they were allies; but it is also possible that confusion may
have arisen from the fact that the King of Dublin was at one time, as in
the Tristan legend, a Viking, and the poet has not distinguished clearly
between the nationalities of these sea-robbers. If so, it would seem to
indicate an early date for this particular story.

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