Gilbert's King Arthur's Knights

II. HOW LANCELOT WAS MADE A KNIGHT. THE FOUR WITCH QUEENS, AND THE ADVENTURES AT THE CHAPEL PERILOUS

   When King Arthur was arrived at the age of twenty-five, his knights and barons counselled that he should take a queen, and his choice fell upon Gwenevere, the daughter of King Leodegrance, of the land of Cameliard. This damsel was the most beautiful and the most gracious in all the realm of Britain.
   When the marriage was arranged between her father and Merlin, King Leodegrance said that, for her dowry, instead of broad lands, of which King Arthur had many, he would give to Arthur the Table Round, which Uther Pendragon had in friendship given to him many years before. For, as King Arthur was already famous for his prowess and nobleness and his love of knightly men and brave deeds, Leodegrance knew that this would be a gift beloved of Arthur.
   With the table were to go the knights who were its company. It seated one hundred and fifty when it was complete, but many had been slain, and now they numbered but a hundred.
   When King Arthur heard from Merlin of the coming of Gwenevere, with the hundred knights bearing the Round Table with them, he was very glad, "for," said he, "their noble company pleaseth me more than great riches." He charged Merlin to go and espy tbrough all the land of Britain for another fifty knights, so that the table of the noble company of the Round Table would be complete.
   Now, it chanced that while Arthur sat in the hall of his palace at London, waiting for Gwenevere to come to him, and for Merlin to return from his quest, King Ban, who had aided him in his fierce battle against the eleven kings, sent his young son Lancelot to Arthut's court, to learn knightly deeds and noble prowess.
   None knew who he was but Arthur, who kept the matter secret. Many had smiled at the huge limbs of Lancelot until his great strength had caused them to respect him; and being but a young man he had not yet got all his courtly bearing and noble manners for which in later time he was famous throughout all Christendom. So that many knights and ladies smiled sourly upon him, but others saw that he would shortly prove a fine man of his hands, full courteous and gentle, and of a noble nature and great presence.
   At the court was also young Gawaine, son of King Lot, and nephew of the king. Both Lancelot and Gawaine were as yet not knighted, but together they tilted at each other in the lists beyond the walls, and spent their days in sword-play and all knightly exercises. Lancelot was the stronger and the better fighter; and though Gawaine never overcame him, yet did they twain love each other passing well.
   Now Gawaine went to the king one day, and asked of him a gift, and King Arthur said he would grant it.
   "Sir," said Gawaine, while Lancelot stood a little way off, fondling the hounds that licked at his hand, "I ask that ye will make me knight the same day that ye shall wed fair Gwenevere."
   "I will do it with a good will," said the king. "And, Lancelot," he said, calling to the young man, "have ye no boon to ask of me?"
   "Not at this time, sir," replied Lancelot, "but in a little while I may."
   Into the hall next day, as the king sat at dinner came an old woman, bent and feeble, but with reverend white hair and gentle face, and she kneeled at the king's feet.
   "What is it, dame?" said Arthur. "What is't you crave?"
   "Justice, lord king," she said in a weak voice, while the tears gushed from her eyes. "Or else I die beside the gate where you do give the justice that all men praise."
   "Who hath done evil to you?" said the king.
   "Sir Caradoc of the Dolorous Tower in the Marsh," replied the old woman. "I and my son, lord, did build a little hut of wattle on a little plot which we banked from the marsh, near the great wall of the rich baron, deeming it safe to rest within the shadow of the strong lord, and though his hard rule was hateful to those whom he oppressed, we were so humble that we thought he would not notice us. And meagrely we reared our living from the ground, and sold our poor herbs to Sir Caradoc his steward, or to the people in the villages in the marsh about us. But soon the Lord Caradoc desired the land on which our little hut was standing, to make his lands the broader. He tore our poor home down, and scattered all, and thrust us out to wander in the marshes, and when my poor son pleaded with the lord, he had him whipped, and he was brought and cast half dead at my feet as I waited outside the hall. Now if thou givest us not justice, we shall surely die."
   "Doth any know Sir Caradoc?" asked the king of his knights.
   "Yea, sir," said one, "and he is a great man of his hands, fierce and bold, of strong family, and his brother is Sir Turquine of Camber, who tried to slay thee at Caerleon, and was with the eleven kings in battle. Caradoc liveth in a strong tower beyond the marshes the south of the river, and he slayeth all that desire to pass them, unless they pay him all he demands."
   "What!" said the king with fierce anger, "within a few miles of this my justice-seat doth such tyranny rule unchecked, and ye tell me naught of it? Are ye then more fearful of this marsh robber than of me your king?"
   The knights hung:their heads abashed, and were silent.
   Then Lancelot came and stood before the king.
   "Let me, sir king, go and summon this tyrant to your presience," he said, "so that this poor dame may have justice, and that ye may punish him for his oppression."
   "I fear me, Lancelot, thou art over young for so fierce a knight," said Arthur.
   "I shall but bear thy words, sir," said Lancelot, "and he will not harm thy messenger."
   "Take two stout men-at-arms with you, then," said Arthur, "and say to this Sir Caradoc that if he come not back with thee to answer unto me, I will come and take his life and burn his evil tower to the ground."
   Many of the younger men that had despite against Lancelot for his greater prowess at the sword and the lance thought that now, indeed, they would be ridded of him, for they deemed Sir Caradoc would slay him.
   Two days later came young Lancelot back with his two men-at-arms, and with them, bound upon a great horse, was a full fierce and raging knight, red of face, large of body, his clothes all tossed and torn, and his mouth full of dire threatenings against Lancelot. Men made way for them marvelling, and together Lancelot and his captive rode up the hall to the king.
   "Here, lord, is Sir Caradoc of the Dolorous Tower in the Marsh," said Lancelot. "He would not come when I gave him your message, so I bided my time until he was sunk in wine, and was sleeping alone, and I have brought him secretly from his hold. Now, lord king, I think Sir, Caradoc would joust with me, if you will give me knighthood."
   "Joust with thee, thou smooth-faced boy!" cried, Sir Caradoc, straining at his bonds. "I will spiit thee on my lance if I may get at thee and when thou art slain, I will fight with this little king of thine - and his death shall wipe out this insult thou hast put upon me!"
   At this rage and fierce bearing men marvelled and many were afeared, seeing that Sir Caradoc was great in lands and kinsmen, and big of his body.
   "Thou art full young, Lancelot," said Arthur, "to joust with so strong a knight. Let an older man have ado with him."
   "Sir king," cried Lancelot eagerly, "I claim the first battle with this strong tyrant. He is my captive, and I claim it."
   "Have it as ye will," said Arthur, "and God speed you. But I misdoubt me much 'twill end in your sorrow."
   "Ay, and thine too, thou gentle lady's knight!" sneered Sir Caradoc.
   "Peace, man, peace," said the king sternly. "I think God will fight in this battle, for I have inquired far, and the tale of thy evil deeds is over-full."
   Therewith King Arthur made young Lancelot knight, and men eagerly rushed away to the tilting-gound to see the battle between the virgin knight, Sir Lancelot, and the old robber knight, Sir Caradoc. And when Sir Caradoc was released and armed, he laughed and shook his lance, so sure was he of revenge right speedily.
   Then they hurtled together most fiercely and young Sir Lancelot was thrust from his horse by Sir Caradoc. Quickly he rose from the ground, and dressed his shield and drew his sword, and cried, "Alight, Sir Caradoc, for I will fight thee on foot." But Sir Caradoc, being traitorous, rode at Sir Lancelot with his spear, as if he would pin him to the earth, and the young knight had much ado to avoid him. All the knights cried out upon Sir Caradoc for a foul knight, and for shame he threw down his lance and alighted, and rushed at Sir Lancelot full fiercely, in order to slay him instantly.
   But that was not easily to be done, for however wise Sir Caradoc was in sword-play, he was mad with wrath and therefore thought of naught but to slay his instantly. He raged like a wild boar, and gave Lancelot many evil strokes, yet never did he beat down the young knight's guard. Soon men perceived that Sir Caradoc's great fierceness was causing him to make blind strokes, and then Sir Lancelot seemed the more wary. Suddenly they saw the young knight leap forward, and beat so heavily on the other's helm that it cracked. Sir Caradoc strove to guard himself. but Sir Lancelot was so wroth, and so mighty of his blows, that he could not. At last Sir Lancelot beat him to his knees, and then thrust him grovelling to the ground. Sir Lancelot bade him yield, but he would not, and still sought to thrust at the other. Then the young knight struck at him between the neck and the head and slew him.
   Both the knights and the common people shouted with joy, and acclaimed Sir Lancelot as a noble and mighty knight. But the young man was full modest, and withdrew from the press. King Arthur gave to him the Dolorous Tower and the lands which had belonged to Sir Caradoc, and Lancelot caused the old dame and her sone to be given a fair piece of land and a hut, and many other wrongs and evil customs that had been done by Sir Caradoc, Sir Lancelot caused to be righted.
   The kinsmen of Sir Caradoc went apart and conspired to have Sir Lancelot slain, but for a long time they could not come at him.
   Then when the queen came unto King Arthur, there was great feasting and jousting and merry games, and Sir Lancelot, for his knightly prowess in the lists, and for his gentle courtesy and noble manners to all, both poor and rich, high and low, was sought by many, and for some time rested himself in knightly games and play.
   Then, on a day in June, when a sudden wind from a lattice blew upon his face as he laughed and jested with ladies and knights in silks and rich garments, he be-thought him of the fair green woods and the wide lands through which lonely roads were winding. And departing from the hall forthwith, he bade his horse and arms be brought to him, and rode into a deep forest and thought to prove himself in strange adventures.
   Thus faring, he rode for two days and met with naught. On the third day the weather was hot about noon, and Sir Lancelot had great list to sleep. He espied a great apple tree full of white blossoms, and a fair shadow was beneath it, and he alighted and tied his horse unto a thorn, and laid his helmet under his head and slept.
   While he thus lay, there rode by him on white mules four ladies of great estate, with four knights about them, who bore a canopy of green silk on four spears, so that the high sun should not touch the faces of the ladies. Then, as they rode by, they heard a war-horse grimly neigh, and looking aside, they were aware of Sir Lancelot all armed, and asleep under the apple-tree.
   The ladies came nigh him, and of them there was Queen Morgan le Fay, who was wife of King Lot, and an evil witch; the Queen of Northgales, a haughty lady; the Lady of the Out-Isles; and the Lady of the Marshes. And when the Lady of the Marshes saw the knight she cried:
   "Now this is as good hap as ever could be, for this is he that slew my brother, Sir Caradoc of the Dolorous Tower; and for revenge of that, I would have this knight taken to my tower and torture him before I slay him."
   "That is well said," said Morgan le Fay, "for he bids fair to be one of the most strong knights of Arthur, whom I hate. This man, Sir Lancelot du Lake, is the favourite of all the ladies at that court, who hate me. So will I lay an enchantment on him, so that he shall sleep."
   Then the evil queen laid her hands over the face of Sir Lancelot, and said strange words that none could understand, and then he was laid across the crupper of one of the knights' horses, and he did not wake.
   When in the twilight Sir Lancelot awoke, he found himself on a straw pallet in a strange room, and he leaped up and went to a narrow arrow-slit in the wall and looked out. .Before him for a great distance was a black watery land, with the sun sinking far away on the very edge, and the pools of the marsh were as if they were of blood.
   Then he beat at the door and called, but none responded, and for wrath he could have dashed the door down, but it was too stout, and he had no weapon; for his arms had been taken from him.
   When it was dark, suddenly it seemed to Sir Lancelot that the room smelled foul, as if he had been carried into the midst of the quaking marsh, and was sunk deep in the slime and weeds of a pool. Then, through the arrow-slit, he saw many strange lights come, dim and blue like the wild lights that dance and flit over the lonely marshes by night; but that which made him marvel was that these lights were two to ether, as if they were the eyes of evil things. And they came up to him with a breath that was cold and dank, and they seemed to peer into his face, but he could see naught of their bodies. The hair upon his head rose, and his skin went cold. They pressed all about him, and to defend himself he struck at the eyes, but his blows beat only the air. Then suddenly Sir Lancelot felt sharp pains, as if small keen knives had been thrust into his flesh at many places. The stabs increased in number and in pain, and Sir Lancelot beat about himself and ran to and fro in the narrow chamber to escape the evil eyes and the stabs, but it was in vain, and thus all night in much misery he suffered. When for sheer weariness he lay down and tried to close his eyes, the evil things would not let him, but ever they tore at him and stabbed him. He was in anguish of mind more than he could bear, and for all his thought he could not think of any way to fight against the evil powers which followed and tortured him wherever he ran.
   But at dawn they fled, and then the door of the room opened, and a damsel appeared, and in her hands was a manchet of sour bread, and a beaker of water from the ditch of the moat. The damsel was evilly clad in rags, and seemed like a scullion maid.
   "These," she said, "my mistresses bid me say shall be your food until you die."
   "Damsel," said Lancelot, "tell me who hath brought me here and used me so evilly."
   "It is Queen Morgan le Fay," said the damsel, "and the three witch queens, the Queen of Northgales, the Queen of the Out-Isles, and the Lady of the Marshes."
   "I doubt not, then, that they would slay me?" said Lancelot. "But why, hate they me?"
   "It is for this," went on the damsel, "that you did slay Sir Caradoc, the brother of the Lady of the Marshes."
   "Alas, then," said Sir Lancelot, "there is no pity for me, and none, of my dear friends shall learn of my shameful death."
   "And so that you should suffer much ere you are slain," went on the damsel, "they sent in the night the Coranians, the marsh fiends, to torture you. Thus will they do until you die, unless, sir knight, you are a knight with a stout heart, and a good fighter, and will do me justice. If you will be ruled by me, and will give me a promise, I will aid you."
   "Damsel, that will I grant you," said Lancelot, "for this would be an evil death for a knight. And full of terror hath been this night, from the foul things which have beset me."
   "I may not stay further now," said the maid, "lest they think I tarry over-long. But by evening I will come again."
   The day passed and twilight came, and Sir Lancelot was adread for fear of the night. But anon the damsel came secretly to him and said:
   "Now must you promise me this, that you will release my father, whom Sir Turquine, Sir Caradoc's brother, hath kept in his foul dungeons since I was but a little child. And all his lands did Sir Turquine rob from him, and me he gave as a kitchen slut to Morgan le Fay, and evilly have I been treated who am a good knight's daughter. Now, will ye promise to free my father?"
   "That will I, my poor damsel," said Lancelot; "and I will, God aiding me, slay this Sir Turquine as I slew Sir Caradoc his brother."
   So at the dead of night the damsel opened his door, and with the keys that she had stolen, she opened twelve other locks that stood between them and the postern door. Then she brought him to his armour, which she had hidden in a bush, and she led forth his horse, and he mounted with much joy, and took the maid with him, and she showed him the way to a convent of white nuns, and there they had good cheer.
   Then, on the morrow, she led him to a thick forest with many hills therein, and anon they came to a fair ford, and over the ford there grew a tree, and on it there shields, each with the device of some knights thereon, and Sir Lancelot was astounded to see the shields of many of King Arthur's knights hung there. And on the bole of a tree there was bason of copper.
   "Now," said the damsel, "I have brought you here where is Sir Turquine, the mightiest knight that ever was found, as men say, and was never overmatched by any. And in his dungeons are many poor knights, and my dear father, Sir Darrel. Now strike the bason with the butt of vour spear."
   Sir Lancelot beat such strokes that the bason burst asunder, and then he was aware of a great knight riding on a black horse. "This is he," said the damsel, "and now God aid you."
   "What needst thou, sir knight?" cried the other.
   "To try my strength on thee," cried Lancelot, "for thou hast done great despite and shame unto many good knights of the Round Table."
   "Art thou of that caitiff crew of ladies' knights?" sneered Sir Turquine. "Then I defy thee."
   "Thou hast said enough," replied Lancelot.
   They put their spears in their rests, and came like the wind against each other, and either smote other in the middle of their shields, so that both their horses' girths broke. Then, lightly avoiding their beasts, they came at each other with great fierceness, and so fared for two hours, feinting and striking, and so heavy were their blows that each bled from many wounds as they stood. At last, for sheer breathlessness, each leaned upon his sword.
   "Now, fellow," said Sir Turquine haughtily, "answer me these questions I shall put to thee."
   "Say on," said Sir Lancelot.
   "Thou art", went on Sir Turquine, "the biggest man that ever I met with, and like one knight that I hate above all others, and I would liefer be thy friend than thy foe. Now, therefore I will give up to thee my captive knights if thou wilt tell me thy name, and if thou art not the knight I hate most."
   "Willingly," said Sir Lancelot. "But what knight hatest thou above all other? And why?"
   "It is Sir Lancelot du Lake," cried the knight, "for he slew my brother Sir Caradoc of the Dolorous Tower in the Marsh, who was one of the best knights living. And ever I have sought this Lancelot, and slain and maimed many good knights and imprisoned others in the quest. To slay that fellow I have made a vow, and him I would meet above all others."
   "Ha!" laughed Sir Lancelot, "and I am the first thou hast met whose love thou wouldst liefer have than my hatred? Well. I will have thee to wit that I am he ye seek, Sir Lancelot du Lake, and thy brother was an evil knight and an oppressor."
   '"What sayest thou?" cried Sir Turquine. "Thou art he I seek? Then, Lancelot, thou art unto me most welcome as ever was any knight, for we shall never part till the one of us be dead."
   Then they ran at each other like two wild boars, lashing and dashing with their swords and shields, so that sometimes in their fury they slipped together on the grass, which was wetted with blood, and fell striking at each other. But at last Sir Turquine waxed faint and tried to avoid Sir Lancelot's blows, and his shield sank low, for his arm was very weary. Seeing this, Sir Lancelot leaped upon him fiercelv, and got him by the banner of his helmet, and thrust him on his knees, and slew him at a stroke.
   When he had rested a while, he went to the castle of Sir Turquine and released all his prisoners, and was rejoiced to see the damsel find her father alive. He caused the old knight to have his lands again, and bade the others that they should betake themelves to the court of King Arthur to be cheered and comforted, while their possessions, which Sir Turquine had robbed of them, should be given back to them.
   Then fared Sir Lancelot further afield, glad exceedingly that he had escaped the foul plots of the four witch queens, and also that he had vanquished the evil Sir Turquine.
   Then he rode a great while in a deep and dark forest, and as he followed the winding ways, suddenly he saw a black hound before him, with its nose to the ground as if seeking a scent. He followed the beast, and ever she looked behind her. Soon she left the forest, and picked her way through a great marsh, and Sir Lancelot followed, until in the wide distance he saw a little hill with trees upon it, and in the midst a ruined manor.
   The hound went towards the ruin, and Sir Lancelot followed. The wall was broken down in many places, and the path all overgrown and weedy, and as he came to the courtyard before the house, he saw the fishponds choked with weeds and the horseblock green with moss, and in the great doorway grew chamel and hellebore, and the spiked hemlock waved and split its seed in the wind. The windows hung by their hinges, and the green moss crept down the wide wet cracks in the walls.
   But the dog ran over the drawbridge into the house, and Sir Lancelot gat from his horse and tethered it to the post beside the horseblock, and so went across the bridge, which was full sodden and worm-eaten, and bent beneath his weight.
   Coming into a great hall, foul with many rotting leaves, he saw a table in the midst thereof, and on.it,was a knight that was a seemly man, and he lay as if he were dead, and the black hound licked his wound. And by his side there was a lovely lady, who started up, weeping and wringing her hands, and she said:
   "O knight, too much evil have you brought to me!"
   "Why say ye so?" said Sir Lancelot; "I never did harm to this knight, for hither did this hound lead me, and therefore, fair lady, be not displeased with me, for grief is upon me for your sorrow and your sadness."
   "Truly, sir," said the lady, and she laid her face in her hands and sobbed full sorely, so that Sir Lancelot was much stirred thereat, "I trow, as ye say it, that you are not the knight that hath near slain my love and my husband. And never may he be healed of his deadly wound except some good knight aid me. But he must be so bold and valiant a man, that never, I think, may I find such a one in the little time I have before my dear lord shall die!"
   "Now on the honour of my knighthood," replied Sir Lancelot, "I do not presume that I am such a one as you desire; but if I may aid you and ease your sorrow, that would I do most willingly. What is it I should do?"
   "Oh, sir knight!" cried the lady, and her lovely eyes looked full thankfully at Sir Lancelot, "If ye would, it were the greatest deed you have ever done, however bold a knight ye may be. For this my lord is sore wounded by a knight whom he met in the forest this day, and by one thing only may he be made whole. For there is a lady, a sorceress, that dwelleth in a castle here beside, and she hath told me that my husband's wounds may never be whole till I may find a knight that would go at midnight into the Chapel Perilous beside the Mere, and that therein he should find before the high altar a sword, and the shroud in which the dead wizard-knight is lapped, and with that sword my husband's wounds should be searched, and a piece of the shroud should bind them."
   "This is a marvellous thing," said Sir Lancelot, "and I will essay it. But what is your husband's name?"
   "Sir," she said, "his name is Sir Meliot de Logres."
   "That me repenteth," said Sir Lancelot, "for he is a fellow of the Round Table, and for him will I do all in my power."
   Going to the table he looked upon the ashen face of the wounded man, and it was Sir Meliot, even as the lady said.
   "Now, sir," said the lady, when Sir Lancelot had mounted his horse,"do ye follow that hard way across the marsh, and it will lead ye by midnight to the Chapel Perilous, and may ye speed well."
   Right so, Sir Lancelot departed, and the sun was near its setting.
   For some hours Sir Lancelot fared across the marsh, until it was deep night, save for the stars; then he came upon a broad road, grass-grown and banked high, where the night wind piped in the long grass. This he knew was a road which the great Roman necromancers had wrought, and he thought he had missed his way, for there was no other path.
   As he stood marveling, the figure of a man, tall and gaunt and but half clad, came down the broad road towards him, and cried in a hollow voice:
   "For the love of charity, sir knight, give to a poor man who is outcast."
   Sir Lancelot pitied the sunken eyes of the poor man, and gave him alms.
   "God give thee comfort, poor soul," said the knight, "and get thee a roof, for the night wind blows chill."
   "God bless thee, sir knight," said the man, in awful tones, "for courtesy and pity such as thine are rare. Whither goest thou this night?"
   "I seek the Chapel Perilous," said Sir Lancelot.
   At which the shape threw back its head and cried out as if with great sorrow.
   "God fend thee, sir knight," he said, "and bring thee safe alive. What thou gettest there, keep thou in thy hands until the dawn, or thy soul shall suffer death."
   Then he vanished, and Sir. Lancelot knew it had been a phantom.
   Then as he crossed himself. he looked up, and through some thin and withered trees a little way off upon a slope he saw the shirnmer of light, as if a chapel was lit up. He went towards it, and he saw a high wall that was broken down in many places, and an old grey chapel beyond, and the windows were shimmering with a ghostly light. As he came through the trees he saw they were all dead, with neither leaf nor twig upon them, their roots were crooked out of the ground if they would throw his horse, and their limbs were as stretched as if they strained to clutch him.
   Coming to the gate in the wall, his horse trembled and plunged, and would go no further; whereat Sir Lancelot alighted, and tied it to a thorn-tree, and went through the gate. By the ghostly light that came from the windows of the ruined chapel he saw that under the eaves were hung fair shields, with rich devices, and all were turned upside down. Many of them were those of knights he had known or heard of, long since dead or lost. When he had made a few steps on the grass-grown pathway towards the door, of a sudden he saw, coming from the church, thirty tall knights, each a foot higher than he, each in black armour, and each with sword uplifted, as they rushed towards him.
Their feet and their armour made no sound as they pressed forwards, and a thin blue flame licked about each naked sword.
   They came upon him, but Sir Lancelot, with a prayer to God, dressed his shield and sword and stood firm, though his flesh quaked and his tongue clave to the roof of his mouth. They mowed and gnashed at him, and heaved their swords about him; then suddenly their vizors went up and he looked into their faces. And at that he was sore adread, for he knew they were dead men.
   But he would not be overcome, and said in a loud voice:
   "In the name of God, avaunt ye!"
   He made a step forward, and they scattered before him, but followed closely behind. Then he went into the chapel, where he saw no light but a dim lamp burning upon the altar. It was an old, old chapel, with dust upon its floor like a thick carpet, the walls and windows were holed and broken, and the timber of the seats was rotten.
   He went up to the high altar, and saw before it a trestle, and upon it was a dead man, all covered with a cloth of silk. Sir Lancelot stooped down, and with his sword cut a piece of that cloth away.
   With that his blood seemed turned to water, and his feet seemed eager to run towards the door, for with a mighty roar the earth shook beneath him, and the walls of the chapel rocked. But he looked for the sword, which he must take, and saw it under the trestle, and picked it up and went out of the chapel..
   The ghosts of the knights pressed about him as he walked, and strove to tear the sword from his grasp. But he would not suffer them to take it, and when he reached the gate they could no further go, and so left him.
   At the gate there came running up to him a fair damsel, crying to him:
   "O brave knight, give me the sword and the cloth, that. I may take them at once to my mistress, the lady of Sir Meliot, for he is at the point of death, arid she is waiting in sorrow and tears beside him."
   But Sir Lancelot remembered the words of the phantom beggar, and made reply:
   "Fair damsel, I shall take them myself to the lady of Sir Meliot, for these things I may not give to any until the dawning."
   The damsel would have torn the sword and the cloth full hastily from his hands, but he was aware of her intent, and hindered her, and bade her in the name of God to withdraw.
   Whereat, with a great shriek, she vanished.
   "Now," said Sir Lancelot, "may God, who has brought me through these evil adventures, shield me from any further subtle crafts of these foul things."
   Straightway he mounted his horse, and took his way towards the marsh, so that he should give the sword and cloth into the hands of the lady of Sir Meliot, for healing of her lord.
   But at the dawn Merlin met him.
   "Sir Lancelot," said the old white wizard, "ye have no need to go to the ruined manor, except ye would have the proof of what I tell you."
   "And what is that?" asked Sir Lancelot.
   "That all that hath befallen thee hath been done by evil magic," replied Merlin. "The black dog that led thee to the manor was a fiend, the fair lady that entreated ye was an evil witch, and she and the damsel at the chapel were the same, and all was caused by witch queens who had you in their tower; and the likeness of the wounded knight to Sir Meliot was formed by wizardry. They that craved your death did hope that ye would fail at the terrors of the Chapel Perilous, and that your soul would be lost as have the souls of those evil or weak knights whose ghosts assailed ye. But by your courage and great heart ye won through all."
   "This is a great marvel," said Sir Lancelot, "and I thank God that He hath shielded me of His mercy."
   When Sir Lancelot was returned to Camelot, and Merlin had told King Arthur of the knight's adventures, the king made him one of the knights of the Round Table.
   "Ye do well," said Merlin privily unto the king, "for he shall prove the most man of worship that is in the world- and all your court and all your Round Table shall be by him made more famous than by any knight now living. Yet shall he not be one of those three that shall achieve the Holy Graal."