Andrew Lang's King
Arthur - Tales of the Round Table
THE ADVENTURE OF SIR GALAHAD
Now Sir Galahad had as yet
no shield, and he rode four days without meeting
any adventure, till at last he came to a White Abbey, where he dismounted and
asked if he might sleep there that night. The brethren received him with great
reverence, and led him to a chamber, where he took off his armour, and then saw
that he was in the presence of two Knights. "Sirs," said Sir Galahad, "what
adventure brought you hither?" "Sir," replied they, "we heard that within this
Abbey is a shield that no man may hang round his neck without being dead within
three days, or some mischief befalling him. And if we fail in the adventure, you
shall take it upon you." "Sirs," replied Sir Galahad, "I agree well thereto, for
as yet I have no shield."
So on the morn they arose and heard Mass, and then a monk led them behind an
altar where hung a shield white as snow, with a red cross in the middle of it. "Sirs," said the monk,
"this shield can be hung round no Knight's neck, unless
he be the worthiest Knight in the world, and therefore I counsel you to be well advised!"
"Well," answered one of the Knights, whose name was King
Bagdemagus, "I know
truly that I am not the best Knight in the world, but yet shall I try to bear
it," and he bare it out of the Abbey. Then he said to Sir Galahad, "I pray you
abide here still, till you know how I shall speed," and he rode away, taking
with him a squire to send tidings back to Sir Galahad.
After King Bagdemagus had ridden two miles he entered a fair valley, and
there met him a goodly Knight seated on a white horse and clad in white armour.
And they came together with their spears, and Sir Bagdemagus was borne from his
horse, for the shield covered him not at all. Therewith the strange Knight
alighted and took the white shield from him, and gave it to the squire,
saying, "Bear this shield to the good Knight Sir Galahad that thou hast left in the
Abbey, and greet him well from me."
"Sir," said the squire, "what is your name?"
"Take thou no heed of my name," answered the Knight,
"for it is not for thee to know, nor for any earthly man."
"Now, fair Sir," said the squire, "tell me for what cause this shield may not
be borne lest ill befalls him who bears it."
"Since you have asked me," answered the Knight,
"know that no man shall bear this shield, save Sir Galahad only."
Then the squire turned to Bagdemagus, and asked him whether he were wounded
or not. "Yes, truly," said he, "and I shall hardly escape from death"; and
scarcely could he climb on to his horse's back when the squire brought it near
him. But the squire led him to a monastery that lay in the valley, and there he
was treated of his wounds, and after long lying came back to life. After the
squire had given the Knight into the care of the monks, he rode back to the
Abbey, bearing with him the shield. "Sir Galahad," said he, alighting before
him, "the Knight that wounded Bagdemagus sends you greeting, and bids you bear
this shield, which shall bring you many adventures."
"Now blessed be God and fortune," answered Sir Galahad, and called for his
arms, and mounted his horse, hanging the shield about his neck. Then, followed
by the squire, he set out. They rode straight to the hermitage, where they saw
the White Knight who had sent the shield to Sir Galahad. The two Knights saluted
each other courteously, and then the White Knight told Sir Galahad the story of
the shield, and how it had been given into his charge. Afterwards they parted,
and Sir Galahad and his squire returned unto the Abbey whence they came.
The monks made great joy at seeing Sir Galahad again, for they feared he was
gone for ever; and as soon as he was alighted from his horse they brought him
unto a tomb in the churchyard where there was night and day such a noise that
any man who heard it should be driven nigh mad, or else lose his strength. "Sir," they said,
"we deem it a fiend." Sir Galahad drew near, all armed save
his helmet, and stood by the tomb. "Lift up the stone," said a monk, and Galahad
lifted it, and a voice cried, "Come thou not nigh me, Sir Galahad, for thou
shalt make me go again where I have been so long." But Galahad took no heed of
him, and lifted the stone yet higher, and there rushed from the tomb a foul
smoke, and in the midst of it leaped out the foulest figure that ever was seen
in the likeness of a man. "Galahad," said the figure, "I see about thee so many
angels that my power dare not touch thee." Then Galahad, stooping down, looked
into the tomb, and he saw a body all armed lying there, with a sword by his
side. "Fair brother," said Galahad, "let us remove this body, for he is not
worthy to be in this churchyard, being a false Christian man."
This being done they all departed and returned unto the monastery, where they
lay that night, and the next morning Sir Galahad knighted Melias his squire, as
he had promised him aforetime. So Sir Galahad and Sir Melias departed thence, in
quest of the Holy Graal, but they soon went their different ways and fell upon
different adventures. In his first encounter Sir Melias was sore wounded, and
Sir Galahad came to his help, and left him to an old monk who said that he would
heal him of his wounds in the space of seven weeks, and that he was thus wounded
because he had not come clean to the quest of the Graal, as Sir Galahad had
done. Sir Galahad left him there, and rode on till he came to the Castle of
Maidens, which he alone might enter who was free from sin. There he chased away
the Knights who had seized the castle seven years agone and restored all to the
Duke's daughter, who owned it of right. Besides this he set free the maidens who
were kept in prison, and summoned all those Knights in the country round who had
held their lands of the Duke, bidding them do homage to his daughter. And in the
morning one came to him and told him that as the seven Knights fled from the
Castle of Maidens they fell upon the path of Sir Gawaine, Sir Gareth, and Sir
Lewaine, who were seeking Sir Galahad, and they gave battle; and the seven
Knights were slain by the three Knights. "It is well," said Galahad, and he took
his armour and his horse and rode away.
So when Sir Galahad left the Castle of Maidens he rode till he came to a
waste forest, and there he met with Sir Lancelot and Sir Percivale; but they
knew him not, for he was now disguised. And they fought together, and the two
Knights were smitten down out of the saddle. "God be with thee, thou best Knight
in the world," cried a min who dwelt in a hermitage close by; and she said it in
a loud voice, so that Lancelot and Percivale might hear. But Sir Galahad feared
that she would make known who he was, so he spurred his horse and struck deep
into the forest before Sir Lancelot and Sir Percivale could mount again. They
knew not which path he had taken, so Sir Percivale turned back to ask advice of
the nun, and Sir Lancelot pressed forward.