Howard Pyle's The
Champions of the Round Table
How Sir Launcelot Went Upon an Adventure with the Damsel Croisette as
Companion, and How He Overcame Sir Peris of the Forest Sauvage.
Now after Sir Launcelot had finished that battle with Sir Turquine as
aforetold, and when he had borrowed the horse of Sir Gaheris, he rode away from
that place of combat with the young damsel, with intent to carry out the other
adventure which he had promised her to undertake.
But though he rode with her, yet, for a while, he said very little to her,
for his wounds ached him sorely and he was in a great deal of pain. So, because
of this, he had small mind to talk, but only to endure what he had to endure
with as much patience as he might command. And the damsel upon her part was somewhat
aware of what Sir Launcelot was suffering and she was right sorry for him,
wherefore she did not trouble him with idle discourse at that moment, but waited
for a while before she spake.
Then by and by she said to him: "Messire, I would that thou wouldst rest for
some days, and take thine ease, and have thy wounds searched and dressed, and
have thy armor looked to and redded. Now there is a castle at some distance from
this, and it is my brother's castle, and thither we may go in a little pass.
There thou mayst rest for this night and take thine ease. For I know that my
brother will be wonderfully glad to see thee because thou art so famous."
Then Sir Launcelot turned his eyes upon the damsel: "Fair maiden," quoth he,
"I make confession that I do in sooth ache a very great deal, and that I am
somewhat a-weary with the battle I have endured this day. Wherefore I am very
well content to follow thy commands in this matter. But I prithee, damsel, tell
me what is thy name, for I know not yet how thou art called."'
"Sir," she said, "I am called Croisette of the Dale, and my brother is called
Sir Hilaire of the Dale, and it is to his castle that I am about to take thee to
rest for this time."
Then Sir Launcelot said: "I go with thee, damsel, wherever it is thy will to
So they two rode through that valley at a slow pace and very easily. And
toward the waning of the afternoon they left the valley by a narrow side way, and so in a little while
came into a shallow dale, very fertile and smiling, but of no great size. For
the more part that dale was all spread over with fields and meadow-lands, with
here and there a plantation of trees in full blossom and here and there a farm
croft. A winding river flowed down through the midst of this valley, very quiet
and smooth, and brimming its grassy banks, where were alder and sedge and long
rows of pollard willows overreaching the water.
At the farther end of the valley was a castle of very comely of appearance,
being built part of stone and part
of bright red bricks; and the castle had many windows of glass and tall
chimneys, some a-smoke. About the castle and nigh to it was a little village of
thatched cottages, with many trees in blossom and some without blossom shading
the gables of the small houses that took shelter beneath them.
Now when Sir Launcelot and Croisette came into that little valley it was at
the declining of the day and the sky was all alight with the slanting sun, and
the swallows were flying above the smooth shining surface of the river in such
multitudes that it was wonderful to behold them. And the lowing herds were
winding slowly along by the river in their homeward way, and all was so peaceful
and quiet that Sir Launcelot drew rein for pure pleasure, and sat for some while
looking down upon that fair, happy dale. Then by and by he said: "Croisette,
meseems I have never beheld so sweet and fair a country as this, nor one in
which it would be so pleasant to live."
Upon this Croisette was very much pleased, and she smiled upon Sir
"Think you so, Sir Launcelot?" quoth she. "Well, in sooth, I am very glad that
this valley pleasures you; for I love it beyond any other place in all the
world. For here was I born and here was I raised in that castle yonder. For that
is my brother's castle and it was my father's castle before his time; wherefore
meseems that no place in all the world can ever be so dear to my heart as this
Thereupon they went forward up that little valley, and along by the
smoothly flowing river, and the farther they went the more Sir Launcelot took
pleasure in all that he beheld. Thus they came through the pretty village where
the folk stood and watched with great admiration how that noble knight rode that
way; and so they came to the castle and rode into the
court-yard thereof. Then presently there came the lord of that castle, who was
Sir Hilaire of the Dale. And Sir Hilaire greeted Sir Launcelot, saying:
"Welcome, Sir Knight. This is great honor you do me to come into this quiet dale
with my sister, for we do not often have with us travellers of such quality as
"Brother," said Croisette, "you may well say that it is an honor to have this
knight with us, for this is none other knight than the great Sir Launcelot of
the Lake. This day I beheld him overcome Sir Turquine in fair and honorable
battle. So he doth indeed do great honor for to visit us in this wise."
Then Sir Hilaire looked at Sir Launcelot very steadily, and he said: "Sir
Launcelot, your fame is so great that it hath reached even unto this peaceful
outland place; wherefore it shalt not soon be forgotten here how you came
hither. Now, I pray you, come in and refresh yourself, for I see that you are
wounded and I doubt not you are weary."
Upon this several attendants came, and they took Sir Launcelot and led him to
a pleasant chamber. There they unarmed him and gave him a bath in tepid water,
and there came a leech and searched his wounds and dressed them. Then those in
attendance upon him gave him a soft robe of cloth of velvet,
and when Sir Launcelot had put it on he felt much at ease, and in great comfort
By and by, when evening had fallen, a very good, excellent feast was spread
in the hall of the castle, and there sat down thereto Sir Launcelot and Sir
Hilaire and the damsel Croisette. As they ate they discoursed of various things,
and Sir Launcelot told many things concerning his adventures, so that all who
were there were very quiet, listening to what he said. For it was as though he
were a visitor come to them from some other world, very strange and distant, of
which they had no knowledge, wherefore they all listened so as not to lose a
single word of what he told them. So that evening passed very pleasantly, and
Sir Launcelot went to his bed with great content of spirit.
So Sir Launcelot abided for several days in that place until his wounds were
healed. Then one morning, after they had all broken their fast, he made request
that he and the damsel might be allowed to depart upon that adventure which he
had promised her to undertake, and unto this Sir Hilaire gave his consent.
Now, during this while, Sir Launcelot's armor had been so pieced and
mended by the armor-smiths of that castle that when he donned it it was,
in a measure, as sound as it had ever been, and of that Sir Launcelot was very
glad. So having made ready in all ways he and Croisette took leave of that
place, and all they who were there bade them adieu and gave Sir Launcelot
God-speed upon that adventure.
Now some while after they left that dale they rode through a very ancient
forest, where the sod was exceedingly soft underfoot and silent to the tread of
the horses, and where it was very full of bursting foliage overhead. And as they
rode at an easy pace through that woodland place they talked of many things in a
very pleasant and merry discourse.
Quoth the damsel unto Sir Launcelot: "Messire, I take very great wonder that
thou hast not some special lady for to serve in all ways as a knight should
serve a lady."
"Ha, damsel," said Sir Launcelot, "I do serve a lady in that manner and she
is peerless above all other ladies; for that lady is the Lady Guinevere, who is King Arthur's queen. Yet
though I am her servant I serve her from a very great distance. For in serving
her I am like one who standeth upon the earth, yet looketh upward ever toward
the bright and morning star. For though such an one may delight in that star
from a distance, yet may he never hope to reach an altitude whereon that star
"Heyday!" quoth Croisette, "for that matter, there are other ways of serving
a lady than that wise. Were I a knight meseems I would rather serve a lady
nearer at hand than at so great distance as that of which thou speakest. For in
most cases a knight would rather serve a lady who may smile upon him nigh at
hand, and not stand so far off from him as a star in the sky." But to this Sir
Launcelot made no reply but only smiled. Then in a little Croisette said: "Dost
thou never think of a lady in that wise, Sir Launcelot?"
"Nay," said Sir Launcelot, "and neither do I desire so to serve any lady. For
it is thus with me, Croisette-for all that while of my life until I was eighteen
years of age I lived in a very wonderful land beneath a magical lake, of which I
may not tell thee. Then I came out of that lake and into this world and King
Arthur made me a knight. Now because I was so long absent from this world of
mankind and never saw aught of it until I was grown into a man, meseems I love
that world so greatly that I cannot tell thee how beautiful
and wonderful it seems to me. For it is so wonderful and so beautiful that
methinks my soul can never drink its fill of the pleasures thereof. Yea;
methinks I love every blade of grass upon the fields, and every leaf upon every
tree; and that I love everything that creepeth or that flyeth, so that when I am abroad
under the sky and behold those things about me I am whiles like to weep for very
joy of them. Wherefore it is, Croisette, that I would rather be a knight-errant
in this world which I love so greatly than to be a king seated upon a throne
with a golden crown upon my head and all men kneeling unto me. Yea; meseems that
because of my joy in these things I have no room in my heart for such a love of
lady as thou speakest of, but only for the love of knight-errantry, and a great
wish for to make this world in which I now live the better and the happier for
my dwelling in it. Thus it is, Croisette, that I have no lady for to serve in
the manner thou speakest of. Nor will I ever have such, saving only the Lady
Guinevere, the thought of whom standeth above me like that bright star afore
"Ha," quoth Croisette, "then am I sad for the sake of some lady, I know not
who. For if thou wert of another mind thou mightest make some lady very glad to
have so great a knight as thou art to serve her." Upon this Sir Launcelot
laughed with a very cheerful spirit, for he and the damsel were grown to be
exceedingly good friends, as you may suppose from such discourse as this.
So they wended their way in this fashion until somewhat after the prime of
day, and by that time they had come out of that forest and into a very rugged
country. For this place into which they were now come was a sort of rocky
valley, rough and bare and in no wise beautiful. When they had entered into it they
perceived, a great way off, a castle built up upon the rocks. And that castle
was built very high, so that the roofs and the chimneys thereof stood
wonderfully sharp and clear against the sky; yet the castle was so distant that
it looked like a toy which you might easily take into your hand and hold betwixt
Then Croisette said to Sir Launcelot: "Yonder is the castle of that
evil-minded knight of whom I spake to thee yesterday, and his name is Sir Peris
of the Forest Sauvage. Below that castle, where the road leads into that
woodland, there doth he lurk to seize upon wayfarers who come thitherward. And
indeed he is a very catiff knight, for, though he is strong and powerful, he
doth not often attack other knights, but only ladies and demoiselles who come
hither. For these he may take captive without danger to himself. For I believe
that though he is so big of frame yet is he a coward in his heart."
Then Sir Launcelot sat for a while and regarded that castle, and fell into
thought; and he said, "Damsel, if so be this knight is such a coward as thou
sayest, meseems that if I travel with thee I shall have some ado to come upon him; because, if he sees me with thee, he may keep himself hidden
in the thicket of the forest from my
sight. Now I will have it this way; do thou ride along the highway in plain
sight of the castle, and I will keep within the woodland skirts, where I may
have thee in sight and still be hidden from the sight of others. Then if this
knight assail thee, as I think it likely he may do, I will come out and do
battle with him ere he escapes."
So it was arranged as Sir Launcelot said and they rode in that, wise:
Croisette rode along the highway, and Sir Launcelot rode under the trees in the
outskirts of the forest, where he was hidden from the eyes of anyone who might
be looking that way. So they went on for a long pass until they came pretty nigh
to where the castle was.
Then, as they came to a certain part of the road that dipped down toward a
small valley, they were suddenly aware of a great noise, and immediately there
issued out from the forest a knight, large and strong of frame, and followed
close behind by a squire dressed altogether in scarlet from head to foot. This knight
bore down with great speed upon where Croisette was, and the esquire followed
close behind him. When these two had come near to Croisette, the esquire leaped
from off his horse and caught her palfrey by the bridle, and the knight came
close to her and catched her as though to drag her off from her horse.
With that Croisette shrieked very loud, and immediately Sir Launcelot broke
out from the woods and rode down upon where all this was toward with a noise
like to thunder. As he came he cried aloud in a great and terrible voice: "Sir
Knight, let go that lady, and turn thou to me and defend thyself!"
Then Sir Peris of the Forest Sauvage looked this way and that with intent to
escape, but he was aware that he could not escape from Sir Launcelot, wherefore
he took his shield in hand and drew his sword and put himself in, to a position
of defence; for, whereas he could not escape, he was, perforce, minded to do
battle. Then Sir Launcelot threw aside his spear, and he set his shield before him and he
took his sword in his hand, and he drave his horse against Sir Peris. And when
he had come nigh to Sir Peris he raised himself in his stirrups and struck him
such a buffet that I believe nothing in the world could with stand its force.
For though Sir Peris raised his shield against that blow, yet the sword of Sir
Launcelot smote through the shield and it smote down the arm that held the
shield, and it smote with such a terrible force upon the helm of Sir Peris that
Sir Peris fell down from his horse and lay in a swoon without any motion at
Then Sir Launcelot leaped down from his horse and rushed off the helm of Sir
Peris, and lifted his sword with intent to strike off his head.
Upon that the senses of Sir Peris came somewhat back to him, and he set his
palms together and he cried out, though in a very weak voice: "Spare me, Sir
Knight! I yield myself to thee!"
"Why should I spare thee?" said Sir
"Sir," said Sir Peris, "I beseech thee, by thy knighthood, to spare me."
"Well," said Sir Launcelot, "since thou hast besought me upon my knighthood I
cannot do else than spare thee. But if I do spare thee, thou shalt have to
endure such shame that any true knight in thy stead would rather die than be
spared in such a manner."
"Sir Knight," said Sir Peris, "I am content with anything thou mayst do, so
be that thou wilt spare my life."
Upon this Sir Launcelot bade Sir Peris rise. And he took the halter of Sir
Peris's horse, and he bound Sir Peris's arms behind his back, and when he had
done this he drove him up to his castle at the point of his lance. And when they
came to the castle he bade Sir Peris have open the castle; and Sir Peris did so;
and thereupon Sir Launcelot and Sir Peris entered the castle and the damsel and
the squire followed after them.
In that castle were fourteen ladies of high degree held captive for ransom;
and some of these had been there for a considerable time, to their great
discomfort. All these were filled with joy when they were aware that Sir Launcelot had set
them free. So they came to Sir Launcelot and paid their court to him and gave
him great thanks beyond measure.
Sir Launcelot and Croisette abode in that castle all that night, and when the
next morning had come Sir Launcelot made search all over that castle, and he
found a considerable treasure of silver and gold, which had been gathered there
by the ransom of the ladies and the damsels of degree whom
Sir Peris had made prisoner aforetime. All this treasure Sir Launcelot divided
among those ladies who were prisoners, and a share of the treasure he gave to
the damsel Croisette, because that they two were such good friends and because
Croisette had brought him thither to that adventure, and thereof Croisette was
very glad. But Sir Launcelot kept none of that treasure for himself.
Then Croisette said: "How is this, Sir
Launcelot? You have not kept any of
this treasure for yourself, yet you won it by your own force of arms, wherefore
it is altogether yours to keep if you will to do so."
"Croisette," said Sir Launcelot, "I do not care for such things as this
treasure; for when I lived within that lake of which I have spoken to thee,
such things as this treasure were there as cheap as pebbles which you may gather
up at any river-bed, wherefore it has come to pass that such things have no
value to me."
Now, after all this had been settled, Sir Launcelot had Sir Peris of the
Forest Sauvage haled before him, and Sir Launcelot said: "Catiff Knight, now is
it time for thy shame to come upon thee." Therewith he had Sir Peris stripped of all armor and
raiment, even to his jerkin and his hose, and he had his arms tied behind his
back, and he had a halter set about his neck; and Sir Launcelot tied the halter
that was about the neck of Sir Peris to the horn of the saddle of his own horse,
so that when he rode away with Croisette Sir Peris must needs follow behind him
at whatever gait the horse of Sir Launcelot might take.
So Sir Launcelot and Croisette rode back to the manor of Sir Hilaire of the
Dale with Sir Peris running behind them, and when they had come there Sir
Launcelot delivered Sir Peris unto Sir Hilaire, and Sir Hilaire had Sir Peris bound upon
a horse's back with his feet underneath the belly of the horse; and sent him to
Camelot for King Arthur to deal with him as might seem to the King to be
But Sir Launcelot remained with Sir Hilaire of the Dale all the next day and
he was very well content to be in that pleasant place. And upon the day after
that, which was Sunday, he set forth at about the prime of the day to go to that
abbey of monks where he had appointed to meet the damsel Elouise the Fair, as
And now you shall hear how Sir Launcelot behaved at the tournament of King
Bagdemagus, if it please you to read that which herewith immediately followeth.