Howard Pyle's The Champions of the Round Table

Chapter Fourth

How Sir Percival undertook the adventure of the castle of Beaurepaire and how he fared therein after several excellent adventures.

   Now the way that Sir Percival travelled led him by the outskirts of the forest, so that somewhiles he would be in the woodland and somewhiles he would be in the open country. And about noontide he came to a certain cottage of a neatherd that stood all alone in a very pleasant dale. That place a little brook came bickering out from the forest and ran down into the dale and spread out into a small lake, besides which daffadowndillys bloomed in such abundance that it appeared as though all that meadow land was scattered over with an incredible number of yellow stars that had fallen down from out of the sky. And, because of the pleasantness of this place, Sir Percival here dismounted from his horse and sat him down upon a little couch of moss under the shadow of an oak tree that grew nigh to the cottage, there to rest himself for a while with great pleasure. And as he sat there there came a barelegged lass from the cottage and brought him fresh milk to drink; and there came a good, comely housewife and brought him bread and cheese made of cream; and Sir Percival ate and drank with great appetite.
   Now whilst Sir Percival sat there resting and refreshing himself in that wise, there appeared of a sudden coming thitherward, a tall and noble knight riding upon a piebald war-horse of Norway strain. So when Sir Percival beheld that knight coming in that wise he quickly put on his helmet and mounted his horse and made him ready for defence in case the knight had a mind to assail him.
   Meantime that knight came riding up with great haughtiness of bearing to where Sir Percival was, and when he had come nigh enough he bespake Sir Percival, saying: "Sir Knight, I pray you to tell me your name and whither you go, and upon what quest?"
   Unto this Sir Percival made reply: "Messire, I do not choose to tell you my name, for I am a young knight, very new to adventure, and I know not how I shall succeed in that quest which I have undertaken. So I will wait to try the success of that adventure before I tell my name. But though I may not tell my name I will tell you whither I go and upon what quest. I go for to find a certain castle called Beaurepaire, and I intend to endeavor to liberate the lady of that castle from the duress of a certain knight hight Sir Clamadius, who, I understand, holds her by siege within the walls thereof."
   Now, when Sir Percival had ceased speaking, the strange knight said: "Sir, this is a very singular thing: for that adventure of which you speak is the very adventure upon which I myself am bound. Now, as you say, you are a very young knight unused to arms, and as I am in the same degree a knight well seasoned in deeds of arms, it is more fitting that I should undertake this quest than you. For you may know how very well I am used to the service of arms when I tell you that I have had to do in four and twenty battles of various sorts; some of them friendly and some of them otherwise; and that I have had to do in more than four times that many affairs-at-arms with single knights, nearly all of them of great prowess. So now it would seem fitting that you should withdraw you from this affair and let me first essay it. Then, if I fail in my undertaking, you shall assume that adventure."
   "Messire," quoth Sir Percival, "I see that you are a knight of much greater experience than I; but, ne'ertheless, I cannot find it in my heart to forego this adventure. So what I have to propose is this: that you and I do combat here in this place, and that he who proveth himself to be the better of us twain shall carry out this undertaking that we are both set upon."
   Unto this, that strange knight lent a very willing assent, saying: "Very well, Messire, it shall be as you ask."
   So with that each knight turned his horse and rode a little piece away; and each took such stand as pleased him; and each dressed his spear and shield and made him in all wise ready for the encounter. And when they had so prepared themselves, each knight shouted to his horse, and drave spur into its flank and rushed, the one against the other, with such terrible noise and violence that the sound thereof was echoed back from the woods like to a storm of thunder.
   So they met in the midst of the course with such a vehement impact that it was terrible to behold. And in that encounter the spear of each knight was burst all into fragments; and the horse of each fell back upon his haunches and would have been overthrown had not each knight voided his saddle with a very wonderful skill and agility.
   Then each knight drew sword and came the one against the other, as furiously as two rams at battle. So they fought for nigh the space of an hour, foining and striking, and tracing hither and tracing thither most furiously; and the noise of the blows they struck might have been heard several furlongs away.
   During that battle Sir Percival received several sore wounds so that by and by a great passion of rage seized upon him. So he rushed the battle with might and, main, and therewith struck so many furious blows that by and by that other knight held his shield very low for weariness. This Sir Percival perceived, and therewith he smote the other so furious a blow upon the head that the knight sank down upon his knees and could not arise. Then Sir Percival ran to him and catched him by the neck and flung him down violently upon the ground, crying out, "Yield or I slay thee!"
   Then that knight besought mercy in a very weak voice, saying: "Sir Knight, I beseech thee, spare my life!"
   Sir Percival said: "Well, I will spare thee, but tell me, what is thy name?" To this the other said: "I am Sir Lionel, and I am a knight of King Arthur's court and of the Round Table."
   Now when Sir Percival heard this he cried out aloud, for he was very greatly grieved, and he said: "Alas, what have I done for to fight against thee in this wise! I am Sir Percival, whom thine own kinsman Sir Launcelot of the Lake, hath trained in arms. But indeed: I did never think to use that art which he taught me against one so dear to his heart as thou art, Sir Lionel." So with that Sir Percival assisted Sir Lionel to arise to his feet, and Sir Lionel was so weak from that woeful battle that he could hardly stand.
   Now that stream and lake of water above spoken of was near by, so Sir Percival brought Sir Lionel thither, holding him up as he walked; and there Sir Lionel refreshed himself. Then, when he was revived a little, he turned his eyes very languidly upon Sir Percival, and he said: "Percival, thou hast done to me this day what few knights have ever done before. So all the glory that ever I have won is now thy glory because of this battle. For thou hast overcome me in a fair quarrel and I have yielded myself unto thee, wherefore it is now thy right to command me to thy will."
   Then Percival said: "Alas, dear Sir Knight! It is not meet that I should lay command upon such as thou art. But, if thou wilt do so, I beseech thee when thou art come to King Arthur's court that thou wilt tell the King that I, who am his young knight Percival, have borne myself not unbecomingly in my battle with thee. For this is the first battle, knight against knight, that I have undertaken in all of my life. And I beseech thee that thou wilt greet Sir Kay the Seneschal, from me, and that thou wilt say to him that by and by I shall meet him and repay him that buffet which he gave to the damsel Yelande, the Dumb Maiden, in the Queen's pavilion."
  Sir Lionel said: "It shall be as thou sayst, and I will do thy bidding. But, touching Sir Kay, I do not believe that he will take very much joy at thy message to him. For he will find small pleasure in the thought of the payment of that buffet that thou hast promised to give him."

   Now, as the day by this time was waxing late, Sir Percival abided that night at that neatherd's hut nigh to which this battle had been fought and there had his wounds bathed and dressed; and when the next morning had come he arose early, and saddled his horse, and rode forward upon his way. And as he rode he was very well pleased at the thought of that battle he had fought with Sir Lionel, for he wist that he had obtained great credit to himself in that encounter, and he was aware, now that he had made trial of his strength against such a one as Sir Lionel, he must be one of the greatest knights of the world. So his heart was uplifted with great joy and delight at that thought; that he was now a well-approved knight-champion, worthy of his knighthood. Therefore he rode away for all that day, greatly rejoicing in spirit at the thought of what he had done the day before.
   About the first slant of the afternoon Sir Percival came at last out of the woodlands and into a wide-open plain, very fertile and well tilled, with fields of wheat and rye abounding on all sides. And he saw that in the midst of that plain there was a considerable lake, and that in the midst of that lake there was an island, and that upon the island there stood a fair noble castle, and he wist that that castle must be the castle of Beaurepaire. So he rode down into that valley with some speed.
   Now after he had so ridden for a while, he was aware of a knight, very haughty of appearance and bearing, who rode before him upon the same way that he was going. And that knight was clad all in red armor, and he rode upon a horse so black that I believe there was not a single white hair upon him. And all the trappings and the furniture of that horse were of red, so that he presented a very noble appearance. So Sir Percival made haste to overtake that knight, and when he had come nigh he drew rein at a little distance. Thereupon that knight in red bespake Sir Percival very proudly, saying: "Sir Knight, whither ride you, and upon what mission?"
   "Messire," quoth Percival, "I ride toward yonder castle, which I take to be the castle of Beaurepaire, and I come hither with intent to succor the Lady Blanchefleur of that castle from a knight, hight Sir Clamadius, who keeps her there a prisoner against her will, so that it behooves any good knight to attempt her rescue."
   Upon this the red knight spake very fiercely, saying: "Messire, what business is that of yours? I would have you know that I am a knight of King Clamadius', wherefore I am able to say to you that you shall go no further upon that quest. For I am Sir Engeneron of Grandregarde, and I am Seneschal unto King Clamadius, and I will not have it that thou shalt go any farther upon this way unless you ride over me to go upon it."
   "Messire," quoth Sir Percival, "I have no quarrel with you, but if you have a mind to force a quarrel upon me, I will not seek to withdraw myself from an encounter with you. So make yourself ready, and I will make myself ready, and then we shall soon see whether or not I am to pass upon this way."
   So therewith each knight turned his horse away to such a place as seemed to him to be fitting; and when they were in all wise prepared they rushed together with an amazing velocity and a noise like to thunder. So they met in the midst of the course. And in that encounter the spear of Sir Engeneron broke into many pieces, but the spear of Sir Percival held, so that he flung Sir Engeneron entirely out of his saddle and over the crupper of his horse and down upon the ground so violently that Sir Engeneron lay there in a swoon.
   Then Sir Percival dismounted from his horse with all speed, and he rushed the helmet of Sir Engeneron off of his head with intent to slay him. But with that Sir Engeneron awoke to his danger, and therewith gat upon his knees and clasped Sir Percival about the thighs, crying out: "Sir, I beseech you upon your knighthood to spare my life."
   "Well," said Sir Percival, "since you beseech that upon my knighthood I must needs do as you ask. But I will only do so upon two conditions. The first of these conditions is that you go to the court of King Arthur, and that you surrender yourself as captive to a damsel of that court who is known as the Lady Yelande the Dumb Maiden. And you are to tell that maiden that the young knight who slew Sir Boindegardus greets her and that he tells her that in a little while he will return to repay to Sir Kay that buffet he gave her. This is my first condition." And Sir Engeneron said: "I will perform that condition."
   "And my second condition," said Sir Percival, "is this: that you give me your armor for me to use upon this adventure which I have undertaken, and that you take my armor and deposit it with the hermit of a little chapel you shall after a while come to if you return upon the road which brought me hither. After a while I will return and reclaim my armor and will return your armor. This is my second condition."
   And Sir Engeneron said: "That condition also I shall fulfil according to your command."
   Then Sir Percival said: "Arise." And Sir Engeneron did so. And after that Sir Engeneron put off his armor, and Sir Percival put off his armor. And Sir Percival put on the armor of Sir Engeneron, and Sir Engeneron packed the armor of Sir Percival upon his horse and prepared to depart in obedience to those conditions of Sir Percival. So they parted company, Sir Percival riding upon his way to Beaurepaire, and Sir Engeneron betaking his way to find the chapel of that hermit of whom Sir Percival had spoken.
   So it was that after two adventures, Sir Percival entered upon that undertaking which he had come to perform in behalf of the Lady Blanchefleur.

   And now, if it please you to read what follows, you shall hear how it befell with Sir Percival at the castle of Beaurepaire.
   After that adventure with Sir Engeneron, Sir Percival rode onward upon his way, and by and by he came to the lake whereon stood the castle and the town of Beaurepaire. And Sir Percival beheld that a long narrow bridge crossed over that part of the lake from the mainland to the island and the town. So Sir Percival rode very boldly forth upon that bridge and across it, and no one stayed him, for all of the knights of Sir Clamadius who beheld him said: "Yonder rides Sir Engeneron." Thus Sir Percival crossed the bridge and rode very boldly forward until he came to the gate of the castle, and those who beheld him said: "Sir Engeneron haply beareth a message to the castle." For no one wist that that knight was not Sir Engeneron, but all thought that it was he because of the armor which he wore.
   So Sir Percival came close to the castle, and when he was come there he called very loudly to those within, and by and by there appeared the face of a woman at an upper window and the face was very pale and woe-begone.
   Then Sir Percival said to the woman at the window: "Bid them open the gate and let me in; for I come to bring you succor at this place."
   To this the woman said: "I shall not bid them open the gate, for I know from your armor who you are, and that you are Sir Engeneron the Seneschal. And I know that you are one of our bitterest enemies; for you have already slain several of the knights of this castle, and now you seek by guile to enter into the castle itself."
   Then Sir Percival said: "I am not Sir Engeneron, but one who hath overthrown Sir Engeneron in battle. I have put on his armor with intent that I might come hither to help defend this place against Sir Clamadius." So said Sir Percival, and therewith he put up the umbril of his helmet, saying: "Look, see; I am not Sir Engeneron." Then the woman at the window saw his face and that it was not the face of Sir Engeneron. And she saw that the fare of Sir Percival was mild and gentle, wherefore she ran and told the people of the castle that a knight who was a friend stood without. Therewith they of the castle let fall the drawbridge and opened the gates, and Sir Percival entered into the castle.
   Then there came several of the chief people of the castle, and they also were all pale and woe-begone from long fasting, as was the woman whom Sir Percival had first seen; for all were greatly wasted because of the toil and anxiety of that siege. These asked Sir Percival who he was and whence he came and how he came thither; and Sir Percival told them all that it was necessary for them to know. For he told them how he was a young knight trained under the care of Sir Launcelot; and he told them that he had come thither with the hope of serving the Lady Blanchefleur; and he told them what adventures had befallen him in the corning and how he had already overthrown Sir Lionel and Sir Engeneron to get there.
   Wherefore, from these things, they of the castle perceived that Sir Percival was a very strong, worthy knight, and they gave great joy that he should have come thither to their aid.
   So he who was chief of those castle people summoned several attendants, and these came and some took the horse of Sir Percival and led it to the stables, and others relieved Sir Percival of his armor; and others took him to a bath of tepid water, where he bathed himself, and was dried on soft linen towels; and others brought soft garments of gray cloth and clad Sir Percival in them and afterward brought him down into a fair large chamber where there was a table spread as though ready for meat.
   Now in a little after Sir Percival was come to that supper-hall the door thereof was opened and there entered several people. With these came a damsel of such extraordinary beauty and gracefulness of figure that Sir Percival stood amazed. For her face was fair beyond words; red upon white, like rose-leaves upon cream; and her eyes were bright and glancing like those of a falcon, and her nose was thin and straight, and her lips were very red, like to coral for redness, and her hair was dark and abundant and like to silk for softness. She was clad all in a dress of black, shot with stars of gold, and the dress was lined with ermine and was trimmed with sable at the collar and the cuffs and the hem thereof.
   So Sir Percival stood and gazed at that lady with a pleasure beyond words to express, and he wist that this must be the Lady Blanchefleur, for whose sake he had come thither.
   And the Lady Blanchefleur looked upon Sir Percival with great kindness, for he appeared to her like to a hero for strength and beauty; wherefore she smiled upon Sir Percival very graciously and came forward and gave him her hand. And Sir Percival took her hand and set it to his lips; and lo! her hand was as soft as silk and very warm, rosy and fragrant, and the fingers thereof glistered with bright golden rings and with gems of divers colors.
   Then that beautiful Lady Blanchefleur said: "Messire, this is a very knightly thing for you to do to come hither to this place. And you come in good time, for food groweth very scarce with us so that in a little while we must face starvation. For because of the watch that Sir Clamadius keepeth upon this place, no one can either enter in or go out. Yea, thou art the very first one who hath come hither since he has sat down before Beaurepaire."
   Then presently she ceased smiling and her face clouded over; then bright tears began to drop from the Lady Blanchefleur's eyes; and then she said: "I fear me greatly that Sir Clamadius will at last seize upon this castle, for he hath kept us here prisoner for a long while. Yet though he seize the castle, he shall never seize that which the castle contains. For I keep by me a little casket of silver, and therein is a dagger, very sharp and fine. Therefore the day that Sir Clamadius enters into this castle, I shall thrust that dagger into my heart. For, though Sir Clamadius may seize upon my castle, he shall never possess my soul."
   Then Sir Percival was very sorry for the tears he saw shining upon the Lady Blanchefleur's face, wherefore he said: "Lady, I have great hopes that this affair may never reach to that woful extremity thou speakest of." The Lady Blanchefleur said: "I hope not also." And therewith she wiped away her tears and smiled again. Then she said: "See, Sir Percival, the evening has come and it is time to sit at supper, now I beseech thee for to come to table with me, for though we have but little to eat here, yet I assure thee that thou art very welcome to the best that we have."
   So therewith Lady Blanchefleur led Sir Percival to the table, and they sat down to such feast as could be had at that place of starvation. For what they had was little enough, being only such fish as they could catch from the lake, and a little bread--but not much--and a very little wine.
   Then after they had eaten and drunk what they had, the Lady Blanchefleur took a golden harp into her hand and played thereon, and sang in a voice so clear and high and beautiful that Percival was altogether enchanted and bewitched thereat.
   Thus it was that that evening passed with them very pleasantly and cheerfully, so that it was the middle of the night ere Sir Percival withdrew to that couch that had been prepared for his rest.

   Now word was brought to Sir Clamadius that Sir Engeneron the Seneschal had been overcome by another knight, wherefore Sir Clamadius wist that that was the knight in Sir Engeneron's armor who had entered into the castle. So Sir Clamadius said: "Certes, this must be a champion of no small prowess who hath undertaken single-handed such a dangerous quest as this, and hath thus entered into the castle, for they appear to make great rejoicings at his coming. Now if he remaineth there it may very well be that they will be encouraged to resist me a great while longer, and so all that I have thus far accomplished shall have been in vain."
   Now there was among the counsellors of Sir Clamadius an old knight who was very cunning and far-sighted. He said to the King: "Sire, I think we may be able to devise some plan whereby we may withdraw this knight-champion out of the castle. My plan is this: Let ten of your best knights make parade before that castle tomorrow, and let them give challenge to those within the castle to come forth to battle. Then I believe that this knight will come forth with the other knights from the castle to accept that challenge. Thereafter let it be that our knights withdraw as though in retreat, and so lead this knight and the knights of the castle into an ambushment. There let many fall upon them at once and either slay them or make them prisoners. So the castle shall be deprived of this new champion that hath come to it, and therewith may be so disheartened that it will yield to thee."
   This advice seemed very good to King Clamadius, wherefore, when the next morning had come, he chose him ten knights from among the foremost of all his knights, and he bade them give that challenge in that wise. These did so, and therewith Sir Percival and nine other knights issued out from the castle against them.
   But it did not fare as Sir Clamadius had expected; for the attack of Sir Percival and his knights was so fierce and sudden that those ten knights could not withdraw so easily as they intended. For, ere they were able to withdraw, Sir Percival had struck down six of these knights with his own hand and the other four were made prisoners. Thus Sir Percival and his knights did not come into that ambush that had been prepared for them.
   Then those who were in ambush perceived that their plan had failed, wherefore they broke from cover with intent to do what they could. But Sir Percival and his knights beheld them coming, and so withdrew, defending themselves with great valor. So they came into the castle again in safety.
   Thus it was that the plans of King Clamadius and his counsellor failed of effect, whereupon Sir Clamadius was very angry at that wise old knight. So that, when that counsellor came to him again and said: "Sir, I have another plan," King Clamadius cried out very fiercely: "Away with thy plans! They are all of no avail." Then Sir Clamadius said: "When to-morrow comes, I myself will undertake this affair. For I will go and give challenge to this knight, and so I shall hope to decide this quarrel man to man. For unless yonder knight be Sir Launcelot of the Lake or Sir Lamorack of Gales, I do not think he will be my peer in an encounter of man to man."
   So when the next morning had come, Sir Clamadius armed himself at all points and straightway betook himself to a fair, smooth meadow beneath the walls of the castle. And when he had come there he cried out: "Sir Red Knight, come forth and speak with me."
   So after a while Sir Percival appeared at the top of the castle wall, and he said: "Messire, here I am; what is it you would have of me?"
   Then Sir Clamadius said: "Messire, are you Sir Launcelot of the Lake?"
   And Sir Percival said: "Nay, I am not he." Sir Clamadius said: "Art thou then Sir Lamorack of Gales?" And Sir Percival said: "Nay, I am not he." Then Sir Clamadius said: "Who, then, art thou?" Sir Percival said: "I am not any great knight-champion such as those two of whom you speak, but am a young knight who have not fought more than twice or thrice in my life."
   At that Sir Clamadius was very glad, for he feared that Sir Percival might be some famous knight well-seasoned in arms. Wherefore when he found that Sir Percival was only a young and untried knight, he thought it would be an easy matter to deal with him. So he said: "Messire, I challenge thee to come forth to battle with me man to man so that thou and I may settle this quarrel betwixt us, for it is a pity to shed more blood than is necessary in this quarrel. So if thou wilt come forth and overthrow me, then I will withdraw my people from this place; but if I overthrow thee, then this castle shall be yielded up to me with all that it contains."
   To this Sir Percival said: "Sir Knight, I am very willing to fight with thee upon that issue. But first of all I must obtain the consent of the Lady Blanchefleur to stand her champion."
   So Sir Percival went to the Lady Blanchefleur, and he said: "Lady, will you accept me as your champion to fight the issue of this quarrel man to man with Sir Clamadius?"
   She said: "Percival, thou art very young to have to do with so old and well-seasoned a knight. Now I greatly fear for your life in such a battle as that."
   To this Sir Percival said: "Lady, I know that I am young, but indeed I feel a very big spirit stir within me, so that if thou wilt trust me, I have belief that, with the grace of God, I shall win this battle."
   Then the Lady Blanchefleur smiled upon Sir Percival and she said: "Percival, I will gladly entrust my life and safety into thy keeping, for I too have great dependence in thy knighthood."
   So straightway Sir Percival armed himself, and when he was in all wise prepared he went forth to that battle with a heart very full of great courage and hope.
   There he found Sir Clamadius still parading in that meadow beneath the walls, awaiting the coming of his opponent.
   Meanwhile many folk came and stood upon the walls of the castle to behold that encounter, whilst each knight took such stand as appeared good to him. Then, when they were in all wise prepared, each knight drave spurs into his horse and rushed himself against the other with most terrible and fierce violence. Therewith they met in the very midst of the course with an uproar like to thunder that echoed back from the flat walls of the castle.
   In that encounter the spear of Sir Percival held, but the spear of Sir Clamadius was riven into splinters. And so, Sir Percival riding forward with furious violence, Sir Clamadius was overthrown, horse and man, with such violence that he lay there upon the ground as though he were dead.
   Then all those upon the walls shouted aloud with a great noise of rejoicing, whilst those of the party of Sir Clamadius gave lamentation in the same degree.
   But Sir Percival voided his saddle in haste, and ran to where Sir Clamadius lay. And Sir Percival rushed the helmet off from the head of Sir Clamadius, and he catched him by the hair of the head, and he raised his sword on high with intent to finish the work he had begun. Therewith Sir Clamadius aroused himself unto his danger, and he cried in a very piercing voice: "Messire, I beseech thee of thy knighthood to spare my life!"
   "Well," said Sir Percival, "since you ask me upon my knighthood, I cannot refuse you, for so I was taught by the noble knight, Sir Launcelot, to refuse no boon asked upon my knighthood that I was able to grant. But I will only spare your life upon one condition, and that is this: That you disarm yourself in all wise, and that you go without armor to the court of King Arthur. There you shall deliver yourself as a servant unto a damsel of King Arthur's court, hight Yelande, surnamed the Dumb Maiden. Her you are to tell that the youth who slew Sir Boindegardus hath sent you unto her as a servant. And you are to say to Sir Kay, the Seneschal of King Arthur, that the young knight Percival will in a little while come to repay that buffet he gave to the damoiselle Yelande aforesaid."
   So said Sir Percival, and Sir Clamadius said: "It shall be done in all wise as you command, if so be you will spare my life." Then Sir Percival said: "Arise"; and Sir Clamadius arose; and Sir Percival said: "Go hence"; and therewith Sir Clamadius departed as Sir Percival commanded.
   So that day Sir Clamadius withdrew from the castle of Beaurepaire with all his array of knights, and after that he went to the court of King Arthur and did in all respects as Sir Percival had commanded him to do.
   So it was that Sir Percival fulfilled that quest, and set the Lady Blanchefleur free from duress; and may God grant that you also fulfil all your quests with as great honor and nobility as therein exhibited.

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