Howard Pyle's The Champions of the Round Table

Chapter Fifth

How Sir Percival repaid Sir Kay the buffet he one time gave Yelande the Dumb Maiden, and how, thereafter, he went forth to seek his own lady of love.

   Now, after these adventures aforesaid, Sir Percival remained for a long while at Beaurepaire, and during that time he was the knight-champion to the Lady Blanchefleur. And the Lady Blanchefleur loved Sir Percival every day with a greater and greater passion, but Sir Percival showed no passion of love for her in return, and thereat Lady Blanchefleur was greatly troubled.
   Now one day the Lady Blanchefleur and Sir Percival were walking together on a terrace; and it was then come to be the fall of the year, so that the leaves of the trees were showering all down about them like flakes of gold. And that day the Lady Blanchefleur loved Sir Percival so much that her heart was pierced with that love as though with a great agony. But Sir Percival wist not of that.
   Then the Lady Blanchefleur said: "Messire, I would that thou wouldst stay here always as our knight-champion."
   "Lady," quoth Percival, "that may not be, for in a little while now I must leave you. For, though I shall be sad to go from such a friendly place as this is, yet I am an errant knight, and as I am errant I must fulfil many adventures besides the one I have accomplished here."
   "Messire," said the Lady Blanchefleur, "if you will but remain here, this castle shall be yours and all that it contains."
   At this Sir Percival was greatly astonished, wherefore he said: "Lady, how may that be? Lo! this castle is yours, and no one can take it away from you, nor can you give it to me for mine own."
   Then the Lady Blanchefleur turned away her face and bowed her head, and said in a voice as though it were stifling her for to speak: "Percival, it needs not to take the castle from me; take thou me for thine own, and then the castle and all shall be thine."
   At that Sir Percival stood for a space very still as though without breathing. Then by and by he said: "Lady, meseems that no knight could have greater honor paid to him than that which you pay to me. Yet should I accept such a gift as you offer, then I would be doing such dishonor to my knighthood that would make it altogether unworthy of that high honor you pay it. For already I have made my vow to serve a lady, and if I should forswear that vow, I would be a dishonored and unworthy knight."
   Then the Lady Blanchefleur cried out in a great voice of suffering: "Say no more, for I am ashamed."
   Sir Percival said: "Nay, there is no shame to thee, but great honor to me." But the Lady Blanchefleur would not hear him, but brake away from him in great haste, and left him standing where he was.
   So Sir Percival could stay no longer at that place; but as soon as might be, he took horse and rode away. Nor did he see Blanchefleur again after they had thus talked together upon that terrace as aforesaid.
   And after Sir Percival had gone, the Lady Blanchefleur abandoned herself to great sorrow, for she wept a long while and a very great deal; nor would she, for a long while, take any joy in living or in the world in which she lived.

   So Sir Percival performed that adventure of setting free the duress of the castle of Beaurepaire. And after that and ere the winter came, he performed several other adventures of more or less fame. And during that time, he overthrew eleven knights in various affairs at arms and in all those adventures he met with no mishap himself. And besides such encounters at arms, he performed several very worthy works; for he slew a wild boar that was a terror to all that dwelt nigh to the forest of Umber; and he also slew a very savage wolf that infested the moors of the Dart. Wherefore, because of these several adventures, the name of Sir Percival became very famous in all courts of chivalry, and many said: "Verily, this young knight must be the peer of Sir Launcelot of the Lake himself."
   Now one day toward eventide (and it was a very cold winter day) Sir Percival came to the hut of a hermit in the forest of Usk; and he abode all night at that place.
   Now when the morning had come he went out and stood in front of the hut, and he saw that during the night a soft snow had fallen so that all the earth was covered with white. And he saw that it likewise had happened that a hawk had struck a raven in front of the hermit's habitation, and that some of the raven's feathers and some of its blood lay upon the snow.
   Now when Sir Percival beheld the blood and the black feathers upon that white snow, he said to himself: "Behold! that snow is not whiter than the brow and the neck of my lady; and that red is not redder than her lips; and that black is not blacker than her hair." Therewith the thought of that lady took great hold upon him and he sighed so deeply that he felt his heart lifted within him because of that sigh. So he stood and gazed upon that white and red and black, and he forgot all things else in the world than his lady-love.
   Now it befell at that time that there came a party riding through those parts, and that party were Sir Gawaine and Sir Geraint and Sir Kay. And when they saw Sir Percival where he stood leaning against a tree and looking down upon the ground in deep meditation, Sir Kay said: "Who is yonder knight?" (For he wist not that that knight was Sir Percival.) And Sir Kay said further: "I will go and bespeak that knight and ask him who he is."
   But Sir Gawaine perceived that Sir Percival was altogether sunk in deep thought, wherefore he said: "Nay, thou wilt do ill to disturb that knight; for either he hath some weighty matter upon his mind, or else he is bethinking him of his lady, and in either case it would be a pity to disturb him until he arouses himself."
   But Sir Kay would not heed what Sir Gawaine said, but forthwith he went to where Sir Percival stood; and Sir Percival was altogether unaware of his coming, being so deeply sunk in his thoughts. Then Sir Kay said: "Sir Knight,"--but Sir Percival did not hear him. And Sir Kay said: "Sir Knight, who art thou?" But still Sir Percival did not reply. Then Sir Kay said: "Sir Knight, thou shalt answer me!" And therewith he catched Sir Percival by the arm and shook him very roughly.
   Then Sir Percival aroused himself, and he was filled with indignation that anyone should have laid rough hands upon his person. And Sir Percival did not recognize Sir Kay because he was still entangled in that network of thought, but he said very fiercely: "Ha, sirrah! wouldst thou lay hands upon me!" and therewith he raised his fist and smote Sir Kay so terrible a buffet beside the head that Sir Kay instantly fell down as though he were dead and lay without sense of motion upon the ground. Then Sir Percival perceived that there were two other knights standing not far off, and therewith his thoughts of other things came back to him again and he was aware of what he had done in his anger, and was very sorry and ashamed that he should have been so hasty as to have struck that blow.
   Then Sir Gawaine came to Sir Percival and spake sternly to him saying: Sir Knight, why didst thou strike my companion so unknightly a blow as that?"
   To which Sir Percival said: "Messire, it grieves me sorely that I should have been so hasty, but I was bethinking me of my lady, and this knight disturbed my thoughts; wherefore I smote him in haste."
   To this Sir Gawaine made reply: "Sir, I perceive that thou hadst great excuse for thy blow. Ne'theless, I am displeased that thou shouldst have struck that knight. Now I make demand of thee what is thy name and condition?"
   And Sir Percival said: "My name is Percival, and I am a knight of King Arthur's making."
   At that, when Sir Gawaine and Sir Geraint heard what Sir Percival said, they cried out in great amazement; and Sir Gawaine said: "Ha, Sir Percival! this is indeed well met, for my name is Gawaine and I am a nephew unto King Arthur and am of his court; and this knight is Sir Geraint, and he also is of King Arthur's court and of his Round Table. And we have been in search of thee for this long time for to bring thee unto King Arthur at Camelot. For thy renown is now spread all over this realm, so that they talk of thee in every court of chivalry."
   And Sir Percival said: "That is good news to me, for I wist not that I had so soon won so much credit. But, touching the matter of returning unto King Arthur's court with you; unto that I crave leave to give my excuses. For, since you tell me that I now have so much credit of knighthood, it behooves me to go immediately unto my lady and to offer my services unto her. For when I parted from her I promised her that I would come to her as soon as I had won me sufficient credit of knighthood. As for this knight whom I have struck, I cannot be sorry for that buffet, even if it was given with my fist and not with my sword as I should have given it. For I have promised Sir Kay by several mouths that I would sometime repay him with just such a buffet as that which he struck the damosel Yelande. So now I have fulfilled my promise and have given him that buffet."
   Then Sir Gawaine and Sir Geraint laughed, and Sir Gawaine said: "Well, Sir Percival, thou hast indeed fulfilled thy promise in very good measure. For I make my vow that no one could have been better served with his dessert than was Sir Kay."
   Now by this time Sir Kay had recovered from that blow, so that he rose up very ruefully, looking about as though he wist not yet just where he was.
   Then Sir Gawaine said to Sir Percival: "As to thy coming unto the court of the King, thou dost right to fulfil thy promise unto thy lady before undertaking any other obligation. For, even though the King himself bid thee come, yet is thy obligation to thy lady superior to the command of the King. So now I bid thee go in quest of thy lady in God's name; only see to it that thou comest to the King's court as soon as thou art able."
   So it was that Sir Percival fulfilled the promise of that buffet unto Sir Kay.
   And now you shall hear how he found the Lady Yvette the Fair.
 
   Now after Sir Percival had parted from Sir Gawaine, and Sir Geraint and Sir Kay, he went his way in that direction he wist, and by and by, toward eventide, he came again to the castle of Sir Percydes. And Sir Percydes was at home and he welcomed Sir Percival with great joy and congratulations. For the fame of Sir Percival was now abroad in all the world, so that Sir Percydes welcomed him with great acclaim.
   So Sir Percival sat down with Sir Percydes and they ate and drank together, and, for the time, Sir Percival said nothing of that which was upon his heart--for he was of a very continent nature and was in no wise hasty in his speech.
   But after they had satisfied themselves with food and drink, then Sir Percival spake to Sir Percydes of that which was upon his mind, saying: "Dear friend, thou didst tell me that when I was ready for to come to thee with a certain intent thou wouldst tell me who is the lady whose ring I wear and where I shall find her. Now, I believe that I am a great deal more worthy for to be her knight than I was when I first saw thee; wherefore I am now come to beseech thee to redeem thy promise to me. Now tell me, I beg of thee, who is that lady and where does she dwell?"
   Then Sir Percydes said: "Friend, I will declare to thee that which thou dost ask of me. Firstly, that lady is mine own sister, hight Yvette, and she is the daughter of King Pecheur. Secondly, thou shalt find her at the castle of my father, which standeth upon the west coast of this land. Nor shalt thou have any difficulty in finding that castle, for thou mayst easily come to it by inquiring the way of those whom thou mayst meet in that region. But, indeed, it hath been two years since I have seen my father and my sister, and I know not how it is with them.
   Then Sir Percival came to Sir Percydes and he put his arm about him and kissed him upon either cheek, and he said: "Should I obtain the kind regard of that lady, I know nothing that would more rejoice me than to know that thou art her brother. For, indeed, I entertain a great deal of love for thee."
   At that Sir Percydes laughed for joy and he said: "Percival, wilt thou not tell me of what house thou art come?" Percival said: "I will tell thee what thou dost ask: my father is King Pellinore who was a very good, noble knight of the court of King Arthur and of his Round Table."
   Then Sir Percydes cried out with great amazement, saying: "That is very marvellous! I would that I had known this before, for thy mother and my mother were sisters of one father and one mother. So we are cousins german."
   Then Sir Percival said: "This is great joy to me!" And his heart was expanded with pleasure at finding that Sir Percydes was of his kindred and that he was no longer alone in that part of the world.
   So Sir Percival abided for two days with Sir Percydes and then he betook his way to the westward in pursuance of that adventure. And he was upon the road three days, and upon the morning of the fourth day he came, through diligent inquiry, within sight of the castle of King Pecheur. This castle stood upon a high crag of rock from which it arose against the sky so that it looked to be a part. of the crag. And it was a very noble and stately castle, having many tall towers and many buildings within the walls thereof. And a village of white houses of the fisher-folk gathered upon the rocks beneath the castle walls like chicks beneath the shadow of their mother's wings.
   And, behold! Percival saw the great sea for the first time in all his life, and was filled with wonder at the huge waves that ran toward the shore and burst upon the rocks, all white like snow. And he was amazed at the multitude of sea fowl that flew about the rocks in such prodigious numbers that they darkened the sky. Likewise he was astonished at the fisher-boats that spread their white sails against the wind, and floated upon the water like swans, for he had never seen their like before. So he sat his horse upon a high rock nigh to the sea and gazed his fill upon those things that were so wonderful to him.
   Then after a while Sir Percival went forward to the castle. And as he drew nigh to the castle he became aware that a very reverend man, whose hair and beard were as white as snow, sat upon a cushion of crimson velvet upon a rock that overlooked the sea. Two pages, richly clad in black and silver, stood behind him; and the old man gazed out across the sea, and Sir Percival saw that he neither spake nor moved. But when Sir Percival came near to him the old man arose and went into the castle, and the two pages took up the two crimson velvet cushions and followed him.
   But Percival rode up to the castle, and he saw that the gateway of the castle stood open, wherefore he rode into the courtyard of the castle. And when he had come into the courtyard, two attendants immediately appeared and took his horse and assisted him to dismount; but neither of these attendants said aught to him, but both were as silent as deaf-mutes. Then Percival entered the hall and there he saw the old man whom he had before seen, and the old man sat in a great carved chair beside a fire of large logs of wood. And Sir Percival saw that the eyes of the old man were all red and that his cheeks were channeled with weeping; and Percival was abashed at the sadness of his aspect. Ne'ertheless, he came to where the old man sat and saluted him with great reverence, and he said: "Art thou King Pecheur?" And the old man answered, "Aye, for I am both a fisher and a sinner" (for that word Pecheur meaneth both fisher and sinner).
   Then Sir Percival said: "Sire, I bring thee greetings from thy son, Sir Percydes, who is a very dear friend to me. And likewise I bring thee greeting from myself: for I am Percival, King Pellinore's son, and thy Queen and my mother are sisters. And likewise I come to redeem a pledge, for, behold, here is the ring of thy daughter Yvette, unto whom I am pledged for her true knight. Wherefore, having now achieved a not dishonorable renown in the world of chivalry, I am come to beseech her kindness and to redeem my ring which she hath upon her finger and to give her back her ring again."
   Then King Pecheur fell to weeping in great measure and he said: "Percival thy fame hath reached even to this remote place, for every one talketh of thee with great unction. But, touching my daughter Yvette, if thou wilt come with me I will bring thee to her."
   So King Pecheur arose and went forth and Sir Percival followed him. And King Pecheur brought Sir Percival to a certain tower; and he brought him up a long and winding stair; and at the top of the stairway was a door.
   And King Pecheur opened the door and Sir Percival entered the apartment. The windows of the apartment stood open, and a cold wind came in thereat from off the sea; and there stood a couch in the middle of the room, and it was spread with black velvet; and the Lady Yvette lay reclined upon the couch, and, lo! her face was like to wax for whiteness, and she neither moved nor spake, but only lay there perfectly still; for she was dead.
   Seven waxen candles burned at her head, and seven others at her feet, and the flames of the candles spread and wavered as the cold wind blew upon them. And the hair of her head (as black as those raven feathers that Sir Percival had beheld lying upon the snow) moved like threads of black silk as the wind blew in through the window--but the Lady Yvette moved not nor stirred, but lay like a statue of marble all clad in white.
   Then at the first Sir Percival stood very still at the door-way as though he had of a sudden been turned into stone. Then he went forward and stood beside the couch and held his hands very tightly together and gazed at the Lady Yvette where she lay. So he stood for a long while, and he wist not why it was that he felt like as though he had been turned into a stone, without such grief at his heart as he had thought to feel thereat. (For indeed, his spirit was altogether broken though he knew it not.)
   Then he spake unto that still figure, and he said: "Dear lady, is it thus I find thee after all this long endeavor of mine? Yet from Paradise, haply, thou mayst perceive all that I have accomplished in thy behalf. So shalt thou be my lady always to the end of my life and I will have none other than thee. Wherefore I herewith give thee thy ring again and take mine own in its stead." Therewith, so speaking, he lifted that hand (all so cold like the snow) and took his ring from off her finger and put her ring back upon it again.
   Then King Pecheur said, "Percival, hast thou no tears?"
   And Percival said, "Nay, I have none." Therewith he turned and left that place, and King Pecheur went with him.
   After that Sir Percival abided in that place for three days, and King Pecheur and his lady Queen and their two young sons who dwelt at that place made great pity over him, and wept a great deal. But Sir Percival said but little in reply and wept not at all.

   And now I shall tell you of that wonderful vision that came unto Sir Percival at this place upon Christmas day.
   For on the third day (which was Christmas day) it chanced that Sir Percival sat alone in the hall of the castle, and he meditated upon the great sorrow that lay upon him. And as he sat thus this very wonderful thing befell him: He suddenly beheld two youths enter that hall. And the faces of the two youths shone with exceeding brightness, and their hair shone like gold, and their raiment was very bright and glistering like to gold. One of these youths bare in his hand a spear of mighty size, and blood dropped from the point of the spear; and the other youth bare in his hand a chalice of pure gold, very wonderful to behold, and he held the chalice in a napkin of fine cambric linen.
   Then, at first, Sir Percival thought that that which he beheld was a vision conjured up by the deep sorrow that filled his heart, and he was afeard. But the youth who bare the chalice spake in a voice extraordinarily high and clear. And he said. "Percival! Percival! be not afraid! This which thou here beholdest is the Sangreal, and that is the Spear of Sorrow. What then may thy sorrow be in the presence of these holy things that brought with them such great sorrow and affliction of soul that they have become entirely sanctified thereby! Thus, Percival, should thy sorrow so sanctify thy life and not make it bitter to thy taste. For so did this bitter cup become sanctified by the great sorrow that tasted of it."
   Percival said. "Are these things real or are they a vision that I behold?"
   He who bare the chalice said, "They are real." And he who bare the spear said, "They are real."
   Then a great peace and comfort came to Sir Percival's heart and they never left him to the day of his death.
   Then they who bare the Sangreal and the Spear went out of the hall, and Sir Percival kneeled there for a while after they had gone and prayed with great devotion and with much comfort and satisfaction.
   And this was the first time that any of those knights that were of King Arthur's Round Table ever beheld that holy chalice, the which Sir Percival was one of three to achieve in after-years.
   So when Sir Percival came forth from that hall, all those who beheld him were astonished at the great peace and calmness that appeared to emanate from him. But he told no one of that miraculous vision which he had just beheld, and, though it appeareth in the history of these things, yet it was not then made manifest.
   Then Sir Percival said to King Pecheur, his uncle and to his aunt and to their sons: "Now, dear friends, the time hath come when I must leave you. For I must now presently go to the court of King Arthur in obedience to his commands and to acknowledge myself unto my brother, Sir Lamorack."
   So that day Sir Percival set forth with intent to go to Camelot, where King Arthur was then holding court in great estate of pomp. And Sir Percival reached Camelot upon the fourth day from that time and that was during the feasts of Christmas-tide.

   Now King Arthur sat at those feasts and there were six score of very noble company seated with him. And the King's heart was greatly uplifted and expanded with mirth and good cheer. Then, while all were feasting with great concord, there suddenly came into that hall an herald-messenger; the whom, when King Arthur beheld him, he asked: "What message hast thou brought?" Upon this the messenger said: "Lord, there hath come one asking permission to enter here whom you will be very well pleased to see." The King said, "Who is it?" And the herald-messenger said, "He saith his name is Percival."
   Upon this King Arthur arose from where he sat and all the others uprose with him and there was a great sound of loud voices; for the fame of Sir Percival had waxed very great since he had begun his adventures. So King Arthur and the others went down the hall for to meet Sir Percival.
   Then the door opened and Sir Percival came into that place, and his face shone very bright with peace and good-will; and he was exceedingly comely.
   King Arthur said, "Art thou Percival?" And Percival said, "I am he." Thereupon King Arthur took Sir Percival's head into his hands, and he kissed him upon the brow. And Sir Percival kissed King Arthur's hand and he kissed the ring of royalty upon the King's finger, and so he became a true knight in fealty unto King Arthur.
   Then Sir Percival said: "Lord, have I thy leave to speak?" And King Arthur said, "Say on." Sir Percival said, "Where is Sir Lamorack?" And King Arthur said, "Yonder he is." Then Sir Percival perceived where Sir Lamorack stood among the others, and he went to Sir Lamorack and knelt down before him; and Sir Lamorack was very much astonished, and said: "Why dost thou kneel to me, Percival?" Then Sir Percival said, "Dost thou know this ring?"
   Then Sir Lamorack knew his father's ring and he cried out in a loud voice: "That is my father's ring; how came ye by it?"
   Percival said: "Our mother gave it to me, for I am thy brother."
   Upon this Sir Lamorack cried out with great passion; and he flung his arms about Sir Percival, and he kissed him repeatedly upon the face. And so ardent was the great love and the great passion that moved him that all those who stood about could in no wise contain themselves, but wept at that which they beheld.
   Then, after a while, King Arthur said: "Percival, come with me, for I have somewhat to show thee."
   So King Arthur and Sir Lamorack and Sir Percival and several others went unto that pavilion which was the pavilion of the Round Table, and there King Arthur showed Sir Percival a seat which was immediately upon the right hand of the Seat Perilous.
   And upon the back of that seat there was a name emblazoned in letters of gold; and the name was this:

PERCIVAL OF GALES


   Then King Arthur said: "Behold, Sir Percival, this is thy seat, for four days ago that name appeared most miraculously, of a sudden, where thou seest it; wherefore that seat is thine."
   Then Sir Percival was aware that that name had manifested itself at the time when the Sangreal had appeared unto him in the castle of King Pecheur, and he was moved with a great passion of love and longing for the Lady Yvette; so that, because of the strength of that passion, it took upon it the semblance of a terrible joy. And he said to himself: "If my lady could but have beheld these, how proud would she have been! But, doubtless, she now, looketh down from Paradise and beholdeth us and all that we do." Thereupon he lifted up his eyes as though to behold her, but she was not there, but only the roof of that pavilion.
   But he held his peace and said naught to anyone of those thoughts that disturbed him.
   With this I conclude for the present the adventures of Sir Percival with only this to say: that thereafter, as soon as might be, he and Sir Lamorack went up into the mountains where their mother dwelt and brought her down thence into the world, and that she was received at the court of King Arthur with great honor and high regard until, after a while, she entered into a nunnery and took the veil.
   Likewise it is to be said that Sir Percival lived, as he had vowed to do, a virgin knight for all of his life; for he never paid court to any lady from that time, but ever held within the sanctuary of his mind the image of that dear lady who waited for him in Paradise until he should come unto her in such season as God should see fit.

   But you must not think that this is all that there is to tell of that noble, gentle and worthy young knight whose history we have been considering. For after this he performed many glorious services to the great honor of his knighthood and achieved so many notable adventures that the world spoke of him as being second in worship only to Sir Launcelot of the Lake. Yea; there were many who doubted whether Sir Launcelot himself was really a greater knight than Sir Percival; and though I may admit that Sir Launcelot had the greater prowess, yet Sir Percival was, certes, the more pure in heart and transparent of soul of those two.
   So, hereafter, if God so wills, I shall tell more of Sir Percival, for I shall have much to write concerning him when I have to tell of the achievement of the Sangreal which he beheld in that vision at the Castle of King Pecheur as aforetold.
   So, for this time, no more of these adventures, but fare you well.

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