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For when Sir Bors
returned to Camelot and told the story of the wedding of Lancelot and
Elaine, much was the secret talk and great the scandal. And when the
news came to Guenever's ears she flamed with wrath.

Not long afterwards, Lancelot returned, still half frenzied with the
deception that had been practised upon him. When Guenever saw him she
accused him bitterly of being a traitor to love, and harshly bade him
leave the court, and never come again within her sight.

This bitter reviling turned Lancelot's frenzy to a sudden madness. With
distracted brain he leaped from a window into a garden, and ran like a
wild man through wood and brake, heedless that his clothes were torn and
his flesh rent with thorns and briers. Thus hotly burns despised love in
the human heart and brain, and thus it may turn the strongest senses
away and bring madness to the clearest mind.

On learning what had passed, Bors and Hector went to the queen, and
accused her harshly of the great wrong she had done to the noble
Lancelot. But she was already torn with remorse, and she knelt before
these noble knights, begging their forgiveness, and praying them
pitifully to seek Lancelot and bring him back to the court.

Months passed and Lancelot returned not, nor could he be found, though
he was sought through many lands. For he kept afar from cities and
courts, and roamed through wilds and wastes, where he had many
adventures in his madness, and did strange and wild things.

For two years he wandered hither and thither in frenzy, until at length
he came to King Pellam's city of Corbin, and to the castle where dwelt
the fair Elaine. Here he was given shelter in a little outhouse, with
straw to sleep on, while every day they threw him meat and set him
drink, for none would venture near a madman of such savage aspect.

But one day as he slept, Elaine chanced to behold him, and knew him at
once for Lancelot. Telling a trusty baron of her discovery, she had the
distracted knight borne still sleeping into a tower chamber in which was
kept the holy vessel, the Sangreal, concealed from all eyes save those
of persons of saintly life. Lancelot was laid near this, and when all
had left the chamber a man of sanctity entered and uncovered the vessel.
Such was its holy influence that it wrought marvellously upon the
distracted knight as he lay there asleep and the madness passed away
from his brain. When he woke he was himself again, as whole a man in
mind and body as any that stood upon the earth. For so healing was the
virtue of that precious vessel that it not only drove the cloud of
madness from his mind, but gave him back all his old might and
comeliness of body.

Then, ashamed of his frenzy, and anxious not to be known, Lancelot
assumed the name of the Chevalier Mal Fet, or the knight who has
trespassed, and took up his abode with Elaine and many knights and
ladies at a castle given him by King Pellam. This stood on an island in
the midst of a deep and clear lake, which Lancelot named the Joyous
Isle. And now, filled again with martial fervor, he made it known far
and wide that he would joust with any knights that came that way, and
that any one who should put him to the worst would receive as a prize a
jewel of worth and a jerfalcon.

But none won the prize, though very many noble knights jousted with the
Chevalier Mal Fet.

Last of all came Percivale and Hector, who had been long in search of
Lancelot. Learning the challenge, Percivale jousted with Lancelot, and
afterwards they fought with swords. So long and even was their combat,
that a length both paused for breath. And now Percivale, wondering who
this sturdy knight could be, told his name, and asked for his in return.
At this, Lancelot threw away his weapon, and took his late opponent in
his arms, crying out that he was Lancelot du Lake.

Glad was the meeting between these old friends and comrades, and richly
were the new-comers entertained in the castle. But in the end they
persuaded Lancelot to go with them to Camelot, and the disconsolate
Elaine was left to return, with her knights and ladies, to her father's
castle.

After these events years came and went, until many summers and winters
had passed over England's fair isle, and age had begun to lay its hand
on those who had been young, while those who had been children grew up
and became knights and ladies. Then came at length the time fixed by
destiny for the adventure of the Sangreal. And thus this adventure
began.

When again approached the vigil of Pentecost, and all the fellowship of
the Round Table had come to Camelot, and the tables were set to dine,
there rode into the great hall a gentlewoman of noble aspect, whose
horse was white with sweat and foam.

She saluted Lancelot and begged him to go with her, though whither and
for what purpose she would not say. Stirred by his love of adventure, he
armed and rode with her, and before the day's end reached an abbey of
nuns in a secluded valley. Here, as he stood conversing with the abbess,
there came in to him twelve nuns, bringing with them a youth who had not
yet reached manhood, but was large and powerful of frame, and as
handsome of face as any man he had ever seen.

"Sir," said the ladies, with weeping eyes, "we bring you this child,
whom we have long nourished, and pray you to make him a knight; for
there is no worthier man from whom he can receive the order of
knighthood, and we hold him worthy of your sword."

Lancelot looked long at the young squire, and saw that he was seemly,
and demure as a dove, and of wonderful beauty of form and features, and
his heart went out with great love for the beautiful youth.

"What is his name?" asked Lancelot.

"We call him Galahad."

"Comes this desire from himself?"

"It does," said they all.

"From whom has he sprung?"

"His mother is dead. His father is a full noble knight, as you shall
soon learn."

"Then he shall be knighted by my hand to-morrow at the morning services,
for truly he seems worthy of it."

That night, Lancelot's cousins, Bors and Lionel, stopped at the abbey,
and spent there a cheery evening with their noble kinsman. At early morn
of the next day he gave the accolade to the youth, pronouncing him
knight, and bidding Bors and Lionel to stand as his godfathers in the
order of knighthood.

"And may God make you a good man and a noble knight," he said. "Beauty
you have now, equal to any I have ever seen, and strength and courage I
doubt not; if you bear with these a noble heart and an earnest mind you
have the best treasures that God can confer or man possess."

Then, when they had broken their fast, Lancelot said to the demure and
modest young knight,--

"Fair sir, will you come with me to the court of King Arthur?"

"I humbly beg your pardon," said Galahad, "but I cannot come at this
time. Trust me to follow soon."

Then Lancelot and his cousins left the abbey and rode to Camelot, where
they arrived before the hour of the feast. In the great hall were many
noble knights, some of them strangers, who walked about the Round Table,
reading the names in letters of gold in the several seats, and saying,--

"Here sits Gawaine, here Lancelot, here Percivale," and so with the
others.

At length they came to the seat perilous, in which no man but Percivale
had hitherto dared to sit, and which he no longer occupied. To their
deep surprise they found there newly written in letters of gold these
words,--

"Four hundred and fifty-four winters after the passion of our Lord Jesus
Christ, the knight shall come for whom this seat is held by destiny."

"What marvellous thing is this?" cried all who saw it. "Here is a
miracle."

"In the name of God, what means it?" cried Lancelot. "Percivale long
since had warning to leave that seat. Who shall fill it to-day, for this
is the feast of Pentecost of the four hundred and fifty-fourth year. The
year and day have come, but where and who is the man? I advise that
these letters be hidden, till he come for whom this seat is
pre-ordained."

Then it was ordered that the writing should be covered with a cloth of
silk; and the king bade his guests to hasten to dinner, and forget for
the time being what they had seen.

"Sir," said Kay, the steward, "if you go to table now you will break
your old custom, not to sit at dinner on this day till you have seen or
heard of some adventure."

"Very true," said the king. "I had forgotten my custom through this
strange event."

As they stood thus speaking, there came hastily into the court a squire,
whose eyes were big with wonder.

"Sire, I bring you marvellous tidings," he cried to the king.

"What are they?" demanded Arthur.

"As I stood but now by the river, I saw floating on its waters a great
square stone, and above this stood the hilt of a sword, whose blade was
thrust deeply into the stone."

"A stone that floats!" said the king. "That is strange, indeed. I must
see this marvel."

Then he, followed by all the knights, went to the river, and saw there
that the squire had spoken truly; for a great stone that seemed of red
marble floated like wood on the water, and thrust deeply into it was a
rich sword, in whose pommel were many jewels of price. As they looked in
wonder the stone whirled inward on an eddy and came aground at their
feet. And now they saw that the precious stones were set in letters of
gold, which none there could read. But there was a man at the court
learned in strange tongues, and he being sent for, read these with ease,
and thus interpreted them,--

"Never shall the hand of man draw me from this stone until he comes by
whose side I am to hang; and he shall be the best knight in the world."

"Lay your hand on this sword and draw it," said the king to Lancelot.
"To you it surely belongs; for you are the best knight in the world."

"Best of hand, mayhap, but not of heart and life," said Lancelot,
soberly. "Certes, sir, that sword is not for me, nor have I the
hardiness to set hand thereto. I had a vision in my last night's sleep,
and this it told me: that he who seeks to draw that sword, and fails
therein, shall in time receive from it a wound which shall be very long
in healing.



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