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And this more I learned, that this same day, and with the
drawing of that sword, shall begin the marvellous quest of the holy
vessel, the Sangreal. For fate has destined that this precious amulet
shall be sought throughout the world; and to him who finds it the
greatest of earth's honors shall come."

The king and all the knights heard these words with wonder, for Lancelot
spoke like one inspired. Then Arthur turned to Gawaine.

"Fair nephew," he said, "try you this task for my love."

"Saving your good grace," said Gawaine, "that I shall not do."

"Then, sir, seek to draw the sword at my command."

"Your command I must obey," said Gawaine, "yet I dread to meddle with
magic."

Then he took the sword by the handle, and pulled with all his might, but
he could not stir it.

"I thank you," said the king, "for the trial, even if you have failed."

"My lord Gawaine," said Lancelot, "bear well in mind, this sword shall
touch you so sore that you would give the best castle in this kingdom
not to have set your hand thereto."

"It may be," answered Gawaine. "Yet I could not disobey the command of
the king."

Then the king turned to Percivale, and asked him for his love to try the
task.

"Gladly will I," he said, "if only to bear Gawaine fellowship."

But pull as strongly as he would, the sword yielded not to his hand. And
there were more there so hardy as to disregard Lancelot's warning and
seek to draw the sword, but to no hand would it yield.

"Try no more," said Kay to the king. "You have seen your marvel, and now
may, with a good appetite, go to your dinner."

This advice seemed timely to the king, and all went to the court, where
the knights took their seats at the Round Table, and were served by
young men lately made knights. When they had been fully served, every
seat being filled save the seat perilous, another marvellous thing
happened. For suddenly all the doors and windows of the hall shut of
themselves. Yet the room was not greatly darkened, and men looked into
one another's faces with abashed and frightened visages.

"Fair fellows and lords," said the king, "this is a day of strange
events. And I doubt if we shall not see greater before night comes, for
it seems a day set aside by the fates."

As he spoke, there came into the hall an ancient man, clothed all in
white, but no knight knew through which door he had entered. By the hand
he led a young knight, clad in red armor, but without sword or shield,
an empty scabbard hanging by his side.

"Peace be with you, fair lords," said the old man. Then he turned to
King Arthur, and said,--

"Sir, I bring with me a young knight who is of kingly lineage, and of
the kindred of Joseph of Arimathea. By his hand many strange marvels are
destined to be accomplished."

The king heard these words with close attention, and answered
graciously,--

"Sir, you are right welcome here, and the young knight you bring."

Then the old man removed the youth's armor, and put upon him a coat of
red sendal and a mantle that was furred with ermine. And Lancelot saw
that the young man was he whom he had knighted that morning at the
abbey.

[Illustration: JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA.]

But the chief wonder of the day was now to appear. For the old man said
to his young companion,--

"Sir, follow me." He led him around the table till they came to the seat
perilous, beside which sat Lancelot. Here the old man lifted up the
silken cloth, and lo! the letters which had been covered were gone, and
new letters of gold were visible, which read,--

"This is the seat of Galahad, the high prince."

"Sir," said the old man, "this seat is yours. Long has it waited your
coming."

And he seated him therein, while all the circle of knights looked on in
wonder. Now for the first time the young knight spoke.

"Dear sir," he said, "you may now depart, for you have done well what
you were commanded to do. Recommend me to my grandsire, King Pellam, and
say to him that I will come and see him as soon as I may."

With this the old man departed. Outside there waited twenty noble
squires, who mounted when he came, and rode away with him. The Knights
of the Round Table marvelled greatly at all this, and the more so on
seeing that he who occupied that chair of peril was one so tender of
age, and a youth whom no one knew, nor whence he came; but to one
another they privately said,--

"This is he by whom the Sangreal shall be achieved; for none ever sat
there before but Percivale, and he was not long deemed worthy to occupy
that seat."

The talk of this strange event quickly passed through the palace, and
came to the queen, who heard it with wonder. Those who brought word
said that the youth resembled Sir Lancelot.

"I must see this strange thing," she said, and, followed by her ladies,
she entered the hall.

"It is Sir Lancelot in youth again," she cried, on looking the young
knight in the face. "Fair sir, tell me truly, what father had you, and
what mother."

"King Pellam is my grandsire," answered Galahad, "and Elaine was my
mother. As for my father, I know him not."

"Then do I," cried the queen, "for he sits beside you. Sir Lancelot is
your father. You are son unto the noblest knight that ever wore sword."

At these words Lancelot rose up in haste, for he had not dreamed of what
was to come; and he clasped the youth in his arms and kissed his fair
young face with a love that overflowed his heart.

"My son!" he said. "Can it be? Greatly, indeed, have I felt drawn unto
you."

"And my heart went out to you, dear father," said Galahad, "from the
moment I looked upon your noble face."

The sight of this affecting meeting filled all hearts there with joy,
and the king warmly congratulated Lancelot on having found so worthy a
son; "for to him, I dare avow," he said, "is destined that great
achievement of the Sangreal of which you have this day told us."

Then Arthur took Galahad by the hand, and said,--

"Come with me, young sir," and led him from the palace to the river to
show him the marvel of the stone. After them followed the knights, and
the queen and ladies of the court, all full of hope of greater wonders
yet to come.

"Sir," said the king, "that sword floated hither this day. Many knights
of great prowess have tried to draw it and failed."

"That is no marvel," said Galahad. "The sword is not theirs, but mine.
And since I knew it awaited me I have brought no sword; but its
scabbard, as you may see, hangs by my side."

Then he laid his hand upon the sword, and, while all eyes opened wide
with wonder, drew it from the stone as easily as if it came from the
water only, and thrust it into the scabbard, saying to the king,--

"It fits there better than in a floating stone."

"God has sent it you," said the king. "And I doubt not he will send you
a shield in as marvellous a manner."

"This is the sword that at one time belonged to Balin le Savage," said
Galahad, "and with which he killed his brother Balan, in that terrible
joust which happened many years ago. The scabbard I wear was Balin's
scabbard, and it was Merlin who put the sword into that stone, saying
that no hand should draw it but that of Lancelot, or his son Galahad.
Nor can any man have forgotten the dolorous stroke which Balin dealt my
grandfather King Pellam, of which he is not yet healed, nor shall be
till I heal him. So has Merlin prophesied."

As they talked thus a lady on a white palfrey was seen riding down the
river side to where they stood. Reaching the group, she saluted the
king and queen, and asked if Sir Lancelot were there.

"I am here, fair lady," he answered.

"Sad is it," she said, while tears flowed from her eyes, "that all your
great renown is changed since this day's dawn."

"Damsel, why say you this?"

"Until to-day you were the best knight in the world," she answered. "But
he who should say this now would speak falsely, for there has come a
better than you. And this is proved by the adventure of the sword to
which you dared not set your hand. Remember well what I have said."

"As touches that," rejoined Lancelot, "I never had the pride of being
the best knight in the world, nor do I envy my son if any worship has
passed from me to him."

"Yet you were the greatest; and still are among sinful men," she
persisted. "And, sir king," she said to Arthur, "this more I am bid to
say, from the holy lips of Nancien the hermit, that to you shall fall
to-day the greatest of honors; for this day the Sangreal shall appear in
your palace, and feed you and all your fellowship of the Round Table!"

With these words she turned her palfrey and rode away as she had come,
leaving all who had heard her lost in wonder and admiration.

When they had a little got over their wonder at what they had seen, the
king gave orders that the stone should be taken from the water, saying
that he would have it set up as a monument of those strange events.

"And as it may be long before you all come together here again, I should
like to have you joust in the meadow of Camelot, by way of honor to this
day."

Thus he spoke; but his real purpose was to see Galahad proved, for he
feared that if he once left the court it might be long before he should
see him again. Then the knights put on their armor and rode to the
meadow in a gallant cavalcade. Galahad also, at the earnest request of
the king, put on armor, but he would take no shield, though the king and
Lancelot prayed him to do so. The most he would consent to do was to
take a spear.

But noble work he did that day, meeting all men who cared to break
spears with him, so that by the end of the joust he had thrown down many
good Knights of the Round Table. Only two of them, Lancelot and
Percivale, were able to keep their seats against the vigorous onset of
the strong young knight.

When the jousting was at an end, the king and knights went back to
Camelot, where they attended even-song at the great minster. Thence they
proceeded to the palace hall, where all took their seats at the table
for supper.

But as they sat eating, there came outside a terrible crash of thunder,
and a wind arose that seemed as if it would rend the great hall from its
foundations.



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