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His gallant career was near its end, for treachery and
hatred were soon to seal his fate. This sorrowful story it is now our
sad duty to tell.

Lamorak had long loved Margause, the queen of Orkney, Arthur's sister
and the mother of Gawaine and his brethren. For this they hated him, and
with treacherous intent invited their mother to a castle near Camelot,
as a lure to her lover. Soon after the tournament, at which Lamorak won
the prize of valor, and redoubled the hatred of Gawaine and his brothers
by overcoming them in the fray, word was brought to the victorious
knight that Margause was near at hand and wished to see him.

With a lover's ardor, he hastened to the castle where she was, but, as
they sat in the queen's apartment in conversation, the door was suddenly
flung open, and Gaheris, one of the murderous brethren, burst in, full
armed and with a naked sword in his hand. Rushing in fury on the
unsuspecting lovers, with one dreadful blow he struck off his mother's
head, crimsoning Lamorak with her blood. He next assailed Lamorak, who,
being unarmed, was forced to fly for his life, and barely escaped.

The tidings of this dread affair filled the land with dismay, and many
of the good knights of Arthur's court threatened reprisal. Arthur
himself was full of wrath at the death of his sister. Yet those were
days when law ruled not, but force was master, and retribution only came
from the strong hand and the ready sword. This was Lamorak's quarrel,
and the king, though he vowed to protect him from his foes, declared
that the good knight of Wales must seek retribution with his own hand.

He gained death, alas! instead of revenge, for his foes proved too
vigilant for him, and overcame him by vile treachery. Watching his
movements, they lay in ambush for him at a difficult place, and as he
was passing, unsuspicious of danger, they set suddenly upon him, slew
his horse, and assailed him on foot.

Gawaine, Mordred, and Gaheris formed this ambush, for the noble-minded
Gareth had refused to take part in their murderous plot; and with
desperate fury they assaulted the noble Welsh knight, who, for three
hours, defended himself against their utmost strength. But at the last
Mordred dealt him a death-blow from behind, and when he fell in death
the three murders hewed him with their swords till scarce a trace of the
human form was left.

Thus perished one of the noblest of Arthur's knights, and thus was done
one of the most villanous deeds of blood ever known in those days of
chivalrous war.

Before the death of Lamorak another event happened at Arthur's court
which must here be told, for it was marvellous in itself, and had in it
the promise of wondrous future deeds.

One day there came to the court at Camelot a knight attended by a young
squire. When he had disarmed he went to the king and asked him to give
the honor of knighthood to his squire.

"What claim has he to it?" asked the king. "Of what lineage is he?"

"He is the youngest son of King Pellinore, and brother to Sir Lamorak.
He is my brother also; for my name is Aglavale, and I am of the same
descent."

"What is his name?"

"Percivale."

"Then for my love of Lamorak, and the love I bore your father, he shall
be made a knight to-morrow."

So when the morrow dawned, the king ordered that the youth should be
brought into the great hall, and there he knighted him, dealing him the
accolade with his good sword Excalibur.

And so the day passed on till the dinner-hour, when the king seated
himself at the head of the table, while down its sides were many knights
of prowess and renown. Percivale, the new-made knight, was given a seat
among the squires and the untried knights, who sat at the lower end of
the great dining-table.

But in the midst of their dinner an event of great strangeness occurred.
For there came into the hall one of the queen's maidens, who was of high
birth, but who had been born dumb, and in all her life had spoken no
word. Straight across the hall she walked, while all gazed at her in
mute surprise, till she came to where Percivale sat. Then she took him
by the hand, and spoke in a voice that rang through the hall with the
clearness of a trumpet,--

"Arise, Sir Percivale, thou noble knight and warrior of God's own
choosing. Arise and come with me."

He rose in deep surprise, while all the others sat in dumb wonder at
this miracle. To the Round Table she led him, and to the right side of
the seat perilous, in which no knight had hitherto dared to sit.

"Fair knight, take here your seat;" she said. "This seat belongs to you,
and to none other, and shall be yours until a greater than you shall
come."

This said, she departed and asked for a priest. Then was she confessed
and given the sacrament, and forthwith died. But the king and all his
court gazed with wonder on Sir Percivale, and asked themselves what all
this meant, and for what great career God had picked out this youthful
knight, for such a miracle no man there had ever seen before.

Meanwhile, King Mark had gone back to Cornwall, and with him went Sir
Tristram, at King Arthur's request, though not till Arthur had made the
Cornish king swear on Holy Scripture to do his guest no harm, but hold
him in honor and esteem.

Lancelot, however, was full of dread and anger when he heard what had
occurred, and he told King Mark plainly that if he did mischief to Sir
Tristram he would slay him with his own hands.

"Bear this well in mind, sir king," he said, "for I have a way of
keeping my word."

"I have sworn before King Arthur to treat him honorably," answered Mark.
"I, too, have a way of keeping my word."

"A way, I doubt not," said Lancelot, scornfully; "but not my way. Your
reputation for truth needs mending. And all men know for what you came
into this country. Therefore, take heed what you do."

[Illustration: Copyright 1895 by E. A. Abbey; from a Copely print
copyright 1897 by Curtis and Cameron.

THE ROUND TABLE OF KING ARTHUR.]

Then Mark and Tristram departed, and soon after they reached Cornwall a
damsel was sent to Camelot with news of their safe arrival, and bearing
letters from Tristram to Arthur and Lancelot. These they answered and
sent the damsel back, the burden of Lancelot's letter being, "Beware of
King Fox, for his ways are ways of wiles."

They also sent letters to King Mark, threatening him if he should do
aught to Tristram's injury. These letters worked harm only, for they
roused the evil spirit in the Cornish king's soul, stirring him up to
anger and thirst for revenge. He thereupon wrote to Arthur, bidding him
to meddle with his own concerns, and to take heed to his wife and his
knights, which would give him work enough to do. As for Sir Tristram, he
said that he held him to be his mortal enemy.

He wrote also to Queen Guenever, his letter being full of shameful
charges of illicit relations with Sir Lancelot, and dishonor to her
lord, the king. Full of wrath at these vile charges, Guenever took the
letter to Lancelot, who was half beside himself with anger on reading
it.

"You cannot get at him to make him eat his words," said Dinadan, whom
Lancelot took into his confidence. "And if you seek to bring him to
terms with pen and ink, you will find that his villany will get the
better of your honesty. Yet there are other ways of dealing with
cowardly curs. Leave him to me; I will make him wince. I will write a
mocking lay of King Mark and his doings, and will send a harper to sing
it before him at his court. When this noble king has heard my song I
fancy he will admit that there are other ways of gaining revenge besides
writing scurrilous letters."

A stinging lay, indeed, was that which Dinadan composed. When done he
taught it to a harper named Eliot, who in his turn taught it to other
harpers, and these, by the orders of Arthur and Lancelot, went into
Wales and Cornwall to sing it everywhere.

Meanwhile King Mark's crown had been in great danger. For his country
had been invaded by an army from Session, led by a noted warrior named
Elias, who drove the forces of Cornwall from the field and besieged the
king in his castle of Tintagil. And now Tristram came nobly to the
rescue. At the head of the Cornish forces he drove back the besiegers
with heavy loss, and challenged Elias to a single combat to end the war.
The challenge was accepted, and a long and furious combat followed, but
in the end Elias was slain, and the remnant of his army forced to
surrender.

This great service added to the seeming accord between Tristram and the
king, but in his heart Mark nursed all his old bitterness, and hated him
the more that he had helped him. His secret fury soon found occasion to
flame to the surface. For at the feast which was given in honor of the
victory, Eliot, the harper, appeared, and sang before the king and his
lords the lay that Dinadan had made.

This was so full of ridicule and scorn of King Mark that he leaped from
his seat in a fury of wrath before the harper had half finished.

"Thou villanous twanger of strings!" he cried. "What hound sent you into
this land to insult me with your scurrilous songs?"

"I am a minstrel," said Eliot, "and must obey the orders of my lord.
Sir Dinadan made this song, if you would know, and bade me sing it
here."

"That jesting fool!" cried Mark, in wrath. "As for you, fellow, you
shall go free through minstrels' license. But if you lose any time in
getting out of this country you may find that Cornish air is not good
for you."

The harper took this advice and hastened away, bearing letters from
Tristram to Lancelot and Dinadan. But King Mark turned the weight of his
anger against Tristram, whom he believed had instigated this insult,
with the design to set all the nobles of his own court laughing at him.
And well he knew that the villanous lay would be sung throughout the
land, and that he would be made the jest of all the kingdom.

"They have their sport now," he said. "Mine will come. Tristram of
Lyonesse shall pay dearly for this insult. And all that hold with him
shall learn that King Mark of Cornwall is no child's bauble to be played
with."

The evil-minded king was not long in putting his project in execution.
At a tournament which was held soon afterwards Tristram was badly
wounded, and King Mark, with great show of sorrow, had him borne to a
castle near by, where he took him under his own care as nurse and leech.

Here he gave him a sleeping draught, and had him borne while slumbering
to another castle, where he was placed in a strong prison cell, under
the charge of stern keepers.

The disappearance of Tristram made a great stir in the kingdom.



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