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Then King Evelake prayed for mercy and
pardon, and begged that he might not die until he who was to achieve the
Sangreal should come, that he might see him and kiss him. There
answered him a voice that said: 'Thy prayers are heard; thou shalt not
die till he has kissed thee. And when he comes thy eyes shall be opened
to see clearly, and thy wounds shall be healed; but not until then.' So
King Evelake has lived in this mansion for three hundred winters,
waiting for the coming of the knight who shall heal him. Now, sir, will
you tell me what knight you are, and if you are of the Round Table
fellowship?"

"That am I, and my name is Percivale de Galis."

On hearing this the good man welcomed Percivale warmly, and pressed him
to remain. But the knight replied that he could not, for his duty led
him onward.

Percivale now left the chapel, and, arming himself, he took his horse
and rode onward. And that day more strange things happened to him than
we have space to tell. Not far had he ridden when he met twenty
men-at-arms, who bore on a bier a dead knight. On learning that he was
from King Arthur's court, they assailed him fiercely, killed his horse,
and would have slain him; but when he was at the worst strait a knight
in red armor came hastily to his rescue, and rode fiercely on the
assailants.

He attacked these, indeed, with such fury that many of them were soon
stretched on the ground; while the others fled into a thick forest,
whither they were hotly pursued by their assailant.

On seeing him thus ride away, Percivale was deeply grieved, for he well
knew his rescuer was Galahad, and he had no horse to follow him.

He went forward as fast as he could on foot, and had not gone far when
he met a yeoman riding on a hackney, and leading a great war-horse,
blacker than any bear.

Percivale begged that he would lend him this horse, that he might
overtake a knight before him. But this the yeoman refused, saying that
the owner of the horse would slay him if he should do so.

Not long afterwards, as Percivale sat woebegone beneath a tree, an armed
knight came riding past on the black horse, pursued by the yeoman, who
called him robber, and moaned bitterly that his master would kill him
for the loss of his charge.

"Lend me your hackney," said Percivale; "I may get you your horse
again."

This the yeoman gladly did, and Percivale pursued the robber knight,
loudly bidding him to stand and deliver.

The knight at this turned and rode fiercely upon him, but directed his
spear against the horse instead of the rider, striking it in the breast,
so that it fell to the earth.

He now rode away, without heeding Percivale's angry demand that he
should stop and fight it out on foot. When the dismounted knight found
that his antagonist would not turn, he was so filled with chagrin that
he threw away his helm and sword, and raved like one out of his wits.
Thus he continued till night came on, when he lay down exhausted and
fell into a deep slumber.

Near the midnight hour he suddenly awakened, and saw in the road before
him a woman, who said,--

"Sir Percivale, what do you here?"

"I do neither good nor ill," he replied.

"You need a horse," she said. "If you will promise to do my will when I
shall summon you, I will lend you mine. You will find him no common
one."

"I promise that," cried Percivale. "I would do much for a horse just
now."

"Wait, then; I shall fetch you the noblest animal you ever bestrode."

She departed, but quickly came again, leading a horse of midnight
blackness, and richly apparelled for knightly service.

Percivale looked at it with admiration. He had not hoped for so great
and noble a steed as this. Thanking her warmly, he sprang to his feet,
leaped to the saddle, and put spurs to the horse, from whose nostrils
fire seemed to glare.

Away went the black horse under the moonlight, making such marvellous
strides that it seemed to leave the earth behind it in its magical
progress. With such wondrous speed did it go that in an hour it had made
a four days' journey. Then it came to the brink of a great body of
water, whose waves foamed and leaped boisterously against the shore.

When Percivale saw the heaving waves, which stretched far away under the
moonlight, he drew with all his force upon the rein; but the fiendish
brute which he rode heeded not his hand, but bore him madly to the
brink. Fear and doubt now filled the knight's mind, and with a hasty
impulse he made the sign of the cross. At this the beast roared loudly
in rage, while flame a foot long poured from its nostrils, and with a
wild rear it shook off its rider, and plunged madly into the wild
billows. And the showering drops which fell upon Percivale from the
plunge burnt like sparks of fire.

"God be thanked that I am here alive," cried the knight, fervently. "I
have ridden the foul fiend in the image of a horse, and barely have I
escaped perdition."

Then he commended himself to God, and prayed earnestly to the Lord to
save him from all such perils and temptations. He continued in prayer
all the remainder of that night until the next day dawned upon the
earth.

When sunrise came he looked needfully about him, anxious to learn
whither he had been borne by the unholy brute. To his surprise and alarm
he found himself in a wild waste, which was closed in on one side by the
sea, and on the other by a range of rough and high mountains, impassable
to human feet; a land that seemed without food or shelter, and the
lurking-place of wild beasts.

He trembled with fear on seeing this, and went forward with doubtful
steps. Not far had he gone before he saw a strange thing, for a great
serpent passed near him, bearing a young lion by the neck. Fiercely
after it came a great lion, roaring with rage, and fell upon the
serpent, which turned in defence, so that a mighty battle was waged
before the knight.

"By my faith," he cried, "the lion is the most natural beast of the two,
and it fights for its young. The lion it is my duty to help."

He drew his sword with these words and struck the serpent so fierce a
stroke that it fell dead. Then he turned his shield against the lion,
but as the latter made no show of fighting him, but fawned upon him with
every mark of joy and gratitude, he cast down his shield and removed his
helm, and sat there stroking the neck and shoulders of the beast.

Until noon he comforted himself with the fellowship of the lion. Then it
took up its whelp and bore it away, leaving Percivale alone. But he was
not unhappy, for he believed fervently in God, and prayed with all
earnestness that he might be saved from unholy things, and chosen as a
champion of right and truth.

When night came, Percivale, to his joy, saw the lion coming towards him.
It crouched at his feet like a spaniel, and all that night the lion and
the knight slept in company, his head being pillowed on the shoulder of
the beast.

But during the night a strange dream came to him. He seemed to see two
women, one of whom was young, and rode upon a lion, and the other was
old, and sat upon a gliding serpent. And the younger spoke to him as
follows,--

"Sir Percivale," she said, "my lord salutes you, and sends a warning to
you to make ready, for to-morrow you will have to fight with the
strongest champion in the world. And if overcome you will be shamed to
the world's end."

"Who is your lord?" he asked.

"The greatest lord in all the world," she said; and then suddenly
vanished.

Then came the lady upon the serpent, and said,--

"Sir Percivale, I have done you no harm, and yet you have worked me
injury."

"What have I done? I have been always heedful to offend no lady."

"I have long nourished here a great serpent, and yesterday you killed it
for seeking its prey. Why did you this? The lion was not in your care."

"I aided the lion because it was a nobler beast than the serpent. In
that I did nothing against you."

"You did me a great wrong, and in return for this injury I demand that
you become my man."

"That shall I never be," he answered.

"Beware, then, proud knight, who pride yourself on your piety. You have
robbed me of that which I loved; take heed that I catch you not
unawares, or mine you shall be, body and soul."

With these words she departed, and Percivale finished his sleep without
further vision. In the morning, when he awoke, he felt feeble. And as he
rose and blessed himself he saw not far off in the sea a ship that
sailed towards him. As it came near he perceived it to be covered within
and without with white samite, while on the deck stood an old man
dressed in a surplice like a priest.

"Sir," said Percivale, "you are welcome."

"God keep you," said the old man; "whence come you?"

"I am of King Arthur's court, and a Knight of the Round Table, and am in
quest of the Sangreal. But here I find myself in a wilderness, with no
hope of escape."

"Doubt not, if you be a true knight."

"Who are you?" asked Percivale.

"I have come hither from a strange country to comfort you," said the old
man.

"Then, sir, can you tell me what my dream signifies?" and Percivale
related what had befallen him.

"That can I," said the old man. "She that rode on the lion betokens the
new law of holy church, and she came through love, to warn you of the
great battle that is before you."

"With whom shall I fight?" asked Percivale.

"With the strongest champion of the world, and if you fail in the fight
you shall not escape with the loss of a limb, but shall be shamed to the
world's end. As for her that rode on the serpent, she betokens the old
law. Heed her not. The serpent you slew betokens the devil that you rode
hither, and whom you overcame by the sign of the cross. Yield not to her
or any of her kindred, or worse will befall you."

Then the ship turned and sailed away, leaving Percivale again alone. But
when he went up the rocks he found there the lion, which he stroked and
made joyful fellowship with.

And thus time went on till midday. Then Percivale saw a ship approaching
with such speed as if all the winds in the world had driven it.



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