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I can but say, then,
farewell, and God be with you and this fair maiden."

So saying, he turned and rode briskly away, followed by their earnest
thanks. Reaching the point where he had seen Lionel in custody, he took
the trail of the horses, and followed them far by their hoof-marks in
the road. Then he overtook a religious man, who was mounted on a strong
horse, blacker than a berry.

"Sir knight," he asked, "what seek you?"

"I seek my brother," he replied, "who came this way beaten by two
knights."

"Then seek no further, but be strong of heart, for I have sad tidings
for you. Your brother is dead."

He then led Bors to a clump of bushes, in which lay a newly slain body,
which seemed to be that of Lionel. Seeing this, Bors broke into such
grief that he fell to the earth in a swoon, and long lay there. When he
recovered he said, sadly,--

"Dear brother, I would have rescued you had not a higher duty called me.
But since we are thus parted, joy shall never again enter my desolate
heart. I can now but say, be He whom I have taken for my master my help
and comfort."

Thus grieving, he took up the body in his arms, and put it upon his
saddle-bow. Then he said to his companion,--

"Can you tell me of some chapel, where I may bury this body?"

"Come with me. There is one near by."

[Illustration: AN OLD AND HALF-RUINED CHAPEL.]

They rode forward till they came in sight of a tower, beside which was
an old and half-ruined chapel. Here they alighted, and placed the corpse
in a tomb of marble.

"We will leave him here," said the good man, "and seek shelter for the
night. To-morrow we will return and perform the services for the dead."

"Are you a priest?" asked Bors.

"Yes," he answered.

"Then you may be able to interpret a dream that came to me last night."

Thereupon he told his dream of the birds, and that of the flowers.

"I can interpret the vision of the birds now," said the priest. "The
rest must wait till later. The white bird is the emblem of a rich and
fair lady, who loves you deeply, and will die for love if you pity her
not. I counsel you, therefore, not to refuse her, for this I shall tell
you, that if you return not her love, your cousin Lancelot, the best of
knights, shall die. Men will call you a man-slayer, both of your brother
Lionel and your cousin Lancelot, since you might have saved them both
easily if you would. You rescued a maiden who was naught to you, and let
your brother perish. Which, think you, was your greater duty?"

"I did what I thought my duty," said Bors.

"At any rate, bear this in mind, you will be in sad fault if you suffer
your cousin Lancelot to die for an idle scruple."

"I should be sad, indeed," said Bors. "Rather would I die ten times over
than see my cousin Lancelot perish through fault of mine."

"The choice lies in your hand," said the priest. "It is for you to
decide."

As he spoke they came in front of a fair-showing tower and manor-house,
where were knights and ladies, who welcomed Bors warmly. When he was
disarmed there was brought him a mantle furred with ermine. Then he was
led to the company of knights and ladies, who received him so gladly,
and did so much to make his stay pleasant, that all thoughts of his
brother Lionel and of the danger of Lancelot were driven from his mind.

As they stood in gay converse there came out of a chamber a lady whom
Bors had not before seen, and whose beauty was such that he felt he had
never beheld so lovely a face, while her dress was richer than Queen
Guenever had ever worn.

"Here, Sir Bors," said those present, "is the lady to whom we all owe
service. Richer and fairer lady the world holds not, and she loves you
above all other knights, and will have no knight but you."

On hearing this, Bors stood abashed. This, then, he thought, was the
white bird of his dream. Her love he must return or lose Lancelot,--so
fate had spoken.

As he stood deeply thinking, the lady came up and saluted him, taking
his hand in hers, and bidding him sit beside her, while her deep eyes
rested upon him with looks that made his soul tremble. Never had he
gazed into such eyes before.

Then she spoke of many things, luring him into pleasant conversation, in
which he forgot his fears, and began to take delight in her presence. At
the end she told him how deeply and how long she had loved him, and
begged him to return her love, saying that she could make him richer
than ever was man of his age.

These words brought back all his trouble of soul. How to answer the lady
he knew not, for his vow of chastity was too deep to be lightly broken.

"Alas!" she said, "must I plead for your love in vain?"

"Madam," said Bors, "I cannot think of earthly ties and delights while
my brother lies dead, and awaits the rites of the Church."

"I have loved you long," she repeated, "both for your beauty of body and
soul, and the high renown you have achieved. Now that chance has brought
you to my home, think not ill of me if I let you not go without telling
my love, and beseeching you to return it."

"That I cannot do," said Bors.

At these words she fell into the deepest sorrow, while tears flowed from
her beautiful eyes.

"You will kill me by your coldness," she bewailed. Then she took him by
the hand and bade him look upon her. "Am I not fair and lovely, and
worthy the love of the best of knights? Alas! since you will not love
me, you shall see me die of despair before your eyes."

"That I do not fear to see," he replied.

"You shall see it within this hour," she said, sadly.

Then she left him, and, taking with her twelve of her ladies, mounted to
the highest battlement of the tower, while Bors was led to the
court-yard below.

"Ah, Sir Bors, gentle knight, have pity on us!" cried one of the ladies.
"We shall all die if you are cruel to our lady, for she vows that she
and all of us shall fall from this tower if you disdain her proffered
love."

Bors looked up, and his heart melted with pity, to see so many fair
faces looking beseechingly down upon him, while tears seemed to rain
from their eyes. Yet he was steadfast of heart, for he felt that he
could not lose his soul to save their lives, and his vow of chastity in
the quest of the Sangreal was not to be broken for the delights of
earthly love.

As he stood, some of the maidens flung themselves from the tower, and
lay dead and bleeding at his feet, while above he saw the fair face of
the lady looking down, as she stood balanced on the battlement, like a
fair leaf that the next wind would sweep to certain death.

"God help me and guide me!" cried Bors in horror. "What shall I do? Here
earthly endurance is too weak; I must put my trust in heaven." And he
made the sign of the cross on his forehead and his breast.

Then came a marvel indeed. A roar was heard as if thunder had rent the
sky, and a cry as if all the fiends of hell were about him. For the
moment he closed his eyes, stunned by the uproar. When he opened them
again all had gone,--the tower, the lady, the knights, and the chapel
where he had placed his brother's body,--and he stood in the road, armed
and mounted, while only a broad, empty plain spread before him.

Then he held up his hands to heaven and cried fervently: "Father and
Creator, from what have I escaped! It is the foul fiend in the likeness
of a beautiful woman who has tempted me. Only the sign of the holy cross
has saved me from perdition."

Putting spurs to his horse he rode furiously away, burning with anxiety
to get from that accursed place, and deeply glad at his escape. As he
proceeded a loud clock-bell sounded to the right, and turning thither he
came to a high wall, over which he saw the pinnacles of an abbey.

Here he asked shelter for the night, and was received with a warm
welcome, for those within deemed he was one of the knights that sought
the Sangreal. When morning came he heard mass, and then the abbot came
and bade him good-morning. A conversation followed, in which he told the
abbot all that had happened to him, and begged his interpretation
thereof.

"Truly you are strong in the service of the Lord," said the abbot, "and
are held for great deeds. Thus I interpret your adventures and visions.
The great fowl that fed its young with its own blood is an emblem of
Christ, who shed his blood for the good of mankind. And the bare tree on
which it sat signifies the world, which of itself is barren and without
fruit. Also King Aniause betokens Jesus Christ, and the lady for whom
you took the battle the new law of Holy Church; while the older lady is
the emblem of the old law and the fiend, which forever war against the
Church.

"By the black bird also was emblemed the Holy Church, which saith, 'I
am black but he is fair.' The white bird represented the fiend, which,
like hypocrisy, is white without and foul within. As for the rotten
chair and the white lilies, the first was thy brother Lionel, who is a
murderer and an untrue knight; while the lilies were the knight and the
lady. The one drew near to the other to dishonor her, but you forced
them to part. And you would have been in great peril had you, for the
rescue of a rotten tree, suffered those two flowers to perish; for if
they had sinned together they had both been damned.

"The seeming man of religion, who blamed you for leaving your brother to
rescue a lady, was the foul fiend himself. Your brother was not slain,
as he made it appear, but is still alive. For the corpse, and the
chapel, and the tower were all devices of the evil one, and the lady who
offered her love was the fiend himself in that showing. He knew you were
tender-hearted, and he did all. Much you may thank God that you
withstood his temptation, and that until now you have come through all
your adventures pure and unblemished."

This gladdened the heart of the virtuous knight, and a warm hope of
winning the Sangreal arose in his soul. Much more passed between them,
and when Bors rode forth it was with the fervent blessing of the holy
abbot.

On the morning of the second day Bors saw before him a castle that rose
in a green valley, and met with a yeoman, whom he stopped and asked what
was going on in that country.

"Sir knight," he answered, "there is to be held a great tournament
before that castle."

"By what people?" asked Bors.

"The Earl of Plains," was the answer, "leads one party, and the nephew
of the Lady of Hervin the other."

With this the yeoman rode on, and Bors kept on his course, thinking he
might meet Lionel or some other of his old comrades at the tournament.
At length he turned aside to a hermitage that stood at the entrance to
the forest.



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