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Then, seeing that none would face him, he turned and
rode away as he had come, none knowing whither he, who had come upon
them with the suddenness of a thunder-clap, had gone.

"Lancelot du Lake told no less than the truth," declared Gawaine,
bitterly, "when he said that, for seeking to draw the sword from the
stone, I would get a sore wound from that same blade. In faith, I would
not for the best castle in the world have had such a buffet."

"Your quest is done, it seems," said Hector.

"As for that, it was done before. You can still seek the Sangreal if you
will, but I shall seek my bed; and I fear I shall stay there much longer
than I care to."

Then he was borne into the castle, where a leech was found for him,
while Hector remained with him, vowing he would not leave till his
comrade was well.

Meanwhile Galahad rode on, leaving many a groan and more than one sore
head behind him, and at night reached a hermitage near the castle of
Carbonek. Here he was welcomed by the hermit; but late at night, when
they were asleep, a loud knock came on the door, which roused the host.
Going to see who knocked at that untimely hour, he found a lady at the
door, who said,--

"Ulfin, rouse the knight who is with you. I must speak with him."

This he did, and Galahad went to the door, and asked her what she

"Galahad," she replied, "I am sent here to seek you. You must arm and
mount your horse at once, and follow me. Within three days I shall bring
you to the greatest adventure that ever knight met."

Without further question Galahad obeyed, and, having commended himself
to God, he bade his fair guide to lead, and he would follow wherever she

Onward they rode during the remainder of the night and the next day,
till they came to a castle not far from the sea, where Galahad was
warmly welcomed, for the damsel who guided him had been sent by the lady
of that castle.

"Madam," said the damsel, "shall he stay here all night?"

"No," she replied; "only until he has dined, and has slept a little. He
must ride on until destiny is accomplished."

So at early nightfall Galahad was called and helped to arm by
torchlight. Then he and the damsel again took horse, and rode on at
speed till they suddenly found themselves at the ocean's brink, with the
waves breaking at their feet. And here lay a ship covered with white
samite, from which manly voices cried,--

"Welcome, Sir Galahad. We have long awaited you. Come on board."

"What means this?" asked Galahad of the damsel. "Who are they that

"No others than your friends and comrades, Sir Bors and Sir Percivale.
Here you must leave your horse, and I mine, and both of us enter the
ship, for so God commands."

This they did, taking their saddles and bridles with them, and making on
them the sign of the cross. When they had entered the ship the two
knights received them with great joy. And as they stood greeting each
other the wind suddenly rose and drove the ship from the land, forcing
it through the waves at a marvellous speed.

"Whence comes this ship?" asked Galahad.

Then Bors and Percivale told him of their adventures and temptations,
and by what miracles they had been brought on board that vessel.

"Truly," said Galahad, "God has aided you marvellously. As for me, had
it not been for the lady who led me, I should never have found you."

"If Lancelot, your father, were but here," said Bors, "then it would
seem to me that we had all that heart could wish."

"That may not be," answered Galahad, "unless by the pleasure of our

As they conversed the ship suddenly ran between two rocks, where it held
fast, but where they could not land for the raging of the sea. But just
before them lay another ship, which they could reach without danger.

[Illustration: Copyright 1901 by E. A. Abbey; from a Copely print
copyright 1902 by Curtis and Cameron.


"Thither we must go," said the lady, "and there we shall find strange
things, for such is the Lord's will."

At this they approached the ship, and saw that it was richly provided,
but without man or woman on board. And on its bow there was written in
large letters,--

"You who shall enter this ship, take heed of your belief: for I am
Faith, and bid you beware. If you fail I shall not help you. He who
enters here must be of pure heart and earnest trust."

They stood looking earnestly at one another after having read these

"Percivale," said the lady, "know you who I am?"

"I do not," he replied. "Have I ever seen you before?"

"Know, then, that I am your sister, the daughter of King Pellinore. I
love no man on earth as I do you. I warn you, therefore, not to enter
this ship unless you have perfect belief in our Lord Jesus Christ, for
if your faith fails you aught here you shall perish."

"Fair sister," he replied, "happy am I, indeed, to know you. As for the
ship, I shall not fail to enter it. If I prove an untrue knight or a
misbeliever, then let me perish."

As they spoke, Galahad blessed himself and entered the ship, and after
him came the lady, and then Bors and Percivale. On reaching the deck
they found it so marvellously fair and rich that they stood in wonder.
In the midst of the ship was a noble bed; and when Galahad went thither
he found on it a crown of silk. Below this lay a sword, half drawn from
its scabbard, the pommel being of stone of many colors. The scales of
the haft were of the ribs of two beasts. One beast was a serpent, known
in Calidone as the serpent of the fiend; and its bone had the magic
virtue that the hand which touched it should never be weary or hurt. The
other beast was a fish, that haunted the flood of Euphrates, its name
Ertanax; its bone had the virtue that he who handled it should not think
on the joys and sorrows of his past life, but only of that which he then
beheld. And no man could grasp this sword but the one who passed all
others in might and virtue.

"In the name of God," said Percivale, "I shall seek to handle it."

But in vain he tried, he could not grasp the magic hilt. No more could
Bors, who attempted it in his turn. Then Galahad approached, and as he
did so saw written on the sword in letters like blood, "He who draweth
me has peril to endure. His body shall meet with shame, for he shall be
wounded to the death."

"By my faith, the risk is too great," said Galahad. "I shall not set my
hand to so fatal a blade."

"That you must," said the lady. "The drawing of this sword is forbidden
to all men, save you. No one can draw back from that which destiny

Then she told a marvellous story of that strange blade.

"When this ship arrived in the realm of England," she said, "there was
deadly war between King Labor and King Hurlame, who was a christened
Saracen. Here they fought one day by the sea-side, and Hurlame was
defeated and his men slain. Then he fled into this ship, drew the sword
which he saw here, and with one stroke smote King Labor and his horse in
twain. But a fatal stroke it proved, for with it there came harm and
pestilence to all this realm. Neither corn nor grass would grow, fruit
failed to ripen, the waters held no fish, and men named this the waste
land of the two marches. Nor did King Hurlame escape. When he saw the
strange carving of the sword, a craving came into his mind to possess
the scabbard. Entering the ship for that purpose, he thrust the sword
into the sheath; but no sooner had he done so than he fell dead beside
the bed. And there his body lay till a maiden entered the ship and cast
it out, for no man could be found hardy enough to set foot on that fatal

The three knights on hearing this looked earnestly at the scabbard,
which seemed to them made of serpent's skin, while on it was writing in
letters of gold and silver. But the girdle was poor and mean, and ill
suited to so rich a sword. The writing was to this effect: "He who shall
wield me must be hardy of nature. Nor shall he ever be shamed while he
is girt with this girdle; which must never be put away except by the
hands of a maiden and a king's daughter. And she, if she shall ever
cease to be a maid, shall die the most villanous death that woman ever

"Turn the sword," said Percivale, "that we may see what is on the other

On doing so they found it red as blood, with coal-black letters, which
said: "He that shall praise me most shall find me most to fail him in
time of great need; and to whom I should be most fair shall I prove most
foul. Thus is it ordained."

Then Percivale's sister told them the history of the sword, which was a
very strange and admirable thing to hear. More than once had it been
drawn in modern times; once by Nancien, who afterwards became a hermit,
and in whose hands the sword fell in half, and sorely wounded him in the
foot. Afterwards it was drawn by King Pellam, and it was for this
boldness that he was destined to be deeply wounded by the spear with
which Balin afterwards struck him.

The knights now observed the bed more closely, and saw that above its
head there hung two swords. With them were three strange spindles, one
of which was white as snow, one red as blood, and one as green as
emerald. As they gazed at them with curious wonder, the damsel told a
strange story of the surprising things they had gazed upon. And thus her
story ran.

When mother Eve gathered the fruit for which Adam and she were put out
of Paradise, she took with her the bough on which the apple grew. As it
kept fair and green, and she had no coffer in which to keep it, she
thrust it in the earth, where, by God's will, it took root, and soon
grew to a great tree, whose branches and leaves were as white as milk.
But afterwards, at the time of Abel's birth, it became grass-green. It
was under this tree that Cain slew Abel, and then it quickly lost its
green color, and grew red as blood. So it lived and thrived, and was in
full life when Solomon, the wise king, came to the throne.

It came to pass that, as Solomon studied over many things, and, above
all, despised women in his heart and in his writings, a voice came which
told him that of his line would be born the Virgin Mary, the purest and
noblest of human kind, and that afterwards would come a man, the last of
his blood, as pure in mind as a young maiden, and as good a knight as
Joshua of Israel.

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