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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. This revelation he told to his wife, who had
questioned him as to the reason of his deep study.

"Sir," she said, "since this knight is to come, it is our duty to
prepare for him. Therefore, I shall first have made a ship of the best
and most durable wood that man may find."

This was done by Solomon's command. When the ship was built and ready to
sail, she made a covering for it of cloth of silk, of such quality that
no weather could rot it. And in the midst she placed a great bed, of
marvellously rich workmanship, and covered with silk of the finest
texture.

"Now, my dear lord," she said to Solomon, "since this last knight of
your lineage is to pass in valor and renown all other knights that have
been before or shall come after him, therefore I counsel you to go into
the Temple of the Lord, where is the sword of the great King David, your
father, which is of magic temper and virtue. Take off the pommel of this
sword and make one of precious stones, skilfully wrought. And make a
hilt and sheath of great richness and beauty. As for the girdle, leave
that to me to provide."

Solomon did as she advised, and she took the sword and laid it in the
bed; but when he looked at it he grew angry, for the girdle was meanly
made of hemp.

"I have nothing," she said, "fit to make a girdle worthy of such a
sword. But when the time comes a maiden will change this for a girdle
worthy of him that is to wear it."

This done, she went with a carpenter to the tree under which Abel was
slain.

"Carve me from this tree as much wood as will make me a spindle," she
said.

"Ah, madam," said he, "I dare not cut the tree which our first mother
planted."

"Do as you are bidden," she ordered. "Dare not disobey me."

But as he began to cut the tree drops of blood flowed out. Then he would
have fled, but she made him cut sufficient to form a spindle. Next she
went to the green and the white trees, which had grown from the roots of
the other, and bade him cut as much from each of these. From this wood
were three spindles wrought, which she hung up at the head of the bed.

"You have done marvellously well," said Solomon, on seeing this.
"Wonderful things, I deem, shall come of all this, more than you
yourself dream of."

"Some of these things you shall soon know," she answered.

That night Solomon lay near the ship, and as he slept he dreamed. There
came from heaven, as it seemed to him, a great company of angels, who
alighted in the ship, and took water that was brought by an angel in a
vessel of silver, and sprinkled it everywhere. Then the angel came to
the sword and drew letters on the hilt, and on the ship's bow he wrote,
"You who shall enter this ship take heed of your belief," and further as
the knights had read. When Solomon had read these words he drew back,
and dared not enter, and there soon arose a wind which drove the ship
far to sea, so that it was quickly lost to sight. Then a low voice said,
"Solomon, the last knight of thy lineage shall rest in this bed." With
this Solomon waked, and lo! the ship was gone.

This was the story that the fair damsel, Percivale's sister, told to the
knights, as they stood curiously surveying the bed and the spindles.
Then one of them lifted a cloth that lay on the deck, and under it found
a purse, in which was a written paper, telling the same strange story
they had just heard.

"The sword is here," said Galahad; "but where shall be found the maiden
who is to make the new girdle?"

"You need not seek far," said Percivale's sister. "By God's leave, I
have been chosen to make that girdle, and have it here."

Then she opened a box which she had brought with her, and took from it a
girdle that was richly wrought with golden threads and studded with
precious stones, while its buckle was of polished gold.

"Lo, lords and knights," she said, "here is the destined girdle. The
greater part of it was made of my hair, which I loved dearly when I was
a woman of the world. When I knew that I was set aside for this high
purpose, I cut off my hair and wrought this girdle in God's name."

"Well have you done!" cried Bors. "Without you we would have learned
nothing of this high emprise."

Then the noble maiden removed the mean girdle from the sword, and put
upon it the rich one she had brought, which became it wonderfully.

"By what name shall we call this sword?" they now asked her.

"Its name is," she answered, "the sword with the strange girdle; and
that of the sheath is, mover of blood. But no man with blood in him
shall ever see the part of the sheath that was made of the tree of
life."

Then she took the sword and girded it about Galahad, fastening the
golden buckle about his waist.

"Now reck I not though I die," she said, "for I hold that I am one of
the world's blessed maidens, since it has been given to me to arm the
worthiest knight in the world."

After this they left the magic ship at her bidding, and entered the one
in which they had come. And immediately there rose a great wind which
blew their vessel from between the rocks, and carried it afar over the
sea.




CHAPTER VII.

HOW LANCELOT SAW THE SANGREAL.


The ship that bore the three knights and the maiden came ashore at
length near a castle in Scotland, where they landed. From here they
journeyed far, while many were their adventures, all of which tried
their virtue and belonged to the quest of the Sangreal. In them all the
sword with the strange girdle proved of such marvellous worth that no
men, were they a hundred in number, could stand before it.

Finally they came to a castle which had the strange custom that every
maiden who passed that way should yield a dish full of blood. When they
asked the reason of this dreadful custom, they were told,--

"There is in this castle a lady to whom the domain belongs, and who has
lain for years sick of a malady which no leech can cure. And a wise man
has said that she can only be cured if she have a dish full of blood
from a pure virgin and a king's daughter, with which to anoint her."

"Fair knights," said Percivale's sister, "I alone can aid the sick lady,
who must die otherwise."

"If you bleed as they demand, you may die," said Galahad. "Is not your
life worth more than hers?"

"This I answer," said she. "If I yield not my blood there will be mortal
war between you and the knights of the castle to-morrow, and many men
must die that one woman may not bleed. If I die to heal the sick lady I
shall gain renown and do God's will, and surely one harm is better than
many. That you will fight for me to the death, I know, but wherefore
should you?"

Say what they would, she held to her will, and the next morning bade the
people of the castle bring forth the sick lady. She lay in great pain
and suffering, and bent her eyes pleadingly on the devoted maiden.

Then Percivale's sister bared her arm, and bade them bleed her. This
they did till a silver dish was filled with her life blood. Then she
blessed the lady, and said,--

"Madam, I have given my life for yours; for God's love, pray for me!"
and she fell in a swoon.

Galahad and his fellows hastened to stanch the blood, but it was too
late, her life was ebbing fast.

"Fair brother Percivale," she said, "death is upon me. But before I die
I have this to tell you. It is written that I shall not be buried in
this country. When I am dead, seek you the sea-shore near by, and put my
body in a boat, and let it go where fortune bears it. But when you three
arrive at the city of Sarras, in Palestine, which you will in God's good
time, you shall find me arrived there before you. There bury me in
consecrated soil. This further I may say, that there the holy Grail
shall be achieved, and there shall Galahad die and be buried in the same
place."

And as they stood there weeping beside her a voice came to them,
saying,--

"Lords and comrades, to-morrow at sunrise you three must depart, each
taking his own way, and you shall not meet again till adventure bring
you to the maimed king."

After that all was done as had been foreseen and desired. The maiden
died, and the same day the sick lady was healed, through the virtue of
her blood. Then Percivale wrote a letter telling who she was and what
things she had done. This he put in her right hand, and laid her body in
a vessel that was covered with black silk. The wind now arose and drove
it far from the land, while all stood watching it till it was out of
sight.

Then they returned towards the castle. But suddenly a tempest of wind,
thunder, and rain broke from the sky, so furious that the very earth
seemed to be torn up. And as they looked they saw the turrets of the
castle and part of its walls totter and fall, and in a moment come
crashing in ruin to the earth.

That night they slept in a chapel, and in the morning rode to the
castle, to see how it had fared in the storm. But when they reached it
they found it in ruins, while of all that had dwelt there not one was
left alive. All of them, man and woman alike, had fallen victims to the
vengeance of God. And they heard a voice that said,--

"This vengeance is for the shedding of maidens' blood."

But at the end of the chapel was a church-yard in which were threescore
tombs, over which it seemed no tempest had passed. And in these lay all
the maidens who had shed their blood and died martyrs for the sick
lady's sake. On these were their names and lineage, and all were of
royal blood, and twelve of them kings' daughters.

The knights turned away, marvelling much at what they had seen and
heard.

"Here we must part," said Galahad.



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