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So the coming of
Lancelot filled all hearts with joy.

Great was the marvel of the king when Lancelot told him of what he had
seen and done, and of the adventures of Galahad, Percivale, and Bors.

"God send that they were all here again," said the king.

"That shall never be," said Lancelot. "One of them shall come again, but
two you shall never see."

[Illustration: From the painting by George Frederick Watts.

SIR GALAHAD'S QUEST OF THE HOLY GRAIL.]




CHAPTER VIII.

THE DEEDS OF THE THREE CHOSEN KNIGHTS.


After Galahad left the ship and his father Lancelot, he rode far and had
many adventures, righting many wrongs and achieving many marvels. Among
these he came to the abbey where was the ancient King Evelake, who had
laid blind three hundred years, as we have elsewhere told.

The old king knew well that his deliverance had come, and begged to be
embraced by the pious youth. No sooner had he been clasped in his arms
than his sight returned, and his flesh grew whole and young.

"Now, sweet Saviour, my destiny is fulfilled; receive thou my soul," he
prayed.

As he said these words the soul left his body, and the miracle of his
fate was achieved.

Many days after this Galahad met Percivale, and soon the two came upon
Bors, as he rode out of a great forest, that extended many days' journey
through the land.

And so they rode in glad companionship, with many a tale of marvel to
tell, till in time they came to the castle of Carbonek, where they were
gladly received, for those in the castle knew that the quest of the
Sangreal was now wellnigh achieved.

When evening approached, and the table for supper was set, the
mysterious voice that so often had guided these knights spoke again.

"They that are not worthy to sit at the table of Jesus Christ arise," it
said; "for now shall the worthiest be fed."

Then all arose save Eliazar, the son of King Pellam, and a maid who was
his niece, and the three knights. But as they sat at supper nine other
knights, in full armor, entered at the hall door, and took off their
helmets and armor, and said to Galahad,--

"Sir, we have come far and in haste to be with you at this table, where
the holy meat shall be served."

"If you are worthy, you are welcome," said Galahad. "Whence come you?"

Three of them answered that they were from Gaul, three from Ireland, and
three from Denmark, and that they had come thither at the bidding of the
strange voice.

So they all sat at table. But ere they began to eat, four gentlewomen
bore into the hall a bed, whereon lay a man sick, with a crown of gold
on his head. Setting him down, they went away.

"Galahad, holy knight, you are welcome," said he who lay in the bed,
raising his head feebly. "Long have I waited your coming, in pain and
anguish, since Balin, the good knight, struck me the dolorous stroke. To
you I look for aid and release from my long suffering."

Then spoke the voice again: "There be those here who are not in the
quest of the Sangreal; let them depart." And the son and niece of the
king rose and left the room.

Then there came suddenly four angels, and a man who bore a cross and
wore the dress of a bishop, whom the angels placed in a chair before the
silver table of the Sangreal. In his forehead were letters which said,
"This is Joseph, the first bishop of Christendom."

Next opened the chamber door, and angels entered, two bearing wax
candles, the third a towel, and the fourth a spear that bled, the blood
drops falling into a silver vessel which he held in his other hand. The
candles were set on the table, the towel spread upon the vessel, and the
spear set upright on this.

The bishop then said mass, at which other strange signs were seen; for a
figure like a child, with a face that shone like flame, entered into the
bread of the sacrament. Then the bishop kissed Galahad, and bade him
kiss his fellows. This done, he said,--

"Servants of Jesus Christ, ye shall here be fed on such meats as never
knights tasted;" and with these words he vanished.

But as they knelt in prayer before the table, they saw come out of the
holy vessel a man who bore all the signs of the passion of Jesus Christ.
And he took up the vessel and bore it to Galahad and to the other
knights, who kneeled to receive the sacrament; and so sweet was it that
their hearts marvelled and were filled with joy.

"Now have you tasted of Christ's own food," he said, "and seen what you
highly and holily desired. But more openly shall you see it in the city
of Sarras, in the spiritual place. Therefore you must go hence, for this
night the holy vessel will leave this realm, and will never more be seen
here. To-morrow you three shall go to the sea, where a ship awaits you;
and you must take with you the sword with the strange girdle."

"Shall not these good knights go also?" asked Galahad.

"Not so. They have seen all that is fitting to them. As for you, two of
you shall die in my service, and the third shall return and tell what he
has seen."

Then he gave them his blessing, and vanished from out their midst.

When they had somewhat recovered from the weight of these marvels,
Galahad went to the spear that lay on the table, and touched the blood
with his fingers, and with it anointed the wounds of the maimed king.
And at this touch he started up whole and strong, thanking God fervently
for his healing.

But he went not into the world again, but to a monastery of white monks,
where he became a man of holy renown.

At midnight came a voice to the nine knights, which said,--

"My sons, and not my chieftains; my friends, and not my warriors; go ye
hence, and do well what comes to you, in my service."

"Lord," they replied, "wilt thou vouchsafe also to call us thy sinners?
Thy servants we shall be henceforth."

And they arose, armed, and departed, bidding a solemn adieu to the three
knights. When morning dawned these three rose also, and rode till they
came to the sea. Here awaited them the ship wherein they had found the
sword and the three magic spindles, and to their wonder and delight they
beheld in its midst the table of silver and the Sangreal, which was
covered with red samite.

It was a joyous company that sailed over the sea in that magical ship,
and at the wish of his comrades Galahad slept in the bed where the sword
had lain, and Bors and Percivale on the deck beside him.

And so they went by day and by night, and at length came to the city of
Sarras. Here, as they would have landed, they saw beside them, just come
to shore, the ship that bore the corpse of Percivale's sister, and this
as fair and as fresh as when first placed within it.

Then they took up the silver table and bore it to the city, at whose
gate sat an old and crooked cripple.

"Come hither, and help us carry this heavy thing," said Galahad.

"How shall I do that? I have not gone for ten years without crutches."

"No matter for that. Show your good will by trying."

Then the cripple rose and took hold, and in that instant he was whole
and strong, and helped them bear the table to the palace. This done,
they returned, and bore to the palace the corpse of Percivale's sister,
which they placed in a rich tomb, suited to a king's daughter.

Meanwhile the report had spread through the city that a cripple had been
made whole by three strange knights, and people flocked to see them.

When the king of the city saw and heard all this, he came to the knights
and asked them who they were, and what it was they had brought into his
realm.

Galahad answered him, telling of the marvel of the Sangreal, and of
God's power and grace therein.

But the king, Estorause, a tyrant in will and a pagan in faith, heard
this with wrath and unbelief, and ordered the knights to be put in
prison as spies and felons.

For a whole year they lay thus in prison, yet were always kept whole and
in good spirits; for the holy Sangreal came to them in their dungeons,
and filled their souls with joy. When the year ended, Estorause grew
sick unto death, and in remorse sent for the imprisoned knights, whose
pardon and forgiveness he fervently begged. This they gave him, and he
straightway died.

His death threw the city into dismay, for he had left no successor to
the throne. But as the lords sat in council there came a voice that
bade them choose the youngest of the three knights for their king. This
mysterious behest was told to the citizens, and with one acclaim they
hailed it as God's will, and demanded Galahad as their king.

Thereupon he became king of Sarras, though it was not his wish; but he
felt it to be God's command. And when he came to the throne he had
constructed a chest of gold and precious stones, in which was placed the
table of silver with the holy vessel, and before this the three knights
kneeled and prayed daily with fervent zeal.

And so time rolled on till came the day that was the anniversary of that
in which Galahad had taken the crown. On this morning he rose betimes,
and before the holy vessel he saw a man dressed like a bishop, while
round about him was a great fellowship of angels.

"Come forth, thou servant of Jesus Christ, and thou shalt see what thou
hast so much desired," said the bishop.

Then Galahad began to tremble, his flesh quaking in the presence of
things spiritual. And he held his hands up towards heaven, saying,--

"Lord, I thank thee, for now my desire is fulfilled. And if it be thy
will that I should come to thee, I wish no longer to live."

"I am Joseph of Arimathea," said the strange presence, "and am sent by
the Lord to bear thee fellowship. Thou resemblest me in two things; for
thou hast seen the highest marvel of the Sangreal, and are pure of heart
and of body. Now say farewell to thy comrades, for thy time is come to
depart."

Galahad thereupon went to Percivale and Bors, and kissed them, and
commended them to God, saying to Bors,--

"Fair friend, who art destined to return to our native realm, salute for
me my lord and father Lancelot, and bid him remember the evils of this
unstable world, and bear in mind the duty he has been taught."

Then he kneeled before the table and prayed fervently, and suddenly his
soul departed from his body, a multitude of angels bearing it visibly
upward toward heaven, in full view of his late comrades.



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