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Also they saw
come from heaven a hand, with no body visible, and take up the holy
vessel and the spear, and bear them to heaven. And from that moment no
man ever saw on earth again the blessed Sangreal.

Afterwards Galahad's body was buried with great honor, and with many
tears from his two fellows and from the people whom he had governed.
Then Percivale betook him to a hermitage, and entered upon a religious
life; while Bors stayed with him, but in secular clothing, for it was
his purpose to return to England.

For a year and two months Percivale lived thus the holy life of a
hermit, and then he passed out of this world, and was buried by
Bors--who mourned him as deeply as ever man was mourned--beside his
sister and Galahad. This pious office performed, Sir Bors, the last of
the three chosen knights, felt that his duty in that land was at an end,
and thereupon took ship at the city of Sarras and sailed for the realm
of England, where he in good season arrived. Here he took horse and
rode in all haste to Camelot, where King Arthur and the court then were,
and where he was received with the greatest joy and wonder, for so long
had it been since any man there had set eyes on him, that all believed
him to be dead.

But greater than their wonder was their admiration when the returned
knight told the story of miracle and adventure which had befallen him
and his two comrades, and the pious maid, Percivale's sister, and of the
holy life and death of Galahad and Percivale. This marvellous narrative
the king had told again to skilled clerks, that they might put upon
record the wonderful deeds of these good knights. And it was all written
down in great books, which were put in safe keeping at Salisbury.

Bors then gave to Lancelot the message which his son had sent him, and
Lancelot took him in his arms, saying, "Gentle cousin, gladly do I
welcome you again. Never while we live shall we part, but shall ever be
true friends and brothers while life may last to us."

And thus came to an end the marvellous and unparalleled adventure of the
Holy Grail.

[Illustration: SALISBURY CATHEDRAL.]




BOOK X.

THE LOVE OF LANCELOT AND GUENEVER.




CHAPTER I.

THE POISONING OF SIR PATRISE.


After the quest of the Sangreal was ended, and all the knights who were
left alive had come again to Camelot, there was great joy in the court,
with feasts and merrymakings, that this fortunate remnant might find a
glad welcome. Above all, King Arthur and Queen Guenever were full of joy
in the return of Lancelot and Bors, both from the love they bore them
and the special honor they had gained in the quest.

But, as is man's way, holy thoughts vanished with the holy task that
gave them rise, the knights went back to their old fashions and
frailties, and in Lancelot's heart his earthly love for the queen soon
rose again, and his love of heaven and holy thoughts grew dim as the
days went by. Alas that it should have been so! for such an unholy
passion could but lead to harm. To fatal ills, indeed, it led, and to
the end of Arthur's reign and of the worshipful fellowship of the Table
Round, as it is our sorrowful duty now to tell.

All this began in the scandal that was raised in the court by the close
companionship between Lancelot and the queen. Whisper of this secret
talk at length came to that good knight's ears, and he withdrew from
Queen Guenever as much as he could, giving himself to the society of
other ladies of the court, with design to overcome the evil activity of
slanderous tongues.

This withdrawal filled the queen with jealous anger, and she accused him
bitterly of coldness in his love.

"Madam," said Lancelot, "only that love for you clung desperately to my
heart, and drove out heavenly thoughts, I should have gained as great
honor in the quest of the Sangreal as even my son Galahad. My love is
still yours, but I fear to show it, for there are those of the court who
love me not, such as Agravaine and Mordred, and these evil-thinking
knights are spreading vile reports wherever they may. It is for this I
make show of delight in other ladies' society, to cheat the bitter
tongue of slander."

To this the queen listened with heaving breast and burning cheek. But at
the end she burst into bitter tears and sobs, and wept so long that
Lancelot stood in dismay. When she could speak, she called him recreant
and false, declared she should never love him more, and bade him leave
the court, and on pain of his head never come near her again.

This filled the faithful lover with the deepest grief and pain; yet
there was anger, too, for he felt that the queen had shut her ears to
reason, and had let causeless jealousy blind her. So, without further
words, he turned and sought his room, prepared to leave the court. He
sent for Hector, Bors, and Lionel, and told them what had happened, and
that he intended to leave England and return to his native land.

"If you take my advice you will do nothing so rash," said Bors. "Know
you not that women are hasty to act, and quick to repent? This is not
the first time the queen has been angry with you; nor will her
repentance be a new experience."

"You speak truly," said Lancelot. "I will ride, therefore, to the
hermitage of Brasias, near Windsor, and wait there till I hear from you
if my lady Guenever changes her mood. I pray you do your best to get me
her love again."

"That needs no prayer. Well you know I will do my utmost in your
behalf."

Then Lancelot departed in haste, none but Bors knowing whither he had
gone. But the queen showed no sign of sorrow at his going, however
deeply she may have felt it in her heart. In countenance she remained
serene and proud, as though the world went well with her, and her heart
was free from care.

Her desire, indeed, to show that she took as much joy in the society of
other knights as in that of Lancelot led to a woful and perilous event,
which we have next to describe. For she gave a private dinner, to which
she invited Gawaine and his brethren and other knights, to the number of
twenty-four in all. A rich feast it was, with all manner of dainties and
rare devices. Much was the joy and merriment of the feasting knights.

As it happened, Gawaine had a great love for fruits, especially apples
and pears, which he ate daily at dinner and supper; and all who invited
him to dine took care to provide his favorite fruits. This the queen
failed not to do. But there was at the feast an enemy of Gawaine's,
named Pinel le Savage, who was a cousin of Lamorak de Galis, and had
long hated Gawaine for the murder of that noble knight.

To obtain revenge on him, Pinel poisoned some of the apples, feeling
sure that only Gawaine would eat them. But by unlucky chance a knight
named Patrise, cousin to Mador de la Porte, eat one of the poisoned
apples. So deadly was the venom that in a moment he was in agony, and
very soon it so filled his veins that he fell dead from his seat.

Then was terror and wrath, as the knights sprang in haste and turmoil
from their seats. For they saw that Patrise had been poisoned, and
suspicion naturally fell upon the queen, the giver of the feast.

"My lady, the queen," cried Gawaine in anger, "what thing is this we
see? This fate, I deem, was meant for me, since the fruit was provided
for my taste. Madam, what shall I think? Has this good knight taken on
himself the death that was intended to be mine?"

The queen made no answer, being so confused and terrified that she knew
not what to say.

"This affair shall not end here," cried Mador de la Porte in great
wrath. "Here lies a noble knight of my near kindred, slain by poison and
treason. For this I shall have revenge to the utterance. Queen Guenever,
I hold you guilty of the murder of my cousin, Sir Patrise. I demand from
the laws of the realm and the justice of our lord the king redress for
this deed. A knight like this shall not fall unrevenged, while I can
wield spear or hold sword."

The queen, at this hot accusation, looked appealingly from face to face;
but all stood grave and silent, for greatly they suspected her of the
crime. Then, seeing that she had not a friend in the room, she burst
into a passion of tears, and at length fell to the floor in a swoon.

The story of this sad business soon spread through the court, and
quickly came to the ears of the king, who hastened to the banqueting
hall full of trouble at what he had heard. When Mador saw him, he again
bitterly accused the queen of treason,--as murder of all kinds was then
called.

"This is a serious affair," said the king, gravely. "I, as a rightful
judge, cannot take the matter into my own hands, or I would do battle in
this cause myself, for I know well that my wife is wrongly accused. To
burn a queen on a hasty accusation of crime is no light matter, though
you may deem it so, Sir Mador; and if you demand the combat, fear not
but a knight will be found to meet you in the lists."

"My gracious lord," said Mador, "you must hold me excused, for though
you are our king, you are a knight also, and held by knightly rules.
Therefore, be not displeased with me, for all the knights here suspect
the queen of this crime. What say you, my lords?"

"The dinner was made by the queen," they answered. "She or her servants
must be held guilty of the crime."

"I gave this dinner with a good will, and with no thought of evil," said
the queen, sadly. "May God help me as an innocent woman, and visit this
murder on the base head of him who committed it. My king and husband, to
God I appeal for right and justice."

"And justice I demand," said Mador, "and require the king to name a day
in which this wrong can be righted."

"Be it so, then," said the king. "Fifteen days hence be thou ready armed
on horseback in the meadow beside Winchester. If there be a knight there
to meet you, then God speed the right. If none meet you, then my queen
must suffer the penalty of the law."

When Arthur and the queen had departed, he asked her how this case
befell.

"God help me if I know," she answered.

"Where is Lancelot?" asked the king.



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