The High History of the Holy Graal/Branch XII
Now is the story silent about Perceval, and saith that King Arthur is at Pannenoisance in Wales with great plenty of knights. Lancelot and Messire Gawain are repaired thither, whereof all the folk make great joy. The King asketh of Messire Gawain and Lancelot whether they have seen Lohot his son in none of these islands nor in none of these forests, and they answer him that they have seen him nowhere.
"I marvel much," saith the King, "what hath become of him, for no tidings have I heard of him beyond these, that Kay the Seneschal slew Logrin the giant, whose head he brought me, whereof I made great joy, and right willingly did I make Kay's lands the broader thereof, and well ought I to do him such favour, for he avenged me of him that did my land more hurt than any other, wherefore I love him greatly."
But, and the King had only known how Kay had wrought against him, he would not have so highly honoured his chivalry and his hardiment. The King sate one day at meat and Queen Guenievre at his side. Thereupon behold you, a damsel that alighteth before the palace, then mounteth the steps of the hall and is come before the King and the Queen.
"Sir, I salute you as the sorest dismayed and most discounselled damsel that ever you have seen! Wherefore am I come to demand a boon of you for the nobleness and valour of your heart."
"Damsel," saith the King, "God counsel you of His will and pleasure, and I myself am full fain to partake therein."
The damsel looketh at the shield that hangeth in the midst of the hall.
"Sir," saith she, "I beseech you that you deign grant me the aid of the knight that shall bear this shield from hence. For sorer need have I thereof than ever another of them that are discounselled."
"Damsel," saith the King, "Full well shall I be pleased, so the knight be also fain to do as you say."
"Sir," saith she, "And he be so good knight as he is reported, never will he refuse your prayer, nor would he mine, if only I were here at such time as he shall come. For, had I been able to find my brother that I have been seeking this long time, then well should I have been succoured long agone! But I have sought him in many lands, nor never could I learn where he is. Therefore to my sorrow, behoveth me to ride all lonely by the strange islands and put my body in jeopardy of death, whereof ought these knights to have great pity."
"Damsel," saith the King, "For this reason do I refuse you nought of that you wish, and right willingly will I put myself to trouble herein."
"Sir," saith she, "much thanks to God thereof!"
He maketh her be set at meat, and much honour be done her. When the cloths were drawn, the Queen leadeth her into her chamber with the maidens, and maketh much joy of her. The brachet that was brought thither with the shield was lying on a couch of straw. He would not know the Queen nor her damsels nor the knights that were in the court, but so soon as ever he heard the damsel he cometh to her and maketh greater joy of her than ever was brachet seen to make before. The Queen and her damsels marvelled much thereof, as did the damsel herself to whom the brachet made such joy, for never since that he was brought into the hall had they seen him rejoice of any. The Queen asked her whether she knew him.
"Certes, Lady, no, for never, so far as I know, have I seen him before."
The brachet will not leave her, but will be always on her lap, nor can she move anywhither but he followeth her. The damsel is long time in the court in this manner, albeit as she that had sore need of succour she remained in the chapel every day after that the Queen was come forth, and wept right tenderly before the image of the Saviour, and prayed right sweetly that His Mother would counsel her, for that she had been left in sore peril of losing her castle. The Queen asked her one day who her brother was.
"Lady," saith she, "one of the best knights of the world, whereof have I heard witness. But he departed from my father's and mother's hostel a right young squire. My father is since dead, and my Lady mother is left without help and without counsel, wherefore hath a certain man reaved her of her land and her castles and slain her men. The very castle wherein she hath her hold would he have seized long agone had it not been for Messire Gawain that made it be safe-guarded against her enemies for a year. The term is now ended and my Lady mother is in dread lest she shall lose her castle, for none other hold hath she. Wherefore is it that she hath sent me to seek for my brother, for she hath been told that he is a good knight, and for that I may not find him am I come to this court to beseech of King Arthur succour of the knight that shall bear away the shield, for I have heard tell that he is the Best knight of the world; and, for the bounty that is in him will he therefore have pity on me."
"Damsel," saith the Queen, "Would that you had found him, for great joy would it be unto me that your mother were succoured, and God grant that he that ought to bear the shield come quickly, and grant him courage that he be fain to succour your mother."
"So shall he be, please God, for never was good knight that was without pity."
The Queen hath much pity of the damsel, for she was of right great beauty, and well might it be seen by her cheer and her semblant that no joy had she. She had told the Queen her name and the name of her father and mother, and the Queen told her that many a time had she heard tell of Alain li Gros, and that he was said to be a worshipful man and good knight. The King lay one night beside the Queen, and was awoke from his first sleep so that he might not go to sleep again. He rose and did on a great grey cape and issueth forth of the chamber and cometh to the windows of the hall that opened toward the sea, calm and untroubled, so that much pleasure had he of looking thereat and leaning at the windows. When he had been there of a long space, he looked out to sea and saw coming afar off as it were the shining of a candle in the midst of the sea. Much he marvelled what it might be. He looked at it until he espied what seemed him to be a ship wherein was the light, and he was minded not to move until such time as he should know whether a ship it were or something other. The longer he looketh at it, the better perceiveth he that it is a ship, and that it was coming with great rushing toward the castle as fast as it might. The King espieth it nigh at hand, but none seeth he within nor without save one old man, ancient and bald, of right passing seemliness that held the rudder of the ship. The ship was covered of a right rich cloth in the midst and the sail was lowered, for the sea was calm and quiet. The ship was arrived under the palace and was quite still. When the ship had taken ground, the King looketh thereat with much marvelling, and knoweth not who is there within, for not a soul heareth he speak. Him thinketh that he will go see what is within the ship, and he issueth forth of the hall, and cometh thither where the ship was arrived, but he might not come anigh for the flowing of the sea.
"Sir," saith he that held the rudder, "Allow me a little!"
He launcheth forth of the ship a little boat, and the King entereth thereinto, and so cometh into the great ship, and findeth a knight that lay all armed upon a table of ivory, and had set his shield at his head. At the head of his bed had he two tall twisted links of wax in two candlesticks of gold, and the like at his feet, and his hands were crossed upon his breast. The King draweth nigh toward him and so looketh at him, and seemed him that never had he seen so comely a knight.
"Sir," saith the master of the ship, "For God's sake draw you back and let the knight rest, for thereof hath he sore need."
"Sir," saith the King, "who is the knight?"
"Sir, this would he well tell you were he willing, but of me may you know it not."
"Will he depart forthwith from hence?" saith the King.
"Sir," saith the master, "Not before he hath been in this hall, but he hath had sore travail and therefore he taketh rest."
When the King heard say that he would come into his palace, thereof had he great joy. He cometh to the Queen's chamber and telleth her how the ship is arrived. The Queen riseth and two of her damsels with her, and apparelleth her of a kirtle of cloth of silk, furred of ermine, and cometh into the midst of the hall. Thereupon behold you, the knight that cometh all armed and the master of the ship before him bearing the twisted link of wax in the candlestick of gold in front of him, and the knight held his sword all naked.
"Sir," saith the Queen, "Well may you be welcome!"
"Lady," saith he, "God grant you joy and good adventure."
"Sir," saith she, "Please God we have nought to fear of you?"
"Lady," saith he, "No fear ought you to have!"
The King seeth that he beareth the red shield with the white hart whereof he had heard tell. The brachet that was in the hall heareth the knight. He cometh racing toward him and leapeth about his legs and maketh great joy of him. And the knight playeth with him, then taketh the shield that hung at the column, and hangeth the other there, and cometh back thereafter toward the door of the hall.
"Lady," saith the King, "Pray the knight that he go not so hastily."
"Sir," saith the knight, "No leisure have I to abide, but at some time shall you see me again."
The knights also say as much, and the King and Queen are right heavy of his departure, but they durst not press him beyond his will. He is entered into the ship, and the brachet with him. The master draweth the boat within, and so they depart and leave the castle behind. King Arthur abideth at Pannenoisance, and is right sorrowful of the knight, that he hath gone his way so soon. The knights arose throughout the castle when the day waxed light, and learnt the tidings of the knight that had borne the shield thence, and were right grieved for that they had not seen him. The damsel that had asked the boon cometh to the King.
"Sir," saith she, "Did you speak of my business to the knight?"
"Damsel," saith the King, "Never a whit! to my sorrow, for he hath departed sooner than I would!"
"Sir," saith she, "You have done a wrong and a sin, but, please God, so good a King as are you shall not fail of his covenants to damsel so forlorn as am I."
The King was right sorrowful for that he had remembered not the damsel. She departeth from the court, and taketh leave of the King and Queen, and saith that she herself will go seek the knight, and that, so she may find him, she will hold the King quit of his covenant. Messire Gawain and Lancelot are returned to the court, and have heard the tidings of the knight that hath carried away the shield, and are right grieved that they have not seen him, and Messire Gawain more than enough, for that he had lien in his mother's house. Lancelot seeth the shield that he had left on the column, and knoweth it well, and saith, "Now know I well that Perceval hath been here, for this shield was he wont to bear, and the like also his father bore."
"Ha," saith Messire Gawain, "What ill-chance have I that I may not see the Good Knight!"
"Messire Gawain," saith Lancelot, "So nigh did I see him that methought he would have killed me, for never before did I essay onset so stout nor so cruel of force of arms, and I myself wounded him, and when he knew me he made right great joy of me. And I was with him at the house of King Hermit a long space until that I was healed."
"Lancelot," saith Messire Gawain, "I would that he had wounded me, so I were not too sore harmed thereof, so that I might have been with him so long time as were you."
"Lords," saith the King, "Behoveth you go on quest of him or I will go, for I am bound to beseech his aid on behalf of a damsel that asked me thereof, but she told me that, so she might find him first, I should be quit of her request."
"Sir," saith the Queen, "You will do a right great service and you may counsel her herein, for sore discounselled is she. She hath told me that she was daughter of Alain li Gros of the Valleys of Camelot, and that her mother's name is Yglais, and her own Dindrane."
"Ha, Lady," saith Messire Gawain, "She is sister to the knight that hath borne away the shield, for I lay at her mother's house wherein I was right well lodged."
"By my head," saith the Queen, "it may well be, for so soon as she came in hither. the brachet that would have acquaintance with none, made her great joy, and when the knight came to seek the shield, the brachet, that had remained in the hall, played gladly with him and went "
"By my faith," saith Messire Gawain, "I will go in quest of the knight, for right great desire have I to see him."
"And I," saith Lancelot, "Never so glad have I been to see him aforetime as! should be now."
"Howsoever it be," saith the King, "I pray you so speed my business that the damsel shall not be able to plain her of me."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "We will tell him and we may find him, that his sister is gone in quest of him, and that she hath been at your court."
The two knights depart from the court to enter on the quest of the Good Knight, and leave the castle far behind them and ride in the midst of a high forest until they find a cross in the midst of a launde, there where all the roads of the forest join together.
"Lancelot," saith Messire Gawain, "Choose which road soever you will, and so let each go by himself, so that we may the sooner hear tidings of the Good Knight, and let us meet together again at this cross at the end of a year and let either tell other how he hath sped, for please God in one place or another we shall hear tidings of him."
Lancelot taketh the way to the right, and Messire Gawain to the left. Therewithal they depart and commend them one another to God.