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The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur
By Howard Pyle
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1992 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
How Sir Geraint followed the knight and the lady to whom the dwarf belongeth. How he lodged in a ruined castle, and how he found armor to wear.
SO Sir Geraint followed after that knight and the lady and the dwarf, and they led him at first toward Camelot. Then they turned aside and led him in another direction. For, by and by, they came to a cross-road and they turned into it, and later they came to a high ridge of land that overlooked a valley. And the valley was spread out beneath them, meadow and dale, woodland and fallow, as though it had been carved very minutely in ivory or in some sort of wood, very hard and fine, and so exquisitely and wonderfully modelled that it was as though a man might have covered it with the palm of his hand.
Then, after awhile, they quitted this open ridge of land and entered a woodland. Here they beheld no other thing than trees and green leaves, for all else was shut from sight. And no other sound disturbed the ear saving only the sweet song of the woodland birds, chaunting their pretty roundelay. Anon they descended from these places, and so at last came to a high-road that led beside a wide and brightly shining river, where slow-moving barges and quick wherries drew silvery threads across the smoothly mirroring surface.
Thus, by highland and lowland, by farm and woodland and waterway, the knight, the lady and the dwarf travelled for all that day; and for all that day Sir Geraint followed patiently after them.
So toward eventide they came to a town set on a hill. And overlooking the town was a high grey castle, and there was a wall drawn all about the castle and the town. And over against the town and the castle and set up on a hill opposite to them was another castle, very ruinous and neglected.
The knight, the lady, and the dwarf entered the town, and Sir Geraint followed after them. And he followed them through the streets, and everywhere he beheld great crowds of people, and his ears were confused by the constant and continuous sound of laughing and chatting and calling of voice to voice. For all these people cheered and applauded the knight with his lady and the dwarf, when they entered the town—crowding after them and about them, seeking to touch the knight or his horse. And everywhere the lights of forge fires were burning, and the bellows were blowing, and the anvils were ringing with the continual beating of hammers upon armor. For all the town was in a bustle and uproar, as though preparing an army for battle.
The knight enters the town.
Meantime the knight, the lady and the dwarf made their way through the throng and the turmoil, which every moment became greater and greater about them. For the street was presently full of people, and other people appeared at the windows and looked out and down upon them as they went forward upon their way. And some waved scarves and others cheered, and everywhere there was an uproar around about that place.
Then Sir Geraint said to one who was near to him, "I prithee, friend, what is all this bustle and noise and what does it all portend?" Quoth he to whom Sir Geraint spoke, "The Sparrow-Hawk! The Sparrow-Hawk!" and hurried away.
Sir Geraint inquires concerning the knight.
Then Sir Geraint queried of another, "What is all this to do?" Quoth he, "The Sparrow-Hawk, good friend, the Sparrow-Hawk!" and he also hurried away.
Then there came by a stout red-faced man, and of him Sir Geraint asked, "What is all this noise and bustle? I prithee tell me." Quoth the fat man, "The Sparrow-Hawk, good sir, the Sparrow-Hawk."
Then Sir Geraint was angry, and he reached down from his horse and caught the fat man by his collar, and held him fast. And he said, "Sirrah, I will not let you go until you tell me what is the meaning of all this tumult. Who is yonder knight, and whither goeth he?"
"Hah! Sir! Do you not know?" said the fat man. "Yonder knight is the Knight of the Sparrow-Hawk, and he goeth to the castle where he shall lodge until the battle of to-morrow."
"Well," said Sir Geraint, "that is something to know. Now I bid you tell me where I may find lodgings in this town and where I may find arms wherewith a knight may arm himself."
Sir Geraint inquires concerning lodging.
Quoth the fat man, "There is no lodging to be had in this town at such a time as this, nor are there any arms to be found at any place. But if, fair sir, you will cross the valley, to yonder ruined castle, you will doubtless find lodgings for the night, and maybe you may find arms, and to-morrow you may behold the Knight of the Sparrow-Hawk overthrow in the lists all who come against him."
Then Sir Geraint, seeing that the three whom he followed were now at the ending of their day's journey, let go the man, who immediately ran away into the crowd that still followed after the knight, the lady, and the dwarf.
So Sir Geraint drew rein and he turned his horse and he quitted that town and crossed over the valley to the ruined castle upon the other side as he had been advised to do.
As Sir Geraint drew near to the castle, he was aware of an old man who walked along upon the parapet of the wall. When this old and reverend man beheld Sir Geraint, that he approached, he descended from the wall and he came down to the gate and there met Sir Geraint. And Sir Geraint beheld that the old man was tall and lordly in his appearance and that he had a noble and stately countenance. But Sir Geraint beheld that he was clad in poor and simple garments, grey in color, and patched in places, and worn and threadbare at the seams. Sir Geraint said to him, "Sir, I pray you tell me—shall I find lodgings at this castle for to-night? And I pray you also tell me if you know where I may procure a suit of armor fit for me to wear?"
Sir Geraint approaches the ruined castle.
He bespeaks the old man.
Quoth the old man, "Fair Sir Knight, it hath been long since any of your quality hath been to this place. For this is a poor and ruined house of a poor and ruined man. Ne'ertheless, such as it is, you are welcome hither. I pray you come in. As for armor, I have every belief that I shall be able to supply you with the same, provided you will accept that which is old and out of date."
Thus saying, the old man took the horse of Sir Geraint by the bridle and he led it into the courtyard of the castle, and when he was come there he set his fingers to his lips and whistled very loud and shrilly. Anon a side door of the castle opened and there came forth a maiden both young and graceful, very tall and slender. And she was clad in a plain blue garment, straight and slim, and girdled with a girdle of blue leather. Her hair was plaited and twisted, and was without any net or ornament of any sort. But Sir Geraint looked at her very searchingly, because it appeared to him that this was the most beautiful young maiden whom he had ever beheld in all of the world.
When the maiden had come to them the old man bade her to take the horse of Sir Geraint to the stable and to see that it was fittingly groomed and cared for.
Then Sir Geraint would have protested at this service, but the old man said, "Sir, I pray you to let be, for we have no servants in this house, and we deem it a shame for a guest to do himself his own service. Wherefore my daughter shall find it a pleasure for to serve our guest."
So Sir Geraint dismounted from his horse and the maiden led it away to the stable. Then the old lord took Sir Geraint into the castle and he conducted him to an upper room wherein he was to lodge. And he prepared a tepid bath for Sir Geraint, and he brought him a loose garment, faded in color but trimmed with fur that had once been handsome and of rich texture, and the garment was very soft and comfortable.
The maiden stables the horse of Sir Geraint.
Then the old man called to his wife and he gave some money into her hand, and he said to her, "Go down into the town and procure the best that you are able with this money, for it hath been many days since we have had a guest of so much worth and nobility as this gentleman appears to possess."
So the old gentlewoman went down into the town, and after a little she returned again with a porter bearing a great hamper of food.
Meanwhile, whilst this food was preparing for supper, Sir Geraint and the old lord of the castle walked in the garden talking together.
Sir Geraint inquires concerning the knight of the Sparrow-Hawk.
Quoth Sir Geraint, "Sir, I pray you tell me several matters. First, I pray you tell me of this Sparrow-Hawk concerning whom yonder place appears to have gone mad?"
"Messire," said the old lord, "I will tell you. Some years ago I was the earl and overlord of yonder town. But my younger brother undermined me with the inhabitants, and lately he hath gathered all of my power into his hands. Wherefore he is there, lodged in all splendor, and I am here, as thou seest.
"Now you are to know that my brother hath a mind to assemble a court of very worthy knights about him. Wherefore he hath had made a sparrow-hawk of pure silver which same is mounted at the top of a silver staff. For this sparrow-hawk many knights have come jousting; for what knight soever gaineth it and keepeth it for three years in succession, that knight shall be known as the Knight of the Sparrow-Hawk. Wherefore many have contested for it.
"For two years now a knight, hight Sir Gaudeamus of the Moors, hath overcome all who have come against him, and if he overcometh all the knights contestant again for this year, he shall be acknowledged as the true Knight of the Sparrow-Hawk."
Thus spake the old lord of the ruined castle, and when he had done Sir Geraint said, "Sir, with that armor which you say you have, I think that I myself will contend with that knight tomorrow day. So I pray you to let that armor be sent to my room, where I may have it to hand when I want it."
Sir Geraint asks for armor.
Quoth the old lord, "Messire, I have, as I told you, such a suit of armor, but it is of a sort that I know not whether you will wear it or not, for it is old and beaten; but if so be you are not ashamed to wear such ancient armor, I shall be glad to purvey it for you."
"Sir," said Sir Geraint, "I give you high thanks. And now come I to another matter. A short while ago I saw a maiden whom I thought was the most beautiful that ever mine eyes beheld. Now if that damsel hath no knight to serve her, I pray you tell me if I may fight for her sake to-morrow in the field of the Sparrow-Hawk?"
Said the old man, "Sir, that maiden is my daughter and my only child. Her name is Enid. If so be she shall accept you for her knight, then shall I be more than glad for her to do so. But I will send her to you, and you may break that matter to her yourself."
With this, the old lord took his departure; anon came Enid the Fair into the garden where Sir Geraint awaited her, and when he beheld her coming, his heart was very glad. So she came to him, and he took her very gently by the hand, and he said to her, "Lady, here am I, a knight of King Arthur's Round Table and of his Court. I am of good repute and I believe am not altogether unworthy of my belt and my spurs. You, I think, are not more than twenty years of age, and I have nearly twice those years, yet I find that I have great pleasure in gazing upon you. Now I pray you, tell me if your heart may incline unto me sufficiently to suffer me to be your knight in the tournament to-morrow day. For I purpose then to endeavor for this Sparrow-Hawk, and I have no lady whom I might consider as the lady of my heart upon such an occasion."
Sir Geraint bespeaks Enid the Fair.
At this address Enid was very much astonished and abashed. She uplifted her eyes and looked at Sir Geraint very steadily for a little. And she beheld that he was tall and powerful of frame and that he possessed a strong and very noble face. Wherefore her heart went out to him and she said, "Noble Lord, it will give me great pleasure to accept you for my knight champion, if it so be that one of your high nobility and splendid distinction shall regard my poor estate. For my father hath not money to buy him clothes for us all, nor hath he any honor or estate saving only this ruined castle wherein we dwell. Wherefore it is not meet for me to lift mine eyes to one of your high estate and exalted quality."
Then Sir Geraint regarded her very earnestly, and he found her to be still more beautiful than he had at first thought her to be; and he said, "Enid, it may be that thy present estate and quality is not very great, yet thy face is more beautiful than that of any woman whom I ever yet beheld, wherefore I would fain have thee to consign thyself for my true and only lady. If thou wilt do this, it may be that I shall be able to be of great help and assistance both to thee and to thy father."
She said to him, "Lord, I will accept thee for my true and faithful knight."
Then Sir Geraint said, "Now I have no favor of thine to wear. I pray thee give me that belt thou wearest about thy waist, for I myself will wear it twisted about mine arm to-morrow." So Enid gave him her belt of leather and he buckled it about his arm.
Enid gives Sir Geraint her belt.
Then he gave her his hand and she gave her hand to him. So, hand in hand, they departed from that place and entered the castle.CHAPTER 2
How Sir Geraint fought with the Knight of the Sparrow-Hawk; how he set right the wrongs of the earldom and how he returned to the Court of the King.
NOW tell we of that notable battle betwixt Sir Geraint and the Knight of the Sparrow-Hawk.
In the level field below the town there was a fine field of green grass, such as was well fitted for knights to tilt upon. Here there was a high seat arranged for the earl of that town, and for his court, and that seat was hung and draped with crimson cloth embroidered with silver gryphons (which same was the emblazonment of the earl). Below the place of tilting and hard by that place was the silver sparrow-hawk under guard of six esquires clad all in crimson embroidered with silver gryphons. The sparrow-hawk was of pure silver, shining very brightly in the glorious sunlight. And it was set upon a cross-bar of pure silver, and the cross-bar of silver was supported by a rod of silver thrust into the earth.
Of the place of battle.
Already the Knight of the Sparrow-Hawk had fought with several opponents that morning and had overthrown them all, the one after the other. So how, as none came against him, he waited in his pavilion till noon, against which time the silver sparrow-hawk should be assigned to him; and as to the people who were gathered to view the sport, they were grown restless and moved about and conversed together, for it seemed to them that no one would come to contest again with Sir Gaudeamus.
But of a sudden, a little group of four figures suddenly appeared coming across the meadowland beyond. The first of these was the old Earl of that town. Beside him rode a knight, tall and strong of figure, and behind these two came the lady of the Earl and his daughter. These presented a very dull and motley appearance, for the Earl was clad in frayed and weather-worn black, and Sir Geraint was clad in the ancient and battered armor of the Earl that had been given to him. In this he presented a very singular appearance, as though he had stepped from an olden painting.
How Sir Geraint and his companions arrive at the place of battle.
When those who were there perceived how poor and ancient was the armor that Sir Geraint wore, there began a ripple of laughter that spread and grew in magnitude until it was like a torrent of high sounding mirth. But ever the Earl of the town did not join in this mirth, otherwise he sat with great dignity in his seat, and neither laughed nor smiled, although all of his court made great mirth and applauded at Sir Geraint as though he were some jester clad in armor for their sport.
But Sir Geraint paid no heed to all this merriment; otherwise he rode forward through the field. And after he had found place for the old Lord who was with him, and for the lady of that Earl and for Enid, he rode up to the high seat of the Earl and bespoke him thus:
"Lord, here stand I, a knight of the Court of King Arthur, and of his Round Table, to do battle upon behalf of the Lady Enid of this place for yonder silver sparrow-hawk. Now I pray thee tell me, have I thy permission to engage in that battle?"
But now no longer was there any sound of laughter or of jeering from the lords and the ladies of that court; otherwise, all stood up to look upon him, although they could see naught of his face by reason that the visor of his helmet was lowered.
"Sir Knight," said the Earl, "this contest is open to all, wherefore it is also free to thee."
Then Sir Geraint saluted the Earl and his court, and riding across the meadow of battle to the pavilion of Gaudeamus, the Knight of the Sparrow-Hawk, he smote with his spear upon the shield of that knight with all his might and main so that it rang again like a bell. Then the Knight of the Sparrow-Hawk appeared at the door of his pavilion, and he said, "Who art thou in that ancient, outland armor who smites my shield with thy lance? Art thou a jester? If so, I think thy jest will cost thee very dear."
Excerpted from The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur by Howard Pyle. Copyright © 1992 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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