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BRANCH XI


TITLE I

This High History witnesseth whereof this account cometh, and saith that Perceval is in the kingdom of Logres, and came great pace toward the land of the Queen of the Tents to release the Damsel of the Car, that he had left in hostage on account of Clamados, that had put upon him the treason whereof behoved him to defend himself. But, or ever he entered into the land of the Queen of the Tents, he met the Damsel of the Car that was coming thence. She made right great joy of him, and told him that Clamados was dead of the wound that Meliot of Logres had dealt him, and that Meliot of Logres was heal. 'Sir,' saith she, 'The tents and the awnings are taken down, and the Queen hath withdrawn herself to the castle with her maidens, and by my coming back from thence may you well know that you are altogether quit. Wherefore I tell you that your sister goeth in quest of you, and that never had your mother so sore need of help as now she hath, nor never again shall your sister have joy at heart until such time as she shall have found you. She goeth seeking for you by all the kingdoms and strange countries in sore mis-ease, nor may she find any to tell her tidings of you.' Therewith Perceval departeth from the Damsel, without saying more, and rideth until he cometh into the kingdom of Wales to a castle that is seated above the sea upon a high rock, and it was called the Castle of Tallages. He seeth a knight issue from the castle and asketh whose hold it is, and he telleth him that it belonged to the Queen of the Maidens. He entereth into the first baby of the castle, and alighteth at the mounting-stage and setteth down his shield and his spear, and looketh toward the steps whereby one goeth up to the higher hall, and seeth upon them row upon row of knights and damsels. He cometh thitherward, but never a knight nor dame was there that gave him greeting of any kind. So he saluted them at large. He went his way right amidst them toward the door of the great hall, which he findeth shut, and rattled the ring so loud that it made the whole hall resound thereof. A knight cometh to open it and he entereth in. 'Sir Knight, welcome may you be!' 'Good adventure may you have!' saith Perceval. He lowereth his ventail and taketh off his helm. The knight leadeth him to the Queen's chamber, and she riseth to meet him, and maketh great joy of him, and maketh him sit beside her all armed.


II

'With that, cometh a damsel and kneeleth before the Queen and saith: 'Lady, behold here the knight that was first at the Graal. I saw him in the court of the Queen of the Tents, there where he was appeached of treason and murder.' 'Now haste,' saith the Queen to the knight, 'Let sound the ivory horn upon the castle.' The knights and damsels that were sitting on the steps leapt up, and make right great joy, and the other knights likewise. They say that now they know well that they have done their penance. Thereupon they enter into the hall, and the Lady issueth from her chamber and taketh Perceval by the hand and goeth to meet them. 'Behold here,' saith she, 'the knight through whom you have had the pain and travail, and by whom you are now released therefrom!' 'Ha!' say the knights and dames, 'welcome may he be!' 'By my head,' saith the Queen, 'so is he, for he is the knight of the world that I had most desire to see.' She maketh disarm him, and bring the rich robe of cloth of silk to apparel him. 'Sir,' saith the Queen, 'Four knights and three damsels have been under the steps at the entrance of the hall ever since such time as you were at the hostel of King Fisherman, there where you forgot to ask whereof the Graal might serve, nor never since have they had none other house nor hold wherein to eat nor to drink nor to lie, nor never since have they had no heart to make joy, nor would not now and you had not come hither. Wherefore ought you not to marvel that they make joy of your coming. Howbeit, on the other hand, sore need have we in this castle of your coming, for a knight warreth upon me that is brother of King Fisherman, and his name is the King of Castle Mortal.' 'Lady,' saith he, 'He is my uncle, albeit I knew it not of a long time, nor of the good King Fisherman either, and the good King Hermit is my uncle also. But I tell you of a very truth, the King of Castle Mortal is the most fell and cruel that liveth, wherefore ought none to love him for the felony that is in him, for he hath begun to war upon King Fisherman my uncle, and challengeth him his castle, and would fain have the Lance and the Graal.' 'Sir,' saith the Queen, 'in like sort challengeth he my castle of me for that I am in aid of King Fisherman, and every week cometh he to an island that is in this sea, and oft-times cometh plundering before this castle and hath slain many of my knights and damsels, whereof God grant us vengeance upon him.' She taketh Perceval by the hand and leadeth him to the windows of the hall that were nighest the sea. 'Sir,' saith she, 'Now may you see the island, there, whereunto your uncle cometh in a galley, and in this island sojourneth he until he hath seen where to aim his blow and laid his plans. And here below, see, are my gallies that defend us thereof.'


III

Perceval, as the history telleth, was much honoured at the castle of the Queen of the Maidens, that was right passing fair. The Queen loved him of a passing great love, but well she knew that she should never have her desire, nor any dame nor damsel that might set her intent thereon, for chaste was he and in chastity was fain to die. So long was he at the castle as that he heard tell his uncle was arrived at the island whither he wont to come. Perceval maketh arm him forthwith and entereth into a galley below the hall, and maketh him be rowed toward his uncle, that much marvelleth when he seeth him coming, for never aforetime durst no knight issue out alone from this castle to meet him, nor to come there where he was, body to body. But had he known that it was Perceval, he would not have marvelled. Thereupon the galley taketh the ground and Perceval is issued forth. The Queen and the knights and her maidens are come to the windows of the castle to behold the bearing of the nephew and the uncle. The Queen would have sent over some of her knights with him, but Perceval would not. The King of Castle Mortal was tall and strong and hardy. He seeth his nephew come all armed, but knoweth him not. But Perceval knew him well, and kept his sword drawn and his shield on his arm, and sought out his uncle with right passing wrathfulness, and dealeth him a heavy buffet above upon his helm that he maketh him stoop withal. Howbeit, the King spareth him not, but smiteth him so passing stoutly that he had his helm all dinted in thereby. But Perceval attacketh him again, thinking to strike him above on the head, but the King swerveth aside and the blow falleth on the shield and cleaveth it right down as far as the boss. The King of Castle Mortal draweth him backward and hath great shame within himself for that Perceval should thus fettle him, for he searcheth him with his sword in every part, and dealeth him great buffets in such sort that, and his habergeon had not been so strong and tough, he would have wounded him in many places.


IV

The King himself giveth him blows so heavy that the Queen and all they that were at the windows marvelled how Perceval might abide such buffets. The King took witting of the shield that Perceval bare, and looketh on it of a long space. 'Knight,' saith he, 'who gave you this shield, and on behalf of whom do you bear such an one?' 'I bear it on behalf of my father,' saith he. 'Did your father, then, bear a red shield with a white hart?' 'Yea,' saith Perceval, 'Many a day.' 'Was your father, then, King Alain of the Valleys of Camelot?' 'My father was he without fail. No blame ought I to have of him, for a good knight was he and a loyal.' 'Are you the son of Yglais my sister, that was his wife?' 'Yea!' saith Perceval. 'Then are you my nephew,' saith the King of Castle Mortal, 'For she was my sister.' 'That misliketh me,' saith Perceval, 'For thereof have I neither worship nor honour, for the most disloyal are you of all my kindred, and I knew well when I came hither that it was you, and, for the great disloyalty that is in you, you war upon the best King that liveth and the most worshipful man, and upon the Lady of this castle for that she aideth him in all that she may. But, please God, henceforward she shall have no need to guard her to the best of her power against so evil a man as are you, nor shall her castle never be obedient to you, nor the sacred hallows that the good King hath in his keeping. For God loveth not you so much as He doth him, and so long as you war upon him, you do I defy and hold you as mine enemy.' The King wotteth well that his nephew holdeth him not over dear, and that he is eager to do him a hurt, and that he holdeth his sword in his fist and that he is well roofed-in of his helmet, and that he is raging like a lion. He misdoubteth him sore of his strength and his great hardiment. He hath well proven and essayed that he is the Best Knight of the world. He durst no longer abide his blows, but rather he turneth him full speed toward his galley, and leapeth thereinto forthwith. He pusheth out from the shore incontinent, and Perceval followeth him right to the beach, full heavy that he hath gotten him away. Then he crieth after him: 'Evil King, tell me not that I am of your kindred! Never yet did knight of my mother's lineage flee from other knight, save you alone! Now have I conquered this island, and never on no day hereafter be you so over-hardy as be seen therein again!' The King goeth his way as he that hath no mind to return, and Perceval cometh back again in his galley to the Queen's castle, and all they of the palace come forth to meet him with great joy. The Queen asketh him how it is with him and whether he is wounded? 'Lady,' saith he, 'Not at all, thank God.' She maketh disarm him, and honoureth him at her pleasure, and commandeth that all be obedient to him, and do his commandment so long as he shall please to be there. Now feel they safer in the castle for that the king hath so meanly departed thence, and it well seemeth them that never will he dare come back for dread of his nephew more than of any other, whereof make they much joy in common.



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