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BRANCH XXXI


TITLE I

Thereupon the story is silent of Lancelot, and cometh back to Perceval that had not heard these tidings, and if he had known them, right sorrowful would he have been thereof. He is departed from his uncle's castle that he hath reconquered, and was sore grieved of the tidings that the damsel that was wounded brought him of his sister that Aristor had carried away by force to the house of a vavasour. He was about to take her to wife and cut off her head on the day of the New Year, for such was his custom with all them that he took. Perceval rideth one day, all heavy in thought, and taketh his way as fast as he may toward the hermitage of his uncle King Hermit. He is come thither on an eventide, and seeth three hermits issued forth of the hermitage. He alighteth and goeth to meet them so soon as he seeth them. 'Sir,' say the hermits, 'Enter not in, for they are laying out a body there.' 'Who is it?' saith Perceval. 'Sir,' say the hermits, 'It is the good King Pelles that Aristor slew suddenly after mass on account of one of his nephews, Perceval, whom he loveth not, and a damsel is laying out the body there within.' When Perceval heard the news or his uncle that is dead, thereof was he right grieved at heart, and on the morrow was he at his uncle's burial. When mass was sung, Perceval would have departed, as he that had great desire to take vengeance on him that had done him such shame.


II

Thereupon behold you the damsel that is his. 'Sir,' saith she, 'Full long time have I been seeking you. Behold here the head of a knight that I carry hanging at the bow of my saddle, in this rich casket of ivory that you may see, and by none ought he to be avenged but by you alone. Discharge me thereof, fair Sir, of your courtesy, for I have carried it too long a time, and this King Arthur knoweth well and Messire Gawain, for each hath seen me at court along with the head, but they could give me no tidings of you, and my castle may I not have again until such time as he be avenged.' 'Who, then, was the knight, damsel?' saith Perceval. 'Sir, he was son of your uncle Bruns Brandalis, and were he on live, would have been one of the best knights in the world.' 'And who slew him, damsel?' saith Perceval. 'Sir, the Knight of the Deep Forest that leadeth the lion, foully in treason there where he thought him safe. For had he been armed in like manner as was the other, he would not have slain him.' 'Damsel,' said Perceval, 'This grieveth me that he hath slain him, and it grieveth me likewise of mine uncle King Hermit, whom I would avenge more willingly than all the men in the world, for he was slain on my account.'


III

'Most disloyal was this knight, and foully was he fain to avenge him when he slew a holy man, a hermit that never wished him ill on account of me and of none other. Right glad shall I be and I may find the knight, and so, methinketh, will he be of me, for me he hateth as much as I do him, as I have been told, and Lord God grant, howsoever he may take it, that I may find him betimes.' 'Sir,' saith the damsel, 'So outrageous a knight is he that no knight is there in the world so good but he thinketh himself of more worth than he, and sith that he hateth you with a will, and he knew that you were here, you and another, or you the third, he would come now at once, were he in place and free.' 'Damsel,' saith Perceval, 'God give him mischief of his coming, come whensoever he may!' 'Sir,' saith she, 'The Deep Forest there, where the Red Knight leadeth the lion, is towards the castle of Aristor, and, or ever you come by adventure into the forest, you may well hear some tidings of him!'


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