Read THE QUEST OF THE HOLY GRAIL: CHAPTER VIII of Historic Tales‚ Vol 14‚ The Romance of Reality, free online book, by Charles Morris, on ReadCentral.com.

The deeds of the three chosen knights

After Galahad left the ship and his father Lancelot, he rode far and had many adventures, righting many wrongs and achieving many marvels. Among these he came to the abbey where was the ancient King Evelake, who had laid blind three hundred years, as we have elsewhere told.

The old king knew well that his deliverance had come, and begged to be embraced by the pious youth. No sooner had he been clasped in his arms than his sight returned, and his flesh grew whole and young.

“Now, sweet Saviour, my destiny is fulfilled; receive thou my soul,” he prayed.

As he said these words the soul left his body, and the miracle of his fate was achieved.

Many days after this Galahad met Percivale, and soon the two came upon Bors, as he rode out of a great forest, that extended many days’ journey through the land.

And so they rode in glad companionship, with many a tale of marvel to tell, till in time they came to the castle of Carbonek, where they were gladly received, for those in the castle knew that the quest of the Sangreal was now wellnigh achieved.

When evening approached, and the table for supper was set, the mysterious voice that so often had guided these knights spoke again.

“They that are not worthy to sit at the table of Jesus Christ arise,” it said; “for now shall the worthiest be fed.”

Then all arose save Eliazar, the son of King Pellam, and a maid who was his niece, and the three knights. But as they sat at supper nine other knights, in full armor, entered at the hall door, and took off their helmets and armor, and said to Galahad,

“Sir, we have come far and in haste to be with you at this table, where the holy meat shall be served.”

“If you are worthy, you are welcome,” said Galahad. “Whence come you?”

Three of them answered that they were from Gaul, three from Ireland, and three from Denmark, and that they had come thither at the bidding of the strange voice.

So they all sat at table. But ere they began to eat, four gentlewomen bore into the hall a bed, whereon lay a man sick, with a crown of gold on his head. Setting him down, they went away.

“Galahad, holy knight, you are welcome,” said he who lay in the bed, raising his head feebly. “Long have I waited your coming, in pain and anguish, since Balin, the good knight, struck me the dolorous stroke. To you I look for aid and release from my long suffering.”

Then spoke the voice again: “There be those here who are not in the quest of the Sangreal; let them depart.” And the son and niece of the king rose and left the room.

Then there came suddenly four angels, and a man who bore a cross and wore the dress of a bishop, whom the angels placed in a chair before the silver table of the Sangreal. In his forehead were letters which said, “This is Joseph, the first bishop of Christendom.”

Next opened the chamber door, and angels entered, two bearing wax candles, the third a towel, and the fourth a spear that bled, the blood drops falling into a silver vessel which he held in his other hand. The candles were set on the table, the towel spread upon the vessel, and the spear set upright on this.

The bishop then said mass, at which other strange signs were seen; for a figure like a child, with a face that shone like flame, entered into the bread of the sacrament. Then the bishop kissed Galahad, and bade him kiss his fellows. This done, he said,

“Servants of Jesus Christ, ye shall here be fed on such meats as never knights tasted;” and with these words he vanished.

But as they knelt in prayer before the table, they saw come out of the holy vessel a man who bore all the signs of the passion of Jesus Christ. And he took up the vessel and bore it to Galahad and to the other knights, who kneeled to receive the sacrament; and so sweet was it that their hearts marvelled and were filled with joy.

“Now have you tasted of Christ’s own food,” he said, “and seen what you highly and holily desired. But more openly shall you see it in the city of Sarras, in the spiritual place. Therefore you must go hence, for this night the holy vessel will leave this realm, and will never more be seen here. To-morrow you three shall go to the sea, where a ship awaits you; and you must take with you the sword with the strange girdle.”

“Shall not these good knights go also?” asked Galahad.

“Not so. They have seen all that is fitting to them. As for you, two of you shall die in my service, and the third shall return and tell what he has seen.”

Then he gave them his blessing, and vanished from out their midst.

When they had somewhat recovered from the weight of these marvels, Galahad went to the spear that lay on the table, and touched the blood with his fingers, and with it anointed the wounds of the maimed king. And at this touch he started up whole and strong, thanking God fervently for his healing.

But he went not into the world again, but to a monastery of white monks, where he became a man of holy renown.

At midnight came a voice to the nine knights, which said,

“My sons, and not my chieftains; my friends, and not my warriors; go ye hence, and do well what comes to you, in my service.”

“Lord,” they replied, “wilt thou vouchsafe also to call us thy sinners? Thy servants we shall be henceforth.”

And they arose, armed, and departed, bidding a solemn adieu to the three knights. When morning dawned these three rose also, and rode till they came to the sea. Here awaited them the ship wherein they had found the sword and the three magic spindles, and to their wonder and delight they beheld in its midst the table of silver and the Sangreal, which was covered with red samite.

It was a joyous company that sailed over the sea in that magical ship, and at the wish of his comrades Galahad slept in the bed where the sword had lain, and Bors and Percivale on the deck beside him.

And so they went by day and by night, and at length came to the city of Sarras. Here, as they would have landed, they saw beside them, just come to shore, the ship that bore the corpse of Percivale’s sister, and this as fair and as fresh as when first placed within it.

Then they took up the silver table and bore it to the city, at whose gate sat an old and crooked cripple.

“Come hither, and help us carry this heavy thing,” said Galahad.

“How shall I do that? I have not gone for ten years without crutches.”

“No matter for that. Show your good will by trying.”

Then the cripple rose and took hold, and in that instant he was whole and strong, and helped them bear the table to the palace. This done, they returned, and bore to the palace the corpse of Percivale’s sister, which they placed in a rich tomb, suited to a king’s daughter.

Meanwhile the report had spread through the city that a cripple had been made whole by three strange knights, and people flocked to see them.

When the king of the city saw and heard all this, he came to the knights and asked them who they were, and what it was they had brought into his realm.

Galahad answered him, telling of the marvel of the Sangreal, and of God’s power and grace therein.

But the king, Estorause, a tyrant in will and a pagan in faith, heard this with wrath and unbelief, and ordered the knights to be put in prison as spies and felons.

For a whole year they lay thus in prison, yet were always kept whole and in good spirits; for the holy Sangreal came to them in their dungeons, and filled their souls with joy. When the year ended, Estorause grew sick unto death, and in remorse sent for the imprisoned knights, whose pardon and forgiveness he fervently begged. This they gave him, and he straightway died.

His death threw the city into dismay, for he had left no successor to the throne. But as the lords sat in council there came a voice that bade them choose the youngest of the three knights for their king. This mysterious behest was told to the citizens, and with one acclaim they hailed it as God’s will, and demanded Galahad as their king.

Thereupon he became king of Sarras, though it was not his wish; but he felt it to be God’s command. And when he came to the throne he had constructed a chest of gold and precious stones, in which was placed the table of silver with the holy vessel, and before this the three knights kneeled and prayed daily with fervent zeal.

And so time rolled on till came the day that was the anniversary of that in which Galahad had taken the crown. On this morning he rose betimes, and before the holy vessel he saw a man dressed like a bishop, while round about him was a great fellowship of angels.

“Come forth, thou servant of Jesus Christ, and thou shalt see what thou hast so much desired,” said the bishop.

Then Galahad began to tremble, his flesh quaking in the presence of things spiritual. And he held his hands up towards heaven, saying,

“Lord, I thank thee, for now my desire is fulfilled. And if it be thy will that I should come to thee, I wish no longer to live.”

“I am Joseph of Arimathea,” said the strange presence, “and am sent by the Lord to bear thee fellowship. Thou resemblest me in two things; for thou hast seen the highest marvel of the Sangreal, and are pure of heart and of body. Now say farewell to thy comrades, for thy time is come to depart.”

Galahad thereupon went to Percivale and Bors, and kissed them, and commended them to God, saying to Bors,

“Fair friend, who art destined to return to our native realm, salute for me my lord and father Lancelot, and bid him remember the evils of this unstable world, and bear in mind the duty he has been taught.”

Then he kneeled before the table and prayed fervently, and suddenly his soul departed from his body, a multitude of angels bearing it visibly upward toward heaven, in full view of his late comrades. 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.