This is a chapter of King Arthur and His Knights by Blanche Winder.
Sir Bors was a very big knight, tall and strong, as you might have guessed from the sound of his name. One day he was riding along a grassy road when he saw a building with high grey walls and towers like a castle, half-hidden among great clumps of fine trees. A river ran around it, and across the river was arched a stone bridge.
The look of the castle attracted Sir Bors very much. He turned his horse’s head that way and, trotting over the bridge, drew near to the handsome building. A knight rode out through the gates and tried to stop his way. But Sir Bors fought with him and conquered him. Then, sparing the other’s life, he rode proudly into the courtyard of the castle and was met by the king who owned it.
The king’s name was Pelles, and he was always ready to welcome a brave and merciful knight. He greeted Sir Bors courteously and led him into the great hall. And no sooner was Sir Bors inside than he felt a strange awe and wonder creeping over him. It seemed to him that this castle was not like any other castle in the world.
It was full of such strange lights and shadows, such whisperings and rustlings, such coolness and perfume. Little birds, like jewels, flew about the gold and purple glass of the windows. Their wings were almost transparent, their heads bore tiny crowns. And prettiest of all among them was a white one, like a tiny dove, that flitted through the shadowy hall, carrying in her bill a little golden goblet hung on three chains.
“Truly,” thought Sir Bors to himself, “I am in the very heart of Fairyland!”
Then, while the dove still flitted about the hall, a table mysteriously appeared, covered with honeyed cakes, and ripe fruits, and crystal goblets filled with crimson wine. The knight and the king sat down to eat and drink. When they had finished, Sir Bors felt so light in body, so refreshed, so calm and rested, that he wondered what sort of fairy food he had been eating. As he wondered he looked up and saw King Pelles watching him.
“Sir Bors,” said the king, gently and gravely, “you have always been a good and a pure knight.”
“I hope so,” answered Sir Bors.
“You must have been,” replied the king, “or you would never have seen the little white dove and eaten the mysterious food on the mysterious table. And now something still more wonderful is going to be shown to you.”
As the king finished speaking, the hall grew darker, and, at the far end, a golden light appeared. Then, in the heart of the golden light which floated all around her like a sunset cloud, appeared a slim and beautiful lady who, Sir Bors thought, looked like a fair princess. But, when he looked again, he saw she was not flesh and blood at all. She seemed a sort of delicate spirit, and she moved like a spirit through the dim shadows of the hall, her feet barely touching the floor, her hair shining like sunlight, pale wings folded upon her shoulders, and pale hands clasped around what looked like a wondrously beautiful Silver Cup. From the mouth of the cup rose a still flame like the flame of a candle, and it was as if this flame shed all the brightness which surrounded the maiden’s form.
Theory without practice is absolutely useless. With a one-time payment, you’ll have the full course forever, with all the theory explained in video and dozens of hours of practice analyzed and explained step by step by me on the screen.
Join the Latin from Scratch course! ⚡
She passed slowly by, and Sir Bors watched, breathless. Then he turned to King Pelles.
“Who is she?” he asked under his breath. “What is the cup that she carries?”
The king answered in a voice that seemed far away.
“She is — who she is! And of the cup you have often heard.”
“Is it,” whispered Sir Bors, “can it be the cup of the spirit world — the silver chalice that we knights call the Holy Grail?”
“Yes,” replied King Pelles. “It is the Holy Grail. Here, in this castle, it has been hidden for years. But look again!”
Then Sir Bors looked again, and down the hall, in the very track of the golden maiden, stepping through the lingering fading radiance she had left, came a princess with a tiny sleeping baby in her arms. She stepped softly towards Sir Bors and held the baby towards him for him to look at. He thought he had never seen a lady so lovely, nor a child so like a flower.
“This is my daughter, the princess Elaine,” said the king, speaking more softly than ever. And the little child is her son, Galahad. He has been born in the Castle of the Hidden Grail. He it will be who will sit in the Seat Perilous one day, on the right hand of King Arthur, the seat that has been empty so long. But when Galahad takes his seat there——”
“What?” asked Sir Bors, touching the child very gently with his big forefinger. “What?”
But King Pelles did not answer. He shook his head and fell silent again. The princess Elaine smiled down at her little baby and then up at Sir Bors.
“It will be a wonderful day,” she said, below her breath. “The most wonderful day that the knights of the Round Table have ever seen.”
“We have had many adventures,” replied Sir Bors. “We have seen the fairy hunt and followed the great white stag! We have slain giants and killed terrible beasts. We have wandered in the Enchanted Forest and seen the fairy salmon and ridden on his back. What is this adventure that will come with Galahad — the little baby here who is to grow up into such a wonderful knight?”
But still neither the king nor the princess would answer. They only smiled and shook their heads, and told him to follow them up the stairs of the castle, and they would show him a sight even more wonderful than all the rest.
So up the stairs of the castle went Sir Bors, with the king and the princess —who still carried the baby— leading the way. And, as they went, the whisperings and the rustlings began again all around them, the little birds flew with them, the staircase windows dropped purple and silver lights upon their heads. On the princess’s shoulder alighted the small white dove and stooped, murmuring and cooing, towards the baby, drooping the little golden bowl on the three slim chains towards the child’s fingers. And tiny Galahad woke up and caught at the pretty shining thing, and cried out delightedly. While, just ahead of the procession, it seemed to Sir Bors that the spirit of the strange castle, or whoever that lovely lady might be, moved dimly yet brightly, with the Silver Cup held in her white fingers, and the golden light that came from the candle flame shining on her face and hands and hair.
They went on — up and up and up. Then, just under the high roof of the castle, they came to a closed door all studded with strong iron nails. The maiden vanished, and Sir Bors thought she had slipped through the door just as a moonbeam might slip through the glass of a window. But the king brought out a great gold key from his pocket and put it into the lock. He turned it with a grating sound and pushed the door wide open. Then, though all was dark on the staircase, a great light, like the light of a summer day, poured out of the room under the castle roof. The little birds flew in as if they had found their home, and the white dove spread its wings, as it perched on the princess’s shoulder, and followed the rest. They all started singing with a sound as if they had settled among the blossoming branches of trees, and the scent of flowers —Sir Bors thought it was like almond bloom— came out of the room together with their music. But, when he peeped in expecting somehow to see a garden, he saw — what do you think?
Why, just a room full of shadows, and, in the midst of the room, a table exactly like the Round Table in every way, except that, instead of being made of oak, it was made of the brightest, purest silver. And, in the center, stood Joseph’s lost Shining Cup!
Sir Bors stood and drank in the beautiful sight. Then, because he could stand it no longer —for he seemed to be in the heart of some place that was far more beautiful than Fairyland— he hid his face in his hands. When he uncovered his eyes again, King Pelles had closed the door and Princess Elaine was singing the baby to sleep on the stairs.
“Go back to King Arthur,” said the king. “Tell him what you have seen, and bid all the knights of the Round Table wait for the coming of Galahad.”