Tales of the Round Table
How The King Went on Pilgrimage, and his Squire was Slain in a Dream
Now the King was minded to go on a pilgrimage, and he agreed with the Queen that he would set forth to seek the holy chapel of St. Augustine, which is in the White Forest, and may only be found by adventure. Much he wished to undertake the quest alone, but this the Queen would not suffer, and to do her pleasure he consented that a youth, tall and strong of limb, should ride with him as his squire. Chaus was the youth's name, and he was son to Gwain li Aoutres. 'Lie within to-night,' commanded the King, 'and take heed that my horse be saddled at break of day, and my arms ready.'' At your pleasure, Sir,' answered the youth, whose heart rejoiced because he was going alone with the King.
As night came on, all the Knights quitted the hall, but Chaus the squire stayed where he was, and would not take off his clothes or his shoes, lest sleep should fall on him and he might not be ready when the King called him. So he sat himself down by the great fire, but in spite of his will sleep fell heavily on him, and he dreamed a strange dream.
In his dream it seemed that the King had ridden away to the quest, and had left his squire behind him, which filled the young man with fear. And in his dream he set the saddle and bridle on his horse, and fastened his spurs, and girt on his sword, and galloped out of the castle after the King. He rode on a long space, till he entered a thick forest, and there before him lay traces of the King's horse, and he followed till the marks of the hoofs ceased suddenly at some open ground and he thought that the King had alighted there.
On the right stood a chapel, and about it was a graveyard, and in the graveyard many coffins, and in his dream it seemed as if the King had entered the chapel, so the young man entered also. But no man did he behold save a Knight that lay dead upon a bier in the midst of the chapel, covered with a pall of rich silk, and four tapers in golden candlesticks were burning round him. The squire marvelled to see the body lying there so lonely, with no one near it, and likewise that the King was nowhere to be seen. Then he took out one of the tall tapers, and hid the candlestick under his cloak, and rode away until he should find the King.
On his journey through the forest he was stopped by a man black and ill-favoured, holding a large knife in his hand.
'Ho! you that stand there, have you seen King Arthur?' asked the squire.
'No, but I have met you, and I am glad thereof, for you have under your cloak one of the candlesticks of gold that was placed in honour of the Knight who lies dead in the chapel. Give it to me, and I will carry it back; and if you do not this of your own will, I will make you.'
'By my faith!' cried the squire, 'I will never yield it to you! Rather, will I carry it off and make a present of it to King Arthur.'
'You will pay for it dearly,' answered the man, 'if you yield it not up forthwith.'
To this the squire did not make answer, but dashed forward, thinking to pass him by; but the man thrust at him with his knife, and it entered his body up to the hilt. And when the squire dreamed this, he cried,' Help! help! for I am a dead man!'
As soon as the King and the Queen heard that cry they awoke from their sleep, and the Chamberlain said, 'Sir, you must be moving, for it is day'; and the King rose and dressed himself, and put on his shoes.
Then the cry came again: 'Fetch me a priest, for I die!' and the King ran at great speed into the hall, while the Queen and the Chamberlain followed him with torches and candles. 'What aileth you?' asked the King of his squire, and the squire told him of all that he had dreamed. 'Ha,' said the King, is it, then, a dream?'
'Yes, Sir,' answered the squire, but it is a right foul dream for me, for right foully it hath come true,' and he lifted his left arm, and said, 'Sir, look you here! Lo, here is the knife that was struck in my side up to the haft.' After that, he drew forth the candlestick, and showed it to the King.'Sir, for this candlestick that I present to you was I wounded to the death!' The King took the candlestick in his hands and looked at it, and none so rich had he seen before, and he bade the Queen look also.
'Sir,' said the squire again, 'draw not forth the knife out of my body till I be shriven of the priest.'
So the King commanded that a priest should be sent for, and when the squire had confessed his sins, the King drew the knife out of the body and the soul departed forthwith. Then the King grieved that the young man had come to his death in such strange wise, and ordered him a fair burial, and desired that the golden candlestick should be sent to the Church of St. Paul in London, which at that time was newly built.
After this King Arthur would have none to go with him on his quest, and many strange adventures he achieved before he reached the chapel of St. Augustine, which was in the midst of the White Forest. There he alighted from his horse, and sought to enter, but though there was neither door nor bar he might not pass the threshold.
But from without he heard wondrous voices singing, and saw a light shining brighter than any that he had seen before, and visions such as he scarcely dared to look upon. And he resolved greatly to amend his sins, and to bring peace and order into his kingdom. So he set forth, strengthened and comforted, and after divers more adventures returned to his Court.