| King Arthur and His Knights|
|by Maude Radford Warren|
|Twenty-one stories from the Arthurian legends specially selected and adapted for children and told in simple well-written prose. The stirring tales of these chivalrous knights awaken the readerís admiration for courage and gentleness and high sense of honor essential in all ages. Ages 9-12 |
MONG Arthur's Knights of the Round Table was one who
was a mixture of good and bad, as indeed most people
are. His name was Sir Ivaine; brave, kind-hearted, and
merry; but at the same time fickle, sometimes forgetful
of his promises, and inclined to make light of serious
One night, in the early spring, the knights and ladies
of Arthur's Court were sitting in the dining-hall. The
king and Guinevere had withdrawn, but were expected to
return. Supper had been served, and the last course,
consisting of pomegranate seeds and dates, had just
been carried off. A fire had been built in the deep
hearth, and the four bronze pillars in front were
lighted by the flames. Four
 little pages in blue and white velvet kirtles sat on
stools watching the fire, and perhaps dreaming of the
days when they, too, should be warriors and have
Sir Ivaine was telling of his experience with the Black
"It was when I was very young," he said; "indeed, I had
just been made a knight. Some one told me of the wicked
Black Knight who lived, and still lives, in a wood a
long way from here. Knowing that he did much evil, I
determined to kill him. I rode to the wood where he
lived, and in which I found a marble platform. In the
middle of it was a sunken space holding a fountain. I
walked to this, and following the directions of some
writing which was on the stone, picked up a cup that
lay at hand, and filling it with water, poured it into
"Then a great storm of wind and rain arose, and when it
was at its height the Black Knight rode up and began to
attack me. We fought for a little while, but he easily
overthrew me. Thinking me dead, he rode back, leaving
me on the
 ground. But after a time I was able to mount my horse,
and went back to my mother's castle."
At this moment the king and the queen entered,
unperceived by any one except Sir Ivaine. The young
man, who was always polite, sprang to his feet; then
the other knights rose. Sir Kay, who was not always
sweet-tempered, said to Sir Ivaine:
"We all know that you are very polite, but you have
more courtesy than bravery."
At that Sir Ivaine said:
"I was almost a boy when the Black Knight overthrew me,
but I could conquer him now."
"It is very easy to say that after you have eaten,"
said Sir Kay. "Almost any knight feels brave and
self-satisfied when he has had a good supper of
The king asked what the conversation was about, and Sir
Ivaine repeated the story of his adventure, adding:
"And, Sir King, I crave your permission to set forth
to-morrow to slay this Black Knight who is a pest in
 "I have heard of this man," said the king, "and have
often thought of sending some one to punish him. But he
lives far away, and it has been necessary heretofore to
right first the wrongs nearest home. Yet now his evil
deeds and persecutions must cease. To-morrow a company
of us will set forth and conquer him and all his
The king named some half-dozen of his knights, Sir
Ivaine among them, who were to undertake this
Sir Ivaine was displeased; he thought that the
adventure should be his alone. So he rose in the middle
of the night and stole away unattended, determined to
go in advance of the others and kill the Black Knight.
It did not occur to him that in proving himself brave,
he was also proving himself disobedient.
He rode forth in the darkness, humming merrily to
himself. At daybreak he reached a valley, and as he
went through it, saw a great serpent fighting with a
lion. Sir Ivaine stopped to watch this curious combat.
At first the two fighters seemed evenly matched, but
 soon the huge serpent wrapped all its folds about the
lion and began squeezing it to death. When Sir Ivaine
saw this, he drew his sword and killed the serpent.
When the lion was free, it bounded up to Sir Ivaine,
and he was afraid that it meant to kill him; but it
fawned at his feet like a spaniel. He stroked it, and
put his arms about its neck. When he mounted his
horse, the beast followed him, refusing to go away.
Then Sir Ivaine made up his mind that they were to be
For many days the two kept close together, and at night
Sir Ivaine would go to sleep with his head on the
lion's neck. One day, as they came to a square castle
set in a meadow, some people who stood on the castle
walls began to shoot arrows at the lion, but Sir Ivaine
stopped them, telling them that the animal was tame.
Then they told him that it was their rule that no one
should pass by that castle without doing battle with
their lord. Sir Ivaine told them that he was quite
willing to obey their rule; so they opened
 the castle gate. They said he must make his lion stay
outside, but Sir Ivaine refused to do this. He
promised, however, to make the lion lie down quietly;
then the two were allowed to enter.
The courtyard was a large paved place, in which there
were a score of armed men. Presently the lord of the
castle came forward. This lord was much larger than Sir
Ivaine, and the lion, on seeing him, began to lash its
tail. But Sir Ivaine ordered it to be still, and it at
Then Sir Ivaine and the knight battled together. The
knight was powerful, but Sir Ivaine was very agile and
skillful. He was not able to strike so hard as could
his enemy, but he was better able to avoid blows.
Therefore it was not long before he got the advantage
and overthrew the lord.
When this happened, the lord called for help, and
ordered his armed men to kill Sir Ivaine. The whole
twenty began to obey this treacherous order, but just
as they were about to fall upon Sir Ivaine, the lion
bounded among them, roaring savagely. With a few
strokes of its powerful
 paws it disabled the men. Sir Ivaine told the lord of
the castle that he must ride to Camelot and give
himself up to Arthur to be judged for his treachery.
Then Sir Ivaine rode away from the castle; and now that
the lion had saved his life, he became very fond of the
After many days of travel, Sir Ivaine reached the
forest in the midst of which was the castle of the
Black Knight. He rode to the platform of stone,
dismounted and poured water into the fountain. As
before, a storm arose, and at its height the Black
HE DISMOUNTED AND
POURED WATER INTO THE FOUNTAIN
He recognized the armor of Sir Ivaine and said:
"Aha! I see I did not kill you before, but you shall
not escape me this time."
"The best man shall win," said Sir Ivaine, cheerfully.
Then the two began a great combat. Their swords clashed
so that the noise of the fountain was drowned; they
fought so eagerly that they were not even aware of the
storm. It was not long before the Black Knight began to
grow weak from the many powerful and
 strokes from Sir Ivaine's sword. At last, seeing that
he was mortally wounded, the Black Knight turned his
horse and galloped in the direction of his castle.
Ordering the lion to stay where it had lain during the
combat, Sir Ivaine followed. But he could not quite
catch up with the Black Knight, although gaining on him
inch by inch. By the time the castle moat was reached,
Sir Ivaine was only five feet behind. The horses
thundered one after the other over the bridge. The
Black Knight rode under the portcullis, or sharp iron
gate, which was raised. The instant he was inside, the
portcullis fell, in order to shut out Sir Ivaine.
But Sir Ivaine had already passed beneath it, and as it
fell his horse was cut in two. Even the long plume in
Sir Ivaine's helmet was shorn off, and lay outside the
Sir Ivaine sprang to his feet and drew his sword to
renew his attack upon the Black Knight, but he was
already dead and lay across his panting horse's neck.
Then Sir Ivaine realized what his recklessness had cost
him. There he was
 alone in a strange castle, the lord of which he had
killed. Soon the people of the castle would come and
capture him, for he could not escape, since the
portcullis was down.
He ran into the castle, and up the stairs leading to
the turret. He was fast growing weak from the wounds he
had received, and his armor was heavy. Moreover, in
spite of his care, it clashed at every step, and he was
afraid some one would soon hear him. He had all but
reached the top of the stairs when the door of the
turret room opened, and a little maiden looked down
upon him. He begged her not to cry out, and telling her
who he was and what he had done, asked her to hide him.
"I will," she said, "because you are brave and you are
wounded, and because you have killed that wicked
tyrant, the Black Knight. He does not own this castle
at all; it belongs to a beautiful lady, his cousin, who
is my mistress. He keeps her here prisoner because she
will not marry him."
Then the little maiden led him into
 the turret room. She concealed his armor in a hole in
the side of the wall, and told him to hide himself
between the two mattresses of the bed. Before he had
time to do so, however, they heard a great noise in the
courtyard, and looking down, saw that the body of the
Black Knight had been discovered. Near it stood a
beautiful lady, more beautiful than any Sir Ivaine had
ever seen, except Queen Guinevere. She was dark like
the queen, and her eyes were as bright as stars. He
would have looked at her a long time but the little
maiden begged him to hide without delay.
"Quick!" she cried. "The men have seen that there is
the front part of a horse inside the gate, and know
that the person who has killed our lord must be here.
Even now they have begun the search, for they all love
the Black Knight, although my mistress does not and
they will hang you if they find you."
So Sir Ivaine crept between the mattresses, and the
little maiden hurried down the stairs and went to her
beautiful mistress. Presently Sir Ivaine heard
 men tramping up the turret steps. They often stopped,
trying all the doors they came to, and at last entered
the room in which he lay. One of them, peering into the
hole in the wall where his armor was, said:
"Here is armor."
But another replied:
"That is some that once was used by our master; there
is no need to drag it into the light."
Then they searched among all the furnishings of the
room, but found no one. At last, as they were leaving,
one of the men thrust his sword twice through the
mattress. The second thrust cut deeply into Sir
Ivaine's arm; but as the knight was brave, he did not
utter a cry.
When the men had gone, he crept out, and found that the
cut in his arm and his other wounds were bleeding
badly. Just then the little maiden came in with food.
She cried out in alarm when she saw the blood, and
quickly tore a piece of linen from her robe for
bandages. When all the wounds had been carefully
attended to, she gave him a plentiful supper
 and promised to take care of him until there was a good
opportunity for him to escape.
She visited him every morning, and told him the day's
news in the castle. He learned that a lion kept roaring
about the walls, and that bowmen had tried to kill it,
but could not. Sir Ivaine was sure that it was his
lion, and longed to have it, but knew that this was
impossible. She told him how the people of the castle
had been angry at their lady because she would not
marry the Black Knight; but now that he was dead,
acknowledged her as mistress and obeyed her in
everything. The little maiden said she thought that if
the lady were told that Sir Ivaine was hidden she would
probably see that he had a safe conduct out of the
"I want never to leave this castle," said Sir Ivaine;
"for I love your lady."
This pleased the little maiden, for she had learned to
respect Sir Ivaine. So she went to the lady of the
castle and told her all about the stranger. The lady
had Sir Ivaine moved to a rich apartment
 where she could visit him often and help the little
maid in her care of him. She did not tell her people,
however, that this stranger knight had killed their
As Sir Ivaine recovered, he soon found courage to tell
her how beautiful she was, and that he loved her more
that anything in the world. He said that if she would
marry him, he would stay with her forever, and never
seek for more adventures. All he asked was that she
would let in his lion, which still continued to roar
outside the castle walls. When the lady heard the story
of the lion, it seemed to her that if Sir Ivaine were
so kind to an animal, he would probably be much kinder
So she said that she would marry him. The people of the
castle saw and liked him, and agreed to obey him as
their lord. When they were told that the lion they had
tried to kill belonged to him and must be admitted to
the castle, they showed some fear. Sir Ivaine told them
that there was no need of this, for the beast was very
gentle, and was making noise only because of its desire
for its master.
 He went outside the castle walls and called. Soon there
was heard a loud roaring; a big yellow body bounded out
of the forest, and the lion came leaping to its
master's feet. It frisked about him, and rubbed its
head on his arm, just as a favorite dog might do. When
the people saw how tame it was, they were no longer
Sir Ivaine and the beautiful lady were soon married,
and for a long time everyone was very happy. Sir Ivaine
sent a letter to King Arthur telling the result of his
adventure. Soon the messenger returned bearing rich
gifts from the king and Guinevere, and an invitation to
come to Camelot whenever they wished to. The lady,
however, persuaded Sir Ivaine to promise to remain with
her in her castle.
One day a party of the Knights of the Round Table rode
into the courtyard. They were going on a great
adventure, and stopped by the way to see how Sir Ivaine
and his beautiful wife fared. When Sir Ivaine saw them,
all his old-time love of fighting came back, and he
 went to his lady and begged her to let him go with the
"Ah, my Ivaine," she said, "you told me that you would
never leave me."
"A knight ought to seek adventures," he said. "And I
will return to you."
She paused for a while and then said:
"I will let you go if you will promise to come back in
a year and a day; that is, next Whitsuntide."
He gladly promised, and she said:
"If you break this promise, I will never see you
But Sir Ivaine was sure he would not break the promise,
because he loved her too much for that.
So off he rode with the knights, followed by his
faithful lion. The lady and the little maiden waved
farewells to Sir Ivaine from the tower until they could
no longer see him; then they again took up the life
they had lived before he came to the castle.
Sir Ivaine rode with the knights for many months, and
had many adventures. At last, just as the year was
drawing to a close, he started homeward. On the
 way, however, he stopped at Arthur's Court to pay his
respects to the king and the queen. They both
remembered him and greeted him kindly.
A great tournament was being held at that time in
Camelot, and the king asked Sir Ivaine if he would like
to take part. Sir Ivaine was pleased, for he loved the
display of such combats. During the three days of the
tournament he distinguished himself greatly.
On the evening of the third day, as the knights were
sitting in the great hall of the Round Table, a little
maiden entered. She went up to King Arthur and gave him
"This ring," she said, "is one Sir Ivaine gave my lady.
She returns it, and has vowed never to see him again
because he has broken his promise to her."
Then, before any one could stop her, she left the hall,
mounted her horse, and rode away. Sir Ivaine sprang to
his feet, staring wildly. Whitsuntide had fallen on the
first day of the tournament, his year and a day had
more than passed, and he had forgotten his promise!
 He rushed from the hall and down the hill through the
streets of Camelot, out of the city gate, and into the
forest. He ran on and on until he fell exhausted.
The next day he awoke in a fever, and would have died
but for his faithful lion. The poor animal tried to
make Sir Ivaine rise, but seeing that he could not,
dragged him to the edge of a brook, where he could
drink when he was thirsty. The lion also brought him
game. At first Sir Ivaine would not touch it, but
finally began to eat it raw.
After a time he became better, physically, but his
senses were gone. In his madness he wandered all
through the woods, fighting with the trees and bushes.
The lion always followed him, protecting him from other
animals and from men.
One day when the lion was absent finding food, Sir
Ivaine lay asleep. A good hermit came up to him, and
pitying his condition, lifted him in his arms and
carried him to his hut. He bathed the poor knight, cut
his hair, and put a robe upon him. He was laying him
 bed when the lion came roaring to the door and dashed
When it saw the hermit tending its master, it fawned at
his feet. After that Sir Ivaine spent much of his time
in the hut. The lion supplied him with food, bringing
meat to the hermit, who always divided it into four
parts: three parts he gave to the lion, and one he
cooked for Sir Ivaine and himself.
Sometimes Sir Ivaine would run away from the hermit and
wander for days in the forest. The lion took care of
him, and always led him back to the hermit's hut.
Once, however, Sir Ivaine set forth in the direction of
his wife's castle. At night the lion tried to take him
to the hut, but in vain. For days he wandered, always
in the same direction, until at last he reached the
wood where the stone platform was. He laid himself down
upon it and slept. Soon a lady and a maid appeared.
The lion sprang at them but when it reached their feet,
it licked the lady's hand, for she was its mistress.
It took her robe in its teeth and pulled her gently to
the spot where Sir Ivaine
 lay. At first she would not look at him, because she
had not forgiven him for breaking his promise. But the
little maiden said:
"Dear mistress, look at him. The story which the
knights of Arthur's Court told us about his madness
must be true. If you will but look at his face you will
see that it is the face of a man who has lost his
Then the lady knelt beside him. When she saw his worn
features and his tattered garments, she began to
believe that he really had lost his senses from grief.
She sent the maiden to the castle for an ointment she
had. It was so powerful that if it were rubbed over a
person who was ill, it would cure him, no matter what
his disease was. When the little maid brought it, the
lady put it upon Sir Ivaine, but so gently as not to
After several hours, Sir Ivaine awoke. At first he
hardly knew where he was, but soon he recollected all
that had happened, and seeing his lady near, begged her
to forgive him. This she did, and they were reconciled.
Sir Ivaine was
 sure that he would never again forget to keep a
For some months they lived very happily in the castle.
Then they went to Camelot in order to be near to Arthur
and the Knights of the Round Table.
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