10 THE QUESTING BEAST
the chase lasted so long that the King himself grew heavy and his horse fell dead under him. Then he sat under a tree and rested, till he heard the baying of hounds, and fancied he counted as many as thirty of them. He raised his head to look, and, coming towards him, saw a beast so strange that its like was not to be found throughout his kingdom. It went straight to the well and drank, making as it did so the noise of many hounds baying, and when it had drunk its fill the beast went its way.
While the King was wondering what sort of a beast this could be, a Knight rode by, who, seeing a man lying under a tree, stopped and said to him: ' Knight full of thought and sleepy, tell me if a strange beast has passed this way ?'
' Yes, truly,' answered Arthur, ' and by now it must be two miles distant. What do you want with it ? '
' Oh sir, I have followed that beast from far,' replied he, ' and have ridden my horse to death. If only I could find another I would still go after it.' As he spoke a squire came up leading a fresh horse for the King, and when the Knight saw it he prayed that it might be given to him, 'for,' said he, 'I have followed this quest this twelvemonth, and either I shall slay him or he will slay me.'
'Sir Knight,' answered the King, 'you have done your part; leave now your quest, and let me follow the beast for the same time that you have done.' ' Ah, fool!' replied the Knight, whose name was Pellinore, ' it would be all in vain, for none may slay that beast but I or my next of kin'; and without more words he sprang into the saddle. 1 You may take my horse by force,' said the King, ' but I should like to prove first which of us two is the better horseman.'
' Well,' answered the Knight, ' when you want me, come to this spring. Here you will always find me,' and, spurring his horse, he galloped away. The King watched