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heard your praises of her beauty, I may not rest unless I have her
for my Queen." And this he said thinking that, if ever Sir Tristram
set foot in Ireland, he would be slain.

But Tristram, nothing mistrusting, got together a company of
gallant knights, all fairly arrayed as became men sent by their
King on such an errand; and with them he embarked on a goodly ship.
Now it chanced that when he had reached the open sea, a great storm
arose and drove him back on to the coast of England, and landing
with great difficulty he set up his pavilion hard by the city of
Camelot.

Presently, word was brought him by his squire that King Anguish
with his company lay hard by, and that the King was in sore
straits; for he was charged with the murder of a knight of Arthur's
court, and must meet in combat Sir Blamor, one of the stoutest
knights of the Round Table. Then Sir Tristram rejoiced, for he saw
in this opportunity of serving King Anguish the means of earning
his good will. So he betook himself to the King's tent, and
proffered to take upon him the encounter, for the kindness shown
him by King Anguish in former days. And the King gratefully
accepting of his championship, the next day Sir Tristram
encountered with Sir Blamor, overthrew him, and so acquitted the
Irish King of the charge brought against him. Then in his joy, King
Anguish begged Sir Tristram to voyage with him to his own land,
bidding Tristram ask what boon he would and he should have it. So
rejoicing in his great fortune, Sir Tristram sailed once again for
the Irish land.




CHAPTER XV

HOW SIR TRISTRAM AND THE FAIR ISOLT DRANK OF THE MAGIC POTION


Then King Anguish made haste to return to Ireland, taking Sir
Tristram with him. And when he was come there and had told all his
adventures, there was great rejoicing over Sir Tristram, but of
none more than of the Fair Isolt. So when Sir Tristram had stayed
there some while, King Anguish reminded him of the boon he should
ask and of his own willingness to grant it. "Sir King," replied Sir
Tristram, "now will I ask it. Grant me your daughter, the Fair
Isolt, that I may take her to Cornwall, there to become the wife of
my uncle, King Mark." Then King Anguish grieved when he heard Sir
Tristram's request, and said: "Far more gladly would I give her to
you to wife." "That may not be," replied Sir Tristram; "my honour
forbids." "Take her then," said King Anguish, "she is yours to wed
or to give to your uncle, King Mark, as seems good to you."

So a ship was made ready and there entered it the Fair Isolt and
Sir Tristram, and Gouvernail, his squire, and Dame Bragwaine, who
was maid to the princess. But before they sailed, the Queen gave in
charge to Gouvernail and Dame Bragwaine a phial of wine which King
Mark and Isolt should drink together on their wedding-day; "For,"
said the Queen, "such is the magic virtue of this wine, that,
having drunk of it, they may never cease from loving one another."

Now it chanced, one day, that Sir Tristram sat and harped to the
Fair Isolt; and the weather being hot, he became thirsty. Then
looking round the cabin he beheld a golden flask, curiously shaped
and wrought; and laughing, he said to the Fair Isolt: "See, madam,
how my man and your maid care for themselves; for here is the best
wine that ever I tasted. I pray you, now, drink to me." So with
mirth and laughter, they pledged each other, and thought that never
before had they tasted aught so good. But when they had made an end
of drinking, there came upon them the might of the magic charm; and
never from that day, for good or for ill, might they cease from
their love. And so much woe was wrought; for, mindful of his pledge
to his uncle, Sir Tristram brought Isolt in all honour into the
land of Cornwall where she was wedded with pomp and ceremony to
King Mark, the craven King, who hated his nephew even more than
before, because he had returned in safety and made good his promise
as became an honourable knight. And from that day he never ceased
seeking the death of Sir Tristram.




CHAPTER XVI

OF THE END OF SIR TRISTRAM


Then again Sir Tristram abode at King Mark's court, ever rendering
the Fair Isolt loyal and knightly service; for King Mark would
imperil his life for none, no matter what the need.

Now among the Cornish knights, there was much jealousy of Sir
Tristram de Liones, and chief of his enemies was his own cousin,
Sir Andred. With lying words, Sir Andred sought to stir up King
Mark against his nephew, speaking evil of the Queen and of Sir
Tristram. Now Mark was afraid openly to accuse Sir Tristram, so he
set Sir Andred to spy upon him. At last, it befell one day that Sir
Andred saw Sir Tristram coming, alone and unarmed, from the Queen's
presence, and with twelve other knights, he fell upon him and bound
him. Then these felon knights bore Sir Tristram to a little chapel
standing upon a great rock which jutted out into the sea. There
they would have slain him, unarmed and bound. But Sir Tristram,
perceiving their intent, put forth suddenly all his strength, burst
his bonds, and wresting a sword from Sir Andred, cut him down; and
so he did with six other knights. Then while the rest, being but
cowards, gave back a little, he shut to and bolted the doors
against them, and sprang from the window on to the sea-washed rocks
below. There he lay as one dead, until his squire, Gouvernail,
coming in a little boat, took up his master, dressed his wounds,
and carried him to the coast of England.

So Sir Tristram was minded to remain in that country for a time.
Then, one day, as he rode through the forest near Camelot, there
came running to him a fair lady who cried: "Sir Tristram, I claim
your aid for the truest knight in all the world, and that is none
other than King Arthur." "With a good heart," said Sir Tristram;
"but where may I find him?" "Follow me," said the lady, who was
none other than the Lady of the Lake herself, and ever mindful of
the welfare of King Arthur. So he rode after her till he came to a
castle, and in front of it he saw two knights who beset at once
another knight, and when Sir Tristram came to the spot, the two had
borne King Arthur to the ground and were about to cut off his head.
Then Sir Tristram called to them to leave their traitor's work and
look to themselves; with the word, one he pierced through with his
spear and the other he cut down, and setting King Arthur again upon
his horse, he rode with him until they met with certain of Arthur's
knights. But when King Arthur would know his name, Tristram would
give none, but said only that he was a poor errant knight; and so
they parted.

But Arthur, when he was come back to Camelot, sent for Sir
Launcelot and other of his knights, bidding them seek for such an
one as was Sir Tristram and bring him to the court. So they
departed, each his own way, and searched for many days, but in
vain. Then it chanced, at last, as Sir Launcelot rode on his way,
he espied Sir Tristram resting beside a tomb; and, as was the
custom of knights errant, he called upon him to joust. So the two
ran together and each broke his spear. Then they sprang to the
ground and fought with their swords, and each thought that never
had he encountered so stout or so skilled a knight. So fiercely
they fought that, perforce, at last they must rest. Then said Sir
Launcelot: "Fair Knight, I pray you tell me your name, for never
have I met so good a knight." "In truth," said Sir Tristram, "I am
loth to tell my name." "I marvel at that," said Sir Launcelot; "for
mine I will tell you freely. I am Launcelot du Lac." Then was Sir
Tristram filled at once with joy and with sorrow; with joy that at
last he had encountered the noblest knight of the Round Table, with
sorrow that he had done him such hurt, and without more ado he
revealed his name. Now Sir Launcelot, who ever delighted in the
fame of another, had long desired to meet Sir Tristram de Liones,
and rejoicing to have found him, he knelt right courteously and
proffered him his sword, as if he would yield to him. But Tristram
would not have it so, declaring that, rather, he should yield to
Sir Launcelot. So they embraced right heartily, and when Sir
Launcelot questioned him, Sir Tristram acknowledged that it was he
who had come to King Arthur's aid. Together, then, they rode to
Camelot, and there Sir Tristram was received with great honour by
King Arthur, who made him Knight of the Round Table.

Presently, to Tristram at Camelot, there came word that King Mark
had driven the Fair Isolt from court, and compelled her to have her
dwelling in a hut set apart for lepers. Then Sir Tristram was wroth
indeed, and mounting his horse, rode forth that same hour, and
rested not till he had found the lepers' hut, whence he bore the
Queen to the castle known as the Joyous Garde; and there he held
her, in safety and honour, in spite of all that King Mark could do.
And all men honoured Sir Tristram, and felt sorrow for the Fair
Isolt; while as for King Mark, they scorned him even more than
before.

But to Sir Tristram, it was grief to be at enmity with his uncle
who had made him knight, and at last he craved King Arthur's aid to
reconcile him to Mark. So then the King, who loved Sir Tristram,
sent messengers to Cornwall to Mark, bidding him come forthwith to
Camelot; and when the Cornish King was arrived, Arthur required him
to set aside his enmity to Tristram, who had in all things been his
loyal nephew and knight. And King Mark, his head full of hate, but
fearful of offending his lord, King Arthur, made fair proffers of
friendship, begging Sir Tristram to return to Cornwall with him,
and promising to hold him in love and honour. So they were
reconciled, and when King Mark returned to Cornwall, thither Sir
Tristram escorted the Fair Isolt, and himself abode there,
believing his uncle to mean truly and honourably by him.

But under a seeming fair exterior, King Mark hated Sir Tristram
more than ever, and waited only to have him at an advantage. At
length he contrived the opportunity he sought. For he hid him in
the Queen's chamber at a time when he knew Sir Tristram would come
there unarmed, to harp to the Fair Isolt the music that she loved.
So as Sir Tristram, all unsuspecting, bent over his harp, Mark
leaped from his lurking place and dealt him such a blow from behind
that, on the instant, he fell dead at the feet of the Fair Isolt.
So perished the good knight, Sir Tristram de Liones Nor did the
Fair Isolt long survive him, for refusing all comfort, she pined
away, and died within a few days, and was laid in a tomb beside
that of her true knight. But the felon King paid the price of his
treachery with his life; for Sir Launcelot himself avenged the
death of his friend and the wrongs of the Fair Isolt.




BOOK IV

KING ARTHUR'S NEPHEWS




CHAPTER XVII

SIR GAWAIN AND THE LADY


Among the knights at King Arthur's court were his nephews, the sons
of his sister, Queen Bellicent, and of that King Lot of Orkney, who
had joined the league against Arthur in the first years of his
reign.

Of each, many tales are told; of Sir Gawain and Sir Gareth to
their great renown, but of Sir Mordred to his shame. For Sir Gawain
and Sir Gareth were knights of great prowess; but Sir Mordred was a
coward and a traitor, envious of other men's fame, and a
tale-bearer.

Now Sir Gawain was known as the Ladies' Knight, and this is how he
came by the name. It was at Arthur's marriage-feast, when Gawain
had just been made knight, that a strange thing befell. There
entered the hall a white hart, chased by a hound, and when it had
run round the hall, it fled through the doorway again, still
followed by the hound. Then, by Merlin's advice, the quest of the
hart was given to Gawain as a new-made knight, to follow it and see
what adventures it would bring him. So Sir Gawain rode away, taking
with him three couples of greyhounds for the pursuit. At the last,
the hounds caught the hart, and killed it just as it reached the
court-yard of a castle. Then there came forth from the castle a
knight, and he was grieved and wroth to see the hart slain, for it
was given him by his lady; so, in his anger, he killed two of the
hounds. At that moment Sir Gawain entered the court-yard, and an
angry man was he when he saw his greyhounds slain. "Sir Knight,"
said he, "ye would have done better to have taken your vengeance on
me rather than on dumb animals which but acted after their kind."
"I will be avenged on you also," cried the knight; and the two
rushed together, cutting and thrusting that it was wonderful they
might so long endure. But at the last the knight grew faint, and
crying for mercy, offered to yield to Sir Gawain. "Ye had no mercy
on my hounds," said Sir Gawain. "I will make you all the amends in
my power," answered the knight. But Sir Gawain would not be turned
from his purpose, and unlacing the vanquished knight's helmet, was
about to cut off his head, when a lady rushed out from the castle
and flung herself on the body of the fallen knight. So it chanced
that Sir Gawain's sword descending smote off the lady's head. Then
was Sir Gawain grieved and sore ashamed for what he had done, and
said to the knight: "I repent for what I have done; and here I give
you your life. Go only to Camelot, to King Arthur's court, and tell
him ye are sent by the knight who follows the quest of the white
hart." "Ye have slain my lady," said the other, "and now I care not
what befalls me." So he arose and went to King Arthur's court.

Then Sir Gawain prepared to rest him there for the night; but
scarcely had he lain down when there fell upon him four knights,
crying: "New-made knight, ye have shamed your knighthood, for a
knight without mercy is without honour." Then was Sir Gawain borne
to the earth, and would have been slain, but that there came forth
from the castle four ladies who besought the knights to spare his
life; so they consented and bound him prisoner.

The next morning Sir Gawain was brought again before the knights
and their dames; and because he was King Arthur's nephew, the
ladies desired that he should be set free, only they required that
he should ride again to Camelot, the murdered lady's head hanging
from his neck, and her dead body across his saddle-bow; and that
when he arrived at the court he should confess his misdeeds.

So Sir Gawain rode sadly back to Camelot, and when he had told his
tale, King Arthur was sore displeased. And Queen Guenevere held a
court of her ladies to pass sentence on Sir Gawain for his
ungentleness. These then decreed that, his life long, he must never
refuse to fight for any lady who desired his services, and that
ever he should be gentle and courteous and show mercy to all. From
that time forth, Sir Gawain never failed in aught that dame or
damsel asked of him, and so he won and kept the title of the
Ladies' Knight.




CHAPTER XVIII

THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GARETH


Gareth was the youngest of the sons of Lot and Bellicent, and had
grown up long after Gawain and Mordred left their home for King
Arthur's court; so that when he came before the King, all humbly
attired, he was known not even by his own brothers.

King Arthur was keeping Pentecost at Kink Kenadon on the Welsh
border and, as his custom was, waited to begin the feast until some
adventure should befall. Presently there was seen approaching a
youth, who, to the wonderment of all that saw, leaned upon the
shoulders of two men, his companions; and yet as he passed up the
hall, he seemed a goodly youth, tall and broad-shouldered. When he
stood before the King, suddenly he drew himself up, and after due
greeting, said: "Sir King, I would ask of you three boons; one to
be granted now and two hereafter when I shall require them." And
Arthur, looking upon him, was pleased, for his countenance was open
and honest. So he made answer; "Fair son, ask of me aught that is
honourable and I will grant it." Then the youth said: "For this
present, I ask only that ye will give me meat and drink for a year
and a day." "Ye might have asked and had a better gift," replied
the King; "tell me now your name." "At this time, I may not tell
it," said the youth. Now King Arthur trusted every man until he
proved himself unworthy, and in this youth he thought he saw one
who should do nobly and win renown; so laughing, he bade him keep
his own counsel since so he would, and gave him in charge to Sir
Kay, the Seneschal.

Now Sir Kay was but harsh to those whom he liked not, and from the
first he scorned the young man; "For none," said he, "but a
low-born lout would crave meat and drink when he might have asked
for a horse and arms." But Sir Launcelot and Sir Gawain took the
youth's part. Neither knew him for Gareth of the Orkneys, but both
believed him to be a youth of good promise who, for his own
reasons, would pass in disguise for a season.

So Gareth lived the year among the kitchen-boys, all the time
mocked and scorned by Sir Kay, who called him Fairhands because his
hands were white and shapely. But Launcelot and Gawain showed him
all courtesy, and failed not to observe how, in all trials of
strength, he excelled his comrades, and that he was ever present to
witness the feats of the knights in the tournaments.

So the year passed, and again King Arthur was keeping the feast of
Pentecost with his knights, when a damsel entered the hall and
asked his aid: "For," said she, "my sister is closely besieged in
her castle by a strong knight who lays waste all her lands. And
since I know that the knights of your court be the most renowned in
the world, I have come to crave help of your mightiest." "What is
your sister's name, and who is he that oppresses her?" asked the
King. "The Red Knight, he is called," replied the damsel. "As for
my sister I will not say her name, only that she is a high-born
lady and owns broad lands." Then the King frowned and said: "Ye
would have aid but will say no name. I may not ask knight of mine
to go on such an errand."

Then forth stepped Gareth from among the serving men at the hall
end and said: "Sir King, I have eaten of your meat in your kitchen
this twelvemonth since, and now I crave my other two boons." "Ask
and have," replied the King. "Grant me then the adventure of this
damsel, and bid Sir Launcelot ride after me to knight me at my
desire, for of him alone would I be made knight." "It shall be so,"
answered the King. "What!" cried the damsel, "I ask for a knight
and ye give me a kitchen-boy. Shame on you, Sir King." And in
great wrath she fled from the hall, mounted her palfrey and rode
away. Gareth but waited to array himself in the armour which he had
kept ever in readiness for the time when he should need it, and
mounting his horse, rode after the damsel.

But when Sir Kay knew what had happened, he was wroth, and got to
horse to ride after Gareth and bring him back. Even as Gareth
overtook the damsel, so did Kay come up with him and cried: "Turn
back, Fairhands! What, sir, do ye not know me?" "Yes," answered
Gareth, "I know you for the most discourteous knight in Arthur's
court." Then Sir Kay rode upon him with his lance, but Gareth
turned it aside with his sword and pierced Sir Kay through the side
so that he fell to the ground and lay there without motion. So
Gareth took Sir Kay's shield and spear and was about to ride away,
when seeing Sir Launcelot draw near, he called upon him to joust.
At the first encounter, Sir Launcelot unhorsed Gareth, but quickly
helped him to his feet. Then, at Gareth's desire, they fought
together with swords, and Gareth did knightly till, at length, Sir
Launcelot said, laughing: "Why should we fight any longer? Of a
truth ye are a stout knight." "If that is indeed your thought, I
pray you make me knight," cried Gareth. So Sir Launcelot knighted
Gareth, who, bidding him farewell, hastened after the damsel, for
she had ridden on again while the two knights talked. When she saw
him coming, she cried: "Keep off! ye smell of the kitchen!"
"Damsel," said Sir Gareth, "I must follow until I have fulfilled
the adventure." "Till ye accomplish the adventure, Turn-spit? Your
part in it shall soon be ended." "I can only do my best," answered
Sir Gareth.

Now as they rode through the forest, they met with a knight sore
beset by six thieves, and him Sir Gareth rescued. The knight then
bade Gareth and the damsel rest at his castle, and entertained them
right gladly until the morn, when the two rode forth again.
Presently, they drew near to a deep river where two knights kept
the ford. "How now, kitchen-knave? Will ye fight or escape while ye
may?" cried the damsel. "I would fight though there were six
instead of two," replied Sir Gareth. Therewith he encountered the
one knight in mid-stream and struck him such a blow on the head
that he fell, stunned, into the water and was drowned. Then,
gaining the land, Gareth cleft in two both helmet and head of the
other knight, and turned to the damsel, saying: "Lead on; I
follow."

But the damsel mocked him, saying: "What a mischance is this that a
kitchen-boy should slay two noble knights! Be not over-proud,
Turn-spit. It was but luck, if indeed ye did not attack one knight
from behind." "Say what you will, I follow," said Sir Gareth.

So they rode on again, the damsel in front and Sir Gareth behind,
till they reached a wide meadow where stood many fair pavilions;
and one, the largest, was all of blue, and the men who stood about
it were clothed in blue, and bore shields and spears of that
colour; and of blue, too, were the trappings of the horses. Then
said the damsel: "Yonder is the Blue Knight, the goodliest that
ever ye have looked upon, and five hundred knights own him lord."
"I will encounter him," said Sir Gareth; "for if he be good knight
and true as ye say, he will scarce set on me with all his
following; and man to man, I fear him not." "Fie!" said the damsel,
"for a dirty knave, ye brag loud. And even if ye overcome him, his
might is as nothing to that of the Red Knight who besieges my lady
sister. So get ye gone while ye may." "Damsel," said Sir Gareth,
"ye are but ungentle so to rebuke me; for, knight or knave, I have
done you good service, nor will I leave this quest while life is
mine." Then the damsel was ashamed, and, looking curiously at
Gareth, she said: "I would gladly know what manner of man ye are.
For I heard you call yourself kitchen-knave before Arthur's self,
but ye have ever answered patiently though I have chidden you
shamefully; and courtesy comes only of gentle blood." Thereat Sir
Gareth but laughed, and said: "He is no knight whom a maiden can
anger by harsh words."

So talking, they entered the field, and there came to Sir Gareth a
messenger from the Blue Knight to ask him if he came in peace or in
war. "As your lord pleases," said Sir Gareth. So when the messenger
had brought back this word, the Blue Knight mounted his horse, took
his spear in his hand, and rode upon Sir Gareth. At their first
encounter their lances shivered to pieces, and such was the shock
that their horses fell dead. So they rushed on each other with
sword and shield, cutting and slashing till the armour was hacked
from their bodies; but at last, Sir Gareth smote the Blue Knight
to the earth. Then the Blue Knight yielded, and at the damsel's
entreaty, Sir Gareth spared his life.

So they were reconciled, and at the request of the Blue Knight, Sir
Gareth and the damsel abode that night in his tents. As they sat at
table, the Blue Knight said: "Fair damsel, are ye not called
Linet?" "Yes," answered she, "and I am taking this noble knight to
the relief of my sister, the Lady Liones." "God speed you, Sir,"
said the Blue Knight, "for he is a stout knight whom ye must meet.
Long ago might he have taken the lady, but that he hoped that Sir
Launcelot or some other of Arthur's most famous knights, coming to
her rescue, might fall beneath his lance. If ye overthrow him, then
are ye the peer of Sir Launcelot and Sir Tristram." "Sir Knight,"
answered Gareth, "I can but strive to bear me worthily as one whom
the great Sir Launcelot made knight."

So in the morning they bade farewell to the Blue Knight, who vowed
to carry to King Arthur word of all that Gareth had achieved; and
they rode on, till, in the evening, they came to a little ruined
hermitage where there awaited them a dwarf, sent by the Lady
Liones, with all manner of meats and other store. In the morning,
the dwarf set out again to bear word to his lady that her rescuer
was come. As he drew near the castle, the Red Knight stopped him,
demanding whence he came. "Sir," said the dwarf, "I have been with


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