James Knowles.

The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights online

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all the issues of thy choice."

So when he had looked around, he chose the wife of Earl Segwarides, and
took her by the hand, and set her upon horseback behind his squire, and
rode forth on his way.

Presently thereafter came in the earl, and rode out straightway after him
in rage. But all the ladies cried out shame upon Sir Tristram that he had
not gone, and one rebuked him foully and called him coward knight, that he
would stand and see a lady forced away from his uncle's court. But Sir
Tristram answered her, "Fair lady, it is not my place to take part in this
quarrel while her lord and husband is here to do it. Had he not been at
this court, peradventure I had been her champion. And if it so befall that
he speed ill, then may it happen that I speak with that foul knight before
he pass out of this realm."

Anon ran in one of Sir Segwarides' squires, and told that his master was
sore wounded, and at the point of death. When Sir Tristram heard that, he
was soon armed and on his horse, and Governale, his servant, followed him
with shield and spear.

And as he rode, he met his cousin Sir Andret, who had been commanded by
King Mark to bring home to him two knights of King Arthur's court who
roamed the country thereabouts seeking adventures.

"What tidings?" said Sir Tristram.

"God help me, never worse," replied his cousin; "for those I went to bring
have beaten and defeated me, and set my message at naught."

"Fair cousin," said Sir Tristram, "ride ye on your way, perchance if I
should meet them ye may be revenged."

So Sir Andret rode into Cornwall, but Sir Tristram rode after the two
knights who had misused him, namely, Sir Sagramour le Desirous, and Sir
Dodinas le Savage. And before long he saw them but a little way before
him.

"Sir," said Governale, "by my advice thou wilt leave them alone, for they
be two well-proved knights of Arthur's court."

"Shall I not therefore rather meet them?" said Sir Tristram, and, riding
swiftly after them, he called to them to stop, and asked them whence they
came, and whither they were going, and what they were doing in those
marches.

Sir Sagramour looked haughtily at Sir Tristram, and made mocking of his
words, and said, "Fair knight, be ye a knight of Cornwall?"

"Wherefore askest thou that?" said Tristram.

"Truly, because it is full seldom seen," replied Sir Sagramour, "that
Cornish knights are valiant with their arms as with their tongues. It is
but two hours since there met us such a Cornish knight, who spoke great
words with might and prowess, but anon, with little mastery, he was laid
on earth, as I trow wilt thou be also."

"Fair lords," said Sir Tristram, "it may chance I be a better man than he;
but, be that as it may, he was my cousin, and for his sake I will assail
ye both; one Cornish knight against ye two."

When Sir Dodinas le Savage heard this speech, he caught at his spear and
said, "Sir knight, keep well thyself;" and then they parted and came
together as it had been thunder, and Sir Dodinas' spear split asunder; but
Sir Tristram smote him with so full a stroke as hurled him over his
horse's crupper, and nearly brake his neck. Sir Sagramour, seeing his
fellow's fall, marvelled who this new knight might be, and dressed his
spear, and came against Sir Tristram as a whirlwind; but Sir Tristram
smote him a mighty buffet, and rolled him with his horse down on the
ground; and in the falling he brake his thigh.

Then, looking at them both as they lay grovelling on the grass, Sir
Tristram said, "Fair knights, will ye joust any more? Are there no bigger
knights in King Arthur's court? Will ye soon again speak shame of Cornish
knights?"

"Thou hast defeated us, in truth," replied Sir Sagramour, "and on the
faith of knighthood I require thee tell us thy right name?"

"Ye charge me by a great thing," said Sir Tristram, "and I will answer
ye."

And when they heard his name the two knights were right glad that they had
met Sir Tristram, for his deeds were known through all the land, and they
prayed him to abide in their company.

"Nay," said he, "I must find a fellow-knight of yours, Sir Bleoberis de
Ganis, whom I seek."

"God speed you well," said the two knights; and Sir Tristram rode away.

Soon he saw before him in a valley Sir Bleoberis with Sir Segwarides' wife
riding behind his squire upon a palfrey. At that he cried out aloud,
"Abide, Sir knight of King Arthur's court, bring back again that lady or
deliver her to me."

"I will not," said Bleoberis, "for I dread no Cornish knight."

"Why," said Sir Tristram, "may not a Cornish knight do well as any other?
This day, but three miles back, two knights of thy own court met me, and
found one Cornish knight enough for both before we parted."

"What were their names?" said Sir Bleoberis.

"Sir Sagramour le Desirous and Sir Dodinas le Savage," said Sir Tristram.

"Ah," said Sir Bleoberis, amazed; "hast thou then met with them? By my
faith, they were two good knights and men of worship, and if thou hast
beat both thou must needs be a good knight; but for all that thou shalt
beat me also ere thou hast this lady."

"Defend thee, then," cried out Sir Tristram, and came upon him swiftly
with his spear in rest. But Sir Bleoberis was as swift as he, and each
bore down the other, horse and all, on to the earth.

Then they sprang clear of their horses, and lashed together full eagerly
and mightily with their swords, tracing and traversing on the right hand
and on the left more than two hours, and sometimes rushing together with
such fury that they both lay grovelling on the ground. At last Sir
Bleoberis started back and said, "Now, gentle knight, hold hard awhile,
and let us speak together."

"Say on," said Sir Tristram, "and I will answer thee."

"Sir," said Sir Bleoberis, "I would know thy name, and court, and
country."

"I have no shame to tell them," said Sir Tristram. "I am King Meliodas'
son, and my mother was sister to King Mark, from whose court I now come.
My name is Sir Tristram de Lyonesse." "Truly," said Sir Bleoberis, "I am
right glad to hear it, for thou art he that slew Sir Marhaus hand-to-hand,
fighting for the Cornish tribute; and overcame Sir Palomedes at the great
Irish tournament, where also thou didst overthrow Sir Gawain and his nine
companions."

"I am that knight," said Sir Tristram, "and now I pray thee tell me thy
name."

"I am Sir Bleoberis de Ganis, cousin of Sir Lancelot of the Lake, one of
the best knights in all the world," he answered.

"Thou sayest truth," said Sir Tristram; "for Sir Lancelot, as all men
know, is peerless in courtesy and knighthood, and for the great love I
bear to his name I will not willingly fight more with thee his kinsman."

"In good faith, sir," said Sir Bleoberis, "I am as loth to fight thee
more; but since thou hast followed me to win this lady, I proffer thee
kindness, courtesy, and gentleness; this lady shall be free to go with
which of us she pleaseth best."

"I am content," said Sir Tristram, "for I doubt not she will come to me."

"That shalt thou shortly prove," said he, and called his squire, and set
the lady in the midst between them, who forthwith walked to Sir Bleoberis
and elected to abide with him. Which, when Sir Tristram saw, he was in
wondrous anger with her, and felt that he could scarce for shame return to
King Mark's court. But Sir Bleoberis said, "Hearken to me, good knight,
Sir Tristram, because King Mark gave me free choice of any gift, and
because this lady chose to go with me, I took her; but now I have
fulfilled my quest and my adventure, and for thy sake she shall be sent
back to her husband at the abbey where he lieth."

So Sir Tristram rode back to Tintagil, and Sir Bleoberis to the abbey
where Sir Segwarides lay wounded, and there delivered up his lady, and
departed as a noble knight.

After this adventure Sir Tristram abode still at his uncle's court, till
in the envy of his heart King Mark devised a plan to be rid of him. So on
a certain day he desired him to depart again for Ireland, and there demand
La Belle Isault on his behalf, to be his queen - for ever had Sir Tristram
praised her beauty and her goodness, till King Mark desired to wed her for
himself. Moreover, he believed his nephew surely would be slain by the
queen's kindred if he once were found again in Ireland.

But Sir Tristram, scorning fear, made ready to depart, and took with him
the noblest knights that could be found, arrayed in the richest fashion.

And when they were come to Ireland, upon a certain day Sir Tristram gave
his uncle's message, and King Anguish consented thereto.

But when La Belle Isault was told the tidings she was very sorrowful and
loth - yet made she ready to set forth with Sir Tristram, and took with her
Dame Bragwaine, her chief gentlewoman. Then the queen gave Dame Bragwaine,
and Governale, Sir Tristram's servant, a little flask, and charged them
that La Belle Isault and King Mark should both drink of it on their
marriage day, and then should they surely love each other all their lives.

Anon, Sir Tristram and Isault, with a great company, took the sea and
departed. And so it chanced that one day sitting in their cabin they were
athirst, and saw a little flask of gold which seemed to hold good wine. So
Sir Tristram took it up, and said, "Fair lady, this looketh to be the best
of wines, and your maid, Dame Bragwaine, and my servant, Governale, have
kept it for themselves." Thereat they both laughed merrily, and drank each
after other from the flask, and never before had they tasted any wine
which seemed so good and sweet. But by the time they had finished drinking
they loved each other so well that their love nevermore might leave them
for weal or woe. And thus it came to pass that though Sir Tristram might
never wed La Belle Isault, he did the mightiest deeds of arms for her sake
only all his life.

[Illustration: By the time they had finished drinking they loved each
other so well that their love never more might leave them.]

Then they sailed onwards till they came to a castle called Pluere, where
they would have rested. But anon there ran forth a great company and took
them prisoners. And when they were in prison, Sir Tristram asked a knight
and lady whom they found therein wherefore they were so shamefully dealt
with; "for," said he, "it was never the custom of any place of honour that
I ever came unto to seize a knight and lady asking shelter and thrust them
into prison, and a full evil and discourteous custom is it."

"Sir," said the knight, "know ye not that this is called the Castle
Pluere, or the weeping castle, and that it is an ancient custom here that
whatsoever knight abideth in it must needs fight the lord of it, Sir
Brewnor, and he that is the weakest shall lose his head. And if the lady
he hath with him be less fair than the lord's wife, she shall lose her
head; but if she be fairer, then must the lady of the castle lose her
head."

"Now Heaven help me," said Sir Tristram, "but this is a foul and shameful
custom. Yet have I one advantage, for my lady is the fairest that doth
live in all the world, so that I nothing fear for her; and as for me, I
will full gladly fight for my own head in a fair field."

Then said the knight, "Look ye be up betimes to-morrow, and make you ready
and your lady."

And on the morrow came Sir Brewnor to Sir Tristram, and put him and Isault
forth out of prison, and brought him a horse and armour, and bade him make
ready, for all the commons and estates of that lordship waited in the
field to see and judge the battle.

Then Sir Brewnor, holding his lady by the hand, all muffled, came forth,
and Sir Tristram went to meet him with La Belle Isault beside him, muffled
also. Then said Sir Brewnor, "Sir knight, if thy lady be fairer than mine,
with thy sword smite off my lady's head; but if my lady be fairer than
thine, with my sword I will smite off thy lady's head. And if I overcome
thee thy lady shall be mine, and thou shalt lose thy head."

"Sir knight," replied Sir Tristram, "this is a right foul and felon
custom, and rather than my lady shall lose her head will I lose my own."

"Nay," said Sir Brewnor, "but the ladies shall be now compared together
and judgment shall be had."

"I consent not," cried Sir Tristram, "for who is here that will give
rightful judgment? Yet doubt not that my lady is far fairer than thine
own, and that will I prove and make good." Therewith Sir Tristram lifted
up the veil from off La Belle Isault, and stood beside her with his naked
sword drawn in his hand.

Then Sir Brewnor unmuffled his lady and did in like manner. But when he
saw La Belle Isault he knew that none could be so fair, and all there
present gave their judgment so. Then said Sir Tristram, "Because thou and
thy lady have long used this evil custom, and have slain many good knights
and ladies, it were a just thing to destroy thee both."

"In good sooth," said Sir Brewnor, "thy lady is fairer than mine, and of
all women I never saw any so fair. Therefore, slay my lady if thou wilt,
and I doubt not but I shall slay thee and have thine."

"Thou shalt win her," said Sir Tristram, "as dearly as ever knight won
lady; and because of thy own judgment and of the evil custom that thy lady
hath consented to, I will slay her as thou sayest."

And therewithal Sir Tristram went to him and took his lady from him, and
smote off her head at a stroke.

"Now take thy horse," cried out Sir Brewnor, "for since I have lost my
lady I will win thine and have thy life."

So they took their horses and came together as fast as they could fly, and
Sir Tristram lightly smote Sir Brewnor from his horse. But he rose right
quickly, and when Sir Tristram came again he thrust his horse through both
the shoulders, so that it reeled and fell. But Sir Tristram was light and
nimble, and voided his horse, and rose up and dressed his shield before
him, though meanwhile, ere he could draw out his sword, Sir Brewnor gave
him three or four grievous strokes. Then they rushed furiously together
like two wild boars, and fought hurtling and hewing here and there for
nigh two hours, and wounded each other full sorely. Then at the last Sir
Brewnor rushed upon Sir Tristram and took him in his arms to throw him,
for he trusted greatly in his strength. But Sir Tristram was at that time
called the strongest and biggest knight of the world; for he was bigger
than Sir Lancelot, though Sir Lancelot was better breathed. So anon he
thrust Sir Brewnor grovelling to the earth, and then unlaced his helm and
struck off his head. Then all they that belonged to the castle came and
did him homage and fealty, and prayed him to abide there for a season and
put an end to that foul custom.

But within a while he departed and came to Cornwall, and there King Mark
was forthwith wedded to La Belle Isault with great joy and splendour.

And Sir Tristram had high honour, and ever lodged at the king's court. But
for all he had done him such services King Mark hated him, and on a
certain day he set two knights to fall upon him as he rode in the forest.
But Sir Tristram lightly smote one's head off, and sorely wounded the
other, and made him bear his fellow's body to the king. At that the king
dissembled and hid from Sir Tristram that the knights were sent by him;
yet more than ever he hated him in secret, and sought to slay him.

So on a certain day, by the assent of Sir Andret, a false knight, and
forty other knights, Sir Tristram was taken prisoner in his sleep and
carried to a chapel on the rocks above the sea to be cast down. But as
they were about to cast him in, suddenly he brake his bonds asunder, and
rushing at Sir Andret, took his sword and smote him down therewith. Then,
leaping down the rocks where none could follow, he escaped them. But one
shot after him and wounded him full sorely with a poisoned arrow in the
arm.

Anon, his servant Governale, with Sir Lambegus sought him and found him
safe among the rocks, and told him that King Mark had banished him and all
his followers to avenge Sir Andret's death. So they took ship and came to
Brittany.

Now Sir Tristram, suffering great anguish from his wound, was told to seek
Isoude, the daughter of the King of Brittany, for she alone could cure
such wounds. Wherefore he went to King Howell's court, and said, "Lord, I
am come into this country to have help from thy daughter, for men tell me
none but she may help me." And Isoude gladly offering to do her best,
within a month he was made whole.

While he abode still at that court, an earl named Grip made war upon King
Howell, and besieged him; and Sir Kay Hedius, the king's son, went forth
against him, but was beaten in battle and sore wounded. Then the king
praying Sir Tristram for his help, he took with him such knights as he
could find, and on the morrow, in another battle, did such deeds of arms
that all the land spake of him. For there he slew the earl with his own
hands, and more than a hundred knights besides.

When he came back King Howell met him, and saluted him with every honour
and rejoicing that could be thought of, and took him in his arms, and
said, "Sir Tristram, all my kingdom will I resign to thee."

"Nay," answered he, "God forbid, for truly am I beholden to you for ever
for your daughter's sake."

Then the king prayed him to take Isoude in marriage, with a great dower of
lands and castles. To this Sir Tristram presently consenting anon they
were wedded at the court.

But within a while Sir Tristram greatly longed to see Cornwall, and Sir
Kay Hedius desired to go with him. So they took ship; but as soon as they
were at sea the wind blew them upon the coast of North Wales, nigh to
Castle Perilous, hard by a forest wherein were many strange adventures
ofttimes to be met. Then said Sir Tristram to Sir Kay Hedius, "Let us
prove some of them ere we depart." So they took their horses and rode
forth.

When they had ridden a mile or more, Sir Tristram spied a goodly knight
before him well armed, who sat by a clear fountain with a strong horse
near him, tied to an oak-tree. "Fair sir," said he, when they came near,
"ye seem to be a knight errant by your arms and harness, therefore make
ready now to joust with one of us, or both."

Thereat the knight spake not, but took his shield and buckled it round his
neck, and leaping on his horse caught a spear from his squire's hand.

Then said Sir Kay Hedius to Sir Tristram, "Let me assay him."

"Do thy best," said he.

So the two knights met, and Sir Kay Hedius fell sorely wounded in the
breast.

"Thou hast well jousted," cried Sir Tristram to the knight; "now make
ready for me!"

"I am ready," answered he, and encountered him, and smote him so heavily
that he fell down from his horse. Whereat, being ashamed, he put his
shield before him, and drew his sword, crying to the strange knight to do
likewise. Then they fought on foot for well nigh two hours, till they were
both weary.

At last Sir Tristram said, "In all my life I never met a knight so strong
and well-breathed as ye be. It were a pity we should further hurt each
other. Hold thy hand, fair knight, and tell me thy name."

"That will I," answered he, "if thou wilt tell me thine."

"My name," said he, "is Sir Tristram of Lyonesse."

"And mine, Sir Lamoracke of Gaul."

Then both cried out together, "Well met;" and Sir Lamoracke said, "Sir,
for your great renown, I will that ye have all the worship of this battle,
and therefore will I yield me unto you." And therewith he took his sword
by the point to yield him.

"Nay," said Sir Tristram, "ye shall not do so, for well I know ye do it of
courtesy, and not of dread." And therewith he offered his sword to Sir
Lamoracke, saying, "Sir, as an overcome knight, I yield me unto you as
unto the man of noblest powers I have ever met with."

"Hold," said Sir Lamoracke, "let us now swear together nevermore to fight
against each other."

Then did they swear as he said.

Then Sir Tristram returned to Sir Kay Hedius, and when he was whole of his
wounds, they departed together in a ship, and landed on the coast of
Cornwall. And when they came ashore, Sir Tristram eagerly sought news of
La Belle Isault. And one told him in mistake that she was dead. Whereat,
for sore and grievous sorrow, he fell down in a swoon, and so lay for
three days and nights.

When he awoke therefrom he was crazed, and ran into the forest and abode
there like a wild man many days; whereby he waxed lean and weak of body,
and would have died, but that a hermit laid some meat beside him as he
slept. Now in that forest was a giant named Tauleas, who, for fear of
Tristram, had hid himself within a castle, but when they told him he was
mad, came forth and went at large again. And on a certain day he saw a
knight of Cornwall, named Sir Dinaunt, pass by with a lady, and when he
had alighted by a well to rest, the giant leaped out from his ambush, and
took him by the throat to slay him. But Sir Tristram, as he wandered
through the forest, came upon them as they struggled; and when the knight
cried out for help, he rushed upon the giant, and taking up Sir Dinaunt's
sword, struck off therewith the giant's head, and straightway disappeared
among the trees.

Anon, Sir Dinaunt took the head of Tauleas, and bare it with him to the
court of King Mark, whither he was bound, and told of his adventures.
"Where had ye this adventure?" said King Mark.

"At a fair fountain in thy forest," answered he.

"I would fain see that wild man," said the king.

So within a day or two he commanded his knights to a great hunting in the
forest. And when the king came to the well, he saw a wild man lying there
asleep, having a sword beside him; but he knew not that it was Sir
Tristram. Then he blew his horn, and summoned all his knights to take him
gently up and bear him to the court.

And when they came thereto they bathed and washed him, and brought him
somewhat to his right mind. Now La Belle Isault knew not that Sir Tristram
was in Cornwall; but when she heard that a wild man had been found in the
forest, she came to see him. And so sorely was he changed, she knew him
not. "Yet," said she to Dame Bragwaine, "in good faith I seem to have
beheld him ofttimes before."

As she thus spoke a little hound, which Sir Tristram had given her when
she first came to Cornwall, and which was ever with her, saw Sir Tristram
lying there, and leapt upon him, licking his hands and face, and whined
and barked for joy.

"Alas," cried out La Belle Isault, "it is my own true knight, Sir
Tristram."

And at her voice Sir Tristram's senses wholly came again, and wellnigh he
wept for joy to see his lady living.

But never would the hound depart from Tristram; and when King Mark and
other knights came up to see him, it sat upon his body and bayed at all
who came too near. Then one of the knights said, "Surely this is Sir
Tristram; I see it by the hound."

"Nay," said the king, "it cannot be," and asked Sir Tristram on his faith
who he was.

"My name," said he, "is Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, and now ye may do what
ye list with me."

Then the king said, "It repents me that ye are recovered," and sought to
make his barons slay him. But most of them would not assent thereto, and
counselled him instead to banish Tristram for ten years again from
Cornwall, for returning without orders from the king. So he was sworn to
depart forthwith.

And as he went towards the ship a knight of King Arthur, named Sir
Dinadan, who sought him, came and said, "Fair knight, ere that you pass
out of this country, I pray you joust with me!"

"With a good will," said he.

Then they ran together, and Sir Tristram lightly smote him from his horse.
Anon he prayed Sir Tristram's leave to bear him company, and when he had
consented they rode together to the ship.

Then was Sir Tristram full of bitterness of heart, and said to all the
knights who took him to the shore, "Greet well King Mark and all mine
enemies from me, and tell them I will come again when I may. Well am I now
rewarded for slaying Sir Marhaus, and delivering this kingdom from its
bondage, and for the perils wherewithal I brought La Belle Isault from
Ireland to the king, and rescued her at the Castle Pluere, and for the
slaying of the giant Tauleas, and all the other deeds that I have done for
Cornwall and King Mark." Thus angrily and passing bitterly he spake, and
went his way.

And after sailing awhile the ship stayed at a landing-place upon the coast
of Wales; and there Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan alighted, and on the
shore they met two knights, Sir Ector and Sir Bors. And Sir Ector


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Online LibraryJames KnowlesThe Legends of King Arthur and His Knights → online text (page 14 of 21)