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Read Historical Tales Volume Xiii Part 45

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Dismounting and tying his horse to a tree, he washed his face and hands and took a deep and grateful draught of the cool water. Then laying himself to rest by the spring side, he fell sound asleep.

While he lay there good fortune brought to that forest spring a lady who had sought him far and wide. This was Dame Bragwaine, the lady companion of La Belle Isolde, who bore him letters from the queen. She failed to recognize the sleeping knight, but at first sight knew his n.o.ble charger, Brewel, which Tristram had ridden for years. So she seated herself gladly by the knight, and waited patiently till he awoke.

Then she saluted him, and he her, for he failed not to recognize his old acquaintance.

“What of my dear lady, La Belle Isolde?” he asked, eagerly.

“She is well, and has sent me to seek you. Far and wide have I sought for you through the land, and glad enough am I to hand you the letters I bear.”

“Not so glad as I am to receive them,” said Tristram, joyfully, taking them from her hand and opening them with eager haste, while his soul overflowed with joy as he read Isolde’s words of love and constancy, though with them was mingled many a piteous complaint.

“Come with me, Dame Bragwaine,” he said. “I am riding to the tournament to be held at the Castle of Maidens. There will I answer these letters, and to have you there, to tell the tale of my doings to my Lady Isolde, will give me double strength and valor.”

To this Dame Bragwaine willingly agreed, and mounting they rode till they came to the castle of a hospitable old knight, near where the tournament was to be held. Here they were given shelter and entertainment.

As they sat at supper with Sir Pellounes, their ancient host, he told them much of the great tournament that was at hand, among other things that Lancelot would be there, with thirty-two knights of his kindred, each of whom would bear a shield with the arms of Cornwall.

In the midst of their conversation a messenger entered, who told Pellounes that his son, Persides de Bloise, had come home, whereupon the old knight held up his hands and thanked G.o.d, telling Tristram that he had not seen his son for two years.

“I know him,” said Tristram, “and a good and worthy knight he is.”

On the next morning, when Tristram came into the castle hall clad in his house attire, he met with Persides, similarly unarmed, and they saluted each other courteously.

“My father tells me that you are of Cornwall,” said Persides. “I jousted there once before King Mark, and fortune helped me to overthrow ten knights. But Tristram de Lyonesse overthrew me and took my lady from me.

This I have not forgotten, and I will repay him for it yet.”

“You hate Sir Tristram, then? Do you think that will trouble him much, and that he is not able to withstand your malice?”

“He is a better knight than I, that I admit. But for all that I owe him no good will.”

As thus they stood talking at a bay window of the castle, they saw many knights ride by on their way to the tournament. Among these Tristram marked a strongly-built warrior mounted on a great black horse, and bearing a black shield.

“What knight is that?” he asked. “He looks like a strong and able one.”

“He is one of the best in the world,” said Persides. “I know him well.”

“Is it Sir Lancelot?”

“No, no. It is Palamides, an unchristened Saracen, but a n.o.ble man.”

“Palamides! I should know him too, but his arms deceived me.”

As they continued to look they saw many of the country people salute the black knight. Some time afterwards a squire came to Pellounes, the lord of the castle, and told him that a fierce combat had taken place in the road some distance in advance, and that a knight with a black shield had smitten down thirteen others. He was still there, ready for any who might wish to meet him, and holding a tournament of his own in the highway.

“On my faith, that is Palamides!” said Tristram. “The worthy fellow must be brimful of fight. Fair brother, let us cast on our cloaks and see the play.”

“Not I,” said Persides. “Let us not go like courtiers there, but like men ready to withstand their enemies.”

“As you will. To fight or to look on is all one to me.”

Then they armed and rode to the spot where so many knights had tried their fortune before the tournament. When Palamides saw them approach, he said to his squire,–

“Go to yonder knight with a green shield and in it a lion of gold. Tell him that I request a pa.s.sage-at-arms with him, and that my name is Palamides.”

Persides, who wore the shield thus described, did not hesitate to accept the challenge, and rode against Palamides, but quickly found himself felled to the earth by his powerful antagonist. Then Tristram made ready to avenge his comrade, but before he could put his spear in rest Palamides rode upon him like a thunderbolt, taking him at advantage, and hurling him over his horse’s tail.

At this Tristram sprang up in furious anger and sore shame, and leaped into his saddle.

Then he sent Gouvernail to Palamides, accusing him of treachery, and demanding a joust on equal terms.

“Not so,” answered Palamides. “I know that knight better than he fancies, and will not meet him now. But if he wants satisfaction he may have it to-morrow at the Castle of Maidens, where I will be ready to meet him in the lists.”

As Tristram stood fretting and fuming in wrathful spite, Dinadan, who had seen the affair, came up, and seeing the anger of the Cornish knight, restrained his inclination to jest.

“Here it is proved,” he said, “that a man can never be so strong but he may meet his equal. Never was man so wise but that his brain might fail him, and a pa.s.sing good rider is he that never had a fall.”

“Let be,” cried Tristram, angrily. “You are readier with your tongue than with your sword, friend Dinadan. I will revenge myself, and you shall see it.”

As they stood thus talking there came by them a likely knight, who rode soberly and heavily, bearing a black shield.

“What knight is that?” asked Tristram.

“It is Sir Briant of North Wales,” answered Persides. “I know him well.”

Just behind him came a knight who bore a shield with the arms of Cornwall, and as he rode up he sent a squire to Sir Briant, whom he required to joust with him.

“Let it be so, if he will have it so,” said Briant. “Bid him make ready.”

Then they rode together, and the Welsh knight got a severe fall.

“What Cornish knight is this?” asked Tristram.

“None, as I fancy,” said Dinadan. “I warrant he is of King Ban’s blood, which counts the n.o.blest knights of the world.”

Then two other knights came up and challenged him with the Cornish shield, and in a trice he smote them both down with one spear.

“By my faith,” said Tristram, “he is a good knight, whoever he be, and I never saw one yet that rode so well.”

Then the king of Northgalis rode to Palamides, and prayed him for his sake to joust with that knight who had just overturned two Welsh knights.

“I beg you ask me not,” said Palamides. “I have had my full share of jousting already, and wish to keep fresh for the tournament to-morrow.”

“One ride only, for the honor of North Wales,” beseeched the king.

“Well, if you will have it so; but I have seen many a man have a fall at his own request.”

Then he sent a squire to the victor knight, and challenged him to a joust.

“Fair fellow,” said the knight, “tell me your lord’s name.”


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Published inHistorical Tales