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The woes of two lovers

Early on the third morning of the tournament the knights of Tristram’s party were up and armed, they now being all arrayed in red, as was also Isolde and her maidens. And rare was the show they made as they rode gayly to the priory, where they left Isolde and her maidens to occupy their proper seats. As the knights turned thence towards the field they heard three loud bugle-blasts, and saw the throng of armed knights press eagerly forward, while already from the listed space came the thunder of hoofs and the cries of combatants.

Into the field they rode, Palamides in advance, and such havoc did he make in the opposing ranks that shouts of approval went up from all the seats. But Tristram now rode forward at the full speed of his great war-horse, hurled Kay the seneschal from his saddle, smote down three other knights with the same spear, and then, drawing his sword, laid about him like a roused giant.

Quickly changed the cry from Palamides. “O Tristram! O Tristram!” shouted the throng of spectators, and the deeds of this new champion threw those of the former victor into the shade.

Gareth and Dinadan also nobly aided the two champions, rousing the admiration of Arthur and Lancelot by their gallantry, and the four knightly comrades soon cleared a wide space in the ranks before them.

“Come,” said Arthur, “we must to the rescue, or our side will be driven from the field before the day is an hour old. See how the others crowd in on Tristram’s steps, like wolves to the prey.”

Then he and Lancelot hastily armed and sought the field, where they quickly fought their way into the thickest press of the tumult. Tristram, not knowing them, rode upon them and thrust King Arthur from his horse, and when Lancelot rushed to his rescue he was surrounded with such an eager host that he was pulled from his saddle to the ground.

Seeing this, the kings of Ireland and Scotland, with their knights, rushed forward to take Lancelot and Arthur prisoners. But they counted without their host, for the dismounted knights laid about them like angry lions, driving back all who came near them. Of all that passed in that hot turmoil it were too much to say. Many a knight there did deeds of great prowess, and Arthur and Lancelot being mounted again, strewed the earth with fallen knights, Lancelot that day unhorsing thirty warriors. Yet the other side held so firmly together that, with all their ardent labor, Arthur and his party were overmatched.

At this juncture, Tristram turned to his companions and said,

“My good comrades, I begin to fancy that we are to-day on the wrong side. King Arthur’s party is overborne more by numbers than valor, for I must say I never saw so few men do so well. It would be a shame for us, who are Knights of the Round Table, to see our lord Arthur and our good comrade Lancelot dishonored. I am in the humor to change sides, and help our king and liege lord.”

“We are with you in that,” cried Gareth and Dinadan. “We have been fighting against the grain these three days.”

“Do as you will,” said Palamides. “I shall not change my hand in the midst of the fray.”

“As you will,” said Tristram. “You are your own master. Speed well in your way, and we will do our best in ours.”

Then he, Gareth, and Dinadan drew out of the press and rode round to Arthur’s side, where they lent such noble aid that the fortune of the field quickly changed, and the opposing party began to give ground. As for Palamides, King Arthur struck him so fierce a blow that he was hurled from his horse, while Tristram and Lancelot unhorsed all before them. Such havoc did they make, indeed, that the party of the opposing kings was soon in full flight from the field, bearing Palamides, who wept for rage and grief, with them.

Then rarely sounded the trumpets, and loudly shouted the spectators, while the names of Tristram and Lancelot were in every mouth, some voting one the prize, some the other. But neither of these good comrades would have it alone, so that in the end it was divided between them.

When evening drew near, and the knights had all withdrawn to their pavilions, Palamides rode up to that of Sir Tristram, in company with the kings of Wales and Scotland. Here he drew up his horse, praying his companions to wait a while while he spoke to the knight within. Then he cried loudly at the entrance,

“Where are you, Tristram of Lyonesse?”

“Is that you, Palamides?” answered the knight. “Will you not dismount and join us?”

“I seek better company, sir traitor,” cried Palamides, in tones that trembled with fury. “I hate you now as much as I once esteemed you, and bear this in mind, if it were daylight as it is night, I would slay you with my own hands. You shall die yet for this day’s deeds.”

“You blame me wrongly, Palamides,” said Tristram, mildly. “If you had done as I advised you would have won honor instead of disgrace. Why come you here seeking to lay your own fault on me? Since you give me such broad warning, I shall be well on my guard against you.”

“Well you may, sir dastard, for I love you not,” and, fiercely spurring his horse, the hot-blooded Saracen joined his kingly companions.

When the next day dawned the festive array which had long spread bustle and splendor round Lonazep broke up, and knights and ladies rode off in all directions through the land, to carry far and wide the story of the wondrous deeds of valor that had been performed at the great tournament. Tristram and his two comrades, with Hector de Maris and Bleoberis, escorted La Belle Isolde to Joyous Gard, where for seven days the guests were nobly entertained, with all the sports and mirthfulness that could be devised. King Arthur and his knights drew back to Camelot, and Palamides rode onward with the two kings, his heart torn with mingled sorrow and despair. Not alone was he in grief for his disgrace in the field, under the eyes of her he loved, but was full as sorrowful for the hot words he had spoken in his wrath to Tristram, who had been so kind and gentle to him that his heart was torn to think how falsely and treacherously he had requited him.

His kingly companions would have had him stay with them, but he could not be persuaded, so the king of Ireland presented him with a noble courser, and the king of Scotland with valuable gifts, and he rode his way, still plunged in a grief that was almost despair. Noon brought him to a forest fountain, beside which lay a wounded knight, who sighed so mournfully that the very leaves on the trees seemed to sigh in echo.

“Why mourn you so, fair knight?” asked Palamides, mildly. “Or if you care not to tell, at least let me lie beside you and join my moans to yours, for I dare say I have a hundredfold deeper cause for grief, and we may ease our hearts by mutual complaints.”

“What is your name, gentle sir?”

“Such as I am, for better or worse, men call me Palamides, son to King Astlabor.”

“Noble sir, it solaces me much to meet you. I am Epinegris, son to the king of Northumberland. Now repose you on this mossy bank and let us tell our woes, and so ease somewhat our sad hearts.”

Then Palamides dismounted and laid himself beside the wounded knight.

“This is my source of woe,” he said. “I love the fairest queen that ever drew breath, La Belle Isolde, Cornwall’s queen.”

“That is sheer folly,” said Epinegris, “for she loves none but Tristram de Lyonesse.”

“Know I it not? I have been in their company this month, daily reaping sorrow. And now I have lost the fellowship of Tristram and the love of Isolde forever, through my envy and jealousy, and never more shall a glad thought enter my sorrowful heart.”

“Did she ever show you signs of love?”

“Never. She hated me, I fear. And the last day we met she gave me such a rebuke that I will never recover from it: yet well I deserved it by my unknightly acts. Many great deeds have I done for her love, yet never shall I win a smile from her eyes.”

“Deep is your grief, indeed,” said Epinegris, with a heart-breaking sigh, “yet it is but a jest to my sorrow. For my lady loved me, and I won her with my hands. But, alas! this day I have lost her and am left here to moan. I took her from an earl and two knights that were with her; but as we sat here this day, telling each other of our loves, there came an errant knight, named Helior de Preuse, and challenged me to fight for my lady. You see what followed. He wounded me so that he left me for dead and took my lady with him. So my sorrow is deepest, for I have rejoiced in my love, and you never have. To have and lose is far worse than never to own.”

“That is true,” said Palamides. “But yet I have the deepest cause for grief, for your love is not hopeless, like mine. And I shall prove this, for if I can find this Helior he shall be made to yield you your lady, unless he prove able to deal with me as he has with you.”

Then he helped Epinegris on his horse and led him to a hermitage near by, where he left him under the care of the holy hermit. Here Palamides stayed not long, but walked out under the shadow of the green leaves, to be a while alone with his woes. But not far had he gone before he saw near him a knight, who bore a shield that he had seen Hector de Maris wear. With him were ten other knights, who sheltered themselves from the noontide heat under the green leaves.

As they stood there another knight came by whose shield was green, with a white lion in its midst, and who led a lady on a palfrey. As he came up, the knight who bore Sir Hector’s shield rode fiercely after him, and bade him turn and defend his lady.

“That I must, in knightly duty,” cried the other.

Then the two knights rode together with such might that horses and men together were hurled to the earth. Drawing their swords, they now fought sturdily for the space of an hour. In the end the knight of the white lion was stricken to the earth and forced to beg for his life.

Palamides stood under the leaves, watching this combat till it came to its end. Then he went to the lady, whom he believed to be her whom he had promised to rescue. Taking her gently by the hand, he asked her if she knew a knight named Epinegris.

“Alas! that ever I did,” she sadly replied. “For his sake I have lost my liberty, and for mine he has lost his life.”

“Not so badly as that,” said Palamides. “He is at yonder hermitage. I will take you to him.”

“Then he lives!” she cried in joy. “You fill my heart with gladness.”

But not many steps had Palamides led her before the victorious knight cried out in tones of fierce anger,

“Loose the lady, sirrah! Whither take you her?”

“Whither I will?” answered Palamides.

“You speak largely, sir knave,” cried the knight. “Do you fancy you can rob me of my prize so lightly? Think it not, sirrah; were you as good a knight as Lancelot or Tristram or Palamides, you should not have that lady without winning her at a dearer rate than I did.”

“If fight it is, I am ready for you,” answered Palamides. “I promised to bring this lady to her lover from whom yonder knight stole her, and it will need more swords than one to make me break my word.”

“We shall see if that be so,” said the other, attacking him so fiercely that Palamides had much ado to protect himself. They fought for so long a time that Palamides marvelled much who this knight could be that withstood him so sturdily after his late hard battle.

“Knight,” he said, at length, “you fight like a hero. I would know your name.”

“You shall have it for yours in return.”

“I agree to that.”

“Then, sir, my name is Safere. I am son of King Astlobar, and brother to Palamides and Segwarides.”

“Then heaven defend me for having fought you, for I am your brother Palamides.”

At these words Safere fell upon his knees and begged his brother’s pardon; and then they unlaced their helms and kissed each other with tears of joy.

As they stood thus, Epinegris advanced towards them, for he had heard the sounds of fighting, and, wounded as he was, he came to help Palamides if he should stand in need.

Palamides, seeing him approach, took the lady by the hand and led her to him, and they embraced so tenderly that all hearts there were touched.

“Fair knight and lady,” said Safere, “it would be a cruel pity to part you, and I pray heaven to send you joy of each other.”

“You have my sincere thanks,” said Epinegris. “And deeper thanks has Sir Palamides for what he has done for me this day. My castle is near by; will you not ride there with me as a safeguard?”

“That we gladly will,” they said, and when Epinegris had got his horse they rode with him and the lady to the castle, where they were nobly received and treated with the highest honor. They had such good cheer and such enjoyment as they had rarely before known. And never burned the flame of love more warmly than that between Epinegris and his rescued lady.