Howard Pyle's The Champions of the Round Table

Chapter Second

How Sir Tristram got him a sword from Sir Kay and how he slew therewith a huge knight in the forest and rescued a lady in very great distress. Also how Sir Launcelot found Sir Tristram in the forest and brought him thence to Tintagel again.

   Now it chanced one day that Sir Kay the Seneschal came riding through those parts of the forest where Sir Tristram abided with the swineherds, and with Sir Kay there came a considerable court of esquires. And with him besides there travelled Sir Dagonet, King Arthur's Fool.
   Now, you are to know that though Sir Dagonet was the King's jester, and though he was slack of wit, yet he was also a knight of no mean prowess. For he had performed several deeds of good repute and was well held in all courts of chivalry. So Sir Dagonet always went armed; though he bore upon his shield the device of a cockerel's head as a symbol of his calling.
   The time that Sir Kay and his court travelled as aforesaid was in the summer season and the day was very warm, so that Sir Kay was minded to take rest during the midday and until the coolness of the afternoon should come. So they all dismounted from their horses and sat them down under the shade of the trees where it was cool and pleasant and where the breezes reached them to breathe upon their faces.
   But whilst Sir Kay and his court thus rested themselves, Sir Dagonet must needs be gadding, for he was of a very restless, meddlesome disposition. So, being at that time clad only in half armor, he wandered hither and thither through the forest as his fancy led him. For somewhiles he would whistle and somewhiles he would gape, and otherwhiles he would cut a caper or two. So, as chance would have it, he came by and by to that open glade of the forest where the swineherds were gathered; and at that time they were eating their midday meal of black bread and cheese, and were drinking beer; some talking and laughing and others silent as they ate their food. Unto these Sir Dagonet appeared, coming out of the forest in very gay attire, and shining in the half armor he wore, so that he appeared like a bright bird of the woodland.
   Then Sir Dagonet, seeing where those rude boors were eating their meal of food, came to them and stood amongst them. And he said, "Who are ye fellows?" Whereunto they replied, "We are swineherds, Messire; who be ye?"
   Quoth Sir Dagonet: "I am King Arthur's Fool. And whilst there are haply many in the world with no more wits than I possess, yet there are few so honest as I to confess that they are fools."
   At these words those swineherds laughed very loudly. "Well," quoth one, "if King Arthur hath his fool, so have we, and yonder he is," and therewith he pointed to where Sir Tristram lay in the shade of the trees some distance away and beside a deep well of the forest.
   Upon that Six Dagonet must needs go to where Sir Tristram lay, nearly naked, upon the ground. And when he had come there he said, "Arise, fool." Whereunto Sir Tristram replied: "Why should I arise? Lo! I am weary."
   Then Sir Dagonet said: "It is not fitting that thou, who art the fool of swineherds shouldst lie upon the grass, whilst I who am the fool of a king stand upright upon my shanks. So, fool, I bid thee bestir thyself and arise."
   But Sir Tristram said, "I will not arise." And therewith Sir Dagonet took his sword and pricked the thigh of Sir Tristram with the point thereof with intent to make him bestir himself.
   Now when Sir Tristram felt the prick of Sir Dagonet's sword, a certain part of his memory of knighthood came back to him and he was seized with a sudden fury against Sir Dagonet. So he arose and ran at Sir Dagonet and catched him in his arms, and lifted Sir Dagonet off his feet and he soused him in the well four or five times so that he was like to have drowned him.
   As for those swineherds, when they saw what their fool did to that other fool, they roared with laughter so that some of them rolled down upon the ground and lay grovelling there for pure mirth. But others of them called out to Sir Tristram, "Let be, or thou wilt drown that man"; and therewith Sir Tristram let Sir Dagonet go, and Sir Dagonet ran away.
   Nor did Sir Dagonet cease to run until he came to his party under the shade of the trees. But when Sir Kay perceived what a sorry plight it was in which Sir Dagonet appeared, he said, "What hath befallen thee?"
   To this Sir Dagonet replied as follows: "Messire, I, who am a fool, went into the forest and met another fool. I fool would have a jest with he fool, but he fool catched I fool and soused I fool in a well of cold water. So it came about that while I fool had the jest, he fool had the sport of the jest."
   Then Sir Kay understood in some manner what had befallen, and he was very angry that Sir Dagonet should have been so served. Wherefore he said, "Where did this befall thee?" And Sir Dagonet said, "Over yonder ways." Then Sir Kay said: "I will avenge thee for the affront that hath been put upon thee. For no boor shall serve a knight of King Arthur's court in such a fashion!" So therewith Sir Kay arose and put on his armor and mounted his horse and rode away; and after a while he came to that place where the swineherds were.
   Then Sir Kay said very sternly: "Which of ye is that boor who put so grievous an affront upon a gentleman of my party?" The swineherds say: "Yonder he is lying by the well; but he is slack of wit, wherefore we beseech you to do him no harm."
   Then Sir Kay rode to where Sir Tristram was, and he said: "Sirrah, why did you souse Sir Dagonet into the water?" To this Sir Tristram did not reply, but only looked at Sir Kay and laughed, for it pleased him wonderfully to behold that knight all in shining armor. But when Sir Kay beheld Sir Tristram laugh in that wise, he waxed exceedingly wroth. Wherefore he drew his sword straightway, and rode at Sir Tristram with intent to strike him with the blade thereof. But when Sir Tristram saw the sword of Sir Kay shining like lightning in the sunlight, somewhat of his knightly spirit arose within him and took wing like to a bird springing up out of the marish grass into the clear air. For beholding that bright flashing sword he cried out aloud and arose and came very steadily toward Sir Kay, and Sir Kay rode toward Sir Tristram. Then when Sir Kay had come near enough to strike, he arose in his stirrups and lifted the blade on high with intent to strike Sir Tristram with it. But therewith Sir Tristram ran very quickly in beneath the blow, so that the stroke of Sir Kay failed of its mark. Then Sir Tristram leaped up and catched Sir Kay around the body and dragged him down from off his horse very violently upon the ground, and with that the sword of Sir Kay fell down out of his hands and lay in the grass. Then Sir Tristram lifted up Sir Kay very easily and ran with him to the well of water and soused him therein several times until Sir Kay cried out, "Fellow, spare me or I strangle!" Upon that Sir Tristram let go Sir Kay, and Sir Kay ran to his horse and mounted thereon and rode away from that place with might and main, all streaming with water like to a fountain.
   And all that while those swineherds roared with great laughter, ten times louder than they had laughed when Sir Tristram had soused Sir Dagonet into the well.
   Then Sir Tristram beheld the sword of Sir Kay where it lay in the grass and forthwith he ran to it and picked it up. And when he held it in his hands he loved it with a great passion of love, wherefore he hugged it to his bosom and kissed the pommel thereof.
   But when the swineherds beheld the sword in Sir Tristram's hands, they said, "That is no fit plaything for a madman to have," and they would have taken it from him, but Sir, Tristram would not permit them, for he would not give them the sword, and no one dared to try to take it from him.
   So thereafter he kept that sword ever by him both by night and by day, and ever he loved it and kissed it and fondled it; for, as aforesaid, it aroused his knightly spirit to life within him, wherefore it was he loved it.

   So it hath been told how Sir Tristram. got him a sword, and now it shall be told how well he used it.
   Now there was at that time in the woodlands of that part of Cornwall a gigantic knight hight Sir Tauleas, and he was the terror of all that district. For not only was he a head and shoulders taller than the tallest of Cornish men, but his strength and fierceness were great in the same degree that he was big of frame. Many knights had undertaken to rid the world of this Sir Tauleas, but no knight had ever yet encountered him without meeting some mishap at his hands.
   (Yet it is to be said that heretofore no such knight as Sir Launcelot or Sir Lamorack had come against Sir Tauleas, but only the knights of Cornwall and Wales, whose borders marched upon that district where Sir Tauleas ranged afield.)
   Now one day there came riding through the forest a very noble, gallant young knight, hight Sir Daynant, and with him rode his lady, a beautiful dame to whom he had lately been wedded with a great deal of love. These wayfarers in their travelling came to that part of the forest where the swineherds abode, and where were the open glade of grass and the fair well of water aforespoken of.
   Hereunto coming, and the day being very warm, these two travellers dismounted and besought refreshment of the swineherds who were there, and those rude good fellows gladly gave them to eat and to drink of the best they had.
   Whilst they ate, Sir Tristram came and sat nigh to Sir Daynant and his lady and smiled upon them, for he loved them very greatly because of their nobility and beauty. Then Sir Daynant looked upon Sir Tristram and beheld how strong and beautiful of body and how noble of countenance he was, and he saw that beautiful shining sword that Sir Tristram carried ever with him. And Sir Daynant said, "Fair friend, who are you, and where gat ye that sword?"
   "I know not who I am," said Sir Tristram, "nor know I whence I came nor whither I go. As for this sword, I had it from a gentleman who came hither to us no great while ago."
   Then the chiefest of the swineherds said: "Lord, this is a poor madman whom we found naked and starving in the forest. As for that sword, I may tell you that he took it away from a knight who came hither to threaten his life, and he soused that knight into the well so that he was wellnigh drowned."
   Sir Daynant said: "That is a very strange story, that a naked madman should take the sword out of the hands of an armed knight and treat that knight as ye tell me. Now maybe this is some famous hero or knight who hath lost his wits through sorrow or because of some other reason, and who hath so come to this sorry pass."
   (So said Sir Daynant, and it may here be said that from that time those rude swineherds began to look upon Sir Tristram with different eyes than before, saying amongst themselves: "Maybe what that knight said is true, and this is indeed no common madman."
   Now whilst Sir Daynant sat there with his lady, holding converse with the swineherds concerning Sir Tristram in that wise, there came a great noise in the forest, and out therefrom there came riding with great speed that huge savage knight Sir Tauleas aforetold of. Then Sir Daynant cried out, "Alas, here is misfortune!" And therewith he made all haste to put his helmet upon his head.
   But ere he could arm himself in any sufficient wise, Sir Tauleas drave down very fiercely upon him. And Sir Tauleas rose up in his stirrups and lashed so terrible a blow at Sir Daynant that it struck through Sir Daynant's helmet and into his brain-pan, wherefore Sir Daynant immediately fell down to the ground as though he had been struck dead.
   Then Sir Tauleas rode straightway to where the lady of Sir Daynant was, and he said: "Lady, thou art a prize that it is very well worth while fighting for! And lo! I have won thee." Therewith he catched her and lifted her up, shrieking and screaming and struggling, and sat her upon the saddle before him and held her there maugre all her struggles. Then straightway he rode away into the forest, carrying her with him; and all that while Sir Tristram stood as though in a maze, gazing with a sort of terror upon what befell and not rightly knowing what it all meant. For there lay Sir Daynant as though dead upon the ground, and he could yet hear the shrieks of the lady sounding out from the forest whither Sir Tauleas had carried her.
   Then the chief of the swineherds came to Sir Tristram, and said: "Fellow, as thou hast a sword, let us see if thou canst use it. If thou art a hero as that knight said of thee a while since, and not a pure madman, then follow after that knight and bring that lady back hither again."
   Then Sir Tristram awoke from that maze and said, "I will do so." And therewith he ran away very rapidly into the forest, pursuing the direction that Sir Tauleas had taken. And he ran for a great distance, and by and by, after a while, he beheld Sir Tauleas before him where he rode. And by that time the lady was in a deep swoon and lay as though dead across the saddle of Sir Tauleas. Then Sir Tristram cried out in a great voice: "Stay, Sir Knight, and turn this way, for I come to take that lady away from thee and to bring her back unto her friend again!"
   Then Sir Tauleas turned him and beheld a naked man running after him with a sword in his hand, whereupon he was seized with a great rage of anger, so that he put that lady he carried down to the ground. And he drew his sword and rushed at Sir Tristram very violently with intent to slay him. And when he came nigh to Sir Tristram he arose up on his stirrups and lashed so terrible a blow at him that, had it met its mark, it would have cloven Sir Tristram in twain. But Sir Tristram leaped aside and turned the blow very skilfully; and therewith a memory of his knightly prowess came upon him and he, upon his part, lashed a blow at Sir Tauleas that Sir Tauleas received very unexpectedly. And that blow struck Sir Tauleas so terrible a buffet upon the head that the brain of Sir Tauleas swam, and he swayed about and then fell down from off his horse. Therewith Sir Tristram ran to him and rushed his helmet from off his head. And when he beheld the naked head of Sir Tauleas he catched it by the hair and drew the neck of Sir Tauleas forward. Then Sir Tauleas cried out, "Spare me, fellow!" But Sir Tristram said, "I will not spare thee for thou art a wicked man!" And therewith he lifted his sword on high and smote off the head of Sir Tauleas so that it rolled down upon the ground.
   After that, Sir Tristram went to the Lady and he chafed her hands and her face so that she revived from her swoon. And when she was revived, he said: "Lady, take cheer; for look yonder and thou wilt see thy enemy is dead, and so now I may take thee back again unto thy friend." And therewith the lady smiled upon Sir Tristram and catched his hand in hers and kissed it.
   Then Sir Tristram lifted the lady upon the horse of Sir Tauleas, and after that he went back again to where he had left Sir Daynant and the swineherds; and he led the horse of Sir Tauleas by the bridle with the lady upon the back thereof and he bore the head of Sir Tauleas in his hand by the hair.
   But when those swineherds saw Sir Tristram come forth thus out of the forest bringing that lady and bearing the head of Sir Tauleas, they were amazed beyond measure, and they said to one another: "Of a certainty what this young knight hath just said is sooth and this madman is indeed some great champion in distress. But who he is no one may know, since he himself doth not know."
   And when Sir Daynant had recovered from that blow that Sir Tauleas had given him, he also gave Sir Tristram great praise for what he had done. And Sir Tristram was abashed at all the praise that was bestowed upon him.
   Then Sir Daynant and his lady besought Sir Tristram that he would go with them to their castle so that they might care for him, but Sir Tristram would not, for he said: "I wist very well that I am mad, and so this forest is a fit place for me to dwell and these kind rude fellows are fit companions for me at this time whilst my wits are wandering."
   Thus it was with this adventure. And now you shall hear how Sir Launcelot found Sir Tristram in the forest and how he brought him out thence and likewise what befell thereafter.
   For only the next day after all these things had happened, Sir Launcelot came riding through the forest that way, seeking for Sir Tauleas with intent to do battle with him because of his many evil deeds. For Sir Launcelot purposed either to slay him or else to bring him captive to King Arthur.
   So it came to pass that Sir Launcelot came to that place where Sir Tristram and the swineherds abode.
   There Sir Launcelot made pause for to rest and to refresh himself, and whilst he sat with his helmet lying beside him so that the breezes might cool his face, all those rude swineherds gathered about and stared at him. And Sir Launcelot smiled upon them, and he said: "Good fellows, I pray you tell me; do you know where, hereabouts, I shall find a knight whom men call Sir Tauleas?"
   Unto this the chief swineherd made reply, saying: "Lord, if you come hither seeking Sir Tauleas, you shall seek him in vain. For yesterday he was slain, and if you look yonder way you may see his head hanging from a branch of a tree at the edge of the glade."
   Upon this Sir Launcelot cried out in great amazement, "How hath that come to pass?" and therewith he immediately arose from where he sat and went to that tree where the head hung. And he looked into the face of the head, and therewith he saw that it was indeed the head of Sir Tauleas that hung there. Then Sir Launcelot said: "This is very wonderful. Now I pray you, tell me what knight was it who slew this wicked wretch, and how his head came to be left hanging here?"
   To this the chief of the swineherds made reply: "Messire, he who slew Sir Tauleas was no knight, but a poor madman whom we found in the forest and who has dwelt with us now for a year past. Yonder you may see him, lying half naked, sleeping beside that well of water."
   Sir Launcelot said, "Was it he who did indeed slay Sir Tauleas?" And the swineherd said, "Yea, lord, it was he."
   Sir Launcelot said, "Do ye not then know who he is?" The swineherd replied: "No, lord, we only know that one day we found him lying in the forest naked and nigh to death from hunger and that we fed him and clothed him, and that since then he hath dwelt ever with us, showing great love for us all."
   Then Sir Launcelot went to where Sir Tristram lay, and he looked upon him as he slept and he knew him not; for the beard and the hair of Sir Tristram had grown down all over his breast and shoulders and he was very ragged and beaten by the weather. But though Sir Launcelot knew him not, yet he beheld that the body of Sir Tristram was very beautiful and strong, for he saw how all the muscles and thews thereof were cut very smooth and clean as you might cut them out of wax, wherefore Sir Launcelot gazed for a long while and felt great admiration for his appearance.
   Then Sir Launcelot beheld how the sleeping man held a naked sword in his arms very caressingly, as though he loved it, and thereat he was very much surprised to find such a sword as that in the hands of this forest madman. Wherefore be said to those swineherds, "Where got this man that sword?"
   "Messire," said the swineherd who had afore spoken, "some while since there came a knight hitherward who ill-treated him. Thereupon this poor man ran at the knight and overthrew him and took the sword away from him and soused him several times in the well. After that he hath ever held fast to this sword and would not give it up to any of us."
   "Ha!" said Sir Launcelot, "that is a very wonderful story, that a naked man should overthrow an armed knight and take his sword away from him. Now I deem that this is no mere madman, but some noble knight in misfortune."
   Therewith he reached forward and touched Sir Tristram very gently on the shoulder, and at that Sir Tristram awoke and opened his eyes and sat up. And Sir Tristram looked upon Sir Launcelot, but knew him not, albeit some small memory moved very deeply within him. Nevertheless, though he knew not Sir Launcelot, yet he felt great tenderness for that noble knight in arms, and he smiled very lovingly upon him. And Sir Launcelot felt in return a very great deal of regard for Sir Tristram, but wist not why that was; yet it seemed to Sir Launcelot that he should know the face of Sir Tristram, and that it was not altogether strange to him.
   Then Sir Launcelot said, "Fair friend, was it thou who slew Sir Tauleas?" And Sir Tristram said, "Ay." Sir Launcelot said, "Who art thou?" Whereunto Sir Tristram made reply: "I know not who I am, nor whence I come, nor how I came hither."
   Then Sir Launcelot felt great pity and tenderness for Sir Tristram, and he said: "Friend, wilt thou go with me away from this place and into the habitations of men? There I believe thy mind may be made whole again, and that it may be with thee as it was beforetime. And verily, I believe that when that shall come to pass, the world shall find in thee some great knight it hath lost."
   Sir Tristram said: "Sir Knight, though I know not who I am, yet I know that I am not sound in my mind; wherefore I am ashamed to go out in the world and amongst mankind, but would fain hide myself away in this forest. Yet I love thee so much that, if thou wert to bid me go with thee to the ends of the world, I believe I would go with thee."
   Then Sir Launcelot smiled upon Sir Tristram very kindly and said, "I do bid thee come with me away from here," and Sir Tristram said, "I will go."
   So Sir Launcelot bade the swineherds clothe Sir Tristram in such a wise that his nakedness might be covered, and he bade them give Sir Tristram hosen and shoon, and when Sir Tristram was thus decently clad, Sir Launcelot made ready to take his departure from that place.
   But ere the two left, all those good fellows crowded around Sir Tristram, and embraced him and kissed him upon the cheek; for they had come to love him a very great deal.
   Then the two went away through the forest, Sir Launcelot proudly riding upon his great horse and Sir Tristram running very lightly beside him.

   But Sir Launcelot had other business at that time than to seek out Sir Tauleas as aforetold. For at that time there were three knights of very ill-repute who harried the west coast of that land that overlooked the sea toward the Kingdom of Ireland, and Sir Launcelot was minded to seek them out after he had finished with Sir Tauleas. So ere he returned to the court of King Arthur he had first of all to go thitherward.
   Now you are to know that the castle of Tintagel lay upon the way that he was to take upon that adventure, and so it was that he brought Sir Tristram to the castle of Tintagel, where King Mark of Cornwall was then holding court. For Sir Launcelot was minded to leave Sir Tristram there whilst he went upon that adventure aforetold of.
   And Sir Launcelot was received in Tintagel with very great honor and acclaim, for it was the first time he had ever been there. And King Mark besought Sir Launcelot for to abide a while in Tintagel; but Sir Launcelot refused this hospitality, saying: "I have an adventure to do for the sake of my master, King Arthur, and I may not abide here at this present. But I pray you to grant me a favor, and it is this: that you cherish this poor madman whom I found in the forest, and that you keep him here, treating him kindly until I shall return from the quest I am upon. For I have great love for this poor fellow and I would not have any harm befall him whilst I am away."
   Then King Mark said: "I am sorry you will not remain with us, but as to this thing it shall be done as you desire, for we will cherish and care for this man while you are away." So said King Mark, speaking with great cheerfulness and courtesy; for neither he nor any of his court at that time wist who Sir Tristram was.
   So Sir Launcelot went upon his way, and King Mark gave orders that Sir Tristram should be well-clothed and fed, and it was done as he commanded.

   Thus it was that Sir Tristram was brought back to the castle of Tintagel again. And now it shall be told how it befell with him thereat.

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