Howard Pyle's The Champions of the Round Table

Chapter Third

How Sir Tristram was discovered at Tintagel and of what befell thereby.

   Now during the time that Sir Tristram abode thus unknown at the court of Tintagel, he was allowed to wander thereabouts whithersoever he chose, and no one hindered him either in going or in coming. For none in all that place suspected who he was, but everyone thought that he was only a poor gentle madman of the forest; so he was allowed to wander at will as his fancy led him.
   And Sir Tristram's memory never awoke; but though it awoke not, yet it stirred within him. For though he could not remember what this place was whereunto he had come, yet it was very strangely familiar to him, so that whithersoever he went, he felt that those places were not altogether strange to him. And in some of those places he felt great pleasure and in other places somewhat of pain, yet he knew not why he should have the one feeling or the other.
   Now of all those places whereunto he wandered, Sir Tristram found most pleasure in the pleasance of the castle where was a fair garden and fruit trees; for it was there that he and the Lady Belle Isoult had walked together aforetime ere his affliction had befallen him, and he remembered this place better than any other, and took more pleasure in it. Now one day Sir Tristram came wandering thus into that pleasance and, the day being warm, he sat under the shade of an appletree beside a marble fountain of water; and the appletree above his head was all full of red and golden fruit. So Sir Tristram sat there, striving to remember how it was that he had once aforetime beheld that fountain and that garden and that appletree beneath which he sat.
   So whilst he sat there pondering in that wise, there came the Lady Belle Isoult into the garden of that pleasance and her lady, the dame Bragwaine, was with her, and the hound, hight Houdaine, which Sir Tristram had sent to her by Gouvernail, walked beside her on the other side. Then Belle Isoult perceived that there was a man sitting under the appletree, and she said to dame Bragwaine: "Who is yonder man who hath dared to come hither into our privy garden?" Unto this, dame Bragwaine replied: "That, lady, is the gentle madman of the forest whom Sir Launcelot brought hither two days ago."
   Then the Lady Belle Isoult said, "Let us go nearer and see what manner of man he is"; and so they went forward toward where Sir Tristram sat, and the dog Houdaine went with them.
   Then Sir Tristram was aware that someone was nigh; and therewith he turned his face and beheld the Lady Isoult for the first time since he had gone mad in the forest; and the lady was looking at him, but knew him not.
   Then of a sudden, because of his great love for Belle Isoult, the memory of Sir Tristram came all back to him in the instant, and upon that instant he knew who he was and all that had befallen him, and how he had been brought there as a madman out of the forest. But though he knew her in that wise, yet, as has been said, she knew not him.
   Then Sir Tristram was all overwhelmed with shame that he should be thus found by that dear lady; wherefore he turned away his face and bowed his head so that she might not remember him, for he perceived that as yet she did not know him who he was.
   Now at that moment the dog, Houdaine, was aware of the savor of Sir Tristram; wherefore he leaped away from the Lady Belle Isoult and ran to Sir Tristram and smelt very eagerly of him. And with that he knew his master.
   Then the two ladies who looked beheld Houdaine fall down at the feet of Sir Tristram and grovel there with joy. And they beheld that he licked Sir Tristram's feet and his hands, and that he leaped upon Sir Tristram and licked his neck and face, and at that they were greatly astonished.
   Then of a sudden a thought came to dame Bragwaine, and she catched the Lady Isoult by the arm and she said: "Lady, know you not who yonder madman is?" But the Lady Belle Isoult said: "Nay, I know not who he is. Who is he, Bragwaine?" And Bragwaine said: "Certes, that is Sir Tristram, and no one else in all the world."
   Therewith, at those words, the scales suddenly fell from Lady Belle Isoult's eyes and she knew him. Then, for a little space, she stood as though turned into stone; then she emitted a great loud cry of joy and ran to Sir Tristram where be sat, and flung herself down upon the ground at the feet of Sir Tristram and embraced him about the knees. And she cried out in a voice of great passion: "Tristram! Tristram! Is it thou? They told me thou wert dead, and lo! thou art come to life again!" And with that she fell to weeping with such fury of passion that it was as though the soul of her were struggling to escape from her body.
   Then Sir Tristram got to his feet in great haste and agitation and he said: "Lady! Lady! This must not be--arise, and stay your passion or else it will be our ruin. For behold, I am alone and unarmed in this castle, and there are several herein who seek my life. So if it be discovered who I am, both thou and I are lost."
   Then, perceiving how that Belle Isoult was in a way distracted and out of her mind with joy and grief and love, he turned him unto Bragwaine and said to her: "Take thy lady hence and by and by I will find means whereby I may come to speech with her in private. Meanwhile it is death both for her and for me if she remain here to betray me unto the others of this castle."
   So Bragwaine and Sir Tristram lifted up the Lady Belle Isoult, and Bragwaine led her thence out of that place; for I believe that Belle Isoult knew not whither she went but walked like one walking half in a swoon.

   Now it chanced at that time that Sir Andred was in a balcony overlooking that pleasance, and, hearing the sound of voices and the sound of a disturbance that was suppressed, he looked out and beheld all that passed. Then he also wist who was that madman whom Sir Launcelot had fetched to that place out of the forest, and that he was Sir Tristram.
   Therewith he was filled with a great rage and fury and was likewise overwhelmed with great fear lest, if Sir Tristram should escape from that castle with his life, he would reclaim those possessions that he, Sir Andred, had seized upon.
   So therewith he withdrew himself from that balcony very softly, into the apartment behind. And he sat down in that apartment for a little while as though not knowing rightly what to do. But after a little while he arose and went to King Mark; and King Mark looked up and beheld him and said, "What news do you bring, Messire?" Thereunto Sir Andred made reply: "Lord, know you who that madman is whom Sir Launcelot hath fetched hither?" King Mark said, "Nay, I know not who he is." But with that he fell to trembling throughout his entire body, for he began to bethink him who that madman was. "Lord," said Sir Andred, it is Sir Tristram, and me seems Sir Launcelot was aware who it was, and that he was plotting treason when he fetched him hither."
   At that King Mark smote his hands together and he cried in a terrible voice, "I know it! I know it!" And then he said: "Blind! Blind! How was it that I knew him not?" Then after a little he fell to laughing and he said to Sir Andred: "Lo! God hath assuredly delivered that traitor, Sir Tristram, into mine hands so that I may punish him for his treasons. For, behold! he is here in our midst and he is altogether unarmed. Go, Messire, with all haste, gather together such force as may be needful, and seize upon him and bind him so that he may do no further harm to any man. Then let justice be executed upon him so soon as it is possible to do so." And Sir Andred said: "Lord, it shall be done according to your demands and upon the instant."
   Therewith Sir Andred went forth from where the King was, and he armed himself in complete armor, and he gathered together a number of knights and esquires and he led them to that place where he knew Sir Tristram would be; and there he found Sir Tristram sitting sunk in thought. And when Sir Tristram beheld those armed men come in thus upon him, he arose to defend himself. But then Sir Andred cried out in a loud voice: "Seize him ere he can strike and bind him fast, for he is unarmed and may do you no harm!"
   With that a dozen or more of those who were with Sir Andred flung themselves upon Sir Tristram, shouting and roaring like wild beasts. And they bore him to the earth by numbers, and after a while, by dint of great effort, they held him and bound his hands together by the wrists. Then they lifted up Sir Tristram and stood him upon his feet, and lo! his bosom heaved with his struggles, and his eyes were all shot with blood and his lips afroth with the fury of his fighting; and his clothes were torn in that struggle so that his body was half naked. And they held him there, a knight in armor with a naked sword standing upon his right hand and another armed knight with a naked sword standing upon his left hand.
   Then Sir Andred came and stood in front of Sir Tristram and taunted him, saying: "Ha, Tristram, how is it with thee now? "Lo! thou camest like a spy into this place, and now thou art taken with all thy treason upon thee. So thou shalt die no knightly death, but, in a little while, thou shalt be hanged like a thief."
   Then he came close to Sir Tristram, and he laughed and said: "Tristram where is now the glory of thy strength that one time overcame all thine enemies? Lo! thou art helpless to strike a single blow in defence of thine honor." And therewith Sir Andred lifted his hand and smote Sir Tristram upon the face with the palm thereof.
   At that blow the rage of Sir Tristram so flamed up in him that his eyes burned as with pure green fire. And in an instant, so quickly that no man wist what he did, he turned with amazing suddenness upon that knight who stood at his left hand, and he lifted up both hands that were bound, and he smote that knight such a blow upon the face that the knight fell down upon the ground and his sword fell out of his hand. Then Sir Tristram snatched the sword and, turning with astonishing quickness, he smote the knight upon his right hand such a buffet that he instantly fell down upon his knees and then rolled over upon the ground in a swoon. Then Sir Tristram turned upon Sir Andred, and lifting high the sword with both hands tied, he smote him so terrible a blow that the blade cut through his epulier and half through his body as far as the paps. At that great terrible blow the breath fled out of Sir Andred with a deep groan, and he fell down upon the ground and immediately died.
   Now all this had happened so suddenly that they who beheld it were altogether amazed and stood staring as though bewitched by some spell. But when they beheld Sir Tristram turn upon them and make at them with that streaming sword lifted on high, the terror of his fury so seized upon them that they everywhere broke from before him and fled, yelling, and with the fear of death clutching them in the vitals. And Sir Tristram chased them out of that place and into the courtyard of the castle, and some he smote down and others escaped; but all who could do so scattered away before him like chaff before the wind.
   Then, when they were gone, Sir Tristram stood panting and glaring about him like a lion at bay. Then he set the point of his sword upon the pavement of the court and the pommel thereof he set against his breast, and he drew the bonds that held his wrists across the edge of the sword so that they were cut and he was free.
   But Sir Tristram wist that in a little the whole castle would be aroused against him, and that he would certainly be overwhelmed by dint of numbers, wherefore he looked about him for some place of refuge; and he beheld that the door of the chapel which opened upon the courtyard stood ajar. So he ran into the chapel and shut to that door and another door and locked and bolted them both, and set a heavy bar of wood across both of them so that for a while he was safe.
   But yet he was only safe for a little while, for about the time of early nightfall, which came not long thereafter, a great party of several score of King Mark's people came against the chapel where he was. And when they found that the doors were locked and barred, they brought rams for to batter in the chief door of the chapel.
   Then Sir Tristram beheld how parlous was his case, and that he must in a little while die if he did not immediately do something to save himself. So with that he ran to a window of the chapel and opened it and looked out thence. And lo! below him and far beneath was the sea, and the rocks of the shore upon which the castle was built; and the sea and the rocks lay twelve fathoms beneath him.
   But Sir Tristram said, "Better death there than here;" and therewith finding that the door was now falling in beneath the rams, he leaped out from the window-ledge, and thence he dived down into the sea; and no one saw that terrible leap that he made.
   So he sank down deep into the sea, but met no rocks, so that he presently came up again safe and sound. Then, looking about him, he perceived in the twilight a cave in the rocks, and thither he swam with the intent to find shelter for a little.
   Now when they who had come against him had broken into the chapel they all ran in in one great crowd, for they expected to find Sir Tristram and to do battle with him. But lo! Sir Tristram was not there, but only the empty walls. Then at first they were greatly astonished, and knew not what to think. And some who came cried out: "Is that man then a spirit that he can melt away into thin air?" But after a little, one of them perceived where the window of the chapel stood open, and therewith several of them ran thereunto and looked out, and they wist that Sir Tristram had leaped out thence into the sea.
   Then they said to one another: "Either that knight is now dead, or else he will perish when the tide rises and covers the rocks; so to-night we will do no more with this business; but to-morrow we will go and find his body where it lies among the rocks of the shore." So thereupon they shut the window and went their ways.
   Now Gouvernail was not at that time at Tintagel, nor did he return thereunto until all this affair was over and done. But when he came there, there were many voices to tell him what had befallen, and to all of them Gouvernail listened without saying anything.
   But afterward Gouvernail went and sought out a certain knight hight Sir Santraille de Lushon, who, next to himself, was the most faithful friend to Sir Tristram at that place. To him Gouvernail said: "Messire, I do not think that Sir Tristram is dead, for he hath always been a most wonderful swimmer and diver. But if he be alive, and we do not save him, he will assuredly perish when the tide comes up and covers over those rocks amongst which he may now be hidden."
   So Gouvernail and Sir Santraille went to that chapel unknown to anyone, and they went to that window whence Sir Tristram had leaped, and they opened the window, and leaned out and called upon Sir Tristram in low voices: "Sir Tristram, if thou art alive, arise and answer us, for we are friends!"
   Then after a while Sir Tristram recognized Gouvernail's voice and answered them: "I am alive; but save me, or I perish in a little while." Then Gouvernail said: "Lord, are you hurt, or are you whole?" Sir Tristram replied, "I am strong and well in body, but the tide rises fast." Gouvernail said, "Messire, can you wait a little? Sir Tristram said, "Ay; for a little, but not for too long."
   Then Gouvernail and Sir Santraille withdrew from where they were and they made all haste, and they got together a great number of sheets and napkins, and tied these together and made a rope, and lowered the rope down to the rocks where Sir Tristram was. Then Sir Tristram climbed up the rope of linen and so reached the chapel in safety. And at that time it was nigh to midnight and very dark.
   But when Sir Tristram stood with them in the chapel, he gave them hardly any greeting, but said at once: "Messires, how doth it fare with the Lady Belle Isoult?" For he thought of her the first of all and above all things else.
   To this Sir Santraille made reply: "Sir, the lady hath been shut into a tower, and the door thereof hath been locked upon her, and she is a close prisoner."
   Then Sir Tristram said: "How many knights are there in the place who are my friends, and who will stand with me to break out hence?" To this Gouvernail said: "Lord, there are twelve besides ourselves, and that makes fourteen in all who are with thee in this quarrel unto life or death."
   Sir Tristram said: "Provide me presently with arms and armor and bring those twelve hither armed at all points. But first let them saddle horses for themselves and for us, and for the Lady Belle Isoult and for her waiting-woman, Dame Bragwaine. When this is done, we will depart from this place unto some other place of refuge, and I do not think there will be any in the castle will dare stop or stay us after we are armed."
   So it was done as Sir Tristram commanded, and when all those were gathered together, and their horses ready, Sir Tristram and several of the knights of his party went openly to that tower where the Lady Belle Isoult was prisoner. And they burst open the doors and went in with torches, and found Belle Isoult and her attendant in the upper part of the castle.
   But when Belle Isoult beheld the face of Sir Tristram, she said: Is it thou, my love; and art thou still alive, and art thou come to me? Sir Tristram said: "Yea, I am still alive nor will I die, God willing, until I have first brought thee out of this wicked castle and into some place of safety. And never again will I entrust thee unto King Mark's hands; for I have great fear that if he have thee in his hands he will work vengeance upon thee so as to strike at my heart through thee. So, dear love, I come to take thee away from this place; and never again right or wrong, shalt thou be without the shelter of my arm."

   Then the Lady Belle Isoult smiled very wonderfully upon Sir Tristram so that her face appeared to shine with a great illumination of love. And she said: "Tristram, I will go with thee whithersoever thou wilt. Yea, I would go with thee even to the grave, for I believe that I should be happy even there, so that thou wert lying beside me."
   Then Sir Tristram groaned in spirit and he said: "Isoult, what have I done, that I should always bring unhappiness upon thee?" But the Lady Belle Isoult spake very steadily, saying: "Never unhappiness, Tristram, but always happiness; for I have thy love for aye, and thou hast mine in the same measure, and in that is happiness, even in tears and sorrow, and never unhappiness."
   With that Sir Tristram kissed Belle Isoult upon the forehead, and then he lifted her up and carried her in his arms down the stairs of the tower and sat her upon her horse. And Bragwaine followed after, and Gouvernail lifted her up upon her horse.
   Now all they of that castle were amazed beyond measure to find all those knights armed and prepared for battle so suddenly in their midst. And most of all were they filled with terror to find Sir Tristram at the head of these knights. Wherefore when Sir Tristram made demand that they should open the portcullis of the castle and let fall the drawbridge, the porters thereof dared not refuse him, but did as he said.
   So Sir Tristram and his knights rode forth with the Lady Belle Isoult and Bragwaine and no one stayed them. And they rode into the forest, betaking their way toward a certain castle of Sir Tristram's, which they reached in the clear dawning of the daytime.
   And so Sir Tristram brought the Lady Belle Isoult away from Tintagel and into safety.

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