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    Chapter 11

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    Chapter 11
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    CHAPTER XI.
    TRISTRAM AND ISOUDE.

    AFTER this affair Tristram was banished from the kingdom, and Isoude
    shut up in a tower which stood on the bank of a river. Tristram
    could not resolve to depart without some further communication with
    his beloved; so he concealed himself in the forest, till at last he
    contrived to attract her attention by means of twigs which he
    curiously peeled and sent down the stream under her window. By this
    means many secret interviews were obtained. Tristram dwelt in the
    forest, sustaining himself by game, which the dog Houdain ran down for
    him; for this faithful animal was unequalled in the chase, and knew so
    well his master's wish for concealment that in the pursuit of his game
    he never barked. At length Tristram departed, but left Houdain with
    Isoude, as a remembrancer of him.
    Sir Tristram wandered through various countries, achieving the
    most perilous enterprises, and covering himself with glory, yet
    unhappy at the separation from his beloved Isoude. At length King
    Mark's territory was invaded by a neighboring chieftain, and he was
    forced to summon his nephew to his aid. Tristram obeyed the call,
    put himself at the head of his uncle's vassals, and drove the enemy
    out of the country. Mark was full of gratitude, and Tristram, restored
    to favor and to the society of his beloved Isoude, seemed at the
    summit of happiness. But a sad reverse was at hand.
    Tristram had brought with him a friend named Pheredin, son of the
    king of Brittany. This young knight saw Queen Isoude, and could not
    resist her charms. Knowing the love of his friend for the queen, and
    that that love was returned, Pheredin concealed his own, until his
    health failed, and he feared he was drawing near his end. He then
    wrote to the beautiful queen that he was dying for love of her.
    The gentle Isoude, in a moment of pity for the friend of Tristram,
    returned him an answer so kind and compassionate that it restored
    him to life. A few days afterward Tristram found this letter. The most
    terrible jealousy took possession of his soul; he would have slain
    Pheredin, who with difficulty made his escape. Then Tristram mounted
    his horse, and rode to the forest, where for ten days he took no
    rest nor food. At length he was found by a damsel lying almost dead by
    the brink of a fountain. She recognized him, and tried in vain to
    rouse his attention. At last, recollecting his love for music, she
    went and got her harp, and played thereon. Tristram was roused from
    his reverie; tears flowed; he breathed more freely; he took the harp
    from the maiden, and sung this lay, with a voice broken with sobs:-

    "Sweet I sang in former days,
    Kind love perfected my lays:
    Now my art alone displays
    The woe that on my being preys.

    "Charming love, delicious power,
    Worshipped from my earliest hour,
    Thou who life on all dost shower,
    Love! my life thou dost devour.

    "In death's hour I beg of thee,
    Isoude, dearest enemy,
    Thou who erst couldst kinder be,
    When I'm gone, forget not me.

    "On my gravestone passers by
    Oft will read, as low I lie,
    'Never wight in love could vie
    With Tristram, yet she let him die.'"

    Tristram, having finished his lay, wrote it off and gave it to the
    damsel, conjuring her to present it to the queen.
    Meanwhile Queen Isoude was inconsolable at the absence of
    Tristram. She discovered that it was caused by the fatal letter
    which she had written to Pheredin. Innocent, but in despair at the sad
    effects of her letter, she wrote another to Pheredin, charging him
    never to see her again. The unhappy lover obeyed this cruel decree. He
    plunged into the forest, and died of grief and love in a hermit's
    cell.
    Isoude passed her days in lamenting the absence and unknown fate
    of Tristram. One day her jealous husband, having entered her chamber
    unperceived, overheard her, singing the following lay:-

    "My voice to piteous wail is bent,
    My harp to notes of languishment;
    Ah, love! delightsome days be meant
    For happier wights, with hearts content.

    "Ah, Tristram! far away from me,
    Art thou from restless anguish free?
    Ah! couldst thou so one moment be,
    From her who so much loveth thee?"

    The king, hearing these words, burst forth in a rage; but Isoude was
    too wretched to fear his violence. "You have heard me," she said; "I
    confess it all. I love Tristram, and always shall love him. Without
    doubt he is dead, and died for me. I no longer wish to live. The
    blow that shall finish my misery will be most welcome."
    The king was moved at the distress of the fair Isoude, and perhaps
    the idea of Tristram's death tended to allay his wrath. He left the
    queen in charge of her women, commanding them to take especial care
    lest her despair should lead her to do harm to herself.
    Tristram, meanwhile, distracted as he was, rendered a most important
    service to the shepherds by slaying a gigantic robber named Taullas,
    who was in the habit of plundering their flocks and rifling their
    cottages. The shepherds, in their gratitude to Tristram, bore him in
    triumph to King Mark to have him bestow on him a suitable reward. No
    wonder Mark failed to recognize in the half-clad wild man before him
    his nephew Tristram; but grateful for the service the unknown had
    rendered, he ordered him to be well taken care of, and gave him in
    charge to the queen and her women. Under such care Tristram rapidly
    recovered his serenity and his health, so that the romancer tells us
    he became handsomer than ever. King Mark's jealousy revived with
    Tristram's health and good looks, and, in spite of his debt of
    gratitude so lately increased, he again banished him from the court.
    Sir Tristram left Cornwall, and proceeded into the land of Loegria
    (England) in quest of adventures. One day he entered a wide forest.
    The sound of a little bell showed him that some inhabitant was near.
    He followed the sound, and found a hermit, who informed him that he
    was in the forest of Arnantes, belonging to the fairy Viviane, the
    Lady of the Lake, who, smitten with love for King Arthur, had found
    means to entice him to this forest, where by enchantments she held him
    a prisoner, having deprived him of all memory of who and what he
    was. The hermit informed him that all the knights of the Round Table
    were out in search of the king, and that he (Tristram) was now in
    the scene of the most grand and important adventures.
    This was enough to animate Tristram in the search. He had not
    wandered far before he encountered a knight of Arthur's court, who
    proved to be Sir Kay the seneschal, who demanded of him whence he
    came. Tristram answering, "From Cornwall," Sir Kay did not let slip
    the opportunity of a joke at the expense of the Cornish knight.
    Tristram chose to leave him in his error, and even confirmed him in
    it; for meeting some other knights, Tristram declined to joust with
    them. They spent the night together at an abbey, where Tristram
    submitted patiently to all their jokes. The seneschal gave the word to
    his companions that they should set out early next day, and
    intercept the Cornish knight on his way, and enjoy the amusement of
    seeing his fright when they should insist on running a tilt with
    him. Tristram next morning found himself alone; he put on his armor,
    and set out to continue his quest. He soon saw before him the
    seneschal and the three knights, who barred the way, and insisted on a
    joust. Tristram excused himself a long time; at last he reluctantly
    took his stand. He encountered them, one after the other, and
    overthrew them all four, man and horse, and then rode off, bidding
    them not to forget their friend, the knight of Cornwall.
    Tristram had not ridden far when he met a damsel, who cried out,
    "Ah, my lord! hasten forward, and prevent a horrid treason!"
    Tristram flew to her assistance, and soon reached a spot where he
    beheld a knight, whom three others had borne to the ground, and were
    unlacing his helmet in order to cut off his head.
    Tristram flew to the rescue, and slew with one stroke of his lance
    one of the assailants. The knight, recovering his feet, sacrificed
    another to his vengeance, and the third made his escape. The rescued
    knight then raised the visor of his helmet, and a long white beard
    fell down upon his breast. The majesty and venerable air of this
    knight made Tristram suspect that it was none other than Arthur
    himself, and the prince confirmed his conjecture. Tristram would
    have knelt before him, but Arthur received him in his arms, and
    inquired his name and country; but Tristram declined to disclose them,
    on the plea that he was now on a quest requiring secrecy. At this
    moment the damsel who had brought Tristram to the rescue darted
    forward, and, seizing the king's hand, drew from his finger a ring,
    the gift of the fairy, and by that act dissolved the enchantment.
    Arthur, having recovered his reason and his memory, offered to
    Tristram to attach him to his court, and to confer honors and
    dignities upon him; but Tristram declined all, and only consented to
    accompany him till he should see him safe in the hands of his knights.
    Soon after, Hector de Marys rode up, and saluted the king, who on
    his part introduced him to Tristram as one of the bravest of his
    knights. Tristram took leave of the king and his faithful follower,
    and continued his quest.
    We cannot follow Tristram through all the adventures which filled
    this epoch of his history. Suffice it to say, he fulfilled on all
    occasions the duty of a true knight, rescuing the oppressed,
    redressing wrongs, abolishing evil customs, and suppressing injustice,
    thus by constant action endeavoring to lighten the pains of absence
    from her he loved. In the meantime Isoude, separated from her dear
    Tristram, passed her days in languor and regret. At length she could
    no longer resist the desire to hear some news of her lover. She
    wrote a letter, and sent it by one of her damsels, niece of her
    faithful Brengwain. One day Tristram, weary with his exertions, had
    dismounted and laid himself down by the side of a fountain and
    fallen asleep. The damsel of Queen Isoude arrived at the same
    fountain, and recognized Passebreul, the horse of Tristram, and
    presently perceived his master, asleep. He was thin and pale,
    showing evident marks of the pain he suffered in separation from his
    beloved. She awaked him, and gave him the letter which she bore, and
    Tristram enjoyed the pleasure, so sweet to a lover, of hearing from
    and talking about the object of his affections. He prayed the damsel
    postpone her return till after the magnificent tournament which Arthur
    had proclaimed should have taken place, and conducted her to the
    castle of Persides, a brave and loyal knight, who received her with
    great consideration.
    Tristram conducted the damsel of Queen Isoude to the tournament
    and had her placed in the balcony among the ladies of the queen. He
    then joined the tourney. Nothing could exceed his strength and
    valor. Launcelot admired him, and by a secret presentiment declined to
    dispute the honor of the day with a knight so gallant and so
    skilful. Arthur descended from the balcony to greet the conqueror; but
    the modest and devoted Tristram, content with having borne off the
    prize in the sight of the messenger of Isoude, made his escape with
    her, and disappeared.
    The next day the tourney recommenced. Tristram assumed different
    armor, that he might not be known; but he was soon detected by the
    terrible blows that he gave. Arthur and Guenever had no doubt that
    it was the same knight who had borne off the prize of the day
    before. Arthur's gallant spirit was roused. After Launcelot of the
    Lake and Sir Gawain, he was accounted the best knight of the Round
    Table. He went privately and armed himself, and came into the
    tourney in undistinguished armor. He ran a joust with Tristram, whom
    he shook in his seat; but Tristram, who did not know him, threw him
    out of the saddle. Arthur recovered himself and, content with having
    made proof of the stranger knight, bade Launcelot finish the
    adventure, and vindicate the honor of the Round Table. Sir
    Launcelot, at the bidding of the monarch, assailed Tristram, whose
    lance was already broken in former encounters. But the law of this
    sort of combat was, that the knight, after having broken his lance,
    must fight with his sword, and must not refuse to meet with his shield
    the lance of his antagonist. Tristram met Launcelot's charge upon
    his shield, which that terrible lance could not fail to pierce. It
    inflicted a wound upon Tristram's side, and breaking, left the iron in
    the wound. But Tristram also with his sword smote so vigorously on
    Launcelot's casque that he cleft it, and wounded his head. The wound
    was not deep, but the blood flowed into his eyes, and blinded him
    for a moment, and Tristram, who thought himself mortally wounded,
    retired from the field. Launcelot declared to the king that he had
    never received such a blow in his life before.
    Tristram hastened to Gouvernail, his squire, who drew forth the
    iron, bound up the wound, and gave him immediate ease. Tristram, after
    the tournament, kept retired in his tent, but Arthur, with the consent
    of the knights of the Round Table, decreed him the honors of the
    second day. But it was no longer a secret that the victor of the two
    days was the same individual, and Gouvernail, being questioned,
    confirmed the suspicions of Launcelot and Arthur, that it was no other
    than Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, the nephew of the king of Cornwall.
    King Arthur, who desired to reward his distinguished valor, and knew
    that his uncle Mark had ungratefully banished him, would have
    eagerly availed himself of the opportunity to attach Tristram to his
    court,- all the knights of the Round Table declaring with
    acclamation that it would be impossible to find a more worthy
    companion. But Tristram had already departed in search of
    adventures, and the damsel of Queen Isoude returned to her mistress.

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