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If it were not for the shame of
an unknightly act I would deal you here the meed you have earned. How
will you acquit yourself of treachery?"

"Thus will I," said Palamides, springing to his feet in his surprise.
"As for Queen Isolde, you may know well that I love her above all other
ladies in the world. I loved her before you ever saw her, as you know,
and have never ceased nor shall ever cease to love her. What honor I
have won is due for the most part to my love of her. Yet never for a
moment has she returned my love, and I have been her knight without
guerdon. Therefore I dread not death, for I had as lief die as live."

"Well have you uttered your treason," said Tristram.

"No treason is it," said Palamides. "Love is free to all men, and I have
a right to love any lady I will. If she return it not, no man is harmed.
Such wrong as is done I have suffered, not you, for your love is
returned and mine has brought me but pain. Yet I shall continue to love
La Belle Isolde to the end of my days as deeply as you can."

That there was reason in these words Tristram could not but have seen,
had not anger blinded his wisdom.

"None shall love my lady but myself," he cried, in passion. "And for
what you have said I challenge you to battle to the uttermost."

"I can never fight in a better quarrel," said Palamides. "And if you
slay me I can never die by a nobler hand. Since I cannot hope for favor
from La Belle Isolde, I have as good will to die as to live."

"Then set a day in which we shall do battle in this cause."

"Let it be fifteen days hence. And let the place be in the meadow under
Joyous Gard."

"Why so long a time?" demanded Tristram. "To-morrow will suit me
better."

"It is because I am meagre and weak, and have fallen away to a shadow
through hopeless love. I must rest until I get my strength again before
I can face so doughty a knight."

"So let it be, then," said Tristram. "Yet once before you broke a
promise to meet me in battle at the grave near Camelot."

"What could I do?" rejoined Palamides. "I was in prison, and could not
keep my word."

"If you had done so, there would have been no need of a fight now," said
Tristram, as he strode haughtily away.

Then Palamides took his horse and rode to Arthur's court, where he did
his utmost to rest and regain strength. When the appointed time
approached he returned, attended by four knights and four
sergeant-at-arms.

Meanwhile Tristram spent his time at the chase. And by evil fortune,
about three days before the time of battle, a wild arrow shot by an
archer at a hart struck him in the thigh and wounded him so deeply that
he could scarcely return to Joyous Gard.

Great was his heaviness of heart, and neither man nor woman could bring
him cheer, for it was now impossible to keep his word with his rival;
and his heart grew full of the fancy that Palamides himself had shot
that arrow, so as to prevent him doing battle on the appointed day. But
this no knight about Tristram would believe.

When the fifteenth day came Palamides appeared at the place fixed, with
the knights and sergeants whom he had brought with him to bear record of
the battle. One sergeant bore his helm, a second his spear, and a third
his shield. And for two hours he rested in the field, awaiting the
approach of his antagonist.

Then, seeing that Tristram failed to come, he sent a squire to Joyous
Gard to remind him of his challenge. When Tristram heard of this message
he had the squire brought to his chamber, and showed him his wound.

"Tell Sir Palamides," he said, "that were I able to come he would not
need to send for me, and that I had rather be whole to-day than have all
King Arthur's gold. Tell him, moreover, that as soon as I am able I
shall seek him throughout the land, as I am a true knight; and when I
find him he shall have his fill of battle."

This message the squire brought to his master, who heard it with much
secret satisfaction.

"I would have had hard handling of him, and very likely have been
vanquished," he said, "for he has not his equal in battle, unless it be
Sir Lancelot. So I am well content to give up the fight."

A month passed before Tristram was well. Then he took his horse and rode
from country to country in search of Palamides, having many strange
adventures by the way, but nowhere could he meet or hear of his rival
in love. But during his search Tristram did so many valiant deeds that
his fame for the time quite overtopped that of Lancelot, so much so that
Lancelot's kinsmen in their anger would have waylaid and slain the
valiant warrior.

For this jealousy Lancelot sternly rebuked them, saying,--

"Bear it well in mind, that if any of you does any harm to Sir Tristram,
that man shall I slay with my own hands. To murder a man like this for
his noble deeds! Out upon such base designs! Far rather should you
worship him for his valor and royal prowess."

And so time went on for the space of two years, during which Tristram
sought in vain for his rival.

At the end of that time he came home to Joyous Gard from one of his
journeys of adventure, and there was told by La Belle Isolde of a great
feast to be held at the court on the coming day of Pentecost, which she
counselled him strongly to attend.

Much debate passed between him and his lady-love on this subject, for he
was loth to go without her, and she cared not to go. In the end he
declared that he would obey her wishes, but would ride thither unarmed,
save for his sword and spear.

This he did, and though she in her loving anxiety sent after him four
knights, he sent them back within half a mile. Yet he soon had reason to
repent his rashness. For hardly had he gone a mile farther when he came
upon a wounded knight, who told him he owed his hurt to Sir Palamides.
What to do now, Tristram knew not. Near by was the foe he had so long
sought in vain, and he was unarmed. Should he ride back for his armor,
or go on as he was?

While he stood thinking, Palamides appeared, and knew him at sight.

"Well met, Sir Tristram!" he cried. "I have heard much of your search
for me. You have found me now, and we shall not part till we have
settled our old scores."

"As for that," answered Tristram, "no Christian can boast that I ever
fled from him, nor shall a Saracen make this boast, even if I be
unarmed."

Then he put his horse to the gallop and rode on Palamides with such fury
that his spear broke into a hundred pieces. Throwing it away, he drew
his sword and struck Palamides six great strokes upon the helm, while
the Saracen stood unresisting, and wondering at the folly and madness of
his foe. Then Tristram cried out in fury,--

"Coward knight, why stand you thus idly? You dare not do battle with me,
for doubt not but I can endure all your strength and malice."

"You know well, Sir Tristram," answered Palamides, "that I cannot in
honor strike at your unarmed head. If I should slay you thus, shame
would be my lot. As for your valor and hardiness, those I shall never
question."

"You speak well," answered Tristram.

"Tell me this," continued Palamides. "Were I here naked of armor, and
you full armed as I am, what would you do?"

"I shall not answer from fear, but from truthfulness. I would bid you
depart, as I could not have ado with you."

"No more can I with you," said Palamides, "therefore ride on your way."

"I shall ride or abide as I may choose," said Tristram. "But tell me
this, Palamides: how is it that so good a knight as you refuses to be
christened, as your brothers have long been?"

"I cannot become a Christian till a vow I made years ago is fulfilled. I
believe fully in Jesus Christ and His mild mother Mary; but there is one
battle yet I must fight, and when that is done I will be baptized with a
good will."

"If that is the battle with me," said Tristram, "you shall not long wait
for it. For God defend that through my fault you should continue a
Saracen. Yonder is a knight whom you have hurt. Help me to put on his
armor and I will aid you to fulfil your vow."

So they rode together to the wounded knight, who was seated on a bank.
Tristram saluted him, and he weakly returned the salute.

"Will you tell me your name, sir knight?" asked Tristram.

"I am Sir Galleron of Galway, and a Knight of the Round Table."

"I am sorry for your hurts, and beg you to lend me your armor, for I am
unarmed, and would do battle with this knight who wounded you."

"You shall have it with a good will. But you must beware, for this is no
common knight."

"I know him well," answered Tristram, "and have an old quarrel with
him."

"Will you kindly tell me your name?"

"My name is Tristram de Lyonesse."

"Then it was idle to warn you. Well I know your renown and worship; and
Sir Palamides is likely to have no light task."

Tristram now took off the armor of the wounded knight, who, as well as
he could, helped him to put it on himself. This accomplished, Tristram
mounted his horse and took in his hand Sir Galleron's spear.

Riding to where Palamides stood waiting, he bade him make ready. In a
minute more the two strong knights came hurtling together like two
lions. Each smote the other in the centre of the shield, but Palamides's
spear broke, while that of Tristram overturned the horse of Palamides.
In a moment the unhorsed knight had sprung to his feet and drawn his
sword, while Tristram alighted, tied his horse to a tree, and advanced
to the fray.

The combat that succeeded was a hard and well-fought one, as only it
could be between two such knights. For more than two hours it continued,
Tristram often bringing Palamides to his knees by his mighty strokes,
while Palamides cut through Tristram's shield and wounded him. Then, in
a fury of anger, Tristram rushed upon his rival and hurled him to the
earth. But in an instant the agile Saracen was on his feet again,
fighting with all his old strength and skill. And so the combat went on,
hour by hour, and, hard as Tristram fought, Palamides stood as nobly to
his work, and gave him stroke for stroke.

But, as fortune willed, in the end a fierce blow struck the sword from
Palamides's hand, nor dare he stoop for it, for fear of being slain.



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