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So
he stood moveless, regarding it with a sorrowful heart.

"Now," said Tristram, "I have you at advantage, as you had me this day.
But it shall never be said that Tristram de Lyonesse killed a weaponless
knight. Therefore take your sword, and let us make an end of this
battle."

"As for that, I am willing to end it now," said Palamides. "I have no
wish to fight longer. Nor can I think that my offence is such that we
may not be friends. All I have done is to love La Belle Isolde. You will
not say that I have done her aught of dishonor by holding that she is
peerless among ladies, or by the valor which love for her has given me.
As for such offence as I have given you, I have atoned for it this day,
and no one can say that I have not held my own like a man. But this I
will affirm, that I never before fought with a man of your might.
Therefore I beg you to forgive me for all wrongs which I have done you,
and as my vow is now fulfilled, I stand ready to go with you to the
nearest church, there to be confessed, and to receive baptism as a true
and earnest Christian knight."

"I gladly forgive you all you have done against me," said Tristram; "the
more so that you have done it rather from love than from hatred. It
fills my heart with joy to be the means of bringing the valiant
Palamides into the Church of Christ, and hereafter I shall hold you
among my best friends. Within a mile from here is the suffragan of
Carlisle, who will gladly give you the sacrament of baptism; and all
Christendom must rejoice to gain so noble a convert."

Then they took their horses and helped Galleron to his, and rode to the
church, where Tristram told the suffragan the purpose of their coming.
Proud to bring into the fold of the church so notable a convert, the
suffragan filled a great vessel with water, and hallowed it. This done,
he confessed and baptized Sir Palamides, while Tristram and Galleron
stood as his godfathers.

Afterwards the three knights rode to Camelot, much to the joy of the
king and queen, who gladly welcomed Tristram to their court, and were no
less glad to learn that the valiant Palamides had become a Christian,
and that the long rivalry between him and Tristram was at an end. The
great feast of Pentecost that followed was the merriest that had ever
been held at Arthur's court, and the merriest that ever would be, for
the breath of coming woe and trouble was in the air, and the time was
near at hand in which that worthy fellowship of noble knights was
destined to break up in dire disaster.

But first of all the tide of disaster came upon Tristram the brave and
Isolde the fair, as we must now relate. The chronicles tell the story at
length, but the record of treachery and crime had always best be short,
and so we shall make that of King Mark, the murderer.

Many years before the time to which we have now come, King Mark's
treachery had filled Cornwall with mischief and all the land with
horror, through a deed of frightful crime. And in thus wise it came
about. Cornwall had been invaded by a host of Saracens, but before they
could do any mischief, Prince Baldwin, King Mark's brother, attacked
them, burned their ships, and utterly destroyed them. Furious at heart
that his brother should win such honor, while he lay cowering with fear
in his castle, Mark invited him to Tintagil, with his wife and child.
There suddenly charging him with treason for attacking the Saracens
without orders, he stabbed him to the heart, and would have slain his
wife and child as well had not the lady Anglides fled for life with her
child.

Mark sent after them an old knight named Sir Sadok, with orders to bring
them back to Tintagil. But he suffered them to escape, and brought back
to the king a false tale that he had drowned the boy.

Many years now passed by, during which Baldwin's son, Alexander the
orphan, grew up to be a youth large of limb and strong of arm. In due
time he was made a knight, whereupon Anglides produced the bloody
doublet and shirt of her murdered husband, which she had carefully
preserved, and laid upon the young knight the duty of revenging his
father's death. The story of the crime had been diligently kept from
him, but he now accepted this heavy charge with alacrity, and vowed
solemnly to devote his life to the duty of revenging his murdered
father.

News of all this was quickly brought to King Mark, by a false knight who
hoped to win favor by turning informer.

"By my halidom," cried Mark, "whom can I trust? I fancied the young
viper was dead years ago. That false hound, Sadok, let him escape. As I
am a living man, he shall pay the penalty of his treason."

Seizing a sword, he burst furiously from the chamber, and rushed madly
through the castle in search of the knight who had deceived him. When
Sadok saw him coming, with fury in his face, he guessed what had
happened, and drew his own sword in haste.

"King Mark," he cried, "beware how you come nigh me. I saved the life of
Alexander, and glory in it, for you slew his father cowardly and
treacherously. And it is my hope and prayer that the youth may have the
strength and spirit to revenge the good Prince Baldwin on his murderer."

"What, traitor! What, dog! Do you dare rail thus at me?" cried the king,
and in a voice of fury he bade four knights of his following to slay the
traitor.

These knights drew their swords and advanced in a body on Sadok; but he
got the wall of them, and fought so shrewdly that he killed the whole
four in King Mark's presence.

Then, shaking his clinched fist at the king, he said,--

"I would add your false body to the heap, but that I leave you for
Alexander's revenge."

This said, he took horse and rode briskly away, and in all his court
Mark could not find a knight willing to pursue him, for all that held
with the king feared the old knight's sturdy arm.

King Mark now finding his wrath of no avail, set himself to devising
some scheme of treachery by which the danger that threatened him might
be removed. In the end he made a compact with Morgan le Fay and the
queen of Northgalis, both false sorceresses, in which they agreed to
fill the land with ladies that were enchantresses, and with false
knights like Malgrim and Breuse Sans Pité, so that the young knight
Alexander le Orphelin should be surrounded with magic and treachery, and
without doubt be taken prisoner or slain.

Soon after his knighting, Alexander set out for King Arthur's court, and
on the way there had many adventures, in which he proved himself a
knight of great valor and skill. Among these was a mighty battle with
the false knight Malgrim, whom in the end he killed.

But now Morgan le Fay sought to entrap him by her false devices. She
gave him a sleeping draught, and had him taken in a horse-litter to a
castle of hers named La Belle Regard.

Here she cured him of his wounds by healing salves, but not until he had
promised that he would not set foot beyond the boundaries of that castle
for a twelvemonth and a day. When he had recovered, Alexander chafed
bitterly at his confinement, for he felt sure that the pledge had been
exacted from him to save King Mark from his vow of revenge. Yet his word
held him close prisoner.

As one day he wandered through the halls of the castle, like a young
lion in a cage,--now heavy and sad, now burning with desire for
action,--there came to him a damsel who was cousin to Morgan le Fay, and
to whom the castle of La Belle Regard by right belonged.

"Sir knight," she said to him, "I find you doleful of aspect; yet I bear
tidings that should make you merry!"

"I pray you tell them to me," he answered. "I am here now a prisoner by
promise, but must say that time hangs very heavy on my hands."

"You are more of a prisoner than you deem," she replied. "My cousin,
Morgan le Fay, keeps you here for purposes of her own which you will
scarcely find to your liking."

"I fancy she keeps me here through an understanding with King Mark," he
rejoined. "I have no faith in her, but I cannot break my word of honor."

"Truly, fair sir," she said, "I pity your unhappy lot, and have a plan
in mind through which you may escape from this durance without loss of
honor."

"Do that and I shall owe you my life's service," he answered, warmly.
"Tell me, dear lady, by what means I can be freed."

"This I may justly say, that this castle of right belongs to me. I have
been unjustly deprived of it, and in right and honor you are my
prisoner, not Morgan's. I have an uncle who is a powerful nobleman, the
Earl of Pase, and who hates Morgan le Fay above all persons. I shall
send to him, and pray him for my sake to destroy this castle, which
harbors only evil customs. He will come at my wish and set fire to the
building throughout. As for you, I shall get you out at a private
postern, and there have your horse and armor ready."

"Truly, fair maiden, you are as wise as you are beautiful," he answered,
in eager accents. "Release me from imprisonment to Morgan and I will
hold myself your prisoner for life."

Then she sent to her uncle the earl, and bade him come and burn that
haunt of mischief,--a design which he already had in mind.

When the appointed day came the Earl of Pase sought the castle with four
hundred knights, and set fire to it in all parts, ceasing not his
efforts till there was not a stone left standing of the once proud
stronghold.

But Alexander was not willing to take this as a release from his vow,
but stationed himself within the limits of the space where had stood the
castle of La Belle Regard, and made it known far and wide that he would
hold that ground against all comers for a twelvemonth and a day.

Word of this knightly challenge soon came to Arthur's court, where was
then a lady of famous beauty and great estate, known as Alice la Belle
Pilgrim, daughter of Duke Ansirus, called the pilgrim, since he went on
a pilgrimage to Jerusalem every third year.

When this fair maiden heard of Alexander's challenge, she went into the
great hall of Camelot and proclaimed in the hearing of all the knights
that whoever should overcome the champion of La Belle Regard should wed
her and be lord of all her lands.

This done, she went to La Belle Regard, where she set up her pavilion
beside the piece of earth held by the young knight.



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