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"Take your
way and I will take mine. We fit not well together."

"I might give you news of Sir Tristram."

"Sir Tristram, if he be wise, will seek better company. I can do without
your news, as I have had to do without your help," and he rode on in
high dudgeon.

"Farewell, then," cried Tristram, laughing. "It may happen we shall soon
meet again."

Tristram rode back in much amusement to Joyous Gard, but on coming near
he heard in the neighboring town a great outcry.

"What means this noise?" he asked.

"Sir," he was told, "a knight of the castle has just been slain by two
strangers, and for no other cause than saying that Sir Lancelot was a
better knight than Sir Gawaine."

"Who would dispute that?" said Tristram. "It is a small cause for the
death of a good man, that he stands for his lord's fame."

"But what remedy have we?" said the towns-men. "If Lancelot had been
here, these fellows would soon have been called to a reckoning. But,
alas, he is away."

"I may do something in his service," answered Tristram. "If I take his
place, I must defend his followers."

Thereupon he sent for his shield and spear, and rode in pursuit of the
two knights, whom he overtook before they had gone far.

"Turn, sir dastards," he cried, "and amend your misdeeds."

"What amends wish you?" asked one of the knights. "We are ready with
spear and sword to make good whatever we have done."

He rode against Tristram, but was met so sturdily in mid career that he
was thrust over his horse's tail. Then the other rode against him, and
was served in the same rough manner.

They rose as quickly as they could, drew their swords, and challenged
him to battle on foot.

"You shall tell me your names," he said, sternly. "I warn you that if it
comes to sword-play you will find more than your match. Yet you may have
that in your lineage which will keep you from my hands, however much you
deserve punishment for your evil deeds."

"As for our names, we dread not to tell them. We are Agravaine and
Gaheris, brothers to the good knight Gawaine, and nephews of King
Arthur."

"For Arthur's sake, then, I must let you pass unscathed. Yet it is a
crying shame that men of such good blood as you should play the part of
murderers. You slew among you a better knight than the best of your kin,
Lamorak de Galis, and I would to God I had been by at that time."

"You would have gone the same road," said Gaheris.

"Not without more knights to do it than you had in your murderous crew."

With these words he turned from them and rode back towards Joyous Gard.
When he had gone they regained their horses, and feeling themselves safe
in the saddle their courage returned.

"Let us pursue this boaster," they said, "and see if he fares so much
better than Lamorak."

They did so, and when they came near Tristram, who was jogging slowly
along, Agravaine cried,--

"Turn, traitor knight!"

"Traitor in your teeth!" cried Tristram, in a rage. "I let you off too
cheaply, it seems." And drawing his sword, he turned upon Agravaine and
smote him so fiercely on the helm that he fell swooning from his horse,
with a dangerous wound.

Then he turned to Gaheris and dealt him a blow that in like manner
tumbled him from his saddle to the earth. This done, Tristram turned and
rode into the castle, leaving them like dead men in the road.

Here he told La Belle Isolde of his several adventures. When he spoke
of Dinadan, she asked,--

"Was it not he that made the song about King Mark?"

"The same," answered Tristram. "He is the greatest jester at Arthur's
court, but a good knight withal, and I know no man whom I like better as
a comrade."

"Why did you not bring him with you?"

"No need of that. He is seeking me through this country, and there is no
fear that he will give up the search lightly."

As they spoke, a servant came and told Tristram that a knight-errant had
entered the town, and described the device on his shield.

"That is our man now," said Tristram. "That is Dinadan. Send for him,
Isolde, and you shall hear the merriest knight and the maddest talker
that you ever spoke with. I pray you to make him heartily welcome, for
he is a cherished friend of mine."

Then Isolde sent into the town with a message to Dinadan, begging that
he would come to the castle and rest a while there, at a lady's wish.

"That will I, with a good will," answered Dinadan. "I were but a churl
else."

He hastened to mount and ride to the castle, and here he was shown to a
chamber where he laid aside his armor. Then he was brought into the
presence of La Belle Isolde, who courteously bade him welcome.

"Whence, come you, and what name do you bear?" she asked.

"Madam," he answered, "I am from King Arthur's court, and am one of the
small fry of Round Table Knights. My name is Dinadan."

"And why came you hither?"

"I am seeking my old friend and comrade, Sir Tristram, who I am told has
made his way to this country."

"That I cannot answer for," said Isolde. "He may and he may not be here.
Sir Tristram will be found where love leads him."

"I warrant me that. Your true lover has no will of his own, but is led
like an ox, with a ring in his nose. I marvel what juice of folly gets
into the pates of these lovers to make them so mad about the women."

"Why, sir," said Isolde, "can it be that you are a knight and no lover?
I fancy that there can be no true man-of-arms who seeks not by his deeds
to win the smiles of the fair."

"They who care to be fed on smiles are welcome to them, but I am not
made of that fashion," answered Dinadan. "The joy of love is too short,
and the sorrow thereof too long, to please my fancy."

"Say you so? Yet near here but to-day was the good knight Sir Bleoberis,
he who fought with three knights at once for a maiden's sake, and won
her before the king of Northumberland."

"I know him for a worthy fellow," said Dinadan, "as are all of
Lancelot's kindred. Yet he has crotchets in his head, like all that
crew."

"Now, I pray you," said Isolde, "will you not do me the grace to fight
for my love with three knights that have done me great wrong? As you
are a knight of King Arthur's, you can never say me nay in such a duty."

"Can I not?" cried Dinadan. "This much I will say, madam, that you are
as fair a sample of womankind as ever I saw, and much more beautiful
than is my lady Queen Guenever. And yet, heaven defend me, I will not
fight for you against three knights; and would not, were you Helen of
Troy herself."

At these words, and the odd grimace which he made, La Belle Isolde burst
into a merry peal of laughter, and broke out with,--

"I know you better than you fancy, Sir Dinadan. And well you keep up
your credit of being a merry fellow. You are very welcome to my castle,
good sir."

They had much more of gameful conversation together, and Dinadan was
treated with all honor, and slept serenely at the castle that night. But
Tristram took good care to keep out of his sight.

Early the next day Tristram armed himself and prepared to ride away,
saying to the Lady Isolde that he would contrive to meet with Dinadan,
and would ride with him to Lonazep, where the tournament was to be held.
He promised also to make arrangements to provide her with a good place
from which to see the passage-at-arms. Then he departed, accompanied by
two squires, who bore his shield and a brace of great and long spears.

Shortly afterwards Dinadan left the castle, bidding a merry adieu to the
lady, and rode so briskly forward that he soon overtook Tristram. He
knew him at sight for his yesterday's comrade, and made a sour grimace
at beholding him.

"So," he said, "here again is my easy-going friend, who wears his armor
for a holiday parade. You shall not get off so lightly to-day, fellow.
You shall joust with me, despite your head."

"Faith, I am not eager," said Tristram, "but a wilful man will have his
way; so let us have it over, if fight we must."

Then they rode at each other, and Dinadan broke a spear on Tristram's
shield, but Tristram purposely missed him.

Dinadan now bade him draw his sword.

"Not I," he answered. "What makes you so warlike? I am not in the humor
to fight."

"You shame all knights by your cowardice."

"So far as that goes, it troubles me little," said Tristram. "Suppose,
my good sir, you take me under your protection. Though I bear arms I
shall gladly accept the patronage of so worthy a knight as you."

"The devil deliver me of you!" cried Dinadan. "You are a fellow of
goodly build, and sit your horse like a warrior; but heaven knows if you
have blood or water in your veins. What do you propose to do with those
great spears that your squire carries?"

"I shall give them to some good knight at the tournament. If you prove
the best there, you are welcome to them."

As they thus conversed they saw a knight-errant in the road before them,
who sat with spear in rest as if eager to joust.

"Come," said Tristram, "since you are so anxious for a fight, yonder is
your man."

"Shame betide you for a dastard," cried Dinadan. "Fight him yourself.
You can't get more than a fall."

"Not so. That knight seems a shrewish fellow. It will need a stronger
hand than mine to manage him."

"Good faith, then, here's to teach you a lesson," said Dinadan, and he
rode fiercely against the other knight, with the unlucky result that he
was thrust from his horse, and fell headlong to the earth.

"What did I tell you?" said Tristram. "You had better have taken a
lesson from my prudence, and let that good fellow alone."

"The fiends take you, coward!" cried Dinadan, as he started to his feet
and drew his sword. "Come, sir knight, you are my better on horseback,
let us have it out on foot."

"Shall it be in love or in anger?" said the other.

"Let it be in love. I am saving all my anger for this do-nothing who
came with me."

"Then I pray you to tell me your name."

"Folks call me Dinadan."

"Ah, and I am your comrade Gareth. I will not fight with an old friend
like Dinadan."

"Nor I with you, by my faith!" cried Dinadan, seizing Gareth's hand and
giving it a warm pressure.



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