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"Beaumains is safe from my spear. Here is a
chap now, if you want to try your skill; but if you can get him to fight
you must first learn the art of converting a coward into a man of
valor."

Tristram laughed quietly at this, and bided his time. Nor was there long
to wait, for just then a well-armed knight rode up, on a sturdy horse,
and put his spear in rest as he approached.

"Now, my good sirs," said Tristram, "choose between yourselves which
will joust with yonder knight; for I warn you that I will keep clear of
him."

"Faith, you had better," said Gareth. "Leave him to me."

And he rode against the knight but with such ill-fortune that he was
thrust over his horse's croup.

"It is your turn now," said Tristram to Dinadan. "Honor requires that
you should avenge your comrade Gareth."

"Honor does, eh? Then reason does not, and I always weigh reason against
honor. He has overturned a much bigger fellow than I, and with your kind
permission I will not stir up that hornet."

"Aha, friend Dinadan, your heart fails you after all your boasting. Very
well, you shall see what the coward can do. Make ready, sir knight."

Then Tristram rode against the victorious knight, and dealt him so
shrewd a buffet that he was thrust from his horse.

Dinadan looked at this in amazement. Was this the fellow that professed
cowardice and begged protection? "The cunning rogue," he said to
himself, "has been making game of me. The rascal! where has he learned
the art of turning my weapons on myself?"

The dismounted knight rose to his feet in anger, and drawing his sword,
challenged Tristram to a fight on foot.

"First, tell me your name?" asked Tristram.

"My name is Palamides."

"And what knight hate you most?"

"I hate Sir Tristram to the death. If we meet, one of us must die."

"You need not go far to seek him. I am Tristram de Lyonesse. Now do your
worst."

At this Dinadan started, and struck his hand sturdily on his knee, like
one who has had a shock of surprise. Nor was Palamides less astonished,
and he stood before Tristram like one in a sudden revulsion of feeling.

"I pray you, Sir Tristram," he said, "to forgive my ill-will and my
unkind words. You are a noble knight and worthy of the love of all
honorable warriors. I repent my truculent temper towards you, and, if I
live, will rather do you service than assail you."

"I know your valor well," answered Tristram, "and that it is anything
but fear makes you speak so. Therefore I thank you much for your kind
words. But if you have any shreds of ill-will towards me I am ready to
give you satisfaction."

"My wits have been astray," answered Palamides. "There is no just reason
why we should be at odds, and I am ready to do you knightly service in
all things you may command."

"I take you at your word," cried Tristram, as he grasped Palamides by
the hand. "I have never been your enemy, and know none whom I would
rather have as a friend."

"Would you?" cried Dinadan. "And would have me as your fool, mayhap? By
my knightly faith, you have made a sweet butt of me! I came into this
country for your sake, and by the advice of Sir Lancelot, though he
would not tell me where to find you. By Jove's ears, I never thought to
find you masquerading as a milk-brained coward."

"He could have told you," said Tristram, "for I abode within his own
castle. As for my little sport, friend Dinadan, I cry you mercy."

"Faith, it is but one of my own jests, turned against me," said Dinadan,
with a merry laugh. "I am pinked with my own dart. I forgive you, old
comrade; but I vow I did not know you had such a jolly humor."

"It comes to one in your company," said Tristram, laughing. "The disease
is catching."

And so the four knights rode gayly onward, conversing much as they went,
and laying their plans for the tournament.




CHAPTER III.

ON THE ROAD TO LONAZEP.


The four knights rode onward in company until they came in sight of the
castle of Lonazep, where they saw striking preparations for the
tournament. For not less than four hundred tents and pavilions covered
the plain outside the great circle of the lists, and war-horses and
knights in armor were there in hundreds.

"Truly," said Tristram, "this is the royalest show that I ever saw."

"You forget," answered Palamides. "It had its equal at the Castle of
Maidens, where you won the prize."

"And in that tournament which Galahalt of the Long Isles held in Surluse
there was as great a gathering," said Dinadan.

"I was not there; who won the prize?" asked Tristram.

"Lancelot du Lake, and the next after him was the noble knight Lamorak
de Galis."

"A noble fellow, indeed, I never met his better, save Sir Lancelot. His
murder was shameful, and were they not the nephews of my lord Arthur
that slew him, by my faith they should die the death. And this without
prejudice to you, Sir Gareth."

"Say what you will on that point; I am with you," answered Gareth.
"Though my own brothers did that bloody work, I hold not with them. None
of them love me, as you well know, and I have left their company as
murderers. Had I been by when Lamorak was killed there might have been
another tale to tell."

"Truly that is well said of you," rejoined Tristram. "I would rather
have been there than to have all the gold between here and Rome."

"And I also," said Palamides. "It is a burning disgrace to the Round
Table fellowship that such a knight should have been ambushed and slain
on his way from a passage-at-arms where he had won the prize of valor."

"Out on such treason!" cried Tristram. "The tale of it makes my blood
run cold."

"And mine as well," said Gareth. "I can never love or respect my
brothers again for that ruthless deed."

"Yet to speak of it is useless," said Palamides. "His life is gone; we
cannot bring it back again."

"There lies the pity," said Dinadan. "No matter how good and noble a man
may be, when he stops breathing all else stops with him. By good luck,
though, the same rule holds with villains and cowards. As for Gawaine
and his brothers, except you, Sir Gareth, they hate the best knights of
the Round Table, and Lancelot and his kindred above all. Only that
Lancelot is well aware of this, they might draw him into as deadly a
trap as they drew poor Lamorak."

"Come, come, remember that Gareth is their brother," said Palamides.
"Let us change the subject. Here is this tournament,--what part shall we
play here? My advice is that we four hold together against all that may
assail us."

"That is not my counsel," said Tristram. "By their pavilions we may
count on some four hundred knights, and doubtless many of them worthy
ones. If we play the game of four against all comers we are likely to
find ourselves borne down by numbers. Many good knights have lost the
game by taking too great odds. Manhood is of little avail if it be not
tempered by wisdom. If you think it best we may try it, and see what we
can do in company, but, as a rule, I prefer to fight for my own hand."

As they thus talked they rode away from Lonazep, and in due time came to
the banks of the Humber, where they were surprised by a loud and
grievous cry that seemed full of doleful meaning. Looking over the
waters they saw approaching before the wind a vessel richly draped with
red silk. Not long had they waited when it came to the shore, at a point
close by where they stood.

Seeing this strange thing and hearing the doleful cries which came from
the vessel, the knights gave their horses in care of their squires, and
approached on foot, Tristram boarding the vessel. When he reached the
deck he saw there a bed with rich silken coverings, on which lay a dead
knight, armed save the head, which was crimsoned with blood. And through
great gaps in his armor deadly wounds could be seen.

"What means this?" said Tristram. "How came this knight by his death?"

As he spoke he saw that a letter lay in the dead knight's hand.

"Master mariners," he asked of those on board the vessel, "what does
this strange thing signify?"

"Sir knight," they answered, "by the letter which the dead knight bears
you may learn how and for what cause he was slain, and what name he
bore. Yet first heed well this warning: No man must take and read that
letter unless he be a knight of proved valor, and faithfully promises to
revenge the murder of this good warrior."

"There be those among us able to revenge him," answered Tristram. "And
if he shall prove to have been foully treated his death shall not go
unredressed."

Therewith he took the letter from the knight's hand and opened it. Thus
it read,--

"I, Hermance, king and lord of the Red City, request of all
knights-errant and all noble knights of Arthur's court, that they find
one knight who will fight for my sake with two false brethren, whom I
brought up from nothingness and who have feloniously and treacherously
slain me. And it is my will and desire that the valiant knight who
avenges my death shall become lord of my Red City and all my castles."

"Sir," said the mariners, "the king and knight that lies here dead was a
man of great virtue and noble prowess, and one who loved all
knights-errant, and, above all, those of King Arthur's court."

"It is a piteous case, truly," said Tristram. "I would fain take the
enterprise in hand myself, but that I have made a solemn promise to take
part in this great tournament. It was for my sake in especial that my
lord Arthur made it, and I cannot in honor and courtesy fail to attend
it. Therefore I am not free to undertake any adventure which may keep me
from the lists."

"I pray you, dear sir," said Palamides, who had followed Tristram into
the vessel, "to put this enterprise into my hands. I promise to achieve
it worthily or to die in the effort."

"Be it so," said Tristram. "You may go if you will. But first I wish
your promise to return so as to be with me at the tournament this day
week, if possible."

"That promise I freely give. If I be alive and unhurt, and my task be
not too arduous and long, I shall be with you by that day."

This said, Tristram left the vessel, leaving Palamides in it, and he,
with Gareth and Dinadan, stood watching it as the mariners hoisted its
sails and it glided swiftly away over long Humber.



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