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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. Not till it was out
of sight did they return to their horses, and look about them.

As they did so they beheld near them a knight, who came up unarmed save
a sword, and saluted them with all courtesy.

"Fair sirs," he said, "I pray you, as knights-errant, to come and see my
castle, and take such fare as you may find there. This I heartily
request."

"That shall we willingly do, and thank you for your courtesy," they
answered, and rode with him to his castle, which was near by.

Here they entered a richly-furnished hall, and, having laid off their
armor, took their seats at a well-laden table. But when the host saw
Tristram's face, he knew him, and first grew pale and then angry of
countenance.

"Sir, mine host," said Tristram, on seeing this threatening aspect,
"what is wrong with you, I pray?"

"I know you, Tristram de Lyonesse," answered the knight, hotly. "You
slew my brother. Honor demands that I shall not seek revenge here, but I
give you warning that I will kill you when I meet you outside my
castle."

"I have no knowledge of you or your brother," answered Tristram. "But no
man can say that I ever killed any one except in fair and open fight. If
I have done as you say I stand ready to make what amends are in my
power."

"I desire no amends," rejoined the knight. "But I warn you to keep from
me."

Tristram at this rose from the table and asked for his arms, his
companions following him. Seeking their horses they rode away, but they
had not gone far from the castle when Dinadan saw a knight following
them, who was well armed, but bore no shield.

"Take care of yourself, Sir Tristram," he said. "Yonder comes our host
to call you to account."

"Then I must abide him as I may," answered Tristram.

Soon the knight came up, and, loudly bidding Tristram to be on his
guard, he rode furiously upon him with couched spear. But his valor went
beyond his strength, for he was hurled over his horse's croup.

Not content with this, he rose, mounted again, and driving his horse at
full speed upon Tristram, struck him two hard blows on the helm.

"Sir knight," said Tristram, "I pray you leave off this sport. I do not
care to harm you after having just eaten at your table, but beg you not
to try my patience too far."

The furious assailant would not cease, however, and continued his
assaults until Tristram was provoked to anger. In the end he returned
the knight a blow with the full strength of his mighty arm, so fierce a
buffet, indeed, that the blood burst out from the breathing holes of his
helm, and he fell to the earth and lay there like one dead.

[Illustration: THE ASSAULT OF SIR TRISTRAM.]

"I hope I have not killed him," said Tristram. "I did not think to
strike the man so hard a blow, but I am not a log to stand at rest and
let him whet his sword on."

Leaving the fallen knight to the care of his squire, they rode on; but
not far had they gone when they saw coming towards them two well-armed
and well-horsed knights, each with a good following of servants. One of
these was Berrant le Apres, he who was called the king with the hundred
knights, and the other Sir Segwarides, both men of might and renown.

When they came up the king looked at Dinadan, who, through sport, had
put on Tristram's helmet. This he recognized as one he had seen before
with the queen of Northgalis, whom he loved. She had given it to La
Belle Isolde, and she to Tristram.

"Sir knight," asked Berrant, "whence had you that helm?"

"Not from you, I fancy. What have you to say to it?"

"That I will have a tilt with you, for the love of her who once owned
it. Therefore, defend yourself."

So they drew asunder, and rode at each other with all the speed of their
horses. But Dinadan, good knight as he was, was no match for the tough
and hardy warrior before him, and was sent, horse and all, to the
ground.

"I fancy I have something to say about the helmet now," said Berrant,
grimly. "Go take it off him, and keep it," he ordered his servant.

"What will you do?" cried Tristram. "Hands off, fellow. Touch not that
helm."

"To what intent do you meddle, sir knight?" demanded Berrant.

"To this intent, that the helm is mine. Nor will you get it from me till
you buy it at a dearer price."

"Do you mean that as a challenge?" asked Berrant. "Be it so, then; make
ready."

Together they rode with all speed, but with a change of fortune, for
Berrant found himself thrust over the tail of his horse. In a moment he
was on his feet, sprang briskly to his saddle, and, riding in anger upon
Tristram, struck at him fiercely with his sword.

Tristram was not taken unawares, but in an instant had his sword in
hand. A fierce combat followed, for the king with the hundred knights
was a warrior of tough sinews and tried valor, but at the last he
received such a buffet on the helm that he fell forward on his horse's
neck, stunned and helpless.

"By my faith, that helmet has proved unlucky for two of us," said
Dinadan. "It brought me a tumble, and now, sir king, you owe it a
buzzing head-piece."

"Who will joust with me?" asked Segwarides.

"It is your right," said Gareth to Dinadan, "but I pray you let me have
it."

"You are heartily welcome to it. One tumble a day is enough for my weak
appetite," answered Dinadan. "I make you a free present of the
opportunity."

"That is no fair exchange," said Tristram. "The joust is yours by
right."

"But not by choice," rejoined Dinadan. "Good faith, sir bruiser, I have
lived long enough to know when I have had my share, and that is a
lesson it would pay many of you battle-hungry knights to learn."

Then Gareth and Segwarides rode together, the result being that Gareth
and his horse went in a heap to the earth.

"Now," said Tristram, "the joust is yours."

"But the appetite is lacking," said Dinadan. "I have even less stomach
for it than before."

"Then will I try him."

With these words Tristram challenged Segwarides, who received a sore
fall in the joust that followed. Then the three knights rode on, leaving
their late antagonists the worse in heart and limb for the encounter.

They continued their ride till they reached Joyous Gard. Here Gareth
courteously declined to enter the castle, but Tristram would not hear of
his departure, and made him alight and enter as his guest. So they
disarmed and had good cheer, with La Belle Isolde as their hostess.

But Dinadan, when he came into the presence of Isolde, roundly cursed
the hour that he had been persuaded to wear Tristram's helm, and told
her of how he had been mocked by his comrade knight.

Much laughing and jesting at Dinadan followed, but this was a game in
which he was quite able to hold his own, however he might lack with
sword and spear. For Arthur's court held no other so witty of tongue and
merry of heart. And thus in jest and feast they passed the hours happily
away.




CHAPTER IV.

HOW PALAMIDES FARED AT THE RED CITY.


Leaving Tristram and his companions to their merry talk in Joyous Gard,
we must now return to Palamides. The ship into which he had entered
sailed far along the Humber, until in time it reached the open sea. It
continued its course through the sea-waves till it came to a part of the
coast where stood a stately castle.

All day and night they had sailed, and it was now early in the morning,
before day-dawn. Palamides was sound asleep in the vessel's cabin when
the mariners came to call him.

"Sir knight," they said, "you must arise. We have reached a castle,
which you must enter."

"I am at your command," he replied.

Rising, he armed himself quickly, and then blew a loud call upon a horn
which the mariners gave him.

At the ringing music of that bugle-blast the sleeping castle seemed to
stir into life. Soon many eyes could be seen looking from the windows,
and ere long the walls were crowded with knights, who called to
Palamides as with one voice, "Welcome, fair sir, to this castle."

The day had now fully dawned, and Palamides entered the castle, where a
crowd of knights came to greet him, and led him to a stately
dining-hall, where an abundant breakfast awaited him. But as he ate he
heard much lamentation, and saw many whose eyes were wet with tears.

"What means this?" he asked. "I love not such sorrow, and would fain
know what gives rise to it."

"We mourn here daily," answered a knight named Sir Ebel, "and for this
cause. We had a king named Hermance, who was lord of the Red City, and
in every way a noble and generous monarch. And he loved nothing in the
world so much as the knights-errant of King Arthur's court, together
with the sports of jousting, hunting, and all knightly diversions. A
king so kind of heart as he was never before known in this country, and
we shall ever be filled with sorrow for his loss. Yet he acted unwisely,
and is himself at fault for his death."

"Tell me how he was slain and by whom," asked Palamides.

"In this wise it came to pass," answered Ebel. "He brought up, in pure
charity, two children, who are now strong knights. And to them he gave
all his trust and confidence, in default of those of his own blood.
These two men governed him completely, and, through him, his lands and
people, for they took the best of care that none of his kindred should
come into power. He was so free and trustful, and they so politic and
deceitful, that they ruled him as though they were the kings and he the
subject. When the lords of our king's blood saw that he had fallen into
this dotage they left the court in disgust, and sought their livelihood
elsewhere. This it proved not wise to do, for when these villains found
that all the king's kindred had left the realm they schemed to have more
power still; for, as the old saw says, 'Give a churl rule in part, and
he will not be content till he has it all.' It is the instinct of the
base-born to destroy gentlemen-born, if the power be put in their hands,
and all rulers should take warning by the fate of King Hermance.



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