Having made peace among them, the queen took Tristan by the hand and seated him with her daughter, then bid him tell the whole story to her lord, from the beginning, how everything had come about in their various adventures— the battle with the dragon, and about King Marke's suit. Again he told the whole story. "But, Sir Tristan," said the king, what assurance do I have that I should believe all of this?" "This, My Lord. I have with me all my own king's princes. Whatever security you require, it is yours for the asking, as long as I hold a one of them." With this the king retired, so that Tristan and the ladies were left there to themselves. Tristan took Paranis aside. "Fellow," he said, "an errand for you. A ship now lies in the harbor— go down there to it quietly and ask for the one among them whose name is Curvenal. Tell him confidentially 10700 to come at once to his master, but say nothing to anyone else. Bring him here, as your duty." And you should know he did so, and so unobtrusively that no one noticed anything.
When the two of them arrived and came before the ladies, only the queen took notice with a nod to Curvenal. The others paid no attention, since he was not in knightly garb. When Curvenal found Tristan safe and sound, enjoying himself in the company of the ladies, he exclaimed (speaking Franzois), "ha, bea duz sire, for God's sake, how is this— I find you now taking pleasure, hiding out secretly here in this paradise, while leaving us to worry? We all though you were lost— until this moment I'd have sworn you couldn't still be alive— how anxious you have made us! All your men on the ship were ready to swear just today that they were sure you were dead. Only as a last resort would they wait until tonight, having made up their minds to make sail at sunset." "Oh, no," the good queen remarked, "here he is, alive and happy." At this,Tristan switched to Britunish when making his reply. "Curvenal, go right back, let them know that I'm safe and that I'm going to accomplish what we were sent out to do." He then explained briefly how he had succeeded as clearly as he could. And after he had told him of the labors he had done, he sent him off. "Go quickly, tell all the nobility and all the knights as well. Early tomorrow morning 10750 each of them must be ready, in court dress and full arms, the very best of everything that they have brought with them. They must watch for my messenger. As soon as I send for them, they are to ride here to court. Also tomorrow, I'll have you send to me the small chest in which I keep my valuables, and send along with it the most elegant clothes I have. You must also dress yourself as a knight should for court appearance." Curvenal bowed and went. "Who was that?" Brangaene asked. "He seems to think we have a paradise in our room. Is he a knight or a servant?" "My Lady, however he may look to you, he is a knight, and my man. And let there be no doubt of this: never has the sun shone into a stouter heart than his." "Then blessed may he ever be," murmered the queen and princess, and with them Brangaene, courtly and refined. Curvenal soon reached the ship, and having delivered instructions as he had been sent to do, he also told what he had heard and how Tristan was now faring. They at once began to act like one, having seen death, who finds himself in reprieve, so relieved were they all, but many of them were gladdened more by the cessation of hostilities than at Tristan's escape. The envious clique of barons quickly went back to whispering and breeding rumors as before. They suspected Tristan all the more of plying illicit wizardry to perform such deeds of valor. Each one murmured to the other— "It's obviously unnatural that he should work such miracles. How else, I ask you, can this man 10800 bring off every exploit that he happens to undertake?" By this time the day had come appointed for the trial by combat, and quite a large company of the country's best forces was in the hall, before their king. Among his stout retainers there was much speculation as to who would take the field on behalf of the maid Isolt against the seneschal. The question went around and around, but among them all, there was none who knew anything about it. Tristan by now had received his chest and courtly finery. From the chest he selected three sashes for the ladies of workmanship as fine as any queen or empress wore. Besides these the chest was filled with sparkling clasps and garlands, finger jewelry and purses, all of such high quality that in your rarest fancies you could hardly imagine or hope for any better. But of it all, no more was used except what Tristan picked out to complement his costume— a belt, that well suited him, and a wreath with a little clasp worthy to ride on his brow. But then he said, "My Ladies, take the rest, you three, the chest and all it holds, and do with it as you please." With this announcement he left to put his own raiment on, doing so with great care, much concerned for his appearance when festively attired as a man proud to be a knight, so that his finery reflected this. He made his entrance before the ladies, who, having taken careful notice, began to reconsider what all this could mean. To all three of them he seemed 10850 splendid in his good fortune. The three, resplendent in themselves, thought as though with one mind, "Ah, surely, this man is a manly creature— how he looks in what he wears goes to prove he is a man. All of it comes together. Surely he is marked by greatness." Tristan furthermore had summoned his entire company. As they entered and took their places in the hall, one after another, the local powers looked on, each one taking notice of the finery on display, intended to impress them all. And indeed, the verdict was that never had so many men appeared in so much elegance. But none of them said a word. They omitted to address their host only for the simple reason that they didn't know the local language. When all were seated, the king sent a messenger to the queen to summon her to the court and with her the princess. "All right, Isolt," she said, "let's go. Sir Tristan, you remain here, and as soon as I send for you, let Brangaene take your hand and lead you in, after us." "Of course, Your Royal Highness." Thus the queen Isolt, the Dawn that promises morning, by her hand led in the Sun, the miracle of Irlant, the brilliant maiden Isolt. In the train of her Dawn she rose with measured tread, by the same path and stride, in every aspect right and pleasing, well proportioned, slim and tall, framed by her finery as though Love itself had shaped of her a hunting hawk, the full achievement of desire beyond which it cannot reach. She wore a splendid robe and cloak 10900 of gold-threaded silk brocade, cut in the latest Franzois style. Toward the waist, where the sides arch down smoothly over the hips, exotic tassels framed the curve, pressed closely to her comely shape with a fine-fitted silk girdle, riding right where a girdle should. The dress was like a part of her, intimate with her body. Nowhere did it hang loose, clinging smoothly everywhere down its whole length from above. Its folds and smoothly tailored fall reached all the way to her feet, just as you would like to see it. The cloak was carefully worked with the whitest ermine for a decorative edging with the spots all aligned. Being just the right length, its bottom hem seemed to float, neither dragging the floor nor rising. It was trimmed in front with sable, as though by some goddess of measure, not too narrow, not too broad, the black and gray exactly blended. Black and gray in this work were so well intermingled that neither one could be distinguished. The sable followed the curve of the white fur all around, making the most of the way these two complement each other. Serving now as the buckles, a delicate string of white pearls had been sewn on as a clasp. The lovely girl had put the thumb of her left hand in its loop. With her right hand she reached down to just the place—you know, of course— where the cloak should be held closed, and delicately she gathered its edges with two fingers. From there on down it hung free, where now and then among its folds you might catch sight of this or that, I mean the lining or the trim, the inner side, then the outer— but hidden down deep within 10950 the image, that Love itself had composed so beautifully of body and of meaning. Never has so fine a picture been so sewn and so devised as this lovely, living tableau. Predatory, pinioned glances flew about as thick as snow, striking this way and that. And yet, I think it was Isolt who seized many a man as prey. Encircling her brow, she wore a single strand of gold, narrow, as it should be, a fine piece of workmanship. it was set with precious gems, stones highly prized, glittering but delicate, the finest in the land— emerald and hyacinth, sapphire and chalcedony, all of them so perfect and mounted in such symmetry as the wisdom of workmanship had never before been exceeded in the jeweler's craft. Gold gleamed there on gold, the golden circlet and Isolt, vying one with the other. Never was there a man so wise, had he not seen the stones, who would have claimed to know there was a golden circlet there, so indistinguishable was her golden hair from the gold. Isolt proceeded with Isolt, the daughter by her mother, glad and free of all sorrows. They moved with smooth, measured stride, neither hurried nor retarded, just the right blend of each. The girl walked, tall and straight, confident and aware, sleek as the soaring kestrel, bright as the preening parrot. Her eyes took in everything as does the falcon on the lookout. Those eyes were on the hunt— not rapacious, but infallible, they swept across their terrain 11000 so steadily and softly, but so perceptively as well, that not another pair met them without mirroring back to hers some wonder and delight. The joy-bringing sun, gliding serenely by her mother, spread its rays over all, delighting the hall and people there. The two of them divided the pleasant duty of greeting, sharing the ceremony two ways, with bows and salutations, one silent, one with speech. Each of them took one task, as though assigned to her alone. The one gave greeting, the other bowed— The mother spoke, but not her daughter. So the high-born pair performed, taking pleasure in doing so. When finally Isolt and Isolt, the sun and her aurora, had taken their proper places at the side of the king, the seneschal looked around, demanding to be shown where the legal defender was, the champion of the ladies. He found no satisfaction. Calling his relations together, he assembled a formidable crowd. Going to stand before the king, he presented himself for justice. "My Lord," he began, "here am I, to demand my right to combat. Where is the stout warrior who thinks to deprive me of my honor and my right? I rely on friends and allies, as well as on good evidence. If justice now is done correctly, the verdict must go for me. In this the only power I fear is yours, and yours alone." "Seneschal," the queen addressed him, "if you insist on this fight, I'm not sure what to do. I had no warning this was coming. If you agree to forbear, with only the proviso 11050 that Isolt shall be released from any obligation, Sir, I tell you truly, you will profit as much as she." "Released?" he snorted. "My Lady, so would you, I suppose— just throw in a winning hand! Say what you will, I expect to come out on top in this game, with my stakes and my honor. If I were to back out now, all the trouble I have gone to would be wasted, uselessly. My Lady, I shall have your daughter, and that is all there is to that. Since you know the man so well who, you say, killed the dragon— produce him. Let's hear no more talk." "Seneschal," the queen replied, "all right, I hear. So be it then. I'll have to look out for myself." She beckoned to Paranis. "Now go," she said, "and bring that man." Many looks were exchanged among the knights and barons, who raised a groundswell of whispers in wonder and speculation as to who this champion was, but not one of them really knew. At this point the proud Brangaene, the lovely full moon, entered with stately tread, escorting by the hand her companion Tristan. Worthy, courtly, and refined, she kept pace at his side, in person and composure most fortunately endowed, in spirit proud and free. Her associate also advanced in dignified awareness, confident of his station and richly invested with every attribute that always marks the true knight. He had in full every feature that distinguished him as such. His stature and his apparel were in remarkable harmony. These two aspects together 11100 bespoke the man of knighthood. His raiment was of gold brocade, extravagantly rich, exotic and magnificent, by no means courtly cast-offs. The golden thread was woven in with more than courtly profusion, so thickly that the silken strands remained hardly visible, so intimately conjoined and mingled with the golden and sunk in gold everywhere that the whole seemed more than fabric. All was covered by a lacework sewn together with tiny pearls, the mesh being easily as broad as a good handspan. Through this the brocade blazed just as would glowing coals. The inner lining was of silk, dyed deepest royal purple, the eqal of the iris' petals. This noble cloth conformed smoothly in its folds and contours as closely and as naturally as only the finest cloth is able. It became the distinguished man who wore it with distinction, much to his own satisfaction. As a headdress he wore a fine piece of fine work, a marvelous little chaplet, luminous as a burning candle. Gleaming in it like stars shone topaz and carnelian, chrysolite and rubies. A thing of light and clarity, it shone like an aureole surrounding his head and hair. He strode thus through the hall in finery and high spirits, his mien both masterful and kindly. His train was also elegant, and he himself splendid in aspect and demeanor. The crowd began to melt apart as he entered the palace. Those there from Curnewal recognized him at once, and gathered round him in delight, 11150 greeting and receiving him with his associate, hand in hand, Tristan and Brangaene. Now they all joined hands with the two new arrivals and conducted them in company with masterful splendor into the kingdom's presence. The king and both royal women receiving him correctly, rose and gave him greeting. Tristan bowed to all three, while they in turn gave welcome to Tristan's entire company with the sovereign courtesy that rulers properly use. All those of knightly standing now crowded around to greet the foreign guests, although ignorant of their mission. The newcomers quickly found cousins and other kinsmen there who had been sent from Cornwall to Irlant as hostages. Many a man with tears of joy ran to embrace his relative, so that grief and gaiety mingled there, which I needn't catalogue. The king himself brought Tristan to sit by him as he had come, I mean to say, with Brangaene, and taking his place beside them arranged the seating so that Tristan was in the middle. On the other side from the king the two royal ladies took their places. Then all of Tristan's followers, the barons and his knights, sat down on the flooring, but careful to take positions with the court in full view, in order to watch the proceedings. At once much commentary arose among the royal court's retainers as to Tristan's appearance. In that hall, I know this well, fountains of praise began to flow from the mouth of many a man, lavishing admiration on that imposing figure. 11200 They paid him many complements in many ways, for many reasons. This was their trend in general: "Where has God made a specimen of knightly honor finer than this? Oh, how he seems predestined for success in every fight, and victory in trials! Just look at the clothing he has on, and how elegantly he wears it! Attire so imperial has never been seen in Irlant. His followers are outfitted as richly as royalty. Truly, whoever he may be, by wealth and rank he is a freeman." Of such remarks there were plenty. But the seneschal's gaze, and I do not exaggerate, was as sour as vinegar. A command was given in the hall for silence and attention. As the noise and talk subsided to not much more than half a whisper, the king inquired, "Seneschal, now what claim do you present?" "My lord, I slew that serpent." Their guest rose to deny it: "Sir, you did not."—"Sir, I did. And I am here to prove it." "Prove it how?" Tristan demanded. "By this head, which I have brought." "Your Majesty," Tristan replied, "since he now presents this head as evidence for his claim, I request it be examined. If it's found to have a tongue, I renounce my rights in full and withdraw from any trial by combat." When the head had been cut open, nothing was found in the gullet. Tristan immediately commanded the tongue to be retrieved and shown. "Now, Sirs," he addressed the court, "see for yourselves. Is it the dragon's?" Everyone agreed it was, and declared this to be the fact, except the seneschal alone. He wanted to discredit it, but had no idea how to. 11250
The wretch began to stammer, but in his mouth and on his tongue all his ideas and talk wandered unsteadily. He couldn't speak, nor keep quiet, being quite beside himself. "Gentlemen," Tristan remarked, "consider how peculiarly this exploit was accomplished. After I had killed the dragon and then out of its dead maw delicately sliced this tongue and carried it away with me, this man came and killed it again." The opinion of the court was thus: "He has attained little honor with all those high-sounding claims. Whatever anyone may say, all of us know perfectly, that if the truth be told, the man who got there first and removed the beast's tongue is surely the one who killed it." This was accepted unanimously. The imposter being now unmasked, and the true hero having gained the recognition of the court, Tristan spoke: "Your Majesty, I remind you of your pledge. Your daughter now is in my hands." "I will keep it," said the king, "as you have kept yours to me." "Nay, My Lord," the steward objected, "by God, say not so. Be this verdict as it may, there is surely some deception— it was only reached by falsehood. Before I'll be deprived unjustly of my rights and of my honor, you'll have to take them by force in a fair and legal fight. I insist, Sir, on the duel." "Seneschal," said Queen Isolt, "this is a vain proclamation. With whom do you mean to fight? This knight isn't going to do it. He has won Isolt, and that's all he wanted. He would be a foolish child to battle you for nothing." 11300 "How so, My Lady?" said Tristan. "Rather than he should claim that we have tricked or cheated him, I would prefer the combat. My Lord, My Lady, give the word— command him to go hence, arm himself immediately and make ready, as will I." When the seneschal heard the talk veer back toward fighting, he called his followers together, and went to have a conference with his relatives and friends, asking them for their advice. But they found the whole affair thoroughly discreditable, and gave him no encouragement. One of them told him frankly, "Seneschal, that whole plot arose from bad intentions, and therefore came to a bad end. Do you realize what you're doing? If you try unjustly for justice in a duel, and put your life on the line— what can you expect us to say? That way there's neither sense nor honor. If you throw away your life for honor already lost, you'll only make the whole thing worse. It's obvious to all of us— that opponent they're presenting is one formidable enemy. Take him on, and you'll be dead. Now that some devilish notion has done you out of your honor, at least preserve your life. Try to work this differently— maybe someone, somehow, can lay this disgraceful lie to rest with some sort of story." But then the liar asked them, "well then, what would you have me do?" "Briefly, this is our advice. Go back in there and say your friends are all urging you to withdraw this demand, and you now agree to do so." This the seneschal accepted. He went back in and announced 11350 that his retainers and relatives wanted him to desist, and therefore he would do so. "Seneschal," laughed the queen, "I never thought I'd see the day that you'd throw up a winning hand— with no more fight than that!" Plenty of such merriment spread throughout the palace. They played all their teasing tunes on him like a fiddle, and made a game of tossing him back and forth like a ball, having much noisy fun. And so the plot ended with the plotter put to shame.
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