Now the day had arrived appointed at the Weisefort residence 9700 for the trial Gurmun had called of the claim the seneschal laid to the hand of the princess in marriage. The board of Gurmun's advisors, his entire retinue and kin whom he had summoned to attend to render counsel in this matter had all assembled as required. He met with them in closed session and urgently sought their support in this concern of greatest import to him as one whose own honor was being weighed in the balance. He then summoned to the council his own beloved wife, the queen. Well might she be dear to him, having as he did in her two very special endowments, the best a man can hope to find united in one beloved consort, beauty together with wisdom. So amply was she blessed with both that well he might cherish her.
When the fortunate queen arrived, with all the beauty of her wisdom, the king her husband took her aside before presenting her to his council. "How say you now? Speak," he said. "All this hangs over me like death." "Have no concern," replied Isolt. There's no doubt we shall prevail. I have got to the bottom of it." "What? My dear, please tell me— that's something I'd love to hear from you." "This seneschal of ours, who claims he killed the dragon, did no such thing. And furthermore, I know who did. And I'll prove it, when the time comes. Now lay all your fears aside. Go back before your council. Declare to them all and reconfirm that after you have seen and weighed the truth of the seneschal's claim, you will gladly fulfill your vow, sworn for the whole land's benefit. Command them all to go with you and sit in judgment at the court. You have no cause at all to worry. Let the seneschal complain and say whatever he wants to say. 9750 And then, when the moment comes, Isolt and I will be ready. At your command, I will speak, on your behalf, Isolt's, and mine. That's enough talk for now. I shall go to fetch my daughter, and the two of us will be right back."
Then she went to find the princess while the king returned to the palace. There he took the seat of judgment, surrounded by his barons, the land's official assembly. Knights were there, in great elegance, the martial power of the land, but interested on this occasion less in reflecting their king's honor than out of curiosity to see firsthand what would come of this notorious rumor which had so intrigued everyone. Now when the two blessed Isolts, keeping company with each other, entered the palace together, each of the high lords greeted and received them. On this momentous occasion, there were many declarations and speeches appreciating the excellence of these two, but the gossip more concerned the luck of the seneschal than how fine the ladies were. The drift of the talk and thinking was: "But look here, make no mistake; never yet has fortune favored this miserable man. If now he wins this maiden, such blessings will dawn upon him as could ever possibly arise on any man from a woman."
The company came before the king. Rising to receive them all, he seated them courteously with him. "Now," he said, "Sir Seneschal— what is your desire and plea?" "I'll gladly tell you, Sire," he said. "My lord, I desire and request that you fail not to uphold our land's royal custom in my case. You will confirm, will you not, 9800 that you promised and declared both by oath and personally that whosoever, be he knight, should by his hand slay that serpent, to him you would award your own daughter Isolt? This vow has cost many a life, which I regarded but lightly out of devotion to the lady. In this cause I risked my neck more recklessly than anyone, until at last I succeeded in putting an end to the monster. And here, to satisfy you fully, behold, the head lies before you. This proof I extracted from the battle. Now, fulfill your pledge. A king's word and a king's vow must be true and proven valid."
"Sir Seneschal," the queen replied, "one who seeks to win a prize so rich as my daughter Isolt, entirely undeservedly, gravely oversteps himself." "Nay, My Lady," the seneschal said, "you do me wrong—how say you so? My lord, who shall decide the case, can well speak for himself. Let him speak and answer me!" "Speak, My Lady," the king commanded, "for yourself, for Isolt, and for me." "Thank you, My Lord, that I shall," said the queen, and continued. "Seneschal, your affections, I doubt it not, are pure and good, and with your strong, manly spirit you deserve a good woman. But if someone claims high reward in spite of never having earned it, this, surely, is a grievous misdeed. You have usurped for yourself an exploit and a manliness of which you are wholly innocent, as I have heard from certain sources." "My Lady, I know not what you mean. My evidence is plain enough." "Well, you have retrieved a head. Any man could do the like, and surely would, I suppose, if he thought thereby to gain Isolt. 9850 But she will not be won, I say, by such a trifling fabrication." "Indeed not," exclaimed the princess, "by no means shall I be sold for so meager an inducement." "Alas, my young princess lady," sighed the chastened seneschal, "that for all my protestations you speak so disparagingly of the perils I have dared so often only through devotion to you!" "Then enjoy your devotions and your desires for me," she said. "I never felt the like for you, nor, indeed, shall I ever." "Ah, yes," he snapped, "well I know, you're just like all other women. You're made that way, all of you, that's just how your whole kind thinks. The bad seems always good to you, the good you ever see as bad. It's just a fault of your nature. You have it backwards, all of you— fools, to you, can be but wise, the wise, to you, a pack of fools. If it's straight, you can twist it, and if twisted, you make it straight. Whatever it is, if it's devious, you're sure to have it on your leash. You're very fond of what hates you, and what loves you, you're quick to hate. How can your minds work so? How fondly you can cling to all that is perverse, so much of which is found within you! Him who wants you you'll not have, because you want him who does not. You're the most wayward game that can be played on the board. That man is a fool indeed who risks his life for a woman without some solid guarantee. And whatever you or My Lady claims, that will not decide the case. It will have to go quite differently, or the oath sworn to me be broken." To this speech the queen replied, "Sir Seneschal, your reasoning looks powerful and clever to one who regards it cleverly. 9900 It sounds very much as though it has all been worked out in ladies' private chambers. You also have presented it just as a ladies' champion should. You know too much about ladies— in fact, you've carried this too far. It has robbed you of your manliness. You also are much too fond of all that is perverse, and I think it suits you well. You have fastened women's ways much too firmly on your leash— you love exactly what hates you, you want what despises you. Isn't that a woman 's game? How do you come to play it? For you are, God knows, a man. So leave to us our women's ways— they will not work right for you. Think the way you men think, and be fond of what is fond of you. Want what wants you in return— this is a game you can win. All this time you keep insisting you desire to have Isolt, while she wants nothing to do with you. That is her way. Who can change it? She renounces many things she very well might wish to have. But she doesn't care a thing for one who would love to have her, meaning, first of all, yourself. Maybe she took this from me— I myself have never liked you. I know Isolt feels the same— plainly she's her mother's daughter. You're wasting all your fond attentions. That lovely girl, so pure— it would be too common for her to want just anyone who happened to want her. Seneschal, you said yourself My Lord gladly would fulfull for you the oath he has taken. Now, be careful to adhere to everything you have claimed, and not leave out any details. Go ahead, press your claim. There is talk going around 9950 that another man killed the dragon. What are you going to say to that?" "And who might that be?"—"I know him well. I'll produce him when the time comes." "My Lady, there is not a man who would undertake the cause of depriving me of my rights with a pack of falsehoods, and stand up and give me satisfaction— I would put life and limb on the line against him, no matter how this judgment goes— hand to hand, the two of us, before I'll budge an inch!" "I guarantee it," said the queen. "I give you here my own word that I shall satisfy your challenge and bring him here for legal combat on the third day following this, since I cannot immediately present the man who slew the beast." Then the king declared, "so be it." The council of lords also concurred. "Sir Seneschal, there you have it. This is not a long delay. Now come, confirm that you accept, and let the queen do so likewise." The king accepted from them both their pledge and valid sureties that the combat would take place on the third day as agreed. With this the hearing was concluded.
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