Tristan took him by the hand. His dress and his appearance were just as they happened then to be. A very poor outer cloak, badly worn and ragged, torn in many places, served instead of a proper coat. The clothing that the good man wore 4000 underneath this sorry robe bore every mark of poverty, quite worn out and far from clean. His hair was matted from neglect nor did his beard look much better, having reached a state as though he were a savage. This man of high repute was barefoot and barelegged, and furthermore as weatherbeaten as anyone naturally is whose complexion has been ravaged by hunger, frost, sun, and wind. In such state he appeared at court, before Marke, face to face. Marke first addressed Tristan: "Tell me, Tristan, who is this?" "My father, sire," Tristan said. --"Is this the truth?"--"My lord, it is." "Then he has our heartiest welcome!" replied the prudent monarch. Rual bowed ceremoniously. At that the entire corps of knights began to assemble in throngs and with them the whole retinue who proclaimed, one and all, "Sire, Sire, deu sal!"
Now, you should know that Rual the man, however poorly attired and ignoble in costume, was indeed in person, as to stature and comportment very well endowed. Like a savage warrior, his physical nobility showed in every limb and movement, in arm and leg long and strong, in every stride masterful. He was a handsome specimen, being neither young nor aged, but just at the height of his powers when both maturity and youth play their part in life's strength. In fitness for rulership he rivalled any emperor. His voice resounded like the horn, his speech was carefully modeled. All saw him stand before these rulers with aristocratic self-assurance as he had often done before. 4050 A murmer ran through the crowd of noble knights and barons. Some said this, others that. "Indeed," said one, "can this be he? The noble merchant, supposedly, about whose many surprising talents Tristan, his son, has told such stories? We've heard about his capacities at much length, in great detail. And he comes to court in such condition?" They speculated endlessly.
Then the king, taking charge, had him conducted to the wardrobe to be fitted out there with suitably elegant vestments. And soon enough, Tristan had him bathed and dressed. A chaplet was prepared for him, which he set upon his head. It never suited a man better, noble as he obviously was. He was born for command. Tristan took him by the hand, affectionately, as of old, and brought him again before Marke. Now he made a better impression and all were pleased at the change. Onlookers said among themselves, "Just look how quickly noble dress can put a man in high respect! Clothes like these, on a merchant, promote him to a higher class. And he has himself a noble look. Who knows, he may have many real virtues. The way he acts, you might think so, if the whole truth were told. Just look at that lordly stride, the easy way he moves and stands in all that courtly finery. Yes, and think again about Tristan and all of his accomplishments. How ever could a common trader have raised a child to be like that? It must have come from a noble heart."
Now the fingerbowls were passed and the king took his place at table. He also seated Rual, his guest, at his own table, and commanded that he be served well and properly as befits a man of station. 4100 "Tristan," said Marke, "go to him, serve your own father yourself!" I well know that this took place. All the respect and courtesies that Tristan could offer him, he performed with good will. And indeed the noble Rual ate very gladly since Tristan was serving him. Tristan was the host he needed. Just to see him again was his greatest pleasure.
Now when they rose from the table, the king engaged his guest in talk, asking many questions, both about his country and his long voyage from there. While the questions flew, all the knights in attendance were listening closely to Rual's story. "My lord," Rual began, "surely, it must be nearly four years since I departed from my country. And no matter where I chanced to be, I had no other goal or purpose than that one, that drove me on, which at last has brought me here." --"What was that?"--"That was Tristan. My lord, I do have other children who are my own, by God's will, I wish for them the best estate as any man should, for his own. Three sons--had I been with them, one or more of them now would have attained knighthood. Had I taken half the trouble for all the three of them as I have taken for Tristan, who is no relation of mine, those had been labors indeed." "No relation?" remarked the king. "Tell me, what's this all about? He is your son, he says himself--" --"Not so. I'm not his sire. He's not my son. He's my lord." Tristan, shocked, stared at him. "Then let us hear," said the king, why and how it comes to be that you have taken so much trouble, neglecting your own wife and family 4150 for all this time, as you say, if indeed he's not your son?" --"None know but God and I, my lord." "My friend, now I must also know," said Marke in reply. "This is a big surprise." --"If you give me your assurance that I'll have no reason to regret it and that it's proper and permissible for me to speak here, I could tell you marvels, Sire, of how all this has come about and what the whole story is of Tristan, who stands here before you." At once the entire assembly, Marke and all his barons implored him there and then as though with a common voice: "Tell us, tell us, noble sir, dear sir, who is Tristan really?"
And so the noble Rual spoke. "My lord, quite some time ago, as you and also those well know who were present here with you then, my own good lord Riwalin, whose man I was, and would be yet had God but willed it so that he yet should live, had heard of your excellence from so many and in such detail, that he put his people and his land into my safekeeping, and came here to your realm, pleased to recognize you, and became a member of your court. And you, of course, know well how it came about with the lovely Blanscheflur, how he gained her favor and how she fled with him from here. When they arrived home and had taken each other in marriage (they did so in my own house, as I and many others witnessed), he commended her to my care. I did for her from then on the best that was in my power. Then, in no time at all, he was sending calls for help throughout the country for a campaign 4200 requiring both relatives and beholden. They took to the field in force, but he was killed in a skirmish, as you no doubt have heard in detail. When the news got back to us and Her Loveliness was informed of how it all had happened, grief, in its mortal form, struck so hard into her heart, that Tristan--yes, there he stands-- that she bore him then in agony and paid for it with her own life."
But in his story at this point such grief assailed the loyal man, as all who watched well understood, that he had to sit down and weep as though he were a child. And such was the sadness of his news that the eyes of all who heard it soon were overflowing. It struck the good king Marke with equal or greater force, straight into his heart, such that all his heartfelt pain came welling out through his eyes, wetting his cheeks and royal robes. Tristan, too, was afflicted with an inward grief, if for no other reason that in this loyal man before him now he should have lost both, father and hope of patrimony. There sat the noble Rual with downcast spirit and began to tell his listeners of the misfortunate orphan, of the strict precautions he required following the child's birth: how he ordered that it be sequestered and concealed in some hiding place, and how the tale was put about and given out to his countrymen that the child had died with its mother; how he charged his own wife (as I have already told you) to feign a lying-in as does a woman with child, and then when the time was right to make public the announcement that she had borne the child; 4250 how she then brought him to the church that he should have baptism there, and told the meaning of his name; then how Rual had sent him abroad to have the best instruction in every practical art and in the skills of language; then how he had left him on the ship, only to have him stolen away, and how he set out to find him cost what it may.
There sat Rual and told the story to its end. He was weeping, so was Marke, as was everyone who heard, except for Tristan alone who was hardly able to lament at what had just been told him, it all having come too fast. But as to the tribulations that the excellent Rual had related of his esteemed Canel and Blanscheflur, all of their misfortune amounted to but little compared to the single loyalty that he had practiced at their deaths on behalf of their child, as you have already heard me tell. Such a bitterness of regret proved a loyalty and devotion no man before had shown his master. When the whole story was finished, Marke said to his guest, "Sir, are all the things you've told us true?" The noble Rual showed him then a ring he wore on his hand. "Sire," he said, here's a memento of what I said and the tale I told." Marke, keenly perceptive as he was, took it and examined it closely. And all the grief he had felt before was only all the more confirmed. "Ah," he groaned, "my beloved sister, this is the ring that I gave you, that my own father had given me as he lay, about to die. Now I can believe the tale-- Tristan, come here and kiss me! And by your life and mine I vow 4300 that I shall be your foster father. May God grant Blanscheflur your mother, and your father Canel, his grace unto their souls and award to both of them together the living life eternal! Since it now has come to this, that you have been preserved to me from the sister I so loved, if God my master will allow it, that shall be my happiness." Then he spoke again to his guest, "Good friend, now let me know who you are, and what your name is." --"Rual, Sire." --"Rual?"--"Yes." This set Marke to remembering, because in former days he had heard many tales about this man, how wise and noble he was, and of his unquestioned loyalty. "Rual li foitenant?" he exclaimed. --"Yes, Sire, so I'm called." At this Marke went to him and gave him the kiss of welcome to which his rank entitled him. Now all the nobles gathered around to bestow the kiss of recognition. After their first surprise, soon they were embracing and exchanging courtly greetings: "welcome, Rual the Worthy, a wonder on this earth!" And so Rual was accepted there.
The king soon took him by the hand and having led him aside, seated him affectionately at his side, close by. They resumed exchanging news and talk of a great many things, both about Tristan and also of Blanscheflur, all of the encounters between Canel and Morgan, what each of them had done, and what had been the final outcome. Soon they came to the tale as the king told it to Rual of how Tristan had arrived showing such cleverness, and how he had declared 4350 that his father was a merchant. Rual looked fondly at Tristan: "Friend," he said, "long has it been and with much pain and trouble that I have shown my merchandise in poverty and want for your sake, on your behalf. Indeed, all this at last has come to a good end. For that, never shall I cease to fold my hands in thanks to God." Tristan said, "oh yes, I hear. It will take me quite some time to have much pleasure from these stories. If I understand correctly, this is strange news indeed. I hear my father telling me my father was killed long ago. And with that he disowns me, leaving me no father at all of the two, perhaps, I had. Ah, father, and dream of patrimony, how am I now deprived of both! Here comes a man I thought my father, only to cost me two fathers, himself and the one I never knew!" To this the good marshal replied, "Now, now, Tristan my fellow, stop such talk, that's all wrong. With my arrival, you become nobler than you thought you were. Now your rank is established, and you still have your two fathers, my lord here, and also me. He's your father, as well as I. Listen to my counsel and be forever more the equal of any king. Leave off all the talk and fables. I appeal to my master, your uncle, to settle your case, here and now to award you knighthood. So may you well, from now on, take up his cause as your own. Sirs all, what say ye then? So shall my lord do, or no?" They spoke as though with one voice, "Sire, this should be done. Tristan is old enough 4400 and is entering into manhood."
"Tristan, my nephew," said the king, "what is your will as to this? Will you be pleased for me to do so?" --"Dear Sire, this is how I feel: had I possessions and such wealth that by my own choice and will I might be knighted, and so indeed as not to shame the name of knighthood nor be ashamed myself to bear it, and that so high an honor would not in me be dishonored, yes, gladly would I be a knight, and so practice and amend my youthful idleness toward worldly renown. The knightly calling, it is said, must begin in early childhood, and so continue on or seldom attain true rigor. Now, in the innocence of youth I attended only rarely to worthiness and virtue. In that I acted very badly and now regret it, most sincerely. And I have long realized this: ease and chivalrous attainment do not go at all together and seldom thrive side by side. I myself indeed have read that honor costs much discomfort. Comfort is the death of fame, the more so when we try to prolong it from our childhood and beyond. And be assured of this: a year ago or more, if I had known my destiny as it has been revealed to me here, I would not have spared the effort. But since I missed my chance then, it's only right that I catch up now, such bright prospects as I have both in body and in will. God guide me rightly, that I achieve the will!" "Nephew," said Marke, "now consider: think about how you would act if you yourself should be king and ruler over all of Curnewal. Here sits at hand your father Rual, 4450 whose total confidence you have, make him your counsellor and counsel to achieve your every purpose entirely according to your will. Tristan, my much beloved nephew, do not think yourself impoverished. Parmenie, you know, is yours, and shall always be your own while I and Rual your father live. And I endow you even further: my land, my people, and all I own, dear nephew, are always at your disposal. If you will turn your heart to the highest excellence, and if you mean what you said as I have just heard you say it, then use what I have to give. Let Curnewal be your heritage, gather tribute from my crown. To be successful in this world, you must be rich in spirit. I'll provide the other riches. See, you have an emperor's treasure. Don't treat yourself too modestly, if you have such self-respect and such spirit, as you should, and as you have said you have, and I believe I have seen. Now see: if I find in you the will to rule, you'll find in me all the resources you need. Tintajel shall ever be your storehouse and treasure. If you take the lead from me in the spirit of rulership, and I fail to supply the goods, then everything I have and own, all of Curnewal, all, is gone." The courtiers bowed in ceremony, all of them, formally, who had attended this exchange. They manifested their approval and their praise with acclamation: "King Marke," they exclaimed in chorus, "you have spoken as a lord should. Your words accord well with the crown. Your tongue, your heart, and your hand, long may they rule over this land! Live forever, king of Curnewal!" The faithful marshal, Sir Rual, 4500 and his young master Tristan took up their assigned offices in all the authority as the king had assigned them and delegated to them.
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