Then he went until he came to the hall where he found no one, good or bad, to address him. Then he and his companion passed through the house until they came to a garden. They never spoke of, or mentioned, stabling their horses. But what matters it? For those who considered them already as their own had stabled them carefully. I do not know whether their expectation was wise, for the horses' owners are still perfectly hale. The horses, however, have oats and hay, and stand in litter up to their belly. My lord Yvain and his company enter the garden. There he sees, reclining upon his elbow upon a silken rug, a gentleman, to whom a maiden was reading from a romance about I know not whom. There had come to recline there with them and listen to the romance a lady, who was the mother of the damsel, as the gentleman was her father; they had good reason to enjoy seeing and hearing her, for they had no other children. She was not yet sixteen years old, and was so fair and full of grace that the god of Love would have devoted himself entirely to her service, if he had seen her, and would never have made her fall in love with anybody except himself. For her sake he would have become a man, and would lay aside his deity, and would smite his own body with that dart whose wound never heals unless some base physician attends to it. It is not fitting that any one should recover until he meets with faithlessness. Any one who is cured by other means is not honestly in love. I could tell you so much about this wound, if you were pleased to listen to it, that I would not get through my tale to-day. But there would be some one who would promptly say that I was telling you but an idle tale; for people don't fall in love nowadays, nor do they love as they used to do, so they do not care to hear of it. But hear now in what fashion and with what manner of hospitality my lord Yvain was received. All those who were in the garden leaped to their feet when they saw him come, and cried out: "This way, fair sire. May you and all you love be blessed with all that God can do or say.”
I know not if they were deceiving him, but they receive him joyfully and act as if they are pleased that he should be comfortably lodged. Even the lord's daughter serves him very honourably, as one should treat a worthy guest. She relieves him of all his arms, nor was it the least attention she bestowed on him when she herself washed his neck and face. The lord wishes that all honour should be shown him, as indeed they do. She gets out from her wardrobe a folded shirt, white drawers, needle and thread for his sleeves, which she sews on, thus clothing him. May God want now that this attention and service may not prove too costly to him! She gave him a handsome jacket to put on over his shirt, and about his neck she placed a brand new spotted mantle of scarlet stuff. She takes such pains to serve him well that he feels ashamed and embarrassed. But the damsel is so courteous and open-hearted and polite that she feels she is doing very little. And she knows well that it is her mother's will that she shall leave nothing undone for him which she thinks may win his gratitude. That night at table he was so well served with so many dishes that there were too many. The servants who brought in the dishes might well have been wearied by serving them. That night they did him all manner of honour, putting him comfortably to bed, and not once going near him again after he had retired. His lion lay at his feet, as his custom was. In the morning, when God lighted His great light for the world, as early as was consistent in one who was always considerate, my lord Yvain quickly arose, as did his damsel too. They heard Mass in a chapel, where it was promptly said for them in honour of the Holy Spirit.
After the Mass my lord Yvain heard bad news, when he thought the time had come for him to leave and that nothing would stand in his way; but it could not be in accordance with his wish. When he said: "Sire, if it be your will, and with your permission, I am going now," the master of the house replied: "Friend, I will not grant you permission yet. There is a reason why I cannot do so, for there is established in this castle a very terrible practice which I am bound to observe. I shall now cause to approach two great, strong fellows of mine, against whom, whether right or wrong, you must take arms. If you can defend yourself against them, and conquer and slay them both, my daughter desires you as her lord, and the suzerainty of this town and all its dependencies awaits you.”
"Sire," said he, "for all this I have no desire. So may God never bestow your daughter upon me, but may she remain with you; for she is so fair and so elegant that the Emperor of Germany would be fortunate to win her as his wife.”
"No more, fair guest," the lord replied: "there is no need of my listening to your refusal, for you cannot escape. He who can defeat the two, who are about to attack you, must by right receive my castle, and all my land, and my daughter as his wife. There is no way of avoiding or renouncing the battle. But I feel sure that your refusal of my daughter is due to cowardice, for you think that in this manner you can completely avoid the battle. Know, however, without fail that you must surely fight. No knight who lodges here can possibly escape. This is a settled custom and statute, which will endure yet for many a year, for my daughter will never be married until I see them dead or defeated.”
"Then I must fight them in spite of myself. But I assure you that I should very gladly give it up. In spite of my reluctance, however, I shall accept the battle, since it is inevitable.”
Thereupon, the two hideous, black sons of the devil come in, both armed with a crooked club of a cornelian cherry-tree, which they had covered with copper and wound with brass. They were armed from the shoulders to the knees, but their head and face were bare, as well as their brawny legs. Thus armed, they advanced, bearing in their hands round shields, stout and light for fighting. The lion begins to quiver as soon as he sees them, for he sees the arms they have, and perceives that they come to fight his master. He is aroused, and bristles up at once, and, trembling with rage and bold impulse, he thrashes the earth with his tail, desiring to rescue his master before they kill him. And when they see him they say: "Vassal, remove the lion from here that he may not do us harm. Either surrender to us at once, or else, we adjure you, that lion must be put where he can take no part in aiding you or in harming us. You must come alone to enjoy our sport, for the lion would gladly help you, if he could.”
My lord Yvain then replies to them: "Take him away yourselves if you are afraid of him. For I shall be well pleased and satisfied if he can contrive to injure you, and I shall be grateful for his aid.”
They answer: "Upon my word that will not do; you shall never receive any help from him. Do the best you can alone, without the help of any one. You must fight single-handed against us two. If you were not alone, it would be two against two; so you must follow our orders, and remove your lion from here at once, however much you may dislike to do so.”
"Where do you wish him to be?" he asks, "or where do you wish me to put him?" Then they show him a small room, and say: "Shut him up in there.”
"It shall be done, since it is your will.”
Then he takes him and shuts him up. And now they bring him arms for his body, and lead out his horse, which they give to him, and he mounts. The two champions, being now assured about the lion, which is shut up in the room, come at him to injure him and do him harm. They give him such blows with the maces that his shield and helmet are of little use, for when they hit him on the helmet they batter it in and break it; and the shield is broken and dissolved like ice, for they make such holes in it that one could thrust his fists through it: their onslaught is truly terrible. And he—what does he do against these two devils? Urged on by shame and fear, he defends himself with all his strength. He strains every nerve, and exerts himself to deal heavy, and telling blows; they lost nothing by his gifts, for he returned their attentions with double measure. In his room, the lion's heart is heavy and sad, for he remembers the kind deed done for him by this noble man, who now must stand in great need of his service and aid. If now he could escape from there, he would return him the kindness with full measure and full bushel, without any discount whatsoever. He looks about in all directions, but sees no way of escape. He hears the blows of the dangerous and desperate fight, and in his grief he rages and is beside himself. He investigates, until he comes to the threshold, which was beginning to grow rotten; and he scratches at it until he can squeeze himself in as far as his haunches, when he sticks fast. Meanwhile, my lord Yvain was hard pressed and sweating freely, for he found that the two fellows were very strong, fierce, and persistent. He had received many a blow, and repaid it as best he could, but without doing them any harm, for they were well skilled in fencing, and their shields were not of a kind to be hacked by any sword, however sharp and well tempered it might be. So my lord Yvain had good reason to fear his death, yet he managed to hold his own until the lion extricated himself by continued scratching beneath the threshold. If the rascals are not killed now, surely they will never be. For so long as the lion knows them to be alive, they can never obtain truce or peace with him. He seizes one of them, and pulls him down to earth like a tree-trunk. The wretches are terrified, and there is not a man present who does not rejoice. For he whom the lion has dragged down will never be able to rise again, unless the other succours him. He runs up to bring him aid, and at the same time to protect himself, lest the lion should attack him as soon as he had despatched the one whom he had thrown down; he was more afraid of the lion than of his master. But my lord Yvain will be foolish now if he allows him longer life, when he sees him turn his back, and sees his neck bare and exposed; this chance turned out well for him. When the rascal exposed to him his bare head and neck, he dealt him such a blow that he smote his head from his shoulders so quietly that the fellow never knew a word about it. Then he dismounts, wishing to help and save the other one from the lion, who holds him fast. But it is of no use, for already he is in such straits that a physician can never arrive in time; for the lion, coming at him furiously, so wounded him at the first attack, that he was in a dreadful state. Nevertheless, he drags the lion back, and sees that he had torn his shoulder from its place. He is in no fear of the fellow now, for his club has fallen from his hand, and he lies like a dead man without action or movement; still he has enough strength to speak, and he said as clearly as he could: "Please take your lion away, fair sire, that he may not do me further harm. Henceforth you may do with me whatever may be your desire. Whoever begs and prays for mercy, ought not to have his prayer refused, unless he addresses a heartless man. I will no longer defend myself, nor will I ever get up from here with my own strength; so I put myself in your hands.”
"Speak out then," he says, "if thou dost admit that thou art conquered and defeated.”
"Sire," he says, "it is evident. I am defeated in spite of myself, and I surrender, I promise you.”
"Then thou needest have no further fear of me, and my lion will leave thee alone.”
Then he is surrounded by all the crowd, who arrive on the scene in haste. And both the lord and his lady rejoice over him, and embrace him, and speak to him of their daughter, saying: "Now you will be the lord and master of us all, and our daughter will be your wife, for we bestow her upon you as your spouse.”
"And for my part," he says .
“I restore her to you. Let him who has her keep her. I have no concern with her, though I say it not in disparagement. Take it not amiss if I do not accept her, for I cannot and must not do so. But deliver to me now, if you will, the wretched maidens in your possession. The agreement, as you well know, is that they shall all go free.”
"What you say is true," he says: "and I resign and deliver them freely to you: there will be no dispute on that score. But you will be wise to take my daughter with all my wealth, for she is fair, and charming, and sensible. You will never find again such a rich marriage as this.”
"Sire," he replies, "you do not know of my engagements and my affairs, and I do not dare to explain them to you. But, you may be sure, when I refuse what would never be refused by any one who was free to devote his heart and intentions to such a fair and charming girl, that I too would willingly accept her hand if I could, or if I were free to accept her or any other maid. But I assure you that I cannot do it: so let me depart in peace. For the damsel, who escorted me hither, is awaiting me. She has kept me company, and I would not willingly desert her whatever the future may have in store.”
"You wish to go, fair sire? But how? My gate will never be opened for you unless my judgment bids me give the command; rather shall you remain here as my prisoner. You are acting haughtily and making a mistake when you disdain to take my daughter at my request.”
"Disdain, my lord? Upon my soul, I do not disdain her. Whatever the penalty may be, I cannot marry a wife or tarry here. I shall follow the damsel who is my guide: for otherwise it cannot be. But, with your consent, I will pledge you my right hand, and you may take my word, that, just as you see me now, I will return if possible, and then will accept your daughter's hand, whenever it may seem good ro you.”
"Confound any one," he says, "who asks you for your word or promise or pledge. If my daughter pleases you, you will return quickly enough. You will not return any sooner. I think, for having given your word or sworn an oath. Begone now. I release you from all oaths and promises. If you are detained by rain or wind, or by nothing at all, it is of no consequence to me. I do not hold my daughter so cheap as to bestow her upon you forcibly. Now go about your business. For it is quite the same to me whether you go or whether you stay."
Thereupon my lord Yvain turns away and delays no longer in the castle. He escorted the poor and ill-clad wretches, who were now released from captivity, and whom the lord committed to his care. These maidens feel that now they are rich, as they file out in pairs before him from the castle. I do not believe that they would rejoice so much as they do now were He who created the whole world to descend to earth from Heaven. Now all those people who had insulted him in every possible way come to beseech him for mercy and peace, and escort him on his way. He replies that he knows nothing of what they mean .
“I do not understand what you mean," he says; "but I have nothing against you. I do not remember that you ever said anything that harmed me.”
They are very glad for what they hear, and loudly praise his courtesy, and after escorting him a long distance, they all commend him to God. Then the damsels, after asking his permission, separated from him. When they left him, they all bowed to him, and prayed and expressed the wish that God might grant him joy and health, and the accomplishment of his desire, wherever in the future he should go. Then he, who is anxious to be gone, says that he hopes God will save them all .
“Go," he says, "and may God conduct you into your countries safe and happy.”
Then they continue their way joyfully; and my lord Yvain departs in the other direction. All the days of that week he never ceases to hurry on under the escort of the maid, who was well acquainted with the road, and with the retired place where she had left the unhappy and disconsolate damsel who had been deprived of her inheritance. But when she heard news of the arrival of the maiden and of the Knight with the Lion. There never was such joy as she felt within her heart. For now she thinks that, if she insists, her sister will cede her a part of her inheritance. The damsel had long lain sick, and had just recovered from her malady. It had seriously affected her, as was apparent from her face. Straightway she went forth to meet them, greeting them and honouring them in every way she could. There is no need to speak of the happiness that prevailed that night in the house. No mention will be made of it, for the story would be too long to tell. I pass over all that, until they mounted next morning and went away. They rode until they saw the town where King Arthur had been staying for a fortnight or more. And there, too, was the damsel who had deprived her sister of her heritage, for she had kept close to the court, waiting for the arrival of her sister, who now draws near. But she does not worry much, for she does not think that her sister can find any knight who can withstand my lord Gawain's attack, and only one day of the forty yet remains. If this single day had passed, she would have had the reasonable and legal right to claim the heritage for herself alone. But more stands in the way than she thinks or believes. That night they spent outside the town in a small and humble house, where, in accordance with their desire, they were not recognised. At the first sign of dawn the next morning they necessarily issue forth, but ensconce themselves in hiding until broad daylight.