Then they entered the town, and passed on until they met knights and ladies and charming damsels coming down the street, who salute him and wait to remove his armour as they say: "Welcome to our midst, fair sire! And may God grant that you tarry here until you may leave with great honour and satisfaction!"
High and low alike extend to him a glad welcome, and do all they can for him, as they joyfully escort him into the town. But after they had expressed their gladness they are overwhelmed by grief, which makes them quickly forget their joy, as they begin to lament and weep and beat themselves. Thus, for a long space of time, they cease not to rejoice or make lament: it is to honour their guest that they rejoice, but their heart is not in what they do, for they are greatly worried over an event which they expect to take place on the following day, and they feel very sure and certain that it will come to pass before midday. My lord Yvain was so surprised that they so often changed their mood, and mingled grief with their happiness, that he addressed the lord of the place on the subject .
“For God's sake," he said, "fair gentle sir, will you kindly inform me why you have thus honoured me, and shown at once such joy and such heaviness?”
“Yes, if you desire to know, but it would be better for you to desire ignorance and silence. I will never tell you willingly anything to cause you grief. Allow us to continue to lament, and do you pay no attention to what we do!”
“It would be quite impossible for me to see you sad and nor take it upon my heart, so I desire to know the truth, whatever chagrin may result to me.”
"Well, then," he said, "I will tell you all. I have suffered much from a giant, who has insisted that I should give him my daughter, who surpasses in beauty all the maidens in the world. This evil giant, whom may God confound, is named Harpin of the Mountain. Not a day passes without his taking all of my possessions upon which he can lay his hands. No one has a better right than I to complain, and to be sorrowful, and to make lament. I might well lose my senses from very grief, for I had six sons who were knights, fairer than any I knew in the world, and the giant has taken all six of them. Before my eyes he killed two of them, and to-morrow he will kill the other four, unless I find some one who will dare to fight him for the deliverance of my sons, or unless I consent to surrender my daughter to him; and he says that when he has her in his possession he will give her over to be the sport of the vilest and lewdest fellows in his house, for he would scorn to take her now for himself. That is the disaster which awaits me to-morrow, unless the Lord God grant me His aid. So it is no wonder, fair sir, if we are all in tears. But for your sake we strive for the moment to assume as cheerful a countenance as we can. For he is a fool who attracts a gentleman to his presence and then does not honour him; and you seem to be a very perfect gentleman. Now I have told you the entire story of our great distress. Neither in town nor in fortress has the giant left us anything, except what we have here. If you had noticed, you must have seen this evening that he has not left us so much as an egg, except these walls which are new; for he has razed the entire town. When he had plundered all he wished, he set fire to what remained. In this way he has done me many an evil turn."
My lord Yvain listened to all that his host told him, and when he had heard it all he was pleased to answer him: "Sire, I am sorry and distressed about this trouble of yours; but I marvel greatly that you have not asked assistance at good King Arthur's court. There is no man so mighty that he could not find at his court some who would be glad to try their strength with his.”
Then the wealthy man reveals and explains to him that he would have had efficient help if he had known where to find my lord Gawain .
“He would not have failed me upon this occasion, for my wife is his own sister; but a knight from a strange land, who went to court to seek the King's wife, has led her away. However, he could not have gotten possession of her by any means of his own invention, had it not been for Kay, who so befooled the King that he gave the Queen into his charge and placed her under his protection. He was a fool, and she imprudent to entrust herself to his escort. And I am the one who suffers and loses in all this; for it is certain that my excellent lord Gawain would have made haste to come here, had he known the facts, for the sake of his nephews and his niece. But he knows nothing of it, wherefore I am so distressed that my heart is almost breaking, for he is gone in pursuit of him, to whom may God bring shame and woe for having led the Queen away.”
While listening to this recital my lord Yvain does not cease to sigh. Inspired by the pity which he feels, he makes this reply: "Fair gentle sire, I would gladly undertake this perilous adventure, if the giant and your sons should arrive to-morrow in time to cause me no delay, for tomorrow at noon I shall be somewhere else, in accordance with a promise I have made.”
"Once for all, fair sire," the good man said, "I thank you a hundred thousand times for your willingness.”
And all the people of the house likewise expressed their gratitude.
Just then the damsel came out of a room, with her graceful body and her face so fair and pleasing to look upon. She was very simple and sad and quiet as she came, for there was no end to the grief she felt: she walked with her head bowed to the ground. And her mother, too, came in from an adjoining room, for the gentleman had sent for them to meet his guest. They entered with their mantles wrapped about them to conceal their tears; and he bid them throw back their mantles, and hold up their heads, saying: "You ought not to hesitate to obey my behests, for God and good fortune have given us here a very well-born gentleman who assures me that he will fight against the giant. Delay no longer now to throw yourselves at his feet!”
“May God never let me see that!" my lord Yvain hastens to exclaim; "surely it would not be proper under any circumstances for the sister and the niece of my lord Gawain to prostrate themselves at my feet. May God defend me from ever giving place to such pride as to let them fall at my feet! Indeed, I should never forget the shame which I should feel; but I should be very glad if they would take comfort until to-morrow, when they may see whether God will consent to aid them. I have no other request to make, except that the giant may come in such good time that I be not compelled to break my engagement elsewhere; for I would not fail for anything to be present to-morrow noon at the greatest business I could ever undertake.”
Thus he is unwilling to reassure them completely, for he fears that the giant may not come early enough to allow him to reach in time the damsel who is imprisoned in the chapel. Nevertheless, he promises them enough to arouse good hope in them. They all alike join in thanking him, for they place great confidence in his prowess, and they think he must be a very good man, when they see the lion by his side as confident as a lamb would be. They take comfort and rejoice because of the hope they stake on him, and they indulge their grief no more. When the time came they led him off to bed in a brightly lighted room; both the damsel and her mother escorted him, for they prized him dearly, and would have done so a hundred thousand times more had they been informed of his prowess and courtesy. He and the lion together lay down there and took their rest. The others dared not sleep in the room; but they closed the door so tight that they could not come out until the next day at dawn. When the room was thrown open he got up and heard Mass, and then, because of the promise he had made, he waited until the hour of prime. Then in the hearing of all he summoned the lord of the town and said: "My lord, I have no more time to wait, but must ask your permission to leave at once; I cannot tarry longer here. But believe truly that I would gladly and willingly stay here yet awhile for the sake of the nephews and the niece of my beloved lord Gawain, if I did not have a great business on hand, and if it were not so far away.”
At this the damsel's blood quivered and boiled with fear, as well as the lady's and the lord's. They were so afraid he would go away that they were on the point of humbling themselves and casting themselves at his feet, when they recalled that he would not approve or permit their action. Then the lord makes him an offer of all he will take of his lands or wealth, if only he will wait a little longer. And he replied: "God forbid that ever I should take anything of yours!"
Then the damsel, who is in dismay, begins to weep aloud, and beseeches him to stay. Like one distracted and prey to dread, she begs him by the glorious queen of heaven and of the angels, and by the Lord, not to go but to wait a little while; and then, too, for her uncle's sake, whom he says he knows, and loves, and esteems. Then his heart is touched with deep pity when he hears her adjuring him in the name of him whom he loves the most, and by the mistress of heaven, and by the Lord, who is the very honey and sweet savour of pity. Filled with anguish he heaved a sigh, for were the kingdom of Tarsus at stake he would not see her burned to whom he had pledged his aid. If he could not reach her in time, he would be unable to endure his life, or would live on without his wits on the other hand, the kindness of his friend, my lord Gawain, only increased his distress; his heart almost bursts in half at the thought that he cannot delay. Nevertheless, he does not stir, but delays and waits so long that the giant came suddenly, bringing with him the knights: and hanging from his neck he carried a big square stake with a pointed end, and with this he frequently spurred them on. For their part they had no clothing on that was worth a straw, except some soiled and filthy shirts: and their feet and hands were bound with cords, as they came riding upon four limping jades, which were weak, and thin, and miserable. As they came riding along beside a wood, a dwarf, who was puffed up like a toad, had tied the horses' tails together, and walked beside them, beating them remorselessly with a four-knotted scourge until they bled, thinking thereby to be doing something wonderful. Thus they were brought along in shame by the giant and the dwarf. Stopping in the plain in front of the city gate, the giant shouts out to the noble lord that he will kill his sons unless he delivers to him his daughter, whom he will surrender to his vile fellows to become their sport. For he no longer loves her nor esteems her, that he should deign to abase himself to her. She shall be constantly beset by a thousand lousy and ragged knaves, vacant wretches, and scullery boys, who all shall lay hands on her. The worthy man is well-nigh beside himself when he hears how his daughter will be made a bawd, or else, before his very eyes, his four sons will be put to a speedy death. His agony is like that of one who would rather be dead than alive. Again and again he bemoans his fate, and weeps aloud and sighs. Then my frank and gentle lord Yvain thus began to speak to him: "Sire, very vile and impudent is that giant who vaunts himself out there. But may God never grant that he should have your daughter in his power! He despises her and insults her openly. It would be too great a calamity if so lovely a creature of such high birth were handed over to become the sport of boys. Give me now my arms and horse! Have the drawbridge lowered, and let me pass. One or the other must be cast down, either I or he, I know not which. If I could only humiliate the cruel wretch who is thus oppressing you, so that he would release your sons and should come and make amends for the insulting words he has spoken to you, then I would commend you to God and go about my business.”
Then they go to get his horse, and hand over to him his arms, striving so expeditiously that they soon have him quite equipped. They delayed as little as they could in arming him. When his equipment was complete, there remained nothing but to lower the bridge and let him go. They lowered it for him, and he went out. But the lion would by no means stay behind. All those who were left behind commended the knight to the Saviour, for they fear exceedingly lest their devilish enemy, who already had slain so many good men on the same field before their eyes, would do the same with him. So they pray God to defend him from death, and return him to them safe and sound, and that He may give him strength to slay the giant. Each one softly prays to God in accordance with his wish. And the giant fiercely came at him, and with threatening words thus spake to him: "By my eyes, the man who sent thee here surely had no love for thee! No better way could he have taken to avenge himself on thee. He has chosen well his vengeance for whatever wrong thou hast done to him.”
But the other, fearing naught, replies: "Thou treatest of what matters not. Now do thy best, and I'll do mine. Idle parley wearies me.”
Thereupon my lord Yvain, who was anxious to depart, rides at him. He goes to strike him on the breast, which was protected by a bear's skin, and the giant runs at him with his stake raised in air. My lord Yvain deals him such a blow upon the chest that he thrusts through the skin and wets the tip of his lance in his body's blood by way of sauce. And the giant belabours him with the stake, and makes him bend beneath the blows. My lord Yvain then draws the sword with which he knew how to deal fierce blows. He found the giant unprotected, for he trusted in his strength so much that he disdained to arm himself. And he who had drawn his blade gave him such a slash with the cutting edge, and not with the flat side, that he cut from his cheek a slice fit to roast. Then the other in turn gave him such a blow with the stake that it made him sing in a heap upon his horse's neck. Thereupon the lion bristles up, ready to lend his master aid, and leaps up in his anger and strength, and strikes and tears like so much bark the heavy bearskin the giant wore, and he tore away beneath the skin a large piece of his thigh, together with the nerves and flesh. The giant escaped his clutches, roaring and bellowing like a bull, for the lion had badly wounded him. Then raising his stake in both hands, he thought to strike him, but missed his aim, when the lion leaded backward so he missed his blow, and fell exhausted beside my lord Yvain, but without either of them touching the other. Then my lord Yvain took aim and landed two blows on him. Before he could recover himself he had severed with the edge of his sword the giant's shoulder from his body. With the next blow he ran the whole blade of his sword through his liver beneath his chest; the giant falls in death's embrace. And if a great oak tree should fall, I think it would make no greater noise than the giant made when he tumbled down. All those who were on the wall would fain have witnessed such a blow. Then it became evident who was the most fleet of foot, for all ran to see the game, just like hounds which have followed the beast until they finally come up with him. So men and women in rivalry ran forward without delay to where the giant lay face downward. The daughter comes running, and her mother too. And the four brothers rejoice after the woes they have endured. As for my lord Yvain they are very sure that they could not detain him for any reason they might allege, but they beseech him to return and stay to enjoy himself as soon as he shall have completed the business which calls him away. And he replies that he cannot promise them anything, for as yet he cannot guess whether it will fare well or ill with him. But thus much did he say to his host: that he wished that his four sons and his daughter should take the dwarf and go to my lord Gawain when they hear of his return, and should tell and relate to him how he has conducted himself. For kind actions are of no use if you are not willing that they be known. And they reply: "It is not right that such kindness as this should be kept hid: we shall do whatever you desire. But tell us what we can say when we come before him. Whose praises can we speak, when we know not what your name may be?"
And he answers them: "When you come before him, you may say thus much: that I told you 'The Knight with the Lion' was my name. And at the same time I must beg you to tell him from me that, if he does not recognise who I am, yet he knows me well and I know him. Now I must be gone from here, and the thing which most alarms me is that I may too long have tarried here, for before the hour of noon be passed I shall have plenty to do elsewhere, if indeed I can arrive there in time.”
Then, without further delay, he starts. But first his host begged him insistently that he would take with him his four sons: for there was none of them who would not strive to serve him, if he would allow it. But it did not please or suit him that any one should accompany him; so he left the place to them, and went away alone. And as soon as he starts, riding as fast as his steed can carry him, he heads toward the chapel. The path was good and straight, and he knew well how to keep the road. But before he could reach the chapel, the damsel had been dragged out and the pyre prepared upon which she was to be placed. Clad only in a shift, she was held bound before the fire by those who wrongly attributed to her an intention she had never had. My lord Yvain arrived, and, seeing her beside the fire into which she was about to be cast, he was naturally incensed. He would be neither courteous nor sensible who had any doubt about that fact. So it is true that he was much incensed; but he cherishes within himself the hope that God and the Right will be on his side. In such helpers he confides; nor does he scorn his lion's aid. Rushing quickly toward the crowd, he shouts: "Let the damsel be, you wicked folk! Having committed no crime, it is not right that she should be cast upon a pyre or into a furnace.”
And they draw off on either side, leaving a passage-way for him. But he yearns to see with his own eyes her whom his heart beholds in whatever place she may be. His eyes seek her until he finds her, while he subdues and holds in check his heart, just as one holds in check with a strong curb a horse that pulls. Nevertheless, he gladly gazes at her, and sighs the while; but he does not sigh so openly that his action is detected; rather does he stifle his sighs, though with difficulty. And he is seized with pity at hearing, seeing, and perceiving the grief of the poor ladies, who cried: "Ah, God, how hast Thou forgotten us! How desolate we shall now remain when we lose so kind a friend, who gave us such counsel and such aid, and interceded for us at court! It was she who prompted madame to clothe us with her clothes of vair. Henceforth the situation will change, for there will be no one to speak for us! Cursed be he who is the cause of our loss! For we shall fare badly in all this. There will be no one to utter such advice as this: 'My lady, give this vair mantle, this cloak, and this garment to such and such an honest dame! Truly, such charity will be well employed, for she is in very dire need of them.'
No such words as these shall be uttered henceforth, for there is no one else who is frank and courteous; but every one solicits for himself rather than for some one else, even though he have no need."
Thus they were bemoaning their fate; and my lord Yvain who was in their midst, heard their complaints, which were neither groundless nor assumed. He saw Lunete on her knees and stripped to her shift, having already made confession, and besought God's mercy for her sins. Then he who had loved her deeply once came to her and raised her up, saying: "My damsel, where are those who blame and accuse you? Upon the spot, unless they refuse, battle will be offered them.”
And she, who had neither seen nor looked at him before, said: "Sire, you come from God in this time of my great need! The men who falsely accuse me are all ready before me here; if you had been a little later I should soon have been reduced to fuel and ashes. You have come here in my defence, and may God give you the power to accomplish it in proportion as I am guiltless of the accusation which is made against me!"