The seneschal and his two brothers heard these words .
“Ah!" they exclaim, "woman, chary of uttering truth but generous with lies! He indeed is mad who for thy words assumes so great a task. The knight must be simple-minded who has come here to die for thee, for he is alone and there are three of us. My advice to him is that he turn back before any harm shall come to him.”
Then he replies, as one impatient to begin: "Whoever is afraid, let him run away! I am not so afraid of your three shields that I should go off defeated without a blow. I should be indeed discourteous, if, while yet unscathed and in perfect case, I should leave the place and field to you. Never, so long as I am alive and sound, will I run away before such threats. But I advise thee to set free the damsel whom thou hast unjustly accused; for she tells me, and I believe her word, and she has assured me upon the salvation of her soul, that she never committed, or spoke, or conceived any treason against her mistress. I believe implicitly what she has told me, and will defend her as best I can, for I consider the righteousness of her cause to be in my favour. For, if the truth be known, God always sides with the righteous cause, for God and the Right are one; and if they are both upon my side, then I have better company and better aid than thou.”
Then the other responds imprudently that he may make every effort that pleases him and is convenient to do him injury, provided that his lion shall not do him harm. And he replies that he never brought the lion to champion his cause, nor does he wish any but himself to take a hand: but if the lion attacks him, let him defend himself against him as best he can, for concerning him he will give no guarantee. Then the other answers: "Whatever thou mayst say; unless thou now warn thy lion, and make him stand quietly to one side, there is no use of thy longer staying here, but begone at once, and so shalt thou be wise; for throughout this country every one is aware how this girl betrayed her lady, and it is right that she receive her due reward in fire and flame.”
"May the Holy Spirit forbid!" says he who knows the truth; "may God not let me stir from here until I have delivered her!" Then he tells the lion to withdraw and to lie down quietly, and he does so obediently.
The lion now withdrew, and the parley and quarrel being ended between them two, they all took their distance for the charge. The three together spurred toward him, and he went to meet them at a walk. He did not wish to be overturned or hurt at this first encounter. So he let them split their lances, while keeping his entire, making for them a target of his shield, whereon each one broke his lance. Then he galloped off until he was separated from them by the space of an acre; but he soon returned to the business in hand, having no desire to delay. On his coming up the second time, he reached the seneschal before his two brothers, and breaking his lance upon his body, he carried him to earth in spite of himself, and he gave him such a powerful blow that for a long while he lay stunned, incapable of doing him any harm. And then the other two came at him with their swords bared, and both deal him great blows, but they receive still heavier blows from him. For a single one of the blows he deals is more than a match for two of theirs; thus he defends himself so well that they have no advantage over him, until the seneschal gets up and does his best to injure him, in which attempt the others join, until they begin to press him and get the upper hand. Then the lion, who is looking on, delays no longer to lend him aid; for it seems to him that he needs it now. And all the ladies, who are devoted to the damsel, beseech God repeatedly and pray to Him earnestly not to allow the death or the defeat of him who has entered the fray on her account. The ladies, having no other weapons, thus assist him with their prayers. And the lion brings him such effective aid, that at his first attack, he strikes so fiercely the seneschal, who was now on his feet, that he makes the meshes fly from the hauberk like straw, and he drags him down with such violence that he tears the soft flesh from his shoulder and all down his side. He strips whatever he touches, so that the entrails lie exposed. The other two avenge this blow.
Now they are all even on the field. The seneschal is marked for death, as he turns and welters in the red stream of warm blood pouring from his body. The lion attacks the others; for my lord Yvain is quite unable, though he did his best by beating or by threatening him, to drive him back; but the lion doubtless feels confident that his master does not dislike his aid, but rather loves him the more for it: so he fiercely attacks them, until they have reason to complain of his blows, and they wound him in turn and use him badly. When my lord Yvain sees his lion wounded, his heart is wroth within his breast, and rightly so; but he makes such efforts to avenge him, and presses them so hard, that he completely reduces them; they no longer resist him, but surrender to him at discretion, because of the lion's help, who is now in great distress; for he was wounded everywhere, and had good cause to be in pain. For his part, my lord Yvain was by no means in a healthy state, for his body bore many a wound. But he is not so anxious about himself as about his lion, which is in distress. Now he has delivered the damsel exactly in accordance with his wish, and the lady has very willingly dismissed the grudge that she bore her. And those men were burned upon the pyre which had been kindled for the damsel's death; for it is right and just that he who has misjudged another, should suffer the same manner of death as that to which he had condemned the other. Now Lunete is joyous and glad at being reconciled with her mistress, and together they were more happy than any one ever was before. Without recognising him, all present offered to him, who was their lord, their service so long as life should last; even the lady, who possessed unknowingly his heart, begged him insistently to tarry there until his lion and he had quite recovered. And he replied: "Lady, I shall not now tarry here until my lady removes from me her displeasure and anger: then the end of all my labours will come.”
"Indeed," she said, "that grieves me. I think the lady cannot be very courteous who cherishes ill-will against you. She ought not to close her door against so valorous a knight as you, unless he had done her some great wrong.”
"Lady," he replies, "however great the hardship be, I am pleased by what ever may be her will. But speak to me no more of that; for I shall say nothing of the cause or crime, except to those who are informed of it.”
"Does any one know it, then, beside you two?”
“Yes, truly, lady.”
"Well, tell us at least your name, fair sir; then you will be free to go.”
"Quite free, my lady? No, I shall not be free. I owe more than I can pay. Yet, I ought not to conceal from you my name. You will never hear of 'The Knight with the Lion' without hearing of me; for I wish to be known by that name.”
"For God's sake, sir, what does that name mean? For we never saw you before, nor have we ever heard mentioned this name of yours.”
"My lady, you may from that infer that my fame is not widespread.”
Then the lady says: "Once more, if it did not oppose your will, I would pray you to tarry here.”
"Really, my lady, I should not dare, until I knew certainly that I had regained my lady's good-will.”
"Well, then, go in God's name, fair sir; and, if it be His will, may He convert your grief and sorrow into joy.”
"Lady," says he, "may God hear your prayer.”
Then he added softly under his breath: "Lady, it is you who hold the key, and, though you know it not, you hold the casket in which my happiness is kept under lock."
Then he goes away in great distress, and there is no one who recognises him save Lunete, who accompanied him a long distance. Lunete alone keeps him company, and he begs her insistently never to reveal the name of her champion .
“Sire," says she, "I will never do so.”
Then he further requested her that she should not forget him, and that she should keep a place for him in his mistress' heart, whenever the chance arose. She tells him to be at ease on that score; for she will never be forgetful, nor unfaithful, nor idle. Then he thanks her a thousand times, and he departs pensive and oppressed, because of his lion that he must needs carry, being unable to follow him on foot. He makes for him a litter of moss and ferns in his shield. When he has made a bed for him there, he lays him in it as gently as he can, and carries him thus stretched out full length on the inner side of his shield. Thus, in his shield he bears him off, until he arrives before the gate of a mansion, strong and fair. Finding it closed, he called, and the porter opened it so promptly that he had no need to call but once. He reaches out to take his rein, and greets him thus: "Come in, fair sire. I offer you the dwelling of my lord, if it please you to dismount.”
"I accept the offer gladly," he replies, "for I stand in great need of it, and it is time to find a lodging."
Thereupon, he passed through the gate, and saw the retainers in a mass coming to meet him. They greeted him and helped him from his horse, and laid down upon the pavement his shield with the lion on it. And some, taking his horse, put it in a stable: while others very properly relieved him of his arms and took them. Then the lord of the castle heard the news, and at once came down into the courtyard, and greeted him. And his lady came down, too, with all her sons and daughters and a great crowd of other people, who all rejoiced to offer him a lodging. They gave him a quiet room, because they deemed that he was sick; but their good nature was put to a test when they allowed the lion to go with him. His cure was undertaken by two maidens skilled in surgery, who were daughters of the lord. I do not know how many days he stayed there, until he and his lion, being cured, were compelled to proceed upon their way.
But within this time it came about that my lord of Noire Espine had a struggle with Death, and so fierce was Death's attack that he was forced to die. After his death it happened that the elder of two daughters whom he had, announced that she would possess uncontested all the estates for herself during her entire lifetime, and that she would give no share to her sister. And the other one said that she would go to King Arthur's court to seek help for the defence of her claim to the land. When the former saw that her sister would by no means concede all the estates to her without contest, she was greatly concerned, and thought that, if possible, she would get to court before her. At once she prepared and equipped herself, and without any tarrying or delay, she proceeded to the court. The other followed her, and made all the haste she could; but her journey was all in vain, for her eider sister had already presented her case to my lord Gawain, and he had promised to execute her will. But there was an agreement between them that if any one should learn of the facts from her, he would never again take arms for her, and to this arrangement she gave consent.
Just then the other sister arrived at court, clad in a short mantle of scarlet cloth and fresh ermine. It happened to be the third day after the Queen had returned from the captivity in which Maleagant had detained her with all the other prisoners; but Lancelot had remained behind, treacherously confined within a tower. And on that very day, when the damsel came to court, news was received of the cruel and wicked giant whom the knight with the lion had killed in battle. In his name, my lord Gawain was greeted by his nephews and niece, who told him in detail of all the great service and great deeds of prowess he had done for them for his sake, and how that he was well acquainted with him, though not aware of his identity.
All this was heard by her, who was plunged thereby into great despair and sorrow and dejection; for, since the best of the knights was absent, she thought she would find no aid or counsel at the court. She had already made several loving and insistent appeals to my lord Gawain; but he had said to her: "My dear, it is useless to appeal to me; I cannot do it; I have another affair on hand, which I shall in no wise give up.”
Then the damsel at once left him, and presented herself before the King .
“O King," said she, "I have come to thee and to thy court for aid. But I find none, and I am very much mazed that I can get no counsel here. Yet it would not be right for me to go away without taking leave. My sister may know, however, that she might obtain by kindness whatever she desired of my property; but I will never surrender my heritage to her by force, if I can help it, and if I can find any aid or counsel.”
"You have spoken wisely," said the King; "since she is present here, I advise, recommend, and urge her to surrender to you what is your right.”
Then the other, who was confident of the best knight in the world, replied: "Sire, may God confound me, if ever I bestow on her from my estates any castle, town, clearing, forest, land, or anything else. But if any knight dares to take arms on her behalf and desires to defend her cause, let him step forth at once.”
"Your offer to her is not fair; she needs more time," the King replied; "if she desires, she may have forty days to secure a champion, according to the practice of all courts.”
To which the elder sister replied: "Fair King, my lord, you may establish your laws as it pleases you, and as seems good, nor is it my place to gainsay you, so I must consent to the postponement, if she desires it.”
Whereupon, the other says that she does desire it, and she makes formal request for it. Then she commended the King to God, and left the court resolving to devote her life to the search through all the land for the Knight with the Lion, who devotes himself to succouring women in need of aid.
Thus she entered upon her quest, and traversed many a country without hearing any news of him, which caused her such grief that she fell sick. But it was well for her that it happened so; for she came to the dwelling of a friend of hers, by whom she was dearly loved. By this time her face showed clearly that she was not in good health. They insisted upon detaining her until she told them of her plight; whereupon, another damsel took up the quest wherein she had been engaged, and continued the search on her behalf. So while the one remained in this retreat, the other rode rapidly all day long, until the darkness of night came on, and caused her great anxiety. And her trouble was doubled when the rain came on with terrible violence, as if God Himself were doing His worst, while she was in the depths of the forest. The night and the woods cause her great distress, but she is more tormented by the rain than by either the woods or the night. And the road was so bad that her horse was often up to the girth in mud; any damsel might well be terrified to be in the woods, without escort, in such bad weather and in such darkness that she could not see the horse she was riding. So she called on God first, and His mother next, and then on all the saints in turn, and offered up many a prayer that God would lead her out from this forest and conduct her to some lodging-place. She continued in prayer until she heard a horn, at which she greatly rejoiced; for she thought now she would find shelter, if she could only reach the place. So she turned in the direction of the sound, and came upon a paved road which led straight toward the horn whose sound she heard; for the horn had given three long, loud blasts. And she made her way straight toward the sound, until she came to a cross which stood on the right side of the road, and there she thought that she might find the horn and the person who had sounded it. So she spurred her horse in that direction, until she drew near a bridge, and descried the white walls and the barbican of a circular castle. Thus, by chance she came upon the castle, setting her course by the sound which had led her thither. She had been attracted by the sound of the horn blown by a watchman upon the walls. As soon as the watchman caught sight of her, he called to her, then came down, and taking the key of the gate, opened it for her and said: "Welcome, damsel, whoe'er you be. You shall be well lodged this night.”
"I have no other desire than that," the damsel replied, as he let her in. After the toil and anxiety she had endured that day, she was fortunate to find such a lodging-place; for she was very comfortable there. After the meal the host addressed her, and inquired where she was going and what was her quest. Whereupon, she thus replied: "I am seeking one whom I never saw, so far as I am aware, and never knew; but he has a lion with him, and I am told that, if I find him, I can place great confidence in him.”
"I can testify to that," the other said: "for the day before yesterday God sent him here to me in my dire need. Blessed be the paths which led him to my dwelling. For he made me glad by avenging me of a mortal enemy and killing him before my eyes. Outside yonder gate you may see to-morrow the body of a mighty giant, whom he slew with such ease that he hardly had to sweat.”
"For God's sake, sire," the damsel said, "tell me now the truth, if you know whither he went, and where he is.”
"I don't know," he said, "as God sees me here; but to-morrow I will start you on the road by which he went away from here.”
"And may God," said she, "lead me where I may hear true news of him. For if I find him, I shall be very glad."
Thus they continued in long converse until at last they went to bed. When the day dawned, the maid arose, being in great concern to find the object of her quest. And the master of the house arose with all his companions, and set her upon the road which led straight to the spring beneath the pine. And she, hastening on her way toward the town, came and asked the first men whom she met, if they could tell her where she would find the lion and the knight who travelled in company. And they told her that they had seen him defeat three knights in that very place. Whereupon, she said at once: "For God's sake, since you have said so much, do not keep back from me anything that you can add.”
"No," they replied; "we know nothing more than we have said, nor do we know what became of him. If she for whose sake he came here, cannot give you further news, there will be no one here to enlighten you. You will not have far to go, if you wish to speak with her; for she has gone to make prayer to God and to hear Mass in yonder church, and judging by the time she has been inside, her orisons have been prolonged."
While they were talking thus, Lunete came out from the church, and they said: "There she is.”
Then she went to meet her, and they greeted each other. She asked Lunete at once for the information she desired; and Lunete said that she would have a palfrey saddled; for she wished to accompany her, and would take her to an enclosure where she had left him. The other maiden thanked her heartily. Lunete mounts the palfrey which is brought without delay, and, as they ride, she tells her how she had been accused and charged with treason, and how the pyre was already kindled upon which she was to be laid, and how he had come to help her in just the moment of her need. While speaking thus, she escorted her to the road which led directly to the spot where my lord Yvain had parted from her. When she had accompanied her thus far, she said: "Follow this road until you come to a place where, if it please God and the Holy Spirit, you will hear more reliable news of him than I can tell. I very well remember that I left him either near here, or exactly here, where we are now; we have not seen each other since then, and I do not know what he has done. When he left me, he was in sore need of a plaster for his wounds. So I will send you along after him, and if it be God's will, may He grant that you find him to-night or to-morrow in good health. Now go: I commend you to God. I must not follow you any farther, lest my mistress be displeased with me.”