THE WOOD OF MOROIS
They wandered in the depths of the wild wood, restless and in haste like beasts that are hunted, nor did they often dare to return by night to the shelter of yesterday. They ate but the flesh of wild animals. Their faces sank and grew white, their clothes ragged; for the briars tore them. They loved each other and they did not know that they suffered.
One day, as they were wandering in these high woods that had never yet been felled or ordered, they came upon the hermitage of Ogrin.
The old man limped in the sunlight under a light growth of maples near his chapel: he leant upon his crutch, and cried:
“Lord Tristan, hear the great oath which the Cornish men have sworn. The King has published a ban in every parish: Whosoever may seize you shall receive a hundred marks of gold for his guerdon, and all the barons have sworn to give you up alive or dead. Do penance, Tristan! God pardons the sinner who turns to repentance.”
“And of what should I repent, Ogrin, my lord? Or of what crime? You that sit in judgment upon us here, do you know what cup it was we drank upon the high sea? That good, great draught inebriates us both. I would rather beg my life long and live of roots and herbs with Iseult than, lacking her, be king of a wide kingdom.”
“God aid you, Lord Tristan; for you have lost both this world and the next. A man that is traitor to his lord is worthy to be torn by horses and burnt upon the faggot, and wherever his ashes fall no grass shall grow and all tillage is waste, and the trees and the green things die. Lord Tristan, give back the Queen to the man who espoused her lawfully according to the laws of Rome.”
“He gave her to his lepers. From these lepers I myself conquered her with my own hand; and henceforth she is altogether mine. She cannot pass from me nor I from her.”
Ogrin sat down; but at his feet Iseult, her head upon the knees of that man of God, wept silently. The hermit told her and re-told her the words of his holy book, but still while she wept she shook her head, and refused the faith he offered.
“Ah me,” said Ogrin then, “what comfort can one give the dead? Do penance, Tristan, for a man who lives in sin without repenting is a man quite dead.”
“Oh no,” said Tristan, “I live and I do no penance. We will go back into the high wood which comforts and wards us all round about. Come with me, Iseult, my friend.”
Iseult rose up; they held each other’s hands. They passed into the high grass and the underwood: the trees hid them with their branches. They disappeared beyond the leaves.
The summer passed and the winter came: the two lovers lived, all hidden in the hollow of a rock, and on the frozen earth the cold crisped their couch with dead leaves. In the strength of their love neither one nor the other felt these mortal things. But when the open skies had come back with the springtime, they built a hut of green branches under the great trees. Tristan had known, ever since his childhood, that art by which a man may sing the song of birds in the woods, and at his fancy, he would call as call the thrush, the blackbird and the nightingale, and all winged things; and sometimes in reply very many birds would come on to the branches of his hut and sing their song full-throated in the new light.
The lovers had ceased to wander through the forest, for none of the barons ran the risk of their pursuit knowing well that Tristan would have hanged them to the branches of a tree. One day, however, one of the four traitors, Guenelon, whom God blast! drawn by the heat of the hunt, dared enter the Morois. And that morning, on the forest edge in a ravine, Gorvenal, having unsaddled his horse, had let him graze on the new grass, while far off in their hut Tristan held the Queen, and they slept. Then suddenly Gorvenal heard the cry of the pack; the hounds pursued a deer, which fell into that ravine. And far on the heath the hunter showed — and Gorvenal knew him for the man whom his master hated above all. Alone, with bloody spurs, and striking his horse’s mane, he galloped on; but Gorvenal watched him from ambush: he came fast, he would return more slowly. He passed and Gorvenal leapt from his ambush and seized the rein and, suddenly, remembering all the wrong that man had done, hewed him to death and carried off his head in his hands. And when the hunters found the body, as they followed, they thought Tristan came after and they fled in fear of death, and thereafter no man hunted in that wood. And far off, in the hut upon their couch of leaves, slept Tristan and the Queen.
There came Gorvenal, noiseless, the dead man’s head in his hands that he might lift his master’s heart at his awakening. He hung it by its hair outside the hut, and the leaves garlanded it about. Tristan woke and saw it, half hidden in the leaves, and staring at him as he gazed, and he became afraid. But Gorvenal said: “Fear not, he is dead. I killed him with this sword.”
Then Tristan was glad, and henceforward from that day no one dared enter the wild wood, for terror guarded it and the lovers were lords of it all: and then it was that Tristan fashioned his bow “Failnaught” which struck home always, man or beast, whatever it aimed at.
My lords, upon a summer day, when mowing is, a little after Whitsuntide, as the birds sang dawn Tristan left his hut and girt his sword on him, and took his bow “Failnaught” and went off to hunt in the wood; but before evening, great evil was to fall on him, for no lovers ever loved so much or paid their love so dear.
When Tristan came back, broken by the heat, the Queen said
“Friend, where have you been?”
“Hunting a hart,” he said, “that wearied me. I would lie down and sleep.”
So she lay down, and he, and between them Tristan put his naked sword, and on the Queen’s finger was that ring of gold with emeralds set therein, which Mark had given her on her bridal day; but her hand was so wasted that the ring hardly held. And no wind blew, and no leaves stirred, but through a crevice in the branches a sunbeam fell upon the face of Iseult and it shone white like ice. Now a woodman found in the wood a place where the leaves were crushed, where the lovers had halted and slept, and he followed their track and found the hut, and saw them sleeping and fled off, fearing the terrible awakening of that lord. He fled to Tintagel, and going up the stairs of the palace, found the King as he held his pleas in hall amid the vassals assembled.
“Friend,” said the King, “what came you hither to seek in haste and breathless, like a huntsman that has followed the dogs afoot? Have you some wrong to right, or has any man driven you?”
But the woodman took him aside and said low down:
“I have seen the Queen and Tristan, and I feared and fled.”
“Where saw you them?”
“In a hut in Morois, they slept side by side. Come swiftly and take your vengeance.”
“Go,” said the King, “and await me at the forest edge where the red cross stands, and tell no man what you have seen. You shall have gold and silver at your will.”
The King had saddled his horse and girt his sword and left the city alone, and as he rode alone he minded him of the night when he had seen Tristan under the great pine-tree, and Iseult with her clear face, and he thought:
“If I find them I will avenge this awful wrong.”
At the foot of the red cross he came to the woodman and said:
“Go first, and lead me straight and quickly.”
The dark shade of the great trees wrapt them round, and as the King followed the spy he felt his sword, and trusted it for the great blows it had struck of old; and surely had Tristan wakened, one of the two had stayed there dead. Then the woodman said:
“King, we are near.”
He held the stirrup, and tied the rein to a green apple-tree, and saw in a sunlit glade the hut with its flowers and leaves. Then the King cast his cloak with its fine buckle of gold and drew his sword from its sheath and said again in his heart that they or he should die. And he signed to the woodman to be gone.
He came alone into the hut, sword bare, and watched them as they lay: but he saw that they were apart, and he wondered because between them was the naked blade.
Then he said to himself: “My God, I may not kill them. For all the time they have lived together in this wood, these two lovers, yet is the sword here between them, and throughout Christendom men know that sign. Therefore I will not slay, for that would be treason and wrong, but I will do so that when they wake they may know that I found them here, asleep, and spared them and that God had pity on them both.”
And still the sunbeam fell upon the white face of Iseult, and the King took his ermined gloves and put them up against the crevice whence it shone.
Then in her sleep a vision came to Iseult. She seemed to be in a great wood and two lions near her fought for her, and she gave a cry and woke, and the gloves fell upon her breast; and at the cry Tristan woke, and made to seize his sword, and saw by the golden hilt that it was the King’s. And the Queen saw on her finger the King’s ring, and she cried:
“O, my lord, the King has found us here!”
And Tristan said:
“He has taken my sword; he was alone, but he will return, and will burn us before the people. Let us fly.”
So by great marches with Gorvenal alone they fled towards Wales.
OGRIN THE HERMIT
After three days it happened that Tristan, in following a wounded deer far out into the wood, was caught by night-fall, and took to thinking thus under the dark wood alone:
“It was not fear that moved the King … he had my sword and I slept … and had he wished to slay, why did he leave me his own blade? … O, my father, my father, I know you now. There was pardon in your heart, and tenderness and pity … yet how was that, for who could forgive in this matter without shame? … It was not pardon it was understanding; the faggot and the chantry leap and the leper ambush have shown him God upon our side. Also I think he remembered the boy who long ago harped at his feet, and my land of Lyonesse which I left for him; the Morholt’s spear and blood shed in his honour. He remembered how I made no avowal, but claimed a trial at arms, and the high nature of his heart has made him understand what men around him cannot; never can he know of the spell, yet he doubts and hopes and knows I have told no lie, and would have me prove my cause. O, but to win at arms by God’s aid for him, and to enter his peace and to put on mail for him again … but then he must take her back, and I must yield her … it would have been much better had he killed me in my sleep. For till now I was hunted and I could hate and forget; he had thrown Iseult to the lepers, she was no more his, but mine; and now by his compassion he has wakened my heart and regained the Queen. For Queen she was at his side, but in this wood she lives a slave, and I waste her youth; and for rooms all hung with silk she has this savage place, and a hut for her splendid walls, and I am the cause that she treads this ugly road. So now I cry to God the Lord, who is King of the world, and beg Him to give me strength to yield back Iseult to King Mark; for she is indeed his wife, wed according to the laws of Rome before all the Barony of his land.”
And as he thought thus, he leant upon his bow, and all through the night considered his sorrow.
Within the hollow of thorns that was their resting-place Iseult the Fair awaited Tristan’s return. The golden ring that King Mark had slipped there glistened on her finger in the moonlight, and she thought:
“He that put on this ring is not the man who threw me to his lepers in his wrath; he is rather that compassionate lord who, from the day I touched his shore, received me and protected. And he loved Tristan once, but I came, and see what I have done! He should have lived in the King’s palace; he should have ridden through King’s and baron’s fees, finding adventure; but through me he has forgotten his knighthood, and is hunted and exiled from the court, leading a random life. …”
Just then she heard the feet of Tristan coming over the dead leaves and twigs. She came to meet him, as was her wont, to relieve him of his arms, and she took from him his bow, “Failnaught,” and his arrows, and she unbuckled his sword-straps. And, “Friend,” said he, “it is the King’s sword. It should have slain, but it spared us.”
Iseult took the sword, and kissed the hilt of gold, and Tristan saw her weeping.
“Friend,” said he, “if I could make my peace with the King; if he would allow me to sustain in arms that neither by act nor word have I loved you with a wrongful love, any knight from the Marshes of Ely right away to Dureaume that would gainsay me, would find me armed in the ring. Then if the King would keep you and drive me out I would cross to the Lowlands or to Brittany with Gorvenal alone. But wherever I went and always, Queen, I should be yours; nor would I have spoken thus, Iseult, but for the wretchedness you bear so long for my sake in this desert land.”
“Tristan,” she said, “there is the hermit Ogrin. Let us return to him, and cry mercy to the King of Heaven.”
They wakened Gorvenal; Iseult mounted the steed, and Tristan led it by the bridle, and all night long they went for the last time through the woods of their love, and they did not speak a word. By morning they came to the Hermitage, where Ogrin read at the threshold, and seeing them, called them tenderly:
“Friends,” he cried, “see how Love drives you still to further wretchedness. Will you not do penance at last for your madness?”
“Lord Ogrin,” said Tristan, “hear us. Help us to offer peace to the King, and I will yield him the Queen, and will myself go far away into Brittany or the Lowlands, and if some day the King suffer me, I will return and serve as I should.”
And at the hermit’s feet Iseult said in her turn:
“Nor will I live longer so, for though I will not say one word of penance for my love, which is there and remains forever, yet from now on I will be separate from him.”
Then the hermit wept and praised God and cried: “High King, I praise Thy Name, for that Thou hast let me live so long as to give aid to these!”
And he gave them wise counsel, and took ink, and wrote a little writ offering the King what Tristan said.
That night Tristan took the road. Once more he saw the marble well and the tall pine-tree, and he came beneath the window where the King slept, and called him gently, and Mark awoke and whispered:
“Who are you that call me in the night at such an hour?”
“Lord, I am Tristan: I bring you a writ, and lay it here.”
Then the King cried: “Nephew! nephew! for God’s sake wait awhile,” but Tristan had fled and joined his squire, and mounted rapidly. Gorvenal said to him:
“O, Tristan, you are mad to have come. Fly hard with me by the nearest road.”
So they came back to the Hermitage, and there they found Ogrin at prayer, but Iseult weeping silently.
Mark had awakened his chaplain and had given him the writ to read; the chaplain broke the seal, saluted in Tristan’s name, and then, when he had cunningly made out the written words, told him what Tristan offered; and Mark heard without saying a word, but his heart was glad, for he still loved the Queen.
He summoned by name the choicest of his baronage, and when they were all assembled they were silent and the King spoke:
“My lords, here is a writ, just sent me. I am your King, and you my lieges. Hear what is offered me, and then counsel me, for you owe me counsel.”
The chaplain rose, unfolded the writ, and said, upstanding
“My lords, it is Tristan that first sends love and homage to the King and all his Barony, and he adds, ‘O King, when I slew the dragon and conquered the King of Ireland’s daughter it was to me they gave her. I was to ward her at will and I yielded her to you. Yet hardly had you wed her when felons made you accept their lies, and in your anger, fair uncle, my lord, you would have had us burnt without trial. But God took compassion on us; we prayed him and he saved the Queen, as justice was: and me also—though I leapt from a high rock, I was saved by the power of God. And since then what have I done blameworthy? The Queen was thrown to the lepers; I came to her succour and bore her away. Could I have done less for a woman, who all but died innocent through me? I fled through the woods. Nor could I have come down into the vale and yielded her, for there was a ban to take us dead or alive. But now, as then, I am ready, my lord, to sustain in arms against all comers that never had the Queen for me, nor I for her a love dishonourable to you. Publish the lists, and if I cannot prove my right in arms, burn me before your men. But if I conquer and you take back Iseult, no baron of yours will serve you as will I; and if you will not have me, I will offer myself to the King of Galloway, or to him of the Lowlands, and you will hear of me never again. Take counsel, King, for if you will make no terms I will take back Iseult to Ireland, and she shall be Queen in her own land.’”
When the barons of Cornwall heard how Tristan offered battle, they said to the King:
“Sire, take back the Queen. They were madmen that belied her to you. But as for Tristan, let him go and war it in Galloway, or in the Lowlands. Bid him bring back Iseult on such a day and that soon.
Then the King called thrice clearly:
“Will any man rise in accusation against Tristan?”
And as none replied, he said to his chaplain:
“Write me a writ in haste. You have heard what you shall write. Iseult has suffered enough in her youth. And let the writ be hung upon the arm of the red cross before evening. Write speedily.”
Towards midnight Tristan crossed the Heath of Sand, and found the writ, and bore it sealed to Ogrin; and the hermit read the letter; “How Mark consented by the counsel of his barons to take back Iseult, but not to keep Tristan for his liege. Rather let him cross the sea, when, on the third day hence, at the Ford of Chances, he had given back the Queen into King Mark’s hands.” Then Tristan said to the Queen:
“O, my God! I must lose you, friend! But it must be, since I can thus spare you what you suffer for my sake. But when we part for ever I will give you a pledge of mine to keep, and from whatever unknown land I reach I will send some messenger, and he will bring back word of you, and at your call I will come from far away.”
Iseult said, sighing:
“Tristan, leave me your dog, Toothold, and every time I see him I will remember you, and will be less sad. And, friend, I have here a ring of green jasper. Take it for the love of me, and put it on your finger; then if anyone come saying he is from you, I will not trust him at all till he show me this ring, but once I have seen it, there is no power or royal ban that can prevent me from doing what you bid—wisdom or folly.”
“Friend,” he said, “here give I you Toothold.”
“Friend,” she replied, “take you this ring in reward.”
And they kissed each other on the lips.
Now Ogrin, having left the lovers in the Hermitage, hobbled upon his crutch to the place called The Mount, and he bought ermine there and fur and cloth of silk and purple and scarlet, and a palfrey harnessed in gold that went softly, and the folk laughed to see him spending upon these the small moneys he had amassed so long; but the old man put the rich stuffs upon the palfrey and came back to Iseult.
And “Queen,” said he, “take these gifts of mine that you may seem the finer on the day when you come to the Ford.”
Meanwhile the King had had cried through Cornwall the news that on the third day he would make his peace with the Queen at the Ford, and knights and ladies came in a crowd to the gathering, for all loved the Queen and would see her, save the three felons that yet survived.
On the day chosen for the meeting, the field shone far with the rich tents of the barons, and suddenly Tristan and Iseult came out at the forest’s edge, and caught sight of King Mark far off among his Barony:
“Friend,” said Tristan, “there is the King, your lord—his knights and his men; they are coming towards us, and very soon we may not speak to each other again. By the God of Power I conjure you, if ever I send you a word, do you my bidding.”
“Friend,” said Iseult, “on the day that I see the ring, nor tower, nor wall, nor stronghold will let me from doing the will of my friend.”
“Why then,” he said, “Iseult, may God reward you.”
Their horses went abreast and he drew her towards him with his arm.
“Friend,” said Iseult, “hear my last prayer: you will leave this land, but wait some days; hide till you know how the King may treat me, whether in wrath or kindness, for I am afraid. Friend, Orri the woodman will entertain you hidden. Go you by night to the abandoned cellar that you know and I will send Perinis there to say if anyone misuse me.”
“Friend, none would dare. I will stay hidden with Orri, and if any misuse you let him fear me as the Enemy himself.”
Now the two troops were near and they saluted, and the King rode a bow-shot before his men and with him Dinas of Lidan; and when the barons had come up, Tristan, holding Iseult’s palfrey by the bridle, bowed to the King and said:
“O King, I yield you here Iseult the Fair, and I summon you, before the men of your land, that I may defend myself in your court, for I have had no judgment. Let me have trial at arms, and if I am conquered, burn me, but if I conquer, keep me by you, or, if you will not, I will be off to some far country.”
But no one took up Tristan’s wager, and the King, taking Iseult’s palfrey by the bridle, gave it to Dinas, and went apart to take counsel.
Dinas, in his joy, gave all honour and courtesy to the Queen, but when the felons saw her so fair and honoured as of old, they were stirred and rode to the King, and said:
“King, hear our counsel. That the Queen was slandered we admit, but if she and Tristan re-enter your court together, rumour will revive again. Rather let Tristan go apart awhile. Doubtless some day you may recall him.”
And so Mark did, and ordered Tristan by his barons to go off without delay.
Then Tristan came near the Queen for his farewell, and as they looked at one another the Queen in shame of that assembly blushed, but the King pitied her, and spoke his nephew thus for the first time:
“You cannot leave in these rags; take then from my treasury gold and silver and white fur and grey, as much as you will.”
“King,” said Tristan, “neither a penny nor a link of mail. I will go as I can, and serve with high heart the mighty King in the Lowlands.”
And he turned rein and went down towards the sea, but Iseult followed him with her eyes, and so long as he could yet be seen a long way off she did not turn.
Now at the news of the peace, men, women, and children, great and small, ran out of the town in a crowd to meet Iseult, and while they mourned Tristan’s exile they rejoiced at the Queen’s return.
And to the noise of bells, and over pavings strewn with branches, the King and his counts and princes made her escort, and the gates of the palace were thrown open that rich and poor might enter and eat and drink at will.
And Mark freed a hundred of his slaves, and armed a score of squires that day with hauberk and with sword.
But Tristan that night hid with Orri, as the Queen had counselled him.
THE ORDEAL BY IRON
Denoalen, Andret, and Gondoin held themselves safe; Tristan was far over sea, far away in service of a distant king, and they beyond his power. Therefore, during a hunt one day, as the King rode apart in a glade where the pack would pass, and hearkening to the hounds, they all three rode towards him, and said:
“O King, we have somewhat to say. Once you condemned the Queen without judgment, and that was wrong; now you acquit her without judgment, and that is wrong. She is not quit by trial, and the barons of your land blame you both. Counsel her, then, to claim the ordeal in God’s judgment, for since she is innocent, she may swear on the relics of the saints and hot iron will not hurt her. For so custom runs, and in this easy way are doubts dissolved.”
But Mark answered:
“God strike you, my Cornish lords, how you hunt my shame! For you have I exiled my nephew, and now what would you now? Would you have me drive the Queen to Ireland too? What novel plaints have you to plead? Did not Tristan offer you battle in this matter? He offered battle to clear the Queen forever: he offered and you heard him all. Where then were your lances and your shields?”
“Sire,” they said, “we have counselled you loyal counsel as lieges and to your honour; henceforward we hold our peace. Put aside your anger and give us your safe-guard.”
But Mark stood up in the stirrup and cried:
“Out of my land, and out of my peace, all of you! Tristan I exiled for you, and now go you in turn, out of my land!”
But they answered:
“Sire, it is well. Our keeps are strong and fenced, and stand on rocks not easy for men to climb.”
And they rode off without a salutation.
But the King (not tarrying for huntsman or for hound but straight away) spurred his horse to Tintagel; and as he sprang up the stairs the Queen heard the jangle of his spurs upon the stones.
She rose to meet him and took his sword as she was wont, and bowed before him, as it was also her wont to do; but Mark raised her, holding her hands; and when Iseult looked up she saw his noble face in just that wrath she had seen before the faggot fire.
She thought that Tristan was found, and her heart grew cold, and without a word she fell at the King’s feet.
He took her in his arms and kissed her gently till she could speak again, and then he said:
“Friend, friend, what evil tries you?”
“Sire, I am afraid, for I have seen your anger.
“Yes, I was angered at the hunt.”
“My lord, should one take so deeply the mischances of a game?”
Mark smiled and said:
“No, friend; no chance of hunting vexed me, but those three felons whom you know; and I have driven them forth from my land.”
“Sire, what did they say, or dare to say of me?”
“What matter? I have driven them forth.”
“Sire, all living have this right: to say the word they have conceived. And I would ask a question, but from whom shall I learn save from you? I am alone in a foreign land, and have no one else to defend me.”
“They would have it that you should quit yourself by solemn oath and by the ordeal of iron, saying ‘that God was a true judge, and that as the Queen was innocent, she herself should seek such judgment as would clear her for ever.’ This was their clamour and their demand incessantly. But let us leave it. I tell you, I have driven them forth.”
Iseult trembled, but looking straight at the King, she said:
“Sire, call them back; I will clear myself by oath. But I bargain this: that on the appointed day you call King Arthur and Lord Gawain, Girflet, Kay the Seneschal, and a hundred of his knights to ride to the Sandy Heath where your land marches with his, and a river flows between; for I will not swear before your barons alone, lest they should demand some new thing, and lest there should be no end to my trials. But if my warrantors, King Arthur and his knights, be there, the barons will not dare dispute the judgment.”
But as the heralds rode to Carduel, Iseult sent to Tristan secretly her squire Perinis: and he ran through the underwood, avoiding paths, till he found the hut of Orri, the woodman, where Tristan for many days had awaited news. Perinis told him all: the ordeal, the place, and the time, and added:
“My lord, the Queen would have you on that day and place come dressed as a pilgrim, so that none may know you—unarmed, so that none may challenge —to the Sandy Heath. She must cross the river to the place appointed. Beyond it, where Arthur and his hundred knights will stand, be you also; for my lady fears the judgment, but she trusts in God.”
Then Tristan answered:
“Go back, friend Perinis, return you to the Queen, and say that I will do her bidding.”
And you must know that as Perinis went back to Tintagel he caught sight of that same woodman who had betrayed the lovers before, and the woodman, as he found him, had just dug a pitfall for wolves and for wild boars, and covered it with leafy branches to hide it, and as Perinis came near the woodman fled, but Perinis drove him, and caught him, and broke his staff and his head together, and pushed his body into the pitfall with his feet.
On the appointed day King Mark and Iseult, and the barons of Cornwall, stood by the river; and the knights of Arthur and all their host were arrayed beyond.
And just before them, sitting on the shore, was a poor pilgrim, wrapped in cloak and hood, who held his wooden platter and begged alms.
Now as the Cornish boats came to the shoal of the further bank, Iseult said to the knights:
“My lords, how shall I land without befouling my clothes in the river-mud? Fetch me a ferryman.”
And one of the knights hailed the pilgrim, and said:
“Friend, truss your coat, and try the water; carry you the Queen to shore, unless you fear the burden.”
But as he took the Queen in his arms she whispered to him:
And then she whispered to him, lower still
“Stumble you upon the sand.”
And as he touched shore, he stumbled, holding the Queen in his arms; and the squires and boatmen with their oars and boat-hooks drove the poor pilgrim away.
But the Queen said:
“Let him be; some great travail and journey has weakened him.”
And she threw to the pilgrim a little clasp of gold.
Before the tent of King Arthur was spread a rich Nicean cloth upon the grass, and the holy relics were set on it, taken out of their covers and their shrines.
And round the holy relics on the sward stood a guard more than a king’s guard, for Lord Gawain, Girflet, and Kay the Seneschal kept ward over them.
The Queen having prayed God, took off the jewels from her neck and hands, and gave them to the beggars around; she took off her purple mantle, and her overdress, and her shoes with their precious stones, and gave them also to the poor that loved her.
She kept upon her only the sleeveless tunic, and then with arms and feet quite bare she came between the two kings, and all around the barons watched her in silence, and some wept, for near the holy relics was a brazier burning.
And trembling a little she stretched her right hand towards the bones and said: “Kings of Logres and of Cornwall; my lords Gawain, and Kay, and Girflet, and all of you that are my warrantors, by these holy things and all the holy things of earth, I swear that no man has held me in his arms saving King Mark, my lord, and that poor pilgrim. King Mark, will that oath stand?”
“Yes, Queen,” he said, “and God see to it.
“Amen,” said Iseult, and then she went near the brazier, pale and stumbling, and all were silent. The iron was red, but she thrust her bare arms among the coals and seized it, and bearing it took nine steps.
Then, as she cast it from her, she stretched her arms out in a cross, with the palms of her hands wide open, and all men saw them fresh and clean and cold. Seeing that great sight the kings and the barons and the people stood for a moment silent, then they stirred together and they praised God loudly all around.