Historic Tales, Vol 14 (of 15) The Romance of Reality
THE TREACHERY OF KING MARK.
The story of Tristram's valorous deeds, and of the high honor in which he was held at Camelot, in good time came to Cornwall, where it filled King Mark's soul with revengeful fury, and stirred the heart of La Belle Isolde to the warmest love. The coward king, indeed, in his jealous hatred of his nephew, set out in disguise for England, with murderous designs against Tristram should an opportunity occur.
Many things happened to him there, and he was brought into deep disgrace, but the story of his adventures may be passed over in brief review, lest the reader should find it wearisome.
Not far had he ridden on English soil before he met with Dinadan, who, in his jesting humor, soon played him a merry trick. For he arrayed Dagonet, the king's fool, in a suit of armor, which he made Mark believe was Lancelot's. Thus prepared, Dagonet rode to meet him and challenged him to a joust. But King Mark, on seeing what he fancied was Lancelot's shield, turned and fled at headlong speed, followed by the fool and his comrades with hunting cries and laughter till the forest rang with the noise.
Escaping at length from this merry chase, the trembling dastard made his way to Camelot, where he hoped some chance would arise to aid him in his murderous designs on Tristram. But a knight of his own train, named Sir Amant, had arrived there before him, and accused him of treason to the king, without telling who he was.
"This is a charge that must be settled by wager of battle," said King Arthur. "The quarrel is between you; you must decide it with sword and spear."
In the battle that followed, Sir Amant, by unlucky fortune, was run through, and fell from his horse with a mortal wound.
"Heaven has decided in my favor," cried King Mark. "But here I shall no longer stay, for it does not seem a safe harbor for honest knights."
He thereupon rode away, fearing that Dinadan would reveal his name. Yet not far had he gone before Lancelot came in furious haste after him.
"Turn again, thou recreant king and knight," he loudly called. "To Arthur's court you must return, whether it is your will or not. We know you, villain. Sir Amant has told your name and purpose; and, by my faith, I am strongly moved to kill you on the spot."
"Fair sir," asked King Mark, "what is your name?"
"My name is Lancelot du Lake. Defend yourself, dog and dastard."
On hearing this dreaded name, and seeing Lancelot riding upon him with spear in rest, King Mark tumbled like a sack of grain from his saddle to the earth, crying in terror, "I yield me, Sir Lancelot! I yield me!" and begging piteously for mercy.
"Thou villain!" thundered Lancelot, "I would give much to deal thee one buffet for the love of Tristram and Isolde. Mount, dog, and follow me."
Mark hastened to obey, and was thus brought like a slave back to Arthur's court, where he made such prayers and promises that in the end the king forgave him, but only on condition that he would enter into accord with Tristram, and remove from him the sentence of banishment....