Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Chapter 4 [final half]
[Photo: Detail from the facade of San Bendito Church, built in 1104 and remodeled 1508, Salamanca, Spain. Photo by Sue Burke.]
The Childe of the Sea was watching King Perion very closely, not as his father, since he did not know that he was, but for the great skill in arms that he had heard tell of him. The Childe wanted to become a knight by his hand more than by anyone else in the world. He believed that a petition by the Queen would help him achieve it, but when he found her very sad for the losses of her sister, he did not wish to speak to her of it. He went to his lady Oriana and, kneeling in front of her, said:
"My lady Oriana, may I ask you to find out why the Queen is so sad?"
When she saw in front of her the person who she loved most, though not he nor anyone else knew it, her heart leapt, and she said to him:
"Why, Childe of the Sea! This is the first thing ye have asked of me, and I will be glad to do it for you."
"Oh, my lady!" he said. "I am neither so daring nor worthy to ask anything of such a lady as yourself, but only to do that which ye may order me."
"And why is that?" she said. "Is your heart so weak that it can ask for nothing?"
"So weak," he said, "that in anything contrary to you, I must fail. I can only serve you as he whose heart belongs not to himself but only to you."
"To me?" she said. "Since when?"
"Since it pleased you," he said.
"And when did it please me?" Oriana said.
"Remember, my lady," said the Childe, "that on the day your father left, the Queen took me by the hand and brought me before you and said, 'I give you this young man to serve you,' and ye said it pleased you. Since then I have considered myself yours to serve you, and I always will, and I shall have no other woman as my mistress for as long as I live."
"Ye took her words for more than they meant," she said, "but I am very pleased that it be so."
He was so dazed by pleasure that he could not respond at all, and she saw that she had complete control over him. She left him and went to the Queen and learned that she was sad over her sister's loss, and she went back to the Childe of the Sea and told him. The Childe told her:
"If it would please you for me to be a knight, my lady, I would go to help the Queen's sister, if ye should permit me to go."
"And if I did not grant permission," she said, "ye would not go?"
"No," he said, "because my defeated heart could not face any adversity without it, and in fact it could face nothing at all."
She laughed with a kind face and said to him:
"Then, since I have won you, I permit you to be my knight and to help the Queen's sister."
The Childe kissed her hands and said:
"Since my lord the King has not wanted to make me a knight, I now would have King Perion do it."
"I will do what I can about it," she said, "but it would be best to talk to Princess Mabilia, whose requests mean a lot to her uncle the King."
Then she went to Mabilia and told her how the Childe of the Sea wanted to become a knight by the hand of King Perion, and that it was necessary for her to ask for it. Mabilia was very willing, since she felt great affection for the Childe. She said:
"Let us both do it for him, for he merits it. Have him come to my mother's chapel in full armor, and we can keep watch with him, along with other damsels. Since King Perion wants to travel on by horse, and from what I have heard before dawn, I shall send him a request to see me, and there he will do as we ask, since he is a knight of very good conduct."
"Ye have spoken well," Oriana said.
They both went to the Childe and told him what they had planned. He thanked them, and all three left that discussion in agreement. The Childe called Gandalin and told him:
"Brother, take all my arms to the Queen's chapel by stealth. Tonight I plan to become a knight, and since it will be wise for me to leave here after that, I want to know if thou wishest to leave with me."
"My lord, I tell you that I will never willingly be parted from you."
Tears came to the eyes of the Childe. He kissed Gandalin on the face and said:
"Friend, now do as I told thee."
Gandalin put the arms in the chapel while the Queen was at supper, and when the tablecloths were lifted, the Childe went to the chapel and put on all his armor, except the helmet and gauntlets. He prayed in front of the altar, asking God to give him victory both in acts of arms and in his mortal desires for his lady. After the Queen went to sleep, Oriana and Mabilia with some other damsels came to accompany him. Since Mabilia knew that King Perion wanted to ride off, she sent word for him to see her before he left. He came right away, and Mabilia said to him:
"My lord, please do as Oriana, the daughter of King Lisuarte, shall ask you."
The King said that he would do it willingly, for his duty to her father obliged him. Oriana came before the King, and when he saw her how beautiful she was, he knew that no equal to her could be found in the world. She said:
"I wish to ask a boon of you."
"I will do it gladly," he said.
"Then make my Childe of the Sea a knight."
And she showed him to the King, on his knees in front of the altar. The King marveled at his handsomeness, and approached him and said:
"Do ye wish to receive the order of knighthood?"
"I do," he said.
"In the name of God, and may He make you be as well employed in it and as honorable as He has made you handsome." And putting on his right spur, he said to him, "Now ye are a knight and ye may take up the sword."
The King picked up the sword and gave it to him, and the Childe girded it, and he looked handsomer than ever. And the King said:
"Surely, I wish I could have armed you as knight with greater ceremony, more befitting your
character and appearance. But I trust in God that your fame will give testimony to that which should have been done with more honors."
Mabilia and Oriana were happy and kissed the hands of the King, who commended the Childe of the Sea to God and went on his way.
This was the beginning of the love affair between this knight and this princess, and if these words seem foolish to the reader, do not question them. In this world, many things have happened not only at the tender age she had, but to others with greater discretion. Great and overwhelming love had such power in these cases that their senses and speech were also confused. And so these words as they were spoken and as the author wrote them, without enhancement, clearly deserve no censure, because each thing should be given its due.
The Childe of the Sea, now knighted as was told above, wished to say goodbye to his lady, Oriana, and to Mabilia and the other damsels who kept watch in the chapel with him. Oriana, who felt her heart break but who did not wish to show it, took him aside and said:
"Childe of the Sea, ye seem so noble to me that I cannot believe that ye are the son of Gandales. If ye know something of this, tell me."
The Childe told her what King Languines knew of his background, and she, being very happy to know it, commended him to God.
At the door of the palace, he found Gandalin with his lance, shield, and horse. He left on his way on horseback without being seen since it was still night, and he rode until he entered a forest. At midday, he ate what Gandalin had brought.
Late in the afternoon he heard sorrowful shouts to his right, as if a man were in great pain. He there rode quickly and found a dead knight in the road, and beyond him he saw another who was badly injured. A woman stood over him and was making him cry out because she was putting her hands into his wounds. When the knight saw the Childe of the Sea, he said:
"Oh, sir knight, help me! Do not let this treacherous woman kill me."
The Childe said:
"Get away from him, lady. What ye are doing is not right."
She stepped back. The knight lay still as death, and the Childe of the Sea got off his horse to see who he was. He took the knight in his arms, and when the man came to his senses, he said:
"Oh, my lord, I am dead. Take me to where I can get comfort for my soul."
The Childe told him:
"Sir knight, be brave, and tell me, if it pleases you, what adversity this is that befell you."
"I brought it on myself," the knight said. "Despite my riches and nobility, I married that woman whom ye see out of love, though she was poor and ignoble. And last night she left me with that knight whom ye see there laying dead, whom I had never seen before last night when he stayed at our home. After I killed him in battle, I told her that I would forgive her if she swore to do me no more affronts or dishonors, and she agreed. But when she saw that I was bleeding so badly from my wounds that I was weak, she wanted to kill me by putting her hands in them, and so I am dying. I beg you to take me a little ahead here where a hermit lives who will heal my soul."
The Childe had him ride behind Gandalin, and they rode on toward the hermitage. But the evil woman, fearing that her husband might follow her, had sent orders to her three brothers to come down that road. They met her and asked her what had happened. She said:
"Oh, my lords, help me, by God! The evil knight who killed the one that ye see over there has taken away my lord, almost dead. Chase him and kill him, and the man who rides with my husband, who has done just as much evil as him."
She said this because if both died, no one would know of her malice, since her husband would not be believed. She rode on her palfrey with her brothers to point them out. By then the Childe of the Sea had left the knight in the hermitage and was back on the road, and he saw the damsel coming with the three knights, who said:
"Stay there, traitors, stay!"
"Ye lie," he said. "I am no traitor. I will defend myself well against treachery. Come at me as knights."
"Traitor!" said the one in front. "We must all attack you, and we shall."
The Childe of the Sea, who had his shield ready and his helmet strapped on, charged at the first knight, and he at him. The Childe's lance hit his shield so hard that it passed through it to the arm that held it, and knocked him and his horse to the ground so forcefully that the knight's right shoulder broke and the horse broke a leg. Neither could arise.
But the Childe's lance had broken. He took his sword from Gandales and charged against the other two, and they at him. They struck him on the shield and destroyed it, but did not pierce his hauberk, which was strong.
The Childe injured one of them by striking over the top of his shield. His sword passed down as far as the straps of the shield, and the knight's chain mail did not hold. The blade reached his shoulder, and the point cut flesh and bones. When the Childe pulled back his sword, the knight fell to the earth.
He charged at the other knight and attacked. He struck him on the top of the helmet, knocking his head with such force that the knight had to grab the neck of the horse, and then he let himself fall to avoid yet another blow. The treacherous women tried to flee, but the Childe of the Sea shouted to Gandalin to stop her.
The knight left standing said:
"My lord, we do not know if this fight was just or unjust."
"It could not be just," the Childe said, "for that evil woman has killed her husband."
"We have been deceived," the knight said. "Give us your word and ye will learn why we attacked you."
"I give you my word," he said, "but I do not relieve you of the combat."
The knight told why they had attacked. The Childe crossed himself many times as he heard it, and told them what he knew.
"Ye shall see her husband in this hermitage, who will tell you the same story."
"If it is so," said the knight, "we shall be at your mercy."
"I will not grant it if ye do not swear as honest knights that ye shall take this wounded knight and his wife to the house of King Languines, and ye shall tell him how this happened. And tell the King that she has been sent by a new knight who left today from the town where the King is, and this new knight has asked him to do that which he finds right."
The two agreed to it, and the other as well, after they took him, very badly injured, from beneath his horse.