Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK X CHAPTER LIX

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How they came to Humber bank, and how they found a ship
there, wherein lay the body of King Hermance.

SIR, said Palomides, let us leave of this matter, and let us
see how we shall do at this tournament.  By mine advice,
said Palomides, let us four hold together against all that
will come.  Not by my counsel, said Sir Tristram, for I
see by their pavilions there will be four hundred knights,
and doubt ye not, said Sir Tristram, but there will be
many good knights; and be a man never so valiant nor
so big, yet he may be overmatched.  And so have I seen
knights done many times; and when they weened best to
have won worship they lost it, for manhood is not worth
but if it be medled with wisdom.  And as for me, said
Sir Tristram, it may happen I shall keep mine own head
as well as another.

So thus they rode until that they came to Humber
bank, where they heard a cry and a doleful noise.  Then
were they ware in the wind where came a rich vessel
hilled over with red silk, and the vessel landed fast by
them.  Therewith Sir Tristram alighted and his knights.
And so Sir Tristram went afore and entered into that
vessel.  And when he came within he saw a fair bed
richly covered, and thereupon lay a dead seemly knight,
all armed save the head, was all be-bled with deadly
wounds upon him, the which seemed to be a passing good
knight.  How may this be, said Sir Tristram, that this
knight is thus slain?  Then Sir Tristram was ware of a
letter in the dead knight's hand.  Master mariners, said
Sir Tristram, what meaneth that letter?  Sir, said they,
in that letter ye shall hear and know how he was slain,
and for what cause, and what was his name.  But sir,
said the mariners, wit ye well that no man shall take that
letter and read it but if he be a good knight, and that
he will faithfully promise to revenge his death, else shall
there be no knight see that letter open.  Wit ye well,
said Sir Tristram, that some of us may revenge his death
as well as other, and if it be so as ye mariners say his
death shall be revenged.  And therewith Sir Tristram
took the letter out of the knight's hand, and it said thus:
Hermance, king and lord of the Red City, I send unto
all knights errant, recommending unto you noble knights
of Arthur's court.  I beseech them all among them to
find one knight that will fight for my sake with two
brethren that I brought up of nought, and feloniously
and traitorly they have slain me; wherefore I beseech
one good knight to revenge my death.  And he that
revengeth my death I will that he have my Red City and
all my castles.

Sir, said the mariners, wit ye well this king and knight
that here lieth was a full worshipful man and of full
great prowess, and full well he loved all manner knights
errants.  So God me help, said Sir Tristram, here is a
piteous case, and full fain would I take this enterprise
upon me; but I have made such a promise that needs I
must be at this great tournament, or else I am shamed.
For well I wot for my sake in especial my lord Arthur let
make this jousts and tournament in this country; and
well I wot that many worshipful people will be there at
that tournament for to see me; therefore I fear me to
take this enterprise upon me that I shall not come again
by time to this jousts.  Sir, said Palomides, I pray you
give me this enterprise, and ye shall see me achieve it
worshipfully, other else I shall die in this quarrel.  Well,
said Sir Tristram, and this enterprise I give you, with
this, that ye be with me at this tournament that shall be
as this day seven night.  Sir, said Palomides, I promise
you that I shall be with you by that day if I be unslain
or unmaimed.