(From Ellis' Abstract of Copy in Garrick Collection.)
COUNT Prinsamour, an independent sovereign of Artois, was famed for his skill in training young men in the courtesy and accomplishments of chivalry. His court was the resort of all youths who wished to excel in those important arts. His daughter Crystabell, the heiress of Count Prinsamour's dominions, was very beautiful and accomplished, and her father designed to marry her to some powerful monarch. The tournaments instituted at his court were in her honor, and for her sake all the hotheaded young knights in training broke their lances.
Crystabell herself had no desire to leave her own country to become the wife of a foreign monarch. She loved the free and stirring air around her father's castle, and had, unknown to the count, fallen in love with a young knight, Sir Eglamour, who was ever victorious in the numerous tournaments ridden in her name.
Eglamour, on his side, looked up to the young countess as to a star. He never dreamed of winning her love, because he was only a knight, without wealth or lands, depending upon his sword alone to make his way through life. At last, one day, something that Crystabell said made him think that she cared for him more than for the rest of her followers. Sorely troubled, and yet strangely happy, the young man wandered off to think it over. He finally resolved to ask advice of the chamberlain, who had always stood his friend. That personage counselled him to give up all thoughts of the countess, who, he said, was destined by her father to be the bride of a rich and great king. Eglamour sighed, and admitted that his friend was right. But that night, in the solitude of his chamber, he addressed a prayer to God:
In those days a true knight thought it no shame to his manhood to take the burden of his every-day cares and lay it in all simplicity at the feet of his Maker. When his devotions were at an end, Sir Eglamour slept soundly, and awoke in better heart.
After a while, Sir Eglamour fell ill, and the count desired his daughter, who was skilled in medicine, as were all great ladies of the time, to attend upon the invalid. Crystabell, followed by her damsels, went at once into the sick-room. She found Sir Eglamour feverish and unhappy, and on bending down to minister to him, his pulse throbbed so violently at her touch, that the tears of sympathy came into her eyes. "I have betrayed my love," thought Sir Eglamour; but what was his happiness when the lady bent down to kiss his lips, confessing that the chamberlain had told her what was the real cause of his malady; and, to comfort Eglamour, she bid him live for her sake.
After this, Eglamour got well rapidly; but he felt it right and honorable to inform the count, at once, how matters stood between the two young people. The count, who, although a brave knight, was largely governed by selfish ambition, refused Sir Eglamour with scorn. Then, after thinking a while, he told the youth that he would only bestow his daughter upon the champion who might accomplish three perilous feats of arms, each one of which would expose the candidate to the most imminent danger; and that the victor should not only receive the hand of Crystabell, but in time inherit the whole territory of Artois.
Overjoyed, Sir Eglamour accepted the conditions without delay. He declared he was ready to set off that day or the next upon the enterprise. He did not suspect the count's real purpose in setting him this task, which was to destroy the rash knight who presumed to love his daughter.
"At a little distance to the westward," said the count, "there is a forest of noble trees belonging to a most terrible giant, named Maroke. In a part of the forest shut off for the giant's own hunting ground, are three deer, famed for their size and speed. To hunt one of these celebrated animals is, of course, to challenge an encounter with their owner. Consider whether you have courage enough for such an enterprise."
Sir Eglamour smiled, promised to kill the giant, and hurried off to tell his lady-love. Crystabell trembled and wept, but bid her lover God-speed. She told him that no man ever set forth upon a more arduous journey in a Christian country, but that she gloried in his brave spirit. She gave him a good greyhound, from whom no deer that ever ran had yet escaped—also a sword, once found in the sea, the only one of the kind in the world, and which could carve in two any helmet of steel or iron. Eglamour kissed her farewell, as he received these gifts, and set out with a light heart.
Reaching the giant's park, he followed the wall to a massive gate, burst it open, and entered the wood. This forest was of huge cypress trees, and Eglamour had the luck soon to come upon the three deer grazing quietly. They were the most immense creatures he had ever seen; and singling out the largest, he attacked it. With the help of the dun greyhound, he brought the stag to earth, and set to work to carve his spoil. Laden with venison, he then approached the giant's castle, blowing his horn at intervals; and, when arrived there, he sounded a wild and merry blast, which roused Maroke from sleep and brought him in fury to the gate.
Sir Eglamour politely asked the monster to give him leave to pass through the grounds with his prey.
The giant, gnashing his teeth in rage, answered by aiming a blow with his club at the saucy young knight's head. Sir Eglamour, at the same moment, drew Crystabell's sword, which shone so brightly as to dazzle the eyes of Maroke, striking him stone-blind where he stood. Then followed a mighty combat. Blind as the giant was, he fought well and skilfully for three entire days. At the end of the third day, Sir Eglamour rallied all his strength and drove his sword into the giant's heart, a thrust which sent Maroke crashing like a forest tree to earth.
Sir Eglamour, having cut off his enemy's head, carried it, together with the slaughtered stag, back to the court of his sovereign. The count received him ruefully; but fair Crystabell laughed and rejoiced, while the courtiers covered their champion with praises. After Eglamour was rested and refreshed, the count hurried him off again. This time he was to journey to the distant land of Satyn, where his task was to fetch away the head of a prodigious boar, the terror of that ill-fated country, half of whose inhabitants the creature had already eaten up.
To reach the land of Satyn, Sir Eglamour had to travel a fortnight by sea, a fortnight by land. Arriving there at nightfall, he thought it prudent to spend the night in resting on the borders of the forest. At sunrise next day he approached the den of the horrible boar, who had just come back from taking his morning drink in the sea. The animal was a terror to look upon, having flaming eyes and tusks a yard long. He lay gnawing some human bones and growling frightfully, surrounded by dead bodies, many of which were clad in knightly armor. At once Sir Eglamour dashed at him with a shout—"For God and Crystabell!" The boar whetted his long tusks and set upon his adversary, killing at the first blow Sir Eglamour's noble horse, his own tough hide remaining unhurt by the spear. Sir Eglamour now had recourse to his magic sword, and found to his joy that, wherever he struck, the boar's hide was cut; although the length of the animal's tusks made it difficult to close with him. This combat, like that with the giant, lasted three days, and at the end Sir Eglamour, by a sudden swift movement, made a terrible blow at the creature's neck, severing the head from his body.
Long before the close of this memorable fight, the boar's snorts of rage and defiance had attracted to the spot the King of Satyn and fifteen of his knights, who happened to be hunting in the forest. When the boar dropped dead, Sir Eglamour fell over him, and lay there completely exhausted. The king and his men drew near, showered compliments on the strange knight's bravery, and told him that the wicked beast of whom he had rid them had sometimes destroyed as many as forty men in one day.
The king ordered a cloth to be laid upon the grass, and Sir Eglamour was regaled with venison and rich wine, which brought strength back to his arm and hope to his heart. The king's men then attempted to cut up the boar, but failed, owing to the toughness of his hide. The sword of Sir Eglamour was put into requisition, and in a moment the beast was cleft asunder along the back bone. The meat was distributed among the knights and men-at-arms, Sir Eglamour claiming the head alone. The King of Satyn afterward ordered for the champion a warm bath of certain sweet-scented herbs that healed his wounds and in which he rested pleasantly till break of day. Then the party went on to the king's palace, where Sir Eglamour was asked to stay and recover from his fatigue.
Now it happened that the boar just slain was an intimate friend of Manas, a huge and frightful giant, own brother to Maroke. Manas had fallen in love with the King of Satyn's daughter, and had vowed to carry her off. When Manas came prowling around the castle that evening, and beheld on the point of a spear over the gateway the head of his friend the boar, he flew into an awful passion, foaming at the mouth; and as he looked on that head—
Manas beat upon the door and walls of the castle in a fury, demanding the surrender of the murderer of his dear little speckled hoglin. Presently, Sir Eglamour, fully armed and equipped, mounted on a fiery courser, and with lance in rest, attacked the giant at full speed.
Manas resisted vigorously, and in an instant overthrew man and horse. The king, the princess, and the court, who had assembled on the walls of the castle, began to tremble for the safety of their champion. But Sir Eglamour, lightly springing to his feet, drew his invincible sword, and closing with the giant, cut off his right arm. The monster roared with pain, but continued to fight, though yelling at intervals as loudly as ever, till near sunset, when the patient knight, who had hitherto suffered him to exhaust himself by his own efforts, suddenly rushed forward and completed the victory! The boar and Manas being dead, Eglamour now took his leave of the grateful King of Satyn and his court, who rejoiced greatly over the death of their two adversaries. The heads of the boar and the giant Manas were carefully packed up, and in due time Eglamour laid them at the feet of his faithful Crystabell.
Count Prinsamour, secretly disgusted at his knight's success, at once sent him off on another enterprise, more dangerous than the two preceding ones. Eglamour and Crystabell, now seeing that the false count was determined to prevent their marriage, parted from each other with many tears. But Crystabell vowed to marry him, with or without her father's leave, so soon as he should return, if ever he did, from the present journey.
The third mission was to kill a tremendous dragon, at that time desolating the country around the gates of Rome. After sundry adventures by the way, Eglamour encountered the beast, and fought it long and valiantly. He succeeded in cutting off its wings, tail, and head; but at last he fell himself, exhausted by his wounds and poisoned by the dragon's sting, and was carried from the field.
When Crystabell heard that her brave lover was lying at the point of death in Rome, she left her father and journeyed to the knight's bedside, where, to make him happy before he died, she consented to marry him on the spot.
Eglamour rallied under the care of his beloved Crystabell; but, after they had spent some happy months together, Count Prinsamour found out his daughter's place of retreat, and carried her off from her husband, abusing him as a vile thief and imposter.
Crystabell cried and lamented continually for her lost husband. After a while, a son was born to her, which made the count more angry than before. He took the unfortunate mother and child, put them, without food, into an open boat, and set them adrift upon the sea. The boat drifted for five days, and at last reached the shores of a country whose king proved to be the brother of Crystabell's own mother. He took the wayfarers under his care, and devoted himself to bringing up the boy, named Degrabell, to be a valiant knight.
After a time, Eglamour travelled to Artois, and entering the count's hall by force, confronted his cruel father-in-law in the presence of all the knights and squires. He had heard of the fate of his wife and child, and his wrath was terrible to see. He cast the dragon's head, wings, and tail before the count, reminded him that his daughter had been fairly won, and called down God's judgment upon the unnatural father who had bereaved Eglamour of all he held dear in life. The count retreated to his strongest citadel in fear before the righteous anger of this mighty champion; but Eglamour seized the property of his late master, divided it among the count's worthy and needy subjects, and ordering masses to be sung in all the churches for the soul of his lost Crystabell, departed for the Holy Land, where, during many years, he distinguished himself both in battle and in tournament against the Saracens.
When her son, Sir Degrabell, had reached the age of eighteen, Crystabell was more beautiful than ever, and the king, her uncle, resolved to marry her to some knight who might make happy the remainder of her days. Crystabell, who still cherished the memory of her lost Sir Eglamour, begged her son to help her in this emergency. Sir Degrabell went to the king and insisted that all of the knights aspiring to his mother's hand should first meet him in the lists, and that only the one who should overthrow him might claim the princess as a wife.
The king smiled at the pretentions of this beardless youth, and gave his consent. A tournament was announced, and to it came from all parts of the country persons of high rank seeking adventure. Knight after knight presented himself in the lists, and was swiftly unhorsed by the gallant Degrabell. At length the boy, flushed with conquest, turned to a stranger of distinguished appearance who stood gazing at the spectacle, without seeming to take any great interest in it, and asked if he too had a mind to break a lance. The stranger knight hesitated, then said that, to amuse himself, he would do so. Mounting his horse, he rode with the speed of a lightning flash against Degrabell, who was borne to the earth on the spot. Princess Crystabell had been watching the tourney with pride, but screamed aloud at her son's overthrow, and rushed into the arena, throwing herself on her knees before the stranger and imploring him to spare her boy. Trembling, she looked upon the victor's shield, and there saw depicted a rude device of a golden boat containing a lady and a child about to perish in the waves.
On his side, the knight gazed at the lady in trembling, then bending his knee before her, revealed himself the long-lost Eglamour. Crystabell would have swooned for joy, had not her husband caught her in his arms. Eglamour, equally astonished and delighted, had still in store for him the rapture of recognizing in his brave young antagonist the son so worthy of his sire.
Sir Eglamour and Lady Crystabell, thus happily reunited, lived together for the remainder of their days in prosperity. Degrabell became a famous champion. The old Count Prinsamour broke his neck by falling from his tower; and so, my tale is told!