Book Of The Queen's Maying
( Originally Published A Long Time Ago )
AND thus it passed on from Candlemas until after Easter, that the month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom, and to- bring forth fruit. For, like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit, and flourish in May, in like-wise every lusty heart, that is in any manner a lover, springeth and flourisheth in lusty deeds ; for it giveth unto all lovers courage that lusty month of May in some thing, for to con-strain him in some manner of thing; more in that month than in any other month, for divers causes; for then all herbs and trees renew a man and woman. And, in likewise, lovers call again to their mind old gentleness and old service, and many kind deeds that were forgotten by negligence. For, like as winter rasure doth always rase and deface green summer; so fareth it by unstable love in a man, and in woman, for in many persons there is no stability. For we may see all day a little blast of winter's rasure, anon we shall deface and put away true love for little or naught, that cost much thing; this is no wisdom no stability, but is feebleness of nature, and great disworship, whosoever useth this. Therefore, like as May month flowereth and flourisheth in many gardens, so in like-wise let every man of worship flourish his heart in this world; first unto God, and next unto the joy of them that he promiseth his faith unto. For there was never worshipful woman, but they loved one better than another. And worship in arms may never be defiled. But first, reserve the honour unto God; and secondly, the quarrel must come of thy lady ; and such love I call virtuous love. But now-a-days men cannot love, may not endure by reason; for where they be soon accorded, and hasty heat soon cooleth ; right so fareth love now-a-days, soon hot, soon cold. This is no stability, but the old love was not so. Men and women could love together seven years, and no lusts were between them ; and then was love, truth and faith-fulness. And so in likewise was love used in King Arthur's days ; wherefore, I liken love now-a-days unto summer and winter : for, like as the one is hot and the other cold, so fareth love now-a-days. Therefore, all ye that be lovers, call unto your remembrance the month of May, like as did Queen Guenever, for whom I make here a little mention, that while she lived she was a true lover, and there she had a good end.
Now it befell in the month of lusty May that Queen Guenever called unto her knights of the Round Table, and she gave them warning, that early in the morning she should ride a-maying into woods and fields beside Westminster ; "and I warn you that there be none of you but that he be well horsed, and that ye all be clothed in green; and I shall bring with me ten ladies, and every knight shall have a lady behind him, and every knight shall have a squire and two yeomen, and I will that ye and all be well horsed." So they made them ready in the freshest manner, and these were the names of the knights : Sir Kay, Sir Agravaine, Sir Brandiles, Sir Sagramore, Sir Donidas, Sir Ozanna, Sir Ladinas, Sir Persuant, Sir Ironside, and Sir Pelleas. And those ten knights made them ready in the most freshest manner to ride with the Queen. So on the morrow they took their horses and rode a-maying with the Queen in great joy and delight; and the Queen purposed to have been again with the King at the furthest by ten of the clock, and so was her purpose at that time. Then there was a knight, the which knight Sir Meliagraunce, and he was son unto King Bagdemagus; and this knight had at that time a castle of the gift of King Arthur, within seven miles of Westminster. And this knight, Sir Meliagraunce, loved passing well Queen Guenever, and so he had done long and many years; and he had laid long in wait for to steal away the Queen, but evermore he forbear, because of Sir Launcelot du Lake, for in nowise he would meddle with the Queen if Sir Launcelot were in her company, or else and he were near hand her ; and that time there was such a custom, that the Queen rode never without a great fellowship of men of arms about her; and there were many good knights, and the most part were young men that would have worship, and they were called the Queen's knights, and never in no battle, tournament, or jousts, they never bear none of them no manner of knowledge of their own arms, but plain white shields, and thereby they were called the Queen's knights. And then when it happened any of them to be of great worship by his noble deeds, then at the next high feast of Pentecost, if there were any slain or dead, as there was no year that failed but some were dead, then was there chosen in their stead that were dead the most men of worship, that were called the Queen's knights. And thus they came up all first, or they were renowned men of worship, both Sir Launcelot and all the remnant of them. But this knight, Sir Meliagraunce, had fullwell espied the Queen and her purpose, and how Sir Launcelot was not with her, and how she had no men of arms with her, but the ten knights all arrayed in green for maying. Then he purveyed him twenty men of arms, and a hundred archers to destroy the Queen and her knights, for he thought that time was the best season to take the Queen.
So as the Queen had mayed and all her knights, all were bedecked with herbs and flowers, in the best manner and freshest. Right so came out of a wood Sir Meligraunce, with eight score men well armed, as they should fight in battle of arrest, and bade the Queen and her knights abide, for mauger there heads they should abide. "Traitor knight," said Queen Guenever, "what thinkest thou to do? wilt thou shame thyself? Bethink thee how thou art a king's son, and knight of the Round Table, and thou to be about for to dishonour the noble king that made thee knight ; thou shamest the high order of knighthood and thyselt ! and me, I let the wit, shalt thou never shame, for I had rather cut my throat in twain, rather than thou shouldst dishonour me." "As for all this language," said Sir Meliagraunce, "be it as it may, for wit ye well, madam, that I have loved you many years, and never or now could I get you at such advantage as I do now, and therefore I will take you as I find you." Then spake the ten knights all with one voice, and said, "Sir Maliagraunce, wit ye well ye are about to jeopard your worship to dishonour, also ye cast for to jeopard our persons; howbeit we be unarmed, ye have us at a great advantage, for it seemeth by you that ye have laid watch on us; but rather than ye should put the Queen to shame and us all, we had as leave to depart from our lives, for and if we otherwise did we were shamed for ever." Then Sir Meliagrance said, "Dress you as well as ye can, and keep the Queen." Then the ten knights of the Round Table drew their swords, and the others let run at them with their spears; and the ten knights manly abode them, and smote away their spears, that no spear did them harm. Then they lashed together with their swords, and anon Sir Kaye, Sir Griflet, Sir Agravaine, Sir Dodinas, and Sir Ozanna were smitten to the earth with grimly wounds. Then Sir Brandiles and Sir Persaunt, Sir Ironside and Sir Pelleas, fought long, and they were full sore wounded ; for these knights, or ever they were laid to the ground, slew forty men of the best of them. So when the Queen saw her knights thus dolefully wounded, and needs must be slain at the last, then for pity and sorrow she cried and said, "Sir Meliagrance, slay not my knights, and I will go with thee upon this covenant, that thou save them, and suffer them to be no more hurt; with this, that they be led with me wheresoever thou leadest me, for I will rather slay myself than I will go with thee, unless that these, my noble knights, may be in presence." "Madam," said Sir Meliagraunce, "for your sake they shall be led with you into my castle, with that ye will be ruled and ride with me."
Then Queen Guenever prayed the four knights to leave their fight, and she and they would not depart. "Madam," said Sir Pelleas, "we will do as ye do; for as for me, I take no force of my life nor death." For Sir Pelleas gave such buffets there, that no armour might hold them.
THEN by the Queen's command they left battle, and dressed the wounded knights on horseback, some sitting and some athward, that it was pity to behold them. And then Sir Meliagraunce charged the Queen and all the knights, that none of her fellowship should depart from her; for full sore he dreaded Sir Launcelot du Lake, lest he should have any knowledge. All this espied the Queen, and privily she called unto her a child of her chamber, which was swiftly horsed, to whom she said, "Go thou, when thou seest thy time, and bear this ring unto Sir Launcelot du Lake, and pray him as he loveth me that he will come and see me, and that he rescue me if ever he will have joy of me, and spare not thou thy horse," said the Queen, "neither for water nor yet for land." And so the child espied his time, and lightly he mounted upon his horse, and smote him with his spurs, and so departed from them as fast as ever his horse might run. And when Sir Meliagraunce saw the child so flee, he understood well it was by the Queen's command, for to warn Sir Launcelot. Then they that were best horsed chased him, and shot at him ; but the child went from them all. And then Sir Meliagraunce said unto Queen Guenever, "Madam, ye be about to betray me; but I shall ordain for Sir Launcelot, that he shall not lightly come at you." And then he rode with her and they all to his castle, in all the haste that they might; and by the way Sir Meliagraunce laid in an ambushment the best archers that he might get in his country, to the number of thirty, for to wait upon Sir Launcelot, charging them, that if they saw such a manner of knight come by the way upon a white horse, in any-wise to slay his horse; but in no manner of wise not to have to do with him bodily, for he is overhard to be overcome. So this was done, and they were come to his castle ; but in nowise the Queen would never let none of the ten knights and her ladies be out of her sight, but alway they were in her presence : for that Sir Meliagraunce durst make no masteries for dread of Sir Launcelot, inasmuch as he deemed that he had warning. So when the child was departed from the fellowship of Sir Meliagraunce, within a while he came to Westminster, and anon he found Sir Launcelot; and when he had told his message, and delivered him the Queen's ring, "Alas !" said Sir Launcelot, "now am I ashamed for ever only that I may rescue that noble lady from dishonour." Then eagerly he asked his armour, and ever the child told Sir Launcelot how the ten knights fought marvellously, and how Sir Pelleas, Sir Ironside, Sir Brandiles, and Sir Persuant of Inde fought strongly, but mainly Sir Pelleas ; for there was none might withstand him, and how they all fought till at the last they were laid to the earth. And then the Queen made appointment for to save their lives, and went with Sir Meliagraunce. "Alas !" said Sir Launcelot, "that that most noble knight should be destroyed; I had rather," said Sir Launcelot, "than all the realm of France, that I had been there well armed." So when Sir Launcelot was all armed and upon his horse, he prayed the child of the Queen's chamber for to warn Sir Lavaine how suddenly he was departed, and for what cause; and pray him that, as he loveth me, that he will hie him fast after me, and that he stint not till that he come to me unto the castle whereas Sir Meliagraunce abideth or dwelleth. "For there," said Sir Launcelot, "shall he hear of me, if I be a man living ! and rescue the queen, and the ten knights, the which full traitorously have been taken, that shall I prove upon his head, and all them that holdeth with him."
THEN' Sir Launcelot rode as fast as he might, and then he took the water at Westminster bridge, and made his horse for to swim over the Thames to Lambeth. And then within a while he came to the place whereas the ten knights had fought with Sir Meliagraunce. And then Sir Launcelot followed the trace until he came unto a wood, and there was a straight way, and therein the thirty archers bade Sir Launcelot to turn again and follow no longer the trace. "What command have ye thereto," said Sir Launcelot, "to cause me, that am a knight of the Round Table, to leave my right way?" "This way shalt thou leave, or else thou shalt go it upon thy feet; for wit thou well, thy horse shall be slain." "That is little mastery," said Sir Launcelot, "for to slay my horse; but as for myself, when my horse is slain, I give right nought for you, not and ye were five hundred more." So then they shot Sir Launcelot's horse, and smote him with many arrows. And then Sir Launcelot avoided his horse and went on foot; but there were so many ditches and hedges between them and him, that he might not meddle with one of them. "Alas ! for shame," said Sir Launcelot, "that ever one knight should betray another knight; but it is an old saying, `A good man is never in danger but when he is in danger of a coward.' " Then Sir Launcelot went awhile on foot, and then was he foul cumbered with his armour, shield, and spear, and all that belonged to him ; wit ye well he was full sore annoyed, and full loth he was to leave any thing that belonged unto him, for he dread right sore the treason of Sir Meliagraunce. And then by fortune there came by a chariot, the which came thither for to fetch wood. "Tell me, carter,' said Sir Launcelot, "what shall I give thee for to suffer me to leap into the chariot, and that thou bring me unto a castle within these two miles." "Thou shalt not come within my chariot," said the carter ; "for I am sent for to fetch wood for my lord, Sir Meliagraunce." "With him would I fain speak." said Sir Launcelot. "Thou shalt not go with me," said the carter. Then Sir Launcelot leapt to him, and gave him such a buffet, that he fell to the ground stark dead. Then the other carter, his fellow, was afraid, and thought to have gone the same way, and then he cried and said, 'Taft lord, save my life, and I will bring you where you will." "Then I charge thee," said Sir Launcelot, "that thou drive me and this chariot even unto Sir Meliagraunce Castle." "Leap up into the chariot," said the carter, "and ye shall be there anon." So the carter drove forth as fast as he could; and Sir Launcelot's horse followed the chariot with more than forty arrows broad and rough in him. And more than an hour and a half Queen Guenever was in a bye window waiting with her ladies, and espied an armed knight standing in a chariot, "See, madam said a lady, "whereas rideth in a chariot a goodly armed knight; I suppose that he rideth to hanging." "Where?" said the Queen. And then the Queen espied by his shield that he was there himself, Sir Launcelot du Lake. And then she was aware where came his horse after that chariot. "Alas !" said the Queen, "now I see well and prove, that well is him that hath a trusty friend. Ah ! most noble knight," said Queen Guenever, "I see well that thou hast been hard bestead, when thou ridest in a cart," Then she rebuked that lady that likened him to ride in a chariot to hanging. "It was foul mouthed," said the Queen, "and evil likened, so for to liken the most noble knight in the world in such a shameful death. Oh ! Jesu, de-fend him and keep him," said the Queen, "from all mischievous end." By this was Sir Launcelot come unto the gate of the castle, and he descended down, and cried, that all the castle rang of it: "Where art thou, false traitor, Sir Meliagraunce, and knight of the Round Table? Now come forth here, thou false traitor knight, thou and thy fellowship with thee, for here I am, Sir Launcelot du Lake ; I shall fight with thee." And therewithal he bear the gate wide open upon the porter, and smote him under his ear with his gauntlet, that his neck brake asunder.
So when Sir Maliagraunce heard that Sir Launcelot was come, he ran to the Queen, and fell upon his knees, and said, "Mercy, madam ! now I put me wholly in your grace." "What aileth you now ?" said Queen Guenever : "forsooth, ye might well wit that some good knight would revenge me, though my lord King Arthur wist not of this your work." "Madam," said Sir Meliagraunce, "all that is done amiss on my part shall be amended, right as yourself will devise, and wholly I put me in your grace." "What would ye that I did ?" said the Queen. "I would no more," said Sir Meliagraunce, "but that ye would take into your own hands, and that ye will rule my lord, Sir Launcelot; and such cheer as may be made him in this poor castle ye shall have until to-morrow. And then may ye and all your knights and ladies return to Westminster, and my body, and all that I have, shall I put into your rule." "Ye say well," said the Queen ; "and better is peace than always war; and the less strife is made, the more is my worship." Then the Queen and her fair ladies went down unto the knight, Sir Launcelot, which stood wroth out of measure in the inner court for to abide battle, and ever he said, "Thou traitor knight, come forth here !" Then the Queen came unto him, and said, "Sir Launcelot, why be ye so moved ?" "Ah! madam," said Sir Launcelot, "wherefore ask ye me that question? Me seemeth," said Sir Launcelot, "ye ought to be more displeased that I am, for ye have the hurt and the dishonour; for wit ye well, madam, my hurt is but little for the killing of a mare's son, but the despite grieveth me much more than all my hurt." "Truly," said Queen Guenever, "ye say truth : but heartily I thank you," said the Queen, "but ye must come in with me peaceably, for all things is put in my hands, and all that is evil shall be for the best, for the knight full sore repenteth him for the misadventure that is befallen him." "Madam," said Sir Launcelot, "sith it is so that ye are accorded with him ; as for me, I may not be against it, howbeit Sir Meliagraunce hath done full shamefully to me and full cowardly. Madam," said Sir Launcelot, "if I had wist that ye would have been so soon accorded with him, I would not have made such haste to you." "Why say you so?" said the Queen: "do you forethink yourself of your good deeds? Wit ye well," said the Queen, "I accorded never unto him for favour, nor love that I have unto him, but for to lay down every shameful noise." "Madam," said Sir Launcelot, "ye understand full well that I was never willing nor glad of shameful slander nor noise ; and there is neither king, queen, nor knight that beareth life, except my lord King Arthur and you, madam, that should let me, but that I should make Sir Meliagraunce's heart full cold or I depart from hence." "That wot I well," said the Queen, "but what will ye more ; ye shall have all things ruled as ye like to have it." "Madam," said Sir Launcelot, "so that ye be pleased, I care not; as for my part, ye shall full soon please." Right so the Queen took Sir Launcelot by the bare hand, for he had put off his gauntlet, and so she went with him to her chamber. And then she commanded him to be unarmed; and then Sir Launcelot asked where the ten knights were, that were sore wounded. So she showed them unto Sir Launcelot, and there they made great joy of his coming; and Sir Launcelot made great dole for their hurts, and bewailed them greatly. And there Sir Launcelot told them how cowardly and traitorously Sir Meliagraunce had set archers to slay his horse, and how he was fain to put himself in a chariot. Thus they complained the one unto the other: and full fain they would have been revenged, but they appeased themselves because of the Queen. Then Sir Launcelot was called many a day after Le Chevalier du Chariot, and did many deeds, and great adventures he had.
And so leave we off this tale of Chevalier du Chariot, and return we unto our tale. So Sir Launcelot had great cheer with the Queen; and then Sir Launcelot made a promise with the Queen, that the same night he should come into a window, outward into a garden, and that window was barred with iron. And there Sir Launcelot promised to meet her, when all folks were asleep. So then came Sir Lavaine driving to the gate crying, "Where is my lord, Sir Launcelot du Lake ?" Then was he forthwith sent for, and when Sir Lavaine saw Sir Launcelot he said, "My lord, I found well how ye were hard bestead, for I have found your horse, the which was slain with-arrows." "As for that," said Sir Launcelot, "I pray you, Sir Lavaine, speak ye of other matters, and let this pass; and we shall right it another time, when we best many."
THEN the knights that were wounded were searched, and soft salves were laid to their wounds, and so it passed on till supper time; and all the cheer that might be made them, there it was showed unto the Queen and her knights. Then, when season was, they went to their chamber : but in no wise the Queen would not suffer the wounded knights to be from her, but that they were laid within draughts, upon beds and pillows, that she herself might see to them, that they lacked nothing. So when Sir Launcelot was in his chamber, that was assigned unto him, he called unto him Sir Lavaine, and told him, that that night he must go speak with his lady, Dame Guenever. "Sir," said Sir Lavaine, "let me go with you, and it please you, for I dread me sore of the treason of Sir Meliagraunce." "Nay," said Sir Launcelot, "I thank you ; I will have no person with me at this time." And then Sir Launcelot took his sword in his hand, and privily went unto a place whereas he had espied a ladder beforehand, and that he took under his arm, and bear it through the garden, and set it up in a window, and there anon the Queen was ready to meet him ; and then they made either to other their complaints of divers things : and then Sir Launcelot wished that he might come in. "Wit ye well," said the Queen, "I would as fain as ye that ye might come in." "Would ye, madam," said Sir Launcelot, "with your heart that I were with you?" "Yea, truly," said the Queen. "Now shall I prove my might," said Sir Launcelot, "for the love of you." And then he set his hand upon the bars of iron, and pulled at them with such a great might, that he break them clean out of the stone walls ; and therewithal one of the bars of iron cut the brawn of Sir Launcelot's hand throughout to the bone, and then he leapt into the chamber to the Queen. "Make ye no noise," said the Queen, "for my wounded knights lie here fast by me." And so, to pass forth upon this tale, Sir Launcelot took no force of his hurt hand, but took his pleasure and his liking until it was in the dawning of the day; and wit ye well he slept not, but watched. And when he saw the time that he might tarry no longer, he took his leave, and departed at the window, and put it together again as well as he might, and so departed and came to his own chamber. And there he told Sir Lavaine how he was hurt. Then Sir Lavaine dressed his hand, and staunched it, and put upon it a glove, that it should not be espied. And so the Queen lay long in her bed, until it was nine of the clock. Then Sir Meliagraunce went to the Queen's chamber, and found her ladies there ready clothed. "Jesu, mercy!" said Sir Meliagraunce, "what aileth you, madam, that ye sleep thus long ?" And so forthwithal he opened the curtains for to behold her ; and then was he ware where she lay, and all the sheet and pillow was all bloody, with the blood of Sir Launcelot's hurt hand: and when Sir Meliagraunce espied that blood, then he deemed in himself that she was false unto the King, and that some of the wounded knights had been with her all that night. "Ah ! madam," said Sir Meliagraunce, "Now I have found you false traitoress unto my lord, King Arthur ; for now I prove it well, that it was not for nought ye laid these wounded knights within the bounds of your chamber. Therefore I will accuse you of treason before my liege lord, King Arthur, and now I have proved you, madam, with a shameful deed, and that they be all false, or some of them, and that I will make good ; for a wounded knight this night hath been with you." "That is false," said the Queen, "and that I report me to them all." Then, when the ten knights heard Sir Meliagraunce's words, they spake all with one voice, and said to Sir Meliagraunce, "Thou sayeth falsely, and wrongfully puttest upon us such a deed ; and that we will make good, any of us, choose which thou list of us, when we are whole of our wounds." "Ye shall not," said Sir Meliagraunce, "say nay, with proud language : for here ye may all see," said Sir Meliagraunce, "that by the Queen this night a wounded knight hath lain." Then were they all ashamed when they saw the blood. And wit ye well that Sir Meliagraunce was passing glad that he had the Queen at such advantage, for he deemed that should hide his treason. So in this rumour came in Sir Launcelot, and found them all at a great array.
"AHA ! what array is this ?" said Sir Launcelot. Then Sir Meliagraunce told him what he had found, and showed him the Queen's bed. "Truly," said Sir Launcelot, "ye did not your part, nor knightly, to touch a queen's bed, the while it was drawn, and she lying therein. For I dare say, and make good, that my lord King Arthur himself would not have displaced her curtains, she being within her bed, unless that it had pleased him to have lain down by her ; and therefore have ye done un-worshipfully and shamefully to yourself." "I wot not what you mean," said Sir Meliagraunce : "but well I am sure there hath one of her wounded knights lain with her this night; and therefore I will prove it, by my hands, that she is a traitoress unto my lord, King Arthur." "Beware what ye do," said Sir Launcelot, "for and ye say so, and that he will prove it, it shall be taken at your hands." "My lord, Sir Launcelot," said Sir Meliagraunce, "be you aware also what ye do; for though ye are never so good a knight, as wot ye well that ye are renowned the best knight of the world, yet should ye be advised to do battle in a wrong quarrel. For God will have a stroke in every battle that is done." "As for that," said Sir Launcelot, "God is to be dreaded. But as to that I say nay plainly, that this night there was none of these ten wounded knights with my lady, Queen Guenever, and that will I prove with my hands, that ye say untruly in that now." "Hold !" said Sir Meliagraunce, "here is my glove, that she is a traitoress unto my lord, King Arthur." "And I receive your glove," said Sir Launcelot. And so they were sealed with their signets, and delivered to the ten knights. "Upon what day shall we do battle together ?" said Sir Launcelot. "This day eight days," said Sir Meliagraunce, "in the field beside Westminster." "I am agreed," said Sir Launcelot. "But now," said Meliagraunce, "sith it is that we must do battle together, I beseech you, as ye are a noble knight, await me with no treason, nor no villainy, in the meanwhile." "Nor none for you, so God me help," said Sir Launcelot : "ye shall right well wit I was never of these conditions, for I report me unto all knights that ever knew me, I used never no treason ; nor I loved never to be in the fellowship of no man that used treason." "Then let us go to dinner," said Sir Meliagraunce, "and after dinner ye and the Queen, and ye all, may ride unto Westminster." "I will well," said Sir Launcelot. And then Sir Meliagraunce said unto Sir Launcelot, "Please it you to see the features of this castle?" "With a good will," said Sir Launcelot. And then they went together from chamber to chamber : for Sir Launcelot dreaded no perils. For ever a man of worship and of prowess dreadeth always perils least; for they ween that every man is as they be; but always he that dealeth with treason putteth a man oft in great danger. So it befell Sir Launcelot that no peril dreaded. And, as he went with Sir Meliagraunce, he trod on a trap, and the board rolled, and therewith Sir Launcelot fell down more than ten fathoms into a cave, upon straw. And then Sir Meliagraunce departed, and made semblance as though he had not wist where he was. And when Sir Launcelot was thus missed, they marvelled where he was become; and then Queen Guenever, and many of them, deemed that he had departed, as he was wont to do suddenly. For Sir Meliagraunce made suddenly to put out of the way Sir Launcelot's horse, that they might all understand that Sir Launcelot was departed suddenly. So it past forth until after dinner, and then Sir Lavaine would not stint until that he had ordained horse-litters for the wounded knights, that they might be laid in them; and so with the Queen, and them all, both ladies and gentlewomen, and many other went to Westminster. And the knights told unto King Arthur how Sir Meliagraunce had appealed the Queen of high treason; and how Sir Launcelot had received the glove of him, and this day eight days they shall do battle together afore you." "By my head," said King Arthur, "I am afraid that Sir Meliagraunce hath taken upon him a great charge : but where is Sir Launcelot ?" said the King. "Sir," said they all," "we wit not where he is; but we deem he is ridden to some adventures, as he is oftentimes wont to do, for he hath Sir Lavaine's horse." "Let him be," said the King; "he will be found, unless he be trapped with some treason."
Now return we unto Sir Launcelot, lying within, that cave, in great pain. And every day there came a lady and brought him his meat and his drink, and wooed him to have his love ; and ever the noble knight, Sir Launcelot, said her nay. "Sir Launcelot," said she, "ye are not wise, for ye may never come out of this prison, but if ye have my help; and also your lady, Queen Guenever, shall be burnt in your default, unless that you be there at the day of battle." "God defend it," said Sir Launcelot, "that she should be burnt in my default ; and if that be so," said Sir Launcelot, "that I may not be there, it shall be well understood, of both the King and of the Queen, and with all men of worship, that I am dead, or sick, or else in prison ; for all men that know me will say for me, that I am in some evil case, if I be not there that day: and well I wot there is some good knight, either of my blood, or else some other that loveth me, that will take my quarrel in hand ; and, there-fore," said Sir Launcelot, "wit ye well that ye shall not fear me: and if there were no more women in this land but you, I would not have your love." "Then art thou shamed and destroyed for ever," said the lady. "As for world's shame," said Sir Launcelot, "Jesu defend me; and as for my distress, it is welcome whatsoever it be that God sendeth me." So she came unto Sir Launcelot that same day that the battle should be, and said to him, "Sir Launcelot, me thinketh ye are too strong hearted; but wouldest thou kiss me once, I would deliver thee and thine armour, and the best horse that is within Sir Meliagraunce's stable." "As for to kiss you," said Sir Launcelot, "I may do that and lose no worship ; and wit you well, and I understand there was any disworship for to kiss you, I would not do it." Then he kissed her, and then she gat him, and brought him to his armour. And when he was armed she brought him to a stable, whereas stood twelve good coursers, and bade him choose the best. Then Sir Launcelot looked upon a white courser which liked him best; and anon he commanded the keeper fast to saddle him with the best saddle of war that was there : and so it was done as he commanded. Then gat he his spear in his hand, and his sword by his side, and commended the lady to God, and said, "Lady, for this good deed I shall do you service, if ever it be in my power."
Now leave we Sir Launcelot galloping all that he might, and speak we of Queen Guenever that was brought to a fire to have been burnt; for Sir Meliagraunce was sure him thought that Sir Launcelot should not be at that battle; and, therefore, he ever cried upon King Arthur for to do him justice, or else for to bring forth Sir Launcelot. Then was the King and all the. court full sore abashed and shamed, that the Queen should be burnt in the default of Sir Launcelot. "My good lord, King Arthur," said Sir Lavaine, "ye may right well understand that it is not well with my lord, Sir Launcelot, for and he were alive, so that he be not sick or in prison, wit ye well that he would be here, for never heard ye that ever he failed his part for whom he should do battle ; and, therefore, now," said Sir Lavaine, "my lord, King Arthur, I beseech you give me license to do battle here this day for my lord and master, and for to save my lady, the Queen." 'Gramercy, gentle knight, Sir Lavaine, said King Arthur, "for I dare say that Sir Meliagraunce putteth upon my lady, Queen Guenever, is wrong; for I havé spoken with all the ten wounded knights, and there is not one of them, and he were whole, and able to do battle, but that he would prove upon Sir Meliagraunce's body that it is false that he putteth upon the Queen." "So shall I," said Sir Lavaine, "in defending my lord, Sir Launcelot, and ye will give me leave." "Now I give you leave," said King Arthur, "and do your best; for I dare well say there is some treason done to Sir Launcelot." Then was Sir Lavaine horsed, and suddenly at the list's end he rode to perform this battle. And right as the heralds should cry, "Laissez les aller," right so came in Sir Launcelot, driving with all the force of his horse. And so King Arthur cried, "Go and abide." Then was Sir Launcelot called before King Arthur on horseback, and there he told openly before the King, and all them that were present, how Sir Meliagraunce had served him first and last.
And when the King and the Queen and all the lords knew of the treason of Sir Meliagraunce, they were all ashamed on his behalf. And then was Queen Guenever sent for, and set by the King in great trust of her champion. And so then there was no more to say, but Sir Launcelot and Sir Meliagraunce dressed them unto battle, and took their spears, and so they came together as thunder, and there Sir Launcelot bore him down quite over his horse's croup : and then Sir Launcelot alighted and dressed his shield on his shoulder, with leis sword 1m his hand : and Sir Meliagraunce in the same wise dressed him unto Sir Launcelot. And there they smote many strokes together; and at the last Sir Launcelot smote him such a buffet upon the helm, that he fell on the one side to the ground, and then he cried upon him aloud, "Most noble knight, Sir Launcelot du Lake, I pray you save my life, for I yield me unto you ; and I beseech you, as ye be a knight and fellow of the Round Table, slay me not, for I yield me as an overcome knight ; and, whether I shall live or die, I put me in the King's hands and yours." Then Sir Launcelot wist not what to do, for he had rather than all the good of the world he might have been revenged upon Sir Meliagraunce. And then Sir Launcelot looked towards Queen Guenever if he might espy, by any sign or countenance, what he should have done : and then the Queen wagged her head upon Sir Launcelot, as though she should say, slay him. Full well knew Sir Launcelot, by the wagging of the head, that she would have him dead. Then Sir Launcelot bade him "arise for shame, and perform that battle to the uttermost." "Nay," said Sir Meliagraunce, "I will never arise until that ye take me as yielden and recreant." "I shall proffer you large proffers," said Sir Launcelot ; "that is to say, I shall unarm my head, and the left quarter of my body, all that may be unarmed, and I shall let bind my left hand behind me, so that it shall not help me; and right so I shall do battle with you." When Sir Meliagraunce heard that, he started up on his legs, and said on high, "My lord, King Arthur, take heed to this proffer, for I will take it, and let him be disarmed and bound according unto his proffer." "What say ye," said King Arthur unto Sir Launcelot ; "will ye abide by your proffer?" "Yea, my lord," said Sir Launcelot, "I will never go from that I have once said." Then the knights' porters of the field disarmed Sir Launcelot, first his head, and after his left arm, and his left side; and then they bound his left arm behind his back, without shield or any thing, and then were they put together. Wit ye well, there was many a lady and knight marvelled that Sir Launcelot would jeopard himself in such wise. Then Sir Meliagraunce came with his sword all on high, and Sir Launcelot showed him openly his bare head, and the bare left side; and when he weened to have smitten him upon the head, then lightly he avoided the left leg and the left side, and put his right hand and his sword to that stroke, and so put it aside with great sleight ; then with great force, Sir Launcelot smote him upon the helmet such a buffet, that the stroke carved the head in two parts. Then there was no more to do, but he was drawn out of the field ; and, at the instance of the knights of the Round Table, the King suffered him to be buried, and the mention made upon him, and for what cause he was slain. And then the King and the Queen made much of Sir Launcelot, and more he was cherished than ever he was before.
And so leave I here off this tale, and overskip great books of Sir Launcelot du Lake, what great adventures he did when he was called Le Chevalier du Chariot : for because of despite of those knights and ladies that called him the knight that rode in the chariot, like as he had been judged to the gallows. Therefore, in despite of all them that named him so, he was carried in a chariot twelve months; for, but little after he had slain Sir Meliagraunce in the Queen's quarrel, he never in twelve months came on horseback; and he did, in those twelve months more than forty battles : and, because I have lost the very matter of Le Chevalier du Chariot, I depart from the tale of Sir Launcelot, and here I go unto the death of King Arthur, and that caused by Sir Agravaine.