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On this day Bors led the foremost party, and met
Gawaine as Lionel had done the day before. Fiercely together they rode,
and both were hurled to the ground with deep and dangerous wounds.
Around them the battle raged with double fierceness, but Lancelot broke
in and rescued Bors, and had him borne to the castle, while the other
party bore off Gawaine.

Then, as the battle continued, Lavaine and others begged Lancelot to put
forth his strength and fight with his full might, for he imperilled them
all by his forbearance.

"Why should you spare your foes?" they said. "You do but harm thereby.
Your enemies spare not you."

"I have no heart to fight against the king," said Lancelot.

"If you spare them all this day they will never thank you," said
Palamides. "And if they get the better of you they will slay you without
mercy."

Lancelot saw that this was but the truth, and stirred by this and the
wound of Sir Bors, he rushed into the fray with his old might and fury,
forcing back all before him. Glad to see the old Lancelot, his
followers pressed forward, driving back the foe, so that by eventide
they had the best of the fray, and their horses went fetlock deep in the
blood of the slain.

Then, in pity for Arthur, Lancelot blew the recall, and suffered the
king's party to withdraw without further slaughter.

After this there was peace between the parties for many days, for
Gawaine had been so sorely hurt that he could not stir the king to
active war, and Arthur after awhile returned to Carlisle, leaving the
castle closely besieged.

But the story of this war had now passed through Christendom, and had
reached the pope, who, feeling that war between King Arthur and Lancelot
was like battle between brothers, sent a letter to the king, commanding
him, under pain of an interdict upon all England, to take his Queen
Guenever into favor again, and to make peace and accord with Sir
Lancelot.

This Papal bull was brought to Arthur by the bishop of Rochester, who
was then at Rome. When the king had heard it read he knew not what to
do. He agreed to take back the queen, and in his heart desired to make
friends with Lancelot; but to this Gawaine, who had then the greatest
influence over him, would not consent.

In the end it was agreed that if Lancelot would bring back the queen he
should come and go in safety, and that no word should be spoken to
Guenever, by the king or other person, of aught that had happened in the
past.

Then the bishop had from the king his assurance, under the great seal
of the realm, as he was a true anointed knight, that Sir Lancelot should
come and return in safety, and that the queen should not be spoken to by
the king, or any other, concerning what had passed. With this
safe-conduct, written at length and signed by King Arthur, the holy
prelate rode in state to Joyous Gard, where he made Lancelot acquainted
with all that had happened, telling him of the pope's action, and of the
peril he would encounter if he withheld the queen from the king.

"It was never in my thought," said Lancelot, "to withhold Queen Guenever
from my lord Arthur. All men know why I have her in charge. She would
have suffered a shameful death through the king's unjust anger had I not
been on hand to save her life; and I hold her only from peril of that
vile sentence, which has never until now been remitted. I thank the pope
heartily that he has made peace between Guenever and the king, and God
knows that I will be a thousand-fold gladder to take her back than I
ever was to bring her away. All I demand is, that I shall come and go in
safety, and that the queen shall have her liberty as before, and stand
in no peril from this or any former charge against her. For else I dare
venture to keep her from a harder shower than ever yet has fallen upon
her or me."

"You need dread nothing either for yourself or the queen," replied the
bishop. "You know full well that the pope must be obeyed, by the king as
well as by you. It were not to the pope's worship nor my poor honor that
you should be distressed, or the queen put to shame or peril. And as
for King Arthur, here is his promise, under his own writing and seal."

Then he showed Lancelot all the written documents he had brought, both
from the pope and the king.

"That suffices," said Lancelot. "I would trust King Arthur's bare word
as I would the oath of half Christendom. No man can say that he ever
broke his plighted faith. Therefore, I beg you to ride before me to the
king, and recommend me to his good grace, letting him know that in eight
days from to-day, by the grace of God, I shall bring to him his lady
Queen Guenever. And say this further to him, that I stand ready to meet
any one in the lists for the queen's fair fame except himself and Sir
Gawaine, and the latter more from the king's love for him than from
aught of his own deserts."

With this agreement the bishop departed to Carlisle, and when he had
told the king how nobly Lancelot had spoken, the tears started from
Arthur's eyes, and much he deplored in his heart the cruel chance that
had aroused war between him and his dearest friend.

Lancelot now made ready a hundred knights, who were all dressed in green
velvet, with their horses trapped to their heels, while each knight held
in his hand an olive branch, in token of peace. For the queen there were
provided four and twenty gentlewomen, who followed her in the same
guise; while Lancelot was followed by twelve coursers, on each of which
sat a young gentleman, and these were arrayed in green velvet with
golden girdles, and the horses trapped to the heels with rich cloths,
set with pearls and stones in gold, to the number of a thousand. As for
Lancelot and Guenever, they were clothed in white cloth-of-gold tissue.
And in this array they rode from Joyous Gard to Carlisle, and through
Carlisle to the castle, while many an eye shed tears on seeing them.

Then Lancelot alighted and took the queen, and led her to where Arthur
sat, with Gawaine and many great lords before him. Then he kneeled, and
the queen with him.

Many of the assembled knights wept bitterly on seeing this, but the king
sat in haughty silence, looking steadily upon the pair who knelt before
him. Seeing his countenance, Lancelot rose and forced the queen to rise
also. Then thus he spoke in knightly pride,--

"My lord the king, by the pope's command and yours I have brought you my
lady, the queen, as right requireth. If there be any knight, whatever
his degree, except your sacred self, who shall dare say she has been
untrue to you, I, Lancelot du Lake, stand ready to make her honor good
with my body. To liars you have listened, and that has caused all the
trouble between you and me. Time has been, my lord Arthur, when you have
been greatly pleased with me in that I did battle for my lady your
queen. Full well you know, my most royal sir, that she has been put to
great wrong before this time; and since it pleased you then that I
should fight for her, it seems to me that I had still more cause this
last time to rescue her from the fire, since she was to have been burnt
for my sake. Had not the might of God been with me, think you that I
could, unarmed, have prevailed over fourteen armed knights? I was sent
for by the queen, who wished to confer with me, but had barely stepped
within her chamber, when out burst Mordred and Agravaine, calling me
traitor and recreant knight."

"They called you truly," said Gawaine.

"Did they so, Gawaine? By heaven, in their quarrel they failed to prove
themselves in the right."

"I have given you no cause to do evil to me, Lancelot," said the king.
"For I have loved you and yours more than all my other knights."

"My good lord and liege," answered Lancelot, "I beg it may not displease
you if I answer that you have better cause to love me and mine than most
knights, for none have done you such service as we have at many times
and in many places. Often have I myself rescued you from deadly peril,
when you were hard pressed by your foes; and it has ever been my joy to
please you, and my lord Gawaine as well, in jousts and tournaments, and
in set battles, both on horse and on foot. I wish not to boast of my
deeds, yet you all know well that I never met a knight but that I was
able to stand against him, and have always done my duty like a man. I
have been matched with good knights, such as Sir Tristram and Sir
Lamorak, whom I loved for their valor and honesty. And I take God to
witness, that I was never angry with or jealous of any good knight whom
I saw active to win honor, and was ever glad at heart when I found a
knight who was able to endure me on horseback or on foot. Sir Carados of
the dolorous tower was a noble knight and a man of mighty strength, and
this you know full well, Sir Gawaine, since he pulled you from your
horse, and bound you before him on his saddle. Yet I rescued you from
him, and slew him before your eyes. In like manner I found his brother,
Sir Turquine, leading your brother, Sir Gaheris, bound on his saddle,
and slew him, and rescued your brother, as also three-score and four of
King Arthur's knights whom he held in prison. Never met I with as strong
and hard-fighting knights as Sir Carados and Sir Turquine, and I fought
with them to the uttermost for the sake of you and your brother. It
seems to me, Sir Gawaine, that you ought to bear in mind this good
service I did for you in the past. If I might but have your good will in
return, I would trust to God to have my lord Arthur's kindly grace."

"The king may do as he will," said Gawaine; "but while I live I shall
never be in accord with you. I cannot forget that you have killed three
of my brothers, two of them treacherously and pitilessly, for they wore
no armor against you, and refused to bear any."

"Would to heaven they had been armed, for then they would now be alive,"
said Lancelot. "I tell you this, Sir Gawaine, that I love none of my own
kinsmen as I did your brother, Sir Gareth, and would far rather have
slain myself than him. Never while I live shall I cease to mourn his
death, not alone for your bitter sorrow and anger, but for other causes
which concern myself.



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