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One is, that it was I who made him a knight;
another is, that he loved me above all other knights; a third is, that
he was ever noble, true, courteous, and gentle. I never would have
slain, or even hurt, either Gareth or Gaheris by my will; and sad at
heart am I that this fatal chance has robbed me of your love and made
undying war between us, and has caused my noble lord and king to be my
mortal foe. May Jesus forgive me for this cruel chance, which the fates
have laid upon me. In reparation for this sad misfortune, I shall freely
offer, if it will please the king's good grace, and yours, my lord
Gawaine, to do penance in this wise. I shall start from Sandwich, and go
in my shirt, barefoot, and at every ten miles' end I shall found a
religious house, of what order you wish, where shall be sung and read
day and night psalms and masses for the repose of Sir Gareth and Sir
Gaheris. This I shall perform from Sandwich to Carlisle. This, Sir
Gawaine, seems to me fairer, holier, and better for their souls than
that you and the king should make war upon me; for little good to any is
likely to come from it."

Then the knights and ladies there wept as though they were distracted,
and the tears fell hot on King Arthur's cheeks. But no shadow of
softness came to Gawaine's stern face.

"The king, as I have said, may do as it pleases him," he answered, "but
I shall never forgive you for the murder of my brothers. If my uncle,
King Arthur, accords with you, he shall lose my service, for I hold you
false both to the king and me."

"The man lives not that can make that good," cried Lancelot. "If you
charge me thus, I am ready to answer you with spear and sword since
words you disdain."

"That cannot be at this time," said Gawaine. "You are here under the
king's safe-conduct, and so must depart. If it were not for the pope's
command and the king's given word, I should do battle with you, body to
body, and prove upon you that you have been false both to the king and
to me. In this land you shall not abide more than fifteen days, for I
give you open warning that your safe-conduct lasts only for that time.
In this the king and we all were agreed before you came hither. Only for
this you would now find that my words are ready to be backed up with
deeds. And this you shall find wheresoever I shall meet you hereafter."

Then Lancelot sighed, and tears fell upon his cheeks.

"Alas, most Christian realm," he said, "that I have loved above all
other realms, and most Christian king, whom I have worshipped next to my
God. From both I am banished, without cause or warrant. Truly I am sorry
that I ever came into this land, to be thus causelessly and shamefully
treated, after my long service here. So is it ever with fortune, whose
wheel is so changeable that there is no constant abiding; and this may
be proved by the old chronicles of noble Hector of Troy, and Troilus,
and Alexander the mighty conqueror, and many more. When they were
highest they quickly became lowest; and thus has it fared with me. No
living men have brought more honor and glory to the Round Table than I
and my kindred, and yet we stand banished from the land which owes us
such worthy service. As for you, Gawaine, I can live upon my native
lands as well as any knight here. And if you, redoubted king, shall seek
me there in hostile array, I must endure you as well as I may. If you
come thither, Gawaine, see that you charge me not with treason or
felony, for if you do, it will scarcely end with words."

"Do your worst," cried Gawaine, hotly. "And get you gone from here as
fast as you can. We shall soon come after, and tumble your strongest
castle upon your head."

"That shall not need," said Lancelot. "You may find me ready to meet you
in open field."

"There have been words enough," said Gawaine. "Deliver the queen and
take yourself away."

"If I had looked for so short a reception I would have thought twice
before coming," answered Lancelot, proudly. "If the queen had been as
dear to me as you would make her, I durst have kept her from the best
fellowship of knights under heaven."

Then he turned to Guenever and said, in full hearing of the king and all
there,--

"Madam, now I must depart from you and this noble fellowship forever.
Since it is so, I beseech you to pray for me. And if you be slandered by
any false tongues, send me word, my lady, and if one knight's hands may
deliver you by battle, I shall deliver you."

Then Lancelot kissed the queen, and said openly to all present,--

"Now let me see who there is in this place that dare say Queen Guenever
is not true unto my lord King Arthur! Let him speak who dare speak."

He looked proudly around the hall, from right to left, but no voice came
in answer. Then he took the queen by the hand and led her to the king,
and delivered her to his royal hand. This done, Lancelot turned and
walked from the hall with haughty stride; and there was neither duke,
earl, nor king, baron nor knight, lady or maiden, that wept not at the
sorrowful parting, except Sir Gawaine. And when Lancelot took his horse
to ride out of Carlisle there was sobbing and weeping from all the
people who had gathered in the streets to see him depart. And so he took
his way to Joyous Gard, which ever after he called Dolorous Gard. And
thus departed Sir Lancelot du Lake from the court of King Arthur
forever.

He now called his fellowship about him, and asked them what they would
do.

"Whatever you will," they answered with one voice.

"Then, my brave and faithful friends, we must leave this realm. It is
sore to me to be banished, and had I not dreaded shame, the lady
Guenever should never have left me."

"If you stay in this land we shall not fail you," said his knights. "If
you depart hence we shall go with you."

"My fair lords, I thank you heartily," answered Lancelot, with much
feeling. "If you come with me to my realm beyond the sea, I shall divide
my lands among you, till I have as little as any of you. I care for
only enough to live upon, and trust to maintain you in knightly honor."

"So let it be," they rejoined. "Here, now that the fellowship of the
Round Table is broken, there will be no more peace, but only strife and
turmoil. You were the stay of Arthur's court, Sir Lancelot. With you
gone, all quiet and harmony will depart."

"You praise me too highly, gentlemen. I did my duty; but not I alone.
Yet I fear, when we are gone, we will soon hear of wars and rebellions,
from those who dared not raise their heads when we were all together.
Mordred I fear above all. He is envious and ambitious, and if King
Arthur shall trust him I dread me greatly he will find him a stinging
serpent."

Then, soon after, they left Joyous Gard, and shipped at Cardiff to pass
beyond the seas to Lancelot's realm of Benwick. Some men, indeed, call
it Bayonne, and some call it Beume, the land whence comes the wine of
Beume. Yet to say sooth, Lancelot and his nephews were lords of all
France, and had there a host of towns and castles, and many people at
their command.

There went with him a hundred proven knights, whom he rewarded as he had
promised. For he shortly called a parliament, where he crowned Lionel
king of France. Bors he made king of the realm of King Claudas; and
Hector de Maris, King of Benwick and Guienne; while his other knights
were made dukes and earls, till all were nobly provided for.

Thus Lancelot rewarded his faithful friends. And he furnished and
provisioned his towns and castles, and gathered the men of war of the
realm, for he felt well assured that Gawaine would not rest till he had
brought King Arthur against him in martial array.




CHAPTER IV.

THE WAR BETWEEN ARTHUR AND LANCELOT.


What Lancelot had feared came quickly to pass. For so unrelenting was
Gawaine's enmity, and so strong his influence over the king, that
Arthur, at his persistent instigation, got together a great army, to the
number of sixty thousand, and had shipping made ready to carry them over
the sea.

Then he made Sir Mordred chief ruler of all England during his absence,
and put Queen Guenever under his care, little dreaming of what fatal
results would follow this unwise choice.

These preparations made, Arthur passed the sea with his host, and landed
in Lancelot's realm, where, through the revengeful spirit of Gawaine,
they burnt and wasted all that they overran.

When word of this was brought to Lancelot and his knights, Sir Bors thus
broke out in anger,--

"My lord Sir Lancelot, it is a shame to let them thus destroy this fair
realm of France. You may well be assured that, however long you forbear
your foes, they will do you no favor if you fall into their hands."

Then said Sir Lionel, who was wary and wise, "My lord Sir Lancelot, this
is my counsel. Let us keep to our strong-walled towns till the invaders
suffer from hunger and cold, and blow upon their nails for warmth. Then
we may freshly set upon them, and shred them down like sheep in a
field."

"Such a course would disgrace us all," said King Bagdemagus to Lancelot.
"Your over-courtesy has caused all the trouble we now have. If we let
Gawaine work his will, he will bring our power to naught, while we hide
like rabbits in our holes."

"So say I," broke in Sir Galihud. "There are knights here who come of
kings' blood, and that will not long be content to droop behind walls.
Give us leave to meet them in the field, and we shall deal with them in
such fashion that they will curse the time they came into this country."

Then spoke seven brethren of North Wales, men of such prowess that one
might seek through seven lands before he could find seven such
knights,--

"Sir Lancelot," they said together, "let us ride out with Sir Galihud,
for it has never been our wont to cower in towns and castles."

"My fair lords," replied Lancelot to them all, "I am loath to ride out
with my knights and shed Christian blood. And my lands, after all the
wars they have endured, are too bare long to sustain this invading host.
It is the part of wisdom, therefore, for the time to keep to our walls,
and meanwhile I will send a messenger to King Arthur and offer him a
treaty of peace."

Then he sent a damsel to the king, and a dwarf with her, with a message,
bidding Arthur to quit making war upon his lands, and offering him fair
terms of accommodation.



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