Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK XVIII CHAPTER XIII
Legends and Sagas
How Launcelot was brought to an hermit for to be healed
of his wound, and of other matters.
AND when the hermit beheld him, as he sat leaning upon
his saddle-bow ever bleeding piteously, and ever the
knight-hermit thought that he should know him, but
he could not bring him to knowledge because he was
so pale for bleeding. What knight are ye, said the
hermit, and where were ye born? My fair lord, said Sir
Launcelot, I am a stranger and a knight adventurous,
that laboureth throughout many realms for to win worship.
Then the hermit advised him better, and saw by a wound
on his cheek that he was Sir Launcelot. Alas, said the
hermit, mine own lord why lain you your name from
me? Forsooth I ought to know you of right, for ye
are the most noblest knight of the world, for well I know
you for Sir Launcelot. Sir, said he, sith ye know me, help
me an ye may, for God's sake, for I would be out of this
pain at once, either to death or to life. Have ye no
doubt, said the hermit, ye shall live and fare right well.
And so the hermit called to him two of his servants, and
so he and his servants bare him into the hermitage, and
lightly unarmed him, and laid him in his bed. And then
anon the hermit staunched his blood, and made him to
drink good wine, so that Sir Launcelot was well refreshed
and knew himself; for in those days it was not the guise
of hermits as is nowadays, for there were none hermits in
those days but that they had been men of worship and of
prowess; and those hermits held great household, and
refreshed people that were in distress.
Now turn we unto King Arthur, and leave we Sir
Launcelot in the hermitage. So when the kings were
come together on both parties, and the great feast should
be holden, King Arthur asked the King of Northgalis and
their fellowship, where was that knight that bare the red
sleeve: Bring him afore me that he may have his laud,
and honour, and the prize, as it is right. Then spake
Sir Galahad, the haut prince, and the King with the
Hundred Knights: We suppose that knight is mischieved,
and that he is never like to see you nor none
of us all, and that is the greatest pity that ever we wist
of any knight. Alas, said Arthur, how may this be, is he
so hurt? What is his name? said King Arthur. Truly,
said they all, we know not his name, nor from whence he
came, nor whither he would. Alas, said the king, this be
to me the worst tidings that came to me this seven year,
for I would not for all the lands I wield to know and wit
it were so that that noble knight were slain. Know ye
him? said they all. As for that, said Arthur, whether
I know him or know him not, ye shall not know for me
what man he is, but Almighty Jesu send me good tidings
of him. And so said they all. By my head, said Sir
Gawaine, if it so be that the good knight be so sore hurt,
it is great damage and pity to all this land, for he is one
of the noblest knights that ever I saw in a field handle a
spear or a sword; and if he may be found I shall find
him, for I am sure he nis not far from this town. Bear
you well, said King Arthur, an ye may find him, unless
that he be in such a plight that he may not wield himself.
Jesu defend, said Sir Gawaine, but wit I shall what he is,
an I may find him.
Right so Sir Gawaine took a squire with him upon
hackneys, and rode all about Camelot within six or seven
mile, but so he came again and could hear no word of
him. Then within two days King Arthur and all the
fellowship returned unto London again. And so as they
rode by the way it happed Sir Gawaine at Astolat to
lodge with Sir Bernard thereas was Sir Launcelot lodged.
And so as Sir Gawaine was in his chamber to repose him
Sir Bernard, the old baron, came unto him, and his
daughter Elaine, to cheer him and to ask him what
tidings, and who did best at that tournament of Winchester.
So God me help, said Sir Gawaine, there were
two knights that bare two white shields, but the one of
them bare a red sleeve upon his head, and certainly he
was one of the best knights that ever I saw joust in field.
For I dare say, said Sir Gawaine, that one knight with the
red sleeve smote down forty knights of the Table Round,
and his fellow did right well and worshipfully. Now
blessed be God, said the Fair Maiden of Astolat, that that
knight sped so well, for he is the man in the world that
I first loved, and truly he shall be last that ever I shall
love. Now, fair maid, said Sir Gawaine, is that good
knight your love? Certainly sir, said she, wit ye well he
is my love. Then know ye his name? said Sir Gawaine.
Nay truly, said the damosel, I know not his name nor
from whence he cometh, but to say that I love him, I
promise you and God that I love him. How had ye
knowledge of him first? said Sir Gawaine.