Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK XX CHAPTER XI

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Of the communication between King Arthur and Sir Launcelot,
and how King Arthur reproved him.

THEN it befell upon a day in harvest time, Sir Launcelot
looked over the walls, and spake on high unto King Arthur
and Sir Gawaine: My lords both, wit ye well all is in vain
that ye make at this siege, for here win ye no worship but
maugre and dishonour; for an it list me to come myself
out and my good knights, I should full soon make an end
of this war.  Come forth, said Arthur unto Launcelot, an
thou durst, and I promise thee I shall meet thee in midst
of the field.  God defend me, said Sir Launcelot, that ever
I should encounter with the most noble king that made me
knight.  Fie upon thy fair language, said the king, for wit
you well and trust it, I am thy mortal foe, and ever will
to my death day; for thou hast slain my good knights,
and full noble men of my blood, that I shall never recover
again.  Also thou hast lain by my queen, and holden her
many winters, and sithen like a traitor taken her from me
by force.

My most noble lord and king, said Sir Launcelot, ye
may say what ye will, for ye wot well with yourself will I
not strive; but thereas ye say I have slain your good
knights, I wot well that I have done so, and that me sore
repenteth; but I was enforced to do battle with them in
saving of my life, or else I must have suffered them to
have slain me.  And as for my lady, Queen Guenever,
except your person of your highness, and my lord Sir
Gawaine, there is no knight under heaven that dare make
it good upon me, that ever I was a traitor unto your person.
And where it please you to say that I have holden my lady
your queen years and winters, unto that I shall ever make
a large answer, and prove it upon any knight that beareth
the life, except your person and Sir Gawaine, that my lady,
Queen Guenever, is a true lady unto your person as any is
living unto her lord, and that will I make good with my
hands.  Howbeit it hath liked her good grace to have me
in chierte, and to cherish me more than any other knight;
and unto my power I again have deserved her love, for
ofttimes, my lord, ye have consented that she should be
brent and destroyed, in your heat, and then it fortuned me
to do battle for her, and or I departed from her adversary
they confessed their untruth, and she full worshipfully excused.
And at such times, my lord Arthur, said Sir Launcelot,
ye loved me, and thanked me when I saved your queen
from the fire; and then ye promised me for ever to be my
good lord; and now methinketh ye reward me full ill for
my good service.  And my good lord, meseemeth I had
lost a great part of my worship in my knighthood an I had
suffered my lady, your queen, to have been brent, and
insomuch she should have been brent for my sake.  For
sithen I have done battles for your queen in other quarrels
than in mine own, meseemeth now I had more right to do
battle for her in right quarrel.  And therefore my good
and gracious lord, said Sir Launcelot, take your queen unto
your good grace, for she is both fair, true, and good.

Fie on thee, false recreant knight, said Sir Gawaine;
I let thee wit my lord, mine uncle, King Arthur, shall
have his queen and thee, maugre thy visage, and slay you
both whether it please him.  It may well be, said Sir
Launcelot, but wit you well, my lord Sir Gawaine, an me
list to come out of this castle ye should win me and the
queen more harder than ever ye won a strong battle.  Fie
on thy proud words, said Sir Gawaine; as for my lady, the
queen, I will never say of her shame.  But thou, false and
recreant knight, said Sir Gawaine, what cause hadst thou
to slay my good brother Sir Gareth, that loved thee more
than all my kin? Alas thou madest him knight thine
own hands; why slew thou him that loved thee so well?
For to excuse me, said Sir Launcelot, it helpeth me not,
but by Jesu, and by the faith that I owe to the high order
of knighthood, I should with as good will have slain my
nephew, Sir Bors de Ganis, at that time.  But alas that
ever I was so unhappy, said Launcelot, that I had not seen
Sir Gareth and Sir Gaheris.

Thou liest, recreant knight, said Sir Gawaine, thou
slewest him in despite of me; and therefore, wit thou well
I shall make war to thee, and all the while that I may live.
That me repenteth, said Sir Launcelot; for well I understand
it helpeth not to seek none accordment while ye, Sir
Gawaine, are so mischievously set.  And if ye were not,
I would not doubt to have the good grace of my lord
Arthur.  I believe it well, false recreant knight, said Sir
Gawaine; for thou hast many long days overled me and
us all, and destroyed many of our good knights.  Ye say
as it pleaseth you, said Sir Launcelot; and yet may it never
be said on me, and openly proved, that ever I by forecast
of treason slew no good knight, as my lord, Sir Gawaine,
ye have done; and so did I never, but in my defence that
I was driven thereto, in saving of my life.  Ah, false knight,
said Sir Gawaine, that thou meanest by Sir Lamorak: wit
thou well I slew him.  Ye slew him not yourself, said Sir
Launcelot; it had been overmuch on hand for you to have
slain him, for he was one of the best knights christened of
his age, and it was great pity of his death.