Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK XX CHAPTER XX

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What message Sir Gawaine sent to Sir Launcelot; and how
King Arthur laid siege to Benwick, and other matters

THEN Sir Gawaine said to the damosel thus:  Damosel,
say ye to Sir Launcelot that it is waste labour now to sue
to mine uncle; for tell him, an he would have made any
labour for peace, he should have made it or this time, for
tell him now it is too late; and say that I, Sir Gawaine,
so send him word, that I promise him by the faith I owe
unto God and to knighthood, I shall never leave him till
he have slain me or I him.  So the damosel wept and
departed, and there were many weeping eyen; and so Sir
Lucan brought the damosel to her palfrey, and so she
came to Sir Launcelot where he was among all his knights.
And when Sir Launcelot had heard this answer, then
the tears ran down by his cheeks.  And then his noble
knights strode about him, and said:  Sir Launcelot,
wherefore make ye such cheer, think what ye are, and what
men we are, and let us noble knights match them in
midst of the field.  That may be lightly done, said Sir
Launcelot, but I was never so loath to do battle, and
therefore I pray you, fair sirs, as ye love me, be ruled as
I will have you, for I will always flee that noble king that
made me knight.  And when I may no further, I must
needs defend me, and that will be more worship for me
and us all than to compare with that noble king whom we
have all served.  Then they held their language, and as
that night they took their rest.

And upon the morn early, in the dawning of the day,
as knights looked out, they saw the city of Benwick
besieged round about; and fast they began to set up
ladders, and then they defied them out of the town, and
beat them from the walls wightly.  Then came forth Sir
Gawaine well armed upon a stiff steed, and he came before
the chief gate, with his spear in his hand, crying:  Sir
Launcelot, where art thou? is there none of you proud
knights dare break a spear with me?  Then Sir Bors
made him ready, and came forth out of the town, and
there Sir Gawaine encountered with Sir Bors.  And at
that time he smote Sir Bors down from his horse, and
almost he had slain him; and so Sir Bors was rescued and
borne into the town.  Then came forth Sir Lionel, brother
to Sir Bors, and thought to revenge him; and either
feutred their spears, and ran together; and there they
met spitefully, but Sir Gawaine had such grace that he
smote Sir Lionel down, and wounded him there passing
sore; and then Sir Lionel was rescued and borne into the
town.  And this Sir Gawaine came every day, and he
failed not but that he smote down one knight or other.

So thus they endured half a year, and much slaughter
was of people on both parties.  Then it befell upon a day,
Sir Gawaine came afore the gates armed at all pieces on a
noble horse, with a great spear in his hand; and then he
cried with a loud voice:  Where art thou now, thou false
traitor, Sir Launcelot?  Why hidest thou thyself within
holes and walls like a coward?  Look out now, thou
false traitor knight, and here I shall revenge upon thy
body the death of my three brethren.  All this language
heard Sir Launcelot every deal; and his kin and his
knights drew about him, and all they said at once to Sir
Launcelot:  Sir Launcelot, now must ye defend you like a
knight, or else ye be shamed for ever; for, now ye be
called upon treason, it is time for you to stir, for ye have
slept over-long and suffered over-much.  So God me
help, said Sir Launcelot, I am right heavy of Sir Gawaine's
words, for now he charged me with a great charge; and
therefore I wot it as well as ye, that I must defend me, or
else to be recreant.

Then Sir Launcelot bade saddle his strongest horse,
and bade let fetch his arms, and bring all unto the gate
of the tower; and then Sir Launcelot spake on high unto
King Arthur, and said:  My lord Arthur, and noble king
that made me knight, wit you well I am right heavy for
your sake, that ye thus sue upon me; and always I forbare
you, for an I would have been vengeable, I might
have met you in midst of the field, and there to have
made your boldest knights full tame.  And now I have
forborne half a year, and suffered you and Sir Gawaine
to do what ye would do; and now may I endure it no
longer, for now must I needs defend myself, insomuch
Sir Gawaine hath appealed me of treason; the which is
greatly against my will that ever I should fight against
any of your blood, but now I may not forsake it, I am
driven thereto as a beast till a bay.

Then Sir Gawaine said:  Sir Launcelot, an thou durst
do battle, leave thy babbling and come off, and let us ease
our hearts.  Then Sir Launcelot armed him lightly, and
mounted upon his horse, and either of the knights gat
great spears in their hands, and the host without stood
still all apart, and the noble knights came out of the city
by a great number, insomuch that when Arthur saw the
number of men and knights, he marvelled, and said to
himself:  Alas, that ever Sir Launcelot was against me, for
now I see he hath forborne me.  And so the covenant
was made, there should no man nigh them, nor deal with
them, till the one were dead or yelden.