Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK IX CHAPTER IV

Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  Index  BOOK IX  Previous  Next 


How La Cote Male Taile fought against an hundred
knights, and how he escaped by the mean of a lady.

AND anon there came an hundred knights about him and assailed
him; and when he saw his horse should be slain he alighted and
voided his horse, and put the bridle under his feet, and so put
him out of the gate.  And when he had so done he hurled in among
them, and dressed his back unto a lady's chamber-wall, thinking
himself that he had liefer die there with worship than to abide
the rebukes of the damosel Maledisant.  And in the meantime as he
stood and fought, that lady whose was the chamber went out slily
at her postern, and without the gates she found La Cote Male
Taile's horse, and lightly she gat him by the bridle, and tied
him to the postern.  And then she went unto her chamber slily
again for to behold how that one knight fought against an hundred
knights.  And when she had beheld him long she went to a window
behind his back, and said:  Thou knight, thou fightest wonderly
well, but for all that at the last thou must needs die, but, an
thou canst through thy mighty prowess, win unto yonder postern,
for there have I fastened thy horse to abide thee: but wit thou
well thou must think on thy worship, and think not to die, for
thou mayst not win unto that postern without <357>thou do nobly
and mightily.  When La Cote Male Taile heard her say so he
gripped his sword in his hands, and put his shield fair afore
him, and through the thickest press he thrulled through them. 
And when he came to the postern he found there ready four
knights, and at two the first strokes he slew two of the knights,
and the other fled; and so he won his horse and rode from them. 
And all as it was it was rehearsed in King Arthur's court, how he
slew twelve knights within the Castle Orgulous; and so he rode on
his way.

And in the meanwhile the damosel said to Sir Mordred:  I ween my
foolish knight be either slain or taken prisoner: then were they
ware where he came riding.  And when he was come unto them he
told all how he had sped and escaped in despite of them all:  And
some of the best of them will tell no tales.  Thou liest falsely,
said the damosel, that dare I make good, but as a fool and a
dastard to all knighthood they have let thee pass.  That may ye
prove, said La Cote Male Taile.  With that she sent a courier of
hers, that rode alway with her, for to know the truth of this
deed; and so he rode thither lightly, and asked how and in what
manner that La Cote Male Taile was escaped out of the castle. 
Then all the knights cursed him, and said that he was a fiend and
no man:  For he hath slain here twelve of our best knights, and
we weened unto this day that it had been too much for Sir
Launcelot du Lake or for Sir Tristram de Liones.  And in despite
of us all he is departed from us and maugre our heads.

With this answer the courier departed and came to Maledisant his
lady, and told her all how Sir La Cote Male Taile had sped at the
Castle Orgulous.  Then she smote down her head, and said little. 
By my head, said Sir Mordred to the damosel, ye are greatly to
blame so to rebuke him, for I warn you plainly he is a good
knight, and I doubt not but he shall prove a noble knight; but as
yet he may not yet sit sure on horseback, for he that shall be a
good horseman it must come of usage and exercise.  But when he
cometh to the strokes of his sword <358>he is then noble and
mighty, and that saw Sir Bleoberis and Sir Palomides, for wit ye
well they are wily men of arms, and anon they know when they see
a young knight by his riding, how they are sure to give him a
fall from his horse or a great buffet.  But for the most part
they will not light on foot with young knights, for they are
wight and strongly armed.  For in likewise Sir Launcelot du Lake,
when he was first made knight, he was often put to the worse upon
horseback, but ever upon foot he recovered his renown, and slew
and defoiled many knights of the Round Table.  And therefore the
rebukes that Sir Launcelot did unto many knights causeth them
that be men of prowess to beware; for often I have seen the old
proved knights rebuked and slain by them that were but young
beginners.  Thus they rode sure talking by the way together.