Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK IX CHAPTER V

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How Sir Launcelot came to the court and heard of La Cote
Male Taile, and how he followed after him, and how
La Cote Male Taile was prisoner.

HERE leave we off a while of this tale, and speak we of Sir
Launcelot du Lake,[*9] that when he was come to the court of King
Arthur, then heard he tell of the young knight La Cote Male
Taile, how he slew the lion, and how he took upon him the
adventure of the black shield, the which was named at that time
the hardiest adventure of the world.  So God me save, said Sir
Launcelot unto many of his fellows, it was shame to all the noble
knights to suffer such a young knight to take such adventure upon
him for his destruction; for I will that ye wit, said Sir
Launcelot, that that damosel Maledisant hath borne that shield
many a day for to seek the most proved knights, and that was she
that Breuse Saunce Pite took that shield from her, and after
Tristram de Liones rescued that shield from him and <359>gave it
to the damosel again, a little afore that time that Sir Tristram
fought with my nephew Sir Blamore de Ganis, for a quarrel that
was betwixt the King of Ireland and him.  Then many knights were
sorry that Sir La Cote Male Taile was gone forth to that
adventure.  Truly, said Sir Launcelot, I cast me to ride after
him.  And within seven days Sir Launcelot overtook La Cote Male
Taile, and then he saluted him and the damosel Maledisant.  And
when Sir Mordred saw Sir Launcelot, then he left their
fellowship; and so Sir Launcelot rode with them all a day, and
ever that damosel rebuked La Cote Male Taile; and then Sir
Launcelot answered for him, then she left off, and rebuked Sir

[*9] Printed by Caxton as part of chap. iv.

So this meantime Sir Tristram sent by a damosel a letter unto Sir
Launcelot, excusing him of the wedding of Isoud la Blanche Mains;
and said in the letter, as he was a true knight he had never ado
fleshly with Isoud la Blanche Mains; and passing courteously and
gentily Sir Tristram wrote unto Sir Launcelot, ever beseeching
him to be his good friend and unto La Beale Isoud of Cornwall,
and that Sir Launcelot would excuse him if that ever he saw her. 
And within short time by the grace of God, said Sir Tristram,
that he would speak with La Beale Isoud, and with him right
hastily.  Then Sir Launcelot departed from the damosel and from
Sir La Cote Male Taile, for to oversee that letter, and to write
another letter unto Sir Tristram de Liones.

And in the meanwhile La Cote Male Taile rode with the damosel
until they came to a castle that hight Pendragon; and there were
six knights stood afore him, and one of them proffered to joust
with La Cote Male Taile.  And there La Cote Male Taile smote him
over his horse's croup.  And then the five knights set upon him
all at once with their spears, and there they smote La Cote Male
Taile down, horse and man.  And then they alighted suddenly, and
set their hands upon him all at once, and took him prisoner, and
so led him unto the castle and kept him as prisoner.

And on the morn Sir Launcelot arose, and delivered <360>the
damosel with letters unto Sir Tristram, and then he took his way
after La Cote Male Taile; and by the way upon a bridge there was
a knight proffered Sir Launcelot to joust, and Sir Launcelot
smote him down, and then they fought upon foot a noble battle
together, and a mighty; and at the last Sir Launcelot smote him
down grovelling upon his hands and his knees.  And then that
knight yielded him, and Sir Launcelot received him fair.  Sir,
said the knight, I require thee tell me your name, for much my
heart giveth unto you.  Nay, said Sir Launcelot, as at this time
I will not tell you my name, unless then that ye tell me your
name.  Certainly, said the knight, my name is Sir Nerovens, that
was made knight of my lord Sir Launcelot du Lake.  Ah, Nerovens
de Lile, said Sir Launcelot, I am right glad that ye are proved a
good knight, for now wit ye well my name is Sir Launcelot du
Lake.  Alas, said Sir Nerovens de Lile, what have I done!  And
therewithal flatling he fell to his feet, and would have kissed
them, but Sir Launcelot would not let him; and then either made
great joy of other.  And then Sir Nerovens told Sir Launcelot
that he should not go by the Castle of Pendragon:  For there is a
lord, a mighty knight, and many knights with him, and this night
I heard say that they took a knight prisoner yesterday that rode
with a damosel, and they say he is a Knight of the Round Table.