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.