THE FIGHT FOR THE QUEEN 105
her what had brought all this about. ' God help me, that I know not,' said the Queen, ' nor how it was done.'
' Where is Sir Lancelot ?' said King Arthur, looking round. 'If he were here, he would not grudge to do battle for you.'
' Sir,' replied the Queen, ' I know not where he is, but his brother and his kinsmen think he is not in this realm.'
' I grieve for that,' said the King, ' for he would soon stop this strife. But I counsel you, ask Sir Bors, and he will not refuse you. For well I see that none of the four and twenty Knights who were with you at dinner will be your champion, and none will say well of you, but men will speak evil of you at the Court.'
' Alas!' sighed the Queen, ' I do indeed miss Sir Lancelot, for he would soon ease my heart.'
' What ails you ? ' asked the King, ' that you cannot keep Sir Lancelot at your side, for well you know that he who Sir Lancelot fights for has the best Knight in the world for his champion. Now go your way, and command Sir Bors to do battle with you for Sir Lancelot's sake.' So the Queen departed from the King, and sent for Sir Bors into her chamber, and when he came she besought his help.
'Madam,' said he, 'what can I do? for I may not meddle in this matter lest the Knights who were at the dinner have me in suspicion, for I was there also. It is now, Madam, that you miss Sir Lancelot, whom you have driven away, as he would have done battle for you were you right or wrong, and I wonder how for shame's sake you can ask me, knowing how I love and honour him.'
' Alas,' said the Queen,' I throw myself on your grace,' and she went down on her knees and besought Sir Bors to have mercy on her, 'else I shall have a shameful death, and one I have never deserved.' At that King Arthur came in, and found her kneeling before Sir Bors.