THE FIGHT FOR THE QUEEN 107
swered him: 'As for our lord King Arthur, we love him and honour him as much as you; but as for Queen Guen-evere, we love her not, for she is the destroyer of good Knights.'
'Fair lords,' said Sir Bors, 'you shall not speak such words, for never yet have I heard that she was the destroyer of good Knights. But at all times, as far as I ever knew, she maintained them and gave them many gifts. And therefore it were a shame to us all if we suffered our noble King's wife to be put to death, and I will not suffer it. So much I will say, that the Queen is not guilty of Sir Patrise's death; for she owed him no ill will, and bade him and us to the dinner for no evil purpose, which will be proved hereafter. And in any case there was foul dealing among us.'
' We may believe your words,' said some of the Knights, but others held that he spoke falsely.
The days passed quickly by until the evening before the battle, when the Queen sent for Sir Bors and asked him if he was ready to keep his promise.
'Truly, Madam,' answered he, 'I shall not fail you, unless a better Knight than I am come to do battle for you. Then, Madam, I am discharged of my promise.'
' Shall I tell this to my lord Arthur ? ' said the Queen.
' If it pleases you, Madam,' answered Sir Bors. So the Queen went to the King, and told him what Sir Bors had said, and the King bade her to be comforted, as Sir Bors was one of the best Knights of the Round Table.
The next morning the King and Queen, and all manner of Knights, rode into the meadow of Westminster, where the battle was to be; and the Queen was put into the Guard of the High Constable, and a stout iron stake was planted, and a great fire made about it, at which the Queen should be burned if Sir Mador de la Porte won the fight. For it was the custom in those days that neither fear nor favour, love nor kinship, should hinder right judgment. Then came Sir Mador de la Porte, and