THE FAIR MAID OF ASTOLAT 123
damsel, he has paid you great honour. But I fear that I may never behold him again upon earth, and that is grievous to think of.'
' Alas!' she said, ' how may this be ? Is he slain ?'
'I did not say that,' replied Sir Gawaine, ' but he is sorely wounded, and is more likely to be dead than alive. And, maiden, by this shield I know that he is Sir Lancelot.'
' How can this be ? ' said the Maid of Astolat, ' and what was his hurt ?'
' Truly,' answered Sir Gawaine, 'it was the man that loved him best who hurt him so, and I am sure that if that man knew that it was Sir Lancelot whom he had wounded, he would think it was the darkest deed that ever he did.'
'Now, dear father,' said Elaine, 'give me leave to ride and to seek him, for I shall go out of my mind unless I find him and my brother.'
' Do as you will,' answered her father, ' for I am grieved to hear of the hurt of that noble Knight.' So the damsel made ready.
On the morn Sir Gawaine came to King Arthur and told him how he had found the shield in the keeping of the Maid of Astolat. ' All that I knew beforehand,' said the King,' and that was why I would not suffer you to fight at the tourney, for I had espied him when he entered his lodging the night before. But this is the first time that ever I heard of his bearing the token of some lady, and much I marvel at it.'
'By my head,' answered Sir Gawaine, 'the Fair Maiden of Astolat loves him wondrous well. What it all means, or what will be the end, I cannot say, but she has ridden after him to seek him.' So the King and his company came to London, and everyone in the Court knew that it was Sir Lancelot who had jousted the best.
And when the tidings came to Sir Bors, his heart grew