LANCELOT AND GUENEVERE 147
with them. But they let so many of their fellowship into the secret of their foul plot, that at last it came to the ears of Sir Bors, who begged Sir Lancelot not to go near the Queen that day, or harm would come of it. But Sir Lancelot answered that the Queen had sent for him, and that she was his liege lady, and never would he hold back when she summoned him to her presence. Therefore Sir Bors went heavily away. By ill fortune, Sir Lancelot only wore his sword under his great mantle, and scarcely had he passed inside the door when Sir Agrawaine and Sir Mordred, and twelve other Knights of the Table Round, all armed and ready for battle, cried loudly upon Sir Lancelot, that all the Court might hear.
'Madam,' said Sir Lancelot, 'is there any armour within your chamber that I might cover my body withal, for if I was armed as they are I would soon crush them ?'
'Alas!' replied the Queen, 'I have neither sword nor spear nor armour, and how can you resist them ? You will be slain and I shall be burnt. If you could only escape their hands, I know you would deliver me from danger.'
' It is grievous,' said Sir Lancelot, ' that I who was never conquered in all my life should be slain for lack of armour.'
' Traitor Knight,' cried Sir Mordred again, ' come out and fight us, for you are so sore beset that you cannot escape us.'
' Oh, mercy,' cried Sir Lancelot, ' I may not suffer longer this shame and noise ! For better were death at once than to endure this pain.' Then he took the Queen in his arms and kissed her, and said, 'Most noble Christian Queen, I beseech you, as you have ever been my special good lady, and I at all times your true poor Knight, and as I never failed you in right or in wrong, since the first day that King Arthur made me Knight, that you will pray for my soul, if I be here slain. For I am well assured that Sir Bors, my nephew, and Sir Lavaine and many more, will rescue you from the fire, and therefore,