152 LANCELOT AND GUENEVERE
hasty; listen not to the foul tongue of Sir Mordred, who laid this trap for Sir Lancelot, that we all know to be the Queen's own Knight, who has done battle for her when none else would. As for Sir Lancelot, he will prove the right on the body of any Knight living that shall accuse him of wrong — either him, or my lady Guenevere.'
' That I believe well,' said King Arthur, ' for he trusts so much in his own might that he fears no man; and never more shall he fight for the Queen, for she must suffer death by the law. Put on, therefore, your best armour, and go with your brothers, Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth, and bring the Queen to the fire, there to have her judgment and suffer her death.'
' Kay, my lord, that I will never do,' cried Sir Gawaine; ' my heart will never serve me to see her die, and I will never stand by and see so noble a lady brought to a shameful end.'
' Then,' said the King, ' let your brothers, Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth, be there.'
'My lord,' replied Sir Gawaine, 'I know well how loth they will be, but they are young and unable to say you nay.'
At this Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth spoke to King Arthur: c Sir, if you command us we will obey, but it will be sore against our will. And if we go we shall be dressed as men of peace, and wear no armour.'
'Make yourselves ready, then,' answered the King, ' for I would delay no longer in giving judgment.'
' Alas !' cried Sir Gawaine, ' that I should have lived to see this day'; and he turned and wept bitterly, and went into his chamber.
So the Queen was led outside the gates, and her rich dress was taken off, while her lords and ladies wrung their hands in grief, and few men wore armour, for in that day it was held that the presence of mail-clad Knights made death more shameful. Now among those present was one sent