THE FIGHT FOR THE QUEEN 103
' This shall not be ended so,' said he, ' for I have lost a noble Knight of my blood, and I will be avenged of the person who has wrought this evil.' And he turned to the Queen and said, ' Madam, it is you who have brought about the death of my cousin, Sir Patrise!' The Knights round listened in silence, for they too thought Sir Mador spake truth. And the Queen still said nothing, but fell to weeping bitterly, till King Arthur heard and came to look into the matter. And when they told him of their trouble his heart was heavy within him.
' Fair lords,' said the King at last, ' I grieve for this ill deed; but I cannot meddle therein, or do battle for my wife, for I have to judge justly. Sure I am that this deed is none of hers, therefore many a good Knight will stand her champion that she be not burned to death in a wrong quarrel. And, Sir Mador, hold not your head so high, but fix the day of battle, when you shall find a Knight to answer you, or else it were great shame to all my Court.'
'My gracious lord,' said Sir Mador, 'you must hold me excused. But though you are a King you are also a Knight, and must obey the laws of knighthood. Therefore I beseech your forgiveness if I declare that none of the four and twenty Knights here present will fight that battle. What say you, my lords ? ' Then the Knights answered that they could not hold the Queen guiltless, for as the dinner was made by her either she or her servants must have done this thing.
' Alas!' said the Queen, ' no evil was in my heart when I prepared this feast, for never have I done such foul deeds.'
' My lord the King,' cried Sir Mador, ' I require of you, as you are a just King, to fix a day that I may get ready for the fight!'
' Well,' answered the King, ' on the fifteenth day from this come on horseback to the meadow that is by Westminster. And if it happens that there be a Knight to