106 THE FIGHT FOR THE QUEEN
' Madam! you do me great dishonour,' said Sir Bors, raising her up.
'Ah, gentle Knight,' cried the King, ' have mercy on my Queen, for I am sure that they speak falsely. And I require by the love of Sir Lancelot that you do battle for her instead of him.'
' My lord,' answered Sir Bors, ' you require of me the hardest thing that ever anyone asked of me, for well you know that if I fight for the Queen I shall anger all my companions of the Round Table; but I will not say nay, my lord, for Sir Lancelot's sake and for your sake! On that day I will be the Queen's champion, unless a better Knight is found to do battle for her.'
' Will you promise me this ? ' asked the King.
' Yes,' answered Sir Bors, 'I will not fail you nor her, unless there should come a better Knight than I, then he shall have the battle.' Then the King and Queen rejoiced greatly, and thanked Sir Bors with all their hearts.
So Sir Bors departed and rode unto Sir Lancelot, who was with the hermit Sir Brasias, and told him of this adventure. ' Ah,' said Sir Lancelot, ' this has befallen as I would have it, and therefore I pray you make ready to do battle, but delay the fight as long as you can that I may appear. For I am sure that Sir Mador is a hot Knight, and the longer he waits the more impatient he will be for the combat.'
' Sir,' answered Sir Bors,' let me deal with him. Doubt not you shall have all your will.' And he rode away, and came again to the Court.
It was soon noised about that Sir Bors would be the Queen's champion, and many Knights were displeased with him ; but there were a few who held the Queen to be innocent. Sir Bors spoke unto them all, and said, ' It were shameful, my fair lords, if we suffered the most noble Queen in the world to be disgraced openly, not only for her sake, but for the King's.' But they an-