LANCELOT AND GUENEVERE 137
The castle of Sir Meliagraunce was distant seven miles from Westminster, so it did not take long for the boy to find Sir Lancelot, and to give him the Queen's ring and her message. ' I am shamed for ever,' said Sir Lancelot, ' unless I can rescue that noble lady,' and while he put on his armour, he called to the boy to tell him the whole adventure. When he was armed and mounted, he begged the page to warn Sir Lavaine where he had gone, and for what cause. 'And pray him, as he loves me, that he follow me to the castle of Sir Meliagraunce, for if I am a living man, he will find me there.'
Sir Lancelot put his horse into the water at Westminster, and he swam straight over to Lambeth, and soon after he landed he found traces of the fight. He rode along the track till he came to the wood, where the archers were lying waiting for him, and when they saw him, they bade him on peril of his life to go no further along that path.
' Why should I, who am a Knight of the Round Table, turn out of any path that pleases me ? ' asked Sir Lancelot.
' Either you will leave this path or your horse will be slain,' answered the archers.
' You may slay my horse if you will,' said Sir Lancelot, ' but when my horse is slain I shall fight you on foot, and so would I do, if there were five hundred more of you.' With that they smote the horse with their arrows, but Sir Lancelot jumped off, and ran into the wood, and they could not catch him. He went on some way, but the ground was rough, and his armour was heavy, and sore he dreaded the treason of Sir Meliagraunce. His heart was near to fail him, when there passed by a cart with two carters that came to fetch wood. ' Tell me, carter,' asked Sir Lancelot, 'what will you take to suffer me to go in your cart till we are within two miles of the castle of Sir Meliagraunce ? '