HOW SIR LANCELOT SAVED THE QUEEN
NE day in May Queen Guinevere invited ten ladies and ten
knights to ride a-Maying with her the next morning in
the woods. So at the appointed time they assembled, all
dressed in green silk and green velvet, the color of
young grass. The knights wore white plumes in their
helmets and the ladies wore white May-blossoms in their
hair. They rode off very happily, telling the king that
they would return before noon.
Now the good King Bagdemagus, for whom Sir Lancelot had
fought, had a bad son named Sir Malgrace. For a long
time he had wanted to capture the queen and carry her
off to his castle. He had been afraid to try, however,
because of her large bodyguard. All the young Knights
of the Round Table liked to ride with
 her and protect her. They took good care of all the
ladies of the Court, but they loved the queen most.
When Sir Malgrace heard that the queen was out a-Maying
with only a few knights, and these not fully armed, he
determined to take her prisoner. So he called together
eighty men-at-arms and a hundred archers, and set out.
Soon he came upon her and her attendants. They were
sitting on a little hill, with wreaths of flowers and
leaves on their arms and necks. Before they could rise
to their feet, Sir Malgrace and his men dashed upon
"Traitor!" cried the queen. "What would you do?"
"I will carry you to my castle, fair queen," he said.
"And never again shall you go free."
"I will not go with you," said the queen.
Then the ten knights drew their swords and set on the
hundred and eighty men of Sir Malgrace. They fought so
well that they overthrew forty. Still, they could do
little against such
num-  bers, and soon all were wounded. When the queen saw this, she
"Sir Malgrace, do not slay my noble knights, and I will
go with you. I would rather die than cause them further
The knights said that they would rather perish than be
prisoners to Sir Malgrace. However, upon an order from
their lord, the archers tied up the wounds of the
queen's followers, and put them on horseback. Then the
whole company rode slowly towards the castle of Sir
Sir Malgrace kept close to the queen for fear she would
escape. Once when they were in a thick part of the wood
he rode ahead to break the branches so that they should
not strike her face. Then the queen whispered to a
little maiden who rode near her:
"If you can do so, slip away from the company. You are
so small that perhaps they will not notice you. Take
this ring and give it to our greatest knight, Sir
Lancelot, and pray him to come and rescue me."
 The little maid waited until she thought the time for
escape had come, and rode off as quietly as she could.
Sir Malgrace saw her go, and suspected that the queen
had sent her. He ordered his archers to shoot at the
child, but she escaped unhurt.
"Madam," said Sir Malgrace to the queen, "I know well
that you have sent for Sir Lancelot, but you may be
sure that hither he shall never come."
Then Sir Malgrace ordered his archers to stand guard on
the road and shoot down any knight they saw.
"But if he should be Sir Lancelot," be sure that you do
not venture very close to him, for he is hard to
Meantime the little maid reached Arthur's Court in
safety. She found the king and his knights very anxious
because the queen had not returned. She told her story,
and gave the queen's ring to Sir Lancelot.
"Bring me my armor!" shouted Sir Lancelot. "I will
rescue my good and dear queen before the night falls. I
 rather see her safe here again than own all France."
He put on his armor and mounted his white horse and
rode off without delay. The little maid led him to the
place where the ten knights had fought with the hundred
and eighty. From this point he traced them by the blood
on the grass and on the road. At last he reached the
"Turn back," they said. "No one may pass here."
"That I will not," said Sir Lancelot. "I am a Knight of
the Round Table, and therefore have the right of way
throughout the land."
At that they shot their arrows at him. He was wounded
with many of them, and his white horse was killed. Sir
Lancelot tried to reach the men, but there were so many
hedges and ditches in the way that he could not. They
hastened back to tell Sir Malgrace that a knight whom
they had not succeeded in killing was coming to the
Sir Lancelot tried to walk, but his armor was too heavy
for him to carry in
 his wounded state. He dared not leave any of it behind,
for he would need it all in fighting. Just as he was
wondering what he could do, a carter passed him,
driving a rough wagon.
"Carter," said Sir Lancelot, "let me ride in your wagon
to the castle of Sir Malgrace."
The carter was amazed, for in that day a knight never
entered into a cart unless he was a condemned man going
to hanged. Sir Lancelot, however, did not stop to
explain. He jumped into the cart and told the driver to
Some of the ladies of Queen Guinevere were looking out
of the window, and one said to her:
"See, my queen, there is a poor knight going to be
The queen looked out of the window and recognized Sir
Lancelot by the three lions blazoned upon his shield.
She was overjoyed, and waved him a glad greeting as he
came up to the castle gate.
Sir Lancelot beat on the gate with his shield, and
"Come out, false traitor, Sir Malgrace;
 come out and fight. If you do not, you will be branded
as a coward forever."
At first Sir Malgrace thought that he would keep his
gates shut fast and not answer the challenge. But in
those days it was a sign of great cowardice not to
accept a challenge. Moreover, since Sir Lancelot had
been able to reach the castle in spite of the archers,
he was afraid other Knights of the Round Table might do
the same. Then they would besiege him and force him to
surrender. Still he was afraid to fight. So he went to
Queen Guinevere and said:
"Fair queen, remember how I saved your ten knights when
I could have killed them. Now I am sorry I took you
prisoner. I beg that you will go to Sir Lancelot and
urge him not to fight. Then I will entertain him in
this castle with the best I have, and to-morrow you
shall all go back to the court."
Then the queen said:
"Peace is always better than war. I will do the best I
So she went down to Sir Lancelot, who still beat upon
the gate, and besought him
 to come in peaceably, for Sir Malgrace was sorry for
what he had done. Sir Lancelot was unwilling, for he
knew that Sir Malgrace was a traitor, deserving
punishment. Still, he could not refuse the queen
anything she asked him, and, therefore, he entered the
Sir Malgrace greeted him with politeness, and served to
him and to the others of Arthur's Court, a great
banquet. After that, to the surprise of every one, he
rose and accused the queen of treason. All the company
was astonished. Sir Lancelot was very angry.
"If you say the queen is a traitress," he cried, "you
shall fight with me, although you were afraid just
"I am not afraid to fight," said Sir Malgrace.
"When and where will you meet me in combat?" asked Sir
"In eight days," replied Sir Malgrace, "in the field
Sir Lancelot agreed to this. Then Queen Guinevere rose
with all her attendants and went into the courtyard.
Their horses were brought them and they
 mounted. Sir Lancelot was the last to pass out of the
banquet hall. As he was going through the door he
stepped upon a trap which Sir Malgrace had prepared for
him. The trapdoor fell and dropped him into a dark
When the queen and her knights and ladies had ridden
out of the courtyard, they noticed that Sir Lancelot
was not with them. They supposed, however, that he had
ridden off by himself, as was often his custom, so they
went without him to Camelot, and told the king what had
happened. He was very angry at Sir Malgrace's
accusation, but he was sure that Sir Lancelot would
punish Sir Malgrace and so vindicate Queen Guinevere.
Meantime, the unhappy Sir Lancelot lay bruised in the
dungeon, feeling very sure that Sir Malgrace meant to
starve him to death. He lay hungry and thirsty for
nearly two days. Then Sir Malgrace peeped in to see if
he were dead.
"Ah, traitor!" cried Sir Lancelot, "I shall overcome
At that Sir Malgrace shut the trapdoor hastily, as if
he were afraid that Sir
 Lancelot could leap up ten feet in the air. That one
look, however, cost the wicked knight dear, for the
daughter of the porter saw him shutting the trapdoor,
and was curious to know who was in the dungeon. So at
night she opened the trapdoor and let herself down by a
When she saw Sir Lancelot she was very sorry for him.
He offered her much money if she would free him. At
last she said:
"I will do it for love of Queen Guinevere and not for
She let him climb up by the rope, and took him out of
the courtyard. He was so sick that he went to a
hermit's hut and rested for several days. When next Sir
Malgrace looked into the dungeon he heard no movement.
Then he rejoiced greatly, for he thought Sir Lancelot
When the eighth day had come, all the Knights of the
Round Table assembled in the tournament field and
waited for Sir Lancelot to appear. They all thought he
would surely come. But Sir Malgrace rode jauntily about
the field. Many of
 the knights wondered at his courage, not knowing the
reason for is confidence.
The herald blew his trumpet once, but Sir Lancelot did
not appear; twice, and still he did not come. Then up
started several knights and begged the king to let them
fight instead of Sir Lancelot.
"He has been trapped," they said, "or he would be
While the king was hesitating whom to choose, in rode
Sir Lancelot. He dashed up to Sir Malgrace.
"Here I am, traitor," he said. "Now do your worst."
Then they fought, but at the first stroke Sir Malgrace
fell to the earth.
"Mercy!" he cried, "I yield to you, Sir Knight. Do not
slay me. I put myself in the king's hands and yours."
Sir Lancelot was much vexed. He wanted to kill Sir
Malgrace for his treachery, and yet, since the man had
asked for mercy, he could not. So he said:
"What, coward, would you stop already? Shame upon you!
Get up and fight."
 "I shall not rise unless you take me as one who has
yielded," answered the knight.
Then Sir Lancelot said:
"Traitor, I make you this offer: I will take off my
helmet, unarm my left side, and tie my left hand behind
my back. In that way I will fight with you."
Upon hearing this, Sir Malgrace rose to his feet, sure
now of killing Sir Lancelot.
"My lord King," cried Sir Malgrace, "you have heard
this offer. I accept."
The king was very sorry that Sir Lancelot had made the
offer. However, it was impossible to withdraw it. A
squire came and disarmed Sir Lancelot, so that his head
and left side were without cover; and since he had only
one arm to fight with, he could not use his shield.
Then Sir Malgrace dashed at him, aiming for his left
side. Sir Lancelot waited till he was very near, and
then lightly stepped aside. Before Sir Malgrace could
turn, Sir Lancelot lifted his spear and struck his
enemy such a blow
 that he broke his breastplate and pierced his heart.
The body of Sir Malgrace was carried off the field and
taken to the castle of his good father; Queen Guinevere
was proclaimed innocent of treason; and Sir Lancelot
was honored more than ever by his king and his queen.