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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsThe Age Of Chivalry - A. KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS - Chapter XI. Queen Guenever's Peril
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The Age Of Chivalry - A. KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS - Chapter XI. Queen Guenever's Peril Post by :jack05 Category :Nonfictions Author :Thomas Bulfinch Date :January 2011 Read :972

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The Age Of Chivalry - A. KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS - Chapter XI. Queen Guenever's Peril

It happened at this time that Queen Guenever was thrown into great
peril of her life. A certain squire who was in her immediate
service, having some cause of animosity to Sir Gawain, determined
to destroy him by poison, at a public entertainment. For this
purpose he concealed the poison in an apple of fine appearance,
which he placed on the top of several others, and put the dish
before the queen, hoping that, as Sir Gawain was the knight of
greatest dignity, she would present the apple to him. But it
happened that a Scottish knight of high distinction, who arrived
on that day, was seated next to the queen, and to him as a
stranger she presented the apple, which he had no sooner eaten
than he was seized with dreadful pain, and fell senseless. The
whole court was, of course, thrown into confusion; the knights
rose from table, darting looks of indignation at the wretched
queen, whose tears and protestations were unable to remove their
suspicions. In spite of all that could be done the knight died,
and nothing remained but to order a magnificent funeral and
monument for him, which was done.

Some time after Sir Mador, brother of the murdered knight, arrived
at Arthur's court in quest of him. While hunting in the forest he
by chance came to the spot where the monument was erected, read
the inscription, and returned to court determined on immediate and
signal vengeance. He rode into the hall, loudly accused the queen
of treason, and insisted on her being given up for punishment,
unless she should find by a certain day a knight hardy enough to
risk his life in support of her innocence. Arthur, powerful as he
was, did not dare to deny the appeal, but was compelled with a
heavy heart to accept it, and Mador sternly took his departure,
leaving the royal couple plunged in terror and anxiety.

During all this time Launcelot was absent, and no one knew where
he was. He fled in anger from his fair mistress, upon being
reproached by her with his passion for the Lady of Shalott, which
she had hastily inferred from his wearing her scarf at the
tournament. He took up his abode with a hermit in the forest, and
resolved to think no more of the cruel beauty, whose conduct he
thought must flow from a wish to get rid of him. Yet calm
reflection had somewhat cooled his indignation, and he had begun
to wish, though hardly able to hope, for a reconciliation when the
news of Sir Mador's challenge fortunately reached his ears. The
intelligence revived his spirits, and he began to prepare with the
utmost cheerfulness for a contest which, if successful, would
insure him at once the affection of his mistress and the gratitude
of his sovereign.

The sad fate of the Lady of Shalott had ere this completely
acquitted Launcelot in the queen's mind of all suspicion of his
fidelity, and she lamented most grievously her foolish quarrel
with him, which now, at her time of need, deprived her of her most
efficient champion.

As the day appointed by Sir Mador was fast approaching, it became
necessary that she should procure a champion for her defence; and
she successively adjured Sir Hector, Sir Lionel, Sir Bohort, and
Sir Gawain to undertake the battle. She fell on her knees before
them, called heaven to witness her innocence of the crime alleged
against her, but was sternly answered by all that they could not
fight to maintain the innocence of one whose act, and the fatal
consequence of it, they had seen with their own eyes. She retired,
therefore, dejected and disconsolate; but the sight of the fatal
pile on which, if guilty, she was doomed to be burned, exciting
her to fresh effort, she again repaired to Sir Bohort, threw
herself at his feet, and piteously calling on him for mercy, fell
into a swoon. The brave knight was not proof against this. He
raised her up, and hastily promised that he would undertake her
cause, if no other or better champion should present himself. He
then summoned his friends, and told them his resolution; and as a
mortal combat with Sir Mador was a most fearful enterprise, they
agreed to accompany him in the morning to the hermitage in the
forest, where he proposed to receive absolution from the hermit,
and to make his peace with Heaven before he entered the lists. As
they approached the hermitage, they espied a knight riding in the
forest, whom they at once recognized as Sir Launcelot. Overjoyed
at the meeting, they quickly, in answer to his questions,
confirmed the news of the queen's imminent danger, and received
his instructions to return to court, to comfort her as well as
they could, but to say nothing of his intention of undertaking her
defence, which he meant to do in tne character of an unknown
adventurer.

On their return to the castle they found that mass was finished,
and had scarcely time to speak to the queen before they were
summoned into the hall to dinner. A general gloom was spread over
the countenances of all the guests. Arthur himself was unable to
conceal his dejection, and the wretched Guenever, motionless and
bathed in tears, sat in trembling expectation of Sir Mador's
appearance. Nor was it long ere he stalked into the hall, and with
a voice of thunder, rendered more impressive by the general
silence, demanded instant justice on the guilty party. Arthur
replied with dignity, that little of the day was yet spent, and
that perhaps a champion might yet be found capable of satisfying
his thirst for battle. Sir Bohort now rose from table, and shortly
returning in complete armor, resumed his place, after receiving
the embraces and thanks of the king, who now began to resume some
degree of confidence. Sir Mador, growing impatient, again repeated
his denunciations of vengeance, and insisted that the combat
should no longer be postponed.

In the height of the debate there came riding into the hall a
knight mounted on a black steed, and clad in black armor, with his
visor down, and lance in hand. "Sir," said the king, "is it your
will to alight and partake of our cheer?" "Nay, sir," he replied;
"I come to save a lady's life. The queen hath ill bestowed her
favors, and honored many a knight, that in her hour of need she
should have none to take her part. Thou that darest accuse her of
treachery, stand forth, for to-day shalt thou need all thy might."

Sir Mador, though surprised, was not appalled by the stern
challenge and formidable appearance of his antagonist, but
prepared for the encounter. At the first shock both were unhorsed.
They then drew their swords, and commenced a combat which lasted
from noon till evening, when Sir Mador, whose strength began to
fail, was felled to the ground by Launcelot, and compelled to sue
for mercy. The victor, whose arm was already raised to terminate
the life of his opponent, instantly dropped his sword, courteously
lifted up the fainting Sir Mador, frankly confessing that he had
never before encountered so formidable an enemy. The other, with
similar courtesy, solemnly renounced all further projects of
vengeance for his brother's death; and the two knights, now become
fast friends, embraced each other with the greatest cordiality. In
the meantime Arthur, having recognized Sir Launcelot, whose helmet
was now unlaced, rushed down into the lists, followed by all his
knights, to welcome and thank his deliverer. Guenever swooned with
joy, and the place of combat suddenly exhibited a scene of the
most tumultuous delight.

The general satisfaction was still further increased by the
discovery of the real culprit. Having accidentally incurred some
suspicion, he confessed his crime, and was publicly punished in
the presence of Sir Mador.

The court now returned to the castle, which, with the title of "La
Joyeuse Garde" bestowed upon it in memory of the happy event, was
conferred on Sir Launcelot by Arthur, as a memorial of his
gratitude.

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