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   Chapter 38 THE DEATH OF SIR LAUNCELOT AND OF THE QUEEN

Stories from Le Morte D'Arthur and the Mabinogion By Beatrice E. Clay Characters: 5206

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


When news reached Sir Launcelot in his own land of the treason of Mordred, he gathered his lords and knights together, and rested not till he had come to Britain to aid King Arthur. He landed at Dover, and there the evil tidings were told him, how the King had met his death at the hands of his traitor nephew. Then was Sir Launcelot's heart nigh broken for grief. "Alas!" he cried, "that I should live to know my King overthrown by such a felon! What have I done that I should have caused the deaths of the good knights, Sir Gareth, Sir Gaheris, and Sir Gawain, and yet that such a villain should escape my sword!" Then he desired to be led to Sir Gawain's tomb where he remained long in prayer and in great lamentation; after which he called to him his kinsmen and friends, and said to them: "My fair lords, I thank you all most heartily that, of your courtesy, ye came with me to this land. That we be come too late is a misfortune that might not be avoided, though I shall mourn it my life long. And now I will ride forth alone to find my lady the Queen in the West, whither men say she has fled. Wait for me, I pray you, for fifteen days, and then, if ye hear naught of me, return to your own lands." So Sir Launcelot rode forth alone, nor would he suffer any to follow him, despite their prayers and entreaties.

Thus he rode some seven or eight days until, at the last, he came to a nunnery where he saw in the cloister many nuns waiting on a fair lady; none other, indeed, than Queen Guenevere herself. And she, looking up, saw Sir Launcelot, and at the sight, grew so pale that her ladies feared for her; but she recovered, and bade them go and bring Sir Launcelot to her presence. When he was come, she said to him: "Sir Launcelot, glad am I to see thee once again that I may bid thee farewell; for in this world shall we never meet again." "Sweet Madam," answered Sir Launcelot, "I was minded, with your leave, to bear you to my own country, where I doubt not but I should guard you well and safely from your enemies." "Nay, Launcelot," said the Queen, "that may not be; I am resolved never to look upon the world again, but here to pass my life in prayer and in such good works as I may. But thou, do thou get back to thine own land and take a fair wife; and ye both shall ever have my prayers." "Madam," replied Sir Launcelot, "ye know well that shall never be. And since ye are resolved to lead a life of prayer, I, too, will forsake the world if I can find hermit to share his cell with me; for ever your will has been mine." Long and earnestly he looked upon her as he might never gaze

enough; then, getting to horse, he rode slowly away.

Nor did they ever meet again in life. For Queen Guenevere abode in the great nunnery of Almesbury where Sir Launcelot had found her, and presently, for the holiness of her life, was made Abbess. But Sir Launcelot, after he had left her, rode on his way till he came to the cell where Sir Bedivere dwelt with the holy hermit; and when Sir Bedivere had told him all that had befallen, of the great battle in the West, and of the passing away of Arthur, Sir Launcelot flung down his arms and implored the holy hermit to let him remain there as the servant of God. So Sir Launcelot donned the serge gown and abode in the hermitage as the priest of God.

Presently there came riding that way the good Sir Bors, Launcelot's nephew; for, when Sir Launcelot returned not to Dover, Sir Bors and many another knight went forth in search of him. There, then, Sir Bors remained and, within a half-year, there joined themselves to these three many who in former days had been fellows of the Round Table; and the fame of their piety spread far and wide.

So six years passed and then, one night, Launcelot had a vision. It seemed to him that one said to him: "Launcelot, arise and go in haste to Almesbury. There shalt thou find Queen Guenevere dead, and it shall be for thee to bury her." Sir Launcelot arose at once and, calling his fellows to him, told them his dream. Immediately, with all haste, they set forth towards Almesbury and, arriving there the second day, found the Queen dead, as had been foretold in the vision. So with the state and ceremony befitting a great Queen, they buried her in the Abbey of Glastonbury, in that same church where, some say, King Arthur's tomb is to be found. Launcelot it was who performed the funeral rites and chanted the requiem; but when all was done, he pined away, growing weaker daily. So at the end of six weeks, he called to him his fellows, and bidding them all farewell, desired that his dead body should be conveyed to the Joyous Garde, there to be buried; for that in the church at Glastonbury he was not worthy to lie. And that same night he died, and was buried, as he had desired, in his own castle. So passed from the world the bold Sir Launcelot du Lac, bravest, most courteous, and most gentle of knights, whose peer the world has never seen ever shall.

After Sir Launcelot's death, Sir Bors and the pious knights, his companions, took their way to the Holy Land, and there they died in battle against the Turk.

So ends the story of King Arthur and his noble fellowship of the Round Table.

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