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  • The scene opens as King Arthur declares the ninth of the tournaments, the prize of which is the last of nine diamonds. Queen Guinevere declares that illness will prevent her attendance and promptly Launcelot declares that he will not enter the lists, supposing that the Queen's indisposition is but the excuse for their meeting. His declaration is received with surprise, for he has won the other tournaments and wields the mightiest lance. The Queen quickly undeceives the sharer of her guilty love and bids him go to the tournament and win. Launcelot rides forth, attended only by his squire, and, coming to the castle of Astolot, demands of its lord a plain shield that his identity may he hidden. He is made welcome and given the shield of Sir Torre whose shield is yet blank, for he was defeated by Launcelot at the last tournament and may not blazon his arms upon his shield until he has achieved a victory. Launcelot leaves his own shield, bearing his device, in the care of the lovely Elaine, who urges him to wear her broidered sleeve upon his helmet when he rides against the others in the lists. Though he never before has worn a lady's gage, he accepts the favor and rides forth, little thinking of the damage he is doing. At Camelot he again defeats all other knights, but in the last encounter he is himself sorely wounded and is carried off the field by the faithful Sir Lavaine. A dagger has been thrust beneath his shoulder and its removal is followed by so copious a flow of blood that Lavaine hurries him to a hermit's cave, where he is cared for. King Arthur has sent Sir Gawain in search of the stranger knight, whose prowess has roused comment and it is Gawain who first brings to Astolot the news of Launcelot's victory and wound. Elaine goes to the hermit's cave, where she nurses him back to health, but Launcelot loves only the Queen and at last he rides away without a farewell. He meant it in all kindness, but he has broken the tender heart of the gentle maid, and on the bed of death she writes him a farewell and "the dead steered by the dumb," goes to Arthur's Court to bear the last adieu. Sadly the Queen places flowers upon the bier and Launcelot, oppressed by grief keeps knightly vigil beside the fragile form, finding there the repentance that in time purged his soul from the crime of illicit love.


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