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Lancelot stayed at the castle of Corbin for days. Its haunted rooms were up to expectation, and there was nothing else to do. He felt such feelings in his breast because of Gunever - the frightful pangs of hopeless love - that he was drained of effort. He could not summon up the energy to go elsewhere... He felt that he might as well be in one place as another, if he was only waiting to see whether hisheartt would break or not. He was too simple to see that if the finest knight in the world rescued you out of a kettle of boiling water, with no clothes on, you would be likely to fall in love with him - if you were only eighteen...
'Have you ever,' asked Lancelot, putting the question which all young men are always asking, and without noticing that it had anything to do with the drink, 'have you ever been in love?
The butler smiled discreetly and poured another bumper.
By midnight Lancelot and the butler were sitting on opposite sides of the table, both looking red in the face.
'Ah, said the butler, 'and there is my wife Brisen at the buttery door, holding amessage. I dare say it might be for you... It says that Queen Guenever is at the castle of Case, five miles frorm here, and she wants you. It says the King is not with her. There are some kisses on it.'
'Well?'
'You dare not go,' said the butler.
'Dare not?' shouted Sir Lancelot, and he went into the darkness staggering, laughing like a caricature, and calling for his horse.

In the morning he woke suddenly in a strange room. It was quite dark, with tapestry over the windows, and he had no headache because his constitution was good. He jumped out of bed and went to the window, to draw the curtain. He was fully aware, in the suddenness of a second, of all that had happened on the previous night - aware of the butler and of the drink and of the love-potion which had perhaps been put in it, of the message from Guenever, and of the dark, solid, cool-fired body in the bed which he had just got out of. He drew the curtain and leaned his forehead against the cold stone of the mullion. He was miserable.
'Jenny,' he said, after minutes which seemed to be hours.
There was no answer from the bed.
He turned round and found himself looking at the boiled girl, Elaine. She lay in the bed, her small bare arms holding the bedclothes to her sides, her violet eyes fixed on his.
Lancelot went over to the chest where his sword was lying.
'I shall kill you.'
She only looked. She was eighteen, ppitifully small in the big bed, and she was frightened.
'Why did you do it?' he cried. 'What have you done? Why have you betrayed me?'
'I had to.'
'But it was treachery!'
'Lancelot!' cried Elaine. 'It was because I loved you. Haven't I given something too? I was a miaden, Lancelot. I didn't rob you. Oh Lancelot - it was my fault. I ought to be killed. Why didn't you kill me with your sword? But it was because I loved you, and I couldn't help it.'

T.H. White, The Once and Future King

For such a short time
You were mine
But Lady Fate had turned her back
The instant the mirror cracked-
My loom came to a halt.
It was my fault-
Forgive me, my love.

Always trapped - I knew
You were too
But when you rode into Carbonek's gate
I saw - so clearly - our escape
I had to change the pattern
Only you mattered
I forgot Consequences.

First, the solace of herbs
Yes, I disturbed
Nature. For one night I thwarted the weaver
so sweet, and I, so eager!
But the pattern must return.
Still my heart burns
Not quenched by waves.

They took my body
Had to leave me
The heart I would not give up. And you?
Were never really mine. Too
loyal, dear heart, to her
Ever-present Guinevere.
So, I found freedom.

C.A.

Tennyson's Lady of Shallot

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