Book VI - Chapter XVII - How Sir Launcelot overtook a knight which chased his wife to have slain her, and how he said to him.
SO Sir Launcelot rode many wild ways, throughout marches and many wild ways. And as he rode in a valley he saw a knight chasing a lady, with a naked sword, to have slain her. And by fortune as this knight should have slain this lady, she cried on Sir Launcelot and prayed him to rescue her. When Sir Launcelot saw that mischief, he took his horse and rode between them, saying, Knight, fie for shame, why wilt thou slay this lady? thou dost shame unto thee and all knights. What hast thou to do betwixt me and my wife? said the knight. I will slay her maugre thy head. That shall ye not, said Sir Launcelot, for rather we two will have ado together. Sir Launcelot, said the knight, thou dost not thy part, for this lady hath betrayed me. It is not so, said the lady, truly he saith wrong on me. And for because I love and cherish my cousin germain, he is jealous betwixt him and me; and as I shall answer to God there was never sin betwixt us. But, sir, said the lady, as thou art called the worshipfullest knight of the world, I require thee of true knighthood, keep me and save me. For whatsomever ye say he will slay me, for he is without mercy. Have ye no doubt, said Launcelot, it shall not lie in his power. Sir, said the knight, in your sight I will be ruled as ye will have me. And so Sir Launcelot rode on the one side and she on the other: he had not ridden but a while, but the knight bade Sir Launcelot turn him and look behind him, and said, Sir, yonder come men of arms after us riding. And so Sir Launcelot turned him and thought no treason, and therewith was the knight and the lady on one side, and suddenly he swapped off his lady's head.
And when Sir Launcelot had espied him what he had done, he said, and called him, Traitor, thou hast shamed me for ever. And suddenly Sir Launcelot alighted off his horse, and pulled out his sword to slay him, and therewithal he fell flat to the earth, and gripped Sir Launcelot by the thighs, and cried mercy. Fie on thee, said Sir Launcelot, thou shameful knight, thou mayest have no mercy, and therefore arise and fight with me. Nay, said the knight, I will never arise till ye grant me mercy. Now will I proffer thee fair, said Launcelot, I will unarm me unto my shirt, and I will have nothing upon me but my shirt, and my sword and my hand. And if thou canst slay me, quit be thou for ever. Nay, sir, said Pedivere, that will I never. Well, said Sir Launcelot, take this lady and the head, and bear it upon thee, and here shalt thou swear upon my sword, to bear it always upon thy back, and never to rest till thou come to Queen Guenever. Sir, said he, that will I do, by the faith of my body. Now, said Launcelot, tell me what is your name? Sir, my name is Pedivere. In a shameful hour wert thou born, said Launcelot.
So Pedivere departed with the dead lady and the head, and found the queen with King Arthur at Winchester, and there he told all the truth. Sir knight, said the queen, this is an horrible deed and a shameful, and a great rebuke unto Sir Launcelot; but notwithstanding his worship is not known in many divers countries; but this shall I give you in penance, make ye as good shift as ye can, ye shall bear this lady with you on horseback unto the Pope of Rome, and of him receive your penance for your foul deeds; and ye shall never rest one night whereas ye do another; an ye go to any bed the dead body shall lie with you. This oath there he made, and so departed. And as it telleth in the French book, when he came to Rome, the Pope bade him go again unto Queen Guenever, and in Rome was his lady buried by the Pope's commandment. And after this Sir Pedivere fell to great goodness, and was an holy man and an hermit.