The Once and Future King Part 3, Chapters 17-20 Summary

T. H. White

Part 3, Chapters 17-20 Summary

Elaine arrives at Camelot, carrying Galahad and accompanied by her nurse, Brisen. Guenever greets her with mock warmth and kindness, telling her that Lancelot will be delighted to see her and that she should not be shy about the baby, since everyone already knows. Guenever almost looks at the baby to see if it resembles Lancelot but decides against it.

When Elaine is settled, Guenever goes to Lancelot’s room, no longer with a kind manner. She warns him against sleeping with Elaine while she is at the castle, though Lancelot assures her that he has no intention of doing so. She ignores this and tells him that she has placed Elaine next to her room, so she will know if Lancelot goes to her. She also tells him that she will visit his room later; if he is not there, then she will know that he is with Elaine.

In her room, Elaine is sad because Lancelot did not greet her. No sooner has she begun to weep than Lancelot knocks on the door. Reluctantly, he looks at the baby and is relieved to see that it resembles Elaine, not he. He wonders if this small creature could be part of him. Elaine tries to throw herself into Lancelot’s arms, but he pushes her away and leaves the room.

That night, Lancelot is overjoyed when Guenever sends for him, for she had planned that the two of them should not make love while Elaine is at Camelot. The next morning, however, Guenever calls both Lancelot and Elaine into her chambers. She accuses them both of sleeping together the previous night and orders them out of the castle. Lancelot objects that he was with her, not Elaine. Elaine admits that, once again, Brisen helped her deceive Lancelot into thinking that he was sleeping with the queen. Guenever does not believe this, thinking that Lancelot is using the same “lie” that he used before. Driven mad, Lancelot jumps out the castle window and runs away. Elaine accuses Guenever of driving him mad. She leaves, and Guenever breaks down in sobs.

Two years later, King Pelles and Sir Bliant discuss tales of the Wild Man who is roaming the countryside. Sir Bliant says that he had an encounter with the man and kept him imprisoned for some time; eventually he escaped when he saw the evil knight Sir Bruce Saunce Pité approach. Later, King Pelles himself catches the man and chains him up. One evening, when he was drunk, the King had the Wild Man brought out; he asks him whether he was Lancelot. The Wild Man says nothing. Pelles takes off his royal robe and places it on the Wild Man to mock him. The crowd grows silent as they see for the first time the Wild Man’s noble bearing.