The Joust
The Feast

The Dilemma

Lancelot admiring Guinevere

As she tied the red banner to the point of my lance, Gwenevere said, “Lancelot, most noble of all the knights of the Round Table, this is my heart; I give it to you.”

 

“I have won the joust, Malegant. Release Gwenevere from your tower prison.”

I picked up Malegant from the floor and stood him on his feet. He wasn't hurt because he was wearing his sheepskin vest.

He scratched his scruffy beard. “So be it.”

I took Gwenevere from the table. I couldn't stand her on her feet because of her pointed toes.

“Granddad, can I borrow Grandma's music box? Gwenevere needs something to sit on.”

Granddad had given a music box to Grandma a long time ago when they got married. Granddad said the music it played was Grandma's favorite song, and she used to listen to it every day. Grandma died before I was born. Now Granddad kept the music box on his desk next to a picture of Grandma. Sometimes he opened the box and listened to Grandma's favorite song. He said that, when he heard the music, Grandma was there, listening to the music with him.

Granddad nodded his head. “Be careful with it.”

“I will.”

I sat Gwenevere on the edge of the desk and took Grandma's music box in both hands. It was a wooden box, like my toy blocks, but it had fancy designs carved in it. I set it on the floor in front of Lancelot and placed Gwenevere with the red banner on top of it. Lancelot still held his lance. I turned his arm so the lance was pointed up, and I made sure he was tilted just right, so he and Tilt wouldn't both fall over.

“Gwenevere, my queen.”

I saluted the queen with my lance by tipping it slightly downward, then back up again.

“Lancelot, most courageous of all the knights of the Round Table, I knew that Arthur would send a knight to my rescue, and I hoped it would be you. Lower your lance and I shall return your banner.”

I did as she commanded.

As she tied the red banner to the point of my lance, Gwenevere said, “Lancelot, most noble of all the knights of the Round Table, this is my heart; I give it to you.”

Lancelot admiring Guinevere
Lancelot admiring Guinevere whom he loved until his final days
Painting by Herbert James Draper

My mom said that when someone gives you a gift, it's polite to give them a gift in return, and that the gift should have equal meaning. Gwenevere had just given me her heart and that meant a lot. The only thing I had of equal meaning was my own heart.

I looked at Granddad. He had stopped writing in his book and was looking at me over his spectacles.

“Granddad, I have a dilemma.”

“What's your dilemma?”

“I can't give my heart to Gwenevere, because I swore an oath to always be loyal to King Arthur.”

“Okay...?”

“But I can't refuse her heart, either, because I promised to be nice to Gwenevere.”

“You made a promise to your sister?”

I nodded. “She let me borrow her Barbie. She said I had to be nice to her, and I promised I would.”

Granddad put the cap on his fountain pen and set it down. “I see.”

“What should I do?”

He removed his spectacles and leaned back in his chair. I thought he might raise an eyebrow to remind me of some rule that I had forgotten, and it would help to solve my dilemma. He didn't. He turned to look out the window instead. I could tell Granddad was thinking hard.

I looked out the window, too. I didn't see anything outside that would help to find a solution. It was raining again. The rain made little rivers of water that flowed into puddles. Raindrops fell into the puddles and made ripples, and the ripples from all the raindrops crashed into each other, like waves in a tiny tormented sea.

Finally, Granddad turned back to me. “It's a difficult decision. I don't know what you should do.”

I was disappointed that Granddad couldn't help me with my dilemma. Granddad had already lived a long time. He had been to a lot of places and done a lot of things and met a lot of people. If he didn't know what I should do, I didn't know how I was supposed to know.

Then he said, “No matter what you decide to do, though, you must take responsibility for your actions.”

I didn't know what he meant by that. There was no good solution to my problem. If I refused Gwenevere's gift, I would break her heart. If I didn't, I would break my oath to the king. Either way, I was going to hurt someone's feelings.

I raised the point of my lance. The red banner flapped in the wind.

“I'm sorry, Gwenevere,” I said. “ I can't accept your heart, because I can't give you my own heart in return.”

I untied the banner from the point of the lance and put it back in Gwenevere's hand. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Rain began to fall on the jousting field, and Gwenevere began to cry.

 


Dedicated to the memory of my parents, Lois and Lee. They taught me the rules as best they could. I still remember most of them. For the rest, I'm making it up as I go along.

 

Lancelot admiring GuinevereLancelot admiring Guinevere whom he loved until his final days

Painting by Herbert James Draper c. 1890