And when he reached the battle-field, he saw in the moonlight that robbers were on the field stooping over the slain, and taking from them their rings and their gold. And those that were only wounded, the robbers slew, that they might take their jewels too.
Sir Lucan hastened back, and told the King what he had seen.
“We will carry you farther off, lest the robbers find us here,” said the knights. And Sir Lucan lifted the King on one side and Sir Bedivere lifted him on the other.
But Sir Lucan had been wounded in the battle, and as he lifted the King he fell back and died.
Then Arthur and Sir Bedivere wept for the fallen knight.
Now the King felt so ill that he thought he would not live much longer, and he turned to Sir Bedivere: “Take Excalibur, my good sword,” he said, “and go with it to the lake, and throw it into its waters. Then come quickly and tell me what you see.”
Sir Bedivere took the sword and went down to the lake. But as he looked at the handle with its sparkling gems and the richness of the sword, he thought he could not throw it away. “I will hide it carefully here among the rushes,” thought the knight. And when he had hidden it, he went slowly to the King and told him he had thrown the sword into the lake.
“What did you see?” asked the King eagerly.
“Nothing but the ripple of the waves as they broke on the beach,” said Sir Bedivere.
“You have not told me the truth,” said the King. “If you love me, go again to the lake, and throw my sword into the water.”
Again the knight went to the water’s edge. He drew the sword from its hiding-place. He would do the King’s will, for he loved him. But again the beauty of the sword made him pause. “It is a noble sword; I will not throw it away,” he murmured, as once more he hid it among the rushes. Then he went back more slowly, and told the King that he had done his will.
“What did you see?” asked the King.
“Nothing but the ripples of the waves as they broke on the beach,” repeated the knight.
“You have betrayed me twice,” said the King sadly, “and yet you are a noble knight! Go again to the lake, and do not betray me for a rich sword.”
Then for the third time Sir Bedivere went to the water’s edge, and drawing the sword from among the rushes, he flung it as far as he could into the lake.
And as the knight watched, an arm and a hand appeared above the surface of the lake. He saw the hand seize the sword, and shaking it three times, disappear again under the water. Then Sir Bedivere went back quickly to the King, and told him what he had seen.
“Carry me to the lake,” entreated Arthur, “for I have been here too long.”
And the knight carried the King on his shoulders down to the water’s side. There they found a barge lying, and seated in it were three queens, and each queen wore a black hood. And when they saw King Arthur they wept.