Clemence Housman

The Life of Sir Aglovale de Galis - Chapter II


TOR, the firstborn of King Pellinore, came to be the best
beloved of all his sons. Sown in the waste, left to grow untended, he, in the flower of youth, approved the father generously, nor brought him any reproach for long neglect. Well might joy and pride in the heart of Pellinore rise up to claim him, and love swell stronger by delay. So, too, in other fathers sprang a like devotion at sight of their stranger sons: in Bors when he took White Helin; in Launce lot when Galahad came. The names of three other sons stand in dark contrast, three who forfeited their fathers' love, and carried curses: Aglovale, son to King Pellinore; Meliagraunce, son to King Bagdemagus; Mordred, son and nephew to King Arthur.

Yet even in early blameless years Aglovale, the heir, came to know that his father for Tor's sake, and his mother for Lamorak's sake, begrudged him his birthright. He knew, too,
that Tor felt with the Queen, Lamorak with the King. As for Durnor, he held Durnor of slight account!

Howbeit at that time all four brethren were named for high
promise, approved of tried knights, well esteemed of their young fellows. And later, spite of all defect, three houses won to matchless fame in Logris: Arthur with his nephews, Launcelot with his brethren, Pellinore with his sons.

Rot at the core showed suddenly in Aglovale. Great justs
were held at Cardiff in the presence of Arthur and his Queen,
what time he bestowed an earldom upon Sir Tor, then of full
age. There Tor won the degree on the first day; and on the second day Lamorak won it; and on the third day a strange
knight came in, who smote down Aglovale and Durnor and
many more and won the degree: his name, Sir Bagdemagus,
King of Stranggore. Then Aglovale plucked up his horse and
rode straight away north. Darkness covers here the ways he
Days went by, and weeks, and months, without any tidings,
good or ill. With the new year came King Bagdemagus again,
seeking after his lost son Meliagraunce. Sir Aglovale, he said,
had come into Stranggore when justs were holding, and there
he had smitten down Sir Agravaine and many others; and so
brim and merry was he, that his son Meliagraunce would fellowship with him, and had gone in his company leaving no trace.

More days, weeks, months, went by. Lamorak and Durnor went and came, Tor came and went and came again, but Aglovale did not come.

From the Marches of Northgalis blew rumour of evil deeds:
of lands harried, travellers and pilgrims robbed, knights murdered, and ladies misused. My most dear Master tells how
there, at a later day, foul love and foul war prevailed, until Sir
Launcelot came to make an end of Sir Turquine the murderer,
and Sir Peris the ravisher.

A riding damsel came through Cardiff, a fair, fierce, reckless
creature, who, though young she was, had led an adventurous
life, with easy love and deadly hate, revel and hardship, quick
laughter and desperate cries, some soft memory enshrined, and some hot malice unspent. Out of such a store she could weave many marvellous tales of adventure, never two alike. She, too, spoke ill of the Marches, and told of the infamous practice of two whom she named the Savage and the Sinister; how unfairly and barbarously they had slain a noble young knight; and how unfairly and barbarously they would have used his damsel, but that she wisely and wittily feigned and played to set them one against the other, till they fell to fighting, and she by good fortune escaped them both.

With touches of art she embellished her tale, yet her voice
and eye showed that for once something was suppressed, and that this adventure was more near herself than others of which she feigned.

When she departed Durnor ran after. "Why called you
that one Sinister?"
"He fought left-handed," she answered.

It was a trick that Aglovale practised.

Durnor went back, armed, and took horse. As he rode out Tor and Lamorak met him and questioned.

"I go to look up brother Sir Aglovale," he said carelessly, and passed.

The two looked at each other.

"I shall follow," said Tor.

"I also," said Lamorak.

So they armed quickly, took horse, and went after Durnor.

Northward the three rode together. And many days they spent questing through the Waste Lands, and the Marches of Northgalis and Gore, at that time the most lawless wilds in
Logris, for there two wanton queens fostered misrule out of
hatred and treason to King Arthur. Some robber knights
they fought and slew by the way, but neither Sir Peris nor Sir
Turquine did they chance to meet.

They came at last upon one who was pitilessly robbing a
gentlewoman of her fair young daughter. Lightly he set down
his prize at Lamorak's challenge, rode against him full knightly,
broke a spear and got a fall. Up he rose, pulled out his sword, and caught it in the left hand. He saw that the three bore the arms of Galis, and turned to flee. They hemmed him in, all but sure of him.
Lamorak sprang down. "I require you of your knighthood
to tell me your name?" He would not, and struck. "Stay your hand," said Lamorak, "till I be better appointed." His shield he cast aside; he plucked off also gorget and helm and cast them down. With naught to defend his head but his sword, he advanced, and struck, and struck again.

So like St. George he looked that a very stranger might have faltered, loth to strike upon that bright head. Aglovale sobbed, flung away his sword, and to Lamorak's distress kneeled and held him by the knees weeping. They wept together all four even Durnor.

King Pellinore never questioned close as to how and where
Aglovale had been found, for he was willing to know no worse
than he could guess; and each brother guessed alone in his
own heart; even Durnor bared none of his conjectures. But
certain knowledge of misdoing came afterwards by means of
Meliagraunce. He came by Cardiff with one Sir Gawdelin, such an one as himself, whose life was marred by the folly of an
unlawful and unrequited passion. These two at the supper
talked upon dangerous ground, for both were loose-tongued
and had little discretion in their cups. Aglovale with them
drank hard, but for his part said little. Suddenly he was aware
that he was detected and betrayed; for as Meliagraunce was
weaving a tale more graceless than merry, he saw King Pellinore smite down his head, and Durnor grow red and curse
under his breath, and Lamorak lift and stiffen. Under their
dreadful silence he assented steadily when Meliagraunce
demanded confirmation. Durnor came to him afterwards and
blurted out all: some small and peculiar detail mentioned by
Sir Meliagraunce had been given also by the riding damsel, so serving to link his story with hers. Meliagraunce himself never knew what mischief he had done.

Not to Aglovale alone was this discovery bitter shame. King Pellinore had to own in his heart that this son, so like him in feature, revealed also dark traits of character he deemed all dead and gone with his own youth. Lately he had come to think better of him, seeing him back among his brothers, valiant and eager as Lamorak, prudent and serviceable as Tor,
tough and staunch as Durnor; and mainly was he gratified to
perceive ripening in him something of his own stern temper,
just sense, and keen brain, meet for the son and heir who
should rule wild Galis after him. Now, because of those dead
sins yet living, King Pellinore smote down his head and went

Aglovale held on resolutely, determined to blot out the past with fair fame. Yet all the while his heart held its old bane, that would coil and sting, spite of the true love he bore his brother Lamorak; and though no word nor sign escaped to betray it, the evil within was working his countenance to express a nature marred and unlovely.

By just and field Lamorak blazed on his way of resplendent
valour, the most insatiable fighter that ever lifted sword. He
was still but a youth when called to the Table Round, where,
according to Merlin's writing, he sat at his father's side hard
by the Siege Perilous.

Then Aglovale failed again. Since Lamorak he could not hate, wild envy set him in loathing against himself and his own barren life. So virulent was this moral distemper that he was
smitten with physical sickness; sleep went from him, and old
wounds in his body ached, opened, and bled afresh. Madness
was hovering. He took horse and reeled away into night.

For over a year his record stands well-nigh blank. Only his own evidence tells that he left the realm of Logris and tried for solace new ways of abuse, ranging the seas, one of a notorious crew whose sail became a curse and a terror to the trader and his town.

He rallied when war came: the great war with Rome, when Arthur and his host passed over to Flanders, and went on kingdom by kingdom to the conquest of Christendom. To Barflete came Pellinore and his three sons, Tor, Lamorak, and
Durnor, each in a great galley stuffed with fighting men well
appointed. Came Aglovale by night, landing alone from a
poor cog-boat, sans horse or the price of one, with naught but
the harness on his back, red-rusted with brine. A very just
estimate of him lay heavy on his welcome; no account of his
doings was required of him, and he tendered none. Durnor
alone, the while he served like a squire to the tarnished heir,
hit at him with hard names of derision. But to Durnor indifference gave licence.

In that great campaign Aglovale showed at his best, for he had gifts for marshalling hosts of war such as were rare to find in those emulous days of personal valour. King Pellinore gave him full scope, setting him in command above his brothers, and Tor and Lamorak were as right hand and left to him in their loyal support, gladly admitting his right and worth. His was not brilliant work and fortunate, like Sir Gawaine's, whose star ascendant at that time outshone all others ; but what he did King Arthur marked well and approved, for he, the great leader, could best of all appraise the young knight's sound
instinct in methods of war. So when the year closed on him
victorious at Rome, crowned Emperor by the Pope, when he
summoned his Round Table there and filled up the sieges, Sir
Aglovale de Galis was duly called and placed.

Knights of highest worship sat hard by the Siege Perilous that awaited the coming of the best knight in the world. To the right of it sat King Pellinore, then Sir Lamorak, then Sir Marhaus, the best knight of Ireland; to the left sat Sir Bors the Good, with Sir Launcelot and his brother Sir Ector; Sir Tor was not far, with Sir Gawaine for his opposite. Distant by many degrees from that zenith, Sir Aglovale had his place, for dearer to Arthur was the stout heart and arm than the good head. And the mind of Aglovale inclined the same way; he would gladly abandon all the credit won in command, but once to have in his ears such a roar of welcome and acclaim as rose
from fighting ranks when Lamorak rode in.

On that high day Durnor, riding behind his brothers, saw a hard-featured man thrust through the crowd and catch at Sir
Aglovale's knee, calling him by a strange name. Aglovale struck his hand aside, tossed him a piece of gold, and passed.
The man, a seafarer by his dress, fell back and plucked at a
Welshman with a question; Aglovale, with a stony countenance, rode on ignoring salutations. His day was darkly overcast.

Durnor was ashamed to watch or to question; he went on

At the day's end the same stranger entered as a suitor before King Pellinore and his sons, and got leave to speak.

"My lord Sir Aglovale," he said, "is it sooth that to-day,
for the honour of the Round Table, you will grant any man his
suit except it be unreasonable?"

Aglovale eyed him sternly and answered, "Aye."

"Then, my lord, I desire and pray that you take me to serve you."

An angry red mounted to Aglovale's brow. The stranger spoke on hurriedly.

"I ask to be no more than your groom, your henchman, your varlet, albeit I am not more meanly born than some who are squires. And I will promise you very faithful service for the sake of one I shall never meet again, because, my lord Sir Aglovale, of the resemblance you bear him."

Said Durnor, whose tongue was more ready than his wits,
"Hey, brother, you knew him not, and he mistook you!"

Said the stranger quickly, with his eyes still on Sir Aglovale,
"Before to-day never has my lord your brother set eyes on me."

Aglovale strode forward and struck him on the mouth. "Brose, you lie!" he said.

Confounded stood the suitor, savage but cowed. He got his voice, and said thickly, "My lord, if I live you shall repent of this."

Said Aglovale, wickedly, "Get you gone, would you go to hell in your own time."

Said Brose, "At your heels, my lord, will be time enough for me."

King Pellinore spoke, seeing Aglovale finger at his sword. "Fair son, he stands a suitor on your honour to-day." And at that his son ground his teeth and laughed harshly.

Said the King to Brose, "By my counsel you and your suit withdraw."

The man spoke up resolutely, though his hard-favoured
countenance twitched.

"Truly sir, my lord your son may hold my suit unreasonable, since he does not please to forget that when he saw me before, for my sins I was a galley-slave."

Still, as he spoke he kept his eyes upon Sir Aglovale, who turned his to watch his father's face. Both drew the breath of
hard conflict.

"And yet is my suit not unreasonable, since who would serve him more truly and faithfully than one he delivered out of that hell."

"Hear, you dog!" cried Aglovale, in a black rage, "for the honour of the day and because of my word you shall have your asking. But, by God!" he added through his teeth, "you shall sweat for it hereafter."

Again King Pellinore warned Brose off his dangerous ground, guessing heavily at ugly concerns behind his son's truculence.

"His man am I," came the answer, "at what service and what wage he wills. He knows I am able enough. I was the first he made free. Me he set to loose Christians while he went killing Saracens; and not one was left alive; and it was a great galley; and we, slaves with our chains, were all my lord Sir Aglovale had to back him. Moreover, he stood to fight unarmed, and so fought and won."

Aglovale cursed and flung out his sword, beside himself with rage. His brothers by force stayed him, and got Brose away and stowed safe till that madness should be past.

Be it known forthwith that master and man kept each his word. Aglovale stinted not by harsh and brutal usage to tempt the man to his worst; and Brose endured, steadily and patiently biding his time to be approved, until his master
recognized with wonder that this dog was the faithfullest of his kind, following him out of real devotion. Straight he acknowledged, "Brose, I do repent," and never thenceforth had a doubt of him till came the time of double parting when broke
the unhappy heart of Aglovale. Brose, in an after day, when,
as shall be told, he followed Percivale, professed what secret
virtue in his master had drawn him to allegiance. "Never have I heard him complain," he said. No man, save Nacien the Hermit, did ever so truly as Brose read the worth of that distorted nature at its worst.

Now, as to the conclusion of this passage, had Aglovale chosen to hold his peace, the truth might not have come to
light, for Brose told no more, refusing to answer any question
but in his master's presence; and, drunk or sober, he never let loose his tongue till the end came. But Aglovale, when his brothers turned to him with new worship, and his father with kind reproach, because he had despised the approval of their love, felt his load more heavy to bear than any deserved disgrace. So, as they would not cease and let him go, "I was
one of them," said he; "I, too, was a galley-slave."

That was not enough, though his voice and his face were frightful. So gross an outrage to him but moved their common
blood with indignation.

Said Lamorak under his breath, "I rather would have died."

Aglovale heard. "I, too," he said, "even as due by a halter."

Durnor gaped and gasped, "As due!" Aghast stared King Pellinore and Tor and Lamorak. His few words were enough
to set their guesses; and he watched the leap and run, the pause and flow of apprehension in their looks. Now they knew why he at one time, before they came to Rome, had avoided the coast; there at Genoa their eyes had seen rotten bodies dangling above the tide-mark ; they had heard tell of a well-dreaded corsair barque, decoyed and betrayed there by means of a Saracen emir. Yes, they knew; only Durnor did not understand. Durnor was a dense fool.

King Pellinore broke silence. "And yet you live!"

His unworthy son came to him, followed after him, kneeled to him, and held his knees in mute entreaty.

"You felon proclaimed! Why had you not your dues?"

"Pardon, sire, because there is that in me that is due to you."

King Pellinore cut him short with a heavy curse, and in his passion turned and struck the woeful mask that was his living

"Oh, you lie, you lie!" he cried.

At that Aglovale stood up and pulled out his sword; taking it by the point, he presented the hilts to King Pellinore.

"Prove that upon my body, sire, an you please," he said desperately.

The King gripped with a will.

"Stand aside, Sir Tor," cried Aglovale; "as for this matter you shall not come between me and my father."

But Tor said, "Ah, sire, are all the good strokes of that sword clean gone from remembrance?"

"Answer! Why had you not your dues?"

He writhed and faltered. "I was not so well worth a halter as some others; and I was valued to ransom as a king's son."

"Ah, wretched blabber!"

Again Tor came between. "Speak again, brother, say you never acknowledged your birth!"

"Yes, bastard, I did. I acknowledged my birth, unawares, even as you did among your mother-brethren. Ah, sire, pardon me that at least!"

"What more have you to tell, felon?"

"Sire," said Aglovale, "boots it to know more of what I did, or what others did with this sinful body of mine, since my name and my lineage went not with it?"

"Unhappy fool! Does not your rascal fellow know you?"

Aglovale answered knightly, "My fellows now are knights of the Round Table; and excepting you, sire, and my fair brothers, and my lord King Arthur, none of them that bear life shall charge disworship against my name and lineage but I will prove upon his body that he lies."

King Pellinore went up and down thinking a great while. Then he put back Aglovale's sword into his hands and said heavily, "See you fail not. When your gallows deeds be known, or keep you body alive in the Devil's name or God have mercy on your soul!"

In this he reckoned amiss, for Brose proved close and sure, and Aglovale lived longer than the devil in him, and died the last of his mother's sons.

Now, it is recorded that after these wars with Rome, Pellinore set his son Aglovale as warden at Cardigan. Maybe this in a manner was banishment till he should have earned full forgiveness, although later the lordship of Cardigan is called his appanage. Here Aglovale sped ill; for, after a turn of staid and strict government, he fell to ways of misrule. For a brief space he made a fine show of it, merry and brim in living and fighting. He lured Durnor to him, and despised him that he came. Many drew to him at that time; and any who had earned the King's displeasure could find with him countenance and welcome. So, though riot and misrule were doubtless all his sins, he gave large cause for the count of treason.

After remonstrance and a threat, King Pellinore made short
work. He rode in on surprise with a great plump of spears, and Aglovale, surrendering without a stroke, was deprived of land and rule, and imprisoned with undue rigour.

He never complained, for, indeed, the odd good in him lent him a patience and submission rare to find among wrongdoers. The intercession of his mother and his brethren, and namely
of Sir Tor, restored him to freedom and grace.

But too soon his better self went to the winds as before. This time Lamorak was partly to blame. The words he used enter here not indeed in time and place as recorded by my most dear Master, who for his part kept not strictly to the order of
events, as can be shown on his telling of the justs at Avilion
and at Kinkenadon by the Sands.

Justs were called beside the Isle of Avilion for the proving of
Arthur's young nephew Gareth, then newly sprung from the
scullery into sudden fame and the well-earned love of his lady
Liones. Thither came his mother, Morgause, Queen of Orkney, still with her fatal beauty as keen as when Arthur, her unknown brother, wooed her to guilty love. On Lamorak she
looked, and Lamorak looked on her, and for their bane love

Marvellous deeds of arms Lamorak did that day, out of measure fain to win worship before her. Fighting was like a
revel to him, till in the midst of his ecstasy he chanced to see
his two brothers, Aglovale and Durnor, overthrown. That turned him to rage; four knights went down to his spear;
more to his sword; others fled. Aglovale and Durnor he horsed again, but in his heat he did not spare them words.

"Shame on them!" cried Lamorak, "to fall so off their horses." Knights that were knights indeed, he said, should fight on horseback; fighting afoot, he said, was but meant for spoilers and felons. So he spoke heedless in his heat. "Sit fast upon your horses," he cried at parting, "or else fight never more afore me."

Durnor emptied language and protest after him; but as for
Aglovale, his blood rose and broke forth, so that it ran from
the ventails of his helm and he had to lift the vizard.

"How, brother," said Durnor, "fell you so hard?" But when he viewed a face pallid and hard-set, even he could read and understand.

"Nay, nay," he said in clumsy kindness, "Aglovale, he never meant it so! Oh, he had clean forgot all that, or never had he spoken so!"

"By your leave, fair brother," returned Aglovale, "I can hear as I list; and, if I list, gainsay."

Durnor looked after him as starkly he rode into the fray. "When he goes to work with his lips white, he kills. Now God have mercy on some man's soul."

His cast was true enough. Aglovale that day was curst and
forebore none. After that he was lost again for many a day, and with him Brose.

Tidings came of him returned and dwelling at Cardigan.
Thither rode Tor and Durnor, and bore back good report of him, as they found him sober, just, wise, and knightly in all
ways. But Tor owned to King Pellinore that their welcome had not been brotherly, Sir Aglovale, cold and reserved, showing with a manner of precise courtesy a mind inclined to quarrel. Durnor laughed and made excuse, in that he was assotted on a passing fair wench, and an exigent. So had he mistaken sweet Gilleis, Aglovale's last and only true love.

When King Pellinore afterwards passed to Cardigan, Aglovale had flown, none knew whither, and sweet Gilleis lay in the tomb.

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