Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 117

“‘Nay, by St. Martin, I can yet bequeath
My lands to whom I wish: they still are mine.
Then hearken, neighbours, while I make my will.
To John, my eldest son, and heir, I leave
Five ploughlands, my dead father’s heritage;
My second, Otho, ploughlands five shall hold,
Which my good right hand won in valiant strife;
All else I own, in lands and goods and wealth,
To Gamelyn, my youngest, I devise;
And I beseech you, for the love of God,
Forsake him not, but guard his helpless youth
And let him not be plundered of his wealth.’”

Then Sir John, satisfied with having proclaimed his will, died with Christian resignation, leaving his little son Gamelyn in the power of the cruel eldest brother, now, in his turn, Sir John.

“Go and do your own baking!”

Sir John almost doubted the evidence of his ears. “What, my dear brother, is that the way to answer? Thou hast never addressed me so before!”

“No,” replied Gamelyn; “until now I have never considered all the wrong you have done me. My parks are broken open, my deer are driven off; you have deprived me of my armour and my steeds; all that my father bequeathed to me is falling into ruin and decay. God’s curse upon you, false brother!”

Sir John was now enraged beyond all measure, and shouted: “Stand still, vagabond, and hold thy peace! What right hast thou to speak of land or vassals? Thou shalt learn to be grateful for food and raiment.”

[Pg 208] “A curse upon him that calls me vagabond! I am no worse than yourself; I am the son of a lady and a good knight.”

Gamelyn Terrifies the Household

In spite of all his anger, Sir John was a cautious man, with a prudent regard for his own safety. He would not risk an encounter with Gamelyn, but summoned his servants and bade them beat him well, till he should learn better manners. But when the boy understood his brother’s intention he vowed that he would not be beaten alone—others should suffer too, and Sir John not the least. Thereupon, leaping on to the wall, he seized a pestle which lay there, and so boldly attacked the timid servants, though they were armed with staves, that he drove them in flight, and laid on furious strokes which quenched the small spark of courage in them. Sir John had not even that small amount of bravery: he fled to a loft and barred the door, while Gamelyn cleared the hall with his pestle, and scoffed at the cowardly grooms who fled so soon from the strife they had begun. When he sought for his brother he could not see him at first, but afterwards perceived his sorry countenance peeping from a window. “Brother,” said Gamelyn, “come a little nearer, and I will teach you how to play with staff and buckler.”