Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 121

[Pg 213]

A Reckoning with Sir John

However, the guests departed quietly on the eighth day, leaving Gamelyn alone, and very sorrowful, in the hall where he had held high revel. As he stood there, musing sadly, he heard a timid footstep, and saw his brother creeping towards him. When he had attracted Gamelyn’s attention he spoke out loudly: “Who made thee so bold as to destroy all my household stores?”

“Nay, brother, be not wroth,” said the youth quietly. “If I have used anything I have paid for it fully beforehand. For these sixteen years you have had full use and profit of fifteen good ploughlands which my father left me; you have also the use and increase of all my cattle and horses; and now all this past profit I abandon to you, in return for the expense of this feast of mine.”

Then said the treacherous Sir John: “Hearken, my dear brother: I have no son, and thou shalt be my heir—I swear by the holy St. John.”

“In faith,” said Gamelyn, “if that be the case, and if this offer be made in all sincerity, may God reward you!” for it was impossible for his generous disposition to suspect his brother of treachery and to fathom the wiles of a crafty nature; hence it happened that he was so soon and easily beguiled.

Gamelyn Allows Himself to be Chained

Sir John hesitated a moment, and then said doubtfully: “There is one thing I must tell you, Gamelyn. When you threw my porter into the well I swore in my wrath that I would have you bound hand and foot. That is impossible now without your consent, and I must be forsworn unless you will let yourself be bound for a moment, as a mere form, just to save me from the sin of perjury.”

[Pg 214] So sincere Sir John seemed, and so simple did the whole thing appear, that Gamelyn consented at once. “Why, certainly, brother, you shall not be forsworn for my sake.” So he sat down, and the servants bound him hand and foot; and then Sir John looked mockingly at him as he said: “So now, my fine brother, I have you caught at last.” Then he bade them bring fetters and rivet them on Gamelyn’s limbs, and chain him fast to a post in the centre of the hall. Then he was placed on his feet with his back to the post and his hands manacled behind him, and as he stood there the false brother told every person who entered that Gamelyn had suddenly gone mad, and was chained for safety’s sake, lest he should do himself or others some deadly hurt. For two long days and nights he stood there bound, with no food or drink, and grew faint with hunger and weariness, for his fetters were so tight that he could not sit or lie down; bitterly he lamented the carelessness which made him fall such an easy prey to his treacherous brother’s designs.

Adam Spencer to the Rescue

When all others had left the hall Gamelyn appealed to old Adam Spencer, the steward of the household, a loyal old servant who had known Sir John of the Marches, and had watched the boy grow up. “Adam Spencer,” quoth he, “unless my brother is minded to slay me, I am kept fasting too long. I beseech thee, for the great love my father bore thee, get the keys and release me from my bonds. I will share all my free land with thee if thou wilt help me in this distress.”

The poor old servant was greatly perplexed. He knew not how to reconcile his grateful loyalty to his dead master with the loyalty due to his present lord, and he said doubtfully: “I have served thy brother for sixteen years, [Pg 215] and if I release thee now he will rightly call me a traitor.” “Ah, Adam! thou wilt find him a false rogue at the last, as I have done. Release me, dear friend Adam, and I will be true to my agreement, and will keep my covenant to share my land with thee.” By these earnest words the steward was persuaded, and, waiting till Sir John was safely in bed, managed to obtain possession of the keys and release Gamelyn, who stretched his arms and legs and thanked God for his liberty. “Now,” said he, “if I were but well fed no one in this house should bind me again to-night.” So Adam took him to a private room and set food before him; eagerly he ate and drank till his hunger was satisfied and he began to think of revenge. “What is your advice, Adam? Shall I go to my brother and strike off his head? He well merits it.”