Chapter 12



T Cameliard the young Duke of Logreus spent most of his time in the company of Guenevere, whose father made no objection overtly. Gogyrvan had his promised talk w ith Jurgen.

"I lament that Dame Yolande dealt over-thriftily with you," the King said, first of all: "for I estimated you two would be as spark and tinder, kindling between you an amorous conflagration to burn up all this nonsense about my daughter. "

"Thrift, sir," said Jurgen, discreetly, "is a proverbial virtue, and fires may not consume true love."

"That is the truth," Gogyrvan admitted, "whoever says it." And he sighed.

Then for a while he sat in nodding meditation. Tonight the old King wore a disreputably rusty gown of black stuff, with fur about the neck and sleeves of it, and his scant white hair was covered by a very shabby black cap. So he huddled over a small fi re in a large stone fireplace carved with shields; beside him was white wine and red, which stayed untasted while Gogyrvan meditated upon things that fretted him.

"Now, then!" says Gogyrvan Gawr: "this marriage with the high King of the Britons must go forward, of, course. That was settled last year, when Arthur and his devil-mongers, the Lady of the Lake and Merlin Ambrosius, were at some pains t o rescue me at Carohaise. I estimate that Arthur's ambassadors, probably the devil-mongers themselves, will come for my daughter before June is out. Meanwhile, you two have youth and love for playthings, and it is spring."

"What is the season of the year to me," groaned Jurgen, "when I reflect that within a week or so the lady of my heart will be borne away from me for ever? How can I be happy, when all the while I know the long years of misery and vain re gret are near at hand ?"

"You are saying that," observed the King, "in part because you drank too much last night, and in part because you think it is expected of you. For in point of fact, you are as happy as anyone is permitted to be in this world, through the simple reason that you are young. Misery, as you employ the word, I consider to be a poetical trope: but I can assure you that the moment you are no longer young the years of vain regret will begin, either way."

"That is true," said Jurgen, heartily.

"How do you know? Now then, put it I were insane enough to marry my daughter to a mere duke, you would grow damnably tired of her: I can assure you of that also, for in disposition Guenevere is her sainted mother all over again. She is nice lookin g, of course, because in that she takes after my side of the family: but, between ourselves, she is not particularly intelligent, and she will always be making eyes at some man or another. To-day it appears to be your turn to serve as her target, in a fin e glittering shirt of which the like was never seen in Glathion. I deplore, but even so I cannot deny, your rights as the champion who rescued her: and I must bid you make the most of that turn."

"Meanwhile, it occurs to me, sir, that it is unusual to betroth your daughter to one man, and permit her to go freely with another."

"If you insist upon it," said Gogyrvan Gawr, I can of course lock up the pair of you, in separate dungeons, until the wedding day. Meanwhile, it occurs to me you should be the last commentator to grumble."

"Why, I tell you plainly, sir, that critical persons would say you are taking very small care of your daughter's honour."

"To that there are several answers," replied the King. "One is that I remember my late wife as tenderly as possible, and I reflect I have only her word for it as to Guenevere's being my daughter. Another is that, though my daughter is a quiet and well-conducted young woman, I never heard King Thragnar was anything of this sort."

"Oh, sir," said Jurgen, horrified, "whatever are you hinting?"

"All sorts of things, however, happen in caves, things which it is wiser to ignore in sunlight. So I ignore: I ask no questions: my business is to marry my daughter acceptably, and that only. Such discoveries as may be made by her husband afterwa rd are his affair, not mine. This much I might tell you, Messire de Logreus, by way of answer. But the real answer is to bid you consider this : that a woman's honour is concerned with one thing only, and it is a thing with which the honour of a man is no t concerned at all."

"But now you talk in riddles, King, and I wonder what it is you would have me do."

Gogyrvan grinned. "Obviously, I advise you to give thanks you were born a man, because that sturdier sex has so much less need to bother over breakage."

"What sort of breakage, sir?" says Jurgen.

Gogyrvan told him.

Duke Jurgen for the second time looked properly horrified. "Your aphorisms, King, are abominable, and of a sort unlikely to quiet my misery. However, we were speaking of your daughter, and it is she who must be considered rather than I."

"Now I perceive that you take my meaning perfectly. Yes, in all matters which concern my daughter I would have you lie like a gentleman."

"Well, I am afraid, sir," said Jurgen, after a pause, "that you are a person of somewhat degraded ideals."

"Ali, but you are young. Youth can afford ideals, being vigorous enough to stand the hard knocks they earn their possessor. But I am an old fellow cursed with a tender heart and tolerably keen eyes. That combination, Messire de Logreus, is one whi ch very often forces me to jeer out of season, simply because I know myself to be upon the verge of far more untimely tears."

Thus Gogyrvan replied. He was silent for a while, and he contemplated the fire. Then he waved a shrivelled hand toward the window, and Gogyrvan began to speak, meditatively:

"Messire de Logreus, it is night in my city of Cameliard. And somewhere one of those roofs harbours a girl whom we will call Lynette. She has a lover-we will say he is called Sagramor. The names do not matter. Tonight, as I speak with you, Lynett e lies motionless in the carved wide bed that formerly was her mother's. She is thinking of Sagramor. The room is dark save where moonlight silvers the diamond-shaped panes of ancient windows. In every corner of the room mysterious quivering suggestions l urk."

"Ah , sire," says Jurgen, "you also are a poet!"

"Do not interrupt me, then ! Lynette, I repeat, is thinking of Sagramor. Again they sit near the lake, under an apple-tree older than Rome. The knotted branches of the tree are upraised as in benediction : and petals-petals, fluttering, drifting, turning,-- interminable white petals fall silently in the stillness. Neither speaks : for there is no need. Silently he brushes a petal from the blackness of her hair, and silently he kisses her. The lake is dusky and hard-seeming as jade. Two lonely star s hang low in the green sky. It is droll that the chest of a man is hairy, oh, very droll ! And a bird is singing, a silvery needle of sound moves fitfully in the stillness. Surely high Heaven is thus quietly coloured and thus strangely lovely. So at leas t thinks little Lynette, lying motionless like a little mouse, in the carved wide bed wherein Lynette was born."

"A very moving touch, that," Jurgen interpolated.

"Now, there is another sort of singing: for now the pot-house closes, big shutters bang, feet shuffle, a drunken man hiccoughs in his singing. It is a love-song he is murdering. He sheds inexplicable tears as he lurches nearer and nearer to Lynett e's window, and his heart is all magnanimity, for Sagramor is celebrating his latest conquest. Do you not think that this or something very like this is happening to-night in my city of Cameliard, Messire de Logreus?"

"It happens momently," said Jurgen, " everywhere. For thus is every woman for a little while, and thus is every man for all time."

"That being a dreadful truth," continued Gogyrvan, "you may take it as one of the many reasons why I jeer out of season in order to stave off far more untimely tears. For this thing happens : in my city it happens, and in my castle it ha ppens. King or no, I am powerless to prevent its happening. So I can but shrug and hearten my old blood with a fresh bottle. No less, I regard the young woman, who is quite possibly my daughter, with considerable affection: and it would be salutary for yo u to remember that circumstance, Messire de Logreus, if ever you are tempted to be candid."

Jurgen was horrified. "But with the Princess, sir, it is unthinkable that I should not deal fairly."

King Gogyrvan continued to look at Jurgen. Gogyrvan Gawr said nothing, and not a muscle of him moved.

"Although of course," said Jurgen, "I would, in simple justice to her, not ever consider volunteering any information likely to cause pain."

"Again I perceive," said Gogyrvan, "that you understand me. Yet I did not speak of my daughter only, but of everybody."

"How then, sir, would you have me deal with everybody?"

"Why, I can but repeat my words," says Gogyrvan, very patiently: "I would have you lie like a gentleman. And now be off with you, for I am going to sleep. I shall not be wide awake again until my daughter is safely married. And that is a bsolutely all I can do for you."

"Do you think this is reputable conduct, King?"

"Oh, no!" says Gogyrvan, surprised." It is what we

Chapter 14