Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 26

CHAPTER XXVI.
PWYLL, PRINCE OF DYVED.

ONCE upon a time Pwyll was at Narberth, his chief palace, where a
feast had been prepared for him, and with him was a great host of men.
And after the first meal Pwyll arose to walk; and he went to the top
of a mound that was above the palace, and was called Gorsedd
Arberth. "Lord," said one of the court, "it is peculiar to the mound
that whosoever sits upon it cannot go thence without either
receiving wounds or blows, or else seeing a wonder." "I fear not to
receive wounds or blows," said Pwyll; "but as to the wonder, gladly
would I see it. I will therefore go and sit upon the mound."
And upon the mound he sat. And while he sat there, they saw a
lady, on a pure white horse of large size, with a garment of shining
gold around her, coming along the highway that led from the mound. "My
men," said Pwyll, "is there any among you who knows yonder lady?"
"There is not, lord," said they. "Go one of you and meet her, that
we may know who she is." And one of them arose, and as he came upon
the road to meet her, she passed by; and he followed as fast as he
could, being on foot, and the greater was his speed, the further was
she from him. And when he saw that it profited him nothing to follow
her, he returned to Pwyll, and said unto him, "Lord, it is idle for
any one in the world to follow her on foot." "Verily," said Pwyll, "go
unto the palm, and take the fleetest horse that thou seest, and go
after her."
And he took a horse and went forward. And he came to an open,
level plain, and put spurs to his horse; and the more he urged his
horse, the further was she from him. And he returned to the palace
where Pwyll was, and said, "Lord, it will avail nothing for any one to
follow yonder lady. I know of no horse in these realms swifter than
this, and it availed me not to pursue her." "Of a truth," said
Pwyll, "there must be some illusion here; let us go towards the
palace." So to the palace they went, and spent the day.
And the next day they amused themselves until it was time to go to
meat. And when meat was ended, Pwyll said, "Where are the hosts that
went yesterday to the top of the mound?" "Behold, lord, we are
here," said they. "Let us go," said he, "to the mound, and sit
there. And do thou," said he to the page who tended his, horse,
"saddle my horse well, and hasten with him to the road, and bring also
my spurs with thee." And the youth did thus. And they went and sat
upon the mound; and ere they had been there but a short time, they
beheld the lady coming by the same road, and in the same manner, and
at the same pace. "Young man," said Pwyll, "I see the lady coming;
give me my horse." And before he had mounted his horse she passed him.
And he turned after her and followed her. And he let his horse go
bounding playfully, and thought that he should soon come up with
her. But he came no nearer to her than at first. Then he urged his
horse to his utmost speed; yet he found that it availed not. Then said
Pwyll, "O maiden, for the sake of him whom thou best lovest, stay
for me." "I will stay gladly," said she; "and it were better for thy
horse hadst thou asked it long since." So the maiden stopped; and
she threw back that part of her headdress which covered her face. Then
he thought that the beauty of all the maidens and all the ladies
that he had ever seen was as nothing compared to her beauty. "Lady,"
he said, "wilt thou tell me aught concerning thy purpose?" "I will
tell thee," said she; "my chief quest was to see thee." "Truly,"
said Pwyll, "this is to me the most pleasing quest on which thou
couldst have come; and wilt thou tell me who thou art?" "I will tell
thee, lord," said she. "I am Rhiannon, the daughter of Heveydd, and
they sought to give me to a husband against my will. But no husband
would I have, and that because of my love for thee; neither will I yet
have one, unless thou reject me; and hither have I come to hear thy
answer." "By Heaven," said Pwyll, "behold this is my answer. If I
might choose among all the ladies and damsels in the world, thee would
I choose." "Verily," said she, "if thou art thus minded, make a pledge
to meet me ere I am given to another." "The sooner I may do so, the
more pleasing will it be to me," said Pwyll; "and wheresoever thou
wilt, there will I meet with thee." "I will that thou meet me this day
twelvemonth at the palace of Heveydd." "Gladly," said he, "will I keep
this tryst." So they parted, and he went back to his hosts, and to
them of his household. And whatsoever questions they asked him
respecting the damsel, he always turned the discourse upon other
matters.
And when a year from that time was gone, he caused a hundred knights
to equip themselves, and to go with him to the palace of Heveydd.
And he came to the palace, and there was great joy concerning him,
with much concourse of people, and great rejoicing, and vast
preparations for his coming. And the whole court was placed under
his orders.
And the hall was garnished, and they went to meat, and thus did they
sit: Heveydd was on one side of Pwyll, and Rhiannon on the other;
and all the rest according to their rank. And they ate and feasted,
and talked one with another. And at the beginning of the carousal
after the meat, there entered a tall, auburn-haired youth, of royal
bearing, clothed in a garment of satin. And when he came into the
hall, he saluted Pwyll and his companions. "The greeting of Heaven
be unto thee," said Pwyll; "come thou and sit down." "Nay," said he,
"a suitor am I, and I will do my errand." "Do so, willingly," said
Pwyll. "Lord," said he, "my errand is unto thee, and it is to crave
a boon of thee that I come." "What boon soever thou mayest ask of
me, so far as I am able, thou shalt have." "Ah!" said Rhiannon,
"wherefore didst thou give that answer?" "Has he not given it before
the presence of these nobles?" asked the youth. "My soul," said Pwyll,
"what is the boon thou askest?" "The lady whom best I love is to be
thy bride this night; I come to ask her of thee, with the feast and
the banquet that are in this place." And Pwyll was silent, because
of the promise which he had given. "Be silent as long as thou wilt,"
said Rhiannon, "never did man make worse use of his wits than thou
hast done." "Lady," said he, "I knew not who he was." "Behold, this is
the man to whom they would have given me against my will," said she;
"and he is Gawl, the son of Clud, a man of great power and wealth, and
because of the word thou hast spoken, bestow me upon him, lest shame
befall thee." "Lady," said he, "I understand not thy answer; never can
I do as thou sayest." "Bestow me upon him," said she, "and I will
cause that I shall never be his." "By what means will that be?"
asked Pwyll. Then she told him the thought that was in her mind. And
they talked long together. Then Gawl said, "Lord, it is meet that I
have an answer to my request." "As much of that thou hast asked as
it is in my power to give, thou shalt have," replied Pwyll. "My soul,"
said Rhiannon unto Gawl, "as for the feast and the banquet that are
here, I have bestowed them upon the men of Dyved, and the household
and the warriors that are with us. These can I not suffer to be
given to any. In a year from to-night, a banquet shall be prepared for
thee in this palace, that I may become thy bride."
So Gawl went forth to his possessions, and Pwyll went also back to
Dyved. And they both spent that year until it was the time for the
feast at the palace of Heveydd. Then Gawl, the son of Clud, set out to
the feast that was prepared for him; and he came to the palace, and
was received there with rejoicing. Pwyll, also, the chief of Dyved,
came to the orchard with a hundred knights, as Rhiannon had
commanded him. And Pwyll was clad in coarse and ragged garments, and
wore large, clumsy old shoes upon his feet. And when he knew that
the carousal after the meat had begun, he went toward the hall; and
when he came into the hall he saluted Gawl, the son of Clud, and his
company, both men and women. "Heaven prosper thee," said Gawl, "and
friendly greeting be unto thee!" "Lord," said he, "may Heaven reward
thee! I have an errand unto thee." "Welcome be thine errand, and if
thou ask of me that which is right, thou shalt have it gladly." "It is
fitting," answered he; "I crave but from want, and the boon I ask is
to have this small bag that thou seest filled with meat." "A request
within reason is this," said he, "and gladly shalt thou have it. Bring
him food." A great number of attendants arose and began to fill the
bag; but for all they put into it, it was no fuller than at first. "My
soul," said Gawl, "will thy bag ever be full?" "It will not, I declare
to Heaven," said he, "for all that may be put into it, unless one
possessed of lands, and domains, and treasure, shall arise and tread
down with both his feet the food that is within the bag, and shall
say, 'Enough has been put therein.'" Then said Rhiannon unto Gawl, the
son of Clud, "Rise up quickly." "I will willingly arise," said he.
So he rose up, and put his two feet into the bag. And Pwyll turned
up the sides of the bag, so that Gawl was over his head in it. And
he shut it up quickly, and slipped a knot upon the thongs, and blew
his horn. And thereupon, behold, his knights came down upon the
palace. And they seized all the host that had come with Gawl, and cast
them into his own prison. And Pwyll threw off his rags, and his old
shoes, and his tattered array. And as they came in every one of
Pwyll's knights struck a blow upon the bag, and asked, "What is here?"
"A badger," said they. And in this manner they played, each of them
striking the bag, either with his foot or with a staff. And thus
played they with the bag. And then was the game of Badger in the Bag
first played.
"Lord," said the man in the bag, "if thou wouldst but hear me, I
merit not to be slain in a bag." Said Heveydd, "Lord, he speaks truth;
it were fitting that thou listen to him, for he deserves not this."
"Verily," said Pwyll, "I will do thy counsel concerning him." "Behold,
this is my counsel then," said Rhiannon. "Thou art now in a position
in which it behooves thee to satisfy suitors and minstrels. Let him
give unto them in thy stead, and take a pledge from him that he will
never seek to revenge that which has been done to him. And this will
be punishment enough." "I will do this gladly," said the man in the
bag. "And gladly will I accept it," said Pwyll, since it is the
counsel of Heveydd and Rhiannon. Seek thyself sureties." "We will be
for him," said Heveydd, "until his men be free to answer for him." And
upon this he was let out of the bag, and his liegemen were
liberated. "Verily, lord," said Gawl, "I am greatly hurt, and I have
many bruises. With thy leave I will go forth. I will leave nobles in
my stead to answer for me in all that thou shalt require."
"Willingly," said Pwyll, "mayest thou do thus." So Gawl went to his
own possessions.
And the hall was set in order for Pwyll and the men of his host, and
for them also of the palace, and they went to the tables and sat down.
And as they had sat at that time twelve-month, so sat they that night.
And they ate and feasted, and spent the night in mirth and
tranquillity. And the time came that they should sleep, and Pwyll
and Rhiannon went to their chamber.
And next morning at break of day, "My lord," said Rhiannon, "arise
and begin to give thy gifts unto the minstrels. Refuse no one to-day
that may claim thy bounty." "Thus shall it be gladly," said Pwyll,
"both to-day and every day while the feast shall last." So Pwyll
arose, and he caused silence to be proclaimed, and desired all the
suitors and minstrels to show and to point out what gifts they
desired. And this being done, the feast went on, and he denied no
one while it lasted. And when the feast was ended, Pwyll said unto
Heveydd, "My lord, with thy permission, I will set out for Dyved
to-morrow." "Certainly," said Heveydd; "may Heaven prosper thee! Fix
also a time when Rhiannon shall follow thee." "By Heaven," said Pwyll,
"we will go hence together." "Willest thou this, lord?" said
Heveydd. "Yes, lord," answered Pwyll.
And the next day they set forward towards Dyved, and journeyed to
the palace of Narberth, where a feast was made ready for them. And
there came to them great numbers of the chief men and the, most
noble ladies of the land, and of these there were none to whom
Rhiannon did not give some rich gift, either a bracelet, or a ring, or
a precious stone. And they ruled the land prosperously that year and
the next.

Thomas Bulfinch