Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book IV Chapter XXII, Continued
So a day or two later we turn back to Sir Pellas. He’s been restless and sleepless for days, ever since Sir Gawaine and he swore solemn oaths together. Gawaine was supposed to come back and report to him about the success of Operation CONDOR, which is the codename that Gawaine came up with for his “tell Ettard Pellas is dead and then when she cries about how she shouldn’t have forsworn him reveal the truth” plan. CONDOR’s timetable had Gawaine back within 24 hours, and here it’s been a long weekend. Pellas is going nuts, imagining what might be happening, and, in utter defiance of all reason, what he’s imagining is going on between Gawaine and Ettard is exactly correct.
So he up and heads out to Ettard’s castle to look for them, and finds some tents out in the yard. One tent, all Ettard’s men. Second tent, all Ettard’s ladies-in-waiting. Third tent, jackpot. Ettard and Gawaine, lying together, “either clipping other in arms,” as Malory puts it. Pellas loses it, sobs, and goes running off into the woods.
But then, before he’s gone more than a half-mile or so, though, he changes his mind and he spins around and goes back to the tent, with the plan of Operation MURDER GAWAINE fomenting in his head.
But then, when he gets back to the tent, he considers just killing Gawaine in his sleep, and decides that it wouldn’t be the full knightly thing to do, kill a guy without waking him up and explaining in exacting detail why you’re killing him. So he leaves, again.
But then, he thinks better of it, and turns around and goes back to kill them after all.
But then, he remembers that he swore solemn oaths to Gawaine, and just because Gawaine broke his oaths doesn’t give Pellas leave to break his, and besides he doesn’t want to murder Ettard. So he pulls his sword out and sets it down, laid across the bed on top of Gawaine and Ettard, and then he goes away for realsies this time. He heads all the way back to his camp — did Malory not mention Pellas has a camp? He has a camp — and he tells his merry men (see note w/r/t camp) that he’s going to go lie down and not eat or drink until he dies, so, once he’s dead they can have all of his stuff except for his silver service platter with cover. Cut out his heart, put it on the platter, cover it, and deliver that to Lady Ettard, once Pellas is dead. Those are Pellas’s instructions.
Now, back at Ettard’s, man does Gawaine have some explaining to do. Ettard wakes up, she recognizes Pellas’s sword, and she immediately deduces that he isn’t dead and that Gawaine was in some kind of cahoots with Pellas, and that Gawaine just quit his quest and trysted with her as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
“You are just the worst knight!” she cries. I imagine she’s throwing things at the time. “You and Pellas cooked up this little scheme and then you double crossed him argh what kind of knight are you you give all knights a bad name! All ladies and damosels may beware by you and me!”
Gawaine is frantically pulling on his armor and grabbing his stuff. “You’re not going to tell Guenever about this, are you?”
She throws more crockery at him.
“Jeez! What is it with ladies! This strange adventure sucks! I quit!” Gawaine stomps off into the woods and just lays low in the Forest of Arroy for the rest of his strange adventure year. He’s a quitter.
Malory does not do a good job of putting Gawaine in a positive light.
I’m going to start writing some Arthurian fiction about all the people who have to bust their hump keeping the kingdom of Arthur running. Everyone who should be exercising supreme executive power is off having strange adventures or woefully inadequate or both. I know Pendragon handles most of the admistrative stuff during the winter phase, but I’m sure it’s kind of a “Yes, Minister” deal where Pellas says he’s going to starve himself and the bureaucrats all roll their eyes and sigh.