OF THE LORD RHYS

This mighty warlord had plundered his enemies and was returning home laden with immense quantities of booty. On the way a priest came running up complaining that the Welsh soldiers had taken twenty of his cows. Not wanting to despoil the church, the Lord Rhys said, “Take what you own and go in peace.” The priest searched through the herd and took the best twenty there. Lord Rhys saw what he was doing but, out of respect of the man’s office, said nothing. It was not long after that when a second priest came running, shouting that his twenty cows had been stolen also. The Lord Rhys allowed him to search for them and again this man took the best twenty that were there. At the end of the day a third priest appeared but this one said that he had lost two cows. When the lord allowed him to search, the priest came back shaking his head sadly. “They are not there.” he said. “Then why did you not forswear yourself and take the best that you could find?” “Sir, I am a priest, I will not lie.” Lord Rhys was so impressed that he gave him, not just replacements for the two he had lost, but a hundred of the best remaining, so that he should be rewarded for his honesty, not lose by it. As so often happens, the Lord Rhys’s realm was threatened by his mighty neighbour, England. A firm believer in the uses of intelligence in warfare, he sent spies to infiltrate the English army as it prepared to invade. From them he discovered that the king of England, although on campaign, lived a life of luxury with his own transportable bed and even the common soldiers expected to be provided with wine rather than beer. The Lord Rhys laughed. He himself and his men expected nothing better than water when at war. “From the beginning of time,” he said, “It has never been known that wine ever got the better of water.” He planned a long campaign, avoiding confrontations but always seeking every opportunity to harass his enemy. After a while the foreigners’ wine was exhausted and they went back home. Another time he was besieged in a castle when he heard that the English were about to lift the siege because they were short of provisions. He immediately sent out food from his own store because, he said, he wished his enemies to be overcome by his own strength and not by want of bread. It deferred his victory but increased the renown of it. He was known to be peaceable and mild to his neighbours but ruthless in attacking more distant people. In this he learnt lessons from the hawk that never attacks the birds near its nest but makes its prey of those that live far off.

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