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17. SIR AGRAVAINE: A TALE OF KING ARTHUR'S ROUND TABLE
Some time ago, when spending a delightful week-end at the ancestral castle of my dear old friend, the Duke of Weatherstonhope (pronounced Wop), I came across an old black-letter MS. It is on this that the story which follows is based.
I have found it necessary to touch the thing up a little here and there, for writers in those days were weak in construction. Their idea of telling a story was to take a long breath and start droning away without any stops or dialogue till the thing was over.
I have also condensed the title. In the original it ran, '"How it came about that ye good Knight Sir Agravaine ye Dolorous of ye Table Round did fare forth to succour a damsel in distress and after divers journeyings and perils by flood and by field did win her for his bride and right happily did they twain live ever afterwards," by Ambrose ye monk.'
It was a pretty snappy title for those days, but we have such a high standard in titles nowadays that I have felt compelled to omit a few yards of it.
We may now proceed to the story.
* * * * *
The great tournament was in full swing. All through the afternoon boiler-plated knights on mettlesome chargers had hurled themselves on each other's spears, to the vast contentment of all. Bright eyes shone; handkerchiefs fluttered; musical voices urged chosen champions to knock the cover off their brawny adversaries. The cheap seats had long since become hoarse with emotion. All round the arena rose the cries of itinerant merchants: 'Iced malvoisie,' 'Score-cards; ye cannot tell the jousters without a score-card.' All was revelry and excitement.
A hush fell on the throng. From either end of the arena a mounted knight in armour had entered.
The herald raised his hand.
'Ladeez'n gemmen! Battling Galahad and Agravaine the Dolorous. Galahad on my right, Agravaine on my left. Squires out of the ring. Time!'
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