THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 3: KNIGHTS OF THE TABLE ROUND
Mainly the Round Table talk was monologues--narrative accounts
of the adventures in which these prisoners were captured and their
friends and backers killed and stripped of their steeds and armor.
As a general thing--as far as I could make out--these murderous
adventures were not forays undertaken to avenge injuries, nor to
settle old disputes or sudden fallings out; no, as a rule they were
simply duels between strangers--duels between people who had never
even been introduced to each other, and between whom existed no
cause of offense whatever. Many a time I had seen a couple of boys,
strangers, meet by chance, and say simultaneously, "I can lick you,"
and go at it on the spot; but I had always imagined until now that
that sort of thing belonged to children only, and was a sign and
mark of childhood; but here were these big boobies sticking to it
and taking pride in it clear up into full age and beyond. Yet there
was something very engaging about these great simple-hearted
creatures, something attractive and lovable. There did not seem
to be brains enough in the entire nursery, so to speak, to bait
a fish-hook with; but you didn't seem to mind that, after a little,
because you soon saw that brains were not needed in a society
like that, and indeed would have marred it, hindered it, spoiled
its symmetry--perhaps rendered its existence impossible.
There was a fine manliness observable in almost every face; and
in some a certain loftiness and sweetness that rebuked your
belittling criticisms and stilled them. A most noble benignity
and purity reposed in the countenance of him they called Sir Galahad,
and likewise in the king's also; and there was majesty and greatness
in the giant frame and high bearing of Sir Launcelot of the Lake.
There was presently an incident which centered the general interest
upon this Sir Launcelot. At a sign from a sort of master of
ceremonies, six or eight of the prisoners rose and came forward
in a body and knelt on the floor and lifted up their hands toward
the ladies' gallery and begged the grace of a word with the queen.
The most conspicuously situated lady in that massed flower-bed
of feminine show and finery inclined her head by way of assent,
and then the spokesman of the prisoners delivered himself and his
fellows into her hands for free pardon, ransom, captivity, or death,
as she in her good pleasure might elect; and this, as he said, he
was doing by command of Sir Kay the Seneschal, whose prisoners
they were, he having vanquished them by his single might and
prowess in sturdy conflict in the field.