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A WORD OF EXPLANATION
IT was in Warwick Castle that I came across the curious stranger whom I am going to talk about.
He attracted me by three things: his candid simplicity, his marvelous familiarity with ancient armor. and the restfulness of his company-for he did all the talking.
We fell together, as modest people will, in the tail of the herd that was being shown. through, and he at once began to say things which interested me.
As he talked along, softly, pleasantly, flowingly, he seemed to drift away imperceptibly out of this world and time, and into some remote car and old forgotten country:
and so he gradually wove such a spell about me that I seemed to move among the specters and shadows and dust and mold of gray antiquity. holding speech with a relic of it!
Exactly as I would speak of my nearest personal friends or enemies, or my most familiar neighbors, he spoke of Sir Bedivere.
Sir Bors de Ganis, Sir Launcelot of the Lake, Sir Galahad, and all the other great names of the Table Round-and how old, old.
unspeakably old and faded and dry and musty and ancient he came to look as he went on! Presently he turned to me and said, just as one might speak of the weather or any other common matter
“You know about transmigration of souls; do you know about transposition of epochs-and bodies ?”
I said I had not heard of it. He was so little interested-just as when people speak of the weather that he did not notice whether I made him any answer or not.
There was half a moment of silence.
immediately interrupted by the droning voice of the salaried cicerone: “Ancient hauberk, date of the sixth century,
time of King Arthur and the Round Table; said to have belonged to the knight Sir Sagra more le Desirous; observe the round hole through the chain-mail in the left breast can’t be accounted for;
supposed to have been done with a bullet since the invention of firearms- perhaps maliciously by Cromwell’s soldiers.”
My acquaintance smiled-not a modern smile, but one that must have gone out of general use many, many centuries ago-and muttered apparently to himself:
“Wit ye well, I saw it done.” Then, after a pause, added: it myself.”
“I did By the time I had recovered from the electric surprise of this remark, he was gone.
All that evening I sat by my fire at the Warwick Arms, steeped in a dream of the olden time, while the rain beat upon the windows and the wind roared about the caves and corners.
From time to time 1 dipped into old Sir Thomas Malory’s enchanting book, and fed at its rich feast of prodigies and adventures, breathed in the fragrance of its obsolete names, and dreamed again.
Midnight being come at length, I read another tale, for a night-cap-this which here follows. to-wit:
took Sir Kay’s armour and his shield and armed him, and so he went to the stable and took his horse, and took his leave of his host, and so he departed.
Then soon after arose Sir Kay and missed Sir Launcelot: and then he espied that he had his armour and his horse.
Now by my faith I know well that he will grieve some of the court of King Arthur: for on him knights will be bold, and deem that it is I, and that will beguile them; and because of his armour and shield I am sure I shall ride in peace.
And then soon after departed Sir Kay, and thanked his host.
As I laid the book down there was a knock at the door, and my stranger came in. I gave him a pipe and a chair, and made him welcome.
I also comforted him with a hot Scotch whiskey; gave him another one; then still another — hoping always for his story. After a fourth persuader, he drifted into it himself, in a quite simple and natural way:
THE stranger’s HISTORY
I am an American. I was born and reared in Hartford, in the State of Connecticut — anyway, just over the river, in the country.
So I am a Yankee of the Yankees — and practical; yes, and nearly barren of sentiment, I suppose — or poetry, in other words. My father was a blacksmith, my uncle was a horse doctor, and I was both, along at first.
Then I went over to the great arms factory and learned my real trade ; learned all there was to it; learned to make everything; guns, revolvers, cannon, boilers, engines, all sorts of labor-savin.
|No. of Pages||372|
|PDF Size||41.7 MB|
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