THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 4: SIR DINADAN THE HUMORIST
Now Sir Kay arose and began to fire up on his history-mill with me
for fuel. It was time for me to feel serious, and I did. Sir Kay
told how he had encountered me in a far land of barbarians, who
all wore the same ridiculous garb that I did--a garb that was a work
of enchantment, and intended to make the wearer secure from hurt
by human hands. However he had nullified the force of the
enchantment by prayer, and had killed my thirteen knights in
a three hours' battle, and taken me prisoner, sparing my life
in order that so strange a curiosity as I was might be exhibited
to the wonder and admiration of the king and the court. He spoke
of me all the time, in the blandest way, as "this prodigious giant,"
and "this horrible sky-towering monster," and "this tusked and
taloned man-devouring ogre", and everybody took in all this bosh
in the naivest way, and never smiled or seemed to notice that
there was any discrepancy between these watered statistics and me.
He said that in trying to escape from him I sprang into the top of
a tree two hundred cubits high at a single bound, but he dislodged
me with a stone the size of a cow, which "all-to brast" the most
of my bones, and then swore me to appear at Arthur's court for
sentence. He ended by condemning me to die at noon on the 21st;
and was so little concerned about it that he stopped to yawn before
he named the date.
I was in a dismal state by this time; indeed, I was hardly enough
in my right mind to keep the run of a dispute that sprung up as
to how I had better be killed, the possibility of the killing being
doubted by some, because of the enchantment in my clothes. And yet
it was nothing but an ordinary suit of fifteen-dollar slop-shops.
Still, I was sane enough to notice this detail, to wit: many of
the terms used in the most matter-of-fact way by this great
assemblage of the first ladies and gentlemen in the land would
have made a Comanche blush. Indelicacy is too mild a term to convey
the idea. However, I had read "Tom Jones," and "Roderick Random,"
and other books of that kind, and knew that the highest and first
ladies and gentlemen in England had remained little or no cleaner
in their talk, and in the morals and conduct which such talk
implies, clear up to a hundred years ago; in fact clear into our
own nineteenth century--in which century, broadly speaking,
the earliest samples of the real lady and real gentleman discoverable
in English history--or in European history, for that matter--may be
said to have made their appearance. Suppose Sir Walter, instead
of putting the conversations into the mouths of his characters,
had allowed the characters to speak for themselves? We should
have had talk from Rebecca and Ivanhoe and the soft lady Rowena
which would embarrass a tramp in our day. However, to the
unconsciously indelicate all things are delicate. King Arthur's
people were not aware that they were indecent and I had presence
of mind enough not to mention it.