Accordingly we found some thrown by there; and as we looked up and down, we chanced to light on what some people will hardly thank us for having discovered; and thereby hangs a tale.
Of the dumb Knight-hawks of the Ringing Island.
These words were scarce out of his mouth when some five-and-twenty or thirty birds flew towards us; they were of a hue and feather like which we had not seen anything in the whole island. Their plumes were as changeable as the skin of the chameleon, and the flower of tripolion, or teucrion. They had all under the left wing a mark like two diameters dividing a circle into equal parts, or, if you had rather have it so, like a perpendicular line falling on a right line. The marks which each of them bore were much of the same shape, but of different colours; for some were white, others green, some red, others purple, and some blue. Who are those? asked Panurge; and how do you call them? They are mongrels, quoth Aedituus.
We call them knight-hawks, and they have a great number of rich commanderies (fat livings) in your world. Good your worship, said I, make them give us a song, an’t please you, that we may know how they sing. They scorn your words, cried Aedituus; they are none of your singing-birds; but, to make amends, they feed as much as the best two of them all. Pray where are their hens? where are their females? said I. They have none, answered Aedituus. How comes it to pass then, asked Panurge, that they are thus bescabbed, bescurfed, all embroidered o’er the phiz with carbuncles, pushes, and pock-royals, some of which undermine the handles of their faces? This same fashionable and illustrious disease, quoth Aedituus, is common among that kind of birds, because they are pretty apt to be tossed on the salt deep.
He then acquainted us with the occasion of their coming. This next to us, said he, looks so wistfully upon you to see whether he may not find among your company a stately gaudy kind of huge dreadful birds of prey, which yet are so untoward that they ne’er could be brought to the lure nor to perch on the glove. They tell us that there are such in your world, and that some of them have goodly garters below the knee with an inscription about them which condemns him (qui mal y pense) who shall think ill of it to be berayed and conskited. Others are said to wear the devil in a string before their paunches; and others a ram’s skin. All that’s true enough, good Master Aedituus, quoth Panurge; but we have not the honour to be acquainted with their knightships.
Come on, cried Aedituus in a merry mood, we have had chat enough o’ conscience! let’s e’en go drink. And eat, quoth Panurge. Eat, replied Aedituus, and drink bravely, old boy; twist like plough-jobbers and swill like tinkers. Pull away and save tide, for nothing is so dear and precious as time; therefore we will be sure to put it to a good use.