“Yes, I know that too. It belongs to one Peter Sanghurst, of whom no man speaks aught but evil.”
CHAPTER V. THE KING AND THE PRINCE.
King Edward’s assembly of knights that met at his first Round Table was as typical a gathering as could well have been found of that age of warlike chivalry. The King’s idea was likewise typical of the age he lived in. He had begun to see something of that decline of chivalry which was the natural outcome of a real advance in general civilization, and of increasing law and order, however slow its progress might be. Greatly deploring any decay in a system so much beloved and cherished by knights and warriors, and not seeing that its light might merely be paling in the rise of something more truly bright and beneficent, the King resolved to do everything in his power to give an impetus to all chivalrous undertakings by assembling together his knights after the fashion of the great King Arthur, and with them to take counsel how the ways and usages of chivalry might best be preserved, the old spirit kept alive, and the interests of piety and religion (with which it should ever be blended) be truly considered.
How far this festival succeeded in its object can scarcely be told now. The days of chivalry (in the old acceptation of the term) were drawing to a close, and an attempt to galvanize into life a decaying institution is seldom attended with any but very moderate success. From the fact that we hear so little of the King’s Round Table, and from the few times it ever met, one is led to conclude that the results were small and disappointing. But the brilliance of the first assembly cannot be doubted; and for the twins of Gascony it was a wonderful day, and marked an epoch in their lives; for on that occasion they saw for the first time the mighty King, whose name had been familiar to them from childhood, and had actual speech with the Prince of Wales, that hero of so many battlefields, known to history as the Black Prince.
So great was the crowd of esquires who waited upon the knights sitting around the huge Round Table, that the Gascon brothers only struggled for a few minutes into the gay assemblage to look at what was going on there. The table was itself a curiosity — a huge ring round which, in beautifully carved seats, the knights sat, each seat fitting into the next, with an arm to divide them, the backs forming a complete circle round the table. The King’s seat was adorned with a richer carving, and had a higher back, than the others, but that was its only distinction. Within the circle of the table were pages flitting about, attending on the guests; and the esquires who thronged the corridors or supplemented the attentions of the pages were considerably more numerous than the occasion required, so that these were to be seen gathering in groups here and there about the building in the vicinity of the feast, discussing the proceedings or talking of public or private matters.