15 December 2013

The death of the hound, from The Sword in the Stone

from The Sword in the Stone

by T. H. White

In a small bushment the grimly boar stood at bay. . . . Beaumont, with his back broken, writhed at his feet. He paid no further attention to the living hound, for it could do him no harm. He was black, flaming and bloody.

"So-ho," said the huntsman softly.

He advanced upon the murderer with his spear held out in front of him, and the hounds, encouraged by their master, stepped forward with him pace by pace.

The scene changed as suddenly as a house of cards falling down. The boar was not at bay any more, but charging Master Twyti. As it charged the alaunts closed in, seizing it fiercely by shoulder or throat or leg, so that what surged down on the huntsman was not one boar but a bundle of animals. He dared not use his spear for fear of hurting the dogs. The bundle rolled forward remorselessly, as if the hounds did not impede it at all. Twyti began to reverse his spear, to keep the charge off with its butt end, but even as he reversed it the tussle was upon him. He sprang back, tripped over a root, and the battle closed on top. The Wart pranced round the edge, waving his own spear in an agony, but there was nowhere where he dared to thrust it in. Robin dropped his spear, drew his falchion in the same movement, stepped into the huddle of snarls, and calmly picked an alaunt up by the leg. The dog did not let go, but there was space where its body had been. Into this space the falchion went slowly, once, twice, thrice. The whole superstructure stumbled, recovered itself, stumbled again, and sank down ponderously on its left side. The hunt was over.

Master William Twyti drew one leg slowly from under the boar, stood up, took hold of his knee with his right hand, moved it inquiringly in various directions, nodded to himself and stretched his back straight. Then he picked up his spear without saying anything and limped over towards Beaumont. He knelt down beside him and took his head on his lap. He stroked Beaumont's head and said, "Hark to Beaumont. Softly Beaumont, mon amy. Oyez à Beaumont the valiant. Swef, le douce Beaumont. Swef, swef." Beaumont licked his hand but could not wag his tail. The huntsman nodded to Robin who was standing behind, and held the hound’s eyes with his own. He said, "Good dog, Beaumont the valiant, sleep now old friend Beaumont, good old dog." Then Robin’s falchion let Beaumont out of this world, to run free with Orion and to roll among the stars.

The Wart did not like to watch Master Twyti for a moment or two. The strange little leathery man stood up without saying anything and whipped the hounds off the corpse of the boar as he was accustomed to do. He put his horn to his lips and blew the four long notes of the mort without a quaver. But he was blowing the notes for something else, and he startled the Wart because he seemed to be crying.

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