A puff of north-east wind shot over the hill, detached a late December leaf from the sycamore on its summit, and swooped like a wave upon the roofs and chimney-stacks below. It caught the smoke midway in the chimneys, drove it back with showers of soot and wood-ash, and set the townsmen sneezing who lingered by their hearths to read the morning newspaper. Its strength broken, it fell prone upon the main street, scattering its fine dust into fan-shaped figures, then died away in eddies towards the south. Among these eddies the sycamore leaf danced and twirled, now running along the ground upon its edge, now whisked up to the level of the first-storey windows. A nurse, holding up a three-year-old child behind the pane, pointed after the leaf–
“Look–there goes Sir Dinar!”
Sir Dinar was the youngest son and the comeliest of King Geraint, who had left Arthur’s Court for his own western castle of Dingerein in Roseland, where Portscatho now stands, and was buried, when his time came, over the Nare, in his golden boat with his silver oars beside him. To fill his siege at the Round Table he sent, in the lad’s sixteenth year, this Dinar, who in two years was made knight by King Arthur, and in the third was turned into an old man before he had achieved a single deed of note.
For on the fifth day after he was made knight, and upon the Feast of Pentecost, there began the great quest of the Sancgrael, which took Sir Lancelot from the Court, Sir Perceval, Sir Bors, Sir Gawaine, Sir Galahad, and all the flower of the famous brotherhood. And because, after their going, it was all sad cheer at Camelot, and heavy, empty days, Sir Dinar took two of his best friends aside, both young knights, Sir Galhaltin and Sir Ozanna le Coeur Hardi, and spoke to them of riding from the Court by stealth. “For,” he said, “we have many days before us, and no villainy upon our consciences, and besides are eager. Who knows, then, but we may achieve this adventure of the Sancgrael?” These listened and imparted it to another, Sir Sentrail: and the four rode forth secretly one morning before the dawn, and set their faces towards the north-east wind.
The day of their departure was that next after Christmas, the same being the Feast of Saint Stephen the Martyr. And as they rode through a thick wood, it came into Sir Dinar’s mind that upon this day it was right to kill any bird that flew, in remembrance that when Saint Stephen had all but escaped from the soldiers who guarded him, a small bird had sung in their ears and awakened them. By this, the sky was growing white with the morning, but nothing yet clear to the sight: and while they pressed forward under the naked boughs, their horses’ hoofs crackling the frosted undergrowth, Sir Dinar was aware of a bird’s wing ruffling ahead, and let fly a bolt without warning his companions; who had forgotten what morning it was, and drew rein for a moment. But pressing forward again, they came upon a gerfalcon lying, with long lunes tangled about his feet and through his breast the hole that Sir Dinar’s bolt had made. While they stooped over this bird the sun rose and shone between the tree-trunks, and lifting their heads they saw a green glade before them, and in the midst of the glade three pavilions set, each of red sendal, that shone in the morning. In the first pavilion slept seven knights, and in the second a score of damsels, but by the door of the third stood a lady, fair and tall, in a robe of samite, who, as they drew near to accost her, inquired of them–