Fifty First Dragon

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  • Topic: Dragon, Dragon 32/64, Word
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  • Published : January 22, 2013
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The Fifty-First Dragon|
By Heywood Broun|
  |

        | Heywood Broun, who has risen rapidly through the ranks of newspaper honor from sporting reporter and war correspondent to one of the most highly regarded dramatic and literary critics in the country, is another of these Harvard men, but, as far as this book is concerned, the last of them. Broun graduated from Harvard in 1910; was several years on the New York Tribune, and is now on the World.| |   There is no more substantially gifted newspaper man in his field; his beautifully spontaneous humor and drollery are counterbalanced by a fine imaginative sensitiveness and a remarkable power in the fable or allegorical essay, such as the one here reprinted. His book, Seeing Things at Night, is only the first-fruit of truly splendid possibilities. If I may be allowed to prophesy, thus hazarding all, I will say that Heywood Broun is likely, in the next ten or fifteen years, to do as fine work, both imaginative and critical, as any living American of his era.|

OF all the pupils at the knight school Gawaine le Cœur-Hardy was among the least promising. He was tall and sturdy, but his instructors soon discovered that he lacked spirit. He would hide in the woods when the jousting class was called, although his companions and members of the faculty sought to appeal to his better nature by shouting to him to come out and break his neck like a man. Even when they told him that the lances were padded, the horses no more than ponies and the field unusually soft for late autumn, Gawaine refused to grow enthusiastic. The Headmaster and the Assistant Professor of Pleasaunce were discussing the case one spring afternoon and the Assistant Professor could see no remedy but expulsion.| |   “No,” said the Headmaster, as he looked out at the purple hills which ringed the school, “I think I’ll train him to slay dragons.”| |   “He might be killed,” objected the Assistant Professor.| |   “So he might,” replied the Headmaster brightly, but he added, more soberly, “we must consider the greater good. We are responsible for the formation of this lad’s character.”| |   “Are the dragons particularly bad this year?” interrupted the Assistant Professor. This was characteristic. He always seemed restive when the head of the school began to talk ethics and the ideals of the institution.| |   “I’ve never known them worse,” replied the Headmaster. “Up in the hills to the south last week they killed a number of peasants, two cows and a prize pig. And if this dry spell holds there’s no telling when they may start a forest fire simply by breathing around indiscriminately.”| |   “Would any refund on the tuition fee be necessary in case of an accident to young Cœur Hardy?”| |   “No,” the principal answered, judicially, “that’s all covered in the contract. But as a matter of fact he won’t be killed. Before I send him up in the hills I’m going to give him a magic word.”| |   “That’s a good idea,” said the Professor. “Sometimes they work wonders.”| |   From that day on Gawaine specialized in dragons. His course included both theory and practice. In the morning there were long lectures on the history, anatomy, manners and customs of dragons. Gawaine did not distinguish himself in these studies. He had a marvelously versatile gift for forgetting things. In the afternoon he showed to better advantage, for then he would go down to the South Meadow and practise with a battle-ax. In this exercise he was truly impressive, for he had enormous strength as well as speed and grace. He even developed a deceptive display of ferocity. Old alumni say that it was a thrilling sight to see Gawaine charging across the field toward the dummy paper dragon which had been set up for his practice. As he ran he would brandish his ax and shout “A murrain on thee!” or some other vivid bit of campus slang. It never took him more than one stroke to behead the dummy dragon.| |   Gradually his task...
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