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The Curious Tale of The Monk, the Knight and the Spanish Onion

An English knight was on his way to the Crusades. He had been riding all day and both he and his horse were extremely tired. As dusk fell he reached the village near the south coast of England where he intended to stay overnight before finding a ship to take him across the Channel to France. To his dismay, he found that the village inn was full and could not offer him a bed. The Landlord suggested that the knight should try the monastery which was a further five miles along the road. With a sigh the knight got back on his horse and continued on his weary way until he reached the monastery. He knocked on the door and after a few minutes a monk opened the small iron grill and asked who he was and what he wanted. “I’m a knight and I'm on my way to the Crusades,” said the knight. “The inn in the village is full and I need somewhere to sleep. I wonder if you could put me up?”

The monk thought for a moment. “Well,” he said, “I expect we could accommodate you as long as you don’t mind sharing a cell with Brother Ambrose.” The knight assured the monk that he was so tired that he could sleep anywhere. He was quite sure that having to share with Brother Ambrose would be no problem at all.

“Very well,” said the monk. He opened the big, heavy, monastery door. He called on one of his fellow monks to come and attend to the knight’s horse, invited the knight to come in and led him through a maze of corridors and cloisters until they reached a small door, where they stopped. “This is Brother Ambrose’s cell,” said the monk. He opened the door and stood aside to allow the knight to enter. The room was small and dark but in the gloom the knight could just make out that it contained two beds and a table and nothing else. He could also see that one of the beds was already occupied. The person in it appeared to be asleep and, as there was a monk's habit draped over the end of the bed, the knight deduced that this must be Brother Ambrose. The knight got ready for bed, trying to make as little noise as possible for fear of waking the sleeping monk. However, Brother Ambrose was not fully asleep. The sound of his cell door opening and someone entering the room had roused him from his slumber and he lay there partially awake with his eyes half open. He watched as the knight prepared for bed and as he watched he saw something quite extraordinary. Just before getting into bed the knight rummaged in his Standard Issue, English Knight’s Kit-bag and produced a large Spanish onion which he placed on the table. He reached for his sword, raised it above his head and brought the blade down on the onion, slicing it clean in two. He placed one half of the onion under one arm and the remaining half under his other arm, jumped into the empty bed and immediately fell asleep. Brother Ambrose was mightily puzzled by this behaviour and lay there for a long time in the darkness trying to think of an explanation for it. There was none that he could come up with and, as sleep overcame him once more, he resolved to ask the knight for an explanation in the morning.

Dawn came and a thin sliver of daylight reached out from the narrow slit window of Brother Ambrose’s cell. Brother Ambrose awoke, remembered the strange events of the night and turned his head towards the knight’s bed hoping to obtain from him some logical reason for his behaviour with the onion. The bed was empty! The knight was gone! Brother Ambrose jumped out of bed and went immediately to the window. He was just in time to see the knight galloping away over the horizon on his way to the Crusades."Bother!" said Brother Ambrose to himself. He was so upset at missing the knight’s departure that he had very nearly used a much stronger expletive. For a moment 'damn!' had even come into his mind but he had managed to exercise his monkly self-control just in time. “Ah well’, he thought, ‘I suppose I’ll never find out now,” and his thoughts soon turned to the coming day’s work on the monastery farm.

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