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CHAPTER XX A Historical Fact
 Amongst the weary hounds refreshed with fury and triumph, Orion stepped with his whip and drove them away from the monstrous1 dead body, and sent the lash2 quivering round in a wide circle, while in his other hand he took his sword and cut off the unicorn3's head. He also took the skin of the long white neck and brought it away dangling4 empty from the head. All the while the hounds bayed and made eager rushes one by one at that magical carcase whenever one saw a chance of eluding5 the whip; so that it was long before Orion got his trophy6, for he had to work as hard with his whip as with his sword. But at last he had it slung7 by a leather thong8 over his shoulders, the great horn pointing upwards9 past the right side of his head, and the smeared10 skin hanging down along his back. And while he arranged it thus he allowed his hounds to worry the body again and taste that wonderful blood. Then he called to them and blew a note on his horn and turned slowly home towards Erl, and they all followed behind him. And the two foxes stole up to taste the curious blood, for they had sat and waited for this.  
While the unicorn was climbing his last hill Orion felt such fatigue11 that he could have gone little further, but now that the heavy head hung from his shoulders all his fatigue was gone and he trod with a lightness such as he had in the mornings, for it was his first unicorn. And his hounds seemed refreshed as though the blood they had lapped had some strange power in it, and they came home riotously12, gambolling13 and rushing ahead as when newly loosed from their kennels14.
Thus Orion came home over the downs in the night, till he saw the valley before him full of the smoke of Erl, where one late light was burning in a window of one of his towers. And, coming down the slopes by familiar ways, he brought his hounds to their kennels; and just before dawn had touched the heights of the downs he blew his horn before his postern door. And the aged15 guardian16 of the door when he opened it to Orion saw the great horn of the unicorn bobbing over his head.
This was the horn that was sent in later years as a gift from the Pope to King Francis. Benvenuto Cellini tells of it in his memoirs17. He tells how Pope Clement18 sent for him and a certain Tobbia, and ordered them to make designs for the setting of a unicorn's horn, the finest ever seen. Judge then of Orion's delight when the horn of the first unicorn he ever took was such as to be esteemed19 generations later the finest ever seen, and in no less a city than Rome, with all her opportunities to acquire and compare such things. For a number of these curious horns must have been available for the Pope to have selected for the gift the finest ever seen; but in the simpler days of my story the rarity of the horn was so great that unicorns20 were still considered fabulous21. The year of the gift to King Francis would be about 1530, the horn being mounted in gold; and the contract went to Tobbia and not to Benvenuto Cellini. I mention the date because there are those who care little for a tale if it be not here and there supported by history, and who even in history care more for fact than philosophy. If any such reader have followed the fortunes of Orion so far he will be hungry by now for a date or a historical fact. As for the date, I give him 1530. While for the historical fact I select that generous gift recorded by Benvenuto Cellini, because it may well be that just where he came to unicorns such a reader may have felt furthest away from history and have felt loneliest just at this point for want of historical things. How the unicorn's horn found its way from the Castle of Erl, and in what hands it wandered, and how it came at last to the City of Rome, would of course make another book.
But all that I need say now about that horn is that Orion took the whole head to Threl, who took off the skin and washed it and boiled the skull22 for hours, and replaced the skin and stuffed the neck with straw; and Orion set it in the midmost place among all the heads that hung in the high hall. And the rumour23 went all through Erl, as swift as unicorns gallop24, telling of this fine horn that Orion had won. So that the parliament of Erl met again in the forge of Narl. They sat at the table there debating the rumour; and others besides Threl had seen the head. And at first, for the sake of old divisions, some held to their opinion that there had been no unicorn. They drank Narl's goodly mead25 and argued against the monster. But after a while, whether Threl's argument convinced them, or whether as is more likely, they yielded from generosity<............
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