Eustace de Calx regarded the horse with a wary eye. "Now, that is a gelding, correct? A well-trained gelding..."
The groom sighed. "Yes, Count. For the tenth time, it is precisely the horse you requested. A gelding, exquisitely trained, and of beautiful temper."
The old nobleman nodded fervently. "Good. Good." He turned to the groom. "You see, I have not ridden a horse for a very long time, and past experience has taught me that there is only one sort of male beast I want under me with a... working set of equipment, so to speak..."
The groom nodded. "So I understood, sir."
"Yes," said Eustace de Calx, making no move to go near the horse. "And to be honest with you, while travelling, I greatly prefer carriages." A fond smile came to the man's face. "Oh, the joys of carriages. The comfort, the ease, the endless... possibilities..."
The groom gave another nod. "Indeed, sir. I've... heard the stories."
"Ahh, yes, the stories," said Eustace. "The marvellous stories. A thousand, thousand marvellous tales of delight and debauchery that..."
"Sir, you will eventually have to get on the horse," stated the groom quietly.
"Give me time, young man, give me time!" stated Eustace. "My nerve must be built up, my courage exalted. This is not staring death in the face, after all. It is a horse. They're a thousand times more unpleasant. The damn things frequently conspire to make an ass of one." He sighed and shook his head. "Ahh, me. Such trouble. Such trouble."
"Perhaps sir should consider... not doing this on a horse?" suggested the groom.
"No, no, no!" snapped Eustace. "It must be a horse. I must meet young Prince Pellinore at the gates, on a horse."
"Why, sir?" asked the groom. "You clearly hate horses, and are, I will wager, an indifferent rider." Eustace de Calx raised an eyebrow. "Of horses," clarified the groom.
"Well put, young man." Eustace de Calx turned to regard the horse, with a combination of loathing and desire. "Because, when the histories are written, this is where I will appear. I, Eustace de Calx, Duke of Tranchera at the gates of Joyeuse, to offer it to the Prince, after liberating it from the wicked usurper. And damn, it, when that is written, I will make certain that I appear majestically on horseback." He glanced at the groom. "You know, perhaps if you would lift me onto..."
"I've heard the stories, sir," said the groom quietly.
"Ahh." Eustace looked the groom over and shook his head. "Pity."