“If I were to be made a knight,” said the Wart*, staring dreamily into the fire, “I should insist on doing my vigil by myself, as Hob does with his hawks, and I should pray to God to let me encounter all the evil in the world in my own person, so that if I conquered there would be none left, and, if I were defeated, I would be the one to suffer for it.”
“That would be extremely presumptuous of you,” said Merlyn, “and you would be conquered, and you would suffer for it.”
“I shouldn’t mind.”
“Wouldn’t you? Wait till it happens and see.”
“Why do people not think, when they are grown up, as I do when I am young?”
“Oh dear,” said Merlyn**. “You are making me feel confused. Suppose you wait till you are grown up and know the reason?”
“I don’t think that is an answer at all,” replied the Wart, justly.
Merlyn wrung his hands.
“Well anyway,” he said, “suppose they did not let you stand against all the evil in the world?”
“I could ask,” said the Wart.
“You could ask,” repeated Merlyn.
He thrust the end of his beard into his mouth, stared tragically at the fire, and began to munch it fiercly.
From T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. One of my very favorites.
* Arthur, before pulling the sword from the stone and becoming King
** who ages backward through time, and is often confused about the sequence of events in others’ lives.