From a verse original of September 1985; the first prose redaction dates from around 1989. This is the second redaction, of circa 1992. The original is anonymous, but the prose redactions bear the name of the author.
Listen, good people, I implore,
I promise that you won`t be bored;
I`ll tell a tale of King Arthur
And how he met the auditors.
King Arthur, the good king of the Britons, the mirror of kingship and prowess, held a great plenary court at Carlisle one Pentecost. All his vassals, kings and princes, were summoned to attend, with their wives and families, and their knights; wandering knights came with their companions and their lady-loves from the farthest isles, from Scandinavia, Germania and Gaul. The halls, courtyards, corridors and gardens of Arthur`s palace at Carlisle were thronged with handsome warriors and beautiful women, fresh-faced squires and bonny maids. The vaulted ceilings rang with their laughter, the cobbled courtyards resounded to the sound of impromptu combats. Men recited tales of their adventures, in love and war, and women urged them to still greater deeds in the future.
On a balcony overlooking the gardens, in the warm morning sunshine, King Arthur was seated in a folding chair, surrounded by his family and comrades, talking of this and that. On his right hand stood his queen, Guinevere, a woman of more beauty than sense, and her ladies; on his left, his nephew Lord Gawain, his general, Gawain`s cousin and best friend Lord Ywain, and Bedwyr, the butler, whose task it was to bear Arthur`s cup on state occasions. The only chief officer of the court absent was Lord Kay, the seneschal, who was overseeing the preparation of dinner.
Just as Arthur began, for the fourth time that week, a particularly ancient joke, the door on to the balcony swung open and Kay appeared. He struck an imposing figure. Tall, slim and handsome, with striking red hair and fair skin, the sight of him alone sufficed to break many a noble lady`s heart; but his barbed tongue kept them at bay. He was magnificently dressed; his tunic was of silk, his belt embroidered with buckle of gold, and he wore a fine hat on his head, and carried his rod of office in his hand; but he wore no cloak, because he was on duty. He greeted the king.
`My lord,` he declared, `your dinner is served.`
`Kay,` Arthur said, `how many times must I tell you, that I never eat on a great feast day, such as today, until I have heard news of some adventure?`
`But, my lord,` Kay protested, `everything is ready.`
`Well, it will just have to wait,` Arthur told him. `Until the adventure comes.`
`Very well, my lord,` Kay replied, in martyred tones, `I`ll go and fetch you an adventure,` and he departed, swinging his rod of office.
`I`ve told him so many times,` Arthur said to his companions,`and he never remembers. How many years has it been?`
`Ten, Uncle,` Gawain said.
`Ten years, and he never remembers. It`s not as if it was a particularly difficult request -`
Kay put his head around the door. `Your adventure is here, my lord,` he reported.
`What is it? Bring it up!`
`You`ll have to come down to it, I`m afraid, my lord,` Kay said, grinning broadly. `You`re not going to like this, my lord!`
Arthur appeared anxious. `Why? What`s wrong?`
`You know you were saying at Easter that you don`t know why we bother sending a statement of accounts to the pope every year, because no one ever comes to check them and the pope never taxes us? Well, that`s all changed now. The pope has made peace with his enemies, and he`s sent us some auditors to check our accounts.`
The rest of the group stared in bewilderment.
`Auditors, my lord. There`s a girl and two men, an old `un and a lad. And a big black box with `forty five` written on the side.`
`You`d better come down and see, my lord,` Kay told him.
`I certainly will come. I`m coming down right away. Auditors, indeed! I never heard of such a thing. How dare the pope question our accounts?`
Kay and Gawain exchanged glances. Gawain coughed. But Arthur leapt to his feet, pushed Kay aside and rushed off in the direction of the hall, crying, `It`s ridiculous. I`ll soon send these auditors packing.`
The queen shook her head. `I thought he wanted an adventure? I shall never understand Arthur.` She turned to her nephew. `Give me your hand, darling. We`ll go and calm him down before he frightens someone. Follow us, everybody. Now, darling,` this in her nephew`s ear, `while he`s not about, when is Lancelot due back?`
`After dinner, Auntie,` Gawain informed her.
`He`s always late. So inconsiderate. Spoils the fun for everyone...`
They arrived in the hall to find two men, one reverend of appearance with grey hair and a beard, and the other young and cleanshaven. There was also a young woman, tall, slim and immaculately groomed. Both men wore pinstripe tunics. The young woman was dressed in the latest Roman fashions for young businesswomen. All three had leather cases; the elderly man and the woman`s were new, but the young man`s was old and sewn up with coloured string. Next to them sat a large black metal box, with `forty five` on the side in white figures. Arthur was already there, raging.
`Who sent you here to poke and pry?`
`The pope in Rome,` they all replied.
`The lord pope,` the elderly gentleman explained, `wishes to know the exact income of the kingdoms of Christendom, so that he may request gifts from Christian monarchs for the support of the papal see, in proportion to their actual wealth.`
`I sent him accounts in Easter. As I always do. Full and detailed.`
`Yes, sir, yes. But the papal bull Rationes Societatum of the year of Our Lord 481 demands that such accounts should be audited on a regular basis. Until the present year, various obstacles have prevented our lord the pope from arranging an audit; but now that those obstacles have been overcome, he proposes that such an audit should take place every year.`
`And who pays for this?`
`You do, sir. But don`t worry; it`s deducted from any gift which the pope later requests from you.`
Arthur was silent, dumbfounded.
`Supposing,` he said at last, `I sent you away?`
`Oh, that would be in breech of Rationes Societatum, sir, and you`d be excommunicated on the spot.`
Arthur looked helplessly at Gawain, who, still leading the queen, had come up to stand beside him.
`Have you ever heard of this bull?` he hissed.
`Yes, Uncle,` Gawain replied. `But -`
His uncle cut him short. `Then you`d better deal with these damned auditors. The rest of us will have dinner. It`s well past the time. Kay! Where`s our dinner? Why can`t you ever have it ready on time? It`s not much to ask.`
Kay pursed his lips and hurried off to call the servants to blow the horns to announce the meal. Arthur took his queen`s hand and began to lead her up the hall, towards the high table. `Where`s Lancelot? Isn`t he back yet?`
`He`s due back after dinner, darling,` Guinevere informed him.
`He`s always late. So inconsiderate. Spoils the fun for everyone.`
The rest of the group followed Arthur, except for Ywain, who remained standing with Gawain, and the auditors. Gawain cleared his throat.
`Welcome, good people,` he said, with a pleasant smile. The two younger auditors relaxed visibly. `Tell me, have you eaten?`
`We had a pub meal before coming on here,` the elderly auditor replied. `A vegetarian affair, at that place on the edge of the forest; the Hermitage.`
`Good, good.` Gawain wiped his brow. The young woman was very attractive. `Now, good people, pray excuse us, but we have not had the auditors here before, and we don`t know your requirements. Tell me, what do you need for your work? A room? Books, ink, parchment?`
`A room, sir, which we can lock up and where we can work without being disturbed,` the elderly auditor said.
`I think we can manage that. If you would be so good to follow me; hey, you two lads! Carry that box for the young lady.`
They proceeded out of the hall, up a flight of spiral stairs, along a corridor and into a small room. The auditors sniffed as they entered. There was a slight but strange smell.
`We had a wounded knight in here last week,` Gawain explained. `Usual case; he had a lance in him and only one knight could get it out; Lancelot pulled it out and went off to avenge him. We`re expecting him back after dinner.` He turned to the servants with the box: `put that in the corner, over there, please, lads.` Turning back to the auditors: `Now, is there anything else?`
The eldest auditor looked at his companions and said: `Well, I think Mark here can start with Bank and Cash; so we`ll have the cash book, please.`
`The cash book?`
`The cash book.`
Gawain and Ywain exchanged baffled looks. The eldest auditor sighed.
`The cash book,` he said. `You know, with money paid out and money paid in?`
`Ah, yes,` Gawain said, light dawning. `Kay keeps all that in his office. He has a pile of scraps of parchment -`
`I see,` said the eldest auditor. He drew out a diary from his pocket, opened it, and wrote: `Control weakness. No cashbook.` Then he looked at the young lady, and said, `You can start with stock, Sarah. Now, sir, where do you keep your stock records?`
The auditor looked at Gawain severely. `Sir,` he said, ` - I`m afraid I don`t know your name - `
`Gawain,` the other interposed. `And this is my cousin Ywain. And your name, sir?`
`I`m Walter, and I`m supervisor of this audit. This is Sarah, audit senior,` (Sarah smiled) and Mark, our assistant. (`Hi.`) Now, Mr Gawain, as I recall from the P.A.F., you are general of this realm and therefore in charge of all military stock, not to mention equine fixed assets. What records do you have?`
Gawain wiped his brow again. Sarah was very, very attractive. `Well,` he said, `when I want to know how many horses my uncle has, I go down to the stables and count them.`
`And what if some are missing?`
`I try to remember if anyone has borrowed any to take on a mission or some other expedition; or whether Uncle has given any away recently.`
`Does he give a lot away?`
`Yes. He`s a very generous man; an excellent king.`
`I see. So you have no control over equine fixed assets at all.`
`Make a note of that, Sarah,` the supervisor ordered, and Sarah promptly opened her case, produced a pad of parchment and pen, and began to make notes.
`What about stock?` the supervisor asked, in long-suffering tones.
`It`s kept in the armoury.`
`Do you keep records of issues and receipts?`
`There used to be records kept in King Uther`s time, but my uncle is so generous a king that he doesn`t worry about such things.`
`No stock control, Sarah,` the supervisor said, and Sarah scribbled madly. Gawain began to feel embarrassed.
`Do you have bin cards?`
`No,` Gawain admitted, shamefaced.
`How do you arrive at the figure for stock in the balance sheet? You`ve got a figure of - just a moment -` he rummaged in the pocket of his pinstriped tunic, produced a key, went to the box and, after a few seconds of struggling with the lock, opened it and drew out a pink wallet folder, from which he produced - to Gawain`s dismay - a copy of the accounts that Arthur had sent to Rome that Easter. `One hundred and ten thousand in the accounts. That`s on a turnover of - ` he flipped a page ` - five hundred thousand. I would say that was pretty material.`
`A significant figure. So, how do you arrive at that figure?`
`The figure for stock! One hundred and ten thousand.`
`That isn`t all my stock,` Gawain said, desperately. `If you look in the notes to the accounts, you`ll see that most of it is food and wine, clothes and fabrics, which my uncle gives out to guests and his knights. That`s Kay`s department.`
`All right. Note 9. Ah, stock. Military stock: fifty thousand. Well, Mr Gawain?`
`I counted it,` Gawain said. `Ywain and Gareth helped.`
`That`s true, we did,` Ywain assured him.
`Do you still have your stockcounting records?`
`What? Oh - yes, yes, we do. They`re in Kay`s office.`
`Good! Now we`re getting somewhere. Now, then, tell me, Mr Gawain: how did you value this stock?`
Gawain smiled. He had prided himself on this bit. `I kept the purchase receipts for the year and worked out the price on a basis of first-in, first-out.`
Sarah looked up in surprise. Gawain caught her eye and smiled at her. She looked away, quickly.
`Excellent!` the supervisor declared.
`Isn`t that a bit clever for a general?` Mark asked, sneeringly.
`I was at school in Rome, you know,` Gawain informed him. Sarah looked up in surprise again and looked down at once as Gawain caught her eye.
`We`ll want to see your calculations, and the purchase receipts,` the supervisor said.
`They`re in Kay`s office,` Gawain replied.
`I see! Well, tell me, Mr Gawain, where is Kay`s office?`
`It`s just down the corridor,` Gawain said, `but it`s locked at the moment; he`s at dinner.`
As Gawain departed to seek out the key, casting loving glances at Sarah, who stonily ignored him, Walter sat down at the only table in the room and began to look through the Permanent Audit File.
`Have you seen the P.A.F. for this job, Mark?` he asked his assistant.
`No,` Mark answered. `I`ve not had the time; I`ve only just got back from a course.`
`Well, I think you`d be as well to do so,` Walter said. `It will give you a better idea of how things work round here.` He handed Mark the file. Mark sat down on the floor to read it; Walter had the only chair and Sarah was already seated on the box. `It`s a very disorganized outfit, about what you`d expect for such a provincial kingdom. No internal control at all, as you`ll gather. They only have two departments, `military` and `household`. `Military` is run by Mr Gawain - `
`The `good-looking one,` it says here,` Mark commented, looking at the `internal organization` chart on the P.A.F.
`That`s about it. Sarah, you`d better watch him, while you`re doing stock.`
`Thanks,` Sarah muttered.
` - And `household` is run by Mr Kay. From what I`m told, they would be pretty efficient if it wasn`t for the king, who interferes with everything. You heard what Mr Gawain said.`
`Yeah,` Mark said. `Who drew up this chart?`
`We sent someone over at Christmas to do a preliminary review. He spoke to a Miss Lora. The king was too busy to see him.`
`So how come they didn`t know we were coming?`
`They never know we`re coming,` Sarah retorted, in mutinous tones.
The two men ignored her. Mark took his diary out of his case, and opened it. `What`s the level of materiality on this audit?` he asked.
`It`s in the audit memorandum.`
`Where it should be, lad!`
`It`s on the current audit file,` Sarah said, getting up, removing the file from the box and handing it to him.
`Thanks. Right, O.K. Fifty thousand! That`s high, isn`t it? Who wrote this audit memorandum?`
`I did,` Sarah told him.
`How did you reach that figure?`
`Same way as I usually do. It`s turnover divided by the number of days on the audit.`
`You what?` Mark exploded. `That`s ridiculous! Everyone knows that it`s turnover divided by the number of days left on the audit.`
500,000 over nine days left equals 55,555.
Sarah burst into the audit room, threw her pad on the desk and sat down on the box.
`Anything wrong?` Mark enquired. He was sitting at the desk ticking Kay`s cash dockets.
`It`s those bloody pages! They keep nicking my biros, and now they`ve taken my pocket abacus! How can I check the stock valuations without it?`
The door opened and Ywain walked in, all smiles. `Everything all right?` he enquired.
`Mr Ywain,` Sarah said in martyred tones, `I implore, beg, beseech you and anything else you like, please strangle the little wretch who`s stolen my pocket abacus and get it back for me. I can`t check stock without it.`
`Oh, dear,` Ywain said. `Are the pages annoying you?`
`Yes! They keep nicking my things. First my biros and now my abacus.`
`Oh, dear,` Ywain said again. `I`m afraid you`ve made quite a hit with them, my dear. They don`t see fashionable young ladies from Rome very often, and they want keepsakes.`
`Keepsakes? I`ll give them keepsakes! Just get my things back for me - and don`t call me `dear`!`
Ywain retreated, hurriedly. `That wiped the smile off his face,` Sarah remarked.
`Oh, he`s harmless,` Mark said.`It`s that Kay guy that worries me. I`m sure he`s crooked, but his records are so damn awful I can`t prove it. He hardly writes anything down. I don`t see how he can draw up any accounts out of the records he keeps.`
`He probably makes them up out of his head,` Sarah said.
`Don`t! This job could go on forever.`
The door opened again and the room filled with young pages. Each one held a biro in his hand. The leader held out his hand to Sarah. He was holding her pocket abacus.
`Thank you,` Sarah said, and took it from him.
`Is it worth a kiss, love?` he said.
`Is is worth a kiss?`
`If you don`t get out of here this minute I`ll tan your hide for you, that`s what it`s worth. And the rest of you. Give me those.` She began to snatch her biros from the admiring pages. `Now, get out of here. I don`t want to see you anywhere near me again.`
They ran. Ywain, who had come in behind them, lingered.
`Everything all right?` he asked again.
`Yes, thank you,` Sarah answered, tartly. `But if you see Mr Gawain, could you tell him I want to ask him something about the stock?`
Ywain brightened. `Of course,` he said, `I`ll fetch him at once,` and he hurried away.
Gawain appeared so quickly that he must have been waiting outside. `You wanted to see me, Miss Sarah?` he asked, hopefully.
`Yes, I`ve got a question to ask you about these crossbows you bought in December.` She rose to her feet. `If you`ll just come down to Kay`s office, I`ll show you.`
Mark watched them go. `Poor beggar,` he muttered. It was Gawain he meant.
Down in Kay`s office, Sarah flipped through the purchase receipts, while Gawain looked on longingly. `It`s here somewhere,` she was saying. Gawain took the plunge.
`Miss Sarah,` he said, `do you have a boyfriend?`
`A boyfriend?` She was hardly listening. `No.`
`You surprise me,` he continued. `Such an attractive young lady.`
She uttered an exclamation. `Here it is! Now, tell me, why is the price six solidi here and four solidi on the stock lists?` She shoved the receipt and the stock list under Gawain`s nose, jabbing at the offensive point. `Here.`
Gawain momentarily considered grabbing her and kissing her, remembered his courtesy, swallowed his passion and looked. `Oh,` he said, his mind still in a whirl, `that must be a mistake.`
`So the price should be six solidi?`
`If that`s so, that makes a difference of - ` she flicked her abacus. `Ten thousand.`
`Is that material?` Gawain asked, anxiously.
`No. But it could be at the end of the day.` She picked up her pad again. `That`s all for now, thank you.`
Gawain summoned his courage again. `Miss Sarah - `
But she had gone.
500,000 over eight days equals 62,500.
The auditors were on the prowl. Mark was checking some of Kay`s entries for expenditure during the year.
`Girflet, what was this four pence for?`
`What four pence? Oh - er - that was for oats for my horse.`
`Have you any written evidence of that? A receipt?`
`Galeschins, what`s this `three solidi for a patch?``
`A patch? When?`
`Last September? Let`s have a look. Oh - er - that was for a patch in my cloak. In fact I`ll prove it - look, that one.`
`Thanks.` Mark produced his red biro, and put a red tick on Galeschin`s cloak.
`Here! What`s that for?` he demanded.
`We have to tick everything when we`ve tested it,` Mark answered, walking off to accost Dodinial.
`Dodinial, what`s this "one solidus for Dodinial`s harp?"`
`That was for restringing my harp,` Dodinial informed him. `And if you dare put a red tick on my harp, I`ll maim you.`
`Maiming auditors,` Mark replied, `renders the perpetrator liable to instant excommunication, according to clause 20, subsection 3, of the bull Rationes Societatum.`
`You what?` Dodinial said.
Back at the audit room, Gawain was making a second attempt on Sarah.
`Mark asked me to ask you about this,` she said, holding one of Kay`s receipts under his nose.
`Miss Sarah,` he said, `you are the most beautiful woman that - `
`One hundred marks to the poor, by Lord Gawain,` Sarah read aloud. `Did you have the king`s permission for this?`
`I have ever seen,` he ended, lamely.
`Excuse me, I wasn`t - I mean,` he wiped his brow. `No.`
`No, he doesn`t give permission for my gifts in alms. I have blanket authorization to give as and when I deem fit.`
`And as much as you deem fit.`
`That`s a control weakness,` she said, and wrote it down on her pad. `Well, thank you, Mr Gawain.`
`Miss Sarah,` he said, despairingly, `listen to me for a moment! You`re beautiful - `
But she had gone.
500,000 over seven days equals 71,429.
`I`m not doing stock any longer. I`m not going near that Mr Gawain again. He keeps trying to seduce me.`
`It warns about that on the P.A.F.,` Mark said. `I`ll find it for you.`
`What have you left to do on stock?` Walter asked.
`A few points. This is my working paper.`
Walter looked at it. `So he does keep some records of stock issues? Memos written on beer mats, eh? This won`t take long to do. I`ll polish it off for you before coffee. Mark, you can go to see the king about fixed assets.` He strode out of the room.
`Yeah, O.K.,` Mark said, jumping into Walter`s chair. He turned to Sarah. `I`ve found that bit on the P.A.F. It says: `Miss Lora warns that, due to the amorous nature of the chief officers of the kingdom, women should not be sent on this audit.`
Sarah sat down on the box. `Now you tell me,` she said.
Walter marched briskly about the palace, asking questions and ticking. He eventually hunted down the man who could help him with his last outstanding query on stock.
`Lancelot! What were these one hundred lances issued to you on 28 September last year?`
Lancelot, who had been standing dreamily looking out of the window, jumped and put his hand to his sword. Walter repeated his question. `Why did you need a hundred lances?` he asked.
`For the tournament,` Lancelot said, after a moment`s pause for thought.
`All of them?`
`Yes. I broke them all, smashed them in the tournament.`
Walter scratched the side of his nose. `I`m not very happy about this, Mr Lancelot, I must say.`
Lancelot put his hand to his sword again. `Are you doubting my prowess, mate?` he asked, threateningly.
`No, no,` Walter replied soothingly. `But I`d be happier if you could show me some paperwork to support your story.`
Meanwhile, Mark had found his way to King Arthur, who readily agreed to help him out with his queries.
`What do you want to know, young man?` he asked.
`Well, sir, what I really need to know,` Mark began, `is what fixed assets you`ve bought this year.`
`Yes, you know; assets which are - well, kind of fixed. Like that big table - you know, the round one - `
The king nodded, dumbly.
`When did you buy that? Was the expenditure authorized in writing? Could I see that?`
`I - er - no, I mean - ` The king turned to Bedwyr, who was standing on his left. `Fetch me Gawain,` he said, `or Kay - someone who can deal with these people...`
500,000 over six equals 83,333.
`We can`t stand it any longer.`
`It`s ridiculous. These auditors are off their heads.`
`They put red ticks on everything. Look at my shirt!`
`They want everything in writing.`
`They ask us about things which happening months ago, and expect us to remember.`
`They keep asking the same questions, over and over.`
`All right, lads, all right,` the king cried over the protesting voices of his knights. `Let`s send for these auditors and get them to explain themselves. Gawain - bring them down, will you?`
As Gawain returned with the auditors, a great shout went up, jeers and whistles.
`Chuck `em out!`
`Send `em home!`
`Ywain, where`s your lion? He`ll chase them back to Rome.`
`My lion,` Ywain retorted, `is a courteous beast, and would never mistreat strangers. Have you all forgotten your honour? How dare you speak such words to a lady?`
The king put the problem to Walter. `We want to know the purpose of all your tiresome questions; all this asking for things in writing.`
`We must have written evidence, sir,` Walter informed him, `in order to validate your accounts. You must have such records, in order to have drawn up the accounts you sent to Rome.`
`Kay knows about that,` Arthur said. `Kay? Where are your records?`
`Ah, well,` Kay said, and coughed. `Well, my lord, it`s like this; Gawain and I - Gawain will explain.`
`We know the year-end balance sheet, Uncle,` Gawain said, `we calculate the figures on the day, counting stock and cash and totalling up what we owe; as for the expenditure during the year, we estimate it.`
`You estimate it?` Walter exclaimed.
`Yes. To be quite honest, you can`t check our accounts; because Kay and I made them up.`
`Made them up?` Walter sounded as if he were about to explode. Sarah burst into tears. Gawain promptly put an arm around her shoulder and comforted her.
`The pope,` Walter began, speaking very slowly and between his teeth, `will have a word to say about this. Excommunications all round; hellfire and burnings...`
Arthur looked alarmed. Kay laughed. `Honestly, my lord,` he said, `you needn`t get so upset. The accounts are near enough correct. We made them up very carefully. We brought in inflation and the falling international value of the solidus, and took account of the rise in consumption of lances since Lancelot came to court...`
`We simply can`t prove them in writing,` Gawain added. `But why do you need writing? Is the word of a king not good enough for you?`
`The word of a king?` Walter said, musingly. `Better than nothing.`
`How about,` Gawain said, `if we wrote down the king`s word? Would that not be good enough?`
`It might,` Walter said. `Sarah? You`ve just qualified - what`s the position on representations by officers of the realm? Sarah? Sarah, put that young man down and answer my question.`
Sarah forcibly disentangled herself from Gawain and wiped her eyes. `We would have to issue a `subject to` audit report,` she said.
`Then that`s fine!` Arthur declared, before Walter could object. `Kay, get a letter drawn up, declaring to the pope that the accounts are accurate, and saying that I and you and Gawain say so, and then we`ll all seal it, and the auditors can leave us!`
A few months later, a parchment arrived at the court in Carlisle, by special carrier. Kay brought it to the king, who called all his knights around him to listen while Bishop Baldwin read it aloud:
Relatio auditorum Regi Arthuri et Equitibus Mensae Rotundae.
Audivimus rationes in paginis I ad XI ex Regulis Audiendi Probatis.
Similiter atque multa regna similis amplitudinis formaeque, formula imperii huius regni pendet ex praefectis regni. In casu tamen quo non inveniemus libram confirmationem ut tabulae rationum completae sint, recepimus affirmationes praefectum omnes negotia regni in tabulae cerni.
His conditionibus pertinentibus, in Opinio Nostra, hae rationes praebent conspectum verum aequumque status quo regni ad Pasque A.D. 536 et lucri et fontis adjunctionisque pecuniarum in annum finitum illo tempore.
V & L
When the bishop had finished, there was a short silence. The king cleared his throat.
`Gawain,` he said, `you were at school in Rome: translate that for us, please.`
`Uncle,` Gawain replied, `they say that your accounts are fine, according to what you`ve told them. You won`t be excommunicated. And, what is more, I now know why their box had `forty five` written on the side. It`s the initial letters of the name of their firm: V.L.`
Then there was great merriment, and the king ordered the audit report to be framed and hung in his hall, above the round table, alongside the various trophies brought back by his knights from lands afar. `For,` he said, `it is another token of the prowess of my knights; that they were able to rid me of the auditors!`