THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 22: THE HOLY FOUNTAIN
"No-no, Father, it skills not, as these people say. If he were
persuaded against his will, he would load that well with a malicious
enchantment which would balk me until I found out its secret.
It might take a month. I could set up a little enchantment of
mine which I call the telephone, and he could not find out its
secret in a hundred years. Yes, you perceive, he might block me
for a month. Would you like to risk a month in a dry time like this?"
"A month! The mere thought of it maketh me to shudder. Have it
thy way, my son. But my heart is heavy with this disappointment.
Leave me, and let me wear my spirit with weariness and waiting,
even as I have done these ten long days, counterfeiting thus
the thing that is called rest, the prone body making outward sign
of repose where inwardly is none."
Of course, it would have been best, all round, for Merlin to waive
etiquette and quit and call it half a day, since he would never be
able to start that water, for he was a true magician of the time;
which is to say, the big miracles, the ones that gave him his
reputation, always had the luck to be performed when nobody but
Merlin was present; he couldn't start this well with all this crowd
around to see; a crowd was as bad for a magician's miracle in
that day as it was for a spiritualist's miracle in mine; there was
sure to be some skeptic on hand to turn up the gas at the crucial
moment and spoil everything. But I did not want Merlin to retire
from the job until I was ready to take hold of it effectively
myself; and I could not do that until I got my things from Camelot,
and that would take two or three days.
My presence gave the monks hope, and cheered them up a good deal;
insomuch that they ate a square meal that night for the first time
in ten days. As soon as their stomachs had been properly reinforced
with food, their spirits began to rise fast; when the mead began to
go round they rose faster. By the time everybody was half-seas over,
the holy community was in good shape to make a night of it; so we
stayed by the board and put it through on that line. Matters got
to be very jolly. Good old questionable stories were told that made
the tears run down and cavernous mouths stand wide and the round
bellies shake with laughter; and questionable songs were bellowed out
in a mighty chorus that drowned the boom of the tolling bells.