THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 23: RESTORATION OF THE FOUNTAIN
Saturday noon I went to the well and looked on a while. Merlin
was still burning smoke-powders, and pawing the air, and muttering
gibberish as hard as ever, but looking pretty down-hearted, for
of course he had not started even a perspiration in that well yet.
Finally I said:
"How does the thing promise by this time, partner?"
"Behold, I am even now busied with trial of the powerfulest
enchantment known to the princes of the occult arts in the lands
of the East; an it fail me, naught can avail. Peace, until I finish."
He raised a smoke this time that darkened all the region, and must
have made matters uncomfortable for the hermits, for the wind
was their way, and it rolled down over their dens in a dense and
billowy fog. He poured out volumes of speech to match, and contorted
his body and sawed the air with his hands in a most extraordinary
way. At the end of twenty minutes he dropped down panting, and
about exhausted. Now arrived the abbot and several hundred monks
and nuns, and behind them a multitude of pilgrims and a couple of
acres of foundlings, all drawn by the prodigious smoke, and all
in a grand state of excitement. The abbot inquired anxiously for
results. Merlin said:
"If any labor of mortal might break the spell that binds these
waters, this which I have but just essayed had done it. It has
failed; whereby I do now know that that which I had feared is
a truth established; the sign of this failure is, that the most
potent spirit known to the magicians of the East, and whose name
none may utter and live, has laid his spell upon this well. The
mortal does not breathe, nor ever will, who can penetrate the secret
of that spell, and without that secret none can break it. The
water will flow no more forever, good Father. I have done what
man could. Suffer me to go."
Of course this threw the abbot into a good deal of a consternation.
He turned to me with the signs of it in his face, and said:
"Ye have heard him. Is it true?"