THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 24: A RIVAL MAGICIAN
My influence in the Valley of Holiness was something prodigious
now. It seemed worth while to try to turn it to some valuable
account. The thought came to me the next morning, and was suggested
by my seeing one of my knights who was in the soap line come
riding in. According to history, the monks of this place two
centuries before had been worldly minded enough to want to wash.
It might be that there was a leaven of this unrighteousness still
remaining. So I sounded a Brother:
"Wouldn't you like a bath?"
He shuddered at the thought--the thought of the peril of it to
the well--but he said with feeling:
"One needs not to ask that of a poor body who has not known that
blessed refreshment sith that he was a boy. Would God I might
wash me! but it may not be, fair sir, tempt me not; it is forbidden."
And then he sighed in such a sorrowful way that I was resolved
he should have at least one layer of his real estate removed,
if it sized up my whole influence and bankrupted the pile. So I
went to the abbot and asked for a permit for this Brother. He
blenched at the idea--I don't mean that you could see him blench,
for of course you couldn't see it without you scraped him, and
I didn't care enough about it to scrape him, but I knew the blench
was there, just the same, and within a book-cover's thickness of
the surface, too--blenched, and trembled. He said:
"Ah, son, ask aught else thou wilt, and it is thine, and freely
granted out of a grateful heart--but this, oh, this! Would you
drive away the blessed water again?"
"No, Father, I will not drive it away. I have mysterious knowledge
which teaches me that there was an error that other time when
it was thought the institution of the bath banished the fountain."
A large interest began to show up in the old man's face. "My
knowledge informs me that the bath was innocent of that misfortune,
which was caused by quite another sort of sin."