THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 29: THE SMALLPOX HUT
"Give yourself no trouble about me; I don't care anything for the
Church's curse. Let me help you."
"Now all good spirits--if there be any such--bless thee for that
word. Would God I had a sup of water!--but hold, hold, forget
I said it, and fly; for there is that here that even he that
feareth not the Church must fear: this disease whereof we die.
Leave us, thou brave, good stranger, and take with thee such
whole and sincere blessing as them that be accursed can give."
But before this I had picked up a wooden bowl and was rushing
past the king on my way to the brook. It was ten yards away.
When I got back and entered, the king was within, and was opening
the shutter that closed the window-hole, to let in air and light.
The place was full of a foul stench. I put the bowl to the woman's
lips, and as she gripped it with her eager talons the shutter came
open and a strong light flooded her face. Smallpox!
I sprang to the king, and said in his ear:
"Out of the door on the instant, sire! the woman is dying of that
disease that wasted the skirts of Camelot two years ago."
He did not budge.
"Of a truth I shall remain--and likewise help."
I whispered again:
"King, it must not be. You must go."
"Ye mean well, and ye speak not unwisely. But it were shame that
a king should know fear, and shame that belted knight should
withhold his hand where be such as need succor. Peace, I will
not go. It is you who must go. The Church's ban is not upon me,
but it forbiddeth you to be here, and she will deal with you with
a heavy hand an word come to her of your trespass."