THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 5: AN INSPIRATION
But Clarence had slumped to his knees before I had half finished,
and he was like to go out of his mind with fright.
"Oh, beware! These are awful words! Any moment these walls
may crumble upon us if you say such things. Oh call them back
before it is too late!"
Now this strange exhibition gave me a good idea and set me to
thinking. If everybody about here was so honestly and sincerely
afraid of Merlin's pretended magic as Clarence was, certainly
a superior man like me ought to be shrewd enough to contrive
some way to take advantage of such a state of things. I went
on thinking, and worked out a plan. Then I said:
"Get up. Pull yourself together; look me in the eye. Do you
know why I laughed?"
"No--but for our blessed Lady's sake, do it no more."
"Well, I'll tell you why I laughed. Because I'm a magician myself."
"Thou!" The boy recoiled a step, and caught his breath, for
the thing hit him rather sudden; but the aspect which he took
on was very, very respectful. I took quick note of that; it
indicated that a humbug didn't need to have a reputation in this
asylum; people stood ready to take him at his word, without that.
"I've know Merlin seven hundred years, and he--"