THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 38: SIR LAUNCELOT AND KNIGHTS TO THE RESCUE
I got no further. They drowned me out with joyous derision. But
presently there was silence; for the sheriffs of London, in their
official robes, with their subordinates, began to make a stir which
indicated that business was about to begin. In the hush which
followed, our crime was recited, the death warrant read, then
everybody uncovered while a priest uttered a prayer.
Then a slave was blindfolded; the hangman unslung his rope. There
lay the smooth road below us, we upon one side of it, the banked
multitude wailing its other side--a good clear road, and kept free
by the police--how good it would be to see my five hundred horsemen
come tearing down it! But no, it was out of the possibilities.
I followed its receding thread out into the distance--not a horseman
on it, or sign of one.
There was a jerk, and the slave hung dangling; dangling and hideously
squirming, for his limbs were not tied.
A second rope was unslung, in a moment another slave was dangling.
In a minute a third slave was struggling in the air. It was
dreadful. I turned away my head a moment, and when I turned back
I missed the king! They were blindfolding him! I was paralyzed;
I couldn't move, I was choking, my tongue was petrified. They
finished blindfolding him, they led him under the rope. I couldn't
shake off that clinging impotence. But when I saw them put the
noose around his neck, then everything let go in me and I made
a spring to the rescue--and as I made it I shot one more glance
abroad--by George! here they came, a-tilting!--five hundred mailed
and belted knights on bicycles!
The grandest sight that ever was seen. Lord, how the plumes
streamed, how the sun flamed and flashed from the endless procession
of webby wheels!
I waved my right arm as Launcelot swept in--he recognized my rag--
I tore away noose and bandage, and shouted:
"On your knees, every rascal of you, and salute the king! Who
fails shall sup in hell to-night!"