THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 11: THE YANKEE IN SEARCH OF ADVENTURES
There never was such a country for wandering liars; and they were
of both sexes. Hardly a month went by without one of these tramps
arriving; and generally loaded with a tale about some princess or
other wanting help to get her out of some far-away castle where
she was held in captivity by a lawless scoundrel, usually a giant.
Now you would think that the first thing the king would do after
listening to such a novelette from an entire stranger, would be
to ask for credentials--yes, and a pointer or two as to locality
of castle, best route to it, and so on. But nobody ever thought
of so simple and common-sense a thing at that. No, everybody
swallowed these people's lies whole, and never asked a question
of any sort or about anything. Well, one day when I was not
around, one of these people came along--it was a she one, this
time--and told a tale of the usual pattern. Her mistress was
a captive in a vast and gloomy castle, along with forty-four other
young and beautiful girls, pretty much all of them princesses;
they had been languishing in that cruel captivity for twenty-six
years; the masters of the castle were three stupendous brothers,
each with four arms and one eye--the eye in the center of the
forehead, and as big as a fruit. Sort of fruit not mentioned;
their usual slovenliness in statistics.
Would you believe it? The king and the whole Round Table were
in raptures over this preposterous opportunity for adventure.
Every knight of the Table jumped for the chance, and begged for it;
but to their vexation and chagrin the king conferred it upon me,
who had not asked for it at all.
By an effort, I contained my joy when Clarence brought me the news.
But he--he could not contain his. His mouth gushed delight and
gratitude in a steady discharge--delight in my good fortune,
gratitude to the king for this splendid mark of his favor for me.
He could keep neither his legs nor his body still, but pirouetted
about the place in an airy ecstasy of happiness.
On my side, I could have cursed the kindness that conferred upon
me this benefaction, but I kept my vexation under the surface
for policy's sake, and did what I could to let on to be glad.
Indeed, I said I was glad. And in a way it was true; I was as
glad as a person is when he is scalped.