THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 17: A ROYAL BANQUET
Suddenly, even while the priest was lifting his hands, and all
conscious heads were bowed in reverent expectation of the coming
blessing, there appeared under the arch of the far-off door at
the bottom of the hall an old and bent and white-haired lady,
leaning upon a crutch-stick; and she lifted the stick and pointed it
toward the queen and cried out:
"The wrath and curse of God fall upon you, woman without pity,
who have slain mine innocent grandchild and made desolate this
old heart that had nor chick, nor friend nor stay nor comfort in
all this world but him!"
Everybody crossed himself in a grisly fright, for a curse was an
awful thing to those people; but the queen rose up majestic, with
the death-light in her eye, and flung back this ruthless command:
"Lay hands on her! To the stake with her!"
The guards left their posts to obey. It was a shame; it was a
cruel thing to see. What could be done? Sandy gave me a look;
I knew she had another inspiration. I said:
"Do what you choose."
She was up and facing toward the queen in a moment. She indicated
me, and said:
"Madame, he saith this may not be. Recall the commandment, or he
will dissolve the castle and it shall vanish away like the instable
fabric of a dream!"
Confound it, what a crazy contract to pledge a person to! What if
But my consternation subsided there, and my panic passed off;
for the queen, all in a collapse, made no show of resistance but
gave a countermanding sign and sunk into her seat. When she reached
it she was sober. So were many of the others. The assemblage rose,
whiffed ceremony to the winds, and rushed for the door like a mob;
overturning chairs, smashing crockery, tugging, struggling,
shouldering, crowding--anything to get out before I should change
my mind and puff the castle into the measureless dim vacancies of
space. Well, well, well, they were a superstitious lot. It is
all a body can do to conceive of it.