THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 5: AN INSPIRATION
"Now do but hear thyself! Escape? Why, man, the corridors are
in guard and keep of men-at-arms."
"No doubt, no doubt. But how many, Clarence? Not many, I hope?"
"Full a score. One may not hope to escape." After a pause--
hesitatingly: "and there be other reasons--and weightier."
"Other ones? What are they?"
"Well, they say--oh, but I daren't, indeed daren't!"
"Why, poor lad, what is the matter? Why do you blench? Why do
you tremble so?"
"Oh, in sooth, there is need! I do want to tell you, but--"
"Come, come, be brave, be a man--speak out, there's a good lad!"
He hesitated, pulled one way by desire, the other way by fear;
then he stole to the door and peeped out, listening; and finally
crept close to me and put his mouth to my ear and told me his
fearful news in a whisper, and with all the cowering apprehension
of one who was venturing upon awful ground and speaking of things
whose very mention might be freighted with death.
"Merlin, in his malice, has woven a spell about this dungeon, and
there bides not the man in these kingdoms that would be desperate
enough to essay to cross its lines with you! Now God pity me,
I have told it! Ah, be kind to me, be merciful to a poor boy who
means thee well; for an thou betray me I am lost!"
I laughed the only really refreshing laugh I had had for some time;
"Merlin has wrought a spell! Merlin, forsooth! That cheap old
humbug, that maundering old ass? Bosh, pure bosh, the silliest bosh
in the world! Why, it does seem to me that of all the childish,
idiotic, chuckle-headed, chicken-livered superstitions that ev--
oh, damn Merlin!"