A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
The Holy Fountain
The pilgrims were human beings. Otherwise they would have acted differently. They had
come a long and difficult journey, and now when the journey was nearly finished, and
they learned that the main thing they had come for had ceased to exist, they didn't do as
horses or cats or angle-worms would probably have done--turn back and get at something
profitable--no, anxious as they had before been to see the miraculous fountain, they were
as much as forty times as anxious now to see the place where it had used to be. There is
no accounting for human beings.
We made good time; and a couple of hours before sunset we stood upon the high confines
of the Valley of Holiness, and our eyes swept it from end to end and noted its features.
That is, its large features. These were the three masses of buildings. They were distant
and isolated temporalities shrunken to toy constructions in the lonely waste of what
seemed a desert--and was. Such a scene is always mournful, it is so impressively still, and
looks so steeped in death. But there was a sound here which interrupted the stillness only
to add to its mournfulness; this was the faint far sound of tolling bells which floated
fitfully to us on the passing breeze, and so faintly, so softly, that we hardly knew whether
we heard it with our ears or with our spirits.
We reached the monastery before dark, and there the males were given lodging, but the
women were sent over to the nunnery. The bells were close at hand now, and their
solemn booming smote upon the ear like a message of doom. A superstitious despair
possessed the heart of every monk and published itself in his ghastly face. Everywhere,
these black-robed, soft-sandaled, tallow-visaged specters appeared, flitted about and
disappeared, noiseless as the creatures of a troubled dream, and as uncanny.
The old abbot's joy to see me was pathetic. Even to tears; but he did the shedding himself.
"Delay not, son, but get to thy saving work. An we bring not the water back again, and
soon, we are ruined, and the good work of two hundred years must end. And see thou do
it with enchantments that be holy, for the Church will not endure that work in her cause
be done by devil's magic."
"When I work, Father, be sure there will be no devil's work connected with it. I shall use
no arts that come of the devil, and no elements not created by the hand of God. But is
Merlin working strictly on pious lines?"
"Ah, he said he would, my son, he said he would, and took oath to make his promise
"Well, in that case, let him proceed."
"But surely you will not sit idle by, but help?"