Story for the Day: Reading Damson's Distress -- Part 3
Damson turned to see whether anyone else were within hearing. He could not believe what he being imparted and could not help but feel that the king was telling him in such a turnabout style as to either gain his approval for the scheme without directly asking for it or to have him disapprove it for the sake of having him out of the way. He was the guard who sat at the king’s door every evening, and if there were to be some misconduct on his wedding night, he might be trying to frightening him into leaving his post. Leave his post, however, and shirk his duties, Damson certainly would not.He would defend the kingdom, if not defend the crown, and now that he was in the secret of the king’s plan to murder his bride and blame her death on Balletrim,he must act to preserve Marridon’s peace and save its future mistress. “I must arrest you, Sire,” said he taking out his sword. “If you had only told me that you were planning on warring with Balletrim, I could overlook the declaration as something to be overturned in the Chambers, but killing her ladyship and blaming her death on Balletrim merely for the sake of conflict, I cannot abide.”
“I have not told you anything,” the king scoffed. “You descried it, I suppose, by some other means, though I have little idea how, as the scheme is only a scheme of this morning, but now you have discovered my plan and I cannot allow you to tell others. I must punish you, though I like you so well, but you have forced my hand.”
“Forced your hand, Sire?” Damson shouted. “You relayed the whole of the scheme to me here this very moment.”
“That is rather impossible, Damson,” said the king, with a complacent snurl. “I have not told you anything this moment because I have not said anything at all. You were the one talking a moment ago.”
Damson made an exasperated huff. “I meant, Sire,” sibilating through his teeth, “that you divulged the whole of your plan to me since you came to me.”
“Have I? Well I don’t think I have. I cannot remember telling you anything at all. I only asked whether garotting or smothering should be the quietest and quickest methods of execution, and you have somehow discovered the rest of my plan. Well, I am very sorry, but I simply cannot have you around standing at my door or waving swords in my face.You absolutely must go.”
The king snapped his fingers and called to the guards on the opposing side of the arena. “Yes, hullo there, good sirs! I say, I am in need of your assistance. You see, Damson, good knight as he is, is trying to kill me and I need you to stop him.You see there? He has drawn his sword against me and means to hack me. Look! He is hacking me!” he cried, cowering under the knight’s lowered and immobile blade. “He is positively slashing me! Help! Help your Sovereign! Do something!”
The guards came, though they saw no reason to arrest Damson, and stood confusedly about, giving one another chary looks and shrugging.
“Yes, there, you see?” said the king, pointing to a splinter on his arm. “He has nicked me.Take him away.”
“Forgive me, Sire,” said one of the guards, “but I did not see My Lord Damson strike you.”
“How dare you call me a liar.”
The guard exchaged a look with Damson, who was just as vexed and bemused as the rest of the guards. “I have not said that you were a liar, Sire,” said the guard. “I only said that I did not see My Lord Damson—“
“Yes, yes, I know all that! And I am telling you he did strike me, just there, and he beat me and harangued me too.”
“Sire, I don’t think—“
“That is the very thing, sir guard. You don’t think. You don’t think that I was struck or beaten, and therefore, I say, if you do not arrest this man at once, I shall have you doubly arrested.”
The guard was wholly confounded. “But how can I be doubly arrested, Sire? I think once ought to be enough.”
“Oh, very well. You may only be arrested once.”
“Thank you, Sire.”
“Guards, Seize this guard and put him in the dungeon. And as for Damson, I think he has plotted against me. He has told me that he will murder Her Ladyship on our wedding night and blame the affair on Balletrim.”
“I have said no such thing,” Damson’s voice rumbled. “It is the king who plans to murder Her Ladyship and blame Balletrim.”
The king gasped. “There. Do you hear that? Treason as ever was talked. I think I shall have him banished.”
“Yes, and I think I shall have you taken to the cliff and drowned in the sea—Drowning!” the king cried, at once struck with a rapturous idea. “Of course! There is no blood in drowning, and it is very quiet and there need be no struggling—and if there should be, it will be all muffled by water. That is how I shall do it. I shall drown her, or I shall have someone else drown her. A drowning in a tumbler of water will do very well—or will wine suit the purpose better? Hmm, I do not know. Whom shall I ask as to whether water or wine be better for drowning? Damson is a clever fellow. I shall ask him—no, I’ve just banished him. I suppose I cannot ask him anything now. Perhaps I will ask Lord Barclay. He is a rather devious fellow and looks as though he has drowned a lady or two in his day. I shall ask him,” and off he went, in quest of anyone who would suffer his emblematic inquires without the guise of astuteness to hinder them.
The guard was taken to the dungeon and given bread and butter to eat until his stint in the bowels of the chambers be over, and Damson was dragged off to the cliffs, to be fustigated by sharp rocks or drowned by the strong currents of the eastern sea.
“Let me go, let me go!” Damson kicked and cried. “Cannot you see? His Majesty is planning to murder Her Ladyship. Did not you hear what he said?”
“We heard him, Sir.” said one of the guards. “We heard everything.”
“Then why do you detain me? Why do not you stop him?”
“Because he’s the king, Sir,” said the other guard, in rather a languid manner, “and if he wants to murder a lady, it is his right. He will be tried and dethroned and no one else will be harmed.”
“No one else? But Her Ladyship’s life is at stake! Do not you hear what I tell you? Her Ladyship!”
“If we accuse him of murder when he hasn't done it yet,” said the first guard, “how can we send him to trial? Now we know he’s planning it. We can wait till after he’s killed her and catch him in the act.”
Damson tried not to scream. “Listen to me. We have all heard the king say he is planning to murder Her Ladyship, did not we? Therefore, if we all come forward, the Adjudicator will try himfor attempted murder.”
The second guard was lost in confusion. “But what good what that do? He will only be tried for attempted murder. If we wait until he has done it, he will be tried for murder-murder, and then he will be imprisoned for life.”
“Yes, but Her Ladyship will be dead.”
“Small price to pay, My Lord, don’t you think? We ought to put a criminal away for life rather than a few years.”
Damson gave up the point, groaned in mental anguish, and tried to liberate himself. “Unhand me! The two of you are hardly fit to be in the Royal Guard.”
“Well, that isn't very nice,” said the first guard.
“No, it isn't very nice at all,” said the second. “We didn't any anything cruel to you.”
“You know that the king plans to murder Her Ladyship and you are willing to dispose of the only person who is willing to do something about it.”
“We are going to do something about it,” said the first guard.
“After the king murders her,” said the second.
“But he means to use her death to begin a war with Balletrim!” but this was lost under the rushing flow of the sea dashing against the rocks, and Damson, though he pushed against the weight of the guards, was flung over the cliff, his form careening down the vast rock face, the sheets of stone fleeting past him in a blur of motion, the sharp shoals below rising quickly, his body helpless in the weightlessness of the descent.