The princess bride, p.27
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       The Princess Bride, p.27
 

           William Goldman

  "We'll all three be fighting," Inigo corrected. "And then once we've stormed the castle we have to stop the wedding, steal the Princess and make our escape, allowing space somewhere in there for me to duel Count Rugen."

  Visibly Valerie's energy drained. She sat wearily down. "Max," she said, tapping his shoulder. "No good."

  He looked up. "Huh?"

  "They need a fighting corpse."

  Max shut the hex book. "No good," he said.

  "But I bought a miracle," Inigo insisted. "I paid you sixty-five."

  "Look here--" Valerie thumped Westley's chest--"nothing. You ever hear anything so hollow? The man's life's been sucked away. It'll take months before there's strength again."

  "We haven't got months--it's after one now, and the wedding's at six tonight. What parts can we hope to have in working order in seventeen hours?"

  "Well," Max said, considering. "Certainly the tongue, absolutely the brain, and, with luck, maybe a little slow walk if you nudge him gently in the right direction."

  Inigo looked at Fezzik in despair.

  "What can I tell you?" Max said. "You needed a fantasmagoria."

  "And you never could have gotten one of those for sixty-five," Valerie added, consolingly.

  ***

  Little cut here, twenty pages maybe. What happens basically is an alternation of scenes--what's going on in the castle, then what's the situation with the miracle man, back and forth, and with every shift he gives the time, sort of 'there were now eleven hours until six o'clock,' that kind of thing. Morgenstern uses the device, mainly, because what he's really interested in, as always, is the satiric antiroyalty stuff and how stupid they were going through with all these old traditions, kissing the sacred ring of Great-grandfather So-and-So, etc.

  There is some action stuff which I cut, which I never did anywhere else, and here's my logic: Inigo and Fezzik have to go through a certain amount of derring-do in order to come up with the proper ingredients for the resurrection pill, stuff like Inigo finding some frog dust while Fezzik is off after holocaust mud, this latter, for example, requiring, first, Fezzik's acquiring a holocaust cloak so he doesn't burn to death gathering the mud, etc. Well, it's my conviction that this is the same kind of thing as the Wizard of Oz sending Dorothy's friends to the wicked witch's castle; it's got the same 'feel,' if you know what I mean, and I didn't want to risk, when the book's building to climax, the reader's saying, 'Oh, this is just like the Oz books.' Here's the kicker, though: Morgenstern's Florinese version came before Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, so in spite of the fact that he was the originator, he comes out just the other way around. It would be nice if somebody, maybe a Ph.D. candidate on the loose, did a little something for Morgenstern's reputation, because, believe me, if being ignored is suffering, the guy has suffered.

  The other reason I made the cut is this: you just know that the resurrection pill has got to work. You don't spend all this time with a nutty couple like Max and Valerie to have it fail. At least, a whiz like Morgenstern doesn't.

  One last thing: Hiram, my editor, felt the Miracle Max section was too Jewish in sound, too contemporary. I really let him have it on that one; it's a very sore point with me, because, just to take one example, there was a line in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where Butch said, I got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals,' and one of my genius producers said, 'That line's got to go; I don't put my name on this movie with that line in it,' and I said why and he said, 'They didn't talk like that then; it's anachronistic.' I remember explaining, 'Ben Franklin wore bifocals--Ty Cobb was batting champion of the American League when these guys were around--my mother was alive when these guys were alive and she wore bifocals.' We shook hands and ended enemies but the line stayed in the picture.

  And so here the point is, if Max and Valerie sound Jewish, why shouldn't they? You think a guy named Simon Morgenstern was Irish Catholic? Funny thing--Morgenstern's folks were named Max and Valerie and his father was a doctor. Life imitating art, art imitating life; I really get those two confused, sort of like I can never remember if claret is Bordeaux wine or Burgundy. They both taste good is the only thing that really matters, I guess, and so does Morgenstern, and we'll pick it up again later, thirteen hours later, to be precise, four in the afternoon, two hours before the wedding.

  ***

  "YOU MEAN, THAT'S it?" Inigo said, appalled.

  "That's it," Max nodded proudly. He had not been up this long a stretch since the old days, and he felt terrific.

  Valerie was so proud. "Beautiful," she said. She turned to Inigo then. "You sound so disappointed--what did you think a resurrection pill looked like?"

  "Not like a lump of clay the size of a golf ball," Inigo answered.

  ***

  (Me again, last time this chapter: no, that is not anachronistic either; there were golf balls in Scotland seven hundred years ago, and, not only that, remember Inigo had studied with MacPherson the Scot. As a matter of fact, everything Morgenstern wrote is historically accurate; read any decent book on Florinese history.)

  ***

  "I USUALLY GIVE them a coating of chocolate at the last minute; it makes them look a lot better," Valerie said.

  "It must be four o'clock," Max said then. "Better get the chocolate ready, so it'll have time to harden."

  Valerie took the lump with her and started down the ladder to the kitchen. "You never did a better job; smile."

  "It'll work without a hitch?" Inigo said.

  Max nodded very firmly. But he did not smile. There was something in the back of his mind bothering him; he never forgot things, not important things, and he didn't forget this either.

  He just didn't remember it in time....

  AT 4:45 PRINCE Humperdinck summoned Yellin to his chambers. Yellin came immediately, though he dreaded what was, he knew, about to happen. As a matter of fact, Yellin already had his resignation written and in an envelope in his pocket. "Your Highness," Yellin began.

  "Report," Prince Humperdinck said. He was dressed brilliantly in white, his wedding costume. He still looked like a mighty barrel, but brighter.

  "All of your wishes have been carried out, Highness. Personally I have attended to each detail." He was very tired, Yellin was, and his nerves long past frayed.

  "Specify," said the Prince. He was seventy-five minutes away from his first female murder, and he wondered if he could get his fingers to her throat before even the start of a scream. He had been practicing on giant sausages all the afternoon and had the movements down pretty pat, but then, giant sausages weren't necks and all the wishing in the world wouldn't make them so.

  "All passages to the castle itself have been resealed this very morning, save the main gate. That is now the only way in, and the only way out. I have changed the lock to the main gate. There is only one key to the new lock and I keep it wherever I am. When I am outside with the one hundred troops, the key is in the outside lock and no one can leave the castle from the inside. When I am with you, as I am now, the key is in the inside lock, and no one may enter from the outside."

  "Follow," said the Prince, and he moved to the large window of his chamber. He pointed outside. Below the window was a lovely planted garden. Beyond that the Prince's private stables. Beyond that, naturally, the outside castle wall. "That is how they will come," he said. "Over the wall, through my stables, past my garden, to my window, throttle the Queen and back the way they came before we know it."

  "They?" Yellin said, though he knew the answer.

  "The Guilderians, of course."

  "But the wall where you suggest is the highest wall surrounding all of Florin Castle--it is fifty feet high at that point--so that would seem the least likely point of attack." He was trying desperately to keep himself under control.

  "All the more reason why they should choose this spot; besides, the world knows that the Guilderians are unsurpassed as climbers."

  Yellin had never heard that. He had always thought the Swiss were the on
es who were unsurpassed as climbers. "Highness," he said, in one last attempt, "I have not yet, from a single spy, heard a single word about a single plot against the Princess."

  "I have it on unimpeachable authority that there will be an attempt made to strangle the Princess this very night."

  "In that case," Yellin said, and he dropped to one knee and held out the envelope, "I must resign." It was a difficult decision--the Yellins had headed enforcement in Florin for generations, and they took their work more than seriously. "I am not doing a capable job, sire; please forgive me and believe me when I say that my failures were those of the body and mind and not of the heart."

  Prince Humperdinck found himself, quite suddenly, in a genuine pickle, for once the war was finished, he needed someone to stay in Guilder and run it, since he couldn't be in two places at once, and the only men he trusted were Yellin and the Count, and the Count would never take the job, being obsessed, as he was these days, with finishing his stupid Pain Primer. "I do not accept your resignation, you are doing a capable job, there is no plot, I shall slaughter the Queen myself this very evening, you shall run Guilder for me after the war, now get back on your feet."

  Yellin didn't know what to say. "Thank you" seemed so inadequate, but it was all he could come up with.

  "Once the wedding is done with I shall send her here to make ready while I shall, with boots carefully procured in advance, make tracks leading from the wall to the bedroom and returning then from the bedroom to the wall. Since you are in charge of law enforcement, I expect you will not take long to verify my fears that the prints could only be made by the boots of Guilderian soldiers. Once we have that, we'll need a royal proclamation or two, my father can resign as being unfit for battle, and you, dear Yellin, will soon be living in Guilder Castle."

  Yellin knew a dismissal speech when he heard one. "I leave with no thought in my heart but to serve you."

  "Thank you," Humperdinck said, pleased, because, after all, loyalty was one thing you couldn't buy. And in that mood, he said to Yellin by the door, "And, oh, if you see the albino, tell him he may stand in the back for my wedding; it's quite all right with me."

  "I will, Highness," Yellin said, adding, "but I don't know where my cousin is--I went looking for him less than an hour ago and he was nowhere to be found."

  The Prince understood important news when he heard it because he wasn't the greatest hunter in the world for nothing and, even more, because if there was one thing you could say about the albino it was that he was always to be found. "My God, you don't suppose there is a plot, do you? It's a perfect time; the country celebrates; if Guilder were about to be five hundred years old, I know I'd attack them."

  "I will rush to the gate and fight, to the death if necessary," Yellin said.

  "Good man," the Prince called after him. If there was an attack, it would come at the busiest time, during the wedding, so he would have to move that up. State affairs went slowly, but, still, he had authority. Six o'clock was out. He would be married no later than half past five or know the reason why.

  AT FIVE O'CLOCK, MAX and Valerie were in the basement sipping coffee. "You better get right to bed," Valerie said; "you look all troubled. You can't stay up all night as if you were a pup."

  "I'm not tired," Max said. "But you're right about the other."

  "Tell Mama." Valerie crossed to him, stroked where his hair had been.

  "It's just I been remembering, about the pill."

  "It was a beautiful pill, honey. Feel proud."

  "I think I messed up the amounts, though. Didn't they want an hour? When I doubled the recipe, I didn't do enough. I don't think it'll work over forty minutes."

  Valerie moved into his lap. "Let's be honest with each other; sure, you're a genius, but even a genius gets rusty. You were three years out of practice. Forty minutes'll be plenty."

  "I suppose you're right. Anyway, what can we do about it? Down is down."

  "The pressures you been under, if it works at all, it'll be a miracle."

  Max had to agree with her. "A fantasmagoria." He nodded.

  THE MAN IN black was nearly stiff when Fezzik reached the wall. It was almost five o'clock and Fezzik had been carrying the corpse the whole way from Miracle Max's, back street to back street, alleyway to alleyway, and it was one of the hardest things he had ever done. Not taxing. He wasn't even winded. But if the pill was just what it looked like, a chocolate lump, then he, Fezzik, was going to have a lifetime of bad dreams of bodies growing stiff between his fingers.

  When he at last was in the wall shadow, he said to Inigo, "What now?"

  "We've got to see if it's still safe. There might be a trap waiting." It was the same part of the wall that led, shortly, to the Zoo, in the farther corner of the castle grounds. But if the albino's body had been discovered, then who knew what was waiting for them?

  "Should I go up then?" Fezzik asked.

  "We'll both do it," Inigo replied. "Lean him against the wall and help me." Fezzik tilted the man in black so he was in no danger of falling and waited while Inigo jumped onto his shoulders. Then Fezzik did the climbing. Any crack in the wall was enough for his fingers; the least imperfection was all he needed. He climbed quickly, familiar with it now, and after a moment, Inigo was able to grab hold of the top and say, "All right; go on back down," so Fezzik returned to the man in black and waited.

  Inigo crept along the wall top in dead silence. Far across he could see the castle entrance and the armed soldiers flanking it. And closer at hand was the Zoo. And off in the deepest brush in the farthest corner of the wall, he could make out the still body of the albino. Nothing had changed at all. They were, at least so far, safe. He gestured down to Fezzik, who scissored the man in black between his legs, began the arm climb noiselessly.

  When they were all together on the wall top, Inigo stretched out the dead man and then hurried along until he could get a better view of the main gate. The walk from the outer wall to the main castle gate was slanted slightly down, not much of an incline, but a steady one. There must be--Inigo did a quick count--at least a hundred men standing at the ready. And the time must be--he estimated closely--five after five now, perhaps close to ten. Fifty minutes till the wedding. Inigo turned then and hurried back to Fezzik. "I think we should give him the pill," he said. "It must be around forty-five minutes till the ceremony."

  "That means he's only got fifteen minutes to escape with," Fezzik said. "I think we should wait until at least five-thirty. Half before, half after."

  "No," Inigo said. "We're going to stop the wedding before it happens--that's the best way, at least to my mind. Before they're all set. In the hustle and bustle beforehand, that's when we should strike."

  Fezzik had no further rebuttal.

  "Anyway," Inigo said, "we don't know how long it takes to swallow something like this."

  "I could never get it down myself. I know that."

  "We'll have to force-feed him," Inigo said, unwrapping the chocolate-colored lump. "Like a stuffed goose. Put our hands around his neck and kind of push it down into whatever comes next."

  "I'm with you, Inigo," Fezzik said. "Just tell me what to do."

  "Let's get him in a sitting position, I think, don't you? I always find it's easier swallowing sitting up than lying down."

  "We'll have to really work at it," Fezzik said. "He's completely stiff by now. I don't think he'll bend easy at all."

  "You can make him," Inigo said. "I always have confidence in you, Fezzik."

  "Thank you," Fezzik said. "Just don't ever leave me alone." He pulled the corpse between them and tried to make him bend in half, but the man in black was so stiff Fezzik really had to perspire to get him at right angles. "How long do you think we'll have to wait before we know if the miracle's on or not?"

  "Your guess is as good as mine," Inigo said. "Get his mouth as wide open as you can and tilt his head back a little and we'll just drop it in and see."

  Fezzik worked at the dead man's mouth a whil
e, got it the way Inigo said, tilted the neck perfect the first time, and Inigo knelt directly above the cavity, dropped the pill down, and as it hit the throat he heard, "Couldn't beat me alone, you dastards; well, I beat you each apart, I'll beat you both together."

  "You're alive!" Fezzik cried.

  The man in black sat immobile, like a ventriloquist's dummy, just his mouth moving. "That is perhaps the most childishly obvious remark I have ever come across, but what can you expect from a strangler. Why won't my arms move?"

  "You've been dead," Inigo explained.

  "And we're not strangling you," Fezzik explained, "we were just getting the pill down."

  "The resurrection pill," Inigo explained. "I bought it from Miracle Max and it works for sixty minutes."

  "What happens after sixty minutes? Do I die again?" (It wasn't sixty minutes; he just thought it was. Actually it was forty; only they had used up one already in conversation, so it was down to thirty-nine.)

  "We don't know. Probably you just collapse and need tending for a year or however long it takes to get your strength back."

  "I wish I could remember what it was like when I was dead," the man in black said. "I'd write it all down. I could make a fortune on a book like that. I can't move my legs either."

  "That will come. It's supposed to. Max said the tongue and the brain were shoo-ins and probably you'll be able to move, but slowly."

  "The last thing I remember was dying, so why am I on this wall? Are we enemies? Have you got names? I'm the Dread Pirate Roberts, but you can call me 'Westley.'"

  "Fezzik."

  "Inigo Montoya of Spain. Let me tell you what's been going on--" He stopped and shook his head. "No," he said. "There's too much, it would take too long, let me distill it for you: the wedding is at six, which leaves us probably now something over half an hour to get in, steal the girl, and get out; but not before I kill Count Rugen."

  "What are our liabilities?"

  "There is but one working castle gate and it is guarded by perhaps a hundred men."

  "Hmmm," Westley said, not as unhappy as he might have been ordinarily, because just then he began to be able to wiggle his toes.

 
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