The princess bride, p.29
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       The Princess Bride, p.29

           William Goldman
 

  Westley lay without moving but he was smiling more deeply now. "I'll be only too delighted to explain." It was 5:50 now. Twenty-five minutes of safety left. (There were five. He did not know that. How could he know that?) Slowly, carefully, he began to talk....

  INIGO WAS TALKING too. It was still 5:42 when he whispered, "I'm ... sorry ... Father.... "

  Count Rugen heard the words but nothing really connected until he saw the sword still held in Inigo's hand. "You're that little Spanish brat I taught a lesson to," he said, coming closer now, examining the scars. "It's simply incredible. Have you been chasing me all these years only to fail now? I think that's the worst thing I ever heard of; how marvelous."

  Inigo could say nothing. The blood fauceted from his stomach.

  Count Rugen drew his sword.

  "...sorry, Father ... I'm sorry.... "

  'I DON'T WANT YOUR "SORRY"! MY NAME IS DOMINGO MONTOYA AND I DIED FOR THAT SWORD AND YOU CAN KEEP YOUR "SORRY." IF YOU WERE GOING TO FAIL, WHY DIDN'T YOU DIE YEARS AGO AND LET ME REST IN PEACE?' And then MacPherson was after him too--'Spaniards! I never should have tried to teach a Spaniard; they're dumb, they forget, what do you do with a wound? How many times did I teach you--what do you do with a wound?'

  "Cover it..." Inigo said, and he pulled the knife from his body and stuffed his left fist into the bleeding.

  Inigo's eyes began to focus again, not well, not perfectly, but enough to see the Count's blade as it approached his heart, and Inigo couldn't do much with the attack, parry it vaguely, push the point of the blade into his left shoulder where it did no unendurable harm.

  Count Rugen was a bit surprised that his point had been deflected, but there was nothing wrong with piercing a helpless man's shoulder. There was no hurry when you had him.

  MacPherson was screaming again--'Spaniards! Give me a Polack anytime; at least the Polacks remember to use the wall when they have one; only the Spaniards would forget to use a wall--'

  Slowly, inch by inch, Inigo forced his body up the wall, using his legs just for pushing, letting the wall do all the supporting that was necessary.

  Count Rugen struck again, but for any number of reasons, most probably because he hadn't expected the other man's movement, he missed the heart and had to be content with driving his blade through the Spaniard's left arm.

  Inigo didn't mind. He didn't even feel it. His right arm was where his interest lay, and he squeezed the handle and there was strength in his hand, enough to flick out at the enemy, and Count Rugen hadn't expected that either, so he gave a little involuntary cry and took a step back to reassess the situation.

  Power was flowing up from Inigo's heart to his right shoulder and down from his shoulder to his fingers and then into the great six-fingered sword and he pushed off from the wall then, with a whispered, "...hello ... my name is ... Inigo Montoya; you killed ... my father; prepare to die."

  And they crossed swords.

  The Count went for the quick kill, the inverse Bonetti

  No chance.

  "Hello ... my name is Inigo Montoya; you killed my father ... prepare to die...."

  Again they crossed, and the Count moved into a Morozzo defense, because the blood was still streaming.

  Inigo shoved his fist deeper into himself. "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya; you killed my father; prepare to die."

  The Count retreated around the billiard table.

  Inigo slipped in his own blood.

  The Count continued to retreat, waiting, waiting.

  "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya; you killed my father; prepare to die." He dug with his fist and he didn't want to think what he was touching and pushing and holding into place but for the first time he felt able to try a move, so the six-fingered sword flashed forward--

  --and there was a cut down one side of Count Rugen's cheek--

  --another flash--

  --another cut, parallel, bleeding--

  "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya; you killed my father; prepare to die."

  "Stop saying that!" The Count was beginning to experience a decline of nerve.

  Inigo drove for the Count's left shoulder, as the Count had wounded his. Then he went through the Count's left arm, at the same spot the Count had penetrated his. "Hello." Stronger now. "Hello! HELLO. MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA. YOU KILLED MY FATHER. PREPARE TO DIE!"

  "No--"

  "Offer me money--"

  "Everything," the Count said.

  "Power too. Promise me that."

  "All I have and more. Please."

  "Offer me anything I ask for."

  "Yes. Yes. Say it."

  "I WANT DOMINGO MONTOYA, YOU SON OF A BITCH," and the six-fingered sword flashed again.

  The Count screamed.

  "That was just to the left of your heart." Inigo struck again.

  Another scream.

  "That was below your heart. Can you guess what I'm doing?"

  "Cutting my heart out."

  "You took mine when I was ten; I want yours now. We are lovers of justice, you and I--what could be more just than that?"

  The Count screamed one final time and then fell dead of fear.

  Inigo looked down at him. The Count's frozen face was petrified and ashen and the blood still poured down the parallel cuts. His eyes bulged wide, full of horror and pain. It was glorious. If you like that kind of thing.

  Inigo loved it.

  It was 5:50 when he staggered from the room, heading he knew not where or for how long, but hoping only that whoever had been guiding him lately would not desert him now....

  ***

  "I'M GOING TO tell you something once and then whether you die or not is strictly up to you," Westley said, lying pleasantly on the bed. Across the room, the Prince held the sword high. "What I'm going to tell you is this: drop your sword, and if you do, then I will leave with this baggage here"--he glanced at Buttercup--"and you will be tied up but not fatally, and will soon be free to go about your business. And if you choose to fight, well, then, we will not both leave alive."

  "I expect to breathe a while," the Prince said. "I think you are bluffing--you have been prisoner for months and I myself killed you less than a day ago, so I doubt that you have much might left in your arm."

  "Possibly true," Westley agreed, "and when the moment comes, remember that: I might indeed be bluffing. I could, in fact be lying right here because I lack the strength to stand. All that, weigh carefully."

  "You are only alive now because you said 'to the pain.' I want that phrase explained."

  "My pleasure." It was 5:52 now. Three minutes left. He thought he had eighteen. He took a long pause, then started speaking. "Surely, you must have guessed I am no ordinary sailor. I am, in fact, Roberts himself."

  "I am, in fact, not the least surprised or awed."

  "To the pain means this: if we duel and you win, death for me. If we duel and I win, life for you. But life on my terms."

  "Meaning?" It could all still be a trap. His body was at the ready.

  "There are those who credit you with skill as a hunter, though I find that doubtful."

  The Prince smiled. The fellow was baiting him. Why?

  "And if you hunt well, then surely, when you tracked your lady, you must have begun at the Cliffs of Insanity. A duel was fought there and if you noted the movements and the strides, you would know that those were masters battling. They were. Remember this: I won that fight. And I am a pirate. We have our special tricks with swords."

  It was 5:53. "I am not unfamiliar with steel."

  "The first thing you lose will be your feet," Westley said. "The left, then the right. Below the ankle. You will have stumps available to use within six months. Then your hands, at the wrist. They heal somewhat quicker. Five months is a fair average." And now Westley was beginning to be aware of strange changes in his body and he began talking faster, faster and louder. "Next your nose. No smell of dawn for you. Followed by your tongue. Deeply cut away. Not even a stump left. And then your left eye--"


  "And then my right eye and then my ears, and shall we get on with it?" the Prince said. It was 5:54.

  "Wrong!" Westley's voice rang across the room. "Your ears you keep, so that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideous-ness will be yours to cherish--every babe that weeps in fear at your approach, every woman that cries 'Dear God, what is that thing?' will reverberate forever with your perfect ears. That is what 'to the pain' means. It means that I leave you to live in anguish, in humiliation, in freakish misery until you can stand it no more; so there you have it, pig, there you know, you miserable vomitous mass, and I say this now, and live or die, it's up to you: Drop your sword! "

  The sword crashed to the floor.

  It was 5:55.

  Westley's eyes rolled up into his head and his body crumpled and half pitched from the bed and the Prince saw that and went to the floor, grabbing for his sword, standing, starting to bring it high, when Westley cried out: "Now you will suffer: to the pain!" His eyes were open again.

  Open and blazing.

  "I'm sorry; I meant nothing, I didn't; look," and the Prince dropped his sword a second time.

  "Tie him," Westley said to Buttercup. "Be quick about it--use the curtain sashes; they look enough to hold him--"

  "You'd do it so much better," Buttercup replied. "I'll get the sashes, but I really think you should do the actual tying."

  "Woman," Westley roared, "you are the property of the Dread Pirate Roberts and you ... do ... what ... you're ... told!"

  Buttercup gathered the sashes and did what she could with tying up her husband.

  Humperdinck lay flat while she did it. He seemed strangely happy. "I wasn't afraid of you," he said to Westley. "I dropped my sword because it will be so much more pleasure for me to hunt you down."

  "You think so, do you? I doubt you'll find us."

  "I'll conquer Guilder and then I'll come for you. The corner you least expect, when you round it, you will find me waiting."

  "I am the King of the Sea--I await you with pleasure." He called out to Buttercup. "Is he tied yet?"

  "Sort of."

  There was movement at the doorway and then Inigo was there. Buttercup cried out at the blood. Inigo ignored her, looked around. "Where's Fezzik?"

  "Isn't he with you?" Westley said.

  Inigo leaned for a moment against the nearest wall, gathering strength. Then he said, "Help him up," to Buttercup.

  "Westley?" Buttercup replied. "Why does he need me to help him?"

  "Because he has no strength, now do what you're told," Inigo said, and then suddenly on the floor, the Prince began struggling mightily with the sashes and he was tied, and tied well, but power and anger were both on his side.

  "You were bluffing; I was right the first time," Humperdinck said, and Inigo said, "That was not a clever thing of me to let slip; I'm sorry," and Westley said, "Did you at least win your battle?" and Inigo said, "I did," and Westley said, "Let us try to find some place to defend ourselves; at least perhaps we can go together," and Buttercup said, "I'll help you up, poor darling," and Fezzik said, "Oh, Inigo, I need you, please, Inigo; I'm lost and miserable and frightened and I just need to see a friendly face."

  They moved slowly to the window.

  Wandering lost and forlorn through the Prince's garden was Fezzik, leading the four giant whites.

  "Here," Inigo whispered.

  "Three friendly faces," Fezzik said, kind of bouncing up and down on his heels, which he always did when things were looking up. "Oh, Inigo, I just ruined everything and I got so lost and when I stumbled into the stables and found these pretty horses I thought four was how many of them there were and four was how many of us there were too, if we found the lady--hello, lady--and I thought, Why not take them along with me in case we all ever run into each other." He stopped a moment, considering. "And I guess we did."

  Inigo was terribly excited. "Fezzik, you thought for yourself," he said.

  Fezzik considered that a moment too. "Does that mean you're not mad at me for getting lost?"

  "If we only had a ladder--" Buttercup began.

  "Oh, you don't need a ladder to get down here," Fezzik said; "it's only twenty feet, I'll catch you, only do it one at a time, please; there's not enough light, so if you all come at once I might miss."

  So while Humperdinck struggled, they jumped, one at a time, and Fezzik caught them gently and put them on the whites, and he still had the key so they could get out the front gate, and except for the fact that Yellin had regrouped the Brute Squad, they would have gotten out without any trouble at all. As it was, when Fezzik unlocked the gate, they saw nothing but armed Brutes in formation, Yellin at their lead. And no one smiling.

  Westley shook his head. "I am dry of notions."

  "Child's play," of all people, Buttercup said, and she led the group toward Yellin. "The Count is dead; the Prince is in grave danger. Hurry now and you may yet save him. All of you. Go."

  Not a Brute moved.

  "They obey me," Yellin said. "And I am in charge of enforcement, and--"

  "And I," Buttercup said. "I," she repeated, standing up in the saddle, a creature of infinite beauty and eyes that were starting to grow frightening, "I," she said for the third and last time, "am

  the

  QUEEEEEEEEEEEEN."

  There was no doubting her sincerity. Or power. Or capability for vengeance. She stared imperiously across the Brute Squad.

  "Save Humperdinck," one Brute said, and with that they all dashed into the castle.

  "Save Humperdinck," Yellin said, the last one left, but clearly his heart wasn't in it.

  "Actually, that was something of a fib," Buttercup said as they began to ride for freedom, "seeing as Lotharon hasn't officially resigned, but I thought 'I am the Queen' sounded better than 'I am the Princess.'"

  "All I can say is, I'm impressed," Westley told her.

  Buttercup shrugged. "I've been going to royalty school three years now; something had to rub off." She looked at Westley. "You all right? I was worried about you back on the bed there. Your eyes rolled up into your head and everything."

  "I suppose I was dying again, so I asked the Lord of Permanent Affection for the strength to live the day. Clearly, the answer came in the affirmative."

  "I didn't know there was such a Fellow," Buttercup said.

  "Neither did I, in truth, but if He didn't exist, I didn't much want to either."

  The four great horses seemed almost to fly toward Florin Channel.

  "It appears to me as if we're doomed, then," Buttercup said. Westley looked at her. "Doomed, madam?"

  "To be together. Until one of us dies."

  "I've done that already, and I haven't the slightest intention of ever doing it again," Westley said.

  Buttercup looked at him. "Don't we sort of have to sometime?"

  "Not if we promise to outlive each other, and I make that promise now."

  Buttercup looked at him. "Oh my Westley, so do I."

  ***

  'And they lived happily ever after,' my father said.

  'Wow,' I said.

  He looked at me. 'You're not pleased?'

  'No, no, it's just, it came so quick, the ending, it surprised me. I thought there'd be a little more, is all. I mean, was the pirate ship waiting or was that just a rumor like it said?'

  'Complain to Mr. Morgenstern. "And they lived happily ever after" is how it ends.'

  The truth was, my father was fibbing. I spent my whole life thinking it ended that way, up until I did this abridgement. Then I glanced at the last page. This is how Morgenstern ends it.

  ***

  BUTTERCUP LOOKED AT him. "Oh my Westley, so do I."

  From behind them suddenly, closer than they had imagined, they could hear the roar of Humperdinck: "Stop them! Cut them off!" They were, admittedly, startled, but there was no reason for worry: they were on the fastest horses in the kingdom, and the lead was already theirs.

  However, this was before Inigo's wound reopene
d, and Westley relapsed again, and Fezzik took the wrong turn, and Buttercup's horse threw a shoe. And the night behind them was filled with the crescendoing sound of pursuit....

  ***

  That's Morgenstern's ending, a 'Lady or the Tiger?' type effect (this was before 'The Lady or the Tiger?,' remember). Now, he was a satirist, so he left it that way, and my father was, I guess I realized too late, a romantic, so he ended it another way.

  Well, I'm an abridger, so I'm entitled to a few ideas of my own. Did they make it? Was the pirate ship there? You can answer it for yourself, but, for me, I say yes it was. And yes, they got away. And got their strength back and had lots of adventures and more than their share of laughs.

  But that doesn't mean I think they had a happy ending either. Because, in my opinion anyway, they squabbled a lot, and Buttercup lost her looks eventually, and one day Fezzik lost a fight and some hotshot kid whipped Inigo with a sword and Westley was never able to really sleep sound because of Humperdinck maybe being on the trail.

  I'm not trying to make this a downer, understand. I mean, I really do think that love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops. But I also have to say, for the umpty-umpth time, that life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all.

  New York City

  February, 1973

  BUTTERCUP'S BABY

  AN EXPLANATION

  YOU'RE PROBABLY wondering why I only abridged the first chapter. The answer is simple: I was not allowed to do more. The following explanation is kind of personal, and I'm sorry for putting you through it. Some of this--more than some, a lot--was painful when it happened, still is as I write it down for you. I don't come out all that well a lot of the time, but that can't be helped. Morgenstern was always honest with his audience. I don't think I can be any less with you....

  MY TROUBLES BEGAN twenty-five years ago with the reunion scene.

  You remember, in my abridgement of The Princess Bride, when Buttercup and Westley have been reunited just before the Fire Swamp, I stuck my two cents in and said I thought Morgenstern had cheated his readers by not including a reunion scene for the lovers so I'd written my own version and send in if you want a copy? (Pages 178--79 in this edition.)

  My late great editor Hiram Haydn felt I was wrong, that if you abridge someone you can't suddenly start using your own words. But I liked my reunion scene a lot. So, to humor me, he let me stick that note in the book about sending in for it.

 
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