A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
The Yankee And The King Travel Incognito
About bedtime I took the king to my private quarters to cut his hair and help him get the
hang of the lowly raiment he was to wear. The high classes wore their hair banged across
the forehead but hanging to the shoulders the rest of the way around, whereas the lowest
ranks of commoners were banged fore and aft both; the slaves were bangless, and
allowed their hair free growth. So I inverted a bowl over his head and cut away all the
locks that hung below it. I also trimmed his whiskers and mustache until they were only
about a half-inch long; and tried to do it inartistically, and succeeded. It was a villainous
disfigurement. When he got his lubberly sandals on, and his long robe of coarse brown
linen cloth, which hung straight from his neck to his ankle-bones, he was no longer the
comeliest man in his kingdom, but one of the unhandsomest and most commonplace and
unattractive. We were dressed and barbered alike, and could pass for small farmers, or
farm bailiffs, or shepherds, or carters; yes, or for village artisans, if we chose, our
costume being in effect universal among the poor, because of its strength and cheapness.
I don't mean that it was really cheap to a very poor person, but I do mean that it was the
cheapest material there was for male attire--manufactured material, you understand.
We slipped away an hour before dawn, and by broad sun-up had made eight or ten miles,
and were in the midst of a sparsely settled country. I had a pretty heavy knapsack; it was
laden with provisions--provisions for the king to taper down on, till he could take to the
coarse fare of the country without damage.
I found a comfortable seat for the king by the roadside, and then gave him a morsel or
two to stay his stomach with. Then I said I would find some water for him, and strolled
away. Part of my project was to get out of sight and sit down and rest a little myself. It
had always been my custom to stand when in his presence; even at the council board,
except upon those rare occasions when the sitting was a very long one, extending over
hours; then I had a trifling little backless thing which was like a reversed culvert and was
as comfortable as the toothache. I didn't want to break him in suddenly, but do it by
degrees. We should have to sit together now when in company, or people would notice;
but it would not be good politics for me to be playing equality with him when there was
no necessity for it.
I found the water some three hundred yards away, and had been resting about twenty
minutes, when I heard voices. That is all right, I thought--peasants going to work; nobody
else likely to be stirring this early. But the next moment these comers jingled into sight
around a turn of the road--smartly clad people of quality, with luggage-mules and
servants in their train! I was off like a shot, through the bushes, by the shortest cut. For a
while it did seem that these people would pass the king before I could get to him; but
desperation gives you wings, you know, and I canted my body forward, inflated my
breast, and held my breath and flew. I arrived. And in plenty good enough time, too.
"Pardon, my king, but it's no time for ceremony--jump! Jump to your feet--some quality