A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
The Smallpox Hut
When we arrived at that hut at mid-afternoon, we saw no signs of life about it. The field
near by had been denuded of its crop some time before, and had a skinned look, so
exhaustively had it been harvested and gleaned. Fences, sheds, everything had a ruined
look, and were eloquent of poverty. No animal was around anywhere, no living thing in
sight. The stillness was awful, it was like the stillness of death. The cabin was a one-story
one, whose thatch was black with age, and ragged from lack of repair.
The door stood a trifle ajar. We approached it stealthily--on tiptoe and at half-breath--for
that is the way one's feeling makes him do, at such a time. The king knocked. We waited.
No answer. Knocked again. No answer. I pushed the door softly open and looked in. I
made out some dim forms, and a woman started up from the ground and stared at me, as
one does who is wakened from sleep. Presently she found her voice:
"Have mercy!" she pleaded. "All is taken, nothing is left."
"I have not come to take anything, poor woman."
"You are not a priest?"
"Nor come not from the lord of the manor?"
"No, I am a stranger."
"Oh, then, for the fear of God, who visits with misery and death such as be harmless,
tarry not here, but fly! This place is under his curse--and his Church's."
"Let me come in and help you--you are sick and in trouble."
I was better used to the dim light now. I could see her hollow eyes fixed upon me. I could
see how emaciated she was.
"I tell you the place is under the Church's ban. Save yourself-- and go, before some
straggler see thee here, and report it."
"Give yourself no trouble about me; I don't care anything for the Church's curse. Let me
"Now all good spirits--if there be any such--bless thee for that word. Would God I had a
sup of water!--but hold, hold, forget I said it, and fly; for there is that here that even he
that feareth not the Church must fear: this disease whereof we die. Leave us, thou brave,