A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
The Tragedy Of The Manor-House
At midnight all was over, and we sat in the presence of four corpses. We covered them
with such rags as we could find, and started away, fastening the door behind us. Their
home must be these people's grave, for they could not have Christian burial, or be
admitted to consecrated ground. They were as dogs, wild beasts, lepers, and no soul that
valued its hope of eternal life would throw it away by meddling in any sort with these
rebuked and smitten outcasts.
We had not moved four steps when I caught a sound as of footsteps upon gravel. My
heart flew to my throat. We must not be seen coming from that house. I plucked at the
king's robe and we drew back and took shelter behind the corner of the cabin.
"Now we are safe," I said, "but it was a close call--so to speak. If the night had been
lighter he might have seen us, no doubt, he seemed to be so near."
"Mayhap it is but a beast and not a man at all."
"True. But man or beast, it will be wise to stay here a minute and let it get by and out of
"Hark! It cometh hither."
True again. The step was coming toward us--straight toward the hut. It must be a beast,
then, and we might as well have saved our trepidation. I was going to step out, but the
king laid his hand upon my arm. There was a moment of silence, then we heard a soft
knock on the cabin door. It made me shiver. Presently the knock was repeated, and then
we heard these words in a guarded voice:
"Mother! Father! Open--we have got free, and we bring news to pale your cheeks but
glad your hearts; and we may not tarry, but must fly! And--but they answer not. Mother!
I drew the king toward the other end of the hut and whispered:
"Come--now we can get to the road."
The king hesitated, was going to demur; but just then we heard the door give way, and
knew that those desolate men were in the presence of their dead.
"Come, my liege! in a moment they will strike a light, and then will follow that which it
would break your heart to hear."
He did not hesitate this time. The moment we were in the road I ran; and after a moment
he threw dignity aside and followed. I did not want to think of what was happening in the