A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
cow, which "all-to brast" the most of my bones, and then swore me to appear at Arthur's
court for sentence. He ended by condemning me to die at noon on the 21st; and was so
little concerned about it that he stopped to yawn before he named the date.
I was in a dismal state by this time; indeed, I was hardly enough in my right mind to keep
the run of a dispute that sprung up as to how I had better be killed, the possibility of the
killing being doubted by some, because of the enchantment in my clothes. And yet it was
nothing but an ordinary suit of fifteen-dollar slop-shops. Still, I was sane enough to notice
this detail, to wit: many of the terms used in the most matter-of-fact way by this great
assemblage of the first ladies and gentlemen in the land would have made a Comanche
blush. Indelicacy is too mild a term to convey the idea. However, I had read "Tom
Jones," and "Roderick Random," and other books of that kind, and knew that the highest
and first ladies and gentlemen in England had remained little or no cleaner in their talk,
and in the morals and conduct which such talk implies, clear up to a hundred years ago;
in fact clear into our own nineteenth century--in which century, broadly speaking, the
earliest samples of the real lady and real gentleman discoverable in English history--or in
European history, for that matter--may be said to have made their appearance. Suppose
Sir Walter, instead of putting the conversations into the mouths of his characters, had
allowed the characters to speak for themselves? We should have had talk from Rebecca
and Ivanhoe and the soft lady Rowena which would embarrass a tramp in our day.
However, to the unconsciously indelicate all things are delicate. King Arthur's people
were not aware that they were indecent and I had presence of mind enough not to
They were so troubled about my enchanted clothes that they were mightily relieved, at
last, when old Merlin swept the difficulty away for them with a common-sense hint. He
asked them why they were so dull--why didn't it occur to them to strip me. In half a
minute I was as naked as a pair of tongs! And dear, dear, to think of it: I was the only
embarrassed person there. Everybody discussed me; and did it as unconcernedly as if I
had been a cabbage. Queen Guenever was as naively interested as the rest, and said she
had never seen anybody with legs just like mine before. It was the only compliment I got-
-if it was a compliment.
Finally I was carried off in one direction, and my perilous clothes in another. I was
shoved into a dark and narrow cell in a dungeon, with some scant remnants for dinner,
some moldy straw for a bed, and no end of rats for company.