A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
"Other ones? What are they?"
"Well, they say--oh, but I daren't, indeed daren't!"
"Why, poor lad, what is the matter? Why do you blench? Why do you tremble so?"
"Oh, in sooth, there is need! I do want to tell you, but--"
"Come, come, be brave, be a man--speak out, there's a good lad!"
He hesitated, pulled one way by desire, the other way by fear; then he stole to the door
and peeped out, listening; and finally crept close to me and put his mouth to my ear and
told me his fearful news in a whisper, and with all the cowering apprehension of one who
was venturing upon awful ground and speaking of things whose very mention might be
freighted with death.
"Merlin, in his malice, has woven a spell about this dungeon, and there bides not the man
in these kingdoms that would be desperate enough to essay to cross its lines with you!
Now God pity me, I have told it! Ah, be kind to me, be merciful to a poor boy who means
thee well; for an thou betray me I am lost!"
I laughed the only really refreshing laugh I had had for some time; and shouted:
"Merlin has wrought a spell! Merlin, forsooth! That cheap old humbug, that maundering
old ass? Bosh, pure bosh, the silliest bosh in the world! Why, it does seem to me that of
all the childish, idiotic, chuckle-headed, chicken-livered superstitions that ev-- oh, damn
But Clarence had slumped to his knees before I had half finished, and he was like to go
out of his mind with fright.
"Oh, beware! These are awful words! Any moment these walls may crumble upon us if
you say such things. Oh call them back before it is too late!"
Now this strange exhibition gave me a good idea and set me to thinking. If everybody
about here was so honestly and sincerely afraid of Merlin's pretended magic as Clarence
was, certainly a superior man like me ought to be shrewd enough to contrive some way to
take advantage of such a state of things. I went on thinking, and worked out a plan. Then
"Get up. Pull yourself together; look me in the eye. Do you know why I laughed?"
"No--but for our blessed Lady's sake, do it no more."
"Well, I'll tell you why I laughed. Because I'm a magician myself."