A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
An Awful Predicament
Sleep? It was impossible. It would naturally have been impossible in that noisome cavern
of a jail, with its mangy crowd of drunken, quarrelsome, and song-singing rapscallions.
But the thing that made sleep all the more a thing not to be dreamed of, was my racking
impatience to get out of this place and find out the whole size of what might have
happened yonder in the slave-quarters in consequence of that intolerable miscarriage of
It was a long night, but the morning got around at last. I made a full and frank
explanation to the court. I said I was a slave, the property of the great Earl Grip, who had
arrived just after dark at the Tabard inn in the village on the other side of the water, and
had stopped there over night, by compulsion, he being taken deadly sick with a strange
and sudden disorder. I had been ordered to cross to the city in all haste and bring the best
physician; I was doing my best; naturally I was running with all my might; the night was
dark, I ran against this common person here, who seized me by the throat and began to
pummel me, although I told him my errand, and implored him, for the sake of the great
earl my master's mortal peril--
The common person interrupted and said it was a lie; and was going to explain how I
rushed upon him and attacked him without a word--
"Silence, sirrah!" from the court. "Take him hence and give him a few stripes whereby to
teach him how to treat the servant of a nobleman after a different fashion another time.
Then the court begged my pardon, and hoped I would not fail to tell his lordship it was in
no wise the court's fault that this high-handed thing had happened. I said I would make it
all right, and so took my leave. Took it just in time, too; he was starting to ask me why I
didn't fetch out these facts the moment I was arrested. I said I would if I had thought of it-
-which was true-- but that I was so battered by that man that all my wit was knocked out
of me--and so forth and so on, and got myself away, still mumbling. I didn't wait for
breakfast. No grass grew under my feet. I was soon at the slave quarters. Empty--
everybody gone! That is, everybody except one body--the slave-master's. It lay there all
battered to pulp; and all about were the evidences of a terrific fight. There was a rude
board coffin on a cart at the door, and workmen, assisted by the police, were thinning a
road through the gaping crowd in order that they might bring it in.
I picked out a man humble enough in life to condescend to talk with one so shabby as I,
and got his account of the matter.
"There were sixteen slaves here. They rose against their master in the night, and thou
seest how it ended."
"Yes. How did it begin?"