A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Sir Launcelot And Knights To The Rescue
Nearing four in the afternoon. The scene was just outside the walls of London. A cool,
comfortable, superb day, with a brilliant sun; the kind of day to make one want to live,
not die. The multitude was prodigious and far-reaching; and yet we fifteen poor devils
hadn't a friend in it. There was something painful in that thought, look at it how you
might. There we sat, on our tall scaffold, the butt of the hate and mockery of all those
enemies. We were being made a holiday spectacle. They had built a sort of grand stand
for the nobility and gentry, and these were there in full force, with their ladies. We
recognized a good many of them.
The crowd got a brief and unexpected dash of diversion out of the king. The moment we
were freed of our bonds he sprang up, in his fantastic rags, with face bruised out of all
recognition, and proclaimed himself Arthur, King of Britain, and denounced the awful
penalties of treason upon every soul there present if hair of his sacred head were touched.
It startled and surprised him to hear them break into a vast roar of laughter. It wounded
his dignity, and he locked himself up in silence. Then, although the crowd begged him to
go on, and tried to provoke him to it by catcalls, jeers, and shouts of
"Let him speak! The king! The king! his humble subjects hunger and thirst for words of
wisdom out of the mouth of their master his Serene and Sacred Raggedness!"
But it went for nothing. He put on all his majesty and sat under this rain of contempt and
insult unmoved. He certainly was great in his way. Absently, I had taken off my white
bandage and wound it about my right arm. When the crowd noticed this, they began upon
me. They said:
"Doubtless this sailor-man is his minister--observe his costly badge of office!"
I let them go on until they got tired, and then I said:
"Yes, I am his minister, The Boss; and to-morrow you will hear that from Camelot
I got no further. They drowned me out with joyous derision. But presently there was
silence; for the sheriffs of London, in their official robes, with their subordinates, began
to make a stir which indicated that business was about to begin. In the hush which
followed, our crime was recited, the death warrant read, then everybody uncovered while
a priest uttered a prayer.
Then a slave was blindfolded; the hangman unslung his rope. There lay the smooth road
below us, we upon one side of it, the banked multitude wailing its other side--a good
clear road, and kept free by the police--how good it would be to see my five hundred
horsemen come tearing down it! But no, it was out of the possibilities. I followed its
receding thread out into the distance--not a horseman on it, or sign of one.