A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
saw was the stake, standing in the center, and near it the piled fagots and a monk. On all
four sides of the court the seated multitudes rose rank above rank, forming sloping
terraces that were rich with color. The king and the queen sat in their thrones, the most
conspicuous figures there, of course.
To note all this, occupied but a second. The next second Clarence had slipped from some
place of concealment and was pouring news into my ear, his eyes beaming with triumph
and gladness. He said:
"Tis through me the change was wrought! And main hard have I worked to do it, too. But
when I revealed to them the calamity in store, and saw how mighty was the terror it did
engender, then saw I also that this was the time to strike! Wherefore I diligently
pretended, unto this and that and the other one, that your power against the sun could not
reach its full until the morrow; and so if any would save the sun and the world, you must
be slain to-day, while your enchantments are but in the weaving and lack potency.
Odsbodikins, it was but a dull lie, a most indifferent invention, but you should have seen
them seize it and swallow it, in the frenzy of their fright, as it were salvation sent from
heaven; and all the while was I laughing in my sleeve the one moment, to see them so
cheaply deceived, and glorifying God the next, that He was content to let the meanest of
His creatures be His instrument to the saving of thy life. Ah how happy has the matter
sped! You will not need to do the sun a real hurt--ah, forget not that, on your soul forget
it not! Only make a little darkness--only the littlest little darkness, mind, and cease with
that. It will be sufficient. They will see that I spoke falsely,--being ignorant, as they will
fancy-- and with the falling of the first shadow of that darkness you shall see them go
mad with fear; and they will set you free and make you great! Go to thy triumph, now!
But remember--ah, good friend, I implore thee remember my supplication, and do the
blessed sun no hurt. For my sake, thy true friend."
I choked out some words through my grief and misery; as much as to say I would spare
the sun; for which the lad's eyes paid me back with such deep and loving gratitude that I
had not the heart to tell him his good-hearted foolishness had ruined me and sent me to
As the soldiers assisted me across the court the stillness was so profound that if I had
been blindfold I should have supposed I was in a solitude instead of walled in by four
thousand people. There was not a movement perceptible in those masses of humanity;
they were as rigid as stone images, and as pale; and dread sat upon every countenance.
This hush continued while I was being chained to the stake; it still continued while the
fagots were carefully and tediously piled about my ankles, my knees, my thighs, my
body. Then there was a pause, and a deeper hush, if possible, and a man knelt down at my
feet with a blazing torch; the multitude strained forward, gazing, and parting slightly
from their seats without knowing it; the monk raised his hands above my head, and his
eyes toward the blue sky, and began some words in Latin; in this attitude he droned on
and on, a little while, and then stopped. I waited two or three moments; then looked up;
he was standing there petrified. With a common impulse the multitude rose slowly up and
stared into the sky. I followed their eyes, as sure as guns, there was my eclipse beginning!