A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Poor child! he slumped to the floor, twisted his silken limbs in one great straining
contortion of pain, and was dead. Out of the old king was wrung an involuntary "O-h!" of
compassion. The look he got, made him cut it suddenly short and not put any more
hyphens in it. Sir Uwaine, at a sign from his mother, went to the anteroom and called
some servants, and meanwhile madame went rippling sweetly along with her talk.
I saw that she was a good housekeeper, for while she talked she kept a corner of her eye
on the servants to see that they made no balks in handling the body and getting it out;
when they came with fresh clean towels, she sent back for the other kind; and when they
had finished wiping the floor and were going, she indicated a crimson fleck the size of a
tear which their duller eyes had overlooked. It was plain to me that La Cote Male Taile
had failed to see the mistress of the house. Often, how louder and clearer than any
tongue, does dumb circumstantial evidence speak.
Morgan le Fay rippled along as musically as ever. Marvelous woman. And what a glance
she had: when it fell in reproof upon those servants, they shrunk and quailed as timid
people do when the lightning flashes out of a cloud. I could have got the habit myself. It
was the same with that poor old Brer Uriens; he was always on the ragged edge of
apprehension; she could not even turn toward him but he winced.
In the midst of the talk I let drop a complimentary word about King Arthur, forgetting for
the moment how this woman hated her brother. That one little compliment was enough.
She clouded up like storm; she called for her guards, and said:
"Hale me these varlets to the dungeons."
That struck cold on my ears, for her dungeons had a reputation. Nothing occurred to me
to say--or do. But not so with Sandy. As the guard laid a hand upon me, she piped up
with the tranquilest confidence, and said:
"God's wounds, dost thou covet destruction, thou maniac? It is The Boss!"
Now what a happy idea that was!--and so simple; yet it would never have occurred to me.
I was born modest; not all over, but in spots; and this was one of the spots. The effect
upon madame was electrical. It cleared her countenance and brought back her smiles and
all her persuasive graces and blandishments; but nevertheless she was not able to entirely
cover up with them the fact that she was in a ghastly fright. She said:
"La, but do list to thine handmaid! as if one gifted with powers like to mine might say the
thing which I have said unto one who has vanquished Merlin, and not be jesting. By mine
enchantments I foresaw your coming, and by them I knew you when you entered here. I
did but play this little jest with hope to surprise you into some display of your art, as not
doubting you would blast the guards with occult fires, consuming them to ashes on the
spot, a marvel much beyond mine own ability, yet one which I have long been childishly
curious to see." The guards were less curious, and got out as soon as they got permission.