A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
With the pastries and so on, the heavy drinking began--and the talk. Gallon after gallon of
wine and mead disappeared, and everybody got comfortable, then happy, then sparklingly
joyous--both sexes,-- and by and by pretty noisy. Men told anecdotes that were terrific to
hear, but nobody blushed; and when the nub was sprung, the assemblage let go with a
horse-laugh that shook the fortress. Ladies answered back with historiettes that would
almost have made Queen Margaret of Navarre or even the great Elizabeth of England
hide behind a handkerchief, but nobody hid here, but only laughed-- howled, you may
say. In pretty much all of these dreadful stories, ecclesiastics were the hardy heroes, but
that didn't worry the chaplain any, he had his laugh with the rest; more than that, upon
invitation he roared out a song which was of as daring a sort as any that was sung that
By midnight everybody was fagged out, and sore with laughing; and, as a rule, drunk:
some weepingly, some affectionately, some hilariously, some quarrelsomely, some dead
and under the table. Of the ladies, the worst spectacle was a lovely young duchess, whose
wedding-eve this was; and indeed she was a spectacle, sure enough. Just as she was she
could have sat in advance for the portrait of the young daughter of the Regent d'Orleans,
at the famous dinner whence she was carried, foul-mouthed, intoxicated, and helpless, to
her bed, in the lost and lamented days of the Ancient Regime.
Suddenly, even while the priest was lifting his hands, and all conscious heads were
bowed in reverent expectation of the coming blessing, there appeared under the arch of
the far-off door at the bottom of the hall an old and bent and white-haired lady, leaning
upon a crutch-stick; and she lifted the stick and pointed it toward the queen and cried out:
"The wrath and curse of God fall upon you, woman without pity, who have slain mine
innocent grandchild and made desolate this old heart that had nor chick, nor friend nor
stay nor comfort in all this world but him!"
Everybody crossed himself in a grisly fright, for a curse was an awful thing to those
people; but the queen rose up majestic, with the death-light in her eye, and flung back this
"Lay hands on her! To the stake with her!"
The guards left their posts to obey. It was a shame; it was a cruel thing to see. What could
be done? Sandy gave me a look; I knew she had another inspiration. I said:
"Do what you choose."
She was up and facing toward the queen in a moment. She indicated me, and said:
"Madame, he saith this may not be. Recall the commandment, or he will dissolve the
castle and it shall vanish away like the instable fabric of a dream!"
Confound it, what a crazy contract to pledge a person to! What if the queen--