A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court HTML version

An Encounter In The Dark
London--to a slave--was a sufficiently interesting place. It was merely a great big village;
and mainly mud and thatch. The streets were muddy, crooked, unpaved. The populace
was an ever flocking and drifting swarm of rags, and splendors, of nodding plumes and
shining armor. The king had a palace there; he saw the outside of it. It made him sigh;
yes, and swear a little, in a poor juvenile sixth century way. We saw knights and grandees
whom we knew, but they didn't know us in our rags and dirt and raw welts and bruises,
and wouldn't have recognized us if we had hailed them, nor stopped to answer, either, it
being unlawful to speak with slaves on a chain. Sandy passed within ten yards of me on a
mule--hunting for me, I imagined. But the thing which clean broke my heart was
something which happened in front of our old barrack in a square, while we were
enduring the spectacle of a man being boiled to death in oil for counterfeiting pennies. It
was the sight of a newsboy--and I couldn't get at him! Still, I had one comfort--here was
proof that Clarence was still alive and banging away. I meant to be with him before long;
the thought was full of cheer.
I had one little glimpse of another thing, one day, which gave me a great uplift. It was a
wire stretching from housetop to housetop. Telegraph or telephone, sure. I did very much
wish I had a little piece of it. It was just what I needed, in order to carry out my project of
escape. My idea was to get loose some night, along with the king, then gag and bind our
master, change clothes with him, batter him into the aspect of a stranger, hitch him to the
slave-chain, assume possession of the property, march to Camelot, and--
But you get my idea; you see what a stunning dramatic surprise I would wind up with at
the palace. It was all feasible, if I could only get hold of a slender piece of iron which I
could shape into a lock-pick. I could then undo the lumbering padlocks with which our
chains were fastened, whenever I might choose. But I never had any luck; no such thing
ever happened to fall in my way. However, my chance came at last. A gentleman who
had come twice before to dicker for me, without result, or indeed any approach to a
result, came again. I was far from expecting ever to belong to him, for the price asked for
me from the time I was first enslaved was exorbitant, and always provoked either anger
or derision, yet my master stuck stubbornly to it--twenty-two dollars. He wouldn't bate a
cent. The king was greatly admired, because of his grand physique, but his kingly style
was against him, and he wasn't salable; nobody wanted that kind of a slave. I considered
myself safe from parting from him because of my extravagant price. No, I was not
expecting to ever belong to this gentleman whom I have spoken of, but he had something
which I expected would belong to me eventually, if he would but visit us often enough. It
was a steel thing with a long pin to it, with which his long cloth outside garment was
fastened together in front. There were three of them. He had disappointed me twice,
because he did not come quite close enough to me to make my project entirely safe; but
this time I succeeded; I captured the lower clasp of the three, and when he missed it he
thought he had lost it on the way.