Text - "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" Mark Twain

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I felt a mournful sinking at the heart, and muttered: "I shall
never see my friends again-never, never again. They will not
be born for more than thirteen hundred years yet."

I seemed to believe the boy, I didn't know why. Something in me
seemed to believe him-my consciousness, as you may say; but my
reason didn't. My reason straightway began to clamor; that was
natural. I didn't know how to go about satisfying it, because
I knew that the testimony of men wouldn't serve-my reason would
say they were lunatics, and throw out their evidence. But all
of a sudden I stumbled on the very thing, just by luck. I knew
that the only total eclipse of the sun in the first half of the
sixth century occurred on the 21st of June, A.D. 528, O.S., and
began at 3 minutes after 12 noon. I also knew that no total eclipse
of the sun was due in what to me was the present year-i.e., 1879.
So, if I could keep my anxiety and curiosity from eating the heart
out of me for forty-eight hours, I should then find out for certain
whether this boy was telling me the truth or not.

Wherefore, being a practical Connecticut man, I now shoved this
whole problem clear out of my mind till its appointed day and hour
should come, in order that I might turn all my attention to the
circumstances of the present moment, and be alert and ready to
make the most out of them that could be made. One thing at a time,
is my motto-and just play that thing for all it is worth, even
if it's only two pair and a jack. I made up my mind to two things:
if it was still the nineteenth century and I was among lunatics
and couldn't get away, I would presently boss that asylum or know
the reason why; and if, on the other hand, it was really the sixth
century, all right, I didn't want any softer thing: I would boss
the whole country inside of three months; for I judged I would
have the start of the best-educated man in the kingdom by a matter
of thirteen hundred years and upward. I'm not a man to waste
time after my mind's made up and there's work on hand; so I said
to the page:

"Now, Clarence, my boy-if that might happen to be your name
-I'll get you to post me up a little if you don't mind. What is
the name of that apparition that brought me here?"

"My master and thine? That is the good knight and great lord
Sir Kay the Seneschal, foster brother to our liege the king."

"Very good; go on, tell me everything."

He made a long story of it; but the part that had immediate interest
for me was this: He said I was Sir Kay's prisoner, and that
in the due course of custom I would be flung into a dungeon and
left there on scant commons until my friends ransomed me-unless
I chanced to rot, first. I saw that the last chance had the best
show, but I didn't waste any bother about that; time was too
precious. The page said, further, that dinner was about ended
in the great hall by this time, and that as soon as the sociability
and the heavy drinking should begin, Sir Kay would have me in and
exhibit me before King Arthur and his illustrious knights seated at
the Table Round, and would brag about his exploit in capturing
me, and would probably exaggerate the facts a little, but it
wouldn't be good form for me to correct him, and not over safe,
either; and when I was done being exhibited, then ho for the
dungeon; but he, Clarence, would find a way to come and see me every
now and then, and cheer me up, and help me get word to my friends.

Get word to my friends! I thanked him; I couldn't do less; and
about this time a lackey came to say I was wanted; so Clarence
led me in and took me off to one side and sat down by me.

Well, it was a curious kind of spectacle, and interesting. It was
an immense place, and rather naked-yes, and full of loud contrasts.
It was very, very lofty; so lofty that the banners depending from
the arched beams and girders away up there floated in a sort of
twilight; there was a stone-railed gallery at each end, high up,
with musicians in the one, and women, clothed in stunning colors,
in the other. The floor was of big stone flags laid in black and
white squares, rather battered by age and use, and needing repair.
As to ornament, there wasn't any, strictly speaking; though on
the walls hung some huge tapestries which were probably taxed
as works of art; battle-pieces, they were, with horses shaped like
those which children cut out of paper or create in gingerbread;
with men on them in scale armor whose scales are represented by
round holes-so that the man's coat looks as if it had been done
with a biscuit-punch. There was a fireplace big enough to camp in;
and its projecting sides and hood, of carved and pillared stonework,
had the look of a cathedral door. Along the walls stood men-at-arms,
in breastplate and morion, with halberds for their only weapon
-rigid as statues; and that is what they looked like.

In the middle of this groined and vaulted public square was an oaken
table which they called the Table Round. It was as large as
a circus ring; and around it sat a great company of men dressed
in such various and splendid colors that it hurt one's eyes to look
at them. They wore their plumed hats, right along, except that
whenever one addressed himself directly to the king, he lifted
his hat a trifle just as he was beginning his remark.

Mainly they were drinking-from entire ox horns; but a few were
still munching bread or gnawing beef bones. There was about
an average of two dogs to one man; and these sat in expectant
attitudes till a spent bone was flung to them, and then they went
for it by brigades and divisions, with a rush, and there ensued
a fight which filled the prospect with a tumultuous chaos of
plunging heads and bodies and flashing tails, and the storm of
howlings and barkings deafened all speech for the time; but that
was no matter, for the dog-fight was always a bigger interest
anyway; the men rose, sometimes, to observe it the better and bet
on it, and the ladies and the musicians stretched themselves out
over their balusters with the same object; and all broke into
delighted ejaculations from time to time. In the end, the winning
dog stretched himself out comfortably with his bone between his
paws, and proceeded to growl over it, and gnaw it, and grease
the floor with it, just as fifty others were already doing; and the
rest of the court resumed their previous industries and entertainments.

As a rule, the speech and behavior of these people were gracious
and courtly; and I noticed that they were good and serious listeners
when anybody was telling anything-I mean in a dog-fightless
interval. And plainly, too, they were a childlike and innocent lot;
telling lies of the stateliest pattern with a most gentle and
winning naivety, and ready and willing to listen to anybody else's
lie, and believe it, too. It was hard to associate them with
anything cruel or dreadful; and yet they dealt in tales of blood
and suffering with a guileless relish that made me almost forget
to shudder.

I was not the only prisoner present. There were twenty or more.
Poor devils, many of them were maimed, hacked, carved, in a frightful
way; and their hair, their faces, their clothing, were caked with
black and stiffened drenchings of blood. They were suffering
sharp physical pain, of course; and weariness, and hunger and
thirst, no doubt; and at least none had given them the comfort
of a wash, or even the poor charity of a lotion for their wounds;
yet you never heard them utter a moan or a groan, or saw them show
any sign of restlessness, or any disposition to complain. The
thought was forced upon me: "The rascals-they have served other
people so in their day; it being their own turn, now, they were
not expecting any better treatment than this; so their philosophical
bearing is not an outcome of mental training, intellectual fortitude,
reasoning; it is mere animal training; they are white Indians."