Книга A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Содержание - CHAPTER XXXIX THE YANKEE'S FIGHT WITH THE KNIGHTS

Then a slave was blindfolded; the hangman unslung his rope. There lay the smooth road below us, we upon one side of it, the banked multitude wailing its other side-a good clear road, and kept free by the police-how good it would be to see my five hundred horsemen come tearing down it! But no, it was out of the possibilities. I followed its receding thread out into the distance-not a horseman on it, or sign of one.

There was a jerk, and the slave hung dangling; dangling and hideously squirming, for his limbs were not tied.

A second rope was unslung, in a moment another slave was dangling.

In a minute a third slave was struggling in the air. It was dreadful. I turned away my head a moment, and when I turned back I missed the king! They were blindfolding him! I was paralyzed; I couldn't move, I was choking, my tongue was petrified. They finished blindfolding him, they led him under the rope. I couldn't shake off that clinging impotence. But when I saw them put the noose around his neck, then everything let go in me and I made a spring to the rescue-and as I made it I shot one more glance abroad-by George! here they came, a-tilting!-five hundred mailed and belted knights on bicycles!

The grandest sight that ever was seen. Lord, how the plumes streamed, how the sun flamed and flashed from the endless procession of webby wheels!

I waved my right arm as Launcelot swept in-he recognized my rag

—I tore away noose and bandage, and shouted:

"On your knees, every rascal of you, and salute the king! Who fails shall sup in hell to-night!"

I always use that high style when I'm climaxing an effect. Well, it was noble to see Launcelot and the boys swarm up onto that scaffold and heave sheriffs and such overboard. And it was fine to see that astonished multitude go down on their knees and beg their lives of the king they had just been deriding and insulting. And as he stood apart there, receiving this homage in rags, I thought to myself, well, really there is something peculiarly grand about the gait and bearing of a king, after all.

I was immensely satisfied. Take the whole situation all around, it was one of the gaudiest effects I ever instigated.

And presently up comes Clarence, his own self! and winks, and says, very modernly:

"Good deal of a surprise, wasn't it? I knew you'd like it. I've had the boys practicing this long time, privately; and just hungry for a chance to show off."



Home again, at Camelot. A morning or two later I found the paper, damp from the press, by my plate at the breakfast table. I turned to the advertising columns, knowing I should find something of personal interest to me there. It was this:


Know that the great lord and illus— trious Kni8ht, SIR SAGRAMOR LE DESIROUS having condescended to meet the King's Minister, Hank Mor— gan, the which is surnamed The Boss, for satisfgction of offence anciently given, these wilL engage in the lists by Camelot about the fourth hour of the morning of the sixteenth day of this next succeeding month. The battle will be a l outrance, sith the said offence was of a deadly sort, admitting of no comPosition.


Clarence's editorial reference to this affair was to this effect:

It will be observed, by a gl7nce at our advertising columns, that the commu— nity is to be favored with a treat of un— usual interest in the tournament line.

The n ames of the artists are warrant of good enterTemment. The box-office will be open at noon of the 13th; ad— mission 3 cents, reserved seatsh 5; pro— ceeds to go to the hospital fund The royal pair and all the Court will be pres— ent. With these exceptions, and the press and the clergy, the free list is strict— ly susPended. Parties are hereby warn— ed against buying tickets of speculators; they will not be good at the door.

Everybody knows and likes The Boss, everybody knows and likes Sir Sag.; come, let us give the lads a good send— off. ReMember, the proceeds go to a great and free charity, and one whose broad begevolence stretches out its help— ing hand, warm with the blood of a lov— ing heart, to all that suffer, regardless of race, creed, condition or color-the only charity yet established in the earth which has no politico-religious stop— cock on its compassion, but says Here flows the stream, let ALL come and drink! Turn out, all hands! fetch along your dou3hnuts and your gum-drops and have a good time. Pie for sale on the grounds, and rocks to crack it with; and ciRcus-lemonade-three drops of lime juice to a barrel of water.

N.B. This is the first tournament under the new law, whidh allow each combatant to use any weapon he may pre— fer. You may want to make a note of that.

Up to the day set, there was no talk in all Britain of anything but this combat. All other topics sank into insignificance and passed out of men's thoughts and interest. It was not because a tournament was a great matter, it was not because Sir Sagramor had found the Holy Grail, for he had not, but had failed; it was not because the second (official) personage in the kingdom was one of the duellists; no, all these features were commonplace. Yet there was abundant reason for the extraordinary interest which this coming fight was creating. It was born of the fact that all the nation knew that this was not to be a duel between mere men, so to speak, but a duel between two mighty magicians; a duel not of muscle but of mind, not of human skill but of superhuman art and craft; a final struggle for supremacy between the two master enchanters of the age. It was realized that the most prodigious achievements of the most renowned knights could not be worthy of comparison with a spectacle like this; they could be but child's play, contrasted with this mysterious and awful battle of the gods. Yes, all the world knew it was going to be in reality a duel between Merlin and me, a measuring of his magic powers against mine. It was known that Merlin had been busy whole days and nights together, imbuing Sir Sagramor's arms and armor with supernal powers of offense and defense, and that he had procured for him from the spirits of the air a fleecy veil which would render the wearer invisible to his antagonist while still visible to other men. Against Sir Sagramor, so weaponed and protected, a thousand knights could accomplish nothing; against him no known enchantments could prevail. These facts were sure; regarding them there was no doubt, no reason for doubt. There was but one question: might there be still other enchantments, unknown to Merlin, which could render Sir Sagramor's veil transparent to me, and make his enchanted mail vulnerable to my weapons? This was the one thing to be decided in the lists. Until then the world must remain in suspense.

So the world thought there was a vast matter at stake here, and the world was right, but it was not the one they had in their minds. No, a far vaster one was upon the cast of this die: the life of knight-errantry. I was a champion, it was true, but not the champion of the frivolous black arts, I was the champion of hard unsentimental common-sense and reason. I was entering the lists to either destroy knight-errantry or be its victim.

Vast as the show-grounds were, there were no vacant spaces in them outside of the lists, at ten o'clock on the morning of the 16th. The mammoth grand-stand was clothed in flags, streamers, and rich tapestries, and packed with several acres of small-fry tributary kings, their suites, and the British aristocracy; with our own royal gang in the chief place, and each and every individual a flashing prism of gaudy silks and velvets-well, I never saw anything to begin with it but a fight between an Upper Mississippi sunset and the aurora borealis. The huge camp of beflagged and gay-colored tents at one end of the lists, with a stiff-standing sentinel at every door and a shining shield hanging by him for challenge, was another fine sight. You see, every knight was there who had any ambition or any caste feeling; for my feeling toward their order was not much of a secret, and so here was their chance. If I won my fight with Sir Sagramor, others would have the right to call me out as long as I might be willing to respond.

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