The Complete Works of Mark Twain


 
 
Mark Twain > A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court > Chapter I

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court

Chapter I


CAMELOT

"Camelot--Camelot," said I to myself. "I don't seem to remember
hearing of it before. Name of the asylum, likely."

It was a soft, reposeful summer landscape, as lovely as a dream,
and as lonesome as Sunday. The air was full of the smell of
flowers, and the buzzing of insects, and the twittering of birds,
and there were no people, no wagons, there was no stir of life,
nothing going on. The road was mainly a winding path with hoof-prints
in it, and now and then a faint trace of wheels on either side in
the grass--wheels that apparently had a tire as broad as one's hand.

Presently a fair slip of a girl, about ten years old, with a cataract
of golden hair streaming down over her shoulders, came along.
Around her head she wore a hoop of flame-red poppies. It was as
sweet an outfit as ever I saw, what there was of it. She walked
indolently along, with a mind at rest, its peace reflected in her
innocent face. The circus man paid no attention to her; didn't
even seem to see her. And she--she was no more startled at his
fantastic make-up than if she was used to his like every day of
her life. She was going by as indifferently as she might have gone
by a couple of cows; but when she happened to notice me, _then_
there was a change! Up went her hands, and she was turned to stone;
her mouth dropped open, her eyes stared wide and timorously, she
was the picture of astonished curiosity touched with fear. And
there she stood gazing, in a sort of stupefied fascination, till
we turned a corner of the wood and were lost to her view. That
she should be startled at me instead of at the other man, was too
many for me; I couldn't make head or tail of it. And that she
should seem to consider me a spectacle, and totally overlook her
own merits in that respect, was another puzzling thing, and a
display of magnanimity, too, that was surprising in one so young.
There was food for thought here. I moved along as one in a dream.

As we approached the town, signs of life began to appear. At
intervals we passed a wretched cabin, with a thatched roof, and
about it small fields and garden patches in an indifferent state of
cultivation. There were people, too; brawny men, with long, coarse,
uncombed hair that hung down over their faces and made them look
like animals. They and the women, as a rule, wore a coarse
tow-linen robe that came well below the knee, and a rude sort of
sandal, and many wore an iron collar. The small boys and girls
were always naked; but nobody seemed to know it. All of these
people stared at me, talked about me, ran into the huts and fetched
out their families to gape at me; but nobody ever noticed that
other fellow, except to make him humble salutation and get no
response for their pains.

In the town were some substantial windowless houses of stone
scattered among a wilderness of thatched cabins; the streets were
mere crooked alleys, and unpaved; troops of dogs and nude children
played in the sun and made life and noise; hogs roamed and rooted
contentedly about, and one of them lay in a reeking wallow in
the middle of the main thoroughfare and suckled her family.
Presently there was a distant blare of military music; it came
nearer, still nearer, and soon a noble cavalcade wound into view,
glorious with plumed helmets and flashing mail and flaunting banners
and rich doublets and horse-cloths and gilded spearheads; and
through the muck and swine, and naked brats, and joyous dogs, and
shabby huts, it took its gallant way, and in its wake we followed.
Followed through one winding alley and then another,--and climbing,
always climbing--till at last we gained the breezy height where
the huge castle stood. There was an exchange of bugle blasts;
then a parley from the walls, where men-at-arms, in hauberk and
morion, marched back and forth with halberd at shoulder under
flapping banners with the rude figure of a dragon displayed upon
them; and then the great gates were flung open, the drawbridge
was lowered, and the head of the cavalcade swept forward under
the frowning arches; and we, following, soon found ourselves in
a great paved court, with towers and turrets stretching up into
the blue air on all the four sides; and all about us the dismount
was going on, and much greeting and ceremony, and running to and
fro, and a gay display of moving and intermingling colors, and
an altogether pleasant stir and noise and confusion.

< Back
Forward >












Index Index

Other Authors Other Authors


Mark Twain. Copyright 2008, mtwain.com
Contact the webmaster
Disclaimer here. Privacy Policy here.