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A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court
(Samuel L. Clemens)

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THE ungentle laws and customs touched upon in
this tale are historical, and the episodes which are
used to illustrate them are also historical. It is
not pretended that these laws and customs existed in
England in the sixth century; no, it is only pretended
that inasmuch as they existed in the English and other
civilizations of far later times, it is safe to consider that
it is no libel upon the sixth century to suppose them to
have been in practice in that day also. One is quite
justified in inferring that whatever one of these laws or
customs was lacking in that remote time, its place was
competently filled by a worse one.

The question as to whether there is such a thing as
divine right of kings is not settled in this book. It
was found too difficult. That the executive head of a
nation should be a person of lofty character and
extraordinary ability, was manifest and indisputable;
that none but the Deity could select that head unerr-
ingly, was also manifest and indisputable; that the
Deity ought to make that selection, then, was likewise
manifest and indisputable; consequently, that He does
make it, as claimed, was an unavoidable deduction. I
mean, until the author of this book encountered the
Pompadour, and Lady Castlemaine, and some other
executive heads of that kind; these were found so
difficult to work into the scheme, that it was judged
better to take the other tack in this book (which must
be issued this fall), and then go into training and
settle the question in another book. It is, of course,
a thing which ought to be settled, and I am not going
to have anything particular to do next winter anyway.




IT was in Warwick Castle that I came across the
curious stranger whom I am going to talk about.
He attracted me by three things: his candid simplicity,
his marvelous familiarity with ancient armor, and the
restfulness of his company -- for he did all the talking.
We fell together, as modest people will, in the tail of
the herd that was being shown through, and he at once
began to say things which interested me. As he
talked along, softly, pleasantly, flowingly, he seemed
to drift away imperceptibly out of this world and time,
and into some remote era and old forgotten country;
and so he gradually wove such a spell about me that I
seemed to move among the specters and shadows and
dust and mold of a gray antiquity, holding speech with
a relic of it! Exactly as I would speak of my nearest
personal friends or enemies, or my most familiar
neighbors, he spoke of Sir Bedivere, Sir Bors de
Ganis, Sir Launcelot of the Lake, Sir Galahad, and all
the other great names of the Table Round -- and how
old, old, unspeakably old and faded and dry and
musty and ancient he came to look as he went on!
Presently he turned to me and said, just as one might
speak of the weather, or any other common matter --

"You know about transmigration of souls; do you
know about transposition of epochs -- and bodies?"

I said I had not heard of it. He was so little interested --
just as when people speak of the weather --
that he did not notice whether I made him any answer
or not. There was half a moment of silence, immediately
interrupted by the droning voice of the salaried cicerone:

"Ancient hauberk, date of the sixth century, time
of King Arthur and the Round Table; said to have
belonged to the knight Sir Sagramor le Desirous; ob-
serve the round hole through the chain-mail in the left
breast; can't be accounted for; supposed to have been
done with a bullet since invention of firearms --
perhaps maliciously by Cromwell's soldiers."

My acquaintance smiled -- not a modern smile, but
one that must have gone out of general use many, many
centuries ago -- and muttered apparently to himself:

"Wit ye well, I SAW IT DONE." Then, after a pause,
added: "I did it myself."

By the time I had recovered from the electric sur-
prise of this remark, he was gone.

All that evening I sat by my fire at the Warwick
Arms, steeped in a dream of the olden time, while the
rain beat upon the windows, and the wind roared about
the eaves and corners. From time to time I dipped
into old Sir Thomas Malory's enchanting book, and
fed at its rich feast of prodigies and adventures,
breathed in the fragrance of its obsolete names, and
dreamed again. Midnight being come at length, I read
another tale, for a nightcap -- this which here follows,
to wit:


Anon withal came there upon him two great giants,
well armed, all save the heads, with two horrible
clubs in their hands. Sir Launcelot put his shield
afore him, and put the stroke away of the one
giant, and with his sword he clave his head asunder.
When his fellow saw that, he ran away as he were
wood [* demented], for fear of the horrible strokes,
and Sir Launcelot after him with all his might,
and smote him on the shoulder, and clave him to
the middle. Then Sir Launcelot went into the hall,
and there came afore him three score ladies and
damsels, and all kneeled unto him, and thanked
God and him of their deliverance. For, sir, said
they, the most part of us have been here this
seven year their prisoners, and we have worked all
manner of silk works for our meat, and we are all
great gentle-women born, and blessed be the time,
knight, that ever thou wert born;for thou hast
done the most worship that ever did knight in the
world, that will we bear record, and we all pray
you to tell us your name, that we may tell our
friends who delivered us out of prison. Fair
damsels, he said, my name is Sir Launcelot du
Lake. And so he departed from them and betaught
them unto God. And then he mounted upon his
horse, and rode into many strange and wild
countries, and through many waters and valleys,
and evil was he lodged. And at the last by
fortune him happened against a night to come to
a fair courtilage, and therein he found an old
gentle-woman that lodged him with a good-will,
and there he had good cheer for him and his horse.
And when time was, his host brought him into a
fair garret over the gate to his bed. There
Sir Launcelot unarmed him, and set his harness
by him, and went to bed, and anon he fell on
sleep. So, soon after there came one on
horseback, and knocked at the gate in great
haste. And when Sir Launcelot heard this he rose
up, and looked out at the window, and saw by the
moonlight three knights come riding after that
one man, and all three lashed on him at once
with swords, and that one knight turned on them
knightly again and defended him. Truly, said
Sir Launcelot, yonder one knight shall I help,
for it were shame for me to see three knights
on one, and if he be slain I am partner of his
death. And therewith he took his harness and
went out at a window by a sheet down to the four
knights, and then Sir Launcelot said on high,
Turn you knights unto me, and leave your
fighting with that knight. And then they all
three left Sir Kay, and turned unto Sir Launcelot,
and there began great battle, for they alight
all three, and strake many strokes at Sir
Launcelot, and assailed him on every side. Then
Sir Kay dressed him for to have holpen Sir
Launcelot. Nay, sir, said he, I will none of
your help, therefore as ye will have my help
let me alone with them. Sir Kay for the pleasure
of the knight suffered him for to do his will,
and so stood aside. And then anon within six
strokes Sir Launcelot had stricken them to the

And then they all three cried, Sir Knight, we
yield us unto you as man of might matchless. As
to that, said Sir Launcelot, I will not take
your yielding unto me, but so that ye yield
you unto Sir Kay the seneschal, on that covenant
I will save your lives and else not. Fair knight,
said they, that were we loath to do; for as for
Sir Kay we chased him hither, and had overcome
him had ye not been; therefore, to yield us unto
him it were no reason. Well, as to that, said
Sir Launcelot, advise you well, for ye may
choose whether ye will die or live, for an ye be
yielden, it shall be unto Sir Kay. Fair knight,
then they said, in saving our lives we will do
as thou commandest us. Then shall ye, said Sir
Launcelot, on Whitsunday next coming go unto the
court of King Arthur, and there shall ye yield
you unto Queen Guenever, and put you all three
in her grace and mercy, and say that Sir Kay
sent you thither to be her prisoners. On the morn
Sir Launcelot arose early, and left Sir Kay
sleeping; and Sir Launcelot took Sir Kay's armor
and his shield and armed him, and so he went to
the stable and took his horse, and took his leave
of his host, and so he departed. Then soon after
arose Sir Kay and missed Sir Launcelot; and
then he espied that he had his armor and his
horse. Now by my faith I know well that he will
grieve some of the court of King Arthur; for on
him knights will be bold, and deem that it is I,
and that will beguile them; and because of his
armor and shield I am sure I shall ride in peace.
And then soon after departed Sir Kay, and
thanked his host.

As I laid the book down there was a knock at the
door, and my stranger came in. I gave him a pipe
and a chair, and made him welcome. I also comforted
him with a hot Scotch whisky; gave him another one;
then still another -- hoping always for his story. After
a fourth persuader, he drifted into it himself, in a quite
simple and natural way:


I am an American. I was born and reared in Hartford, 
in the State of Connecticut -- anyway, just over
the river, in the country. So I am a Yankee of the
Yankees -- and practical; yes, and nearly barren of
sentiment, I suppose -- or poetry, in other words. My
father was a blacksmith, my uncle was a horse doctor,
and I was both, along at first. Then I went over to
the great arms factory and learned my real trade;
learned all there was to it; learned to make every-
thing: guns, revolvers, cannon, boilers, engines, all
sorts of labor-saving machinery. Why, I could make
anything a body wanted -- anything in the world, it
didn't make any difference what; and if there wasn't
any quick new-fangled way to make a thing, I could
invent one -- and do it as easy as rolling off a log. I
became head superintendent; had a couple of thou-
sand men under me.

Well, a man like that is a man that is full of fight --
that goes without saying. With a couple of thousand
rough men under one, one has plenty of that sort of
amusement. I had, anyway. At last I met my match,
and I got my dose. It was during a misunderstanding
conducted with crowbars with a fellow we used to call
Hercules. He laid me out with a crusher alongside
the head that made everything crack, and seemed to
spring every joint in my skull and made it overlap its
neighbor. Then the world went out in darkness, and
I didn't feel anything more, and didn't know anything
at all -- at least for a while.

When I came to again, I was sitting under an oak
tree, on the grass, with a whole beautiful and broad
country landscape all to myself -- nearly. Not en-
tirely; for there was a fellow on a horse, looking down
at me -- a fellow fresh out of a picture-book. He was
in old-time iron armor from head to heel, with a
helmet on his head the shape of a nail-keg with slits
in it; and he had a shield, and a sword, and a pro-
digious spear; and his horse had armor on, too, and a
steel horn projecting from his forehead, and gorgeous
red and green silk trappings that hung down all around
him like a bedquilt, nearly to the ground.

"Fair sir, will ye just?" said this fellow.

"Will I which?"

"Will ye try a passage of arms for land or lady or for --"

"What are you giving me?" I said. "Get along
back to your circus, or I'll report you."

Now what does this man do but fall back a couple
of hundred yards and then come rushing at me as hard
as he could tear, with his nail-keg bent down nearly to
his horse's neck and his long spear pointed straight
ahead. I saw he meant business, so I was up the tree
when he arrived.

He allowed that I was his property, the captive of
his spear. There was argument on his side -- and the
bulk of the advantage -- so I judged it best to humor
him. We fixed up an agreement whereby I was to go
with him and he was not to hurt me. I came down,
and we started away, I walking by the side of his
horse. We marched comfortably along, through glades
and over brooks which I could not remember to have
seen before -- which puzzled me and made me wonder
-- and yet we did not come to any circus or sign of
a circus. So I gave up the idea of a circus, and con-
cluded he was from an asylum. But we never came to
an asylum -- so I was up a stump, as you may say. I
asked him how far we were from Hartford. He said
he had never heard of the place; which I took to be a
lie, but allowed it to go at that. At the end of an
hour we saw a far-away town sleeping in a valley by a
winding river; and beyond it on a hill, a vast gray
fortress, with towers and turrets, the first I had ever
seen out of a picture.

"Bridgeport?" said I, pointing.

"Camelot," said he.

My stranger had been showing signs of sleepiness.
He caught himself nodding, now, and smiled one of
those pathetic, obsolete smiles of his, and said:

"I find I can't go on; but come with me, I've got
it all written out, and you can read it if you like."

In his chamber, he said: "First, I kept a journal;
then by and by, after years, I took the journal and
turned it into a book. How long ago that was!"

He handed me his manuscript, and pointed out the
place where I should begin:

"Begin here -- I've already told you what goes be-
fore." He was steeped in drowsiness by this time.
As I went out at his door I heard him murmur sleep-
ily: "Give you good den, fair sir."

I sat down by my fire and examined my treasure.
The first part of it -- the great bulk of it -- was parch-
ment, and yellow with age. I scanned a leaf particu-
larly and saw that it was a palimpsest. Under the old
dim writing of the Yankee historian appeared traces of
a penmanship which was older and dimmer still --
Latin words and sentences: fragments from old monk-
ish legends, evidently. I turned to the place indicated
by my stranger and began to read -- as follows:




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