A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Part 3., p.1Mark Twain
Produced by David Widger
A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT
MARK TWAIN (Samuel L. Clemens)
Straight off, we were in the country. It was most lovely andpleasant in those sylvan solitudes in the early cool morningin the first freshness of autumn. From hilltops we saw fairgreen valleys lying spread out below, with streams winding throughthem, and island groves of trees here and there, and huge lonelyoaks scattered about and casting black blots of shade; and beyondthe valleys we saw the ranges of hills, blue with haze, stretchingaway in billowy perspective to the horizon, with at wide intervalsa dim fleck of white or gray on a wave-summit, which we knew wasa castle. We crossed broad natural lawns sparkling with dew,and we moved like spirits, the cushioned turf giving out no soundof footfall; we dreamed along through glades in a mist of greenlight that got its tint from the sun-drenched roof of leavesoverhead, and by our feet the clearest and coldest of runletswent frisking and gossiping over its reefs and making a sort ofwhispering music, comfortable to hear; and at times we left theworld behind and entered into the solemn great deeps and richgloom of the forest, where furtive wild things whisked and scurriedby and were gone before you could even get your eye on the placewhere the noise was; and where only the earliest birds were turningout and getting to business with a song here and a quarrel yonderand a mysterious far-off hammering and drumming for worms ona tree trunk away somewhere in the impenetrable remotenesses ofthe woods. And by and by out we would swing again into the glare.
About the third or fourth or fifth time that we swung out intothe glare--it was along there somewhere, a couple of hours or soafter sun-up--it wasn't as pleasant as it had been. It wasbeginning to get hot. This was quite noticeable. We had a verylong pull, after that, without any shade. Now it is curious howprogressively little frets grow and multiply after they once geta start. Things which I didn't mind at all, at first, I beganto mind now--and more and more, too, all the time. The firstten or fifteen times I wanted my handkerchief I didn't seem to care;I got along, and said never mind, it isn't any matter, and droppedit out of my mind. But now it was different; I wanted it allthe time; it was nag, nag, nag, right along, and no rest; I couldn'tget it out of my mind; and so at last I lost my temper and saidhang a man that would make a suit of armor without any pocketsin it. You see I had my handkerchief in my helmet; and some otherthings; but it was that kind of a helmet that you can't take offby yourself. That hadn't occurred to me when I put it there;and in fact I didn't know it. I supposed it would be particularlyconvenient there. And so now, the thought of its being there,so handy and close by, and yet not get-at-able, made it all theworse and the harder to bear. Yes, the thing that you can't getis the thing that you want, mainly; every one has noticed that.Well, it took my mind off from everything else; took it clear off,and centered it in my helmet; and mile after mile, there it stayed,imagining the handkerchief, picturing the handkerchief; and itwas bitter and aggravating to have the salt sweat keep tricklingdown into my eyes, and I couldn't get at it. It seems like a littlething, on paper, but it was not a little thing at all; it wasthe most real kind of misery. I would not say it if it was not so.I made up my mind that I would carry along a reticule next time,let it look how it might, and people say what they would. Of coursethese iron dudes of the Round Table would think it was scandalous,and maybe raise Sheol about it, but as for me, give me comfortfirst, and style afterwards. So we jogged along, and now and thenwe struck a stretch of dust, and it would tumble up in clouds andget into my nose and make me sneeze and cry; and of course I saidthings I oughtn't to have said, I don't deny that. I am notbetter than others.
We couldn't seem to meet anybody in this lonesome Britain, noteven an ogre; and, in the mood I was in then, it was well forthe ogre; that is, an ogre with a handkerchief. Most knightswould have thought of nothing but getting his armor; but so I gothis bandanna, he could keep his hardware, for all of me.
Meantime, it was getting hotter and hotter in there. You see,the sun was beating down and warming up the iron more and moreall the time. Well, when you are hot, that way, every little thingirritates you. When I trotted, I rattled like a crate of dishes,and that annoyed me; and moreover I couldn't seem to stand thatshield slatting and banging, now about my breast, now around myback; and if I dropped into a walk my joints creaked and screechedin that wearisome way that a wheelbarrow does, and as we didn'tcreate any breeze at that gait, I was like to get fried in thatstove; and besides, the quieter you went the heavier the ironsettled down on you and the more and more tons you seemed to weighevery minute. And you had to be always changing hands, and passingyour spear over to the other foot, it got so irksome for one handto hold it long at a time.
Well, you know, when you perspire that way, in rivers, there comesa time when you--when you--well, when you itch. You are inside,your hands are outside; so there you are; nothing but iron between.It is not a light thing, let it sound as it may. First it is oneplace; then another; then some more; and it goes on spreading andspreading, and at last the territory is all occupied, and nobodycan imagine what you feel like, nor how unpleasant it is. Andwhen it had got to the worst, and it seemed to me that I couldnot stand anything more, a fly got in through the bars and settledon my nose, and the bars were stuck and wouldn't work, and Icouldn't get the visor up; and I could only shake my head, whichwas baking hot by this time, and the fly--well, you know how a flyacts when he has got a certainty--he only minded the shaking enoughto change from nose to lip, and lip to ear, and buzz and buzzall around in there, and keep on lighting and biting, in a waythat a person, already so distressed as I was, simply could notstand. So I gave in, and got Alisande to unship the helmet andrelieve me of it. Then she emptied the conveniences out of itand fetched it full of water, and I drank and then stood up, andshe poured the rest down inside the armor. One cannot think howrefreshing it was. She continued to fetch and pour until I waswell soaked and thoroughly comfortable.
It was good to have a rest--and peace. But nothing is quiteperfect in this life, at any time. I had made a pipe a while back,and also some pretty fair tobacco; not the real thing, but whatsome of the Indians use: the inside bark of the willow, dried.These comforts had been in the helmet, and now I had them again,but no matches.
Gradually, as the time wore along, one annoying fact was borne inupon my understanding--that we were weather-bound. An armed novicecannot mount his horse without help and plenty of it. Sandy wasnot enough; not enough for me, anyway. We had to wait untilsomebody should come along. Waiting, in silence, would have beenagreeable enough, for I was full of matter for reflection, andwanted to give it a chance to work. I wanted to try and think outhow it was that rational or even half-rational men could everhave learned to wear armor, considering its inconveniences; andhow they had managed to keep up such a fashion for generationswhen it was plain that what I had suffered to-day they had hadto suffer all the days of their lives. I wanted to think that out;and moreover I wanted to think out some way to reform this eviland persuade the people to let the foolish fashion die out; butthinking was out of the question in the circumstances. You couldn'tthink, where Sandy was.
She was a quite biddable creature and good-hearted, but she hada flow of talk that was as steady as a mill, and made your headsore like the drays and wagons in a city. If she had had a corkshe would have been a comfort. But you can't cork that kind;they would die. Her clack was going all day,
"Take a rest, child; the way you are using up all the domestic air,the kingdom will have to go to importing it by to-morrow, and it'sa low enough treasury without that."
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