FictionForest

Chapter 44 – A Postscript by Clarence

Mark TwainMay 20, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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I, CLARENCE, must write it for him. He proposed
that we two go out and see if any help could be
accorded the wounded. I was strenuous against the
project. I said that if there were many, we could do
but little for them; and it would not be wise for us to
trust ourselves among them, anyway. But he could
seldom be turned from a purpose once formed; so we
shut off the electric current from the fences, took an
escort along, climbed over the enclosing ramparts of
dead knights, and moved out upon the field. The first
wounded mall who appealed for help was sitting with
his back against a dead comrade. When The Boss
bent over him and spoke to him, the man recognized
him and stabbed him. That knight was Sir Meliagraunce, as I found out by tearing off his helmet. He
will not ask for help any more.

We carried The Boss to the cave and gave his
wound, which was not very serious, the best care we
could. In this service we had the help of Merlin,
though we did not know it. He was disguised as a
woman, and appeared to be a simple old peasant goodwife. In this disguise, with brown-stained face and
smooth shaven, he had appeared a few days after The
Boss was hurt and offered to cook for us, saying her
people had gone off to join certain new camps which
the enemy were forming, and that she was starving.
The Boss had been getting along very well, and had
amused himself with finishing up his record.

We were glad to have this woman, for we were short
handed. We were in a trap, you see — a trap of our
own making. If we stayed where we were, our dead
would kill us; if we moved out of our defenses, we
should no longer be invincible. We had conquered;
in turn we were conquered. The Boss recognized
this; we all recognized it. If we could go to one of
those new camps and patch up some kind of terms
with the enemy — yes, but The Boss could not go, and
neither could I, for I was among the first that were
made sick by the poisonous air bred by those dead
thousands. Others were taken down, and still others.
To-morrow —

TO-MORROW. It is here. And with it the end.
About midnight I awoke, and saw that hag making
curious passes in the air about The Boss’s head and
face, and wondered what it meant. Everybody but
the dynamo-watch lay steeped in sleep; there was no
sound. The woman ceased from her mysterious foolery, and started tip-toeing toward the door. I called
out:

“Stop! What have you been doing?”

She halted, and said with an accent of malicious
satisfaction:

“Ye were conquerors; ye are conquered! These
others are perishing — you also. Ye shall all die in
this place — every one — except HIM. He sleepeth
now — and shall sleep thirteen centuries. I am
Merlin!”

Then such a delirium of silly laughter overtook him
that he reeled about like a drunken man, and presently
fetched up against one of our wires. His mouth is
spread open yet; apparently he is still laughing. I
suppose the face will retain that petrified laugh until
the corpse turns to dust.

The Boss has never stirred — sleeps like a stone. If
he does not wake to-day we shall understand what
kind of a sleep it is, and his body will then be borne
to a place in one of the remote recesses of the cave
where none will ever find it to desecrate it. As for
the rest of us — well, it is agreed that if any one of us
ever escapes alive from this place, he will write the
fact here, and loyally hide this Manuscript with The
Boss, our dear good chief, whose property it is, be he
alive or dead.

THE END OF THE MANUSCRIPT

FINAL P.S. BY M.T.

THE dawn was come when I laid the Manuscript
aside. The rain had almost ceased, the world
was gray and sad, the exhausted storm was sighing
and sobbing itself to rest. I went to the stranger’s
room, and listened at his door, which was slightly ajar.
I could hear his voice, and so I knocked. There was
no answer, but I still heard the voice. I peeped in.
The man lay on his back in bed, talking brokenly but
with spirit, and punctuating with his arms, which he
thrashed about, restlessly, as sick people do in delirium. I slipped in softly and bent over him. His
mutterings and ejaculations went on. I spoke — merely
a word, to call his attention. His glassy eyes and his
ashy face were alight in an instant with pleasure, gratitude, gladness, welcome:

“Oh, Sandy, you are come at last — how I have
longed for you! Sit by me — do not leave me —
never leave me again, Sandy, never again. Where is
your hand? — give it me, dear, let me hold it — there
— now all is well, all is peace, and I am happy again —
WE are happy again, isn’t it so, Sandy? You are so
dim, so vague, you are but a mist, a cloud, but you
are HERE, and that is blessedness sufficient; and I have
your hand; don’t take it away — it is for only a little
while, I shall not require it long…… Was that the
child?…… Hello-Central!…… she doesn’t answer.
Asleep, perhaps? Bring her when she wakes, and let
me touch her hands, her face, her hair, and tell her
good-bye…… Sandy! Yes, you are there. I
lost myself a moment, and I thought you were
gone…… Have I been sick long? It must be so;
it seems months to me. And such dreams! such
strange and awful dreams, Sandy! Dreams that were
as real as reality — delirium, of course, but SO real!
Why, I thought the king was dead, I thought you
were in Gaul and couldn’t get home, I thought there
was a revolution; in the fantastic frenzy of these
dreams, I thought that Clarence and I and a handful of my cadets fought and exterminated the whole
chivalry of England! But even that was not the
strangest. I seemed to be a creature out of a remote
unborn age, centuries hence, and even THAT was as real
as the rest! Yes, I seemed to have flown back out of
that age into this of ours, and then forward to it again,
and was set down, a stranger and forlorn in that strange
England, with an abyss of thirteen centuries yawning
between me and you! between me and my home and
my friends! between me and all that is dear to me, all
that could make life worth the living! It was awful —
awfuler than you can ever imagine, Sandy. Ah,
watch by me, Sandy — stay by me every moment —
DON’T let me go out of my mind again; death is nothing, let it come, but not with those dreams, not with
the torture of those hideous dreams — I cannot endure
THAT again…… Sandy?……”

He lay muttering incoherently some little time; then
for a time he lay silent, and apparently sinking away
toward death. Presently his fingers began to pick
busily at the coverlet, and by that sign I knew that his
end was at hand with the first suggestion of the
death-rattle in his throat he started up slightly, and
seemed to listen: then he said:

“A bugle?…… It is the king! The drawbridge,
there! Man the battlements! — turn out the –”

He was getting up his last “effect”; but he never
finished it.

 

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