FictionForest

Chapter 1 – Camelot

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

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“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.

 

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