I WAS so tired that even my
fears were not able to keep me
When I next
came to myself, I seemed to
have been asleep
a very long time. My first thought
was, "Well, what an astonishing
dream I've had! I reckon I've
waked only just in time to keep
from being hanged or drowned
or burned or something.... I'll
nap again till the whistle blows,
and then I'll go down to the
arms factory and have it out
But just then I heard the harsh
music of rusty chains and bolts,
a light flashed in my eyes, and
that butterfly, Clarence, stood
before me! I gasped with surprise;
my breath almost got away from
"What!" I said, "you
here yet? Go along with the
rest of the
But he only laughed, in his
light-hearted way, and fell to
making fun of my sorry plight.
"All right," I said resignedly, "let
the dream go on; I'm in no hurry."
Why, the dream that I am in
Arthur's court --
a person who never existed; and
that I am talking to you, who
are nothing but a work of the
"Oh, la, indeed!
and is it a dream that you're
to be burned
to-morrow? Ho-ho -- answer me
The shock that went through
me was distressing. I now began
to reason that my situation was
in the last degree serious, dream
or no dream; for I knew by past
experience of the lifelike intensity
of dreams, that to be burned
to death, even in a dream, would
be very far from being a jest,
and was a thing to be avoided,
by any means, fair or foul, that
I could contrive. So I said beseechingly:
good boy, only friend I've
got, -- for you ARE
my friend, aren't you? -- don't
fail me; help me to devise some
way of escaping from this place!"
"Now do but
hear thyself! Escape? Why,
man, the corridors are in
guard and keep of men-at-arms."
no doubt. But how many, Clarence?
Not many, I hope?"
"Full a score. One may not
hope to escape." After a pause
-- hesitatingly: "and there be
other reasons -- and weightier."
What are they?"
say -- oh, but I daren't, indeed
lad, what is the matter? Why
do you blench? Why
do you tremble so?"
"Oh, in sooth,
there is need! I do want to
tell you, but --"
be brave, be a man -- speak
out, there's a good
He hesitated, pulled one way
by desire, the other way by fear;
then he stole to the door and
peeped out, listening; and finally
crept close to me and put his
mouth to my ear and told me his
fearful news in a whisper, and
with all the cowering apprehension
of one who was venturing upon
awful ground and speaking of
things whose very mention might
be freighted with death.
his malice, has woven a spell
about this dungeon,
and there bides not the man in
these kingdoms that would be
desperate enough to essay to
cross its lines with you! Now
God pity me, I have told it!
Ah, be kind to me, be merciful
to a poor boy who means thee
well; for an thou betray me I
I laughed the only really refreshing
laugh I had had for some time;
wrought a spell! MERLIN, forsooth!
old humbug, that maundering old
ass? Bosh, pure bosh, the silliest
bosh in the world! Why, it does
seem to me that of all the childish,
idiotic, chuckle-headed, chicken-livered
superstitions that ev -- oh,
But Clarence had slumped to
his knees before I had half finished,
and he was like to go out of
his mind with fright.
These are awful words! Any
moment these walls
may crumble upon us if you say
such things. Oh call them back
before it is too late!"
Now this strange exhibition
gave me a good idea and set me
to thinking. If everybody about
here was so honestly and sincerely
afraid of Merlin's pretended
magic as Clarence was, certainly
a superior man like me ought
to be shrewd enough to contrive
some way to take advantage of
such a state of things. I went
on thinking, and worked out a
plan. Then I said:
"Get up. Pull
yourself together; look me
in the eye. Do you know
why I laughed?"
"No -- but
for our blessed Lady's sake,
do it no more."
tell you why I laughed. Because
I'm a magician
boy recoiled a step, and caught
for the thing hit him rather
sudden; but the aspect which
he took on was very, very respectful.
I took quick note of that; it
indicated that a humbug didn't
need to have a reputation in
this asylum; people stood ready
to take him at his word, without
that. I resumed.
Merlin seven hundred years,
and he --"
me. He has died and come alive
times, and traveled under a new
name every time: Smith, Jones,
Robinson, Jackson, Peters, Haskins,
Merlin -- a new alias every time
he turns up. I knew him in Egypt
three hundred years ago; I knew
him in India five hundred years
ago -- he is always blethering
around in my way, everywhere
I go; he makes me tired. He don't
amount to shucks, as a magician;
knows some of the old common
tricks, but has never got beyond
the rudiments, and never will.
He is well enough for the provinces--
one-night stands and that sort
of thing, you know -- but dear
me, HE oughtn't to set up for
an expert -- anyway not where
there's a real artist. Now look
here, Clarence, I am going to
stand your friend, right along,
and in return you must be mine.
I want you to do me a favor.
I want you to get word to the
king that I am a magician myself
-- and the Supreme Grand High-yu-Muckamuck
and head of the tribe, at that;
and I want him to be made to
understand that I am just quietly
arranging a little calamity here
that will make the fur fly in
these realms if Sir Kay's project
is carried out and any harm comes
to me. Will you get that to the
king for me?"
The poor boy was in such a
state that he could hardly answer
me. It was pitiful to see a creature
so terrified, so unnerved, so
demoralized. But he promised
everything; and on my side he
made me promise over and over
again that I would remain his
friend, and never turn against
him or cast any enchantments
upon him. Then he worked his
way out, staying himself with
his hand along the wall, like
a sick person.
Presently this thought occurred
to me: how heedless I have been!
When the boy gets calm, he will
wonder why a great magician like
me should have begged a boy like
him to help me get out of this
place; he will put this and that
together, and will see that I
am a humbug.
I worried over that heedless
blunder for an hour, and called
myself a great many hard names,
meantime. But finally it occurred
to me all of a sudden that these
animals didn't reason; that THEY
never put this and that together;
that all their talk showed that
they didn't know a discrepancy
when they saw it. I was at rest,
But as soon
as one is at rest, in this
world, off he goes on
something else to worry about.
It occurred to me that I had
made another blunder: I had sent
the boy off to alarm his betters
with a threat -- I intending
to invent a calamity at my leisure;
now the people who are the readiest
and eagerest and willingest to
swallow miracles are the very
ones who are hungriest to see
you perform them; suppose I should
be called on for a sample? Suppose
I should be asked to name my
calamity? Yes, I had made a blunder;
I ought to have invented my calamity
first. "What shall I do? what
can I say, to gain a little time?" I
was in trouble again; in the
deepest kind of trouble:... "There's
a footstep! -- they're coming.
If I had only just a moment to
think.... Good, I've got it.
I'm all right."
You see, it was the eclipse.
It came into my mind in the nick
of time, how Columbus, or Cortez,
or one of those people, played
an eclipse as a saving trump
once, on some savages, and I
saw my chance. I could play it
myself, now, and it wouldn't
be any plagiarism, either, because
I should get it in nearly a thousand
years ahead of those parties.
Clarence came in, subdued,
distressed, and said:
"I hasted the
message to our liege the king,
he had me to his presence. He
was frighted even to the marrow,
and was minded to give order
for your instant enlargement,
and that you be clothed in fine
raiment and lodged as befitted
one so great; but then came Merlin
and spoiled all; for he persuaded
the king that you are mad, and
know not whereof you speak; and
said your threat is but foolishness
and idle vaporing. They disputed
long, but in the end, Merlin,
scoffing, said, 'Wherefore hath
he not NAMED his brave calamity?
Verily it is because he cannot.'
This thrust did in a most sudden
sort close the king's mouth,
and he could offer naught to
turn the argument; and so, reluctant,
and full loth to do you the discourtesy,
he yet prayeth you to consider
his perplexed case, as noting
how the matter stands, and name
the calamity -- if so be you
have determined the nature of
it and the time of its coming.
Oh, prithee delay not; to delay
at such a time were to double
and treble the perils that already
compass thee about. Oh, be thou
wise -- name the calamity!"
I allowed silence to accumulate
while I got my impressiveness
together, and then said:
"How long have
I been shut up in this hole?"
"Ye were shut
up when yesterday was well
spent It is 9 of the
"No! Then I
have slept well, sure enough.
Nine in the morning
now! And yet it is the very complexion
of midnight, to a shade. This
is the 20th, then?"
"The 20th --
"And I am to be burned alive
to-morrow." The boy shuddered.
"At what hour?"
"At high noon."
"Now then, I will tell you
what to say." I paused, and stood
over that cowering lad a whole
minute in awful silence; then,
in a voice deep, measured, charged
with doom, I began, and rose
by dramatically graded stages
to my colossal climax, which
I delivered in as sublime and
noble a way as ever I did such
a thing in my life: "Go back
and tell the king that at that
hour I will smother the whole
world in the dead blackness of
midnight; I will blot out the
sun, and he shall never shine
again; the fruits of the earth
shall rot for lack of light and
warmth, and the peoples of the
earth shall famish and die, to
the last man!"
I had to carry the boy out
myself, he sunk into such a collapse.
I handed him over to the soldiers,
and went back.