By Mark Twain
From A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889).
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.