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Mark Twain > A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court > Chapter XIX

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court

Chapter XIX


KNIGHT-ERRANTRY AS A TRADE

Sandy and I were on the road again, next morning, bright and early.
It was so good to open up one's lungs and take in whole luscious
barrels-ful of the blessed God's untainted, dew-fashioned, woodland-
scented air once more, after suffocating body and mind for two
days and nights in the moral and physical stenches of that intolerable
old buzzard-roost! I mean, for me: of course the place was all
right and agreeable enough for Sandy, for she had been used to
high life all her days.

Poor girl, her jaws had had a wearisome rest now for a while,
and I was expecting to get the consequences. I was right; but she
had stood by me most helpfully in the castle, and had mightily
supported and reinforced me with gigantic foolishnesses which were
worth more for the occasion than wisdoms double their size; so
I thought she had earned a right to work her mill for a while,
if she wanted to, and I felt not a pang when she started it up:

"Now turn we unto Sir Marhaus that rode with the damsel of thirty
winter of age southward--"

"Are you going to see if you can work up another half-stretch on
the trail of the cowboys, Sandy?"

"Even so, fair my lord."

"Go ahead, then. I won't interrupt this time, if I can help it.
Begin over again; start fair, and shake out all your reefs, and
I will load my pipe and give good attention."

"Now turn we unto Sir Marhaus that rode with the damsel of thirty
winter of age southward. And so they came into a deep forest,
and by fortune they were nighted, and rode along in a deep way,
and at the last they came into a courtelage where abode the duke
of South Marches, and there they asked harbour. And on the morn
the duke sent unto Sir Marhaus, and bad him make him ready. And
so Sir Marhaus arose and armed him, and there was a mass sung
afore him, and he brake his fast, and so mounted on horseback in
the court of the castle, there they should do the battle. So there
was the duke already on horseback, clean armed, and his six sons
by him, and every each had a spear in his hand, and so they
encountered, whereas the duke and his two sons brake their spears
upon him, but Sir Marhaus held up his spear and touched none of
them. Then came the four sons by couples, and two of them brake
their spears, and so did the other two. And all this while
Sir Marhaus touched them not. Then Sir Marhaus ran to the duke,
and smote him with his spear that horse and man fell to the earth.
And so he served his sons. And then Sir Marhaus alight down, and
bad the duke yield him or else he would slay him. And then some
of his sons recovered, and would have set upon Sir Marhaus. Then
Sir Marhaus said to the duke, Cease thy sons, or else I will do
the uttermost to you all. When the duke saw he might not escape
the death, he cried to his sons, and charged them to yield them
to Sir Marhaus. And they kneeled all down and put the pommels
of their swords to the knight, and so he received them. And then
they holp up their father, and so by their common assent promised
unto Sir Marhaus never to be foes unto King Arthur, and thereupon
at Whitsuntide after, to come he and his sons, and put them in
the king's grace.*

[*Footnote: The story is borrowed, language and all, from the
Morte d'Arthur.--M.T.]

"Even so standeth the history, fair Sir Boss. Now ye shall wit
that that very duke and his six sons are they whom but few days
past you also did overcome and send to Arthur's court!"

"Why, Sandy, you can't mean it!"

"An I speak not sooth, let it be the worse for me."

"Well, well, well,--now who would ever have thought it? One
whole duke and six dukelets; why, Sandy, it was an elegant haul.
Knight-errantry is a most chuckle-headed trade, and it is tedious
hard work, too, but I begin to see that there _is_ money in it,
after all, if you have luck. Not that I would ever engage in it
as a business, for I wouldn't. No sound and legitimate business
can be established on a basis of speculation. A successful whirl
in the knight-errantry line--now what is it when you blow away
the nonsense and come down to the cold facts? It's just a corner
in pork, that's all, and you can't make anything else out of it.
You're rich--yes,--suddenly rich--for about a day, maybe a week;
then somebody corners the market on _you_, and down goes your
bucket-shop; ain't that so, Sandy?"

"Whethersoever it be that my mind miscarrieth, bewraying simple
language in such sort that the words do seem to come endlong
and overthwart--"

"There's no use in beating about the bush and trying to get around
it that way, Sandy, it's _so_, just as I say. I _know_ it's so. And,
moreover, when you come right down to the bedrock, knight-errantry
is _worse_ than pork; for whatever happens, the pork's left, and
so somebody's benefited anyway; but when the market breaks, in a
knight-errantry whirl, and every knight in the pool passes in his
checks, what have you got for assets? Just a rubbish-pile of
battered corpses and a barrel or two of busted hardware. Can you
call _those_ assets? Give me pork, every time. Am I right?"

"Ah, peradventure my head being distraught by the manifold matters
whereunto the confusions of these but late adventured haps and
fortunings whereby not I alone nor you alone, but every each of us,
meseemeth--"

"No, it's not your head, Sandy. Your head's all right, as far as
it goes, but you don't know business; that's where the trouble
is. It unfits you to argue about business, and you're wrong
to be always trying. However, that aside, it was a good haul,
anyway, and will breed a handsome crop of reputation in Arthur's
court. And speaking of the cowboys, what a curious country this
is for women and men that never get old. Now there's Morgan le Fay,
as fresh and young as a Vassar pullet, to all appearances, and
here is this old duke of the South Marches still slashing away with
sword and lance at his time of life, after raising such a family
as he has raised. As I understand it, Sir Gawaine killed seven
of his sons, and still he had six left for Sir Marhaus and me to
take into camp. And then there was that damsel of sixty winter
of age still excursioning around in her frosty bloom--How old
are you, Sandy?"

It was the first time I ever struck a still place in her. The mill
had shut down for repairs, or something.

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