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

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court

Chapter XL


THREE YEARS LATER

When I broke the back of knight-errantry that time, I no longer
felt obliged to work in secret. So, the very next day I exposed
my hidden schools, my mines, and my vast system of clandestine
factories and workshops to an astonished world. That is to say,
I exposed the nineteenth century to the inspection of the sixth.

Well, it is always a good plan to follow up an advantage promptly.
The knights were temporarily down, but if I would keep them so
I must just simply paralyze them--nothing short of that would
answer. You see, I was "bluffing" that last time in the field;
it would be natural for them to work around to that conclusion,
if I gave them a chance. So I must not give them time; and I didn't.

I renewed my challenge, engraved it on brass, posted it up where
any priest could read it to them, and also kept it standing in
the advertising columns of the paper.

I not only renewed it, but added to its proportions. I said,
name the day, and I would take fifty assistants and stand up
_against the massed chivalry of the whole earth and destroy it_.

I was not bluffing this time. I meant what I said; I could do
what I promised. There wasn't any way to misunderstand the language
of that challenge. Even the dullest of the chivalry perceived
that this was a plain case of "put up, or shut up." They were
wise and did the latter. In all the next three years they gave
me no trouble worth mentioning.

Consider the three years sped. Now look around on England. A happy
and prosperous country, and strangely altered. Schools everywhere,
and several colleges; a number of pretty good newspapers. Even
authorship was taking a start; Sir Dinadan the Humorist was first
in the field, with a volume of gray-headed jokes which I had been
familiar with during thirteen centuries. If he had left out that
old rancid one about the lecturer I wouldn't have said anything;
but I couldn't stand that one. I suppressed the book and hanged
the author.

Slavery was dead and gone; all men were equal before the law;
taxation had been equalized. The telegraph, the telephone, the
phonograph, the typewriter, the sewing-machine, and all the thousand
willing and handy servants of steam and electricity were working
their way into favor. We had a steamboat or two on the Thames,
we had steam warships, and the beginnings of a steam commercial
marine; I was getting ready to send out an expedition to discover
America.

We were building several lines of railway, and our line from
Camelot to London was already finished and in operation. I was
shrewd enough to make all offices connected with the passenger
service places of high and distinguished honor. My idea was
to attract the chivalry and nobility, and make them useful and keep
them out of mischief. The plan worked very well, the competition
for the places was hot. The conductor of the 4.33 express was
a duke; there wasn't a passenger conductor on the line below
the degree of earl. They were good men, every one, but they had
two defects which I couldn't cure, and so had to wink at: they
wouldn't lay aside their armor, and they would "knock down" fare--
I mean rob the company.

There was hardly a knight in all the land who wasn't in some useful
employment. They were going from end to end of the country in all
manner of useful missionary capacities; their penchant for wandering,
and their experience in it, made them altogether the most effective
spreaders of civilization we had. They went clothed in steel and
equipped with sword and lance and battle-axe, and if they couldn't
persuade a person to try a sewing-machine on the installment plan,
or a melodeon, or a barbed-wire fence, or a prohibition journal,
or any of the other thousand and one things they canvassed for,
they removed him and passed on.

I was very happy. Things were working steadily toward a secretly
longed-for point. You see, I had two schemes in my head which
were the vastest of all my projects. The one was to overthrow the
Catholic Church and set up the Protestant faith on its ruins--
not as an Established Church, but a go-as-you-please one; and
the other project was to get a decree issued by and by, commanding
that upon Arthur's death unlimited suffrage should be introduced,
and given to men and women alike--at any rate to all men, wise
or unwise, and to all mothers who at middle age should be found
to know nearly as much as their sons at twenty-one. Arthur was
good for thirty years yet, he being about my own age--that is
to say, forty--and I believed that in that time I could easily
have the active part of the population of that day ready and eager
for an event which should be the first of its kind in the history
of the world--a rounded and complete governmental revolution
without bloodshed. The result to be a republic. Well, I may
as well confess, though I do feel ashamed when I think of it:
I was beginning to have a base hankering to be its first president
myself. Yes, there was more or less human nature in me; I found
that out.

Clarence was with me as concerned the revolution, but in a modified
way. His idea was a republic, without privileged orders, but with
a hereditary royal family at the head of it instead of an elective
chief magistrate. He believed that no nation that had ever known
the joy of worshiping a royal family could ever be robbed of it
and not fade away and die of melancholy. I urged that kings were
dangerous. He said, then have cats. He was sure that a royal
family of cats would answer every purpose. They would be as useful
as any other royal family, they would know as much, they would
have the same virtues and the same treacheries, the same disposition
to get up shindies with other royal cats, they would be laughably
vain and absurd and never know it, they would be wholly inexpensive;
finally, they would have as sound a divine right as any other
royal house, and "Tom VII, or Tom XI, or Tom XIV by the grace
of God King," would sound as well as it would when applied to
the ordinary royal tomcat with tights on. "And as a rule," said
he, in his neat modern English, "the character of these cats would
be considerably above the character of the average king, and this
would be an immense moral advantage to the nation, for the reason
that a nation always models its morals after its monarch's. The
worship of royalty being founded in unreason, these graceful and
harmless cats would easily become as sacred as any other royalties,
and indeed more so, because it would presently be noticed that
they hanged nobody, beheaded nobody, imprisoned nobody, inflicted
no cruelties or injustices of any sort, and so must be worthy of
a deeper love and reverence than the customary human king, and
would certainly get it. The eyes of the whole harried world would
soon be fixed upon this humane and gentle system, and royal butchers
would presently begin to disappear; their subjects would fill
the vacancies with catlings from our own royal house; we should
become a factory; we should supply the thrones of the world; within
forty years all Europe would be governed by cats, and we should
furnish the cats. The reign of universal peace would begin then,
to end no more forever.... Me-e-e-yow-ow-ow-ow--fzt!--wow!"

Hang him, I supposed he was in earnest, and was beginning to be
persuaded by him, until he exploded that cat-howl and startled me
almost out of my clothes. But he never could be in earnest. He
didn't know what it was. He had pictured a distinct and perfectly
rational and feasible improvement upon constitutional monarchy,
but he was too feather-headed to know it, or care anything about
it, either. I was going to give him a scolding, but Sandy came
flying in at that moment, wild with terror, and so choked with sobs
that for a minute she could not get her voice. I ran and took her
in my arms, and lavished caresses upon her and said, beseechingly:

"Speak, darling, speak! What is it?"

Her head fell limp upon my bosom, and she gasped, almost inaudibly:

"HELLO-CENTRAL!"

"Quick!" I shouted to Clarence; "telephone the king's homeopath
to come!"

In two minutes I was kneeling by the child's crib, and Sandy was
dispatching servants here, there, and everywhere, all over the
palace. I took in the situation almost at a glance--membranous
croup! I bent down and whispered:

"Wake up, sweetheart! Hello-Central."

She opened her soft eyes languidly, and made out to say:

"Papa."

That was a comfort. She was far from dead yet. I sent for
preparations of sulphur, I rousted out the croup-kettle myself;
for I don't sit down and wait for doctors when Sandy or the child
is sick. I knew how to nurse both of them, and had had experience.
This little chap had lived in my arms a good part of its small life,
and often I could soothe away its troubles and get it to laugh
through the tear-dews on its eye-lashes when even its mother couldn't.

Sir Launcelot, in his richest armor, came striding along the great
hall now on his way to the stock-board; he was president of the
stock-board, and occupied the Siege Perilous, which he had bought
of Sir Galahad; for the stock-board consisted of the Knights of
the Round Table, and they used the Round Table for business purposes
now. Seats at it were worth--well, you would never believe the
figure, so it is no use to state it. Sir Launcelot was a bear, and
he had put up a corner in one of the new lines, and was just getting
ready to squeeze the shorts to-day; but what of that? He was
the same old Launcelot, and when he glanced in as he was passing
the door and found out that his pet was sick, that was enough
for him; bulls and bears might fight it out their own way for all
him, he would come right in here and stand by little Hello-Central
for all he was worth. And that was what he did. He shied his
helmet into the corner, and in half a minute he had a new wick
in the alcohol lamp and was firing up on the croup-kettle. By this
time Sandy had built a blanket canopy over the crib, and everything
was ready.

Sir Launcelot got up steam, he and I loaded up the kettle with
unslaked lime and carbolic acid, with a touch of lactic acid added
thereto, then filled the thing up with water and inserted the
steam-spout under the canopy. Everything was ship-shape now,
and we sat down on either side of the crib to stand our watch.
Sandy was so grateful and so comforted that she charged a couple
of church-wardens with willow-bark and sumach-tobacco for us,
and told us to smoke as much as we pleased, it couldn't get under
the canopy, and she was used to smoke, being the first lady in the
land who had ever seen a cloud blown. Well, there couldn't be
a more contented or comfortable sight than Sir Launcelot in his
noble armor sitting in gracious serenity at the end of a yard
of snowy church-warden. He was a beautiful man, a lovely man,
and was just intended to make a wife and children happy. But, of
course Guenever--however, it's no use to cry over what's done and
can't be helped.

Well, he stood watch-and-watch with me, right straight through,
for three days and nights, till the child was out of danger; then
he took her up in his great arms and kissed her, with his plumes
falling about her golden head, then laid her softly in Sandy's
lap again and took his stately way down the vast hall, between
the ranks of admiring men-at-arms and menials, and so disappeared.
And no instinct warned me that I should never look upon him again
in this world! Lord, what a world of heart-break it is.

The doctors said we must take the child away, if we would coax
her back to health and strength again. And she must have sea-air.
So we took a man-of-war, and a suite of two hundred and sixty
persons, and went cruising about, and after a fortnight of this we
stepped ashore on the French coast, and the doctors thought it
would be a good idea to make something of a stay there. The little
king of that region offered us his hospitalities, and we were glad
to accept. If he had had as many conveniences as he lacked, we
should have been plenty comfortable enough; even as it was, we
made out very well, in his queer old castle, by the help of comforts
and luxuries from the ship.

At the end of a month I sent the vessel home for fresh supplies,
and for news. We expected her back in three or four days. She
would bring me, along with other news, the result of a certain
experiment which I had been starting. It was a project of mine
to replace the tournament with something which might furnish an
escape for the extra steam of the chivalry, keep those bucks
entertained and out of mischief, and at the same time preserve
the best thing in them, which was their hardy spirit of emulation.
I had had a choice band of them in private training for some time,
and the date was now arriving for their first public effort.

This experiment was baseball. In order to give the thing vogue
from the start, and place it out of the reach of criticism, I chose
my nines by rank, not capacity. There wasn't a knight in either
team who wasn't a sceptered sovereign. As for material of this
sort, there was a glut of it always around Arthur. You couldn't
throw a brick in any direction and not cripple a king. Of course,
I couldn't get these people to leave off their armor; they wouldn't
do that when they bathed. They consented to differentiate the
armor so that a body could tell one team from the other, but that
was the most they would do. So, one of the teams wore chain-mail
ulsters, and the other wore plate-armor made of my new Bessemer
steel. Their practice in the field was the most fantastic thing I
ever saw. Being ball-proof, they never skipped out of the way,
but stood still and took the result; when a Bessemer was at the bat
and a ball hit him, it would bound a hundred and fifty yards
sometimes. And when a man was running, and threw himself on his
stomach to slide to his base, it was like an iron-clad coming into
port. At first I appointed men of no rank to act as umpires, but
I had to discontinue that. These people were no easier to please
than other nines. The umpire's first decision was usually his
last; they broke him in two with a bat, and his friends toted him
home on a shutter. When it was noticed that no umpire ever survived
a game, umpiring got to be unpopular. So I was obliged to appoint
somebody whose rank and lofty position under the government would
protect him.

Here are the names of the nines:

     BESSEMERS                 ULSTERS

KING ARTHUR.                EMPEROR LUCIUS.
KING LOT OF LOTHIAN.        KING LOGRIS.
KING OF NORTHGALIS.         KING MARHALT OF IRELAND.
KING MARSIL.                KING MORGANORE.
KING OF LITTLE BRITAIN.     KING MARK OF CORNWALL.
KING LABOR.                 KING NENTRES OF GARLOT.
KING PELLAM OF LISTENGESE. KING MELIODAS OF LIONES.
KING BAGDEMAGUS.            KING OF THE LAKE.
KING TOLLEME LA FEINTES.    THE SOWDAN OF SYRIA.

                 Umpire--CLARENCE.

The first public game would certainly draw fifty thousand people;
and for solid fun would be worth going around the world to see.
Everything would be favorable; it was balmy and beautiful spring
weather now, and Nature was all tailored out in her new clothes.

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