by Mark Twain


THE ungentle laws and customs touched upon in this tale are

historical, and the episodes which are used to illustrate them are also

historical. It is not pretended that these laws and customs existed in

England in the sixth century; no, it is only pretended that inasmuch as

they existed in the English and other civilizations of far later times,

it is safe to consider that it is no libel upon the sixth century to

suppose them to have been in practice in that day also. One is quite

justified in inferring that whatever one of these laws or customs was

lacking in that remote time, its place was competently filled by a worse


The question as to whether there is such a thing as divine right of

kings is not settled in this book. It was found too difficult. That the

executive head of a nation should be a person of lofty character and

extraordinary ability, was manifest and indisputable; that none but the

Deity could select that head unerringly, was also manifest and

indisputable; that the Deity ought to make that selection, then, was

likewise manifest and indisputable; consequently, that He does make it,

as claimed, was an unavoidable deduction. I mean, until the author of

this book encountered the Pompadour, and Lady Castlemaine, and some

other executive heads of that kind; these were found so difficult to

work into the scheme, that it was judged better to take the other tack

in this book (which must be issued this fall), and then go into training

and settle the question in another book. It is, of course, a thing which

ought to be settled, and I am not going to have anything particular to

do next winter anyway.


A Word of Explanation

IT was in Warwick Castle that I came across the curious stranger whom

I am going to talk about. He attracted me by three things: his candid

simplicity, his marvelous familiarity with ancient armor, and the

restfulness of his company- for he did all the talking. We fell

together, as modest people will, in the tail of the herd that was being

shown through, and he at once began to say things which interested me.

As he talked along, softly, pleasantly, flowingly, he seemed to drift

away imperceptibly out of this world and time, and into some remote era

and old forgotten country; and so he gradually wove such a spell about

me that I seemed to move among the specters and shadows and dust and

mold of a gray antiquity, holding speech with a relic of it! Exactly as

I would speak of my nearest personal friends or enemies, or my most

familiar neighbors, he spoke of Sir Bedivere, Sir Bors de Ganis, Sir

Launcelot of the Lake, Sir Galahad, and all the other great names of the

Table Round- and how old, old, unspeakably old and faded and dry and

musty and ancient he came to look as he went on! Presently he turned to

me and said, just as one might speak of the weather, or any other common


"You know about transmigration of souls; do you know about

transposition of epochs- and bodies?"

I said I had not heard of it. He was so little interested- just as

when people speak of the weather- that he did not notice whether I made

him any answer or not. There was half a moment of silence, immediately

interrupted by the droning voice of the salaried cicerone:

"Ancient hauberk, date of the sixth century, time of King Arthur and

the Round Table; said to have belonged to the knight Sir Sagramor le

Desirous; observe the round hole through the chain-mail in the left

breast; can't be accounted for; supposed to have been done with a bullet

since invention of firearms- perhaps maliciously by Cromwell's


My acquaintance smiled- not a modern smile, but one that must have

gone out of general use many, many centuries ago- and muttered

apparently to himself:

"Wit ye well, (r)I saw it done." Then, after a pause, added: "I did

it myself."

By the time I had recovered from the electric surprise of this remark,

he was gone.

All that evening I sat by my fire at the Warwick Arms, steeped in a

dream of the olden time, while the rain beat upon the windows, and the

wind roared about the eaves and corners. From time to time I dipped into

old Sir Thomas Malory's enchanting book, and fed at its rich feast of

prodigies and adventures, breathed in the fragrance of its obsolete

names, and dreamed again. Midnight being come at length, I read another

tale, for a nightcap- this which here follows, to wit:


Anon withal came there upon him two great giants, well armed, all save

the heads, with two horrible clubs in their hands. Sir Launcelot put his

shield afore him, and put the stroke away of the one giant, and with his

sword he clave his head asunder. When his fellow saw that, he ran away

as he were wood, *001 for fear of the horrible strokes, and Sir

Launcelot after him with all his might, and smote him on the shoulder,

and clave him to the middle. Then Sir Launcelot went into the hall, and

there came afore him threescore ladies and damsels, and all kneeled unto

him, and thanked God and him of their deliverance. For, sir, said they,

the most part of us have been here this seven year their prisoners, and

we have worked all manner of silk works for our meat, and we are all

great gentlewomen born, and blessed be the time, knight, that ever thou

wert born; for thou hast done the most worship that ever did knight in

the world, that will we bear record, and we all pray you to tell us your

name, that we may tell our friends who delivered us out of prison. Fair

damsels, he said, my name is Sir Launcelot du Lake. And so he departed

from them and betaught them unto God. And then he mounted upon his

horse, and rode into many strange and wild countries, and through many

waters and valleys, and evil was he lodged. And at the last by fortune

him happened against a night to come to a fair courtilage, and therein

he found an old gentlewoman that lodged him with a good will, and there

he had good cheer for him and his horse. And when time was, his host

brought him into a fair garret over the gate to his bed. There Sir

Launcelot unarmed him, and set his harness by him, and went to bed, and

anon he fell on sleep. So, soon after there came one on horseback, and

knocked at the gate in great haste. And when Sir Launcelot heard this he

rose up, and looked out at the window, and saw by the moonlight three

knights come riding after that one man, and all three lashed on him at

once with swords, and that one knight turned on them knightly again and

defended him. Truly, said Sir Launcelot, yonder one knight shall I help,

for it were shame for me to see three knights on one, and if he be slain

I am partner of his death. And therewith he took his harness and went

out at a window by a sheet down to the four knights, and then Sir

Launcelot said on high, Turn you knights unto me, and leave your

fighting with that knight. And then they all three left Sir Kay, and

turned unto Sir Launcelot, and, there began great battle, for they

alight all three, and strake many strokes at Sir Launcelot, and assailed

him on every side. Then Sir Kay dressed him for to have holpen Sir

Launcelot. Nay, sir, said he, I will none of your help, herefore as ye

will have my help let me alone with them. Sir Kay for the pleasure of

the knight suffered him for to do his will, and so stood aside. And then

anon within six strokes Sir Launcelot had stricken them to the earth.

And then they all three cried, Sir Knight, we yield us unto you as man

of might matchless. As to that, said Sir Launcelot, I will not take your

yielding unto me, but so that ye yield you unto Sir Kay the seneschal,

on that covenant I will save your lives and else not. Fair knight, said

they, that were we loath to do; for as for Sir Kay we chased him hither,

and had overcome him had ye not been; therefore, to yield us unto him it

were no reason. Well, as to that, said Sir Launcelot, advise you well,

for ye may choose whether ye will die or live, for an ye be yielden, it

shall be unto Sir Kay. Fair knight, then they said, in saving our lives

we will do as thou commandest us. Then shall ye, said Sir Launcelot, on

Whitsunday next coming go unto the court of King Arthur, and there shall

ye yield you unto Queen Guenever, and put you all three in her grace and

mercy, and say that Sir Kay sent you thither to be her prisoners. On the

morn Sir Launcelot arose early, and left Sir Kay sleeping; and Sir

Launcelot took Sir Kay's armor and his shield and armed him, and so he

went to the stable and took his horse, and took his leave of his host,

and so he departed. Then soon after arose Sir Kay and missed Sir

Launcelot; and then he espied that he had his armor and his horse. Now

by my faith I know well that he will grieve some of the court of King

Arthur; for on him knights will be bold, and deem that it is I, and that

will beguile them; and because of his armor and shield I am sure I shall

ride in peace. And then soon after departed Sir Kay, and thanked his


As I laid the book down there was a knock at the door, and my stranger

came in. I gave him a pipe and a chair, and made him welcome. I also

comforted him with a hot Scotch whisky; gave him another one; then still

another- hoping always for his story. After a fourth persuader, he

drifted into it himself, in a quite simple and natural way:

The Stranger's History

I am an American. I was born and reared in Hartford, in the state of

Connecticut- anyway, just over the river, in the country. So I am a

Yankee of the Yankees- and practical; yes, and nearly barren of

sentiment, I suppose- or poetry, in other words. My father was a

blacksmith, my uncle was a horse-doctor, and I was both, along at first.

Then I went over to the great arms factory and learned my real trade;

learned all there was to it; learned to make everything: guns,

revolvers, cannon, boilers, engines, all sorts of labor-saving

machinery. Why, I could make anything a body wanted- anything in the

world, it didn't make any difference what; and if there wasn't any quick

new-fangled way to make a thing, I could invent one- and do it as easy

as rolling off a log. I became head superintendent; had a couple of

thousand men under me.

Well, a man like that is a man that is full of fight- that goes

without saying. With a couple of thousand rough men under one, one has

plenty of that sort of amusement. I had, anyway. At last I met my match,

and I got my dose. It was during a misunderstanding conducted with

crowbars with a fellow we used to call Hercules. He laid me out with a

crusher alongside the head that made everything crack, and seemed to

spring every joint in my skull and made it overlap its neighbor. Then

the world went out in darkness, and I didn't feel anything more, and

didn't know anything at all- at least for a while.

When I came to again, I was sitting under an oak tree, on the grass,

with a whole beautiful and broad country landscape all to myself-

nearly. Not entirely; for there was a fellow on a horse, looking down at

me- a fellow fresh out of a picture-book. He was in old-time iron armor

from head to heel, with a helmet on his head the shape of a nail-keg

with slits in it; and he had a shield, and a sword, and a prodigious

spear; and his horse had armor on, too, and a steel horn projecting from

his forehead, and gorgeous red and green silk trappings that hung down

all around him like a bedquilt, nearly to the ground.

"Fair sir, will ye just?" said this fellow.

"Will I which?"

"Will ye try a passage of arms for land or lady or for-"

"What are you giving me?" I said. "Get along back to your circus, or

I'll report you."

Now what does this man do but fall back a couple of hundred yards and

then come rushing at me as hard as he could tear, with his nail-keg bent

down nearly to his horse's neck and his long spear pointed straight

ahead. I saw he meant business, so I was up the tree when he arrived.

He allowed that I was his property, the captive of his spear. There

was argument on his side- and the bulk of the advantage- so I judged it

best to humor him. We fixed up an agreement whereby I was to go with him

and he was not to hurt me. I came down, and we started away, I walking

by the side of his horse. We marched comfortably along, through glades

and over brooks which I could not remember to have seen before- which

puzzled me and made me wonder- and yet we did not come to any circus or

sign of a circus. So I gave up the idea of a circus, and concluded he

was from an asylum. But we never came to an asylum- so I was up a stump,

as you may say. I asked him how far we were from Hartford. He said he

had never heard of the place; which I took to be a lie, but allowed it

to go at that. At the end of an hour we saw a far-away town sleeping in

a valley by a winding river; and beyond it on a hill, a vast gray

fortress, with towers and turrets, the first I had ever seen out of a


"Bridgeport?" said I, pointing.

"Camelot," said he.

My stranger had been showing signs of sleepiness. He caught himself

nodding, now, and smiled one of those pathetic, obsolete smiles of his,

and said:

"I find I can't go on; but come with me, I've got it all written out,

and you can read it if you like."

In his chamber, he said: "First, I kept a journal; then by and by,

after years, I took the journal and turned it into a book. How long ago

that was!"

He handed me his manuscript, and pointed out the place where I should


"Begin here- I've already told you what goes before." He was steeped

in drowsiness by this time. As I went out at his door I heard him murmur

sleepily: "Give you good den, fair sir."

I sat down by my fire and examined my treasure. The first part of it-

the great bulk of it- was parchment, and yellow with age. I scanned a

leaf particularly and saw that it was a palimpsest. Under the old dim

writing of the Yankee historian appeared traces of a penmanship which

was older and dimmer still- Latin words and sentences: fragments from

old monkish legends, evidently. I turned to the place indicated by my

stranger and began to read- as follows:

Chapter I: CAMELOT

"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, (r)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.


THE moment I got a chance I slipped aside privately and touched an

ancient common-looking man on the shoulder and said, in an insinuating,

confidential way:

"Friend, do me a kindness. Do you belong to the asylum, or are you

just here on a visit or something like that?"

He looked me over stupidly, and said:

"Marry, fair sir, me seemeth-"

"That will do," I said; "I reckon you are a patient."

I moved away, cogitating, and at the same time keeping an eye out for

any chance passenger in his right mind that might come along and give me

some light. I judged I had found one, presently; So I drew him aside and

said in his ear:

"If I could see the head keeper a minute- only just a minute"

"Prithee do not let me."

"Let you (r)what?"

(r)"Hinder me, then, if the word please thee better." Then he went on

to say he was an under-cook and could not stop to gossip, though he

would like it another time; for it would comfort his very liver to know

where I got my clothes. As he started away he pointed and said yonder

was one who was idle enough for my purpose, and was seeking me besides,

no doubt. This was an airy slim boy in shrimp-colored tights that made

him look like a forked carrot; the rest of his gear was; blue silk and

dainty laces and ruffles; and he had long yellow curls, and wore a

plumed pink satin cap tilted complacently over his ear. By his look, he

was good-natured; by his gait, he was satisfied with himself. He was

pretty enough to frame. He arrived, looked me over with a smiling and

impudent curiosity; said he had come for me, and informed me that he was

a page.

"Go 'long," I said; "you ain't more than a paragraph."

It was pretty severe, but I was nettled. However, it never fazed him;

he didn't appear to know he was hurt. He began to talk and laugh, in

happy, thoughtless, boyish fashion, as we walked along, and made himself

old friends with me at once; asked me all sorts of questions about

myself and about my clothes, but never waited for an answer- always

chattered straight ahead, as if he didn't know he had asked a question

and wasn't expecting any reply, until at last he happened to mention

that he was born in the beginning of the year 513.

It made the cold chills creep over me! I stopped, and said, a little


"Maybe I didn't hear you just right. Say it again- and say it slow.

What year was it?"


"513! You don't look it! Come, my boy, I am a stranger and friendless;

be honest and honorable with me. Are you in your right mind?"

He said he was.

"Are these other people in their right minds?"

He said they were.

"And this isn't an asylum? I mean, it isn't a place where they cure

crazy people?"

He said it wasn't.

"Well, then," I said, "either I am a lunatic, or something just as

awful has happened. Now tell me, honest and true, where am I?"


I waited a minute, to let that idea shudder its way home, and then


"And according to your notions, what year is it now?"

"528- nineteenth of June."

I felt a mournful sinking at the heart, and muttered: "I shall never

see my friends again- never, never again. They will not be born for more

than thirteen hundred years yet."

I seemed to believe the boy, I didn't know why. (r)Something in me

seemed to believe him- my consciousness, as you may say; but my reason

didn't. My reason straightway began to clamor; that was natural. I

didn't know how to go about satisfying it, because I knew that the

testimony of men wouldn't serve- my reason would say they were lunatics,

and throw out their evidence. But all of a sudden I stumbled on the very

thing, just by luck. I knew that the only total eclipse of the sun in

the first half of the sixth century occurred on the 21st of June, A.D.

528, O.S., and began at 3 minutes after 12 noon. I also knew that no

total eclipse of the sun was due in what to (r)me was the present year-

i.e., 1879. So, if I could keep my anxiety and curiosity from eating the

heart out of me for forty-eight hours, I should then find out for

certain whether this boy was telling me the truth or not.

Wherefore, being a practical Connecticut man, I now shoved this whole

problem clear out of my mind till its appointed day and hour should

come, in order that I might turn all my attention to the circumstances

of the present moment, and be alert and ready to make the most out of

them that could be made. One thing at a time, is my motto- and just play

that thing for all it is worth, even if it's only two pair and a jack. I

made up my mind to two things: if it was still the nineteenth century

and I was among lunatics and couldn't get away, I would presently boss

that asylum or know the reason why; and if, on the other hand, it was

really the sixth century, all right, I didn't want any softer thing: I

would boss the whole country inside of three months; for I judged I

would have the start of the best-educated man in the kingdom by a matter

of thirteen hundred years and upward. I'm not a man to waste time after

my mind's made up and there's work on hand; so I said to the page:

"Now, Clarence, my boy- if that might happen to be your name- I'll get

you to post me up a little if you don't mind. What is the name of that

apparition that brought me here?"

"My master and thine? That is the good knight and great lord Sir Kay

the Seneschal, foster-brother to our liege the king."

"Very good; go on, tell me everything."

He made a long story of it; but the part that had immediate interest

for me was this: He said I was Sir Kay's prisoner, and that in the due

course of custom I would be flung into a dungeon and left there on scant

commons until my friends ransomed me- unless I chanced to rot, first. I

saw that the last chance had the best show, but I didn't waste any

bother about that; time was too precious. The page said, further, that

dinner was about ended in the great hall by this time, and that as soon

as the sociability and the heavy drinking should begin, Sir Kay would

have me in and exhibit me before King Arthur and his illustrious knights

seated at the Table Round, and would brag about his exploit in capturing

me, and would probably exaggerate the facts a little, but it wouldn't be

good form for me to correct him, and not over-safe, either; and when I

was done being exhibited, then ho for the dungeon; but he, Clarence,

would find a way to come and see me every now and then, and cheer me up,

and help me get word to my friends.

Get word to my friends! I thanked him; I couldn't do less; and about

this time a lackey came to say I was wanted; so Clarence led me in and

took me off to one side and sat down by me.

Well, it was a curious kind of spectacle, and interesting. It was an

immense place, and rather naked- yes, and full of loud contrasts. It was

very, very lofty; so lofty that the banners depending from the arched

beams and girders away up there floated in a sort of twilight; there was

a stone-railed gallery at each end, high up, with musicians in the one,

and women, clothed in stunning colors, in the other. The floor was of

big stone flags laid in black and white squares, rather battered by age

and use, and needing repair. As to ornament, there wasn't any, strictly

speaking; though on the walls hung some huge tapestries which were

probably taxed as works of art; battle-pieces, they were, with horses

shaped like those which children cut out of paper or create in

gingerbread; with men on them in scale armor whose scales are

represented by round holes- so that the man's coat looks as if it had

been done with a biscuit-punch. There was a fireplace big enough to camp

in; and its projecting sides and hood, of carved and pillared stonework,

had the look of a cathedral door. Along the walls stood men-at-arms, in

breastplate and morion, with halberds for their only weapon- rigid as

statues; and that is what they looked like.

In the middle of this groined and vaulted public square was an oaken

table which they called the Table Round. It was as large as a circus-

ring; and around it sat a great company of men dressed in such various

and splendid colors that it hurt one's eyes to look at them. They wore

their plumed hats, right along, except that whenever one addressed

himself directly to the king, he lifted his hat a trifle just as he was

beginning his remark.

Mainly they were drinking- from entire ox horns; but a few were still

munching bread or gnawing beef bones. There was about an average of two

dogs to one man; and these sat in expectant attitudes till a spent bone

was flung to them, and then they went for it by brigades and divisions,

with a rush, and there ensued a fight which filled the prospect with a

tumultuous chaos of plunging heads and bodies and flashing tails, and

the storm of howlings and barkings deafened all speech for the time; but

that was no matter, for the dog-fight was always a bigger interest

anyway; the men rose, sometimes, to observe it the better and bet on it,

and the ladies and the musicians stretched themselves out over their

balusters with the same object; and all broke into delighted

ejaculations from time to time. In the end, the winning dog stretched

himself out comfortably with his bone between his paws, and proceeded to

growl over it, and gnaw it, and grease the floor with it, just as fifty

others were already doing; and the rest of the court resumed their

previous industries and entertainments.

As a rule, the speech and behavior of these people were gracious and

courtly; and I noticed that they were good and serious listeners when

anybody was telling anything- I mean in a dog-fightless interval. And

plainly, too, they were a childlike and innocent lot; telling lies of

the stateliest pattern with a most gentle and winning naivete, and ready

and willing to listen to anybody else's lie, and believe it, too. It was

hard to associate them with anything cruel or dreadful; and yet they

dealt in tales of blood and suffering with a guileless relish that made

me almost forget to shudder.

I was not the only prisoner present. There were twenty or more. Poor

devils, many of them were maimed, hacked, carved, in a frightful way;

and their hair, their faces, their clothing, were caked with black and

stiffened drenchings of blood. They were suffering sharp physical pain,

of course; and weariness, and hunger and thirst, no doubt; and at least

none had given them the comfort of a wash, or even the poor charity of a

lotion for their wounds, yet you never heard them utter a moan or a

groan, or saw them show any sign of restlessness, or any disposition to

complain. The thought was forced upon me: "The rascals- (r)they have

served other people so in their day; it being their own turn, now, they

were not expecting any better treatment than this; so their

philosophical bearing is not an outcome of mental training, intellectual

fortitude, reasoning; it is mere animal training; they are white



MAINLY the Round Table talk was monologues- narrative accounts of the

adventures in which these prisoners were captured and their friends and

backers killed and stripped of their steeds and armor. As a general

thing- as far as I could make out- these murderous adventures were not

forays undertaken to avenge injuries, nor to settle old disputes or

sudden fallings out; no, as a rule they were simply duels between

strangers- duels between people who had never even been introduced to

each other, and between whom existed no cause of offense whatever. Many

a time I had seen a couple of boys, strangers, meet by chance, and say

simultaneously, "I can lick you," and go at it on the spot; but I had

always imagined until now that that sort of thing belonged to children

only, and was a sign and mark of childhood; but here were these big

boobies sticking to it and taking pride in it clear up into full age and

beyond. Yet there was something very engaging about these great simple-

hearted creatures, something attractive and lovable. There did not seem

to be brains enough in the entire nursery, so to speak, to bait a fish-

hook with; but you didn't seem to mind that, after a little, because you

soon saw that brains were not needed in a society like that, and indeed

would have marred it, hindered it, spoiled its symmetry- perhaps

rendered its existence impossible.

There was a fine manliness observable in almost every face; and in

some a certain loftiness and sweetness that rebuked your belittling

criticisms and stilled them. A most noble benignity and purity reposed

in the countenance of him they called Sir Galahad, and likewise in the

king's also; and there was majesty and greatness in the giant frame and

high bearing of Sir Launcelot of the Lake.

There was presently an incident which centered the general interest

upon this Sir Launcelot. At a sign from a sort of master of ceremonies,

six or eight of the prisoners rose and came forward in a body and knelt

on the floor and lifted up their hands toward the ladies' gallery and

begged the grace of a word with the queen. The most conspicuously

situated lady in that massed flower-bed of feminine show and finery

inclined her head by way of assent, and then the spokesman of the

prisoners delivered himself and his fellows into her hands for free

pardon, ransom, captivity, or death, as she in her good pleasure might

elect; and this, as he said, he was doing by command of Sir Kay the

Seneschal, whose prisoners they were, he having vanquished them by his

single might and prowess in sturdy conflict in the field.

Surprise and astonishment flashed from face to face all over the

house; the queen's gratified smile faded out at the name of Sir Kay, and

she looked disappointed; and the page whispered in my ear with an accent

and manner expressive of extravagant derision-

"Sir (r)Kay, forsooth! Oh, call me pet names, dearest, call me a

marine! In twice a thousand years shall the unholy invention of man

labor at odds to beget the fellow to this majestic lie!"

Every eye was fastened with severe inquiry upon Sir Kay. But he was

equal to the occasion. He got up and played his hand like a major- and

took every trick. He said he would state the case exactly according to

the facts; he would tell the simple straightforward tale, without

comment of his own; "and then," said he, "if ye find glory and honor

due, ye will give it unto him who is the mightiest man of his hands that

ever bare shield or strake with sword in the ranks of Christian battle-

even him that sitteth there!" and he pointed to Sir Launcelot. Ah, he

fetched them; it was a rattling good stroke. Then he went on and told

how Sir Launcelot, seeking adventures, some brief time gone by, killed

seven giants at one sweep of his sword, and set a hundred and forty-two

captive maidens free; and then went further, still seeking adventures,

and found him (Sir Kay) fighting a desperate fight against nine foreign

knights, and straightway took the battle solely into his own hands, and

conquered the nine; and that night Sir Launcelot rose quietly, and

dressed him in Sir Kay's armor and took Sir Kay's horse and gat him away

into distant lands, and vanquished sixteen knights in one pitched battle

and thirty-four in another; and all these and the former nine he made to

swear that about Whitsuntide they would ride to Arthur's court and yield

them to Queen Guenever's hands as captives of Sir Kay the Seneschal,

spoil of his knightly prowess; and now here were these half-dozen, and

the rest would be along as soon as they might be healed of their

desperate wounds.

Well, it was touching to see the queen blush and smile, and look

embarrassed, and happy, and fling furtive glances at Sir Launcelot that

would have got him shot in Arkansas, to a dead certainty.

Everybody praised the valor and magnanimity of Sir Launcelot; and as

for me, I was perfectly amazed, that one man, all by himself, should

have been able to beat down and capture such battalions of practised

fighters. I said as much to Clarence; but this mocking featherhead only


"An Sir Kay had had time to get another skin of sour wine into him, ye

had seen the accompt doubled."

I looked at the boy in sorrow; and as I looked I saw the cloud of a

deep despondency settle upon his countenance. I followed the direction

of his eye, and saw that a very old and white-bearded man, clothed in a

flowing black gown, had risen and was standing at the table upon

unsteady legs, and feebly swaying his ancient head and surveying the

company with his watery and wandering eye. The same suffering look that

was in the page's face was observable in all the faces around- the look

of dumb creatures who know that they must endure and make no moan.

"Marry, we shall have it again," sighed the boy; "that same old weary

tale that he hath told a thousand times in the same words, and that he

(r)will tell till he dieth, every time he hath gotten his barrel full

and feeleth his exaggeration-mill a-working. Would God I had died or I

saw this day!"

"Who is it?"

"Merlin, the mighty liar and magician, perdition singe him for the

weariness he worketh with his one tale! But that men fear him for that

he hath the storms and the lightnings and all the devils that be in hell

at his beck and call, they would have dug his entrails out these many

years ago to get at that tale and squelch it. He telleth it always in

the third person, making believe he is too modest to glorify himself-

maledictions light upon him, misfortune be his dole! Good friend,

prithee call me for evensong."

The boy nestled himself upon my shoulder and pretended to go to sleep.

The old man began his tale; and presently the lad was asleep in reality;

so also were the dogs, and the court, the lackeys, and the files of men-

at-arms. The droning voice droned on; a soft snoring arose on all sides

and supported it like a deep and subdued accompaniment of wind

instruments. Some heads were bowed upon folded arms, some lay back with

open mouths that issued unconscious music; the flies buzzed and bit,

unmolested, the rats swarmed softly out from a hundred holes, and

pattered about, and made themselves at home everywhere; and one of them

sat up like a squirrel on the king's head and held a bit of cheese in

its hands and nibbled it, and dribbled the crumbs in the king's face

with naive and impudent irreverence. It was a tranquil scene, and

restful to the weary eye and the jaded spirit.

This was the old man's tale. He said:

"Right so the king and Merlin departed, and went until an hermit that

was a good man and a great leech. So the hermit searched all his wounds

and gave him good salves; so the king was there three days, and then

were his wounds well amended that he might ride and go, and so departed.

And as they rode, Arthur said, I have no sword. No force, *002 said

Merlin, hereby is a sword that shall be yours an I may. So they rode

till they came to a lake, the which was a fair water and broad, and in

the midst of the lake Arthur was ware of an arm clothed in white samite,

that held a fair sword in that hand. Lo, said Merlin, yonder is that

sword that I spake of. With that they saw a damsel going upon the lake.

What damsel is that? said Arthur. That is the Lady of the lake, said

Merlin; and within that lake is a rock, and therein is as fair a place

as any on earth, and richly beseen, and this damsel will come to you

anon, and then speak ye fair to her that she will give you that sword.

Anon withal came the damsel unto Arthur and saluted him, and he her

again. Damsel, said Arthur, what sword is that, that yonder the arm

holdeth above the water? I would it were mine, for I have no sword. Sir

Arthur King, said the damsel, that sword is mine, and if ye will give me

a gift when I ask it you, ye shall have it. By my faith, said Arthur, I

will give you what gift ye will ask. Well, said the damsel, go ye into

yonder barge and row yourself to the sword, and take it and the scabbard

with you, and I will ask my gift when I see my time. So Sir Arthur and

Merlin alight, and tied their horses to two trees, and so they went into

the ship, and when they came to the sword that the hand held, Sir Arthur

took it up by the handles, and took it with him. And the arm and the

hand went under the water; and so they came unto the land and rode

forth. And then Sir Arthur saw a rich pavilion. What signifieth yonder

pavilion? It is the knight's pavilion, said Merlin, that ye fought with

last, Sir Pellinore, but he is out, he is not there; he hath ado with a

knight of yours, that hight Egglame, and they have fought together, but

at the last Egglame fled, and else he had been dead, and he hath chased

him even to Carlion, and we shall meet with him anon in the highway.

That is well said, said Arthur, now have I a sword, now will I wage

battle with him, and be avenged on him. Sir, ye shall not so, said

Merlin, for the knight is weary of fighting and chasing, so that ye

shall have no worship to have ado with him; also, he will not lightly be

matched of one knight living; and therefore it is my counsel, let him

pass, for he shall do you good service in short time, and his sons,

after his days. Also ye shall see that day in short space ye shall be

right glad to give him your sister to wed. When I see him, I will do as

ye advise me, said Arthur. Then Sir Arthur looked on the sword, and

liked it passing well. Whether liketh you better, said Merlin, the sword

or the scabbard? Me liketh better the sword, said Arthur. Ye are more

unwise, said Merlin, for the scabbard is worth ten of the sword, for

while ye have the scabbard upon you ye shall never lose no blood, be ye

never so sore wounded; therefore, keep well the scabbard always with

you. So they rode into Carlion, and by the way they met with Sir

Pellinore; but Merlin had done such a craft that Pellinore saw not

Arthur, and he passed by without any words. I marvel, said Arthur, that

the knight would not speak. Sir, said Merlin, he saw you not; for an he

had seen you ye had not lightly departed. So they came unto Carlion,

whereof his knights were passing glad. And when they heard of his

adventures they marveled that he would jeopard his person so alone. But

all men of worship said it was merry to be under such a chieftain that

would put his person in adventure as other poor knights did."


IT seemed to me that this quaint lie was most simply and beautifully

told; but then I had heard it only once, and that makes a difference; it

was pleasant to the others when it was fresh, no doubt.

Sir Dinadan the Humorist was the first to awake, and he soon roused

the rest with a practical joke of a sufficiently poor quality. He tied

some metal mugs to a dog's tail and turned him loose, and he tore around

and around the place in a frenzy of fright, with all the other dogs

bellowing after him and battering and crashing against everything that

came in their way and making altogether a chaos of confusion and a most

deafening din and turmoil; at which every man and woman of the multitude

laughed till the tears flowed, and some fell out of their chairs and

wallowed on the floor in ecstasy. It was just like so many children. Sir

Dinadan was so proud of his exploit that he could not keep from telling

over and over again, to weariness, how the immortal idea happened to

occur to him; and as is the way with humorists of his breed, he was

still laughing at it after everybody else had got through. He was so set

up that he concluded to make a speech- of course a humorous speech. I

think I never heard so many old played-out jokes strung together in my

life. He was worse than the minstrels, worse than the clown in the

circus. It seemed peculiarly sad to sit here, thirteen hundred years

before I was born, and listen again to poor, flat, worm-eaten jokes that

had given me the dry gripes when I was a boy thirteen hundred years

afterward. It about convinced me that there isn't any such thing as a

new joke possible. Everybody laughed at these antiquities- but then they

always do; I had noticed that, centuries later. However, of course the

scoffer didn't laugh- I mean the boy. No, he scoffed; there wasn't

anything he wouldn't scoff at. He said the most of Sir Dinadan's jokes

were rotten and the rest were petrified. I said "petrified" was good; as

I believed, myself, that the only right way to classify the majestic

ages of some of those jokes was by geologic periods. But that neat idea

hit the boy in a blank place, for geology hadn't been invented yet.

However, I made a note of the remark, and calculated to educate the

commonwealth up to it if I pulled through. It is no use to throw a good

thing away merely because the market isn't ripe yet.

Now Sir Kay arose and began to fire up on his history-mill with me for

fuel. It was time for me to feel serious, and I did. Sir Kay told how he

had encountered me in a far land of barbarians, who all wore the same

ridiculous garb that I did- a garb that was a work of enchantment, and

intended to make the wearer secure from hurt by human hands. However, he

had nullified the force of the enchantment by prayer, and had killed my

thirteen knights in a three hours' battle, and taken me prisoner,

sparing my life in order that so strange a curiosity as I was might be

exhibited to the wonder and admiration of the king and the court. He

spoke of me all the time, in the blandest way, as "this prodigious

giant," and "this horrible sky-towering monster," and "this tusked and

taloned man-devouring ogre," and everybody took in all this bosh in the

naivest way, and never smiled or seemed to notice that there was any

discrepancy between these watered statistics and me. He said that in

trying to escape from him I sprang into the top of a tree two hundred

cubits high at a single bound, but he dislodged me with a stone the size

of a cow, which "all-to brast" the most of my bones, and then swore me

to appear at Arthur's court for sentence. He ended by condemning me to

die at noon on the 21st; and was so little concerned about it that he

stopped to yawn before he named the date.

I was in a dismal state by this time; indeed, I was hardly enough in

my right mind to keep the run of a dispute that sprung up as to how I

had better be killed, the possibility of the killing being doubted by

some, because of the enchantment in my clothes. And yet it was nothing

but an ordinary suit of fifteen-dollar slop-shops. Still, I was sane

enough to notice this detail, to wit: many of the terms used in the most

matter-of-fact way by this great assemblage of the first ladies and

gentlemen in the land would have made a Comanche blush. Indelicacy is

too mild a term to convey the idea. However, I had read (r)Tom Jones,

and (r)Roderick Random, and other books of that kind, and knew that the

highest and first ladies and gentlemen in England had remained little or

no cleaner in their talk, and in the morals and conduct which such talk

implies, clear up to a hundred years ago; in fact clear into our own

nineteenth century- in which century, broadly speaking, the earliest

samples of the real lady and real gentleman discoverable in English

history- or in European history, for that matter- may be said to have

made their appearance. Suppose Sir Walter, instead of putting the

conversations into the mouths of his characters, had allowed the

characters to speak for themselves? We should have had talk from Rebecca

and Ivanhoe and the soft lady Rowena which would embarrass a tramp in

our day. However, to the unconsciously indelicate all things are

delicate. King Arthur's people were not aware that they were indecent,

and I had presence of mind enough not to mention it.

They were so troubled about my enchanted clothes that they were

mightily relieved, at last, when old Merlin swept the difficulty away

for them with a common-sense hint. He asked them why they were so dull-

why didn't it occur to them to strip me. In half a minute I was as naked

as a pair of tongs! And dear, dear, to think of it: I was the only

embarrassed person there. Everybody discussed me; and did it as

unconcernedly as if I had been a cabbage. Queen Guenever was as naively

interested as the rest, and said she had never seen anybody with legs

just like mine before. It was the only compliment I got- if it was a


Finally I was carried off in one direction, and my perilous clothes in

another. I was shoved into a dark and narrow cell in a dungeon, with

some scant remnants for dinner, some moldy straw for a bed, and no end

of rats for company.


I WAS so tired that even my fears were not able to keep me awake long.

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 with Hercules.

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 me.

"What!" I said, "you here yet? Go along with the rest of the dream!


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


"Prithee what dream?"

"What dream? 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 imagination.

"Oh, la, indeed! and is it a dream that you're to be burned to-morrow?

Ho-ho- answer me that!"

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:

"Ah, Clarence, good boy, only friend I've got- for you (r)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, 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."

"Other ones? What are they?"

"Well, they say- oh, but I daren't, indeed I daren't!"

"Why, poor 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-"

"Come, come, be brave, be a man- speak out, there's a good lad!"

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.

"Merlin, in 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 am lost!"

I laughed the only really refreshing laugh I had had for some time;

and shouted:

"Merlin has wrought a spell! (r)Merlin, forsooth! That cheap 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, damn Merlin!"

But Clarence had slumped to his knees before I had half finished, and

he was like to go out of his mind with fright.

"Oh, beware! 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


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


"No- but for our blessed Lady's sake, do it no more."

"Well, I'll tell you why I laughed. Because I'm a magician myself."

"Thou!" The boy recoiled a step, and caught his breath, 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.

"I've known Merlin seven hundred years, and he-"

"Seven hun-"

"Don't interrupt me. He has died and come alive again thirteen 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, (r)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 (r)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, then.

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, and straightway 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 (r)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 nine of the

morning now."

"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,


"The 20th- yes."

"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.


IN the stillness and the darkness, realization soon began to

supplement knowledge. The mere knowledge of a fact is pale; but when you

come to (r)realize your fact, it takes on color. It is all the

difference between hearing of a man being stabbed to the heart, and

seeing it done. In the stillness and the darkness, the knowledge that I

was in deadly danger took to itself deeper and deeper meaning all the

time; a something which was realization crept inch by inch through my

veins and turned me cold.

But it is a blessed provision of nature that at times like these, as

soon as a man's mercury has got down to a certain point there comes a

revulsion, and he rallies. Hope springs up, and cheerfulness along with

it, and then he is in good shape to do something for himself, if

anything can be done. When my rally came, it came with a bound. I said

to myself that my eclipse would be sure to save me, and make me the

greatest man in the kingdom besides; and straightway my mercury went up

to the top of the tube, and my solicitudes all vanished. I was as happy

a man as there was in the world. I was even impatient for to-morrow to

come, I so wanted to gather in that great triumph and be the center of

all the nation's wonder and reverence. Besides, in a business way it

would be the making of me; I knew that.

Meantime there was one thing which had got pushed into the background

of my mind. That was the half-conviction that when the nature of my

proposed calamity should be reported to those superstitious people, it

would have such an effect that they would want to compromise. So, by and

by when I heard footsteps coming, that thought was recalled to me, and I

said to myself, "As sure as anything, it's the compromise. Well, if it

is good, all right, I will accept; but if it isn't, I mean to stand my

ground and play my hand for all it is worth."

The door opened, and some men-at-arms appeared. The leader said:

"The stake is ready. Come!"

The stake! The strength went out of me, and I almost fell down. It is

hard to get one's breath at such a time, such lumps come into one's

throat, and such gaspings; but as soon as I could speak, I said:

"But this is a mistake- the execution is tomorrow."

"Order changed; been set forward a day. Haste thee!"

I was lost. There was no help for me. I was dazed, stupefied; I had no

command over myself; I only wandered purposelessly about, like one out

of his mind; so the soldiers took hold of me, and pulled me along with

them, out of the cell and along the maze of underground corridors, and

finally into the fierce glare of daylight and the upper world. As we

stepped into the vast inclosed court of the castle I got a shock; for

the first thing I saw was the stake, standing in the center, and near it

the piled fagots and a monk. On all four sides of the court the seated

multitudes rose rank above rank, forming sloping terraces that were rich

with color. The king and the queen sat in their thrones, the most

conspicuous figures there, of course.

To note all this, occupied but a second. The next second Clarence had

slipped from some place of concealment and was pouring news into my ear,

his eyes beaming with triumph and gladness. He said:

"'Tis through (r)me the change was wrought! And main hard have I

worked to do it, too. But when I revealed to them the calamity in store,

and saw how mighty was the terror it did engender, then saw I also that

this was the time to strike! Wherefore I diligently pretended, unto this

and that and the other one, that your power against the sun could not

reach its full until the morrow; and so if any would save the sun and

the world, you must be slain to-day, while your enchantments are but in

the weaving and lack potency. Odsbodikins, it was but a dull lie, a most

indifferent invention, but you should have seen them seize it and

swallow it, in the frenzy of their fright, as it were salvation sent

from heaven and all the while was I laughing in my sleeve the one

moment, to see them so cheaply deceived, and glorifying God the next,

that He was content to let the meanest of His creatures be His

instrument to the saving of thy life. Ah, how happy has the matter sped!

You will not need to do the sun a (r)real hurt- ah, forget not that, on

your soul forget it not! Only make a little darkness- only the littlest

little darkness, mind, and cease with that. It will be sufficient, They

will see that I spoke falsely- being ignorant, as they will fancy- and

with the falling of the first shadow of that darkness you shall see them

go mad with fear; and they will set you free and make you great! Go to

thy triumph, now! But remember- ah, good friend, I implore thee remember

my supplication, and do the blessed sun no hurt. For (r)my sake, thy

true friend."

I choked out some words through my grief and misery; as much as to say

I would spare the sun; for which the lad's eyes paid me back with such

deep and loving gratitude that I had not the heart to tell him his good-

hearted foolishness had ruined me and sent me to my death.

As the soldiers assisted me across the court the stillness was so

profound that if I had been blindfold I should have supposed I was in a

solitude instead of walled in by four thousand people. There was not a

movement perceptible in those masses of humanity; they were as rigid as

stone images, and as pale; and dread sat upon every countenance. This

hush continued while I was being chained to the stake; it still

continued while the fagots were carefully and tediously piled about my

ankles, my knees, my thighs, my body. Then there was a pause, and a

deeper hush, if possible, and a man knelt down at my feet with a blazing

torch; the multitude strained forward, gazing, and parting slightly from

their seats without knowing it; the monk raised his hands above my head,

and his eyes toward the blue sky, and began some words in Latin; in this

attitude he droned on and on, a little while, and then stopped. I waited

two or three moments; then looked up; he was standing there petrified.

With a common impulse the multitude rose slowly up and stared into the

sky. I followed their eyes; as sure as guns, there was my eclipse

beginning! The life went boiling through my veins; I was a new man! The

rim of black spread slowly into the sun's disk, my heart beat higher and

higher, and still the assemblage and the priest stared into the sky,

motionless. I knew that this gaze would be turned upon me, next. When it

was, I was ready. I was in one of the most grand attitudes I ever

struck, with my arm stretched up pointing to the sun. It was a noble

effect. You could see the shudder sweep the mass like a wave. Two shouts

rang out, one close upon the heels of the other:

"Apply the torch!"

"I forbid it!"

The one was from Merlin, the other from the king. Merlin started from

his place- to apply the torch himself, I judged. I said:

"Stay where you are. If any man moves- even the king- before I give

him leave, I will blast him with thunder, I will consume him with


The multitude sank meekly into their seats, and I was just expecting

they would. Merlin hesitated a moment or two, and I was on pins and

needles during that little while. Then he sat down, and I took a good

breath; for I knew I was master of the situation now. The king said:

"Be merciful, fair sir, and essay no further in this perilous matter,

lest disaster follow. It was reported to us that your powers could not

attain unto their full strength until the morrow; but-"

"Your Majesty thinks the report may have been a lie? It (r)was a


That made an immense effect; up went appealing hands everywhere, and

the king was assailed with a storm of supplications that I might be

bought off at any price, and the calamity stayed. The king was eager to

comply. He, said:

"Name any terms, reverend sir, even to the halving of my kingdom; but

banish this calamity, spare the sun!"

My fortune was made, I would have taken him up in a minute, but (r)I

couldn't stop an eclipse; the thing was out of the question. So I asked

time to consider. The king said:

"How long- ah, how long, good sir? Be merciful; look, it groweth

darker, moment by moment. Prithee how long?"

"Not long. Half an hour- maybe an hour."

There were a thousand pathetic protests, but I couldn't shorten up

any, for I couldn't remember how long a total eclipse lasts. I was in a

puzzled condition, anyway, and wanted to think. Something was wrong

about that eclipse, and the fact was very unsettling. If this wasn't the

one I was after, how was I to tell whether this was the sixth century,

or nothing but a dream? Dear me, if I could only prove it was the

latter! Here was a glad new hope. If the boy was right about the date,

and this was surely the 20th, it (r)wasn't the sixth century. I reached

for the monk's sleeve, in considerable excitement, and asked him what

day of the month it was.

Hang him, he said it was the (r)twenty-first! It made me turn cold to

hear him. I begged him not to make any mistake about it; but he was

sure; he knew it was the 21st. So, that feather-headed boy had botched

things again! The time of the day was right for the eclipse; I had seen

that for myself, in the beginning, by the dial that was near by. Yes, I

(r)was in King Arthur's court, and I might as well make the most of it

I could.

The darkness was steadily growing, the people becoming more and more

distressed. I now said:

"I have reflected, Sir King. For a lesson, I will let this darkness

proceed, and spread night in the world; but whether I blot out the sun

for good, or restore it shall rest with you. These are the terms, to

wit: You shall remain king over all your dominions, and receive all the

glories and honors that belong to the kingship; but you shall appoint me

your perpetual minister and executive, and give me for my services one

per cent. of such actual increase of revenue over and above its present

amount as I may succeed in creating for the state. If I can't live on

that, I sha'n't ask anybody to give me a lift. Is it satisfactory?"

There was a prodigious roar of applause, and out of the midst of it

the king's voice rose, saying:

"Away with his bonds, and set him free! and do him homage, high and

low, rich and poor, for he is become the king's right hand, is clothed

with power and authority, and his seat is upon the highest step of the

throne! Now sweep away this creeping night, and bring the light and

cheer again, that all the world may bless thee."

But I said:

"That a common man should be shamed before the world, is nothing; but

it were dishonor to the (r)king if any that saw his minister naked

should not also see him delivered from his shame. If I might ask that my

clothes be brought again-"

"They are not meet," the king broke in. "Fetch raiment of another

sort; clothe him like a prince!"

My idea worked. I wanted to keep things as they were till the eclipse

was total, otherwise they would be trying again to get me to dismiss the

darkness, and of course I couldn't do it. Sending for the clothes gained

some delay, but not enough. So I had to make another excuse. I said it

would be but natural if the king should change his mind and repent to

some extent of what he had done under excitement; therefore I would let

the darkness grow awhile, and if at the end of a reasonable time the

king had kept his mind the same, the darkness should be dismissed.

Neither the king nor anybody else was satisfied with that arrangement,

but I had to stick to my point.

It grew darker and darker and blacker and blacker, while I struggled

with those awkward sixth-century clothes. It got to be pitch-dark, at

last, and the multitude groaned with horror to feel the cold uncanny

night breezes fan through the place and see the stars come out and

twinkle in the sky. At last the eclipse was total, and I was very glad

of it, but everybody else was in misery; which was quite natural. I


"The king, by his silence, still stands to the terms." Then I lifted

up my hand- stood just so a moment- then I said, with the most awful

solemnity: "Let the enchantment dissolve and pass harmless away!"

There was no response, for a moment, in that deep darkness and that

graveyard hush. But when the silver rim of the sun pushed itself out, a

moment or two later, the assemblage broke loose with a vast shout and

came pouring down like a deluge to smother me with blessings and

gratitude; and Clarence was not the last of the wash, to be sure.


INASMUCH as I was now the second personage in the kingdom, as far as

political power and authority were concerned, much was made of me. My

raiment was of silks and velvets and cloth-of-gold, and by consequence

was very showy, also uncomfortable. But habit would soon reconcile me to

my clothes; I was aware of that. I was given the choicest suite of

apartments in the castle, after the king's. They were aglow with loud-

colored silken hangings, but the stone floors had nothing but rushes on

them for a carpet, and they were misfit rushes at that, being not all of

one breed. As for conveniences, properly speaking, there weren't any. I

mean (r)little conveniences; it is the little conveniences that make

the real comfort of life. The big oaken chairs, graced with rude

carvings, were well enough, but that was the stopping-place. There was

no soap, no matches, no looking-glass- except a metal one, about as

powerful as a pail of water. And not a chromo. I had been used to

chromos for years, and I saw now that without my suspecting it a passion

for art had got worked into the fabric of my being, and was become a

part of me. It made me homesick to look around over this proud and gaudy

but heartless barrenness and remember that in our house in East

Hartford, all unpretending as it was, you couldn't go into a room but

you would find an insurance-chromo, or at least a three-color God-Bless-

Our-Home over the door; and in the parlor we had nine. But here, even in

my grand room of state, there wasn't anything in the nature of a picture

except a thing the size of a bedquilt, which was, either woven or

knitted (it had darned places in it), and nothing in it was the right

color or the right shape; and as for proportions, even Raphael himself

couldn't have botched them more formidably, after all his practice on

those nightmares they call his "celebrated Hampton Court cartoons."

Raphael was a bird. We had several of his chromos; one was his

"Miraculous Draught of Fishes," where he puts in a miracle of his own-

puts three men into a canoe which wouldn't have held a dog without

upsetting. I always admired to study R.'s art, it was so fresh and


There wasn't even a bell or a speaking-tube in the castle. I had a

great many servants, and those that were on duty lolled in the anteroom;

and when I wanted one of them I had to go and call for him. There was no

gas, there were no candles; a bronze dish half full of boarding-house

butter with a blazing rag floating in it was the thing that produced

what was regarded as light. A lot of these hung along the walls and

modified the dark, just toned it down enough to make it dismal. If you

went out at night, your servants carried torches. There were no books,

pens, paper or ink, and no glass in the openings they believed to be

windows. It is a little thing- glass is- until it is absent, then it

becomes a big thing. But perhaps the worst of all was, that there wasn't

any sugar, coffee, tea, or tobacco. I saw that I was just another

Robinson Crusoe cast away on an uninhabited island, with no society but

some more or less tame animals, and if I wanted to make life bearable I

must do as he did- invent, contrive, create, reorganize things; set

brain and hand to work, and keep them busy. Well, that was in my line.

One thing troubled me along at first- the immense interest which

people took in me. Apparently the whole nation wanted a look at me. It

soon transpired that the eclipse had scared the British world almost to

death; that while it lasted the whole country, from one end to the

other, was in a pitiable state of panic, and the churches, hermitages,

and monkeries overflowed with prayings and weeping poor creatures who

thought the end of the world was come. Then had followed the news that

the producer of this awful event was a stranger, a mighty magician at

Arthur's court; that he could have blown out the sun like a candle, and

was just going to do it when his mercy was purchased, and he then

dissolved his enchantments, and was now recognized and honored as the

man who had by his unaided might saved the globe from destruction and

its peoples from extinction. Now if you consider that everybody believed

that, and not only believed it, but never even dreamed of doubting it,

you will easily understand that there was not a person in all Britain

that would not have walked fifty miles to get a sight of me. Of course I

was all the talk- all other subjects were dropped; even the king became

suddenly a person of minor interest and notoriety. Within twenty-four

hours the delegations began to arrive, and from that time onward for a

fortnight they kept coming. The village was crowded, and all the

country-side. I had to go out a dozen times a day and show myself to

these reverent and awe-stricken multitudes. It came to be a great

burden, as to time and trouble, but of course it was at the same time

compensatingly agreeable to be so celebrated and such a center of

homage. It turned Brer Merlin green with envy and spite, which was a

great satisfaction to me. But there was one thing I couldn't understand-

nobody had asked for an autograph. I spoke to Clarence about it. By

George! I had to explain to him what it was. Then he said nobody in the

country could read or write but a few dozen priests. Land! think of


There was another thing that troubled me a little. Those multitudes

presently began to agitate for another miracle. That was natural. To be

able to carry back to their far homes the boast that they had seen the

man who could command the sun, riding in the heavens, and be obeyed,

would make them great in the eyes of their neighbors, and envied by them

all; but to be able to also say they had seen him work a miracle

themselves- why, people would come a distance to see (r)them. The

pressure got to be pretty strong. There was going to be an eclipse of

the moon, and I knew the date and hour but it was too far away. Two

years. I would have given a good deal for license to hurry it up and use

it now when there was a big market for it. It seemed a great pity to

have it wasted so, and come lagging along at a time when a body wouldn't

have any use for it, as like as not. If it had been booked for only a

month away, I could have sold it short; but, as matters stood, I

couldn't seem to cipher out any way to make it do me any good, so I gave

up trying. Next, Clarence found that old Merlin was making himself busy

on the sly among those people. He was spreading a report that I was a

humbug, and that the reason I didn't accommodate the people with a

miracle was because I couldn't. I saw that I must do something. I

presently thought out a plan.

By my authority as executive I threw Merlin into prison- the same cell

I had occupied myself. Then I gave public notice by herald and trumpet

that I should be busy with affairs of state for a fortnight, but about

the end of that time I would take a moment's leisure and blow up

Merlin's stone tower by fires from heaven; in the mean time, whoso

listened to evil reports about me, let him beware. Furthermore, I would

perform but this one miracle at this time, and no more; if it failed to

satisfy and any murmured, I would turn the murmurers into horses, and

make them useful. Quiet ensued.

I took Clarence into my confidence, to a certain degree, and we went

to work privately. I told him that this was a sort of miracle that

required a trifle of preparation, and that it would be sudden death to

ever talk about these preparations to anybody. That made his mouth safe

enough. Clandestinely we made a few bushels of first-rate blasting-

powder, and I superintended my armorers while they constructed a

lightning-rod and some wires. This old stone tower was very massive- and

rather ruinous, too, for it was Roman, and four hundred years old. Yes,

and handsome, after a rude fashion, and clothed with ivy from base to

summit, as with a shirt of scale mail. It stood on a lonely eminence, in

good view from the castle, and about half a mile away.

Working by night, we stowed the powder in the tower- dug stones out,

on the inside, and buried the powder in the walls themselves, which were

fifteen feet thick at the base. We put in a peck at a time, in a dozen

places. We could have blown up the Tower of London with these charges.

When the thirteenth night was come we put up our lightning-rod, bedded

it in one of the batches of powder, and ran wires from it to the other

batches. Everybody had shunned that locality from the day of my

proclamation, but on the morning of the fourteenth I thought best to

warn the people, through the heralds, to keep clear away- a quarter of a

mile away. Then added, by command, that at some time during the twenty-

four hours I would consummate the miracle, but would first give a brief

notice; by flags on the castle towers if in the daytime, by torch-

baskets in the same places if at night.

Thunder-showers had been tolerably frequent of late, and I was not

much afraid of a failure; still, I shouldn't have cared for a delay of a

day or two; I should have explained that I was busy with affairs of

state yet, and the people must wait.

Of course, we had a blazing sunny day- almost the first one without a

cloud for three weeks; things always happen so. I kept secluded, and

watched the weather. Clarence dropped in from time to time and said the

public excitement was growing and growing all the time, and the whole

country filling up with human masses as far as one could see from the

battlements. At last the wind sprang up and a cloud appeared- in the

right quarter, too, and just at nightfall. For a little while I watched

that distant cloud spread and blacken, then I judged it was time for me

to appear. I ordered the torch-baskets to be lit, and Merlin liberated

and sent to me. A quarter of an hour later I ascended the parapet and

there found the king and the court assembled and gazing off in the

darkness toward Merlin's Tower. Already the darkness was so heavy that

one could not see far; these people and the old turrets, being partly in

deep shadow and partly in the red glow from the great torch-baskets

overhead, made a good deal of a picture.

Merlin arrived in a gloomy mood. I said:

"You wanted to burn me alive when I had not done you any harm, and

latterly you have been trying to injure my professional reputation.

Therefore I am going to call down fire and blow up your tower, but it is

only fair to give you a chance; now if you think you can break my

enchantments and ward off the fires, step to the bat, it's your


"I can, fair sir, and I will. Doubt it not."

He drew an imaginary circle on the stones of the roof, and burnt a

pinch of powder in it, which sent up a small cloud of aromatic smoke,

whereat everybody fell back and began to cross themselves and get

uncomfortable. Then he began to mutter and make passes in the air with

his hands. He worked himself up slowly and gradually into a sort of

frenzy, and got to thrashing around with his arms like the sails of a

windmill. By this time the storm had about reached us; the gusts of wind

were flaring the torches and making the shadows swash about, the first

heavy drops of rain were falling, the world abroad was black as pitch,

the lightning began to wink fitfully. Of course, my rod would be loading

itself now. In fact, things were imminent. So I said:

"You have had time enough. I have given you every advantage, and not

interfered. It is plain your magic is weak. It is only fair that I begin


I made about three passes in the air, and then there was an awful

crash and that old tower leaped into the sky in chunks, along with a

vast volcanic fountain of fire that turned night to noonday, and showed

a thousand acres of human beings groveling on the ground in a general

collapse of consternation. Well, it rained mortar and masonry the rest

of the week. This was the report; but probably the facts would have

modified it.

It was an effective miracle. The great bothersome temporary population

vanished. There were a good many thousand tracks in the mud the next

morning, but they were all outward bound. If I had advertised another

miracle I couldn't have raised an audience with a sheriff.

Merlin's stock was flat. The king wanted to stop his wages; he even

wanted to banish him, but I interfered. I said he would be useful to

work the weather, and attend to small matters like that, and I would

give him a lift now and then when his poor little parlor magic soured on

him. There wasn't a rag of his tower left, but I had the government

rebuild it for him, and advised him to take boarders; but he was too

high-toned for that. And as for being grateful, he never even said thank

you. He was a rather hard lot, take him how you might; but then you

couldn't fairly expect a man to be sweet that had been set back so.


TO be vested with enormous authority is a fine thing; but to have the

onlooking world consent to it is a finer. The tower episode solidified

my power, and made it impregnable. If any were perchance disposed to be

jealous and critical before that, they experienced a change of heart,

now. There was not any one in the kingdom who would have considered it

good judgment to meddle with my matters.

I was fast getting adjusted to my situation and circumstances. For a

time, I used to wake up, mornings, and smile at my "dream," and listen

for the Colt's factory whistle; but that sort of thing played itself

out, gradually, and at last I was fully able to realize that I was

actually living in the sixth century, and in Arthur's court, not a

lunatic asylum. After that, I was just as much at home in that century

as I could have been in any other; and as for preference, I wouldn't

have traded it for the twentieth. Look at the opportunities here for a

man of knowledge, brains, pluck, and enterprise to sail in and grow up

with the country. The grandest field that ever was; and all my own; not

a competitor; not a man who wasn't a baby to me in acquirements and

capacities; whereas, what would I amount to in the twentieth century? I

should be foreman of a factory, that is about all; and could drag a

seine down-street any day and catch a hundred better men than myself.

What a jump I had made! I couldn't keep from thinking about it, and

contemplating it, just as one does who has struck oil. There was nothing

back of me that could approach it, unless it might be Joseph's case; and

Joseph's only approached it, it didn't equal it, quite. For it stands to

reason that as Joseph's splendid financial ingenuities advantaged nobody

but the king, the general public must have regarded him with a good deal

of disfavor, whereas I had done my entire public a kindness in sparing

the sun, and was popular by reason of it.

I was no shadow of a king; I was the substance; the king himself was

the shadow. My power was colossal; and it was not a mere name, as such

things have generally been, it was the genuine article. I stood here, at

the very spring and source of the second great period of the world's

history; and could see the trickling stream of that history gather and

deepen and broaden, and roll its mighty tides down the far centuries;

and I could note the upspringing of adventurers like myself in the

shelter of its long array of thrones: De Montforts, Gavestons,

Mortimers, Villierses; the war-making, campaign-directing wantons of

France, and Charles the Second's scepter-wielding drabs; but nowhere in

the procession was my full-sized fellow visible. I was a Unique; and

glad to know that that fact could not be dislodged or challenged for

thirteen centuries and a half, for sure.

Yes, in power I was equal to the king. At the same time there was

another power that was a trifle stronger than both of us put together.

That was the Church. I do not wish to disguise that fact. I couldn't, if

I wanted to. But never mind about that, now; it will show up, in its

proper place, later on. It didn't cause me any trouble in the beginning-

at least any of consequence.

Well, it was a curious country, and full of interest. And the people!

They were the quaintest and simplest and trustingest race; why, they

were nothing but rabbits. It was pitiful for a person born in a

wholesome free atmosphere to listen to their humble and hearty

outpourings of loyalty toward their king and Church and nobility; as if

they had any more occasion to love and honor king and Church and noble

than a slave has to love and honor the lash, or a dog has to love and

honor the stranger that kicks him! Why, dear me, (r)any kind of

royalty, howsoever modified, (r)any kind of aristocracy, howsoever

pruned, is rightly an insult; but if you are born and brought up under

that sort of arrangement you probably never find it out for yourself,

and don't believe it when somebody else tells you. It is enough to make

a body ashamed of his race to think of the sort of froth that has always

occupied its thrones without shadow of right or reason, and the seventh-

rate people that have always figured as its aristocracies- a company of

monarchs and nobles who, as a rule, would have achieved only poverty and

obscurity if left, like their betters, to their own exertions.

The most of King Arthur's British nation were slaves, pure and simple,

and bore that name, and wore the iron collar on their necks; and the

rest were slaves in fact, but without the name; they imagined themselves

men and freemen, and called themselves so. The truth was, the nation as

a body was in the world for one object, and one only: to grovel before

king and Church and noble; to slave for them, sweat blood for them,

starve that they might be fed, work that they might play, drink misery

to the dregs that they might be happy, go naked that they might wear

silks and jewels, pay taxes that they might be spared from paying them,

be familiar all their lives with the degrading language and postures of

adulation that they might walk in pride and think themselves the gods of

this world. And for all this, the thanks they got were cuffs and

contempt; and so poor-spirited were they that they took even this sort

of attention as an honor.

Inherited ideas are a curious thing, and interesting to observe and

examine. I had mine, the king and his people had theirs. In both cases

they flowed in ruts worn deep by time and habit, and the man who should

have proposed to divert them by reason and argument would have had a

long contract on his hands. For instance, those people had inherited the

idea that all men without title and a long pedigree, whether they had

great natural gifts and acquirements or hadn't, were creatures of no

more consideration than so many animals, bugs, insects; whereas I had

inherited the idea that human daws who can consent to masquerade in the

peacock shams of inherited dignities and unearned titles, are of no good

but to be laughed at. The way I was looked upon was odd, but it was

natural. You know how the keeper and the public regard the elephant in

the menagerie: well, that is the idea. They are full of admiration of

his vast bulk and his prodigious strength; they speak with pride of the

fact that he can do a hundred marvels which are far and away beyond

their own powers; and they speak with the same pride of the fact that in

his wrath he is able to drive a thousand men before him. But does that

make him one of (r)them? No; the raggedest tramp in the pit would smile

at the idea. He couldn't comprehend it; couldn't take it in; couldn't in

any remote way conceive of it. Well, to the king, the nobles, and all

the nation, down to the very slaves and tramps, I was just that kind of

an elephant, and nothing more. I was admired, also feared; but it was as

an animal is admired and feared. The animal is not reverenced, neither

was I; I was not even respected. I had no pedigree, no inherited title;

so in the king's and nobles' eyes I was mere dirt; the people regarded

me with wonder and awe, but there was no reverence mixed with it;

through the force of inherited ideas they were not able to conceive of

anything being entitled to that except pedigree and lordship. There you

see the hand of that awful power, the Roman Catholic Church. In two or

three little centuries it had converted a nation of men to a nation of

worms. Before the day of the Church's supremacy in the world, men were

men, and held their heads up, and had a man's pride and spirit and

independence; and what of greatness and position a person got, he got

mainly by achievement, not by birth. But then the Church came to the

front, with an ax to grind; and she was wise, subtle, and knew more than

one way to skin a cat- or a nation; she invented "divine right of

things," and propped it all around, brick by brick, with the Beatitudes-

wrenching them from their good purpose to make them fortify an evil one;

she preached (to the commoner) humility, obedience to superiors, the

beauty of self-sacrifice; she preached (to the commoner) meekness under

insult; preached (still to the commoner, always to the commoner)

patience, meanness of spirit, non-resistance under oppression; and she

introduced heritable ranks and aristocracies, and taught all the

Christian populations of the earth to bow down to them and worship them.

Even down to my birth-century that poison was still in the blood of

Christendom, and the best of English commoners was still content to see

his inferiors impudently continuing to hold a number of positions, such

as lordships and the throne, to which the grotesque laws of his country

did not allow him to aspire; in fact, he was not merely contented with

this strange condition of things, he was even able to persuade himself

that he was proud of it. It seems to show that there isn't anything you

can't stand, if you are only born and bred to it. Of course that taint,

that reverence for rank and title, had been in our American blood, too-

I know that; but when I left America it had disappeared- at least to all

intents and purposes. The remnant of it was restricted to the dudes and

dudesses. When a disease has worked its way down to that level, it may

fairly be said to be out of the system.

But to return to my anomalous position in King Arthur's kingdom. Here

I was, a giant among pygmies, a man among children, a master

intelligence among intellectual moles; by all rational measurement the

one and only actually great man in that whole British world; and yet

there and then, just as in the remote England of my birth-time, the

sheep-witted earl who could claim long descent from a king's leman,

acquired at second hand from the slums of London, was a better man than

I was. Such a personage was fawned upon in Arthur's realm and reverently

looked up to by everybody, even though his dispositions were as mean as

his intelligence. and his morals as base as his lineage. There were

times when (r)he could sit down in the king's presence, but I couldn't.

I could have got a title easily enough, and that would have raised me a

large step in everybody's eyes; even in the king's, the giver of it. But

I didn't ask for it; and I declined it when it was offered. I couldn't

have enjoyed such a thing with my notions; and it wouldn't have been

fair, anyway, because as far back as I could go, our tribe had always

been short of the bar sinister. I couldn't have felt really and

satisfactorily fine and proud and set-up over any title except one that

should come from the nation itself, the only legitimate source; and such

an one I hoped to win; and in the course of years of honest and

honorable endeavor, I did win it and did wear it with a high and clean

pride. This title fell casually from the lips of a blacksmith, one day,

in a village, was caught up as a happy thought and tossed from mouth to

mouth with a laugh and an affirmative vote; in ten days it had swept the

kingdom, and was become as familiar as the king's name. I was never

known by any other designation afterward, whether in the nation's talk

or in grave debate upon matters of state at the council-board of the

sovereign. This title, translated into modern speech, would be THE BOSS.

Elected by the nation. That suited me. And it was a pretty high title.

There were very few THE'S, and I was one of them. If you spoke of the

duke, or the earl, or the bishop, how could anybody tell which one you

meant? But if you spoke of The King or The Queen or The Boss, it was


Well, I liked the king, and (r)as king I respected him- respected the

office; at least respected it as much as I was capable of respecting any

unearned supremacy; but as (r)men I looked down upon him and his

nobles- privately. And he and they liked me, and respected my office;

but as an animal, without birth or sham title, they looked down upon me-

and were not particularly private about it, either. I didn't charge for

my opinion about them, and they didn't charge for their opinion about

me: the account was square, the books balanced, everybody was satisfied.


THEY were always having grand tournaments there at Camelot; and very

stirring and picturesque and ridiculous human bull-fights they were,

too, but just a little wearisome to the practical mind. However, I was

generally on hand- for two reasons: a man must not hold himself aloof

from the things which his friends and his community have at heart if he

would be liked- especially as a statesman; and both as business man and

statesman I wanted to study the tournament and see if I couldn't invent

an improvement on it. That reminds me to remark, in passing, that the

very first official thing I did, in my administration- and it was on the

very first day of it, too- was to start a patent office; for I knew that

a country without a patent office and good patent laws was just a crab,

and couldn't travel any way but sideways or backways.

Things ran along, a tournament nearly every week; and now and then the

boys used to want me to take a hand- I mean Sir Launcelot and the rest-

but I said I would by and by: no hurry yet, and too much government

machinery to oil up and set to rights and start a-going.

We had one tournament which was continued from day to day during more

than a week, and as many as five hundred knights took part in it, from

first to last. They were weeks gathering. They came on horseback from

everywhere; from the very ends of the country, and even from beyond the

sea; and many brought ladies, and all brought squires and troops of

servants. It was a most gaudy and gorgeous crowd, as to costumery, and

very characteristic of the country and the time, in the way of high

animal spirits, innocent indecencies of language, and happy-hearted

indifference to morals. It was fight or look on, all day and every day;

and sing, gamble, dance, carouse half the night every night. They had a

most noble good time. You never saw such people. Those banks of

beautiful ladies, shining in their barbaric splendors, would see a

knight sprawl from his horse in the lists with a lance-shaft the

thickness of your ankle clean through him and the blood spouting, and

instead of fainting they would clap their hands and crowd each other for

a better view; only sometimes one would dive into her handkerchief, and

look ostentatiously broken-hearted, and then you could lay two to one

that there was a scandal there somewhere and she was afraid the public

hadn't found it out.

The noise at night would have been annoying to me ordinarily, but I

didn't mind it in the present circumstances, because it kept me from

hearing the quacks detaching legs and arms from the day's cripples. They

ruined an uncommon good old crosscut saw for me, and broke the saw-buck,

too, but I let it pass. And as for my ax- well, I made up my mind that

the next time I lent an ax to a surgeon I would pick my century.

I not only watched this tournament from day to day, but detailed an

intelligent priest from my Department of Public Morals and Agriculture,

and ordered him to report it; for it was my purpose by and by, when I

should have gotten the people along far enough, to start a newspaper.

The first thing you want in a new country, is a patent office; then work

up your school system; and after that, out with your paper. A newspaper

has its faults, and plenty of them, but no matter, it's hark from the

tomb for a dead nation, and don't you forget it. You can't resurrect a

dead nation without it; there isn't any way. So I wanted to sample

things, and be finding out what sort of reporter-material I might be

able to rake together out of the sixth century when I should come to

need it.

Well, the priest did very well, considering. He got in all the

details, and that is a good thing in a local item: you see, he had kept

books for the undertaker department of his church when he was younger,

and there, you know, the money's in the details; the more details, the

more swag: bearers, mutes, candles, prayers- everything counts; and if

the bereaved don't buy prayers enough you mark up your candles with a

forked pencil, and your bill shows up all right. And he had a good knack

at getting in the complimentary thing here and there about a knight that

was likely to advertise- no, I mean a knight that had influence; and he

also had a neat gift of exaggeration, for in his time he had kept door

for a pious hermit who lived in a sty and worked miracles.

Of course this novice's report lacked whoop and crash and lurid

description, and therefore wanted the true ring; but its antique wording

was quaint and sweet and simple, and full of the fragrances and flavors

of the time, and these little merits made up in a measure for its more

important lacks. Here is an extract from it:

Then Sir Brian de les Isles and Grummore Grummorsum, knights of the

castle, encountered with Sir Aglovale and Sir Tor, and Sir Tor smote

down Sir Grummore Grummorsum to the earth. Then came Sir Carados of the

dolorous tower, and Sir Turquine, knights of the castle, and there

encountered with them Sir Percivale de Galis and Sir Lamorak de Galis,

that were two brethren, and there encountered Sir Percivale and Sir

Carados, and either brake their spears unto their hands, and then Sir

Turquine with Sir Lamorak, and either of them smote down other, horse

and all, to the earth, and either parties rescued other and horsed them

again. And Sir Arnold, and Sir Gauter, knights of the castle,

encountered with Sir Brandiles and Sir Kay, and these four knights

encountered mightily, and brake their spears to their hands. Then came

Sir Pertolope from the castle, and there encountered with him Sir

Lionel, and there Sir Pertolope the green knight smote down Sir Lionel,

brother to Sir Launcelot. All this was marked by noble heralds, who bare

him best, and their names. Then Sir Bleobaris brake his spear upon Sir

Gareth, but of that stroke Sir Bleobaris fell to the earth. When Sir

Galihodin saw that, he bad Sir Gareth keep him, and Sir Gareth smote him

to the earth. Then Sir Galihud gat a spear to avenge his brother, and in

the same wise Sir Gareth served him, and Sir Dinadan and his brother La

Cote Male Taile, and Sir Sagramor le Desirous, and Sir Dodinas le

Savage; all these he bare down with one spear. When King Agwisance of

Ireland saw Sir Gareth fare so he marveled what he might be, that one

time seemed green, and another time, at his again coming, he seemed

blue. And thus at every course that he rode to and fro he changed his

color, so that there might neither king nor knight have ready cognizance

of him. Then Sir Agwisance the King of Ireland encountered with Sir

Gareth, and there Sir Gareth smote him from his horse, saddle and all.

And then came King Carados of Scotland, and Sir Gareth smote him down

horse and man. And in the same wise he served King Uriens of the land of

Gore. And then there came in Sir Bagdemagus, and Sir Gareth smote him

down horse and man to the earth. And Bagdemagus's son Meliganus brake a

spear upon Sir Gareth mightily and knightly. And then Sir Galahault the

noble prince cried on high, Knight with the many colors, well hast thou

justed; now make thee ready that I may just with thee. Sir Gareth heard

him, and he gat a great spear, and so they encountered together, and

there the prince brake his spear; but Sir Gareth smote him upon the left

side of the helm, that he reeled here and there, and he had fallen down

had not his men recovered him. Truly, said King Arthur, that knight with

the many colors is a good knight. Wherefore the king called unto him Sir

Launcelot, and prayed him to encounter with that knight. Sir, said

Launcelot, I may as well find in my heart for to forbear him at this

time, for he hath had travail enough this day, and when a good knight

doth so well upon some day, it is no good knight's part to let him of

his worship, and, namely, when he seeth a knight hath done so great

labor; for peradventure, said Sir Launcelot, his quarrel is here this

day, and peradventure he is best beloved with this lady of all that be

here, for I see well he paineth himself and enforceth him to do great

deeds, and therefore, said Sir Launcelot, as for me, this day he shall

have the honor; though it lay in my power to put him from it, I would


There was an unpleasant little episode that day, which for reasons of

state I struck out of my priest's report. You will have noticed that

Garry was doing some great fighting in the engagement. When I say Garry

I mean Sir Gareth. Garry was my private pet name for him; it suggests

that I had a deep affection for him, and that was the case. But it was a

private pet name only, and never spoken aloud to any one, much less to

him; being a noble, he would not have endured a familiarity like that

from me. Well, to proceed: I sat in the private box set apart for me as

the king's minister. While Sir Dinadan was waiting for his turn to enter

the lists, he came in there and sat down and began to talk; for he was

always making up to me, because I was a stranger and he liked to have a

fresh market for his jokes, the most of them having reached that stage

of wear where the teller has to do the laughing himself while the other

person looks sick. I had always responded to his efforts as well as I

could, and felt a very deep and real kindness for him, too, for the

reason that if by malice of fate he knew the one particular anecdote

which I had heard oftenest and had most hated and most loathed all my

life, he had at least spared it me. It was one which I had heard

attributed to every humorous person who had ever stood on American soil,

from Columbus down to Artemus Ward. It was about a humorous lecturer who

flooded an ignorant audience with the killingest jokes for an hour and

never got a laugh; and then when he was leaving, some gray simpletons

wrung him gratefully by the hand and said it had been the funniest thing

they had ever heard, and "it was all they could do to keep from laughin'

right out in meetin'." That anecdote never saw the day that it was worth

the telling; and yet I had sat under the telling of it hundreds and

thousands and millions and billions of times, and cried and cursed all

the way through. Then who can hope to know what my feelings were, to

hear this armor-plated ass start in on it again, in the murky twilight

of tradition, before the dawn of history, while even Lactantius might be

referred to as "the late Lactantius," and the Crusades wouldn't be born

for five hundred years yet? just as he finished, the call-boy came; so,

haw-hawing like a demon, he went rattling and clanking out like a crate

of loose castings, and I knew nothing more. It was some minutes before I

came to, and then I opened my eyes just in time to see Sir Gareth fetch

him an awful welt, and I unconsciously out with the prayer, "I hope to

gracious he's killed!" But by ill luck, before I had got half through

with the words, Sir Gareth crashed into Sir Sagramor le Desirous and

sent him thundering over his horse's crupper, and Sir Sagramor caught my

remark and thought I meant it for (r)him.

Well, whenever one of those people got a thing into his head, there

was no getting it out again. I knew that, so I saved my breath, and

offered no explanations. As soon as Sir Sagramor got well, he notified

me that there was a little account to settle between us, and he named a

day three or four years in the future; place of settlement, the lists

where the offense had been given. I said I would be ready when he got

back. You see, he was going for the Holy Grail. The boys all took a

flier at the Holy Grail now and then. It was a several years' cruise.

They always put in the long absence snooping around, in the most

conscientious way, though none of them had any idea where the Holy Grail

really was, and I don't think any of them actually expected to find it,

or would have known what to do with it if he (r)had run across it. You

see, it was just the Northwest Passage of that day, as you may say; that

was all. Every year expeditions went out holy grailing, and next year

relief expeditions went out to hunt for (r)them. There was worlds of

reputation in it, but no money. Why, they actually wanted (r)me to put

in! Well, I should smile.


THE Round Table soon heard of the challenge, and of course it was a

good deal discussed, for such things interested the boys. The king

thought I ought now to set forth in quest of adventures, so that I might

gain renown and be the more worthy to meet Sir Sagramor when the several

years should have rolled away. I excused myself for the present; I said

it would take me three or four years yet to get things well fixed up and

going smoothly; then I should be ready; all the chances were that at the

end of that time Sir Sagramor would still be out grailing, so no

valuable time would be lost by the postponement; I should then have been

in office six or seven years, and I believed my system and machinery

would be so well developed that I could take a holiday without its

working any harm.

I was pretty well satisfied with what I had already accomplished. In

various quiet nooks and corners I had the beginnings of all sorts of

industries under way- nuclei of future vast factories, the iron and

steel missionaries of my future civilization. In these were gathered

together the brightest young minds I could find, and I kept agents out

raking the country for more, all the time. I was training a crowd of

ignorant folk into experts- experts in every sort of handiwork and

scientific calling. These nurseries of mine went smoothly and privately

along undisturbed in their obscure country retreats, for nobody was

allowed to come into their precincts without a special permit- for I was

afraid of the Church.

I had started a teacher-factory and a lot of Sunday-schools the first

thing; as a result, I now had an admirable system of graded schools in

full blast in those places, and also a complete variety of Protestant

congregations all in a prosperous and growing condition. Everybody could

be any kind of a Christian he wanted to; there was perfect freedom in

that matter. But I confined public religious teaching to the churches

and the Sunday-schools, permitting nothing of it in my other educational

buildings. I could have given my own sect the preference and made

everybody a Presbyterian without any trouble, but that would have been

to affront a law of human nature: spiritual wants and instincts are as

various in the human family as are physical appetites, complexions, and

features, and a man is only at his best, morally, when he is equipped

with the religious garment whose color and shape and size most nicely

accommodate themselves to the spiritual complexion, angularities, and

stature of the individual who wears it; and, besides, I was afraid of a

united Church; it makes a mighty power, the mightiest conceivable, and

then when it by and by gets into selfish hands, as it is always bound to

do, it means death to human liberty and paralysis to human thought.

All mines were royal property, and there were a good many of them.

They had formerly been worked as savages always work mines- holes

grubbed in the earth and the mineral brought up in sacks of hide by

hand, at the rate of a ton a day; but I had begun to put the mining on a

scientific basis as early as I could.

Yes, I had made pretty handsome progress when Sir Sagramor's challenge

struck me.

Four years rolled by- and then! Well, you would never imagine it in

the world. Unlimited power (r)is the ideal thing when it is in safe

hands. The despotism of heaven is the one absolutely perfect government.

An earthly despotism would be the absolutely perfect earthly government,

if the conditions were the same, namely, the despot the perfectest

individual of the human race, and his lease of life perpetual. But as a

perishable perfect man must die, and leave his despotism in the hands of

an imperfect successor, an earthly despotism is not merely a bad form of

government, it is the worst form that is possible.

My works showed what a despot could do with the resources of a kingdom

at his command. Unsuspected by this dark land, I had the civilization of

the nineteenth century booming under its very nose! It was fenced away

from the public view, but there it was, a gigantic and unassailable

fact- and to be heard from, yet, if I lived and had luck. There it was,

as sure a fact and as substantial a fact as any serene volcano, standing

innocent with its smokeless summit in the blue sky and giving no sign of

the rising hell in its bowels. My schools and churches were children

four years before; they were grown up now; my shops of that day were

vast factories now; where I had a dozen trained men then, I had a

thousand now; where I had one brilliant expert then, I had fifty now. I

stood with my hand on the cock, so to speak, ready to turn it on and

flood the midnight world with light at any moment. But I was not going

to do the thing in that sudden way. It was not my policy. The people

could not have stood it; and, moreover, I should have had the

Established Roman Catholic Church on my back in a minute.

No, I had been going cautiously all the while. I had had confidential

agents trickling through the country some time, whose office was to

undermine knighthood by imperceptible degrees, and to gnaw a little at

this and that and the other superstition, and so prepare the way

gradually for a better order of things. I was turning on my light one

candlepower at a time, and meant to continue to do so.

I had scattered some branch schools secretly about the kingdom, and

they were doing very well. I meant to work this racket more and more, as

time wore on, if nothing occurred to frighten me. One of my deepest

secrets was my West Point- my military academy. I kept that most

jealously out of sight; and I did the same with my naval academy which I

had established at a remote seaport. Both were prospering to my


Clarence was twenty-two now, and was my head executive, my right hand.

He was a darling; he was equal to anything; there wasn't anything he

couldn't turn his hand to. Of late I had been training him for

journalism, for the time seemed about right for a start in the newspaper

line; nothing big, but just a small weekly for experimental circulation

in my civilization-nurseries. He took to it like a duck; there was an

editor concealed in him, sure. Already he had doubled himself in one

way; he talked sixth century and wrote nineteenth. His journalistic

style was climbing, steadily; it was already up to the back settlement

Alabama mark, and couldn't be told from the editorial output of that

region either by matter or flavor.

We had another large departure on hand, too. This was a telegraph and

a telephone; our first venture in this line. These wires were for

private service only, as yet, and must be kept private until a riper day

should come. We had a gang of men on the road, working mainly by night.

They were stringing ground-wires; we were afraid to put up poles, for

they would attract too much inquiry. Ground-wires were good enough, in

both instances, for my wires were protected by an insulation of my own

invention which was perfect. My men had orders to strike across country,

avoiding roads, and establishing connection with any considerable towns

whose lights betrayed their presence, and leaving experts in charge.

Nobody could tell you how to find any place in the kingdom, for nobody

ever went intentionally to any place, but only struck it by accident in

his wanderings, and then generally left it without thinking to inquire

what its name was. At once time and another we had sent out

topographical expeditions to survey and map the kingdom, but the priests

had always interfered and raised trouble. So we had given the thing up,

for the present; it would be poor wisdom to antagonize the Church.

As for the general condition of the country, it was as it had been

when I arrived in it, to all intents and purposes. I had made changes,

but they were necessarily slight, and they were not noticeable. Thus

far, I had not even meddled with taxation, outside of the taxes which

provided the royal revenues. I had systematized those, and put the

service on an effective and righteous basis. As a result, these revenues

were already quadrupled, and yet the burden was so much more equably

distributed than before, that all the kingdom felt a sense of relief,

and the praises of my administration were hearty and general.

Personally, I struck an interruption, now, but I did not mind it, it

could not have happened at a better time. Earlier it could have annoyed

me, but now everything was in good hands and swimming right along. The

king had reminded me several times, of late, that the postponement I had

asked for, four years before, had about run out now. It was a hint that

I ought to be starting out to seek adventures and get up a reputation of

a size to make me worthy of the honor of breaking a lance with Sir

Sagramor, who was still out grailing, but was being hunted for by

various relief expeditions, and might be found any year, now. So you see

I was expecting this interruption; it did not take me by surprise.


THERE never was such a country for wandering liars; and they were of

both sexes. Hardly a month went by without one of these tramps arriving;

and generally loaded with a tale about some princess or other wanting

help to get her out of some far-away castle where she was held in

captivity by a lawless scoundrel, usually a giant. Now you would think

that the first thing the king would do after listening to such a

novelette from an entire stranger, would be to ask for credentials- yes,

and a pointer or two as to locality of castle, best route to it, and so

on. But nobody ever thought of so simple and common-sense a thing as

that. No, everybody swallowed these people's lies whole, and never asked

a question of any sort or about anything. Well, one day when I was not

around, one of these people came along- it was a she one, this time- and

told a tale of the usual pattern. Her mistress was a captive in a vast

and gloomy castle, along with forty-four other young and beautiful

girls, pretty much all of them princesses; they had been languishing in

that cruel captivity for twenty-six years; the masters of the castle

were three stupendous brothers, each with four arms and one eye- the eye

in the center of the forehead, and as big as a fruit. Sort of fruit not

mentioned; their usual slovenliness in statistics.

Would you believe it? The king and the whole Round Table were in

raptures over this preposterous opportunity for adventure. Every knight

of the Table jumped for the chance, and begged for it; but to their

vexation and chagrin the king conferred it upon me, who had not asked

for it at all.

By an effort, I contained my joy when Clarence brought me the news.

But he- he could not contain his. His mouth gushed delight and gratitude

in a steady discharge- delight in my good fortune, gratitude to the king

for this splendid mark of his favor for me. He could keep neither his

legs nor his body still, but pirouetted about the place in an airy

ecstasy of happiness.

On my side, I could have cursed the kindness that conferred upon me

this benefaction, but I kept my vexation under the surface for policy's

sake, and did what I could to let on to be glad. Indeed, I (r)said I

was glad. And in a way it was true; I was as glad as a person is when he

is scalped.

Well, one must make the best of things, and not waste time with

useless fretting, but get down to business and see what can be done. In

all lies there is wheat among the chaff; I must get at the wheat in this

case: so I sent for the girl and she came. She was a comely enough

creature, and soft and modest, but, if signs went for anything, she

didn't know as much as a lady's watch. I said:

"My dear, have you been questioned as to particulars?"

She said she hadn't.

"Well, I didn't expect you had, but I thought I would ask, to make

sure; it's the way I've been raised. Now you mustn't take it unkindly if

I remind you that as we don't know you, we must go a little slow. You

may be all right, of course, and we'll hope that you are; but to take it

for granted isn't business. (r)You understand that. I'm obliged to ask

you a few questions; just answer up fair and square, and don't be

afraid. Where do you live, when you are at home?"

"In the land of Moder, fair sir."

"Land of Moder. I don't remember hearing of it before. Parents


"As to that, I know not if they be yet on live, sith it is many years

that I have lain shut up in the castle."

"Your name, please?"

"I hight the Demoiselle Alisande la Carteloise, an it please you."

"Do you know anybody here who can identify you?"

"That were not likely, fair lord, I being come hither now for the

first time."

"Have you brought any letters- any documents- any proofs that you are

trustworthy and truthful?"

"Of a surety, no; and wherefore should I? Have I not a tongue, and

cannot I say all that myself?"

"But (r)your saying it, you know, and somebody else's saying it, is


"Different? How might that be? I fear me I do not understand."

"Don't (r)understand? Land of- why, you see- you see- why, great

Scott, can't you understand a little thing like that? Can't you

understand the difference between your- (r)why do you look so innocent

and idiotic!"

"I? In truth I know not, but an it were the will of God."

"Yes, yes, I reckon that's about the size of it. Don't mind my seeming

excited; I'm not. Let us change the subject. Now as to this castle, with

forty-five princesses in it, and three ogres at the head of it, tell me-

where is this harem?"


"The (r)castle, you understand; where is the castle?"

"Oh, as to that, it is great, and strong, and well beseen, and lieth

in a far country. Yes, it is many leagues."

(r)"How many?"

"Ah, fair sir, it were woundily hard to tell, they are so many, and do

so lap the one upon the other, and being made all in the same image and

tincted with the same color, one may not know the one league from its

fellow, nor how to count them except they be taken apart, and ye wit

well it were God's work to do that, being not within man's capacity; for

ye will note-"

"Hold on, hold on, never mind about the distance; (r)whereabouts does

the castle lie? What's the direction from here?"

"Ah, please you sir, it hath no direction from here; by reason that

the road lieth not straight, but turneth evermore; wherefore the

direction of its place abideth not, but is some time under the one sky

and anon under another, whereso if ye be minded that it is in the east,

and wend thitherward, ye shall observe that the way of the road doth yet

again turn upon itself by the space of half a circle, and this marvel

happing again and yet again and still again, it will grieve you that you

have thought by vanities of the mind to thwart and bring to naught the

will of Him that giveth not a castle a direction from a place except it

pleaseth Him, and if it please Him not, will the rather that even all

castles and all directions thereunto vanish out of the earth, leaving

the places wherein they tarried desolate and vacant, so warning His

creatures that where He will He will, and where He will not He-"

"Oh, that's all right, that's all right, give us a rest; never mind

about the direction, (r)hang the direction- I beg pardon, I beg a

thousand pardons, I am not well to-day; pay no attention when I

soliloquize, it is an old habit, an old, bad habit, and hard to get rid

of when one's digestion is all disordered with eating food that was

raised forever and ever before he was born; good land! a man can't keep

his functions regular on spring chickens thirteen hundred years old. But

come- never mind about that; let's- have you got such a thing as a map

of that region about you? Now a good map-"

"Is it peradventure that manner of thing which of late the unbelievers

have brought from over the great seas, which, being boiled in oil, and

an onion and salt added thereto, doth-"

"What, a map? What are you talking about? Don't you know what a map

is? There, there, never mind, don't explain, I hate explanations; they

fog a thing up so that you can't tell anything about it. Run along,

dear; good day; show her the way, Clarence."

Oh, well, it was reasonably plain, now, why these donkeys didn't

prospect these liars for details. It may be that this girl had a fact in

her somewhere, but I don't believe you could have sluiced it out with a

hydraulic; nor got it with the earlier forms of blasting, even; it was a

case for dynamite. Why, she was a perfect ass; and yet the king and his

knights had listened to her as if she had been a leaf out of the gospel.

It kind of sizes up the whole party. And think of the simple ways of

this court: this wandering wench hadn't any more trouble to get access

to the king in his palace than she would have had to get into the

poorhouse in my day and country. In fact, he was glad to see her, glad

to hear her tale: with that adventure of hers to offer, she was as

welcome as a corpse is to a coroner.

Just as I was ending up these reflections Clarence came back. I

remarked upon the barren result of my efforts with the girl; hadn't got

hold of a single point that could help me to find the castle. The youth

looked a little surprised, or puzzled, or something, and intimated that

he had been wondering to himself what I had wanted to ask the girl all

those questions for.

"Why, great guns," I said, "don't I want to find the castle? And how

else would I go about it?"

"La, sweet your worship, one may lightly answer that, I ween. She will

go with thee. They always do. She will ride with thee."

"Ride with me? Nonsense!"

"But of a truth she will. She will ride with thee. Thou shalt see."

"What? She browse around the hills and scour the woods with me- alone-

and I as good as engaged to be married? Why, it's scandalous. Think how

it would look."

My, the dear face that rose before me! The boy was eager to know all

about this tender matter. I swore him to secrecy and then whispered her

name- "Puss Flanagan." He looked disappointed, and said he didn't

remember the countess. How natural it was for the little courtier to

give her a rank. He asked me where she lived.

"In East Har-" I came to myself and stopped, a little confused; then I

said, "Never mind, now; I'll tell you some time."

And might he see her? Would I let him see her some day?

It was but a little thing to promise- thirteen hundred years or so-

and he so eager; so I said Yes. But I sighed; I couldn't help it. And

yet there was no sense in sighing, for she wasn't born yet. But that is

the way we are made: we don't reason, where we feel; we just feel.

My expedition was all the talk that day and that night, and the boys

were very good to me, and made much of me, and seemed to have forgotten

their vexation and disappointment, and come to be as anxious for me to

hive those ogres and set those ripe old virgins loose as if it were

themselves that had the contract. Well, they (r)were good children- but

just children, that is all. And they gave me no end of points about how

to scout for giants, and how to scoop them in; and they told me all

sorts of charms against enchantments, and gave me salves and other

rubbish to put on my wounds. But it never occurred to one of them to

reflect that if I was such a wonderful necromancer as I was pretending

to be, I ought not to need salves or instructions, or charms against

enchantments, and, least of all, arms and armor, on a foray of any kind-

even against fire-spouting dragons, and devils hot from perdition, let

alone such poor adversaries as these I was after, these commonplace

ogres of the back settlements.

I was to have an early breakfast, and start at dawn, for that was the

usual way; but I had the demon's own time with my armor, and this

delayed me a little. It is troublesome to get into, and there is so much

detail. First you wrap a layer or two of blanket around your body, for a

sort of cushion and to keep off the cold iron; then you put on your

sleeves and shirt of chain mail- these are made of small steel links

woven together, and they form a fabric so flexible that if you toss your

shirt onto the floor, it slumps into a pile like a peck of wet fish-net;

it is very heavy and is nearly the uncomfortablest material in the world

for a nightshirt, yet plenty used it for that- tax-collectors, and

reformers, and one-horse kings with a defective title, and those sorts

of people; then you put on your shoes- flat-boats roofed over with

interleaving bands of steel- and screw your clumsy spurs into the heels.

Next you buckle your greaves on your legs, and your cuisses on your

thighs; then come your back-plate and your breast-plate, and you begin

to feel crowded; then you hitch onto the breast-plate the half-petticoat

of broad overlapping bands of steel which hangs down in front but is

scolloped out behind so you can sit down, and isn't any real improvement

on an inverted coal-scuttle, either for looks or for wear, or to wipe

your hands on; next you belt on your sword; then you put your stove-pipe

joints onto your arms, your iron gauntlets onto your hands, your iron

rat-trap onto your head, with a rag of steel web hitched onto it to hang

over the back of your neck- and there you are, snug as a candle in a

candle-mold. This is no time to dance. Well, a man that is packed away

like that is a nut that isn't worth the cracking, there is so little of

the meat, when you get down to it, by comparison with the shell.

The boys helped me, or I never could have got in. Just as we finished,

Sir Bedivere happened in, and I saw that as like as not I hadn't chosen

the most convenient outfit for a long trip. How stately he looked; and

tall and broad and grand. He had on his head a conical steel casque that

only came down to his ears, and for visor had only a narrow steel bar

that extended down to his upper lip and protected his nose; and all the

rest of him, from neck to heel, was flexible chain mail, trousers and

all. But pretty much all of him was hidden under his outside garment,

which of course was of chain mail, as I said, and hung straight from his

shoulders to his ankles; and from his middle to the bottom, both before

and behind, was divided, so that he could ride and let the skirts hang

down on each side. He was going grailing, and it was just the outfit for

it, too. I would have given a good deal for that ulster, but it was too

late now to be fooling around. The sun was just up, the king and the

court were all on hand to see me off and wish me luck; so it wouldn't be

etiquette for me to tarry. You don't get on your horse yourself; no, if

you tried it you would get disappointed. They carry you out, just as

they carry a sunstruck man to the drug store, and put you on, and help

get you to rights, and fix your feet in the stirrups; and all the while

you do feel so strange and stuffy and like somebody else- like somebody

that has been married on a sudden, or struck by lightning, or something

like that, and hasn't quite fetched around yet, and is sort of numb, and

can't just get his bearings. Then they stood up the mast they called a

spear, in its socket by my left foot, and I gripped it with my hand;

lastly they hung my shield around my neck, and I was all complete and

ready to up anchor and get to sea. Everybody was as good to me as they

could be, and a maid of honor gave me the stirrup-cup her own self.

There was nothing more to do now, but for that damsel to get up behind

me on a pillion, which she did, and put an arm or so around me to hold


And so we started, and everybody gave us a good-by and waved their

handkerchiefs or helmets. And everybody we met, going down the hill and

through the village, was respectful to us, except some shabby little

boys on the outskirts. They said:

"Oh, what a guy!" And hove clods at us.

In my experience boys are the same in all ages. They don't respect

anything, they don't care for anything or anybody. They say "Go up,

baldhead" to the prophet going his unoffending way in the gray of

antiquity; they sass me in the holy gloom of the Middle Ages; and I had

seen them act the same way in Buchanan's administration; I remember,

because I was there and helped. The prophet had his bears and settled

with his boys; and I wanted to get down and settle with mine, but it

wouldn't answer, because I couldn't have got up again. I hate a country

without a derrick.


STRAIGHT off, we were in the country. It was most lovely and pleasant

in those sylvan solitudes in the early cool morning in the first

freshness of autumn. From hilltops we saw fair green valleys lying

spread out below, with streams winding through them, and island groves

of trees here and there, and huge lonely oaks scattered about and

casting black blots of shade; and beyond the valleys we saw the ranges

of hills, blue with haze, stretching away in billowy perspective to the

horizon, with at wide intervals a dim fleck of white or gray on a wave-

summit, which we knew was a castle. We crossed broad natural lawns

sparkling with dew, and we moved like spirits, the cushioned turf giving

out no sound of footfall; we dreamed along through glades in a mist of

green light that got its tint from the sun-drenched roof of leaves

overhead, and by our feet the clearest and coldest of runlets went

frisking and gossiping over its reefs and making a sort of whispering

music, comfortable to hear; and at times we left the world behind and

entered into the solemn great deeps and rich gloom of the forest, where

furtive wild things whisked and scurried by and were gone before you

could even get your eye on the place where the noise was; and where only

the earliest birds were turning out and getting to business with a song

here and a quarrel yonder and a mysterious far-off hammering and

drumming for worms on a tree-trunk away somewhere in the impenetrable

remotenesses of the woods. And by and by out we would swing again into

the glare.

About the third or fourth or fifth time that we swung out into the

glare- it was along there somewhere, a couple of hours or so after sun-

up- it wasn't as pleasant as it had been. It was beginning to get hot.

This was quite noticeable. We had a very long pull, after that, without

any shade. Now it is curious how progressively little frets grow and

multiply after they once get a start. Things which I didn't mind at all,

at first, I began to mind now- and more and more, too, all the time. The

first ten or fifteen times I wanted my handkerchief I didn't seem to

care; I got along, and said never mind, it isn't any matter, and dropped

it out of my mind. But now it was different; I wanted it all the time;

it was nag, nag, nag, right along, and no rest; I couldn't get it out of

my mind; and so at last I lost my temper and said hang a man that would

make a suit of armor without any pockets in it. You see I had my

handkerchief in my helmet; and some other things; but it was that kind

of a helmet that you can't take off by yourself. That hadn't occurred to

me when I put it there; and in fact I didn't know it. I supposed it

would be particularly convenient there. And so now, the thought of its

being there, so handy and close by, and yet not get-at-able, made it all

the worse and the harder to bear. Yes, the thing that you can't get is

the thing that you want, mainly; every one has noticed that. Well, it

took my mind off from everything else; took it clear off, and centered

it in my helmet; and mile after mile, there it stayed, imagining the

handkerchief, picturing the handkerchief; and it was bitter and

aggravating to have the salt sweat keep trickling down into my eyes, and

I couldn't get at it. It seems like a little thing, on paper, but it was

not a little thing at all; it was the most real kind of misery. I would

not say it if it was not so. I made up my mind that I would carry along

a reticule next time, let it look how it might, and people say what they

would. Of course these iron dudes of the Round Table would think it was

scandalous, and maybe raise Sheol about it, but as for me, give me

comfort first, and style afterward. So we jogged along, and now and then

we struck a stretch of dust, and it would tumble up in clouds and get

into my nose and make me sneeze and cry; and of course I said things I

oughtn't to have said, I don't deny that. I am not better than others.

We couldn't seem to meet anybody in this lonesome Britain, not even an

ogre; and, in the mood I was in then, it was well for the ogre; that is,

an ogre with a handkerchief. Most knights would have thought of nothing

but getting his armor; but so I got his bandana, he could keep his

hardware, for all of me.

Meantime, it was getting hotter and hotter in there. You see, the sun

was beating down and warming up the iron more and more all the time.

Well, when you are hot, that way, every little thing irritates you. When

I trotted, I rattled like a crate of dishes, and that annoyed me; and

moreover I couldn't seem to stand that shield slatting and banging, now

about my breast, now around my back; and if I dropped into a walk my

joints creaked and screeched in that wearisome way that a wheelbarrow

does, and as we didn't create any breeze at that gait, I was like to get

fried in that stove; and besides, the quieter you went the heavier the

iron settled down on you and the more and more tons you seemed to weigh

every minute. And you had to be always changing hands, and passing your

spear over to the other foot, it got so irksome for one hand to hold it

long at a time.

Well, you know, when you perspire that way, in rivers, there comes a

time when you- when you- well, when you itch. You are inside, your hands

are outside; so there you are; nothing but iron between. It is not a

light thing, let it sound as it may. First it is one place; then

another; then some more; and it goes on spreading and spreading, and at

last the territory is all occupied, and nobody can imagine what you feel

like, nor how unpleasant it is. And when it had got to the worst, and it

seemed to me that I could not stand anything more, a fly got in through

the bars and settled on my nose, and the bars were stuck and wouldn't

work, and I couldn't get the visor up; and I could only shake my head,

which was baking hot by this time, and the fly- well, you know how a fly

acts when he has got a certainty- he only minded the shaking enough to

change from nose to lip, and lip to ear, and buzz and buzz all around in

there, and keep on lighting and biting, in a way that a person, already

so distressed as I was, simply could not stand. So I gave in, and got

Alisande to unship the helmet and relieve me of it. Then she emptied the

conveniences out of it and fetched it full of water, and I drank and

then stood up, and she poured the rest down inside the armor. One cannot

think how refreshing it was. She continued to fetch and pour until I was

well soaked and thoroughly comfortable.

It was good to have a rest- and peace. But nothing is quite perfect in

this life, at any time. I had made a pipe awhile back, and also some

pretty fair tobacco; not the real thing, but what some of the Indians

use: the inside bark of the willow dried. These comforts had been in the

helmet, and now I had them again, but no matches.

Gradually, as the time wore along, one annoying fact was borne in upon

my understanding- that we were weather-bound. An armed novice cannot

mount his horse without help and plenty of it. Sandy was not enough; not

enough for me, anyway. We had to wait until somebody should come along.

Waiting, in silence, would have been agreeable enough, for I was full of

matter for reflection, and wanted to give it a chance to work. I wanted

to try and think out how it was that rational or even half-rational men

could ever have learned to wear armor, considering its inconveniences;

and how they had managed to keep up such a fashion for generations when

it was plain that what I had suffered to-day they had had to suffer all

the days of their lives. I wanted to think that out; and moreover I

wanted to think out some way to reform this evil and persuade the people

to let the foolish fashion die out; but thinking was out of the question

in the circumstances. You couldn't think, where Sandy was.

She was a quite biddable creature and good-hearted, but she had a flow

of talk that was as steady as a mill, and made your head sore like the

drays and wagons in a city. If she had had a cork she would have been a

comfort. But you can't cork that kind; they would die. Her clack was

going all day, and you would think something would surely happen to her

works, by and by; but no, they never got out of order; and she never had

to slack up for words. She could grind, and pump, and churn, and buzz by

the week, and never stop to oil up or blow out. And yet the result was

just nothing but wind. She never had any ideas, any more than a fog has.

She was a perfect blatherskite; I mean for jaw, jaw, jaw, talk, talk,

talk, jabber, jabber, jabber; but just as good as she could be. I hadn't

minded her mill that morning, on account of having that hornets' nest of

other troubles; but more than once in the afternoon I had to say:

"Take a rest, child; the way you are using up all the domestic air,

the kingdom will have to go to importing it by to-morrow, and it's a low

enough treasury without that."


YES, it is strange how little a while at a time a person can be

contented. Only a little while back, when I was riding and suffering,

what a heaven this peace, this rest, this sweet serenity in this

secluded shady nook by this purling stream would have seemed, where I

could keep perfectly comfortable all the time by pouring a dipper of

water into my armor now and then; yet already I was getting

dissatisfied; partly because I could not light my pipe- for, although I

had long ago started a match factory, I had forgotten to bring matches

with me- and partly because we had nothing to eat. Here was another

illustration of the childlike improvidence of this age and people. A man

in armor always trusted to chance for his food on a journey, and would

have been scandalized at the idea of hanging a basket of sandwiches on

his spear. There was probably not a knight of all the Round Table

combination who would not rather have died than been caught carrying

such a thing as that on his flagstaff. And yet there could not be

anything more sensible. It had been my intention to smuggle a couple of

sandwiches into my helmet, but I was interrupted in the act, and had to

make an excuse and lay them aside, and a dog got them.

Night approached, and with it a storm. The darkness came on fast. We

must camp, of course. I found a good shelter for the demoiselle under a

rock, and went off and found another for myself. But I was obliged to

remain in my armor, because I could not get it off by myself and yet

could not allow Alisande to help, because it would have seemed so like

undressing before folk. It would not have amounted to that in reality,

because I had clothes on underneath; but the prejudices of one's

breeding are not gotten rid of just at a jump, and I knew that when it

came to stripping off that bobtailed iron petticoat I should be


With the storm came a change of weather; and the stronger the wind

blew, and the wilder the rain lashed around, the colder and colder it

got. Pretty soon, various kinds of bugs and ants and worms and things

began to flock in out of the wet and crawl down inside my armor to get

warm; and while some of them behaved well enough, and snuggled up

amongst my clothes and got quiet, the majority were of a restless,

uncomfortable sort, and never stayed still, but went on prowling and

hunting for they did not know what; especially the ants, which went

tickling along in wearisome procession from one end of me to the other

by the hour, and are a kind of creatures which I never wish to sleep

with again. It would be my advice to persons situated in this way, to

not roll or thrash around, because this excites the interest of all the

different sorts of animals and makes every last one of them want to turn

out and see what is going on, and this makes things worse than they were

before, and of course makes you objurgate harder, too, if you can.

Still, if one did not roll and thrash around he would die; so perhaps it

is as well to do one way as the other; there is no real choice. Even

after I was frozen solid I could still distinguish that tickling, just

as a corpse does when he is taking electric treatment. I said I would

never wear armor after this trip.

All those trying hours whilst I was frozen and yet was in a living

fire, as you may say, on account of that swarm of crawlers, that same

unanswerable question kept circling and circling through my tired head:

How do people stand this miserable armor? How have they managed to stand

it all these generations? How can they sleep at night for dreading the

tortures of next day?

When the morning came at last, I was in a bad enough plight: seedy,

drowsy, fagged, from want of sleep; weary from thrashing around,

famished from long fasting; pining for a bath, and to get rid of the

animals; and crippled with rheumatism. And how had it fared with the

nobly born, the titled aristocrat, the Demoiselle Alisande la

Carteloise? Why, she was as fresh as a squirrel; she had slept like the

dead; and as for a bath, probably neither she nor any other noble in the

land had ever had one, and so she was not missing it. Measured by modern

standards, they were merely modified savages, those people. This noble

lady showed no impatience to get to breakfast- and that smacks of the

savage, too. On their journeys those Britons were used to long fasts,

and knew how to bear them; and also how to freight up against probable

fasts before starting, after the style of the Indian and the anaconda.

As like as not, Sandy was loaded for a three-day stretch.

We were off before sunrise, Sandy riding and I limping along behind.

In half an hour we came upon a group of ragged poor creatures who had

assembled to mend the thing which was regarded as a road. They were as

humble as animals to me; and when I proposed to breakfast with them,

they were so flattered, so overwhelmed by this extraordinary

condescension of mine that at first they were not able to believe that I

was in earnest. My lady put up her scornful lip and withdrew to one

side; she said in their hearing that she would as soon think of eating

with the other cattle- a remark which embarrassed these poor devils

merely because it referred to them, and not because it insulted or

offended them, for it didn't. And yet they were not slaves, not

chattels. By a sarcasm of law and phrase they were freemen. Seven-tenths

of the free population of the country were of just their class and

degree: small "independent" farmers, artisans, etc.; which is to say,

they were the nation, the actual Nation; they were about all of it that

was useful, or worth saving, or really respectworthy, and to subtract

them would have been to subtract the Nation and leave behind some dregs,

some refuse, in the shape of a king, nobility and gentry, idle,

unproductive, acquainted mainly with the arts of wasting and destroying,

and of no sort of use or value in any rationally constructed world. And

yet, by ingenious contrivance, this gilded minority, instead of being in

the tail of the procession where it belonged, was marching head up and

banners flying, at the other end of it; had elected itself to be the

Nation, and these innumerable clams had permitted it so long that they

had come at last to accept it as a truth; and not only that, but to

believe it right and as it should be. The priests had told their fathers

and themselves that this ironical state of things was ordained of God;

and so, not reflecting upon how unlike God it would be to amuse himself

with sarcasms, and especially such poor transparent ones as this, they

had dropped the matter there and become respectfully quiet.

The talk of these meek people had a strange enough sound in a formerly

American ear. They were freemen, but they could not leave the estates of

their lord or their bishop without his permission; they could not

prepare their own bread, but must have their corn ground and their bread

baked at his mill and his bakery, and pay roundly for the same; they

could not sell a piece of their own property without paying him a

handsome percentage of the proceeds, nor buy a piece of somebody else's

without remembering him in cash for the privilege; they had to harvest

his grain for him gratis, and be ready to come at a moment's notice,

leaving their own crop to destruction by the threatened storm; they had

to let him plant fruit trees in their fields, and then keep their

indignation to themselves when his heedless fruit-gatherers trampled the

grain around the trees; they had to smother their anger when his

hunting-parties galloped through their fields laying waste the result of

their patient toil; they were not allowed to keep doves themselves, and

when the swarms from my lord's dovecote settled on their crops they must

not lose their temper and kill a bird, for awful would the penalty be;

when the harvest was at last gathered, then came the procession of

robbers to levy their blackmail upon it: first the Church carted off its

fat tenth, then the king's commissioner took his twentieth, then my

lord's people made a mighty inroad upon the remainder; after which, the

skinned freeman had liberty to bestow the remnant in his barn, in case

it was worth the trouble; there were taxes, and taxes, and taxes, and

more taxes, and taxes again, and yet other taxes- upon this free and

independent pauper, but none upon his lord the baron or the bishop, none

upon the wasteful nobility or the all-devouring Church; if the baron

would sleep unvexed, the freeman must sit up all night after his day's

work and whip the ponds to keep the frogs quiet; if the freeman's

daughter- but no, that last infamy of monarchical government is

unprintable; and finally, if the freeman, grown desperate with his

tortures, found his life unendurable under such conditions, and

sacrificed it and fled to death for mercy and refuge, the gentle Church

condemned him to eternal fire, the gentle law buried him at midnight at

the crossroads with a stake through his back, and his master the baron

or the bishop confiscated all his property and turned his widow and his

orphans out of doors.

And here were these freemen assembled in the early morning to work on

their lord the bishop's road three days each- gratis; every head of a

family, and every son of a family, three days each, gratis, and a day or

so added for their servants. Why, it was like reading about France and

the French, before the ever memorable and blessed Revolution, which

swept a thousand years of such villany away in one swift tidal wave of

blood- one: a settlement of that hoary debt in the proportion of half a

drop of blood for each hogshead of it that had been pressed by slow

tortures out of that people in the weary stretch of ten centuries of

wrong and shame and misery the like of which was not to be mated but in

hell. There were two "Reigns of Terror," if we would but remember it and

consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in

heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a

thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the

other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the

"horrors" of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak;

whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the ax compared with

lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heartbreak? What

is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the

stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief

Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and

mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by

that older and real Terror- that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror

which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it


These poor ostensible freemen who were sharing their breakfast and

their talk with me, were as full of humble reverence for their king and

Church and nobility as their worst enemy could desire. There was

something pitifully ludicrous about it. I asked them if they supposed a

nation of people ever existed, who, with a free vote in every man's

hand, would elect that a single family and its descendants should reign

over it forever, whether gifted or boobies, to the exclusion of all

other families- including the voter's; and would also elect that a

certain hundred families should be raised to dizzy summits of rank, and

clothed on with offensive transmissible glories and privileges to the

exclusion of the rest of the nation's families- (r)including his own.

They all looked unhit, and said they didn't know; that they had never

thought about it before, and it hadn't ever occurred to them that a

nation could be so situated that every man (r)could have a say in the

government. I said I had seen one- and that it would last until it had

an Established Church. Again they were all unhit- at first. But

presently one man looked up and asked me to state that proposition

again; and state it slowly, so it could soak into his understanding. I

did it; and after a little he had the idea, and he brought his fist down

and said (r)he didn't believe a nation where every man had a vote would

voluntarily get down in the mud and dirt in any such way; and that to

steal from a nation its will and preference must be a crime and the

first of all crimes. I said to myself:

"This one's a man. If I were backed by enough of his sort, I would

make a strike for the welfare of this country, and try to prove myself

its loyalest citizen by making a wholesome change in its system of


You see my kind of loyalty was loyalty to one's country, not to its

institutions or its office-holders. The country is the real thing, the

substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and

care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its

mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be

comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death.

To be loyal to rags, to shout for rags, to worship rags, to die for

rags- that is a loyalty of unreason, it is pure animal; it belongs to

monarchy, was invented by monarchy; let monarchy keep it. I was from

Connecticut, whose Constitution declares "that all political power is

inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their

authority and instituted for their benefit; and that they have (r)at all

times an undeniable and indefeasible right to (r)alter their form of

government in such a manner as they may think expedient."

Under that gospel, the citizen who thinks he sees that the

commonwealth's political clothes are worn out, and yet holds his peace

and does not agitate for a new suit, is disloyal; he is a traitor. That

he may be the only one who thinks he sees this decay, does not excuse

him; it is his duty to agitate anyway, and it is the duty of the others

to vote him down if they do not see the matter as he does.

And now here I was, in a country where a right to say how the country

should be governed was restricted to six persons in each thousand of its

population. For the nine hundred and ninety-four to express

dissatisfaction with the regnant system and propose to change it, would

have made the whole six shudder as one man, it would have been so

disloyal, so dishonorable, such putrid black treason. So to speak, I was

become a stockholder in a corporation where nine hundred and ninety-four

of the members furnished all the money and did all the work, and the

other six elected themselves a permanent board of direction and took all

the dividends. It seemed to me that what the nine hundred and ninety-

four dupes needed was a new deal. The thing that would have best suited

the circus side of my nature would have been to resign the Boss-ship and

get up an insurrection and turn it into a revolution; but I knew that

the Jack Cade or the Wat Tyler who tries such a thing without first

educating his materials up to revolution grade is almost absolutely

certain to get left. I had never been accustomed to getting left, even

if I do say it myself. Wherefore, the "deal" which had been for some

time working into shape in my mind was of a quite different pattern from

the Cade-Tyler sort.

So I did not talk blood and insurrection to that man there who sat

munching black bread with that abused and mistaught herd of human sheep,

but, took him aside and talked matter of another sort to him. After I

had finished, I got him to lend me a little ink from his veins; and with

this and a sliver I wrote on a piece of bark-

(r)Put him in the Man-factory-

and gave it to him, and said:

"Take it to the palace at Camelot and give it into the hands of Amyas

le Poulet, whom I call Clarence, and he will understand."

"He is a priest, then," said the man, and some of the enthusiasm went

out of his face.

"How- a priest? Didn't I tell you that no chattel of the Church, no

bond-slave of pope or bishop can enter my Man-factory? Didn't I tell you

that (r)you couldn't enter unless your religion, whatever it might be,

was your own free property?"

"Marry, it is so, and for that I was glad; wherefore it liked me not,

and bred in me a cold doubt, to hear of this priest being there."

"But he isn't a priest, I tell you."

The man looked far from satisfied. He said:

"He is not a priest, and yet can read?"

"He is not a priest and yet can read- yes, and write, too, for that

matter. I taught him myself." The man's face cleared. "And it is the

first thing that you yourself will be taught in that Factory-"

"I? I would give blood out of my heart to know that art. Why, I will

be your slave, your-"

"No you won't, you won't be anybody's slave. Take your family and go

along. Your lord the bishop will confiscate your small property, but no

matter. Clarence will fix you all right."


I PAID three pennies for my breakfast, and a most extravagant price it

was, too, seeing that one could have breakfasted a dozen persons for

that money; but I was feeling good by this time, and I had always been a

kind of spendthrift anyway; and then these people had wanted to give me

the food for nothing, scant as their provision was, and so it was a

grateful pleasure to emphasize my appreciation and sincere thankfulness

with a good big financial lift where the money would do so much more

good than it would in my helmet, where, these pennies being made of iron

and not stinted in weight, my half-dollar's worth was a good deal of a

burden to me. I spent money rather too freely in those days, it is true;

but one reason for it was that I hadn't got the proportions of things

entirely adjusted, even yet, after so long a sojourn in Britain- hadn't

got along to where I was able to absolutely realize that a penny in

Arthur's land and a couple of dollars in Connecticut were about one and

the same thing: just twins, as you may say, in purchasing-power. If my

start from Camelot could have been delayed a very few days I could have

paid these people in beautiful new coins from our own mint, and that

would have pleased me; and them, too, not less. I had adopted the

American values exclusively. In a week or two now, cents, nickels,

dimes, quarters, and half-dollars, and also a trifle of gold, would be

trickling in thin but steady streams all through the commercial veins of

the kingdom, and I looked to see this new blood freshen up its life.

The farmers were bound to throw in something, to sort of offset my

liberality, whether I would or no; so I let them give me a flint and

steel; and as soon as they had comfortably bestowed Sandy and me on our

horse, I lit my pipe. When the first blast of smoke shot out through the

bars of my helmet, all those people broke for the woods, and Sandy went

over backward and struck the ground with a dull thud. They thought I was

one of those fire-belching dragons they had heard so much about from

knights and other professional liars. I had infinite trouble to persuade

those people to venture back within explaining distance. Then I told

them that this was only a bit of enchantment which would work harm to

none but my enemies. And I promised, with my hand on my heart, that if

all who felt no enmity toward me would come forward and pass before me

they should see that only those who remained behind would be struck

dead. The procession moved with a good deal of promptness. There were no

casualties to report, for nobody had curiosity enough to remain behind

to see what would happen.

I lost some time, now, for these big children, their fears gone,

became so ravished with wonder over my awe-compelling fireworks that I

had to stay there and smoke a couple of pipes out before they would let

me go. Still the delay was not wholly unproductive, for it took all that

time to get Sandy thoroughly wonted to the new thing, she being so close

to it, you know. It plugged up her conversation-mill, too, for a

considerable while, and that was a gain. But above all other benefits

accruing, I had learned something. I was ready for any giant or any ogre

that might come along, now.

We tarried with a holy hermit, that night, and my opportunity came

about the middle of the next afternoon. We were crossing a vast meadow

by way of short cut, and I was musing absently, hearing nothing, seeing

nothing, when Sandy suddenly interrupted a remark which she had begun

that morning, with the cry:

"Defend thee, lord!- peril of life is toward!"

And she slipped down from the horse and ran a little way and stood. I

looked up and saw, far off in the shade of a tree, half a dozen armed

knights and their squires; and straightway there was bustle among them

and tightening of saddle-girths for the mount. My pipe was ready and

would have been lit, if I had not been lost in thinking about how to

banish oppression from this land and restore to all its people their

stolen rights and manhood without disobliging anybody. I lit up at once,

and by the time I had got a good head of reserved steam on, here they

came. All together, too; none of those chivalrous magnanimities which

one reads so much about- one courtly rascal at a time, and the rest

standing by to see fair play. No, they came in a body, they came with a

whir and a body, they came like a volley from a battery; came with heads

low down, plumes streaming out behind, lances advanced at a level. It

was a handsome sight, a beautiful sight- for a man up a tree. I laid my

lance in rest and waited, with my heart beating, till the iron wave was

just ready to break over me, then spouted a column of white smoke

through the bars of my helmet. You should have seen the wave go to

pieces and scatter! This was a finer sight than the other one.

But these people stopped, two or three hundred yards away, and this

troubled me. My satisfaction collapsed, and fear came; I judged I was a

lost man. But Sandy was radiant; and was going to be eloquent; but I

stopped her, and told her my magic had miscarried, somehow or other, and

she must mount, with all despatch, and we must ride for life. No, she

wouldn't. She said that my enchantment had disabled those knights; they

were not riding on, because they couldn't; wait, they would drop out of

their saddles presently, and we would get their horses and harness. I

could not deceive such trusting simplicity, so I said it was a mistake;

that when my fireworks killed at all, they killed instantly; no, the men

would not die, there was something wrong about my apparatus, I couldn't

tell what; but we must hurry and get away, for those people would attack

us again, in a minute. Sandy laughed, and said:

"Lack-a-day, sir, they be not of that breed! Sir Launcelot will give

battle to dragons, and will abide, by them, and will assail them again,

and yet again, and still again, until he do conquer and destroy them;

and so likewise will Sir Pellinore and Sir Aglovale and Sir Carados, and

mayhap others, but there be none else that will venture it, let the idle

say what the idle will. And, la, as to yonder base rufflers, think ye

they have not their fill, but yet desire more?"

"Well, then, what are they waiting for? Why don't they leave? Nobody's

hindering. Good land, I'm willing to let bygones be bygones, I'm sure."

"Leave, is it? Oh, give thyself easement as to that. They dream not of

it, no, not they. They wait to yield them."

"Come- really, is that 'sooth'- as you people say? If they want to,

why don't they?"

"It would like them much; but an ye wot how dragons are esteemed, ye

would not hold them blamable. They fear to come."

"Well, then, suppose I go to them instead, and-"

"Ah, wit ye well they would not abide your coming. I will go."

And she did. She was a handy person to have along on a raid. I would

have considered this a doubtful errand, myself. I presently saw the

knights riding away, and Sandy coming back. That was a relief. I judged

she had somehow failed to get the first innings- I mean in the

conversation; otherwise the interview wouldn't have been so short. But

it turned out that she had managed the business well; in fact,

admirably. She said that when she told those people I was The Boss, it

hit them where they lived: "smote them sore with fear and dread" was her

word; and then they were ready to put up with anything she might

require. So she swore them to appear at Arthur's court within two days

and yield them, with horse and harness, and be my knights henceforth,

and subject to my command. How much better she managed that thing than I

should have done it myself! She was a daisy.


"AND so I'm proprietor of some knights," said I, as we rode off. "Who

would ever have supposed that I should live to list up assets of that

sort. I sha'n't know what to do with them; unless I raffle them off. How

many of them are there, Sandy?"

"Seven, please you, sir, and their squires."

"It is a good haul. Who are they? Where do they hang out?"

"Where do they hang out?"

"Yes, where do they live?"

"Ah, I understood thee not. That will I tell eftsoons." Then she said

musingly, and softly, turning the words daintily over her tongue: "Hang

they out- hang they out- where hang- where do they hang out; eh, right

so; where do they hang out. Of a truth the phrase hath a fair and

winsome grace, and is prettily worded withal. I will repeat it anon and

anon in mine idlesse, whereby I may peradventure learn it. Where do they

hang out. Even so! already it falleth trippingly from my tongue, and

forasmuch as-"

"Don't forget the cowboys, Sandy."


"Yes; the knights, you know: You were going to tell me about them. A

while back, you remember. Figuratively speaking, game's called."


"Yes, yes, yes! Go to the bat. I mean, get to work on your statistics,

and don't burn so much kindling getting your fire started. Tell me about

the knights.

"I will well, and lightly will begin. So they two departed and rode

into a great forest. And-"

"Great Scott!"

You see, I recognized my mistake at once. I had set her works a-going;

it was my own fault; she would be thirty days getting down to those

facts. And she generally began without a preface and finished without a

result. If you interrupted her she would either go right along without

noticing, or answer with a couple of words, and go back and say the

sentence over again. So, interruptions only did harm; and yet I had to

interrupt, and interrupt pretty frequently, too, in order to save my

life; a person would die if he let her monotony drip on him right along

all day.

"Great Scott!" I said in my distress. She went right back and began

over again:

"So they two departed and rode into a great forest. And-"

(r)"Which two?"

"Sir Gawaine and Sir Uwaine. And so they came to an abbey of monks,

and there were well lodged. So on the morn they heard their masses in

the abbey, and so they rode forth till they came to a great forest; then

was Sir Gawaine ware in a valley by a turret, of twelve fair damsels,

and two knights armed on great horses, and the damsels went to and fro

by a tree. And then was Sir Gawaine ware how there hung a white shield

on that tree, and ever as the damsels came by it they spit upon it, and

some threw mire upon the shield-"

"Now, if I hadn't seen the like myself in this country, Sandy, I

wouldn't believe it. But I've seen it, and I can just see those

creatures now, parading before that shield and acting like that. The

women here do certainly act like all possessed. Yes, and I mean your

best, too, society's very choicest brands. The humblest hello-girl along

ten thousand miles of wire could teach gentleness, patience, modesty,

manners, to the highest duchess in Arthur's land."


"Yes, but don't you ask me to explain; it's a new kind of a girl; they

don't have them here; one often speaks sharply to them when they are not

the least in fault, and he can't get over feeling sorry for it and

ashamed of himself in thirteen hundred years, it's such shabby mean

conduct and so unprovoked; the fact is, no gentleman ever does it-

though I- well, I myself, if I've got to confess-"

"Peradventure she-"

"Never mind her; never mind her; I tell you I couldn't ever explain

her so you would understand."

"Even so be it, sith ye are so minded. Then Sir Gawaine and Sir Uwaine

went and saluted them, and asked them why they did that despite to the

shield. Sirs, said the damsels, we shall tell you. There is a knight in

this country that owneth this white shield, and he is a passing good man

of his hands, but he hateth all ladies and gentlewomen, and therefore we

do all this despite to the shield. I will say you, said Sir Gawaine, it

beseemeth evil a good knight to despise all ladies and gentlewomen, and

peradventure though he hate you he hath some cause, and peradventure he

loveth in some other places ladies and gentlewomen, and to be loved

again, and he such a man of prowess as ye speak of-"

"Man of prowess- yes, that is the man to please them, Sandy. Man of

brains- that is a thing they never think of. Tom Sayers- John Heenan-

John L. Sullivan- pity but you could be here. You would have your legs

under the Round Table and a 'Sir' in front of your names within the

twenty-four hours; and you could bring about a new distribution of the

married princesses and duchesses of the Court in another twenty-four.

The fact is, it is just a sort of polished-up court of Comanches, and

there isn't a squaw in it who doesn't stand ready at the dropping of a

hat to desert to the buck with the biggest string of scalps at his


-"and he be such a man of prowess as ye speak of, said Sir Gawaine.

Now, what is his name? Sir, said they, his name is Marhaus the king's

son of Ireland."

"Son of the king of Ireland, you mean; the other form doesn't mean

anything. And look out and hold on tight, now, we must jump this

gully.... There, we are all right now. This horse belongs in the circus;

he is born before his time."

"I know him well," said Sir Uwaine, he is passing good knight as any

is on live."

(r)"On live. If you've got a fault in the world, Sandy, it is that

you are a shade too archaic. But it isn't any matter."

-"for I saw him once proved at a justs where many knights were

gathered, and that time there might no man withstand him. As, said Sir

Gawaine, damsels, methinketh ye are to blame, for it is to suppose he

that hung that shield there will not be long therefrom, and then may

those knights match him on horseback, and that is more your worship than

thus; for I will abide no longer to see a knight's shield dishonored.

And therewith Sir Uwaine and Sir Gawaine departed a little from them,

and then were they ware where Sir Marhaus came riding on a great horse

straight toward them. And when the twelve damsels saw Sir Marhaus they

fled into the turret as they were wild, so that some of them fell by the

way. Then the one of the knights of the tower dressed his shield, and

said on high, Sir Marhaus defend thee. And so they ran together that the

knight brake his spear on Marhaus, and Sir Marhaus smote him so hard

that he brake his neck and the horse's back-"

"Well, that is just the trouble about this state of things, it ruins

so many horses."

"That saw the other knight of the turret, and dressed him toward

Marhaus, and they went so eagerly together, that the knight of the

turret was soon smitten down, horse and man, stark dead-"

(r)"Another horse gone; I tell you it is a custom that ought to be

broken up. I don't see how people with any feeling can applaud and

support it."

"So these two knights came together with great random-"

I saw that I had been asleep and missed a chapter, but I didn't say

anything. I judged that the Irish knight was in trouble with the

visitors by this time, and this turned out to be the case.

-"that Sir Uwaine smote Sir Marhaus that his spear brast in pieces on

the shield, and Sir Marhaus smote him so sore that horse and man he bare

to the earth, and hurt Sir Uwaine on the left side-"

"The truth is, Alisande, the archaics are a little (r)too simple; the

vocabulary is too limited, and so, by consequence, descriptions suffer

in the matter of variety; they run too much to level Saharas of fact,

and not enough to picturesque detail; this throws about them a certain

air of the monotonous; in fact the fights are all alike: a couple of

people come together with great random- random is a good word, and so is

exegesis, for that matter, and so is holocaust, and defalcation, and

usufruct and a hundred others, but land! a body ought to discriminate-

they come together with great random, and a spear is brast, and one

party brake his shield and the other one goes down, horse and man, over

his horse-tail and brake his neck, and then the next candidate comes

randoming in, and brast (r)his spear, and the other man brast his

shield, and down (r)he goes, horse and man, over his horse-tail, and

brake (r)his neck, and then there's another elected, and another and

another and still another, till the material is all used up; and when

you come to figure up results, you can't tell one fight from another,

nor who whipped; and as a (r)picture, of living, raging, roaring

battle, sho! why, it's pale and noiseless- just ghosts scuffling in a

fog. Dear me, what would this barren vocabulary get out of the mightiest

spectacle?- the burning of Rome in Nero's time, for instance? Why, it

would merely say, 'Town burned down; no insurance; boy brast a window,

fireman brake his neck!' Why, (r)that ain't a picture!"

It was a good deal of a lecture, I thought, but it didn't disturb

Sandy, didn't turn a feather; her steam soared steadily up again, the

minute I took off the lid:

"Then Sir Marhaus turned his horse and rode toward Gawaine with his

spear. And when Sir Gawaine saw that, he dressed his shield, and they

aventred their spears, and they came together with all the might of

their horses, that either knight smote other so hard in the midst of

their shields, but Sir Gawaine's spear brake-"

"I knew it would."

-"but Sir Marhaus's spear held; and therewith Sir Gawaine and his

horse rushed down to the earth-"

"Just so- and brake his back."

-"and lightly Sir Gawaine rose upon his feet and pulled out his sword,

and dressed him toward Sir Marhaus on foot, and therewith either came

unto other eagerly, and smote together with their swords, that their

shields flew in cantels, and they bruised their helms and their

hauberks, and wounded either other. But Sir Gawaine, fro it passed nine

of the clock, waxed by the space of three hours ever stronger and

stronger, and thrice his might was increased. All this espied Sir

Marhaus, and had great wonder how his might increased, and so they

wounded other passing sore; and then when it was come noon-"

The pelting sing-song of it carried me forward to scenes and sounds of

my boyhood days:

"N-e-e-ew Haven! ten minutes for refreshments- knductr 'll strike the

gong-bell two minutes before train leaves- passengers for the Shore line

please take seats in the rear k'yar, this k'yar don't go no furder-

(r)ahh -pls, (r)aw -rnjz, b'(r)nan ners, (r)s-a-n-d' ches, p- (r)op -


-"and waxed past noon and drew toward evensong. Sir Gawaine's strength

feebled and waxed passing faint, that unnethes he might dure any longer,

and Sir Marhaus was then bigger and bigger-"

"Which strained his armor, of course; and yet little would one of

these people mind a small thing like that."

-"and so, Sir Knight, said Sir Marhaus, I have well felt that ye are a

passing good knight, and a marvelous man of might as ever I felt any,

while it lasteth, and our quarrels are not great, and therefore it were

a pity to do you hurt, for I feel you are passing feeble. Ah, said Sir

Gawaine, gentle knight, ye say the word that I should say. And therewith

they took off their helms and either kissed other, and there they swore

together either to love other as brethren-"

But I lost the thread there, and dozed off to slumber, thinking about

what a pity it was that men with such superb strength- strength enabling

them to stand up cased in cruelly burdensome iron and drenched with

perspiration, and hack and batter and bang each other for six hours on a

stretch- should not have been born at a time when they could put it to

some useful purpose. Take a jackass, for instance: a jackass has that

kind of strength, and puts it to a useful purpose, and is valuable to

this world because he (r)is a jackass; but a nobleman is not valuable

because he is a jackass. It is a mixture that is always ineffectual, and

should never have been attempted in the first place. And yet, once you

start a mistake, the trouble is done and you never know what is going to

come of it.

When I came to myself again and began to listen, I perceived that I

had lost another chapter, and that Alisande had wandered a long way off

with her people.

"And so they rode and came into a deep valley full of stones, and

thereby they saw a fair stream of water; above thereby was the head of

the stream, a fair fountain, and three damsels sitting thereby. In this

country, said Sir Marhaus, came never knight since it was christened,

but he found strange adventures-"

"This is not good form, Alisande. Sir Marhaus the king's son of

Ireland talks like all the rest; you ought to give him a brogue, or at

least a characteristic expletive; by this means one would recognize him

as soon as he spoke, without his ever being named. It is a common

literary device with the great authors. You should make him say, 'In

this country, be jabers, came never knight since it was christened, but

he found strange adventures, be jabers.' You see how much better that


"-came never knight but he found strange adventures, be jabers. Of a

truth it doth indeed, fair lord, albeit 'tis passing hard to say, though

peradventure that will not tarry but better speed with usage. And then

they rode to the damsels, and either saluted other, and the eldest had a

garland of gold about her head, and she was threescore winter of age or


"The (r)damsel was?"

"Even so, dear lord- and her hair was white under the garland-"

"Celluloid teeth, nine dollars a set, as like as not- the loose-fit

kind, that go up and down like a portcullis when you eat, and fall out

when you laugh."

"The second damsel was of thirty winter of age, with a circlet of gold

about her head. The third damsel was but fifteen year of age-"

Billows of thought came rolling over my soul, and the voice faded out

of my hearing!

Fifteen! Break- my heart! oh, my lost darling! Just her age who was so

gentle, and lovely, and all the world to me, and whom I shall never see

again! How the thought of her carries me back over wide seas of memory

to a vague dim time, a happy time, so many, many centuries hence, when I

used to wake in the soft summer mornings, out of sweet dreams of her,

and say "Hello, Central!" just to hear her dear voice come melting back

to me with a "Hello, Hank!" that was music of the spheres to my

enchanted ear. She got three dollars a week, but she was worth it.

I could not follow Alisande's further explanation of who our captured

knights were, now- I mean in case she should ever get to explaining who

they were. My interest was gone, my thoughts were far away, and sad. By

fitful glimpses of the drifting tale, caught here and there and now and

then, I merely noted in a vague way that each of these three knights

took one of these three damsels up behind him on his horse, and one rode

north, another east, the other south, to seek adventures, and meet again

and lie, after year and day. Year and day- and without baggage. It was

of a piece with the general simplicity of the country.

The sun was now setting. It was about three in the afternoon when

Alisande had begun to tell me who the cowboys were; so she had made

pretty good progress with it- for her. She would arrive some time or

other, no doubt, but she was not a person who could be hurried.

We were approaching a castle which stood on high ground; a huge,

strong, venerable structure, whose gray towers and battlements were

charmingly draped with ivy, and whose whole majestic mass was drenched

with splendors flung from the sinking sun. It was the largest castle we

had seen, and so I thought it might be the one we were after, but Sandy

said no. She did not know who owned it; she said she had passed it

without calling, when she went down to Camelot.


IF knights errant were to be believed, not all castles were desirable

places to seek hospitality in. As a matter of fact, knights errant were

(r)not persons to be believed- that is, measured by modern standards of

veracity; yet, measured by the standards of their own time, and scaled

accordingly you got the truth. It was very simple: you discounted a

statement ninety-seven per cent.; the rest was fact. Now after making

this allowance, the truth remained that if I could find out something

about a castle before ringing the door-bell- I mean hailing the warders-

it was the sensible thing to do. So I was pleased when I saw in the

distance a horseman making the bottom turn of the road that wound down

from this castle.

As we approached each other, I saw that he wore a plumed helmet, and

seemed to be otherwise clothed in steel, but bore a curious addition

also- a stiff square garment like a herald's tabard. However, I had to

smile at my own forgetfulness when I got nearer and read this sign on

his tabard:

(r)"Persimmons's Soap- All the Prime-Donne Use It."

That was a little idea of my own, and had several wholesome purposes

in view toward the civilizing and uplifting of this nation. In the first

place, it was a furtive, underhand blow at this nonsense of knight

errantry, though nobody suspected that but me. I had started a number of

these people out- the bravest knights I could get- each sandwiched

between bulletin-boards bearing one device or another, and I judged that

by and by when they got to be numerous enough they would begin to look

ridiculous; and then, even the steel-clad ass that (r)hadn't any board

would himself begin to look ridiculous because he was out of the


Secondly, these missionaries would gradually, and without creating

suspicion or exciting alarm, introduce a rudimentary cleanliness among

the nobility, and from them it would work down to the people, if the

priests could be kept quiet. This would undermine the Church. I mean

would be a step toward that. Next, education- next, freedom- and then

she would begin to crumble. It being my conviction that any Established

Church is an established crime, an established slave-pen, I had no

scruples, but was willing to assail it in any way or with any weapon

that promised to hurt it. Why, in my own former day- in remote centuries

not yet stirring in the womb of time- there were old Englishmen who

imagined that they had been born in a free country: a "free" country

with the Corporation Act and the Test still in force in it- timbers

propped against men's liberties and dishonored consciences to shore up

an Established Anachronism with.

My missionaries were taught to spell out the gilt signs on their

tabards- the showy gilding was a neat idea, I could have got the king to

wear a bulletin-board for the sake of that barbaric splendor- they were

to spell out these signs and then explain to the lords and ladies what

soap was; and if the lords and ladies were afraid of it, get them to try

it on a dog. The missionary's next move was to get the family together

and try it on himself; he was to stop at no experiment, however

desperate, that could convince the nobility that soap was harmless; if

any final doubt remained, he must catch a hermit- the woods were full of

them; saints they called themselves, and saints they were believed to

be. They were unspeakably holy, and worked miracles, and everybody stood

in awe of them. If a hermit could survive a wash, and that failed to

convince a duke, give him up, let him alone.

Whenever my missionaries overcame a knight errant on the road they

washed him, and when he got well they swore him to go and get a

bulletin-board and disseminate soap and civilization the rest of his

days. As a consequence the workers in the field were increasing by

degrees, and the reform was steadily spreading. My soap factory felt the

strain early. At first I had only two hands; but before I had left home

I was already employing fifteen, and running night and day; and the

atmospheric result was getting so pronounced that the king went sort of

fainting and gasping around and said he did not believe he could stand

it much longer, and Sir Launcelot got so that he did hardly anything but

walk up and down the roof and swear, although I told him it was worse up

there than anywhere else, but he said he wanted plenty of air; and he

was always complaining that a palace was no place for a soap factory

anyway, and said if a man was to start one in his house he would be

damned if he wouldn't strangle him. There were ladies present, too, but

much these people ever cared for that; they would swear before children,

if the wind was their way when the factory was going.

This missionary knight's name was La Cote Male Taile, and he said that

this castle was the abode of Morgan le Fay, sister of King Arthur, and

wife of King Uriens, monarch of a realm about as big as the District of

Columbia- you could stand in the middle of it and throw bricks into the

next kingdom. "Kings" and "Kingdoms" were as thick in Britain as they

had been in little Palestine in Joshua's time, when people had to sleep

with their knees pulled up because they couldn't stretch out without a


La Cote was much depressed, for he had scored here the worst failure

of his campaign. He had not worked off a cake; yet he had tried all the

tricks of the trade, even to the washing of a hermit; but the hermit

died. This was, indeed, a bad failure, for this animal would now be

dubbed a martyr, and would take his place among the saints of the Roman

calendar. Thus made he his moan, this poor Sir La Cote Male Taile, and

sorrowed passing sore. And so my heart bled for him, and I was moved to

comfort and stay him. Wherefore I said:

"Forbear to grieve, fair knight, for this is not a defeat. We have

brains, you and I; and for such as have brains there are no defeats, but

only victories. Observe how we will turn this seeming disaster into an

advertisement; an advertisement for our soap; and the biggest one, to

draw, that was ever thought of; an advertisement that will transform

that Mount Washington defeat into a Matterhorn victory. We will put on

your bulletin-board, (r)'Patronized by the Elect.' How does that strike


"Verily, it is wonderly bethought!"

"Well, a body is bound to admit that for just a modest little one-line

ad., it's a corker."

So the poor colporteur's griefs vanished away. He was a brave fellow,

and had done mighty feats of arms in his time. His chief celebrity

rested upon the events of an excursion like this one of mine, which he

had once made with a damsel named Maledisant, who was as handy with her

tongue as was Sandy, though in a different way, for her tongue churned

forth only railings and insult, whereas Sandy's music was of a kindlier

sort. I knew his story well, and so I knew how to interpret the

compassion that was in his face when he bade me farewell. He supposed I

was having a bitter hard time of it.

Sandy and I discussed his story, as we rode along, and she said that

La Cote's bad luck had begun with the very beginning of that trip; for

the king's fool had overthrown him on the first day, and in such cases

it was customary for the girl to desert to the conqueror, but Maledisant

didn't do it; and also persisted afterward in sticking to him, after all

his defeats. But, said I, suppose the victor should decline to accept

his spoil? She said that that wouldn't answer- he must. He couldn't

decline; it wouldn't be regular. I made a note of that. If Sandy's music

got to be too burdensome, some time, I would let a knight defeat me, on

the chance that she would desert to him.

In due time we were challenged by the warders, from the castle walls,

and after a parley admitted. I have nothing pleasant to tell about that

visit. But it was not a disappointment, for I knew Mrs. le Fay by

reputation, and was not expecting anything pleasant. She was held in awe

by the whole realm, for she had made everybody believe she was a great

sorceress. All her ways were wicked, all her instincts devilish. She was

loaded to the eyelids with cold malice. All her history was black with

crime; and among her crimes murder was common. I was most curious to see

her; as curious as I could have been to see Satan. To my surprise she

was beautiful; black thoughts had failed to make her expression

repulsive, age had failed to wrinkle her satin skin or mar its bloomy

freshness. She could have passed for old Uriens' granddaughter, she

could have been mistaken for sister to her own son.

As soon as we were fairly within the castle gates we were ordered into

her presence. King Uriens was there, a kind-faced old man with a subdued

look; and also the son, Sir Uwaine le Blanchemains, in whom I was, of

course, interested on account of the tradition that he had once done

battle with thirty knights, and also on account of his trip with Sir

Gawaine and Sir Marhaus, which Sandy had been aging me with. But Morgan

was the main attraction, the conspicuous personality here; she was head

chief of this household, that was plain. She caused us to be seated, and

then she began, with all manner of pretty graces and graciousnesses, to

ask me questions. Dear me, it was like a bird or a flute, or something,

talking. I felt persuaded that this woman must have been misrepresented,

lied about. She trilled along, and trilled along, and presently a

handsome young page, clothed like the rainbow, and as easy and

undulatory of movement as a wave, came with something on a golden

salver, and, kneeling to present it to her, overdid his graces and lost

his balance, and so fell lightly against her knee. She slipped a dirk

into him in as matter-of-course a way as another person would have

harpooned a rat!

Poor child! he slumped to the floor, twisted his silken limbs in one

great straining contortion of pain, and was dead. Out of the old king

was wrung an involuntary "O-h!" of compassion. The look he got, made him

cut it suddenly short and not put any more hyphens in it. Sir Uwaine, at

a sign from his mother, went to the anteroom and called some servants,

and meanwhile madame went rippling sweetly along with her talk.

I saw that she was a good housekeeper, for while she talked she kept a

corner of her eye on the servants to see that they made no balks in

handling the body and getting it out; when they came with fresh clean

towels, she sent back for the other kind; and when they had finished

wiping the floor and were going, she indicated a crimson fleck the size

of a tear which their duller eyes had overlooked. It was plain to me

that La Cote Male Taile had failed to see the mistress of the house.

Often, how louder and clearer than any tongue, does dumb circumstantial

evidence speak.

Morgan le Fay rippled along as musically as ever. Marvelous woman. And

what a glance she had: when it fell in reproof upon those servants, they

shrunk and quailed as timid people do when the lightning flashes out of

a cloud. I could have got the habit myself. It was the same with that

poor old Brer Uriens; he was always on the ragged edge of apprehension;

she could not even turn toward him but he winced.

In the midst of the talk I let drop a complimentary word about King

Arthur, forgetting for the moment how this woman hated her brother. That

one little compliment was enough. She clouded up like a storm; she

called for her guards, and said:

"Hale me these varlets to the dungeons."

That struck cold on my ears, for her dungeons had a reputation.

Nothing occurred to me to say- or do. But not so with Sandy. As the

guard laid a hand upon me, she piped up with the tranquilest confidence,

and said:

"God's wownds, dost thou covet destruction, thou maniac? It is The


Now what a happy idea that was!- and so simple; yet it would never

have occurred to me. I was born modest; not all over, but in spots; and

this was one of the spots.

The effect upon madame was electrical. It cleared her countenance and

brought back her smiles and all her persuasive graces and blandishments;

but nevertheless she was not able to entirely cover up with them the

fact that she was in a ghastly fright. She said:

"La, but do list to thine handmaid! as if one gifted with powers like

to mine might say the thing which I have said unto one who has

vanquished Merlin, and not be jesting. By mine enchantments I foresaw

your coming, and by them I knew you when you entered here. I did but

play this little jest with hope to surprise you into some display of

your art, as not doubting you would blast the guards with occult fires,

consuming them to ashes on the spot, a marvel much beyond mine own

ability, yet one which I have long been childishly curious to see."

The guards were less curious, and got out as soon as they got



MADAME, seeing me pacific and unresentful, no doubt judged that I was

deceived by her excuse; for her fright dissolved away, and she was soon

so importunate to have me give an exhibition and kill somebody, that the

thing grew to be embarrassing. However, to my relief she was presently

interrupted by the call to prayers. I will say this much for the

nobility: that, tyrannical, murderous, rapacious, and morally rotten as

they were, they were deeply and enthusiastically religious. Nothing

could divert them from the regular and faithful performance of the

pieties enjoined by the Church. More than once I had seen a noble who

had gotten his enemy at a disadvantage, stop to pray before cutting his

throat; more than once I had seen a noble, after ambushing and

despatching his enemy, retire to the nearest wayside shrine and humbly

give thanks, without even waiting to rob the body. There was to be

nothing finer or sweeter in the life of even Benvenuto Cellini, that

rough-hewn saint, ten centuries later. All the nobles of Britain, with

their families, attended divine service morning and night daily, in

their private chapels, and even the worst of them had family worship

five or six times a day besides. The credit of this belonged entirely to

the Church. Although I was no friend to that Catholic Church, I was

obliged to admit this. And often, in spite of me, I found myself saying,

"What would this country be without the Church?"

After prayers we had dinner in a great banqueting-hall which was

lighted by hundreds of grease-jets, and everything was as fine and

lavish and rudely splendid as might become the royal degree of the

hosts. At the head of the hall, on a dais, was the table of the king,

queen, and their son, Prince Uwaine. Stretching down the hall from this,

was the general table, on the floor. At this, above the salt, sat the

visiting nobles and the grown members of their families, of both sexes-

the resident Court, in effect- sixty-one persons; below the salt sat

minor officers of the household, with their principal subordinates:

altogether a hundred and eighteen persons sitting, and about as many

liveried servants standing behind their chairs, or serving in one

capacity or another. It was a very fine show. In a gallery a band with

cymbals, horns, harps, and other horrors, opened the proceedings with

what seemed to be the crude first-draft or original agony of the wail

known to later centuries as "In the Sweet Bye and Bye." It was new, and

ought to have been rehearsed a little more. For some reason or other the

queen had the composer hanged, after dinner.

After this music, the priest who stood behind the royal table said a

noble long grace in ostensible Latin. Then the battalion of waiters

broke away from their posts, and darted, rushed, flew, fetched and

carried, and the mighty feeding began; no words anywhere, but absorbing

attention to business. The rows of chops opened and shut in vast unison,

and the sound of it was like to the muffled burr of subterranean


The havoc continued an hour and a half, and unimaginable was the

destruction of substantials. Of the chief feature of the feast- the huge

wild boar that lay stretched out so portly and imposing at the start-

nothing was left but the semblance of a hoop-skirt; and he was but the

type and symbol of what had happened to all the other dishes.

With the pastries and so on, the heavy drinking began- and the talk.

Gallon after gallon of wine and mead disappeared, and everybody got

comfortable, then happy, then sparklingly joyous- both sexes- and by and

by pretty noisy. Men told anecdotes that were terrific to hear, but

nobody blushed; and when the nub was sprung, the assemblage let go with

a horse-laugh that shook the fortress. Ladies answered back with

historiettes that would almost have made Queen Margaret of Navarre or

even the great Elizabeth of England hide behind a handkerchief, but

nobody hid here, but only laughed- howled, you may say. In pretty much

all of these dreadful stories, ecclesiastics were the hardy heroes, but

that didn't worry the chaplain any, he had his laugh with the rest; more

than that, upon invitation he roared out a song which was of as daring a

sort as any that was sung that night.

By midnight everybody was fagged out, and sore with laughing; and, as

a rule, drunk: some weepingly, some affectionately, some hilariously,

some quarrelsomely, some dead and under the table. Of the ladies, the

worst spectacle was a lovely young duchess, whose wedding-eve this was;

and indeed she was a spectacle, sure enough. Just as she was she could

have sat in advance for the portrait of the young daughter of the Regent

d'Orleans, at the famous dinner whence she was carried, foul-mouthed,

intoxicated, and helpless, to her bed, in the lost and lamented days of

the Ancient Regime.

Suddenly, even while the priest was lifting his hands, and all

conscious heads were bowed in reverent expectation of the coming

blessing, there appeared under the arch of the far-off door at the

bottom of the hall an old and bent and white-haired lady, leaning upon a

crutch-stick; and she lifted the stick and pointed it toward the queen

and cried out:

"The wrath and curse of God fall upon you, woman without pity, who

have slain mine innocent grandchild and made desolate this old heart

that had nor chick, nor friend nor stay nor comfort in all this world

but him!"

Everybody crossed himself in a grisly fright, for a curse was an awful

thing to those people; but the queen rose up majestic, with the death-

light in her eye, and flung back this ruthless command:

"Lay hands on her! To the stake with her!"

The guards left their posts to obey. It was a shame; it was a cruel

thing to see. What could be done? Sandy gave me a look; I knew she had

another inspiration. I said:

"Do what you choose."

She was up and facing toward the queen in a moment. She indicated me,

and said:

"Madame, (r)he saith this may not be. Recall the commandment, or he

will dissolve the castle and it shall vanish away like the instable

fabric of a dream!"

Confound it, what a crazy contract to pledge a person to! What if the


But my consternation subsided there, and my panic passed off; for the

queen, all in a collapse, made no show of resistance but gave a

countermanding sign and sunk into her seat. When she reached it she was

sober. So were many of the others. The assemblage rose, whiffed ceremony

to the winds, and rushed for the door like a mob; overturning chairs,

smashing crockery, tugging, struggling, shouldering, crowding- anything

to get out before I should change my mind and puff the castle into the

measureless dim vacancies of space. Well, well, well, they (r)were a

superstitious lot. It is all a body can do to conceive of it.

The poor queen was so seared and humbled that she was even afraid to

hang the composer without first consulting me. I was very sorry for her-

indeed, any one would have been, for she was really suffering; so I was

willing to do anything that was reasonable, and had no desire to carry

things to wanton extremities. I therefore considered the matter

thoughtfully, and ended by having the musicians ordered into our

presence to play that Sweet Bye and Bye again, which they did. Then I

saw that she was right, and gave her permission to hang the whole band.

This little relaxation of sternness had a good effect upon the queen. A

statesman gains little by the arbitrary exercise of iron-clad authority

upon all occasions that offer, for this wounds the just pride of his

subordinates, and thus tends to undermine his strength. A little

concession, now and then, where it can do no harm, is the wiser policy.

Now that the queen was at ease in her mind once more, and measurably

happy, her wine naturally began to assert itself again, and it got a

little the start of her. I mean it set her music going- her silver bell

of a tongue. Dear me, she was a master talker. It would not become me to

suggest that it was pretty late and that I was a tired man and very

sleepy. I wished I had gone off to bed when I had the chance. Now I must

stick it out; there was no other way. So she tinkled along and along, in

the otherwise profound and ghostly hush of the sleeping castle, until by

and by there came, as if from deep down under us, a far-away sound, as

of a muffled shriek- with an expression of agony about it that made my

flesh crawl. The queen stopped, and her eyes lighted with pleasure; she

tilted her graceful head as a bird does when it listens. The sound bored

its way up through the stillness again.

"What is it?" I said.

"It is truly a stubborn soul, and endureth long. It is many hours


"Endureth what?"

"The rack. Come- ye shall see a blithe sight. An he yield not his

secret now, ye shall see him torn asunder."

What a silky smooth hellion she was; and so composed and serene, when

the cords all down my legs were hurting in sympathy with that man's

pain. Conducted by mailed guards bearing flaring torches, we tramped

along echoing corridors, and down stone stairways dank and dripping, and

smelling of mold and ages of imprisoned night- a chill, uncanny journey

and a long one, and not made the shorter or the cheerier by the

sorceress's talk, which was about this sufferer and his crime. He had

been accused by an anonymous informer, of having killed a stag in the

royal preserves. I said:

"Anonymous testimony isn't just the right thing, your Highness. It

were fairer to confront the accused with the accuser."

"I had not thought of that, it being but of small consequence. But an

I would, I could not, for that the accuser came masked by night, and

told the forester, and straightway got him hence again, and so the

forester knoweth him not."

"Then is this Unknown the only person who saw the stag killed?"

"Marry, (r)no man (r)saw the killing, but this Unknown saw this

hardy wretch near to the spot where the stag lay, and came with right

loyal zeal and betrayed him to the forester."

"So the Unknown was near the dead stag, too? Isn't it just possible

that he did the killing himself? His loyal zeal- in a mask- looks just a

shade suspicious. But what is your Highness's idea for racking the

prisoner? Where is the profit?"

"He will not confess, else; and then were his soul lost. For his crime

his life is forfeited by the law- and of a surety will I see that he

payeth it!- but it were peril to my own soul to let him die unconfessed

and unabsolved. Nay, I were a fool to fling me into hell for (r)his


"But, your Highness, suppose he has nothing to confess?"

"As to that, we shall see, anon. An I rack him to death and he confess

not, it will peradventure show that he had indeed naught to confess- ye

will grant that that is sooth? Then shall I not be damned for an

unconfessed man that had naught to confess- wherefore, I shall be safe."

It was the stubborn unreasoning of the time. It was useless to argue

with her. Arguments have no chance against petrified training; they wear

it as little as the waves wear a cliff. And her training was

everybody's. The brightest intellect in the land would not have been

able to see that her position was defective.

As we entered the rack-cell I caught a picture that will not go from

me; I wish it would. A native young giant of thirty or thereabouts lay

stretched upon the frame on his back, with his wrists and ankles tied to

ropes which led over windlasses at either end. There was no color in

him; his features were contorted and set, and sweat-drops stood upon his

forehead. A priest bent over him on each side; the executioner stood by;

guards were on duty; smoking torches stood in sockets along the walls;

in a corner crouched a poor young creature, her face drawn with anguish,

a half-wild and hunted look in her eyes, and in her lap lay a little

child asleep. Just as we stepped across the threshold the executioner

gave his machine a slight turn, which wrung a cry from both the prisoner

and the woman; but I shouted, and the executioner released the strain

without waiting to see who spoke. I could not let this horror go on; it

would have killed me to see it. I asked the queen to let me clear the

place and speak to the prisoner privately; and when she was going to

object I spoke in a low voice and said I did not want to make a scene

before her servants, but I must have my way; for I was King Arthur's

representative, and was speaking in his name. She saw she had to yield.

I asked her to indorse me to these people, and then leave me. It was not

pleasant for her, but she took the pill; and even went further than I

was meaning to require. I only wanted the backing of her own authority;

but she said:

"Ye will do in all things as this lord shall command. It is The Boss."

It was certainly a good word to conjure with: you could see it by the

squirming of these rats. The queen's guards fell into line, and she and

they marched away, with their torch-bearers, and woke the echoes of the

cavernous tunnels with the measured beat of their retreating footfalls.

I had the prisoner taken from the rack and placed upon his bed, and

medicaments applied to his hurts, and wine given him to drink. The woman

crept near and looked on, eagerly, lovingly, but timorously- like one

who fears a repulse; indeed, she tried furtively to touch the man's

forehead, and jumped back, the picture of fright, when I turned

unconsciously toward her. It was pitiful to see.

"Lord," I said, "stroke him, lass, if you want to. Do anything you're

a mind to; don't mind me."

Why, her eyes were as grateful as an animal's, when you do it a

kindness that it understands. The baby was out of her way and she had

her cheek against the man's in a minute, and her hands fondling his

hair, and her happy tears running down. The man revived, and caressed

his wife with his eyes, which was all he could do. I judged I might

clear the den, now, and I did; cleared it of all but the family and

myself. Then I said:

"Now, my friend, tell me your side of this matter; I know the other


The man moved his head in sign of refusal. But the woman looked

pleased- as it seemed to me- pleased with my suggestion. I went on:

"You know of me?"

"Yes. All do, in Arthur's realms."

"If my reputation has come to you right and straight, you should not

be afraid to speak."

The woman broke in, eagerly:

"Ah, fair my lord, do thou persuade him! Thou canst an thou wilt. Ah,

he suffereth so; and it is for me- for (r)me! And how can I bear it? I

would I might see him die- a sweet, swift death; oh, my Hugo, I cannot

bear this one!"

And she fell to sobbing and groveling about my feet, and still

imploring. Imploring what? The man's death? I could not quite get the

bearings of the thing. But Hugo interrupted her and said:

"Peace! Ye wit not what ye ask. Shall I starve whom I love, to win a

gentle death? I wend thou knewest me better."

"Well," I said, "I can't quite make this out. It is a puzzle. Now-"

"Ah, dear my lord, an ye will but persuade him! Consider how these his

tortures wound me! Oh, and he will not speak!- whereas, the healing, the

solace that lie in a blessed swift death-"

"What (r)are you maundering about? He's going out from here a free

man and whole- he's not going to die."

The man's white face lit up, and the woman flung herself at me in a

most surprising explosion of joy, and cried out:

"He is saved!- for it is the king's word by the mouth of the king's

servant- Arthur, the king whose word is gold!"

"Well, then you do believe I can be trusted, after all. Why didn't you


"Who doubted? Not I, indeed; and not she."

"Well, why wouldn't you tell me your story, then?"

"Ye had made no promise; else had it been otherwise."

"I see, I see.... And yet I believe I don't quite see, after all. You

stood the torture and refused to confess; which shows plain enough to

even the dullest understanding that you had nothing to confess-"

(r)"I, my lord? How so? It was I that killed the deer!"

"You (r)did? Oh, dear, this is the most mixed-up business that ever-"

"Dear lord, I begged him on my knees to confess. but-"

"You (r)did! It gets thicker and thicker. What did you want him to do

that for?"

"Sith it would bring him a quick death and save him all this cruel


"Well- yes, there is reason in that. But (r)he didn't want the quick


"He? Why, of a surety he (r)did."

"Well, then, why in the world (r)didn't he confess?"

"Ah, sweet sir, and leave my wife and chick without bread and


"Oh, heart of gold, now I see it! The bitter law takes the convicted

man's estate and beggars his widow and his orphans. They could torture

you to death, but without conviction or confession they could not rob

your wife and baby. You stood by them like a man; and (r)you - true wife

and true woman that you are- you would have bought him release from

torture at cost to yourself of slow starvation and death- well, it

humbles a body to think what your sex can do when it comes to self-

sacrifice. I'll book you both for my colony; you'll like it there; it's

a Factory where I'm going to turn groping and grubbing automata into



WELL, I arranged all that; and I had the man sent to his home. I had a

great desire to rack the executioner; not because he was a good,

painstaking and paingiving official- for surely it was not to his

discredit that he performed his functions well- but to pay him back for

wantonly cuffing and otherwise distressing that young woman. The priests

told me about this, and were generously hot to have him punished.

Something of this disagreeable sort was turning up every now and then. I

mean, episodes that showed that not all priests were frauds and self-

seekers, but that many, even the great majority, of these that were down

on the ground among the common people, were sincere and right-hearted,

and devoted to the alleviation of human troubles and sufferings. Well,

it was a thing which could not be helped, so I seldom fretted about it,

and never many minutes at a time; it has never been my way to bother

much about things which you can't cure. But I did not like it, for it

was just the sort of thing to keep people reconciled to an Established

Church. We (r)must have a religion- it goes without saying- but my idea

is, to have it cut up into forty free sects, so that they will police

each other, as had been the case in the United States in my time.

Concentration of power in a political machine is bad; and an Established

Church is only a political machine; it was invented for that; it is

nursed, cradled, preserved for that; it is an enemy to human liberty,

and does no good which it could not better do in a split-up and

scattered condition. That wasn't law; it wasn't gospel: it was only an

opinion- my opinion, and I was only a man, one man: so it wasn't worth

any more than the pope's- or any less, for that matter.

Well, I couldn't rack the executioner, neither would I overlook the

just complaint of the priests. The man must be punished somehow or

other, so I degraded him from his office and made him leader of the

band- the new one that was to be started. He begged hard, and said he

couldn't play- a plausible excuse, but too thin; there wasn't a musician

in the country that could.

The queen was a good deal outraged, next morning, when she found she

was going to have neither Hugo's life nor his property. But I told her

she must bear this cross; that while by law and custom she certainly was

entitled to both the man's life and his property, there were extenuating

circumstances, and so in Arthur the king's name I had pardoned him. The

deer was ravaging the man's fields, and he had killed it in sudden

passion, and not for gain; and he had carried it into the royal forest

in the hope that that might make detection of the misdoer impossible.

Confound her, I couldn't make her see that sudden passion is an

extenuating circumstance in the killing of venison- or of a person- so I

gave it up and let her sulk it out. I (r)did think I was going to make

her see it by remarking that her own sudden passion in the case of the

page modified that crime.

"Crime!" she exclaimed, "How thou talkest! Crime, forsooth! Man, I am

going to (r)pay for him!"

Oh, it was no use to waste sense on her. Training- training is

everything; training is all there is (r)to a person. We speak of

nature; it is folly; there is no such thing as nature; what we call by

that misleading name is merely heredity and training. We have no

thoughts of our own, no opinions of our own; they are transmitted to us,

trained into us. All that is original in us, and therefore fairly

creditable or discreditable to us, can be covered up and hidden by the

point of a cambric needle, all the rest being atoms contributed by, and

inherited from, a procession of ancestors that stretches back a billion

years to the Adam-clam or grasshopper or monkey from whom our race has

been so tediously and ostentatiously and unprofitably developed. And as

for me, all that I think about in this plodding sad pilgrimage, this

pathetic drift between the eternities, is to look out and humbly live a

pure and high and blameless life, and save that one microscopic atom in

me that is truly (r)me: the rest may land in Sheol and welcome for all

I care.

No, confound her, her intellect was good, she had brains enough, but

her training made her an ass- that is, from a many-centuries-later point

of view. To kill the page was no crime- it was her right; and upon her

right she stood, serenely and unconscious of offense. She was a result

of generations of training in the unexamined and unassailed belief that

the law which permitted her to kill a subject when she chose was a

perfectly right and righteous one.

Well, we must give even Satan his due. She deserved a compliment for

one thing; and I tried to pay it, but the words stuck in my throat. She

had a right to kill the boy, but she was in no wise obliged to pay for

him. That was law for some other people, but not for her. She knew quite

well that she was doing a large and generous thing to pay for that lad,

and that I ought in common fairness to come out with something handsome

about it, but I couldn't- my mouth refused. I couldn't help seeing, in

my fancy, that poor old grandma with the broken heart, and that fair

young creature lying butchered, his little silken pomps and vanities

laced with his golden blood. How could she (r)pay for him! (r)Whom

could she pay? And so, well knowing that this woman, trained as she had

been, deserved praise, even adulation, I was yet not able to utter it,

trained as (r)I had been. The best I could do was to fish up a

compliment from outside, so to speak- and the pity of it was, that it

was true:

"Madame, your people will adore you for this."

Quite true, but I meant to hang her for it some day, if I lived. Some

of those laws were too bad, altogether too bad. A master might kill his

slave for nothing: for mere spite, malice, or to pass the time- just as

we have seen that the crowned head could do it with (r)his slave, that

is to say, anybody. A gentleman could kill a free commoner, and pay for

him- cash or garden-truck. A noble could kill a noble without expense,

as far as the law was concerned, but reprisals in kind were to be

expected. Anybody could kill somebody, except the commoner and the

slave; these had no privileges. If they killed, it was murder, and the

law wouldn't stand murder. It made short work of the experimenter- and

of his family, too, if he murdered somebody who belonged up among the

ornamental ranks. If a commoner gave a noble even so much as a Damiens-

scratch which didn't kill or even hurt, he got Damiens' dose for it just

the same; they pulled him to rags and tatters with horses, and all the

world came to see the show, and crack jokes, and have a good time; and

some of the performances of the best people present were as tough, and

as properly unprintable, as any that have been printed by the pleasant

Casanova in his chapter about the dismemberment of Louis XV.'s poor

awkward enemy.

I had had enough of this grisly place by this time, and wanted to

leave, but I couldn't, because I had something on my mind that my

conscience kept prodding me about, and wouldn't let me forget. If I had

the remaking of man, he wouldn't have any conscience. It is one of the

most disagreeable things connected with a person; and although it

certainly does a great deal of good, it cannot be said to pay, in the

long run; it would be much better to have less good and more comfort.

Still, this is only my opinion, and I am only one man; others, with less

experience, may think differently. They have a right to their view. I

only stand to this: I have noticed my conscience for many years, and I

know it is more trouble and bother to me than anything else I started

with. I suppose that in the beginning I prized it, because we prize

anything that is ours; and yet how foolish it was to think so. If we

look at it in another way, we see how absurd it is: if I had an anvil in

me would I prize it? Of course not. And yet when you come to think,

there is no real difference between a conscience and an anvil- I mean

for comfort. I have noticed it a thousand times. And you could dissolve

an anvil with acids, when you couldn't stand it any longer; but there

isn't any way that you can work off a conscience- at least so it will

stay worked off; not that I know of, anyway.

There was something I wanted to do before leaving, but it was a

disagreeable matter, and I hated to go at it. Well, it bothered me all

the morning. I could have mentioned it to the old king, but what would

be the use?- he was but an extinct volcano; he had been active in his

time, but his fire was out, this good while, he was only a stately

ashpile now; gentle enough, and kindly enough for my purpose, without

doubt, but not usable. He was nothing, this so-called king: the queen

was the only power there. And she was a Vesuvius. As a favor, she might

consent to warm a flock of sparrows for you, but then she might take

that very opportunity to turn herself loose and bury a city. However, I

reflected that as often as any other way, when you are expecting the

worst, you get something that is not so bad, after all.

So I braced up and placed my matter before her royal Highness. I said

I had been having a general jail-delivery at Camelot and among

neighboring castles, and with her permission I would like to examine her

collection, her bric-a-brac- that is to say, her prisoners. She

resisted; but I was expecting that. But she finally consented. I was

expecting that, too, but not so soon. That about ended my discomfort.

She called her guards and torches, and we went down into the dungeons.

These were down under the castle's foundations, and mainly were small

cells hollowed out of the living rock. Some of these cells had no light

at all. In one of them was a woman, in foul rags, who sat on the ground,

and would not answer a question or speak a word, but only looked up at

us once or twice, through a cobweb of tangled hair, as if to see what

casual thing it might be that was disturbing with sound and light the

meaningless dull dream that was become her life; after that, she sat

bowed, with her dirt-caked fingers idly interlocked in her lap, and gave

no further sign. This poor rack of bones was a woman of middle age,

apparently; but only apparently; she had been there nine years, and was

eighteen when she entered. She was a commoner, and had been sent here on

her bridal night by Sir Breuse Sance Pite, a neighboring lord whose

vassal her father was, and to which said lord she had refused what has

since been called (r)le droit du seigneur; and, moreover, had opposed

violence to violence and spilt half a gill of his almost sacred blood.

The young husband had interfered at that point, believing the bride's

life in danger, and had flung the noble out into the midst of the humble

and trembling wedding guests, in the parlor, and left him there

astonished at this strange treatment, and implacably embittered against

both bride and groom. The said lord being cramped for dungeon-room had

asked the queen to accommodate his two criminals, and here in her

bastile they had been ever since; hither, indeed, they had come before

their crime was an hour old, and had never seen each other since. Here

they were, kerneled like toads in the same rock; they had passed nine

pitch-dark years within fifty feet of each other, yet neither knew

whether the other was alive or not. All the first years, their only

question had been- asked with beseechings and tears that might have

moved stones, in time, perhaps, but hearts are not stones: "Is he

alive?" "Is she alive?" But they had never got an answer; and at last

that question was not asked any more- or any other.

I wanted to see the man, after hearing all this. He was thirty-four

years old, and looked sixty. He sat upon a squared block of stone, with

his head bent down, his forearms resting on his knees, his long hair

hanging like a fringe before his face, and he was muttering to himself.

He raised his chin and looked us slowly over, in a listless dull way,

blinking with the distress of the torchlight, then dropped his head and

fell to muttering again and took no further notice of us. There were

some pathetically suggestive dumb witnesses present. On his wrists and

ankles were cicatrices, old smooth scars, and fastened to the stone on

which he sat was a chain with manacles and fetters attached; but this

apparatus lay idle on the ground, and was thick with rust. Chains cease

to be needed after the spirit has gone out of a prisoner.

I could not rouse the man; so I said we would take him to her, and

see- to the bride who was the fairest thing in the earth to him, once-

roses, pearls, and dew made flesh, for him; a wonder-work, the master-

work of nature: with eyes like no other eyes, and voice like no other

voice, and a freshness, and lithe young grace, and beauty, that belonged

properly to the creatures of dreams- as he thought- and to no other. The

sight of her would set his stagnant blood leaping; the sight of her-

But it was a disappointment. They sat together on the ground and

looked dimly wondering into each other's faces awhile, with a sort of

weak animal curiosity; then forgot each other's presence, and dropped

their eyes, and you saw that they were away again and wandering in some

far land of dreams and shadows that we know nothing about.

I had them taken out and sent to their friends. The queen did not like

it much. Not that she felt any personal interest in the matter, but she

thought it disrespectful to Sir Breuse Sance Pite. However, I assured

her that if he found he couldn't stand it I would fix him so that he


I set forty-seven prisoners loose out of those awful rat-holes, and

left only one in captivity. He was a lord, and had killed another lord,

a sort of kinsman of the queen. That other lord had ambushed him to

assassinate him, but this fellow had got the best of him and cut his

throat. However, it was not for that that I left him jailed, but for

maliciously destroying the only public well in one of his wretched

villages. The queen was bound to hang him for killing her kinsman, but I

would not allow it: it was no crime to kill an assassin. But I said I

was willing to let her hang him for destroying the well; so she

concluded to put up with that, as it was better than nothing.

Dear me, for what trifling offenses the most of those forty-seven men

and women were shut up there! Indeed, some were there for no distinct

offense at all, but only to gratify somebody's spite; and not always the

queen's by any means, but a friend's. The newest prisoner's crime was a

mere remark which he had made. He said he believed that men were about

all alike, and one man as good as another, barring clothes. He said he

believed that if you were to strip the nation naked and send a stranger

through the crowd, he couldn't tell the king from a quack doctor, nor a

duke from a hotel clerk. Apparently, here was a man whose brains had not

been reduced to an ineffectual mush by idiotic training. I set him loose

and sent him to the Factory.

Some of the cells carved in the living rock were just behind the face

of the precipice, and in each of these an arrow-slit had been pierced

outward to the daylight, and so the captive had a thin ray from the

blessed sun for his comfort. The case of one of these poor fellows was

particularly hard. From his dusky swallow's hole high up in that vast

wall of native rock he could peer out through the arrow-slit and see his

own home off yonder in the valley; and for twenty-two years he had

watched it, with heartache and longing, through that crack. He could see

the lights shine there at night, and in the daytime he could see figures

go in and come out- his wife and children, some of them, no doubt,

though he could not make out at that distance. In the course of years he

noted festivities there, and tried to rejoice, and wondered if they were

weddings or what they might be. And he noted funerals; and they wrung

his heart. He could make out the coffin, but he could not determine its

size, and so could not tell whether it was wife or child. He could see

the procession form, with priests and mourners, and move solemnly away,

bearing the secret with them. He had left behind him five children and a

wife; and in nineteen years he had seen five funerals issue, and none of

them humble enough in pomp to denote a servant. So he had lost five of

his treasures; there must still be one remaining- one now infinitely,

unspeakably precious- but (r)which one? wife, or child? That was the

question that tortured him, by night and by day, asleep and awake. Well,

to have an interest, of some sort, and half a ray of light, when you are

in a dungeon, is a great support to the body and preserver of the

intellect. This man was in pretty good condition yet. By the time he had

finished telling me his distressful tale, I was in the same state of

mind that you would have been in yourself, if you have got average human

curiosity; that is to say, I was as burning up as he was to find out

which member of the family it was that was left. So I took him over home

myself; and an amazing kind of a surprise party it was, too- typhoons

and cyclones of frantic joy, and whole Niagaras of happy tears; and by

George! we found the aforetime young matron graying toward the imminent

verge of her half-century, and the babies all men and women, and some of

them married and experimenting familywise themselves- for not a soul of

the tribe was dead! Conceive of the ingenious devilishness of that

queen: she had a special hatred for this prisoner, and she had

(r)invented all those funerals herself, to scorch his heart with; and

the sublimest stroke of genius of the whole thing was leaving the family

invoice a funeral (r)short, so as to let him wear his poor old soul out


But for me, he never would have got out. Morgan le Fay hated him with

her whole heart, and she never would have softened toward him. And yet

his crime was committed more in thoughtlessness than deliberate

depravity. He had said she had red hair. Well, she had; but that was no

way to speak of it. When red-headed people are above a certain social

grade their hair is auburn.

Consider it: among these forty-seven captives there were five whose

names, offenses, and dates of incarceration were no longer known! One

woman and four men- all bent, and wrinkled, and mind-extinguished

patriarchs. They themselves had long ago forgotten these details; at any

rate, they had mere vague theories about them, nothing definite and

nothing that they repeated twice in the same way. The succession of

priests whose office it had been to pray daily with the captives and

remind them that God had put them there, for some wise purpose or other,

and teach them that patience, humbleness, and submission to oppression

was what He loved to see in parties of a subordinate rank, had

traditions about these poor old human ruins, but nothing more. These

traditions went but little way, for they concerned the length of the

incarceration only, and not the names of the offenses. And even by the

help of tradition the only thing that could be proven was that none of

the five had seen daylight for thirty-five years: how much longer this

privation had lasted was not guessable. The king and the queen knew

nothing about these poor creatures, except that they were heirlooms,

assets inherited, along with the throne, from the former firm. Nothing

of their history had been transmitted with their persons, and so the

inheriting owners had considered them of no value, and had felt no

interest in them. I said to the queen:

"Then why in the world didn't you set them free?"

The question was a puzzler. She didn't know (r)why she hadn't; the

thing had never come up in her mind. So here she was, forecasting the

veritable history of future prisoners of the Castle d'If, without

knowing it. It seemed plain to me now, that with her training, those

inherited prisoners were merely property- nothing more, nothing less.

Well, when we inherit property, it does not occur to us to throw it

away, even when we do not value it.

When I brought my procession of human bats up into the open world and

the glare of the afternoon sun- previously blindfolding them, in charity

for eyes so long untortured by light- they were a spectacle to look at.

Skeletons, scarecrows, goblins, pathetic frights, every one;

legitimatest possible children of Monarchy by the Grace of God and the

Established Church. I muttered absently:

"I (r)wish I could photograph them!"

You have seen that kind of people who will never let on that they

don't know the meaning of a new big word. The more ignorant they are,

the more pitifully certain they are to pretend you haven't shot over

their heads. The queen was just one of that sort, and was always making

the stupidest blunders by reason of it. She hesitated a moment; then her

face brightened up with sudden comprehension, and she said she would do

it for me.

I thought to myself: She? why what can she know about photography? But

it was a poor time to be thinking. When I looked around, she was moving

on the procession with an ax!

Well, she certainly was a curious one, was Morgan le Fay. I have seen

a good many kinds of women in my time, but she laid over them all for

variety. And how sharply characteristic of her this episode was. She had

no more idea than a horse of how to photograph a procession; but being

in doubt, it was just like her to try to do it with an ax.


SANDY and I were on the road again, next morning, bright and early. It

was (r)so good to open up one's lungs and take in whole luscious

barrelfuls 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


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 harbor. 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. *003

"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 (r)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 (r)you, and down goes your

bucketshop; 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


"There's no use in beating about the bush and trying to get around it

that way, Sandy, it's (r)so, just as I say. I (r)know it's so. And,

moreover, when you come right down to the bed-rock, knight-errantry is

(r)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 (r)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,


"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.


BETWEEN six and nine we made ten miles, which was plenty for a horse

carrying triple- man, woman, and armor; then we stopped for a long

nooning under some trees by a limpid brook.

Right so came by and by a knight riding; and as he drew near he made

dolorous moan, and by the words of it I perceived that he was cursing

and swearing; yet nevertheless was I glad of his coming, for that I saw

he bore a bulletin-board whereon in letters all of shining gold was




I was glad of his coming, for even by this token I knew him for knight

of mine. It was Sir Madok de la Montaine, a burly great fellow whose

chief distinction was that he had come within an ace of sending Sir

Launcelot down over his horse-tail once. He was never long in a

stranger's presence without finding some pretext or other to let out

that great fact. But there was another fact of nearly the same size,

which he never pushed upon anybody unasked, and yet never withheld when

asked: that was, that the reason he didn't quite succeed was, that he

was interrupted and sent down over horse-tail himself. This innocent

vast lubber did not see any particular difference between the two facts.

I liked him, for he was earnest in his work, and very valuable. And he

was so fine to look at, with his broad mailed shoulders, and the grand

leonine set of his plumed head, and his big shield with its quaint

device of a gauntleted hand clutching a prophylactic toothbrush, with

motto: (r)"Try Noyoudont." This was a tooth-wash that I was


He was aweary, he said, and indeed he looked it; but he would not

alight. He said he was after the stove-polish man; and with this he

broke out cursing and swearing anew. The bulletin-boarder referred to

was Sir Ossaise of Surluse, a brave knight, and of considerable

celebrity on account of his having tried conclusions in a tournament

once, with no less a Mogul than Sir Gaheris himself- although not

successfully. He was of a light and laughing disposition, and to him

nothing in this world was serious. It was for this reason that I had

chosen him to work up a stove-polish sentiment. There were no stoves

yet, and so there could be nothing serious about stove-polish. All that

the agent needed to do was to deftly and by degrees prepare the public

for the great change, and have them established in predilections toward

neatness against the time when the stove should appear upon the stage.

Sir Madok was very bitter, and brake out anew with cursings. He said

he had cursed his soul to rags; and yet he would not get down from his

horse, neither would he take any rest, or listen to any comfort, until

he should have found Sir Ossaise and settled this account. It appeared,

by what I could piece together of the unprofane fragments of his

statement, that he had chanced upon Sir Ossaise at dawn of the morning,

and been told that if he would make a short cut across the fields and

swamps and broken hills and glades, he could head off a company of

travelers who would be rare customers for prophylactics and tooth-wash.

With characteristic zeal Sir Madok had plunged away at once upon this

quest, and after three hours of awful cross-lot riding had overhauled

his game. And behold, it was the five patriarchs that had been released

from the dungeons the evening before! Poor old creatures, it was all of

twenty years since any one of them had known what it was to be equipped

with any remaining snag or remnant of a tooth.

"Blank-blank-blank him," said Sir Madok, "an I do not stove-polish him

an I may find him, leave it to me; for never no knight that hight

Ossaise or aught else may do me this disservice and bide on live, an I

may find him, the which I have thereunto sworn a great oath this day."

And with these words and others, he lightly took his spear and gat him

thence. In the middle of the afternoon we came upon one of those very

patriarchs ourselves, in the edge of a poor village. He was basking in

the love of relatives and friends whom he had not seen for fifty years;

and about him and caressing him were also descendants of his own body

whom he had never seen at all till now; but to him these were all

strangers, his memory was gone, his mind was stagnant. It seemed

incredible that a man could outlast half a century shut up in a dark

hole like a rat, but here were his old wife and some old comrades to

testify to it. They could remember him as he was in the freshness and

strength of his young manhood, when he kissed his child and delivered it

to its mother's hands and went away into that long oblivion. The people

at the castle could not tell within half a generation the length of time

the man had been shut up there for his unrecorded and forgotten offense;

but this old wife knew; and so did her old child, who stood there among

her married sons and daughters trying to realize a father who had been

to her a name, a thought, a formless image, a tradition, all her life,

and now was suddenly concreted into actual flesh and blood and set

before her face.

It was a curious situation; yet it is not on that account that I have

made room for it here, but on account of a thing which seemed to me

still more curious. To wit, that this dreadful matter brought from these

downtrodden people no outburst of rage against these oppressors. They

had been heritors and subjects of cruelty and outrage so long that

nothing could have startled them but a kindness. Yes, here was a curious

revelation, indeed, of the depth to which this people had been sunk in

slavery. Their entire being was reduced to a monotonous dead level of

patience, resignation, dumb uncomplaining acceptance of whatever might

befall them in this life. Their very imagination was dead. When you can

say that of a man, he has struck bottom, I reckon; there is no lower

deep for him.

I rather wished I had gone some other road. This was not the sort of

experience for a statesman to encounter who was planning out a peaceful

revolution in his mind. For it could not help bringing up the unget-

aroundable fact that, all gentle cant and philosophizing to the contrary

notwithstanding, no people in the world ever did achieve their freedom

by goody-goody talk and moral suasion: it being immutable law that all

revolutions that will succeed must (r)begin in blood, whatever may

answer afterward. If history teaches anything, it teaches that. What

this folk needed, then, was a Reign of Terror and a guillotine, and I

was the wrong man for them.

Two days later, toward noon, Sandy began to show signs of excitement

and feverish expectancy. She said we were approaching the ogre's castle.

I was surprised into an uncomfortable shock. The object of our quest had

gradually dropped out of my mind; this sudden resurrection of it made it

seem quite a real and startling thing for a moment, and roused up in me

a smart interest. Sandy's excitement increased every moment; and so did

mine, for that sort of thing is catching. My heart got to thumping. You

can't reason with your heart; it has its own laws, and thumps about

things which the intellect scorns. Presently, when Sandy slid from the

horse, motioned me to stop, and went creeping stealthily, with her head

bent nearly to her knees, toward a row of bushes that bordered a

declivity, the thumpings grew stronger and quicker. And they kept it up

while she was gaining her ambush and getting her glimpse over the

declivity; and also while I was creeping to her side on my knees. Her

eyes were burning now, as she pointed with her finger, and said in a

panting whisper:

"The castle! The castle! Lo, where it looms!"

What a welcome disappointment I experienced! I said:

"Castle? It is nothing but a pigsty; a pigsty with a wattled fence

around it."

She looked surprised and distressed. The animation faded out of her

face; and during many moments she was lost in thought and silent. Then:

"It was not enchanted aforetime," she said in a musing fashion, as if

to herself. "And how strange is this marvel, and how awful- that to the

one perception it is enchanted and dight in a base and shameful aspect;

yet to the perception of the other it is not enchanted, hath suffered no

change, but stands firm and stately still, girt with its moat and waving

its banners in the blue air from its towers. And God shield us, how it

pricks the heart to see again these gracious captives, and the sorrow

deepened in their sweet faces! We have tarried along, and are to blame."

I saw my cue. The castle was enchanted to (r)me, not to her. It would

be wasted time to try to argue her out of her delusion, it couldn't be

done; I must just humor it. So I said:

"This is a common case the enchanting of a thing to one eye and

leaving it in its proper form to another. You have heard of it before,

Sandy, though you haven't happened to experience it. But no harm is

done. In fact, it is lucky the way it is. If these ladies were hogs to

everybody and to themselves, it would be necessary to break the

enchantment, and that might be impossible if one failed to find out the

particular process of the enchantment. And hazardous, too; for in

attempting a disenchantment without the true key, you are liable to err,

and turn your hogs into dogs, and the dogs into cats, the cats into

rats, and so on, and end by reducing your materials to nothing finally,

or to an odorless gas which you can't follow- which, of course, amounts

to the same thing. But here, by good luck, no one's eyes but mine are

under the enchantment, and so it is of no consequence to dissolve it.

These ladies remain ladies to you, and to themselves, and to everybody

else; and at the same time they will suffer in no way from my delusion,

for when I know that an ostensible hog is a lady, that is enough for me,

I know how to treat her."

"Thanks, oh, sweet my lord, thou talkest like an angel. And I know

that thou wilt deliver them, for that thou art minded to great deeds and

art as strong a knight of your hands and as brave to will and to do, as

any that is on live."

"I will not leave a princess in the sty, Sandy. Are those three yonder

that to my disordered eyes are starveling swineherds-"

"The ogres? Are (r)they changed also? It is most wonderful. Now am I

fearful; for how canst thou strike with sure aim when five of their nine

cubits of stature are to thee invisible? Ah, go warily, fair sir; this

is a mightier emprise than I wend."

"You be easy, Sandy. All I need to know is, how (r)much of an ogre is

invisible; then I know how to locate his vitals. Don't you be afraid, I

will make short work of these bunco-steerers. Stay where you are."

I left Sandy kneeling there, corpse-faced but plucky and hopeful, and

rode down to the pigsty, and struck up a trade with the swineherds. I

won their gratitude by buying out all the hogs at the lump sum of

sixteen pennies, which was rather above latest quotations. I was just in

time; for the Church, the lord of the manor, and the rest of the tax-

gatherers would have been along next day and swept off pretty much all

the stock, leaving the swineherds very short of hogs and Sandy out of

princesses. But now the tax people could be paid in cash, and there

would be a stake left besides. One of the men had ten children; and he

said that last year when a priest came and of his ten pigs took the

fattest one for tithes, the wife burst out upon him, and offered him a

child and said:

"Thou beast without bowels of mercy, why leave me my child, yet rob me

of the wherewithal to feed it?"

How curious. The same thing had happened in the Wales of my day, under

this same old Established Church, which was supposed by many to have

changed its nature when it changed its disguise.

I sent the three men away, and then opened the sty gate and beckoned

Sandy to come- which she did; and not leisurely, but with the rush of a

prairie fire. And when I saw her fling herself upon those hogs, with

tears of joy running down her cheeks, and strain them to her heart, and

kiss them, and caress them, and call them reverently by grand princely

names, I was ashamed of her, ashamed of the human race.

We had to drive those hogs home- ten miles; and no ladies were ever

more fickle-minded or contrary. They would stay in no road, no path;

they broke out through the brush on all sides, and flowed away in all

directions, over rocks, and hills, and the roughest places they could

find. And they must not be struck, or roughly accosted; Sandy could not

bear to see them treated in ways unbecoming their rank. The

troublesomest old sow of the lot had to be called my Lady, and your

Highness, like the rest. It is annoying and difficult to scour around

after hogs, in armor. There was one small countess, with an iron ring in

her snout and hardly any hair on her back, that was the devil for

perversity. She gave me a race of an hour, over all sorts of country,

and then we were right where we had started from, having made not a rod

of real progress. I seized her at last by the tail, and brought her

along squealing. When I overtook Sandy she was horrified, and said it

was in the last degree indelicate to drag a countess by her train.

We got the hogs home just at dark- most of them. The princess Nerovens

de Morganore was missing, and two of her ladies in waiting: namely, Miss

Angela Bohun, and the Demoiselle Elaine Courtemains, the former of these

two being a young black sow with a white star in her forehead, and the

latter a brown one with thin legs and a slight limp in the forward shank

on the starboard side- a couple of the tryingest blisters to drive that

I ever saw. Also among the missing were several mere baronesses- and I

wanted them to stay missing; but no, all that sausage-meat had to be

found; so servants were sent out with torches to scour the woods and

hills to that end.

Of course, the whole drove was housed in the house, and, great guns!-

well, I never saw anything like it. Nor ever heard anything like it. And

never smelt anything like it. It was like an insurrection in a



WHEN I did get to bed at last I was unspeakably tired; the stretching-

out, and the relaxing of the long-tense muscles, how luxurious, how

delicious! but that was as far as I could get- sleep was out of the

question for the present. The ripping and tearing and squealing of the

nobility up and down the halls and corridors was pandemonium come again,

and kept me broad awake. Being awake, my thoughts were busy, of course;

and mainly they busied themselves with Sandy's curious delusion. Here

she was, as sane a person as the kingdom could produce; and yet, from my

point of view she was acting like a crazy woman. My land, the power of

training! of influence! of education! It can bring a body up to believe

anything. I had to put myself in Sandy's place to realize that she was

not a lunatic. Yes, and put her in mine, to demonstrate how easy it is

to seem a lunatic to a person who has not been taught as you have been

taught. If I had told Sandy I had seen a wagon, uninfluenced by

enchantment, spin along fifty miles an hour; had seen a man, unequipped

with magic powers, get into a basket and soar out of sight among the

clouds; and had listened, without any necromancer's help, to the

conversation of a person who was several hundred miles away, Sandy would

not merely have supposed me to be crazy, she would have thought she knew

it. Everybody around her believed in enchantments; nobody had any

doubts; to doubt that a castle could be turned into a sty, and its

occupants into hogs, would have been the same as my doubting among

Connecticut people the actuality of the telephone and its wonders- and

in both cases would be absolute proof of a diseased mind, an unsettled

reason. Yes, Sandy was sane; that must be admitted. If I also would be

sane- to Sandy- I must keep my superstitions about unenchanted and

unmiraculous locomotives, balloons, and telephones, to myself, Also, I

believed that the world was not flat, and hadn't pillars under it to

support it, nor a canopy over it to turn off a universe of water that

occupied all space above; but as I was the only person in the kingdom

afflicted with such impious and criminal opinions, I recognized that it

would be good wisdom to keep quiet about this matter, too, if I did not

wish to be suddenly shunned and forsaken by everybody as a madman.

The next morning Sandy assembled the swine in the dining-room and gave

them their breakfast, waiting upon them personally and manifesting in

every way the deep reverence which the natives of her island, ancient

and modern, have always felt for rank, let its outward casket and the

mental and moral contents be what they may. I could have eaten with the

hogs if I had had birth approaching my lofty official rank; but I

hadn't, and so accepted the unavoidable slight and made no complaint.

Sandy and I had our breakfast at the second table. The family were not

at home. I said:

"How many are in the family, Sandy, and where do they keep




"Which family, good my lord?"

"Why, this family; your own family."

"Sooth to say, I understand you not. I have no family."

"No family? Why, Sandy, isn't this your home?"

"Now how indeed might that be? I have no home."

"Well, then, whose house is this?"

"Ah, wit you well I would tell you an I knew myself."

"Come- you don't even know these people? Then who invited us here?"

"None invited us. We but came; that is all."

"Why, woman, this is a most extraordinary performance. The effrontery

of it is beyond admiration. We blandly march into a man's house, and

cram it full of the only really valuable nobility the sun has yet

discovered in the earth, and then it turns out that we don't even know

the man's name. How did you ever venture to take this extravagant

liberty? I supposed, of course, it was your home. What will the man


"What will he say? Forsooth what can he say but give thanks?"

"Thanks for what?"

Her face was filled with a puzzled surprise:

"Verily, thou troublest mine understanding with strange words. Do ye

dream that one of his estate is like to have the honor twice in his life

to entertain company such as we have brought to grace his house withal?"

"Well, no- when you come to that. No, it's an even bet that this is

the first time he has had a treat like this."

"Then let him be thankful, and manifest the same by grateful speech

and due humility; he were a dog, else, and the heir and ancestor of


To my mind, the situation was uncomfortable. It might become more so.

It might be a good idea to muster the hogs and move on. So I said:

"The day is wasting, Sandy. It is time to get the nobility together

and be moving."

"Wherefore, fair sir and Boss?"

"We want to take them to their home, don't we?"

"La, but list to him! They be of all the regions of the earth! Each

must hie to her own home; wend you we might do all these journeys in one

so brief life as He hath appointed that created life, and thereto death

likewise with help of Adam, who by sin done through persuasion of his

helpmeet, she being wrought upon and bewrayed by the beguilements of the

great enemy of man, that serpent hight Satan, aforetime consecrated and

set apart unto that evil work by overmastering spite and envy begotten

in his heart through fell ambitions that did blight and mildew a nature

erst so white and pure whenso it hove with the shining multitudes its

brethren-born in glade and shade of that fair heaven wherein all such as

native be to that rich estate and-"

"Great Scott!"

"My lord?"

"Well, you know we haven't got time for this sort of thing. Don't you

see, we could distribute these people around the earth in less time than

it is going to take you to explain that we can't. We mustn't talk now,

we must act. You want to be careful; you mustn't let your mill get the

start of you that way, at a time like this. To business now- and sharp's

the word. Who is to take the aristocracy home?"

"Even their friends. These will come for them from the far parts of

the earth."

This was lightning from a clear sky, for unexpectedness; and the

relief of it was like pardon to a prisoner. She would remain to deliver

the goods, of course.

"Well, then, Sandy, as our enterprise is handsomely and successfully

ended, I will go home and report; and if ever another one-"

"I also am ready; I will go with thee."

This was recalling the pardon.

"How? You will go with me? Why should you?"

"Will I be traitor to my knight, dost think? That were dishonor. I may

not part from thee until in knightly encounter in the field some

overmatching champion shall fairly win and fairly wear me. I were to

blame an I thought that that might ever hap."

"Elected for the long term," I sighed to myself. "I may as well make

the best of it." So then I spoke up and said:

"All right; let us make a start."

While she was gone to cry her farewells over the pork, I gave that

whole peerage away to the servants. And I asked them to take a duster

and dust around a little where the nobilities had mainly lodged and

promenaded; but they considered that that would be hardly worth while,

and would moreover be a rather grave departure from custom, and

therefore likely to make talk. A departure from custom- that settled it;

it was a nation capable of committing any crime but that. The servants

said they would follow the fashion, a fashion grown sacred through

immemorial observance; they would scatter fresh rushes in all the rooms

and halls, and then the evidence of the aristocratic visitation would be

no longer visible. It was a kind of satire on Nature: it was the

scientific method, the geologic method; it deposited the history of the

family in a stratified record; and the antiquary could dig through it

and tell by the remains of each period what changes of diet the family

had introduced successively for a hundred years.

The first thing we struck that day was a procession of pilgrims. It

was not going our way, but we joined it, nevertheless; for it was hourly

being borne in upon me now, that if I would govern this country wisely,

I must be posted in the details of its life, and not at second hand, but

by personal observation and scrutiny.

This company of pilgrims resembled Chaucer's in this: that it had in

it a sample of about all the upper occupations and professions the

country could show, and a corresponding variety of costume. There were

young men and old men, young women and old women, lively folk and grave

folk. They rode upon mules and horses, and there was not a side-saddle

in the party; for this specialty was to remain unknown in England for

nine hundred years yet.

It was a pleasant, friendly, sociable herd; pious, happy, merry and

full of unconscious coarsenesses and innocent indecencies. What they

regarded as the merry tale went the continual round and caused no more

embarrassment than it would have caused in the best English society

twelve centuries later. Practical jokes worthy of the English wits of

the first quarter of the far-off nineteenth century were sprung here and

there and yonder along the line, and compelled the delightedest

applause; and sometimes when a bright remark was made at one end of the

procession and started on its travels toward the other, you could note

its progress all the way by the sparkling spray of laughter it threw off

from its bows as it plowed along; and also by the blushes of the mules

in its wake.

Sandy knew the goal and purpose of this pilgrimage, and she posted me.

She said:

"They journey to the Valley of Holiness, for to be blessed of the

godly hermits and drink of the miraculous waters and be cleansed from


"Where is this watering-place?"

"It lieth a two-day journey hence, by the borders of the land that

hight the Cuckoo Kingdom."

"Tell me about it. Is it a celebrated place?"

"Oh, of a truth, yes. There be none more so. Of old time there lived

there an abbot and his monks. Belike were none in the world more holy

than these; for they gave themselves to study of pious books, and spoke

not the one to the other, or indeed to any, and ate decayed herbs and

naught thereto, and slept hard, and prayed much, and washed never; also

they wore the same garment until it fell from their bodies through age

and decay. Right so came they to be known of all the world by reason of

these holy austerities, and visited by rich and poor, and reverenced."


"But always there was lack of water there. Whereas, upon a time, the

holy abbot prayed, and for answer a great stream of clear water burst

forth by miracle in a desert place, Now were the fickle monks tempted of

the Fiend, and they wrought with their abbot unceasingly by beggings and

beseechings that he would construct a bath; and when he was become

aweary and might not resist more, he said have ye your will, then, and

granted that they asked. Now mark thou what 'tis to forsake the ways of

purity the which He loveth, and wanton with such as be worldly and an

offense. These monks did enter into the bath and come thence washed as

white as snow; and lo, in that moment His sign appeared, in miraculous

rebuke! for His insulted waters ceased to flow, and utterly vanished


"They fared mildly, Sandy, considering how that kind of crime is

regarded in this country."

"Belike; but it was their first sin; and they had been of perfect life

for long, and differing in naught from the angels. Prayers, tears,

torturings of the flesh, all was vain to beguile that water to flow

again. Even processions; even burnt offerings; even votive candles to

the Virgin, did fail every each of them; and all in the land did


"How odd to find that even this industry has its financial panics, and

at times sees its assignats and greenbacks languish to zero, and

everything come to a standstill. Go on, Sandy."

"And so upon a time, after year and day, the good abbot made humble

surrender and destroyed the bath. And behold, His anger was in that

moment appeased, and the waters gushed richly forth again, and even unto

this day they have not ceased to flow in that generous measure."

"Then I take it nobody has washed since."

"He that would essay it could have his halter free; yes, and swiftly

would he need it, too."

"The community has prospered since?"

"Even from that very day. The fame of the miracle went abroad into all

lands. From every land came monks to join; they came even as the fishes

come, in shoals; and the monastery added building to building, and yet

others to these, and so spread wide its arms and took them in. And nuns

came, also; and more again, and yet more; and built over against the

monastery on the yon side of the vale, and added building to building,

until mighty was that nunnery. And these were friendly unto those, and

they joined their loving labors together, and together they built a fair

great foundling asylum midway of the valley between."

"You spoke of some hermits, Sandy."

These have gathered there from the ends of the earth. A hermit

thriveth best where there be multitudes of pilgrims. Ye shall not find

no hermit of no sort wanting. If any shall mention a hermit of a kind he

thinketh new and not to be found but in some far strange land, let him

but scratch among the holes and caves and swamps that line that Valley

of Holiness, and whatsoever be his breed, it skills not, he shall find a

sample of it there."

I closed up alongside of a burly fellow with a fat good-humored face,

purposing to make myself agreeable and pick up some further crumbs of

fact; but I had hardly more than scraped acquaintance with him when he

began eagerly and awkwardly to lead up, in the immemorial way, to that

same old anecdote- the one Sir Dinadan told me, what time I got into

trouble with Sir Sagramor and was challenged of him on account of it. I

excused myself and dropped to the rear of the procession, sad at heart,

willing to go hence from this troubled life, this vale of tears, this

brief day of broken rest, of cloud and storm, of weary struggle and

monotonous defeat; and yet shrinking from the change, as remembering how

long eternity is, and how many have wended thither who know that


Early in the afternoon we overtook another procession of pilgrims; but

in this one was no merriment, no jokes, no laughter, no playful ways,

nor any happy giddiness, whether of youth or age. Yet both were here,

both age and youth; gray old men and women, strong men and women of

middle age, young husbands, young wives, little boys and girls, and

three babies at the breast. Even the children were smileless; there was

not a face among all these half a hundred people but was cast down, and

bore that set expression of hopelessness which is bred of long and hard

trials and old acquaintance with despair. They were slaves. Chains led

from their fettered feet and their manacled hands to a sole-leather belt

about their waists; and all except the children were also linked

together in a file, six feet apart, by a single chain which led from

collar to collar all down the line. They were on foot, and had tramped

three hundred miles in eighteen days, upon the cheapest odds and ends of

food, and stingy rations of that. They had slept in these chains every

night, bundled together like swine. They had upon their bodies some poor

rags, but they could not be said to be clothed. Their irons had chafed

the skin from their ankles and made sores which were ulcerated and

wormy. Their naked feet were torn, and none walked without a limp.

Originally there had been a hundred of these unfortunates, but about

half had been sold on the trip. The trader in charge of them rode a

horse and carried a whip with a short handle and a long heavy lash

divided into several knotted tails at the end. With this whip he cut the

shoulders of any that tottered from weariness and pain, and straightened

them up. He did not speak; the whip conveyed his desire without that.

None of these poor creatures looked up as we rode along by; they showed

no consciousness of our presence. And they made no sound but one; that

was the dull and awful clank of their chains from end to end of the long

file, as forty-three burdened feet rose and fell in unison. The file

moved in a cloud of its own making.

All these faces were gray with a coating of dust, One has seen the

like of this coating upon furniture in unoccupied houses, and has

written his idle thought in it with his finger. I was reminded of this

when I noticed the faces of some of those women, young mothers carrying

babes that were near to death and freedom, how a something in their

hearts was written in the dust upon their faces, plain to see, and lord,

how plain to read! for it was the track of tears. One of these young

mothers was but a girl, and it hurt me to the heart to read that

writing, and reflect that it was come up out of the breast of such a

child, a breast that ought not to know trouble yet, but only the

gladness of the morning of life; and no doubt-

She reeled just then, giddy with fatigue, and down came the lash and

flicked a flake of skin from her naked shoulder. It stung me as if I had

been hit instead. The master halted the file and jumped from his horse.

He stormed and swore at this girl, and said she had made annoyance

enough with her laziness, and as this was the last chance he should

have, he would settle the account now. She dropped on her knees and put

up her hands and began to beg, and cry, and implore, in a passion of

terror, but the master gave no attention. He snatched the child from

her, and then made the men-slaves who were chained before and behind her

throw her on the ground and hold her there and expose her body; and then

he laid on with his lash like a madman till her back was flayed, she

shrieking and struggling the while piteously. One of the men who was

holding her turned away his face, and for this humanity he was reviled

and flogged.

All our pilgrims looked on and commented- on the expert way in which

the whip was handled. They were too much hardened by lifelong every-day

familiarity with slavery to notice that there was anything else in the

exhibition that invited comment. This was what slavery could do, in the

way of ossifying what one may call the superior lobe of human feeling;

for these pilgrims were kind-hearted people, and they would not have

allowed that man to treat a horse like that.

I wanted to stop the whole thing and set the slaves free, but that

would not do. I must not interfere too much and get myself a name for

riding over the country's laws and the citizen's rights rough-shod. If I

lived and prospered I would be the death of slavery, that I was resolved

upon; but I would try to fix it so that when I became its executioner it

should be by command of the nation.

Just here was the wayside shop of a smith; and now arrived a landed

proprietor who had bought this girl a few miles back, deliverable here

where her irons could be taken off. They were removed; then there was a

squabble between the gentleman and the dealer as to which should pay the

blacksmith. The moment the girl was delivered from her irons, she flung

herself, all tears and frantic sobbings, into the arms of the slave who

had turned away his face when she was whipped. He strained her to his

breast, and smothered her face and the child's with kisses, and washed

them with the rain of his tears. I suspected. I inquired. Yes, I was

right; it was husband and wife. They had to be torn apart by force; the

girl had to be dragged away, and she struggled and fought and shrieked

like one gone mad till a turn of the road hid her from sight; and even

after that, we could still make out the fading plaint of those receding

shrieks. And the husband and father, with his wife and child gone, never

to be seen by him again in life?- well, the look of him one might not

bear at all, and so I turned away; but I knew I should never get his

picture out of my mind again, and there it is to this day, to wring my

heart-strings whenever I think of it.

We put up at the inn in a village just at nightfall, and when I rose

next morning and looked abroad, I was ware where a knight came riding in

the golden glory of the new day, and recognized him for knight of mine-

Sir Ozana le Cure Hardy. He was in the gentlemen's furnishing line, and

his missionarying specialty was plug-hats. He was clothed all in steel,

in the beautifulest armor of the time- up to where his helmet ought to

have been; but he hadn't any helmet, he wore a shiny stove-pipe hat, and

was as ridiculous a spectacle as one might want to see. It was another

of my surreptitious schemes for extinguishing knighthood by making it

grotesque and absurd. Sir Ozana's saddle was hung about with leather

hat-boxes, and every time he overcame a wandering knight he swore him

into my service and fitted him with a plug and made him wear it. I

dressed and ran down to welcome Sir Ozana and get his news.

"How is trade?" I asked.

"Ye will note that I have but these four left; yet were they sixteen

whenas I got me from Camelot."

"Why, you have certainly done nobly, Sir Ozana. Where have you been

foraging of late?"

"I am but now come from the Valley of Holiness, please you sir."

"I am pointed for that place myself. Is there anything stirring in the

monkery, more than common?"

"By the mass ye may not question it!... Give him good feed, boy, and

stint it not, an thou valuest thy crown; so get ye lightly to the stable

and do even as I bid.... Sir, it is parlous news I bring, and- be these

pilgrims? Then ye may not do better, good folk, than gather and hear the

tale I have to tell, sith it concerneth you, forasmuch as ye go to find

that ye will not find, and seek that ye will seek in vain, my life being

hostage for my word, and my word and message being these, namely: That a

hap has happened whereof the like has not been seen no more but once

this two hundred years, which was the first and last time that that said

misfortune strake the holy valley in that form by commandment of the

Most High whereto by reasons just and causes thereunto contributing,

wherein the matter-"

"The miraculous fount hath ceased to flow!" This shout burst from

twenty pilgrim mouths at once.

"Ye say well, good people. I was verging to it, even when ye spake."

"Has somebody been washing again?"

"Nay, it is suspected, but none believe it. It is thought to be some

other sin, but none wit what."

"How are they feeling about the calamity?"

"None may describe it in words. The fount is these nine days dry. The

prayers that did begin then, and the lamentations in sackcloth and

ashes, and the holy processions, none of these have ceased nor night nor

day; and so the monks and the nuns and the foundlings be all exhausted,

and do hang up prayers writ upon parchment, sith that no strength is

left in man to lift up voice. And at last they sent for thee, Sir Boss,

to try magic and enchantment; and if you could not come, then was the

messenger to fetch Merlin, and he is there these three days now, and

saith he will fetch that water though he burst the globe and wreck its

kingdoms to accomplish it; and right bravely doth he work his magic and

call upon his hellions to hie them hither and help, but not a whiff of

moisture hath he started yet, even so much as might qualify as mist upon

a copper mirror an ye count not the barrel of sweat he sweateth betwixt

sun and sun over the dire labors of his task; and if ye-"

Breakfast was ready. As soon as it was over I showed to Sir Ozana

these words which I had written on the inside of his hat: (r)"Chemical

Department, Laboratory extension, Section G. Pxxp. Send two of first

size, two of No. 3, and six of No. 4, together with the proper

complementary details- and two of my trained assistants." And I said:

"Now get you to Camelot as fast as you can fly, brave knight, and show

the writing to Clarence, and tell him to have these required matters in

the Valley of Holiness with all possible despatch."

"I will well, Sir Boss," and he was off.


THE pilgrims were human beings. Otherwise they would have acted

differently. They had come a long and difficult journey, and now when

the journey was nearly finished, and they learned that the main thing

they had come for had ceased to exist, they didn't do as horses or cats

or angle-worms would probably have done- turn back and get at something

profitable- no, anxious as they had before been to see the miraculous

fountain, they were as much as forty times as anxious now to see the

place where it had used to be. There is no accounting for human beings.

We made good time; and a couple of hours before sunset we stood upon

the high confines of the Valley of Holiness, and our eyes swept it from

end to end and noted its features. That is, its large features. These

were the three masses of buildings. They were distant and isolated

temporalities shrunken to toy constructions in the lonely waste of what

seemed a desert- and was. Such a scene is always mournful, it is so

impressively still, and looks so steeped in death. But there was a sound

here which interrupted the stillness only to add to its mournfulness;

this was the faint far sound of tolling bells which floated fitfully to

us on the passing breeze, and so faintly, so softly, that we hardly knew

whether we heard it with our ears or with our spirits.

We reached the monastery before dark, and there the males were given

lodging, but the women were sent over to the nunnery. The bells were

close at hand now, and their solemn booming smote upon the ear like a

message of doom. A superstitious despair possessed the heart of every

monk and published itself in his ghastly face. Everywhere, these black-

robed, soft-sandaled, tallow-visaged specters appeared, flitted about

and disappeared, noiseless as the creatures of a troubled dream, and as


The old abbot's joy to see me was pathetic. Even to tears; but he did

the shedding himself. He said:

"Delay not, son, but get to thy saving work. An we bring not the water

back again, and soon, we are ruined, and the good work of two hundred

years must end. And see thou do it with enchantments that be holy, for

the Church will not endure that work in her cause be done by devil's


"When I work, Father, be sure there will be no devil's work connected

with it. I shall use no arts that come of the devil, and no elements not

created by the hand of God. But is Merlin working strictly on pious


"Ah, he said he would, my son, he said he would, and took oath to make

his promise good."

"Well, in that case, let him proceed."

"But surely you will not sit idle by, but help?"

"It will not answer to mix methods, Father, neither would it be

professional courtesy. Two of a trade must not underbid each other. We

might as well cut rates and be done with it; it would arrive at that in

the end. Merlin has the contract; no other magician can touch it till he

throws it up."

"But I will take it from him; it is a terrible emergency and the act

is thereby justified. And if it were not so, who will give law to the

Church? The Church giveth law to all; and what she wills to do, that she

may do, hurt whom it may. I will take it from him; you shall begin upon

the moment."

"It may not be, Father. No doubt, as you say, where power is supreme,

one can do as one likes and suffer no injury; but we poor magicians are

not so situated. Merlin is a very good magician in a small way, and has

quite a neat provincial reputation. He is struggling along, doing the

best he can, and it would not be etiquette for me to take his job until

he himself abandons it."

The abbot's face lighted.

"Ah, that is simple. There are ways to persuade him to abandon it."

"No- no, Father, it skills not, as these people say. If he were

persuaded against his will, he would load that well with a malicious

enchantment which would balk me until I found out its secret. It might

take a month. I could set up a little enchantment of mine which I call

the telephone, and he could not find out its secret in a hundred years.

Yes, you perceive, he might block me for a month. Would you like to risk

a month in a dry time like this?"

"A month! The mere thought of it maketh me to shudder. Have it thy

way, my son. But my heart is heavy with this disappointment. Leave me,

and let me wear my spirit with weariness and waiting, even as I have

done these ten long days, counterfeiting thus the thing that is called

rest, the prone body making outward sign of repose where inwardly is


Of course, it would have been best, all round, for Merlin to waive

etiquette and quit and call it half a day, since he would never be able

to start that water, for he was a true magician of the time; which is to

say, the big miracles, the ones that gave him his reputation, always had

the luck to be performed when nobody but Merlin was present; he couldn't

start this well with all this crowd around to see; a crowd was as bad

for a magician's miracle in that day as it was for a spiritualist's

miracle in mine; there was sure to be some skeptic on hand to turn up

the gas at the crucial moment and spoil everything. But I did not want

Merlin to retire from the job until I was ready to take hold of it

effectively myself; and I could not do that until I got my things from

Camelot, and that would take two or three days.

My presence gave the monks hope, and cheered them up a good deal;

insomuch that they ate a square meal that night for the first time in

ten days. As soon as their stomachs had been properly reinforced with

food, their spirits began to rise fast; when the mead began to go round

they rose faster. By the time everybody was half-seas over, the holy

community was in good shape to make a night of it; so we stayed by the

board and put it through on that line. Matters got to be very jolly.

Good old questionable stories were told that made the tears run down and

cavernous mouths stand wide and the round bellies shake with laughter;

and questionable songs were bellowed out in a mighty chorus that drowned

the boom of the tolling bells.

At last I ventured a story myself; and vast was the success of it. Not

right off, of course, for the native of those islands does not, as a

rule, dissolve upon the early applications of a humorous thing; but the

fifth time I told it, they began to crack in places; the eighth time I

told it, they began to crumble; at the twelfth repetition they fell

apart in chunks; and at the fifteenth they disintegrated, and I got a

broom and swept them up. This language is figurative. Those islanders-

well, they are slow pay at first, in the matter of return for your

investment of effort, but in the end they make the pay of all other

nations poor and small by contrast.

I was at the well next day betimes. Merlin was there, enchanting away

like a beaver, but not raising the moisture. He was not in a pleasant

humor; and every time I hinted that perhaps this contract was a shade

too hefty for a novice he unlimbered his tongue and cursed like a

bishop- French bishop of the Regency days, I mean.

Matters were about as I expected to find them. The "fountain" was an

ordinary well, it had been dug in the ordinary way, and stoned up in the

ordinary way. There was no miracle about it. Even the lie that had

created its reputation was not miraculous; I could have told it myself,

with one hand tied behind me. The well was in a dark chamber which stood

in the center of a cut-stone chapel, whose walls were hung with pious

pictures of a workmanship that would have made a chromo feel good;

pictures historically commemorative of curative miracles which had been

achieved by the waters when nobody was looking. That is, nobody but

angels; they are always on deck when there is a miracle to the fore- so

as to get put in the picture, perhaps. Angels are as fond of that as a

fire company; look at the old masters.

The well-chamber was dimly lighted by lamps; the water was drawn with

a windlass and chain by monks, and poured into troughs which delivered

it into stone reservoirs outside in the chapel- when there was water to

draw, I mean- and none but monks could enter the well-chamber. I entered

it, for I had temporary authority to do so, by courtesy of my

professional brother and subordinate. But he hadn't entered it himself.

He did everything by incantations; he never worked his intellect. If he

had stepped in there and used his eyes, instead of his disordered mind,

he could have cured the well by natural means, and then turned it into a

miracle in the customary way; but no, he was an old numskull, a magician

who believed in his own magic; and no magician can thrive who is

handicapped with a superstition like that.

I had an idea that the well had sprung a leak; that some of the wall

stones near the bottom had fallen and exposed fissures that allowed the

water to escape. I measured the chain- ninety-eight feet. Then I called

in a couple of monks, locked the door, took a candle, and made them

lower me in the bucket.

When the chain was all paid out, the candle confirmed my suspicion; a

considerable section of the wall was gone, exposing a good big fissure.

I almost regretted that my theory about the well's trouble was

correct, because I had another one that had a showy point or two about

it for a miracle. I remembered that in America, many centuries later,

when an oil-well ceased to flow, they used to blast it out with a

dynamite torpedo. If I should find this well dry and no explanation of

it, I could astonish these people most nobly by having a person of no

especial value drop a dynamite bomb into it. It was my idea to appoint

Merlin. However, it was plain that there was no occasion for the bomb.

One cannot have everything the way he would like it. A man has no

business to be depressed by a disappointment, anyway; he ought to make

up his mind to get even. That is what I did. I said to myself, I am in

no hurry, I can wait; that bomb will come good yet. And it did, too.

When I was above ground again, I turned out the monks, and let down a

fish-line; the well was a hundred and fifty feet deep, and there was

forty-one feet of water in it! I called in a monk and asked:

"How deep is the well?"

"That, sir, I wit not, having never been told."

"How does the water usually stand in it?"

"Near to the top, these two centuries, as the testimony goeth, brought

down to us through our predecessors."

It was true- as to recent times at least- for there was witness to it,

and better witness than a monk; only about twenty or thirty feet of the

chain showed wear and use, the rest of it was unworn and rusty. What had

happened when the well gave out that other time? Without doubt some

practical person had come along and mended the leak, and then had come

up and told the abbot he had discovered by divination that if the sinful

bath were destroyed the well would flow again. The leak had befallen

again now, and these children would have prayed, and processioned, and

tolled their bells for heavenly succor till they all dried up and blew

away, and no innocent of them all would ever have thought to drop a

fishline into the well or go down in it and find out what was really the

matter. Old habit of mind is one of the toughest things to get away from

in the world. It transmits itself like physical form and feature; and

for a man, in those days, to have had an idea that his ancestors hadn't

had, would have brought him under suspicion of being illegitimate. I

said to the monk:

"It is a difficult miracle to restore water in a dry well, but we will

try, if my brother Merlin fails. Brother Merlin is a very passable

artist, but only in the parlor-magic line, and he may not succeed; in

fact, is not likely to succeed. But that should be nothing to his

discredit; the man that can do (r)this kind of miracle knows enough to

keep hotel."

"Hotel? I mind not to have heard-"

"Of hotel? It's what you call hostel. The man that can do this miracle

can keep hostel. I can do this miracle; I shall do this miracle; yet I

do not try to conceal from you that it is a miracle to tax the occult

powers to the last strain."

"None knoweth that truth better than the brotherhood, indeed; for it

is of record that aforetime it was parlous difficult and took a year.

Natheless, God send you good success, and to that end will we pray."

As a matter of business it was a good idea to get the notion around

that the thing was difficult. Many a small thing has been made large by

the right kind of advertising. That monk was filled up with the

difficulty of this enterprise; he would fill up the others. In two days

the solicitude would be booming.

On my way home at noon, I met Sandy. She had been sampling the

hermits. I said:

"I would like to do that myself. This is Wednesday. Is there a


"A which, please you, sir?"

"Matinee. Do they keep open afternoons?"


"The hermits, of course."

"Keep open?"

"Yes, keep open. Isn't that plain enough? Do they knock off at noon?"

"Knock off?"

"Knock off?- yes, knock off. What is the matter with knock off? I

never saw such a dunderhead; can't you understand anything at all? In

plain terms, do they shut up shop, draw the game, bank the fires-"

"Shut up shop, draw-"

"There, never mind, let it go; you make me tired. You can't seem to

understand the simplest thing."

"I would I might please thee, sir, and it is to me dole and sorrow

that I fail, albeit sith I am but a simple damsel and taught of none,

being from the cradle unbaptized in those deep waters of learning that

do anoint with a sovereignty him that partaketh of that most noble

sacrament, investing him with reverend state to the mental eye of the

humble mortal, who by bar and lack of that great consecration seeth in

his own unlearned estate but a symbol of that other sort of lack and

loss which men do publish to the pitying eye with sackcloth trappings

whereon the ashes of grief do lie bepowdered and bestrewn, and so, when

such shall in the darkness of his mind encounter these golden phrases of

high mystery, these shut-up-shops, and draw-the-game, and bank-the-

fires, it is but by the grace of God that he burst not for envy of the

mind that can beget, and tongue that can deliver so great and mellow-

sounding miracles of speech, and if there do ensue confusion in that

humbler mind, and failure to divine the meanings of these wonders, then

if so be this miscomprehension is not vain but sooth and true, wit ye

well it is the very substance of worshipful dear homage and may not

lightly be misprized, nor had been, an ye had noted this complexion of

mood and mind and understood that that I would I could not, and that I

could not I might not, nor yet nor might (r)nor could, nor might-not

nor could-not, might be by advantage turned to the desired (r)would,

and so I pray you mercy of my fault, and that ye will of your kindness

and your charity forgive it, good my master and most dear lord."

I couldn't make it all out- that is, the details- but I got the

general idea; and enough of it, too, to be ashamed. It was not fair to

spring those nineteenth-century technicalities upon the untutored infant

of the sixth and then rail at her because she couldn't get their drift;

and when she was making the honest best drive at it she could, too, and

no fault of hers that she couldn't fetch the home plate; and so I

apologized. Then we meandered pleasantly away toward the hermit holes in

sociable converse together, and better friends than ever.

I was gradually coming to have a mysterious and shuddery reverence for

this girl; nowadays whenever she pulled out from the station and got her

train fairly started on one of those horizonless transcontinental

sentences of hers, it was borne in upon me that I was standing in the

awful presence of the Mother of the German Language. I was so impressed

with this, that sometimes when she began to empty one of these sentences

on me I unconsciously took the very attitude of reverence, and stood

uncovered; and if words had been water, I had been drowned, sure. She

had exactly the German way; whatever was in her mind to be delivered,

whether a mere remark, or a sermon, or a cyclopedia, or the history of a

war, she would get it into a single sentence or die. Whenever the

literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to

see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his

verb in his mouth.

We drifted from hermit to hermit all the afternoon. It was a most

strange menagerie. The chief emulation among them seemed to be, to see

which could manage to be the uncleanest and most prosperous with vermin.

Their manner and attitudes were the last expression of complacent self-

righteousness. It was one anchorite's pride to lie naked in the mud and

let the insects bite him and blister him unmolested; it was another's to

lean against a rock, all day long, conspicuous to the admiration of the

throng of pilgrims and pray; it was another's to go naked and crawl

around on all fours; it was another's to drag about with him, year in

and year out, eighty pounds of iron; it was another's to never lie down

when he slept, but to stand among the thorn-bushes and snore when there

were pilgrims around to look; a woman, who had the white hair of age,

and no other apparel, was black from crown to heel with forty-seven

years of holy abstinence from water. Groups of gazing pilgrims stood

around all and every of these strange objects, lost in reverent wonder,

and envious of the fleckless sanctity which these pious austerities had

won for them from an exacting heaven.

By and by we went to see one of the supremely great ones. He was a

mighty celebrity; his fame had penetrated all Christendom; the noble and

the renowned journeyed from the remotest lands on the globe to pay him

reverence. His stand was in the center of the widest part of the valley;

and it took all that space to hold his crowds.

His stand was a pillar sixty feet high, with a broad platform on the

top of it. He was now doing what he had been doing every day for twenty

years up there- bowing his body ceaselessly and rapidly almost to his

feet. It was his way of praying. I timed him with a stop-watch, and he

made twelve hundred and forty-four revolutions in twenty-four minutes

and forty-six seconds. It seemed a pity to have all this power going to

waste. It was one of the most useful motions in mechanics, the pedal

movement; so I made a note in my memorandum-book, purposing some day to

apply a system of elastic cords to him and run a sewing-machine with it.

I afterward carried out that scheme and got five years' good service out

of him; in which time he turned out upward of eighteen thousand first-

rate tow-linen shirts, which was ten a day. I worked him Sundays and

all; he was going, Sundays, the same as week-days, and it was no use to

waste the power. These shirts cost me nothing but just the mere trifle

for the materials- I furnished those myself, it would not have been

right to make him do that- and they sold like smoke to pilgrims at a

dollar and a half apiece, which was the price of fifty cows or a blooded

race-horse in Arthurdom. They were regarded as a perfect protection

against sin, and advertised as such by my knights everywhere, with the

paint-pot and stencil-plate; insomuch that there was not a cliff or a

boulder or a dead wall in England but you could read on it at a mile


(r)"Buy the only genuine St. Stylite; patronized by the Nobility.

Patent applied for."

There was more money in the business than one knew what to do with. As

it extended, I brought out a line of goods suitable for kings, and a

nobby thing for duchesses and that sort, with ruffles down the forehatch

and the running-gear clewed up with a feather-stitch to leeward and then

hauled aft with a backstay and triced up with a half-turn in the

standing rigging forward of the weather-gaskets. Yes, it was a daisy.

But about that time I noticed that the motive power had taken to

standing on one leg, and I found that there was something the matter

with the other one; so I stocked the business and unloaded, taking Sir

Bors de Ganis into camp financially along with certain of his friends;

for the works stopped within a year, and the good saint got him to his

rest. But he had earned it. I can say that for him.

When I saw him that first time- however, his personal condition will

not quite bear description here. You can read it in the (r)Lives of the

Saints. *004


SATURDAY noon I went to the well and looked on awhile. Merlin was

still burning smoke-powders, and pawing the air, and muttering gibberish

as hard as ever, but looking pretty downhearted, for of course he had

not started even a perspiration in that well yet. Finally I said:

"How does the thing promise by this time, partner?"

"Behold, I am even now busied with trial of the powerfulest

enchantment known to the princes of the occult arts in the lands of the

East; an it fail me, naught can avail. Peace, until I finish."

He raised a smoke this time that darkened all the region, and must

have made matters uncomfortable for the hermits, for the wind was their

way, and it rolled down over their dens in a dense and billowy fog. He

poured out volumes of speech to match, and contorted his body and sawed

the air with his hands in a most extraordinary way. At the end of twenty

minutes he dropped down panting, and about exhausted. Now arrived the

abbot and several hundred monks and nuns, and behind them a multitude of

pilgrims and a couple of acres of foundlings, all drawn by the

prodigious smoke, and all in a grand state of excitement. The abbot

inquired anxiously for results. Merlin said:

"If any labor of mortal might break the spell that binds these waters,

this which I have but just essayed had done it. It has failed; whereby I

do now know that that which I had feared is a truth established; the

sign of this failure is, that the most potent spirit known to the

magicians of the East, and whose name none may utter and live, has laid

his spell upon this well. The mortal does not breathe, nor ever will,

who can penetrate the secret of that spell, and without that secret none

can break it. The water will flow no more forever, good Father. I have

done what man could. Suffer me to go."

Of course this threw the abbot into a good deal of a consternation. He

turned to me with the signs of it in his face, and said:

"Ye have heard him. Is it true?"

"Part of it is."

"Not all, then, not all! What part is true?"

"That that spirit with the Russian name has put his spell upon the


"God's wownds, then are we ruined!"


"But not certainly? Ye mean, not certainly?"

"That is it."

"Wherefore, ye also mean that when he saith none can break the spell-"

"Yes, when he says that, he says what isn't necessarily true. There

are conditions under which an effort to break it may have some chance-

that is, some small, some trifling chance- of success."

"The conditions-"

"Oh, they are nothing difficult. Only these: I want the well and the

surroundings for the space of half a mile, entirely to myself from

sunset to-day until I remove the ban- and nobody allowed to cross the

ground but by my authority."

"Are these all?"


"And you have no fear to try?"

"Oh, none. One may fail, of course; and one may also succeed. One can

try, and I am ready to chance it. I have my conditions?"

"These and all others ye may name. I will issue commandment to that


"Wait," said Merlin, with an evil smile. "Ye wit that he that would

break this spell must know that spirit's name?"

"Yes, I know his name."

"And wit you also that to know it skills not of itself, but ye must

likewise pronounce it? Ha-ha! Knew ye that?"

"Yes, I knew that, too."

"You had that knowledge! Art a fool? Are ye minded to utter that name

and die?"

"Utter it? Why certainly. I would utter it if it was Welsh."

"Ye are even a dead man, then; and I go to tell Arthur."

"That's all right. Take your gripsack and get along. The thing for

(r)you to do is to go home and work the weather, John W. Merlin."

It was a home shot, and it made him wince; for he was the worst

weather failure in the kingdom. Whenever he ordered up the danger-

signals along the coast there was a week's dead calm, sure, and every

time he prophesied fair weather it rained brickbats. But I kept him in

the weather bureau right along, to undermine his reputation. However,

that shot raised his bile, and instead of starting home to report my

death, he said he would remain and enjoy it.

My two experts arrived in the evening, and pretty well fagged, for

they had traveled double tides. They had pack-mules along, and had

brought everything I needed- tools, pump, lead pipe, Greek fire, sheaves

of big rockets, roman candles, colored fire sprays, electric apparatus,

and a lot of sundries- everything necessary for the stateliest kind of a

miracle. They got their supper and a nap, and about midnight we sallied

out through a solitude so wholly vacant and complete that it quite

overpassed the required conditions. We took possession of the well and

its surroundings. My boys were experts in all sorts of things, from the

stoning-up of a well to the constructing of a mathematical instrument.

An hour before sunrise we had that leak mended in shipshape fashion, and

the water began to rise. Then we stowed our fireworks in the chapel,

locked up the place, and went home to bed.

Before the noon mass was over, we were at the well again; for there

was a deal to do yet, and I was determined to spring the miracle before

midnight, for business reasons: for whereas a miracle worked for the

Church on a week-day is worth a good deal, it is worth six times as much

if you get it in on a Sunday. In nine hours the water had risen to its

customary level; that is to say, it was within twenty-three feet of the

top. We put in a little iron pump, one of the first turned out by my

works near the capital; we bored into a stone reservoir which stood

against the outer wall of the well-chamber and inserted a section of

lead pipe that was long enough to reach to the door of the chapel and

project beyond the threshold, where the gushing water would be visible

to the two hundred and fifty acres of people I was intending should be

present on the flat plain in front of this little holy hillock at the

proper time.

We knocked the head out of an empty hogshead and hoisted this hogshead

to the flat roof of the chapel, where we clamped it down fast, poured in

gunpowder till it lay loosely an inch deep on the bottom, then we stood

up rockets in the hogshead as thick as they could loosely stand, all the

different breeds of rockets there are; and they made a portly and

imposing sheaf, I can tell you. We grounded the wire of a pocket

electrical battery in that powder, we placed a whole magazine of Greek

fire on each corner of the roof- blue on one corner, green on another,

red on another, and purple on the last- and grounded a wire in each.

About two hundred yards off, in the flat, we built a pen of

scantlings, about four feet high, and laid planks on it, and so made a

platform. We covered it with swell tapestries borrowed for the occasion,

and topped it off with the abbot's own throne. When you are going to do

a miracle for an ignorant race, you want to get in every detail that

will count; you want to make all the properties impressive to the public

eye; you want to make matters comfortable for your head guest; then you

can turn yourself loose and play your effects for all they are worth. I

know the value of these things, for I know human nature. You can't throw

too much style into a miracle. It costs trouble, and work, and sometimes

money; but it pays in the end. Well, we brought the wires to the ground

at the chapel, and then brought them under the ground to the platform,

and hid the batteries there. We put a rope fence a hundred feet square

around the platform to keep off the common multitude, and that finished

the work. My idea was, doors open at ten-thirty, performance to begin at

eleven-twenty-five sharp. I wished I could charge admission, but of

course that wouldn't answer. I instructed my boys to be in the chapel as

early as ten, before anybody was around, and be ready to man the pumps

at the proper time, and make the fur fly. Then we went home to supper.

The news of the disaster to the well had traveled far by this time;

and now for two or three days a steady avalanche of people had been

pouring into the valley. The lower end of the valley was become one huge

camp; we should have a good house, no question about that. Criers went

the rounds early in the evening and announced the coming attempt, which

put every pulse up to fever-heat. They gave notice that the abbot and

his official suite would move in state and occupy the platform at ten-

thirty, up to which time all the region which was under my ban must be

clear; the bells would then cease from tolling, and this sign should be

permission to the multitudes to close in and take their places.

I was at the platform and all ready to do the honors when the abbot's

solemn procession hove in sight- which it did not do till it was nearly

to the rope fence, because it was a starless black night and no torches

permitted. With it came Merlin, and took a front seat on the platform;

he was as good as his word for once. One could not see the multitudes

banked together beyond the ban, but they were there, just the same. The

moment the bells stopped, those banked masses broke and poured over the

line like a vast black wave, and for as much as a half-hour it continued

to flow, and then it solidified itself, and you could have walked upon a

pavement of human heads to- well, miles.

We had a solemn stage-wait, now, for about twenty minutes- a thing I

had counted on for effect; it is always good to let your audience have a

chance to work up its expectancy. At length, out of the silence a noble

Latin chant- men's voices- broke and swelled up and rolled away into the

night, a majestic tide of melody. I had put that up, too, and it was one

of the best effects I ever invented. When it was finished I stood up on

the platform and extended my hands abroad, for two minutes, with my face

uplifted- that always produces a dead hush- and then slowly pronounced

this ghastly word with a kind of awfulness which caused hundreds to

tremble, and many women to faint:

(See Illustration)

Just as I was moaning out the closing hunks of that word, I touched

off one of my electric connections, and all that murky world of people

stood revealed in a hideous blue glare! It was immense- that effect!

Lots of people shrieked, women curled up and quit in every direction,

foundlings collapsed by platoons. The abbot and the monks crossed

themselves nimbly and their lips fluttered with agitated prayers. Merlin

held his grip, but he was astonished clear down to his corns; he had

never seen anything to begin with that, before. Now was the time to pile

in the effects. I lifted my hands and groaned out this word- as it were

in agony:

(See Illustration)

-and turned on the red fire! You should have heard that Atlantic of

people moan and howl when that crimson hell joined the blue! After sixty

seconds I shouted:

(See Illustration)

-and lit up the green fire! After waiting only forty seconds this

time, I spread my arms abroad and thundered out the devastating

syllables of this word of words:

(See Illustration)

-and whirled on the purple glare! There they were, all going at once,

red, blue, green, purple!- four furious volcanoes pouring vast clouds of

radiant smoke aloft, and spreading a blinding rainbowed noonday to the

furthest confines of that valley. In the distance one could see that

fellow on the pillar standing rigid against the background of sky, his

see-saw stopped for the first time in twenty years. I knew the boys were

at the pump now and ready. So I said to the abbot:

"The time is come, Father. I am about to pronounce the dread name and

command the spell to dissolve. You want to brace up, and take hold of

something." Then I shouted to the people: "Behold, in another minute the

spell will be broken, or no mortal can break it. If it break, all will

know it, for you will see the sacred water gush from the chapel door!"

I stood a few moments, to let the hearers have a chance to spread my

announcement to those who couldn't hear, and so convey it to the

furthest ranks, then I made a grand exhibition of extra posturing and

gesturing, and shouted:

"Lo, I command the fell spirit that possesses the holy fountain to now

disgorge into the skies all the infernal fires that still remain in him,

and straightway dissolve his spell and flee hence to the pit, there to

lie bound a thousand years. By his own dread name I command it-


Then I touched off the hogshead of rockets, and a vast fountain of

dazzling lances of fire vomited itself toward the zenith with a hissing

rush, and burst in mid-sky into a storm of flashing jewels! One mighty

groan of terror started up from the massed people- then suddenly broke

into a wild hosannah of joy- for there, fair and plain in the uncanny

glare, they saw the freed water leaping forth! The old abbot could not

speak a word, for tears and the chokings in his throat; without

utterance of any sort, he folded me in his arms and mashed me. It was

more eloquent than speech. And harder to get over, too, in a country

where there were really no doctors that were worth a damaged nickel.

You should have seen those acres of people throw themselves down in

that water and kiss it; kiss it, and pet it, and fondle it, and talk to

it as if it were alive, and welcome it back with the dear names they

gave their darlings, just as if it had been a friend who was long gone

away and lost, and was come home again. Yes, it was pretty to see, and

made me think more of them than I had done before.

I sent Merlin home on a shutter. He had caved in and gone down like a

landslide when I pronounced that fearful name, and had never come to

since. He never had heard that name before- neither had I- but to him it

was the right one. Any jumble would have been the right one. He

admitted, afterward, that that spirit's own mother could not have

pronounced that name better than I did. He never could understand how I

survived it, and I didn't tell him. It is only young magicians that give

away a secret like that. Merlin spent three months working enchantments

to try to find out the deep trick of how to pronounce that name and

outlive it. But he didn't arrive.

When I started to the chapel, the populace uncovered and fell back

reverently to make a wide way for me, as if I had been some kind of a

superior being- and I was. I was aware of that. I took along a night

shift of monks, and taught them the mystery of the pump, and set them to

work, for it was plain that a good part of the people out there were

going to sit up with the water all night, consequently it was but right

that they should have all they wanted of it. To those monks that pump

was a good deal of a miracle itself, and they were full of wonder over

it; and of admiration, too, of the exceeding effectiveness of its


It was a great night, an immense night. There was reputation in it. I

could hardly get to sleep for glorying over it.


MY influence in the Valley of Holiness was something prodigious now.

It seemed worth while to try to turn it to some valuable account. The

thought came to me the next morning, and was suggested by my seeing one

of my knights who was in the soap line come riding in. According to

history, the monks of this place two centuries before had been worldly-

minded enough to want to wash. It might be that there was a leaven of

this unrighteousness still remaining. So I sounded a Brother:

"Wouldn't you like a bath?"

He shuddered at the thought- the thought of the peril of it to the

well- but he said with feeling:

"One needs not to ask that of a poor body who has not known that

blessed refreshment sith that he was a boy. Would God I might wash me!

but it may not be, fair sir, tempt me not; it is forbidden."

And then he sighed in such a sorrowful way that I was resolved he

should have at least one layer of his real estate removed, if it sized

up my whole influence and bankrupted the pile. So I went to the abbot

and asked for a permit for this Brother. He blenched at the idea- I

don't mean that you could see him blench, for of course you couldn't see

it without you scraped him, and I didn't care enough about it to scrape

him, but I knew the blench was there, just the same, and within a book-

cover's thickness of the surface, too- blenched, and trembled. He said:

"Ah, son, ask aught else thou wilt, and it is thine, and freely

granted out of a grateful heart- but this, oh, this! Would you drive

away the blessed water again?"

"No, Father, I will not drive it away. I have mysterious knowledge

which teaches me that there was an error that other time when it was

thought the institution of the bath banished the fountain." A large

interest began to show up in the old man's face. "My knowledge informs

me that the bath was innocent of that misfortune, which was caused by

quite another sort of sin."

"These are brave words- but- but right welcome, if they be true."

"They are true, indeed. Let me build the bath again, Father. Let me

build it again, and the fountain shall flow forever."

"You promise this?- you promise it? Say the word- say you promise it!"

"I do promise it."

"Then will I have the first bath myself! Go get ye to your work. Tarry

not, tarry not, but go."

I and my boys were at work, straight off. The ruins of the old bath

were there yet in the basement of the monastery, not a stone missing.

They had been left just so, all these lifetimes, and avoided with a

pious fear, as things accursed. In two days we had it all done and the

water in- a spacious pool of clear pure water that a body could swim in.

It was running water, too. It came in, and went out, through the ancient

pipes. The old abbot kept his word, and was the first to try it. He went

down black and shaky, leaving the whole black community above troubled

and worried and full of bodings; but he came back white and joyful, and

the game was made! another triumph scored.

It was a good campaign that we made in that Valley of Holiness, and I

was very well satisfied, and ready to move on now, but I struck a

disappointment. I caught a heavy cold, and it started up an old lurking

rheumatism of mine. Of course the rheumatism hunted up my weakest place

and located itself there. This was the place where the abbot put his

arms about me and mashed me, what time he was moved to testify his

gratitude to me with an embrace.

When at last I got out. I was a shadow. But everybody was full of

attentions and kindnesses, and these brought cheer back into my life,

and were the right medicine to help a convalescent swiftly up toward

health and strength again; so I gained fast.

Sandy was worn out with nursing, so I made up my mind to turn out and

go a cruise alone, leaving her at the nunnery to rest up. My idea was to

disguise myself as a freeman of peasant degree and wander through the

country a week or two on foot. This would give me a chance to eat and

lodge with the lowliest and poorest class of free citizens on equal

terms. There was no other way to inform myself perfectly of their every-

day life and the operation of the laws upon it. If I went among them as

a gentleman, there would be restraints and conventionalities which would

shut me out from their private joys and troubles, and I should get no

further than the outside shell.

One morning I was out on a long walk to get up muscle for my trip, and

had climbed the ridge which bordered the northern extremity of the

valley, when I came upon an artificial opening in the face of a low

precipice, and recognized it by its location as a hermitage which had

often been pointed out to me from a distance as the den of a hermit of

high renown for dirt and austerity. I knew he had lately been offered a

situation in the Great Sahara, where lions and sandflies made the hermit

life peculiarly attractive and difficult, and had gone to Africa to take

possession, so I thought I would look in and see how the atmosphere of

this den agreed with its reputation.

My surprise was great: the place was newly swept and scoured. Then

there was another surprise. Back in the gloom of the cavern I heard the

clink of a little bell, and then this exclamation:

(r)"Hello, Central! Is this you, Camelot? - Behold, thou mayst glad

thy heart an thou hast faith to believe the wonderful when that it

cometh in unexpected guise and maketh itself manifest in impossible

places- here standeth in the flesh his mightiness The Boss, and with

thine own ears shall ye hear him speak!"

Now what a radical reversal of things this was; what a jumbling

together of extravagant incongruities; what a fantastic conjunction of

opposites and irreconcilables- the home of the bogus miracle become the

home of a real one, the den of a medieval hermit turned into a telephone


The telephone clerk stepped into the light, and I recognized one of my

young fellows. I said:

"How long has this office been established here, Ulfius?"

"But since midnight, fair Sir Boss, an it please you. We saw many

lights in the valley, and so judged it well to make a station, for that

where so many lights be needs must they indicate a town of goodly size."

"Quite right. It isn't a town in the customary sense, but it's a good

stand, anyway. Do you know where you are?"

"Of that I have had no time to make inquiry; for when as my

comradeship moved hence upon their labors, leaving me in charge, I got

me to needed rest, purposing to inquire when I waked, and report the

place's name to Camelot for record."

"Well, this is the Valley of Holiness."

It didn't take; I mean, he didn't start at the name, as I had supposed

he would. He merely said:

"I will so report it."

"Why, the surrounding regions are filled with the noise of late

wonders that have happened here! You didn't hear of them?"

"Ah, ye will remember we move by night, and avoid speech with all. We

learn naught but that we get by the telephone from Camelot."

"Why (r)they know all about this thing. Haven't they told you

anything about the great miracle of the restoration of a holy fountain?"

"Oh, (r)that? Indeed yes. But the name of (r)this valley doth

woundily differ from the name of (r)that one; indeed to differ wider

were not pos-"

"What was that name, then?"

"The Valley of Hellishness."

(r)"That explains it. Confound a telephone, anyway. It is the very

demon for conveying similarities of sound that are miracles of

divergence from similarity of sense. But no matter, you know the name of

the place now. Call up Camelot."

He did it, and had Clarence sent for. It was good to hear my boy's

voice again. It was like being home. After some affectionate

interchanges, and some account of my late illness, I said:

"What is new?"

"The king and queen and many of the court do start even in this hour,

to go to your valley to pay pious homage to the waters ye have restored,

and cleanse themselves of sin, and see the place where the infernal

spirit spouted true hell-flames to the clouds- an ye listen sharply ye

may hear me wink and hear me likewise smile, sith 'twas I that made

selection of those flames from out our stock and sent them by your


"Does the king know the way to this place?"

"The king?- no, nor to any other in his realms, mayhap; but the lads

that help you with your miracle will be his guide and lead the way, and

appoint the places for rests at noon and sleeps at night."

"This will bring them here- when?"

"Mid-afternoon, or later, the third day."

"Anything else in the way of news?"

"The king hath begun the raising of the standing army ye suggested to

him; one regiment is complete and officered."

"The mischief! I wanted a main hand in that myself. There is only one

body of men in the kingdom that are fitted to officer a regular army."

"Yes- and now ye will marvel to know there's not so much as one West-

Pointer in that regiment."

"What are you talking about? Are you in earnest?"

"It is truly as I have said."

"Why, this makes me uneasy. Who were chosen, and what was the method?

Competitive examination?"

"Indeed, I know naught of the method. I but know this- these officers

be all of noble family, and are born- what is it you call it?- chuckle-


"There's something wrong, Clarence."

"Comfort yourself, then; for two candidates for a lieutenancy do

travel hence with the king- young nobles both- and if you but wait where

you are you will hear them questioned."

"That is news to the purpose. I will get one West-Pointer in, anyway.

Mount a man and send him to that school with a message; let him kill

horses, if necessary, but he must be there before sunset tonight and


"There is no need. I have laid a ground-wire to the school. Prithee

let me connect you with it."

It sounded good! In this atmosphere of telephones and lightning

communication with distant regions, I was breathing the breath of life

again after long suffocation. I realized, then, what a creepy, dull,

inanimate horror this land had been to me all these years, and how I had

been in such a stifled condition of mind as to have grown used to it

almost beyond the power to notice it.

I gave my order to the superintendent of the Academy personally. I

also asked him to bring me some paper and a fountain-pen and a box or so

of safety matches. I was getting tired of doing without these

conveniences. I could have them now, as I wasn't going to wear armor any

more at present, and therefore could get at my pockets.

When I got back to the monastery, I found a thing of interest going

on. The abbot and his monks were assembled in the great hall, observing

with childish wonder and faith the performances of a new magician, a

fresh arrival. His dress was the extreme of the fantastic; as showy and

foolish as the sort of thing an Indian medicine-man wears. He was

mowing, and mumbling, and gesticulating, and drawing mystical figures in

the air and on the floor- the regular thing, you know. He was a

celebrity from Asia- so he said, and that was enough. That sort of

evidence was as good as gold, and passed current everywhere.

How easy and cheap it was to be a great magician on this fellow's

terms. His specialty was to tell you what any individual on the face of

the globe was doing at the moment; and what he had done at any time in

the past, and what he would do at any time in the future. He asked if

any would like to know what the Emperor of the East was doing now? The

sparkling eyes and the delighted rubbing of hands made eloquent answer-

this reverend crowd (r)would like to know what that monarch was at,

just at this moment. The fraud went through some more mummery, and then

made grave announcement:

"The high and mighty Emperor of the East doth at this moment put money

in the palm of a holy begging friar- one, two, three pieces, and they be

all of silver."

A buzz of admiring exclamations broke out, all around:

"It is marvelous!" "Wonderful!" "What study, what labor, to have

acquired a so amazing power as this!"

Would they like to know what the Supreme Lord of Inde was doing? Yes.

He told them what the Supreme Lord of Inde was doing. Then he told them

what the Sultan of Egypt was at; also what the King of the Remote Seas

was about. And so on and so on; and with each new marvel the

astonishment at his accuracy rose higher and higher. They thought he

must surely strike an uncertain place some time; but no, he never had to

hesitate, he always knew, and always with unerring precision. I saw that

if this thing went on I should lose my supremacy, this fellow would

capture my following, I should be left out in the cold. I must put a cog

in his wheel, and do it right away, too. I said:

"If I might ask, I should very greatly like to know what a certain

person is doing."

"Speak, and freely. I will tell you."

"It will be difficult- perhaps impossible."

"My art knoweth not that word. The more difficult it is, the more

certainly will I reveal it to you."

You see, I was working up the interest. It was getting pretty high,

too; you could see that by the craning necks all around, and the half-

suspended breathing. So now I climaxed it:

"If you make no mistake- if you tell me truly what I want to know- I

will give you two hundred silver pennies."

"The fortune is mine! I will tell you what you would know."

"Then tell me what I am doing with my right hand."

"Ah-h!" There was a general gasp of surprise. It had not occurred to

anybody in the crowd- that simple trick of inquiring about somebody who

wasn't ten thousand miles away. The magician was hit hard; it was an

emergency that had never happened in his experience before, and it

corked him; he didn't know how to meet it. He looked stunned, confused;

he couldn't say a word. "Come," I said, "what are you waiting for? Is it

possible you can answer up, right off, and tell what anybody on the

other side of the earth is doing, and yet can't tell what a person is

doing who isn't three yards from you? Persons behind me know what I am

doing with my right hand- they will indorse you if you tell correctly."

He was still dumb. "Very well, I'll tell you why you don't speak up and

tell; it is because you don't know. (r)You a magician! Good friends,

this tramp is a mere fraud and liar."

This distressed the monks and terrified them. They were not used to

hearing these awful beings called names, and they did not know what

might be the consequence. There was a dead silence now; superstitious

bodings were in every mind. The magician began to pull his wits

together, and when he presently smiled an easy, nonchalant smile, it

spread a mighty relief around; for it indicated that his mood was not

destructive. He said:

"It hath struck me speechless, the frivolity of this person's speech.

Let all know, if perchance there be any who know it not, that enchanters

of my degree deign not to concern themselves with the doings of any but

kings, princes, emperors, them that be born in the purple and them only.

Had ye asked me what Arthur the great king is doing, it were another

matter, and I had told ye; but the doings of a subject interest me not."

"Oh, I misunderstood you. I thought you said 'anybody,' and so I

supposed 'anybody' included- well, anybody; that is, everybody."

"It doth- anybody that is of lofty birth; and the better if he be


"That, it meseemeth, might well be," said the abbot, who saw his

opportunity to smooth things and avert disaster, "for it were not likely

that so wonderful a gift as this would be conferred for the revelation

of the concerns of lesser beings than such as be born near to the

summits of greatness. Our Arthur the king-"

"Would you know of him?" broke in the enchanter.

"Most gladly, yea, and gratefully."

Everybody was full of awe and interest again right away, the

incorrigible idiots. They watched the incantations absorbingly, and

looked at me with a "There, now, what can you say to that?" air, when

the announcement came:

"The king is weary with the chase, and lieth in his palace these two

hours sleeping a dreamless sleep."

"God's benison upon him!" said the abbot, and crossed himself; "may

that sleep be to the refreshment of his body and his soul."

"And so it might be, if he were sleeping," I said, "but the king is

not sleeping, the king rides."

Here was trouble again- a conflict of authority. Nobody knew which of

us to believe; I still had some reputation left. The magician's scorn

was stirred, and he said:

"Lo, I have seen many wonderful soothsayers and prophets and magicians

in my life days, but none before that could sit idle and see to the

heart of things with never an incantation to help."

"You have lived in the woods, and lost much by it. I use incantations

myself, as this good brotherhood are aware- but only on occasions of


When it comes to sarcasming, I reckon I know how to keep my end up.

That jab made this fellow squirm. The abbot inquired after the queen and

the court, and got this information:

"They be all on sleep, being overcome by fatigue, like as to the


I said:

"That is merely another lie. Half of them are about their amusements,

the queen and the other half are not sleeping, they ride. Now perhaps

you can spread yourself a little, and tell us where the king and queen

and all that are this moment riding with them are going?"

"They sleep now, as I said; but on the morrow they will ride, for they

go a journey toward the sea."

"And where will they be the day after to-morrow at vespers?"

"Far to the north of Camelot, and half their journey will be done."

"That is another lie, by the space of a hundred and fifty miles. Their

journey will not be merely half done, it will be all done, and they will

be (r)here, in this valley."

(r)That was a noble shot! It set the abbot and the monks in a whirl

of excitement, and it rocked the enchanter to his base. I followed the

thing right up:

"If the king does not arrive, I will have myself ridden on a rail: if

he does I will ride you on a rail instead."

Next day I went up to the telephone office and found that the king had

passed through two towns that were on the line. I spotted his progress

on the succeeding day in the same way. I kept these matters to myself.

The third day's reports showed that if he kept up his gait he would

arrive by four in the afternoon. There was still no sign anywhere of

interest in his coming; there seemed to be no preparations making to

receive him in state; a strange thing, truly. Only one thing could

explain this: that other magician had been cutting under me, sure. This

was true. I asked a friend of mine, a monk, about it, and he said, yes,

the magician had tried some further enchantments and found out that the

court had concluded to make no journey at all, but stay at home. Think

of that! Observe how much a reputation was worth in such a country.

These people had seen me do the very showiest bit of magic in history,

and the only one within their memory that had a positive value, and yet

here they were, ready to take up with an adventurer who could offer no

evidence of his powers but his mere unproven word.

However, it was not good politics to let the king come without any

fuss and feathers at all, so I went down and drummed up a procession of

pilgrims and smoked out a batch of hermits and started them out at two

o'clock to meet him. And that was the sort of state he arrived in. The

abbot was helpless with rage and humiliation when I brought him out on a

balcony and showed him the head of the state marching in and never a

monk on hand to offer him welcome, and no stir of life or clang of joy-

bell to glad his spirit. He took one look and then flew to rouse out his

forces. The next minute the bells were dinning furiously, and the

various buildings were vomiting monks and nuns, who went swarming in a

rush toward the coming procession; and with them went that magician- and

he was on a rail, too, by the abbot's order; and his reputation was in

the mud, and mine was in the sky again. Yes, a man can keep his trade-

mark current in such a country, but he can't sit around and do it; he

has got to be on deck and attending to business right along.


WHEN the king traveled for change of air, or made a progress, or

visited a distant noble whom he wished to bankrupt with the cost of his

keep, part of the administration moved with him. It was a fashion of the

time. The Commission charged with the examination of candidates for

posts in the army came with the king to the Valley, whereas they could

have transacted their business just as well at home. And although this

expedition was strictly a holiday excursion for the king, he kept some

of his business functions going just the same. He touched for the evil,

as usual; he held court in the gate at sunrise and tried cases, for he

was himself Chief Justice of the King's Bench.

He shone very well in this latter office. He was a wise and humane

judge, and he clearly did his honest best and fairest- according to his

lights. That is a large reservation. His lights- I mean his rearing-

often colored his decisions. Whenever there was a dispute between a

noble or gentleman and a person of lower degree, the king's leanings and

sympathies were for the former class always, whether he suspected it or

not. It was impossible that this should be otherwise. The blunting

effects of slavery upon the slaveholder's moral perceptions are known

and conceded, the world over; and a privileged class, an aristocracy, is

but a band of slaveholders under another name. This has a harsh sound,

and yet should not be offensive to any- even to the noble himself-

unless the fact itself be an offense: for the statement simply

formulates a fact. The repulsive feature of slavery is the (r)thing,

not its name. One needs but to hear an aristocrat speak of the classes

that are below him to recognize- and in but indifferently modified

measure- the very air and tone of the actual slaveholder; and behind

these are the slaveholder's spirit, the slaveholder's blunted feeling.

They are the result of the same cause in both cases: the possessor's old

and inbred custom of regarding himself as a superior being. The king's

judgments wrought frequent injustices, but it was merely the fault of

his training, his natural and unalterable sympathies. He was as unfitted

for a judgeship as would be the average mother for the position of milk-

distributer to starving children in famine-time; her own children would

fare a shade better than the rest.

One very curious case came before the king. A young girl, an orphan,

who had a considerable estate, married a fine young fellow who had

nothing. The girl's property was within a seigniory held by the Church.

The bishop of the diocese, an arrogant scion of the great nobility,

claimed the girl's estate on the ground that she had married privately,

and thus had cheated the Church out of one of its rights as lord of the

seigniory- the one heretofore referred to as (r)le droit du seigneur.

The penalty of refusal or avoidance was confiscation. The girl's defense

was, that the lordship of the seigniory was vested in the bishop, and

the particular right here involved was not transferable, but must be

exercised by the lord himself or stand vacated; and that an older law,

of the Church itself, strictly barred the bishop from exercising it. It

was a very odd case, indeed.

It reminded me of something I had read in my youth about the ingenious

way in which the aldermen of London raised the money that built the

Mansion House. A person who had not taken the Sacrament according to the

Anglican rite could not stand as a candidate for sheriff of London. Thus

Dissenters were ineligible; they could not run if asked, they could not

serve if elected. The aldermen, who without any question were Yankees in

disguise, hit upon this neat device: they passed a bylaw imposing a fine

of L400 upon any one who should refuse to be a candidate for sheriff,

and a fine of L600 upon any person who, after being elected sheriff,

refused to serve. Then they went to work and elected a lot of

Dissenters, one after another, and kept it up until they had collected

L15,000 in fines; and there stands the stately Mansion House to this

day, to keep the blushing citizen in mind of a long past and lamented

day when a band of Yankees slipped into London and played games of the

sort that has given their race a unique and shady reputation among all

truly good and holy peoples that be in the earth.

The girl's case seemed strong to me; the bishop's case was just as

strong. I did not see how the king was going to get out of this hole.

But he got out. I append his decision:

"Truly I find small difficulty here, the matter being even a child's

affair for simpleness. An the young bride had conveyed notice, as in

duty bound, to her feudal lord and proper master and protector the

bishop, she had suffered no loss, for the said bishop could have got a

dispensation making him, for temporary conveniency, eligible to the

exercise of his said right, and thus would she have kept all she had.

Whereas, failing in her first duty, she hath by that failure failed in

all; for whoso, clinging to a rope, severeth it above his hands, must

fall; it being no defense to claim that the rest of the rope is sound,

neither any deliverance from his peril, as he shall find. Pardy, the

woman's case is rotten at the source. It is the decree of the court that

she forfeit to the said lord bishop all her goods, even to the last

farthing that she doth possess, and be thereto mulcted in the costs.


Here was a tragic end to a beautiful honeymoon not yet three months

old. Poor young creatures! They had lived these three months lapped to

the lips in worldly comforts. These clothes and trinkets they were

wearing were as fine and dainty as the shrewdest stretch of the

sumptuary laws allowed to people of their degree; and in these pretty

clothes, she crying on his shoulder, and he trying to comfort her with

hopeful words set to the music of despair, they went from the judgment

seat out into the world homeless, bedless, breadless; why, the very

beggars by the roadsides were not so poor as they.

Well, the king was out of the hole; and on terms satisfactory to the

Church and the rest of the aristocracy, no doubt. Men write many fine

and plausible arguments in support of monarchy, but the fact remains

that where every man in a state has a vote, brutal laws are impossible.

Arthur's people were of course poor material for a republic, because

they had been debased so long by monarchy; and yet even they would have

been intelligent enough to make short work of that law which the king

had just been administering if it had been submitted to their full and

free vote. There is a phrase which has grown so common in the world's

mouth that it has come to seem to have sense and meaning- the sense and

meaning implied when it is used; that is the phrase which refers to this

or that or the other nation as possibly being "capable of self-

government"; and the implied sense of it is, that there has been a

nation somewhere, some time or other, which (r)wasn't capable of it-

wasn't as able to govern itself as some self-appointed specialists were

or would be to govern it. The master minds of all nations, in all ages,

have sprung in affluent multitude from the mass of the nation, and from

the mass of the nation only- not from its privileged classes; and so, no

matter what the nation's intellectual grade was, whether high or low,

the bulk of its ability was in the long ranks of its nameless and its

poor, and so it never saw the day that it had not the material in

abundance whereby to govern itself. Which is to assert an always self-

proven fact: that even the best-governed and most free and most

enlightened monarchy is still behind the best condition attainable by

its people; and that the same is true of kindred governments of lower

grades, all the way down to the lowest.

King Arthur had hurried up the army business altogether beyond my

calculations. I had not supposed he would move in the matter while I was

away; and so I had not mapped out a scheme for determining the merits of

officers; I had only remarked that it would be wise to submit every

candidate to a sharp and searching examination; and privately I meant to

put together a list of military qualifications that nobody could answer

to but my West-Pointers. That ought to have been attended to before I

left; for the king was so taken with the idea of a standing army that he

couldn't wait but must get about it at once, and get up as good a scheme

of examination as he could invent out of his own head.

I was impatient to see what this was; and to show, too, how much more

admirable was the one which I should display to the Examining Board. I

intimated this, gently, to the king, and it fired his curiosity. When

the Board was assembled, I followed him in, and behind us came the

candidates. One of these candidates was a bright young West-Pointer of

mine, and with him were a couple of my West Point professors.

When I saw the Board, I did not know whether to cry or to laugh. The

head of it was the officer known to later centuries as Norroy King-at-

Arms! The two other members were chiefs of bureaus in his department;

and all three were priests, of course; all officials who had to know how

to read and write were priests.

My candidate was called first, out of courtesy to me, and the head of

the Board opened on him with official solemnity:



"Son of?"


"Webster- Webster. H'm- I- my memory faileth to recall the name.



"Weaver!- God keep us!"

The king was staggered, from his summit to his foundations; one clerk

fainted, and the others came near it. The chairman pulled himself

together, and said indignantly:

"It is sufficient. Get you hence."

But I appealed to the king. I begged that my candidate might be

examined. The king was willing, but the Board, who were all well-born

folk, implored the king to spare them the indignity of examining the

weaver's son. I knew they didn't know enough to examine him anyway, so I

joined my prayers to theirs and the king turned the duty over to my

professors. I had had a blackboard prepared, and it was put up now, and

the circus began. It was beautiful to hear the lad lay out the science

of war, and wallow in details of battle and siege, of supply,

transportation, mining and countermining, grand tactics, big strategy

and little strategy, signal service, infantry, cavalry, artillery, and

all about siege-guns, field-guns, Gatling guns, rifled guns, smooth

bores, musket practice, revolver practice- and not a solitary word of it

all could these catfish make head or tail of, you understand- and it was

handsome to see him chalk off mathematical nightmares on the blackboard

that would stump the angels themselves, and do it like nothing, too- all

about eclipses, and comets, and solstices, and constellations, and mean

time, and sidereal time, and dinner-time, and bedtime, and every other

imaginable thing above the clouds or under them that you could harry or

bullyrag an enemy with and make him wish he hadn't come- and when the

boy made his military salute and stood aside at last, I was proud enough

to hug him, and all those other people were so dazed they looked partly

petrified, partly drunk, and wholly caught out and snowed under. I

judged that the cake was ours, and by a large majority.

Education is a great thing. This was the same youth who had come to

West Point so ignorant that when I asked him, "If a general officer

should have a horse shot under him on the field of battle, what ought he

to do?" answered up naively and said:

"Get up and brush himself."

One of the young nobles was called up now. I thought I would question

him a little myself. I said:

"Can your lordship read?"

His face flushed indignantly, and he fired this at me:

"Takest me for a clerk? I trow I am not of a blood that-"

"Answer the question!"

He crowded his wrath down and made out to answer "No."

"Can you write?"

He wanted to resent this, too, but I said:

"You will confine yourself to the questions, and make no comments. You

are not here to air your blood or your graces, and nothing of the sort

will be permitted. Can you write?"


"Do you know the multiplication table?"

"I wit not what ye refer to."

"How much is nine times six?"

"It is a mystery that is hidden from me by reason that the emergency

requiring the fathoming of it hath not in my life-days occurred, and so,

not having no need to know this thing, I abide barren of the knowledge."

"If A trade a barrel of onions to B, worth two-pence the bushel, in

exchange for sheep worth four-pence and a dog worth a penny, and C kill

the dog before delivery, because bitten by the same, who mistook him for

D, what sum is still due to A from B, and which party pays for the dog,

C or D, and who gets the money? If A, is the penny sufficient, or may he

claim consequential damages in the form of additional money to represent

the possible profit which might have inured from the dog, and

classifiable as earned increment, that is to say, usufruct?"

"Verily, in the all-wise and unknowable providence of God, who moveth

in mysterious ways His wonders to perform, have I never heard the fellow

to this question for confusion of the mind and congestion of the ducts

of thought. Wherefore I beseech you let the dog and the onions and these

people of the strange and godless names work out their several

salvations from their piteous and wonderful difficulties without help of

mine, for indeed their trouble is sufficient as it is, whereas an I

tried to help I should but damage their cause the more and yet mayhap

not live myself to see the desolation wrought."

"What do you know of the laws of attraction and gravitation?"

"If there be such, mayhap his grace the king did promulgate them

whilst that I lay sick about the beginning of the year and thereby

failed to hear his proclamation."

"What do you know of the science of optics?"

"I know of governors of places, and seneschals of castles, and

sheriffs of counties, and many like small offices and titles of honor,

but him you call the Science of Optics I have not heard of before;

peradventure it is a new dignity."

"Yes, in this country."

Try to conceive of this mollusk gravely applying for an official

position, of any kind under the sun! Why, he had all the earmarks of a

typewriter copyist, if you leave out the disposition to contribute

uninvited emendations of your grammar and punctuation. It was

unaccountable that he didn't attempt a little help of that sort out of

his majestic supply of incapacity for the job. But that didn't prove

that he hadn't material in him for the disposition, it only proved that

he wasn't a typewriter copyist yet. After nagging him a little more, I

let the professors loose on him and they turned him inside out, on the

line of scientific war, and found him empty, of course. He knew somewhat

about the warfare of the time- bushwhacking around for ogres, and bull-

fights in the tournament ring, and such things- but otherwise he was

empty and useless. Then we took the other young noble in hand, and he

was the first one's twin, for ignorance and incapacity. I delivered them

into the hands of the chairman of the Board with the comfortable

consciousness that their cake was dough. They were examined in the

previous order of precedence.

"Name, so please you?"

"Pertipole, son of Sir Pertipole, Baron of Barley Mash."


"Also Sir Pertipole, Baron of Barley Mash."


"The same name and title."


"We had none, worshipful sir. the line failing before it had reached

so far back."

"It mattereth not. It is a good four generations, and fulfilleth the

requirements of the rule."

"Fulfils what rule?" I asked.

"The rule requiring four generations of nobility or else the candidate

is not eligible."

"A man not eligible for a lieutenancy in the army unless he can prove

four generations of noble descent?"

"Even so; neither lieutenant nor any other office may be commissioned

without that qualification."

"Oh, come, this is an astonishing thing. What good is such a

qualification as that?"

"What good? It is a hardy question, fair sir and Boss, since it doth

go far to impugn the wisdom of even our holy Mother Church herself."

"As how?"

"For that she hath established the selfsame rule regarding saints. By

her law none may be canonized until he hath lain dead four generations."

"I see, I see- it is the same thing. It is wonderful. In the one case

a man lies dead-alive four generations- mummified in ignorance and

sloth- and that qualifies him to command live people, and take their

weal and woe into his impotent hands; and in the other case, a man lies

bedded with death and worms four generations, and that qualifies him for

office in the celestial camp. Does the king's grace approve of this

strange law?"

The king said:

"Why, truly I see naught about it that is strange. All places of honor

and of profit do belong, by natural right, to them that be of noble

blood, and so these dignities in the army are their property and would

be so without this or any rule. The rule is but to mark a limit. Its

purpose is to keep out too recent blood, which would bring into contempt

these offices, and men of lofty lineage would turn their backs and scorn

to take them. I were to blame an I permitted this calamity. (r)You can

permit it an you are minded so to do, for you have the delegated

authority, but that the king should do it were a most strange madness

and not comprehensible to any."

"I yield. Proceed, sir Chief of the Herald's College."

The chairman resumed as follows:

"By what illustrious achievement for the honor of the Throne and state

did the founder of your great line lift himself to the sacred dignity of

the British nobility?"

"He built a brewery."

"Sire, the Board finds this candidate perfect in all the requirements

and qualifications for military command, and doth hold his case open for

decision after due examination of his competitor."

The competitor came forward and proved exactly four generations of

nobility himself. So there was a tie in military qualifications that


He stood aside a moment, and Sir Pertipole was questioned further:

"Of what condition was the wife of the founder of your line?"

"She came of the highest landed gentry, yet she was not noble; she was

gracious and pure and charitable, of a blameless life and character,

insomuch that in these regards was she peer of the best lady in the


"That will do. Stand down." He called up the competing lordling again,

and asked: "What was the rank and condition of the great-grandmother

who, conferred British nobility upon your great house?"

"She was a king's leman and did climb to that splendid eminence by her

own unholpen merit from the sewer where she was born."

"Ah, this, indeed, is true nobility, this is the right and perfect

intermixture. The lieutenancy is yours, fair lord. Hold it not in

contempt; it is the humble step which will lead to grandeurs more worthy

of the splendor of an origin like to thine."

I was down in the bottomless pit of humiliation. I had promised myself

an easy and zenith-scouring triumph, and this was the outcome!

I was almost ashamed to look my poor disappointed cadet in the face. I

told him to go home and be patient, this wasn't the end.

I had a private audience with the king, and made a proposition. I said

it was quite right to officer that regiment with nobilities, and he

couldn't have done a wiser thing. It would also be a good idea to add

five hundred officers to it; in fact, add as many officers as there were

nobles and relatives of nobles in the country, even if there should

finally be five times as many officers as privates in it; and thus make

it the crack regiment, the envied regiment, the King's Own regiment, and

entitled to fight on its own hook and in its own way, and go whither it

would and come when it pleased, in time of war, and be utterly swell and

independent. This would make that regiment the heart's desire of all the

nobility, and they would all be satisfied and happy. Then we would make

up the rest of the standing army out of commonplace materials, and

officer it with nobodies, as was proper- nobodies selected on a basis of

mere efficiency- and we would make this regiment toe the line, allow it

no aristocratic freedom from restraint, and force it to do all the work

and persistent hammering, to the end that whenever the King's Own was

tired and wanted to go off for a change and rummage around amongst ogres

and have a good time, it could go without uneasiness, knowing that

matters were in safe hands behind it, and business going to be continued

at the old stand, same as usual. The king was charmed with the idea.

When I noticed that, it gave me a valuable notion. I thought I saw my

way out of an old and stubborn difficulty at last. You see, the

royalties of the Pendragon stock were a long-lived race and very

fruitful. Whenever a child was born to any of these- and it was pretty

often- there was wild joy in the nation's mouth, and piteous sorrow in

the nation's heart. The joy was questionable, but the grief was honest.

Because the event meant another call for a Royal Grant. Long was the

list of these royalties, and they were a heavy and steadily increasing

burden upon the treasury and a menace to the crown. Yet Arthur could not

believe this latter fact, and he would not listen to any of my various

projects for substituting something in the place of the royal grants. If

I could have persuaded him to now and then provide a support for one of

these outlying scions from his own pocket, I could have made a grand to-

do over it, and it would have had a good effect with the nation; but no,

he wouldn't hear of such a thing. He had something like a religious

passion for royal grant; he seemed to look upon it as a sort of sacred

swag, and one could not irritate him in any way so quickly and so surely

as by an attack upon that venerable institution. If I ventured to

cautiously hint that there was not another respectable family in England

that would humble itself to hold out the hat- however, that is as far as

I ever got; he always cut me short there, and peremptorily, too.

But I believed I saw my chance at last. I would form this crack

regiment out of officers alone- not a single private. Half of it should

consist of nobles, who should fill all the places up to Major-General,

and serve gratis and pay their own expenses; and they would be glad to

do this when they should learn that the rest of the regiment would

consist exclusively of princes of the blood. These princes of the blood

should range in rank from Lieutenant-General up to Field Marshal, and be

gorgeously salaried and equipped and fed by the state. Moreover- and

this was the master stroke- it should be decreed that these princely

grandees should be always addressed by a stunningly gaudy and awe-

compelling title which I would presently invent), and they and they only

in all England should be so addressed. Finally, all princes of the blood

should have free choice; join that regiment, get that great title, and

renounce the royal grant, or stay out and receive a grant. Neatest touch

of all: unborn but imminent princes of the blood could be (r)born into

the regiment, and start fair, with good wages and a permanent situation,

upon due notice from the parents.

All the boys would join, I was sure of that; so, all existing grants

would be relinquished; that the newly born would always join was equally

certain. Within sixty days that quaint and bizarre anomaly, the Royal

Grant, would cease to be a living fact, and take its place among the

curiosities of the past.


WHEN I told the king I was going out disguised as a petty freeman to

scour the country and familiarize myself with the humbler life of the

people, he was all afire with the novelty of the thing in a minute, and

was bound to take a chance in the adventure himself- nothing should stop

him- he would drop everything and go along- it was the prettiest idea he

had run across for many a day. He wanted to glide out the back way and

start at once; but I showed him that that wouldn't answer. You see, he

was billed for the king's-evil- to touch for it, I mean- and it wouldn't

be right to disappoint the house; and it wouldn't make a delay worth

considering, anyway, it was only a one-night stand. And I thought he

ought to tell the queen he was going away. He clouded up at that and

looked sad. I was sorry I had spoken, especially when he said


"Thou forgettest that Launcelot is here; and where Launcelot is, she

noteth not the going forth of the king, nor what day he returneth."

Of course, I changed the subject. Yes, Guenever was beautiful, it is

true, but take her all around she was pretty slack. I never meddled in

these matters, they weren't my affair, but I did hate to see the way

things were going on, and I don't mind saying that much. Many's the time

she had asked me, "Sir Boss, hast seen Sir Launcelot about?" but if ever

she went fretting around for the king I didn't happen to be around at

the time.

There was a very good lay-out for the king's-evil business- very tidy

and creditable. The king sat under a canopy of state; about him were

clustered a large body of the clergy in full canonicals. Conspicuous,

both for location and personal outfit, stood Marinel, a hermit of the

quack-doctor species, to introduce the sick. All abroad over the

spacious floor, and clear down to the doors, in a thick jumble, lay or

sat the scrofulous, under a strong light. It was as good as a tableau;

in fact, it had all the look of being gotten up for that, though it

wasn't. There were eight hundred sick people present. The work was slow;

it lacked the interest of novelty for me, because I had seen the

ceremonies before; the thing soon became tedious, but the proprieties

required me to stick it out. The doctor was there for the reason that in

all such crowds there were many people who only imagined something was

the matter with them, and many who were consciously sound but wanted the

immortal honor of fleshly contact with a king, and yet others who

pretended to illness in order to get the piece of coin that went with

the touch. Up to this time this coin had been a wee little gold piece

worth about a third of a dollar. When you consider how much that amount

of money would buy, in that age and country, and how usual it was to be

scrofulous, when not dead, you would understand that the annual king's-

evil appropriation was just the River and Harbor bill of that government

for the grip it took on the treasury and the chance it afforded for

skinning the surplus. So I had privately concluded to touch the treasury

itself for the king's-evil. I covered six-sevenths of the appropriation

into the treasury a week before starting from Camelot on my adventures,

and ordered that the other seventh be inflated into five-cent nickels

and delivered into the hands of the head clerk of the King's Evil

Department; a nickel to take the place of each gold coin, you see, and

do its work for it. It might strain the nickel some, but I judged it

could stand it. As a rule, I do not approve of watering stock, but I

considered it square enough in this case, for it was just a gift,

anyway. Of course, you can water a gift as much as you want to; and I

generally do. The old gold and silver coins of the country were of

ancient and unknown origin, as a rule, but some of them were Roman; they

were ill-shapen, and seldom rounder than a moon that is a week past the

full; they were hammered, not minted, and they were so worn with use

that the devices upon them were as illegible as blisters, and looked

like them. I judged that a sharp, bright new nickel, with a first-rate

likeness of the king on one side of it and Guenever on the other, and a

blooming pious motto, would take the tuck out of scrofula as handy as a

nobler coin and please the scrofulous fancy more; and I was right. This

batch was the first it was tried on, and it worked to a charm. The

saving in expense was a notable economy. You will see that by these

figures: We touched a trifle over seven hundred of the eight hundred

patients; at former rates, this would have cost the government about two

hundred and forty dollars; at the new rate we pulled through for about

thirty-five dollars, thus saving upward of two hundred dollars at one

swoop. To appreciate the full magnitude of this stroke, consider these

other figures: the annual expenses of a national government amount to

the equivalent of a contribution of three days' average wages of every

individual of the population, counting every individual as if he were a

man. If you take a nation of sixty millions, where average wages are two

dollars per day, three days' wages taken from each individual will

provide three hundred and sixty million dollars and pay the government's

expenses. In my day, in my own country, this money was collected from

imposts, and the citizen imagined that the foreign importer paid it, and

it made him comfortable to think so; whereas, in fact, it was paid by

the American people, and was so equally and exactly distributed among

them that the annual cost to the one-hundred-millionaire and the annual

cost to the sucking child of the day-laborer was precisely the same-

each paid six dollars. Nothing could be equaler than that, I reckon.

Well, Scotland and Ireland were tributary to Arthur, and the united

populations of the British Islands amounted to something less than one

million. A mechanic's average wage was three cents a day, when he paid

his own keep. By this rule the national government's expenses were

ninety thousand dollars a year, or about two hundred and fifty dollars a

day. Thus, by the substitution of nickels for gold on a king's-evil day,

I not only injured no one, dissatisfied no one, but pleased all

concerned and saved four-fifths of that day's national expense into the

bargain- a saving which would have been the equivalent of eight hundred

thousand dollars in my day in America. In making this substitution I had

drawn upon the wisdom of a very remote source- the wisdom of my boyhood-

for the true statesman does not despise any wisdom, howsoever lowly may

be its origin: in my boyhood I had always saved my pennies and

contributed buttons to the foreign missionary cause. The buttons would

answer the ignorant savage as well as the coin, the coin would answer me

better than the buttons; all hands were happy and nobody hurt.

Marinel took the patients as they came. He examined the candidate; if

he couldn't qualify he was warned off; if he could he was passed along

to the king. A priest pronounced the words, "They shall lay their hands

on the sick, and they shall recover." Then the king stroked the ulcers,

while the reading continued; finally, the patient graduated and got his

nickel- the king hanging it around his neck himself- and was dismissed.

Would you think that that would cure? It certainly did. Any mummery will

cure if the patient's faith is strong in it. Up by Astolat there was a

chapel where the Virgin had once appeared to a girl who used to herd

geese around there- the girl said so herself- and they built the chapel

upon that spot and hung a picture in it representing the occurrence- a

picture which you would think it dangerous for a sick person to

approach; whereas, on the contrary, thousands of the lame and the sick

came and prayed before it every year and went away whole and sound; and

even the well could look upon it and live. Of course, when I was told

these things I did not believe them; but when I went there and saw them

I had to succumb. I saw the cures effected myself; and they were real

cures and not questionable. I saw cripples whom I had seen around

Camelot for years on crutches, arrive and pray before that picture, and

put down their crutches and walk off without a limp. There were piles of

crutches there which had been left by such people as a testimony.

In other places people operated on a patient's mind, without saying a

word to him, and cured him. In others, experts assembled patients in a

room and prayed over them, and appealed to their faith, and those

patients went away cured. Wherever you find a king who can't cure the

king's-evil you can be sure that the most valuable superstition that

supports his throne- the subject's belief in the divine appointment of

his sovereign- has passed away. In my youth the monarchs of England had

ceased to touch for the evil, but there was no occasion for this

diffidence: they could have cured it forty-nine times in fifty.

Well, when the priest had been droning for three hours, and the good

king polishing the evidences, and the sick were still pressing forward

as plenty as ever, I got to feeling intolerably bored. I was sitting by

an open window not far from the canopy of state. For the five hundredth

time a patient stood forward to have his repulsivenesses stroked; again

those words were being droned out: "they shall lay their hands on the

sick"- when outside there rang clear as a clarion a note that enchanted

my soul and tumbled thirteen worthless centuries about my ears: "Camelot

(r)Weekly Hosannah and Literary Volcano! - latest irruption- only two

cents- all about the big miracle in the Valley of Holiness!" One greater

than kings had arrived- the newsboy. But I was the only person in all

that throng who knew the meaning of this mighty birth, and what this

imperial magician was come into the world to do.

I dropped a nickel out of the window and got my paper; the Adam-

newsboy of the world went around the corner to get my change; is around

the corner yet. It was delicious to see a newspaper again, yet I was

conscious of a secret shock when my eye fell upon the first batch of

display head-lines. I had lived in a clammy atmosphere of reverence,

respect, deference, so long that they sent a quivery little cold wave

through me:









But t he Boss scores on his first Innings!


(r)The Miraculous Well Uncorked amid

(r)awful outbursts of








-and so on, and so on. Yes, it was too loud. Once I could have enjoyed

it and seen nothing out of the way about it, but now its note was

discordant. It was good Arkansas journalism, but this was not Arkansas.

Moreover, the next to the last line was calculated to give offense to

the hermits, and perhaps lose us their advertising. Indeed, there was

too lightsome a tone of flippancy all through the paper. It was plain I

had undergone a considerable change without noticing it. I found myself

unpleasantly affected by pert little irreverencies which would have

seemed but proper and airy graces of speech at an earlier period of my

life. There was an abundance of the following breed of items, and they

discomforted me:

(See Illustration)

Of course it was good enough journalism for a beginning; I knew that

quite well, and yet it was somehow disappointing. The "Court Circular"

pleased me better; indeed, its simple and dignified respectfulness was a

distinct refreshment to me after all those disgraceful familiarities.

But even it could have been improved. Do what one may, there is no

getting an air of variety into a court circular, I acknowledge that.

There is a profound monotonousness about its facts that baffles and

defeats one's sincerest efforts to make them sparkle and enthuse. The

best way to manage- in fact, the only sensible way- is to disguise

repetitiousness of fact under variety of form: skin your fact each time

and lay on a new cuticle of words. It deceives the eye; you think it is

a new fact; it gives you the idea that the court is carrying on like

everything; this excites you, and you drain the whole column, with a

good appetite, and perhaps never notice that it's a barrel of soup made

out of a single bean. Clarence's way was good, it was simple, it was

dignified, it was direct and businesslike; all I say is, it was not the

best way:


On Monday, the King rode in the park.

" Tuesday, " " "

" Wendesday " " "

" Thursday " " "

" Friday, " " "

" Saturday " " "

" Sunday, " " "

However, take the paper by and large, I was vastly pleased with it.

Little crudities of a mechanical sort were observable here and there,

but there were not enough of them to amount to anything, and it was good

enough Arkansas proof-reading, anyhow, and better than was needed in

Arthur's day and realm. As a rule, the grammar was leaky and the

construction more or less lame; but I did not much mind these things.

They are common defects of my own, and one mustn't criticize other

people on grounds where he can't stand perpendicular himself.

I was hungry enough for literature to want to take down the whole

paper at this one meal, but I got only a few bites, and then had to

postpone, because the monks around me besieged me so with eager

questions: What is this curious thing? What is it for? Is it a

handkerchief?- saddle-blanket?- part of a shirt? What is it made of? How

thin it is, and how dainty and frail; and how it rattles. Will it wear,

do you think, and won't the rain injure it? Is it writing that appears

on it, or is it only ornamentation? They suspected it was writing,

because those among them who knew how to read Latin and had a smattering

of Greek, recognized some of the letters, but they could make nothing

out of the result as a whole. I put my information in the simplest form

I could:

"It is a public journal; I will explain what that is, another time. It

is not cloth, it is made of paper; some time I will explain what paper

is. The lines on it are reading-matter; and not written by hand, but

printed; by and by I will explain what printing is. A thousand of these

sheets have been made, all exactly like this, in every minute detail-

they can't be told apart." Then they all broke out with exclamations of

surprise and admiration:

"A thousand! Verily a mighty work- a year's work for many men."

"No- merely a day's work for a man and a boy."

They crossed themselves, and whiffed out a protective prayer or two.

"Ah-h- a miracle, a wonder! Dark work of enchantment."

I let it go at that. Then I read in a low voice, to as many as could

crowd their shaven heads within hearing distance, part of the account of

the miracle of the restoration of the well, and was accompanied by

astonished and reverent ejaculations all through: "Ah-h-h!" "How true!"

"Amazing, amazing!" "These be the very haps as they happened, in

marvelous exactness!" And might they take this strange thing in their

hands, and feel of it and examine it?- they would be very careful. Yes.

So they took it, handling it as cautiously and devoutly as if it had

been some holy thing come from some supernatural region; and gently felt

of its texture, caressed its pleasant smooth surface with lingering

touch, and scanned the mysterious characters with fascinated eyes. These

grouped bent heads, these charmed faces, these speaking eyes- how

beautiful to me! For was not this my darling, and was not all this mute

wonder and interest and homage a most eloquent tribute and unforced

compliment to it? I knew, then, how a mother feels when women, whether

strangers or friends, take her new baby, and close themselves about it

with one eager impulse, and bend their heads over it in a tranced

adoration that makes all the rest of the universe vanish out of their

consciousness and be as if it were not, for that time. I knew how she

feels, and that there is no other satisfied ambition, whether of king,

conqueror, or poet, that ever reaches half-way to that serene far summit

or yields half so divine a contentment.

During all the rest of the seance my paper traveled from group to

group all up and down and about that huge hall, and my happy eye was

upon it always, and I sat motionless, steeped in satisfaction, drunk

with enjoyment. Yes, this was heaven; I was tasting it once, if I might

never taste it more.


ABOUT bedtime I took the king to my private quarters to cut his hair

and help him get the hang of the lowly raiment he was to wear. The high

classes wore their hair banged across the forehead but hanging to the

shoulders the rest of the way around, whereas the lowest ranks of

commoners were banged fore and aft both; the slaves were bangless, and

allowed their hair free growth. So I inverted a bowl over his head and

cut away all the locks that hung below it. I also trimmed his whiskers

and mustache until they were only about a half-inch long; and tried to

do it inartistically, and succeeded. It was a villainous disfigurement.

When he got his lubberly sandals on, and his long robe of coarse brown

linen cloth, which hung straight from his neck to his anklebones, he was

no longer the comeliest man in his kingdom, but one of the unhandsomest

and most commonplace and unattractive. We were dressed and barbered

alike, and could pass for small farmers, or farm bailiffs, or shepherds,

or carters; yes, or for village artisans, if we chose, our costume being

in effect universal among the poor, because of its strength and

cheapness. I don't mean that it was really cheap to a very poor person,

but I do mean that it was the cheapest material there was for male

attire- manufactured material, you understand.

We slipped away an hour before dawn, and by broad sun-up had made

eight or ten miles, and were in the midst of a sparsely settled country.

I had a pretty heavy knapsack; it was laden with provisions- provisions

for the king to taper down on till he could take to the coarse fare of

the country without damage.

I found a comfortable seat for the king by the roadside, and then gave

him a morsel or two to stay his stomach with. Then I said I would find

some water for him, and strolled away. Part of my project was to get out

of sight and sit down and rest a little myself. It had always been my

custom to stand when in his presence; even at the council board, except

upon those rare occasions when the sitting was a very long one,

extending over hours; then I had a trifling little backless thing which

was like a reversed culvert and was as comfortable as the toothache. I

didn't want to break him in suddenly, but do it by degrees. We should

have to sit together now when in company, or people would notice; but it

would not be good politics for me to be playing equality with him when

there was no necessity for it.

I found the water some three hundred yards away, and had been resting

about twenty minutes, when I heard voices. That is all right, I thought-

peasants going to work; nobody else likely to be stirring this early.

But the next moment these comers jingled into sight around a turn of the

road- smartly clad people of quality, with luggage-mules and servants in

their train! I was off like a shot, through the bushes by the shortest

cut. For a while it did seem that these people would pass the king

before I could get to him; but desperation gives you wings, you know,

and I canted my body forward, inflated my breast, and held my breath and

flew. I arrived. And in plenty good enough time, too.

"Pardon, my king, but it's no time for ceremony- jump! Jump to your

feet- some quality are coming!"

"Is that a marvel? Let them come."

"But my liege! You must not be seen sitting. Rise!- and stand in

humble posture while they pass. You are a peasant, you know."

"True- I had forgot it, so lost was I in planning of a huge war with

Gaul"- he was up by this time, but a farm could have got up quicker, if

there was any kind of a boom in real estate- "and right-so a thought

came randoming overthwart this majestic dream the which-"

"A humbler attitude, my lord the king- and quick! Duck your head!-

more!- still more!- droop it!"

He did his honest best, but lord, it was no great things. He looked as

humble as the leaning tower at Pisa. It is the most you could say of it.

Indeed, it was such a thundering poor success that it raised wondering

scowls all along the line, and a gorgeous flunkey at the tail end of it

raised his whip; but I jumped in time and was under it when it fell; and

under cover of the volley of coarse laughter which followed, I spoke up

sharply and warned the king to take no notice. He mastered himself for

the moment, but it was a sore tax; he wanted to eat up the procession. I


"It would end our adventures at the very start; and we, being without

weapons, could do nothing with that armed gang. If we are going to

succeed in our emprise, we must not only look the peasant but act the


"It is wisdom; none can gainsay it. Let us go on, Sir Boss. I will

take note and learn, and do the best I may."

He kept his word. He did the best he could, but I've seen better. If

you have ever seen an active, heedless, enterprising child going

diligently out of one mischief and into another all day long, and an

anxious mother at its heels all the while, and just saving it by a hair

from drowning itself or breaking its neck with each new experiment,

you've seen the king and me.

If I could have foreseen what the thing was going to be like, I should

have said, No, if anybody wants to make his living exhibiting a king as

a peasant, let him take the layout; I can do better with a menagerie,

and last longer. And yet, during the first three days I never allowed

him to enter a hut or other dwelling. If he could pass muster anywhere

during his early novitiate, it would be in small inns and on the road;

so to these places we confined ourselves. Yes, he certainly did the best

he could, but what of that? He didn't improve a bit that I could see.

He was always frightening me, always breaking out with fresh

astonishers, in new and unexpected places. Toward evening on the second

day, what does he do but blandly fetch out a dirk from inside his robe!

"Great guns, my liege, where did you get that?"

"From a smuggler at the inn, yester eve."

"What in the world possessed you to buy it?"

"We have escaped divers dangers by wit- thy wit- but I have bethought

me that it were but prudence if I bore a weapon, too. Thine might fail

thee in some pinch."

"But people of our condition are not allowed to carry arms. What would

a lord say- yes, or any other person of whatever condition- if he caught

an upstart peasant with a dagger on his person?"

It was a lucky thing for us that nobody came along just then. I

persuaded him to throw the dirk away; and it was as easy as persuading a

child to give up some bright fresh new way of killing itself. We walked

along, silent and thinking. Finally the king said:

"When ye know that I meditate a thing inconvenient, or that hath a

peril in it, why do you not warn me to cease from that project?"

It was a startling question, and a puzzler. I didn't quite know how to

take hold of it, or what to say, and so, of course, I ended by saying

the natural thing:

"But, sire, how can (r)I know what your thoughts are?"

The king stopped dead in his tracks, and stared at me.

"I believed thou wert greater than Merlin; and truly in magic thou

art. But prophecy is greater than magic. Merlin is a prophet."

I saw I had made a blunder. I must get back my lost ground. After a

deep reflection and careful planning, I said:

"Sire, I have been misunderstood. I will explain. There are two kinds

of prophecy. One is the gift to foretell things that are but a little

way off, the other is the gift to foretell things that are whole ages

and centuries away. Which is the mightier gift, do you think?"

"Oh, the last, most surely!"

"True. Does Merlin possess it?"

"Partly, yes. He foretold mysteries about my birth and future kingship

that were twenty years away."

"Has he ever gone beyond that?"

"He would not claim more, I think."

"It is probably his limit. All prophets have their limit. The limit of

some of the great prophets has been a hundred years."

"These are few, I ween."

"There have been two still greater ones, whose limit was four hundred

and six hundred years, and one whose limit compassed even seven hundred

and twenty."

"Gramercy, it is marvelous!"

"But what are these in comparison with me? They are nothing."

"What? Canst thou truly look beyond even so vast a stretch of time as-


"Seven hundred years? My liege, as clear as the vision of an eagle

does my prophetic eye penetrate and lay bare the future of this world

for nearly thirteen centuries and a half!"

My land, you should have seen the king's eyes spread slowly open, and

lift the earth's entire atmosphere as much as an inch! That settled Brer

Merlin. One never had any occasion to prove his facts, with these

people; all he had to do was to state them. It never occurred to anybody

to doubt the statement.

"Now, then," I continued, "I (r)could work both kinds of prophecy-

the long and the short- if I chose to take the trouble to keep in

practice; but I seldom exercise any but the long kind, because the other

is beneath my dignity. It is properer to Merlin's sort- stump-tail

prophets, as we call them in the profession. Of course, I whet up now

and then and flirt out a minor prophecy, but not often- hardly ever, in

fact. You will remember that there was great talk, when you reached the

Valley of Holiness, about my having prophesied your coming and the very

hour of your arrival, two or three days beforehand."

"Indeed, yes, I mind it now."

"Well, I could have done it as much as forty times easier, and piled

on a thousand times more detail into the bargain, if it had been five

hundred years away instead of two or three days."

"How amazing that it should be so!"

"Yes, a genuine expert can always foretell a thing that is five

hundred years away easier than he can a thing that's only five hundred

seconds off."

"And yet in reason it should clearly be the other way; it should be

five hundred times as easy to foretell the last as the first, for,

indeed, it is so close by that one uninspired might almost see it. In

truth, the law of prophecy doth contradict the likelihoods, most

strangely making the difficult easy, and the easy difficult."

It was a wise head. A peasant's cap was no safe disguise for it; you

could know it for a king's under a diving-bell, if you could hear it

work its intellect.

I had a new trade now, and plenty of business in it. The king was as

hungry to find out everything that was going to happen during the next

thirteen centuries as if he were expecting to live in them. From that

time out, I prophesied myself bald-headed trying to supply the demand. I

have done some indiscreet things in my day, but this thing of playing

myself for a prophet was the worst. Still, it had its ameliorations. A

prophet doesn't have to have any brains. They are good to have, of

course, for the ordinary exigencies of life, but they are no use in

professional work. It is the restfulest vocation there is. When the

spirit of prophecy comes upon you, you merely cake your intellect and

lay it off in a cool place for a rest, and unship your jaw and leave it

alone; it will work itself: the result is prophecy.

Every day a knight-errant or so came along, and the sight of them

fired the king's martial spirit every time. He would have forgotten

himself, sure, and said something to them in a style a suspicious shade

or so above his ostensible degree, and so I always got him well out of

the road in time. Then he would stand and look with all his eyes; and a

proud light would flash from them, and his nostrils would inflate like a

war-horse's, and I knew he was longing for a brush with them. But about

noon of the third day I had stopped in the road to take a precaution

which had been suggested by the whip-stroke that had fallen to my share

two days before; a precaution which I had afterward decided to leave

untaken, I was so loath to institute it; but now I had just had a fresh

reminder: while striding heedlessly along, with jaw spread and intellect

at rest, for I was prophesying, I stubbed my toe and fell sprawling. I

was so pale I couldn't think for a moment; then I got softly and

carefully up and unstrapped my knapsack. I had that dynamite bomb in it,

done up in wool in a box. It was a good thing to have along; the time

would come when I could do a valuable miracle with it, maybe, but it was

a nervous thing to have about me, and I didn't like to ask the king to

carry it. Yet I must either throw it away or think up some safe way to

get along with its society. I got it out and slipped it into my scrip,

and just then here came a couple of knights. The king stood, stately as

a statue, gazing toward them- had forgotten himself again, of course-

and before I could get a word of warning out, it was time for him to

skip, and well that he did it, too. He supposed they would turn aside.

Turn aside to avoid trampling peasant dirt under foot? When had he ever

turned aside himself- or ever had the chance to do it, if a peasant saw

him or any other noble knight in time to judiciously save him the

trouble? The knights paid no attention to the king at all; it was his

place to look out himself, and if he hadn't skipped he would have been

placidly ridden down, and laughed at besides.

The king was in a flaming fury, and launched out his challenge and

epithets with a most royal vigor. The knights were some little distance

by now. They halted, greatly surprised, and turned in their saddles and

looked back, as if wondering if it might be worth while to bother with

such scum as we. Then they wheeled and started for us. Not a moment must

be lost. I started for (r)them. I passed them at a rattling gait, and

as I went by I flung out a hair-lifting soul-scorching thirteen-jointed

insult which made the king's effort poor and cheap by comparison. I got

it out of the nineteenth century where they know how. They had such

headway that they were nearly to the king before they could check up;

then, frantic with rage, they stood up their horses on their hind hoofs

and whirled them around, and the next moment here they came, breast to

breast. I was seventy yards off, then, and scrambling up a great boulder

at the roadside. When they were within thirty yards of me they let their

long lances droop to a level, depressed their mailed heads, and so, with

their horse-hair plumes streaming straight out behind, most gallant to

see, this lightning express came tearing for me! When they were within

fifteen yards, I sent that bomb with a sure aim, and it struck the

ground under the horses' noses.

Yes, it was a neat thing, very neat and pretty to see. It resembled a

steamboat explosion on the Mississippi; and during the next fifteen

minutes we stood under a steady drizzle of microscopic fragments of

knights and hardware and horse-flesh. I say we, for the king joined the

audience, of course, as soon as he had got his breath again. There was a

hole there which would afford steady work for all the people in that

region for some years to come- in trying to explain it, I mean; as for

filling it up, that service would be comparatively prompt, and would

fall to the lot of a select few- peasants of that seigniory; and they

wouldn't get anything for it, either.

But I explained it to the king myself. I said it was done with a

dynamite bomb. This information did him no damage, because it left him

as intelligent as he was before. However, it was a noble miracle, in his

eyes, and was another settler for Merlin. I thought it well enough to

explain that this was a miracle of so rare a sort that it couldn't be

done except when the atmospheric conditions were just right. Otherwise

he would be encoring it every time we had a good subject, and that would

be inconvenient, because I hadn't any more bombs along.


ON the morning of the fourth day, when it was just sunrise, and we had

been tramping an hour in the chill dawn, I came to a resolution: the

king (r)must be drilled; things could not go on so, he must be taken in

hand and deliberately and conscientiously drilled, or we couldn't ever

venture to enter a dwelling; the very cats would know this masquerader

for a humbug and no peasant. So I called a halt and said:

"Sire, as between clothes and countenance, you are all right, there is

no discrepancy; but as between your clothes and your bearing, you are

all wrong, there is a most noticeable discrepancy. Your soldierly

stride, your lordly port- these will not do. You stand too straight,

your looks are too high, too confident. The cares of a kingdom do not

stoop the shoulders, they do not droop the chin, they do not depress the

high level of the eye-glance, they do not put doubt and fear in the

heart and hang out the signs of them in slouching body and unsure step.

It is the sordid cares of the lowly born that do these things. You must

learn the trick; you must imitate the trade-marks of poverty, misery,

oppression, insult, and the other several and common inhumanities that

sap the manliness out of a man and make him a loyal and proper and

approved subject and a satisfaction to his masters, or the very infants

will know you for better than your disguise, and we shall go to pieces

at the first hut we stop at. Pray try to walk like this."

The king took careful note, and then tried an imitation.

"Pretty fair- pretty fair. Chin a little lower, please- there, very

good. Eyes too high; pray don't look at the horizon, look at the ground,

ten steps in front of you. Ah- that is better, that is very good. Wait,

please; you betray too much vigor, too much decision; you want more of a

shamble. Look at me, please- this is what I mean.... Now you are getting

it; that is the idea- at least, it sort of approaches it.... Yes, that

is pretty fair. (r)But! There is a great big something wanting, I don't

quite know what it is. Please walk thirty yards, so that I can get a

perspective on the thing.... Now, then- your head's right, speed's

right, shoulders right, eyes right, chin right, gait, carriage, general

style right- everything's right! And yet the fact remains, the

aggregate's wrong. The account don't balance. Do it again, please...

(r)now I think I begin to see what it is. Yes, I've struck it. You see,

the genuine spiritlessness is wanting; that's what's the trouble. It's

all (r)amateur - mechanical details all right, almost to a hair;

everything about the delusion perfect, except that it don't delude."

"What, then, must one do, to prevail?"

"Let me think.... I can't seem to quite get at it. In fact, there

isn't anything that can right the matter but practice. This is a good

place for it: roots and stony ground to break up your stately gait, a

region not liable to interruption, only one field and one hut in sight,

and they so far away that nobody could see us from there. It will be

well to move a little off the road and put in the whole day drilling

you, sire."

After the drill had gone on a little while, I said:

"Now, sire, imagine that we are at the door of the hut yonder, and the

family are before us. Proceed, please- accost the head of the house."

The king unconsciously straightened up like a monument, and said, with

frozen austerity:

"Varlet, bring a seat; and serve to me what cheer ye have."

"Ah, your grace, that is not well done."

"In what lacketh it?"

"These people do not call (r)each other varlets."

"Nay, is that true?"

"Yes; only those above them call them so."

"Then must I try again. I will call him villein."

"No-no; for he may be a freeman."

"Ah- so. Then peradventure I should call him goodman."

"That would answer, your grace, but it would be still better if you

said friend, or brother."

"Brother!- to dirt like that?"

"Ah, but (r)we are pretending to be dirt like that, too."

"It is even true. I will say it. Brother, bring a seat, and thereto

what cheer ye have, withal. (r)Now 'tis right."

"Not quite, not wholly right. You have asked for one, not (r)us - for

one, not both; food for one, a seat for one."

The king looked puzzled- he wasn't a very heavy weight,

intellectually. His head was an hour-glass; it could stow an idea, but

it had to do it a grain at a time, not the whole idea at once.

"Would (r)you have a seat also- and sit?"

"If I did not sit, the man would perceive that we were only pretending

to be equals- and playing the deception pretty poorly, too."

"It is well and truly said! How wonderful is truth, come it in

whatsoever unexpected form it may! Yes, he must bring out seats and food

for both, and in serving us present not ewer and napkin with more show

of respect to the one than to the other."

"And there is even yet a detail that needs correcting. He must bring

nothing outside; we will go in- in among the dirt, and possibly other

repulsive things- and take the food with the household, and after the

fashion of the house, and all on equal terms, except the man be of the

serf class; and finally, there will be no ewer and no napkin, whether he

be serf or free. Please walk again, my liege. There- it is better- it is

the best yet; but not perfect. The shoulders have known no ignobler

burden than iron mail, and they will not stoop."

"Give me, then, the bag. I will learn the spirit that goeth with

burdens that have not honor. It is the spirit that stoopeth the

shoulders, I ween, and not the weight; for armor is heavy, yet it is a

proud burden, and a man standeth straight in it.... Nay, but me no buts,

offer me no objections. I will have the thing. Strap it upon my back."

He was complete now with that knapsack on, and looked as little like a

king as any man I had ever seen. But it was an obstinate pair of

shoulders; they could not seem to learn the trick of stooping with any

sort of deceptive naturalness. The drill went on. I prompting and


"Now, make believe you are in debt, and eaten up by relentless

creditors; you are out of work- which is horse-shoeing, let us say- and

can get none; and your wife is sick, your children are crying because

they are hungry-"

And so on, and so on. I drilled him as representing in turn all sorts

of people out of luck and suffering dire privations and misfortunes. But

lord, it was only just words, words- they meant nothing in the world to

him, I might just as well have whistled. Words realize nothing, vivify

nothing to you, unless you have suffered in your own person the thing

which the words try to describe. There are wise people who talk ever so

knowingly and complacently about "the working classes," and satisfy

themselves that a day's hard intellectual work is very much harder than

a day's hard manual toil, and is righteously entitled to much bigger

pay. Why, they really think that, you know, because they know all about

the one, but haven't tried the other. But I know all about both; and so

far as I am concerned, there isn't money enough in the universe to hire

me to swing a pickax thirty days, but I will do the hardest kind of

intellectual work for just as near nothing as you can cipher it down-

and I will be satisfied, too.

Intellectual "work" is misnamed; it is a pleasure, a dissipation, and

is its own highest reward. The poorest paid architect, engineer,

general, author, sculptor, painter, lecturer, advocate, legislator,

actor, preacher, singer is constructively in heaven when he is at work;

and as for the musician with the fiddlebow in his hand who sits in the

midst of a great orchestra with the ebbing and flowing tides of divine

sound washing over him- why, certainly, he is at work, if you wish to

call it that, but lord, it's a sarcasm just the same. The law of work

does seem utterly unfair- but there it is, and nothing can change it:

the higher the pay in enjoyment the worker gets out of it, the higher

shall be his pay in cash, also. And it's also the very law of those

transparent swindles, transmissible nobility and kingship.


WHEN we arrived at that hut at mid-afternoon, we saw no signs of life

about it. The field near by had been denuded of its crop some time

before, and had a skinned look, so exhaustively had it been harvested

and gleaned. Fences, sheds, everything had a ruined look, and were

eloquent of poverty. No animal was around anywhere, no living thing in

sight. The stillness was awful, it was like the stillness of death. The

cabin was a one-story one, whose thatch was black with age, and ragged

from lack of repair.

The door stood a trifle ajar. We approached it stealthily- on tiptoe

and at half-breath- for that is the way one's feeling makes him do, at

such a time. The king knocked. We waited. No answer. Knocked again. No

answer. I pushed the door softly open and looked in. I made out some dim

forms, and a woman started up from the ground and stared at me, as one

does who is wakened from sleep. Presently she found her voice:

"Have mercy!" she pleaded. "All is taken, nothing is left."

"I have not come to take anything, poor woman."

"You are not a priest?"


"Nor come not from the lord of the manor?"

"No, I am a stranger."

"Oh, then, for the fear of God, who visits with misery and death such

as be harmless, tarry not here, but fly! This place is under his curse-

and his Church's."

"Let me come in and help you- you are sick and in trouble."

I was better used to the dim light now. I could see her hollow eyes

fixed upon me. I could see how emaciated she was.

"I tell you the place is under the Church's ban. Save yourself- and

go, before some straggler see thee here, and report it."

"Give yourself no trouble about me; I don't care anything for the

Church's curse. Let me help you."

"Now all good spirits- if there be any such- bless thee for that word.

Would God I had a sup of water!- but hold, hold, forget I said it, and

fly; for there is that here that even he that feareth not the Church

must fear: this disease whereof we die. Leave us, thou brave, good

stranger, and take with thee such whole and sincere blessing as them

that be accursed can give."

But before this I had picked up a wooden bowl and was rushing past the

king on my way to the brook. It was ten yards away. When I got back and

entered, the king was within, and was opening the shutter that closed

the window-hole, to let in air and light. The place was full of a foul

stench. I put the bowl to the woman's lips, and as she gripped it with

her eager talons the shutter came open and a strong light flooded her

face. Smallpox!

I sprang to the king, and said in his ear:

"Out of the door on the instant, sire! the woman is dying of that

disease that wasted the skirts of Camelot two years ago."

He did not budge.

"Of a truth I shall remain- and likewise help."

I whispered again:

"King, it must not be. You must go."

"Ye mean well, and ye speak not unwisely. But it were shame that a

king should know fear, and shame that belted knight should withhold his

hand where be such as need succor. Peace, I will not go. It is you who

must go. The Church's ban is not upon me, but it forbiddeth you to be

here, and she will deal with you with a heavy hand an word come to her

of your trespass."

It was a desperate place for him to be in, and might cost him his

life, but it was no use to argue with him. If he considered his knightly

honor at stake here, that was the end of argument; he would stay, and

nothing could prevent it; I was aware of that. And so I dropped the

subject. The woman spoke:

"Fair sir, of your kindness will ye climb the ladder there, and bring

me news of what ye find? Be not afraid to report, for times can come

when even a mother's heart is past breaking- being already broke."

"Abide," said the king, "and give the woman to eat. I will go." And he

put down the knapsack.

I turned to start, but the king had already started. He halted, and

looked down upon a man who lay in a dim light, and had not noticed us

thus far, or spoken.

"Is it your husband?" the king asked.


"Is he asleep?"

"God be thanked for that one charity, yes- these three hours. Where

shall I pay to the full, my gratitude! for my heart is bursting with it

for that sleep he sleepeth now."

I said:

"We will be careful. We will not wake him."

"Ah, no, that ye will not, for he is dead."


"Yes, what triumph it is to know it! None can harm him, none insult

him more. He is in heaven now, and happy; or if not there, he bides in

hell and is content; for in that place he will find neither abbot nor

yet bishop. We were boy and girl together; we were man and wife these

five-and-twenty years, and never separated till this day. Think how long

that is to love and suffer together. This morning was he out of his

mind, and in his fancy we were boy and girl again and wandering in the

happy fields; and so in that innocent glad converse wandered he far and

farther, still lightly gossiping, and entered into those other fields we

know not of, and was shut away from mortal sight. And so there was no

parting, for in his fancy I went with him; he knew not but I went with

him, my hand in his- my young soft hand, not this withered claw. Ah,

yes, to go, and know it not; to separate and know it not; how could one

go peacefuler than that? It was his reward for a cruel life patiently


There was a slight noise from the direction of the dim corner where

the ladder was. It was the king descending. I could see that he was

bearing something in one arm, and assisting himself with the other. He

came forward into the light; upon his breast lay a slender girl of

fifteen. She was but half conscious; she was dying of smallpox. Here was

heroism at its last and loftiest possibility, its utmost summit; this

was challenging death in the open field unarmed, with all the odds

against the challenger, no reward set upon the contest, and no admiring

world in silks and cloth-of-gold to gaze and applaud; and yet the king's

bearing was as serenely brave as it had always been in those cheaper

contests where knight meets knight in equal fight and clothed in

protecting steel. He was great now; sublimely great. The rude statues of

his ancestors in his palace should have an addition- I would see to

that; and it would not be a mailed king killing a giant or a dragon,

like the rest, it would be a king in commoner's garb bearing death in

his arms that a peasant mother might look her last upon her child and be


He laid the girl down by her mother, who poured out endearments and

caresses from an overflowing heart, and one could detect a flickering

faint light of response in the child's eyes, but that was all. The

mother hung over her, kissing her, petting her, and imploring her to

speak, but the lips only moved and no sound came. I snatched my liquor

flask from my knapsack, but the woman forbade me, and said:

"No- she does not suffer; it is better so. It might bring her back to

life. None that be so good and kind as ye are would do her that cruel

hurt. For look you- what is left to live for? Her brothers are gone, her

father is gone, her mother goeth, the Church's curse is upon her, and

none may shelter or befriend her even though she lay perishing in the

road. She is desolate. I have not asked you, good heart, if her sister

be still on live, here overhead; I had no need; ye had gone back, else,

and not left the poor thing forsaken-"

"She lieth at peace," interrupted the king, in a subdued voice.

"I would not change it. How rich is this day in happiness! Ah, my

Annis, thou shalt join thy sister soon- thou'rt on thy way, and these be

merciful friends that will not hinder."

And so she fell to murmuring and cooing over the girl again, and

softly stroking her face and hair, and kissing her and calling her by

endearing names; but there was scarcely sign of response now in the

glazing eyes. I saw tears well from the king's eyes, and trickle down

his face. The woman noticed them, too, and said:

"Ah, I know that sign: thou'st a wife at home, poor soul, and you and

she have gone hungry to bed, many's the time, that the little ones might

have your crust; you know what poverty is, and the daily insults of your

betters, and the heavy hand of the Church and the king."

The king winced under this accidental home-shot, but kept still; he

was learning his part; and he was playing it well, too, for a pretty

dull beginner. I struck up a diversion. I offered the woman food and

liquor, but she refused both. She would allow nothing to come between

her and the release of death. Then I slipped away and brought the dead

child from aloft, and laid it by her. This broke her down again, and

there was another scene that was full of heartbreak. By and by I made

another diversion, and beguiled her to sketch her story.

"Ye know it well yourselves, having suffered it- for truly none of our

condition in Britain escape it. It is the old, weary tale. We fought and

struggled and succeeded; meaning by success, that we lived and did not

die; more than that is not to be claimed. No troubles came that we could

not outlive, till this year brought them; then came they all at once, as

one might say, and overwhelmed us. Years ago the lord of the manor

planted certain fruit-trees on our farm; in the best part of it, too- a

grievous wrong and shame-"

"But it was his right," interrupted the king.

"None denieth that, indeed; an the law mean anything, what is the

lord's is his, and what is mine is his also. Our farm was ours by lease,

therefore 'twas likewise his, to do with it as he would. Some little

time ago, three of those trees were found hewn down. Our three grown

sons ran frightened to report the crime. Well, in his lordship's dungeon

there they lie, who saith there shall they lie and rot till they

confess. They have naught to confess, being innocent, wherefore there

will they remain until they die. Ye know that right well, I ween. Think

how this left us; a man, a woman, and two children, to gather a crop

that was planted by so much greater force, yes, and protect it night and

day from pigeons and prowling animals that be sacred and must not be

hurt by any of our sort. When my lord's crop was nearly ready for the

harvest, so also was ours; when his bell rang to call us to his fields

to harvest his crop for nothing, he would not allow that I and my two

girls should count for our three captive sons, but for only two of them;

so, for the lacking one were we daily fined. All this time our own crop

was perishing through neglect; and so both the priest and his lordship

fined us because their shares of it were suffering through damage. In

the end the fines ate up our crop- and they took it all; they took it

all and made us harvest it for them, without pay or food, and we

starving. Then the worst came when I, being out of my mind with hunger

and loss of my boys, and grief to see my husband and my little maids in

rags and misery and despair, uttered a deep blasphemy- oh! a thousand of

them!- against the Church and the Church's ways. It was ten days ago. I

had fallen sick with this disease, and it was to the priest I said the

words, for he was come to chide me for lack of due humility under the

chastening hand of God. He carried my trespass to his betters; I was

stubborn; wherefore, presently upon my head and upon all heads that were

dear to me, fell the curse of Rome.

"Since that day we are avoided, shunned with horror. None has come

near this hut to know whether we live or not. The rest of us were taken

down. Then I roused me and got up, as wife and mother will. It was

little they could have eaten in any case; it was less than little they

had to eat. But there was water, and I gave them that. How they craved

it! and how they blessed it! But the end came yesterday; my strength

broke down. Yesterday was the last time I ever saw my husband and this

youngest child alive. I have lain here all these hours- these ages, ye

may say- listening, listening for any sound up there that-"

She gave a sharp quick glance at her eldest daughter, then cried out,

"Oh, my darling!" and feebly gathered the stiffening form to her

sheltering arms. She had recognized the death-rattle.


AT midnight all was over, and we sat in the presence of four corpses.

We covered them with such rags as we could find, and started away,

fastening the door behind us. Their home must be these people's grave,

for they could not have Christian burial, or be admitted to consecrated

ground. They were as dogs, wild beasts, lepers, and no soul that valued

its hope of eternal life would throw it away by meddling in any sort

with these rebuked and smitten outcasts.

We had not moved four steps when I caught a sound as of footsteps upon

gravel. My heart flew to my throat. We must not be seen coming from that

house. I plucked at the king's robe and we drew back and took shelter

behind the corner of the cabin.

"Now we are safe," I said, "but it was a close call- so to speak. If

the night had been lighter he might have seen us, no doubt, he seemed to

be so near."

"Mayhap it is but a beast and not a man at all."

"True. But man or beast, it will be wise to stay here a minute and let

it get by and out of the way."

"Hark! It cometh hither."

True again. The step was coming toward us- straight toward the hut. It

must be a beast, then, and we might as well have saved our trepidation.

I was going to step out, but the king laid his hand upon my arm. There

was a moment of silence, then we heard a soft knock on the cabin door.

It made me shiver. Presently the knock was repeated, and then we heard

these words in a guarded voice:

"Mother! Father! Open- we have got free, and we bring news to pale

your cheeks but glad your hearts; and we may not tarry, but must fly!

And- but they answer not. Mother! father!-"

I drew the king toward the other end of the hut and whispered:

"Come- now we can get to the road."

The king hesitated, was going to demur; but just then we heard the

door give way, and knew that those desolate men were in the presence of

their dead.

"Come, my liege! in a moment they will strike a light, and then will

follow that which it would break your heart to hear."

He did not hesitate this time. The moment we were in the road I ran;

and after a moment he threw dignity aside and followed. I did not want

to think of what was happening in the hut- I couldn't bear it; I wanted

to drive it out of my mind; so I struck into the first subject that lay

under that one in my mind:

"I have had the disease those people died of, and so have nothing to

fear; but if you have not had it also-"

He broke in upon me to say he was in trouble, and it was his

conscience that was troubling him:

"These young men have got free, they say- but (r)how? It is not

likely that their lord hath set them free."

"Oh, no, I make no doubt they escaped."

"That is my trouble; I have a fear that this is so, and your suspicion

doth confirm it, you having the same fear."

"I should not call it by that name though. I do suspect that they

escaped, but if they did, I am not sorry, certainly."

"I am not sorry, I (r)think - but-"

"What is it? What is there for one to be troubled about?"

(r)"If they did escape, then are we bound in duty to lay hands upon

them and deliver them again to their lord; for it is not seemly that one

of his quality should suffer a so insolent and high-handed outrage from

persons of their base degree."

There it was again. He could see only one side of it. He was born so,

educated so, his veins were full of ancestral blood that was rotten with

this sort of unconscious brutality, brought down by inheritance from a

long procession of hearts that had each done its share toward poisoning

the stream. To imprison these men without proof, and starve their

kindred, was no harm, for they were merely peasants and subject to the

will and pleasure of their lord, no matter what fearful form it might

take; but for these men to break out of unjust captivity was insult and

outrage, and a thing not to be countenanced by any conscientious person

who knew his duty to his sacred caste.

I worked more than half an hour before I got him to change the

subject- and even then an outside matter did it for me. This was a

something which caught our eyes as we struck the summit of a small hill-

a red glow, a good way off.

"That's a fire," said I.

Fires interested me considerably, because I was getting a good deal of

an insurance business started, and was also training some horses and

building some steam fire-engines, with an eye to a paid fire department

by and by. The priests opposed both my fire and life insurance, on the

ground that it was an insolent attempt to hinder the decrees of God; and

if you pointed out that they did not hinder the decrees in the least,

but only modified the hard consequences of them if you took out policies

and had luck, they retorted that that was gambling against the decrees

of God, and was just as bad. So they managed to damage those industries

more or less, but I got even on my Accident business. As a rule, a

knight is a lummox, and sometimes even a labrick, and hence open to

pretty poor arguments when they come glibly from a superstition-monger,

but even (r)he could see the practical side of a thing once in a while;

and so of late you couldn't clean up a tournament and pile the result

without finding one of my accident-tickets in every helmet.

We stood there awhile, in the thick darkness and stillness, looking

toward the red blur in the distance, and trying to make out the meaning

of a faraway murmur that rose and fell fitfully on the night. Sometimes

it swelled up and for a moment seemed less remote; but when we were

hopefully expecting it to betray its cause and nature, it dulled and

sank again, carrying its mystery with it. We started down the hill in

its direction, and the winding road plunged us at once into almost solid

darkness- darkness that was packed and crammed in between two tall

forest walls. We groped along down for half a mile, perhaps, that murmur

growing more and more distinct all the time, the coming storm

threatening more and more, with now and then a little shiver of wind, a

faint show of lightning, and dull grumblings of distant thunder. I was

in the lead. I ran against something- a soft heavy something which gave,

slightly, to the impulse of my weight; at the same moment the lightning

glared out, and within a foot of my face was the writhing face of a man

who was hanging from the limb of a tree! That is, it seemed to be

writhing, but it was not. It was a gruesome sight. Straightway there was

an ear-splitting explosion of thunder, and the bottom of heaven fell

out; the rain poured down in a deluge. No matter, we must try to cut

this man down, on the chance that there might be life in him yet,

mustn't we? The lightning came quick and sharp now, and the place was

alternately noonday and midnight. One moment the man would be hanging

before me in an intense light, and the next he was blotted out again in

the darkness. I told the king we must cut him down. The king at once


"If he hanged himself, he was willing to lose him property to his

lord; so let him be. If others hanged him, belike they had the right-

let him hang."


"But me no buts, but even leave him as he is. And for yet another

reason. When the lightning cometh again- there, look abroad."

Two others hanging, within fifty yards of us!

"It is not weather meet for doing useless courtesies unto dead folk.

They are past thanking you. Come- it is unprofitable to tarry here."

There was reason in what he said, so we moved on. Within the next mile

we counted six more hanging forms by the blaze of the lightning, and

altogether it was a grisly excursion. That murmur was a murmur no

longer, it was a roar; a roar of men's voices. A man came flying by now,

dimly through the darkness, and other men chasing him. They disappeared.

Presently another case of the kind occurred, and then another and

another. Then a sudden turn of the road brought us in sight of that

fire- it was a large manor-house, and little or nothing was left of it-

and everywhere men were flying and other men raging after them in


I warned the king that this was not a safe place for strangers. We

would better get away from the light, until matters should improve. We

stepped back a little, and hid in the edge of the wood. From this

hiding-place we saw both men and women hunted by the mob. The fearful

work went on until nearly dawn. Then, the fire being out and the storm

spent, the voices and flying footsteps presently ceased, and darkness

and stillness reigned again.

We ventured out, and hurried cautiously away; and although we were

worn out and sleepy, we kept on until we had put this place some miles

behind us. Then we asked hospitality at the hut of a charcoal-burner,

and got what was to be had. A woman was up and about, but the man was

still asleep, on a straw shake-down, on the clay floor. The woman seemed

uneasy until I explained that we were travelers and had lost our way and

been wandering in the woods all night. She became talkative, then, and

asked if we had heard of the terrible goings-on at the manor-house of

Abblasoure. Yes, we had heard of them, but what we wanted now was rest

and sleep. The king broke in:

"Sell us the house and take yourselves away, for we be perilous

company, being late come from people that died of the Spotted Death."

It was good of him, but unnecessary. One of the commonest decorations

of the nation was the waffle-iron face. I had early noticed that the

woman and her husband were both so decorated. She made us entirely

welcome, and had no fears; and plainly she was immensely impressed by

the king's proposition; for, of course, it was a good deal of an event

in her life to run across a person of the king's humble appearance who

was ready to buy a man's house for the sake of a night's lodging. It

gave her a large respect for us, and she strained the lean possibilities

of her hovel to the utmost to make us comfortable.

We slept till far into the afternoon, and then got up hungry enough to

make cotter fare quite palatable to the king, the more particularly as

it was scant in quantity. And also in variety; it consisted solely of

onions, salt, and the national black bread- made out of horse-feed. The

woman told us about the affair of the evening before. At ten or eleven

at night, when everybody was in bed, the manor-house burst into flames.

The country-side swarmed to the rescue, and the family were saved, with

one exception, the master. He did not appear. Everybody was frantic over

this loss, and two brave yeomen sacrificed their lives in ransacking the

burning house seeking that valuable personage. But after a while he was

found- what was left of him- which was his corpse. It was in a copse

three hundred yards away, bound, gagged, stabbed in a dozen places.

Who had done this? Suspicion fell upon a humble family in the

neighborhood who had been lately treated with peculiar harshness by the

baron; and from these people the suspicion easily extended itself to

their relatives and familiars. A suspicion was enough; my lord's

liveried retainers proclaimed an instant crusade against these people,

and were promptly joined by the community in general. The woman's

husband had been active with the mob, and had not returned home until

nearly dawn. He was gone now to find out what the general result had

been. While we were still talking he came back from his quest. His

report was revolting enough. Eighteen persons hanged or butchered, and

two yeomen and thirteen prisoners lost in the fire.

"And how many prisoners were there altogether in the vaults?"


"Then every one of them was lost?"

"Yes, all."

"But the people arrived in time to save the family; how is it they

could save none of the prisoners?"

The man looked puzzled, and said:

"Would one unlock the vaults at such a time? Marry, some would have


"Then you mean that nobody (r)did unlock them?"

"None went near them, either to lock or unlock. It standeth to reason

that the bolts were fast; wherefore it was only needful to establish a

watch, so that if any broke the bonds he might not escape, but be taken.

None were taken."

"Natheless, three did escape," said the king, "and ye will do well to

publish it and set justice upon their track, for these murthered the

baron and fired the house."

I was just expecting he would come out with that. For a moment the man

and his wife showed an eager interest in this news and an impatience to

go out and spread it; then a sudden something else betrayed itself in

their faces, and they began to ask questions. I answered the questions

myself, and narrowly watched the effects produced. I was soon satisfied

that the knowledge of who these three prisoners were had somehow changed

the atmosphere; that our hosts' continued eagerness to go and spread the

news was now only pretended and not real. The king did not notice the

change, and I was glad of that. I worked the conversation around toward

other details of the night's proceedings, and noted that these people

were relieved to have it take that direction.

The painful thing observable about all this business was the alacrity

with which this oppressed community had turned their cruel hands against

their own class in the interest of the common oppressor. This man and

woman seemed to feel that in a quarrel between a person of their own

class and his lord, it was the natural and proper and rightful thing for

that poor devil's whole caste to side with the master and fight his

battle for him, without ever stopping to inquire into the rights or

wrongs of the matter. This man had been out helping to hang his

neighbors, and had done his work with zeal, and yet was aware that there

was nothing against them but a mere suspicion, with nothing back of it

describable as evidence, still neither he nor his wife seemed to see

anything horrible about it.

This was depressing- to a man with the dream of a republic in his

head. It reminded me of a time thirteen centuries away, when the "poor

whites" of our South who were always despised and frequently insulted by

the slave-lords around them, and who owed their base condition simply to

the presence of slavery in their midst, were yet pusillanimously ready

to side with the slave-lords in all political moves for the upholding

and perpetuating of slavery, and did also finally shoulder their muskets

and pour out their lives in an effort to prevent the destruction of that

very institution which degraded them. And there was only one redeeming

feature connected with that pitiful piece of history; and that was, that

secretly the "poor white" did detest the slave-lord, and did feel his

own shame. That feeling was not brought to the surface, but the fact

that it was there and could have been brought out, under favoring

circumstances, was something- in fact, it was enough; for it showed that

a man is at bottom a man, after all, even if it doesn't show on the


Well, as it turned out, this charcoal-burner was just the twin of the

Southern "poor white" of the far future. The king presently showed

impatience, and said:

"An ye prattle here all the day, justice will miscarry. Think ye the

criminals will abide in their father's house? They are fleeing, they are

not waiting. You should look to it that a party of horse be set upon

their track."

The woman paled slightly, but quite perceptibly, and the man looked

flustered and irresolute. I said:

"Come, friend, I will walk a little way with you, and explain which

direction I think they would try to take. If they were merely resisters

of the gabelle or some kindred absurdity I would try to protect them

from capture; but when men murder a person of high degree and likewise

burn his house, that is another matter."

The last remark was for the king- to quiet him. On the road the man

pulled his resolution together, and began the march with a steady gait,

but there was no eagerness in it. By and by I said:

"What relation were these men to you- cousins?"

He turned as white as his layer of charcoal would let him, and

stopped, trembling.

"Ah, my God, how know ye that?"

"I didn't know it; it was a chance guess."

"Poor lads, they are lost. And good lads they were, too."

"Were you actually going yonder to tell on them?"

He didn't quite know how to take that; but he said, hesitatingly:


"Then I think you are a damned scoundrel!"

It made him as glad as if I had called him an angel.

"Say the good words again, brother! for surely ye mean that ye would

not betray me an I failed of my duty."

"Duty? There is no duty in the matter, except, the duty to keep still

and let those men get away. They've done a righteous deed."

He looked pleased; pleased, and touched with apprehension at the same

time. He looked up and down the road to see that no one was coming, and

then said in a cautious voice:

"From what land come you, brother, that you speak such perilous words,

and seem not to be afraid?"

"They are not perilous words when spoken to one of my own caste, I

take it. You would not tell anybody I said them?"

"I? I would be drawn asunder by wild horses first."

"Well, then, let me say my say. I have no fears of your repeating it.

I think devil's work has been done last night upon those innocent poor

people. That old baron got only what he deserved. If I had my way, all

his kind should have the same luck."

Fear and depression vanished from the man's manner, and gratefulness

and a brave animation took their place:

"Even though you be a spy, and your words a trap for my undoing, yet

are they such refreshment that to hear them again and others like to

them, I would go to the gallows happy, as having had one good feast at

least in a starved life. And I will say my say now, and ye may report it

if ye be so minded. I helped to hang my neighbors for that it were peril

to my own life to show lack of zeal in the master's cause; the others

helped for none other reason. All rejoice to-day that he is dead, but

all do go about seemingly sorrowing, and shedding the hypocrite's tear,

for in that lies safety. I have said the words, I have said the words!

the only ones that have ever tasted good in my mouth, and the reward of

that taste is sufficient. Lead on, an ye will, be it even to the

scaffold, for I am ready."

There it was, you see. A man (r)is a man, at bottom. Whole ages of

abuse and oppression cannot crush the manhood clear out of him. Whoever

thinks it a mistake is himself mistaken. Yes, there is plenty good

enough material for a republic in the most degraded people that ever

existed- even the Russians; plenty of manhood in them- even in the

Germans- if one could but force it out of its timid and suspicious

privacy, to overthrow and trample in the mud any throne that ever was

set up and any nobility that ever supported it. We should see certain

things yet, let us hope and believe. First, a modified monarchy, till

Arthur's days were done, then the destruction of the throne, nobility

abolished, every member of it bound out to some useful trade, universal

suffrage instituted, and the whole government placed in the hands of the

men and women of the nation there to remain. Yes, there was no occasion

to give up my dream yet awhile.


WE strolled along in a sufficiently indolent fashion now, and talked.

We must dispose of about the amount of time it ought to take to go to

the little hamlet of Abblasoure and put justice on the track of those

murderers and get back home again. And meantime I had an auxiliary

interest which had never paled yet, never lost its novelty for me since

I had been in Arthur's kingdom: the behavior- born of nice and exact

subdivisions of caste- of chance passers-by toward each other. Toward

the shaven monk who trudged along with his cowl tilted back and the

sweat washing down his fat jowls, the coal-burner was deeply reverent;

to the gentleman he was abject; with the small farmer and the free

mechanic he was cordial and gossipy; and when a slave passed by with a

countenance respectfully lowered, this chap's nose was in the air- he

couldn't even see him. Well, there are times when one would like to hang

the whole human race and finish the farce.

Presently we struck an incident. A small mob of half-naked boys and

girls came tearing out of the woods, scared and shrieking. The eldest

among them were not more than twelve or fourteen years old. They

implored help, but they were so beside themselves that we couldn't make

out what the matter was. However, we plunged into the wood, they

scurrying in the lead, and the trouble was quickly revealed: they had

hanged a little fellow with a bark rope, and he was kicking and

struggling, in the process of choking to death. We rescued him, and

fetched him around. It was some more human nature; the admiring little

folk imitating their elders; they were playing mob, and had achieved a

success which promised to be a good deal more serious than they had

bargained for.

It was not a dull excursion for me. I managed to put in the time very

well. I made various acquaintanceships, and in my quality of stranger

was able to ask as many questions as I wanted to. A thing which

naturally interested me, as a statesman, was the matter of wages. I

picked up what I could under that head during the afternoon. A man who

hasn't had much experience, and doesn't think, is apt to measure a

nation's prosperity or lack of prosperity by the mere size of the

prevailing wages; if the wages be high, the nation is prosperous; if

low, it isn't. Which is an error. It isn't what sum you get, it's how

much you can buy with it, that's the important thing; and it's that that

tells whether your wages are high in fact or only high in name. I could

remember how it was in the time of our great civil war in the nineteenth

century. In the North a carpenter got three dollars a day, gold

valuation; in the South he got fifty- payable in Confederate

shinplasters worth a dollar a bushel. In the North a suit of overalls

cost three dollars- a day's wages; in the South it cost seventy-five-

which was two days' wages. Other things were in proportion.

Consequently, wages were twice as high in the North as they were in the

South, because the one wage had that much more purchasing power than the

other had.

Yes, I made various acquaintances in the hamlet, and a thing that

gratified me a good deal was to find our new coins in circulation- lots

of milrays, lots of mills, lots of cents, a good many nickels, and some

silver; all this among the artisans and commonalty generally; yes, and

even some gold- but that was at the bank, that is to say, the

goldsmith's. I dropped in there while Marco, the son of Marco, was

haggling with a shopkeeper over a quarter of a pound of salt, and asked

for change for a twenty-dollar gold piece. They furnished it- that is,

after they had chewed the piece, and rung it on the counter, and tried

acid on it, and asked me where I got it, and who I was, and where I was

from, and where I was going to, and when I expected to get there, and

perhaps a couple of hundred more questions; and when they got aground, I

went right on and furnished them a lot of information voluntarily; told

them I owned a dog, and his name was Watch, and my first wife was a Free

Will Baptist, and her grandfather was a Prohibitionist, and I used to

know a man who had two thumbs on each hand and a wart on the inside of

his upper lip, and died in the hope of a glorious resurrection, and so

on, and so on, and so on, till even that hungry village questioner began

to look satisfied, and also a shade put out; but he had to respect a man

of my financial strength, and so he didn't give me any lip, but I

noticed he took it out of his underlings, which was a perfectly natural

thing to do. Yes, they changed my twenty, but I judged it strained the

bank a little, which was a thing to be expected, for it was the same as

walking into a paltry village store in the nineteenth century and

requiring the boss of it to change a two-thousand-dollar bill for you

all of a sudden. He could do it, maybe; but at the same time he would

wonder how a small farmer happened to be carrying so much money around

in his pocket; which was probably this goldsmith's thought, too; for he

followed me to the door and stood there gazing after me with reverent


Our new money was not only handsomely circulating, but its language

was already glibly in use; that is to say, people had dropped the names

of the former moneys, and spoke of things as being worth so many dollars

or cents or mills or milrays now. It was very gratifying. We were

progressing, that was sure.

I got to know several master mechanics, but about the most interesting

fellow among them was the blacksmith, Dowley. He was a live man and a

brisk talker, and had two journeymen and three apprentices, and was

doing a raging business. In fact, he was getting rich, hand over fist,

and was vastly respected. Marco was very proud of having such a man for

a friend. He had taken me there ostensibly to let me see the big

establishment which bought so much of his charcoal, but really to let me

see what easy and almost familiar terms he was on with this great man.

Dowley and I fraternized at once; I had had just such picked men,

splendid fellows, under me in the Colt Arms Factory. I was bound to see

more of him, so I invited him to come out to Marco's Sunday, and dine

with us. Marco was appalled, and held his breath; and when the grandee

accepted, he was so grateful that he almost forgot to be astonished at

the condescension.

Marco's joy was exuberant- but only for a moment; then he grew

thoughtful, then sad; and when he heard me tell Dowley I should have

Dickon, the boss mason, and Smug, the boss wheelwright, out there, too,

the coal-dust on his face turned to chalk, and he lost his grip. But I

knew what was the matter with him; it was the expense. He saw ruin

before him; he judged that his financial days were numbered. However, on

our way to invite the others, I said:

"You must allow me to have these friends come; and you must also allow

me to pay the costs."

His face cleared, and he said with spirit:

"But not all of it, not all of it. Ye cannot well bear a burden like

to this alone."

I stopped him, and said:

"Now let's understand each other on the spot, old friend. I am only a

farm bailiff, it is true; but I am not poor, nevertheless. I have been

very fortunate this year- you would be astonished to know how I have

thriven. I tell you the honest truth when I say I could squander away as

many as a dozen feasts like this and never care (r)that for the

expense!" and I snapped my fingers. I could see myself rise a foot at a

time in Marco's estimation, and when I fetched out those last words I

was become a very tower for style and altitude. "So you see, you must

let me have my way. You can't contribute a cent to this orgy, that's


"It's grand and good of you-"

"No, it isn't. You've opened your house to Jones and me in the most

generous way; Jones was remarking upon it to-day, just before you came

back from the village; for although he wouldn't be likely to say such a

thing to you- because Jones isn't a talker, and is diffident in society-

he has a good heart and a grateful, and knows how to appreciate it when

he is well treated; yes, you and your wife have been very hospitable

toward us-"

"Ah, brother, 'tis nothing- (r)such hospitality!"

"But it (r)is something; the best a man has, freely given, is always

something, and is as good as a prince can do, and ranks right along

beside it- for even a prince can but do his best. And so we'll shop

around and get up this layout now, and don't you worry about the

expense. I'm one of the worst spendthrifts that ever was born. Why, do

you know, sometimes in a single week I spend- but never mind about that-

you'd never believe it anyway."

And so we went gadding along, dropping in here and there, pricing

things, and gossiping with the shopkeepers about the riot, and now and

then running across pathetic reminders of it, in the persons of shunned

and tearful and houseless remnants of families whose homes had been

taken from them and their parents butchered or hanged. The raiment of

Marco and his wife was of coarse tow-linen and linsey-woolsey

respectively, and resembled township maps, it being made up pretty

exclusively of patches which had been added, township by township, in

the course of five or six years, until hardly a hand's-breadth of the

original garments was surviving and present. Now I wanted to fit these

people out with new suits, on account of that swell company, and I

didn't know just how to get at it with delicacy, until at last it struck

me that as I had already been liberal in inventing wordy gratitude for

the king, it would be just the thing to back it up with evidence of a

substantial sort; so I said:

"And Marco, there's another thing which you must permit- out of

kindness for Jones- because you wouldn't want to offend him. He was very

anxious to testify his appreciation in some way, but he is so diffident

he couldn't venture it himself, and so he begged me to buy some little

things and give them to you and Dame Phyllis and let him pay for them

without your ever knowing they came from him- you know how a delicate

person feels about that sort of thing- and so I said I would, and we

would keep mum. Well, his idea was, a new outfit of clothes for you


"Oh, it is wastefulness! It may not be, brother, it may not be.

Consider the vastness of the sum-"

"Hang the vastness of the sum! Try to keep quiet for a moment, and see

how it would seem; a body can't get in a word edgeways, you talk so

much. You ought to cure that, Marco; it isn't good form, you know, and

it will grow on you if you don't check it. Yes, we'll step in here now

and price this man's stuff- and don't forget to remember to not let on

to Jones that you know he had anything to do with it. You can't think

how curiously sensitive and proud he is. He's a farmer- pretty fairly

well-to-do farmer- and I'm his bailiff; (r)but - the imagination of that

man! Why, sometimes when he forgets himself and gets to blowing off,

you'd think he was one of the swells of the earth; and you might listen

to him a hundred years and never take him for a farmer- especially if he

talked agriculture. He (r)thinks he's a Sheol of a farmer; thinks he's

old Grayback from Wayback; but between you and me privately he don't

know as much about farming as he does about running a kingdom- still,

whatever he talks about, you want to drop your under-jaw and listen, the

same as if you had never heard such incredible wisdom in all your life

before, and were afraid you might die before you got enough of it. That

will please Jones."

It tickled Marco to the marrow to hear about such an odd character;

but it also prepared him for accidents; and in my experience when you

travel with a king who is letting on to be something else and can't

remember it more than about half the time, you can't take too many


This was the best store we had come across yet; it had everything in

it, in small quantities, from anvils and dry-goods all the way down to

fish and pinchbeck jewelry. I concluded I would bunch my whole invoice

right here, and not go pricing around any more. So I got rid of Marco,

by sending him off to invite the mason and the wheelwright, which left

the field free to me. For I never care to do a thing in a quiet way;

it's got to be theatrical or I don't take any interest in it. I showed

up money enough, in a careless way, to corral the shopkeeper's respect,

and then I wrote down a list of the things I wanted, and handed it to

him to see if he could read it. He could, and was proud to show that he

could. He said he had been educated by a priest, and could both read and

write. He ran it through, and remarked with satisfaction that it was a

pretty heavy bill. Well, and so it was, for a little concern like that.

I was not only providing a swell dinner, but some odds and ends of

extras. I ordered that the things be carted out and delivered at the

dwelling of Marco, the son of Marco, by Saturday evening, and send me

the bill at dinner-time Sunday. He said I could depend upon his

promptness and exactitude, it was the rule of the house. He also

observed that he would throw in a couple of miller-guns for the Marcos

gratis- that everybody was using them now. He had a mighty opinion of

that clever device. I said:

"And please fill them up to the middle mark, too; and add that to the


He would, with pleasure. He filled them, and I took them with me. I

couldn't venture to tell him that the miller-gun was a little invention

of my own, and that I had officially ordered that every shopkeeper in

the kingdom keep them on hand and sell them at government price- which

was the merest trifle, and the shopkeeper got that, not the government.

We furnished them for nothing.

The king had hardly missed us when we got back at nightfall. He had

early dropped again into his dream of a grand invasion of Gaul with the

whole strength of his kingdom at his back, and the afternoon had slipped

away without his ever coming to himself again.


WELL, when that cargo arrived toward sunset, Saturday afternoon, I had

my hands full to keep the Marcos from fainting. They were sure Jones and

I were ruined past help, and they blamed themselves as accessories to

this bankruptcy. You see, in addition to the dinner materials, which

called for a sufficiently round sum, I had bought a lot of extras for

the future comfort of the family: for instance, a big lot of wheat, a

delicacy as rare to the tables of their class as was ice-cream to a

hermit's; also a sizable deal dinner-table; also two entire pounds of

salt, which was another piece of extravagance in those people's eyes;

also crockery, stools, the clothes, a small cask of beer, and so on. I

instructed the Marcos to keep quiet about this sumptuousness, so as to

give me a chance to surprise the guests and show off a little.

Concerning the new clothes, the simple couple were like children; they

were up and down, all night, to see if it wasn't nearly daylight, so

that they could put them on, and they were into them at last as much as

an hour before dawn was due. Then their pleasure- not to say delirium-

was so fresh and novel and inspiring that the sight of it paid me well

for the interruptions which my sleep had suffered. The king had slept

just as usual- like the dead. The Marcos could not thank him for their

clothes, that being forbidden; but they tried every way they could think

of to make him see how grateful they were. Which all went for nothing:

he didn't notice any change.

It turned out to be one of those rich and rare fall days which is just

a June day toned down to a degree where it is heaven to be out of doors.

Toward noon the guests arrived, and we assembled under a great tree and

were soon as sociable as old acquaintances. Even the king's reserve

melted a little, though it was some little trouble to him to adjust

himself to the name of Jones along at first. I had asked him to try to

not forget that he was a farmer; but I had also considered it prudent to

ask him to let the thing stand at that, and not elaborate it any.

Because he was just the kind of person you could depend on to spoil a

little thing like that if you didn't warn him, his tongue was so handy,

and his spirit so willing, and his information so uncertain.

Dowley was in fine feather, and I early got him started, and then

adroitly worked him around onto his own history for a text and himself

for a hero, and then it was good to sit there and hear him hum. Self-

made man, you know. They know how to talk. They do deserve more credit

than any other breed of men, yes, that is true; and they are among the

very first to find it out, too. He told how he had begun life an orphan

lad without money and without friends able to help him; how he had lived

as the slaves of the meanest master lived; how his day's work was from

sixteen to eighteen hours long, and yielded him only enough black bread

to keep him in a half-fed condition; how his faithful endeavors finally

attracted the attention of a good blacksmith, who came near knocking him

dead with kindness by suddenly offering, when he was totally unprepared,

to take him as his bound apprentice for nine years and give him board

and clothes and teach him the trade- or "mystery" as Dowley called it.

That was his first great rise, his first gorgeous stroke of fortune; and

you saw that he couldn't yet speak of it without a sort of eloquent

wonder and delight that such a gilded promotion should have fallen to

the lot of a common human being. He got no new clothing during his

apprenticeship, but on his graduation day his master tricked him out in

spang-new tow-linens and made him feel unspeakably rich and fine.

"I remember me of that day!" the wheelwright sang out, with


"And I likewise!" cried the mason. "I would not believe they were

thine own; in faith I could not."

"Nor other!" shouted Dowley, with sparkling eyes. "I was like to lose

my character, the neighbors wending I had mayhap been stealing. It was a

great day, a great day; one forgetteth not days like that."

Yes, and his master was a fine man, and prosperous, and always had a

great feast of meat twice in the year, and with it white bread, true

wheaten bread; in fact, lived like a lord, so to speak. And in time

Dowley succeeded to the business and married the daughter.

"And now consider what is come to pass," said he, impressively. "Two

times in every month there is fresh meat upon my table." He made a pause

here, to let that fact sink home, then added- "and eight times salt


"It is even true," said the wheelwright, with bated breath.

"I know it of mine own knowledge," said the mason, in the same

reverent fashion.

"On my table appeareth white bread every Sunday in the year," added

the master smith, with solemnity. "I leave it to your own consciences,

friends, if this is not also true?"

"By my head, yes," cried the mason.

"I can testify it- and I do," said the wheelwright.

"And as to furniture, ye shall say yourselves what mine equipment is."

He waved his hand in fine gesture of granting frank and unhampered

freedom of speech, and added: "Speak as ye are moved; speak as ye would

speak an I were not here."

"Ye have five stools, and of the sweetest workmanship at that, albeit

your family is but three," said the wheelwright, with deep respect.

"And six wooden goblets, and six platters of wood and two of pewter to

eat and drink from withal," said the mason, impressively. "And I say it

as knowing God is my judge, and we tarry not here alway, but must answer

at the last day for the things said in the body, be they false or be

they sooth."

"Now ye know what manner of man I am, brother Jones," said the smith,

with a fine and friendly condescension, "and doubtless ye would look to

find me a man jealous of his due of respect and but sparing of outgo to

strangers till their rating and quality be assured, but trouble yourself

not, as concerning that; wit ye well ye shall find me a man that

regardeth not these matters but is willing to receive any he as his

fellow and equal that carrieth a right heart in his body, be his worldly

estate howsoever modest. And in token of it, here is my hand; and I say

with my own mouth we are equals- equals"- and he smiled around on the

company with the satisfaction of a god who is doing the handsome and

gracious thing and is quite well aware of it.

The king took the hand with a poorly disguised reluctance, and let go

of it as willingly as a lady lets go of a fish; all of which had a good

effect, for it was mistaken for an embarrassment natural to one who was

being beamed upon by greatness.

The dame brought out the table now, and set it under the tree. It

caused a visible stir of surprise, it being brand new and a sumptuous

article of deal. But the surprise rose higher still when the dame, with

a body oozing easy indifference at every pore, but eyes that gave it all

away by absolutely flaming with vanity, slowly unfolded an actual simon-

pure table-cloth and spread it. That was a notch above even the

blacksmith's domestic grandeurs, and it hit him hard; you could see it.

But Marco was in Paradise; you could see that, too. Then the dame

brought two fine new stools- whew! that was a sensation; it was visible

in the eyes of every guest. Then she brought two more- as calmly as she

could. Sensation again- with awed murmurs. Again she brought two-

walking on air, she was so proud. The guests were petrified, and the

mason muttered:

"There is that about earthly pomps which doth ever move to reverence."

As the dame turned away, Marco couldn't help slapping on the climax

while the thing was hot; so he said with what was meant for a languid

composure but was a poor imitation of it:

"These suffice; leave the rest."

So there were more yet! It was a fine effect. I couldn't have played

the hand better myself.

From this out, the madam piled up the surprises with a rush that fired

the general astonishment up to a hundred and fifty in the shade, and at

the same time paralyzed expression of it down to gasped "Oh's" and

"Ah's," and mute upliftings of hands and eyes. She fetched crockery-

new, and plenty of it; new wooden goblets and other table furniture; and

beer, fish, chicken, a goose, eggs, roast beef, roast mutton, a ham, a

small roast pig, and a wealth of genuine white wheaten bread. Take it by

and large, that spread laid everything far and away in the shade that

ever that crowd had seen before. And while they sat there just simply

stupefied with wonder and awe, I sort of waved my hand as if by

accident, and the storekeeper's son emerged from space and said he had

come to collect.

"That's all right," I said, indifferently. "What is the amount? Give

us the items."

Then he read off this bill, while those three amazed men listened, and

serene waves of satisfaction rolled over my soul and alternate waves of

terror and admiration surged over Marco's:

2 pounds salt 200

8 dozen pints beer, in the wood 800

3 bushels wheat 2,700

2 pounds fish 100

3 hens 400

1 goose 400

3 dozen eggs 150

1 roast of beef 450

1 roast of mutton 400

1 ham 800

1 sucking pig 500

2 crockery dinner-sets 6,000

2 men's suits and underwear 2,800

1 stuff and 1 linsey-woolsey gown and underwear 1,600

8 wooden goblets 800

Various table furniture 10,000

1 deal table 3,000

8 stools 4,000

2 miller-guns, loaded 3,000

He ceased. There was a pale and awful silence. Not a limb stirred. Not

a nostril betrayed the passage of breath.

"Is that all?" I asked, in a voice of the most perfect calmness.

"All, fair sir, save that certain matters of light moment are placed

together under a head hight sundries. If it would like you, I will sepa-


"It is of no consequence," I said, accompanying the words with a

gesture of the most utter indifference; "give me the grand total,


The clerk leaned against the tree to stay himself, and said:

"Thirty-nine thousand one hundred and fifty milrays!"

The wheelwright fell off his stool, the others grabbed the table to

save themselves, and there was a deep and general ejaculation of:

"God be with us in the day of disaster!"

The clerk hastened to say:

"My father chargeth me to say he cannot honorably require you to pay

it all at this time, and therefore only prayeth you-"

I paid no more heed than if it were the idle breeze, but, with an air

of indifference amounting almost to weariness, got out my money and

tossed four dollars onto the table. Ah, you should have seen them stare!

The clerk was astonished and charmed. He asked me to retain one of the

dollars as security, until he could go to town and- I interrupted:

"What, and fetch back nine cents? Nonsense! Take the whole. Keep the


There was an amazed murmur to this effect:

"Verily this being is (r)made of money! He throweth it away even as

it were dirt."

The blacksmith was a crushed man.

The clerk took his money and reeled away drunk with fortune. I said to

Marco and his wife:

"Good folk, here is a little trifle for you"- handing the miller-guns

as if it were a matter of no consequence, though each of them contained

fifteen cents in solid cash; and while the poor creatures went to pieces

with astonishment and gratitude, I turned to the others and said as

calmly as one would ask the time of day; "Well, if we are all ready, I

judge the dinner is. Come, fall to."

Ah, well, it was immense; yes, it was a daisy. I don't know that I

ever put a situation together better, or got happier spectacular effects

out of the materials available. The blacksmith- well, he was simply

mashed. Land! I wouldn't have felt what that man was feeling, for

anything in the world. Here he had been blowing and bragging about his

grand meat-feast twice a year, and his fresh meat twice a month, and his

salt meat twice a week, and his white bread every Sunday the year round-

all for a family of three; the entire cost for the year not above 69.2.6

(sixty-nine cents, two mills, and six milrays), and all of a sudden here

comes along a man who slashes out nearly four dollars on a single blow-

out; and not only that, but acts as if it made him tired to handle such

small sums. Yes, Dowley was a good deal wilted, and shrunk up and

collapsed; he had the aspect of a bladder-balloon that's been stepped on

by a cow.


HOWEVER, I made a dead set at him, and before the first third of the

dinner was reached, I had him happy again. It was easy to do- in a

country of ranks and castes. You see, in a country where they have ranks

and castes, a man isn't ever a man, he is only part of a man, he can't

ever get his full growth. You prove your superiority over him in

station, or rank, or fortune, and that's the end of it- he knuckles

down. You can't insult him after that. No, I don't mean quite that; of

course you (r)can insult him, I only mean it's difficult; and so,

unless you've got a lot of useless time on your hands it doesn't pay to

try. I had the smith's reverence now, because I was apparently immensely

prosperous and rich; I could have had his adoration if I had had some

little gimcrack title of nobility. And not only his, but any commoner's

in the land, though he were the mightiest production of all the ages, in

intellect, worth, and character, and I bankrupt in all three. This was

to remain so, as long as England should exist in the earth. With the

spirit of prophecy upon me, I could look into the future and see her

erect statues and monuments to her unspeakable Georges and other royal

and noble clothes-horses, and leave unhonored the creators of this

world- after God- Gutenberg, Watt, Arkwright, Whitney, Morse,

Stephenson, Bell.

The king got his cargo aboard, and then, the talk not turning upon

battle, conquest, or iron-clad duel, he dulled down to drowsiness and

went off to take a nap. Mrs. Marco cleared the table, placed the beer-

keg handy, and went away to eat her dinner of leavings in humble

privacy, and the rest of us soon drifted into matters near and dear to

the hearts of our sort- business and wages, of course. At a first

glance, things appeared to be exceeding prosperous in this little

tributary kingdom- whose lord was King Bagdemagus- as compared with the

state of things in my own region. They had the "protection" system in

full force here, whereas we were working along down toward free trade,

by easy stages, and were now about half-way. Before long, Dowley and I

were doing all the talking, the others hungrily listening. Dowley warmed

to his work, snuffed an advantage in the air, and began to put questions

which he considered pretty awkward ones for me, and they did have

something of that look:

"In your country, brother, what is the wage of a master bailiff,

master hind, carter, shepherd, swineherd?"

"Twenty-five milrays a day; that is to say, a quarter of a cent."

The smith's face beamed with joy. He said:

"With us they are allowed the double of it! And what may a mechanic

get- carpenter, dauber, mason, painter, blacksmith, wheelwright, and the


"On the average, fifty milrays; half a cent a day."

"Ho-ho! With us they are allowed a hundred! With us any good mechanic

is allowed a cent a day! I count out the tailor, but not the others-

they are all allowed a cent a day, and in driving times they get more-

yes, up to a hundred and ten and even fifteen milrays a day. I've paid a

hundred and fifteen myself, within the week. 'Rah for protection- to

Sheol with free trade!"

And his face shone upon the company like a sunburst. But I didn't

scare at all. I rigged up my pile-driver, and allowed myself fifteen

minutes to drive him into the earth- drive him (r)all in- drive him in

till not even the curve of his skull should show above-ground. Here is

the way I started in on him. I asked:

"What do you pay a pound for salt?"

"A hundred milrays."

"We pay forty. What do you pay for beef and mutton- when you buy it?"

That was a neat hit; it made the color come.

"It varieth somewhat, but not much; one may say seventy-five milrays

the pound."

(r)"We pay thirty-three. What do you pay for eggs?"

"Fifty milrays the dozen."

"We pay twenty. What do you pay for beer?"

"It costeth us eight and one-half milrays the pint."

"We get it for four; twenty-five bottles for a cent. What do you pay

for wheat?"

"At the rate of nine hundred milrays the bushel."

"We pay four hundred. What do you pay for a man's tow-linen suit?"

"Thirteen cents."

"We pay six. What do you pay for a stuff gown for the wife of the

laborer or the mechanic?"

"We pay eight cents, four mills."

"Well, observe the difference: you pay eight cents and four mills, we

pay only four cents." I prepared now to sock it to him. I said: "Look

here, dear friend, (r)what's become of your high wages you were bragging

so about a few minutes ago?" - and I looked around on the company with

placid satisfaction, for I had slipped up on him gradually and tied him

hand and foot, you see, without his ever noticing that he was being tied

at all. "What's become of those noble high wages of yours?- I seem to

have knocked the stuffing all out of them, it appears to me."

But if you will believe me, he merely looked surprised, that is all!

He didn't grasp the situation at all, didn't know he had walked into a

trap, didn't discover that he was (r)in a trap. I could have shot him,

from sheer vexation. With cloudy eye and a struggling intellect he

fetched this out:

"Marry, I seem not to understand. It is (r)proved that our wages be

double thine; how then may it be that thou'st knocked therefrom the

stuffing?- an I miscall not the wonderly word, this being the first time

under grace and providence of God it hath been granted me to hear it."

Well, I was stunned; partly with this unlooked-for stupidity on his

part, and partly because his fellows so manifestly sided with him and

were of his mind- if you might call it mind. My position was simple

enough, plain enough; how could it ever be simplified more? However, I

must try:

"Why, look here, brother Dowley, don't you see? Your wages are merely

higher than ours in (r)name, not in (r)fact."

"Hear him! They are the (r)double - ye have confessed it yourself."

"Yes- yes, I don't deny that at all. But that's got nothing to do with

it; the (r)amount of the wages in mere coins, with meaningless names

attached to them to know them by, has got nothing to do with it. The

thing is, how much can you (r)buy with your wages?- that's the idea.

While it is true that with you a good mechanic is allowed about three

dollars and a half a year, and with us only about a dollar and seventy-


"There- ye're confessing it again, ye're confessing it again!"

"Confound it, I've never denied it, I tell you! What I say is this.

With us (r)half a dollar buys more than a (r)dollar buys with you- and

(r)therefore it stands to reason and the commonest kind of common

sense, that our wages are (r)higher than yours."

He looked dazed, and said, despairingly:

"Verily, I cannot make it out. Ye've just (r)said ours are the

higher, and with the same breath ye take it back."

"Oh, great Scott, isn't it possible to get such a simple thing through

your head? Now look here- let me illustrate. We pay four cents for a

woman's stuff gown, you pay eight cents four mills, which is four mills

more than (r)double. What do you allow a laboring-woman who works on a


"Two mills a day."

"Very good; we allow but half as much; we pay her only a tenth of a

cent a day; and-"

"Again ye're conf-"

"Wait! Now, you see, the thing is very simple; this time you'll

understand it. For instance, it takes your woman forty-two days to earn

her gown, at two mills a day- seven weeks' work; but ours earns hers in

forty days- two days (r)short of seven weeks. Your woman has a gown,

and her whole seven weeks' wages are gone; ours has a gown, and two

days' wages left, to buy something else with. There- (r)now you

understand it!"

He looked- well, he merely looked dubious, it's the most I can say; so

did the others. I waited- to let the thing work. Dowley spoke at last-

and betrayed the fact that he actually hadn't gotten away from his

rooted and grounded superstitions yet. He said, with a trifle of


"But- but- ye cannot fail to grant that two mills a day is better than


Shucks! Well, of course, I hated to give it up. So I chanced another


"Let us suppose a case. Suppose one of your journeymen goes out and

buys the following articles:

"1 pound of salt

1 dozen eggs;

1 dozen pints of beer;

1 bushel of wheat;

1 tow-linen suit;

5 pounds of beef;

5 pounds of mutton.

"The lot will cost him thirty-two cents. It takes him thirty-two

working days to earn the money- five weeks and two days. Let him come to

us and work thirty-two days at (r)half the wages; he can buy all those

things for a shade under fourteen and a half cents; they will cost him a

shade under twenty-nine days' work, and he will have about half a week's

wages over. Carry it through the year; he would save nearly a week's

wages every two months, (r)your man nothing; thus saving five or six

weeks' wages in a year, your man not a cent. (r)Now I reckon you

understand that 'high wages' and 'low wages' are phrases that don't mean

anything in the world until you find out which of them will (r)buy the


It was a crusher.

But, alas! it didn't crush. No, I had to give it up. What those people

valued was (r)high wages; it didn't seem to be a matter of any

consequence to them whether the high wages would buy anything or not.

They stood for "protection," and swore by it, which was reasonable

enough, because interested parties had gulled them into the notion that

it was protection which had created their high wages. I proved to them

that in a quarter of a century their wages had advanced but thirty per

cent., while the cost of living had gone up one hundred; and that with

us, in a shorter time, wages had advanced forty per cent. while the cost

of living had gone steadily down. But it didn't do any good. Nothing

could unseat their strange beliefs.

Well, I was smarting under a sense of defeat. Undeserved defeat, but

what of that? That didn't soften the smart any. And to think of the

circumstances! The first statesman of the age, the capablest man, the

best-informed man in the entire world, the loftiest uncrowned head that

had moved through the clouds of any political firmament for centuries,

sitting here apparently defeated in argument by an ignorant country

blacksmith! And I could see that those others were sorry for me!- which

made me blush till I could smell my whiskers scorching. Put yourself in

my place; feel as mean as I did, as ashamed as I felt- wouldn't (r)you

have struck below the belt to get even? Yes, you would; it is simply

human nature. Well, that is what I did. I am not trying to justify it;

I'm only saying that I was mad, and (r)anybody would have done it.

Well, when I make up my mind to hit a man, I don't plan out a love-

tap; no, that isn't my way; as long as I'm going to hit him at all, I'm

going to hit him a lifter. And I don't jump at him all of a sudden, and

risk making a blundering half-way business of it; no, I get away off

yonder to one side, and work up on him gradually, so that he never

suspects that I'm going to hit him at all; and by and by, all in a

flash, he's flat on his back, and he can't tell for the life of him how

it all happened. That is the way I went for brother Dowley. I started to

talking lazy and comfortable, as if I was just talking to pass the time;

and the oldest man in the world couldn't have taken the bearings of my

starting-place and guessed where I was going to fetch up:

"Boys, there's a good many curious things about law, and custom, and

usage, and all that sort of thing, when you come to look at it; yes, and

about the drift and progress of human opinion and movement, too. There

are written laws- they perish; but there are also unwritten laws-

(r)they are eternal. Take the unwritten law of wages: it says they've

got to advance, little by little, straight through the centuries. And

notice how it works. We know what wages are now, here and there and

yonder; we strike an average, and say that's the wages of to-day. We

know what the wages were a hundred years ago, and what they were two

hundred years ago; that's as far back as we can get, but it suffices to

give us the law of progress, the measure and rate of the periodical

augmentation; and so, without a document to help us, we can come pretty

close to determining what the wages were three and four and five hundred

years ago. Good, so far. Do we stop there? No. We stop looking backward;

we face around and apply the law to the future. My friends, I can tell

you what people's wages are going to be at any date in the future you

want to know, for hundreds and hundreds of years."

"What, goodman, what!"

"Yes. In seven hundred years wages will have risen to six times what

they are now, here in your region, and farm-hands will be allowed three

cents a day, and mechanics six."

"I would I might die now and live then!" interrupted Smug, the

wheelwright, with a fine avaricious glow in his eye.

"And that isn't all; they'll get their board besides- such as it is:

it won't bloat them. Two hundred and fifty years later- pay attention

now- a mechanic's wages will be- mind you, this is law, not guesswork; a

mechanic's wages will then be (r)twenty cents a day!"

There was a general gasp of awed astonishment. Dickon the mason

murmured, with raised eyes and hands:

"More than three weeks' pay for one day's work!"

"Riches!- of a truth, yes, riches!" muttered Marco, his breath coming

quick and short, with excitement.

"Wages will keep on rising, little by little, little by little, as

steadily as a tree grows, and at the end of three hundred and forty

years more there'll be at least (r)one country where the mechanic's

average wage will be (r)two hundred cents a day!"

It knocked them absolutely dumb! Not a man of them could get his

breath for upward of two minutes. Then the coal-burner said,


"Might I but live to see it!"

"It is the income of an earl!" said Smug.

"An earl, say ye?" said Dowley; "ye could say more than that and speak

no lie; there's no earl in the realm of Bagdemagus that hath an income

like to that. Income of an earl- mf! it's the income of an angel!"

"Now, then, that is what is going to happen as regards wages. In that

remote day, that man will earn, with (r)one week's work, that bill of

goods which it takes you upward of (r)fifty weeks to earn now. Some

other pretty surprising things are going to happen, too. Brother Dowley,

who is it that determines, every spring, what the particular wage of

each kind of mechanic, laborer, and servant shall be for that year?"

"Sometimes the courts, sometimes the town council; but most of all,

the magistrate. Ye may say, in general terms, it is the magistrate that

fixes the wages."

"Doesn't ask any of those poor devils to (r)help him fix their wages

for them, does he?"

"Hm! That (r)were an idea! The master that's to pay him the money is

the one that's rightly concerned in that matter, ye will notice."

"Yes- but I thought the other man might have some little trifle at

stake in it, too; and even his wife and children, poor creatures. The

masters are these: nobles, rich men, the prosperous generally. These

few, who do no work, determine what pay the vast hive shall have who

(r)do work. You see? They're a 'combine'- a trade-union, to coin a new

phrase- who band themselves together to force their lowly brother to

take what they choose to give. Thirteen hundred years hence- so says the

unwritten law- the 'combine' will be the other way, and then how these

fine people's posterity will fume and fret and grit their teeth over the

insolent tyranny of trade-unions! Yes, indeed! the magistrate will

tranquilly arrange the wages from now clear away down into the

nineteenth century; and then all of a sudden the wage-earner will

consider that a couple of thousand years or so is enough of this one-

sided sort of thing; and he will rise up and take a hand in fixing his

wages himself. Ah, he will have a long and bitter account of wrong and

humiliation to settle."

"Do ye believe-"

"That he actually will help to fix his own wages? Yes, indeed. And he

will be strong and able, then."

"Brave times, brave times, of a truth!" sneered the prosperous smith.

"Oh- and there's another detail. In that day, a master may hire a man

for only just one day, or one week, or one month at a time, if he wants



"It's true. Moreover, a magistrate won't be able to force a man to

work for a master a whole year on a stretch whether the man wants to or


"Will there be (r)no law or sense in that day?"

"Both of them, Dowley. In that day a man will be his own property, not

the property of magistrate, and master. And he can leave town whenever

he wants to, if the wages don't suit him!- and they can't put him in the

pillory for it."

"Perdition catch such an age!" shouted Dowley, in strong indignation.

"An age of dogs, an age barren of reverence for superiors and respect

for authority! The pillory-"

"Oh, wait, brother; say no good word for that institution. (r)I think

the pillory ought to be abolished."

"A most strange idea. Why?"

"Well, I'll tell you why. Is a man ever put in the pillory for a

capital crime?"


"Is it right to condemn a man to a slight punishment for a small

offense and then kill him?"

There was no answer. I had scored my first point! For the first time,

the smith wasn't up and ready. The company noticed it. Good effect.

"You don't answer, brother. You were about to glorify the pillory a

while ago, and shed some pity on a future age that isn't going to use

it. (r)I think the pillory ought to be abolished. What usually happens

when a poor fellow is put in the pillory for some little offense that

didn't amount to anything in the world? The mob try to have some fun

with him, don't they?"


"They begin by clodding him; and they laugh themselves to pieces to

see him try to dodge one clod and get hit with another?"


"Then they throw dead cats at him, don't they?"


"Well, then, suppose he has a few personal enemies in that mob- and

here and there a man or a woman with a secret grudge against him- and

suppose especially that he is unpopular in the community, for his pride,

or his prosperity, or one thing or another- stones and bricks take the

place of clods and cats presently, don't they?"

"There is no doubt of it."

"As a rule he is crippled for life, isn't he?- jaws broken, teeth

smashed out?- or legs mutilated, gangrened, presently cut off?- or an

eye knocked out, maybe both eyes?"

"It is true, God knoweth it."

"And if he is unpopular he can depend on (r)dying, right there in the

stocks, can't he?"

"He surely can! One may not deny it."

"I take it none of (r)you are unpopular- by reason of pride or

insolence, or conspicuous prosperity, or any of those things that excite

envy and malice among the base scum of a village? (r)You wouldn't think

it much of a risk to take a chance in the stocks?"

Dowley winced, visibly. I judged he was hit. But he didn't betray it

by any spoken word. As for the others, they spoke out plainly, and with

strong feeling. They said they had seen enough of the stocks to know

what a man's chance in them was, and they would never consent to enter

them if they could compromise on a quick death by hanging.

"Well, to change the subject- for I think I've established my point

that the stocks ought to be abolished. I think some of our laws are

pretty unfair. For instance, if I do a thing which ought to deliver me

to the stocks, and you know I did it and yet keep still and don't report

me, (r)you will get the stocks if anybody informs on you."

"Ah, but that would serve you but right," said Dowley, "for you

(r)must inform. So saith the law."

The others coincided.

"Well, all right, let it go, since you vote me down. But there's one

thing which certainly isn't fair. The magistrate fixes a mechanic's wage

at one cent a day, for instance. The law says that if any master shall

venture, even under utmost press of business, to pay anything (r)over

that cent a day, even for a single day, he shall be both fined and

pilloried for it; and whoever knows he did it and doesn't inform, they

also shall be fined and pilloried. Now it seems to me unfair, Dowley,

and a deadly peril to all of us, that because you thoughtlessly

confessed, a while ago, that within a week you have paid a cent and

fifteen mil-"

Oh, I tell (r)you it was a smasher! You ought to have seen them go to

pieces, the whole gang. I had just slipped up on poor smiling and

complacent Dowley so nice and easy and softly, that he never suspected

anything was going to happen till the blow came crashing down and

knocked him all to rags.

A fine effect. In fact, as fine as any I ever produced, with so little

time to work it up in.

But I saw in a moment that I had overdone the thing a little. I was

expecting to scare them, but I wasn't expecting to scare them to death.

They were mighty near it, though. You see they had been a whole lifetime

learning to appreciate the pillory; and to have that thing staring them

in the face, and every one of them distinctly at the mercy of me, a

stranger, if I chose to go and report- well, it was awful, and they

couldn't seem to recover from the shock, they couldn't seem to pull

themselves together. Pale, shaky, dumb, pitiful? Why, they weren't any

better than so many dead men. It was very uncomfortable. Of course, I

thought they would appeal to me to keep mum, and then we would shake

hands, and take a drink all round, and laugh it off, and there an end.

But no; you see I was an unknown person, among a cruelly oppressed and

suspicious people, a people always accustomed to having advantage taken

of their helplessness, and never expecting just or kind treatment from

any but their own families and very closest intimates. Appeal to (r)me

to be gentle, to be fair, to be generous? Of course, they wanted to, but

they couldn't dare.


WELL, what had I better do? Nothing in a hurry, sure. I must get up a

diversion; anything to employ me while I could think, and while these

poor fellows could have a chance to come to life again. There sat Marco,

petrified in the act of trying to get the hang of his miller-gun- turned

to stone, just in the attitude he was in when my pile-driver fell, the

toy still gripped in his unconscious fingers. So I took it from him and

proposed to explain its mystery. Mystery! a simple little thing like

that; and yet it was mysterious enough, for that race and that age.

I never saw such an awkward people, with machinery; you see, they were

totally unused to it. The miller-gun was a little double-barreled tube

of toughened glass, with a neat little trick of a spring to it, which

upon pressure would let a shot escape. But the shot wouldn't hurt

anybody, it would only drop into your hand. In the gun were two sizes-

wee mustard-seed shot, and another sort that were several times larger.

They were money. The mustard-seed shot represented milrays, the larger

ones mills. So the gun was a purse; and very handy, too; you could pay

out money in the dark with it, with accuracy; and you could carry it in

your mouth; or in your vest pocket, if you had one. I made them of

several sizes- one size so large that it would carry the equivalent of a

dollar. Using shot for money was a good thing for the government; the

metal cost nothing, and the money couldn't be counterfeited, for I was

the only person in the kingdom who knew how to manage a shot-tower.

"Paying the shot" soon came to be a common phrase. Yes, and I knew it

would still be passing men's lips, away down in the nineteenth century,

yet none would suspect how and when it originated.

The king joined us, about this time, mightily refreshed by his nap,

and feeling good. Anything could make me nervous now, I was so uneasy-

for our lives were in danger; and so it worried me to detect a

complacent something in the king's eye which seemed to indicate that he

had been loading himself up for a performance of some kind or other;

confound it, why must he go and choose such a time as this?

I was right. He began, straight off, in the most innocently artful,

and transparent, and lubberly way, to lead up to the subject of

agriculture. The cold sweat broke out all over me. I wanted to whisper

in his ear, "Man, we are in awful danger! every moment is worth a

principality till we get back these men's confidence; (r)don't waste

any of this golden time." But of course I couldn't do it. Whisper to

him? It would look as if we were conspiring. So I had to sit there and

look calm and pleasant while the king stood over that dynamite mine and

mooned along about his damned onions and things. At first the tumult of

my own thoughts, summoned by the danger-signal and swarming to the

rescue from every quarter of my skull, kept up such a hurrah and

confusion and fifing and drumming that I couldn't take in a word; but

presently when my mob of gathering plans began to crystallize and fall

into position and form line of battle, a sort of order and quiet ensued

and I caught the boom of the king's batteries, as if out of remote


-"were not the best way, methinks, albeit it is not to be denied that

authorities differ as concerning this point, some contending that the

onion is but an unwholesome berry when stricken early from the tree-"

The audience showed signs of life, and sought each other's eyes in a

surprised and troubled way.

-"whileas others do yet maintain, with much show of reason, that this

is not of necessity the case, instancing that plums and other like

cereals do be always dug in the unripe state-"

The audience exhibited distinct distress; yes, and also fear.

-"yet are they clearly wholesome, the more especially when one doth

assuage the asperities of their nature by admixture of the tranquilizing

juice of the wayward cabbage-"

The wild light of terror began to glow in these men's eyes, and one of

them muttered, "These be errors, every one- God hath surely smitten the

mind of this farmer." I was in miserable apprehension; I sat upon


-"and further instancing the known truth that in the case of animals,

the young, which may be called the green fruit of the creature, is the

better, all confessing that when a goat is ripe, his fur doth heat and

sore engame his flesh, the which defect, taken in connection with his

several rancid habits, and fulsome appetites, and godless attitudes of

mind, and bilious quality of morals-"

They rose and went for him! With a fierce shout, "The one would betray

us, the other is mad! Kill them! Kill them!" they flung themselves upon

us. What joy flamed up in the king's eye! He might be lame in

agriculture, but this kind of thing was just in his line. He had been

fasting long, he was hungry for a fight. He hit the blacksmith a crack

under the jaw that lifted him clear off his feet and stretched him flat

on his back. "St. George for Britain!" and he downed the wheelwright.

The mason was big, but I laid him out like nothing. The three gathered

themselves up and came again; went down again; came again; and kept on

repeating this, with native British pluck, until they were battered to

jelly, reeling with exhaustion, and so blind that they couldn't tell us

from each other; and yet they kept right on, hammering away with what

might was left in them. Hammering each other- for we stepped aside and

looked on while they rolled, and struggled, and gouged, and pounded, and

bit, with the strict and wordless attention to business of so many

bulldogs. We looked on without apprehension, for they were fast getting

past ability to go for help against us, and the arena was far enough

from the public road to be safe from intrusion.

Well, while they were gradually playing out, it suddenly occurred to

me to wonder what had become of Marco. I looked around; he was nowhere

to be seen. Oh, but this was ominous! I pulled the king's sleeve, and we

glided away and rushed for the hut. No Marco there, no Phyllis there!

They had gone to the road for help, sure. I told the king to give his

heels wings, and I would explain later. We made good time across the

open ground, and as we darted into the shelter of the wood I glanced

back and saw a mob of excited peasants swarm into view, with Marco and

his wife at their head. They were making a world of noise, but that

couldn't hurt anybody; the wood was dense, and as soon as we were well

into its depths we would take to a tree and let them whistle. Ah, but

then came another sound- dogs! Yes, that was quite another matter. It

magnified our contract- we must find running water.

We tore along at a good gait, and soon left the sounds far behind and

modified to a murmur. We struck a stream and darted into it. We waded

swiftly down it, in the dim forest light, for as much as three hundred

yards, and then came across an oak with a great bough sticking out over

the water. We climbed up on this bough, and began to work our way along

it to the body of the tree; now we began to hear those sounds more

plainly; so the mob had struck our trail. For a while the sounds

approached pretty fast. And then for another while they didn't. No doubt

the dogs had found the place where we had entered the stream, and were

now waltzing up and down the shores trying to pick up the trail again.

When we were snugly lodged in the tree and curtained with foliage, the

king was satisfied, but I was doubtful. I believed we could crawl along

a branch and get into the next tree, and I judged it worth while to try.

We tried it, and made a success of it, though the king slipped, at the

junction, and came near failing to connect. We got comfortable lodgment

and satisfactory concealment among the foliage, and then we had nothing

to do but listen to the hunt.

Presently we heard it coming- and coming on the jump, too; yes, and

down both sides of the stream. Louder- louder- next minute it swelled

swiftly up into a roar of shoutings, barkings, tramplings, and swept by

like a cyclone.

"I was afraid that the overhanging branch would suggest something to

them," said I, "but I don't mind the disappointment. Come, my liege, it

were well that we make good use of our time. We've flanked them. Dark is

coming on, presently. If we can cross the stream and get a good start,

and borrow a couple of horses from somebody's pasture to use for a few

hours, we shall be safe enough."

We started down, and got nearly to the lowest limb, when we seemed to

hear the hunt returning. We stopped to listen.

"Yes," said I, "they're baffled, they've given it up, they're on their

way home. We will climb back to our roost again, and let them go by."

So we climbed back. The king listened a moment and said:

"They still search- I wit the sign. We did best to abide."

He was right. He knew more about hunting than I did. The noise

approached steadily, but not with a rush. The king said:

"They reason that we were advantaged by no parlous start of them, and

being on foot are as yet no mighty way from where we took the water."

"Yes, sire, that is about it, I am afraid, though I was hoping better


The noise drew nearer and nearer, and soon the van was drifting under

us, on both sides of the water. A voice called a halt from the other

bank, and said:

"An they were so minded, they could get to yon tree by this branch

that overhangs, and yet not touch ground. Ye will do well to send a man

up it."

"Marry, that we will do!"

I was obliged to admire my cuteness in foreseeing this very thing and

swapping trees to beat it. But, don't you know, there are some things

that can beat smartness and foresight? Awkwardness and stupidity can.

The best swordsman in the world doesn't need to fear the second best

swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some

ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he

doesn't do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn't prepared

for him; he does the thing he ought not to do; and often it catches the

expert out and ends him on the spot. Well, how could I, with all my

gifts, make any valuable preparation against a near-sighted, cross-eyed,

pudding-headed clown who would aim himself at the wrong tree and hit the

right one? And that is what he did. He went for the wrong tree, which

was, of course, the right one by mistake, and up he started.

Matters were serious now. We remained still, and awaited developments.

The peasant toiled his difficult way up. The king raised himself up and

stood; he made a leg ready, and when the comer's head arrived in reach

of it there was a dull thud, and down went the man floundering to the

ground. There was a wild outbreak of anger below, and the mob swarmed in

from all around, and there we were treed, and prisoners. Another man

started up; the bridging bough was detected, and a volunteer started up

the tree that furnished the bridge. The king ordered me to play Horatius

and keep the bridge. For a while the enemy came thick and fast; but no

matter, the head man of each procession always got a buffet that

dislodged him as soon as he came in reach. The king's spirits rose, his

joy was limitless. He said that if nothing occurred to mar the prospect

we should have a beautiful night, for on this line of tactics we could

hold the tree against the whole country-side.

However, the mob soon came to that conclusion themselves; wherefore

they called off the assault and began to debate other plans. They had no

weapons, but there were plenty of stones, and stones might answer. We

had no, objections. A stone might possibly penetrate to us once in a

while, but it wasn't very likely; we were well protected by boughs and

foliage, and were not visible from any good aiming-point. If they would

but waste half an hour in stone-throwing, the dark would come to our

help. We were feeling very well satisfied. We could smile; almost laugh.

But we didn't; which was just as well, for we should have been

interrupted. Before the stones had been raging through the leaves and

bouncing from the boughs fifteen minutes, we began to notice a smell. A

couple of sniffs of it was enough of an explanation: it was smoke! Our

game was up at last. We recognized that. When smoke invites you, you

have to come. They raised their pile of dry brush and damp weeds higher

and higher, and when they saw the thick cloud begin to roll up and

smother the tree, they broke out in a storm of joy-clamors. I got enough

breath to say:

"Proceed, my liege; after you is manners."

The king gasped:

"Follow me down, and then back thyself against one side of the trunk,

and leave me the other. Then will we fight. Let each pile his dead

according to his own fashion and taste."

Then he descended, barking and coughing, and I followed. I struck the

ground an instant after him; we sprang to our appointed places, and

began to give and take with all our might. The powwow and racket were

prodigious; it was a tempest of riot and confusion and thick-falling

blows. Suddenly some horsemen tore into the midst of the crowd, and a

voice shouted:

"Hold- or ye are dead men!"

How good it sounded! The owner of the voice bore all the marks of a

gentleman: picturesque and costly raiment, the aspect of command, a hard

countenance, with complexion and features marred by dissipation. The mob

fell humbly back, like so many spaniels. The gentleman inspected us

critically, then said sharply to the peasants:

"What are ye doing to these people?"

"They be madmen, worshipful sir, that have come wandering we know not

whence, and-"

"Ye know not whence? Do ye pretend ye know them not?"

"Most honored sir, we speak but the truth. They are strangers and

unknown to any in this region; and they be the most violent and blood-

thirsty madmen that ever-"

"Peace! Ye know not what ye say. They are not mad. Who are ye? And

whence are ye? Explain."

"We are but peaceful strangers, sir," I said, "and traveling upon our

own concerns. We are from a far country, and unacquainted here. We have

purposed no harm; and yet but for your brave interference and protection

these people would have killed us. As you have divined, sir, we are not

mad; neither are we violent or bloodthirsty."

The gentleman turned to his retinue and said calmly:

"Lash me these animals to their kennels!"

The mob vanished in an instant; and after them plunged the horsemen,

laying about them with their whips and pitilessly riding down such as

were witless enough to keep the road instead of taking to the bush. The

shrieks and supplications presently died away in the distance, and soon

the horsemen began to straggle back. Meantime the gentleman had been

questioning us more closely, but had dug no particulars out of us. We

were lavish of recognition of the service he was doing us, but we

revealed nothing more than that we were friendless strangers from a far

country. When the escort were all returned, the gentleman said to one of

his servants:

"Bring the led-horses and mount these people."

"Yes, my lord."

We were placed toward the rear, among the servants. We traveled pretty

fast, and finally drew rein some time after dark at a roadside inn some

ten or twelve miles from the scene of our troubles. My lord went

immediately to his room, after ordering his supper, and we saw no more

of him. At dawn in the morning we breakfasted and made ready to start.

My lord's chief attendant sauntered forward at that moment with

indolent grace, and said:

"Ye have said ye should continue upon this road, which is our

direction likewise; wherefore my lord, the earl Grip, hath given

commandment that ye retain the horses and ride, and that certain of us

ride with ye a twenty mile to a fair town that hight Cambenet, whenso ye

shall be out of peril."

We could do nothing less than express our thanks and accept the offer.

We jogged along, six in the party, at a moderate and comfortable gait,

and in conversation learned that my lord Grip was a very great personage

in his own region, which lay a day's journey beyond Cambenet. We

loitered to such a degree that it was near the middle of the forenoon

when we entered the market-square of the town. We dismounted, and left

our thanks once more for my lord, and then approached a crowd assembled

in the center of the square, to see what might be the object of

interest. It was the remnant of that old peregrinating band of slaves!

So they had been dragging their chains about, all this weary time. That

poor husband was gone, and also many others; and some few purchases had

been added to the gang. The king was not interested, and wanted to move

along, but I was absorbed, and full of pity. I could not take my eyes

away from these worn and wasted wrecks of humanity. There they sat,

grouped upon the ground, silent, uncomplaining, with bowed heads, a

pathetic sight. And by hideous contrast, a redundant orator was making a

speech to another gathering not thirty steps away, in fulsome laudation

of "our glorious British liberties!"

I was boiling. I had forgotten I was a plebeian, I was remembering I

was a man. Cost what it might, I would mount that rostrum and-

Click! the king and I were handcuffed together! Our companions, those

servants, had done it; my lord Grip stood looking on. The king burst out

in a fury, and said:

"What meaneth this ill-mannered jest?"

My lord merely said to his head miscreant, coolly:

"Put up the slaves and sell them!"

(r)Slaves! The word had a new sound- and how unspeakably awful! The

king lifted his manacles and brought them down with a deadly force; but

my lord was out of the way when they arrived. A dozen of the rascal's

servants sprang forward, and in a moment we were helpless, with our

hands bound behind us. We so loudly and so earnestly proclaimed

ourselves freemen, that we got the interested attention of that liberty-

mouthing orator and his patriotic crowd, and they gathered about us and

assumed a very determined attitude. The orator said:

"If, indeed, ye are freemen, ye have naught to fear- the God-given

liberties of Britain are about ye for your shield and shelter!

[Applause.] Ye shall soon see. Bring forth your proofs."

"What proofs?"

"Proof that ye are freemen."

Ah- I remembered! I came to myself; I said nothing. But the king

stormed out:

"Thou'rt insane, man. It were better, and more in reason, that this

thief and scoundrel here prove that we are (r)not freemen."

You see, he knew his own laws just as other people so often know the

laws; by words, not by effects. They take a (r)meaning, and get to be

very vivid, when you come to apply them to yourself.

All hands shook their heads and looked disappointed; some turned away,

no longer interested. The orator said- and this time in the tones of

business, not of sentiment:

"An ye do not know your country's laws, it were time ye learned them.

Ye are strangers to us; ye will not deny that. Ye may be freemen, we do

not deny that; but also ye may be slaves. The law is clear: it doth not

require the claimant to prove ye are slaves, it requireth you to prove

ye are (r)not."

I said:

"Dear sir, give us only time to send to Astolat; or give us only time

to send to the Valley of Holiness-"

"Peace, good man, these are extraordinary requests, and you may not

hope to have them granted. It would cost much time, and would

unwarrantably inconvenience your master-"

(r)"Master, idiot!" stormed the king. "I have no master, I myself am

the m-"

"Silence, for God's sake!" I got the words out in time to stop the

king. We were in trouble enough already; it could not help us any to

give these people the notion that we were lunatics.

There is no use in stringing out the details. The earl put us up and

sold us at auction. This same infernal law had existed in our own South

in my own time, more than thirteen hundred years later, and under it

hundreds of freemen who could not prove that they were freemen had been

sold into life-long slavery without the circumstance making any

particular impression upon me; but the minute law and the auction block

came into my personal experience, a thing which had been merely improper

before became suddenly hellish. Well, that's the way we are made.

Yes, we were sold at auction, like swine. In a big town and an active

market we should have brought a good price; but this place was utterly

stagnant and so we sold at a figure which makes me ashamed, every time I

think of it. The King of England brought seven dollars, and his prime

minister nine; whereas the king was easily worth twelve dollars and I as

easily worth fifteen. But that is the way things always go; if you force

a sale on a dull market, I don't care what the property is, you are

going to make a poor business of it, and you can make up your mind to

it. If the earl had had wit enough to-

However, there is no occasion for my working my sympathies up on his

account. Let him go, for the present; I took his number, so to speak.

The slave-dealer bought us both, and hitched us onto that long chain

of his, and we constituted the rear of his procession. We took up our

line of march and passed out of Cambenet at noon; and it seemed to me

unaccountably strange and odd that the King of England and his chief

minister, marching manacled and fettered and yoked, in a slave convoy,

could move by all manner of idle men and women, and under windows where

sat the sweet and the lovely, and yet never attract a curious eye, never

provoke a single remark. Dear, dear, it only shows that there is nothing

diviner about a king than there is about a tramp, after all. He is just

a cheap and hollow artificiality when you don't know he is a king. But

reveal his quality, and dear me it takes your very breath away to look

at him. I reckon we are all fools. Born so, no doubt.


IT'S a world of surprises. The king brooded; this was natural. What

would he brood about, should you say? Why, about the prodigious nature

of his fall, of course- from the loftiest place in the world to the

lowest; from the most illustrious station in the world to the obscurest;

from the grandest vocation among men to the basest. No, I take my oath

that the thing that graveled him most, to start with, was not this, but

the price he had fetched! He couldn't seem to get over that seven

dollars. Well, it stunned me so, when I first found it out, that I

couldn't believe it; it didn't seem natural. But as soon as my mental

sight cleared and I got a right focus on it, I saw I was mistaken; it

(r)was natural. For this reason: a king is a mere artificiality, and so

a king's feelings, like the impulses of an automatic doll, are mere

artificialities; but as a man, he is a reality, and his feelings, as a

man, are real, not phantoms. It shames the average man to be valued

below his own estimate of his worth; and the king certainly wasn't

anything more than an average man, if he was up that high.

Confound him, he wearied me with arguments to show that in anything

like a fair market he would have fetched twenty-five dollars, sure- a

thing which was plainly nonsense, and full of the baldest conceit; I

wasn't worth it myself. But it was tender ground for me to argue on. In

fact, I had to simply shirk argument and do the diplomatic instead. I

had to throw conscience aside, and brazenly concede that he ought to

have brought twenty-five dollars; whereas I was quite well aware that in

all the ages, the world had never seen a king that was worth half the

money, and during the next thirteen centuries wouldn't see one that was

worth the fourth of it. Yes, he tired me. If he began to talk about the

crops; or about the recent weather; or about the condition of politics;

or about dogs, or cats, or morals, or theology- no matter what- I

sighed, for I knew what was coming; he was going to get out of it a

palliation of that tiresome seven-dollar sale. Wherever we halted where

there was a crowd, he would give me a look which said plainly: "If that

thing could be tried over again now, with this kind of folk, you would

see a different result." Well, when he was first sold, it secretly

tickled me to see him go for seven dollars; but before he was done with

his sweating and worrying I wished he had fetched a hundred. The thing

never got a chance to die, for every day, at one place or another,

possible purchasers looked us over, and, as often as any other way,

their comment on the king was something like this:

"Here's a two-dollar-and-a-half chump with a thirty-dollar style. Pity

but style was marketable."

At last this sort of remark produced an evil result. Our owner was a

practical person and he perceived that this defect must be mended if he

hoped to find a purchaser for the king. So he went to work to take the

style out of his sacred majesty. I could have given the man some

valuable advice, but I didn't; you mustn't volunteer advice to a slave-

driver unless you want to damage the cause you are arguing for. I had

found it a sufficiently difficult job to reduce the king's style to a

peasant's style, even when he was a willing and anxious pupil; now then,

to undertake to reduce the king's style to a slave's style- and by

force- go to! it was a stately contract. Never mind the details- it will

save me trouble to let you imagine them. I will only remark that at the

end of a week there was plenty of evidence that lash and club and fist

had done their work well; the king's body was a sight to see- and to

weep over; but his spirit?- why, it wasn't even phased. Even that dull

clod of a slave-driver was able to see that there can be such a thing as

a slave who will remain a man till he dies; whose bones you can break,

but whose manhood you can't. This man found that; from his first effort

down to his latest, he couldn't ever come within reach of the king, but

the king was ready to plunge for him, and did it. So he gave up at last,

and left the king in possession of his style unimpaired. The fact is,

the king was a good deal more than a king, he was a man; and when a man

is a man, you can't knock it out of him.

We had a rough time for a month, tramping to and fro in the earth, and

suffering. And what Englishman was the most interested in the slavery

question by that time? His grace the king! Yes; from being the most

indifferent, he was become the most interested. He was become the

bitterest hater of the institution I had ever heard talk. And so I

ventured to ask once more a question which I had asked years before and

had gotten such a sharp answer that I had not thought it prudent to

meddle in the matter further. Would he abolish slavery?

His answer was as sharp as before, but it was music this time; I

shouldn't ever wish to hear pleasanter, though the profanity was not

good, being awkwardly put together, and with the crash-word almost in

the middle instead of at the end, where, of course, it ought to have


I was ready and willing to get free now; I hadn't wanted to get free

any sooner. No, I cannot quite say that. I had wanted to, but I had not

been willing to take desperate chances, and had always dissuaded the

king from them. But now- ah, it was a new atmosphere! Liberty would be

worth any cost that might be put upon it now. I set about a plan, and

was straightway charmed with it. It would require time, yes, and

patience, too, a great deal of both. One could invent quicker ways, and

fully as sure ones; but none that would be as picturesque as this; none

that could be made so dramatic. And so I was not going to give this one

up. It might delay us months, but no matter, I would carry it out or

break something.

Now and then we had an adventure. One night we were overtaken by a

snow-storm while still a mile from the village we were making for.

Almost instantly we were shut up as in a fog, the driving snow was so

thick. You couldn't see a thing, and we were soon lost. The slave-driver

lashed us desperately, for he saw ruin before him, but his lashings only

made matters worse, for they drove us further from the road and from

likelihood of succor. So we had to stop at last and slump down in the

snow where we were. The storm continued until toward midnight, then

ceased. By this time two of our feebler men and three of our women were

dead, and others past moving and threatened with death. Our master was

nearly beside himself. He stirred up the living, and made us stand,

jump, slap ourselves, to restore our circulation, and he helped as well

as he could with his whip.

Now came a diversion. We heard shrieks and yells, and soon a woman

came running and crying; and seeing our group, she flung herself into

our midst and begged for protection. A mob of people came tearing after

her, some with torches, and they said she was a witch who had caused

several cows to die by a strange disease, and practised her arts by help

of a devil in the form of a black cat. This poor woman had been stoned

until she hardly looked human, she was so battered and bloody. The mob

wanted to burn her.

Well, now, what do you suppose our master did? When we closed around

this poor creature to shelter her, he saw his chance. He said, burn her

here, or they shouldn't have her at all. Imagine that! They were

willing. They fastened her to a post; they brought wood and piled it

about her; they applied the torch while she shrieked and pleaded and

strained her two young daughters to her breast, and our brute, with a

heart solely for business, lashed us into position about the stake and

warmed us into life and commercial value by the same fire which took

away the innocent life of that poor harmless mother. That was the sort

of master we had. I took his number. That snow-storm cost him nine of

his flock; and he was more brutal to us than ever, after that, for many

days together, he was so enraged over his loss.

We had adventures all along. One day we ran into a procession. And

such a procession! All the riffraff of the kingdom seemed to be

comprehended in it; and all drunk at that. In the van was a cart with a

coffin in it, and on the coffin sat a comely young girl of about

eighteen suckling a baby, which she squeezed to her breast in a passion

of love every little while, and every little while wiped from its face

the tears which her eyes rained down upon it; and always the foolish

little thing smiled up at her, happy and content, kneading her breast

with its dimpled fat hand, which she patted and fondled right over her

breaking heart.

Men and women, boys and girls, trotted along beside or after the cart,

hooting, shouting profane and ribald remarks, singing snatches of foul

song, skipping, dancing- a very holiday of hellions, a sickening sight.

We had struck a suburb of London, outside the walls, and this was a

sample of one sort of London society. Our master secured a good place

for us near the gallows. A priest was in attendance, and he helped the

girl climb up, and said comforting words to her, and made the under-

sheriff provide a stool for her. Then he stood there by her on the

gallows, and for a moment looked down upon the mass of upturned faces at

his feet, then out over the solid pavement of heads that stretched away

on every side occupying the vacancies far and near, and then began to

tell the story of the case. And there was pity in his voice- how seldom

a sound that was in that ignorant and savage land! I remember every

detail of what he said, except the words he said it in; and so I change

it into my own words:

"Law is intended to mete out justice. Sometimes it fails. This cannot

be helped. We can only grieve, and be resigned, and pray for the soul of

him who falls unfairly by the arm of the law, and that his fellows may

be few. A law sends this poor young thing to death- and it is right. But

another law had placed her where she must commit her crime or starve

with her child- and before God that law is responsible for both her

crime and her ignominious death!

"A little while ago this young thing, this child of eighteen years,

was as happy a wife and mother as any in England; and her lips were

blithe with song, which is the native speech of glad and innocent

hearts. Her young husband was as happy as she; for he was doing his

whole duty, he worked early and late at his handicraft, his bread was

honest bread well and fairly earned, he was prospering, he was

furnishing shelter and sustenance to his family, he was adding his mite

to the wealth of the nation. By consent of a treacherous law, instant

destruction fell upon this holy home and swept it away! That young

husband was waylaid and impressed, and sent to sea. The wife knew

nothing of it. She sought him everywhere, she moved the hardest hearts

with the supplications of her tears, the broken eloquence of her

despair. Weeks dragged by, she watching, waiting, hoping, her mind going

slowly to wreck under the burden of her misery. Little by little all her

small possessions went for food. When she could no longer pay her rent,

they turned her out of doors. She begged, while she had strength; when

she was starving at last, and her milk failing, she stole a piece of

linen cloth of the value of a fourth part of a cent, thinking to sell it

and save her child. But she was seen by the owner of the cloth. She was

put in jail and brought to trial. The man testified to the facts. A plea

was made for her, and her sorrowful story was told in her behalf. She

spoke, too, by permission, and said she did steal the cloth, but that

her mind was so disordered of late by trouble that when she was

overborne with hunger all acts, criminal or other, swam meaningless

through her brain and she knew nothing rightly, except that she was

(r)so hungry! For a moment all were touched, and there was disposition

to deal mercifully with her, seeing that she was so young and

friendless, and her case so piteous, and the law that robbed her of her

support to blame as being the first and only cause of her transgression;

but the prosecuting officer replied that whereas these things were all

true, and most pitiful as well, still there was much small theft in

these days, and mistimed mercy here would be a danger to property- oh,

my God, is there no property in ruined homes, and orphaned babes, and

broken hearts that British law holds precious!- and so he must require


"When the judge put on his black cap, the owner of the stolen linen

rose trembling up, his lip quivering, his face as gray as ashes; and

when the awful words came, he cried out, 'Oh, poor child, poor child, I

did not know it was death!' and fell as a tree falls. When they lifted

him up his reason was gone; before the sun was set, he had taken his own

life. A kindly man; a man whose heart was right, at bottom; add his

murder to this that is to be now done here; and charge them both where

they belong- to the rulers and the bitter laws of Britain. The time is

come, my child; let me pray over thee- not (r)for thee, dear abused

poor heart and innocent, but for them that be guilty of thy ruin and

death, who need it more."

After his prayer they put the noose around the young girl's neck, and

they had great trouble to adjust the knot under her ear, because she was

devouring the baby all the time, wildly kissing it, and snatching it to

her face and her breast, and drenching it with tears, and half moaning,

half shrieking all the while, and the baby crowing, and laughing, and

kicking its feet with delight over what it took for romp and play. Even

the hangman couldn't stand it, but turned away. When all was ready the

priest gently pulled and tugged and forced the child out of the mother's

arms, and stepped quickly out of her reach; but she clasped her hands,

and made a wild spring toward him, with a shriek; but the rope- and the

under-sheriff- held her short. Then she went on her knees and stretched

out her hands and cried:

"One more kiss- oh, my God, one more, one more- it is the dying that

begs it!"

She got it; she almost smothered the little thing. And when they got

it away again, she cried out:

"Oh, my child, my darling, it will die! It has no home, it has no

father, no friend, no mother-"

"It has them all!" said that good priest. "All these will I be to it

till I die."

You should have seen her face then! Gratitude? Lord, what do you want

with words to express that? Words are only painted fire; a look is the

fire itself. She gave that look, and carried it away to the treasury of

heaven, where all things that are divine belong.


LONDON- to a slave- was a sufficiently interesting place. It was

merely a great big village; and mainly mud and thatch. The streets were

muddy, crooked, unpaved. The populace was an ever flocking and drifting

swarm of rags, and splendors, of nodding plumes and shining armor. The

king had a palace there; he saw the outside of it. It made him sigh;

yes, and swear a little, in a poor juvenile sixth-century way. We saw

knights and grandees whom we knew, but they didn't know us in our rags

and dirt and raw welts and bruises, and wouldn't have recognized us if

we had hailed them, nor stopped to answer, either, it being unlawful to

speak with slaves on a chain. Sandy passed within ten yards of me on a

mule- hunting for me, I imagined. But the thing which clean broke my

heart was something which happened in front of our old barrack in a

square, while we were enduring the spectacle of a man being boiled to

death in oil for counterfeiting pennies. It was the sight of a newsboy-

and I couldn't get at him! Still, I had one comfort; here was proof that

Clarence was still alive and banging away. I meant to be with him before

long; the thought was full of cheer.

I had one little glimpse of another thing, one day, which gave me a

great uplift. It was a wire stretching from housetop to housetop.

Telegraph or telephone, sure. I did very much wish I had a little piece

of it. It was just what I needed, in order to carry out my project of

escape. My idea was to get loose some night, along with the king, then

gag and bind our master, change clothes with him, batter him into the

aspect of a stranger, hitch him to the slave-chain, assume possession of

the property, march to Camelot, and-

But you get my idea; you see what a stunning dramatic surprise I would

wind up with at the palace. It was all feasible, if I could only get

hold of a slender piece of iron which I could shape into a lock-pick. I

could then undo the lumbering padlocks with which our chains were

fastened, whenever I might choose. But I never had any luck; no such

thing ever happened to fall in my way. However, my chance came at last.

A gentleman who had come twice before to dicker for me, without result,

or indeed any approach to a result, came again. I was far from expecting

ever to belong to him, for the price asked for me from the time I was

first enslaved was exorbitant, and always provoked either anger or

derision, yet my master stuck stubbornly to it- twenty-two dollars. He

wouldn't bate a cent. The king was greatly admired, because of his grand

physique, but his kingly style was against him, and he wasn't salable;

nobody wanted that kind of a slave. I considered myself safe from

parting from him because of my extravagant price. No, I was not

expecting to ever belong to this gentleman whom I have spoken of, but he

had something which I expected would belong to me eventually, if he

would but visit us often enough. It was a steel thing with a long pin to

it, with which his long cloth outside garment was fastened together in

front. There were three of them. He had disappointed me twice, because

he did not come quite close enough to me to make my project entirely

safe; but this time I succeeded; I captured the lower clasp of the

three, and when he missed it he thought he had lost it on the way.

I had a chance to be glad about a minute, then straightway a chance to

be sad again. For when the purchase was about to fail, as usual, the

master suddenly spoke up and said what would be worded thus- in modern


"I'll tell you what I'll do. I'm tired supporting these two for no

good. Give me twenty-two dollars for this one, and I'll throw the other

one in."

The king couldn't get his breath, he was in such a fury. He began to

choke and gag, and meantime the master and the gentleman moved away


"An ye will keep the offer open-"

"'Tis open till the morrow at this hour."

"Then I will answer you at that time," said the gentleman, and

disappeared, the master following him.

I had a time of it to cool the king down, but I managed it. I

whispered in his ear, to this effect:

"Your grace (r)will go for nothing, but after another fashion. And so

shall I. To-night we shall both be free."

"Ah! How is that?"

"With this thing which I have stolen, I will unlock these locks and

cast off these chains to-night. When he comes about nine-thirty to

inspect us for the night, we will seize him, gag him, batter him, and

early in the morning we will march out of this town, proprietors of this

caravan of slaves."

That was as far as I went, but the king was charmed and satisfied.

That evening we waited patiently for our fellow-slaves to get to sleep

and signify it by the usual sign, for you must not take many chances on

those poor fellows if you can avoid it. It is best to keep your own

secrets. No doubt they fidgeted only about as usual, but it didn't seem

so to me. It seemed to me that they were going to be forever getting

down to their regular snoring. As the time dragged on I got nervously

afraid we shouldn't have enough of it left for our needs; so I made

several premature attempts, and merely delayed things by it; for I

couldn't seem to touch a padlock, there in the dark, without starting a

rattle out of it which interrupted somebody's sleep and made him turn

over and wake some more of the gang.

But finally I did get my last iron off, and was a free man once more.

I took a good breath of relief, and reached for the king's irons. Too

late! in comes the master, with a light in one hand and his heavy

walking-staff in the other. I snuggled close among the wallow of

snorers, to conceal as nearly as possible that I was naked of irons; and

I kept a sharp lookout and prepared to spring for my man the moment he

should bend over me.

But he didn't approach. He stopped, gazed absently toward our dusky

mass a minute, evidently thinking about something else; then set down

his light, moved musingly toward the door, and before a body could

imagine what he was going to do, he, was out of the door and had closed

it behind him.

"Quick!" said the king. "Fetch him back!"

Of course, it was the thing to do, and I was up and out in a moment.

But, dear me, there were no lamps in those days, and it was a dark

night. But I glimpsed a dim figure a few steps away. I darted for it,

threw myself upon it, and then there was a state of things and lively!

We fought and scuffled and struggled, and drew a crowd in no time. They

took an immense interest in the fight and encouraged us all they could,

and, in fact, couldn't have been pleasanter or more cordial if it had

been their own fight. Then a tremendous row broke out behind us, and as

much as half of our audience left us, with a rush, to invest some

sympathy in that. Lanterns began to swing in all directions; it was the

watch gathering from far and near. Presently a halberd fell across my

back, as a reminder, and I knew what it meant. I was in custody. So was

my adversary. We were marched off toward prison, one on each side of the

watchman. Here was disaster, here was a fine scheme gone to sudden

destruction! I tried to imagine what would happen when the master should

discover that it was I who had been fighting him; and what would happen

if they jailed us together in the general apartment for brawlers and

petty lawbreakers, as was the custom; and what might-

Just then my antagonist turned his face around in my direction, the

freckled light from the watchman's tin lantern fell on it, and by

George, he was the wrong man!


SLEEP? It was impossible. It would naturally have been impossible in

that noisome cavern of a jail, with its mangy crowd of drunken,

quarrelsome, and song-singing rapscallions. But the thing that made

sleep all the more a thing not to be dreamed of, was my racking

impatience to get out of this place and find out the whole size of what

might have happened yonder in the slave-quarters in consequence of that

intolerable miscarriage of mine.

It was a long night, but the morning got around at last. I made a full

and frank explanation to the court. I said I was a slave, the property

of the great Earl Grip, who had arrived just after dark at the Tabard

inn in the village on the other side of the water, and had stopped there

overnight, by compulsion, he being taken deadly sick with a strange and

sudden disorder. I had been ordered to cross to the city in all haste

and bring the best physician; I was doing my best; naturally I was

running with all my might; the night was dark, I ran against this common

person here, who seized me by the throat and began to pummel me,

although I told him my errand, and implored him, for the sake of the

great earl my master's mortal peril- The common person interrupted and

said it was a lie; and was going to explain how I rushed upon him and

attacked him without a word-

"Silence, sirrah!" from the court. "Take him hence and give him a few

stripes whereby to teach him how to treat the servant of a nobleman

after a different fashion another time. Go!"

Then the court begged my pardon, and hoped I would not fail to tell

his lordship it was in no wise the court's fault that this high-handed

thing had happened. I said I would make it all right, and so took my

leave. Took it just in time, too; he was starting to ask me why I didn't

fetch out these facts the moment I was arrested. I said I would if I had

thought of it- which was true- but that I was so battered by that man

that all my wit was knocked out of me- and so forth and so on, and got

myself away, still mumbling.

I didn't wait for breakfast. No grass grew under my feet. I was soon

at the slave quarters. Empty- everybody gone! That is, everybody except

one body- the slave-master's. It lay there all battered to pulp; and all

about were the evidences of a terrific fight. There was a rude board

coffin on a cart at the door, and workmen, assisted by the police, were

thinning a road through the gaping crowd in order that they might bring

it in.

I picked out a man humble enough in life to condescend to talk with

one so shabby as I, and got his account of the matter.

"There were sixteen slaves here. They rose against their master in the

night, and thou seest how it ended."

"Yes. How did it begin?"

"There was no witness but the slaves. They said the slave that was

most valuable got free of his bonds and escaped in some strange way- by

magic arts 'twas thought, by reason that he had no key, and the locks

were neither broke nor in any wise injured. When the master discovered

his loss, he was mad with despair, and threw himself upon his people

with his heavy stick, who resisted and brake his back and in other and

divers ways did give him hurts that brought him swiftly to his end."

"This is dreadful. It will go hard with the slaves, no doubt, upon the


"Marry, the trial is over."


"Would they be a week, think you- and the matter so simple? They were

not the half of a quarter of an hour at it."

"Why, I don't see how they could determine which were the guilty ones

in so short a time."

(r)"Which ones? Indeed, they considered not particulars like to that.

They condemned them in a body. Wit ye not the law?- which men say the

Romans left behind them here when they went- that if one slave killeth

his master all the slaves of that man must die for it."

"True. I had forgotten. And when will these die?"

"Belike within a four and twenty hours; albeit some say they will wait

a pair of days more, if peradventure they may find the missing one


The missing one! It made me feel uncomfortable.

"Is it likely they will find him?"

"Before the day is spent- yes. They seek him everywhere. They stand at

the gates of the town, with certain of the slaves who will discover him

to them if he cometh, and none can pass out but he will be first


"Might one see the place where the rest are confined?"

"The outside of it- yes. The inside of it- but ye will not want to see


I took the address of that prison for future reference and then

sauntered off. At the first second-hand clothing shop I came to, up a

back street, I got a rough rig suitable for a common seaman who might be

going on a cold voyage, and bound up my face with a liberal bandage,

saying I had a toothache. This concealed my worst bruises. It was a

transformation. I no longer resembled my former self. Then I struck out

for that wire, found it and followed it to its den. It was a little room

over a butcher's shop- which meant that business wasn't very brisk in

the telegraphic line. The young chap in charge was drowsing at his

table. I locked the door and put the vast key in my bosom. This alarmed

the young fellow, and he was going to make a noise; but I said:

"Save your wind; if you open your mouth you are dead, sure. Tackle

your instrument. Lively, now! Call Camelot."

"This doth amaze me! How should such as you know aught of such matters


"Call Camelot! I am a desperate man. Call Camelot, or get away from

the instrument and I will do it myself."

"What- you?"

"Yes- certainly. Stop gabbling. Call the palace."

He made the call.

"Now, then, call Clarence."

"Clarence (r)who?"

"Never mind Clarence who. Say you want Clarence; you'll get an


He did so. We waited five nerve-straining minutes- ten minutes- how

long it did seem!- and then came a click that was as familiar to me as a

human voice; for Clarence had been my own pupil.

"Now, my lad, vacate! They would have known (r)my touch, maybe, and

so your call was surest; but I'm all right now."

He vacated the place and cocked his ear to listen- but it didn't win.

I used a cipher. I didn't waste any time in sociabilities with Clarence,

but squared away for business, straight-off- thus:

"The king is here and in danger. We were captured and brought here as

slaves. We should not be able to prove our identity- and the fact is, I

am not in a position to try. Send a telegram for the palace here which

will carry conviction with it."

His answer came straight back:

"They don't know anything about the telegraph; they haven't had any

experience yet, the line to London is so new. Better not venture that.

They might hang you. Think up something else."

Might hang us! Little he knew how closely he was crowding the facts. I

couldn't think up anything for the moment. Then an idea struck me, and I

started it along:

"Send five hundred picked knights with Launcelot in the lead; and send

them on the jump. Let them enter by the southwest gate, and look out for

the man with a white cloth around his right arm."

The answer was prompt:

"They shall start in half an hour."

"All right, Clarence; now tell this lad here that I'm a friend of

yours and a dead-head; and that he must be discreet and say nothing

about this visit of mine."

The instrument began to talk to the youth and I hurried away. I fell

to ciphering. In half an hour it would be nine o'clock. Knights and

horses in heavy armor couldn't travel very fast. These would make the

best time they could, and now that the ground was in good condition, and

no snow or mud, they would probably make a seven-mile gait; they would

have to change horses a couple of times; they would arrive about six, or

a little after; it would still be plenty light enough; they would see

the white cloth which I should tie around my right arm, and I would take

command. We would surround that prison and have the king out in no time.

It would be showy and picturesque enough, all things considered, though

I would have preferred noonday, on account of the more theatrical aspect

the thing would have.

Now, then, in order to increase the strings to my bow, I thought I

would look up some of those people whom I had formerly recognized, and

make myself known. That would help us out of our scrape, without the

knights. But I must proceed cautiously, for it was a risky business. I

must get into sumptuous raiment, and it wouldn't do to run and jump into

it. No, I must work up to it by degrees, buying suit after suit of

clothes, in shops wide apart, and getting a little finer article with

each change, until I should finally reach silk and velvet, and be ready

for my project. So I started.

But the scheme fell through like scat! The first corner I turned, I

came plump upon one of our slaves, snooping around with a watchman. I

coughed at the moment, and he gave me a sudden look that bit right into

my marrow. I judge he thought he had heard that cough before. I turned

immediately into a shop and worked along down the counter, pricing

things and watching out of the corner of my eye. Those people had

stopped, and were talking together and looking in at the door. I made up

my mind to get out the back way, if there was a back way, and I asked

the shopwoman if I could step out there and look for the escaped slave,

who was believed to be in hiding back there somewhere, and said I was an

officer in disguise, and my pard was yonder at the door with one of the

murderers in charge, and would she be good enough to step there and tell

him he needn't wait, but had better go at once to the further end of the

back alley and be ready to head him off when I rousted him out.

She was blazing with eagerness to see one of those already celebrated

murderers, and she started on the errand at once. I slipped out the back

way, locked the door behind me, put the key in my pocket and started

off, chuckling to myself and comfortable.

Well, I had gone and spoiled it again, made another mistake. A double

one, in fact. There were plenty of ways to get rid of that officer by

some simple and plausible device, but no, I must pick out a picturesque

one; it is the crying defect of my character. And then, I had ordered my

procedure upon what the officer, being human, would (r)naturally do;

whereas when you are least expecting it, a man will now and then go and

do the very thing which it's (r)not natural for him to do. The natural

thing for the officer to do, in this case, was to follow straight on my

heels; he would find a stout oaken door, securely locked, between him

and me; before he could break it down, I should be far away and engaged

in slipping into a succession of baffling disguises which would soon get

me into a sort of raiment which was a surer protection from meddling

law-dogs in Britain than any amount of mere innocence and purity of

character. But instead, of doing the natural thing, the officer took me

at my word, and followed my instructions. And so, as I came trotting out

of that (r)cul de sac, full of satisfaction with my own cleverness, he

turned the corner and I walked right into his handcuffs. If I had known

it was a (r)cul de sac - however, there isn't any excusing a blunder

like that, let it go. Charge it up to profit and loss.

Of course, I was indignant, and swore I had just come ashore from a

long voyage, and all that sort of thing- just to see, you know, if it

would deceive that slave. But it didn't. He knew me. Then I reproached

him for betraying me. He was more surprised than hurt. He stretched his

eves wide, and said:

"What, wouldst have me let thee, of all men, escape and not hang with

us, when thou'rt the very cause of our hanging? Go to!"

"Go to" was their way of saying, "I should smile!" or "I like that!"

Queer talkers, those people.

Well, there was a sort of bastard justice in his view of the case, and

so I dropped the matter. When you can't cure a disaster by argument,

what is the use to argue? It isn't my way. So I only said:

"You're not going to be hanged. None of us are."

Both men laughed, and the slave said:

"Ye have not ranked as a fool- before. You might better keep your

reputation, seeing the strain would not be for long."

"It will stand it, I reckon. Before to-morrow we shall be out of

prison, and free to go where we will, besides."

The witty officer lifted at his left ear with his thumb, made a

rasping noise in his throat, and said:

"Out of prison- yes- ye say true. And free likewise to go where ye

will, so ye wander not out of his grace the Devil's sultry realm."

I kept my temper, and said, indifferently:

"Now I suppose you really think we are going to hang within a day or


"I thought it not many minutes ago, for so the thing was decided and


"Ah, then you've changed your mind, is that it?"

"Even that. I only (r)thought, then; I (r)know, now."

I felt sarcastical, so I said:

"Oh, sapient servant of the law, condescend to tell us, then, what you


"That ye will all be hanged (r)to-day, at mid-afternoon! Oho! that

shot hit home! Lean upon me."

The fact is I did need to lean upon somebody. My knights couldn't

arrive in time. They would be as much as three hours too late. Nothing

in the world could save the King of England; nor me, which was more

important. More important, not merely to me, but to the nation- the only

nation on earth standing ready to blossom into civilization. I was sick.

I said no more, there wasn't anything to say. I knew what the man meant;

that, if the missing slave was found, the postponement would be revoked,

the execution take place to-day. Well, the missing slave was found.


NEARING four in the afternoon. The scene was just outside the walls of

London. A cool, comfortable, superb day, with a brilliant sun; the kind

of day to make one want to live, not die. The multitude was prodigious

and far-reaching; and yet we fifteen poor devils hadn't a friend in it.

There was something painful in that thought, look at it how you might.

There we sat, on our tall scaffold, the butt of the hate and mockery of

all those enemies. We were being made a holiday spectacle. They had

built a sort of grand-stand for the nobility and gentry, and these were

there in full force, with their ladies. We recognized a good many of


The crowd got a brief and unexpected dash of diversion out of the

king. The moment we were freed of our bonds he sprang up, in his

fantastic rags, with face bruised out of all recognition, and proclaimed

himself Arthur, King of Britain, and denounced the awful penalties of

treason upon every soul there present if hair of his sacred head were

touched. It startled and surprised him to hear them break into a vast

roar of laughter. It wounded his dignity, and he locked himself up in

silence, then, although the crowd begged him to go on, and tried to

provoke him to it by catcalls, jeers, and shouts of:

"Let him speak! The king! The king! his humble subjects hunger and

thirst for words of wisdom out of the mouth of their master his Serene

and Sacred Raggedness!"

But it went for nothing. He put on all his majesty and sat under this

rain of contempt and insult unmoved. He certainly was great in his way.

Absently, I had taken off my white bandage and wound it about my right

arm. When the crowd noticed this, they began upon me. They said:

"Doubtless this sailor-man is his minister- observe his costly badge

of office!"

I let them go on until they got tired, and then I said:

"Yes, I am his minister, The Boss; and to-morrow you will hear that

from Camelot which-"

I got no further. They drowned me out with joyous derision. But

presently there was silence; for the sheriffs of London, in their

official robes, with their subordinates, began to make a stir which

indicated that business was about to begin. In the hush which followed,

our crime was recited, the death-warrant read, then everybody uncovered

while a priest uttered a prayer.

Then a slave was blindfolded; the hangman unslung his rope. There lay

the smooth road below us, we upon one side of it, the banked multitude

walling its other side- a good clear road, and kept free by the police-

how good it would be to see my five hundred horsemen come tearing down


But no, it was out of the possibilities. I followed its receding

thread out into the distance- not a horseman on it, or sign of one.

There was a jerk, and the slave hung dangling; dangling and hideously

squirming, for his limbs were not tied.

A second rope was unslung, in a moment another slave was dangling.

In a minute a third slave was struggling in the air. It was dreadful.

I turned away my head a moment, and when I turned back I missed the

king! They were blindfolding him! I was paralyzed; I couldn't move, I

was choking, my tongue was petrified. They finished blindfolding him,

they led him under the rope. I couldn't shake off that clinging

impotence. But when I saw them put the noose around his neck, then

everything let go in me and I made a spring to the rescue- and as I made

it I shot one more glance abroad- by George! here they came, a-tilting!-

five hundred mailed and belted knights on bicycles!

The grandest sight that ever was seen. Lord, how the plumes streamed,

how the sun flamed and flashed from the endless procession of webby


I waved my right arm as Launcelot swept in- he recognized my rag- I

tore away noose and bandage, and shouted:

"On your knees, every rascal of you, and salute the king! Who fails

shall sup in hell to-night!"

I always use that high style when I'm climaxing an effect. Well, it

was noble to see Launcelot and the boys swarm up onto that scaffold and

heave sheriffs and such overboard. And it was fine to see that

astonished multitude go down on their knees and beg their lives of the

king they had just been deriding and insulting. And as he stood apart

there, receiving this homage in rags, I thought to myself, well, really

there (r)is something peculiarly grand about the gait and bearing of a

king, after all.

I was immensely satisfied. Take the whole situation all around, it was

one of the gaudiest effects I ever instigated.

And presently up comes Clarence, his own self! and winks, and says,

very modernly:

"Good deal of a surprise, wasn't it? I knew you'd like it. I've had

the boys practising this long time, privately; and just hungry for a

chance to show off."


HOME again, at Camelot. A morning or two later I found the paper, damp

from the press, by my plate at the breakfast-table. I turned to the

advertising columns, knowing I should find something of personal

interest to me there. It was this;

(See Illustration)

Clarence's editorial reference to this affair was to this effect:

(See Illustration)

Up to the day set, there was no talk in all Britain of anything but

this combat. All other topics sank into insignificance and passed out of

men's thoughts and interest. It was not because a tournament was a great

matter; it was not because Sir Sagramor had found the Holy Grail, for he

had not, but had failed; it was not because the second (official)

personage in the kingdom was one of the duelists; no, all these features

were commonplace. Yet there was abundant reason for the extraordinary

interest which this coming fight was creating. It was born of the fact

that all the nation knew that this was not to be a duel between mere

men, so to speak, but a duel between two mighty magicians; a duel not of

muscle but of mind, not of human skill but of superhuman art and craft;

a final struggle for supremacy between the two master enchanters of the

age. It was realized that the most prodigious achievements of the most

renowned knights could not be worthy of comparison with a spectacle like

this; they could be but child's play, contrasted with this mysterious

and awful battle of the gods. Yes, all the world knew it was going to be

in reality a duel between Merlin and me, a measuring of his magic powers

against mine. It was known that Merlin had been busy whole days and

nights together, imbuing Sagramor's arms and armor with supernal powers

of offense and defense, and that he had procured for him from the

spirits of the air a fleecy veil which would render the wearer invisible

to his antagonist while still visible to other men. Against Sir

Sagramor, so weaponed and protected, a thousand knights could accomplish

nothing; against him no known enchantments could prevail. These facts

were sure; regarding them there was no doubt, no reason for doubt. There

was but one question: might there be still other enchantments,

(r)unknown to Merlin, which could render Sir Sagramor's veil

transparent to me, and make his enchanted mail vulnerable to my weapons?

This was the one thing to be decided in the lists. Until then the world

must remain in suspense.

So the world thought there was a vast matter at stake here, and the

world was right, but it was not the one they had in their minds. No, a

far vaster one was upon the cast of this die: (r)the life of knight-

errantry. I was a champion, it was true, but not the champion of the

frivolous black arts, I was the champion of hard unsentimental common

sense and reason. I was entering the lists to either destroy knight-

errantry or be its victim.

Vast as the show-grounds were, there were no vacant spaces in them

outside of the lists, at ten o'clock on the morning of the 16th. The

mammoth grand-stand was clothed in flags, streamers, and rich

tapestries, and packed with several acres of small-fry tributary kings,

their suites, and the British aristocracy; with our own royal gang in

the chief place, and each and every individual a flashing prism of gaudy

silks and velvets- well, I never saw anything to begin with it but a

fight between an Upper Mississippi sunset and the aurora borealis. The

huge camp of beflagged and gay-colored tents at one end of the lists,

with a stiff-standing sentinel at every door and a shining shield

hanging by him for challenge, was another fine sight. You see, every

knight was there who had any ambition or any caste feeling; for my

feeling toward their order was not much of a secret, and so here was

their chance. If I won my fight with Sir Sagramor, others would have the

right to call me out as long as I might be willing to respond.

Down at our end there were but two tents; one for me, and another for

my servants. At the appointed hour the king made a sign, and the

heralds, in their tabards, appeared and made proclamation, naming the

combatants and stating the cause of quarrel. There was a pause, then a

ringing bugle-blast, which was the signal for us to come forth. All the

multitude caught their breath, and an eager curiosity flashed into every


Out from his tent rode great Sir Sagramor, an imposing tower of iron,

stately and rigid, his huge spear standing upright in its socket and

grasped in his strong hand, his grand horse's face and breast cased in

steel, his body clothed in rich trappings that almost dragged the

ground- oh, a most noble picture. A great shout went up, of welcome and


And then out I came. But I didn't get any shout. There was a wondering

and eloquent silence for a moment, then a great wave of laughter began

to sweep along that human sea, but a warning bugle-blast cut its career

short. I was in the simplest and comfortablest of gymnast costumes-

flesh-colored tights from neck to heel, with blue silk puffings about my

loins, and bareheaded. My horse was not above medium size, but he was

alert, slender-limbed, muscled with watch-springs, and just a greyhound

to go. He was a beauty, glossy as silk, and naked as he was when he was

born, except for bridle and ranger-saddle.

The iron tower and the gorgeous bed-quilt came cumbrously but

gracefully pirouetting down the lists, and we tripped lightly up to meet

them. We halted; the tower saluted, I responded; then we wheeled and

rode side by side to the grand-stand and faced our king and queen, to

whom we made obeisance. The queen exclaimed:

"Alack, Sir Boss, wilt fight naked, and without lance or sword or-"

But the king checked her and made her understand, with a polite phrase

or two, that this was none of her business. The bugles rang again; and

we separated and rode to the ends of the lists, and took position. Now

old Merlin stepped into view and cast a dainty web of gossamer threads

over Sir Sagramor which turned him into Hamlet's ghost; the king made a

sign, the bugles blew, Sir Sagramor laid his great lance in rest, and

the next moment here he came thundering down the course with his veil

flying out behind, and I went whistling through the air like an arrow to

meet him- cocking my ear the while, as if noting the invisible knight's

position and progress by hearing, not sight. A chorus of encouraging

shouts burst out for him, and one brave voice flung out a heartening

word for me- said;

"Go it, slim Jim!"

It was an even bet that Clarence had procured that favor for me- and

furnished the language, too. When that formidable lance-point was within

a yard and a half of my breast I twitched my horse aside without an

effort, and the big knight swept by, scoring a blank. I got plenty of

applause that time. We turned, braced up, and down we came again.

Another blank for the knight, a roar of applause for me. This same thing

was repeated once more; and it fetched such a whirlwind of applause that

Sir Sagramor lost his temper, and at once changed his tactics and set

himself the task of chasing me down. Why, he hadn't any show in the

world at that; it was a game of tag, with all the advantage on my side;

I whirled out of his path with ease whenever I chose, and once I slapped

him on the back as I went to the rear. Finally I took the chase into my

own hands; and after that, turn, or twist, or do what he would, he was

never able to get behind me again; he found himself always in front at

the end of his manoeuver. So he gave up that business and retired to his

end of the lists. His temper was clear gone now, and he forgot himself

and flung an insult at me which disposed of mine. I slipped my lasso

from the horn of my saddle, and grasped the coil in my right hand. This

time you should have seen him come!- it was a business trip, sure; by

his gait there was blood in his eye. I was sitting my horse at ease, and

swinging the great loop of my lasso in wide circles about my head; the

moment he was under way, I started for him; when the space between us

had narrowed to forty feet, I sent the snaky spirals of the rope a-

cleaving through the air, then darted aside and faced about and brought

my trained animal to a halt with all his feet braced under him for a

surge. The next moment the rope sprang taut and yanked Sir Sagramor out

of the saddle! Great Scott, but there was a sensation!

Unquestionably, the popular thing in this world is novelty. These

people had never seen anything of that cowboy business before, and it

carried them clear off their feet with delight. From all around and

everywhere, the shout went up:

"Encore! encore!"

I wondered where they got the word, but there was no time to cipher on

philological matters, because the whole knight-errantry hive was just

humming now, and my prospect for trade couldn't have been better. The

moment my lasso was released and Sir Sagramor had been assisted to his

tent, I hauled in the slack, took my station and began to swing my loop

around my head again. I was sure to have use for it as soon as they

could elect a successor for Sir Sagramor, and that couldn't take long

where there were so many hungry candidates. Indeed, they elected one

straight off- Sir Hervis de Revel.

(r)Bzz! Here he came, like a house afire; I dodged: he passed like a

flash, with my horse-hair coils settling around his neck; a second or so

later, (r)fst! his saddle was empty.

I got another encore; and another, and another, and still another.

When I had snaked five men out, things began to look serious to the

ironclads, and they stopped and consulted together. As a result, they

decided that it was time to waive etiquette and send their greatest and

best against me. To the astonishment of that little world, I lassoed Sir

Lamorak de Galis, and after him Sir Galahad. So you see there was simply

nothing to be done now, but play their right bower- bring out the

superbest of the superb, the mightiest of the mighty, the great Sir

Launcelot himself!

A proud moment for me? I should think so. Yonder was Arthur, King of

Britain; yonder was Guenever; yes, and whole tribes of little provincial

kings and kinglets; and in the tented camp yonder, renowned knights from

many lands; and likewise the selectest body known to chivalry, the

Knights of the Table Round, the most illustrious in Christendom; and

biggest fact of all, the very sun of their shining system was yonder

couching his lance, the focal point of forty thousand adoring eyes; and

all by myself, here was I laying for him. Across my mind flitted the

dear image of a certain hello-girl of West Hartford, and I wished she

could see me now. In that moment, down came the Invincible, with the

rush of a whirlwind- the courtly world rose to its feet and bent

forward- the fateful coils went circling through the air, and before you

could wink I was towing Sir Launcelot across the field on his back, and

kissing my hand to the storm of waving kerchiefs and the thunder-crash

of applause that greeted me!

Said I to myself, as I coiled my lariat and hung it on my saddle-horn,

and sat there drunk with glory, "The victory is perfect- no other will

venture against me- knight-errantry is dead." Now imagine my

astonishment- and everybody else's, too- to hear the peculiar bugle-call

which announces that another competitor is about to enter the lists!

There was a mystery here; I couldn't account for this thing. Next, I

noticed Merlin gliding away from me; and then I noticed that my lasso

was gone! The old sleight-of-hand expert had stolen it, sure, and

slipped it under his robe.

The bugle blew again. I looked, and down came Sagramor riding again,

with his dust brushed off and his veil nicely rearranged. I trotted up

to meet him, and pretended to find him by the sound of his horse's

hoofs. He said:

"Thou'rt quick of ear, but it will not save thee from this!" and he

touched the hilt of his great sword. "An ye are not able to see it,

because of the influence of the veil, know that it is no cumbrous lance,

but a sword- and I ween ye will not be able to avoid it."

His visor was up; there was death in his smile. I should never be able

to dodge his sword, that was plain. Somebody was going to die this time.

If he got the drop on me, I could name the corpse. We rode forward

together, and saluted the royalties. This time the king was disturbed.

He said:

"Where is thy strange weapon?"

"It is stolen, sire."

"Hast another at hand?"

"No, sire, I brought only the one."

Then Merlin mixed in:

"He brought but the one because there was but the one to bring. There

exists none other but that one. It belongeth to the king of the Demons

of the Sea. This man is a pretender, and ignorant; else he had known

that that weapon can be used in but eight bouts only, and then it

vanisheth away to its home under the sea."

"Then is he weaponless," said the king. "Sir Sagramor, ye will grant

him leave to borrow."

"And I will lend!" said Sir Launcelot, limping up. "He is as brave a

knight of his hands as any that be on live, and he shall have mine."

He put his hand on his sword to draw it, but Sir Sagramor said:

"Stay, it may not be. He shall fight with his own weapons; it was his

privilege to choose them and bring them. If he has erred, on his head be


"Knight!" said the king. "Thou'rt overwrought with passion; it

disorders thy mind. Wouldst kill a naked man?"

"An he do it, he shall answer it to me," said Sir Launcelot.

"I will answer it to any he that desireth!" retorted Sir Sagramor


Merlin broke in, rubbing his hands and smiling his low-downest smile

of malicious gratification:

"'Tis well said, right well said! And 'tis enough of parleying, let my

lord the king deliver the battle signal."

The king had to yield. The bugle made proclamation, and we turned

apart and rode to our stations. There we stood, a hundred yards apart,

facing each other, rigid and motionless, like horsed statues. And so we

remained, in a soundless hush, as much as a full minute, everybody

gazing, nobody stirring. It seemed as if the king could not take heart

to give the signal. But at last he lifted his hand, the clear note of a

bugle followed, Sir Sagramor's long blade described a flashing curve in

the air, and it was superb to see him come. I sat still. On he came. I

did not move. People got so excited that they shouted to me:

"Fly, fly! Save thyself! This is murther!"

I never budged so much as an inch till that thundering apparition had

got within fifteen paces of me; then I snatched a dragoon revolver out

of my holster, there was a flash and a roar, and the revolver was back

in the holster before anybody could tell what had happened.

Here was a riderless horse plunging by, and yonder lay Sir Sagramor,

stone dead.

The people that ran to him were stricken dumb to find that the life

was actually gone out of the man and no reason for it visible, no hurt

upon his body, nothing like a wound. There was a hole through the breast

of his chain-mail, but they attached no importance to a little thing

like that; and as a bullet-wound there produces but little blood, none

came in sight because of the clothing and swaddlings under the armor.

The body was dragged over to let the king and the swells look down upon

it. They were stupefied with astonishment naturally. I was requested to

come and explain the miracle. But I remained in my tracks, like a

statue, and said:

"If it is a command, I will come, but my lord the king knows that I am

where the laws of combat require me to remain while any desire to come

against me."

I waited. Nobody challenged. Then I said:

"If there are any who doubt that this field is well and fairly won, I

do not wait for them to challenge me, I challenge them."

"It is a gallant offer," said the king, "and well beseems you. Whom

will you name first?"

"I name none, I challenge all! Here I stand, and dare the chivalry of

England to come against me- not by individuals, but in mass!"

"What!" shouted a score of knights.

"You have heard the challenge. Take it, or I proclaim you recreant

knights and vanquished, every one!"

It was a "bluff" you know. At such a time it is sound judgment to put

on a bold face and play your hand for a hundred times what it is worth;

forty-nine times out of fifty nobody dares to "call," and you rake in

the chips. But just this once- well, things looked squally! In just no

time, five hundred knights were scrambling into their saddles, and

before you could wink a widely scattering drove were under way and

clattering down upon me. I snatched both revolvers from the holsters and

began to measure distances and calculate chances.

Bang! One saddle empty. Bang! another one. Bang- bang, and I bagged

two. Well, it was nip and tuck with us, and I knew it. If I spent the

eleventh shot without convincing these people, the twelfth man would

kill me, sure. And so I never did feel so happy as I did when my ninth

downed its man and I detected the wavering in the crowd which is

premonitory of panic. An instant lost now could knock out my last

chance. But I didn't lose it. I raised both revolvers and pointed them-

the halted host stood their ground just about one good square moment,

then broke and fled.

The day was mine. Knight-errantry was a doomed institution. The march

of civilization was begun. How did I feel? Ah, you never could imagine


And Brer Merlin? His stock was flat again. Somehow, every time the

magic of fol-de-rol tried conclusions with the magic of science, the

magic of fol-de-rol got left.


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 (r)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 war-ships, 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


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 an 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-ax, and if they couldn't persuade a person to try a

sewing-machine on the instalment 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 tom-cat 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.... (r)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,


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

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


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


In two minutes I was kneeling by the child's crib, and Sandy was

despatching 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:


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 eyelashes

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


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 shipshape 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

heartbreak 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 ironclad 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:











(r)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.


HOWEVER, my attention was suddenly snatched from such matters; our

child began to lose ground again, and we had to go to sitting up with

her, her case became so serious. We couldn't bear to allow anybody to

help in this service, so we two stood watch-and-watch, day in and day

out. Ah, Sandy, what a right heart she had, how simple, and genuine, and

good she was! She was a flawless wife and mother; and yet I had married

her for no other particular reasons, except that by the customs of

chivalry she was my property until some knight should win her from me in

the field. She had hunted Britain over for me; had found me at the

hanging-bout outside of London, and had straightway resumed her old

place at my side in the placidest way and as of right. I was a New-

Englander, and in my opinion this sort of partnership would compromise

her, sooner or later. She couldn't see how, but I cut argument short and

we had a wedding.

Now I didn't know I was drawing a prize, yet that was what I did draw.

Within the twelvemonth I became her worshiper; and ours was the dearest

and perfectest comradeship that ever was. People talk about beautiful

friendships between two persons of the same sex. What is the best of

that sort, as compared with the friendship of man and wife, where the

best impulses and highest ideals of both are the same? There is no place

for comparison between the two friendships; the one is earthly, the

other divine.

In my dreams, along at first, I still wandered thirteen centuries

away, and my unsatisfied spirit went calling and harking all up and down

the unreplying vacancies of a vanished world. Many a time Sandy heard

that imploring cry come from my lips in my sleep. With a grand

magnanimity she saddled that cry of mine upon our child, conceiving it

to be the name of some lost darling of mine. It touched me to tears, and

it also nearly knocked me off my feet, too, when she smiled up in my

face for an earned reward, and played her quaint and pretty surprise

upon me:

"The name of one who was dear to thee is here preserved, here made

holy, and the music of it will abide always in our ears. Now thou'lt

kiss me, as knowing the name I have given the child."

But I didn't know it, all the same. I hadn't an idea in the world; but

it would have been cruel to confess it and spoil her pretty game; so I

never let on, but said:

"Yes, I know, sweetheart- how dear and good it is of you, too! But I

want to hear these lips of yours, which are also mine, utter it first-

then its music will be perfect."

Pleased to the marrow, she murmured:


I didn't laugh- I am always thankful for that- but the strain ruptured

every cartilage in me, and for weeks afterward I could hear my bones

clack when I walked. She never found out her mistake. The first time she

heard that form of salute used at the telephone she was surprised, and

not pleased; but I told her I had given order for it: that henceforth

and forever the telephone must always be invoked with that reverent

formality, in perpetual honor and remembrance of my lost friend and her

small namesake. This was not true. But it answered.

Well, during two weeks and a half we watched by the crib, and in our

deep solicitude we were unconscious of any world outside of that sick-

room. Then our reward came: the center of the universe turned the corner

and began to mend. Grateful? It isn't the term. There (r)isn't any term

for it. You know that yourself, if you've watched your child through the

Valley of the Shadow and seen it come back to life and sweep night out

of the earth with one all-illuminating smile that you could cover with

your hand.

Why, we were back in this world in one instant! Then we looked the

same startled thought into each other's eyes at the same moment; more

than two weeks gone, and that ship not back yet!

In another minute I appeared in the presence of my train. They had

been steeped in troubled bodings all this time- their faces showed it. I

called an escort and we galloped five miles to a hilltop overlooking the

sea. Where was my great commerce that so lately had made these

glistening expanses populous and beautiful with its white, winged-

flocks? Vanished, everyone! Not a sail, from verge to verge, not a

smoke-bank- just a dead and empty solitude, in place of all that brisk

and breezy life.

I went swiftly back, saying not a word to anybody. I told Sandy this

ghastly news. We could imagine no explanation that would begin to

explain. Had there been an invasion? an earthquake? a pestilence? Had

the nation been swept out of existence? But guessing was profitless. I

must go- at once. I borrowed the king's navy- a "ship" no bigger than a

steam-launch- and was soon ready.

The parting- ah, yes, that was hard. As I was devouring the child with

last kisses, it brisked up and jabbered out its vocabulary!- the first

time in more than two weeks, and it made fools of us for joy. The

darling mispronunciations of childhood!- dear me, there's no music that

can touch it; and how one grieves when it wastes away and dissolves into

correctness, knowing it will never visit his bereaved ear again. Well,

how good it was to be able to carry that gracious memory away with me!

I approached England the next morning, with the wide highway of salt-

water all to myself. There were ships in the harbor, at Dover, but they

were naked as to sails, and there was no sign of life about them. It was

Sunday; yet at Canterbury the streets were empty; strangest of all,

there was not even a priest in sight, and no stroke of a bell fell upon

my ear. The mournfulness of death was everywhere. I couldn't understand

it. At last, in the further edge of that town I saw a small funeral

procession- just a family and a few friends following a coffin- no

priest; a funeral without bell, book, or candle; there was a church

there close at hand, but they passed it by weeping, and did not enter

it; I glanced up at the belfry, and there hung the bell, shrouded in

black, and its tongue tied back. Now I knew! Now I understood the

stupendous calamity that had overtaken England. Invasion? Invasion is a

triviality to it. It was the INTERDICT!

I asked no questions; I didn't need to ask any. The Church had struck;

the thing for me to do was to get into a disguise, and go warily. One of

my servants gave me a suit of clothes, and when we were safe beyond the

town I put them on, and from that time I traveled alone; I could not

risk the embarrassment of company.

A miserable journey. A desolate silence everywhere. Even in London

itself. Traffic had ceased; men did not talk or laugh, or go in groups,

or even in couples; they moved aimlessly about, each man by himself,

with his head down, and woe and terror at his heart. The Tower showed

recent war-scars. Verily, much had been happening.

Of course, I meant to take the train for Camelot. Train! Why, the

station was as vacant as a cavern. I moved on. The journey to Camelot

was a repetition of what I had already seen. The Monday and the Tuesday

differed in no way from the Sunday. I arrived far in the night. From

being the best electric-lighted town in the kingdom and the most like a

recumbent sun of anything you ever saw, it was become simply a blot- a

blot upon darkness- that is to say, it was darker and solider than the

rest of the darkness, and so you could see it a little better; it made

me feel as if maybe it was symbolical- a sort of sign that the Church

was going to (r)keep the upper hand now, and snuff out all my beautiful

civilization just like that. I found no life stirring in the somber

streets. I groped my way with a heavy heart. The vast castle loomed

black upon the hilltop, not a spark visible about it. The drawbridge was

down, the great gate stood wide, I entered without challenge, my own

heels making the only sound I heard- and it was sepulchral enough, in

those huge vacant courts.

Chapter XLII: WAR!

I FOUND Clarence alone in his quarters, drowned in melancholy; and in

place of the electric light, he had reinstituted the ancient rag-lamp,

and sat there in a grisly twilight with all curtains drawn tight. He

sprang up and rushed for me eagerly, saying:

"Oh, it's worth a billion milrays to look upon a live person again!"

He knew me as easily as if I hadn't been disguised at all. Which

frightened me; one may easily believe that.

"Quick, now, tell me the meaning of this fearful disaster," I said.

"How did it come about?"

"Well, if there hadn't been any Queen Guenever, it wouldn't have come

so early; but it would have come, anyway. It would have come on your own

account by and by; by luck, it happened to come on the queen's."

(r)"And Sir Launcelot's?"

"Just so."

"Give me the details."

"I reckon you will grant that during some years there has been only

one pair of eyes in these kingdoms that has not been looking steadily

askance at the queen and Sir Launcelot-"

"Yes, King Arthur's."

-"and only one heart that was without suspicion-"

"Yes- the king's; a heart that isn't capable of thinking evil of a


"Well, the king might have gone on, still happy, and unsuspecting, to

the end of his days, but for one of your modern improvements- the stock-

board. When you left, three miles of the London, Canterbury and Dover

were ready for the rails, and also ready and ripe for manipulation in

the stock-market. It was wildcat, and everybody knew it. The stock was

for sale at a give-away. What does Sir Launcelot do, but-"

"Yes, I know; he quietly picked up nearly all of it for a song; then

he bought about twice as much more, deliverable upon call; and he was

about to call when I left."

"Very well, he did call. The boys couldn't deliver. Oh, he had them-

and he just settled his grip and squeezed them. They were laughing in

their sleeves over their smartness in selling stock to him at fifteen

and sixteen and along there that wasn't worth ten. Well, when they had

laughed long enough on that side of their mouths, they rested up that

side by shifting the laugh to the other side. That was when they

compromised with the Invincible at two hundred and eighty-three!"

"Good land!"

"He skinned them alive, and they deserved it- anyway, the whole

kingdom rejoiced. Well, among the flayed were Sir Agravaine and Sir

Mordred, nephews to the king. End of the first act. Act second, scene

first, an apartment in Carlisle castle, where the court had gone for a

few days' hunting. Persons present, the whole tribe of the king's

nephews. Mordred and Agravaine propose to call the guileless Arthur's

attention to Guenever and Sir Launcelot. Sir Gawaine, Sir Gareth, and

Sir Gaheris will have nothing to do with it. A dispute ensues, with loud

talk; in the midst of it enter the king. Mordred and Agravaine spring

their devastating tale upon him. (r)Tableau. A trap is laid for

Launcelot, by the king's command, and Sir Launcelot walks into it. He

made it sufficiently uncomfortable for the ambushed witnesses- to wit,

Mordred, Agravaine, and twelve knights of lesser rank, for he killed

every one of them but Mordred; but of course that couldn't straighten

matters between Launcelot and the king, and didn't."

"Oh, dear, only one thing could result- I see that. War, and the

knights of the realm divided into a king's party and a Sir Launcelot's


"Yes- that was the way of it. The king sent the queen to the stake,

proposing to purify her with fire. Launcelot and his knights rescued

her, and in doing it slew certain good old friends of yours and mine- in

fact, some of the best we ever had; to wit, Sir Belias le Orgulous, Sir

Segwarides, Sir Griflet le Fils de Dieu, Sir Brandiles, Sir Aglovale-"

"Oh, you tear out my heartstrings."

-"wait, I'm not done yet- Sir Tor, Sir Gauter, Sir Gillimer-"

"The very best man in my subordinate nine. What a handy right-fielder

he was!"

-"Sir Reynold's three brothers, Sir Damus, Sir Priamus, Sir Kay the


"My peerless short-stop! I've seen him catch a daisy-cutter in his

teeth. Come, I can't stand this!"

-"Sir Driant, Sir Lambegus, Sir Herminde, Sir Pertilope, Sir

Perimones, and- whom do you think?"

"Rush! Go on."

"Sir Gaheris, and Sir Gareth- both!"

"Oh, incredible! Their love for Launcelot was indestructible."

"Well, it was an accident. They were simply onlookers; they were

unarmed, and were merely there to witness the queen's punishment. Sir

Launcelot smote down whoever came in the way of his blind fury, and he

killed these without noticing who they were. Here is an instantaneous

photograph one of our boys got of the battle; it's for sale on every

news-stand. There- the figures nearest the queen are Sir Launcelot with

his sword up, and Sir Gareth gasping his latest breath. You can catch

the agony in the queen's face through the curling smoke. It's a rattling


"Indeed, it is. We must take good care of it; its historical value is

incalculable. Go on."

"Well, the rest of the tale is just war, pure and simple. Launcelot

retreated to his town and castle of Joyous Gard, and gathered there a

great following of knights. The king, with a great host, went there, and

there was desperate fighting during several days, and, as a result, all

the plain around was paved with corpses and cast-iron. Then the Church

patched up a peace between Arthur and Launcelot and the queen and

everybody- everybody but Sir Gawaine. He was bitter about the slaying of

his brothers, Gareth and Gaheris, and would not be appeased. He notified

Launcelot to get him thence, and make swift preparation, and look to be

soon attacked. So Launcelot sailed to his Duchy of Guienne with his

following, and Gawaine soon followed with an army, and he beguiled

Arthur to go with him. Arthur left the kingdom in Sir Mordred's hands

until you should return-"

"Ah- a king's customary wisdom!"

"Yes. Sir Mordred set himself at once to work to make his kingship

permanent. He was going to marry Guenever, as a first move; but she fled

and shut herself up in the Tower of London. Mordred attacked; the Bishop

of Canterbury dropped down on him with the Interdict. The king returned;

Mordred fought him at Dover, at Canterbury, and again at Barham Down.

Then there was talk of peace and a composition. Terms, Mordred to have

Cornwall and Kent during Arthur's life, and the whole kingdom


"Well, upon my word! My dream of a republic to (r)be a dream, and so


"Yes. The two armies lay near Salisbury. Gawaine- Gawaine's head is at

Dover Castle, he fell in the fight there- Gawaine appeared to Arthur in

a dream, at least his ghost did, and warned him to refrain from conflict

for a month, let the delay cost what it might. But battle was

precipitated by an accident. Arthur had given order that if a sword was

raised during the consultation over the proposed treaty with Mordred,

sound the trumpet and fall on! for he had no confidence in Mordred.

Mordred had given a similar order to (r)his people. Well, by and by an

adder bit a knight's heel; the knight forgot all about the order, and

made a slash at the adder with his sword. Inside of half a minute those

two prodigious hosts came together with a crash! They butchered away all

day. Then the king- however, we have started something fresh since you

left- our paper has."

"No? What is that?"

"War correspondence!"

"Why, that's good."

"Yes, the paper was booming right along, for the Interdict made no

impression, got no grip, while the war lasted. I had war correspondents

with both armies. I will finish that battle by reading you what one of

the boys says:

Then the king looked about him, and then was he ware of all his host

and of all his good knights were left no more on live but two knights,

that was Sir Lucan de Butlere, and his brother Sir Bedivere: and they

were full sore wounded. Jesu mercy, said the king, where are all my

noble knights becomen? Alas that ever I should see this doleful day. For

now, said Arthur, I am come to mine end. But would to God that I wist

where were that traitor Sir Mordred, that hath caused all this mischief.

Then was King Arthur ware where Sir Mordred leaned upon his sword among

a great heap of dead men. Now give me my spear, said Arthur unto Sir

Lucan, for yonder I have espied the traitor that all this woe hath

wrought. Sir, let him be, said Sir Lucan, for he is unhappy; and if ye

pass this unhappy day, ye shall be right well revenged upon him. Good

lord, remember ye of your night's dream, and what the spirit of Sir

Gawaine told you this night, yet God of his great goodness hath

preserved you hitherto. Therefore, for God's sake, my lord, leave off by

this. For blessed be God ye have won the field: for here we be three on

live, and with Sir Mordred is none on live. And if ye leave off now,

this wicked day of destiny is past. Tide me death, betide me life, saith

the king, now I see him yonder alone, he shall never escape mine hands,

for at a better avail shall I never have him. God speed you well, said

Sir Bedivere. Then the king gat his spear in both his hands, and ran

toward Sir Mordred crying, Traitor, now is thy death day come. And when

Sir Mordred heard Sir Arthur, he ran until him with his sword drawn in

his hand. And then King Arthur smote Sir Mordred under the shield, with

a foin of his spear throughout the body more than a fathom. And when Sir

Mordred felt that he had his death's wound, he thrust himself, with the

might that he had, up to the butt of King Arthur's spear. And right so

he smote his father Arthur with his sword holden in both his hands, on

the side of the head, that the sword pierced the helmet and the brain-

pan, and therewithal Sir Mordred fell stark dead to the earth. And the

noble Arthur fell in a swoon to the earth, and there he swooned


"That is a good piece of war correspondence Clarence; you are a first-

rate newspaper man. Well- is the king all right? Did he get well?"

"Poor soul, no. He is dead."

I was utterly stunned; it had not seemed to me that any wound could be

mortal to him.

"And the queen, Clarence?"

"She is a nun, in Almesbury."

"What changes! and in such a short while. It is inconceivable. What

next, I wonder?"

"I can tell you what next."


"Stake our lives and stand by them!"

"What do you mean by that?"

"The Church is master now. The Interdict included you with Mordred; it

is not to be removed while you remain alive. The clans are gathering.

The Church has gathered all the knights that are left alive, and as soon

as you are discovered we shall have business on our hands."

"Stuff! With our deadly scientific war material; with our hosts of


"Save your breath- we haven't sixty faithful left!"

"What are you saying? Our schools, our colleges, our vast workshops,


"When those knights come, those establishments will empty themselves

and go over to the enemy. Did you think you had educated the

superstition out of those people?"

"I certainly did think it."

"Well, then, you may unthink it. They stood every strain easily- until

the Interdict. Since then, they merely put on a bold outside- at heart

they are quaking. Make up your mind to it- when the armies come, the

mask will fall."

"It's hard news. We are lost. They will turn our own science against


"No they won't."


"Because I and a handful of the faithful have blocked that game. I'll

tell you what I've done, and what moved me to it. Smart as you are, the

Church was smarter. It was the Church that sent you cruising- through

her servants, the doctors."


"It is the truth. I know it. Every officer of your ship was the

Church's picked servant, and so was every man of the crew."

"Oh, come!"

"It is just as I tell you. I did not find out these things at once,

but I found them out finally. Did you send me verbal information, by the

commander of the ship, to the effect that upon his return to you, with

supplies, you were going to leave Cadiz-"

"Cadiz! I haven't been at Cadiz at all!"

-"going to leave Cadiz and cruise in distant seas indefinitely, for

the health of your family? Did you send me that word?"

"Of course not. I would have written, wouldn't I?"

"Naturally. I was troubled and suspicious. When the commander sailed

again I managed to ship a spy with him. I have, never heard of vessel or

spy since. I gave myself two weeks to hear from you in. Then I resolved

to send a ship to Cadiz. There was a reason why I didn't."

"What was that?"

"Our navy had suddenly and mysteriously disappeared! Also, as suddenly

and as mysteriously, the railway and telegraph and telephone service

ceased, the men all deserted, poles were cut down, the Church laid a ban

upon the electric light! I had to be up and doing- and straight off.

Your life was safe- nobody in these kingdoms but Merlin would venture to

touch such a magician as you without ten thousand men at his back- I had

nothing to think of but how to put preparations in the best trim against

your coming. I felt safe myself- nobody would be anxious to touch a pet

of yours. So this is what I did. From our various works I selected all

the men- boys I mean- whose faithfulness under whatsoever pressure I

could swear to, and I called them together secretly and gave them their

instructions. There are fifty-two of them; none younger than fourteen,

and none above seventeen years old."

"Why did you select boys?"

"Because all the others were born in an atmosphere of superstition and

reared in it. It is in their blood and bones. We imagined we had

educated it out of them; they thought so, too; the Interdict woke them

up like a thunderclap! It revealed them to themselves, and it revealed

them to me, too. With boys it was different. Such as have been under our

training from seven to ten years have had no acquaintance with the

Church's terrors, and it was among these that I found my fifty-two. As a

next move, I paid a private visit to that old cave of Merlin's- not the

small one- the big one-"

"Yes, the one where we secretly established our first great electric

plant when I was projecting a miracle."

"Just so. And as that miracle hadn't become necessary then, I thought

it might be a good idea to utilize the plant now. I've provisioned the

cave for a siege-"

"A good idea, a first-rate idea."

"I think so. I placed four of my boys there as a guard- inside, and

out of sight. Nobody was to be hurt- while outside; but any attempt to

enter- well, we said just let anybody try it! Then I went out into the

hills and uncovered and cut the secret wires which connected your

bedroom with the wires that go to the dynamite deposits under all our

vast factories, mills, workshops, magazines, etc., and about midnight I

and my boys turned out and connected that wire with the cave, and nobody

but you and I suspects where the other end of it goes to. We laid it

under ground, of course, and it was all finished in a couple of hours or

so. We sha'n't have to leave our fortress now when we want to blow up

our civilization.

"It was the right move and the natural one; a military necessity, in

the changed condition of things. Well, what changes (r)have come! We

expected to be besieged in the palace some time or other, but- however,

go on."

"Next, we built a wire fence."

"Wire fence?"

"Yes. You dropped the hint of it yourself, two or three years ago."

"Oh, I remember- the time the Church tried her strength against us the

first time, and presently thought it wise to wait for a hopefuler

season. Well, how have you arranged the fence?"

"I start twelve immensely strong wires- naked, not insulated- from a

big dynamo in the cave- dynamo with no brushes except a positive and a

negative one-"

"Yes, that's right."

"The wires go out from the cave and fence in a circle of level ground

a hundred yards in diameter; they make twelve independent fences, ten

feet apart- that is to say, twelve circles within circles- and their

ends come into the cave again."

"Right; go on."

"The fences are fastened to heavy oaken posts only three feet apart,

and these posts are sunk five feet in the ground."

"That is good and strong."

"Yes. The wires have no ground-connection outside of the cave. They go

out from the positive brush of the dynamo; there is a ground-connection

through the negative brush; the other ends of the wire return to the

cave, and each is grounded independently."

"No- no, that won't do!"


"It's too expensive- uses up force for nothing. You don't want any

ground-connection except the one through the negative brush. The other

end of every wire must be brought back into the cave and fastened

independently, and (r)without any ground-connection. Now, then, observe

the economy of it. A cavalry charge hurls itself against the fence; you

are using no power, you are spending no money, for there is only one

ground-connection till those horses come against the wire; the moment

they touch it they form a connection with the negative brush (r)through

the ground, and drop dead. Don't you see?- you are using no energy

until it is needed; your lightning is there, and ready, like the load in

a gun; but it isn't costing you a cent till you touch it off. Oh, yes,

the single ground-connection-"

"Of course! I don't know how I overlooked that. It's not only

cheaper, but it's more effectual than the other way, for if wires break

or get tangled, no harm is done."

"No, especially if we have a telltale in the cave and disconnect the

broken wire. Well, go on. The Gatlings?"

"Yes- that's arranged. In the center of the inner circle, on a

spacious platform six feet high, I've grouped a battery of thirteen

Gatling guns, and provided plenty of ammunition."

"That's it. They command every approach, and when the Church's knights

arrive, there's going to be music. The brow of the precipice over the


"I've got a wire fence there, and a Gatling. They won't drop any rocks

down on us."

"Well, and the glass-cylinder dynamite torpedoes?"

"That's attended to. It's the prettiest garden that was ever planted.

It's a belt forty feet wide, and goes around the outer fence- distance

between it and the fence one hundred yards- kind of neutral ground that

space is. There isn't a single square yard of that whole belt but is

equipped with a torpedo. We laid them on the surface of the ground, and

sprinkled a layer of sand over them. It's an innocent-looking garden,

but you let a man start in to hoe it once, and you'll see."

"You tested the torpedoes?"

"Well, I was going to, but-"

"But what? Why, it's an immense oversight not to apply a-"

"Test? Yes, I know; but they're all right; I laid a few in the public

road beyond our line and they've been tested."

"Oh, that alters the case. Who did it?"

"A Church committee."

"How kind!"

"Yes. They came to command us to make submission. You see they didn't

really come to test the torpedoes; that was merely an incident."

"Did the committee make a report?"

"Yes, they made one. You could have heard it a mile."


"That was the nature of it. After that I put up some signs, for the

protection of future committees, and we have had no intruders since."

"Clarence, you've done a world of work, and done it perfectly."

"We had plenty of time for it; there wasn't any occasion for hurry."

We sat silent awhile, thinking. Then my mind was made up, and I said:

"Yes, everything is ready; everything is ship-shape, no detail is

wanting. I know what to do now."

"So do I; sit down and wait."

"No, (r)sir! rise up and (r)strike!"

"Do you mean it?"

"Yes, indeed! The defensive isn't in my line, and the offensive is.

That is, when I hold a fair hand- two-thirds as good a hand as the

enemy. Oh, yes, we'll rise up and strike; that's our game."

"A hundred to one you are right. When does the performance begin?"

(r)"Now! We'll proclaim the Republic."

"Well, that (r)will precipitate things, sure enough!"

"It will make them buzz, (r)I tell you! England will be a hornets'

nest before noon to-morrow, if the Church's hand hasn't lost its

cunning- and we know it hasn't. Now you write and I'll dictate thus:



"BE IT KNOWN UNTO ALL. Whereas the king having died and left no heir,

it becomes my duty to continue the executive authority vested in me,

until a government shall have been created and set in motion. The

monarchy has lapsed, it no longer exists. By consequence, all political

power has reverted to its original source, the people of the nation.

With the monarch, its several adjuncts died also- wherefore there is no

longer a nobility, no longer a privileged class, no longer an

Established Church; all men are become exactly equal; they are upon one

common level, and religion is free. (r)A Republic is hereby proclaimed,

as being the natural estate of a nation when other authority has ceased.

It is the duty of the British people to meet together immediately, and

by their votes elect representatives and deliver into their hands the


I signed it "The Boss," and dated it from Merlin's Cave. Clarence


"Why, that tells where we are, and invites them to call right away."

"That is the idea. We (r)strike - by the Proclamation- then it's their

innings. Now have the thing set up and printed and posted, right off;

that is, give the order; then, if you've got a couple of bicycles handy

at the foot of the hill, ho for Merlin's Cave!"

"I shall be ready in ten minutes. What a cyclone there is going to be

to-morrow when this piece of paper gets to work!... It's a pleasant old

palace, this is; I wonder if we shall ever again- but never mind about



IN Merlin's Cave- Clarence and I and fifty-two fresh, bright, well-

educated, clean-minded young British boys. At dawn I sent an order to

the factories and to all our great works to stop operations and remove

all life to a safe distance, as everything was going to be blown up by

secret mines, "(r)and no telling at what moment- therefore, vacate at

once. " These people knew me, and had confidence in my word. They would

clear out without waiting to part their hair, and I could take my own

time about dating the explosion. You couldn't hire one of them to go

back during the century, if the explosion was still impending.

We had a week of waiting. It was not dull for me, because I was

writing all the time. During the first three days, I finished turning my

old diary into this narrative form; it only required a chapter or so to

bring it down to date. The rest of the week I took up in writing letters

to my wife. It was always my habit to write to Sandy every day, whenever

we were separate, and now I kept up the habit for love of it, and of

her, though I couldn't do anything with the letters, of course, after I

had written them. But it put in the time, you see, and was almost like

talking; it was almost as if I was saying, "Sandy, if you and Hello-

Central were here in the cave, instead of only your photographs, what

good times we could have!" And then, you know, I could imagine the baby

goo-gooing something out in reply, with its fists in its mouth and

itself stretched across its mother's lap on its back, and she a-laughing

and admiring and worshiping, and now and then tickling under the baby's

chin to set it cackling, and then maybe throwing in a word of answer to

me herself- and so on and so on- well, don't you know, I could sit there

in the cave with my pen, and keep it up, that way, by the hour with

them. Why, it was almost like having us all together again.

I had spies out every night, of course, to get news. Every report made

things look more and more impressive. The hosts were gathering,

gathering; down all the roads and paths of England the knights were

riding, and priests rode with them, to hearten these original Crusaders,

this being the Church's war. All the nobilities, big and little, were on

their way, and all the gentry. This was all as was expected. We should

thin out this sort of folk to such a degree that the people would have

nothing to do but just step to the front with their republic and-

Ah, what a donkey I was! Toward the end of the week I began to get

this large and disenchanting fact through my head: that the mass of the

nation had swung their caps and shouted for the republic for about one

day, and there an end! The Church, the nobles, and the gentry then

turned one grand, all-disapproving frown upon them and shriveled them

into sheep! From that moment the sheep had begun to gather to the fold-

that is to say, the camps- and offer their valueless lives and their

valuable wool to the "righteous cause." Why, even the very men who had

lately been slaves were in the "righteous cause," and glorifying it,

praying for it, sentimentally slabbering over it, just like all the

other commoners. Imagine such human muck as this; conceive of this


Yes, it was now "Death to the Republic!" everywhere- not a dissenting

voice. All England was marching against us! Truly, this was more than I

had bargained for.

I watched my fifty-two boys narrowly; watched their faces, their walk,

their unconscious attitudes: for all these are a language- a language

given us purposely that it may betray us in times of emergency, when we

have secrets which we want to keep. I knew that that thought would keep

saying itself over and over again in their minds and hearts, (r)All

England is marching against us! and ever more strenuously imploring

attention with each repetition, ever more sharply realizing itself to

their imaginations, until even in their sleep they would find no rest

from it, but hear the vague and flitting creatures of the dreams say,

(r)All England - ALL ENGLAND!- (r)is marching against you! I knew all

this would happen; I knew that ultimately the pressure would become so

great that it would compel utterance; therefore, I must be ready with an

answer at that time- an answer well chosen and tranquilizing.

I was right. The time came. They (r)had to speak. Poor lads, it was

pitiful to see, they were so pale, so worn, so troubled. At first their

spokesman could hardly find voice or words; but he presently got both.

This is what he said- and he put it in the neat modern English taught

him in my schools:

"We have tried to forget what we are- English boys! We have tried to

put reason before sentiment, duty before love; our minds approve, but

our hearts reproach us. While apparently it was only the nobility, only

the gentry, only the twenty-five or thirty thousand knights left alive

out of the late wars, we were of one mind, and undisturbed by any

troubling doubt; each and every one of these fifty-two lads who stand

here before you, said, 'They have chosen- it is their affair.' But

think!- the matter is altered- (r)all England is marching against us!

Oh, sir, consider!- reflect!- these people are our people, they are bone

of our bone, flesh of our flesh, we love them- do not ask us to destroy

our nation!"

Well, it shows the value of looking ahead, and being ready for a thing

when it happens. If I hadn't foreseen this thing and been fixed, that

boy would have had me!- I couldn't have said a word. But I (r)was

fixed. I said:

"My boys, your hearts are in the right place, you have thought the

worthy thought, you have done the worthy thing. You are English boys,

you will remain English boys, and you will keep that name unsmirched.

Give yourselves no further concern, let your minds be at peace. Consider

this: while all England (r)is marching against us, who is in the van?

Who, by the commonest rules of war, will march in the front? Answer me."

"The mounted host of mailed knights."

"True. They are thirty thousand strong. Acres deep they will march.

Now, observe: none but (r)they will ever strike the sand-belt! Then

there will be an episode! Immediately after, the civilian multitude in

the rear will retire, to meet business engagements elsewhere. None but

nobles and gentry are knights, and (r)none but these will remain to

dance to our music after that episode. It is absolutely true that we

shall have to fight nobody but these thirty thousand knights. Now speak,

and it shall be as you decide, Shall we avoid the battle, retire from

the field?"


The shout was unanimous and hearty.

"Are you- are you- well, afraid of these thirty thousand knights?"

That joke brought out a good laugh, the boys' troubles vanished away,

and they went gaily to their posts. Ah, they were a darling fifty-two!

As pretty as girls, too.

I was ready for the enemy now. Let the approaching big day come along-

it would find us on deck.

The big day arrived on time. At dawn the sentry on watch in the corral

came into the cave and reported a moving black mass under the horizon,

and a faint sound which he thought to be military music. Breakfast was

just ready; we sat down and ate it.

This over, I made the boys a little speech, and then sent out a detail

to man the battery, with Clarence in command of it.

The sun rose presently and sent its unobstructed splendors over the

land, and we saw a prodigious host moving slowly toward us, with the

steady drift and aligned front of a wave of the sea. Nearer and nearer

it came, and more and more sublimely imposing became its aspect; yes,

all England was there, apparently. Soon we could see the innumerable

banners fluttering, and then the sun struck the sea of armor and set it

all aflash. Yes, it was a fine sight; I hadn't ever seen anything to

beat it.

At last we could make out details. All the front ranks, no telling how

many acres deep, were horsemen- plumed knights in armor. Suddenly we

heard the blare of trumpets; the slow walk burst into a gallop, and

then- well, it was wonderful to see! Down swept that vast horse-shoe

wave- it approached the sand-belt- my breath stood still; nearer,

nearer- the strip of green turf beyond the yellow belt grew narrow-

narrower still- became a mere ribbon in front of the horses- then

disappeared under their hoofs. Great Scott! Why, the whole front of that

host shot into the sky with a thundercrash, and became a whirling

tempest of rags and fragments; and along the ground lay a thick wall of

smoke that hid what was left of the multitude from our sight.

Time for the second step in the plan of campaign! I touched a button,

and shook the bones of England loose from her spine!

In that explosion all our noble civilization-factories went up in the

air and disappeared from the earth. It was a pity, but it was necessary.

We could not afford to let the enemy turn our own weapons against us.

Now ensued one of the dullest quarter-hours I had ever endured. We

waited in a silent solitude inclosed by our circles of wire, and by a

circle of heavy smoke outside of these. We couldn't see over the wall of

smoke, and we couldn't see through it. But at last it began to shred

away lazily, and by the end of another quarter-hour the land was clear

and our curiosity was enabled to satisfy itself. No living creature was

in sight! We now perceived that additions had been made to our defenses.

The dynamite had dug a ditch more than a hundred feet wide, all around

us, and cast up an embankment some twenty-five feet high on both borders

of it. As to destruction of life, it was amazing. Moreover, it was

beyond estimate. Of course, we could not (r)count the dead, because

they did not exist as individuals, but merely as homogeneous protoplasm,

with alloys of iron and buttons.

No life was in sight, but necessarily there must have been some

wounded in the rear ranks, who were carried off the field under cover of

the wall of smoke; there would be sickness among the others- there

always is, after an episode like that. But there would be no

reinforcements; this was the last stand of the chivalry of England; it

was all that was left of the order, after the recent annihilating wars.

So I felt quite safe in believing that the utmost force that could for

the future be brought against us would be but small; that is, of

knights. I therefore issued a congratulatory proclamation to my army in

these words:


congratulates you! In the pride of his strength and the vanity of his

renown, an arrogant enemy came against you. You were ready. The conflict

was brief; on your side, glorious. This mighty victory, having been

achieved utterly without loss, stands without example in history. So

long as the planets shall continue to move in their orbits, the BATTLE

OF THE SAND-BELT will not perish out of the memories of men.


I read it well, and the applause I got was very gratifying to me. I

then wound up with these remarks:

"The war with the English nation, as a nation, is at an end. The

nation has retired from the field and the war. Before it can be

persuaded to return, war will have ceased. This campaign is the only one

that is going to be fought. It will be brief- the briefest in history.

Also the most destructive to life, considered from the standpoint of

proportion of casualties to numbers engaged. We are done with the

nation; henceforth we deal only with the knights. English knights can be

killed, but they cannot be conquered. We know what is before us. While

one of these men remains alive, our task is not finished, the war is not

ended. We will kill them all." [Loud and long-continued applause.]

I picketed the great embankments thrown up around our lines by the

dynamite explosion- merely a lookout of a couple of boys to announce the

enemy when he should appear again.

Next, I sent an engineer and forty men to a point just beyond our

lines on the south, to turn a mountain brook that was there, and bring

it within our lines and under our command, arranging it in such a way

that I could make instant use of it in an emergency. The forty men were

divided into two shifts of twenty each, and were to relieve each other

every two hours. In ten hours the work was accomplished.

It was nightfall now, and I withdrew my pickets. The one who had had

the northern outlook reported a camp in sight, but visible with the

glass only. He also reported that a few knights had been feeling their

way toward us, and had driven some cattle across our lines, but that the

knights themselves had not come very near. That was what I had been

expecting. They were feeling us, you see; they wanted to know if we were

going to play that red terror on them again. They would grow bolder in

the night, perhaps. I believed I knew what project they would attempt,

because it was plainly the thing I would attempt myself if I were in

their places and as ignorant as they were. I mentioned it to Clarence.

"I think you are right," said he; "it is the obvious thing for them to


"Well, then," I said, "if they do it they are doomed."


"They won't have the slightest show in the world."

"Of course they won't."

"It's dreadful, Clarence. It seems an awful pity."

The thing disturbed me so that I couldn't get any peace of mind for

thinking of it and worrying over it. So, at last, to quiet my

conscience, I framed this message to the knights:


You fight in vain. We know your strength- if one may call it by that

name. We know that at the utmost you cannot bring against us above five-

and-twenty thousand knights. Therefore, you have no chance- none

whatever. Reflect: we are well equipped, well fortified, we number 54.

Fifty-four what? Men? No (r)minds - the capablest in the world; a force

against which mere animal might may no more hope to prevail than may the

idle waves of the sea hope to prevail against the granite barriers of

England. Be advised. We offer you your lives; for the sake of your

families, do not reject the gift. We offer you this chance, and it is

the last: throw down your arms; surrender unconditionally to the

Republic, and all will be forgiven.

(Signed) THE BOSS.

I read it to Clarence, and said I proposed to send it by a flag of

truce. He laughed the sarcastic laugh he was born with, and said:

"Somehow it seems impossible for you to ever fully realize what these

nobilities are. Now let us save a little time and trouble. Consider me

the commander of the knights yonder. Now, then, you are the flag of

truce; approach and deliver me your message, and I will give you your


I humored the idea. I came forward under an imaginary guard of the

enemy's soldiers, produced my paper, and read it through. For answer,

Clarence struck the paper out of my hand, pursed up a scornful lip and

said with lofty disdain:

"Dismember me this animal, and return him in a basket to the base-born

knave who sent him; other answer have I none!"

How empty is theory in presence of fact! And this was just fact, and

nothing else. It was the thing that would have happened, there was no

getting around that. I tore up the paper and granted my mistimed

sentimentalities a permanent rest.

Then, to business. I tested the electric signals from the Gatling

platform to the cave, and made sure that they were all right; I tested

and retested those which commanded the fences- these were signals

whereby I could break and renew the electric current in each fence

independently of the others at will. I placed the brook-connection under

the guard and authority of three of my best boys, who would alternate in

two-hour watches all night and promptly obey my signal, if I should have

occasion to give it- three revolver-shots in quick succession. Sentry

duty was discarded for the night, and the corral left empty of life; I

ordered that quiet be maintained in the cave, and the electric lights

turned down to a glimmer.

As soon as it was good and dark, I shut off the current from all the

fences, and then groped my way out to the embankment bordering our side

of the great dynamite ditch. I crept to the top of it and lay there on

the slant of the muck to watch. But it was too dark to see anything. As

for sounds, there were none. The stillness was deathlike. True, there

were the usual night sounds of the country- the whir of night birds, the

buzzing of insects, the barking of distant dogs, the mellow lowing of

far-off kine- but these didn't seem to break the stillness, they only

intensified it, and added a gruesome melancholy to it into the bargain.

I presently gave up looking, the night shut down so black, but I kept

my ears strained to catch the least suspicious sound, for I judged I had

only to wait, and I shouldn't be disappointed. However, I had to wait a

long time. At last I caught what you may call indistinct glimpses of

sound- dulled metallic sound. I pricked up my ears, then, and held my

breath, for this was the sort of thing I had been waiting for. This

sound thickened, and approached- from toward the north. Presently, I

heard it at my own level- the ridge-top of the opposite embankment, a

hundred feet or more away. Then I seemed to see a row of black dots

appear along that ridge- human heads? I couldn't tell; it mightn't be

anything at all; you can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is

out of focus. However, the question was soon settled. I heard that

metallic noise descending into the great ditch. It augmented fast, it

spread all along, and it unmistakably furnished me this fact: an armed

host was taking up its quarters in the ditch. Yes, these people were

arranging a little surprise party for us. We could expect entertainment

about dawn, possibly earlier.

I groped my way back to the corral now; I had seen enough. I went to

the platform and signaled to turn the current on to the two inner

fences. Then I went into the cave, and found everything satisfactory

there- nobody awake but the working-watch. I woke Clarence and told him

the great ditch was filling up with men, and that I believed all the

knights were coming for us in a body. It was my notion that as soon as

dawn approached we could expect the ditch's ambuscaded thousands to

swarm up over the embankment and make an assault, and be followed

immediately by the rest of their army.

Clarence said:

"They will be wanting to send a scout or two in the dark to make

preliminary observations. Why not take the lightning off the outer

fences, and give them a chance?"

"I've already done it, Clarence. Did you ever know me to be


"No, you are a good heart. I want to go and-"

"Be a reception committee? I will go, too."

We crossed the corral and lay down together between the two inside

fences. Even the dim light of the cave had disordered our eyesight

somewhat, but the focus straightway began to regulate itself and soon it

was adjusted for present circumstances. We had had to feel our way

before, but we could make out to see the fence-posts now. We started a

whispered conversation, but suddenly Clarence broke off and said:

"What is that?"

"What is what?"

"That thing yonder."

"What thing- where?"

"There beyond you a little piece- a dark something- a dull shape of

some kind- against the second fence."

I gazed and he gazed. I said:

"Could it be a man, Clarence?"

"No, I think not. If you notice, it looks a lit- why, it (r)is a

man!- leaning on the fence."

"I certainly believe it is; let us go and see."

We crept along on our hands and knees until we were pretty close, and

then looked up. Yes, it was a man- a dim great figure in armor, standing

erect, with both hands on the upper wire- and, of course, there was a

smell of burning flesh. Poor fellow, dead as a door-nail, and never knew

what hurt him. He stood there like a statue- no motion about him, except

that his plumes swished about a little in the night wind. We rose up and

looked in through the bars of his visor, but couldn't make out whether

we knew him or not- features too dim and shadowed.

We heard muffled sounds approaching, and we sank down to the ground

where we were. We made out another knight vaguely; he was coming very

stealthily, and feeling his way. He was near enough now for us to see

him put out a hand, find an upper wire, then bend and step under it and

over the lower one. Now he arrived at the first knight- and started

slightly when he discovered him. He stood a moment- no doubt wondering

why the other one didn't move on; then he said, in a low voice, "Why

dreamest thou here, good Sir Mar-" then he laid his hand on the corpse's

shoulder- and just uttered a little soft moan and sunk down dead. Killed

by a dead man, you see- killed by a dead friend, in fact. There was

something awful about it.

These early birds came scattering along after each other, about one

every five minutes in our vicinity, during half an hour. They brought no

armor of offense but their swords; as a rule, they carried the sword

ready in the hand, and put it forward and found the wires with it. We

would now and then see a blue spark when the knight that caused it was

so far away as to be invisible to us; but we knew what had happened, all

the same; poor fellow, he had touched a charged wire with his sword and

been elected. We had brief intervals of grim stillness, interrupted with

piteous regularity by the clash made by the falling of an ironclad; and

this sort of thing was going on, right along, and was very creepy there

in the dark and lonesomeness.

We concluded to make a tour between the inner fences. We elected to

walk upright, for convenience' sake; we argued that if discerned, we

should be taken for friends rather than enemies, and in any case we

should be out of reach of swords, and these gentry did not seem to have

any spears along. Well, it was a curious trip. Everywhere dead men were

lying outside the second fence- not plainly visible, but still visible;

and we counted fifteen of those pathetic statues- dead knights standing

with their hands on the upper wire.

One thing seemed to be sufficiently demonstrated: our current was so

tremendous that it killed before the victim could cry out. Pretty soon

we detected a muffled and heavy sound, and next moment we guessed what

it was. It was a surprise in force coming! I whispered Clarence to go

and wake the army, and notify it to wait in silence in the cave for

further orders. He was soon back, and we stood by the inner fence and

watched the silent lightning do its awful work upon that swarming host.

One could make out but little of detail; but he could note that a black

mass was piling itself up beyond the second fence. That swelling bulk

was dead men! Our camp was inclosed with a solid wall of the dead- a

bulwark, a breastwork, of corpses, you may say. One terrible thing about

this thing was the absence of human voices; there were no cheers, no

war-cries; being intent upon a surprise, these men moved as noiselessly

as they could; and always when the front rank was near enough to their

goal to make it proper for them to begin to get a shout ready, of course

they struck the fatal line and went down without testifying.

I sent a current through the third fence now; and almost immediately

through the fourth and fifth, so quickly were the gaps filled up. I

believed the time was come now for my climax; I believed that that whole

army was in our trap. Anyway, it was high time to find out. So I touched

a button and set fifty electric suns aflame on the top of our precipice.

Land, what a sight! We were inclosed in three walls of dead men! All

the other fences were pretty nearly filled with the living, who were

stealthily working their way forward through the wires. The sudden glare

paralyzed this host, petrified them, you may say, with astonishment;

there was just one instant for me to utilize their immobility in, and I

didn't lose the chance. You see, in another instant they would have

recovered their faculties, then they'd have burst into a cheer and made

a rush, and my wires would have gone down before it; but that lost

instant lost them their opportunity forever; while even that slight

fragment of time was still unspent, I shot the current through all the

fences and struck the whole host dead in their tracks! (r)There was a

groan you could (r)hear! It voiced the death-pang of eleven thousand

men. It swelled out on the night with awful pathos.

A glance showed that the rest of the enemy- perhaps ten thousand

strong- were between us and the encircling ditch, and pressing forward

to the assault. Consequently we had them (r)all! and had them past

help. Time for the last act of the tragedy. I fired the three appointed

revolver-shots- which meant:

"Turn on the water!"

There was a sudden rush and roar, and in a minute the mountain brook

was raging through the big ditch and creating a river a hundred feet

wide and twenty-five deep.

"Stand to your guns, men! Open fire!"

The thirteen Gatlings began to vomit death into the fated ten

thousand. They halted, they stood their ground a moment against that

withering deluge of fire, then they broke, faced about and swept toward

the ditch like chaff before a gale. A full fourth part of their force

never reached the top of the lofty embankment; the three-fourths reached

it and plunged over- to death by drowning.

Within ten short minutes after we had opened fire, armed resistance

was totally annihilated, the campaign was ended, we fifty-four were

masters of England! Twenty-five thousand men lay dead around us.

But how treacherous is fortune! In a little while- say an hour-

happened a thing, by my own fault, which- but I have no heart to write

that. Let the record end here.


I CLARENCE, must write it for him. He proposed that we two go out and

see if any help could be accorded the wounded. I was strenuous against

the project. I said that if there were many, we could do but little for

them; and it would not be wise for us to trust ourselves among them,

anyway. But he could seldom be turned from a purpose once formed; so we

shut off the electric current from the fences, took an escort along,

climbed over the inclosing ramparts of dead knights, and moved out upon

the field. The first wounded man who appealed for help was sitting with

his back against a dead comrade. When The Boss bent over him and spoke

to him, the man recognized him and stabbed him. That knight was Sir

Meliagraunce, as I found out by tearing off his helmet. He will not ask

for help any more.

We carried The Boss to the cave and gave his wound, which was not very

serious, the best care we could. In this service we had the help of

Merlin, though we did not know it. He was disguised as a woman, and

appeared to be a simple old peasant goodwife. In this disguise, with

brown-stained face and smooth-shaven, he had appeared a few days after

The Boss was hurt, and offered to cook for us, saying her people had

gone off to join certain new camps which the enemy were forming, and

that she was starving. The Boss had been getting along very well, and

had amused himself with finishing up his record.

We were glad to have this woman, for we were short-handed. We were in

a trap, you see- a trap of our own making. If we stayed where we were,

our dead would kill us; if we moved out of our defenses, we should no

longer be invincible. We had conquered; in turn we were conquered. The

Boss recognized this; we all recognized it. If we could go to one of

those new camps and patch up some kind of terms with the enemy- yes, but

The Boss could not go, and neither could I, for I was among the first

that were made sick by the poisonous air bred by those dead thousands.

Others were taken down, and still others. To-morrow-

(r)To-morrow. It is here. And with it the end. About midnight I

awoke, and saw that hag making curious passes in the air about The

Boss's head and face, and wondered what it meant. Everybody but the

dynamo-watch lay steeped in sleep; there was no sound. The woman ceased

from her mysterious foolery, and started tiptoeing toward the door. I

called out:

"Stop! What have you been doing?"

She halted, and said with an accent of malicious satisfaction:

"Ye were conquerors; ye are conquered! These others are perishing- you

also. Ye shall all die in this place- every one except (r)him. He

sleepeth now- and shall sleep thirteen centuries. I am Merlin!"

Then such a delirium of silly laughter overtook him that he reeled

about like a drunken man, and presently fetched up against one of our

wires. His mouth is spread open yet; apparently he is still laughing. I

suppose the face will retain that petrified laugh until the corpse turns

to dust.

The Boss has never stirred- sleeps like a stone. If he does not wake

to-day we shall understand what kind of a sleep it is, and his body will

then be borne to a place in one of the remote recesses of the cave where

none will ever find it to desecrate it. As for the rest of us- well, it

is agreed that if any one of us ever escapes alive from this place, he

will write the fact here, and loyally hide this Manuscript with The

Boss, our dear good chief, whose property it is, be he alive or dead.



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- (r)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 (r)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-by.... 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 (r)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 (r)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- (r)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 (r)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.



*001 Demented.

*002 No matter.

*003 The story is borrowed, language and all, from the (r)Morte

d'Arthur. - M. T.

*004 All the details concerning the hermits, in this chapter, are from

Lecky- but greatly modified. This book not being a history but only a

tale, the majority of the historian's frank details were too strong for

reproduction in it.- EDITOR.