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A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court
(Samuel L. Clemens)

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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 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 dis-
tance 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:

"Persimmon's Soap -- All the Prime-Donna 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 bul-
letin-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 HADN'T any board would
himself begin to look ridiculous because he was out of
the fashion.

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 Estab-
lished 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 mission-
ary's next move was to get the family together and try
it on himself; he was to stop at no experiment, how-
ever 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 be-
lieved 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 dis-
seminate 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 any-
where 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 passport.

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 Washing-
ton defeat into a Matterhorn victory. We will put on
your bulletin-board, 'PATRONIZED BY THE ELECT.' How
does that strike you?"

"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 rail-
ings 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 after-
ward 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 per-
sonality 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 misrepre-
sented, 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
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 con-
fidence, and said:

"God's wounds, dost thou covet destruction, thou
maniac? It is The Boss!"

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 never-
theless 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 permission.



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