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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Part 2.

Mark Twain

  Produced by David Widger



  MARK TWAIN (Samuel L. Clemens)

  Part 2.



  Inasmuch as I was now the second personage in the Kingdom, as faras political power and authority were concerned, much was madeof me. My raiment was of silks and velvets and cloth of gold,and by consequence was very showy, also uncomfortable. But habitwould soon reconcile me to my clothes; I was aware of that. I wasgiven the choicest suite of apartments in the castle, afterthe 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_little_ conveniences; it is the little conveniences that makethe real comfort of life. The big oaken chairs, graced with rudecarvings, were well enough, but that was the stopping place.There was no soap, no matches, no looking-glass--except a metalone, 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 withoutmy suspecting it a passion for art had got worked into the fabricof my being, and was become a part of me. It made me homesickto look around over this proud and gaudy but heartless barrennessand remember that in our house in East Hartford, all unpretendingas it was, you couldn't go into a room but you would find aninsurance-chromo, or at least a three-color God-Bless-Our-Homeover the door; and in the parlor we had nine. But here, even inmy grand room of state, there wasn't anything in the nature ofa picture except a thing the size of a bedquilt, which was eitherwoven or knitted (it had darned places in it), and nothing in itwas 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 "celebratedHampton Court cartoons." Raphael was a bird. We had severalof his chromos; one was his "Miraculous Draught of Fishes," wherehe puts in a miracle of his own--puts three men into a canoe whichwouldn't have held a dog without upsetting. I always admiredto study R.'s art, it was so fresh and unconventional.

  There wasn't even a bell or a speaking-tube in the castle. I hada great many servants, and those that were on duty lolled in theanteroom; 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 fullof boarding-house butter with a blazing rag floating in it wasthe thing that produced what was regarded as light. A lot ofthese hung along the walls and modified the dark, just toned itdown enough to make it dismal. If you went out at night, yourservants carried torches. There were no books, pens, paper orink, and no glass in the openings they believed to be windows.It is a little thing--glass is--until it is absent, then it becomesa big thing. But perhaps the worst of all was, that there wasn'tany sugar, coffee, tea, or tobacco. I saw that I was just anotherRobinson Crusoe cast away on an uninhabited island, with no societybut some more or less tame animals, and if I wanted to make lifebearable I must do as he did--invent, contrive, create, reorganizethings; 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 whichpeople took in me. Apparently the whole nation wanted a lookat me. It soon transpired that the eclipse had scared the Britishworld almost to death; that while it lasted the whole country,from one end to the other, was in a pitiable state of panic, andthe churches, hermitages, and monkeries overflowed with prayingand weeping poor creatures who thought the end of the world wascome. Then had followed the news that the producer of this awfulevent was a stranger, a mighty magician at Arthur's court; that hecould have blown out the sun like a candle, and was just goingto do it when his mercy was purchased, and he then dissolvedhis enchantments, and was now recognized and honored as the manwho had by his unaided might saved the globe from destruction andits peoples from extinction. Now if you consider that everybodybelieved that, and not only believed it, but never even dreamedof doubting it, you will easily understand that there was nota person in all Britain that would not have walked fifty milesto get a sight of me. Of course I was all the talk--all othersubjects were dropped; even the king became suddenly a person ofminor interest and notoriety. Within twenty-four hours thedelegations began to arrive, and from that time onward for a fortnightthey kept coming. The village was crowded, and all the countryside.I had to go out a dozen times a day and show myself to thesereverent and awe-stricken multitudes. It came to be a great burden,as to time and trouble, but of course it was at the same timecompensatingly agreeable to be so celebrated and such a centerof homage. It turned Brer Merlin green with envy and spite, whichwas a great satisfaction to me. But there was one thing I couldn'tunderstand--nobody had asked for an autograph. I spoke to Clarenceabout it. By George! I had to explain to him what it was. Thenhe said nobody in the country could read or write but a few dozenpriests. Land! think of that.

  There was another thing that troubled me a little. Those multitudespresently began to agitate for another miracle. That was natural.To be able to carry back to their far homes the boast that theyhad 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 seenhim work a miracle themselves--why, people would come a distanceto see _them_. The pressure got to be pretty strong. There wasgoing 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 gooddeal for license to hurry it up and use it now when there wasa 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 anyuse for it, as like as not. If it had been booked for only a monthaway, I could have sold it short; but, as matters stood, I couldn'tseem to cipher out any way to make it do me any good, so I gave uptrying. Next, Clarence found that old Merlin was making himselfbusy on the sly among those people. He was spreading a report thatI was a humbug, and that the reason I didn't accommodate the peoplewith a miracle was because I couldn't. I saw that I must dosomething. I presently thought out a plan.

  By my authority as executive I threw Merlin into prison--the samecell I had occupied myself. Then I gave public notice by heraldand trumpet that I should be busy with affairs of state fora fortnight, but about the end of that time I would take a moment'sleisure and blow up Merlin's stone tower by fires from heaven;in the meantime, whoso listened to evil reports about me, let himbeware. Furthermore, I would perform but this one miracle atthis 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 wewent to work privately. I told him that this was a sort of miraclethat required a trifle of preparation, and that it would be suddendeath to ever talk about these preparations to anybody. That madehis mouth safe enough. Clandestinely we made a few bushels offirst-rate blasting powder, and I superintended my armorers whilethey constructed a lightning-rod and some wires. This old stonetower was very massive--and rather ruinous, too, for it was Roman,and four hundred years old. Yes, and handsome, after a rudefashion, and clothed with ivy from base to summit, as with a shirtof scale mail. It stood on a lonely eminence, in good view fromthe castle, and about half a mile away.

  Working by night, we stowed the powder in the tower--dug stonesout, on the inside, and buried the powder in the walls themselves,which w
ere fifteen feet thick at the base. We put in a peckat a time, in a dozen places. We could have blown up the Towerof London with these charges. When the thirteenth night was comewe put up our lightning-rod, bedded it in one of the batches ofpowder, and ran wires from it to the other batches. Everybodyhad shunned that locality from the day of my proclamation, buton 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-fourhours I would consummate the miracle, but would first give a briefnotice; by flags on the castle towers if in the daytime, bytorch-baskets in the same places if at night.

  Thunder-showers had been tolerably frequent of late, and I wasnot much afraid of a failure; still, I shouldn't have cared fora delay of a day or two; I should have explained that I was busywith affairs of state yet, and the people must wait.

  Of course, we had a blazing sunny day--almost the first one withouta cloud for three weeks; things always happen so. I kept secluded,and watched the weather. Clarence dropped in from time to timeand said the public excitement was growing and growing all thetime, and the whole country filling up with human masses as faras one could see from the battlements. At last the wind sprang upand a cloud appeared--in the right quarter, too, and just atnightfall. For a little while I watched that distant cloud spreadand blacken, then I judged it was time for me to appear. I orderedthe torch-baskets to be lit, and Merlin liberated and sent to me.A quarter of an hour later I ascended the parapet and there foundthe king and the court assembled and gazing off in the darknesstoward Merlin's Tower. Already the darkness was so heavy thatone could not see far; these people and the old turrets, beingpartly in deep shadow and partly in the red glow from the greattorch-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 professionalreputation. Therefore I am going to call down fire and blow upyour tower, but it is only fair to give you a chance; now if youthink you can break my enchantments and ward off the fires, stepto the bat, it's your innings."

  "I can, fair sir, and I will. Doubt it not."

  He drew an imaginary circle on the stones of the roof, and burnta pinch of powder in it, which sent up a small cloud of aromaticsmoke, whereat everybody fell back and began to cross themselvesand get uncomfortable. Then he began to mutter and make passesin the air with his hands. He worked himself up slowly andgradually into a sort of frenzy, and got to thrashing around withhis arms like the sails of a windmill. By this time the storm hadabout reached us; the gusts of wind were flaring the torches andmaking the shadows swash about, the first heavy drops of rainwere falling, the world abroad was black as pitch, the lightningbegan to wink fitfully. Of course, my rod would be loading itselfnow. 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 onlyfair that I begin now."

  I made about three passes in the air, and then there was an awfulcrash and that old tower leaped into the sky in chunks, alongwith a vast volcanic fountain of fire that turned night to noonday,and showed a thousand acres of human beings groveling on the groundin a general collapse of consternation. Well, it rained mortar andmasonry the rest of the week. This was the report; but probablythe facts would have modified it.

  It was an effective miracle. The great bothersome temporarypopulation vanished. There were a good many thousand tracksin the mud the next morning, but they were all outward bound.If I had advertised another miracle I couldn't have raised anaudience with a sheriff.

  Merlin's stock was flat. The king wanted to stop his wages; heeven wanted to banish him, but I interfered. I said he would beuseful to work the weather, and attend to small matters like that,and I would give him a lift now and then when his poor littleparlor-magic soured on him. There wasn't a rag of his tower left,but I had the government rebuild it for him, and advised himto take boarders; but he was too high-toned for that. And as forbeing grateful, he never even said thank you. He was a ratherhard lot, take him how you might; but then you couldn't fairlyexpect a man to be sweet that had been set back so.