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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Part 5.

Mark Twain

  Produced by David Widger



  MARK TWAIN (Samuel L. Clemens)

  Part 5.



  Saturday noon I went to the well and looked on a while. Merlinwas still burning smoke-powders, and pawing the air, and mutteringgibberish as hard as ever, but looking pretty down-hearted, forof 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 powerfulestenchantment known to the princes of the occult arts in the landsof 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 musthave made matters uncomfortable for the hermits, for the windwas their way, and it rolled down over their dens in a dense andbillowy fog. He poured out volumes of speech to match, and contortedhis body and sawed the air with his hands in a most extraordinaryway. At the end of twenty minutes he dropped down panting, andabout exhausted. Now arrived the abbot and several hundred monksand nuns, and behind them a multitude of pilgrims and a couple ofacres of foundlings, all drawn by the prodigious smoke, and allin a grand state of excitement. The abbot inquired anxiously forresults. Merlin said:

  "If any labor of mortal might break the spell that binds thesewaters, this which I have but just essayed had done it. It hasfailed; whereby I do now know that that which I had feared isa truth established; the sign of this failure is, that the mostpotent spirit known to the magicians of the East, and whose namenone may utter and live, has laid his spell upon this well. Themortal does not breathe, nor ever will, who can penetrate the secretof that spell, and without that secret none can break it. Thewater will flow no more forever, good Father. I have done whatman 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 spellupon the well."

  "God's wounds, 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 havesome chance--that is, some small, some trifling chance--of success."

  "The conditions--"

  "Oh, they are nothing difficult. Only these: I want the welland the surroundings for the space of half a mile, entirely tomyself from sunset to-day until I remove the ban--and nobodyallowed 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 commandmentto that effect."

  "Wait," said Merlin, with an evil smile. "Ye wit that he thatwould 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 yemust likewise pronounce it? Ha-ha! Knew ye that?"

  "Yes, I knew that, too."

  "You had that knowledge! Art a fool? Are ye minded to utterthat 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 thingfor _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 worstweather-failure in the kingdom. Whenever he ordered up thedanger-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 underminehis reputation. However, that shot raised his bile, and insteadof starting home to report my death, he said he would remainand 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 firesprays, electric apparatus, and a lot of sundries--everythingnecessary for the stateliest kind of a miracle. They got theirsupper and a nap, and about midnight we sallied out through asolitude so wholly vacant and complete that it quite overpassedthe required conditions. We took possession of the well and itssurroundings. My boys were experts in all sorts of things, fromthe stoning up of a well to the constructing of a mathematicalinstrument. An hour before sunrise we had that leak mended inship-shape fashion, and the water began to rise. Then we stowed ourfireworks 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 therewas a deal to do yet, and I was determined to spring the miraclebefore midnight, for business reasons: for whereas a miracleworked for the Church on a week-day is worth a good deal, it isworth six times as much if you get it in on a Sunday. In nine hoursthe water had risen to its customary level--that is to say, it waswithin 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 boredinto a stone reservoir which stood against the outer wall of thewell-chamber and inserted a section of lead pipe that was longenough to reach to the door of the chapel and project beyondthe threshold, where the gushing water would be visible to thetwo hundred and fifty acres of people I was intending should bepresent on the flat plain in front of this little holy hillock atthe proper time.

  We knocked the head out of an empty hogshead and hoisted thishogshead to the flat roof of the chapel, where we clamped it downfast, poured in gunpowder till it lay loosely an inch deep on thebottom, then we stood up rockets in the hogshead as thick as theycould loosely stand, all the different breeds of rockets there are;and they made a portly and imposing sheaf, I can tell you. Wegrounded the wire of a pocket electrical battery in that powder,we placed a whole magazine of Greek fire on each corner of theroof--blue on one corner, green on another, red on another, andpurple on the last--and grounded a wire in each.

  About two hundred yards off, in the flat, we built a pen ofscantlings, about four feet high, and laid planks on it, and somade a platform. We covered it with swell tapestries borrowedfor 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 wantto get in every detail that will count; you want to make all theproperties impressive to the public eye; you want to make matterscomfortable for your head guest; then you can turn yourself looseand play your effects for all they are worth. I know the value ofthese things, for I know human nature. You can't throw too muchstyle into a miracle. It costs trouble, and work, and sometimesmoney; but it pays in the end. Well, we brought the wires tothe ground at the chapel, and then brought them under the groundto the platform, and hid the batteries there. We put a rope fencea hundred feet square around the platform to keep off the commonmultitude, and that finished the work. My idea was, doors openat 10:30, performance to begin at 11:25 s
harp. I wished I couldcharge admission, but of course that wouldn't answer. I instructedmy boys to be in the chapel as early as 10, before anybody wasaround, and be ready to man the pumps at the proper time, andmake 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 hadbeen pouring into the valley. The lower end of the valley wasbecome one huge camp; we should have a good house, no questionabout that. Criers went the rounds early in the evening andannounced the coming attempt, which put every pulse up to feverheat. They gave notice that the abbot and his official suite wouldmove in state and occupy the platform at 10:30, up to which timeall the region which was under my ban must be clear; the bellswould then cease from tolling, and this sign should be permissionto the multitudes to close in and take their places.

  I was at the platform and all ready to do the honors when theabbot's solemn procession hove in sight--which it did not do tillit was nearly to the rope fence, because it was a starless blacknight and no torches permitted. With it came Merlin, and tooka 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 vastblack wave, and for as much as a half hour it continued to flow,and then it solidified itself, and you could have walked upona pavement of human heads to--well, miles.

  We had a solemn stage-wait, now, for about twenty minutes--a thingI had counted on for effect; it is always good to let your audiencehave a chance to work up its expectancy. At length, out of thesilence a noble Latin chant--men's voices--broke and swelled upand rolled away into the night, a majestic tide of melody. I hadput 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 myhands abroad, for two minutes, with my face uplifted--that alwaysproduces a dead hush--and then slowly pronounced this ghastly wordwith a kind of awfulness which caused hundreds to tremble, andmany women to faint:


  Just as I was moaning out the closing hunks of that word, I touchedoff one of my electric connections and all that murky world ofpeople stood revealed in a hideous blue glare! It was immense--that effect! Lots of people shrieked, women curled up and quitin every direction, foundlings collapsed by platoons. The abbotand the monks crossed themselves nimbly and their lips flutteredwith agitated prayers. Merlin held his grip, but he was astonishedclear down to his corns; he had never seen anything to beginwith that, before. Now was the time to pile in the effects. I liftedmy hands and groaned out this word--as it were in agony:


  --and turned on the red fire! You should have heard that Atlanticof people moan and howl when that crimson hell joined the blue!After sixty seconds I shouted:


  --and lit up the green fire! After waiting only forty seconds thistime, I spread my arms abroad and thundered out the devastatingsyllables of this word of words:


  --and whirled on the purple glare! There they were, all goingat once, red, blue, green, purple!--four furious volcanoes pouringvast clouds of radiant smoke aloft, and spreading a blindingrainbowed noonday to the furthest confines of that valley. Inthe distance one could see that fellow on the pillar standing rigidagainst the background of sky, his seesaw stopped for the firsttime in twenty years. I knew the boys were at the pump now andready. So I said to the abbot:

  "The time is come, Father. I am about to pronounce the dread nameand command the spell to dissolve. You want to brace up, and takehold of something." Then I shouted to the people: "Behold, inanother 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 watergush from the chapel door!"

  I stood a few moments, to let the hearers have a chance to spreadmy announcement to those who couldn't hear, and so convey itto the furthest ranks, then I made a grand exhibition of extraposturing and gesturing, and shouted:

  "Lo, I command the fell spirit that possesses the holy fountainto now disgorge into the skies all the infernal fires that stillremain in him, and straightway dissolve his spell and flee henceto the pit, there to lie bound a thousand years. By his own dreadname I command it--BGWJJILLIGKKK!"

  Then I touched off the hogshead of rockets, and a vast fountain ofdazzling lances of fire vomited itself toward the zenith with ahissing 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, fairand plain in the uncanny glare, they saw the freed water leapingforth! The old abbot could not speak a word, for tears and thechokings in his throat; without utterance of any sort, he folded mein his arms and mashed me. It was more eloquent than speech.And harder to get over, too, in a country where there were reallyno doctors that were worth a damaged nickel.

  You should have seen those acres of people throw themselves downin that water and kiss it; kiss it, and pet it, and fondle it, andtalk to it as if it were alive, and welcome it back with the dearnames they gave their darlings, just as if it had been a friend whowas long gone away and lost, and was come home again. Yes, it waspretty 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 downlike a landslide when I pronounced that fearful name, and hadnever come to since. He never had heard that name before,--neitherhad I--but to him it was the right one. Any jumble would havebeen the right one. He admitted, afterward, that that spirit's ownmother could not have pronounced that name better than I did.He never could understand how I survived it, and I didn't tellhim. It is only young magicians that give away a secret like that.Merlin spent three months working enchantments to try to find outthe 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 backreverently to make a wide way for me, as if I had been some kindof a superior being--and I was. I was aware of that. I took alonga 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 thepeople out there were going to sit up with the water all night,consequently it was but right that they should have all they wantedof it. To those monks that pump was a good deal of a miracleitself, and they were full of wonder over it; and of admiration,too, of the exceeding effectiveness of its performance.

  It was a great night, an immense night. There was reputation in it.I could hardly get to sleep for glorying over it.