A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
by Mark Twain
Chapter 40 - Three Years Later
WHEN I broke the back of knight-errantry that time, I no
longer felt obliged to work in secret. So, the very next day I exposed my hidden schools,
my mines, and my vast system of clandestine factories and workshops to an astonished
world. That is to say, I exposed the nineteenth century to the inspection of the sixth.
Well, it is always a good plan to follow up an advantage promptly. The knights were
temporarily down, but if I would keep them so I must just simply paralyze them -- nothing
short of that would answer. You see, I was "bluffing" that last time in the
field; it would be natural for them to work around to that conclusion, if I gave them a
chance. So I must not give them time; and I didn't.
I renewed my challenge, engraved it on brass, posted it up where any priest could read
it to them, and also kept it standing in the advertising columns of the paper.
I not only renewed it, but added to its proportions. I said, name the day, and I would
take fifty assistants and stand up AGAINST THE MASSED CHIVALRY OF THE WHOLE EARTH AND
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
Consider the three years sped. Now look around on England. A happy and prosperous
country, and strangely altered. Schools everywhere, and several colleges; a number of
pretty good newspapers. Even authorship was taking a start; Sir Dinadan the Humorist was
first in the field, with a volume of gray-headed jokes which I had been familiar with
during thirteen centuries. If he had left out that old rancid one about the lecturer I
wouldn't have said anything; but I couldn't stand that one. I suppressed the book and
hanged the author.
Slavery was dead and gone; all men were equal before the law; taxation had been
equalized. The telegraph, the telephone, the phonograph, the typewriter, the
sewing-machine, and all the thousand willing and handy servants of steam and electricity
were working their way into favor. We had a steamboat or two on the Thames, we had steam
warships, and the beginnings of a steam commercial marine; I was getting ready to send out
an expedition to discover America.
We were building several lines of railway, and our line from Camelot to London was
already finished and in operation. I was shrewd enough to make all offices connected with
the passenger service places of high and distinguished honor. My idea was to attract the
chivalry and nobility, and make them useful and keep them out of mischief. The plan worked
very well, the competition for the places was hot. The conductor of the 4.33 express was a
duke; there wasn't a passenger conductor on the line below the degree of earl. They were
good men, every one, but they had two defects which I couldn't cure, and so had to wink
at: they wouldn't lay aside their armor, and they would "knock down" fare -- I
mean rob the company.
There was hardly a knight in all the land who wasn't in some useful employment. They
were going from end to end of the country in all manner of useful missionary capacities;
their penchant for wandering, and their experience in it, made them altogether the most
effective spreaders of civilization we had. They went clothed in steel and equipped with
sword and lance and battle-axe, and if they couldn't persuade a person to try a
sewing-machine on the installment plan, or a melodeon, or a barbed-wire fence, or a
prohibition journal, or any of the other thousand and one things they canvassed for, they
removed him and passed on.
I was very happy. Things were working steadily toward a secretly longed-for point. You
see, I had two schemes in my head which were the vastest of all my projects. The one was
to overthrow the Catholic Church and set up the Protestant faith on its ruins -- not as an
Established Church, but a go-as-you-please one; and the other project was to get a decree
issued by and by, commanding that upon Arthur's death unlimited suffrage should be
introduced, and given to men and women alike -- at any rate to all men, wise or unwise,
and to all mothers who at middle age should be found to know nearly as much as their sons
at twenty-one. Arthur was good for thirty years yet, he being about my own age -- that is
to say, forty -- and I believed that in that time I could easily have the active part of
the population of that day ready and eager for an event which should be the first of its
kind in the history of the world -- a rounded and complete governmental revolution without
bloodshed. The result to be a republic. Well, I may as well confess, though I do feel
ashamed when I think of it: I was beginning to have a base hankering to be its first
president myself. Yes, there was more or less human nature in me; I found that out.
Clarence was with me as concerned the revolution, but in a modified way. His idea was a
republic, without privileged orders, but with a hereditary royal family at the head of it
instead of an elective chief magistrate. He believed that no nation that had ever known
the joy of worshiping a royal family could ever be robbed of it and not fade away and die
of melancholy. I urged that kings were dangerous. He said, then have cats. He was sure
that a royal family of cats would answer every purpose. They would be as useful as any
other royal family, they would know as much, they would have the same virtues and the same
treacheries, the same disposition to get up shindies with other royal cats, they would be
laughably vain and absurd and never know it, they would be wholly inexpensive; finally,
they would have as sound a divine right as any other royal house, and "Tom VII., or
Tom XI., or Tom XIV. by the grace of God King," would sound as well as it would when
applied to the ordinary royal tomcat with tights on. "And as a rule," said he,
in his neat modern English, "the character of these cats would be considerably above
the character of the average king, and this would be an immense moral advantage to the
nation, for the reason that a nation always models its morals after its monarch's. The
worship of royalty being founded in unreason, these graceful and harmless cats would
easily become as sacred as any other royalties, and indeed more so, because it would
presently be noticed that they hanged nobody, beheaded nobody, imprisoned nobody,
inflicted no cruelties or injustices of any sort, and so must be worthy of a deeper love
and reverence than the customary human king, and would certainly get it. The eyes of the
whole harried world would soon be fixed upon this humane and gentle system, and royal
butchers would presently begin to disappear; their subjects would fill the vacancies with
catlings from our own royal house; we should become a factory; we should supply the
thrones of the world; within forty years all Europe would be governed by cats, and we
should furnish the cats. The reign of universal peace would begin then, to end no more
forever...... Me-e-e-yow-ow-ow-ow -- fzt! -- wow!"
Hang him, I supposed he was in earnest, and was beginning to be persuaded by him, until
he exploded that cat-howl and startled me almost out of my clothes. But he never could be
in earnest. He didn't know what it was. He had pictured a distinct and perfectly rational
and feasible improvement upon constitutional monarchy, but he was too feather-headed to
know it, or care anything about it, either. I was going to give him a scolding, but Sandy
came flying in at that moment, wild with terror, and so choked with sobs that for a minute
she could not get her voice. I ran and took her in my arms, and lavished caresses upon her
and said, beseechingly:
"Speak, darling, speak! What is it?"
Her head fell limp upon my bosom, and she gasped, almost inaudibly:
"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 dispatching servants
here, there, and everywhere, all over the palace. I took in the situation almost at a
glance -- membranous croup! I bent down and whispered:
"Wake up, sweetheart! Hello-Central"
She opened her soft eyes languidly, and made out to say:
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
Sir Launcelot, in his richest armor, came striding along the great hall now on his way
to the stockboard; he was president of the stock-board, and occupied the Siege Perilous,
which he had bought of Sir Galahad; for the stock-board consisted of the Knights of the
Round Table, and they used the Round Table for business purposes now. Seats at it were
worth -- well, you would never believe the figure, so it is no use to state it. Sir
Launcelot was a bear, and he had put up a corner in one of the new lines, and was just
getting ready to squeeze the shorts to-day; but what of that? He was the same old
Launcelot, and when he glanced in as he was passing the door and found out that his pet
was sick, that was enough for him; bulls and bears might fight it out their own way for
all him, he would come right in here and stand by little Hello-Central for all he was
worth. And that was what he did. He shied his helmet into the corner, and in half a minute
he had a new wick in the alcohol lamp and was firing up on the croup-kettle. By this time
Sandy had built a blanket canopy over the crib, and everything was ready.
Sir Launcelot got up steam, he and I loaded up the kettle with unslaked lime and
carbolic acid, with a touch of lactic acid added thereto, then filled the thing up with
water and inserted the steam-spout under the canopy. Everything was ship-shape now, and we
sat down on either side of the crib to stand our watch. Sandy was so grateful and so
comforted that she charged a couple of church-wardens with willow-bark and sumach-tobacco
for us, and told us to smoke as much as we pleased, it couldn't get under the canopy, and
she was used to smoke, being the first lady in the land who had ever seen a cloud blown.
Well, there couldn't be a more contented or comfortable sight than Sir Launcelot in his
noble armor sitting in gracious serenity at the end of a yard of snowy church-warden. He
was a beautiful man, a lovely man, and was just intended to make a wife and children
happy. But, of course Guenever -- however, it's no use to cry over what's done and can't
Well, he stood watch-and-watch with me, right straight through, for three days and
nights, till the child was out of danger; then he took her up in his great arms and kissed
her, with his plumes falling about her golden head, then laid her softly in Sandy's lap
again and took his stately way down the vast hall, between the ranks of admiring
men-at-arms and menials, and so disappeared. And no instinct warned me that I should never
look upon him again in this world! Lord, what a world of heart-break it is.
The doctors said we must take the child away, if we would coax her back to health and
strength again. And she must have sea-air. So we took a man-of-war, and a suite of two
hundred and sixty persons, and went cruising about, and after a fortnight of this we
stepped ashore on the French coast, and the doctors thought it would be a good idea to
make something of a stay there. The little king of that region offered us his
hospitalities, and we were glad to accept. If he had had as many conveniences as he
lacked, we should have been plenty comfortable enough; even as it was, we made out very
well, in his queer old castle, by the help of comforts and luxuries from the ship.
At the end of a month I sent the vessel home for fresh supplies, and for news. We
expected her back in three or four days. She would bring me, along with other news, the
result of a certain experiment which I had been starting. It was a project of mine to
replace the tournament with something which might furnish an escape for the extra steam of
the chivalry, keep those bucks entertained and out of mischief, and at the same time
preserve the best thing in them, which was their hardy spirit of emulation. I had had a
choice band of them in private training for some time, and the date was now arriving for
their first public effort.
This experiment was baseball. In order to give the thing vogue from the start, and
place it out of the reach of criticism, I chose my nines by rank, not capacity. There
wasn't a knight in either team who wasn't a sceptered sovereign. As for material of this
sort, there was a glut of it always around Arthur. You couldn't throw a brick in any
direction and not cripple a king. Of course, I couldn't get these people to leave off
their armor; they wouldn't do that when they bathed. They consented to differentiate the
armor so that a body could tell one team from the other, but that was the most they would
do. So, one of the teams wore chain-mail ulsters, and the other wore platearmor made of my
new Bessemer steel. Their practice in the field was the most fantastic thing I ever saw.
Being ball-proof, they never skipped out of the way, but stood still and took the result;
when a Bessemer was at the bat and a ball hit him, it would bound a hundred and fifty
yards sometimes. And when a man was running, and threw himself on his stomach to slide to
his base, it was like an iron-clad coming into port. At first I appointed men of no rank
to act as umpires, but I had to discontinue that. These people were no easier to please
than other nines. The umpire's first decision was usually his last; they broke him in two
with a bat, and his friends toted him home on a shutter. When it was noticed that no
umpire ever survived a game, umpiring got to be unpopular. So I was obliged to appoint
somebody whose rank and lofty position under the government would protect him.
Here are the names of the nines:
Umpire -- CLARENCE.
KING LOT OF LOTHIAN.
KING OF NORTHGALIS.
KING OF LITTLE BRITAIN.
KING PELLAM OF LISTENGESE.
KING TOLLEME LA FEINTES.
KING MARHALT OF IRELAND.
KING MARK OF CORNWALL.
KING NENTRES OF GARLOT.
KING MELIODAS OF LIONES.
KING OF THE LAKE.
THE SOWDAN OF SYRIA.
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.
The Celtic Hammer June 22, 1996