A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Part 6. eBook: Page2

Mark Twain (2004)



  On the morning of the fourth day, when it was just sunrise, and wehad been tramping an hour in the chill dawn, I came to a resolution:the king _must_ be drilled; things could not go on so, he must betaken in hand and deliberately and conscientiously drilled, or wecouldn't ever venture to enter a dwelling; the very cats would knowthis masquerader for a humbug and no peasant. So I called a haltand said:

  "Sire, as between clothes and countenance, you are all right, thereis no discrepancy; but as between your clothes and your bearing,you are all wrong, there is a most noticeable discrepancy. Yoursoldierly stride, your lordly port--these will not do. You standtoo straight, your looks are too high, too confident. The caresof 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 notput doubt and fear in the heart and hang out the signs of themin slouching body and unsure step. It is the sordid cares ofthe lowly born that do these things. You must learn the trick;you must imitate the trademarks of poverty, misery, oppression,insult, and the other several and common inhumanities that sapthe manliness out of a man and make him a loyal and proper andapproved subject and a satisfaction to his masters, or the veryinfants will know you for better than your disguise, and we shall goto 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, verygood. Eyes too high; pray don't look at the horizon, look at theground, ten steps in front of you. Ah--that is better, that isvery good. Wait, please; you betray too much vigor, too muchdecision; you want more of a shamble. Look at me, please--this iswhat I mean.... Now you are getting it; that is the idea--at least,it sort of approaches it.... Yes, that is pretty fair. _But!_There is a great big something wanting, I don't quite know whatit is. Please walk thirty yards, so that I can get a perspectiveon the thing.... Now, then--your head's right, speed's right,shoulders right, eyes right, chin right, gait, carriage, generalstyle right--everything's right! And yet the fact remains, theaggregate's wrong. The account don't balance. Do it again,please.... _Now_ I think I begin to see what it is. Yes, I'vestruck it. You see, the genuine spiritlessness is wanting; that'swhat's the trouble. It's all _amateur_--mechanical details allright, 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, thereisn't anything that can right the matter but practice. This isa good place for it: roots and stony ground to break up yourstately gait, a region not liable to interruption, only one fieldand one hut in sight, and they so far away that nobody couldsee us from there. It will be well to move a little off the roadand 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 headof 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 _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 ifyou said friend, or brother."

  "Brother!--to dirt like that?"

  "Ah, but _we_ are pretending to be dirt like that, too."

  "It is even true. I will say it. Brother, bring a seat, andthereto what cheer ye have, withal. Now 'tis right."

  "Not quite, not wholly right. You have asked for one, not _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 doit a grain at a time, not the whole idea at once.

  "Would _you_ have a seat also--and sit?"

  "If I did not sit, the man would perceive that we were only pretendingto be equals--and playing the deception pretty poorly, too."

  "It is well and truly said! How wonderful is truth, come it inwhatsoever unexpected form it may! Yes, he must bring out seatsand food for both, and in serving us present not ewer and napkinwith more show of respect to the one than to the other."

  "And there is even yet a detail that needs correcting. He mustbring nothing outside; we will go in--in among the dirt, andpossibly other repulsive things,--and take the food with thehousehold, and after the fashion of the house, and all on equalterms, except the man be of the serf class; and finally, therewill be no ewer and no napkin, whether he be serf or free. Pleasewalk again, my liege. There--it is better--it is the best yet;but not perfect. The shoulders have known no ignobler burdenthan iron mail, and they will not stoop."

  "Give me, then, the bag. I will learn the spirit that goethwith burdens that have not honor. It is the spirit that stoopeththe 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 littlelike a king as any man I had ever seen. But it was an obstinatepair of shoulders; they could not seem to learn the trick ofstooping with any sort of deceptive naturalness. The drill went on,I prompting and correcting:

  "Now, make believe you are in debt, and eaten up by relentlesscreditors; you are out of work--which is horse-shoeing, let ussay--and can get none; and your wife is sick, your children arecrying because they are hungry--"

  And so on, and so on. I drilled him as representing in turn allsorts of people out of luck and suffering dire privations andmisfortunes. But lord, it was only just words, words--they meantnothing in the world to him, I might just as well have whistled.Words realize nothing, vivify nothing to you, unless you havesuffered in your own person the thing which the words try todescribe. There are wise people who talk ever so knowingly andcomplacently about "the working classes," and satisfy themselvesthat a day's hard intellectual work is very much harder thana day's hard manual toil, and is righteously entitled to muchbigger pay. Why, they really think that, you know, because theyknow all about the one, but haven't tried the other. But I knowall about both; and so far as I am concerned, there isn't moneyenough in the universe to hire me to swing a pickaxe thirty days,but I will do the hardest kind of intellectual work for just asnear 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 heavenwhen he is at work; and as for the musician with the fiddle-bowin his hand who sits in the midst of a great orchestra with theebbing 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 utterlyunfair--but there it is, and nothing can change it: the higherthe pay in enjoyment the worker gets out of it, the higher shallbe his pay in cash, also. And it's also the very law of thosetransparent swindles, transmissible nobility and kingship.