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A Connecticut Yankee in
King Arthur's Court

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CHAPTER XVI

MORGAN LE FAY

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 distance 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 bulletin-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 Established 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 missionary’s next move was to get the family together and try it on himself; he was to stop at no experiment, however 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 believed 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 disseminate 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 anywhere 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 Washington 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 railings 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 afterward 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 personality 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 misrepresented, 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 confidence, 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 nevertheless 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.




CHAPTER XVII

A ROYAL BANQUET

Madame, seeing me pacific and unresentful, no doubt judged that I was deceived by her excuse; for her fright dissolved away, and she was soon so importunate to have me give an exhibition and kill somebody, that the thing grew to be embarrassing.  However, to my relief she was presently interrupted by the call to prayers.  I will say this much for the nobility:  that, tyrannical, murderous, rapacious, and morally rotten as they were, they were deeply and enthusiastically religious.  Nothing could divert them from the regular and faithful performance of the pieties enjoined by the Church.  More than once I had seen a noble who had gotten his enemy at a disadvantage, stop to pray before cutting his throat; more than once I had seen a noble, after ambushing and despatching his enemy, retire to the nearest wayside shrine and humbly give thanks, without even waiting to rob the body.  There was to be nothing finer or sweeter in the life of even Benvenuto Cellini, that rough-hewn saint, ten centuries later.  All the nobles of Britain, with their families, attended divine service morning and night daily, in their private chapels, and even the worst of them had family worship five or six times a day besides.  The credit of this belonged entirely to the Church.  Although I was no friend to that Catholic Church, I was obliged to admit this.  And often, in spite of me, I found myself saying, “What would this country be without the Church?”

After prayers we had dinner in a great banqueting hall which was lighted by hundreds of grease-jets, and everything was as fine and lavish and rudely splendid as might become the royal degree of the hosts.  At the head of the hall, on a dais, was the table of the king, queen, and their son, Prince Uwaine.  Stretching down the hall from this, was the general table, on the floor.  At this, above the salt, sat the visiting nobles and the grown members of their families, of both sexes,—the resident Court, in effect—sixty-one persons; below the salt sat minor officers of the household, with their principal subordinates:  altogether a hundred and eighteen persons sitting, and about as many liveried servants standing behind their chairs, or serving in one capacity or another.  It was a very fine show.  In a gallery a band with cymbals, horns, harps, and other horrors, opened the proceedings with what seemed to be the crude first-draft or original agony of the wail known to later centuries as “In the Sweet Bye and Bye.”  It was new, and ought to have been rehearsed a little more.  For some reason or other the queen had the composer hanged, after dinner.

After this music, the priest who stood behind the royal table said a noble long grace in ostensible Latin.  Then the battalion of waiters broke away from their posts, and darted, rushed, flew, fetched and carried, and the mighty feeding began; no words anywhere, but absorbing attention to business.  The rows of chops opened and shut in vast unison, and the sound of it was like to the muffled burr of subterranean machinery.

The havoc continued an hour and a half, and unimaginable was the destruction of substantials.  Of the chief feature of the feast—the huge wild boar that lay stretched out so portly and imposing at the start—nothing was left but the semblance of a hoop-skirt; and he was but the type and symbol of what had happened to all the other dishes.

With the pastries and so on, the heavy drinking began—and the talk. Gallon after gallon of wine and mead disappeared, and everybody got comfortable, then happy, then sparklingly joyous—both sexes,—and by and by pretty noisy.  Men told anecdotes that were terrific to hear, but nobody blushed; and when the nub was sprung, the assemblage let go with a horse-laugh that shook the fortress. Ladies answered back with historiettes that would almost have made Queen Margaret of Navarre or even the great Elizabeth of England hide behind a handkerchief, but nobody hid here, but only laughed—howled, you may say.  In pretty much all of these dreadful stories, ecclesiastics were the hardy heroes, but that didn’t worry the chaplain any, he had his laugh with the rest; more than that, upon invitation he roared out a song which was of as daring a sort as any that was sung that night.

By midnight everybody was fagged out, and sore with laughing; and, as a rule, drunk:  some weepingly, some affectionately, some hilariously, some quarrelsomely, some dead and under the table. Of the ladies, the worst spectacle was a lovely young duchess, whose wedding-eve this was; and indeed she was a spectacle, sure enough. Just as she was she could have sat in advance for the portrait of the young daughter of the Regent d’Orleans, at the famous dinner whence she was carried, foul-mouthed, intoxicated, and helpless, to her bed, in the lost and lamented days of the Ancient Regime.

Suddenly, even while the priest was lifting his hands, and all conscious heads were bowed in reverent expectation of the coming blessing, there appeared under the arch of the far-off door at the bottom of the hall an old and bent and white-haired lady, leaning upon a crutch-stick; and she lifted the stick and pointed it toward the queen and cried out:

“The wrath and curse of God fall upon you, woman without pity, who have slain mine innocent grandchild and made desolate this old heart that had nor chick, nor friend nor stay nor comfort in all this world but him!”

Everybody crossed himself in a grisly fright, for a curse was an awful thing to those people; but the queen rose up majestic, with the death-light in her eye, and flung back this ruthless command:

“Lay hands on her!  To the stake with her!”

The guards left their posts to obey.  It was a shame; it was a cruel thing to see.  What could be done?  Sandy gave me a look; I knew she had another inspiration.  I said:

“Do what you choose.”

She was up and facing toward the queen in a moment.  She indicated me, and said:

“Madame, he saith this may not be.  Recall the commandment, or he will dissolve the castle and it shall vanish away like the instable fabric of a dream!”

Confound it, what a crazy contract to pledge a person to!  What if the queen—

But my consternation subsided there, and my panic passed off; for the queen, all in a collapse, made no show of resistance but gave a countermanding sign and sunk into her seat.  When she reached it she was sober.  So were many of the others.  The assemblage rose, whiffed ceremony to the winds, and rushed for the door like a mob; overturning chairs, smashing crockery, tugging, struggling, shouldering, crowding—anything to get out before I should change my mind and puff the castle into the measureless dim vacancies of space.  Well, well, well, they were a superstitious lot.  It is all a body can do to conceive of it.

The poor queen was so scared and humbled that she was even afraid to hang the composer without first consulting me.  I was very sorry for her—indeed, any one would have been, for she was really suffering; so I was willing to do anything that was reasonable, and had no desire to carry things to wanton extremities.  I therefore considered the matter thoughtfully, and ended by having the musicians ordered into our presence to play that Sweet Bye and Bye again, which they did.  Then I saw that she was right, and gave her permission to hang the whole band.  This little relaxation of sternness had a good effect upon the queen.  A statesman gains little by the arbitrary exercise of iron-clad authority upon all occasions that offer, for this wounds the just pride of his subordinates, and thus tends to undermine his strength.  A little concession, now and then, where it can do no harm, is the wiser policy.

Now that the queen was at ease in her mind once more, and measurably happy, her wine naturally began to assert itself again, and it got a little the start of her.  I mean it set her music going—her silver bell of a tongue.  Dear me, she was a master talker.  It would not become me to suggest that it was pretty late and that I was a tired man and very sleepy.  I wished I had gone off to bed when I had the chance.  Now I must stick it out; there was no other way.  So she tinkled along and along, in the otherwise profound and ghostly hush of the sleeping castle, until by and by there came, as if from deep down under us, a far-away sound, as of a muffled shriek—with an expression of agony about it that made my flesh crawl. The queen stopped, and her eyes lighted with pleasure; she tilted her graceful head as a bird does when it listens.  The sound bored its way up through the stillness again.

“What is it?” I said.

“It is truly a stubborn soul, and endureth long.  It is many hours now.”

“Endureth what?”

“The rack.  Come—ye shall see a blithe sight.  An he yield not his secret now, ye shall see him torn asunder.”

What a silky smooth hellion she was; and so composed and serene, when the cords all down my legs were hurting in sympathy with that man’s pain.  Conducted by mailed guards bearing flaring torches, we tramped along echoing corridors, and down stone stairways dank and dripping, and smelling of mould and ages of imprisoned night—a chill, uncanny journey and a long one, and not made the shorter or the cheerier by the sorceress’s talk, which was about this sufferer and his crime.  He had been accused by an anonymous informer, of having killed a stag in the royal preserves.  I said:

“Anonymous testimony isn’t just the right thing, your Highness. It were fairer to confront the accused with the accuser.”

“I had not thought of that, it being but of small consequence. But an I would, I could not, for that the accuser came masked by night, and told the forester, and straightway got him hence again, and so the forester knoweth him not.”

“Then is this Unknown the only person who saw the stag killed?”

“Marry, no man saw the killing, but this Unknown saw this hardy wretch near to the spot where the stag lay, and came with right loyal zeal and betrayed him to the forester.”

“So the Unknown was near the dead stag, too?  Isn’t it just possible that he did the killing himself?  His loyal zeal—in a mask—looks just a shade suspicious.  But what is your highness’s idea for racking the prisoner?  Where is the profit?”

“He will not confess, else; and then were his soul lost.  For his crime his life is forfeited by the law—and of a surety will I see that he payeth it!—but it were peril to my own soul to let him die unconfessed and unabsolved.  Nay, I were a fool to fling me into hell for his accommodation.”

“But, your Highness, suppose he has nothing to confess?”

“As to that, we shall see, anon.  An I rack him to death and he confess not, it will peradventure show that he had indeed naught to confess—ye will grant that that is sooth?  Then shall I not be damned for an unconfessed man that had naught to confess—wherefore, I shall be safe.”

It was the stubborn unreasoning of the time.  It was useless to argue with her.  Arguments have no chance against petrified training; they wear it as little as the waves wear a cliff.  And her training was everybody’s.  The brightest intellect in the land would not have been able to see that her position was defective.

As we entered the rack-cell I caught a picture that will not go from me; I wish it would.  A native young giant of thirty or thereabouts lay stretched upon the frame on his back, with his wrists and ankles tied to ropes which led over windlasses at either end.  There was no color in him; his features were contorted and set, and sweat-drops stood upon his forehead.  A priest bent over him on each side; the executioner stood by; guards were on duty; smoking torches stood in sockets along the walls; in a corner crouched a poor young creature, her face drawn with anguish, a half-wild and hunted look in her eyes, and in her lap lay a little child asleep.  Just as we stepped across the threshold the executioner gave his machine a slight turn, which wrung a cry from both the prisoner and the woman; but I shouted, and the executioner released the strain without waiting to see who spoke. I could not let this horror go on; it would have killed me to see it.  I asked the queen to let me clear the place and speak to the prisoner privately; and when she was going to object I spoke in a low voice and said I did not want to make a scene before her servants, but I must have my way; for I was King Arthur’s representative, and was speaking in his name.  She saw she had to yield.  I asked her to indorse me to these people, and then leave me.  It was not pleasant for her, but she took the pill; and even went further than I was meaning to require.  I only wanted the backing of her own authority; but she said:

“Ye will do in all things as this lord shall command.  It is The Boss.”

It was certainly a good word to conjure with:  you could see it by the squirming of these rats.  The queen’s guards fell into line, and she and they marched away, with their torch-bearers, and woke the echoes of the cavernous tunnels with the measured beat of their retreating footfalls.  I had the prisoner taken from the rack and placed upon his bed, and medicaments applied to his hurts, and wine given him to drink.  The woman crept near and looked on, eagerly, lovingly, but timorously,—like one who fears a repulse; indeed, she tried furtively to touch the man’s forehead, and jumped back, the picture of fright, when I turned unconsciously toward her.  It was pitiful to see.

“Lord,” I said, “stroke him, lass, if you want to.  Do anything you’re a mind to; don’t mind me.”

Why, her eyes were as grateful as an animal’s, when you do it a kindness that it understands.  The baby was out of her way and she had her cheek against the man’s in a minute and her hands fondling his hair, and her happy tears running down.  The man revived and caressed his wife with his eyes, which was all he could do.  I judged I might clear the den, now, and I did; cleared it of all but the family and myself.  Then I said:

“Now, my friend, tell me your side of this matter; I know the other side.”

The man moved his head in sign of refusal.  But the woman looked pleased—as it seemed to me—pleased with my suggestion.  I went on—

“You know of me?”

“Yes.  All do, in Arthur’s realms.”

“If my reputation has come to you right and straight, you should not be afraid to speak.”

The woman broke in, eagerly:

“Ah, fair my lord, do thou persuade him!  Thou canst an thou wilt. Ah, he suffereth so; and it is for me—for me !  And how can I bear it? I would I might see him die—a sweet, swift death; oh, my Hugo, I cannot bear this one!”

And she fell to sobbing and grovelling about my feet, and still imploring.  Imploring what?  The man’s death?  I could not quite get the bearings of the thing.  But Hugo interrupted her and said:

“Peace!  Ye wit not what ye ask.  Shall I starve whom I love, to win a gentle death?  I wend thou knewest me better.”

“Well,” I said, “I can’t quite make this out.  It is a puzzle.  Now—”

“Ah, dear my lord, an ye will but persuade him!  Consider how these his tortures wound me!  Oh, and he will not speak!—whereas, the healing, the solace that lie in a blessed swift death—”

“What are you maundering about?  He’s going out from here a free man and whole—he’s not going to die.”

The man’s white face lit up, and the woman flung herself at me in a most surprising explosion of joy, and cried out:

“He is saved!—for it is the king’s word by the mouth of the king’s servant—Arthur, the king whose word is gold!”

“Well, then you do believe I can be trusted, after all.  Why didn’t you before?”

“Who doubted?  Not I, indeed; and not she.”

“Well, why wouldn’t you tell me your story, then?”

“Ye had made no promise; else had it been otherwise.”

“I see, I see....  And yet I believe I don’t quite see, after all. You stood the torture and refused to confess; which shows plain enough to even the dullest understanding that you had nothing to confess—”

“I, my lord?  How so?  It was I that killed the deer!”

“You did ?  Oh, dear, this is the most mixed-up business that ever—”

“Dear lord, I begged him on my knees to confess, but—”

“You did !  It gets thicker and thicker.  What did you want him to do that for?”

“Sith it would bring him a quick death and save him all this cruel pain.”

“Well—yes, there is reason in that.  But he didn’t want the quick death.”

“He?  Why, of a surety he did .”

“Well, then, why in the world didn’t he confess?”

“Ah, sweet sir, and leave my wife and chick without bread and shelter?”

“Oh, heart of gold, now I see it!  The bitter law takes the convicted man’s estate and beggars his widow and his orphans.  They could torture you to death, but without conviction or confession they could not rob your wife and baby.  You stood by them like a man; and you—true wife and the woman that you are—you would have bought him release from torture at cost to yourself of slow starvation and death—well, it humbles a body to think what your sex can do when it comes to self-sacrifice.  I’ll book you both for my colony; you’ll like it there; it’s a Factory where I’m going to turn groping and grubbing automata into men .”



CHAPTER XVIII

IN THE QUEEN’S DUNGEONS

Well, I arranged all that; and I had the man sent to his home. I had a great desire to rack the executioner; not because he was a good, painstaking and paingiving official,—for surely it was not to his discredit that he performed his functions well—but to pay him back for wantonly cuffing and otherwise distressing that young woman.  The priests told me about this, and were generously hot to have him punished.  Something of this disagreeable sort was turning up every now and then.  I mean, episodes that showed that not all priests were frauds and self-seekers, but that many, even the great majority, of these that were down on the ground among the common people, were sincere and right-hearted, and devoted to the alleviation of human troubles and sufferings. Well, it was a thing which could not be helped, so I seldom fretted about it, and never many minutes at a time; it has never been my way to bother much about things which you can’t cure.  But I did not like it, for it was just the sort of thing to keep people reconciled to an Established Church.  We must have a religion—it goes without saying—but my idea is, to have it cut up into forty free sects, so that they will police each other, as had been the case in the United States in my time.  Concentration of power in a political machine is bad; and and an Established Church is only a political machine; it was invented for that; it is nursed, cradled, preserved for that; it is an enemy to human liberty, and does no good which it could not better do in a split-up and scattered condition.  That wasn’t law; it wasn’t gospel:  it was only an opinion—my opinion, and I was only a man, one man: so it wasn’t worth any more than the pope’s—or any less, for that matter.

Well, I couldn’t rack the executioner, neither would I overlook the just complaint of the priests.  The man must be punished somehow or other, so I degraded him from his office and made him leader of the band—the new one that was to be started.  He begged hard, and said he couldn’t play—a plausible excuse, but too thin; there wasn’t a musician in the country that could.

The queen was a good deal outraged, next morning when she found she was going to have neither Hugo’s life nor his property.  But I told her she must bear this cross; that while by law and custom she certainly was entitled to both the man’s life and his property, there were extenuating circumstances, and so in Arthur the king’s name I had pardoned him.  The deer was ravaging the man’s fields, and he had killed it in sudden passion, and not for gain; and he had carried it into the royal forest in the hope that that might make detection of the misdoer impossible.  Confound her, I couldn’t make her see that sudden passion is an extenuating circumstance in the killing of venison—or of a person—so I gave it up and let her sulk it out.  I did think I was going to make her see it by remarking that her own sudden passion in the case of the page modified that crime.

“Crime!” she exclaimed.  "How thou talkest!  Crime, forsooth! Man, I am going to pay for him!”

Oh, it was no use to waste sense on her.  Training—training is everything; training is all there is to a person.  We speak of nature; it is folly; there is no such thing as nature; what we call by that misleading name is merely heredity and training. We have no thoughts of our own, no opinions of our own; they are transmitted to us, trained into us.  All that is original in us, and therefore fairly creditable or discreditable to us, can be covered up and hidden by the point of a cambric needle, all the rest being atoms contributed by, and inherited from, a procession of ancestors that stretches back a billion years to the Adam-clam or grasshopper or monkey from whom our race has been so tediously and ostentatiously and unprofitably developed.  And as for me, all that I think about in this plodding sad pilgrimage, this pathetic drift between the eternities, is to look out and humbly live a pure and high and blameless life, and save that one microscopic atom in me that is truly me :  the rest may land in Sheol and welcome for all I care.

No, confound her, her intellect was good, she had brains enough, but her training made her an ass—that is, from a many-centuries-later point of view.  To kill the page was no crime—it was her right; and upon her right she stood, serenely and unconscious of offense. She was a result of generations of training in the unexamined and unassailed belief that the law which permitted her to kill a subject when she chose was a perfectly right and righteous one.

Well, we must give even Satan his due.  She deserved a compliment for one thing; and I tried to pay it, but the words stuck in my throat.  She had a right to kill the boy, but she was in no wise obliged to pay for him.  That was law for some other people, but not for her.  She knew quite well that she was doing a large and generous thing to pay for that lad, and that I ought in common fairness to come out with something handsome about it, but I couldn’t—my mouth refused.  I couldn’t help seeing, in my fancy, that poor old grandma with the broken heart, and that fair young creature lying butchered, his little silken pomps and vanities laced with his golden blood.  How could she pay for him!  Whom could she pay?  And so, well knowing that this woman, trained as she had been, deserved praise, even adulation, I was yet not able to utter it, trained as I had been.  The best I could do was to fish up a compliment from outside, so to speak—and the pity of it was, that it was true:

“Madame, your people will adore you for this.”

Quite true, but I meant to hang her for it some day if I lived. Some of those laws were too bad, altogether too bad.  A master might kill his slave for nothing—for mere spite, malice, or to pass the time—just as we have seen that the crowned head could do it with his slave, that is to say, anybody.  A gentleman could kill a free commoner, and pay for him—cash or garden-truck. A noble could kill a noble without expense, as far as the law was concerned, but reprisals in kind were to be expected.  Any body could kill some body, except the commoner and the slave; these had no privileges.  If they killed, it was murder, and the law wouldn’t stand murder.  It made short work of the experimenter—and of his family, too, if he murdered somebody who belonged up among the ornamental ranks.  If a commoner gave a noble even so much as a Damiens-scratch which didn’t kill or even hurt, he got Damiens’ dose for it just the same; they pulled him to rags and tatters with horses, and all the world came to see the show, and crack jokes, and have a good time; and some of the performances of the best people present were as tough, and as properly unprintable, as any that have been printed by the pleasant Casanova in his chapter about the dismemberment of Louis XV’s poor awkward enemy.

I had had enough of this grisly place by this time, and wanted to leave, but I couldn’t, because I had something on my mind that my conscience kept prodding me about, and wouldn’t let me forget. If I had the remaking of man, he wouldn’t have any conscience. It is one of the most disagreeable things connected with a person; and although it certainly does a great deal of good, it cannot be said to pay, in the long run; it would be much better to have less good and more comfort.  Still, this is only my opinion, and I am only one man; others, with less experience, may think differently.  They have a right to their view.  I only stand to this:  I have noticed my conscience for many years, and I know it is more trouble and bother to me than anything else I started with.  I suppose that in the beginning I prized it, because we prize anything that is ours; and yet how foolish it was to think so. If we look at it in another way, we see how absurd it is:  if I had an anvil in me would I prize it?  Of course not.  And yet when you come to think, there is no real difference between a conscience and an anvil—I mean for comfort.  I have noticed it a thousand times.  And you could dissolve an anvil with acids, when you couldn’t stand it any longer; but there isn’t any way that you can work off a conscience—at least so it will stay worked off; not that I know of, anyway.

There was something I wanted to do before leaving, but it was a disagreeable matter, and I hated to go at it.  Well, it bothered me all the morning.  I could have mentioned it to the old king, but what would be the use?—he was but an extinct volcano; he had been active in his time, but his fire was out, this good while, he was only a stately ash-pile now; gentle enough, and kindly enough for my purpose, without doubt, but not usable.  He was nothing, this so-called king:  the queen was the only power there. And she was a Vesuvius.  As a favor, she might consent to warm a flock of sparrows for you, but then she might take that very opportunity to turn herself loose and bury a city.  However, I reflected that as often as any other way, when you are expecting the worst, you get something that is not so bad, after all.

So I braced up and placed my matter before her royal Highness. I said I had been having a general jail-delivery at Camelot and among neighboring castles, and with her permission I would like to examine her collection, her bric-a-brac—that is to say, her prisoners.  She resisted; but I was expecting that.  But she finally consented.  I was expecting that, too, but not so soon.  That about ended my discomfort.  She called her guards and torches, and we went down into the dungeons.  These were down under the castle’s foundations, and mainly were small cells hollowed out of the living rock.  Some of these cells had no light at all.  In one of them was a woman, in foul rags, who sat on the ground, and would not answer a question or speak a word, but only looked up at us once or twice, through a cobweb of tangled hair, as if to see what casual thing it might be that was disturbing with sound and light the meaningless dull dream that was become her life; after that, she sat bowed, with her dirt-caked fingers idly interlocked in her lap, and gave no further sign.  This poor rack of bones was a woman of middle age, apparently; but only apparently; she had been there nine years, and was eighteen when she entered.  She was a commoner, and had been sent here on her bridal night by Sir Breuse Sance Pite, a neighboring lord whose vassal her father was, and to which said lord she had refused what has since been called le droit du seigneur, and, moreover, had opposed violence to violence and spilt half a gill of his almost sacred blood.  The young husband had interfered at that point, believing the bride’s life in danger, and had flung the noble out into the midst of the humble and trembling wedding guests, in the parlor, and left him there astonished at this strange treatment, and implacably embittered against both bride and groom.  The said lord being cramped for dungeon-room had asked the queen to accommodate his two criminals, and here in her bastile they had been ever since; hither, indeed, they had come before their crime was an hour old, and had never seen each other since.  Here they were, kenneled like toads in the same rock; they had passed nine pitch dark years within fifty feet of each other, yet neither knew whether the other was alive or not. All the first years, their only question had been—asked with beseechings and tears that might have moved stones, in time, perhaps, but hearts are not stones:  "Is he alive?”  "Is she alive?” But they had never got an answer; and at last that question was not asked any more—or any other.

I wanted to see the man, after hearing all this.  He was thirty-four years old, and looked sixty.  He sat upon a squared block of stone, with his head bent down, his forearms resting on his knees, his long hair hanging like a fringe before his face, and he was muttering to himself.  He raised his chin and looked us slowly over, in a listless dull way, blinking with the distress of the torchlight, then dropped his head and fell to muttering again and took no further notice of us.  There were some pathetically suggestive dumb witnesses present.  On his wrists and ankles were cicatrices, old smooth scars, and fastened to the stone on which he sat was a chain with manacles and fetters attached; but this apparatus lay idle on the ground, and was thick with rust.  Chains cease to be needed after the spirit has gone out of a prisoner.

I could not rouse the man; so I said we would take him to her, and see—to the bride who was the fairest thing in the earth to him, once—roses, pearls, and dew made flesh, for him; a wonder-work, the master-work of nature:  with eyes like no other eyes, and voice like no other voice, and a freshness, and lithe young grace, and beauty, that belonged properly to the creatures of dreams—as he thought—and to no other.  The sight of her would set his stagnant blood leaping; the sight of her—

But it was a disappointment.  They sat together on the ground and looked dimly wondering into each other’s faces a while, with a sort of weak animal curiosity; then forgot each other’s presence, and dropped their eyes, and you saw that they were away again and wandering in some far land of dreams and shadows that we know nothing about.

I had them taken out and sent to their friends.  The queen did not like it much.  Not that she felt any personal interest in the matter, but she thought it disrespectful to Sir Breuse Sance Pite.  However, I assured her that if he found he couldn’t stand it I would fix him so that he could.

I set forty-seven prisoners loose out of those awful rat-holes, and left only one in captivity.  He was a lord, and had killed another lord, a sort of kinsman of the queen.  That other lord had ambushed him to assassinate him, but this fellow had got the best of him and cut his throat.  However, it was not for that that I left him jailed, but for maliciously destroying the only public well in one of his wretched villages.  The queen was bound to hang him for killing her kinsman, but I would not allow it:  it was no crime to kill an assassin.  But I said I was willing to let her hang him for destroying the well; so she concluded to put up with that, as it was better than nothing.

Dear me, for what trifling offenses the most of those forty-seven men and women were shut up there!  Indeed, some were there for no distinct offense at all, but only to gratify somebody’s spite; and not always the queen’s by any means, but a friend’s.  The newest prisoner’s crime was a mere remark which he had made.  He said he believed that men were about all alike, and one man as good as another, barring clothes.  He said he believed that if you were to strip the nation naked and send a stranger through the crowd, he couldn’t tell the king from a quack doctor, nor a duke from a hotel clerk.  Apparently here was a man whose brains had not been reduced to an ineffectual mush by idiotic training.  I set him loose and sent him to the Factory.

Some of the cells carved in the living rock were just behind the face of the precipice, and in each of these an arrow-slit had been pierced outward to the daylight, and so the captive had a thin ray from the blessed sun for his comfort.  The case of one of these poor fellows was particularly hard.  From his dusky swallow’s hole high up in that vast wall of native rock he could peer out through the arrow-slit and see his own home off yonder in the valley; and for twenty-two years he had watched it, with heartache and longing, through that crack.  He could see the lights shine there at night, and in the daytime he could see figures go in and come out—his wife and children, some of them, no doubt, though he could not make out at that distance.  In the course of years he noted festivities there, and tried to rejoice, and wondered if they were weddings or what they might be.  And he noted funerals; and they wrung his heart.  He could make out the coffin, but he could not determine its size, and so could not tell whether it was wife or child.  He could see the procession form, with priests and mourners, and move solemnly away, bearing the secret with them.  He had left behind him five children and a wife; and in nineteen years he had seen five funerals issue, and none of them humble enough in pomp to denote a servant.  So he had lost five of his treasures; there must still be one remaining—one now infinitely, unspeakably precious,—but which one? wife, or child? That was the question that tortured him, by night and by day, asleep and awake.  Well, to have an interest, of some sort, and half a ray of light, when you are in a dungeon, is a great support to the body and preserver of the intellect.  This man was in pretty good condition yet.  By the time he had finished telling me his distressful tale, I was in the same state of mind that you would have been in yourself, if you have got average human curiosity; that is to say, I was as burning up as he was to find out which member of the family it was that was left.  So I took him over home myself; and an amazing kind of a surprise party it was, too—typhoons and cyclones of frantic joy, and whole Niagaras of happy tears; and by George! we found the aforetime young matron graying toward the imminent verge of her half century, and the babies all men and women, and some of them married and experimenting familywise themselves—for not a soul of the tribe was dead!  Conceive of the ingenious devilishness of that queen:  she had a special hatred for this prisoner, and she had invented all those funerals herself, to scorch his heart with; and the sublimest stroke of genius of the whole thing was leaving the family-invoice a funeral short , so as to let him wear his poor old soul out guessing.

But for me, he never would have got out.  Morgan le Fay hated him with her whole heart, and she never would have softened toward him. And yet his crime was committed more in thoughtlessness than deliberate depravity.  He had said she had red hair.  Well, she had; but that was no way to speak of it.  When red-headed people are above a certain social grade their hair is auburn.

Consider it:  among these forty-seven captives there were five whose names, offenses, and dates of incarceration were no longer known!  One woman and four men—all bent, and wrinkled, and mind-extinguished patriarchs.  They themselves had long ago forgotten these details; at any rate they had mere vague theories about them, nothing definite and nothing that they repeated twice in the same way.  The succession of priests whose office it had been to pray daily with the captives and remind them that God had put them there, for some wise purpose or other, and teach them that patience, humbleness, and submission to oppression was what He loved to see in parties of a subordinate rank, had traditions about these poor old human ruins, but nothing more.  These traditions went but little way, for they concerned the length of the incarceration only, and not the names of the offenses.  And even by the help of tradition the only thing that could be proven was that none of the five had seen daylight for thirty-five years:  how much longer this privation has lasted was not guessable.  The king and the queen knew nothing about these poor creatures, except that they were heirlooms, assets inherited, along with the throne, from the former firm.  Nothing of their history had been transmitted with their persons, and so the inheriting owners had considered them of no value, and had felt no interest in them.  I said to the queen:

“Then why in the world didn’t you set them free?”

The question was a puzzler.  She didn’t know why she hadn’t, the thing had never come up in her mind.  So here she was, forecasting the veritable history of future prisoners of the Castle d’If, without knowing it.  It seemed plain to me now, that with her training, those inherited prisoners were merely property—nothing more, nothing less.  Well, when we inherit property, it does not occur to us to throw it away, even when we do not value it.

When I brought my procession of human bats up into the open world and the glare of the afternoon sun—previously blindfolding them, in charity for eyes so long untortured by light—they were a spectacle to look at.  Skeletons, scarecrows, goblins, pathetic frights, every one; legitimatest possible children of Monarchy by the Grace of God and the Established Church.  I muttered absently:

“I wish I could photograph them!”

You have seen that kind of people who will never let on that they don’t know the meaning of a new big word.  The more ignorant they are, the more pitifully certain they are to pretend you haven’t shot over their heads.  The queen was just one of that sort, and was always making the stupidest blunders by reason of it.  She hesitated a moment; then her face brightened up with sudden comprehension, and she said she would do it for me.

I thought to myself:  She? why what can she know about photography? But it was a poor time to be thinking.  When I looked around, she was moving on the procession with an axe!

Well, she certainly was a curious one, was Morgan le Fay.  I have seen a good many kinds of women in my time, but she laid over them all for variety.  And how sharply characteristic of her this episode was.  She had no more idea than a horse of how to photograph a procession; but being in doubt, it was just like her to try to do it with an axe.




CHAPTER XIX

KNIGHT-ERRANTRY AS A TRADE

Sandy and I were on the road again, next morning, bright and early. It was so good to open up one’s lungs and take in whole luscious barrels-ful of the blessed God’s untainted, dew-fashioned, woodland-scented air once more, after suffocating body and mind for two days and nights in the moral and physical stenches of that intolerable old buzzard-roost!  I mean, for me:  of course the place was all right and agreeable enough for Sandy, for she had been used to high life all her days.

Poor girl, her jaws had had a wearisome rest now for a while, and I was expecting to get the consequences.  I was right; but she had stood by me most helpfully in the castle, and had mightily supported and reinforced me with gigantic foolishnesses which were worth more for the occasion than wisdoms double their size; so I thought she had earned a right to work her mill for a while, if she wanted to, and I felt not a pang when she started it up:

“Now turn we unto Sir Marhaus that rode with the damsel of thirty winter of age southward—”

“Are you going to see if you can work up another half-stretch on the trail of the cowboys, Sandy?”

“Even so, fair my lord.”

“Go ahead, then.  I won’t interrupt this time, if I can help it. Begin over again; start fair, and shake out all your reefs, and I will load my pipe and give good attention.”

“Now turn we unto Sir Marhaus that rode with the damsel of thirty winter of age southward.  And so they came into a deep forest, and by fortune they were nighted, and rode along in a deep way, and at the last they came into a courtelage where abode the duke of South Marches, and there they asked harbour.  And on the morn the duke sent unto Sir Marhaus, and bad him make him ready.  And so Sir Marhaus arose and armed him, and there was a mass sung afore him, and he brake his fast, and so mounted on horseback in the court of the castle, there they should do the battle.  So there was the duke already on horseback, clean armed, and his six sons by him, and every each had a spear in his hand, and so they encountered, whereas the duke and his two sons brake their spears upon him, but Sir Marhaus held up his spear and touched none of them.  Then came the four sons by couples, and two of them brake their spears, and so did the other two.  And all this while Sir Marhaus touched them not.  Then Sir Marhaus ran to the duke, and smote him with his spear that horse and man fell to the earth. And so he served his sons.  And then Sir Marhaus alight down, and bad the duke yield him or else he would slay him.  And then some of his sons recovered, and would have set upon Sir Marhaus.  Then Sir Marhaus said to the duke, Cease thy sons, or else I will do the uttermost to you all.  When the duke saw he might not escape the death, he cried to his sons, and charged them to yield them to Sir Marhaus.  And they kneeled all down and put the pommels of their swords to the knight, and so he received them.  And then they holp up their father, and so by their common assent promised unto Sir Marhaus never to be foes unto King Arthur, and thereupon at Whitsuntide after, to come he and his sons, and put them in the king’s grace.*

[*Footnote:  The story is borrowed, language and all, from the Morte d’Arthur.—M.T.]

“Even so standeth the history, fair Sir Boss.  Now ye shall wit that that very duke and his six sons are they whom but few days past you also did overcome and send to Arthur’s court!”

“Why, Sandy, you can’t mean it!”

“An I speak not sooth, let it be the worse for me.”

“Well, well, well,—now who would ever have thought it?  One whole duke and six dukelets; why, Sandy, it was an elegant haul. Knight-errantry is a most chuckle-headed trade, and it is tedious hard work, too, but I begin to see that there is money in it, after all, if you have luck.  Not that I would ever engage in it as a business, for I wouldn’t.  No sound and legitimate business can be established on a basis of speculation.  A successful whirl in the knight-errantry line—now what is it when you blow away the nonsense and come down to the cold facts?  It’s just a corner in pork, that’s all, and you can’t make anything else out of it. You’re rich—yes,—suddenly rich—for about a day, maybe a week; then somebody corners the market on you , and down goes your bucket-shop; ain’t that so, Sandy?”

“Whethersoever it be that my mind miscarrieth, bewraying simple language in such sort that the words do seem to come endlong and overthwart—”

“There’s no use in beating about the bush and trying to get around it that way, Sandy, it’s so , just as I say.  I know it’s so.  And, moreover, when you come right down to the bedrock, knight-errantry is worse than pork; for whatever happens, the pork’s left, and so somebody’s benefited anyway; but when the market breaks, in a knight-errantry whirl, and every knight in the pool passes in his checks, what have you got for assets?  Just a rubbish-pile of battered corpses and a barrel or two of busted hardware.  Can you call those assets?  Give me pork, every time.  Am I right?”

“Ah, peradventure my head being distraught by the manifold matters whereunto the confusions of these but late adventured haps and fortunings whereby not I alone nor you alone, but every each of us, meseemeth—”

“No, it’s not your head, Sandy.  Your head’s all right, as far as it goes, but you don’t know business; that’s where the trouble is.  It unfits you to argue about business, and you’re wrong to be always trying.  However, that aside, it was a good haul, anyway, and will breed a handsome crop of reputation in Arthur’s court.  And speaking of the cowboys, what a curious country this is for women and men that never get old.  Now there’s Morgan le Fay, as fresh and young as a Vassar pullet, to all appearances, and here is this old duke of the South Marches still slashing away with sword and lance at his time of life, after raising such a family as he has raised.  As I understand it, Sir Gawaine killed seven of his sons, and still he had six left for Sir Marhaus and me to take into camp.  And then there was that damsel of sixty winter of age still excursioning around in her frosty bloom—How old are you, Sandy?”

It was the first time I ever struck a still place in her.  The mill had shut down for repairs, or something.




CHAPTER XX


THE OGRE’S CASTLE

Between six and nine we made ten miles, which was plenty for a horse carrying triple—man, woman, and armor; then we stopped for a long nooning under some trees by a limpid brook.

Right so came by and by a knight riding; and as he drew near he made dolorous moan, and by the words of it I perceived that he was cursing and swearing; yet nevertheless was I glad of his coming, for that I saw he bore a bulletin-board whereon in letters all of shining gold was writ:

    "USE PETERSON’S PROPHYLACTIC TOOTH-BRUSH—ALL THE GO.”

I was glad of his coming, for even by this token I knew him for knight of mine.  It was Sir Madok de la Montaine, a burly great fellow whose chief distinction was that he had come within an ace of sending Sir Launcelot down over his horse-tail once.  He was never long in a stranger’s presence without finding some pretext or other to let out that great fact.  But there was another fact of nearly the same size, which he never pushed upon anybody unasked, and yet never withheld when asked:  that was, that the reason he didn’t quite succeed was, that he was interrupted and sent down over horse-tail himself.  This innocent vast lubber did not see any particular difference between the two facts.  I liked him, for he was earnest in his work, and very valuable.  And he was so fine to look at, with his broad mailed shoulders, and the grand leonine set of his plumed head, and his big shield with its quaint device of a gauntleted hand clutching a prophylactic tooth-brush, with motto:  "Try Noyoudont.”  This was a tooth-wash that I was introducing.

He was aweary, he said, and indeed he looked it; but he would not alight.  He said he was after the stove-polish man; and with this he broke out cursing and swearing anew.  The bulletin-boarder referred to was Sir Ossaise of Surluse, a brave knight, and of considerable celebrity on account of his having tried conclusions in a tournament once, with no less a Mogul than Sir Gaheris himself—although not successfully.  He was of a light and laughing disposition, and to him nothing in this world was serious.  It was for this reason that I had chosen him to work up a stove-polish sentiment.  There were no stoves yet, and so there could be nothing serious about stove-polish.  All that the agent needed to do was to deftly and by degrees prepare the public for the great change, and have them established in predilections toward neatness against the time when the stove should appear upon the stage.

Sir Madok was very bitter, and brake out anew with cursings.  He said he had cursed his soul to rags; and yet he would not get down from his horse, neither would he take any rest, or listen to any comfort, until he should have found Sir Ossaise and settled this account.  It appeared, by what I could piece together of the unprofane fragments of his statement, that he had chanced upon Sir Ossaise at dawn of the morning, and been told that if he would make a short cut across the fields and swamps and broken hills and glades, he could head off a company of travelers who would be rare customers for prophylactics and tooth-wash.  With characteristic zeal Sir Madok had plunged away at once upon this quest, and after three hours of awful crosslot riding had overhauled his game.  And behold, it was the five patriarchs that had been released from the dungeons the evening before!  Poor old creatures, it was all of twenty years since any one of them had known what it was to be equipped with any remaining snag or remnant of a tooth.

“Blank-blank-blank him,” said Sir Madok, “an I do not stove-polish him an I may find him, leave it to me; for never no knight that hight Ossaise or aught else may do me this disservice and bide on live, an I may find him, the which I have thereunto sworn a great oath this day.”

And with these words and others, he lightly took his spear and gat him thence.  In the middle of the afternoon we came upon one of those very patriarchs ourselves, in the edge of a poor village. He was basking in the love of relatives and friends whom he had not seen for fifty years; and about him and caressing him were also descendants of his own body whom he had never seen at all till now; but to him these were all strangers, his memory was gone, his mind was stagnant.  It seemed incredible that a man could outlast half a century shut up in a dark hole like a rat, but here were his old wife and some old comrades to testify to it.  They could remember him as he was in the freshness and strength of his young manhood, when he kissed his child and delivered it to its mother’s hands and went away into that long oblivion.  The people at the castle could not tell within half a generation the length of time the man had been shut up there for his unrecorded and forgotten offense; but this old wife knew; and so did her old child, who stood there among her married sons and daughters trying to realize a father who had been to her a name, a thought, a formless image, a tradition, all her life, and now was suddenly concreted into actual flesh and blood and set before her face.

It was a curious situation; yet it is not on that account that I have made room for it here, but on account of a thing which seemed to me still more curious.  To wit, that this dreadful matter brought from these downtrodden people no outburst of rage against these oppressors.  They had been heritors and subjects of cruelty and outrage so long that nothing could have startled them but a kindness.  Yes, here was a curious revelation, indeed, of the depth to which this people had been sunk in slavery.  Their entire being was reduced to a monotonous dead level of patience, resignation, dumb uncomplaining acceptance of whatever might befall them in this life.  Their very imagination was dead.  When you can say that of a man, he has struck bottom, I reckon; there is no lower deep for him.

I rather wished I had gone some other road.  This was not the sort of experience for a statesman to encounter who was planning out a peaceful revolution in his mind.  For it could not help bringing up the unget-aroundable fact that, all gentle cant and philosophizing to the contrary notwithstanding, no people in the world ever did achieve their freedom by goody-goody talk and moral suasion: it being immutable law that all revolutions that will succeed must begin in blood, whatever may answer afterward.  If history teaches anything, it teaches that.  What this folk needed, then, was a Reign of Terror and a guillotine, and I was the wrong man for them.

Two days later, toward noon, Sandy began to show signs of excitement and feverish expectancy.  She said we were approaching the ogre’s castle.  I was surprised into an uncomfortable shock.  The object of our quest had gradually dropped out of my mind; this sudden resurrection of it made it seem quite a real and startling thing for a moment, and roused up in me a smart interest.  Sandy’s excitement increased every moment; and so did mine, for that sort of thing is catching.  My heart got to thumping.  You can’t reason with your heart; it has its own laws, and thumps about things which the intellect scorns.  Presently, when Sandy slid from the horse, motioned me to stop, and went creeping stealthily, with her head bent nearly to her knees, toward a row of bushes that bordered a declivity, the thumpings grew stronger and quicker.  And they kept it up while she was gaining her ambush and getting her glimpse over the declivity; and also while I was creeping to her side on my knees.  Her eyes were burning now, as she pointed with her finger, and said in a panting whisper:

“The castle!  The castle!  Lo, where it looms!”

What a welcome disappointment I experienced!  I said:

“Castle?  It is nothing but a pigsty; a pigsty with a wattled fence around it.”

She looked surprised and distressed.  The animation faded out of her face; and during many moments she was lost in thought and silent.  Then:

“It was not enchanted aforetime,” she said in a musing fashion, as if to herself.  "And how strange is this marvel, and how awful—that to the one perception it is enchanted and dight in a base and shameful aspect; yet to the perception of the other it is not enchanted, hath suffered no change, but stands firm and stately still, girt with its moat and waving its banners in the blue air from its towers.  And God shield us, how it pricks the heart to see again these gracious captives, and the sorrow deepened in their sweet faces!  We have tarried along, and are to blame.”

I saw my cue.  The castle was enchanted to me , not to her. It would be wasted time to try to argue her out of her delusion, it couldn’t be done; I must just humor it.  So I said:

“This is a common case—the enchanting of a thing to one eye and leaving it in its proper form to another.  You have heard of it before, Sandy, though you haven’t happened to experience it. But no harm is done.  In fact, it is lucky the way it is.  If these ladies were hogs to everybody and to themselves, it would be necessary to break the enchantment, and that might be impossible if one failed to find out the particular process of the enchantment. And hazardous, too; for in attempting a disenchantment without the true key, you are liable to err, and turn your hogs into dogs, and the dogs into cats, the cats into rats, and so on, and end by reducing your materials to nothing finally, or to an odorless gas which you can’t follow—which, of course, amounts to the same thing.  But here, by good luck, no one’s eyes but mine are under the enchantment, and so it is of no consequence to dissolve it. These ladies remain ladies to you, and to themselves, and to everybody else; and at the same time they will suffer in no way from my delusion, for when I know that an ostensible hog is a lady, that is enough for me, I know how to treat her.”

“Thanks, oh, sweet my lord, thou talkest like an angel.  And I know that thou wilt deliver them, for that thou art minded to great deeds and art as strong a knight of your hands and as brave to will and to do, as any that is on live.”

“I will not leave a princess in the sty, Sandy.  Are those three yonder that to my disordered eyes are starveling swine-herds—”

“The ogres, Are they changed also?  It is most wonderful.  Now am I fearful; for how canst thou strike with sure aim when five of their nine cubits of stature are to thee invisible?  Ah, go warily, fair sir; this is a mightier emprise than I wend.”

“You be easy, Sandy.  All I need to know is, how much of an ogre is invisible; then I know how to locate his vitals.  Don’t you be afraid, I will make short work of these bunco-steerers.  Stay where you are.”

I left Sandy kneeling there, corpse-faced but plucky and hopeful, and rode down to the pigsty, and struck up a trade with the swine-herds.  I won their gratitude by buying out all the hogs at the lump sum of sixteen pennies, which was rather above latest quotations.  I was just in time; for the Church, the lord of the manor, and the rest of the tax-gatherers would have been along next day and swept off pretty much all the stock, leaving the swine-herds very short of hogs and Sandy out of princesses.  But now the tax people could be paid in cash, and there would be a stake left besides.  One of the men had ten children; and he said that last year when a priest came and of his ten pigs took the fattest one for tithes, the wife burst out upon him, and offered him a child and said:

“Thou beast without bowels of mercy, why leave me my child, yet rob me of the wherewithal to feed it?”

How curious.  The same thing had happened in the Wales of my day, under this same old Established Church, which was supposed by many to have changed its nature when it changed its disguise.

I sent the three men away, and then opened the sty gate and beckoned Sandy to come—which she did; and not leisurely, but with the rush of a prairie fire.  And when I saw her fling herself upon those hogs, with tears of joy running down her cheeks, and strain them to her heart, and kiss them, and caress them, and call them reverently by grand princely names, I was ashamed of her, ashamed of the human race.

We had to drive those hogs home—ten miles; and no ladies were ever more fickle-minded or contrary.  They would stay in no road, no path; they broke out through the brush on all sides, and flowed away in all directions, over rocks, and hills, and the roughest places they could find.  And they must not be struck, or roughly accosted; Sandy could not bear to see them treated in ways unbecoming their rank.  The troublesomest old sow of the lot had to be called my Lady, and your Highness, like the rest.  It is annoying and difficult to scour around after hogs, in armor.  There was one small countess, with an iron ring in her snout and hardly any hair on her back, that was the devil for perversity.  She gave me a race of an hour, over all sorts of country, and then we were right where we had started from, having made not a rod of real progress. I seized her at last by the tail, and brought her along squealing. When I overtook Sandy she was horrified, and said it was in the last degree indelicate to drag a countess by her train.

We got the hogs home just at dark—most of them.  The princess Nerovens de Morganore was missing, and two of her ladies in waiting: namely, Miss Angela Bohun, and the Demoiselle Elaine Courtemains, the former of these two being a young black sow with a white star in her forehead, and the latter a brown one with thin legs and a slight limp in the forward shank on the starboard side—a couple of the tryingest blisters to drive that I ever saw.  Also among the missing were several mere baronesses—and I wanted them to stay missing; but no, all that sausage-meat had to be found; so servants were sent out with torches to scour the woods and hills to that end.

Of course, the whole drove was housed in the house, and, great guns!—well, I never saw anything like it.  Nor ever heard anything like it.  And never smelt anything like it.  It was like an insurrection in a gasometer.