A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
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
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!"