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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

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.
 
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