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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

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.
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