A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court HTML version

We strolled along in a sufficiently indolent fashion now, and talked. We must dispose of
about the amount of time it ought to take to go to the little hamlet of Abblasoure and put
justice on the track of those murderers and get back home again. And meantime I had an
auxiliary interest which had never paled yet, never lost its novelty for me since I had been
in Arthur's kingdom: the behavior--born of nice and exact subdivisions of caste--of
chance passers-by toward each other. Toward the shaven monk who trudged along with
his cowl tilted back and the sweat washing down his fat jowls, the coal-burner was deeply
reverent; to the gentleman he was abject; with the small farmer and the free mechanic he
was cordial and gossipy; and when a slave passed by with a countenance respectfully
lowered, this chap's nose was in the air--he couldn't even see him. Well, there are times
when one would like to hang the whole human race and finish the farce.
Presently we struck an incident. A small mob of half-naked boys and girls came tearing
out of the woods, scared and shrieking. The eldest among them were not more than
twelve or fourteen years old. They implored help, but they were so beside themselves that
we couldn't make out what the matter was. However, we plunged into the wood, they
skurrying in the lead, and the trouble was quickly revealed: they had hanged a little
fellow with a bark rope, and he was kicking and struggling, in the process of choking to
death. We rescued him, and fetched him around. It was some more human nature; the
admiring little folk imitating their elders; they were playing mob, and had achieved a
success which promised to be a good deal more serious than they had bargained for.
It was not a dull excursion for me. I managed to put in the time very well. I made various
acquaintanceships, and in my quality of stranger was able to ask as many questions as I
wanted to. A thing which naturally interested me, as a statesman, was the matter of
wages. I picked up what I could under that head during the afternoon. A man who hasn't
had much experience, and doesn't think, is apt to measure a nation's prosperity or lack of
prosperity by the mere size of the prevailing wages; if the wages be high, the nation is
prosperous; if low, it isn't. Which is an error. It isn't what sum you get, it's how much you
can buy with it, that's the important thing; and it's that that tells whether your wages are
high in fact or only high in name. I could remember how it was in the time of our great
civil war in the nineteenth century. In the North a carpenter got three dollars a day, gold
valuation; in the South he got fifty--payable in Confederate shinplasters worth a dollar a
bushel. In the North a suit of overalls cost three dollars--a day's wages; in the South it
cost seventy-five-- which was two days' wages. Other things were in proportion.
Consequently, wages were twice as high in the North as they were in the South, because
the one wage had that much more purchasing power than the other had.
Yes, I made various acquaintances in the hamlet and a thing that gratified me a good deal
was to find our new coins in circulation-- lots of milrays, lots of mills, lots of cents, a
good many nickels, and some silver; all this among the artisans and commonalty
generally; yes, and even some gold--but that was at the bank, that is to say, the
goldsmith's. I dropped in there while Marco, the son of Marco, was haggling with a