A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court HTML version

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
"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. Anybody could kill somebody,
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