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|A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court||Mark Twain|
A Competitive Examination
|Page 5 of 7||
"What do you know of the science of optics?"
"I know of governors of places, and seneschals of castles, and sheriffs of counties, and many like small offices and titles of honor, but him you call the Science of Optics I have not heard of before; peradventure it is a new dignity."
"Yes, in this country."
Try to conceive of this mollusk gravely applying for an official position, of any kind under the sun! Why, he had all the earmarks of a typewriter copyist, if you leave out the disposition to contribute uninvited emendations of your grammar and punctuation. It was unaccountable that he didn't attempt a little help of that sort out of his majestic supply of incapacity for the job. But that didn't prove that he hadn't material in him for the disposition, it only proved that he wasn't a typewriter copyist yet. After nagging him a little more, I let the professors loose on him and they turned him inside out, on the line of scientific war, and found him empty, of course. He knew somewhat about the warfare of the time -- bushwhacking around for ogres, and bull-fights in the tournament ring, and such things -- but otherwise he was empty and useless. Then we took the other young noble in hand, and he was the first one's twin, for ignorance and incapacity. I delivered them into the hands of the chairman of the Board with the comfortable consciousness that their cake was dough. They were examined in the previous order of precedence.
"Name, so please you?"
"Pertipole, son of Sir Pertipole, Baron of Barley Mash."
"Also Sir Pertipole, Baron of Barley Mash."
"The same name and title."
"We had none, worshipful sir, the line failing before it had reached so far back."
"It mattereth not. It is a good four generations, and fulfilleth the requirements of the rule."
"Fulfills what rule?" I asked.
"The rule requiring four generations of nobility or else the candidate is not eligible."
"A man not eligible for a lieutenancy in the army unless he can prove four generations of noble descent?"
"Even so; neither lieutenant nor any other officer may be commissioned without that qualification."
"Oh, come, this is an astonishing thing. What good is such a qualification as that?"
"What good? It is a hardy question, fair sir and Boss, since it doth go far to impugn the wisdom of even our holy Mother Church herself."
"For that she hath established the self-same rule regarding saints. By her law none may be canonized until he hath lain dead four generations."
"I see, I see -- it is the same thing. It is wonderful. In the one case a man lies dead-alive four generations -- mummified in ignorance and sloth -- and that qualifies him to command live people, and take their weal and woe into his impotent hands; and in the other case, a man lies bedded with death and worms four generations, and that qualifies him for office in the celestial camp. Does the king's grace approve of this strange law?"
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|A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court
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