THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 9: THE TOURNAMENT
They were always having grand tournaments there at Camelot; and
very stirring and picturesque and ridiculous human bull-fights
they were, too, but just a little wearisome to the practical mind.
However, I was generally on hand--for two reasons: a man must
not hold himself aloof from the things which his friends and his
community have at heart if he would be liked--especially as
a statesman; and both as business man and statesman I wanted
to study the tournament and see if I couldn't invent an improvement
on it. That reminds me to remark, in passing, that the very first
official thing I did, in my administration--and it was on the very
first day of it, too--was to start a patent office; for I knew
that a country without a patent office and good patent laws was
just a crab, and couldn't travel any way but sideways or backways.
Things ran along, a tournament nearly every week; and now and then
the boys used to want me to take a hand--I mean Sir Launcelot and
the rest--but I said I would by and by; no hurry yet, and too much
government machinery to oil up and set to rights and start a-going.
We had one tournament which was continued from day to day during
more than a week, and as many as five hundred knights took part
in it, from first to last. They were weeks gathering. They came
on horseback from everywhere; from the very ends of the country,
and even from beyond the sea; and many brought ladies, and all
brought squires and troops of servants. It was a most gaudy and
gorgeous crowd, as to costumery, and very characteristic of the
country and the time, in the way of high animal spirits, innocent
indecencies of language, and happy-hearted indifference to morals.
It was fight or look on, all day and every day; and sing, gamble,
dance, carouse half the night every night. They had a most noble
good time. You never saw such people. Those banks of beautiful
ladies, shining in their barbaric splendors, would see a knight
sprawl from his horse in the lists with a lanceshaft the thickness
of your ankle clean through him and the blood spouting, and instead
of fainting they would clap their hands and crowd each other for a
better view; only sometimes one would dive into her handkerchief,
and look ostentatiously broken-hearted, and then you could lay
two to one that there was a scandal there somewhere and she was
afraid the public hadn't found it out.