After all the hum-drum babble of the previous chapter, what with miracle workings and despair, we finally come to the restoration of the well. Honestly, not much happens in this chapter.
“Merlin was still burning smoke-powders, and pawing at the air, and muttering gibberish as hard as ever, but looking down-hearted, for of course he had not started even a perspiration in that well yet” (171).
Lots of Merlin bashing in this chapter. Methinks that Twain really didn’t like the character of Merlin when it came to the Arthurian legend; probably because he saw him for just a con-man if a historical Merlin did exist. In any case, I like the phrase “pawing at the air”.
Regardless, Merlin causes a whole ton of smoke which annoys the monks. Then he exchanges some words with Protag-Man. Essentially, the dialog amounts to grandstanding: Merlin is trying to cover his ass by making shit up but Protag-Man just one-ups him by making shit up better. It is amusing and funny at times but not particularly noteworthy as commentary material, which is probably my chief complaint at this point in the story: everything has been reduced to a formula—meet figures and bluster through situations while ho-humming the expected.
“But I kept him (Merlin) in the weather bureau right along, to undermine his reputation” (173).
Savage! Protag-Man sure knows how to play politics. Pretty much the issue here is that Merlin is terrible at weather prediction and the opposite of what he predicts happen, so having him remain as a medieval weatherman, amounts to a continuous degrading of his qualities as a magician. It is like if you got a job as a hotshot graphic designer, made a few huge blunders, and then was only kept on as a designer because your boss wanted to watch you fail and squirm over and over again and delighted in seeing your peers talk behind your back. As I said, vicious!
“My two experts arrived in the evening, and pretty well fagged, for they had traveled double tides. They had pack mules along, and had brought everything I needed—tools, pump, lead pipe, Greek fire, sheaves of big rockets, roman candles, colored fire sprays, electric apparatus, and a lot of sundries—everything necessary for the stateliest kind of a miracle”.
The crux of this chapter is that Protag-Man fixes the well but puts on a huge performance for all the monks and civilians. He makes a sort of pipe system for the monks to use and creates a rocket and light show using the fancy stuff he taught the smart peasants how to make. He “works” the “miracle” on a Sunday and to make it big since “when you are going to do a miracle for an ignorant race, you want to get in every detail that will count” (174).
Great fun, really. White people are quite ignorant and religious mumbo-jumbo is the best kind of stateliest miracle there is, so it is an adequate critique in my opinion. Though, it doesn’t make the protagonist himself any more likable; but, colonialism is pretty terrible, so that makes sense. At any rate, I like again how the divine is regulated, again, to the mundane everyday reality of tricks.
“My idea was, doors open at 10:30, performance to begin at 11:25 sharp. I wish I could charge admission, but of course that wouldn’t answer” (175).
Pity. I guess capitalism will have to wait a little longer before ravaging the populace. Oh well, emancipation comes in stages and those stages sometimes involve oppression, so give and take.
“By his own dread name I command it—BGWJJILLIGKKK!” (177).
The entire show is over-the-top, what with rockets and what I assume is mist and lights, but it is this verbal nonsense that I love the most because it is here we understand Merlin and Protag-Man to be one in the same and to actively know that they are one-in-the same, but it is only Protag-Man who knows it. Presumably, Merlin believes that Protag-Man is an actual magician. The fact that he so stands Merlin up like this is just great because it is the base of how absurd everything is and how these sorts of con-men started out, likely, in history.
“When I started to the chapel, the populace uncovered and fell back reverently to make a wide way for me, as if I had been some kind of superior being—and I was. I was aware of that” (178).
Jesus… our lord and savior? Also, ego much?