Riding on high from his stunt with the well, Protag-Man decides to tackle a new project.
“According to history, the monks of this place two centuries before had been worldly minded enough to want to wash” (180).
As readers will remember, the last time a bath was built the well ran dry due to improper engineering defects. This time, though, with Protag-Man’s colonialist smarts, the well can provide for the bath without sin affecting the cast. Cool beans.
“In two days we had it all done and the water in—a spacious pool of clear pure water that a body could swim in” (181).
I can only imagine the smell. These monks are described as having so much dirt and unwashed couth on them that they are literally black and brown with waste. It sounds disgusting; the abbot, meanwhile, hadn’t had a bath since he was a boy, so this bath honestly seems like the best thing to happen to these people since colonialism arrived; it is also at this point that I wonder if Twain is satirizing colonialism or subtly endorsing it because there seems to be a disconnect.
Protag-Man gets sick briefly but recovers fast. When he does recover, he goes out on a small expedition to travel and live among the people. He wants to understand them on their own level. This doesn’t quite pan out, though, as Protag-Man encounters a rival magician which he must set out straight, least his own reputation sours.
Not really a whole lot happens. Protag-Man talks with Clarence some about affairs in Camelot over the telephone: King Arthur is traveling to the recently restored Holy Fountain and a standing army is being raised, though not with West Point graduates and so Protag-Man is upset. Fairly benign events; his rival magician, meanwhile, is simply a charlatan who pretends to know what international royalty are doing at any place in the world.
“The third day’s report showed that if he kept up his gait he would arrive by four in the afternoon. There was no sign anywhere of interest in his coming. [. . .] Only one thing could explain this: that other magician had been undercutting me, sure. [. . .] Observe how much a reputation was worth in such a country. These people had seen me do the very showiest bit of magic in history, and the only one within their memory that had a positive value, and yet here they were, ready to take up with an adventurer who could offer no evidence of his powers but his mere unproven word” (190).
This is funny. Primarily because Protag-Man is complaining about himself. Really, when you invest so much time and energy in legitimating sleight of hand tomfoolery, don’t be surprised when some pretender comes along and steals your show; to the commoner, all magic must be real after such a voracious display by Protag-Man, so why, and better yet, how, would they know fake magic? So, yeah, Protag-Man is really just pissing and moaning about the conditions which he himself has made; sure, he may be inching closer to a scientific framework, but in the here and now, he is still supposedly a magician.
Regardless, Protag-Man sets the faker right with a well-placed betting game of where King Arthur is traveling. Fun but boring.