Summary and Analysis
After this miracle, The Boss's reputation is great in the Valley of Holiness, so he decides to suggest that a bath be built. He assures the abbot that it will not dry up the water again and that an error had been made the previous time, when it was believed that the bath had been the cause of the fountain's failure. The abbot agrees, and when the bath is finished, he is the first to try it out.
A heavy cold and a touch of rheumatism ensue and leave The Boss weak. Later, while walking about the valley to get his strength back, he discovers a cave that had been abandoned by a hermit. He looks inside and finds one of his telephone linemen putting in a phone. He uses the opportunity to call Clarence and find out what is happening back in Camelot. One thing that he learns is that the king and the queen, with a large party of nobles, have just set out toward the Valley of Holiness. He also learns that the king has started raising a standing army, one of his suggestions to the king, although he had wanted to oversee its development.
When he returns to the monastery, another magician has arrived; his specialty is announcing what great people around the globe are doing. The Boss tests him by asking what Arthur is doing; the new magician says that Arthur is presently asleep, but that the next day, Arthur and the court will ride to the north — away from the Valley of Holiness — for two days. The Boss contradicts him, telling him that the king and his party will be in this very valley by evening two days hence.
The new magician, however, seems to sway the crowd, for they make no preparations for the kings arrival. Thus, The Boss uses the telephone to check on the kings progress and manages to gather together something of a crowd to go out and greet the king. When the abbot and the monks discover that Arthur is indeed arriving, they dash out to greet him, although they take the time to — in Twain's words — ride the rival magician out on a rail.
In Chapter 25, we see that King Arthur always takes care of business matters wherever he is. The Commission charged with examining candidates for posts in the army arrives with the king, and the examination of officer candidates takes place. The Commission and the king insist that the main qualifications that an officer must have is a noble lineage that extends at least four generations into the past. Thus, The Boss's candidate, who has been trained at his "West Point," is denied a post, even though The Boss leads him through a series of questions that shows that he does know military matters thoroughly. Another candidate is given a post because he has the requisite lineage, even though The Boss shows that he knows nothing about military matters.
Later, The Boss proposes to the king that he form a regiment to be considered the kings own, formed of officers only, that can do as it pleases during battles. The other regiments would have to follow orders and do the dirty work of fighting.
In Chapter 26, we learn that The Boss is planning to go about the countryside as a "petty freeman" in order to find out what things are like on that level of society. When he tells the king about his plan, Arthur decides that he will come along.
In the meantime, however, the king must take care of "the king's evil business," a time when all those who are genuinely ill (they are screened) can come forward, touch the king, and receive a small piece of gold — or, now, one of The Boss's new nickles. In this process, many are cured because of their faith that they will be cured.
It is a long and tedious process, but the tedium is relieved by the sound of a boy's hawking the first edition of the Camelot Weekly Hosannah and Literary Volcano. The Boss gets a copy through the window and spends his time looking through it rather critically. His judgment, however, is that it is a pretty fair first effort, although he sees some things which he wants changed. It is passed about from hand to hand, and the people are amazed.
In Chapter 24, The Boss again uses his Yankee ingenuity and practicality to discredit another magician. By the use of the telephone wire that he finds in a hermit's cave during one of his walks, he finds out from Clarence that King Arthur and his court are on the way to the Valley of Holiness. Thus, when the rival magician has everyone entranced by his ability to tell what people in faraway places are doing at any given moment, The Boss, who does know what Arthur is doing, uses this information to trap the charlatan. Once again, however, The Boss is playing upon the superstitions of the people while also asserting that he is trying to educate the people NOT to be superstitious. Ironically, none of these simple people can see through the hoax of the rival magician; they reject him only when The Boss's prediction comes true; they are truly a fickle group, ready to quickly change their allegiances. Thus, at the end, all of
The Boss's teachings will be lost on everyone except those whom he has trained since birth.
In Chapter 25, Twain is able to make further comments on the injustices caused by the Church and its collaboration with the aristocracy. This is shown in the scene where the young girl loses all of her property to the bishop (also a member of the nobility) because of le droit du seigneur (the rights due to the lord of the manor).
Furthermore, The Boss thinks that ability, talent, and intelligence should be the key qualities in choosing commissioned officers to defend the country. Thus, he is totally depressed and defeated when he discovers that lineage is more important than intelligence and ability. As a result, the defense of the country will lie in the hands of the nobility simply because they are nobility — not because they are capable of defending the country.
Twain uses this episode to bring his narrative to a halt and to offer his own personal polemic on royalty and democracy. In one of his most famous statements, he writes: "Men write many fine and plausible arguments in support of monarchy, but the fact remains that where every man in a state has a vote, brutal laws are impossible." The Boss also feels that the people in this kingdom have been debased so long by the brutality of the monarchy that they are poor material for a democracy. Furthermore, he believes that the master-minds of history who have moved civilization forward have come from its masses — "not from its privileged class"; therefore, the following is a self-proven fact: "even the best governed and most free and most enlightened monarchy is still behind the best conditions attainable by its people." These thoughts of The Boss, spoken here in a polemic digression, do not always coincide with the depiction of the characters of Camelot. The individual person, such as King Arthur, is depicted as being a royal man of good character and fine appearance. Thus, Twain has his double focus — in his polemics, he attacks certain institutions, but in his narrative, he depicts aspects of these institutions or individuals as being fine and noble.
Chapter 26 does very little to move the plot forward except to let us know that The Boss announces his intention to tour England as a common peasant. Additionally, The Boss's first newspaper is presented to us, and the comedy of this newspaper lies in how crudely it is printed, but no one can read it anyway, and it is passed around merely as a curiosity piece.