Though the break initially feels like a relief, Hank quickly becomes dissatisfied because he can’t light his pipe. He’s found a tobacco substitute and started a match factory, but he forgot to bring matches on the quest. Also, he’s hungry, but medieval custom says that knights must go on quests without picnic baskets.
Hank rejects the medieval paradigms of the quest, which throw the knight-errant on the mercy of fate, chance, or God for shelter, food, and safety. He prefers the stability and predictability represented by the products of industry, such as the matches from his factory. And he continues his colonial project by creating substitutes for New World products like tobacco.
When night falls, it brings a storm. Hank finds a dry place under a rock for Sandy, who sleeps soundly and wakes up refreshed. In contrast, Hank spends a cold, wet night being bitten by various bugs that crawl into his armor for warmth. Sandy’s lack of concern about sleeping on the ground, missing a bath, or skipping a meal prove to him that the medieval people are just “modified savages.”
This humorous episode illustrates the power of training: Sandy’s medieval training prepared her for the hardships of a quest, and Hank’s 19th-century training did not. Unable to relearn his habits, he struggles uncomfortably through the night. Then, true to form, rather than considering his own training, he dismisses Sandy and the rest of the knights-errant as an inferior.
Before sunrise, they are on the road again, Sandy riding the horse, and Hank limping wearily along behind her. Soon, they come upon a group of “ragged poor creatures” on road maintenance duty. Hank asks them to share their breakfast, but Sandy turns up her nose, saying she’d just as soon eat with cattle as with poor men such as these. They are independent farmers and artisans, so-called “freemen.” And although, to Hank’s sensibilities, these are the people who make up the “actual Nation,” the aristocracy and the Church control every aspect of their lives. They rely on local lords or bishops for permission to move about the country and for flour to make their bread, and they pay taxes and tithes on their produce or wares. Hank even suggests that the lords and bishops feel the right to take the freemen’s daughters for their sexual pleasures.
In the so-called “freemen”—who are still subject to the authority of the feudal aristocracy—Hank finds a clear example of the inferiority of Middle Ages to the 19th century and of monarchy to democracy. These men are free in title only, still required to relinquish unpaid good and labor and still dependent on their lords for protection. The novel uses the example of “droit du seigneur” (the lord’s right to deflower the daughters of his freemen on their wedding nights) as the ultimate example of feudal evil. While widely accepted as fact in the 19th century when the book was written, modern historians tend to view it as a myth rather than historical reality.
These men, who were required to work for free on the lord bishop’s roads three days each year, remind Hank of the “blessed Revolution” in France. In Hank’s opinion, France experienced two reigns of terror, and the short one during which the people rebelled and murdered members of the aristocracy gets more attention than the longer one, which took place over centuries as the aristocracy took advantage of and abused the people. Hank asks the freemen if they had the chance to elect a leader whether they would choose a single man and his descendants to rule the nation forever. But the freemen can barely make sense of a government in which people have any choices at all. But one bright man grasps the concept and proclaims that no one would voluntarily choose to subjugate himself to a ruling family in that way.
The “reign of terror” was a phase of the French Revolution characterized by bloody massacres and public executions of churchmen and nobility. Hank suggests that the more important reign of terror occurred during the centuries in which the monarchy and the Church oppressed and abused the commoners. Invoking such a bloody period reinforces Hank’s anti-monarchal values and suggests a latent tendency to use violence to achieve his ends. And it’s important to remember that the advanced and improved government Hank tries to explain to the freemen isn’t perfect: in the late-nineteenth century, all women and many poor, non-white Americans were unable to vote.
This man impresses Hank; Hank believes that if enough people held the man’s views, then he could replace the monarchy with a new government. This would constitute an act of loyalty to the “real” and “substantial” country rather than its empty institutions and undeserving officeholders. Hank believes that the medieval peasants are “loyal to rags,” that they occupy a lowly position invented by and belonging to monarchy. In contrast, he is from Connecticut, where the constitution gives political power to the people, who have the right to alter the government as they judge best.
This one freeman represents a kind of ideal medieval man for Hank, which again suggests that Hank wants to use his factories to make one specific sort of person, not necessarily the whole variety that makes up a truly democratic society. This is also the first time he talks openly about his plans to overthrow a government he considers illegitimate. He feels entitled to do this based on the rights granted to him by a constitution that won’t be written for centuries yet. Rather than improving the medieval world from within, Hank intends to impose his ideas on it as if it’s a colony.
In medieval England, Hank is like a stockholder in a company where six people out of 1,000 make the choices and take the benefits, while the other 994 do all the work. These 994 need a new system that Hank is so impatient to see that he wishes he could start a revolution like Jack Cade or Wat Tyler. But he needs enough people behind him. He settles for sending the smartest of the road-workers—bearing a letter written by Hank in the man’s own blood—to his “Man Factory.”
Continuing with his revolutionary musings, Hank thinks about two Englishmen who led uprisings against feudalism: Wat Tyler (who led the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt) and Jack Cade (who marched with a rebel army against London in the 1450s). And the suggestion of a bloody revolutionary lurks behind Hank’s using the man’s blood as ink.