Meet us on:
Welcome to Read Print! Sign in with
to get started!
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "All programmers are playwrights and all computers are lousy actors."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 37

    • Rate it:
    • 1 Favorite on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 38
    Previous Chapter
    To succeed in the other trades, capacity must be shown; in the law,
    concealment of it will do.
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    MONDAY,--December 23, 1895. Sailed from Sydney for Ceylon in the P. & O.
    steamer 'Oceana'. A Lascar crew mans this ship--the first I have seen.
    White cotton petticoat and pants; barefoot; red shawl for belt; straw
    cap, brimless, on head, with red scarf wound around it; complexion a rich
    dark brown; short straight black hair; whiskers fine and silky; lustrous
    and intensely black. Mild, good faces; willing and obedient people;
    capable, too; but are said to go into hopeless panics when there is
    danger. They are from Bombay and the coast thereabouts. Left some of
    the trunks in Sydney, to be shipped to South Africa by a vessel
    advertised to sail three months hence. The proverb says: "Separate not
    yourself from your baggage."

    This 'Oceana' is a stately big ship, luxuriously appointed. She has
    spacious promenade decks. Large rooms; a surpassingly comfortable ship.
    The officers' library is well selected; a ship's library is not usually
    that . . . . For meals, the bugle call, man-of-war fashion; a
    pleasant change from the terrible gong . . . . Three big cats--very
    friendly loafers; they wander all over the ship; the white one follows
    the chief steward around like a dog. There is also a basket of kittens.
    One of these cats goes ashore, in port, in England, Australia, and India,
    to see how his various families are getting along, and is seen no more
    till the ship is ready to sail. No one knows how he finds out the
    sailing date, but no doubt he comes down to the dock every day and takes
    a look, and when he sees baggage and passengers flocking in, recognizes
    that it is time to get aboard. This is what the sailors believe. The
    Chief Engineer has been in the China and India trade thirty three years,
    and has had but three Christmases at home in that time . . . .
    Conversational items at dinner, "Mocha! sold all over the world! It is
    not true. In fact, very few foreigners except the Emperor of Russia have
    ever seen a grain of it, or ever will, while they live." Another man
    said: "There is no sale in Australia for Australian wine. But it goes to
    France and comes back with a French label on it, and then they buy it."
    I have heard that the most of the French-labeled claret in New York is
    made in California. And I remember what Professor S. told me once about
    Veuve Cliquot--if that was the wine, and I think it was. He was the
    guest of a great wine merchant whose town was quite near that vineyard,
    and this merchant asked him if very much V. C. was drunk in America.

    "Oh, yes," said S., "a great abundance of it."

    "Is it easy to be had?"

    "Oh, yes--easy as water. All first and second-class hotels have it."

    "What do you pay for it?"

    "It depends on the style of the hotel--from fifteen to twenty-five francs
    a bottle."

    "Oh, fortunate country! Why, it's worth 100 francs right here on the



    "Do you mean that we are drinking a bogus Veuve-Cliquot over there?"

    "Yes--and there was never a bottle of the genuine in America since
    Columbus's time. That wine all comes from a little bit of a patch of
    ground which isn't big enough to raise many bottles; and all of it that
    is produced goes every year to one person--the Emperor of Russia. He
    takes the whole crop in advance, be it big or little."

    January 4, 1898. Christmas in Melbourne, New Year's Day in Adelaide,
    and saw most of the friends again in both places . . . . Lying here
    at anchor all day--Albany (King George's Sound), Western Australia. It
    is a perfectly landlocked harbor, or roadstead--spacious to look at, but
    not deep water. Desolate-looking rocks and scarred hills. Plenty of
    ships arriving now, rushing to the new gold-fields. The papers are full
    of wonderful tales of the sort always to be heard in connection with new
    gold diggings. A sample: a youth staked out a claim and tried to sell
    half for L5; no takers; he stuck to it fourteen days, starving, then
    struck it rich and sold out for L10,000 . . . . About sunset, strong
    breeze blowing, got up the anchor. We were in a small deep puddle, with
    a narrow channel leading out of it, minutely buoyed, to the sea.

    I stayed on deck to see how we were going to manage it with such a big
    ship and such a strong wind. On the bridge our giant captain, in
    uniform; at his side a little pilot in elaborately gold-laced uniform; on
    the forecastle a white mate and quartermaster or two, and a brilliant
    crowd of lascars standing by for business. Our stern was pointing
    straight at the head of the channel; so we must turn entirely around in
    the puddle--and the wind blowing as described. It was done, and
    beautifully. It was done by help of a jib. We stirred up much mud, but
    did not touch the bottom. We turned right around in our tracks--a
    seeming impossibility. We had several casts of quarter-less 5, and one
    cast of half 4--27 feet; we were drawing 26 astern. By the time we were
    entirely around and pointed, the first buoy was not more than a hundred
    yards in front of us. It was a fine piece of work, and I was the only
    passenger that saw it. However, the others got their dinner; the P. & O.
    Company got mine . . . . More cats developed. Smythe says it is a
    British law that they must be carried; and he instanced a case of a ship
    not allowed to sail till she sent for a couple. The bill came, too:
    "Debtor, to 2 cats, 20 shillings." . . . News comes that within this
    week Siam has acknowledged herself to be, in effect, a French province.
    It seems plain that all savage and semi-civilized countries are going to
    be grabbed . . . . A vulture on board; bald, red, queer-shaped head,
    featherless red places here and there on his body, intense great black
    eyes set in featherless rims of inflamed flesh; dissipated look; a
    businesslike style, a selfish, conscienceless, murderous aspect--the very
    look of a professional assassin, and yet a bird which does no murder.
    What was the use of getting him up in that tragic style for so innocent a
    trade as his? For this one isn't the sort that wars upon the living, his
    diet is offal--and the more out of date it is the better he likes it.
    Nature should give him a suit of rusty black; then he would be all right,
    for he would look like an undertaker and would harmonize with his
    business; whereas the way he is now he is horribly out of true.

    January 5. At 9 this morning we passed Cape Leeuwin (lioness) and
    ceased from our long due-west course along the southern shore of
    Australia. Turning this extreme southwestern corner, we now take a long
    straight slant nearly N. W., without a break, for Ceylon. As we speed
    northward it will grow hotter very fast--but it isn't chilly, now. . . .
    The vulture is from the public menagerie at Adelaide--a great and
    interesting collection. It was there that we saw the baby tiger solemnly
    spreading its mouth and trying to roar like its majestic mother. It
    swaggered, scowling, back and forth on its short legs just as it had seen
    her do on her long ones, and now and then snarling viciously, exposing
    its teeth, with a threatening lift of its upper lip and bristling
    moustache; and when it thought it was impressing the visitors, it would
    spread its mouth wide and do that screechy cry which it meant for a roar,
    but which did not deceive. It took itself quite seriously, and was
    lovably comical. And there was a hyena--an ugly creature; as ugly as the
    tiger-kitty was pretty. It repeatedly arched its back and delivered
    itself of such a human cry; a startling resemblance; a cry which was just
    that of a grown person badly hurt. In the dark one would assuredly go to
    its assistance--and be disappointed . . . . Many friends of
    Australasian Federation on board. They feel sure that the good day is
    not far off, now. But there seems to be a party that would go further
    --have Australasia cut loose from the British Empire and set up
    housekeeping on her own hook. It seems an unwise idea. They point to
    the United States, but it seems to me that the cases lack a good deal of
    being alike. Australasia governs herself wholly--there is no
    interference; and her commerce and manufactures are not oppressed in any
    way. If our case had been the same we should not have gone out when we

    January 13. Unspeakably hot. The equator is arriving again. We are
    within eight degrees of it. Ceylon present. Dear me, it is beautiful!
    And most sumptuously tropical, as to character of foliage and opulence of
    it. "What though the spicy breezes blow soft o'er Ceylon's isle"--an
    eloquent line, an incomparable line; it says little, but conveys whole
    libraries of sentiment, and Oriental charm and mystery, and tropic
    deliciousness--a line that quivers and tingles with a thousand
    unexpressed and inexpressible things, things that haunt one and find no
    articulate voice . . . . Colombo, the capital. An Oriental town,
    most manifestly; and fascinating.

    In this palatial ship the passengers dress for dinner. The ladies'
    toilettes make a fine display of color, and this is in keeping with the
    elegance of the vessel's furnishings and the flooding brilliancies of the
    electric light. On the stormy Atlantic one never sees a man in evening
    dress, except at the rarest intervals; and then there is only one, not
    two; and he shows up but once on the voyage--the night before the ship
    makes port--the night when they have the "concert" and do the amateur
    wailings and recitations. He is the tenor, as a rule . . . . There
    has been a deal of cricket-playing on board; it seems a queer game for a
    ship, but they enclose the promenade deck with nettings and keep the ball
    from flying overboard, and the sport goes very well, and is properly
    violent and exciting . . . . We must part from this vessel here.

    January 14. Hotel Bristol. Servant Brompy. Alert, gentle, smiling,
    winning young brown creature as ever was. Beautiful shining black hair
    combed back like a woman's, and knotted at the back of his head
    --tortoise-shell comb in it, sign that he is a Singhalese; slender, shapely
    form; jacket; under it is a beltless and flowing white cotton gown--from
    neck straight to heel; he and his outfit quite unmasculine. It was an
    embarrassment to undress before him.

    We drove to the market, using the Japanese jinriksha--our first
    acquaintanceship with it. It is a light cart, with a native to draw it.
    He makes good speed for half-an-hour, but it is hard work for him; he is
    too slight for it. After the half-hour there is no more pleasure for
    you; your attention is all on the man, just as it would be on a tired
    horse, and necessarily your sympathy is there too. There's a plenty of
    these 'rickshas, and the tariff is incredibly cheap.

    I was in Cairo years ago. That was Oriental, but there was a lack. When
    you are in Florida or New Orleans you are in the South--that is granted;
    but you are not in the South; you are in a modified South, a tempered
    South. Cairo was a tempered Orient--an Orient with an indefinite
    something wanting. That feeling was not present in Ceylon. Ceylon was
    Oriental in the last measure of completeness--utterly Oriental; also
    utterly tropical; and indeed to one's unreasoning spiritual sense the two
    things belong together. All the requisites were present. The costumes
    were right; the black and brown exposures, unconscious of immodesty, were
    right; the juggler was there, with his basket, his snakes, his mongoose,
    and his arrangements for growing a tree from seed to foliage and ripe
    fruitage before one's eyes; in sight were plants and flowers familiar to
    one on books but in no other way celebrated, desirable, strange, but in
    production restricted to the hot belt of the equator; and out a little
    way in the country were the proper deadly snakes, and fierce beasts of
    prey, and the wild elephant and the monkey. And there was that swoon in
    the air which one associates with the tropics, and that smother of heat,
    heavy with odors of unknown flowers, and that sudden invasion of purple
    gloom fissured with lightnings,--then the tumult of crashing thunder and
    the downpour and presently all sunny and smiling again; all these things
    were there; the conditions were complete, nothing was lacking. And away
    off in the deeps of the jungle and in the remotenesses of the mountains
    were the ruined cities and mouldering temples, mysterious relics of the
    pomps of a forgotten time and a vanished race--and this was as it should
    be, also, for nothing is quite satisfyingly Oriental that lacks the
    somber and impressive qualities of mystery and antiquity.

    The drive through the town and out to the Galle Face by the seashore,
    what a dream it was of tropical splendors of bloom and blossom, and
    Oriental conflagrations of costume! The walking groups of men, women,
    boys, girls, babies--each individual was a flame, each group a house
    afire for color. And such stunning colors, such intensely vivid colors,
    such rich and exquisite minglings and fusings of rainbows and lightnings!
    And all harmonious, all in perfect taste; never a discordant note; never
    a color on any person swearing at another color on him or failing to
    harmonize faultlessly with the colors of any group the wearer might join.
    The stuffs were silk-thin, soft, delicate, clinging; and, as a rule, each
    piece a solid color: a splendid green, a splendid blue, a splendid
    yellow, a splendid purple, a splendid ruby, deep, and rich with
    smouldering fires they swept continuously by in crowds and legions and
    multitudes, glowing, flashing, burning, radiant; and every five seconds
    came a burst of blinding red that made a body catch his breath, and
    filled his heart with joy. And then, the unimaginable grace of those
    costumes! Sometimes a woman's whole dress was but a scarf wound about
    her person and her head, sometimes a man's was but a turban and a
    careless rag or two--in both cases generous areas of polished dark skin
    showing--but always the arrangement compelled the homage of the eye and
    made the heart sing for gladness.

    I can see it to this day, that radiant panorama, that wilderness of rich
    color, that incomparable dissolving-view of harmonious tints, and lithe
    half-covered forms, and beautiful brown faces, and gracious and graceful
    gestures and attitudes and movements, free, unstudied, barren of
    stiffness and restraint, and--

    Just then, into this dream of fairyland and paradise a grating dissonance
    was injected.

    Out of a missionary school came marching, two and two, sixteen prim and
    pious little Christian black girls, Europeanly clothed--dressed, to the
    last detail, as they would have been dressed on a summer Sunday in an
    English or American village. Those clothes--oh, they were unspeakably
    ugly! Ugly, barbarous, destitute of taste, destitute of grace, repulsive
    as a shroud. I looked at my womenfolk's clothes--just full-grown
    duplicates of the outrages disguising those poor little abused creatures
    --and was ashamed to be seen in the street with them. Then I looked at
    my own clothes, and was ashamed to be seen in the street with myself.

    However, we must put up with our clothes as they are--they have their
    reason for existing. They are on us to expose us--to advertise what we
    wear them to conceal. They are a sign; a sign of insincerity; a sign of
    suppressed vanity; a pretense that we despise gorgeous colors and the
    graces of harmony and form; and we put them on to propagate that lie and
    back it up. But we do not deceive our neighbor; and when we step into
    Ceylon we realize that we have not even deceived ourselves. We do love
    brilliant colors and graceful costumes; and at home we will turn out in a
    storm to see them when the procession goes by--and envy the wearers. We
    go to the theater to look at them and grieve that we can't be clothed
    like that. We go to the King's ball, when we get a chance, and are glad
    of a sight of the splendid uniforms and the glittering orders. When we
    are granted permission to attend an imperial drawing-room we shut
    ourselves up in private and parade around in the theatrical court-dress
    by the hour, and admire ourselves in the glass, and are utterly happy;
    and every member of every governor's staff in democratic America does the
    same with his grand new uniform--and if he is not watched he will get
    himself photographed in it, too. When I see the Lord Mayor's footman I
    am dissatisfied with my lot. Yes, our clothes are a lie, and have been
    nothing short of that these hundred years. They are insincere, they are
    the ugly and appropriate outward exposure of an inward sham and a moral

    The last little brown boy I chanced to notice in the crowds and swarms of
    Colombo had nothing on but a twine string around his waist, but in my
    memory the frank honesty of his costume still stands out in pleasant
    contrast with the odious flummery in which the little Sunday-school
    dowdies were masquerading.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 38
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Mark Twain essay and need some advice, post your Mark Twain essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?