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

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "You are going to let the fear of poverty govern your life and your reward will be that you will eat, but you will not live."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

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

    Chapter 38

    • Rate it:
    • 1 Favorite on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 39
    Previous Chapter
    Prosperity is the best protector of principle.
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    EVENING--11th. Sailed in the Rosetta. This is a poor old ship, and
    ought to be insured and sunk. As in the 'Oceana', just so here:
    everybody dresses for dinner; they make it a sort of pious duty. These
    fine and formal costumes are a rather conspicuous contrast to the poverty
    and shabbiness of the surroundings . . . . If you want a slice of a
    lime at four o'clock tea, you must sign an order on the bar. Limes cost
    14 cents a barrel.

    January 18th. We have been running up the Arabian Sea, latterly.
    Closing up on Bombay now, and due to arrive this evening.

    January 20th. Bombay! A bewitching place, a bewildering place, an
    enchanting place--the Arabian Nights come again? It is a vast city;
    contains about a million inhabitants. Natives, they are, with a slight
    sprinkling of white people--not enough to have the slightest modifying
    effect upon the massed dark complexion of the public. It is winter here,
    yet the weather is the divine weather of June, and the foliage is the
    fresh and heavenly foliage of June. There is a rank of noble great shade
    trees across the way from the hotel, and under them sit groups of
    picturesque natives of both sexes; and the juggler in his turban is there
    with his snakes and his magic; and all day long the cabs and the
    multitudinous varieties of costumes flock by. It does not seem as if one
    could ever get tired of watching this moving show, this shining and
    shifting spectacle . . . . In the great bazar the pack and jam of
    natives was marvelous, the sea of rich-colored turbans and draperies an
    inspiring sight, and the quaint and showy Indian architecture was just
    the right setting for it. Toward sunset another show; this is the drive
    around the sea-shore to Malabar Point, where Lord Sandhurst, the Governor
    of the Bombay Presidency, lives. Parsee palaces all along the first part
    of the drive; and past them all the world is driving; the private
    carriages of wealthy Englishmen and natives of rank are manned by a
    driver and three footmen in stunning oriental liveries--two of these
    turbaned statues standing up behind, as fine as monuments. Sometimes
    even the public carriages have this superabundant crew, slightly
    modified--one to drive, one to sit by and see it done, and one to stand
    up behind and yell--yell when there is anybody in the way, and for
    practice when there isn't. It all helps to keep up the liveliness and
    augment the general sense of swiftness and energy and confusion and
    pow-wow.

    In the region of Scandal Point--felicitous name--where there are handy
    rocks to sit on and a noble view of the sea on the one hand, and on the
    other the passing and reprising whirl and tumult of gay carriages, are
    great groups of comfortably-off Parsee women--perfect flower-beds of
    brilliant color, a fascinating spectacle. Tramp, tramp, tramping along
    the road, in singles, couples, groups, and gangs, you have the
    working-man and the working-woman--but not clothed like ours. Usually
    the man is a nobly-built great athlete, with not a rag on but his
    loin-handkerchief; his color a deep dark brown, his skin satin, his
    rounded muscles knobbing it as if it had eggs under it. Usually the
    woman is a slender and shapely creature, as erect as a lightning-rod, and
    she has but one thing on--a bright-colored piece of stuff which is wound
    about her head and her body down nearly half-way to her knees, and which
    clings like her own skin. Her legs and feet are bare, and so are her
    arms, except for her fanciful bunches of loose silver rings on her ankles
    and on her arms. She has jewelry bunched on the side of her nose also,
    and showy clusterings on her toes. When she undresses for bed she takes
    off her jewelry, I suppose. If she took off anything more she would
    catch cold. As a rule she has a large shiney brass water jar of graceful
    shape on her head, and one of her naked arms curves up and the hand holds
    it there. She is so straight, so erect, and she steps with such style,
    and such easy grace and dignity; and her curved arm and her brazen jar
    are such a help to the picture indeed, our working-women cannot begin
    with her as a road-decoration.

    It is all color, bewitching color, enchanting color--everywhere all
    around--all the way around the curving great opaline bay clear to
    Government House, where the turbaned big native 'chuprassies' stand
    grouped in state at the door in their robes of fiery red, and do most
    properly and stunningly finish up the splendid show and make it
    theatrically complete. I wish I were a 'chuprassy'.

    This is indeed India! the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth
    and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of
    famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers
    and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of a hundred nations
    and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods,
    cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history,
    grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays
    bear date with the mouldering antiquities of the rest of the nations--the
    one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable
    interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant,
    wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men
    desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give
    that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the globe combined.
    Even now, after the lapse of a year, the delirium of those days in Bombay
    has not left me, and I hope never will. It was all new, no detail of it
    hackneyed. And India did not wait for morning, it began at the hotel
    --straight away. The lobbies and halls were full of turbaned, and fez'd
    and embroidered, cap'd, and barefooted, and cotton-clad dark natives,
    some of them rushing about, others at rest squatting, or sitting on the
    ground; some of them chattering with energy, others still and dreamy; in
    the dining-room every man's own private native servant standing behind
    his chair, and dressed for a part in the Arabian Nights.

    Our rooms were high up, on the front. A white man--he was a burly German
    --went up with us, and brought three natives along to see to arranging
    things. About fourteen others followed in procession, with the
    hand-baggage; each carried an article--and only one; a bag, in some
    cases, in other cases less. One strong native carried my overcoat,
    another a parasol, another a box of cigars, another a novel, and the last
    man in the procession had no load but a fan. It was all done with
    earnestness and sincerity, there was not a smile in the procession from
    the head of it to the tail of it. Each man waited patiently, tranquilly,
    in no sort of hurry, till one of us found time to give him a copper, then
    he bent his head reverently, touched his forehead with his fingers, and
    went his way. They seemed a soft and gentle race, and there was
    something both winning and touching about their demeanor.

    There was a vast glazed door which opened upon the balcony. It needed
    closing, or cleaning, or something, and a native got down on his knees
    and went to work at it. He seemed to be doing it well enough, but
    perhaps he wasn't, for the burly German put on a look that betrayed
    dissatisfaction, then without explaining what was wrong, gave the native
    a brisk cuff on the jaw and then told him where the defect was. It
    seemed such a shame to do that before us all. The native took it with
    meekness, saying nothing, and not showing in his face or manner any
    resentment. I had not seen the like of this for fifty years. It carried
    me back to my boyhood, and flashed upon me the forgotten fact that this
    was the usual way of explaining one's desires to a slave. I was able to
    remember that the method seemed right and natural to me in those days, I
    being born to it and unaware that elsewhere there were other methods; but
    I was also able to remember that those unresented cuffings made me sorry
    for the victim and ashamed for the punisher. My father was a refined and
    kindly gentleman, very grave, rather austere, of rigid probity, a sternly
    just and upright man, albeit he attended no church and never spoke of
    religious matters, and had no part nor lot in the pious joys of his
    Presbyterian family, nor ever seemed to suffer from this deprivation. He
    laid his hand upon me in punishment only twice in his life, and then not
    heavily; once for telling him a lie--which surprised me, and showed me
    how unsuspicious he was, for that was not my maiden effort. He punished
    me those two times only, and never any other member of the family at all;
    yet every now and then he cuffed our harmless slave boy, Lewis, for
    trifling little blunders and awkwardnesses. My father had passed his life
    among the slaves from his cradle up, and his cuffings proceeded from the
    custom of the time, not from his nature. When I was ten years old I saw
    a man fling a lump of iron-ore at a slaveman in anger, for merely doing
    something awkwardly--as if that were a crime. It bounded from the man's
    skull, and the man fell and never spoke again. He was dead in an hour.
    I knew the man had a right to kill his slave if he wanted to, and yet it
    seemed a pitiful thing and somehow wrong, though why wrong I was not deep
    enough to explain if I had been asked to do it. Nobody in the village
    approved of that murder, but of course no one said much about it.

    It is curious--the space-annihilating power of thought. For just one
    second, all that goes to make the me in me was in a Missourian village,
    on the other side of the globe, vividly seeing again these forgotten
    pictures of fifty years ago, and wholly unconscious of all things but
    just those; and in the next second I was back in Bombay, and that
    kneeling native's smitten cheek was not done tingling yet! Back to
    boyhood--fifty years; back to age again, another fifty; and a flight
    equal to the circumference of the globe-all in two seconds by the watch!

    Some natives--I don't remember how many--went into my bedroom, now, and
    put things to rights and arranged the mosquito-bar, and I went to bed to
    nurse my cough. It was about nine in the evening. What a state of
    things! For three hours the yelling and shouting of natives in the hall
    continued, along with the velvety patter of their swift bare feet--what a
    racket it was! They were yelling orders and messages down three flights.
    Why, in the matter of noise it amounted to a riot, an insurrection, a
    revolution. And then there were other noises mixed up with these and at
    intervals tremendously accenting them--roofs falling in, I judged,
    windows smashing, persons being murdered, crows squawking, and deriding,
    and cursing, canaries screeching, monkeys jabbering, macaws blaspheming,
    and every now and then fiendish bursts of laughter and explosions of
    dynamite. By midnight I had suffered all the different kinds of shocks
    there are, and knew that I could never more be disturbed by them, either
    isolated or in combination. Then came peace--stillness deep and solemn
    and lasted till five.

    Then it all broke loose again. And who re-started it? The Bird of Birds
    the Indian crow. I came to know him well, by and by, and be infatuated
    with him. I suppose he is the hardest lot that wears feathers. Yes, and
    the cheerfulest, and the best satisfied with himself. He never arrived
    at what he is by any careless process, or any sudden one; he is a work of
    art, and "art is long"; he is the product of immemorial ages, and of deep
    calculation; one can't make a bird like that in a day. He has been
    reincarnated more times than Shiva; and he has kept a sample of each
    incarnation, and fused it into his constitution. In the course of his
    evolutionary promotions, his sublime march toward ultimate perfection, he
    has been a gambler, a low comedian, a dissolute priest, a fussy woman, a
    blackguard, a scoffer, a liar, a thief, a spy, an informer, a trading
    politician, a swindler, a professional hypocrite, a patriot for cash, a
    reformer, a lecturer, a lawyer, a conspirator, a rebel, a royalist, a
    democrat, a practicer and propagator of irreverence, a meddler, an
    intruder, a busybody, an infidel, and a wallower in sin for the mere love
    of it. The strange result, the incredible result, of this patient
    accumulation of all damnable traits is, that he does not know what care
    is, he does not know what sorrow is, he does not know what remorse is,
    his life is one long thundering ecstasy of happiness, and he will go to
    his death untroubled, knowing that he will soon turn up again as an
    author or something, and be even more intolerably capable and comfortable
    than ever he was before.

    In his straddling wide forward-step, and his springy side-wise series of
    hops, and his impudent air, and his cunning way of canting his head to
    one side upon occasion, he reminds one of the American blackbird. But
    the sharp resemblances stop there. He is much bigger than the blackbird;
    and he lacks the blackbird's trim and slender and beautiful build and
    shapely beak; and of course his sober garb of gray and rusty black is a
    poor and humble thing compared with the splendid lustre of the
    blackbird's metallic sables and shifting and flashing bronze glories.
    The blackbird is a perfect gentleman, in deportment and attire, and is
    not noisy, I believe, except when holding religious services and
    political conventions in a tree; but this Indian sham Quaker is just a
    rowdy, and is always noisy when awake--always chaffing, scolding,
    scoffing, laughing, ripping, and cursing, and carrying on about something
    or other. I never saw such a bird for delivering opinions. Nothing
    escapes him; he notices everything that happens, and brings out his
    opinion about it, particularly if it is a matter that is none of his
    business. And it is never a mild opinion, but always violent--violent
    and profane--the presence of ladies does not affect him. His opinions
    are not the outcome of reflection, for he never thinks about anything,
    but heaves out the opinion that is on top in his mind, and which is often
    an opinion about some quite different thing and does not fit the case.
    But that is his way; his main idea is to get out an opinion, and if he
    stopped to think he would lose chances.

    I suppose he has no enemies among men. The whites and Mohammedans never
    seemed to molest him; and the Hindoos, because of their religion, never
    take the life of any creature, but spare even the snakes and tigers and
    fleas and rats. If I sat on one end of the balcony, the crows would
    gather on the railing at the other end and talk about me; and edge
    closer, little by little, till I could almost reach them; and they would
    sit there, in the most unabashed way, and talk about my clothes, and my
    hair, and my complexion, and probable character and vocation and
    politics, and how I came to be in India, and what I had been doing, and
    how many days I had got for it, and how I had happened to go unhanged
    so long, and when would it probably come off, and might there be more of
    my sort where I came from, and when would they be hanged,--and so on, and
    so on, until I could not longer endure the embarrassment of it; then I
    would shoo them away, and they would circle around in the air a little
    while, laughing and deriding and mocking, and presently settle on the
    rail and do it all over again.

    They were very sociable when there was anything to eat--oppressively so.
    With a little encouragement they would come in and light on the table and
    help me eat my breakfast; and once when I was in the other room and they
    found themselves alone, they carried off everything they could lift; and
    they were particular to choose things which they could make no use of
    after they got them. In India their number is beyond estimate, and their
    noise is in proportion. I suppose they cost the country more than the
    government does; yet that is not a light matter. Still, they pay; their
    company pays; it would sadden the land to take their cheerful voice out
    of it.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 39
    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
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?