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
    "Attempt easy tasks as if they were difficult, and difficult as if they were easy; in the one case that confidence may not fall asleep, in the other that it may not be dismayed."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

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

    Chapter 55

    • Rate it:
    • 1 Favorite on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 56
    Previous Chapter
    There are 869 different forms of lying, but only one of them has been
    squarely forbidden. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy
    neighbor.
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    FROM DIARY:

    February 14. We left at 4:30 P.M. Until dark we moved through rich
    vegetation, then changed to a boat and crossed the Ganges.

    February 15. Up with the sun. A brilliant morning, and frosty. A
    double suit of flannels is found necessary. The plain is perfectly
    level, and seems to stretch away and away and away, dimming and
    softening, to the uttermost bounds of nowhere. What a soaring,
    strenuous, gushing fountain spray of delicate greenery a bunch of bamboo
    is! As far as the eye can reach, these grand vegetable geysers grace the
    view, their spoutings refined to steam by distance. And there are fields
    of bananas, with the sunshine glancing from the varnished surface of
    their drooping vast leaves. And there are frequent groves of palm; and
    an effective accent is given to the landscape by isolated individuals of
    this picturesque family, towering, clean-stemmed, their plumes broken and
    hanging ragged, Nature's imitation of an umbrella that has been out to
    see what a cyclone is like and is trying not to look disappointed. And
    everywhere through the soft morning vistas we glimpse the villages, the
    countless villages, the myriad villages, thatched, built of clean new
    matting, snuggling among grouped palms and sheaves of bamboo; villages,
    villages, no end of villages, not three hundred yards apart, and dozens
    and dozens of them in sight all the time; a mighty City, hundreds of
    miles long, hundreds of miles broad, made all of villages, the biggest
    city in the earth, and as populous as a European kingdom. I have seen no
    such city as this before. And there is a continuously repeated and
    replenished multitude of naked men in view on both sides and ahead. We
    fly through it mile after mile, but still it is always there, on both
    sides and ahead--brown-bodied, naked men and boys, plowing in the fields.
    But not woman. In these two hours I have not seen a woman or a girl
    working in the fields.

    "From Greenland's icy mountains,
    From India's coral strand,
    Where Afric's sunny fountains
    Roll down their golden sand.
    From many an ancient river,
    From many a palmy plain,
    They call us to deliver
    Their land from error's chain."

    Those are beautiful verses, and they have remained in my memory all my
    life. But if the closing lines are true, let us hope that when we come
    to answer the call and deliver the land from its errors, we shall secrete
    from it some of our high-civilization ways, and at the same time borrow
    some of its pagan ways to enrich our high system with. We have a right
    to do this. If we lift those people up, we have a right to lift
    ourselves up nine or ten grades or so, at their expense. A few years ago
    I spent several weeks at Tolz, in Bavaria. It is a Roman Catholic
    region, and not even Benares is more deeply or pervasively or
    intelligently devout. In my diary of those days I find this:

    "We took a long drive yesterday around about the lovely country
    roads. But it was a drive whose pleasure was damaged in a couple of
    ways: by the dreadful shrines and by the shameful spectacle of gray
    and venerable old grandmothers toiling in the fields. The shrines
    were frequent along the roads--figures of the Saviour nailed to the
    cross and streaming with blood from the wounds of the nails and the
    thorns.

    "When missionaries go from here do they find fault with the pagan
    idols? I saw many women seventy and even eighty years old mowing
    and binding in the fields, and pitchforking the loads into the
    wagons."

    I was in Austria later, and in Munich. In Munich I saw gray old women
    pushing trucks up hill and down, long distances, trucks laden with
    barrels of beer, incredible loads. In my Austrian diary I find this:

    "In the fields I often see a woman and a cow harnessed to the plow,
    and a man driving.

    "In the public street of Marienbad to-day, I saw an old, bent,
    gray-headed woman, in harness with a dog, drawing a laden sled over
    bare dirt roads and bare pavements; and at his ease walked the
    driver, smoking his pipe, a hale fellow not thirty years old."

    Five or six years ago I bought an open boat, made a kind of a canvas
    wagon-roof over the stern of it to shelter me from sun and rain; hired a
    courier and a boatman, and made a twelve-day floating voyage down the
    Rhone from Lake Bourget to Marseilles. In my diary of that trip I find
    this entry. I was far down the Rhone then:

    "Passing St. Etienne, 2:15 P.M. On a distant ridge inland, a tall
    openwork structure commandingly situated, with a statue of the
    Virgin standing on it. A devout country. All down this river,
    wherever there is a crag there is a statue of the Virgin on it. I
    believe I have seen a hundred of them. And yet, in many respects,
    the peasantry seem to be mere pagans, and destitute of any
    considerable degree of civilization.

    " . . . . We reached a not very promising looking village about
    4 o'clock, and I concluded to tie up for the day; munching fruit and
    fogging the hood with pipe-smoke had grown monotonous; I could not
    have the hood furled, because the floods of rain fell unceasingly.
    The tavern was on the river bank, as is the custom. It was dull
    there, and melancholy--nothing to do but look out of the window into
    the drenching rain, and shiver; one could do that, for it was bleak
    and cold and windy, and country France furnishes no fire. Winter
    overcoats did not help me much; they had to be supplemented with
    rugs. The raindrops were so large and struck the river with such
    force that they knocked up the water like pebble-splashes.

    "With the exception of a very occasional woodenshod peasant, nobody
    was abroad in this bitter weather--I mean nobody of our sex. But
    all weathers are alike to the women in these continental countries.
    To them and the other animals, life is serious; nothing interrupts
    their slavery. Three of them were washing clothes in the river
    under the window when I arrived, and they continued at it as long as
    there was light to work by. One was apparently thirty; another--the
    mother!--above fifty; the third--grandmother!--so old and worn and
    gray she could have passed for eighty; I took her to be that old.
    They had no waterproofs nor rubbers, of course; over their shoulders
    they wore gunnysacks--simply conductors for rivers of water; some of
    the volume reached the ground; the rest soaked in on the way.

    "At last a vigorous fellow of thirty-five arrived, dry and
    comfortable, smoking his pipe under his big umbrella in an open
    donkey-cart-husband, son, and grandson of those women! He stood up
    in the cart, sheltering himself, and began to superintend, issuing
    his orders in a masterly tone of command, and showing temper when
    they were not obeyed swiftly enough.

    "Without complaint or murmur the drowned women patiently carried out
    the orders, lifting the immense baskets of soggy, wrung-out clothing
    into the cart and stowing them to the man's satisfaction. There
    were six of the great baskets, and a man of mere ordinary strength
    could not have lifted any one of them. The cart being full now, the
    Frenchman descended, still sheltered by his umbrella, entered the
    tavern, and the women went drooping homeward, trudging in the wake
    of the cart, and soon were blended with the deluge and lost to
    sight.

    "When I went down into the public room, the Frenchman had his bottle
    of wine and plate of food on a bare table black with grease, and was
    'chomping' like a horse. He had the little religious paper which is
    in everybody's hands on the Rhone borders, and was enlightening
    himself with the histories of French saints who used to flee to the
    desert in the Middle Ages to escape the contamination of woman. For
    two hundred years France has been sending missionaries to other
    savage lands. To spare to the needy from poverty like hers is fine
    and true generosity."

    But to get back to India--where, as my favorite poem says--

    "Every prospect pleases,
    And only man is vile."

    It is because Bavaria and Austria and France have not introduced their
    civilization to him yet. But Bavaria and Austria and France are on their
    way. They are coming. They will rescue him; they will refine the
    vileness out of him.

    Some time during the forenoon, approaching the mountains, we changed from
    the regular train to one composed of little canvas-sheltered cars that
    skimmed along within a foot of the ground and seemed to be going fifty
    miles an hour when they were really making about twenty. Each car had
    seating capacity for half-a-dozen persons; and when the curtains were up
    one was substantially out of doors, and could see everywhere, and get all
    the breeze, and be luxuriously comfortable. It was not a pleasure
    excursion in name only, but in fact.

    After a while the stopped at a little wooden coop of a station just
    within the curtain of the sombre jungle, a place with a deep and dense
    forest of great trees and scrub and vines all about it. The royal Bengal
    tiger is in great force there, and is very bold and unconventional. From
    this lonely little station a message once went to the railway manager in
    Calcutta: "Tiger eating station-master on front porch; telegraph
    instructions."

    It was there that I had my first tiger hunt. I killed thirteen. We were
    presently away again, and the train began to climb the mountains. In one
    place seven wild elephants crossed the track, but two of them got away
    before I could overtake them. The railway journey up the mountain is
    forty miles, and it takes eight hours to make it. It is so wild and
    interesting and exciting and enchanting that it ought to take a week. As
    for the vegetation, it is a museum. The jungle seemed to contain samples
    of every rare and curious tree and bush that we had ever seen or heard
    of. It is from that museum, I think, that the globe must have been
    supplied with the trees and vines and shrubs that it holds precious.

    The road is infinitely and charmingly crooked. It goes winding in and
    out under lofty cliffs that are smothered in vines and foliage, and
    around the edges of bottomless chasms; and all the way one glides by
    files of picturesque natives, some carrying burdens up, others going down
    from their work in the tea-gardens; and once there was a gaudy wedding
    procession, all bright tinsel and color, and a bride, comely and girlish,
    who peeped out from the curtains of her palanquin, exposing her face with
    that pure delight which the young and happy take in sin for sin's own
    sake.

    By and by we were well up in the region of the clouds, and from that
    breezy height we looked down and afar over a wonderful picture--the
    Plains of India, stretching to the horizon, soft and fair, level as a
    floor, shimmering with heat, mottled with cloud-shadows, and cloven with
    shining rivers. Immediately below us, and receding down, down, down,
    toward the valley, was a shaven confusion of hilltops, with ribbony roads
    and paths squirming and snaking cream-yellow all over them and about
    them, every curve and twist sharply distinct.

    At an elevation of 6,000 feet we entered a thick cloud, and it shut out
    the world and kept it shut out. We climbed 1,000 feet higher, then began
    to descend, and presently got down to Darjeeling, which is 6,000 feet
    above the level of the Plains.

    We had passed many a mountain village on the way up, and seen some new
    kinds of natives, among them many samples of the fighting Ghurkas. They
    are not large men, but they are strong and resolute. There are no better
    soldiers among Britain's native troops. And we had passed shoals of
    their women climbing the forty miles of steep road from the valley to
    their mountain homes, with tall baskets on their backs hitched to their
    foreheads by a band, and containing a freightage weighing--I will not say
    how many hundreds of pounds, for the sum is unbelievable. These were
    young women, and they strode smartly along under these astonishing
    burdens with the air of people out for a holiday. I was told that a
    woman will carry a piano on her back all the way up the mountain; and
    that more than once a woman had done it. If these were old women I
    should regard the Ghurkas as no more civilized than the Europeans.
    At the railway station at Darjeeling you find plenty of cab-substitutes
    --open coffins, in which you sit, and are then borne on men's shoulders up
    the steep roads into the town.

    Up there we found a fairly comfortable hotel, the property of an
    indiscriminate and incoherent landlord, who looks after nothing, but
    leaves everything to his army of Indian servants. No, he does look after
    the bill--to be just to him--and the tourist cannot do better than follow
    his example. I was told by a resident that the summit of Kinchinjunga is
    often hidden in the clouds, and that sometimes a tourist has waited
    twenty-two days and then been obliged to go away without a sight of it.
    And yet went not disappointed; for when he got his hotel bill he
    recognized that he was now seeing the highest thing in the Himalayas.
    But this is probably a lie.

    After lecturing I went to the Club that night, and that was a comfortable
    place. It is loftily situated, and looks out over a vast spread of
    scenery; from it you can see where the boundaries of three countries come
    together, some thirty miles away; Thibet is one of them, Nepaul another,
    and I think Herzegovina was the other. Apparently, in every town and
    city in India the gentlemen of the British civil and military service
    have a club; sometimes it is a palatial one, always it is pleasant and
    homelike. The hotels are not always as good as they might be, and the
    stranger who has access to the Club is grateful for his privilege and
    knows how to value it.

    Next day was Sunday. Friends came in the gray dawn with horses, and my
    party rode away to a distant point where Kinchinjunga and Mount Everest
    show up best, but I stayed at home for a private view; for it was very
    old, and I was not acquainted with the horses, any way. I got a pipe and
    a few blankets and sat for two hours at the window, and saw the sun drive
    away the veiling gray and touch up the snow-peaks one after another with
    pale pink splashes and delicate washes of gold, and finally flood the
    whole mighty convulsion of snow-mountains with a deluge of rich
    splendors.

    Kinchinjunga's peak was but fitfully visible, but in the between times it
    was vividly clear against the sky--away up there in the blue dome more
    than 28,000 feet above sea level--the loftiest land I had ever seen, by
    12,000 feet or more. It was 45 miles away. Mount Everest is a thousand
    feet higher, but it was not a part of that sea of mountains piled up
    there before me, so I did not see it; but I did not care, because I think
    that mountains that are as high as that are disagreeable.

    I changed from the back to the front of the house and spent the rest of
    the morning there, watching the swarthy strange tribes flock by from
    their far homes in the Himalayas. All ages and both sexes were
    represented, and the breeds were quite new to me, though the costumes of
    the Thibetans made them look a good deal like Chinamen. The prayer-wheel
    was a frequent feature. It brought me near to these people, and made
    them seem kinfolk of mine. Through our preacher we do much of our
    praying by proxy. We do not whirl him around a stick, as they do, but
    that is merely a detail. The swarm swung briskly by, hour after hour, a
    strange and striking pageant. It was wasted there, and it seemed a pity.
    It should have been sent streaming through the cities of Europe or
    America, to refresh eyes weary of the pale monotonies of the
    circus-pageant. These people were bound for the bazar, with things to
    sell. We went down there, later, and saw that novel congress of the wild
    peoples, and plowed here and there through it, and concluded that it
    would be worth coming from Calcutta to see, even if there were no
    Kinchinjunga and Everest.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 56
    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?