Meet us on:
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "The secret of greatness is simple: do better work than any other man in your field - and keep on doing it."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

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

    Chapter 10

    • Rate it:
    • 1 Favorite on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 11
    Previous Chapter
    We passed the Fourth of July on board the Quaker City, in mid-ocean. It
    was in all respects a characteristic Mediterranean day--faultlessly
    beautiful. A cloudless sky; a refreshing summer wind; a radiant sunshine
    that glinted cheerily from dancing wavelets instead of crested mountains
    of water; a sea beneath us that was so wonderfully blue, so richly,
    brilliantly blue, that it overcame the dullest sensibilities with the
    spell of its fascination.

    They even have fine sunsets on the Mediterranean--a thing that is
    certainly rare in most quarters of the globe. The evening we sailed away
    from Gibraltar, that hard-featured rock was swimming in a creamy mist so
    rich, so soft, so enchantingly vague and dreamy, that even the Oracle,
    that serene, that inspired, that overpowering humbug, scorned the dinner
    gong and tarried to worship!

    He said: "Well, that's gorgis, ain't it! They don't have none of them
    things in our parts, do they? I consider that them effects is on account
    of the superior refragability, as you may say, of the sun's diramic
    combination with the lymphatic forces of the perihelion of Jubiter. What
    should you think?"

    "Oh, go to bed!" Dan said that, and went away.

    "Oh, yes, it's all very well to say go to bed when a man makes an
    argument which another man can't answer. Dan don't never stand any
    chance in an argument with me. And he knows it, too. What should you
    say, Jack?"

    "Now, Doctor, don't you come bothering around me with that dictionary
    bosh. I don't do you any harm, do I? Then you let me alone."

    "He's gone, too. Well, them fellows have all tackled the old Oracle, as
    they say, but the old man's most too many for 'em. Maybe the Poet Lariat
    ain't satisfied with them deductions?"

    The poet replied with a barbarous rhyme and went below.

    "'Pears that he can't qualify, neither. Well, I didn't expect nothing
    out of him. I never see one of them poets yet that knowed anything.
    He'll go down now and grind out about four reams of the awfullest slush
    about that old rock and give it to a consul, or a pilot, or a nigger, or
    anybody he comes across first which he can impose on. Pity but
    somebody'd take that poor old lunatic and dig all that poetry rubbage out
    of him. Why can't a man put his intellect onto things that's some value?
    Gibbons, and Hippocratus, and Sarcophagus, and all them old ancient
    philosophers was down on poets--"

    "Doctor," I said, "you are going to invent authorities now and I'll leave
    you, too. I always enjoy your conversation, notwithstanding the
    luxuriance of your syllables, when the philosophy you offer rests on your
    own responsibility; but when you begin to soar--when you begin to support
    it with the evidence of authorities who are the creations of your own
    fancy--I lose confidence."

    That was the way to flatter the doctor. He considered it a sort of
    acknowledgment on my part of a fear to argue with him. He was always
    persecuting the passengers with abstruse propositions framed in language
    that no man could understand, and they endured the exquisite torture a
    minute or two and then abandoned the field. A triumph like this, over
    half a dozen antagonists was sufficient for one day; from that time
    forward he would patrol the decks beaming blandly upon all comers, and so
    tranquilly, blissfully happy!

    But I digress. The thunder of our two brave cannon announced the Fourth
    of July, at daylight, to all who were awake. But many of us got our
    information at a later hour, from the almanac. All the flags were sent
    aloft except half a dozen that were needed to decorate portions of the
    ship below, and in a short time the vessel assumed a holiday appearance.
    During the morning, meetings were held and all manner of committees set
    to work on the celebration ceremonies. In the afternoon the ship's
    company assembled aft, on deck, under the awnings; the flute, the
    asthmatic melodeon, and the consumptive clarinet crippled "The
    Star-Spangled Banner," the choir chased it to cover, and George came in
    with a peculiarly lacerating screech on the final note and slaughtered
    it. Nobody mourned.

    We carried out the corpse on three cheers (that joke was not intentional
    and I do not endorse it), and then the President, throned behind a cable
    locker with a national flag spread over it, announced the "Reader," who
    rose up and read that same old Declaration of Independence which we have
    all listened to so often without paying any attention to what it said;
    and after that the President piped the Orator of the Day to quarters and
    he made that same old speech about our national greatness which we so
    religiously believe and so fervently applaud. Now came the choir into
    court again, with the complaining instruments, and assaulted "Hail
    Columbia"; and when victory hung wavering in the scale, George returned
    with his dreadful wild-goose stop turned on and the choir won, of course.
    A minister pronounced the benediction, and the patriotic little gathering
    disbanded. The Fourth of July was safe, as far as the Mediterranean was
    concerned.

    At dinner in the evening, a well-written original poem was recited with
    spirit by one of the ship's captains, and thirteen regular toasts were
    washed down with several baskets of champagne. The speeches were bad
    --execrable almost without exception. In fact, without any exception but
    one. Captain Duncan made a good speech; he made the only good speech of
    the evening. He said:

    "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--May we all live to a green old age and be
    prosperous and happy. Steward, bring up another basket of champagne."

    It was regarded as a very able effort.

    The festivities, so to speak, closed with another of those miraculous
    balls on the promenade deck. We were not used to dancing on an even
    keel, though, and it was only a questionable success. But take it all
    together, it was a bright, cheerful, pleasant Fourth.

    Toward nightfall the next evening, we steamed into the great artificial
    harbor of this noble city of Marseilles, and saw the dying sunlight gild
    its clustering spires and ramparts, and flood its leagues of environing
    verdure with a mellow radiance that touched with an added charm the white
    villas that flecked the landscape far and near. [Copyright secured
    according to law.]

    There were no stages out, and we could not get on the pier from the ship.
    It was annoying. We were full of enthusiasm--we wanted to see France!
    Just at nightfall our party of three contracted with a waterman for the
    privilege of using his boat as a bridge--its stern was at our companion
    ladder and its bow touched the pier. We got in and the fellow backed out
    into the harbor. I told him in French that all we wanted was to walk
    over his thwarts and step ashore, and asked him what he went away out
    there for. He said he could not understand me. I repeated. Still he
    could not understand. He appeared to be very ignorant of French. The
    doctor tried him, but he could not understand the doctor. I asked this
    boatman to explain his conduct, which he did; and then I couldn't
    understand him. Dan said:

    "Oh, go to the pier, you old fool--that's where we want to go!"

    We reasoned calmly with Dan that it was useless to speak to this
    foreigner in English--that he had better let us conduct this business in
    the French language and not let the stranger see how uncultivated he was.

    "Well, go on, go on," he said, "don't mind me. I don't wish to
    interfere. Only, if you go on telling him in your kind of French, he
    never will find out where we want to go to. That is what I think about
    it."

    We rebuked him severely for this remark and said we never knew an
    ignorant person yet but was prejudiced. The Frenchman spoke again, and
    the doctor said:

    "There now, Dan, he says he is going to allez to the douain. Means he is
    going to the hotel. Oh, certainly--we don't know the French language."

    This was a crusher, as Jack would say. It silenced further criticism
    from the disaffected member. We coasted past the sharp bows of a navy of
    great steamships and stopped at last at a government building on a stone
    pier. It was easy to remember then that the douain was the customhouse
    and not the hotel. We did not mention it, however. With winning French
    politeness the officers merely opened and closed our satchels, declined
    to examine our passports, and sent us on our way. We stopped at the
    first cafe we came to and entered. An old woman seated us at a table and
    waited for orders. The doctor said:

    "Avez-vous du vin?"

    The dame looked perplexed. The doctor said again, with elaborate
    distinctness of articulation:

    "Avez-vous du--vin!"

    The dame looked more perplexed than before. I said:

    "Doctor, there is a flaw in your pronunciation somewhere. Let me try
    her. Madame, avez-vous du vin?--It isn't any use, Doctor--take the
    witness."

    "Madame, avez-vous du vin--du fromage--pain--pickled pigs' feet--beurre
    --des oeufs--du boeuf--horseradish, sauerkraut, hog and hominy--anything,
    anything in the world that can stay a Christian stomach!"

    She said:

    "Bless you, why didn't you speak English before? I don't know anything
    about your plagued French!"

    The humiliating taunts of the disaffected member spoiled the supper, and
    we dispatched it in angry silence and got away as soon as we could. Here
    we were in beautiful France--in a vast stone house of quaint
    architecture--surrounded by all manner of curiously worded French signs
    --stared at by strangely habited, bearded French people--everything
    gradually and surely forcing upon us the coveted consciousness that at
    last, and beyond all question, we were in beautiful France and absorbing
    its nature to the forgetfulness of everything else, and coming to feel
    the happy romance of the thing in all its enchanting delightfulness--and
    to think of this skinny veteran intruding with her vile English, at such
    a moment, to blow the fair vision to the winds! It was exasperating.

    We set out to find the centre of the city, inquiring the direction every
    now and then. We never did succeed in making anybody understand just
    exactly what we wanted, and neither did we ever succeed in comprehending
    just exactly what they said in reply, but then they always pointed--they
    always did that--and we bowed politely and said, "Merci, monsieur," and
    so it was a blighting triumph over the disaffected member anyway. He was
    restive under these victories and often asked:

    "What did that pirate say?"

    "Why, he told us which way to go to find the Grand Casino."

    "Yes, but what did he say?"

    "Oh, it don't matter what he said--we understood him. These are educated
    people--not like that absurd boatman."

    "Well, I wish they were educated enough to tell a man a direction that
    goes some where--for we've been going around in a circle for an hour.
    I've passed this same old drugstore seven times."

    We said it was a low, disreputable falsehood (but we knew it was not).
    It was plain that it would not do to pass that drugstore again, though
    --we might go on asking directions, but we must cease from following
    finger-pointings if we hoped to check the suspicions of the disaffected
    member.

    A long walk through smooth, asphaltum-paved streets bordered by blocks of
    vast new mercantile houses of cream-colored stone every house and every
    block precisely like all the other houses and all the other blocks for a
    mile, and all brilliantly lighted--brought us at last to the principal
    thoroughfare. On every hand were bright colors, flashing constellations
    of gas burners, gaily dressed men and women thronging the sidewalks
    --hurry, life, activity, cheerfulness, conversation, and laughter
    everywhere! We found the Grand Hotel du Louvre et de la Paix, and wrote
    down who we were, where we were born, what our occupations were, the
    place we came from last, whether we were married or single, how we liked
    it, how old we were, where we were bound for and when we expected to get
    there, and a great deal of information of similar importance--all for the
    benefit of the landlord and the secret police. We hired a guide and
    began the business of sightseeing immediately. That first night on
    French soil was a stirring one. I cannot think of half the places we
    went to or what we particularly saw; we had no disposition to examine
    carefully into anything at all--we only wanted to glance and go--to move,
    keep moving! The spirit of the country was upon us. We sat down,
    finally, at a late hour, in the great Casino, and called for unstinted
    champagne. It is so easy to be bloated aristocrats where it costs
    nothing of consequence! There were about five hundred people in that
    dazzling place, I suppose, though the walls being papered entirely with
    mirrors, so to speak, one could not really tell but that there were a
    hundred thousand. Young, daintily dressed exquisites and young,
    stylishly dressed women, and also old gentlemen and old ladies, sat in
    couples and groups about innumerable marble-topped tables and ate fancy
    suppers, drank wine, and kept up a chattering din of conversation that
    was dazing to the senses. There was a stage at the far end and a large
    orchestra; and every now and then actors and actresses in preposterous
    comic dresses came out and sang the most extravagantly funny songs, to
    judge by their absurd actions; but that audience merely suspended its
    chatter, stared cynically, and never once smiled, never once applauded!
    I had always thought that Frenchmen were ready to laugh at any thing.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 11
    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?