Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "The future ain't what it used to be."

    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
    We anchored here at Yalta, Russia, two or three days ago. To me the
    place was a vision of the Sierras. The tall, gray mountains that back
    it, their sides bristling with pines--cloven with ravines--here and there
    a hoary rock towering into view--long, straight streaks sweeping down
    from the summit to the sea, marking the passage of some avalanche of
    former times--all these were as like what one sees in the Sierras as if
    the one were a portrait of the other. The little village of Yalta
    nestles at the foot of an amphitheatre which slopes backward and upward
    to the wall of hills, and looks as if it might have sunk quietly down to
    its present position from a higher elevation. This depression is covered
    with the great parks and gardens of noblemen, and through the mass of
    green foliage the bright colors of their palaces bud out here and there
    like flowers. It is a beautiful spot.

    We had the United States Consul on board--the Odessa Consul. We
    assembled in the cabin and commanded him to tell us what we must do to be
    saved, and tell us quickly. He made a speech. The first thing he said
    fell like a blight on every hopeful spirit: he had never seen a court
    reception. (Three groans for the Consul.) But he said he had seen
    receptions at the Governor General's in Odessa, and had often listened to
    people's experiences of receptions at the Russian and other courts, and
    believed he knew very well what sort of ordeal we were about to essay.
    (Hope budded again.) He said we were many; the summer palace was small
    --a mere mansion; doubtless we should be received in summer fashion--in the
    garden; we would stand in a row, all the gentlemen in swallow-tail coats,
    white kids, and white neck-ties, and the ladies in light-colored silks,
    or something of that kind; at the proper moment--12 meridian--the
    Emperor, attended by his suite arrayed in splendid uniforms, would appear
    and walk slowly along the line, bowing to some, and saying two or three
    words to others. At the moment his Majesty appeared, a universal,
    delighted, enthusiastic smile ought to break out like a rash among the
    passengers--a smile of love, of gratification, of admiration--and with
    one accord, the party must begin to bow--not obsequiously, but
    respectfully, and with dignity; at the end of fifteen minutes the Emperor
    would go in the house, and we could run along home again. We felt
    immensely relieved. It seemed, in a manner, easy. There was not a man
    in the party but believed that with a little practice he could stand in a
    row, especially if there were others along; there was not a man but
    believed he could bow without tripping on his coat tail and breaking his
    neck; in a word, we came to believe we were equal to any item in the
    performance except that complicated smile. The Consul also said we ought
    to draft a little address to the Emperor, and present it to one of his
    aides-de-camp, who would forward it to him at the proper time.
    Therefore, five gentlemen were appointed to prepare the document, and the
    fifty others went sadly smiling about the ship--practicing. During the
    next twelve hours we had the general appearance, somehow, of being at a
    funeral, where every body was sorry the death had occurred, but glad it
    was over--where every body was smiling, and yet broken-hearted.

    A committee went ashore to wait on his Excellency the Governor-General,
    and learn our fate. At the end of three hours of boding suspense, they
    came back and said the Emperor would receive us at noon the next day
    --would send carriages for us--would hear the address in person. The Grand
    Duke Michael had sent to invite us to his palace also. Any man could see
    that there was an intention here to show that Russia's friendship for
    America was so genuine as to render even her private citizens objects
    worthy of kindly attentions.

    At the appointed hour we drove out three miles, and assembled in the
    handsome garden in front of the Emperor's palace.

    We formed a circle under the trees before the door, for there was no one
    room in the house able to accommodate our three-score persons
    comfortably, and in a few minutes the imperial family came out bowing and
    smiling, and stood in our midst. A number of great dignitaries of the
    Empire, in undress unit forms, came with them. With every bow, his
    Majesty said a word of welcome. I copy these speeches. There is
    character in them--Russian character--which is politeness itself, and the
    genuine article. The French are polite, but it is often mere ceremonious
    politeness. A Russian imbues his polite things with a heartiness, both
    of phrase and expression, that compels belief in their sincerity. As I
    was saying, the Czar punctuated his speeches with bows:

    "Good morning--I am glad to see you--I am gratified--I am delighted--I am
    happy to receive you!"

    All took off their hats, and the Consul inflicted the address on him. He
    bore it with unflinching fortitude; then took the rusty-looking document
    and handed it to some great officer or other, to be filed away among the
    archives of Russia--in the stove. He thanked us for the address, and
    said he was very much pleased to see us, especially as such friendly
    relations existed between Russia and the United States. The Empress said
    the Americans were favorites in Russia, and she hoped the Russians were
    similarly regarded in America. These were all the speeches that were
    made, and I recommend them to parties who present policemen with gold
    watches, as models of brevity and point. After this the Empress went and
    talked sociably (for an Empress) with various ladies around the circle;
    several gentlemen entered into a disjointed general conversation with the
    Emperor; the Dukes and Princes, Admirals and Maids of Honor dropped into
    free-and-easy chat with first one and then another of our party, and
    whoever chose stepped forward and spoke with the modest little Grand
    Duchess Marie, the Czar's daughter. She is fourteen years old,
    light-haired, blue-eyed, unassuming and pretty. Every body talks

    The Emperor wore a cap, frock coat and pantaloons, all of some kind of
    plain white drilling--cotton or linen and sported no jewelry or any
    insignia whatever of rank. No costume could be less ostentatious. He is
    very tall and spare, and a determined-looking man, though a very
    pleasant-looking one nevertheless. It is easy to see that he is kind and
    affectionate There is something very noble in his expression when his cap
    is off. There is none of that cunning in his eye that all of us noticed
    in Louis Napoleon's.

    The Empress and the little Grand Duchess wore simple suits of foulard
    (or foulard silk, I don't know which is proper,) with a small blue spot
    in it; the dresses were trimmed with blue; both ladies wore broad blue
    sashes about their waists; linen collars and clerical ties of muslin;
    low-crowned straw-hats trimmed with blue velvet; parasols and
    flesh-colored gloves. The Grand Duchess had no heels on her shoes. I
    do not know this of my own knowledge, but one of our ladies told me so.
    I was not looking at her shoes. I was glad to observe that she wore her
    own hair, plaited in thick braids against the back of her head, instead
    of the uncomely thing they call a waterfall, which is about as much like
    a waterfall as a canvas-covered ham is like a cataract. Taking the kind
    expression that is in the Emperor's face and the gentleness that is in
    his young daughter's into consideration, I wondered if it would not tax
    the Czar's firmness to the utmost to condemn a supplicating wretch to
    misery in the wastes of Siberia if she pleaded for him. Every time
    their eyes met, I saw more and more what a tremendous power that weak,
    diffident school-girl could wield if she chose to do it. Many and many
    a time she might rule the Autocrat of Russia, whose lightest word is law
    to seventy millions of human beings! She was only a girl, and she
    looked like a thousand others I have seen, but never a girl provoked
    such a novel and peculiar interest in me before. A strange, new
    sensation is a rare thing in this hum-drum life, and I had it here.
    There was nothing stale or worn out about the thoughts and feelings the
    situation and the circumstances created. It seemed strange--stranger
    than I can tell--to think that the central figure in the cluster of men
    and women, chatting here under the trees like the most ordinary
    individual in the land, was a man who could open his lips and ships
    would fly through the waves, locomotives would speed over the plains,
    couriers would hurry from village to village, a hundred telegraphs would
    flash the word to the four corners of an Empire that stretches its vast
    proportions over a seventh part of the habitable globe, and a countless
    multitude of men would spring to do his bidding. I had a sort of vague
    desire to examine his hands and see if they were of flesh and blood,
    like other men's. Here was a man who could do this wonderful thing, and
    yet if I chose I could knock him down. The case was plain, but it
    seemed preposterous, nevertheless--as preposterous as trying to knock
    down a mountain or wipe out a continent. If this man sprained his
    ankle, a million miles of telegraph would carry the news over mountains
    --valleys--uninhabited deserts--under the trackless sea--and ten thousand
    newspapers would prate of it; if he were grievously ill, all the nations
    would know it before the sun rose again; if he dropped lifeless where he
    stood, his fall might shake the thrones of half a world! If I could
    have stolen his coat, I would have done it. When I meet a man like
    that, I want something to remember him by.

    As a general thing, we have been shown through palaces by some
    plush-legged filagreed flunkey or other, who charged a franc for it; but
    after talking with the company half an hour, the Emperor of Russia and
    his family conducted us all through their mansion themselves. They made
    no charge. They seemed to take a real pleasure in it.

    We spent half an hour idling through the palace, admiring the cosy
    apartments and the rich but eminently home-like appointments of the
    place, and then the Imperial family bade our party a kind good-bye, and
    proceeded to count the spoons.

    An invitation was extended to us to visit the palace of the eldest son,
    the Crown Prince of Russia, which was near at hand. The young man was
    absent, but the Dukes and Countesses and Princes went over the premises
    with us as leisurely as was the case at the Emperor's, and conversation
    continued as lively as ever.

    It was a little after one o'clock, now. We drove to the Grand Duke
    Michael's, a mile away, in response to his invitation, previously given.

    We arrived in twenty minutes from the Emperor's. It is a lovely place.
    The beautiful palace nestles among the grand old groves of the park, the
    park sits in the lap of the picturesque crags and hills, and both look
    out upon the breezy ocean. In the park are rustic seats, here and there,
    in secluded nooks that are dark with shade; there are rivulets of crystal
    water; there are lakelets, with inviting, grassy banks; there are
    glimpses of sparkling cascades through openings in the wilderness of
    foliage; there are streams of clear water gushing from mimic knots on the
    trunks of forest trees; there are miniature marble temples perched upon
    gray old crags; there are airy lookouts whence one may gaze upon a broad
    expanse of landscape and ocean. The palace is modeled after the choicest
    forms of Grecian architecture, and its wide colonnades surround a central
    court that is banked with rare flowers that fill the place with their
    fragrance, and in their midst springs a fountain that cools the summer
    air, and may possibly breed mosquitoes, but I do not think it does.

    The Grand Duke and his Duchess came out, and the presentation ceremonies
    were as simple as they had been at the Emperor's. In a few minutes,
    conversation was under way, as before. The Empress appeared in the
    verandah, and the little Grand Duchess came out into the crowd. They had
    beaten us there. In a few minutes, the Emperor came himself on
    horseback. It was very pleasant. You can appreciate it if you have ever
    visited royalty and felt occasionally that possibly you might be wearing
    out your welcome--though as a general thing, I believe, royalty is not
    scrupulous about discharging you when it is done with you.

    The Grand Duke is the third brother of the Emperor, is about thirty-seven
    years old, perhaps, and is the princeliest figure in Russia. He is even
    taller than the Czar, as straight as an Indian, and bears himself like
    one of those gorgeous knights we read about in romances of the Crusades.
    He looks like a great-hearted fellow who would pitch an enemy into the
    river in a moment, and then jump in and risk his life fishing him out
    again. The stories they tell of him show him to be of a brave and
    generous nature. He must have been desirous of proving that Americans
    were welcome guests in the imperial palaces of Russia, because he rode
    all the way to Yalta and escorted our procession to the Emperor's
    himself, and kept his aids scurrying about, clearing the road and
    offering assistance wherever it could be needed. We were rather familiar
    with him then, because we did not know who he was. We recognized him
    now, and appreciated the friendly spirit that prompted him to do us a
    favor that any other Grand Duke in the world would have doubtless
    declined to do. He had plenty of servitors whom he could have sent, but
    he chose to attend to the matter himself.

    The Grand Duke was dressed in the handsome and showy uniform of a Cossack
    officer. The Grand Duchess had on a white alpaca robe, with the seams
    and gores trimmed with black barb lace, and a little gray hat with a
    feather of the same color. She is young, rather pretty modest and
    unpretending, and full of winning politeness.

    Our party walked all through the house, and then the nobility escorted
    them all over the grounds, and finally brought them back to the palace
    about half-past two o'clock to breakfast. They called it breakfast, but
    we would have called it luncheon. It consisted of two kinds of wine;
    tea, bread, cheese, and cold meats, and was served on the centre-tables
    in the reception room and the verandahs--anywhere that was convenient;
    there was no ceremony. It was a sort of picnic. I had heard before that
    we were to breakfast there, but Blucher said he believed Baker's boy had
    suggested it to his Imperial Highness. I think not--though it would be
    like him. Baker's boy is the famine-breeder of the ship. He is always
    hungry. They say he goes about the state-rooms when the passengers are
    out, and eats up all the soap. And they say he eats oakum. They say he
    will eat any thing he can get between meals, but he prefers oakum. He
    does not like oakum for dinner, but he likes it for a lunch, at odd
    hours, or any thing that way. It makes him very disagreeable, because it
    makes his breath bad, and keeps his teeth all stuck up with tar. Baker's
    boy may have suggested the breakfast, but I hope he did not. It went off
    well, anyhow. The illustrious host moved about from place to place, and
    helped to destroy the provisions and keep the conversation lively, and
    the Grand Duchess talked with the verandah parties and such as had
    satisfied their appetites and straggled out from the reception room.

    The Grand Duke's tea was delicious. They give one a lemon to squeeze
    into it, or iced milk, if he prefers it. The former is best. This tea
    is brought overland from China. It injures the article to transport it
    by sea.

    When it was time to go, we bade our distinguished hosts good-bye, and
    they retired happy and contented to their apartments to count their

    We had spent the best part of half a day in the home of royalty, and had
    been as cheerful and comfortable all the time as we could have been in
    the ship. I would as soon have thought of being cheerful in Abraham's
    bosom as in the palace of an Emperor. I supposed that Emperors were
    terrible people. I thought they never did any thing but wear magnificent
    crowns and red velvet dressing-gowns with dabs of wool sewed on them in
    spots, and sit on thrones and scowl at the flunkies and the people in the
    parquette, and order Dukes and Duchesses off to execution. I find,
    however, that when one is so fortunate as to get behind the scenes and
    see them at home and in the privacy of their firesides, they are
    strangely like common mortals. They are pleasanter to look upon then
    than they are in their theatrical aspect. It seems to come as natural to
    them to dress and act like other people as it is to put a friend's cedar
    pencil in your pocket when you are done using it. But I can never have
    any confidence in the tinsel kings of the theatre after this. It will be
    a great loss. I used to take such a thrilling pleasure in them. But,
    hereafter, I will turn me sadly away and say;

    "This does not answer--this isn't the style of king that I am acquainted

    When they swagger around the stage in jeweled crowns and splendid robes,
    I shall feel bound to observe that all the Emperors that ever I was
    personally acquainted with wore the commonest sort of clothes, and did
    not swagger. And when they come on the stage attended by a vast
    body-guard of supes in helmets and tin breastplates, it will be my duty
    as well as my pleasure to inform the ignorant that no crowned head of my
    acquaintance has a soldier any where about his house or his person.

    Possibly it may be thought that our party tarried too long, or did other
    improper things, but such was not the case. The company felt that they
    were occupying an unusually responsible position--they were representing
    the people of America, not the Government--and therefore they were
    careful to do their best to perform their high mission with credit.

    On the other hand, the Imperial families, no doubt, considered that in
    entertaining us they were more especially entertaining the people of
    America than they could by showering attentions on a whole platoon of
    ministers plenipotentiary and therefore they gave to the event its
    fullest significance, as an expression of good will and friendly feeling
    toward the entire country. We took the kindnesses we received as
    attentions thus directed, of course, and not to ourselves as a party.
    That we felt a personal pride in being received as the representatives of
    a nation, we do not deny; that we felt a national pride in the warm
    cordiality of that reception, can not be doubted.

    Our poet has been rigidly suppressed, from the time we let go the anchor.
    When it was announced that we were going to visit the Emperor of Russia,
    the fountains of his great deep were broken up, and he rained ineffable
    bosh for four-and-twenty hours. Our original anxiety as to what we were
    going to do with ourselves, was suddenly transformed into anxiety about
    what we were going to do with our poet. The problem was solved at last.
    Two alternatives were offered him--he must either swear a dreadful oath
    that he would not issue a line of his poetry while he was in the Czar's
    dominions, or else remain under guard on board the ship until we were
    safe at Constantinople again. He fought the dilemma long, but yielded at
    last. It was a great deliverance. Perhaps the savage reader would like
    a specimen of his style. I do not mean this term to be offensive. I
    only use it because "the gentle reader" has been used so often that any
    change from it can not but be refreshing:

    "Save us and sanctify us, and finally, then,
    See good provisions we enjoy while we journey to Jerusalem.
    For so man proposes, which it is most true
    And time will wait for none, nor for us too."

    The sea has been unusually rough all day. However, we have had a
    lively time of it, anyhow. We have had quite a run of visitors. The
    Governor-General came, and we received him with a salute of nine guns.
    He brought his family with him. I observed that carpets were spread
    from the pier-head to his carriage for him to walk on, though I have
    seen him walk there without any carpet when he was not on business. I
    thought may be he had what the accidental insurance people might call an
    extra-hazardous polish ("policy" joke, but not above mediocrity,) on his
    boots, and wished to protect them, but I examined and could not see that
    they were blacked any better than usual. It may have been that he had
    forgotten his carpet, before, but he did not have it with him, anyhow.
    He was an exceedingly pleasant old gentleman; we all liked him,
    especially Blucher. When he went away, Blucher invited him to come
    again and fetch his carpet along.

    Prince Dolgorouki and a Grand Admiral or two, whom we had seen yesterday
    at the reception, came on board also. I was a little distant with these
    parties, at first, because when I have been visiting Emperors I do not
    like to be too familiar with people I only know by reputation, and whose
    moral characters and standing in society I can not be thoroughly
    acquainted with. I judged it best to be a little offish, at first. I
    said to myself, Princes and Counts and Grand Admirals are very well, but
    they are not Emperors, and one can not be too particular about who he
    associates with.

    Baron Wrangel came, also. He used to be Russian Ambassador at
    Washington. I told him I had an uncle who fell down a shaft and broke
    himself in two, as much as a year before that. That was a falsehood, but
    then I was not going to let any man eclipse me on surprising adventures,
    merely for the want of a little invention. The Baron is a fine man, and
    is said to stand high in the Emperor's confidence and esteem.

    Baron Ungern-Sternberg, a boisterous, whole-souled old nobleman, came
    with the rest. He is a man of progress and enterprise--a representative
    man of the age. He is the Chief Director of the railway system of
    Russia--a sort of railroad king. In his line he is making things move
    along in this country He has traveled extensively in America. He says he
    has tried convict labor on his railroads, and with perfect success. He
    says the convicts work well, and are quiet and peaceable. He observed
    that he employs nearly ten thousand of them now.

    This appeared to be another call on my resources. I was equal to the
    emergency. I said we had eighty thousand convicts employed on the
    railways in America--all of them under sentence of death for murder in
    the first degree. That closed him out.

    We had General Todtleben (the famous defender of Sebastopol, during the
    siege,) and many inferior army and also navy officers, and a number of
    unofficial Russian ladies and gentlemen. Naturally, a champagne luncheon
    was in order, and was accomplished without loss of life. Toasts and
    jokes were discharged freely, but no speeches were made save one thanking
    the Emperor and the Grand Duke, through the Governor-General, for our
    hospitable reception, and one by the Governor-General in reply, in which
    he returned the Emperor's thanks for the speech, etc., etc.
    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?