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 Innocents Abroad Page 37

Mark Twain

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