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.

The Innocents Abroad Page 38

Mark Twain

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