I am writing this chapter partly for the satisfaction of abusing that accomplished knave Billfinger, and partly to show whosoever shall read this how Americans fare at the hands of the Paris guides and what sort of people Paris guides are. It need not be supposed that we were a stupider or an easier prey than our countrymen generally are, for we were not. The guides deceive and defraud every American who goes to Paris for the first time and sees its sights alone or in company with others as little experienced as himself. I shall visit Paris again someday, and then let the guides beware! I shall go in my war paint--I shall carry my tomahawk along.
I think we have lost but little time in Paris. We have gone to bed every night tired out. Of course we visited the renowned International Exposition. All the world did that. We went there on our third day in Paris--and we stayed there nearly two hours. That was our first and last visit. To tell the truth, we saw at a glance that one would have to spend weeks--yea, even months--in that monstrous establishment to get an intelligible idea of it. It was a wonderful show, but the moving masses of people of all nations we saw there were a still more wonderful show. I discovered that if I were to stay there a month, I should still find myself looking at the people instead of the inanimate objects on exhibition. I got a little interested in some curious old tapestries of the thirteenth century, but a party of Arabs came by, and their dusky faces and quaint costumes called my attention away at once. I watched a silver swan, which had a living grace about his movements and a living intelligence in his eyes--watched him swimming about as comfortably and as unconcernedly as if he had been born in a morass instead of a jeweler's shop--watched him seize a silver fish from under the water and hold up his head and go through all the customary and elaborate motions of swallowing it--but the moment it disappeared down his throat some tattooed South Sea Islanders approached and I yielded to their attractions.
Presently I found a revolving pistol several hundred years old which looked strangely like a modern Colt, but just then I heard that the Empress of the French was in another part of the building, and hastened away to see what she might look like. We heard martial music--we saw an unusual number of soldiers walking hurriedly about--there was a general movement among the people. We inquired what it was all about and learned that the Emperor of the French and the Sultan of Turkey were about to review twenty-five thousand troops at the Arc de l'Etoile. We immediately departed. I had a greater anxiety to see these men than I could have had to see twenty expositions.
We drove away and took up a position in an open space opposite the American minister's house. A speculator bridged a couple of barrels with a board and we hired standing places on it. Presently there was a sound of distant music; in another minute a pillar of dust came moving slowly toward us; a moment more and then, with colors flying and a grand crash of military music, a gallant array of cavalrymen emerged from the dust and came down the street on a gentle trot. After them came a long line of artillery; then more cavalry, in splendid uniforms; and then their imperial majesties Napoleon III and Abdul Aziz. The vast concourse of people swung their hats and shouted--the windows and housetops in the wide vicinity burst into a snowstorm of waving handkerchiefs, and the wavers of the same mingled their cheers with those of the masses below. It was a stirring spectacle.
But the two central figures claimed all my attention. Was ever such a contrast set up before a multitude till then? Napoleon in military uniform--a long-bodied, short-legged man, fiercely moustached, old, wrinkled, with eyes half closed, and such a deep, crafty, scheming expression about them!--Napoleon, bowing ever so gently to the loud plaudits, and watching everything and everybody with his cat eyes from under his depressed hat brim, as if to discover any sign that those cheers were not heartfelt and cordial.
Abdul Aziz, absolute lord of the Ottoman empire--clad in dark green European clothes, almost without ornament or insignia of rank; a red Turkish fez on his head; a short, stout, dark man, black-bearded, black- eyed, stupid, unprepossessing--a man whose whole appearance somehow suggested that if he only had a cleaver in his hand and a white apron on, one would not be at all surprised to hear him say: "A mutton roast today, or will you have a nice porterhouse steak?"