That little touch of color struck my fancy, and it seemed to me a good idea to add it to my own attractions; not imagining that it had any special significance. So I stepped aside, hunted up a bit of red ribbon, and ornamented my lapel with it. Presently, Count Festetics, the Grand Master of ceremonies, and the only man there who was gorgeously arrayed, in full official costume, began to show me a great many attentions. He was particularly polite, and pleasant, and anxious to be of service to me. Presently, he asked me what order of nobility I belonged to? I said, "I didn't belong to any." Then he asked me what order of knighthood I belonged to? I said, "None." Then he asked me what the red ribbon in my buttonhole stood for? I saw, at once, what an ass I had been making of myself, and was accordingly confused and embarrassed. I said the first thing that came into my mind, and that was that the ribbon was merely the symbol of a club of journalists to which I belonged, and I was not pursued with any more of Count Festetic's attentions.
Later, I got on very familiar terms with an old gentleman, whom I took to be the head gardener, and walked him all about the gardens, slipping my arm into his without invitation, yet without demur on his part, and by and by was confused again when I found that he was not a gardener at all, but the Lord High Admiral of Russia! I almost made up my mind that I would never call on an Emperor again.
Like all Mediterranean excursionists, those first pilgrims were insatiable collectors of curios, costumes, and all manner of outlandish things. Dan Slote had the stateroom hung and piled with such gleanings. At Constantinople his room-mate writes:
I thought Dan had got the state-room pretty full of rubbish at last, but awhile ago his dragoman arrived with a brand-new ghastly tombstone of the Oriental pattern, with his name handsomely carved and gilted on it in Turkish characters. That fellow will buy a Circassian slave next.
It was Church, Denny, Jack, Davis, Dan, Moult, and Mark Twain who made the "long trip" through Syria from Beirut to Jerusalem with their elaborate camping outfit and decrepit nags "Jericho," "Baalbec," and the rest. It was better camping than that Humboldt journey of six years before, though the horses were not so dissimilar, and altogether it was a hard, nerve-racking experience, climbing the arid hills of Palestine in that torrid summer heat. Nobody makes that trip in summer-time now. Tourists hurry out of Syria before the first of April, and they do not go back before November. One brief quotation from Mark Twain's book gives us an idea of what that early party of pilgrims had to undergo:
We left Damascus at noon and rode across the plain a couple of hours, and then the party stopped a while in the shade of some fig- trees to give me a chance to rest. It was the hottest day we had seen yet--the sun-flames shot down like the shafts of fire that stream out before a blow-pipe; the rays seemed to fall in a deluge on the head and pass downward like rain from a roof. I imagined I could distinguish between the floods of rays. I thought I could tell when each flood struck my head, when it reached my shoulders, and when the next one came. It was terrible.
He had been ill with cholera at Damascus, a light attack; but any attack of that dread disease is serious enough. He tells of this in the book, but he does not mention, either in the book or in his notes, the attack which Dan Slote had some days later. It remained for William F. Church, of the party, to relate that incident, for it was the kind of thing that Mark Twain was not likely to record, or even to remember. Doctor Church was a deacon with orthodox views and did not approve of Mark Twain; he thought him sinful, irreverent, profane.
"He was the worst man I ever knew," Church said; then he added, "And the best."
What happened was this: At the end of a terrible day of heat, when the party had camped on the edge of a squalid Syrian village, Dan was taken suddenly ill.