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Chapter 35

We left a dozen passengers in Constantinople, and sailed through the
beautiful Bosporus and far up into the Black Sea. We left them in the
clutches of the celebrated Turkish guide, "FAR-AWAY MOSES," who will
seduce them into buying a ship-load of ottar of roses, splendid Turkish
vestments, and all manner of curious things they can never have any use
for. Murray's invaluable guide-books have mentioned 'Far-away Moses'
name, and he is a made man. He rejoices daily in the fact that he is a
recognized celebrity. However, we can not alter our established customs
to please the whims of guides; we can not show partialities this late in
the day. Therefore, ignoring this fellow's brilliant fame, and ignoring
the fanciful name he takes such pride in, we called him Ferguson, just as
we had done with all other guides. It has kept him in a state of
smothered exasperation all the time. Yet we meant him no harm. After he
has gotten himself up regardless of expense, in showy, baggy trowsers,
yellow, pointed slippers, fiery fez, silken jacket of blue, voluminous
waist-sash of fancy Persian stuff filled with a battery of silver-mounted
horse-pistols, and has strapped on his terrible scimitar, he considers it
an unspeakable humiliation to be called Ferguson. It can not be helped.
All guides are Fergusons to us. We can not master their dreadful foreign
names.

Sebastopol is probably the worst battered town in Russia or any where
else. But we ought to be pleased with it, nevertheless, for we have been
in no country yet where we have been so kindly received, and where we
felt that to be Americans was a sufficient visa for our passports. The
moment the anchor was down, the Governor of the town immediately
dispatched an officer on board to inquire if he could be of any
assistance to us, and to invite us to make ourselves at home in
Sebastopol! If you know Russia, you know that this was a wild stretch of
hospitality. They are usually so suspicious of strangers that they worry
them excessively with the delays and aggravations incident to a
complicated passport system. Had we come from any other country we could
not have had permission to enter Sebastopol and leave again under three
days--but as it was, we were at liberty to go and come when and where we
pleased. Every body in Constantinople warned us to be very careful about
our passports, see that they were strictly 'en regle', and never to
mislay them for a moment: and they told us of numerous instances of
Englishmen and others who were delayed days, weeks, and even months, in
Sebastopol, on account of trifling informalities in their passports, and
for which they were not to blame. I had lost my passport, and was
traveling under my room-mate's, who stayed behind in Constantinople to
await our return. To read the description of him in that passport and
then look at me, any man could see that I was no more like him than I am
like Hercules. So I went into the harbor of Sebastopol with fear and
trembling--full of a vague, horrible apprehension that I was going to be
found out and hanged. But all that time my true passport had been
floating gallantly overhead--and behold it was only our flag. They never
asked us for any other.

We have had a great many Russian and English gentlemen and ladies on
board to-day, and the time has passed cheerfully away. They were all
happy-spirited people, and I never heard our mother tongue sound so
pleasantly as it did when it fell from those English lips in this far-off
land. I talked to the Russians a good deal, just to be friendly, and
they talked to me from the same motive; I am sure that both enjoyed the
conversation, but never a word of it either of us understood. I did most
of my talking to those English people though, and I am sorry we can not
carry some of them along with us.

We have gone whithersoever we chose, to-day, and have met with nothing
but the kindest attentions. Nobody inquired whether we had any passports
or not.

Several of the officers of the Government have suggested that we take the
ship to a little watering-place thirty miles from here, and pay the
Emperor of Russia a visit. He is rusticating there. These officers said
they would take it upon themselves to insure us a cordial reception.
They said if we would go, they would not only telegraph the Emperor, but
send a special courier overland to announce our coming. Our time is so
short, though, and more especially our coal is so nearly out, that we
judged it best to forego the rare pleasure of holding social intercourse
with an Emperor.

Ruined Pompeii is in good condition compared to Sebastopol. Here, you
may look in whatsoever direction you please, and your eye encounters
scarcely any thing but ruin, ruin, ruin!--fragments of houses, crumbled
walls, torn and ragged hills, devastation every where! It is as if a
mighty earthquake had spent all its terrible forces upon this one little
spot. For eighteen long months the storms of war beat upon the helpless
town, and left it at last the saddest wreck that ever the sun has looked
upon. Not one solitary house escaped unscathed--not one remained
habitable, even. Such utter and complete ruin one could hardly conceive
of. The houses had all been solid, dressed stone structures; most of
them were ploughed through and through by cannon balls--unroofed and
sliced down from eaves to foundation--and now a row of them, half a mile
long, looks merely like an endless procession of battered chimneys. No
semblance of a house remains in such as these. Some of the larger
buildings had corners knocked off; pillars cut in two; cornices smashed;
holes driven straight through the walls. Many of these holes are as
round and as cleanly cut as if they had been made with an auger. Others
are half pierced through, and the clean impression is there in the rock,
as smooth and as shapely as if it were done in putty. Here and there a
ball still sticks in a wall, and from it iron tears trickle down and
discolor the stone.

The battle-fields were pretty close together. The Malakoff tower is on
a hill which is right in the edge of the town. The Redan was within
rifle-shot of the Malakoff; Inkerman was a mile away; and Balaklava
removed but an hour's ride. The French trenches, by which they
approached and invested the Malakoff were carried so close under its
sloping sides that one might have stood by the Russian guns and tossed a
stone into them. Repeatedly, during three terrible days, they swarmed up
the little Malakoff hill, and were beaten back with terrible slaughter.
Finally, they captured the place, and drove the Russians out, who then
tried to retreat into the town, but the English had taken the Redan, and
shut them off with a wall of flame; there was nothing for them to do but
go back and retake the Malakoff or die under its guns. They did go
back; they took the Malakoff and retook it two or three times, but their
desperate valor could not avail, and they had to give up at last.

These fearful fields, where such tempests of death used to rage, are
peaceful enough now; no sound is heard, hardly a living thing moves about
them, they are lonely and silent--their desolation is complete.

There was nothing else to do, and so every body went to hunting relics.
They have stocked the ship with them. They brought them from the
Malakoff, from the Redan, Inkerman, Balaklava--every where. They have
brought cannon balls, broken ramrods, fragments of shell--iron enough to
freight a sloop. Some have even brought bones--brought them laboriously
from great distances, and were grieved to hear the surgeon pronounce them
only bones of mules and oxen. I knew Blucher would not lose an
opportunity like this. He brought a sack full on board and was going for
another. I prevailed upon him not to go. He has already turned his
state-room into a museum of worthless trumpery, which he has gathered up
in his travels. He is labeling his trophies, now. I picked up one a
while ago, and found it marked "Fragment of a Russian General." I
carried it out to get a better light upon it--it was nothing but a couple
of teeth and part of the jaw-bone of a horse. I said with some asperity:

"Fragment of a Russian General! This is absurd. Are you never going to
learn any sense?"

He only said: "Go slow--the old woman won't know any different." [His
aunt.]

This person gathers mementoes with a perfect recklessness, now-a-days;
mixes them all up together, and then serenely labels them without any
regard to truth, propriety, or even plausibility. I have found him
breaking a stone in two, and labeling half of it "Chunk busted from the
pulpit of Demosthenes," and the other half "Darnick from the Tomb of
Abelard and Heloise." I have known him to gather up a handful of pebbles
by the roadside, and bring them on board ship and label them as coming
from twenty celebrated localities five hundred miles apart. I
remonstrate against these outrages upon reason and truth, of course, but
it does no good. I get the same tranquil, unanswerable reply every time:

"It don't signify--the old woman won't know any different."

Ever since we three or four fortunate ones made the midnight trip to
Athens, it has afforded him genuine satisfaction to give every body in
the ship a pebble from the Mars-hill where St. Paul preached. He got all
those pebbles on the sea shore, abreast the ship, but professes to have
gathered them from one of our party. However, it is not of any use for
me to expose the deception--it affords him pleasure, and does no harm to
any body. He says he never expects to run out of mementoes of St. Paul
as long as he is in reach of a sand-bank. Well, he is no worse than
others. I notice that all travelers supply deficiencies in their
collections in the same way. I shall never have any confidence in such
things again while I live.

Mark Twain