Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 61

In this place I will print an article which I wrote for the New York
Herald the night we arrived. I do it partly because my contract with my
publishers makes it compulsory; partly because it is a proper, tolerably
accurate, and exhaustive summing up of the cruise of the ship and the
performances of the pilgrims in foreign lands; and partly because some of
the passengers have abused me for writing it, and I wish the public to
see how thankless a task it is to put one's self to trouble to glorify
unappreciative people. I was charged with "rushing into print" with
these compliments. I did not rush. I had written news letters to the
Herald sometimes, but yet when I visited the office that day I did not
say any thing about writing a valedictory. I did go to the Tribune
office to see if such an article was wanted, because I belonged on the
regular staff of that paper and it was simply a duty to do it. The
managing editor was absent, and so I thought no more about it. At night
when the Herald's request came for an article, I did not "rush." In
fact, I demurred for a while, because I did not feel like writing
compliments then, and therefore was afraid to speak of the cruise lest I
might be betrayed into using other than complimentary language. However,
I reflected that it would be a just and righteous thing to go down and
write a kind word for the Hadjis--Hadjis are people who have made the
pilgrimage--because parties not interested could not do it so feelingly
as I, a fellow-Hadji, and so I penned the valedictory. I have read it,
and read it again; and if there is a sentence in it that is not fulsomely
complimentary to captain, ship and passengers, I can not find it. If it
is not a chapter that any company might be proud to have a body write
about them, my judgment is fit for nothing. With these remarks I
confidently submit it to the unprejudiced judgment of the reader:

RETURN OF THE HOLY LAND EXCURSIONISTS--THE STORY OF THE CRUISE.

TO THE EDITOR OF THE HERALD:

The steamer Quaker City has accomplished at last her extraordinary
voyage and returned to her old pier at the foot of Wall street.
The expedition was a success in some respects, in some it was not.
Originally it was advertised as a "pleasure excursion." Well,
perhaps, it was a pleasure excursion, but certainly it did not look
like one; certainly it did not act like one. Any body's and every
body's notion of a pleasure excursion is that the parties to it will
of a necessity be young and giddy and somewhat boisterous. They
will dance a good deal, sing a good deal, make love, but sermonize
very little. Any body's and every body's notion of a well conducted
funeral is that there must be a hearse and a corpse, and chief
mourners and mourners by courtesy, many old people, much solemnity,
no levity, and a prayer and a sermon withal. Three-fourths of the
Quaker City's passengers were between forty and seventy years of
age! There was a picnic crowd for you! It may be supposed that the
other fourth was composed of young girls. But it was not. It was
chiefly composed of rusty old bachelors and a child of six years.
Let us average the ages of the Quaker City's pilgrims and set the
figure down as fifty years. Is any man insane enough to imagine
that this picnic of patriarchs sang, made love, danced, laughed,
told anecdotes, dealt in ungodly levity? In my experience they
sinned little in these matters. No doubt it was presumed here at
home that these frolicsome veterans laughed and sang and romped all
day, and day after day, and kept up a noisy excitement from one end
of the ship to the other; and that they played blind-man's buff or
danced quadrilles and waltzes on moonlight evenings on the
quarter-deck; and that at odd moments of unoccupied time they jotted
a laconic item or two in the journals they opened on such an
elaborate plan when they left home, and then skurried off to their
whist and euchre labors under the cabin lamps. If these things were
presumed, the presumption was at fault. The venerable excursionists
were not gay and frisky. They played no blind-man's buff; they
dealt not in whist; they shirked not the irksome journal, for alas!
most of them were even writing books. They never romped, they
talked but little, they never sang, save in the nightly
prayer-meeting. The pleasure ship was a synagogue, and the pleasure
trip was a funeral excursion without a corpse. (There is nothing
exhilarating about a funeral excursion without a corpse.) A free,
hearty laugh was a sound that was not heard oftener than once in
seven days about those decks or in those cabins, and when it was
heard it met with precious little sympathy. The excursionists
danced, on three separate evenings, long, long ago, (it seems an
age.) quadrilles, of a single set, made up of three ladies and five
gentlemen, (the latter with handkerchiefs around their arms to
signify their sex.) who timed their feet to the solemn wheezing of a
melodeon; but even this melancholy orgie was voted to be sinful, and
dancing was discontinued.

The pilgrims played dominoes when too much Josephus or Robinson's
Holy Land Researches, or book-writing, made recreation necessary
--for dominoes is about as mild and sinless a game as any in the
world, perhaps, excepting always the ineffably insipid diversion
they call croquet, which is a game where you don't pocket any balls
and don't carom on any thing of any consequence, and when you are
done nobody has to pay, and there are no refreshments to saw off,
and, consequently, there isn't any satisfaction whatever about it
--they played dominoes till they were rested, and then they
blackguarded each other privately till prayer-time. When they were
not seasick they were uncommonly prompt when the dinner-gong
sounded. Such was our daily life on board the ship--solemnity,
decorum, dinner, dominoes, devotions, slander. It was not lively
enough for a pleasure trip; but if we had only had a corpse it would
have made a noble funeral excursion. It is all over now; but when I
look back, the idea of these venerable fossils skipping forth on a
six months' picnic, seems exquisitely refreshing. The advertised
title of the expedition--"The Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion"
--was a misnomer. "The Grand Holy Land Funeral Procession" would have
been better--much better.

Wherever we went, in Europe, Asia, or Africa, we made a sensation,
and, I suppose I may add, created a famine. None of us had ever
been any where before; we all hailed from the interior; travel was a
wild novelty to us, and we conducted ourselves in accordance with
the natural instincts that were in us, and trammeled ourselves with
no ceremonies, no conventionalities. We always took care to make it
understood that we were Americans--Americans! When we found that a
good many foreigners had hardly ever heard of America, and that a
good many more knew it only as a barbarous province away off
somewhere, that had lately been at war with somebody, we pitied the
ignorance of the Old World, but abated no jot of our importance.
Many and many a simple community in the Eastern hemisphere will
remember for years the incursion of the strange horde in the year of
our Lord 1867, that called themselves Americans, and seemed to
imagine in some unaccountable way that they had a right to be proud
of it. We generally created a famine, partly because the coffee on
the Quaker City was unendurable, and sometimes the more substantial
fare was not strictly first class; and partly because one naturally
tires of sitting long at the same board and eating from the same
dishes.

The people of those foreign countries are very, very ignorant. They
looked curiously at the costumes we had brought from the wilds of
America. They observed that we talked loudly at table sometimes.
They noticed that we looked out for expenses, and got what we
conveniently could out of a franc, and wondered where in the
mischief we came from. In Paris they just simply opened their eyes
and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in
making those idiots understand their own language. One of our
passengers said to a shopkeeper, in reference to a proposed return
to buy a pair of gloves, "Allong restay trankeel--may be ve coom
Moonday;" and would you believe it, that shopkeeper, a born
Frenchman, had to ask what it was that had been said. Sometimes it
seems to me, somehow, that there must be a difference between
Parisian French and Quaker City French.

The people stared at us every where, and we stared at them. We
generally made them feel rather small, too, before we got done with
them, because we bore down on them with America's greatness until we
crushed them. And yet we took kindly to the manners and customs,
and especially to the fashions of the various people we visited.
When we left the Azores, we wore awful capotes and used fine tooth
combs--successfully. When we came back from Tangier, in Africa, we
were topped with fezzes of the bloodiest hue, hung with tassels like
an Indian's scalp-lock. In France and Spain we attracted some
attention in these costumes. In Italy they naturally took us for
distempered Garibaldians, and set a gunboat to look for any thing
significant in our changes of uniform. We made Rome howl. We could
have made any place howl when we had all our clothes on. We got no
fresh raiment in Greece--they had but little there of any kind. But
at Constantinople, how we turned out! Turbans, scimetars, fezzes,
horse-pistols, tunics, sashes, baggy trowsers, yellow slippers--Oh,
we were gorgeous! The illustrious dogs of Constantinople barked
their under jaws off, and even then failed to do us justice. They
are all dead by this time. They could not go through such a run of
business as we gave them and survive.

And then we went to see the Emperor of Russia. We just called on
him as comfortably as if we had known him a century or so, and when
we had finished our visit we variegated ourselves with selections
from Russian costumes and sailed away again more picturesque than
ever. In Smyrna we picked up camel's hair shawls and other dressy
things from Persia; but in Palestine--ah, in Palestine--our splendid
career ended. They didn't wear any clothes there to speak of. We
were satisfied, and stopped. We made no experiments. We did not
try their costume. But we astonished the natives of that country.
We astonished them with such eccentricities of dress as we could
muster. We prowled through the Holy Land, from Cesarea Philippi to
Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, a weird procession of pilgrims, gotten
up regardless of expense, solemn, gorgeous, green-spectacled,
drowsing under blue umbrellas, and astride of a sorrier lot of
horses, camels and asses than those that came out of Noah's ark,
after eleven months of seasickness and short rations. If ever those
children of Israel in Palestine forget when Gideon's Band went
through there from America, they ought to be cursed once more and
finished. It was the rarest spectacle that ever astounded mortal
eyes, perhaps.

Well, we were at home in Palestine. It was easy to see that that
was the grand feature of the expedition. We had cared nothing much
about Europe. We galloped through the Louvre, the Pitti, the
Ufizzi, the Vatican--all the galleries--and through the pictured and
frescoed churches of Venice, Naples, and the cathedrals of Spain;
some of us said that certain of the great works of the old masters
were glorious creations of genius, (we found it out in the
guide-book, though we got hold of the wrong picture sometimes,) and
the others said they were disgraceful old daubs. We examined modern
and ancient statuary with a critical eye in Florence, Rome, or any
where we found it, and praised it if we saw fit, and if we didn't we
said we preferred the wooden Indians in front of the cigar stores of
America. But the Holy Land brought out all our enthusiasm. We fell
into raptures by the barren shores of Galilee; we pondered at Tabor
and at Nazareth; we exploded into poetry over the questionable
loveliness of Esdraelon; we meditated at Jezreel and Samaria over
the missionary zeal of Jehu; we rioted--fairly rioted among the holy
places of Jerusalem; we bathed in Jordan and the Dead Sea, reckless
whether our accident-insurance policies were extra-hazardous or not,
and brought away so many jugs of precious water from both places
that all the country from Jericho to the mountains of Moab will
suffer from drouth this year, I think. Yet, the pilgrimage part of
the excursion was its pet feature--there is no question about that.
After dismal, smileless Palestine, beautiful Egypt had few charms
for us. We merely glanced at it and were ready for home.

They wouldn't let us land at Malta--quarantine; they would not let
us land in Sardinia; nor at Algiers, Africa; nor at Malaga, Spain,
nor Cadiz, nor at the Madeira islands. So we got offended at all
foreigners and turned our backs upon them and came home. I suppose
we only stopped at the Bermudas because they were in the programme.
We did not care any thing about any place at all. We wanted to go
home. Homesickness was abroad in the ship--it was epidemic. If the
authorities of New York had known how badly we had it, they would
have quarantined us here.

The grand pilgrimage is over. Good-bye to it, and a pleasant memory
to it, I am able to say in all kindness. I bear no malice, no
ill-will toward any individual that was connected with it, either as
passenger or officer. Things I did not like at all yesterday I like
very well to-day, now that I am at home, and always hereafter I
shall be able to poke fun at the whole gang if the spirit so moves
me to do, without ever saying a malicious word. The expedition
accomplished all that its programme promised that it should
accomplish, and we ought all to be satisfied with the management of
the matter, certainly. Bye-bye!

MARK TWAIN.


I call that complimentary. It is complimentary; and yet I never have
received a word of thanks for it from the Hadjis; on the contrary I speak
nothing but the serious truth when I say that many of them even took
exceptions to the article. In endeavoring to please them I slaved over
that sketch for two hours, and had my labor for my pains. I never will
do a generous deed again.

Mark Twain