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Chapter 20

CHAPTER XX [My Precious, Priceless Tear-Jug]

Next morning brought good news--our trunks had arrived from Hamburg
at last. Let this be a warning to the reader. The Germans are very
conscientious, and this trait makes them very particular. Therefore if
you tell a German you want a thing done immediately, he takes you
at your word; he thinks you mean what you say; so he does that thing
immediately--according to his idea of immediately--which is about a
week; that is, it is a week if it refers to the building of a garment,
or it is an hour and a half if it refers to the cooking of a trout. Very
well; if you tell a German to send your trunk to you by "slow freight,"
he takes you at your word; he sends it by "slow freight," and you
cannot imagine how long you will go on enlarging your admiration of the
expressiveness of that phrase in the German tongue, before you get that
trunk. The hair on my trunk was soft and thick and youthful, when I
got it ready for shipment in Hamburg; it was baldheaded when it reached
Heidelberg. However, it was still sound, that was a comfort, it was
not battered in the least; the baggagemen seemed to be conscientiously
careful, in Germany, of the baggage entrusted to their hands. There
was nothing now in the way of our departure, therefore we set about our
preparations.

Naturally my chief solicitude was about my collection of Ceramics. Of
course I could not take it with me, that would be inconvenient, and
dangerous besides. I took advice, but the best brick-a-brackers were
divided as to the wisest course to pursue; some said pack the collection
and warehouse it; others said try to get it into the Grand Ducal Museum
at Mannheim for safe keeping. So I divided the collection, and followed
the advice of both parties. I set aside, for the Museum, those articles
which were the most frail and precious.

Among these was my Etruscan tear-jug. I have made a little sketch of it
here; [Figure 6] that thing creeping up the side is not a bug, it is a
hole. I bought this tear-jug of a dealer in antiquities for four hundred
and fifty dollars. It is very rare. The man said the Etruscans used to
keep tears or something in these things, and that it was very hard to
get hold of a broken one, now. I also set aside my Henri II. plate. See
sketch from my pencil; [Figure 7] it is in the main correct, though I
think I have foreshortened one end of it a little too much, perhaps.
This is very fine and rare; the shape is exceedingly beautiful and
unusual. It has wonderful decorations on it, but I am not able to
reproduce them. It cost more than the tear-jug, as the dealer said there
was not another plate just like it in the world. He said there was much
false Henri II ware around, but that the genuineness of this piece
was unquestionable. He showed me its pedigree, or its history, if you
please; it was a document which traced this plate's movements all the
way down from its birth--showed who bought it, from whom, and what he
paid for it--from the first buyer down to me, whereby I saw that it had
gone steadily up from thirty-five cents to seven hundred dollars. He
said that the whole Ceramic world would be informed that it was now in
my possession and would make a note of it, with the price paid. [Figure
8]

There were Masters in those days, but, alas--it is not so now. Of course
the main preciousness of this piece lies in its color; it is that old
sensuous, pervading, ramifying, interpolating, transboreal blue which is
the despair of modern art. The little sketch which I have made of this
gem cannot and does not do it justice, since I have been obliged to
leave out the color. But I've got the expression, though.

However, I must not be frittering away the reader's time with these
details. I did not intend to go into any detail at all, at first, but
it is the failing of the true ceramiker, or the true devotee in any
department of brick-a-brackery, that once he gets his tongue or his pen
started on his darling theme, he cannot well stop until he drops from
exhaustion. He has no more sense of the flight of time than has any
other lover when talking of his sweetheart. The very "marks" on the
bottom of a piece of rare crockery are able to throw me into a gibbering
ecstasy; and I could forsake a drowning relative to help dispute about
whether the stopple of a departed Buon Retiro scent-bottle was genuine
or spurious.

Many people say that for a male person, bric-a-brac hunting is about as
robust a business as making doll-clothes, or decorating Japanese pots
with decalcomanie butterflies would be, and these people fling mud at
the elegant Englishman, Byng, who wrote a book called THE BRIC-A-BRAC
HUNTER, and make fun of him for chasing around after what they choose to
call "his despicable trifles"; and for "gushing" over these trifles;
and for exhibiting his "deep infantile delight" in what they call his
"tuppenny collection of beggarly trivialities"; and for beginning his
book with a picture of himself seated, in a "sappy, self-complacent
attitude, in the midst of his poor little ridiculous bric-a-brac junk
shop."

It is easy to say these things; it is easy to revile us, easy to despise
us; therefore, let these people rail on; they cannot feel as Byng and
I feel--it is their loss, not ours. For my part I am content to be a
brick-a-bracker and a ceramiker--more, I am proud to be so named. I am
proud to know that I lose my reason as immediately in the presence of a
rare jug with an illustrious mark on the bottom of it, as if I had
just emptied that jug. Very well; I packed and stored a part of my
collection, and the rest of it I placed in the care of the Grand Ducal
Museum in Mannheim, by permission. My Old Blue China Cat remains there
yet. I presented it to that excellent institution.

I had but one misfortune with my things. An egg which I had kept back
from breakfast that morning, was broken in packing. It was a great pity.
I had shown it to the best connoisseurs in Heidelberg, and they all said
it was an antique. We spent a day or two in farewell visits, and then
left for Baden-Baden. We had a pleasant trip to it, for the Rhine valley
is always lovely. The only trouble was that the trip was too short. If
I remember rightly it only occupied a couple of hours, therefore I judge
that the distance was very little, if any, over fifty miles. We
quitted the train at Oos, and walked the entire remaining distance to
Baden-Baden, with the exception of a lift of less than an hour which
we got on a passing wagon, the weather being exhaustingly warm. We came
into town on foot.

One of the first persons we encountered, as we walked up the street,
was the Rev. Mr. ------, an old friend from America--a lucky encounter,
indeed, for his is a most gentle, refined, and sensitive nature, and his
company and companionship are a genuine refreshment. We knew he had been
in Europe some time, but were not at all expecting to run across
him. Both parties burst forth into loving enthusiasms, and Rev. Mr.
------said:

"I have got a brimful reservoir of talk to pour out on you, and an empty
one ready and thirsting to receive what you have got; we will sit up
till midnight and have a good satisfying interchange, for I leave here
early in the morning." We agreed to that, of course.

I had been vaguely conscious, for a while, of a person who was walking
in the street abreast of us; I had glanced furtively at him once or
twice, and noticed that he was a fine, large, vigorous young fellow,
with an open, independent countenance, faintly shaded with a pale and
even almost imperceptible crop of early down, and that he was clothed
from head to heel in cool and enviable snow-white linen. I thought I had
also noticed that his head had a sort of listening tilt to it. Now about
this time the Rev. Mr. ------ said:

"The sidewalk is hardly wide enough for three, so I will walk behind;
but keep the talk going, keep the talk going, there's no time to lose,
and you may be sure I will do my share." He ranged himself behind us,
and straightway that stately snow-white young fellow closed up to the
sidewalk alongside him, fetched him a cordial slap on the shoulder with
his broad palm, and sung out with a hearty cheeriness:

"AMERICANS for two-and-a-half and the money up! HEY?"

The Reverend winced, but said mildly:

"Yes--we are Americans."

"Lord love you, you can just bet that's what _I_ am, every time! Put it
there!"

He held out his Sahara of his palm, and the Reverend laid his diminutive
hand in it, and got so cordial a shake that we heard his glove burst
under it.

"Say, didn't I put you up right?"

"Oh, yes."

"Sho! I spotted you for MY kind the minute I heard your clack. You been
over here long?"

"About four months. Have you been over long?"

"LONG? Well, I should say so! Going on two YEARS, by geeminy! Say, are
you homesick?"

"No, I can't say that I am. Are you?"

"Oh, HELL, yes!" This with immense enthusiasm.

The Reverend shrunk a little, in his clothes, and we were aware, rather
by instinct than otherwise, that he was throwing out signals of distress
to us; but we did not interfere or try to succor him, for we were quite
happy.

The young fellow hooked his arm into the Reverend's, now, with the
confiding and grateful air of a waif who has been longing for a friend,
and a sympathetic ear, and a chance to lisp once more the sweet accents
of the mother-tongue--and then he limbered up the muscles of his mouth
and turned himself loose--and with such a relish! Some of his words were
not Sunday-school words, so I am obliged to put blanks where they occur.

"Yes indeedy! If _I_ ain't an American there AIN'T any Americans, that's
all. And when I heard you fellows gassing away in the good old American
language, I'm ------ if it wasn't all I could do to keep from hugging
you! My tongue's all warped with trying to curl it around these
------ forsaken wind-galled nine-jointed German words here; now I TELL
you it's awful good to lay it over a Christian word once more and kind
of let the old taste soak it. I'm from western New York. My name is
Cholley Adams. I'm a student, you know. Been here going on two years.
I'm learning to be a horse-doctor! I LIKE that part of it, you know, but
------ these people, they won't learn a fellow in his own language, they
make him learn in German; so before I could tackle the horse-doctoring I
had to tackle this miserable language.

"First off, I thought it would certainly give me the botts, but I don't
mind now. I've got it where the hair's short, I think; and dontchuknow,
they made me learn Latin, too. Now between you and me, I wouldn't give a
------ for all the Latin that was ever jabbered; and the first thing _I_
calculate to do when I get through, is to just sit down and forget it.
'Twon't take me long, and I don't mind the time, anyway. And I tell
you what! the difference between school-teaching over yonder and
school-teaching over here--sho! WE don't know anything about it! Here
you're got to peg and peg and peg and there just ain't any let-up--and
what you learn here, you've got to KNOW, dontchuknow--or else you'll
have one of these ------ spavined, spectacles, ring-boned, knock-kneed
old professors in your hair. I've been here long ENOUGH, and I'm getting
blessed tired of it, mind I TELL you. The old man wrote me that he was
coming over in June, and said he'd take me home in August, whether I was
done with my education or not, but durn him, he didn't come; never said
why; just sent me a hamper of Sunday-school books, and told me to
be good, and hold on a while. I don't take to Sunday-school books,
dontchuknow--I don't hanker after them when I can get pie--but I READ
them, anyway, because whatever the old man tells me to do, that's the
thing that I'm a-going to DO, or tear something, you know. I buckled
in and read all those books, because he wanted me to; but that kind of
thing don't excite ME, I like something HEARTY. But I'm awful homesick.
I'm homesick from ear-socket to crupper, and from crupper to hock-joint;
but it ain't any use, I've got to stay here, till the old man drops the
rag and give the word--yes, SIR, right here in this ------ country I've
got to linger till the old man says COME!--and you bet your bottom
dollar, Johnny, it AIN'T just as easy as it is for a cat to have twins!"

At the end of this profane and cordial explosion he fetched a prodigious
"WHOOSH!" to relieve his lungs and make recognition of the heat, and
then he straightway dived into his narrative again for "Johnny's"
benefit, beginning, "Well, ------ it ain't any use talking, some of
those old American words DO have a kind of a bully swing to them; a man
can EXPRESS himself with 'em--a man can get at what he wants to SAY,
dontchuknow."

When we reached our hotel and it seemed that he was about to lose the
Reverend, he showed so much sorrow, and begged so hard and so earnestly
that the Reverend's heart was not hard enough to hold out against the
pleadings--so he went away with the parent-honoring student, like a
right Christian, and took supper with him in his lodgings, and sat in
the surf-beat of his slang and profanity till near midnight, and then
left him--left him pretty well talked out, but grateful "clear down
to his frogs," as he expressed it. The Reverend said it had transpired
during the interview that "Cholley" Adams's father was an extensive
dealer in horses in western New York; this accounted for Cholley's
choice of a profession. The Reverend brought away a pretty high opinion
of Cholley as a manly young fellow, with stuff in him for a useful
citizen; he considered him rather a rough gem, but a gem, nevertheless.

Mark Twain