The Complete Works of Mark Twain


 
 
Mark Twain > Innocents Abroad > Chapter LXII

Innocents Abroad

Chapter LXII


CONCLUSION.

Nearly one year has flown since this notable pilgrimage was ended; and as
I sit here at home in San Francisco thinking, I am moved to confess that
day by day the mass of my memories of the excursion have grown more and
more pleasant as the disagreeable incidents of travel which encumbered
them flitted one by one out of my mind--and now, if the Quaker City were
weighing her anchor to sail away on the very same cruise again, nothing
could gratify me more than to be a passenger. With the same captain and
even the same pilgrims, the same sinners. I was on excellent terms with
eight or nine of the excursionists (they are my staunch friends yet,) and
was even on speaking terms with the rest of the sixty-five. I have been
at sea quite enough to know that that was a very good average. Because a
long sea-voyage not only brings out all the mean traits one has, and
exaggerates them, but raises up others which he never suspected he
possessed, and even creates new ones. A twelve months' voyage at sea
would make of an ordinary man a very miracle of meanness. On the other
hand, if a man has good qualities, the spirit seldom moves him to exhibit
them on shipboard, at least with any sort of emphasis. Now I am
satisfied that our pilgrims are pleasant old people on shore; I am also
satisfied that at sea on a second voyage they would be pleasanter,
somewhat, than they were on our grand excursion, and so I say without
hesitation that I would be glad enough to sail with them again. I could
at least enjoy life with my handful of old friends. They could enjoy
life with their cliques as well--passengers invariably divide up into
cliques, on all ships.

And I will say, here, that I would rather travel with an excursion party
of Methuselahs than have to be changing ships and comrades constantly, as
people do who travel in the ordinary way. Those latter are always
grieving over some other ship they have known and lost, and over other
comrades whom diverging routes have separated from them. They learn to
love a ship just in time to change it for another, and they become
attached to a pleasant traveling companion only to lose him. They have
that most dismal experience of being in a strange vessel, among strange
people who care nothing about them, and of undergoing the customary
bullying by strange officers and the insolence of strange servants,
repeated over and over again within the compass of every month. They
have also that other misery of packing and unpacking trunks--of running
the distressing gauntlet of custom-houses--of the anxieties attendant
upon getting a mass of baggage from point to point on land in safety.
I had rasher sail with a whole brigade of patriarchs than suffer so.
We never packed our trunks but twice--when we sailed from New York, and
when we returned to it. Whenever we made a land journey, we estimated
how many days we should be gone and what amount of clothing we should
need, figured it down to a mathematical nicety, packed a valise or two
accordingly, and left the trunks on board. We chose our comrades from
among our old, tried friends, and started. We were never dependent upon
strangers for companionship. We often had occasion to pity Americans
whom we found traveling drearily among strangers with no friends to
exchange pains and pleasures with. Whenever we were coming back from a
land journey, our eyes sought one thing in the distance first--the ship--
and when we saw it riding at anchor with the flag apeak, we felt as a
returning wanderer feels when he sees his home. When we stepped on
board, our cares vanished, our troubles were at an end--for the ship was
home to us. We always had the same familiar old state-room to go to, and
feel safe and at peace and comfortable again.

I have no fault to find with the manner in which our excursion was
conducted. Its programme was faithfully carried out--a thing which
surprised me, for great enterprises usually promise vastly more than they
perform. It would be well if such an excursion could be gotten up every
year and the system regularly inaugurated. Travel is fatal to prejudice,
bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on
these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can
not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's
lifetime.

The Excursion is ended, and has passed to its place among the things that
were. But its varied scenes and its manifold incidents will linger
pleasantly in our memories for many a year to come. Always on the wing,
as we were, and merely pausing a moment to catch fitful glimpses of the
wonders of half a world, we could not hope to receive or retain vivid
impressions of all it was our fortune to see. Yet our holyday flight has
not been in vain--for above the confusion of vague recollections, certain
of its best prized pictures lift themselves and will still continue
perfect in tint and outline after their surroundings shall have faded
away.

We shall remember something of pleasant France; and something also of
Paris, though it flashed upon us a splendid meteor, and was gone again,
we hardly knew how or where. We shall remember, always, how we saw
majestic Gibraltar glorified with the rich coloring of a Spanish sunset
and swimming in a sea of rainbows. In fancy we shall see Milan again,
and her stately Cathedral with its marble wilderness of graceful spires.
And Padua--Verona--Como, jeweled with stars; and patrician Venice, afloat
on her stagnant flood--silent, desolate, haughty--scornful of her humbled
state--wrapping herself in memories of her lost fleets, of battle and
triumph, and all the pageantry of a glory that is departed.

We can not forget Florence--Naples--nor the foretaste of heaven that is
in the delicious atmosphere of Greece--and surely not Athens and the
broken temples of the Acropolis. Surely not venerable Rome--nor the
green plain that compasses her round about, contrasting its brightness
with her gray decay--nor the ruined arches that stand apart in the plain
and clothe their looped and windowed raggedness with vines. We shall
remember St. Peter's: not as one sees it when he walks the streets of
Rome and fancies all her domes are just alike, but as he sees it leagues
away, when every meaner edifice has faded out of sight and that one dome
looms superbly up in the flush of sunset, full of dignity and grace,
strongly outlined as a mountain.

We shall remember Constantinople and the Bosporus--the colossal
magnificence of Baalbec--the Pyramids of Egypt--the prodigious form, the
benignant countenance of the Sphynx--Oriental Smyrna--sacred Jerusalem--
Damascus, the "Pearl of the East," the pride of Syria, the fabled Garden
of Eden, the home of princes and genii of the Arabian Nights, the oldest
metropolis on earth, the one city in all the world that has kept its name
and held its place and looked serenely on while the Kingdoms and Empires
of four thousand years have risen to life, enjoyed their little season of
pride and pomp, and then vanished and been forgotten!


< Back












Index Index

Other Authors Other Authors


Mark Twain. Copyright 2008, mtwain.com
Contact the webmaster
Disclaimer here. Privacy Policy here.