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Mark Twain > Innocents Abroad > Chapter XIII

Innocents Abroad

Chapter XIII

The next morning we were up and dressed at ten o'clock. We went to the
'commissionaire' of the hotel--I don't know what a 'commissionaire' is,
but that is the man we went to--and told him we wanted a guide. He said
the national Exposition had drawn such multitudes of Englishmen and
Americans to Paris that it would be next to impossible to find a good
guide unemployed. He said he usually kept a dozen or two on hand, but he
only had three now. He called them. One looked so like a very pirate
that we let him go at once. The next one spoke with a simpering
precision of pronunciation that was irritating and said:

"If ze zhentlemans will to me make ze grande honneur to me rattain in
hees serveece, I shall show to him every sing zat is magnifique to look
upon in ze beautiful Parree. I speaky ze Angleesh pairfaitemaw."

He would have done well to have stopped there, because he had that much
by heart and said it right off without making a mistake. But his self-
complacency seduced him into attempting a flight into regions of
unexplored English, and the reckless experiment was his ruin. Within ten
seconds he was so tangled up in a maze of mutilated verbs and torn and
bleeding forms of speech that no human ingenuity could ever have gotten
him out of it with credit. It was plain enough that he could not
"speaky" the English quite as "pairfaitemaw" as he had pretended he

The third man captured us. He was plainly dressed, but he had a
noticeable air of neatness about him. He wore a high silk hat which was
a little old, but had been carefully brushed. He wore second-hand kid
gloves, in good repair, and carried a small rattan cane with a curved
handle--a female leg--of ivory. He stepped as gently and as daintily as
a cat crossing a muddy street; and oh, he was urbanity; he was quiet,
unobtrusive self-possession; he was deference itself! He spoke softly
and guardedly; and when he was about to make a statement on his sole
responsibility or offer a suggestion, he weighed it by drachms and
scruples first, with the crook of his little stick placed meditatively to
his teeth. His opening speech was perfect. It was perfect in
construction, in phraseology, in grammar, in emphasis, in pronunciation--
everything. He spoke little and guardedly after that. We were charmed.
We were more than charmed--we were overjoyed. We hired him at once. We
never even asked him his price. This man--our lackey, our servant, our
unquestioning slave though he was--was still a gentleman--we could see
that--while of the other two one was coarse and awkward and the other was
a born pirate. We asked our man Friday's name. He drew from his
pocketbook a snowy little card and passed it to us with a profound bow:

                             A. BILLFINGER,
                    Guide to Paris, France, Germany,
                            Spain, &c., &c.
                     Grande Hotel du Louvre.

"Billfinger! Oh, carry me home to die!"

That was an "aside" from Dan. The atrocious name grated harshly on my
ear, too. The most of us can learn to forgive, and even to like, a
countenance that strikes us unpleasantly at first, but few of us, I
fancy, become reconciled to a jarring name so easily. I was almost sorry
we had hired this man, his name was so unbearable. However, no matter.
We were impatient to start. Billfinger stepped to the door to call a
carriage, and then the doctor said:

"Well, the guide goes with the barbershop, with the billiard-table, with
the gasless room, and may be with many another pretty romance of Paris.
I expected to have a guide named Henri de Montmorency, or Armand de la
Chartreuse, or something that would sound grand in letters to the
villagers at home, but to think of a Frenchman by the name of Billfinger!
Oh! This is absurd, you know. This will never do. We can't say
Billfinger; it is nauseating. Name him over again; what had we better
call him? Alexis du Caulaincourt?"

"Alphonse Henri Gustave de Hauteville," I suggested.

"Call him Ferguson," said Dan.

That was practical, unromantic good sense. Without debate, we expunged
Billfinger as Billfinger, and called him Ferguson.

The carriage--an open barouche--was ready. Ferguson mounted beside the
driver, and we whirled away to breakfast. As was proper, Mr. Ferguson
stood by to transmit our orders and answer questions. By and by, he
mentioned casually--the artful adventurer--that he would go and get his
breakfast as soon as we had finished ours. He knew we could not get
along without him and that we would not want to loiter about and wait for
him. We asked him to sit down and eat with us. He begged, with many a
bow, to be excused. It was not proper, he said; he would sit at another
table. We ordered him peremptorily to sit down with us.

Here endeth the first lesson. It was a mistake.

As long as we had that fellow after that, he was always hungry; he was
always thirsty. He came early; he stayed late; he could not pass a
restaurant; he looked with a lecherous eye upon every wine shop.
Suggestions to stop, excuses to eat and to drink, were forever on his
lips. We tried all we could to fill him so full that he would have no
room to spare for a fortnight, but it was a failure. He did not hold
enough to smother the cravings of his superhuman appetite.

He had another "discrepancy" about him. He was always wanting us to buy
things. On the shallowest pretenses he would inveigle us into shirt
stores, boot stores, tailor shops, glove shops--anywhere under the broad
sweep of the heavens that there seemed a chance of our buying anything.
Anyone could have guessed that the shopkeepers paid him a percentage on
the sales, but in our blessed innocence we didn't until this feature of
his conduct grew unbearably prominent. One day Dan happened to mention
that he thought of buying three or four silk dress patterns for presents.
Ferguson's hungry eye was upon him in an instant. In the course of
twenty minutes the carriage stopped.

"What's this?"

"Zis is ze finest silk magazin in Paris--ze most celebrate."

"What did you come here for? We told you to take us to the palace of the

"I suppose ze gentleman say he wish to buy some silk."

"You are not required to 'suppose' things for the party, Ferguson. We do
not wish to tax your energies too much. We will bear some of the burden
and heat of the day ourselves. We will endeavor to do such 'supposing'
as is really necessary to be done. Drive on." So spake the doctor.

Within fifteen minutes the carriage halted again, and before another silk
store. The doctor said:

"Ah, the palace of the Louvre--beautiful, beautiful edifice! Does the
Emperor Napoleon live here now, Ferguson?"

"Ah, Doctor! You do jest; zis is not ze palace; we come there directly.
But since we pass right by zis store, where is such beautiful silk--"

"Ah! I see, I see. I meant to have told you that we did not wish to
purchase any silks to-day, but in my absent-mindedness I forgot it. I
also meant to tell you we wished to go directly to the Louvre, but I
forgot that also. However, we will go there now. Pardon my seeming
carelessness, Ferguson. Drive on."

Within the half hour we stopped again--in front of another silk store.
We were angry; but the doctor was always serene, always smooth-voiced.
He said:

"At last! How imposing the Louvre is, and yet how small! How
exquisitely fashioned! How charmingly situated!--Venerable, venerable

"Pairdon, Doctor, zis is not ze Louvre--it is--"

"What is it?"

"I have ze idea--it come to me in a moment--zat ze silk in zis magazin--"

"Ferguson, how heedless I am. I fully intended to tell you that we did
not wish to buy any silks to-day, and I also intended to tell you that we
yearned to go immediately to the palace of the Louvre, but enjoying the
happiness of seeing you devour four breakfasts this morning has so filled
me with pleasurable emotions that I neglect the commonest interests of
the time. However, we will proceed now to the Louvre, Ferguson."

"But, doctor," (excitedly,) "it will take not a minute--not but one small
minute! Ze gentleman need not to buy if he not wish to--but only look at
ze silk--look at ze beautiful fabric. [Then pleadingly.] Sair--just only
one leetle moment!"

Dan said, "Confound the idiot! I don't want to see any silks today, and
I won't look at them. Drive on."

And the doctor: "We need no silks now, Ferguson. Our hearts yearn for
the Louvre. Let us journey on--let us journey on."

"But doctor! It is only one moment--one leetle moment. And ze time will
be save--entirely save! Because zere is nothing to see now--it is too
late. It want ten minute to four and ze Louvre close at four--only one
leetle moment, Doctor!"

The treacherous miscreant! After four breakfasts and a gallon of
champagne, to serve us such a scurvy trick. We got no sight of the
countless treasures of art in the Louvre galleries that day, and our only
poor little satisfaction was in the reflection that Ferguson sold not a
solitary silk dress pattern.

I am writing this chapter partly for the satisfaction of abusing that
accomplished knave Billfinger, and partly to show whosoever shall read
this how Americans fare at the hands of the Paris guides and what sort of
people Paris guides are. It need not be supposed that we were a stupider
or an easier prey than our countrymen generally are, for we were not.
The guides deceive and defraud every American who goes to Paris for the
first time and sees its sights alone or in company with others as little
experienced as himself. I shall visit Paris again someday, and then let
the guides beware! I shall go in my war paint--I shall carry my tomahawk

I think we have lost but little time in Paris. We have gone to bed every
night tired out. Of course we visited the renowned International
Exposition. All the world did that. We went there on our third day in
Paris--and we stayed there nearly two hours. That was our first and last
visit. To tell the truth, we saw at a glance that one would have to
spend weeks--yea, even months--in that monstrous establishment to get an
intelligible idea of it. It was a wonderful show, but the moving masses
of people of all nations we saw there were a still more wonderful show.
I discovered that if I were to stay there a month, I should still find
myself looking at the people instead of the inanimate objects on
exhibition. I got a little interested in some curious old tapestries of
the thirteenth century, but a party of Arabs came by, and their dusky
faces and quaint costumes called my attention away at once. I watched a
silver swan, which had a living grace about his movements and a living
intelligence in his eyes--watched him swimming about as comfortably and
as unconcernedly as if he had been born in a morass instead of a
jeweler's shop--watched him seize a silver fish from under the water and
hold up his head and go through all the customary and elaborate motions
of swallowing it--but the moment it disappeared down his throat some
tattooed South Sea Islanders approached and I yielded to their

Presently I found a revolving pistol several hundred years old which
looked strangely like a modern Colt, but just then I heard that the
Empress of the French was in another part of the building, and hastened
away to see what she might look like. We heard martial music--we saw an
unusual number of soldiers walking hurriedly about--there was a general
movement among the people. We inquired what it was all about and learned
that the Emperor of the French and the Sultan of Turkey were about to
review twenty-five thousand troops at the Arc de l'Etoile. We
immediately departed. I had a greater anxiety to see these men than I
could have had to see twenty expositions.

We drove away and took up a position in an open space opposite the
American minister's house. A speculator bridged a couple of barrels with
a board and we hired standing places on it. Presently there was a sound
of distant music; in another minute a pillar of dust came moving slowly
toward us; a moment more and then, with colors flying and a grand crash
of military music, a gallant array of cavalrymen emerged from the dust
and came down the street on a gentle trot. After them came a long line
of artillery; then more cavalry, in splendid uniforms; and then their
imperial majesties Napoleon III and Abdul Aziz. The vast concourse of
people swung their hats and shouted--the windows and housetops in the
wide vicinity burst into a snowstorm of waving handkerchiefs, and the
wavers of the same mingled their cheers with those of the masses below.
It was a stirring spectacle.

But the two central figures claimed all my attention. Was ever such a
contrast set up before a multitude till then? Napoleon in military
uniform--a long-bodied, short-legged man, fiercely moustached, old,
wrinkled, with eyes half closed, and such a deep, crafty, scheming
expression about them!--Napoleon, bowing ever so gently to the loud
plaudits, and watching everything and everybody with his cat eyes from
under his depressed hat brim, as if to discover any sign that those
cheers were not heartfelt and cordial.

Abdul Aziz, absolute lord of the Ottoman empire--clad in dark green
European clothes, almost without ornament or insignia of rank; a red
Turkish fez on his head; a short, stout, dark man, black-bearded, black-
eyed, stupid, unprepossessing--a man whose whole appearance somehow
suggested that if he only had a cleaver in his hand and a white apron on,
one would not be at all surprised to hear him say: "A mutton roast today,
or will you have a nice porterhouse steak?"

Napoleon III, the representative of the highest modern civilization,
progress, and refinement; Abdul-Aziz, the representative of a people by
nature and training filthy, brutish, ignorant, unprogressive,
superstitious--and a government whose Three Graces are Tyranny, Rapacity,
Blood. Here in brilliant Paris, under this majestic Arch of Triumph, the
First Century greets the Nineteenth!

NAPOLEON III., Emperor of France! Surrounded by shouting thousands, by
military pomp, by the splendors of his capital city, and companioned by
kings and princes--this is the man who was sneered at and reviled and
called Bastard--yet who was dreaming of a crown and an empire all the
while; who was driven into exile--but carried his dreams with him; who
associated with the common herd in America and ran foot races for a
wager--but still sat upon a throne in fancy; who braved every danger to
go to his dying mother--and grieved that she could not be spared to see
him cast aside his plebeian vestments for the purple of royalty; who kept
his faithful watch and walked his weary beat a common policeman of
London--but dreamed the while of a coming night when he should tread the
long-drawn corridors of the Tuileries; who made the miserable fiasco of
Strasbourg; saw his poor, shabby eagle, forgetful of its lesson, refuse
to perch upon his shoulder; delivered his carefully prepared, sententious
burst of eloquence upon unsympathetic ears; found himself a prisoner, the
butt of small wits, a mark for the pitiless ridicule of all the world--
yet went on dreaming of coronations and splendid pageants as before; who
lay a forgotten captive in the dungeons of Ham--and still schemed and
planned and pondered over future glory and future power; President of
France at last! a coup d'etat, and surrounded by applauding armies,
welcomed by the thunders of cannon, he mounts a throne and waves before
an astounded world the sceptre of a mighty empire! Who talks of the
marvels of fiction? Who speaks of the wonders of romance? Who prates of
the tame achievements of Aladdin and the Magii of Arabia?

ABDUL-AZIZ, Sultan of Turkey, Lord of the Ottoman Empire! Born to a
throne; weak, stupid, ignorant, almost, as his meanest slave; chief of a
vast royalty, yet the puppet of his Premier and the obedient child of a
tyrannical mother; a man who sits upon a throne--the beck of whose finger
moves navies and armies--who holds in his hands the power of life and
death over millions--yet who sleeps, sleeps, eats, eats, idles with his
eight hundred concubines, and when he is surfeited with eating and
sleeping and idling, and would rouse up and take the reins of government
and threaten to be a sultan, is charmed from his purpose by wary Fuad
Pacha with a pretty plan for a new palace or a new ship--charmed away
with a new toy, like any other restless child; a man who sees his people
robbed and oppressed by soulless tax-gatherers, but speaks no word to
save them; who believes in gnomes and genii and the wild fables of The
Arabian Nights, but has small regard for the mighty magicians of to-day,
and is nervous in the presence of their mysterious railroads and
steamboats and telegraphs; who would see undone in Egypt all that great
Mehemet Ali achieved, and would prefer rather to forget than emulate him;
a man who found his great empire a blot upon the earth--a degraded,
poverty-stricken, miserable, infamous agglomeration of ignorance, crime,
and brutality--and will idle away the allotted days of his trivial life
and then pass to the dust and the worms and leave it so!

Napoleon has augmented the commercial prosperity of France in ten years
to such a degree that figures can hardly compute it. He has rebuilt
Paris and has partly rebuilt every city in the state. He condemns a
whole street at a time, assesses the damages, pays them, and rebuilds
superbly. Then speculators buy up the ground and sell, but the original
owner is given the first choice by the government at a stated price
before the speculator is permitted to purchase. But above all things, he
has taken the sole control of the empire of France into his hands and
made it a tolerably free land--for people who will not attempt to go too
far in meddling with government affairs. No country offers greater
security to life and property than France, and one has all the freedom he
wants, but no license--no license to interfere with anybody or make
anyone uncomfortable.

As for the Sultan, one could set a trap any where and catch a dozen abler
men in a night.

The bands struck up, and the brilliant adventurer, Napoleon III., the
genius of Energy, Persistence, Enterprise; and the feeble Abdul-Aziz, the
genius of Ignorance, Bigotry, and Indolence, prepared for the Forward--

We saw the splendid review, we saw the white-moustached old Crimean
soldier, Canrobert, Marshal of France, we saw--well, we saw every thing,
and then we went home satisfied.

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