A Tramp Abroad — Volume 02 eBook: Page1

Mark Twain (1994)




  Produced by Anonymous Volunteers, John Greenman and David Widger

  A TRAMP ABROAD, Part 2

  By Mark Twain

  (Samuel L. Clemens)

  First published in 1880

  Illustrations taken from an 1880 First Edition

  * * * * * *

  ILLUSTRATIONS:

  1. PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR 2. TITIAN'S MOSES 3. THE AUTHOR'S MEMORIES 32. FRENCH CALM 33. THE CHALLENGE ACCEPTED 34. A SEARCH 35. HE SWOONED PONDEROUSLY 36. I ROLLED HIM OVER 37. THE ONE I HIRED 36. THE MARCH TO THE FIELD 39. THE POST OF DANGER 40. THE RECONCILIATION 41. AN OBJECT OF ADMIRATION 42. WAGNER 43. RAGING 44. ROARING 45. SHRIEKING 46. A CUSTOMARY THING 47. ONE OF THE "REST" 48. A CONTRIBUTION BOX 49. CONSPICUOUS 50. TAIL PIECE 51. ONLY A SHRIEK 52. "HE ONLY CRY" 53. LATE COMERS CARED FOR 54. EVIDENTLY DREAMING 55. "TURN ON MORE RAIN" 56. HARRIS ATTENDING THE OPERA 57. PAINTING MY GREAT PICTURE 58. OUR START 59. AN UNKNOWN COSTUME 60. THE TOWER 61. SLOW BUT SURE 62. THE ROBBER CHIEF 63. AN HONEST MAN 64. THE TOWN BY NIGHT 65. GENERATIONS OF BAREFEET 66. OUR BEDROOM 67. PRACTICING 68. PAWING AROUND 69. A NIGHT'S WORK 70. LEAVING HEILBRONN 71. THE CAPTAIN 72. WAITING FOR THE TRAIN

  CONTENTS:

  CHAPTER VIII The Great French Duel--Mistaken Notions--Outbreak in theFrench Assembly--Calmness of M Gambetta--I Volunteer as Second--Drawingup a Will--The Challenge and its Acceptance--Difficulty in Selectionof Weapons--Deciding on Distance--M. Gambetta's Firmness--ArrangingDetails--Hiring Hearses--How it was Kept from the Press--March to theField--The Post of Danger--The Duel--The Result--General Rejoicings--Theonly One Hurt--A Firm Resolution

  CHAPTER IX At the Theatre--German Ideal--At the Opera--TheOrchestra--Howlings and Wailings--A Curious Play--One Season ofRest--The Wedding Chorus--Germans fond of the Opera--Funerals Needed--A Private Party--What I Overheard--A Gentle Girl--AContribution--box--Unpleasantly Conspicuous

  CHAPTER X Four Hours with Wagner--A Wonderful Singer, Once--" Only aShriek"--An Ancient Vocalist--"He Only Cry"--Emotional Germans--AWise Custom--Late Comers Rebuked--Heard to the Last--No InterruptionsAllowed--A Royal Audience--An Eccentric King--Real Rain and More ofIt--Immense Success--"Encore! Encore!"--Magnanimity of the King

  CHAPTER XI Lessons in Art--My Great Picture of Heidelberg Castle--ItsEffect in the Exhibition--Mistaken for a Turner--A Studio--Waitingfor Orders--A Tramp Decided On--The Start for Heilbronn--Our WalkingDress--"Pleasant march to you"--We Take the Rail--German People onBoard--Not Understood--Speak only German and English--Wimpfen--A FunnyTower--Dinner in the Garden--Vigorous Tramping--Ride in a Peasant'sCart--A Famous Room

  CHAPTER XII The Rathhaus--An Old Robber Knight, Gotz VonBerlichingen--His Famous Deeds--The Square Tower--A Curious oldChurch--A Gay Turn--out--A Legend--The Wives' Treasures--A ModelWaiter--A Miracle Performed--An Old Town--The Worn Stones

  CHAPTER XIII Early to Bed--Lonesome--Nervous Excitement--The Room WeOccupied--Disturbed by a Mouse--Grow Desperate--The Old Remedy--A ShoeThrown--Result--Hopelessly Awake--An Attempt to Dress--A Cruise in theDark--Crawling on the Floor--A General Smash-up--Forty-seven Miles'Travel

  CHAPTER XIV A Famous Turn--out--Raftsmen on the Neckar--The LogRafts--The Neckar--A Sudden Idea--To Heidelberg on a Raft--Charteringa Raft--Gloomy Feelings and Conversation--Delicious Journeying--View ofthe Banks--Compared with Railroading

  CHAPTER VIII

  The Great French Duel

  [I Second Gambetta in a Terrific Duel]

  Much as the modern French duel is ridiculed by certain smart people, itis in reality one of the most dangerous institutions of our day. Sinceit is always fought in the open air, the combatants are nearly sureto catch cold. M. Paul de Cassagnac, the most inveterate of the Frenchduelists, had suffered so often in this way that he is at last aconfirmed invalid; and the best physician in Paris has expressedthe opinion that if he goes on dueling for fifteen or twenty yearsmore--unless he forms the habit of fighting in a comfortable room wheredamps and draughts cannot intrude--he will eventually endanger his life.This ought to moderate the talk of those people who are so stubbornin maintaining that the French duel is the most health-giving ofrecreations because of the open-air exercise it affords. And itought also to moderate that foolish talk about French duelists andsocialist-hated monarchs being the only people who are immoral.

  But it is time to get at my subject. As soon as I heard of the latefiery outbreak between M. Gambetta and M. Fourtou in the FrenchAssembly, I knew that trouble must follow. I knew it because a longpersonal friendship with M. Gambetta revealed to me the desperate andimplacable nature of the man. Vast as are his physical proportions,I knew that the thirst for revenge would penetrate to the remotestfrontiers of his person.

  I did not wait for him to call on me, but went at once to him. As I hadexpected, I found the brave fellow steeped in a profound French calm.I say French calm, because French calmness and English calmness havepoints of difference.

  He was moving swiftly back and forth among the debris of his furniture,now and then staving chance fragments of it across the room with hisfoot; grinding a constant grist of curses through his set teeth; andhalting every little while to deposit another handful of his hair on thepile which he had been building of it on the table.

  He threw his arms around my neck, bent me over his stomach to hisbreast, kissed me on both cheeks, hugged me four or five times, andthen placed me in his own arm-chair. As soon as I had got well again, webegan business at once.

  I said I supposed he would wish me to act as his second, and he said,"Of course." I said I must be allowed to act under a French name, sothat I might be shielded from obloquy in my country, in case of fatalresults. He winced here, probably at the suggestion that dueling was notregarded with respect in America. However, he agreed to my requirement.This accounts for the fact that in all the newspaper reports M.Gambetta's second was apparently a Frenchman.

  First, we drew up my principal's will. I insisted upon this, and stuckto my point. I said I had never heard of a man in his right mind goingout to fight a duel without first making his will. He said he had neverheard of a man in his right mind doing anything of the kind. When he hadfinished the will, he wished to proceed to a choice of his "last words."He wanted to know how the following words, as a dying exclamation,struck me:

  "I die for my God, for my country, for freedom of speech, for progress,and the universal brotherhood of man!"

  I objected that this would require too lingering a death; it was a goodspeech for a consumptive, but not suited to the exigencies of the fieldof honor. We wrangled over a good many ante-mortem outbursts, but Ifinally got him to cut his obituary down to this, which he copied intohis memorandum-book, purposing to get it by heart:

  "I DIE THAT FRANCE MIGHT LIVE."

  I said that this remark seemed to lack relevancy; but he said relevancywas a matter of no consequence in last words, what you wanted wasthrill.

  The next thing in order was the choice of weapons. My principal said hewas not feeling well, and would leave that and the other details of theproposed meeting to me. Therefore I wrote the following note and carriedit to M. Fourtou's friend:

  Sir: M. Gambetta accepts M. Fourtou's challenge, and authorizes me topropose Plessis-Piquet as the place of meeting; tomorrow morning atdaybreak as the time; and axes as the weapons.

  I am, sir, with great respect,

  Mark Twain.

  M. Fourtou's friend read this note, and shuddered. Then he turned to me,and said, with a suggestion of severity in his tone:

  "Have you considered, sir, what would be the in
evitable result of such ameeting as this?"

  "Well, for instance, what WOULD it be?"

  "Bloodshed!"

  "That's about the size of it," I said. "Now, if it is a fair question,what was your side proposing to shed?"

  I had him there. He saw he had made a blunder, so he hastened to explainit away. He said he had spoken jestingly. Then he added that he and hisprincipal would enjoy axes, and indeed prefer them, but such weaponswere barred by the French code, and so I must change my proposal.

  I walked the floor, turning the thing over in my mind, and finally itoccurred to me that Gatling-guns at fifteen paces would be a likely wayto get a verdict on the field of honor. So I framed this idea into aproposition.

  But it was not accepted. The code was in the way again. I proposedrifles; then double-barreled shotguns; then Colt's navy revolvers. Thesebeing all rejected, I reflected awhile, and sarcastically suggestedbrickbats at three-quarters of a mile. I always hate to fool away ahumorous thing on a person who has no perception of humor; and it filledme with bitterness when this man went soberly away to submit the lastproposition to his principal.

  He came back presently and said his principal was charmed with the ideaof brickbats at three-quarters of a mile, but must decline on account ofthe danger to disinterested parties passing between them. Then I said:

  "Well, I am at the end of my string, now. Perhaps YOU would be goodenough to suggest a weapon? Perhaps you have even had one in your mindall the time?"

  His countenance brightened, and he said with alacrity:

  "Oh, without doubt, monsieur!"

  So he fell to hunting in his pockets--pocket after pocket, and he hadplenty of them--muttering all the while, "Now, what could I have donewith them?"

  At last he was successful. He fished out of his vest pocket a coupleof little things which I carried to the light and ascertained to bepistols. They were single-barreled and silver-mounted, and very daintyand pretty. I was not able to speak for emotion. I silently hung one ofthem on my watch-chain, and returned the other. My companion in crimenow unrolled a postage-stamp containing several cartridges, and gave meone of them. I asked if he meant to signify by this that our men wereto be allowed but one shot apiece. He replied that the French codepermitted no more. I then begged him to go and suggest a distance, formy mind was growing weak and confused under the strain which had beenput upon it. He named sixty-five yards. I nearly lost my patience. Isaid:

  "Sixty-five yards, with these instruments? Squirt-guns would be deadlierat fifty. Consider, my friend, you and I are banded together to destroylife, not make it eternal."

  But with all my persuasions, all my arguments, I was only able toget him to reduce the distance to thirty-five yards; and even thisconcession he made with reluctance, and said with a sigh, "I wash myhands of this slaughter; on your head be it."

  There was nothing for me but to go home to my old lion-heart and tell myhumiliating story. When I entered, M. Gambetta was laying his last lockof hair upon the altar. He sprang toward me, exclaiming:

  "You have made the fatal arrangements--I see it in your eye!"

  "I have."

  His face paled a trifle, and he leaned upon the table for support. Hebreathed thick and heavily for a moment or two, so tumultuous were hisfeelings; then he hoarsely whispered:

  "The weapon, the weapon! Quick! what is the weapon?"

  "This!" and I displayed that silver-mounted thing. He cast but oneglance at it, then swooned ponderously to the floor.

  When he came to, he said mournfully:

  "The unnatural calm to which I have subjected myself has told upon mynerves. But away with weakness! I will confront my fate like a man and aFrenchman."

  He rose to his feet, and assumed an attitude which for sublimity hasnever been approached by man, and has seldom been surpassed by statues.Then he said, in his deep bass tones:

  "Behold, I am calm, I am ready; reveal to me the distance."

  "Thirty-five yards." ...

  I could not lift him up, of course; but I rolled him over, and pouredwater down his back. He presently came to, and said:

  "Thirty-five yards--without a rest? But why ask? Since murder was thatman's intention, why should he palter with small details? But mark youone thing: in my fall the world shall see how the chivalry of Francemeets death."

  After a long silence he asked:

  "Was nothing said about that man's family standing up with him, asan offset to my bulk? But no matter; I would not stoop to make sucha suggestion; if he is not noble enough to suggest it himself, he iswelcome to this advantage, which no honorable man would take."

  He now sank into a sort of stupor of reflection, which lasted someminutes; after which he broke silence with:

  "The hour--what is the hour fixed for the collision?"

  "Dawn, tomorrow."

  He seemed greatly surprised, and immediately said:

  "Insanity! I never heard of such a thing. Nobody is abroad at such anhour."

  "That is the reason I named it. Do you mean to say you want anaudience?"

  "It is no time to bandy words. I am astonished that M. Fourtou shouldever have agreed to so strange an innovation. Go at once and require alater hour."

  I ran downstairs, threw open the front door, and almost plunged into thearms of M. Fourtou's second. He said:

  "I have the honor to say that my principal strenuously objects to thehour chosen, and begs you will consent to change it to half past nine."

  "Any courtesy, sir, which it is in our power to extend is at the serviceof your excellent principal. We agree to the proposed change of time."

  "I beg you to accept the thanks of my client." Then he turned to aperson behind him, and said, "You hear, M. Noir, the hour is altered tohalf past nine." Whereupon M. Noir bowed, expressed his thanks, and wentaway. My accomplice continued:

  "If agreeable to you, your chief surgeons and ours shall proceed to thefield in the same carriage as is customary."

  "It is entirely agreeable to me, and I am obliged to you for mentioningthe surgeons, for I am afraid I should not have thought of them. Howmany shall I want? I supposed two or three will be enough?"

  "Two is the customary number for each party. I refer to 'chief'surgeons; but considering the exalted positions occupied by our clients,it will be well and decorous that each of us appoint several consultingsurgeons, from among the highest in the profession. These will come intheir own private carriages. Have you engaged a hearse?"

  "Bless my stupidity, I never thought of it! I will attend to it rightaway. I must seem very ignorant to you; but you must try to overlookthat, because I have never had any experience of such a swell duel asthis before. I have had a good deal to do with duels on the Pacificcoast, but I see now that they were crude affairs. A hearse--sho! weused to leave the elected lying around loose, and let anybody cordthem up and cart them off that wanted to. Have you anything further tosuggest?"

  "Nothing, except that the head undertakers shall ride together, as isusual. The subordinates and mutes will go on foot, as is also usual. Iwill see you at eight o'clock in the morning, and we will then arrangethe order of the procession. I have the honor to bid you a good day."

  I returned to my client, who said, "Very well; at what hour is theengagement to begin?"

  "Half past nine."

  "Very good indeed. Have you sent the fact to the newspapers?"

  "SIR! If after our long and intimate friendship you can for a momentdeem me capable of so base a treachery--"

  "Tut, tut! What words are these, my dear friend? Have I wounded you? Ah,forgive me; I am overloading you with labor. Therefore go on with theother details, and drop this one from your list. The bloody-mindedFourtou will be sure to attend to it. Or I myself--yes, to make certain,I will drop a note to my journalistic friend, M. Noir--"

  "Oh, come to think of it, you may save yourself the trouble; that othersecond has informed M. Noir."

  "H'm! I might have known it. It is just like that Fourtou, who alwayswants
to make a display."

  At half past nine in the morning the procession approached the field ofPlessis-Piquet in the following order: first came our carriage--nobodyin it but M. Gambetta and myself; then a carriage containing M. Fourtouand his second; then a carriage containing two poet-orators who did notbelieve in God, and these had MS. funeral orations projecting from theirbreast pockets; then a carriage containing the head surgeons and theircases of instruments; then eight private carriages containing consultingsurgeons; then a hack containing a coroner; then the two hearses; then acarriage containing the head undertakers; then a train of assistantsand mutes on foot; and after these came plodding through the fog a longprocession of camp followers, police, and citizens generally. It was anoble turnout, and would have made a fine display if we had had thinnerweather.

  There was no conversation. I spoke several times to my principal, butI judge he was not aware of it, for he always referred to his note-bookand muttered absently, "I die that France might live."

  Arrived on the field, my fellow-second and I paced off the thirty-fiveyards, and then drew lots for choice of position. This latter was butan ornamental ceremony, for all the choices were alike in such weather.These preliminaries being ended, I went to my principal and asked himif he was ready. He spread himself out to his full width, and said in astern voice, "Ready! Let the batteries be charged."

  The loading process was done in the presence of duly constitutedwitnesses. We considered it best to perform this delicate service withthe assistance of a lantern, on account of the state of the weather. Wenow placed our men.