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Our Guide In Genoa And Rome
Mark Twain

European guides know about enough English to tangle ev erything up so that a man can make neiter head nor tail of it.They know their story by heart,—the history of every stat ue,painting, cathedral,or other wonder they show you.They know it and tell it as a parrot would, and if you interrupt, and throw them off the track, they have to go back and begi nover again.All their lives long, they are employed in showing strange things to foreigners and listening to their bursts of admiration.

It Is human nature to take delight in exciting admiration.It is what prompts children to say "smart" things, ad do absurd ones,and in other ways "show off" when company is pre sent.It is what makes gossips turn out in rain and storm to goand be the first to tell a startling bit of news.Think, then, what a passion it becomes with a guide, whose privilege it is,every day, to show to strangers wonders thst throw them intoperfect ecstasies of admiration! He gets so that he could not byany possibility live in a soberer atmosphere.

After we discovered this, we never went into ecstasies anymore, we never admired anything, we never showed any but impassible faces and stupid indifference in the presence ofthe subli mest wonders a guide had to display. We had found their weak point. We have made good use of it ever since.We have made some of those people savage, at times, but we have never lost our serenity.

The doctor asks the questions generally,because he can keep his countenance, and look more like an inspired idiot, and throw more imbecility into the tone of his voice than any man that lives. It comes natural to him.

The guides in Genoa are delighted to secure an American party, because Americans so much wonder, and deal so muchin sentiment and emotion before any relic of Columbus. Our guide there fidgeted about as if he had swallowed a spring mat tress. He was full of animation,—full of impatience.He said:—

"Come wis me,genteel men! —come! I show you ze let ter writing by Christopher Colombo!—write it himself!—write it wis his own hand!—come!"

He took us to the municipal palace. After much impres sive fumbling of keys and opening of locks, the stained andaged document was spread before us. The guide's eyes sparkled. He danced about us and tapped the parchment with 193 his finger:—

"What I tell you, genteel men! Is it not so? See! handwriting Christopher Colombo! — write it himself!"

We looked indifferent,—unconcerned. The doctor ex amined the document very deliberately, during a painful pause.Then he said, without any show of interest,"Ah, Ferguson, what what did you say was then ame of the party who wrote this?"

"Christopher Colombo! ze great Christ opber Colombo!"

Another deliberate examination.

"Ah,—did he write it himself, or—or how?"

"He write it himself! — Christopher Colombo! He's ownhandwriting, write by himself!"

Then the doctor laid the document down and said, "Why,I have seen boys in America only fourteen year sold that could write better man that."

"But zis is ze great Christo—"

"I don't care who it is! It's the worst writing I ever saw.Now you mustn't think you can impose on us because we ares trangers.We are not fools,by a good deal. If you have gotany specimens of penmanship of real merit, trot them out! —and if you haven't, drive on!"

We drove on.The guide was considerably shaken up, buthe made one more venture. He had something which he thought would overcome us. He said, —

"Ah,genteel men, you come wis me! I show you beauti ful, O,magnificent bust Christopher Colombo!—splendid, grand, magnificent!"

He brought us before the beautiful bust, —for it was beautiful, —and sprang back and struck an attitude: —

"Ah, look,  genteelmen! — beautiful,  grand, — bustChristopher Colombo! Beautiful bust, beautiful pedestal!"

The doctor put up his eyeglass, — procured for such occasions: —

"Ah,—what did you say this gentleman's name was?

"Christopher Colombo! The great Christopher Colombo!"

"Christopher Colombo,— the great Christopher Colombo. Well, what did he do?"

"Discover America! — discover America, O, the devil!"

"Discover America.No,—that statement will hardly wash. We are just from America ourselves. We heard nothing about it. Christopher Colombo,— pleasant name,—is—is he dead?"

"O, corpo di Baccho! — Three hundred year!"

"What did he die of?"

"I do not know. I cannot tell."


"I do not know, genteel men,— I do not know what he die of."

"Measles, likely?"

"Maybe,— maybe. I do not know,— I think he die of some things."

"Parents living?"


"Ah,— winch is the bust and which is the pedestal?"

"Santa Maria! — zis ze bust!— zis ze pedestal!"

"Ah, I see, I see, —happy combination, —very happy combination indeed. Is—is this the first time this gentle manwas ever on a bust?"

That joke was lost on the foreigner, — guides cannot master the subtleties of the American joke.

We have made it interesting for this Roman guide. Yesterday we spent three or four hours in the Vatican again, that wonderful world of curiosities. We came very near expressing interest sometimes,  even admiration. It was hard to keep fromit. We succeeded,  though. Nobody else ever did, in the Vati can museums.The guide was bewildered, non plussed. He walk6d his legs off, nearly, hunting up extraordinary things, and exhausted all his ingenuity on us, but it was a failure;we never showed any interest in anything. He had reserved what he considered to be his greatest wonder till the last, —a royal Egyptian mummy, the best preserved in the world, perhaps.He took us there. He felt so sure, this time, that some of his old enthusiasm came back to him: —

"See, genteel man!— Mummy! Mummy!”

The eyeglass came up as calmly, as deliberately as ever.

"Ah, —Fer gusoh, — what did I understand you to say the gentleman's name was?

"Name? — he got no name! Mummy! — Gyp tian mum my!"

"Yes, yes.Born here?"

"No.Gyptian mummy."

"Ah, just so. Frenchman,  I presume?"

"No! —not Frenchman, not Roman! —born in Egypta!"

"Born in Egypta. Never heard of Egypta before.Foreign locality, likely. Mummy,—mummy. How calm he is, howself possessed! Is—ah!—is he dead?"

"O, sacre bleu! been dead three thous an year!"

The doctor turned on him savagely: —

"Here, now,  what do you mean by such conduct as this? Playing us for China men because we are strangers and trying tolearn! Trying to impose your vile secondhand carcasses on us! Thunder and lightning! I've a notion to— to—If you've go ta nice fresh corpse,  fetch him out! — or,by George,  we'll brain you!"

We make it exceedingly interesting for this Frenchman.However, he has paid us back, partly, without knowing it.He came to the hotel this morning to ask if we were up, and heende avored, as well as he could, to describe us, so that thelandlord would know which persons he meant. He finished with the casual remark that we were lunatics. The observation was so innocent and so honest that it amounted to a very good thing for a guide to say.

Our Roman Ferguson is the most patient, unsuspecting, long suffering subject we have had yet. We shall be sorry to part with him. We have enjoyed his society very much.We trust he has enjoyed ours,but we are harassed with doubts.


欧洲向导都懂得点英国话,刚好能把一切搅得乱七八糟,弄得人家摸不到头脑。那套故事——那套用来指点人家参观 雕塑、绘画、大教堂等类名胜奇迹的掌故,他们都背熟了。什么都晓得,就像鹦哥一样学说出来—如果给人家一打岔,把话岔到题外,他们就得回过头来,重新说起。 他们专门雇来给参观奇珍异宝的外国人当向导听客人赞美几句。好听上劲儿的赞美是人之常情。正是因为这个道理,孩子才会当着人 面说些“俏皮”话,干些荒唐事,才会想其它法子“卖弄”一 下。正是因为这个道理,碎嘴子才会冒着狂风暴雨出去,抢先 说件耸人听闻的消息。向导的特权就是天天指点外邦人看看 名胜古迹,博得人家欣喜若狂的大事赞美,那么,请想一想,他怎会不渴望人家这么赞美几声呵!他听惯了赞美,所以碰到人家稍为冷淡,他就绝对受不了。我们发现这点以后,每当向导领我们到什么伟大壮丽的名胜面前,我们就再也不欣喜若狂,对什么再也不加赞美,只装出一副无动于衷的脸色,傻里傻气地漠不关心。我们找到他们的弱点了,就此大大利用,时时惹得有些向导火冒三丈,可我们倒始终心平气和。

























































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