Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field/What May Happen to You after You Are Dead


With Richard Harding Davis I had covered the coronation of the Czar in Moscow and Mark could never get enough of that trip, asking me a thousand questions about the country and people. But what most interested him was the fact that they had taken Carlyle's Cromwell away from me at the frontier. "You can have it back when you return," said the Russian customs people, but they stuck to my book just the same.

"Maybe they will start a revolution on the strength of Carlyle," said Mark. "I hope they will."

"Talking of Cromwell—I am glad they have no Westminster Abbey in the States. And here is why. This man Cromwell was alternately an anarchist and an autocrat. More powerful than any king, he refused the crown, yet made Parliament accept his imbecile son as his successor. They buried him in Westminster Abbey with all the honors due a king and after two years dragged his body out and beheaded the poor carcass, then stuck the head on a pike, mounted on Parliament House. You say even if we had a Westminster Abbey in America and I was buried there, yet the things that happened to Cromwell could never happen to me. But I don't know about that. When I was in Paris last, somebody offered me a tooth out of the head of Turenne, who had been buried two hundred years or more. How did he get that tooth? Why, during the revolution the Jacobins—ancestors of our present-day anarchists—smashed the royal graves at Saint Denis and flung the royal bones to the winds. Turenne happened to have been buried among his peers at the feet of Louis XIV. That is the reason why he was dispossessed. Now comes a commercially inclined Frenchman who had read that Turenne had been blessed with exceptionally fine molars. So he breaks all the teeth out of the dead man's jaws and sells them to the highest bidder. I was told there was only one left and I could have it for 100 francs. But I was more interested in my own teeth than in Turenne's and refused to do business with the antiquarian. However, to have my little joke I said to him, 'If you had the "Henri Quatre" of the 4th Henry I might buy.'

"'The Jacobins plucked that out, too,' he replied, 'but there isn't a hair left for sale nowadays. However, I may locate one or more by diligent hunting and I'll let you know if I succeed.'

"Think of it! Henri Quatre's Henri Quatre torn out by the roots and sold at so much per hair! That mustache and goatee that was next to so many sweet lips—the sweetest in France. I have seen the originals of some of his letters in the Musee de Cluny, Paris, and had some of those little masterpieces of grace translated for me."

Mark took out his Paris notebook and read: "'My true heart," he wrote at one time to Diane de Poitiers, 'you have lied. I shall not see you for ten days. It is enough to kill me. I will not tell you how much I care, it would make you too vain, and I think you love me, so with a happy heart I finish.'

"In answer Diane wrote back, 'If I die, have me opened and you will find your image engraved on my heart.'"