Page:Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field.djvu/205

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SIZING UP OF ARISTOCRACY BY MARK

At one of the many splendid dinner parties at the house of Minister Walter Phelps, the strange case of Prince and Princess XXX of a once sovereign family had come in for a lot of discussion. Their highnesses stood convicted of hotel looting, yet on account of the imaginary coronet that topped their escutcheon, they were expected to go scot-free, "for everybody agreed that her 'Grace' was plainly a kleptomaniac."

"Don't you think so, Mr. Clemens?" demanded an old countess, coquetting with the last tooth in her mouth.

"I am no expert," replied Mark. "All I know is that the disease attacks only the high born, as you call them, and the well-to-do."

As on this occasion all of Mr. Phelps' native guests were more or less "high born," and impecunious, that remark of the Sage of a Hundred Stories put the quietus on aristocracy-propaganda during the rest of the dinner and later, in the smoking room, Mr. Phelps' American guests were left quite to themselves.

"I hope I wasn't rude to that blue-blooded one," said Mark, "but excusing thievery because the thief happens to have a handle to his or her name, gets my goat on the instant. Now" (looking at me) "give us the real story of that looting business by High Lifers, so we can discuss it intelligently. Its general gist I