Page:Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field.djvu/40

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THE FUNNIEST SPEECH MARK EVER HEARD

"The funniest thing I ever heard was chirped right here in this neighborhood," said Mark Twain, snuggling down in his big armchair before the fire, which wasn't blazing, and "didn't mean to—without kerosene" (he told the maid, warning her not to let the "Missus" know).

The "neighborhood" was Tedworth Square, London, "quite the other side of Mayfair," and leading to some queer streetlets and lanes.

"London's Fifth Avenues," mused Mark, "remind me of a sable coat (such as Pauline Bonaparte used to wear) edged with cat-skin: There are always Hell-kitchens within hailing distance.

"Well, at that time my girls had a friend living in Clapham, and nightly she walked me ten or more blocks to her bus through one of those Hell-kitchens lined with fried-fish shops and other ill-smelling emporiums for acquisitioning lucre."

He turned to an English friend:

"Maybe lined isn't correct, for the fish shops were all on one side of the lane, and naturally I ambled along the other. I thought I was safe there, but of course I wasn't, for the smells zigzagged across the pavement and followed me like a rotten conscience. My haven of safety, or comparative safety, from the rancid oil compost was an undertaker's