Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field/An Australian Surprise
AN AUSTRALIAN SURPRISE
At the time when Mark was living quietly at Ledworth Square, London, writing "Around the World," we met a party of Australians at the Metropole one afternoon. It was after poor Susie's death, and the heartbroken father hadn't made anyone laugh for months. But those "Aussies kind of woke me up," he admitted. "Jolly guys, out there at the Antipodes," he said after the first round; "too bad I didn't know that when I struck Sydney. As I prepared to step upon the platform there, I wondered, with some fear and trepidation, whether your people would take kindly to my brand of humor. If they refused to be tickled by my first lecture—God have mercy upon my creditors! Of course I had my story pat. Still, as I climbed those steps, I debated in my mind whether or not I had better substitute such or such a yarn for the opening lines planned. I had half decided to risk a change, when I faced the audience and—the pleasantest, the most overwhelming surprise of my life! I met a sea, a whole Atlantic, of guffawing heads, of swaying bodies and shoulders. There wasn't a titter or a snicker; there wasn't any smirking or grinning; all eyes were in flood with genuine laughter; men, women, and children were crowing and chuckling aloud, were shouting and hurraying, everybody was convulsed—really I must have looked the white kangaroo for which I was named. The Sydney audience laughing at me before I opened my mouth clinched my success at the Antipodes."