Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field/Mark on the Berlin Cops
MARK ON THE BERLIN COPS
You know, of course, that Mark Twain at one time had a flat in Berlin and kept it going for a whole month. "I am tired of hotels," he said, "and hereafter I am going to take my comfort in my apartment as Dr. Johnson took his in his inn." After that he entertained the habitués of the embassy for a week or longer with stories of the beauties of home life, until we voted "Koernerstrasse Nr. 7 the jewel."
But one fine evening I found a note from him at the Hotel de Rome, asking me to call at the Royal at 8:00. I met him in the lobby with several sympathizing friends, and he said:
"It's all up with Koernerstrasse; too much police."
"Did you have burglars, or the bailiffs, in?" was asked.
"Neither; just social calls from policemen—ten per day. The cops weren't exactly unkind, but they annoyed me."
"What did they do to you?"
"Yes, of course, but I don't mind lying about little things like that. On the contrary, making a clean breast of it, I confessed that I get a whole cent a word for every word I do, even for little words like "I" or "Manafraidofhismotherinlaw." Did they believe me? Not they! They thought I was exaggerating."
"What did they ask about next?"
"Craved information about Eliza and Marie. 'Don't know any such females,' I growled severely.
"'Mr. Clemens,' bawled the policeman, 'if you are trying to hoodwink the Royal Police of Berlin, there will be trouble. Confess now. You have an Eliza and a Marie and a Gretchen in this house.'
"'Oh, you mean the maids,' said I. 'I don't know anything about them. My Missus hires and bosses them. Ask the girls whether I am stringing you.'
"That evidently made no hit with the policeman, for he vociferated respectfully but sternly:
"'It is your duty (according to paragraph this and that of the Civil Code) as head of the household (according to paragraph so and so of the Civil Code) to be informed whether or not these girls have been properly vaccinated.'
"His 'head of the household' made me laugh, but I managed to object: 'How should I know?'
"'Don't you see them around with bare arms?'
"'Maybe I do, but I never paid enough attention to say offhand whether they wear cuticle or fur.'
"'And you didn't notice vaccination marks on their arms?'
"'Never. I can swear to that.'
"'Then you do know, that they are not vaccinated on their arms,' said the policeman ever so insinuatingly. I'll bet he read up the story of the serpent in Paradise.
"'0n the contrary, I don't know whether they are vaccinated on their arms or not,' I answered truthfully. 'Maybe they had themselves vaccinated under their arms. I haven't looked.'
"'Some women,' said the policeman, 'are so vain that they get themselves vaccinated on their legs.'
"'Possibly,' I said, 'but I have looked neither under their arms nor under their petticoats—I presume they have legs. However, I don't know anything about them, for sure. And this being their day out, if you must investigate, they will be back about ten o'clock, and, returning, you may look for yourself, if the law says so.'"
Mark indulged in one of his impressive pauses, then continued:
"That policeman did return and told the girls that he was authorized by me to look for their vaccination marks wherever located. Of course, it caused a row all around, the girls protesting that I was no gentleman. So, to end it all, I paid the rent for the whole year, eleven months' rent, and left the flat."