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37. CHAPTER XXXVII.
We anchored here at Yalta, Russia, two or three days ago. To me the place was a vision of the Sierras. The tall, gray mountains that back it, their sides bristling with pines--cloven with ravines--here and there a hoary rock towering into view--long, straight streaks sweeping down from the summit to the sea, marking the passage of some avalanche of former times--all these were as like what one sees in the Sierras as if the one were a portrait of the other. The little village of Yalta nestles at the foot of an amphitheatre which slopes backward and upward to the wall of hills, and looks as if it might have sunk quietly down to its present position from a higher elevation. This depression is covered with the great parks and gardens of noblemen, and through the mass of green foliage the bright colors of their palaces bud out here and there like flowers. It is a beautiful spot.
We had the United States Consul on board--the Odessa Consul. We assembled in the cabin and commanded him to tell us what we must do to be saved, and tell us quickly. He made a speech. The first thing he said fell like a blight on every hopeful spirit: he had never seen a court reception. (Three groans for the Consul.) But he said he had seen receptions at the Governor General's in Odessa, and had often listened to people's experiences of receptions at the Russian and other courts, and believed he knew very well what sort of ordeal we were about to essay. (Hope budded again.) He said we were many; the summer palace was small-- a mere mansion; doubtless we should be received in summer fashion--in the garden; we would stand in a row, all the gentlemen in swallow-tail coats, white kids, and white neck-ties, and the ladies in light-colored silks, or something of that kind; at the proper moment--12 meridian--the Emperor, attended by his suite arrayed in splendid uniforms, would appear and walk slowly along the line, bowing to some, and saying two or three words to others. At the moment his Majesty appeared, a universal, delighted, enthusiastic smile ought to break out like a rash among the passengers--a smile of love, of gratification, of admiration--and with one accord, the party must begin to bow--not obsequiously, but respectfully, and with dignity; at the end of fifteen minutes the Emperor would go in the house, and we could run along home again. We felt immensely relieved. It seemed, in a manner, easy. There was not a man in the party but believed that with a little practice he could stand in a row, especially if there were others along; there was not a man but believed he could bow without tripping on his coat tail and breaking his neck; in a word, we came to believe we were equal to any item in the performance except that complicated smile. The Consul also said we ought to draft a little address to the Emperor, and present it to one of his aides-de-camp, who would forward it to him at the proper time. Therefore, five gentlemen were appointed to prepare the document, and the fifty others went sadly smiling about the ship--practicing. During the next twelve hours we had the general appearance, somehow, of being at a funeral, where every body was sorry the death had occurred, but glad it was over--where every body was smiling, and yet broken-hearted.
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