EDEN AFTER THE FALL
A few years ago an Englishman who had lived our neighbor in the same villa at San Remo, came and said that he was going away because it was so dull at San Remo. He was going with his wife to Monte Carlo, because you could find amusement every day in the week at the tables of the different games of chance, and Sundays there was a very nice little English church. He did not seem to think there was anything out of the way in his grouping of these advantages, but he did not strongly urge them upon us, and we restricted ourselves in turn to our tacit reflections on the indifference of the English to a point of morals on which the American conscience is apt to suffer more or less anguish if it offends. So far as I know they do not think it wrong to take money won at any game; but possibly their depravity in this matter rather comforted us than offended. At any rate, I am sure of the superiority of our own morals in visiting Monte Carlo after we left Genoa. If we did not look forward with our Englishman's complacency to the nice little church there, we certainly did not mean to risk our money at the tables of Roulette, nor yet at the tables of Trente et Quarante, in the Casino. What we really wished to do was to look on in the spiritual security of saints while the sinners of both sexes lost and gained to the equal hurt of their souls. We perhaps expected to hear the report of a pistol in the gardens of the Casino, if we did not actually see the ruined gambler falling among the flowers, or if not so much as this, we thought we might witness his dramatic despair as the croupier drew in the last remnant of his fortune and mechanically invited the other Messieurs and Mesdames to make their game; secretly, we might even have been willing to see something hysterical on the part of the Mesdames if fate frowned upon them, or something scandalously exuberant if it smiled. If our motives were not the worst, they were, at any rate, not the best; I suppose they were the usual human motives, and I am afraid they were mixed.
We found it rather long from Genoa to Monte Carlo, but this was not so much because of the distance as because of the delays of our train, which, having started late, grew reckless on the way, and before we reached the Italian frontier at Ventimiglia, had lost all shame and failed to connect there with the French train for the rest of our journey. So, instead of having barely time to affirm our innocence of tobacco, spirits, or perfumes to the customs officers, and to wash down a sandwich with a cup of coffee at the restaurant, we had an hour and forty minutes at Ventimiglia, which I partly spent in vain attempts to buy the poverty of the inspector so far as to prevail with him not to delay the examination of our baggage, but to proceed to it at once, in order that we might have it all off our minds, and devote our long leisure to the inquiry by what steps the ancient Li-gurian tribe of the Intemelii lost their name in its actual corruption of Ventimiglia. It is a charming old town, far more charming than the stranger who never has time to walk into it from the station can imagine, and there is a palm-bordered avenue leading from the railway to the sea, with the shops and cafes of Italy on one side and the shops and cafes of France on the other. So late as six o'clock in the evening those cafes and shops preserved a reciprocal integrity which I could not praise too highly, but after dark there must be a ghostly interchange of forbidden commodities among them which no force of customs officers could wholly suppress. At any rate, I should have liked to see them try it, though I should not have liked to be kept in Ventimiglia overnight for any less reason; it seemed a lonesome place, though mighty picturesque, with old walls, and a magnificent old fort toward the sea, and a fine bridge spanning, though for the moment superfluously spanning, the perfectly dry bed of a river.
I wished to ask what the name of the river was, but out of all the files of people coming and going I chose an aged man who could not tell me; he excused himself with real regret on the ground that he was a stranger in those parts. Then there was nothing for me to do but go back to the station and renew my attempt on the inspector, who still remained proof against me. What added to the hardship of the situation was that it was Italy at one end of the station and France at the other, and in one extremity it was an hour earlier than it was at the other, by the time of Central Europe at the east and by the time of Paris at the west, so that I do not know but we were two hours and forty minutes at Ventimiglia instead of one hour and forty minutes. Of this period little could be employed at tea, and we were not otherwise hungry; we could give something of our interminable leisure to counting our baggage and suffering unfounded alarms at failing to make it come out right, but we could not give much.
The weather had turned chilly, the long station was full of draughts, and the invalid of the party, without whom no American party is perfectly national, was rapidly taking cold. We were quite incredulous when the examination actually began, but at last it really did, and it began with our pieces, with such a show of favoring us on the inspector's part, that when it was over, in about two minutes, one trunk serving as a type of the innocence of all, I furtively held up a piece of five francs in recognition of his kindness. But he slowly shook his head, whether in regret or whether in stern refusal I shall never know. He was an Italian, but in the employment of the French republic, and I have not been able since to credit with certainty his incorruptibility to his native or his adoptive country; I might easily be mistaken in deciding either way.