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Fumigation “Cheaper than Soap”

When we walked ashore, a party of policemen … put us into a little stone cell and locked us in. We had the whole passenger list for company, but their room would have been preferable, for there was no light, there were no windows, no ventilation. It was close and hot…. Presently a smoke rose about our feet—a smoke that smelled of all the dead things of earth, of all the putrefaction and corruption imaginable. We were there five minutes, and when we got out it was hard to tell which of us carried the vilest fragrance. These miserable outcasts called that “fumigating” us, and the term was a tame one indeed. They fumigated us to guard themselves against the cholera, though we hailed from no infected port. We had left the cholera far behind us all the time. However, they must keep epidemics away somehow or other, and fumigation is cheaper than soap.

—Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, 1869

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