Belinda's World Tour
A little girl, hustled into her pram by an officious nurse, discovered halfway home from the park that her doll Belinda had been left behind. The nurse had finished her gossip with the nurse who minced with one hand on her hip, and had had a good look at the grenadiers in creaking boots who strolled ln the park to eye and give smiling nods to the nurses. She had posted a letter and sniffed at various people. Lizaveta had tried to talk to a little boy who spoke only a soft gibberish, had kissed and been kissed by a large dog, and had helped another little girl fill her shoes with sand.

And Belinda had been left behind. They went back and looked for her in all the places they had been. The nurse was in a state. Lizaveta howled. Her father and mother were at a loss to comfort her, as this was the first tragedy of her life and she was indulging all its possibilities. Her grief was the more terrible in that they had a guest to tea, Herr Doktor Kafka of the Assicurazioni Generali, Prague office.

--- Dear Lizaveta! Herr Kafka said. You are so very unhappy that I am going to tell you something that was going to be a surprise. Belinda did not have time to tell you herself. While you were not looking, she met a little boy her own age, perhaps a doll, perhaps a little boy, I couldn't quite tell, who invited her to go with him around the world. But he was leaving immediately. There was no time to dally. She had to make up her mind then and there. Such things happen. Dolls, you know, are born in department stores and have a more advanced knowledge than those of us who are brought to houses by storks. We have such a limited knowledge of things. Belinda did, in her haste, ask me to tell you that she would write daily, and that she would have told you of her sudden plans if she had been able to find you in time.

Lizaveta stared.

But the very next day there was a postcard for her in the mail. She had never had a postcard before. On its picture side was London Bridge, and on the other lots of writing which her mother read to her, and her father again, when he came home for dinner.

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Dear Lizaveta: we came to London by balloon. Oh, how exciting it is to float over mountains, rivers, and cities with my friend Rudoll who had packed a lunch of cherries and jam.The English are very strange. Their clothes cover all of them, even their heads, where the buttons go right up into their hats, with button holes, so to speak, to look out of, and a kind of sleeve for their very large noses. They all carry umbrellas, as it rains constantly, and long poles to poke their way through the fog. They live on muffins and tea. I have seen the King in a carriage drawn by forty horses, stepping with precision to a drum. More later. Your loving doll, Belinda.

Dear Lizaveta: we came to Scotland by train. It went through a tunnel all the way from London to Edinburgh, so dark that all the passengers were issued lanterns to read The Times by. The Scots all wear kilts, and dance to the bagpipe, and eat porridge which they cook in kettles the size of our bathtub. Rudolf and I have had a picnic in a meadow full of sheep. There are bandits everywhere. Most of the people in Edinburgh are lawyers, and their families live in apartments around the courtrooms. More later. Your loving friend, Belinda.

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Dear Lizaveta: From Scotland we have traveled by steam packet to the Faeroe Islands, in the North Sea. The people here are all fisherfolk and belong to a religion called The Plymouth Brothers, so that when they aren't out in boats hauling in nets full of herring, they are in church singing hymns. The whole island rings with music. Not a single tree grows here, and the houses have rocks on their roofs, to keep the wind from blowing them away. When we said we were from Prague, they had never heard of it, and asked if it were on the moon. Can you imagine! This card will be slow getting there, as the mail boat comes but once a month. Your loving companion, Belinda.

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Dear Lizaveta: Here we are in Copenhagen, staying with a nice gentleman named Hans Christian Andersen. He lives next door to another nice gentleman named Søren Kierkegaard. They take Rudolf and me to a park that's wholly for children and dolls, called Tivoli. You can see what it looks like by turning over this card. Every afternoon at 4 little boys dressed in red (and they are all blond and have big blue eyes) march through Tivoli, and around and around it, beating drums and playing fifes. The harbor is the home of several mermaids. They are very shy and you have to be very patient and stand still a long time to see them. The Danes are melancholy and drink lots of coffee and read only serious books. I saw a book in a shop with the title How To Be Sure As To What ls And What lsn't. And The Doll's Guide To Existentialism; lf This, Then What? and You Are More Miserable Than You Think You Are. In haste, Belinda.

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Dear Lizaveta:The church bells here in St. Petersburg ring all day and all night long. Rudolf fears that our hearing will be affected. It snows all year round. There's a samovar in every streetcar. They read serious books here, too. Their favorite author is Count Tolstoy, who is one of his own peasants (they say this distresses his wife), and who eats only beets, though he adds an onion at Passover. We can't read a word of the shop signs. Some of the letters are backwards. The men have bushy beards and look like bears. The women keep their hands in muffs. Your shivering friend, Belinda.

Dear Lizaveta: We have crossed Siberia in a sled over the snow, and now we are on Sakhalin Island, staying with a very nice and gentle man whose name is Anton Chekhov. He lives in Moscow, but is here writing a book about this strange northern place where the mosquitoes are the size of parrots and all the people are in jail for disobeying their parents and taking things that didn't belong to them. The Russians are very strict. Mr. Chekhov pointed out to us a man who is serving a thousand years for not saying Gesundheit when the Czar sneezed in his hearing. It is all very sad. Mr. Chekhov is going to do something about it all, he says. He has a cat name of Pussinka who is anxious to return to Moscow and doesn't like Sakhalin Island at all, at all. Your loving friend, Belinda.

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Dear Lizaveta: Japan! Oh, Japan! Rudolf and I have bought kimonos and roll about in a rickshaw, delighting in views of Fujiyama (a blue mountain with snow on top) through wisteria blossoms and cherry orchards and bridges that make a hump rather than lie flat. The Japanese drink tea in tiny cups. The women have tall hairdos in which they have stuck yellow sticks. Everybody stops what they are doing ten times a day to write a poem. These poems, which are very short, are about crickets and seeing Fujiyama through the wash on the line and about feeling lonely when the moon is full. We are very popular, as the Japanese like novelty. Excitedly, Belinda.

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Dear Lizaveta: Here we are in China. That's the long wall on the other side of the card. The emperor is a little boy who wears a dress the color of paprika. He lives in a palace the size of Prague, with a thousand servants. To get from his nursery to his throne he has a chair between two poles, and is carried. Five doctors look at his poo-poo when he makes it. Sorry to be vulgar but what's the point of travel if you don't learn how different people are outside Prague? Answer me that. The Chinese eat with two sticks and slurp their soup. Their hair is tied in pigtails. The whole country smells of ginger, and they say plog for Prague. All day long firecrackers, firecrackers, firecrackers ! Your affectionate Belinda.

Dear Lizaveta: we have sailed to Tahiti in a clipper ship. This island is all pink and green, and the people are brown and lazy. The women are very beautiful, with long black hair and pretty black eyes. The children scamper up palm trees like monkeys and wear not a stitch of clothes. We have met a Frenchman name of Gauguin, who paints pictures of the Tahitians, and another Frenchman named Pierre Loti, who wears a fez and reads the European newspapers in the café all day and says that Tahiti is Romantic. What Rudolf and I say is that it's very hot and decidedly uncivilized. Have I said that Rudolf is of the royal family? He's a good sport, but he has his limits. There are no streets here! Romantically, Belinda.

Well! dear Lizaveta, San Francisco! Oh my! There are streets here, all uphill, and with gold prospectors and their donkeys on them. There are saloons with swinging doors, and Flora Dora girls dancing inside. Everybody plays Oh Suzanna! on their banjos (everybody has one) and everywhere you see Choctaws in blankets and cowboys with six-shooters and Chinese and Mexicans and Esquimaux and Mormons. All the houses are of wood, with fancy carved trimmings, and the gentry sit on their front porches and read political newspapers. Anybody in America can run for any public office whatever so that the mayor of San Francisco is a Jewish tailor and his councilmen are a Red Indian, a Japanese gardener, a British earl, a Samoan cook, and a woman Presbyterian preacher. We have met a Scotsman name of Robert Louis Stevenson, who took us to see an Italian opera. Yours ever, Belinda.

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Dear Lizaveta: I'm writing this in a stagecoach crossing the Wild West. We have seen many Indian villages of teepees, and thousands of buffalo. It took hours to get down one side of the Grand Canyon, across its floor (the river is shallow and we rolled right across, splashing) and up the other side. The Indians wear colorful blankets and have a feather stuck in their hair. Earlier today we saw the United States Cavalry riding along with the American flag. They were singing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and were all very handsome. It will make me seasick to write more, as we're going as fast as a train. Dizzily, Belinda.

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Dear Lizaveta: We have been to Chicago, which is on one of the Great Lakes, and crossed the Mississippi, which is so wide you can't see across it, only paddle-steamers in the middle, loaded with bales of cotton. We have seen utopias of Quakers and Shakers and Mennonites, who live just as they want to in this free country. There is no king, only a Congress which sits in Washington and couldn't care less what the people do. I have seen one of these Congressmen. He was fat (three chins, I assure you) and offered Rudolf and me a dollar each if we would vote for him. When we said we were from Prague, he said he hoped we'd start a war, as war is good for business. On to New York! In haste, your loving Belinda.

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Dear Lizaveta: How things turn out! Rudolf and I are married! Oh yes, at Niagara Falls, where you stand in line, couple after couple, and get married by a Protestant minister, a rabbi, or a priest, take your choice. Then you get in a barrel (what fun!) and ride over the falls --- you bounce and bounce at the bottom --- and rent a honeymoon cabin, of which there are hundreds around the falls, each with a happy husband and wife billing and cooing. I know from your parents that my sister in the department store has come to live with you and be your doll. Rudolf and I are going to the Argentine. You must come visit our ranch. I will remember you forever. Mrs. Rudolph Hapsburg und Porzelan (your Belinda).

--- From The Guy Davenport Reader
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