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DAYS AT SEA
W E have settled down into a pleasant routine of
VV lazy life. Most of us are regularly on deck now, though one sees new faces daily.
We have taken up such amusements as please usreading, games, gossip, diaries, picture-puzzles, and there are even one or two mild flirtations discoverable. In the “booze-bazaar" (the Diplomat's name for the smoking-room) the Reprobates find solace in pleasant mixtures and droll stories, while they win one another's money at diverting games. They are an attractive lot—the Reprobates. One can hardly tear himself away from them. Only the odors of the smokingroom are not quite attractive, as yet. I am no longer seasick—at least, not definitely so; but I still say "Mind is all” as I pass through the smoking-room.
We are getting well acquainted, too, for the brief period of time we have been together. It does not seem brief, however. That bleak day of departure in North River is already far back in the past-as far back as if it belonged to another period, which indeed it does. We are becoming acquainted, as I say. We are rapidly finding out one another's names; whether we are married, single, or divorced-and why; what, if anything, we do when we are at home; how we happened to come on this trip; and a great deal of useful information useful on a ship like this, where the voyage is to be a long one and associations more or less continuous. We form into little groups and discuss these things—our own affairs first—then presently we shift the personnel of our groups and discuss each other, and are happy and satisfied, and feel that the cruise is a success.
There are not many young people on the shipa condition which would seem to have prevailed on these long ocean excursions since the first Oriental pilgrimage, forty-two years ago. I suppose the pros
pects of several months on one ship, with sight-seeing in Egypt and the Holy Land, do not look attractive enough to the average young person who is thinking of gayer things. One can be gay enough on shipboard, however, where there is a good band of music; a quarter-deck to dance on; nooks on the sun-deck to
flirt in; promenades and shuffleboard, with full dress every night for dinner. No need to have an idle time on an excursion like this if one doesn't want it; which most of us do, however, because we are no longer entirely young, and just loaf around and talk of unimportant things and pretend to read up on the places we are going to see.
We need to do that. What we don't know about history and geography on this ship would sink it. Most of us who have been to school, even if it is a good while ago, keep sort of mental pictures of the hemispheres, and preserve the sound of certain old familiar names. We live under the impression that this is knowledge, and it passes well enough for that until a time comes like this when particular places on the map are to be visited and particular associations are to be recalled. Then, of course, we start in to classify and distinguish, and suddenly find that there is scarcely anything to classify and less still to distinguish. I am morally certain that there are not ten of us on this vessel who could tell with certainty the difference between Deucalion and Deuteronomy, or between the Pillars of Hercules and the Golden Horn. The brightest man on the ship this morning asked if Algiers was in Egypt or Spain, and a dashing highschool girl wanted to know if Greece were not a part of Asia Minor.
We shall all know better when we are through with this trip. We shall be wonders in the matter of knowledge, and we shall get it from first hands. We shall no longer confuse Upper and Lower Egypt, or a peristyle with a stadium. We are going to
know about these things. That is why we are here.
In the matter of our amusements, picture-puzzles seem to be in the lead. They are fascinating things, once one gets the habit. They sell them on this ship, and nearly everybody has one or more. The tables in the forward cabin are full of them, and after dinner there is a group around each table pawing over the pieces in a rapt way or offering advice to whoever happens to be setting them. Certain of our middleaged ladies in particular find comfort in the picturepuzzles, and sit all day in their steamer-chairs with the pieces on a large pasteboard cover, shifting and trying and fitting them into place. One wonders what blessing those old Quaker City pilgrims had that took the place of the fascinating picture-puzzle.
We are getting south now, and the weather is much warmer. The sun is bright, too, and a little rainbow travels with the ship, just over the port screw. When the water is fairly quiet the decks are really gay. New faces still appear, however. Every little while there is a fresh arrival, as it were; a fluttering out from some inner tangle of sea magic and darkness, just as a butterfly might emerge from a cocoon. Some of them do not stay. We run into a cross-sea or a swell, or something, and they disappear again, and their places at the table remain vacant. The Diplomat continues his fight and his inquiries. Every little while one may hear him ask: "Is it better for a seasick man to walk or to sit down?” The Diplomat never denies his condition. “Oh, Lord, I'm seasick!” he says. “I'd be sick on a duck-pond. I'd be sick if the ship
were tied to the dock. I'd be sick if anybody told me I was on a ship. Say, what is a fellow like that to do, anyway? And here I am bound for Jerusalem!”.
Down here the water is very blue. We might be sailing on a great tub of indigo. One imagines that to take up a glass of it would be to dip up pure ultramarine. I mentioned this to the Diplomat.
“Yes,” he said, “it is a cracker-jack of an ocean, but I don't care for it just now."
But what a lonely ocean it is! Not a vessel, not a sail, not a column of smoke on the horizon!
We are officially German on this ship, and the language prevails. Our passenger-list shows that we are fully half German, I believe, and of course all the officers and stewards are of that race. The consequence is that everybody on the ship, almost, speaks or tries to speak the language. Persons one would never suspect of such a thing do it, and some of them pretty well, too. Even I got reckless and shameless, and from a long-buried past produced a few German remarks of my own. They were only about ten-carat assay, but they were accepted at par. I remember an old and very dear German man in America who once said to me, speaking of his crops, “Der early corn, he iss all right; aber der late corn, she's bad!”
My German is not as good as his English, but you'd think it was better, the serious way these stewards accept it. They recognize the quality—they have many cargoes of the same brand.
We have two exceedingly pretty girls on this shipone of them as amiable, as gentle, as lovely in every way as she is pretty. The other—well, she is pretty