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We passed palaces galore in Genoa, but we had only time to glance in, except at the Fieschi, where we lunched, and later were shown the rooms where the famous conspiracy took place. I don't know what the conspiracy was, but the guide-book speaks of it as “the famous conspiracy,” so everybody but me will know just which one is meant. It probably concerned the Ghibellines and the Guelphs, and had strangling in it and poison—three kinds, slow, medium, and swift—these features being usually identified with the early Italian school.
The dim, mysterious streets of Genoa interested us—many of the houses frescoed outside—and the old city gates, dating back to the crusade; also some English signs, one of which said:
DINNER 3 LIRA, WINE ENCLOSED,
MILK FOR SALE, OR TO LET.
I am in favor of these people learning English, but not too well. The picturesque standard of those signs is about right.
Our new passengers were crowding aboard the ship when we returned. They were a polyglot assortment, English, German, French, Hungarian—a happylooking lot, certainly, and eager for the housing and comfort of the ship. But one dear old soul, a German music-master-any one could tell that at first glancewas in no hurry for the cabin. He had been looking forward to that trip. Perhaps this was his first
sight of the sea and shipping and all the things he had wanted so long. He came to where I was looking over the rail, his head bare, his white hair blowing in the wind. He looked at me anxiously.
“Haben Sie Deutsch ?” he asked.
I confessed that I still had a small broken assortment of German on hand, such as it was. He pointed excitedly to a vessel lying near us—a ship with an undecipherable name in the Greek character.
“Greek,” he said, “it is Greek-a vessel from Greece!”
He was deeply moved. To him that vessel-a rather poor, grimy affair—with its name in the characters of Homer and Æschylus was a thing to make his blood leap and his eyes grow moist, because to him it meant the marvel and story of a land made visible—the first breath of realization of what before had just been a golden dream. I had been thinking of those things, too. We did not mind the cold, and stood looking down at the Greek vessel while we sailed away.
But a change has come over the spirit of our ship. It is a good ship still, with a goodly company-only it is not the same. We lost some worthy people in Genoa and we took on this European invasion. It is educational, and here in the smoking-room I could pick up all the languages I need so much if I were willing to listen and had an ear for such things. I could pick up customs, too. It is after dinner, and the smokingroom is crowded with mingled races of both sexes, who have come in for their coffee and their cigarettes, their gossip and their games. Over there in one corner is a French group — Parisian, without doubt the women are certainly that, otherwise they could not chatter and handle their cigarettes in that dainty way—and they are going-on and waving their hands and turning their eyes to heaven in the interest and ecstasy of their enjoyment. Games do not interest them—they are in themselves sufficient diversion to one another.
It is different with a group of Germans at the next table; they have settled down to cards-pinochle, likely enough—and they are playing it soberly-as soberly as that other group who are absorbed in chess. At still another table a game of poker is being organized, and from that direction comes the beloved American tongue, carrying such words as “What's the blue chips worth?” “Shall we play jack-pots?” “Does the dealer ante?” and in these familiar echoes I recognize the voices of friends.
The centre of the smoking-room is different. The tables there are filled with a variegated lot of men and women, all talking together, each pursuing a different subject-each speaking a language of his own. Every nation of Europe, I should think, is represented there—it is a sort of lingual congress in open session.
The Reprobatęs no longer own the smoking-room. They are huddled off in a corner over their game of piquet, and they have a sort of cowed, helpless look. Only now and then I can see the Colonel jerk his hat a bit lower, and hear him say, “Hell, Joe!” as the Apostle lay down his final cards. Then I recognize that we are still here and somewhat in evidence, though our atmosphere is not the same.
That couldn't be expected. When you have set out with a crowd of pleasure-seeking irresponsibles, gathered up at random, and have become a bit of the amalgamation which takes place in two weeks' mixing, you somehow feel that a certain unity has resulted from the process and you are reluctant about seeing it disturbed. You feel a personal loss in every face that goes—a personal grievance in every stranger that intrudes.
The ship's family has become a sort of club. It has formed itself into groups and has discussed its members individually and collectively. It has found out their business and perhaps some of the hopes and ambitions—even some of the sorrows-of each member. Then, suddenly, here is a new group of people that breaks in. You know nothing about them—they know nothing about you. They are good people, and you will learn to like some of themperhaps all of them-in time. Yet you regard them doubtfully. Rearrangement is never easy, and amalgamation will be slow.
Oh, well, it is ever thus, and it is the very evanescence of things that makes them worth while. That old crowd of ours would have grown deadly tired of one another if there hadn't been always the prospect and imminence of change. And, anyhow, this is far more picturesque, and we are sailing to-night before the wind, over a smooth sea, for Malta, and it has grown warm outside and the lights of Corsica are on our starboard bow.
W E came a long way around from Algiers to
v “Malta and its dependencies,” the little group of islands which lies between Sicily and the African coast. We have spent two days at sea, meantime, but they were rather profitable days, for when one goes capering among marvels, as we do ashore, he needs these ship days to get his impressions sorted out and filed for reference.
We were in the harbor of Valetta, Malta, when we woke this morning-a rather dull morning—and a whole felucca of boats-flotilla, I mean-had appeared in the offing to take us ashore. At least, I suppose they were in the offing—I'm going to look that word up, by and by, in the ship dictionary, and see what it means. They have different boats in each of the places we have visited every country preserving its native pattern. These at Malta are a sort of gondola with a piece sticking up at each end—for ornament, probably—I have been unable to figure out any use for the feature.