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- Europe Revised - 3/47 -
My Bonny Lies over the Ocean--Lies and Lies and Lies
Of course, we had a bridal couple and a troupe of professional deep-sea fishermen aboard. We just naturally had to have them. Without them, I doubt whether the ship could have sailed. The bridal couple were from somewhere in the central part of Ohio and they were taking their honeymoon tour; but, if I were a bridal couple from the central part of Ohio and had never been to sea before, as was the case in this particular instance, I should take my honeymoon ashore and keep it there. I most certainly should! This couple of ours came aboard billing and cooing to beat the lovebirds. They made it plain to all that they had just been married and were proud of it. Their baggage was brand-new, and the groom's shoes were shiny with that pristine shininess which, once destroyed, can never be restored; and the bride wore her going-and-giving-away outfit.
Just prior to sailing and on the morning after they were all over the ship. Everywhere you went you seemed to meet them and they were always wrestling. You entered a quiet side passage--there they were, exchanging a kiss--one of the long-drawn, deep-siphoned, sirupy kind. You stepped into the writing room thinking to find it deserted, and at sight of you they broke grips and sprang apart, eyeing you like a pair of startled fawns surprised by the cruel huntsman in a forest glade. At all other times, though, they had eyes but for each other.
A day came, however--and it was the second day out--when they were among the missing. For two days and two nights, while the good ship floundered on the tempestuous bosom of the overwrought ocean, they were gone from human ken. On the afternoon of the third day, the sea being calmer now, but still sufficiently rough to satisfy the most exacting, a few hardy and convalescent souls sat in a shawl-wrapped row on the lee side of the ship.
There came two stewards, bearing with them pillows and blankets and rugs. These articles were disposed to advantage in two steamer chairs. Then the stewards hurried away; but presently they reappeared, dragging the limp and dangling forms of the bridal couple from the central part of Ohio. But oh, my countrymen, what a spectacle! And what a change from what had been!
The going-away gown was wrinkled, as though worn for a period of time by one suddenly and sorely stricken in the midst of health. The bride's once well-coifed hair hung in lank disarray about a face that was the color of prime old sage cheese--yellow, with a fleck of green here and there--and in her wan and rolling eye was the hunted look of one who hears something unpleasant stirring a long way off and fears it is coming this way.
Side by side the stewards stretched them prone on their chairs and tucked them in. Her face was turned from him. For some time both of them lay there without visible signs of life--just two muffled, misery-stricken heaps. Then, slowly and languidly, the youth stretched forth an arm from his wrappings and fingered the swaddling folds that enveloped the form of his beloved.
It may have been he thought it was about time to begin picking the coverlid, or it may have been the promptings of reawakened romance, once more feebly astir within his bosom. At any rate, gently and softly, his hand fell on the rug about where her shoulder ought to be. She still had life enough left in her to shake it off--and she did. Hurt, he waited a moment, then caressed her again. "Stop that!" she cried in a low but venomous tone. "Don't you dare touch me!"
So he touched her no more, but only lay there mute and motionless; and from his look one might plumb the sorrows of his soul and know how shocked he was, and how grieved and heartstricken! Love's young dream was o'er! He had thought she loved him, but now he knew better. Their marriage had been a terrible mistake and he would give her back her freedom; he would give it back to her as soon as he was able to sit up. Thus one interpreted his expression.
On the day we landed, however, they were seen again. We were nosing northward through a dimpled duckpond of a sea, with the Welsh coast on one side and Ireland just over the way. People who had not been seen during the voyage came up to breathe, wearing the air of persons who had just returned from the valley of the shadow and were mighty glad to be back; and with those others came our bridal couple.
I inadvertently stumbled on them in an obscure companionway. Their cheeks again wore the bloom of youth and health, and they were in a tight clinch; it was indeed a pretty sight. Love had returned on roseate pinions and the honeymoon had been resumed at the point where postponed on account of bad weather.
They had not been seasick, though. I heard them say so. They had been indisposed, possibly from something they had eaten; but they had not been seasick. Well, I had my own periods of indisposition going over; and if it had been seasickness I should not hesitate a moment about coming right out and saying so. In these matters I believe in being absolutely frank and aboveboard. For the life of me I cannot understand why people will dissemble and lie about this thing of being seasick. To me their attitude is a source of constant wonderment.
On land the average person is reasonably proud of having been sick--after he begins to get better. It gives him something to talk about. The pale and interesting invalid invariably commands respect ashore. In my own list of acquaintances I number several persons--mainly widowed ladies with satisfactory incomes--who never feel well unless they are ill. In the old days they would have had resort to patent medicines and the family lot at Laurel Grove Cemetery; but now they go in for rest cures and sea voyages, and the baths at Carlsbad and specialists, these same being main contributing causes to the present high cost of living, and also helping to explain what becomes of some of those large life-insurance policies you read about. Possibly you know the type I am describing--the lady who, when planning where she will spend the summer, sends for catalogues from all the leading sanatoriums. We had one such person with us.
She had been surgically remodeled so many times that she dated everything from her last operation. At least six times in her life she had been down with something that was absolutely incurable, and she was now going to Homburg to have one of the newest and most fatal German diseases in its native haunts, where it would be at its best. She herself said that she was but a mere shell; and for the first few meals she ate like one--like a large, empty shell with plenty of curves inside it.
However, when, after a subsequent period of seclusion, she emerged from her stateroom wearing the same disheveled look that Jonah must have worn when he and the whale parted company, do you think she would confess she had been seasick? Not by any means! She said she had had a raging headache. But she could not fool me. She had the stateroom next to mine and I had heard what I had heard. She was from near Boston and she had the near-Boston accent; and she was the only person I ever met who was seasick with the broad A.
Personally I abhor those evasions, which deceive no one. If I had been seasick I should not deny it here or elsewhere. For a time I thought I was seasick. I know now I was wrong--but I thought so. There was something about the sardels served at lunch--their look or their smell or something--which seemed to make them distasteful to me; and I excused myself from the company at the table and went up and out into the open air. But the deck was unpleasantly congested with great burly brutes--beefy, carnivorous, overfed creatures, gorged with victuals and smoking disgustingly strong black cigars, and grinning in an annoying and meaning sort of way every time they passed a body who preferred to lie quiet.
The rail was also moving up and down in a manner that was annoying and wearisome for the eye to watch--first tipping up and up and up until half the sky was hidden, then dipping down and down and down until the gray and heaving sea seemed ready to leap over the side and engulf us. So I decided to go below and jot down a few notes. On arriving at my quarters I changed my mind again. I decided to let the notes wait a while and turn in.
It is my usual custom when turning in to remove the left shoe as well as the right one and to put on my pajamas; but the pajamas were hanging on a hook away over on the opposite side of the stateroom, which had suddenly grown large and wide and full of great distances; and besides, I thought it was just as well to have the left shoe where I could put my hand on it when I needed it again. So I retired practically just as I was and endeavored, as per the admonitions of certain friends, to lie perfectly flat. No doubt this thing of lying flat is all very well for some people --but suppose a fellow has not that kind of a figure?
Nevertheless, I tried. I lay as flat as I could, but the indisposition persisted; in fact, it increased materially. The manner in which my pajamas, limp and pendent from that hook, swayed and swung back and forth became extremely distasteful to me; and if by mental treatment I could have removed them from there I should assuredly have done so. But that was impossible.
Along toward evening I began to think of food. I thought of it not from its gastronomic aspect, but rather in the capacity of ballast. I did not so much desire the taste of it as the feel of it. So I summoned Lubly--he, at least, did not smile at me in that patronizing, significant way--and ordered a dinner that included nearly everything on the dinner card except Lubly's thumb. The dinner was brought to me in relays and I ate it--ate it all! This step I know now was ill-advised. It is true that for a short time I felt as I imagine a python in a zoo feels when he is full of guinea-pigs--sort of gorged, you know, and sluggish, and only tolerably uncomfortable.
Then ensued the frightful denouement. It ensued almost without warning. At the time I felt absolutely positive that I was seasick. I would have sworn to it. If somebody had put a Bible on my chest and held it there I would cheerfully have laid my right hand on it and taken a solemn oath that I was seasick. Indeed,I believed I was so seasick that I feared--hoped, rather--I might never recover from it. All I desired at the moment was to get it over with as quickly and as neatly as possible.
As in the case of drowning persons, there passed in review before my eyes several of the more recent events of my past life--meals
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