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- Europe Revised - 4/47 -


mostly. I shall, however, pass hastily over these distressing details, merely stating in parentheses, so to speak, that I did not remember those string-beans at all. I was positive then, and am yet, that I had not eaten string-beans for nearly a week. But enough of this!

I was sure I was seasick; and I am convinced any inexperienced bystander, had there been one there, would have been misled by my demeanor into regarding me as a seasick person--but it was a wrong diagnosis. The steward told me so himself when he called the next morning. He came and found me stretched prone on the bed of affliction; and he asked me how I felt, to which I replied with a low and hollow groan--tolerably low and exceedingly hollow. It could not have been any hollower if I had been a megaphone.

So he looked me over and told me that I had climate fever. We were passing through the Gulf Stream, where the water was warmer than elsewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, and I had a touch of climate fever. It was a very common complaint in that latitude; many persons suffered from it. The symptoms were akin to seasickness, it was true; yet the two maladies were in no way to be confused. As soon as we passed out of the Gulf Stream he felt sure I would be perfectly well. Meantime he would recommend that I get Lubly to take the rest of my things off and then remain perfectly quiet. He was right about it too.

Regardless of what one may think oneself, one is bound to accept the statement of an authority on this subject; and if a steward on a big liner, who has traveled back and forth across the ocean for years, is not an authority on climate fever, who is? I looked at it in that light. And sure enough, when we had passed out of the Gulf Stream and the sea had smoothed itself out, I made a speedy and satisfactory recovery; but if it had been seasickness I should have confessed it in a minute. I have no patience with those who quibble and equivocate in regard to their having been seasick.

I had one relapse--a short one, but painful. In an incautious moment, when I wist not wot I wotted, I accepted an invitation from the chief engineer to go below. We went below--miles and miles, I think--to where, standing on metal runways that were hot to the foot, overalled Scots ministered to the heart and the lungs and the bowels of that ship. Electricity spat cracklingly in our faces, and at our sides steel shafts as big as the pillars of a temple spun in coatings of spumy grease; and through the double skin of her we could hear, over our heads, a mighty Niagaralike churning as the slew-footed screws kicked us forward twenty-odd knots an hour. Someone raised the cover of a vat, and peering down into the opening we saw a small, vicious engine hard at work, entirely enveloped in twisty, coily, stewy depths of black oil, like a devil-fish writhing in sea-ooze and cuttle-juice.

So then we descended another mile or two to an inferno, full of naked, sooty devils forever feeding sulphurous pitfires in the nethermost parlors of the damned; but they said this was the stokehole; and I was in no condition to argue with them, for I had suddenly begun to realize that I was far from being a well person. As one peering through a glass darkly, I saw one of the attendant demons sluice his blistered bare breast with cold water, so that the sweat and grime ran from him in streams like ink; and peering in at a furnace door I saw a great angry sore of coals all scabbed and crusted over. Then another demon, wielding a nine-foot bar daintily as a surgeon wields a scalpel, reached in and stabbed it in the center, so that the fire burst through and gushed up red and rich, like blood from a wound newly lanced.

I had seen enough and to spare; but my guide brought me back by way of the steerage, in order that I might know how the other half lives. There was nothing here, either of smell or sight, to upset the human stomach--third class is better fed and better quartered now on those big ships than first class was in those good old early days--but I had held in as long as I could and now I relapsed. I relapsed in a vigorous manner--a whole-souled, boisterous manner. People halfway up the deck heard me relapsing, and I will warrant some of them were fooled too--they thought I was seasick.

It was due to my attack of climate fever that I missed the most exciting thing which happened on the voyage. I refer to the incident of the professional gamblers and the youth from Jersey City. From the very first there was one passenger who had been picked out by all the knowing passengers as a professional gambler; for he was the very spit-and-image of a professional gambler as we have learned to know him in story books. Did he not dress in plain black, without any jewelry? He certainly did. Did he not have those long, slender, flexible fingers? Such was, indeed, the correct description of those fingers. Was not his eye a keen steely-blue eye that seemed to have the power of looking right through you? Steely-blue was the right word, all right. Well, then, what more could you ask?

Behind his back sinister yet fascinating rumors circulated. He was the brilliant but unscrupulous scion of a haughty house in England. He had taken a first degree at Oxford, over there, and the third one at police headquarters, over here. Women simply could not resist him. Let him make up his mind to win a woman and she was a gone gosling. His picture was to be found in rogues' galleries and ladies' lockets. And sh-h-h! Listen! Everybody knew he was the identical crook who, disguised in woman's clothes, escaped in the last lifeboat that left the sinking Titanic. Who said so? Why--er--everybody said so!

It came as a grievous disappointment to all when we found out the truth, which was that he was the booking agent for a lyceum bureau, going abroad to sign up some foreign talent for next season's Chautauquas; and the only gambling he had ever done was on the chance of whether the Tyrolian Yodelers would draw better than our esteemed secretary of state--or vice versa.

Meantime the real professionals had established themselves cozily and comfortably aboard, had rigged the trap and cheese-baited it, and were waiting for the coming of one of the class that is born so numerously in this country. If you should be traveling this year on one of the large trans-Atlantic ships, and there should come aboard two young well-dressed men and shortly afterward a middle-aged well-dressed man with a flat nose, who was apparently a stranger to the first two; and if on the second night out in the smoking room, while the pool on the next day's run was being auctioned, one of the younger men, whom we will call Mr. Y, should appear to be slightly under the influence of malt, vinous or spirituous liquors--or all three of them at once--and should, without seeming provocation, insist on picking a quarrel with the middle-aged stranger, whom we will call Mr. Z; and if further along in the voyage Mr. Z should introduce himself to you and suggest a little game of auction bridge for small stakes in order to while away the tedium of travel; and if it should so fall out that Mr. Y and his friend Mr. X chanced to be the only available candidates for a foursome at this fascinating pursuit; and if Mr. Z, being still hostile toward the sobered and repentant Mr. Y, should decline to take on either Mr. Y or his friend X as a partner, but chose you instead; and if on the second or third deal you picked up your cards and found you had an apparently unbeatable hand and should bid accordingly; and Mr. X should double you; and Mr. Z, sitting across from you should come gallantly right back and redouble it; and Mr. Y, catching the spirit of the moment, should double again --and so on and so forth until each point, instead of being worth only a paltry cent or two, had accumulated a value of a good many cents--if all these things or most of them should befall in the order enumerated--why, then, if I were you, gentle reader, I would have a care. And I should leave that game and go somewhere else to have it too--lest a worse thing befall you as it befell the guileless young Jerseyman on our ship. After he had paid out a considerable sum on being beaten--by just one card--upon the playing of his seemingly unbeatable hand and after the haunting and elusive odor of eau de rodent had become plainly perceptible all over the ship, he began, as the saying goes, to smell a rat himself, and straightway declined to make good his remaining losses, amounting to quite a tidy amount. Following this there were high words, meaning by that low ones, and accusations and recriminations, and at eventide when the sunset was a welter of purple and gold, there was a sudden smashing of glassware in the smoking room and a flurry of arms and legs in a far corner, and a couple of pained stewards scurrying about saying, "Ow, now, don't do that, sir, if you please, sir, thank you, sir!" And one of the belligerents came forth from the melee wearing a lavender eye with saffron trimmings, as though to match the sunset, and the other with a set of skinned knuckles, emblematic of the skinning operations previously undertaken. And through all the ship ran the hissing tongues of scandal and gossip.

Out of wild rumor and cross-rumor, certain salient facts were eventually precipitated like sediment from a clouded solution. It seemed that the engaging Messrs. X, Y and Z had been induced, practically under false pretenses to book passage, they having read in the public prints that the prodigal and card-foolish son of a cheese-paring millionaire father meant to take the ship too; but he had grievously disappointed them by not coming aboard at all. Then, when in an effort to make their traveling expenses back, they uncorked their newest trick and device for inspiring confidence in gudgeons, the particular gudgeon of their choosing had refused to pay up. Naturally they were fretful and peevish in the extreme. It spoiled the whole trip for them.

Except for this one small affair it was, on the whole, a pleasant voyage. We had only one storm and one ship's concert, and at the finish most of us were strong enough to have stood another storm. And the trip had been worth a lot to us--at least it had been worth a lot to me, for I had crossed the ocean on one of the biggest hotels afloat. I had amassed quite a lot of nautical terms that would come in very handy for stunning the folks at home when I got back. I had had my first thrill at the sight of foreign shores. And just by casual contact with members of the British aristocracy, I had acquired such a heavy load of true British hauteur that in parting on the landing dock I merely bowed distantly toward those of my fellow Americans to whom I had not been introduced; and they, having contracted the same disease, bowed back in the same haughty and distant manner.

When some of us met again, however, in Vienna, the insulation had been entirely rubbed off and we rushed madly into one another's arms and exchanged names and addresses; and, babbling feverishly the while, we told one another what our favorite flower was, and our birthstone and our grandmother's maiden name, and what we thought of a race of people who regarded a cup of ostensible coffee and a dab of honey as constituting a man's-size breakfast. And, being pretty tolerably homesick by that time, we leaned in toward a common center and gave three loud, vehement cheers for the land of the country sausage and the home of the buckwheat cake--and, as giants refreshed, went on our ways rejoicing.

That, though, was to come later. At present we are concerned with the trip over and what we had severally learned from it. I


Europe Revised - 4/47

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