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- Europe Revised - 47/47 -
had it yourself in a mild form and of course you know. The last time they operated on me, I was on the table an hour and forty minutes--mind you, an hour and forty minutes by the clock--and for three days and nights they didn't know whether I would live another minute."
A crash of glass.
"Stew'd, I ashidently turn' over m' drink--bring me nozher brand' 'n' sozza." ... "Just a minute, Mr. Blosser, I want to tell my husband about it--he'll be awful interested. Say, listen, Poppa, this gentleman here knows Maxie Hockstein out in Grand Rapids." ... "Do you think so, really? A lot of people have said that very same thing to me. They come up to me and say 'I know you must be a Southerner because you have such a true Southern accent.' I suppose I must come by it naturally, for while I was born in New Jersey, my mother was a member of a very old Virginia family and we've always been very strong Southern sympathizers and I went to a finishing school in Baltimore and I was always being mistaken for a Southern girl." ... "Well, I sure had enough of it to do me for one spell. I seen the whole shootin' match and I don't regret what it cost me, but, believe me, little old Keokuk is goin' to look purty good to me when I get back there. Why, them people don't know no more about makin' a cocktail than a rabbit." ... "That's her standing yonder talking to the captain. Yes, that's what so many people say, but as a matter of fact, she's the youngest one of the two. I say, 'These are my daughters,' and then people say, 'You mean your sisters.' Still I married very young--at seventeen--and possibly that helps to explain it." ... "Oh, is that a shark out yonder? Well, anyway, it's a porpoise, and a porpoise is a kind of shark, isn't it? When a porpoise grows up, it gets to be a shark--I read that somewhere. Ain't nature just wonderful?" ... "Raymund Walter Pelham, if I have to speak to you again, young man, I'm going to take you to the stateroom and give you something you won't forget in a hurry." ... "Stew'd, hellup me gellup."
Thus the lazy hours slip by and the spell of the sea takes hold on you and you lose count of the time and can barely muster up the energy to perform the regular noonday task of putting your watch back half an hour. A passenger remarks that this is Thursday and you wonder dimly what happened to Wednesday.
Three days more--just three. The realization comes to you with a joyous shock. Somebody sights a sea-gull. With eager eyes you watch its curving flight. Until this moment you have not been particularly interested in sea-gulls. Heretofore, being a sea-gull seemed to you to have few attractions as a regular career, except that it keeps one out in the open air; otherwise it has struck you as being rather a monotonous life with a sameness as to diet which would grow very tiresome in time. But now you envy that sea-gull, for he comes direct from the shores of the United States of America and if so minded may turn around and beat you to them by a margin of hours and hours and hours. Oh, beauteous creature! Oh, favored bird!
Comes the day before the last day. There is a bustle of getting ready for the landing. Customs blanks are in steady demand at the purser's office. Every other person is seeking help from every other person, regarding the job of filling out declarations. The women go about with the guilty look of plotters in their worried eyes. If one of them fails to slip something in without paying duty on it she will be disappointed for life. All women are natural enemies to all excise men. Dirk, the Smuggler, was the father of their race.
Comes the last day. Dead ahead lies a misty, thread-like strip of dark blue, snuggling down against the horizon, where sea and sky merge.
You think it is a cloud bank, until somebody tells you the glorious truth. It is the Western Hemisphere--your Western Hemisphere. It is New England. Dear old New England! Charming people--the New Englanders! Ah, breathes there the man with soul so dead who never to himself has said, this is my own, my native land? Certainly not. A man with a soul so dead as that would be taking part in a funeral, not in a sea voyage. Upon your lips a word hangs poised. What a precious sound it has, what new meanings it has acquired! There are words in our language which are singular and yet sound plural, such as politics and whereabouts; there are words which are plural and yet sound singular, such as Brigham Young, and there are words which convey their exact significance by their very sound. They need no word-chandlers, no adjective-smiths to dress them up in the fine feathers of fancy phrasing. They stand on their own merits. You think of one such word--a short, sweet word of but four letters. You speak that word reverently, lovingly, caressingly.
Nearer and nearer draws that blessed dark blue strip. Nantucket light is behind us. Long Island shoulders up alongside. Trunks accumulate in gangways; so do stewards and other functionaries. You have been figuring upon the tips which you will bestow upon them at parting; so have they. It will be hours yet before we land. Indeed, if the fog thickens, we may not get in before to-morrow, yet people run about exchanging good-byes and swapping visiting cards and promising one another they will meet again. I think it is reckless for people to trifle with their luck that way.
Forward, on the lower deck, the immigrants cluster, chattering a magpie chorus in many tongues. The four-and-twenty blackbirds which were baked in a pie without impairment to the vocal cords have nothing on them. Most of the women were crying when they came aboard at Naples or Palermo or Gibraltar. Now they are all smiling. Their dunnage is piled in heaps and sailors, busy with ropes and chains and things, stumble over it and swear big round German oaths.
Why, gracious! We are actually off Sandy Hook. Dear old Sandy --how one loves those homely Scotch names! The Narrows are nigh and Brooklyn, the City Beautiful, awaits us around the second turning to the left. The pilot boat approaches. Brave little craft! Gallant pilot! Do you suppose by any chance he has brought any daily papers with him? He has--hurrah for the thoughtful pilot! Did you notice how much he looked like the pictures of Santa Claus?
We move on more slowly and twice again we stop briefly. The quarantine officers have clambered up the sides and are among us; and to some of us they give cunning little thermometers to hold in our mouths and suck on, and of others they ask chatty, intimate questions with a view to finding out how much insanity there is in the family at present and just what percentage of idiocy prevails? Three cheers for the jolly old quarantine regulations. Even the advance guard of the customhouse is welcomed by one and all--or nearly all.
Between wooded shores which seem to advance to meet her in kindly greeting, the good ship shoves ahead. For she is a good ship, and later we shall miss her, but at this moment we feel that we can part from her without a pang. She rounds a turn in the channel. What is that mass which looms on beyond, where cloud-combing office buildings scallop the sky and bridges leap in far-flung spans from shore to shore? That's her--all right--the high picketed gateway of the nation. That's little old New York. Few are the art centers there, and few the ruins; and perhaps there is not so much culture lying round loose as there might be--just bustle and hustle, and the rush and crush and roar of business and a large percentage of men who believe in supporting their own wives and one wife at a time. Crass perhaps, crude perchance, in many ways, but no matter. All her faults are virtues now. Beloved metropolis, we salute thee! And also do we turn to salute Miss Liberty.
This series of adventure tales began with the Statue of Liberty fading rearward through the harbor mists. It draws to a close with the same old lady looming through those same mists and drawing ever closer and closer. She certainly does look well this afternoon, doesn't she? She always does look well, somehow.
We slip past her and on past the Battery too; and are nosing up the North River. What a picturesque stream it is, to be sure! And how full of delightful rubbish! In twenty minutes or less we shall be at the dock. Folks we know are there now, waiting to welcome us.
As close as we can pack ourselves, we gather in the gangways. Some one raises a voice in song. 'Tis not the Marseillaise hymn that we sing, nor Die Wacht am Rhein, nor Ava Maria, nor God Save the King; nor yet is it Columbia the Gem of the Ocean. In their proper places these are all good songs, but we know one more suitable to the occasion, and so we all join in. Hark! Happy voices float across the narrowing strip of rolly water between ship and shore:
"'Mid pleasures and palaces, Though we may roam,
(Now then, altogether, mates:)
Be it ever so humble, There's no place like HOME!"
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