All day Sunday at anchor. The storm had gone down a great deal, but the
< BackForward >
sea had not. It was still piling its frothy hills high in air "outside,"
as we could plainly see with the glasses. We could not properly begin a
pleasure excursion on Sunday; we could not offer untried stomachs to so
pitiless a sea as that. We must lie still till Monday. And we did. But
we had repetitions of church and prayer-meetings; and so, of course, we
were just as eligibly situated as we could have been any where.
I was up early that Sabbath morning and was early to breakfast. I felt a
perfectly natural desire to have a good, long, unprejudiced look at the
passengers at a time when they should be free from self-consciousness--
which is at breakfast, when such a moment occurs in the lives of human
beings at all.
I was greatly surprised to see so many elderly people--I might almost
say, so many venerable people. A glance at the long lines of heads was
apt to make one think it was all gray. But it was not. There was a
tolerably fair sprinkling of young folks, and another fair sprinkling of
gentlemen and ladies who were non-committal as to age, being neither
actually old or absolutely young.
The next morning we weighed anchor and went to sea. It was a great
happiness to get away after this dragging, dispiriting delay. I thought
there never was such gladness in the air before, such brightness in the
sun, such beauty in the sea. I was satisfied with the picnic then and
with all its belongings. All my malicious instincts were dead within me;
and as America faded out of sight, I think a spirit of charity rose up in
their place that was as boundless, for the time being, as the broad ocean
that was heaving its billows about us. I wished to express my feelings--
I wished to lift up my voice and sing; but I did not know anything to
sing, and so I was obliged to give up the idea. It was no loss to the
ship, though, perhaps.
It was breezy and pleasant, but the sea was still very rough. One could
not promenade without risking his neck; at one moment the bowsprit was
taking a deadly aim at the sun in midheaven, and at the next it was
trying to harpoon a shark in the bottom of the ocean. What a weird
sensation it is to feel the stem of a ship sinking swiftly from under you
and see the bow climbing high away among the clouds! One's safest course
that day was to clasp a railing and hang on; walking was too precarious a
By some happy fortune I was not seasick.--That was a thing to be proud
of. I had not always escaped before. If there is one thing in the world
that will make a man peculiarly and insufferably self-conceited, it is to
have his stomach behave itself, the first day it sea, when nearly all his
comrades are seasick. Soon a venerable fossil, shawled to the chin and
bandaged like a mummy, appeared at the door of the after deck-house, and
the next lurch of the ship shot him into my arms. I said:
"Good-morning, Sir. It is a fine day."
He put his hand on his stomach and said, "Oh, my!" and then staggered
away and fell over the coop of a skylight.
Presently another old gentleman was projected from the same door with
great violence. I said:
"Calm yourself, Sir--There is no hurry. It is a fine day, Sir."
He, also, put his hand on his stomach and said "Oh, my!" and reeled away.
In a little while another veteran was discharged abruptly from the same
door, clawing at the air for a saving support. I said:
"Good morning, Sir. It is a fine day for pleasuring. You were about to
I thought so. I anticipated him, anyhow. I stayed there and was
bombarded with old gentlemen for an hour, perhaps; and all I got out of
any of them was "Oh, my!"
I went away then in a thoughtful mood. I said, this is a good pleasure
excursion. I like it. The passengers are not garrulous, but still they
are sociable. I like those old people, but somehow they all seem to have
the "Oh, my" rather bad.
I knew what was the matter with them. They were seasick. And I was glad
of it. We all like to see people seasick when we are not, ourselves.
Playing whist by the cabin lamps when it is storming outside is pleasant;
walking the quarterdeck in the moonlight is pleasant; smoking in the
breezy foretop is pleasant when one is not afraid to go up there; but
these are all feeble and commonplace compared with the joy of seeing
people suffering the miseries of seasickness.
I picked up a good deal of information during the afternoon. At one time
I was climbing up the quarterdeck when the vessel's stem was in the sky;
I was smoking a cigar and feeling passably comfortable. Somebody
"Come, now, that won't answer. Read the sign up there--NO SMOKING ABAFT
It was Captain Duncan, chief of the expedition. I went forward, of
course. I saw a long spyglass lying on a desk in one of the upper-deck
state-rooms back of the pilot-house and reached after it--there was a
ship in the distance.
"Ah, ah--hands off! Come out of that!"
I came out of that. I said to a deck-sweep--but in a low voice:
"Who is that overgrown pirate with the whiskers and the discordant
"It's Captain Bursley--executive officer--sailing master."
I loitered about awhile, and then, for want of something better to do,
fell to carving a railing with my knife. Somebody said, in an
insinuating, admonitory voice:
"Now, say--my friend--don't you know any better than to be whittling the
ship all to pieces that way? You ought to know better than that."
I went back and found the deck sweep.
"Who is that smooth-faced, animated outrage yonder in the fine clothes?"
"That's Captain L****, the owner of the ship--he's one of the main
In the course of time I brought up on the starboard side of the
pilot-house and found a sextant lying on a bench. Now, I said, they
"take the sun" through this thing; I should think I might see that vessel
through it. I had hardly got it to my eye when someone touched me on the
shoulder and said deprecatingly:
"I'll have to get you to give that to me, Sir. If there's anything you'd
like to know about taking the sun, I'd as soon tell you as not--but I
don't like to trust anybody with that instrument. If you want any
figuring done--Aye, aye, sir!"
He was gone to answer a call from the other side. I sought the
"Who is that spider-legged gorilla yonder with the sanctimonious
"It's Captain Jones, sir--the chief mate."
"Well. This goes clear away ahead of anything I ever heard of before.
Do you--now I ask you as a man and a brother--do you think I could
venture to throw a rock here in any given direction without hitting a
captain of this ship?"
"Well, sir, I don't know--I think likely you'd fetch the captain of the
watch may be, because he's a-standing right yonder in the way."
I went below--meditating and a little downhearted. I thought, if five
cooks can spoil a broth, what may not five captains do with a pleasure