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Mark Twain > Innocents Abroad > Chapter LIX

Innocents Abroad

Chapter LIX

We were at sea now, for a very long voyage--we were to pass through the
entire length of the Levant; through the entire length of the
Mediterranean proper, also, and then cross the full width of the
Atlantic--a voyage of several weeks. We naturally settled down into a
very slow, stay-at-home manner of life, and resolved to be quiet,
exemplary people, and roam no more for twenty or thirty days. No more,
at least, than from stem to stern of the ship. It was a very comfortable
prospect, though, for we were tired and needed a long rest.

We were all lazy and satisfied, now, as the meager entries in my note-
book (that sure index, to me, of my condition,) prove. What a stupid
thing a note-book gets to be at sea, any way. Please observe the style:

     "Sunday--Services, as usual, at four bells. Services at night,
     also. No cards.

     "Monday--Beautiful day, but rained hard. The cattle purchased at
     Alexandria for beef ought to be shingled. Or else fattened. The
     water stands in deep puddles in the depressions forward of their
     after shoulders. Also here and there all over their backs. It is
     well they are not cows--it would soak in and ruin the milk. The
     poor devil eagle--[Afterwards presented to the Central Park.]--from
     Syria looks miserable and droopy in the rain, perched on the forward
     capstan. He appears to have his own opinion of a sea voyage, and if
     it were put into language and the language solidified, it would
     probably essentially dam the widest river in the world.

     "Tuesday--Somewhere in the neighborhood of the island of Malta. Can
     not stop there. Cholera. Weather very stormy. Many passengers
     seasick and invisible.

     "Wednesday--Weather still very savage. Storm blew two land birds to
     sea, and they came on board. A hawk was blown off, also. He
     circled round and round the ship, wanting to light, but afraid of
     the people. He was so tired, though, that he had to light, at last,
     or perish. He stopped in the foretop, repeatedly, and was as often
     blown away by the wind. At last Harry caught him. Sea full of
     flying-fish. They rise in flocks of three hundred and flash along
     above the tops of the waves a distance of two or three hundred feet,
     then fall and disappear.

     "Thursday--Anchored off Algiers, Africa. Beautiful city, beautiful
     green hilly landscape behind it. Staid half a day and left. Not
     permitted to land, though we showed a clean bill of health. They
     were afraid of Egyptian plague and cholera.

     "Friday--Morning, dominoes. Afternoon, dominoes. Evening,
     promenading the deck. Afterwards, charades.

     "Saturday--Morning, dominoes. Afternoon, dominoes. Evening,
     promenading the decks. Afterwards, dominoes.

     "Sunday--Morning service, four bells. Evening service, eight bells.
     Monotony till midnight.--Whereupon, dominoes.

     "Monday--Morning, dominoes. Afternoon, dominoes. Evening,
     promenading the decks. Afterward, charades and a lecture from Dr.
     C. Dominoes.

     "No date--Anchored off the picturesque city of Cagliari, Sardinia.
     Staid till midnight, but not permitted to land by these infamous
     foreigners. They smell inodorously--they do not wash--they dare not
     risk cholera.

     "Thursday--Anchored off the beautiful cathedral city of Malaga,
     Spain.--Went ashore in the captain's boat--not ashore, either, for
     they would not let us land. Quarantine. Shipped my newspaper
     correspondence, which they took with tongs, dipped it in sea water,
     clipped it full of holes, and then fumigated it with villainous
     vapors till it smelt like a Spaniard. Inquired about chances to run
     to blockade and visit the Alhambra at Granada. Too risky--they
     might hang a body. Set sail--middle of afternoon.

     "And so on, and so on, and so forth, for several days. Finally,
     anchored off Gibraltar, which looks familiar and home-like."

It reminds me of the journal I opened with the New Year, once, when I was
a boy and a confiding and a willing prey to those impossible schemes of
reform which well-meaning old maids and grandmothers set for the feet of
unwary youths at that season of the year--setting oversized tasks for
them, which, necessarily failing, as infallibly weaken the boy's strength
of will, diminish his confidence in himself and injure his chances of
success in life. Please accept of an extract:

     "Monday--Got up, washed, went to bed.
     "Tuesday--Got up, washed, went to bed.
     "Wednesday--Got up, washed, went to bed.
     "Thursday--Got up, washed, went to bed.
     "Friday--Got up, washed, went to bed.
     "Next Friday--Got up, washed, went to bed.
     "Friday fortnight--Got up, washed, went to bed.
     "Following month--Got up, washed, went to bed."

I stopped, then, discouraged. Startling events appeared to be too rare,
in my career, to render a diary necessary. I still reflect with pride,
however, that even at that early age I washed when I got up. That
journal finished me. I never have had the nerve to keep one since. My
loss of confidence in myself in that line was permanent.

The ship had to stay a week or more at Gibraltar to take in coal for the
home voyage.

It would be very tiresome staying here, and so four of us ran the
quarantine blockade and spent seven delightful days in Seville, Cordova,
Cadiz, and wandering through the pleasant rural scenery of Andalusia, the
garden of Old Spain. The experiences of that cheery week were too varied
and numerous for a short chapter and I have not room for a long one.
Therefore I shall leave them all out.

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