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.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00