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SHIP-BORED

* * * * *

_By The Same Author_


THE NEED OF CHANGE.
Cloth. 50 cents net

PARIS √А LA CARTE.
Cloth. 60 cents net

MY ENEMY - THE MOTOR.
Cloth. 50 cents net

* * * * *

SHIP-BORED

by

JULIAN STREET

Author of "The Need of Change," Etc.

With Illustrations by May Wilson Preston







[Illustration: THE SPOTTER IS A "PERFECT DEAR," AND THAT IS HOW YOUR
WIFE COMES TO LOSE TWELVE DRESSES AND A TWENTY-THOUSAND-DOLLAR NECKLACE
AND HAVE HYSTERICS ON THE DOCK.

(_See page 47_)]



[Illustration]

New York
John Lane Company
MCMXIV

Copyright, 1911
by The Ridgway Company

Copyright, 1912
by John Lane Company




TO
BOOTH TARKINGTON

"_Loda il mare da terra._"




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


The spotter is "a perfect dear", and that
is how your wife comes to lose twelve
dresses and a twenty-thousand-dollar
necklace and have hysterics on the
dock _Frontispiece_

Small wonder that you hand a dollar to
your sister and kiss the porter 14

I recognise the blonde divinity. Her eyes
are closed, her hat on one ear, and she is
wrapped like a mummy 18

How the ship rolls and lurches 22

Ah, confidences beside a life-boat on the
upper deck! 26

Quite the nicest place on the whole ship is
the smoke-room

Your cap goes flying overboard. * * * Your
cigar is blown to shreds 38

There is a horrible fascination about a ship's
concert, something hypnotic that draws
you, very much against your word and
will 44

"Ship-Bored" originally appeared in
_Everybody's Magazine_.




PREFACE


Whatever the effect of "Ship-Bored" upon others, its publication has
exerted a very definite effect upon me, or rather upon the character of
my daily mail. Instead of letters the postman now leaves little packages
containing pills which, according to the senders, will prevent the
casting of bread upon the waters.

It is astonishing to learn how many sea-sick remedies there are.
Looking at the bottles and the boxes piled, each morning by my breakfast
plate, I sometimes wonder if there aren't as many remedies as sufferers.

But suppose there are? Why do people send the medicines to me? Why do
perfect strangers assume that, because I have taken up the task of
muck-raking the Atlantic Ocean, I am in need of antidotes for _mal de
mer_? Even suppose that I do suffer thus at sea? Is it anybody else's
business - or luncheon?

All great literary works are born of suffering. Stop the suffering and
you stop the author. Yet people keep on sending pills to me - each pill
an added insult if you choose to take it that way.

But I don't take them that way. I don't take them at all. I try them on
my friends. When a friend of mine is sailing I send him a few pills out
of a recent bottle. If he reports that he was sea-sick I throw away the
balance of the bottle. The same if he dies. That shows that the pills
are too strong.

I do not wish to take undue credit to myself for conducting these
experiments. Since the pills are given to me, my researches cost me
nothing - excepting an occasional friend whom (as he was sailing for
Europe, anyway) I should not be able to see, even if he were alive.

J. S.

NEW YORK, _January, 1912_.




SHIP-BORED

When the cabin port-holes are dark and green
Because of the seas outside;
When the ship goes _wop_ (with a wiggle between)
And the steward falls into the soup-tureen,
And the trunks begin to slide;
When Nursey lies on the floor in a heap,
And Mummy tells you to let her sleep,
And you aren't waked or washed or dressed,
Why, then you will know (if you haven't guessed)
You're "Fifty North and Forty West!"

- _Just-So Stories._


"Now run, dear! That's the gangway! You take the baby, and I'll take the
fitted bag! Yes, I have the sea-sick tablets; they're here in my pocket
with the tickets and the letters of credit and the travellers' cheques
and the baby's mittens and the trunk keys and the - Well, I don't care
_who's_ here to see us off! People ought to know better! Now hurry up!
There goes the whistle!"

It is an awful quarter of an hour, that quarter of an hour before the
liner sails; that worrying, waving, whooping, whistling quarter of an
hour through which you stand on deck like a human centre-piece loaded
with candy, fruit, and flowers, surrounded by a phantasmagoria of
friendly faces, talking like a dancing-man and feeling like a dancing
dervish. Small wonder that the deafening whistle-blast and cry of "All
ashore!" smite sweetly on your ears. Small wonder that you hand a dollar
to your sister and kiss the porter who has brought your steamer-rugs.

Ah, blessed moment when the dock begins to move away with all those
laughing, crying, waving, shouting people; when snub-nosed tugs begin to
warp the ship into the stream; when the final howlings of the
megaphonomaniacs sound dim. ("Bon voyage, Charlie!" "Take care of
yourself, old man! Think of me in gay Par-ree!")

[Illustration: SMALL WONDER THAT YOU HAND A DOLLAR TO YOUR SISTER AND
KISS THE PORTER.]

You lean, in a dazed way, upon the rail, turning on maudlin grins and
waving your cap at no one in particular, until the crowd becomes a
moving blur upon the dock-end. The liner's nose points down the river;
gentle vibrations tell you she is under way; small craft dip flags and
toot as they go by; the man-made mountain of Manhattan's office
buildings drops astern; the statue of Liberty, the shores of Staten
Island, the flat back of Sandy Hook run past as though wound on rollers;
the pilot goes over the side with a bag of farewell letters; the white
yacht which has followed down the bay blows a parting blast, dips her
ensign, and swings in a wide circle toward New York; the pursuing tug
comes up and puts a tardy passenger aboard. Then, suddenly, like a
sleep-walking dragon that wakes up, the liner shakes herself; her
propellers lash the sea to suds; a wedge-shaped wake spreads out behind
her, and the voyage is on in earnest.

Reno, Roosevelt, Trusts, Wall Street, High Buildings, High Tariff, High
Cost of Living, Graft, Yellow Journals, Family Hotels, the Six Best
Sellers, the Sixty Worst Writers, the Four Hundred, the Hundred Million,
all the things which go to make home sweet, lie astern, enveloped in the
haze at the horizon. You are on the sea at last! - the vast and tireless
sea which has been the inspiration of painter, poet, and pirate; the
cradle of Columbus, Nelson, Paul Jones, Dewey, Hobson, and Annette
Kellerman!

What is there like the sea? What is there like the free swing of a
gallant ship breasting the Atlantic? Nothing! Let's sit down. No, I
don't want to go and get my coat. I'm not so terribly cold yet, and my
state-room smells of rubber and fresh paint. I like it better up here
in the air, don't you? I'm very fond of the fresh air. I really adore
it. No, it doesn't always give me a good colour. Not always. If I'm
pale it is only because I sat up late last night at that farewell
dinner. Perhaps I ate too much. Let's just stay here quietly in our
deckchairs and watch the people.

But, goodness! How they've changed! Where are all those pretty,
fashionable women who were on deck before we sailed? Where, for
instance, is the adorable blonde with the seal coat, orchids, low shoes,
silk stockings, and cough?

A certain cynical friend of mine would answer this inquiry by declaring
that all the attractive women go ashore, having only come to see their
homely relatives and friends depart. But I don't think so. I believe the
pretty ones are here, though in seclusion or disguise.

Nothing of them that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change

at the first touch of Neptune's hand. Only the professional mermaid can
look well at sea. The other women either lie on deck in pale green rows
and live throughout the voyage on sea biscuits and sherry, or, giving up
completely, seek burrows in the ship and hibernate like animals awaiting
spring. Yes, even now I think I recognise the blonde divinity. She's the
third one from the end in that row of steamer-chairs in the wide part of
the deck. Her orchids lie disconsolate upon her chest, her eyes are
closed, her hair blows in straight, strawlike strings across her
colourless face, her hat is on one ear, and she is wrapped like a mummy
in an atrocious rug of pink and olive plaid.

[Illustration: I RECOGNIZE THE BLONDE DIVINITY. HER EYES ARE CLOSED, HER
HAT ON ONE EAR, AND SHE IS WRAPPED LIKE A MUMMY.]

Of course there's always the exception: the rosy-cheeked, plaid-coated
creature who walks the deck without a hat, and lets the ringlets blow
about her face. Her hair curls with the dampness. Her colour heightens
with the seas and winds. You might suspect her of a golden scaly tail
and fins, excepting that you see her tiny, well-shod feet as they
step out firmly on the deck. They never step alone. There are lots of
other feet, and larger, that delight in stepping with them. The very
wind that loves her wafts her friends - wafts them with tobacco-smoke, as
like as not:

"I beg your pardon, does this smoke trouble you?"

"Oh, no! Not in the least.
My brothers all smoke. I {Cigar
adore the smell of a good {Pipe
Keep right on, _please_." {Cigarette

"Thanks awfully. Perhaps you'd like to walk around to the other side and
see the lightship?"

"Oh, _thanks!_" She thanks him for the lightship as if it were a bunch
of roses.

And so they walk, and walk, and walk, and walk - she near the rail, he
careering on beside her, hurdling over the foot-rests of the rows of
steamer-chairs, and tripping now and then upon the feet extending from
them. And sometimes she sits down and shows him magazines which he has
seen before, and he leans over very far, and points to things, and she
points, too, and his hand touches hers, and he begs pardon, and she
excuses him, of course, and laughs - and little locks of hair have
touched his cheek. And then they walk again, and then she feeds him
chocolates (sent by some poor chap who had to stay behind) with her own
rosy finger-tips, and then another light looms up ahead, all golden, and
then - How short the voyage has seemed!

Ah, feet that twinkle, cheeks that hold your roses when the world is
tottering and green! Ah, youth! Ah, blowing curls! Ah, Delta Kappa
Epsilon! Ah, Alpha and Omega! Ah, snapshots, shuffleboard, and sea! Ah,
confidences beside a life-boat on the upper deck!... "And I was taken
with you from the second that I saw you!"

"And I with _you - - _!"

"_Were_ you - honestly - - ?"

"Yes, dear - - !"

"_Dearest_ - - !"

Of course we didn't overhear them; it was the third life-boat on the
port side of the ship that overheard, as it has overheard so many other
times on other voyages.

As for ourselves, we were not even up there, but were sitting in the
lounge, trying, as I recollect, to match passengers with names upon the
sailing list, and failing very badly. The woman whom we picked for Mrs.
H. Van Rensselaer Somebody (travelling with two maids, two valets, one
Pomeranian, one husband, and no children) proves to be a Broadway
showgirl; and the one we dubbed a duchess, the proprietor of a Fifth
Avenue frock-foundry. Showgirls, milliners, and dressmakers are very
often the "smart" people of the ship, and it must be regretfully
admitted that duchesses too often fail to mark themselves by that
arrogance and overdress which free-born American citizens have a right
to expect of them.

It always seems to me they ought to put the peers and persons of
interest at the head of the passenger-list; but they do not. The first
place on the list of every liner is reserved for Mr. Aaron, precisely as
the last place is invariably held for Mr. Zwissler. But though the
alphabetical roller irons out our names in rows, it does not iron out
our tastes and personalities. We may still be quite as common or
exclusive as we wish. Take, for instance, the H. Van Rensselaer
Somebodys (of New York, Newport, and Paris). Low down on the list, they
are, nevertheless, up high on the ship. They will remain throughout the
voyage upon the topmost deck (cabins de luxe A, B, C, and D) in a state
of exclusive and elegant sea-sickness. You will not see them.
They have "absolutely nothing in common" with any of the other
passengers - excepting _mal de mer_ and perchance a wife or husband
ex-officio.

[Illustration: HOW THE SHIP ROLLS AND LURCHES!]

Of course we have an opera-singer on board - a lady with a figure like
the profile of a disc record. No home on the rolling deep can be
complete without one. You feel as if you really knew her personally,
having heard her voice so often upon your coffee-mill at home. And of
course we have an actor or an actress with us. A liner might as well
attempt to go to sea without a rudder as without one.

Also, if we are to have full measure, there must be on board a
playwright or a novelist, a scientific man, an absconder, a bishop, a
transatlantic sharper; a group of nasal people "personally conducted" by
a man with a sad, patient face; a lord, or at the very least, a baron
and some counts. The other passengers are, for the most part, colourless
and quiet people like ourselves.

The men upon a liner are divided into two broad classes: the deck crowd
and the smoke-room crowd. I can not tell you much about the former, as I
see them only now and then at meals; but the smoke-room is always full
of pleasant chaps. You see, the smoke-room on an English liner is made
(like English law) for men only, and, being made for men, it is the most
comfortable place upon the ship. It is my habit to make for the
smoke-room as soon as I decently can (or even sooner), there to lie upon
a leather couch, feet up, back propped against a cushion, and smoke, or
doze, or read, or talk, or think about the endlessness of transatlantic
trips. Only two things can drive me from the smoke-room: one is the
smoke-room steward, who closes up at night; the other is my own sense of
shipboard duty toward family or friends. Occasionally one has to go and
see how they are faring.

How the ship rolls and lurches the moment that one rises from the
leather couch! How cold and damp and windy is the deck, how desolate the
ladies' cabin when one comes from the snugness of the smoke-room! Upon a
narrow seat just inside the cabin door, an indelicate old person lies,
eyes closed and jaws agape. Across the room, a book turned downward in
her lap, sits the forlorn object of your fond solicitude. Her eyes are
gazing straight ahead, at nothing.

"Ah, dear," you say, approaching with the best show of gaiety that you
can muster, "here you are, eh? I thought I'd come and see if you wanted
me."

"Oh, no."

"Did that canned pineapple disagree with you? I'm glad _I_ didn't touch
it. Well, then, I'll run in and see them auction off the pool. You won't
mind? By-by, dear."

You think that you want air. Reeling to the wind swept deck, you cling
unsteadily to an iron post at the fore part of the ship. Your cap goes
flying overboard, carried, like an aeroplane, upon the gale; your cigar
is blown to shreds; you feel the sting of cold salt spray upon your
face; your eyeballs rock with the great bow of the ship, which rears
itself in air, higher, higher, higher, then smashes down upon the sea,
throwing green, hissing mountains off to either side, only to rear and
smash again a million times.

Yet some people say this is agreeable! this senseless movement of a
ship, this utter waste of time and energy! But you know better. You let
go of the post, bolt down the deck, dive into the smoke-room, and fling
yourself again upon the leather couch. As you touch it, a magic calm
o'erspreads the sea. Then all is well until your sense of duty pricks
again.

[Illustration: AH, CONFIDENCES BESIDE A LIFE-BOAT ON THE UPPER DECK!]

That the smoke-room is iniquitous, I own - as iniquitous as a comfortable
club, with nice dark wainscoting, leather chairs and couches, and
little bells to touch when good cigars and other things are wanted. It
is, therefore, quite the nicest place on the whole ship.

My deck-walking friends will not subscribe to this, of course. They call
my smoke-room views and habits anything but healthy, and urge me to come
out upon the cold and slippery decks, and get the chilly "benefits" of
being on the sea. Alas! there is but one benefit for me, and that is
Europe. I detest the sea. I abhor it with an awful loathing. It offends
alike my physical system and my sense of proportion. It is too
sickeningly out of scale, too hideously large!

Do not fancy that I object to water, as such. In glasses, in bath-tubs,
under bridges, or trimmed with swans and water-lilies, water is all well
enough. But to put so much of it in one place is a wasteful, vulgar
show!

You see that I am telling you the truth about the sea. I am not one to
sit upon the shore and write you poetry (of the kind that is described
as rollicking) about it. What occupation could be more despicable than
that of making sea-songs to mislead the public?

The sea! The sea! The open sea!
The blue, the fresh, the ever free!
I never was on the dull, tame shore,
But I loved the great sea more and more.

Do you grasp the ambiguity, the subtle trickery of that last line? What
does it really mean? It means that Bryan W. Procter, who wrote it, had
to be upon the shore to love the sea; that the more he was upon the
shore the more he loved the sea and that the more he was upon the sea
the more he loved the shore. In other words, he loathed the sea, as I
do. And I am told he hardly left his native England for dread of the
Channel trip.

As for Coleridge, Cunningham, and Campbell, it is only too evident that
they wrote sea-songs in vain celebration of their own initials. Byron
and Wallace Irwin were probably bribed by the transatlantic steamship
companies and the Navy Department.

And not one of them is a realist. There have been two realists who have
written poetry of the sea. One is Shakespeare, who wrote: "Now would I
give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground." The other
is James Montgomery Flagg, who in his "All in the Same Boat" exposes the
sea down to its very depths. The sea treated him abominably. He
retaliated by throwing a book. If the sea had any sense of shame it
would dry up, and so would certain of the passengers upon it. The
Cheerful One, for instance:

"He sees you are dozing, he knows you are ill;
But he _will_ sidle up, just to say,
As he crowds his gay person on half of your chair,
'Well, how's the boy feeling to-day?'"

Don't ever fancy that the Cheerful One among the passengers inquires
thus because he cares a whit. He only wishes to emphasise his own
immunity from _mal de mer_, and blow the smoke of his disgusting pipe
into your face. Neither his stomach nor his intellect is sensitive. He
has a monologue on sea-sickness: it is all nonsense, imagination. It
denotes weakness, not so much of the stomach as of the mentality, the
will, the character. And besides, you don't call _this_ rough, do you?
You ought to have crossed with him in the old _Nausia_ in 'eighty-nine.
Fourteen days and the racks never off the table! Only two other
passengers at meals, and - don't you feel it coming? - the captain said it
was the - but you fill in the rest. Ah, if the _Nausia_ had only sunk
with all on board!

[Illustration: QUITE THE NICEST PLACE ON THE WHOLE SHIP IS THE
SMOKE-ROOM.]

When the voyage is smooth and the Cheerful One is denied the joy of
making sea-sick folk feel sicker, he is disappointed but not idle, for
he may still extort confessions from untravelled persons. You know
him: the solid, red-faced man who dresses for dinner and sits at the
head of the table eating fried things loud and long when it is rough. He
wears travel as though it were the Order of the Garter, and tells you,
between mouthfuls, about all the ships that sail the seas. "No, sir!
Pardon _me!_ The table on this ship cannot compare with that of the old
_Gorgic_. The _Potterdam's_ the only ship for table outside the
Ritz-Carlton boats, though Captain Van der Plank's a personal friend of
mine. He knows what eating _is_, sir! Still, I like the small boats - no
elevators, gymnasiums, and swimming-pools for me. I like to know I'm at
sea, sir." And all the time he's casting round for a victim who has
never been across before.

You see, there is something very ignominious in making a first
transatlantic trip. No one should ever do it. Everybody should begin
with the second or third trip. Yet I remember a little Kansas City
lawyer I met on the _New Amsterdam_, who didn't seem to be ashamed of
owning up. He was bald-headed and, despite the twinkling eyes behind his
spectacles, solemn-looking. His bald head felt a draught from an open
port-hole during dinner on the first night out, and it was when he asked
the "waiter" to "close the window" that the "seasoned traveller" (as
they love to call themselves) snapped up his cue. Turning in his seat
and bringing his wide white shirt-front to bear full upon his victim, he
raised a foghorn voice and asked the dreaded question:

"Ever been abroad before?"

We all squirmed with sympathy for the little man.

"No," he replied, looking up with a mild, innocent expression.

The shirt-front bulged; the watery blue eyes looked up and down the
table for attention, then:

"That so?" with a patronising air of feigned surprise. "_I've_ been
over thirty-four times!"

"Ever been in Omaha?" returned the lawyer blandly.

"Why - no."

"That so?" replied the lawyer, with fine mimetic quality. "_I_ go there
every week!"

* * * * *

Oh, Innocents, as you set out on your first trip abroad, don't let
yourself be bullied by the boastful! Call the steward a waiter, call the
port-hole a window, call the promenade deck the front porch, but call
oh, call the transatlantic bully down! Be ready for him the instant he
bawls that he's a member of the Travellers' Club. For the rest, be the
ingenuous traveller, if you like. Be the man who has a mania for sitting
at the captain's table, the man who goes abroad to get a lot of labels
on his suit-case, the man who buys a set on Broadway (for two dollars)
and sticks them on at home, the man who howls when bands play "Dixie,"
the man who wears the Stars and Stripes upon his hat, the man who
gambles with the racy-looking stranger underneath the warning smoke-room
sign (and stops payment on the cheque by cable), be personally
conducted, be anything you like; but if you ever get to patronising
people who are sea-sick, if you ever get to being proud of having
crossed the ocean oftener than little Kansas City lawyers, do this:

Wait until the ship is settled for the night, go out on the dark deck,
step over to the rail, and place the left hand lightly but firmly upon
it. Then give an upward and outward jump, raising the feet and legs to
the right, in such manner as to permit them to pass freely over the
obstruction. When they are well over, remove the left hand from the
rail. This is called vaulting. The water may be cold, but you won't mind
it very long. And one word more: Don't gurgle; somebody might hear you
and stupidly spoil all by crying out, "Man overboard!"

If you decide to "end it all" - which, I believe, is the expression
adopted by the best authorities - there is one humane suggestion I would
make. End it before the ship's concert. There's absolutely no use in
just living on and saying you won't go to the concert, for that is just
what everybody else says, yet everybody always goes. There is a horrible
fascination about a ship's concert, something hypnotic that draws you,


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