« AnkstesnisTęsti »
for a moment they wondered if this could really be a ship. The main companionway, with its office, its wide staircase backed by large oil-paintings, and its elevator, suggested the lobby of a fine hotel. On the deck above, a succession of drawing-rooms, music-rooms, and card-rooms completed the explorers' bewilderment. But when they descended to their own cabins, they perceived that if all above was sumptuous and ample, here was enough constriction to make up for it.
Yet they were pleased by the novelty of their close quarters. Mr. Goodchild contemplated his one-berth cubbyhole. with the remark, "At any rate, if I fall out of bed, I'll soon fetch up against something." The girls, in their own compartment, vowed the discomfort of the place was going to be a lark. But the steward abased them by complaining that there was no room, in these cabins, for such trunks as theirs. Good heavens! they had never realized what "steamertrunks" were actually for.
They went up to cool their cheeks in the fresh air.
The promenade-deck was crowded with the seagoers and their friends. On all sides appeared elaborate hats, costly furs, large bunches of flowers. Straightway the girls felt the lack of flowers of their own, of friends or lovers who might have sent such parting tokens. Timid among these chattering and laughing favorites, distressed by the sight of so much gay attendance all for others, they retreated into a writing-room. And there they set about composing letters full of tenderness to those whom they had left behind in Zenasville, and till this moment of loneliness had neglected.
Without the slightest warning, right overhead a whistle gave a monstrous roar, and shook the Goodchild family to the marrow.
"We 're starting!"
Clutching their letters, they rushed out. on deck.
The ship began to creep forth into the river. On the wharf innumerable faces were upturned to them, and the agitation
of handkerchiefs was like a sudden flurry of snow. Thallie, tears rising into her eyes, waved a response.
"But you don't know any of them!" "Leave me alone! I'm saying good-by to my dear old America."
Then they saw that Mr. Goodchild, his face twitching, was also waving to the crowd.
And he was moved to quote in a deep voice:
"Each heart recalled a different name,
Slowly they floated down-stream, past the tugs all tooting their salutes; past the ferry-boats, with their watching passengers; past the busy docks, the clambering signs, and, behind all the rest, rising against a turquoise sky, the towers, like great vertical shafts of sunlight. A vibration spread gradually throughout the vessel. Now they moved faster. Looking back, one saw, across scintillating waves, the sky-scrapers converging, turning misty, fading.
Aurelius removed his black felt hat. The salt breeze lifted his long locks and stirred his tangled beard of ruddy gold and silver. His lean face was illumined with a look of reverence as he repeated:
"Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State,
Their own ship, gently quivering all over, headed for the open sea.
HENCEFORTH THALIA WILL LIVE ONLY FOR HER ART
FOR two days the stewardess admitted there was a bit of a sea.
"A bit of a sea!" Every time their berths sank beneath them,―the curtains swaying far over from the rods, the woodwork creaking, the port-holes darkened by
wave-crests, the Goodchild family believed the ship was going down. But on the third day, determined not to drown "like rats in a trap," somehow the girls got their dresses on, staggered up the companionway, plunged into the open air. At last, prostrate in their steamer-chairs, they saw, to their amazement, that the promenade-deck was alive with people. apparently in the best of health and spirits.
Some, curled up among cushions and rugs, were gossiping and reading. Others, untroubled by the pitch of the ship, marched round and round. Forward, young girls and youths were merrily playing shuffle-board. The sun shone on the long, olive-colored swells, spread with intricate traceries of foam, that extended to the see-sawing sky-line.
The sisters felt their disgrace. They recalled the fact that all the sea-going heroines of fiction were "splendid sailors." For that matter, could one imagine Cleopatra suffering qualms at Actium, or Helen's fair cheek turning yellow on the voyage to Troy? Yet when a steward presented under Thallie's nose a tray set with cups of fat bouillon, the poor child could not repress a moan of loathing. As she averted her face, the woman in the next chair replaced a full cup on the tray, and brusquely commanded, with a Ger
"Take it away, all this stuff, from these young ladies!"
Where had Thalia seen her neighbor before? Could it be Mme. Bertha Linkow, the prima donna?
Yes, it was really she, her abundant blonde tresses pressed down by a modish turban, her wind-whipped cheeks more vivid than on the stage, her physical wholesomeness going out from her like a beneficent aura. And this wonderful personage was talking to Thallie as kindly as if the young girl, too, were a celebrity!
"I know. I also have prayed the ship to sink. One night when a number-ten. storm was brewing, three of us, Mme. Morelli, Mme. Lodbrok, and I, had gone up to the captain's cabin for coffee after
dinner. All at once, platsch! and that number-ten storm was present! And we three? Ha, there was little talk of escaping then to our proper rooms! We lay where we found ourselves, and rolled and rolled, and now and then groaned, 'Art thou still alive, Luisa?' 'Art thou still alive, Regne?' The captain, of course, was on the bridge, defying the storm. But you may believe he did not get back his cabin till that business was over. So now I always try to engage the captain's room for myself. It is more considerate, nicht wahr?"
"But that," ventured Thallie, timidly, "was a bigger storm than this one."
Mme. Linkow's eyes started to twinkle, but she saved her solemnity. "Well, perhaps a little bigger, my dear."
Now Aglaia and Frossie were staring, their misery half forgotten. The prima donna embraced the three, so to speak, with a maternal smile.
"See how you are, from this fine air, already better becoming! And the-the storm is calming down every minute. So! Presently I shall prescribe a walk on the deck."
That afternoon, indeed, the sisters did manage to walk the deck with Mme. Linkow.
They could hardly convince themselves that this rare distinction was theirs. They could not help looking askance at those they passed, to see if others appreciated the company they were in. And every moment they were amazed afresh to find that the great Mme. Linkow was not unlike other mortals. Presently she declared:
"As for me, I like what I like. You, as it happened, I liked no sooner I saw you the day we sailed. "Those three beautiful shades of red hair,' I said to myself, and those three young faces, all alike, yet all so different! Therefore I had the chairs of an awful family removed from alongside of mine, and your chairs put in their places." She uttered a clear peal of laughter in recalling that trick. "You see, anything that interests
So Aurelius, with an agonizing effort, tumbled into his clothes and tottered up on deck. He found the girls seated in a row beside a strange lady, and all three sipping champagne.
The prima donna met his look of dismay with the words:
"Please note that these young ones are not wine-drinking for pleasure, but only to cure their collywobbles. One glass for each, that's all; and here is another for you."
Aurelius, despite swimming head and weak limbs, achieved a courteous bow.
"Ma'am," he quavered, "I beg you to accept my thanks and excuses. I am not used any more than my daughters-" "Oh, I knew you would not take any before I said it. Thank God! your children have already swallowed theirs down, and now it will do them good. But you must not think, for all this, that I want to give them bad habits."
"On that point, ma'am," Aurelius stammered, while mopping his pallid brow, "I am doubly at ease.'
"Very well. For the rest, I am Mme. Linkow, and a great chum of your daughters. I like them, and I like you, and I tell you, as friend to friend, it is useless to stand on all this ceremony with me. There is your chair. Lie down. You, Frossie, wrap him up in this rug. Tonight I am going to have some light foods sent up to you here. To-morrow you shall eat small, but well: I shall see what that ought to be. Also, if your stewardess is as clumsy as mine, you had better borrow my maid
So it was that Mme. Linkow took the Goodchild family under her wing.
The sea grew calmer, or else seemed calmer to them. The keen air revived their bodies; the mirror showed their color restored, their eyes brightened, their charms regained. They began to enjoy the strangeness of sounds and odors, the moods of the ocean, the sight of a distant steamship or porpoises or a whale. Now fellow-passengers smiled and bowed to them, and a dozen times a day the prima donna, holding court in her chair, inIcluded them in the talk.
The girls had confessed their ambitions to Mme. Linkow.
"So! A painter of pictures, this little Thallie! And Frossie a writer of books? How nice that will be! And Aglaia?" "A singer."
The prima donna's glance, running rapidly over Aglaia's face and form, lost a shade of its brightness.
"What sort of singer, my dear? The opera, I suppose? Of course; that is what we all desire. You shall sing for me one of these days. See, there comes a sailingvessel! Wunderschön! How her sails are gold in the sun! Like a ship of dreams, nicht wahr?"
Meanwhile Mr. Goodchild had made friends in the smoking-room. There he endured the fumes of tobacco and liquor for hours at a time to listen to tales of voyages weathered and lands skimmed through. The man who had crossed most often drowned out the rest: he spoke the jargon of sailors and tourist-agents, became an oracle from whom might be learned everything about foreign travel. But soon, prompted by envy, some parvenu of a dozen trips would shout:
"Steward! A fresh pack of cards, and take the orders!"
One day there entered the smokingroom two young men whom Aurelius had not seen on deck.
He thought there was something foreign about the cut of their clothes, which produced an effect of elegant negligence. Smoking cigarettes, they lounged into an alcove as far as possible away from the rest. Obsequiously a steward ran forward. Every one stared. Aurelius