In Merrie England Once Again
( Originally Published 1903 )
ON the first morning out from New York, we were awakened at four-thirty, and told that we would have to go on deck and assist the stewards in carrying boxes from the hold to the galley. This wasn't very hard work, and we rather enjoyed it, because it enabled us to be on deck. The fresh air seemed good indeed after all the time we had been obliged to spend below.
When the boxes had all been carried, " Pierpont " had plenty to keep us busy. Every morning it was my duty to go to the bakeshop for the rolls for breakfast. I learned to carry five large sheets of them without falling, and toward the end I was able to carry enough in the morning to last all day. When the bread had been brought there was the milk to go after, and so the hours passed until it was time to " stand by " once more at the ship's galley. After breakfast there was the sweeping and scrubbing to be done, and it was eleven o'clock before we were ready for the inspection party. Then it was time to prepare for the midday meal. The only time we ever had to rest was about an hour in the afternoon, between three and four o'clock. I had been on ships before, and expected nothing better, but Jack said that he had never imagined that people had to work so hard on the ocean. The poor boy was so weary at night that he could hardly sleep, and he grew more and more pale and discouraged as the days passed. Certainly we had no sinecure. We worked as hard as any one on board the ship.
Feeding the " Bloods "
" Pierpont " offered us a chance to earn some money during the voyage, but as his plan was hardly honest, we had to refuse. There-were a number of the steer-age passengers who were ill most of the voyage, and there were many others who found themselves unable to eat the food which, was furnished them. To such as these our wily superior held out a pleasant alternative. He told them that if they were willing to pay five dollars for the week, he would see that they ate at a second table, and that they had much better fare than was furnished the ordinary passengers. This was a very attractive proposition, and it was embraced by about twenty of the men. When all the others had finished eating and had gone on deck, " Pierpont " spread a table for these " bloods," as he called them, and they were given some very good things to eat. They had goose or turkey every day for dinner, and for dessert they usually had some excellent pudding from the second cabin. Of course they were delighted at being able to get this food at such a small extra expense, and "Pierpont " was delighted to receive the hundred dollars in payment.
It must not be supposed that he was able to keep all this money for himself. He probably hadn't more than a third of it when we arrived at Liverpool. In order to obtain the food for these " bloods," he was obliged to share his receipts with the butcher and the baker and the saloon cook. He offered to share with us, too, but we told him that we'd much rather keep out of the organization altogether. So " Pierpont " waited on the " bloods " while we cleared off the other tables. We boys wondered that the steerage stewards were able to carry on such a restaurant business without being discovered by the ship's officers. In every steerage compartment the same plan was followed, and the loss to the steamship company must amount to thousands of dollars in the course of a year. The stewards themselves didn't seem to think that there was anything wrong about it.
We don't get any wages worth mentioning," said " Pierpont," " and we've got to make a living somehow."
The part of our work which we most disliked was having to carry great pails of refuse to the deck from the steerage pantry. On the first evening out our superior remarked to me, " You'd better take Rosie for a walk." I stared at him in astonishment; it seemed such a very strange remark to me. He laughed when he saw that I didn't understand. " Haven't you ever heard the swill-pail called Rosie?" he asked. I confessed that I never had. " Well," said " Pierpont," " that's what we call her here. She's a greedy girl, and you'll have to hustle to keep her empty during the trip." After every meal there were about five " Rosies " in need of a walk on deck, and it was no wonder we tired of carrying. the pails up and down the stairs.
The vessel made a good voyage, and a week from the day we left New York we entered the Mersey at Liverpool. The steamer moved slowly upstream until she reached the landing-stage, and then it was only a short time until we could see the cabin passengers disembarking. The steerage passengers stood in line until the others had gone ashore, and then they, too, rushed ashore. Jack and I watched them going with envious eyes. We, too, were anxious to be on dry land once more, but we had no idea when we would be permitted to leave ; probably we would have to wait until all the crew were ready to go. We spoke to " Pierpont " about it, and he suggested that we see the chief and ask permission to go at once. " You two have earned your passage all right," he said, " and you ought to be allowed to go now. The chief is all right, and he'll give you the word."
A Friendly Steward
The chief steward was certainly " all right," for he told us to go just as soon
as we liked. We lost no time in accepting his advice. After washing as well as we could in the pantry, we changed our clothing, and reached the landing-stage just in time to board the special steamer train for London. When we saw the great city of Liverpool spread out before us, we were tempted to remain there for a day or two, but I longed to reach London as soon as possible.
Jack was just a little stunned with the idea that we were in a truly foreign country, on the other side of a great ocean from New York. The people about us were speaking English, to be sure, but it was a different language from that to which we were accustomed at home, and all our surroundings were different, too. The advertisements on the station walls were very strange to Jack's eyes, and he looked with great curiosity at the newspapers on the stand. " Just think," he said, " we are really and truly in England ; isn't it wonderful? " I told him that it might seem wonderful, but when he considered that we had steamed swiftly across the Atlantic for seven days in order to reach Liverpool, it wasn't so strange after all.
The customs examination wasn't a very terrible affair, and as we had nothing dutiable, we were soon on the London train. It was a very comfortable one, provided for the transportation of the steamer's passengers. Some of the steer-age people had been given free tickets to London, which they didn't expect to use, and Jack and I had been able to purchase two of them at a very low rate, so that our journey cost us almost nothing. Jack was greatly interested in the train. It was his first view of the European type of locomotive and passenger carriage. " The train is certainly a queer-looking affair," he remarked. " It looks to me like one of those toy trains, on a larger scale, and I don't believe it can go very fast." I told him to wait and see, for I had ridden on the London and North-western Railway before, and knew that we would cover the two hundred and fifteen miles to London in four hours.
Across England by Rail
The ride across England was one we will never forget. It was a panorama of green fields and gardens and quaint old houses nestling among the trees. When we left New York the trees had been bare of leaves, and the grass in the parks was only beginning to brighten, but here in England everything was gay with color. The trees were in full leaf, and flowers were everywhere along the roads. It was one of the most delightful rides I ever experienced, and we were both sorry when the train reached London. It was an exciting ride, too, because the train traveled so fast. The guard told us that it covered seventy miles an hour for a part of the distance between Rugby and London, and if he had told us a hundred miles instead, we would hardly have been surprised, after the motion we experienced in the railway carriage. Jack was much occupied with the novelty of the ride. He thought it very funny to be shut tip in a small compartment, ten people facing each other. " I suppose I'll get used to this by and bye," he said, " but I certainly think it's the funniest arrangement for traveling I ever saw. I should think they'd have trains like ours, which are so much more comfortable." I told him that he needn't be so critical, or he'd have a very uncomfortable time in Europe. I explained that the English were well satisfied with their transportation lines, and that our coaches would doubtless seem very peculiar ,to them.
When we arrived in London, it was hard to realize that we had traveled from one side of England to the other in four hours. Jack said he couldn't under-stand how such a tiny country could hold a position of such importance in the world, and I told him that I couldn't undertake to explain any such question as !that. " If you ask an Englishman you'll probably find out," I said.
I was glad to be in London again. Everything looked so familiar that I could hardly believe it was two years since I had been in the grand old city. The only thing new that impressed me was the large number of flags on all the buildings. I wondered whether there was some special celebration in progress, and then I remembered that there was a war in South Africa, and that probably the Londoners were especially patriotic on that account. Hovels and mansions, theatres and banks, all displayed the Union Jack, and many of the people in the streets were wearing bows of khaki-colored ribbon. There was khaki stationery in the show-windows and there were khaki covers on the magazines, and altogether the British appeared to be half crazy over the war with the Boers.
Visiting Old Friends
I decided that we would go to the house where I had lodged on my last visit to London, and we were fortunate in finding a vacant room which was not too expensive. The people there were glad to see me back again, and I felt as if I were among friends. As soon as we were settled, I lost no time in going to see the old lady at the inn, who had been so kind to me on my first arrival in England. She said she had given up all idea of ever seeing me back in London, and she was delighted that I had called to see her. She said that we ought to visit her while we were in the city, but of course I didn't accept the invitation. We had sufficient money to pay our modest expenses, and I knew that we would be too busy in London to do any visiting.
For the first two days I went about with my friend, so that he could learn some of the principal streets. I took him to St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey, and Piccadilly Circus, and some of the other famous landmarks, and then I gave him a map of the city, and told him he would have to find his own way about in the future. I expected to seek employment for a few weeks with one of the London dailies, and I knew that I would be unable to act as guide. Besides, I knew that Jack would have a better time in the end if he explored things for himself. That was the way I had done, and certainly he was as well able to take care of himself as I had been two years ago.
He was greatly interested in all that he saw, and said that he would like at least a month in London before we went over to Paris for the Exposition. I told him that we would remain that long. It would be three weeks before the Exposition would open its gates, and we would not be late if we arrived in Paris a week after that time. We anticipated no difficulty in being able to look after ourselves in the French capital. I knew how to go about there, and we knew that there were to be a great many American exhibitors at the big show. Certainly we should be able to find work of some kind.