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    Chapter 4

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    A dozen direct censures are easier to bear than one morganatic
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    Sailed from Honolulu.--From diary:

    Sept. 2. Flocks of flying fish-slim, shapely, graceful, and intensely
    white. With the sun on them they look like a flight of silver
    fruit-knives. They are able to fly a hundred yards.

    Sept. 3. In 9 deg. 50' north latitude, at breakfast. Approaching the
    equator on a long slant. Those of us who have never seen the equator are
    a good deal excited. I think I would rather see it than any other thing
    in the world. We entered the "doldrums" last night--variable winds,
    bursts of rain, intervals of calm, with chopping seas and a wobbly and
    drunken motion to the ship--a condition of things findable in
    other regions sometimes, but present in the doldrums always. The
    globe-girdling belt called the doldrums is 20 degrees wide, and the
    thread called the equator lies along the middle of it.

    Sept. 4. Total eclipse of the moon last night. At 1.30 it began to go
    off. At total--or about that--it was like a rich rosy cloud with a
    tumbled surface framed in the circle and projecting from it--a bulge of
    strawberry-ice, so to speak. At half-eclipse the moon was like a gilded
    acorn in its cup.

    Sept. 5. Closing in on the equator this noon. A sailor explained to a
    young girl that the ship's speed is poor because we are climbing up the
    bulge toward the center of the globe; but that when we should once get
    over, at the equator, and start down-hill, we should fly. When she asked
    him the other day what the fore-yard was, he said it was the front yard,
    the open area in the front end of the ship. That man has a good deal of
    learning stored up, and the girl is likely to get it all.

    Afternoon. Crossed the equator. In the distance it looked like a blue
    ribbon stretched across the ocean. Several passengers kodak'd it. We
    had no fool ceremonies, no fantastics, no horse play. All that sort of
    thing has gone out. In old times a sailor, dressed as Neptune, used to
    come in over the bows, with his suite, and lather up and shave everybody
    who was crossing the equator for the first time, and then cleanse these
    unfortunates by swinging them from the yard-arm and ducking them three
    times in the sea. This was considered funny. Nobody knows why. No, that
    is not true. We do know why. Such a thing could never be funny on land;
    no part of the old-time grotesque performances gotten up on shipboard to
    celebrate the passage of the line would ever be funny on shore--they
    would seem dreary and less to shore people. But the shore people would
    change their minds about it at sea, on a long voyage. On such a voyage,
    with its eternal monotonies, people's intellects deteriorate; the owners
    of the intellects soon reach a point where they almost seem to prefer
    childish things to things of a maturer degree. One is often surprised at
    the juvenilities which grown people indulge in at sea, and the interest
    they take in them, and the consuming enjoyment they get out of them.
    This is on long voyages only. The mind gradually becomes inert, dull,
    blunted; it loses its accustomed interest in intellectual things; nothing
    but horse-play can rouse it, nothing but wild and foolish grotesqueries
    can entertain it. On short voyages it makes no such exposure of itself;
    it hasn't time to slump down to this sorrowful level.

    The short-voyage passenger gets his chief physical exercise out of
    "horse-billiards"--shovel-board. It is a good game. We play it in this
    ship. A quartermaster chalks off a diagram like this-on the deck.

    The player uses a cue that is like a broom-handle with a quarter-moon of
    wood fastened to the end of it. With this he shoves wooden disks the
    size of a saucer--he gives the disk a vigorous shove and sends it fifteen
    or twenty feet along the deck and lands it in one of the squares if he
    can. If it stays there till the inning is played out, it will count as
    many points in the game as the figure in the square it has stopped in
    represents. The adversary plays to knock that disk out and leave his own
    in its place--particularly if it rests upon the 9 or 10 or some other of
    the high numbers; but if it rests in the "10off" he backs it up--lands
    his disk behind it a foot or two, to make it difficult for its owner to
    knock it out of that damaging place and improve his record. When the
    inning is played out it may be found that each adversary has placed his
    four disks where they count; it may be found that some of them are
    touching chalk lines and not counting; and very often it will be found
    that there has been a general wreckage, and that not a disk has been left
    within the diagram. Anyway, the result is recorded, whatever it is, and
    the game goes on. The game is 100 points, and it takes from twenty
    minutes to forty to play it, according to luck and the condition of the
    sea. It is an exciting game, and the crowd of spectators furnish
    abundance of applause for fortunate shots and plenty of laughter for the
    other kind. It is a game of skill, but at the same time the uneasy
    motion of the ship is constantly interfering with skill; this makes it a
    chancy game, and the element of luck comes largely in.

    We had a couple of grand tournaments, to determine who should be
    "Champion of the Pacific"; they included among the participants nearly
    all the passengers, of both sexes, and the officers of the ship, and they
    afforded many days of stupendous interest and excitement, and murderous
    exercise--for horse-billiards is a physically violent game.

    The figures in the following record of some of the closing games in the
    first tournament will show, better than any description, how very chancy
    the game is. The losers here represented had all been winners in the
    previous games of the series, some of them by fine majorities:

    Chase,102 Mrs. D.,57 Mortimer, 105 The Surgeon, 92
    Miss C.,105 Mrs. T.,9 Clemens, 101 Taylor,92
    Taylor,109 Davies,95 Miss C., 108 Mortimer,55
    Thomas,102 Roper,76 Clemens, 111 Miss C.,89
    Coomber, 106 Chase,98

    And so on; until but three couples of winners were left. Then I beat my
    man, young Smith beat his man, and Thomas beat his. This reduced the
    combatants to three. Smith and I took the deck, and I led off. At the
    close of the first inning I was 10 worse than nothing and Smith had
    scored 7. The luck continued against me. When I was 57, Smith was 97
    --within 3 of out. The luck changed then. He picked up a 10-off or so,
    and couldn't recover. I beat him.

    The next game would end tournament No. 1.

    Mr. Thomas and I were the contestants. He won the lead and went to the
    bat--so to speak. And there he stood, with the crotch of his cue resting
    against his disk while the ship rose slowly up, sank slowly down, rose
    again, sank again. She never seemed to rise to suit him exactly. She
    started up once more; and when she was nearly ready for the turn, he let
    drive and landed his disk just within the left-hand end of the 10.
    (Applause). The umpire proclaimed "a good 10," and the game-keeper set
    it down. I played: my disk grazed the edge of Mr. Thomas's disk, and
    went out of the diagram. (No applause.)

    Mr. Thomas played again--and landed his second disk alongside of the
    first, and almost touching its right-hand side. "Good 10." (Great

    I played, and missed both of them. (No applause.)

    Mr. Thomas delivered his third shot and landed his disk just at the right
    of the other two. "Good 10." (Immense applause.)

    There they lay, side by side, the three in a row. It did not seem
    possible that anybody could miss them. Still I did it. (Immense

    Mr. Thomas played his last disk. It seems incredible, but he actually
    landed that disk alongside of the others, and just to the right of them-a
    straight solid row of 4 disks. (Tumultuous and long-continued applause.)

    Then I played my last disk. Again it did not seem possible that anybody
    could miss that row--a row which would have been 14 inches long if the
    disks had been clamped together; whereas, with the spaces separating them
    they made a longer row than that. But I did it. It may be that I was
    getting nervous.

    I think it unlikely that that innings has ever had its parallel in the
    history of horse-billiards. To place the four disks side by side in the
    10 was an extraordinary feat; indeed, it was a kind of miracle. To miss
    them was another miracle. It will take a century to produce another man
    who can place the four disks in the 10; and longer than that to find a
    man who can't knock them out. I was ashamed of my performance at the
    time, but now that I reflect upon it I see that it was rather fine and

    Mr. Thomas kept his luck, and won the game, and later the championship.

    In a minor tournament I won the prize, which was a Waterbury watch. I
    put it in my trunk. In Pretoria, South Africa, nine months afterward, my
    proper watch broke down and I took the Waterbury out, wound it, set it by
    the great clock on the Parliament House (8.05), then went back to my room
    and went to bed, tired from a long railway journey. The parliamentary
    clock had a peculiarity which I was not aware of at the time
    --a peculiarity which exists in no other clock, and would not exist in that
    one if it had been made by a sane person; on the half-hour it strikes the
    succeeding hour, then strikes the hour again, at the proper time. I lay
    reading and smoking awhile; then, when I could hold my eyes open no
    longer and was about to put out the light, the great clock began to boom,
    and I counted ten. I reached for the Waterbury to see how it was getting
    along. It was marking 9.30. It seemed rather poor speed for a
    three-dollar watch, but I supposed that the climate was affecting it. I
    shoved it half an hour ahead; and took to my book and waited to see what
    would happen. At 10 the great clock struck ten again. I looked--the
    Waterbury was marking half-past 10. This was too much speed for the
    money, and it troubled me. I pushed the hands back a half hour, and
    waited once more; I had to, for I was vexed and restless now, and my
    sleepiness was gone. By and by the great clock struck 11. The Waterbury
    was marking 10.30. I pushed it ahead half an hour, with some show of
    temper. By and by the great clock struck 11 again. The Waterbury showed
    up 11.30, now, and I beat her brains out against the bedstead. I was
    sorry next day, when I found out.

    To return to the ship.

    The average human being is a perverse creature; and when he isn't that,
    he is a practical joker. The result to the other person concerned is
    about the same: that is, he is made to suffer. The washing down of the
    decks begins at a very early hour in all ships; in but few ships are any
    measures taken to protect the passengers, either by waking or warning
    them, or by sending a steward to close their ports. And so the
    deckwashers have their opportunity, and they use it. They send a bucket
    of water slashing along the side of the ship and into the ports,
    drenching the passenger's clothes, and often the passenger himself. This
    good old custom prevailed in this ship, and under unusually favorable
    circumstances, for in the blazing tropical regions a removable zinc thing
    like a sugarshovel projects from the port to catch the wind and bring it
    in; this thing catches the wash-water and brings it in, too--and in
    flooding abundance. Mrs. L, an invalid, had to sleep on the locker--sofa
    under her port, and every time she over-slept and thus failed to take
    care of herself, the deck-washers drowned her out.

    And the painters, what a good time they had! This ship would be going
    into dock for a month in Sydney for repairs; but no matter, painting was
    going on all the time somewhere or other. The ladies' dresses were
    constantly getting ruined, nevertheless protests and supplications went
    for nothing. Sometimes a lady, taking an afternoon nap on deck near a
    ventilator or some other thing that didn't need painting, would wake up
    by and by and find that the humorous painter had been noiselessly daubing
    that thing and had splattered her white gown all over with little greasy
    yellow spots.

    The blame for this untimely painting did not lie with the ship's
    officers, but with custom. As far back as Noah's time it became law that
    ships must be constantly painted and fussed at when at sea; custom grew
    out of the law, and at sea custom knows no death; this custom will
    continue until the sea goes dry.

    Sept. 8.--Sunday. We are moving so nearly south that we cross only about
    two meridians of longitude a day. This morning we were in longitude 178
    west from Greenwich, and 57 degrees west from San Francisco. To-morrow
    we shall be close to the center of the globe--the 180th degree of west
    longitude and 180th degree of east longitude.

    And then we must drop out a day-lose a day out of our lives, a day never
    to be found again. We shall all die one day earlier than from the
    beginning of time we were foreordained to die. We shall be a day
    behindhand all through eternity. We shall always be saying to the other
    angels, "Fine day today," and they will be always retorting, "But it
    isn't to-day, it's tomorrow." We shall be in a state of confusion all the
    time and shall never know what true happiness is.

    Next Day. Sure enough, it has happened. Yesterday it was September 8,
    Sunday; to-day, per the bulletin-board at the head of the companionway,
    it is September 10, Tuesday. There is something uncanny about it. And
    uncomfortable. In fact, nearly unthinkable, and wholly unrealizable,
    when one comes to consider it. While we were crossing the 180th meridian
    it was Sunday in the stern of the ship where my family were, and Tuesday
    in the bow where I was. They were there eating the half of a fresh apple
    on the 8th, and I was at the same time eating the other half of it on the
    10th--and I could notice how stale it was, already. The family were the
    same age that they were when I had left them five minutes before, but I
    was a day older now than I was then. The day they were living in
    stretched behind them half way round the globe, across the Pacific Ocean
    and America and Europe; the day I was living in stretched in front of me
    around the other half to meet it. They were stupendous days for bulk and
    stretch; apparently much larger days than we had ever been in before.
    All previous days had been but shrunk-up little things by comparison.
    The difference in temperature between the two days was very marked, their
    day being hotter than mine because it was closer to the equator.

    Along about the moment that we were crossing the Great Meridian a child
    was born in the steerage, and now there is no way to tell which day it
    was born on. The nurse thinks it was Sunday, the surgeon thinks it was
    Tuesday. The child will never know its own birthday. It will always be
    choosing first one and then the other, and will never be able to make up
    its mind permanently. This will breed vacillation and uncertainty in its
    opinions about religion, and politics, and business, and sweethearts, and
    everything, and will undermine its principles, and rot them away, and
    make the poor thing characterless, and its success in life impossible.
    Every one in the ship says so. And this is not all--in fact, not the
    worst. For there is an enormously rich brewer in the ship who said as
    much as ten days ago, that if the child was born on his birthday he would
    give it ten thousand dollars to start its little life with. His birthday
    was Monday, the 9th of September.

    If the ships all moved in the one direction--westward, I mean--the world
    would suffer a prodigious loss--in the matter of valuable time, through
    the dumping overboard on the Great Meridian of such multitudes of days by
    ships crews and passengers. But fortunately the ships do not all sail
    west, half of them sail east. So there is no real loss. These latter
    pick up all the discarded days and add them to the world's stock again;
    and about as good as new, too; for of course the salt water preserves
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