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Chapter 2

Tuesday, Sept. 24th
Going along today on a perfect whiz [not clear], fine breeze, smooth sea, and lovely day. Plenty of flying fish and skipjacks jumping about in all directions to catch the sunshine. Captain is laid up on deck with the gout. Uncle John is getting better and the rest are all well and very spry. We have most splendid sunsets, no twilights at all; but as soon as the sun is down, it is dark. By 6 o'clock it is as dark as it ever is here, so our evenings are very long. But not too long for us. Ollie provokes me. I never was acquainted with him at all, but I find that he is not quite the pink of perfections which I have been accustomed to consider him. He is too sensorious and obstinate. If any one doesn't just exactly suit him, he lets them know it in a way that is sure to make them his enemy. One of the gentlemen here he got mad at and will not speak to, and he barely speaks to several more. He has got Mrs. Ballard's ill will by snapping Harry and has not got many very warm friends on board. I am sorry for it on his own account, for where 14 or 15 people are cooped up together for five long months, I think they all ought to lay aside their prejudices and little personal dislikes and be as agreeable as possible. On land if we don't like a person, we can get rid of them. But here we cannot. I lecture Ollie, so does Pa, but it does no good. He is so self- willed.

We are 15 days out and expect in a day or two to fall in with the trade winds, which will carry us down to the line.


Wednesday, Sept. 25th
Captain is very bad today with the gout, and Uncle John is too. They each have thin mattresses up on deck and occupy them all day. Once in a while they rise with much assistance and many groans, and with a great deal of fuss manage to limp down stairs and back again. We cannot help laughing at them. And as they are both very good natured, they don't mind it, and then we are all very attentive to them and wait on them well. The Captain amuses himself principally by teasing me. Uncle John too. He said this morning that it really helped his rheumatism to look at my shining blue eyes -- at which there was a general laugh, and someone asked Uncle John if he had "always been color blind."
It is very warm and we have little or no wind. I don't believe that I know how to keep a journal. I tried it once before (I remember) and at the end of a week was fool enough to read it and was so disgusted with the amount of nonsense therein contained that I burnt it. I shall never dare to look this over, or I am sure it would meet with the same fate. I don't keep the latitude and longitude, but just put down what happens at that moment to be in my head. Some very extraordinary things it will contain, I have no doubt.

I don't know what to do with my ears. They are so in the way at night when I am in my berth. When the ship rolls, then my ears double up--first one way and then another, until they are regularly sore. Mr. De Silver complains of the same thing and wants me to lend him a night cap. Last night some of the gentlemen fixed Mr. Paul's bed so that as soon as he got into it he fell out again. They told me of the joke, and I tried to stay awake long enough to see the fun but could not possibly keep my eyes open and so missed it. Mr. Paul is an object of general dislike to all.

Thursday, Sept. 26th
I feel like a "bushel basket" today. Think I ate rather too many beans for dinner. There is one thing about going to sea that I consider rather unfortunate: we all have such extraordinary appetites. Of course we gratify them, and in so doing, tax our digestive powers too much, as we take but little exercise. I am always eating and always hungry, and it is just so with the rest. We have at last come to the end of our ice, watermelons, and fresh meat. The ice house has been pulled down, and we are about to settle down to the sober realities of a sea voyage -- via bean soup, salt meat, baked beans and warm water.
Ollie is improving and making himself quite agreeable. Captain's gout is better, but Uncle John is as stiff as a poker. It is hot enough today to bake pies in the sun. Uncle John says he has just made the discovery that he is a cherubim and I am a seraphim. He is about the gayest old gentleman I ever saw. There is a brig in sight today. She seems to be coming up, and we will probably speak to her. We are almost becalmed, not making more than two knots an hour. All the sailors are sewing.

Caught a dolphin this morning. Watched him change color while he died. It was beautiful. Had roast chickens for dinner today, which were so tough I have blistered both hands cutting them -- and such a pudding. I think our cook must surely be drunk.

Friday, Sept. 27th
We don't know what hot weather is on land. If I ever get home again, I'll appreciate the shade of a tree as I never did before. We are in a dead calm, and a violent storm is preferable any day to a calm under such a sun. Mr. Hanford and Mr. De Silver play the fool for the sake of keeping up their spirits until the perspiration pours off of them in streams. Mr. Hanford is the ugliest fellow on board, and the others have named him "Handsome" and call him so altogether. It is really laughable; he is a very droll sort of person.

Wonder what the folks at Buttonwood are about today. I would guess revelling in grapes, melons, apples, cider and all manner of good things, while we would be glad of what they throw away. I'd like to know if Morgan can walk yet, how Tony is and a hundred and fifty other things. I'd like to hear from "Our Crowd" too, especially the boys who have gone away to war.

Last night I guess I was dreaming, but I was sure I heard Jim Alcorn singing "Bonnie Eloise" just as plainly as I ever did. It seemed to come over the water. Queer what notions will come into our heads. We have no moonlight now but such starlight as we don't have on land.

Had a big quarrel with Mr. De Silver today and came near throwing my glass at him across the table, but having some regard for the claret therein contained, wisely refrained; and we fought it out after dinner to our satisfaction. Oh, but it is hot. I'll certainly melt and have to be sent home in a bottle. Wouldn't the folks at Buttonwood stare to see me?

Saturday, Sept. 28th
Dead calm and awfully hot. Can't think of anything and of course can't write anything. Three weeks out and not to the line yet. Provoking!

Sunday, Sept. 29th
It is the general belief that there is no Sunday at sea; and to tell the truth, there isn't very much. But still it is observed a little. All hands hold their Bibles in their hands for a while after breakfast, and there is no card playing. But generally by 11 o'clock everybody is in bed, where they stay until dinner time.

The Captain and some of the gentlemen are very wild, wicked, heathenish fellows; but it is easy to see that under it all there is a something which makes them observe the sabbath more or less. The sailors have a sort of holiday on Sunday, too, and goodness knows they need it. I think that the slavery of the South is not more oppressive and degrading than the servitude in which these sailors are kept during the voyage. I cannot think of anything that would take the manhood out of a fellow quicker than just the kind of treatment they receive. They daren't speak back or they are knocked down with a belaying pin or flogged with a rope's end. The other evening the mate pitched a fellow off the upper deck because he couldn't find his broom, which had been mislaid. Yesterday I heard him threaten to heave a brickbat at a fellow's head because he couldn't get a knot out of a rope. The way they spin around when he is after them isn't slow.

I suppose the folks at Buttonwood are all at church today.

Monday, Sept. 30th
Almost everybody is getting blue and low spirited on account of the long calm. Thank fortune I don't get blue. I consider myself in a very good humor, laugh at the long faces of the rest, doctor up Uncle John, tread on the Captain's gouty foot (accidently, of course) when he teases me, try to keep Pa in spirits, tie Mr. De Silver with a rope fast to the bench when he goes to sleep, stand with as good a grace as possible the incessant racket of that little [word missing} Harry, and a world of teasing from Mrs. Ballard & Cooper, and make myself comfortable generally.

We have been docked of butter for dinner to my great distress -- just imagine me eating potatoes and salt. Alas, that I should live to see the day when I am brought to such an extremity. We also are put on allowance of water -- one pitcher a day for each state room. When we wash in the morning, the last one who washes leaves the water in the basin to wash our hands in during the day. I am thinking that we will learn some very good lessons here at sea. Doctor and I had a very nice discussion of the subject this morning and came to the conclusion that at least the gentlemen would all know how to keep bachelor's hall and the ladies would know how to live in much closer quarters than ever they did before.
Oh, for a wind. The sails are flapping with the roll of the vessel, for there is a heavy underswell, and we roll almost as much in a calm as in a storm. What figures we will cut when we get on land again. Not one of us will know how to walk, I suppose.

Tuesday, Oct. 1st
Calm still continues; all hands dull as possible; sleep most of the time. Had a row on deck last night. Mrs. Ballard, with her usual want of sense, told a fib in the first place to get a laugh at my expense, then teased me most unmercifully. Of course she found plenty to help her. I stood it as long as I could until I was just as mad as I could be, and not knowing what else to do -- cried. Of course they all stopped and were frightened. But when they stopped talking, I stopped crying; and they let me alone for the rest of the evening. Mr. De Silver couldn't get over it and apologized for about half an hour straight on, thinking that I was mortally offended. I guess they will let me alone for a while.

All hands are blue today. I think it is very queer. I believe in taking as much fun and pleasure as I can get out of everything; but other people don't, I guess. Ollie, for instance, if he sees any little thing about a person that he doesn't just like, he immediately overlooks all their good qualities, sets them down as fools, and will have nothing to do with them, but keeps by himself. Now some of these gentlemen are wild, free and easy, fun-loving fellows; but they all can be gentlemen, and I have never seen them anything else. They like to have a "cut up" once in a while; so do I, and there is no harm in it. I have never heard any of them use profane language. And to me they are always polite. But Ollie says they have no brains, and of course he cannot think of having anything to do with them. If he goes on that principle always, he will have a good time of it, I guess. I think he ought to be a little more charitable. [In 1861 Ollie was 24 years old, and Ruth was 20.]

Wednesday, Oct. 2nd
Hurrah for the old Julia Tyler , a fair wind, and CHINA. We had a gale in the night which still continues, and we are scudding along at the rate of 9 or 10 knots an hour. The sea runs very high, the waves wash clear over the deck and somebody is always getting drenched. Several are seasick, but no one very badly. Mr. Paul visits the "lee rail" once in a while. All hands have regained their spirits. Three such days as this, the captain says, will bring us to the trade winds. We are rolling most awfully. I cannot write, and I hear "Yankee Doodle" on deck, so I will go.

Thursday, Oct. 3rd
Still going along at not quite railroad speed. The sick folks are all better, but few slept last night as it was very stormy. This morning I thought I would go out on deck a few minutes to see how the sea looked. Several of the gentlemen told me I had better stay below as I would surely get wet, for we were shipping sea all the time. But up I went. Mrs. Cooper came up, and we sat down on the after hatch. We had just exchanged some remark about the grandeur of the great high waves when one of the biggest swept across the deck, sending us off the hatch flying and deluging us with salt water from head to foot. Mrs. Cooper groaned. I made one jump down the companion way with the water pouring off me in every direction and got well laughed at. Saw a big whale though.

Friday, Oct. 4th
Feel altogether out of sorts today, the result of being kept in the cabin for two or three days on account of bad weather. Captain thinks we have caught the trade winds at last; but if they are going to keep with them such wet weather, I wish them further.

Everybody is getting outrageous about the table fare. Surely Jewitt and Crocket lied most wickedly about it. We have horrible living. I think the old boy sent us not only our cook but our provisions also. I generally dine off a little soup, some potatoes and mustard. Just imagine me eating potatoes with mustard on them in place of butter. When we have nothing to do but eat and drink, I think it is a shame that we cannot have plenty of it to do, so I do.

Saturday, Oct. 5th
Mrs. Ballard is laid up today sick. It astonished me to see how everybody on this ship does. I should think that there has been half a bushel of salts taken already and about as much castor oil. I have not taken anything yet and do not intend to. I am as yet perfectly well and am about the only one who can say so, and that only because I steer clear of the medicine chest.

We are now a little south of the latitude of New Orleans and of course in very warm weather. The captain and mate had a terrible quarrel this morning at the cabin door just as we were finishing breakfast. They were both in an awful passion, and the way the oaths flew wasn't slow. Mrs. Cooper began to cry. I got up and left the table. So did some of the others. Such horribly profane language I never heard.

I opened a book this morning and found in it some pressed flowers and Sam's red, white & blue cockade with an eagle in the middle. Almost made me homesick. The only things that look at all homelike here are the stars. But the Great Bear is getting very low, and we shall soon lose it now.

I hear the mate on deck saying that a heavy squall is rising, so we may look out, I suppose.

Sunday, Oct. 6th
I am just out of a salt water bath, have donned a loose wrapper and fixed myself for a nap. A salt water bath is really very refreshing. I feel just now perfectly contented and comfortable, in the best possible humor, would discombobulate myself to do a good turn for my worst enemy and like no better fun. Feel like laughing all over, if it is Sunday. We spoke to a ship this morning, the "Leonidas" from New York bound for Buenos Aires. She came right across our stern and so close that the two captains conversed without the aid of trumpets. Great excitement prevailed on board. They waved their handkerchiefs and so did we, but she walked right past us and left us behind. I always did hate to be passed on the road, and it is quite aggravating on the sea. I wish our ship was faster.

Monday, Oct. 7th
Have not got a single idea today. Feel very stupid. Cannot possibly write, so I won't attempt it.

Tuesday, Oct. 8th
I have today made up my mind to two or three desperate things. One is that I will begin a letter home, which I am afraid the folks there will only laugh and scold over by turns; for to save my life I couldn't write anything sensible. One leads such a lazy, loose, careless, aimless life on the sea. I cannot settle myself to anything. If I get a book and sit down to read, before I know it, it is upside down on the floor. I can't write; I can't sew; I can't do anything in fact but just fool and fiddle round. Nearly all the rest are by their own confessions in the same box, so I am not alone. Another premeditated act of desperation is this. I will go out forward to our Portuguese passenger and get him to cut off my hair. I cannot and will not stand this purgatory any longer. I'll have a grand row though with Pa and Ollie after it is done, but I'll risk that. I really think it is too much to ask me to sacrifice all my comfort for the sake of looks, and when we are getting into a hot climate too where I want to be as cool as possible. So here goes.

Wednesday, Oct. 9th
Have just come in from the main deck where we have all been laughing at Jack (the dog) and the pigs fighting over their dinner. We are hard up for something to do when we have to resort to that kind of amusement. But here at sea, we catch at anything which will give us a few minutes diversion, no matter what it is.

Thursday, Oct. 10th
We met and passed three ships this morning, spoke to only one, a beautiful little brig. We have a good breeze and consequently are all in good humor. Stewardess is very sick; she has been groaning frightfully all morning and all night. The doctor is very busy attending to her. Made a pillow case for Pa's air pillow, then got some braid to crochet and sat still the whole morning without going on deck once. Mr. Foster got some champagne and he, Mrs. Ballard, Doctor and I took a sociable drink. Mrs. B. began to lecture me for something I had been doing for which I thought she ought to have given me credit. I told her in self defense that I had never in my life been such a good girl as since I had been at sea. Whereupon Mr. Foster dropped his book and wondered "what I must be on land." I was really provoked, for upon my word I have been a real good, quiet girl. Since I came to sea, it has been my continual "hold in" too. But one's good endeavors are seldom appreciated.

I have lots of work to do. I have to make Ollie some sea drawers next thing, and I expect I shall make a great fist at it too. Besides, almost all the gentlemen come to me for little things they want done and some of them I know very well pull off buttons and rip things just on purpose to get me to mend them. I see through a ladder. And I do have some rare sport. Oh, what uncommonly big fools some people will make of themselves and what rare good fun it is to be the only girl on board a big ship, bound for a 5 months voyage, in the middle of 9 young gentlemen. If I don't get fat by the time we reach Hong Kong, it will not be for want of fun, I know.

Friday, Oct. 11th
No wind today and everybody blue as usual. Mr. De Silver & I had a quarrel this morning and we haven't changed words since. I'll make it up after a while, though. We are always spatting about something, and it is quite a relief to get rid of him for a day. He has stayed in bed all day upon the strength of it. Hope he may feel refreshed.

It is very warm. I know what glorious Indian Summer they are having at Buttonwood. The folks begin to think about cider and nuts. I wonder when I will drink cider and hunt nuts again at Buttonwood.

Saturday, Oct. 12th
How time flies (as Lon McKinley's beau says) "like shadows o'er the meadow." Here it is five weeks today since we pushed out from the dock at New York, and it does not seem like more than two.

Nearly all hands are blue again, and each one seems to delight in getting up a quarrel or fuss of some kind by way of making the time pass. Some of the gentlemen threaten to thrash Mr. De Silver for telling the captain something; Mrs. Ballard and Mrs. Cooper had a fuss over Harry; every one spats at the other for something. I hear every one's story and keep quiet myself. I am determined to have nothing to do with any fuss that may be got up. Pa is in good health and spirits. He watches me out of the northwest corner of his eye, and Ollie out of the southeast corner of his. But it does not disturb me in the least.

All are well. It is said to be impossible to take cold at sea, but the doctor declares that he sneezes 25 times regularly every morning before breakfast. It must be pleasant, that.

Sunday, Oct. 13th
I have put myself on the sick list today. The ham, eggs and chocolate which I took for breakfast does not agree with me. Then there is a very heavy sea on, and altogether I feel a little sea sick. Think I'm done with ham & eggs forever.

Monday, Oct. 14th
I consider myself entirely "played out" today. Would sell myself to any pedlar for the small sum of three cents. We have a heavy sea and roll terribly. A good many of us are a little sea sick. We have been becalmed so long that any motion of the vessel affects us easily.

Tuesday, Oct. 15th
This thing of going to sea is really delightful, especially when we cannot go outside the cabin door without getting half drowned by a big wave coming slap over one's head without ceremony. When the drinking water in the casks is so thick that it has to be drawn out with a hook and cut with a knife, to say nothing of the odor, which all the barnyards in Pennsylvania could not equal. But it is all we have to drink, and drink it we must. So we screw up our courage, march down to the table, call Harry the cabin boy to pour out a glass of it, put our handkerchief to our nose, draw a long breath, shut our eyes, and down it goes; then give the glass back, rush and swallow the first thing we can lay hands on to destroy the taste, and call down maledictions on Jewitt & Crocket.

Wednesday, Oct. 16th
Not much wind. Sewed a little, read a little, slept a good deal and that's all.

Thursday, Oct. 17th
A splendid night last night. Stayed on deck all evening. Pa was below talking to Uncle John. Ollie on the forecastle. Mrs. Ballard went down to put Harry to bed, and I was on the quarter deck. Pa watches all these fellows very closely, if they say anything to me; and they all stand in daily, hourly, and especially nightly dread of him. Mr. De Silver was talking to me about it, much to my amusement. He says if Pa has anything against him, he wishes he would tell him so and have done with it. But he talks to him and treats him well; but if he sits down to talk to me, he looks just as wicked at him as he can. He says all the gentlemen talk about it and feel uncomfortable, and he thinks it is a very queer thing. I was laughing to myself and trying to think how often I had listened to such ditties, when the doctor came over and sat down on the deck right at my feet. I was saying something to him, and just then Pa came quietly up the companion way to reconnoitre. The minute the doctor saw his white cap, he jumped up and the next minute was whistling at the other end of the deck. Mr. De Silver stood his ground, but became very nervous. I struck up a lively conversation; and Pa, satisfied that there was nothing private going on, went down again. The doctor watched him down then came back again. Mr. De Silver grit his teeth and I laughed. I cannot avoid possibly being in the company of these gentlemen whether I will or not. It is not as if we were on land and I could get rid of those I did not like or that Pa did not like. In my presence they are all gentlemen, and I do not see why I should not treat them as such. Pa does not find any fault with me, however, about it or anything else.
We are getting to be cannibals. Had chicken for dinner that saved the cook the trouble of killing them, as they died of their own accord. I have got to quite like chicken soup, thickened with feathers. There is a great rolling of eyes at the dinner table nowadays. Doctor piously reminds us of the text, "Eat whatsoever things are set before you, asking no questions for conscience's sake." But I doubt very much if it applies to our case.

Friday, Oct. 18th
What in the world, or rather on the sea, are we coming to; echo answers -- What. One of the gentlemen declares he found a whole dishcloth in his apple sauce. Our stewardess is the must untidy creature that ever lived, I do think. Such revelations as we have once in a while. Oh, Ruth Bradford -- that ever thou shouldst be brought to such an extremity. This morning a pig walked into the cabin. Stewardess threw a cat overboard one morning, and her ghost has haunted the ship ever since. They say our provisions are getting scarce, and we will soon be reduced to the condition of the sailor who lives on the smell of a jack knife which had cut pork.

We have nothing but alternate calms & storms (the mate says) all owing to the cat and will continue to have bad luck until the stewardess is thrown overboard after her. And I verily believe that the mate would not hesitate a moment to quietly drop the stewardess astern some fine day.

The old tub rolled so at dinner that we had to hold on to our soup with both hands and eat it with our eyes. We expect to reach Hong King about the Fourth of July next, nothing preventing.

Saturday, Oct. 19th
It has poured rain the whole day. Everybody is tired of everything and one another. I went to bed and slept three or four hours, which is the best thing a person can do on a rainy day at sea. Everything is wet; it has rained for a week. I have not been dry since last Sunday, nor anybody else.

Sunday, Oct. 20th
We are 40 days out today. The rain is over and the weather fine. Caught great quantities or rain water during the last week. I am just out of the first fresh water bath I have had for 5 weeks. Have indulged in a clean dress, pair of white stockings and new shoes and of course feel very comfortable. Can hardly wait to finish this before I take a stiff out in the cabin and insist upon all the gentlemen making two bows apiece, one to me and one to my clean dress.

I suppose Buttonwood is deserted today and all hands at church. I guess we will all forget how to behave ourselves in church by the time we get there again.

Monday, Oct. 21st
It is a beautiful day. Last night was a most lovely night. It was the first fine one we have had for some time. So we appreciated it. We do have such glorious nights on the ocean, nothing like it on land. Such a nice promenade as we have on the upper deck, and then music never sounds as well on land as it does on the water. Mr. Foster plays the flute beautifully, and we sing a great deal too. "A life on the ocean wave" for me, if we do have to drink water so strong that we expect every minute to see it pick up the casks and walk about the deck with them and eat chickens that die of consumption. The sailor's blood of my good old grandfather runs through my veins sometimes at the rate of fifteen knots an hour. I do like the sea; there are no two ways about that.