Tuesday. Left San Francisco about five o’clock in the morning and passed through the Golden Gate an hour or two afterwards. The early morning was clear and cool with just enough swell to make it interesting. We left the pilot just outside the harbor. The day’s run was about seventy-eight miles, as we had to lay to for a while in order to repair a broken valve. This was rather tiresome because the boat pitched badly in the swells and the lockers had to be put on the dinner tables.
The dining room is well fitted with comfortable chairs, a piano, and seats between sixty and seventy. All the servants are Chinese, and they make good, clean workers. Meade, Huguet, McKaskey, Weeks, Boyle, Fassett, and Lawton are my messmates, and we hold our own very well. The meals cost a dollar a day, and we generally manage to get our money’s worth. The menu is varied and gives as much variety as can be expected on board a first-class steamer. The privates fare very well and have little to complain of.
Wednesday. This diary is, like all diaries (with the exception of perhaps Pepys’s Diary), very much the same as the days go by. We made good time to-day, that is we went 289 miles, and are holding a westerly course. This boat is a fine steamer about 475 feet long and big in proportion. There are nearly 1700 souls on board including the crew, which numbers 179. The ship’s captain is a big, blue-eyed Anglo-Saxon, who has followed the sea all his life and who seems to have been well treated by it. He has some efficient officers under him.
The enlisted men have their quarters fore and aft, and are well provided with iron cots. Several windsails make the ventilation clear and cool ’tween decks, and besides these there are some big ventilators near the whacking big smokestack. This stack is nearly six feet in diameter, and is in the centre with two masts fore and two aft. Some of the officers have been sick, but I have not been except the first day, when I felt headachy and did not enjoy the motion of the ship any too well.
Sunday. This diary has suffered lately from great neglect, and it has cried out so loudly the last few days that I had to help it. We have been going along very well lately and are already more than fourteen hundred miles on our way. Our course so far has been west, and now we are taking a southwest course so as to pass north of the Hawaiian Islands and stay in as cool a climate as possible. A day or so ago we passed a brigantine with all sails set, and it made me think of some of Washington Irving’s meditations on seeing a lone ship at sea.
I was on guard Friday and had to inspect sentries three or four times. This was not very arduous work, since there is only a small place where the men guard. The boat is so crowded that the men find it hard to eat their food on the decks. An officer is supposed to inspect his company at meals. I am writing this in the dining room among a number of the officers who are playing cards, writing, talking, and fooling. This room has a piano and accommodates a large number.
For the last day or two we have been giving the men a number of drills; that is, short drills in calisthenics, or setting-up exercises. The boys have just gathered round the piano and are singing “A Hot Time in the Old Town.” You can imagine that this was not allowed to last long, but we ordered some ginger-pop and apollinaris to cool our throats. This writing is too much of an effort, and I must get to bed very soon. The sleeping accommodations are very good, as we have two berths and a sofa.
Monday. The day opened with a fog which had been overhang- ing us for the last few days. My company commander was put on guard, and so I took charge of the company during drill this morning.
The fog lasted all day and well into the next. We have been sailing through thousands of “ Portuguese men-of-war,” or nautiluses. These little jelly-fishes are beautifully colored and have a little pointed jelly fin on a flat, spherical body; underneath is a hollow with little suckers by means of which they get their sustenance from the water. It is hard to see what they live on. Their little conical sails propel them about. During the day we passed through some pretty seaweed and large masses of a pale green weed, very much like that seen on a frog pond. In these patches were myriads of nautiluses. Some of the waves brought the little creatures on deck, but they did not seem to have much life in them.
The next day, April 26, was a little more pleasant, and in fact there was hardly any sea on. About reveille (six in the morning) one of the men was buried. The burial must have been very simple, for I did not see it, and was only awakened by the stopping of the boat. A splash, and that was all; another soul to join the grewsome habitants of the deep. It made me think of the burial of Sir John Moore: —
“ Not a drum was heard,
Not a funeral note,” etc.
I suppose I shall soon become accustomed to sudden death.
During the afternoon the only excitement was a fire drill. The whistle blew a warning note, and we hurried to our companies to keep them quiet. The crew and some details of soldiers placed themselves near the boats, and the hose was gotten ready. Then the boat blew its siren whistle, and bells rang, and the hose played, and the drill was over.
After lunch J read “The Adventures of Philip,” by Thackeray. This writer’s books are all interesting, and have so many touches of nature and life; but what am I to talk about life, who have only just crossed the threshold a little way? The doorstone in Memorial Hall used to be so worn with countless steps, — steps that pass and repass and grow stronger or weaker, to finally go out into the land to their duty. Thackeray has a way of reminding one of early childhood and shows touches so natural that one keeps saying to himself, “Why, that is just what I have thought, but could not express.”
One would not think thus unless he had the same feelings, and it shows that self is every one’s guidance. Put self in the background and it will out, too strong in some and well balanced in others. Then again one cannot bite off very much of Thackeray at a time, but should see what he thinks of people and retain some of the plums and curt expressions occasionally.
We skipped Thursday because the ship crossed the 180° meridian, and according to reckoning we lose a day going west and gain one going east at this point in the centre of the Pacific halfway round the world. The captain is holding a southwest course so as to keep us as cool as possible. He expects to reach Manila in about ten days more. I must say something right here about the lost day.
The day passed as usual except that we had a funeral in the evening. The services were very impressive. Just before the body was placed on the port rail, ready to be launched into eternity, the silvery moon came rolling out of the clouds, and that combined with the bareheaded spectators made a scene to be remembered. The services were soon read, a plunge, and another being had joined the graveyard of the deep.
It is now Friday evening, and we have had a delightful day with hardly any swell to speak of, although the sea is still restless. I got up at quarter-past six and took a refreshing salt-water bath in one of the bathrooms. Then I went on deck and inspected my company at breakfast. The men all line up, and with mess pans in hand take their turns and fill their stomachs. At twenty minutes of ten we had short setting-up drill and then loafed until lunch at 12.30. During the afternoon I read, and slept until supper at 6. These meals do not come any too soon for most of us.
In the evening we loafed about the deck and had solid comfort. The boat’s searchlight was turned on for a few minutes and pop up the waters pretty well.