Romance of an Ocean Voyage - Hamburg-American Line - 1905
Down on the dock there was the usual bustle and excitement incident to the departure of one of the great steamships of the HAMBURG-AMERICAN LINE. Above, on the deck, a throng of passengers in groups picturesque or interesting --and often both—talked earnestly with friends who had come to bid them Godspeed on the forthcoming voyage across the Atlantic.
"The Winter Cruise to the West Indies," said a girlish voice; "Oh, you're going too fast, Mr. Johnson. l'd love to take it, but just now I'm thinking of the Summer Cruise to Norway, the North Cape and Spitzbergen. They say that the scenery of Norway is beyond comparison in its wild grandeur—mountains and tremendous canyons, the like of which beggar description. And then there are the fjords and the wonderful waterfalls. And the midnight sun! How must things look under its weird, soft beams!" . . .
But here the enthusiastic young voice was lost in a confusion of other voices that took up the refrain where the girl had ended, and Burroughs turned with a half sad, half amused expression to the scene of activity on the dock. " I seem to be the only lone, lorn individual on board this big boat," thought he, and I'll wager none of them enjoys companionship more than I do."
" How good of you to come to see us off, Mrs. Alston !" a soft voice was saying at his elbow. "Yes, we are really going. I can hardly believe it."
" I wish I were going with you," was the response.
" I wish so, too, with all my heart. Just think of the delight in store for father and me! First, there will be the cruise to the famous seaside places of Germany, England, France and Spain, where we shall see Europeans at their gayest ; and, later on, the cruise to Norway. Isn't it a lovely program ? I'll tell you a secret, my dear. I'm going to coax father to take one or two other cruises before we return. I want to go around the British Isles.
That's a cruise of 2I days ; and such an interesting coast, and we stop at ever so many of the most noted sea ports. And—but I'm tiring you out.
Come, let me show you over the steamer. She's a wonder—a floating palace! There's every earthly thing on board that soul could wish in the way of comfort and luxury. We'll find father and he will go with us."
Burroughs caught a glimpse of the wealth of chestnut hair and the delicately rounded cheek of the speaker, and the two ladies moved away. Later on, as the great vessel swung out into the stream, he found himself again in close proximity to the same pretty girl.
She stood beside a handsome elderly gentleman at the rail, and waved a filmy handkerchief in farewell to friends on the dock. Thus, the three stood looking back at the wharves and shipping of " Old New York," while between them and the great city the gulf of sparkling water widened momentarily.
" Come along, daddy, let's walk to the bow," said the girl, at last.
A faint aroma of the violets she wore at her belt, a memory of smiling hazel eyes and dimpled cheeks, lingered with Burroughs long after the girl had departed with her father to the bow of the " Deutschland."
At dinner, that evening, in the elegant dining-room, with its perfect appointments, and equally perfect service, when four hundred and fifty passengers sat down to a menu of the daintiest excellence, Burroughs found himself, as luck would have it, directly opposite the lady of the hazel eyes and chestnut tresses.
She looked more lovely than ever in her simple evening gown, and was talking animatedly with her father. From occasional snatches of their conversation that drifted to his ears, he surmised that they were discussing a plan of travel in addition to the one they had already scheduled for themselves. At length he heard the girl say with a charming laugh:
" I want to go to the Imperial Yacht Races at Kiel, and around the British Isles and to Norway by way of Iceland. I want to go wherever these beautiful boats will take me, if we are a whole year about it," she concluded, with a gay little gesture of her white hands.
" What graceful hands she has!" mused Burroughs, as he watched them covertly, and then his eyes suddenly became riveted as in a hypnotic trance upon a curiously wrought ring on the slender third finger of the right hand. Presently he heard her voice again as in a dream:
" But, seriously, father ; the Ludlows will meet us in Hamburg on June 25th.
And couldn't we just stay over until the 12th of July, and then take the ' Hamburg' and go to Norway and the North Cape by way of Scotland and the Orkney and Shetland Islands and Iceland ? We might travel a bit in Germany in the interval. It would be such a . . ."
Here she seemed to become conscious of Burroughs' gaze, and looked across at him with eyes half startled, half annoyed. He glanced away instantly, but his handsome face looked pale and distraught. Later in the evening, as he was seated in the smoking-room enjoying his cigar, the girl's father entered and took a chair sociably near him.
"You were our opposite neighbor at dinner," he began, without preamble and with a pleasant breeziness of manner. "My daughter remarked upon your extraordinary resemblance to a friend of ours. You are wonderfully like him."
" He is a fortunate individual to enjoy your daughter's and your friendship, I am sure," responded Burroughs. I quite wish I were he."
" No, you don't," said the other hastily. " How did you enjoy our country? Of course, I know you're an Englishman. It's stamped all over you, like the ' smile that won't come off,' " he added, with a chuckle.
" I'm glad it is," replied Burroughs. " I am an Englishman and I'm proud of it."
After this the two men lapsed into generalities, in the course of which Burroughs casually mentioned that he was going back to England after a year spent in America, and incidentally learned that his companion's name was Gray, that they had several mutual friends in Chicago, and that Mr. Gray and his daughter intended to spend the summer months traveling abroad.
" My daughter is filled with enthusiasm and an insatiable thirst for travel. She wants me to promise the trip to the Mediterranean next winter ; but I'm a man of business and can't arrange for that."
" Ah, the trip to the Mediterranean would, indeed, be delightful, A friend of mine—Mr. Dixon—took it last winter. He was enthusiastic about it. He seems to have seen everything of interest along the coast of that wonderful sea, besides getting in a little inland travel as well. From what Dixon says, I judge that these cruises are planned with infinite care and that the service is perfect.
" What does your friend say of Genoa ?" asked Mr. Gray.
" Oh fairly raves about it ; becomes poetic as he speaks of entering the Gulf of Genoa and of his first view of the city set against a background of ' sun-kissed mountains ' ; talks by the yard about its frescoes, its churches and its fortifications. The fact that it is the birthplace of Columbus would, in itself, be enough to make it very interesting. The Villa Pallavinci at Pegli, one of the outlying villages, met with his enthusiastic approval. The violets were all a-bloom in the Pegli gardens when he was there, he says, and the air was sweet with their perfume.
" And Algiers ?" questioned Mr. Gray.
" He said that when he first saw the city from the sea, it suggested, to him a great triangular sheet of snowy whiteness, spread upon the hills. He found the older portion of the town very interesting, with its motley assemblage of Arabs, Turks, Moors and Beduins in their Oriental dress."
Mr. Gray, who had been listening intently, suddenly arose.
" By jove ! I musn't leave Eleanor any longer. Come, Mr. Burroughs, and let me introduce you to my daughter."
A flood of moonlight greeted the two men as they emerged from the companionway. Over the white deck it poured itself, and away across the gleaming waters it made a pathway to far-off, invisible lands.
"I left my daughter over there in that sheltered corner," said Mr. Gray. " Ah, there she is," and he walked briskly toward a feminine figure, seated apart from the other groups. " Have I been long, dear ? " he asked, as the girl looked up with a smile.
" An age," she replied, and then paused as her eyes fell upon Burroughs.
" Eleanor, this is Mr. Burroughs, with whom I've been talking in the smoking-room. He knows a lot of people we know in Chicago, and we've been gossiping about them."
The girl bowed. " Isn't this a night of nights, Mr. Burroughs ? One scarcely feels the motion of this great vessel. I'd like to sail on like this forever!'
" So would I," responded the young man, looking down earnestly into her upturned face.
To an invitation from Mr. Gray to have his steamer chair placed near them, Burroughs responded with alacrity, and presently the two men found themselves with the girl between them, chatting pleasantly about mutual friends and about the Grays' plans for future travel.
" Isn't it too bad that daddy won't take me next winter on the Mediterranean Cruise," laughed Eleanor.
" If you're going to tease me any more about the Mediterranean Cruise I'll go and have another smoke," said Mr. Gray, pretending to be indignant. " Go along then, daddy," she responded, gaily.
" Miss Gray," said Burroughs, when the two were alone, " I owe you an apology for forgetting my manners at dinner and staring so hard at your hand."
" It was very rude of you," she said. " Your eyes magnetized me, and I glanced up involuntarily, and then I found that you looked so like a friend of ours that I was startled."
"I was staring at a ring you wear on your right hand. It is the very counterpart of one that belonged to a brother of mine."
" Indeed!" she said. " Is your brother in England?"
" No ; I have not seen him for years. He ran away from home in a fit of boyish anger and went to America. For a time I used to receive letters from him from a little Western town, and then they stopped coming. I went to America over a year ago to try and find him, but it was like looking for a needle in a hay stack, and now I'm going back to England, my errand unaccomplished. Your ring brought all the circumstances back to me. Would you mind telling me its history ?"
"No," replied the girl, much interested. " Three years ago this summer, my father, who owns a ranch out West, took me there for a visit. The place was in charge of a young Englishman—an awfully nice fellow—evidently a gentleman down on his luck. I liked him very much. He and father and I used to go for long rides together across the plains. We were out riding one evening, just at sunset.
Ah, how vividly I remember it ! I had put my horse into a canter, and the two men were following me, when the ranchman's horse stepped into a hole and came down heavily, falling partly upon his rider. Poor fellow ! He was fatally hurt. I reached him before father did. He was only able to gasp my name, and he just managed to pull this ring off his finger and hand it to me, asking me to wear it for his sake ; and I have, and always will," concluded Eleanor, visibly affected.
" His name ?" Burroughs asked, in a low, eager voice.
" Was Leveret."
" My brother's Christian name. That man must have been my brother."
" There can be no doubt," she responded. " And even without the ring your extraordinary resemblance would be proof enough," she added, softly.
The long swells lifted the vessel gently and passed away behind her. The breeze blew balmily, and the great solemn night, with her moon and stars hung mysteriously over the vast stretches of the ocean, and the girl and the man sat silent.
Six days of companionship, even without such a bond as existed between Eleanor and Burroughs, will do much to mature an incipient love affair, and it is not to be wondered at that on the last day out the following conversation should have occurred :
" I have a grievance against father," laughed the girl, as the two sat alone in a sheltered corner. " He absolutely refuses to take the Mediterranean Cruise next winter—says he can't possibly leave his business."
" Do you know, I've been talking to your father about that cruise, and he said this morning that he wouldn't mind your taking it with me—if you would consent to go "
" With you! " she cried, looking up quickly, and then blushing violently as she caught his eye.
" Eleanor, my dearest, I love you. Marry me next fall, and we'll engage passage on the Deutschland' for the Mediterranean in January. Let it be the initiatory cruise to that long and happy voyage of Life, which, please God, we will make together."
" Of course—if father says I may," came the murmured response.