I asked the first person I met, who happened to be the third officer, where I should go and what I should do. He told me to report at the quartermaster’s office at the end of the promenade deck. A white-haired, taciturn gentleman in the uniform of a major, U.S.A., was occupying this apartment, together with a roly-poly clerk in a blue uniform which seemed to be something between naval and military. When I mentioned my name and showed my order for transportation, the senior officer grunted inarticulately, and waved me in the direction of his clerk, glaring at me meanwhile with an expression which combined singularly the dissimilar effects of a gimlet and a plane. The rotund junior contented himself with glancing suspiciously at the order and sternly at me. As if reassured, however, by my plausible countenance, he flipped over the pages of a ledger, told me the number of my stateroom, and hunted up a packet of letters, which he delivered with an acid reproof to me for not having reported before, saying that the letters had been accumulating for ten days.
It is true that the Buford had been scheduled to sail on the first day of the month; but I had arrived a day or two before that date, only to learn that the sailing date had been postponed to the tenth. I had made many weary trips to the army headquarters in Montgomery Street, asking for mail—and labels—with no results. Nobody had suggested that the mail would be delivered aboard ship, and I had not had sense enough to guess it. I did not make any explanations to the quartermaster and his clerk, however, because an intuition warned me not to add tangible evidence to a general belief in civilian stupidity. I merely swallowed my snubbing meekly and walked off.
I ambled about, clinging to the dressing-bag and looking for some one resembling a steward. At the foot of the ladder leading to the bridge I encountered two young girls descending therefrom with evidences of embarrassed mirth. They were Radcliffe girls, whose evil genius had led them to the bridge and to an indignant request to explain their presence there. They explained to no purpose, and, in response to a plaintive inquiry where to go, were severely told, “We don’t know, but go down from here immediately.” So they came down, crimson but giggling, and saw me (they said) roaming about with an expression at once wistful and complacent.
I found a steward and my stateroom at last, and a brown-haired, brown-eyed young woman in it who was also a pedagogue. We introduced ourselves, disposed of our parcels, and began to discuss the possibilities of the voyage. She was optimistically certain that she was not going to be seasick. I was pessimistically certain that I was. And she was wrong, and I was right. We were both gloriously, enthusiastically, madly seasick.