The first two or three days of the voyage were spent in taking stock of our fellow passengers and in finding our friends. We were about seventy-five cabin passengers in all,—a small family, it is true. The ship was coaled through to Manila, the first stop being Guam. So we made acquaintance here and there, settling ourselves for no paltry five or six days’ run, but for a whole month at sea. We all came on deck and took our fourteen laps—or less—around the promenade deck before breakfast. The first two or three nights, with a sort of congregational impulse, we drifted forward under the promenade awnings, and sang to the accompaniment of the cornetist on the troop deck. The soldiers sang too, and many an American negro melody, together with “On the Road to Mandalay” and other modern favorites, floated melodiously into the starlit silence of the Pacific. Our huge windsail flapped or bellied as the breeze fell or rose; the waves thumped familiarly against the sides; the masthead lantern burned clear as a star; and the real stars swung up and down as the bowsprit curtsied to each wave. In the intervals between songs a hush would fall upon us, and the sea noises were like effects in a theatre.
In a few days, however, our shyness and strangeness wore off. We no longer sang with the soldiers, but segregated ourselves into congenial groups; and under the electric lights the promenade deck looked, for all the world, like the piazza of a summer hotel.
From San Francisco to Honolulu
We Change Our Course and Arrive at Honolulu—The City Viewed from the Sea—Its Mixed Population—We Are Detained Ten Days For Engine Repairs.
When we were a week out from San Francisco and were eight hundred or a thousand miles north of the Hawaiian Islands, the Buford stopped one evening just at sunset, and for at least twenty minutes slopped about in the gentle swell. There is a curious sense of dulness when the engines cease droning and throbbing; and the passengers, who had just come up from dinner, were affected by the unusual silence. We hung over the rail, talking in subdued tones and noting the beauty of the sunset.
Behind us the sea lay purple and dark, with the same sad, sweet loneliness that a prairie has in the dusk; but between us and the sun it resembled a molten mass, heaving with sinister power. Our bowsprit pointed straight at the fiery ball hanging on the sky rim, above which a pyramidal heaping of clouds aped the forms of temples set on rocky heights. And from that fantastic mingling of gold and pink and yellow the sky melted into azure streaked with pearl, and faded at the zenith into what was no color but night—the infinity of space unlighted.
When the engines started up, the gorgeous picture swung around until it stood on what is technically called the starboard beam, whereupon one of the engineers called my attention to the fact that we had changed our course. Since we were then headed due south, he added, we must be bound for Honolulu.