We waited patiently at the rail for an hour more to see the camels slung aboard by the crane. It was worth the wait. They lost their impassive and immemorial dignity completely, sprawling, groaning, positively shrieking in dismay. When the solid deck rose to them, and the sling had been loosened, however, they regained their poise instantaneously. Their noses went up in the air, and they looked about them with a challenging, unsmiling superiority, as though to dare any one of us to laugh. Their native attendants immediately squatted down in front of them, and began to feed them with convenient lengths of what looked like our common marsh cat-tails. The camels did not even then manifest the slightest interest in the proceedings. Indeed, they would not condescend to reach out three inches for the most luscious tit-bit held that far from their aristocratic noses. The attendants had actually to thrust the fodder between their jaws. I am glad to say they condescended to chew.
The Indian ocean.
Leaving Aden, and rounding the great promontory of Cape Guardafui, we turned south along the coast of Africa. Off the cape were strange, oily cross rips and currents on the surface of the sea; the flying-fish rose in flocks before our bows; high mountains of peaks and flat table tops thrust their summits into clouds; and along the coast the breakers spouted like whales. For the first time, too, we began to experience what our preconceptions had imagined as tropical heat. Heretofore we had been hot enough, in all conscience, but the air had felt as though wafted from an opened furnace door—dry and scorching. Now, although the temperature was lower, the humidity was greater. A swooning languor was abroad over the spellbound ocean, a relaxing mist of enchantment.
My glasses were constantly clouding over with a fine coating of water drops; exposed metal rusted overnight; the folds in garments accumulated mildew in an astonishingly brief period of time. There was never even the suggestion of chill in this dampness. It clung and enveloped like a grateful garment; and seemed only to lack sweet perfume.
At this time, by good fortune, it happened that the moon came full. We had enjoyed its waxing during our voyage down the Red Sea; but now it had reached its greatest phase, and hung over the slumbering tropic ocean like a lantern. The lazy sea stirred beneath it, and the ship glided on, its lights fairly subdued by the splendour of the waters. Under the awnings the ship’s company lounged in lazy attitudes or promenaded slowly, talking low voiced, cigars glowing in the splendid dusk. Overside, in the furrow of the disturbed waters, the phosphorescence flashed perpetually beneath the shadow of the ship.
The days passed by languidly and all alike. On the chart outside the smoking-room door the procession of tiny German flags on pins marched steadily, an inch at a time, towards the south. Otherwise we might as well have imagined ourselves midgets afloat in a pond and getting nowhere.