DISCOMFITURES AT SEA
The green and red lights on the starboard and port sides and the white light on the foremast now burned brightly. The boatswain’s shrill whistle furled the sails snugly to every spar, leaving the sailors little time or spirit for their usual song, as barometer-like they too sensed the approaching storm. The ship’s watch forward was increased as the wind grew strong, and the weather ahead had become thick and hazy.
The captain quickly left the table when the steward placed in his hand a bit of writing from the first officer, which read, “The barometer is falling rapidly.” Captain Morgan and an officer paced the bridge with eyes alert. Heavy clouds of smoke from the triple stacks revealed that a hundred glowing furnaces were being fed with fuel, assistant engineers were busily inspecting, and oilers were active in lubricating the ponderous engines that every emergency might be promptly met.
Ports were closed and every precaution taken. The anxiety of officers and sailors and the increased agitation of the sea was soon noticed by the ship’s gay company. Before ten o’clock most of the passengers were glad of the good-night excuse for retiring. The smoking room, however, was crowded with devotees to the weed. Old-timers were busy with cards, or forming pools on the first day’s run from Sandy Hook, or speculating as to the time of arrival at Queenstown.
The atmosphere of the room was as thick as the weather outside. It is no wonder that a club man of New York, making his first trip to Europe, inquired of his Philadelphia friend, “Why do Americans smoke so continually?”
He answered, “It is easier to tell why the English drink tea and why Americans drink coffee. But to answer your question, I suppose the mixture of races quickens the flow of blood and produces the intense activities we witness. Besides, the enlarged opportunities offered in a new and growing country present attractive prizes in the commercial, political, social, and religious world. To attain these the Anglo-Saxon blood rushes through arteries and veins like the heated blood in a thoroughbred horse on the last quarter. After these homestretch efforts Americans feel the need often of stimulants, or of a soporific, and this they try to find in a cigar.”
“Your views are wrong, I think. One would naturally infer that the use of tobacco shortens life. Let me relate to you an incident.
“I was once in Sandusky, Ohio, and spent an evening at a lecture given by Trask, the great anti-tobacconist. In his discourse he had reached the climax of his argument, proving as he thought that tobacco shortened life, when a well dressed man in the audience rose and said, ’Mr. Trask, will you pardon me if I say a few words?’
“‘Oh, yes’ said the lecturer, ‘give us the facts only.’
“’Well, Mr. Trask, there is living to-day in Castalia, southwest of here, a man nearly a hundred years old and he has been a constant user of tobacco since early childhood.’