On their travels.
But at last the hour for leaving came, and Sedgwick and Jordan took the train and proceeded without delay to Marseilles, where one of the steamers of the French Imperial Messenger Line was about to sail for Port Said. They at once secured transportation, went on board, and a few hours later the ship proceeded to sea. The weather was fair on the Mediterranean, and putting aside any personal sorrows, Jordan exerted himself to be cheerful for Sedgwick’s sake.
“This are ther water on which men fust learned ter be sailors, arn’t it, Jim?” he asked. “I mean whar they fust got inter ther notion of venturin’ out whar ther old shore-shaker could git a good hold on ’em?”
“Yes,” replied Sedgwick. “This and the Red Sea. The Egyptians, the Carthagenians, the Phoenicians, the Syrians, the Greeks, the Romans, and a dozen other nations; later, the Venetians and Spaniards, and no one knows how many other nations, all learned how to build, navigate, and fight ships on these waters. Think of it, Jordan, there were sea fights here almost seven hundred years before the Christ came. On this sea floated the fighting Biremes, Triremes, and Quinquiremes of the Greeks, Carthagenians, and Romans; and here the Egyptians and Phoenicians trained their ships three thousand years before the crucifixion.
“Could this sea give up its dead—its dead men and its dead ships; could they all come back as they looked the moment before they sank, they would make a panorama of the ages, and would show the progress of the world for five thousand years. Every mile square of this sea must be paved with things which were once glorious in life and power. Maybe below where we are sailing here, helmeted Roman soldiers, being transported to some point of contemplated conquest, went down. Here pirate craft have roamed; here lumbering wheat ships have ploughed their way; here the watches have been set by the crews of a hundred nations; here sailors have been cursed in a thousand tongues. Along these shores ship-building had its birth; from these shores the ships sailed out over these waters, engaging in foreign commerce, and the camel-owner on the land learned to hate the thing which on the water could carry the burden of many camels. One could sit all day and conjure up the ghosts that these blue waters are peopled with.”
“Go ahead, Jim,” said Jordan. “Thet sounds as it useter when yo’ read to us in ther old house thar in Texas. What war thet book that told all ’bout Lissis and Ajax, the hoss-tamer Diamed, and the boss fighters, Killes and Hector, and ther pretty gal Helen, that raised all the hel-lo, and Dromine, the squar woman thet war Hector’s wife, and hed the kid thet war afeerd of the old man’s headgear?”
“That was the Iliad, Jordan,” said Sedgwick, “the first book that we read. The story was the siege of Troy. That was a city over on the east shore of this very sea, and the Greeks went over there in their boats and besieged it for nine years before they captured it.”