“No, I don’t think so. I was in the steerage, of course, four or five days, and helped on a bad case, but I didn’t notice anybody but the few people immediately about me.”
“Perhaps, then, among the first-class passengers? Anybody peculiar there? He’s a slick one, we hear, and may be working a stunt in disguise.”
“No. To tell you the truth, I was so tired when I came aboard that I hardly spoke to any one—no one, really, except my dear Sister Teresa here, who shared my stateroom. They have driven her out of France and she is on her way to a convent in Quebec. I go with her as far as Montreal.”
“You eat too much, Marny.” It was Joplin, of Boston, who was speaking—Samuel Epigastric Joplin, his brother painters called him. “You treat your stomach as if it were a scrap-basket and you dump into it everything you—”
“I do? You caricature of a codfish ball!”
“Yes, you do. You open your mouth, pin back your ears and in go pickles, red cabbage, Dutch cheese. It’s insanity, Marny, and it’s vulgar. No man’s epigastric can stand it. It wouldn’t make any difference if you were a kangaroo with your pouch on the outside, but you’re a full-grown man and ought to have some common-sense.”
“And you think that if I followed your idiotic theory it would keep me out of my coffin, do you? What you want, Joppy, is a square meal. You never had one, so far as I can find out, since you were born. You drank sterilized milk at blood temperature until you were five; chewed patent, unhulled wheat bread until you were ten, and since that time you’ve filled your stomach with husks—proteids, and carbohydrates, and a lot of such truck—isn’t that what he calls em, Pudfut?”
The Englishman nodded in assent.
“And now just look at you, Joppy, instead of a forty-inch chest—”
“And a sixty-inch waist,” interjected Joplin with a laugh, pointing at Marny’s waistcoat.
“I acknowledge it, old man, and I’m proud of it,” retorted Marny, patting his rotundity. “Instead, I say, of a decent chest your shoulders crowd your breast-bone; your epigastric, as you call it—it’s your solar plexus, Joppy—but that’s a trifle to an anatomist like you—your epigastric scrapes your back-bone, so lonely is it for something warm and digestible to rub up against, and your— Why, Joppy, do you know when I look at you and think over your wasted life, my eyes fill with tears? Eat something solid, old man, and give your stomach a surprise. Begin now. Dinner’s coming up—I smell it. Open your port nostril, you shrivelled New England bean, and take in the aroma of beatific pork and greens. Doesn’t that put new life into you? Puddy, you and Schonholz help Joppy to his feet and one or two of you fellows walk behind to pick up the pieces in case he falls apart before we can feed him. There’s Tine’s dinner-bell!”