At 11.00 A.M., March 19, 1901, the Hohen-Zollern moved slowly out from her pier in Brooklyn, moved out into the fog and the drizzling rain. We stood leaning on the rail, tossing farewells and flowers towards our friends on the pier. Little we knew that before night we should all feel the necessity of tossing something else over the rail. We stood looking backward until our friends and the pier grew dim in the distance, then the call to dinner came and we all went to the dining-room.
Looking down the room, we discovered that quite a number of our old friends were on broad. Stupid Mr. Cocculus was there. He is a vacillating fellow, nothing pleases him, he never finishes anything and he talks and talks until he tries you out listening, but that is to hide his timidity. He is so afraid of death, it is a wonder he ever ventured on ship-board. If the ship should spring a weak, he would just sit down in despair and sob and moan and groan and never try to do anything to save anyone.
Mr. Nux vomica sat next to Mr. Cocculus. They were way down at the other end of the dining-room, just as far away as possible from the door that leads towards the kitchen. Mr. Nux vomica is so sensitive that he can’t endure the smell of food. He is a very particular, careful man; he does get extremely angry at trifles, but when he isn’t irritable or over-sensitive or depressed, he is quite a nice fellow to have around. Mr. Petroleum sat over opposite. He, too, is touchy; he is so easily offended and so violent in his irritability that we were all careful how we approached him. He was always worrying about his family, wished he hadn’t left them and we in our minds all heartily echoed his wish.
At the left of the captain sat Mr. Tabacum. When he didn’t have his fits of depression that came with his indigestion, he was cheerful, merry, talkative, always talking nonsense. He couldn’t concentrate his mind long enough on one subject to talk sense.
Mrs. Carbolic acid sat next to Mr. Cocculus. She is a quiet gentle woman, quite absent-minded, so she didn’t mind him at all. Mr. Glonoinum is a bright man, a good talker. His flow of ideas were such that he entertained the whole party with no apparent exertion. There were times when he didn’t feel like talking. Then you could hardly get a word out of him. Mr. Kali bichromicum sat next to Mrs. Carbolic acid. He was so lazy, indifferent and ill-humored that the other passengers thought he might better have remained at home. Probably it was the close air and the smell of food that aggravated him, poor fellow, but the others didn’t know of that and it is very easy to misjudge a man.
Miss Kreosotum was next to Mr. Tabacum. She is an emotional woman. Tears are never far away from her eyes. She complained of being world-weary. Even Mr. Tabacum’s nonsense couldn’t make her smile and when the band began to play, her tears overflowed, though I don’t believe she herself knew why she cried about the music.
Miss Colchicum sat on the other side of Mr. Nux vomica. She is a trained nurse and had just been caring for an exceedingly difficult case. She was completely worn out, poor thing and was in much need of rest. That was why she was taking the voyage. Like Mr. Nux vomica, the smell of food disturbed her. She couldn’t even bear the sight of food.
Mrs. Lactic acid is a fault-finding, sarcastic woman, very exacting of others, but lazy herself. She sat next to mr. Petroleum and kept him constantly irritated. Miss Sepia, on the other side of Mr. Cocculus had the blues. She was nervous. The least noise disturbed her. She was so full of evil foreboding. She was sure something terrible would happen before the ship reached Geneva, and Mr. Cocculus, being timid himself and stupid, he didn’t know how to reassure her. Miss Theridion sat at the right of the captain, next was Mr. Glonoinum. She is a merry talkative woman and was ready to meet Mr. Glonoinum in a mental sparing match at any time. Time passes all too quickly with her.
The dinner was excellent. I couldn’t repeat the whole menus. The sight of food gave Mr. Cocculus an aversion for it, even when he was hungry and during the first dinner at sea, he ate nothing but bread and water. He wouldn’t even drink beer, which he often desires.
Miss Colchicum discovered on looking over the menus, that she was quite hungry for a number of things, but as they were brought to the table, the smell of them, even before she caught sight of them caused her to shudder and become nauseated. Mr. Nux vomica came to the table hungry but with an aversion to food. The only things that he really wanted were the fat meats and butter, and he ate all he wanted of those, even though he knew fat food disagreed with him. He finished his dinner with beer and brandy for which he had a great longing.
There were dainties enough at that dinner to suit even Mr. Petroleum and he just satiated himself with them, longing all the while for beer to wash them down. It was no wonder that he was seasick later on.
Mr. Kali Bichromicum had quite lost his appetite but had a great desire for beer. Miss Kreosotum was real hungry. She wanted good meats, smoked meats if she could get them and she could get them at that table. She wanted her food warm, because she felt bad after cold food. She desired spirituous drinks. They warm up the stomach, you know. The way Mrs. Lactic acid attacked the food and drink showed what a voracious appetite and thirst she had.
Miss Theridion was hungry but didn’t know what she wanted to eat. She finally decided that it was oranges and bananas that she craved. She, too, had a desire for wine and brandy and had she been a man, she would have taken a cigar. Some passengers on a previous voyage had nicknamed our ship “Billie the Roller” and we soon found to our sorrow that she was ready to live up to her reputation. Miss Colchicum had become so nauseated from the smell of food that when the vessel began to roll, she felt that she could endure it no longer and hastened to her stateroom to avoid disastrous results in the dining-room. Now it so happened that neither Mr. Tabacum nor Mr. Glonoinum could endure the alcoholics, even the fumes made Mr. Tabacum intoxicated and a drink of wine made Mr. Glonoinum worse in every way, so when Miss Colchicum left the table, they went to her assistance glad of an excuse to leave also. Miss Colchicum felt much better when she got away from the smell of food and was where she could lie down, double up and keep perfectly still.
Mr. Nux vomica became as pale as death with nausea, but he knew he could keep his food down, so remained some time after Miss Colchicum had departed, but after a while he, too, had to leave. Mrs. Carbolic acid had eaten only a little, when she felt she must go and vomit. She avoided her stateroom as long as possible because a room felt close and hot to her. The sight of food had nauseated Mr. Kali bichromicum. He went to his room and vomited all he had eaten. When he was through, he went up on deck. As soon as he came into the open air, he felt better. Mr. Cocculus got along all right until he went on deck and saw the pitching of the ship, then his stomach began to heave up and down and he lost all of his dinner. He hastened to this stateroom, braced himself in his berth and shut his eyes, so that he couldn’t move nor see anything else move and so felt better. He would have been quite comfortable if he hadn’t been afraid that the ship would go down and be the cause of his death.
By the time Mr. Tabacum had assisted Miss Colchicum to her stateroom, he discovered that moving about was too much for him. He became very sick at his stomach, was dizzy and faint and a cold sweat started out upon him. He managed to stagger to the deck, where he could keep still. Every motion made him worse, but he knew if he could only get on deck, where he could keep still, he would feel better. By this time Mr. Kali Bichromicum and Mrs. Carbolic acid had been on deck long enough to feel quite themselves again and when they saw Mr. Tabacum coming, they were frightened. He looked so pale and pinched and with that the cold sweat on his hands and face and the coldness of his skin, for there was great coldness of the surface, made them think he was already in collapse. They hastened to help him to a sheltered place where he needn’t move and soon his nonsensical talk was in full flow again.
Mrs. Lactic acid also was aggravated by motion, so she sat by Mr. Tabacum awhile, but she was sensitive to cold air and soon began to find fault with the weather and went below.
When Mr. Glonoinum came down the deck hunting for Mr. Tabacum, he discovered Mr. Nux vomica leaning over the railing. “Hello, old man. Making your contribution to the Atlantic?” said he, slapping Mr. Nux vomica upon the back. Now it so happened that Mr. Nux vomica was having a very difficult time in disposing off his dinner and when he heard that trite quotation, he was so mad he could have knocked Mr. Glonoinum down; as it was, Mr. Glonoinum dodged just in time to escape a book that Mr. Nux vomica hurled at him. But now Mr. Glonoinum had been moving about so much that he began to feel a faint warm sickening sensation in the chest and stomach. He heeded the warning and went over and sat beside Mr. Tabacum.
Looking for the rest of our friends, I found Miss Sepia with a sick headache lying down in her stateroom. She was better lying down, I left her there, knowing she would be sad and gloomy if I took her into the open air. Miss Kreosotum I found walking the deck. She had vomited everything that she had eaten. Even her breakfast came up, and she was so restless that she couldn’t keep still. Miss Theridion, I found with a sick headache. She was very nervous and depressed. She could not move nor talk nor shut her eyes, because either made her so sick. I gave her a drink of warm water, which made the nausea and retching better.
Mr. Petroleum had been troubled with nausea and colic and drowsiness since dinner, and I found him in bed, warmly covered. He had fallen into a restless sleep. As I stood and looked at him, remembering the kind and quantity of dinner he had eaten, I didn’t wonder at his restlessness. I went back on deck and joined the group by Mr. Tabacum just as Mr. Nux Vomica came up. He had finished his trying ordeal by the rail and was feeling better. Mr. Glonoinum, remarking that he had no further use for Mr. Nux vomica’s book, handed it back. Mr. Nux vomica, receiving it, replied that neither had he.
Thus passed our first day out from America.