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Secret Transactions Of The Three Hours For Lunch Club
by [?]

Across immaculate decks, and in the immortal whiff, indefinable, of a fine ship just off the high seas, trod the beatified club. A ship, the last abiding place in a mannerless world of good old-fashioned caste, and respect paid upward with due etiquette and discipline through the grades of rank. The club, for a moment, were guests of the captain; deference was paid to them. They stood in the captain’s cabin (sacred words). “Boy!” cried the captain, in tones of command. Not as one speaks to office boys in a newspaper kennel, in a voice of entreaty. The boy appeared: a curly-headed, respectful stripling. A look of respect: how well it sits upon youth. “Boy!” said the captain–but just what the captain said is not to be put upon vulgar minutes. Remember, pray, the club was upon British soil.

In the saloon sat the club, and their faces were the faces of men at peace, men harmonious and of delicate cheer. The doctor, a seafaring man, talked the lingo of imperial mariners: he knew the right things to say: he carried along the humble secretary, who gazed in melodious mood upon the jar of pickled onions. At sea Mr. Green is of lurking manners: he holds fast to his bunk lest worse befall; but a ship in port is his empire. Scotch broth was before them–pukka Scotch broth, the doctor called it; and also the captain and the doctor had some East Indian name for the chutney. The secretary resolved to travel and see the world. Curried chicken and rice was the word: and, not to exult too cruelly upon you (O excellent friends!), let us move swiftly over the gooseberry tart. There was the gooseberry tart, and again, a few minutes later, it was not there. All things have their appointed end. “Boy!” said the captain. (Must I remind you, we were on imperial soil.) Is it to be said that the club rose to the captain’s cabin once more, and matters of admirable purport were tastefully discussed, as is the habit of us mariners?

“The drastic sanity of the sea”–it is a phrase from a review of one of the captain’s own books, “Merchantmen-at-Arms,” which this club (so it runs upon the minutes), as lovers of sea literature, officially hope may soon be issued on this side also. It is a phrase, if these minutes are correct, from a review written by H.M. Tomlinson, another writer of the sea, of whom we have spoken before, and may, in God’s providence, again. “The drastic sanity of the sea” was the phrase that lingered in our mind as we heard the captain talk of books and of discipline at sea and of the trials imposed upon shipmasters by the La Follette act. (What, the club wondered inwardly, does Mr. La Follette know of seafaring?) “The drastic sanity of the sea!” We thought of other sailors we had known, and how they had found happiness and simplicity in the ordered combat with their friendly enemy. A virtue goes out of a ship (Joseph Conrad said, in effect) when she touches her quay. Her beauty and purpose are, for the moment, dulled and dimmed. But even there, how much she brings us. How much, even though we do not put it into words, the faces and accents of our seafaring friends give us in the way of plain wisdom and idealism. And the secretary, as he stepped aboard the hubbub of a subway train, was still pondering “the drastic sanity of the sea.”