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Coming Across
by [?]

One commercial traveller shipped with a flower in his buttonhole. His girl gave it to him on the wharf, and told him to keep it till it faded, and then press it. She was a barmaid. She thought he was “going saloon,” but he came forward as soon as the wharf was out of sight. He gave the flower to the stewardess, and told us about these things one moonlight night during the voyage.

There was another–a well-known Sydney man–whose friends thought he was going saloon, and turned up in good force to see him off. He spent his last shilling “shouting,” and kept up his end of the pathetic little farce out of consideration for the feelings of certain proud female relatives, and not because he was “proud”–at least in that way. He stood on a conspicuous part of the saloon deck and waved his white handkerchief until Miller’s Point came between. Then he came forward where he belonged. But he was proud–bitterly so. He had a flower too, but he did not give it to the stewardess. He had it pressed, we think (for we knew him), and perhaps he wears it now over the place where his heart used to be.

When Australia was fading from view we shed a tear, which was all we had to shed; at least, we tried to shed a tear, and could not. It is best to be exact when you are writing from experience.

Just as Australia was fading from view, someone looked through a glass, and said in a sad, tired kind of voice that he could just see the place where the Dunbar was wrecked.

Several passengers were leaning about and saying “Europe! E-u-rope!” in agonized tones. None of them were going to Europe, and the new chums said nothing about it. This reminds us that some people say “Asia! Asia! Ak-kak-Asia!” when somebody spills the pepper. There was a pepper-box without a stopper on the table in our cabin. The fact soon attracted attention.

A new chum came along and asked us whether the Maoris were very bad round Sydney. He’d heard that they were. We told him that we had never had any trouble with them to speak of, and gave him another show.

“Did you ever hear of the wreck of the Dunbar?” we asked. He said that he never “heerd tell” of it, but he had heerd of the wreck of the Victoria.

We gave him best.

The first evening passed off quietly, except for the vinously-excited shearers. They had sworn eternal friendship with a convivial dude from the saloon, and he made a fine specimen fool of himself for an hour or so. He never showed his nose for’ard again.

Now and then a passenger would solemnly seek the steward and have a beer. The steward drew it out of a small keg which lay on its side on a shelf with a wooden tap sticking out of the end of it–out of the end of the keg, we mean. The beer tasted like warm but weak vinegar, and cost sixpence per small glass. The bagman told the steward that he could not compliment him on the quality of his liquor, but the steward said nothing. He did not even seem interested–only bored. He had heard the same remark often before, no doubt. He was a fat, solemn steward–not formal, but very reticent–unresponsive. He looked like a man who had conducted a religious conservative paper once and failed, and had then gone into the wholesale produce line, and failed again, and finally got his present billet through the influence of his creditors and two clergymen. He might have been a sociable fellow, a man about town, even a gay young dog, and a radical writer before he was driven to accept the editorship of the aforesaid periodical. He probably came of a “good English family.” He was now, very likely, either a rigid Presbyterian or an extreme freethinker. He thought a lot, anyway, and looked as if he knew a lot too–too much for words, in fact.