IT was only a year after our return from Europe that I was seized with a desire to make a trip around the world. I was living in a small suburban town, and one evening, when several of the neighborhood boys were on the front porch of my boarding-house, we began to talk about a piece of news which had appeared in a morning paper. Three boys had started around the world by different routes in an effort to make the journey in record time. They were to travel as fast as possible, and were to spare no expense.
I remarked that they’d have an exciting trip, but they wouldn’t have time to see much of the countries through which they passed. ” That’s right,” agreed Will Renwick, ” and any fellow could go around as they are, with all their expenses paid. They’re mighty lucky to get the chance. They ought to try going it without any money to start with, and then they’d surely have an interesting time.”
The fellows laughed at the suggestion. ” It would probably be more interesting than pleasant,” said Jack Irwin, and that closed the conversation on the subject.
The idea of going around the world had been in my mind for some time, and this mention of the trip started me thinking. I had been twice through Europe and could fairly claim to know something of the economies of travel. I had worked my way across the Atlantic as pantry-boy, and had always succeeded in making a living somehow in foreign countries. I began to wonder whether it wouldn’t be possible for me to work my way around the world, as I had worked my way through Europe. An American lad of twenty, it seemed to me, should be able to look out for himself in any country, and I thought that if I was ever to make the trip, now was the time, before I became twenty-one and had to “settle down.” The longer I thought about it, the more feasible the plan appeared. I tried to imagine myself alone in China or Japan, without any friend, and with little money in my pocket, and decided that such a position had no terrors to my mind. I thought of midnight in Singapore, or the Philippine Islands, and made up my mind that I could feel perfectly at home in either place. In fact, I decided that any foreign place, howe’er remote, would be more attractive than our little town in summer, where the visit of the circus or Indian Medicine Company, created the only diversion. It was sufficiently dull in winter, when there were a few concerts, church sociables, and other entertainments to vary the monotony ; in summer it would be almost intolerable. So it wasn’t strange that I wanted to travel.
A Doubtful Scheme
The next time I met a crowd of the fellows I mentioned the scheme to them. They were more enthusiastic over it than I was myself. ” Gee whiz,” exclaimed Jack Irwin, ” it’s jolly fun to even think about such a lark. If I were in your place, with none’s consent to ask, I’d start off to-morrow. Nothin’ would hold me in this old town overnight. I’d go on the first ship sailing.”
” That’s very easy to say,” I remarked. ” It shows what a deep conception you have of the size of this earth of ours. You mustn’t suppose that because I worked my way from New York to London I can go down to the North River docks and find a ship that will take me across the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, across the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, and back to San Francisco. Very few ships ever take such a voyage, and even if I found one bound for San Francisco by that route, it isn’t certain that I could get a berth aboard her. Jobs are as scarce at sea as on dry land, and I don’t imagine I’ll start on the trip next Saturday, or next week either, even if I start at all.”
After sleeping over the plan several nights, some of its difficulties seemed almost insurmountable. I didn’t doubt but what I could reach London or Liver-pool without much trouble. It’s nearly always possible to get a berth as pantry-boy or steward or cattleman on a liner, but once in London I would be at the end of my string, and probably unable to proceed any further on the trip. The voyage across the Atlantic seemed very short as I looked at a map of the world, and England would be only the first lap of the journey. It would be decidedly embarrassing to start around the world and get no further than thirty-three hundred miles.
The next time I went into New York I visited a tourist’s agent and asked about the intinerary of a round-the-world trip. He explained that people had to change steamers several times, and that it wasn’t always possible to make close connection. He said that the actual fare of the trip is six hundred dollars, ” but,” he added, ” people don’t usually get around without spending two or three thou-sand dollars.” He looked me over with a critical air. ” Were you thinking of going around? ” he inquired, ” I’ll be glad to furnish you with pamphlets, and will sell you the tickets at the very lowest rates.” ” No,” I said, ” I am afraid I can’t go so far.” I took the pamphlets, however, and when I got home I studied them very carefully. It was discouraging to find that the trip is so expensive, but when I read descriptions of moonlight on the Mediterranean and glorious days in Cairo, I was more determined than ever to devise a way by which I could travel around the world that very summer.
When I mentioned the plan to my older friends, they invariably laughed. They said I’d be in a nice predicament if I found myself penniless among the Boxers in China, or without medical attendance if I became ill. They said it was all right to think about such a trip, but they hoped I’d never be so foolish as to attempt it. All this criticism made but little impression on me. They had laughed, too, when I started for Europe at the age of sixteen, with twenty-five dollars in my pocket, and they asserted that I would never get any further than London and would be sent back by the American Consul in that city. They frightened me some at that time, but when I returned with more money than that with which I started, after eight months of delightful experiences, I determined that a boy can do almost anything worthy, if he tries hard and in the right way.
An Interesting Bit of News
The spring days went by, and I seemed no nearer to beginning the trip than when it was first mentioned at jack Irwin’s house. It was a fine idea, but would I ever be able to carry it out. I felt willing to risk almost anything, but it seemed foolish to start for Europe when I was almost certain I would be able to go no further. I put in my spare time reading all sorts of books of travel. The more I read, the more determined I was to go. Finally I picked up a New York morning paper, and read in the Washington correspondence a statement which interested me exceedingly. ” It has been announced at the War Department that any Congressmen who desire to look into the Philippine situation for themselves will be permitted to travel on an Army transport. One Senator and seven Representatives have determined to avail themselves of this privilege. They will sail from New York in the near future on board the U. S. A. T. Ingalls, which will make the voyage by way of the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal.” The article went on to describe the numerous points of interest the party would visit en route to the Philippines. It mentioned Gibraltar, Malta, Algiers, Port Said, Cairo, Aden, Ceylon and Singapore. ” Then,” it went on to say, ” the Congressmen will probably visit any other places they care to see, as the voyage is really for their benefit. The transport will carry only about sixty recruits and some supplies for the army in the Islands. The Congressmen are sure to have one of the most interesting trips in the world, and other members are regretting that it isn’t possible for them to so arrange their affairs that they can go too.”
I could have danced for joy when I finished reading this interesting bit of news. As quick as a flash it dawned upon me, that here at last was the opportunity I had been waiting for. If I could only get something to do on board the Ingalls I would be sure of my pasage out to Manila, which would be nearly two-thirds of the distance around the world. I would be able to visit the most interesting ports on the way out, and perhaps, if I were fortunate, I would be allowed to make some of the side-trips which the Congressmen would surely arrange. Here was a ship which was going almost around the world, and one which would make more and longer stops than the ordinary passenger steamers can afford to make. I saw that I must exert myself to get a berth on the Ingalls, and I decided that I would begin the campaign the very next day.
That evening some of the boys in town were rowing on the river, I mentioned that I hoped very soon to be rowing on the Nile. Some of them laughed, and others looked up in surprise. ” My,” said Will Renwick, ” are you really going to start? How are you going, and when?” I said my plans weren’t definite, as yet, and that I would have to wait a few days before telling them what I was going to do. One of the boys laughed at this remark. ” Oh, you’re givin’ us a jolly ! ” he exclaimed. ” You’d better remember that goin’ round the world ain’t the same as crossing the pond to London.” ” Well,” I said, ” you wait and see if I’m around this town when the month is out. You’ll be the first person I’ll write to when I reach Gibraltar on the way around.” And after this I made up my mind to look up the Ingalls in New York the very next day.
I discovered after a lot of inquiries that she was being repaired in the Erie Basin at Brooklyn. When I went over there I found that she was a small ship, hardly larger than the average steam yacht and I shuddered to think of what she might do in rough weather. From what I could observe it seemed to me that she couldn’t be made ready for sailing within a month, and when I asked one of the foremen, he said it would most likely be six or seven weeks before she could start on her trip. This was unpleasant news. Now that I had fully determined to go I was anxious to be off as soon as possible, and six weeks seemed a long time to wait. I had few preparations to make before leaving, and would have been ready to go the very next day, if it could have been arranged.
I inquired who was the man to see in regard to a position on board the trans-port, and was told to call on the Superintendent of the Transport Service, over in the Army Building. I found him to be a decidedly pleasant person. He asked me to sit down, and when I had explained to him my desire to go to Manila, he looked me over carefully before he began to talk. ” Well,” he said, ” you appear as if you would be willing to work, but I’m afraid you haven’t had any experience at sea.” I explained that I had once worked my way to Europe as pantry-boy and that I had also worked in the steerage of an Atlantic liner. ” You ought to be able to stand most anything,” he said, ” but you know there’s really very little that you could do on a transport. One requires experience to fill any place but that of an A. B. and you really ought to have had experience to fill that, too.” I asked him what A. B. meant. ” Why, that’s able-bodied seaman,” he said. ” I’m afraid I’m not very able-bodied,” I remarked, ” but I’m willing to try most any-thing in order to make the trip.”
Interview with the Major
The Major rested his head in his hands, with his elbows on the desk in front of him, then he looked up suddenly. ” I’ll tell you,” he said ” you might be able to get on as gunner. This ship carries one small cannon, and someone is sent along to grease it with glycerine and fire it when necessary. The place pays fifty dollars a month and you had better put in an application for it.” He was very enthusiastic, and seemed to think he had found just the place. But the expression of my face must have warned him that I didn’t share his feelings. ” What’s the matter? ” he demanded, ” wouldn’t you like to be the gunner.” 1 felt as if an explanation were in order, but still I hardly knew what to say. ” I’m sure it’s a very good berth,” I said, ” but you know I’ve never even discharged a pistol, and I’m sure if they ordered me to fire that cannon I’d be put off the ship at the very first port.”
The Major looked disappointed. ” Well,” he said, ” if you think you couldn’t do it, there’s nothing left but for you to apply for a place in the fo’c'stle. But I warn you in advance that you’ll find existence there anything but pleasant, especially as you’ve previously worked in the steward’s department. But you know they say one can get used to anything, and you’ll probably be a full-fledged sailor by the time you reach Manila.” He gave me a blank which I filled out, and which he said he would forward to the War Department. Then I went back to our town to await results.