Aboard Romolo in Suez Canal

Friday (Wednesday), March 20, 1929 (?????)! March 22, 1929

Didn’t get so many films developed last night, but did learn a little about developing. At 5:30 AM the porter came to wake up the boys, whose room was next to mine. Of course my room was dark, but the door was ajar. Old Nosy poked his head in. I had just turned off the light so he knew I was in. On goes the light and I guess he thought that I was completely “off” when I jumped toward him like I was mad to get the light off. He beat a retreat and even refused to return when I invited him in.

About seven-thirty things were all stuffed in bulging packs and suitcases and off we went down the middle of the main drag, loaded to capacity with an imposing array of baggage. The hotel porter almost knocked us down trying to carry our stuff for us, but we refused. He and the rest, all except one whom we tipped, hinted around for tips and all but asked us, but as they did no more than say hello and rise when we passed them daily, they didn’t rate here.

Customs didn’t bother to open our packs, but quarantine bothered us to the extent of 6 piastres per. Jackie had a boat for us to go to the ship in and soon we were on the way. As we were getting our things up the gangplank, Mort dropped his case into the water where it immediately started for Davy Jones’ locker, thus Mort lost his personality, pride, and dignity. We paraded over the boat till it left shortly before noon. For some unknown reason, Jackie failed to appear as he said he would. As we slipped past the city and shipping in the harbor, Mort missed no chance to yell baksheesh to any natives whose boats happened to come within hearing distance. I had seen so many boats leave for India, etc. that now when I was really on one bound for there myself, it hardly seemed real. Yet there must be some truth to it, for soon Port Said was far in the distance. It was necessary to anchor along the side of the canal to let several ships pass, so it was dark when the Romolo slipped into the small lake near Ismailia.

Our handout from the cook was very good. At nine, Morton strayed off, returning with a huge dipper heaped with ice cream. Frank and I made tracks for the cuisina and were rewarded by a whole pawful. I wasn’t any too warm, but ice cream is too much of a luxury to be missed. The engines celebrated this occasion by breaking down, stranding us in the lake. Mort and Frank got deck chairs from some sailor who happened to have a couple. I chose the hatch in the after-part. That it was cold didn’t help matters much. Frank wrapped up in a couple of sweaters, a scarf, trench coat, and a knot. Mort was more optimistic, but not so much that he left a coat or two and a towel unused.

I awoke cold and feeling as though my bones were being stepped on. The engine room had some semblance of heat and there I went. Mort claims he came wandering along about that time, hoping to find lots of heat somewhere, and saw me dozing away over a little rail and by a steep stair or ladder leading down to the engine room 30 feet below. He thought I might find a quick way to the bottom, so hauled me out for a walk around the ship. There was a moon, not far from full, that lit up the desert on each side like day, and silvery ripples danced across the path of the moon in the waters, giving the appearance of a sea of phosphorus. Two ships slipped by, black hulks, blotting out a scene of indescribable charm and beauty. Bright lights in long rows riddled the dark abyss as a sieve. We both returned to sleep. The hatch felt like a downy bed the second time.

A long time later I again awoke cold, and realized there was no fat in parts where fat would come in handy in such a case. A bright light drew me to a small stand nearby resembling a pop stand at a circus. It and a row of others had been rigged up for use as a kitchen for the soldiers. It must have been after three. The stand in question proved to be nothing less than a bakery, and in full swing. I walked in and made myself at home on a bench. The baker presented me with two small loaves of bread and some cheese. Others dropped in and became interested in me, pumping me with questions in Italian which I answered in English, all the time half-asleep. I finally gave it up and repaired to the engine room, then back to the hatch where I came to after six, an object of curiosity to a group of soldiers about.

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