On July 8 I embarked aboard the Canada which, to my great satisfaction, happened to be setting out for France at the same moment that I did. Several Americans insisted upon accompanying me as far as my cabin.
Do I need to tell you, my French readers, with what joy you tread the deck of the boat upon which you came from France, especially when this same deck is going to take you home and return you to those who are dearer to you than the most shining success and numerous dollars? It would have taken a large sum to get me to leave the boat! Among the passengers returning to France with me was M. de la Forest, French Consul in New York, taking leave of absence from his post for a few months for reasons of health—a charming traveling companion, and M. Baknutoff, Secretary of the Russian Legation in Washington, a most distinguished young man who never allowed the conversation to languish at the Captain’s table, and from whom I won many card games during the crossing. We had in addition two doctors as passengers, Dr. Bastien and Dr. Roussel, who were both sick during the crossing. I regretted it doubly because both of them, in spite of being Republicans, were seasoned travelers, men who had seen much, read much, and who knew how to live well.
I had with me also my good friend, M. Bertie-Marriott, correspondent of Le Figaro, with whom I enjoyed reliving the different excursions which we had taken together in America, and chatting agreeably about the customs of the New World which I was to describe when I got home. I will mention also Mr. Glisenkeimer, an American businessman, a gay polyglot; Mr. Schorestene, another likable businessman, and Mr. J. White, a mulatto who had won the first prize for violin at the Paris Conservatoire.
During the whole crossing, we had magnificent weather and only three small accidents occurred during the voyage. The first happened at the very moment when we were casting off, the ship handled by a clumsy pilot crashed into the side of the Americay another French boat which was to leave the following Saturday. We made a deep hole in the vessel under the command of Captain Pouzolzs, and we lost one of our lifeboats. The sinister noise made by this collision impressed me profoundly, and for a moment I thought that the wholfe of Nature was falling on my head. Fortunately, there was no damage. We were only frightened.
A second episode was more comic than terrible. One evening when we had all gathered in the saloon to drink tea and to chat, we were greatly surprised to see a Brazilian passenger come in dressed or rather undressed like a baker at his work. In addition, the wretch was drunk. Fortunately, we had only two or three ladies on board and before the Brazilian could commit any deplorable excesses, we were able to have him led away by an officer. It seems that that evening he had swallowed a whole basket of rum, but it could not have been “J. T.,” for I have never seen this excellent brand make itself guilty of such an abuse of confidence.
The third episode is so sad and so ridiculous that I am omitting it. Perhaps I will tell it later, but today I think I would be ungrateful to the reader who has followed me so kindly by forcing him to be present at some of the tragedies of life at sea.
It was half past eight when the Canada, under bright sun and with the sea as smooth as a mirror, brought us near the smiling coast of Normandy and entered the port of Le Havre. My complete family and several friends had been waiting for me for hours on the pier, and all my children waved their handkerchiefs excitedly when they saw me on the deck. My joy at seeing my beloved family and these friendly faces was just as great as my sadness had been when I left France; I was sobbing with emotion, and almost dived into the water to bring an end to this torture of Tantalus which showed me all that I desired most in the world without giving me a chance to embrace them.
An hour later we had come to the dock, and I became once more Offenbach in France.