that afternoon I had given crowns where I should have given shillings; but I consoled myself with the reflection, "It is the price of experience".
"They've cheated you!" said the steward exultingly, when I got on board. I answered phlegmatically that "I knew it", and went below.
A stout, handsome, and showy woman was in the ladies' cabin. I asked to be shown my berth; she looked hard at me, muttered something about its being unusual for passengers to come on board at that hour, and seemed disposed to be less than civil. What a face she had—so comely—so insolent and so selfish!
"Now that I am on board, I shall certainly stay here", was my answer. "I will trouble you to show me my berth".
She complied, but sullenly. I took off my bonnet, arranged my things, and lay down. Some difficulties had been passed though; a sort of victory was won: my homeless, anchorless, unsupported mind had again leisure for a brief repose: till the "Vivid" arrived in harbour, no further action would be required of me; but then ... Oh! I could not look forward. Harassed, exhausted, I lay in a half trance.
The stewardess talked all night; not to me, but to the young steward, her son and her very picture. He passed in and out of the cabin continually: they disputed, they quarrelled, they made it up again twenty times in the course of the night. She professed to be writing a letter home—she said to her father; she read passages of it aloud, heeding me no more than a stock—perhaps she believed me asleep; several of these passages appeared to comprise family secrets, and bore special reference to one "Charlotte", a younger sister, who, from the bearing of the epistle, seemed to be on the brink of perpetrating a romantic and imprudent match; loud was the protest of this elder lady against the distasteful union. The dutiful son laughed his mother's correspondence to scorn. She defended it, and raved at him. They were a strange pair. She might be thirty-nine or forty, and was buxom and blooming as a girl of twenty. Hard, loud, vain and vulgar, her mind and body alike seemed brazen and imperishable. I should think, from her childhood, she must have lived in public stations; and in her youth might very likely have been a bar-maid.