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is poison to the mind, and if ever one
heard crazier conversations than
were heard on that boat, I should like
to know where it was. I began to
think 1 was in a lunatic asylum, and
very soon discovered that I was!
It took but one day for the entire
passenger list to lose its head. If
you don't think that it was as bad as
I say, hear this litle incident of the
second day out and then decide
whether minds had not lost their
moorings and quit all sane valuation
of human life itself:
I was standing on the rear deck,
Avatching the waves, when a big,
fine-looking French reservist, on his
way back to fight for "la patrie,"
'came up to me with the pleasant
question, "Chump overboard?" I did
not care to jump overboard and de
clined the invitation. He didn't care
to talk about anything else and
walked away to the other side of the
A few minutes later I turned to
see him climbing over the railing. On
the outside of the railing was a nar
row ledge of iron sloping off and
down the side of the ship. He stood
on this. Thinking he was a little
too much of a practical joker, I went
to him and suggested that he had
better come in. He shook his head
and smiled, balancing himself on the
"What are you going to do?" I
asked. "Take a walk on the water?"
"No," he replied, "but come here."
When I came up to hear what he
had to say he caught the front of my
coat in a firm grip and tried more or
less gently to persuade me to climb
over the railing to the ledge outside.
I tried to get on the safe side of the
rail, still thinking him either a little
drunk or else a reckless joker.
The iron grip tightened on my coal
and I looked into his eyes, there to
see a sight to upset my calmness. He
was smiling, but there was some
thing desperate behind the smile. I
looked into those eves for a Ion? five
minutes while each of us tested his 1
strength to overcome the other. And
in those eyes I saw tragedy.
There was no one but the two of
us in sight The struggle became
grimmer, and as each lost breath, a '
bit slower. Again I asked him what
his purpose was. He would only an
swer: "I am strong." I replied: "So
am I." Both of us were.
After my mind had run the course'
of those thoughts to which one's last d
moments are usually devoted I be- "
gan to see that we were too evenly
matched, neither could budge the
other. He released his hold and stood
on the very edge of the incline, slip
pery with spray.
"Where are you going?" I said. He
waved his hantl toward the sky. "Too
heaven?" I asked, deciding that he"
really was crazy.
"No; to hell," he said.
He lay down on his back on the
ledge and said "Au revoir." I could
not reach him. He pushed himself
over and quietly rolled into the sea.
I threw him a life preserver and then
looked down to see whether he had
caught it. Again I saw his eyes look- "
ing up at me from the foamy water
when the same maniac smile.
He calmly swam away on his back.
I shouted "Man overboard" Run
ning for help, but, though the ship
stopped, the coming night made
search useless. I shall never forget
that smile. It was a war smile. It
was the forerunner of the many
weird, insane things that I was to see
After 'that smile I understood bet
ter how it was that a Belgian travel
ing with his wife and baby could
fiercely shout that all German women
and children must be slaughtered.
Also I understood when, the pas- A
sengers, led by a temperamental
French count, wanted to throw over
board a Russian professor, becausi
his wife, a north Swiss, had a Ger
man accent. And when an ex-cap- '
tain of the French army stopped an
other man from discussing the right
or wrong of France's going to war,