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17. CHAPTER XVII.
We had a pleasant journey of it seaward again. We found that for the three past nights our ship had been in a state of war. The first night the sailors of a British ship, being happy with grog, came down on the pier and challenged our sailors to a free fight. They accepted with alacrity, repaired to the pier, and gained--their share of a drawn battle. Several bruised and bloody members of both parties were carried off by the police and imprisoned until the following morning. The next night the British boys came again to renew the fight, but our men had had strict orders to remain on board and out of sight. They did so, and the besieging party grew noisy and more and more abusive as the fact became apparent (to them) that our men were afraid to come out. They went away finally with a closing burst of ridicule and offensive epithets. The third night they came again and were more obstreperous than ever. They swaggered up and down the almost deserted pier, and hurled curses, obscenity, and stinging sarcasms at our crew. It was more than human nature could bear. The executive officer ordered our men ashore--with instructions not to fight. They charged the British and gained a brilliant victory. I probably would not have mentioned this war had it ended differently. But I travel to learn, and I still remember that they picture no French defeats in the battle-galleries of Versailles.
It was like home to us to step on board the comfortable ship again and smoke and lounge about her breezy decks. And yet it was not altogether like home, either, because so many members of the family were away. We missed some pleasant faces which we would rather have found at dinner, and at night there were gaps in the euchre-parties which could not be satisfactorily filled. "Moult" was in England, Jack in Switzerland, Charley in Spain. Blucher was gone, none could tell where. But we were at sea again, and we had the stars and the ocean to look at, and plenty of room to meditate in.
In due time the shores of Italy were sighted, and as we stood gazing from the decks, early in the bright summer morning, the stately city of Genoa rose up out of the sea and flung back the sunlight from her hundred palaces.
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