Prelude to Travel

LOUISE ROE in the maiden name of an author who lives in Bethlehem,Pennsylvania, and has spent much of her life abroad and in leisurely travel on ships of all sizes. This is her first appearance in the Atlantic.


SCENE: Husband and wife at breakfast table. wife having final cup of coffee and cigarette. Husband glancing at morning paper. He lays it down.

HUSBAND: How would you tike to go abroad on a freighter, my dear?

WIFE: Oh, the Simpsons went over on a Norwegian freighter once and Sally said they had smörgåsbord (you know—bits of fish and pickles and cheese) for every meal. She thought they (the pickled things) had been on the table since the ship was launched.

HUSBAND: Doesn’t sound intriguing.

WIFE: Oh, but it would be excellent for our calories.

HUSBAND: I thought I might do some research at the University of Bologna, but I hear one never knows where one will land on a freighter. They do not contract to go any place the passengers may indicate — just to where their freight takes them. We might end up in Egypt.

WIFE: HOW delightful! I am sure we would never get there intentionally. I have heard that there is a wonderful library in Alexandria.

HUSBAND: That was burned over two thousand years ago.

WIFE: Oh? I hadn’t heard.

HUSBAND: We might be taken to some desolate spot in Africa.

WIFE: What fun! I might find a sheik or Shah. They say there are all sorts of ex-potentates in the places around there.

HUSBAND: But you wouldn’t like deserts for miles.

WIFE: Oh, rather! A wonderful draped Arab might whisk me off on his camel and take me out to dine on whole roast sheep, and we would dip our fingers into the delicious goo!

HUSBAND: We might land in Turkey and not know a soul or what to do.

WIFE: Not know what to do in Turkey! Why there are the bazaars — heavenly things, and one bargains and drinks coffee over every bargain; and if we should land in one of those places that are always cropping up in the Saturday newspapers when they are saving up for the Sunday edition, you know—what are they called ? Ur or Ankara Wat, something like that, then you could do your research in all their ancient stones. You would find the key — you know how they do — and be famous in the Sunday Supplement.

HUSBAND: Not likely; more apt to be somewhere in ferment, uprisings, assassinations, incidents.

WIFE: That would be fun! We might even meet the Iranian prime minister and he might make a wonderful deal with you for oil. No one else has succeeded. I know he would like you, and I could help. Very likely he doesn’t know American women. He might give me a young gazelle or an ostrich egg.

HUSBAND: Or we might get killed.

WIFE: Let us say we might have been killed, more piquant in reminiscing conversations.

HUSBAND: Freighters take no responsibility for passengers’ luggage, you know. We might lose everything.

WIFE: Oh, then we could collect the insurance, and go up to Paris and get everything new. That would be fun!

HUSBAND: Well, I am glad you take to the idea of a freighter as I have engaged passage to Genoa for the thirteenth.

WIFE: You have? Dear me, I told the Selbies to take passage for us on the Queen Mary sailing the fourteenth. They have a pull with the Line. They play an excellent game of bridge, you know, and one can always get Chanel No. 5 tax-free on the Queens. So that’s settled. Have to go for my hairdo now. Be seeing you!