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304             Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion
air. Still, you can buy a permit after hours for five dollars extra, and the officer will do the inspecting next week. Our ship and passengers lay under ex­pense and in humiliating captivity all night, under the very nose of the little official reptile who is supposed to protect New York from pestilence by his vigilant " inspections." This imposing rigor gave everybody a solemn and awful idea of the beneficent watchfulness of our government, and there were some who wondered if anything finer could be found in other countries.
In the morning we were all a-tiptoe to witness the intricate ceremony of inspecting the ship. But it was a disappointing thing. The health officer's tug ranged alongside for a moment, our purser handed the lawful three-dollar permit fee to the health officer's bootblack, who passed us a folded paper in a forked stick, and away we went. The entire " inspection " did not oc­cupy thirteen seconds.
The health officer's place is worth a hundred thou­sand dollars a year to him. His system of inspection is perfect, and therefore cannot be improved on; but it seems to me that his system of collecting his fees might be amended. For a great ship to lie idle all night is a most costly loss of time; for her passengers to have to do the same thing works to them the same damage, with the addition of an amount of exaspera­tion and bitterness of soul that the spectacle of that health officer's ashes on a shovel could hardly sweeten. Now why would it not be better and simpler to let the ships pass in unmolested, and the fees and permits be exchanged once a year by post?