Daniel Cowan knew well what it was like to be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. But it wasn’t loneliness he felt as he wended his way through the crowds on the deck of the S.S. Pretoria. Instead, he perceived his solitariness as conferring a kind of freedom. For once, he had an opportunity to be who and what he chose, unlimited by anyone’s prior knowledge. On this ship, no one knew about his past, nor did they care.
They were concerned only with their own uncertain but hopeful futures. He was headed for the ship’s bow hoping to catch his first glimpse of land although rumor had it that they wouldn’t reach Ellis Island and the Port of New York until the next day. Twenty-two years old and gangly, with wheat-colored hair, guileless blue eyes, and gold-rimmed glasses, he stood at least a head taller than most of those around him. Even stooping a little, as was his habit, he had an excellent view of his surroundings.
The deck was more crowded than he’d seen it in the two weeks they’d been at sea. The re-emergence of the sun, after three days of heavy wind and rain, no doubt had something to do with that. To his right, people lined the rails that ran along the sides of the ship from stem to stern. To his left, the upper-class decks rose like tiers on a wedding cake. Everywhere in between was filled with the tops of people’s heads, making the deck appear as impenetrable as a tree-covered mountain. Any movement from one part of the ship to another would require determination and patience. Daniel had both.