Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Adrian Smith is a sociable, successful man of thirty-one, initially described as a minor celebrity. He is, in fact, a successful Broadway playwright, recognized by several people on board—including Betsy D'Amido, who first saw him at a rehearsal over a year ago. At the beginning of the voyage he talks enthusiastically of escaping from New York and spending the crossing to France with his wife, Eva, but as soon as he sees the other women on the boat, he is immediately distracted. He soon begins an affair with Betsy and starts to neglect his wife, who is seasick and disinclined to participate in the social life on board. However, in the midst of a storm at the end of the voyage, in which he is knocked out, he thinks only of saving Eva. The next time he sees Betsy, on the boat-train, he treats her with indifference and agrees with Eva to forget all about what happened during the crossing.
Eva Smith is Adrian's wife. She is twenty-six years old, attractive, charming, and talented. She wants to spend the voyage alone with her husband and is rather bored with all the new people attracted by his celebrity even before she is jealous. She becomes seasick and soon begins to resent Betsy and the "younger set" with whom Adrian is spending all his time while she is confined to their state room. When she is certain that Betsy and Adrian are having an affair, she decides to divorce her husband, but forgives him after he demonstrates his courage and concern for her during the storm.
Elizabeth "Betsy" D'Amido
Elizabeth D'Amido is about eighteen years old and is described as "a dark little beauty with the fine crystal gloss over her that, in brunettes, takes the place of a blonde’s bright glow." She is the cynosure of all male eyes on the boat, acknowledged as the prettiest girl on the crossing. Elizabeth, known as Betsy, is part of a group of young people who join the Smiths in the smoking room. She quickly manages to sit next to Adrian and tells him she is a great admirer of his work and has seen his latest play four times. She and Adrian arrange to be partners in the deck-tennis tournament, and later that day, she kisses him and tells him that she has been in love with him ever since she first saw him over a year ago at a rehearsal. She begins an affair with him, which she seems to have planned all along and to regard with relish. After the storm she appears briefly on the train to the Gare du Nord, pale, wan, and feeling awful after the storm at sea.
Stacomb is a young man on the boat who says he admires Adrian's work, though he doesn't seem to know precisely what it is. He invites Adrian to join his table in the smoking room and asks to enlist him in the deck-tennis tournament. He is described as glib, soft, and slouching in demeanor.
Butterworth is another fellow passenger of the Smiths, described as a flat-nosed young man. He spends a lot of time talking to Eva and seems to admire her, telling her that she is his idea of a Greek goddess. Eva humors him because her husband is ignoring her. At the end of the story, it turns out that Butterworth was in need of money, and Adrian cashed a check for him. Eva assumes he will never see the money again.
James Carton, the steward, appears to be seasick and sits down on the bed in the Smiths' state room to rest. When Eva enters, she finds that the sight of him looking so bilious makes her sick as well and becomes angry with him. Eva later learns from Butterworth that Carton has appendicitis, and the ship's doctor will have to operate on him. Later still, she discovers that he has died and is to be buried at sea before they reach France.