22  G E N E R . S TA R K Taking off his stylish cap and smoothing his clean white shirt, he told me, “I want to own my own store someday. In Germa- ny, I would only be working for others. Wages are strict, and I had little hope of advancement. In America, I know I can work hard and advance; eventually own my store and employ others.” Ernst talked with authority and his demeanor was one of pure confidence. “So August, what is your dream?” “Perhaps it is a dream of freedom. Maybe it is a dream I don’t even recognize yet.” “The possibilities are limitless in America; you will see, August.” I hoped I would see, yet I still wondered. Even the poor souls in steerage with hardly enough to eat and packed in like sardines had a plan. Even as they slept on hard boards and lived in the smell of vomit and human waste, they seemed to know some way, someone, or someplace that would lead them to prosperity. Although the ship seemed to be on course and its rudder kept us traveling in the right direction, I myself felt directionless. Many Turnvereins traveled with me, and all seemed ready for anything new. They only believed that freedom would cause them to prosper. Perhaps that was my hope as well. Nine weeks at sea gave me a lot of time to ponder my future. If all else failed, I could return to Germany. I remembered the story of the prodi- gal son from church. My parents would welcome me back, yet I didn’t feel that I would ever have to resort to this backup plan. For many, only the hope of America kept them alive on the voyage. Conditions in steerage were deplorable, yet even in sec- ond-class, accommodations were minimal. We were crowded and the constant smell of vomit, due to widespread seasickness, was unbearable. Beyond seasickness, many were ill with dysen- tery and other diseases.