11 Chapter 11: On the ship
We were still sitting under the blue tent, and I was rejoicing at the opportunity to finally see the real sea, the endless spaces of water, where the shores weren’t flashing in the distance even when looking through the best binoculars.
I wanted to talk about it with I., but to my great surprise, he wasn’t rejoicing with me. On the contrary – he was looking at the horizon attentively and, although we were cruising through the surface of the water plain like the glass, he was predicting the furious storm in the Black Sea, which was rare in this time of the year. I was also looking at the horizon through the binoculars, but I couldn’t see anything except the sea and the clouds merged into one grey band.
“As soon as the captain shows up, we will give him the binoculars back, thank him for his hospitality and go to our cabin,” I. was explaining to me. “Until the sea is still calm, we have to search the travelling-bag everywhere, because Ananda must have put some tablets from the tossing for you there. If, as I think, the hurricane falls on us, the signs of which I can see already, then you must hurry to take the tablet three times before the beginning of the tossing. We will have to do a lot of work in the third class during the storm. The privileged public will have more conveniences, although they also will have to undergo a lot, but the third and fourth classes will suffer the most and they will need our help.”
I fell to thinking. I. hadn’t told me a single time about the dangers of a sea trip, while for me this cruising also seemed to be only a pleasant amusement.
Soon we left the port and put out to open sea, but my eyes could still distinguish the bare, yellow and totally unlovely shores.
The captain showed up on our deck. We gave him the binoculars back, thanked him for his hospitality and wanted to leave already, but he looked at us vigilantly and asked us if we were sailing often in the sea. I. answered him that he was used to the sea, while I was sailing for the first time.
“I’m afraid that your first acquaintance with the sea won’t be very pleasing for you,” the captain told me. “The barometer is showing an absolute untruth for such time of the year. If I hadn’t chosen it myself I could think that it was a charlatan’s work. I think that we’ll experience not a simple storm, but an absolutely rare element. Although my ship is excellent, I think that tonight we’ll have to fight a lot against the wind, the sea and the heavy shower. You must shut yourselves tightly in your cabin. I also will tell my sailors to cover your cabin with the protective shields, because I think that the waves will reach this deck, too.”
I was terrified. I could compare the ship from our deck to the great three-storey house, so I didn’t think that such waves could also exist.
The captain’s face was very resolute and cheerful, but it was austere. This man of iron will probably didn’t even understand what the feeling of fear was. It seemed that he was rejoicing at joining the battle against the element. I thought for a while that he probably loved the sea itself only because of that battle, and if anything was still worrying him now, it was only the responsibility for the people’s lives, for the ship and its freight, which were entrusted to him, and in this grey mass of water he was the full master.
I. expressed his opinion that the storm would probably start at night, while the captain was saying that he was expecting only the stormy sea and tossing at night, from which mostly the people and the cattle would suffer, while the real storm should fall on us only in the morning, most likely at dawn.
The captain’s assistants with their reports started approaching him. They were waiting for his commands, so we said good-bye to him and went to our cabin.
I started searching the travelling-bag which Florentian gave to me. I didn’t even expect it to be so capacious. There were many partitions in it, and one of them was dedicated to the travelling first-aid kit.
I asked I. that perhaps I should swallow one of the magic Ali’s pills – they gave lots of strength and they refreshed, - but I. answered me that this wouldn’t help to avoid the sea tossing and that we had to find the special tablets which could calm giddiness and vomiting, because Ananda couldn’t fail to foresee the tossing while he was putting the things into the travelling-bag.
I allowed I. himself to keep searching for them. And indeed, very soon he found the tablets and made me to take one of them at once.
“My dear friend, you’ll have to lie in bed for a while. Now you will feel a slight dizziness and nausea, but the tablets will help you to withstand the tossing,” I. was talking to me, while putting the things back into the travelling-bag and at the same time extending the pyjamas and slippers to me.
I was feeling very well, but I understood that I would have enough time to admire the sea, so now it would be not bad at all to lie for a while.
It seemed that it was high time for me to lie down. As soon as I thought how wonderful my bed was, everything started drifting before my eyes, my temples were beating and I was sickened. I even uttered a groan. I.’s hand touched my forehead, he mopped the sweat that suddenly appeared on my face from somewhere. Then he bent down and tucked a soft pillow under my head carefully.
“That is a very good sign, Lovushka,” I heard such his voice, as though he hadn’t been next to me, but somewhere far away from me. “Everything will be gone in several minutes, then you won’t feel even the strongest tossing. If the storm starts only at dawn, as the captain is thinking, then you will be in time to temper your organism with this medicine and you will be my great assistant when we have to give help to the suffering passengers from the third and fourth classes. You told me that you wanted to work. Well, now the life has sent you an opportunity to become a selfless servant to the whole crowd of the people who aren’t tempered and prepared for the suffering that is waiting for them tonight. If you don’t feel any fear, if you don’t yield to any disgust, but you will try to render assistance and cheerfulness to the frightened children and grown-ups – you will lay such firm foundation for your new life of love and activity that all your subsequent tests will look unworthy of any feeling of fear to you.”
I could hear his words, I understood their meaning very well, but I simply couldn’t move even a finger.
I don’t know for how long I was lying like this, but finally I felt that my temples stopped beating, my nausea was gone, but the terrible state of my dizziness when everything was drifting before my eyes left an unpleasant impression in my organism, and I was still afraid of opening my eyes, so that I wouldn’t feel that unpleasant faint of my heart. I was feeling better and better, finally I rose from the bed, looking merrily at I., having forgotten instantly about the just experienced troubles.
“You are the hero, Lovushka. I didn’t believe that you could get rid of everything so quickly. I remember how I myself was getting used to this antidote against the tossing, so I kept lying motionless for quite a long time,” I. was talking to me joyfully.
“Yes, that didn’t last for a long time, but anyway I have to like a hero in order to take the rest of the tablets and to get into such an experiment for tempering my strength. God forbid that tempering if it can be reached with such amount of efforts,” I answered him.
“It is so strange to hear such words from the person who already started to understand the complexity of life and all of its unexpected turns which are called coincidences. It seemed to me that during this time you, Lovushka, made sure of how much heroic strain from man could suddenly require the evening of that day when in the morning he woke up joyful and careless like a baby, and when the day was closing in he became the grown-up already and the destiny invited him for such a feat about which he had read only in the fairy-tales.”
“That is true, as well as everything what I hear from you,” I answered him while dressing myself. “It may well be that I could do something more – not only swallowing such a nasty tablet, - if I could always stay in the sphere of my focussed attention, but I’m so absent-minded that I’m unable to use everything what I could understand from you and Florentian. I cannot think about those who need me at once, first of all I’m thinking about myself. Well, this time I also didn’t take into account that I might still experience the storm in the ship not for a single time while I would try to distract the attention of the persecutors from my brother, I also didn’t take into account the help to those unfortunate people who would be suffering during this storm already and who would need your care.”
“Of course, I’m ready to swallow that nastiness right now,” I added after being silent for a while.
I dressed myself, I. embraced me merrily, having noticed that he didn’t doubt my real feelings not for a moment. He offered us ourselves to come down and visit his friends Turks from the first class, to become acquainted with them and to take the letter. Moreover, he offered me to see the steamer, its many sitting-rooms, the reading-room, the library, the great hall and the dining-room, but I was already waiting for the storm and I had lost any curiosity to all that luxury, so I agreed to see only the third and fourth classes where we would have to do some work at night.
I. agree with my opinion and he called our sailor. He demonstrated his masterly jumps through several steps again. I. gave him the note to the Turks from the first class.
The sailor didn’t linger with an answer, because the red fezzes of the Turks soon showed after him.
I. met them by the stairs and asked the sailor to bring some chairs for us. In the twinkling of an eye, he brought us four woven arm-chairs which seemed to be very light, but in fact I was unable neither to lift nor even to push them.
I started to inspect my new acquaintances.
Even without the fezzes, their typical Turkish appearance wouldn’t have misled anybody. The older Turk to whom I. presented me like a brother of his friend, thus also like his own brother, smiled to me pleasingly. He introduced the youth to me, having said to me that he was his son, then he gave me Ananda’s letter. He also pronounced his name which sounded so strangely and was so long that I didn’t even understand it. The Turk was a handsome man, but now he looked older than he looked to me through binoculars, and especially when he was next to I. who was gushing his youth and beauty.
I noticed that both Turks were especially respectful to I. They were listening for each of his words so irreproachably as I. himself and Ananda were listening to Florentian.
I was very surprised by the blue eyes of the younger Turk. In the beginning both Turks looked like dark-eyed to me, only when the sunbeam touched the bronze face of the youth, I made sure that they looked so only because of his long black eyelashes and his big pupils, but when his pupils contracted in the sunlight, I could see his blue, attentive and kind eyes.
I was so impatient, because I wanted to read the letter. I even was feeling how my cheeks were turning red, but the rules of courtesy didn’t allow me to do that, so I sighed and put it into my pocket.
The conversation about the upcoming storm started, and the older Turk told I. that in spite of the strict captain’s instructions to keep silence, the rumours about the possible storm had already partially reached the first class, and everybody as worried there, especially the ladies. The younger Turk added that the posters were stuck in all halls and corridors of the steamer, which prohibited to go out to the deck after ten o’clock in the evening, everybody had to be in his own place or cabin, because all exits to the deck from all classes would be shut down in order to be protected from the tossing.
I. shared his thoughts about serving the lower classes of the steamer during the storm. The Turks assured us that they would certainly join us, but we needed to get the captain’s permission for this, because he was about to shut ourselves down tightly and even to put round the protective shields.
The older Turk volunteered to find the captain and to get his permission, but I. himself wanted to go with him, so I was left face to face with the youth.
While I was thinking about what I should talk to him, he let it out that he was very tired because of the examinations, that he was studying the science of nature in university of Petersburg and that he entered the third course. I was very surprised and I confessed that I was the student of the second course in the same university, but I was a mathematician, and that I was amazed at my absent-mindedness, because I didn’t see him there up to now. He explained to me that he saw me several times and that everybody knew my reputation very well – not only as the one of the mathematician, but also as the one of the great writer.
I was embarrassed, I blushed and I was begging him not to mention my literary tries, because I had given them to read only to the closest friends of mine and I didn’t understand how everybody knew about it.
According to the words of the Turk, it happened very simply. During the charity party organized to help one sick friend, somebody from the students read my short story. The public liked the story so much that they were asking to announce the surname of the author. They were inviting me for a long time. They didn’t believe that I wasn’t in the hall and they calmed down only when my friends told them that I had left for Asia. Then they decided to send that story to one of the magazines and to surprise me by doing so when I came back to Petersburg.
I don’t know what prevailed within me now: an author’s pride or a resentment how the people could do that without my permission.
We were interrupted by the voices that could be heard, and both of our friends and the captain showed up on the stairs.
“I cannot forbid you to help the poor persons who will experience the worst if the storm really falls on us,” the captain was explaining to them in his metal voice, “but why these children should get there?” he continued by pointing at both of us. “Let them sleep or sit in their cabins. They will still have
enough time to see the storms in their lives, and if they can be protected from at least one of them – then thank God.”
“If the storm rages, these children will become the merciful brothers, because it isn’t easy to pour a drink of rum in the mouth of a stiff person or to thrust a tablet between his teeth when the tossing is turning over the ship on its side. Our children are tempered and they won’t be afraid of the storm.”
The captain shrugged his shoulders and noticed that he wasn’t responsible if anyone of us was washed away by the wave, that we didn’t understand what dangers were lurking during the storm even for the experienced sailors, not only for the boys who hadn’t seen anything, that once again he was offering us to stay in the cabins.
I. was pursuing his aim. I was already thinking that there would be an argument, but once again, to my great astonishment, the captain looked at I. attentively, lift his hand at the peak of his cap and, having laughed, told him.
“So, tonight you want to be the captain in the fourth class. I agree to entrust it to you. You will become the hospital attendants there. But I cannot give you a single sailor to help you, unless that red- haired who is serving your cabin. He is strong, only a little silly, but he is very kind-hearted, and his strength will come in handy to you.”
On the word, he pressed the button of the telephone and ordered someone to bring four pairs of rubber boots and four mackintoshes with the hoods. Our sailor also showed up on the deck after his call. The captain gave him a special instruction to be on duty on the deck at our cabin during the entire night, and if we were going somewhere – to be next to us. That was mostly important regarding me – he couldn’t retreat a step from me; since it was the first time for me to cruise in the sea, the great sailor had to understand what the captain’s instruction meant not to retreat from an unexperienced person.
I was stunned because of such a nurse, perhaps I even took offence a little, but the captain looked at me merrily and explained to me that this servant would come in handy to me while I would be tending the patients, and that I would thank him for that, even I myself would want to treat him to some wine if the battle against the element would end happily.
In the meanwhile, he ordered the sailor to start his duty from nine o’clock, and at the moment he had to eat and to have a sleep.
They brought us the mackintoshes and the boots which didn’t seem to be made of rubber at all, but when I put them on I felt how elastic and warm they were. The mackintoshes suited well the others, only I was drowned to my heels in mine, while the Turk had to change his boots three times till they fitted them to his big and wide feet. They also changed the mackintosh for me.
Having chosen our clothes, we said good-bye to the captain and the Turks. We arranged that they would come to us at nine o’clock, and if there really was the storm, we would share the medicine and the responsibilities.
The captain visited us one more time and tried to convince I. once again to leave at least me alone in the cabin, but neither I. nor I didn’t agree with that. Then the captain invited us to go downstairs to the fourth class and to get to know the place of our future work. We accepted this proposal with pleasure.
The sailor who was on duty at the end of the stairs received the strict captain’s command to not allow anybody, even the senior assistant, to come to the upper part except us.
We were following the captain, but he asked us to walk next to him. Two more officers to whom he introduced us and a couple of sailors joined us. In this way a considerable group was formed. The captain ordered to find the chief medical officer of the ship and to give him an urgent command to join us.
I was surprised not only by the number of the people in the steamer, but also by the length of the corridors, the height of all rooms and the luxury that was prevailing everywhere. Everything was buried in flowers. The public from the first class was sitting in the deep arm-chairs and deckchairs which were placed in the shadow of the deck. The life here was wonderful and splendid, the aroma of perfume and cigars was hovering in the air…
Finally, we went downstairs to the third class. I was expecting to see the same dirtiness as in the trains of this class, which I experienced while going from Asia to Russia, but I understood at once that I was highly wrong.
It was very clean here. The truth is, only the wood could be seen around everywhere, and our feet weren’t buried in the carpets like in the first class, but the floor was covered with the linoleum of the beautiful pattern with the vivid flowers. The tickets must have cost rather expensive here, too, because there weren’t any poor persons here. The student caps struck the eye, the whole families were travelling, which according to their clothes didn’t feel a shortage of anything. The hall of the dining-room was beautiful with the wooden swivel chairs. It was abundantly lit by the electricity. The joint sitting-room was also here, as well as the reading-room and the smoking room. The sitting-room wasn’t separated by the corridor as above, so it looked especially long.
We came down even more and got very close to the water. The fore-deck of the steamer was assigned to the fourth class, its ceiling was made from the rooms of the third class. There wasn’t a separate deck in the third class, only the sidelong, rather wide passageways to the cabins which were arranged along the entire length of the steamer.
There weren’t any cabins in the fourth class at all. The travellers here were the real poor persons – most of them were the families of the workers who were resettling, the wandering musicians, the whole groups of unfortunate farce conjurers and comedians. The real Gipsy tribe was located in the separate corner. All sorts of dialects and talks were spreading from all sides. The traders were also here, who were carrying their goods and therefore, apparently, they wanted to stay closer to the hold. The stablemen were also here, who were accompanying their horses – in short, I was dazzled, I opened my eyes widely and forgot everything else.
“Keep up with me,” I heard the commanding voice of the captain and at the same moment I felt that I. took my arm, having whispered that I should try to remember the allotment of the steamer instead of admiring the views.
I gave a sigh. There were so many possibilities to observe here, but I had to go by and to think only about the storm, when it was still not clear at all if it was going to be at all, because the sun was shining, we were cruising through the surface of the water, which was as even as the mirror, and the only waves were only those which our gigantic steamer was raising.
Our group suddenly stopped. A young, totally exhausted woman who was holding a wonderful two years old boy on her knees, as blond as herself, was sitting in the most uncomfortable place, in the very spike of the ship, among the boxes and barrels. Even now the wind could blow her through already. A pale, about five years old girl who seemed to be sick was lying next to her mother with her head put on her knees. It seemed that she might be unconscious.
“Why you’ve chosen such uncomfortable place?” the captain asked her, addressing the woman whose beautiful face was distorted with terror and her eyes were flooded with the tears.
“Oh, only don’t throw us out,” she was begging in French.
It seemed that she didn’t understand English and was frightened by the commanding and metal voice of the captain. She was looking at him simply pleadingly. He turned towards us, asking if somebody from us could speak this language better then him, because his French pronunciation was poor.
I. pushed me forward, I bowed to the woman and interpreted the captain’s question.
Her tears came pouring like the peas together with her answer; she was explaining that that was the only place where the brutal fellow-travellers stopped pushing and persecuting her. A compassionate sailor seated them here and even threatened those two Turks who were nagging at her and who didn’t leave her in peace.
“My girl isn’t sick, we are just hungry. Don’t throw us out. We are going to my uncle in Constantinople. My husband died. A mechanism pressed him at work, but the French company didn’t agree to pay us anything without the court of law, but I couldn’t wait for the trial, we would have starved to death. I sold out everything, and somehow we reached Sevastopol. I bought the tickets for my last money. I don’t know how we’ll reach Constantinople, but I do have the ticket,” the unfortunate woman was speaking to us. She was totally lost and she was extending her ticket to the captain with horror.
It seemed that the hardship had befallen on her absolutely unexpectedly, like a bolt from the blue. Her clothes looked still like new, they were only dusty and stained; her children’s clothes were also new, but already dirty during the journey. The small legs were stuck out of the little skirt of the little girl. She had little lacquer shoes on, which didn’t suit at all for such a distant journey.
Entreaty and fear, terror for her children whom she kept pressing to herself, feebleness, disappointment – so many different feelings were reflected in the eyes of this creature that, with a heavy heart, not even thinking what I was doing, I stooped and took the girl in my arms.
“We cannot leave her here,” I told I. “Let’s give our cabin to her.”
“That won’t be of great use,” the captain answered me. “She and her children need the medical aid. There are paid wards in the hospital of the first class in the steamer. If you can afford to pay for her journey in such a cabin, then you would give her a possibility to rest, to summon up her strength and to leave the steamer healthy already. She’s going to faint away soon, isn’t she?”
He hadn’t finished his talking yet, while the doctor was already dashing to help the woman who was bending to one side. The captain blew his whistle two times, which was hanging on his chest, and a strong sailor simply shot up in front of us.
“First of all, disperse everybody who has gathered round us,” the captain commanded him.
As if after waving with a magic wand, all passengers who had crowded round us sat down in their own places, not waiting for the second command of the sailor.
“Now get the stretcher!” the captain commanded again.
Until the stretcher was brought, I. asked the captain where and whom he had to pay for the separate ward of the hospital for this unfortunate woman. The captain wrote a note, gave it to the doctor and ordered to hospitalize the mother and her children in the best ward of the hospital – the cabin No. 1A.
He offered to pay the money to the cashier of the ship in the first class. Young Turk volunteered to do it on the spot.
Two employees of the hospital brought the stretcher, and a trained nurse came with them. The woman was still unconscious. They laid her on the stretcher. The sailor stretched out his hands and wanted to take the girl from me, but she threw her arms round my neck firmly and burst into tears loudly. I pressed her to myself and told I. that I would bring her myself and stay there till her sick mother recovers, but I. shook his head in disagreement and explained to me.
“Bring the child and instantly give the drops from this little bottle to her mother. Then come back to me as soon as possible. We still have a lot to do, but we won’t forget this unfortunate woman. Leave a note to her, explain how she can find us and promise her that we would drop in at her soon. Give her the drops to drink in such a way that nobody could see it,” he still managed to whisper me, and I followed the stretcher.
We were walking for a long time, I guess for no less than twenty minutes. We were climbing the stairs, twisting through the corridors and we were doing so only through auxiliary rooms.
There was everything in that sailing house! There were laundries, drying rooms, stockrooms, the swimming pool, many kitchens and the ice-house – I was simply lost and I wouldn’t have found my way back in any way.
That cabin which we finally reached was all white, it had three beds: two beds were below and one was above. Everything here smelt of luxury and cleanness. While the nurse was gone to get a dressing-gown for the patient, and the doctor had hurried to the pharmacy, I quickly poured some I.’s drops into the small cup with the water and put it to the patient’s lips. She opened her eyes, took her medicine and put her head on the pillow again.
I noticed at once that the blood had already come back to her cheeks, she moved, sighed, and when the doctor was back, she already rose and asked with a firm voice.
“Where am I?”
I gave her the girl and explained to her that she was in the hospital of the steamer where she would continue her journey. In the name of the captain, I asked her not to worry about anything and added that I and my brother would still call on her.
I told her how to find us if she needed to, I interpreted the doctor’s request for her to go to the bedroom with her children and to change into the hospital’s clothes, because such an order was valid here.
Having said good-bye to her, I thought for a while that I was helpless to find my way back, but at the end of the hospital’s section I saw that tall clumsy sailor who was accompanying us with the stretcher and now he was waiting for me.
This time we reached the fourth class quickly, because this tall clumsy sailor was running up and down the stairs not worse than that red-haired sailor who was introduced to us at our cabin.
I found the captain and the whole group working seriously. The entire mixed crowd was divided into men and women. The women and the children were placed in the middle of the deck, because the sides of the steamer formed good walls here, in addition the sailors separated the very spike with the metal sticks, so that the draughts wouldn’t blow.
The men, especially the Gipsies, raised a protest against the captain’s command to place the women separately. Then the captain gave a whistle in a certain way, and soon four armed sailors appeared suddenly. The captain ordered them to be on duty here by changing every two hours.
About ten other sailors received the instructions to fasten the freight and even the passengers firmly, and one of the officers was left to observe this job.
We went down to the hold which also had several floors. The lower floors were loaded to the top with the boxes and parcels, while the cattle was standing on the upper floors. The captain ordered to hobble all cattle and the horses. I noticed that all pens were hewed with the thick, straw mats.
Having ordered and instructed lots of more, the captain went up to the fourth class again, while all of us were following him.
Here he addressed the men in a language which we were interpreting into other languages; the Turks had most of work to do, because they knew many Eastern and Balkan dialects. The captain explained to them that everyone who would be caught drinking hard or dicing tonight, would be instantly sent into the solitary where he would spend at least twenty-four hours, getting only the water and bread. He addressed those who were carrying vodka with them and ordered them to give it to him instantly. It seemed that no one wanted to get into the solitary, so without any protests the men were bringing the bottles of vodka and even the wattle, big, glass balloons from all sides, and if anyone was still lingering, then expressive looks of the neighbours were affecting them so that their hands were extending their hidden bottles reluctantly.
Now one shouldn’t have feared anymore that anybody would succeed to hide even his flask. Especially the Gipsies were showing their worth. Having taken offence and being separated from their women, having given their vodka out of fear, they gave vent to their anger on the passengers; not a single bottle was left hidden from their vigilant eyes.
Soon the big basket was filled to the top with the bottles, and the sailors took it out. The captain explained to them that everyone had the right to put his money for safekeeping in the cash of the ship, independent of its sum’s size, and to get it back whenever he needed, that if there were those who wanted to do that, he could send the cashier to the third class, and in addition they could also put their documents for safekeeping.
Several voices expressed such a wish, because apparently they expected to dice during their drinking-bout. In this way we finished our examination. We said good-bye to the fourth class and turned to the stairs. Having climbed up to the first class, we separated from the captain who still had a lot of business to do and from the Turks with whom we agreed to meet at our cabin at ten o’clock. We came back to our cabin.
Not waiting for anything, I. gave to me the nasty tablet to drink. This time I wasn’t dizzy, but nausea, beating in my temples and shivering of my whole body was even stronger than for the first time. I was sitting in the bed, and it seemed to me that something was going to explode in my head or back. Not only my face, but my whole body broke into a sweat, I couldn’t move. I could hear some talking, but I couldn’t understand neither who was talking nor what they were talking about.
I don’t remember again for how long I was lying like this, but suddenly I started feeling an easiness, my body became lithe as though I would have slept for several hours. It seemed to me that only twenty minutes had passed. I. told me that our dinner was coming and that we had to hurry, because I still had to take the third tablet. I answered him merrily that already now I wanted to move the mountains, so what was waiting for me after the third tablet?
We really had to hurry with our dinner, but Florentian’s letter was already lying in my pocket for so many hours that it was simply burning me, and I declared to I. that first of all I wanted to read it.
He agreed with my impatient desire and went onto the deck where our dinner table was already served. The sun was hanging low, hence it could be around seven o’clock.
I pulled out the letter and forgot everything around me, because the words of my wonderful friend were full of love and tender, they moved me very much.
Florentian was writing to me that he was following my every step in his thoughts and that although we were separated by the physical distance, we were always firmly connected with his friendship and love, in the loyalty of which I had a chance to be convinced several times during these days. He kept writing that this time he would keep the letter short, because there was very little time left before his train’s departure. He was asking me to be very attentive during our sea trip and to stay close to I., as I used to stay close to him before, because our enemies managed to find our tracks.
Wishing me absolute peace, he was writing to me that I should avoid any disappointment in every step of my own destiny and that I should see only one goal everywhere – my brother’s life, and that I should be as loyal to him as he, Florentian, was loyal to me with his friendship and assistance.
I wanted to read this great letter one more time, but I. took me for the dinner, saying that it was late already. We ate quickly. I. wasn’t eating much and he couldn’t take his eyes off the coming sunset. He offered me to leave the letter in the cabin, not in my pocket. Then he made me to lie down and told me that in half an hour he would give me the third tablet.
I fell into a doze. I woke up somehow automatically from I.’s voice. I swallowed the medicine almost not noticing it and I fell asleep instantly again, not feeling how the tablet was affecting me this time.
I woke up from the blow as it seemed to me, but in fact that was only I. who slammed the door while entering. I got up from the bed and was surprised by looking at I., because he was standing with the rubber boots and the mackintosh on already.
“Dress quickly, Lovushka. The captain informed me that the storm would start and rage before the dawn. The tossing is so strong already that majority of the people in the steamer are already lying with sickness. We must come down to the fourth class, the assistance is already needed there.”
I pulled on the boots and the mackintosh, while I. took two trip first-aid kits in leather cases with strong straps; he flung one of them, the smaller one, over his shoulder himself and gave the bigger one to me.
“You will have the reserve medicine. Be sure to take Ali’s pills and also these which were in your travelling-bag. Florentian is sending them to you.”
He gave me the box made of the green enamel, which had the white peacock on its lid.
“Memorize how everything is placed in the first-aid kits,” he unfastened the stout case, opened the cover, and I saw three rows of bottles and several clear rubber drips with the marks: two drops, five, ten…
I was amazed at such clarity of the rubber, but I had no time to reflect on it. I also had no time to admire the green box with the peacock. I put both boxes into the first-aid kit quickly and fastened its cover. I was feeling excellent physically, but it seemed to me that I was swinging. I. offered me to move my legs apart wider, because the tossing could already be felt.
We came out of our brightly lit cabin, and I was surprised how the weather had changed. It was raining, the wind was howling, the indiscernible darkness was around us. The dark shadow appeared next to me, it turned out that that was that tall clumsy sailor. He as though stuck to me. I felt that I. took my arm, and we went towards the only light spot – the stairs downwards.
Not having exchanged a single word, we started climbing downstairs.