12 Chapter 12: The storm in the sea
I hadn’t come down even five steps, when somebody gave a strong push on my back, and I would have fallen with my head down off the steep stairs if my clumsy sailor hadn’t caught me with his hands, like children were usually catching the ball. He appeared on the landing in a flash and stood me on my feet.
I couldn’t understand in any way what had happened, but I saw that I. was holding the younger Turk by his shoulders, while his father was trying to release the youth’s leg from the crack between the wall and the handrail. While he was trying to move his legs apart wider, somehow he stepped into the crack and, having stumbled on the handrail, he fell down and pushed my back with his head, hence I flew down.
It didn’t suit to the importance of the moment very much, but it was so funny, the younger Turk seemed so unhappy and ashamed, that I, having forgotten about all the “tact” of the world, burst out laughing. Apparently, the clumsy sailor didn’t dare to laugh loudly, so he was only snickering and choking, which made me laugh even more.
“Hello,” I could hear behind my back. “Where did such a brave spirit come from in the steamer, who can meet this terrible tossing with his joyful laughter?”
I recognized the captain’s voice and I saw him below, on another landing of the stairs. He was wearing a wet mackintosh.
“So you, youth, are this hero? I can be calm that you will become a great sailor,” he added and blinked at me.
We were coming down. I offered the younger Turk to go first, but he looked at me so pleadingly that I kept following the clumsy sailor. I was still laughing and soon I caught up with the captain.
“I’m not a hero, but this fine fellow is,” I explained to the captain by showing our sailor to him. “If not him, now you would have to send me to the hospital.”
“Well, if you had to get there, then I would try to place you next to the strange beauty. The little girl liked you very much, so probably her mother would follow her example, too.”
I could see his smile, but only his lips were smiling, while his eyes remained attentive and austere. Somehow I could feel with my entire body how great the danger was.
All of a sudden, we were rocked so much that the younger Turk almost fell down again. The captain looked at his father and told him that on the lower deck he should hold his son by his hand and that he would call a sailor who would help them to climb downstairs. The captain gave a whistle and the sailor came running. Having received the captain’s order, he put his arms round the younger Turk’s waist. It was really difficult to come downstairs, but to my great astonishment and to even greater joy of my nurse – clumsy sailor, I was walking with a more and more sure step, while the Turk still had difficulties; but as soon as the youth felt that there were no more steps, his step became more sure at once, only he kept limping.
Downstairs we stopped to discuss our actions among ourselves. The real hell was already here! The wind was wailing and whistling, it was ruffling gigantic waves. The people were moaning, the
women and the children were panic-stricken and crying. In the holds the horses were neighing and beating, the cows were mooing and the sheep were bleating – one was unable to separate anything, everything had blended into a continuous wail, buzz and roar.
I. gave a tug at my hand, and we went to the women’s section. Having seen us, the whole crowd of them dashed at us, but most of them rolled back, because at that moment the steamer dived up and then down again as though to an abyss. I. was coming to more sickly and suffering of them in rotation; I was pulling the medicine, which he was indicating to me. With the help of the sailors, he would lift the heads of the sick a little, and I would pour the medicine into their mouths.
There was such a stench that if not the wind, I couldn’t have endured here.
Little by little we made the round of everybody, and the people started calming down or even falling asleep. Two sailors were washing the floor with the hot water, brooms and floor-cloths.
We left the women’s section and went to help the Turks who had done only a half of their work, because there were more men who needed help; several of absolutely sound people volunteered to help us. Soon the moaning and curses fell silent here, too, and everybody started falling asleep.
I. gave several tufts of some dry grass to the stablemen and told them to tie them in several places in the hold. He explained to them that the grass would affect the horses in the same way as the medicine did to the people, and they would fall asleep.
The Turks stayed on the deck, while we and the stablemen came down to the hold where I. himself showed them in which places they had to tie the packets of the grass.
Having come back onto the deck, I. offered the sound people to take our medicine, too. He told them that several hours of sleeping would strengthen them and then they could help him more when the storm started.
“The storm? So isn’t this the storm yet?” the screams were heard.
“No, this isn’t the storm yet, but only an easy tossing,” suddenly we heard the voice of the captain near us. “So take the medicine and have a sleep if you are really brave men. Every strong hand and brave heart will be needed when the storm starts.”
An unexpected appearance of the captain and his firm, sonorous voice affected the bold spirits who were helping us. They became silent, opened their mouths and swallowed our miraculous drops.
The captain asked I. for how long the effect of this medicine was going to last, and I. answered him that the people were going to calm for at least six hours. The captain pulled out his watch, pressed the watch-spring – and twelve loud strokes echoed.
“The storm will start in a couple or three hours at the latest. I decided to send a part of the passengers from the third class to the sitting-rooms of the second class and to place the whole fourth class in the third one,” the captain was explaining to us. “The move upstairs will end soon. We’ll have to distribute the women, children and weaker men among free cabins of the third class by laying straw mattresses on the floor. I’ll send a part of my team here. I’ll ask you not to leave until everybody would be moved upward. Somebody might need your help.”
And he disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared. Now he was everywhere: he would climb on to the captain’s bridge to his chief assistant, he would have time to dart a glance at every little
corner of the steamer, he would give instructions everywhere, he would cheer up and calm everybody and he would have a good word prepared for everybody.
Soon several sailors and an officer came to us. They woke up the women and offered them with their children to move to the cabins of the third class. There were screams and hysteria, too, but soon they moved, and there were still several free cabins left for the sickly and weak men.
The children started crying in the cabins of the women again. We had to give them the medicine again, but now I. was watching every face attentively, he was listening for their breathing and only then when they really needed he would tell me to pour some drops. I. would stop by some older workers for a longer, he would give them some sweets, too, by thrusting them right behind the cheeks of those who were drowsing.
We passed to the sitting-rooms of the second class to visit the passengers from the third class, who had moved there. Here everybody needed our medicine, too, because there was the same panic, the children were crying, even the men were moaning. Soon I.’s help calmed everybody down. We wanted to stay on duty here, but the messenger of the captain came hurriedly and asked I. to come to the first class to help some dying girl.
We left the Turks downstairs and hurried after the sailor to the first class. We were met by the screams from all sides, the stewardesses and man-servants were running about, and I’m afraid that the view of human suffering was more repulsive here, because the disgusting cries in which a demand, an anger and egoism could be heard, used to grow into the curses and bad behaviour with the ship’s team that was already run off their legs.
We were taken to the cabin in which a mother with long, loose and tousled hair was on her knees at the bed-head of her daughter who seemed to be fainted away. The mother herself didn’t perceive anything anymore. She was sobbing and shouting some Italian words off and on, she was tousling her hair and wringing her hands. I. with the help of the sailor lifted her off the floor, he put her to bed and told me to count off five drops from the indicated bottle, while he himself bent over the girl who couldn’t be brought to her senses by the ship’s doctor for more than an hour already.
As soon as I gave the mother the medicine to drink, she fell asleep instantly, and I went up to I.
“A difficult case, Lovushka,” he told me.
At this moment the steamer began to swing so much that I hardly had time to seize the wall supporter, while I. with one hand was holding the girl who was rolling from the bed, with another one he leant against the clumsy sailor.
“We must bring her to her senses immediately, then we have to drop in at the hospital and to hurry to help the captain,” I. was talking to me. “Lift the girl and hold her in sitting position,” he addressed the sailor, “and you, Lovushka, pour five drops from this dark bottle straight into her mouth. Wait until I open her mouth. Get the medicine ready, so that you could drip it quickly.”
I. pulled some strong smelling drops out of his first-aid kit and dripped one drop into each of her nostrils. The girl sneezed strongly in a minute. I. opened her mouth deftly, while I gave her my drops to drink. The sailor had to lean against the bed with his feet and to hold me by my waist, otherwise I would have fallen down on my back from the new blow onto the side, and the girl would have rolled down on the floor.
“Now everything’s all right here, let’s hurry to the hospital,” I. whispered to me.
We passed the patients to the doctor who returned. He was very surprised that the girl was sleeping and breathing calmly, equally, but I. was hurrying and he didn’t even heard the doctor’s words.
Soon we reached the hospital through the shortest way and some winding stairs. The moaning and sobbing could be heard here, too. Not paying any attention to them, we rushed into the ward No. 1A. Here the poor mother didn’t know how to calm her crying children. She was about to break into tears herself in this hell raging round her. Every bolt of the steamer was squeaking and screeching in its own voice, the whole ship was shaking and trembling as if it had been made of the sheet of the thin iron, while at times the passengers would feel themselves to be head over heels, or they would rock from one side to another, moaning and their screams mixed with the wail of the wind seemed to be like the howls of the devil.
We gave them the medicine to drink in a flash. I. gave a pill to the mother, too. He asked her to be brisk, saying that everything would be all right, that we had to send the energy of vivacity to the captain, that we had to strengthen his power in his fight against the element instead of crying and grieving what was only draining any energy. The mother was looking at I. so pleadingly that he squeezed her hand slightly and told her.
“Be strong. A mother must be an example to her children. Lie down next to them and sleep.”
Again through the shortest way we were scooting onto the deck to the captain on the bridge. I have to admit that I. was holding my arm, while the sailor was simply pushing me from behind, and only in this way I was able to jolt through all those stairs and passageways. If I hadn’t had this double assistance, I would have fallen down at breakneck speed tens of times, and probably been killed to death. When we went onto the deck, we got into the real hell. The lightning was flashing and it was thundering. The thunder was blending with the wail and howling of the wind and reminded me of a cannonade. The lightning dazzled us instantly, we had to stop, because it was difficult even to breath in this freezing atmosphere of the storm.
We reached the captain’s bridge with great difficulty. I didn’t even notice how the cold water flooded me from my head to foot, I even had to close my eyes. I was shaking myself like a dog, I was rubbing my eyes with my hands and I could hardly open them, but anyway I couldn’t see anything in the dark and on the deck which was being flashed by the lightning.
I felt that I was dragged by the strong hands and I was going, if one could call those movements of my body and legs “a going”: now I was lifting my leg and wanted to put it on the deck, but I fell on my “nurse”, and my leg would hang in the air; now I would fall back and hear I.’s voice: “Duck”, I wouldn’t be in time for ducking, so I would fall on my side again. Those several tens of steps which separated us from the captain’s bridge seemed to me as long as the road to an unreachable happiness.
But suddenly, I heard how the clumsy sailor screamed something and yanked me forward; in his turn, I. with all his strength was dragging my body which could hardly keep its balance – and in an instant we got to the wheel, next to the captain and his assistants. One more moment – and we were flooded by the water. It pressed us to the walls of the wheelhouse, but we survived, because this gigantic wave didn’t have time to wash us away.
I cannot even describe what happened next: the wall of the water fell on the steamer so much, it hit the wheelhouse so strongly that it trembled, while I. and the sailor dashed to the wheel, because the captain with his assistants were unable to hold it.
“Lovushka,” I. was screaming, “quickly pull a pill for everybody out of the green Florentian’s box, first of all – for the captain!”
I was squeezed into the corner by the strong wind that was blowing into my legs and I was feeling very steady. That helped me to find the box easily, but I understood very well that if the wave was going to hit again, I wouldn’t keep my feet. I summoned up my strength, Florentian’s figure flashed in my thoughts, because I was always thinking about him, my heart started beating joyfully, and my friend was so close to me at this moment that I even saw him next to me. Of course, if I was lying, I would think that I was dreaming, but now I was certain that I saw him not in my dream – my dear guardian Florentian dressed in white had emerged in my imagination so clearly.
I felt such fresh surge of strength, as though that charming friend of mine had really been next to me. I pulled the pills out of my first-aid kit easily, I became merry and laughing, I leant towards the captain. He even opened his mouth out of amazement, seeing my laughing face in the moment of the deadly danger. I took advantage of this immediately and thrust the pill into his mouth.
The wonderful hand of Florentian was as though holding me – I didn’t feel the blows of the waves to the side or the trembling of the ship, I forgot about the death brought by every gust of the wind – I was giving out the pills to everybody and I swallowed the last one myself. My eyes got used to it, it became as though brighter around, but one was still unable to discern where the sky and where the water was.
Now all men were holding the wheel with their hands. It still seemed to me that I saw the tall and white figure of Florentian who now was next to I. As though he had put his hand on I.’s hands, and that everybody, including the captain, was obeying to I.’s commands. We were sailing like this, or to be precise we were going up and down, for quite a long time. Everybody kept silent and was fighting against the menacing death.
“One more such heeling over of the ship, and the steamer will fall on its side, so that it would never rise again,” the captain gave a shout.
I don’t know what happened to me, perhaps the swallowed pill encouraged me, but I cried into the very ear of the captain.
“It will not fall on its side, not for anything, we will survive!”
He only shrugged his shoulders, and I understood that like his indulgence to my childish incomprehension of the menacing death. In the meanwhile it was as though getting brighter. Now I could already see the living hell of the water in which we were sailing, if one could name the horror of falling down into an abyss and rising up into an unseen height “a sailing”.
The sea turned into a whole, white and boiling mass. As though hollowed out walls of the green water with the peaks of white foam would rise from time to time. They were threatening to flood us from all sides right away, but the captain’s command and deft hands of the people were piercing through the barriers of the water, and we would dive downward, so that then we could get upward successfully. But then I noticed that the captain pulled is head into his shoulders, he shouted something to I. and leant on the wheel with his entire body. The tall and white Florentian’s figure appeared to me again. He touched I.’s hands and then he turned the wheel exactly so as the captain wanted it to, but was unable to do it in any way, even with the help of all of his assistants. And now the steamer turned obediently with its front to the right. I had my heart in my mouth: the highest mountain of the water was drawing nearer straight to us, on the top of which a column of the water was whirling. It was so high that it seemed that it was really supporting the sky.
If this mountain had hit the ship’s side, then it would have capsized inevitably. Thanks to the swift manoeuvre, the steamer pierced through the gigantic mass of the water with its spike, and the whole
weight of the water fell on its stern. The thunder was heard, as though the cannons had fired; the ship trembled, its spike rose upward as on the swing, but in a moment we were sailing in the foam of the roaring sea again, where the waves were still terrible, they would flood the deck, but they didn’t menace to crash us anymore.
Having come to myself, I started looking with my eyes for my wonderful friend Florentian, but I understood that it was only a mirage, the mirage of my love to him. I was so immersed in my thoughts about him, I believed in his help so much, that he appeared to me even here.
“We are saved,” the captain uttered. “We’ve sailed across the zone of the hurricane. The tossing will still continue for a long time, but there’s no deadly danger anymore”
He offered me and I. to go to the cabin and to rest, but I. answered him that we were less tired than him and that we would stay with him until we sail out of the danger zone once and for all, that he could offer his chief assistant to rest, who was the most tired and that he could invite somebody else here.
The captain sent his chief assistant to find out how the passengers were feeling and told him to change places with any of the assistants on duty for a couple of hours, and that the person who would change him would bring an answer about the ship’s condition.
I don’t know how much time had passed. It became brighter. The storm was still violent, but it seemed to me that the captain’s face became brighter, too: he was worn-out, his eyes had sunk, his face was blue pale, but the sternness in it had already been gone.
I. turned to me and gave a cry that I should give a pill from Ali’s black box for everybody. I thought that the tossing wasn’t so strong anymore, I came out of my corner and I would have fallen down for sure if I. hadn’t held me.
I was surprised very much. Several hours ago, in the full swing of the hurricane, I was serving out the medicine to everybody so easily, and now I was unable to do it without I.’s help, although the element had already abated. It was difficult for me, but I gave a pill for everybody. I made lots of efforts until I swallowed it myself and then I could hardly come back to my previous place.
Only now I noticed that there was a pull-down chair in this corner. I pulled the chair down and sat down on it, perplexed. Why when Florentian appeared to me, in the moment of the greatest danger, I could move easily, and now I couldn’t even take a step, it wasn’t easy even to sit down, I had to hold on the grip?
Did only the thought about my dear friend whom I was calling for help from the bottom of my heart during the whole night help me to focus my will so much? I remembered what a joy had filled me up back then; how I perceived that I was strong; how I was laughing by giving the pill to the captain, and now I got absolutely absent-minded and I became the ordinary Lovushka, the catcher of the crows.
I was looking at the sky, and it seemed to me that it wasn’t so grey anymore. The difference of the colours came to light between the white, bubbling sea and the grey sky. The wind wasn’t so strong anymore. The whistling and rumbling, as though the ordnance was firing, could be heard always rarer, while the people who were standing at the rudder were already exchanging some words one with another, not shouting at the top of their voices.
The heavy steps could be heard, and the shift marched in to change the chief assistant and our clumsy sailor.
But our sailor was still feeling so well that he didn’t agree to change, while every man was needed downstairs. The captain passed the management to the new assistant, he took the sailor who had just come and, having told us that he would be back soon, he came down. He offered me to go with him. He called me the bold spirit and the hero, but I knew better what kind of a hero I was when I was left with myself, so I refused his offer resolutely.
I wanted to stay upstairs also because I remembered the stifling air of the lower decks, besides the sea was changing so much that it was really a pity to leave this view.
The truth is, it was still cold. And if the sun hadn’t been scorching so much when we were boarding the steamer, now I wouldn’t believe that we were sailing across the southern sea.
All of a sudden it was broad daylight round us; the wind ripped open the black clouds, and here and there one could already see the little patches of the blue sky. The tossing was noticeably decreasing; at times the wind would totally abate, and only the murmur of the sea was heard. The sea now was absolutely black, only the crests of the high waves were showing brightly white.
It was easier to steer the rudder already. I. came to me and told me that when the captain was back, we would go downstairs and, having done our mission of compassion one more time, we would go to sleep. He offered me to go to the stern and to take a look at that hell from which we had just escaped. The clumsy sailor wanted to go with us, but I. told him that we were going only for a walk on the deck and that then we would come back, but when we go downstairs, we would certainly take him with us.
The tossing was still strong, at times a wave used to come howling, but it wasn’t menacing our gigantic steamer anymore. Nevertheless, it was still difficult for me to go along the deck, and I was wondering how everything was easy for I.; whatever he used to do, he would do it splendidly. For no apparent reason I was imagining him to be a tailor. It was so funny and stupid that I burst out laughing.
I. was surprised, he looked me up and down and told me that for the second time already I was demonstrating my heroism with a laughter.
“No, heroism isn’t the cause of this laughter,” I answered him, “but only my stupidity. All of a sudden I was imagining you to be a tailor and I decided that you would do that job perfectly, too, but the very fact that you were with the needle and the thread seemed to be so comic to me that I lost my self- control and I burst out laughing.”
When we approached the stern, my laughter stopped at once and I even felt that I remained like this – with my mouth opened.
It seemed as though someone had cut the sea with the knife into two unequal parts. Relatively small space across which we were sailing was black, it was foaming with white foam, but it didn’t excite any horror. The huge mountains of the water were stretching behind this black zone; the walls of the green water with the white crests were breaking when they hit one another, like the giants who were wrestling in the arms of the death; having wrestled for a moment, they would fall down into the abyss from which the new water monsters kept rising.
“Have we really escaped this hell?” I was asking I. “Is it really possible to survive in these waves?”
I wanted to ask I. very much if during the most terrible moment he also was thinking about Florentian, but I was ashamed to unbosom my naivety, the play of my fantasy, which had taken the shape of my dear friend – of my friend who had saved my life several times during this short period of time. And
now I was also calling him with all my heart, I was thinking about him more than about my brother or even about myself.
I. was standing in silence. Such serene peace was in his face, such deep purity and joy was shining within him that unawares I asked him what he was thinking about now.
“My boy, I thank life which today gave us one more possibility to breathe, love, create and to serve people with all our strength, nobly and irreproachably. Bless your new day, too. Perceive well that we could die tonight if life’s grace and the people’s selfless heroism hadn’t saved us. Think a little that his day – that’s your new life already. It is new, because it could happen so that you might not stand here today. Get used to meeting your new breaking day as the day of your new life where only you, you alone are making the record onto the clean sheet of your day. During the entire night you didn’t feel any fear at least one time, you were thinking about the people whose lives and health were in danger. You forgot about yourself because of them.”
“Oh, how wrong you are, Lolion,” I gave a shout by calling him in this diminutive name for the first time. “In truth, I was thinking neither about myself not about the danger, besides only now I understood the danger when I looked at that horror left behind us, at that zone of the hurricane from which we escaped. I wasn’t thinking about people, because I was thinking about Florentian, about what he would say about my behaviour if he was next to me. I was trying to do everything as though he had held my hand. I was so full of these thoughts that in the most dangerous moment I saw my dear friend. It seemed as though I could see him, I was feeling his help, and that’s why I was laughing so cheerfully by surprising the captain and perhaps you, too. So your opinion about me is probably better than I deserve it.”
“Your laughter didn’t surprise me tonight, neither your joy nor your cheerfulness. I understood that you were seeing Florentian in front of you, and I understood how great your attachment and loyalty is to him. I think that if this loyalty of yours to him doesn’t begin to stagger – you will achieve a lot in your life by following him. And some day, you will become such help, such support for people, as he is for you at the moment,” I. answered me.
Here, at the stern one could see well that the storm was still raging. The murmur of the sea still reminded me of the shots of cannons time and again. We still had to speak rather loudly by bending close to one to another’s ear.
The distance between us and the zone of the hurricane kept increasing, and now that view which was horrible when we were close to it was incredibly terrible from the distance, too.
If a painter had been standing on the deck next to us and if he drew this unaccustomed range of the sea colours, which was as though artificially divided into the black, menacing, but not especially dangerous waves and the mountains of the green water rising behind the waves and bringing the real death – then everybody looking at such a painting would think that the painter was delirious and that he was painting the delirium of his sickly soul.
It was difficult to tear away from this severe view. The lightning and the heavy shower in the zone of the hurricane had ceased already, too, but the sky was still black, - and the little patches of the bluish velvet were stunning very strangely, they were flashing between the black clouds here and there.
The voice of the captain was heard behind our backs.
“I’ve been cruising for twenty years, I’ve crossed all oceans, I’ve seen lots of storms – including the tropical ones, - but I haven’t experienced anything similar as tonight and I have never gone
through such a power and so many columns of the whirlwind. Look!” suddenly he gave a shout loudly, turned to the left and he was pointing in the direction of his hand.
Two white and bubbling columns of the water, the peaks of which disappeared in the clouds, were standing on the gigantic mountain of the water.
The captain rushed to the wheelhouse, I wanted to run after him, but I. stopped me, saying that these columns wouldn’t harm us anymore, that they were moving sideways and that there wasn’t any deadly danger.
Indeed, the columns were moving sideways, but all of a sudden, I saw how the peaks of the water wall on the right started rising upward and at the same time the stream of the water was turning round, and in a moment one more gigantic column of the water grew from it. With great speed it hurried towards the columns on the left, which were approaching it, and suddenly all of them collided one with another, there was a roar heard, as if the loudest thunder had struck right here – and an abyss appeared in the place of the collision.
The line that separated the sea into two parts cleared away, and the wall of the water was as though chasing us. That was so terrible that I was surprised and I looked at I., not understanding why he didn’t hurry to help the people by the wheel. Being in silence, he took my arm and turned my face forward. I was amazed when I saw the clear sky and the outlines of the shore, which were revealing in the distance.
“The captain is right that he rushed at the wheel. The waves will be hitting us strongly again and they won’t allow us to reach the shore. If there’s enough of coal, water and food reserve on the steamer, it might be that we even won’t drop in at the first harbour and that we’ll keep sailing. The sea isn’t menacing us with death anymore,” I. was talking to me. “Such hurricane could hardly repeat one more time, but by judging from everything, the sea will remain stormy for at least a week.”
I also could feel the stronger tossing already; the sea began to boil again and it was rustling wrathfully; the wind used to fly towards us in whistling squalls, but the waves weren’t reaching the height of the previous mountains anymore.
We went to the captain who was examining the shore through his binoculars. He changed the ship’s course. He ordered to call urgently his chief assistant with the report about the reserve of coal, water and food on the ship.
When the chief assistant came, it turned out that the reserve of everything on the ship would be sufficient for two more days, the captain commanded to sail to the open sea again, not turning in at the harbour.
I was convinced of I.’s foresight for the one hundredth time.
Although the strengthening medicine of Ali and Florentian was taking a miraculous effect, not only mine, but everyone’s strength was exhausted already. Everyone who had spent the night here, on the deck, looked more like the ghosts than people in the grey light of the gloomy day. Only I. alone was pale, but brisk. The captain simply could hardly stand on his feet.
Having passed the operative management to two of his assistants and to the navigation officer, the captain ordered to distribute a stronger ration of food to his sailors and to go to sleep. He invited us to his cabin where we saw a perfectly laid table.
As soon as I sat down on the chair, I felt that I wouldn’t have enough strength to stand up again. I don’t remember absolutely anything what happened next.
I came to myself in our cabin. I was strong and cheerful, I had forgotten absolutely everything and I didn’t even comprehend where I was. Having lain for about a half an hour, little by little I started remembering and perceiving the surroundings.
The horror of the previous night returned together with my memory. Now the sun was shining already. I got up and put on a white suit which must have been prepared by the careful hands of I. I already was about to find and thank him for his care and attention. Only I was unable to line up all events into one line in any way and to understand how I got into the cabin.
I was ashamed that I was sleeping for so long, while I., apparently, was giving help to people for a long time already.
Exactly at this moment the door opened, and my friend entered the cabin. He was radiating with cheerfulness. I became so happy, as though I hadn’t seen him for a year and I fell myself on his neck.
“Thank God! Lovushka, at last you got up,” he told me, smiling. “I was already getting ready to drag the fire-hose, because I know your weakness for the waves.”
It turns out that I was sleeping for more than twenty-four hours. I couldn’t believe it in any way, I kept asking what time it was, when I fell asleep. I. told me how he had to bring me to our cabin in his arms and to put me to sleep, being hungry.
I wanted to eat awfully, but I didn’t have to wait for a long time, because the radiant clumsy sailor showed up in the door and reported that the breakfast was served already.
Showing his teeth, with his gaze fixed on me, he gave me a note and whispered to me that it was from the cabin No. 1A of the hospital, from the beautiful lady who was asking me to visit her.
I was very embarrassed. That was the first secret note from a woman to me. I knew perfectly that there was nothing in it what I couldn’t read to the first person that I met, not only I. I was angry with myself for such an inexperience, inability to control myself and to remain a person of culture, not turning red like a lad.
Once again that short little word “tact” which the storm had blown out of my head came back to my consciousness. Having sighed, I was greeting it like a distant, unrealizable dream.
The stupid expression of the sailor who was scratching his chin and looking at me mischievously looked very comic, as though he was thinking: “Well, look what a bite he has grabbed, and when did he have time to do it?”
I was always reacting to humour sensitively, so also this time I burst out laughing, the sailor was sniggering, and I. was also laughing when he read all thoughts that were flashing in my face, because he could do it perfectly. The comicality of this scene must have made the sternest person laugh. When I calmed down and looked at I., he looked like a roguish conspirator and he was glittering his eyes not any worse than the yellow-eyed captain.
I put the note in my pocket and declared that I would die of hunger if I don’t get any food right now. I was absolutely stunned with the news that it was two o’clock already.
We left the cabin and sat down at the table on the deck. I was eating everything what I. was giving to me, while he himself was laughing, because he said that he was feeding a tiger for the first time in his life.
The captain approached us. He greeted us cheerfully, called me a merry hero, stating that for the first time in his life he saw a person who was rocking with laughter from the bottom of his heart in the presence of the deadly danger.
“I’ll create a new sea legend,” he was speaking. “There’s a legend about the Flying Dutchman. It is a spine-chilling legend, bringing death to every person met. There’s a merry legend about the White Brothers who are saving ships and lives, but there’s still no legend about the merry Russian who is rocking with laughter in the moment of the menacing death and who is serving out the energy pills to the people fighting against the element. In the report to my operative management I will inform them of all that help that you and your brother have provided to me and everybody on the ship at night. About you, my young hero, I will report individually to both my leaders and everybody on the ship, because the example of such wild fearlessness is an extraordinary event.”
I was sitting, totally blushed and embarrassed. I already wanted to tell the captain that he was wrong by estimating my heroism so much, that I. was still guiding me by hand and that, apparently, I was still a burden and not an assistance for him, but I. stealthily squeezed my hand and answered himself to the captain that we were very thankful to him for such appreciation of our night assistance. He also reminded him that the Turks accomplished no less than we did during the storm.
“Oh, yes,” the captain answered him. “Undoubtedly, I won’t forget about them in my report. They were also acting in a heroic and selfless way, but there’s a great difference to be inside of the steamer, protected from the waves, and to be on the deck where a wave could sweep you off at any moment. You’ve achieved a great deal, youth,” he addressed me again. “If you wanted to change your career and to become a sailor, I could make a protection for you in England. With such courage you would become a captain quickly. Now you will be accompanied by the glory of the fearless man in the water, right? And that is the guarantee of the high career in seafaring.”
He was glittering with his yellow catlike eyes and extending the glass of champagne to me. I couldn’t refuse it and show myself impolite. The captain poured some champagne for I., too, and proposed a toast to the health of the brave ones. He tossed his glass off at a draught and wanted to pour in the second one for himself, but one of his assistants called him with some urgent business.
I., just like me, didn’t have any wish to drink the champagne. Without any prearranged plan, we extended our glasses to the clumsy sailor who brought us some ice-cream. I didn’t even have time to take my portion, and the glasses were standing empty already. I. told him to take the silver bucket with champagne to the captain’s cabin, then he told me.
“We should visit our friends Turks, so that we wouldn’t be impolite, if they don’t think of visiting us here. They had already visited us for a couple of times and were asking about your health, you also could be more polite with respect to the lady. Read her note at last,” he added, after giving me a smile.
As soon as I had time to feel the letter in my pocket, I heard the voices, and both Turks came up to our table.
They greeted me amiably and were glad that the storm hadn’t made me ill. The older Turk lifted his son’s fez a little, and I saw his shaved skin and a bandage stuck under it. It turned out that when the wave tossed the ship upward, he tapped his head onto the beam. It turned out that I. was dressing his wound. His ointment was functioning so well that today he could only stick his wound and not dress it anymore.
Having stayed with us for a while, the Turks went downstairs to have their breakfast in the joint dining-room.
Finally, I pulled the letter out and opened it.