+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

in a less noticeable costume. She dips again.
Again I draw in my breath. She rises; once
more I eject every "waff" of breath out of
my lungs. Now, she has settled into the
trough of the sea, and I begin a survey of the
brig. We rise and sink to a terrible depth
all in a minute, and I exhale my breath as
we go down. That is decidedly a mistake.
Our ship is too fast, and I cannot keep time.
My constitutional giddinessthat giddiness
which has never left me many hours from
my early childhoodis returning to me.
Again we descend, and again I exhale my
breath, instead of drawing it in. The helmsman
assures me that there is no danger. Who
said there was? Who talked about danger?
Why did he wear that sardonic smile? Am
I not manfully trying the first part of "A
White Sheet and a Flowing Sail?" though I
am, I own, in such bad voice, that I cannot
get on with it. Can it be? Yes. / am holding
the seat with both hands. I hope I don't look
frightened. Here is the steward. Dinner is
ready. Very well. Who cares! Will I walk
down? I think it is too early to dine, but
will take a snack presently, if the steward
will oblige me with a glass of water at once.
Why did he laugh as he left me? There
is nothing extraordinary in the request; it
is not unusual to drink water. How does
he know that I am not a teetotaller? It
would be easy enough to have the laugh of
him. He is not a scientific man. He couldn't
distinguish the diaphragm from the phrenetic
nerves. How is it possible to prove to him
that I cannot be affected by the tossing of the
vessel: how can I demonstrate to him that
my present paleness is not the natural effect
of the sea upon my nerves, but the deserved
result of my carelessness?

The cruel eye of the helmsman is upon me:
I have evidently fallen sixty per cent, in his
estimation. I dare say he feels inclined to
tear my anchor-buttons from my jacket, and
to pluck the sou'-wester from my ignoble
head. I wish the steward would come with
that water. The captain is approaching. He
looks civil enough. He wants to know
whether I had not better sit on the other side,
with my face to the sea, and the wind at my
back. What does he mean? I think I cut
him short:—he will not open his mouth to
me again. Here comes the steward with the
water:—now it will be my turn to laugh.
He waits for the glass: he can't have it. I
am not going to drink the water; I want it
for a scientific purpose. Let me grasp it
firmly, and endeavour to prevent the liquid
from running over by keeping the mouth of
the glass as nearly horizontal as possible.
Now, it nearly touches the decknow my face
is reclining upon a coil of rope to my right
now, my arm is working to and fronow, I
dash it forwardnow, I have it before the
compass-box. I feel decidedly better, but at
the expense of a performance, not unlike that
of a person labouring under a severe attack
of St. Vitus's dance. Now, the vessel descends
tumultuously, and I throw myself almost on
my backnow, she is climbing a very steep
billow, and my nose threatens to test the
smoothness of the deck. That helmsman is
convulsed with laughter; but the recollection
that Mr. J. Atkinson believes that the
stomach is primarily affected through the cerebral
mass, rather than through a disturbance
of the thoracic and abdominal viscera, and
that the involuntary motion communicated
to the body by the rolling and tossing of
the vessel is, by the means he adopts,
apparently converted into voluntary motion
the recollection of this, nerves me to
continue my novel performance. My giddiness is
goneforgotten in the concentrated attention
given to the tumbler. As yet I have not
spilt a drop of the liquid. This is decidedly
a triumph.

This rolling is a bore. The wildness of my
motions will attract general attention. A man
near me wants to know why I don't drink the
water at once:—he says I have had a thousand
opportunities, and that I am making myself
ridiculous. But it is too late to expostulate.
The tumbler has now assumed the power of a
magnet, and draws my nose after it wherever
it pleases. Roll I must, with the glass. My eyes
are rivetted upon it; my body follows it, now
to the deck, now towards the steersman,
and now I lie upon my side wildly staring
at itbut not a drop of the water has
touched the deck. This is warm work,
however. We shall be five hours before we
make the port. For five hours, then, must
my eyes be fixed upon the tumblerfor five
hours must I roll about like a drunkard;
for I am informed that, should I resist the
free course of my arm and body, I shall
instantly feel "a thrill of pain of a peculiarly
stunning kind" shoot through my head, and
have a return of dizziness and nausea. Saw,
dive, rock, and plunge, I must, then, without
a momentary intermission, during five long
hours. At the expense of these gigantic
labours, only, can I purchase a sailor's reputation;
and after all I shall be regarded as a
very eccentric seamanas one not altogether
right about the head. Any torture, however,
is to be preferred to the sarcasms of that
dreadful man at the helm, and that grinning
steward. I feel very tired, though: I am
in a glowing heat. I begin to feel that I
shall never be able to drink a glass of water
again. I begin to regard the tumbler as my
personal enemy, and feel an almost irresistible
inclination to dash it down upon the deck.
Here comes that steward. He wants the
glass: it is impossible to do without it.
I swing about;—I am sawing the air with it
now I nearly dash the entire contents of it
into his face. Will I drink the water, and
give up the glass? I tell him to begonethat
I shall require the use of the tumbler till we
reach our destination; whereupon he seizes
my hand and removes my enemy. I stagger,