Monday, May 21, 2007


The waters swelled and rolled. The horizon appeared then plummeted. Alice’s stomach grew apart from her in coldness, stubbornly keeping to a schedule of events unwelcome to the young woman’s vanity, but she found herself unable to reason with its demagogic turn and resigned herself to misery, weakness and parboiled tea.

Lizzie, on the other hand, found herself exhilarated. The sea air in her nose made her senses sing. The salt wind in her hair convinced her to bundle the offending locks out of the way and, scandalously unbonneted, she strode the deck under the watchful eye of Captain Bellamy but with the grudging admiration of the top-hatted bosun, who at first -- perhaps somewhat doubtful of this gentlewoman’s mettle -- had sneered quite openly behind his hand at her attempts to negotiate the deck. In no time at all, however, Lizzie had mastered the firm but flexible pace of the sea-going veteran and fought her way against the winds to walk the ship from stem to stern and take in all manner of sights and portents. Lizzie learned to listen to the different calls of the gulls, to glimpse the fish that leaped from the waves, indeed, even the different slopes of the waves across the sides of the vessel that relayed the minute changes in the weather. Lizzie thrilled to the cry of the albatross and came to welcome the cold drops of rain from the sky that broke the sun-drenched deck’s heat.

In any case, it was better than watching Alice vomit.

Worse, perhaps was that one must also hear and smell her distress which was perhaps infinitely worse. The bosun was kept busy much of the time, but still he managed to wander abroad and catch Lizzie just in time to point out something intriguing about the scent of the wind or the particular cry of the gull. Although Lizzie feared that they were already heading south of France, she could not let go her fascination with the sea and her thrill at the wonderful freedom of the life on deck.

Even Captain Bellamy seemed to notice, although he spent much of his day alternately brooding in his cabin or lashing at the crew with his black bull whip. He was never less than polite with Lizzie, but his tone often betrayed a sense of risibility that made Lizzie wonder if he did not mock her new excitement.

“How is ouw little sailow this aftewnoon?” the captain would quiz her as she reached the forecastle. “Have you gained youw sea legs?” If the wind was right, they might be able to hear the sounds of Alice violently discarding any attempt at lunch. Otherwise, Lizzie had only her contempt to distract her from the Captain’s scathing insinuations.

“Are we making good progress?” Lizzie would inquire, inevitably turning the Captain’s thoughts ahead to the time when he might get rid of the two women and, consequently, receive good payment to do so. It tended to work.

At this latest moment, however, the Captain seemed distracted. He was about to finally answer her when the bosun appeared and whispered -- far too loudly for Lizzie not to hear -- that a black sail had been sighted on the horizon.

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