The Voyage Out HTML version

Chapter IV
Next morning Clarissa was up before anyone else. She dressed, and was out on deck,
breathing the fresh air of a calm morning, and, making the circuit of the ship for the
second time, she ran straight into the lean person of Mr. Grice, the steward. She
apologised, and at the same time asked him to enlighten her: what were those shiny brass
stands for, half glass on the top? She had been wondering, and could not guess. When he
had done explaining, she cried enthusiastically:
"I do think that to be a sailor must be the finest thing in the world!"
"And what d'you know about it?" said Mr. Grice, kindling in a strange manner. "Pardon
me. What does any man or woman brought up in England know about the sea? They
profess to know; but they don't."
The bitterness with which he spoke was ominous of what was to come. He led her off to
his own quarters, and, sitting on the edge of a brass-bound table, looking uncommonly
like a sea-gull, with her white tapering body and thin alert face, Mrs. Dalloway had to
listen to the tirade of a fanatical man. Did she realise, to begin with, what a very small
part of the world the land was? How peaceful, how beautiful, how benignant in
comparison the sea? The deep waters could sustain Europe unaided if every earthly
animal died of the plague to-morrow. Mr. Grice recalled dreadful sights which he had
seen in the richest city of the world--men and women standing in line hour after hour to
receive a mug of greasy soup. "And I thought of the good flesh down here waiting and
asking to be caught. I'm not exactly a Protestant, and I'm not a Catholic, but I could
almost pray for the days of popery to come again--because of the fasts."
As he talked he kept opening drawers and moving little glass jars. Here were the treasures
which the great ocean had bestowed upon him--pale fish in greenish liquids, blobs of
jelly with streaming tresses, fish with lights in their heads, they lived so deep.
"They have swum about among bones," Clarissa sighed.
"You're thinking of Shakespeare," said Mr. Grice, and taking down a copy from a shelf
well lined with books, recited in an emphatic nasal voice:
"Full fathom five thy father lies,
"A grand fellow, Shakespeare," he said, replacing the volume.
Clarissa was so glad to hear him say so.
"Which is your favourite play? I wonder if it's the same as mine?"