The Voyage Out HTML version

Chapter V
She was not able to follow up her observations, however, or to come to any conclusion,
for by one of those accidents which are liable to happen at sea, the whole course of their
lives was now put out of order.
Even at tea the floor rose beneath their feet and pitched too low again, and at dinner the
ship seemed to groan and strain as though a lash were descending. She who had been a
broad-backed dray-horse, upon whose hind-quarters pierrots might waltz, became a colt
in a field. The plates slanted away from the knives, and Mrs. Dalloway's face blanched
for a second as she helped herself and saw the potatoes roll this way and that.
Willoughby, of course, extolled the virtues of his ship, and quoted what had been said of
her by experts and distinguished passengers, for he loved his own possessions. Still,
dinner was uneasy, and directly the ladies were alone Clarissa owned that she would be
better off in bed, and went, smiling bravely.
Next morning the storm was on them, and no politeness could ignore it. Mrs. Dalloway
stayed in her room. Richard faced three meals, eating valiantly at each; but at the third,
certain glazed asparagus swimming in oil finally conquered him.
"That beats me," he said, and withdrew.
"Now we are alone once more," remarked William Pepper, looking round the table; but
no one was ready to engage him in talk, and the meal ended in silence.
On the following day they met--but as flying leaves meet in the air. Sick they were not;
but the wind propelled them hastily into rooms, violently downstairs. They passed each
other gasping on deck; they shouted across tables. They wore fur coats; and Helen was
never seen without a bandanna on her head. For comfort they retreated to their cabins,
where with tightly wedged feet they let the ship bounce and tumble. Their sensations
were the sensations of potatoes in a sack on a galloping horse. The world outside was
merely a violent grey tumult. For two days they had a perfect rest from their old
emotions. Rachel had just enough consciousness to suppose herself a donkey on the
summit of a moor in a hail-storm, with its coat blown into furrows; then she became a
wizened tree, perpetually driven back by the salt Atlantic gale.
Helen, on the other hand, staggered to Mrs. Dalloway's door, knocked, could not be heard
for the slamming of doors and the battering of wind, and entered.
There were basins, of course. Mrs. Dalloway lay half-raised on a pillow, and did not open
her eyes. Then she murmured, "Oh, Dick, is that you?"
Helen shouted--for she was thrown against the washstand--"How are you?"