When Jimmie opened his eyes again he was in a most extraordinary position. At first he could not make it out, he was only aware of endless bruises and blows, as if someone were shaking him about in a gigantic pepper-cruet. As Nature protested desperately against such treatment, Jimmie fought his way back to consciousness, and caught hold of something, in his neighbourhood, which presently turned out to be a brass railing; he struggled to ward off the blows of his tormentors, which turned out to be the aforesaid railing, plus a wall, plus two other men, one on each side of him, the three of them being lashed to the brass railing with ropes. The wall and railing and Jimmie and the other men were behaving in an incredible fashion—swinging down, as if they were plunging into a bottomless abyss, then swinging up, as if they were going to part altogether from this mundane sphere; the total enormous swing, from bottom to top, being mathematically calculated to occupy a period of five and one-half seconds of time.
Jimmie discovered before long that there were a whole row of men, lashed fast and subjected to this perplexing form of torture. They made you think of a row of carcasses in a butcher-shop—only, who could picture a butcher-shop whose floor careened to an angle of forty-five degrees in one direction, and then, in a space of precisely five and a half seconds, careened to an angle of forty-five degrees in the opposite direction?
And they kept bringing more carcasses and hanging them in this insane butcher-shop! Two sailors in uniforms would come staggering, carrying a man between them, clinging to the railing, to Jimmie, to the other men, to anything else they could grab. They would make a desperate rush while the swing was right, and get to a new place on the railing, where they would tie the new man with a bit of rope about his waist, and leave him there to be mauled and pounded. One side of the room was lined solid with carcasses, and then the other side, and still they came. This was apparently a dining-saloon, there being a table down the middle, and two rows of chairs; they lashed people into these chairs, they brought others and lashed them to the bottom of the chairs—any old place at all! There were some who thought they could hold on for themselves; but after the sailors were gone they discovered that it took more skill to hold on than they realized, and they would come hurtling across the floor, winding up with a crash on top of someone else.
It was not the first time in Jimmie’s life that he had had to scramble for himself in some uncomfortable situation; he got his wits together quickly. He was shivering as if with ague, and he managed to get out of his wet coat. There being a couple of ladies strapped into chairs in front of him, he did not like to go further; but presently came sailors with armfuls of blankets, and made him perform the complicated feat of getting out of his dripping icy uniform and getting the blanket wrapped around his middle, so that the rope would not saw him into halves. Then came a steward with a pot of hot coffee; being marvellously expert at holding this at all angles of the ship, he poured it into cups with little funnels for drinking, and thus got some down Jimmie’s throat.