The little machinist felt better after that, and was able to devote attention to the man on his right, who had hit his nose so many times that it was bleeding in a stream, and had been tilted at so many angles that the blood had run into his eyes and made him blind. The man on the other side of him apparently could make no effort at all to keep his face from being pounded, or his feet from being thrown into the pit of Jimmie’s stomach; after Jimmie made a number of protests, an officer came along, and put his ear to the man’s chest and pronounced him dead. They brought another rope, and lashed him tighter, so that he would behave himself.
For several hours Jimmie clung to that railing. The destroyer would soon be in port, they kept telling him; meantime they brought him hot soup to keep up his strength. Some people fainted, but there was nothing that could be done for them. The first boat-loads of the rescued had filled up the berths of both officers and crew; the rest must hang on to the railings as best they could. They should be thankful it was decent weather, said one of the sailors; the vessel didn’t roll any faster in bad weather, but it rolled much farther in the same time—a distinction which struck Jimmie as over-subtle.
The poor fellow’s arms were numb with exhaustion, he had lost hope that anything in the world ever could be still, when the announcement was made that the harbour was in sight, and everybody’s troubles would soon be over. And sure enough, the rolling gradually became less. The little vessel still quivered from stem to stern with the movement of her enormous engines, but Jimmie didn’t mind that—he was used to machinery; he got himself untied from the railing, and lay down on the floor, right there where he was, and fell asleep. Nor did he open his eyes when they came with a stretcher, and carried him on to a pier and slid him into a motor-truck and whisked him off to a hospital.
JIMMIE HIGGINS ENTERS SOCIETY
When Jimmie took an interest in life again he was lying in a bed: a bed that actually was still, that did not rise with a leaping motion to the ceiling, and then sink like a swift elevator into the basement. Better yet was the fact that this bed had clean sheets, and a lovely angel in spotless white hovering about it. You who read of Jimmie Higgins’s adventures have perhaps been blessed with some of the good things of life, and may need to have it explained to you that never before had Jimmie known what it was to sleep between sheets—to say nothing of clean sheets; never had he known what it was to sleep in a night-gown; never had he had hot broth fetched to him by a snow-white angel with a bright smile and an aureole of golden-brown hair. This marvellous creature waited on his slightest nod, and when she was not busy running errands for him, she sat by his bedside and chatted, asking him all sorts of questions about himself and his life. She thought he was a soldier, and he, shameless wretch, discovered what she thought, and delayed to tell her that he was a common repairer of motor-cycles!