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On a Sea-Voyage

(from Alina, Yulia and Lika’s Adventures)


‘Well, when are they going to invite us to dinner?’ Lika’s voice now came from the bathroom. She had found a huge mirror there on the wall and was admiring her own reflection.

‘Did you have time to get hungry?’ Alina was surprised.

‘Not yet, but I’d like to eat in advance. If seasickness suddenly breaks out, this is my only chance to try tasty seafood!’

‘Don’t think about it, and it never breaks out,’ Yulia advised. ‘I’m sure that many of those who get seasick are just waiting for this to happen. They wind themselves up for it, and then annoy others, hanging on the railings with their heads downwards and spoiling the landscape.’

‘You’re reasoning like a real seawoman,’ Lika smiled. She took a camera from her rucksack and was trying to put a film in it. ‘Let me take a picture. Unforgettable shot – “Putting away of “White Iceberg”’.

‘Departing,’ Alina corrected her. ‘Ha, really an outstanding scene! As for me I’m putting away for shower.’

‘I’ve just thought about the same,’ Lika flung to the door with lightning speed, but Alina stood in her way with a bath-towel with the ship’s emblem on it in her hands, ‘While you were thinking, I’ve been the first in line!’

Then Alina put her tongue out teasingly and disappeared behind the door.

Suddenly somebody coughed loudly in the cabin. Lika and Yulia looked at each other being scared and even Alina asked them from the bathroom, ‘Did guests arrive?’

‘Looks like both yes and no,’ Lika was still looking about, though it was absolutely impossible for any stranger to hide in such a compact room.

Again somebody sighed loudly.

‘Guests,’ Yulia giggled nervously. ‘But they are immaterial. Kind of spirits.’

‘Drowned people’s souls,’ Lika stated gloomily.

But at this very moment something clicked in the corner, where those weird sounds just came from, and an agreeable baritone articulated distinctly, ‘Good afternoon, dear passengers! I’m captain Hanks. We are happy to greet you on board our liner “White Iceberg”, and believe, that your voyage will be pleasant. Now you can look over the ship and come to the main deck then, where a friendly dinner is going to start precisely in thirty minutes.’

‘Oh,’ Alina came out of the bathroom wrapped in a bathrobe. ‘So, that’s radio!’

‘Looks like that it’s been specially worked into the wall, in order to frighten passengers,’ Yulia said.

After the girls hastily took a shower and changed their clothes, they went for sightseeing.

The ship impressed both by her size, and number of ladders, corridors, entrances, exits with countless utility rooms.

‘Mark the way,’ Lika recommend gravely. ‘In case of emergency we won’t have time to wander through these twists and turns. We’ll have to act quickly and with team spirit.’

‘What are you talking about?’ Yulia suspiciously stared at her friend. ‘As for me I’m not going to sink.’

‘Nobody asks you what you are going to do,’ answered Lika back, ‘when the ship is suffering wreck. Going – or not going… All sink together. And the strongest survive.’

‘That’s an optimistic start of the voyage, isn’t it?’ Alina smiled. ‘Let’s better make a picture against the steering wheel and talk about some sweeter things.’ She looked at the girls over her shoulder and accidentally saw Philip, the boy who had been picking his violin case with a knife so hard an hour ago before they passed customs control. Phil didn’t see the girls. He was walking fast in the opposite direction hiding something like a small packet under his T-shirt.

‘Wait!’ Alina whispered. ‘Where did he go?’

‘Who?’ Yulia was surprised.

‘Our «Paganini». He just snicked along that pass and went downstairs over there.’

‘He may have friends in the second class,’ – Yulia supposed.

‘Ah, friends!’ Lika put her camera back into its case and hung it round her neck. ‘I’ve told you already when we were passing the customs, that this fellow is absolutely a smuggler.’

‘That’s easy to label an innocent person as a criminal,’ Alina noted, deliberately not looking to Lika’s side. ‘Let’s better follow him and look what he is going to do.’

The three friends turned round about pretending they continue go over the ship and moved backward speeding their step gradually.

‘Where did he hide?’ in fact Lika was already running.

‘Don’t be in such a hurry,’ Yulia gave a pull at Lika’s T-shirt. ‘Don’t you remember? We are looking over the ship. But you are dashing along like a racing car and makes us attention.’

‘Suppose we are making a tour of the ship,’ Lika laughed without reducing her speed. ‘Very quick tour. It’s important both to look over “Iceberg” and to be in time for dinner. I would like to have a bellyful,’ she reminded them in apologising tone, ‘‘till rocking begins.’

The girls turned off into another long corridor and in the very end of it they saw the door behind which Phil had scurried away a moment ago. There was another corridor behind it, and to their surprise the deck was not carpeted there.

Suddenly a square mass materialised just in front of the friends, which appeared to be the captain wearing white tunic and nice peaked cap.

‘Hello, ladies!’ he greeted the girls but had no intention to step outby.

‘Good afternoon, sir!’

‘Where are you going?’ he asked drying his forehead under the cap with a handkerchief. ’What a hot day…’

‘We are going over your kingdom – that was you who’s encouraged everybody to do this,’ Alina made an attempt to flatter the captain but he ignored her words.

‘Great,’ Mister Hanks opened his arms and gently pushed the girls back to the door. ‘Let’s go and resume the excursion together.’

‘But we’ve already seen everything over there,’ Lika protested softly. ‘And now we must go that way,’ delicately trying to move captain Hanks off with her shoulder, she pointed with her hand to the turn in the very end of the corridor, where Phil had escaped unnoticed a moment before.

‘No way,’ the captain sighed. ‘Look, there are no carpets here.’

‘But we are wearing jogging shoes. And this is not of importance for us,’ Lika was pounding away on the same line as before. ‘Though, it would be quite different if one of us is a queen.’

‘But we are not queens,’ Alina confirmed with some regret.

‘We are travelling second-class,’ Yulia realized they had no chance talking this way and decided to change the strategy. ‘It’s third-class over there, isn’t it?’

‘No,’ the captain shook his head. ‘There are a luggage room, a utility room, the galley over there, and one deck lower – the engine-room and some holds. The only thing is that those decks are for the crew only,’ the captain shrugged his shoulders as if he was dreadfully sorry about such a blatant injustice. ‘That’s a pity but this means that you and me – all together – must go another way.’

They walked behind Hanks slowly and weighty and amazed passengers looked after them. The passengers nodded knowingly and whispered among themselves.

At the entrance to a big restaurant, where tables had been already laid for dinner, the captain stopped near a tall whity steward. The latter was busy looking for the names of passengers who came for dinner in a list and telling them the numbers of their tables for a meal during the voyage.

‘These dear ladies will sit at the table number two next to my table,’ the captain said going by him and sailed across the room passing by the company present. He escorted the girls to their table directly and wished them bon appetit. In such a way, purely accidentally, Lika, Yulia and Alina were classified by the public opinion as “VIP’s, familiar to the captain himself”.

That was three-course dinner consisting of a few select dishes. It started with Greek salad of olives, tomatoes, cheese, sweet pepper with olive oil, then, turtle soup and truffled duck were served. Then the following had happened. The lights in the restaurant dimmed, colourful air balls marked “White Iceberg” came down to the tables on invisible threads, and again stewards with trays in their hands appeared. They had small crystal-clear bowls with water on their trays. Stewards put one in the centre of each table, saying nothing about them.

“I know!” Lika cunningly screwed up her eyes. ‘This is kind of a joke. I’ve read about this in my mamma’s magazine. They look if tourists have good manners and how smart they are. Some people drink from these bowls, thinking this water is a refresher after the heavy dinner, but actually it is for another purpose…’ Lika ironically shook her finger at the retreating steward. ‘This water is to wash fingers after the duck. See!’ She looked at her friends with triumph and reached out to the water already, when another steward emerged at the table. He put four coupes with dessert on the table before the girls each decorated with a colourful paper umbrella on a long thin stick. The dessert included ice cream, whipped cream, various fruits, chocolate fondant, and raspberry syrup. After this he put into the bowl with water a tiny candle and carefully lit it with lighter. The same candles were lit in the rest of the bowls. The room filled with pleasant fragrance of butterfly orchid.

‘To wash hands after the duck!’ Alina gave an imitation of Lika corrugating her nose. ‘Why not to launder in it…’

‘This may happen with anybody,’ with her head down Lika was picking at her ice cream with a spoon. Then she got out the paper umbrella projected from the ice cream in her bowl, licked its long thin stick clean and secretly dabbed an air ball, hanging over her head. A thundering explosion stopped soft music of the ship’s orchestra in the room.

‘Oh, oh!’ Lika shrugged her shoulders guiltily. ‘It looks like they’ve inflated those balls with dynamite gas.’

‘Dynamite gas doesn’t exist, – Alina transfixed Lika with a meaningful glance and Yulia laughed.

All eyes now were looking in their direction. The captain was frowning.

Lika slowly rose from her chair and straightened her shoulders:

‘Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon! May I have your attention, please.’

Yulia snapped her eyes shut getting ready to the worst, and Alina shook her head in disapproval.

‘I’m Lika. And these are my friends. Let me introduce them: Yulia and Alina. And now we want to thank the crew and the cook for this excellent dinner. Hurrah!’

Everybody clapped their hands and the captain nodded to the girls with the air of importance.

‘Next time do think before exploding anything,’ Alina whispered. ‘Or else we may be left in the nearest port due to your tricks.’

‘They have no right,’ Lika jerked up her chin. ‘Our voyage has been paid.’

‘This amount is not such big to stand your tricks all the way,’ Alina said delicately.

‘Let’s first arrive to the nearest port!’ Lika continued just as if nothing had happened. ‘And stop, please, don’t be my grandma Sveta,’ her lips curved theatrically in a pleading smile. ‘I hate lectures!’

Nobody knows how this crosstalk would have ended but fortunately a man from the next table thrusted into their conversation.

Lika saw him at the very beginning of the dinner. At first he extremely intently eyed those who came to the restaurant, and then, when he turned to eating his turtle soup, he conducted active «warfare» with his own beard all the time. The beard, perhaps, also wanted soup badly and it permanently tried to plunge into the plate. But her master pretended to eat the delicious dish himself, and carefully took his beard out of the plate every time and soaked it up secretly. And now the Hungry Beard Master started talking...