Page:My Life and Loves.djvu/129

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99
THE GREAT NEW WORLD.

with a temperature of about 180 Fahrenheit: in five minutes the sweat was pouring from us and all the while we were standing in icy water that was only kept from rising by the terrific air-pressure. No wonder the headaches were blinding. The men didn't work for more than ten minutes at a time, but I plugged on steadily, resolved to prove myself and get constant employment; only one man, a Swede named Anderson, worked at all as hard. I was overjoyed to find that together we did more than the four others. The amount done each week was estimated, he told me, by an inspector. Anderson was known to the Contractor and received half a wage extra as head of our gang. He assured me I could stay as long as I liked, but he advised me to leave at the end of a month: it was too unhealthy: above all, I mustn't drink and should spend all my spare time in the open. He was kindness itself to me as indeed were all the others. After two hours' work down below we went up into the airlock room to get gradually "decompressed", the pressure of air in our veins having to be brought down gradually to the usual air pressure. The men began to put on their clothes and passed round a bottle of Schnaps; but though I was soon as cold as a wet rat and felt depressed and weak to boot, I would not touch the liquor. In the shed above I took a cupful of hot cocoa with Anderson which stopped the shivering and I was soon able to face the afternoon's ordeal.

I had no idea one could feel so badly when being "decompressed" in the airlock, but I took Anderson's advice and got into the open as soon as I could, and by the time I had walked home in the evening and changed, I felt strong again, but the headache didn't leave me entirely and the earache came back every