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  Part Four Hugh Lofting

III Bad Weather

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AS soon as I had the Curlew swung round upon her course again I noticed something peculiar: we were not going as fast as we had been. Our favorable wind had almost entirely disappeared.

This, at first, we did not worry about, thinking that at any moment it might spring up again. But the whole day went by; then two days; then a week,--ten days, and the wind grew no stronger. The Curlew just dawdled along at the speed of a toddling babe.

I now saw that the Doctor was becoming uneasy. He kept getting out his sextant (an instrument which tells you what part of the ocean you are in) and making calculations. He was forever looking at his maps and measuring distances on them. The far edge of the sea, all around us, he examined with his telescope a hundred times a day.

"But Doctor," I said when I found him one afternoon mumbling to himself about the misty appearance of the sky, "it wouldn't matter so much would it, if we did take a little longer over the trip? We've got plenty to eat on board now; and the Purple Bird-of-Paradise will know that we have been delayed by something that we couldn't help."

"Yes, I suppose so," he said thoughtfully. "But I hate to keep her waiting. At this season of the year she generally goes to the Peruvian mountains-- for her health. And besides, the good weather she prophesied is likely to end any day now and delay us still further. If we could only keep moving at even a fair speed, I wouldn't mind. It's this hanging around, almost dead still, that gets me restless--Ah, here comes a wind-- Not very strong--but maybe it'll grow."

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A gentle breeze from the Northeast came singing through the ropes; and we smiled up hopefully at the Curlew's leaning masts.

"We've only got another hundred and fifty miles to make, to sight the coast of Brazil," said the Doctor. "If that wind would just stay with us, steady, for a full day we'd see land."

But suddenly the wind changed, swung to the East, then back to the Northeast--then to the North. It came in fitful gusts, as though it hadn't made up its mind which way to blow; and I was kept busy at the wheel, swinging the Curlew this way and that to keep the right side of it.

Presently we heard Polynesia, who was in the rigging keeping a look-out for land or passing ships, screech down to us,

"Bad weather coming. That jumpy wind is an ugly sign. And look!--over there in the East--see that black line, low down? If that isn't a storm I'm a land-lubber. The gales round here are fierce, when they do blow--tear your canvas out like paper. You take the wheel, Doctor: it'll need a strong arm if it's a real storm. I'll go wake Bumpo and Chee-Chee. This looks bad to me. We'd best get all the sail down right away, till we see how strong she's going to blow."

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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