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Part Four Hugh Lofting

IV Wrecked!

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WHEN I awoke I was very hazy in my head. The sky was blue and the sea was calm. At first I thought that I must have fallen asleep in the sun on the deck of the Curlew. And thinking that I would be late for my turn at the wheel, I tried to rise to my feet. I found I couldn't; my arms were tied to something behind me with a piece of rope. By twisting my neck around I found this to be a mast, broken off short. Then I realized that I wasn't sitting on a ship at all; I was only sitting on a piece of one. I began to feel uncomfortably scared. Screwing up my eyes, I searched the rim of the sea North, East, South and West: no land: no ships; nothing was in sight. I was alone in the ocean!

At last, little by little, my bruised head began to remember what had happened: first, the coming of the storm; the sails going overboard; then the big wave which had banged me against the door. But what had become of the Doctor and the others? What day was this, to-morrow or the day after?--And why was I sitting on only part of a ship?

Working my hand into my pocket, I found my penknife and cut the rope that tied me. This reminded me of a shipwreck story which Joe had once told me, of a captain who had tied his son to a mast in order that he shouldn't be washed overboard by the gale. So of course it must have been the Doctor who had done the same to me.

But where was he?

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The awful thought came to me that the Doctor and the rest of them must be drowned, since there was no other wreckage to be seen upon the waters. I got to my feet and stared around the sea again--Nothing--nothing but water and sky!

Presently a long way off I saw the small dark shape of a bird skimming low down over the swell. When it came quite close I saw it was a Stormy Petrel. I tried to talk to it, to see if it could give me news. But unluckily I hadn't learned much sea-bird language and I couldn't even attract its attention, much less make it understand what I wanted.

Twice it circled round my raft, lazily, with hardly a flip of the wing. And I could not help wondering, in spite of the distress I was in, where it had spent last night--how it, or any other living thing, had weathered such a smashing storm. It made me realize the great big difference between different creatures; and that size and strength are not everything. To this petrel, a frail little thing of feathers, much smaller and weaker than I, the Sea could do anything she liked, it seemed; and his only answer was a lazy, saucy flip of the wing! HE was the one who should be called the ABLE SEAMAN. For, come raging gale, come sunlit calm, this wilderness of water was his home.

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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