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|Part Three||Hugh Lofting|
IV Our Troubles Continue
|Page 2 of 3||
On the morning of the fifth day out, just as I was taking the wheel over from the Doctor, Bumpo appeared and said,
"The salt beef is nearly all gone, Sir."
"The salt beef!" cried the Doctor. "Why, we brought a hundred and twenty pounds with us. We couldn't have eaten that in five days. What can have become of it?"
"I don't know, Sir, I'm sure. Every time I go down to the stores I find another hunk missing. If it is rats that are eating it, then they are certainly colossal rodents."
Polynesia who was walking up and down a stay-rope taking her morning exercise, put in,
"We must search the hold. If this is allowed to go on we will all be starving before a week is out. Come downstairs with me, Tommy, and we will look into this matter."
So we went downstairs into the store-room and Polynesia told us to keep quite still and listen. This we did. And presently we heard from a dark corner of the hold the distinct sound of someone snoring.
"Ah, I thought so," said Polynesia. "It's a man--and a big one. Climb in there, both of you, and haul him out. It sounds as though he were behind that barrel--Gosh! We seem to have brought half of Puddleby with us. Anyone would think we were a penny ferry-boat. Such cheek! Haul him out."
So Bumpo and I lit a lantern and climbed over the stores. And there, behind the barrel, sure enough, we found an enormous bearded man fast asleep with a well-fed look on his face. We woke him up.
"Washamarrer?" he said sleepily.
It was Ben Butcher, the able seaman.
Polynesia spluttered like an angry fire-cracker.
"This is the last straw," said she. "The one man in the world we least wanted. Shiver my timbers, what cheek!"
"Would it not be advisable," suggested Bumpo, "while the varlet is still sleepy, to strike him on the head with some heavy object and push him through a port-hole into the sea?"
"No. We'd get into trouble," said Polynesia. "We're not in Jolliginki now, you know--worse luck!--Besides, there never was a port-hole big enough to push that man through. Bring him upstairs to the Doctor."
So we led the man to the wheel where he respectfully touched his cap to the Doctor.
"Another stowaway, Sir," said Bumpo smartly. I thought the poor Doctor would have a fit.
"Good morning, Captain," said the man. "Ben Butcher, able seaman, at your service. I knew you'd need me, so I took the liberty of stowing away--much against my conscience. But I just couldn't bear to see you poor landsmen set out on this voyage without a single real seaman to help you. You'd never have got home alive if I hadn't come--Why look at your mainsail, Sir--all loose at the throat. First gust of wind come along, and away goes your canvas overboard--Well, it's all right now I'm here. We'll soon get things in shipshape."
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