Our Troubles Begin

Just before supper-time Bumpo appeared from downstairs and went to the Doctor at the wheel.

“A stowaway in the hold, Sir,” said he in a very business-like seafaring voice. “I just discovered him, behind the flour-bags.”

“Dear me!” said the Doctor. “What a nuisance! Stubbins, go down with Bumpo and bring the man up. I can’t leave the wheel just now.”

So Bumpo and I went down into the hold; and there, behind the flour-bags, plastered in flour from head to foot, we found a man. After we had swept most of the flour off him with a broom, we discovered that it was Matthew Mugg. We hauled him upstairs sneezing and took him before the Doctor.

“Why Matthew!” said John Dolittle. “What on earth are you doing here?”

“The temptation was too much for me, Doctor,” said the cat’s-meat-man. “You know I’ve often asked you to take me on voyages with you and you never would. Well, this time, knowing that you needed an extra man, I thought if I stayed hid till the ship was well at sea you would find I came in handy like and keep me. But I had to lie so doubled up, for hours, behind them flour-bags, that my rheumatism came on something awful. I just had to change my position; and of course just as I stretched out my legs along comes this here African cook of yours and sees my feet sticking out—Don’t this ship roll something awful! How long has this storm been going on? I reckon this damp sea air wouldn’t be very good for my rheumatics.”

“No, Matthew it really isn’t. You ought not to have come. You are not in any way suited to this kind of a life. I’m sure you wouldn’t enjoy a long voyage a bit. We’ll stop in at Penzance and put you ashore.