Almost as the last stroke was dying away, a scruffy small
man emerged from below rasping his unshaven chin. "Why there you
are Stephen," cried Jack, "Did you finish the coffee?"
Just then, the lookout at the fore topmast cross trees cried
out loudly "Land Ho!". "Whereaway?" cried Jack. "Fine on the
starboard bow." replied the lookout. "It looks like a cloud on the
horizon." "No, man, it is an island." muttered Stephen quietly.
"Are you done?" asked Jack, "would you like to set foot on this
island?". Stephen stared at him. "Are you serious, Jack?" he asked
in a stunned manner, "You would permit me a chance to go ashore,
perhaps find some new specimens?"
The captain's words recalled the doctor to his mission to
the quarterdeck. "Captain, I beg to report that there are several
men who have reported to me with a fever. They are shivering and
shaking and they are all shook up." "Dear Lord, is it contagious?"
asked Jack. "I cannot say" replied the doctor, "but I have tried to
keep them apart from the rest of the crew. But it is a hard task in
a crowded ship."
The captain and the doctor headed down the companionway...
In the intense excitement of throwing two sixes, Quinan
knocked over the bottle, smashing it to pieces. "You had better
get Tequila Mopping, Bert," said Doudle. "Otherwise, we'll
cop it something cruel if the doctor finds out."
Quinan cleared up the mess with a handy swab, carefully
wrapping up the broken glass in his handkerchief and pocketing it.
Just as he finished, the captain and doctor's voices could be heard
approaching. As they swept in, Doudle, with an intense feeling of
déjà vu, grabbed the playing pieces and put them in his mouth.
"Ah, Doudle," said the doctor. "How are you getting along?"
Doudle swallowed painfully. "Prime, sir, prime," he
"That's a fine Pair of Dice Lost," muttered Quinan, sotto voce.
"Good news, men, we have sighted land!" Jack said
cheerfully. "Soon you will all be basking in comfort on a palmy
beach until you are recovered." He turned aside to Stephen and
said, sotto voce, "Three men in a boat, I think, to avoid
contact with the oarsmen. We must not let this spread to the rest
of the crew."
Stephen nodded in agreement. "I shall bleed them all
forthwith. It can only do them goodthat and a blue pill."
Jack resumed his station on the quarterdeck, and not two
hours later, Surprise was nosing her way through a wide channel
into a placid lagoon. The island rejoiced in a wide, white-sand
beach, and the glimmer of fresh water showed through the curved
trunks of the palm trees. Brightly-colored birds darted through the
Stephen appeared at Jack's elbow. "The men are ready to go
ashore," he said, all the while greedily staring at the tropical
bounty before his eyes. "I am with child to be on the
beach," he said. "The Lepidoptera! The Coleoptera! And I long
to see a swiftlet!" He peered over the rail. "And observe the
blue lagoon, and the creatures living there!" His pale cheeks
flushed with anticipation.
Jack held up a hand. "I beg you, Doctor, be prudent." He
pointed. "Sharks." A shadow glided beneath the crystal water not a
biscuit throw distant.
"Stuff! I shall take a small hammer and if accosted, rap the
creature smartly on the nose."
Jack shook his head. "I must insist, Stephen. Stay in a boat
and do not go wading, or worse, swimming. I shall have Bonden row
you about the lagoon."
There was a flurry of activity at the stern. The sick men
had staggered on deck and were awaiting transport. To add to the
confusion, the large hairy dog that belonged to one of the mids
frolicked amongst them, tripping one, who sat down heavily to a
chorus of insults and laughter.
"I must go and supervise my patients," Stephen said, and
made his way aft. "Ho there! Three men in a boat, hear me,
well apart from each other and the crew!" He glared at the hairy
creature who was now enthusiastically licking the face of the
fallen man. "Not to mention the dog! Take him ashore and let
him expend his energy there."
Several days later Jack cut a forbidding sight as he was
rowed ashore. His stern, worried countenance changed to one of
delight as a ragged figure emerged from the treeline and picked his
way through the wrack to the beach.
"Why Stephen, there you are! Apart from a little sunburn you
are unharmed, I find. I regret extremely that the storm forced us
to slip our moorings and escape the lee shore under a scrap of
sail. It was a fearsome blow. The lookout was struck by a flying
coconut miles from shore, shortly before I remembered that we do
not normally post a lookout in such conditions."
"Indeed it was A Night to Remember. When we were
finally able to creep from our miserable shelter and saw that you
had Gone With the Wind, it seemed that you may be some
"We had a sad time of it beating our way back to windward.
But tell me of the men."
"Close observation has revealed the invariable course of the
malady, though its name is unknown to me. In the first stadium, the
victim starts itching like a man on a fuzzy tree. Though he feels
otherwise sound, messmates report his actin' wild as a bug. In the
second stadium, the hands are shaky and the knees are weak, to the
point where he can't seem to stand on his own two feet. In his mind
he is a little mixed up, but feels fine. If left untreated, the
disease progresses to the third and final stadium. The patient
lapses into a solitary consciousness as his tongue gets tied when
he tries to speak. Then there is the inevitable insides shakin'
like a leaf on a tree, and death."
"'If left untreated' ... so there is a cure?"
"There's only one cure: buttercup, of which happily this
island is blessed with an abundance. All the men are recovering. It
was touch and go with Lieutenant Skinner, though the buttercup was
found to answer just in time."
"Excellent, Skinner. I hope I find you well?" said Jack.
"Here come old flattop, he come grooving up slowly, he got
"Almost in time," said Stephen. "But the men's convalescence
allowed me to begin a survey of the island's wonders. I have
observed the bearded ladybird and the coelacanth. I have beheld an
anomalous onychophoran, roaring majestically from the treetops at
his subjects, and not one but two species of brachiating hedgehog.
Such papers I shall write to the Society."
"Aye, sir," added Skinner, "You could see that there had
been a fight, but we saw no blood, we hope the doctor was unharmed"
"Apart from being seized by possible cannibals, you mean" thundered
After following a broad path into the jungle, they found the
bushes and trees growing more densely and the path becoming
narrower. All of sudden the trees opened up into a clearing.
They cast around and soon found other traces of the large
cat accompanied by the bare feet of humans. "There must be
inhabitants on the island, I am surprised we did not find them in
the survey we undertook", thought Jack to himself. "I am glad I
asked the other officers to come ashore, we may need them if the
locals prove to be numerous and hostile."
By now the daylight was fading and the sky darkened. In the
mighty jungle, beneath the thick canopy of trees, it was quiet and
even darker. Jack hoped that he could not only follow the trail,
but the following party of officers would also see where they had
Just then they heard a rhythmic chanting start up, not too
far away. They moved even more carefully towards the sound and soon
reached the edge of a clearing. In the centre of the open space,
they saw Stephen, tied to a stake with alarge fire lighting the
scene. In front of him paced an enormous lion accompanied by a
strangely dressed woman, off to the side was a small group of men
chanting "A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh,...". The
woman was now dancing and singing weirdly in front of Stephen. She
waved a club before him and the lion suddenly lay down.
Stephen's thoughts were interrupted by a confused bellowing.
It was the larboard watch, chanting in voices loud enough to reach
the masthead. A watch-versus-watch singing competition had been
declared, to encourage the hands. It was being judged by
Bornemann, the yeoman of the sheets. Unfortunately, he had
received thumping bribes of grog from both sides and was in no
position to officiate.
Bornemann tumbled over and was now lying in a heap. The big
cat started roaring in disapproval.
"What with the deck lion and fall of the yeoman umpire," thought Stephen, "this contest doesn't stand a chance."
Suddenly a man erupted from below and staggered towards the
quarterdeck. He pointed at Stephen and giggled, "I see a little
silhouetto of a man!" (for indeed, the sun was lowering
directly behind Stephen's meagre frame.)
The singing came to a screeching halt.
The man's attention switched to Jack, and to the company's
collective horror, he entered the Sacred Space and embraced the
Captain. "Scaramouche! Scaramouche!" He smiled coyly.
"Will you do the fandango?" and held up his arms in an
invitation to dance.
"Doctor!" Jack roared, disentangling himself from the
now-gyrating seaman. "I fear the fever has returned!" Coming to the
realization that he was now contaminated with the loathsome
disease, Jack stripped off his coat, kicked off his shoes, and
dived over the railing into the lagoon to cleanse himself (and
escape any further amorous attentions).
Mr. Pullings jumped into the fray, organizing men to capture
the raving man (now strangely talking to his unseen mother about
having killed a man), lowering a boat to collect the captain before
a shark noticed his presence in the glistening blue water, and
another boat to take the captive to the beach for recovery.
Stephen hurried to his sickbay to collect his medical
supplies, only recently brought back aboard. Over his shoulder he
called, "Mr. Pullings, quickly!" He pointed to the horizon, where a
bank of ominous clouds were building up. "Another storm
The smallest mid, a tiny child of ten, blanched.
"Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening me," he
whispered to his pet rat, who was peering cautiously out of the
mid's capacious pocket at all the chaos on deck.
"Do not fear the Storm, boy. The captain will see us
through, as he has done many a time."
Thirty-five drops of the alcoholic tincture of laudanum
calmed the agitated seaman. Stephen then went below so as not to be
in the way of Pullings's preparations for the weather to come.
Entering the cabin, Stephen greeted his new potto, a gift
sent by Christine to accompany her fiancée on this voyage in lieu
of her heart. "Sure, it is the equal of the original in warmth and
tender affection, though not, one hopes, in possessing a tail and
dense fur," he mused.
Across his desk were strewn preliminary notes and sketches
of the island's curiosities and in particular outlines of some
tracks left by the lions in the beach sand. Stephen's intention was
to publish an informal record of his findings to various friends,
scientific acquaintances and followers of his work in natural
Just then came the cry, "Call for the Doctor! He will not
wish to miss this."
Stephen left the Hairy Potto and the Half-Blogged
Prints and went on deck. He was greeted by several of the
officers and men beaming at the sight of the opaque, lowering,
sky-filling cloud now astonishingly split in two to reveal the
Lost Horizon. The Surprise threw out a fine bow wave as the
freshening breeze carried them through this cloud gap toward the
setting sun, exactly in the direction they wished to travel.
"It's The Perfect Storm, grinned Kaminski, a grizzled old fo'c'sle hand, with the peculiar freedom of disaster averted.
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