Davy and the Goblin/Chapter XII

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Chapter XII. A Whale in a Waistcoat.

Davy rushed up to the clock, and, pulling open the little door in the front of it, looked inside. To his great disappointment the Goblin had again disappeared, and there was a smooth, round hole running down into the sand, as though he had gone directly through the beach. He was listening at this hole, in the hope of hearing from the Goblin, when a voice said, “I suppose that’s what they call going into the interior of the country;” and, looking up, he saw the Hole-keeper sitting on a little mound in the sand, with his great book in his lap.

The little man had evidently been having a hard time since Davy had seen him. His complexion had quite lost its beautiful transparency, and his jaunty little paper tunic was sadly rumpled, and, moreover, he had lost his cocked hat. All this, however, had not at all disturbed his complacent conceit; he was, if anything, more pompous than ever.

“How did you get here?” asked Davy, in astonishment.

“I’m banished,” said the Hole-keeper, cheerfully. “That’s better than being boiled, any day. Did you give Robinson my letter?”

“Yes, I did,” said Davy, as they walked along the beach together; “but I got it very wet coming here.”

“That was quite right,” said the Hole-keeper. “There’s nothing so tiresome as a dry letter. Well, I suppose Robinson is expecting me by this time, isn’t he?”

“I don’t know, I’m sure,” said Davy. “He didn’t say that he was expecting you.”

“He must be,” said the Hole-keeper, positively. “I never even mentioned it in my letter; so, of course, he’ll know I’m coming. By the way,” he added, hurriedly opening his book, and staring anxiously at one of the blank pages, “there isn’t a word in here about Billyweazles. This place must be full of ’em.”

“What are they?” said Davy.

“They’re great pink birds, without any feathers on ’em,” replied the Hole-keeper, solemnly. “And they’re particularly fond of sugar. That’s the worst thing about ’em.”

“I don’t think there’s anything very wicked in that,” said Davy.

“Oh! of course you don’t,” said the Hole-keeper, fretfully. “But you see I haven’t any trowsers on, and I don’t fancy having a lot of strange Billyweazles nibbling at my legs. In fact, if you don’t mind, I’d like to run away from here.”

“Very well,” said Davy, who was himself beginning to feel rather nervous about the Billyweazles, and accordingly he and the Hole-keeper started off along the beach as fast as they could run.

Presently the Hole-keeper stopped short and said, faintly, “It strikes me the sun is very hot here.”

The sun certainly was very hot, and Davy, looking at the Hole-keeper as he said this, saw that his face was gradually and very curiously losing its expression, and that his nose had almost entirely disappeared.

“What’s the matter?” inquired Davy, anxiously.

“The matter is that I’m going back into the raw material,” said the Hole-keeper, dropping his book, and sitting down helplessly in the sand. “See here, Frinkles,” he continued, beginning to speak very thickly; “wrap me up in my shirt and mark the packish distingly. Take off shir quigly!” and Davy had just time to pull the poor creature’s shirt over his head and spread it quickly on the beach, when the Hole-keeper fell down, rolled over upon the garment, and, bubbling once or twice, as if he were boiling, melted away into a compact lump of brown sugar.

Davy was deeply affected by this sad incident, and, though he had never really liked the Hole-keeper, he could hardly keep back his tears as he wrapped up the lump in the paper shirt and laid it carefully on the big book. In fact, he was so disturbed in his mind that he was on the point of going away without marking the package, when, looking over his shoulder, he suddenly caught sight of the Cockalorum standing close beside him, carefully holding an inkstand, with a pen in it, in one of his claws.

“Oh! thank you very much,” said Davy, taking the pen and dipping it in the ink. “And will you please tell me his name?”

The Cockalorum, who still had his head done up in flannel, and was looking rather ill, paused for a moment to reflect, and then murmured, “Mark him ‘Confectionery.’”

This struck Davy as being a very happy idea, and he accordingly printed “Confexionry” on the package in his very best manner. The Cockalorum, with his head turned critically on one side, carefully inspected the marking, and then, after earnestly gazing for a moment at the inkstand, gravely drank the rest of the ink and offered the empty inkstand to Davy.

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The cockalorum carefully inspected the marking.

“I don’t want it, thank you,” said Davy, stepping back.

“No more do I,” murmured the Cockalorum, and, tossing the inkstand into the sea, flew away in his usual clumsy fashion.

Davy, after a last mournful look at the package of brown sugar, turned away, and was setting off along the beach again, when he heard a gurgling sound coming from behind a great hummock of sand, and, peeping cautiously around one end of it, he was startled at seeing an enormous whale lying stretched out on the sand basking in the sun, and lazily fanning himself with the flukes of his tail. The great creature had on a huge white garment, buttoned up in front, with a lot of live seals flopping and wriggling at one of the button-holes, and with a great chain cable leading from them to a pocket at one side. Before Davy could retreat the Whale caught sight of him and called out, in a tremendous voice, “How d’ye do, Bub?”

“I’m pretty well, I thank you,” said Davy, with his usual politeness to man and beast. “How are you, sir?”

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“I’m pretty well, I thank you,” said Davy.

“Hearty!” thundered the Whale; “never felt better in all my life. But it’s rather warm lying here in the sun.”

“Why don’t you take off your”—Here Davy stopped, not knowing exactly what it was the Whale had on.

“Waistcoat,” said the Whale, condescendingly. “It’s a canvas-back-duck waistcoat. The front of it is made of wild duck, you see, and the back of it out of the fore-top-sail of a brig. I’ve heard they always have watches on board of ships, but I couldn’t find any on this one, so I had to satisfy myself with a bit of chain cable by way of a watch-guard. I think this bunch of seals rather sets it off, don’t you?”

“Yes, rather,” said Davy, doubtfully; “only they slobber so.”

“Ah, that reminds me that it’s wash-day,” said the Whale; and here he spouted a great stream of water out of the top of his head and let it run down in a little cascade all over the front of his waistcoat. The seals seemed to enjoy this amazingly, and flopped about in an ecstasy.

“What do whales eat?” said Davy, who thought it was a good time for picking up a little information.

“Warious whales wants warious wiands,” replied the Whale. “That’s an old sea-saw, you know. For my part I’m particularly fond of small buoys.”

“I don’t think that is a very nice taste,” said Davy, beginning to feel very uneasy.

“Oh! don’t be frightened,” bellowed the Whale, good-naturedly. “I don’t mean live boys. I mean the little red things that float about in the water. Some of ’em have lights on ’em, and them are particularly nice and crisp.”

“Is it nice being a Whale?” said Davy, who was anxious to change the subject.

“Famous!” said the Whale, with an affable roar. “Great fun, I assure you! We have fish-balls every night, you know.”

“Fish-balls at night!” exclaimed Davy. “Why, we always have ours for breakfast.”

“Nonsense!” thundered the Whale, with a laugh that made the beach quake; “I don’t mean anything to eat. I mean dancing parties.”

“And do you dance?” said Davy, thinking that if he did it must be a very extraordinary performance.

“Dance?” said the Whale, with a reverberating chuckle. “Bless you! I’m as nimble as a sixpence. By the way I’ll show you the advantage of having a bit of whalebone in one’s composition;” and with these words the Whale curled himself up, then flattened out suddenly with a tremendous flop, and, shooting through the air like a flying elephant, disappeared with a great splash in the sea.

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“I’m as nimble as a sixpence” said the Whale.

Davy stood anxiously watching the spot where he went down, in the hope that he would come up again; but he soon discovered that the Whale had gone for good. The sea was violently tossed about for a few moments, and then began circling out into great rings around the spot where the Whale had gone down. These soon disappeared, however, and the water resumed its lazy ebb and flow upon the shore; and Davy, feeling quite lonesome and deserted, sat down on the sand, and gazed mournfully out upon the sea.