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By Patrick O'Brian

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On Norfolk Island there are millions and millions of mutton-birds,' cried Philips. 'They come in at dusk, dropping out of the sky and going to their burrows; for they live in burrows. And if you go to the mouth of the burrow and call ke ke ke he answers ke ke ke and pokes his head out. ' 'You and your mutton-birds,' began Owen: then he stopped, his ear cocked. Jack opened the door: Stephen, Martin and Padeen stood up: the invalids assumed a rigid posture. ' Ever since Stephen had spoken of the Surprise's stench below as compared with the Nutmeg's purity, sea-water had been let into her hold every night and pumped out in the morning, to purify her bilges.

Stephen's would have been equally harsh and rough, for since he had unwittingly set the whole process in motion he felt morally obliged to rise and toil; and he did rise and toil; nearly destroying himself, until the Captain very kindly told him that it was his duty to keep his hands as smooth as a fine lady's, in order to be able to take a leg off like an artist rather than a butcher's boy. " he cried, and the water gushed along the pump-dales, shooting clear of the side. On and on, an exuberant flood; in half an hour he was dripping sweat on to the deck and his wits were gathering themselves together through the clouds of Stephen's five and thirty drops.

I do not suppose there is my equal for courage in the service: but then, you recall, I was downstairs, playing chess with poor Fox, and knew nothing of it until we were delivered. But as I was saying, Martin was delighted to hear that the mutton-birds would be there by now. He loves a petrel even more than I do; and the mutton-bird, my dear, belongs to that interesting group. ' 'Certainly. I should be happy to oblige him, if landing is possible: sometimes the surf runs very high, by all accounts.

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