WEEVIL AND THE SILENT SEA



It was a beautiful day. Weevil left the house at great speed and away he went, down the road, across the bridge and along the track into the bush.

This day he had with him the usual bag of goodies -- lunch, and soft drinks -- but also the inflatable raft with foot pump and paddle. There had been some discussion in the house about this, and almost as soon as he had left, his mother Nancy turned to his father, and said:

"John, we really should not have let Waverley go with the raft. Supposing something happened to him."

And John replied, "Well, not much could happen. There's very little water there, near the cabin."

"But," said Felicity, Waverley's sister, "people can drown in four inches of water."

John glared at her. "Thanks for being so comforting," he said, in his most critical tone.

"Suppose it sprang a leak," said Nancy.

"Or the plug got pulled out and all the air went out," said Felicity.

John was not too pleased with these remarks. "It's a fine time to talk about this now," he said, "I'm sure he's a very trustworthy and competent little boy."

But while there were some misgivings within the house about Weevil's planned adventure for the day, he went along blissfully unaware of the second thoughts his family was having.

With so much to think about, now that he had the raft, it seemed almost no time before he arrived at the cabin. He knew there was a small creek nearby that led into a lake, so he followed this along and soon arrived at the water's edge. Here he found a more or less flat rock, and sitting upon it he hooked up the foot pump, unfolded the raft, and soon had the raft filled with air and ready to launch. One end of the mooring line was already attached to the craft. With the free end he took a turn around a stump at the water's edge, climbed carefully aboard with his lunch, reached back to the rock for the paddle, stowed the pump, cast off from the stump, and was ready to begin his journey.

There was scarely a ripple of wind on the water, and as he paddled gently along by the shore he could see where the birds were nesting, and hear their song, one after another from different levels of branches, or from overhead as they flew. Several times there were large "plops" in the water, as what might have been a large fish rose to a fly on the surface, or perhaps a bull frog jumping from a lily pad. Although it was a very small lake, further out from the shore, as he now paddled, he could see trees ascending in lines up the rocky slopes in all directions and the different colourations of water showing the depths beneath. It was a perfect picture, on a perfect day.

Weevil bent down to inspect his lunch bag, and then, cautiously remaining seated, looked among the contents for something good to eat. Having made his decision, he slowly unbent from his examination of the food supply, and leant back with great pleasure, resting somewhat against the edge of the raft. As he did so, it seemed to him that there was a shimmering on the water now, first in one direction and then another. While he looked, it was as though the landscape began dissolving into a mirage of sea mist, and in the distance it appeared that there were waves with crests of whiteness on them, stretching out to a great distance. He looked around; it seemed the same in all directions, and now he suddenly felt very alone. The sun was hot above him, though not yet unpleasantly. But all around was water, as far as he could see, and there he was with his one frail raft, small food supply, a pump, and a paddle.

Being of strong character, he was not daunted by this discovery, but decided that he should paddle in one direction or another. He then recalled that you had to try to decide what time of day it was, where the sun was, and as the day wore on, form a general impression of one's distance from the pole or the equator by the height of the sun at its highest point. Knowing that it was summer time, he would then form some idea where east was, and west was, and how far north or south he was. He wondered how long he could survive in the raft with his meagre food supply, and began to peer into the darkish water beyond the raft in case there was hope of supplementing his diet with fish. But of course he had no means to cook them and did not fancy raw fish. The question of what to drink would also arise soon, no doubt.

While these thoughts were crossing his mind, he continually looked at the surface of the water near and far in case he should see another voyager, with whom he could make contact.

After some little while he thought he made out in the distance what looked like a very small sail on another squarish craft. As far as he could tell it seemed to be some sort of raft. Comforted a little by this appearance so far off, he ate, though sparingly, and awaited the approach of the strange craft. It would be some time later, when the sun had risen higher, then stopped rising, that he could see the sun was still not right overhead, so that as it was summertime he should be well north of the equator. He appeared then to be going in the general direction in which the sun had been rising, presumably somewhere easterly. The strange raft was all the while coming closer. Now he could make out one man, very strong looking, with powerful arms and shoulders, dressed in a form of tunic. A huge, double-edged axe was fastened upright on the side of his craft, and next to it stood this great man, staring in his direction and veering his craft towards him.



It seemed to have been made with logs jointed together, and on top of these were pieces of lighter wood interwoven and fastened down to form a protective railing and partially at least keep out the waves.

There was a steering oar lashed at one end and as the craft drew within hailing distance the great man stared down at Weevil and his tiny craft.

"Greetings," he said. "Where are you going and what kind of craft is that?"

"Well," said Weevil, "I'm not really sure where I'm going, because I can't seem to find where I came from, and as to my craft, it's an inflatable rubber raft."

The huge man smiled at him in a kindly way. "Throw me your rope," he said, "before I pass by, so that we can journey together and talk awhile."

"That's fine. My name is Waverley, but you might as well call me Weevil, since everyone else does," called Weevil, tossing the rope to the man who caught it at once, and hitched it to his own craft.

"Come aboard," he said.

Weevil, first making sure his sandwiches and other food were safe, clambered up, clutching his paddle. He had to negotiate the

wooden railing. Once safely over it he found himself on quite a large raft, perhaps twenty by twenty-five feet. The sail was equally large.

"My, this is a strong boat," said Weevil. "Did you build it yourself?"

"I did," he replied, "with these tools."

And Weevil saw him point to the double headed axe, a wood auger strapped next to it, on the gunwale, and an adze.

"You made all this with just that?" asked Weevil incredulously.

"Yes," he said, "it didn't take me long."

"It would take me forever," said Weevil, "though with my little raft I can let the air out and roll it up in a jiffy. And pump it up again when I need to paddle some more. That's something you can't do. But where are we?"

"Well," said the huge man, "I wish we knew. I was told to keep the Great Bear on my left when I started out, which I have done, so I must be going east somewhere."

"That's pretty vague," said Weevil. "Oh, by the by, what's your name, since I told you mine."

"My name," said the man in a ponderous voice, "is Odysseus."



"Oh, I've heard about you," said Weevil. "But didn't you have lots of ships and men?"

"Yes, I did," said Odysseus. "Unfortunately we were attacked, and I lost them all but my own ship, and that too was struck in a storm a little later, and I alone survived."

"How could you do that?" asked Weevil. "Were you in charge?"

"Yes, I was," said Odysseus.

"Well, then," said Weevil, "if you were the captain you were supposed to go down with your ship."

"I've never heard of that," said Odysseus. "It's every man for himself. I have certainly seen some strange things," he added, "but never a small boy in the ocean on an inflatable raft. I must tell Homer about this when I get back."

"How could you do that?" said Weevil. "Homer isn't born yet. He lived long after you."

"Yes, that's quite true," said Odysseus, "but I don't mean tell him by speaking to him. I mean that later on, when he's thinking about what he's writing, I will just drop the thought into his head."

"How could you do that? said Weevil. "That's not possible."

"Yes, for me it is," said Odysseus. "You know, I'm half a god and half a man."

"That explains building the raft then," said Weevil, "which I could never do. Since you can do all these things, perhaps you can tell us where we are going. I have been reading about you, and nobody seems to have the faintest idea where you went."

"I agree," said Odysseus, "I have been trying to figure out ever since I left where I came from, where I am, and where I am going, but at the moment I must admit it is a complete mystery."

Since this was of no help, and to change the subject, Weevil asked, "Why does that bird that looks like a huge seagull, sit on the edge of your raft?"



"That," said Odysseus haughtily, "is not a seagull. It's a gannet, and more than that, it's not even a gannet. It's a goddess that looks like a gannet."

"Come now," said Weevil, "I can tell a sea bird when I see it." The bird turned and looked accusingly at him. "Young man," it said, "you had better pay a little more respect when there are Immortals present. Although you may have a strange and interesting craft there, it does not entitle you to speak mockingly of the gods."

"I am sorry," said Weevil. "Why are you here, then, and in such a strange shape?"

"It suits my purpose," replied the goddess, " to assume this shape, and I am here to help Odysseus when he becomes shipwrecked."

"Well," said Weevil, "if you know he is going to become shipwrecked, why don't you stop it?"

"It's not that easy," admitted the goddess. "I have power to help him when he needs it, but I cannot prevent the raft being wrecked on the rocks. You see there are other Immortals more powerful than I who decide these things."

"Oh, I see," said Weevil, "like the government."

Odysseus turned and looked at Weevil sternly, "We are the government," he said.

Weevil smiled brightly, "That must be why, then, you don't know where you are, or where you're going. I'm sorry," he went on, "I didn't mean that. If I were sure I'd be home by suppertime I could offer you a sandwich."

"No thank you," said Odysseus, "I have two skins, one full of wine and another of water, and lots of food, and the goddess in her present form helps herself to fish when she needs food."

"Well, thank you," said Weevil, "for a very pleasant visit, but perhaps I should be casting off and going my own way. I am not sure I am supposed to go where you are going, particularly if you are to end up being shipwrecked, or raft-wrecked."

"That's just the problem," said Odysseus, "it really is very difficult to navigate. Some days it's perfect sailing, just like today, and then in the mornings and evenings I'm sometimes becalmed and other days I'm just blown back the way I came, or blown off course northerly or southerly."

"Well, I do know one thing," said Weevil, "although you may have to be shipwrecked, you will get safely home."

"Thanks," said Odysseus, "but I'm not too concerned after all I've been through. A matter of a little shipwreck of a raft will not trouble me too much."

Weevil reluctantly said goodbye to them both, and returned to his own small craft, and, watching them sail away into the distance, continued carefully eating and drinking small amounts from his supplies. There was no point, he thought, in getting mixed up with people who were going to have a difficult time ahead over three thousand years ago. Better to face his problems today. So he went along, travelling in the same general direction as the big raft when he resumed paddling. He was trying now to think how to retrace his journey back to the small lake and the cabin.

He sat there disconsolately looking at the moving water and from the corner of his eye catching a glimpse of the great raft with its

sail and helmsman disappearing gradually on the horizon. Once more he was alone upon the great sea.

He peered gloomily over the side and said to himself, "I wonder what I will be able to eat when the food supply has given out."

Suddenly, a long brown snout broke through the water, that had what looked to be for all that Weevil could tell a bony extension on the front, just like a primitive saw. And this was about five feet long.



The fish swam beside the little raft looking, as Weevil sensed, rather greedily at him.

"Yes," the fish said in a rather loud voice. "This question I ask myself almost daily. What indeed will I do when my meagre food supply gives out? However, I am glad to have met you, because I will shortly test my sharp saw on your little raft here and see whether I can add you to my menu for the day."

"But I am not a fish," said Weevil quickly. "You are making a great mistake."

"I don't think so," said the fish, "I am very experienced at selecting a menu from the things around me, and I am of the present opinion that I can quickly puncture your raft and dine very well upon your plump body for several days."

While Weevil was thinking this over, the fish slowly circled the raft, holding its five foot long saw out of the water the more to impress Weevil with the hopelessness of his situation.

"I have some very succulent sandwiches," Weevil offered, and thought to himself, well at least they were succulent, what's left of them, although the sun has dried them out a little.

"What are sandwiches to me?" said the fish. "It's good red meat I'm after," and he continued circling the raft, all the while eyeing Weevil most carefully. "Well now," said the fish, "let's see how tough this raft of yours really is." He backed away, twenty feet or more, ready to take a run at it, saw first. Weevil gripped his paddle firmly, but knew his situation was really rather hopeless.

Just then a shot rang out and a loud whizzing noise with some spluttering passed by Weevil from behind him and landed right next to the fish, bursting into a reddish flare of light, burning on the water.

The sawfish splashed noisily down into the water and disappeared from sight.

Weevil turned to look behind him and found that while his attention was centered on the fish, yet another raft had been approaching him from the west. This was a very different raft, however, inflatable like his own, and carrying a small sail. It had what seemed to be someone in airman's uniform, navigating it, and holding a pistol in one hand.

"Hallo there," the man called. He had blond hair and bright blue eyes, with a sunburnt smiling face.

"Thanks. Who are you?" called Weevil.

"I'm Olaf," replied the cheerful man.

"How did you get here? asked Weevil, adding, "My name is Weevil."

"Well, my plane was shot down," replied Olaf. "But not to worry, there are very few places in the world you can keep sailing along without reaching land sometime. You'd better come aboard with me."

"Where are you going, then?" asked Weevil.

"Well," said Olaf, "I think I came down about halfway across the North Sea and expect to reach my own coast of Norway in about two or three days if the weather holds."

Weevil pondered over that rather carefully. "You know, Olaf," he said, "we have only just met and you tell me we are in the North Sea, and you are heading for Norway. Now that sounds like a long way from home to me. Before that, as you saw, I was being attacked by a sawfish and I really thought that those fishes lived in the Pacific Ocean, or somewhere like that. Before that, not long ago, I met Odysseus on his raft, with a goddess, and he didn't know where he was at all."

"Oh, really?" said Olaf. He began to shift uncomfortably and look at Weevil rather queerly just in the way that other members of Weevil's family used to do at home when he had finished telling them one of his adventures.

"I think," said Olaf decisively, "that you are probably quite right. You would be much better off carrying on the way you are, since you seem to be doing so well, and are quite safe, and I will continue on my way and hope to reach Norway by the weekend."

"Well," called Weevil in parting, "I wish you lots of luck."

"And a good voyage to you," called Olaf as he waved goodbye, with the strange look still on his face, while the sail began to carry him away past Weevil and his little raft.

Weevil noticed that the sun was starting its descent on what must be the western side of the sky. He began to be rather concerned as to how he would get home before night fall. "It's just not possible," he muttered to himself. "How could I have got myself out here in the middle of nowhere, or the Pacific Ocean, or the North Sea, or wherever I am?"

At this moment he looked at his food supply again and realized that it was almost all gone. "There's less than half a sandwich left," he said. "I suppose I will have to eat fish. But how to catch them and how to cook them?" At this moment a fish being chased by a larger one leapt out of the water about forty feet away, and skimmed along in the air just above the sea.



The fish finally crashed against the side of the raft and flopped over into the bottom, next to Weevil. It had wide fins like wings which obviously enabled it to glide over the water.

"This must be a flying fish," said Weevil, "but I've never heard of flying fish in the North Sea."

"North Sea, indeed," gasped the fish, "I don't know where you are, but I'm in the tropical South Atlantic, and have been all my life."

"Really," said Weevil, "this is preposterous. And what are you doing in my raft?"

"As a matter of fact," said the fish, panting a little, "I'm grateful to you in a way. You saw I was being chased by a bonito."

"Why, you're changing colour." said Weevil. "Are you ill?"

"No, not at all," replied the fish, "we can only stay out of the water for a short while. I must get back fairly soon. But what are you doing here? This is a very dangerous place. You can't swim at forty knots, and I hate to think what would happen to you were a tiger shark to come along."

"Please," said Weevil, "don't make things worse than they are now. I have enough problems already, what with food running out, far from home, and the sun starting to set."

"You see," said the flying fish, "that faint mist over there to the north?"

"Yes, I think I do," said Weevil.

"I've heard," said the flying fish, "that if you travel that way far enough you'll find land. So I suggest you go that way."

"That's very kind of you," said Weevil, "would you like me to help you into the water?"

"Just look down below your raft first," cautioned the fish, "and see that there are no bonitos there."

Weevil peered over both sides. "No," he said finally, "I can't see a thing."

"Very good then," said the flying fish, "please drop me over the side." Which Weevil proceeded to do.

"Goodbye," called the fish, and disappeared in a flash. And a few yards away, he popped out of the water to skim along again in the air just as before.

Weevil now set his eyes ahead to where he was told was the north, and thought he could definitely see a faint mist shimmering over the water. He still had plenty of energy to paddle, because he had not done much paddling so far, but had been more involved in his adventures. So now he set out with a strong stroke, trying to keep the raft on course, heading for the mist in the far distance. The sun set a little more in the west and Weevil paddled as hard as he could. The water seemed to become smoother and calmer, and then almost like polished glass, shimmering and silent.

On he went, paddling towards the mist, and soon it covered the water from side to side. On he went, into the mist, and he thought he saw a lighthouse standing at the edge of rocks.



There seemed to be the faint sound of the clanging bell of a buoy. "My, this is a thick fog," he said to himself, paddling and listening with all his ears. After awhile the mist began to thin a little and the clanging of the bell on the buoy seemed to subside. Then, very faintly, unbelievably, he thought he heard the sound of frogs and birdsong. Those, he knew, must mean that land was close at hand. Faintly in the distance he thought he saw a bird sweeping in wide arcs high in the air, and swooping down with a whistle of wings, very like the sparrow hawks he had often seen before, above the trees.

Beyond the clearer water ahead it seemed that he could see tall pines, and red oaks and tamaracks and maple. And then, there they were, clearly, with yellow birch, white birch, poplars and beeches. There was the shore line ahead of him and on his right he could see, in the distance, emerging, the rock, the very rock, from which he had launched the raft to journey across the lake.

Quickly now he paddled to reach the shore, drew up the raft on the rock, released the air, shook off the water, rolled up the raft and made off down the trail towards home as fast as he could, eating his last half sandwich as he went.

He could imagine the questions when he reached home. "Where have you been all day, Weevil? What have you been doing today?"

"Well," he said to himself as he hurried along, "one thing is for sure, I'm not going to tell them about Olaf and Odysseus."

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