05 August 2020

from Peter Duck, chapter XVI, The Madeiras at Dusk (Arthur Ransome)

There was always something to see. And, besides, there was always something to do. Susan and Peggy were busy from morning to night with their cooking and housekeeping. 'Shipkeeping, it ought to be called,' as Roger pointed out one day when Susan said she was too busy housekeeping to knit a stocking cap for Gibber. Gibber, by the way, got his stocking cap all right, but it was knitted by Peter Duck when he had finished darning his socks. He knitted it from blue wool, on the pattern of his own, and Susan, when she saw it, let shipkeeping go hang while she made a red woollen tassel to go on the top of it.

Every day the main water tank had to be filled up from the small screw-top tanks that were stored under the flooring down below. In this way Susan was able to keep count of exactly how much water they were using. She never had been very good at sums, and neither had Peggy, but long before the end of that voyage nobody could have found fault with their additions and subtractions and divisions. They were calculating all the time, and often Susan would wake up in the early morning thinking that one of the sums had gone wrong, and then she would sit up in her bunk and work it out again, and tell Titty about it, and Titty, in the bunk below, would also have a go with pencil and paper, trying to help. Inside the deckhouse door there was a card, and every time one of those tins from down below was emptied into the main tank, Susan used to tick it off on this card, so that Captain Flint, too, was able to keep an eye on the way the water was going. They were very careful about the water, doing most of their washing in salt water, using special salt-water soap. It did not make much of a lather, and it left them feeling rather sticky, but anything was better than running short of drinking water. And in the end, Captain Flint said that it was all due to Susan that things went off so well. If she had not been so careful with the water they could never have done what they did.

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