The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth

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5.

The flat was occupied, it seemed to him— to the exclusion of all other sensible objects— by Mr. Skinner and his voice, if indeed you can call either him or it a sensible object!

The voice was up very high slopping about among the notes of anguish. “Itth impothible for uth to thtop, Thir. We’ve thtopped on hoping thingth would get better and they’ve only got worth, Thir. It ithn’t on’y the waptheth, Thir— thereth big earwigth, Thir— big ath that, Thir.” (He indicated all his hand and about three inches of fat dirty wrist.) “They pretty near give Mithith Thkinner fitth, Thir. And the thtinging nettleth by the runth, Thir, they’re growing, Thir, and the canary creeper, Thir, what we thowed near the think, Thir— it put itth tendril through the window in the night, Thir, and very nearly caught Mithith Thkinner by the legth, Thir. Itth that food of yourth, Thir. Wherever we thplathed it about, Thir, a bit, it’th thet everything growing ranker, Thir, than I ever thought anything could grow. Itth impothible to thtop a month, Thir. Itth more than our liveth are worth, Thir. Even if the waptheth don’t thting uth, we thall be thuffocated by the creeper, Thir. You can’t imagine, Thir—­unleth you come down to thee, Thir— ”

He turned his superior eye to the cornice above Redwood’s head. “’Ow do we know the ratth ’aven’t got it, Thir! That ’th what I think of motht, Thir. I ’aven’t theen any big ratth, Thir, but ’ow do I know, Thir. We been frightened for dayth becauth of the earwigth we’ve theen— like lobthters they wath— two of ’em, Thir— and the frightful way the canary creeper wath growing, and directly I heard the waptheth— directly I ’eard ’em, Thir, I underthood. I didn’t wait for nothing exthept to thow on a button I’d lortht, and then I came on up. Even now, Thir, I’m arf wild with angthiety, Thir. ‘Ow do I know watth happenin’ to Mithith Thkinner, Thir! Thereth the creeper growing all over the plathe like a thnake, Thir— thwelp me but you ’ave to watch it, Thir, and jump out of itth way!— and the earwigth gettin’ bigger and bigger, and the waptheth—. She ’athen’t even got a Blue Bag, Thir— if anything thould happen, Thir!”

“But the hens,” said Mr. Bensington; “how are the hens?”

“We fed ’em up to yethterday, thwelp me,” said Mr. Skinner, “But thith morning we didn’t dare, Thir. The noithe of the waptheth wath— thomething awful, Thir. They wath coming ont— dothenth. Ath big ath ’enth. I thayth, to ’er, I thayth you juth thow me on a button or two, I thayth, for I can’t go to London like thith, I thayth, and I’ll go up to Mithter Benthington, I thayth, and ekthplain thingth to ’im. And you thtop in thith room till I come back to you, I thayth, and keep the windowth thhut jutht ath tight ath ever you can, I thayth.”

“If you hadn’t been so confoundedly untidy— ” began Redwood.

“Oh! don’t thay that, Thir,” said Skinner. “Not now, Thir. Not with me tho diththrethed, Thir, about Mithith Thkinner, Thir! Oh, don’t, Thir! I ’aven’t the ’eart to argue with you. Thwelp me, Thir, I ’aven’t! Itth the ratth I keep a thinking of— ’Ow do I know they ’aven’t got at Mithith Thkinner while I been up ’ere?”

“And you haven’t got a solitary measurement of all these beautiful growth curves!” said Redwood.

“I been too upthet, Thir,” said Mr. Skinner. “If you knew what we been through— me and the mithith! All thith latht month. We ’aven’t known what to make of it, Thir. What with the henth gettin’ tho rank, and the earwigth, and the canary creeper. I dunno if I told you, Thir— the canary creeper … ”

“You’ve told us all that,” said Redwood. “The thing is, Bensington, what are we to do?”

“What are we to do?” said Mr. Skinner.

“You’ll have to go back to Mrs. Skinner,” said Redwood. “You can’t leave her there alone all night.”

“Not alone, Thir, I don’t. Not if there wath a dothen Mithith Thkinnerth. Itth Mithter Benthington— ”

“Nonsense,” said Redwood. “The wasps will be all right at night. And the earwigs will get out of your way— ”

“But about the ratth?”

“There aren’t any rats,” said Redwood.

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