(Being an excerpt from 'Mrs Danby and Company' - by Paul Magrs. In this section, renowned adventurer
Professor George Edward Zarathustra tells of doings in the ocean deeps, within and without his patented two man / one woman submersible as he and his fellows encounter a gaggle of terrifying octopi.)
Even I had to admit that the octopi seemed indefatigable. Van Halfling – who must be seventy if he’s a day – was flagging considerably, waving a harpoon gun around quite ineffectually.
Once, I spied Mrs Danby’s worried face at a portal. What would become of that poor, rather plain, woman, if we two gentleman failed in our mission and died out here at the bottom of the sea?
However, it was that resourceful domestic servant who, in the end, saved us all. Somehow she cudgelled her feminine brains and realized that she could utilize the submersible itself to defeat our undersea nemeses. Her eyes turned to the control panels in front of her and lit fortuitously upon the dials that controlled the temperature of the inner and outer skins of the vehicle.
Now, the excellent Mrs Danby saw these controls and noticed that the thermostats were throbbing away and warming the interior of the sub quite nicely. What if… she must have thought… What if I turned the dials right up to the very highest settings? And what if I heated up the exterior of the craft as well? She knew – from her daily labours as cook and housekeeper – rather a lot about the conduction of heat and the uses of hot steam. And so she turned that domestic knowledge to the advantage of us all. On went the switches! Round went the dials! She barely gave herself pause to have doubts. The sweat began running freely at once. That poor lady glowed, perspired and sweated like a horse as the interior of the sub quickly started to overheat. She turned the hue of lobster thermidor before her efforts had any appreciable effect on the beings outside.
The first I knew of it, the umbilicus tethering Van Halfling and I to the sub turned hot. Soon my lungs were scorching and I was feeling rather clammy all over. Van Halfling shot me a look of alarm through his visor and before I could think further, I became aware of the effect that this over-heating was having upon our assailants.
They were being scalded!
All the while, as they had tangled with us, the octopi had left several of their limbs still wrapped securely around the sub. Now, with Mrs Danby’s flash of inspiration, they found themselves and their suckers welded and melting against the metal hull. Mrs Danby was cooking the murderous beggars!
How I wished I could smell them, sizzling away. I chortled at the sight of it. I guffawed – despite my discomfort – at the opaque and doomed look that came into their horrible eyes.
Oh, Mrs Danby! What a genius is she! Van Halfling and I capered happily as all five of our attackers were broiled and blackened and fell from our ship and our exhausted selves. We had triumphed!
Then we had to wave frantically at Mrs Danby, to get her to turn the gauges back down. Otherwise we two would be cooked as well, which would have been very counter-productive. In a lather of sweat and self-congratulation, she grappled with the controls, and then set about finding the correct way to open the airlock and re-admit us to the sub.
Oh, dear Mrs George Herbert Zarathustra. Imagine our glee! Just picture our ruddy complexions as we clambered back inside my tiny sub and stripped off our metal armour. It was still too hot, almost to touch. Van Halfling and I were hopping about in our undergarments, singed and bruised and too excited for words. It was the first time I had seen the old man shaken out of his impeccable calm. He was prancing about in jubilation, ecstatic to be alive. Poor Mrs Danby was flustered and damp, laughing as the pair of us gathered her up in a hug.
Most unseemly behaviour! I am sure you will agree, my darling wife. Who else in the history of mankind has weathered such bizarre calamities – and gigantic calamari – and come out quite unscathed at the other end? Why, only Zarathustra and Company!
Oh, possibly that rapscallion Captain Zero, too. He’s probably encountered such things as well, but that’s a story for another day, as they say.
But here we were – overly hot and overtired – and glad to be alive. Imagine, taking a steam bath at the bottom of the ocean! My very eyeballs felt as if they were being poached like eggs. I had the most marvellous idea then, and flung open the mini-bar, which was sequestered behind an oak panel, revealing several bottles of champagne on ice. We took the ice and rubbed it all over ourselves in order to cool down, and then Mrs Danby opened all the bottles in quick succession. The noise of popping corks was most welcome, though she was careful where they shot off in the confined space.
And so – before we faced our next challenge – I am afraid we three adventurers became rather tiddly."
('Mrs Danby and Company' is available here and here! Please do buy a copy, and tell all your friends about it.)