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Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was born in Wales. His books are mostly fantasy, and full of imagination. They are always a little cruel, but never without humour - a thrilling mixture of the grotesque and comic. He didn't only write books for grown-ups, but also for children. However, his stories are so sarcastic and humorous, that also adults appreciate reading them.

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On the morning of the third day, the sea calmed. Even the most delicate passengers – those who had not been seen around the ship since sailing time – came out of their rooms and made their way slowly onto the sundeck and sat there, with their faces turned to the pale January sun.

It had been fairly rough for the first two days, and this sudden calm, and the sense of comfort that came with it, made the whole ship seem much friendlier. By the time evening came, the passengers, with twelve hours of good weather behind them, were beginning to feel more courageous. At eight o’clock that night, the main dining room was filled with people eating and drinking with the confident appearance of experienced sailors.

The meal was not half over when the passengers realized, by the slight movement of their bodies on the seats do their chairs that the big ship had actually started rolling again. It was very gentle at first, just a slow, lazy leaning to one side, then to the other, but it was enough to cause a slight but immediate loss of good humour around the room. A few of the passengers looked up from their food, waiting, almost listening for the next roll, smiling nervously, with little secret looks of fear in their eyes. Some were completely calm; others were openly pleased with themselves and made jokes about the food and the weather in order to annoy the few who were beginning to suffer. The movement of the ship then became rapidly more and more violent and only five or six minutes after the first roll had been noticed, the ship was swinging heavily from side to side.

At last, a really bad roll came, and Mr. William Botibol, sitting at the purser's table, saw his plate of fish sliding suddenly away from under his fork. Everybody, now, was reaching for plates and wine glasses. Mrs. Renshaw, seated at the purser’s right, gave a little scream and held onto that gentleman’s arm.

“It’s going to be a rough night,” the purser said, looking at Mrs. Renshaw. “I think there’s a storm coming that will give us a very rough night.” There was just the the faintest suggestion of pleasure in the way he said it.

Most of the passengers continued with their meal. A small number, including Mrs. Renshaw, got carefully to their feet and made their way between the tables and through the doorway, trying to hide the urgency they felt.

“Well,” the purser said, “There she goes.” He looked round with approval at the remaining passengers who were sitting quietly, with their faces showing openly that pride that travellers seem to take in being recognized as ‘good sailors’.

When the eating was finished and the coffee had been served, Mr.Botibol, who had been unusually serious and thoughtful since the rolling started, suddenly stood up and carried his cup of coffee around to Mrs. Renshaw’s empty place, next to the purser. He seated himself in her chair, then immediately leaned over and began to whisper urgently in the purser’s ear. “Excuse me,” he said, “but could you tell me something, please?”

The purser, small and fat and red, bent forward to listen. “What’s the trouble, Mr.Botibol?”

“What I want to know is this.” The man’s face was anxious and the purser was watching it. “What I want to know is: will the captain already have made his guess at the day's run – you know, for the competition? I mean, will he have done so before it began to get rough like this?” The purser lowered his voice, as one does when answering a whisperer. “I should think so – yes.”
“About how long ago do you think he did it?”
“Some time this afternoon. He usually does it in the afternoon.”
“About what time?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Around four o’clock I should think.”
“Now tell me another think. How does the captain decide which number it will be? Does he take a lot of trouble over that?”

The purser looked at the anxious face of Mr. Botibol and smiled, knowing quite well what the man was trying to find out. “Well, you see, the captain has a little meeting with the second officer, and they study the weather and a lot of other thinks, and then they make their guess.”

Mr. Botibol thought about this answer for a moment. Then he said, “Do you think the captain knew there was bad weather coming today?”
“I couldn’t tell you,” the purser replied. He was looking into the small black eyes of the other man, seeing two single little spots of excitement dancing in their centres. “I really couldn’t tell you, Mr Botibol. I wouldn’t know.”
“If this gets any worse, it might be worth buying some of the low numbers. What do you think?” The whispering was more urgent, more anxious now.
“Perhaps it will,” the purser said. “I doubt whether the captain allowed for a really rough night. It was quite calm this afternoon when he made his guess.”
The others at the table had become silent and were trying to hear what the purser was saying.
“Now suppose you were allowed to buy a number, which one would you choose today?” Mr. Botibol asked.
“I don’t know what the range is yet,” the purser patiently answered. “They don’t announce the range until the auction starts after dinner. And I’m really not very good at it in any case. I’m only the purser, you know.”

At that point, Mr.Botibol stood up. “Excuse me, everyone,” he said, and he walked carefully away between the other tables. Twice he had to catch hold of the back of a chair to steady himself against the ship’s roll.

As he stepped out onto the sundeck, he felt the full force of the wind. He took hold of the rail and held on tight with both hands, and he stood there looking out over the darkening sea where the great waves were rising up high.

“Quite bad out there, isn’t sir?” said a waiter, as he went back inside again.
Mr. Botibol was combing his hair back into place with a small red comb. “Do you think we’ve slowed down at all because of the weather?” he asked.
“Oh, yes, sir. We’ve slowed down a great deal since this started. You have to slow down in weather like this or you’ll be throwing the passengers all over the ship.”

Down in the smoking room people were already arriving for the auction. They were grouping themselves politely around the various tables, the men a little stiff in their dinner jackets, a little pink beside their cool, white-armed women. Mr. Botibol took a chair close to the auctioneer’s table. He crossed his legs, folded his arms, and settled himself in his seat with the appearance of a man who has made a very important decision and refuses to be frightened.

The winner, he was telling himself, would probably get around seven thousand dollars. That was almost exactly what the total auction money had been for the last two days, with the numbers selling for about three or four hundred each. As it was a British ship the auction would be in pounds, but he liked to do his thinking in dollars, since he was more familiar with them. Seven thousand dollars was plenty of money. Yes, it certainly was! He would ask them to pay him in hundred-dollar notes and he would take them off the ship in the inside pocket of his jacket. No problem there. He would buy a new car immediately. He would collect it on the way from the ship and drive it home just for the pleasure of seeing Ethel’s face when she came out of the front door and looked at it. Wouldn’t that be wonderful, to see Ethel’s face when he drove up to the door in a new car? Hello, Ethel, dear, he would say. I’ve just bought you a little present. I saw it in the window as I went by, so I thought of you and how you always wanted one. Do you like it, dear? Do you like the colour? And then he would watch her face.

The auctioneer was standing up behind his table now. “Ladies and gentlemen!” he shouted. “The captain has guessed the day’s run, ending midday tomorrow, at 830 kilometres. As usual, we will take the ten numbers on either side of it to make up the range. That means 820 to 840. And of course for those who think the true figure will be still further away, there will be “low field” and “high field” sold separately as well. Now, we'll draw the first number out of the hat… here we are… 827?

The room became quiet. The people sat still in their chairs, all eyes watching the auctioneer. There was a certain tension in the air, and as the offers got higher, the tension grew. This wasn’t a game or joke; you could be sure of that by the way one man would look across at another who had made a higher offer - smiling perhaps, but only with the lips, while the eyes remained bright and completely cold.

Number 827 was sold for one hundred and ten pounds. The next three or four numbers were sold for about the same amount.

The ship was rolling heavily. The passengers held onto the arms of their chairs, giving all their attention to the auction.

“Low field” the auctioneer called out. “The next number is low field.”

Mr. Botibol sat up very straight and tense. He would wait, he had decided, until the others had finished calling out their offers, then he would make the last offer. He had worked out that there must be at least five hundred dollars in his account at the bank at home, probably almost six hundred. That was about two hundred pounds – over two hundred. This ticket wouldn’t cost more than that.

“As you all know,” the auctioneer was saying, “low field covers every number below the smallest number in the range – in this case every number below 820. So if you think the ship is going to cover less than 820 kilometres in the twenty-four hour period ending at midday tomorrow, you’d better buy this ticket. What are you offering?”

It went up to one hundred and thirty pounds. Others besides Mr. Botibol seemed to have noticed that the weather was rough. One hundred and forty … fifty … There it stopped. The auctioneer waited, his hammer raised.
“Going at one hundred and fifty…”

“Sixty!”  Mr. Botibol called, and every face in the room turned and looked at him.

“Eighty!” Mr. Botibol called.
“Two hundred!”
Mr. Botibol called. He wasn’t stopping now – not for anyone.
There was a pause.
“Any more offers, please? Going at two hundred pounds …”
Sit still, he told himself. Sit completely still and don’t look up. It’s unlucky to look up. Hold your breath. No one’s going to offer more if you hold your breath.
“Going for two hundred pounds …” Mr. Botibol held his breath. “Going … Going … Gone!” The man banged the hammer on the table. Mr. Botibol wrote out a cheque and handed it to the auctioneer, then he settled back in his chair to wait for the finish. He did not want to go to bed before he knew how much money there was to win.
They added it up after the last number had been sold and it came to two thousand one hundred pounds. That was about six thousand dollars. He could buy the car and there would be some money left over, too. With this pleasant thought, he went off, happy and excited, to his bed.

Source: Pearson Education


sundeck: an open area on a ship  where you can enjoy the sun (cubierta superior de un barco,  terraza)
fairly rough:
there have been large waves because of strong winds or storms (bastante picado, embravecido, el mar)
the meal was not half over:
a fifty per cent of the food had not been eaten yet (no se había consumido la mitad de la comida)

moving by turning over and over (a balancearse)
not strong (suave)
inclination (inclinación)
in order to annoy:
to make someone feel a little angry (para molestar)
moving backwards and forwards (balanceándos, columpiándose)
the purser's table:
the table of the officer responsible for the money on the ship (la mesa del administrador del barco)
moving somewhere (resbalando)
scream: shout (grito)
the faintest:
the slightest (la más remota, la menor)
got carefully with their feet: stood up with extreme care (se levantaron con sumo cuidado)
to hide the urgency they felt:
in order to not show their feelings (de disimular la urgencia que sentían en salir de allí)
the remaining passengers:
the rest of the passengers (los restantes pasajeros)

will the captain already have made his guess at the day's run?: ¿habrá hecho ya el capitán la estimación de las millas diarias que va a recorrer el barco?
allowed for: 
included the possible effects in his plans (tuvo en cuenta)
(here) all the numbers that are included within particular fixed limits (rango)
an event at which things are sold to the person who offers the most money (subasta, remate)
a bar along or around the ship that prevent people from failing (baranda, barandilla del barco)
if your body is stiff your muscles hurt and it is difficult to move (estirados, rigidos)
auctioneer: someone who is in charge of an auction (subastador)
further away:
more, additional far (más alejado de ese rango).
“low field”
low numbers of the rank estimate (números más bajos del rango estimado)
“high field”
high numbers of the rank estimate (números más altos del rango estimado)
we'll draw:
we will take out (sacaremos, extraeremos)
made a loud noise by hitting (golpeó)
added it up
: put numbers or amounts together and then calculate the total (hicieron la suma, sumaron)
left over:
remained after everything else has been taken away or used (de sobra, sobrante)

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