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"Sir," he told me, "I'll die if I don't sample a little breadfruit pasta!"
"Sample some, Ned my friend, sample all you like. We're here to conduct experiments, let's conduct them."
"It won't take a minute," the Canadian replied.
Equipped with a magnifying glass, he lit a fire of deadwood that was soon crackling merrily. Meanwhile Conseil and I selected the finest artocarpus fruit. Some still weren't ripe enough, and their thick skins covered white, slightly fibrous pulps. But a great many others were yellowish and gelatinous, just begging to be picked.
This fruit contained no pits. Conseil brought a dozen of them to Ned Land, who cut them into thick slices and placed them over a fire of live coals, all the while repeating:
"You'll see, sir, how tasty this bread is!"
"Especially since we've gone without baked goods for so long," Conseil said.
"It's more than just bread," the Canadian added. "It's a dainty pastry. You've never eaten any, sir?"
"All right, get ready for something downright delectable! If you don't come back for seconds, I'm no longer the King of Harpooners!"
After a few minutes, the parts of the fruit exposed to the fire were completely toasted. On the inside there appeared some white pasta, a sort of soft bread center whose flavor reminded me of artichoke.
This bread was excellent, I must admit, and I ate it with great pleasure.
"Unfortunately," I said, "this pasta won't stay fresh, so it seems pointless to make a supply for on board."
"By thunder, sir!" Ned Land exclaimed. "There you go, talking like a naturalist, but meantime I'll be acting like a baker! Conseil, harvest some of this fruit to take with us when we go back."
"And how will you prepare it?" I asked the Canadian.
"I'll make a fermented batter from its pulp that'll keep indefinitely without spoiling. When I want some, I'll just cook it in the galley on board--it'll have a slightly tart flavor, but you'll find it excellent."
"So, Mr. Ned, I see that this bread is all we need--"
"Not quite, professor," the Canadian replied. "We need some fruit to go with it, or at least some vegetables."
"Then let's look for fruit and vegetables."
When our breadfruit harvesting was done, we took to the trail to complete this "dry-land dinner."
We didn't search in vain, and near noontime we had an ample supply of bananas. This delicious produce from the Torrid Zones ripens all year round, and Malaysians, who give them the name "pisang," eat them without bothering to cook them. In addition to bananas, we gathered some enormous jackfruit with a very tangy flavor, some tasty mangoes, and some pineapples of unbelievable size. But this foraging took up a good deal of our time, which, even so, we had no cause to regret.
Conseil kept Ned under observation. The harpooner walked in the lead, and during his stroll through this forest, he gathered with sure hands some excellent fruit that should have completed his provisions.
"So," Conseil asked, "you have everything you need, Ned my friend?"
"Humph!" the Canadian put in.
"What! You're complaining?"
"All this vegetation doesn't make a meal," Ned replied. "Just side dishes, dessert. But where's the soup course? Where's the roast?"
"Right," I said. "Ned promised us cutlets, which seems highly questionable to me."
"Sir," the Canadian replied, "our hunting not only isn't over, it hasn't even started. Patience! We're sure to end up bumping into some animal with either feathers or fur, if not in this locality, then in another."
"And if not today, then tomorrow, because we mustn't wander too far off," Conseil added. "That's why I propose that we return to the skiff."
"What! Already!" Ned exclaimed.
"We ought to be back before nightfall," I said.
"But what hour is it, then?" the Canadian asked.
"Two o'clock at least," Conseil replied.
"How time flies on solid ground!" exclaimed Mr. Ned Land with a sigh of regret.
"Off we go!" Conseil replied.
So we returned through the forest, and we completed our harvest by making a clean sweep of some palm cabbages that had to be picked from the crowns of their trees, some small beans that I recognized as the "abrou" of the Malaysians, and some high-quality yams.
We were overloaded when we arrived at the skiff. However, Ned Land still found these provisions inadequate. But fortune smiled on him. Just as we were boarding, he spotted several trees twenty-five to thirty feet high, belonging to the palm species. As valuable as the artocarpus, these trees are justly ranked among the most useful produce in Malaysia.
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