The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Part 2 out of 5
stopping and drank a whole bowlful of milk.
"My!" he said, "why wasn't I born with wings, like Polynesia, so
I could fly here? You've no idea how I grew to hate that hat and
skirt. I've never been so uncomfortable in my life. All the way
from Bristol here, if the wretched hat wasn't falling off my head
or catching in the trees, those beastly skirts were tripping me
up and getting wound round everything. What on earth do women
wear those things for? Goodness, I was glad to see old Puddleby
this morning when I climbed over the hill by Bellaby's farm!"
"Your bed on top of the plate-rack in the scullery is all ready
for you," said the Doctor. "We never had it disturbed in case
you might come back."
"Yes," said Dab-Dab, "and you can have the old smoking-jacket of
the Doctor's which you used to use as a blanket, in case it is
cold in the night."
"Thanks," said Chee-Chee. "It's good to be back in the old house
again. Everything's just the same as when I left--except the
clean roller-towel on the back of the door there--that's
new--Well, I think I'll go to bed now. I need sleep."
Then we all went out of the kitchen into the scullery and watched
Chee-Chee climb the plate-rack like a sailor going up a mast. On
the top, he curled himself up, pulled the old smoking-jacket over
him, and in a minute he was snoring peacefully.
"Good old Chee-Chee!" whispered the Doctor. "I'm glad he's
"Yes--good old Chee-Chee!" echoed Dab-Dab and Polynesia.
Then we all tip-toed out of the scullery and dosed the door very
gently behind us.
THE FIFTEENTH CHAPTER
I BECOME A DOCTOR'S ASSISTANT
WHEN Thursday evening came there was great excitement at our
house, My mother had asked me what were the Doctor's favorite
dishes, and I had told her: spare ribs, sliced beet-root, fried
bread, shrimps and treacle-tart. To-night she had them all on the
table waiting for him; and she was now fussing round the house to
see if everything was tidy and in readiness for his coming.
At last we heard a knock upon the door, and of course it was I
who got there first to let him in.
The Doctor had brought his own flute with him this time. And
after supper was over (which he enjoyed very much) the table was
cleared away and the washing-up left in the kitchen-sink till the
next day. Then the Doctor and my father started playing duets.
They got so interested in this that I began to be afraid that
they would never come to talking over my business. But at last
the Doctor said,
"Your son tells me that he is anxious to become a naturalist."
And then began a long talk which lasted far into the night. At
first both my mother and father were rather against the idea-- as
they had been from the beginning. They said it was only a boyish
whim, and that I would get tired of it very soon. But after the
matter had been talked over from every side, the Doctor turned to
my father and said,
"Well now, supposing, Mr. Stubbins, that your son came to me for
two years--that is, until he is twelve years old. During those
two years he will have time to see if he is going to grow tired
of it or not. Also during that time, I will promise to teach him
reading and writing and perhaps a little arithmetic as well. What
do you say to that?"
"I don't know," said my father, shaking his head. "You are very
kind and it is a handsome offer you make, Doctor. But I feel
that Tommy ought to be learning some trade by which he can earn
his living later on."
Then my mother spoke up. Although she was nearly in tears at the
prospect of my leaving her house while I was still so young, she
pointed out to my father that this was a grand chance for me to
"Now Jacob," she said, "you know that many lads in the town have
been to the Grammar School till they were fourteen or fifteen
years old. Tommy can easily spare these two years for his
education; and if he learns no more than to read and write, the
time will not be lost. Though goodness knows," she added, getting
out her handkerchief to cry, "the house will seem terribly empty
when he's gone."
"I will take care that he comes to see you, Mrs. Stubbins," said
the Doctor--"every day, if you like. After all, he will not be
very far away."
Well, at length my father gave in; and it was agreed that I was
to live with the Doctor and work for him for two years in
exchange for learning to read and write and for my board and
"Of course," added the Doctor, "while I have money I will keep
Tommy in clothes as well. But money is a very irregular thing
with me; sometimes I have some, and then sometimes I haven't."
"You are very good, Doctor," said my mother, drying her tears.
"It seems to me that Tommy is a very fortunate boy."
And then, thoughtless, selfish little imp that I was, I leaned
over and whispered in the Doctor's ear,
"Please don't forget to say something about the voyages."
"Oh, by the way," said John Dolittle, "of course occasionally my
work requires me to travel. You will have no objection, I take
it, to your son's coming with me?"
My poor mother looked up sharply, more unhappy and anxious than
ever at this new turn; while I stood behind the Doctor's chair,
my heart thumping with excitement, waiting for my father's
"No," he said slowly after a while. "If we agree to the other
arrangement I don't see that we've the right to make any
objection to that."
Well, there surely was never a happier boy in the world than I
was at that moment. My head was in the clouds. I trod on air. I
could scarcely keep from dancing round the parlor. At last the
dream of my life was to come true! At last I was to be given a
chance to seek my fortune, to have adventures! For I knew
perfectly well that it was now almost time for the Doctor to
start upon another voyage. Polynesia had told me that he hardly
ever stayed at home for more than six months at a stretch.
Therefore he would be surely going again within a fortnight. And
I--I, Tommy Stubbins, would go with him! Just to think of it!--
to cross the Sea, to walk on foreign shores, to roam the World!
THE FIRST CHAPTER
THE CREW OF "THE CURLEW"
FROM that time on of course my position in the town was very
different. I was no longer a poor cobbler's son. I carried my
nose in the air as I went down the High Street with Jip in his
gold collar at my side; and snobbish little boys who had despised
me before because I was not rich enough to go to school now
pointed me out to their friends and whispered, "You see him? He's
a doctor's assistant--and only ten years old!"
But their eyes would have opened still wider with wonder if they
had but known that I and the dog that was with me could talk to
Two days after the Doctor had been to our house to dinner he told
me very sadly that he was afraid that he would have to give up
trying to learn the language of the shellfish-- at all events for
"I'm very discouraged, Stubbins, very. I've tried the mussels
and the clams, the oysters and the whelks, cockles and scallops;
seven different kinds of crabs and all the lobster family. I
think I'll leave it for the present and go at it again later on."
"What will you turn to now?" I asked.
"Well, I rather thought of going on a voyage, Stubbins. It's
quite a time now since I've been away. And there is a great deal
of work waiting for me abroad."
"When shall we start?" I asked.
"Well, first I shall have to wait till the Purple
Bird-of-Paradise gets here. I must see if she has any message for
me from Long Arrow. She's late. She should have been here ten
days ago. I hope to goodness she's all right."
"Well, hadn't we better be seeing about getting a boat?" I said.
"She is sure to be here in a day or so; and there will be lots of
things to do to get ready in the mean time, won't there?"
"Yes, indeed," said the Doctor. "Suppose we go down and see your
friend Joe, the mussel-man. He will know about boats."
"I'd like to come too," said Jip.
"All right, come along," said the Doctor, and off we went.
Joe said yes, he had a boat--one he had just bought-- but it
needed three people to sail her. We told him we would like to
see it anyway.
So the mussel-man took us off a little way down the river and
showed us the neatest, prettiest, little vessel that ever was
built. She was called The Curlew. Joe said he would sell her to
us cheap. But the trouble was that the boat needed three people,
while we were only two.
"Of course I shall be taking Chee-Chee," said the Doctor. "But
although he is very quick and clever, he is not as strong as a
man. We really ought to have another person to sail a boat as big
"I know of a good sailor, Doctor," said Joe--"a first-class
seaman who would be glad of the job."
"No, thank you, Joe," said Doctor Dolittle. "I don't want any
seamen. I couldn't afford to hire them. And then they hamper me
so, seamen do, when I'm at sea. They're always wanting to do
things the proper way; and I like to do them my way--Now let me
see: who could we take with us?"
"There's Matthew Mugg, the cat's-meat-man," I said.
"No, he wouldn't do. Matthew's a very nice fellow, but he talks
too much-- mostly about his rheumatism. You have to be
frightfully particular whom you take with you on long voyages."
"How about Luke the Hermit?" I asked.
"That's a good idea--splendid--if he'll come. Let's go and ask
him right away."
THE SECOND CHAPTER
LUKE THE HERMIT
THE Hermit was an old friend of ours, as I have already told you.
He was a very peculiar person. Far out on the marshes he lived
in a little bit of a shack--all alone except for his brindle
bulldog. No one knew where he came from--not even his name. just
"Luke the Hermit" folks called him. He never came into the town;
never seemed to want to see or talk to people. His dog, Bob,
drove them away if they came near his hut. When you asked anyone
in Puddleby who he was or why he lived out in that lonely place
by himself, the only answer you got was, "Oh, Luke the Hermit?
Well, there's some mystery about him. Nobody knows what it is.
But there's a mystery. Don't go near him. He'll set the dog on
Nevertheless there were two people who often went out to that
little shack on the fens: the Doctor and myself. And Bob, the
bulldog, never barked when he heard us coming. For we liked Luke;
and Luke liked us.
This afternoon, crossing the marshes we faced a cold wind blowing
from the East. As we approached the hut Jip put up his ears and
"What's funny?" asked the Doctor.
"That Bob hasn't come out to meet us. He should have heard us
long ago-- or smelt us. What's that queer noise?"
"Sounds to me like a gate creaking," said the Doctor. "Maybe
it's Luke's door, only we can't see the door from here; it's on
the far side of the shack."
"I hope Bob isn't sick," said Jip; and he let out a bark to see
if that would call him. But the only answer he got was the
wailing of the wind across the wide, salt fen.
We hurried forward, all three of us thinking hard.
When we reached the front of the shack we found the door open,
swinging and creaking dismally in the wind. We looked inside.
There was no one there.
"Isn't Luke at home then?" said I. "Perhaps he's out for a walk."
"He is ALWAYS at home," said the Doctor frowning in a peculiar
sort of way. "And even if he were out for a. walk he wouldn't
leave his door banging in the wind behind him. There is
something queer about this-- What are you doing in there, Jip?"
"Nothing much--nothing worth speaking of," said Jip examining the
floor of the hut extremely carefully.
"Come here, Jip," said the Doctor in a stern voice. "You are
hiding something from me. You see signs and you know
something--or you guess it. What has happened? Tell me. Where
is the Hermit?"
"I don't know," said Jip looking very guilty and uncomfortable.
"I don't know where he is."
"Well, you know something. I can tell it from the look in your
eye. What is it?"
But Jip didn't answer.
For ten minutes the Doctor kept questioning him. But not a word
would the dog say.
"Well," said the Doctor at last, "it is no use our standing
around here in the cold. The Hermit's gone. That's all. We
might as well go home to luncheon."
As we buttoned up our coats and started back across the marsh,
Jip ran ahead pretending he was looking for water-rats.
"He knows something all right," whispered the Doctor. "And I
think he knows what has happened too. It's funny, his not
wanting to tell me. He has never done that before--not in eleven
years. He has always told me everything--Strange--very strange!"
"Do you mean you think he knows all about the Hermit, the big
mystery about him which folks hint at and all that?"
"I shouldn't wonder if he did," the Doctor answered slowly. "I
noticed something in his expression the moment we found that door
open and the hut empty. And the way he sniffed the floor too--it
told him something, that floor did. He saw signs we couldn't
see--I wonder why he won't tell me. I'll try him again. Here,
Jip! Jip!--Where is the dog? I thought he went on in front."
"So did I," I said. "He was there a moment ago. I saw him as
large as life. Jip--Jip--Jip--JIP!"
But he was gone. We called and called. We even walked back to
the hut. But Jip had disappeared.
"Oh well," I said, "most likely he has just run home ahead of us.
He often does that, you know. We'll find him there when we get
back to the house."
But the Doctor just closed his coat-collar tighter against the
wind and strode on muttering, "Odd--very odd!"
THE THIRD CHAPTER
JIP AND THE SECRET
WHEN we reached the house the first question the Doctor asked of
Dab-Dab in the hall was,
"Is Jip home yet?"
"No," said Dab-Dab, "I haven't seen him."
"Let me know the moment he comes in, will you, please?" said the
Doctor, hanging up his hat.
"Certainly I will," said Dab-Dab. "Don't be long over washing
your hands; the lunch is on the table."
Just as we were sitting down to luncheon in the kitchen we heard
a great racket at the front door. I ran and opened it. In
"Doctor!" he cried, "come into the library quick. I've got
something to tell you--No, Dab-Dab, the luncheon must wait.
Please hurry, Doctor. There's not a moment to be lost. Don't let
any of the animals come--just you and Tommy."
"Now," he said, when we were inside the library and the door was
dosed, "turn the key in the lock and make sure there's no one
listening under the windows."
"It's all right," said the Doctor. "Nobody can hear you here.
Now what is it?"
"Well, Doctor," said Jip (he was badly out of breath from
running), "I know all about the Hermit--I have known for years.
But I couldn't tell you."
"Why?" asked the Doctor.
"Because I'd promised not to tell any one. It was Bob, his dog,
that told me. And I swore to him that I would keep the secret."
"Well, and are you going to tell me now?"
"Yes," said Jip, "we've got to save him. I followed Bob's scent
just now when I left you out there on the marshes. And I found
him. And I said to him, 'Is it all right,' I said, 'for me to
tell the Doctor now? Maybe he can do something.' And Bob says to
me, 'Yes,' says he, 'it's all right because--' "
"Oh, for Heaven's sake, go on, go on!" cried the Doctor. "Tell
us what the mystery is--not what you said to Bob and what Bob
said to you. What has happened? Where IS the Hermit?"
"He's in Puddleby Jail," said Jip. "He's in prison."
"What for?--What's he done?"
Jip went over to the door and smelt at the bottom of it to see if
any one were listening outside. Then he came back to the Doctor
on tiptoe and whispered,
"HE KILLED A MAN!"
"Lord preserve us!" cried the Doctor, sitting down heavily in a
chair and mopping his forehead with a handkerchief. "When did he
"Fifteen years ago--in a Mexican gold-mine. That's why he has
been a hermit ever since. He shaved off his beard and kept away
from people out there on the marshes so he wouldn't be
recognized. But last week, it seems these new-fangled policemen
came to Town; and they heard there was a strange man who kept to
himself all alone in a shack on the fen. And they got
suspicious. For a long time people had been hunting all over the
world for the man that did that killing in the Mexican gold-mine
fifteen years ago. So these policemen went out to the shack, and
they recognized Luke by a mole on his arm. And they took him to
"Well, well!" murmured the Doctor. "Who would have thought it?--
Luke, the philosopher!--Killed a man!--I can hardly believe it."
"It's true enough--unfortunately," said Jip. "Luke did it. But
it wasn't his fault. Bob says so. And he was there and saw it
all. He was scarcely more than a puppy at the time. Bob says
Luke couldn't help it. He HAD to do it."
"Where is Bob now?" asked the Doctor.
"Down at the prison. I wanted him to come with me here to see
you; but he won't leave the prison while Luke is there. He just
sits outside the door of the prison-cell and won't move. He
doesn't even eat the food they give him. Won't you please come
down there, Doctor, and see if there is anything you can do? The
trial is to be this afternoon at two o'clock. What time is it
"It's ten minutes past one."
"Bob says he thinks they are going to kill Luke for a punishment
if they can prove that he did it--or certainly keep him in prison
for the rest of his life. Won't you please come? Perhaps if you
spoke to the judge and told him what a good man Luke really is
they'd let him off."
"Of course I'll come," said the Doctor getting up and moving to
go. "But I'm very much afraid that I shan't be of any real help."
He turned at the door and hesitated thoughtfully.
"And yet--I wonder--"
Then he opened the door and passed out with Jip and me close at
THE FOURTH CHAPTER
DAB-DAB was terribly upset when she found we were going away
again without luncheon; and she made us take some cold pork-pies
in our pockets to eat on the way.
When we got to Puddleby Court-house (it was next door to the
prison), we found a great crowd gathered around the building.
This was the week of the Assizes--a business which happened every
three months, when many pick-pockets and other bad characters
were tried by a very grand judge who came all the way from
London. And anybody in Puddleby who had nothing special to do
used to come to the Court-house to hear the trials.
But to-day it was different. The crowd was not made up of just a
few idle people. It was enormous. The news had run through the
countryside that Luke the Hermit was to be tried for killing a
man and that the great mystery which had hung over him so long
was to be cleared up at last. The butcher and the baker had
closed their shops and taken a holiday. All the farmers from
round about, and all the townsfolk, were there with their Sunday
clothes on, trying to get seats in the Court. house or
gossipping outside in low whispers. The High Street was so
crowded you could hardly move along it. I had never seen the
quiet old town in such a state of excitement before. For Puddleby
had not had such an Assizes since 1799, when Ferdinand Phipps,
the Rector's oldest son, had robbed the bank.
If I hadn't had the Doctor with me I am sure I would never have
been able to make my way through the mob packed around the
Court-house door. But I just followed behind him, hanging on to
his coat-tails; and at last we got safely into the jail.
"I want to see Luke," said the Doctor to a very grand person in a
blue coat with brass buttons standing at the door.
"Ask at the Superintendent's office," said the man. "Third door
on the left down the corridor."
"Who is that person you spoke to, Doctor?" I asked as we went
along the passage.
"He is a policeman."
"And what are policemen?"
"Policemen? They are to keep people in order. They've just been
invented-- by Sir Robert Peel. That's why they are also called
'peelers' sometimes. It is a wonderful age we live in. They're
always thinking of something new-- This will be the
Superintendent's office, I suppose."
From there another policeman was sent with us to show us the way.
Outside the door of Luke's cell we found Bob, the bulldog, who
wagged his tail sadly when he saw us. The man who was guiding us
took a large bunch of keys from his pocket and opened the door.
I had never been inside a real prison-cell before; and I felt
quite a thrill when the policeman went out and locked the door
after him, leaving us shut in the dimly-lighted, little, stone
room. Before he went, he said that as soon as we had done talking
with our friend we should knock upon the door and he would come
and let us out.
At first I could hardly see anything, it was so dim inside. But
after a little I made out a low bed against the wall, under a
small barred window. On the bed, staring down at the floor
between his feet, sat the Hermit, his head resting in his hands.
"Well, Luke," said the Doctor in a kindly voice, "they don't give
you much light in here, do they?"
Very slowly the Hermit looked up from the floor.
"Hulloa, John Dolittle. What brings you here?"
"I've come to see you. I would have been here sooner, only I
didn't hear about all this till a few minutes ago. I went to your
hut to ask you if you would join me on a voyage; and when I found
it empty I had no idea where you could be. I am dreadfully sorry
to hear about your bad luck. I've come to see if there is
anything I can do."
Luke shook his head.
"No, I don't imagine there is anything can be done. They've
caught me at last. That's the end of it, I suppose."
He got up stiffly and started walking up and down the little
"In a way I'm glad it's over," said he. "I never got any peace,
always thinking they were after me--afraid to speak to anyone.
They were bound to get me in the end--Yes, I'm glad it's over."
Then the Doctor talked to Luke for more than half an hour, trying
to cheer him up; while I sat around wondering what I ought to say
and wishing I could do something.
At last the Doctor said he wanted to see Bob; and we knocked upon
the door and were let out by the policeman.
"Bob," said the Doctor to the big bulldog in the passage, "come
out with me into the porch. I want to ask you something."
"How is he, Doctor?" asked Bob as we walked down the corridor
into the Court-house porch.
"Oh, Luke's all right. Very miserable of course, but he's all
right. Now tell me, Bob: you saw this business happen, didn't
you? You were there when the man was killed, eh?"
"I was, Doctor," said Bob, "and I tell you--"
"All right," the Doctor interrupted, "that's all I want to know
for the present. There isn't time to tell me more now. The trial
is just going to begin. There are the judge and the lawyers
coming up the steps. Now listen, Bob: I want you to stay with
me when I go into the court-room. And whatever I tell you to do,
do it. Do you understand? Don't make any scenes. Don't bite
anybody, no matter what they may say about Luke. Just behave
perfectly quietly and answer any question I may ask
you--truthfully. Do you understand?"
"Very well. But do you think you will be able to get him off,
Doctor?" asked Bob. "He's a good man, Doctor. He really is.
There never was a better."
"We'll see, we'll see, Bob. It's a new thing I'm going to try.
I'm not sure the judge will allow it. But--well, we'll see. It's
time to go into the court-room now. Don't forget what I told
you. Remember: for Heaven's sake don't start biting any one or
you'll get us all put out and spoil everything."
THE FIFTH CHAPTER
INSIDE the court-room everything was very solemn and wonderful.
It was a high, big room. Raised above the floor, against the
wall was the judge's desk; and here the judge was already
sitting--an old, handsome man in a marvelous big wig of gray hair
and a gown of black. Below him was another wide, long desk at
which lawyers in white wigs sat. The whole thing reminded me of a
mixture between a church and a school.
"Those twelve men at the side," whispered the Doctor--"those in
pews like a choir, they are what is called the jury. It is they
who decide whether Luke is guilty--whether he did it or not."
"And look!" I said, "there's Luke himself in a sort of
pulpit-thing with policemen each side of him. And there's
another pulpit, the same kind, the other side of the room,
see--only that one's empty."
"That one is called the witness-box," said the Doctor. "Now I'm
going down to speak to one of those men in white wigs; and I want
you to wait here and keep these two seats for us. Bob will stay
with you. Keep an eye on him--better hold on to his collar. I
shan't be more than a minute or so."
With that the Doctor disappeared into the crowd which filled the
main part of the room.
Then I saw the judge take up a funny little wooden hammer and
knock on his desk with it. This, it seemed, was to make people
keep quiet, for immediately every one stopped buzzing and talking
and began to listen very respectfully. Then another man in a
black gown stood up and began reading from a paper in his hand.
He mumbled away exactly as though he were saying his prayers and
didn't want any one to understand what language they were in. But
I managed to catch a few words:
"Biz--biz--biz--biz--biz--otherwise known as Luke the Hermit,
of--biz--biz--biz--biz--for killing his partner
with--biz--biz--biz--otherwise known as Bluebeard Bill on the
night of the--biz--biz--biz--in the biz--biz--biz-- of Mexico.
Therefore Her Majesty's--biz--biz--biz--"
At this moment I felt some one take hold of my arm from the back,
and turning round I found the Doctor had returned with one of the
men in white wigs.
"Stubbins, this is Mr. Percy Jenkyns," said the Doctor. "He is
Luke's lawyer. It is his business to get Luke off--if he can."
Mr. Jenkyns seemed to be an extremely young man with a round
smooth face like a boy. He shook hands with me and then
immediately turned and went on talking with the Doctor.
"Oh, I think it is a perfectly precious idea," he was saying. "Of
COURSE the dog must be admitted as a witness; he was the only one
who saw the thing take place. I'm awfully glad you came. I
wouldn't have missed this for anything. My hat! Won't it make
the old court sit up? They're always frightfully dull, these
Assizes. But this will stir things. A bulldog witness for the
defense! I do hope there are plenty of reporters present--Yes,
there's one making a sketch of the prisoner. I shall become known
after this--And won't Conkey be pleased? My hat!"
He put his hand over his mouth to smother a laugh and his eyes
fairly sparkled with mischief. "Who is Conkey?" I asked the
"Sh! He is speaking of the judge up there, the Honorable Eustace
"Now," said Mr. Jenkyns, bringing out a notebook, "tell me a
little more about yourself, Doctor. You took your degree as
Doctor of Medicine at Durham, I think you said. And the name of
your last book was?"
I could not hear any more for they talked in whispers; and I fell
to looking round the court again.
Of course I could not understand everything that was going on,
though it was all very interesting. People kept getting up in
the place the Doctor called the witness-box, and the lawyers at
the long table asked them questions about "the night of the
29th." Then the people would get down again and somebody else
would get up and be questioned.
One of the lawyers (who, the Doctor told me afterwards, was
called the Prosecutor) seemed to be doing his best to get the
Hermit into trouble by asking questions which made it look as
though he had always been a very bad man. He was a nasty lawyer,
this Prosecutor, with a long nose.
Most of the time I could hardly keep my eyes off poor Luke, who
sat there between his two policemen, staring at the floor as
though he weren't interested. The only time I saw him take any
notice at all was when a small dark man with wicked, little,
watery eyes got up into the witness-box. I heard Bob snarl under
my chair as this person came into the court-room and Luke's eyes
just blazed with anger and contempt.
This man said his name was Mendoza and that he was the one who
had guided the Mexican police to the mine after Bluebeard Bill
had been killed. And at every word he said I could hear Bob down
below me muttering between his teeth,
"It's a lie! It's a lie! I'll chew his face. It's a lie!"
And both the Doctor and I had hard work keeping the dog under the
Then I noticed that our Mr. Jenkyns had disappeared from the
Doctor's side. But presently I saw him stand up at the long table
to speak to the judge.
"Your Honor," said he, "I wish to introduce a new witness for the
defense, Doctor John Dolittle, the naturalist. Will you please
step into the witness-stand, Doctor?"
There was a buzz of excitement as the Doctor made his way across
the crowded room; and I noticed the nasty lawyer with the long
nose lean down and whisper something to a friend, smiling in an
ugly way which made me want to pinch him.
Then Mr. Jenkyns asked the Doctor a whole lot of questions about
himself and made him answer in a loud voice so the whole court
could hear. He finished up by saying,
"And you are prepared to swear, Doctor Dolittle, that you
understand the language of dogs and can make them understand you.
Is that so?"
"Yes," said the Doctor, "that is so."
"And what, might I ask," put in the judge in a very quiet,
dignified voice, "has all this to do with the killing of
"This, Your Honor," said Mr. Jenkyns, talking in a very grand
manner as though he were on a stage in a theatre: "there is in
this court-room at the present moment a bulldog, who was the only
living thing that saw the man killed. With the Court's permission
I propose to put that dog in the witness-stand and have him
questioned before you by the eminent scientist, Doctor John
THE SIXTH CHAPTER
THE JUDGE'S DOG
AT first there was a dead silence in the Court. Then everybody
began whispering or giggling at the same time, till the whole
room sounded like a great hive of bees. Many people seemed to be
shocked; most of them were amused; and a few were angry.
Presently up sprang the nasty lawyer with the long nose.
"I protest, Your Honor," he cried, waving his arms wildly to the
judge. "I object. The dignity of this court is in peril. I
"I am the one to take care of the dignity of this court," said
Then Mr. Jenkyns got up again. (If it hadn't been such a serious
matter, it was almost like a Punch-and-Judy show: somebody was
always popping down and somebody else popping up).
"If there is any doubt on the score of our being able to do as we
say, Your Honor will have no objection, I trust, to the Doctor's
giving the Court a demonstration of his powers-- of showing that
he actually can understand the speech of animals?" I thought I
saw a twinkle of amusement come into the old judge's eyes as he
sat considering a moment before he answered.
"No," he said at last, "I don't think so." Then he turned to the
"Are you quite sure you can do this?" he asked.
"Quite, Your Honor," said the Doctor--"quite sure."
"Very well then," said the judge. "If you can satisfy us that
you really are able to understand canine testimony, the dog shall
be admitted as a witness. I do not see, in that case, how I could
object to his being heard. But I warn you that if you are trying
to make a laughing-stock of this Court it will go hard with you."
"I protest, I protest!" yelled the long-nosed Prosecutor. "This
is a scandal, an outrage to the Bar!"
"Sit down!" said the judge in a very stern voice.
"What animal does Your Honor wish me to talk with?" asked the
"I would like you to talk to my own dog," said the judge. "He is
outside in the cloak-room. I will have him brought in; and then
we shall see what you can do."
Then someone went out and fetched the judge's dog, a lovely great
Russian wolf-hound with slender legs and a shaggy coat. He was a
proud and beautiful creature.
"Now, Doctor," said the judge, "did you ever see this dog
before?-- Remember you are in the witness-stand and under oath."
"No, Your Honor, I never saw him before."
"Very well then, will you please ask him to tell you what I had
for supper last night? He was with me and watched me while I
Then the Doctor and the dog started talking to one another in
signs and sounds; and they kept at it for quite a long time. And
the Doctor began to giggle and get so interested that he seemed
to forget all about the Court and the judge and everything else.
"What a time he takes!" I heard a fat woman in front of me
whispering. "He's only pretending. Of course he can't do it!
Who ever heard of talking to a dog? He must think we're
"Haven't you finished yet?" the judge asked the Doctor. "It
shouldn't take that long just to ask what I had for supper."
"Oh no, Your Honor," said the Doctor. "The dog told me that long
ago. But then he went on to tell me what you did after supper."
"Never mind that," said the judge. Tell me what answer he gave
you to my question."
"He says you had a mutton-chop, two baked potatoes, a pickled
walnut and a glass of ale."
The Honorable Eustace Beauchamp Conckley went white to the lips.
"Sounds like witchcraft," he muttered. "I never dreamed--"
"And after your supper," the Doctor went on, "he says you went to
see a prize-fight and then sat up playing cards for money till
twelve o'clock and came home singing, 'We wont get--' "
"That will do," the judge interrupted, "I am satisfied you can do
as you say. The prisoner's dog shall be admitted as a witness."
"I protest, I object!" screamed the Prosecutor. "Your Honor,
"Sit down!" roared the judge. "I say the dog shall be heard.
That ends the matter. Put the witness in the stand."
And then for the first time in the solemn history of England a
dog was put in the witness-stand of Her Majesty's Court of
Assizes. And it was I, Tommy Stubbins (when the Doctor made a
sign to me across the room) who proudly led Bob up the aisle,
through the astonished crowd, past the frowning, spluttering,
long-nosed Prosecutor, and made him comfortable on a high chair
in the witness-box; from where the old bulldog sat scowling down
over the rail upon the amazed and gaping jury.
THE SEVENTH CHAPTER
THE END OF THE MYSTERY
THE trial went swiftly forward after that. Mr. Jenkyns told the
Doctor to ask Bob what he saw on the "night of the 29th;" and
when Bob had told all he knew and the Doctor had turned it into
English for the judge and the jury, this was what he had to say:
"On the night of the 29th of November, 1824, I was with my
master, Luke Fitzjohn (otherwise known as Luke the Hermit) and
his two partners, Manuel Mendoza and William Boggs (otherwise
known as Bluebeard Bill) on their gold-mine in Mexico. For a
long time these three men had been hunting for gold; and they had
dug a deep hole in the ground. On the morning of the 29th gold
was discovered, lots of it, at the bottom of this hole. And all
three, my master and his two partners, were very happy about it
because now they would be rich. But Manuel Mendoza asked
Bluebeard Bill to go for a walk with him. These two men I had
always suspected of being bad. So when I noticed that they left
my master behind, I followed them secretly to see what they were
up to. And in a deep cave in the mountains I heard them arrange
together to kill Luke the Hermit so that they should get all the
gold and he have none."
At this point the judge asked, "Where is the witness Mendoza?
Constable, see that he does not leave the court."
But the wicked little man with the watery eyes had already
sneaked out when no one was looking and he was never seen in
"Then," Bob's statement went on, "I went to my master and tried
very hard to make him understand that his partners were dangerous
men. But it was no use. He did not understand dog language. So I
did the next best thing: I never let him out of my sight but
stayed with him every moment of the day and night.
"Now the hole that they had made was so deep that to get down and
up it you had to go in a big bucket tied on the end of a rope;
and the three men used to haul one another up and let one another
down the mine in this way. That was how the gold was brought up
too--in the bucket. Well, about seven o'clock in the evening my
master was standing at the top of the mine, hauling up Bluebeard
Bill who was in the bucket. Just as he had got Bill halfway up I
saw Mendoza come out of the hut where we all lived. Mendoza
thought that Bill was away buying groceries. But he wasn't: he
was in the bucket. And when Mendoza saw Luke hauling and
straining on the rope he thought he was pulling up a bucket-ful
of gold. So he drew a pistol from his pocket and came sneaking up
behind Luke to shoot him.
"I barked and barked to warn my master of the danger he was in;
but he was so busy hauling up Bill (who was a heavy fat man) that
he took no notice of me. I saw that if I didn't do something
quick he would surely be shot. So I did a thing I've never done
before: suddenly and savagely I bit my master in the leg from
behind. Luke was so hurt and startled that he did just what I
wanted him to do: he let go the rope with both hands at once and
turned round. And then, CRASH! down went Bill in his bucket to
the bottom of the mine and he was killed.
"While my master was busy scolding me Mendoza put his pistol in
his pocket, came up with a smile on his face and looked down the
" 'Why, Good Gracious'!" said he to Luke, 'You've killed
Bluebeard Bill. I must go and tell the police'--hoping, you see,
to get the whole mine to himself when Luke should be put in
prison. Then he jumped on his horse and galloped away."
"And soon my master grew afraid; for he saw that if Mendoza only
told enough lies to the police, it WOULD look as though he had
killed Bill on purpose. So while Mendoza was gone he and I stole
away together secretly and came to England. Here he shaved off
his beard and became a hermit. And ever since, for fifteen years,
we've remained in hiding. This is all I have to say. And I swear
it is the truth, every word."
When the Doctor finished reading Bob's long speech the excitement
among the twelve men of the jury was positively terrific. One, a
very old man with white hair, began to weep in a loud voice at
the thought of poor Luke hiding on the fen for fifteen years for
something he couldn't help. And all the others set to whispering
and nodding their heads to one another.
In the middle of all this up got that horrible Prosecutor again,
waving his arms more wildly than ever.
"Your Honor," he cried, "I must object to this evidence as
biased. Of course the dog would not tell the truth against his
own master. I object. I protest."
"Very well," said the judge, "you are at liberty to
cross-examine. It is your duty as Prosecutor to prove his
evidence untrue. There is the dog: question him, if you do not
believe what he says."
I thought the long-nosed lawyer would have a fit. He looked first
at the dog, then at the Doctor, then at the judge, then back at
the dog scowling from the witness-box. He opened his mouth to say
something; but no words came. He waved his arms some more. His
face got redder and redder. At last, clutching his forehead, he
sank weakly into his seat and had to be helped out of the
court-room by two friends. As he was half carried through the
door he was still feebly murmuring, "I protest--I object--I
THE EIGHTH CHAPTER
NEXT the judge made a very long speech to the jury; and when it
was over all the twelve jurymen got up and went out into the next
room. And at that point the Doctor came back, leading Bob, to the
seat beside me.
"What have the jurymen gone out for?" I asked.
"They always do that at the end of a trial--to make up their
minds whether the prisoner did it or not."
"Couldn't you and Bob go in with them and help them make up their
minds the right way?" I asked.
"No, that's not allowed. They have to talk it over in secret.
Sometimes it takes--My Gracious, look, they're coming back
already! They didn't spend long over it."
Everybody kept quite still while the twelve men came tramping
back into their places in the pews. Then one of them, the
leader--a little man-- stood up and turned to the judge. Every
one was holding his breath, especially the Doctor and myself, to
see what he was going to say. You could have heard a pin drop
while the whole court-room, the whole of Puddleby in fact, waited
with craning necks and straining cars to hear the weighty words.
"Your Honor," said the little man, "the jury returns a verdict of
"What's that mean?" I asked, turning to the Doctor.
But I found Doctor John Dolittle, the famous naturalist, standing
on top of a chair, dancing about on one leg like a schoolboy.
"It means he's free!" he cried, "Luke is free!"
"Then he'll be able to come on the voyage with us, won't he?"
But I could not hear his answer; for the whole court-room seemed
to be jumping up on chairs like the Doctor. The crowd had
suddenly gone crazy. All the people were laughing and calling and
waving to Luke to show him how glad they were that he was free.
The noise was deafening.
Then it stopped. All was quiet again; and the people stood up
respectfully while the judge left the Court. For the trial of
Luke the Hermit, that famous trial which to this day they are
still talking of in Puddleby, was over.
In the hush while the judge was leaving, a sudden shriek rang
out, and there, in the doorway stood a woman, her arms
out-stretched to the Hermit.
"Luke!" she cried, "I've found you at last!"
"It's his wife," the fat woman in front of me whispered. "She
ain't seen 'im in fifteen years, poor dear! What a lovely
re-union. I'm glad I came. I wouldn't have missed this for
As soon as the judge had gone the noise broke out again; and now
the folks gathered round Luke and his wife and shook them by the
hand and congratulated them and laughed over them and cried over
"Come along, Stubbins," said the Doctor, taking me by the arm,
"let's get out of this while we can."
"But aren't you going to speak to Luke?" I said--" to ask him if
he'll come on the voyage?"
"It wouldn't be a bit of use," said the Doctor. "His wife's come
for him. No man stands any chance of going on a voyage when his
wife hasn't seen him in fifteen years. Come along. Let's get
home to tea. We didn't have any lunch, remember. And we've
earned something to eat. We'll have one of those mixed meals,
lunch and tea combined-- with watercress and ham. Nice change.
Just as we were going to step out at a side door I heard the
"The Doctor! The Doctor! Where's the Doctor? The Hermit would
have hanged if it hadn't been for the Doctor. Speech!
And a man came running up to us and said,
"The people are calling for you, Sir."
"I'm very sorry," said the Doctor, "but I'm in a hurry."
"The crowd won't be denied, Sir," said the man. "They want you
to make a speech in the marketplace."
"Beg them to excuse me," said the Doctor--"with my compliments. I
have an appointment at my house--a very important one which I may
not break. Tell Luke to make a speech. Come along, Stubbins,
"Oh Lord!" he muttered as we got out into the open air and found
another crowd waiting for him at the side door. "Let's go up that
alleyway--to the left. Quick!--Run!"
We took to our heels, darted through a couple of side streets and
just managed to get away from the crowd.
It was not till we had gained the Oxenthorpe Road that we dared
to slow down to a walk and take our breath. And even when we
reached the Doctor's gate and turned to look backwards towards
the town, the faint murmur of many voices still reached us on the
"They're still clamoring for you," I said. "Listen!"
The murmur suddenly swelled up into a low distant roar; and
although it was a mile and half away you could distinctly hear
"Three cheers for Luke the Hermit: Hooray!--Three cheers for his
dog: Hooray!--Three cheers for his wife: Hooray!--Three cheers
for the Doctor: Hooray! Hooray! HOO-R-A-Y!"
THE NINTH CHAPTER
THE PURPLE BIRD-OF-PARADISE
POLYNESIA was waiting for us in the front porch. She looked full
of some important news.
"Doctor," said she, "the Purple Bird-of-Paradise has arrived!"
"At last!" said the Doctor. "I had begun to fear some accident
had befallen her. And how is Miranda?"
From the excited way in which the Doctor fumbled his key into the
lock I guessed that we were not geing to get our tea right away,
"Oh, she seemed all right when she arrived," said
Polynesia--"tired from her long journey of course but otherwise
all right. But what DO you think? That mischief-making sparrow,
Cheapside, insulted her as soon as she came into the garden. When
I arrived on the scene she was in tears and was all for turning
round and going straight back to Brazil to-night. I had the
hardest work persuading her to wait till you came. She's in the
study. I shut Cheapside in one of your book-cases and told him
I'd tell you exactly what had happened the moment you got home."
The Doctor frowned, then walked silently and quickly to the
Here we found the candles lit; for the daylight was nearly gone.
Dab-Dab was standing on the floor mounting guard over one of the
glass-fronted book-cases in which Cheapside had been imprisoned.
The noisy little sparrow was still fluttering angrily behind the
glass when we came in.
In the centre of the big table, perched on the ink-stand, stood
the most beautiful bird I have ever seen. She had a deep
violet-colored breast, scarlet wings and a long, long sweeping
tail of gold. She was unimaginably beautiful but looked
dreadfully tired. Already she had her head under her wing; and
she swayed gently from side to side on top of the ink-stand like
a bird that has flown long and far.
"Sh!" said Dab-Dab. "Miranda is asleep. I've got this little imp
Cheapside in here. Listen, Doctor: for Heaven's sake send that
sparrow away before he does any more mischief. He's nothing but
a vulgar little nuisance. We've had a perfectly awful time trying
to get Miranda to stay. Shall I serve your tea in here, or will
you come into the kitchen when you're ready?"
"We'll come into the kitchen, Dab-Dab," said the Doctor. "Let
Cheapside out before you go, please."
Dab-Dab opened the bookcase-door and Cheapside strutted out
trying hard not to look guilty.
"Cheapside," said the Doctor sternly, "what did you say to
Miranda when she arrived?"
"I didn't say nothing, Doc, straight I didn't. That is, nothing
much. I was picking up crumbs off the gravel path when she comes
swanking into the garden, turning up her nose in all directions,
as though she owned the earth--just because she's got a lot of
colored plumage. A London sparrow's as good as her any day. I
don't hold by these gawdy bedizened foreigners nohow. Why don't
they stay in their own country?"
"But what did you say to her that got her so offended?"
"All I said was, 'You don't belong in an English garden; you
ought to be in a milliner's window. That's all."
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Cheapside. Don't you
realize that this bird has come thousands of miles to see me--
only to be insulted by your impertinent tongue as soon as she
reaches my garden? What do you mean by it?--If she had gone away
again before I got back to-night I would never have forgiven
you-- Leave the room."
Sheepishly, but still trying to look as though he didn't care,
Cheapside hopped out into the passage and Dab-Dab closed the
The Doctor went up to the beautiful bird on the ink-stand and
gently stroked its back. Instantly its head popped out from
under its wing.
THE TENTH CHAPTER
LONG ARROW, THE SON OF GOLDEN ARROW
WELL, Miranda," said the Doctor. "I'm terribly sorry this has
happened. But you mustn't mind Cheapside; he doesn't know any
better. He's a city bird; and all his life he has had to squabble
for a living. You must make allowances. He doesn't know any
Miranda stretched her gorgeous wings wearily. Now that I saw her
awake and moving I noticed what a superior, well-bred manner she
had. There were tears in her eyes and her beak was trembling.
"I wouldn't have minded so much," she said in a high silvery
voice, "if I hadn't been so dreadfully worn out--That and
something else," she added beneath her breath.
"Did you have a hard time getting here?" asked the Doctor.
"The worst passage I ever made," said Miranda. "The
weather--Well there. What's the use? I'm here anyway."
"Tell me," said the Doctor as though he had been impatiently
waiting to say something for a long time: "what did Long Arrow
say when you gave him my message?"
The Purple Bird-of-Paradise hung her head.
"That's the worst part of it," she said. "I might almost as well
have not come at all. I wasn't able to deliver your message. I
couldn't find him. LONG ARROW, THE SON OF GOLDEN ARROW, HAS
"Disappeared!" cried the Doctor. "Why, what's become of him?"
"Nobody knows," Miranda answered. "He had often disappeared
before, as I have told you--so that the Indians didn't know where
he was. But it's a mighty hard thing to hide away from the birds.
I had always been able to find some owl or martin who could tell
me where he was--if I wanted to know. But not this time. That's
why I'm nearly a fortnight late in coming to you: I kept hunting
and hunting, asking everywhere. I went over the whole length and
breadth of South America. But there wasn't a living thing could
tell me where he was."
There was a sad silence in the room after she had finished; the
Doctor was frowning in a peculiar sort of way and Polynesia
scratched her head.
"Did you ask the black parrots?" asked Polynesia. "They usually
"Certainly I did," said Miranda. "And I was so upset at not
being able to find out anything, that I forgot all about
observing the weather-signs before I started my flight here. I
didn't even bother to break my journey at the Azores, but cut
right across, making for the Straits of Gibraltar-- as though it
were June or July. And of course I ran into a perfectly
frightful storm in mid-Atlantic. I really thought I'd never come
through it. Luckily I found a piece of a wrecked vessel floating
in the sea after the storm had partly died down; and I roosted on
it and took some sleep. If I hadn't been able to take that rest I
wouldn't be here to tell the tale."
"Poor Miranda! What a time you must have had!" said the Doctor.
"But tell me, were you able to find out whereabouts Long Arrow
was last seen?"
"Yes. A young albatross told me he had seen him on Spidermonkey
"Spidermonkey Island? That's somewhere off the coast of Brazil,
"Yes, that's it. Of course I flew there right away and asked
every bird on the island--and it is a big island, a hundred miles
long. It seems that Long Arrow was visiting some peculiar Indians
that live there; and that when last seen he was going up into the
mountains looking for rare medicine-plants. I got that from a
tame hawk, a pet, which the Chief of the Indians keeps for
hunting partridges with. I nearly got caught and put in a cage
for my pains too. That's the worst of having beautiful feathers:
it's as much as your life is worth to go near most humans--They
say, 'oh how pretty!' and shoot an arrow or a bullet into you.
You and Long Arrow were the only two men that I would ever trust
myself near--out of all the people in the world."
"But was he never known to have returned from the mountains?"
"No. That was the last that was seen or heard of him. I
questioned the sea-birds around the shores to find out if he had
left the island in a canoe. But they could tell me nothing."
"Do you think that some accident has happened to him?" asked the
Doctor in a fearful voice.
"I'm afraid it must have," said Miranda shaking her head.
"Well," said John Dolittle slowly, "if I could never meet Long
Arrow face to face it would be the greatest disappointment in my
whole life. Not only that, but it would be a great loss to the
knowledge of the human race. For, from what you have told me of
him, he knew more natural science than all the rest of us put
together; and if he has gone without any one to write it down for
him, so the world may be the better for it, it would be a
terrible thing. But you don't really think that he is dead, do
"What else can I think?" asked Miranda, bursting into tears,
"when for six whole months he has not been seen by flesh, fish or
THE ELEVENTH CHAPTER
THIS news about Long Arrow made us all very sad. And I could see
from the silent dreamy way the Doctor took his tea that he was
dreadfully upset. Every once in a while he would stop eating
altogether and sit staring at the spots on the kitchen
table-cloth as though his thoughts were far away; till Dab-Dab,
who was watching to see that he got a good meal, would cough or
rattle the pots in the sink.
I did my best to cheer him up by reminding him of all he had done
for Luke and his wife that afternoon. And when that didn't seem
to work, I went on talking about our preparations for the voyage.
"But you see, Stubbins," said he as we rose from the table and
Dab-Dab and Chee-Chee began to clear away, "I don't know where to
go now. I feel sort of lost since Miranda brought me this news.
On this voyage I had planned going to see Long Arrow. I had been
looking forward to it for a whole year. I felt he might help me
in learning the language of the shellfish--and perhaps in finding
some way of getting to the bottom of the sea. But now?--He's
gone! And all his great knowledge has gone with him."
Then he seemed to fall a-dreaming again.
"Just to think of it!" he murmured. "Long Arrow and I, two
students-- Although I'd never met him, I felt as though I knew
him quite well. For, in his way--without any schooling--he has,
all his life, been trying to do the very things which I have
tried to do in mine-- And now he's gone!--A whole world lay
between us--And only a bird knew us both!"
We went back into the study, where Jip brought the Doctor his
slippers and his pipe. And after the pipe was lit and the smoke
began to fill the room the old man seemed to cheer up a little.
"But you will go on some voyage, Doctor, won't you?" I
asked--"even if you can't go to find Long Arrow."
He looked up sharply into my face; and I suppose he saw how
anxious I was. Because he suddenly smiled his old, boyish smile
"Yes, Stubbins. Don't worry. We'll go. We mustn't stop working
and learning, even if poor Long Arrow has disappeared--But where
to go: that's the question. Where shall we go?"
There were so many places that I wanted to go that I couldn't
make up my mind right away. And while I was still thinking, the
Doctor sat up in his chair and said,
"I tell you what we'll do, Stubbins: it's a game I used to play
when I was young--before Sarah came to live with me. I used to
call it Blind Travel. Whenever I wanted to go on a voyage, and I
couldn't make up my mind where to go, I would take the atlas and
open it with my eyes shut. Next, I'd wave a pencil, still
without looking, and stick it down on whatever page had fallen
open. Then I'd open my eyes and look. It's a very exciting game,
is Blind Travel. Because you have to swear, before you begin,
that you will go to the place the pencil touches, come what way.
Shall we play it?"
"Oh, let's!" I almost yelled. "How thrilling! I hope it's
China-- or Borneo--or Bagdad."
And in a moment I had scrambled up the bookcase, dragged the big
atlas from the top shelf and laid it on the table before the
I knew every page in that atlas by heart. How many days and
nights I had lingered over its old faded maps, following the blue
rivers from the mountains to the sea; wondering what the little
towns really looked like, and how wide were the sprawling lakes!
I had had a lot of fun with that atlas, traveling, in my mind,
all over the world. I can see it now: the first page had no map;
it just told you that it was printed in Edinburgh in 1808, and a
whole lot more about the book. The next page was the Solar
System, showing the sun and planets, the stars and the moon. The
third page was the chart of the North and South Poles. Then came
the hemispheres, the oceans, the continents and the countries.
As the Doctor began sharpening his pencil a thought came to me.
"What if the pencil falls upon the North Pole," I asked, "will we
have to go there?"
"No. The rules of the game say you don't have to go any place
you've been to before. You are allowed another try. I've been to
the North Pole," he ended quietly, "so we shan't have to go
there." I could hardly speak with astonishment.
"YOU'VE BEEN TO THE NORTH POLE!" I managed to gasp out at last.
"But I thought it was still undiscovered. The map shows all the
places explorers have reached to, TRYING to get there. Why isn't
your name down if you discovered it?"
"I promised to keep it a secret. And you must promise me never
to tell any one. Yes, I discovered the North Pole in April,
1809. But shortly after I got there the polar bears came to me in
a body and told me there was a great deal of coal there, buried
beneath the snow. They knew, they said, that human beings would
do anything, and go anywhere, to get coal. So would I please
keep it a secret. Because once people began coming up there to
start coal-mines, their beautiful white country would be
spoiled--and there was nowhere else in the world cold enough for
polar bears to be comfortable. So of course I had to promise them
I would. Ah, well, it will be discovered again some day, by
somebody else. But I want the polar bears to have their
play-ground to themselves as long as possible. And I daresay it
will be a good while yet--for it certainly is a fiendish place to
get to--Well now, are we ready?--Good! Take the pencil and stand
here close to the table. When the book falls open, wave the
pencil round three times and jab it down. Ready?--All right.
Shut your eyes."
It was a tense and fearful moment--but very thrilling. We both
had our eyes shut tight. I heard the atlas fall open with a
bang. I wondered what page it was: England or Asia. If it
should be the map of Asia, so much would depend on where that
pencil would land. I waved three times in a circle. I began to
lower my hand. The pencil-point touched the page.
"All right," I called out, "it's done."
THE TWELFTH CHAPTER
DESTINY AND DESTINATION
WE both opened our eyes; then bumped our heads together with a
crack in our eagerness to lean over and see where we were to go.
The atlas lay open at a map called, Chart of the South Atlantic
Ocean. My pencil-point was resting right in the center of a tiny
island. The name of it was printed so small that the Doctor had
to get out his strong spectacles to read it. I was trembling
"Spidermonkey Island," he read out slowly. Then he whistled
softly beneath his breath. "Of all the extraordinary things!
You've hit upon the very island where Long Arrow was last seen on
earth-- I wonder--Well, well! How very singular!"
"We'll go there, Doctor, won't we?" I asked.
"Of course we will. The rules of the game say we've got to."
"I'm so glad it wasn't Oxenthorpe or Bristol," I said. "It'll be
a grand voyage, this. Look at all the sea we've got to cross.
Will it take us long?"
"Oh, no," said the Doctor--"not very. With a good boat and a
good wind we should make it easily in four weeks. But isn't it
extraordinary? Of all the places in the world you picked out that
one with your eyes shut. Spidermonkey Island after all!--Well,
there's one good thing about it: I shall be able to get some
Jabizri beetles." "What are Jabizri beetles?"
"They are a very rare kind of beetles with peculiar habits. I
want to study them. There are only three countries in the world
where they are to be found. Spidermonkey Island is one of them.
But even there they are very scarce."
"What is this little question-mark after the name of the island
for?" I asked, pointing to the map.
"That means that the island's position in the ocean is not known
very exactly--that it is somewhere ABOUT there. Ships have
probably seen it in that neighborhood, that is all, most likely.
It is quite possible we shall be the first white men to land
there. But I daresay we shall have some difficulty in finding it
How like a dream it all sounded! The two of us sitting there at
the big study-table; the candles lit; the smoke curling towards
the dim ceiling from the Doctor's pipe--the two of us sitting
there, talking about finding an island in the ocean and being the
first white men to land upon it!
"I'll bet it will be a great voyage," I said. "It looks a lovely
island on the map. Will there be black men there?"
"No. A peculiar tribe of Red Indians lives on it, Miranda tells
At this point the poor Bird-of-Paradise stirred and woke up. In
our excitement we had forgotten to speak low.
"We are going to Spidermonkey Island, Miranda," said the Doctor.
"You know where it is, do you not?"
"I know where it was the last time I saw it," said the bird. "But
whether it will be there still, I can't say."
"What do you mean?" asked the Doctor. "It is always in the same
"Not by any means," said Miranda. "Why, didn't you
know?--Spidermonkey Island is a FLOATING island. It moves around
all over the place--usually somewhere near southern South
America. But of course I could surely find it for you if you
want to go there."
At this fresh piece of news I could contain myself no longer. I
was bursting to tell some one. I ran dancing and singing from
the room to find Chee-Chee.
At the door I tripped over Dab-Dab, who was just coming in with
her wings full of plates, and fell headlong on my nose,
"Has the boy gone crazy?" cried the duck. "Where do you think
you're going, ninny?"
"To Spidermonkey Island!" I shouted, picking myself up and doing
cart-wheels down the hall--"Spidermonkey Island! Hooray!--And
it's a FLOATING island!"
"You're going to Bedlam, I should say," snorted the housekeeper.
"Look what you've done to my best china!"
But I was far too happy to listen to her scolding; and I ran on,
singing, into the kitchen to find Chee-Chee.
THE FIRST CHAPTER
THE THIRD MAN
THAT same week we began our preparations for the voyage.
Joe, the mussel-man, had the Curlew moved down the river and tied
it up along the river-wall, so it would be more handy for
loading. And for three whole days we carried provisions down to
our beautiful new boat and stowed them away.
I was surprised to find how roomy and big she was inside. There
were three little cabins, a saloon (or dining-room) and
underneath all this, a big place called the hold where the food
and extra sails and other things were kept.
I think Joe must have told everybody in the town about our coming
voyage, because there was always a regular crowd watching us when
we brought the things down to put aboard. And of course sooner or
later old Matthew Mugg was bound to turn up.
"My Goodness, Tommy," said he, as he watched me carrying on some
sacks of flour, "but that's a pretty boat! Where might the Doctor
be going to this voyage?"
"We're going to Spidermonkey Island," I said proudly.
"And be you the only one the Doctor's taking along?"
"Well, he has spoken of wanting to take another man," I said;
"but so far he hasn't made up his mind."
Matthew grunted; then squinted up at the graceful masts of the
"You know, Tommy," said he, "if it wasn't for my rheumatism I've
half a mind to come with the Doctor myself. There's something
about a boat standing ready to sail that always did make me feel
venturesome and travelish-like. What's that stuff in the cans
you're taking on?"
"This is treacle," I said--"twenty pounds of treacle."
"My Goodness," he sighed, turning away sadly. "That makes me
feel more like going with you than ever--But my rheumatism is
that bad I can't hardly--"
I didn't hear any more for Matthew had moved off, still mumbling,
into the crowd that stood about the wharf. The clock in Puddleby
Church struck noon and I turned back, feeling very busy and
important, to the task of loading.
But it wasn't very long before some one else came along and
interrupted my work. This was a huge, big, burly man with a red
beard and tattoo-marks all over his arms. He wiped his mouth with
the back of his hand, spat twice on to the river-wall and said,
"Boy, where's the skipper?"
"The SKIPPER!--Who do you mean?" I asked.
"The captain--Where's the captain, of this craft?" he said,
pointing to the Curlew.
"Oh, you mean the Doctor," said I. "Well, he isn't here at
At that moment the Doctor arrived with his arms full of
note-books and butterfly-nets and glass cases and other natural
history things. The big man went up to him, respectfully touching
"Good morning, Captain," said he. "I heard you was in need of
hands for a voyage. My name's Ben Butcher, able seaman."
"I am very glad to know you," said the Doctor. "But I'm afraid I
shan't be able to take on any more crew."
"Why, but Captain," said the able seaman, "you surely ain't going
to face deep-sea weather with nothing more than this bit of a lad
to help you-- and with a cutter that big!"
The Doctor assured him that he was; but the man didn't go away.
He hung around and argued. He told us he had known of many ships
being sunk through "undermanning." He got out what he called his
stiffikit--a paper which said what a good sailor he was-- and
implored us, if we valued our lives, to take him.
But the Doctor was quite firm-polite but determined--and finally
the man walked sorrowfully away, telling us he never expected to
see us alive again.
Callers of one sort and another kept us quite busy that morning.
The Doctor had no sooner gone below to stow away his note-books
than another visitor appeared upon the gang-plank. This was a
most extraordinary-looking black man. The only other negroes I
had seen had been in circuses, where they wore feathers and bone
necklaces and things like that. But this one was dressed in a
fashionable frock coat with an enormous bright red cravat. On
his head was a straw hat with a gay band; and over this he held a
large green umbrella. He was very smart in every respect except
his feet. He wore no shoes or socks.
"Pardon me," said he, bowing elegantly, "but is this the ship of
the physician Dolittle?"
"Yes," I said, "did you wish to see him?"
"I did--if it will not be discommodious," he answered.
"Who shall I say it is?"
"I am Bumpo Kahbooboo, Crown Prince of Jolliginki."
I ran downstairs at once and told the Doctor.
"How fortunate!" cried John Dolittle. "My old friend Bumpo!
Well, well!--He's studying at Oxford, you know. How good of him
to come all this way to call on me!" And he tumbled up the ladder
to greet his visitor.
The strange black man seemed to be overcome with joy when the
Doctor appeared and shook him warmly by the hand.
"News reached me," he said, "that you were about to sail upon a
voyage. I hastened to see you before your departure. I am
sublimely ecstasied that I did not miss you."
"You very nearly did miss us," said the Doctor. "As it happened,
we were delayed somewhat in getting the necessary number of men
to sail our boat. If it hadn't been for that, we would have been
gone three days ago."
"How many men does your ship's company yet require?" asked Bumpo.
"Only one," said the Doctor--"But it is so hard to find the right
"Methinks I detect something of the finger of Destination in
this," said Bumpo. "How would I do?"
"Splendidly," said the Doctor. "But what about your studies? You
can't very well just go off and leave your university career to
take care of itself, you know."
"I need a holiday," said Bumpo. "Even had I not gone with you, I
intended at the end of this term to take a three-months'
absconsion--But besides, I shall not be neglecting my edification
if I accompany you. Before I left Jolliginki my august father,
the King, told me to be sure and travel plenty. You are a man of
great studiosity. To see the world in your company is an
opportunity not to be sneezed upon. No, no, indeed."
"How did you like the life at Oxford?" asked the Doctor.
"Oh, passably, passably," said Bumpo. "I liked it all except the
algebra and the shoes. The algebra hurt my head and the shoes
hurt my feet. I threw the shoes over a wall as soon as I got out
of the college quadrilateral this morning; and the algebra I am
happily forgetting very fast--I liked Cicero--Yes, I think
Cicero's fine--so simultaneous. By the way, they tell me his son
is rowing for our college next year-- charming fellow."
The Doctor looked down at the black man's huge bare feet
thoughtfully a moment.
"Well," he said slowly, "there is something in what you say,
Bumpo, about getting education from the world as well as from the
college. And if you are really sure that you want to come, we
shall be delighted to have you. Because, to tell you the truth,
I think you are exactly the man we need."
THE SECOND CHAPTER
TWO days after that we had all in readiness for our departure.
On this voyage Jip begged so hard to be taken that the Doctor
finally gave in and said he could come. Polynesia and Chee-Chee
were the only other animals to go with us. Dab-Dab was left in
charge of the house and the animal family we were to leave
Of course, as is always the way, at the last moment we kept
remembering things we had forgotten; and when we finally closed
the house up and went down the steps to the road, we were all
burdened with armfuls of odd packages.
Halfway to the river, the Doctor suddenly remembered that he had
left the stock-pot boiling on the kitchen-fire. However, we saw a
blackbird flying by who nested in our garden, and the Doctor
asked her to go back for us and tell Dab-Dab about it.
Down at the river-wall we found a great crowd waiting to see us
Standing right near the gang-plank were my mother and father. I
hoped that they would not make a scene, or burst into tears or
anything like that. But as a matter of fact they behaved quite
well--for parents. My mother said something about being sure not
to get my feet wet; and my father just smiled a crooked sort of
smile, patted me on the back and wished me luck. Good-byes are
awfully uncomfortable things and I was glad when it was over and
we passed on to the ship.
We were a little surprised not to see Matthew Mugg among the
crowd. We had felt sure that he would be there; and the Doctor
had intended to give him some extra instructions about the food
for the animals we had left at the house.
At last, after much pulling and tugging, we got the anchor up and
undid a lot of mooring-ropes. Then the Curlew began to move
gently down the river with the out-running tide, while the people
on the wall cheered and waved their handkerchiefs.
We bumped into one or two other boats getting out into the
stream; and at one sharp bend in the river we got stuck on a mud
bank for a few minutes. But though the people on the shore seemed
to get very excited at these things, the Doctor did not appear to
be disturbed by them in the least.
"These little accidents will happen in the most carefully
regulated voyages," he said as he leaned over the side and fished
for his boots which had got stuck in the mud while we were
pushing off. "Sailing is much easier when you get out into the
open sea. There aren't so many silly things to bump into."
For me indeed it was a great and wonderful feeling, that getting
out into the open sea, when at length we passed the little
lighthouse at the mouth of the river and found ourselves free of
the land. It was all so new and different: just the sky above
you and sea below. This ship, which was to be our house and our
street, our home and our garden, for so many days to come, seemed
so tiny in all this wide water-- so tiny and yet so snug,
I looked around me and took in a deep breath. The Doctor was at
the wheel steering the boat which was now leaping and plunging
gently through the waves. (I had expected to feel seasick at
first but was delighted to find that I didn't.) Bumpo had been
told off to go downstairs and prepare dinner for us. Chee-Chee
was coiling up ropes in the stern and laying them in neat piles.
My work was fastening down the things on the deck so that nothing
could roll about if the weather should grow rough when we got
further from the land. Jip was up in the peak of the boat with
ears cocked and nose stuck out-- like a statue, so still--his
keen old eyes keeping a sharp look-out for floating wrecks,
sand-bars, and other dangers. Each one of us had some special job
to do, part of the proper running of a ship. Even old Polynesia
was taking the sea's temperature with the Doctor's
bath-ther-mometer tied on the end of a string, to make sure there
were no icebergs near us. As I listened to her swearing softly to
herself because she couldn't read the pesky figures in the fading
light, I realized that the voyage had begun in earnest and that
very soon it would be night--my first night at sea!
THE THIRD CHAPTER
OUR TROUBLES BEGIN
JUST before supper-time Bumpo appeared from downstairs and went
to the Doctor at the wheel.
"A stowaway in the hold, Sir," said he in a very business-like
seafaring voice. "I just discovered him, behind the flour-bags."
"Dear me!" said the Doctor. "What a nuisance! Stubbins, go down
with Bumpo and bring the man up. I can't leave the wheel just
So Bumpo and I went down into the hold; and there, behind the
flour-bags, plastered in flour from head to foot, we found a man.
After we had swept most of the flour off him with a broom, we
discovered that it was Matthew Mugg. We hauled him upstairs
sneezing and took him before the Doctor.
"Why Matthew!" said John Dolittle. "What on earth are you doing
"The temptation was too much for me, Doctor," said the
cat's-meat-man. "You know I've often asked you to take me on
voyages with you and you never would. Well, this time, knowing
that you needed an extra man, I thought if I stayed hid till the
ship was well at sea you would find I came in handy like and keep
me. But I had to lie so doubled up, for hours, behind them
flour-bags, that my rheumatism came on something awful. I just
had to change my position; and of course just as I stretched out
my legs along comes this here African cook of yours and sees my
feet sticking out--Don't this ship roll something awful! How long
has this storm been going on? I reckon this damp sea air
wouldn't be very good for my rheumatics."
"No, Matthew it really isn't. You ought not to have come. You are
not in any way suited to this kind of a life. I'm sure you
wouldn't enjoy a long voyage a bit. We'll stop in at Penzance
and put you ashore. Bumpo, please go downstairs to my bunk; and
listen: in the pocket of my dressing-gown you'll find some maps.
Bring me the small one--with blue pencil-marks at the top. I know
Penzance is over here on our left somewhere. But I must find out
what light-houses there are before I change the ship's course and
"Very good, Sir," said Bumpo, turning round smartly and making
for the stairway.
"Now Matthew," said the Doctor, "you can take the coach from
Penzance to Bristol. And from there it is not very far to
Puddleby, as you know. Don't forget to take the usual provisions
to the house every Thursday, and be particularly careful to
remember the extra supply of herrings for the baby minks."
While we were waiting for the maps Chee-Chee and I set about
lighting the lamps: a green one on the right side of the ship, a
red one on the left and a white one on the mast.
At last we heard some one trundling on the stairs again and the
"Ah, here's Bumpo with the maps at last!"
But to our great astonishment it was not Bumpo alone that
appeared but THREE people.
"Good Lord deliver us! Who are these?" cried John Dolittle.
"Two more stowaways, Sir," said Bumpo stepping forward briskly.
"I found them in your cabin hiding under the bunk. One woman and
one man, Sir. Here are the maps."
"This is too much," said the Doctor feebly. "Who are they? I
can't see their faces in this dim light. Strike a match, Bumpo."
You could never guess who it was. It was Luke and his wife. Mrs.
Luke appeared to be very miserable and seasick.
They explained to the Doctor that after they had settled down to
live together in the little shack out on the fens, so many people
came to visit them (having heard about the great trial) that life
became impossible; and they had decided to escape from Puddleby
in this manner-- for they had no money to leave any other
way--and try to find some new place to live where they and their
story wouldn't be so well known. But as soon as the ship had
begun to roll Mrs. Luke had got most dreadfully unwell.
Poor Luke apologized many times for being such a nuisance and
said that the whole thing had been his wife's idea.
The Doctor, after he had sent below for his medicine-bag and had
given Mrs. Luke some sal volatile and smelling-salts, said he
thought the best thing to do would be for him to lend them some
money and put them ashore at Penzance with Matthew. He also
wrote a letter for Luke to take with him to a friend the Doctor
had in the town of Penzance who, it was hoped, would be able to
find Luke work to do there.
As the Doctor opened his purse and took out some gold coins I
heard Polynesia, who was sitting on my shoulder watching the
whole affair, mutter beneath her breath,
"There he goes--lending his last blessed penny--three pounds
ten-- all the money we had for the whole trip! Now we haven't
the price of a postage-stamp aboard if we should lose an anchor
or have to buy a pint of tar--Well, let's, pray we don't run out
of food-- Why doesn't he give them the ship and walk home?"
Presently with the help of the map the course of the boat was
changed and, to Mrs. Luke's great relief, we made for Penzance
and dry land.
I was tremendously interested to see how a ship could be steered
into a port at night with nothing but light-houses and a compass
to guide you. It seemed to me that the Doctor missed all the
rocks and sand-bars very cleverly.
We got into that funny little Cornish harbor about eleven o'clock
that night. The Doctor took his stowaways on shore in our small
row-boat which we kept on the deck of the Curlew and found them
rooms at the hotel there. When he got back he told us that Mrs.
Luke had gone straight to bed and was feeling much better.
It was now after midnight; so we decided to stay in the harbor
and wait till morning before setting out again.
I was glad to get to bed, although I felt that staying up so
tremendously late was great fun. As I climbed into the bunk over
the Doctor's and pulled the blankets snugly round me, I found I
could look out of the port-hole at my elbow, and, without raising
my head from the pillow, could see the lights of Penzance
swinging gently up and down with the motion of the ship at
anchor. It was like being rocked to sleep with a little show
going on to amuse you. I was just deciding that I liked the life
of the sea very much when I fell fast asleep.
THE FOURTH CHAPTER
OUR TROUBLES CONTINUE
THE next morning when we were eating a very excellent breakfast
of kidneys and bacon, prepared by our good cook Bumpo, the Doctor
said to me,
"I was just wondering, Stubbins, whether I should stop at the
Capa Blanca Islands or run right across for the coast of Brazil.
Miranda said we could expect a spell of excellent weather
now--for four and a half weeks at least."
"Well," I said, spooning out the sugar at the bottom of my
cocoa-cup, "I should think it would be best to make straight
across while we are sure of good weather. And besides the Purple
Bird-of-Paradise is going to keep a lookout for us, isn't she?
She'll be wondering what's happened to us if we don't get there
in about a month."
"True, quite true, Stubbins. On the other hand, the Capa Blancas
make a very convenient stopping place on our way across. If we
should need supplies or repairs it would be very handy to put in
"How long will it take us from here to the Capa Blancas?" I
"About six days," said the Doctor--"Well, we can decide later.
For the next two days at any rate our direction would be the same
practically in either case. If you have finished breakfast let's
go and get under way."
Upstairs I found our vessel surrounded by white and gray seagulls
who flashed and circled about in the sunny morning air, looking
for food-scraps thrown out by the ships into the harbor.
By about half past seven we had the anchor up and the sails set
to a nice steady breeze; and this time we got out into the open
sea without bumping into a single thing. We met the Penzance
fishing fleet coming in from the night's fishing, and very trim
and neat they looked, in a line like soldiers, with their
red-brown sails all leaning over the same way and the white water
dancing before their bows.
For the next three or four days everything went smoothly and
nothing unusual happened. During this time we all got settled
down into our regular jobs; and in spare moments the Doctor
showed each of us how to take our turns at the wheel, the proper
manner of keeping a ship on her right course, and what to do if
the wind changed suddenly. We divided the twenty-four hours of
the day into three spells; and we took it in turns to sleep our
eight hours and be awake sixteen. So the ship was well looked
after, with two of us always on duty.
Besides that, Polynesia, who was an older sailor than any of us,
and really knew a lot about running ships, seemed to be always
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