Part 3 out of 5
awake-- except when she took her couple of winks in the sun,
standing on one leg beside the wheel. You may be sure that no
one ever got a chance to stay abed more than his eight hours
while Polynesia was around. She used to watch the ship's clock;
and if you overslept a half-minute, she would come down to the
cabin and peck you gently on the nose till you got up.
I very soon grew to be quite fond of our funny black friend
Bumpo, with his grand way of speaking and his enormous feet which
some one was always stepping on or falling over. Although he was
much older than I was and had been to college, he never tried to
lord it over me. He seemed to be forever smiling and kept all of
us in good humor. It wasn't long before I began to see the
Doctor's good sense in bringing him--in spite of the fact that he
knew nothing whatever about sailing or travel.
On the morning of the fifth day out, just as I was taking the
wheel over from the Doctor, Bumpo appeared and said,
"The salt beef is nearly all gone, Sir."
"The salt beef!" cried the Doctor. "Why, we brought a hundred
and twenty pounds with us. We couldn't have eaten that in five
days. What can have become of it?"
"I don't know, Sir, I'm sure. Every time I go down to the stores
I find another hunk missing. If it is rats that are eating it,
then they are certainly colossal rodents."
Polynesia who was walking up and down a stay-rope taking her
morning exercise, put in,
"We must search the hold. If this is allowed to go on we will
all be starving before a week is out. Come downstairs with me,
Tommy, and we will look into this matter."
So we went downstairs into the store-room and Polynesia told us
to keep quite still and listen. This we did. And presently we
heard from a dark corner of the hold the distinct sound of
"Ah, I thought so," said Polynesia. "It's a man--and a big one.
Climb in there, both of you, and haul him out. It sounds as
though he were behind that barrel--Gosh! We seem to have brought
half of Puddleby with us. Anyone would think we were a penny
ferry-boat. Such cheek! Haul him out."
So Bumpo and I lit a lantern and climbed over the stores. And
there, behind the barrel, sure enough, we found an enormous
bearded man fast asleep with a well-fed look on his face. We woke
"Washamarrer?" he said sleepily.
It was Ben Butcher, the able seaman.
Polynesia spluttered like an angry fire-cracker.
"This is the last straw," said she. "The one man in the world we
least wanted. Shiver my timbers, what cheek!"
"Would it not be advisable," suggested Bumpo, "while the varlet
is still sleepy, to strike him on the head with some heavy object
and push him through a port-hole into the sea?"
"No. We'd get into trouble," said Polynesia. "We're not in
Jolliginki now, you know--worse luck!--Besides, there never was a
port-hole big enough to push that man through. Bring him
upstairs to the Doctor."
So we led the man to the wheel where he respectfully touched his
cap to the Doctor.
"Another stowaway, Sir," said Bumpo smartly. I thought the poor
Doctor would have a fit.
"Good morning, Captain," said the man. "Ben Butcher, able
seaman, at your service. I knew you'd need me, so I took the
liberty of stowing away--much against my conscience. But I just
couldn't bear to see you poor landsmen set out on this voyage
without a single real seaman to help you. You'd never have got
home alive if I hadn't come--Why look at your mainsail, Sir--all
loose at the throat. First gust of wind come along, and away
goes your canvas overboard--Well, it's all right now I'm here.
We'll soon get things in shipshape."
"No, it isn't all right," said the Doctor, "it's all wrong. And
I'm not at all glad to see you. I told you in Puddleby I didn't
want you. You had no right to come."
"But Captain," said the able seaman, "you can't sail this ship
without me. You don't understand navigation. Why, look at the
compass now: you've let her swing a point and a half off her
course. It's madness for you to try to do this trip alone--if
you'll pardon my saying so, Sir. Why--why, you'll lose the
"Look here," said the Doctor, a sudden stern look coming into his
eyes, "losing a ship is nothing to me. I've lost ships before
and it doesn't bother me in the least. When I set out to go to a
place, I get there. Do you understand? I may know nothing
whatever about sailing and navigation, but I get there just the
same. Now you may be the best seaman in the world, but on this
ship you're just a plain ordinary nuisance--very plain and very
ordinary. And I am now going to call at the nearest port and put
"Yes, and think yourself lucky," Polynesia put in, "that you are
not locked up for stowing away and eating all our salt beef."
"I don't know what the mischief we're going to do now," I heard
her whisper to Bumpo. "We've no money to buy any more; and that
salt beef was the most important part of the stores."
"Would it not be good political economy," Bumpo whispered back,
"if we salted the able seaman and ate him instead? I should judge
that he would weigh more than a hundred and twenty pounds."
"How often must I tell you that we are not in Jolliginki,"
snapped Polynesia. "Those things are not done on white men's
ships--Still," she murmured after a moment's thought, "it's an
awfully bright idea. I don't suppose anybody saw him come on to
the ship--Oh, but Heavens! we haven't got enough salt. Besides,
he'd be sure to taste of tobacco."
THE FIFTH CHAPTER
POLYNESIA HAS A PLAN
THEN the Doctor told me to take the wheel while he made a little
calculation with his map and worked out what new course we should
"I shall have to run for the Capa Blancas after all," he told me
when the seaman's back was turned. "Dreadful nuisance! But I'd
sooner swim back to Puddleby than have to listen to that fellow's
talk all the way to Brazil."
Indeed he was a terrible person, this Ben Butcher. You'd think
that any one after being told he wasn't wanted would have had the
decency to keep quiet. But not Ben Butcher. He kept going round
the deck pointing out all the things we had wrong. According to
him there wasn't a thing right on the whole ship. The anchor was
hitched up wrong; the hatches weren't fastened down properly; the
sails were put on back to front; all our knots were the wrong
kind of knots.
At last the Doctor told him to stop talking and go downstairs. He
refused--said he wasn't going to be sunk by landlubbers while he
was still able to stay on deck.
This made us feel a little uneasy. He was such an enormous man
there was no knowing what he might do if he got really
Bumpo and I were talking about this downstairs in the
dining-saloon when Polynesia, Jip and Chee-Chee came and joined
us. And, as usual, Polynesia had a plan.
"Listen," she said, "I am certain this Ben Butcher is a smuggler
and a bad man. I am a very good judge of seamen, remember, and I
don't like the cut of this man's jib. I--"
"Do you really think," I interrupted, "that it is safe for the
Doctor to cross the Atlantic without any regular seamen on his
You see it had upset me quite a good deal to find that all the
things we had been doing were wrong; and I was beginning to
wonder what might happen if we ran into a storm--particularly as
Miranda had only said the weather would be good for a certain
time; and we seemed to be having so many delays. But Polynesia
merely tossed her head scornfully.
"Oh, bless you, my boy," said she, "you're always safe with John
Dolittle. Remember that. Don't take any notice of that stupid
old salt. Of course it is perfectly true the Doctor does do
everything wrong. But with him it doesn't matter. Mark my words,
if you travel with John Dolittle you always get there, as you
heard him say. I've been with him lots of times and I know.
Sometimes the ship is upside down when you get there, and
sometimes it's right way up. But you get there just the same.
And then of course there's another thing about the Doctor," she
added thoughtfully: "he always has extraordinary good luck. He
may have his troubles; but with him things seem to have a habit
of turning out all right in the end. I remember once when we
were going through the Straits of Magellan the wind was so
"But what are we going to do about Ben Butcher?" Jip put in.
"You had some plan Polynesia, hadn't you?"
"Yes. What I'm afraid of is that he may hit the Doctor on the
head when he's not looking and make himself captain of the
Curlew. Bad sailors do that sometimes. Then they run the ship
their own way and take it where they want. That's what you call a
"Yes," said Jip, "and we ought to do something pretty quick. We
can't reach the Capa Blancas before the day after to-morrow at
best. I don't like to leave the Doctor alone with him for a
minute. He smells like a very bad man to me."
"Well, I've got it all worked out," said Polynesia. "Listen: is
there a key in that door?"
We looked outside the dining-room and found that there was.
"All right," said Polynesia. "Now Bumpo lays the table for lunch
and we all go and hide. Then at twelve o'clock Bumpo rings the
dinner-bell down here. As soon as Ben hears it he'll come down
expecting more salt beef. Bumpo must hide behind the door
outside. The moment that Ben is seated at the dining-table Bumpo
slams the door and locks it. Then we've got him. See?"
"How stratagenious!" Bumpo chuckled. "As Cicero said, parrots
cum parishioners facilime congregation. I'll lay the table at
"Yes and take that Worcestershire sauce off the dresser with you
when you go out," said Polynesia. "Don't leave any loose
eatables around. That fellow has had enough to last any man for
three days. Besides, he won't be so inclined to start a fight
when we put him ashore at the Capa Blancas if we thin him down a
bit before we let him out."
So we all went and hid ourselves in the passage where we could
watch what happened. And presently Bumpo came to the foot of the
stairs and rang the dinner-bell like mad. Then he hopped behind
the dining-room door and we all kept still and listened.
Almost immediately, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, down the stairs tramped
Ben Butcher, the able seaman. He walked into the dining-saloon,
sat himself down at the head of the table in the Doctor's place,
tucked a napkin under his fat chin and heaved a sigh of
Then, BANG! Bumpo slammed the door and locked it.
"That settles HIM for a while," said Polynesia coming out from
her hiding-place. "Now let him teach navigation to the
side-board. Gosh, the cheek of the man! I've forgotten more
about the sea than that lumbering lout will ever know. Let's go
upstairs and tell the Doctor. Bumpo, you will have to serve the
meals in the cabin for the next couple of days."
And bursting into a rollicking Norwegian sea-song, she climbed up
to my shoulder and we went on deck.
THE SIXTH CHAPTER
THE BED-MAKER OF MONTEVERDE
WE remained three days in the Capa Blanca Islands.
There were two reasons why we stayed there so long when we were
really in such a hurry to get away. One was the shortage in our
provisions caused by the able seaman's enormous appetite. When we
came to go over the stores and make a list, we found that he had
eaten a whole lot of other things besides the beef. And having no
money, we were sorely puzzled how to buy more. The Doctor went
through his trunk to see if there was anything he could sell.
But the only thing he could find was an old watch with the hands
broken and the back dented in; and we decided this would not
bring us in enough money to buy much more than a pound of tea.
Bumpo suggested that he sing comic songs in the streets which he
had learned in Jolliginki. But the Doctor said he did not think
that the islanders would care for African music.
The other thing that kept us was the bullfight. In these
islands, which belonged to Spain, they had bullfights every
Sunday. It was on a Friday that we arrived there; and after we
had got rid of the able seaman we took a walk through the town.
It was a very funny little town, quite different from any that I
had ever seen. The streets were all twisty and winding and so
narrow that a wagon could only just pass along them. The houses
overhung at the top and came so close together that people in the
attics could lean out of the windows and shake hands with their
neighbors on the opposite side of the street. The Doctor told us
the town was very, very old. It was called Monteverde.
As we had no money of course we did not go to a hotel or anything
like that. But on the second evening when we were passing by a
bed-maker's shop we noticed several beds, which the man had made,
standing on the pavement outside. The Doctor started chatting in
Spanish to the bed-maker who was sitting at his door whistling to
a parrot in a cage. The Doctor and the bed-maker got very
friendly talking about birds and things. And as it grew near to
supper-time the man asked us to stop and sup with him.
This of course we were very glad to do. And after the meal was
over (very nice dishes they were, mostly cooked in olive-oil--I
particularly liked the fried bananas) we sat outside on the
pavement again and went on talking far into the night.
At last when we got up, to go back to our ship, this very nice
shopkeeper wouldn't hear of our going away on any account. He
said the streets down by the harbor were very badly lighted and
there was no moon. We would surely get lost. He invited us to
spend the night with him and go back to our ship in the morning.
Well, we finally agreed; and as our good friend had no spare
bedrooms, the three of us, the Doctor, Bumpo and I, slept on the
beds set out for sale on the pavement before the shop. The night
was so hot we needed no coverings. It was great fun to fall
asleep out of doors like this, watching the people walking to and
fro and the gay life of the streets. It seemed to me that Spanish
people never went to bed at all. Late as it was, all the little
restaurants and cafes around us were wide open, with customers
drinking coffee and chatting merrily at the small tables outside.
The sound of a guitar strumming softly in the distance mingled
with the clatter of chinaware and the babble of voices.
Somehow it made me think of my mother and father far away in
Puddleby, with their regular habits, the evening practise on the
flute and the rest--doing the same thing every day. I felt sort
of sorry for them in a way, because they missed the fun of this
traveling life, where we were doing something new all the
time--even sleeping dif-ferently. But I suppose if they had been
invited to go to bed on a pavement in front of a shop they
wouldn't have cared for the idea at all. It is funny how some
THE SEVENTH CHAPTER
THE DOCTOR'S WAGER
NEXT morning we were awakened by a great racket. There was a
procession coming down the street, a number of men in very gay
clothes followed by a large crowd of admiring ladies and cheering
children. I asked the Doctor who they were.
"They are the bullfighters," he said. "There is to be a
"What is a bullfight?" I asked.
To my great surprise the Doctor got red in the face with anger.
It reminded me of the time when he had spoken of the lions and
tigers in his private zoo.
"A bullfight is a stupid, cruel, disgusting business," said he.
"These Spanish people are most lovable and hospitable folk. How
they can enjoy these wretched bullfights is a thing I could never
Then the Doctor went on to explain to me how a bull was first
made very angry by teasing and then allowed to run into a circus
where men came out with red cloaks, waved them at him, and ran
away. Next the bull was allowed to tire himself out by tossing
and killing a lot of poor, old, broken-down horses who couldn't
defend themselves. Then, when the bull was thoroughly out of
breath and wearied by this, a man came out with a sword and
killed the bull.
"Every Sunday," said the Doctor," in almost every big town in
Spain there are six bulls killed like that and as many horses."
"But aren't the men ever killed by the bull?" I asked.
"Unfortunately very seldom," said he. "A bull is not nearly as
dangerous as he looks, even when he's angry, if you are only
quick on your feet and don't lose your head. These bullfighters
are very clever and nimble. And the people, especially the
Spanish ladies, think no end of them. A famous bullfighter (or
matador, as they call them) is a more important man in Spain than
a king--Here comes another crowd of them round the corner, look.
See the girls throwing kisses to them. Ridiculous business!"
At that moment our friend the bed-maker came out to see the
procession go past. And while he was wishing us good morning and
enquiring how we had slept, a friend of his walked up and joined
us. The bed-maker introduced this friend to us as Don Enrique
Don Enrique when he heard where we were from, spoke to us in
English. He appeared to be a well-educated, gentlemanly sort of
"And you go to see the bullfight to-morrow, yes?" he asked the
"Certainly not," said John Dolittle firmly. "I don't like
bullfights-- cruel, cowardly shows."
Don Enrique nearly exploded. I never saw a man get so excited.
He told the Doctor that he didn't know what he was talking about.
He said bullfighting was a noble sport and that the matadors were
the bravest men in the world.
"Oh, rubbish!" said the Doctor. "You never give the poor bull a
chance. It is only when he is all tired and dazed that your
precious matadors dare to try and kill him."
I thought the Spaniard was going to strike the Doctor he got so
angry. While he was still spluttering to find words, the
bed-maker came between them and took the Doctor aside. He
explained to John Dolittle in a whisper that this Don Enrique
Cardenas was a very important person; that he it was who supplied
the bulls--a special, strong black kind-- from his own farm for
all the bullfights in the Capa Blancas. He was a very rich man,
the bed-maker said, a most important personage. He mustn't be
allowed to take offense on any account.
I watched the Doctor's face as the bed-maker finished, and I saw
a flash of boyish mischief come into his eyes as though an idea
had struck him. He turned to the angry Spaniard.
"Don Enrique," he said, "you tell me your bullfighters are very
brave men and skilful. It seems I have offended you by saying
that bullfighting is a poor sport. What is the name of the best
matador you have for to-morrow's show?"
"Pepito de Malaga," said Don Enrique, "one of the greatest names,
one of the bravest men, in all Spain."
"Very well," said the Doctor, "I have a proposal to make to you.
I have never fought a bull in my life. Now supposing I were to
go into the ring to-morrow with Pepito de Malaga and any other
matadors you choose; and if I can do more tricks with a bull than
they can, would you promise to do something for me?"
Don Enrique threw back his head and laughed.
"Man," he said, "you must be mad! You would be killed at once.
One has to be trained for years to become a proper bullfighter."
"Supposing I were willing to take the risk of that--You are not
afraid, I take it, to accept my offer?"
The Spaniard frowned.
"Afraid!" he cried, "Sir, if you can beat Pepito de Malaga in the
bull-ring I'll promise you anything it is possible for me to
"Very good," said the Doctor, "now I understand that you are
quite a powerful man in these islands. If you wished to stop all
bullfighting here after to-morrow, you could do it, couldn't
"Yes," said Don Enrique proudly--"I could."
"Well that is what I ask of you--if I win my wager," said John
Dolittle. "If I can do more with angry bulls than can Pepito de
Malaga, you are to promise me that there shall never be another
bullfight in the Capa Blancas so long as you are alive to stop
it. Is it a bargain?"
The Spaniard held out his hand.
"It is a bargain," he said--"I promise. But I must warn you that
you are merely throwing your life away, for you will certainly be
killed. However, that is no more than you deserve for saying
that bullfighting is an unworthy sport. I will meet you here
to-morrow morning if you should wish to arrange any particulars.
Good day, Sir."
As the Spaniard turned and walked into the shop with the
bed-maker, Polynesia, who had been listening as usual, flew up on
to my shoulder and whispered in my ear,
"I, have a plan. Get hold of Bumpo and come some place where the
Doctor can't hear us. I want to talk to you."
I nudged Bumpo's elbow and we crossed the street and pretended to
look into a jeweler's window; while the Doctor sat down upon his
bed to lace up his boots, the only part of his clothing he had
taken off for the night.
"Listen," said Polynesia, "I've been breaking my head trying to
think up some way we can get money to buy those stores with; and
at last I've got it."
"The money?" said Bumpo.
"No, stupid. The idea--to make the money with. Listen: the
Doctor is simply bound to win this game to-morrow, sure as you're
alive. Now all we have to do is to make a side bet with these
Spaniards-- they're great on gambling--and the trick's done."
"What's a side bet?" I asked.
"Oh I know what that is," said Bumpo proudly. "We used to have
lots of them at Oxford when boat-racing was on. I go to Don
Enrique and say, 'I bet you a hundred pounds the Doctor wins.'
Then if he does win, Don Enrique pays me a hundred pounds; and if
he doesn't, I have to pay Don Enrique."
"That's the idea," said Polynesia. "Only don't say a hundred
pounds: say two-thousand five-hundred pesetas. Now come and find
old Don Ricky-ticky and try to look rich."
So we crossed the street again and slipped into the bed-maker's
shop while the Doctor was still busy with his boots.
"Don Enrique," said Bumpo, "allow me to introduce myself. I am
the Crown Prince of Jolliginki. Would you care to have a small
bet with me on to-morrow's bullfight?"
Don Enrique bowed.
"Why certainly," he said, "I shall be delighted. But I must warn
you that you are bound to lose. How much?"
"Oh a mere truffle," said Bumpo--"just for the fun of the thing,
you know. What do you say to three-thousand pesetas?"
"I agree," said the Spaniard bowing once more. "I will meet you
after the bullfight to-morrow."
"So that's all right," said Polynesia as we came out to join the
Doctor. "I feel as though quite a load had been taken off my
THE EIGHTH CHAPTER
THE GREAT BULLFIGHT
THE next day was a great day in Monteverde. All the streets were
hung with flags; and everywhere gaily dressed crowds were to be
seen flocking towards the bull-ring, as the big circus was called
where the fights took place.
The news of the Doctor's challenge had gone round the town and,
it seemed, had caused much amusement to the islanders. The very
idea of a mere foreigner daring to match himself against the
great Pepito de Malaga!--Serve him right if he got killed!
The Doctor had borrowed a bullfighter's suit from Don Enrique;
and very gay and wonderful he looked in it, though Bumpo and I
had hard work getting the waistcoat to close in front and even
then the buttons kept bursting off it in all directions.
When we set out from the harbor to walk to the bull-ring, crowds
of small boys ran after us making fun of the Doctor's fatness,
calling out, "Juan Hagapoco, el grueso matador!" which is the
Spanish for, "John Dolittle, the fat bullfighter." As soon as we
arrived the Doctor said he would like to take a look at the bulls
before the fight began; and we were at once led to the bull pen
where, behind a high railing, six enormous black bulls were
tramping around wildly.
In a few hurried words and signs the Doctor told the bulls what
he was going to do and gave them careful instructions for their
part of the show. The poor creatures were tremendously glad when
they heard that there was a chance of bullfighting being stopped;
and they promised to do exactly as they were told.
Of course the man who took us in there didn't understand what we
were doing. He merely thought the fat Englishman was crazy when
he saw the Doctor making signs and talking in ox tongue.
From there the Doctor went to the matadors' dressing-rooms while
Bumpo and I with Polynesia made our way into the bull-ring and
took our seats in the great open-air theatre.
It was a very gay sight. Thousands of ladies and gentlemen were
there, all dressed in their smartest clothes; and everybody
seemed very happy and cheerful.
Right at the beginning Don Enrique got up and explained to the
people that the first item on the program was to be a match
between the English Doctor and Pepito de Malaga. He told them
what he had promised if the Doctor should win. But the people did
not seem to think there was much chance of that. A roar of
laughter went up at the very mention of such a thing.
When Pepito came into the ring everybody cheered, the ladies blew
kisses and the men clapped and waved their hats.
Presently a large door on the other side of the ring was rolled
back and in galloped one of the bulls; then the door was closed
again. At once the matador became very much on the alert. He
waved his red cloak and the bull rushed at him. Pepito stepped
nimbly aside and the people cheered again.
This game was repeated several times. But I noticed that
whenever Pepito got into a tight place and seemed to be in real
danger from the bull, an assistant of his, who always hung around
somewhere near, drew the bull's attention upon himself by waving
another red cloak. Then the bull would chase the assistant and
Pepito was left in safety. Most often, as soon as he had drawn
the bull off, this assistant ran for the high fence and vaulted
out of the ring to save himself. They evidently had it all
arranged, these matadors; and it didn't seem to me that they were
in any very great danger from the poor clumsy bull so long as
they didn't slip and fall.
After about ten minutes of this kind of thing the small door into
the matadors' dressing-room opened and the Doctor strolled into
the ring. As soon as his fat figure, dressed In sky-blue velvet,
appeared, the crowd rocked in their seats with laughter.
Juan Hagapoco, as they had called him, walked out into the centre
of the ring and bowed ceremoniously to the ladies in the boxes.
Then he bowed to the bull. Then he bowed to Pepito. While he
was bowing to Pepito's assistant the bull started to rush at him
"Look out! Look out!--The bull! You will be killed!" yelled the
But the Doctor calmly finished his bow. Then turning round he
folded his arms, fixed the on-rushing bull with his eye and
frowned a terrible frown.
Presently a curious thing happened: the bull's speed got slower
and slower. It almost looked as though he were afraid of that
frown. Soon he stopped altogether. The Doctor shook his finger
at him. He began to tremble. At last, tucking his tail between
his legs, the bull turned round and ran away.
The crowd gasped. The Doctor ran after him. Round and round the
ring they went, both of them puffing and blowing like grampuses.
Excited whispers began to break out among the people. This was
something new in bullfighting, to have the bull running away from
the man, instead of the man away from the bull. At last in the
tenth lap, with a final burst of speed, Juan Hagapoco, the
English matador, caught the poor bull by the tail.
Then leading the now timid creature into the middle of the ring,
the Doctor made him do all manner of tricks: standing on the
hind legs, standing on the front legs, dancing, hopping, rolling
over. He finished up by making the bull kneel down; then he got
on to his back and did handsprings and other acrobatics on the
Pepito and his assistant had their noses sadly out of joint. The
crowd had forgotten them entirely. They were standing together
by the fence not far from where I sat, muttering to one another
and slowly growing green with jealousy.
Finally the Doctor turned towards Don Enrique's seat and bowing
said in a loud voice, "This bull is no good any more. He's
terrified and out of breath. Take him away, please."
"Does the caballero wish for a fresh bull?" asked Don Enrique.
"No," said the Doctor, "I want five fresh bulls. And I would like
them all in the ring at once, please."
At this a cry of horror burst from the people. They had been
used to seeing matadors escaping from one bull at a time. But
FIVE!--That must mean certain death.
Pepito sprang forward and called to Don Enrique not to allow it,
saying it was against all the rules of bullfighting. ("Ha!"
Polynesia chuckled into my ear. "It's like the Doctor's
navigation: he breaks all the rules; but he gets there. If
they'll only let him, he'll give them the best show for their
money they ever saw.") A great argument began. Half the people
seemed to be on Pepito's side and half on the Doctor's side. At
last the Doctor turned to Pepito and made another very grand bow
which burst the last button off his waistcoat.
"Well, of course if the caballero is afraid--" he began with a
"Afraid!" screamed Pepito. "I am afraid of nothing on earth. I
am the greatest matador in Spain. With this right hand I have
killed nine hundred and fifty-seven bulls."
"All right then," said the Doctor, "let us see if you can kill
five more. Let the bulls in!" he shouted. "Pepito de Malaga is
A dreadful silence hung over the great theatre as the heavy door
into the bull pen was rolled back. Then with a roar the five big
bulls bounded into the ring.
"Look fierce," I heard the Doctor call to them in cattle
language. "Don't scatter. Keep close. Get ready for a rush.
Take Pepito, the one in purple, first. But for Heaven's sake
don't kill him. Just chase him out of the ring--Now then, all
together, go for him!"
The bulls put down their heads and all in line, like a squadron
of cavalry, charged across the ring straight for poor Pepito.
For one moment the Spaniard tried his hardest to look brave. But
the sight of the five pairs of horns coming at him at full gallop
was too much. He turned white to the lips, ran for the fence,
vaulted it and disappeared.
"Now the other one," the Doctor hissed. And in two seconds the
gallant assistant was nowhere to be seen. Juan Hagapoco, the fat
matador, was left alone in the ring with five rampaging bulls.
The rest of the show was really well worth seeing. First, all
five bulls went raging round the ring, butting at the fence with
their horns, pawing up the sand, hunting for something to kill.
Then each one in turn would pretend to catch sight of the Doctor
for the first time and giving a bellow of rage, would lower his
wicked looking horns and shoot like an arrow across the ring as
though he meant to toss him to the sky.
It was really frightfully exciting. And even I who knew it was
all arranged beforehand, held my breath in terror for the
Doctor's life when I saw how near they came to sticking him. But
just at the last moment, when the horns' points were two inches
from the sky-blue waistcoat, the Doctor would spring nimbly to
one side and the great brutes would go thundering harmlessly by,
missing him by no more than a hair.
Then all five of them went for him together, completely
surrounding him, slashing at him with their horns and bellowing
with fury. How he escaped alive I don't know. For several
minutes his round figure could hardly be seen at all in that
scrimmage of tossing heads, stamping hoofs and waving tails.--It
was, as Polynesia had prophesied, the greatest bullfight ever
One woman in the crowd got quite hysterical and screamed up to
"Stop the fight! Stop the fight! He is too brave a man to be
killed. This is the most wonderful matador in the world. Let him
live! Stop the fight!"
But presently the Doctor was seen to break loose from the mob of
animals that surrounded him. Then catching each of them by the
horns, one after another, he would give their heads a sudden
twist and throw them down flat on the sand. The great fellows
acted their parts extremely well. I have never seen trained
animals in a circus do better. They lay there panting on the
ground where the Doctor threw them as if they were exhausted and
Then with a final bow to the ladies John Dolittle took a cigar
from his pocket, lit it and strolled out of the ring.
THE NINTH CHAPTER
WE DEPART IN A HURRY
AS soon as the door closed behind the Doctor the most tremendous
noise I have ever heard broke loose. Some of the men appeared to
be angry (friends of Pepito's, I suppose) ; but the ladies called
and called to have the Doctor come back into the ring.
When at length he did so, the women seemed to go entirely mad
over him. They blew kisses to him. They called him a darling.
Then they started taking off their flowers, their rings, their
necklaces, and their brooches and threw them down at his feet.
You never saw anything like it--a perfect shower of jewelry and
But the Doctor just smiled up at them, bowed once more and backed
"Now, Bumpo," said Polynesia, "this is where you go down and
gather up all those trinkets and we'll sell 'em. That's what the
big matadors do: leave the jewelry on the ground and their
assistants collect it for them. We might as well lay in a good
supply of money while we've got the chance-- you never know when
you may need it when you're traveling with the Doctor. Never mind
the roses--you can leave them--but don't leave any rings. And
when you've finished go and get your three-thousand pesetas out
of Don Ricky-ticky. Tommy and I will meet you outside and we'll
pawn the gew-gaws at that Jew's shop opposite the bed-maker's.
Run along-- and not a word to the Doctor, remember."
Outside the bull-ring we found the crowd still in a great state
of excitement. Violent arguments were going on everywhere. Bumpo
joined us with his pockets bulging in all directions; and we made
our way slowly through the dense crowd to that side of the
building where the matadors' dressing-room was. The Doctor was
waiting at the door for us.
"Good work, Doctor!" said Polynesia, flying on to his
shoulder--"Great work!--But listen: I smell danger. I think you
had better get back to the ship now as quick and as quietly as
you can. Put your overcoat on over that giddy suit. I don't
like the looks of this crowd. More than half of them are furious
because you've won. Don Ricky-ticky must now stop the
bullfighting--and you know how they love it. What I'm afraid of
is that some of these matadors who are just mad with jealousy may
start some dirty work. I think this would be a good time for us
to get away."
"I dare say you're right, Polynesia," said the Doctor--"You
usually are. The crowd does seem to be a bit restless. I'll slip
down to the ship alone--so I shan't be so noticeable; and I'll
wait for you there. You come by some different way. But don't be
long about it. Hurry!"
As soon as the Doctor had departed Bumpo sought out Don Enrique
"Honorable Sir, you owe me three-thousand pesetas."
Without a word, but looking cross-eyed with annoyance, Don
Enrique paid his bet.
We next set out to buy the provisions; and on the way we hired a
cab and took it along with us.
Not very far away we found a big grocer's shop which seemed to
sell everything to eat. We went in and bought up the finest lot
of food you ever saw in your life.
As a matter of fact, Polynesia had been right about the danger we
were in. The news of our victory must have spread like lightning
through the whole town. For as we came out of the shop and
loaded the cab up with our stores, we saw various little knots of
angry men hunting round the streets, waving sticks and shouting,
"The Englishmen! Where are those accursed Englishmen who stopped
the bullfighting?--Hang them to a lamp-post!--Throw them in the
sea! The Englishmen!--We want the Englishmen!"
After that we didn't waste any time, you may be sure. Bumpo
grabbed the Spanish cab-driver and explained to him in signs that
if he didn't drive down to the harbor as fast as he knew how and
keep his mouth shut the whole way, he would choke the life out of
him. Then we jumped into the cab on top of the food, slammed the
door, pulled down the blinds and away we went.
"We won't get a chance to pawn the jewelry now," said Polynesia,
as we bumped over the cobbly streets. "But never mind--it may
come in handy later on. And anyway we've got two-thousand
five-hundred pesetas left out of the bet. Don't give the cabby
more than two pesetas fifty, Bumpo. That's the right fare, I
Well, we reached the harbor all right and we were mighty glad to
find that the Doctor had sent Chee-Chee back with the row-boat to
wait for us at the landing-wall.
Unfortunately while we were in the middle of loading the supplies
from the cab into the boat, the angry mob arrived upon the wharf
and made a rush for us. Bumpo snatched up a big beam of wood that
lay near and swung it round and round his head, letting out
dreadful African battle-yells the while. This kept the crowd off
while Chee-Chee and I hustled the last of the stores into the
boat and clambered in ourselves. Bumpo threw his beam of wood
into the thick of the Spaniards and leapt in after us. Then we
pushed off and rowed like mad for the Curlew.
The mob upon the wall howled with rage, shook their fists and
hurled stones and all manner of things after us. Poor old Bumpo
got hit on the head with a bottle. But as he had a very strong
head it only raised a small bump while the bottle smashed into a
When we reached the ship's side the Doctor had the anchor drawn
up and the sails set and everything in readiness to get away.
Looking back we saw boats coming out from the harbor-wall after
us, filled with angry, shouting men. So we didn't bother to
unload our rowboat but just tied it on to the ship's stern with a
rope and jumped aboard.
It only took a moment more to swing the Curlew round into the
wind; and soon we were speeding out of the harbor on our way to
"Ha!" sighed Polynesia, as we all flopped down on the deck to
take a rest and get our breath. "That wasn't a bad
adventure--quite reminds me of my old seafaring days when I
sailed with the smugglers--Golly, that was the life!-- Never mind
your head, Bumpo. It will be all right when the Doctor puts a
little arnica on it. Think what we got out of the scrap: a
boat-load of ship's stores, pockets full of jewelry and thousands
of pesetas. Not bad, you know--not bad."
THE FIRST CHAPTER
SHELLFISH LANGUAGES AGAIN
MIRANDA, the Purple Bird-of-Paradise had prophesied rightly when
she had foretold a good spell of weather. For three weeks the
good ship Curlew plowed her way through smiling seas before a
steady powerful wind.
I suppose most real sailors would have found this part of the
voyage dull. But not I. As we got further South and further West
the face of the sea seemed different every day. And all the
little things of a voyage which an old hand would have hardly
bothered to notice were matters of great interest for my eager
We did not pass many ships. When we did see one, the Doctor
would get out his telescope and we would all take a look at it.
Sometimes he would signal to it, asking for news, by hauling up
little colored flags upon the mast; and the ship would signal
back to us in the same way. The meaning of all the signals was
printed in a book which the Doctor kept in the cabin. He told me
it was the language of the sea and that all ships could
understand it whether they be English, Dutch, or French.
Our greatest happening during those first weeks was passing an
iceberg. When the sun shone on it it burst into a hundred colors,
sparkling like a jeweled palace in a fairy-story. Through the
telescope we saw a mother polar bear with a cub sitting on it,
watching us. The Doctor recognized her as one of the bears who
had spoken to him when he was discovering the North Pole. So he
sailed the ship up close and offered to take her and her baby on
to the Curlew if she wished it. But she only shook her head,
thanking him; she said it would be far too hot for the cub on the
deck of our ship, with no ice to keep his feet cool. It had been
indeed a very hot day; but the nearness of that great mountain of
ice made us all turn up our coat-collars and shiver with the
During those quiet peaceful days I improved my reading and
writing a great deal with the Doctor's help. I got on so well
that he let me keep the ship's log. This is a big book kept on
every ship, a kind of diary, in which the number of miles run,
the direction of your course and everything else that happens is
The Doctor too, in what spare time he had, was nearly always
writing-- in his note-books. I used to peep into these sometimes,
now that I could read, but I found it hard work to make out the
Doctor's handwriting. Many of these note-books seemed to be about
sea things. There were six thick ones filled full with notes and
sketches of different seaweeds; and there were others on sea
birds; others on sea worms; others on seashells. They were all
some day to be re-written, printed and bound like regular books.
One afternoon we saw, floating around us, great quantities of
stuff that looked like dead grass. The Doctor told me this was
gulf-weed. A little further on it became so thick that it covered
all the water as far as the eye could reach; it made the Curlew
look as though she were moving across a meadow instead of sailing
Crawling about upon this weed, many crabs were to be seen. And
the sight of them reminded the Doctor of his dream of learning
the language of the shellfish. He fished several of these crabs
up with a net and put them in his listening-tank to see if he
could understand them. Among the crabs he also caught a
strange-looking, chubby, little fish which he told me was called
a Silver Fidgit.
After he had listened to the crabs for a while with no success,
he put the fidgit into the tank and began to listen to that. I
had to leave him at this moment to go and attend to some duties
on the deck. But presently I heard him below shouting for me to
come down again.
"Stubbins," he cried as soon as he saw me--"a most extraordinary
thing-- Quite unbelievable--I'm not sure whether I'm
dreaming--Can't believe my own senses. I--I--I--"
"Why, Doctor," I said, "what is it?--What's the matter?"
"The fidgit," he whispered, pointing with a trembling finger to
the listening-tank in which the little round fish was still
swimming quietly, "he talks English! And--and--and HE WHISTLES
"Talks English!" I cried--"Whistles!--Why, it's impossible."
"It's a fact," said the Doctor, white in the face with
excitement. "It's only a few words, scattered, with no particular
sense to them-- all mixed up with his own language which I can't
make out yet. But they're English words, unless there's
something very wrong with my hearing-- And the tune he whistles,
it's as plain as anything--always, the same tune. Now you listen
and tell me what you make of it. Tell me everything you hear.
Don't miss a word."
I went to the glass tank upon the table while the Doctor grabbed
a note-book and a pencil. Undoing my collar I stood upon the
empty packing-case he had been using for a stand and put my right
ear down under the water.
For some moments I detected nothing at all--except, with my dry
ear, the heavy breathing of the Doctor as he waited, all stiff
and anxious, for me to say something. At last from within the
water, sounding like a child singing miles and miles away, I
heard an unbelievably thin, small voice.
"Ah!" I said.
"What is it?" asked the Doctor in a hoarse, trembly whisper.
"What does he say?"
"I can't quite make it out," I said. "It's mostly in some
strange fish language--Oh, but wait a minute!--Yes, now I get
it--'No smoking'. . . . 'My, here's a queer one!' 'Popcorn and
picture postcards here .. . . . . This way out .. . . . . Don't
spit'--What funny things to say, Doctor!--Oh, but wait!-- Now
he's whistling the tune."
"What tune is it?" gasped the Doctor.
"Ah hah," cried the Doctor, "that's what I made it out to be."
And he wrote furiously in his note-book.
I went on listening.
"This is most extraordinary," the Doctor kept muttering to
himself as his pencil went wiggling over the page--"Most
extraordinary-- but frightfully thrilling. I wonder where he--"
"Here's some more," I cried--"some more English. . . . 'THE BIG
TANK NEEDS CLEANING'.... That's all. Now he's talking fish-talk
"The big tank!" the Doctor murmured frowning in a puzzled kind of
way. "I wonder where on earth he learned--"
Then he bounded up out of his chair.
"I have it," he yelled, "this fish has escaped from an aquarium.
Why, of course! Look at the kind of things he has learned:
'Picture postcards'--they always sell them in aquariums; 'Don't
spit'; 'No smoking'; 'This way out'--the things the attendants
say. And then, 'My, here's a queer one!' That's the kind of
thing that people exclaim when they look into the tanks. It all
fits. There's no doubt about it, Stubbins: we have here a fish
who has escaped from captivity. And it's quite possible-- not
certain, by any means, but quite possible--that I may now,
through him, be able to establish communication with the
shellfish. This is a great piece of luck."
THE SECOND CHAPTER
THE FIDGIT'S STORY
WELL, now that he was started once more upon his old hobby of the
shellfish languages, there was no stopping the Doctor. He worked
right through the night.
A little after midnight I fell asleep in a chair; about two in
the morning Bumpo fell asleep at the wheel; and for five hours
the Curlew was allowed to drift where she liked. But still John
Dolittle worked on, trying his hardest to understand the fidgit's
language, struggling to make the fidgit understand him.
When I woke up it was broad daylight again. The Doctor was still
standing at the listening-tank, looking as tired as an owl and
dreadfully wet. But on his face there was a proud and happy
"Stubbins," he said as soon as he saw me stir, "I've done it.
I've got the key to the fidgit's language. It's a frightfully
difficult language--quite different from anything I ever heard.
The only thing it reminds me of--slightly--is ancient Hebrew. It
isn't shellfish; but it's a big step towards it. Now, the next
thing, I want you to take a pencil and a fresh notebook and write
down everything I say. The fidgit has promised to tell me the
story of his life. I will translate it into English and you put
it down in the book. Are you ready?"
Once more the Doctor lowered his ear beneath the level of the
water; and as he began to speak, I started to write. And this is
the story that the fidgit told us.
THIRTEEN MONTHS IN AN AQUARIUM
"I was born in the Pacific Ocean, close to the coast of Chile. I
was one of a family of two-thousand five-hundred and ten. Soon
after our mother and father left us, we youngsters got scattered.
The family was broken up--by a herd of whales who chased us. I
and my sister, Clippa (she was my favorite sister) had a very
narrow escape for our lives. As a rule, whales are not very hard
to get away from if you are good at dodging--if you've only got a
quick swerve. But this one that came after Clippa and myself was
a very mean whale, Every time he lost us under a stone or
something he'd come back and hunt and hunt till he routed us out
into the open again. I never saw such a nasty, persevering brute.
"Well, we shook him at last--though not before he had worried us
for hundreds of miles northward, up the west coast of South
America. But luck was against us that day. While we were resting
and trying to get our breath, another family of fidgits came
rushing by, shouting, 'Come on! Swim for your lives! The
dog-fish are coming!'
"Now dog-fish are particularly fond of fidgits. We are, you
might say, their favorite food--and for that reason we always
keep away from deep, muddy waters. What's more, dog-fish are not
easy to escape from; they are terribly fast and clever hunters.
So up we had to jump and on again.
"After we had gone a few more hundred miles we looked back and
saw that the dog-fish were gaining on us. So we turned into a
harbor. It happened to be one on the west coast of the United
States. Here we guessed, and hoped, the dog-fish would not be
likely to follow us. As it happened, they didn't even see us turn
in, but dashed on northward and we never saw them again. I hope
they froze to death in the Arctic Seas.
"But, as I said, luck was against us that day. While I and my
sister were cruising gently round the ships anchored in the
harbor looking for orange-peels, a great delicacy with
us---SWOOP! BANG!-- we were caught in a net.
"We struggled for all we were worth; but it was no use. The net
was small-meshed and strongly made. Kicking and flipping we were
hauled up the side of the ship and dumped down on the deck, high
and dry in a blazing noon-day sun.
"Here a couple of old men in whiskers and spectacles leant over
us, making strange sounds. Some codling had got caught in the
net the same time as we were. These the old men threw back into
the sea; but us they seemed to think very precious. They put us
carefully into a large jar and after they had taken us on shore
they went to a big house and changed us from the jar into glass
boxes full of water. This house was on the edge of the harbor;
and a small stream of sea-water was made to flow through the
glass tank so we could breathe properly. Of course we had never
lived inside glass walls before; and at first we kept on trying
to swim through them and got our noses awfully sore bumping the
glass at full speed.
"Then followed weeks and weeks of weary idleness. They treated
us well, so far as they knew how. The old fellows in spectacles
came and looked at us proudly twice a day and saw that we had the
proper food to eat, the right amount of light and that the water
was not too hot or too cold. But oh, the dullness of that life!
It seemed we were a kind of a show. At a certain hour every
morning the big doors of the house were thrown open and everybody
in the city who had nothing special to do came in and looked at
us. There were other tanks filled with different kinds of fishes
all round the walls of the big room. And the crowds would go from
tank to tank, looking in at us through the glass--with their
mouths open, like half-witted flounders. We got so sick of it
that we used to open our mouths back at them; and this they
seemed to think highly comical.
"One day my sister said to me, 'Think you, Brother, that these
strange creatures who have captured us can talk?'
" 'Surely,' said I, 'have you not noticed that some talk with the
lips only, some with the whole face, and yet others discourse
with the hands? When they come quite close to the glass you can
hear them. Listen!'
"At that moment a female, larger than the rest, pressed her nose
up against the glass, pointed at me and said to her young behind
her, 'Oh, look, here's a queer one!'
"And then we noticed that they nearly always said this when they
looked in. And for a long time we thought that such was the
whole extent of the language, this being a people of but few
ideas. To help pass away the weary hours we learned it by heart,
'Oh, look, here's a queer one!' But we never got to know what it
meant. Other phrases, however, we did get the meaning of; and we
even learned to read a little in man-talk. Many big signs there
were, set up upon the walls; and when we saw that the keepers
stopped the people from spitting and smoking, pointed to these
signs angrily and read them out loud, we knew then that these
writings signified, No Smoking and Don't Spit. "Then in the
evenings, after the crowd had gone, the same aged male with one
leg of wood, swept up the peanut-shells with a broom every night.
And while he was so doing he always whistled the same tune to
himself. This melody we rather liked; and we learned that too by
heart-- thinking it was part of the language.
"Thus a whole year went by in this dismal place. Some days new
fishes were brought in to the other tanks; and other days old
fishes were taken out. At first we had hoped we would only be
kept here for a while, and that after we had been looked at
sufficiently we would be returned to freedom and the sea. But as
month after month went by, and we were left undisturbed, our
hearts grew heavy within our prison-walls of glass and we spoke
to one another less and less.
"One day, when the crowd was thickest in the big room, a woman
with a red face fainted from the heat. I watched through the
glass and saw that the rest of the people got highly excited--
though to me it did not seem to be a matter of very great
importance. They threw cold water on her and carried her out into
the open air.
"This made me think mightily; and presently a great idea burst
" 'Sister,' I said, turning to poor Clippa who was sulking at the
bottom of our prison trying to hide behind a stone from the
stupid gaze of the children who thronged about our tank,
'supposing that we pretended we were sick: do you think they
would take us also from this stuffy house?'
" 'Brother,' said she wearily, 'that they might do. But most
likely they would throw us on a rubbish-heap, where we would die
in the hot sun.'
" 'But,' said I, 'why should they go abroad to seek a
rubbish-heap, when the harbor is so close? While we were being
brought here I saw men throwing their rubbish into the water. If
they would only throw us also there, we could quickly reach the
" 'The Sea!' murmured poor Clippa with a faraway look in her eyes
(she had fine eyes, had my sister, Clippa). 'How like a dream it
sounds-- the Sea! Oh brother, will we ever swim in it again,
think you? Every night as I lie awake on the floor of this
evil-smelling dungeon I hear its hearty voice ringing in my ears.
How I have longed for it! Just to feel it once again, the nice,
big, wholesome homeliness of it all! To jump, just to jump from
the crest of an Atlantic wave, laughing in the trade wind's
spindrift, down into the blue-green swirling trough! To chase the
shrimps on a summer evening, when the sky is red and the light's
all pink within the foam! To lie on the top, in the doldrums'
noonday calm, and warm your tummy in the tropic sun! To wander
hand in hand once more through the giant seaweed forests of the
Indian Ocean, seeking the delicious eggs of the pop-pop! To play
hide-and-seek among the castles of the coral towns with their
pearl and jasper windows spangling the floor of the Spanish Main!
To picnic in the anemone-meadows, dim blue and lilac-gray, that
lie in the lowlands beyond the South Sea Garden! To throw
somersaults on the springy sponge-beds of the Mexican Gulf! To
poke about among the dead ships and see what wonders and
adventures lie inside!--And then, on winter nights when the
Northeaster whips the water into froth, to swoop down and down to
get away from the cold, down to where the water's warm and dark,
down and still down, till we spy the twinkle of the fire-eels far
below where our friends and cousins sit chatting round the
Council Grotto--chatting, Brother, over the news and gossip of
THE SEA! . . . Oh--'
"And then she broke down completely, sniffling.
" 'Stop it!' I said. 'You make me homesick. Look here: let's
pretend we're sick--or better still, let's pretend we're dead;
and see what happens. If they throw us on a rubbish-heap and we
fry in the sun, we'll not be much worse off than we are here in
this smelly prison. What do you say? Will you risk it?'
" 'I will,' she said--'and gladly.'
"So next morning two fidgits were found by the keeper floating on
the top of the water in their tank, stiff and dead. We gave a
mighty good imitation of dead fish--although I say it myself. The
keeper ran and got the old gentlemen with spectacles and
whiskers. They threw up their hands in horror when they saw us.
Lifting us carefully out of the water they laid us on wet cloths.
That was the hardest part of all. If you're a fish and get taken
out of the water you have to keep opening and shutting your mouth
to breathe at all--and even that you can't keep up for long. And
all this time we had to stay stiff as sticks and breathe silently
through half-closed lips.
"Well, the old fellows poked us and felt us and pinched us till I
thought they'd never be done. Then, when their backs were turned
a moment, a wretched cat got up on the table and nearly ate us.
Luckily the old men turned round in time and shooed her away. You
may be sure though that we took a couple of good gulps of air
while they weren't looking; and that was the only thing that
saved us from choking. I wanted to whisper to Clippa to be brave
and stick it out. But I couldn't even do that; because, as you
know, most kinds of fish-talk cannot be heard--not even a
shout--unless you're under water.
"Then, just as we were about to give it up and let on that we
were alive, one of the old men shook his head sadly, lifted us up
and carried us out of the building.
" 'Now for it!' I thought to myself. 'We'll soon know our fate:
liberty or the garbage-can.'
"Outside, to our unspeakable horror, he made straight for a large
ash-barrel which stood against the wall on the other side of a
yard. Most happily for us, however, while he was crossing this
yard a very dirty man with a wagon and horses drove up and took
the ash-barrel away. I suppose it was his property.
"Then the old man looked around for some other place to throw us.
He seemed about to cast us upon the ground. But he evidently
thought that this would make the yard untidy and he desisted. The
suspense was terrible. He moved outside the yard-gate and my
heart sank once more as I saw that he now intended to throw us in
the gutter of the roadway. But (fortune was indeed with us that
day), a large man in, blue clothes and silver buttons stopped him
in the nick of time. Evidently, from the way the large man
lectured and waved a short thick stick, it was against the rules
of the town to throw dead fish in the streets.
"At last, to our unutterable joy, the old man turned and moved
off with us towards the harbor. He walked so slowly, muttering
to himself all the way and watching the man in blue out of the
corner of his eye, that I wanted to bite his finger to make him
hurry up. Both Clippa and I were actually at our last gasp.
"Finally he reached the sea-wall and giving us one last sad look
he dropped us into the waters of the harbor.
"Never had we realized anything like the thrill of that moment,
as we felt the salt wetness close over our heads. With one flick
of our tails we came to life again. The old man was so surprised
that he fell right into the water, almost on top of us. From
this he was rescued by a sailor with a boat-hook; and the last we
saw of him, the man in blue was dragging him away by the
coat-collar, lecturing him again. Apparently it was also against
the rules of the town to throw dead fish into the harbor.
"But we?--What time or thought had we for his troubles? WE WERE
FREE! In lightning leaps, in curving spurts, in crazy
zig-zags--whooping, shrieking with delight, we sped for home and
the open sea!
"That is all of my story and I will now, as I promised last
night, try to answer any questions you may ask about the sea, on
condition that I am set at liberty as soon as you have done."
The Doctor: Is there any part of the sea deeper than that known
as the Nero Deep--I mean the one near the Island of Guam?"
The Fidgit: "Why, certainly. There's one much deeper than that
near the mouth of the Amazon River. But it's small and hard to
find. We call it 'The Deep Hole.' And there's another in the
The Doctor: "Can you talk any shellfish language yourself?"
The Fidgit: "No, not a word. We regular fishes don't have
anything to do with the shellfish. We consider them a low class."
The Doctor: "But when you're near them, can you hear the sound
they make talking--I mean without necessarily understanding what
The Fidgit: "Only with the very largest ones. Shellfish have
such weak small voices it is almost impossible for any but their
own kind to hear them. But with the bigger ones it is different.
They make a sad, booming noise, rather like an iron pipe being
knocked with a stone--only not nearly so loud of course."
The Doctor: "I am most anxious to get down to the bottom of the
sea--to study many things. But we land animals, as you no doubt
know, are unable to breathe under water. Have you any ideas that
might help me?"
The Fidgit: "I think that for both your difficulties the best
thing for you to do would be to try and get hold of the Great
Glass Sea Snail."
The Doctor: "Er--who, or what, is the Great Glass Sea Snail?"
The Fidgit: "He is an enormous salt-water snail, one of the
winkle family, but as large as a big house. He talks quite
loudly--when he speaks, but this is not often. He can go to any
part of the ocean, at all depths because he doesn't have to be
afraid of any creature in the sea. His shell is made of
transparent mother-o'-pearl so that you can see through it; but
it's thick and strong. When he is out of his shell and he carries
it empty on his back, there is room in it for a wagon and a pair
of horses. He has been seen carrying his food in it when
The Doctor: "I feel that that is just the creature I have been
looking for. He could take me and my assistant inside his shell
and we could explore the deepest depths in safety. Do you think
you could get him for me?"
The Fidgit: "Alas! no. I would willingly if I could; but he is
hardly ever seen by ordinary fish. He lives at the bottom of the
Deep Hole, and seldom comes out-- And into the Deep Hole, the
lower waters of which are muddy, fishes such as we are afraid to
The Doctor: "Dear me! That's a terrible disappointment. Are
there many of this kind of snail in the sea?"
The Fidgit: "Oh no. He is the only one in existence, since his
second wife died long, long ago. He is the last of the Giant
Shellfish. He belongs to past ages when the whales were
land-animals and all that. They say he is over seventy thousand
The Doctor: "Good Gracious, what wonderful things he could tell
me! I do wish I could meet him."
The Fidgit: "Were there any more questions you wished to ask me?
This water in your tank is getting quite warm and sickly. I'd
like to be put back into the sea as soon as you can spare me."
The Doctor: "Just one more thing: when Christopher Columbus
crossed the Atlantic in 1492, he threw overboard two copies of
his diary sealed up in barrels. One of them was never found. It
must have sunk. I would like to get it for my library. Do you
happen to know where it is?"
The Fidgit: "Yes, I do. That too is in the Deep Hole. When the
barrel sank the currents drifted it northwards down what we call
the Orinoco Slope, till it finally disappeared into the Deep
Hole. If it was any other part of the sea I'd try and get it for
you; but not there."
The Doctor: "Well, that is all, I think. I hate to put you back
into the sea, because I know that as soon as I do, I'll think of
a hundred other questions I wanted to ask you. But I must keep
my promise. Would you care for anything before you go?--it seems
a cold day-- some cracker-crumbs or something?"
The Fidgit: "No, I won't stop. All I want just at present is
The Doctor: "I cannot thank you enough for all the information
you have given me. You have been very helpful and patient."
The Fidgit: "Pray do not mention it. It has been a real
pleasure to be of assistance to the great John Dolittle. You
are, as of course you know, already quite famous among the better
class of fishes. Goodbye!--and good luck to you, to your ship
and to all your plans!"
The Doctor carried the listening-tank to a porthole, opened it
and emptied the tank into the sea. "Good-bye!" he murmured as a
faint splash reached us from without.
I dropped my pencil on the table and leaned back with a sigh. My
fingers were so stiff with writers' cramp that I felt as though I
should never be able to open my hand again. But I, at least, had
had a night's sleep. As for the poor Doctor, he was so weary
that he had hardly put the tank back upon the table and dropped
into a chair, when his eyes closed and he began to snore.
In the passage outside Polynesia scratched angrily at the door. I
rose and let her in.
"A nice state of affairs!" she stormed. "What sort of a ship is
this? There's that colored man upstairs asleep under the wheel;
the Doctor asleep down here; and you making pot-hooks in a
copy-book with a pencil! Expect the ship to steer herself to
Brazil? We're just drifting around the sea like an empty
bottle--and a week behind time as it is. What's happened to you
She was so angry that her voice rose to a scream. But it would
have taken more than that to wake the Doctor.
I put the note-book carefully in a drawer and went on deck to
take the wheel.
THE THIRD CHAPTER
AS soon as I had the Curlew swung round upon her course again I
noticed something peculiar: we were not going as fast as we had
been. Our favorable wind had almost entirely disappeared.
This, at first, we did not worry about, thinking that at any
moment it might spring up again. But the whole day went by; then
two days; then a week,--ten days, and the wind grew no stronger.
The Curlew just dawdled along at the speed of a toddling babe.
I now saw that the Doctor was becoming uneasy. He kept getting
out his sextant (an instrument which tells you what part of the
ocean you are in) and making calculations. He was forever looking
at his maps and measuring distances on them. The far edge of the
sea, all around us, he examined with his telescope a hundred
times a day.
"But Doctor," I said when I found him one afternoon mumbling to
himself about the misty appearance of the sky, "it wouldn't
matter so much would it, if we did take a little longer over the
trip? We've got plenty to eat on board now; and the Purple
Bird-of-Paradise will know that we have been delayed by something
that we couldn't help."
"Yes, I suppose so," he said thoughtfully. "But I hate to keep
her waiting. At this season of the year she generally goes to the
Peruvian mountains-- for her health. And besides, the good
weather she prophesied is likely to end any day now and delay us
still further. If we could only keep moving at even a fair
speed, I wouldn't mind. It's this hanging around, almost dead
still, that gets me restless--Ah, here comes a wind-- Not very
strong--but maybe it'll grow."
A gentle breeze from the Northeast came singing through the
ropes; and we smiled up hopefully at the Curlew's leaning masts.
"We've only got another hundred and fifty miles to make, to sight
the coast of Brazil," said the Doctor. "If that wind would just
stay with us, steady, for a full day we'd see land."
But suddenly the wind changed, swung to the East, then back to
the Northeast--then to the North. It came in fitful gusts, as
though it hadn't made up its mind which way to blow; and I was
kept busy at the wheel, swinging the Curlew this way and that to
keep the right side of it.
Presently we heard Polynesia, who was in the rigging keeping a
look-out for land or passing ships, screech down to us,
"Bad weather coming. That jumpy wind is an ugly sign. And
look!--over there in the East--see that black line, low down? If
that isn't a storm I'm a land-lubber. The gales round here are
fierce, when they do blow--tear your canvas out like paper. You
take the wheel, Doctor: it'll need a strong arm if it's a real
storm. I'll go wake Bumpo and Chee-Chee. This looks bad to me.
We'd best get all the sail down right away, till we see how
strong she's going to blow."
Indeed the whole sky was now beginning to take on a very
threatening look. The black line to the eastward grew blacker as
it came nearer and nearer. A low, rumbly, whispering noise went
moaning over the sea. The water which had been so blue and
smiling turned to a ruffled ugly gray. And across the darkening
sky, shreds of cloud swept like tattered witches flying from the
I must confess I was frightened. You see I had only so far seen
the sea in friendly moods: sometimes quiet and lazy; sometimes
laughing, venturesome and reckless; sometimes brooding and
poetic, when moonbeams turned her ripples into silver threads and
dreaming snowy night-clouds piled up fairy-castles in the sky.
But as yet I had not known, or even guessed at, the terrible
strength of the Sea's wild anger.
When that storm finally struck us we leaned right over flatly on
our side, as though some in-visible giant had slapped the poor
Curlew on the cheek.
After that things happened so thick and so fast that what with
the wind that stopped your breath, the driving, blinding water,
the deafening noise and the rest, I haven't a very clear idea of
how our shipwreck came about.
I remember seeing the sails, which we were now trying to roll up
upon the deck, torn out of our hands by the wind and go overboard
like a penny balloon--very nearly carrying Chee-Chee with them.
And I have a dim recollection of Polynesia screeching somewhere
for one of us to go downstairs and close the port-holes.
In spite of our masts being bare of sail we were now scudding
along to the southward at a great pace. But every once in a
while huge gray-black waves would arise from under the ship's
side like nightmare monsters, swell and climb, then crash down
upon us, pressing us into the sea; and the poor Curlew would come
to a standstill, half under water, like a gasping, drowning pig.
While I was clambering along towards the wheel to see the Doctor,
clinging like a leech with hands and legs to the rails lest I be
blown overboard, one of these tremendous seas tore loose my hold,
filled my throat with water and swept me like a cork the full
length of the deck. My head struck a door with an awful bang.
And then I fainted.
THE FOURTH CHAPTER
WHEN I awoke I was very hazy in my head. The sky was blue and
the sea was calm. At first I thought that I must have fallen
asleep in the sun on the deck of the Curlew. And thinking that I
would be late for my turn at the wheel, I tried to rise to my
feet. I found I couldn't; my arms were tied to something behind
me with a piece of rope. By twisting my neck around I found this
to be a mast, broken off short. Then I realized that I wasn't
sitting on a ship at all; I was only sitting on a piece of one.
I began to feel uncomfortably scared. Screwing up my eyes, I
searched the rim of the sea North, East, South and West: no land:
no ships; nothing was in sight. I was alone in the ocean!
At last, little by little, my bruised head began to remember what
had happened: first, the coming of the storm; the sails going
overboard; then the big wave which had banged me against the
door. But what had become of the Doctor and the others? What day
was this, to-morrow or the day after?--And why was I sitting on
only part of a ship?
Working my hand into my pocket, I found my penknife and cut the
rope that tied me. This reminded me of a shipwreck story which
Joe had once told me, of a captain who had tied his son to a mast
in order that he shouldn't be washed overboard by the gale. So of
course it must have been the Doctor who had done the same to me.
But where was he?
The awful thought came to me that the Doctor and the rest of them
must be drowned, since there was no other wreckage to be seen
upon the waters. I got to my feet and stared around the sea
again--Nothing--nothing but water and sky!
Presently a long way off I saw the small dark shape of a bird
skimming low down over the swell. When it came quite close I saw
it was a Stormy Petrel. I tried to talk to it, to see if it
could give me news. But unluckily I hadn't learned much sea-bird
language and I couldn't even attract its attention, much less
make it understand what I wanted.
Twice it circled round my raft, lazily, with hardly a flip of the
wing. And I could not help wondering, in spite of the distress I
was in, where it had spent last night--how it, or any other
living thing, had weathered such a smashing storm. It made me
realize the great big difference between different creatures; and
that size and strength are not everything. To this petrel, a
frail little thing of feathers, much smaller and weaker than I,
the Sea could do anything she liked, it seemed; and his only
answer was a lazy, saucy flip of the wing! HE was the one who
should be called the ABLE SEAMAN. For, come raging gale, come
sunlit calm, this wilderness of water was his home.
After swooping over the sea around me (just looking for food, I
supposed) he went off in the direction from which he had come.
And I was alone once more.
I found I was somewhat hungry--and a little thirsty too. I began
to think all sorts of miserable thoughts, the way one does when
he is lonesome and has missed breakfast. What was going to become
of me now, if the Doctor and the rest were drowned? I would
starve to death or die of thirst. Then the sun went behind some
clouds and I felt cold. How many hundreds or thousands of miles
was I from any land? What if another storm should come and smash
up even this poor raft on which I stood?
I went on like this for a while, growing gloomier and gloomier,
when suddenly I thought of Polynesia. "You're always safe with
the Doctor," she had said. "He gets there. Remember that."
I'm sure I wouldn't have minded so much if he had been here with
me. It was this being all alone that made me want to weep. And
yet the petrel was alone!--What a baby I was, I told myself, to
be scared to the verge of tears just by loneliness! I was quite
safe where I was--for the present anyhow. John Dolittle wouldn't
get scared by a little thing like this. He only got excited when
he made a discovery, found a new bug or something. And if what
Polynesia had said was true, he couldn't be drowned and things
would come out all right in the end somehow.
I threw out my chest, buttoned up my collar and began walking up
and down the short raft to keep warm. I would be like John
Dolittle. I wouldn't cry-- And I wouldn't get excited.
How long I paced back and forth I don't know. But it was a long
time-- for I had nothing else to do.
At last I got tired and lay down to rest. And in spite of all my
troubles, I soon fell fast asleep.
This time when I woke up, stars were staring down at me out of a
cloudless sky. The sea was still calm; and my strange craft was
rocking gently under me on an easy swell. All my fine courage
left me as I gazed up into the big silent night and felt the
pains of hunger and thirst set to work in my stomach harder than
"Are you awake?" said a high silvery voice at my elbow.
I sprang up as though some one had stuck a pin in me. And there,
perched at the very end of my raft, her beautiful golden tail
glowing dimly in the starlight, sat Miranda, the Purple
Never have I been so glad to see any one in my life. I almost f
ell into the water as I leapt to hug her.
"I didn't want to wake you," said she. "I guessed you must be
tired after all you've been through--Don't squash the life out of
me, boy: I'm not a stuffed duck, you know."
"Oh, Miranda, you dear old thing," said I, "I'm so glad to see
you. Tell me, where is the Doctor? Is he alive?"
"Of course he's alive--and it's my firm belief he always will be.
He's over there, about forty miles to the westward."
"What's he doing there?"
"He's sitting on the other half of the Curlew shaving himself--
or he was, when I left him."
"Well, thank Heaven he's alive!" said I--"And Bumpo--and the
animals, are they all right?"
"Yes, they're with him. Your ship broke in half in the storm.
The Doctor had tied you down when he found you stunned. And the
part you were on got separated and floated away. Golly, it was a
storm! One has to be a gull or an albatross to stand that sort of
weather. I had been watching for the Doctor for three weeks, from
a cliff-top; but last night I had to take refuge in a cave to
keep my tail-feathers from blowing out. As soon as I found the
Doctor, he sent me off with some porpoises to look for you. A
Stormy Petrel volunteered to help us in our search. There had
been quite a gathering of sea-birds waiting to greet the Doctor;
but the rough weather sort of broke up the arrangements that had
been made to welcome him properly. It was the petrel that first
gave us the tip where you were."
"Well, but how can I get to the Doctor, Miranda?--I haven't any
"Get to him!--Why, you're going to him now. Look behind you."
I turned around. The moon was just rising on the sea's edge. And
I now saw that my raft was moving through the water, but so
gently that I had not noticed it before.
"What's moving us?" I asked.
"The porpoises," said Miranda.
I went to the back of the raft and looked down into the water.
And just below the surface I could see the dim forms of four big
porpoises, their sleek skins glinting in the moonlight, pushing
at the raft with their noses.
"They're old friends of the Doctor's," said Miranda. "They'd do
anything for John Dolittle. We should see his party soon now.
We're pretty near the place I left them--Yes, there they are! See
that dark shape?--No, more to the right of where you're looking.
Can't you make out the figure of the black man standing against
the sky?--Now Chee-Chee spies us--he's waving. Don't you see
I didn't--for my eyes were not as sharp as Miranda's. But
presently from somewhere in the murky dusk I heard Bumpo singing
his African comic songs with the full force of his enormous
voice. And in a little, by peering and peering in the direction
of the sound, I at last made out a dim mass of tattered,
splintered wreckage--all that remained of the poor Curlew--
floating low down upon the water.
A hulloa came through the night. And I answered it. We kept it
up, calling to one another back and forth across the calm night
sea. And a few minutes later the two halves of our brave little
ruined ship bumped gently together again.
Now that I was nearer and the moon was higher I could see more
plainly. Their half of the ship was much bigger than mine.
It lay partly upon its side; and most of them were perched upon
the top munching ship's biscuit.
But close down to the edge of the water, using the sea's calm
surface for a mirror and a piece of broken bottle for a razor,
John Dolittle was shaving his face by the light of the moon.
THE FIFTH CHAPTER
THEY all gave me a great greeting as I clambered off my half of
the ship on to theirs. Bumpo brought me a wonderful drink of
fresh water which he drew from a barrel; and Chee-Chee and
Polynesia stood around me feeding me ship's biscuit.
But it was the sight of the Doctor's smiling face--just knowing
that I was with him once again--that cheered me more than
anything else. As I watched him carefully wipe his glass razor
and put it away for future use, I could not help comparing him in
my mind with the Stormy Petrel. Indeed the vast strange
knowledge which he had gained from his speech and friendship with
animals had brought him the power to do things which no other
human being would dare to try. Like the petrel, he could
apparently play with the sea in all her moods. It was no wonder
that many of the ignorant savage peoples among whom he passed in
his voyages made statues of him showing him as half a fish, half
a bird, and half a man. And ridiculous though it was, I could
quite understand what Miranda meant when she said she firmly
believed that he could never die. Just to be with him gave you a
wonderful feeling of comfort and safety.
Except for his appearance (his clothes were crumpled and damp and
his battered high hat was stained with salt water) that storm
which had so terrified me had disturbed him no more than getting
stuck on the mud-bank in Puddleby River.
Politely thanking Miranda for getting me so quickly, he asked her
if she would now go ahead of us and show us the way to
Spidermonkey Island. Next, he gave orders to the porpoises to
leave my old piece of the ship and push the bigger half wherever
the Bird-of-Paradise should lead us.
How much he had lost in the wreck besides his razor I did not
know-- everything, most likely, together with all the money he
had saved up to buy the ship with. And still he was smiling as
though he wanted for nothing in the world. The only things he
had saved, as far as I could see--beyond the barrel of water and
bag of biscuit-- were his precious note-books. These, I saw when
he stood up, he had strapped around his waist with yards and
yards of twine. He was, as old Matthew Mugg used to say, a great
man. He was unbelievable.
And now for three days we continued our journey slowly but
The only inconvenience we suffered from was the cold. This seemed
to increase as we went forward. The Doctor said that the island,
disturbed from its usual paths by the great gale, had evidently
drifted further South than it had ever been before.
On the third night poor Miranda came back to us nearly frozen.
She told the Doctor that in the morning we would find the island
quite close to us, though we couldn't see it now as it was a
misty dark night. She said that she must hurry back at once to a
warmer climate; and that she would visit the Doctor in Puddleby
next August as usual.
"Don't forget, Miranda," said John Dolittle, "if you should hear
anything of what happened to Long Arrow, to get word to me."
The Bird-of-Paradise assured him she would. And after the Doctor
had thanked her again and again for all that she had done for us,
she wished us good luck and disappeared into the night.
We were all awake early in the morning, long before it was light,
waiting for our first glimpse of the country we had come so far
to see. And as the rising sun turned the eastern sky to gray, of
course it was old Polynesia who first shouted that she could see
palm-trees and mountain tops.
With the growing light it became plain to all of us: a long
island with high rocky mountains in the middle-- and so near to
us that you could almost throw your hat upon the shore.
The porpoises gave us one last push and our strange-looking craft
bumped gently on a low beach. Then, thanking our lucky stars for
a chance to stretch our cramped legs, we all bundled off on to
the land--the first land, even though it was floating land, that
we had trodden for six weeks. What a thrill I felt as I realized
that Spidermonkey Island, the little spot in the atlas which my
pencil had touched, lay at last beneath my feet!
When the light increased still further we noticed that the palms
and grasses of the island seemed withered and almost dead. The
Doctor said that it must be on account of the cold that the
island was now suffering from in its new climate. These trees and
grasses, he told us, were the kind that belonged to warm,
The porpoises asked if we wanted them any further. And the Doctor
said that he didn't think so, not for the present-- nor the raft
either, he added; for it was already beginning to fall to pieces
and could not float much longer.
As we were preparing to go inland and explore the island, we
suddenly noticed a whole band of Red Indians watching us with
great curiosity from among the trees. The Doctor went forward to
talk to them. But he could not make them understand. He tried by
signs to show them that he had come on a friendly visit. The
Indians didn't seem to like us however. They had bows and arrows
and long hunting spears, with stone points, in their hands; and
they made signs back to the Doctor to tell him that if he came a
step nearer they would kill us all. They evidently wanted us to
leave the island at once. It was a very uncomfortable situation.
At last the Doctor made them understand that he only wanted to
see the island all over and that then he would go away-- though
how he meant to do it, with no boat to sail in, was more than I
While they were talking among themselves another Indian arrived--
apparently with a message that they were wanted in some other
part of the island. Because presently, shaking their spears
threateningly at us, they went off with the newcomer.
"What discourteous pagans!" said Bumpo. "Did you ever see such
inhospitability?--Never even asked us if we'd had breakfast, the
"Sh! They're going off to their village," said Polynesia. "I'll
bet there's a village on the other side of those mountains. If
you take my advice, Doctor, you'll get away from this beach while
their backs are turned. Let us go up into the higher land for
the present--some place where they won't know where we are. They
may grow friendlier when they see we mean no harm. They have
honest, open faces and look like a decent crowd to me. They're
just ignorant--probably never saw white folks before."
So, feeling a little bit discouraged by our first reception, we
moved off towards the mountains in the centre of the island.
THE SIXTH CHAPTER
WE found the woods at the feet of the hills thick and tangly and
somewhat hard to get through. On Polynesia's advice, we kept
away from all paths and trails, feeling it best to avoid meeting
any Indians for the present.
But she and Chee-Chee were good guides and splendid
jungle-hunters; and the two of them set to work at once looking
for food for us. In a very short space of time they had found
quite a number of different fruits and nuts which made excellent
eating, though none of us knew the names of any of them. We
discovered a nice clean stream of good water which came down from
the mountains; so we were supplied with something to drink as
We followed the stream up towards the heights. And presently we
came to parts where the woods were thinner and the ground rocky
and steep. Here we could get glimpses of wonderful views all over
the island, with the blue sea beyond. While we were admiring one
of these the Doctor suddenly said, "Sh!--A Jabizri!--Don't you
We listened and heard, somewhere in the air about us, an
extraordinarily musical hum-like a bee, but not just one note.
This hum rose and fell, up and down--almost like some one
"No other insect but the Jabizri beetle hums like that," said the
Doctor. "I wonder where he is--quite near, by the sound-- flying
among the trees probably. Oh, if I only had my butterfly-net!
Why didn't I think to strap that around my waist too. Confound
the storm: I may miss the chance of a lifetime now of getting
the rarest beetle in the world--Oh look! There he goes!"
A huge beetle, easily three inches long I should say, suddenly
flew by our noses. The Doctor got frightfully excited. He took
off his hat to use as a net, swooped at the beetle and caught it.
He nearly fell down a precipice on to the rocks below in his wild
hurry, but that didn't bother him in the least. He knelt down,
chortling, upon the ground with the Jabizri safe under his hat.
From his pocket he brought out a glass-topped box, and into this
he very skillfully made the beetle walk from under the rim of the
hat. Then he rose up, happy as a child, to examine his new
treasure through the glass lid.
It certainly was a most beautiful insect. It was pale blue
underneath; but its back was glossy black with huge red spots on
"There isn't an entymologist in the whole world who wouldn't give
all he has to be in my shoes to-day," said the Doctor--"Hulloa!
This Jabizri's got something on his leg--Doesn't look like mud.
I wonder what it is."
He took the beetle carefully out of the box and held it by its
back in his fingers, where it waved its six legs slowly in the
air. We all crowded about him peering at it. Rolled around the
middle section of its right foreleg was something that looked
like a thin dried leaf. It was bound on very neatly with strong
It was marvelous to see how John Dolittle with his fat heavy
fingers undid that cobweb cord and unrolled the leaf, whole,
without tearing it or hurting the precious beetle. The Jabizri
he put back into the box. Then he spread the leaf out flat and
You can imagine our surprise when we found that the inside of the
leaf was covered with signs and pictures, drawn so tiny that you
almost needed a magnifying-glass to tell what they were. Some of
the signs we couldn't make out at all; but nearly all of the
pictures were quite plain, figures of men and mountains mostly.
The whole was done in a curious sort of brown ink.
For several moments there was a dead silence while we all stared
at the leaf, fascinated and mystified.
"I think this is written in blood," said the Doctor at last. "It
turns that color when it's dry. Somebody pricked his finger to
make these pictures. It's an old dodge when you're short of
ink-- but highly unsanitary--What an extraordinary thing to find
tied to a beetle's leg! I wish I could talk beetle language, and
find out where the Jabizri got it from."
"But what is it?" I asked--"Rows of little pictures and signs.
What do you make of it, Doctor?"
"It's a letter," he said--"a picture letter. All these little
things put together mean a message--But why give a message to a
beetle to carry--and to a Jabizri, the rarest beetle in the
world?-- What an extraordinary thing!"
Then he fell to muttering over the pictures.
"I wonder what it means: men walking up a mountain; men walking
into a hole in a mountain; a mountain falling down--it's a good
drawing, that; men pointing to their open mouths;
bars--prison-bars, perhaps; men praying; men lying down--they
look as though they might be sick; and last of all, just a
mountain--a peculiar-shaped mountain."
All of a sudden the Doctor looked up sharply at me, a wonderful
smile of delighted understanding spreading over his face.