Part 4 out of 5
"LONG ARROW!" he cried, "don't you see, Stubbins?--Why, of
course! Only a naturalist would think of doing a thing like this:
giving his letter to a beetle--not to a common beetle, but to the
rarest of all, one that other naturalists would try to
catch--Well, well! Long Arrow!--A picture-letter from Long Arrow.
For pictures are the only writing that he knows."
"Yes, but who is the letter to?" I asked.
"It's to me very likely. Miranda had told him, I know, years
ago, that some day I meant to come here. But if not for me, then
it's for any one who caught the beetle and read it. It's a letter
to the world."
"Well, but what does it say? It doesn't seem to me that it's
much good to you now you've got it."
"Yes, it is," he said, "because, look, I can read it now. First
picture: men walking up a mountain--that's Long Arrow and his
party; men going into a hole in a mountain--they enter a cave
looking for medicine-plants or mosses; a mountain falling
down--some hanging rocks must have slipped and trapped them,
imprisoned them in the cave. And this was the only living
creature that could carry a message for them to the outside
world--a beetle, who could BURROW his way into the open air. Of
course it was only a slim chance that the beetle would be ever
caught and the letter read. But it was a chance; and when men
are in great danger they grab at any straw of hope. . . . All
right. Now look at the next picture: men pointing to their open
mouths-- they are hungry; men praying--begging any one who finds
this letter to come to their assistance; men lying down--they are
sick, or starving. This letter, Stubbins, is their last cry for
He sprang to his feet as he ended, snatched out a note-book and
put the letter between the leaves. His hands were trembling with
haste and agitation.
"Come on!" he cried--"up the mountain--all of you. There's not a
moment to lose. Bumpo, bring the water and nuts with you. Heaven
only knows how long they've been pining underground. Let's hope
and pray we're not too late!"
"But where are you going to look?" I asked. "Miranda said the
island was a hundred miles long and the mountains seem to run all
the way down the centre of it."
"Didn't you see the last picture?" he said, grabbing up his hat
from the ground and cramming it on his head. "It was an oddly
shaped mountain-- looked like a hawk's head. Well, there's where
he is if he's still alive. First thing for us to do, is to get up
on a high peak and look around the island for a mountain shaped
like a hawks' head--just to think of it! There's a chance of my
meeting Long Arrow, the son of Golden Arrow, after all!--Come on!
Hurry! To delay may mean death to the greatest naturalist ever
THE SEVENTH CHAPTER
WE all agreed afterwards that none of us had ever worked so hard
in our lives before as we did that day. For my part, I know I
was often on the point of dropping exhausted with fatigue; but I
just kept on going--like a machine--determined that, whatever
happened, I would not be the first to give up.
When we had scrambled to the top of a high peak, almost instantly
we saw the strange mountain pictured in the letter. In shape it
was the perfect image of a hawk's head, and was, as far as we
could see, the second highest summit in the island.
Although we were all out of breath from our climb, the Doctor
didn't let us rest a second as soon as he had sighted it. With
one look at the sun for direction, down he dashed again, breaking
through thickets, splashing over brooks, taking all the short
cuts. For a fat man, he was certainly the swiftest cross-country
runner I ever saw.
We floundered after him as fast as we could. When I say WE, I
mean Bumpo and myself; for the animals, Jip, Chee-Chee and
Polynesia, were a long way ahead--even beyond the
Doctor--enjoying the hunt like a paper-chase.
At length we arrived at the foot of the mountain we were making
for; and we found its sides very steep. Said the Doctor,
"Now we will separate and search for caves. This spot where we
now are, will be our meeting-place. If anyone finds anything like
a cave or a hole where the earth and rocks have fallen in, he
must shout and hulloa to the rest of us. If we find nothing we
will all gather here in about an hour's time--Everybody
Then we all went off our different ways.
Each of us, you may be sure, was anxious to be the one to make a
discovery. And never was a mountain searched so thoroughly. But
alas! nothing could we find that looked in the least like a
fallen-in cave. There were plenty of places where rocks had
tumbled down to the foot of the slopes; but none of these
appeared as though caves or passages could possibly lie behind
One by one, tired and disappointed, we straggled back to the
meeting-place. The Doctor seemed gloomy and impatient but by no
means inclined to give up.
"Jip," he said, "couldn't you SMELL anything like an Indian
"No," said Jip. "I sniffed at every crack on the mountainside.
But I am afraid my nose will be of no use to you here, Doctor.
The trouble is, the whole air is so saturated with the smell of
spider-monkeys that it drowns every other scent--And besides,
it's too cold and dry for good smelling."
"It is certainly that," said the Doctor--"and getting colder all
the time. I'm afraid the island is still drifting to the
southward. Let's hope it stops before long, or we won't be able
to get even nuts and fruit to eat-- everything in the island will
perish--Chee-Chee, what luck did you have?"
"None, Doctor. I climbed to every peak and pinnacle I could see.
I searched every hollow and cleft. But not one place could I
find where men might be hidden."
"And Polynesia," asked the Doctor, "did you see nothing that
might put us on the right track?"
"Not a thing, Doctor--But I have a plan."
"Oh good!" cried John Dolittle, full of hope renewed. "What is
it? Let's hear it."
"You still have that beetle with you," she asked--" the Biz-biz,
or whatever it is you call the wretched insect?"
"Yes," said the Doctor, producing the glass-topped box from his
pocket, "here it is."
"All right. Now listen," said she. "If what you have supposed
is true--that is, that Long Arrow had been trapped inside the
mountain by falling rock, he probably found that beetle inside
the cave--perhaps many other different beetles too, eh? He
wouldn't have been likely to take the Biz-biz in with him, would
he?--He was hunting plants, you say, not beetles. Isn't that
"Yes," said the Doctor, "that's probably so."
"Very well. It is fair to suppose then that the beetle's home,
or his hole, is in that place--the part of the mountain where
Long Arrow and his party are imprisoned, isn't it?"
"All right. Then the thing to do is to let the beetle go--and
watch him; and sooner or later he'll return to his home in Long
Arrow's cave. And there we will follow him--Or at all events,"
she added smoothing down her wing-feathers with a very superior
air, "we will follow him till the miserable bug starts nosing
under the earth. But at least he will show us what part of the
mountain Long Arrow is hidden in."
"But he may fly, if I let him out," said the Doctor. "Then we
shall just lose him and be no better off than we were before."
"LET him fly," snorted Polynesia scornfully. "A parrot can wing
it as fast as a Biz-biz, I fancy. If he takes to the air, I'll
guarantee not to let the little devil out of my sight. And if he
just crawls along the ground you can follow him yourself."
"Splendid!" cried the Doctor. "Polynesia, you have a great
brain. I'll set him to work at once and see what happens."
Again we all clustered round the Doctor as he carefully lifted
off the glass lid and let the big beetle climb out upon his
"Ladybug, Ladybug, fly away home!" crooned Bumpo. "Your house is
on fire and your chil--"
"Oh, be quiet!" snapped Polynesia crossly. "Stop insulting him!
Don't you suppose he has wits enough to go home without your
"I thought perchance he might be of a philandering disposition,"
said Bumpo humbly. "It could be that he is tired of his home and
needs to be encouraged. Shall I sing him 'Home Sweet Home,'
"No. Then he'd never go back. Your voice needs a rest. Don't
sing to him: just watch him--Oh, and Doctor, why not tie another
message to the creature's leg, telling Long Arrow that we're
doing our best to reach him and that he mustn't give up hope?"
"I will," said the Doctor. And in a minute he had pulled a dry
leaf from a bush near by and was covering it with little pictures
At last, neatly fixed up with his new mail-bag, Mr. Jabizri
crawled off the Doctor's finger to the ground and looked about
him. He stretched his legs, polished his nose with his front feet
and then. moved off leisurely to the westward.
We had expected him to walk UP the mountain; instead, he walked
AROUND it. Do you know how long it takes a beetle to walk round a
mountain? Well, I assure you it takes an unbelievably long time.
As the hours dragged by, we hoped and hoped that he would get up
and fly the rest, and let Polynesia carry on the work of
following him. But he never opened his wings once. I had not
realized before how hard it is for a human being to walk slowly
enough to keep up with a beetle. It was the most tedious thing I
have ever gone through. And as we dawdled along behind, watching
him like hawks lest we lose him under a leaf or something, we all
got so cross and ill-tempered we were ready to bite one another's
heads off. And when he stopped to look at the scenery or polish
his nose some more, I could hear Polynesia behind me letting out
the most dreadful seafaring swear-words you ever heard.
After he had led us the whole way round the mountain he brought
us to the exact spot where we started from and there he came to a
"Well," said Bumpo to Polynesia, "what do you think of the
beetle's sense now? You see he DOESN'T know enough to go home."
"Oh, be still, you Hottentot!" snapped Polynesia. "Wouldn't YOU
want to stretch your legs for exercise if you'd been shut up in a
box all day. Probably his home is near here, and that's why he's
"But why," I asked, "did he go the whole way round the mountain
Then the three of us got into a violent argument. But in the
middle of it all the Doctor suddenly called out,
We turned and found that he was pointing to the Jabizri, who was
now walking UP the mountain at a much faster and more
"Well," said Bumpo sitting down wearily; "if he is going to walk
OVER the mountain and back, for more exercise, I'll wait for him
here. Chee-Chee and Polynesia can follow him."
Indeed it would have taken a monkey or a bird to climb the place
which the beetle was now walking up. It was a smooth, flat part
of the mountain's side, steep as a wall.
But presently, when the Jabizri was no more than ten feet above
our heads, we all cried out together. For, even while we watched
him, he had disappeared into the face of the rock like a raindrop
soaking into sand.
"He's gone," cried Polynesia. "There must be a hole up there."
And in a twinkling she had fluttered up the rock and was clinging
to the face of it with her claws.
"Yes," she shouted down, "we've run him to earth at last. His
hole is right here, behind a patch of lichen--big enough to get
two fingers in." "Ah," cried the Doctor, "this great slab of rock
then must have slid down from the summit and shut off the mouth
of the cave like a door. Poor fellows! What a dreadful time they
must have spent in there!-- Oh, if we only had some picks and
"Picks and shovels wouldn't do much good," said Polynesia. "Look
at the size of the slab: a hundred feet high and as many broad.
You would need an army for a week to make any impression on it."
"I wonder how thick it is," said the Doctor; and he picked up a
big stone and banged it with all his might against the face of
the rock. It made a hollow booming sound, like a giant drum. We
all stood still listening while the echo of it died slowly away.
And then a cold shiver ran down my spine. For, from within the
mountain, back came three answering knocks: BOOM! . . . BOOM! .
. . BOOM!
Wide-eyed we looked at one another as though the earth itself had
spoken. And the solemn little silence that followed was broken by
"Thank Heaven," he said in a hushed reverent voice, "some of them
at least are alive!"
THE FIRST CHAPTER
A GREAT MOMENT
THE next part of our problem was the hardest of all: how to roll
aside, pull down or break open, that gigantic slab. As we gazed
up at it towering above our heads, it looked indeed a hopeless
task for our tiny strength.
But the sounds of life from inside the mountain had put new heart
in us. And in a moment we were all scrambling around trying to
find any opening or crevice which would give us something to work
on. Chee-Chee scaled up the sheer wall of the slab and examined
the top of it where it leaned against the mountain's side; I
uprooted bushes and stripped off hanging creepers that might
conceal a weak place; the Doctor got more leaves and composed new
picture-letters for the Jabizri to take in if he should turn up
again; whilst Polynesia carried up a handful of nuts and pushed
them into the beetle's hole, one by one, for the prisoners inside
"Nuts are so nourishing," she said.
But Jip it was who, scratching at the foot of the slab like a
good ratter, made the discovery which led to our final success.
"Doctor," he cried, running up to John Dolittle with his nose all
covered with black mud, "this slab is resting on nothing but a
bed of soft earth. You never saw such easy digging. I guess the
cave behind must be just too high up for the Indians to reach the
earth with their hands, or they could have scraped a way out long
ago. If we can only scratch the earth-bed away from under, the
slab might drop a little. Then maybe the Indians can climb out
over the top."
The Doctor hurried to examine the place where Jip had dug.
"Why, yes," he said, "if we can get the earth away from under
this front edge, the slab is standing up so straight, we might
even make it fall right down in this direction. It's well worth
trying. Let's get at it, quick."
We had no tools but the sticks and slivers of stone which we
could find around. A strange sight we must have looked, the
whole crew of us squatting down on our heels, scratching and
burrowing at the foot of the mountain, like six badgers in a row.
After about an hour, during which in spite of the cold the sweat
fell from our foreheads in all directions, the Doctor said,
"Be ready to jump from under, clear out of the way, if she shows
signs of moving. If this slab falls on anybody, it will squash
him flatter than a pancake."
Presently there was a grating, grinding sound.
"Look out!" yelled John Dolittle, "here she comes!--Scatter!"
We ran for our lives, outwards, toward the sides. The big rock
slid gently down, about a foot, into the trough which we had made
beneath it. For a moment I was disappointed, for like that, it
was as hopeless as before-- no signs of a cave-mouth showing
above it. But as I looked upward, I saw the top coming very
slowly away from the mountainside. We had unbalanced it below.
As it moved apart from the face of the mountain, sounds of human
voices, crying gladly in a strange tongue, issued from behind.
Faster and faster the top swung forward, downward. Then, with a
roaring crash which shook the whole mountain-range beneath our
feet, it struck the earth and cracked in halves.
How can I describe to any one that first meeting between the two
greatest naturalists the world ever knew, Long Arrow, the son of
Golden Arrow and John Dolittle, M.D., of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh?
The scene rises before me now, plain and clear in every detail,
though it took place so many, many years ago. But when I come to
write of it, words seem such poor things with which to tell you
of that great occasion.
I know that the Doctor, whose life was surely full enough of big
happenings, always counted the setting free of the Indian
scientist as the greatest thing he ever did. For my part, knowing
how much this meeting must mean to him, I was on pins and needles
of expectation and curiosity as the great stone finally thundered
down at our feet and we gazed across it to see what lay behind.
The gloomy black mouth of a tunnel, full twenty feet high, was
revealed. In the centre of this opening stood an enormous red
Indian, seven feet tall, handsome, muscular, slim and naked--but
for a beaded cloth about his middle and an eagle's feather in his
hair. He held one hand across his face to shield his eyes from
the blinding sun which he had not seen in many days.
"It is he!" I heard the Doctor whisper at my elbow. "I know him
by his great height and the scar upon his chin."
And he stepped forward slowly across the fallen stone with his
hand outstretched to the red man.
Presently the Indian uncovered his eyes. And I saw that they had
a curious piercing gleam in them--like the eyes of an eagle, but
kinder and more gentle. He slowly raised his right arm, the rest
of him still and motionless like a statue, and took the Doctor's
hand in his. It was a great moment. Polynesia nodded to me in a
knowing, satisfied kind of way. And I heard old Bumpo sniffle
sentimentally. Then the Doctor tried to speak to Long Arrow.
But the Indian knew no English of course, and the Doctor knew no
Indian. Presently, to my surprise, I heard the Doctor trying him
in different animal languages.
"How do you do?" he said in dog-talk; "I am glad to see you," in
horse-signs; "How long have you been buried?" in deer-language.
Still the Indian made no move but stood there, straight and
stiff, understanding not a word.
The Doctor tried again, in several other animal dialects. But
with no result.
Till at last he came to the language of eagles.
"Great Red-Skin," he said in the fierce screams and short grunts
that the big birds use, "never have I been so glad in all my life
as I am to-day to find you still alive."
In a flash Long Arrow's stony face lit up with a smile of
understanding; and back came the answer in eagle-tongue,
"Mighty White Man, I owe my life to you. For the remainder of my
days I am your servant to command."
Afterwards Long Arrow told us that this was the only bird or
animal language that he had ever been able to learn. But that he
had not spoken it in a long time, for no eagles ever came to this
Then the Doctor signaled to Bumpo who came forward with the nuts
and water. But Long Arrow neither ate nor drank. Taking the
supplies with a nod of thanks, he turned and carried them into
the inner dimness of the cave. We followed him.
Inside we found nine other Indians, men, women and boys, lying on
the rock floor in a dreadful state of thinness and exhaustion.
Some had their eyes closed, as if dead. Quickly the Doctor went
round them all and listened to their hearts. They were all
alive; but one woman was too weak even to stand upon her feet.
At a word from the Doctor, Chee-Chee and Polynesia sped off into
the jungles after more fruit and water.
While Long Arrow was handing round what food we had to his
starving friends, we suddenly heard a sound outside the cave.
Turning about we saw, clustered at the entrance, the band of
Indians who had met us so inhospitably at the beach.
They peered into the dark cave cautiously at first. But as soon
as they saw Long Arrow and the other Indians with us, they came
rushing in, laughing, clapping their hands with joy and jabbering
away at a tremendous rate.
Long Arrow explained to the Doctor that the nine Indians we had
found in the cave with him were two families who had accompanied
him into the mountains to help him gather medicine-plants. And
while they had been searching for a kind of moss--good for
indigestion--which grows only inside of damp caves, the great
rock slab had slid down and shut them in. Then for two weeks they
had lived on the medicine-moss and such fresh water as could be
found dripping from the damp walls of the cave. The other Indians
on the island bad given them up for lost and mourned them as
dead; and they were now very surprised and happy to find their
When Long Arrow turned to the newcomers and told them in their
own language that it was the white man who had found and freed
their relatives, they gathered round John Dolittle, all talking
at once and beating their breasts.
Long Arrow said they were apologizing and trying to tell the
Doctor how sorry they were that they had seemed unfriendly to him
at the beach. They had never seen a white man before and had
really been afraid of him--especially when they saw him
conversing with the porpoises. They had thought he was the Devil,
Then they went outside and looked at the great stone we had
thrown down, big as a meadow; and they walked round and round it,
pointing to the break running through the middle and wondering
how the trick of felling it was done.
Travelers who have since visited Spidermonkey Island tell me that
that huge stone slab is now one of the regular sights of the
island. And that the Indian guides, when showing it to visitors,
always tell THEIR story of how it came there. They say that when
the Doctor found that the rocks had entrapped his friend, Long
Arrow, he was so angry that he ripped the mountain in halves with
his bare hands and let him out.
THE SECOND CHAPTER
"THE MEN OF THE MOVING LAND"
FROM that time on the Indians' treatment of us was very
different. We were invited to their village for a feast to
celebrate the recovery of the lost families. And after we had
made a litter from saplings to carry the sick woman in, we all
started off down the mountain.
On the way the Indians told Long Arrow something which appeared
to be sad news, for on hearing it, his face grew very grave. The
Doctor asked him what was wrong. And Long Arrow said he had just
been informed that the chief of the tribe, an old man of eighty,
had died early that morning.
"That," Polynesia whispered in my ear, "must have been what they
went back to the village for, when the messenger fetched them
from the beach.--Remember?"
"What did he die of?" asked the Doctor.
"He died of cold," said Long Arrow.
Indeed, now that the sun was setting, we were all shivering
"This is a serious thing," said the Doctor to me. "The island is
still in the grip of that wretched current flowing southward. We
will have to look into this to-morrow. If nothing can be done
about it, the Indians had better take to canoes and leave the
island. The chance of being wrecked will be better than getting
frozen to death in the ice-floes of the Antarctic."
Presently we came over a saddle in the hills, and looking
downward on the far side of the island, we saw the village-- a
large cluster of grass huts and gaily colored totem-poles close
by the edge of the sea.
"How artistic!" said the Doctor--"Delightfully situated. What is
the name of the village?"
"Popsipetel," said Long Arrow. "That is the name also of the
tribe. The word signifies in Indian tongue, The Men of The Moving
Land. There are two tribes of Indians on the island: the
Popsipetels at this end and the Bag-jagderags at the other."
"Which is the larger of the two peoples?"
"The Bag-jagderags, by far. Their city covers two square
leagues. But," added Long Arrow a slight frown darkening his
handsome face, "for me, I would rather have one Popsipetel than a
The news of the rescue we had made had evidently gone ahead of
us. For as we drew nearer to the village we saw crowds of Indians
streaming out to greet the friends and relatives whom they had
never thought to see again.
These good people, when they too were told how the rescue had
been the work of the strange white visitor to their shores, all
gathered round the Doctor, shook him by the hands, patted him and
hugged him. Then they lifted him up upon their strong shoulders
and carried him down the hill into the village.
There the welcome we received was even more wonderful. In spite
of the cold air of the coming night, the villagers, who had all
been shivering within their houses, threw open their doors and
came out in hundreds. I had no idea that the little village could
hold so many. They thronged about us, smiling and nodding and
waving their hands; and as the details of what we had done were
recited by Long Arrow they kept shouting strange singing noises,
which we supposed were words of gratitude or praise.
We were next escorted to a brand-new grass house, clean and
sweet-smelling within, and informed that it was ours. Six strong
Indian boys were told off to be our servants.
On our way through the village we noticed a house, larger than
the rest, standing at the end of the main street. Long Arrow
pointed to it and told us it was the Chief's house, but that it
was now empty--no new chief having yet been elected to take the
place of the old one who had died.
Inside our new home a feast of fish and fruit had been prepared.
Most of the more important men of the tribe were already seating
themselves at the long dining-table when we got there. Long Arrow
invited us to sit down and eat.
This we were glad enough to do, as we were all hungry. But we
were both surprised and disappointed when we found that the fish
had not been cooked. The Indians did not seem to think this
extraordinary in the least, but went ahead gobbling the fish with
much relish the way it was, raw.
With many apologies, the Doctor explained to Long Arrow that if
they had no objection we would prefer our fish cooked.
Imagine our astonishment when we found that the great Long Arrow,
so learned in the natural sciences, did not know what the word
Polynesia who was sitting on the bench between John Dolittle and
myself pulled the Doctor by the sleeve.
"I'll tell you what's wrong, Doctor," she whispered as he leant
down to listen to her: "THESE PEOPLE HAVE NO FIRES! They don't
know how to make a fire. Look outside: It's almost dark, and
there isn't a light showing ii the whole village. This is a
THE THIRD CHAPTER
THEN the Doctor asked Long Arrow if he knew what fire was,
explaining it to him by pictures drawn on the buckskin
table-cloth. Long Arrow said he had seen such a thing--coming out
of the tops of volcanoes; but that neither he nor any of the
Popsipetels knew how it was made.
"Poor perishing heathens!" muttered Bumpo. "No wonder the old
chief died of cold!"
At that moment we heard a crying sound at the door. And turning
round, we saw a weeping Indian mother with a baby in her arms.
She said something to the Indians which we could not understand;
and Long Arrow told us the baby was sick and she wanted the white
doctor to try and cure it.
"Oh Lord!" groaned Polynesia in my ear--"Just like Puddleby:
patients arriving in the middle of dinner. Well, one thing: the
food's raw, so nothing can get cold anyway."
The Doctor examined the baby and found at once that it was
"Fire--FIRE! That's what it needs," he said turning to Long
Arrow--"That's what you all need. This child will have pneumonia
if it isn't kept warm."
"Aye, truly. But how to make a fire," said Long Arrow--"where to
get it: that is the difficulty. All the volcanoes in this land
Then we fell to hunting through our pockets to see if any matches
had survived the shipwreck. The best we could muster were two
whole ones and a half-- all with the heads soaked off them by
"Hark, Long Arrow," said the Doctor: "divers ways there be of
making fire without the aid of matches. One: with a strong
glass and the rays of the sun. That however, since the sun has
set, we cannot now employ. Another is by grinding a hard stick
into a soft log--Is the daylight gone without?--Alas yes. Then I
fear we must await the morrow; for besides the different woods,
we need an old squirrel's nest for fuel-- And that without lamps
you could not find in your forests at this hour."
"Great are your cunning and your skill, oh White Man," Long Arrow
replied. "But in this you do us an injustice. Know you not that
all fireless peoples can see in the dark? Having no lamps we are
forced to train ourselves to travel through the blackest night,
lightless. I will despatch a messenger and you shall have your
squirrel's nest within the hour."
He gave an order to two of our boy-servants who promptly
disappeared running. And sure enough, in a very short space of
time a squirrel's nest, together with hard and soft woods, was
brought to our door.
The moon had not yet risen and within the house it was
practically pitch-black. I could feel and hear, however, that the
Indians were moving about comfortably as though it were daylight.
The task of making fire the Doctor had to perform almost entirely
by the sense of touch, asking Long Arrow and the Indians to hand
him his tools when he mislaid them in the dark. And then I made a
curious discovery: now that I had to, I found that I was
beginning to see a little in the dark myself. And for the first
time I realized that of course there is no such thing as
pitch-dark, so long as you have a door open or a sky above you.
Calling for the loan of a bow, the Doctor loosened the string,
put the hard stick into a loop and began grinding this stick into
the soft wood of the log. Soon I smelt that the log was smoking.
Then he kept feeding the part that was smoking with the inside
lining of the squirrel's nest, and he asked me to blow upon it
with my breath. He made the stick drill faster and faster. More
smoke filled the room. And at last the darkness about us was
suddenly lit up. The squirrel's nest had burst into flame.
The Indians murmured and grunted with astonishment. At first
they were all for falling on their knees and worshiping the fire.
Then they wanted to pick it up with their bare hands and play
with it. We had to teach them how it was to be used; and they
were quite fascinated when we laid our fish across it on sticks
and cooked it. They sniffed the air with relish as, for the first
time in history, the smell of fried fish passed through the
village of Popsipetel.
Then we got them to bring us piles and stacks of dry wood; and we
made an enormous bonfire in the middle of the main street. Round
this, when they felt its warmth, the whole tribe gathered and
smiled and wondered. It was a striking sight, one of the
pictures from our voyages that I most frequently remember: that
roaring jolly blaze beneath the black night sky, and all about it
a vast ring of Indians, the firelight gleaming on bronze cheeks,
white teeth and flashing eyes--a whole town trying to get warm,
giggling and pushing like school-children.
In a little, when we had got them more used to the handling of
fire, the Doctor showed them how it could be taken into their
houses if a hole were only made in the roof to let the smoke out.
And before we turned in after that long, long, tiring day, we had
fires going in every hut in the village.
The poor people were so glad to get really warm again that we
thought they'd never go to bed. Well on into the early hours of
the morning the little town fairly buzzed with a great low
murmur: the Popsipetels sitting up talking of their wonderful
pale-faced visitor and this strange good thing he had brought
THE FOURTH CHAPTER
WHAT MAKES AN ISLAND FLOAT
VERY early in our experience of Popsipetel kindness we saw that
if we were to get anything done at all, we would almost always
have to do it secretly. The Doctor was so popular and loved by
all that as soon as he showed his face at his door in the morning
crowds of admirers, waiting patiently outside, flocked about him
and followed him wherever he went. After his fire-making feat,
this childlike people expected him, I think, to be continually
doing magic; and they were determined not to miss a trick.
It was only with great difficulty that we escaped from the crowd
the first morning and set out with Long Arrow to explore the
island at our leisure.
In the interior we found that not only the plants and trees were
suffering from the cold: the animal life was in even worse
straits. Everywhere shivering birds were to be seen, their
feathers all fluffed out, gathering together for flight to summer
lands. And many lay dead upon the ground. Going down to the
shore, we watched land-crabs in large numbers taking to the sea
to find some better home. While away to the Southeast we could
see many icebergs floating-- a sign that we were now not far from
the terrible region of the Antarctic.
As we were looking out to sea, we noticed our friends the
porpoises jumping through the waves. The Doctor hailed them and
they came inshore.
He asked them how far we were from the South Polar Continent.
About a hundred miles, they told him. And then they asked why he
wanted to know.
"Because this floating island we are on," said he, "is drifting
southward all the time in a current. It's an island that
ordinarily belongs somewhere in the tropic zone--real sultry
weather, sunstrokes and all that. If it doesn't stop going
southward pretty soon everything on it is going to perish."
"Well," said the porpoises, "then the thing to do is to get it
back into a warmer climate, isn't it?"
"Yes, but how?" said the Doctor. "We can't ROW it back."
"No," said they, "but whales could push it--if you only got
enough of them."
"What a splendid idea!--Whales, the very thing!" said the Doctor.
"Do you think you could get me some?"
"Why, certainly," said the porpoises, "we passed one herd of them
out there, sporting about among the icebergs. We'll ask them to
come over. And if they aren't enough, we'll try and hunt up some
more. Better have plenty."
"Thank you," said the Doctor. "You are very kind--By the way, do
you happen to know how this island came to be a floating island?
At least half of it, I notice, is made of stone. It is very odd
that it floats at all, isn't it?"
"It is unusual," they said. "But the explanation is quite
simple. It used to be a mountainous part of South America-- an
overhanging part--sort of an awkward corner, you might say. Way
back in the glacial days, thousands of years ago, it broke off
from the mainland; and by some curious accident the inside of it,
which is hollow, got filled with air as it fell into the ocean.
You can only see less than half of the island: the bigger half
is under water. And in the middle of it, underneath, is a huge
rock air-chamber, running right up inside the mountains. And
that's what keeps it floating."
"What a pecurious phenometer!" said Bumpo.
"It is indeed," said the Doctor. "I must make a note of that."
And out came the everlasting note-book.
The porpoises went bounding off towards the icebergs. And not
long after, we saw the sea heaving and frothing as a big herd of
whales came towards us at full speed.
They certainly were enormous creatures; and there must have been
a good two hundred of them.
"Here they are," said the porpoises, poking their heads out of
"Good!" said the Doctor. "Now just explain to them, will you
please? that this is a very serious matter for all the living
creatures in this land. And ask them if they will be so good as
to go down to the far end of the island, put their noses against
it and push it back near the coast of Southern Brazil."
The porpoises evidently succeeded in persuading the whales to do
as the Doctor asked; for presently we saw them thrashing through
the seas, going off towards the south end of the island.
Then we lay down upon the beach and waited.
After about an hour the Doctor got up and threw a stick into the
water. For a while this floated motionless. But soon we saw it
begin to move gently down the coast.
"Ah!" said the Doctor, "see that?--The island is going North at
last. Thank goodness!"
Faster and faster we left the stick behind; and smaller and
dimmer grew the icebergs on the skyline.
The Doctor took out his watch, threw more sticks into the water
and made a rapid calculation.
"Humph!--Fourteen and a half knots an hour," he murmured--"A very
nice speed. It should take us about five days to get back near
Brazil. Well, that's that-- Quite a load off my mind. I declare
I feel warmer already. Let's go and get something to eat."
THE FIFTH CHAPTER
ON our way back to the village the Doctor began discussing
natural history with Long Arrow. But their most interesting
talk, mainly about plants, had hardly begun when an Indian runner
came dashing up to us with a message.
Long Arrow listened gravely to the breathless, babbled words,
then turned to the Doctor and said in eagle tongue,
"Great White Man, an evil thing has befallen the Popsipetels.
Our neighbors to the southward, the thievish Bag-jagderags, who
for so long have cast envious eyes on our stores of ripe corn,
have gone upon the war-path; and even now are advancing to attack
"Evil news indeed," said the Doctor. "Yet let us not judge
harshly. Perhaps it is that they are desperate for food, having
their own crops frost-killed before harvest. For are they not
even nearer the cold South than you?"
"Make no excuses for any man of the tribe of the Bag-jagderags,"
said Long Arrow shaking his head. "They are an idle shiftless
race. They do but see a chance to get corn without the labor of
husbandry. If it were not that they are a much bigger tribe and
hope to defeat their neighbor by sheer force of numbers, they
would not have dared to make open war upon the brave
When we reached the village we found it in a great state of
excitement. Everywhere men were seen putting their bows in order,
sharpening spears, grinding battle-axes and making arrows by the
hundred. Women were raising a high fence of bamboo poles all
round the village. Scouts and messengers kept coming and going,
bringing news of the movements of the enemy. While high up in the
trees and hills about the village we could see look-outs watching
the mountains to the southward.
Long Arrow brought another Indian, short but enormously broad,
and introduced him to the Doctor as Big Teeth, the chief warrior
of the Popsipetels.
The Doctor volunteered to go and see the enemy and try to argue
the matter out peacefully with them instead of fighting; for war,
he said, was at best a stupid wasteful business. But the two
shook their heads. Such a plan was hopeless, they said. In the
last war when they had sent a messenger to do peaceful arguing,
the enemy had merely hit him with an ax.
While the Doctor was asking Big Teeth how he meant to defend the
village against attack, a cry of alarm was raised by the
"They're coming!--The Bag-jagderags-swarming down the mountains
"Well," said the Doctor, "it's all in the day's work, I suppose.
I don't believe in war; but if the village is attacked we must
help defend it."
And he picked up a club from the ground and tried the heft of it
against a stone.
"This," he said, "seems like a pretty good tool to me." And he
walked to the bamboo fence and took his place among the other
Then we all got hold of some kind of weapon with which to help
our friends, the gallant Popsipetels: I borrowed a bow and a
quiver full of arrows; Jip was content to rely upon his old, but
still strong teeth; Chee-Chee took a bag of rocks and climbed a
palm where he could throw them down upon the enemies' heads; and
Bumpo marched after the Doctor to the fence armed with a young
tree in one hand and a door-post in the other.
When the enemy drew near enough to be seen from where we stood we
all gasped with astonishment. The hillsides were actually
covered with them-- thousands upon thousands. They made our
small army within the village look like a mere handful.
"Saints alive!" muttered Polynesia, "our little lot will stand no
chance against that swarm. This will never do. I'm going off to
get some help." Where she was going and what kind of help she
meant to get, I had no idea. She just disappeared from my side.
But Jip, who had heard her, poked his nose between the bamboo
bars of the fence to get a better view of the enemy and said,
"Likely enough she's gone after the Black Parrots. Let's hope
she finds them in time. Just look at those ugly ruffians
climbing down the rocks-- millions of 'em! This fight's going to
keep us all hopping."
And Jip was right. Before a quarter of an hour had gone by our
village was completely surrounded by one huge mob of yelling,
I now come again to a part in the story of our voyages where
things happened so quickly, one upon the other, that looking
backwards I see the picture only in a confused kind of way. I
know that if it had not been for the Terrible Three-- as they
came afterwards to be fondly called in Popsipetel history-- Long
Arrow, Bumpo and the Doctor, the war would have been soon over
and the whole island would have belonged to the worthless
Bag-jagderags. But the Englishman, the African and the Indian
were a regiment in themselves; and between them they made that
village a dangerous place for any man to try to enter.
The bamboo fencing which had been hastily set up around the town
was not a very strong affair; and right from the start it gave
way in one place after another as the enemy thronged and crowded
against it. Then the Doctor, Long Arrow and Bumpo would hurry to
the weak spot, a terrific hand-to-hand fight would take place and
the enemy be thrown out. But almost instantly a cry of alarm
would come from some other part of the village-wall; and the
Three would have to rush off and do the same thing all over
The Popsipetels were themselves no mean fighters; but the
strength and weight of those three men of different lands and
colors, standing close together, swinging their enormous
war-clubs, was really a sight for the wonder and admiration of
Many weeks later when I was passing an Indian camp-fire at night
I heard this song being sung. It has since become one of the
traditional folksongs of the Popsipetels.
THE SONG OF THE TERRIBLE THREE
Oh hear ye the Song of the Terrible Three
And the fight that they fought by the edge of the sea.
Down from the mountains, the rocks and the crags,
Swarming like wasps, came the Bag-jagderags.
Surrounding our village, our walls they broke down.
Oh, sad was the plight of our men and our town!
But Heaven determined our land to set free
And sent us the help of the Terrible Three.
One was a Black--he was dark as the night;
One was a Red-skin, a mountain of height;
But the chief was a White Man, round like a bee;
And all in a row stood the Terrible Three.
Shoulder to shoulder, they hammered and hit.
Like demons of fury they kicked and they bit.
Like a wall of destruction they stood in a row,
Flattening enemies, six at a blow.
Oh, strong was the Red-skin fierce was the Black.
Bag-jagderags trembled and tried to turn back.
But 'twas of the White Man they shouted, "Beware!
He throws men in handfuls, straight up in the air!"
Long shall they frighten bad children at night
With tales of the Red and the Black and the White.
And long shall we sing of the Terrible Three
And the fight that they fought by the edge of the sea.
THE SIXTH CHAPTER
BUT alas! even the Three, mighty though they were, could not last
forever against an army which seemed to have no end. In one of
the hottest scrimmages, when the enemy had broken a particularly
wide hole through the fence, I saw Long Arrow's great figure
topple and come down with a spear sticking in his broad chest.
For another half-hour Bumpo and the Doctor fought on side by
side. How their strength held out so long I cannot tell, for
never a second were they given to get their breath or rest their
The Doctor--the quiet, kindly, peaceable, little Doctor!--well,
you wouldn't have known him if you had seen him that day dealing
out whacks you could hear a mile off, walloping and swatting in
As for Bumpo, with staring eye-balls and grim set teeth, he was a
veritable demon. None dared come within yards of that wicked,
wide-circling door-post. But a stone, skilfully thrown, struck
him at last in the centre of the forehead. And down went the
second of the Three. John Dolittle, the last of the Terribles,
was left fighting alone.
Jip and I rushed to his side and tried to take the places of the
fallen ones. But, far too light and too small, we made but a poor
exchange. Another length of the fence crashed down, and through
the widened gap the Bag-jagderags poured in on us like a flood.
"To the canoes!--To the sea!" shouted the Popsipetels. "Fly for
your lives!-- All is over!--The war is lost!"
But the Doctor and I never got a chance to fly for our lives. We
were swept off our feet and knocked down flat by the sheer weight
of the mob. And once down, we were unable to get up again. I
thought we would surely be trampled to death.
But at that moment, above the din and racket of the battle, we
heard the most terrifying noise that ever assaulted human ears:
the sound of millions and millions of parrots all screeching with
The army, which in the nick of time Polynesia had brought to our
rescue, darkened the whole sky to the westward. I asked her
afterwards, how many birds there were; and she said she didn't
know exactly but that they certainly numbered somewhere between
sixty and seventy millions. In that extraordinarily short space
of time she had brought them from the mainland of South America.
If you have ever heard a parrot screech with anger you will know
that it makes a truly frightful sound; and if you have ever been
bitten by one, you will know that its bite can be a nasty and a
The Black Parrots (coal-black all over, they were--except for a
scarlet beak and a streak of red in wing and tail) on the word of
command from Polynesia set to work upon the Bag-jagderags who
were now pouring through the village looking for plunder.
And the Black Parrots' method of fighting was peculiar. This is
what they did: on the head of each Bag-jagderag three or four
parrots settled and took a good foot-hold in his hair with their
claws; then they leant down over the sides of his head and began
clipping snips out of his ears, for all the world as though they
were punching tickets. That is all they did. They never bit them
anywhere else except the ears. But it won the war for us.
With howls pitiful to hear, the Bag-jagderags fell over one
another in their haste to get out of that accursed village. It
was no use their trying to pull the parrots off their heads;
because for each head there were always four more parrots waiting
impatiently to get on.
Some of the enemy were lucky; and with only a snip or two managed
to get outside the fence--where the parrots immediately left them
alone. But with most, before the black birds had done with them,
the ears presented a very singular appearance--like the edge of a
postage-stamp. This treatment, very painful at the time, did not
however do them any permanent harm beyond the change in looks.
And it later got to be the tribal mark of the Bag-jagderags. No
really smart young lady of this tribe would be seen walking with
a man who did not have scalloped ears--for such was a proof that
he had been in the Great War. And that (though it is not
generally known to scientists) is how this people came to be
called by the other Indian nations, the Ragged-Eared
As soon as the village was cleared of the enemy the Doctor turned
his attention to the wounded.
In spite of the length and fierceness of the struggle, there were
surprisingly few serious injuries. Poor Long Arrow was the worst
off. However, after the Doctor had washed his wound and got him
to bed, he opened his eyes and said he already felt better. Bumpo
was only badly stunned.
With this part of the business over, the Doctor called to
Polynesia to have the Black Parrots drive the enemy right back
into their own country and to wait there, guarding them all
Polynesia gave the short word of command; and like one bird those
millions of parrots opened their red beaks and let out once more
their terrifying battle-scream.
The Bag-jagderags didn't wait to be bitten a second time, but
fled helter-skelter over the mountains from which they had come;
whilst Polynesia and her victorious army followed watchfully
behind like a great, threatening, black cloud.
The Doctor picked up his high hat which had been knocked off in
the fight, dusted it carefully and put it on.
"To-morrow," he said, shaking his fist towards the hills, "we
will arrange the terms of peace--and we will arrange them-- in
the City of Bag-jagderag.
His words were greeted with cheers of triumph from the admiring
Popsipetels. The war was over.
THE SEVENTH CHAPTER
THE PEACE OF THE PARROTS
THE next day we set out for the far end of the island, and
reaching it in canoes (for we went by sea) after a journey of
twenty-five hours, we remained no longer than was necessary in
the City of Bag-jagderag.
When he threw himself into that fight at Popsipetel, I saw the
Doctor really angry for the first time in my life. But his anger,
once aroused, was slow to die. All the way down the coast of the
island he never ceased to rail against this cowardly people who
had attacked his friends, the Popsipetels, for no other reason
but to rob them of their corn, because they were too idle to till
the land themselves. And he was still angry when he reached the
City of Bag-jagderag.
Long Arrow had not come with us for he was as yet too weak from
his wound. But the Doctor--always clever at languages--was
already getting familiar with the Indian tongue. Besides, among
the half-dozen Popsipetels who accompanied us to paddle the
canoes, was one boy to whom we had taught a little English. He
and the Doctor between them managed to make themselves understood
to the Bag-jagderags. This people, with the terrible parrots
still blackening the hills about their stone town, waiting for
the word to descend and attack, were, we found, in a very humble
Leaving our canoes we passed up the main street to the palace of
the chief. Bumpo and I couldn't help smiling with satisfaction as
we saw how the waiting crowds which lined the roadway bowed their
heads to the ground, as the little, round, angry figure of the
Doctor strutted ahead of us with his chin in the air.
At the foot of the palace-steps the chief and all the more
important personages of the tribe were waiting to meet him,
smiling humbly and holding out their hands in friendliness. The
Doctor took not the slightest notice. He marched right by them,
up the steps to the door of the palace. There he turned around
and at once began to address the people in a firm voice.
I never heard such a speech in my life--and I am quite sure that
they never did either. First he called them a long string of
names: cowards, loafers, thieves, vagabonds, good-for-nothings,
bullies and what not. Then he said he was still seriously
thinking of allowing the parrots to drive them on into the sea,
in order that this pleasant land might be rid, once for all, of
their worthless carcases. At this a great cry for mercy went up,
and the chief and all of them fell on their knees, calling out
that they would submit to any conditions of peace he wished.
Then the Doctor called for one of their scribes--that is, a man
who did picture-writing. And on the stone walls of the palace of
Bag-jagderag he bade him write down the terms of the peace as he
dictated it. This peace is known as The Peace of The Parrots,
and--unlike most peaces-- was, and is, strictly kept--even to
It was quite long in words. The half of the palace-front was
covered with picture-writing, and fifty pots of paint were used,
before the weary scribe had done. But the main part of it all
was that there should be no more fighting; and that the two
tribes should give solemn promise to help one another whenever
there was corn-famine or other distress in the lands belonging to
This greatly surprised the Bag-jagderags. They had expected from
the Doctor's angry face that he would at least chop a couple of
hundred heads off-- and probably make the rest of them slaves for
But when they saw that he only meant kindly by them, their great
fear of him changed to a tremendous admiration. And as he ended
his long speech and walked briskly down the steps again on his
way back to the canoes, the group of chieftains threw themselves
at his feet and cried, "Do but stay with us. Great Lord, and all
the riches of Bag-jagderag shall be poured into your lap.
Gold-mines we know of in the mountains and pearl-beds beneath the
sea. Only stay with us, that your all-powerful wisdom may lead
our Council and our people in prosperity and peace." The Doctor
held up his hand for silence.
"No man," said he, "would wish to be the guest of the
Bag-jagderags till they had proved by their deeds that they are
an honest race. Be true to the terms of the Peace and from
yourselves shall come good government and prosperity--Farewell!"
Then he turned and followed by Bumpo, the Popsipetels and myself,
walked rapidly down to the canoes.
THE EIGHTH CHAPTER
THE HANGING STONE
BUT the change of heart in the Bag-jagderags was really sincere.
The Doctor had made a great impression on them--a deeper one than
even he himself realized at the time. In fact I sometimes think
that that speech of his from the palace-steps had more effect
upon the Indians of Spidermonkey Island than had any of his great
deeds which, great though they were, were always magnified and
exaggerated when the news of them was passed from mouth to mouth.
A sick girl was brought to him as he reached the place where the
boats lay. She turned out to have some quite simple ailment which
he quickly gave the remedy for. But this increased his
popularity still more. And when he stepped into his canoe, the
people all around us actually burst into tears. It seems (I
learned this afterwards) that they thought he was going away
across the sea, for good, to the mysterious foreign lands from
which he had come.
Some of the chieftains spoke to the Popsipetels as we pushed off.
What they said I did not understand; but we noticed that several
canoes filled with Bag-jagderags followed us at a respectful
distance all the way back to Popsipetel.
The Doctor had determined to return by the other shore, so that
we should he thus able to make a complete trip round the island's
Shortly after we started, while still off the lower end of the
island, we sighted a steep point on the coast where the sea was
in a great state of turmoil, white with soapy froth. On going
nearer, we found that this was caused by our friendly whales who
were still faithfully working away with their noses against the
end of the island, driving us northward. We had been kept so busy
with the war that we had forgotten all about them. But as we
paused and watched their mighty tails lashing and churning the
sea, we suddenly realized that we had not felt cold in quite
along while. Speeding up our boat lest the island be carried away
from us altogether, we passed on up the coast; and here and there
we noticed that the trees on the shore already looked greener and
more healthy. Spidermonkey Island was getting back into her home
About halfway to Popsipetel we went ashore and spent two or three
days exploring the central part of the island. Our Indian
paddlers took us up into the mountains, very steep and high in
this region, overhanging the sea. And they showed us what they
called the Whispering Rocks.
This was a very peculiar and striking piece of scenery. It was
like a great vast basin, or circus, in the mountains, and out of
the centre of it there rose a table of rock with an ivory chair
upon it. All around this the mountains went up like stairs, or
theatre-seats, to a great height-- except at one narrow end which
was open to a view of the sea. You could imagine it a
council-place or concert-hall for giants, and the rock table in
the centre the stage for performers or the stand for the speaker.
We asked our guides why it was called the Whispering Rocks; and
they said, "Go down into it and we will show you."
The great bowl was miles deep and miles wide. We scrambled down
the rocks and they showed us how, even when you stood far, far
apart from one another, you merely had to whisper in that great
place and every one in the theatre could hear you. This was, the
Doctor said, on account of the echoes which played backwards and
forwards between the high walls of rock.
Our guides told us that it was here, in days long gone by when
the Popsipetels owned the whole of Spidermonkey Island, that the
kings were crowned. The ivory chair upon the table was the throne
in which they sat. And so great was the big theatre that all the
Indians in the island were able to get seats in it to see the
They showed us also an enormous hanging stone perched on the edge
of a volcano's crater--the highest summit in the whole island.
Although it was very far below us, we could see it quite plainly.
and it looked wobbly enough to be pushed off its perch with the
hand. There was a legend among the people, they said, that when
the greatest of all Popsipetel kings should be crowned in the
ivory chair, this hanging stone would tumble into the volcano's
mouth and go straight down to the centre of the earth.
The Doctor said he would like to go and examine it closer.
And when we were come to the lip of the volcano (it took us half
a day to get up to it) we found the stone was unbelievably
large--big as a cathedral. Underneath it we could look right down
into a black hole which seemed to have no bottom. The Doctor
explained to us that volcanoes sometimes spurted up fire from
these holes in their tops; but that those on floating islands
were always cold and dead.
"Stubbins," he said, looking up at the great stone towering above
us, "do you know what would most likely happen if that boulder
should fall in?"
"No," said I, "what?"
"You remember the air-chamber which the porpoises told us lies
under the centre of the island?"
"Well, this stone is heavy enough, if it fell into the volcano,
to break through into that air-chamber from above. And once it
did, the air would escape and the floating island would float no
more. It would sink."
"But then everybody on it would be drowned, wouldn't they?" said
"Oh no, not necessarily. That would depend on the depth of the
sea where the sinking took place. The island might touch bottom
when it had only gone down, say, a hundred feet. But there would
be lots of it still sticking up above the water then, wouldn't
"Yes," said Bumpo, "I suppose there would. Well, let us hope
that the ponderous fragment does not lose its equilibriosity, for
I don't believe it would stop at the centre of the earth-- more
likely it would fall right through the world and come out the
Many other wonders there were which these men showed us in the
central regions of their island. But I have not time or space to
tell you of them now.
Descending towards the shore again, we noticed that we were still
being watched, even here among the highlands, by the
Bag-jagderags who had followed us. And when we put to sea once
more a boatload of them proceeded to go ahead of us in the
direction of Popsipetel. Having lighter canoes, they traveled
faster than our party; and we judged that they should reach the
village--if that was where they were going-- many hours before we
The Doctor was now becoming anxious to see how Long Arrow was
getting on, so we all took turns at the paddles and went on
traveling by moonlight through the whole night.
We reached Popsipetel just as the dawn was breaking.
To our great surprise we found that not only we, but the whole
village also, had been up all night. A great crowd was gathered
about the dead chief's house. And as we landed our canoes upon
the beach we saw a large number of old men, the seniors of the
tribe, coming out at the main door.
We inquired what was the meaning of all this; and were told that
the election of a new chief had been going on all through the
whole night. Bumpo asked the name of the new chief; but this, it
seemed, had not yet been given out. It would be announced at
As soon as the Doctor had paid a visit to Long Arrow and seen
that he was doing nicely, we proceeded to our own house at the
far end of the village. Here we ate some breakfast and then lay
down to take a good rest.
Rest, indeed, we needed; for life had been stren-uous and busy
for us ever since we had landed on the island. And it wasn't many
minutes after our weary heads struck the pillows that the whole
crew of us were sound asleep.
THE NINTH CHAPTER
WE were awakened by music. The glaring noonday sunlight was
streaming in at our door, outside of which some kind of a band
appeared to be playing.
We got up and looked out. Our house was surrounded by the whole
population of Popsipetel. We were used to having quite a number
of curious and admiring Indians waiting at our door at all hours;
but this was quite different. The vast crowd was dressed in its
best clothes. Bright beads, gawdy feathers and gay blankets gave
cheerful color to the scene. Every one seemed in very good humor,
singing or playing on musical instruments--mostly painted wooden
whistles or drums made from skins.
We found Polynesia--who while we slept had arrived back from
Bag-jagderag--sitting on our door-post watching the show. We
asked her what all the holiday-making was about.
"The result of the election has just been announced," said she.
"The name of the new chief was given out at noon."
"And who is the new chief?" asked the Doctor.
"You are," said Polynesia quietly.
"I!" gasped the Doctor--"Well, of all things!"
"Yes," said she. "You're the one--And what's more, they've
changed your surname for you. They didn't think that Dolittle
was a proper or respectful name for a man who had done so much.
So you are now to be known as Jong Thinkalot. How do you like
"But I don't WANT to be a chief," said the Doctor in an irritable
"I'm afraid you'll have hard work to get out of it now," said
she--"unless you're willing to put to sea again in one of their
rickety canoes. You see you've been elected not merely the Chief
of the Popsipetels; you're to be a king--the King of the whole of
Spidermonkey Island. The Bag-jagderags, who were so anxious to
have you govern them, sent spies and messengers ahead of you; and
when they found that you had been elected Chief of the
Popsipetels overnight they were bitterly disappointed. However,
rather than lose you altogether, the Bag-jagderags were willing
to give up their independence, and insisted that they and their
lands be united to the Popsipetels in order that you could be
made king of both. So now you're in for it."
"Oh Lord!" groaned the Doctor, "I do wish they wouldn't be so
enthusiastic! Bother it, I don't WANT to be a king!"
"I should think, Doctor," said I, "you'd feel rather proud and
glad. I wish I had a chance to be a king."
"Oh I know it sounds grand, said he, pulling on his boots
miserably. "But the trouble is, you can t take up
responsibilities and then just drop them again when you feel like
it. I have my own work to do. Scarcely one moment have I had to
give to natural history since I landed on this island. I've been
doing some one else's business all the time. And now they want me
to go on doing it! Why, once I'm made King of the Popsipetels,
that's the end of me as a useful naturalist. I'd be too busy for
anything. All I'd be then is just a er-- er just a king."
"Well, that's something!" said Bumpo. "My father is a king and
has a hundred and twenty wives."
"That would make it worse," said the Doctor--" a hundred and
twenty times worse. I have my work to do. I don't want to be a
"Look," said Polynesia, "here come the head men to announce your
election. Hurry up and get your boots laced."
The throng before our door had suddenly parted asunder, making a
long lane; and down this we now saw a group of personages coming
towards us. The man in front, a handsome old Indian with a
wrinkled face, carried in his hands a wooden crown--a truly
beautiful and gorgeous crown, even though of wood. Wonderfully
carved and painted, it had two lovely blue feathers springing
from the front of it. Behind the old man came eight strong
Indians bearing a litter, a sort of chair with long handles
underneath to carry it by.
Kneeling down on one knee, bending his head almost to the ground,
the old man addressed the Doctor who now stood in the doorway
putting on his collar and tie.
"Oh, Mighty One," said he, "we bring you word from the Popsipetel
people. Great are your deeds beyond belief, kind is your heart
and your wisdom, deeper than the sea. Our chief is dead. The
people clamor for a worthy leader. Our old enemies, the
Bag-jagderags are become, through you, our brothers and good
friends. They too desire to bask beneath the sunshine of your
smile. Behold then, I bring to you the Sacred Crown of Popsipetel
which, since ancient days when this island and its peoples were
one, beneath one monarch, has rested on no kingly brow. Oh
Kindly One, we are bidden by the united voices of the peoples of
this land to carry you to the Whispering Rocks, that there, with
all respect and majesty, you may be crowned our king-- King of
all the Moving Land."
The good Indians did not seem to have even considered the
possibility of John Dolittle's refusing. As for the poor Doctor,
I never saw him so upset by anything. It was in fact the only
time I have known him to get thoroughly fussed.
"Oh dear!" I heard him murmur, looking around wildly for some
escape. "What SHALL I do?--Did any of you see where I laid that
stud of mine?-- How on earth can I get this collar on without a
stud? What a day this is, to be sure I--Maybe it rolled under
the bed, Bumpo--I do think they might have given me a day or so
to think it over in. Who ever heard of waking a man right out of
his sleep, and telling him he's got to be a king, before he has
even washed his face? Can't any of you find it? Maybe you're
standing on it, Bumpo. Move your feet."
"Oh don't bother about your stud," said Polynesia. "You will
have to be crowned without a collar. They won't know the
"I tell you I'm not going to be crowned," cried the Doctor--"not
if I can help it. I'll make them a speech. Perhaps that will
satisfy them." He turned back to the Indians at the door.
"My friends," he said, "I am not worthy of this great honor you
would do me. Little or no skill have I in the arts of kingcraft.
Assuredly among your own brave men you will find many better
fitted to lead you. For this compliment, this confidence and
trust, I thank you. But, I pray you, do not think of me for such
high duties which I could not possibly fulfil."
The old man repeated his words to the people behind him in a
louder voice. Stolidly they shook their heads, moving not an
inch. The old man turned back to the Doctor.
"You are the chosen one," said he. "They will have none but
Into the Doctor's perplexed face suddenly there came a flash of
"I'll go and see Long Arrow," he whispered to me. "Perhaps he
will know of some way to get me out of this."
And asking the personages to excuse him a moment, he left them
there, standing at his door, and hurried off in the direction of
Long Arrow's house. I followed him.
We found our big friend lying on a grass bed outside his home,
where he had been moved that he might witness the holiday-making.
"Long Arrow," said the Doctor speaking quickly in eagle tongue so
that the bystanders should not overhear, "in dire peril I come to
you for help. These men would make me their king. If such a
thing befall me, all the great work I hoped to do must go undone,
for who is there unfreer than a king? I pray you speak with them
and persuade their kind well-meaning hearts that what they plan
to do would be unwise."
Long Arrow raised himself upon his elbow. "Oh Kindly One," said
he (this seemed now to have become the usual manner of address
when speaking to the Doctor), "sorely it grieves me that the
first wish you ask of me I should be unable to grant. Alas! I
can do nothing. These people have so set their hearts on keeping
you for king that if I tried to interfere they would drive me
from their land and likely crown you in the end in any case. A
king you must be, if only for a while. We must so arrange the
business of governing that you may have time to give to Nature's
secrets. Later we may be able to hit upon some plan to relieve
you of the burden of the crown. But for now you must be king.
These people are a headstrong tribe and they will have their way.
There is no other course."
Sadly the Doctor turned away from the bed and faced about. And
there behind him stood the old man again, the crown still held in
his wrinkled hands and the royal litter waiting at his elbow.
With a deep reverence the bearers motioned towards the seat of
the chair, inviting the white man to get in.
Once more the poor Doctor looked wildly, hopelessly about him for
some means of escape. For a moment I thought he was going to
take to his heels and run for it. But the crowd around us was
far too thick and densely packed for anyone to break through it.
A band of whistles and drums near by suddenly started the music
of a solemn processional march. He turned back pleadingly again
to Long Arrow in a last appeal for help. But the big Indian
merely shook his head and pointed, like the bearers, to the
At last, almost in tears, John Dolittle stepped slowly into the
litter and sat down. As he was hoisted on to the broad shoulders
of the bearers I heard him still feebly muttering beneath his
"Botheration take it!--I don't WANT to be a king!"
"Farewell!" called Long Arrow from his bed, "and may good fortune
ever stand within the shadow of your throne!"
"He comes!--He comes!" murmured the crowd. "Away! Away!--To the
And as the procession formed up to leave the village, the crowd
about us began hurrying off in the direction of the mountains to
make sure of good seats in the giant theatre where the crowning
ceremony would take place.
THE TENTH CHAPTER
THE CORONATION OF KING JONG
IN my long lifetime I have seen many grand and inspiring things,
but never anything that impressed me half as much as the sight of
the Whispering Rocks as they looked on the day King Jong was
crowned. As Bumpo, Chee-Chee, Polynesia, Jip and I finally
reached the dizzy edge of the great bowl and looked down inside
it, it was like gazing over a never-ending ocean of
copper-colored faces; for every seat in the theatre was filled,
every man, woman and child in the island-- including Long Arrow
who had been carried up on his sick bed-- was there to see the
Yet not a sound, not a pin-drop, disturbed the solemn silence of
the Whispering Rocks. It was quite creepy and sent chills
running up and down your spine. Bumpo told me afterwards that it
took his breath away too much for him to speak, but that he
hadn't known before that there were that many people in the
Away down by the Table of the Throne stood a brand-new, brightly
colored totem-pole. All the Indian families had totem-poles and
kept them set up before the doors of their houses. The idea of a
totem-pole is something like a door-plate or a visiting card. It
represents in its carvings the deeds and qualities of the family
to which it belongs. This one, beautifully decorated and much
higher than any other, was the Dolittle or, as it was to be
henceforth called, the Royal Thinkalot totem. It had nothing but
animals on it, to signify the Doctor's great knowledge of
creatures. And the animals chosen to be shown were those which to
the Indians were supposed to represent good qualities of
character, such as, the deer for speed; the ox for perseverance;
the fish for discretion, and so on. But at the top of the totem
is always placed the sign or animal by which the family is most
proud to be known. This, on the Thinkalot pole, was an enormous
parrot, in memory of the famous Peace of the Parrots.
The Ivory Throne had been all polished with scented oil and it
glistened whitely in the strong sunlight. At the foot of it
there had been strewn great quantities of branches of flowering
trees, which with the new warmth of milder climates were now
blossoming in the valleys of the island.
Soon we saw the royal litter, with the Doctor seated in it,
slowly ascending the winding steps of the Table. Reaching the
flat top at last, it halted and the Doctor stepped out upon the
flowery carpet. So still and perfect was the silence that even at
that distance above I distinctly heard a twig snap beneath his
Walking to the throne accompanied by the old man, the Doctor got
up upon the stand and sat down. How tiny his little round figure
looked when seen from that tremendous height! The throne had been
made for longer-legged kings; and when he was seated, his feet
did not reach the ground but dangled six inches from the top
Then the old man turned round and looking up at the people began
to speak in a quiet even voice; but every word he said was easily
heard in the furthest corner of the Whispering Rocks.
First he recited the names of all the great Popsipetel kings who
in days long ago had been crowned in this ivory chair. He spoke
of the greatness of the Popsipetel people, of their triumphs, of
their hardships. Then waving his hand towards the Doctor he
began recounting the things which this king-to-be had done. And I
am bound to say that they easily outmatched the deeds of those
who had gone before him.
As soon as he started to speak of what the Doctor had achieved
for the tribe, the people, still strictly silent, all began
waving their right hands towards the throne. This gave to the
vast theatre a very singular appearance: acres and acres of
something moving--with never a sound.
At last the old man finished his speech and stepping up to the
chair, very respectfully removed the Doctor's battered high hat.
He was about to put it upon the ground; but the Doctor took it
from him hastily and kept it on his lap. Then taking up the
Sacred Crown he placed it upon John Dolittle's head. It did not
fit very well (for it had been made for smaller-headed kings),
and when the wind blew in freshly from the sunlit sea the Doctor
had some difficulty in keeping it on. But it looked very
Turning once more to the people, the old man said,
"Men of Popsipetel, behold your elected king!--Are you content?"
And then at last the voice of the people broke loose.
"JONG! JONG!" they shouted, "LONG LIVE KING JONG!"
The sound burst upon the solemn silence with the crash of a
hundred cannon. There, where even a whisper carried miles, the
shock of it was like a blow in the face. Back and forth the
mountains threw it to one another. I thought the echoes of it
would never die away as it passed rumbling through the whole
island, jangling among the lower valleys, booming in the distant
Suddenly I saw the old man point upward, to the highest mountain
in the island; and looking over my shoulder, I was just in time
to see the Hanging Stone topple slowly out of sight-- down into
the heart of the volcano.
"See ye, Men of the Moving Land!" the old man cried: "The stone
has fallen and our legend has come true: the King of Kings is
crowned this day!"
The Doctor too had seen the stone fall and he was now standing up
looking at the sea expectantly.
"He's thinking of the air-chamber," said Bumpo in my ear. "Let us
hope that the sea isn't very deep in these parts."
After a full minute (so long did it take the stone to fall that
depth) we heard a muffled, distant, crunching thud--and then
immediately after, a great hissing of escaping air. The Doctor,
his face tense with anxiety, sat down in the throne again still
watching the blue water of the ocean with staring eyes.
Soon we felt the island slowly sinking beneath us. We saw the
sea creep inland over the beaches as the shores went down-- one
foot, three feet, ten feet, twenty, fifty, a hundred. And then,
thank goodness, gently as a butterfly alighting on a rose, it
stopped! Spidermonkey Island had come to rest on the sandy
bottom of the Atlantic, and earth was joined to earth once more.
Of course many of the houses near the shores were now under
water. Popsipetel Village itself had entirely disappeared. But
it didn't matter. No one was drowned; for every soul in the
island was high up in the hills watching the coronation of King
The Indians themselves did not realize at the time what was
taking place, though of course they had felt the land sinking
beneath them. The Doctor told us afterwards that it must have
been the shock of that tremendous shout, coming from a million
throats at once, which had toppled the Hanging Stone off its
perch. But in Popsipetel history the story was handed down (and
it is firmly believed to this day) that when King Jong sat upon
the throne, so great was his mighty weight, that the very island
itself sank down to do him honor and never moved again.
THE FIRST CHAPTER
JONG THINKALOT had not ruled over his new kingdom for more than a
couple of days before my notions about kings and the kind of
lives they led changed very considerably. I had thought that all
that kings had to do was to sit on a throne and have people bow
down before them several times a day. I now saw that a king can
be the hardest-working man in the world-- if he attends properly
to his business.
From the moment that he got up, early in the morning, till the
time he went to bed, late at night--seven days in the week--John
Dolittle was busy, busy, busy. First of all there was the new
town to be built. The village of Popsipetel had disappeared: the
City of New Popsipetel must be made. With great care a place was
chosen for it-- and a very beautiful position it was, at the
mouth of a large river. The shores of the island at this point
formed a lovely wide bay where canoes-- and ships too, if they
should ever come--could lie peacefully at anchor without danger
In building this town the Doctor gave the Indians a lot of new
ideas. He showed them what town-sewers were, and how garbage
should be collected each day and burnt. High up in the hills he
made a large lake by damming a stream. This was the water-supply
for the town. None of these things had the Indians ever seen; and
many of the sicknesses which they had suffered from before were
now entirely prevented by proper drainage and pure
Peoples who don't use fire do not of course have metals either;
because without fire it is almost impossible to shape iron and
steel. One of the first things that John Dolittle did was to
search the mountains till he found iron and copper mines. Then he
set to work to teach the Indians how these metals could be melted
and made into knives and plows and water-pipes and all manner of
In his kingdom the Doctor tried his hardest to do away with most
of the old-fashioned pomp and grandeur of a royal court. As he
said to Bumpo and me, if he must be a king he meant to be a
thoroughly democratic one, that is a king who is chummy and
friendly with his subjects and doesn't put on airs. And when he
drew up the plans for the City of New Popsipetel he had no palace
shown of any kind. A little cottage in a back street was all
that he had provided for himself.
But this the Indians would not permit on any account. They had
been used to having their kings rule in a truly grand and kingly
manner; and they insisted that he have built for himself the most
magnificent palace ever seen. In all else they let him have his
own way absolutely; but they wouldn't allow him to wriggle out of
any of the ceremony or show that goes with being a king. A
thousand servants he had to keep in his palace, night and day, to
wait on him. The Royal Canoe had to be kept up--a gorgeous,
polished mahogany boat, seventy feet long, inlaid with
mother-o'-pearl and paddled by the hundred strongest men in the
island. The palace-gardens covered a square mile and employed a
hundred and sixty gardeners.
Even in his dress the poor man was compelled always to be grand
and elegant and uncomfortable. The beloved and battered high hat
was put away in a closet and only looked at secretly. State
robes had to be worn on all occasions. And when the Doctor did
once in a while manage to sneak off for a short, natural-history
expedition he never dared to wear his old clothes, but had to
chase his butterflies with a crown upon his head and a scarlet
cloak flying behind him in the wind.
There was no end to the kinds of duties the Doctor had to perform
and the questions he had to decide upon--everything, from
settling disputes about lands and boundaries, to making peace
between husband and wife who had been throwing shoes at one
another. In the east wing of the Royal Palace was the Hall of
Justice. And here King Jong sat every morning from nine to
eleven passing judgment on all cases that were brought before
Then in the afternoon he taught school. The sort of things he
taught were not always those you find in ordinary schools.
Grown-ups as well as children came to learn. You see, these
Indians were ignorant of many of the things that quite small
white children know--though it is also true that they knew a lot
that white grown-ups never dreamed of.
Bumpo and I helped with the teaching as far as we could-- simple
arithmetic, and easy things like that. But the classes in
astronomy, farming science, the proper care of babies, with a
host of other subjects, the Doctor had to teach himself. The
Indians were tremendously keen about the schooling and they came
in droves and crowds; so that even with the open-air classes (a
school-house was impossible of course) the Doctor had to take
them in relays and batches of five or six thousand at a time and
used a big megaphone or trumpet to make himself heard.
The rest of his day was more than filled with road-making,
building water-mills, attending the sick and a million other
In spite of his being so unwilling to become a king, John
Dolittle made a very good one--once he got started. He may not
have been as dignified as many kings in history who were always
running off to war and getting themselves into romantic
situations; but since I have grown up and seen something of
foreign lands and governments I have often thought that
Popsipetel under the reign of Jong Thinkalot was perhaps the best
ruled state in the history of the world.
The Doctor's birthday came round after we had been on the island
six months and a half. The people made a great public holiday of
it and there was much feasting, dancing, fireworks, speech-making
Towards the close of the day the chief men of the two tribes
formed a procession and passed through the streets of the town,
carrying a very gorgeously painted tablet of ebony wood, ten feet
high. This was a picture-history, such as they preserved for each
of the ancient kings of Popsipetel to record their deeds.
With great and solemn ceremony it was set up over the door of the
new palace: and everybody then clustered round to look at it. It
had six pictures on it commemorating the six great events in the
life of King Jong and beneath were written the verses that
explained them. They were composed by the Court Poet; and this is
a translation: I
(His Landing on The Island) Heaven-sent, In his dolphin-drawn
canoe From worlds unknown He landed on our shores. The very
palms Bowed down their heads In welcome to the coming King.
(His Meeting With The Beetle) By moonlight in the mountains He
communed with beasts. The shy Jabizri brings him picture-words
Of great distress.
(He liberates The Lost Families) Big was his heart with pity; Big
were his hands with strength. See how he tears the mountain like
a yam! See how the lost ones Dance forth to greet the day!
(He Makes Fire) Our land was cold and dying. He waved his hand
and lo! Lightning leapt from cloudless skies; The sun leant down;
And Fire was born! Then while we crowded round The grateful glow,
pushed he Our wayward, floating land Back to peaceful anchorage
In sunny seas.
(He Leads The People To Victory in War) Once only Was his kindly
countenance Darkened by a deadly frown. Woe to the wicked enemy
That dares attack The tribe with Thinkalot for Chief!
(He Is Crowned King) The birds of the air rejoiced; The Sea
laughed and gambolled with her shores; All Red-skins wept for joy
The day we crowned him King. He is the Builder, the Healer, the
Teacher and the Prince; He is the greatest of them all. May he
live a thousand thousand years, Happy in his heart, To bless our
land with Peace.
THE SECOND CHAPTER
THOUGHTS OF HOME
IN the Royal Palace Bumpo and I had a beautiful suite of rooms of
our very own--which Polynesia, Jip and Chee-Chee shared with us.
Officially Bumpo was Minister of the Interior; while I was First
Lord of the Treasury. Long Arrow also had quarters there; but at
present he was absent, traveling abroad.
One night after supper when the Doctor was away in the town
somewhere visiting a new-born baby, we were all sitting round the
big table in Bumpo's reception-room. This we did every evening,
to talk over the plans for the following day and various affairs
of state. It was a kind of Cabinet Meeting.
To-night however we were talking about England--and also about
things to eat. We had got a little tired of Indian food. You
see, none of the natives knew how to cook; and we had the most
discouraging time training a chef for the Royal Kitchen. Most of
them were champions at spoiling good food. Often we got so hungry
that the Doctor would sneak downstairs with us into the palace
basement, after all the cooks were safe in bed, and fry pancakes
secretly over the dying embers of the fire. The Doctor himself
was the finest cook that ever lived. But he used to make a
terrible mess of the kitchen; and of course we had to be awfully
careful that we didn't get caught.
Well, as I was saying, to-night food was the subject of
discussion at the Cabinet Meeting; and I had just been reminding
Bumpo of the nice dishes we had had at the bed-maker's house in
"I tell you what I would like now," said Bumpo: "a large cup of
cocoa with whipped cream on the top of it. In Oxford we used to
be able to get the most wonderful cocoa. It is really too bad
they haven't any cocoa-trees in this island, or cows to give
"When do you suppose," asked Jip, "the Doctor intends to move on
"I was talking to him about that only yesterday," said Polynesia.
"But I couldn't get any satisfactory answer out of him. He
didn't seem to want to speak about it."
There was a pause in the conversation.
"Do you know what I believe?" she added presently. "I believe the
Doctor has given up even thinking of going home."
"Good Lord!" cried Bumpo. "You don't say!"
"Sh!" said Polynesia. "What's that noise?"
We listened; and away off in the distant corridors of the palace
we heard the sentries crying,
"The King!--Make way!--The King!"
"It's he--at last," whispered Polynesia--"late, as usual. Poor
man, how he does work!--Chee-Chee, get the pipe and tobacco out
of the cupboard and lay the dressing-gown ready on his chair."
When the Doctor came into the room he looked serious and
thoughtful. Wearily he took off his crown and hung it on a peg
behind the door. Then he exchanged the royal cloak for the
dressing-gown, dropped into his chair at the head of the table
with a deep sigh and started to fill his pipe.
"Well," asked Polynesia quietly, "how did you find the baby?"