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´╗┐Title: Doctor Dolittle's Post Office
Author: Lofting, Hugh
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Doctor Dolittle's Post Office" ***

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                    _DOCTOR DOLITTLE'S POST OFFICE_


                    PUBLISHED BY R A STOKES CO. AT
                            442 FOURTH AV.
                               NEW YORK

                         _Copyright, 1923, by_
                      FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY

                _All rights reserved, including that of
                  translation into foreign languages_

               _Printed in the United States of America_

[Illustration: "It was mournful scenery"]



                                PART I

                     I ZUZANA


                   III A GREAT GUNNER

                    IV THE ROYAL MAILS OF FANTIPPO

                     V THE VOYAGE DELAYED

                    VI NO-MAN'S-LAND

                   VII THE ANIMALS' PARADISE


                                PART II

                     I A MOST UNUSUAL POST OFFICE

                    II CHEAPSIDE


                    IV CAPE STEPHEN LIGHT

                     V GULLS AND SHIPS

                    VI WEATHER BUREAUS

                   VII TEACHING BY MAIL

                               PART III

                     I THE ANIMALS' MAGAZINE

                    II THE DOCTOR'S STORY

                   III GUB-GUB'S STORY

                    IV DAB-DAB'S STORY

                     V THE WHITE MOUSE'S STORY

                    VI JIP'S STORY

                   VII TOO-TOO'S STORY


                                PART IV

                     I PARCEL POST

                    II THE GREAT MAIL ROBBERY


                    IV PEARL DIVERS

                     V OBOMBO'S REBELLION

                    VI THE DOCTOR'S RELEASE

                   VII A MYSTERIOUS LETTER


                    IX THE SECRET LAKE


                    XI GOOD-BYE TO FANTIPPO


"It was mournful scenery" _Frontispiece_

"John Dolittle talked to the woman"

"Looking into all the bays"

"'Where have you been?'"

"The birds spread themselves out along the coast"

"'_Fire!_' said Speedy"

"The bluejackets crowded to the rail"

"A rare Fantippo stamp"

"The Doctor gave the king a cup of China tea"

"'Good morning! What can I do for you?'"

"They found the Doctor shaving"

"Thousands of swallows built their nests in her rigging"

"'Turn back, Jip!' gasped the Doctor"

"'All we eat is bananas'"

"He was pulling out a loose tooth"

"They sat down in the shade of a palm tree"

"He began his great inauguration speech"

"He put his large face in at the information window"

"The houseboat post office of No-Man's-Land"

"Jip hung up the sign"

"He held scribbling classes for the animals"

"Cheapside, the London sparrow"

"The double letter boxes of Fantippo"

"The royal peacock complained that Cheapside had made faces at him"

"'Great heavens, Doctor, I've gained an ounce!'"

"The sailors were ready to kill their admiral"

"There were many rocks and shallows near the end of Cape Stephen"

"The gulls dashed themselves into the wheelman's face"

"The Doctor lit the candle"

"The Doctor and Dab-Dab cooked his breakfast for him"

"The gull caught the tomato skin with a lightning lunge"

"The gull took a fresh piece of toast"

"The Doctor took an armchair beside the kitchen stove"

"John Dolittle saw him snooping around the post office"

"The Doctor experimented on Jip"

"It was certainly a wonderful collection of objects"

"It was Sir Timothy Quisby, our most expensive patient"

"He had fallen into the soup"

"She made a regular pet of him"

"'We'll keep the black and white one, Liza'"

"The old rat laughed a quavering laugh"

"Upstairs where the dye vats stood"

"The Doctor cut off all my fur"

"His pictures are just awful"

"A retriever came up with a gold watch and chain"

"'Come over here by the trough'"

"The Doctor span the penny"

"'What was that?'"

"They'd run off with it and swallow it"

"I jabbed the watchman"

"I leapt as I have never leapt before"

"Putting the King's bicycle together"

"Dab-Dab looked over his shoulder"

"They reminded him of old broken down cab horses"

"I put the parcel down"

"Wilkins levelled a pistol at the Doctor's head"

"'_Pst!_' I whispered to the wife"

"The rout of the Amazons"

"'Oh, I think this is an awful place!'"

"The young ones were with her"

"Gub-Gub dives for pearls"

"The Doctor patted him on the shoulder"

"In the jungle Obombo made speeches"

"'How dare you speak to me like that?'"

"The white mouse would roll them down the hole"

"'Do you realize what that pearl means to us?'"

"The King saw the Doctor's canoe arriving"

"In popped the head of an enormous snake"

"The canoe was yanked from under them"

"The Doctor saw the shape of an enormous turtle"

"The trees bent down with his weight"

"The Doctor was washing his face in the lake"

"Dab-Dab, the economical housekeeper, blew out the candle"

"Mixing the turtle's medicine"

"A never-ending stream of big birds"

"Dab-Dab prepared a meal"

"A wooden statue still stands to his memory"



Nearly all of the history of Doctor Dolittle's post office took place
when he was returning from a voyage to West Africa. Therefore I will
begin (as soon as I have told you a little about how he came to take
the journey) from where he turned his ship towards home again and set
sail for Puddleby-on-the-Marsh.

Some time before this the pushmi-pullyu, after a long stay in
England, had grown a little homesick for Africa. And although he
was tremendously fond of the Doctor and never wanted to leave
him altogether, he asked him one winter day when the weather was
particularly cold and disagreeable if he would mind running down to
Africa for a holiday--just for a week or two.

The Doctor readily agreed because he hadn't been on a voyage in a long
while and he felt he too needed a change from the chilly December days
of England.

So he started off. Besides the pushmi-pullyu he took Dab-Dab the duck,
Jip the dog, Gub-Gub the pig, Too-Too the owl, and the white mouse--the
same good company he had had with him on his adventurous return from
the Land of the Monkeys. For this trip the Doctor bought a little
sailing boat--very old and battered and worn, but a good sound craft
for bad weather.

They sailed away down to the south coast of the Bight of Benin. There
they visited many African kingdoms and strange tribes. And while they
were ashore the pushmi-pullyu had a chance to wander freely through his
old grazing grounds. And he enjoyed his holiday thoroughly.

One morning the Doctor was delighted to see his old friends the
swallows gathering once more about his ship at anchor for their yearly
flight to England. They asked him whether he too was returning; because
if so, they said, they would accompany him, the same as they had done
when he was escaping from the Kingdom of Jolliginki.

As the pushmi-pullyu was now quite ready to leave, the Doctor thanked
the swallows and told them he would be delighted to have their company.
Then for the remainder of that day all was hustle and hurry and bustle,
getting the ship provisioned and making preparations for the long trip
back to England.

By the following morning everything was in readiness to put to sea.
The anchor was drawn up and with all sail set the Doctor's ship moved
northward before a favorable wind. And it is from this point that my
story begins.




One morning in the first week of the return voyage when John Dolittle
and his animals were all sitting at breakfast round the big table in
the cabin, one of the swallows came down and said that he wanted to
speak to the Doctor.

John Dolittle at once left the table and went out into the passage
where he found the swallow-leader himself, a very neat, trim,
little bird with long, long wings and sharp, snappy, black eyes.
Speedy-the-Skimmer he was called--a name truly famous throughout the
whole of the feathered world. He was the champion flycatcher and aerial
acrobat of Europe, Africa, Asia, and America. For years every summer he
had won all the flying races, having broken his own record only last
year by crossing the Atlantic in eleven and a half hours--at a speed of
over two hundred miles an hour.

"Well, Speedy," said John Dolittle. "What is it?"

"Doctor," said the little bird in a mysterious whisper, "we have
sighted a canoe about a mile ahead of the ship and a little to the
eastward, with only a black woman in it. She is weeping bitterly and
isn't paddling the canoe at all. She is several miles from land--ten,
at least, I should say--because at the moment we are crossing the Bay
of Fantippo and can only just see the shore of Africa. She is really
in dangerous straits, with such a little bit of a boat that far out at
sea. But she doesn't seem to care. She's just sitting in the bottom of
the canoe, crying as if she didn't mind what happens to her. I wish you
would come and speak to her, for we fear she is in great trouble."

"All right," said the Doctor. "Fly slowly on to where the canoe is and
I will steer the ship to follow you."

So John Dolittle went up on deck and by steering the boat after the
guiding swallows he presently saw a small, dark canoe rising and
falling on the waves. It looked so tiny on the wide face of the waters
that it could be taken for a log or a stick--or, indeed, missed
altogether, unless you were close enough to see it. In the canoe sat a
woman with her head bowed down upon her knees.

"What's the matter?" shouted the Doctor, as soon as he was near enough
to make the woman hear. "Why have you come so far from the land? Don't
you know that you are in great danger if a storm should come up?"

Slowly the woman raised her head.

"Go away," said she, "and leave me to my sorrow. Haven't you white men
done me enough harm?"

John Dolittle steered the boat up closer still and continued to talk to
the woman in a kindly way. But she seemed for a long time to mistrust
him because he was a white man. Little by little, however, the Doctor
won her confidence and at last, still weeping bitterly, she told him
her story.

[Illustration: "John Dolittle talked to the woman"]

These were the days, you must understand, when slavery was being done
away with. To capture, to buy or to sell slaves had, in fact, been
strictly forbidden by most governments. But certain bad men still came
down to the west coast of Africa and captured or bought slaves secretly
and took them away in ships to other lands to work on cotton and
tobacco plantations. Some African kings sold prisoners they had taken
in war to these men and made a great deal of money that way.

Well, this woman in the canoe belonged to a tribe which had been at war
with the king of Fantippo--an African kingdom situated on the coast
near which the swallows had seen the canoe.

And in this war the King of Fantippo had taken many prisoners, among
whom was the woman's husband. Shortly after the war was over some white
men in a ship had called at the Kingdom of Fantippo to see if they
could buy slaves for tobacco plantations. And when the king heard how
much money they were willing to give for black slaves he thought he
would sell them the prisoners he had taken in the war.

This woman's name was Zuzana and her husband was a very strong and
fine-looking man. The King of Fantippo would have kept Zuzana's husband
for this reason, because he liked to have strong men at his court.
But the slave traders also wanted strong men, for they could do a lot
of work on the plantations. And they offered the King of Fantippo a
specially high price for Zuzana's husband. And the king had sold him.

Zuzana described to the Doctor how she had followed the white man's
ship a long way out in a canoe, imploring them to give her back her
husband. But they had only laughed at her and gone on their way. And
their ship had soon passed out of sight.

That was why, she said, she hated all white men and had not wanted to
speak to the Doctor when he had hailed her canoe.

The Doctor was dreadfully angry when he had heard the story. And he
asked Zuzana how long ago was it that the slaver's ship bearing her
husband had left.

She told him it was half an hour ago. Without her husband, she said,
life meant nothing to her, and when the ship had passed from view,
going northward along the coast, she had burst into tears and just let
the canoe drift, not even having the heart to paddle back to land.

The Doctor told the woman that no matter what it cost he was going to
help her. And he was all for speeding up his ship and going in chase
of the slave boat right away. But Dab-Dab the duck warned him that
his boat was very slow and that its sails could be easily seen by the
slavers, who would never allow it to come near them.

So the Doctor put down his anchor and, leaving the ship where it was,
got into the woman's canoe. Then, calling to the swallows to help him
as guides, he set off northward along the coast, looking into all the
bays and behind all the islands for the slave ship which had taken
Zuzana's husband.

[Illustration: "Looking into all the bays"]

But after many hours of fruitless search night began to come on and the
swallows who were acting as guides could no longer see big distances,
for there was no moon.

Poor Zuzana began weeping some more when the Doctor said he would have
to give up for the night.

"By morning," said she, "the ship of the wicked slave dealers will be
many miles away and I shall never get my husband back. Alas! Alas!"

The Doctor comforted her as best he could, saying that if he failed he
would get her another husband, just as good. But she didn't seem to
care for that idea and went on wailing, "Alas! Alas!"

She made such a noise that the Doctor couldn't get to sleep on the
bottom of the canoe--which wasn't very comfortable, anyway. So he had
to sit up and listen. Some of the swallows were still with him, sitting
on the edge of the canoe. And the famous Skimmer, the leader, was also
there. They and the Doctor were talking over what they could do, when
suddenly the Skimmer said, "Sh! Look!" and pointed out to the westward
over the dark, heaving sea.

Even Zuzana stopped her wailing and turned to look. And there, away out
on the dim, black edge of the ocean, they could see a tiny light.

"A ship!" cried the Doctor.

"Yes," said Speedy, "that's a ship, sure enough. I wonder if it's
another slave ship."

"Well, if it's a slave ship, it's not the one we're looking for," said
the Doctor, "because it's in the wrong direction. The one we're after
went northward."

"Listen, Doctor," said Speedy-the-Skimmer, "suppose I fly over to it
and see what kind of a ship it is and come back and tell you. Who
knows? It might be able to help us."

"All right, Speedy. Thank you," said the Doctor.

So the Skimmer sped off into the darkness toward the tiny light far
out to sea, while the Doctor fell to wondering how his own ship was
getting on which he had left at anchor some miles down the coast to the

After twenty minutes had gone by John Dolittle began to get worried,
because the Skimmer, with his tremendous speed, should have had time to
get there and back long ago.

But soon with a flirt of the wings the famous leader made a neat circle
in the darkness overhead and dropped, light as a feather, on to the
Doctor's knee.

"Well," said John Dolittle, "what kind of a ship was it?"

"It's a big ship," panted the Skimmer, "with tall, high masts and, I
should judge, a fast one. But it is coming this way and it is sailing
with great care, afraid, I imagine, of shallows and sandbars. It is a
very neat ship, smart and new-looking all over. And there are great big
guns--cannons--looking out of little doors in her sides. The men on
her, too, are all well dressed in smart blue clothes--not like ordinary
seamen at all. And on the ship's hull was painted some lettering--her
name, I suppose. Of course, I couldn't read it. But I remember what it
looked like. Give me your hand and I'll show you."

Then the Skimmer, with one of his claws, began tracing out some letters
on the Doctor's palm. Before he had got very far John Dolittle sprang
up, nearly overturning the canoe.

"H. M. S.!" he cried. "That means Her Majesty's Ship. It's a
man-o'-war--a navy vessel. The very thing we want to deal with slave



Then the Doctor and Zuzana started to paddle their canoe for all they
were worth in the direction of the light. The night was calm, but the
long swell of the ocean swung the little canoe up and down like a
seesaw and it needed all Zuzana's skill to keep it in a straight line.

After about an hour had gone by the Doctor noticed that the ship they
were trying to reach was no longer coming toward them, but seemed to
have stopped. And when he finally came up beneath its towering shape
in the darkness he saw the reason why--the man-o'-war had run into his
own ship, which he had left at anchor with no lights. However, the navy
vessel had fortunately been going so carefully that no serious damage,
it seemed, had been done to either ship.

Finding a rope ladder hanging on the side of the man-o'-war, John
Dolittle climbed up it, with Zuzana, and went aboard to see the Captain.

He found the Captain strutting the quarterdeck, mumbling to himself.

"Good evening," said the Doctor politely. "Nice weather we're having."

The Captain came up to him and shook his fist in his face.

"Are you the owner of that Noah's Ark down there?" he stormed, pointing
to the other ship alongside.

"Er--yes--temporarily," said the Doctor. "Why?"

"Well, will you be so good," snarled the Captain, his face all out of
shape with rage, "as to tell me what in thunder you mean by leaving
your old junk at anchor on a dark night without any lights? What
kind of a sailor are you? Here I bring Her Majesty's latest cruiser
after Jimmie Bones, the slave trader--been hunting him for weeks, I
have--and, as though the beastly coast wasn't difficult enough as it
is, I bump into a craft riding at anchor with no lights. Luckily, I
was going slow, taking soundings, or we might have gone down with all
hands. I hallooed to your ship and got no answer. So I go aboard her,
with pistols ready, thinking maybe she's a slaver, trying to play
tricks on me. I creep all over the ship, but not a soul do I meet. At
last in the cabin I find a pig--_asleep in an armchair_! Do you usually
leave your craft in the charge of a pig, with orders to go to sleep? If
you own the ship, why aren't you on her? Where have you been?"

[Illustration: "'Where have you been?'"]

"I was out canoeing with a lady," said the Doctor, and he smiled
comfortingly at Zuzana, who was beginning to weep again.

"_Canoeing with a lady!_" spluttered the Captain. "Well, I'll be----"

"Yes," said the Doctor. "Let me introduce you. This is Zuzana,

But the Captain interrupted him by calling for a sailor, who stood near.

"I'll teach you to leave Noah's arks at anchor on the high seas for the
navy to bump into, my fine deep-sea philanderer! Think the shipping
laws are made for a joke? Here," he turned to the sailor, who had come
in answer to his call, "Master-at-arms, put this man under arrest."

"Aye, aye, sir," said the master-at-arms. And before the Doctor knew it
he had handcuffs fastened firmly on his wrists.

"But this lady was in distress," said the Doctor. "I was in such a
hurry I forgot all about lighting the ship. In fact, it wasn't dark yet
when I left."

"Take him below!" roared the Captain. "Take him below before I kill

And the poor Doctor was dragged away by the Master-at-arms toward a
stair leading to the lower decks. But at the head of the stairs he
caught hold of the handrail and hung on long enough to shout back to
the Captain:

"I could tell you where Jimmie Bones is, if I wanted to."

"What's that?" snorted the Captain. "Here, bring him back! What was
that you said?"

"I said," murmured the Doctor, getting his handkerchief out and blowing
his nose with his handcuffed hands, "that I could tell you where Jimmie
Bones is--if I wanted to."

"Jimmie Bones, the slaver?" cried the Captain. "That's the man the
government has sent me after. Where is he?"

"My memory doesn't work very well while my hands are tied," said the
Doctor quietly, nodding toward the handcuffs. "Possibly if you took
these things off I might remember."

"Oh, excuse me," said the Captain, his manner changing at once.
"Master-at-arms, release the prisoner."

"Aye, aye, sir," said the sailor, removing the handcuffs from the
Doctor's wrists and turning to go.

"Oh, and by the way," the Captain called after him, "bring a chair up
on deck. Perhaps our visitor is tired."

Then John Dolittle told the Captain the whole story of Zuzana and her
troubles. And all the other officers on the ship gathered around to

"And I have no doubt," the Doctor ended, "that this slaver who took
away the woman's husband was no other than Jimmie Bones, the man you
are after."

"Quite so," said the Captain. "I know he is somewhere around the coast.
But where is he now? He's a difficult fish to catch."

"He has gone northward," said the Doctor. "But your ship is fast and
should be able to overtake him. If he hides in some of these bays and
creeks I have several birds here with me who can, as soon as it is
light, seek him out for us and tell us where he is."

The Captain looked with astonishment into the faces of his listening
officers, who all smiled unbelievingly.

"What do you mean--birds?" the Captain asked. "Pigeons--trained
canaries, or something?"

"No," said the Doctor, "I mean the swallows who are going back to
England for the summer. They very kindly offered to guide my ship home.
They're friends of mine, you see."

This time the officers all burst out laughing and tapped their
foreheads knowingly, to show they thought the Doctor was crazy. And the
Captain, thinking he was being made a fool of, flew into a rage once
more and was all for having the Doctor arrested again.

But the officer who was second in command whispered in the Captain's

"Why not take the old fellow along and let him try, Sir? Our course was
northward, anyway. I seem to remember hearing something, when I was
attached to the Home Fleet, about an old chap in the west counties who
had some strange powers with beasts and birds. I have no doubt this is
he. Dolittle, he was called. He seems harmless enough. There's just a
chance he may be of some assistance to us. The natives evidently trust
him or the woman wouldn't have come with him--you know how scared they
are of putting to sea with a white man."

After a moment's thought the Captain turned to the Doctor again.

"You sound clean crazy to me, my good man. But if you can put me in
the way of capturing Jimmie Bones the slaver I don't care what means
you use to do it. As soon as the day breaks we will get under way. But
if you are just amusing yourself at the expense of Her Majesty's Navy
I warn you it will be the worst day's work for yourself you ever did.
Now go and put riding lights on that ark of yours and tell the pig that
if he lets them go out he shall be made into rashers of bacon for the
officers' mess."

There was much laughter and joking as the Doctor climbed over the side
and went back to his own ship to get his lights lit. But the next
morning when he came back to the man-o'-war--and about a thousand
swallows came with him--the officers of Her Majesty's Navy were not
nearly so inclined to make fun of him.

The sun was just rising over the distant coast of Africa and it was as
beautiful a morning as you could wish to see.

Speedy-the-Skimmer had arranged plans with the Doctor overnight. And
long before the great warship pulled up her anchor and swung around
upon her course the famous swallow leader was miles ahead, with a band
of picked hunters, exploring up creeks and examining all the hollows of
the coast where the slave trader might be hiding.

Speedy had agreed with the Doctor upon a sort of overhead telegraph
system to be carried on by the swallows. And as soon as the millions of
little birds had spread themselves out in a line along the coast, so
that the sky was speckled with them as far as the eye could reach, they
began passing messages, by whistling to one another, all the way from
the scouts in front back to the Doctor on the warship, to give news of
how the hunt was progressing.

[Illustration: "The birds spread themselves out along the coast"]

And somewhere about noon word came through that Bones's slave ship
had been sighted behind a long, high cape. Great care must be taken,
the message said, because the slave ship was in all readiness to sail
at a moment's notice. The slavers had only stopped to get water and
look-outs were posted to warn them to return at once, if necessary.

When the Doctor told this to the Captain the man-o'-war changed her
course still closer inshore, to keep behind the cover of the long cape.
All the sailors were warned to keep very quiet, so the navy ship could
sneak up on the slaver unawares.

Now, the Captain, expecting the slavers to put up a fight, also gave
orders to get the guns ready. And just as they were about to round the
long cape one of the silly gunners let a gun off by accident.

"_Boom!_" ... The shot went rolling and echoing over the silent sea
like angry thunder.

Instantly back came word over the swallows' telegraph line that the
slavers were warned and were escaping. And, sure enough, when the
warship rounded the cape at last, there was the slave ship putting out
to sea, with all sail set and a good ten-mile start on the man-o'-war.



And then began a most exciting sea race. It was now two o'clock in the
afternoon and there were not many hours of daylight left.

The Captain (after he had done swearing at the stupid gunner who had
let off the gun by accident) realized that if he did not catch up to
the slaver before dark came on he would probably lose him altogether.
For this Jim Bones was a very sly and clever rascal and he knew the
West Coast of Africa (it is sometimes called to this day _The Slave
Coast_) very well. After dark by running without lights he would easily
find some nook or corner to hide in--or double back on his course and
be miles away before morning came.

So the Captain gave orders that all possible speed was to be made.
These were the days when steam was first used on ships. But at the
beginning it was only used together with the sails, to help the power
of the wind. Of this vessel, H. M. S. _Violet_, the Captain was very
proud. And he was most anxious that the _Violet_ should have the honor
of catching Bones the slaver, who for so long had been defying the
navy by carrying on slave trade after it had been forbidden. So the
_Violet's_ steam engines were put to work their hardest. And thick,
black smoke rolled out of her funnels and darkened the blue sea and
smudged up her lovely white sails humming tight in the breeze.

Then the engine boy, also anxious that his ship should have the honor
of capturing Bones, tied down the safety valve on the steam engine,
to make her go faster, and then went up on deck to see the show. And
soon, of course, one of the _Violet's_ brand new boilers burst with a
terrific bang and made an awful mess of the engine room.

But, being a full-rigged man-o'-war, the _Violet_ was still a pretty
speedy sailer. And on she went, furiously plowing the waves and slowly
gaining on the slave ship.

However, the crafty Bones, with so big a start, was not easy to
overtake. And soon the sun began to set and the Captain frowned and
stamped his feet. For with darkness he knew his enemy would be safe.

Down below among the crew, the man who had fired the gun by accident
was having a terrible time. All his companions were setting on him and
mobbing him for being such a duffer as to warn Bones--who would now
almost certainly escape. The distance from the slaver was still too
great to use the kind of guns they had in those days. But when the
Captain saw darkness creeping over the sea and his enemy escaping, he
gave orders to man the guns, anyway--although he hadn't the least hope
that his shots would hit the slaver at that distance.

Now, Speedy-the-Skimmer, as soon as the race had begun, had come on to
the warship to take a rest. And he happened to be talking to the Doctor
when the order to man the guns came down from the Captain. So the
Doctor and Speedy went below to watch the guns being fired.

They found an air of quiet but great excitement there. Each gunner
was leaning on his gun, aiming it, watching the enemy's ship in the
distance and waiting for the order to fire. The poor man who had been
mobbed by his fellows was still almost in tears at his own stupid

Suddenly an officer shouted "_Fire!_" And with a crash that shook the
ship from stem to stern eight big cannon balls went whistling out
across the water.

But not one hit the slave ship. _Splash! Splash! Splash!_ They fell
harmlessly into the water.

"The light's too bad," grumbled the gunners. "Who could hit anything
two miles away in this rotten light?"

Then Speedy whispered in the Doctor's ear:

"Ask them to let me fire a gun. My sight is better than theirs for bad

But just at that moment the order came from the Captain, "_Cease
firing!_" And the men left their places.

As soon as their backs were turned Speedy jumped on top of one of the
guns and, straddling his short, white legs apart, he cast his beady
little black eyes along the aiming sights. Then with his wings he
signaled to the Doctor behind him to swing the gun this way and that,
so as to aim it the way he wanted.

"_Fire!_" said Speedy. And the Doctor fired.

[Illustration: "'_Fire!_' said Speedy"]

"What in thunder's this?" roared the Captain from the quarterdeck as
the shot rang out. "Didn't I give the order to cease firing?"

But the second in command plucked him by the sleeve and pointed across
the water. Speedy's cannon ball had cut the slaver's mainmast clean in
two and brought the sails down in a heap upon the deck!

"Holy smoke!" cried the Captain. "We've hit him! Look, Bones is flying
the signal of surrender!"

Then the Captain, who a moment before was all for punishing the man who
had fired without orders, wanted to know who it was that aimed that
marvelous shot which brought the slaver to a standstill. And the Doctor
was going to tell him it was Speedy. But the Skimmer whispered in his

"Don't bother, Doctor. He would never believe you, anyway. It was the
gun of the man that made the mistake before that we used. Let him
take the credit. They'll likely give him a medal, and then he'll feel

And now all was excitement aboard the _Violet_ as they approached the
slave boat lying crippled in the sea. Bones, the captain, with his
crew of eleven other ruffians, was taken prisoner and put down in the
cells of the warship. Then the Doctor, with Zuzana, some sailors and an
officer, went on to the slave ship. Entering the hold, they found the
place packed with slaves with chains on them. And Zuzana immediately
recognized her husband and wept all over him with joy.

The black men were at once freed from their chains and brought on to
the man-o'-war. Then the slave ship was taken in tow by the _Violet_.
And that was the end of Mr. Bones's slave trading.

Then there was much rejoicing and hand-shaking and congratulation on
board the warship. And a grand dinner was prepared for the slaves on
the main deck. But John Dolittle, Zuzana and her husband were invited
to the officers' mess, where their health was drunk in port wine and
speeches were made by the Captain and the Doctor.

The next day, as soon as it was light, the warship went cruising
down the coast again, putting the black people ashore in their own
particular countries.

This took considerable time, because Bones, it seemed, had collected
slaves from a great many different tribes. And it was after noon
before the Doctor, with Zuzana and her husband, were returned to John
Dolittle's ship, who still had her lights faithfully burning in the
middle of the day.

Then the Captain shook hands with the Doctor and thanked him for the
great assistance he had given Her Majesty's Navy. And he asked him
for his address in England, because he said he was going to tell the
government about him and the Queen would most likely want to make him a
knight or give him a medal or something. But the Doctor said he would
rather have a pound of tea instead. He hadn't tasted tea in several
months and the kind they had in the officers' mess was very good.

So the Captain gave him five pounds of the best China tea and thanked
him again in the name of the Queen and the government.

Then the _Violet_ swung her great bow around to the north once more and
sailed away for England, while the bluejackets crowded the rail and
sent three hearty cheers for the Doctor ringing across the sea.

[Illustration: "The bluejackets crowded to the rail"]

And now Jip, Dab-Dab, Gub-Gub, Too-Too and the rest of them gathered
around John Dolittle and wanted to hear all about his adventures. And
it was tea time before he had done telling them. So the Doctor asked
Zuzana and her husband to take tea with him before they went ashore.

This they were glad to do. And the Doctor made the tea himself and it
was very excellent. Over the tea Zuzana and her husband (whose name was
Begwe) were conversing about the Kingdom of Fantippo.

"I don't think we ought to go back there," said Begwe. "I don't mind
being a soldier in the Fantippo army, but suppose some other slaver
comes along. Maybe the king would sell me again. Did you send that
letter to our cousin?"

"Yes," said Zuzana. "But I don't think he ever got it. Because no
answer came."

The Doctor asked Zuzana how she had sent the letter. And then she
explained to him that when Bones had offered a big price for Begwe
and the king had been tempted to sell him she had told the king she
would get twelve oxen and thirty goats from a rich cousin in their
own country if he would only wait till she had written to him. Now,
the King of Fantippo was very fond of oxen and goats--cattle being
considered as good as money in his land. And he promised Zuzana that if
she got the twelve oxen and thirty goats in two days' time her husband
should be a free man, instead of being sold to the slavers.

So Zuzana had hurried to a professional letter writer (the common
people of those tribes couldn't write for themselves, you see) and had
a letter written, begging their cousin to send the goats and oxen to
the king without delay. Then she had taken the letter to the Fantippo
post office and sent it off.

But the two days went by and no answer came--and no cattle. Then poor
Begwe had been sold to Bones's men.



Now, this Fantippo post office of which Zuzana had spoken to the Doctor
was rather peculiar. For one thing, it was, of course, quite unusual
to find a post office or regular mails of any kind in a savage African
kingdom. And the way such a thing had come about was this:

A few years before this voyage of the Doctor's there had been a great
deal of talk in most civilized parts of the world about mails and how
much it should cost for a letter to go from one country to another.
And in England a man called Rowland Hill had started what was called
"The Penny Postage," and it had been agreed that a penny a letter
should be the regular rate charge for mails from one part of the
British Isles to another. Of course, for specially heavy letters you
had to pay more. Then stamps were made, penny stamps, twopenny stamps,
twopence-halfpenny stamps, sixpenny stamps and shilling stamps. And
each was a different color and they were beautifully engraved and most
of them had a picture of the Queen on them--some with her crown on her
head and some without.

And France and the United States and all the other countries started
doing the same thing--only their stamps were counted in their own
money, of course, and had different kings or queens or presidents on

Very well, then. Now, it happened one day that a ship called at the
coast of West Africa, and delivered a letter for Koko, the King of
Fantippo. King Koko had never seen a stamp before and, sending for a
white merchant who lived in his town, he asked him what queen's face
was this on the stamp which the letter bore.

Then the white merchant explained to him the whole idea of penny
postage and government mails. And he told him that in England all you
had to do when you wanted to send a letter to any part of the world was
to put a stamp on the envelope with the queen's head on it and place it
in a letter-box on the street corner, and it would be carried to the
place to which you addressed it.

"Ah, hah!" said the King. "A new kind of magic. I understand. Very
good. The High Kingdom of Fantippo shall have a post office of its own.
And _my_ serene and beautiful face shall be on all the stamps and _my_
letters shall travel by faster magic than any of them."

[Illustration: "A rare Fantippo stamp"]

Then King Koko of Fantippo, being a very vain man, had a fine lot of
stamps made with his pictures on them, some with his crown on and some
without; some smiling, some frowning; some with himself on horseback,
some with himself on a bicycle. But the stamp which he was most proud
of was the tenpenny stamp which bore a picture of himself playing
golf--a game which he had just recently learned from some Scotchmen who
were mining for gold in his kingdom.

And he had letter-boxes made, just the way the white trader had told
him they had in England, and he set them up at the corners of the
streets and told his people that all they had to do was to put one of
his stamps on their letters, poke them into these boxes and they would
travel to any corner of the earth they wished.

But presently the people began complaining that they had been robbed.
They had paid good money for the stamps, they said, trusting in their
magic power, and they had put their letters in the boxes at the corners
of the streets as they had been told. But one day a cow had rubbed her
neck against one of the letter boxes and burst it open, and inside
there were all the people's letters, which had not traveled one inch
from where they put them!

Then the king was very angry and, calling for the white trader, he said:

"You have been fooling My Majesty. These stamps you speak of have no
magic power at all. Explain!"

Then the trader told him that it was not through magic in the stamps
or boxes that letters traveled by mail. But proper post offices had
mail-men, or postmen, who collected the letters out of these boxes. And
he went on to explain to the King all the other duties of a post office
and the things that made letters go.

So then the King, who was a persevering man, said that Fantippo should
have its post office, anyway. And he sent to England for hundreds of
postmen's uniforms and caps. And when these arrived he dressed a lot of
black men up in them and set them to work as postmen.

But the black men found the heavy uniforms dreadfully hot for Fantippo
weather, where they wear only a string of beads. And they left off the
uniforms and wore only the caps. That is how the Fantippo postman's
uniform came to be a smart cap, a string of beads and a mail bag.

Then when King Koko had got his mail-men, the Royal Fantippo post
office began really working. Letters were collected from the boxes at
street corners and sent off when ships called; and incoming mail was
delivered at the doors of the houses in Fantippo three times a day. The
post office became the busiest place in town.

Now, the peoples of West Africa have curious tastes in dress. They love
bright things. And some Fantippo dandy started the idea of using up old
stamps off letters by making suits of clothes out of them. They looked
very showy and smart and a suit of this kind made of stamps became a
valuable possession among the natives.

About this time, too, in the civilized parts of the world one of the
things that arose out of all this penny-postage business was the craze
or hobby for collecting stamps. In England and America and other
countries people began buying stamp albums and pasting stamps in them.
A rare stamp became quite valuable.

And it happened that one day two men, whose hobby was collecting
stamps, came to Fantippo in a ship. The one stamp they were both most
anxious to get for their collections was the "twopenny-halfpenny
Fantippo red," a stamp which the King had given up printing--for the
reason that the picture of himself on it wasn't handsome enough. And
because he had given up printing it, it became very rare.

As soon as these two men stepped ashore at Fantippo a porter came up to
them to carry their bags. And right in the middle of the porter's chest
the collectors spied the twopenny-halfpenny Fantippo red! Then both of
the stamp collectors offered to buy the stamp. And as each was anxious
to have it for his collection, before long they were offering high
prices for it, bidding against one another.

King Koko got to hear of this and he called up one of these stamp
collectors and asked him why men should offer high prices for one old
used stamp. And the white man explained to him this new craze for stamp
collecting that was sweeping over the civilized world.

So King Koko, although he thought that the civilized world must
be crazy, decided it would be a good idea if _he_ sold stamps for
collections--much better business than selling them at his post office
for letters. And after that whenever a ship came into the harbor of
Fantippo he sent his Postmaster-General--a very grand man, who wore
_two_ strings of beads, a postman's cap and no mail bag--out to the
ship with stamps to sell for collections.

Such a roaring trade was done in this way that the King set the stamp
printing presses to work more busily than ever, so that a whole new set
of Fantippo stamps should be ready for sale by the time the same ship
called again on her way home to England.

But with this new trade in selling stamps for stamp collections,
and not for proper mailing purposes, the Fantippo mail service was
neglected and became very bad.

Now, Doctor Dolittle, while Zuzana was talking over the tea about
her letter which she had sent to her cousin--and to which no answer
had ever come--suddenly remembered something. On one of his earlier
voyages the passenger ship by which he had been traveling had stopped
outside this same harbor of Fantippo, although no passengers had gone
ashore. And a postman had come aboard to sell a most elegant lot of new
green and violet stamps. The Doctor, being at the time a great stamp
collector, had bought three whole sets.

And he realized now, as he listened to Zuzana, what was wrong with the
Fantippo post office and why she had never got an answer to the letter
which would have saved her husband from slavery.

As Zuzana and Begwe rose to go, for it was beginning to get dark, the
Doctor noticed a canoe setting out toward his ship from the shore. And
in it, when it got near, he saw King Koko himself, coming to the white
man's boat with stamps to sell.

So the Doctor got talking to the King and he told him in plain language
that he ought to be ashamed of his post office. Then, giving him a cup
of China tea, he explained to him how Zuzana's letter had probably
never been delivered to her cousin.

[Illustration: "The Doctor gave the king a cup of China tea"]

The King listened attentively and understood how his post office had
been at fault. And he invited the Doctor to come ashore with Zuzana and
Begwe and arrange the post office for him and put it in order so it
would work properly.



After some persuasion the Doctor consented to this proposal feeling
that perhaps he could do some good. Little did he realize what great
labors and strange adventures he was taking upon himself as he got into
the canoe with the King, Begwe and Zuzana to be paddled to the town of

This place he found very different from any of the African villages or
settlements he had ever visited. It was quite large, almost a city. It
was bright and cheerful to look at and the people, like their King, all
seemed very kind and jolly.

The Doctor was introduced to all the chief men of the Fantippo nation
and later he was taken to see the post office.

This he found in a terrible state. There were letters everywhere--on
the floors, in old drawers, knocking about on desks, even lying on the
pavement outside the post office door. The Doctor explained to the
King that this would never do, that in properly-run post offices the
letters that had stamps on were treated with respect and care. It was
no wonder, he said, that Zuzana's letter had never been delivered to
her cousin if this was the way they took care of the mails.

Then King Koko again begged him to take charge of the post office and
try to get it running in proper order. And the Doctor said he would see
what he could do. And, going into the post office, he took off his coat
and set to work.

But after many hours of terrific labor, trying to get letters sorted
and the place in order, John Dolittle saw that such a tremendous job as
setting the Fantippo post office to rights would not be a matter of a
day or two. It would take weeks at least. So he told this to the King.
Then the Doctor's ship was brought into the harbor and put safely at
anchor and the animals were all taken ashore. And a nice, new house on
the main street was given over to the Doctor for himself and his pets
to live in while the work of straightening out the Fantippo mails was
going on.

Well, after ten days John Dolittle got what is called the _Domestic
Mails_ in pretty good shape. Domestic mails are those that carry
letters from one part of a country to another part of the same country,
or from one part of a city to another. The mails that carry letters
outside the country to foreign lands are called _Foreign Mails_. To
have a regular and good service of foreign mails in the Fantippo post
office the Doctor found a hard problem, because the mail ships which
could carry letters abroad did not come very often to this port.
Fantippo, although King Koko was most proud of it, was not considered a
very important country among the regular civilized nations and two or
three ships a year were all that ever called there.

Now, one day, very early in the morning, when the Doctor was lying
in bed, wondering what he could do about the Foreign Mail Service,
Dab-Dab and Jip brought him in his breakfast on a tray and told him
there was a swallow outside who wanted to give him a message from
Speedy-the-Skimmer. John Dolittle had the swallow brought in and the
little bird sat on the foot of his bed while he ate his breakfast.

"Good morning," said the Doctor, cracking open the top of a hard-boiled
egg. "What can I do for you?"

[Illustration: "'Good morning! What can I do for you?'"]

"Speedy would like to know," said the swallow, "how long you expect to
stay in this country. He doesn't want to complain, you understand--nor
do any of us--but this journey of yours is taking longer than we
thought it would. You see, there was the delay while we hunted out
Bones the slaver, and now it seems likely you will be busy with this
post office for some weeks yet. Ordinarily we would have been in
England long before this, getting the nests ready for the new season's
families. We cannot put off the nesting season, you know. Of course,
you understand we are not complaining, don't you? But this delay is
making things rather awkward for us."

"Oh, quite, quite. I understand perfectly," said the Doctor, poking
salt into his egg with a bone egg-spoon. "I am dreadfully sorry. But
why didn't Speedy bring the message himself?"

"I suppose he didn't like to," said the swallow. "Thought you'd be
offended, perhaps."

"Oh, not in the least," said the Doctor. "You birds have been most
helpful to me. Tell Speedy I'll come to see him as soon as I've got my
trousers on and we'll talk it over. Something can be arranged, I have
no doubt."

"Very good, Doctor," said the swallow, turning to go. "I'll tell the
Skimmer what you say."

"By the way," said John Dolittle, "I've been trying to think where I've
seen your face before. Did you ever build your nest in my stable in

"No," said the bird. "But I am the swallow that brought you the message
from the monkeys that time they were sick."

"Oh, to be sure--of course," cried the Doctor. "I knew I had seen you
somewhere. I never forget faces. You had a pretty hard time coming to
England in the winter, didn't you--snow on the ground and all that sort
of thing. Very plucky of you to undertake it."

"Yes, it was a hard trip," said the swallow. "I came near freezing to
death more than once. Flying into the teeth of that frosty wind was
just awful. But something had to be done. The monkeys would most likely
have been wiped right out if we hadn't got you."

"How was it that you were the one chosen to bring the message?" asked
the Doctor.

"Well," said the swallow, "Speedy did want to do it himself. He's
frightfully brave, you know--and fast as lightning. But the other
swallows wouldn't let him. They said he was too valuable as a leader.
It was a risky job. And if he had lost his life from the frost we'd
never be able to get another leader like him. Because, besides being
brave and fast, he's the cleverest leader we ever had. Whenever the
swallows are in trouble he always thinks of a way out. He's a born
leader. He flies quick and he thinks quick."

"Humph!" murmured the Doctor, as he thoughtfully brushed the toast
crumbs off the bed clothes. "But why did they pick you to bring the

"They didn't," said the swallow. "We nearly all of us volunteered
for the job, so as not to have Speedy risk his life. But the Skimmer
said the only fair way was to draw lots. So we got a number of small
leaves and we took the stalks off all of them except one. And we put
the leaves in an old cocoanut shell and shook them up. Then, with our
eyes shut, we began picking them out. The swallow who picked the leaf
with the stalk on it was to carry the message to England--and I picked
the leaf with the stalk on. Before I started off on the trip I kissed
my wife good-bye, because I really never expected to get back alive.
Still, I'm kind of glad the lot fell to me."

"Why?" asked the Doctor, pushing the breakfast tray off his knees and
punching the pillows into shape.

"Well, you see," said the swallow, lifting his right leg and showing a
tiny red ribbon made of corn silk tied about his ankle, "I got this for

"What's that?" asked the Doctor.

"That's to show I've done something brave--and special," said the
swallow modestly.

"Oh, I see," said the Doctor. "Like a medal, eh?"

"Yes. My name is Quip. It used to be just plain Quip. Now I'm called
_Quip the Carrier_," said the small bird proudly gazing down at his
little, stubby white leg.

"Splendid, Quip," said the Doctor. "I congratulate you. Now I must be
getting up. I've a frightful lot of work to do. Don't forget to tell
Speedy I'll meet him on the ship at ten. Good-bye! Oh, and would you
mind asking Dab-Dab, as you go out, to clear away the breakfast things?
I'm glad you came. You've given me an idea. Good-bye!"

[Illustration: "They found the Doctor shaving"]

And when Dab-Dab and Jip came to take away the tray they found the
Doctor shaving. He was peering into a looking glass, holding the end of
his nose and muttering to himself:

"_That's_ the idea for the Fantippo Foreign Mail service--I wonder why
I never thought of it before. I'll have the fastest overseas mail the
world ever saw. Why, of course! That's the idea--_The Swallow Mail_!"



As soon as he was dressed and shaved the Doctor went down to his ship
and met the Skimmer.

"I am terribly sorry, Speedy," said he, "to hear what a lot of trouble
I have been giving you birds by my delay here. But I really feel that
the business of the post office ought to be attended to, you know. It's
in a shocking state--honestly, it is."

"I know," said Speedy. "And if we could we would have nested right here
in this country to oblige you, and not bothered about going to England
this year. It wouldn't have mattered terribly much to miss one summer
in the North. But, you see, we swallows can't nest very well in trees.
We like houses and barns and buildings to nest in."

"Couldn't you use the houses of Fantippo?" asked the Doctor.

"Not very well," said Speedy. "They're so small and noisy--with the
native children playing around them all day. The eggs and young ones
wouldn't be safe for a minute. And, then, they're not built right for
us--mostly made of grass, the roofs sloping wrong, the eaves too near
the ground, and all that. What we like are solid English buildings,
where the people don't shriek and whoop and play drums all day--quiet
buildings, like old barns and stables, where, if people come at all,
they come in a proper, dignified manner, arriving and leaving at
regular hours. We like people, you understand--in their right place.
But nesting mother birds must have quiet."

"Humph! I see," said the Doctor. "Of course, myself, I rather enjoy
the jolliness of these Fantippos. But I can quite see your point. By
the way, how would my old ship do? This ought to be quiet enough for
you here. There's nobody living on it now. And, look, it has heaps of
cracks and holes and corners in it where you could build your nests.
What do you think?"

"That would be splendid," said Speedy--"if you think you won't be
needing the boat for some weeks. Of course, it would never do if, after
we had the nests built and the eggs laid, you were to pull up the
anchor and sail away--the young ones would get seasick."

"No, of course not," said the Doctor. "But there will be no fear of my
leaving for some time yet. You could have the whole ship to yourselves
and nobody will disturb you."

"All right," said Speedy. "Then I'll tell the swallows to get on with
the nest building right away. But, of course, we'll go on to England
with you when you are ready, to show you the way--and also to teach the
young birds how to get there, too. You see, each year's new birds make
their first trip back from England to Africa with us grown ones. They
have to make the first journey under our guidance."

"Very good," said the Doctor. "Then that settles that. Now I must get
back to the post office. The ship is yours. But as soon as the nesting
is over come and let me know, because I have a very special idea I want
to tell you about."

So the Doctor's boat was now turned into a nesting ship for the
swallows. Calmly she stood at anchor in the quiet waters of Fantippo
harbor, while thousands and thousands of swallows built their nests in
her rigging, in her ventilators, in her portholes and in every crack
and corner of her.

[Illustration: "Thousands of swallows built their nests in her rigging"]

No one went near her and the swallows had her to themselves. And they
agreed afterward that they found her the best place for nesting they
had ever used.

In a very short time the ship presented a curious and extraordinary
sight, with the mud nests stuck all over her and birds flying in
thousands round her masts, coming and going, building homes and feeding
young ones.

And the farmers in England that year said the coming winter would be a
hard one because the swallows had done their nesting abroad before they
arrived and only spent a few weeks of the autumn in the North.

And later, after the nesting was all over, there were more than twice
as many birds as there were before, of course. And you simply couldn't
get on to the ship for the tons and tons of mud on her.

But the parent birds, as soon as the young ones were able to fly, set
their children to work clearing up the mess. And all that mud was taken
off and dropped into the harbor, piece by piece. And the Doctor's ship
was left in a cleaner state than it had ever been before in its whole

Now, it happened one day that the Doctor came to the post office, as
usual, at nine o'clock in the morning. (He had to get there at that
time, because if he didn't the postmen didn't start working.) And
outside the post office he found Jip, gnawing a bone on the pavement.
Something curious about the bone struck the Doctor, who was, of course,
being a naturalist, quite a specialist in bones. He asked Jip to let
him look at it.

"Why, this is extraordinary!" said the Doctor, examining the bone with
great care. "I did not know that this class of animals were still to be
found in Africa. Where did you get this bone, Jip?"

"Over in No-Man's-Land," said Jip. "There are lots of bones there."

"And where might No-Man's-Land be?" said John Dolittle.

"No-Man's-Land is that round island just outside the harbor," said
Jip--"you know, the one that looks like a plum pudding."

"Oh, yes," said the Doctor. "I know the island you mean. It's only a
short distance from the mainland. But I hadn't heard that that was the
name of it. Humph! If you'll lend me this bone a while, Jip, I think
I'll go to see the King about it."

So, taking the bone, John Dolittle went off to call on King Koko, and
Jip asked if he might come along. They found the King sitting at the
palace door, sucking a lollipop--for he, like all the Fantippos, was
very fond of sweetmeats.

"Good morning, Your Majesty," said the Doctor. "Do you happen to know
what kind of animal this bone belongs to?"

The King examined it, then shook his head. He didn't know much about

"Maybe it's a cow's bone," said he.

"Oh, certainly not," said John Dolittle. "No cow ever had a bone like
that. That's a jaw--but not a cow's jaw. Listen, Your Majesty, would
you mind lending me a canoe and some paddlers? I want to go over to
visit No-Man's-Land."

To the Doctor's astonishment the King choked on his lollipop and nearly
fell over his chair backwards. Then he ran inside the palace and shut
the door.

"How extraordinary!" said John Dolittle, entirely bewildered. "What
ails the man?"

"Oh, it's some humbug or other," growled Jip. "They're a superstitious
lot, these natives. Let's go down to the harbor, Doctor, and try to
hire a canoe to take us."

So they went down to the water's edge and asked several of the
canoesmen to take them over to No-Man's-Land. But every one they asked
got dreadfully frightened and refused to talk when the Doctor told them
where he wanted to go. They wouldn't even let him borrow their canoes
to go there by himself.

At last they found one very old boatman who loved chatting so much
that, although he got terribly scared when John Dolittle mentioned
No-Man's-Land, he finally told the Doctor the reason for all this
extraordinary behavior.

"That island," said he--"we don't even mention its name unless we have
to--is the land of Evil Magic. It is called (the old man whispered it
so low the Doctor could scarcely hear him) No-Man's-Land, because no
man lives there. No man ever even goes there."

"But why?" asked the Doctor.

"_Dragons live there!_" said the old boatman, his eyes wide and
staring.--"Enormous horned dragons, that spit fire and eat men. If you
value your life never go near that dreadful island."

"But how do you know all this," asked the Doctor, "if nobody has ever
been there to see if it's true or not?"

"A thousand years ago," said the old man, "when King Kakaboochi ruled
over this land, he put his mother-in-law upon that island to live,
because she talked too much and he couldn't bear her around the palace.
It was arranged that food should be taken to her every week. But the
first week that the men went there in canoes they could find no trace
of her. While they were seeking her about the island a dragon suddenly
roared out from the bushes and attacked them. They only just escaped
with their lives and got back to Fantippo and told King Kakaboochi. A
famous wizard was consulted, and he said it must have been the King's
mother-in-law herself who had been changed into a dragon by some magic
spell. Since then she has had many children and the island is peopled
with dragons--_whose food is men_! For whenever a canoe approaches, the
dragons come down to the shores, breathing flame and destruction. But
for many hundreds of years now no man has set foot upon it. That is why
it is called--well, you know."

After he had told this story the old man turned away and busied himself
with his canoe, as though he were afraid that the Doctor might again
ask him to paddle him to the island.

"Look here, Jip," said John Dolittle, "you said you got this bone from
No-Man's-Land. Did you see any dragons there?"

"No," said Jip. "I swam out there--just to get cool. It was a hot day
yesterday. And then I didn't go far inland on the island. I found many
bones on the beach. And as this one smelled good to me, I picked it up
and swam back here with it. I was more interested in the bone and the
swim than I was in the island, to tell you the truth."

"It's most extraordinary," murmured the Doctor--"this legend about
the island. It makes me more anxious than ever to go there. That bone
interests me, too, immensely. I've seen only one other like it--and
that was in a natural history museum. Do you mind if I keep it, Jip?
I'd like to put it in my own museum when I get back to Puddleby."

"Not at all," said Jip. "Look here, Doctor, if we can't raise a canoe,
let's you and I swim out to the island. It's not over a mile and a half
and we're both good swimmers."

"That's not a bad idea, Jip," said the Doctor. "We'll go down the shore
a way till we're opposite the island, then we won't have so far to

So off they went. And when they had come to the best place on the
shore the Doctor took off his clothes and, tying them up in a bundle,
he fastened them on his head, with the precious high hat on the top
of all. Then he waded into the surf and, with Jip beside him, started
swimming for the island.

Now this particular stretch of water they were trying to cross happened
to be a bad place for swimming. And after about a quarter of an hour
Jip and the Doctor felt themselves being carried out to sea in the grip
of a powerful current. They tried their hardest to get to the island.
But without any success.

"Let yourself drift, Doctor," panted Jip. "Don't waste your strength
fighting the current. Let yourself drift. Even if we're carried past
the island out to sea we can land on the mainland further down the
coast, where the current isn't so strong."

But the Doctor didn't answer. And Jip could see from his face that his
strength and breath were nearly gone.

Then Jip barked his loudest, hoping that possibly Dab-Dab might hear
him on the mainland and fly out and bring help. But, of course, they
were much too far from the town for anyone to hear.

"Turn back, Jip," gasped the Doctor. "Don't bother about me. I'll be
all right. Turn back and try and make the shore."

[Illustration: "'Turn back, Jip!' gasped the Doctor"]

But Jip had no intention of turning back and leaving the Doctor to
drown--though he saw no possible chance of rescue.

Presently John Dolittle's mouth filled with water and he began to
splutter and gurgle and Jip was really frightened. But just as the
Doctor's eyes were closing and he seemed too weak to swim another
stroke a curious thing happened. Jip felt something come up under the
water, right beneath his feet, and lift him and the Doctor slowly out
of the sea, like the rising deck of a submarine. Up and up they were
lifted, now entirely out of the water. And, gasping and sprawling side
by side, they gazed at one another in utter astonishment.

"What is it, Doctor?" said Jip, staring down at the strange thing,
which had now stopped rising and was carrying them like a ship, right
across the strong course of the current, in the direction of the island.

"I haven't the--hah--remotest--hah--idea," panted John Dolittle. "Can
it be a whale? No, because the skin isn't a whale's. This is fur," he
said, plucking at the stuff he was sitting on.

"Well, it's an animal of some kind, isn't it?" said Jip. "But where's
its head?" and he gazed down the long sloping back that stretched in a
flat curve in front of them for a good thirty yards.

"Its head is under water," said the Doctor. "But there's its tail,
look, behind us."

And turning around Jip saw the longest tail that mortal beast ever had,
thrashing the water and driving them toward the island.

"I know!" cried Jip. "It's the dragon! This is King Kakaboochi's
mother-in-law we're sitting on!"

"Well anyway thank goodness she rose in time!" said the Doctor, shaking
the water out of his ears. "I was never so near drowning in my life.
I suppose I'd better make myself a little more presentable before she
gets her head out of water."

And, taking down his clothes off his own head, the Doctor smartened
up his high hat and dressed himself, while the strange thing that
had saved their lives carried them steadily and firmly toward the
mysterious island.



At length the extraordinary creature that had come to their rescue
reached the island; and with Jip and the Doctor still clinging to his
wide back, he crawled out of the water on to the beach.

And then John Dolittle, seeing its head for the first time, cried out
in great excitement:

"Jip, it's a Quiffenodochus, as sure as I'm alive!"

"A Quiffeno-what-us?" asked Jip.

"A Quiffenodochus," said the Doctor--"a prehistoric beast. Naturalists
thought they were extinct--that there weren't any more live ones
anywhere in the world. This is a great day, Jip. I'm awfully glad I
came here."

The tremendous animal which the Fantippans had called a dragon had now
climbed right up the beach and was standing fully revealed in all his
strangeness. At first he looked like some curious mixture between a
crocodile and a giraffe. He had short, spreading legs, but enormously
long tail and neck. On his head were two stubby little horns.

As soon as the Doctor and Jip had climbed down off his back he swung
his head around on the end of that enormous neck and said to the Doctor:

"Do you feel all right now?"

"Yes, thanks," said John Dolittle.

"I was afraid," said the creature, "that I wouldn't be in time to save
your life. It was my brother who first saw you. We thought it was a
native and we were getting ready to give him our usual terrifying
reception. But while we watched from behind the trees my brother
suddenly cried: 'Great heavens! That's Doctor Dolittle--and he's
drowning. See, how he waves his arms! He must be saved at any cost.
There isn't one man like that born in a thousand years! Let's go after
him, quick!' Then word was passed around the island that John Dolittle,
the great doctor, was drowning out in the straits. Of course, we had
all heard of you. And, rushing down to a secret cove which we have on
the far side of the island, we dashed into the sea and swam out to you
under water. I was the best swimmer and got to you first. I'm awfully
glad I was in time. You're sure you feel all right?"

"Oh, quite," said the Doctor, "thank you. But why did you swim under

"We didn't want the natives to see us," said the strange beast. "They
think we are dragons--and we let them go on thinking it. Because then
they don't come near the island and we have our country to ourselves."

The creature stretched his long neck still longer and whispered in the
Doctor's ear:

"They think we live on men and breathe fire! But all we ever really
eat is bananas. And when anyone tries to come here we go down to a
hollow in the middle of the island and suck up the mist, the fog, that
always hangs around there. Then we come back to the beach and roar and
rampage. And we breathe the fog out through our nostrils and they think
it's smoke. That's the way we've kept this island to ourselves for a
thousand years. And this is the only part of the world where we are
left--where we can live in peace."

[Illustration: "'All we eat is bananas'"]

"How very interesting!" said the Doctor. "Naturalists have thought your
kind of animals are no longer living, you know. You are Quiffenodochi,
are you not?"

"Oh, no," said the beast. "The Quiffenodochus has gone long ago. We
are the Piffilosaurus. We have six toes on the back feet, while the
Quiffenodochi, our cousins, have only five. They died out about two
thousand years ago."

"But where are the rest of your people?" asked the Doctor. "I thought
you said that many of you had swum out to rescue us."

"They did," said the Piffilosaurus. "But they kept hidden under the
water, lest the natives on the shore should see and get to know that
the old story about the dragon's mother-in-law wasn't true. While I
was bringing you here they were swimming all around you under the
water, ready to help if I needed them. They have gone around to the
secret cove so they may come ashore unseen. We had better be going on
ourselves now. Whatever happens, we mustn't be seen from the shore and
have the natives coming here. It would be the end of us if that should
ever happen, because, between ourselves, although they think us so
terrible, we are really more harmless than sheep."

"Do any other animals live here?" asked the Doctor.

"Oh, yes, indeed," said the Piffilosaurus. "This island is entirely
peopled by harmless, vegetable-feeding creatures. If we had the others,
of course, we wouldn't last long. But come, I will show you around the
island. Let us go quietly up that valley there, so we shan't be seen
till we reach the cover of the woods."

Then John Dolittle and Jip were taken by the Piffilosaurus all over the
island of No-Man's-Land.

The Doctor said afterward that he had never had a more enjoyable or
more instructive day. The shores of the island all around were high
and steep, which gave it the appearance Jim had spoken of--like a plum
pudding. But in the centre, on top, there was a deep and pleasant
hollow, invisible from the sea and sheltered from the winds. In this
great bowl, a good thirty miles across, the piffilosauruses had lived
at peace for a thousand years, eating ripe bananas and frolicking in
the sun.

Down by the banks of the streams the Doctor was shown great herds of
hippopotami, feeding on the luscious reeds that grew at the water's
edge. In the wide fields of high grass there were elephants and
rhinoceri browsing. On the slopes where the forests were sparse he
spied long-necked giraffes, nibbling from the trees. Monkeys and
deer of all kinds were plentiful. And birds swarmed everywhere. In
fact, every kind of creature that does not eat meat was there, living
peaceably and happily with the others in this land where vegetable food
abounded and the disturbing tread of Man was never heard.

Standing on the top of the hill with Jip and the piffilosaurus at his
side, the Doctor gazed down over the wide bowl full of contented animal
life and heaved a sigh.

"This beautiful land could also have been called the 'Animals'
Paradise,'" he murmured. "Long may they enjoy it to themselves! May
this, indeed, be _No-Man's-Land_ forever!"

"You, Doctor," said the deep voice of the piffilosaurus at his elbow,
"are the first human in a thousand years that has set foot here. The
last one was King Kakaboochi's mother-in-law."

"By the way, what really became of her?" asked the Doctor. "The natives
believe she was turned into a dragon, you know."

"We married her off," said the great creature, nibbling idly at a lily
stalk. "We couldn't stand her here, any more than the King could. You
never heard anybody talk so in all your life. Yes, we carried her one
dark night by sea far down the coast of Africa and left her at the
palace door of a deaf king, who ruled over a small country south of the
Congo River. He married her. Of course, being deaf, he didn't mind her
everlasting chatter in the least."

And now for several days the Doctor forgot all about his post office
work and King Koko and his ship at anchor, and everything else. For he
was kept busy from morning to night with all the animals who wanted to
consult him about different things.

Many of the giraffes were suffering from sore hoofs and he showed them
where to find a special root that could be put into a foot bath and
would bring immediate relief. The rhinoceroses' horns were growing too
long and John Dolittle explained to them how by grinding them against
a certain kind of stone and by eating less grass and more berries
they could keep the growth down. A special sort of nut tree that the
deer were fond of had grown scarce and almost died out from constant
nibbling. And the Doctor showed the chief stags how, by taking a few
nuts and poking them down into the soft earth with their hoofs before
the rainy season set in, they could make new trees grow and so increase
the supply.

[Illustration: "He was pulling out a loose tooth"]

One day when he was pulling out a loose tooth for a baby hippopotamus
with his watch-chain, Speedy-the-Skimmer turned up, looking rather

"Well," said the neat little bird, settling down on the ground at his
feet, "I've found you at last, Doctor. I've been hunting all over
creation for you."

"Oh, hulloa, Speedy," said the Doctor. "Glad to see you. Did you want
me for something?"

"Why, of course, I did," said Speedy. "We finished the nesting season
two days ago, and you had said you wanted to see me about some special
business as soon as it was over. I went to your house, but Dab-Dab had
no idea where you could be. Then I hunted all over. At last I heard
some gossiping boatmen down at the harbor say that you came to this
island five days ago and had never returned. All the Fantippans have
given you up for lost. They say you have surely been eaten by the
dragons that live here. I got an awful fright--though, of course, I
didn't quite believe the dragon story. Still, you had been gone so long
I didn't know what to make of it. The post office, as you can imagine,
is in a worse mess than ever."

"Humph!" said the Doctor, who had now got the loose tooth out and was
showing the baby hippo how to rinse his mouth in the river. "I'm sorry.
I suppose I should have sent you a message. But I've been so awfully
busy. Let's go up under the shade of those palms and sit down. It was
about the post office that I wanted to talk to you."



So the Doctor and Jip and Speedy-the-Skimmer sat down in the shade of
the palm trees and for the first time plans for that great service
which was to be known as the Swallow Mail were discussed.

[Illustration: "They sat down in the shade of a palm tree"]

"Now, my idea, Speedy, is this," said the Doctor. "Regular foreign
mails are difficult for the Fantippo post office because so few boats
ever call there to bring or take the mails. Now, how would it be if you
swallows did the letter carrying?"

"Well," said Speedy, "that would be possible. But, of course, we could
only do it during certain months of the year when we were in Africa.
And then we could only take letters to the mild and warm countries. We
should get frozen if we had to carry mail where severe winters were
going on."

"Oh, of course," said the Doctor. "I wouldn't expect you to do that.
But I had thought we might get the other birds to help--cold-climate
birds, hot-climate ones and temperate. And if some of the trips were
too far or disagreeable for one kind of birds to make, we could deliver
the mail in relays. I mean, for instance, a letter going from here to
the North Pole could be carried by the swallows as far as the north end
of Africa. From there it would be taken by thrushes up to the top of
Scotland. There seagulls would take it from the thrushes and carry it
as far as Greenland. And from there penguins would take it to the North
Pole. What do you think?"

"I think it might be all right," said Speedy, "if we can get the other
birds to go in with us on the idea."

"Well, you see," said John Dolittle, "I think we might, because we
could use the mail service for the birds themselves, and the animals,
too, to send their letters by, as well as the Fantippans."

"But, Doctor, birds and animals don't send letters," said Speedy.

"No," said the Doctor. "But there's no reason why they shouldn't begin.
Neither did people write nor send letters once upon a time. But as soon
as they began they found it very useful and convenient. So would the
birds and animals. We could have the head office here in this beautiful
island--in this Animals' Paradise. You see, my idea is, firstly, a post
office system for the education and betterment of the Animal Kingdom,
and, secondly, a good foreign mail for the Fantippans. Do you think we
could ever find some way by which birds could write letters?"

"Oh, yes, I think so," said Speedy. "We swallows, for instance, always
leave marks on houses where we have nested which are messages for those
who may come after us. Look"--Speedy scratched some crosses and signs
in the sand at the Doctor's feet--"that means '_Don't build your nest
in this house. They have a cat here!_' And this"--the Skimmer made four
more signs in the sand--"this means '_Good house. Flies plentiful.
Folks quiet. Building mud can be found behind the stable._'"

"Splendid," cried the Doctor. "It's a kind of short-hand. You say a
whole sentence in four signs."

"And, then," Speedy went on, "nearly all other kinds of birds have a
sign language of their own. For example, the kingfishers have a way of
marking the trees along the river to show where good fishing is to be
found. And thrushes have signs, too; one I've often seen on stones,
which means '_Crack your snail shells here_.' That's so the thrushes
won't go throwing their snail shells all over the place and scare the
live snails into keeping out of sight."

"There you are," said the Doctor. "I always thought you birds had at
least the beginnings of a written language--otherwise you couldn't
be so clever. Now all we have to do is to build up on these signs a
regular and proper system of bird-writing. And I have no doubt whatever
that with the animals we can do the same thing. Then we'll get the
Swallow Mail going and we'll have animals and birds writing letters to
one another all over the world--and to people, too, if they want to."

"I suspect," said Speedy, "that you'll find most of the letters will be
written to you, Doctor. I've met birds all over creation who wanted to
know what you looked like, what you ate for breakfast and all sorts of
silly things about you."

"Well," said the Doctor. "I won't mind that. But my idea is firstly an
educational one. With a good post office system of their own, I feel
that the condition of the birds and animals will be greatly bettered.
Only to-day, for example, some deer on this very island asked me what
they should do about their nut trees which were nearly eaten up. I
showed them at once how they could plant seeds and grow more trees.
Heaven knows how long they had been going on short rations. But if
they'd only been able to write to me, I could have told them long
ago--by Swallow Mail."

Then the Doctor and Jip went back to Fantippo, carried by the
piffilosaurus, who landed them on the shore under cover of night, so no
one would see them. And in the morning John Dolittle called upon the
King again.

"Your Majesty," said the Doctor, "I have now a plan to provide your
country with an excellent service of foreign mails if you will agree to
what I suggest."

"Good," said the King. "My Majesty is listening. Proceed. Let me offer
you a lollipop."

The Doctor took one--a green one--from the box the King held out to
him. King Koko was very proud of the quality of his lollipops--made in
the Royal Candy Kitchen. He was never without one himself, and always
wore it hung around his neck on a ribbon. And when he wasn't sucking it
he used to hold it up to his eye and peer through it at his courtiers.
He had seen white men using quizzing glasses, and he had his lollipops
made thin and transparent, so he could use them in this elegant manner.
But constant lollipops had ruined his figure and made him dreadfully
stout. However, as fatness was considered a sign of greatness in
Fantippo, he didn't mind that.

"My plan," said the Doctor, "is this: The domestic mails of Fantippo,
after I have instructed the postmen a little more, can be carried by
your own people. But the handling of foreign mails as well as the
domestic ones is too much for them. And, besides, you have so few boats
calling at your port. So I propose to build a floating post office
for the foreign mails which shall be anchored close to the island
called"--(the Doctor only just stopped himself in time from speaking
the dreaded name)--"er--er--close to the island I spoke of to you the
other day."

"I don't like that," said the King, frowning.

"Your Majesty need have no fear," the Doctor put in hurriedly. "It will
never be necessary for any of your people to land upon the island.
The Foreign Mail post office will be a houseboat, anchored a little
way out from the shore. And I will not need any Fantippan postmen to
run it at all. On the contrary, I make it a special condition on your
part that--er--the island we are speaking of shall continue to be left
undisturbed for all time. I am going to run the Foreign Mails Office in
my own way--with special postmen of my own. When the Fantippans wish
to send out letters to foreign lands they must come by canoe and bring
them to the houseboat post office. But incoming letters addressed to
the people in Fantippo shall be delivered at the doors of the houses in
the regular way. What do you say to that?"

"I agree," said the King. "But the stamps must all have my beautiful
face upon them, and no other."

"Very good," said the Doctor. "That can be arranged. But it must be
clearly understood that from now on the foreign mails shall be handled
by my own postman--in _my_ way. And after I have got the Domestic
post office running properly in Fantippo you must see to it that it
continues to work in order. If you will do that in a few weeks' time
I think I can promise that your kingdom shall have the finest mail
service in the world."

Then the Doctor asked Speedy to send off messages through the
birds to every corner of the earth. And to ask all the leaders of
seagulls, tomtits, magpies, thrushes, stormy petrels, finches,
penguins, vultures, snow buntings, wild geese and the rest to come to
No-Man's-Land, because John Dolittle wanted to speak to them.

And in the meantime he went back and continued the work of getting
the domestic mail service in good running order at the post office at

So the good Speedy sent off messengers; and all around the world and
back again word was passed from bird to bird that John Dolittle, the
famous animal doctor, wished to see all the leaders of all kinds of
birds, great and small.

And presently in the big hollow in the centre of No-Man's-Land they
began to arrive. After three days Speedy came to the Doctor and said:

"All right, Doctor, they are ready for you now."

A good strong canoe had by this time been put at the Doctor's service
by the King, who was also having the post office houseboat built at the
Doctor's orders.

So John Dolittle got into his canoe and came at length to the same hill
where he had before gazed out over the pleasant hollow of the Animals'
Paradise. And with the Skimmer on his shoulder he looked down into a
great sea of bird faces--leaders all--every kind, from a hummingbird to
an albatross. And taking a palm leaf and twisting it into a trumpet,
so that he could make himself heard, he began his great inauguration
speech to the leaders which was to set working the famous Swallow Mail

[Illustration: "He began his great inauguration speech"]

After the Doctor had finished his speech and told the leaders what it
was he meant to do, the birds of the world applauded by whistling and
screeching and flapping their wings, so that the noise was terrible.
And in the streets of Fantippo the natives whispered it about that the
dragons were fighting one another in No-Man's-Land.

Then the Doctor passed down among the birds and, taking a notebook,
he spoke to each leader in turn, asking him questions about the signs
and sign language that his particular kind of bird was in the habit
of using. And the Doctor wrote it all down in the notebook and took
it home with him and worked over it all night--promising to meet the
leaders again the following day.

And on the morrow, crossing once again to the island, he went on with
the discussion and planning and arrangement. It was agreed that the
Swallow Mail Service should have its head office here in No-Man's-Land.
And that there should be branch offices at Cape Horn, Greenland, in
Christmas Island, Tahiti, Kashmir, Thibet and Puddleby-on-the-Marsh.
Most of the mails were arranged so that those birds who migrated or
went to other lands in the winter and back again in summer should carry
the letters on their regular yearly journeys. And as there are some
kinds of birds crossing from one land to another in almost every week
of the year, this took care of much of the mails without difficulty.

Then, of course, there were all those birds who don't leave their home
lands in winter, but stay in one country all the time. The leaders of
these had come under special guidance of other birds to oblige the
Doctor by being present at the great meeting. They promised to have
their people all the year round take care of letters that were brought
to their particular countries to be delivered. So between one thing and
another, much of the planning and arrangement of the service was got
through in these first two meetings.

Then the Doctor and the leaders agreed upon a regular kind of simple,
easy writing for all birds to use, so that the addresses on the
envelopes could be understood and read by the post birds. And at last
John Dolittle sent them off home again, to instruct their relatives in
this new writing and reading and explain to all the birds of all the
world how the post office was going to work and how much good he hoped
it would do for the education and betterment of the Animal Kingdom.
Then he went home and had a good sleep.

The next morning he found that King Koko had got his post office
houseboat ready and finished--and very smart it looked. It was paddled
out and anchored close to the shore of the island. Then Dab-Dab, Jip,
Too-Too, Gub-Gub, the pushmi-pullyu and the white mouse were brought
over, and the Doctor gave up his house on the main street of Fantippo
and settled down to live at the Foreign Mails post office for the
remainder of his stay.

And now John Dolittle and his animals got tremendously busy arranging
the post office, its furniture, the stamp drawers, the postcard
drawers, the weighing scales, the sorting bags and all the rest of the
paraphernalia. Dab-Dab, of course, was housekeeper, as usual, and she
saw to it that the post office was swept properly every morning. Jip
was the watchman and had charge of locking up at night and opening in
the morning. Too-Too, with his head for mathematics, was given the
bookkeeping, and he kept account of how many stamps were sold and how
much money was taken in. The Doctor ran the information window and
answered the hundred and one questions that people are always asking
at post offices. And the good and trusty Speedy was here, there and

And this was how the first letter was sent off by the Swallow Mail:
King Koko himself came one morning and, putting his large face in at
the information window, asked:

"What is the fastest foreign mail delivery ever made by any post office
anywhere in the world?"

[Illustration: "He put his large face in at the information window"]

"The British post office is now boasting," said the Doctor, "that it
can get a letter from London to Canada in fourteen days."

"All right," said the King. "Here's a letter to a friend of mine who
runs a shoe-shine parlor in Alabama. Let me see how quickly you can get
me an answer to it."

Now, the Doctor really had not got everything ready yet to work the
foreign mails properly and he was about to explain to the King. But
Speedy hopped up on the desk and whispered:

"Give me that letter, Doctor. We'll show him."

Then going outside, he called for Quip the Carrier.

"Quip," said Speedy, "take this letter to the Azores as fast as you
can. There you'll just catch the White Tailed Carolina Warblers about
to make their summer crossing to the United States. Give it to them and
tell them to get the answer back here, as quick as they know how."

In a flash Quip was gone, seaward.

It was four o'clock in the afternoon when the King brought that letter
to the Doctor. And when His Majesty woke up in the morning and came
down to breakfast there was the answer to it lying beside his plate!




Nobody thought, not even John Dolittle himself, when the Swallow Mail
was first started, what a tremendous system it would finally grow into
and what a lot of happenings and ideas would come about through it.

Of course such an entirely new thing as this required a great deal
of learning and working out before it could be made to run smoothly.
Something new, some fresh problem, cropped up every day. But although
the Doctor, at all times a busy man, was positively worked to death,
he found it all so interesting that he didn't mind. But the motherly
Dab-Dab was dreadfully worried about him; for indeed at the beginning
he seemed never to sleep at all.

Certainly in the whole history of the world there never was another
post office like the Doctor's. For one thing, it was a houseboat post
office; for another, tea was served to everybody--the clerks and the
customers as well--regularly at four o'clock every afternoon, with
cucumber sandwiches on Sundays. Paddling over to the Foreign Mails
post office for afternoon tea became quite the fashionable thing to do
among the more up-to-date Fantippans. A large awning was put over the
back entrance, forming a pleasant sort of veranda with a good view of
the ocean and the bay. And if you dropped in for a stamp around four
o'clock, as likely as not you would meet the King there, and all the
other high notables of Fantippo, sipping tea.

[Illustration: "The houseboat post office of No-Man's-Land"]

Another thing in which the Doctor's post office was peculiar was its
pens. Most post offices, the Doctor had found, always had abominably
bad pens that spluttered and scratched and wouldn't write. In fact
very many post offices even nowadays seem to pride themselves on their
bad pens. But the Doctor saw to it that _his_ pens were of the very
best quality. Of course, in those times there were no steel pens.
Only quills were used. And John Dolittle got the albatrosses and the
seagulls to keep for him their tail feathers which fell out in the
moulting season. And of course, with such a lot of quills to choose
from, it was easy to have the best pens in the post office.

Still another thing in which the Doctor's post office was different
from all others was the gum used on the stamps. The supply of gum which
the King had been using for his stamps ran short and the Doctor had to
set about discovering and making a new kind. And after a good deal of
experiment he invented a gum made of licorice, which dried quickly and
worked very well. But, as I have said, the Fantippans were very fond of
sweetmeats. And soon after the new gum was put into use the post office
was crowded with people buying stamps by the hundred.

At first the Doctor could not understand this sudden new rush of
business--which kept Too-Too, the cashier, working overtime every
night, adding up the day's takings. The post office safe could hardly
hold all the money taken in and the overflow had to be put in a vase on
the kitchen mantelpiece.

But presently the Doctor noticed that after they had licked the gum off
the stamps, the customers would bring them back and want to exchange
them for money again. Now, it is a rule that all post offices have to
exchange their own stamps, when asked, for the price paid for them. So
long as they are not torn or marked it doesn't matter whether the gum
has been licked off or not. So the Doctor saw that he would have to
change his kind of gum if he wanted to keep stamps that would stick.

And one day the King's brother came to the post office with a terrible
cough and asked him in the same breath (or gasp) to give him five
half-penny stamps and a cure for a cough. This gave the Doctor an
idea. And the next gum which he invented for his stamps he called
_whooping-cough gum_. He made it out of a special kind of sweet, sticky
cough-mixture. He also invented a _bronchitis gum_, a _mumps gum_ and
several others. And whenever there was a catching disease in the town
the Doctor would see that the proper kind of gum to cure it was issued
on the stamps. It saved him a lot of trouble, because the people were
always bothering him to cure colds and sore throats and things. And
he was the first Postmaster General to use this way of getting rid of
sickness--by serving round pleasant medicine on the backs of stamps. He
called it _stamping out_ an epidemic.

One evening at six o'clock Jip shut the doors of the post office as
usual, and hung up the sign "_Closed_" as he always did at that hour.
The Doctor heard the bolts being shot and he stopped counting postcards
and took out his pipe to have a smoke.

[Illustration: "Jip hung up the sign"]

The first hard work of getting the post office in full swing was now
over. And that night John Dolittle felt when he heard the doors being
shut that at last he could afford to keep more regular hours and not
be working all the time. And when Jip came inside the Registered Mail
booth he found the Doctor leaning back in a chair with his feet on the
desk, gazing around him with great satisfaction.

"Well, Jip," said he with a sigh, "we now have a real working post

"Yes," said Jip, putting down his watchman's lantern, "and a mighty
good one it is, too. There isn't another like it anywhere."

"You know," said John Dolittle, "although we opened more than a week
ago I haven't myself written a single letter yet. Fancy living in a
post office for a week and never writing a letter! Look at that drawer
there. Ordinarily the sight of so many stamps would make me write
dozens of letters. All my life I never had a stamp when I really wanted
to write a letter. And--funny thing!--now that I'm living and sleeping
in a post office I can't think of a single person to write to."

"It's a shame," said Jip. "And you with such beautiful handwriting
too--as well as a drawerful of stamps! Never mind; think of all the
animals that are waiting to hear from you."

"Of course, there's Sarah," the Doctor went on puffing at his pipe
dreamily. "Poor dear Sarah! I wonder whom she married. But there you
are, I haven't her address. So I can't write to Sarah. And I don't
suppose any of my old patients would want to hear from me."

"I know!" cried Jip, "write to the Cats'-Meat-Man."

"He can't read," said the Doctor gloomily.

"No, but his wife can," said Jip.

"That's true," murmured the Doctor. "But what shall I write to him

Just at that moment Speedy-the-Skimmer came in and said:

"Doctor, we've got to do something about the city deliveries in
Fantippo. My post-birds are not very good at finding the right houses
to deliver the letters. You see we swallows, although we nest in
houses, are not regular city birds. We pick out lonely houses as a
rule--in the country. City streets are a bit difficult for swallows to
find their way round in. Some of the post-birds have brought back the
letters they took out this morning to deliver, saying they can't find
the houses they are addressed to."

"Humph!" said the Doctor. "That's too bad. Let me think a minute. Oh, I
know I'll send for Cheapside."

"Who is Cheapside?" asked Speedy.

"Cheapside is a London sparrow," said the Doctor, "who visits me every
summer in Puddleby. The rest of the year he lives around St. Paul's
Cathedral. He builds his nest in St. Edmund's left ear."

"_Where?_" cried Jip.

"In the left ear of a statue of St. Edmund on the outside of the
chancel--the cathedral, you know," the Doctor explained. "Cheapside's
the very fellow we want for city deliveries. There's nothing about
houses and towns he doesn't know. I'll send for him right away."

"I'm afraid," said Speedy, "that a post-bird--unless he was a city bird
himself--would have a hard job finding a sparrow in London. It's an
awful big city, isn't it?"

"Yes, that's so," said John Dolittle.

"Listen, Doctor," said Jip. "You were wondering just now what to write
the Cats'-Meat-Man about. Let Speedy write the letter to Cheapside in
bird scribble and you inclose it in a letter to the Cats'-Meat-Man.
Then when the sparrow comes to Puddleby for his summer visit the
Cats'-Meat-Man can give it to him."

"Splendid!" cried the Doctor. And he snatched a piece of paper off the
desk and started to write.

"And you might ask him too," put in Dab-Dab who had been listening, "to
take a look at the back windows of the house to see that none of them
is broken. We don't want the rain coming in on the beds."

"All right," said the Doctor. "I'll mention that."

So the Doctor's letter was written and addressed to _Matthew Mugg,
Esquire, Cats' Meat Merchant, Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, Slopshire,
England_. And it was sent off by Quip-the-Carrier.

The Doctor did not expect an answer to it right away because the
Cats'-Meat-Man's wife was a very slow reader and a still slower writer.
And anyhow, Cheapside could not be expected to visit Puddleby for
another week yet. He always stayed in London until after the Easter
Bank Holiday. His wife refused to let him leave for the country till
the spring family had been taught by their father how to find the
houses where people threw out crumbs; how to pick up oats from under
the cab horses' nose bags without being stamped on by the horses'
hoofs; how to get about in the trafficky streets of London and a whole
lot of other things that young city birds have to know.

In the meantime, while Quip was gone, life went forward busily and
happily at the Doctor's post office. The animals, Too-Too, Dab-Dab,
Gub-Gub, the pushmi-pullyu, the white mouse and Jip all agreed that
they found living in a houseboat post office great fun. Whenever they
got tired of their floating home they would go off for picnic parties
to the Island of No-Man's-Land, which was now more often called by the
name John Dolittle had given it, "the Animals' Paradise."

On these trips too, the Doctor sometimes accompanied them. He was glad
to, because he so got an opportunity of talking with the many different
kinds of animals there about the signs they were in the habit of using.
And on these signs, which he carefully put down in notebooks, he built
up a sort of written language for animals to use--or _animal scribble_,
as he called it--the same as he had done with the birds.

[Illustration: "He held scribbling classes for the animals"]

Whenever he could spare the time he held afternoon scribbling classes
for the animals in the Great Hollow. And they were very well attended.
He found the monkeys, of course, the easiest to teach and, because
they were so clever, he made some of them into assistant teachers. But
the zebras were quite bright too. The Doctor discovered that these
intelligent beasts had ways of marking and twisting the grasses to show
where they had smelled lions about--though, happily, they did not have
to use this trick in the Animals' Paradise but had brought it with them
when they had swum across from the mainland of Africa.

The Doctor's pets found it quite thrilling to go through the mail
that arrived each day to see if there were any letters for them.
At the beginning of course there wasn't much. But one day Quip had
returned from Puddleby with an answer to the Doctor's letter to the
Cats'-Meat-Man. Mr. Matthew Mugg had written (through his wife) that he
had hung the letter for Cheapside on an apple tree in the garden where
the sparrow would surely see it when he arrived. The windows of the
house were all right, he wrote; but the back door could do with a coat
of paint.

And while Quip had been waiting for this letter to be written he had
filled in the time at Puddleby by gossiping with all the starlings and
blackbirds in the Doctor's garden about the wonderful new Animals' post
office on the island of No-Man's-Land. And pretty soon every creature
in and around Puddleby had got to hear of it.

After that, of course, letters began to arrive at the houseboat for the
Doctor's pets. And one morning, when the mail was sorted, there was a
letter for Dab-Dab from her sister; one for the white mouse written by
a cousin from the Doctor's bureau drawer; one for Jip from the collie
who lived next door in Puddleby and one for Too-Too, telling him he had
a new family of six young ones in the rafters of the stable. But there
was nothing for Gub-Gub. The poor pig was nearly in tears at being left
out. And when the Doctor went into town that afternoon Gub-Gub asked
could he come along.

The next day the post-birds complained that the mail was an extra heavy
one. And when it was sorted, there were ten thick letters for Gub-Gub
and none for anybody else. Jip got suspicious about this and looked
over Gub-Gub's shoulder while he opened them. In each one there was a
banana skin.

"Who sent you those?" asked Jip.

"I sent them to myself," said Gub-Gub, "from Fantippo yesterday. I
don't see why you fellows should get all the mail. Nobody writes to me,
so I write to myself."



It was a great day at the Doctor's post office when Cheapside, the
London sparrow, arrived from Puddleby to look after the city deliveries
for Fantippo.

The Doctor was eating his lunch of sandwiches at the information desk
when the little bird popped his head through the window and said in his
cheeky Cockney voice:

"'Ulloa, Doctor, 'ere we are again! What ho! The old firm! Who would
'ave thought you'd come to this?"

Cheapside was a character. Anyone on seeing him for the first time
would probably guess that he spent his life in city streets. His whole
expression was different from other birds. In Speedy's eyes, for
instance--though nobody would dream of thinking him stupid--there was
an almost noble look of country honesty. But in the eyes of Cheapside,
the London Sparrow, there was a saucy, dare-devil expression that
seemed to say "Don't you think for one moment that you'll ever get the
better of me. I'm a Cockney bird."

[Illustration: "Cheapside, the London sparrow"]

"Why, Cheapside!" cried John Dolittle. "At last you've come. My, but
it's good to see you! Did you have a pleasant journey?"

"Not bad--not 'alf bad," said Cheapside, eyeing some crumbs from the
Doctor's lunch which lay upon the desk. "No storms. Pretty decent
travellin'. 'Ot? Well, I should say it _was_ 'ot. 'Ot enough for an
'Ottentot!... Quaint place you 'ave 'ere--sort of a barge?"

By this time all the animals had heard Cheapside arriving and they came
rushing in to see the traveler and to hear the news of Puddleby and

"How is the old horse in the stable?" asked John Dolittle.

"Pretty spry," said Cheapside. "Course 'e ain't as young as 'e used to
be. But 'e's lively enough for an old 'un. 'E asked me to bring you a
bunch of crimson ramblers--just bloomin' over the stable door, they
was. But I says to 'im, I says, 'What d'yer take me for, an omnibus?'
Fancy a feller at my time of life carrying a bunch of roses all the way
down the Atlantic! Folks would think I was goin' to a weddin' at the
South Pole."

"Gracious, Cheapside!" said the Doctor, laughing. "It makes me quite
homesick for England to hear your Cockney chirp."

"And me, too," sighed Jip. "Were there many rats in the woodshed,

"'Undreds of them," said the sparrow--"as big as rabbits. And that
uppish you'd think they owned the place!"

"I'll soon settle _them_, when I get back," said Jip. "I hope we go

"How does the garden look, Cheapside?" asked the Doctor.

"A1," said the sparrow. "Weeds in the paths, o' course. But the iris
under the kitchen window looked something lovely, they did."

"Anything new in London?" asked the white mouse who was also city bred.

"Yes," said Cheapside. "There's always something doing in good
old London. They've got a new kind of cab that goes on two wheels
instead of four. A man called 'Ansom invented it. Much faster than
the old 'ackneys they are. You see 'em everywhere. And there's a new
greengrocer's shop near the Royal Exchange."

"I'm going to have a greengrocer's shop of my own when I grow up,"
murmured Gub-Gub, "--in England where they grow good vegetables--I'm
awfully tired of Africa--and then I'll watch the new vegetables coming
into season all the year round."

"He's always talking about that," said Too-Too. "Such an ambition in
life to have--to run a greengrocer's shop!"

"Ah, England!" cried Gub-Gub sentimentally. "What is there more
beautiful in life than the heart of a young lettuce in the Spring?"

"'Ark at 'im," said Cheapside, raising his eyebrows. "Ain't 'e the
poetical porker? Why don't you write a bunch of sonnets to the
Skunk-Kissed-Cabbages of Louisiana, Mr. Bacon?"

"Well, now, look here, Cheapside," said the Doctor. "We want you to get
these city deliveries straightened out for us in the town of Fantippo.
Our post birds are having great difficulty finding the right houses to
take letters to. You're a city-bird, born and bred. Do you think you
can help us?"

"I'll see what I can do for you, Doc," said the Sparrow, "after I've
taken a look around this 'eathen town of yours. But first I want a
bath. I'm all heat up from flying under a broiling sun. Ain't you got
no puddles round here for a bird to take a bath in?"

"No, this isn't puddly climate," said the Doctor. "You're not in
England, you know. But I'll bring you my shaving mug and you can take a
bath in that."

"Mind, you wash the soap out first, Doc," chirped the Sparrow, "it gets
into my eyes."

The next day after Cheapside had had a good sleep to rest up from his
long journey the Doctor took the London sparrow to show him around the
town of Fantippo.

"Well, Doc," said Cheapside after they had seen the sights, "as a
town I don't think much of it--really, I don't. It's big. I'll say
that for it. I 'ad no idea they 'ad towns as big as this in Africa.
But the streets is so narrow! I can see why they don't 'ave no cabs
'ere--'ardly room for a goat to pass, let alone a four-wheeler. And as
for the 'ouses, they seem to be made of the insides of old mattresses.
The first thing we'll 'ave to do is to make old King Cocoanut tell 'is
subjects to put door knockers on their doors. What is 'ome without a
door knocker, I'd like to know? Of course, your postmen can't deliver
the letters, when they've no knockers to knock with."

"I'll attend to that," said the Doctor. "I'll see the King about it
this afternoon."

"And then, they've got no letter boxes in the doors," said Cheapside.
"There ought to be slots made to poke the letters in. The only place
these bloomin' 'eathens have for a postman to put a letter is down the

"Very well," said the Doctor. "I'll attend to that, too. Shall I have
the letter boxes in the middle of the door, or would you like them on
one side?"

"Put 'em on each side of the doors--two to every 'ouse," said Cheapside.

"What's that for?" asked the Doctor.

"That's a little idea of my own," said the Sparrow. "We'll 'ave one
box for the bills and one for sure-enough letters. You see, people
are so disappointed when they 'ear the postman's knock and come to
the door, expecting to find a nice letter from a friend or news that
money's been left them and all they get is a bill from the tailor.
But if we have two boxes on each door, one marked '_Bills_,' and the
other '_Letters_,' the postman can put all the bills in one box and the
honest letters in the other. As I said, it's a little idea of my own.
We might as well be real up-to-date. What do you think of it?"

"I think it's a splendid notion," said the Doctor. "Then the people
need only have one disappointment--when they clear the bill box on the
day set for paying their debts."

"That's the idea," said Cheapside. "And tell the post-birds--as soon
as we've got the knockers on--to knock once for a bill and twice for
a letter, so the folks in the 'ouse will know whether to come and get
the mail or not. Oh, I tell you, we'll show these poor pagans a thing
or two before we're finished! We'll 'ave a post office in Fantipsy
that really is a post office. And, now, 'ow about the Christmas boxes,
Doctor? Postmen always expect a handsome present around Christmas time,
you know."

"Well, I'm rather afraid," said the Doctor doubtfully, "that these
people don't celebrate Christmas as a holiday."

"_Don't celebrate Christmas!_" cried Cheapside in a shocked voice.
"What a disgraceful scandal! Well, look here, Doctor. You just tell
King Cocoa-butter that if 'e and 'is people don't celebrate the festive
season by giving us post-birds Christmas-boxes there ain't going to
be no mail delivered in Fantipsy from New Year's to Easter. And you
can tell 'im I said so. It's 'igh time somebody hen-lightened 'is

"All right," said the Doctor, "I'll attend to that, too."

"Tell 'im," said Cheapside, "we'll expect two lumps of sugar on every
doorstep Christmas morning for the post-birds. No sugar, no letters!"

That afternoon the Doctor called upon the King and explained to him
the various things that Cheapside wanted. And His Majesty gave in
to them, every one. Beautiful brass knockers were screwed on all
the doors--light ones, which the birds could easily lift. And very
elegant they looked--by far the most up-to-date part of the ramshackle
dwellings. The double boxes were also put up, with one place for bills
and one for the letters.

[Illustration: "The double letter boxes of Fantippo"]

John Dolittle instructed King Koko as well in the meaning of Christmas
time, which should be a season for giving gifts. And among the
Fantippo people the custom of making presents at Christmas became very
general--not only to postmen, but to friends and relatives, too.

That is why when, several years after the Doctor had left this country,
some missionaries visited that part of Africa, they found to their
astonishment that Christmas was celebrated there, although the people
were heathens. But they never learned that the custom had been brought
about by Cheapside, the cheeky London sparrow.

And now very soon Cheapside took entire charge of the city delivery of
mails in Fantippo. Of course, as soon as the mail began to get heavy,
when the people got the habit of writing more to their friends and
relatives, Cheapside could not deal with all the mail himself. So he
sent a message by a swallow to get fifty sparrows from the streets of
London (who were, like himself, accustomed to city ways), to help him
with the delivery of letters. And around the native holiday seasons,
the Harvest Moon and the Coming of the Rains, he had to send for fifty
more to deal with the extra mail.

And if you happened to pass down the main street of Fantippo at nine in
the morning or four in the afternoon you would hear the _Rat-tat-tat_
of the post-sparrows, knocking on the doors--_Tat-tat_, if it was a
real letter, and just _Rat!_ if it was a bill.

Of course, they could not carry more than one or two letters at a
time--being such small birds. But it only took them a moment to fly
back to the houseboat for another load, where Too-Too was waiting for
them at the "city" window with piles of mail, sorted out into boxes
marked "_Central_," "_West Central_," "_Southwest_," etc., for the
different parts of the town. This was another idea of Cheapside's, to
divide up the city into districts, the same as they did in London,
so the mail could be delivered quickly without too much hunting for

Cheapside's help was, indeed, most valuable to the Doctor. The King
himself said that the mails were wonderfully managed. The letters were
brought regularly and never left at the wrong house.

He had only one fault, had Cheapside. And that was being cheeky.
Whenever he got into an argument his Cockney swearing was just
dreadful. And in spite of the Doctor's having issued orders time and
time again that he expected his post office clerks and mail birds to
be strictly polite to the public, Cheapside was always getting into
rows--which he usually started himself.

One day when King Koko's pet white peacock came to the Doctor and
complained that the Cockney sparrow had made faces at him over the
palace wall the Doctor became quite angry and read the City Manager a
long lecture.

[Illustration: "The royal peacock complained that Cheapside had made
faces at him"]

Then Cheapside got together a gang of his tough London sparrow friends
and one night they flew into the palace garden and mobbed the white
peacock and pulled three feathers out of his beautiful tail.

This last piece of rowdyism was too much for John Dolittle and, calling
up Cheapside, he discharged him on the spot--though he was very sorry
to do it.

But when the sparrow went all his London friends went with him and
the post office was left with no city birds to attend to the city
deliveries. The swallows and other birds tried their hardest to get
letters around to the houses properly. But they couldn't. And before
long complaints began to come in from the townspeople.

Then the Doctor was sorry and wished he hadn't discharged Cheapside,
who seemed to be the only one who could manage this part of the mails

But one day, to the Doctor's great delight--though he tried hard to
look angry--Cheapside strolled into the post office with a straw in the
corner of his mouth, looking as though nothing had happened.

John Dolittle had thought that he and his friends had gone home to
London. But they hadn't. They knew the Doctor would need them and they
had just hung around outside the town. And then the Doctor, after
lecturing Cheapside again about politeness, gave him back his job.

But the next day the rowdy little sparrow threw a bottle of post office
ink over the royal white peacock when he came to the houseboat with the
King to take tea. Then the Doctor discharged Cheapside again.

In fact, the Doctor used to discharge him for rudeness regularly about
once a month. And the city mails always got tied up soon after. But, to
the Doctor's great relief, the City Manager always came back just when
the tie-up was at its worst and put things right again.

Cheapside was a wonderful bird. But it seemed as though he just
couldn't go a whole month without being rude to somebody. The Doctor
said it was in his nature.



After the Doctor had written his first letter by Swallow Mail to the
Cats'-Meat-Man he began to think of all the other people to whom he
had neglected to write for years and years. And very soon every spare
moment he had was filled in writing to friends and acquaintances

And then, of course, there were the letters he sent to and received
from birds and animals all over the world. First he wrote to the
various bird leaders who were in charge of the branch offices at
Cape Horn, Thibet, Tahiti, Kashmir, Christmas Island, Greenland and
Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. To them he gave careful instructions how
the branch post offices were to be run--always insisting on strict
politeness from the post office clerks; and he answered all the
questions that the branch postmasters wrote asking for guidance.

And he sent letters to various fellow naturalists whom he knew in
different countries and gave them a whole lot of information about the
yearly flights or migration of birds. Because, of course, in the bird
mail business he learned a great deal on that subject that had never
been known to naturalists before.

Outside the post office he had a notice board set up on which were
posted the Outgoing and Incoming Mails. The notices would read
something like this:

    _Next Wednesday, July 18, the Red-Winged Plovers will leave this
    office for Denmark and points on the Skager Rack. Post your mail
    early, please. All letters should bear a four-penny stamp. Small
    packages will also be carried on this flight for Morocco, Portugal
    and the Channel Islands._

Whenever a new flight of birds were expected at No-Man's-Land the
Doctor always had a big supply of food of their particular kind got
ready for their arrival before-hand. He had at the big meeting with the
leaders put down in his notebook the dates of all the yearly flights of
the different kinds of birds, where they started from and where they
went to. And this notebook was kept with great care.

One day Speedy was sitting on top of the weighing scales while the
Doctor was sorting a large pile of outgoing letters. Suddenly the
Skimmer cried out:

"Great heavens, Doctor, I've gained an ounce! I'll never be able to fly
in the races again. Look, it says four and a half ounces!"

[Illustration: "'Great heavens, Doctor, I've gained an ounce!'"]

"No, Speedy," said the Doctor. "See, you have an ounce weight on the
pan as well as yourself. That makes you only three and a half ounces."

"Oh," said the Skimmer, "is that the trouble? I was never good at
arithmetic. What a relief! Thank goodness, I haven't gained!"

"Listen, Speedy," said the Doctor, "in this batch of mail we have a lot
of letters for Panama. What mails have we got going out to-morrow?"

"I'm not sure," said Speedy. "I'll go and look at the notice board. I
think it's the Golden Jays.... Yes," he said, coming back in a moment,
"that's right, the Golden Jays to-morrow, Tuesday, the 15th, weather

"Where are they bound for, Speedy?" asked the Doctor. "My notebook's in
the safe."

"From Dahomey to Venezuela," said Speedy, raising his right foot to
smother a yawn.

"Good," said John Dolittle. "Then they can take these Panama letters
for me. It won't be much out of their way. What do Golden Jays eat?"

"They are very fond of acorns," said Speedy.

"All right," said the Doctor. "Please tell Gub-Gub for me to go across
to the island and get the wild boars to gather up a couple of sacks of
acorns. I want all the birds who work for us to have a good feed before
they leave the Main Office for their flights."

The next morning when the Doctor woke up he heard a tremendous
chattering all around the post office and he knew that the Golden Jays
had arrived overnight. And after he had dressed and come out on to the
veranda, there, sure enough, they were--myriads of very handsome gold
and black birds, swarming everywhere, gossiping away at a great rate
and gobbling up the acorns laid out for them in bushels.

The leader, who already knew the Doctor, of course, came forward to get
orders and to see how much mail there was to be carried.

After everything had been arranged and the leader had decided he
need expect no tornadoes or bad weather for the next twenty-four
hours, he gave a command. Then all the birds rose in the air to fly
away--whistling farewell to Postmaster General Dolittle and the Head

"Oh, by the way, Doctor," said the leader, turning back a moment, "did
you ever hear of a man called Christopher Columbus?"

"Oh, surely," said the Doctor. "He discovered America in 1492."

"Well, I just wanted to tell you," said the Jay, "that if it hadn't
been for an ancestor of mine he wouldn't have discovered it in
1492--later perhaps, but not in 1492."

"Oh, indeed!" said John Dolittle. "Tell me more about it." And he
pulled a notebook out of his pocket and started to write.

"Well," said the Jay, "the story was handed down to me by my mother,
who heard it from my grandmother, who got it from my great-grandmother,
and so on, way back to an ancestor of ours who lived in America in the
fifteenth century. Our kind of birds in those days did not come across
to this side of the Atlantic, neither summer nor winter. We used to
spend from March to September in the Bermudas and the rest of the year
in Venezuela. And when we made the autumn journey south we used to stop
at the Bahama Islands to rest on the way.

"The fall of the year 1492 was a stormy season. Gales and squalls
were blowing up all the time and we did not get started on our trip
until the second week in October. My ancestor had been the leader of
the flock for a long time. But he had grown sort of old and feeble
and a younger bird was elected in his place to lead the Golden Jays
to Venezuela that year. The new leader was a conceited youngster,
and because he had been chosen he thought he knew everything about
navigation and weather and sea crossings.

"Shortly after the birds started they sighted, to their great
astonishment, a number of boats sailing on a westward course. This was
about half way between the Bermudas and the Bahamas. The ships were
much larger than anything they had ever seen before. All they had been
accustomed to up to that time were little canoes, with Indians in them.

"The new leader immediately got scared and gave the order for the Jays
to swing in further toward the land, so they wouldn't be seen by the
men who crowded these large boats. He was a superstitious leader and
anything he didn't understand he kept away from. But my ancestor did
not go with the flock, but made straight for the ships.

"He was gone about twenty minutes, and presently he flew after the
other birds and said to the new leader: 'Over there in those ships a
brave man is in great danger. They come from Europe, seeking land.
The sailors, not knowing how near they are to sighting it, have
mutinied against their admiral. I am an old bird and I know this brave
sea-farer. Once when I was making a crossing--the first I ever made--a
gale came up and I was separated from my fellows. For three days I
had to fly with the battering wind. And finally I was blown eastward
near the Old World. Just when I was ready to drop into the sea from
exhaustion I spied a ship. I simply had to rest. I was weather-beaten
and starving. So I made for the boat and fell half dead upon the
deck. The sailors were going to put me in a cage. But the captain of
the ship--this same navigator whose life is now threatened by his
rebellious crew in those ships over there--fed me crumbs and nursed
me back to life. Then he let me go free, to fly to Venezuela when the
weather was fair. We are land birds. Let us now save this good man's
life by going to his ship and showing ourselves to his sailors. They
will then know that land is near and be obedient to their captain."

"Yes, yes," said the Doctor. "Go on. I remember Columbus writing of
land birds in his diary. Go on."

"So," said the Jay, "the whole flock turned and made for Columbus's
fleet. They were only just in time. For the sailors were ready to kill
their admiral, who, they said, had brought them on a fool's errand to
find land where there was none. He must turn back and sail for Spain,
they said, or be killed.

[Illustration: "'The sailors were ready to kill their admiral'"]

"But when the sailors saw a great flock of land birds passing over the
ship going southwest instead of west, they took new heart, for they
were sure land must lie not far to the southwestward.

"So we led them on to the Bahamas. And on the seventh day, very early
in the morning, the crew, with a cry of 'Land! Land!' fell down upon
their knees and gave thanks to heaven. Watling's Island, one of the
smaller Bahamas, lay ahead of them, smiling in the sea.

"Then the sailors gathered about the admiral, Christopher Columbus,
whom a little before they were going to kill, and cheered and called
him the greatest navigator in the world--which, in truth, he was.

"But even Columbus himself never learned to his dying day that it was
the weather-beaten bird who had fallen on his friendly deck some years
before, who had led him by the shortest cut to the land of the New

"So you see, Doctor," the Jay ended, picking up his letters and getting
ready to fly, "if it hadn't been for my ancestor Christopher Columbus
would have had to turn back to please his sailors, or be killed. If
it hadn't been for him America would not have been discovered in
1492--later, perhaps, but not in 1492. Good-bye! I must be going.
Thanks for the acorns."



On the coast of West Africa, about twenty miles to the northward
of Fantippo, there was a cape running out into the sea which had a
lighthouse on it called the Cape Stephen Light. This light was kept
carefully burning by the government who controlled that part of Africa,
in order that ships should see it from the sea and know where they
were. It was a dangerous part of the coast, this. There were many rocks
and shallows near the end of Cape Stephen. And if the light were ever
allowed to go out at night, of course, ships traveling that part of the
sea would be in great danger of running into the long cape and wrecking

[Illustration: "There were many rocks and shallows near the end of Cape

Now, one evening not long after the Golden Jays had gone west, the
Doctor was writing letters in the post office by the light of a candle.
It was late and all the animals were fast asleep long ago. Presently
while he wrote he heard a sound a long way off, coming through the open
window at his elbow. He put down his pen and listened.

It was the sound of a seabird, calling away out at sea. Now, seabirds
don't, as a rule, call very much unless they are in great numbers. This
call sounded like a single bird. The Doctor put his head through the
window and looked out.

It was a dark night, as black as pitch, and he couldn't see a
thing--especially as his eyes were used to the light of the candle. The
mysterious call was repeated again and again, like a cry of distress
from the sea. The Doctor didn't know quite what to make of it. But soon
he thought it seemed to be coming nearer. And, grabbing his hat, he ran
out on to the veranda.

"What is it? What's the matter?" he shouted into the darkness over the

He got no answer. But soon, with a rush of wings that nearly blew his
candle out, a great seagull swept down on to the houseboat rail beside

"Doctor," panted the gull, "the Cape Stephen Light is out. I don't
know what's the matter. It has never gone out before. We use it as a
land-mark, you know, when we are flying after dark. The night's as
black as ink. I'm afraid some ship will surely run into the cape. I
thought I'd come and tell you."

"Good heavens!" cried the Doctor. "What can have happened? There's a
lighthouse keeper living there to attend to it. Was it lighted earlier
in the evening?"

"I don't know," said the gull. "I was coming in from catching
herring--they're running just now, you know, a little to the North.
And, expecting to see the light, I lost my way and flew miles too far
south. When I found out my mistake I went back, flying close down by
the shore. And I came to Stephen Cape, but it had no light. It was
black as anything. And I would have run right into the rocks myself if
I hadn't been going carefully."

"How far would it be from here?" asked John Dolittle.

"Well, by land it would be twenty-five miles to where the lighthouse
stands," said the gull. "But by water it would be only about twelve, I
should say."

"All right," said the Doctor, hurrying into his coat. "Wait just a
moment till I wake Dab-Dab."

The Doctor ran into the post office kitchen and woke the poor
housekeeper, who was slumbering soundly beside the kitchen stove.

"Listen, Dab-Dab!" said the Doctor, shaking her. "Wake up! The Cape
Stephen Light's gone out!"

"Whazhat?" said Dab-Dab, sleepily opening her eyes. "Stove's gone out?"

"No, the lighthouse on Cape Stephen," said the Doctor. "A gull just
came and told me. The shipping's in danger. Wrecks, you know, and all
that. Wake up and look sensible, for pity's sake!"

At last poor Dab-Dab, fully awakened, understood what was the matter.
And in a moment she was up and doing.

"I know where it is, Doctor. I'll fly right over there.--No, I won't
need the gull to guide me. You keep him to show you the way. Follow me
immediately in the canoe. If I can find out anything I'll come back and
meet you half way. If not, I'll wait for you by the lighthouse tower.
Thank goodness, it's a calm night, anyway--even if it is dark!"

With a flap of her wings, Dab-Dab flew right through the open window
and was gone into the night, while the Doctor grabbed his little black
medicine bag and, calling to the gull to follow him, ran down to the
other end of the houseboat, untied the canoe and jumped in. Then he
pushed off, headed around the island of No-Man's-Land and paddled for
all he was worth for the seaward end of Cape Stephen.

About half way to the long neck of land that jutted out into the gloomy
ocean the Doctor's canoe was met by Dab-Dab--though how she found it in
the darkness, with only the sound of the paddle to guide her, goodness
only knows.

"Doctor," said she, "if the lighthouse keeper is in there at all he
must be sick, or something. I hammered on the windows, but nobody

"Dear me!" muttered the Doctor, paddling harder than ever, "I wonder
what can have happened?"

"And that's not the worst," said Dab-Dab. "On the far side of the
cape--you can't see it from here--there's the headlight of a big
sailing ship, bearing down southward, making straight for the rocks.
They can't see the lighthouse and they don't know what danger they're

"Good Lord!" groaned the Doctor, and he nearly broke the paddle as he
churned the water astern to make the canoe go faster yet.

"How far off the rocks is the ship now?" asked the gull.

"About a mile, I should say," said Dab-Dab. "But she's a big
one--judging by the height of her mast-light--and she won't be long
before she's aground on the cape."

"Keep right on, Doctor," said the gull. "I'm going off to get some
friends of mine."

And the seagull spread his wings and flew away toward the land, calling
the same cry as the Doctor had heard through the post office window.

John Dolittle had no idea of what he meant to do. Nor was the gull
himself sure that he would be in time to succeed with the plan he had
in mind. But presently, to his delight, the seabird heard his call
being answered from the rocky shores shrouded in darkness. And soon he
had hundreds of his brother gulls circling round him in the night.

Then he took them to the great ship, which was sailing calmly onward
toward the rocks and destruction. And there, going forward to where the
helmsman held the spokes of the wheel and watched the compass swinging
before him in the light of a little, dim lamp, the gulls started
dashing themselves into the wheelman's face and covering the glass of
the compass, so he could not steer the ship.

[Illustration: "The gulls dashed themselves into the wheelman's face"]

The helmsman, battling with the birds, set up a yell for help, saying
he couldn't see to steer the boat. Then the officers and sailors rushed
up to his assistance and tried to beat the birds off.

In the meantime the Doctor, in his canoe, had reached the end of Cape
Stephen and, springing ashore, he scrambled up the rocks to where the
great tower of the lighthouse rose skyward over the black, unlighted
sea. Feeling and fumbling, he found the door and hammered on it,
yelling to be let in. But no one answered him. And Dab-Dab whispered
in a hoarse voice that the light of the ship was nearer now--less than
half a mile from the rocks.

Then the Doctor drew back for a run and threw his whole weight against
the door. But the hinges and lock had been made to stand the beating of
the sea and they budged no more than if he had been a fly.

At last, with a roar of rage, the Doctor grabbed up a rock from the
ground as big as a chair and banged it with all his might against the
lock of the lighthouse door. With a crash the door flew open and the
Doctor sprang within.

On the ship the seamen were still fighting with the gulls. The captain,
seeing that no helmsman could steer the boat right with thousands of
wings fluttering in his eyes, gave the orders to lay the ship to for a
little and to get out the hose pipes. And a strong stream of water was
turned on to the gulls around the helmsman, so they could no longer get
near him. Then the ship got under way again and came on toward the cape
once more.

Inside the lighthouse the Doctor found the darkness blacker still. With
hands outstretched before him, he hurried forward and the first thing
he did was to stumble over a man who was lying on the floor just within
the door. Without waiting to see what was the matter with him, the
Doctor jumped over his body and began to grope his way up the winding
stairs of the tower that led to the big lamp at the top.

Meanwhile Dab-Dab stayed below at the door, looking out over the sea at
the mast light of the ship--which, after a short delay, was now coming
on again toward the rocks. At any minute she expected the great beam of
the lighthouse lamp to flare out over the sea, as soon as the Doctor
should get it lit, to warn the sailors of their danger. But, instead,
she presently heard the Doctor's agonized voice calling from the head
of the stairs:

"Dab-Dab! Dab-Dab! I can't light it. _We forgot to bring matches!_"

"Well, what have you _done_ with the matches, Doctor?" called Dab-Dab.
"They were always in your coat."

"I left them beside my pipe on the information desk," came the Doctor's
voice from the top of the dark stairs. "But there must be matches in
the lighthouse somewhere. We must find them."

"What chance have we of that?" shouted Dab-Dab. "It's as black as black
down here. And the ship is coming nearer every minute."

"Feel in the man's pockets," called John Dolittle. "Hurry!"

In a minute Dab-Dab went through the pockets of the man who lay so
still upon the floor.

"He hasn't any matches on him," she shouted. "Not a single one."

"Confound the luck!" muttered John Dolittle.

And then there was a solemn silence in the lighthouse while the Doctor
above and Dab-Dab below thought gloomily of that big ship sailing
onward to her wreck because they had no matches.

But suddenly out of the black stillness came a small, sweet voice,
singing, somewhere near.

"Dab-Dab!" cried the Doctor in a whisper. "Do you hear that? A
canary! There's a canary singing somewhere--probably in a cage in the
lighthouse kitchen!"

In a moment he was clattering down the stairs.

"Come on," he cried. "We must find the kitchen. That canary will know
where the matches are kept. Find the kitchen!"

Then the two of them went stumbling around in the darkness, feeling
the walls, and presently they came upon a low door, opened it and
fell headlong down a short flight of steps that led to the lighthouse
kitchen. This was a little underground room, like a cellar, cut out of
the rock on which the lighthouse stood. If there was any fire or stove
in it it had long since gone out, for the darkness here was as black as
anywhere else. But as soon as the door had opened, the trills of the
song bird grew louder.

"Tell me," called John Dolittle, in canary language, "where are the
matches? Quick!"

"Oh, at last you've come," said a high, small, polite voice out of
the darkness. "Would you mind putting a cover over my cage? There's a
draught and I can't sleep. Nobody's been near me since midday. I don't
know what can have happened to the keeper. He always covers up my
cage at tea-time. But to-night I wasn't covered at all, so I went on
singing. You'll find my cover up on the----"

"_Matches! Matches!_ Where are the matches?" screamed Dab-Dab. "The
light's out and there's a ship in danger! Where are the matches kept?"

"On the mantelpiece, next to the pepper box," said the canary. "Come
over here to my cage and feel along to your left--high up--and your
hand will fall right on them."

The Doctor sprang across the room, upsetting a chair on his way, and
felt along the wall. His hand touched the corner of a stone shelf and
the next moment Dab-Dab gave a deep sigh of relief, for she heard the
cheerful rattle of a box of matches as the Doctor fumbled to strike a

"You'll find a candle on the table--there--look--behind you," said the
canary, when the match light dimly lit up the kitchen.

With trembling fingers the Doctor lit the candle. Then, shielding the
flame with his hand, he bounded out of the room and up the stairs.

[Illustration: "The Doctor lit the candle"]

"At last!" he muttered. "Let's hope I'm not too late!"

At the head of the kitchen steps he met the seagull coming into the
lighthouse with two companions.

"Doctor," cried the gull, "we held off the ship as long as we could.
But the stupid sailors, not knowing we were trying to save them, turned
hoses on us and we had to give up. The ship is terribly near now."

Without a word the Doctor sped on up the winding steps of the tower.
Round and round he went, upward, till he was ready to drop from

At length reaching the great glass lamp chamber at the top, he set down
his candle and, striking two matches at once he held one in each hand
and lit the big wick in two places.

By this time Dab-Dab had gone outside again and was watching over the
sea for the oncoming ship. And when at last the great light from the
big lamp at the top of the tower suddenly flared out over the sea there
was the bow of the vessel, not more than a hundred yards from the rocky
shore of the cape!

Then came a cry from the look-out, shouted orders from the captain,
much blowing of whistles and ringing of bells. And just in time to save
herself from a watery grave, the big ship swung her nose out to sea and
sailed safely past upon her way.



The morning sun peeping in at the window of the lighthouse found the
Doctor still working over the keeper where he lay at the foot of the
tower stairs.

"He's coming to," said Dab-Dab. "See, his eyes are beginning to blink."

"Get me some more clean water from the kitchen," said the Doctor, who
was bathing a large lump on the side of the man's head.

Presently the keeper opened his eyes wide and stared up into the
Doctor's face.

"Who?----What?"----he murmured stupidly. "The light!--I must attend
to the light!--I must attend to the light!" and he struggled weakly to
get up.

"It's all right," said the Doctor. "The light has been lit. And it's
nearly day now. Here, drink this. Then you'll feel better."

And the Doctor held some medicine to his lips which he had taken from
the little black bag.

In a short while the man grew strong enough to stand on his feet. Then,
with the Doctor's help, he walked as far as the kitchen, where John
Dolittle and Dab-Dab made him comfortable in an armchair, lit the stove
and cooked his breakfast for him.

[Illustration: "The Doctor and Dab-Dab cooked his breakfast for him"]

"I'm mighty grateful to you, stranger, whoever you be," said the man.
"Usually there's two of us here, me and my partner, Fred. But yesterday
morning I let Fred go off with the ketch to get oysters. That's why I'm
alone. I was coming down the stairs about noon, from putting new wicks
in the lamp, when my foot slipped and I took a tumble to the bottom. My
head fetched up against the wall and knocked the senses right out of
me. How long I lay there before you found me I don't know."

"Well, all's well that ends well," said the Doctor. "Take this; you
must be nearly starved."

And he handed the keeper a large cup of steaming coffee.

About ten o'clock in the morning Fred, the partner, returned in the
little sail-boat from his oyster-gathering expedition. He was very
much worried when he heard of the accident which had happened while he
had been off duty. Fred, like the other keeper, was a Londoner and a
seaman. He was a pleasant fellow and both he and his partner (who was
now almost entirely recovered from his injury) were very glad of the
Doctor's company to break the tiresome dullness of their lonely life.

They took John Dolittle all over the lighthouse to see the workings of
it. And outside they showed him with great pride the tiny garden of
tomatoes and nasturtiums which they had planted near the foot of the

They only got a holiday once a year, they told John Dolittle, when a
government ship stopped near Cape Stephen and took them back to England
for six weeks' vacation, leaving two other men in their place to take
care of the light while they were gone.

They asked the Doctor if he could give them any news of their beloved
London. But he had to admit that he also had been away from that city
for a long time. However, while they were talking Cheapside came into
the lighthouse kitchen, looking for the Doctor. The city sparrow was
delighted to find that the keepers were also Cockneys. And he gave
them, through the Doctor, all the latest gossip of Wapping, Limehouse,
the East India Docks and the wharves and the shipping of London River.

The two keepers thought that the Doctor was surely crazy when he
started a conversation of chirps with Cheapside. But from the answers
they got to their questions they could see there was no fake about the
news of the city which the sparrow gave.

Cheapside said the faces of those two Cockney seamen were the best
scenery he had looked on since he had come to Africa. And after that
first visit he was always flying over to the lighthouse in his spare
time to see his new friends. Of course, he couldn't talk to them,
because neither of them knew sparrow talk--not even Cockney sparrow
talk. But Cheapside loved being with them, anyway.

"They're such a nice, wholesome, Christian change," he said, "after
these 'ere 'eathen hidolaters. And you should just hear Fred sing 'See
That My Grave's Kept Green.'"

The lighthouse keepers were sorry to have the Doctor go and they
wouldn't let him leave till he promised to come and take dinner with
them next Sunday.

Then, after they had loaded his canoe with a bushel of rosy tomatoes
and a bouquet of nasturtiums, the Doctor, with Dab-Dab and Cheapside,
paddled away for Fantippo, while the keepers waved to them from the
lighthouse door.

The Doctor had not paddled very far on his return journey to the post
office when the seagull who had brought the news of the light overtook

"Everything all right now, Doctor?" he asked as he swept in graceful
circles around the canoe.

"Yes," said John Dolittle, munching a tomato. "The man got an awful
crack on the head from that fall. But he will be all over it in a
little while. If it hadn't been for the canary, though, who told us
where the matches were--and for you, too, holding back the sailors--we
would never have saved that ship."

The Doctor threw a tomato skin out of the canoe and the gull caught it
neatly in the air before it touched the water.

"Well, I'm glad we were in time," said the bird.

"Tell me," asked the Doctor, watching him thoughtfully as he hovered
and swung and curved around the tiny boat, "what made you come and
bring me the news about the light? Gulls don't, as a rule, bother much
about people or what happens to ships, do they?"

"You're mistaken, Doctor," said the gull, catching another skin with
deadly accuracy. "Ships and the men in them are very important to
us--not so much down here in the South. But up North, why, if it wasn't
for the ships in the winter we gulls would often have a hard time
finding enough to eat. You see, after it gets cold fish and sea foods
become sort of scarce. Sometimes we make out by going up the rivers
to towns and hanging about the artificial lakes in parks where fancy
waterfowl are kept. The people come to the parks and throw biscuits
into the lakes for the waterfowl. But if we are around the biscuits get
caught before they hit the lake--like that," and the gull snatched a
third tomato skin on the wing with a lightning lunge.

[Illustration: "The gull caught the tomato skin with a lightning lunge"]

"But you were speaking of ships," said the Doctor.

"Yes," the gull went on--rather indistinctly, because his mouth was
full of tomato skin--"we find ships much better for winter feeding. You
see, it isn't really fair of us to go and bag all the food from the
fancy waterfowl in parks. So we never do it unless we have to. Usually
in winter we stick to the ships. Why, two years ago I and a cousin of
mine lived the whole year round following ships for the food scraps the
stewards threw out into the sea. The rougher the weather, the more food
we get, because then the passengers don't feel like eating and most
of the grub gets thrown out. Yes, I and my cousin attached ourselves,
as it were, to the _Transatlantic Packet Line_, which runs ships
from Glasgow to Philadelphia, and traveled back and forth with them
across the ocean dozens of trips. But later on we changed over to the
_Binnacle Line_--Tilbury to Boston."

"Why?" asked the Doctor.

"We found they ran a better table for their passengers. With the
_Binnacle_, who threw us out morning biscuits, afternoon tea and
sandwiches last thing at night--as well as three square meals a day--we
lived like fighting cocks. It nearly made sailors of us for good. It's
a great life--all you do is eat. I should say gulls are interested in
men and ships, Doctor--very much so. Why, I wouldn't have an accident
happen to a ship for anything--especially a passenger ship."

"Humph! That's very interesting," murmured the Doctor. "And have you
seen many accidents--ships in trouble?"

"Oh, heaps of times," said the gull--"storms, collisions at night,
ships going aground in the fog, and the rest. Oh, yes, I've seen lots
of boats in trouble at sea."

"Ah!" said the Doctor, looking up from his paddling. "See, we are
already back at the post office. And there's the pushmi-pullyu ringing
the lunch bell. We're just in time. I smell liver and bacon--these
tomatoes will go with it splendidly. Won't you come in and join us?" he
asked the gull. "I would like to hear more about your life with ships.
You've given me an idea."

"Thank you," said the gull. "I am feeling kind of peckish myself. You
are very kind. This is the first time I've eaten ship's food _inside_ a

And when the canoe was tied up they went into the houseboat and sat
down to lunch at the kitchen table.

"Well, now," said the Doctor to the gull as soon as they were seated,
"you were speaking of fogs. What do you do yourself in that kind of
weather--I mean, you can't see any more in the fog than the sailors
can, can you?"

"No," said the gull, "we can't _see_ any more, it is true. But, my
goodness! If we were as helpless in a fog as the sailors are we'd
always be lost. What we do, if we are going anywhere special and we run
into a fog, is to fly up above it--way up where the air is clear. Then
we can find our way as well as ever."

"I see," said the Doctor. "But the storms, what do you do in them to
keep yourselves safe?"

"Well, of course, in storms--bad storms--even seabirds can't always go
where they want. We seagulls never try to battle our way against a real
gale. The petrels sometimes do, but we don't. It is too tiring, and
even when you can come down and rest on the water, swimming, every once
in a while, it's a dangerous game. We fly with the storm--just let it
carry us where it will. Then when the wind dies down we come back and
finish our journey."

"But that takes a long time, doesn't it?" asked the Doctor.

"Oh, yes," said the gull, "it wastes a little time. But, you know, we
very seldom let ourselves get caught by a storm."

"How do you mean?" asked John Dolittle.

"We know, before we reach one, where it is. And we go around it. No
experienced sea bird ever runs his head into a bad storm."

"But how do you know where the storms are?" asked the Doctor.

"Well," said the gull, "I suppose two great advantages we birds have
over the sailors in telling when and where to expect bad weather are
our good eyesight and our experience. For one thing, we can always rise
high in the air and look over the sea for a distance of fifty or sixty
miles. Then if we see gales approaching we can turn and run for it.
And we can put on more speed than the fastest gale that ever blew. And
then, another thing, our experience is so much better than sailors'.
Sailors, poor duffers, think they know the sea--that they spend their
life on it. They don't--believe me, they don't. Half the time they
spend in the cabin, part of the time they spend on shore and a lot of
the time they spend sleeping. And even when they are on deck they're
not always looking at the sea. They fiddle around with ropes and paint
brushes and mops and buckets. You very seldom see a sailor _looking_ at
the sea."

"I suppose they get rather tired of it, poor fellows!" murmured the

"Maybe. But, after all, if you want to be a good seaman the sea is
the thing that counts, isn't it? That's the thing you've got to look
at--to study. Now, we sea birds spend nearly all our lives, night and
day, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, _looking at the sea_. And what
is the result?" asked the gull, taking a fresh piece of toast from the
rack that Dab-Dab handed him. "The result is this: we _know_ the sea.
Why, Doctor, if you were to shut me up in a little box with no windows
in it and take me out into the middle of any ocean you liked and then
opened the box and let me look at the sea--even if there wasn't a speck
of land in sight--I could tell you what ocean it was, and, almost to a
mile, what part of it we were in. But, of course, I'd have to know what
date it was."

[Illustration: "The gull took a fresh piece of toast"]

"Marvelous!" cried the Doctor. "How do you do it?"

"From the color of it; from the little particles of things that float
in it; from the kind of fishes and sea creatures swimming in it; from
the way the little ripples rippled and the big waves waved; from the
smell of it; from the taste, the saltness of it and a couple of hundred
other things. But, you know, in most cases--not always, but in most
cases--I could tell you where we were with my eyes shut, as soon as I
got out of the box, just from the wind blowing on my feathers."

"Great heavens!" the Doctor exclaimed. "You don't say!"

"That's the main trouble with sailors, Doctor. They don't know winds
the way they ought. They can tell a northeast wind from a west wind.
And a strong one from a weak one. And that's about all. But when you've
spent most of your life, the way we have, flying among the winds, using
them to climb on, to swoop on and to hover on, you get to know that
there's a lot more to a wind besides its direction and its strength.
How often it puffs upward or downward, how often it grows weak or grows
strong, will tell you, if you know the science of winds, a whole lot."



When the lunch was over the Doctor took an armchair beside the kitchen
stove and lit his pipe. "I am thinking," he said to the gull, "of
starting a new department in my post office. Many of the birds who have
helped me in this mail business seem to be remarkably good weather
prophets. And what you have just told me about your knowledge of the
sea and storms has given me the idea of opening a weather bureau."

[Illustration: "The Doctor took an armchair beside the kitchen stove"]

"What's that?" asked Jip, who was brushing up the table crumbs, to be
put out later for the birds on the houseboat deck.

"A weather bureau," said the Doctor, "is a very important
thing--especially for shipping and farmers. It is an office for telling
you what kind of weather you're going to have."

"How do they do it?" asked Gub-Gub.

"They don't," said the Doctor--"at least they do sometimes. But as
often as not they're wrong. They do it with instruments--thermometers,
barometers, hygrometers and wind gauges and things. But most weather
bureaus so far have been pretty poor. I think I can do much better with
my birds. They very seldom go wrong in prophesying the weather."

"Well, for what parts of the world do you want to know the weather,
Doctor?" asked the gull. "If it's just for Fantippo or West Africa it
will be easy as pie. All you ever get here is tornadoes. The rest of
the year is just frying heat. But if you want to prophesy the weather
for the Straits of Magellan or Nova Zembla or those countries where
they have all sorts of fancy weathers, it will be a different matter.
Even prophesying the weather for England would keep you busy. Myself, I
never thought that the weather itself knew what it was going to do next
in England."

"The English climate's all right," put in Cheapside, his feathers
ruffling up for a fight. "Don't you get turning up your long nautical
nose at England, my lad. What do you call this 'ere? A climate? Well,
I should call it a Turkish bath. In England we like variety in our
climate. And we get it. That's why Englishmen 'ave such 'earty red
faces. 'Ere the poor creatures turn black."

"I would like," said the Doctor, "to be able to prophesy weather for
every part of the world. I really don't see why I shouldn't; this
office, together with my branch offices, is in communication with birds
going to every corner of the earth. I could improve the farming and the
agriculture of the whole human race. But also, and especially, I want
to have a bureau for ocean weather, to help the ships."

"Ah," said the gull, "for land weather I wouldn't be much help to you.
But when it comes to the oceans, I know a bird who can tell you more
about sea weather than any bureau ever knew."

"Oh," said the Doctor, "who is that?"

"We call him One Eye," said the gull. "He's an old, old albatross.
Nobody knows how old. He lost an eye fighting with a fish eagle over a
flounder. But he's the most marvelous weather prophet that ever lived.
All sea birds have the greatest respect for his opinions. He has never
been known to make a mistake."

"Indeed?" said the Doctor. "I would like very much to meet him."

"I'll get him for you," said the gull. "His home is not very far from
here--out on a rock off the Angola coast. He lives there because the
shellfish are so plentiful on the rock and he's too feeble--with his
bad sight--to catch the other kinds of livelier fish. It's a sort of
dull life for his old age, after all the great traveling he has done.
He'll be no end pleased to know you want his help. I'll go and tell him
right away."

"That will be splendid," said the Doctor. "I think your friend should
be very helpful to us."

So the gull, after thanking the Doctor and Dab-Dab for a very excellent
luncheon, took a couple of postcards which were going to Angola and
flew off to get One Eye, the albatross.

Later in the afternoon the gull returned and with him came the great
One Eye, oldest of bird weather prophets.

The Doctor said afterward that he had never seen a bird who reminded
him so much of a sailor. He had the rolling, straddling walk of a
seafaring man; he smelt strongly of fish; and whenever he spoke of the
weather he had an odd trick of squinting up at the sky with his one
eye, the way old sailors often do.

He agreed with the Doctor that the idea of a bird weather bureau was
quite a possible thing and would lead to much better weather reports
than had so far been possible. Then for a whole hour and a half he gave
the Doctor a lecture on winds. Every word of this John Dolittle wrote
down in a notebook.

Now the wind is the chief thing that changes the weather. And if,
for instance, you know that it is raining in the Channel Islands at
tea-time on a Thursday--and there's a northeast wind blowing--you can
be pretty sure that the rain will reach England some time Thursday

The next thing that the Doctor did was to write to all the branch
postmasters and have them arrange exactly with the different kinds
of birds a time for them to start their yearly migrations--not just
the second week in November, or anything like that--but an exact day
and hour. Then by knowing how fast each kind of bird flies, he could
calculate almost to a minute what time they should arrive at their
destination. And if they were late in arriving, then he would know that
bad weather had delayed them on the way or that they had put off their
starting till storms died down.

The Doctor, the gull, One Eye, Dab-Dab, Cheapside, Speedy-the-Skimmer
and Too-Too the mathematician put their heads together and discussed
far into the night, working out a whole lot more arrangements and
particulars for running a good weather bureau. And a few weeks later
a second brand new notice board appeared on the walls of the Doctor's
post office, beside the one for Outgoing and Incoming Mails.

The new notice board was marked at the top _Weather Reports_, and would
read something like this:

    _The Green Herons were one day, three hours and nine minutes late
    in their arrival at Cape Horn from the Sandwich Islands. Wind
    coming south-southeast. Blustery weather can be expected along the
    west coast of Chili and light gales in the Antarctic Sea._

And then the land birds, particularly those that live on berries, were
very helpful to the Doctor in telling him by letter if the Winter was
going to be a hard one or not in their particular country. And he used
to write to farmers all over the world, advising them whether they
could expect a sharp frost, a wet Spring or a dry Summer--which, of
course, helped them in their farming tremendously.

And then the Fantippans, who so far had been very timid about going
far out to sea on account of storms, now that they had a good weather
bureau and knew what weather to expect, began building larger
sailboats, instead of their little frail canoes. And they became what
is called a mercantile nation, traded up and down the shores of West
Africa, and even went as far south as the Cape of Good Hope and entered
the Indian Ocean to traffic in goods with people of foreign lands.

This made the kingdom of Fantippo much richer and more important than
it had been before, of course. And a large grant of money was given by
the King to the Foreign Mails post office, which was used by the Doctor
in making the houseboat better and bigger.

And soon the No-Man's-Land Weather Bureau began to get known abroad.
The farmers in England, who had received such good weather reports by
letter from the Doctor, went up to London and told the government that
their own reports were no good, that a certain John Dolittle, M.D., was
writing them much better reports from some place in Africa.

And the government got quite worked up about it. And they sent the
Royal Meteorologist, an old gray-haired weather man, down to Fantippo
to see how the Doctor was doing it.

[Illustration: "John Dolittle saw him snooping around the post office"]

John Dolittle saw him one day, snooping around the post office, looking
at the notice boards and trying to find out things. But he found out
nothing. And when he got back to England he said to the government:

"He hasn't any new instruments at all. The man's a fake. All he has
down there is an old barge and a whole lot of messy birds flying



The educational side of the Doctor's post office was a very important
one and it grew all the time. As he had said to the Skimmer at the
beginning, as soon as the birds and animals realized the helpfulness of
having a post office of their own they used it more and more.

And, of course, as Speedy had foretold, they wrote most of their
letters to the Doctor. Soon the poor man was swamped with mail, asking
for medical advice. The Esquimaux sleigh dogs wrote all the way from
the Arctic Continent to know what they should do about their hair
falling out. Hair--which was all the poor creatures had to keep them
warm against the Polar winds--was, of course, very important to them.
And John Dolittle spent a whole Saturday and Sunday experimenting with
hair tonics on Jip to find a way to cure their trouble. Jip was very
patient about it, knowing that the Doctor was doing it for the good
of his fellow dogs. And he did not grumble--although he did mention
to Dab-Dab that he felt like a chemist's shop from all the different
hair oils the Doctor had used on him. He said they ruined his keen nose
entirely for two weeks, so he couldn't smell straight.

[Illustration: "The Doctor experimented on Jip"]

And besides the letters asking for medical advice, the Doctor got all
sorts of requests from animals all over the world for information
about food for their babies, nesting materials and a thousand other
things. In their new thirst for education the animals asked all manner
of questions, some of which neither the Doctor nor anybody else
could answer: What were the stars made of? Why did the tide rise and
fall--and could it be stopped?

Then, in order to deal with this wide demand for information which had
been brought about by his post office, John Dolittle started, for the
first time in history, courses by correspondence for animals.

And he had printed forms made, called "Things a Young Rabbit Should
Know," "The Care of Feet in Frosty Weather," etc., etc. These he sent
out by mail in thousands.

And then because so many letters were written him about good manners
and proper behavior, he wrote a "Book of Etiquette for Animals." It is
still a very famous work, though copies of it are rare now. But when he
wrote it the Doctor printed a first edition of fifty thousand copies
and sent them all out by mail in one week. It was at this time, too,
that he wrote and circulated another very well-known book of his called
"One-Act Plays for Penguins."

But, alas! instead of making the number of letters he had to answer
less, the Doctor found that by sending out books of information he
increased a hundredfold the already enormous mail he had to attend to.

This is a letter he received from a pig in Patagonia:

    "Dear Doctor--I have read your 'Book of Etiquette for Animals' and
    liked it very much. I am shortly to be married. Would it be proper
    for me to ask the guests to bring turnips to my wedding, instead
    of flowers?

    "In introducing one well-bred pig to another should you say 'Miss
    Virginia Ham, "_meet_" Mr. Frank Footer,' or 'Get acquainted?'

    "Yours truly,


    "P. S.--I have always worn my engagement ring in my nose. Is this
    the right place?"

And the Doctor wrote back:

    "Dear Bertha--In introducing one pig to another I would avoid using
    the word '_meet_.' 'Get acquainted' is quite all right. Remember
    that the object of all etiquette and manners should be to make
    people comfortable--not uncomfortable.

    "I think turnips at a wedding quite proper. You might ask the
    guests to leave the tops on. They will then look more like a

    "Sincerely yours,





The next thing I must tell you about is the Prize Story Competition:
The fame of the Puddleby fireside-circle, where the Doctor had amused
his pets with so many interesting tales, had become quite a famous
institution. Too-Too had gossiped about it; Gub-Gub, Jip and the white
mouse had boasted of it. (You see, they were always proud that they
could say they were part of the great man's regular household.) And
before long, through this new post office of their own, creatures all
over the world were speaking of it and discussing it by letter. Next
thing, the Doctor began to receive requests for stories by mail. He had
become equally famous as an animal doctor, an animal educator and an
animal author.

From the Far North letters came in by the dozen from polar bears and
walruses and foxes asking that he send them some light entertaining
reading as well as his medical pamphlets and books of etiquette.
The winter nights (weeks and weeks long up there) grew frightfully
monotonous, they said, after their own supply of stories had run
out--because you couldn't possibly sleep all the time and something
had to be done for amusement on the lonely ice-floes and in the dens
and lairs beneath the blizzard-swept snow. For some time the Doctor
was kept so busy with more serious things that he was unable to attend
to it. But he kept it in mind until he should be able to think out the
best way of dealing with the problem.

Now his pets, after the post office work got sort of settled and
regular, often found it somewhat hard to amuse themselves in the
evenings. One night they were all sitting around on the veranda of the
houseboat wondering what game they could play when Jip suddenly said:

"I know what we can do--let's get the Doctor to tell us a story."

"Oh, you've heard all my stories," said the Doctor. "Why don't you play

"The houseboat isn't big enough," said Dab-Dab. "Last time we played it
Gub-Gub got stuck by the pushmi-pullyu's horns. You've got plenty of
stories. Tell us one, Doctor--just a short one."

"Well, but what shall I tell you a story about?" asked John Dolittle.

"About a turnip field," said Gub-Gub.

"No, that won't do," said Jip. "Doctor, why don't you do what you did
sometimes by the fire in Puddleby--turn your pockets out upon the table
till you come to something that reminds you of a story--you remember?"

"All right," said the Doctor. "But----"

And then an idea came to him.

"Look here," he said: "You know I've been asked for stories by mail.
The creatures around the North Pole wanted some light reading for the
long winter nights. I'm going to start an animals' magazine for them.
I'm calling it _The Arctic Monthly_. It will be sent by mail and be
distributed by the Nova Zembla branch office. So far, so good. But
the great problem is how to get sufficient stories and pictures and
articles and things to fill a monthly magazine--no easy matter. Now
listen, if I tell you animals a story to-night, you'll have to do
something to help me with my new magazine. Every night when you want
to amuse yourselves we'll take it in turns to tell a story. That will
give us seven stories right away. There will be only one story printed
each month--the rest of the magazine will be news of the day, a medical
advice column, a babies' and mothers' page and odds and ends. Then
we'll have a Prize Story Competition. The readers shall judge which is
the best; and when they write to us here and tell us, we'll give the
prize to the winner. What do you say?"

"What a splendid idea!" cried Gub-Gub. "I'll tell my story to-morrow
night. I know a good one. Now go ahead, Doctor."

Then John Dolittle started turning his trousers pockets out onto the
table to try and find something that reminded him of a story. It was
certainly a wonderful collection of objects that he brought forth.
There were pieces of string and pieces of wire, stub ends of pencils,
pocket-knives with the blades broken, coat buttons, boot buttons, a
magnifying glass, a compass and a corkscrew.

[Illustration: "It was certainly a wonderful collection of objects"]

"There doesn't seem to be anything very hopeful there," said the Doctor.

"Try in your waistcoat pockets," said Too-Too. "They were always the
most interesting. You haven't turned them out since you left Puddleby.
There must be lots in them."

So the Doctor turned out his waistcoat pockets. These brought forth
two watches (one that went and one that didn't), a measuring tape, a
piece of cobbler's wax, a penny with a hole through it and a clinical

"What's that?" asked Gub-Gub, pointing to the thermometer.

"That's for taking people's temperature with," said the Doctor. "Oh,
that reminds me----"

"Of a story?" cried Too-Too.

"I knew it would," said Jip. "A thing like that must have a story to
it. What's the name of the story, Doctor?"

"Well," said the Doctor, settling himself back in his chair, "I think
I'll call this story 'The Invalids' Strike.'"

"What's a strike?" asked Gub-Gub.

"And what on earth is an invalid?" cried the pushmi-pullyu.

"A strike," said the Doctor, "is when people stop doing their own
particular work in order to get somebody else to give them what they
want. And an invalid--well, an invalid is a person who is always--er,
more or less--ill."

"But what kind of work is invalids' work?" asked the white mouse.

"Their work is--er, staying--ill," said the Doctor. "Stop asking
questions or I'll never get this story started."

"Wait a minute," said Gub-Gub. "My foot's gone to sleep."

"Oh, bother your feet!" cried Dab-Dab. "Let the Doctor get on with his

"Is it a good story?" asked Gub-Gub.

"Well," said the Doctor, "I'll tell it, and then you can decide for
yourself. Stop fidgeting, now, and let me begin. It's getting late."



As soon as the Doctor had lit his pipe and got it well going he began:

"Many years ago, at the time I bought this thermometer, I was a very
young doctor, full of hope, just starting out in business. I fancied
myself a very good doctor, but I found that the rest of the world did
not seem to think so. And for many months after I began I did not get
a single patient. I had no one to try my new thermometer on. I tried
it on myself quite often. But I was always so frightfully healthy I
never had any temperature anyway. I tried to catch a cold. I didn't
really want a cold, you understand, but I did want to make sure that my
new thermometer worked. But I couldn't even catch a cold. I was very
sad--healthy but sad.

"Well, about this time I met another young doctor who was in the same
fix as myself--having no patients. Said he to me: 'I'll tell you what
we'll do, let's start a sanitarium.'"

"What's a sanitarium?" asked Gub-Gub.

"A sanitarium," said the Doctor, "is a sort of mixture between a
hospital and a hotel--where people stay who are invalids.... Well, I
agreed to this idea. Then I and my young friend--his name was Phipps,
Dr. Cornelius Q. Phipps--took a beautiful place way off in the country,
and we furnished it with wheel chairs and hot-water bottles and ear
trumpets and the things that invalids like. And very soon patients
came to us in hundreds and our sanitarium was quite full up and my new
thermometer was kept very busy. Of course, we made a lot of money,
because all these people paid us well. And Phipps was very happy.

"But I was not so happy. I had noticed a peculiar thing: none of the
invalids ever seemed to get well and go away. And finally I spoke of
this to Phipps.

"'My dear Dolittle,' he answered, '_go away_?--of course not! We don't
want them to go away. We want them to stay here, so they'll keep on
paying us.'

"'Phipps,' I said, 'I don't think that's honest. I became a doctor to
cure people--not to pamper them.'

"Well, on this point we fell out and quarreled. I got very angry and
told him I would not be his partner any longer--that I would pack
up and go the following day. As I left his room, still very angry,
I passed one of the invalids in his wheel chair. It was Sir Timothy
Quisby, our most important and expensive patient. He asked me, as I
passed, to take his temperature, as he thought he had a new fever. Now,
I had never been able to find anything wrong with Sir Timothy and had
decided that being an invalid was a sort of hobby with him. So, still,
very angry, instead of taking his temperature, I said quite rudely:
'Oh, go to the Dickens!'

[Illustration: "It was Sir Timothy Quisby, our most expensive patient"]

"Sir Timothy was furious. And, calling for Dr. Phipps, he demanded that
I apologize. I said I wouldn't. Then Sir Timothy told Phipps that if I
didn't he would start an invalids' strike. Phipps got terribly worried
and implored me to apologize to this very special patient. I still

"Then a peculiar thing happened. Sir Timothy, who had always so far
seemed too weak to walk, got right out of his wheel chair and, waving
his ear trumpet wildly, ran around all over the sanitarium, making
speeches to the other invalids, saying how shamefully he had been
treated and calling on them to strike for their rights.

"And they did strike--and no mistake. That night at dinner they refused
to take their medicine--either before or after meals. Dr. Phipps argued
with them, prayed them, implored them to behave like proper invalids
and carry out their doctors' orders. But they wouldn't listen to him.
They ate all the things they had been forbidden to eat, and after
dinner those who had been ordered to go for a walk stayed at home, and
those who had been ordered to stay quiet went outside and ran up and
down the street. They finished the evening by having a pillow fight
with their hot-water bottles, when they should have been in bed. The
next morning they all packed their own trunks and left. And that was
the end of _our_ sanitarium.

"But the most peculiar thing of all was this: I found out afterward
that every single one of those patients had got well! Getting out of
their wheel chairs and going on strike had done them so much good they
stopped being invalids altogether. As a sanitarium doctor, I suppose I
was not a success--still, I don't know. Certainly I cured a great many
more patients by going _out_ of the sanitarium business than Phipps
ever did by going into it."



The next night, when they were again seated around the veranda after
supper, the Doctor asked: "Now, who's going to tell us a story
to-night? Didn't Gub-Gub say he had one for us?"

"Oh, don't let him tell one, Doctor," said Jip. "It's sure to be

"He isn't old enough to tell a good story," said Dab-Dab. "He hasn't
had any experience."

"His only interest in life is food, anyway," said Too-Too. "Let someone
else tell a story."

"No, now wait a minute," cried the Doctor. "Don't all be jumping on him
this way. We were all young once. Let him tell his story. He may win
the prize. Who knows? Come along, Gub-Gub. Tell us your story. What's
the name of it?"

Gub-Gub fidgeted his feet, blushed up to the ears, and finally said:

"This is a kind of a crazy story. But it's a good one. It's--er--er--a
Piggish Fairy Tale. It's called 'The Magic Cucumber.'"

"Gosh!" growled Jip.

"More food!" murmured Too-Too. "What did I tell you?"

"Tee-hee-hee!" tittered the white mouse.

"Go on, Gub-Gub," said the Doctor. "Don't take any notice of them. I'm

"Once upon a time," Gub-Gub began, "a small pig went out into the
forest with his father to dig for truffles. The father pig was a very
clever truffle digger, and just by smelling the ground he could tell
with great sureness the places where truffles were to be found. Well,
this day they came upon a place beneath some big oak trees and they
started digging. Presently, after the father pig had dug up an enormous
truffle and they were both eating it, they heard, to their great
astonishment, the sound of voices coming from the hole out of which
they had dug the truffle.

"The father pig hurried away with his child because he did not like
magic. But that night the baby pig, when his mother and father were
fast asleep, crept out of his sty and went off into the woods. He
wanted to find out the mystery of those voices coming from under the

"So, reaching the hole where his father had dug up the truffle, he set
to work digging for himself. He had not dug very long when the earth
caved right in underneath him and he felt himself falling and falling
and falling. At last he came to a stop, upside down in the middle of a
dining table. The table was all set for dinner--and he had fallen into
the soup. He looked about him and saw seated around the table many tiny
little men, none of them more than half as big as himself and all a
dark green in color.

[Illustration: "He had fallen into the soup"]

"'Where am I?' asked the baby pig.

"'You're in the soup,' said the little men.

"The baby pig was at first terribly frightened. But when he saw how
small were the men around him his fear left him. And before he got out
of the soup tureen on the table he drank up all the soup. He then asked
the little men who they might be. And they said:

"'We are _The Cook Goblins_. We live under the ground and we spend half
our time inventing new things to eat and the other half in eating them.
The noise you heard coming out of the hole was us singing our food
hymns. We always sing food hymns whenever we are preparing particularly
fine dishes.'

"'Good!' said the pig. 'I've come to the right place. Let us go on with
the dinner.'

"But just as they were about to begin on the fish (the soup was already
gone, you see), there was a great noise outside the dining hall and
in rushed another lot of little men, a bright red in color. These
were _The Toadstool Sprites_, ancient enemies of the Cook Goblins.
A tremendous fight began, one side using toothpicks for spears and
the other using nut crackers for clubs. The pig took the side of his
friends the Cook Goblins, and, being as big as any two of the enemy put
together, he soon had the Toadstool Sprites running for their lives.

"When the fight was over and the dining hall cleared the Cook Goblins
were very grateful to the baby pig for his valuable assistance. They
called him a conquering hero and, crowning him with a wreath of
parsley, they invited him to the seat of honor at the dining table and
went on with the meal.

"Never had the baby pig enjoyed a meal so much in all his life as he
did that one. He found that the Cook Goblins, as well as inventing
new and marvelously tasty dishes, had also thought out a lot of new
things in the way of table furnishings. For instance, they served pin
cushions with the fish. These were to stick your fishbones in, instead
of leaving them to clutter up your plate. Pudding-fans were another
of their novelties--fans for cooling off your pudding with, instead
of blowing on it. Then they had cocoa-skin clothes lines--little toy
clothes lines to hang the skin off your cocoa on, neatly. (You know
what a nasty mess it makes draped over the rim of your cup.) And when
the fruit came on, tennis racquets were handed around also. And if
anyone at the other end of the table asked you for an apple, instead of
going to all the work of handing down a heavy bowl of fruit, you just
took an apple and served it at him like a tennis ball, and he would
catch it at the other end of the table on the point of a fork.

"These things added a good deal of jolliness to the meal and some of
them were very clever inventions. Why, they even had a speaking tube
for things you are not allowed to mention at table."

"A speaking tube!" the white mouse interrupted. "How was it used? I
don't understand."

"Well," said Gub-Gub, "you know how people are always telling you 'You
mustn't speak about those things at table!' Well, the Cook Goblins had
a speaking tube in the wall which led, at the other end, to the open
air outside. And whenever you wanted to talk about any of the things
forbidden at table you left the table and went and said it into the
speaking tube; then you came back to your seat. It was a very great
invention.... Well, as I was saying, the baby pig enjoyed himself
tremendously. And when the meal was over he said he must be going back
because he wanted to get into the sty before his mother and father
should be awake.

"The Cook Goblins were sorry to see him go. And as a farewell present
in return for the help he had given them against their enemies, they
gave him the Magic Cucumber. Now, this cucumber, if you cut off even
the smallest part of it and planted it, would grow immediately into a
whole field of any fruit or vegetable you wished. All you had to do was
to say the name of the vegetable you wanted. The baby pig thanked the
Cook Goblins, kissed them all goodby and went home.

"He found his mother and father still asleep when he got back. So after
carefully hiding his Magic Cucumber under the floor of the cow barn, he
crept into the sty and went fast asleep.

"Now, it happened that a few days later a neighboring king made war
upon the king that owned the country where the pig family lived. Things
went very badly for the pigs' king, and, seeing that the enemy were
close at hand, he gave orders that all cattle and farm animals and
people should be brought inside the castle walls. The pig family was
also driven into the castle grounds. But before he left, the baby pig
went and bit off a piece of his Magic Cucumber and took it along with

"Soon after, the enemy's army closed about the castle and tried to
storm it. Then for many weeks they remained there, knowing that sooner
or later the king and the people in the castle would run short of food
and have to give in.

"Now, it happened that the queen had noticed the baby pig within the
castle grounds and, being a princess of Irish blood, she took a great
fancy to him and had a piece of green ribbon tied about his neck and
made a regular pet of him, much to the disgust of her husband, the king.

[Illustration: "She made a regular pet of him"]

"Well, the fourth week after the enemy came the food in the castle was
all gone and the king gave orders that the pigs must be eaten. The
queen raised a great outcry and begged that her pet should be spared.
But the king was very firm.

"'My soldiers are starving,' said he. 'Your pet, Madam, must be turned
into sausages.'

"Then the baby pig saw that the time to use the goblins' magic gift
had come. And, rushing out into the castle garden, he dug a hole and
planted his piece of cucumber right in the middle of the king's best

"'Parsnips!' he grunted, as he filled in the hole. 'May they blossom
acres wide!'

"And, sure enough, he had hardly said the words before all over the
king's garden parsnips began springing up thick and fast. Even the
gravel walks were covered with them.

"Then the king and his army had plenty of food and, growing strong on
the nutritious parsnips, they sallied forth from the castle, smote the
enemy, hip and thigh, and put them to flight.

"And the queen was allowed to keep her pet pig, which rejoiced her kind
heart greatly--she being of Irish blood royal. And he became a great
hero at the court and was given a sty studded with jewels in the centre
of the castle garden--on the very spot where he had planted the Magic
Cucumber. And they all lived happily ever after. And that is the end of
the Piggish Fairy Tale."



The animals now began to look forward to the evening story-telling--the
way people do to regular habits that are pleasant. And for the next
night they arranged among themselves before-hand that it should be
Dab-Dab's turn to tell a tale.

After they were all seated on the veranda the housekeeper preened her
feathers and in a very dignified voice began:

"On the outskirts of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh there lives a farmer who
swears to this day that his cat can understand every word he says. It
isn't true, but both the farmer and his wife think it is. And I am now
going to tell you how they came to get that idea.

"Once when the Doctor was away in Scotland, looking for fossils, he
left me behind to take charge of the house. The old horse in the stable
complained to me one night that the rats were eating up all his corn.
While I was walking around the stable, trying to think out what I
should do about it I spied an enormous white Persian cat stalking about
the premises. Now, I myself have no love for cats. For one thing, they
eat ducklings, and for another, they always seem to me sort of sneaky
things. So I ordered this one to get off the Doctor's property. To
my surprise, she behaved very politely--said she didn't know she was
trespassing and turned to leave. Then I felt sort of guilty, knowing
the Doctor liked to be hospitable to every kind of animal, and, after
all, the cat wasn't doing any harm there. So I overtook her and told
her that if she didn't kill anything on the place she could come and go
as she pleased.

"Well, we got chatting, the way people do, and I found out that the cat
lived at a farmer's house about a quarter of a mile down the Oxenthorpe
Road. Then I walked part of the way home with her, still chatting, and
I found that she was a very agreeable individual. I told her about the
rats in the stable and the difficulty I had in making them behave,
because the Doctor wouldn't allow any one to kill them. And she said,
if I wished, she'd sleep in the stable a few nights and the rats would
probably leave as soon as they smelled her around.

"This she did, and the results were excellent. The rats departed in
a body and the old horse's corn-bin was left undisturbed. Then she
disappeared and for several nights I saw nothing of her. So one evening
I thought it would be only decent of me to call at her farm down the
Oxenthorpe Road, to thank her.

"I went to her farm and found her in the farm-yard. I thanked her for
what she had done and asked her why she hadn't been around to my place
of late.

"'I've just had kittens,' she said. 'Six--and I haven't been able to
leave them a moment. They are in the farmer's parlor now. Come in and
I'll show them to you.'

"So in we went. And on the parlor floor, in a round basket, there were
six of the prettiest kittens you ever saw. While we were looking at
them we heard the farmer and his wife coming downstairs. So, thinking
they might not like to have a duck in the parlor (some folks are so
snobbish and pernickety, you know--not like the Doctor), I hid myself
behind a closet door just as the farmer and his wife came into the room.

"They leaned over the basket of kittens, stroked the white cat and
started talking. Now, the cat didn't understand what they said, of
course. But I, being round the Doctor so much and discussing with him
the differences between duck grammar and people's grammar, understood
every word they uttered.

"And this is what I heard the farmer say to his wife: 'We'll keep the
black and white kitten, Liza. I'll drown the other five to-morrow
morning. Won't never do to have all them cats running around the
place.' His grammar was atrocious.

[Illustration: "'We'll keep the black and white one, Liza'"]

"As soon as they had gone I came out of the closet and I said to the
white cat: 'I shall expect you to bring up these kittens to leave
ducklings alone. Now listen: To-night, after the farmer and his wife
are in bed, take all your kittens _except the black and white one_, and
hide them in the attic. The farmer means to drown them and is going to
keep only one.'

"The cat did as I bade her. And next morning, when the farmer came
to take the kittens away, he found only the black and white one--the
one he meant to keep. He could not understand it. Some weeks later,
however, when the farmer's wife was Spring cleaning, she came upon the
others in the attic, where the mother cat had hidden them and nursed
them secretly. But they were now grown big enough to escape through the
window and they went off to find new homes for themselves.

"And that is why to this day that farmer and his wife swear their cat
can understand English, because, they say, she must have heard them
when they were talking over the basket. And whenever she's in the
room and they are gossiping about the neighbors, they always speak in
whispers, lest she overhear. But between you and me, she doesn't really
understand a single word they say."



"Who's turn is it to give us a story now?" asked the Doctor, when the
supper things were cleared away the following evening.

"I think the white mouse ought to tell us one," said Jip.

"Very well," said the white mouse. "I will tell you one of the days of
my youth. The Doctor knows this story, but the rest of you have never
heard it."

And smoothing back his white whiskers and curling his pink tail snugly
about his small, sleek body, he blinked his eyes twice and began:

"When I was born I was one of seven twins. But all my brothers and
sisters were ordinary mouse color and I alone out of the whole family
was white. My color worried my mother and father a great deal. They
said I was so conspicuous and would certainly, as soon as I left the
nest, get caught by the first owl or cat that came along.

"We were city folk, my family were--and proud of it. We lived under
the floor of a miller's shop. Across the street from our place was a
butcher's shop, and next door to us was a dyer's--where they dyed cloth
different colors before it went to the tailor's to be made into suits.

"Now, when we children grew up big enough to go off for ourselves our
parents gave us all sorts of careful instructions about escaping cats
and ferrets and weasels and dogs. But over poor me they shook their
heads. They really felt that there was not much hope of my leading a
peaceful life with white fur that could be seen a mile off.

"Well, they were quite right. My color got me into trouble the first
week that I set out to seek my fortune--but not in the way they thought
it would. The son of the miller who owned the shop where we lived found
me one morning in a bin of oats.

"'Ah, hah!' he cried. 'A white mouse! The very thing I've been wanting!'

"And he caught me in a fishing net and put me in a cage, to keep as a

"I was very sad at first. But after a while I got sort of used to the
life. The boy--he was only eight years old--treated me kindly and fed
me regularly each day. I grew almost fond of the funny, snub-nosed lad
and became so tame that he would let me out of my cage sometimes and I
would run up and down his sleeve. But I never got a chance to escape.

"After some months I began to grow weary of the silly life I was
leading. And then, too, the wild mice were so mean to me. They used
to come around at night and point at me through the wire of my cage,

"'Look at the tame white mouse! Tee-hee-hee! A plaything for children!
Good little mousey! Come and have 'ims facey washed!' The stupid little

"Well, finally I set to work and thought out a clever plan of escape. I
gnawed a hole through the wooden floor of my cage and kept it covered
with straw, so the boy couldn't see it. And one night when I heard
him safely snoring--he always kept my cage at the head of his bed--I
slipped out of the hole and got away.

"I had many adventures with cats. It was winter time and the snow lay
thick upon the ground. I started off to explore the world, rejoicing in
my liberty. Going around to the back of the house, I passed from the
miller's yard into the dyer's yard, next door. In the yard was a dyeing
shed and I noticed two owls sitting on the top of it in the moonlight.

"Entering the shed, I met a rat, very old and very thin. Said he to me:

"'I am the oldest rat in the town and I know a great deal. But, tell
me, why do you come here into the dyeing shed?'

"'I was looking for food,' I said.

"The old rat laughed a cracked and quavering laugh, with no joy in it
at all.

[Illustration: "The old rat laughed a quavering laugh"]

"'There's no food here,' he said, 'only dyes of different colors.' And
he pointed to the big dye vats, all in a row, that towered in the half
darkness above our heads.

"'Any food there was here I've eaten,' he went on sadly, 'and I dare
not go out for more because the owls are waiting on the roof. They'd
see my dark body against the snow and I'd stand no chance of escape.
I am nearly starved.' And he swayed weakly on his old feet. 'But now
you've come, it's different. Some good fairy must have sent you to me.
I've been sitting here for days and nights on end, hoping a white mouse
might come along. With your white fur, you understand, the owls can't
see you so well against the snow. That's what's called _protective
coloration_. I know all about natural history--I'm very old, you see.
That is why you managed to get in here without being caught. Go out
now, for pity's sake, and bring me the first food of any kind that you
can find. The owls by night and the cats by day have kept me shut in
here since the snow came without a bite to eat. You are only just in
time to save my life.'

"So off I went across the moonlit snow and the blinking owls on the
roof of the dyeing shed never spotted me. Against the whiteness I was
nearly invisible. I felt quite proud. At last my white fur was coming
in handy.

"I found a garbage can and, picking out some bacon rinds, I carried
them back to the starving rat. The old fellow was ever so grateful. He
ate and ate--my whiskers, how he ate! Finally he said:

"'Ah! Now I feel better.'

"'You know,' said I, 'I have only just escaped from captivity. I was
kept as a pet by a boy. So far being white has only been a great
inconvenience to me. The cats could see me so well life wasn't worth

"'Well, now, I'll tell you what we'll do,' said he, 'you come and live
in this dyeing shed with me. It isn't a bad place--quite warm and snug
under the floors, and the foundations are simply riddled with holes
and corridors and hiding places. And while the snow is here you can go
out and get the food for both of us--because you can't be seen so well
against the snow. And when the Winter is over and the earth is black
again _I_ will do the food hunting outside and _you_ can do the staying
at home. You see, this is a good place to live in in another way--there
is nothing for rats and mice to destroy here, so people don't bother
about you. Other places--like houses and food shops and mills--folks
are always setting traps and sending ferrets after you. But no one
minds rats living in a dyeing shed, see? Foolish young rats and mice go
and live where there's lots of food. But not for me! I'm a wise one, I

"Well, we agreed upon this arrangement and for a whole year I lived at
the dyer's with the old wise rat. And we lived high--no mistake! Not a
soul ever bothered us. In the winter days I did the foraging and when
Summer came my old partner, who knew where to get the choicest foods in
town, kept our larder stocked with the daintiest delicacies. Ah, many's
the jolly meal I've had under the floor of the dye shed with that old
veteran, chuckling in whispers as we heard the dyers overhead mixing
the dyes in the great big vats and talking over the news of the town!

[Illustration: "Upstairs where the dye vats stood"]

"But none of us are ever content for long, you know--foolish creatures
that we are. And by the time the second Summer was coming I was longing
to be a free mouse, to roam the world and all that sort of thing. And
then, too, I wanted to get married. Maybe the Spring was getting into
my blood. So one night I said to the old rat:

"'Rat,' I said, 'I'm in love. All Winter, every night I went out to
gather fodder, I've been keeping company with a lady mouse--well-bred
she is, with elegant manners. I've a mind to settle down and have a
family of my own. Now, here comes the Summer again and I've got to stay
shut up in this miserable shed on account of my beastly color.'

"The old rat gazed at me thoughtfully a moment and I knew that he was
going to say something particularly wise.

"'Young man,' says he at last, 'if you've a mind to go I reckon I can't
stop you--foolish young mad-cap though I think you. And how I'll ever
shift for myself after you've gone goodness only knows. But, seeing you
have been so useful to me this past year and more, I'll help you.'

"So saying, he takes me upstairs to where the dye vats stood. It was
twilight and the men were gone. But we could see the dim shapes of the
big vats towering above our heads. Then he takes a string that lay
upon the floor and, scaling up the middle vat, he lets the string down

"'What's that for?' I asked.

"'That's for you to climb out by, after you've taken a bath. For you to
go abroad in Summer with a coat like yours would mean certain death. So
I'm going to dye you black.'

"'Jumping Cheese!' I cried. '_Dye me black!_'

"'Just that,' says he. 'It's quite simple. Scale up that middle vat
now--on to the edge--and dive right in. Don't be afraid. There's a
string there for you to climb out by.'

"Well, I was always adventurous by nature. And, plucking up my courage,
I scrambled up the vat, on to the edge of it. It was awful dark and I
could just see the dye, glimmering murky and dim, far down inside.

"'Go ahead,' said the old rat. 'Don't be afraid--and be sure you dip
your head and all under.'

"Well, it took an awful lot of nerve to take that plunge. And if I
hadn't been in love I don't suppose I'd ever have done it. But I did--I
dove right down into the dye.

"I thought I'd never come up again, and even when I did I nearly
drowned before I found the string in the dark and scrambled, gasping
for breath, out of the vat.

"'Fine!' says the old rat. 'Now run around the shed a few times, so you
won't take a chill. And then go to bed and cover up. In the morning
when it's light you'll find yourself very different.'

"Well--tears come to my eyes when I think of it--the next day, when
I woke up, expecting to find myself a smart, decent black, I found
instead that I had dyed myself a bright and gaudy _blue_! That stupid
old rat had made a mistake in the vats!"

The white mouse paused a moment in his story, as though overcome with
emotion. Presently he went on:

"Never have I been so furious with anyone in my life as I was with that
old rat.

"'Look! _Look_ what you've done to me now!' I cried. 'It isn't even a
navy blue. You've made me just hideous!'

"'I can't understand it,' he murmured. 'The middle vat _used_ to be the
black one, I know. They must have changed them. The blue one was always
the one on the left.'

"'You're a stupid old duffer!' I said. And I left the dye shed in great
anger and never went back to it again.

"Well, if I had been conspicuous before, now I was a hundred times
more so. Against the black earth, or the green grass, or the white
snow, or brown floors my loud, sky-blue coat could be seen as plain as
a pikestaff. The minute I got outside the shed a cat jumped for me.
I gave her the slip and got out into the street. There some wretched
children spotted me and, calling to their friends that they had seen
a blue mouse, they hunted me along the gutter. At the corner of the
street two dogs were fighting. They stopped their fight and joined the
chase after me. And very soon I had the whole blessed town at my heels.
It was awful. I didn't get any peace till after night had fallen, and
by that time I was so exhausted with running I was ready to drop.

"About midnight I met the lady mouse with whom I was in love, beneath a
lamp-post. And, would you believe it? She wouldn't speak to me! Cut me
dead, she did.

"'It was for your sake I got myself into this beastly mess,' I said,
as she stalked by me with her nose in the air. 'You're an ungrateful
woman, that's what you are.'

"'Oh, la, la, la!' said she, smirking. 'You wouldn't expect any
self-respecting person to keep company with a _blue_ mouse, would you?'

"Later, when I was trying to find a place to sleep, all the mice I met,
wherever there was any light at all, made fun of me and pointed at
me and jeered. I was nearly in tears. Then I went down to the river,
hoping I might wash the dye off and so get white again. That, at least,
would be better than the way I was now. But I washed and I swam and I
rinsed, all to no purpose. Water made no impression on me.

"So there I sat, shivering on the river bank, in the depths of despair.
And presently I saw the sky in the east growing pale and I knew that
morning was coming. Daylight! That for me meant more hunting and
running and jeering, as soon as the sun should show my ridiculous color.

"And then I came to a very sad decision--probably the saddest decision
that a free mouse ever made. Rather than be hunted and jeered at any
more I decided that I would sooner be back in a cage, a pet mouse! Yes,
there at least I was well treated and well fed by the snub-nosed miller
lad. I would go back and be a captive mouse. Was I not spurned by my
lady love and jeered at by my friends? Very well then, I would turn my
back upon the world and go into captivity. And then my lady love would
be sorry--too late!

"So, picking myself up wearily, I started off for the miller's shop.
On the threshold I paused a moment. It was a terrible step I was about
to take. I gazed miserably down the street, thinking upon the hardness
of life and the sadness of love, and there, coming toward me, with a
bandage around his tail, was my own brother!

"As he took a seat beside me on the doorstep I burst into tears and
told him all that had happened to me since we left our parents' home.

"'I am terribly sorry for your bad luck,' said he when I had ended.
'But I'm glad I caught you before you went back into captivity. Because
I think I can guide you to a way out of your troubles.'

"'What way is there?' I said. 'For me life is over!'

"'Go and see the Doctor,' said my brother.

"'What doctor?'" I asked.

"'There _is_ only one Doctor,' he answered. 'You don't mean to say
you've never _heard_ of him!'

"And then he told me all about Doctor Dolittle. This was around the
time when the Doctor first began to be famous among the animals. But
I, living alone with the old rat at the dyer's shed, had not heard the

"'I've just come from the Doctor's office,' said my brother. 'I got my
tail caught in a trap and he bandaged it up for me. He's a marvelous
man--kind and honest. And he talks animals' language. Go to him and
I'm sure he'll know some way to clean blue dye off a mouse. He knows

"So that is how I first came to John Dolittle's house in Puddleby.
The Doctor, when I told my troubles to him, took a very small pair of
scissors and cut off all my fur, so I was as bald and as pink as a pig.
Then he rubbed me with some special hair restorer for mice--a patent
invention of his own. And very soon I grew a brand new coat of fur, as
white as snow!

[Illustration: "The Doctor cut off all my fur"]

"And then, hearing what difficulty I had had keeping away from cats,
the Doctor gave me a home in his own house--in his own piano, in fact.
And no mouse could wish for more than that. He even offered to send for
the lady I was in love with, who would, no doubt, think differently
about me, now that I was white again. But I said:

"'No, Doctor. Let her be. I'm through with women for good.'"



The next night Jip was called upon for a story. And after thinking a
moment he said: "All right, I'll tell you the story of 'The Beggar's
Dog.'" And the animals all settled down to listen attentively, because
Jip had often told them stories before and they liked his way of
telling them.

"Some time ago," Jip began, "I knew a dog who was a beggar's dog. We
met by chance one day, when a butcher's cart had an accident and got
upset. The butcher's boy who was driving the cart was a stupid boy whom
all the dogs of that town heartily disliked. So when his cart hit a
lamp-post and over-turned, spilling mutton chops and joints all over
the street, we dogs were quickly on the scene and ran off with all his
meat before he had time to pick himself up out of the gutter.

"It was on this occasion, as I said, that I fell in with the beggar's
dog. I found him bolting down the street beside me, with a choice
steak flapping merrily around his ears. Myself, I had pinched a string
of sausages and the beastly things kept getting tangled up in my
legs,--till he came to my rescue and showed me how to coil them up
neatly so I could run with them without getting tripped.

"After that the beggar's dog and I became great friends. I found that
his master had only one leg and was very, very old.

"'He's most frightfully poor,' said my friend. 'And he's too old to
work, you see--even if he had two legs to get around on. And now he
has taken to pavement art. You know what that is--you draw pictures on
the pavement in colored chalks and you write under them: "_All my own
work._" And then you sit by the side of them, with your cap in your
hand, waiting for people to give you pennies.'

"'Oh, yes,' I said, 'I know. I've seen pavement artists before.'

"'Well,' said my friend, 'my beggar doesn't get any pennies. And I
know the reason why: his pictures aren't good enough--not even for
pavement art. Myself, I don't pretend to know much about drawing. But
his pictures are just awful--_awful_. One kind old lady the other day
stopped before our stand--wanting to encourage him, you know--and,
pointing to one picture, she said, "_Oh, what a lovely tree!_" The
picture was meant to be a lighthouse in the middle of the ocean, with a
storm raging around it. That's the kind of an artist my man is. I don't
know what to do about him.'

[Illustration: "His pictures are just awful"]

"'Well, look here,' I said, 'I have an idea. Since your man can't work
for himself, suppose you and I go into the bone-hiring business.'

"'What on earth is that?' he asked.

"'Well,' I said, 'people hire out bicycles and pianos for rent, don't
they? So, why can't you and I rent out bones for dogs to chew? They
won't be able to pay us in money of course, so we'll get them to bring
us things, instead. Then the beggar can sell the things and get money.'

"'That's a good notion,' said he. 'Let's start to-morrow.'"

"So the following day we found an empty lot, where people used to dump
rubbish, and dug an enormous hole, which was to be our bone shop. Then
we went around the back doors of all the richest people's houses early
in the morning and picked out the best bones from the garbage cans.
We even snatched a few from other dogs who were tied to kennels and
couldn't run after us--rather a dirty trick, but we were working in a
good cause and were not particular. Then we took all these bones and
put them in the hole we had dug. By night we kept them covered up with
earth, because we didn't want them stolen--and, besides, some dogs
prefer their bones buried a few days before they chew them. It gets
them seasoned-like. And then by day we stood over our wares, calling
out to all the dogs that passed by:

"'Bones for hire! Beef bones, ham bones, mutton bones, chicken bones!
All juicy! Step up, gentlemen, and take your choice! BONES for hire!'

"Well, right from the start we did a roaring trade. All the dogs for
miles around heard of us and came to hire bones. And we would charge
them according to the length of time they wanted to hire them. For
instance, you could rent a good ham bone for one day for a candlestick
or a hair brush; for three days for a violin or an umbrella. And if you
wanted your bone for a whole week you had to bring us a suit of clothes
in payment.

"Well, for a while our plan worked splendidly. The beggar sold the
things that we got in payment from the dogs and he had money to live on.

"But we never thought where the dogs might be getting all these things
they brought us. The truth is, we didn't bother very much, I'm afraid.
Anyway at the end of our first week of brisk trade we noticed a great
many people going through the streets as though they were looking for
something. And presently these people, seeing our shop in the empty
lot, gathered around us, talking to one another. And while they were
talking a retriever came up to me with a gold watch and chain in his
mouth, which he wanted to exchange for a ham bone.

[Illustration: "A retriever came up with a gold watch and chain"]

"Well, you should have seen the excitement among the people then! The
owner of the watch and chain was there and he raised a terrible row.
And then it came out that these dogs had been taking things from their
masters' homes to hire bones with. The people were dreadfully annoyed.
They closed up our bone shop and put us out of business. But they never
discovered that the money we had made had gone to the beggar.

"Of course, we hadn't made enough to keep him in comfort for long and
very soon he had to become a pavement artist again and was as badly off
as he had ever been--and the pictures he drew were worse, if anything,
than before.

"Now it happened one day, when I was wandering around in the country
outside the town, that I met a most conceited spaniel. He passed me
with his nose turned up in the air in such a cheeky manner that I said
to him, I said: 'What makes you so stuck up?'

"'My master has been ordered to paint the portrait of a prince,' he
said, putting on no end of elegance.

"'Who is your master?' I said. 'Anybody would think you were going to
paint the portrait yourself.'

"'My master is a very famous artist,' said he.

"'What's his name?' I asked.

"'George Morland,' said the spaniel.

"'George Morland!' I cried. 'Is he in these parts now?'

"'Yes,' said the spaniel. 'We are staying at _The Royal George_. My
master is painting some pictures of the country and next week he is
going back to London to commence on the portrait of the prince.'

"Now, it happened that I had met this George Morland, who was, and is
still, perhaps the most famous painter of farm-life pictures the world
has ever known. I am proud to be able to say that I knew him. He was
especially good at painting horses in stables, pigs in stys, roosters
and dogs hanging around kitchen doors, and things like that.

"So, without letting the spaniel see that I was following him, I went
after him, to see where he was going.

"He led me to a lonely old farm out on the hills. And there, concealing
myself in some bushes, I watched the great Morland painting one of his
famous farm scenes.

"Presently he laid down his paint brush and muttered to himself: 'I
need a dog--by the watering trough there--to fill out the picture.
I wonder if I could get that fool spaniel to lie still for five
minutes.... Here, Spot, Spot! Come here!'

"His spaniel, Spot, came up to him. And George, leaving his painting
for a moment, placed the spaniel beside the watering trough and
flattened him out and told him to keep still. I could see that George's
idea was to have him look as though he were asleep in the sun. George
simply loved to paint animals asleep in the sun.

"Well, that blockhead of a spaniel never kept still one minute. First,
he was snapping at the flies that bit his tail; then he was scratching
his ear, then barking at the cat--never still. And, of course, George
couldn't paint him at all, and at last he got so angry he threw the
paint brush at him.

"Then an idea came to me--one of the best ideas I ever had. I left
the bushes and came trotting up to George, wagging my tail. And how I
thrilled with pride as the great Morland recognized me! For, mind you,
he had met me only once before--back in the autumn of 1802.

"'Why, it's Jip!' he cried. 'Good dog. Come here. You're the very
fellow I want.'

"Then while he gathered up the things he had thrown at the spaniel
he went on talking to me--the way people do talk to dogs, you know.
Of course, he didn't expect me to understand what he said, but I
did--every word.

"'I want you to come over here by the trough, Jip,' said he. 'All
you've got to do is to keep still. You can go to sleep if you like. But
don't move or fidget for ten minutes. Think you can do that?'

[Illustration: "'Come over here by the trough'"]

"And he led me over to the trough, where I lay down and kept perfectly
still while he painted me into the picture. That picture now hangs
in the National Gallery. It's called _Evening on the Farm_. Hundreds
of people go to see it every year. But none of them know that the
smart-looking dog sleeping beneath the watering trough is none other
than myself--except the Doctor, whom I took in to see it one day when
we were up in London, shopping.

"Well, now, as I told you, I had an idea in all this. I hoped that
if I did something for George Morland perhaps I could get him to do
something for me. But, of course, with him not knowing dog talk it was
a bit difficult to make him understand. However, while he was packing
up his painting things I disappeared for a while, just as though I
was going away. Then I came rushing back to him in a great state of
excitement, barking, trying to show him something was wrong and that I
wanted him to follow me.

"'What's the matter, Jip?' said he. 'House on fire or something?'

"Then I barked some more and ran a little way in the direction of the
town, looking back at him to show him I wanted him to come with me.

"'What ails the dog?' he murmured to himself. 'Can't be anybody
drowning, because there's no river near.... Oh, all right, Jip, I'll
come. Wait a second till I get these brushes cleaned.'

"Then I led him into the town. On the way there every once in a while
he would say to himself: 'I wonder what can be the matter. Something's
wrong, that's sure, or the dog wouldn't carry on so.'

"I took him down the main street of the town till we came to the place
where the beggar had his pictures. And as soon as George saw the
pictures he _knew_ what was wrong.

"'Heaven preserve us!' he cried. 'What a dreadful exhibition! No wonder
the dog was excited.'

"Well, it happened that as we came up the one-legged beggar, with his
own dog beside him, was at work on a new drawing. He was sitting on the
pavement, making a picture on canvas with a piece of chalk of a cat
drinking milk. Now, my idea was that the great Morland--who, no matter
what people say about him, was always a most kind-hearted man--should
make some good pictures for the beggar to show, instead of the dreadful
messes that he made himself. And my plan worked.

"'Man alive!' said George, pointing to the picture the beggar was
doing, 'a cat's spine doesn't curve that way--here, give me the chalk
and let me do it.'

"Then, rubbing out the whole picture, George Morland re-drew it in his
way. And it was so lifelike you could nearly hear the cat lapping up
the milk.

"'My! I wish I could draw that way,' said the beggar. 'And so quick and
easy you do it--like it was nothing at all.'

"'Well, it comes easy,' said George. 'Maybe there's not so much credit
in it for that. But, tell me, do you make much money at this game?'

"'Awful little,' said the beggar. 'I've taken only twopence the whole
day. I suppose the truth is I don't draw good enough.'

"I watched Morland's face as the beggar said this. And the expression
that came into it told me I had not brought the great man here in vain.

"'Look here,' he said to the beggar. 'Would you like me to re-draw
all your pictures for you? Of course, those done on the pavement
you couldn't sell, but we can rub them out. And I've got some spare
canvases in my satchel here. Maybe you could sell a few. I can sell
pictures in London any day in the week. But I've never been a pavement
artist before. It would be rather a lark to see what happens.'

"Then Morland, all busy and excited, like a schoolboy, took the
beggar's chalk pictures from against the wall and, rubbing them out,
did them over the way they should be done. He got so occupied with
this that he didn't notice that a whole crowd of people was gathering
around, watching. His work was so fine that the people were spellbound
with the beauty of the cats and dogs and cows and horses that he drew.
And they began asking one another in whispers who the stranger could be
who was doing the pavement artist's pictures for him.

"The crowd grew bigger and bigger. And presently some one among the
people who had seen Morland's pictures before recognized the work of
the great artist. And then whispers went through the crowd--'It's
Morland--the great Morland, himself.' And somebody went off and told
a picture dealer--that is, a man who buys and sells pictures--who had
a shop in the High Street, that George Morland was drawing in the
market-place for a lame beggar.

"And the dealer came down. And the Mayor came down--and all the rich
folk and poor folk. So, when the whole town was gathered around, the
people began offering to buy these pictures, asking the beggar how much
he wanted for them. The old duffer was going to sell them at sixpence
apiece, but Morland whispered to him:

"'Twenty guineas--don't sell a blessed one under twenty guineas. You'll
get it.'

"And sure enough, the dealer and a few of the richer townsfolk bought
the whole lot at twenty guineas apiece.

"And when I went home that night I felt I had done a good day's work.
For my friend's master, the one-legged beggar, was now rich enough to
live in comfort for the rest of his life."



All the animals had now told a story except Too-Too, the owl, and the
pushmi-pullyu. And the following night, a Friday, it was agreed that
they should toss a coin (the Doctor's penny that had a hole through it)
to see which of these two should tell a tale. If the penny came down
heads it was to be the pushmi-pullyu, and if it came down tails it was
to be Too-Too's turn.

The Doctor span the penny and it came down tails.

[Illustration: "The Doctor span the penny"]

"All right," said Too-Too. "Then that makes it my turn, I suppose. I
will tell you a story of the time--the only time in my life--that I
was taken for a fairy. Fancy me as a fairy!" chuckled the little round
owl. "Well, this is how it happened: One October day, toward evening,
I was wandering through the woods. There was a wintry tang in the air
and the small, furred animals were busy among the dry, rustly leaves,
gathering nuts and seeds for food against the coming of snow. I was out
after shrew mice, myself--a delicacy I was extremely fond of at that
time--and while they were busy foraging they made easy hunting.

"In my travels through the woods I heard children's voices and the
barking of a dog. Usually I would have gone further into the forest,
away from such sounds. But in my young days I was a curious bird and my
curiosity often led me into many adventures. So instead of flying away,
I went toward the noises I heard, moving cautiously from tree to tree,
so that I could see without being seen.

"Presently I came upon a children's picnic--several boys and girls
having supper in a grove of oak trees. One boy, much larger than the
rest, was teasing a dog. And two other children, a small girl and a
small boy, were objecting to his cruelty and begging him to stop. The
bully wouldn't stop. And soon the small boy and girl set upon him with
their fists and feet and gave him quite a fine drubbing--which greatly
surprised him. The dog then ran off home and presently the small boy
and girl--I found out afterwards they were brother and sister--wandered
off from the rest of the picnicking party to look for mushrooms.

"I had admired their spirit greatly in punishing a boy so much bigger
than they were. And when they wandered off by themselves, again out of
curiosity, I followed them. Well, they traveled quite a distance for
such small folk. And presently the sun set and darkness began to creep
over the woods.

"Then the children thought to join their friends again and started
back. But, being poor woodsmen, they took the wrong direction. It grew
darker still, of course, as time went on, and soon the youngsters were
tumbling and stumbling over roots they could not see and getting pretty
thoroughly lost and tired.

"All this time I was following them secretly and noiselessly overhead.
At last the children sat down and the little girl said:

"'Willie, we're lost! Whatever shall we do? Night is coming on and I'm
_so_ afraid of the dark.'

"'So am I,' said the boy. 'Ever since Aunt Emily told us that spooky
story of the "Bogey in the Cup-board" I've been scared to death of the

"Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather. Of course, you
must realize that was the first time I had ever heard of any one's
being afraid of the dark. It sounds ridiculous enough to all of you, I
suppose, but to me, who had always preferred the cool, calm darkness
to the glaring, vulgar daylight, it seemed then an almost unbelievable
thing that anyone could be afraid merely because the sun had gone to

"Now, some people have an idea that bats and owls can see in the dark
because we have some peculiar kind of eyes. It's not so. Peculiar ears
we have--but not eyes. We can see in the dark because we practise it.
It's all a matter of practice--the same as the piano or anything else.
We get up when other people go to bed, and go to bed when other people
get up, because we prefer the dark; and you'd be surprised how much
nicer it is when you get used to it. Of course, we owls are specially
trained by our mothers and fathers to see on very dark nights when we
are quite young. So it comes easier to us. But anybody can do it--to a
certain extent--if they only practise.

"Well, to return to the children: There they were, all fussed and
worried and scared, sitting on the ground, weeping and wondering what
they could do. Then, remembering the dog and knowing they were kind to
animals, I thought I would try to help them. So I popped across into
the tree over their heads and said in the kindliest, gentlest sort of
a voice '_Too-wit, Too-hoo!_'--which means in owl language--as you
know--'It's a fine night! How are you?'

"Then you should have seen those poor children jump!

"'Ugh!' says the little girl, clutching her brother around the neck.
'What was that, a spook?'

"'I don't know,' says the little boy. 'Gosh, but I'm scared! Isn't the
dark awful?'

[Illustration: "'What was that?'"]

"Then I made two or three more attempts to comfort them, talking kindly
to them in owl language. But they only grew scareder and scareder.
First, they thought I was a bogey; then an ogre; then a giant of the
forest--me, whom they could put in their pockets! Golly, but these
human creatures do bring up their children in awful ignorance! If
there ever was a bogey or a giant or an ogre--in the forest or out of
it--I've yet to see one.

"Then I thought maybe if I went off through the woods too-witting and
too-hooing all the way, they would follow me and I could then lead them
out of the forest and show them the way home. So I tried it. But they
didn't follow me, the stupid little beggars--thinking I was a witch or
some evil nonsense of that kind. And all I got for my too-witting and
too-hooing all over the place was to wake up another owl some distance
off, who thought I was calling to him.

"So, since I wasn't doing the children any good, I went off to look
up this other owl and see if he had any ideas to suggest. I found him
sitting on the stump of a hollow birch, rubbing his eyes, having just
got out of bed.

"'Good evening,' says I. 'It's a fine night!'

"'It is,' says he, 'only it's not dark enough. What were you making all
that racket over there for just now? Waking a fellow out of his sleep
before it's got properly dark!'

"'I'm sorry,' I said, 'but there's a couple of children over in the
hollow there who've got lost. The little silly duffers are sitting on
the ground, bawling because the daylight's gone and they don't know
what to do.'

"'My gracious!' says he. 'What a quaint notion. Why don't you lead them
out of the woods? They probably live over in one of those farms near
the crossroads.'

"'I've tried,' I said. 'But they're so scared they won't follow me.
They don't like my voice or something. They take me for a wicked ogre,
and all that sort of rot.'

"'Well,' says he, 'then you'll have to give an imitation of some other
kind of creature--one they're not scared of. Are you any good at
imitations? Can you bark like a dog?'

"'No,' I said. 'But I can make a noise like a cat. I learned that from
an American catbird that lived in a cage in the stable where I spent
last summer.'

"'Fine,' says he. 'Try that and see what happens!'

"So I went back to the children and found them weeping harder than
ever. Then, keeping myself well hidden down near the ground among the
bushes, I went '_Meow! Me-o-w!_' real catlike.

"'Oh, Willie,' says the little girl to her brother, 'we're saved!'
('Saved,' mark you, when neither of the boobies was in the slightest
danger!) 'We're saved!' says she. 'There's Tuffie, our cat, come for
us. She'll show us the way home. Cats can always find their way home,
can't they, Willie? Let's follow her!'"

For a moment Too-Too's plump sides shook with silent laughter as he
recalled the scene he was describing.

"Then," said he, "I went a little further off, still taking great care
that I shouldn't be seen, and I meowed again.

"'There she is!' said the little girl. 'She's calling to us. Come
along, Willie.'

"Well, in that way, keeping ahead of them and calling like a cat, I
finally led the children right out of the woods. They did a good deal
of stumbling and the girl's long hair often got caught in the bushes.
But I always waited for them if they were lagging behind. At last, when
we gained the open fields, we saw three houses on the sky line, and the
middle one was all lighted up and people with lanterns were running
around it, hunting in all directions.

"When I had brought the children right up to this house their mother
and father made a tremendous fuss, weeping over them, as though they
had been saved from some terrible danger. In my opinion grown-up humans
are even more stupid than the young ones. You'd think, from the way
that mother and father carried on, that those children had been wrecked
on a desert island or something, instead of spending a couple of hours
in the pleasant woods.

"'How ever did you find your way, Willie?' asked the mother, wiping
away her tears and smiling all over.

"'Tuffie brought us home,' says the little girl. 'She came out after us
and led us here by going ahead of us and meowing.'

"'_Tuffie!_' says the mother, puzzled. 'Why, the cat's asleep in the
parlor in front of the fire--been there all evening.'

"'Well, it was some cat,' says the boy. 'He must be right around here
somewhere, because he led us almost up to the door.'

"Then the father swings his lantern around, looking for a cat; and
before I had time to hop away he throws the light full on me, sitting
on a sage bush.

"'Why, it's an _owl_!' cries the little girl.

"'_Meow!_' says I--just to show off. '_Too-wit, Too-hoo! Meow! Meow!_'
And with a farewell flip of the wing I disappeared into the night
over the barn roof. But as I left I heard the little girl saying in
tremendous excitement:

"'Oh, mother, a fairy! It was a fairy that brought us home. It must
have been--disguised as an owl! At last! At last I've seen a fairy!'

"Well, that's the first and last time I ever expect to be taken for a
fairy. But I got to know those children quite well. They were a real
nice couple of kiddies--even if the little girl did keep on insisting
that I was a fairy in disguise. I used to hang around their barn,
nights, looking for mice and rats. But if those youngsters ever caught
sight of me they'd follow me everywhere. After bringing them safely
home that evening I could have led them across the Sahara Desert and
they'd follow--certain in their minds that I was the best of all good
fairies and would keep them out of harm. They used to bring me mutton
chops and shrimps and all the best tit-bits from their parents' table.
And I lived like a fighting cock--got so fat and lazy I couldn't have
caught a mouse on crutches.

"They were never afraid of the dark again. Because, you see--as I said
to the Doctor one day, when we were talking over the multiplication
tables and other philosophy--fear is usually ignorance. Once you know a
thing, you're no longer afraid of it. And those youngsters got to know
the dark--and then they saw, of course, that it was just as harmless as
the day.

"I used to take them out into the woods at night and across the hills
and they got to love it--liked the adventure, you know. And thinking
it would be a good thing if some humans, anyway, had sense enough to
travel without sunlight, I taught them how to see in the dark. They
soon got on to it, when they saw how I always shaded my eyes in the
light of a lantern, so as not to get the habit of strong light. Well,
those young ones became real expert--not so good as an owl or a bat,
of course, but quite good at seeing in the dark for anyone who had not
been brought up that way.

"It came in handy for them, too. That part of the country got flooded
one springtime in the middle of the night and there wasn't a dry match
or a light to be had anywhere. Then those children, who had traveled
all that country scores of times in the dark with me, saved a great
many lives. They acted as guides, you understand, and took the people
to safety, because they knew how to use their eyes, and the others

Too-Too yawned and blinked up sleepily at the lantern hanging above his

"Seeing in the dark," he ended, "is all a matter of practice--same as
the piano or anything else."



And now it came, at last, to the pushmi-pullyu's turn for a story. He
was very shy and modest and when the animals asked him the following
night he said in his very well-bred manner:

"I'm terribly sorry to disappoint you, but I'm afraid I don't know any
stories--at least none good enough to entertain you with."

"Oh, come on, Push," said Jip. "Don't be so bashful. We've all told
one. You don't mean to say you've lived all your life in the African
jungle without seeing any adventures? There must be lots of yarns you
could tell us."

"But I've mostly led such a quiet life, you see," said the
pushmi-pullyu. "Our people have always kept very much to themselves. We
mind our own business and don't like getting mixed up in scandals and
rows and adventures."

"Oh, but just think a minute," said Dab-Dab. "Something will come to
you.... Don't pester him," she whispered to the others. "Just leave him
alone and let him think--he's got two heads to think with, you know.
Something will come to him. But don't get him embarrassed, whatever you

For a moment or two the pushmi-pullyu pawed the deck of the veranda
with his dainty hoofs, as if wrapped in deep thought. Then, looking up
with one of his heads, he began speaking in a quiet voice, while the
other coughed apologetically below the level of the tea-table.

"Er--this isn't much of a story--not really. But perhaps it will serve
to pass the time. I will tell you about the Badamoshi ostrich hunters.
You must know, then, that the black peoples have various methods of
hunting wild animals. And the way they go about it depends on the kind
of animal they mean to hunt. For example, if they want giraffes they
dig deep holes and cover them up with light boughs and grass. Next,
they wait until the giraffe comes along and walks over the hole and
falls in. Then they run up and catch him. For certain kinds of rather
stupid deer they make a little screen of branches and leaves about the
size of a man. And the hunter, holding the screen in front of him like
a shield, creeps slowly forward until he is close to the deer and then
fires his spear or arrow. Of course, the stupid deer thinks the moving
leaves are just trees being swayed by the wind and takes very little
notice, if the hunter is careful to approach quietly enough.

"They have various other dodges, more or less underhanded and
deceitful, for getting game. But the one invented by the Badamoshi
ostrich hunters was perhaps the meanest of them all. Briefly, this
was it: Ostriches, you know, usually go about in small herds, like
cattle. And they're rather stupid. You've heard the story about their
sticking their heads in the sand when a man comes along, thinking that
because they can't see the man, the man can't see them. That doesn't
speak very well for their intelligence, does it? No. Very well then.
Now, in the Badamoshi country there wasn't much sand for the ostriches
to stick their heads in--which in a way was a good thing for them.
Because there, when a man came along, they ran away instead--I suppose
to look for sand. Anyhow, the running away saved their lives. So the
hunters of Badamoshi had to think out some dodge of coming near enough
to the ostriches to get among the herd and kill them. And the way
they thought out was quite clever. As a matter of fact, I by chance
came upon a group of these hunters in the woods one day, practising
their new trick. They had the skin of an ostrich and were taking it in
turns, putting it over their heads and trying to walk and look like a
real ostrich, holding up the long neck with a stick. Keeping myself
concealed, I watched them and saw at once what their game was. They
meant to disguise themselves as ostriches and walk among the herd and
kill them with axes which they kept hidden inside the skin.

"Now, the ostriches of those parts were great friends of mine--had been
ever since they put the Badamoshis' tennis court out of business. The
chief of the tribe some years before, finding a beautiful meadow of
elephant grass--which happened to be my favorite grazing ground--had
the fine hay all burnt off and made the place into a tennis court. He
had seen white men playing that game and thought he'd like to play
it, too. But the ostriches took the tennis balls for apples and ate
them--you know, they're dreadfully unparticular about their food. Yes,
they used to sneak around in the jungles on the edge of the tennis
court and whenever a ball was knocked out of the court they'd run off
with it and swallow it. By eating up all the chief's tennis balls in
this way they put the tennis court out of business, and my beautiful
grazing ground soon grew its long grass again and I came back to it.
That is how the ostriches happened to be friends of mine.

[Illustration: "They'd run off with it and swallow it"]

"So, seeing they were threatened by a secret danger, I went off and
told the leader of the herd about it. He was frightfully stupid and I
had the hardest work getting it into his head.

"'Now, remember,' I said as I was leaving, 'you can easily tell the
hunter when he comes among your herd from the color and shape of his
legs. Ostriches' legs are a sort of gray--as you see from your own--and
the hunters' legs are black and thicker.' You see, the skin which the
Badamoshis were going to use did not cover the hunters' legs. 'Now,'
I said, 'you must tell all your birds when they see a black-legged
ostrich trying to make friends with them to set on him and give him a
good hiding. That will teach the Badamoshi hunters a lesson.'

"Well, you'd think after that everything should have gone smoothly.
But I had not counted on the extraordinary stupidity of ostriches.
The leader, going home that night, stepped into some marshy, boggy
places and got his stupid long legs all over black mud--caked with it,
thick. Then before he went to bed he gave all the ostriches the careful
instructions which I had given to him.

"The next morning he was late in getting up and the herd was out
ahead of him, feeding in a pleasant place on the hillside. Then that
numbskull of a leader--the stupidest cock ostrich of them all--without
bothering to brush the black mud off his legs which he had stepped into
the night before, comes stalking out into the open space like a king,
expecting a grand reception. And he got a grand reception, too--the
ignoramus! As soon as the others saw his black legs they passed the
word around quickly and at a given signal they set on the poor leader
and nearly beat the life out of him. The Badamoshis, who had not yet
appeared at all, arrived upon the scene at this moment. And the silly
ostriches were so busy beating their leader, whom they took for a
hunter in disguise, that the black men came right up to them and would
have caught the whole lot if I hadn't shouted in time to warn them of
their danger.

"So, after that, of course, I saw that if I wanted to save my good but
foolish friends from destruction, I had better do something on my own

"And this was what I thought I'd do: When the Badamoshi hunters were
asleep I would go and take that ostrich skin--the only one they
had--away from them and that would be the end of their grand new
hunting trick.

"So in the dead of night I crept out of the jungle and came to the
place where the hunters' huts were. I had to come up from the leeward
side, because I didn't want to have the dogs get my scent on the wind.
I was more afraid of the hunters' dogs, you see, than I was of the
hunters themselves. From the men I could escape quite easily, being
much swifter than they were; but dogs, with their sense of smell, are
much harder to get away from, even when you can reach the cover of the

"Well, then, coming up from the leeward side, I started searching
around the huts for the ostrich skin. At first I couldn't find it
anywhere. And I began to think they must have hidden it some place.
Now, the Badamoshis, like a good many black races, when they go to bed
for the night, always leave one of their number outside the huts to
watch and keep guard. I could see this night-watchman at the end of
the row of huts, and of course I was careful not to let him see me.
But after spending some time hunting for this ostrich skin I noticed
that the watchman had not moved at all, but stayed in the same place,
squatting on a stool. Then I guessed he had probably fallen asleep.
So I moved closer and I found, to my horror, that he was wearing the
ostrich skin as a blanket--for the night was cool.

"How to get it without waking him was now the problem. On
tiptoe--hardly breathing--I went up and began to draw it gently off his
shoulders. But the wretched man had tucked part of it in under him and
I couldn't get it free while he was sitting down.

"Then I was in despair and I almost gave up. But, thinking of the fate
that surely awaited my poor, foolish friends if I didn't get that skin,
I decided on desperate measures. Suddenly and swiftly I jabbed the
watchman in a tender spot with one of my horns. With an '_Ouch!_' you
could hear a mile off, he sprang in the air. Then, snatching the bird
skin from under him, I sped off into the jungle, while the Badamoshis,
their wives, the dogs and the whole village woke up in an uproar and
came after me like a pack of wolves.

[Illustration: "I jabbed the watchman"]

"Well," the pushmi-pullyu sighed as he balanced his graceful body to
the slight rolling of the houseboat, "I hope never again to have such
a race for my life as I had that night. Cold shivers run down my spine
still whenever I think of it--the barking of the dogs and the shouting
of the men and the shrieking of the women and the crashing of the
underbrush as my pursuers came tearing through the jungle, hot upon my

"It was a river that saved me. The rainy season was on and the streams
were in flood. Panting with terror and fatigue, I reached the bank of
a swirling torrent. It was fully twenty-five feet wide. The water was
simply raging down it. To try and swim it would be madness. Looking
backward, I could see and hear my pursuers close upon my heels. Again
I had to take desperate measures. Drawing back a little to get space
for a run and still clutching that wretched ostrich skin firmly in my
mouth, I rushed at the river at full speed and leaped--as I have never
leaped in my life--clear across to the further bank. As I came down
in a heap I realized I had only just been in time, for my enemies had
already come up to the river on the side that I had left. Shaking their
fists at me in the moonlight, they were trying to find a way to get
across to me. The dogs, eagerest of all, tried, some of them, to swim;
but the swift and raging waters swept them down the stream like corks
and the hunters were afraid to follow their example.

[Illustration: "I leapt as I have never leapt before"]

"With a thrill of triumph, I dropped the precious ostrich skin before
their very eyes into the swirling river, where it quickly disappeared
from view. A howl of rage went up from the Badamoshis.

"Then I did something I've been sorry for all my life. You know how my
people have always insisted on good manners and politeness. Well--I
blush to recall it--in the excitement of the moment I stuck out both my
tongues at the baffled foe across the river. There was no excuse for
it--there never is for deliberate rudeness. But it was only moonlight
and I trust the Badamoshis didn't see it.

"Well, though I was safe for the present, my troubles were not over by
any means. For some time the Badamoshis now left the ostriches alone
and turned their whole attention to hunting me. They badgered my life
out. As soon as I had moved from one part of the country to get away
from their pestering they'd find out where I was and pursue me there.
They laid traps for me; they set pitfalls; they sent the dogs after me.
And although I managed for a whole year to keep away from them, the
constant strain was very wearing.

"Now, the Badamoshis, like most savage peoples, are very superstitious.
And they are terribly afraid--in the way that Too-Too was speaking of
last night--of anything they can't understand. Nearly everything they
can't understand they think is a devil.

"Well, after I had been hunted and worried for a long time, I thought
I would take a leaf out of their own book, so to speak, and play
something like the same trick on them as they had tried to play on
the ostriches. With this idea in mind, I set about finding some means
to disguise myself. One day, passing by a tree, I found a skin of a
wild ox spread out by some huntsman to dry. This I decided was just
the thing I wanted. I pulled it down and, lowering one of my heads, I
laid one pair of my horns flat along my back--like this--and drew the
cowhide over myself, so that only one of my heads could be seen.

"It changed my appearance completely. Moving through the long grass, I
looked like some ordinary kind of deer. So, disguised in this manner,
I sauntered out into an open meadow and grazed around till my precious
Badamoshis should appear. Which they very shortly did.

"I saw them--though they didn't know it--creeping about among the trees
on the edge of the meadow, trying to get near without scaring me. Now,
their method of hunting small deer is this: they get up into a tree and
lie along a lower branch, keeping very still. And when the deer passes
under the tree they drop down upon his hindquarters and fell him to the

"So presently, picking out the tree where I had seen the chief himself
go and hide, I browsed along underneath it, pretending I suspected
nothing at all. Then when the chief dropped on what he thought was my
hindquarters, I struck upward with my other horns, hidden under the
cowhide, and gave him a jab he will remember the rest of his days.

"With a howl of superstitious fright, he called out to his men that he
had been stuck by the devil. And they all ran across the country like
wildfire and I was never hunted or bothered by them again."

       *       *       *       *       *

Everybody had now told a tale and the _Arctic Monthly's Prize Story
Competition_ was declared closed. The first number of the first
animals' magazine ever printed was, shortly after that, issued and
circulated by Swallow Mail to the inhabitants of the frozen North. It
was a great success. Letters of thanks and votes on the competition
began pouring in from seals and sea-lions and caribou and all manner of
polar creatures. Too-Too, the mathematician, became editor; Dab-Dab ran
the Mothers' and Babies' Page, while Gub-Gub wrote the Gardening Notes
and the Pure Foods Column. And the _Arctic Monthly_ continued to bring
happiness to homes and dens and icebergs as long as the Doctor's Post
office existed.




One day Gub-Gub came to the Doctor and said:

"Doctor, why don't you start a parcel post?"

"Great heavens, Gub-Gub!" the Doctor exclaimed. "Don't you think I'm
busy enough already? What do you want a parcel post for?"

"I'll bet it's something to do with food," said Too-Too, who was
sitting on the stool next to the Doctor's, adding up figures.

"Well," said Gub-Gub, "I was thinking of sending to England for some
fresh vegetables."

"There you are!" said Too-Too. "He has a vegetable mind."

"But parcels would be too heavy for the birds to carry, Gub-Gub," said
the Doctor--"except perhaps the small parcels by the bigger birds."

"Yes, I know. I had thought of that," said the pig. "But this month
the Brussels sprouts will be coming into season in England. They're my
favorite vegetable, you know--after parsnips. And I hear that a special
kind of thrushes will be leaving England next week to come to Africa.
It wouldn't be too much to ask them to bring a single Brussels sprout
apiece, would it? There will be hundreds of birds in the flight and if
they each brought a sprout we'd have enough to last us for months. I
haven't tasted any fresh English vegetables since last Autumn, Doctor.
And I'm so sick of these yams and okras and African rubbish."

"All right, Gub-Gub," said the Doctor, "I'll see what I can do. We
will send a letter to England by the next mail going out and ask the
thrushes to bring you your Brussels sprouts."

Well, that was how still another department, the Parcel Post, was added
to the Foreign Mails Office of Fantippo. Gub-Gub's sprouts arrived
(tons of them, because this was a very big flight of birds), and after
that many kinds of animals came to the Doctor and asked him to send
for foreign foods for them when their own ran short. In this way,
too, bringing seeds and plants from other lands by birds, the Doctor
tried quite a number of experiments in planting, and what is called
acclimatizing, fruits and vegetables and even flowers.

And very soon he had an old-fashioned window-box garden on the
houseboat post office blooming with geraniums and marigolds and zinnias
raised from the seeds and cuttings his birds brought him from England.
And that is why many of the same vegetables that grow in England can
still be found in a wild state in Africa. They came there through
Gub-Gub's passion for the foods he had been brought up on.

A little while after that, by using the larger birds to carry packages,
a regular parcel post every two months was put at the service of the
Fantippans; and alarm clocks and all sorts of things from England were
sent for.

King Koko even sent for a new bicycle. It was brought over in pieces,
two storks carrying a wheel each, an eagle the frame and crows the
smaller parts, like the pedals, the spanners and the oil can.

When they started to put it together again in the post office a
part--one of the nuts--was found to be missing. But that was not the
fault of the Parcel Post. It had been left out by the makers, who
shipped it from Birmingham. But the Doctor wrote a letter of complaint
by the next mail and a new nut was sent right away. Then the King rode
triumphantly through the streets of Fantippo on his new bicycle and a
public holiday was held in honor of the occasion. And he gave his old
bicycle to his brother, Prince Wolla-Bolla. And the Parcel Post, which
had really been started by Gub-Gub, was declared a great success.

[Illustration: "Putting the King's bicycle together"]

Some weeks later the Doctor received this letter from a farmer in

    "Dear Sir: Thank you for your excellent weather reports. By their
    help I managed to raise the finest crop of Brussels sprouts this
    year ever seen in Lincolnshire. But the night before I was going
    to pick them for market they disappeared from my fields--every
    blessed one of them. How, I don't know. Maybe you could give me
    some advice about this.

    "Your obedient servant,


"Great heavens!" said the Doctor: "I wonder what happened to them."

"Gub-Gub ate them," said Too-Too. "Those are the sprouts, no doubt,
that the thrushes brought here."

"Dear me!" said the Doctor. "That's too bad. Well, I dare say I'll find
some way to pay the farmer back."

For a long time Dab-Dab, the motherly housekeeper, had been trying to
get the Doctor to take a holiday from his post office business.

"You know, Doctor," said she, "you're going to get sick--that's what's
going to happen to you, as sure as you're alive. No man can work the
way you've been doing for the last few months and not pay for it. Now
you've got the post office going properly, why don't you hand it over
to the King's postmen to run and give yourself a rest? And, anyway,
aren't you ever going back to Puddleby?"

"Oh, yes," said John Dolittle. "All in good time, Dab-Dab."

"But you _must_ take a holiday," the duck insisted. "Get away from the
post office for a while. Go up the coast in a canoe for a change of
air--if you won't go home."

Well, the Doctor kept saying that he would go. But he never did--until
something happened in the natural history line of great enough
importance to take him from his post office work. This is how it came

One day the Doctor was opening the mail addressed to him, when he came
upon a package about the size and shape of a large egg. He undid the
outer wrapper, which was made of seaweed. Inside he found a letter and
a pair of oyster shells tied together like a box.

[Illustration: "Dab-Dab looked over his shoulder"]

Somewhat puzzled, the Doctor first read the letter, while Dab-Dab,
who was still badgering him about taking a holiday, looked over his
shoulder. The letter said:

    "Dear Doctor: I am sending you, inclosed, some pretty pebbles which
    I found the other day while cracking open oysters. I never saw
    pebbles of this color before, though I live by the seashore and
    have been opening shellfish all my life. My husband says they're
    oyster's eggs. But I don't believe it. Would you please tell me
    what they are? And be careful to send them back, because my
    children use them as playthings and I have promised them they
    shall have them to keep."

Then the Doctor put down the letter and, taking his penknife, he cut
the seaweed strings that neatly held the oyster shells together. And
when he opened the shells he gave a gasp of astonishment.

"Oh, Dab-Dab," he cried, "how beautiful! Look, look!"

"Pearls!" whispered Dab-Dab in an awed voice, gazing down into the
Doctor's palm. "Pink pearls!"

"My! Aren't they handsome?" murmured the Doctor. "And did you ever see
such large ones? Each one of those pearls, Dab-Dab, is worth a fortune.
Who the dickens is this that sent them to me, anyhow?"

And he turned to the letter again.

"It's from a spoonbill," said Dab-Dab. "I know their writing. They
are a sort of a cross between a curlew and a snipe. They like messing
around lonely seacoast places, hunting for shellfish and sea worms and
stuff like that."

"Well, where is it written from?" asked the Doctor. "What do you make
that address out to be--at the top of the page there?"

Dab-Dab screwed up her eyes and peered at it closely.

"It looks to me," she said, "like the Harmattan Rocks."

"Where is that?" asked the Doctor.

"I have no idea," said Dab-Dab. "But Speedy will know."

And she went off to fetch the Skimmer.

Speedy said, yes, he knew--the Harmattan Rocks were a group of small
islands off the coast of West Africa, about sixty miles further to the

"That's curious," said the Doctor. "I wouldn't have been so surprised
if they had come from the South Sea Islands. But it is rather unusual
to find pearls of any size or beauty in these waters. Well, these must
be sent back to the spoonbill's children--by registered parcel post, of
course. Though, to tell you the truth, I hate to part with them--they
are so lovely. They can't go before to-morrow, anyway. I wonder where I
can keep them in the meantime. One has to be frightfully careful with
gems as valuable as these. You had better not tell anyone about them,
Dab-Dab--except Jip the watchman and the pushmi-pullyu. They must take
it in turns to mount guard at the door all night. Men will do all sorts
of things for pearls. We'll keep it a secret and send them right back
first thing to-morrow morning."

Even while the Doctor was speaking he noticed a shadow fall across
the desk at which he was standing. He looked up. And there at the
information window was the ugliest man's face he had ever seen, staring
in at the beautiful pearls that still lay on the palm of his hand.

The Doctor, annoyed and embarrassed, forgot for the first time in his
post office career to be polite.

"What do _you_ want?" he asked, thrusting the pearls into his pocket.

"I want a postal order for ten shillings," said the man. "I am going to
send some money to my sick wife."

The Doctor made out the postal order and took the money, which the man
handed through the window.

"Here you are," he said.

Then the man left the post office and the Doctor watched him go.

"That was a queer-looking customer, wasn't he?" he said to Dab-Dab.

"He was, indeed," said the duck. "I'm not surprised his wife is sick,
if she has a husband with a face like that."

"I wonder who he is," said John Dolittle. "It isn't often we have white
men coming in here. I don't much like the looks of him."

The following day the pearls were wrapped up again the way they had
arrived, and after a letter had been written by the Doctor explaining
to the spoonbill what the "pebbles" really were, they were sent off by
registered parcel post to the Harmattan Rocks.

The bird chosen to take the package happened to be one of the thrushes
that had brought the Brussels sprouts from England. These birds were
still staying in the neighborhood. And though a thrush was a somewhat
small bird to carry parcel post, the package was a very little one and
the Doctor had nobody else to send. So after explaining to the thrush
that registered mail should be guarded very carefully by postmen, the
Doctor sent the pearls off.

Then he went to call on the King, as he did every so often. And in the
course of conversation John Dolittle asked His Majesty if he knew who
the white stranger might be that had called at the houseboat for a
postal order.

After he had listened to the description of the man's cross-eyed,
ugly face, the King said, yes, he knew him very well. He was a pearl
fisherman, who spent most of his time in the Pacific Ocean, where
fishing for pearls was more common. But, the King said, he often came
hanging around these parts, where he was known to be a great villain
who would do anything to get pearls or money. Jack Wilkins was his name.

The Doctor, on hearing this, felt glad that he had already got the pink
pearls safely off to their owner by registered mail. Then he told the
King that he hoped shortly to take a holiday because he was overworked
and needed a rest. The King asked where he was going, and the Doctor
said he thought of taking a week's canoe trip up the coast toward the
Harmattan Rocks.

"Well," said His Majesty, "if you are going in that direction you might
call on an old friend of mine, Chief Nyam-Nyam. He owns the country in
those parts and the Harmattan Rocks themselves. He and his people are
frightfully poor, though. But he is honest--and I think you will like

"All right," said the Doctor, "I'll call on him with your compliments."

The next day, leaving Speedy, Cheapside and Jip in charge of the post
office, the Doctor got into his canoe with Dab-Dab and paddled off
to take his holiday. On the way out he noticed a schooner, the ship
of Jack Wilkins, the pearl fisherman, at anchor near the entrance to
Fantippo Harbor.

Toward evening the Doctor arrived at a small settlement of straw
huts, the village of Chief Nyam-Nyam. Calling on the Chief with an
introduction from King Koko, the Doctor was well received. He found,
however, that the country over which this chief ruled was indeed in a
very poor state. For years powerful neighbors on either side had made
war on the old Chief and robbed him of his best farming lands, till now
his people were crowded onto a narrow strip of rocky shore where very
little food could be grown. The Doctor was particularly distressed by
the thinness of the few chickens pecking about in the streets. They
reminded him of old broken-down cab-horses, he said.

[Illustration: "They reminded him of old broken down cab horses"]

While he was talking to the Chief (who seemed to be a kindly old man)
Speedy swept into the Chief's hut in a great state of excitement.

"Doctor," he cried, "the mail has been robbed! The thrush has come back
to the post office and says his package was taken from him on the way.
_The pearls are gone!_"



"Great heavens!" cried the Doctor, springing up. "The pearls gone? And
they were registered, too!"

"Yes," said Speedy, "here's the thrush himself. He'll tell you all
about it."

And going to the door, he called in the bird who had carried the
registered package.

"Doctor," said the thrush, who was also very upset and breathless,
"it wasn't my fault. I never let those pearls out of my sight. I flew
straight off for the Harmattan Rocks. But part of the trip I had to go
over land, if I took the shortest cut. And on the way I saw a sister of
mine whom I hadn't met in a long time, sitting in a tree in the jungle
below me. And I thought it would be no harm if I went and talked to her
a while. So I flew down and she was very glad to see me. I couldn't
talk properly with the string of the package in my mouth, so I put the
parcel down on the bough of the tree behind me--right near me, you
understand--and went on talking to my sister. And when I turned around
to pick it up again it was gone."

[Illustration: "I put the parcel down"]

"Perhaps it slipped off the tree," said the Doctor, "and fell down into
the underbrush."

"It couldn't have," said the thrush. "I put it into a little hollow
in the bark of the bough. It just couldn't have slipped or rolled.
Somebody must have taken it."

"Dear me," said John Dolittle. "Robbing the mails; that's a serious
thing. I wonder who could have done it?"

"I'll bet it's Jack Wilkins, the cross-eyed pearl fisherman," whispered
Dab-Dab. "A man with a face like that would steal anything. And he was
the only one, besides us and Speedy, who knew the pearls were going
through the mails. It's Wilkins, sure as you're alive."

"I wonder," said the Doctor. "They do say he is a most unscrupulous
customer. Well, there's nothing for it, I suppose, but that I should
paddle back to Fantippo right away and try to find him. The post office
is responsible for the loss of registered mail, and if Mr. Wilkins took
those pearls I'm going to get them back again. But after this we will
make it a post office rule that carriers of registered mail may not
talk to their sisters or anyone else while on duty."

And in spite of the lateness of the hour, John Dolittle said a hasty
farewell to Chief Nyam-Nyam and started off by moonlight for Fantippo

In the meantime, Speedy and the thrush flew over the land by the short
cut to the post office.

"What are you going to say to Wilkins, Doctor?" asked Dab-Dab as the
canoe glided along over the moonlit sea. "It's a pity you haven't got
a pistol or something like that. He looks a desperate character and he
isn't likely to give up the pearls without a fight."

"I don't know what I'll say to him. I'll see when I get there," said
John Dolittle. "But we must be very careful how we approach, so that he
doesn't see us coming. If he should pull up his anchor and sail away we
would never be able to overtake him by canoe."

"I tell you what, Doctor," said Dab-Dab, "let me fly ahead and do a
little spying on the enemy. Then I'll come back and tell you anything I
can find out. Maybe he isn't on his schooner at all at present. And we
ought to be hunting him somewhere else."

"All right," said the Doctor. "Do that. It will take me another four
hours at least to reach Fantippo at this pace."

So Dab-Dab flew away over the sea and John Dolittle continued to paddle
his canoe bravely forward.

After about an hour had passed he heard a gentle sort of whispered
quacking high overhead and he knew that his faithful housekeeper was
returning. Presently, with a swish of feathers, Dab-Dab settled down at
his feet. And on her face was an expression which meant great news.

"He's there, Doctor--and he's got the pearls, all right!" said she.
"I peeked through the window and I saw him counting them out from one
little box into another by the light of a candle."

"The villain!" grunted the Doctor, putting on all the speed he could.
"Let's hope he doesn't get away before we reach Fantippo."

Dawn was beginning to show before they came in sight of the ship they
sought. This made approaching the schooner without being seen extremely
difficult. And the Doctor went all the way around the Island of
No-Man's-Land, so as to come upon the ship from the other side, where
he would not have to cross so large an open stretch of sea.

Paddling very, very softly, he managed to get the canoe right under the
bow of the ship. Then, tying his own craft so it couldn't float away,
he swarmed up the schooner's anchor chain and crept on to the boat on
hands and knees.

Full daylight had not yet come and the light from a lamp could be seen
palely shining up the stairs which led to the cabin. The Doctor slid
forward like a shadow, tiptoed his way down the stairs and peered
through the partly opened door.

The cross-eyed Wilkins was still seated at the table, as Dab-Dab had
described, counting pearls. Two other men were asleep in bunks around
the room. The Doctor swung open the door and jumped in. Instantly
Wilkins sprang up from the table, snatched a pistol from his belt and
leveled it at the Doctor's head.

[Illustration: "Wilkins levelled a pistol at the Doctor's head"]

"Move an inch and you're a dead man!" he snarled.

The Doctor, taken aback for a moment, gazed at the pistol muzzle,
wondering what to do next. Wilkins, without moving his eyes from the
Doctor for a second, closed the pearl box with his left hand and put it
into his pocket.

While he was doing this, however, Dab-Dab sneaked in under the table,
unseen by anyone. And suddenly she bit the pearl fisherman in the leg
with her powerful beak.

With a howl Wilkins bent down to knock her off.

"Now's your chance, Doctor!" yelled the duck.

And in the second while the pistol was lowered the Doctor sprang onto
the man's back, gripped him around the neck, and with a crash the two
of them went rolling on the floor of the cabin.

Then a tremendous fight began. Over and over and over they rolled
around the floor, upsetting things in all directions, Wilkins fighting
to get his pistol hand free, the Doctor struggling to keep it bound to
his body, Dab-Dab hopping and flying and jumping and flapping to get a
bite in on the enemy's nose whenever she saw a chance.

At last John Dolittle, who for his size, was a very powerful wrestler,
got the pearl fisherman in a grip of iron where he couldn't move at
all. But just as the Doctor was forcing the pistol out of his enemy's
hand, one of the other men, who had been aroused by the noise of the
fight, woke up. And, leaning out of his bunk from behind the Doctor's
back, he hit him a tremendous blow on the head with a bottle. Stunned
and senseless, John Dolittle fell over in a heap and lay still upon the

Then all three men sprang on him with ropes and in a minute his arms
and legs were tied and the fight was over.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he woke up the Doctor found himself lying at the bottom of his own
canoe, with Dab-Dab tugging at the ropes which bound his wrists to get
him free.

"Where is Wilkins?" he asked in a dazed, sleepy kind of way.

"Gone," said Dab-Dab; "and the pearls with him--the scoundrel! As soon
as they had dumped you in the canoe they pulled up the anchor, hoisted
sail and got away. They were in an awful hurry and kept looking out to
sea with telescopes and talking about the revenue cutter. I guess they
are wanted by the government for a good many bad deeds. I never saw a
tougher-looking crowd of men in all my life. See, I've got the rope
around your hands free now; you can do the rest better yourself. Does
your head hurt much?"

"It's a bit dizzy still," said the Doctor, working at the rope about
his ankles. "But I'll be all right in a little."

Presently when he had undone the cord that tied his feet, John Dolittle
stood up and gazed over the ocean. And there, on the sky line, he could
just see the sails of Wilkins' schooner disappearing eastward.

"Villain!" was all he said between his clenched teeth.



Disappointed and sad, Dab-Dab and the Doctor started to paddle their
way back.

"I think I'll stop in at the post office before I return to Chief
Nyam-Nyam's country," said the Doctor. "There's nothing more I can do
about the pearls, I suppose. But I'd like to see if everything else is
going all right."

"Wilkins may get caught yet--by the government," said Dab-Dab. "And if
he does we might get the pearls back, after all."

"Not much chance of that, I'm afraid," said John Dolittle. "He will
probably sell them the first chance he gets. That's all he wants them
for--for the money they'll bring in. Whereas the young spoonbills
appreciated their beauty. It's a shame they should lose them--and when
they were in my care, too. Well--it's no use crying over spilt milk.
They're gone. That's all."

As they were approaching the houseboat they noticed a large number
of canoes collected about it. To-day was not one of the outgoing or
incoming mail days and the Doctor wondered what the excitement could be.

Fastening up his own canoe, he went into the post office. And inside
there was quite a crowd. He made his way through it with Dab-Dab and
in the registered mail booth he found all the animals gathered around
a small black squirrel. The little creature's legs were tied with post
office red tape and he seemed very frightened and miserable. Speedy and
Cheapside were mounting guard over him, one on each side.

"What's all this about?" asked the Doctor.

"We've caught the fellow who stole the pearls, Doctor," said Speedy.

"And we've got the pearls, too," cried Too-Too. "They're in the stamp
drawer and Jip is guarding them."

"But I don't understand," said John Dolittle. "I thought Wilkins had
made off with them."

"Those must have been some other stolen pearls, Doctor," said Dab-Dab.
"Let's take a look at the ones Jip has."

The Doctor went and opened the stamp drawer. And there, inside, sure
enough, were the three pink beauties he had sent by registered mail.

"How did you find them?" he asked, turning to Speedy.

"Well, after you had set off in the canoe," said the Skimmer, "I and
the thrush stopped on our way back here at the tree where he had lost
the package. It was too dark then to hunt for it, so we roosted in
the tree all night, intending to look in the morning. Just as dawn
was breaking we saw this wretched squirrel here flirting about in the
branches with an enormous pink pearl in his mouth. I at once pounced
on him and held him down, while the thrush took the pearl away from
him. Then we made him tell us where he had hidden the other two. And
after we had got all three of them we put the squirrel under arrest and
brought him here."

"Dear me!" said the Doctor, looking at the miserable culprit, who was
all tied up with red tape. "What made you steal the pearls?"

At first the squirrel seemed almost too frightened to speak. So the
Doctor took a pair of scissors and cut the bonds that held him.

"Why did you do it?" he repeated.

"I thought they were Brussels sprouts," said the squirrel timidly. "A
few weeks ago when I and my wife were sitting in a tree we suddenly
smelled the smell of Brussels sprouts, awful strong, all about us.
I and my wife are very fond of this vegetable and we wondered where
the smell was coming from. And then, looking up, we saw thousands of
thrushes passing overhead, carrying Brussels sprouts in their mouths.
We hoped they would stop so we could get a few. But they didn't. So we
agreed that perhaps more would be coming over in a few days. And we
arranged to stay around that same tree and wait. And, sure enough, this
morning I saw one of these same thrushes alight in the tree, carrying
a package. '_Pst!_' I whispered to the wife. 'More Brussels sprouts.
Let's bag his parcel while he's not looking!' And bag it I did. But
when we opened it we found nothing but these wretched gew-gaws. I
thought they might be some new kind of rock candy and I was on my way
to find a stone to crack them with when this bird grabbed me by the
scruff of the neck and arrested me. I didn't want the beastly pearls."

[Illustration: "'_Pst!_' I whispered to the wife"]

"Well," said the Doctor, "I'm sorry you've been put to such
inconvenience. I'll have Dab-Dab carry you back to your family. But,
you know, robbing the registered mail is a serious thing. If you wanted
some Brussels sprouts you should have written to me. After all, you
can't blame the birds for putting you under arrest."

"Stolen fruit's the sweetest, Doctor," said Cheapside. "If you 'ad
given 'im a ton of 'ot-'ouse grapes 'e wouldn't 'ave enjoyed 'em 'alf
as much as something 'e pinched. I'd give 'im a couple of years 'ard
labor, if I was you--just to learn 'im to leave the mails alone."

"Well, never mind, we'll forget it," said the Doctor. "It's only a
boyish escapade."

"Boyish fiddlesticks!" growled Cheapside. "'E's the father of a large
family--and a natural-born pickpocket. All squirrels are like that.
Don't I know 'em in the city parks--with their mincin' ways that the
folks call 'cute'? Cheekiest beggars that ever was--pinch a crumb from
under your nose and pop into an 'ole with it before you could get your
breath. Boyish hescapade!"

"Come along," said Dab-Dab, picking the wretched culprit up in her big
webbed feet. "I'll take you back to the mainland. And you can thank
your lucky stars that it's the Doctor who is in charge of this post
office. It's to jail you really ought to go."

"Oh, and hurry back, Dab-Dab," the Doctor called after her as she
flapped her way through the open window and set off across the sea
with her burden. "I'm going to start right away for Chief Nyam-Nyam's
country as soon as you are ready.

"I'll take the pearls myself this time," he said to Speedy, "and hand
them over to the spoonbill in person. We don't want any more accidents
happening to them."

About noon the Doctor started out a second time upon his holiday trip
and as Gub-Gub, Jip and the white mouse begged to be taken along, the
canoe was well loaded.

They reached Nyam-Nyam's village about six o'clock in the evening and
the old chief prepared a supper for his guests. There was very little
to eat at it, however. And the Doctor was again reminded how poor these
people were.

While talking with the old chief the Doctor found out that the worst
enemy his country had was the Kingdom of Dahomey. This big and powerful
neighbor was, it seemed, always making war upon Chief Nyam-Nyam and
cutting off parts of his land and making the people poorer still.
Now, the soldiers of Dahomey were Amazons--that is, they were women
soldiers. And although they were women, they were very big and strong
and there were a terrible lot of them. So whenever they attacked the
small country next to them they easily won and took what they wanted.

As it happened, they made an attack that night while the Doctor was
staying with the Chief. And about ten o'clock everybody was awakened
out of his sleep with cries of "War! War! The Amazons are here!"

There was terrible confusion. And until the moon had risen people were
hitting and falling over one another everywhere in the darkness, not
knowing friend from enemy.

When it was possible to see, however, the Doctor found that most of
Chief Nyam-Nyam's people had fled off into the jungle; and the Amazons,
in thousands, were just going through the village, taking anything they
fancied. The Doctor tried to argue with them, but they merely laughed
at him.

[Illustration: "The rout of the Amazons"]

Then the white mouse, who was watching the show from the Doctor's
shoulder, whispered in his ear:

"If this is an army of women, Doctor, I think I know of a way to deal
with them. Women are terribly afraid of mice, you know. I'll just go
off and collect a few in the village and see what we can do."

So the white mouse went off and gathered an army of his own, about two
hundred mice, which lived in the grass walls and floors of the huts.
And then suddenly they attacked the Amazons and began nipping them in
the legs.

With shrieks and howls the fat women soldiers dropped the things they
had been stealing and ran helter-skelter for home. And that was one
time the famous Amazons of Dahomey _didn't_ have it all their own way.

The Doctor told his pet he could be very proud of himself. For he was
surely the only mouse in the world that ever won a war.



The next morning the Doctor was up early. After a light breakfast (it
was impossible to get any other kind in that poverty-stricken country)
he asked Nyam-Nyam the way to the Harmattan Rocks and the Chief told
him they were just beyond sight from here, about an hour and a half's
paddle straight out into the ocean.

So the Doctor decided that he had better have a sea bird to guide him.
And Dab-Dab went and got a curlew who was strolling about on the beach,
doing nothing in particular. This bird said he knew the place quite
well and would consider it an honor to act as guide to John Dolittle.
Then, with Jip, Dab-Dab, Gub-Gub and the white mouse, the Doctor got
into his canoe and started off for the Harmattan Rocks.

It was a beautiful morning and they enjoyed the paddle--though Gub-Gub
came very near to upsetting the canoe more than once, leaning out to
grab for passing sea weed, which he had noticed the curlew eating.
Finally, for safety's sake, they made him lie down at the bottom of the
canoe, where he couldn't see anything.

About eleven o'clock a group of little rocky islands were sighted,
which their guide said were the Harmattan Rocks. At this point in their
journey the mainland of Africa was just disappearing from view on the
sky-line behind them. The rocks they were coming to seemed to be the
home of thousands of different kinds of sea birds. As the canoe drew
near, gulls, terns, gannets, albatrosses, cormorants, auklets, petrels,
wild ducks, even wild geese, came out, full of curiosity to examine the
stranger. When they learned from the curlew that this quiet little fat
man was none other than the great Doctor Dolittle himself they passed
word back to the rocks; and soon the air about the canoe was simply
thick with wings flashing in the sunlight. And the welcome to their
home that the sea birds screeched to the Doctor was so hearty and noisy
you couldn't hear yourself speak.

It was easy to see why this place had been chosen for a home by the
sea birds. The shores all around were guarded by half-sunken rocks, on
which the waves roared and broke dangerously. No ship was ever likely
to come here to disturb the quiet life of the birds. Indeed, even with
a light canoe that could go in shallow water, the Doctor would have had
hard work to make a landing. But the welcoming birds guided him very
skillfully around to the back of the biggest island, where a bay with
deep water formed a pretty sort of toy harbor. The Doctor understood
now why these islands had been left in the possession of the poor
Chief: no neighbors would consider them worth taking. Hard to approach,
with very little soil in which crops could be grown, flat and open to
all the winds and gales of heaven, barren and lonesome, they tempted
none of the Chief's enemies. And so for many, many years they remained
the property of Nyam-Nyam and his people--though indeed even they
hardly ever visited them. But in the end the Harmattan Rocks proved to
be of greater value than all the rest of the lands this tribe had lost.

"Oh, I think this is an awful place," said Gub-Gub as they got out of
the canoe. "Nothing but waves and rocks. What have you come here for,

[Illustration: "'Oh, I think this is an awful place!'"]

"I hope to do a little pearl fishing," said John Dolittle. "But first I
must see the spoonbill and give her this registered package. Dab-Dab,
would you please try to find her for me? With so many millions of sea
birds around, myself, I wouldn't know how to begin to look for her."

"All right," said Dab-Dab. "But it may take me a little time. There are
several islands and quite a number of spoonbills. I shall have to make
inquiries and find out which one sent you the pearls."

So Dab-Dab went off upon her errand. And in the meantime the Doctor
talked and chatted with various sea bird leaders who had already
made his acquaintance at the Great Conference in the hollow of
No-Man's-Land. These kept coming up to him, anxious to show off before
their fellows the fact that they knew the great man personally. And
once more the Doctor's notebook was kept busy with new discoveries to
be jotted down about the carriage of mail by birds that live upon the

The birds, who at first followed the Doctor in droves around the main
island wherever he went, presently returned to their ordinary doings
when the newness of his arrival had worn off. And after Dab-Dab had
come back from her hunt and told him the spoonbill lived on one of the
smaller islands, he got back into his canoe and paddled over to the
rock she pointed out.

Here the spoonbill was waiting for him at the water's edge. She
apologized for not coming in person to welcome him, but said she was
afraid to leave her babies when there were sea eagles around. The
little ones were with her, two scrubby, greasy youngsters, who could
walk but not fly. The Doctor opened the package and gave them back
their precious toys; and with squawks of delight they began playing
marbles on the flat rocks with the enormous pink pearls.

[Illustration: "The young ones were with her"]

"What charming children you have," said the Doctor to the mother
spoonbill, who was watching them proudly. "I'm glad they've got
their playthings safely back. I wouldn't have had them lose them for

"Yes, they are devoted to those pebbles," said the spoonbill. "By the
way, were you able to tell me what they are? I found them, as I wrote
you, inside an oyster."

"They are pearls," said the Doctor, "and worth a tremendous lot. Ladies
in cities wear them around their necks."

"Oh, indeed," said the bird. "And why don't the ladies in the country
wear them, too?"

"I don't just know," said the Doctor. "I suppose because they're too
costly. With any one of those pearls you could buy a house and garden."

"Well, wouldn't you like to keep them, then?" asked the spoonbill. "I
could get the children something else to play with, no doubt."

"Oh, no," said the Doctor, "thank you. I have a house and garden."

"Yes, Doctor," Dab-Dab put in, "but you wouldn't be bound to buy a
second one with the money you would get for the pearls. It would come
in real handy for something else, you know."

"The baby spoonbills want them," said John Dolittle. "Why should I take
them away from them?"

"Balls of pink putty would suit them just as well," snorted Dab-Dab.

"Putty is poisonous," said the Doctor. "They appreciate the beauty of
the pearls. Let them have them. But," he added to the mother spoonbill,
"if you know where any more are to be found I should be glad to know."

"I don't," said she. "I don't even know how these came to be in the
possession of the oyster I ate."

"Pearls always grow in oysters--when they grow at all," said the
Doctor. "But they are rare. This is the point that most interests
me--the natural history of pearls. They are said to form around a grain
of sand that gets into the oyster's shell by accident. I had hoped
that if you were in the habit of eating oysters you could give me some

"I'm afraid I can't," said the spoonbill. "To tell you the truth, I
got those oysters from a pile which some other bird had left on the
rock here. He had eaten his fill, I suppose, and gone away. There are a
good many left still. Let's go over to the pile and crack a few. Maybe
they've all got pearls in them."

So they went across to the other side of the little island and started
opening oysters. But not another pearl did they find.

"Where are the oyster beds around here?" asked the Doctor.

"Between this island and the next," said the spoonbill. "I don't fish
for them myself because I'm not a deep diver. But I've seen other kinds
of sea birds fishing in that place--just about half way between this
island and that little one over there."

"I'll go out with her, Doctor," said Dab-Dab, "and do a little fishing
on my own account. I can dive pretty deep, though I'm not a regular
diving duck. Maybe I can get some pearls for you."

So Dab-Dab went out with the spoonbill and started pearl fishing.

Then for a good hour and a half the faithful housekeeper fished up
oyster after oyster and brought them to the Doctor on the island. He
and the animals found opening them quite exciting work, because you
never knew what you might discover. But nothing was found in the shells
but fat oysters and thin oysters.

"I think I'd like to try a hand at diving myself," said the Doctor,
"if the water is not too deep. I used to be quite good at fishing up
sixpences from the bottom of the swimming pool when I was a boy."

And he took off his clothes, got into the canoe and paddled out with
the animals till he was over the oyster beds. Then he dove right down
into the clear green water, while Jip and Gub-Gub watched him with
intense interest.

But when he came up, blowing like a seal, he hadn't even got an oyster.
All he had was a mouthful of seaweed.

"Let's see what I can do," said Jip. And out of the canoe jumped
another pearl fisherman.

Then Gub-Gub got all worked up and before anybody could stop him _he_
had taken a plunge. The pig went down so quick and so straight he got
his snout stuck in the mud at the bottom, and the Doctor, still out of
breath, had to go down after him and get him free. The animals by this
time were at such a pitch of excitement that even the white mouse would
have jumped in if Gub-Gub's accident hadn't changed his mind.

[Illustration: "Gub-Gub dives for pearls"]

Jip managed to bring up a few small oysters, but there were no pearls
in them.

"I'm afraid we're pretty poor fishers," said John Dolittle. "Of course,
it's possible that there may not be any more pearls there."

"No, I'm not satisfied yet," said Dab-Dab. "I'm pretty sure that there
are plenty of pearls there--the beds are enormous. I think I'll go
around among the sea birds and try to find out who it was got those
oysters our spoonbill found the pearls in. The bird that fished up that
pile was an expert oyster diver."

So while the Doctor put his clothes on and Gub-Gub washed the mud out
of his ears, Dab-Dab went off on a tour of inquiry around the islands.

After about twenty minutes she brought back a black duck-like bird with
a tuft on his head.

"This cormorant, Doctor," said she, "fished up that pile of oysters."

"Ah," said John Dolittle, "perhaps we shall find out something now. Can
you tell me," he asked the cormorant, "how to get pearls?"

"Pearls? What do you mean?" said the bird.

Then Dab-Dab went and borrowed the playthings from the spoonbill's
children to show him.

"Oh, those things," said the cormorant. "Those come in bad oysters.
When I go oyster fishing I never pick up that kind except once in a
while by accident--and then I never bother to open them."

"But how do you tell oysters of that kind from the others?" asked the

"By sniffing them," said the cormorant. "The ones that have those
things in them don't smell fresh. I'm frightfully particular about my

"Do you mean to say that even when you are right down under the
water you could tell an oyster that had pearls in it from one that
hadn't--just by sniffing it?"

"Certainly. So could any cormorant."

"There you are, Doctor," said Dab-Dab. "The trick's done. Now you can
get all the pearls you want."

"But these oyster beds don't belong to me," said John Dolittle.

"Oh, dear!" sighed the duck. "Did anyone ever see a man who could find
so many objections to getting rich? Who do they belong to, then?"

"To Chief Nyam-Nyam and his people, of course. He owns the Harmattan
Rocks. Would you mind," the Doctor asked, turning to the cormorant,
"getting me a few oysters of this kind to look at?"

"With the greatest of pleasure," said the cormorant.

And he flew out over the oyster beds and shot down into the sea like
a stone. In a minute he was back again with three oysters--two in his
feet and one in his mouth. The animals gathered around with bated
breath while the Doctor opened them. In the first was a small gray
pearl; in the second a middle-sized pink pearl, and in the third two
enormous black ones.

"Gosh, how lovely!" murmured Gub-Gub.

"Pearls before swine," giggled the white mouse. "Tee, hee!"

"How uneducated you are!" snorted the pig, turning up his snout.
"Ladies before gentlemen; _swine_ before _pearls_!"



Late that same afternoon the Doctor returned to Chief Nyam-Nyam's
village. And with him he took the cormorant as well as Dab-Dab and his

As he arrived at the little group of straw houses he saw that there
was some kind of a commotion going on. All the villagers were gathered
about the Chief's hut; speeches were being made and everyone seemed in
a great state of excitement. The old Chief himself was standing at the
door, and when he saw his friend, the Doctor, approaching on the edge
of the crowd, he signaled him to come into the hut. This the Doctor
did. And as soon as he was inside the Chief closed the door and began
to tell him what the trouble was.

"Great trials have overtaken me in my old age, oh white man," said he.
"For fifty years I have been head of this tribe, respected, honored and
obeyed. Now my young son-in-law, Obombo, clamors to be made Chief and
many of the people support him. Bread we have none; food of any kind is
scanty. And Obombo tells the tribesmen that the fault is mine--that he,
if he is made chief, will bring them luxury and prosperity. It is not
that I am unwilling to give up the chieftaincy, but I know this young
upstart who would take my place means to lead the people into war. What
can he do by going to war? Can he fill the people's stomachs? In wars
we have always lost. Our neighbors are large peoples, while we are the
smallest tribe in all West Africa. So we have been robbed and robbed,
till now the mothers and children clamor at my door for bread. Alas,
alas, that I should ever see this day!"

The old Chief sank into his chair as he ended and burst out weeping.
The Doctor went up and patted him on the shoulder.

[Illustration: "The Doctor patted him on the shoulder"]

"Chief Nyam-Nyam," said he, "I think I have discovered something
to-day which should make you and your people rich for the remainder of
your lives. Go out now and address the tribesmen. Promise them in my
name--and remind them that I come recommended by King Koko--promise
them from me that if they will abide peacefully under your rule for
another week the country of Chief Nyam-Nyam will be made famous for its
riches and prosperity."

Then the old Chief opened the door and made a speech to the clamoring
crowd outside. And when he had ended Obombo, the son-in-law, got up and
began another speech, calling on the people to drive the old man out
into the jungle. But before he had got halfway through the crowd began
to murmur to one another:

"Let us not listen to this forward young man. It is far better that
we abide the white man's promise and see what comes. He is a man of
deeds, not words. Did he not put the Amazons to flight with a magic
mouse that lives in his pocket? Let us side with the white man and the
venerable Nyam-Nyam, who has ruled us with kindness for so long. Obombo
would but lead us into war, and bring us to greater poverty still."

Soon hisses and groans broke out among the crowd and, picking up
pebbles and mud, they began pelting Obombo so he could not go on with
his speech. Finally he had to run for the jungle himself to escape the
fury of the people.

Then when the excitement had died down and the villagers had gone
peacefully to their homes, the Doctor told the old Chief of the wealth
that lay waiting for him in the oysters of the Harmattan Rocks. And the
cormorant agreed to oblige John Dolittle by getting a number of his
relatives to do pearl fishing for these people, who were so badly in
need of money and food.

And during the next week the Doctor paddled the old Chief to the rocks
twice a day. A great number of oysters were fished up by the cormorants
and the pearls were sorted by the Doctor, put in little boxes and sent
out to be sold. John Dolittle told the old Chief to keep the matter a
secret and only to intrust the carrying to reliable men.

And soon money began to pour into the country from the pearl fishing
business which the Doctor had established and the people were
prosperous and had all the food they wanted.

By the end of that week the Doctor had, indeed, made good his promise.
The country of Chief Nyam-Nyam became famous all along the coast of
West Africa as a wealthy state.

But wherever money is made in large quantities and business is good,
there strangers will always come, seeking their fortune. And before
long the little village that used to be so poor and insignificant was
full of traders from the neighboring kingdoms, buying and selling in
the crowded, busy markets. And, of course, questions were soon asked as
to how this country had suddenly got so rich. And, although the Chief
had carried out the Doctor's orders and had only intrusted the secret
of the fisheries to a few picked men, folks began to notice that canoes
frequently came and went between the Harmattan Rocks and the village of
Chief Nyam-Nyam.

Then spies from those neighboring countries who had always been robbing
and warring upon this land began to sneak around the rocks in canoes.
And, of course, very soon the secret was out.

And the Emir of Ellebubu, who was one of the big, powerful neighbors,
called up his army and sent them off in war canoes to take possession
of the Harmattan Rocks. At the same time he made an attack upon the
village, drove everybody out, and carrying off the Doctor and the
Chief, he threw them into prison in his own country. Then at last
Nyam-Nyam's people had no land left at all.

And in the jungle, where the frightened villagers had fled to hide,
Obombo made whispered speeches to little scattered groups of his
father-in-law's people, telling them what fools they had been to trust
the crazy white man, instead of listening to him, who would have led
them to greatness.

[Illustration: "In the jungle Obombo made speeches"]

Now, when the Emir of Ellebubu had thrown the Doctor into prison he had
refused to allow Dab-Dab, Jip or Gub-Gub to go with him. Jip put up a
fight and bit the Emir in the leg. But all he got for that was to be
tied up on a short chain.

The prison into which the Doctor was thrown had no windows. And John
Dolittle, although he had been in African prisons before, was very
unhappy because he was extremely particular about having fresh air. And
besides, his hands were firmly tied behind his back with strong rope.

"Dear me," said he while he was sitting miserably on the floor in the
darkness, wondering what on earth he was going to do without any of his
animals to help him, "what a poor holiday I am spending, to be sure!"

But presently he heard something stirring in his pocket. And to his
great delight, the white mouse, who had been sleeping soundly, entirely
forgotten by the Doctor, ran out on his lap.

"Good luck!" cried John Dolittle. "You're the very fellow I want. Would
you be so good as to run around behind my back and gnaw this beastly
rope? It's hurting my wrists."

"Certainly," said the white mouse, setting to work at once. "Why is it
so dark? I haven't slept into the night, have I?"

"No," said the Doctor. "It's only about noon, I should say. But we're
locked up. That stupid old Emir of Ellebubu made war on Nyam-Nyam and
threw me into jail. Bother it, I always seem to be getting into prison!
The worst of it was, he wouldn't let Jip or Dab-Dab come with me. I'm
particularly annoyed that I haven't got Dab-Dab. I wish I knew some way
I could get a message to her."

"Well, just wait until I have your hands free," said the white mouse.
"Then I'll see what can be done. There! I've bitten through one strand.
Now wiggle your hands a bit and you can undo the whole rope."

The Doctor squirmed his arms and wrists and presently his hands were

"Thank goodness, I had you in my pocket!" he said. "That was a most
uncomfortable position. I wonder what kind of a prison old Nyam-Nyam
got. This is the worst one I was ever in."

In the meantime the Emir, celebrating victory in his palace, gave
orders that the Harmattan Rocks, which were now to be called the Royal
Ellebubu Pearl Fisheries, would henceforth be his exclusive, private
property, and no trespassing would be allowed. And he sent out six
special men with orders to take over the islands and to bring all the
pearls to him.

Now the cormorants did not know that war had broken out, nor anything
about the Doctor's misfortune. And when the Emir's men came and
took the pearl oysters they had fished up the birds supposed they
were Nyam-Nyam's men and let them have them. However, it happened,
luckily, that this first load of oysters had only very small and almost
worthless pearls in them.

Jip and Dab-Dab were still plotting to find some way to reach the
Doctor. But there seemed to be nothing they could think of.

Inside the prison the Doctor was swinging his arms to get the stiffness
out of them.

"You said something about a message you had for Dab-Dab, I think,"
peeped the white mouse's voice from the darkness of the corner.

"Yes," said the Doctor--"and a very urgent one. But I don't see how on
earth I'm going to get it to her. This place is made of stone and the
door's frightfully thick. I noticed it as I came in."

"Don't worry, Doctor, I'll get it to her," said the mouse. "I've just
found an old rat hole over here in the corner. I popped down it and it
goes under the wall and comes out by the root of the tree on the other
side of the road from the prison."

"Oh, how splendid!" cried the Doctor.

"Give me the message," said the white mouse, "and I'll hand it to
Dab-Dab before you can say Jack Robinson. She's sitting in the tree,
where the hole comes out."

"Tell her," said the Doctor, "to fly over to the Harmattan Rocks right
away and give the cormorants strict orders to stop all pearl fishing at

"All right," said the mouse. And he slipped down the rat hole.

Dab-Dab, as soon as she got the message, went straight off to the pearl
fisheries and gave the Doctor's instructions to the cormorants.

She was only just in time. For the Emir's six special men were about
to land on the islands to get a second load of pearls. Dab-Dab and the
cormorants swiftly threw back into the sea the oysters that had been
fished up and when the Emir's men arrived they found nothing.

After hanging around a while they paddled back and told the Emir that
they could find no more pearl oysters on the rocks. He sent them out to
look again; but they returned with the same report.

Then the Emir was puzzled and angry. If Nyam-Nyam could get pearls on
the Harmattan Rocks, why couldn't he? And one of his generals said that
probably the white man had something to do with it, since it was he who
had discovered and started the fisheries.

So the Emir ordered his hammock men and had himself carried to the
Doctor's prison. The door was unlocked and the Emir, going inside, said
to the Doctor:

"What monkey business have you done to my pearl fisheries, you
white-faced villain?"

"They're not your pearl fisheries, you black-faced ruffian," said the
Doctor. "You stole them from poor old Nyam-Nyam. The pearls were fished
for by diving birds. But the birds are honest and will work only for
honest people. Why don't you have windows in your prisons? You ought to
be ashamed of yourself."

Then the Emir flew into a terrible passion.

"How dare you speak to me like that? I am the Emir of Ellebubu," he

[Illustration: "'How dare you speak to me like that?'"]

"You're an unscrupulous scoundrel," said the Doctor. "I don't want to
talk to you."

"If you don't make the birds work for me I'll give orders that you get
no food," said the Emir. "You shall be starved to death."

"I have told you," said the Doctor, "that I don't desire any further
conversation with you. Not a single pearl shall you ever get from the
Harmattan Fisheries."

"And not a bite to eat shall you ever have till I do," the Emir yelled.

Then he turned to the prison guards, gave instructions that the Doctor
was not to be fed till further orders and stalked out. The door slammed
shut with a doleful clang and after one decent breath of fresh air the
Doctor was left in the darkness of his stuffy dungeon.



The Emir of Ellebubu went back to his palace feeling perfectly certain
that after he had starved John Dolittle for a few days he would be able
to make him do anything he wanted. He gave orders that no water should
be served to the prisoner either, so as to make doubly sure that he
would be reduced to obedience.

But immediately the Emir had left, the white mouse started out through
the rat hole in the corner. And all day and all night he kept busy,
coming and going bringing in crumbs of food which he gathered from the
houses of the town: bread crumbs, cheese crumbs, yam crumbs, potato
crumbs and crumbs of meat which he pulled off bones. All these he
stored carefully in the Doctor's hat in the corner of the prison. And
by the end of each day he had collected enough crumbs for one good
square meal.

The Doctor said he never had the slightest idea of what he was eating,
but as the mealy mixture was highly digestible and nutritious he did
not see why he should mind. To supply his master with water the mouse
got nuts, and after gnawing a tiny hole in one end he would chop the
nut inside into pieces and shake it out through the hole. Then he would
fill the empty shell with water and seal up the hole with gum arabic
which he got from trees. The water-filled nuts were a little heavy for
him to carry, so Dab-Dab would bring them from the river as far as the
outside end of the rat hole, and the white mouse would roll them down
the hole into the prison.

[Illustration: "The white mouse would roll them down the hole"]

By getting his friends, the village mice, to help him in the
preparation of these nuts, he was able to supply them in hundreds. Then
all the Doctor had to do when he wanted a drink was to put one in his
mouth, crack it with his teeth, and after the cool water had run down
his throat, spit the broken shells out.

The white mouse also provided crumbs of soap, so that his master could
shave--for the Doctor, even in prison, was always very particular about
this part of his appearance.

Well, when four days had passed the Emir of Ellebubu sent a messenger
to the prison to inquire if the Doctor was now willing to do as he was
told. The guards after talking to John Dolittle brought word to the
Emir that the white man was as obstinate as ever and had no intention
of giving in.

"Very well," said the Emir, stamping his foot, "then let him starve.
In ten days more the fool will be dead. Then I will come and laugh
over him. So perish all wretches who oppose the wishes of the Emir of

And in ten days' time he went to the prison, as he had said, to gloat
over the terrible fate of the white man. Many of his ministers and
generals came with him to help him gloat. But when the prison door
was opened, instead of seeing the white man's body stretched upon the
floor, the Emir found the Doctor smiling on the threshold, shaved and
hearty and all spruced up. The only difference in his appearance was
that with no exercise in prison he had grown slightly stouter and

The Emir stared at the prisoner open-mouthed, speechless with
astonishment. Now, the day before this he had heard for the first time
the story of the rout of the Amazons. The Emir had refused to believe
it. But now he began to feel that anything might be true about this man.

"See," one of the ministers whispered in his ear, "the sorcerer has
even shaved his beard without water or soap. Your Majesty, there is
surely evil magic here. Set the man free before harm befall. Let us be
rid of him."

And the frightened minister moved back among the crowd so the Doctor's
evil gaze could not fall upon his face.

Then the Emir himself began to get panicky. And he gave orders that the
Doctor should be released right away.

"I will not leave here," said John Dolittle, standing squarely in the
door, "till you have windows put in this prison. It's a disgrace to
lock up anyone in a place without windows."

"Build windows in the prison at once," the Emir said to the guards.

"And after that I won't go," said the Doctor--"not till you have set
Chief Nyam-Nyam free; not till you have ordered all your people to
leave his country and the Harmattan Rocks; not till you have returned
to him the farming lands you robbed him of."

"It shall be done," muttered the Emir, grinding his teeth--"Only go!"

"I go," said the Doctor. "But if you ever molest your neighbors again I
will return. Beware!"

Then he strode through the prison door out into the sunlit street,
while the frightened people fell back on either side and covered their
faces, whispering:

"Magic! Do not let his eye fall on you!"

And in the Doctor's pocket the white mouse had to put his paws over his
face to keep from laughing.

And now the Doctor set out with his animals and the old Chief to return
to Nyam-Nyam's country from the land where he had been imprisoned. On
the way they kept meeting with groups of the Chief's people who were
still hiding in the jungle. These were told the glad tidings of the
Emir's promise. When they learned that their land was now free and safe
again the people joined the Doctor's party for the return journey. And
long before he came in sight of the village John Dolittle looked like
a conquering general coming back at the head of an army, so many had
gathered to him on the way.

That night grand celebrations were made in the Chief's village and
the Doctor was hailed by the people as the greatest man who had ever
visited their land. Two of their worst enemies need now no longer be
feared--the Emir had been bound over by a promise and Dahomey was not
likely to bother them again after the fright the Amazons got on their
last attack. The pearl fisheries were restored to their possession. And
the country should now proceed prosperously and happily.

The next day the Doctor went out to the Harmattan Rocks to visit the
cormorants and to thank them for the help they had given. The old Chief
came along on this trip, and with him four trustworthy men of his.
In order that there should be no mistake in future, these men were
shown to the cormorants and the birds were told to supply them--and no
others--with pearl oysters.

While the Doctor and his party were out at the Rocks an oyster was
fished up that contained an enormous and very beautiful pearl--by far
the biggest and handsomest yet found. It was perfect in shape, flawless
and a most unusual shade in color. After making a little speech, the
Chief presented this pearl to the Doctor as a small return for the
services he had done him and his people.

"Thank goodness for that!" Dab-Dab whispered to Jip. "Do you
realize what that pearl means to us? The Doctor was down to his
last shilling--as poor as a church mouse. We would have had to go
circus-traveling with the pushmi-pullyu again, if it hadn't been for
this. I'm so glad. For, for my part, I shall be glad enough to stay at
home and settle down a while--once we get there."

[Illustration: "'Do you realize what that pearl means to us?'"]

"Oh, I don't know," said Gub-Gub. "I love circuses. I wouldn't mind
traveling, so long as it's in England--and with a circus."

"Well," said Jip, "whatever happens, it's nice the Doctor's got the
pearl. He always seems to be in need of money. And, as you say,
Dab-Dab, that should make anybody rich for life."

But while the Doctor was still thanking the Chief for the beautiful
present, Quip-the-Carrier flew up with a letter for him.

"It was marked 'Urgent,' in red ink, Doctor," said the swallow, "so
Speedy thought he had better send it to you by special delivery."

John Dolittle tore open the envelope.

"Who's it from, Doctor?" asked Dab-Dab.

"Dear me," muttered the Doctor, reading. "It's from that farmer in
Lincolnshire whose Brussels sprouts we imported for Gub-Gub. I forgot
to answer his letter--you remember, he wrote asking me if I could tell
him what the trouble was. And I was so busy it went clean out of my
mind. Dear me! I must pay the poor fellow back somehow. I wonder--oh,
but there's this. I can send him the pearl. That will pay for his
sprouts and something to spare. What a good idea!"

And to Dab-Dab's horror, the Doctor tore a clean piece off the farmer's
letter, scribbled a reply, wrapped the pearl up in it and handed it to
the swallow.

"Tell Speedy," said he, "to send that off right away--registered. I am
returning to Fantippo to-morrow. Good-bye and thank you for the special

As Quip-the-Carrier disappeared into the distance with the Doctor's
priceless pearl Dab-Dab turned to Jip and murmured:

"There goes the Dolittle fortune. My, but it is marvelous how money
_doesn't_ stick to that man's fingers!"

"Heigh ho!" sighed Jip, "it's a circus for us, all right."

"Easy comes, easy goes," murmured Gub-Gub. "Never mind. I don't suppose
it's really such fun being rich. Wealthy people have to behave so



We are now come to an unusual event in the history of the Doctor's post
office, to the one which was, perhaps, the greatest of all the curious
things that came about through the institution of the Swallow Mail.

On arriving back at the houseboat from his short and very busy holiday
the Doctor was greeted joyfully by the pushmi-pullyu, Too-Too,
Cheapside and Speedy the Skimmer. King Koko also came out to greet his
friend when he saw the arrival of the Doctor's canoe through a pair of
opera glasses (price ten shillings and sixpence) which he had recently
got from London by parcel post. And the prominent Fantippans, who
had missed their afternoon tea and social gossip terribly during the
Postmaster's absence, got into their canoes and followed the King out
to the Foreign Mails Office.

[Illustration: "The King saw the Doctor's canoe arriving"]

So for three hours after his arrival--in fact, until it was dark--the
Doctor did not get a chance to do a thing besides shake hands and
answer questions about how he had enjoyed his holiday, where he had
been and what he had done. The welcome he received on his return and
the sight of the comfortable houseboat, gay with flowering window
boxes, made the Doctor, as he afterward said to Dab-Dab, feel as though
he were really coming home.

"Yes," said the housekeeper, "but don't forget that you have another
home, a real one, in Puddleby."

"That's true," said the Doctor. "I suppose I must be getting on to
England soon. But the Fantippans were honestly pleased to see us,
weren't they? And, after all, Africa is a nice country, now, isn't it?"

"Yes," said Dab-Dab, "a nice enough country for short holidays--and
long drinks."

After supper had been served and eaten and the Doctor had been made to
tell the story of the pearl fisheries all over again for the benefit
of his own family circle, he at last turned to the enormous pile of
letters which were waiting for him. They came, as usual, from all parts
of the world, from every conceivable kind of animal and bird. For hours
he waded patiently through them, answering them as they came. Speedy
acted as his secretary and took down in bird and animal scribble the
answers that the Doctor reeled off by the dozen. Often John Dolittle
dictated so fast that the poor Skimmer had to get Too-Too (who had a
wonderful memory) to come and help listen, so nothing should be missed
through not writing it down quick enough.

Toward the end of the pile the Doctor came across a very peculiar thick
envelope, all over mud. For a long time none of them could make out a
single word of the letter inside, nor even who it was from. The Doctor
got all his notebooks out of the safe, compared and peered and pored
over the writing for hours. Mud had been used for ink. The signs were
made so clumsily they might almost be anything.

But at last, after a tremendous lot of work, copying out afresh,
guessing and discussing, the meaning of the extraordinary letter was
pieced together, and this is what it said:

    "Dear Doctor Dolittle: I have heard of your post office and am
    writing this as best I can--the first letter I ever wrote. I hear
    you have a weather bureau in connection with your post office and
    that a one-eyed albatross is your chief weather prophet. I am
    writing to tell you that I am the oldest weather prophet in the
    world. I prophesied the Flood, and it came true to the day and the
    hour I said it would. I am a very slow walker or I would come and
    see you and perhaps you could do something for my gout, which in
    the last few hundred years has bothered me a good deal. But if you
    will come to see me I will teach you a lot about weather. And I
    will tell you the story of the Flood, which I saw with my own eyes
    from the deck of Noah's Ark.

    "Yours very truly,


    "P. S.--I am a turtle."

At last, on reading the muddy message through, the Doctor's excitement
and enthusiasm knew no bounds. He began at once to make arrangements to
leave the following day for a visit to the turtle.

But, alas! when he turned again to the letter to see where the turtle
lived, he could find nothing to give a clue to his whereabouts!
The mysterious writer who had seen the Flood, Noah and the Ark had
forgotten to give his address!

"Look here, Speedy," said John Dolittle, "we must try and trace this.
Let us leave no stone unturned to find where this valuable document
came from. First, we will question everyone in the post office to find
out who it was delivered it."

Well, everyone in turn, the pushmi-pullyu, Cheapside, Too-Too,
Quip-the-Carrier, all the swallows, any stray birds who were living in
the neighborhood, even a pair of rats who had taken up their residence
in the houseboat, were cross-examined by the Doctor or Speedy.

But no one had seen the letter arrive; no one could tell what day or
hour it had come; no one could guess how it got into the pile of the
Doctor's mails; no one knew anything about it. It was one of those
little post office mysteries that are always cropping up even in the
best-run mail systems.

The Doctor was positively heartbroken. Often in his natural history
meditations he had wondered about all sorts of different matters
connected with the Ark; and he had decided that Noah, after his
memorable voyage was over, must have been a great naturalist. Now
had come most unexpectedly a chance to hear the great story from an
eye-witness--from someone who had actually known and sailed with
Noah--and just because of a silly little slip like leaving out an
address the great chance was to be lost!

All attempts to trace the writer having failed, the Doctor, after two
days, gave it up and went back to his regular work. This kept him so
busy for the next week that he finally forgot all about the turtle and
his mysterious letter.

But one night, when he was working late to catch up with the business
which had multiplied during his absence, he heard a gentle tapping
on the houseboat window. He left his desk and went and opened it.
Instantly in popped the head of an enormous snake, with a letter in its
mouth--a thick, muddy letter.

[Illustration: "In popped the head of an enormous snake"]

"Great heavens!" cried the Doctor. "What a start you gave me! Come in,
come in, and make yourself at home."

Slowly and smoothly the snake slid in over the window sill and down on
to the floor of the houseboat. Yards and yards and more yards long he
came, coiling himself up neatly at John Dolittle's feet like a mooring
rope on a ship's deck.

"Pardon me, but is there much more of you outside still?" asked the

"Yes," said the snake, "only half of me is in yet."

"Then I'll open the door," said the Doctor, "so you can coil part of
yourself in the passage. This room is a bit small."

When at last the great serpent was all in, his thick coils entirely
covered the floor of the Doctor's office and a good part of him
overflowed into the passage outside.

"Now," said the Doctor, closing the window, "what can I do for you?"

"I've brought you this letter," said the snake. "It's from the turtle.
He is wondering why he got no answer to his first."

"But he gave me no address," said John Dolittle, taking the muddy
envelope from the serpent. "I've been trying my hardest ever since to
find out where he lived."

"Oh, was that it?" said the snake. "Well, old Mudface isn't much of a
letter-writer. I suppose he didn't know he had to give his address."

"I'm awfully glad to hear from him again," said the Doctor. "I had
given up all hope of ever seeing him. You can show me how to get to

"Why, certainly," said the big serpent. "I live in the same lake as he
does, Lake Junganyika."

"You're a water snake, then, I take it," said the Doctor.


"You look rather worn out from your journey. Is there anything I can
get you?"

"I'd like a saucer of milk," said the snake.

"I only have wild goats' milk," said John Dolittle. "But it's quite

And he went out into the kitchen and woke up the housekeeper.

"What do you think, Dab-Dab," he said breathless with excitement, "I've
got a second letter from the turtle and the messenger is going to take
us to see him!"

When Dab-Dab entered the postmaster's office with the milk she found
John Dolittle reading the letter. Looking at the floor, she gave a
squawk of disgust.

"It's a good thing for you Sarah isn't here," she cried. "Just look at
the state of your office--it's _full of snake_!"



It was a long but a most interesting journey that the Doctor took from
Fantippo to Lake Junganyika. It turned out that the turtle's home lay
many miles inland in the heart of one of the wildest, most jungly parts
of Africa.

The Doctor decided to leave Gub-Gub home this time and he took with him
only Jip, Dab-Dab, Too-Too and Cheapside--who said he wanted a holiday
and that his sparrow friends could now quite well carry on the city
deliveries in his absence.

The great water snake began by taking the Doctor's party down the coast
south for some forty or fifty miles. There they left the sea, entered
the mouth of a river and started to journey inland. The canoe (with the
snake swimming alongside it) was quite the best thing for this kind of
travel so long as the river had water in it. But presently, as they
went up it, the stream grew narrower and narrower. Till at last, like
many rivers in tropical countries, it was nothing more than the dry bed
of a brook, or a chain of small pools with long sand bars between.

Overhead the thick jungle arched and hung like a tunnel of green. This
was a good thing by day-time, as it kept the sun off better than a
parasol. And in the dry stretches of river bed, where the Doctor had
to carry or drag the canoe on home-made runners, the work was hard and
shade something to be grateful for.

At the end of the first day John Dolittle wanted to leave the canoe in
a safe place and finish the trip on foot. But the snake said they would
need it further on, where there was more water and many swamps to cross.

As they went forward the jungle around them seemed to grow thicker and
thicker all the time. But there was always this clear alley-way along
the river bed. And though the stream's course did much winding and
twisting, the going was good.

The Doctor saw a great deal of new country, trees he had never met
before, gay-colored orchids, butterflies, ferns, birds and rare
monkeys. So his notebook was kept busy all the time with sketching and
jotting and adding to his already great knowledge of natural history.

On the third day of travel this river bed led them into an entirely new
and different kind of country. If you have never been in a mangrove
swamp, it is difficult to imagine what it looks like. It was mournful
scenery. Flat bog land, full of pools and streamlets, dotted with tufts
of grass and weed, tangled with gnarled roots and brambling bushes,
spread out for miles and miles in every direction. It reminded the
Doctor of some huge shrubbery that had been flooded by heavy rains. No
large trees were here, such as they had seen in the jungle lower down.
Seven or eight feet above their heads was as high as the mangroves
grew and from their thin boughs long streamers of moss hung like gray,
fluttering rags.

The life, too, about them was quite different. The gayly colored
birds of the true forest did not care for this damp country of half
water and half land. Instead, all manner of swamp birds--big-billed
and long-necked, for the most part--peered at them from the sprawling
saplings. Many kinds of herons, egrets, ibises, grebes, bitterns--even
stately anhingas, who can fly beneath the water--were wading in the
swamps or nesting on the little tufty islands. In and out of the holes
about the gnarled roots strange and wondrous water creatures--things
half fish and half lizard--scuttled and quarreled with brightly colored

For many folks it would have seemed a creepy, nightmary sort of
country, this land of the mangrove swamps. But to the Doctor, for whom
any kind of animal life was always companionable and good intentioned,
it was a most delightful new field of exploration.

They were glad now that the snake had not allowed them to leave the
canoe behind. For here, where every step you took you were liable
to sink down in the mud up to your waist, Jip and the Doctor would
have had hard work to get along at all without it. And, even with it,
the going was slow and hard enough. The mangroves spread out long,
twisting, crossing arms in every direction to bar your passage--as
though they were determined to guard the secrets of this silent, gloomy
land where men could not make a home and seldom ever came.

Indeed, if it had not been for the giant water snake, to whom mangrove
swamps were the easiest kind of traveling, they would never have been
able to make their way forward. But their guide went on ahead of them
for hundreds of yards to lead the way through the best openings and to
find the passages where the water was deep enough to float a canoe.
And, although his head was out of sight most of the time in the tangled
distance, he kept, in the worst stretches, a firm hold on the canoe by
taking a turn about the bowpost with his tail. And whenever they were
stuck in the mud he would contract that long, muscular body of his with
a jerk and yank the canoe forward as though it had been no more than a
can tied on the end of a string.

Dab-Dab, Too-Too and Cheapside did not, of course, bother to sit in the
canoe. They found flying from tree to tree a much easier way to travel.
But in one of these jerky pulls which the snake gave on his living
towline, the Doctor and Jip were left sitting in the mud as the canoe
was actually yanked from under them. This so much amused the vulgar
Cheapside, who was perched in a mangrove tree above their heads, that
he suddenly broke the solemn silence of the swamp by bursting into
noisy laughter.

[Illustration: "The canoe was yanked from under them"]

"Lor' bless us, Doctor, but you do get yourself into some comical
situations! Who would think to see John Dolittle, M.D., heminent
physician of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, bein' pulled through a mud swamp in
darkest Africa by a couple of 'undred yards of fat worm! You've no idea
how funny you look!"

"Oh, close your silly face!" growled Jip, black mud from head to foot,
scrambling back into the canoe. "It's easy for you--you can fly through
the mess."

"It 'ud make a nice football ground, this," murmured Cheapside. "I'm
surprised the Hafricans 'aven't took to it. I didn't know there was
this much mud anywhere--outside of 'Amstead 'Eath after a wet Bank
'Oliday. I wonder when we're going to get there. Seems to me we're
comin' to the end of the world--or the middle of it. 'Aven't seen a
'uman face since we left the shore. 'E's an exclusive kind of gent, our
Mr. Turtle, ain't 'e? Meself, I wouldn't be surprised if we ran into
old Noah, sitting on the wreck of the Hark, any minute.... 'Elp the
Doctor up, Jip. Look, 'e's got his chin caught under a root."

The snake, hearing Cheapside's chatter, thought something must be
wrong. He turned his head-end around and came back to see what the
matter was. Then a short halt was made in the journey while the Doctor
and Jip cleaned themselves up, and the precious notebooks, which had
also been jerked out into the mud, were rescued and stowed in a safe

"Do no people at all live in these parts?" the Doctor asked the snake.

"None whatever," said the guide. "We left the lands where men dwell
behind us long ago. Nobody can live in these bogs but swamp birds,
marsh creatures and water snakes."

"How much further have we got to go?" asked the Doctor, rinsing the mud
off his hat in a pool.

"About one more day's journey," said the snake. "A wide belt of these
swamps surrounds the Secret Lake of Junganyika on all sides. The going
will become freer as we approach the open water of the lake."

"We are really on the shores of it already, then?"

"Yes," said the serpent. "But, properly speaking, the Secret Lake
cannot be said to have shores at all--or, certainly, as you see, no
shore where a man can stand."

"Why do you call it the Secret Lake?" asked the Doctor.

"Because it has never been visited by man since the Flood," said the
giant reptile. "You will be the first to see it. We who live in it
boast that we bathe daily in the original water of the Flood. For
before the Forty Days' Rain came it was not there, they say. But when
the Flood passed away this part of the world never dried up. And so it
has remained, guarded by these wide mangrove swamps, ever since."

"What was here before the Flood then?" asked the Doctor.

"They say rolling, fertile country, waving corn and sunny hilltops,"
the snake replied. "That is what I have heard. I was not there to see.
Mudface, the turtle, will tell you all about it."

"How wonderful!" exclaimed the Doctor. "Let us push on. I am most
anxious to see him--and the Secret Lake."



During the course of the next day's travel the country became, as the
snake had foretold, freer and more open. Little by little the islands
grew fewer and the mangroves not so tangly. In the dreary views there
was less land and more water. The going was much easier now. For miles
at a stretch the Doctor could paddle, without the help of his guide,
in water that seemed to be quite deep. It was indeed a change to be
able to look up and see a clear sky overhead once in a while, instead
of that everlasting network of swamp trees. Across the heavens the
travelers now occasionally saw flights of wild ducks and geese, winging
their way eastward.

"That's a sign we're near open water," said Dab-Dab.

"Yes," the snake agreed. "They're going to Junganyika. It is the
feeding ground of great flocks of wild geese."

It was about five o'clock in the evening when they came to the end of
the little islands and mud banks. And as the canoe's nose glided easily
forward into entirely open water they suddenly found themselves looking
across a great inland sea.

The Doctor was tremendously impressed by his first sight of the Secret
Lake. If the landscape of the swamp country had been mournful this
was even more so. No eye could see across it. The edge of it was like
the ocean's--just a line where the heavens and the water meet. Ahead
to the eastward--the darkest part of the evening sky--even this line
barely showed, for now the murky waters and the frowning night blurred
together in an inky mass. To the right and left the Doctor could see
the fringe of the swamp trees running around the lake, disappearing in
the distance North and South.

Out in the open great banks of gray mist rolled and joined and
separated as the wailing wind pushed them fretfully hither and thither
over the face of the waters.

"My word!" the Doctor murmured in a quiet voice. "Here one could almost
believe that the Flood was not over yet!"

"Jolly place, ain't it?" came Cheapside's cheeky voice from the stern
of the canoe. "Give me London any day--in the worst fog ever. This is
a bloomin' eels' country. Look at them mist shadows skatin' round the
lake. Might be old Noah and 'is family, playin' 'Ring-a-ring-a-rosy' in
their night-shirts, they're that lifelike."

"The mists are always there," said the snake--"always have been. In
them the first rainbow shone."

"Well," said the sparrow, "I'd sell the whole place cheap if it was
mine--mists and all. 'Ow many 'undred miles of this bonny blue ocean
'ave we got to cross before we reach our Mr. Mudface?"

"Not very many," said the snake. "He lives on the edge of the lake a
few miles to the North. Let us hurry and try to reach his home before
darkness falls."

Once more, with the guide in front, but this time at a much better
pace, the party set off.

As the light grew dimmer the calls of several night birds sounded from
the mangroves on the left. Too-Too told the Doctor that many of these
were owls, but of kinds that he had never seen or met with before.

"Yes," said the Doctor. "I imagine there are lots of different kinds of
birds and beasts in these parts that can be found nowhere else in the

At last, while it was still just light enough to see, the snake swung
into the left and once more entered the outskirts of the mangrove
swamps. Following him with difficulty in the fading light, the Doctor
was led into a deep glady cove. At the end of this the nose of the
canoe suddenly bumped into something hard. The Doctor was about to lean
out to see what it was when a deep, deep bass voice spoke out of the
gloom quite close to him.

"Welcome, John Dolittle. Welcome to Lake Junganyika."

Then looking up, the Doctor saw on a mound-like island the shape of an
enormous turtle--fully twelve feet across the shell--standing outlined
against the blue-black sky.

[Illustration: "The Doctor saw the shape of an enormous turtle"]

The long journey was over at last.

Doctor Dolittle did not at any time believe in traveling with very
much baggage. And all that he had brought with him on this journey was
a few things rolled up in a blanket--and, of course, the little black
medicine-bag. Among those things, luckily, however, were a couple of
candles. And if it had not been for them he would have had hard work to
land safely from the canoe.

Getting them lighted in the wind that swept across the lake was no easy
matter. But to protect their flame Too-Too wove a couple of little
lanterns out of thin leaves, through which the light shone dimly green
but bright enough to see your way by.

To his surprise, the Doctor found that the mound, or island, on which
the turtle lived was not made of mud, though muddy footprints could be
seen all over it. It was made of stone--of stones cut square with a

While the Doctor was examining them with great curiosity the turtle

"They are the ruins of a city. I used to be content to live and sleep
in the mud. But since my gout has been so bad I thought I ought to make
myself something solid and dry to rest on. Those stones are pieces of a
king's house."

"Pieces of a house--of a city!" the Doctor exclaimed, peering into the
wet and desolate darkness that surrounded the little island. "But where
did they come from?"

"From the bottom of the lake," said the turtle. "Out there," Mudface
nodded toward the gloomy wide-stretching waters, "there stood,
thousands of years ago, the beautiful city of Shalba. Don't I know,
when for long enough I lived in it? Once it was the greatest and
fairest city ever raised by men and King Mashtu of Shalba the proudest
monarch in the world. Now I, Mudface the turtle, make a nest in the
swamp out of the ruins of his palace. Ha! Ha!"

"You sound bitter," said the Doctor. "Did King Mashtu do you any harm?"

"I should say he did," growled Mudface. "But that belongs to the story
of the Flood. You have come far. You must be weary and in need of food."

"Well," said the Doctor, "I am most anxious to hear the story. Does it
take long to tell?"

"About three weeks would be my guess," whispered Cheapside. "Turtles do
everything slow. Something tells me that story is the longest story in
the world, Doctor. Let's get a nap and a bite to eat first. We can hear
it just as well to-morrow."

So, in spite of John Dolittle's impatience, the story was put off till
the following day. For the evening meal Dab-Dab managed to scout around
and gather together quite a nice mess of fresh-water shellfish and
Too-Too collected some marsh berries that did very well for dessert.

Then came the problem of how to sleep. This was not so easy, because,
although the foundations of the turtle's mound were of stone, there
was hardly a dry spot on the island left where you could lie down. The
Doctor tried the canoe. But it was sort of cramped and uncomfortable
for sleeping, and now even there, too, the mud had been carried by
Dab-Dab's feet and his own. In this country the great problem was
getting away from the mud.

"When Noah's family first came out of the Ark," said the turtle, "they
slept in little beds which they strung up between the stumps of the
drowned trees."

"Ah, hammocks!" cried the Doctor. "Of course--the very thing!"

Then, with Jip's and Dab-Dab's help, he constructed a very comfortable
basket-work hammock out of willow wands and fastened it between two
larger mangroves. Into this he climbed and drew the blanket over him.
Although the trees leaned down toward the water with his weight, they
were quite strong and their bendiness acted like good bed springs.

[Illustration: "The trees bent down with his weight"]

The moon had now risen and the weird scenery of Junganyika was all
green lights and blue shadows. As the Doctor snuffed out his candles
and Jip curled himself up at his feet the turtle suddenly started
humming a tune in his deep bass voice, waving his long neck from side
to side in the moonlight.

"What is that tune you are humming?" asked the Doctor.

"That's the 'Elephants' March,'" said the turtle. "They always played
it at the Royal Circus of Shalba for the elephants' procession."

"Let's 'ope it 'asn't many verses," grumbled Cheapside, sleepily
putting his head under his wing.

The sun had not yet risen on the gloomy waters of Lake Junganyika
before Jip felt the Doctor stirring in his hammock, preparing to get up.

Presently Dab-Dab could be heard messing about in the mud below,
bravely trying to get breakfast ready under difficult conditions.

Next Cheapside, grumbling in a sleepy chirp, brought his head out from
under his wing, gave the muddy scenery one look and popped it back

But it was of little use to try to get more sleep now. The camp was
astir. John Dolittle, bent on the one idea of hearing that story, had
already swung himself out of his hammock and was now washing his face
noisily in the lake. Cheapside shook his feathers, swore a few words in
Cockney and flew off his tree down to the Doctor's side.

[Illustration: "The Doctor was washing his face in the lake"]

"Look 'ere, Doctor," he whispered, "this ain't an 'olesome place to
stay at all. I'm all full of cramp from the damp night air. You'd get
webfooted if you loitered in this country long. Listen, you want to be
careful about gettin' old Mudface started on his yarn spinning. D'yer
know what 'e reminds me of? Them old Crimea War veterans. Once they
begin telling their reminiscences there's no stoppin' 'em. 'E looks
like one, too, with that long, scrawny neck of 'is. Tell 'im to make
it short and sweet--just to give us the outline of his troubles, like,
see? The sooner we can shake the mud of this place off our feet and
make tracks for Fantippo the better it'll be for all of us."

Well, when breakfast had been disposed of the Doctor sharpened his
pencil, got out a notebook and, telling Too-Too to listen carefully, in
case he should miss anything, he asked the turtle to begin the story of
the Flood.

Cheapside had been right. Although it did not take a fortnight to tell
it did take a very full day. Slowly and evenly the sun rose out of the
East, passed across the heavens and sank down into the West. And still
Mudface went murmuring on, telling of all the wonders he had seen in
days long ago, while the Doctor's pencil wiggled untiringly over the
pages of his notebook. The only interruptions were when the turtle
paused to lean down and moisten his long throat with the muddy water
of the lake, or when the Doctor stopped him to ask a question on the
natural history of antediluvian times.

Dab-Dab prepared lunch and supper and served them as silently as she
could, so as not to interrupt; but for the Doctor they were very
scrappy meals. On into the night the story went. And now John Dolittle
wrote by candle-light, while all his pets, with the exception of
Too-Too, were already nodding or dozing.

At last, about half past ten--to Cheapside's great relief--the turtle
pronounced the final words.

"And that, John Dolittle, is the end of the story of the Flood by one
who saw it with his own eyes."

For some time after the turtle finished no one spoke. Even the
irreverent Cheapside was silent. Little bits of stars, dimmed by the
light of a half-full moon, twinkled like tiny eyes in the dim blue
dome that arched across the lake. Away off somewhere among the tangled
mangroves an owl hooted from the swamp and Too-Too turned his head
quickly to listen. Dab-Dab, the economical housekeeper, seeing the
Doctor close his notebook and put away his pencil, blew out the candle.

[Illustration: "Dab-Dab, the economical housekeeper, blew out the

At last the Doctor spoke:

"Mudface, I don't know when, in all my life I have listened to a story
that interested me so much. I--I'm glad I came."

"I too am glad, John Dolittle. You are the only one in the world now
who understands the speech of animals. And if you had not come my story
of the Flood could not have been told. I'm getting very old and do not
ever move far away from Junganyika."

"Would it be too much to ask you?" said the Doctor, "to get me some
souvenir from the city below the lake?"

"Not at all," said the turtle. "I'll go down and try to get you
something right away."

Slowly and smoothly, like some unbelievable monster of former days, the
turtle moved his great bulk across his little island and slid himself
into the lake without splashing or disturbance of any kind. Only a
gentle swirling in the water showed where he had disappeared.

In silence they all waited--the animals now, for the moment, reawakened
and full of interest. The Doctor had visions of his enormous friend
moving through the slime of centuries at the bottom of the lake,
hunting for some souvenir of the great civilization that passed away
with the Flood. He hoped that he would bring a book or something with
writing on it.

Instead, when at last he reappeared wet and shining in the moonlight,
he had a carved stone window-sill on his back which must have weighed
over a ton.

"Lor' bless us!" muttered Cheapside. "What a wonderful piano-mover
'e would make to be sure! Great Carter Patterson! Does 'e think the
Doctor's goin' to 'ang that on 'is watch-chain?"

"It was the lightest thing I could find," said the turtle, rolling it
off his back with a thud that shook the island. "I had hoped I could
get a vase or a plate or something you could carry. But all the smaller
objects are now covered in fathoms of mud. This I broke off from the
second story of the palace--from the queen's bedroom window. I thought
perhaps you'd like to see it anyway, even if it was too much for you to
carry home. It's beautifully carved. Wait till I wash some of the mud
off it."

The candles were lighted again and after the carvings had been cleaned
the Doctor examined them with great care and even made sketches of some
of them in his notebook.

By the time the Doctor had done, all his party, excepting Too-Too, had
fallen asleep. It was only when he heard Jip suddenly snore from the
hammock that he realized how late it was. As he blew out the candles
again he found that it was very dark, for now the moon had set. He
climbed into bed and drew the blankets over him.



When Dab-Dab roused the party next morning the sun was shining through
the mist upon the lake doing its best to brighten up the desolate
scenery around them.

Poor Mudface awoke with an acute attack of gout. He had not been
bothered by this ailment since the Doctor's arrival. But now he could
scarcely move at all without great pain. And Dab-Dab brought his
breakfast to him where he lay.

John Dolittle was inclined to blame himself for having asked him to go
hunting in the lake for souvenirs the night before.

"I'm afraid that was what brought on the attack," said the Doctor,
getting out his little black bag from the canoe and mixing some
medicines. "But you know you really ought to move out of this damp
country to some drier climate. I am aware that turtles can stand an
awful lot of wet. But at your age one must be careful, you know."

[Illustration: "Mixing the turtle's medicine"]

"There isn't any other place I like as well," said Mudface. "It's so
hard to find a country where you're not disturbed these days."

"Here, drink this," the Doctor ordered, handing him a tea-cup full of
some brown mixture. "I think you will find that that will soon relieve
the stiffness in your front legs."

The turtle drank it down. And in a minute or two he said he felt much
better and could now move his legs freely without pain.

"It's a wonderful medicine, that," said he. "You are surely a great
Doctor. Have you got any more of it?"

"I will make up several bottles of the mixture and leave them with you
before I go," said John Dolittle. "But you really ought to get on high
ground somewhere. This muddy little hummock is no place for you to
live. Isn't there a regular island in the lake, where you could make
your home--if you're determined not to leave the Junganyika country?"

"Not one," said the turtle. "It's all like this, just miles and miles
of mud and water. I used to like it--in fact I do still. I wouldn't
wish for anything better if it weren't for this wretched gout of mine."

"Well," said the Doctor, "if you haven't got an island we must make one
for you."

"Make one!" cried the turtle. "How would you go about it?"

"I'll show you very shortly," said John Dolittle. And he called
Cheapside to him.

"Will you please fly down to Fantippo," he said to the City Manager,
"and give this message to Speedy-the-Skimmer. And ask him to send
it out to all the postmasters of the branch offices: The Swallow
Mail is very shortly to be closed--at all events for a considerable
time. I must now be returning to Puddleby and it will be impossible
for me to continue the service in its present form after I have
left No-Man's-Land. I wish to convey my thanks to all the birds,
postmasters, clerks and letter-carriers who have so generously helped
me in this work. The last favor which I am going to ask of them is a
large one; and I hope they will give me their united support in it. I
want them to build me an island in the middle of Lake Junganyika. It
is for Mudface the turtle, the oldest animal living, who in days gone
by did a very great deal for man and beast--for the whole world in
fact--when the earth was passing through the darkest chapters in all
its history. Tell Speedy to send word to all bird leaders throughout
the world. Tell him I want as many birds as possible right away to
build a healthy home where this brave turtle may end his long life in
peace. It is the last thing I ask of the post office staff and I hope
they will do their best for me."

Cheapside said that the message was so long he was afraid he would
never be able to remember it by heart. So John Dolittle told him to
take it down in bird scribble and he dictated it to him all over again.

That letter, the last circular order issued by the great Postmaster
General to the staff of the Swallow Mail, was treasured by Cheapside
for many years. He hid it under his untidy nest in St. Edmund's left
ear on the south side of the chancel of St. Paul's Cathedral. He always
hoped that the pigeons who lived in the front porch of the British
Museum would some day get it into the Museum for him. But one gusty
morning, when men were cleaning the outside of the cathedral, it got
blown out of St. Edmund's ear and, before Cheapside could overtake it,
it sailed over the housetops into the river and sank.

The sparrow got back to Junganyika late that afternoon. He reported
that Speedy had immediately, on receiving the Doctor's message,
forwarded it to the postmasters of the branch offices with orders to
pass it on to all the bird-leaders everywhere. It was expected that the
first birds would begin to arrive here early the following morning.

It was Speedy himself who woke the Doctor at dawn the next day. And
while breakfast was being eaten he explained to John Dolittle the
arrangements that had been made.

The work, the Skimmer calculated, would take three days. All birds had
been ordered to pick up a stone or a pebble or a pinch of sand from the
seashore on their way and bring it with them. The larger birds (who
would carry stones) were to come first, then the middle-sized birds and
then the little ones with sand.

Soon, when the sky over the lake was beginning to fill up with circling
ospreys, herons and albatrosses, Speedy left the Doctor and flew off to
join them. There, taking up a position in the sky right over the centre
of the lake, he hovered motionless, as a marker for the stone-droppers.
Then the work began.

All day long a never-ending stream of big birds, a dozen abreast, flew
up from the sea and headed across Lake Junganyika. The line was like a
solid black ribbon, the birds, dense, packed and close, beak to tail.
And as each dozen reached the spot where Speedy hovered, twelve stones
dropped into the water. The procession was so continuous and unbroken
that it looked as though the sky were raining stones. And the constant
roar of them splashing into the water out of the heavens could be heard
a mile off.

[Illustration: "A never-ending stream of big birds"]

The lake in the centre was quite deep. And of course tons and tons
of stone would have to be dropped before the new island would begin
to show above the water's surface. This gathering of birds was
greater even than the one the Doctor had addressed in the hollow of
No-Man's-Land. It was the biggest gathering of birds that had ever been
seen. For now not only the leaders came but thousands and millions of
every species. John Dolittle got tremendously excited and jumping into
his canoe he started to paddle out nearer to the work. But Speedy grew
impatient that the top of the stone-pile was not yet showing above the
water; and he gave the order to double up the line--and then double
again, as still more birds came to help from different parts of the
world. And soon, with a thousand stones falling every fraction of a
second, the lake got so rough that the Doctor had to put back for the
turtle's hummock lest his canoe capsize.

All that day, all that night and half the next day, this continued. At
last about noon on the morrow the sound of the falling stones began to
change. The great mound of seething white water, like a fountain in the
middle of the lake, disappeared; and in its place a black spot showed.
The noise of splashing changed to the noise of stone rattling on stone.
The top of the island had begun to show.

"It's like the mountains peeping out after the Flood," Mudface muttered
to the Doctor.

Then Speedy gave the order for the middle-sized birds to join in; and
soon the note of the noise changed again--shriller--as tons and tons of
pebbles and gravel began to join the downpour.

Another night and another day went by, and at dawn the gallant Skimmer
came down to rest his weary wings; for the workers did not need a
marker any longer--now that a good-sized island stood out on the bosom
of the lake for the birds to drop their burdens on.

Bigger and bigger grew the home-made land and soon Mudface's new estate
was acres wide. Still another order from Speedy; and presently the
rattling noise changed to a gentle hiss. The sky now was simply black
with birds; the pebble-shower had ceased; it was raining sand. Last of
all, the birds brought seeds: grass seeds, the seeds of flowers, acorns
and the kernels of palms. The turtle's new home was to be provided with
turf, with wild gardens, with shady avenues to keep off the African sun.

When Speedy came to the hummock and said, "Doctor, it is finished,"
Mudface gazed thoughtfully out into the lake and murmured:

"Now proud Shalba is buried indeed: she has an island for a tombstone!
It's a grand home you have given me, John Dolittle.--Alas, poor
Shalba!--Mashtu the king passes. But Mudface the turtle--lives on!"



Mudface's landing on his new home was quite an occasion. The Doctor
paddled out alongside of him till they reached the island. Until he set
foot on it, John Dolittle himself had not realized what a large piece
of ground it was. It was more than a quarter of a mile across. Round in
shape, it rose gently from the shores to the flat centre, which was a
good hundred feet above the level of the lake.

Mudface was tremendously pleased with it; climbing laboriously to the
central plateau--from where you could see great distances over the flat
country around--he said he was sure his health would quickly improve in
this drier air.

Dab-Dab prepared a meal--the best she could in the circumstances--to
celebrate what she called the turtle's house-warming. And everyone sat
down to it; and there was much gayety and the Doctor was asked to make
a speech in honor of the occasion.

[Illustration: "Dab-Dab prepared a meal"]

Cheapside was dreadfully afraid that Mudface would get up to make a
speech in reply and that it would last into the following day. But to
the sparrow's relief the Doctor, immediately he had finished, set about
preparations for his departure.

He made up the six bottles of gout mixture and presented them to
Mudface with instructions in how it should be taken. He told him that
although he was closing up the post office for regular service it would
always be possible to get word to Puddleby. He would ask several birds
of passage to stop here occasionally; and if the gout got any worse he
wanted Mudface to let him know by letter.

The old turtle thanked him over and over again and the parting was a
very affecting one. When at last the goodbyes were all said, they got
into the canoe and set out on the return journey.

Reaching the mouth of the river at the southern end of the lake they
paused a moment before entering the mangrove swamps and looked back.
And there in the distance they could just see the shape of the old
turtle standing on his new island, watching them. They waved to him and
pushed on.

"He looks just the same as we saw him the night we arrived," said
Dab-Dab--"you remember? Like a statue on a pedestal against the sky."

"Poor old fellow!" murmured the Doctor. "I do hope he will be all right
now.... What a Wonderful life!--What a wonderful history!"

"Didn't I tell you, Doctor," said Cheapside, "that it was going to be
the longest story in the world?--Took a day and half a night to tell."

"Ah, but it's a story that nobody else could tell," said John Dolittle.

"Good thing too," muttered the Sparrow. "It would never do if there was
many of 'is kind spread around this busy world.--Of course, meself, I
don't believe a word of the yarn. I think he made it all up. 'E 'ad
nothin' else to do--sittin' there in the mud, century after century,

The journey down through the jungle was completed without anything
special happening. But when they reached the sea and turned the bow of
the canoe westward they came upon a very remarkable thing. It was an
enormous hole in the beach--or rather a place where the beach had been
taken away bodily. Speedy told the Doctor that it was here that the
birds had picked up the stones and sand on their way to Junganyika.
They had literally carried acres of the seashore nearly a thousand
miles inland. Of course in a few months the action of the surf filled
in the hole, so that the place looked like the rest of the beach.

But that is why, when many years later some learned geologists visited
Lake Junganyika, they said that the seashore gravel on an island
there was a clear proof that the sea had once flowed through that
neighborhood. Which was true--in the days of the Flood. But the Doctor
was the only scientist who knew that Mudface's island, and the stones
that made it, had quite a different history.

On his arrival at the post office the Doctor was given his usual warm
reception by the king and dignitaries of Fantippo who paddled out from
the town to welcome him back.

Tea was served at once; and His Majesty seemed so delighted at renewing
this pleasant custom that John Dolittle was loath to break the news to
him that he must shortly resign from the Foreign Mail Service and sail
for England. However, while they were chatting on the veranda of the
houseboat a fleet of quite large sailing vessels entered the harbor.
These were some of the new merchant craft of Fantippo which plied
regularly up and down the coast, trading with other African countries.
The Doctor pointed out to the king that mails intended for foreign
lands could now be quite easily taken by these boats to the bigger
ports on the coast where vessels from Europe called every week.

From that the Doctor went on to explain to the King, that much as he
loved Fantippo and its people, he had many things to attend to in
England and must now be thinking of going home. And of course as none
of the natives could talk bird-language, the Swallow Mail would have to
be replaced by the ordinary kind of post office.

The Doctor found that His Majesty was much more distressed at the
prospect of losing his good white friend and his afternoon tea on the
houseboat than at anything else which the change would bring. But he
saw that the Doctor really felt he had to go; and at length, with tears
falling into his tea-cup, he gave permission for the Postmaster General
of Fantippo to resign.

Great was the rejoicing among the Doctor's pets and the patient
swallows when the news got about that John Dolittle was really going
home at last. Gub-Gub and Jip could hardly wait while the last duties
and ceremonies of closing the houseboat to the public and transferring
the Foreign Mails Service to the office in the town were performed.
Dab-Dab bustled cheerfully from morning to night while Cheapside never
ceased to chatter of the glories of London, the comforts of a city life
and all the things he was going to do as soon as he got back to his
beloved native haunts.

There was no end to the complimentary ceremonies which the good King
Koko and his courtiers performed to honor the departing Doctor. For
days and days previous to his sailing, canoes came and went between the
town and the houseboat bearing presents to show the good will of the
Fantippans. During all this, having to keep smiling the whole time, the
Doctor got sadder and sadder at leaving his good friends. And he was
heartily glad when the hour came to pull up the anchor and put to sea.

People who have written the history of the Kingdom of Fantippo
all devote several chapters to a mysterious white man who in a
very short space of time made enormous improvements in the mail,
the communications, the shipping, the commerce, the education and
the general prosperity of the country. Indeed it was through John
Dolittle's quiet influence that King Koko's reign came to be looked
upon as the Golden Age in Fantippan history. A wooden statue still
stands in the market-place to his memory.

[Illustration: "A wooden statue still stands to his memory"]

The excellent postal service continued after he left. The stamps with
Koko's face on them were as various and as beautiful as ever. On the
occasion of the first annual review of the Fantippo Merchant Fleet a
very fine two-shilling stamp was struck in commemoration, showing His
Majesty inspecting his new ships through a lollipop quizzing-glass.
The King himself became a stamp-collector and his album was as good
as a family photo-album, containing as it did so many pictures of
himself. The only awkward incident that happened in the record of the
post office which the Doctor had done so much to improve was when
some ardent stamp-collectors, wishing to make the modern stamps rare,
plotted to have the King assassinated in order that the current issues
should go out of date. But the plot was happily discovered before any
harm was done.

Years afterwards, the birds visiting Puddleby told the Doctor that the
King still had the flowers in the window-boxes of his old houseboat
carefully tended and watered in his memory. His Majesty, they said,
never gave up the fond hope that some day his good white friend
would come back to Fantippo with his kindly smile, his instructive
conversation and his jolly tea-parties on the post office veranda.


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