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THE STORY OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE (chapter5)

2006-08-28 20:32

    THE FIFTH CHAPTER THEGREAT JOURNEY

    NOW for six whole weeks they went sailing on and on, over the rolling sea, following the swallow who flew before the ship to show them the way. At night she carried a tiny lantern, so they should not miss her in the dark; and the people on the other ships that passed said that the light must be a shooting star.

    As they sailed further and further into the South, it got warmer and warmer. Polynesia, Chee-Chee and the crocodile enjoyed the hot sun no end. They ran about laughing and looking over the side of the ship to see if they could see Africa yet.

    But the pig and the dog and the owl, Too-Too, could do nothing in such weather, but sat at the end of the ship in the shade of a big barrel, with their tongues hanging out, drinking lemonade.

    Dab-Dab, the duck, used to keep herself cool by jumping into the sea and swimming behind the ship. And every once in a while, when the top of her head got too hot, she would dive under the ship and come up on the other side. In this way, too, she used to catch herrings on Tuesdays and Fridays——when everybody on the boat ate fish to make the beef last longer.

    When they got near to the Equator they saw some flying-fishes coming towards them. And the fishes asked the parrot if this was Doctor Dolittle's ship. When she told them it was, they said they were glad, because the monkeys in Africa were getting worried that he would never come. Polynesia asked them how many miles they had yet to go; and the flying-fishes said it was only fifty-five miles now to the coast of Africa.

    And another time a whole school of porpoises came dancing through the waves; and they too asked Polynesia if this was the ship of the famous doctor. And when they heard that it was, they asked the parrot if the Doctor wanted anything for his journey.

    And Polynesia said, "Yes. We have run short of onions."

    "There is an island not far from here," said the porpoises, "where the wild onions grow tall and strong. Keep straight on——we will get some and catch up to you."

    So the porpoises dashed away through the sea. And very soon the parrot saw them again, coming up behind, dragging the onions through the waves in big nets made of seaweed.

    The next evening, as the sun was going down the Doctor said, "Get me the telescope, Chee-Chee. Our journey is nearly ended. Very soon we should be able to see the shores of Africa."

    And about half an hour later, sure enough, they thought they could see something in front that might be land. But it began to get darker and darker and they couldn't be sure. Then a great storm came up, with thunder and lightning. The wind howled; the rain came down in torrents; and the waves got so high they splashed right over the boat.

    Presently there was a big BANG! The ship stopped and rolled over on its side.

    "What's happened?" asked the Doctor, coming up from downstairs.

    "I'm not sure," said the parrot; "but I think we're ship-wrecked. Tell the duck to get out and see."

    So Dab-Dab dived right down under the waves. And when she came up she said they had struck a rock; there was a big hole in the bottom of the ship; the water was coming in; and they were sinking fast.

    "We must have run into Africa," said the Doctor. "Dear me, dear me!——Well——we must all swim to land."

    But Chee-Chee and Gub-Gub did not know how to swim.

    "Get the rope!" said Polynesia. "I told you it would come in handy. Where's that duck? Come here, Dab-Dab. Take this end of the rope, fly to the shore and tie it on to a palm- tree; and we'll hold the other end on the ship here. Then those that can't swim must climb along the rope till they reach the land. That's what you call a `life-line.'"

    So they all got safely to the shore——some swimming, some flying; and those that climbed along the rope brought the Doctor's trunk and handbag with them.

    But the ship was no good any more——with the big hole in the bottom; and presently the rough sea beat it to pieces on the rocks and the timbers floated away.

    Then they all took shelter in a nice dry cave they found, high up in the cliffs, till the storm was over.

    When the sun came out next morning they went down to the sandy beach to dry themselves.

    "Dear old Africa!" sighed Polynesia. "It's good to get back. Just think——it'll be a hundred and sixty-nine years to-morrow since I was here! And it hasn't changed a bit! Same old palm-trees; same old red earth; same old black ants! There's no place like home!"

    And the others noticed she had tears in her eyes—— she was so pleased to see her country once again.

    Then the Doctor missed his high hat; for it had been blown into the sea during the storm. So Dab-Dab went out to look for it. And presently she saw it, a long way off, floating on the water like a toy-boat.

    When she flew down to get it, she found one of the white mice, very frightened, sitting inside it.

    "What are you doing here?" asked the duck. "You were told to stay behind in Puddleby."

    "I didn't want to be left behind," said the mouse. "I wanted to see what Africa was like ——I have relatives there. So I hid in the baggage and was brought on to the ship with the hard-tack. When the ship sank I was terribly frightened——because I cannot swim far. I swam as long as I could, but I soon got all exhausted and thought I was going to sink. And then, just at that moment, the old man's hat came floating by; and I got into it because I did not want to be drowned."

    So the duck took up the hat with the mouse in it and brought it to the Doctor on the shore. And they all gathered round to have a look.

    "That's what you call a `stowaway,'" said the parrot.

    Presently, when they were looking for a place in the trunk where the white mouse could travel comfortably, the monkey, Chee-Chee, suddenly said,

    "Sh! I hear footsteps in the jungle!"

    They all stopped talking and listened. And soon a black man came down out of the woods and asked them what they were doing there. "My name is John Dolittle——M. D.," said the Doctor. "I have been asked to come to Africa to cure the monkeys who are sick."

    "You must all come before the King," said the black man.

    "What king?" asked the Doctor, who didn't want to waste any time.

    "The King of the Jolliginki," the man answered. "All these lands belong to him; and all strangers must be brought before him. Follow me."

    So they gathered up their baggage and went off, following the man through the jungle. THE SIXTH CHAPTERPOLYNESIA AND THE KING

    WHEN they had gone a little way through the thick forest they came to a wide, clear space; and they saw the King's palace which was made of mud.

    This was where the King lived with his Queen, Ermintrude, and their son, Prince Bumpo. The Prince was away fishing for salmon in the river. But the King and Queen were sitting under an umbrella before the palace door. And Queen Ermintrude was asleep.

    When the Doctor had come up to the palace the King asked him his business; and the Doctor told him why he had come to Africa.

    "You may not travel through my lands," said the King. "Many years ago a white man came to these shores; and I was very kind to him. But after he had dug holes in the ground to get the gold, and killed all the elephants to get their ivory tusks, he went away secretly in his ship-without so much as saying `Thank you.' Never again shall a white man travel through the lands of Jolliginki."

    Then the King turned to some of the black men who were standing near and said, "Take away this medicine-man——with all his animals, and lock them up in my strongest prison."

    So six of the black men led the Doctor and all his pets away and shut them up in a stone dungeon. The dungeon had only one little window, high up in the wall, with bars in it; and the door was strong and thick.

    Then they all grew very sad; and Gub-Gub, the pig, began to cry. But Chee-Chee said he would spank him if he didn't stop that horrible noise; and he kept quiet.

    "Are we all here?" asked the Doctor, after he had got used to the dim light.

    "Yes, I think so," said the duck and started to count them.

    "Where's Polynesia?" asked the crocodile. "She isn't here."

    "Are you sure?" said the Doctor. "Look again. Polynesia!

    Polynesia! Where are you?"

    "I suppose she escaped," grumbled the crocodile. "Well, that's just like her!——Sneaked off into the jungle as soon as her friends got into trouble."

    "I'm not that kind of a bird," said the parrot, climbing out of the pocket in the tail of the Doctor's coat. "You see, I'm small enough to get through the bars of that window; and I was afraid they would put me in a cage instead. So while the King was busy talking, I hid in the Doctor's pocket-and here I am! That's what you call a `ruse,'" she said, smoothing down her feathers with her beak.

    "Good Gracious!" cried the Doctor. "You're lucky I didn't sit on you."

    "Now listen," said Polynesia, "to-night, as soon as it gets dark, I am going to creep through the bars of that window and fly over to the palace. And then——you'll see——I'll soon find a way to make the King let us all out of prison."

    "Oh, what can YOU do?" said Gub-Gub, turning up his nose and beginning to cry again. "You're only a bird!"

    "Quite true," said the parrot. "But do not forget that although I am only a bird, I CAN TALK LIKE A MAN——and I know these people."

    So that night, when the moon was shining through the palm-trees and all the King's men were asleep, the parrot slipped out through the bars of the prison and flew across to the palace. The pantry window had been broken by a tennis ball the week before; and Polynesia popped in through the hole in the glass.

    She heard Prince Bumpo snoring in his bed- room at the back of the palace. Then she tip- toed up the stairs till she came to the King's bedroom. She opened the door gently and peeped in.

    The Queen was away at a dance that night at her cousin's; but the King was in bed fast asleep.

    Polynesia crept in, very softly, and got under the bed.

    Then she coughed——just the way Doctor Dolittle used to cough. Polynesia could mimic any one.

    The King opened his eyes and said sleepily: "Is that you, Ermintrude?" (He thought it was the Queen come back from the dance.)

    Then the parrot coughed again——loud, like a man. And the King sat up, wide awake, and said, "Who's that?"

    "I am Doctor Dolittle," said the parrot——just the way the Doctor would have said it.

    "What are you doing in my bedroom?" cried the King. "How dare you get out of prison! Where are you?——I don't see you."

    But the parrot just laughed——a long, deep jolly laugh, like the Doctor's.

    "Stop laughing and come here at once, so I can see you," said the King.

    "Foolish King!" answered Polynesia. "Have you forgotten that you are talking to John Dolittle, M.D.——the most wonderful man on earth? Of course you cannot see me. I have made myself invisible. There is nothing I cannot do. Now listen: I have come here to-night to warn you. If you don't let me and my animals travel through your kingdom, I will make you and all your people sick like the monkeys. For I can make people well: and I can make people ill—— just by raising my little finger. Send your soldiers at once to open the dungeon door, or you shall have mumps before the morning sun has risen on the hills of Jolliginki."

    Then the King began to tremble and was very much afraid.

    "Doctor," he cried, "it shall be as you say. Do not raise your little finger, please!" And he jumped out of bed and ran to tell the soldiers to open the prison door.

    As soon as he was gone, Polynesia crept downstairs and left the palace by the pantry window.

    But the Queen, who was just letting herself in at the backdoor with a latch-key, saw the par- rot getting out through the broken glass. And when the King came back to bed she told him what she had seen.

    Then the King understood that he had been tricked, and he was dreadfully angry. He hurried back to the prison at once

    But he was too late. The door stood open. The dungeon was empty. The Doctor and all his animals were gone.

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