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Title: Doctor Dolittle's Circus (1924)
Author: Hugh Lofting
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0607841.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: October 2006
Date most recently updated: October 2006

This eBook was produced by: S' Aung Phwa Chit, of Pa-an, Kawthoolei

Transcriber notes:
words marked with * are to indicate that these words were as in book;
words or phrases started and ended with _ are in Italic format.


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Title: Doctor Dolittle's Circus (1924)
Author: Hugh Lofting

[ Pic-000.jpg
"This part of the life seemed to be enjoyed by all" Frontispiece ]



CONTENTS

PART ONE
I THE FIRESIDE CIRCLE
II THE DOCTOR MEETS A FRIEND--AND A RELATIVE
III BUSINESS ARRANGEMENTS
IV THE DOCTOR IS DISCOVERED
V THE DOCTOR IS DISCOURAGED
VI SOPHIE, FROM ALASKA
VII THE MESSENGER FROM THE NORTH

PART TWO
I PLANNING THE ESCAPE
II "ANIMALS' NIGHT" AT THE CIRCUS
III IN THE DESERTED GARDEN
IV THE LEADER OF THE BLOODHOUNDS
V THE PASSENGERS FROM PENCHURCH
VI THE GRANTCHESTER COACH

PART THREE
I THE HIGHWAYMAN'S DOUBLE
II TO THE SEA BY RIVER
III SIR WILLIAM PEABODY, J. P.
IV NIGHTSHADE, THE VIXEN
V "THE DOLITTLE SAFETY PACKET"

PART FOUR
I BACK TO THE CIRCUS
II THE PATENT MEDICINE RIOTS
III NINO
IV ANOTHER TALKING HORSE
V THE STAR TURN GIVES A GREAT PERFORMANCE
VI BEPPO THE GREAT
VII THE PERFECT PASTURE
VIII THE RETIRED CAB AND WAGON HORSES' ASSOCIATION

PART FIVE
I MR. BELLAMY OF MANCHESTER
II ANIMAL PLAYS
III THE POSTER AND THE STATUE
IV FAME, FORTUNE--AND RAIN
V MR. BLOSSOM'S MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE
VI THE DOCTOR BECOMES MANAGER OF THE CIRCUS
VII MATTHEW MUGG, ASSISTANT MANAGER
VIII THE DOLITTLE CIRCUS

ILLUSTRATIONS
"This part of the life seemed to be enjoyed by all" Frontispiece
"He could only crow in a whisper"
"'Why, it's Matthew Mugg!'"
"The Doctor took hold of the bridle"
"He waved his sandwich towards the sky"
"'Hooray for the circus!'"
"Waiting on the front steps"
"One of the marsupials"
"'You leave them snakes alone!'"
"Too-Too was always there"
"On the scent of a fox"
"Toby and Swizzle"
"Climbed wearily from his sleepless bed"
"'I ought to go to him'"
"He crawled under the bed"
"'I don't care that much'"
"Swizzle bowed to an imaginary audience"
"Made his way through unfrequented streets"
"His nimble fingers soon had the door unlocked"
"'Oh! Oh! I'm feeling faint!'"
"A small pig tripped him up"
"He stamped his floor into kindling wood"
"He lowered the ladder into the garden"
"The dog took the flying dive"
"Sophie smiled"
"John Dolittle paused"
"A steeplechase over hill and dale"
"He found a hole for Sophie to crawl through"
"'Yes,' said the ducks"
"He carried her to the coach"
"'How would this do?'"
"He put the veil across her face"
"'Excuse me, my dear,' she began"
"He heard the voices of two men at a table within"
"John Dolittle peered through them"
"He rigged up a kind of harness"
"Came marching back with the scarecrow on his shoulder"
"The horseman pulled the hat off the driver's face"
"They reached Hobb's Mill just as evening was coming on"
"He threw Sophie into the Bristol Channel"
"'You Bluebeard!'"
"He found a badly made 'M. M.'"
"'Excellent bread you have here'"
"He came to a cross-roads"
"'It's a case of flat feet'"
"Sir William turned and drew rein"
"'This is eucalyptus--smell!'"
"'Dandelion, stop playing with my tail!'"
"Cursing and cracking his long whip"
"'Am I addressing Dr. Brown himself?'"
"All yapping about the foot of an oak tree"
"'They hated it,' the snake said"
"'I'll slap your face'"
"'He's bought six fat snakes with it!'"
"They had made their usual procession through the streets"
"'You can't have this horse perform to-day'"
"'Why, Doctor, how can you say such a thing!'"
"'Listen, Hop!'"
"'The Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army'"
"He had handbills given away in the streets"
"Massaging the elephant"
"The old plow horse was introduced to Beppo"
"They looked over a wide farm gate"
"John Dolittle knocked upon his door"
"'Would you like to earn a shilling a week?'"
"'What's the use?' cried Too-Too"
"It was a part of the life Gub-Gub greatly enjoyed"
"The pantomime was performed by the side of the road"
"He would arrive on the stage wearing only a coat and a wig"
"He set out to see the sights of Manchester"
"The footman came out and pushed big cards into them"
"Gub-Gub used to practice it by the hour"
"Dab-Dab curtsied like a regular ballerina"
"Gub-Gub handing round cakes"
"The Pinto Brothers arrived"
"'But I don't know anything about circus management!'"
"Putting up the new sign"
"Free packets of peppermints for the children"
"He led the lion home"
"The Snakes' Quadrille"


[ Transcriber notes:
words marked with * are to indicate that these words were as in book;
words or phrases started and ended with _ are in Italic format. ]

DOCTOR DOLITTLE'S CIRCUS



PART ONE

THE FIRST CHAPTER

THE FIRESIDE CIRCLE

This is the story of that part of Doctor Dolittle's adventures
which came about through his joining and traveling with
a circus. He had not planned in the beginning to follow this life
for any considerable time. His intention had only been to take
the pushmi-pullyu out on show long enough to make sufficient
money to pay the sailor back for the boat which had been
borrowed and wrecked.

But a remark Too-Too had made was true; it was not so hard for
John Dolittle to become rich--for indeed he was easily satisfied
where money was concerned--but it was a very different matter
for him to _remain_ rich. Dab-Dab used to say that during the years
she had known him he had, to her knowledge, been quite well off
five or six times; but that the more money he had, the sooner
you could expect him to be poor again.

Dab-Dab's idea of a fortune was not of course very large. But
certainly during his experience with the circus the Doctor
repeatedly had enough money in his pockets to be considered well
to do; and, as regular as clockwork, by the end of the week or the
month he would be penniless again.

Well, the point from which we are beginning, then, is where the
Dolittle party (Jip the dog, Dab-Dab the duck, Too-Too the owl,
Gub-Gub the pig, the pushmi-pullyu and the white mouse) had
returned at last to the little house in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh after
their long journey from Africa. It was a large family to find food
for. And the Doctor, without a penny in his pockets, had been a
good deal worried over how he was going to feed it, even during
the short time they would be here before arrangements were made
to join a circus. However, the thoughtful Dab-Dab had made them
carry up from the pirates' ship such supplies as remained in the
larder after the voyage was done. These, she said, should last the
household--with economy--for a day or two at least.

The animals' delight had at first, on getting back home, banished
every care or thought of the morrow from the minds of all--except
Dab-Dab. That good housekeeper had gone straight to the kitchen
and set about the cleaning of pots and the cooking of food. The
rest of them, the Doctor included, had gone out into the garden
to re-explore all the well-known spots. And they were still roaming
and poking around every nook and corner of their beloved home
when they were suddenly summoned to luncheon by Dab-Dab's
dinner-bell--a frying pan beaten with a spoon. At this there was
a grand rush for the back door. And they all came trundling in from
the garden, gabbling with delight at the prospect of taking a meal
again in the dear old kitchen where they had in times past spent so
many jolly hours together.

"It will be cold enough for a fire to-night," said Jip as they took
their places at the table. "This September wind has a chilly snap in
it. Will you tell us a story after supper, Doctor? It's a long time
since we sat around the hearth in a ring."

"Or read to us out of your animal story books," said Gub-Gub,
"the one about the Fox who tried to steal the King's goose."

"Well, maybe," said the Doctor. "We'll see. We'll see. What
delicious sardines these are that the pirates had! From Bordeaux,
by the taste of them. There's no mistaking real French sardines."

At this moment the Doctor was called away to see a patient in the
surgery--a weasel who had broken a claw. And he was no sooner
done with that when a rooster with a sore throat turned up from
a neighboring farm. He was so hoarse, he said, he could only crow
in a whisper, and nobody on his farm woke up in the morning. Then
two pheasants arrived to show him a scrawny chick which had never
been able to peck properly since it was born.

[ Pic-001.jpg "He could only crow in a whisper" ]

For, although the people in Puddleby had not yet learned of the
Doctor's arrival, news of his coming had already spread among
the animals, and the birds. And all that afternoon he was kept
busy bandaging, advising and physicking, while a huge motley crowd
of creatures waited patiently outside the surgery door.

"Ah me!--just like old times," sighed Dab-Dab. "No peace. Patients
clamoring to see him morning, noon and night."

Jip had been right: by the time darkness came that night it was
very chilly. Wood enough was found in the cellar to start a jolly
fire in the big chimney. Round this the animals gathered after
supper and pestered the Doctor for a story or a chapter from
one of his books.

"But look here," said he. "What about the circus? If we're going
to make money to pay the sailor back we've got to be thinking of
that. We haven't even found a circus to go with yet. I wonder
what's the best way to set about it. They travel all over the place,
you know. Let me see: who could I ask?"

"Sh!" said Too-Too. "Wasn't that the front door bell ringing?"

"Strange!" said the Doctor, getting up from his chair "Callers
already?"

"Perhaps it's the old lady with rheumatism," said the white mouse
as the Doctor walked out into the hall. "Maybe she didn't find her
Oxenthorpe doctor was so very good after all."

When John Dolittle had lit the candles in the hall he opened the
front door. And there standing on the threshold was the
Cat's-Meat-Man.

"Why, it's Matthew Mugg, as I'm alive!" he cried. "Come in
Matthew, come in. But how did you know I was here?"

[ Pic-002.jpg "'Why, it's Matthew Mugg!'" ]

"I felt it in my bones, Doctor," said the Cat's-Meat-Man, stumping
into the hall. "Only this morning I says to my wife, 'Theodosia,'
I says, 'something tells me the Doctor's got back. And I'm going
up to his house to-night to take a look.'"

"Well, I'm glad to see you," said John Dolittle. "Let's go into the
kitchen where it's warm."

Although he said he had only come on the chance of finding the
Doctor, the Cat's-Meat-Man had brought presents with him:
a knuckle bone off a shoulder of mutton for Jip; a piece of cheese
for the white mouse; a turnip for Gub-Gub and a pot of flowering
geraniums for the Doctor. When the visitor was comfortably
settled in the armchair before the fire John Dolittle handed him
the tobacco-jar from the mantelpiece and told him to fill his pipe.

"I got your letter about the sparrow," said Matthew. "He found
you all right, I s'pose."

"Yes, and he was very useful to me. He left the ship when we were
off the Devon coast. He was anxious to get back to London."

"Are you home for a long stay now?"

"Well--yes and no," said the Doctor. "I'd like nothing better than
to enjoy a few quiet months here and get my garden to rights. It's
in a shocking mess. But unfortunately I've got to make some money
first."

"Humph," said Matthew, puffing at his pipe. "Meself*, I've bin trying
to do that all my life--Never was very good at it. But I've got
twenty-five shillings saved up, if that would help you."

"It's very kind of you, Matthew, very. The fact is I--er--I need
a whole lot of money. I've got to pay back some debts. But listen:
I have a strange kind of new animal--a pushmi-pullyu. He has two
heads. The monkeys in Africa presented him to me after I had
cured an epidemic for them. Their idea was that I should travel
with him in a circus--on show, you know. Would you like to see
him?"

"I surely would," said the Cat's-Meat-Man. "Sounds like something
very new."

"He's out in the garden," said the Doctor. "Don't stare at him too
hard. He isn't used to it yet. Gets frightfully embarrassed. Let's
take a bucket of water with us and just pretend we've brought
him a drink."

When Matthew came back into the kitchen with the Doctor he
was all smiles and enthusiasm.

"Why, John Dolittle," said he, "you'll make your fortune--sure as
you're alive! There's never bin anything seen like that since the
world began. And anyway, I always thought you ought to go into
the circus business--you, the only man living that knows animal
language. When are you going to start?"

"That's just the point. Perhaps you can help me. I'd want to be
sure it was a nice circus I was going with--people I would like,
you understand."

Matthew Mugg bent forward and tapped the Doctor on the knee
with the stem of his pipe.

"I know the very concern you want," said he. "Right now over at
Grimbledon there's the nicest little circus you ever saw. Grimbledon
Fair's on this week and they'll be there till Saturday. Me and
Theodosia saw 'em the first day they was on. It isn't a large circus
but it's a good one--select like. What do you say if I take you over
there to-morrow and you have a chat with the ringmaster?"

"Why that would be splendid," said the Doctor. "But in the meantime
don't say anything to anyone about the idea at all. We must keep
the pushmi-pullyu a secret till he is actually put on show before
the public."



THE SECOND CHAPTER

THE DOCTOR MEETS A FRIEND--AND A RELATIVE

Now, Matthew Mugg was a peculiar man. He loved trying new jobs
--which was one reason, perhaps, that he never made much money.
But his attempts to get into some new kind of work usually ended
in his coming back to selling cat's meat and rat-catching for
farmers and millers around Puddleby.

Matthew had already at Grimbledon Fair tried to get a job with
the circus and been refused. But now that he found the Doctor
was going into the business--and with such a wonderful exhibition
as a pushmi-pullyu--his hopes rose again. And as he went home
that night he already in imagination saw himself in partnership
with his beloved Doctor, running the biggest circus on earth.

Next day he called at the little house early. After Dab-Dab had
made them up some sardine sandwiches to take with them for
lunch, they set out.

It was a long walk from Puddleby to Grimbledon. But after the
Doctor and the Cat's-Meat-Man had been trudging down the road
a while they heard a sound of hoofs behind them. They turned
round; and there was a farmer coming toward them in a trap.
Seeing the two travelers upon the road, the farmer was going to
offer them a ride. But his wife did not like the ragged looks of
the Cat's-Meat-Man, and she forbade her husband to stop for
them.

"What d'yer think of that for Christian charity?" said the
Cat's-Meat-Man as the cart went spinning by them. "Sit
comfortable in their seats and leave us to walk! That's Isidore
Stiles, the biggest potato-grower in these parts. I often catches
rats for him. And his wife, the snobby old scarecrow! Did yer see
that look she gives me? A rat-catcher ain't good enough company
for her!"

"But look," said the Doctor. "They're stopping and turning the
trap around."

Now this farmer's horse knew the Doctor very well both by sight
and reputation. And as he had trotted by he had recognized the
little man tramping along the road as none other than the famous
John Dolittle. Delighted to find that his friend had returned to
these parts, the horse had then turned around of his own accord,
and was now trotting back--in spite of his driver's pulling--to
greet the Doctor and inquire for his health.

"Where are you going?" asked the horse as he came up.

"We're going to Grimbledon Fair," said the Doctor.

"So are we," said the horse. "Why don't you get into the back of
the trap beside the old woman?"

"They haven't invited me," said the Doctor. "See your farmer is
trying to turn you around again toward Grimbledon. Better not
anger him. Run along. Don't bother about us. We'll be all right."

Very unwillingly the horse finally obeyed the driver, turned about
and set off once more for the fair. But he hadn't gone more than
half a mile before he said to himself, "It's a shame the great man
should have to walk, while these bumpkins ride. I'm hanged if
I'll leave him behind!"

Then he pretended to shy at something in the road, swung the trap
around again suddenly and raced back toward the Doctor at full
gallop. The farmer's wife screamed and her husband threw all
his weight on the reins. But the horse took not the slightest notice.
Reaching the Doctor he started rearing and bucking and carrying
on like a wild colt.

"Get into the trap, Doctor," he whispered. "Get in, or I'll spill
these boobies into the ditch."

The Doctor, fearing an accident, took hold of the horse's bridle
and patted him on the nose. Instantly he became as calm and gentle
as a lamb.

[ Pic-003.jpg--"The Doctor took hold of the bridle" ]

"Your horse is a little restive, sir," said the Doctor to the farmer.
"Would you let me drive him for a spell? I am a veterinary surgeon."

"Why, certainly," said the farmer. "I thought I knew something
about horses meself. But I can't do a thing with him this morning."

Then, as the Doctor climbed up and took the reins, the
Cat's-Meat-Man got in behind and, chuckling with delight, sat beside
the indignant wife.

"Nice day, Mrs. Stiles," said Matthew Mugg. "How are the rats in
the barn?"

They reached the Grimbledon about the middle of the morning. The
town was very full and busy and holidayfied. In the cattle-market
fine beeves, prize pigs, fat sheep and pedigreed draft horses with
ribbons in their manes filled the pens.

Through the good-natured crowds that thronged the streets
the Doctor and Matthew made their way patiently toward the
enclosure where the circus was. The Doctor began to get worried
that he might be asked to pay to go in, because he hadn't a single
penny in his pockets. But at the entrance to the circus they found
a high platform erected, with some curtains at the back. It was like
a small outdoor theater. On this platform a man with an enormous
black moustache was standing. From time to time various
showily-dressed persons made their appearance through the curtains; and
the big man introduced them to the gaping crowd and told of the
wonders they could perform. Whatever they were, clowns, acrobats
or snake-charmers, he always said they were the greatest in the
world. The crowd was tremendously impressed; and every once in
a while people in ones and twos would make their way through the
throng, pay their money at the little gate and pass into the circus
enclosure.

"There you are," the Cat's-Meat-Man whispered in the Doctor's ear.
"Didn't I tell yer it was a good show? Look! People going in by
hundreds."

"Is that big man the manager?" asked the Doctor.

"Yes, that's him. That's Blossom himself--Alexander Blossom. He's
the man we've come to see."

The Doctor began to squirm his way forward through the people,
with Matthew following behind. Finally he reached the front and
started making signs to the big man on the platform above to show
that he wanted to speak to him. But Mr. Blossom was so busy
bellowing about the wonders of his show that the Doctor--a small
man in a big crowd--could not attract his attention.

"Get up on the platform," said Matthew. "Climb up and talk to him."

So the Doctor clambered up one corner of the stage and then
suddenly got frightfully embarrassed to find himself facing so large
a gathering of people. However, once there, he plucked up his
courage and, tapping the shouting showman on the arm, he said:

"Excuse me."

Mr. Blossom stopped roaring about the "greatest show on earth"
and gazed down at the little round man who had suddenly appeared
beside him.

"Er--er--" the Doctor began.

Then there was a silence. The people began to titter.

Blossom, like most showmen, was never at a loss for words and
seldom missed an opportunity of being funny at somebody else's
expense. And while John Dolittle was still wondering how to begin,
the manager suddenly turned to the crowd again and, waving his
arm towards the Doctor, shouted:

"And this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the original Humpty-Dumpty--
the one what gave the king's men so much trouble. Pay your money
and come in! Walk up and see 'im fall off the wall!"

At that the crowd roared with laughter and the poor Doctor got
more embarrassed than ever.

"Talk to him, Doctor, _talk_ to him!" called the Cat's-Meat-Man from
down below.

Soon, when the laughter had subsided, the Doctor made another
attempt. He had just opened his mouth when a single piercing cry
rang from amidst the crowd--_"John!"_

The Doctor turned and gazed over the heads of the people to see
who was calling him by name. And there on the outskirts of the
throng he saw a woman waving violently to him with a green parasol.

"Who is it?" said the Cat's-Meat-Man.

"Heaven preserve us!" groaned the Doctor, shamefacedly climbing
down off the stage. "What'll we do now? Matthew--_it's Sarah!"_



THE THIRD CHAPTER

BUSINESS ARRANGEMENTS

"Well, well, Sarah!" said John Dolittle when he had finally made
his way to her. "My, how well and plump you're looking!"

"I'm nothing of the sort, John," said Sarah, severely. "Will you
please tell me what you mean by gallivanting around on that platform
like a clown? Wasn't it enough for you to throw away the best
practice in the West Country for the sake of pet mice and frogs and
things? Have you no pride? What are you doing up there?"

"I was thinking of going into the circus business," said the Doctor.

Sarah gasped and put her hand to her head as thought about to
swoon. Then a long lean man in parson's clothes who was standing
behind her came and took her by the arm.

"What is it, my dear?" said he.

"Launcelot," said Sarah weakly, "this is my brother, John Dolittle.
John, this is the Reverend Launcelot Dingle, rector of Grimbledon,
my husband. But, John, you can't be serious. Go into the circus
business! How disgraceful! You must be joking--and who is this
person?" she added as Matthew Mugg shuffled up and joined the
party.

"This is Matthew Mugg," said the Doctor. "You remember him, of
course?"

"Ugh!--the rat-catcher," said Sarah, closing her eyes in horror.

"Not at all. He's a meat merchant," said the Doctor. "Mr. Mugg,
the Reverend Launcelot Dingle." And the Doctor introduced his
ragged greasy friend as if he had been a king. "He's my most
prominent patient," he added.

"But, listen, John," said Sarah, "if you do go into this mad business,
promise me you'll do it under some other name. Think what it would
mean to our position here if it got known that the Rector's
brother-in-law was a common showman!"

The Doctor thought a moment. Then he smiled.
[ Transcriber's note--"be smiled" changed to "he smiled" ]

"All right, Sarah, I'll use some other name. But I can't help it if
some one recognizes me, can I?"

After they had bidden farewell to Sarah, the Doctor and Matthew
again sought out the manager. They found him counting money at
the gate, and this time were able to talk to him at their ease.

John Dolittle described the wonderful animal that he had at home
and said he wanted to join the circus with him. Alexander Blossom
admitted he would like to see the creature, and told the Doctor
to bring him here. But John Dolittle said it would be better and
easier if the manager came to Puddleby to look at him.

This was agreed upon. And after they had explained to Blossom
how to get to the little house on the Oxenthorpe Road, they
set out for home again, very pleased with their success so far.

"If you do go with Blossom's Circus," Matthew asked, as they
tramped along the road chewing sardine sandwiches, "will you take
me with you, Doctor? I'd come in real handy, taking care of the
caravan, feeding and cleaning and the likes o' that."

"You're very welcome to come, Matthew," said the Doctor. "But
what about your own business?"

"Oh, that," said Matthew, biting viciously into another sandwich.
"There ain't no money in that. Besides, it's so tame, handing out bits
of meat on skewers to overfed poodles! There's no--no what d'y'
call it?"--(he waved his sandwich towards the sky)--"no adventure
in it. I'm naturally venturesome--reckless like--always was, from
my cradle up. Now the circus: that's the real life! That's a man's
job."

[ Pic-004.jpg "He waved his sandwich towards the sky" ]

"But how about your wife?" asked the Doctor.

"Theodosia? Oh, she'd come along. She's venturesome, like me. She
could mend the clothes and do odd jobs. What do you think?"

"What do I think?" asked the Doctor, who was staring down at the
road as he walked. "I was thinking of Sarah."

"Queer gent, that what she married, ain't he," said Matthew,
"the Reverend Dangle?"

_"Dingle,"_ the Doctor corrected. "Yes. He's venturesome too. It's
a funny world--Poor dear Sarah!--Poor old Dingle!--Well,
well."

Late that night, when the Grimbledon Fair had closed, Mr. Blossom,
the ringmaster, came to the Doctor's house in Puddleby.

After he had been shown by the light of a lantern the pushmi-pullyu
grazing on the lawn, he came back into the library with the Doctor
and said:

"How much do you want for that animal?"

"No, no, he's not for sale," said the Doctor.

"Oh, come now," said the manager. "You don't want him. Any one
could see you're not a regular showman. I'll give you twenty pounds
for him."

"No," said the Doctor.

"Thirty pounds," said Blossom.

Still the Doctor refused.

"Forty pounds--fifty pounds," said the manager. Then he went
up and up, offering prices that made the Cat's-Meat-Man who was
listening open his eyes wider and wider with wonder.

"It's no use," said the Doctor at last. "You must either take me with
the animal into your circus or leave him where he is. I have promised
that I myself will see he is properly treated."

"What do you mean?" asked the showman. "Ain't he your property?
Who did you promise?"

"He's his own property," said the Doctor. "He came here to oblige
me. It was to himself, the pushmi-pullyu, that I gave my promise."

"What!--Are you crazy?" asked the showman.

Matthew Mugg was going to explain to Blossom that the Doctor
could speak animals' language. But John Dolittle motioned to him
to be silent.

"And so, you see," he went on, "you must either take me _and_ the
animal or neither."

Then Blossom said no, he wouldn't agree to that arrangement. And
to Matthew's great disappointment and grief he took his hat and
left.

But he had expected the Doctor to change his mind and give in. And
he hadn't been gone more than ten minutes before he rang the
door-bell and said that he had come back to talk it over.

Well, the upshot of it was that the showman finally consented to
all the Doctor asked. The pushmi-pullyu and his party were to be
provided with a new wagon all to themselves and, although traveling
as part of the circus, were to be entirely free and independent. The
money made was to be divided equally between the Doctor and the
manager. Whenever the pushmi-pullyu wanted a day off he was to
have it, and whatever kind of food he asked for was to be provided
by Blossom.

When all the arrangements had been gone into, the man said he
would send the caravan here next day, and prepared to go.

"By the way," he said, pausing at the front door. "What's your
name?"

The Doctor was just about to tell him, when he remembered Sarah's
request.

"Oh, well, call me John Smith," said he.

"All right, Mr. Smith," said the showman. "Have your party ready
by eleven in the morning. Good night."

"Good night," said the Doctor.

As soon as the door had closed Dab-Dab, Gub-Gub, Jip, Too-Too
and the white mouse, who had been hiding and listening in various
corners of the house, all came out into the hall and started
chattering at the top of their voices.

"Hooray!" grunted Gub-Gub. "Hooray for the circus!"

[ Pic-005.jpg "'Hooray for the circus!'" ]

"My," said Matthew to the Doctor, "you're not such a bad business
man after all! You got Blossom to give in to everything. He wasn't
going to let the chance slip. Did you see how quickly he came back
when he thought the deal was off? I'll bet he expects to make a
lot of money out of us."

"Poor old home," sighed Dab-Dab, affectionately dusting off the
hat-rack. "To leave it again so soon!"

"Hooray!" yelled Gub-Gub, trying to stand on his hind legs and
balance the Doctor's hat on his nose--"Hooray for the circus!--
To-morrow!--_Whee!"_



THE FOURTH CHAPTER

THE DOCTOR IS DISCOVERED

Very early the next morning Dab-Dab had the whole house astir.
She said breakfast must be eaten and the table cleared before
seven, if everything was to be got in readiness for their departure
by eleven.

As a matter of fact, the diligent housekeeper had the house closed
and everybody waiting outside on the front steps hours before the
wagon arrived. But the Doctor, for one, was still kept busy. For up
to the last minute animal patients were still coming in from all parts
of the countryside, with various ailments to be cured.

At last Jip, who had been out scouting, came rushing back to the
party gathered in the garden.

"The wagon's coming," he panted--"all red and yellow--it's just
around the bend."

Then everybody got excited and began grabbing their parcels.
Gub-Gub's luggage was a bundle of turnips; and just as he was
hurrying down the steps to the road the string broke and the round,
white vegetables went rolling all over the place.

The wagon, when it finally came in sight, was certainly a thing of
beauty. It was made like a gypsy caravan, with windows and door
and chimney. It was very gayly painted and quite new.

[ Pic-006.jpg "Waiting on the front steps" ]

Not so the horse; he was quite old. The Doctor said that never had
he seen an animal so worn out and weary. He got into conversation
with him and found out that he had been working in the circus for
thirty-five years. He was very sick of it he said. His name was
Beppo. The Doctor decided he would tell Blossom that it was high
time Beppo should be pensioned off and allowed to live in peace.

In spite of the newness of the van, Dab-Dab swept it out before
she put the packages in it. She had the Doctor's bedding tied up
in a sheet, like a bundle of clothes for the laundry. And she was
most careful that this should not get dirty.

When the animals and the baggage were all in, the Doctor got
terribly afraid that the load would be too much for the old horse
to pull. And he wanted to push behind, to help. But Beppo said he
could manage it all right. However, the Doctor would not add to
the weight by getting in himself. And when the door was shut and
the window curtains drawn, so no one should see the pushmi-pullyu
on the way, they set out for Grimbledon, with the man who had
brought the wagon driving and the Doctor and the Cat's-Meat-Man
walking behind.

On the way through Puddleby Market-place the driver stopped to
get something at a shop. And while the caravan waited outside a
crowd gathered about the wagon, wanting to know where it was
going and what was inside. Matthew Mugg, his chest now swelling
with pride, was dying to tell them, but the Doctor wouldn't let
him make any speeches.

They reached the Grimbledon Fair-grounds about two o'clock in
the afternoon and entered the circus enclosure by a back gate.
Inside they found the great Blossom himself, waiting to welcome
them.

He seemed quite surprised, on the van's being opened, to find the
odd collection of creatures the Doctor had brought with him--
he was particularly astonished at the pig. However, he was so
delighted to have the pushmi-pullyu that he didn't mind.

He at once led them to what he called their stand--which, he said,
he had had built for them that very morning. This the Doctor found
to be similar to the place where he had first spoken with Blossom.
It was a platform raised three feet from the ground, so that the
board-and-canvas room on the top of it could be seen. It had steps
up to it, and a little way back from the front edge of the platform
curtains covered the entrance to the room, so no one could see
inside unless they paid to go in.

Across the front of it was a sign:

 THE PUSHMI-PULLYU!
COME AND SEE THE MARVELOUS
 TWO-HEADED ANIMAL
FROM THE JUNGLES OF AFRICA!
 ADMISSION SIXPENCE

The red and yellow wagon (in which the Doctor's party, with the
exception of the pushmi-pullyu, were to live) was backed behind
the "stand". And Dab-Dab immediately set about making up beds
and arranging the inside so it would be homelike.

Blossom wanted to have the pushmi-pullyu put on show at once, but
the Doctor refused. He said any wild animal would need to rest
after the journey from Puddleby. And he wished the timid beast to
get used to the noisy bustle of circus life before he was stared at
by a crowd of holiday-makers.

Blossom was disappointed, but he had to give in. Then, to the animals'
delight, he offered to show the Doctor around the circus and
introduce him to the various performers. So after the pushmi-pullyu
had been moved to his new home in the stand and the Doctor had
seen that he was provided with hay and water and bedding, the
Puddleby party started out to make a tour of the circus under the
guidance of the great Alexander Blossom, ringmaster.

The main show took place only twice a day (at two in the afternoon
and at six thirty at night), in a big tent in the middle of the enclosure.
But all around this there were smaller tents and stands, most of
which you had to pay extra to get into. Of these the Doctor's
establishment was now to form one. They contained all manner of
wonders: shooting galleries; guessing games; wild men of Borneo;
bearded ladies; merry-go-rounds; strong men, snake charmers;
a menagerie and many more.

Blossom took the Doctor and his friends to the menagerie first.
It was a dingy third-rate sort of collection. Most of the animals
seemed dirty and unhappy. The Doctor was so saddened he was
all for having a row with Blossom over it. But the Cat's-Meat-Man
whispered in his ear:

"Don't be starting trouble right away, Doctor. Wait a while. After
the boss sees how valuable you are with performing animals you'll
be able to do what you like with him. If you kick up a shindy* now
we'll maybe lose our job. Then you won't be able to do anything."

This struck John Dolittle as good advice. And he contented himself
for the present with whispering to the animals through the bars of
their cages that later he hoped to do something for them.

Just as they had entered a dirty man was taking around a group of
country folk to show them the collection. Stopping before a cage
where a small furry animal was imprisoned, the man called out:

"And this, ladies and gents, is the famous Hurri-Gurri, from the
forests of Patagonia. 'E 'angs from the trees by 'is tail. Pass on to
the next cage."

The Doctor, followed by Gub-Gub, went over and looked in at
"the famous Hurri-Gurri."

"Why," said he, "that's nothing but a common opossum from America.
One of the marsupials."

[ Pic-007.jpg "One of the marsupials" ]

"How do you know it's a Ma Soupial, Doctor?" asked Gub-Gub.
"She hasn't any children with her. Perhaps, it's a Pa Soupial."

"And this," roared the man, standing before the next cage, "is the
largest elephant in captivity."

"Almost the smallest one I ever saw," murmured the Doctor.

Then Mr. Blossom suggested that they go on to the next show,
Princess Fatima, the snake charmer. And he led the way out of the
close, evil-smelling menagerie into the open air. As the Doctor passed
down the line of cages he hung his head, frowning unhappily. For
the various animals, recognizing the great John Dolittle, were all
making signs to him to stop and talk with them.

When they entered the snake charmer's tent there were no other
visitors there for the moment but themselves. On the small stage
they beheld the Princess Fatima, powdering her large nose and
swearing to herself in cockney. Beside her chair was a big shallow
box full of snakes. Matthew Mugg peeped into it, gasped with horror,
and then started to run from the tent.

"It's all right, Matthew," the Doctor called out. "Don't be alarmed,
they're quite harmless."

"What d'yer mean, harmless?" snorted the Princess Fatima, glaring
at the Doctor. "They're king cobras, from India--the deadliest
snakes livin'."

"They're nothing of the sort," said the Doctor.

"They're American blacksnakes--non-poisonous." And he tickled
one under the chin.

"Leave them snakes alone!" yelled the Fatima, rising from her chair
--"or I'll knock yer bloomin' 'ead orf."

[ Pic-008.jpg "'You leave them snakes alone!'"]

At this moment Blossom interfered and introduced the ruffled
Princess to Mr. Smith.

The conversation which followed (Fatima was still too angry to take
much part in it) was interrupted by the arrival of some people who
had come to see the snake charmer perform. Blossom led the
Doctor's party off into a corner, whispering:

"She's marvelous, Smith. One of the best turns I've got. Just you
watch her."

Behind the curtains at the back somebody started beating a drum
and playing a pipe. Then Fatima arose, lifted two snakes out of the
box and wound them around her neck and arms.

"Will ze ladies and ze gentlemen step a little closair," she cooed
softly to her audience. "Zen zay can see bettair--zo!"

"What's she talking like that for?" Gub-Gub whispered to the
Doctor.

"Sh! I suppose she thinks she's speaking with an Oriental accent,"
said John Dolittle.

"Sounds to me like a hot-potato accent," muttered Gub-Gub. "Isn't
she fat and wobbly!"

Noticing that the Doctor did not seem favorably impressed,
the circus master led them out to see the other sideshows.

Crossing over to the strong man's booth, Gub-Gub caught sight of
the Punch and Judy show which is going on at that moment. The
play had just reached that point where Toby the dog bites Mr. Punch
on the nose. Gub-Gub was fascinated. They could hardly drag him
away from it. Indeed, throughout the whole time they spent with
the circus this was his chief delight. He never missed a single
performance--and, although the play was always the same and
he got to know it every word by heart, he never grew tired of it.

At the next booth a large audience was gathered and yokels were
gasping in wonder as the strong man lifted enormous weights in the
air. There was no fake about this show. And John Dolittle, deeply
interested, joined in the clapping and the gasping.

The strong man was an honest-looking fellow, with tremendous
muscles. The Doctor took a liking to him right away. One of his tricks
was to lie on the stage on his back and lift an enormous dumb-bell
with his feet till his legs were sticking right up in the air. It needed
balance as well as strength, because if the dumb-bell should fall
the wrong way the man would certainly be injured. To-day when
he had finally brought his legs into an upright position and the crowd
was whispering in admiration, suddenly there was a loud crack. One
of the boards of the stage had given way. Instantly down came
the big dumb-bell right across the man's chest.

The crowd screamed and Blossom jumped up on the platform. It
took two men's strength to lift the dumb-bell off the strong mans'
body. But even then he did not arise. He lay motionless, his eyes
closed, his face a deathly white.

"Get a doctor," Blossom shouted to the Cat's-Meat-Man. "Hurry!
He's hurt hisself--unconscious. A doctor, quick!"

But John Dolittle was already on the stage, standing over the
ringmaster, who knelt beside the injured man.

"Get out of the way and let me examine him," he said quietly.

"What can you do? He's hurt bad. Look, his breathing's queer. We
got to get a doctor."

"I am a doctor," said John Dolittle. "Matthew, run to the van and
get my black bag."

"You a doctor!" said Blossom, getting up off his knees. "Thought
you called yourself _Mr. Smith."_

"Of course, he's a doctor," came a voice out of the crowd. "There
wur a time when he wur the best known doctor in the West Country.
I know un. Dolittle's his name--John Dolittle, of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh."



THE FIFTH CHAPTER

THE DOCTOR IS DISCOURAGED

The Doctor found that two of the strong man's ribs had been broken
by the dumb-bell. However, he prophesied that with so powerful
a constitution the patient should recover quickly. The injured man
was put to bed in his own caravan and until he was well again the
Doctor visited him four times a day and Matthew slept in his wagon
to nurse him.

The strong man (his show name was Hercules) was very thankful to
John Dolittle and became greatly attached to him--and very
useful sometimes, as you will see later on.

So the Doctor felt, when he went to bed that first night of his
circus career, that if he had made an enemy in Fatima, the snake
charmer, he had gained a friend in Hercules, the strong man.

Of course, now that he had been recognized as the odd physician
of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, there was no longer any sense in his
trying to conceal who he was. And very soon he became known among
the circus folk as just "the Doctor"--or "the Doc." On the very
high recommendation of Hercules, he was constantly called upon for
the cure of small ailments by everyone, from the bearded lady to
the clown.

The next day, the pushmi-pullyu was put on show for the first time.
He was very popular. A two-headed animal had never before been
seen in a circus and the people thronged up to pay their money and
have a look at him. At first he nearly died of embarrassment and
shyness, and he was forever hiding one of his heads under the straw
so as not to have to meet the gaze of all those staring eyes. Then
the people wouldn't believe he had more than one head. So the
Doctor asked him if he would be so good as to keep both of them
in view.

"You need not look at the people," he said. "But just let them see
that you really have two heads. You can turn your back on the
audience--both ends."

But some of the silly people, even when they could see the two heads
plainly, kept saying that one must be faked. And they would prod
the poor, timid animal with sticks to see if part of him was stuffed.
While two country bumpkins were doing this one day the pushmi-pullyu
got annoyed, and bringing both his heads up sharply at the same time,
he jabbed the two inquirers in the legs. Then they knew for sure
that he was real and alive all over.

But as soon as the Cat's-Meat-Man could be spared from nursing
Hercules (he turned the job over to his wife) the Doctor put him
on guard inside the stall to see that the animal was not molested by
stupid visitors. The poor creature had a terrible time those first
days. But when Jip told him how much money was being taken in,
he determined to stick it out for John Dolittle's sake. And after a
little while, although his opinion of the human race sank very low,
he got sort of used to the silly, gaping faces of his audiences and
gazed back at them--from both his heads--with fearless
superiority and the scorn that they deserved.

During show hours the Doctor used to sit in a chair on the front
platform, taking the sixpences and smiling on the people as they
went in--for all the world as though every one of them were old
friends visiting his home. And, in fact, he did in this way re-meet
many folks who had known him in years gone by, including the old
lady with rheumatism, Squire Jenkyns and neighbors from Puddleby.

Poor Dab-Dab was busier than ever now. For in addition to the
housekeeping duties she always had to keep one eye on the Doctor;
and many were the scoldings she gave him because he would let the
children in for nothing when she wasn't looking.

At the end of each day Blossom, the manager, came to divide up
the money. And Too-Too, the mathematician, was always there when
the adding was done, to see that the Doctor got his proper share.

Although the pushmi-pullyu was so popular, the Doctor saw very
early in his new career that it would take quite a time to earn
sufficient money to pay the sailor back for the boat--let alone to
make enough for himself and his family to live on besides.

[ Pic-009.jpg "Too-Too was always there" ]

He was rather sorry about this; for there were a lot of things in the
circus business that he did not like and he was anxious to leave it.
While his own show was a perfectly honest affair, there were many
features of the circus that were faked; and the Doctor, who always
hated fake of any kind, had an uncomfortable feeling that he was
part of an establishment not strictly honest. Most of the gambling
games were arranged so that those who played them were bound
to lose their money.

But the thing that worried the Doctor most was the condition of the
animals. Their life, he felt, was in most cases an unhappy one. At
the end of his first day with the circus, after the crowds have gone
home and all was quiet in the enclosure, he had gone back into the
menagerie and talked to the animals there. They nearly all had
complaints to make: their cages were not kept properly clean; they
did not get exercise or room enough; with some the food served
was not the kind they liked.

The Doctor heard them all and was so indignant he sought out the
ringmaster in his private caravan right away and told him plainly of
all the things he thought ought to be changed.

Blossom listened patiently until he had finished and then he laughed.

"Why, Doc," said he, "if I was to do all the things you want me to
I might as well leave the business! I'd be ruined. What, pension off
the horses? Send the hurri-gurri back to his home? Keep the men
cleaning out the cages all day? Buy special foods? Have the animals
took out for walks every day, like a young lady's academy? Man,
you must be crazy! Now, look here: You don't know anything about
this game--nothing, see? I've given in to you in all you asked. I'm
letting you run your part of the show your own way. But I'm going
to run the rest of it my way. Understand? I don' want no
interference. It's bad enough to have the strong man on the sick
list. I ain't going to go broke just to please your Sunday school ideas.
And that's flat."

Sad at heart, the Doctor left the manager's quarters and made his
way across to his own caravan. On the steps of his wagon, he found
the Cat's-Meat-Man smoking his evening pipe. Close by, Beppo, the
old horse, was cropping the scrubby grass of the enclosure by
the light of the moon.

"Nice night," said Matthew. "You look kind of worried, Doctor.
Anything wrong?"

"Yes," said John Dolittle, sitting down miserably on the steps beside
him. "Everything's wrong. I've just been talking to Blossom about
improving conditions in the menagerie. He won't do a single thing
I ask. I think I'll leave the circus."

"Oh, come now," said Matthew. 'Why, you ain't hardly begun,
Doctor! Blossom doesn't know yet that you can talk animal language
even! Circuses don't have to be bad. _You_ could run one that would
be a new kind; clean, honest, special--one that everybody in the
world come to see. But you got to get money first. Don't give up so
easy."

"No, it's no use, Matthew. I'm doing no good here and I can't stay
and see animals unhappy. I never should have gone into the business."

At this moment the old horse, Beppo, hearing his friend's voice, drew
near and pushed his muzzle affectionately into the Doctor's ear.

"Hulloa," said John Dolittle. "Beppo, I'm afraid I can be of no help
to you. I'm sorry--but I am going to leave the circus."

"But, Doctor," said the old horse, "you're our one hope. Why, only
to-day I heard the elephant and the Talking Horse--the cob who
performs in the big show--they were saying how glad they were
that you had come. Be patient. You can't change everything in a
minute. If you go, then we'll never get anything we want. But we
know that if you stay, before long you will be running the whole
show the way it should be run. We're not worried as long as you're
with us. Only stay. And mark my words, the day will come when
the new circus, 'The Dolittle Circus,' will be the greatest on earth."

For a moment the Doctor was silent. And Matthew, who had not
understood the conversation with the horse, waited impatiently for
him to speak.

At last he arose and turned to go into the caravan.

"Well," said the Cat's-Meat-Man anxiously, "are you going to stay?"

"Yes, Matthew," said the Doctor. "It seems I've got to. Good night."

At the end of that week the Grimbledon Fair was over and the
circus had to move on to the next town. It was a big job, this
packing up a large show for a long journey by road. And all day
Sunday the enclosure was a very busy place. Men ran around
everywhere shouting orders. The big tent and the little tents were
pulled down and rolled up. The stands were taken apart and piled
into wagons. The large space that had looked so gay was quickly
changed into a drab, untidy mess. It was all very new to the Doctor's
pets; and though Dab-Dab joined in the general hustle of packing,
the rest of them enjoyed the excitement and the newness of it no
end.

One thing that amused them very much was the change in the
appearance of the performers when they got out of their circus
dress to travel. Gub-Gub was very confused, because he couldn't
recognize anybody any more. The clown took the white paint off
his face. The Princess Fatima laid aside her gorgeous garments and
appeared like a respectable charwoman ready for a holiday. The
Wild Man of Borneo put on a collar and tie and talked quite naturally.
And the Bearded Lady took off her beard, folded it up and packed
it in a trunk.

Then in a long procession of caravans the circus set out upon the
road. The next town to be visited was fifty miles off. This journey
could not, of course, be covered in a single day, going at a walk. The
nights were to be spent camping out by the roadside or in whatever
convenient clear spaces could be found. So, beside the new
amusement of seeing the country by day from a home on wheels,
the animals had the thrill of spending the nights gypsy-fashion,
wherever darkness found them. Jip got lots of fun chasing the rats
out of the ditches along the road and often going off across a
meadow on the scent of a fox. The slowness of the circus's pace
gave him time for all sorts of small adventures; and he could always
catch up. But Gub-Gub's chief delight was guessing where they
would spend the night.

[ Pic-010.jpg "On the scent of a fox" ]

This part of the life, the halting for sleep, seemed to be enjoyed by
all. When the kettle was put on to boil over the roadside fire every
one cheered up and got talkative. Jip's two friends, the clown's dog
and Toby, the Punch-and-Judy dog, always came around as soon as
the procession stopped for the night, and joined the Doctor's party.
They, too, seemed to be much in favor of John Dolittle's taking
charge of the show or running a circus of his own. And when they
weren't amusing the family circle with wonderful stories of a
show-dog's life they kept telling the Doctor that a real Dolittle
Circus would, to their way of thinking, be a perfect institution.

John Dolittle had always said that there were just as many different
characters and types among dogs as there were among people--
in fact, more. He had written a book to prove this. He called it
_Dog Psychology_. Most metaphysicians had pooh-poohed it, saying
that no one but a hair-brain would write on such a subject. But this
was only to hide the fact that they couldn't understand it.

Certainly these two, Swizzle, the clown's dog, and Toby, the
Punch-and-Judy dog, had very different personalities. Swizzle (to
look at, he was nothing but a common mongrel) had a great sense of
humor. He made a joke out of everything. This may have been partly
on account of his profession--helping a clown make people laugh.
But it was also part of his philosophy. He told both the Doctor and
Jip more than once that when he was still a puppy he had decided
that nothing in this world was worth taking seriously. He was a
great artist, nevertheless, and could always see the most difficult
jokes--even when they were made at his own expense.

It was Swizzle's sense of humor that gave the Doctor the idea for
the first comic papers printed for animals--when later he founded
the Rat-and-Mouse Club. They were called _Cellar Life_ and
_Basement Humor_ and were intended to bring light entertainment
to those who live in dark places.

Toby, the other, was as different from his friend Swizzle as it is
possible to be. He was a small dog, a dwarf white poodle. And he
took himself and life quite seriously. The most noticeable thing about
his character was his determination to get everything which he
thought he ought to get. Yet he was not selfish, not at all. The
Doctor always said that this shrewd business-like quality was to be
found in most little dogs--who had to make up for their small size
by an extra share of cheek. The very first time Toby came visiting
to John Dolittle's caravan he got on the Doctor's bed and made
himself comfortable. Dab-Dab, highly scandalized, tried to put him
off. But he wouldn't move. He said the Doctor didn't seem to mind
and he was the owner of the bed. And from that time on he always
occupied this place in the caravan's evening circle when he came to
visit. He had won a special privilege for himself by sheer cheek. He
was always demanding privileges, and he usually got them.

But there was one thing, in which Toby and Swizzle were alike; and
that was the pride they took in their personal friendship with John
Dolittle, whom they considered the greatest man on earth.

[ Pic-011.jpg "Toby and Swizzle" ]

One night on the first trip between towns the procession had stopped
by the side of the road as usual. There was a nice old-fashioned farm
quite near and Gub-Gub had gone off to see if there were any pigs
in the stye. Otherwise the Doctor's family circle was complete. And
soon after the kettle had been put on to boil along came Toby and
Swizzle. The night was cool; so, instead of making a fire outside,
Dab-Dab was using the stove in the caravan, and everybody was sitting
around it chatting.

"Have you heard the news, Doctor?" said Toby, jumping up on the bed.

"No," said John Dolittle. "What is it?"

"At the next town--Ashby, you know, quite a large place--we are
to pick up Sophie."

"Who in the world is Sophie?" asked the Doctor, getting out his
slippers from behind the stove.

"She left us before you joined," said Swizzle. "Sophie's the
performing seal--balances balls on her nose and does tricks in the
water. She fell sick and Blossom had to leave her behind about a
month ago. She's all right now, though, and her keeper is meeting us
at Ashby so she can join us again. She's rather a sentimental sort of
girl, is Sophie. But she's a good sport, and I'm sure you will like
her."

[ Pic-012.jpg "Climbed wearily from his sleepless bed" ]

The circus reached Ashby about nine o'clock on a Wednesday evening.
It was to open to the public the first thing the following morning. So
all through that night, by the light of flares, the men were busy
hoisting tents, setting up booths, and spreading tanbark. Even after
the pushmi-pullyu's stand was put together and the Doctor's family
retired to rest, no one got any sleep; for the ground still shook with
the hammers driving pegs; and the air was full of shouts and the
spirits of work, till the dusk of dawn crept over the roofs of Ashby
and showed the city of canvas that had been built in a night.

John Dolittle decided, as he climbed wearily from his sleepless bed
that circus life took a lot of getting used to. After breakfast,
leaving Matthew in charge of his stand, he set out to make the
acquaintance of the performing seal.



THE SIXTH CHAPTER

SOPHIE, FROM ALASKA

Sophie's keeper, like the rest of the showmen, had by this time
got his part of the circus in readiness to open to the public.
The seal was accustomed to perform in the big tent twice a day,
following the Pinto Brothers (trapeze acrobats) and the Talking
Horse. But during the rest of the day she was a side-show like
the pushmi-pullyu. Here in an enclosed tank she dived after fish
for the amusement of anyone who paid threepence to come and
see her.

This morning--it was still quite early--Sophie's keeper was
eating his breakfast outside on the steps when the Doctor entered
the stand. Inside, a tank about twelve feet across had been let
into the ground; and around it was a platform with a railing where
visitors stood to watch the performance. Sophie, a fine five-foot
Alaskan seal, with sleek skin and intelligent eyes, was wallowing
moodily in the water of the tank. When the Doctor spoke to her
in her own language, and she realized who her visitor was, she burst
into a flood of tears.

"What is the matter?" asked John Dolittle.

The seal, still weeping, did not answer.

"Calm yourself," said the Doctor. "Don't be hysterical. Tell me, are
you still sick? I understood you had recovered."

"Oh, yes, I got over that," said Sophie through her tears. "It was
only an upset stomach. They _will_ feed us this stale fish, you
know."

"Then what's the matter?" asked the Doctor. "Why are you crying?"

"I was weeping for joy," said Sophie. "I was just thinking as you
came in that the only person in the world who could help me in my
trouble was John Dolittle. Of course, I had heard all about you
through the Post Office and the _Arctic Monthly_. In fact, I had
written to you. It was I who contributed those articles on
under-water swimming--you remember?--The _Alaskan Wiggle_,
you know--double overhand stroke. It was printed in the August
number of your magazine. We were awfully sorry when you had to
give up the _Arctic Monthly_. It was tremendously popular among
the seals."

"But what was this trouble you were speaking of?" asked the Doctor.

"Oh, yes," said Sophie, bursting into tears again. "That just shows
you how glad I am; I had forgotten all about it for the moment. You
know, when you first came in I thought you were an ordinary visitor.
But the very first word of sealish that you spoke--and Alaskan
sealish at that--I knew who you were; John Dolittle, the one man
in the world I wanted to see! It was too much, I------"

"Come, come!" said the Doctor. "Don't break down again. Tell me what
your trouble is."

"Well," said Sophie, "it's this: While I------"

At that moment there was a noise outside, the rattling of a bucket.

"Sh! It's the keeper coming," whispered the Doctor quickly. "Just
carry on with your tricks. I'm not letting them know I can talk to
the animals."

When the keeper entered to swab the floor, Sophie was frisking and
diving for an audience of one: a quite little fat man with a battered
high hat on the back of his head. The keeper just glanced at him,
before setting to work, and decided that he was quite an ordinary
person, nobody in particular at all.

As soon as the man had finished his mopping and disappeared again,
Sophie continued:

"You know," said the seal, "when I fell sick we were performing at
Hatley-on-Sea, and I and my keeper--Higgins is his name--stayed
there two weeks while the circus went on without us. Now, there's
a zoo at Hatley--only a small one--near the esplanade. They have
artificial ponds there with seals and otters in them. Well, Higgins got
talking to the keeper of these seals one day, and told him about my
being sick. And they decided I needed company. So they put me in the
pond with the other seals till I should recover. Among them there was
an older one who came from the same part of the Behring Straits
as I did. He gave me some very bad news about my husband. It seems
that ever since I was captured he has been unhappy and refused to
eat. He used to be leader of the herd. But after I was taken away
he had worried and grown thin and finally another seal was elected
leader in his place. Now he wasn't expected to live." (Quietly Sophie
began to weep again.) "I can quite understand it. We were devoted
to one another. And although he was so big and strong and no other
seal in the herd ever dared to argue with him, without me, well, he
was just lost, you know--a mere baby. He relied on me for
everything. And now--I don't know what's happening to him. It's
just terrible--terrible!"

"Well, wait a minute," said the Doctor. "Don't cry. What do you think
ought to be done?"

"I ought to go to him," said Sophie, raising herself in the water and
spreading out her flippers. "I ought to be by his side. He is the
proper leader of the herd and he needs me. I hoped I might escape
at Hatley, but not a chance did I get."

"Humph!" muttered the Doctor. "It's an awful long way to the Behring
Straits. How on earth would you get there?"

"That's just what I wanted to see you about," said Sophie. "Overland,
of course, my rate of travel is very slow. If I could only have got
away at Hatley I'd have been all right. Because, of course," she
added with a powerful swish of her tail that slopped half the water
out of the tank, "once I reached the sea I'd be up to Alaska in no
time."

[ Pic-013.jpg "'I ought to go to him'" ]

"Ah, yes," the Doctor agreed, as he shook the water out of his boots.
"I see you are a powerful swimmer. How far are we from the coast
here?"

"About a hundred miles," said Sophie. "Oh dear! Poor Slushy! My poor,
poor Slushy!"

"Poor who?" asked the Doctor.

"Slushy," said the seal. "That's my husband's name. He relied on me
in everything, poor, simple Slushy. What shall I do? What _shall_
I do?"

"Well, now listen," said John Dolittle. "This is no easy matter, to
smuggle you to the sea. I don't say it's impossible. But it needs
thinking out. Perhaps I can get you free some other way--openly.
In the meantime I'll send word up to your husband by bird messenger
and tell him to stop worrying, because you are all right. And the
same messenger can bring us back news of how he is getting on. Now,
cheer up. Here come some people to see you perform."

A school mistress with a band of children entered, accompanied by
Higgins, the keeper. As they came in a little fat man went out,
smiling to himself. Soon the children were laughing with delight at
the antics of the big animal in the tank. And Higgins decided that
Sophie must now be feeling entirely recovered, for he had never
seen her so sprightly or so full of good spirits before.



THE SEVENTH CHAPTER

THE MESSENGER FROM THE NORTH

Late that night the Doctor took Too-Too with him and went to visit
the seal again. "Now, Sophie," said he when they had reached the
side of the tank, "this owl is a friend of mine, and I want you to
describe to him just where in Alaska your husband can be found. Then
we'll send him off to the seashore, and he will hand on your message
to the gulls who are going northwestward. Let me introduce you:
Sophie, this is Too-Too, one of the cleverest birds I know. He is
particularly good at mathematics."

The owl sat on the rail while Sophie told him exactly how Slushy
could be reached and reeled off a long and loving message for
her husband. When she had ended he said:

"I think I'll make for Bristol, Doctor. It is about the nearest coast
town. There are always plenty of gulls to be found in the harbor.
I'll get one to take this and pass it on to its destination."

"Very good, Too-Too," said the Doctor. "But we want to hurry it
all we can. If you can find some sea-bird who is willing to take it
the whole way as a special favor to me, it would be better."

"All right," said Too-Too, preparing to depart. "Leave the window
of the caravan open, so I can get in. I don't suppose I shall be back
much before two in the morning. So long!"

Then the Doctor returned to his wagon and rewrote the last part of
his new book, which was called _Animal Natation_. Sophie had given
him a lot of helpful hints on good swimming style which made it
necessary for him to add three more chapters.

He got so interested in this he did not notice how the time was
passing; till, somewhere between two and three in the morning he
suddenly found Too-Too, the night bird, standing on the table before
him.

"Doctor," said he, speaking low so he would not wake the animals.
"You could never guess whom I met. You remember the gull who brought
you the warning about Cape Stephen Light? Well, I ran into him in
Bristol Harbor. I hadn't seen him since the good old house-boat
days. But I recognized him at once. I told him I was hunting for
some one to take a message up to Alaska; and when he heard it
was you who sent me, he said he would attend to it himself with
pleasure. He doesn't expect to be back under five days, though--
at best.

"Splendid, Too-Too, splendid!" said the Doctor.

"I am returning to Bristol Friday," said the owl, "and if he isn't
back then, I'll wait till he comes."

The following morning John Dolittle told Sophie that her message
had been sent on; and she was very pleased. For the present there
was nothing further to be done but to wait for the gull's return.

On Thursday (a day before the time Too-Too had planned to return
to Bristol) the Doctor's whole party were seated round the table in
the caravan listening to a story from Toby, the Punch-and-Judy dog.
Just as Toby paused breathless at the most exciting parts, there
came a gentle tapping on the window.

"_Booh!_" said Gub-Gub--"How spookish!" And he crawled under the
bed.

John Dolittle rose, drew back the curtains and opened the window. On
the sill stood the gull who months before had brought him another
message by night when he lived in the houseboat postoffice. Now,
weather-beaten and weary, he looked more dead than alive. Gently the
Doctor lifted him from the window-sill, and set him down on the
table. Then they all drew near, staring at him in silence, waiting
for the exhausted bird to speak.

[ Pic-014.jpg "He crawled under the bed" ]

"John Dolittle," said the gull at last, "I didn't wait for Too-Too to
meet me in Bristol, because I thought you ought to know at once. The
seal herd to which Sophie and her husband belonged are in a bad way
--very bad. And it has all come about because Sophie was taken away
and her husband Slushy lost the leadership. Winter has set in up
there early this year--and my, such a winter! Blizzards,
mountainous snowdrifts, the seas frozen months ahead of the usual
time. I nearly died of the cold myself--and you know we gulls can
stand awful low temperatures. Well, leadership for the seal herds is
tremendously important in bad weather. They're not much different
from sheep--same as all animals that travel and live in packs. And
without a big, strong boss to lead them to the open fishing and the
protected wintering places, they're just lost, that's all--helpless.
Now, it seems, ever since Slushy started to mope they've had one
leader after another--and none of them any good. Rows and little
revolutions going on in the herd all the while. And in the meantime
the walruses and sea lions are driving them out of all the best
fishing and the Esquimaux seal hunters killing them right and left.
No seal herd can last long against the fur hunters up there if they
haven't got a good leader with wits enough to keep them out of
danger. Slushy was the best they ever had, as strong as an ox. Now
all he does is lie on an iceberg, mooning and weeping because his
favorite wife's been taken away. He's got hundreds more, just as
good-looking, but the only one he wants is Sophie, and there you are.
The herd's just going to pieces. In the days of Slushy's leadership,
they tell me it was the finest seal herd in the Arctic Circle. Now,
most likely, with this extra bad winter setting in, it'll be wiped
right out."

For fully a minute after the gull finished his long speech silence
reigned in the caravan.

Finally John Dolittle said:

"Toby, does Sophie belong to Blossom or to Higgins?"

"To Higgins, Doctor," said the little dog. "He does something as the
same as you do; in return for letting the seal perform in the big
ring, Higgins gets his stand in the circus free, and pockets whatever
money he makes on her as a side show."

"Well, that _isn't_ the same as me at all," said the Doctor. "The big
difference is that the pushmi-pullyu is here of his own accord and
Sophie is kept against her will. It is a perfect scandal that hunters
can go up to the Arctic and capture any animals they like, breaking
up families and upsetting herd government and community life in
this way--a crying shame! Toby, how much does a seal cost?"

"They vary in price, Doctor," said Toby. "But I heard Sophie say that
when Higgins bought her in Liverpool from the men who had caught her
he paid twenty pounds for her. She had been trained on the ship to do
tricks before she landed."

"How much have we got in the money box, Too-Too?" asked the Doctor.

"All of last week's gate money," said the owl, "except one shilling
and threepence. The threepence you spent to get your hair cut and
the shilling went on celery for Gub-Gub."

"Well, what does that bring the total to?"

Too-Too, the mathematician, cocked his head on one side and closed
his left eye--as he always did when calculating.

"Two pounds, seven shillings," he murmured, "minus one shilling and
threepence leaves--er--leaves--two pounds five shillings and
ninepence, cash in hand, net."

"Good Lord!" groaned the Doctor, "barely enough to buy a tenth of
Sophie! I wonder if there's any one I could borrow from. That's the
only good thing about being a people's doctor. When I had a practice
I could borrow from my patients."

"If I remember rightly," muttered Dab-Dab, "it was more often
your patients that borrowed from you."

"Blossom wouldn't let you buy her even if you had the money," said
Swizzle. "Higgins is under contract--made a promise--to travel
with the circus for a year."

"Very well, then," said the Doctor. "There's only one thing to be
done. That seal doesn't belong to those men, anyhow. She's a free
citizen of the Arctic Circle. And if she wants to go back there, back
she shall go. Sophie must escape."

Before his pets went to bed that night the Doctor made them promise
that for the present they would say nothing to the seal about the
bad news the gull had brought. It would only worry her, he told
them. And until he had helped her to get satisfy to the sea there
was no need for her to know.

Then, until the early hours of the morning, he sat up with Matthew
making plans for Sophie's flight. At first the Cat's-Meat-Man was
very much against the idea.

"Why, Doctor," said he, "you'll get arrested if you're caught.
Helping that seal escape from her owner! They'll call it stealing."

"I don't care that much," said the Doctor snapping his fingers. "Let
them call it what they like. Let them arrest me--if they catch me.
If the case is taken to the courts, at least I'll get a chance to say
a word for the rights of wild animals."

"They won't listen to you, Doctor," said Matthew. "They'll say you're
a sentimental crank. Higgins would win easy. Rights of property and
all that. I see your point, but the judge wouldn't. He'd tell you to
pay Higgins his twenty pounds for a lost seal. And if you couldn't,
you'd go to jail."

"I don't care," the Doctor repeated. "But listen, Matthew: I
wouldn't want you to get mixed up in it if you don't think it's
right. I shall have to use deception if I'm to be successful. And I
should be very sorry to get you into trouble. If you would prefer
to stay clear of it, say so now. But for my part, my mind is made up:
Sophie is going to Alaska even if I have to go to jail--that will
be nothing new. I've been in jail before."

[ Pic-015.jpg "'I don't care that much'" ]

"So have I," said the Cat's-Meat-Man. Was you ever in Cardiff Jail?
By Jingo! that's a rotten one! The worst I was ever in."

"No," said the Doctor. "I've only been in African jails--as yet.
They're bad enough. But let us get back to the point. Would you
sooner not help me in this? It's against the law--I know--even if
I think the law is wrong. Understand, I shan't be the least offended
if you have conscientious objections to aiding and abetting me. Eh?"

"Conscientious objections, me eye!" said the Cat's-Meat-Man, opening
the window and spitting accurately out into the night. "O' course,
I'll help you, Doctor. That old sour-faced Higgins ain't got no right
to that seal. She's a free creature of the seas. If he paid twenty
pounds for her, more fool him. What you say goes, Doctor. Ain't we
kind of partners in this here circus business? I think it's a good
kind of a lark meself. Didn't I tell you I was venturesome? Lor'
bless us! I done worse things than help a performin' seal to elope.
Why, that time I was telling you of, when I was jailed in Cardiff--
do you know what it was for?"

"No, I have no idea," said the Doctor. "Some slight error, I have
no doubt. Now let us--"

"It was no slight error," said Matthew, "I----"

"Well, never mind it now," said John Dolittle quickly. "We all make
mistakes, you know." ("It was no mistake, neither," muttered
Matthew as the Doctor hurried on.) "If you are quite sure that
you will have no regrets about going into this--er--matter with
me, let us consider ways and means. It will be necessary, I think,
in order to avoid getting Blossom suspicious, for me to leave the
circus for a few days. I will say I have business to attend to--
which is quite true, even if I don't attend to it. But it would look
very queer if I and Sophie disappeared the same night. So I will
go first, leaving you in charge of my show. Then a day--or better,
two days--later, Sophie will disappear."

"Also on business," put in Matthew, chuckling. "You mean you'll leave
me the job of letting her out of her tank after you're gone?"

"Yes, if you don't mind," said the Doctor.

"It'll give me great pleasure," said the Cat's-Meat-Man.

"Splendid!" said the Doctor. "I'll arrange beforehand with Sophie
where she is to meet me, once she's clear of the circus. And then
------"

"And then your job will begin in earnest," laughed Matthew Mugg.



PART TWO

THE FIRST CHAPTER

PLANNING THE ESCAPE

Although the plans for Sophie's escape were of course kept a strict
secret from any of the people in Blossom's establishment, the animals
of the circus soon got to know of them through Jip, Toby and Swizzle.
And for days before the flight took place it was the one subject of
conversation in the menagerie, in the stables and in the Doctor's
caravan.

When John Dolittle returned from telling Blossom that he was about
to leave the circus on business for a few days, he found his own
animals seated about the table in the wagon talking in whispers.

"Well, Doctor," said Matthew, who was sitting on the steps, "did you
speak to the boss?"

"Yes," said the Doctor. "I told him. It's all right. I'm leaving
to-night. I felt frightfully guilty, and underhanded. I do wish
I could do this openly."

"You'd stand a fat chance of succeeding, if you did!" said Matthew.
"I don't feel guilty none."

"Listen, Doctor," said Jip. "All the circus animals are tremendously
interested in your scheme. They've asked if there's anything they
can do to help. When is Sophie going to get away?"

"The day after to-morrow," said John Dolittle. "Matthew, here, will
undo the door of her stand just after closing time. But listen,
Matthew: you'll have to be awfully careful no one sees you tinkering
with the lock. If we _should_ get caught we would indeed be in a
bad fix then. Tinkering with locks makes it a felony instead of a
misdemeanor, or something like that. Do be careful, won't you?"

"You can rely on me, Doctor," said the Cat's-Meat-Man, proudly
puffing out his chest. "I've got a way of me own with locks, I have.
No force, sort of persuasion like."

"Get clear out of the way as soon as you have let her free," said
the Doctor, "so you won't be connected with it at all.--Dear me,
how like a low-down conspiracy it sounds!"

"Sounds like lots of fun to me," said Matthew.

"To me too," said Jip.

"It'll be the best trick that's been done in this show for a long
while," put in Swizzle. "Ladies and Gentlemen: John Dolittle, the
world-famous conjurer, will now make a live seal disappear from
the stage before your eyes. Abracadabra, Mumble-and-Jabberer,
Hoop la--Hey Presto!--_Gone_."

And Swizzle stood on his hind legs and bowed to an imaginary
audience behind the stove.

[ Pic-016.jpg "Swizzle bowed to an imaginary audience" ]

"Well," said the Doctor, "even though it sounds underhanded. I don't
feel I'm doing anything wrong--myself. They've no right to keep
Sophie in this slavery. How would you and I like it," he asked of
Matthew, "to be made to dive for fish into a tub of dirty water for
the amusement of loafers?"

"Rotten!" said Matthew, "I never did care for fish--nor water,
neither. But look here, have you arranged with Sophie where she's
to meet you?"

"Yes," said John Dolittle. "As soon as she gets clear of the circus
enclosure--and don't forget we are relying on you to leave the
back gate open as well as Sophie's own door--as soon as she's out
of the fence, she is to cross the road where she will find an empty
house. Alongside of that there is a little, dark passage and in that
passage I will be waiting for her. My goodness, I do hope everything
goes right! It's so dreadfully important for her--and for all those
seals in Alaska, too."

"And what are you going to do then," asked Matthew, "when she's
got as far as the passage?"

"Well, it's no use trying to plan too far as to detail. My general idea
is to make for the Bristol Channel. That's about our shortest cut
to the sea from here. Once there, she's all right. But it's nearly
a hundred miles as the crow flies; and as we'll have to keep
concealed most of the way I'm not expecting an easy journey. However,
there's no sense in meeting your troubles half way. I've no doubt
we shall get along all right once she's safely away from the circus."

Many of the Doctor's pets wanted to accompany him on his coming
adventure. Jip tried especially hard to be taken. But in spite o his great
desire to have the assistance of his friends, John Dolittle felt that he
would arouse less suspicion if he left his entire family with the circus
just as it was.

So that night after a final talk with Sophie he set out alone--on
business. He took with him most of what money he had, leaving a little
with Matthew to pay for the small needs of his establishment while he
was away. His "business" as a matter of fact did not take him further
than the next town--which journey he made by a stage coach. In those
days, you see, although there were railways, to be sure, they were as
yet very scarce. And most of the cross-country traveling between the
smaller towns was still done in the old-fashioned way.

On his arrival at the next town he took a room in an inn and remained
there the whole time. Two nights later he returned to Ashby after dark
and, entering the town from the far side, made his way through
unfrequented streets till he reached the passage which was to be his
meeting place with Sophie.

Now all his pets, though they had not been given any particular parts
to play in the plot of Sophie's escape, were determined to do anything
they could to help things on their own account--which, as you will
see, turned out to be a good deal. And as they waited for the arrival
of the appointed hour their excitement (which Gub-Gub, for one, had
hard work to conceal) grew every minute.

[ Pic-017.jpg "Made his way through unfrequented streets" ]

About ten o'clock, when the circus was beginning to close up, Too-Too
stationed himself on the top of the menagerie where he could see
everything that went on. He had arranged with the elephant and the
animals of the collection to start a rumpus in the menagerie on a given
signal--to attract, if necessary, the attention of the circus men away
from the escaping seal. Gub-Gub gave himself the job of watching
Blossom, and he took up a post underneath the ringmaster's private
caravan.

There was a full moon, and even after the circus lamps were put out
there was still a good deal of light. The Doctor would have postponed
the escape on this account until later, but he realized that the state
of affairs among the Alaskan seals made it necessary for Sophie
to get away as soon as possible.

Well, about an hour after Blossom had locked up the fence gates and
retired to his caravan, Matthew slipped away from the pushmi-pullyu's
stand and sauntered off across the enclosure. Jip, also pretending he
was doing nothing in particular, followed him at a short distance.
Everyone seemed to be abed and not a soul did Matthew meet till
he came to the gate the Doctor had spoken of. Making sure that no one
saw him, the Cat's-Meat-Man quickly undid the latch and set the gate
ajar. Then he strolled away toward Sophie's stand while Jip remained
to watch the gate.

He hadn't been gone more than a minute when along came the circus
watchman with a lantern. He closed the gate, and, to Jip's horror,
locked it with a key. Jip, still pretending he was just sniffing round
the fence after rats, waited till the man had disappeared again. Then
raced off toward Sophie's stand to find Matthew.

Now things had not turned out for the Cat's-Meat-Man as easy as
he had expected. On approaching the seal's tank house, he had seen
from a distance the figure of Higgins sitting on the steps smoking and
looking at the moon. Matthew therefore withdrew into the shadow of
a tent and waited till the seal's keeper should go away to bed.

Higgins, he knew, slept in a wagon close to Blossom's on the other side
of the enclosure. But while he watched and waited, instead of Higgins
going away, another figure, the watchman's, came joined the man on
the steps, sat down and started chatting. Presently Jip, smelling out
Matthew behind the tent, came up and tried frantically to make him
understand that the gate he had opened had been closed again and
locked.

Jip had very little success in trying to make the Cat's-Meat-Man
understand him, and for nearly an hour Matthew stayed in the shadow
waiting for the two figures on the steps of Sophie's stand to move away
and leave the coast clear for hind to let the seal free. In the mean time
John Dolittle in his narrow dark passage outside the circus enclosure
wondered what the delay was and tried to read his watch by the dim
light of the moon.

Finally Matthew decided that the two men were never going to bed. So,
swearing under his breath, he crept away from the shadow of the tent
and set off to seek Theodosia, his wife.

On arrival at his own wagon he found her darning socks by the light of
the candle.

"_Pst!_--Theodosia," he whispered through the window. "Listen."

"Good Lord!" gasped Mrs. Mugg dropping her needlework. "What a fright
you gave me, Matthew! Is it all right? Has the seal got away?"

"No, it's all wrong. Higgins and the watchman are sitting on the steps
talking. I can't get near the door while they're there. Go up and draw
'em off for me, will yer? Tell 'em a tent's blown down or something--
anything to get 'em away. They're going to set there all night if
something ain't done."

"All right," said Theodosia. "Wait till I get my shawl. I'll bring them
over here for some cocoa."

Then the helpful Mrs. Mugg went off and invited Higgins and the
watchman to come to her husband's wagon for a little party. Matthew
would be along to join them presently, she said.

[ Pic-018.jpg "His nimble fingers soon had the door unlocked" ]

As soon as the coast was clear the Cat's-Meat-Man sped up the steps
of the seal's stand and in a minute his nimble fingers had the door
unlocked. Just inside lay Sophie, all ready to start out upon her long
journey. With a grunt of thanks she waddled forth into the moonlight,
slid down the steps and set off clumsily towards the gate.

Once more Jip tried his hardest to make Matthew understand that
something was wrong. But the Cat's-Meat-Man merely took the dog's
signals of distress for joy and marched off to join his wife's cocoa
party, feeling that his share of the night's work had been well done.

In the mean time Sophie had waddled her way laboriously to the gate
and found it locked.

Jip had then gone all around the fence, trying to find a hole big enough
for her to get through. But he wet with no success. Poor Sophie had
escaped the captivity of her tank only to find herself still a prisoner
within the circus enclosure.

Everything that had happened up to this had been carefully watched
by a little round bird perched on the roof of the menagerie. Too-Too,
the listener, the night seer, the mathematician, was more than usually
wide awake. And presently, while Jip was still nosing round the fence
trying to find Sophie a way out, he heard the whir of wings over
his head and an owl alighted by his side.

"For heaven's sake, Jip," whispered Too-Too, "keep your head. The
game will be up if you don't. You're doing no good by running round
like that. Get Sophie into hiding--push her under the flap of a tent
or something. Look at her, lying out in the moonlight there, as though
this were Greenland! If any one should come along and see her we're
lost. Hide her until Matthew sees what has happened to the gate.
Hurry--I see some one coming."

As Too-Too flew back to his place on the menagerie roof, Jip rushed
off to Sophie and in a few hurried words explained the situation to
her.

"Come over here," he said, "Get under the skirt of this tent. So--
Gosh! Only just in time! There's the light of a lantern moving. Now lie
perfectly still and wait till I come and tell you."

And in his little dark passage beyond the circus fence John Dolittle
once more looked at his watch and muttered:

"What _can_ have happened? Will she never come?"

It was not many minutes after Matthew had joined the cocoa party
in his own wagon that the watchman rose from the table and said
he ought to be getting along on his rounds. The Cat's-Meat-Man,
anxious to give Sophie as much time as possible to get away, tried
to persuade him to stay.

"Oh, stop and have another cup of cocoa!" said he. "This is a quiet
town. Nobody's going to break in. Fill your pipe and let's chat a while."

"No," said the watchman--"thank ye. I'd like to, but I mustn't.
Blossom give me strict orders to keep movin' the whole night. If he
was to come and not find me on the job I'd catch it hot."

And in spite of everything Matthew could do to keep him, the watchman
took his lamp and left.

Higgins, however, remained. And while the Cat's-Meat-Man and his wife
talked pleasantly to him of politics and the weather, they expected
any moment to hear a shout outside warning the circus that Sophie had
escaped.

But the watchman, when he found the stand open and empty, did not
begin by shouting. He came running back to Matthew's wagon.

"Higgins," he yelled, "your seal's gone!"

"Gone!" cried Higgins.

_"Gone!"_ said Matthew. "Can't be possible!"

"I tell you she 'as," said the watchman. "Er door's open and she ain't
there."

"Good heavens!" cried Higgins springing up. "I could swear I locked
the door as usual. But if the gates in the fence was all closed she
can't be far away. We can soon find 'er again. Come on!"

And he ran out of the wagon--with Matthew and Theodosia,
pretending to be greatly disturbed, close at his heels.

"I'll go take another look at the gates," said the watchman. "I'm sure
they're all right. But I'll make double certain anyway."

Then Higgins, Matthew and Theodosia raced off for the seal's stand.

"The door's open, sure enough," said Matthew as they came up to it.
"'Ow very peculiar!"

"Let's go inside," said Higgins. "Maybe she's hiding at the bottom of
the tank."

Then all three of them went in and by the light of matches peered
down into the dark water.

Meanwhile the watchman turned up again.

"The gates are all right," he said--"closed and locked, every one
of them."

Then at last Matthew knew something had gone wrong. And while
Higgins and the watchman were examining the water with the lamp,
he whispered something to his wife, slipped out and ran for the gate,
hoping Theodosia would keep the other two at the stand long enough
for his purpose.

As a matter of fact she played her part very well, did Mrs. Mugg.
Presently Higgins said:

"There ain't nothing under the water. Sophie's not here. Let's go
outside and look for her."

Then just as the two men turned to leave Theodosia cried, "What's
that?"

"What's what?" said Higgins turning back.

"That--down there," said Mrs. Mugg pointing into the dirty water.
"I thought I saw something move. Bring the lantern nearer."

The watchman crouched over the edge of the tank; and Higgins, beside
him, screwed up his eyes to see better.

[ Pic-019.jpg "'Oh! Oh! I'm feeling faint!'" ]

"I don't see nothing," said the keeper.

"Oh! Oh! I'm feeling faint!" cried Mrs. Mugg. "Help me. I'm going to
fall in!"

And Theodosia, a heavy woman, swayed and suddenly crumpled up
on the top of the two crouching men.

Then, _splash! splash!_--in fell, not Theodosia, but Higgins and the
watchman--lamp and all.



THE SECOND CHAPTER

"ANIMALS' NIGHT" AT THE CIRCUS

The white mouse was the only one of the Doctor's pets that witnessed
that scene in Sophie's tank-house when Mrs. Mugg pushed the two men
into the water by-accident-on-purpose. And for weeks afterward he
used to entertain the Dolittle family circle with his description of
Mr. Higgins, the seal keeper, diving for fish and coming up for air.

That was one of the busiest and jolliest nights the circus ever had--
from the animals' point of view; and the two men falling in the water
and yelling for help was the beginning of a grand and noble racket
which lasted for a good half hour and finally woke every soul in Ashby
out of his sleep.

First of all, Blossom, hearing cries of alarm, came rushing out of
his caravan. At the foot of the steps a pig appeared from nowhere,
rushed between his legs and brought him down on his nose. Throughout
the whole proceedings Gub-Gub never let Blossom get very far without
popping out from behind something and upsetting him.

[ Pic-020.jpg "A small pig tripped him up" ]

Next Fatima, the snake charmer, ran from her boudoir with a candle
in one hand and a hammer in the other. She hadn't gone two steps
before a mysterious duck flew over her head and with one sweep of
its wing blew the candle out. Fatima ran back, relit the candle and
tried again to go to the rescue. But the same thing happened. Dab-Dab
kept Fatima almost as busy as Gub-Gub kept Blossom.

Then Mrs. Blossom hastily donning a dressing-gown, appeared upon
the scene. She was met by the old horse Beppo, who had a habit of
asking people for sugar. She tried to get by him and Beppo made
politely to get out of her way. But in doing so he trod on her corns
so badly that she went howling back to bed again and did not reappear.

But, although the animals managed by various tricks to keep many
people occupied, they could not attend to all the circus folk; and
before long the watchman and Higgins, yelling murder in the tank,
had attracted a whole lot of tent riggers and other showmen to
Sophie's stand.

Now, in the meantime, Matthew Mugg had reopened the gate in the
fence. But when he looked around for Sophie she was nowhere to be
seen. Jip and Too-Too, as a matter of fact, were the only ones who
really knew where she was. Jip, however, with all this crowd of men
rushing around the seal's stand near the gate, was afraid to give
Sophie the word to leave her hiding place. More of Blossom's men kept
arriving and adding to the throng. Several lanterns were lit and
brought onto the scene. Everybody was shouting, one half asking what
the matter was, the other half telling them. Mr. Blossom, after being
thrown down in the mud by Gub-Gub for the sixth time, was hitting
every one he met and bellowing like a mad bull. The hubbub and
confusion were awful.

At last Higgins, and the watchman were fished out of their bathtub,
and highly performed with kerosene and fish, they joined the hunt.

The watchman and every one was sure that Sophie must be somewhere
near--which was quite true: the tent, under the skirt of which she
was lying, was only thirty feet from her stand. But the gate by which
she was to pass out was also quite near.

While Jip was wondering when the men would move away so he could
let her go, Higgins cried out that he had found a track in the soft
earth. Then a dozen lanterns were brought forward, and the men
started to follow the trail that Sophie had left behind on the way to
her hiding place.

Luckily, with so many feet crossing and recrossing the same part of
the enclosure the flipper marks were not easy to make out.
Nevertheless, even with Matthew doing his best to lead them off on
a wrong scent, the trackers steadily moved in the right direction--
toward the tent where poor Sophie, the devoted wife, lay in hiding
with a beating heart.

John Dolittle, waiting impatiently in his little passage, had heard the
noise of shouting from the circus. He knew that meant Sophie had got
out from her stand. But as minute after minute went by and still she
did not come to the meeting place the Doctor's uneasiness increased
a hundred-fold.

But his anxiety was no worse than Jip's. Closer and closer the trackers
came toward the spot where he had hidden the seal. The poor dog was
in despair.

However, he had forgotten Too-Too the mathematician. From his lookout
on the menagerie roof, away off on the far side of the enclosure, the
little owl was still surveying the battlefield with a general's eye.
He was only waiting till he was sure that all the circus folk had left
their beds to join the hunt and that there were no more to come. When
he played his master stroke of strategy he did not want any extra
interference from unexpected quarters.

Suddenly he flew down to a ventilator in the menagerie wall and
hooted softly. Instantly there began within the most terrible
pandemonium that was ever heard. The lion roared, the opossum
shrieked, the yak bellowed, the hyena howled, the elephant trumpeted
and stamped his floor into kindling wood. It was the grand climax to
the animals' conspiracy.

On the other side of the enclosure the trackers and hunters stood
still and listened.

"What in thunder's that?" asked Blossom.

[ Pic-021.jpg "He stamped his floor into kindling wood" ]

"Coming from the menagerie, ain't it?" said one of the men. "Sounds
like the elephant's broke loose."

"I know," said another: _"it's Sophie._ She's got into the menagerie
and scared the elephant."

"That's it," said Blossom. "Lord, and us huntin' for 'er over here!
To the menagerie!" And he grabbed up a lantern and started to run.

"To the menagerie!" yelled the crowd. And in a moment, to Jip's delight,
they were all gone, rushing away to the other side of the enclosure.

All but one. Matthew Mugg, hanging back, pretending to do up his
shoelace, saw Jip flash across to a small tent and disappear under
the skirt.

"Now," said Jip. "Run, Sophie!--Swim! Fly! Anything! Get out of the
gate!"

Hopping and flopping, Sophie covered the ground as best she could
while Jip yelped to her to hurry and Matthew held the gate open. At
last the seal waddled out onto the road and the Cat's-Meat-Man saw
her cross it and disappear into the passage alongside the deserted
house. He closed the gate again, and stamped out her tracks at the
foot of it. Then he leaned against it mopping his brow.

"Holy smoke!" he sighed. "And I told the Doctor I done worse things
than help a seal escape! If I ever------"

A knock sounded on the gate at his back. With shaking hands he opened
it once more; and there stood a policeman, his little bull's-eye lantern
shining at his belt. Matthew's heart almost stopped beating. He had
no love for policemen.

"I ain't done nothing!" he began. "I------"

"What's all the row about?" asked the constable. "You've got the
whole town woke up. Lion broke loose or something?"

Matthew heaved a sigh of relief.

"No," he said. "Just a little trouble with the elephant. Got his leg
caught in a rope and pulled a tent over. We 'ave 'im straightened
out now. Nothing to worry about."

"Oh, it that all?" said the policeman. "Folks was going around asking
if the end of the world was come. Good night!"

"Good night, constable!" Matthew closed the gate for the third time
----"And give my love to all the little constables," he added under
his breath as he set off for the menagerie.

And so at last John Dolittle, waiting, anxious and impatient, in the
dark passage, alongside the empty house, heard to his delight the
sound of a peculiar footstep. A flipper-step, it should more properly
be called; for the noise of Sophie traveling over a brick slapping
the ground with a wet rag and a sack of potatoes being yanked along
a floor.

"Is that you, Sophie?" he whispered.

"Yes," said the seal, hitching herself forward to where the Doctor
stood.

"Thank goodness! What in the world kept you so long?"

"Oh, there was some mix-up with the gates," said Sophie. "But hadn't
we better be getting out of the town? It doesn't seem to me very
safe here."

"There's no chance of that for the present," said the Doctor. "The
noise they made in the circus has woken everybody. We dare not try
and get through the streets now. I just saw a policeman pass across
the end of the passage there--luckily for us, just after you popped
into it."

"But then what are we going to do?"

"We'll have to stay here for the present. It would be madness to try
and run for it now."

"Well, but suppose they come searching in here. We couldn't------"

At that moment two persons with lanterns stopped at the end of the
passage, talked a moment and moved away.

"Quite so," whispered the Doctor. "This isn't safe either. We must
find a better place."

Now, on the side o this alleyway there was a high stone wall and on the
other a high brick wall. The brick wall enclosed the back garden
belonging to the deserted house.

"If we could only get into that old empty house," murmured the
Doctor. "We'd be safe to stay there as long as we wished--till this
excitement among the townsfolk dies down. Can you think of any way
you could get over that wall?"

The seal measured the height with her eye.

"Eight feet," she murmured--"I could do it with a ladder. I've been
trained to walk up ladders. I do it in the circus, you know. Perhaps
------"

"Sh!" whispered the Doctor. "There's the policeman's bull's-eye again.
Ah, thank goodness, he's passed on! Listen, there's just a chance
I may find an orchard ladder in the garden. Now you wait here, lie
flat, and wait till I come back."

Then John Dolittle, a very active man in spite of his round figure,
drew back and took a running jump at the wall. His fingers caught
the top of it; he hauled himself up, threw one leg over and dropped
lightly down into a flower-bed on the other side. At the bottom of
the garden he saw in the moonlight what he guessed to be a tool-shed.
Slipping up to the door, he opened it and went in.

Inside his groping hands touched and rattled some empty flower pots.
But he could find no ladder. He found a grass-mower, a lawn-roller,
rakes and tools of every kind, but no ladder. And there seemed little
hope of finding one in the dark. So he carefully closed the door, hung
his coat over the dirty little cobwebby window, in order that no light
should be seen from the outside, and struck a match.

And there, sure enough, hanging against the wall right above his head,
was an orchard ladder just the right length. In a moment he had blown
out the match, opened the door and was marching down the garden with
the ladder on his shoulder.

Standing it in a firm place, he scaled up and sat astride the wall. Next
he pulled the ladder up after him, changed it across to the other side
and lowered the foot-end into the passage.

Then John Dolittle, perched astride the top of the wall (looking exactly
like Humpty Dumpty), whispered down into the dark passage below him:

"Now climb up, Sophie. I'll keep this end steady. And when you reach
the top get onto the wall beside me till I change the ladder over to the
garden side. Don't get flustered now. Easy does it."

It was a good thing that Sophie was so well trained in balancing. Never
in the circus had she performed a better trick than she did that night.
It was a feat that even a person might well be proud of. But she knew
that her freedom, the happiness of her husband, depended on her
steadiness. And, though she was in constant fear that any minute some
one might come down the passage and discover them, it gave her a real
thrill to turn the tables on her captors by using the skill they had
taught her in this last grand performance to escape them.

Firmly, rung by rung, she began hoisting her heavy body upward. The
ladder, fortunately, was longer than the height of the wall. Thus the
Doctor had been able to set it at an easier, flattish slope, instead of
straight upright. With the seal's weight it sagged dangerously; and
the Doctor on the wall prayed that it would prove strong enough. Being
an orchard ladder, for tree-pruning, it got very narrow at the top. And
it was here, where there were hardly room enough for a seal's two
front flappers to take hold, that the ticklish part of the feat came in.
Then, from this awkward situation Sophie had to shift her clumsy bulk
onto the wall, which was no more than twelve inches wide, while the
Doctor changed the ladder.

But in the circus Sophie had been trained to balance herself on small
spaces, as well as to climb ladders. And after the Doctor had helped
her by leaning down and hoisting her up by the slack of her sealskin
jacket, she wiggled herself along the top of the wall beside him and
kept her balance as easily as though it were nothing at all.

Then, while Sophie gave a fine imitation of a statue in the moonlight,
the Doctor hauled the ladder up after her, swung it over--knocking
his own high hat off in the process--and lowered it into the garden
once more.

Coming down, Sophie did another of her show tricks: she laid herself
across the ladder and slid to the bottom. It was quicker than climbing.
And it was lucky she did slide. For the Doctor had hardly lowered the
ladder to the lawn when they heard voices in the passage they had
left. They had only just got into the garden in time.

"Thank goodness for that!" said the Doctor when the sound of footsteps
had died away. "A narrow squeak, Sophie! Well, we're safe for the
present, anyway. Nobody would dream of looking for you here. Oh, I
say, you're lying on the carnations. Come over here onto the gravel.
--So. Now, shall we sleep in the tool-shed or the house?"

[ Pic-022.jpg "He lowered the ladder into the garden" ]

"This seems good enough to me," said Sophie, wallowing into the long
grass of the lawn. "Let's sleep outdoors."

"No, that will never do," said the Doctor. "Look at all the houses
around. If we stay in the garden people could see us out of the top
windows when daylight came. Let's sleep in the tool-shed. I love the
smell of tool-sheds--and then we won't have to break open any
doors."

"Nor climb any stairs," said Sophie, humping along toward the shed.
"I do hate stairs. Ladders I can manage: but stairs are the mischief."

Inside the tool-shed they found by the dim light of the moon several
old sacks and large quantities of bass-grass. Out of these materials
they made themselves two quite comfortable beds.

"My, but it's good to be free!" said Sophie, stretching out her great,
silky length. "Are you sleepy, Doctor? I couldn't stay awake another
moment if you paid me."

"Well, go to sleep then," said the Doctor. "I'm going to take a stroll
in the garden before turning in."



THE THIRD CHAPTER

IN THE DESERTED GARDEN

The Doctor, always fascinated by any kind of a garden, lit his pipe and
strolled out of the tool-shed into the moonlight. The neglected appearance
of the beds and lawns of this deserted property reminded him of his own
beautiful home in Puddleby. There were weeds everywhere. John Dolittle
could not abide weeds in flower-beds. He pulled one or two away from
the roots of a rose-tree. Further along he found them thicker still,
nearly smothering a very fine lavender bush.

"Dear me!" he said, tiptoeing back to the shed for a hoe and a basket.
"What a shame to neglect a fine place like this!"

And before long he was weeding away by moonlight like a Trojan--
just as though the garden were his own and no danger threatened him
within a thousand miles.

"After all," he muttered to himself as he piled the basket high with
dandelions, "we are occupying the place--and rent free at that. This
is the least I can do for the landlord."

After he had finished the weeding he would have got the mower and
cut the lawn--only that he was afraid the noise might wake the
neighbors.

And when, a week later, the owner of the property rented the place
to his aunt, that good lady entirely puzzled her nephew by writing to
congratulate him on the way he had had his garden kept!

The Doctor, going back to bed after a hard night's work, suddenly
discovered that he was hungry. Remembering the apple-trees he had
noticed behind a wistaria arbor, he turned back. But no fruit could
he find. It had all been gathered or taken by marauding boys. Knowing
that he would not be able to move about the garden after daylight
came, he then started hunting for vegetables. But in this he had no
better luck. So, with the prospect of a foodless day before him
to-morrow, he finally went to bed.

In the morning the first thing Sophie said when she woke up was:

"My! I've been dreaming about the dear old sea all night. It's given
me a wonderful appetite. Is there anything to eat around, Doctor?"

"I'm afraid not," said John Dolittle. "We'll have to go without
breakfast--and lunch, too, I fear. I dare not to try to get out of
here by daylight. As soon as it gets dark, though, I may be able to
go by myself and bring you some kippers or something from a shop.
But I hope that late to-night they'll have given up hunting for you and
that we can both make for the open country and get on our way to
the sea."

Well, Sophie was very brave and made the best of it. But, as the day
wore on they both got ravenously hungry. Somewhere near one o'clock
in the afternoon, Sophie, suddenly said:

"Sh! Did you hear that?"

"No," said the Doctor, who was looking for onions in a corner of the
shed. "What was it?"

"It's a dog barking in the passage--the other side of the garden wall.
Come out from under the bench and you'll hear it. Goodness! I do hope
they're not hunting me with dogs now. The game's up if they do."

The Doctor crawled out from under a potting table, came to the door
and listened. A low, cautious bark reached his ears from over the wall.

"Good Heavens!" he muttered. "That's Jip's voice. I wonder what
he wants."

Not far from the shed there was a thick, branchy pear tree standing
close to the wall. Making sure no one saw him from the windows of
houses overlooking the garden, the Doctor sped across and got behind
the tree.

"What is it, Jip?" he called. "Is anything wrong?"

"Let me in," Jip whispered back. "I can't get over the wall."

"How can I?" said the Doctor. "There's no door and I'm afraid the
neighbors may see me if I move out in the open."

"Get a rope and tie a basket on the end," whispered Jip. "Then throw
it over the wall behind the tree and I'll get in it. When I bark, pull on
the rope and haul me up. Hurry! I don't want to be seen around
this passage."

Then the Doctor crept back to the tool shed, found a planting line
and tied the garden basket on the end of it.

Returning to the cover of the tree, he threw the basket over the wall,
but kept the end of the line in his hand.

Presently a bark sounded from the passage and he started hauling
in the rope. When the basket reached the top of the wall on the other
side Jip's head appeared.

"Keep the rope tight, but tie it to the tree," he whispered. "Then
spread your coat out like an apron. I want you to catch some things."

The Doctor did as he was told. And Jip threw down to him the contents
of the basket: four ham sandwiches, a bottle of milk, two herrings,
a razor, a piece of soap and a newspaper. Then he threw the empty
basket onto the lawn.

"Now catch me," said Jip. "Hold your coat real tight. Ready? One, two,
three!"

"My goodness!" said the Doctor, as the dog took the flying dive and
landed neatly in the coat. "You could perform in the circus yourself."

"I may take it up some day," said Jip carelessly. "Whereabouts in this
place have you been living? In the cellar?"

"No. Over there in the tool shed," whispered the Doctor. "Let's slip
across quietly and quickly."

A minute later they were safe in the tool shed, Sophie was gulping
a herring and the Doctor was chewing hungrily on a ham sandwich.

"You're a marvel, Jip," said he with his mouth full. "But how did you
know we were here--and in need of food? Both of us were just
starving."

"Well," said Jip, throwing the seal another herring, "after Sophie got
out of the gate the excitement still went on inside the circus. Blossom
and his men hunted around all night. Then we decided, from the
people's heads popping out of the windows, that the town, too, was
pretty much disturbed by the rumpus. Too-Too was awfully worried.

"'I do hope,' he kept saying, 'that the Doctor has not tried to get
out into the country. He'll surely be caught if he has. The thing for
him to do for the present is to hide.'

[ Pic-023.jpg "The dog took the flying dive" ]

"So, all night long we sat up expecting any minute to see you and
Sophie dragged back into the circus. Well, morning came and still
you hadn't been captured--and, as far as I know, nobody suspects
that you, Doctor, have had anything to do with it. But the circus folk
were still searching even when daylight came, and Too-Too kept
fussing and worrying. So I said to him, I said:

"'I'll soon tell you if the Doctor is still in Ashby or not.'

"And I went off on a tour of inspection. It was a damp morning and
a good one for smelling. I made a circular trip right round the outside
of the town. I knew that if you had left it by any means except flying
I could pick up your scent. But nowhere did I cross the Dolittle trail.
So I went back to Too-Too and I said:

"'The Doctor hasn't left Ashby yet--unless he went by balloon.'

"'Good,' says he. 'Then he's safe in hiding some place. He's got wits,
has the Doctor--in some things. Now, nose him out--and come back
and tell me where he is. In the mean time I'll have some food got
ready for him. Both he and the seal will be hungry. They've neither
of them had a thing probably since noon yesterday, and they'll
certainly have to stay where they are till late-to-night.'

"So then I went smelling around _inside_ the town and picked up
your incoming trail from where the coach stops. And it led me first,
as I expected, by roundabout side streets to the dark passage. But
from there, to my surprise, it didn't go on--just stopped dead.
Sophie's didn't go on any further either. Well, I knew you couldn't
have crept down a rat hole or flown up in the air; and for a couple
of minutes I was absolutely fogged. Then, suddenly, I got a whiff
of tobacco smoke coming over the wall--I know the brand you smoke
--and I was certain you were in the garden. But, if you ask me,
I should say that both of you are pretty fine jumpers."

The Doctor laughed as he started on a second sandwich, and even Sophie,
wiping her fishy whiskers with the back of her flipper, smiled broadly.

[ Pic-024.jpg "Sophie smiled" ]

"We didn't jump the wall, Jip," said John Dolittle. "We used that ladder
over there. But how did you get this food here without being seen?"

"It wasn't easy," said Jip, "not by any means. Too-Too and Dab-Dab
made up the sandwiches, and we got Sophie's herrings from Higgins'
fish pail. The milk was delivered at our wagon by the usual dairyman.
Then Too-Too said you'd surely like to see a newspaper--to pass
the time--if you had to stay here all day; and I chose _The Morning
Gazette_, which is the one we had often seen you reading. Then the
white mouse said not to forget your razor and soap, because you
hated to go without shaving. And we put _them_ in. But all this stuff
together weighted quite a lot--too much for me to carry in one trip.
So I made two, hiding the first load behind an ash barrel in the
passage till I could fetch the second. On the first journey I got
stopped by an old woman--you see, I had the things rolled up in the
newspaper, so they wouldn't look so noticeable. 'Oh, my,' said the
old lady, 'look at the nice doggie carrying the newspaper for his
master! Come here, clever doggie!'

"Well, I gave the old frump the slip and got away from her all right.
And then on the second trip I met some more idiots--dog idiots.
They caught the scent of the herrings I was carrying for Sophie
and started following me in droves. I ran all round the town trying
to get away from them and nearly lost the luggage more than once.
Finally I put my package down and fought the whole bunch of them.
--No, it wasn't an easy job."

"Goodness!" said the Doctor, finishing his last sandwich and opening
the milk. "It's wonderful to have such friends. I'm awfully glad you
thought of the razor. I'm getting terribly bristly around the chin.
--Oh, but I haven't any water."

"You must use milk," said Jip. "Steady! Don't drink it all. We thought
of that, too, you see."

"Humph," said the Doctor setting down the half empty bottle. "That's
an idea. I never shaved with milk before. Ought to be splendid for
the complexion. You don't drink it, Sophie, do you? No. Oh, well, now
we're all fixed up."

And he took off his collar and began to shave.

After he had finished, Jip said:

"Well, I must be leaving, Doctor. I promised them at the caravan
I'd come and let them know how everything was going with you
as soon as I could. If you don't succeed in getting away to-night
I'll be back again the same time to-morrow, with some more grub.
The townsfolk have pretty much calmed down. But Higgins and Blossom
haven't given up the hunt yet by any means. So you will be careful,
won't you? You're all safe and snug here. Better stay two days--or
even three more, if necessary, rather than run for it too soon and
get caught."

"All right, Jip," said the Doctor. "We'll be careful. Thank you ever
so much for coming. Remember me to everyone."

"Me, too," said Sophie.

"And tell Too-Too and the rest we are ever so grateful for their help,"
the Doctor added as he opened the door of the shed.

Then they slipped across to the pear tree again. And after he had
climbed into the branches of it, the Doctor poked Jip, inside the basket,
over the wall and let him down on the string into the passage.

Nothing further of excitement happened for some hours. And though,
from time to time, they heard the voices of people hunting for them
in the passage and the streets around, a pleasant afternoon was spent
by the two fugitives, the Doctor reading the paper and Sophie lolling
thoughtfully on her bed.

After darkness began to fall John Dolittle could no longer see to read;
so he and Sophie took to chattering over plans in low tones.

"Do you think we'll be able to get away to-night, Doctor?" asked Sophie.
"Surely, they'll have given up hunting me by then, won't they?"

"I hope so," said the Doctor. "As soon as it's dark I'll go out into
the garden and see if I hear anything. I know how anxious you are
to be getting along on your trip. But try and be patient."

About half an hour later the Doctor took the ladder, and mounting near
the top of the garden wall, he listened long and carefully.

When he came back to Sophie in the tool shed he was shaking his head.

"There are still an awful lot of people moving about in the streets,"
he said. "But whether they are circus men hunting you, or just
ordinary townsfolk walking abroad, I can't make out. We'd better wait
a while longer, I think."

"Oh, dear!" sighed Sophie. "Are we never going to get further than
this garden? Poor Slushy! I'm so worried."

And she began to weep softly in the darkness of the shed.

After another hour had gone by the Doctor went out again. This time,
just as he was about to climb the ladder, he heard Jip was whispering
to him on the other side of the wall.

"Doctor, are you there?"

"Yes, what is it?"

"Listen! Higgins and the boss have gone off somewhere with a wagon.
Blossom just came and told Matthew to take on some extra jobs with
the circus because he wouldn't back for a while. Too-Too thinks it's
a grand chance for you to make a dash for it and get out of the town.
Start in an hour, when the circus is in full swing and the men are all
busy. Have you got that?"

"Yes, I heard you. Thank you, Jip. All right. We'll leave in an hour." And
the Doctor looked at his watch. "Which way did Blossom go?"

"East--toward Grimbledon. Swizzle followed them out a ways and
came back and told us. You make for the West. Turn to the left at
the end of this passage and then double to the left again at the next
corner. It's a dark by-street and it leads you out onto the Dunwich
Road. Once you reach that you'll be all right. There aren't many houses
on it and you'll be in the open country in no time. I'm leaving some more
sandwiches here in the passage for you. Pick them up on your way out.
Can you hear me?"

"Yes, I understand," whispered the Doctor. Then he ran back to the
shed with the good news.

Poor Sophie, when she heard they were to leave that night, stood up
on her tail and clapped her flippers with joy.

"Now, listen," said the Doctor: "if we meet any one on the street--
and we are pretty sure to--you lie down by the wall and pretend
you're a sack I'm carrying--that I'm taking a rest, you see. Try
and look as much like a sack as you can. Understand?"

"All right," said Sophie, "I'm frightfully excited. See how my flippers
are fluttering."

"Well, the Doctor kept an eye on his watch; and long before the hour
had passed he and Sophie were waiting at the foot of the ladder ready
and impatient.

Finally, after looking at the time once more, the Doctor whispered:

"All right, I think we can start now. Let me go first, so I can steady
the ladder for you, the way I did before."

But, alas, for poor Sophie's hopes! Just as the Doctor was half way up,
the noise of distant barking, deep-voiced and angry, broke out.

John Dolittle paused on the ladder, frowning. The barking, many dogs
baying together, drew nearer.

"What's that?" said Sophie in a tremulous whisper from below. "That's
not Jip or any of our dogs."

"No," said the Doctor, climbing down slowly. "There's no mistaking
that sound. Sophie, something's gone wrong. That's the baying of
bloodhounds--bloodhounds on a scent. And they're coming--
this way!"

[ Pic-025.jpg "John Dolittle paused" ]



THE FOURTH CHAPTER

THE LEADER OF THE BLOODHOUNDS

Jip, after his last conversation with the Doctor over the garden wall,
returned to the caravan and his friends, feeling comfortably sure
that now everything would go all right.

He and Too-Too were chatting under the table while Dab-Dab was
dusting the furniture, when suddenly in rushed Toby, all out of
breath.

"Jip," he cried. "The worst has happened! They've got bloodhounds.
That's what Blossom and Higgins went off for. There's a man who
raises them, it seems, in the next village. They're bringing 'em here
in a wagon--six of 'em. I spotted them just as they entered the town
over the toll-bridge. I ran behind and tried to speak to the dogs. But
with the rattle of the wagon-wheels they couldn't hear me. If they
put those hounds on Sophie's trail she's as good as caught already."

"Confound them!" muttered Jip. "Where are they now, Toby?"

"I don't know. When I left them they were crossing the market place,
on their way here at the trot. I raced ahead to let you know as quick
as I could."

"All right," said Jip, springing up. "Come with me."

And he dashed out into the night.

"They'll try and pick up the trail from the seal's stand," said Jip
as the two dogs ran on together across the enclosure. "Perhaps
we can meet them there."

But at the stand there were no bloodhounds.

Jip put his nose to the ground and sniffed just once.

"Drat the luck!" he whispered. "They've been here already and
gone off on the trail. Listen, there they are, baying now. Come
on! Let's race for the passage. We may be in time yet."

And away he sped like a white arrow toward the gate, while
poor little Toby, left far behind, with his flappy ears trailing
in the wind, put on his best speed to keep up.

Dashing into the passage, Jip found it simply full of men and
dogs and lanterns. Blossom was there, and Higgins and the
man who owned the hounds. While the men talked and waved
the lamps, the hounds, six great, droopy-jowled beasts, with
long ears and bloodshot eyes, sniffed the ground and ran
hither and thither about the alley, trying to find where the
trail led out. Every once in a while they would lift their noses,
open their big mouses and send a deep-voiced howl rolling
toward the moon.

By this time other dogs in the neighborhood were answering
their back from every backyard. Jip ran into the crowded
passage, pretending to join in the hunt for scent. Picking out
the biggest bloodhound, who, he guessed, was the leader,
he got alongside of him. Then, still keeping his eyes and nose
to the ground, he whispered in dog language:

"Get your duffers out of here. This is the Doctor's business
--John Dolittle's."

The bloodhound paused and eyed Jip haughtily.

"Who are you, mongrel?" he said. "We've been set to run down
a seal. Stop trying to fool us. John Dolittle is away on a
voyage."

"He's nothing of the kind," muttered Jip. "He's on the other
side of that wall--not six feet away from us. He is trying
to get this seal down to the sea, so she can escape these men
with the lanterns--if you idiots will only get out of the way."

"I don't believe you," said the leader. "The last I heard of the
Doctor he was traveling in Africa. We must do our duty."

"Duffer! Numbskull!" growled Jip, losing his temper entirely.
"I'm telling you the truth. For two pins I'd pull your long ears.
You must have been asleep in your kennel the last two years.
The Doctor's been back in England over a month. He's traveling
with the circus now."

But the leader of the bloodhounds, like many highly trained
specialists, was (in everything outside his own profession) very
obstinate and a bit stupid. He just simply would not believe that
the Doctor wasn't still abroad. In all his famous record as a tracker
he had never failed to run down his quarry, once he took up a scent.
He had a big reputation, and was proud of it. He wasn't going to be
misled by every whipper-snapper of a dog who came along with
an idle tale--no, not he.

Poor Jip was in despair. He saw that the hounds were now sniffing
at the wall over which Sophie had climbed. He knew that these great
beasts would never leave this neighborhood while the seal was near
and her fishy scent so strong all about. It was only a matter of time
before Blossom and Higgins would guess that she was in hiding
beyond the wall and would have the old house and garden searched.

While he was still arguing an idea came to Jip. He left the knot of
bloodhounds and nosed his way carelessly down to the bottom of
the passage. The air was now simply full of barks and yelps from
dogs of any kind. Jip threw back his head and pretended to join
in the chorus. But the message he shouted was directed over the wall
to the Doctor:

"These idiots won't believe me. For heaven's sake tell 'em you're
here----_Woof! Woof! _ WOO------!"

And then still another doggish voice, coming from the garden, added
to the general noise of the night. And this is what it barked:

"It is I, John Dolittle. Won't you please go away? _Wow! Woof!
Wow-ow!_"

At the sound of that voice--to Blossom and Higgins no different
from any of the other yelps that filled the air--the noses of all
six bloodhounds left the ground and twelve long ears cocked up,
motionless and listening.

"By ginger!" muttered the leader. "It is he! It's the great man
himself."

"What did I tell you?" whispered Jip, shuffling toward him. "Now lead
these men off toward the south--out of the town, quick--and don't
stop running till morning."

Then the dog trainer saw his prize leader suddenly double round and
head out of the passage. To his delight, the others followed his
example.

"All right, Mr. Blossom," he yelled, waving his lantern. "They've got
the scent again. Come on, follow 'em, follow 'em! They're going fast.
Stick to 'em!--Run!"

Tumbling over one another to keep up, the three men hurried after
the hounds; and Jip, to help the excitement in the right direction,
joined the chase, barking for all he was worth.

"They've turned down the street to the south," shouted the owner.
"We'll get your seal now, never fear. Ah, they're good dogs! Once they
take the scent they never go wrong. Come on, Mr. Blossom. Don't
let 'em get too far away."

And in a flash the little dark passage, which a moment before was
full and crowded, was left empty in the moonlight.

Poor Sophie, weeping hysterically on the lawn, with the Doctor trying
to comfort her, suddenly saw the figure of an owl pop up onto the
garden wall.

"Doctor! Doctor!"

"Yes, Too-Too. What is it?"

"Now's your chance! The whole town's joined the hunt. Get your ladder.
Hurry!"

And two minutes later, while the hounds, in full cry, led Blossom
and Higgins on a grand steeple-chase over hill and dale to the
southward, the Doctor led Sophie quietly out of Ashby by the Dunwich
Road, toward the westward and the sea.

Long afterwards, when Sophie's mysterious escape from her circus
career had become ancient history, John Dolittle often told his pets
that if he had only known at the beginning what kind of a job it was
to move a seal secretly over a hundred miles of dry land he doubted
very much if he would have had the courage to undertake it.

[ Pic-026.jpg "A steeplechase over hill and dale" ]

The second half of his adventures with Sophie, in which none of
his own animals took part, came, indeed, to be a favorite tale with
the Dolittle fireside circle for many, many years--particularly one
chapter. And whenever the animals were feeding in need of a
cheerful yarn they always pestered the Doctor to re-tell them
the part of his elopement with the seal which Gub-Gub called
"the Grantchester Coach." But we are going ahead of our story.

When Sophie and John Dolittle had traveled down the Dunwich Road
as far as where the houses of Ashby ended and the fields of the
country began, they both heaved a sigh of relief. What they had been
most afraid of while still in the streets was being met by a
policeman. The Doctor guessed that Higgins had probably applied
to the police station and offered a reward for the return of his lost
property. If he had, of course, all the town constables would be
very much on the look-out for stray seals.

As they now plodded along the road between hedge-rows, the Doctor
could tell from Sophie's heavy breathing and very slow pace that
even this bit of land travel had already wearied the poor beast. Yet
he dared not halt upon the highway.

Spying a copse over in some lonely farming lands to his left, he
decided that it would make a good, snug place in which to take a rest.
He therefore turned off the road, found a hole in the hedge for
Sophie to crawl through and led her along a ditch that ran up
toward the copse.

[ Pic-027.jpg "He found a hole for Sophie to crawl through" ]

Arriving at the little clump of trees and brambles, they found it
excellent cover and crawled in. It was the kind of place where
no one would be likely to come in month of Sundays--except perhaps
stray sportsmen after rabbits, or children berry-picking.

"Well," said the Doctor, as Sophie flopped down, panting within
the protection of dense hawthorns and furze, "so far, so good."

"My!" said Sophie, "but I'm winded. Seals weren't meant for this kind
of thing, Doctor. How far do you reckon we've come?"

"About a mile and a half, I should say."

"Good Lord! Is that all? And it's nearly a hundred to the sea!
I tell you what I think we ought to do, Doctor; let's make for a river.
Rivers always flow to the sea. I can travel in water as fast as
a horse can run. But much more of this highroad walking will wear
holes in the sole of my stomach. A river's the thing we've got to
make for."

"Yes, I think you're right, Sophie. But where to find one? That's
the point. If we were anywhere near Puddleby now I could tell you
at once. But I don't know a thing about the geography of these parts.
I ought to have remembered to bring a map with me. I don't want
to be asking people--not yet, anyway. Because I'm still supposed to
be miles away from here, attending to business."

"Well, ask some animal, then," said Sophie.

"Of course!" cried the Doctor. "Why didn't I think of that before?
Now, what kind of a beast could best give us the information we want?"

"Oh, any sort of water creature will do."

"I know; we'll ask an otter. Otters are about your nearest relatives
in England, Sophie. They travel and hunt in fresh water very much
the way you do in salt. Now you stay here and take a good rest and
I'll go off and find one."

It was about one o'clock in the morning when the Doctor returned
to the copse. The noise he made entering woke Sophie out of a
sound sleep.

With him he had brought a rather unusual animal. In odd, curving,
graceful leaps this creature kept bounding up out of the high
bracken that carpeted the copse to get a good look at Sophie.
He seemed somewhat afraid of her, but very interested.

"Isn't she large, Doctor!" he whispered. "Did you say she was
related to us?"

"In a way, yes. Though, strictly speaking, she is a _pinniped_,
while your people are _musteloids_."

"Oh, well, I'm glad of it. She is so clumsy. And look, she hasn't
any hind legs--just sort of stubby things. Are you sure she won't
bite?"

Finally, the otter was persuaded that Sophie was harmless, and,
drawing close, he talked pleasantly with this other furred fisherman
from foreign parts.

"Now," said the Doctor, "as I have told you, we are anxious to get
down to the sea by the quickest and quietest way possible. And
Sophie thinks that the best thing is make for some stream."

"Humph!" said the otter. "She's quite right, of course. But you've
come to a pretty poor place for waterways. The only reason I stay
in this neighborhood is because there are no otter hounds here. I
live and do my fishing in a few ponds. They're not much good, but
at least I'm not hunted by the packs. There are no decent rivers
in these parts--certainly none that _she_ could swim in to the sea."

"Well, where do you recommend us to go, then?" asked the Doctor.

"I really don't know," said the otter. "You see, I travel so little
myself. I was born in this district. And my mother always told me
that this was the only safe place left in England for otters to live.
And so I've stayed here--my whole life."

"Well, could you get us some fish, then?" asked Sophie. "I'm
famished."

"Oh, surely," said the otter. "Do you eat carp?"

"I'd eat anything just now," said Sophie.

"All right. Wait a minute till I go down to my pond," said the otter,
and he turned around and bounded out of the copse.

In less than ten minutes he was back again with a huge brown carp
in his mouth. This Sophie disposed of in a couple of gulps.

"Why don't you ask the wild ducks, Doctor?" said the otter. "They
travel no end, following the waterways up and down to the sea,
feeding. And they always go by the quietest streams, where they
won't meet people. They could tell you."

"Yes, I think you're right," said John Dolittle. "But where can I
get hold of any?"

"Oh, that's easy. They're always flying by night. Just go up
on a hill some place and listen. When you hear them passing
overhead, call 'em."

So, leaving Sophie and her fresh-water cousin chatting quietly
in the copse, the Doctor climbed up a ridge till he came to
a high field, from where he could see the moonlit sky all around
him. And after a minute or two he heard, a long way off, a faint
quacking and honking--wild ducks on the wing. Presently, high
above his head, he could make out a V-shaped cluster of
little dots, heading seaward.

Putting his two hands to his mouth, like a trumpet, he sent a
call hurtling upward. The cluster paused, broke up and started
flying round in circles, coming downward--cautiously--all the
time.

Presently in the copse Sophie and the otter stopped chatting
and listened tensely to the sound of approaching footsteps.

Then the figure of John Dolittle stepped into the hiding place,
with a lovely green and blue duck tucked comfortably under
each arm.

"Well," said the ducks, after the Doctor had explained the
situation to them and asked their advice, "the nearest river,
big enough to be of any use to a seal, is the Kippet. Unfortunately,
there are no brooks or anything leading into it from here. To
reach the valley of Kippet River you'll have to cross about
forty miles of land."

"Humph!" said the Doctor. "That sounds bad."

"Very bad," sighed Sophie, wearily. "Poor Slushy! Such a time
I'm taking to get to him. What kind of land is this which we've got to
cross?"

"It varies a good deal," said the ducks. "Some of it's hilly; some of
it's flat; part of it standing crops; part of it heath. It's very
mixed traveling."

"Dear me!" groaned Sophie.

"Yes," said the ducks, "it would be easier, as far as the river,
if you went by road."

[ Pic-028.jpg "'Yes,' said the ducks" ]

"But don't you see," said the Doctor, "I'm afraid of being met and
stopped? That's why we left the Dunwich Road. There are too many
people who've heard of our escape around these parts."

"But," said the ducks, "you wouldn't have to go back onto the Dunwich
Road. Listen; if you follow that hedge on westward, it will lead you
down onto another road, the old Roman road from Igglesby to
Grantchester. Coaches use it, going north and south. You're not likely
to meet Ashby folks on that. Well, if you go along that road for about
forty miles north you'll come to the Kippet River. The highway crosses
it at Talbot's Bridge--just before you enter the town of Grantchester."

"It sounds simple for a good walker," said the Doctor. "But for Sophie
it's another matter. Still, I suppose it's the best. Follow the
Grantchester Road north as far as Talbot's Bridge, and there take to
the river, the Kippet--is that it?"

"That's right," said the ducks. "You can't go wrong, once you reach
the road. After you take to the stream you'd better make some more
inquiries of other water fowl, because, although the Kippet will lead
you to the sea, there are places on it where you must be careful."

"Very good," said the Doctor. "You have been most kind. I thank you."

Then the ducks flew off about their business and John Dolittle
looked at his watch.

"It's now two o'clock in the morning," said he. "We have three hours
more before daylight comes. Would you prefer, Sophie, to stay here
and rest till to-morrow evening, or shall we push on and get as far
as we can before dawn?"

"Oh, let's push on," said Sophie.

"All right," said the Doctor, "come along."

While they were making their way along the hedge toward the road,
the little otter went off and got Sophie a large meal of fresh fish,
to help strengthen her for her hard trip. About a mile below, at the
end of a long field, he showed them a hole through another hedge,
told them the road was just the other side of it, and bade them
farewell.

Crawling through, they came out upon a fine highway that stretched
away into the night on either hand, wide and well paved.

With a sigh of resignation from Sophie, they turned to the right
and set off northward.



THE FIFTH CHAPTER

THE PASSENGERS FROM PENCHURCH

"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" said Sophie, after they had traveled for
about an hour. This road is just as hard and knobby and scrapy as
the other one. How far have we come now?"

"About another mile," said the Doctor.

Sophie began to weep big tears into the white dust of the road.

"Always 'about another mile!' I'm afraid I'm being a dreadful nuisance
to you, Doctor."

"Oh, not at all," said John Dolittle. "Don't be downhearted. We'll do
it yet. It'll be easy going, once we reach the river."

"Yes, but we are still thirty-nine miles from that," said Sophie.
"And I'm _so_ worn out."

The Doctor looked down at her and saw that, indeed, she was in a very
exhausted state. There was nothing for it but to halt again.

"Come over here," he said--"off the road--so. Now, lie down
in this ditch, where you won't be seen, and take a rest."

Poor Sophie did as she was told, and the Doctor sat down upon
a milestone, thinking hard. Although he was doing his best to cheer
Sophie along, it was beginning to look, at this rate, as though they
could never get as far as the river.

While he was pondering drearily over the difficulties of the situation,
Sophie suddenly said:

"What's that noise?"

The Doctor looked up and listened.

"Wagon wheels," he said. "You're quite safe where you are. Just keep
still till it passes. You'll never be seen in the ditch."

The rumbling noise drew nearer, and presently, round a bend in the
road, a light came in sight. Soon the Doctor could see that it was
a closed carriage of some kind. As it drew level with him the driver
stopped his horses and called out:

"Are you waiting for the coach?"

"Er--er," the Doctor stammered--"oh, are you the coach?"

"We're one of 'em," said the man.

"Where do you go to?" asked the Doctor.

"We are the local," said the driver; "Penchurch to Anglethorpe.
D'yer want to get in?"

While he hesitated over an answer a wild idea came into the Doctor's
head.

"Have you got many passengers?" he asked.

"No, only two--man and his wife--and they're asleep. Plenty
o' room inside."

The carriage, lit within by a lamp which shone dimly through drawn
curtains, had stopped a little beyond the Doctor's milestone. The
driver, from where he sat, could see neither Sophie's hiding place,
nor the back door of his own coach.

"Are your passengers from these parts?" asked the Doctor, lowering
his voice.

"No, we come from Penchurch, I told you. What more would you like
to know? If you want to get in, hurry! Can't stay talking all night."

"All right," said the Doctor. "Wait just a second till I get my luggage."

"Want any help?"

"No, no, no! Stay where you are. I can manage."

Then the Doctor slipped behind the end of the coach and opened the
door. A man and a woman, with their heads sunk upon their chests,
were dozing in the far corner. Leaving the door open, the Doctor
ran to the ditch, put his arms around Sophie, and lifted her huge
weight bodily in his arms.

"We'll cover part of the ground this way, anyhow," he whispered
as he carried her to the coach.

[ Pic-029.jpg "He carried her to the coach" ]

"Keep as still and quiet as you can. I'm going to stow you under
the seat."

For entering the carriage, whose floor stood high above the level
of the road, there were two little iron steps hung below the door
sill. As the Doctor looked in the second time the passengers were
still apparently sleeping. But in trying to mount the steps with
his tremendous burden he stumbled noisily. The woman in the corner
woke up and raised her head. The Doctor, Sophie's flippers still
clinging about his neck, stared, speechless.

"_John!_"

It was Sarah.

Mrs. Dingle fainted with a shriek into her husband's arms. The horses
bolted. The Doctor lost his balance entirely. And the coach rattled
off into the night, leaving him seated in the road, with Sophie
on his lap.

"Heigh ho!" he sighed, picking himself up wearily. "Of course,
it would be Sarah! It might have been anyone else in the world,
but it _had_ to be Sarah. Well, well!"

"But what did you mean to do?" asked Sophie. "You could never have
got me under the seat. There wasn't room there to hide a dog."

"Oh, well, I just acted on the spur of the moment," said the Doctor.
"I might have got you a few miles on your journey--if I hadn't
stumbled and woken Sarah. Bother it! But, you know, Sophie, I think
that the coach idea is our best scheme, anyhow. Only we must arrange
it a little differently; we must lay our plans with care. In one way
it was a good thing it was Sarah. If it had been anyone else who had
seen me carrying a seal they might have talked and set people
on our track. But Sarah and her husband are ashamed of my being in
the circus business and they won't say anything, we may be sure.

"Now, listen: over in the east the sky is growing gray--look. It's
no use our trying to get further to-day. So we'll hide you in those
woods down there, and then I'll go on alone to the next village
and find out a few things."

So they moved along the highway a short distance to where some
pleasant woods bordered the road.

Entering the cover of these preserves, they found a nice place for
Sophie to lie hidden. Then, when he had made her comfortable, the
Doctor set out down the road just as the cocks in the nearby farms
began crowing their first greeting to the morning sun.

After a walk of about two miles he came to a village with a pretty
little ivy-covered inn, called "The Three Huntsmen." Going in he
ordered breakfast. He had not had anything to eat since he had
left the deserted garden. A very old waiter served him some bacon
and eggs in the tap-room.

As soon as the Doctor had eaten he lit his pipe and began chatting
to the waiter. He found out a whole lot of things about the coaches
that ran up and down the Grantchester Road--what the different
ones were like to look at, at what hour they were to be expected,
which of them were usually crowded, and much more.

Then he left the inn and walked down the street till he came to
the few shops the village had. One of these was a general clothier's
and haberdasher's. The Doctor entered and asked the price of a lady's
cloak which was hanging in the window.

"Fifteen shillings and sixpence," said the woman in charge of the shop.
"Is your wife tall?"

"My wife?" asked the Doctor, entirely bewildered. "Oh, ah, yes,
of course. Well--er--I want it long, anyway. And I'll take a
bonnet, too."

"Is she fair or dark?" asked the woman.

"Er--she's sort of medium," said the Doctor.

"There's a nice one here, with red poppies on it," said the woman.
"How would she like that?"

"No, that's too showy," said the Doctor.

"Well, they do say them flowery ones is right fashionable up to
London just now. How would this do?"

[ Pic-030.jpg "'How would this do?'" ]

And the woman brought forward a large, plain, black bonnet.
"This is very genteel. I wear this kind myself."

"Yes, I'll take that one," said the Doctor. "And now I want a lady's
veil--a heavy one, please."

"Oh, mourning in the family?"

"Er--not exactly. But I want it pretty thick--a traveling veil."

Then the woman added a veil to the Doctor's purchases. And with
a large parcel under his arm he presently left the shop. Next,
he went to a grocery and bought some dried herrings for Sophie
--the only kind of fish he could obtain in the village. And about
noon he started back down the road.

"Sophie," said John Dolittle, when he reached the seal's hiding
place in the woods, "I have a whole lot of information for you,
some food and some clothes."

"Some clothes!" said Sophie. "What would I do with clothes?"

"Wear them," said the Doctor. "You've got to be a lady--for a while,
anyhow."

"Great heavens!" grunted Sophie, wiping her whiskers with the back of
her flipper. "What for?"

"So as you can travel by coach," said the Doctor.

"But I can't walk upright," cried Sophie, "like a lady."

"I know. But you can sit upright--like a sick lady. You'll have
to be a little lame. Any walking there is to be done, I'll carry you."

"But what about my face? It isn't the right shape."

"We'll cover that up with a veil." said the Doctor. "And your hat
will disguise the rest of your head. Now, eat this fish I've brought
you and then we will rehearse dressing you up. I hear that the
Grantchester coach passes by here about eight o'clock--that is,
the night one does; and we'll take that, because it's less crowded.
Now, it's about a four hours' ride to Talbot's Bridge. During all that
time you'll have to sit up on your tail and keep still. Do you think
you can manage that?"

"I'll try," said Sophie.

"Perhaps you'll have a chance to lie down for a spell if we have the
carriage to ourselves part of the way. Much will depend upon how
crowded the coach is. It makes three stops between here and
Talbot's Bridge. But being a night coach, I don't suppose it will take
on many passengers--if we're lucky. Now, let me try these clothes
on you and we'll see how you look."

Then the Doctor dressed up Sophie, the performing seal, like a lady.
He seated her on a log, put the bonnet on her head, the veil across
her face and the cloak over the rest of her.

[ Pic-031.jpg "He put the veil across her face" ]

After he had got her into a human sitting position on the log it was
surprising how natural she looked. In the deep hood of the bonnet
her long nose was entirely concealed; and with the veil hung over
the front of it, her head looked extraordinarily like a woman's.

"You must be careful to keep your whiskers inside," he said.
"That's very important. The cloak is quite long, you see--comes
right down to the ground--and while you are seated and it's kept
closed in the front it will look quite all right in a dim light. You
can keep it drawn together with your flippers--so. Now, you
look just as though you had your hands folded in your lap--
that's the idea, splendid! So long as you can stay that way
no one would take you for anything but a lady passenger.--Oh,
look out! Don't wiggle your head or the bonnet will fall off. Wait
till I tie the ribbons under your chin."

"How am I supposed to breathe?" asked Sophie, blowing out
the veil in front like a balloon.

"Don't do that," said the Doctor. "You're not swimming or coming
up for air. You'll get used to it after a while."

"I can't keep very steady this way, Doctor. I'm sitting on the
back of my spine, you know. It's an awfully hard position for
balancing--much worse than walking on a ladder. What if I should
slip down on to the floor of the coach?"

"The seat will be wider than this log and more comfortable. Besides,
I'll try to get you into a corner and I'll sit close beside you--so
you'll be sort of wedged in. If you feel yourself slipping just
whisper to me and I'll hitch you up into a safer position. You look
splendid--really, you do."

Well, after a little more practice and rehearsing the Doctor felt that
Sophie could now pass as a lady passenger. And when evening came
it found him by the edge of the road, with a heavily-veiled woman
seated at his side, waiting for the Grantchester coach.



THE SIXTH CHAPTER

THE GRANTCHESTER COACH

After they had waited about a quarter of an hour, Sophie said:

"I hear wheels, Doctor. And look, there are the lights, far down the
road."

"Yes," said John Dolittle. "But it isn't the coach we want. That's the
Twinborough Express--a green light and a white light. The one
we want has two white lights in front. Step back a little further into
the shadow of the hedge. Try not to walk on your cloak. You mustn't
get it muddy."

A little while after the Twinborough Express had rattled by, along
came another.

"Ah!" said the Doctor. "This is ours, the Grantchester coach. Now
sit up by the side of the road here and keep perfectly still till
I signal the driver. Then I'll lift you in, and let's hope we find
a corner seat empty. Is your bonnet on tight?"

"Yes," said Sophie. "But the veil is tickling my nose most awfully.
I do hope I don't sneeze."

"So do I," said the Doctor, remembering the cow-like bellow that
seals make when they sneeze.

Then John Dolittle stepped out into the middle of the road and
stopped the coach. Inside he found three passengers--two men
at the far end and an old lady near the door. To his delight, the
corner seat opposite the old lady was empty.

Leaving the door open, he ran back and got Sophie and carried
her to the coach. The two men at the far end were talking earnestly
together about politics. They took little notice as the lame woman
was lifted in and made comfortable in the corner seat. But as the
Doctor closed the door, and sat beside his companion he noticed
that the old lady opposite was very interested in his invalid.

The coach started off, and the Doctor, after making sure that
Sophie's feet were not showing below the long cape, got out
a newspaper from his pocket. Although the light from the oil lamp
overhead was too dim to read by, he spread out the paper before
his face and pretended to be deeply absorbed in it.

Presently the old lady leaned forward and tapped Sophie on the knee.

"Excuse me, my dear," she began in a kindly voice.

[ Pic-032.jpg "'Excuse me, my dear,' she began" ]

"Oh, er"--said the Doctor, looking up quickly. "She doesn't talk
--er--that is, not any English."

"Has she got far to go?" asked the old lady.

"To Alaska," said the Doctor, forgetting himself--"er--that is,
eventually. This journey we're only going to Grantchester."

Wishing people would mind their own business, the Doctor plunged
again into his paper as though his life depended on his reading
every word.

But the kindly passenger was not easily put off. After a moment
she leaned forward once more and tapped the Doctor on the knee.

"Is it rheumatics?" she asked in a whisper, nodding toward Sophie.
"I noticed that you had to carry her in, poor dear!"

"Er, not exactly," stammered the Doctor. "Her legs are too short.
Can't walk. Can't walk a step. Been that way all her life."

"Dear me!" sighed the old lady. "How sad; how very sad!"

"I'm slipping," whispered Sophie behind her veil. "In a minute I'm
going to slide on to the floor."

While the Doctor was putting away his newspaper and getting ready
to hitch Sophie up higher, the old lady spoke again;

"What a nice sealskin coat she's wearing!"

Sophie's knee was sticking out through the cloak.

"Yes. She has to be kept warm." said the Doctor, busily wrapping
his invalid up. "Most important."

"She'll be your daughter, I suppose?" asked the old lady.

But this time Sophie spoke for herself. A deep roar suddenly shook
the carriage. The tickling of the veil had finally made her sneeze.
The Doctor was now standing up, but before he could catch her
she had slid down on to the floor between his feet.

"She's in pain, poor thing," said the old lady. "Wait till I get out
my smelling bottle. She's fainted. I often do it myself, traveling.
And this coach does smell something horrible--fishy-like."

Luckily for the Doctor, the old lady then busied herself hunting in
her handbag. He was therefore able, while lifting the seal back
on to the seat, to place himself in between Sophie and the two men,
who were now also showing interest in her.

"Here you are," said the old lady, handing out a silver smelling
bottle. "Lift up her veil and hold it under her nose."

"No, thank you," said the Doctor quickly. "All she needs is rest.
She's very tired. We'll prop her up snugly in the corner, like this
--so. Now let's not talk, and probably she'll soon drop off to
sleep."

Well, finally the poor Doctor got the little old lady to mind her
own business and keep quiet. And for about an hour and a half
the coach continued on its way without anything further
happening. But it was quite clear that the men at the other end
were puzzled and curious about his invalid. They kept glancing in
her direction and talking together in whispers in a way that made
him very uneasy.

Presently the coach stopped at a village to change horses. The driver
appeared at the door and told the passengers that if they wished
to have supper at the inn (in whose yard they had halted) they had
half an hour to do so before they went on.

The two men left the coach, eyeing Sophie and the Doctor as they
passed on their way out; and soon the old lady followed their example.
The driver had now also disappeared and John Dolittle and his
companion had the coach to themselves.

"Listen, Sophie," the Doctor whispered. "I'm getting uneasy about
those two men. I'm afraid they suspect that you are not what
you pretend to be. You stay here now, while I go in and find out
if they're traveling any further with us."

Then he strolled into the inn. In the passage he met a serving maid
and asked the way to the dining room. She showed him an open door
with a screen before it a little way down the passage.

"Supper will be served in a minute," she said. "Just walk in and
sit down."

"Thank you," said the Doctor. "By the way, do you happen to know
who those two men were who came in off the coach just now?"

"Yes, sir," said the maid. "One of them's the County Constable and
the other's Mr. Tuttle, the Mayor of Penchurch."

"Thank you," said the Doctor, and passed on.

Reaching the screen door, he hesitated a moment before entering
the dining room. And presently, he heard the voices of the two men
seated at a table within on the other side of the screen.

[ Pic-033.jpg "He heard the voices of two men at a table within" ]

"I tell you," said one in a low tone, there' not the least doubt.
They're highwaymen, as sure as you're alive. It's an old trick,
disguising as a woman. Did you notice the thick veil? As likely as
not it's that rogue, Robert Finch himself. He robbed the Twinborough
Express only last month."

"I shouldn't wonder," said the other. "And the short, thick villain
will be Joe Gresham, his partner. Now, I'll tell you what we'll do
--after supper let's go back and take our seats as though we
suspected nothing. Their plan, no doubt, is to wait till the coach
is full and has reached a lonely part of the road. Then they'll hold
up the passengers--money or your life!--and get away before
the alarm can be raised. Have you got your traveling pistols?"

"Yes."

"All right, give me one. Now, when I nudge you--you tear off
the man's veil and hold a pistol to his head. I'll take care of the
shorter one. Then we'll turn the coach about, drive back and lodge
them in the village jail. Understand?"

While the Doctor was still listening the maid came down the passage
again with a tray full of dishes, and touched him on the back.

"Go in, sir," she said, "and sit down. I'm just going to serve supper."

"No, thank you," said the Doctor. "I'm not really hungry. I think
I'll go out into the air again."

Luckily, on reaching the yard, he found it deserted. The horses had
been taken out of the shafts and put into the stable. The new ones
had not yet been hitched up to the coach. The Doctor sped across
the yard and opened the door.

"Sophie," he whispered, "come out of that. They think we're
highwaymen in disguise. Let's get away--quick--while the coast
is clear."

Hoisting the seal's huge weight in his arms, the Doctor staggered out
of the yard with her. On account of the lateness of the hour there
was no one in the road. All was still and quiet but for the rattle of
dishes from the inn kitchen and the noise of watching from the
stables.

"Now," said he, putting her down, "we haven't far to go. See, this
place is the last in the village. Once we reach those fields and get
beyond the hedge we should be all right. I'll go ahead and find a
place to get through, and you follow along as quick as you can. Give
me your cloak and bonnet--that's it. Now you can travel better."

A few minutes later they were safe behind a high hedge, resting in
the long grass of a meadow.

"My!" sighed Sophie, stretching herself out. "It's good to be rid of
that wretched cloak and veil. I don't like being a lady a bit."

"That was a narrow escape." said the Doctor. "It's a good thing
I went in and overheard those men talking. If we had gone on with
them in the coach we'd have been caught for sure."

"Aren't you afraid they'll come hunting for us?" asked Sophie.

"Oh, maybe. But they'll never look for us here. They take us for
highwaymen, you see. And by the time they discover our escape
they'll probably think we've gone miles. We'll wait here till the
coach passes and then we needn't worry."

"Well," said Sophie, "even if we are safe it doesn't seem to me we
are much better off than we were before."

"But we're this much farther on our way," said the Doctor. "Have
patience. We'll do it yet."

"How far have we come now?" asked Sophie.

"That village was Shottlake," said the Doctor. "We've only got
eighteen miles more to do to reach Talbot's Bridge."

"Well, but how are we going to travel? I can't walk it, Doctor;
I simply can't--not eighteen miles."

"S-h-h! Don't speak so loud," whispered John Dolittle. "They may be
snooping around somewhere, looking for us. We'll find a way--don't
worry. And, once we reach the river, the worst will be over. We must
first wait till the coach goes by, though, before we can stir."

"Poor Slushy!" murmured the Sophie, looking up at the moon. "I
wonder how he's getting on . . . will you try to take another
coach, Doctor?"

"No. I think we'd better not. They may leave word at the inn and
drivers will be on the lookout for a woman of your description."

"Well, I hope they don't find us here," said Sophie. "It doesn't
seem to me we're very well concealed. Good heavens! Listen--
a footstep!"

The place where they lay was the corner of a pasture field. Besides
the hedge which hid them from the road there was another, on their
right, dividing their field from the next. Behind this they now heard
a heavy footstep passing up and down.

"Keep still, Sophie!" whispered the Doctor. "Don't move an inch."

Presently the top branches of the hedge began to sway and the
crackling of twigs reached their ears.

"Doctor," said Sophie in a frightened whisper, "they've discovered
us. There's some one trying to get through the hedge!"

For a moment or two the Doctor was undecided whether to keep still or
to run for it. He thought at first that if it was some one out looking
for them he might not know exactly where they were, anyway, and
would, perhaps, if they kept quiet, go to some other part of the
hedge easier to pass through.

But the crackling of branches grew louder--only a few feet away
from them. Whoever it was, he seemed determined to enter the field
at that place. So, with a whispered word to Sophie, the Doctor sprang
up and started off, running across the meadow, with the poor seal
flopping along at his side.

On and on they went. Behind them they heard a crash as the hedge
gave away, and then heavy footsteps beating the ground in pursuit.

From the sound the pursuer, whoever he was, was gaining on them.
And presently the Doctor, fearing that as highwaymen they might be
fired upon without warning, turned to look back.

And there, lumbering along behind them, was an old, old plow horse!

"It's all right, Sophie," panted the Doctor halting. "It isn't a man
at all. We've had our run for nothing.--Good lord, but I'm blown!"

The horse, seeing them stop, slowed down to a walk, and came ambling
toward them in the moonlight. He seemed very decrepit and feeble; and
when he came up Sophie saw with great astonishment that he was
wearing spectacles.

"Heavens!" cried the Doctor. "It's my old friend from Puddleby.
Why didn't you call to me, instead of chasing us across country? We
expected you to shoot us in the back any minute."

"Is that John Dolittle's voice I hear?" asked the old horse, peering
close into the Doctor's face.

"Yes," said the Doctor. "Can't you see me?"

"Only very mistily," said the plow horse. "My sight's been getting
awful bad the last few months. I saw fine for quite a while after
you gave me the spectacles. Then I got sold to another farmer, and
I left Puddleby to come here. One day I fell on my nose while plowing,
and after I got up my spectacles didn't seem to work right at all.
I've been almost blind ever since."

"Let me take your glasses off and look at them," said the Doctor.
"Perhaps you need your prescription changed."

Then John Dolittle took the spectacles off the old horse and, holding
them up to the moon, peered through them, turning them this way and
that.

"Why, good gracious!" he cried. "You've got the lenses all twisted.
No wonder you couldn't see! That right glass I gave you is quite
a strong one. Most important to have them in proper adjustment.
I'll soon set them right for you."

"I did take them to the blacksmith who does my shoes," said the old
horse, as the Doctor started screwing the glasses around in the
frames. "But he only hammered the rims and made them worse then
ever. Since I was brought to Shottlake I couldn't come to you about
them and, of course, our local vet doesn't understand horse's glasses."

"There, now," said the Doctor, putting the spectacles back on his
old friend's nose. "I've fixed them tight, so they can't turn. I think
you'll find them all right now."

[ Pic-034.jpg "John Dolittle peered through them" ]

"Oh, my, yes," said the old horse, a broad smile spreading over his
face as he looked through them. "I can see you as plain as day.
Goodness! How natural you look--big nose, high hat and all! The
sight of you does me good. Why, I can see the blades of grass by
moonlight! You've no idea what an inconvenience it is to be
shortsighted, if you're a horse. You spend most of your grazing time
spitting out the wild garlic that you chew by accident . . . .
My, oh, my! You're the only animal doctor there ever was!"



PART THREE

THE FIRST CHAPTER

THE HIGHWAYMAN'S DOUBLE

"Is he a decent fellow, this farmer you're working for now?" asked
the Doctor, seating himself in the grass of the meadow.

"Oh, yes," said the old horse. "He means well. But I haven't done much
work this year. He's got a younger team for plowing. I'm sort of
pensioned off--only do odd jobs. You see, I'm getting pretty old--
thirty-nine, you know."

"Are you, indeed?" said the Doctor. "You don't look it--nothing
like it. Thirty-nine! Well, well! Yes, to be sure, now I recollect.
You had your thirty-sixth birthday the same week I got you your
spectacles. You remember the garden party we gave for you--
in the kitchen garden--when Gub-Gub overate himself with ripe
peaches?"

"Very well, I do. Ah, those were the days! Good, old Puddleby!
But what's this animal you have with you," asked the plow horse
as Sophie moved restlessly in the grass, "a badger?"

"No, that's a seal. Let me introduce you: this is Sophie, from
Alaska. We're escaping from the circus. She has to go back to her
country on urgent business, and I'm helping her get to the sea."

"Sh!" said Sophie. "Look, Doctor, there's the coach going by."

"Thank goodness for that!" murmured John Dolittle as the lights
disappeared down the road.

"You know," said he, turning to the old horse again, "we've had
a hard time getting even this far. Sophie has to keep concealed,
and she can't walk much. We are making for the Kippet River,
at Talbot's Bridge. We came by coach up to Shottlake, but we had to
leave it. We were just wondering how we could continue our journey
when you scared the life out of us behind that hedge."

"You want to get to Talbot's Bridge?" said the old horse. "Well, that
should be easy. Listen; you see that barn up on the sky-line? Well,
there's an old wagon in it. There's no harness but there's plenty of
ropes. Let's run up there, and you can hitch me between the shafts,
put your seal in the wagon and we'll go."

"But you'll get into trouble," said the Doctor, "taking your farmer's
wagon off like that."

"My farmer will never know," said the old horse, grinning behind
his spectacles. "You leave the gate on the latch as we go out and
I'll bring the wagon back and put it where we found it."

"But how will you get out of your harness alone?"

"That's easy. If you knot the ropes the way I tell you, I can undo
them with my teeth. I won't be able to take you the whole way,
because I couldn't get back in time to put the wagon up before
daylight comes. But I've got a friend about nine miles down the
Grantchester Road, on the Redhill Farm. He gets put out to graze
nights, like me. He'll take you the rest of the way. It'll be easy
for him to get back to his place before any one's about."

"Old friend," said the Doctor, "you have a great head. Let's hurry
and get on our way."

Then they climbed the hill to the barn. Inside they found an old
wagon. The Doctor dragged it out. Then, getting down some ropes
that hung coiled against the wall, he rigged up a kind of harness,
with the help of an old collar, which he found thrown up in the
manger. And when the plow horse had set himself between the shafts
John Dolittle hitched him up, being careful to make all the knots
exactly the way he was told.

[ Pic-035.jpg "He rigged up a kind of harness" ]

Then he lifted Sophie into the wagon and they started off down
the meadow towards the gate.

As they were going out the Doctor said:

"But suppose any one should meet me driving a wagon in a high hat?
Wouldn't it seem sort of suspicious? Oh, look: there's a scarecrow
in the next field. I'll borrow his hat."

"Bring the whole scarecrow with you," the old horse called after him
as the Doctor started off. "I'll need something as a dummy driver
when I'm coming back. Folks would stop me if they thought I was
straying around the country without a driver."

"All right," said the Doctor and he ran off.

In a few minutes he came marching back with the scarecrow on
his shoulder. Then he set the gate on the latch, so the old horse
could push it open on his return, threw the scarecrow up into
the wagon and climbed in himself.

[ Pic-036.jpg "Came marching back with the scarecrow on his shoulder" ]

Next, he took the scarecrow's tattered hat and put in on his own
head, in place of his high one. Then he got into the driver's seat,
lifted the rope reins in his hands, called "Gee-up!" to his old friend
between the shafts and they started off.

"You better keep your cloak and bonnet ready to slip on, Sophie,"
said he. "Somebody might ask for a ride. And if we are compelled
to give any one a lift you'll have to be a lady again."

"I'd sooner be almost anything in the world than a lady," sighed
Sophie, remembering the tickling veil. "But I'll do it if you say so."

Thus, driving his own farm-wagon coach, with a scarecrow and a seal
for passengers, John Dolittle successfully completed the next stage
in his strange journey. They passed very few people, and no one
asked for a ride. They had one anxious moment, however, when a
gentleman armed with pistols in his saddle-holsters galloped up on
a very fine horse and asked if they had seen anything of a man and
a veiled woman along the road.

The Doctor, sitting on top of Sophie, leaned on the side of his wagon,
with his scarecrow hat pulled well down over his eyes.

"I saw a couple getting into a field a few miles back," he said,
trying to talk like a yokel. "But I reckon they be a long ways from
there by now."

"That'll be they, sure enough," said the man putting spurs to
his horse: "Finch and Gresham the highwayman. They boarded the coach
below Shottlake. But they got away before we could arrest them.
Never mind, we'll get 'em yet. Good night!"

And he galloped off down the road.

"Poor Mr. Finch!" said the Doctor, as the old horse moved on. "I'm
afraid we are not improving his reputation for him."

"It's a good thing I got you away from Shottlake," said the old horse.
"I reckon that fellow will set the whole country busy hunting for you
now."

"Their hunting won't do us any harm back at Shottlake," said the
Doctor. "Good thing if they're kept busy. But I hope you don't get
into trouble on your return to the farm."

"No, I don't suppose so," said the old horse. "Even if I'm seen
they'll never guess how I got hitched up. Don't bother about me.
I'll manage."

A little further on the plow horse stopped.

"This is Redhill Farm on the right," said he. "Wait till I call Joe."

Then he went close to the hedge beside the road and neighed softly.
Presently there was a scampering of hoofs and his friend, a much
younger horse, poked his head over the hawthorns.

"I've got John Dolittle here," whispered the plow horse. "He wants
to get to Talbot's Bridge in a hurry. Can you take him?"

"Why, certainly," said the other.

"You'll have to use a wagon of your own," said the plow horse. "I must
get mine back to the barn before my farmer wakes up. Got a cart or
something anywhere about the place?"

"Yes, there's a trap up in the yard. It'll be faster than a wagon.
Come over this side of the hedge, Doctor, and I'll show you where
it is."

Then, hurrying lest daylight overtake them, they made the exchange.
Madame Sophie was transferred from a farm wagon to a smart trap.
The old plow horse, after an affectionate farewell from the Doctor,
started back with his own wagon, driven by his scarecrow propped up
on the front seat. At the same time John Dolittle and Sophie were
carried at a good, swift pace in the opposite direction, towards
the Kippet River.

It was not until some time afterward, when the Doctor revisited
his old friend--in a way you will hear of later on--that he learned
the story of that return journey which the plow horse made alone.
About halfway back to his farm he met the gentleman with the pistols
again, still galloping up and down the Grantchester Road, looking for
Robert Finch, the highwayman. Recognizing the wagon and the driver
whom he had met before, the rider stopped and asked some more
questions. The driver of the wagon didn't answer. The man repeated
his questions. Still the driver sat motionless in his seat, saying not
a word. Growing at last somewhat suspicious, the horseman leaned
forward in his saddle and pulled the hat off the driver's face.

[ Pic-037.jpg "The horseman pulled the hat off the driver's face" ]

The face was made of straw and rags!

The horsemen, seeing he had been fooled, felt sure that the man
who drove the wagon the first time he met it must have been the
real highwayman, and that this scarecrow driver was just another of
Finch's clever dodges to put the police on the wrong scent. Another
wild story was added to the list of Finch's wonderful pranks--in one
night he had passed himself off as a woman and as a scarecrow!

Then, to mix things up still more, that same day at two o'clock in
the morning the real Robert Finch held up and robbed the Ipswich
coach, more than a hundred miles away. And how he got across
England to do it in that short time is still one of the great mysteries
in the history of highway robbery. John Dolittle had been quite
right when he said that they were adding to Finch's reputation!

On arriving at his own farm, the old horse found every one in a great
state of excitement. People are rushing wildly up and down the fields
with lanterns. The scarecrow had been missed--so had the old wagon,
so had the old horse. The farm laborers were following the wheel tracks
across the meadow. As soon as the plow horse reached the gate he was
surrounded by a mob with lamps and guns, all guessing and advising and
chattering at once. But his owner, thinking he had been stolen and
harnessed by the highwayman, did not blame him for the adventure.
And for long afterward he was visited in his pasture and pointed out
by the village gossips as the horse who had been driven by Finch's
scarecrow double.

In the meantime the Doctor and Sophie, in their trap, were spanking
along the road in the direction of Talbot's Bridge. And, although the
horseman (he was the County Constable's Assistant) galloped after
them as hard as he could, he never overtook them, with the good
start they had gained.

On reaching the river, the Doctor lifted Sophie out of the trap
and dropped her over the bridge into the stream. Telling the
Redhill horse to go back to his farm by a different way, lest he
be met by the man again, John Dolittle leapt off the parapet of
the bridge on to the bank. Then, while he ran along the stream
beside her, Sophie, with gurgles of delight, plunged and darted
through the river, catching all the fish she wanted on the way.



THE SECOND CHAPTER

TO THE SEA BY RIVER

As they had expected, John Dolittle and Sophie now found that
the worst part of their troublesome traveling was over. For one thing,
the constant anxiety of being seen worried them no longer. If they
met any one on the banks of the stream Sophie just ducked under
water till the danger was past, while the Doctor pretended he was
fishing, with a willow wand for rod and a piece of string for line.

They still had a long way to go. The journey north to Talbot's Bridge,
you see, had not brought them any nearer to the coast.

The country through which the Kippet flowed was changeful scenery,
but always beautiful and pleasant. Sometimes it was flat, sedgy
meadowland, where the banks were boggy; sometimes the streams
run through little forests and the shores were overhung with alders;
and sometimes it passed close by a farm with fords, where cattle
drunk. At these places the travelers would either wait till nightfall,
lest they be seen, or if the depth of the river permitted, Sophie
would do her swimming underwater while the Doctor would go around
by the roads and meet her further down.

While the going was, for the most part, easy for a seal, it was by
no means always simple for the Doctor. The hundreds of hedges he
had to get through, the walls he had to climb, the bogs he had to
cross, made his part of the journey a hard and slow one. Sophie had
to slacken her pace constantly and do a lot of loitering and waiting
in order that he might keep up with her.

"Look here, Doctor," said she, about the middle of the second day
when John Dolittle was resting on the bank, "it doesn't seem to me
there is really any need for you to come further. This going is
so easy for me I can do the rest of the journey by myself, can't I?"

"I think not," said the Doctor, lying back and gazing up at the willows
over his head. "We don't know yet what sort of difficult places the
river may run you into before it reaches the sea. We had better
consult some other waterfowl, as the ducks said we should, before
we go further."

Just at that moment a pair of fine bitterns flew down into the stream
not far away and started feeding. The Doctor called them and they
came up at once to his side.

"Would you please tell us," said John Dolittle, "how much further
the river runs before it reaches the sea?"

"Counting all the bends and wiggles," said the bitterns, "about
sixty miles."

"Dear me!" said the Doctor. "Then we are barely halfway yet.
What kind of country does it pass through? This seal wishes to
swim all the way to the coast, and we must avoid having people
see her on the way."

"Well," said the birds, "you will have plain sailing for another
ten miles yet. But after that there are several places pretty
dangerous for a seal to travel. The first one is Hobb's Mill. It's
a water mill, you understand, and the stream is dammed up with
a high dam, a weir and a big water wheel. She'll have to leave
the water at Hobb's Mill and join it again below."

"All right," said the Doctor. "we can do that, I imagine. Then, what's
the next trouble?"

"The next is a town. It isn't a large one, but it has machinery
buildings in it on the river bank. And the river is made to run into
pipes to turn these machines, and if your seal went floating down
the pipes she'd get all mixed up in the machinery."

"I understand," said the Doctor. "Then we'll have to go around
the town by land--after dark."

"Go around to the _right,_" said the bitterns--"to the northward.
On the other side the machinery-men's houses spread out a long way.

"After that you'll be all right till you get very nearly to the sea.
But there you will meet with another town--a port. Your seal can't
possibly swim through that town because the river flows over many
little waterfalls and rapids right where the houses and bridges are
thickest. So as soon as you come in sight of the port you had better
leave the stream again, and make for the seashore at some lonely
place to the north of it. You won't have far to go, but you'll have
to do some stiff climbing, for the coast thereabouts is all high
cliffs. If you get safely past the port without being caught your
troubles will be over."

"Well, thank you very much," said the Doctor. "This knowledge will
not most helpful to us. Now, I think we had better be getting on
our way."

Then after wishing John Dolittle good luck, the bitterns went back
to their feeding, and the Doctor proceeded along the bank with Sophie
swimming in the river. They reached Hobbs's Mill just as evening was
coming on. As soon as the Doctor had explored around the buildings
to see that all was quiet and nobody abroad, Sophie got out of the
stream and hobbled across a couple of meadows and joined the river
below the mill-race on the other side. There they waited till the moon
rose, and soon, with sufficient light for the Doctor to see his way
along the shore, they went on again.

[ Pic-038.jpg "They reached Hobbs' Mill just as evening was coming on" ]

Coming in sight of the machinery town of which the bitterns had
spoken, John Dolittle left Sophie with orders to duck under water
if any one should pass that way, and went forward into the town
to explore and get some food for himself.

Although most of the shops were shut at this hour, he managed to buy
some sandwiches and fruit at a hotel. In making these purchases he
noticed that his supply of money was getting very low. Indeed, he had
only just enough to pay for what he had bought. However, never
having bothered much about money, this did not disturb him. And after
spending his last twopence to get his boots cleaned--they were
frightfully muddy from all this boggy walking--he proceeded to
explore a way for Sophie to come around the town by land.

The journey she would have to make on foot proved to be quite a long
one. But the Doctor found a way over a chain of ponds, waterlogged
meadows and a little brook which ran into the Kippet about two
miles the other side of the town.

By the time he returned to Sophie the night was nearly passed, and
they had to hurry to reach the river again before daylight came.

With Sophie safely back in the stream, John Dolittle decided he had
better take a little sleep before going on. Sophie, too, was pretty
weary, in spite of her anxiety to push on with all possible speed.
So, asking a little moor-hen, who had her nest in the bank of the
stream to mount guard and wake them on the approach of danger,
they both took a nap--Sophie sleeping in the water, with her head
poked out onto a stump, and the Doctor propped against a willow tree
on the shore.

The sun was high in the heavens when he awoke, to find the moor-hen
plucking at his sleeve.

"There's a farmer driving a team across the meadow," whispered the
little bird. "He'll come right by here. He might not take any notice
of you, but Sophie he couldn't miss. Get her to stick her head under
the water. She's snoring like a foghorn, and I can't wake her up."

After the Doctor had made Sophie disappear beneath the water, and
the danger of discovery was past, they started off once more and
traveled all day and the following night toward the sea.

Gradually the landscape changed to a kind of scenery which, so far,
they had not met with on their journey. The country, open turfy downs
where sheep grazed, got rollier and hillier. And, finally, on the
evening of the next day, they saw the lights of the seaport town
twinkling in the distance. The land either side of it sloped upward
to cliffs overlooking the Bristol Channel.

A little further down the stream roads ran either side of the river,
presumably going into the town. Along these, every once in a while,
coaches and carriages passed them on their way to the port.

Feeling that it would be unwise to go further by water, they now left
the stream for the last time and hit out across country.

The Doctor made Sophie keep her bonnet on, and he had her cloak
ready to throw over her at any minute, because there were many
roads to cross, and farmhouses to pass upon the way.

About a mile had to be covered before they would reach the top of
the long slope and come in sight of the sea beyond the cliffs.
Picking out a line which would miss most of the barns on the downs,
they proceeded steadily and slowly forward. On this upland country
they met with many stone walls. And, though they were low enough
for the Doctor to jump, they were too much for Sophie to manage
and the Doctor had to lift her over.

She did not complain, but the uphill going was telling on her
terribly. And when at last they came to a level stretch at the top,
and the wind from the Channel beat in their faces, Sophie was
absolutely exhausted and unable to walk another step.

The distance now remaining to the edge of the cliffs was not more
than a hundred yards. Hearing the voices of people singing in a house
near by, the Doctor began to fear that they might yet be discovered
--even with the end of their long trip in sight. So, with poor Sophie
in a state of utter collapse, he decided there was nothing for it but
to carry her the remainder of the journey.

As he put the cloak about her he saw the door of the house open
and two men come out. Hurriedly he caught the seal up in his arms
and staggered with her toward the edge of the cliffs.

"Oh," cried Sophie when they had gone a few yards, "look, the sea!
How fresh and nice it sparkles in the moonlight. The sea, the sea
at last!"

"Yes, this is the end of your troubles, Sophie," the Doctor panted
as he stumbled forward. "Give my regards to the herd when you
reach Alaska."

At the edge John Dolittle looked straight downward to where the deep
salt water swirled and eddied far below.

"Good-by, Sophie," he said with what breath he had left. "Good-by,
and good luck!"

Then, with a last tremendous effort, he threw Sophie over the cliff
into the Bristol Channel.

[ Pic-039.jpg "He threw Sophie into the Bristol Channel" ]

Turning and twisting in the air, the seal sped downward--her cloak
and bonnet, torn off her by the rushing air, floating more slowly
behind. And as she landed in the water the Doctor saw the white
foam break over her and the noise of a splash gently reached his ears.

"Well," he said, mopping his brow with a handkerchief, "thank goodness
for that! We did it, after all. I can tell Matthew that Sophie reached
the sea and I _didn't_ go to jail."

Then a cold shiver ran down his spine. A heavy hand had grasped his
shoulder from behind.



THE THIRD CHAPTER

SIR WILLIAM PEABODY, J. P.

John Dolittle, turning about slowly, found a large man grasping his
collar. He wore some kind of a sailor-like uniform.

"Who are you?" asked the Doctor.

"Coastguard," said the man.

"What do you want? Let go of my coat."

"You're arrested."

"What for?"

"Murder."

While the Doctor was still trying to recover from his astonishment
he saw more people coming across the downs from the lonely house
which he had already noticed. When they came close he saw they were
two men and a woman.

"Have you got him, Tom?"

"Yes. Caught 'im right in the act."

"What was it?"

"A woman," said the coastguard. "I grabbed him just as he threw her
over the cliff. Jim, you run down to the station and get the boats
out. You may be in time to save her yet. But I doubt it. I'll take him
along to the quod. You come on down there or send me word, if you
find anything."

"It'll be his wife," said the woman, peering at the Doctor in awe and
horror. "Murdered his wife! You Bluebeard! Maybe he's a Turk, Tom
--from Constanti-what-d'yer-call-it. They always throw their wives
in the Phosphorus when they've done with 'em."

[ Pic-040.jpg "'You Blue Beard!'" ]

"No, 'e ain't no Turk," said the coastguard. "'E talks English."

"Then he ought to be still more ashamed of 'is-self,' said the woman
--"much more than if he'd been brought up to such habits--pore
creature!" (She gazed over the edge of the cliff with a shudder.)
"I wonder will they find 'er. Seems to me almost as though I could
see something floating on the water down there. Pore creature! Well,
that's the end of her troubles. Maybe she's better off than she was,
married to him, the brute!"

"It wasn't my wife," said the Doctor sullenly.

"Who was it then?" asked the coastguard. "It was some women--'cause
I seen you carrying her in your arms."

To this the Doctor decided, after a moment of thought, to say nothing.
Now that he was arrested he would probably have to admit in the end
that it was Sophie he had thrown into the sea. But until he was
compelled in court to tell the whole story it seemed wiser to keep
silence.

"Who was it?" the man repeated.

Still the Doctor said nothing.

"It was his wife all right," said the woman. "He has a wicked eye.
I'll bet he has five or six wives stowed away somewhere--waiting
for their doom, pore things."

"Well, he don't have to answer," said the coastguard. "It's my duty
to warn you," he said very grandly, turning to the Doctor, "that
anything you say may be used in evidence against you. Now let's
go down to the court-house."

Fortunately for the Doctor it was by this time well on into the
early hours of the morning. And when after crossing the downs
they finally made their way into the town they found the streets
deserted. The woman had not accompanied them. And the Doctor
and his coastguard reached the court-house without meeting a single
soul.

Just as they were about to enter the police station next door, Jim,
the other coastguard man, ran up and joined his companion with
Sophie's wet cloak on his arm and her bonnet in his hand.

"We couldn't find the body, Tom," said he, "but these clothes was
floating at the foot of the cliff. I've left Jerry Bulkley in the
boat still searching. I brought these down to you 'cause I thought
you might want 'em."

"Yes, they'll be needed in evidence," said the other, taking the
things from him. "Better go back and carry on with the search. I'll
come and join you as soon as I've got the prisoner locked up."

Then the poor Doctor was taken into the police station; and after
his name and various particulars about him were written down in a
big book he was placed in a little stone cell with some bread and
water and left to his meditations.

As the noise of the clanging door and rattling bolts died away
John Dolittle noticed the gray light of dawn creeping in at a little
barred window at his elbow.

"Heigh-ho!" he sighed, gazing round the bare stone walls. "Jail again!
I congratulated myself too soon. I wonder was Matthew ever in _this_
prison."

Where the morning sun fell in a patch upon the wall he noticed some
letters and signs scratched in the stone by former prisoners. He
crossed the cell and examined them. Among them he found a very
badly made "M. M."

[ Pic-041.jpg "He found a badly made 'M. M.'" ]

"Yes," he said, "Matthew's been here, too. Seems proud of it. Well,
well--it's a funny world."

Picking up the loaf which had been provided for him, he broke it
in half and ate a couple of mouthfuls. He was very hungry.

"What good bread!" he murmured. "Quite fresh. I must ask the jailer
where he gets it. The bed isn't bad either," he added, punching the
mattress. "I think I'll take a nap. Haven't had a decent sleep in
I don't know how long."

Then he took his coat off, rolled it up for a pillow and lay down.

And when, about ten o'clock in the morning, the superintendent of
police entered with a tall white-haired gentleman they found the
prisoner stretched on his cot snoring loudly.

"Humph!" murmured the old gentleman in a low voice. "He doesn't
look very dangerous, does he, Superintendent?"

"Ah," said the other, shaking his head, "it only shows you,
Sir William, what a life of crime will do. Fancy being able to sleep
like that after throwing his poor wife into the sea!"

"Well, leave us alone for a little while," said the older man. "Come
back in about a quarter of an hour. And, by the way, you need not
mention my visit here to any one--not for the present."

"Very good, Sir William," said the superintendent. And he went out
locking the door behind him.

Then the white-haired old gentleman went over to the cot and stood
looking down a moment into the Doctor's peaceful face.

Presently he shook the sleeper gently by the shoulder.

"Dolittle," he said. "Here--John, wake up!"

Slowly the Doctor opened his eyes and raised himself on his elbow.

"Where am I?" he said drowsily. "Oh, yes, of course, in jail."

Then he stared at the man who stood beside him. And at last a smile
spread over his face.

"Heavens above! It's Sir William Peabody," said he. "Well, well,
William! What on earth brings you here?"

"I might still more reasonably ask you how _you_ come to be here,"
said the visitor.

"My goodness!" murmured the Doctor. "It must be fifteen years since
I've seen you. Let me see: the last time was when we both got pretty
angry--you remember?--arguing for and against fox hunting. Have
you given it up yet?"

"No," said Sir William. "I still hunt two days a week. That's all
I can manage now with my court duties and other things. They made
me a Justice of Peace about five years ago."

"Well, it ought to be stopped," said the Doctor with great
earnestness, "altogether. You can say what you like, but the fox is
not given a square deal. One fox against dozens of dogs! Besides,
why should he be hunted? A fox has his rights, the same as you and
I have. It's absurd: a lot of grown men on horses, with packs of
hounds, roaring across country after one poor little wild animal."

The old gentleman sat down on the bed beside the Doctor, threw
back his head and laughed.

"Same old Dolittle," he chuckled. "Did any one ever see the like?
In jail, charged with murder, the first thing he does when I come
to see him is try and open a discussion about fox hunting. Ever
since I've known you, John--even when you were a scrubby little
boy at school studying beetles under a magnifying glass--you've
been the same. Listen: I haven't come here to argue about the
rights of foxes. As I told you, I'm a J. P. You're due to appear
before me for examination in about an hour. What I want to hear is
your version of this charge that is brought against you. You are
accused of murdering your wife. I happened to notice your name
on the police book. From what I remember of you, I can well understand
your killing any woman who was mad enough to marry you. But the part
I don't believe is that you ever had a wife. What's it all about? They
tell me you were seen throwing a woman into the sea."

"It wasn't a woman," said the Doctor.

"What was it then?"

The Doctor looked down at his boots and fidgeted like a schoolboy
caught doing something wrong.

"It was a seal," he said at last, "a circus seal dressed up as
a woman. She wasn't treated properly by her keepers. And she wanted
to escape, to get back to Alaska and her own people. So I helped her.
I had the very dickens of a time bringing her across country all the
way from Ashby. I had to disguise her as a woman so we could travel
without arousing suspicion. And the circus folk were out after me.
Then just as I got her here to the coast and was throwing her into
the sea, so she could swim back to her native waters, one of your
coastguard men saw me and put me under arrest.--What are you
laughing about?"

Sir William Peabody, who had been trying to suppress a smile
throughout the Doctor's story, was now doubled up with merriment.

"As soon as they said it was your wife," he gurgled when he had
partly recovered, "I knew there was something fishy about it. And
there was, all right! You do smell terribly."

"Seals have to smell of fish," said the Doctor in an annoyed tone.
"And I was compelled to carry her part of the way."

"You'll never grow up, John," said Sir William shaking his head and
wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes. "Now tell me: how far
back on this trip of yours were you and the lady you eloped with
seen? Because although we can certainly get you out of charge of
wife murder, it may not be so easy to clear you on the charge of
stealing a seal. Were you followed down here, do you think?"

"Oh, no. We were not bothered by the circus folk after we got
away from Ashby. Then at Shottlake we got taken for highwaymen
and caused a little sensation when we traveled by coach. But after
that nobody suspected anything till--till----"

"Till you threw your lady-love over the cliff," Sir William put in.
"Did any one see you being brought in here?"

"No," said the Doctor. "No one down here knows anything about it
except the three coastguardsmen and a woman--the wife of one of
them, I suppose. The streets were quite empty when I was brought
to the jail."

"Oh, well," said Sir William, "I think we can manage it. You'll have
to stay here till I can get the charge withdrawn. Then get away
from this part of the country as quick as you can."

"But what about the coastguard folk?" asked the Doctor. "Are they
still hunting for the body?"

"No, they've given it up now," said Sir William. "They brought back
your victim's cloak and bonnet. That was all they could find. We'll
say you were just throwing some old clothes into the sea--which
is partly true. When I explain matters to them they won't talk--
and even if they do, it isn't likely their gossip will ever reach
your circus people. But listen, Dolittle: do me a favor and don't
bring any more menageries down here to throw over our cliffs,
will you? It would get hard to explain if you made a habit of it.
Besides you'll spoil the circus business. Now you stay here till I've
fixed things up officially; and as soon as they let you out, get away
from this district. Understand?"

"All right," said the Doctor. "Thank you. But listen, Will, about
that fox hunting. Supposing you were in the fox's------"

"No," said Sir William rising. "I refuse to re-open the argument now,
John. I hear the superintendent coming back. We have too many foxes
in this country. They need to be kept down."

"Quite a nice prison you have here, Will," said the Doctor as the
superintendent opened the door. "Thanks for calling."

When Sir William and the superintendent had disappeared the Doctor
fell to walking up and down his cell for exercise. He began to wonder
how things were getting on with his household in his absence. And he
was still thinking over the animals' idea of a reformed circus when,
about half an hour later, a police-sergeant appeared at the door,
extraordinarily polite and gracious.

"The superintendent presents his compliments, Doctor," he said,
"and apologizes for the mistake that was made. But it was not
our department's fault. It was the coastguards who made the arrest.
Very stupid of them, very. The charge is now withdrawn, Sir, and you
are free to go whenever you wish."

"Thank you," said the Doctor. "I think I'll go now. It's a nice prison
you have here--almost the best I was ever in. Tell the superintendent
he needn't apologize. I've had a most refreshing sleep--so well
ventilated. It would make a splendid place for writing--undisturbed
and airy. But unfortunately I have matters to attend to and must
leave right away. Good day to you."

"Good day, Sir," said the sergeant. "You'll find the exit at the end
of the passage."

At the front door of the police station the Doctor paused.

"My goodness!" he muttered. "I haven't any money to pay the coach
back to Ashby. I wonder if Sir William would lend me a guinea."

And he turned back. But at the superintendent's office he was
told that the Justice of Peace had gone off hunting for the day
and wouldn't be back till to-morrow morning.

Once more he set out to leave the station. But at the door he paused
again.

"I might as well take the rest of my loaf with me," he murmured. "It
belongs to me after all--and I'll need it if I'm to get to Ashby
without a penny in my pockets."

And he hurried back to his cell.

He found a policeman putting the place in order.

"Excuse me," said the Doctor. "Don't let me disturb your sweeping.
I just came back for something I left behind me. Ah, there it is--
my loaf! Thank you. Excellent bread you have here."

[ Pic-042.jpg "'Excellent bread you have here'" ]

And after enquiring at the superintendent's office on the way out
for the name of the baker who supplied the police station, John
Dolittle sallied forth to freedom with half a loaf under his arm.



THE FOURTH CHAPTER

NIGHTSHADE THE VIXEN

Penniless, but happy, the Doctor walked through the seaport town till
he reached the market place in the center. At this point three big
highways met: one from the North, one from the South and one from
the East.

After admiring the Town Hall--it was a very beautiful and ancient
building--the Doctor was about to set off along the road to the
eastward. But he had not gone more than a pace or two before he
paused, thinking. It occurred to him that it would be wiser if he found
some other way to return to Ashby than that by which he had come.

He, therefore, changed his direction and swung off along the road to
the South, intending to work his way back round to Ashby by some
route where he would run no risk of meeting the people who had seen
him in the coach or the Shottlake inn.

It was a pleasant morning. The sun was shining, sparrows chirping;
and he felt as he strutted down the road with his loaf of bread under
his arm that in such weather it was a pleasure to be alive.

Before long he had left the last houses of the town behind and found
himself in the open country. About noon he came to a cross-roads
where a sign post, pointing down a very pretty little country lane,
read, "To Appledyke, ten miles."

[ Pic-043.jpg "He came to a cross-roads" ]

"That looks a nice road," said the Doctor to himself. "And it runs in
the right direction for me. I like the sound of Appledyke too."

So, although he was not very far yet from the seaport town which
he had left, he struck off eastward along the country lane to
Appledyke.

Soon he decided it was lunch time and looked about him for a brook
where he might get a drink of clean water to wash down his dry-bread
meal. Over to his right he saw a place where the land dipped downward
into a hollow filled with trees and bushes.

"I'll bet there's a brook down there," the Doctor murmured. "It is
certainly most delightful country, this."

Then he climbed over a stile and set off across the meadows which led
down into the hollow.

He found his brook all right; and the banks of it, shaded by the trees,
formed the most charming picnicking ground any one could wish for.
After he had taken a drink the Doctor with a grateful sigh sank down
on the grass at the foot of a spreading oak, took out his loaf and
began to eat.

Presently he saw a starling hopping around near him, and he threw him
some crumbs. While the bird was eating them the Doctor noticed that
one of his wings seemed queer, and on examining it he found that the
feathers were all stuck together with tar. The tar had hardened and
the wing would not spread open the way it should. John Dolittle soon
put it right and the bird flew off about his business. After his lunch
the Doctor felt that before going on his journey he would like to rest
a while in this pleasant spot. So he leaned back against the trunk of
the oak tree and soon he fell asleep to the music of the murmuring
brook.

When he awoke he found four foxes, a vixen with three cubs, sitting
patiently beside him waiting till he should finish his nap.

"Good afternoon," said the vixen. "My name is Nightshade. Of course,
I've heard a lot about you. But I had no idea you were in the district.
I've often thought of coming all the way to Puddleby to see you.
I'm awfully glad I didn't miss you on this visit. A starling told me
you were here."

"Well," said the Doctor, sitting up, "I'm glad to see you. What can
I do for you?"

"One of these children of mine," the vixen pointed toward her three
round little cubs who were gazing at the famous Doctor in great awe,
"one of the children has something wrong with his front paws. I wish
you would take a look at him."

"Certainly," said the Doctor. "Come here, young fellow."

"He has never been able to run properly," said the mother as John
Dolittle took the cub on his lap and examined him. "It has nearly cost
us all our lives, his slow pace, when the dogs have been after us.
The others can run beautifully. Can you tell me what's the matter
with him?"

"Why, of course," said the Doctor, who now had the cub upside down
on his knees with its four big paws waving in the air. "It's a case of
flat feet. That's all. The muscles of the pads are weak. He can get
no grip of the ground without good pad muscles. You'll have to
exercise him morning and night. Make him rise on his toes like this:
One, two! One, two! One, two!"

[ Pic-044.jpg "'It's a case of flat feet'" ]

And the Doctor stood up and gave a demonstration of the exercise
which in a person strengthens the arches of the feet and in a fox
develops the muscles of the paw pads.

"If you make him do that twenty or thirty times every morning and
every night I think you'll soon find his speed will get better," said
the Doctor.

"Thank you very much," said the vixen. "I have the greatest difficulty
making my children do anything regularly. Now you hear what the
Doctor says, Dandelion: every morning and every night, thirty times,
up on your toes as high as you can go. I don't want any flat-footed
cubs in my family. We've always been--great heavens! Listen!"

The mother fox had stopped speaking, the beautiful brush of her tail
straight and quivering, her nose outstretched, pitiful terror staring
from her wide open eyes. And in the little silence that followed,
from over the rising ground away off to the north-eastward, came
the dread sound that makes every fox's heart stand still.

"_The horn!_" she whispered through chattering teeth. "They're out!
It's th----th----the huntsman's horn!"

As he looked at the trembling creature John Dolittle was reminded of
the occasion which had made him an enemy of fox-hunting for life--
when he had met an old fox one evening lying half dead with
exhaustion under a tangle of blackberries.

As the horn rang out again the poor vixen began running around her
cubs like a crazy thing.

"Oh, what _shall_ I do?" she moaned. "The children! If it wasn't
for them I could perhaps give the dogs the slip. Oh, why did I bring
them out in daylight to see you? I suppose I was afraid you might be
gone if I waited till after dark. Now I've left our scent behind us,
all the way from Broad Meadows, as plain as the nose on your face.
And I've come right into the wind. What a fool I was! What shall I do?
What shall I do?"

As the horn sounded the third time, louder and nearer, joined by the
yelping of hounds in full cry, the little cubs scuttled to their
mother and cowered under her.

A very firm look came into the Doctor's face.

"What pack is this?" he asked. "Do you know the name of it?"

"It's probably the Ditcham--their kennels are just the other
side of Hallam's Acre. It might be the Wiltborough, over from
Buckley Downs--they sometimes hunt this way. But most likely
it's the Ditcham--the best pack in these parts. They were
after me lats week. But my sister crossed my trail just below
Fenton Ridge and they went after her--and got her. There's the horn
again! Oh, what a fool I was to bring these children out in daylight!"

"Don't worry, Nightshade," said the Doctor. "Even if it's the Ditcham
and the Wiltborough together, they're not going to get you to-day
--nor your children either. Let the cubs get into my pockets--
come on, hop in, young fellows--so. Now you, Nightshade, come
inside the breast of my coat. That's the way--get further around
toward the back. And you can stick your feet and your brush into
the tail-pocket. And when I've buttoned it up like this--see?--
you will be completely covered. Can you breathe all right back
there?"

"Yes, I can breathe," said the vixen. "But it won't do us much good
to be out of sight. The hounds can smell us--that's the way they
run us down--with their noses."

"Yes, I know," said the Doctor. "But the men can't smell you. I can
deal with the dogs all right. But you mustn't be seen by the men.
Keep as still as a stone, all four of you--don't move or try to run
for it, whatever happens."

And then John Dolittle, with his coat bulging with foxes in all
directions, stood in a little clearing in the wooded hollow and
awaited the oncoming of the Ditcham Hunt in full cry.

The mingled noises of the dogs, men, horns and horses grew louder.
And soon, peeping through the crossing branches of his cover, the
Doctor saw the first hounds come in view at the top of the ridge.
For a moment the leaders paused and sniffed the wind. Then in
a bee-line for the bottom of the hollow they came on down,
stretched at full speed. Over the ridge and after them came the rest
of the pack; and close behind the dogs rode the men, in red coats
on fine, swift horses.

Ahead of most of the huntsmen galloped one man, old, lean and
white-haired--Sir William Peabody, the Master of the Foxhounds.
Half way down the slope he turned in his saddle and called to a man
on a gray mare close behind him.

"Jones, they're making for the spinney. Don't let the leaders break
into it before we've got it surrounded. Watch Galloway; he's rods
ahead. Mind, he doesn't put the fox out the other side--Watch
Galloway!"

Then the man on the gray mare spurted ahead, cracking a long whip
and calling "Galloway! Here, Galloway!"

As the Doctor peered through the foliage he saw that the leading
hound was now quite close. But, wonderfully trained to the huntsmen's
command, Galloway suddenly slackened his pace within a few yards of
the trees and remained, yelping and barking, for the others to come up.

Over the ridge more riders came pouring--fat parsons on stocky cobs,
country squires on hacks, ladies on elegant, dainty thoroughbreds--
all the gentry of the neighborhood.

"My goodness!" murmured the Doctor. "Was there ever anything
so childish? All this fuss for a poor little fox!"

As the hounds, under the guidance of the men with long whips,
spread, yelping, around all sides of the spinney, the people called
and shouted to one another and the noise was tremendous.

"We'll get him," bellowed a fat farmer on a pony. "Hounds have gone
all around now and scent don't go on. It's a killing, sure. Wait till
Jones lets 'em into spinney. We'll get him!"

"Oh, no, you won't," the Doctor muttered, the firm look coming back
into his face. "Not to-day, my fat friend--not to-day."

The dogs, impatient and eager, sniffed and ran hither and thither,
waiting for permission to enter the little patch of woods and finish
the hunt.

Suddenly a command was given and instantly they leapt the underbrush
from all sides.

John Dolittle was standing in his clearing, with his hands over his
pockets, trying to look all ways at once at the moment when the
hounds broke in. But he had not known from which direction the vixen
had entered and left her scent behind. And suddenly, before he knew
it, four heavy dogs had leapt on his back, and he went down on the
ground, simply smothered under a tangled pile of yelping, fighting
foxhounds.

Kicking and punching in all directions, the Doctor struggled to his
feet.

"Get away!" he said in dog language. "Lead the hunt somewhere else.
This fox is mine."

The hounds, spoken to in their own tongue, now had no doubt as to
who the little man was that they had knocked down.

"I'm awfully sorry, Doctor," said Galloway, a fine, deep-chested dog,
with a tan patch over one eye. "We had no idea it was you. We jumped
on you from behind, you know. Why didn't you call to us while we were
outside?"

"How could I?" said the Doctor irritably, pushing away a dog who was
sniffing at his pocket. "How could I--with you duffers making all
that din? Look out, here come the huntsmen. Don't let them see you
smelling around me. Get the pack out of here, Galloway, quick."

"All right, Doctor. But it smells to me as though you had more than
one fox in your pockets," said Galloway.

"I've got a whole family," said the Doctor. "And I mean to keep
them, too."

"Can't you let us have even one of them, Doctor?" asked the hound.
"They're sneaky little things. They eat rabbits and chickens, you
know."

"No," said the Doctor, "I can't. They have to get food for themselves.
You have food given you. Go away--and hurry about it."

At that moment Sir William Peabody came up.

"Great heavens! Dolittle!" he exclaimed. "Haven't you left these
parts yet? Did you see the fox? Hounds headed right down into
this hollow."

"I wouldn't tell you, Will, if I had seen him," said the Doctor.
"You know what I think of fox-hunting."

"Funny thing!" muttered Sir William as he watched the dogs lurching
about among the brush uncertainly. "They can't have lost the scent,
surely. They came down here as firm as you like. Curious!--oh,
heavens! I know what it is: they've followed your rotten fish
smell--the seal! Good Lord!"

At that moment a cry came from the huntsmen that the hounds had
found another scent and were going off to the southward. Sir William,
who had dismounted, ran for his horse.

"Hang you, Dolittle!" he shouted. "You've led the hounds astray. I
should have kept you in jail."

The few dogs remaining within the spinney were now melting away
like shadows. One of the fox cubs stirred in the Doctor's pocket.
Sir William had already mounted his horse outside.

"Goodness, I forgot again!" muttered the Doctor. "I must get that
guinea.--I say, Will!"

Then John Dolittle, his pockets full of foxes, ran out of the spinney
after the Master of the Hunt.

"Listen, Will!" he called. "Would you lend me a guinea? I haven't
any money to get to Ashby with."

Sir William turned in his saddle and drew rein.

[ Pic-045.jpg "Sir William turned and drew rein" ]

"I'll lend you five guineas--or ten--John," said the magistrate,
"if you'll only get out of this district and stop putting my hounds
on false scents. Here you are."

"Thanks, Will," said the Doctor, taking the money and dropping
it in his pocket on top of one of the cubs. "I'll send it back to
you by mail."

Then he stood there by the edge of the spinney and watched
the huntsmen, hallooing and galloping, disappear over the skyline
to the southward.

"What a childish sport!" he murmured. "I can't understand what
they see in it. Really, I can't. Grown men rushing about the
landscape on horseback, catawauling* and blowing tin horns--
all after one poor, little wild animal! Perfectly childish!"



THE FIFTH CHAPTER

"THE DOLITTLE SAFETY PACKET"

Returning to the side of the brook within the shelter of the trees,
the Doctor took the foxes out of his pocket and set them on the
ground.

"Well," said the vixen, "I had often heard that you were a great
man, John Dolittle, but I never realized till now what a truly
marvelous person you were. I don't know how to thank you. I'm all
overcome--Dandelion, get away from that water!"

"There is no need for thanks," said the Doctor. "To tell you the
truth, I got quite a thrill myself out of diddling old Will Peabody
--even if I did borrow money off him. I've been trying to get him
to give up fox-hunting for years. He thinks that the hounds followed
my scent down by mistake."

"Ah, they're not easily fooled, those dogs," said the vixen. "Galloway
--that big beast who did all the talking--he's a terror. Nose as
sharp as a needle. It's a poor lookout for any fox whose scent
he crosses."

"But you've been hunted before and got away, haven't you?" asked
the Doctor. "They don't always run the quarry down."

"That's quite true," said the vixen. "But we only escape by luck when
weather conditions or some odd chance is in our favor. The wind, of
course, is a terribly important thing. If the hounds pick up our scent
to the windward and begin the hunt up-wind, as we call it, there's
hardly any chance of our getting away--except when the country has
plenty of cover and we've got start enough to come around and get
behind them, where their scent blows toward us, instead of ours
toward them. But the country is usually too open to give us a chance
to do that without being seen."

"Humph!" said the Doctor. "I understand."

"Then sometimes," the vixen went on, "the wind will change when the
hunt's in full cry. But such luck is a rare thing. Still, I remember one
time when it saved my life. It was October, dampish weather--
the kind the huntsmen like. There was a gentle breeze blowing. I was
crossing over some meadows close to Thorpe Farm, when I heard
them. As soon as I got their direction I saw I was on the bad side
of the wind, and, out in flat, uncovered country, I was going to have
a fiend of a run for it if I was to get away. I knew the neighborhood
real well, and I said to myself as I let out at full gallop, 'Topham
Willows. It's my only chance.'

"Now, Topham Willows was a big, dense patch of old neglected preserves
about fifteen miles away to the West. It was the nearest decent over
there was. But a long, long stretch of bare fields and downs lay
between me and it. However if I once reached it I knew I'd be all
right. Because it was brambly, tangly* and thick, no men or horses
could enter it and it was too big to be surrounded by the pack.

"Well, I went away for all I was worth, hoping to lengthen my start
on them at the outset. The hounds sighted me at once. And a 'View,
hullo-o-a!' went up for the riders. Then the whole hunt came after
me like the Devil on horseback. After that it was one long, steady,
pounding, cruel run for fifteen miles. The only screens that lay this
side of Topham Willows were a few low stone walls. And no fox
would be fool enough to try and take cover behind them. I just leapt
them on the run, and each time my brush topped the walls another
'View, hullo-o-a!' broke from the hunt.

"About three miles this side of the Willows I got a sort of cramp in
my heart. My eyes went queer and I couldn't see straight. Then I
stumbled over a stone. I got up and staggered on. Topham Willows
was in sight, but my speed was going. I had opened the run with a
pace too fast."

Nightshade, the vixen, paused in her story a moment, her ears laid
back, her dainty mouth slightly open, her eyes staring fixedly. She
looked as though she saw that dreadful day all over again, that long
terrible chase, at the end of which, with a safe refuge in sight, she
felt her strength giving out as the dogs of Death drew close upon
her heels.

Presently in a low voice, she went on:

"It looked like the finish of me. The hounds were gaining--and with
lots of breath left. And then!--suddenly the wind changed!

"'Gosh!' I thought to myself, 'if I only had a ditch or hedge handy
now! I'd give them the slip yet! But, of course, in the open, in
full view like that, scent didn't matter so much. I stumbled on. Then
suddenly I noticed a ridge over to my left. On top of it were a few
bracken patches--small, but quite a number of them, dotted about
here and there. I changed direction, left the bee line on the Willows
and made for the ridge. I still had a short lead on the dogs. I shot
into the bracken, and for the first time in fourteen miles I was out
of view from my enemies. Then I ran from patch to patch, leaving
my scent all over the place. Next I raced off down the other side
of the ridge, found a ditch leading toward the Willows, popped into
it and doubled back in my old direction.

"By that time my pace was little better than a crawl, but, as I'd
expected, as soon as I was out of sight the changing wind had got
the dogs all confused. Peeping out of my ditch as I staggered along
it toward the Willows, I saw them rushing from patch to patch
among the bracken on top of the ridge. If the wind had been still
blowing off me toward them, some of them would certainly have
hit my trail down to the ditch, where the scent was hottest, and
cut me off from the cover I was making for.

"But that short halt, while they fooled around among the bracken,
trying to re-find the scent, gave me time to reach the cover I had
come so far to find. And as I crept, blown and dead beaten, into the
tangle of Topham Willows, I flung myself down to rest and thanked
my lucky stars for the wind that changed--just in time to save
my life."

"Well, well," said the Doctor, as the vixen ended her story, "that's
very interesting. From what you say, I suppose that if one could only
deal with the hounds' sense of smell it would always be easy for
you to get away from them, eh?"

"Oh, of course," said the vixen. "In nearly all hunting country a fox
could find enough cover to keep out of the reach of the dogs if
it wasn't for their horribly keen noses. We nearly always hear
them, or see them, a good way off--long before they see us.
If you could only put the hounds on the wrong scent, the fox could
get away every time."

"I see," said the Doctor. "Well, now I have an idea. Supposing a fox
was made to smell like something else, instead of a fox--some strong
smell which dogs didn't like--no pack of hounds would follow such
a trail, would it?"

"No, I shouldn't think so--so long as they didn't know it was a fox
that was carrying it. And, even then, maybe they wouldn't follow it
if it was a smell they hated enough."

"That's just what I mean. Such a thing would be a scent-blind. It
would--if we could only get it sufficiently powerful--entirely
cover up your natural scent. Now, look here," said the Doctor,
pulling a thick, black wallet out of his pocket, full of neat little
bottles: "this is a pocket medicine case. Some of these medicines
have a strong pungent smell. I'll let you sniff one or two . . . .
Try this."

The Doctor pulled the stopper from one of the tiny bottles and held
it to the vixen's nose. She started back after one sniff.

"My gracious!" she barked. "What a powerful odor. What's the name
of it?"

"That's spirits of camphor," said the Doctor. "Now, try another.
This is eucalyptus. Smell."

[ Pic-046.jpg "'This is eucalyptus--smell!'" ]

The vixen put her nose to the second bottle. And this time she sprang
back three feet with a yelp.

"Great heavens! It gets in your eyes! That's worse--and stronger
yet. Cork it up, Doctor, quick!" she cried, rubbing her nose with her
front paws. "It makes me weep tears."

"All right," said the Doctor. "But, listen: both these medicines,
although they are so strong, are quite harmless--so long as you
don't drink them. People use them for colds in the head and other
things. That shows you. Now, do you suppose a dog would keep away
from a smell like that?"

"I should say he would," Nightshade snorted. "He'd run a mile from
it. Any dog who got a whiff of that wouldn't be able to smell straight
for the rest of the day. Dogs have to be more particular about their
noses--especially hunting dogs."

"Fine!" said the Doctor. "Now, look: when this little bottle is corked
tightly and rolled in a handkerchief, so, no odor remains about it
at all. See, you can take it in your mouth and carry it. Try--just
to be sure that it's all right."

Gingerly the vixen took the rolled handkerchief, with the little
bottle inside, in her mouth.

"You see?" said the Doctor, taking it back from her, "it's quite
harmless and you can smell nothing while it is like that. But
supposing you were to place the handkerchief on the ground and
drop a heavy stone on top of it: the glass bottle inside would be
broken, the medicine would run out and soak into the handkerchief
and the smell would be very strong. You understand me so far?"

"Quite," said the vixen; "quite--Dandelion, stop playing with my
tail. How can I attend to what the Doctor's saying? Go over to that
tree and do your exercises."

[ Pic-047.jpg "'Dandelion, stop playing with my tail!'" ]

"And then," John Dolittle went on, "if you were to lie down on the
wet handkerchief and roll in it, you too would smell very strong--
of the medicine. After that, I think, we could safely say that no
hounds would follow you. For one thing, they wouldn't know what
it was when they crossed your trail; and, for another, as you say,
it is so strong that they'd run a mile to get away from it."

"They certainly would," said the vixen.

"Very well. Now, I'll give you one of these bottles. Which will you
have? Would you prefer to smell of camphor or eucalyptus?"

"They're both pretty bad," said Nightshade. "Could you spare the
two of them?"

"Certainly," said the Doctor.

"Thank you. Have you got two handkerchiefs, as well?"

"Yes. Here they are--a red one and a blue one."

"That's splendid," said the vixen. "Then I can make the cubs smell
of camphor and myself of eucal--euca--"

"Eucalyptus," said the Doctor.

"It's a pretty name," said the vixen. "I'll call my other son that.
I never could think of a nice name for him--Dandelion, Garlic and
Eucalyptus."

"The three sons of Nightshade," added the Doctor, watching the
round cubs gamboling over the roots of an oak. "Very pretty--
has almost a Roman, a classic sound. But, listen: you must be very
careful how you wrap the handkerchiefs around the bottles. If you
don't do it properly you might get yourself cut by the broken glass
inside. Make sure that the wrapping is thick and paddy. I've got a
piece of string in my pocket. Perhaps I'd better wrap the bottles
myself and tie them up for you."

Then John Dolittle fixed up the bottles in the proper manner and
handed over his new invention, the fox's safety packets, to
Nightshade, the vixen.

"Now, remember," he said, "to carry them always with you, and
as soon as you hear the hounds smash them with a stone and get
the medicine well soaked into your back. Then I think you'll be safe
from any dogs--even from Galloway."

Well, John Dolittle, after the vixen and her family had thanked him
many times for his kind services, left them with their new
scent-destroyers and continued on his journey toward Ashby.

But he little guessed, as he made his way out of the hollow--and
Nightshade, with her family, trotted off to their lair--what an
important effect this new idea of his was to have.

That very evening, on their way homeward, the vixen and her cubs were
scented by the hounds who were returning to that part of the country,
after a fruitless afternoon's search for foxes.

As soon as she realized that the dogs were on her trail, Nightshade
put her packages on the ground and kicked stones against them.
Instantly the air was filled with powerful medicinal odors.

In spite of the fact that the smell made her eyes run tears, the vixen
rolled in one, while she made the cubs soak themselves in the other.

Then, reeking like a chemist's shop, choking and gasping to get away
from their own smell, the four of them raced off across a wide
pasture toward home. The hounds, to the leeward, seeing them in the
open, cut across from a field the other side of a hedge, hoping to
head them off before they reached the bushes at the foot of the
pasture.

For the hounds this was easy, because Nightshade, with the flat-footed
Dandelion to look after, couldn't put out her full speed.

On came the dogs, the famous Galloway, as usual, in the lead. The
huntsmen, seeing the chances of a kill after a dull day's sport,
cheered and put spurs to their horses.

But in spite of the wind's being the wrong way, the leading dogs
suddenly stopped within about five paces of their quarry.

"What's the matter with Galloway, Jones?" Sir William shouted
to the man on the gray mare. "Look, he's sitting down, _watching the
foxes run away!_"

Then suddenly the fitful evening wind swung to the eastward and blew
a gust back toward the hunt. The pack, like one dog, turned tail and
scattered, terrified, out of the pasture. Even the horses pricked up
their ears and snorted through their noses.

"My heavens, what a stench!" cried Sir William. "Some chemical or
other. What is it, Jones?"

But the man on the gray mare was galloping across country, trying
to get his pack together, cursing and cracking his long whip.

[ Pic-048.jpg "Cursing and cracking his long whip" ]

Peacefully and undisturbed, Nightshade reached her lair that night
and put her cubs to bed. As she did so she kept murmuring to
herself: "He's a great man--a very great man."

But the next day, when she went out to get food for her family,
she met another fox. This neighbor, as soon as he smelt her, didn't
even say good morning, but also ran, as if she were the plague.

Then she found her new odor something of an inconvenience as well
as a blessing. None of her relatives would come near her, and she
and her camphory-eucalyptus cubs were not allowed in any other foxes'
lairs. But after a while it got around in fox society that Nightshade
the vixen could go where she liked without ever being hunted by dogs.
Then John Dolittle began to get requests by mysterious animal
messengers for more eucalyptus. And he sent hundreds of little bottles,
rolled in handkerchiefs, to that part of the world. Before long every
single fox in the neighborhood was supplied with, and always carried,
his "Dolittle Safety Packet" when he went abroad in the hunting
season.

Well, in the end the result was that the famous Ditcham pack went
out of existence.

"It's no use," Sir William said, "we can't hunt foxes in this district
unless we can breed and train a pack of eucalyptus hounds. And
I'll bet my last penny, it's Dolittle's doing. He always said he'd
like to stop the sport altogether. And, by George! so far as
this county is concerned, he's done it!"



PART FOUR

THE FIRST CHAPTER

BACK TO THE CIRCUS

And now, with money in his pocket to pay for a ride, John Dolittle
set about finding a coach that would carry him back in the direction
of Ashby.

At the village of Appledyke his little country lane led him on to a
bigger highway running north and south. Making inquiries of the
village blacksmith, he found that coaches plied this road and that
he could expect one to pass in about half an hour. So, after buying
some toffee at the one small shop which Appledyke could boast of
the Doctor settled down to wait, munching his sweetmeats to pass
the time.

About four o'clock in the afternoon a coach came along and took him
to the next large town. From there he caught a night coach going east;
and in the early hours of the following morning he was back within
ten miles of Ashby again.

The remainder of the journey he thought he had better do on foot
for safety's sake. So after he had a shave and a breakfast and a rest
at an inn, he set out to walk the short remaining distance.

He had not gone more than about a mile before he came upon some
gypsies camped by the side of the road. One old woman among them
hailed him, offering to tell his fortune. The Doctor didn't want his
fortune told, but stopped to chat. In the course of conversation
he mentioned Blossom's Circus. The gypsies then told him that
it was no longer at Ashby, but had left for the next town.

On his asking for the right road to take to reach the next town,
the gypsies told him that a man with a wagon, who was on his way
to join Blossom's circus, had passed them only half an hour ago.
If he hurried on, they said, he might easily overtake him, as his
horse was a slow walker.

The way from here to the town where the circus would next perform
was rather a complicated cross-country journey; and the Doctor thought
it would be much easier if he had some one with him who knew the way.
He therefore thanked the gypsies and hastened on to try and catch
the man who was bound, like himself, for Blossom's Circus.

By making inquiries of the wayfarers along the road, the Doctor was
able to follow the route the man had taken. And about noon he came
up with him halted at the roadside taking his lunch.

His wagon was very peculiar. All four sides of it were covered with
signs. "Use Doctor Brown's Ointment," "Have Your Teeth Pulled by
Doctor Brown," "Doctor Brown's Syrup Cures All Liver Complaints,"
"Doctor Brown's Pills" do this--"Doctor Brown's Liniment" does that,
etc.

After reading all the advertisements with much medical interest,
John Dolittle went up to the fat man who was eating bread and cheese
by the roadside.

"Pardon me!" said he politely. "Am I addressing Doctor Brown himself?"

[ Pic-049.jpg "'Am I addressing Dr. Brown himself?'" ]

"That's me," said the man with his mouth full. "What can I do for you?
Want a tooth pulled?"

"No," said the Doctor. "But I understand you are going to join
Blossom's Circus. Is that so?"

"Yes. I'm meeting it at Stowbury. Why?"

"Well, I was on my way to the same destination," said the Doctor.
"I thought, perhaps, I might accompany you--if you have no
objection."

Doctor Brown said he had no objection, and after he had finished
his lunch he invited John Dolittle into his wagon while he got ready
to hitch up. The inside of the wagon seemed to be principally used
for making the medicines which were advertised on the outside. And
the most important things in their preparation were, as far as Doctor
could see, lard and salad oil. Brown himself seemed a vulgar sort of
person--not in the least like a real doctor. And presently John
Dolittle began asking him questions about where he had got his medical
degree; at what hospital he had learned dentistry, etc. Brown didn't
like this at all and seemed rather annoyed at the Doctor's
cross-examination.

Finally John Dolittle came to the conclusion that the man was most
likely nothing but a quack selling fake medicines. He decided he would
sooner go on alone. So, without waiting for Brown, he set off down
the road ahead of him on foot.

The way the Doctor first knew that he was nearing the circus was
by hearing Jip's bark in the distance. The sound was joined by two
other barks. And presently, rounding a bend in the highway, he found
Jip, Toby and Swizzle all yapping about the foot of a tree, up which
they had chased a black cat. Still further down the road he saw the
tail end of the wagon-train winding on its way.

[ Pic-050.jpg "All yapping about the foot of an oak tree" ]

As soon as he came in view the dogs forgot all about the cat and
came racing down the road.

"Doctor! Doctor!" yelped Jip. "How did everything go off? Did
Sophie get away?"

Then the three of them jumped all over him, and he had to answer
a hundred questions at once. From beginning to end he told the story
of his adventurous journey to the sea. And when a little later he
overtook the circus train and reached his own wagon he had to tell
it all over again for the benefit of the rest of his delighted family.

Dab-Dab hustled around and prepared a meal right away--a sort of
tea-and-supper-combined arrangement; and she kept the rest of the
household busy pulling out the bed linen to be aired, so that
the Doctor should have dry sheets to sleep in.

Then Matthew Mugg got wind of his great friend's arrival, and he came
and joined the party, and the story had to be told a third time.

"It was a great piece of work, Doctor," said he--"couldn't have
gone better. Blossom never got the least suspicious that you was
in it at all."

"What's happened to Higgins?" asked the Doctor.

"Oh, 'e's doing honest work now. Took a stable-man's job in Ashby.
Good thing, too! 'E's no loss to the circus business anyhow."

"Has Blossom put on any extra turn to take Sophie's place?" asked
the Doctor.

"No," said Matthew. "We were short 'anded for a bit. But Hercules
the strong man is back on the job now and the show's as good as
ever."

"And we've made lots of money with our part of it, Doctor," cried
Too-Too. "How much do you think the pushmi-pullyu took in last week?"

"I've no idea."

"Twelve pounds nine shillings and sixpence!"

"Great heavens!" cried the Doctor. "That's enormous--twelve pounds
a week! That's more than I ever made in the best days of my practice.
Why, we'll soon be able to retire at that rate!"

"What do you mean, retire, Doctor?" asked Toby, pushing his head up
onto the Doctor's knee.

"Well, we hadn't meant to stay in the business for good, you know,"
said John Dolittle. "I have work of my own to look after in Puddleby
--and--and--oh, heaps of things to attend to."

"I see," said Toby sadly. "I thought you were going to stay with
us for quite a while."

"But how about the Dolittle Circus, Doctor?" asked Swizzle. "Aren't
you going to try that idea--the reformed show we talked about?"

"It's a great notion, Doctor," Jip put in. "All the animals are crazy
about the scheme. They've been working out the details of their
own part of the performance."

"And what about our theatre, Doctor--'The Animals' Own Theatre'?"
Gub-Gub put in. "I've written a play for it since you've been gone.
It's called _The Bad Tomato_. I do the comic fat lady's part. I
know my lines by heart already."

"And what about the house in Puddleby? That's what I'd like to know?"
said Dab-Dab, angrily brushing the crumbs off the table. "All you
animals ever think of is having a good time. You never think of the
Doctor and what he wants. You never think of the house going to
ruin back there and the garden turning into the jungle. The Doctor
has his own work and his own home and his own life to attend to."

A little silence followed the housekeeper's furious outburst, and
Toby and Swizzle rather shamefacedly retired under the table.

"Well," said the Doctor at last, "there is something in what Dab-Dab
says. I do think as soon as the pushmi-pullyu has made enough to
pay back the sailor for his boat--and a little to spare--we ought
to think about leaving the business."

"Oh, dear!" sighed Toby. "The Dolittle Circus would have been such
a wonderful show!"

"Heigh ho!" said Gub-Gub. "And I would have been simply splendid as
a fat lady. I always thought I ought to have been a comic actor."

"Huh!" snorted Dab-Dab. "Last week you said you ought to have
been a greengrocer."

"Well," said Gub-Gub. "I could be both--a comic greengrocer. Why
not?"

That same night Blossom's Circus entered the town of Stowbury.
And, as usual, before dawn the next morning the tents had been
set up and everything got in readiness for showing.

As soon as the news of the Doctor's arrival got about, Mr. Blossom
came to see him. And from all appearance John Dolittle decided
that no suspicions had been aroused in the mind of the ringmaster
by his "business" trip.

Another caller at the Doctor's stand that morning was Hercules the
strong man. Hercules had never forgotten the kind attention shown him
at the time of his accident, and he was glad to find that his friend had
returned. His pleasant chat was cut short, however, when he suddenly
discovered that it was time for him to give his first performance.
The Doctor accompanied him back to his stand.

While returning across the circus enclosure the Doctor noticed,
as he passed the tent of Fatima the snake charmer, a strong
odor of chloroform. Fearing an accident might have happened,
he went inside and found that Fatima was out at the moment. Within
the tent the smell was stronger, and it seemed to be coming from
the snake box. The Doctor looked into the box and found the six
snakes in an almost unconscious state from the drug. One of them
still had sense enough left to tell the Doctor, in answer to his
questions, that Fatima always dosed them with chloroform on hot
days, when they were too lively, in order to make them easier to
handle for her performance. They hated it, the snake said, because
it gave them headaches.

[ Pic-051.jpg "'They hated it,' the snake said" ]

On this pleasant, sunny morning the Doctor had forgotten, for
a moment, the wretched condition of many of the animals which
had so often sickened him of the whole circus business. This piece
of senseless cruelty threw him into a boiling rage and he hurried
off at once to look for Blossom.

He found him in the big tent and Fatima with him. The Doctor firmly
demanded that the custom of chloroforming the snakes be forbidden.
Blossom merely smiled and pretended to be busy with other matters,
while Fatima hurled a lot of vulgar language at the Doctor's head.

Discouraged and sad, John Dolittle left the tent, intending to return
to his own wagon. The gates were now open and the crowds were coming
in thick and fast. The Doctor was wondering how American blacksnakes
would manage in the English climate if he contrived their escape,
when he noticed a throng of visitor's collecting about a platform down
at the other end of the enclosure.

At this moment Matthew came up and joined him, and together they
started toward the platform. On this the Doctor now saw his
acquaintance, Doctor Brown, delivering a lecture about the wonders of
his pills and ointments, which could cure in one dose all the ailments
known to mankind.

"What arrangement has this fellow with Blossom?" the Doctor asked
of Matthew.

"Oh, he pays him a rake-off," said the Cat's-Meat-Man. "Blossom gets
so much on all he takes in. He's going on with us to the next three
towns, I hear. Doing a good trade, ain't he?"

Indeed, Doctor Brown was very busy. Country yokels, after listening
to his noisy medical lectures, were buying his wares right and left.

"Go and get me a pot of that ointment, will you, Matthew?" said the
Doctor. "Here's some money--and get me a box of the pills as well."

"All right," said Matthew with a grin. "But I don't reckon you'll find
them much good."

The Cat's-Meat-Man returned with the purchases and the Doctor took
them to his wagon. There he opened them, smelled them, examined them
and tested them with chemicals from his little black bag.

"Rubbish and bunkum!" he cried when he had ended. "This is just
highway robbery. Why did I ever go into this rotten show business?
Matthew, get me a step-ladder."

The Cat's-Meat-Man went out, disappeared behind some tents and
presently returned with the step-ladder.

"Thank you," said the Doctor, putting it on his shoulder and marching
off toward the platform. There was a dangerous light in his eyes.

"What are you going to do, Doctor?" asked Matthew, hurrying after
him.

"I'm going to give a medical lecture myself," said the Doctor. "Those
people are not going to pay their money for quack rubbish if I can
help it."

Jip, who was sitting at the door of his wagon, suddenly pricked up
his ears and sprang to his feet.

"Toby," he called over his shoulder, "the Doctor's going over to
the patent medicine man's platform. He's got a step-ladder. He looks
awfully mad about something. There's going to be a row, I fancy.
Get Swizzle and let's go and see the fun."

John Dolittle on reaching the crowd at Brown's lecture stand set up
his step-ladder right opposite to the speaker, and Matthew Mugg
cleared a space around it so the audience shouldn't knock it over
while the Doctor climbed it.

At the moment of his arrival Brown was holding up in his left hand
a pot of ointment.

"This preparation which I 'old in my 'and, ladies and gentlemen,"
he bawled, "is the greatest remedy in the world for sciatica, lumbago,
neuralgia, ague and gout. It 'as been hendorsed* by all the leadin'
physicians. It is the same what is used by the royal family of Belgium
and the Shah of Persia. One application of this marvelous remedy
will------"

At this point another voice, still more powerful, interrupted the
lecture. The people all turned around, and there behind them,
perched on a step-ladder stood a little round man with a battered
high hat on his head.

"Ladies and gentleman*," said the Doctor, "what this man is telling
you is not true. His ointment contains nothing but lard mixed with
a little perfume. His pills are no good either. I do not recommend
you to buy any."

For a moment there was a dead silence. While Doctor Brown was
trying to think up something to say, the voice of a woman, Fatima
the snake charmer, was heard from the edge of the crowd.

"Don't you listen to him," she yelled pointing a fat finger at
John Dolittle. "He's nothing but a showman. He doesn't know
anything about medicines. Push 'im orf 'is ladder."

"Just a minute," said the Doctor, addressing the crowd again. "It is
true that I am in the show business--for the moment. But I am
a medical graduate of the University of Durham. I am prepared
to stand by what I have said. These preparations which this man is
trying to sell you are worthless. Also I have grave doubts about
his education in dentistry and I do not advise any of you to have
your tooth touched by him."

The crowd now began to get restless. Several people had already
purchased Brown's wares and these could now be seen making their
way to the platform and demanding their money back. Brown refused
it and tried to make another address to his audience in answer to the
Doctor's statements.

"Listen," yelled John Dolittle from his ladder. "I challenge this man
to produce a medical degree or credentials of any kind to prove that
he is a qualified doctor or dentist. He is a quack."

"You're a fake yourself," yelled Brown. "I'll have the law on you
for libel."

"Push 'im down!" howled Fatima. "Mob 'im!"

But the people did not seem inclined to follow her orders. Presently
the Doctor was recognized by one of his old patients among the
audience--just as he had been in the case of strong man's
accident some weeks before. A little old lady suddenly waved an
umbrella above the crowd.

"That's John Dolittle," she shouted, "who cured my son Joe of
whopping cough back in Puddleby ten years ago. Like to die he was.
He's a real doctor--none better in the West Country. T' other's a
quack. Ye be fools if ye turn a deaf ear to what John Dolittle tells
ye."

Then other voices were heard here and there among the crowd. The
general restlessness increased. More people struggled forward to
Brown's platform to bring back the wares they had bought. A growing
murmur arose.

"Mob 'im! Knock 'im down!" yelled Fatima, trying to make herself
heard.

Doctor Brown thrust aside two men who had climbed up onto his stand
for their money, came to the edge of the platform and opened his
mouth to begin another medical lecture.

But a large, well-aimed turnip suddenly sailed across the heads of
the audience and hit him squarely in the face. The mobbing had begun
--but it wasn't directed against John Dolittle. Soon carrots,
potatoes, stones, all manner of missiles, were flying through the air.

"Grab 'im!" yelled the crowd. "He's a crook."

And the next moment the whole audience surged toward the platform
yelling and shaking their fists.



THE SECOND CHAPTER

THE PATENT MEDICINE RIOTS

John Dolittle himself grew a little alarmed as he saw what an ugly
mood the crowd was now beginning to show. When he had first
mounted his ladder and interrupted the quack doctor's lecture he
had meant to do no more than warn the people against buying fake
medicines. But as he watched the throng swarm over the platform,
wrecking and smashing it on the way, he began to fear for Brown's
safety.

When the riot was at its height the police arrived. Even they had
considerable difficulty in calming the crowd. They had to use their
clubs to make them listen at all. There were many broken heads and
bloody noses. Finally the police saw that their only chance of
restoring order would be to clear the circus enclosure together.

This was done--in spite of the people's objection that they had
only just come in and wanted their admission money back before
they left. Then the circus was ordered by the police to remain
closed until further instructions.

It was not long before the further instructions were forthcoming.
Much indignation had been aroused throughout the respectable
town of Stowbury over the whole affair. And the Mayor sent word
to Blossom about noon that he and the aldermen would be obliged to
him if he would pack up his circus and take it out of their town
immediately.

Brown had escaped and got away across country long before this.
But that wasn't the end of the affair so far as John Dolittle was
concerned. Blossom, already annoyed, became so furious when the
Mayor's order was brought that everybody thought he was going to
have a fit. Fatima had been railing against the Doctor to him all the
morning; and on hearing the last bit of news, which meant considerable
loss, he got almost black in the face.

Many of the showmen were with him when the policeman delivered the
order. On them too Fatima had been working, trying to arouse bad
feeling against the Doctor.

"Blast it!" yelled Blossom, rising to his feet and reaching for a thick
walking stick that stood behind his wagon door. "I'll teach him to get
my circus closed up! Come on, some of you fellows!"

With waving fists Fatima and four or five of the showmen standing
near followed the ringmaster as he marched off toward the Doctor's
stand.

Both Jip and Matthew had also been hanging around Blossom's wagon.
They too now departed, Jip running ahead to warn the Doctor and the
Cat's-Meat-Man going off in a wholly different direction.

On their way to the Doctor's wagon Blossom and his party of vengeance
were joined by several tent riggers and others. By the time they
arrived at his door they numbered a good dozen. To their surprise
the Doctor came out to meet them.

"Good afternoon," said John Dolittle politely. "What can I do for
you?"

Blossom tried to speak, but his anger was too much for him--nothing
more than spluttering gurgles came from his throat.

"You've done enough for us already," shouted one of the men.

"We're going to do for you now," screamed Fatima.

"You've got the show turned out of the town," growled a third;
"one of the best places on the road. You've cost us a week's pay."

"You've been doing your best to put my show on the blink," snarled
Blossom, finding his voice at last, "ever since you've been with us.
But, by Jiminy*, you've gone too far this time!"

Without further words the group of angry men, led by the ringmaster,
rushed upon the Doctor and he went down under a football scrum
of kicking feet and punching fists.

Poor Jip did his best to drag them off. But it was little help
he could give against twelve such enemies. He couldn't see the Doctor
at all. He was beginning to wonder where Matthew was when he saw
the Cat's-Meat-Man running toward the fight from the other side of
the enclosure. And beside him ran an enormous man in pink tights.

On reaching the scrum the big man began pulling off the showmen
by their feet or hair and tossing them aside as though they were wisps
of straw.

Finally Hercules the strong man--for it was he--had thinned the
fight down to two, Blossom and the Doctor. These still rolled upon
the ground trying to throttle one another. With a hand the size of
a leg of mutton, Hercules, grasped the ringmaster by the neck and
shook him like a rat.

"If you don't be'ave yourself, Alexander," he said quietly, "I'll slap
your face and knock your brains out."

[ Pic-052.jpg "'I'll slap your face'" ]

There was a little silence while the rest of the showmen picked
themselves up from the grass.

"Now," said Hercules still grasping Blossom by the collar, "what's
this all about? What are you all settin' on the Doc for? Ought to
be ashamed--a good dozen of yet--and him the littlest of all!"

"He went and told the people that Brown's ointment wasn't no
good," said Fatima. "Got 'em all worked up, asking for their money
back. Called him a fake in front of the audience--and 'im the
biggest fake that ever walked himself."

"You're a nice one to talk about fakes," said Hercules. "Didn't
I see you painting bands on your pore harmless snakes last week--
to make 'em look like real deadly ones? This man's a good doctor.
He couldn't 'ave mended my busted ribs for me if he wasn't."

"He's got the show turned out of the town," growled one of the
men. "We had our thirty-mile trip from Ashby for nothing--and
another forty-mile ahead of us before we take in a penny. That's
what your precious _Doctor_ has done for you!"

"He's not going any further with my show," spluttered Blossom. "I've
taken about all I'm going to stand from him."

He wriggled himself out of the strong man's grasp and advancing
toward the Doctor shook a finger in his face.

"You're fired," he yelled. "Understand? You leave my show to-day
--now."

"Very well," said the Doctor quietly. And he turned away toward
the door of his wagon.

"Just a minute," Hercules called after him. "Do you want to go,
Doctor?"

John Dolittle paused and turned back.

"Well, Hercules," he said doubtfully, "it's rather hard to answer
the question."

"What he _wants_ 'as got nothing to do with it," said Fatima.
"The boss 'as fired 'im. That settles it. 'E's got to go."

As the Doctor looked into the jeering eyes of this woman that
hated him, he thought of the snakes who were in her care. Then
he thought of several other circus animals whose condition he
had hoped to improve--of Beppo, the old wagon horse who should
have been pensioned off years ago. And while he hesitated Swizzle
pushed his damp nose up into his hand and Toby plucked at the
tail of his coat.

"No, Hercules," he said at last. "All things considered, I do not
want to go. But if I'm sent away there's nothing I can do about
it, is there?"

"No," said the strong man. "But there's something others can do
about it. Look here"--he spun Blossom around by the shoulder
and shook an enormous fist under his nose. "This man's an honest
man. Brown was a crook. If the Doctor goes, I go too. And if I go,
my nephews, the trapeze acrobats, will come with me. And I've
a notion that Hop the clown will join us. Now how about it?"

Mr. Alexander Blossom, proprietor of "The Greatest Show on
Earth," hesitated, chewing his mustache in dismay and perplexity.
With Sophie the seal gone, deserted by the strong man, the
trapeze brothers, his best clown and the pushmi-pullyu, his circus
would be sadly reduced. While he pondered, Fatima's face was
a study. If looks could have killed, both Hercules and the Doctor
would have died that day twice over.

"Well," said the ringmaster at last in quite a different voice,
"let's talk this over friendly-like. There's no end for hard
feelings--and no sense in breaking up the show just because
we've come a cropper in one town."

"If I stay," said the Doctor, "I insist that no more fake medicines
be sold while I am with you."

"Huh!" snorted Fatima. "See what he's goin' to do? 'E's beginnin'
again. 'E's goin' to tell you how to run your show."

"Also," said the Doctor, "I shall require that this woman no longer
have the handling of snakes or any other animals. If you want to
keep me, she must go. I will buy her snakes from her myself."

Well, in spite of Fatima's screaming indignation, matters were at
last arranged peaceably. But that night, when Too-Too was sitting
on the steps of the wagon listening to a brother owl who was hooting
him from the town cemetery, Dab-Dab came out and joined him,
with tears in her eyes.

"I don't know what we'll ever do with the Doctor," she said wearily.
"Really I don't. He has taken every penny we had in the money box
--the whole twelve pounds nine shillings and sixpence which we had
saved up to go back to Puddleby with. And what do you think he has
gone and spent it on? He's bought six fat snakes with it!" (Dab-Dab
burst into a renewed flood of tears.) "And he--he--has put them
in my flour bin to keep till--till he can get a proper bed for
them!"

[ Pic-053.jpg "'He's bought six fat snakes with it!'" ]



THE THIRD CHAPTER

NINO

After the departure of Fatima, the snake-charmer, John Dolittle
liked the life of the circus a good deal better. It had mostly been
the thought that he was not doing anything to help the animals that
had made him so often speak against it. But now that he had sent
Sophie back to her husband; freed the snakes from a life of slavery
and chloroform, and forbidden the selling of quack medicines, he
began to feel that his presence here was doing good.

And then Blossom, ever since the medical lecture riot, had shown
him a great deal more respect. The ringmaster had always known
that he had a good thing in the pushmi-pullyu. And if it had not
been for his blind rage on being turned out of the town by
the Mayor, and for Fatima's eternal nagging against the Doctor,
he would never have dreamed of trying to get rid of him at all.

John Dolittle's own popularity with the circus people themselves
was in the end improved greatly by the incident at Stowbury. In spite
of the fact that she had successfully turned many of the showmen
against the Doctor, Fatima herself had always been disliked by
almost every one. And when it became known that the Doctor had
brought about her departure he was very soon forgiven for the loss
caused by the circus being ordered out of the town.

However, his real power and influence with the show people did not
properly begin until the day that the Talking Horse fell sick.

The circus had moved on to a town called Bridgeton, a large
manufacturing centre, where good business was expected by
Blossom. The animals and clowns and bareback riders and the rest
had made their usual procession through the streets; big bills were
posted all over the place, and when the enclosure was opened to
the public great throngs of people had crowded up to the gates.
It looked like one of the best weeks the circus had ever known.

[ Pic-054.jpg
"They had made their usual procession through the streets" ]

At two o'clock the show at the big tent (for which an extra sixpence
was charged) was to begin. Outside the entrance a large sign was
set up showing the program: "Mademoiselle Firefly, the Bareback
Rider; the Pinto Brothers, Daring Trapeze Artists; Hercules, the
Strongest Man on Earth; Hop, the Side-Splitting Clown, and
His Comedy Wonder-Dog, Swizzle; Jojo, the Dancing Elephant,"
and (in large letters) "NINO, the World-Famous Talking Horse."

Now this Nino was just an ordinary, cream-colored cob who had
been trained to answer signals Blossom had bought him from a
Frenchman; and with him he had bought the secret of his so-called
talking. In his act he didn't talk at all really. All he did was
to stamp his hoof or wag his head a certain number of times to give
answers to the questions Blossom asked him in the ring.

"How many do three and four make, Nino?" Blossom would say. Then
Nino would stamp the floor seven times. And if the answer was yes,
he would nod his head up and down, and if it was no, he would shake
it from side to side. Of course, he didn't know what was being asked
of him at all, as a matter of fact. And the way he knew what answers
to give was from the signals that Blossom made to him secretly. When
he wanted Nino to say yes, the ringmaster would scratch his left
ears; when he wanted him to answer no, he would fold his arms and
so on. The secret of all these signals Blossom kept jealously to
himself. But, of course, the Doctor knew all about them because
Nino had told him how the whole performance was carried on.

Now, in advertising the circus Blossom always put Nino, the World-
Famous Talking Horse, before all the other turns in importance. It
was a popular performance and the children loved shouting
questions down to the little plump cob and seeing him answer with
his feet or his head.

Well, on the circus's first day in Bridgeton, a little before the
show in the big tent was to begin, the Doctor and the ringmaster
were in the clown's dressing-room talking. Suddenly in rushed
the head stableman in a great state of excitement.

"Mr. Blossom," he cried. "Nino's sick! Layin' in his stall with 'is
eyes closed. The show's due to begin in fifteen minutes and
I can't do nothing with 'im--can't even get 'im on his feet."

With a hearty curse Blossom rushed out and tore away in the
direction of the stables, while the Doctor followed him on the
run.

When they got to Nino's stall Blossom and the Doctor found the
horse in a bad state. His breathing was fast and heavy. With
difficulty he was made to stand up on his feet, but for walking even
a few steps he seemed far too shaky and weak.

"Darn the luck!" muttered the manager. "If he can't perform it will
queer the whole week's showing. We've posted him as the start turn.
The crowd will want to know about it if they don't see him."

"You'll have to make a speech and explain," said the Doctor. "That
horse has a bad fever. I doubt if he can leave his stall to-day."

"Good heavens, man, we'll have to!" cried Blossom. "We'll likely
have the audience asking for its money back if he don't appear. We
can't have any more riots like----"

At that moment a boy came up.

"Five minutes to two, Mr. Blossom. Pierce wants to know if you are
all ready."

"Hang it!" said the manager. "I can't take the ring for the first
turn. I must get Nino fixed up before I can come on."

"We ain't got nobody else, Sir," said the boy. "Robinson 'asn't got
back yet."

"Lord, what a day!" groaned the manager. "Well, the show can't open
without a ringmaster, that's sure. And I can't leave Nino yet.
I don't know what----"

"Excuse me, governor," said a voice behind him. And turning, Blossom
looked into the crossed eyes of Matthew Mugg.

"Couldn't I take your place, boss?" said the Cat's-Meat-Man, "I know
your whole line of talk by heart. I could introduce the turns--same
as you--and nobody know the difference."

"Well," said Blossom looking him up and down, "you're about the
scrubbiest ringmaster I ever see'd. But beggars can't be choosers.
Come with me--quick--and I'll give you these clothes."

Then, while the Doctor turned his attention to Nino, Blossom and
Matthew made off on the run for the dressing rooms. There, with
the aid of Theodosia (who put a large swift pleat in Blossom's riding
breeches) and a little rouge and a false moustache from the clown's
make-up box, Mr. Mugg was transformed from a cat's-meat-man into
a ringmaster. The ambition of his life was realized at last. And as
he swaggered into the ring and looked up at the sea of faces around
him his chest swelled with dignity; while Theodosia, watching him
through a slit in the tent-flap, glowed with wifely pride and prayed
that the pleat in his riding breeches would hold till the show was
over.

In the meantime from an examination of Nino the Doctor became certain
that there was no hope of his recovering in time to perform that day.
He went and got some large pills from his black bag and gave him two.
Presently Blossom, now dressed in a jersey and flannel pants, joined
him.

"You can't have this horse perform to-day, Mr. Blossom," said the
Doctor, "nor for a week, probably, at last."

[ Pic-055.jpg "'You can't have this horse perform to-day'" ]

"Well," said the ringmaster, throwing up his hands in despair, "we're
just ruined--that's all--ruined! That row up in Stowbury got
into the papers, and now if we have another frost here, we're
done for. And if Nino don't go on, the crowd's going to ask for
their money back, sure as you're alive. He's the start turn. We
might manage if we had another act to put on in his place, but
I haven't a blessed thing for an extra. And it was a short program,
anyhow. We're ruined. Darn it, I never saw such a run of rotten
luck!"

Poor Blossom seemed genuinely crestfallen. While the Doctor looked
at him thoughtfully, a horse in the stall next to Nino's neighed
softly. It was Beppo, the veteran wagon horse. A smile came into
the Doctor's face.

"Look here, Mr. Blossom," said he quietly, "I think I can help you
out of this trouble, but if I do you've got to promise me a few
things. I know a good deal more about animals than you suppose
I do. I've given up the best part of my life to studying them. You
advertised that Nino understood you and could answer any questions
you put to him. You and I know that's not so, don't we? The trick
was done by a system of signals. But it took the public in. Now I'm
going to tell you a secret of my own which I don't boast about
because nobody would believe me if I did. I can talk to horses in
their own language and understand them when they talk back to me."

Blossom was staring down moodily at the floor while the Doctor spoke.
But at last words he gazed up at John Dolittle frowning.

"Are you crazy?" he said, "or didn't I hear straight? Talk to animals
in their own language! Look 'ere: I've been in the show business
thirty-seven years, knocked around with animals ever since I was
a nipper. And I know there ain't no such thing as a man talking with
a horse in horse language. You got a cheek to tell me a yarn like
that--me, Alexander Blossom!"



THE FOURTH CHAPTER

ANOTHER TALKING HORSE

"I am not telling you a yarn," said the Doctor quietly. "I am telling
you the truth. But I can see that you will not believe me till I
prove it to you."

"You bet I won't," sneered Blossom.

"Well, there are five horses in this stable, aren't there?" asked
the Doctor. "And none of them can see me here where I stand,
can they? Now if you will ask me to put some question to any one
of them I will endeavor to give you his answer."

"Oh, you're crazy!" said Blossom. "I ain't got time to fool with
you."

"All right," said the Doctor. "My intention was to help, as I told
you. But, of course, if you don't want my assistance, then that
ends the matter."

He shrugged his shoulders and turned away. The noise of clapping
sounded from the big tent.

"Ask Beppo," said Blossom, "what's the number of the stall he's in."

Beppo's was the second from the end. On his door was marked a
large "2" in white paint.

"Do you wish to have him tell me the answer in horse language?"
asked the Doctor, "or shall I have him tap the number?"

"Have him tap the partition with his foot, Professor," sneered
Blossom. "I don't know no horse grammar; and I couldn't tell,
t'other way, whether you are faking or not."

"Very good," said the Doctor. And from where he stood, quite
invisible to Beppo, he made some snuffy breathing noises--
rather as though he had a cold in his head. Immediately two
taps sounded from stall No. 2.

Blossom's eyebrows went up in surprise. But almost immediately
he shrugged his shoulders.

"Pshaw!" Could easily 'ave been an accident. Maybe he just fell
against the partition. Ask 'im--er--ask 'im 'ow many buttons
I 'ave on my waistcoat--the one your cross-eyed assistant is
wearing in the ring now."

"All right," said the Doctor. And he made some more snuffly noises,
ending with a gentle whinny.

But this time, unintentionally, he did not include Beppo's name in
his message. Now all the five horses in that stable knew Blossom's
waistcoat very well, of course. And each one thought the question
was being asked of him. Suddenly from every stall six sharp rags
rang out, and even poor Nino, lying in the straw with eyes closed,
stretched out a hind leg and weakly kicked his door six times.
Mr. Blossom's eyes looked as though they were going to pop out
of his head.

"Now," said the Doctor smiling, "in case you should think that
that was accidental too, I will ask Beppo to pull down the rag
you see there hanging on his partition and to throw it up in the air."

In response to a few more words of horse language the rag, whose
end hung over the top of the partition, suddenly disappeared. The
Doctor had not moved. Blossom ran down the stable to look inside
stall No. 2. There he found the aged wagon horse tossing the rag up
in the air and catching it--rather like a school girl playing with
a handkerchief.

"Now do you believe me," asked the Doctor.

"Believe you!" cried Blossom. "I believe you're the Devil's younger
brother. Just the same, you're the man I want, all right. Come on
down to the dressing room and let's put some togs on you."

"Just a minute," said the Doctor. "What do you mean to do?"

"Dress you up," said Blossom, "of course. You're going to do
a turn for us, ain't yet? Why you could take any cab horse and
make a Nino of him. You said you was going to help me?"

"Yes," answered John Dolittle slowly, "and I will--after, as I told
you, you have promised me a few things. I am willing to make Beppo
provide your ring with a talking horse on certain condition. Nino's
act doesn't come on till the end of the show. We have a half-hour
to talk this over in."

"There's no need," cried Blossom, all excited. "I'll promise you
any bloomin' things. Why, if you can talk animals' language we'll
make a fortune in a season! Lor' bless us! I never believed you
could do it. You ought to 'ave joined the show business years ago.
You'd 'ave bin a rich man by now--instead of a broken-down
country doctor. Come on over and we'll pick you out some nifty togs.
Can't go on in them baggy trousers; people 'ud think you'd never
bin on a horse in your life."

Blossom and the Doctor left the stable and made their way across
to the dressing rooms where out of some of the well-traveled trunks
the ringmaster began pulling costume after costume and piling them
on the floor. Whilst he was going through the gaudy clothes the
Doctor laid down the conditions under which he would give the
performance.

"Now, Mr. Blossom," said he, "ever since I have been with your
concern I have noticed certain things that were distasteful to my
ideas of honest business and the humanitarian treatment of animals.
Some of these I have brought to your attention and in almost all
cases you refused to listen to me."

"Why, Doctor," said Mr. Blossom, yanking a pair of red Persian
trousers out of a trunk, "how can you say such a thing? Didn't I get
rid of Brown and Fatima because you objected to 'em?"

[ Pic-056.jpg "'Why, Doctor, how can you say such a thing?'" ]

"You parted with them because you had to," said the Doctor,
"not to oblige me. I have felt very uneasy about being part of
a show which I did not consider strictly honest. It would take
a long time to go into all the details. For the present, the bargain
I am going to strike with you is this: Beppo, the horse I will use
for the talking act, is far too old to work. He has been in service
now thirty-five years. I want him, as a reward for this help which
he will give you, to be pensioned off for the remainder of his days,
made comfortable and given the kind of life he likes."

"I agree. Now how would this do?"

Blossom held up a cavalier's jerkin against the Doctor's chest.
"No--too small. You ain't very high from the ground, but you're
full-sized around the middle, all right."

"The other thing I want you to do," the Doctor went on, as
Blossom turned back to the trunk for another costume, "is to
put your menagerie in proper order. The cages are not cleaned often
enough; some of the animals have not sufficient space for their
needs, and many of them never get the kinds of food they like best."

"All right, Doc, we'll do anything in reason. I'll let you draw up
a set of rules for the menagerie-keeper and you can see that he toes
the line. 'Ow would you like to be a Western cowboy?"

"I wouldn't," said the Doctor. "They are inconsiderate to their
cattle. And I don't approve of that silly business of flapping a hat
in a horse's eyes to make him buck. Then, for the rest, I shall from
time to time expect you to make many minor reforms for the
animals' comfort. I shall expect you to treat my suggestions
reasonably and cooperate with me for their welfare. What do you say?"

"I say it's a go, Doc," said Blossom. "We ain't begun yet. If you
stay with my outfit for a year--with your gift of talking to
animals--why!--I'll make every other circus look like a
two-penny peepshow.--Oh, my! 'Ere's the very thing--a cavalry
uniform--Twenty-first Huzzars. Just your size. Medals and all!
Suits your complexion, too."

This time Blossom held a bright scarlet tunic over the Doctor's
bosom and beamed on him with delight.

"Ever seen anything so nifty!" he chuckled. "My word! I tell yer--
we'll make this town sit up! Could you get these things on your
feet?"

"Oh, I dare say," said the Doctor, taking a gaudy pair of military
riding boots from the ringmaster and sitting down to unlace his own.
At that moment the door opened and a stable boy came in.

"Joe, you're just in time," said Blossom. "Run over to the stables and
give Beppo a rub down with the currycomb. He's going to do an act."

_"Beppo!"_ cried the boy incredulously.

"That's what I said, block-'ead!" shouted Blossom. "And put the
green 'alter on 'im with the white rosettes--and braid 'is tail
with a red ribbon. Hop about it!"

As the lad disappeared the clown with Swizzle entered for a short
rest between acts. The Doctor, in smart regimental breeches and
top boots, was now buttoning up the scarlet tunic about his chin.

"'Ow's my cross-eyed understudy doing?" asked Blossom.

"Governor, he's a wonder!" said Hop sinking into a chair.
"A born ringmaster. You never heard such a voice. He's got a gift
of the gab, all right. Ready with a joke if anybody slips; cracking
quips with the audience--I tell you, governor, you've got to look
to your laurels if you leave him with the ladies for long. Who's
the military gentleman? My hat, it's the Doctor! What's he going
to do?"

At this moment another lad ran in.

"Only ten minutes before the last act goes on, Mr. Blossom,"
he cried.

"All right," said Blossom. "We can do it. Here's your sword-belt,
Doctor. How's the crowd, Frank?"

"Great!" said the boy. "Pleased as Punch! They brought the whole
grammar school down at the last minute. And the Soldier's and
Sailors' Home is coming to-night. People standing two deep in the
aisles. It's the biggest business we've played to this year."



THE FIFTH CHAPTER

THE STAR TURN GIVES A GREAT PERFORMANCE

Tremendous excitement now prevailed behind the scenes in Blossom's
"Mammoth Circus." As the clown, Hop, opened the dressing room
door to go back into the ring, mingled cheers and hand-clapping,
the noise of a big audience's applause, reached the ears of
John Dolittle and the manager.

"Listen, Hop," said Blossom, "pass the word to Mugg as you go back
in that Nino is going to play anyway--in substitute--and the Doc
here is doing the part of the trainer. Mugg can give 'em the
introduction patter just the same. Tell 'im to lay it on thick. It's
going to be the greatest little turn we ever showed--better than
Nino at his best."

[ Pic-057.jpg "'Listen, Hop!'" ]

"All right, governor," said the clown grinning through his paint.
"But I wish you had picked a better-looking horse."

At the last moment one of the Doctor's shoulder straps was found
to be loose. Only two minutes now remained before his act was due.
Some one flew off and found Theodosia and with frantic haste
she put it right with a needle and thread. Then, complete in his gay
and wonderful uniform, the Doctor ran out of the dressing room
to join his partner, Beppo, whose bridle was being held at the
entrance to the big tent by the boy, Frank.

Poor Beppo did not look nearly as smart as the Doctor. Years of
neglect and haphazard grooming could not be remedied by one
curry-combing. His coat was long and dingy-looking, his mane straggly
and unkempt. In spite of the smart, green and white headstall and the
red ribbon in his plaited tail, he looked what he was: an old, old
servant who had done his work faithfully for many, many years and
got little credit or thanks for it.

"Oh, I say, Beppo!" the Doctor murmured in his ear as he took the
bridle from Frank. "Anyone would think you were going to a funeral.
Brace up! Draw your head back, high. That's it. Now blow out
your nostrils.--Ah, much better!"

"You know, Doctor," said Beppo, "you mightn't believe it, but I come
of a very good family. My mother used to trace her pedigree way
back to the battle-charger that Julius Csar* used--the one he
always rode when he reviewed the Prtorian Guard. My mother was
very proud of it. She took first prizes, she did. But when the heavy
battle chargers went out of fashion all the big military horses got
put to draft work. That's how we came down in the world. Oughtn't
we to rehearse this act a bit first? I've no idea of what I'm
expected to do."

"No, we haven't time now," said John Dolittle. "We are liable to be
called on any minute. But we'll manage. Just do everything I tell you
--and put in an extras you think of yourself. Look out, you're
drooping your head again. Remember your Roman ancestor. Chin up--
that's the way. Arch your neck. Make your eyes flash. Look as
though you were carrying an emperor who owned the earth.--
Fine! That's the style! Now you look great."

Within the big canvas theatre, Mr. Matthew Mugg, ringmaster for
a day, was still covering himself with glory, bossing "The Greatest
Show on Earth" with creditable skill and introducing the performers
with much oratory and unusual grammar. He was having the time of
his life and making the most of it.

In between the turns of the Pinto Brothers and the Strong Man, he
saw Hop return into the ring and recommence his arms which always
so delighted the children. As the crown did a somersault past the
ringmaster's nose, Matthew heard him whisper:

"The boss is putting on another talking horse with the Doctor playing
the trainer. He wants you to introduce him the same as Nino."

"Right you are," Matthew whispered back. "I've got the idea."

And when Jojo, the dancing elephant, had bowed himself out
amidst a storm of applause, the ringmaster stepped to the entrance
flap and himself led forward the next, the star, turn.

For a moment old Beppo, accompanied by a short stout man in cavalry
uniform, seemed a little scared to find a sea of faces staring down
at him.

Motioning to the strange-looking performers to remain by the edge of
the ring a moment, Matthew advanced into the center. With a lordly
wave of the hand he silenced the wheezy band who were still finishing
Jojo's last dance. And in the quiet that followed he looked up at the
audience and filled his lungs for his last and most impressive speech.

"Ladies and gentleman," roared Ringmaster Mugg, "we 'ave now
harrived at the last and most himportant act in our long and helegant
program. You 'ave all 'eard. I'm sure, of Nino--Nino, the world-famous
Talking Horse, and his gallant owner, the dashing Cossack cavalry
officer, Captain Nicholas Pufftupski. There they are, ladies and
gentlemen; you see them before you in the flesh. Kings and queens
have traveled miles to witness their act. Only two months ago, when
we are playing in Monte Carlo, we 'ad to turn away the Prime Minister
of England because we 'adn't got a seat for 'im in the 'ouse.

"Nino, ladies and gentlemen, is very old. He came originally from the
back steps of Siberia. His present owner, Major Pufftupski, bought
'im from the wandering Tartar tribes. Since then 'e 'as been through
fifteen wars--which accounts for his wore-out appearance. This is
the self-same 'orse what Colonel Pufftupski rode when, single 'anded
'e drove Napoleon out of Moscow and saved Russia from fallin' under
the hiron 'eel of Bonaparte. And the centre one of them three medals
you see 'anging on the Brigadier's chest is the one the Czar gave 'im
as a reward for 'is brave hact."

"Oh, stop his nonsense, Matthew," whispered the Doctor coming up
to him, dreadfully embarrassed. "There's no need to------"

But the eloquent ringmaster hurried on with thunderous voice:

"So much, ladies and gentlemen, for the military career of this
remarkable 'orse and 'is brave owner. General Pufftupski is a modest
man and he forbids me to tell you about 'is other medals what was
given 'im by the King of Sweden and the Empress of China. I now
pass on to the hextraordinary hintelligence of the animal you see
before you. On 'is way back from chasing Napoleon out of Russia,
Count Pufftupski was took prisoner--and 'is 'orse, the famous
Nino, with 'im. During their himprisonment they became very
hintimate. So much so that at the end of the two years while they was
captives of the French, Nino and 'is owner could talk to one another
freely--the same as you and I might do. If you don't believe what
I say you can prove it for yourselves. All you 'ave to do is to ask
any question of Nino through his owner and it will be answered--
if it 'as an answer. The Field Marshal talks all languages except
Japanese. If any Japanese ladies or gentlemen in the audience wants
to ask questions they'll 'ave to turn 'em into some other language
first. Marshal Pufftupski will open 'is performance with this
marvelous 'orse with a few tricks just to show you what they can do.
Ladies and gentlemen, I 'ave great pleasure in introducing to you
the Archduke Nicholas Pufftupski, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian
army, and 'is battle charger, the one and only, world-famous NINO."

[ Pic-058.jpg "'The Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army'" ]

As the band played a few opening chords the Doctor and Beppo stepped
forward to the centre of the ring and bowed. A tremendous burst of
applause came from the people.

It was a strange performance, the only one of its kind ever given to
a circus audience. The Doctor, when he entered the ring, had no
definite idea of what he was going to do--neither had Beppo. But
the old, old veteran knew that the performance was going to win
him comfort and freedom from work for the rest of his days. Every
one in a while during the course of the act he would forget his noble
ancestry and slump back into his usual weary, worn-out appearance.
But on the whole, as Hop said afterward, he made a much
better-looking show horse than anyone had expected; and so far as
the audience was concerned, his success surpassed anything Blossom
had ever exhibited.

After doing a few tricks Colonel Pufftupski turned to the people and
offered (in remarkably good English) to make the horse do anything
they asked. Immediately a little boy in front row cried out:

"Tell him to come over here and take my hat off."

The Doctor made a sign or two and Beppo went straight to the boy,
lifted the cap from his head and put it into his hand. Then numberless
questions were shouted by the audience, and to every one Beppo gave
an answer--sometimes by tapping the floor, sometimes by shaking
his head, and sometimes by word of mouth which the Doctor translated.
The people enjoyed it so much that Blossom, watching through a
slit outside, thought they'd never be done. And when at last the
gallant Pufftupski led his horse out of the ring the audience clapped
and cheered and called to him again and again to come back and
receive their applause.

The news of the wonderful success of the circus's first performance
in Bridgeton, mostly brought about by the marvelous Talking Horse,
quickly spread through the town. And long before the evening show
was due people were lined up outside the big tent, four deep,
waiting patiently to make sure of seats; while the rest of the
enclosure and all the side shows were packed and thronged so tight
that you could hardly move through the crowds.



THE SIXTH CHAPTER

BEPPO THE GREAT

The money, over the spending of which poor Dab-Dab had so worried,
was soon replaced in the Dolittle savings box. The addition of six
snakes to the Doctor's household was not an expensive one in
upkeep--even though the good housekeeper continued to plead and
argue with John Dolittle for the ousting of what she called the
messy, squirmy creatures. But during the days at Bridgeton the
throngs that crowded into the enclosure left so many sixpences
at the booth of the "Two-headed animal from the jungles of Africa"
that soon Too-Too prophesied the record takings of the Ashby week
would be easily beaten.

"I estimate, Doctor," said he, putting his mathematical head on one
side and closing his left eye, "that in six days we should easily make
sixteen pounds--and that's not allowing for any extra business
on the market day or Saturday."

"And most of that you can put down to the Doctor's act with
Beppo," said Jip. "If it wasn't for that turn, and the talk it has
made, the crowds wouldn't be half so big."

Finding what a success John Dolittle's performance was making,
Blossom came to him after the first showing and begged him to
keep it up for the whole of the week that the circus stayed at
Bridgeton.

"Well, but look here," said John Dolittle, "I've promised Beppo
that he would be pensioned off for obliging you in your emergency.
I don't know how soon Nino will be able to work again; but I did not
say anything to Beppo about acting all week. I supposed you would
put something else in our place as soon as you had time to look
around."

"Good Lord, Doctor!" said Blossom. "I couldn't find anything to take
the place of your act if I looked around for a year. There's never
been anything like it since the circus was invented. The news of it
has gone all over the town--and a good ways outside of it, too.
They say folks are coming all the way from Whittlethorpe to see
your turn. Listen, can't you ask Beppo to oblige us? It ain't heavy
work for 'im. Tell 'im we'll give 'im anything 'e likes--asparagus
for breakfast and a feather bed to sleep in--if 'e only says the
word. My outfit, with the sideshows and all, is taking in pretty near
fifty pounds a day now. Never saw such business! If this keeps up
we shan't 'ave to stay in the game long before we're all on
easy street."

There was something of contempt in the Doctor's face as he looked
at Blossom and paused a moment before answering.

"Oh, yes," he said rather sadly, "you're willing enough to treat your
poor old servant well now, aren't you?--now he is bringing you in
money. For years and years he has worked for you and never even
got his coat brushed in return--just enough hay and oats to keep
him going. Now you'll give anything in the world. Money! Bah!
It's a curse."

"Well," said Blossom, "I'm helping to make up for it now, ain't I?
It ain't 'eavy work, answering questions and doin' tricks. You go
and talk to 'im, Doctor. Lord bless me! Don't it sound queer ?--
me asking you to go and talk to 'im--and twenty-four hours ago
I didn't know there ever was such a thing as talking to 'orses!"

"Except with a whip," said John Dolittle. "I wish I could put you
in his place and make you work thirty-five years for Beppo in
return for hay and water and a lot of beating and neglect. All right,
I'll put your request before him and see what he says. But remember,
his decision is to be final. If he refuses to give one single
performance more I shall hold you to your promise--a comfortable
home for him and a good pasture to graze in for the rest of his
life. And I almost hope he'll say no."

The Doctor turned on his heel and leaving the ringmaster's wagon
set off toward the stables.

"Poor old Beppo!" he murmured. "His ancestor carried Julius Csar
in military reviews--heard the legions cheer the conqueror of the world
who sat astride his back! Poor old Beppo!"

When he entered the stables he found the wagon horse gazing out
of the window of his stall at the pleasant fields that lay beyond the
circus enclosure.

"Is that you, John Dolittle?" said he, as the Doctor opened the door.
"Have you come to take me away?"

"Beppo," said John Dolittle, putting his hand on the veteran's gaunt
and bony back, "it seems you are now a great man--I mean a great
horse."

"How's that, Doctor? I don't understand."

"You've become famous, Beppo. This is a funny world. And we humans,
I often think, are the funniest animals in it. Mr. Blossom has just
found out after you have been in his service for thirty-five years,
how valuable and intelligent you are."

"In what way valuable?"

"Because you talk, Beppo."

"But I've always talked."

"Yes, I know. But Mr. Blossom and the world _didn't_ know until
I proved it to them in the circus ring. You have made a great
sensation, Beppo, just on the eve of your retirement. Now, they don't
want you to retire. They want you to continue being wonderful--
just talking, the way you've always done."

"It sounds crazy, doesn't it, Doctor?"

"Perfectly. But you have suddenly become so valuable to Blossom
that he will give you asparagus for breakfast, a valet to brush your
coat and another to curl your mane if you'll only stay and act for
him for the rest of the week."

"Humph! That's what it means to be famous, does it? I'd sooner
be turned out into a nice big field."

"Well, Beppo, you are to suit yourself--at last, after thirty-five
years of suiting other people. I've told Blossom I'm going to hold
him to his bargain. If you don't want to do it, say so. You shall
retire to-day if you wish."

"What would you advise me to do, Doctor?"

"There is this about it," said John Dolittle, "if you give Blossom
what he wants now, we may be able to get you what you want--
that is, more exactly what you want--later. You see, he has no farm
of his own to put you on; he would have to get a farmer to graze
you and take care of you for him. And besides, he will probably be
better disposed toward me and some plans I have for the other
animals."

"All right, Doctor," said Beppo. "Then that settles it. I'll do it."

There was no happier man in the world than Alexander Blossom when
John Dolittle came and told him that Beppo had consented to act
all the week. He at once got handbills printed and had them sent to
the neighboring towns and given away in the streets. These told
the public that the World-Famous Talking Horse was to be seen at
Bridgeton for only four remaining days, and that those who did not
miss the chance of a lifetime had better hurry up and come to
"Blossom's Mammoth Circus."

[ Pic-059.jpg "He had handbills given away in the streets" ]

The Doctor was caused considerable embarrassment during the special
parades through the streets which were arranged for Beppo by having
himself pointed out as the Archduke Pufftupski, the famous horse's
owner and trainer. For this absurd title, which Matthew had bestowed
on the Doctor, the manager insisted on his sticking to.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of that week were each
record-breakers for Blossom's box office. For the first time in his
life the ringmaster had to turn people away from the gates of his
circus. The crowding of the enclosure reached a point where he
was afraid to let any more in. The police of Bridgeton had to lend
him nearly their whole force to keep the throngs in order and
to see that no accidents happened in the crush.

Nothing succeeds like success. It was only necessary to have
the news go through the town that people were being turned away,
to make twice the number clamor for admission. "Bridgeton Week"
came to be spoken of among the show folk for a long time afterward
as the outstanding period in the circus's whole career.



THE SEVENTH CHAPTER

THE PERFECT PASTURE

In the mean time John Dolittle was making Blossom fulfill the other
parts of his bargain. It was not long after the circus had opened at
Bridgeton that the elephant sent Jip for the Doctor because
he was suffering from an acute attack of rheumatism--brought
on by living in an exceedingly damp and dirty stable.

The poor creature was in considerable pain. The Doctor, after
examining, prescribed massage. Blossom was sent for and ordered
to buy a barrel of a special costly kind of balm. A few weeks before,
of course, the ringmaster would have flatly refused to go to such
an expense for his animal's comfort. But now, with John Dolittle
bringing him in the biggest business that his show had ever seen,
he was ready to do almost anything to please him. The balm was
sent for right away and then the Doctor demanded six strong men
to help him.

Massaging an elephant is no light work. A large audience gathered in
the menagerie to watch the six men and the Doctor crawling over
the elephant's body, rubbing and pummelling the ointment into
his hide till the sweat ran from their foreheads.

[ Pic-060.jpg "Massaging the elephant" ]

Then the Doctor ordered a new stable built for the big creature,
with a special kind of wooden floor with drainage under it and a lot
of other up-to-date features. And, although this work was also
expensive, carpenters were brought in and it was completed in
three hours. The result was that the elephant got well in a very
short time.

The Doctor also drew up rules for the menagerie-keeper which
improved the condition of all the other animals. And in spite of
the fact that the keeper grumbled a good deal about "running
a zoo like a beauty parlor," Blossom made him understand that
he would be discharged immediately if the Doctor's new regulations
were not strictly obeyed.

Poor Nino was still pretty sick. He was getting better, but his recovery
was dreadfully slow. The Doctor visited him twice a day. But Blossom
now realized that the cob's act, which had always been done under
his own guidance, could never take the place of the far finer
performance of Beppo and the Doctor. Beppo, his age and appearance
notwithstanding, was a much cleverer horse than Nino.

Well, the week wore on toward its end. John Dolittle had made
arrangements with Blossom that after the last performance on
Saturday he and Beppo were to leave and go away to a certain
farmer who had agreed to keep the old horse in good grazing
for the remainder of his days. He was to have all the oats he wanted
and white radishes (a delicacy that Beppo was particularly fond of)
twice a week. The Doctor and Beppo were going to inspect this
farm, and if they didn't like it, another one to their satisfaction
was to be found.

The last performance was over; the big tent was being pulled down
and the Doctor and Beppo were all ready for their departure. The
old horse's luggage consisted of a blanket (a new one that Doctor
had made Blossom buy as a farewell present) which he wore.
The Doctor's luggage was his little black bag and a small bundle,
which was also carried on Beppo's back. John Dolittle was standing
at the gate, his hand on Beppo's bridle waiting for Matthew, who had
run back to the wagon to get some sandwiches which Dab-Dab was
preparing.

Presently he saw Blossom hurrying across the enclosure in a great
state of excitement. A little way behind walked a short, very
smartly-dressed man.

"Listen, Doc," panted the ringmaster coming up, "I've just had the
biggest offer I ever got in my life. That toff coming along is the
proprietor of the Manchester Amphitheatre. He wants my outfit
to show in his theatre--one of the biggest in the country--week
after next. And 'e especially wants Beppo. What do you think he
guarantees us? A hundred pounds a day! And maybe more if------"

"No!" the Doctor interrupted firmly, holding up his hand. "Beppo may
not have many more years to live, but what he has he's going to spend
in comfort. Tell that to your manager. Beppo retires--to-day--from
the circus business for good."

And without waiting for his sandwiches, he led the old horse out of
the enclosure and hurried down the road.

Beppo and John Dolittle had not gone very far before they were
overtaken by Too-Too.

"Doctor," said the owl, "I came after you to let you know about
the money."

"Too-Too," John Dolittle replied, "at the present moment the subject
of money is more than usually distasteful to me. Beppo and I are
trying to get away from the very smell of it."

"But just think what you can _do_ with money, Doctor," said Too-Too.

"Yes, that's the trouble with the beastly stuff. It's the power of it
that makes it such a curse."

"Dab-Dab asked me," Too-Too went on, "to come and let you know
how much the pushmi-pullyu had made this week at Bridgeton, because
she thought perhaps you might think of retiring to Puddleby when
you heard. I only just got it figured out--deducting Blossom's share
and the bills we owe the tradespeople. It was a big piece of
arithmetic, I can tell you. My estimate was way off. Instead of
sixteen pounds, we made twenty-six pounds, thirteen shillings and
tenpence, clear profit."

"Humph," murmured the Doctor. "It's a large amount, but not enough
for us to retire on, Too-Too. Still it would go quite a long way
toward it. Tell Dab-Dab to keep it safely for me and we will talk
over the matter when I get back. I am returning to-morrow, you know.
Good-by--and thank you very much for bringing me the news."

Now, the Doctor had in his pocket the address of the farmer to whom
they were going. Imagine his surprise on reading his destination to
find that it was the same farm as the one where his old friend,
the plow horse, lived!

There were hearty greetings, a good deal of astonishment and much
joy at the meeting. The old plow horse, beaming through his green
spectacles, was introduced to Beppo and Beppo was introduced
to him. It was curious that although the Doctor had known the plow
horse for so long he had never heard his name. And it was only on
introducing the two old horses to one another that he learned it for
the first time. It was Toggle.

[ Pic-061.jpg "The old plow horse was introduced to Beppo" ]

"You know," said the plow horse, "I am tremendously glad to see you
both, but I am a little sorry, for Beppo's sake, that it was to this
farm that Blossom sent him. The farmer himself is a very decent
follow, but this pasture I have here leaves a good deal to be
desired."

"But we don't _have_ to stay here," said the Doctor. "I told
Blossom that if it did not meet with Blossom's approval he must
find another. In what way is this place unsuitable? Is the grass bad?"

"No," said Toggle, "the grass is all right--a little rank in August
if there's much rain, but it's sweet enough most of the year. But
the meadow slopes the wrong way. You see, this hillside is facing
northeast. It's only in midsummer that you get any sun. It stays
behind the hill the rest of the year. Then the prevailing wind is
a cold northeaster that blows across the meadow, and there's
little protection from it--excepts along that hedge over there
and one soon eats up that bit of grass."

"Well, tell me," said the Doctor, turning to Beppo, "what, for you,
would be the ideal, the most attractive place for an old horses'
home?"

"The place I've always dreamed of," said Beppo, gazing across
the landscape with a wistful look in his old eyes, "is like this--
part of it is sloping and part of it is flat. Slopes are such a nice
change: the grass is nearer to your nose, and the flats are restful
to get back to after the slopes. Then it has trees, big spreading
trees with fat trunks--the kind horses love to stand under and
think--after a hearty meal. It has a copse where herbs and wild
roots grow, the sorts we love to nibble for a change--especially
the wild mint, which is soothing to the stomach when you've eaten
too much. It has good water--not a muddy, little pond, but a decent
brook where the water is always sparkling and clear. In a hollow
it has a nice old shelter with a dry floor and a mossy, tiled roof
that doesn't let the rain in. The pasture varies: some places are
firm, croppy* turf; others are deep, luscious, long hay-grass with
buttercups and fragrant wild flowers mixed in it. At the top of
the hilly part you can get a view of the sunsets to the westward
and the south. And on the summit there is a good firm post to
scratch your neck on. I love to watch the sun go down as I scratch
my neck of an evening. The whole place is protected with good fences
from snappy dogs and worrisome people. It is quiet. It is peaceful.
And that, John Dolittle, is the place where I would spend my old age."

"Humph!" murmured the Doctor when Beppo had ended. "Your
description sounds delightful--almost like the place where I'd wish
to spend my own old age--thought I suppose I'd want a little more
furniture than a scratching post. Toggle, do you know of a pasture
such as this that Beppo speaks of?"

"I do, indeed, Doctor," said Toggle. "Come with me and I'll show
you."

Then the plow horse led them over the brow of the hill and down
the other side a way. Here, facing the sunny southward, they looked
over a farm gate into the loveliest meadow you ever saw. It was
almost as if some fairy had made old Beppo's wish come true, for
it was the retreat he had described in every detail: there was the
clump of great elm trees; there was the copse and the sparkling
brook; there was the snug shelter in the hollow; and on the summit
of the slope, against the red glow of the setting sun, stood the post
for Beppo to scratch his neck on.

"This is it, Doctor," said Beppo quietly. "This is the spot--just
as I had always planned it. No horse could ask for any better place
to pass his old age."

"It's wonderful," said the Doctor, himself entirely captivated by
the beauty of the scene. "It has character that meadow. Does this
land belong to your farmer, Toggle?"

"No," said the plow horse. "I've often tried to break in here and
graze. And I did get through the hedge, once or twice, but the owner
always chased me out again. It belongs to a farmer who lives in the
little house down there with the red roof."

"I see," said the Doctor. "I wonder how much a piece of ground like
that would cost."

"Not very much, I shouldn't think," said Toggle. "Although it is large,
the farmer has never raised anything but hay on it."

"But, Doctor," said Beppo, "why buy it? I thought you said Blossom
was going to pay for my pensioning off."

"Yes," said the Doctor. "But he has only agreed to pay for your board
and lodging. I've always had an idea I'd like to start a Home for
Retired Cab and Wagon Horses. And this place is such an ideal one
for aged horses that I thought, if I could, I'd buy it. Then we would
form 'The Retired Cab and Wagon Horses' Association' and you could
keep the place for your own for good."

"What a marvelous idea!" cried both horses together.

"But have you got enough money, Doctor?" asked Beppo. "Jip often
told me that you were as poor as a church mouse."

"That is so--more or less," the Doctor agreed. "Money with me has
always been a most uncertain thing. But, as you heard Too-Too come
and tell me shortly after we had left the circus, I am now some
twenty-six pounds to the good. I owe a sailor a lot of money for
a boat, but his need is not so urgent as your own--I sent a bird
to find out, so I know. I can make some more money later on to pay
him with. Of course, twenty-six pounds is not enough to buy a piece
of land that big, outright. But perhaps the farmer will let me pay
so much down and the rest by installments every year. If he will,
it become yours right away and nobody can take it away from you
--unless I fail in my payments. Now, you two wait here and I'll
go and see him about it."

Leaving the two horses by the gate, the Doctor set off across
country for the little red-roofed house that Toggle had pointed out.

[ Pic-062.jpg "They looked over a wide farm gate" ]



THE EIGHTH CHAPTER

THE RETIRED CAB AND WAGON HORSES' ASSOCIATION

Now, the farmer who owned the land which the Doctor wished to buy
was, at the moment when John Dolittle knocked upon his door, sitting
at his parlor table talking to Toggle's farmer. He was sorely in need
of twenty pounds to buy seed potatoes with. But Toggle's farmer,
with many apologies, had been compelled to refuse him because he
himself was very short of money at this time. It was this conversation
which the Doctor's call interrupted.

[ Pic-063.jpg "John Dolittle knocked upon his door" ]

The farmer was very hospitable and invited John Dolittle to come in
and sit down at the table with his other guest. Mugs of fragrant
cider were brought in by the host's wife. Then the Doctor described
the piece of ground which Toggle had shown him and asked if it was
for sale. And as it was one which the farmer seldom used he
immediately said yes, it was. For how much, the Doctor asked. For
one hundred and twenty pounds, the farmer told him.

"Well," said the Doctor. "I only have twenty-six pounds at present.
Suppose I gave you that down and promised to pay the rest in
twenty-pound installments every six months: would you let me have it?"

The farmer, seeing a chance of getting his seed potatoes, was going
to agree at once, but the other, Toggle's farmer, broke into the
conversation.

"What be you going to use the land for, stranger?" he asked. "You
ain't thinkin' of puttin' up no glue factory, I hope."

"Oh, no," said the Doctor. "I want to make it into a rest farm for
old horses--just a grazing ground. Practically nothing will be
altered."

The two farmers thought the stranger must be crazy. But, as he and
the plan he proposed seemed harmless enough, they readily gave in.

"By the way," said the Doctor, still speaking to Toggle's owner,
"you have a friend of mine at your farm, a plow horse; he wears
spectacles which I gave him years ago when he lived in Puddleby."

"Oh, aye," said the farmer. "I know 'un--Toggle. A queer beast,
that. 'E wouldn't be parted from them specs for anything. What about
'im?"

"He is too old to work, isn't he?" said the Doctor. "You let him
graze now most of the time, I understand. He wishes to use this
same pasture with the horse I have brought to-day. Will you let him?"

"That I will," said the farmer. "But how come you to know all this
about my cattle?"

"Oh, well," said the Doctor, looking sort of embarrassed, "I have
ways of my own knowing what horses want. I'm a naturalist."

"Sounds like you was an _unnaturalist_ to me," said the farmer,
winking at his neighbor.

After a little discussion on how the first money would be sent,
the bargain was closed and the Doctor was told that now, so long
as his part of the arrangement was fulfilled, the land belonged to
him.

"Not to me," he said as he rose and bade the farmers farewell.
"The land belongs to the Association. I am turning it over to the
horses themselves."

Having inquired of his host where he could find a carpenter, the
Doctor left. And when, a half hour later, the two farmers walked
across the field together they saw the strange naturalist and
the carpenter busily putting up a large signboard in the middle
of the pasture. On it was written in big letters:

REST FARM
THIS LAND IS THE PROPERTY OF THE RETIRED
CAB AND WAGON HORSES' ASSOCIA TION.
TRESPASSERS AND VICIOUS DOGS
WILL BE KICKED.
BY ORDER,
( Signed, on behalf of the Committee.)
BEPPO, President.
TOGGLE, Vice-President.

 NOTE----MEMBERSHIP FREE
 FOR ADMISSION APPLY AT THE GATE

Well, after seeing the first two members of "The Association" enter
into possession of their new quarters, John Dolittle bade Beppo and
Toggle farewell and set off on his return journey.

As he passed down the road he looked back many times to watch
the two old veterans prancing around their beautiful new home. The
sight warmed his heart and he smiled as he hurried on.

"I'm not sure," he murmured to himself, "but I think that is almost
the best job I ever did. Poor creatures! They are happy at last,
growing young again after a life of hard work. I must establish some
more institutions like that. I've one or two in mind. The Rat and
Mouse Club, for instance. I'd like to see that started. Of course,
I shall get in a frightful row over this from Dab-Dab when she finds
out that I've spent all the money again. Oh, well, it's worth it.
I'll send some London cab horses down to join them as soon as
I get to the city again. Humph!"--(the Doctor paused and looked
back)--"There they are--at it still--Beppo rolling down the
hill and Toggle splashing through the brook.--Great heavens!
I forgot all about the radishes. Why didn't Beppo remind me?"

He hurried back. On the way he met a lad playing in the road.
Questioning him, he found he was the son of a farmer who had
sold the land.

"Would you like to earn a shilling a week?" asked the Doctor.

[ Pic-064.jpg "'Would you like to earn a shilling a week?'" ]

"I'd like to earn a shilling a month," said the boy. "I want to
save up and buy some skates for next winter. I've only got
ninepence so far."

"Do you know how to grow radishes?"

"Yes," answered the boy. "That's easy. They're about the only
thing I can grow."

"Very good," said John Dolittle. "Now, you see that meadow where
the horses are--and the shelter at the bottom? Well, I've just
bought that land from your father. It's to be a home for horses.
If you'll plant me a radish bed behind the shelter, the white kind,
you know, I'll pay you a shilling a week for keeping it in order.
Are you willing?"

"I should say I am, Sir!" cried the boy.

"All right. Here's your first shilling--and here's a penny to buy
a packet of seed with. I appoint you head gardener to the Rest Farm.
You're now on the payroll of the Retired Cab and Wagon Horses'
Association. Make the radish bed fairly big, because I may be sending
down some more horses later. When the radishes are ripe, you make
them up into bunches and hand them out to the members twice a week.
And don't forget to plant new seed every so often, to keep up the
supply. Understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"Now give me your Christian name," said the Doctor, "and I'll send
you your wages every week. And if you should have to leave your
job--to go away or anything--get your father to write me a
letter. He knows how to reach me."

The boy, pleased as Punch with his good luck, gave the Doctor his
name, took his money and ran off to get a spade and fork and start
his new work.

"Well, so that's that," the Doctor murmured as he hurried on toward
Bridgeton. "Now, I must try to think out a way to break the news
gently to Dab-Dab that our money-box is emptied again."

The Rest Farm which the Doctor established that day continued
to flourish and grow for many years. And another worry was added
to the many which harassed Dab-Dab, the careful housekeeper. For
not only had the Doctor bound himself to send the farmer twenty
pounds every six months, but he further reduced the Dolittle fortunes
by buying, every once in a while, some specially old and weary horse
which he would meet on the streets. He bought them from cab drivers,
from rag-and-bone men, from all sorts of people. Poor Dab-Dab used
to be terrified when she saw a gypsy wagon come in sight on the road.
For gypsies' horses were always particularly thin and scrawny-looking,
and it was almost certain that the Doctor would try to buy the poor
creatures from men who were much better skilled than he in shrewd
bargaining.

All these old waifs and wrecks of horses the Doctor would send down
to the Rest Farm to be made free members of the Association. Beppo's
and Toggle's partnership grew into quite a family circle of old
cronies--horses from all walks of life. And many were the
interesting tales of bygone days told beneath the big trees of an
evening or around the post on top of the hill. Here the old fellows
would stand in line, waiting to scratch their necks, watching the
beauty of the peaceful landscape grow dim in the red glow of
the setting sun.

And still the membership list grew longer and longer. The boy who
kept the radish garden sent a letter to the Doctor, saying he had
had to enlarge the bed and needed help. He had a school friend,
he wrote, who was also saving up to buy skates. Would the Doctor
employ him too?

The Doctor did; and the payroll of the Association advanced to two
shillings a week. John Dolittle paid a visit to the farm after it had
been going for about three months. On consulting with the committee
(five of the oldest veterans), he found that money was required for
repairing fences and keeping the ditches clear beneath the hedges.
Some of the members needed their hoofs trimmed (they didn't bother
to wear shoes, of course). So he arranged with the lad he had first
appointed as gardener to extend the radish bed considerably, in order
that quite a large crop of vegetables could be grown--more than
was needed for the members.

The lad had a good head for business and this was done; and two
more friends of his were employed for the extra work. Then the
money that was made by selling the vegetables was used to form
a "Fencing and Farriers' Fund,"--to hire hedgers and ditchers and
blacksmiths every so often to keep the fences in repair and
to trim the members' hoofs.

Paying the extra boys, of course, took still more from the Dolittle
money box--and added still more to the worries of Dab-Dab
the housekeeper.

"What's the use?" cried Too-Too one evening when they were discussing
accounts--"what's the use of my doing all this double-entry
bookkeeping--making my head fairly ache with arithmetic? It doesn't
do any good to calculate how much the Doctor has--or to estimate
how much he's going to have. No matter what it is, he spends it all!"

[ Pic-065.jpg "'What's the use?' cried Too-Too" ]



PART FIVE

THE FIRST CHAPTER

MR. BELLAMY OF MANCHESTER

By getting a lift on the road in a fast trap that overtook him,
John Dolittle reached the circus late that night, instead of early
the following morning, as he had expected. And the first thing
that Matthew Mugg said to him as he entered the wagon was:

"Blossom told me he wanted to see you as soon as you got in. That
toff from Manchester is still with him."

Thereupon the Doctor immediately left his own wagon and set out for
that of the ringmaster. Jip asked could he come along, and the Doctor
said yes.

The circus was now all packed up ready for departure early to-morrow
morning. As John Dolittle approached Blossom's caravan he saw a light
in the window. It was very late--after midnight.

Within he found the ringmaster sitting at the little table with the
smartly dressed man whom he had seen earlier in the day.

"Good evening, Doctor," said the ringmaster. "This gentleman is
Mr. Frederick Bellamy, proprietor and manager of the Manchester
Amphitheatre. He has something 'e'd like to say to you."

The Doctor shook hands with Mr. Bellamy, who at once leant back
in his chair, put his thumbs in the armholes of his white waistcoat
and began:

"I have delayed my return to Manchester, Doctor Dolittle--in spite
of urgent and pressing business--in order to discuss with you
an engagement which I had offered to Mr. Blossom this afternoon.
I witnessed your act with the Talking Horse and was greatly
interested in it. Mr. Blossom tells me that he tried to get you to
consent to take part in his show's performance in my theatre, but
that you refused--took the horse away to put him grazing."

The Doctor nodded, and Mr. Bellamy went on:

"I then supposed that the deal was off, because--I don't mind
telling you--without your turn I would not be interested in this
circus. But Mr. Blossom has persuaded me to remain and talk with
you myself. He assured me that the intelligence of the performance
was not in that particular horse, but in your own unusual powers with
animals--that you could give as good a show with any horse.
He tells me, though I confess I can hardly believe it, that you can
actually communicate with animals in their own language. Is that so?"

"Well," said the Doctor, looking uncomfortable, "I'm sorry that
Mr. Blossom told you this. I don't claim it, or talk of it, myself,
because I find that people don't usually believe me. But,--yes,
it is true. With most animals I can converse freely."

"Indeed," said Mr. Bellamy. "Most extraordinary! That being the
case, we had thought that perhaps you would be willing to do us
an act with some other animal, or animals, in place of the horse
that you have just taken away. My idea is to make it something
more elaborate--to have it form the bigger, more important part of
Mr. Blossom's show. It is something quite new, this gift of yours.
And, properly put on, it ought to make a great sensation. Of course,
you understand, it would be well paid for--very, I might say.
Would you consider it?"

"I haven't any other turn worked out at the moment," said the Doctor.
"I am somewhat new to this business. My idea of shows with animals
is that they must always be done with the consent and willing
cooperation of the animals themselves."

"Oh, quite, quite," said Mr. Bellamy. "It is very late now. Suppose
you think it over until to-morrow. I cannot catch the coach to-night.
And if you consider it, let me know in the morning, eh?"

As the Doctor made his way back to his own wagon, Jip who had
listened to the conversation with great interest, trotted by his
side.

"Doctor," said he, "this seems to me a grand chance for us to do
our play--just your own family--me, Too-Too, Gub-Gub, Toby,
Swizzle, and perhaps the white mouse. You know, you said you would
let us try it some time--'The Animals' Theatre.' You write a comic
play for us--Gub-Gub's is no good--sort of vegetable knockabout.
You write a play of your own--for animals--something high class.
And we'll act it. I'm sure it will make a great sensation in
Manchester. It's a big city. And we'll have a real intelligence
audience."

In spite of the lateness of the hour, John Dolittle found, when
he went back to his own wagon, that all his pets were sitting up
waiting to see him and to hear the story of his day's doings.

Jip immediately told them of the interview with the Manchester
manager and his own idea of providing an act by getting up an
animal play. This was greeted with tremendous enthusiasm and
applause from everyone, down to the white mouse.

"Hooray!" gurgled Gub-Gub. "At last I'm to be an actor. And,
just think, I shall make my first appearance in _Manchester!"_

"Don't go so fast," said the Doctor. "We don't know yet that there
will be a play. It may not be possible. It doesn't follow because
a play amuses you that it will amuse your audience."

Then began a heated argument among the animals about plots for
plays--about what kind of things amused people.

"Let's do _Cinderella,"_ cried the white mouse. "Everybody knows
that, and then I can be one of the mice that the witch turned into
footmen."

"Let's do _Little Red Riding Hood,"_ said Swizzle. "Then I can
play the wolf."

The discussion became so general and interested that the Doctor
thought this would be a good time to break the news to Dab-Dab
that he had spent the twenty-six pounds.

This he did. And the evening was spoilt for the housekeeper.

"Doctor, Doctor!" she sighed, shaking her head. "What _shall_
I do with you? You're not to be trusted with money--really,
you're not. Oh, dear, we'll never get back to Puddleby, I suppose."

But the others, wrapped up in their new interest, brushed the
matter aside as though it were nothing.

"Oh," said Gub-Gub, airily, "we'll soon make some more. What is
money? Poof! Look here, Doctor, why don't we do _Beauty and
the Beast?_ Then I can act the part of the Beauty."

"Great heavens!" cried Jip. "What an idea! No; listen, Doctor:
you write the play yourself--because you know what will interest
people."

"Why don't you let the Doctor go to bed?" asked the Dab-Dab angrily.
"He has had a long day. And it's time you were all asleep yourselves."

"My gracious!" said the Doctor, looking at his watch. "Do you know
what time it is? It is two o'clock in the morning . . . . Go to bed,
all of you."

"Oh, we're traveling to-morrow, Doctor," said Gub-Gub. "It doesn't
matter what time we get up. Let us stay a little longer. We have to
settle on what play we are going to give."

"No, you don't," said Dab-Dab--"not to-night. The Doctor's tired."

"No, I'm not tired," said John Dolittle.

"Well, it's bad for them to stay up late. There's nothing like early
bed as a habit."

"Yes, I suppose so," said the Doctor. "But myself, I don't like
getting into habits, you know."

"Well, I do," said Dab-Dab--"when they're good ones. I like regular
people."

"Do you, Dab-Dab? That's why you're such an excellent housekeeper.
There are two kinds of people: those who like habits and those who
don't. They both have their good qualities."

"You know, Doctor," Gub-Gub put in, "me--I always divide people
into the pickle-eaters and the plain feeders--those who like
chutneys and sauces on their food and those who like everything
plain."

"It's the same idea, Gub-Gub," the Doctor laughed. "Those that like
change in their lives and those that like sameness. Your chutney-eaters
are the change-lovers and your plain-fooders are the er--housekeepers.
Myself, I hope to grow more adaptable as I grow older."

"What's adaptable, Doctor?" asked Gub-Gub.

"It would take too long to explain now. Go to bed. We'll talk about
the play in the morning."



THE SECOND CHAPTER

ANIMAL PLAYS

When the Dolittle household awoke next morning they found that
the wagon was moving. This was nothing new for them. It only
meant that the circus had got under way very early while they were
still asleep--as it often did in moving from town to town. It was
a part of the life, this, that Gub-Gub greatly enjoyed--waking
in the morning and looking out of the window to see what kind of
new scene lay around their moving home.

[ Pic-066.jpg "It was a part of the life Gub-Gub greatly enjoyed" ]

Gub-Gub used to boast that this showed he was a born traveler,
that he loved change, like the Doctor. As a matter of fact, he was
really by nature much more like Dab-Dab; for no one loved regular
habits, especially regular meals, more than he. It was just that
the gipsy life provided a continuous and safe sort of adventure
for him. He liked excitement, but comfortable excitement, without
hardship or danger.

Matthew Mugg came in while the family was still at breakfast.

"Doctor," said he, "that Mr. Bellamy is still with the outfit. Said
he might as well come along with us, as we was going the same way
as him. But, if you ask me, I reckon the real reason is because
he's afraid he may lose sight of you. He's just crazy to get you
do a turn at his theatre--don't care nothin' about the rest of
Blossom's show. But he's willin' to pay any amount to get you
to give a performance of your own with animals."

"Well," said the Doctor, "it isn't as easy as it sounds, Matthew.
My own pets here are anxious to do a play. I wrote a sort of comedy
last night after they had gone to bed. But, of course, it will have
to be rehearsed over and over before it is in shape for him to see
it. The animals must know their parts properly. You might go forward
and tell him, will you, that I will try to rehearse it while we are
traveling, and that I will let him see it to-morrow, if we are far
enough on with it."

"All right," said Matthew, and he stepped out of the back of the
moving wagon and ran forward to overtake the ringmaster's caravan
with his message.

Doctor Dolittle had, as you know, written plays before for animals--
dozens of them. I have told you of his very famous little book called
_One-Act Plays for Penguins_. He had also written longer dramas for
monkeys and others. But all these had been intended for audience of
animals and were written in animal languages. The penguin plays were
(and are still, so far as I know) performed during the long winter
nights in the open-air theatres of the Antarctic, where the vast
audience of quaint birds sit around on the rocks in solemn groups,
clapping their flipper-like wings when anything said by the actors
strikes them as particularly sensible.

The plays for monkeys were of a much lighter kind. They preferred
comedies and farces to the more serious and thoughtful drama that
the penguins liked. The monkey plays were enacted in clear places
in the jungle and the audience sat in the trees all about. The seats
in the boughs right over the stage were the most expensive in the
monkey theatres. And a family box, which consisted of a whole
branch of a tree, cost as much as a hundred nuts. There was a
special rule that families occupying these places should not throw
their nutshells or banana peels down onto the performers' heads.

So, you see, John Dolittle was quite experienced as a playwright
for animals. But the thing needed by Mr. Bellamy, which was to
be shown to an audience of people, had to be different, because
people don't understand animal languages. And after much thought
the Doctor decided to do away with language altogether. The whole
play was to be action. And he called it _The Puddleby Pantomime._

The rehearsals for the pantomime were greatly enjoyed by everyone
except Dab-Dab. The poor housekeeper, who had herself a part
to play in it, was continually stopping the performance to row someone
about upsetting the furniture or breaking the teacups or pulling down
the curtains.

The inside of the wagon was very close quarters, as you can easily
imagine, for acting a play. Added to this, the caravan was moving
all the time; and whenever the horse who was pulling it went around
a curve or a sharp bend in the road everybody on the stages sat down
on the floor; and a squawk from Dab-Dab would show that some new
piece of damage had been done to her home. But the rest of the
animals got almost as much fun out of the accidents in rehearsal
as they did out of the play itself.

The pantomime was just like the old-fashioned Harlequinade. Toby
played the part of Harlequin, Dab-Dab was Columbine, Gub-Gub was
Pantaloon, Swizzle was the policeman and Jip was Pierrot*. The dance
by Harlequin, Columbine and Pierrot caused a lot of merriment,
because whenever the dancers were on the tips of their toes,
that was certain to be the time when the wagon would give an extra
bad lurch and throw the dancers under the bed.

Swizzle, as the policeman, was always arresting poor Pierrot (Jip)
and anybody else he met. For a club he used a cucumber--until
he broke it in half over Pantaloon (Gub-Gub), whom he was supposed
to chase all around the wagon for stealing the string of sausages.
Then the prisoner took the policeman's club away from him and ate
it. And the Doctor decided to put that idea into the real show and
to use a cucumber in Manchester.

Coming on and off the "stage" was very difficult, because the
performers had to go out of the door and stand on the narrow steps
while the wagon was still going. Gub-Gub, in his part of the comic
Pantaloon, had a hard time. He had to make many entrances and
many exits--bounding in and out with the red-hot poker or the
string of sausages. And in spite of the Doctor's warning him
repeatedly to go out carefully, he always forgot that the wagon was
moving, and, making his flying exit, he almost invariably fell out of
wagon, upside down, into the road. Then the rehearsal would have
to be stopped while Mr. Pantaloon picked himself up and ran after
his moving theatre to get on the stage again.

The piece was gone through four or five times during that morning
while the circus was traveling on to the next town. And when the
train of wagons halted for the night the Doctor sent word to
Mr. Bellamy that, although the act was still very imperfect and no
customers ready yet, he could come and see if it would do.

Then the pantomime was performed again, this time on the solid
ground by the side of the road, before an audience of Mr. Bellamy,
Blossom, Matthew Mugg and the strong man. On this stage, that
stood still instead of lurching from side to side, the piece went
much better; and, although Pantaloon got a bit mixed up and popped
on and off the stage many times too often, the audience clapped
loud and long when it was over and declared it one of the most
amusing shows they had ever seen.

[ Pic-067.jpg "The pantomime was performed by the side of the road" ]

"Perfectly splendid!" cried Mr. Bellamy. "It's just the thing we
want. With a little more rehearsing and proper clothes, that should
make a great hit. Nobody can say this act it not enjoyed by the animals
that take part in it. Now, I'm going on to Manchester this evening.
And after Mr. Blossom has played his week in Little Plimpton he'll
bring you on to my theatre to open the beginning of the following
week. Monday the seventeenth. In the meantime, I'll do some
advertising. And I think we can promise you an audience worth
playing to."

The circus's week at Little Plimpton was chiefly occupied by the
Dolittle household in preparing and rehearsing the Puddleby Pantomime
for its showing in Manchester. As for the pushmi-pullyu, the useful
Matthew Mugg took entire charge of his stand, leaving the Doctor
free to take care of the play.

Day after day the act was gone through until everyone knew his part
perfectly and there seemed no possible chance of a mistake. The
Doctor wanted the whole performance to be done by the animals,
without himself or any person appearing on the stage from beginning
to end. During the rehearsals accidents and odd things happened which
gave the Doctor ideas, many of which he put into the play itself, as
he had done with the cucumber. Then, too, several of the actors
thought up comic notions of their own while the show was being
tried out. And if they were good enough John Dolittle put them
into the pantomime. For these reasons the act toward the end of
rehearsals was much longer and quite a little different from what
it had been when shown to Mr. Bellamy. It was much better, too.
Gub-Gub thought it so comical that often in the middle of it
he would get a giggling fit over his own funniness and be so doubled
up with mirth that he couldn't go on with his part.

Theodosia Mugg was very busy during these days, making the
costumes. Fitting suits of clothes to animals is not easy. Gub-Gub
gave the most trouble. At the first dress rehearsal he came on
with his suit upside down, and his wig back-to-front. He had his
hind legs through the sleeves of the coat, wearing them as pants.
His makeup, too, gave a lot of extra work to the stage manager.
Mr. Pantaloon liked the taste of grease paint and he would keep
licking his chops during the performance. So of course the rouge
on his cheeks very soon got smeared all around his mouth and
made him look as though he had been eating bread and jam.

But Pantaloon's greatest trial was his trousers. When at last
they did make him understand how his suit was to be worn, he
at first fastened his trousers to a belt. But his stomach was
so round and smooth his belt would keep slipping off it. And at
the first few dress rehearsals whenever he ran on to the stage
(always chased by the policeman, of course), as often as not
he would lose his pants on the way and arrive on the stage
wearing only a coat and a wig. Then Theodosia made a special
pair of suspenders for him to keep his pants up with, and the
Doctor always inspected his dressing himself.

[ Pic-068.jpg
"He would arrive on the stage wearing only a coat and a wig" ]

A similar accident happened frequently at the beginning to Dab-Dab,
who acted part of Columbine. Theodosia had made her a very cunning
little ballet skirt of stiff pink net. But the first time she wore it,
the dainty web-footed toe-dancer, doing an especially high kick in
her dance with Harlequin, kicked her skirt right over her partner's
head. The excitement was added to considerably when Pantaloon,
who had just rubbed in, picked up the skirt, and put it on himself
in place of the pants he had lost, as usual, in his hurried entrance.

So, as you can easily imagine, Stage Manager Dolittle and Theodosia,
the mistress of the wardrobe, had their hands pretty full. Acting as
people was hard enough for the animals by itself; but acting in
clothes that they were not accustomed to wearing was a tremendous
job, when only a week could be taken for rehearsing. Many times
the Doctor was in despair over the costuming part of it. However,
Theodosia worked out a lot of very cunning dodges, by means of
secret buttons, hooks, elastics and tapes, to hold the clothes and
hats and wigs in place. Then by making the actors wear their costumes
all day long the Doctor finally got his performers so they could
move, and run and dance in clothes as easily as they could without
them.



THE THIRD CHAPTER

THE POSTER AND THE STATUE

The day the circus moved to Manchester was a great one for
the Dolittle household. None of the animals except Jip had been
in a real large city before. On the way there Gub-Gub was constantly
at the window of the caravan, watching the road and shouting out
word over his shoulder to the others when anything new or wonderful
came in sight.

Mr. Bellomy's show place was situated on the edge of the city. It was
a big amusement park, with all sorts of sideshows of its own and a
large theatre building in the centre. Prizefights, wrestling matches,
brass band contests and all manner of entertainments were held
in a large open-air place behind the theatre. It was oval in shape and
had seats banked up high all around it. This it was that had given
it its name, the Amphitheatre, because it was like the great open-air
theatres of the Romans.

To Mr. Bellamy's amusement park the citizens of Manchester came
out in thousands when they were in need of recreation--especially
Saturday afternoons and in the evenings. At night the whole place
was lit up with strings of little lights, and very gay and pretty it
looked.

The park was so big that Blossom's "Mammoth Circus" could fit into
one corner of it and not be seen. The ringmaster was greatly
impressed.

"Lor' bless me," he said to the Doctor, "this is the way to run the
show business all right--on a grand scale. Bellamy must be rolling
in money. Why, the theatre building alone could hold three times
as many people as we can fit into our big tent!"

Blossom's Circus party, feeling dreadfully small and unimportant
in such a huge concern, were guided to a place where they could
halt and settle down. Shortly after the horses were stabled and
the great Mr. Bellamy himself turned up. The first thing he inquired
for was the Puddleby Pantomime troupe.

"As for the rest of your show," he said to Blossom, "I'll leave you
this corner of the grounds, and you can set up and do what business
you can on your own. We get the bigger crowds after five o'clock
in the evening and all Saturday afternoon--when we usually run
a prizefight over in the arena. But Doctor Dolittle's company I am
going to take care of separately. Of course, I'll pay the money
through you, as I told you, and you divide it in whatever way you two
arrange. But from now on he and his animals are under my management,
you understand, and are not to be interfered with by anybody else.
That's what we agreed on, isn't it?"

Then while Blossom and his men got their own sideshows set up
the Dolittle household and its wagon were taken off to another
part of the grounds--close to the theatre--and given a space
within a high fence, where they could settle down in comfort.

Here they found a few other tents and caravans, the homes of
various special performers taking part in the daily, or rather
nightly, show which was given in the theatre. Dancers they were,
tight-rope walkers, singers and what not.

After the beds were made up and the Dolittle wagon put in order,
the Doctor suggested a walk through the city. Jip and Gub-Gub at once
asked could they come, and the Doctor consented. Dab-Dab thought
she ought to remain behind and finish unpacking and to get food
cooked for supper.

Then when the Doctor had been over to make sure that Matthew Mugg
had got the pushmi-pullyu comfortably settled he set out, accompanied
by Gub-Gub and Jip, to see the sights of Manchester.

[ Pic-069.jpg "He set out to see the sights of Manchester" ]

To reach the city proper they had to walk about half a mile through
districts of ordinary houses and gardens which surrounded the big
town.

Of course, John Dolittle and Jip, having been in London more than
once, knew what a regular city looked like. But Gub-Gub, when they
entered the thronged streets, teeming with traffic, bordered by
grand shops and buildings, was greatly impressed.

"What a lot of people!" he murmured, his eyes nearly popping out
of his head. "And just look at the cabs! I didn't know there were
so many in the world--following one another down the street like
a parade. And such splendid vegetable shops! Did you _ever_ see
such enormous tomatoes! Oh, I like this place. It's much bigger
than Puddleby isn't it? And much gayer. Yes, I like this town."

They came to an open place, a big square, with especially fine
stone buildings on all sides of it. Gub-Gub wanted to know all about
each of them, and the Doctor had to explain what a bank was, and
a corn exchange and a municipal hall, and many more.

"And what's that?" asked Gub-Gub, pointing to the middle of the
square.

"That's a statue," said the Doctor.

It was a very grand monument of a man on horseback. And Gub-Gub
asked who he was.

"That's General Slade," said the Doctor.

"But why do they put a statue up to him?"

"Because he was a famous man," answered the Doctor. "He fought
in India--against the French."

They passed out of this square and a little further on entered
another, a smaller one, with no statue in it. As they were crossing
it Gub-Gub suddenly stopped dead.

"Great heavens, Doctor!" he cried. "Look!"

At the far side of the square, on a hoarding, was an enormous poster
--a picture of a pig dressed as Pantaloon, holding a string of
sausages.

"Why, it's _me_, Doctor!" said Gub-Gub, hurrying toward it.

And sure enough, written across the top in large letters was:
_"The Puddleby Pantomime. A Mystery. Come and see the Unique
Harlequinade. Bellamy's Amphitheatre. Next Monday."_

The manger had been as good as his word. He had had an artist make
pictures of the characters in the Doctor's play and posted them
all over the city.

They couldn't get Gub-Gub away from it. The idea of coming into this
big town and finding his own pictures on the walls and himself
a famous actor already, entirely fascinated him.

"Perhaps they'll put up a statue of me next," he said--"like the
general. Look, there's room for one here. They haven't got any
in this square."

As they went through the streets they found more pictures of
their show--some of Dab-Dab, poised on her toes in a ballet skirt;
some of Swizzle, with a policeman's helmet on his head. But whenever
they passed one of Pantaloon they had the hardest work dragging
Gub-Gub away. He would have sat in front of it all night, if
they had let him, admiring himself as a famous actor.

"I really think you ought to speak to the Mayor about my statue,
Doctor," said he, as he sauntered homeward with his nose carried
high in the air. "Perhaps they'll want to move the general into a
smaller square and put me in the larger one."

On the morning of Monday, the day when the Pantomime was to make
its first appearance before the public, there was a dress rehearsal
of it and the rest of the show to be given in the theatre. This was
what is known as a variety show. There were a number of different
acts, dancers, singers, jugglers, and so forth. They came on to the
stage in turn and went through their performance, with the orchestra
playing the proper music for each one.

At the sides of the stage there were little frames, and at the
beginning of each act footmen in livery came out and pushed
big cards into them. These cards had the name of the new act on them,
and were displayed in this way so that the audience could read what
was coming. The Doctor suggested that with the Puddleby Pantomime
the card-changing should be done by animals, instead of footmen.
Mr. Bellamy thought it was a splendid idea. And while the Doctor was
wondering what animals he could get Too-Too suggested that he be
given the job.

"But we need two," said the Doctor. "You see how the footmen do it
--like soldiers. They march out with the cards in their hand--
just as though they were drilling, go to each side of the stage--
pull the old card out and stick the new one in."

[ Pic-070.jpg "The footman came out and pushed big cards into them" ]

"That's all right, Doctor," said Too-Too. "I can soon get another
owl and we'll make a better pair than those footmen. You wait
till I take a hunt around the country outside the city."

Too-Too flew off, and before half an hour had passed he was back
again with another owl who was the dead image of himself, and the
exact same size. Then stools were placed on the corners of the stage,
so that the little birds could reach the frames and the owl footmen
were drilled in their parts.

Even the musicians in the orchestra, accustomed to seeing wonderful
things done on the stage, were astonished when Too-Too and his
brother owl appeared from behind the curtains. They were really
must smarter at the job than the footmen in velvet. Like two
clockwork figures, they hopped onto the stools, changed the cards,
bowed to the imaginary audience and retired.

"My!" said the bass fiddler to the trombone player. "Did you ever
see the like? You'd think they'd been working in a variety hall all
their lives!"

Then the Doctor, who was himself quite a musician, discussed with
the conductor what kind of music should be played while the
pantomime was going on.

"I want something lively," said John Dolittle, "but very, very soft
--pianissimo the whole time."

"All right," said the conductor. "I'll play you the thing we do for
the tight rope walkers--sort of tense."

Then he tapped his desk with his baton to make the orchestra get
ready, and played a few opening bars. It was exciting, trembly* music,
played very, very quietly. It made you think of fairies fluttering
across lawns in the moonlight.

"That's splendid," said the Doctor, as the conductor stopped.
"Now, when Columbine begins to dance I want the minuet from
_Don Juan_--because that's the tune she has always practised to.
And every time Pantaloon falls down have the percussion give the
bass drum a good bang, please."

Then the Puddleby Pantomime was gone through on a real stage,
with a real orchestra and real scenery--the last dress rehearsal.
Gub-Gub found the glare of the footlights dazzling and confusing.
But he and all the actors had by this time done the piece so often
that they could have played it in their sleep. And the show went
with a dash from beginning to end, without a single accident or slip.

When it was over Mr. Bellamy said:

"Just one thing more: when the audience is here your actors will
be called out before the curtain. You'll have to show them how to
take the call."

Then the performers were rehearsed in bowing. The five of them
trooped on again, hand in hand, bowed to the empty theatre and
trooped off.

In the course o their eventful lives the animals of Doctor Dolittle's
household had had many exciting times. But I doubt if anything ever
happened to them which they remembered longer or spoke of afterward
more often than their first appearance before the public in the
famous Puddleby Pantomime.

I say famous because it did, in fact, become very famous. Not only
was it reported in the newspapers of Manchester as a sensational
success, but it was written up in those magazines devoted to
stagecraft and theatrical news, as something entirely new to the
show business. Lots of acts with animals dressed as people had been
done before, of course--some very good. But in all of them the
performers never knew just why they did the things they did, nor
the meaning of most of their act. Whereas the Doctor, being able
to converse with his actors in their own language, had produced a
play which was entirely perfect, down to the smallest detail. For
instance, he had spent days in showing Toby how to wink one eye,
and still longer in getting Pantaloon to throw back his head and
laugh like a person. Gub-Gub used to practise it in front of
a mirror by the hour. Pigs have their own way of laughing, of course,
which most people don't know of; and that is just as well, because
sometimes they find humans very amusing. But to have animals
laughing and frowning and smiling at the right places in a play--
perfectly naturally and exactly the way people would do it--
was something that had never been seen on the stage before.

[ Pic-071.jpg "Gub-Gub used to practice it by the hour" ]

Good weather and Mr. Bellamy's advertising had brought a large
crowd out to the amusement park Monday evening. Long before
the show was due to start the theatre was beginning to fill.

Of the Dolittle troupe, waiting their turn behind the scene, no one
was more anxious than the Doctor himself. None of his animals,
with the exception of Swizzle, had ever performed before a real
audience before. And it did not follow that because they had
acted all right with only Mr. Bellamy and a few others looking on,
they would be just as good when facing a packed theatre.

As he heard the first few notes of the orchestra tuning up their
instruments the Doctor peeped through the curtain into the audience.
He could see nothing but faces. There did not seem to be room to
get another in anywhere, but still the people crowded up to the big
entrances at the end of the long hall, trying to find standing room
in the aisles--or even outside of the doorways, where, on tiptoe,
they could still get a glimpse of the stage.

"Doctor," whispered Dab-Dab, who was also peeping, "this at last
ought to make us rich. Blossom said that Mr. Bellamy had promised
him one hundred pounds a day--and more, if the audiences were
larger than a certain number. It would be impossible for it to be
bigger than this. You couldn't get a fly into that theatre, it's so
packed. What are they stamping and whistling for?"

"That's because, the show is late in beginning," said the Doctor,
looking at his watch. "They're impatient. Oh, look out! Let's get
off the stage. They're going to pull the curtain up. See, there's
the singing couple in the wings, ready to do the first act. Come
on hurry! Where's Gub-Gub got to? I'm so afraid that wig of
his will slip out of place.--Oh, here he is. Thank goodness, it's
all right--and his pants, too. Now, all of you stay here and keep
together. Our show goes on as soon as this act is over. Stop licking
your face, Gub-Gub, for heaven's sake! I won't have time to make
you up again."



THE FOURTH CHAPTER

FAME, FORTUNE--AND RAIN

Stage Manager Dolittle's anxiety about his company's behavior
before a real audience turned out to be unnecessary. The lights
and the music and the enormous crowd, instead of scaring the
animals, had the effect of making them act the better. The Doctor
said afterward that they had never done as well in rehearsal.

As for the audience, from the moment that the curtain went up
they were simply spellbound. At the beginning many people would
not believe that the actors were animals. They whispered to one
another that it must be a troupe of boys or dwarfs, with masks on
their faces. But there could be no disguising the two little owls who
had opened the show by marching out like soldiers with the
announcement cards. And as the pantomime proceeded even the most
unbelieving of the audience could see that no human actors, no matter
how well trained and disguised, could move and look like this.

At first Gub-Gub was an easy favorite. His grimaces and antics made
the audience rock with laughter. But when Dab-Dab came on, opinion
was divided. Her dance with Toby and Jip simply brought down the
house, as the saying goes. She captivated everybody. And it was
really marvelous, considering how ungainly she usually was in her
movements, to see with what grace she did the minuet. The people
clapped, stamped the floor, yelled "Encore!" and just wouldn't let
the show go on till she had done her dance a second time.

Then a lady in the front row threw a bunch of violets onto the stage.
Dab-Dab had never had flowers thrown at her before and didn't know
what to make of it. But Swizzle, an old actor, understood. Springing
forward, he picked up the bouquet and handed it with a flourish to
Columbine.

"Bow!" whispered the Doctor from the wings in duck language. "Bow
to the audience--to the lady who threw the bouquet!"

And Dab-Dab curtsied like a regular ballerina.

[ Pic-072.jpg "Dab-Dab curtsied like a regular ballerina" ]

When the curtain came down at the end and the music of the orchestra
blared out loud the applause was deafening. The company trooped
on hand in hand and bowed again and again. And still the audience
called them back. Then the Doctor made them take the calls
separately. Gub-Gub did antics and made faces; Swizzle took off
his helmet and bowed; Toby sprang into the air with harlequinish
agility; Jip struck tragic Pierrot-like attitudes, and Dab-Dab once
more brought down the house by pirouetting across the stage on
her toes, flipping kisses to the audience with the tips of her wings.

More bouquets were thrown to Columbine and a bunch of carrots to
Pantaloon--which he started eating before he left the stage.

Mr. Bellamy said he had never seen such enthusiasm in the theatre
since he had owned it. And he immediately asked Blossom if he would
be willing to renew the engagement for a second week.

When the other turns were over and the audience left the theatre
Gub-Gub went out into the hall to look at the stage from the seats.
There he found many programs scattered around the floor. He asked
the Doctor what they were. And he was delighted when he was shown
his own name printed there as playing the part of Pantaloon.

"Humph!" said he, folding it carefully. "I must keep this. I think
I'll put it in my menu album."

"Don't you mean your stamp album?" asked the Doctor.

"No," said Gub-Gub. "I gave up collecting stamps some time ago.
I collects menus now. They're much better fun to look at."

The Dolittle household, now that they were encamped near the theatre,
did not see so much of their old friends of the circus. Nevertheless,
the Doctor frequently went across the amusement park to see how
Matthew and the pushmi-pullyu were getting on. And Hop the clown,
Hercules and the Pintos often visited the theatre to see the
pantomime and to make tea at the Dolittle wagon.

The extraordinary success of the Doctor's play continued throughout
the week--the crowds growing greater, if anything, with each
performance. It became necessary to secure seats a long way
in advance if you wanted to see the show, a thing which had only
happened once before at the Amphitheatre when a world-famous
violinist had played there.

Wealthy gentlemen and elegant ladies called at the Doctor's little
wagon almost every evening to congratulate him and to see and
pet his marvelous animal actors. Gub-Gub got frightfully conceited
and put on no end of temperamental airs, often refusing to see
his admirers if they called during the hour he was accustomed
to take for his nap.

"Famous artists have to be very careful of themselves," he said.
"I am only at home to callers between ten and twelve in the
morning. You better have that printed in the newspapers, Doctor."

One lady brought an autograph album for him to sign, and with the
Doctor's help, he put a very clumsy "G. G." in it for her and the
picture of a parsnip, which, he said, was his family crest.

Dab-Dab, although she had become just as famous, was much more
easily interviewed by visitors. Immediately after each performance
she could be seen bustling about her household duties in the
wagon, often still wearing her ballet skirt while she made beds
or fried potatoes.

"That pig makes me tired," she said. "What's the use of our putting
on airs? None of us would be famous if it hadn't been for the
Doctor. Any animal could do what we do if they had him to teach
them. By the way, Doctor," she added, spreading the tablecloth
for supper, "have you been to see Blossom about the money?"

"No," said the Doctor. "Why bother yet? The first week is
hardly over. And I understand the pantomime is to run a second
one. No, I haven't seen Blossom in--let me see--not in three
days."

"Well, you ought to. You should go and get your share of the money
every night."

"Why? Blossom is a trustworthy man."

"Is he?" said Dab-Dab, putting the salt-cellars on the table. "Well,
I wouldn't trust him further than I could see him. If you take
my advice, you'll get your money each night. There must be a lot
owing to you, especially since they put the pantomime on twice
a day instead of only in the evening."

"Oh, that's all right, Dab-Dab," said the Doctor. "Don't worry.
Blossom will bring me the money as soon as he has his accounts
straightened out."

The housekeeper during the next few days frequently asked
John Dolittle to see about this matter, but he never would.
And even after the first week was over and the second nearly
so Blossom had not come forward with the Doctor's share, nor,
indeed, was he often seen by any member of the Dolittle
household. The pushmi-pullyu had also done well with his sideshows,
and, as the money made by this was quite sufficient for living
expenses, the easy-going Doctor, as usual, refused to worry.

Toward the end of the second week the fame of the Puddleby
Pantomime had become so great and so many people had called
to interview the Doctor and his company that it was decided
to give an at home and to invite the public to tea.
[ Transcriber note--"to give an at home" is as it was in book ]

Then for a whole morning the good housekeeper was more than
usually busy. Over two hundred printed cards of invitation had
been sent out. Mrs. Mugg was called in to help. A large number of
small tables were set about the wagon; the inside of the caravan
was decorated with flowers; lots of tea and cakes were prepared
and at four o'clock on Saturday afternoon the gates of the little
enclosure beside the theatre were thrown open to visitors.

All the animals, some of them dressed in their pantomime costumes,
then acted as hosts and sat around at the tables, sipping tea with
the elegant ladies and gentlemen who were anxious to meet them.
It was a farewell party, for the next day the whole of Blossom's
Circus was to leave. The Mayor of the city came and the Mayoress
and a number of newspaper reporters, who made sketches in their
notebooks of Hostess Dab-Dab pouring tea and Gub-Gub handing
around cakes.

[ Pic-073.jpg "Gub-Gub handing round cakes" ]

The next day, after one of the most successful visits of its career,
the circus packed up and moved out of Manchester.

The town they went to was a small one, some twelve miles to the
northeast. Rain began to fall as the wagons arrived at the show
ground and th work of setting up was very disagreeable for
everyone. For, besides the wretched, steady drizzle, the dirt
underfoot soon got worked up into mud with the constant
tramping of feet.

The rain continued the next day, and the next. This, of course,
was a terrible thing for the circus business, because nobody
came to see the show.

"Well, never mind," said the Doctor, as his family sat down
to breakfast on the third rainy morning. "We made plenty
of money in Manchester. That should tide us over a bad
spell easily."

"Yes, but you haven't got that money yet, remember," said
Dab-Dab, "thought goodness knows I've told you often enough
to ask Blossom for it."

"I saw him this morning," said John Dolittle, "just before I came
in to breakfast. It's quite all right. He says it was such a large
amount he was afraid to keep it on him or in his wagon. So he put
it in a bank in Manchester."

"Well, why didn't he take it out of the bank when he left," asked
Dab-Dab, "and give you half of it?"

"It was a Sunday," said the Doctor. "And, of course, the banks
were closed."

"But what does he mean to do about it, then?" asked the housekeeper.
"He isn't going to leave it there, is he?"

"He's going back to-day to fetch it. He was just starting off on
horseback when I spoke to him. I didn't envy him his ride in the
rain."

Now, running a circus is an expensive thing. The animals have to be
fed, the workmen and performers have to be paid and there are
a whole lot of other expenses for which money must be handed
out hourly. So that during these rainy days, when no people came
and the enclosure stood wet and empty instead of making money,
"The Mammoth Circus" was losing it every day--every hour, in fact.

Just as the Doctor finished speaking the menagerie keeper, with his
coat collar turned up against the rain, poked his head in at the
door.

"Seen the boss anywhere around?" he asked.

"Mr. Blossom has gone into Manchester," said John Dolittle. "He
expects to be back about two in the afternoon, he told me."

"Humph!" said the man. "That's a nuisance."

"Why?" asked the Doctor. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

"I want money for rice and hay--for the menagerie," said the
keeper. "The boss said he'd give me some this morning. The corn
dealer's brought the feed. 'E won't leave it unless he gets his
money. And my animals need the stuff bad."

"Oh, I suppose it slipped Mr. Blossom's mind," said the Doctor.
"I'll pay the bill for you and get it from him when he returns.
How much is it?"

"Thirty shillings," said the keeper--"two bales of hay and
fifty pounds of rice."

"All right," said the Doctor. "Too-Too, give me the money box."

"There you are! There you are!" Dab-Dab broke in, her feathers
all ruffled up with anger. "Instead of getting the money from
Blossom that he owes you, you are paying his bills for him! The
animals' feed isn't your concern. What's the use? What's the use?
Blossom getting richer and you getting poorer; that's you,
all over."

"The animals must be fed," said the Doctor, taking the money
from the box and giving it to the keeper. "I'll get it back,
Dab-Dab. Don't worry!"

The rain grew heavier and heavier all that morning. This was
the circus's fourth day in this town. Hardly a penny had
been taken in at the gates since the tents had been set up.

The Doctor, ever since his performance with Beppo at Bridgeton,
had been looked upon by the show folk with an almost superstitious
respect. Any man, they felt, who could talk the language of animals
must know more about them than a mere ringmaster like Blossom.
The Doctor had little by little made great changes throughout the
management of the whole concern--though there still remained
a tremendous lot that he wished to alter. Many of the performers
had for some time considered him as the most important man in
the circus and Blossom as just a figurehead.

The menagerie keeper had hardly left before another man turned
up wanting money for some other of the daily expenses of the show.
And throughout that morning people kept coming to the Doctor
with tales that Blossom had promised them payment at a certain
time. The result, of course, was that before long the Dolittle money
box (which had been quite well filled by the pushmi-pullyu's
exhibition the last two weeks) was empty once more.

Two o'clock in the afternoon came--three o'clock--and still
Mr. Blossom hadn't returned.

"Oh, he must have been delayed," said the Doctor to Dab-Dab,
who was getting more anxious and more angry every minute. "He'll
be here soon. He's honest. I'm sure of that. Don't worry."

At half-past three Jip, who had been out nosing around in the rain,
suddenly rushed in.

"Doctor!" he cried. "Come over to Blossom's wagon. I think there's
something wrong."

"Why, Jip? What's the matter?" said the Doctor, reaching for his hat.

"Mrs. Blossom isn't there," said Jip. "At first I thought the door
was locked. But I pushed it, and it wasn't. There's nobody in it.
His trunk is gone--and nearly everything else, too. Come over and
look. There's something queer about this."



THE FIFTH CHAPTER

MR. BLOSSOM'S MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE

Jip's words brought a puzzled frown into the Doctor's face. Slowly
he put on his hat and followed the dog out into the rain.

On reaching Blossom's wagon he found everything as Jip had
described it. There was no one within. Every article of value had
been taken away. A few torn papers lay scattered on the floor.
In the inner room, Mrs. Blossom's private boudoir, the same
situation met the Doctor's eyes. The whole place looked as
though those who lived there had left in a hurry, to be gone
a long time.

While John Dolittle was still gazing confusedly around him someone
touched him on the shoulder from behind. It was Matthew Mugg.

"Looks kind of bad, don't it?" he said. "Blossom didn't have to take
his trunk and all to go and get his money out of the bank. If you was
to ask me, I've a kind of a notion that we ain't goin' to see our
good, kind manager no more. Eh?"

"Well, Matthew," said the Doctor, "we mustn't jump to conclusions.
He said he'd be back. He may have been delayed. As to his trunk
and things, they're his own. He has a right to do what he wants with
them. It would be wrong to pass any judgments until we have more
evidence than that.

"Humph!" muttered the Cat's-Meat-Man. "O' course, you always did
hate to think anybody crooked. Still, I think you can say good-by to
the money you earned in Manchester."

"We haven't any proof, Matthew," said the Doctor. "And listen:
if what you suspect is true, it's going to be a very serious matter
for all the people in the circus. Please don't say anything of your
suspicions for the present, will you? There is no need to get
the show folk excited until we really know. Now, will you please
saddle up a horse quietly and go into Manchester for me? See
Mr. Bellamy and ask him if he knows anything of what has become
of Blossom. Get back here and bring me word as soon as you can,
will you?"

"All right," said Matthew, turning to go. "But I don't think
Mr. Bellamy'll know any more of where our manager's gone
than what you do. 'E's probably on 'is way to the Continong*
by now."

Jip, after listening to this conversation, slipped away and joined
the other animals in the Doctor's own wagon.

"Fellows," he said, shaking the wet out of himself, "Alexander
Blossom has skidaddled*."

"Good heavens!" cried Too-Too. "With the money?"

"Yes, with the money--drat him!" growled Jip. "And there was
enough coming to the Doctor to keep us in comfort for the rest
of our days."

"I knew it!" groaned Dab-Dab, throwing out her wings in despair.
"I told the Doctor not to trust him. I guessed him to be a fishy
customer from the start. Now he's wallowing in luxury while
we scrape and pinch to pay the bills he left behind."

"Oh, what does it matter?" cried Gub-Gub. "So much the better
if he's gone. Now we'll have a real circus--The Dolittle Circus--
which the animals have always hoped for. Good riddance to
Blossom--the crook! I'm glad he's gone."

"What you _don't_ know," said Dab-Dab, turning on the pig severely,
"would fill a library. How is the Doctor to run a circus without a
penny in his pocket? How is he going to pay wages--ground rent?
How is he going to feed the animals and himself? It costs pounds and
pounds a day to keep a circus going, you pudding, you! And look at
the rain--coming down as though it never meant to stop! And the
whole show just standing here and not a soul coming to see it! And
wagon loads of animals eating up pounds of money a day! And the
payroll of dozens of men mounting higher every minute. _'Glad_
he's gone!--you--you sausage!"

After Matthew had gone the Doctor remained within the shelter
of Blossom's deserted wagon, thoughtfully watching the rain splatter
into the muddy puddles outside. Presently he sat down on an old
packing case and lit his pipe. From time to time he took out
his watch and looked at it, frowning.

After half an hour had gone by he saw Hercules, dressed in ordinary
clothes, approaching across the enclosure. He was running to avoid
the rain. Reaching the wagon, he sprang within, and then shook
his wet overcoat outside the doorway.

"I hear the boss has skipped," he said. "Is it true?"

"I have no idea," said the Doctor. "He is late in returning from
Manchester. But something may have detained him."

"Well, I hope he comes soon," said Hercules. "He owes me a week's
wages. And I need it."

The strong man sat down and he and the Doctor fell to chatting
about weather and weather signs.

Not many minutes later along came Hop the clown, with his dog,
Swizzle. Evil news travels fast. He, too, had heard a humor that
Blossom had deserted the circus. The Doctor tried again to
excuse the ringmaster, and insisted that he be not suspected
till proof was obtained.

Then, rather awkwardly and without much interest, the conversation
continued about the weather.

Next, the Pinto Brothers, trapeze artists, arrived with mackintoshes
thrown over their gawdy tights. They also wanted to know where
Blossom was, and why they hadn't received the pay which they had
been promised would be given them this morning.

[ Pic-074.jpg "The Pinto Brothers arrived" ]

The Doctor, growing more and more distressed, hoping Blossom would
turn up any minute, began to find it hard to keep the talk on any
other subject but the mysterious disappearance of the manager.

At last the foreman of the tent riggers joined the circle.

"It looks rummy to me," he said when he had been told all there
was to be told--"I got three children and a wife to keep. 'Ow are
they going to live if I don't get no wages? My missus ain't got
enough food in the wagon for another meal."

"Yes," said one of the Pinto Brothers. "And we got a new baby in
my family. If Blossom's running off with the money we ought to let
the police know."

"But we have no proof he is running off," said the Doctor. "He may
arrive any minute."

"And he may not, Doctor," Hercules put in. "If he is a queer one,
by the time you get your proof he'll be in China, maybe--where
nobody can get at him. It's nearly six now. The Pintos are right.
What are we standing around here for, guessing and wondering?
At least we ought to send somebody into Manchester to find out
what we can."

"I have sent somebody in," said the Doctor. "Matthew Mugg, my
assistant, has gone."

"Humph!" said one of the acrobats. "So you got kind of suspicious
yourself, Doctor, eh? What time did you send him?"

The Doctor looked at his watch again.

"About four hours ago," said he.

"Time to get there and back," grunted Hercules. "'E couldn't find
no trace of 'im, I'll warrant. Boys, it looks to me like we was
ditched, all right. . . . Lord! I wish I had 'im here. I'd make
Mr. Blossom look like the last rose of a summer."

And the strong man's ham-like hands went through the action of
twisting the top off something.

"But 'e's left an awful lot of property behind," said the tent-rigger.
"I don't yet understand what made 'im skip at this stage of the
game."

"What e' left behind--besides unpaid bills," said Hercules, "ain't
nothing compared with what 'e took with 'im. 'Eaven only knows
what 'e got from Bellamy for the Doctor's show--biggest takings
this outfit ever saw. And all 'e give us was excuses--kept puttin'
off payin' us for some fake reason or other--for three weeks
back. I reckon 'e 'ad it in 'is mind to clear out all the time--
'ad it planned as soon as 'e saw a big haul in sight."

"Well, what are we going to do?" asked Hop.

"Yes, that's the question," said the Pintos. "What are we going to
do now?"

"We got to find another manager," said Hercules. "Someone to take
over the outfit and get us out of this hole."



THE SIXTH CHAPTER

THE DOCTOR BECOMES MANAGER OF THE CIRCUS

It was curious to see how, as soon as the strong man spoke of a new
manager, all the eyes of the little crowd gathered in the wagon
turned upon John Dolittle.

"Doctor," said Hercules, "it looks to me like you'd got to be the new
boss. And if anybody was to ask me. I'll say you'd make a pretty
good one. How about it, boys?"

"Aye! Aye!" they all cried. "The Doc's the man."

"That being the case," said Hercules, "in the name of the staff of
the Greatest Show on Earth, I present you, Doctor, with the circus
of the late lamented Alexander Blossom. From now on, with us,
your word is law."

"But--good heavens!" the Doctor stammered. "I don't know
anything about circus management, and, besides, I----"

[ Pic-075.jpg
"'But I don't know anything about circus management!'" ]

"Oh, yes, you do," Hercules broke in. "Wasn't it your act with
Beppo that made the big week at Bridgeton? And wasn't it you
what got the circus brought to Manchester? Why, bless me,
you can talk to the bloomin' animals! We ain't worried. Meself,
I've a kind of an idea we'll make more money under you than
ever we made--or lost--under Blossom. You go ahead and
manage."

"Yes," said Hop. "That's right, Doctor. Lord only knows what's
going to happen to us if you don't. We're in the soup--dead
broke. And you're the one to pull us out."

For a full minute the Doctor did not answer--just sat,
thinking, on his packing case. At last he looked around at
the miserable waiting group and said:

"Very well. I had not intended going into this business for
long when I started. But I certainly can't get out of it now--
not only on your account, but on account of my own animals
and my responsibility to them. For I, too, am--er--dead broke.
If you want me to manage for you, I'll try it. But I'm going to
do it a little differently from Blossom's way. I'm going to run
the circus on a cooperative basis--that is, instead of wages, we
will all take our share of the money made, after expenses are paid.
That means that when business is bad you will get very little--
may even have to pay a little; and when business is good you will
do well. Also, I claim the right to dismiss anyone from the circus
without notice at any moment."

"That's the idea!" said Hercules. "That's the way a circus should
be run--everybody partners in the business, but one man boss."

"But listen," said the Doctor. "For the beginning it's going to be
hard work and very little money. We haven't got a cent in hand, and
until the rain stops we shan't make a penny. What's worse, we
will probably run into debt for a while--supposing, even, that
we can get anybody to give us supplies on credit. Are you willing?"

"You bet we are!" . . . "We're with you, Doc!" . . . "Nobody's
going to grumble!" . . . "You're the right boss!" they cried. And
immediately the appearance of the whole crowd had changed from
miserable gloom to hopeful smiles and enthusiasm.

In the midst of this arrived Matthew Mugg, with Mr. Bellamy himself.

"I'm terribly sorry to hear of this," said Mr. Bellamy, addressing
the Doctor. "I gave that scoundrel Blossom two thousand pounds.
He has cleared out with the whole lot, it seems--even left
tradespeople unpaid in the city. It was their coming to me that
first told me of his crookedness; and then your Mr. Mugg arrived.
I've put the police on Blossom's trial, but I don't think there's
the least chance of their catching him. You had better come back
to Manchester, and I will give you space at the Amphitheatre pack
until you have made enough to carry on."

"Hooray!" yelled Hop. "And, look, the rain has stopped! Our luck
has changed. Hooray for the Dolittle Circus."

"Pardon me!" said a small, polite voice from the door. "Is Doctor
Dolittle here?"

Everyone turned; and there stood a small man in the entrance. Behind
him the sun was now shining brightly.

"I am John Dolittle," said the Doctor.

"How do you do," said the little man. "I have been sent on a special
mission by a firm of theatrical producers. I am instructed to
make you an offer. They wish you to bring your troupe to London
next month--if you have not been already booked."

"Hah!" cried Hercules. "What did I tell you, boys? First minute
he's manager he gets an offer from Manchester and another from
London. Three cheers for the Doctor!"

It was a day of great rejoicing for both the animals and the people
of the circus when the Doctor took over the management. As soon as
the news got around the enclosure tent-riggers, stable boys,
performers--everybody, in fact, who was part of the establishment
--came to the Doctor to congratulate him and to say how glad they
were to be under his direction. With the stopping of the rain a
general cheerfulness and hustle began. And the very first thing done
was the taking down of the "Blossom's Mammoth Circus" sign over
the main entrance and erecting in its place the "Dolittle Circus"--
a more modest title, but one which was to become far greater and
better known than Blossom's had ever been.

[ Pic-076.jpg "Putting up the new sign" ]

Mr. Bellomy was very kind. Realizing that the Doctor and everyone
had been left practically penniless, he offered to help the new
management with loans of money or in any other way he could.
However, John Dolittle was most anxious to avoid getting the
circus further into debt than it already was, and all he asked of
Mr. Bellamy was to visit some of the tradespeople of this town
with him and ask them to give him credit, to trust him for a while.
Mr. Bellamy was, of course, very well known for miles and miles
around Manchester. And the local corn-dealer, grocer, butcher
and the rest were perfectly willing, when he asked them, to give
the Doctor provisions and to wait for their money till the circus
had made enough to pay its bills.

For the same reason, to avoid getting into debt, the Doctor
decided not to move back to Manchester, but to keep the show
where it was for the present. And with better weather the
attendance soon began to be quite considerable. Mr. Bellamy's
arrival and his visit to the tradespeople of the town were a good
advertisement for the Dolittle Circus. Another advertisement
better still was, curiously enough, Blossom's theft and
disappearance. No sooner had it become known in Manchester
that the ringmaster had run away with a large sum of money
than the newspapers took it up and wrote long stories of how the
famous Puddleby Pantomime had been robbed and left stranded
in a small town twelve miles from the city. The story was reprinted
in country papers. And suddenly the people of this same small
town woke up to the fact that they had the Puddleby Pantomime
in their midst and hadn't noticed it (on account of the rain)
till they read of it in the papers.

Then, of course, everybody began talking of the robbery and
everybody wanted to go and see the pantomime and the Doctor
and the famous animal actors who had made such a sensation
in Manchester. And the next thing the whole town was
tramping in at the gates of the Dolittle Circus.

As I have said, it was not a large town, but for the three days
the business was good enough to enable the Doctor to pay
all the bills off and to buy more provisions on which to keep
going. There was even a little over to pay everybody a small--
very small--amount of wages.

Too-Too, the expert accountant, was busier now than he had
ever been. For not only did he keep record of how much
the pushmi-pullyu made, but he kept the books for the whole
circus. This, with the Doctor's new "coperative*" arrangement,
was no easy task. Strict account of all money paid out to
tradespeople had to be carefully entered, and the profits left
divided among all the people of the circus in proportion to
the amount of work they did. For instance, some of the tent-riggers
and wagon-drivers who really only worked one or two days a week
did not get so large a share as the side-show performers who
were at work all the week. But every one got more when business
was good, and less when it was bad.

Although nearly the whole staff were glad to have the Doctor's
management and willingly stayed on with the circus even in the
distressful conditions under which the new management began,
there were, nevertheless, one or two malcontents who wanted
large wages right away before the debts and bills were paid.
These, as a matter of fact, were people that the Doctor was
glad to part with anyway. And as soon as he could raise the money
to pay them off he sent them about their business. The Dolittle
Circus began, in consequence, somewhat smaller than the Blossom
Circus ended, but it began along strictly honest lines and with every
man and animal in it united, hopeful and contented under the new
management.



THE SEVENTH CHAPTER

MATTHEW MUGG, ASSISTANT MANAGER

Another member of the staff, besides Too-Too, the accountant,
to be more than usually occupied in the first days of the Dolittle
Circus was Dab-Dab, the housekeeper.

"You know," said she to Too-Too and Jip one night, "all this looks
very nice--and I certainly don't want to be a kill-joy--but I wish
we had some one else besides the Doctor to take care of the business
end of things. He is fine where working out of new animal shows is
concerned. As a stage manager no one could be better. But I know
what's going to happen: all the other partners, Hercules and Hop and
the Pintos and the rest, are going to get rich; and the Doctor is going
to stay poor. Why, only last night he was talking about sending the
opossum back to Virginia. He wants to climb trees, it seems--in
the moonlight--and we haven't got the right kind of trees or
moonlight here. I told him the moon in England is just as good as
it is in Virginia. But he says it isn't--not green enough. Heaven
only knows how much his ticket to America would cost. Yet I'm
certain that as soon as the Doctor has the price of it he'll send
him. He spoke of the lion and the leopard, too--says the big
hunting animals should never be kept in confinement. I do wish
we had some other man as well--somebody with good business
sense--who could keep an eye on the Doctor's schemes."

"I quite agree with you," said Jip. "But I have great hopes of
Matthew Mugg, myself. He isn't nearly such a fool as he looks."

"He's a very kind fellow," Swizzle put in. "Almost every time
he meets me or Toby he pulls a bone or something out of his pocket
and gives it to us."

"Oh, yes," said Jip. "That used to be his profession--
cat's-meat-man, you know. He has a good heart. And I think, Dab-Dab,
you'll find he has a pretty good business head, too. It was he who
arranged about the next three towns we're going to. The Doctor
didn't know how to book the circus ahead or where to go next
or anything about touring a circus around the country. He consulted
Matthew. And Mugg went off at once to the next town and found
out when the fair week was usually held and arranged for
fodder supply and renting a show ground and everything. And he's
just crazy about the circus business. I've often heard him boasting
to gipsies and the like along the road that he's the partner of
John Dolittle, M. D.--the famous showman. He knows how to
advertise, too--and that's important in this game. It was Matthew
who got the Doctor to have those big posters printed. I hear they're
already stuck up in every street in Tilmouth, our next town. Yes,
I'm quite helpful about Matthew. He's a good man."

The Dolittle Circus was an entirely new kind of circus. Now that
he had the control of things in his own hands the Doctor proceeded
to bring about the reforms and changes that he had so often
wished for in the days of Blossom's management.

It was, as Jip had said, a good thing that Matthew was there to
keep an eye on the Doctor. Otherwise he would most likely have
begun by letting his new ideas run away with him. Certainly the
average circus-going public had never seen anything like his show
before. For one thing, John Dolittle insisted on the strictest
politeness from all attendants. For another, he would allow
no form of misrepresentation, as he called it. Ordinarily,
circus folk had often been accustomed to say that their shows
were "the greatest on earth," that their animals were "the only
ones in captivity"--or something similarly extravagant and
exaggerated.

This the Doctor would not permit. He said he wanted everything
advertised just as it was, in order that the public should not be
misled or cheated into paying to see something which they didn't
see. To this, at the beginning, Matthew Mugg objected. He said
you could never get a good crowd unless you "played it up big."
But he soon found that the Doctor was right. When the people
got to realize that whatever was promised in the Dolittle
advertisements would be actually provided, the new circus
earned a reputation for honesty that brought people in a way
that nothing else would.

Another thing that worried Matthew in the first days of the Doctor's
management was his insistence on providing tea, free, for the public.

"Why, Doctor," he said, "you'll be ruined! You can't serve tea for
thousands of people without charging them for it. This ain't a
hotel--or a Widow's and Orphans' Home!

"Matthew," said the Doctor, "the people who come to visit my show
are, in a way, my guests. Some of them come long distances--
with babies to carry. Afternoon tea is a nice custom. I hate to
go without it myself. It won't cost so much when we buy
the tea and sugar by the hundredweight. Theodosia can make it."

So afternoon tea for all visitors became an institution. And shortly
after another one was added: that of free packets of peppermints
for the children. And what the Doctor prophesied came true. In one
town where the Dolittle Circus crossed paths with another, a much
bigger show, the Doctor's concern did twice the business that
the other one did, because the people knew that they'd be given
tea and treated honestly and politely.

[ Pic-077.jpg "Free packets of peppermints for the children" ]



THE EIGHTH CHAPTER

THE DOLITTLE CIRCUS

It was six weeks before the show was due to appear in London.
The first town to be visited on the way there was Tilmouth. And
it was here that the Doctor once more got put in prison--but
only for one night. This is how it came about.

The animals, as I have said, were, if anything even more pleased
to exchange Blossom for the Doctor as a boss than were the human
performers. And one of the first things that John Dolittle did, as
soon as a little extra money was made, was to go round and
ask all the animals if they had any complaints to make. Of course,
there were plenty. To begin with, nearly every creature in the
menagerie wanted his den re-painted. So the Doctor had all the
cages done over, each in the colors that its owner preferred.

Not long after the Doctor had had the menagerie done up,
he received another complaint. This, indeed, was one that
he had often heard before. The lion and the leopard were
weary of confinement. They longed to get out of
their narrow cages and stretch their legs in freedom.

"Well, you know," said John Dolittle, 'myself, I don't approve of
keeping you shut up at all. If I had my way I'd ship you back to
Africa and let you go free in the jungle. But the trouble is the
money. However, as soon as I get enough together I will
attend to it."

"If we could only get out a few minutes each day," said the lion,
looking wistfully over the Doctor's shoulder toward the rolling
hills of the countryside, "it wouldn't be so bad."

"No," said the leopard, "that would make life bearable. Oh, I'm sick
of the four walls of this wretched box!"

The tone of the leopard's voice was so pathetic and the lion's face
so sad the Doctor felt that something just had to be done right
away.

"Look here," he said, "if I let you out for a run every evening would
you promise me something?"

"Anything," said the two together.

"Would you come back at the end of half an hour? Honestly?"

"We would."

"And would you promise solemnly not to eat my people?"

"On our word of honor."

"All right," said the Doctor. "Then every evening after the show is
over I'll open your cages and you can run free for half an hour."

So this, too, like the afternoon tea and the children's peppermints,
became a custom of the Dolittle circus. The menagerie animals were
put upon their honor and allowed to run free every evening provided
they came back of their own accord. It worked surprisingly well
for quite a while. The show people soon realized that the animals
were acting up to their promise and could be trusted not to molest
anyone. And even Theodosia got used to the idea of meeting a lion
or a leopard roaming through the enclosure after dark on his way
back to his den when his evening run was over.

"It is quite proper," said the Doctor. "I don't know why I didn't
think of it before. They work all day, the same as we do--
being on show. They deserve a little freedom and playtime
at night."

Of course, the animals, when they went beyond the circus fence,
were careful to keep out of the way of people because they didn't
want to scare them--and people didn't interest them anyway.
They were, in fact, heartily sick of them, having them gazing
and staring in at the cages all day. But one evening when the circus
had moved to a new town a rather serious thing happened. Matthew
came rushing to the Doctor's wagon about ten o'clock and said:

"Governor, the lion hasn't come back! I went round to lock up just
now and found the cage empty. And it's more than an hour since
I let him out."

"Good heavens!" cried the Doctor, jumping up and dashing off
toward the menagerie with Matthew at his heels, "I wonder what's
wrong. He certainly wouldn't have run away after giving me
his promise. I hope no accident has happened to him."

On reaching the menagerie, the Doctor went to the leopard's cage
and asked him if he knew where the lion was.

"I think he must have got lost, Doctor," said the leopard. "We
started out together and went for a stroll across that moor to
the eastward. But it was new country to us. We came to a stream
and couldn't get across. He went up stream and I went down, looking
for a shallow place where we could get over to the other side. I had
no luck. The stream got wider and deeper the further I went along
the bank. Then I heard the church clock strike and I realized
it was time to be getting back. I expected to find the lion here
when I got home. But he wasn't."

"You didn't meet any people?" the Doctor asked.

"Not a soul," said the leopard. "I passed a farm but I went round it
to avoid scaring anyone. He'll find his way back. Don't worry."

The Doctor stayed up all that night waiting for the lion to return.
He even went out into the country and hunted along the stream
that the leopard had spoken of. But no trace of the missing animal
could he found.

Morning came and still no lion. And the Doctor was very worried.
However, the opening of the circus kept his mind occupied.
The people came thronging in and good business claimed
everyone's attention.

At tea time, as was his custom, John Dolittle acted as host to
his visitors and Theodosia was kept running back and forth waiting
on the many little tables crowded with holiday-makers in their
Sunday clothes.

Suddenly, just as the Doctor was passing among the tables to
offer a lady a dish of cakes, he spied Mr. Lion strolling into
the circus through the main gate. At the moment everybody was
busy eating and drinking, and the Doctor hoped that the lion,
who was quietly making for the menagerie, would reach his den
before he was seen by the guests. But, alas! a party, a farmer and
his family, coming out of the side show, ran right into the lion
before he got to the menagerie door. There was a scream from
a farmer's wife who grabbed her children and ran. The farmer
threw his walking stick at the lion and also ran. Then for a couple
of minutes pandemonium reigned. Women shrieked, tables were
overturned and finally some stupid person in the crowd fired a gun.
The poor lion, thoroughly frightened, turned about and ran for
his life.

The excitement now partly died down, but the people were far too
upset to stay and enjoy the circus any further and very soon they
all went off home and the enclosure was deserted.

So Mr. Lion, after his brief reappearance, was again missing; and
the Doctor feared that now, terrified at his reception, he would
be harder to find than ever.

John Dolittle was arranging search parties to go out and hunt
when two policemen came to the circus and put him under
arrest. He was charged, they told him, with keeping wild animals
at large and endangering the public. Furthermore, the lion, it
seemed, had broken into a chicken yard and eaten all the chicken.
As the Doctor was marched through the town to the jail the owner
of the chickens followed him, calling him names and telling him
how much he owed him.

The Doctor spent the night in prison. But in the meantime the lion
had taken refuge in the cellar of a bakery and neither the baker
nor anybody else dared go down to him. Everybody in the house was
scared to go to bed. Messages were sent to the circus to send
someone to take the lion away. But the wily Matthew Mugg, although
he knew the lion was easily handled by those who knew him, told the
people that the Doctor was only one who dared go near him and they
better hurry up and let him out of jail if they wanted the lion
taken away.

So early the next morning they came and set the Doctor free. Then
he went down into the cellar and talked to the lion.

"I'm fearfully sorry, Doctor," said he, "but I lose my way out on that
moor. I wandered around all over the place. And it wasn't until
the next day that I found my own tracks and made my way back to
the circus. I tried to slip into the menagerie without being seen.
But when that fool started firing a gun I got scared and
ran for it."

"But the chickens?" said the Doctor. "I thought you promised me
not to molest anything when you were out?"

"I only promised not to eat people," said the lion. "I had to eat
something. I was starved to death after wandering around
that moor all night. How much are they charging you for
the chicken?"

"One pound, ten shillings and sixpence," said the Doctor. "Eleven
at half a crown apiece."

"It's highway robbery," said the lion. "They were the toughest
old things I ever tasted. And anyway I only ate nine."

"Well, in future," said the Doctor, "I think I had better
accompany you on your walks."

Then he led the lion home. And the terrified townsfolk watched
through the cracks of doors as the dread animal strolled down
the street as John Dolittle's heels as meek and quiet as a lamb.

[ Pic-078.jpg "He led the lion home" ]

And now that the Doctor could give the animals the kind of
consideration he wished he really enjoyed the life himself a good
deal. And poor Dab-Dab began to feel that her chance of getting
him away from it, back to his own life at Puddleby, grew dimmer
and more distant every day.

John Dolittle's chief occupation in his spare time was, as I have
told you, thinking out new and interesting animal shows. And in
doing this he always kept the children particularly in mind as an
audience, and designed his plays and entertainments more for
them than for the grown-ups. The success of the Talking Horse
and the Puddleby Pantomime showed him that his knowledge of
animal languages could be put to great use here. The snakes
which he had bought from Fatima, for example, were later
trained by him to give a little show of their own. Instead of
a snake-charmer's tent with a stupid fat woman in it, pretending
to be something that she wasn't, the Dolittle Circus had a side show
where the snakes gave their own performance, entirely unaided by
any person. To the tune of a music box they danced a very peculiar
but graceful sort of dance. It was something like a mixture between
a quadrille and a game of cat's cradle. On a little stage of their
own they glided about on their tails in time to the music, bowing to
their partners, doing the grand chain, looping into knots with
one another, drilling like soldiers and doing a hundred fascinating
things that people had never seen snakes do before.

[ Pic-079.jpg "The Snakes' Quadrille" ]

Indeed, as time went on, the Dolittle Circus's animal side shows
were almost without exception run independently by the animals
themselves. There were a great number of them and each one
was descriptive of that particular animal's special quality. The
snakes' entertainment, for instance, was designed to show
off their gracefulness; for, in John Dolittle's opinion, the snake
was the most graceful creature in the world. The elephant, on
the other hand, did feats of strength, instead of silly balancing
tricks for which he wasn't suited.

"You don't want people in an animal performance," the Doctor
said to Matthew one day. "Hercules and Hop and the acrobats,
they're different. Those are shows, given by people, where
the human performers are the whole thing. But what's the sense
in seeing a stupid man in uniform driving a lion through hoops
with a whip? People seem to think that animals have no ideas to
express. If they're left to themselves they can give much better
shows on their own, once they're told what kind of things amuse
a human audience--especially in the funny shows. The animal sense
of humor is far superior to the human. But people are too stupid
to see the funniness of things that animals do to amuse one another.
And in most cases I have to bring them down to our level--to have
them make their style of jokes rather--er--crude and broad.
Otherwise people mightn't understand them at all."

And so, you see, the Dolittle Circus was indeed quite different from
any other. The Doctor's kind and hospitable treatment of all who
came to see his show made it more like a sort of family gathering
than a strictly business matter.

There were no rules, or hardly any. And if little boys wanted to
see "behind the scenes," or to go into the elephant's stall and
pet him, they were personally conducted wherever they wished to go.
This alone gave the circus a quality quite individual. And whenever
the wagon-train moved on its way, the children would follow
it for miles along the road and for weeks after would talk of
nothing but when it would come back again to visit their town.
For children everywhere were beginning to regard the Dolittle Circus
as something peculiarly their own.


[ Pic-080.jpg THE END ]


THE END





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