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Title: Doctor Dolittle and the Green Canary
Author: Hugh Lofting
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0607851.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: October 2006
Date most recently updated: October 2006

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Title: Doctor Dolittle and the Green Canary
Author: Hugh Lofting



IF you have ever read _Doctor Dolittle's Caravan_ you will remember
Pippinella, the green canary--half canary, half greenfinch--whom Doctor
Dolittle had bought from a pet shop, and how she became the prima donna
of his opera company.

In the evenings she told such fascinating stories about her life that
the Doctor said, 'You're a born story-teller, Pippinella. Would you be
willing to help me write your biography?'

Of course, Pippinella was delighted to help, so evening after evening
she related her experiences and the Doctor wrote them down, and all the
animals listened with great attention--except Gub-Gub, who sometimes
interrupted. They heard how she had lived in a wicked marquis's castle,
worked as an air tester in a coal mine and flown to an uninhabited
island, and all about her owners, from kind, silly Aunt Rosie to the
best of all, a lonely window-cleaner who wrote books.

Pippinella brought her story right up to date, so then all it needed was
a happy ending. Fortunate as she considered herself in joining the
Dolittle household, she still longed to know what had become of her best
master, the kind window-cleaner, for after many adventures and many
happy days, they had been cruelly separated, and now she had no idea
whether he was alive or dead. So once again Doctor Dolittle put off
returning to his dear old home in Puddleby, to search for Pippinella's
friend.





CONTENTS

PART ONE

1 The Doctor Meets the Green Canary
2 The Inn of the Seven Seas
3 At the Marquis's Castle
4 The Rescue
5 The Midget Mascot
6 The Fortunes of War
7 The Coal-Mine
8 Aunt Rosie's House
9 The Old Windmill

PART TWO

1 The Green Canary Learns to Fly
2 Nippit, the Greenfinch
3 Ebony Island
4 Pippinella Finds a Clue
5 The Window-Cleaner at Last!
6 The Window-Cleaner's Adventures
7 The Ragged Tramp

PART THREE

1 The Canary Opera
2 The Green Parrot has a Clue
3 Cheapside Helps the Doctor
4 John Dolittle, M.D.
5 The Window-Cleaner Tells his Name
6 The Search for the Missing Papers
7 The Secret Hiding Place
8 The Thief Escapes
9 The Runaway Coach
10 The Papers Recovered--and Puddleby Again



FOREWORD

When my husband, Hugh Lofting, wrote and illustrated this story of
Pippinella, the green canary, for the New York Herald Tribune his
intention was some day to publish the material in book form. Towards
this end he wrote _Doctor Dolittle's Caravan_, in which the little
canary appeared as the prima donna of the Doctor's canary opera and
became a well-loved and established member of the Doctor's household.
However, by the time the _Caravan_ was ended, Mr Lofting found so much
of Pippinella's story still untold that he began to work on another book
to include all the exciting adventures which had befallen the Doctor's
little friend before she joined the caravan. He also found that he had
to tell the many readers, who wrote and requested further knowledge of
this unique little bird, how the Doctor and his family helped to bring
her tragic life story to a happy conclusion.

It was never finished. But so near had Mr Lofting come to doing so that
I felt I must find a way to do it for him. When my sister, Olga Michael,
whose inclination to write had been applauded and encouraged by my
husband, and who had helped him during the compiling of the new material
for Pippinella, offered to finish it, I and the publishers were
delighted.

And so, here it is; the completed story of the green canary with only a
brief first chapter to introduce the Doctor and his family to new
readers and a dramatic and exciting conclusion to round out the life of
the unusual little bird, Pippinella. I believe my husband would have
approved.


JOSEPHINE LOFTING


PART ONE

I
THE DOCTOR MEETS THE GREEN CANARY


THIS story of the further adventures of Pippinella, the green canary,
begins during the time of the Dolittle Circus. It will tell--in much
greater detail--the strange events which took place in the life of the
little bird before she came to live with John Dolittle.

Pippinella was a rare kind of canary which the Doctor had found in an
animal shop while taking a walk with Matthew Mugg, the Cats'-Meat-Man.
Thinking he had made a bad bargain because--as he thought--hen canaries
couldn't sing, he had been greatly astonished, on getting her back to
the caravan, to find she had a most unusual mezzo-contralto voice.

And what was more unusual still, she had travelled many thousands of
miles and lived a most varied and interesting life. When she had told
the Doctor some of the dramatic happenings which led up to her being
sold to the animal shop he interrupted her to say:

'You know, Pippinella, for many years now, I have wanted to do a series
of animal biographies. But, because most birds and animals have such
poor memories for details, I have never been able to get on to paper a
complete record of any one animal. However, you seem to be different--to
have the knack for remembering the proper things. You're a born
story-teller. Would you be willing to help me write your biography?'

'Why, certainly, Doctor,' replied Pippinella. 'When would you like to
begin?'

'Any time you feel rested enough,' said the Doctor. 'I'll have Too-Too
fetch some extra notebooks from the storage tent. How about tomorrow
evening after the circus is closed up for the night?'

'All right,' said the canary. 'I'll be harry to begin tomorrow. I _am_
rather tired tonight; this has been a most trying day. You know, Doctor
Dolittle, for a few moments this afternoon I was afraid you were going
to pass right by that dreadful shop and leave me there.'

'Indeed, I might have,' said John Dolittle, 'if your cage hadn't been
hanging in the window where I could see how disappointed you looked as I
began to move away.'

'Thank heaven you came back!' sighed Pippinella. 'I don't know how I
could have borne another moment in that dirty shop.'

'Well,' said the Doctor, 'that's all over now. I hope you'll be very
happy with us. We live quite simply here--as you can see. These animals
and birds I call my family, and--for the time being--this wagon is our
home. One day when we have had enough of circus life, you shall return
to Puddleby with us. There you will find life a great deal quieter--but
pleasant just the same.'

This conversation, which the Doctor had with the green canary, was all
carried on in the bird's own language. You will remember--from previous
stories about John Dolittle and his animal family--that he had learned,
many years before, to speak the language of animals and birds. This
unique ability had earned for him the friendship and loyalty of all
living creatures and had influenced him to change his doctoring of
humans to a busy life of caring for the illnesses and injuries of
animals, fish and birds.

While the Doctor was talking with the Pippinella about writing her
biography, the members of his household had withdrawn to a corner of the
wagon and were carrying on a lively discussion. Gub-Gub, the pig, as
well as Dab-Dab, the duck, Jip, the dog, and Too-Too, the owl, were
quite indignant that the Doctor should choose a newcomer to the group
for this great honour. Whitey, the white mouse, being more timid than
the others, just listened and thought about the idea. But Gub-Gub, the
most conceited of the lot, said that he was going to speak to the Doctor
about it.

So the next evening, when the family had gathered in the wagon to hear
the continuation of the canary's story, Gub-Gub cleared his throat
nervously and spoke up.

'I don't see why anyone would want to read the biography of a mere
canary,' he grumbled. 'My life is much more interesting. Why, the places
I've been! Africa, Asia, and the Fiji Islands. Not to mention the food
I've eaten. I'm a celebrity for that if for nothing else. Now, what can
a canary know about food--eating nothing but dried-up seeds and
bread-crumbs? And where could she go--cooped up in a cage most of her
life?'

'Food! Food! That's all you think about,' snapped Too-Too. 'I think it's
more important to be a good mathematician. Take me, for instance; I know
to the penny how much gold there is in the Bank of England!'

'I have a gold collar from a king,' said Jip. 'That's something!'

'I suppose it's nothing that I can make a bed so it's fit for decent
folk to sleep in!' snapped Dab-Dab. 'And who, I'd like to know, keeps
you all healthy and well fed. I think that's more important!'

Whitey just sat there and didn't say a word; he didn't really think his
life was interesting enough for a biography. When the Doctor looked at
him with a questioning expression on his face Whitey dropped his eyelids
and pretended to be asleep.

'Haven't _you_ anything to say, Whitey?' asked the Doctor.

'No, sir--I mean, yes!' said the white mouse timidly. 'I think the
biography of Pippinella will be very nice.'

'Well, let's get on with it, then,' said the Doctor. 'Please--if you're
ready--we are, Pippinella.'

The canary then told them how she was born in an aviary--a small one
where the man who bred canaries gave her special attention because of
her unusual voice; how she came to be such a rare shade of green because
her father was a lemon-yellow Harz Mountain canary and her mother a
greenfinch of very good family; and how she shared a nest with three
brothers and two sisters--until it was discovered that she was that rare
thing: a hen bird who sang as beautifully as a cock.

Pippinella explained that it was not true--that hens could not sing as
well as cocks. It was only that cocks did not encourage their womenfolk
to sing, saying that a woman's job was to care for and to feed the
young, and to make a home for her husband and children.

It was because of her beautiful voice that Pippinella finally acquired a
master who bought her and carried her off to a new home; an inn where
travellers from all over the world stopped on their way to the seaport
to eat and sleep the night.

After the canary had described the inn more fully the Doctor interrupted
her to ask:

'Pardon me, Pippinella. Could that have been the Inn on the road from
London to Liverpool?--I believe it is called _The Inn of The Seven
Seas_.'

'That's the one, Doctor,' answered the little bird. 'Have you been
there?'

'Indeed we have,' replied John Dolittle, 'several times.'

Gub-Gub jumped up so suddenly from his chair that he crashed into the
table where Pippinella sat telling her story and sent the water out of
the canary's drinking dish sloshing over the sides.

'I remember!' he cried. 'That's where the turnips were especially
good--done with a parsley sauce and a little dash of nutmeg.'

'If I'm not mistaken,' said Jip. 'I felt a perfectly good knuckle-bone
buried there. Cook gave it to me right after dinner and I planned to eat
it later. But the Doctor was in such a hurry to move on I hadn't a
moment to dig it up before we left.'

'I'll bet you wished many times that you had it, eh, Jip?' said Too-Too.
'But then, you must have had plenty of bones buried back at Puddleby.'

'Not more than three or four,' Jip replied. 'Those were lean days.'

'They would have been leaner if I'd not found that gold sovereign just
as we were leaving,' piped up Whitey.

'Gold sovereign?' asked the Doctor. 'You didn't tell me about it.
Whatever did you do with it, Whitey?'

Whitey looked confused and kept glancing from Dab-Dab back to the
Doctor. He wished he'd kept quiet about the sovereign.

Dab-Dab ruffled her feathers and made a clucking noise.

'He gave it to me. John Dolittle!' she said crossly. 'How do you think
we would have eaten at all after that scoundrel, Blossom, departed with
all the circus funds? You know our larder was empty, Doctor. Except for
about a tea-spoonful of tea and some mouldy tapioca.'

'But the sovereign didn't belong to you,' said the Doctor.

'It did--just as much as to anyone else,' said Whitey. 'It was lying in
the dust right smack between the hind feet of one of the coach horses.
And he was trampling and kicking up the dirt so that I could hardly keep
my eyes on it--good as they are.'

'No one but Whitey--with his microscopic eyes--would ever have seen it,'
said Dab-Dab. 'There was no point in running around asking stable-boys
and kitchen-maids if it belonged to them. Who could recognize a gold
sovereign as his? Anyway, it's spent now--that was almost a year ago.'

'Well, well,' sighed the doctor. 'I suppose it was all right. Shall we
get on with the story, Pippinella?'

'I was treated with great respect and admiration by the owner of the inn
and his wife and children,' continued the canary. 'And I made many
friends there. Everybody stopped to speak to me and listen to my
songs--it was very gratifying.

'The coming and going of coaches from all directions, and the busy,
cheerful people who worked for my master, inspired me with no end of
ideas for new songs. It was a wonderful place for composing!

'On nice days my master would hang my cage on a hook high up beside the
entrance to the inn. There I would greet the incoming guests with my
very best songs. One little verse I made up and set to music became very
popular with everyone who heard it. I called it "_Maids, come out, the
coach is here,_" and whenever I heard the sound of approaching horses
I'd sing it at the top of my lungs to announce to the stable-boys and
porters that another coach-load of travellers was nearing the inn.

'Among the people who came to be my friends was one named Jack, who
drove the night coach from the North. For him I composed a merry tune
called "_The Harness Jingle Song_". Old Jack would call out to me, as he
rolled his coach into the noisy courtyard, "Hulloa, there Pip! Hulloa!"
and I'd answer him by singing another verse of his song.'



2
THE INN OF THE SEVEN SEAS


AFTER a short pause in which the green canary seemed to be lost in
thought she continued her story.

'Besides the many friends that I made among the people in that place I
made lots more among the animals. I knew all the coach horses and I
would hail them by names as they came trotting into the yard. And dog
friends I had too: the watchdog who lived in a kennel by the gate and
several terriers who hung about the stables. They knew all the local
gossip of the town. There was a dovecote above the loft where they kept
the hay for the horses. And here carrier pigeons lived who were trained
to fly long distances with messages. And many were the interesting tales
that they could tell of an evening, when they sat on the gutters of the
roof or strutted about the yard beneath my cage, picking up the bits of
corn that had fallen from the horses' nosebags.

'Yes, as I look back over all the places I have been, that nice, busy
old inn seems as good a home as any cage bird could wish to find.

'I had been there, I suppose, about five months when, just as the
poplars were beginning to turn yellow, I noticed a peculiar thing: knots
of people used to gather in the yard of an evening and talk with
serious, worried faces. I listened to such conversations as were near
enough for me to hear. But although I knew by this time the meaning of a
great number of human words I couldn't make anything out of this talk.
It seemed to be mostly about what you call politics. There was an air of
restlessness. Everybody seemed to be expecting or fearing something.

'And then one day for the first time I saw soldiers. They came tramping
into the inn yard in the morning. They had heavy packs on their backs.
Evidently they had been marching all night, because many of them were so
weary that they sat down against the stable wall with their boots
covered with dust, and slept. They stayed with us till the following
day, eating their meals in the yard out of little tin dishes which they
took from the packs they had carried.

'Some of them had friends among the maids of the inn. And when they left
I noticed that two of the maids who waved to them from the dining-room
window were weeping. There was quite a crowd to see them go off. And
very smart they looked in their red coats, marching out of the gate in
rows of four with their guns on their shoulders and their packs on their
backs, stepping in time to the drummer's _rap--rap, rappatap, tap, tap!_

'Not many days after they had gone we had another new kind of
excitement, another army. But this one did not wear smart uniforms or
march to the beat of a drum. It was composed of ragged people,
wild-eyed, untidy and disorderly! They came scrambling into the inn
yard, shouting and waving sticks. A leader among them stood on an
upturned bucket and made them a speech. The owner of the inn begged the
leader to take them away. He was evidently very worried about having
them in his yard. But the leader wouldn't listen. When one speech was
finished another would begin. But what any of them was about I couldn't
make out.

'Finally the ragged mob drifted away of its own accord. And as soon as
the yard was clear the innkeeper shut and locked the gate so they
couldn't come back.

'I asked one of my pigeon friends what it all meant. He shook his head
seriously:

'"I don't quite know," he said. "Something's been going on for weeks
now. I hope it isn't war. Two of the carriers, the best flyers in the
dovecote, were taken away last Monday. We don't know where they went to.
But those two pigeons were used for carrying war messages before."

'"What is war?" I asked.

'"Oh, it's a messy, stupid business," he said. "Two sides wave flags
and beat drums and shoot one another dead. It always begins this way,
making speeches, talking, about rights, and all that sort of thing."

'"But what is it for? What do they get out of it?"

'"I don't know," he said. "To tell you the truth, I don't think they
know themselves. When I was young I carried war messages myself once.
But it never seemed to me that anyone, not even the generals, knew any
more of what it was all about than I did."'

Pippinella stopped in her story long enough to take a sip of water and
then went on again.

'That same week that the ragged people came to the inn to make speeches
we had still another unusual arrival. This was a frightfully elegant
private coach. It had a wonderful picture painted on the door, handles
and mountings of silver, outriders on fine horses to guard it, and
altogether it was the grandest equipage I had ever seen.

'On its first appearance way down the road I had started singing my
usual song, "_Maids, come out,_" and so forth. And I was still singing
when it came to a halt in the yard and a tall superior sort of gentleman
got out of it. The innkeeper was already on the steps, bowing low, and
porters were standing around to help the guest out and to attend to his
luggage. But strangely enough, the first thing that the elegant person
took any notice of was myself.

'"By Jove!" he said, putting a quizzing glass to his eye and sauntering
towards my cage. "What a marvellous singer! Is it a canary?"

'"Yes, my lord," said the host, coming forward, "a green canary."

'"I'll buy it from you," said the elegant gentleman. "Buckley, my
secretary, will pay you whatever the price is. Have it ready to travel
with me in the morning, please."

'I saw the innkeeper's face fall at this. For he was very much attached
to me and the idea of selling me, even for a big price, evidently did
not appeal to him. But this grand person was clearly someone whom he was
afraid to displease by refusing.

'"Very good, my lord," said he in a low voice, and he followed the
guest into the hotel.

'For my part I was greatly disturbed. Life here was very pleasant. I did
not wish to exchange it for something I knew nothing of. However, I had
been sold. There was nothing I could do about it. That is perhaps the
biggest disadvantage in being a cage bird: you're not allowed to choose
your own owner or home.

'Well, after they had gone inside the inn I was sitting on my perch
pondering rather miserably over this new turn of affairs, when along
came my chaffinch friend who nested in the yard.

'"Listen," I said. "Who is this haughty person who drove up in the
coach just now?"

'"Oh, that's the Marquis," said he. "A very big swell. He owns half the
country around here, mills, mines, farms and everything. He's
frightfully rich and powerful. Why do you ask?"

'"He has bought me," I said. "Just told the innkeeper to wrap me up,
like a pound of cheese or something--without even asking first if he
wanted to sell me."

'"Yes," said the chaffinch, nodding his head, "the Marquis is like
that. He takes it for granted that everybody will do what he wants--and
most people do, for that manner. He's awfully powerful. However, there
are some who think things are going to change. That meeting, you
remember, when the workmen and ragged people came here making speeches?
Well, that was mostly over him. He has put a whole lot of machinery into
the mills and mines, it seems. There has been a terrible lot of
grumbling and bad feeling over it. It is even widespread that the
Marquis's life is in danger all the time now."

'"Well," I said, "he won't get me to do what he wants. If he takes me
away from here I won't sing another note. So there!"

'"I don't see why you should grumble," he said. "You will have the most
elegant home. Why, he lives in a castle with over a hundred servants,
they say. I know he has a tremendous lot of gardeners myself, because
I've built my nest in his garden and I've seen them. If you ask me I
should say you are very lucky."

'"I don't care anything about his hundred servants," I said. "I don't
like his face. I want to live here with the host and his family and old
Jack and the other coach drivers. They are my friends. If the Marquis
takes me away I'll stop singing."

'"That's rather a joke," chuckled the chaffinch thoughtfully. "The
all-powerful Marquis getting defied by a cage bird. He got his way with
everybody till he met a canary who didn't like his face! Splendid! I
must go to tell that to the wife."

'Well, the next morning my cage was wrapped up while the children of the
family stood around weeping. I was ready to weep myself, too, to tell
the truth. After I was all covered up the youngest one broke a hole in
the top of my paper to say a last farewell to me. She dropped a couple
of large tears on my head, too. Then I felt myself being carried out
into the yard.

'And so, after weeks and months of watching people arrive and depart
from my inn, I, too, was to set forth by coach along the white road that
led away to the horizon. Whither was I going? What adventures were in
store for me? I fell to thinking of good old Jack. I wondered how his
cheery face would look as he swung into the gate this evening to find my
cage gone from the wall and no Pip to whistle "Thank you" for his lump
of sugar. Would he care very much, I asked myself. After all, to him I
was only a canary--not even his canary at that. Oh, well, I thought, as
the horses started forward with a jerk, it was no use being sentimental
over it, I would face the future with a stout heart.'



3
AT THE MARQUIS'S CASTLE


'IT was long journey. Sometimes I felt the coach going uphill, the
horses panting, slowed to a walk. At other times we descended into
valleys with the brakes creaking and groaning on the wheels. At last,
after about seven hours of driving, we came to a halt and I heard the
patter of hurrying feet. By the echoes I gathered that we had passed
into some kind of a courtyard or the stone portico to a big building. My
cage was taken out and carried up a long, long winding flight of stairs.

'At length, on the wrapping paper being taken off, I found myself in a
small, very beautifully furnished round room. There were two people in
it--the Marquis and a woman. The woman had a very nice face. She seemed
sort of scared of the Marquis.

'"Marjorie," said he, "I've brought you a present. This canary is a
magnificent singer."

'"Thank you Henry," said she. "It was very thoughtful of you."

'And that was all, I could see there was something wrong. Marjorie was
evidently the Marquis's wife. But after his being away from her for
several days that was all she said: "Thank you. It was very thoughtful
of you."

'After he had gone a cage was produced by the servants, the most elegant
thing in cages you ever saw. It was made of solid silver. It had perches
of carved ivory, food troughs of enamelled gold and a swing made of
mother-of-pearl. As I was changed into it I wondered what other birds
had lived in this gorgeous home and whether they had led happy lives.

'Well, after a few days at the castle I decided that I had not made such
a bad move after all. Fortune had again been kind. I was certainly
treated royally. My cage was cleaned out scrupulously every day. A piece
of apple was given me in the morning and a leaf of lettuce in the
evening. The quality of the seed was of the very best. I was given a
silver pannikin of warm water to bathe in every other day. And
altogether the care and service given me left nothing to be wished for.

'To all this, Marjorie, the Marquis's kind and gentle wife, herself
attended--although she evidently had any number of servants to wait on
her if she only rang the bell. I became very much attached to her. A
thing that bothered me a good deal was that she did a lot of secret
weeping. She was clearly very unhappy about something and I wondered
what it was. You remember I had sworn I wouldn't sing a note if I was
taken from the inn. And I didn't for over a week--much to the Marquis's
disgust. He was all for sending me back to the inn when he found out
that I hadn't sung since I had been in the castle. But his wife begged
him to let her keep me, and he consented. That night--later, I saw her
weeping again. And I felt so sorry for her that I suddenly started
singing at the top of my voice to see if I could cheer her up. And sure
enough she raised her head and smiled and came and talked to me. After
that I often sang to drive her tears away all the happy songs I knew,
like "_Maids, come out, the coach is here,_" and the jingling harness,
curry-comb song. But I wouldn't sing for the Marquis--not a note. And
whenever he came into the room, if I was in the middle of a song, I'd
stop at once.

'In that same small, round room I lived all the times I was at the
castle. It was apparently a special, letter-writing room, part of the
private apartments of the Marquis's wife--or the Marchioness, as she was
called. On warm days she would hang my cage on a nail outside the
window, and from there I had a wonderfully fine view of the grounds and
all the country for miles and miles around.

'One evening I got some idea of the thing--or one of the things--that
was wrong between the Marquis and his wife. They had a long argument. It
was all about the workmen in the mines and the mills. She wanted him to
be kinder to them and to keep more of them working. But he said that
with the new machinery he did not need even as many as he had. She told
him that a lot of workmen's wives and children were starving. He said
that wasn't his fault.

'Further, I gathered from this discussion that in one mine some distance
away the workmen who had been dismissed had come back in a crowd and
smashed the machines and wrecked the mine. Then soldiers had been called
in and many workers were shot and women left widows and children
orphans. The Marchioness begged her husband on her knees to stop this
kind of thing. He only laughed. The machines were bound to come, he
said, to take men's places and do more work. In all the mills and mines
throughout the country machinery was being put in and idle men were
opposing it. It was the march of time, he told her.

'After the Marquis had gone a letter came for the Marchioness. I could
see her getting terribly agitated as she read it. She called in a
trusted companion, sort of secretary she had, and told her all about it.
It was from a woman in one of the mill towns within the Marquis's lands.
It told of the awful distress in the homes of idle workmen, starving
children and what not. And that night the Marchioness dressed herself
like a working woman and stole out of the castle grounds by the little
orchard gate. I saw her from my window in the tower. With loaves of
bread and foodstuffs in a basket she went miles and miles on foot to
find the woman who had written the letter. When she came back it was
after two in the morning. And I, who had been left on my peg outside the
window all that time, was nearly frozen in the chill morning air. She
brought me in and wept over me when she discovered her forgetfulness.
But I quite understood--and, anyway, it was the only time she had ever
neglected me.

'Two days after that news came in that another factory had had its
machinery smashed. The Marquis was furious, though, as usual, he was
very quiet and dignified and cold even in his fury. He sent word for
more soldiers to protect the mines and factories. And it seems that the
same day that the soldiers arrived one of the sergeants got into a
quarrel with a workman. Before anybody knew what was happening a general
battle had begun between the troops and the workers. When it was over it
was found that one hundred and fifty workers had been killed.

'This caused a tremendous sensation and everybody was talking about it.
I heard the servants who swept the room saying that this was war--that
the Marquis had better look out. Powerful though he was he couldn't
shoot people down in crowds like dogs, they said. One maid there was who
used to bring trays up from the kitchen to the Marchioness's little
tower room. She had a brother among the workmen who had been killed. I
remember her going off in tears to help her sister-in-law, who now had
no husband. Many of the castle servants were for going with her, they
were so indignant. They were talking angrily around the weeping maid on
the front steps when suddenly the Marquis appeared from the garden. He
asked them what was all the noise about. And so great was the respect
and fear in which he was held that the group without a word melted away,
leaving the maid all alone. The Marquis gave her several guineas and
turned to go into the house. But the maid flung the money after him and
screamed:

'"I want my brother back, not your dirty money!"

'Then she fled, weeping, through the garden. It was the first time I had
seen the Marquis openly defied.

'After that,' Pippinella continued, 'feeling began to run high. From all
quarters came word that workmen were saying what they thought about the
big fight--or slaughter, as they called it. Nearly all those who were
employed to run machines went on strike out of sympathy for the
relatives of those who had been killed. That, of course, made matters
worse, because even more wives and families went hungry than before.

'One morning I was sitting in my cage beside the tower window, looking
out at the peaceful woods down below when I saw a man urging a panting
horse up the hill towards the castle as fast as he could go. The
Marchioness saw him also from the window and sent a maid down at once to
find out what news the man brought. The maid returned in a few minutes
in a great state of excitement and told her mistress that the whole
countryside was up in arms. Thousands of workers, some from towns miles
away, were marching towards the castle. The messenger had come to warn
the Marquis that his life was in danger. Word had been sent to the
soldiers, but no regiments were near enough to come to the rescue for
some hours yet. The workers had been joined by many farmers on the
Marquis's lands and now an army, thousands strong, was on its way here
bent on mischief and destruction.

'Hearing this the Marchioness ran downstairs at once to find her
husband. When she was gone I heard a very peculiar noise from beyond the
woods. It was a dull, low roar, coming nearer all the time, growing
louder and louder. Presently I saw the Marquis and his wife in the
garden at the foot of the tower. She was trying to persuade him to fly.
At first he refused. But soon, as the howling army of workmen drew
nearer, he consented and led the way towards the stables to get horses.
The Marchioness had not gone many steps before she evidently remembered
me. Because she stopped, pointed up at my cage and said something to her
husband. But he only took her by the wrist and dragged her on towards
the stables. She looked back several times but the Marquis wouldn't let
her linger. Presently they disappeared from view around the hedge and
that was the last I ever saw of either of them.

'When finally the workmen came in sight they were certainly a strange
army to behold. You never saw such a ragged, half-starved, wild-looking
lot. At first they were afraid they might be fired on from the
battlements and windows. And they approached cautiously, keeping within
the cover of the woods.

'When the workmen saw there was no danger they gathered in hundreds and
thousands in front of the castle, howling and swearing and singing
songs, waving hammers and pitchforks. Some of the servants came out to
join them. But the butler, an old, old man, who had the keys, was
determined to defend his master's property to the last. He locked the
doors and barred the windows and would let no one in.

'But the leader of the workmen sent for a heavy beam. And with this as a
battering-ram they soon beat in the main door, drove the old butler out
and had the place to themselves.

'Then a crazy feast of destruction began. Bottles and barrels of wine
were hauled up from the cellar, opened on the lawn and drunk by the
workmen. Costly silks, hangings, clocks and furniture were thrown from
the windows. Anything of value that wasn't smashed was stolen. They
didn't come up the tower stairs as high as my room, but I could hear
them in the rooms below me, laughing and roaring and breaking things
with hammers.

'Looking downwards into the castle forecourt again I saw the leader
calling to everyone to leave the buildings. I heard the men in the rooms
below mine go clattering down the stairs. Soon I was the only one left
in the castle. I wondered what this new move meant. When they were all
gathered about him outside I saw the leader raise his hand for silence.
He was going to tell them something. As the crazy mob grew quiet I
strained my ears to catch his words. I heard them. And they almost made
my heart stand still. For he was ordering them to bring straw from the
stables and oil from the cellars. They were going to set the castle on
fire!'

It was now quite late--long after midnight--and Pippinella's story still
seemed far from being finished. The Doctor was by this time so
thoroughly absorbed and interested that it is not likely he would have
thought of the time at all had not the sudden neighing of one of the
horses from the nearby stables reminded him that the circus must open to
the public at ten o'clock, as usual, tomorrow morning, and that he must
be up to see it upon. So, in spite of the protests of Gub-Gub (who
dearly loved, you will remember, any excuse for staying up late), the
green canary was put in her cage and the Dolittle family circle was
packed off to bed. But this was not done before a promise had been
obtained from the Doctor that, without fail, the story should be
continued the following evening.



4
THE RESCUE


The following evening, after the crowds had left the circus enclosure
and the sideshows had been closed up and everything put in shipshape for
the night, Too-Too went over the accounts with the Doctor before supper,
instead of after, so as to leave the evening free for the continuation
of Pippinella's story. And as soon as Dab-Dab had cleared away the
supper things the door of the little green canary's cage was opened and
she flew down on to the table and took her seat on the Doctor's tobacco
box.

'All right,' said John Dolittle, opening his notebook and taking a
pencil from his pocket. 'As soon as you are ready--'

'Just a minute,' said Gub-Gub. 'My chair's too low, I must get a
cushion. I don't listen well when I'm not sitting high.'

'Fussbox!' snorted Dab-Dab.

'Well,' Pippinella began, 'you can imagine how I felt--or rather you
can't imagine it. No one could without bearing in my shoes. I really
thought my last hour had come. I watched the crowd below in fascinated
horror. I saw groups of men running between the front entrance of the
castle and the stable, bearing bales of straw. These they piled against
the great oak door, and some more inside the main hall, all along the
wooden panelling that ran around the room. Then they brought up from the
cellar jugs of oil, cans of oil, barrels of oil. They soaked the straw
with this and threw more of it over the long curtains that were floating
from the open windows in front of the castle.

'Then I saw the leader going around, getting all his men out of the
building before he set fire to it. He sent some off singly down into the
woods--to be on the lookout for anyone's approach, I suppose. He was
probably afraid of the soldier's coming. For a moment there was a
strange awed silence while the match was being put to the straw. It was
clear that they all realized the seriousness of the crime they were
committing. But as the bonfire flared up, sudden and bright, within the
hall, a fiendish roar of delight broke from the ragged crew. And,
joining hands in a great ring, they danced a wild jig around the burning
home of the man they hated.

'What horses were left in the stables had been taken out and tethered in
safety among the trees some distance away. Even the Marquis's dogs, a
Russian wolf-hound and a King Charles spaniel, had been rescued and led
out before the straw was lit. I alone had been overlooked. After the
flame had taken well hold of the great oak doors and fire and smoke
barred all admittance, some of the men at last caught sight of me, high
up on the tower wall. For I saw several pointing up. But if they had
wanted to save me then it was too late. The panelling, the doors, the
floors, the stairs, everything of wood in the lower part of the building
was now a seething, roaring mass of flame.

'Waves of hot air, clouds of choking smoke, flurries of burning sparks
swirled upwards around my silver cage. The smoke was the worst. At first
I thought I would surely be suffocated long before I was burned.

'But luckily, soon after the fire started a fitful breeze began. And
every once in a while, when I thought I had reached my last gasp, the
wind would sweep the rising smoke away to the side and give me a chance
to breathe again.

'I pecked and tugged at the bars of my cage. Although I knew there
wasn't the least possibility of my getting out, like a drowning man I
still hoped that a lucky chance would show me something loose or weak
enough to bend or break. But soon I saw I was merely wasting my strength
in struggling. Then I started calling to whatever wild birds I saw
flying in the neighbourhood. But the swirling smoke terrified them so
they were afraid to venture close. And, even if they had, I doubt if
there would have been anything they could have done to help me.

'From my position I could see inside the tower through the open window,
as well as down on to the woods and all around outside. And presently,
as I peered into the room, wondering if any help could come from that
quarter, I saw a mouse run out into the middle of the floor in a great
state of excitement.

'"Where's the smoke coming from?" she cried. "What's burning?"

'"The castle's on fire," I said. "Come up here and see if you can gnaw a
hole through this cage of mine. I'm going to be roasted if somebody
doesn't let me out."

'"What do you think I am," she said, "a pair of pliers or a file? I
can't eat through silver. Besides I've got a family of five children
down in my hole under the floor. I must look after them."

'She ran to the door, muttering to herself, and disappeared down the
winding stair. In a minute she was back again.

'"I can't take them that way," she said. "Below the third landing the
whole staircase is burning."

'She sprang up on to the window-sill. It's funny how little details, in
moments of great distress, stick in your mind. I remember exactly how
she looked, not six inches from the wall of my cage, this tiny creature
gazing over the lip of the stone window-sill, down from that tremendous
height into the garden and the tree-tops far below. Her whiskers
trembled and her nose twitched at the end. She wasn't concerned about
me, shut up and powerless to escape--though goodness knows she had
stolen my food often enough. All she was thinking of was those wretched
little brats of hers in the nest beneath the floor.

'"Bother it!" the mouse muttered. "What a distance. Well, it's the only
chance. I might as well begin."

'And she turned around, sprang down into the room, shot across the floor
and disappeared into her hole. She wasn't gone more than a moment. When
she showed up again she had a scrubby little pink baby in her mouth,
without any fur on it yet and eyes still closed. It looked like a pig
the size of a bean. She came to the edge of the sill and without the
least hesitation started out on the face of the wall, scrambling her way
along the mortar cracks between the stones. You'd think it would be
impossible even for a mouse to make its way down the outside of a high
tower like that. But the weather and rain had worn the joints deep in
most places; and they have a wonderful way of clinging, have mice.

'I watched her get two-thirds of the way down, and then the heat and
smoke of the fire below were too much for her. I saw her looking across
at the tree, whose topmost boughs came close to the tower. She measured
the distance with her eye. And, still clutching her scrubby youngster in
her teeth, she leapt. She just caught the endmost leaves with her claws.
And the slender limb swayed gently downwards with her weight. Then she
scuttled along the bough, reached the trunk, dumped her child in some
crack or crevice and started back to fetch the rest.

'That mouse, to get her five children singly over that long trip, had a
terrible lot of hard work ahead of her. As I watched her scrambling
laboriously up the tower again, disappearing in and out of the mortar
cracks, an idea came to me. And when she regained the window-sill I said
to her:

'"You've got four more to carry down. And the fire is creeping higher up
the stairs every minute. If I was out of my cage I could fly down with
them in a tenth of the time you'd take. Why don't you try to set me
free?"

'I saw her glance up at me shrewdly with her little beady eyes.

'"I don't trust canaries," she said after a moment. "And in any case
there's no place in that cage that I could bite through."

'And she ran off to her hole for another load.

'She was back even quicker than the first time.

'"It's getting hot under the floor," she said. "And the smoke is already
drifting through the joints. I think I'll bring all the children out on
to the sill, so that they won't suffocate."

'And she went and fetched the remainder of her precious family and laid
them side by side on the stone beside my cage. Then, taking one at a
time, she started off to carry them to safety. Four times I saw her
descend that giddy zigzag trail of hers into the welter of smoke and
sparks that seethed, denser and blacker every minute, about the base of
the tower. And four more times she made that leap from the sheer face of
the stonework, with a baby in her mouth, across the tips of the tree
boughs. The leaves of these were now blackened and scorched with the
high-reaching fire. On the third trip I saw that mouse actually jump
through tongues of flames. But still she came back for the fourth. As
she reached the still for the last load she was staggering and weak and
I could see that her fur and whiskers had been singed.

'It was not many minutes after she had gone for good that I heard a
tremendous crash inside the tower and a shower of sparks came up into
the little round room. The long spiral staircase, or part of it, had
fallen down. Its lower supports had been burnt away below. I sometimes
think that that was the thing that saved me as much as anything else.
Because it cut off my little room at the top from the burning woodwork
lower down. If the fire had ever reached that room I would have been
gone for sure. For, although my cage was in the open air outside, it was
much too close to the edge of the window to be safe. Below me I could
now see flames pouring out of the windows, just as though they were
furnace chimneys.

'I saw the leader of the workmen shout to his men to keep well back from
the walls. They evidently expected the whole tower soon to crumble and
fall down. That would mean the end for me, of course, because I would
almost certainly fall right into the middle of the fire raging on the
lower floors.

'In answer to their leader's orders the men were moving off among the
trees, when I noticed that some new excitement had caught their
attention. They began talking and calling to one another and pointing
down the hill towards the foot of the woods. With the noise of the
roaring fire I could hear neither what they said nor what it was they
were so concerned about. Soon a sort of general panic broke out among
them. For, gathering up what stolen goods they could carry, they
scattered away from the castle, looking backwards over their shoulders
towards the woods as they ran. In two minutes there wasn't one of them
left in sight. The mouse had gone. The men had gone. I was alone with
the fire.

'And then suddenly, in a lull in the roaring of the flames, I heard a
sound that brought hope back into my despairing heart. It was the
_rap-rap-rap, rap-a-tap, tap, tap_ of a drum.

'I sprang to my perch and craned my neck to look out over the woods. And
there, winding towards me, up the road, far, far off, like a thin red
ribbon, were soldiers marching in fours!

'By the time the soldiers reached the castle the smoke coming up from
below was so bad that I could see only occasionally with any clearness
at all. I was now gasping and choking for breath and felt very dizzy in
the head. I managed to make out, however, that the officer in charge was
dividing his men into two parties. One, which he took command of
himself, went off in pursuit of the workmen. The other was left behind
to put out the fire. But the castle, of course, was entirely ruined.
Shortly after they arrived one of the side walls of the main hall fell
in with a crash and a large part of the roof came down with it. Yet my
tower still stood.

'There was a large fish pond not far from the front door. And the
soldiers got a lot of buckets from the stables and formed a chain,
handing the water up to some of their companions, who threw it on the
fire.

'Almost immediately the heat and smoke rising around my cage began to
lessen. But, of course, it took hours of this bucket work to get the
fire really under control.

'The officer with the other party returned. He had caught no one. Some
of his men held the horses which they had found tied among the trees.
These and some provisions in the cellars and a few small outhouses were
all of that magnificent property to be saved. And it had been one of the
finest castles in the country, famous for its beauty the world over.

'The officer, seeing there was nothing more he could do, now left a
sergeant in charge and, taking one of the soldiers with him, went back
down the road leading through the woods. The rest continued with the
work of fighting the fire and making sure that it did not break out
again.

'As soon as my ears had caught the cheerful beating of that drum I had
started singing. But on account of the smoke my song had been little
more than coughs and splutters. Now, however, with the air cleared, I
opened my throat and let go for all I was worth, "_Maids, come out, the
coach is here_." And the old sergeant, who was superintending the
soldiers' work, lifted his head and listened. He couldn't make out where
the sound was coming from. But presently he caught sight of my cage,
way, way up at the top of the blackened tower.

'"By Jove, boys!" I heard him cry.--"A canary! The sole survivor of the
garrison. Let's get him for good luck."

'But getting me was no easy matter. Piles of fallen stonework now
covered every entrance. Then they searched the stables for a ladder.
They found one long enough to reach the lowest of the tower windows. But
the soldier who scaled up it called down to his companions that the
staircase inside was one and he could get no higher. Nevertheless, the
old sergeant was determined to get me.

'The sergeant was convinced that I, who had come through such a fire and
could still sing songs, would bring luck to any regiment. And he swore a
tremendous oath that he would get me down or break his neck. Then he
went back to the stable and got some ropes and himself ascended the
ladder to the bottom window of the tower. By throwing the rope over
broken beams and other bits of ruined woodwork that still remained
within, he hauled himself upwards little by little. And finally I saw
his funny face appear through the hole in the floor of my room where the
staircase had been. He had a terrible scar across his cheek from an old
wound, I suppose. But it was a nice face, for all that.

'"Hulloa, my lad!" said he, hoisting himself into the room and coming to
the window. "So you're the only one who stood by the castle, eh? By the
hinges of hell, you're a real soldier, you are! You come and join the
Fusiliers, Dick. And we'll make you the mascot of the regiment."

'As my rescuer stuck his head out of the window to lift my cage off its
nail his companions down below sent up a cheer. He fastened his rope to
the silver ring of the cage and started to lower me down the outside of
the tower. I descended slowly, swinging like the pendulum of some great
clock from that enormous height. And finally I landed safe on solid
earth in the midst of a crowd of cheering soldiers.

'And that is how another chapter in my life ended--and still another
began.'



5
THE MIDGET MASCOT


'AND thus I became a soldier--the Mascot of the Fusiliers. There are not
many canaries who can boast of that--that they have travelled with the
troops, taken part in battles and skirmishes and led a regular military
life.'

'Well, I've led a sailor's life.' said Gub-Gub--'sailed all around the
world, and without getting seasick, too.'

'Never mind that, now,' said the Doctor, 'Let Pippinella get on with her
story.'

'Those soldiers,' the canary continued, 'had no love for the Marquis.
They had been ordered to come to the rescue of his home and they had
obeyed. But their hearts were more with the workers in this struggle.
And I think they must have known that he was already dead when they
arrived at the castle, or they would never have dared to take me just
the way they did. As a matter of fact, he had been killed outside the
next town. The Marchioness, who had always been so kind to the poor, of
course was not molested. But the whole thing saddened her dreadfully and
she went abroad immediately and remained there the rest of her days.

'My beautiful silver cage was sold by one of the soldiers (they were
afraid to keep it, of course, lest it be recognized as the Marquis's
property) and I was changed into a plain one of wood. That old sergeant
with the funny scarred face took me under his own particular care and
protection. He had my new wooden cage enamelled red, white and blue. The
crest of the regiment was painted on the side and ribbons were hung on
the corners to make it even still gayer.

'Well--it's funny--those men were convinced that I bore a charmed life.
The story of how they found me singing in the burning castle was told
over and over and over again. And each time it was retold an extra bit
was added on to it to make it just a little more wonderful. I came to be
regarded with an almost sacred importance. It was believed that nothing
could kill me, and that so long as I was with the Fusiliers the regiment
must have good luck. I remember once, when I was ill--just an ordinary
case of colic, you know, nothing serious--those soldiers stood around my
cage in droves for hours on end, with the most woebegone expression in
their faces you ever saw. They were terrified, terrified that I was
going to die. And when I finally got well and started to sing again they
cheered and bellowed songs the whole night through to celebrate my
recovery.

'Once in a skirmish two bullets went right through my cage, one smashing
my water-pot, the other carrying away the very perch I was standing on.
When the fight was over and this was discovered, my cage was handed
round the whole regiment, to show everybody the proof (as they thought
it) that I did indeed have a charmed life and could not be killed. Those
funny, funny men spoke in whispers, almost as though they were in
church, as they took my cage in their horny hands and gazed with
reverent wonder at the smashed perch, the broken water-pot and me hoping
around unharmed.

'That night they went through the ceremony of giving me a medal for
distinguished conduct under fire. A whole platoon of them lined up and
presented arms while my old sergeant hung the decoration on the corner
of my cage. The next day the commanding officer got to hear of it and I
was sent for and carried to the officer's mess, where everything was
very grand and elegant. The colonel and the major and the adjutant
listened while the old sergeant recited the record of my military
career. But when they asked him where he had got me from he suddenly
blushed and became all embarrassed. Finally he blurted out the truth and
told them of my rescue from the fire. The colonel frowned and said
something about looting. But finally he agreed to let the man keep me
till he had written to the Marchioness and got her consent--which later
she willingly gave. Then the adjutant pointed to the medal hanging on my
cage and they all laughed. The major said that even if I'd begun by
being stolen I was surely the only canary who ever had been decorated
for distinguished conduct under fire and that any regiment ought to be
proud to claim me as a mascot.

'Well, it was a funny life, the army. I had always thought that if you
were a soldier of course you spent most of your time fighting. I was
astonished to find that you don't. You spend the greater part of it
polishing buttons. Polishing with the military is a perfect passion. If
it isn't buttons, it's belt buckles or bayonets or gun barrels or shoes.
Even on my cage they found something to polish. A small drummer boy was
given the job of shining up the little brass feet on the bottom of it
every morning--and a great nuisance he was shaking and joggling me all
over the place when I wanted to get my breakfast in peace.

'I used to love the marching and I always had a real thrill when I heard
the bugler blowing the fall-in, for it often meant that we were moving
off to new scenes and new adventures. I used to travel with the baggage
cart that carried the cooking implements and other paraphernalia in the
rear. And as they always put my age on the top of everything I was quite
high up and in a splendid position to see all there was to be seen.

'The men used to sing songs to cheer themselves upon long, tiresome
marches. And I, too, made up a marching song of my own and sang it
always when I saw them getting tired and hot and weary.

Oh, I'm the Midget Mascot, I'm a feathered Fusilier, it began. And then
I put a lot of twiddly bits, trills, cadenzas and runs, to imitate the
piping of the drum and fife band. It was one of the best musical
compositions I ever did. There was a real military swing to it and it
had four hundred and twenty-five verses, so as to last through a good,
long march. The men loved it. And as I watched them trudging down the
road ahead of me I again felt that I was taking an active part, even
though a small one, in the lives of men.

'War at its best is a silly, stupid business. And this form of
soldiering that my companions were engaged in was a particularly
disagreeable one. For at this time they were not fighting with a foreign
enemy. The machinery riots of which I have already spoken had spread all
over that part of the country. And the Fusiliers, and several other
regiments, too, were kept busy these days going from town to town to
suppress lawlessness and the mob violence of striking workmen.

'Shortly after I joined the Fusiliers our regiment was ordered to
proceed at once to an outbreak in a region to the North and we started
off. At inns and villages along the road we were told that one of the
factory towns at which we would shortly arrive was entirely in the hands
of the rioting workers. They had heard of our coming and were preparing
to give us a hot reception. But it was lucky for us that the town was
not a walled or fortified one. Weak places were found where our soldiers
could slip in among the houses. And immediately they had gained the
streets, they doubled around and came back upon the gunners unawares
from the inside. In less than an hour after the fight began more than
half of the guns had been captured in this way, and the rest were still
shooting cannon balls harmlessly across the fields at cows and dogs and
bushes which they mistook for skirmishing infantry in the distance. The
crews of these captured guns usually escaped. For the soldiers, who were
doing their work with as little slaughter as possible, let them go
without firing at them whenever they did not actually stand and fight.

'When the battle was over it was discovered that nearly all the fighting
workmen had retired to a big mine in the western half of the town. In
the buildings of this and in a large factory alongside it they were
going to make a last stand against the soldiers and die rather than be
captured. But it didn't work out that way. When my Fusiliers were
ordered to fire on the buildings they deliberately aimed the guns so
that the cannon balls whistled harmlessly over the roofs. Again and
again this was repeated until the general was livid with rage.

'By this time the workers inside the buildings, watching through
loop-holes, had realized that the soldier were inclined to side with
them. And while the general broke out into another tirade and confusion
reigned, they suddenly opened the doors of the buildings and rushed
forward towards the square at top speed.

'Well, in the end my gallant Fusiliers were defeated by a crowd of
ragged workmen, half of them without arms of any kind. But of course
they wanted to be defeated. Rather than be compelled to fire canons on
unfortified buildings full of their fellow countrymen they were quite
willing for once in their lives to be taken prisoners. I heard
afterwards that they were sent abroad to more regular warlike fighting,
where there would be no danger of their sympathizing with the enemy.

'In the meantime the baggage wagon on which my cage was tied was treated
as the booty of war. And I suddenly found myself taken over by a couple
of very dirty men and trundled out of the square, down some winding
streets that seemed to be leading into the workmen's quarters of the
town.

'My short but brilliant military career was over.'

As Pippinella came to the end of this part of her story Dab-Dab began to
bustle around busily making preparations for bed. Although she enjoyed
every word of the canary's account of her life, Dab-Dab was the
practical one. She had to keep an eye on the Doctor and his family else
they would sit up the whole night.

'Time for bed!' she said firmly. 'Tomorrow's another day--and a busy
one.'

Then the Doctor and his family began tucking themselves away for the
night. Too-Too perched high on a shelf in a dark corner of the caravan,
Whitey curled up in the pocket of an old jacket which belonged to the
Doctor, and Jip lay on a mat folded under the Doctor's bed.

Pippinella, of course, returned to her cage which hung on a hook near
the window of the wagon; and Dab-Dab, after seeing that everyone was
comfortable and that the lights were out, waddled off to a small
nest-like bed the Doctor had made out of an empty wooden crate.

'I'm hungry!' wailed Gub-Gub from his place beside the vegetable bin.
'These turnips smell so good it keeps me awake.'

'Sh-sh-sh!' whispered Dab-Dab. 'There'll be no eating here until
morning!'



6
THE FORTUNES OF WAR


'MY captors were evidently in a hurry,' began Pippinella the next
evening when the Doctor and his animals had settled themselves to hear
the continuation of her story. 'The baggage wagon was pushed over the
jolting, cobbly streets on the run. It was growing dark, and I could not
see whither I was being carried. The horses had been removed from the
shafts and taken somewhere else.

'I think that these men who ran off with the regimental cart must have
thought that it contained food. Because when they came to a quiet corner
of the street they stopped and felt through the inside of it. I heard
them cursing in the dark when their groping hands touched nothing but
pots and pans and spare harness. And after they had put me back and
hurried on I saw their faces in the glimmer of a street lamp, and the
poor fellows looked dreadfully pinched and thin.

'I then supposed that their intention was to sell me and the wagon to
get money to buy food with. And I was right. After they had gone a
little further we turned into a narrow alley, passed under an archway
and came into a big, big hall. It seemed to be some kind of factory
workshop and the place was jammed with workers. It was dimly lighted
with only a few candles and sputtering torches. The men were gathered in
groups, talking in low voices, with their heads together. When my
fellows pushed open the doors and entered all the whispering ceased. The
crowd turned and glared at us.

'As soon as we were admitted the door was carefully locked and barred.
And then I noticed that all the windows were covered with wooden
shutters, so that the lights could not be seen from outside. And all of
a sudden its dawned on me that I had been brought to the mine, or the
big factory alongside of it, and that this was one of the buildings that
the general had commanded the Fusiliers to bombard. I began to wonder
how long it would be before he would have other troops brought to the
town who would not hesitate to fire cannon-balls into crowded factories.

'As soon as the barring of the door had been attended to the men
thronged around my little cart and started to claw through it to see
what it contained. Suddenly a big man, who seemed to be a leader,
ordered them in a rough voice to leave it alone. They fell back,
evidently much afraid of him. Something in the man's face struck me as
familiar and I began to cudgel my brain to think where I had seen him
before. And then in a flash I remembered: it was the same man who had
led the workers in their attack on the Marquis's castle.

'He went through the cart himself and told the disappointed crowd that
it contained no food.

'"Then let's sell it and buy some,'" cried the man.

'But as it clearly would not bring enough to buy food for all of them,
it was finally agreed that lots should be drawn and that the winner
should get the cart.

'"And what about the canary?" called on. "Likely a man could get as much
for him as for the old truck and all the pans put together."

'"All right," said the leader. "Then draw lots for the bird separate.
We'll put two marked papers in the hat--one for the cart and one for the
canary. The first winner gets his choice; the second gets what's left,
and the rest get nothing."

'"Aye, Aye!" called the crowd. "That's fair enough."

'"Sh!" hissed the leader. "Not so loud! How do we know who's sneaking
around outside? I don't trust them bloomin' Fusiliers--even though they
did give in so easy. Talk low, talk low!"

'So my next experience as to have a lot of ragged workers draw lots for
me. As I saw them crowding around the hat that contained bits of paper I
wondered which of them I would fall to. Some of them looked hungry and
wild enough to cook me and eat me. The prospects for the future were no
pleasing.

'One by one they began picking out their bits of paper. Five, ten,
fifteen opened them--and with a grunt of disgust flung them on the
floor. It seemed to be taking hours, but of course it was really only
minutes.

'At length a cry announced that a lucky ticket had been drawn. The owner
brought it, smiling, to the leader and showed a rough cross in pencil on
it.

'"Well, that gives you the first choice," said the big man. "Which are
you going to take, the cart or the canary?"

'The man, a thin fellow with a limp, looked from the wagon to me and
back to the wagon again, I didn't like his face.

'"The cart," he said at last, to my great delight.

'Another cry. A second lucky ticket had been drawn. I craned my neck to
peer over the crowd and get a glimpse of the man's face. I finally saw
him and my heart lifted. Although his cheeks were lined and gaunt with
hunger it was a kind face.

'"The canary's yours," said the big man, handing him my cage. "And
that's the end of the show."

'The winner took my cage in his hands and left the building. The
question of food interested us both at this point more than anything
else. Heaven only knows how long he had been going on half rations or
less, and I had had no seed or water all day. As we went along I saw
lots of autumn seed on weeds and wild flowers that would have made good
eating for me--if only I could get at it. He, of course, not knowing
what wild seeds are edible for canaries, couldn't help me. He did,
however, stop by a stream and fill my water-bowl for me, which I was
very glad of. And later he found some groundsel growing among the
standing corn, and that, too, he gave me. I still felt hungry, but far
less so than I had been.

'After he had come near to a farmhouse he hid my cage under a hedge and
went forward to the door to ask for food for himself. Evidently the
farmer's wife took pity on his haggard and hungry looks and gave him a
good, square meal of bread and cold meat. He brought back a small crust
when he came to fetch me and stuck it into the bars of my cage. It was
good home-made bread and I could have eaten two more of the same size.

'So, both of us fortified with food, we set out to do the ten miles to
the mining town that we eventually reached. It was a pleasant, sunny
morning. And something of the sadness with which the grim night had
weighed me down left my spirits as the man strode forward in the fresh
early air, with my cage beneath his arm. He, too, seemed in cheerier
mood. We were now upon a main highway running North and South. Wagons
and carriages passed us occasionally, going either way. I hoped that one
of these would offer us a lift, because travelling in a cage under a
man's arm is not the most comfortable kind of journeying by a great
deal. And, sure enough, after we had tramped along for about half an
hour, the driver of a covered cart--a sort of general grocer's
wagon--stopped and asked if we would like a lift. He was evidently going
to the town we were bound for and I was delighted when my man put me in
the back among the groceries and got up himself beside the driver.

'As it happened, my cage had been placed right next to a picket of
oatmeal. I smelled it through the paper bag. It didn't take more than a
moment for me to peck a hole through the covering, and I helped myself
to a thimbleful of the grocer's wares. I felt rather mean doing it to
the man who was giving us a free ride. But it was only a very little I
took--not enough for anyone to miss--and I hadn't tasted food except for
the crumb of bread for over twenty-four hours.

'My man chatted with the grocer as we drove. I gathered from the
conversation that he had a brother, who was also a miner at this town we
were coming to. Apparently it was his intention to stay at his house, if
there was room, till he got a job in the mines.

'If I had known,' Pippinella continued in rather a sadly reminiscent
voice, 'what sort of life I was coming to I wouldn't have been half as
cheerful over that journey in spite of the nice, fresh morning. I had
for some time now been among miners. But I didn't yet know anything what
ever of their homes, their lives or their work.'



7
THE COAL-MINE


'THE first impression that I got of the town as we approached it was
anything but encouraging. As I have said, there had been no rioting here
and work was proceeding as usual. For more than a mile outside all the
grass and trees seemed sick and dirty. The sky over the town was murky
with smoke from the tall chimneys and foundries and factories. In every
spare piece of ground, instead of a statue or a fountain or a garden,
there was a messy pile of cinders, scrap iron, or furnace slag. I
wondered why men did this; it did not seem to me that all the coal and
all the steel in the world was worth it--ruining the landscape in this
way.

'And they didn't seem any happier for it. I looked at their faces as we
passed them, trudging down the streets to work in the early morning.
Their clothes were all black and sooty, their faces pale and cheerless.
They carried little tin boxes which contained their lunches, to be eaten
in the mines or at the factory benches.

'In the middle of the town my man got down from the cart, took me out
and thanked the driver for his ride. Then he went off through some
narrow streets, where all the houses seemed alike--plain, ugly red
brick--and finally knocked on a door.

'A pale-faced untidy woman answered it, with three dirty children
clinging to her skirts. She greeted him and invited him to come in. We
passed to the back of the house into a small kitchen. The whole place
smelled terribly of stale cooking. The woman went on with washing some
clothes, at which she had evidently been interrupted, and the man sat
down and talked with her. In the meantime the children poked their jammy
fingers through the bars of my cage, which had been placed upon the
table among a lot of dirty dishes. I was afraid they were going to upset
it while the man was busy talking, so I pecked one on the hand, just
slightly, to warm him to be careful. He immediately burst into howls.
Then my cage was taken and hung up in the window, where I got an elegant
view of two dust-bins and a brick wall.

'"Good Lord," I thought to myself, "is this what I've come to? Such a
home! What a life!"

'In the evening the brother returned from work, covered with coal grit,
tired and weary. He washed his face in the kitchen sink while the
newcomer told him how he had left his own town and journeyed hither,
seeking work. The brother said he would speak to the foreman and try to
get him a job in the same mine he worked in.

'Then they had supper. Ordinarily the cheerful noise of knives and forks
and dishes would have made me sing. It always did in the castle, when
the marchioness took her meals with me in the little tower room. And so
it did with the soldiers when they all sat around my baggage cart and
rattled their dishes and ate stew with a hissing noise like horses. But
somehow, here in this squalid, smelly room, among these tired, dirty
people, I just couldn't sing. I felt almost as though I'd never be able
to sing again.

'And after the woman had put some broken rice and breadcrumbs into my
seed-trough I ate a little, put my head under my wing to shut out the
picture of that wretched room and miserably went to sleep.

'Well, my man got his job. And two days later he started out with his
brother to go to work in the morning; and he returned with him in the
evening. And, supposing that I was going to be here for some time I
tried to settle down and take an interest in the household and in the
family. But I found it very hard work. Their conversation was so dull,
what there was of it. In the morning the men got up, leaving only time
enough to gobble their breakfast and rush off to work. In the evening
the poor fellows were so tired that they went to bed almost immediately
supper was over. And in between all I had to listen to was the children
bawling and the woman scolding them.

'Many a time I'd say to myself, "Look here, my girl, this won't do. You
must cheer up. Laugh at your troubles and sing a song."

'And then I'd throw my head back and try to fool myself that I was out
in the green woods, all merry and bright. But before I'd sing more than
two notes one of the brats would start crying or the harassed mother
would interrupt with some complaint. It was no use. I just couldn't sing
in that house.

'After I'd been there a week I gathered from the conversation of the men
one evening that I was going to be taken somewhere the following day. I
was delighted. For I thought to myself that, no matter where it was, the
change couldn't be for the worse.

'But I was wrong. Where do you suppose I was taken? You could never
guess. I was taken down into the coal-mine. I didn't know at the time
that it was customary to keep canaries in coal-mines. It seems that
there is a very dangerous kind of gas, called coal damp, that sometimes
comes out underground and kills the men working there if they are not
warned in time to escape. The idea of having canaries down there is,
apparently, that the birds being higher up than the men--hung on the
walls of the passages--will get the gas first. Then if the birds start
to suffocate the men are warned that it is time to get out of the mine.
While the canaries are lively and hopping about they know it's all
right.

'Well, I had never seen the inside of a coal-mine before. And I hope I
never will again. Of all the dreadful places to work and live I think
that must be the worst. My cage was taken by my owner and his brother
the next morning, and he walked a good mile before we came to the mouth
of the pit. Then we got into a sort of a big box with a rope to it. And
wheels began to turn and we went down and down and down and down. The
sun could not be seen. For light the men had little lamps fastened to
their hats. The box stopped and we got out and went along a long, narrow
passage which had little rails with wagons on them, running the length
of it. Into these little wagons the coal was put, a long way back in the
inside of the mine. Then it wa trundled along till it came to the big
shaft, where the sliding box, or lift, took it up to the top.

'After we had gone a good distance underground the men stopped and my
owner hung my cage on a nail high up on a wall of the passage. There
they left me and went to their work. And all day long men passed and
repassed with little wagons of coal, while others picked with pick-axes
and loaded the trucks with shovels. Again I was taking an active part in
the lives of men. Such lives, poor wretches! My job was to wait for
gas--to give warning, by coughing or choking or dying, that the deadly
coal damp was stealing down the corridors to poison them.

'At first I feared I was going to be left there all night after the men
went home. But I wasn't. When a whistle blew at the end of the day I was
taken down from the wall back to the sliding box and up into the open
air--and so home to the kitchen and the squalling children. It was now
late in the autumn and the daylight was short. It was barely dawn when
we went to work in the morning, and dark again before we came up at
night. The only sunlight we saw was on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. I
had been an inn coach announcer; I had been a Marchioness's pet in a
silver cage; I had been a crack regiment's mascot. Now I was a miner,
working nine hours a day--sniffing for gas! ... It's a funny world.

'This was, I think, the unhappiest part of my life. My fortunes had
fallen very low--they couldn't get much lower than the bottom of a coal
mine, could they? So I had that consolation, anyhow; whatever change
fate brought along it was bound to be an improvement. And, curious
though it may seem, I preferred the working hours in the mine to the
so-called resting time in the miner's home. Down in the pit there was at
all events a spirit of work. I felt something was being done,
accomplished, as each loaded wagon rattled past my cage on its way to
the hoisting shaft. And I was helping, doing my share. While the dingy,
squalid home--well, it was nothing. One wondered why it had to be,
that's all.'

'But in the mine,' Dab-Dab put in, 'weren't you always in continued
dread of this horrible gas poisoning you?'

'At the beginning, yes, I was,' said Pippinella. 'But after I had my
first experience of it I was not so scared. I had supposed that if the
gas ever did come while I was there that, of course, would be the end of
me. But I was wrong. We had several goes of it in my mine, but no fatal
accidents. I remember the first one especially. It was a little after
noon and the men had only been working about half an hour since lunch. I
noticed a peculiar smell. Not knowing what gas smelled like I didn't at
first suspect what it was. It got stronger and stronger. Then suddenly
my head began to swim and I thought, "Gosh! this is it, sure enough!"
And I started to squawk and flutter about the cage and carry on. There
were men working not more than seven or eight feet from my cage. But
with the noise of their own shovels and picks they did not hear me. And
their heads, of course, being lower than mine, they had not yet smelled
the gas, which always floats to the top of a room first.

'After a couple of minutes had gone by and still they hadn't taken any
notice of me things began to look pretty bad. The beastly stuff was all
in my nose and throat now, choking me, so I could hardly squeak at all.
But still I kept on fluttering madly about the cage, even though I
couldn't see where I was going. And just at the last minute, when
everything was getting all dreamy in my head, the men put down their
shovels and picks to take a rest. And in a voice that sounded all sort
of funny and far away I heard out of them cry:

'"Bill--look at the bird!--Gas!"

'Then that signal word "Gas!" was shouted up and down the passages of
the whole mine. Tools were dropped with a clatter on the ground; and the
men, bending down to keep their heads low, started running for the hoist
shaft. My man Bill leaped up and snatched my cage from the wall and fled
after them.

'At the shaft we found hundreds of workers gathered, waiting their turn
to go up in the sliding box. The whistle up at the top was blowing away
like mad to warn any stray men who might still be lingering in the
passages.

'When everyone had reached the open air big suction fans were set to
work to draw the gas out of the mine before the men would go to work
again. It took hours to get all the passages cleared and safe. And we
did not go down again that day.

'And then I realized that these men were taking the same risk as I was.
After that first time, when we nearly got caught and suffocated, they
were more careful. And at least one of the workers always kept an eye on
my cage. If I showed the least sign of choking or feeling queer they
would give the alarm and clear out of the mine.

'The winter wore on. Sadly I wondered how long I was to be a miner. For
the first time since I had been a fledgling in the nest I fell to
envying the wild birds again. What did it matter how many enemies you
had, hawks, shrikes, cats and what not, as long as you had liberty? The
wild birds were free to sweep the skies: I lived under the ground--in a
cage. I often thought of what my mother had told me of foreign
birds--birds of paradise and gay-plumed macaws that flitted through
jungles hung with orchids, in far-off tropic lands. Then I'd look around
at the black coal walls of this underground burrow, at the lights on the
men's caps glimmering in the gloom; and it seemed to me that one day of
freedom in India, Africa or Venezuela would be a good exchange for a
whole life such as mine. Was I here for the rest of my days? Nine hours
of work; home; to bed; and back to work again. Would the end never come?

'And at last it did. You know a canary is a somewhat smaller creature
than a human being, but his life and what happens in it are just as
important for him. Only that, of the two, the canary is the better
philosopher. I've often thought that if a man or woman had had my job in
that mine he would probably have pined away and died from sheer boredom
and misery. The way I endured it was by just refusing to think too much.
I kept saying to myself; "Something must happen some day. And whatever
it is it'll be something new."

'One morning at eleven o'clock a party of visitors came to look over the
mine. You wouldn't think if you had ever worked in a coal mine, that
anybody would want to go and look at one. But folks will do all sorts of
things out of curiosity. And these people came to inspect us and our
mine in rather the way they'd go to a zoo.

'The manager himself came down first to announce their coming. He asked
the foreman of the gang in which my owner worked to see that the
visitors were shown everything and were treated politely. And a little
later the party itself arrived. There were about six of them altogether,
ladies and gentlemen. They all wore long coats with the manager had lent
them to protect their fine clothes from the coal dust and dirt. They
were greatly impressed by things which to us miners were ordinary,
everyday matters. And many were the sarcastic remarks the workers made
beneath their breath as their fastidious folks poked around and asked
stupid questions.

'Among them was an old lady, a funny, fussy old thing, with a plain but
very kind face. She was the first in the party to notice me.

'"Good gracious!" she cried. "A canary! What's he doing here?"

'"He's for the gas, ma'am," said the foreman.

'And then, of course, she wanted to know what that meant and the foreman
told her all about it.

'"Good gracious!" she kept saying. "I had no idea they had canaries in
coal-mines. How very interesting! But how dreadful for the poor birds!
Can I buy this one? I'd just love to have a canary who have lived in a
coal-mine."

'My heart jumped. The chance had come at last, a chance to get back into
the open air--to a decent life!

'A long talk began between the old lady and the foreman and my owner. My
owner said I was a specially good bird for gas, very sensitive and gave
warning at the first traces. But the old lady seemed very determined.
She really wanted to help me, I think, to give me a better kind of life.
But she was also greatly attracted by the idea of having a bird who had
lived in a real coal-mine--as a sort of souvenir, perhaps. Also she
seemed to have a good deal of money. Because every time my owner shook
his head she would offer him a higher price. Till finally she got to ten
guineas. Still he refused, and still the old lady went on higher. The
workmen stood around listening, gaping with interest. But they weren't
half so interested as I was. For on the result of this bargaining my
life, or at least my happiness, depended.

'At last, when the bidding had gone to twelve guineas, my owner gave in.
I suppose I ought to have felt very proud, for it was a tremendous sum
for a canary to cost. But I was much too busy feeling glad to have time
for any other kind of sentiment.

'My cage was taken down from the wall and handed to the old lady. She
gave the man her address--where he was to come the following day to get
his money.

'"Is it a cock? Does it sing?" she asked.

'"I don't know, ma'am," said the man. "I understand it was a cock. But
he hasn't sung a single note since he's been with me."

'"I'd like to know who would--here," growled one of the miners.

'"Well, I'll take him anyway," said the woman. "I dare say he'll sing
when he gets into the air and sunlight."

'And so ended another chapter in the story of my adventures. For when
the old lady, with the rest of the party, took me up in the sliding box
I left the lift of a miner behind me for good. I often thought
afterwards of those poor wretches toiling away underground and wondered
how the other canary got along who took my place. But, oh my, I was glad
that for me it was all over and some new kind of a life was in sight!'

'I should think so!' declared the Doctor. 'I've always felt terrible
sorry for canaries who were forced to do such disagreeable work.'

'Why must they use birds?' asked Whitey. 'Wouldn't cats do just as well?
I'm sure it would be a great relief to know that some of them were shut
up in the coal mines.'

The Doctor laughed at the mouse's remark.

'Yes, Whitey,' he said. 'For a mouse or a bird that _would_ be a
comfort. But, you see, birds--especially canaries--have a very sensitive
respiratory system. They can detect the faintest odour of gas while any
other animal would be unconscious of its presence.'

Then the Doctor closed his notebook for the night.

'Dab-Dab,' he said. 'Could we have some cocoa and toast before we go to
bed. I feel a bit hungry. How about the rest of you?'

'Hurray!' cried Gub-Gub. 'There's nothing I like better than cocoa and
toast--unless it's cauliflower.'

'Cauliflower!' howled Jip. 'That horrible stuff! I'd rather eat
horseradish root!'

'That's good, too!' said Gub-Gub, smacking his lips.

'Well, there's not going to be any cauliflower--or horseradish root,'
snapped Dab-Dab. 'It will be cocoa and toast--as the Doctor ordered--OR
NOTHING!'

So they all sat down to steaming cups of cocoa and heaps of hot buttered
toast which they finished to the last drop and crumb. Pippinella,
remembering the happy days that followed her miserable sojourn in the
mines, sang them a tender lullaby which she had composed while living at
Aunt Rosie's house.



8
Aunt ROSIE'S HOUSE


'AT the mouth of the pit,' Pippinella began the next evening, 'there was
a sort of cab or hired coach waiting for the old lady. And into this she
put me and got in herself. And then we drove a long, long way through
the country. I saw at once that she was a kind person, but dreadfully
fussy and particular. She kept moving my cage from one part of the cab
to another.

'"Little birdie mustn't be in a draught," she would say. And she'd take
me off the seat and put me on the floor. But two minutes later she'd
lift me up on to her lap.

'"Little birdie getting enough air down there?" she'd ask. "Tweet-tweet!
Like to sit on Aunt Rosie's lap and look out of the window? See the corn
sprouting in the pretty fields? Doesn't that look nice after living in a
coal-mine, little birdie?"

'And it did look nice even thought Aunt Rosie's chatter was tiresome and
silly. She meant well. And nothing could have spoiled the beauty of the
country for me that morning. Spring was in the air. I had lived through
the winter underground, and now when my release had come the hedges were
budding and the crops showing green in the plough furrows. Out of the
carriage window I saw birds hurrying here and there, in pairs, looking
for places to build their nests. I hadn't talked to another bird for
months and months. Somehow, for almost the first time since I had left
my parents, I felt lonely for company of my own kind. I started to
figure out exactly how long it was since I had spoken to another bird.
But I was interrupted by Aunt Rosie speaking again.

'"Little birdie sing a song?--Tweet-tweet!"

'And then it flashed upon me that I had been practically dumb ever since
I left the Fusiliers. I had sung them my marching song as they tramped
to the town where all the fighting had been. I wondered if without
practice for so long my voice was still any good at all.

'"Little birdie sing a song?" Aunt Rosie repeated.

'With a flourish of wings I sprang to the top perch and threw back my
head to begin _The Midget Mascot_, but just at that moment two more
birds, a thrush and his wife, sped by the carriage window with bits of
dried grass hanging from their mouths.

'"I've never built a nest," I thought to myself. "It's spring, and I'm
tired of being alone. It must be lots of fun to have a whole family of
young ones to bring up. Aunt Rosie doesn't know whether I'm a cock or a
hen. If I sing then I'm a cock, so far as she's concerned. But if I
don't perhaps she'll decide I'm a hen and get me a mate. Then I'll build
a nest the way mother and father used to do. It's worth trying anyway.
All right; I'll stay dumb for a while longer."

'The town to which the old lady brought me in her cab was very different
from the one we had left. It was what is called a cathedral town. Here
no factories blackened the air with smoke or poisoned the trees with bad
air. Here no droves of pale-faced workers hurried the underground in the
early morning and dragged their weary bodies up again at night. In this
town all was peace and leisured, comfortable life. The old, old
cathedral rose in the centre of it, grey against the sky, and choughs
and crows circled around it and built their nests in the belfry tower.
Soft-toned, deep-voiced bells rolled out the hours through the day,
chiming a pleasant little tune at all the quarters. There were lots of
nice gardens and old houses, substantial and well built--and all
different style.

'The front of Aunt Rosie's house was right on a street, but it had a
fine garden at the back. It was the kind of house and the kind of street
that she would live in. When my cage was first hung in the window I
noticed two peculiar things. One was that the other window to the same
room had a small mirror fixed outside of it on a little bracket. I
wondered what this was for at first. But later on, when the old lady sat
in her armchair and did her knitting, I saw that it was for watching the
neighbours. From where she sat she could, in the mirror, see who was
coming down the street. And I noticed that several houses across the way
had similar arrangements fixed outside the windows. Apparently watching
the neighbours pass while you did your needlework was a favourite
occupation in this town. It was the kind of town where people had time
to sit at their windows.

'The other thing that I observed was a street lamp outside, close to the
wall of Aunt Rosie's house. It was not more than a few feet from the
bottom of my cage. And every evening an old lamplighter would hobble
round with a ladder and climb up and light this lamp, and in the very
early morning he'd come and put it out. The light used to shine right
into the room--even though the blind. It kept me awake the first few
nights--until the old lady noticed that it disturbed me. Then she always
put the cover over my cage as soon as the street lamp was lit. She
embroidered a special one herself, made of heavy dark stuff, so that the
light wouldn't shine through.

'I made a number of quite interesting friends while I stayed at Aunt
Rosie's house. And the hobbling lamplighter was one of them. I never
talked to him. But his arrival every night and morning was a regular and
pleasant thing to make a note of. Life generally here moved along
regular and pleasant lines.

'The old lady had lots of friends, all women. Several times a week they
would come in to take tea with her, and they always brought their sewing
with them. And so every new lot that came Aunt Rosie told the story over
again of how she had bought me out of a coal-mine, way down under the
earth. Then they'd gather round my cage and gaze at me.

'All through this I still kept mum and never a note did I sing, though
often enough I felt like it, with the trees in the street growing
greener every day and spring coming on in leaps and bounds. It was a
nice place I had come to. But I wanted company of my own kind. And I was
determined I wouldn't sing till the old lady got me a mate.

'It was on one of these sewing-circle occasions that a very peculiar
incident occurred. Aunt Rosie was telling my story to a new group of
women friends; when one of them stepped forward and peered closely at me
through the bars of my cage. Although her face seemed familiar I
couldn't, at first, remember where I'd seen her before. But suddenly,
because of a queer way she had of squinting one eye when she looked at
me, it came to me.

'She was the wife of one of my gallant Fusiliers!

'I forgot all about my determination not to sing and burst out with _The
Midget Mascot_ song.

'Aunt Rosie was so astonished to hear me sing that all she could say
was:

'"Why, good gracious! My birdie is singing!"

'"Of course she's singing!" declared the woman. "She's one of the finest
songstresses in the country!"

'"How do you know that?" asked Aunt Rosie, looking very puzzle indeed.

'"Because this is the same bird that belonged to my husband's regiment,"
replied the woman. "He told me before he went off to India that she'd
disappeared during the mine riots and that no one had seen her again.
Naturally the whole regiment assumed she'd been killed.... I do
declare!" she muttered. "This is the strangest thing I've ever seen."

'By this time Aunt Rosie was as excited as the woman was.

'"Are you sure it's the same one?" she asked. "You know, I found him
working in a miserable coal-mine. It cost me twelve guineas to get that
miner fellow to give him up."

'"He's not a he," the woman said, laughing. "He's a she! And her name is
Pippinella."

'"Pippinella!" cried Aunt Rosie. "What a beautiful name. But if it's a
hen how is it that she sings? I always understood hens couldn't sing."

'"Nonsense!" declared the woman. "Hens sing just as well as
cocks.--Especially this one."

'Well,' Pippinella continued, 'I was glad at last to be identified. For
a long time now I had been called Dick or Birdie--or just simply "it".
But, of course, now I had to worry about Aunt Rosie discovering I could
sing. How would I ever make her understand that I wanted a companion of
my own kind?

'But it came about quite simply. I suppose I must have got to look
rather sad and mopey after a while. It wasn't intentional, but the old
lady noticed it. For one day, when she took the cover off my cage and
gave me seed and water, I was delighted to hear her say:

'"Dear, dear, tut-tut-tut! How sad we look this morning. Maybe my little
Pippinella wants a mate. Yes? All right. Aunt Rosie will got and let her
another little birdie to talk to!"

'Then she put on her bonnet and went off to the animal shop to get me a
husband. Well, I wish you could have seen the husband she brought back.'

Pippinella closed her eyes and shrugged up the shoulders of her wings.

'He was a fool--a perfect fool! I've never seen such a stupid bird in my
life. The old lady supplied us with cotton wool and other stuffs to
build a nest with. Now, building a nest in a cage is a very simple
matter, provided the cage is big enough. And ours was amply large. My
new husband--his name was Twink--said he knew all about it. We set to
work. He didn't agree with anything I did; and I didn't agree with
anything he did. And then he'd argue with me--my goodness, how he
argued! Just as though he knew, you know! First it was about the
position of the nest. I'd get in half done in one corner of the cage,
and then he'd put his empty head on one side and say:

'"No, my dear, I don't think that's a good place. The light will shine
too much in the children's eyes. Let's put it over in this corner."

'And he'd want to pull it all down and rebuild it the other side of the
cage. And the next time it would be the way the inside was lined. Even
when I was sitting in the nest he'd come fussing around, pulling bits
out here and there--right from under me.

'Finally I saw that if I was ever going to get a brood raised at all
that year I had better just rule him out of the building altogether.
Then we had a violent row, during which he pecked me on the head and I
knocked him off the perch. But I won my point. I told him that if he
touched the nest again I wouldn't lay a single egg.

'But one thing must be said for Twink. And that was that he had a
marvellous voice.'

'Better than your own?' asked the Doctor.

'Oh, by far,' said Pippinella. 'In the upper register--well, it almost
seemed at times as if there wasn't any note he couldn't reach. And even
in the bass his tones were wonderfully clear and full. Of course, like
all husbands, he didn't care to have his wife sing. But, as a matter of
fact, I never attempted to compete with him, because when eggs and
youngsters have to be looked after we women don't get much time for it.

'And Aunt Rosie may not have known a great deal about canaries, but she
knew enough to see that I got quiet and peace during setting time. She
kept the cover on, half over the cage, even during the day, so that I
shouldn't be disturbed by what was going on in the room. The only
direction I could see in was outward, through the window. It was an
ideal town anyway for hatching eggs--so restful. Nothing ever happened
in the street more exciting than the regular visits of the old hobbling
lamplighter, the arrival of the muffin-seller, with his bell and tray,
or an occasional organ-grinder, who stopped before the house and ground
out wheezy tunes till Twink sang songs to drown his sour music.

'So, while Aunt Rosie sat at her window and over her needlework watched
the neighbours pass, I sat at mine and over the hatching of the eggs
watched the leaves on the shady trees grow greener and denser--watched
the spring turning into the summer. And every time the old lamplighter
put the lamp out in the morning I'd say to myself: "Well, that's another
day gone. I have only so many left now before the children will break
open their shells."

'There was great excitement the day when our family at last appeared.
They were five strong, healthy birds. Aunt Rosie was even more thrilled
and worked up than we were. Ten times a day she would come to the nest
and peer in; and every group of her friends who visited her would also
be brought to have a look. And they all said the same things: "Oh, my,
aren't they ugly!" Goodness! I don't know what they expected newborn
birds to look like, I'm sure. Maybe they thought they ought to be
hatched out with bonnets and capes on.

'It was now that the real work began for me and my husband. Feeding five
hungry children is a big job--even when there are two of you at it. Aunt
Rosie used to bring us chopped eggs and biscuit crumbs six times a day.
Each lot only lasted about an hour and a quarter, for we had to shovel
it into those hungry mouths every thirty minutes. And then there was the
lettuce and apple and other green stuff which had to be given them as
well.

'But it was lots of fun, even if it was hard work. Twink, I found, after
the nest-building problems were over, was not nearly so stupid and
irritating. We got along very well together. He used to sit on the edge
of the nest and sing to me when I was keeping the children warm between
meals, and many were the beautiful lullabies he made up.

'When the brood was strong enough to leave the nest we both felt awfully
proud with the five hulking youngsters crowding on the perch, all in a
row beside us. Of course, they quarrelled, the way children will, and
the two biggest tried to bully it over the rest. Twink and I had our
hands full keeping them in order, I can tell you. With seven full-grown
birds in it, the cage was now none too big.

'Well, the day came when Aunt Rosie decided she would have to part with
some of the family. Many of her friends wanted canaries, and one by one
my children went off to new homes, till finally only Twink and I were
left. And then because one of her friends had told the old lady that
cocks sing better if they are alone (which is perfectly true) she gave
Twink a separate cage and put him in another room.

'So towards the end of the summer I found myself alone again, now
watching the leaves turn brown on the shade trees in the street. The old
lamplighter used to come earlier in the evenings now and later in the
mornings, because the days were shorter and the nights longer. A swallow
had built her nest under the eaves of the roof, just above my window.
During the course of the summer I had watched her hatch out two broods
and teach them to fly. Now I saw her with many of her friends, gathering
and chattering and skimming around the house. They were getting ready to
fly south to avoid the cold of the coming winter. I wondered what
adventures and strange things they would see on their long trip. And
once more I had a vague sort of hankering for a free life which would
let me wander where I would.

'For a whole day the swallows kept gathering, more and more arriving all
the time. I could not see them sitting on the gutters of the roof,
because it was out of sight from my window, but I could hear them
twittering, making no end of noise. And the top of the street lamp was
covered with them. In tight-packed rows, their white breasts framed the
edges of it, presenting a very pretty picture. Seeing them made me feel
like travelling, the way people going off always does.

'At last, with a great farewell fluttering and whistling, they took to
the air and set off on their journey. I felt rather sad in the silence
that they left behind. But presently through the window I saw Aunt
Rosie's white Persian cat slinking along the street with a bird in her
mouth. And once more I was reminded of the security and comfort I
enjoyed as a cage bird; once more I consoled myself, as the old man came
and lit the lamp, that a quiet, stay-at-home, regular life had its
compensations. Who knows whether, if Twink and I had built our nest in
some forest or hedgerow, instead of raising our brood to fine healthy
growth, we would not have seen our children carried off before our very
eyes by some prowling cat?'



9
THE OLD WINDMILL


'I HAVE told you that I made several rather odd friends while I was at
Aunt Rosie's house,' Pippinella continued. 'Among them was a
window-cleaner. The old lady was frightfully particular about having her
windows cleaned--so, I supposed, would anybody be who spent so much time
looking out of them. And, instead of having the maids of the house do
it, she had a regular come, a man who made a business of cleaning
windows.

'He was the funniest person to look at I have ever seen--one of those
faces that makes you smile the moment you catch sight of it. He whistled
cheerful tunes all the time while he was working. He had a very big
mouth and when he breathed on the glass to put an extra shine on it I
always had to laugh outright. I used to look forward to his coming no
end. And he took a great liking to me. He always spent a specially long
time over my window, getting it immaculately clean with his red and
white polishing cloth. And he'd whistle and make faces at me through the
glass, and I'd whistle back to him. I often thought it would be lots of
fun to have him for an owner. I was sure he'd be much more interesting
than Aunt Rosie.

'I always felt dreadfully sorry when he was gone. And I would spatter my
bath water all over the window with my wings, so as to make it nice and
dirty. I knew that Aunt Rosie had lots of money to pay for cleaning
windows. And it seemed to me quite proper that I should help my friend's
trade in his way. I could see from his clothes that he was very poor.
And so I made it necessary for him to come once a week, instead of once
a month.

'One day Aunt Rosie was speaking to him in my room while he was doing
the inside of the window, and their conversation turned to the subject
of canaries. He had made some very flattering remarks about me and, to
my great joy, she asked him if he would like to have me. Now that she
had another bird who sang all day, the novelty had worn off and she did
not mind giving me away.

'Then my dirtying up of the windows every week may have had something to
do with her willingness to part with me--she was one of those
frightfully particular housekeepers. But so long as I was to go to the
window-cleaner, I was just as well pleased.

'Well, my friend was quite overcome with joy when the old lady told him
he could have me. And that night he wrapped me up and took me to his
home.

'It was the strangest place. He lived in an old windmill. It had not
worked for many years and was nearly a ruin. I imagine he got it very
cheap--if, indeed, he paid any rent at all for it. But inside he had
made it very comfortable. It was just a round tower, like most
windmills, but of good, solid stonework. He lived in a little room at
the bottom, which he had furnished with home-made chairs and tables and
shelves. It had a little stove, whose pipe ran up the tower and out at
the top. He had no family--lived all by himself and cooked his own
meals. He had lots and lots of second-hand books, which he bought after
the covers had fallen off them--very cheaply I suppose.

'He spent all his evenings reading and writing, I believe he was
secretly writing a book himself, because he carefully kept all the
sheets of paper he wrote on in a tin box in a hole in the floor. He was
quite a character, but one of the nicest man I ever knew. He cleaned
windows only because he needed money to live on. Of that I am sure.
Because the windows of his own home were in a shocking state, so he
evidently didn't polish glass for the love of it.

'And so I settled down to live with my funny new master. He was indeed
an odd fellow. I believe if he had been able he would have spent all his
time reading and writing. But he had to go to work in the morning and he
was gone until tea-time. I used to look forward to Sunday, because then
he was home all day. The rest of the week I felt rather lonely. When he
left in the morning he locked up his old windmill with a home-made lock,
and all day long I had nothing to do but watch the rats chase one
another over his home-made furniture or look at the view through the
window-cleaner's dirty window. And although the view was quite
remarkable--the mill was on a hill on the outskirts of the town--you
soon got used to it. And as for the rats, I always considered them
vulgar creatures and their conversation and low games did not interest
me.

'But the evenings were great fun. When he came home my friend would talk
to me the whole time he was cooking his dinner. Of course, he had no
idea I understood him. But I think he was glad of anyone to converse
with. For he, too, led a very lonely life--and, what is more, he was not
used to it, like me. Yes, he'd tell me the whole day's doings while he
fried his eggs or stirred his soup--what houses he had been in, what
sort of people he had seen, whether their windows were extra dirty, and
if they had bird cages hanging in them or not. In this way he often
brought me news of Aunt Rosie and my husband. Twink, and even of my
children, who had gone to other houses whose windows he was accustomed
to clean.

'I was puzzled about my strange friend a good deal--about what had been
in his life before he took to this profession. If he had any relatives
at all they did not live in these parts. He never got any letters, nor
wrote any. He was a man cut off, as it were, from all his fellows. I
often wondered whether he had brought this about himself, in order to
keep his life undisturbed for studying and writing, or whether he had
some secret which made it necessary for him to live thus--almost in
hiding, as you might say.

'Well, the writer wore pleasantly on, and soon the spring was at hand
once more. This was a time when my master was particularly busy, for
everyone was doing spring-cleaning--which always means a lot of extra
window washing. Some nights he did not get home till quite late. When
the days got warmer he would put my cage outside on the wall. And one
day he left me in the open air when he went to work in the morning.

'"It's a pleasant day, Pip," said he. "And I don't see why you should be
shut up just because I'm not here. I'll be back early to lunch. It's
Saturday and I mean to take a half holiday, no matter how many
housekeepers want their windows cleaned."

'Then he took me up to the top of the mill tower, where there was an
old, leaky, ramshackle room, which was never used. And he hung my cage
outside the window on a nail. It was a difficult sort of place to get to
because there wasn't any stair--just poles and ladders and things to
scramble up by.

'"There you are, Pip," said he. "You'll be quite safe here. It's a sort
of breaknecky place, but no worse than some of the window ledges I have
to stand on at my job. I've put you here so you'll be safe from the
cats, while I'm away. So long."

'Then he made his way down the tower again and I watched him come out of
the door below and walk briskly away towards the town.

'It was very nice to be in the open. It was the first time my cage had
been set out this year. The mild spring sunshine was invigorating and
refreshing. From my lofty lookout I watched wild birds of various kinds
flying here and there and everywhere.

'Lunch-time came, but my friend did not return.

'"Oh, well," I thought, "he has been delayed. He can't afford to
disappoint his customers. Some old lady has asked him to stay on and do
a few extra windows. He'll turn up soon."

'And even when tea-time came, and still he hadn't appeared. I continued
to make excuses for him. But when the sun had set and the evening star
was twinkling in the dusky sky and my cage had not yet been taken in I
began to get really anxious.

'As the darkness settled down about my cage I began to shiver with the
cold. It was still, you see, quite early in the year, and even indoors I
was accustomed to have a cover over me.

'I got no sleep at all. All night I kept wondering what could have
become of my friend. Had he fallen from some high place while cleaning
windows? Had he been run over? Something must have happened to him, that
was certain. Because he was always very thoughtful of me and he couldn't
have forgotten that he had left me out in the open. And, even supposing
that that had slipped his memory, he could never have forgotten that I
would need food and fresh water by the end of the day.

'Well, the dawn came at last--after a night that seemed a whole eternity
in length. As the sun gradually rose in the heavens and the warmth of it
glowed upon my shivering wings my spirits revived somewhat. There was
still a little seed left in my trough and some water in the pot. I was
about to take breakfast--which I always did at sunrise--when it suddenly
occurred to me that I had better economize and make my supply last as
long as possible. Because the more I thought of it the more certain I
became that I had seen the last of my good friend the window cleaner.

'You see, with an ordinary person who had a family living with him or
friends calling at his house or tradesmen delivering daily goods, I
would sooner or later have received assistance. But this man never had a
soul come near him from one end of the year to the other. So I made up
my mind to two things: first, something serious had happened to my
owner; the second, that I need expect no help or food except by some
chance accident. It was a bad outlook all around.

'Still, where there's life there's hope. I ate a very tiny
breakfast--just enough to keep me going. Lunch-time came and I did the
same--and the same again at dusk. Another cold, miserable night. Another
shivering dawn. By now I had only a few grains of food left. My spirits
were dreadfully low. I ate the last of my supply and, utterly worn out,
fell asleep as the sun began to rise.

'Just how long I slept I don't know--till an hour or so beyond noon, I
imagine. I was awakened by a great racket, and, opening my eyes, found
the sky dark with rain clouds. A storm was brewing. Every few seconds
great tongues of lightning flashed across the face of the gloomy
heavens, followed by deafening crashes of thunder.

'As the first big drops of rain came plopping into the floor of my cage
I saw I was in for a good soaking, in addition to my other troubles. But
that storm was a blessing in disguise. Such a storm! I have never seen
anything like it. My mill tower, placed where all the winds of heaven
could reach it, got the full benefit of its fury. Five minutes after I
woke up I was drenched and chilled to the marrow of my bones. I tried to
crouch down under my water-pot and get some shelter that way. But it was
no use. The gale blew the rain in every direction and there was no
escaping it. The floor of my cage was just swimming in water.

'Suddenly I heard a rending crackling sound and saw a piece of mill roof
hurtle earthward, through the air, just wrenched off the tower by the
strength of the wind. In between the claps of thunder I heard other
crashes below me. All sorts of things were being blown down or smashed
by the tempest.

'And then, Zip! I felt my cage struck upwards, as though someone had hit
the bottom with the palm of his hand. And the next minute I, too, was
sailing earthwards. My cage had been blown off its nail.

'After my cage jumped off its nail and started smiling through the air,
I haven't a very clear recollection of things. I remember feeling it
turn over and over till I was giddy, and on its way down I think it
struck a roof or something and bounced off. I clung to the perch with my
claws--more out of fright than anything else--and just turned over with
it as it spun.

'Then there was a crash. Suddenly I found myself sitting in a puddle on
the ground, quite unharmed but very wet. The two halves of my cage,
neatly broken in the centre, lay on either side of me. The rain was
still beating down in torrents. I had landed on a cobble pavement, right
in front of the mill. Under the steps there was a hole between the
stones. I crept into the shelter of it and tried to collect my scattered
wits while I waited for the rain to stop.

'"So," I thought to myself, "I am a free bird at last! If this storm
hadn't come along and blown my cage down I would have starved to death
up there in two or three more days, at most. Well, well! And now, after
wondering so often what it would feel like to be uncaged, here I
am--free! But oh, so hungry, so cold and so wet!"

'And thus--'

'But what happened to the window-cleaner?' Gub-Gub interrupted. 'Why
hadn't he come back?'

'Wait and you will see,' said Pippinella severely.

'And thus began still another chapter of my story--when, after being
born and brought up a cage bird I was suddenly made by Fate into a wild
one. For the present, sad and unhappy though I was about my good friend
the window cleaner, I only had two ideas in my mind--to get dry and to
find food. I was literally starving.'



PART TWO

I
THE GREEN CANARY LEARNS TO FLY


'AFTER about half an hour the storm abated, the rain stopped and the sun
come out. I at once left my rat hole and started to fly around in the
open to get the wet shaken out of my feathers.

'I was astonished to discover that I could hardly fly at all, I decided
that this was due to the soaking I had had--and to exhaustion from want
of food. But even when, by constant fluttering, I got perfectly dry I
found that the best I could do was just tiny, short distance; and that
the effort of these was frightfully tiring. As a cage bird I had learned
to keep up a flight only from one perch to another--hardly flying at
all, you might say. Before I could take to the air like a regular free
bird I had to learn--just as though I were a baby leaving the nest for
the first time.

'Well, there was no food here. And if I was to go foraging for any I had
better get busy. So I set to work practising my flight. There was an old
packing-case close to the door of the mill and I began by flying up on
to it and down again. Presently while I was doing this I noticed a lean,
hungry-looking cat watching me. "Ha, ha, my beauty," I thought. "I may
be a very green cage bird, but I know you and your kind."

'And by short stages I flew up on to the roofs of some old tumble-down
outhouses that stood near. She followed me up there. Then I returned to
the yard. In spite of my poor flying I could keep out of her claws so
long as I knew where she was. And I never lingered anywhere in the
neighbourhood of an ambushing place, where she could pounce out on me
unawares.

'In the meantime I kept on practising. And although it was very
exhausting work, I felt I was improving hourly and would soon be able to
make the top of the mill tower on one flight. From there I hoped I would
be able to get inside the building through a hole in the roof and make
my way down to the kitchen, where I could find some food.

'Seeing what a poor flyer I was, Mme Pussy, in the mean-souled way that
cats have, had made up her mind that I was injured or a weakling and
would be easy prey. And she stayed around and watched and waited. She
was determined to get me. But I was equally determined that she
wouldn't.

'Most people would think, I suppose, that it is a very simple matter for
a cage bird to change herself in a moment into a wild one. But it isn't
easy--not by a great deal. You see, wild birds are taught when they are
very young to take care of themselves. They learn from their parents and
from watching and imitating other birds, where to search for water, at
what seasons seed is to be found, where and when to look for certain
kinds of berries, what places to roost in at night so they'll be
protected from winds and safe from pouncing weasels, and--well, a
million and a half other things. All this education I had missed. And
for me my freedom at its beginning was just about the same as it would
be for Gub-Gub there suddenly to find himself in the jungle with wild
boars and tigers and snakes, after spending his life in a nice,
comfortable sty.'

'Pardon me,' said Gub-Gub, turning up his nose. 'But I have already been
in the jungle and enjoyed it greatly.'

'Yes, and got lost there,' growled Jip. 'Dry up!'

'Well,' Pippinella continued, 'I realized this at once, I saw that if I
was to escape the dangers that threatened me and to survive in the open
I would have to be very careful, to depend on common sense and take no
risks. That was the chief reason why I began by making my way into the
inside of the building. Within its walls I should be safe. I knew that
owls and hawks and shrikes swept around this hill every once in a while
on the lookout for anything small enough to kill. And until my flying
was a great deal better I would stand no earthly chance of escape, once
a bird of prey started out to get me.

'I found a hole in the top of the tower and I made my way downward
through all sorts of funny dark flues and passages till I came to the
kitchen door. This was locked. But luckily the old things was all
wrapped and it didn't fit very well. There was a space over the top big
enough for me to slip through.

'I lived in that kitchen for a week. I found my seed where I knew the
window-cleaner always kept it, in a paper bag on the mantelshelf. In the
corner by the stove there was a bucket of water. So I was well stocked
with provisions, besides being snugly protected behind solid stone walls
from my natural enemies and the cold of the nights. There I went on
practising my flying. Round and round that kitchen I flew, counting the
number of laps. And after I had got as high as a thousand I thought,
"Well, I don't know just how far that would be in a straight line, but
it must be a good long way."

'Still I wasn't satisfied. I knew that often in the open I would have to
fly miles and miles at high speed. And I kept on circling the kitchen by
the hour. One morning, when I rested on the mantelpiece after two hours
of steady flying, I suddenly spied that wretched cat, squatting behind
the stove, watching me. How she had got in I don't know--certainly not
the way I had come. But cats are mysterious creatures and can slip
through unbelievably small spaces when they want to.

'Well, anyway, there she was. My comfortable kitchen wasn't safe any
more. However, I found a place to rest at night--the funniest
roosting-place you ever saw; on a string of dried onions that hung from
the ceiling. I knew she couldn't reach me there and I could go to sleep
in safety.

'But, as a matter of fact, I got very little rest. The cat was on my
mind all the time. And although I knew perfectly well that she couldn't
jump as high as that string, somehow--they're such horribly clever
things--every time she moved I woke up, thinking that perhaps she'd
discovered some devilish trick to reach me after all.

'Finally I said to myself: "Tomorrow I will leave the mill and take to
the open. It's a little earlier than I had planned to go, but I'll get
no peace, now she has found her way here. Tomorrow I will journey forth
to seek my fortune."

'Back I travelled through the little space above the door, up the dark,
dusty, dilapidated mill tower, until I came to the hole in the stonework
at the top. It was a beautiful morning. A lovely scene lay before me as
I----'

'But when's the window-cleaner coming back?' whined Gub-Gub. 'I want to
know what happened to that window-cleaner.'

'Be patient,' said the Doctor. 'Pippinella has told you to wait and
see.'

'A lovely scene,' the canary repeated, 'lay before me as I gazed out
over the countryside. For a moment I felt almost scared to launch myself
down upon the bosom of the air from that height. I picked out a little
copse over to the eastward. "That can't be more than a quarter of a mile
away," I said to myself. "I can surely fly that far. All right--here
goes!"

'And I shot off the tower top in the direction of the little wood. And
now once more I found myself faced with the problems of my own
inexperience. I had never before flown high up in the open air. I had no
idea of how to tackle the winds and the air currents that pushed me and
turned me this way and that. Any ordinary bird would have reached that
copse with hardly a flutter--just sailed down to it with motionless,
outstretched wings. But I--well, I was like some badly loaded boat
without a rudder in a gale. I pitched and tossed and wobbled and
staggered. I heard some crows who passed laughing at me in their hoarse,
cracky voices.

'"Haw, haw!" they crackled. "Look at the feather-duster the wind blew
up! Put your tail down, chicken! Stick to it! Mind you don't
fall!--Whoa!"

'They're vulgar, low birds, crows. But I suppose I must have looked
comical enough, flustering and flapping around at the mercy of the
fitful wind. I got down to the woods somehow and made a sort of wild
spreadeagle landing in the top boughs of an oak. I was all exhausted.
But I felt encouraged, anyway. I had proved that I could get where I
wanted to, even with a moderate wind against me.

'I rested awhile to regain my breath and then started hopping around
through the woods. I found it much easier to get my wings all caught up
in the blackberry brambles than to shoot in and out of the thickets like
the other birds did. But I took the crow's advice and stuck to it,
knowing that the only way to learn even this was by practice.

'While I was hopping about, making discoveries and collecting
experience, I became aware that once more I was being watched by
enemies. This time it was a large sparrow hawk. Whenever I came out into
a clearing I'd see the same round-shouldered bird, sitting motionless at
the top of small tall tree. He pretended to be dozing in the sun. But I
felt quite certain that he had noticed my awkward, clumsy flight and was
only waiting for a chance to swoop on me. I knew that so long as I
stayed near the bramble thickets I was safe. For with his wide wings he
couldn't possibly follow me into the little tiny spaces of the thorny
blackberry tangles.

'After a while I supposed he had given me up as a bad job. For he flew
off with easy, gliding flight and made away over the tree-tops as though
leaving the woods for good. Then, feeling safe once more I proceeded
with further explorations and after a little I decided to venture out in
the open again.

'This time I thought I'd try travelling downwind. And I set out flying
back in the general direction from which I had approached the wood. It
was much easier work, but required quite a lot of skill to keep a
straight line with the wind at my back.

'About half-way across the fields that lay beneath the copse and the
windmill hill I noticed a flock of sparrows rise out of a hedge below me
in a great state of alarm. They were looking upwards at the sky as they
scattered, chattering, in all directions. They were evidently in a panic
about something. And suddenly I guessed what it was--I had forgotten all
about the hawk. I turned my head, and there he was, not more than a
hundred and fifty yards behind, speeding after me like a bullet. I never
had such a fright in my life. There was no place in the fields where I
could hide.

'"The hole in the tower," I thought to myself. "If I can reach that I am
safe. He isn't small enough to follow me into that hole in the roof."

'And putting on the best speed I could I shut my beak tight and made for
the old mill.

'It was a terrible race,' Pippinella went on, shaking her head. 'That
hawk had the speed of the wind itself and there were times when I
thought I'd never get away from him. I was afraid to look back, lest
even the turning of my head delay my flight. I could hear the swish,
swish, swish of his great wings beating the air behind me.

'But fortunately the rising sparrows had warned me in time, so I had a
pretty fair start on him. And in so short a flight even he was not swift
enough to overtake me. He came awfully close to it, though. As I shot
into the mill roof and tumbled down gasping for breath among the cobwebs
I saw his great shadow sweep over the hole not more than a foot behind
me.

'"You wait!" I heard him hiss as he tilted upwards and veered away over
the mill roof. "I'll get you yet!"'

'You haven't forgotten about the window-cleaner, have you?' asked
Gub-Gub. 'What's happening to him all this time?'

'Oh, be quiet,' snapped Jip.

'I spent the night in the tower,' Pippinella continued. 'The cat did not
know I was there yet, so I wasn't bothered by her. But I felt very
miserable as I settled down to sleep. An ordinary free bird, I suppose,
would have not been greatly disturbed by being chased by a hawk--so long
as he got away. But it was my first experience in the wild. And it
seemed to me as though the whole world was full of enemies, of creatures
that wanted to kill me. I felt dreadfully friendliness and lonely.

'After a fitful, nightmary sort of sleep I was awakened in the morning
by a very agreeable sound, the love song of a greenfinch. Somewhere on a
ledge just outside the hole a bird was singing. And he was singing to
me. I was, as it were, being serenaded at my window. I got up, brushed
the cobwebs out of my tail, spruced up my feathers and prepared to go
out and take a look at my caller.

'I peeped out cautiously through the hole and there he was--the
handsomest little cock you ever saw in your life. His head was thrown
back, his wings slightly raised and his throat puffed out. He was
singing away with all his might. I do not know any song, myself, that I
like better than the love song of the greenfinch in the spring. There's
a peculiar dreamy, poetic sort of quality to it that no other bird
melody possess. You have no idea what it did for me that morning. In a
moment I had forgotten about the hawk and the cat and all my troubles.
The whole world seemed changed, friendly, full of pleasant adventures. I
waited there, listening in the dark, till he had finished. Then I
stepped out of the hole on to the roof.

'"Good morning," he said, smiling in an embarrassed sort of way. "I hope
I didn't wake you too early."

'"Oh, not at all." I answered. "It was very good of you to come!"

'"Well," he said, "I saw you being chased by that beastly sparrow hawk
last night. I had noticed you in the copse earlier. From your sort of
stiff way of flying I guessed you were a cage bird just newly freed. I'm
glad you got away from the old brute. I was awfully afraid you wouldn't.
You are partly a greenfinch yourself, are you not?"

'"Yes," I replied. "My mother was a greenfinch and my father a canary."

'"I guesed that, too, from your feathers," said he. "I think you're very
pretty--with those fine yellow bars in your wings."

'"Would you care to take a fly around the woods?" my new acquaintance
asked me. "It's a pleasant morning."

'"Thank you," I said. "I certainly would. I'm very hungry and I don't
know very much as yet about foraging for food in the open."

'"Well, let's be off, then," he said. "Wait till I take a look around to
make sure the squint-eyed old hawk isn't snooping about. Then we'll go
across to Eastdale Farm. I know a granary there where there are whole
sacks of millet seed kept. And some of it is always lying around loose
near the door where the men load it in. Ha, the coast is clear! Come
along."

'So off we went, as happy as you please--for all the world like two
children out for a romp. On the way my friend, whose name I found was
Nippit, gave me no end of new tips about flying--how to set the wings
against a twisting air current, what effect had the spreading of the
tail fan-like when the wind was behind me, dodges for raising myself
without the work of flapping, how to drop or dive without turning over.

'We reached the farm he had spoken of. A fine, substantial,
old-fashioned place, it looked just charming in early morning sunlight.

'"I don't think the men are up yet," he said--"not that they would
bother us even if they were. But it's more comfortable getting your
breakfast without disturbances. There's the granary, that big brick
building with the elms hanging over it."

'He led me to the door at the back, and there, as he had said, was quite
a lot of millet seed scattered around loose, where it had fallen from
the sacks on their way into the storerooms.

'While we were gobbling away he suddenly shouted, "Look out!" at the top
of his voice. And we both leaped into the air in the nick of time. The
farm dog, one of those spaniels they use for shooting, had made a rush
at us from behind. I hadn't seen him coming at all. But my friend's eyes
were twice as sharp as mine and he never ate near the ground without
keeping one eye constantly on the lookout all around. His vigilance had
saved my life.'



2
NIPPIT, THE GREENFINCH


'NIPPIT and I became closer friends than ever, and I often think that if
it had not been for him I would never have survived the life of the open
or be here now to tell the tale. His experience not only protected me
from my enemies, but his wisdom provided me with food. He took me under
his care, as it were, and with great patience he taught me the things a
wild bird needs to know.'

To the animals' great surprise, Pippinella, who had always seemed a very
practical sort of bird, at this point, sniffed slightly, as thought for
the moment overcome with emotion.

'You must excuse me,' she gulped. 'I know it's very silly of me, but
whenever I think of Nippit I nearly always get sentimental and wobbly in
the voice--I mean when I think about the part I am now going to tell you
. . . I was terribly fond of him--more fond than I have ever been of any
one or anything. And he was most frightfully in love with me. One
moonlight night we swore to be true to one another till death, to go off
and find a place to build a nest and raise a family of young ones. We
described to one another what the place should look like. We were
terribly particular about the details. It was a real romance.

'Next day we started off. We journeyed a great distance. The spot we had
determined on for our home was very hard to find. And finally we came to
the seashore. We explored a little bay--the very loveliest thing you
could wish to see. Big drooping willows hung down off rocks and dabbled
their wands in the blue water. Beautiful wild flowers and coloured
mosses carpeted the shore. It was a secluded little cove where people
never came. The peace and the beauty of it were just ideal. And there at
the bottom of the bay, where a little sparkly mountain stream fell
laughing into the sea, we found the spot we had come so far to
seek--exact in every detail.'

'Maybe the window-cleaner sprained his ankle,' murmured Gub-Gub, 'or ate
something that disagreed with him and had to go to a hospital. But I
would like to know why he didn't send some one to take his canary in.'

'For heaven sakes, will you wait?' growled Jip. 'Keep quiet! Wait and
see what happened!'

'But I don't like waiting,' said Gub-Gub. 'I never was a good waiter.
Why doesn't she come right out with it? She knows what happened to her
friend.'

'Gub-Gub,' said the Doctor wearily, 'if you don't keep quiet you will
have to leave the wagon.'

'Right away,' Pippinella continued, 'we set to work hunting for
materials to build a nest. You know, each kind of bird has fads and
fancies about nest building--each one uses materials of his own special
kind. The greenfinch's nest is not more extraordinary in this than any
others; but some of the stuffs used are not always easily found. In
these parts they were exceptionally scarce. So we went off hunting in
different directions, agreeing that either should come and let the other
know as soon as the stuff we were after was discovered.

'I went a long way down the shore and after about an hour's search I
came upon the material we sought. It was a special kind of grass. I
marked the spot in my mind and set off back to tell my mate. I had some
difficulty in finding him, but eventually I did--and' (again
Pippinella's voice grew tearful) 'he was talking to a greenfinch hen.
She was very handsome, slightly younger than either Nippit or myself.
The instant I saw them talking together something told me the end of our
romance had come.

'He introduced me to her--rather awkwardly. And she smirked and smiled
like the brazan hussy that she was. It was now too late in the evening
to go on with the nestbuilding; and anyway, I had no heart for it. After
we had had something to eat and taken a drink in the little sparkling
stream we all three roosted on a flowering hawthorn bush.

'I cannot believe that it was all Nippit's fault. But by morning I knew
what I must do. Quietly, while my faithless mate and that hypocritical
minx still slept, I dropped to a lower branch of the hawthorn bush and
made my way down to the edge of the sea.'

The sadness in Pippinella's silvery voice reminded John Dolittle of that
first evening when he had brought her home. You will remember how after
her covered cage had been put up on a shelf she had sung for him for the
first time through the wrapping paper.

Now, as she paused a moment in her story, evidently very close to the
verge of tears, the Doctor was glad of an interruption which arrived
just at the right moment to cover her embarrassment. It was the chief
tent rigger, who wished to consult Manager Dolittle about buying a new
tent for the snakes. The old one, he said, was so full of mends and
patches that he felt it would be better economy to throw it away and buy
a new one--especially in view of the circus's coming visit to London,
where they would want everything to be as smart and up to date as
possible.

When the discussion was over and the tent rigger had departed Pippinella
took a sip of water and presently went on with her story.

'The day was rising in the east. The calm water reflected the mingled
grey and pink of the dawn sky and away out on the horizon little flashes
of gold here and there showed where the sun would soon come up.

'It was a lovely scene. But I didn't care. I hated everything about this
place now; the snug bay, the weeping willows, the murmuring mountain
brook--everything.

'Some birds near by started their morning song. A finch flew past and
twittered a greeting to me on the wing. But still I sat on there gazing
out from the sands towards the wide-stretching sea. It seemed to yawn
and roll lazily, rubbing the sleep out of its eyes as the night retired
from the face of the waters and the rising sun glowed around its rim.
Its mystery, its vastness, called to me, sympathizing with my mood.

'"The sea!" I murmured. "I've never crossed the salt water. I've never
looked on foreign lands, as all the other wild birds have. Those jungles
my mother told me of, where blue and yellow macaws climb on crimson
flowering vines, they must be nice, they would be new. There surely,
among fresh scenes and different company, I shall be able to forget.
Everything around me here I hate, for it reminds me of my mate who was
false, of my love that was spurned."

'You see, it was my first romance, so I felt specially sentimental.
"Very well," I said, "I will leave this land and cross the sea."

'I went down closer to the breaking surf and stood upon the firm,
smooth, hard-packed sand of the beach. I noticed a small bird, a
goldfinch, coming inland. He looked as though he had flown a long way. I
hailed him.

'"What country," I asked, "lies beyond this ocean?"

'With a neat curve he landed on the sand beside me, I noticed him eyeing
my cross-bred feathers with curiosity.

'"Many lands," he answered. "Where do you want to go?"

'"Anywhere," I answered--"anywhere, so long as I get away from here."

'"That's odd," said he. "Most birds are coming this way now. Spring and
summer are the seasons here. I came over with the goldfinches. The main
flock arrived last night. But I was delayed and followed on behind. Did
you ever cross the ocean before? Do you know the way?"

'"No," I said, bursting into tears. "I know no geography nor navigation.
I'm a cage bird. My heart is broken. I want to reach the land where the
blue and yellow macaws climb ropes of crimson orchids."

'"Well," said he, "that could be almost anywhere in the tropics. But
it's pretty dangerous, you know, ocean travel, if you're not experienced
at it."

'"I don't care anything about the danger," I cried. "I'm desperate. I
want to go to a new land and begin life all over again. Good-bye!"

'And springing into the air I headed out over the sea just as the full
glory of the rising sun flooded the blue waters in dazzling light.'



3
EBONY ISLAND


JOHN DOLITTLE stared at Pippinella in amazement.

'That was an extremely dangerous thing for you to have undertaken,' he
said. 'I'm surprised you are here at all to tell the story.'

Pippinella smiled sadly, nodding her head in agreement. 'Yes, Doctor,'
she replied. 'But I had no thought for the dangers I was facing. All I
wanted to do was get away--as far away as my wings would carry me.

'Had I been a regular wild bird I would have known some of the geography
of the land. Then such a journey would not have been so hazardous. From
time beyond remembrance the goldfinch or swallow, or any one of the
migrating birds has made his two yearly journeys from one land to
another--one way in the spring, the other in the fall. They would no
more dream of getting lost than they would of forgetting how to fly.
After they have made the first trip with the flock it becomes a
perfectly simple matter for them, and I really believe most of them
could do it with their eyes shut.

'But for me? Well, if I hadn't been desperate with grief, I would never
have embarked upon such a mad adventure. It was only after I had flown
steadily for two hours, and then on looking behind me found I had passed
beyond sight of land, that I fully realized what I had done. On all
sides North, East, South, and West, the sky met the sea in a flat ring.
No clouds marred the even colour of the heavens, nothing broke the
smoothness of the blue-green sea. In turning my head to look back I had
changed my direction without thinking. Now I didn't even know if I was
going the same way or not. I tried to remember from what quarter the
wind had been blowing when I started. But I couldn't recollect. And
anyway there was no wind blowing now. So I could get no guidance from
that.

'A terrible feeling of helplessness came over me as I gazed down. I was
flying at a great height--at the wide-stretching water below me. Where
was I? Whither was I going?

'And then it occurred to me that in this, as in my other first
difficulties of freedom, I had got to learn--to learn or perish. "Well,"
I thought, "I'll go and take a closer look at the surface of the water.
I'm too high up to see anything here. Perhaps I can learn something from
that."

'So I shut my wings and dropped a couple of thousand feet. As I came
nearer to the water I noticed many little patches of brown on it,
thousands of them. They were evidently some kind of seaweed or grass.
They floated in straggly chains, like long processions of tortoises or
crabs. But these chains all lay in the same direction.

'"Ah, hah!" I said. "That's a current." I had seen something of the same
kind before, grasses and leaves pushed across a lake by a river that
flowed into it. And I knew there was a force in that water down below me
that drove all those weed clumps the same way.

'"I'll follow the drift of that weed," I thought. "It will anyhow keep
me in a straight line and maybe bring me to the mouth of the river from
which the current flows."

'Well, my idea would have been all right if my strength had held out.
You must remember that it wasn't many months since I had flown at all in
the open. And suddenly as I skimmed over the weed chains I got an awful
cramp in my left wing muscle. I just felt I had simply got to stop and
rest. But where? I couldn't sit on the water like a duck. There was
nothing for it but to keep on. I had been going three hours at seventy
miles an hour, some two hundred miles--by far the longest flight I had
ever made. The wonder was that I hadn't given out before.

'Things looked bad. In spite of all my efforts to keep at the same level
I was coming down nearer the water all the time. Finally I was skimming
along only a few feet above the swells. I was so near now I could see
the tiny sea beetles clinging to the weed tufts. In between, in the
clear spaces, I saw my own reflection looking up at me, a tiny fool of a
land bird with wildly flapping outstretched wings, trying to make her
way across a never-ending ocean, lost, giving out, coming nearer to a
watery grave second by second.

'The thing that saved me was the little sea beetles that crawled upon
the floating weed. They gave me an idea. If the shred of weed could
carry them, I thought, why wouldn't larger clumps of it carry me? I
looked along the straggling chains that wound over the sea ahead of me.
About a hundred years further on I spied a bigger bunch of the stuff.
Making a tremendous effort, I spurted along and just gained it in time.
I dropped on it as lightly as I could in the exhausted condition I had
reached. To my great delight it bore me up--for the moment. The relief
of being able to relax my weary muscles and rest was wonderful. For the
present I didn't bother about anything else, but just stood there on my
little seaweed boat and rose and fell on the heaving bosom of the sea.

'But soon I noticed that my feet were getting wet. The water had risen
right over my ankles. My odd craft would carry my small weight for a few
moments only; then it had gone slowly under. It was of the utmost
importance that I should not, in my exhausted state, get my feathers
waterlogged. I looked around. Not more than six feet away another clump
of weed was floating about the size of a tea-tray. With a spring and a
flip I leaped from my old raft to the new one. Being a little larger, it
carried me a moment or two longer than the one I had left. But it, too,
sank in time and the warning water rising around my feet drove me on to
yet another refuge.

'It wasn't the most comfortable way in the world to take a rest--hoping
from one sinking island to another. Still, it was better than nothing.
In the short jumps I did not have to use my wings much and I already
felt the cramp in my left shoulder improving. I decided that I could
keep this up as long as I liked. It was the steady drive of constant
flying that tired me. So long as there were large weed clumps enough and
no storms came I was safe.

'But that was all. I wasn't going ahead. The current was moving very
slowly--and that in the wrong direction for me. I was hungry and
thirsty. There was no food here, and no prospect of getting any. There
were, it is true, the tiny sea creatures that crawled upon the weed. But
I was afraid to eat them, saturated in salt water, lest the thirst I had
already should grow worse. The only thing to do for the present was to
be thankful for this assistance, to rest up and then go on again.

'Presently I began to notice the sun. It had been getting higher and
higher all the time since I had left land, but soon it seemed to be
standing still and then to descend. That meant that midday had been
passed. I began to wonder if I could get much further before night fell.
There was no moon. I knew, till early morning, and in the darkness
flying for me would be impossible if I could not see my guiding current.

'While I was wondering I suddenly spied a flock of birds coming towards
me in the opposite direction to my own. They were evidently land birds,
and when they got nearer I saw that they were finches, though of a kind
that I had never seen before. They were slamming along at a great pace
and their freshness and speed made me feel very foolish and weak,
squatting on my lump of seaweed like a turtle. It occurred to me that
this was a chance to get some advice which might not come again in a
long while. So, putting my best foot forward, as you might say, I flew
up to meet them in mid-air. The leaders were very decent fellows and
pulled up as soon as I called to them.

'"Where will I get to anyway if I keep going straight along this
current?" I asked.

'"Oh, GREAT heavens!" they said. "That currents meanders all the way
down into the Antarctic. Where do you want to get to?"

'"The nearest land--now, I suppose," said I. "I'm dead beat and can't go
many more hours without something to eat and a real rest."

'"Well, turn and cut right across the current, then," said they--"to
your left as you're flying now. That'll bring you to Ebony Island. Keep
high up and you can't miss it. It's got mountains. That's the nearest
land. About a two-hour fly. So long!"

'Without wasting further daylight--for it was now getting late in the
afternoon--I took the finches' advice and headed away to the left of the
current in search of Ebony Island. This time I kept direction by flying
square across the drifting chains of seaweed instead of following their
course.

'Well, it may have been only a two-hour trip for those finches, but it
was a very different thing for me. After three hours of steady going my
wing began to trouble me again. The big setting sun was already standing
on the skyline like an enormous plate. It would be dark in twenty
minutes more. Here the seaweed was no longer visible. I had passed
beyond the path of the current. And still no land had come in sight. I
took a sort of bearing by the position of the sun and plugged along.

'Darkness came, but with it came a star. It twinkled out of the gloomy
sky right ahead of me as the sun disappeared beneath the sea's edge. And
although I knew that the stars do not stand still I reckoned that this
one couldn't move very much in a couple of hours, and that was certainly
as long as I would be able to keep going with a groggy wing. So, heading
straight for that guiding silver point in a world of blackness, I
ploughed on and on.

'Another hour went by. Weary and winded, I now began to wonder if the
finch leader could have made a mistake. He had said there were mountains
on the island. As more and more stars had come twinkling out into the
gloomy bowl of the sky the night had grown lighter. And although there
was no moon, the air was clear of mist and I could see the horizon all
around me. And still no land!

'"Perhaps I wasn't high enough," I thought. With a tremendous effort I
tilted my head upwards, and still ploughing forward on the line of my
big star, I raised my level a thousand feet or so. And suddenly,
slightly to the left of my direction, I spied something white and
woolly-looking, apparently floating between sky and sea.

'"That surely can't be land!" I thought. "White in colour! It looks more
like clouds."

'Presently as I flapped along like a machine, just dumb and stupid with
weariness, exhaustion and thirst, strange new smells began to reach
me--vaguely and dimly--sort of spicy odours, things that I hadn't smelt
before, but which I knew did not belong to the sea. My floating clouds
grew bigger as I approached. As I realized how high up in the sky they
hung I became surer than ever that they were just white clouds or mist.
Then the air seemed to change its temperature fitfully. Little drafts
and breezes, now warm, now freezing cold, beat gently in my face.

'And then! At last I saw that my clouds were not floating at all. They
were connected with the sea, but that which they stood on, being darker
in colour, had been invisible until I got close. The white snow-capped
tops of mountains, glistening in the dim starlight, had beckoned to me
across the sea. From the icy wastes of the upper levels had come the
chilly winds; but down lower, now visible right under me, tangled
sleeping jungles of dark green sent forth the fragrance of spices and
tropic fruits. I was hovering over Ebony Island.

'With a cry of joy I shut my aching wings and dropped like a stone
through the eight thousand feet of air, which grew warmer and warmer as
I came down.

'I landed beside a little purling stream that carried the melting snows
of the peaks down through the woodlands to the sea. And, wading knee
deep in the cold fresh water I bathed my tired wings and drank and drank
and drank!

'In the morning, after a good sleep, I went forth to hunt for food and
explore my new home. Nuts and seeds and fruit I found in abundance. The
climate was delightful, hot down by the sea--quite hot--but you could
get almost any temperature you fancied just by moving to the higher
levels up the mountains. It was uninhabited by people and almost
entirely free from birds of prey. What there were were fish eagles--who
would not bother me--and one or two kinds of owls, who preferred mice to
small birds. I decided that it was an ideal place that I had come to.

'"So!" I said, "here I will settle down and live an old maid. No more
will I bother my head about fickle mates. I'm a mongrel, anyway. Never
again will I risk being deserted for a thoroughbred minx. I'll be like
Aunt Rosie--live alone and watch the world pass by and the year go round
in peace. Poof! What do I care for all the cocks in the world! This
beautiful island belongs to me. Here will I live and die, a crossbred
but dignified hermit."

'My island was large and its scenery varied. There were always new parts
to explore--mountains, valleys, hillsides, meadows, jungles, sedgy
swamps, golden-sanded, laughing shores and little inland lakes. Later,
as I came to the shore on the far side, I could see, in the distance,
another piece of land. I decided it must be another island such as the
one on which I had landed.

'Later I explored this island, too, and found it only one of many more
which lay in a sort of chain. There was no end of variety in the scenery
and of beautiful flowers and I began to think of the whole string of
islands as belonging to me. I composed some wonderful poetry and many
excellent songs and kept my voice in good form practising scales three
hours a day.

'But all my verses had a melancholy ring. I couldn't seem to convince
myself that living alone like this was the happiest way to exist. That
was the first sign I had that something funny was happening to me.

'"Look here," I said. "This won't do. Even if you're going to be an old
maid you needn't be a sour old maid. This is a beautiful and cheerful
island. Why be sad?"

'And I set deliberately to work to make up a cheerful song. It went all
right for the first two or three verses, but it ended mournfully, like
the rest.

'Then I tried to get to know the other finches and small birds that
lived on the island. They were very hospitable and nice to me. And the
cocks vied with one another to be seen in my company. To them, of course
I was a foreigner. I never said anything about my romance or where I had
come from. And I aroused considerable interest among them as a bird with
a mysterious past. But, after all, it was only a sort of idle curiosity
on their part and I found them intensely dull and somewhat stupid. I
tried hard to overcome it and take part in their society chatter and
community life, but I just couldn't.

'And then another curious thing: the window-cleaner kept coming to my
mind.'

'Ah!' said Gub-Gub. But Jip promptly put a large paw over his mouth and
Pippinella went on.

'In some mysterious way, my good friend of the windmill--well, I can't
quite explain it--but it almost seemed at times as though I felt him
near me somewhere. I spent hours and hours working out all the things
that could have happened to him--that might have prevented him from
coming back that night when he left me hanging on the wall exposed to
the storms of heaven.

'And then it suddenly occurred to me that I should never have left the
neighbourhood of the mill. Something told me that he wasn't dead. And if
he was still alive he would certainly return some day--the first moment
that he could. And I should have been there to welcome him back--as I
always had done when he returned from work. I started to blame myself.

'"If you had been a dog," I said, "you would never have come away. You
would have stayed on and on, knowing that you could trust him--knowing
that if he still lived, in the end he would come back."'



4
PIPPINELLA FINDS A CLUE


THE next evening as the Dolittle household took their places as the
little table in the wagon to hear the continuation of the canary's
story, Gub-Gub appeared to be in a great state of excitement. He was the
first to sit down. He provided himself with an extra high cushion and he
kept whispering to his neighbours.

'The window-cleaner's coming back this time. I know it. Goodness! He has
taken an age, hasn't he? But it's all right. He wasn't killed. He's
coming back into the story tonight, sure as you're alive.'

'Sh!' said the Doctor, tapping his notebook with a pencil.

When everyone was settled Pippinella hopped up on to the tobacco box and
began:

'One day, about a week after I had left the company of the other birds
and returned to my solitary life, I decided to fly over to the small
island which lay south of Ebony Island. Perhaps it would help to take my
mind off my loneliness; for my friend, the window-cleaner, was still
very much in my thoughts. It was the first clear day we had had for
weeks and I was able to see again the shore of the smaller island. I
came to a place where big shoulders of rocks jutted right down into the
sea. In such places as this little berry bushes often grew. I flew up on
to the rocks to hunt for fruit. On the top I found a flat, level place
from which you could get a fine view of the sea in front. Behind one the
mountains rose straight, like a wall. And in the face of this wall of
rock there was an opening to a cave.

'Out of idle curiosity I went into the cave to explore it. It wasn't
very deep. I hopped around the floor awhile and then started to come
out. Suddenly I stood back still, my attention held spellbound by a
stick that leaned against the wall of the cave near the entrance. The
stick, about six feet long, had a square piece of rag tied to its top,
like a flag. There was nothing very extraordinary in that. Even though I
felt sure the island wasn't inhabited now, there was no reason why it
shouldn't have been in times past--by some shipwrecked seamen who had
taken refuge in this cave. But it was the rag that held me there, gazing
motionless with open bill and staring eyes. For I knew that rag as well
as I know my own feathers. It was the cloth my friend the window-cleaner
used to clean windows with!

'How often had I studied it as he rubbed it over the glass not more than
six inches from my nose at Aunt Rosie's! How many times had I watched
him wash it out in the kitchen sink at the windmill when he returned
from work and then hang it up to dry, close to my cage over the stove! I
remembered that it had a rent close to one corner which had been
stitched up clumsily with heavy thread. I sprang up on to the top of the
stick and pulled its hanging folds out with my bill. And there was the
mended tear. There could be no mistake. It was my window-cleaner's rag.

'Suddenly I found myself weeping. Just why I didn't know. But one thing
was made clear to me at last! I knew now why I couldn't settle down a
happy old maid; I knew why all my songs were sad; I knew why I couldn't
content myself with the company of other island birds. I was lonely for
people. It was natural. I had been born and bred a cage bird. I had
grown to love the haunts of men. And all this time I had been longing to
get back to them. I thought of all the good people--friends that I had
known--old Jack, the merry driver of the night coach from the North; the
kindly Marchioness who lived in the castle; the scarred-faced old
sergeant and my comrades of the Fusiliers, and, finally, the one I had
loved the best of all, the odd, studious window-cleaner who wrote books
in a windmill. What had I to do with the blue and yellow macaws that
climbed the orchid vines in gorgeous jungle land? People was what I
wanted. And him whom I wanted most, he had been here, lived in this
cave! Yet I was certain, after my thorough exploration of the island,
that he was here no longer. Where--where was he now?

'After that I thought of nothing else but getting away--or getting back
to civilization and the haunts of men. I would return, I was determined,
to the windmill, and there I would wait till my friend the
window-cleaner made his way back to his old home.

'I returned to the main island and prepared to set out for home. But
getting away was no easy matter. The autumnal equinox was just
beginning. For days on end strong winds blew across my island and
whipped the sea into a continuous state of unrest. Such birds of passage
as passed over were all going the wrong way for me. It was now the
Season of Return. Once again I, the exile, the cage bird, was trying to
make my way against the current of traffic, instead of with it.

'I was afraid, alone and inexperienced, to pit my feeble strength
against tempestuous weather. This time I was not desperate or in any
such foolhardy state of mind as when I launched out after I left Nippit.
Now life meant much; the future held promise. And if I was to get back
to my window-cleaner philosopher I must not take any crazy chances.

'For days I watched the sea, waiting for calmer weather. But the
blustering winds continued, and when I tried my strength against them
over the land, to see if I could make any headway, I found that I was
like a feather and they could drive me where they would.

'One afternoon when I was sitting on the rocks looking out to sea I saw
a big ship come over the horizon. The wind had changed its direction
earlier in the day, and now, with a powerful breeze behind it, this boat
was travelling along at quite a good speed. It seemed to be going pretty
much the way I wanted. And it occurred to me that if I followed this
boat I might easily come to the land I had left. At the worst, if I got
exhausted, I would have something to land on.

'The ship came nearer and nearer. At one time I thought it was actually
going to call at the islands. But I was wrong. When it had come within
less than half a mile of a steep mountainous cape at one corner it
changed its course slightly, rounded the angle of the coast and passed
on. At that close range I could see men moving on the deck. The sight of
them made me more homesick than ever for human company. As the boat grew
smaller, moving away from me now, I made up my mind. I leaped off the
rocks and shot out over the sea to follow it.

'Well, I was still an inexperienced navigator. I very soon found out
that my little plan, which had seemed perfectly simple, just didn't
work. For one thing, on the side of the island where I had been standing
one was protected from the weather. And it was only after I had got well
out away from the shore that the full strength of the wind hit me. When
it had changed it had changed for the worse--growing stronger with its
new direction.

'Further, on getting close to the ship, I found that its pace was
dreadfully slow, in spite of the wind behind it. It was pitching
clumsily in the swell and seemed heavy laden. If it had taken me a whole
day to make the voyage at seventy miles an hour it would take this
vessel a week at least. During that week I would be starved to death
twice over. I realized in a moment that my plan was no good. I must head
back for the island and reach it before that drenching shower reached
me.

'I returned. And, oh, my! I thought I had known how strong that wind
was. But I hadn't any idea of it until I swung around and faced it. It
was a veritable gale. I flapped my wings as fast as I could, and the
only result I got was to stand still. Even that I couldn't keep up. And
soon, slowly, I found I was moving backwards while working to get
forwards like mad.

'And, then, slish! The rain squall hit me in the face and in a moment I
was drenched to the skin.

'So there I was, fairly caught, a good three miles off shore, unable to
regain the land in the teeth of that terrible wind. What a fool I had
been to leave my snug, safe harbour before calm weather came!

'The soaking of the rain squall made flying doubly hard. After a few
moments of it I decided not to try to beat into the wind at all. That
was hopeless. I must wait till the fury of the gale let up. In the
meantime I was compelled to give all my attention to keeping up above
the level of the sea, for with my drenched and soggy feathers I found
myself descending all the time nearer and nearer to the tossing surface
of the water.

'But far from weakening the force of the wind got suddenly stronger. I
felt myself now being swept along like a leaf. The curtain of the rain
had shut out all view of the island. You couldn't see more than a few
yards in any direction. Above and below and around all was grey--just
grey wetness.

'As the wind hurled me along over the sea I presently caught sight of
the ship. The gale was driving me right past it--beyond into the
hopeless waste of the angry ocean. I remember the picture of it very
clearly as it hove up in the dim veil of rain. It looked like a great
grey horse mired and floundering in a field of grey mud. I suddenly
realized that this vessel was my last and only chance. If I got driven
beyond it, it was all up with me.

'Frantically I flapped at the wet air to change the angle of my
flight--to descend sideways and strike the vessel's deck.

'Well, somehow I managed it. As the squall drove me through the rigging
I clutched at a rope ladder stretched between the rail and the masthead.
I grabbed it with my claws and threw my wings around it, rather like a
monkey climbing on a pole. For the present I didn't attempt to move up
or down. I decided to let well enough alone. I was on the ship. That was
the main thing. I would stay where I was until the rain shower passed
on.

'By that time I was numbed with the cold and the wet. The air cleared
and the sun came out, as it does, suddenly, after those squalls at sea.
But still the wind held very strong. I set about making my way down to
some more sheltered place. For the first time I had a chance to look
around me and take in the details of the ship I had boarded. I was about
seven feet above the level of the deck. Not far away from me there was a
little house with round windows and a door in it. If I could get close
up against the wall of this, I thought I would be protected from the
wind and would still have the sunshine to dry my feathers in. I was
afraid to fly the short distance, lest the wind catch me up and carry me
overboard. So, like a sailor, I started climbing down my rope ladder
hand over hand.

'In my hurry to get to some warmer, safer place I had not noticed much
about the ship beyond just a glimpse which told me it was a vessel of
considerable size. And on my way down the rope I was much too busy
clinging tight and battling with the wind--which seemed determined to
tear me loose and hurl me into the sea--to notice anything around me.

'Anyway, suddenly I felt a large hand close around my whole body and
lift me off the rope like a fly. I looked up and found myself staring
into the brown face of an enormous sailor dressed in a tarpaulin coat
and hat. A wild bird, I suppose, would have been scared to death. But I
had often been held in people's hands before and that in itself did not
greatly alarm me. The sailor had kind eyes and I knew he would do me no
harm. But I also knew that this probably meant the end of my freedom for
the present, because sailors are fond of pets and most ships have one
cage of canaries at least aboard them.

'"Hulloa, hulloa!" said the big man. "What's cher climbing in the
rigging for? Don't you know no better than that? You ain't been to sea
long, I'll warrant. Why, if we was to ship water with you tight-rope
walking like that you'd go overboard before you could blink! I reckon
you signed on as we passed the island, eh? Well, well! Bless me, ain't
you wet! You come below, mate, and get dried out where it's snug and
warm."

'Then the man moved forward across the pitching, rolling deck to the
little house and opened the door. Inside there was a flight of steps and
down this he carried me. We entered a small, low room, with beds set in
the wall all around, like shelves. A lamp hung from the centre of the
ceiling and swung from side to side with the motion of the ship. On the
tables and chairs coats and capes had been thrown. There was a warm
smell of tar and tobacco and wet clothes. In two of the bunks men were
snoring, with their mouths open.

'My captor, still holding me firmly in his hand, opened a heavy wooden
locker and brought forth a small cage. Into this he put me and then
filled the drawer with seed and the pot with water.

'"There you are, mate," says he. "Now you're all fixed up. Get your
feathers dry and then you'll feel better."

'And so I entered on still another chapter in my varied career. After
the dead quiet of the island, the cheerful bustle of that ship was most
invigorating. It was, as I have told you, quite a large vessel, and it
carried both cargo and passengers. To begin with, my cage was kept in
that little cabin to which I had first been taken. It was the bunkroom
for the crew. There was nearly always somebody sleeping there, because
the men took it in turn in watches to work the ship.

'Later, when the weather got fair again, I was put outside on the wall
of the little deckhouse. This was much nicer. Lots and lots of people
came to talk to me--especially the passengers, who seemed to have
nothing to do to occupy their time beyond walking up and down the deck
in smart clothes.

'And, although I was terribly annoyed at being caged up again before I
had got back to my window-cleaner, I counted myself lucky on the whole.
I had escaped the dangers of the sea when escape seemed impossible.
There was always a good chance that I might still get away and reach the
windmill--after we got to land--if I kept my eye open for the
opportunity. In the meantime, I was back again among pleasant people and
agreeable scenes.

'There was another canary aboard the ship. I heard him singing the first
day that I was put outside on the deck. Singing is hardly the word for
it, for the poor fellow had only a few squeaky calls without any melody
to them. But he was very persevering and seemed determined to work up a
song of some kind. Just whereabouts on the vessel he was I couldn't make
out--nearer amidships than I was, by the sound if it. His unmusical
efforts sort of annoyed me after a while and presently I gave a
performance myself--more to drown his racket in self-defence than
anything else.

'But my singing caused something of a sensation. Passengers, sailors,
stewards and officers, gathered around to listen to me. Inquiries were
made as to whom I belonged. And finally I was bought from the big sailor
who had caught me and taken to quite a different part of the ship.

'The man who bought me turned out to be the ship's barber. I was carried
to a little cabin on the main deck, in the centre of the passenger's
quarters. This was the barber's shop, all fitted up with shaving chairs
and basins, like a regular hairdressing establishment on land.

'And there I discovered the other canary, hanging in a cage from the
ceiling. It was the barber's idea, apparently, that I should teach this
other bird how to sing.

'I was now in a very much better position to keep in touch with the life
of the ship than I was before. For nearly everyone on board came, sooner
or later, to the barber's shop. My new master was patronized not only by
the passengers, but the officers and even the crew, in the early hours
of the morning before the shop was supposed to be open, came to be
shaved or to have their hair cut.

'And while the customers were being attended to or waiting their turn
the barber would chat and gossip with them. And from their conversation
I learned a good deal. And then the other canary, the funny little
squeaker to whom I was supposed to give singing lessons, he had been on
the ship quite a number of voyages, and he, too, gave me a lot of
information.

'He was really a decent sort of a bird--even if he couldn't sing. And he
explained many things to me about the life of the sea and the running of
a ship that I had never known before. As for teaching him to sing, that
was a pretty hopeless task, for he had no voice to speak of at all.
Still, he improved a good deal, and after about a week his gratey
squeaks and shrill whistles were not nearly so harsh to the ear.

'One song that I composed at this time I was rather proud of. I called
it _The Razor Strop Duet_. Listening to the barber stropping this razor
gave me the idea, the motif, for it. You know the clip-clop, clip-clop,
clip-clop that a razor makes when it is sharpened on leather? Well, I
imitated that and mixed it up with the sound of a shaving brush
lathering in a mug. But it was a little difficult to do the two with one
voice. So I did the razor and I made the other canary do the shaving
brush. As a song it could not compare with some of my other
compositions--with _The Midget Mascot_, for instance, or _The Harness
Jingle_. It was a sort of comic song. _The Razor Strop Duet_. But it was
a great success and the barber was forever showing us off to his
customers by giving his razor an extra stropping, for he knew that that
would always set us going.

'I questioned the other canary very minutely as to the places we would
touch and about our port of destination. For all this time, you must
understand, I had one idea very much in mind, that was to escape from my
cage and the ship as soon as we dropped anchor in a convenient harbour.
I gathered from what he told me that our next port of call was the land
which I had left--the land of the windmill and the window-cleaner.

'Continually now I was trying my utmost to show the barber how tame I
was. When he cleaned out the cage I would hop on to his finger. And
after a little he would sometimes close the doors and windows and allow
me to go free in the room. I would fly from the floor to the table on to
his hand. And finally he would let me out even with the doors open. This
was what I wanted. I did not attempt to escape yet, of course, because
we were still at sea. And whenever he wished me to return into the cage
I would go back as good as gold.

'But I was only biding my time. When we were in port he would, if all
went well, let me out of my cage once too often.'



5
THE WINDOW-CLEANER AT LAST!


'ONE day towards evening there was a great commotion on the deck.
Passengers were running forward with spyglasses and pointing over the
sea. Land had been sighted. We were now only half an hour or so from the
port where I hoped to escape.

'It was very amusing to me to see how carefully and with what a lot of
trouble and fuss a ship is brought to the land. On the sea, with their
sails all billowing in the wind, they are such graceful things; but at
the docks they become great clumsy masses of wood and canvas: difficult
to handle and always in danger of being rammed on the pilings by the
waves washing towards the shore.

'As we neared the land men came out in boats to guide us into the
harbour; there was no end of signalling and shouting between the ship
and the shore and finally when we did creep in at a snail's pace they
tied the vessel down from every angle. I could not help comparing all
this with the carefree, simple manner in which birds make their landing
in a new country after a voyage of many thousands of miles.

'From my position hanging inside the barber's shop I could not see a
great deal of the port in which we had come, beyond little glimpses
through the door and porthole. But from them I recognized the place. It
was a town not more than fifty miles from the hill on which the windmill
stood. Shortly after we were moved up to a wharf some friends of the
barber came aboard to see him. They sat around drinking beer and
chatting and presently one of them said to him:

'"I see you've got another canary, Bill?"

'"Yes," said the barber. "A good singer, too. And he's that tame he'll
come right out on to my hand. Wait a minute and I'll show you."

'"Ah, ha!" I thought to myself. "Now my chance is coming."

'Then the barber opened my cage door and, standing a few paces off, he
held out his hand and called to me to fly out on to it. Through the open
door of the shop I could see part of the town, steep streets straggling
up towards hills and pleasant rolling pasture land. I hopped on to the
sill of my cage and stood a moment, half in and half out.

'"Now, watch him," called the barber to his friends. "He'll fly right on
to my finger. He's done it lots of times. Come on, Dick! Here I am. Come
on!"

'And then I flew--but not on to his finger. Taking a line on those steep
streets that I could see in the distance straggling up the hill, I made
for the open door.

'But, alas! Such off chances can upset the best plans! Just as I was
about to skim through the doorway it was suddenly blocked by an enormous
figure. It was my big sailor. Of course, it would be--pretty nearly the
largest man that ever walked, coming through the smallest doorway ever
built. There were just two narrow little places either side of his head
through which I might get by him. I tilted upwards and made for one of
them.

'"Look out!" yelled the barber. "The bird's getting away. Grab him!"

'But the big sailor had already seen me. As I tried to slip out over his
shoulder he clapped his two big hands together and caught me just like a
ball that has been thrown to him.

'And that was the end of my great hopes and careful scheming! Because,
of course, after that the barber never trusted me out with the door or
windows open again. I was put back into the cage and there I stayed.

'Well, after six or seven hours the ship began to make ready to put to
sea again.

'"What's the next port of call at which we stop?" I asked the other
canary.

'"Oh, a long ways on," said he. "We go pretty nearly the whole length of
the sea we're in now and touch at a group of islands at the mouth of a
narrow straight. It takes nine days. But the islands are very pretty and
worth seeing."

'But what did I care for the beauty of the islands! As the ropes were
untied and the vessel moved out away form the wharf I saw the steep
streets growing smaller. Beside myself with disappointment and
annoyance, I beat the bars of my cage in senseless fury. I was sailing
away from my friend, from the land of the windmill. And now, with my
owner suspicious, heaven only knew when I'd ever have a chance to get
back to it again!

'For the next three days our voyage was uneventful. Calm sunny weather
prevailed. And the barber's shop was kept quite busy, because passengers
aboard ship don't seem to bother very much about shaving or having their
hair cut when the sea is rough, but in calmer weather it serves as a
pastime to break the monotony of the voyage.

'On the fourth day we had a little excitement. A wreck was sighted.
Unfortunately my cage was not hung outside that day and I could see
practically nothing of the show. But from conversation and a little
guesswork on my part I managed to piece most of the story together.

'About noon some kind of craft was seen by the man in the crow's
nest--as the lookout on the mast is called. It was evidently in
distress. There was a lot of signalling and a good deal of running about
and looking through telescopes. Our ship's course was changed and we
headed in the direction of the stranger.

'On closer inspection it was found not to be a wreck but a raft with one
man on it. The man was either unconscious or dead. He lay face downwards
and gave no answer when he was hailed. A boat was lowered and he was
brought aboard. There was much cheering among the passengers when it was
announced that he was still breathing. He was, nevertheless, in a
terrible state of exhaustion from hunger and exposure. He was handed
over into the care of the ship's doctor, and, still unconscious, was
taken below and put to bed. Then our boat was set back upon her course
and on we went.

'I though no more about the incident after the customers who came to the
barber's had ceased to talk about it. The weather continued fair. And,
for want of something better to do--also to keep my mind off my own
troubles--I went on giving the other canary singing lessons.

'One day about a week later, when we were supposed to be getting near
our next port of call, a most extraordinary-looking man entered the
barber's shop. His strange appearance seemed to cause him a good deal of
embarrassment. Without looking around at all, he sat down in the
barber's chair. The barber must have expected him. For he set to work at
once, without asking any questions, shaving off his beard and cutting
his hair. The man's back was turned to me as he sat in the chair, and
all I could see of him after the white apron was tied about his chin,
was the top of his wild-looking head of tangled, matted hair.

'In the middle of the clipping and shaving the barber went to the door
to speak to someone. And I gathered from the conversation that the man
in the chair was he who had been saved from the raft. He was only now
recovered enough to leave his bed for the first time. This made me more
interested in him than ever. And, fascinated, I watched in silence as
the barber clipped away at that enormous shock of hair. I fell to
wondering what he would look like when that beard had been removed.

'At last the barber finished and with a flick and a flourish removed the
apron from around his customer's neck. Weakly the man got out of the
chair and stood up. He turned around and I saw his face.

'You could never guess who it was.'

'The window-cleaner!' yelled Gub-Gub, slipping off his cushion and
disappearing under the table in his excitement.

'Yes,' said Pippinella quietly, 'it was the window-cleaner.'

Gub-Gub's sudden disappearance caused a short interruption and some two
or three minutes were spent fishing him out from under the table and
putting him and his cushion back on the stool. There, slightly bruised
but otherwise none the worse for his accident, he continued to show
intense interest in the canary's story while occasionally rubbing the
side of his head, which he had bumped on the leg of the table.

'Well,' Pippinella continued, 'I was greatly shocked at my friend's
appearance. I recognized him, beyond all doubt, instantly, of course.
But, oh so thin he looked, pale, weary and weak! As yet he had not
noticed me. Standing by the barber's chair, embarrassed, staring
awkwardly at the floor, he started to put his hand in his pocket. Then,
seeming to remember half-way that he had no money, he murmured something
to the barber in explanation and hurried to leave the shop.

'There was a certain call that I used to give--a kind of greeting
whistle--whenever he returned in days gone by to the windmill of an
evening after his work was over. As he took hold of the door-handle to
go out on to the deck I repeated it twice. Then he turned around and saw
me.

'Never have I seen anyone's face so light up with joy and gladness.

'"Oh, Pip!" he cried, coming close up to my cage and peering in. "Is it
really you? Yes. There could be no doubt about those markings. I could
pick you out from a million!"

'"Pardon me," said the barber. "Do you know my canary?"

'"_Your_ canary!" said the window-cleaner. "There is some mistake here.
The bird is mine. I am quite sure of it."

'And then began a long argument. Of course, quite naturally, the barber
wasn't going to give me up just on the other man's saying so. The sailor
who had first caught me was called in. Then various stewards and other
members of the crew joined the discussion. My friend, the
window-cleaner, was a very polite through it all, but very firm. He was
asked how long ago it was that I had been in his possession. And when he
said it was many months since he had seen me last the others all laughed
at him, saying that his claim was simply ridiculous. Never have I wished
harder that I could talk the language of people, so that I might explain
to them beyond all doubt which one was my real owner.

'Well, finally the matter was taken to the captain. Already many of the
passengers were interested in the argument and when he came down to the
barber's shop the place was crowded with people who were all giving
advice and taking sides.

'The captain began by telling everybody to keep quiet while he heard
both versions of the story. Then the barber and the window-cleaner in
turn put forward their claims, giving reasons and particulars and all
the rest. Next, the big sailor stated how he had found me in the
rigging, during a rain squall and had taken me below and later sold me
to the barber.

'When they had all done the captain turned to the window-cleaner and
said:

'"I don't see how you can claim ownership of the bird on such evidence.
There could easily be many birds marked the same as this one. The
chances are that this was a wild bird which took refuge on this ship
during bad weather. In the circumstances I feel that the barber has
every right to keep it."

'Well, that seemed to be the end of the matter. The question had been
referred to the captain, the highest authority on the ship, and he had
decided in favour of the barber. It look as though I was going to remain
in his possession.

'But the window-cleaner and his romantic rescue from the sea had greatly
interested the passengers. His face was the kind of face that everyone
would instinctively trust as honest. Many people felt that he would not
have laid claim to me with such sureness and determination if he was not
really my owner. And as the captain stepped out on to the deck one of
the passengers--a funny, fussy old gentleman with side-whiskers--followed
him and touched him on the arm.

'"Pardon me, captain," said he. "I have a feeling that our castaway is
an upright and honourable person. If his claim to the canary should be
just, possibly the bird will know him. Perhaps he can even do tricks
with it. Would it not be as well to try some test of that kind before
dismissing the case?"

'The captain turned back and all the other passengers who had been
leaving now re-entered the barber's shop, their interest reviving at the
prospect of a new trial.

'"Listen," said the captain, addressing the window-cleaner: "You say you
know the canary well. Does the bird know you at all? Is there anything
you can do to prove that what you say is true?"

'"Yes, the bird knows me, sir," said the barber. "He'll hop right out of
the cage on to my hand when I call him. If you'll shut the door I'll
show you."

'"Very good," said the captain. "Close the door."

'Then, with the little cabin crowded with people, the barber opened my
cage, held up his hand and called to me to come out. I did--and, of
course, flew straight to the window-cleaner's shoulder.

'A whisper of astonishment ran around among the passengers. Then I
climbed off my friend's shoulder and clawed my way down his waistcoat. I
wanted to remind him of an old trick he used to do with me at the mill.
At supper he would sometimes put a lump of sugar in his waistcoat pocket
and I would fish it out and drop it in his teacup. As soon as I started
to walk down off his shoulder he remembered it and asked for a lump of
sugar and a cup. They were brought forward by a steward. Then he
explained to the captain what he was going to do, put the sugar in his
pocket and the teacup on the barber's washstand.

'Well, I wish you could have seen the barber's face when I pulled that
sugar out, flew to the cup, and dropped it in.

'"Why, captain," cried the old gentleman with the side-whiskers, "there
can be no question now, surely, as to who is the owner. The bird will do
anything for this man. I thought he wouldn't have claimed it if it
wasn't his own."

'"Yes," said the captain, "the canary is his. There can be no doubt of
that."

'And amid much talking and congratulations from the passengers the
window-cleaner prepared to take me away. Then came the question of the
ownership of the cage. That belonged to the barber, of course. But as
there was no other empty one to be had aboard the ship my friend
couldn't very well take me without it. However, the old gentleman with
the side-whiskers, who seemed genuinely interested in the strange story
of my funny owner and myself, came forward and volunteered to pay the
barber the value of the cage.

'The window-cleaner thanked him and asked him for his name and address.
He hadn't any money now, he said, but he wanted to send it to him after
he got to land. Then I and my friend from whom I had been separated so
long left the barber's shop and proceeded to the forward part of the
ship, where he had his quarters.

'"Well, Pip," said he, shaking up the mattress of his bed, "here we are
again! The captains's been pretty generous. Gave me a first class cabin
for nothing. Of course I can't expect to have the services of a steward
as well. So I make my own bed--where the dickens did that pillow get to?
Oh, there it is, on the floor .... poor old Pip! What ages it is since
we talked to one another. And then to find you aboard the ship that
rescued me, living in the barber's shop! Dear, dear, what a strange
world it is, to be sure! There goes five bells. That means half-past
six. It'll soon be dinner-time. Are you hungry, Pip? Let's see. Oh, no,
you've got plenty of seed. And I'll bring you a piece of apple from the
dining saloon. What a decent chap that be-whiskered old fellow was,
wasn't he--paying for your cage and all like that? Heaven only knows
when he'll get his money back. I haven't a penny in the world. But I
must see that he gets it somehow."

'While he finished making the bed he went vaguely about this and that,
gradually coming to the part I wanted to hear the most.

'"Pip," he said finally in a more confidential tone. "I sometimes
believe you understand every word I say. Do you know why? Whenever I
talk, you keep silent. Is it possible you _do_ know what I am saying?"

'I tried to make sound similar to the human word for yes but it just
came out a peep which surprised him a little for he looked at me sharply
and smiled.

'"Never mind, Pip," he said. "Whether you understand or not I still get
great comfort from talking to you. Oh, goodness, I feel weak!" he said,
dropping down on to the bunk. "I better sit down awhile. The least
exertion tires me out now. I haven't got over that starving and the sun.
Listen, Pip, would you like to know the real reason why I never came
back to the mill that night? Just a minute--"

'He went over to the door, opened it and looked outside.

'"It's all right," he said, coming back to his seat on the bunk.
"There's no one eavesdropping."

'His voice sank to a whisper as he leaned forward towards my cage, which
stood on a table near this bunk. He seemed to be suddenly overcome with
a spell of dizziness for he closed his eye a moment. I felt that he
really ought to be in bed, recovering from his terrible trip. But I also
felt very proud, because I realized that what he was about to tell me
had most likely never been told to a living soul.'



6
THE WINDOW-CLEANER'S ADVENTURES


'"YOU remember those books I used to write, Pip?" the window-cleaner
began. "Well, they were books about governments--foreign governments.
Before you knew me--before I was a window-cleaner--I had travelled the
world a great deal. And in many countries I found that the people were
not treated well. I tried to speak about it. But I wasn't allowed to. So
I decided that I would go back to my own land and write about it. And
that is what I did. I wrote in newspapers and magazines. But the
government there didn't like the sort of thing I wrote--although it had
not been written against them exactly. They sent to the editors of these
magazines and newspapers and asked them not to allow me to write for
them any more.

'"In those days I had a great many friends--and a good deal of money,
too, for I was born of quite wealthy parents. But when my friends found
that I was getting into hot water with the government many of them
wouldn't be seen with me any more. Some of them thought I was just as
harmless crank, sort of crazy, you know--the way people always do regard
you if you do anything different from the herd.

'"And so," he went on, "I set out to disappear. One day I took a boat
and went for a row on the sea. When there was no one around I upset the
boat and swam to shore. Then I made my way secretly on foot a long
distance from those parts and was never seen again by any of my friends
or relatives. Of course, when the upturned boat was found people decided
that I had been drowned. Most of my money and houses and property went
to my younger brother as the next of kin and very soon I was forgotten.

'"In the meantime I had become a window-cleaner in the town where you
met me. I rented that old ramshackle mill from a farmer for five
shillings a month. And there I settled down to write the books with
which I hoped to change the world. I have never been so happy in my life
as I was there, Pip. I had never been so free before. And the first book
that I wrote did change things--even more than I expected. It was
printed in a foreign country and read by a great number of people. They
decided that what I wrote was true and they began to make a whole lot of
fuss and to try to change their government.

'"But they were not quite strong enough and their attempt failed. In the
meantime the government men of that particular country got very busy
trying to find out who had written the book that caused so much trouble
and which nearly lost them their jobs."

'At that point,' Pippinella continued, 'the window-cleaner was
interrupted by the ringing of six bells and the bugle for dinner. He
excuses himself and left the cabin.

'In about half an hour he returned, bringing with him a piece of apple,
a stump of celery and some other titbits from the table for me. While he
was putting them in my cage the ship's doctor came to see him. He was
still, of course, more or less under his care. The doctor examined my
friend and seemed satisfied with his progress. But on leaving he ordered
him to go to bed early and to avoid all serious exertion for the
present.

''After the doctor had gone my friend started to undress and I supposed
that I should have no more of the story for the present. But after he
had got into the bed he continued talking to me. I have since thought
that this was perhaps a sign that he was still very weak from all he had
gone through. It seemed as though he just had to talk--but he was afraid
to do it when they were any people around to hear him. So I, the canary,
was his audience.

'"How that foreign government," he went on, "found out that it was I who
wrote the books I do not know to this day. But I suppose they must have
traced my letters because, after calling at the post office that
Saturday when I left you outside on the wall, I was followed by three
men as I came away. I did not see them until it was too late. At a
lonely part of the road leading back towards the mill I was struck to
the ground with a blow on the head.

'"When I woke up I was aboard a ship far out at sea. I demanded to know
why I had been kidnapped. I was told that the ship was short of crew and
they had to get an extra man somehow. This, of course, is--or was--often
done by ships that were short-handed. But from the start I was
suspicious. The town they had taken me from was a long way from the sea.
And no ship would send so far in-land to shanghai sailors. Besides,
nobody would ever take me for a seaman. Further, I soon noticed that
there were a group of foreigners on board; and later I learned that the
port we were bound for was in that country about which I had written my
book.

'"I knew what would happen to me if I ever landed there, I would be
arrested and thrown into prison on some false charge. So far as my
relatives and friends were concerned, was I not dead long ago? No one in
my own land would make inquiries. Once in the clutches of the government
I had made an enemy of, I would never be heard of again."

'The window-cleaner lay back on his pillow as though exhausted from the
effort of talking. He remained motionless so long that I began to think
he had fallen asleep. And I was glad, because I did not want him to over
tire himself. But presently he sat up again and drew my cage nearer to
him across the table. With his feverish eyes burning more brightly than
ever, he went on.

'"As the ship carried me away one thing, Pip, besides my own plight
worried me dreadfully. And that was you--you, my companion, my only
friend. I had left your cage outside hanging on the wall. Would you be
frozen to death by the cold night? Who would feed you? I remembered what
a lonely place that old mill was. What chance was there that any passer
by would see you? And even if he did, there would be nothing to show
him, unless he broke in and found the kitchen empty, that you had been
deserted. I imagined what you must be thinking of me as the hours and
days went by--starving days and freezing nights--waiting, waiting for me
to return, while all the time that accursed ship carried me further and
further away! ... Poor Pip! Even now I can't believe it's you. Still,
there you are, sure enough, with the yellow bars on your wings and the
funny black patch across your throat and that cheeky trick of cocking
your head on one side when you're listening--and--and everything."

'And then, still murmuring fitfully, at last the window-cleaner fell
asleep. From my cage I looked at his haggard, pinched face on the
pillow. I felt stupidly useless. I wished I were a person so I could
take care of him and nurse him back to full health. For I realized now
that he was still dreadfully ill. However, it was a great deal to be
with him again. I put my head under my wing and prepared to settle down
myself. But I didn't get much rest. For all night long he kept jumping
and murmuring in his sleep.'

'But how did the window-cleaner come to be on the raft?' whined Gub-Gub.
'You've let him go to sleep now without telling us.'

'Well, he hasn't gone to sleep for ever,' said the white mouse. 'Give
him a chance, can't you?'

'Oh, that pig,' sighed Dab-Dab. 'I don't know why we always have him in
the party.'

'Myself,' growled Jip, 'I'd sooner have a nice, smooth round stone for
company.'

'Quiet, please!' said the Doctor. 'Let Pippinella go on.'

'Well,' said the canary, 'in the morning while he was dressing, the
window-cleaner told me the rest of his story. Realizing that if he had
remained on that ship till the end of its journey he would be cast into
prison--probably for the rest of his days--he determined to escape from
it at any cost before it reached port. He had been given work to do
about the ship like the other sailors; so fortunately he was still
free--in appearance at all events. He bided his time and pretended not
to be suspicious concerning his captor's intentions.

'After some days of sailing they passed an island at night time. The
land was some three miles away at least, but its high mountain tops were
visible in the moonlight. On account of the distance the men never
dreamed that he would attempt to swim ashore. It was very late and no
one was on deck. Taking a lifebelt from the rail my friend slipped
quietly into the sea near the stern of the boat and struck out for the
island.

'It was a tremendous, long swim. And if it had not been for the belt, he
told me, he could never have done it. But finally, more dead than alive
from exhaustion, he staggered up on to the beach in the moonlight and
lay down to rest and sleep.'

Pippinella paused a moment while the whole Dolittle family waited
eagerly for the rest of her story.

'I know!' shouted Gub-Gub. 'Don't tell me. Let me guess. He landed on
Ebony Island--the same as you did!'

'No,' said the canary shaking her head. 'It would have been simple had
he done that.--No, the island on which he landed was one of the same
group--but it lay two or three miles to the South of my island. I only
found that out later as he described his further adventures.'

'Incredible!' exclaimed John Dolittle. 'Why, he must have been there at
the same time you were living on the larger one. I know that group of
islands well; they're close enough together to make visibility very
good. Strange you didn't see him.'

'Well, no, Doctor,' replied the canary. 'You see, it was the time of the
autumn rains and the sky was overcast and grey from one day to the next.
I could never have seen him from my island. But you will remember that I
told you I occasionally visited the other islands just to relieve the
monotony. I must have been on his while he was on mine. You'll see, as
my story progresses, how that could have happened.'

'Quite so,' said the Doctor. 'Do go on Pippinella. I've never heard a
more astonishing example of sheer coincidence.'

'When the window-cleaner awoke,' continued the canary, 'it was daylight
and the first thing he saw was the ship about six or seven miles off,
coming back to look for him.

'Fortunately he had lain down in the shadow of some bushes and had not
yet been seen through the telescopes from the ship. Like a rabbit he
made his way inland, keeping always in the cover of the underbrush.
Reaching the far side of the island he crept up into the higher mountain
levels, where from vantage points he could see without being seen.

'He watched the vessel draw near and send boats ashore with search
parties. Then began a long game of hide-and-seek. About two dozen men in
all were brought on to the island. And from these twenty-four he had to
remain hidden.

'All day long my friend watched like a hunted fox, peering out from the
bushes and rocks at his pursuers. Darkness began to fall and he supposed
that the men would now return to their ship. But to his horror he saw
that they were settling down for the night, putting up bivouacs of
boughs and lighting camp fires.

'For two days this continued. You might wonder why I didn't see the ship
and the fires and the boats going back and forth from the ship to the
shore. But it all must have taken place on the other side of the
island--out of sight of where I stayed most of the time. And then, too,
the fog was so thick that seeing more than a few feet in any direction
was impossible.

'Finally, when it began to look as though his pursuers were never going
to leave the island, my friend hit upon a plan. At night time he went
down to the beach on that side of the island where the ship had come to
anchor. You remember the lifebelt that he used to come ashore with?'

'Yes,' said Gub-Gub, sneezing heartily.

'Well, he took that lifebelt, which had the ship's name written on it,
and he flung it out beyond the surf. He watched it for a little to make
sure that it was not washed back inshore, and then he made his way up
again to his mountain retreats.

'Now at least once a day, sometimes more, boats passed between the
island and the ship to get news of how the hunt was progressing or to
bring supplies to the search parties. The following morning one of these
boats sighted the lifebelt floating in the sea. It was captured and
taken aboard the ship. When news of its discovery was brought to the
captain he decided that my friend had been drowned in his attempt to
reach the island, and he signalled to the search parties to rejoin the
ship.

'About half an hour later the window-cleaner, watching from his mountain
hiding places, saw the vessel weigh anchor and sail away. He described
to me his great joy when he first realized that his plan had worked,
that his enemies had at last departed and left him in peace. The first
thing he did was to have a good sleep. Anxiety about the movements of
his hunters had prevented his getting any real rest since he had seen
the ship return.

'But after a while he found that his situation was by no means good
anyway. Immediate danger from the men who had kidnapped him was over, to
be sure. But he was now marooned on an uninhabited island, with every
prospect of staying there indefinitely. As week after week went by and
he never even sighted the sail of a passing ship, he came to the
conclusion that this island was far out of the paths of ocean traffic.

'All this time anxiety about the safety of his book added to his other
troubles. He begrudged every day--every hour--spent here in useless
idleness when his enemies might be busy behind his back, ransacking his
home for the work on which he had laboured so long.

'For food he subsisted on nuts, fish and fruit mostly. He took his
quarters in that cave which I had explained. On the peak just above this
he erected a flag made out of the cleaning rag which I found tied to the
stick. This, he hoped, might catch the attention of some passing
vessels. But none ever came.

'At last, when he had given up all hope of rescue from chance visitors,
he decided that his only way of escape was to set out on a raft and try
to get into the path of ships. So, somehow, with great patience, he
fastened together a number of dry logs upon the beach. He fashioned a
mast out of a pole and wove a sail by plaiting vines and leaves. Big sea
shells and other queer vessels were prepared to carry a supply of fresh
water. He laid in a large store of nuts and bananas. When everything was
ready, he thrust his raft out into the surf and prepared to sail away.

'But everything was against him. The weather, which had been fairly
decent for some days, suddenly worsened just as he put out to sea. A
violent wind blew the small, ill-fitted raft in a wide circle and flung
it--all battered and broken--on to the beach of Ebony Island. Of course,
he didn't realize at first that he wasn't back on his own island; he
only found it out after he had dragged himself to shelter and waited out
the storm.

'It must have been during this same storm that I foolishly tried to
follow the vessel which later was the means of saving my life. I suppose
the reason he didn't see the ship was that he was lying exhausted in a
small cove, waiting for the storm to subside.

'He told me how he began all over again to rebuild the raft; how he
waited each day for some vessel to show up; and how, finally in
desperation, he set out.

'I don't know when I have ever heard,' said Pippinella, 'anything more
terrible than the window-cleaner's description of his voyage on that
raft. With all his careful and thoughtful preparations, and because of
the overcast sky, I suppose, he had neglected one important thing: some
protection from the fierce rays of the sun. The first two days he had
not realized his oversight, for a continual drift of light clouds across
the sky shaded him even better than a parasol. But when on the third day
the full glare of the tropical sun beat down on him, his little sailing
boat had made such good progress before the wind, that he calculated he
was three hundred miles from the island and going back was out of the
question.

'For five days the window-cleaner drifted. By that time his fresh water
was all gone and most of his food. A good deal of the time now he was
out of his head entirely. He kept seeing imaginary ships appear on the
skyline, he told me. He would get up and wave to them frantically, like
a madman, then fall down in a state of utter collapse.

'Luckily he had not taken down his basketwork sail to use as a
sunshade--sorely through he needed it. He was always hoping that a wind
would come along and he feared that if he unlashed it from the mast he
would not have strength to get it up again. It was this that saved him.
Long after he had fallen unconscious for the last time it was sighted by
the ship in which I was travelling. The captain told him afterwards that
it was very doubtful if the raft would have been seen at all if it had
not been for that queer sail--which stood up high above the
water--especially as the ship's course was by no means heading in that
direction, but would have carried us by him at a distance of over twelve
miles.

'"However," the window-cleaner said to me, "all is well that ends well,
Pip. Somehow my coming through this, my escape from the kidnappers, my
rescue from the sea, make me feel I'm going to win through after all--so
that the work I have begun will go forward to a successful end. It was a
terrible experience. But I'm getting over it. And it has given me faith,
Pip, faith in my star. I will yet upset that thieving government. I will
yet live to see those people freed and happy."

'That morning it was announced that we would most likely reach our next
port the day after tomorrow. The kind old passenger with the
side-whiskers still stuck to my friend, the window-cleaner. He had
gathered at the time of the discussion about the cage that my friend had
no money. He came to our cabin later in the day and asked him what he
proposed to do when he landed. The window-cleaner shrugged his shoulders
and, with a smile, said:

'"Thank you, I don't just know exactly. But I'll manage somehow--get a
job, I suppose, till I've made enough to buy a passage home."

'"But, look here," said the old gentleman, "this port we're coming to is
inhabited by natives--very few white men, indeed. You'll have great
difficulty, I fear, in securing employment. Besides, you're still far
from well."

'Nevertheless, my friend insisted, while thanking the other for his kind
interest, that he would be able to get along somehow. But the old
gentleman shook his head. And as he left the cabin he murmured:

'"You're not strong enough yet. I must see if something can't be
arranged."

'That old gentleman reminded me a good deal of Aunt Rosie. He was one of
those unfortunate elderly person who, while apparently leading rather
stupid lives, yet spend much time and thought doing good to others. He
did arrange something, and that was a concert among the passengers. And
the money they collected was presented to us. The window-cleaner for a
long time refused to take it. But in the end they made him.

'And it was a good thing they did, too, for heaven only knows how we
would have got along without it. Because when we finally reached the
port we found it little more than a collection of huts. It was hard
enough to get a bed and a decent meal there, let alone a job. None of
the other passengers was landing here and our ship had only stopped to
unload part of her cargo. The window-cleaner, after thanking everybody
aboard for his kindness, was given a great send-off as he walked down
the gangplank, his only baggage a bird cage beneath his arm. Both he and
I were, I think, a little sorry to see the good ship weigh anchor and
sail away. Certainly if it had not been for her hospitality both of us
would have succumbed to the perils of the sea. He had paid the barber
for his hair cut and shave out of the money he had received from the
concert. In this way the barber suffered no loss. And I was glad of
that. Because he was a real, decent fellow, that man, and his
hair-dressing parlour had been quite a pleasant place to live in.'



7
THE RAGGED TRAMP


'AFTER that we settled down in such quarters as the port afforded to
wait for a vessel homeward bound. Boats' arrivals and departures were
not so certain then as they are now--particularly in that outlandish
spot. We were told that a ship was expected in a fortnight, but that it
might be three weeks before it came.

'This was a great disappointment to my friend, who was still itching to
get back and find out about the fate of his book. And it seemed as
though the nearer he got to his goal the harder it became for him to
wait.

'"You see, the trouble is, Pip," he kept on saying as he walked the sea
wall with my cage beneath his arm, scanning the horizon for an
approaching sail, "the trouble is that mill is so unprotected. Those
fellows could take up their quarters there and stay as long as they
liked and no one would know the difference. And you can be sure, once
they're certain they have found the house where I lived and wrote, they
won't rest till they've discovered my papers."

'Well, at last a ship came--not a very fine craft, far smaller and less
elegant than the one which had brought us here. This was a cargo vessel
pure and simple. My friend made arrangements with the captain to take us
as far as a certain port in his own country. Some hours were spent in
unloading freight and taking on supplies--and one or two more in signing
papers and talking about manifests, port dues, customs, quarantines, and
all the other things which a ship has to fuss with when she enters or
leaves a harbour.

'Finally, near nightfall, we got away. The window-cleaner now appeared
to throw care aside and regain some thing of his old habitual jolliness.
It was the feeling of motion, action at last, after all the waiting that
buoyed him up. As the vessel ploughed merrily forward through the water
he paced up and down the deck with a firmer, more vigorous manner than I
had seen in him since we had rejoined each other.

'We had at least a two week's voyage ahead of us. My friend procured
pens and ink and reams of paper. And hour after hour he would sit in his
cabin, writing, writing, writing. He was describing his adventures with
the agents or spies of the enemy government, he told me. He was going to
add it to his book--if it still existed. Watching him scribbling away at
his desk, stopping every once in a while to try to remember some detail
of his life on the islands or what not, gave me the idea to record in
some way the story of my own life. For it was then for the first time
that it occurred to me that perhaps my days had been adventurous enough
to be worth telling.

'Now, I'm happy that I did. For if I had not composed those verses and
songs it would not be so easy for me to recall all the details so that
you could put them down in a regular book.'

'Indeed,' said the Doctor. 'I'm glad you did, too. This, I'm sure, will
be a most unique book--a real animal biography--such as I've wanted to
do for so long. Shall we go on or are you too tired?'

'Not at all,' replied Pippinella, 'I want to finish tonight, if
possible.

'While the window-cleaner scribbled away at his desk over the story of
his kidnapping and escape at sea, I warbled away in my cage, trying out
phrases and melodies till I had put together the whole song of my life
in a manner that seemed musically fitting. Occasionally he would look up
from his work and smile. He liked it. He always liked to hear me sing.
But he seemed particularly struck by the love song of the greenfinch in
the spring. It's funny how everyone seems to like that best. You
remember yourself, John Dolittle, how when I sang for you that first
time through the wrapping paper of my cage, it was the greenfinch's
spring song?'

'Yes, I recollect,' said the Doctor. 'Sing it for us again, will you,
please?'

'Certainly,' said Pippinella, 'I'll be glad to.'

While the canary sang the beautiful and sad love story of the
greenfinch, with the Doctor writing it all down in his notebook, the
idea for a Canary Opera came to John Dolittle. It would be the most
unusual dramatic production the world had ever seen, with Pippinella as
the heroine with a cast of singing birds in the supporting roles. He
determined to talk it over with her the moment her life story was
finished.

The awful silence which greeted Pippinella at the end of her song
convinced the Doctor more than ever that she was just the star he needed
to take London by storm. Gub-Gub was sitting--silently, for a change--on
his stool with a big tear standing on the end of his nose. Dab-Dab was
trying self-consciously to hide the emotion she was feeling at the
conclusion of the song. And the other animals, Too-Too, Whitey, and Jip
were frankly wiping their eyes and snuffling their noses.

After a moment or two, while everyone composed himself again, the Doctor
asked the canary to continue her story. Pippinella took another small
sip of water and went on:

'At last our journey came to its end, as all journeys do, and we went
ashore one fine morning and set out about finding some means of
transportation to get us to the town of the windmill.

'My friend's money was not yet exhausted, so happily we were able to pay
for the journey by coach. The window-cleaner's anxiety and excitement
about the fate of his book continued to grow as we drew nearer to his
home. As we rumbled along over the country roads he kept muttering about
the slowness of the horses and wondering aloud if the old mill had been
burned to the ground or been struck by lightning or pulled down to make
room for another building and a hundred and one other possibilities
which might prevent him from regaining his papers, even if his enemies
had not stolen them.

'And when finally the coach set us down at an inn in the town where Aunt
Rosie lived he took my cage beneath his arm and fairly ran along the
road that led towards the mill. At the corner of the street he gave a
cry:

'"Thank goodness, Pip! It's still there. Look, the mill is all right.
The next thing is to see whether the kitchen has been broken into."

'And he ran stumbling on. The road up the hill was quite steep and he
was all out of breath by the time he reached the little tumble-down
fence that surrounded the bit of ground in which the mill tower stood.
The place looked even more decayed and dilapidated than when we had seen
it last. Long, lanky weeds grew in the chinks between the stones of the
front walk. The little gate by which we entered hung by a single hinge.

'But the thing that struck us both was the fact that the front door of
the mill had boards nailed across it.

'"Humph!" I heard him mutter. "The old farmer's been around and found
the door letting the weather in."

'Then he went to the side of the tower where the kitchen window was. And
that, too, had been nailed up.

'"Look as though we're going to have a job to get in, Pip," said he. "I
think I'll set you down here while I run over to the outhouse and find a
ladder. That second story window seems about the only entrance--unless I
break in. You wait here. I won't be a minute."

'And he set my cage down on an old packing-case near the front door and
ran off towards the outhouse.'

Pippinella paused.

'It's funny,' she said presently, 'what odd things happen at odd places.
At that moment I was just as excited as he to know the fate of his
papers. But when he disappeared into that outhouse that was the last I
ever saw of him.'

'Why, what happened?' asked Gub-Gub. 'Was he kidnapped again?'

'No,' said Pippinella, 'but I was. While I listened to him rummaging
around in that old shed, searching for a ladder, I saw a ragged person,
very evidently a tramp, creep out from behind the tower. His appearance
at once made me suspicious. And I started to call for the window-cleaner
at the top of my voice. But I suppose the noise that he was making
himself prevented him from hearing anything else. The tramp, with a
glance over his shoulder, drew nearer. I hoped my friend would show up
again any minute, for I knew at once what was going to happen. But he
didn't. He was evidently entirely absorbed in his hunt for the ladder.
As I gave an extra loud scream the tramp whipped my cage up, thrust it
under his coat to muffle the sound of my voice, tiptoed out of the gate
and set off quickly down the hill.

'It would be impossible to describe to you how I felt. After all my
striving, after all my travelling, there on the very doorstep of the
mill, within a few moments of knowing what had happened to the book,
within earshot of my beloved friend to whom I had only just been
reunited, to be stolen by a tramp while his back was turned! Fortune has
dealt me some bitter blows, but none quite as bad as that.

'I think he was some kind of a gypsy. He looked like one. And later he
fell in with a caravan of gypsies, who seemed to know him, and travelled
part of the way with them.

'I guessed at once that he had not stolen me because he was fond of
birds. His idea was to sell me. He had lifted me up and taken me along
just as he would a knife or any other bit of movable property, when the
owner wasn't looking. And now he just awaited opportunity to dispose of
me for money.

'He was a strange individual--like most gypsies. His hand seemed to be
set, his heart hardened, against everyone in the world except the other
members of this mysterious tribe to which he belonged. He begged and
stole his way across the country, sleeping in barns, under hayricks or
in some caravan whose brown-faced owners offered him hospitality.

'And for two weeks I shared this wandering, hand-to-mouth existence.
Often I was hungry; often I was cold; often I was wet. Still, I saw a
tremendous lot of the countryside, and when the weather was fair I felt
that I might easily be worse off, so far as the mere comforts of life
were concerned.

'I tried to mark the way, to notice the road we followed, so that in
case an opportunity to escape should occur I would know how to come
back. But the course of his journeys was too meandering to keep track of
it for long. I calculated at the end of ten days that we had covered a
hundred and fifty miles or so. But how much it would be in a straight
line I had no idea.

'At one place my tramp nearly got caught picking a farmer's pocket at a
cattle show. And I thought perhaps my chance to escape was at hand when
the crowd started to come after him. But he was a wily rascal. He gave
them the slip and got away.

'The tramp had tried several times to sell me at fairs and at wayside
houses that he had passed. And, for my part, I hoped he would succeed.
But somehow he didn't. Perhaps people had an uncomfortable feeling that
he may have stolen me--for he looked like a very suspicious sort of
character.

'Anyway, after a while I saw that what I feared most would probably come
to pass--he would sell me at a bird shop. On early morning he made his
way into a small town and, with my cage under his arm, presented himself
at an animal store just as the doors were being opened and the place
swept out. My heart sank as we entered. The smell and the noise and the
crowding! Oh, my! They are still a sort of nightmare to me. I yet clung
to the hope as we went in that the proprietor wouldn't buy me or would
offer a price so low that the tramp would keep me. For, naturally rascal
though he was, his open, wandering life through the countryside was
better by far than the close quarters of that noisome establishment.

'But, alas! He was apparently desperately in need of a little money, and
while he struck a good a bargain as he could, he was evidently
determined to sell me this time for anything he could get. And, after a
little haggling, he left me on the counter, took the money and went a
way.

'And then began what was, I think--after my experience of the
coal-mine--the unhappiest chapter in my life's story. Why should I tell
you all the drab details of that miserable existence? You probably know
them already, and for my part, I hate to recall them. An animal shop!
Heaven preserve all animals from sinking to that dreary state. There's
no reason, of course, why these places shouldn't be run properly--so far
as the cage birds are concerned, at all events. But the fact remains
that they very seldom are. I found that all my parents had told me about
them was true--and a good deal more in this case.

'The main trouble is the crowding. No one person--nor two people--can
look after a couple of hundred birds, several dozen rabbits, six pairs
of guinea-pigs, four tanks of goldfish, a score of dogs, cases upon
cases of pigeons, ten parrots, a monkey or two, white mice, squirrels,
ferrets and heaven knows what more, and give proper attention to them
all. Yet this is what they try to do. It isn't that they want to be
unkind. They are just careless--horribly careless. They want to make
money. That's the main idea.

'Right from the start I was taken out of my little wooden cage, where I
had lived since I'd been aboard ship, and pushed into a larger one that
was crowded with other cross-bred canaries. We stood on a shelf, one in
a long line of cages, and over us and under us and all around us there
were more cages still. My partners who shared my miserable box were a
motley crew of half-moulted hens, some of them with sore feet, others
with colds in the head--hardly one of them a decent full-blooded member
of society. In the middle of the room parrots on stands screeched and
squawked all day long. Twice a day--but why go on? There is only one
good thing that I can say about that animal shop, John Dolittle. And it
is: that there I first heard about you from the other poor creatures who
shared my miserable fate; and it was there you found me and rescued me
from existence too horrible to describe further.'

'My, my!' said the Doctor. 'A most dramatic turn of events! Just right
for an opera.'

'Opera?' screamed Gub-Gub. 'You mean we're going to do an opera? How
elegant. I shall sing the baritone's role--Figaro! Figaro!
Figaro-Figaro-_Figaro_!'

'Oh, be quiet!' scolded Dab-Dab. 'Nobody said we were going to do an
opera. You're always jumping to conclusions.'

'The Doctor said Pip's life was just right for an opera,' said Gub-Gub
crossly. 'That's what you said, John Dolittle, didn't you?'

'Yes, I did,' replied the Doctor. 'But the opera I have in mind is for
birds only. You--and the rest of the family--may help with the
production. That is, if Pippinella is willing.'

Then the Doctor outlined his plan to the canary and asked her if she
would be willing to assume the leading role. He explained that he would
use the exact story of her life for the plot and hire other birds to
play the supporting roles. It was just the idea he had been hunting for,
he told her, and he felt sure London audiences would be charmed by such
a production.

'Thank you, John Dolittle,' Pippinella said. 'It is a very great
compliment. I hope you won't be disappointed in me. I shall need a great
deal of coaching--opera is another thing again from singing just for the
pleasure of it. But I have a small favour to ask of you. Doctor.'

'Anything, Pippinella,' said the Doctor. 'What is it?'

'John Dolittle,' replied the canary. 'I want you to find my friend the
window-cleaner. If we go up to London, as you planned, we may just find
some trace of him there.'

'It is little enough to ask,' said the Doctor. 'And London will be a
good place to start. We have many friends there. Cheapside, the London
sparrow, who makes his home on St Paul's Cathedral, can give us some
valuable help, I'm sure.'

Gub-Gub bounced down off his stool and, grabbing Dab-Dab around the
middle, began to waltz her round and round, singing:

'We're off to London to see the Queen! Tra-la-la-la, la-la-la, la-la!'

'Oh, stop it!' cried Dab-Dab. 'You're making me dizzy!' But she was
smiling just the same and joined in the jubilation with the others.



PART THREE

I
THE CANARY OPERA


THE Dolittle caravan and circus started immediately for London and set
up camp on Greenheath well outside the city. Cheapside was found, and
helped the Doctor and Matthew Mugg, the Cat's-Meat-Man, with the
gathering together of birds from private aviaries, the zoo, and from the
open fields. Theodosia, Matthew's wife, took over the making of all the
costumes for the opera while the doctor and the Cat's-Meat-Man attended
to the details of production.

When it came time for rehearsals to begin they still had not found a
suitable bird to play opposite Pippinella--to sing the tenor role.

'We need a voice that will blend perfectly with hers; said John Dolittle
to Matthew. 'It's important that he be of good appearance, too.'

Before Matthew could reply, Pippinella, who was listening from her cage
nearby, called out:

Why don't we try to find Twink--the mate I had when I was with Aunt
Rosie?'

'Oh, Lor' bless up, Pip!' cried Matthew Mugg. 'It'd be like tryin' to
find a needle in an 'aystack.'

'Let's not give up until we've had a look around,' said the Doctor. 'It
may be possible to find Twink.'

With Pippinella going along to help, Matthew visited every animal shop
in the vicinity of London. Strangely enough, one day in a dirty shop, in
the East End, who should turn up but Twink. He was desperately ill with
a cold and a sore throat but the Doctor soon cured that with his Canary
Cough Mixture and Twink's voice came back stronger and more beautiful
than it had been before. Pippinella was delighted to see him again and,
for the time being, stopped fretting about her friend, the
window-cleaner.

Twink's account of the miserable conditions under which the birds and
animals existed in the shop in the East End so disturbed the Doctor that
he and Matthew took time out from rehearsals to stage one of the
greatest mass rescues in the Doctor's career--the release of Twink's
former associates from their imprisonment in the ship.

In spite of the fact that the Doctor often neglected the business of the
opera to follow up some clue that seemed to be leading to the
window-cleaner, Pippinella's beloved master was still not found. One
day, when the Doctor had called a final dress rehearsal, it was
discovered that the green canary and Jip were missing. Cheapside, who
was assisting the Doctor by drilling the chorus and dance numbers, was
all for finding a new prima donna.

'Tempermental hartists!' sniffed the cockney sparrow. 'I bet them two is
off 'untin' for 'er window polisher. Say, Doc, what's the matter with me
singin' her part? We could dye my feathers green and nobody'd know the
difference.'

'Hah!' snorted Dab-Dab. 'If you so much as opened your cockney mouth you
would empty the house in two minutes!'

'I like that!' replied Cheapside in a huff. 'I'm considered the most
musical bird in these 'ere parts, I am!'

'Now, now,' admonished the Doctor. 'Pippinella must be found. We can
hold up opening for a day or two. I'm sure she can't be far away.'

And Pippinella _was_ found. She explained that she had seen a man in the
circus enclosure who looked like her window-cleaner friend. Jip had gone
with her to follow him across London. But in the smelly quarters of the
docks even Jip's sensitive nose could not keep track of the scent.

The Doctor was most understanding.

'I know how much you miss him, Pippinella,' he said. 'But do be patient.
As soon as the opera is over we will devote every minute to make a
thorough search for him. Please promise me you won't run off again.'

'All right, Doctor,' replied the canary. 'I'll wait.'

The Canary Opera was a smashing success. Pippinella's solos, _Maids,
come out, the coach is here_, _The Harness Jingle and I'm a Midget
Mascot_ were tremendous hits. She was so taken up with the excitement of
being the toast of London that, for the time being, thoughts of her
friend, the window-cleaner, were completely driven from her mind.

Many honours, too, came to the green canary because of the opera. She
was dined and wined at the most famous restaurants in London. Admirers
sent her baskets and bouquets of flowers; and a famous manufacturer of
bird cages paid her a large salary to hop in and out of one of his cages
in a store window, showing by her presence and sprightly manner, that
she approved of the design.

The successful opera season came to a close. Twink went off to live with
Hop, the clown from the circus, who had decided to retire. The pelicans
and flamingoes had been returned to the naturalist from whom the Doctor
had borrowed them for the chorus, and the thrushes and wrens had left
for their native haunts. All that was left to do now, before the family
could return to Puddleby while the Doctor and Pippinella went to look
for the canary's friends, was for the circus animals and personnel to be
placed in proper homes for their comfort and well being.

This the Doctor did with great care. He chartered a special ship to send
the lion, the leopard, and the elephant back to Africa. The snakes went,
too, and caused great consternation when they got out of the basket on
the dock and started diving and wiggling among the passenger's baggage
just for the fun of a good stretch. One old lady fainted dead away when
she opened her bag and found one of them squirming among her shawls and
laces.

However, they were captured and made the trip safely and happily back to
their native soil where they became the talk of all snakedom with the
fandango dance which they had learned for the circus and now performed
for their new-found friends.

The day finally came when all the business of the circus had been
completed. The enclosure was cleared of its equipment; nothing remained
now except the Doctor's caravan--in which members of his household
lived--and the smaller covered wagon which served Theodosia and Matthew
Mugg as a home.

A vast throng of children--after presenting the Doctor with a huge
bouquet of flowers--were departing tearfully sucking peppermint drops
John Dolittle had given them as a farewell gift. The Doctor turned to
face the members of his family who were gathered around him.

'I--a--er, have something to tell you,' he said. He paused, at a loss
for the proper words.

Dab-Dab, quick to sense what was in the Doctor's mind, pushed forward to
stand in front of him.

'No, John Dolittle,' she said crossly. 'Don't tell me we are not going
home. I simply cannot stand another minute of this gypsy existence! My
nerves are at breaking point!'

'There, there,' said John Dolittle, leaning forward to comfort her. 'I
know it's been difficult. But you've done wonderfully. And I wouldn't
even consider keeping you here. How soon will you be able to leave?

'Why, within the hour!' said Dab-Dab, brightening. 'I have one or two
little things still to do.' She spreads her wings and, calling to the
others to come and pick up their rubbish, flew right through the doorway
of the wagon. Matthew and Theodosia also hustled off to complete their
preparations while the Doctor just stood in the empty lot staring off
into space.

Barely a moment elapsed before Dab-Dab thrust her head out of the wagon
and looked at the Doctor with a worried expression on her kindly face.

'I just remembered something, Doctor,' said the duck. 'You didn't say
what it was you had to tell us.'

'Why, I--er--a--you see, Dab-Dab,' he began.

'Don't tell me--I know,' she said, coming slowly down the wagon steps.
'You're not going to Puddleby with us. I might have guessed it. You have
some notion of finding that window-cleaner fellow, haven't you, John
Dolittle?'

'Yes,' said the Doctor. 'I made a promise and it must be fulfilled
before I can return to Puddleby.'

'All right!' declared Dab-Dab. 'If that's the way you feel, then nobody
goes to Puddleby until you do.'

'Oh, that isn't necessary, Dab-Dab,' remonstrated the Doctor. 'Perhaps
the others _want_ to go home.'

With that there was a chorus of denials; nobody wanted to go home
without the Doctor.

'We can all help find Pip's friend!' shouted Gub-Gub. 'I'm a first class
rooter!'

'Where do you think he's hiding?' asked the duck, all thoughts of
Puddleby driven from her head.--'Under a cauliflower plant?'

'Jip will be better at hunting him out than any of us,' said the white
mouse. 'He can track a person by sniffing the grass along the roadside.'

'Whitey would be valuable wherever doors are locked,' offered Jip. 'He
can squeeze through a hole the size of a farthing.'

'How about me?' asked Too-Too, the owl. 'We may need to do some night
work. And you know how well I see in the dark.'

Pippinella, perched on a discarded orange crate, listened to all this
with a lifting heart. During the earlier proceedings she had become
terribly downcast for she too had mistaken the Doctor's intentions. But
when she heard with what enthusiasm the family accepted the change in
plans she flew to the group and lit on the Doctor's high hat.

'I want you to know how much I appreciate this,' she said in a most
gracious manner. 'Someday, perhaps, I can do something for you besides
upsetting you plans.'

'Tut, tut,' said Dab-Dab, who was secretly a great admirer of the little
prima donna. 'We frequently change our plans, don't we, Doctor?'

'Yes, indeed,' said John Dolittle. 'Now let's work out the beginning of
our campaign. Pippinella, do you know the name of the town where the
windmill stood? That seems the best place for us to start.'

'Yes,' replied the canary. 'It's called Wendlemere; a little town with a
cathedral right in the middle and a river which makes a sort of loop
around three sides of it.'

'The cathedral stands at one end of a large market square, doesn't it?'
asked the Doctor.

'Yes,' said Pippinella. 'That's the town.'

'Fine,' said the Doctor. 'Now we're on thee trail. Did you ever hear
your friend's name?'

'Never once,' said the canary. 'He was careful always to avoid giving
any names. And, as I told you, so far as his life at the mill was
concerned, no one was ever there to ask it.'

'Humph!' said the Doctor. 'It isn't much to go on, just the name of the
town. Still, people have been found before today with no more
information than that. I will do my best. Now, let's all go back to the
caravan for supper. Dab-Dab, have we something extra nice? Some kippers
and tea would taste good after this busy day.'

'Kippers!' squealed Gub-Gub. 'I'd rather have a kipper than a dozen
truffles!'

During supper a lively discussion went on; everybody wanted to go along
to hunt for the window-cleaner. But it was finally decided that only Jip
and Pippinella should accompany the Doctor. Matthew and Theodosia were
commissioned to see that Dab-Dab had sufficient food for the larder at
all times; and the family all joined with Pippinella in making plans for
the trip to the windmill.

In the morning the Doctor, Pippinella, and Jip were up and away early.
It took them the whole day to complete the journey to Wendlemere and by
the time they got there darkness had fallen.

'I'm going to have a look around,' said the Doctor. 'One can tell better
at night if a place is occupied--by the lights in the windows, you
know.'

'Smells are good at night,' too,' said Jip. 'The dampness makes them
hang close to the ground. I'll go with you, if you don't mind, Doctor?'

'Certainly, Jip,' said the Doctor. 'Pippinella, you come on to my
shoulder. We'll stroll around and see what we can see.'

The little party set out for the mill while the rest of the town slept.
They went immediately to the foot of the hill on which the windmill
stood, to see if any light was visible in the tower. But all was in
darkness.

'Perhaps he's gone to bed,' said the canary hopefully. 'It's long after
midnight. And he used to turn in early when we lived here before.'

'Yes,' said the Doctor, 'And I think that's what we better do, too.
We'll find a room at the inn and wait until morning to investigate
further.'

On the morrow they returned after a hasty breakfast to the home of the
solitary philosopher. Their first glance at the mill from below the hill
was quite discouraging. No smoke rose from the stove pipe that stuck out
of the roof. Yet it was the hour when breakfast, if the mill was
occupied, should be cooking. With a sinking feeling of failure, the
Doctor, with Pippinella on his shoulder and Jip at his heels, hurried up
the hill till finally he stood before the little gate in the ramshackle
fence. The stone walk leading to the tower door showed no footprints of
habitation.

Heavy at heart, the Doctor turned his head to speak to Pippinella.

'We've come on a wild goose chase, Pippinella,' he said, 'Your friend,
evidently has been gone from here a long time.'

'I'm afraid you're right, Doctor,' said the canary. 'What do we do now?'

Jip jumped up and put his front paws on the Doctors leg.

'There's a man over there in the field,' said he. 'Why don't you ask him
if he's seen the window-cleaner?'

'That's a good idea, Jip, said the Doctor. 'Perhaps he owns this place.
He'd be sure to know something about his tenant if he did.'

The man, a weather-beaten, grey-haired countryman of about fifty years
of age, turned out to be a civil fellow--only too willing to rest his
plough and gossip, if he got the chance.

'No,' he said. 'I ain't seen nowt of that queer loon for--let me
see--not for over a year. He used to pay me a few shillings a month for
the use of the old mill. He'd bring me the money regular, himself, while
he was here. Didn't like to have me come up and collect it. It seemed he
hadn't no wish for human company around him. I never even heard what his
business was.'

Suddenly the man peered sharply at Pippinella sitting on the Doctor's
shoulder.

'That's queer, sir,' he said. 'That fellow you're lookin' for had a bird
that the spittin' image of that one. Used to hang his cage on a hook
outside the tower window--when the weather was good. But, of course, it
couldn't be the same one. Yours seems sorta tame like--the way he sits
there--not moving or nothing.'

The Doctor was relieved that the man did not pursue the subject further;
it would be awkward to try to explain his relationship with birds and
animals to this simple countryman.

'He wur surely a strange, strange man,' the farmer went on. 'I used to
say to the wife, I'd say, "Maybe he's a hanarchist, a mixing dynamite
and bombs up there in my mill--never did see a soul live so secret and
solitary." "Oh, go along," she'd say, "no man with a face like his'n
never mixed bombs to blow folks up with. He looks more to me like a
minister--and not any of your simpering psalm-singing kind neither, but
just a plain, honest man who thinks more of others than himself." That
wur the wife's opinion. Howsomever, hanarchist or minister, he wur a
queer duck all right.'

'Do you remember exactly,' the Doctor asked, 'what day it was you saw
him last?'

The farmer called to his team to stand and he scratched his head.

'Aye,' he said, after a moment. 'I mind it wur the day I took the
potatoes in off the north field. It rained about noon and I had to stop
'cause potatoes don't store good when they're wet. I hadn't even seen
him go away. But his not coming with the rent told me that he'd gone off
and I'd like as not ever see him again. Then, when I were starting for
home I saw a man a crossin' down from the mill to the gate. It wur him.
He wur running, crazy like. "So," I thinks to myself, "he's come back,
'as he?" Minding he never like to have me come to see him, I thinks to
meself: "He'll be round to my place afore long with his rent and I'll
not bother." And I goes off home in the rain. But he never comed and I
never seen him from the fields here while I was ploughing. And at the
end of the week I goes up to the mill, anyhow. But he wasn't there.'

'Yes, but what day was that?' asked the Doctor.

'It wur the day I took the potatoes off the north field,' the farmer
repeated, 'end of the first week in September. That'll be twelve months
ago come Friday.'

'And have you seen anyone else around the mill, either before or since?'

'Not a soul. Nobody ever comes up here.'

'Thank you,' said the Doctor. And bidding the farmer good-bye he set off
to return to the town.



2
THE GREEN PARROT HAS A CLUE


WHEN John Dolittle got back to the inn he put Pippinella back in the
small travelling cage he had made for her.

'There's plenty of seed and fresh water, I believe,' he said. 'You must
be very hungry.'

'No, Doctor,' said the canary. 'I'm too discouraged to eat.'

'You mustn't feel that way,' said the Doctor. 'We've only begun to look
for your friend. I feel sure he'll turn up. Have some food--and rest
awhile. I'm going out to ask around the town whether a stranger has been
seen lately. Jip, you stay here to keep Pippinella company. Try to cheer
her up while I'm gone.'

Jip wagged his tail and said he would.

At a corner of a long street of stately old-fashioned mansions the
Doctor paused a moment, looking upwards at a curious lamp-post which
stood close to one of the houses. Two fine shady trees spread their
branches overhead. Outside the corner window of the house a mirror was
fastened on a bracket. A plump, white-haired lady sat knitting at the
window, and the Doctor noticed that she was looking at him in the
mirror. Something about the spot struck John Dolittle as familiar. And
while he paused an old lame man came along, put a ladder against the
lamp-post and climbed up to clean the lamp.

A smile of recognition suddenly spread over the Doctor's face.

'Aunt Rosie's house!' he whispered. 'Of course, I wonder if she's heard
anything of the window-cleaner. There she is, still knitting, still
watching the neighbours pass. I'll go and call on her.'

Aunt Rosie, while knitting at her window, had noticed a small, round man
pause at the corner of the street.

'Hah! A stranger!' she muttered, dropping a stitch. 'Distinguished
looking man. A scientist or a barrister--possibly a diplomat. I wonder
what house he's bound for. Doesn't look like a relative of anyone in
this street. Goodness gracious, I believe he's coming here! Yes, he's
walking up my steps. Well, did you ever! Emily, Emily!'

A maid, neatly dressed with white cap and apron, entered from the next
room in answer to her mistress's cry.

'Emily,' said Aunt Rosie. 'There's a caller at the door--a gentleman
caller. I'm not dressed or anything. Get me my cashmere shawl quickly.
It's on the top of my bureau. And take this old woollen one away.
There's the bell. Hurry! I've no idea who its is, but it looks like
someone very important. He's got a black bag. Come from out of town,
that's clear. Are the tea things ready? Answer the door, girl. Don't
stand there like a dummy! No, get the shawl first. And don't forget the
buttered toast. Hurry, I tell you! Here, come back. Put this old woollen
thing out of sight.'

In a great state of flutter and excitement Aunt Rosie threw off the
white knitted shawl from her shoulders--nearly upsetting a green parrot
that perched on a stand at her elbow. The maid, bewildered at receiving
half a dozen orders at once, took it from her and left the room. In the
hall she set it down upon a chair and went to open the front door.

Without she found a small, round man, with a very kind face.

'Er--er--hum--er--a. Is Aunt Rosie in?' asked the Doctor.

'The maid stared at him in astonishment.

'She is, I know,' the Doctor went on, answering his own question.
'Because I saw her at the window.'

Emily, though still somewhat at sea, finally found her voice.

'Won't you come in, sir?' she murmured.

'Thank you,' said the Doctor, stepping across the threshold.

In the hall on his way to the parlour the Doctor was met by the hostess
herself, who came forward, fluttering, to greet him.

'Ah, how do you do, Aunt Rosie?' said he, holding out his hand.

Now 'Aunt Rosie' was a nickname for this lady, used only by herself when
talking with her pets and some of her relatives. Imagine, then, her
astonishment to be greeted in this fashion by an entire stranger.
However, her guest seemed such an amiable, disarming person, she
supposed he must be someone whom she ought to know and whose face she
had forgotten.

'Good afternoon,' she murmured feebly. 'Emily, take this gentleman's hat
and bag.'

Then she led the way into the room where she always sat and the first
thing the Doctor noticed was the green parrot perched on the stand.

'Ah!' said he. 'I see you've got a new parrot. The other one was a grey
one, wasn't he?'

'Er--yes. Quite so,' muttered Aunt Rosie, feeling surer than ever that
this man, if not one of her own relatives greatly altered, must at least
be someone she ought to know extremely well. Afraid to offend him by
asking him his name, she proceeded to potter around with the tea things
while she watched the doctor out of the corner of her eye and sought
wildly to remember who he was.

Before the Doctor had a chance to explain the object of his visit he was
offered, to his great delight, a cup of tea by his fluttering hostess.

'I hope you will pardon my dropping in unexpectedly like this,' he
began, taking the teacup from her.

'Oh, don't mention it,' said she, returning to the tray. 'Let me see,
I've forgotten whether you take sugar?'

'Two lumps, please,' said the Doctor.

'Yes, of course,' murmured Aunt Rosie.

'Well, now,' said John Dolittle, 'I wanted to ask you about your
window-cleaner. You remember the odd fellow that you used to employ, the
one you gave the canary to?'

'Oh, perfectly,' the hostess answered, still cudgelling her brains for
the name of this man who apparently knew her private affairs so well. 'A
quite extraordinary individual--most peculiar.'

'Have you seen him recently?' asked the Doctor. 'I mean since you gave
up having your windows done regularly by him--that was somewhat over a
year ago, wasn't it?'

'Yes,' said Aunt Rosie, 'I have.'

For the quiet old lady of the sleepy cathedral town that odd character,
the window-cleaner, had always held the spice of mystery. Many a time
she had tried by questioning him and inquiring among the neighbours to
find out more about him. But she had met with nothing but baffling
failure. The object of the Doctor's visit, therefore, threw Aunt Rosie
into a greater state of excitement than ever. She stopped rattling the
teacups and leaned forward in her chair as though about to impart some
terrible secret.

'I had not seen that man,' she whispered, 'for fifteen months. I
supposed that he had left the town, and I'm quite certain that he had,
for several of my neighbours used to employ him, and if he had been
working in the town I would surely have seen him. Well, then, one day,
as I was feeding the parrot, I saw him come up the steps. I noticed at a
glance that he was greatly changed, much thinner--he used to be quite
plump, you know. And when the maid let him in, he asked for work. I
didn't really need him to do the windows, because I have them done by
the maids now. But he looked so down-at-heel and poverty-stricken that I
hadn't the heart to say no. So I told him to do all the windows on the
top floor. On the way upstairs he suddenly swayed weakly against the
wall. I guessed at once what was the matter. I whispered to the maid to
take him to the kitchen and give him a good meal. And do you know, the
poor man was actually starving. The cook told me he ate nearly
everything in the larder. Then I questioned him while he was at work, to
see if I could find out what had befallen him. But he would tell me
hardly anything. Just murmured something above have run into bad luck.'

As Aunt Rosie finished her long speech the green parrot on the stand
moved restlessly, jingling the chain about his leg.

'And did you, madam,' asked the Doctor, 'see him gain after that?'

'Only once,' said the old lady, handing her guest the buttered toast.
'Seeing what sad straits he was in, I told him I wanted the rest of the
windows done the following day. He came back early on the morrow--very
early--and the maids told me they had seen him hanging around the house
in the small hours. I believe he never went to bed at all; perhaps he
had no place to go, but just waited through the night to do the rest of
his work the following day. When all the windows were done and there was
nothing further to keep him I asked him, as I paid him his money,
whether he intended staying in the town for some time. He glanced at me
suspiciously, as though I were trying to incriminate him, and then said
no, he was only remaining long enough to earn his coach fare to go on
farther.'

'Did he say where he was going?' the Doctor asked.

'No,' said the old lady. 'But I'm pretty sure he left the town that
night. Because he finished his work here in the forenoon, and I never
saw him again.'

At this moment Emily, the maid, entered and whispered something in her
mistress's ear.

'Excuse me,' said Aunt Rosie, rising. 'I have to see the butcher about
his bill. I'll be back in a moment.'

And she left the room, accompanied by the maid.

John Dolittle put down his teacup and leaned back in his chair, staring
in a puzzled manner at the ceiling.

'Confound the luck!' he said aloud. 'It looks as though the trail leads
no farther. For heaven only knows where he went when he left the town.'

Suddenly the Doctor heard a rattle behind him. Thinking it was perhaps
his host returning he sprang to his feet politely and turned about. But
he found that he was still alone, except for the green parrot, whom he
had forgotten. That wise-looking bird now seemed very wide awake. He
stepped gravely to the end of his short perch and craned his neck out
towards the Doctor.

'Oh, how do you do?' said John Dolittle in parrot language. 'You had
been so quiet behind me there I had forgotten all about you. I suppose
you can't help me in this problem?'

The parrot glanced over his shoulder at the door still ajar and listened
a moment. Then he motioned with his head to the Doctor to come a little
nearer. John Dolittle at once stepped up to his stand.

'He went to London, Doctor,' the parrot whispered. 'You know, as the old
lady told you, he used to mutter a lot--talk aloud to himself--but only
when there were no people about. While he was doing the window of this
room, standing on the sill outside, with the window half open, he looked
in and saw me on my perch here. Seemed sort of mesmerized at first. Then
he laughed kind of childish-like and went on polishing the window. There
was no one in the room but me. "Good old Pip," he kept saying. "There
you are, still, sitting in the window. Watching me polish up the glass.
So you came back to the old lady, did you, Pip? Well, she's a good sort.
She'll take better care of you than I did. Poor old Pip! But you're
looking well--you've grown bigger. Shan't see you again after today--not
for a long time. I'm just making enough money to get after them, Pip.
Curse them! Curse them! I'm just making enough money to buy a coach
ride. Then I'm off. I know where they've gone, Pip. They've gone to
London. And I'm going after them--tonight!"'

As the green parrot finished speaking the Doctor heard Aunt Rosie's
footsteps in the distance, coming up the kitchen stairs.

'Listen,' he whispered quickly, 'Did you get any idea of where he was
going in London--any names of people he meant to see, eh?'

'No,' said the parrot, 'nothing more. I don't think he had a very clear
idea himself. He seemed very vague and hazy. Tell me, Doctor, how is
Polynesia getting on?'

'Oh, did you know my Polynesia?' asked John Dolittle.

'Why, certainly!' said the parrot. 'She was a distant relative of mine.
I heard that she was living at your house in Puddleby.

'I left Polynesia in Africa,' sighed the Doctor. 'Last time I was there.
I have missed her terribly.'

'She's lucky,' said the parrot. 'She always was a lucky bird, was
Polynesia. Look out, here's the old lady coming back!'

When Aunt Rosie re-entered the room she found her caller scratching the
parrot's head.

'I'm sorry to have been so long,' she said. 'But you know what these
tradesmen are. That dreadful man insisted hat I had a pound of steak
last Tuesday, when that is my meatless day. I haven't eaten meat on a
Tuesday for three years--not since Doctor Matthews put me on a diet.
Then he discovers that he sent the steak to somebody else in the
street--some one who really had ordered it--and he had charged it to me
by mitake.'

'Very trying,' said the Doctor. 'Very trying.'

Aunt Rosie now settled down again to her tea, hoping to find out from
her caller something of the private history of her mysterious
window-cleaner. But before she had a chance to put a single question the
Doctor began asking questions himself.

'Perhaps your maid--the one who opened the door for me--could remember
something that would help me find the window-cleaner,' said the Doctor.

'Oh, Emily!' said Aunt Rosie, wrinkling up her nose. 'She never notices
really important things. But we'll ask her anyway.'

Then Emily was summoned and questioned by her mistress. She said all she
knew was that he hadn't done a very good job on the windows the last
time he'd washed them. As she was retiring the front door bell rang.

'Pardon me,' said Aunt Rosie, rising. 'This is my at-home day. Some
friends drop in regularly and bring their needle-work with them.'

'Oh--er,' said the Doctor, getting up out of his chair. 'I think I ought
to be going--really.'

'Oh, no, don't run away,' said Aunt Rosie. 'I'll just see who it is.
I'll be back in a moment.'

And before the Doctor had a chance to protest his hostess had left the
room again and closed the door behind her.

In the hall Aunt Rosie greeted a sour-faced lady ho had just been
admitted by the maid.

'My dear,' she said, fluttering forward, 'I'm so glad you've come.
Listen: there's a man in the parlour whom I can't make out at all. He
seems to know all about me and my private affairs. And I suppose it's
someone whom I ought to know extremely well. Perhaps you can help me. If
you recognize him, whisper his name to me when he's not looking, will
you?'

'Is that his?' asked the sour-faced lady, sternly pointing to the
Doctor's high hat hanging on the stand in the hall.

'Yes,' said Aunt Rosie.

'Then I know already,' said the other.

Now, as soon as Aunt Rosie had left the parlour the Doctor was summoned
by a sharp 'Pst!' from the corner of the room. He slipped across to the
parrot's side and leaned down to listen.

'It's your sister Sarah,' whispered the bird. 'She's always the first to
arrive at these sewing circles. They're all a dreadful lot of old
gossips. But she's the worst of them all. A sparrow told me that she was
your sister.'

'Good heavens!' said the Doctor. 'Sarah! How can I get out of here, I
wonder?'

'Push the window up and drop down into the street.' said the parrot.

'But my hat and bag are in the hall,' whispered the Doctor. 'I can't go
without them. Oh, Lord! And she'll start in about the circus again. I
suppose, as soon as she meets me.'

'Listen,' whispered the parrot. 'You see that other door over there?
That leads around through the pantry. Go through it and wait just on the
other side. As soon as they come in here and the hall is clear I'll give
a loud squawk. Then hurry along the passage and it will bring you out
into the hall. Take your hat and bag and let yourself out of the front
door. Hurry up! I hear them coming.'

The Doctor only just closed the door behind him as Sarah and Aunt Rosie
entered the room. He waited a moment in the narrow dark passage till a
hearty screech from the parrot told him that the coast was clear. Then
he groped his way along till he found the door at the end, passed into
the hall, grabbed his hat and bag and let himself out into the street.

'Dear me!' he muttered as he hurried around the corner and set off
towards the inn. 'A lucky escape, a merciful escape! I don't know what
poor Aunt Rosie will think of me--running off like that--after she had
given me a cup of tea and everything. Good tea it was, too ... Oh, well,
I'll write her a letter and tell her I was afraid I'd miss the coach.
Fancy that old fellow being a relative of Polynesia's--good old
Polynesia! I wonder how she's getting on. What a small world it is, to
be sure. Well, well! I haven't found out an awful lot about the
window-cleaner. Still, it's a good deal to know that he's in London. And
the search lies in our direction, too. It's an awfully big city, though.
But you can't tell. I have a feeling that we'll find hm.'



3
CHEAPSIDE HELPS THE DOCTOR


THE Doctor went immediately to his room at the inn and told Pippinella
the result of his expedition. When he had ended the canary shook her
head.

'It looks bad,' she said, 'very bad, Doctor. From what both the farmer
and Aunt Rosie told you, there is no doubt in my mind that the
window-cleaner found his kitchen ransacked and his papers gone. Oh,
dear! Poor man. I suppose he was just distracted with grief. What can we
do, Doctor? What can we do?'

'Well, now,' said John Dolittle, 'be patient. After all, it's something
that we know he went to London. I have a notion that we're going to
succeed in finding him.'

'Oh, I hope so,' sighed Pippinella. 'I hope so. I'm so worried about
him.'

'I hope we don't end up down at the East End docks again,' said Jip. 'I
simply can't get the smells untangled. What with tar smells mixing with
the scents from boxes of spices the ships from India unload on the
docks, and the fish smells so strong one can barely breathe, I find it
impossible to pick out the man smell.'

'Yes,' said the Doctor. 'It must be very difficult .Let's hope we don't
have to go there.'

That evening the little party took the London coach from the town
square. A there were no other passengers for that journey the Doctor was
able to stretch out on one seat and sleep most of the way. When they
reached the city it was early morning and everything was bustling with
activity. The Doctor tucked Pippinella's little traveling cage under his
arm so that in case they should meet the window-cleaner among the crowds
on the streets the canary could recognize him. Jip trotted along at John
Dolittle's heels, ready for action.

As they walked along the thronged pavements Pippinella, with her keen
eyes, searched the faces of every passer-by, hoping to find her friend.
After about two hours of this they all began to be a bit tired. On his
way across a bridge that spanned the river, the Doctor sat down on one
of the public seats to take a rest.

'Dear me, Doctor,' said the canary. 'I'm afraid there isn't much chance
of our running into him haphazardly. Look at those crowds across the
bridge! Their faces all swim together when I try to pick out one at a
time.'

The Doctor, who was beginning to be depressed about the prospect
himself, did not answer. Presently he got up and moved off, with the
intention of finding Cheapside, the London sparrow who had promised to
help them find the window-cleaner.

Passing by St Paul's Cathedral he looked up at the statue of St Edmund
which stood against the sky. The Doctor knew that Cheapside and Becky,
his wife, made their nest in the ear of the great statue. And although
he couldn't see it from that distance, he hoped it was there and that
Cheapside would be at home and would see him.

Suddenly he saw a small speck shot out of the statue's ear. It dropped
to earth with the speed of a bullet, and, with a fluttering of wings,
landed on his shoulder.

'Lor' bless me, Doc!' said Cheapside. 'I 'ad no idear you was in town.
When I looked down off St Edmund's ear just now and see'd your old
stovepipe 'at, you could 'ave knocked me over with a feather!'

'Well, well, Cheapside,' said the Doctor. 'I'm glad I found you so
easily.'

'But what are you doin' 'ere, Doctor?' asked the sparrow. 'When I went
out to Greenheath yesterday they told me you was in Wendlemere--'untin'
for Pip's friend.'

'We were,' replied the Doctor. 'But we had no luck. Nobody there has
seen him for months and months. However, I did hear that he'd come up to
London. Then I remembered that you had promised to help us and we came
to find you.'

'So I did,' said Cheapside. 'So I did, And I ain't one to go back on my
word. I'll do my best. London's a big place. Still, there ain't no one
knows it better than what I do. Hullo, Pip,' he said, peering into the
cage under the Doctor's arm. ''Ow's the primer donner this morning?'

'Very well, thank you,' said Pippinella. 'But I'm terribly worried about
my friend.'

'Don't you fret now, Pip,' said the sparrow. 'We'll find the bloke if we
'ave to 'unt the whole of England over. Just you leave it to old
Cheapside. I'm the champion 'unter of the British Hempire. I am! You and
the Doc--and Jip--Hullo Jip,' he said. 'I was so busy talkin' I forgot
to say hullo.'

The sparrow hopped over on to the Doctor's other shoulder.

'As I was sayin',' continued the sparrow, 'you three go back 'ome and
wait to hear from me. I'll bring you word as soon as I 'ave something to
tell you.'

'I'm awfully glad we found him.' said John Dolittle as they made their
way homeward towards Greenheath. 'He'll be much better at tracing your
friend than I could ever hope to be. You see, he's lived in London all
his life--knows every street and house in the whole cirty.'

'I do hope he finds him,' sighed Pippinella. 'But I'm very fearful.
Suppose those spies have found him again and taken him off on that
dreadful ship.'

'Now, now, Pippinella,' said the Doctor. 'We mustn't look on the dark
side. I still feel confident he's around somewhere. Let's leave it to
Cheapside for a while. If it's possible to find him he'll do it. He'll
do anything for me.'

Reaching Greenheath, the Doctor was met by Gub-Gub and the rest of the
family clamouring for news of the window-cleaner. They were tremendously
interested to hear of the Doctor's visit to Wendlemere and of his
meeting with Cheapside in London and they began at once to look forward
to the visit of the little cockney sparrow. For they always found the
worldly little city bird excellent company and never tired of his comic
chatter and amusing anecdotes.

And they had not long to wait, as a matter of fact. About noon the next
day, when the Dolittle household was sitting down to lunch in the wagon,
two sparrows suddenly flew in at the open door and settled in the middle
of the table--Mr and Mrs Cheapside.

As soon as the greetings were over Dab-Dab provided them with a place
beside the white mouse (next to the salt cellar) and gave them a supply
of crumbs and millet seed.

'Bless me, Doctor,' said Cheapside with his mouth full. 'It's nice to
sit down to dinner with you again. Becky and me 'ave been lonely for you
since the opera closed.'

'It's nice of you to say so,' replied the Doctor. 'We've missed you,
too.'

'Ah, Doc,' said Cheapside. But he was secretly very pleased.

'By the way, Cheapside,' said the Doctor. 'I don't want to seem
impatient, but have you started your search for Pippinella's friend
yet?'

'Who's that?' asked the sparrow.

'The window-cleaner--you know,' said the Doctor, 'the man I spoke to you
about yesterday.'

'Oh, 'im!' said the sparrow. 'Yes, we found him all right.'

'You found him!' cried the Doctor, springing to his feet. 'Already? Good
heavens!'

'Yes,' said Cheapside. 'We ran him down this morning--about eleven
o'clock.'

A regular chorus of exclamations broke out around the Doctor's luncheon
table after Cheapside's extraordinary statement.

'When will he come here?' asked Gub-Gub, climbing up on to his chair to
make himself heard. 'I'm so anxious to see that window-cleaner.'

'How was he looking?' asked Pippinella.

'Whereabouts did you find him?' Dab-Dab wanted to know.

'But, Cheapside,' said the Doctor. 'How on earth did you do it in so
short a time?'

'Well,' said the sparrow when the general noise and clatter had quieted
down, 'the first thing I did was to go around to the gangs.'

'What do you mean, the gangs?' squeaked the white mouse.

'The sparrow gangs, of course,' said Cheapside. 'The city sparrows are
divided into gangs. Very exclusive, some of them, too. For instance, the
West-Enders; oh, my! They're lah-di-dah, they are! Live in Berkeley
Square, Park Lane and Belgravia. Call 'emselves the Four Thousand--
gentry, you know. They wouldn't be seen speakin' to a White-chapel
sparrow or any of the Wapping gang, Mile-Enders, Houndsditchers and low
bird-life like that. Ho, no, indeed. Then there's the sort of
betwixt-and-betweeners--the Chelsea push, live among the artists; the
Highgate and Hampstead lot, 'ang around among the writers, they do.
They're kind of half-and-half, sort of dingy--you know, down-at-heel
genteel--look glum on Sundays, never do their fightin' in the street,
all for keepin' up appearances. But they're all the same to me, see?
Whitechapel, Highgate or Belgravia, I don't take no lip from none of
them.

'Well, when you says you wants to find this window-washer of yours, I
says to the missus, I says: 'Becky, the Doc wants this bloke found. It's
up to us to run 'im down. You go 'round the high-life gangs--you see,
she uses better class talk than what I do--and I'll go 'round the East
Enders and the middle-class 'ippocrites. I'll meet you on the top of
Cleopatra's Needle at ten o'clock sharp. Tell the gang leaders the job
is for the Doctor and I'll want to know the reason why it ain't done
right. If that bloomin' window-swabber ain't found by noon the
feathers'll begin to fly--and they won't be mine, neither.

'So Becky goes off one way and I goes off another. The first bunch I
hinvestigates is the Greenwich squad. They 'ang 'round the docks, all
the way from the Tower to the Isle of Dogs. I looks up the leader right
away, One-Eyed Alf, they calls 'im--the Wapping Terror. Thinks 'imself a
fighter. I 'ad to push 'is 'ead in the gutter before I could make him
listen to reason. "Hark at me, you crumb-snatchin' Stevedore," I says,"
'ave there been any strangers come 'round your district lately?"

'"Ow should I know?" 'e says off-' and like, "I ain't the Lord Mayor!"

'"Well, look 'ere," I says, "You get busy with your boys and bloomin'
well find out, see? There's a window-cleaner missin' and the Doctor
wants 'im found. Your gang of pickpockets will know if any new faces
have settled in the Greenwich District. I'll be back this way in half an
hour. And I'll hexcept reports, see! Now, hop about it, you moth-eaten
son of a dishrag!"

'It's no use mincin' words with that Greenwich lot. A kick behind the
ear is the only hargument they understand. Well, then, I goes off up the
river for Chelsea, to set the next gang to work.

'Inside of half an hour,' Cheapside continued, 'I'd got around all the
gangs in my half of London. And I felt pretty sure that if your friend
had settled anywhere within their boundaries I'd get to hear of it, all
right, because, you'd be surprised, there's nothing that escapes the eye
of a city sparrow. Other birds what visit towns casual, as you might
say, like the thrushes and starlings, that come into the parks and
gardens--well, they don't bother much with the human side of city life.
They're only visitors, anyway. But we London sparrows, we are citizens,
part of the town. You could ask any bird in the Piccadilly circus gang
at what hour any of the theatres close up and they could tell you to a
minute. You see, they get their living picking up the scraps of cake
that the ushers sweep out when the audiences go home. The Westminster
lot could tell you the name of any member of Parliament that you might
see going or coming out of the House of Commons. The Pall Mall set could
spell off the membership list of the Athenaeum Club for you--with the
family history of the waiters and all. The St James Park lot could tell
you what the queen had for breakfast and whether the royal babies slept
well last night. We go everywhere. We see everything. Yes, when it comes
to city news there ain't nothing we don't know. Ah, many's the
'air-raisin' yarn I could spin yer of outlandish goin's-on in 'igh
places--Jiminy!

'Well, to return to where we was on my way back to Cleopatra's Needle to
keep my appointment with Becky 'ere. I drops in again on One-Eyed Alf,
to see what news 'e 'ad for me. 'E told me as 'ow he tracked down three
or four window-washers, new arrivals, in his district. But not one of
them answered the description I'd given 'im. You remember Pippinella had
told me that 'er man had a scar across the side of 'is 'ead where the
'air didn't grow no more. And, although several of Alf's gang had spent
hours 'angin' 'round sundry window-cleaners at work, waiting for them to
take their 'ats off to scratch their 'eads, they 'adn't seen one with a
scar like what you canary 'ad described.'

'But he might not be working at window-cleaning at all now,' said
Pippinella. 'That wasn't his real profession.'

'Yes, I know. But we found him, anyway,' said Cheapside, 'as you will
hear. And it came about through that scar you told me of, too. I
questioned Alf for a few minutes and I come to the conclusion as 'ow 'e
'ad covered the ground thorough. So I scratches Greenwich and the Lower
River off the list and goes on to meet Becky.'

'Yes, and you didn't get there by ten, as you said you would,' chirped
Mrs Cheapside, bringing her sharp little nose out of a saucer of milk
she was drinking.

'Of all the--Now, ain't that just like a woman, Doctor?' cried
Cheapside. ''Ow could I, with all that ground to cover? And I suppose
you ain't never kept me waitin', Mrs Quick Tongue? I suppose you don't
remember that time last winter when I sat shivering in the----'

'Come, come,' said the Doctor quietly, 'Don't quarrel, Get on and tell
us about the window-cleaner.'

'Becky told me,' Cheapside went on, 'that she hadn't been able to find
out nothing. "It's queer, Beck," I says--"very queer." Then she says to
me, she says, "Maybe the man's sick"--you know you'd spoken of his being
unwell--"and if 'e is sick," says Becky, "he 'd not be seen by the
ordinary sparrows. Better get the hospital birds on the job."

'"Right you are," I says. And off we both go to look up the hospitals.
There's quite a lot of them in London, you know. But with the 'elp of
some gang leaders we goes around them all. When we'd come to the last of
'em and still 'adn't 'eard nothing I say to the missus, I says: "Becky,
it looks as though we'd got to go back to the Doctor with empty 'ands."

'"It's a shame," she says. "And 'im trustin' us and all."

'And then, just as we was movin' off to come 'ere, up flies One-Eyed
Alf, the Wapping Terror.

'"We've found 'im," 'e says, short like.

'"You 'ave?" I says. "Where is 'e?"

'"'E's in the Workhouse Infirmary," 'e says, "over in Billingsgate."

'"You're sure it's 'im," says Becky.

'"Yes," says 'e. "Not a doubt of it. Come over and take a look at 'im,
if you don't believe me."

'Then we flies off with Alf and he takes us to a dingy sort of place in
Billingsgate, next to a glue factory. It's a sort of an institution for
the destitute. Old men and women and folks that ain't got no 'ome is
took in there. And those what are able-bodied 'as to work, and those
what ain't walks around in a yard with 'igh walls. A cheerless sort of
place.

'"Come over 'ere," says Alf, leading us off to the north end of the
yard. "This is the infirmary, where they keeps the sick ones, that
yellow brick building with all the windows in it."

'We follows 'im and he flies along a line of windows, lookin' in as he
passes, and at the fifth one he stops and we lights beside 'im on the
sill. Inside we sees a bed and am man's 'ead a-lyin' on the pillow.
Across the side of 'is 'ead was a scar. I goes close up to the glass,
and presently the man rolls 'is 'ead from side to side and starts
talking to 'isself. "Pippinella," he cries. "Where are you? They've
opened the hole in the floor and the papers are gone."

'What he meant I don't know. But as soon as I 'eard 'im call the
canary's name I knew we'd run the right man down at last.

'"Come on," says Becky. "That's 'im, all right. Let's go and tell the
Doctor, quick." And 'ere we are.'

The sparrow had hardly finished speaking before the Doctor had risen
from his chair and was reaching for his hat.

'Thank you, Cheapside,' said he. 'We are both ever so grateful to you.
If you and your wife have finished lunch we will go down there at once,
and you can show us the way. Did you mark the room, so I can inquire for
the right bed? We don't even know the man's name.'

'I couldn't tell you what the inside of the infirmary is like, Doc,'
said Cheapside. 'But you can find him, all right, because I saw a card
hung upon the foot of his bed and on it was written a number--No.17.'

'Can't I come with you, Doctor?' asked Gub-Gub, as John Dolittle hurried
towards the door of the wagon.

'I'm sorry, Gub-Gub,' said the Doctor. 'But I'm afraid it won't be
possible. You see, I'm going to a hospital.'

'But I don't mind going to a hospital,' said Gub-Gub.

'No, quite so,' said John Dolittle. 'But--er--I'm a little afraid they
may not let me in if I brought too many pets. They're sometimes rather
fussy in hospitals.'

Gub-Gub was very disappointed, but the Doctor had to be quite firm
because he was really afraid that he might not be admitted himself if he
took the pig with him. Jip, too, had to be left at home for the same
reason. Finally John Dolittle set out with Pippinella and Mr and Mrs
Cheapside for London.



4
JOHN DOLITTLE, M.D.


JOHN DOLITTLE hadn't been in London more than five minutes before he
discovered news of his arrival had already spread among the animal life
of the city. This, of course, was due to the gossip of Cheapside and his
fellow sparrows of the streets. While the Doctor and his party were
still at the inn yard where they had just stepped down from the
Greenheath coach a funny, scrubby little bird flew up and whispered
something to Cheapside who was travelling with the Doctor. Cheapside
brought him forward and introduced him.

'This is One-Eyed Alf, Doctor,' said Cheapside, 'the feller I was
telling you about. 'E's got something 'e wants to say to you.'

'Oh, how do you do?' said John Dolittle. 'I'm very glad to make your
acquaintance. I learn that it was largely through you that we have been
able to trace our man. We are very grateful to youl.'

The newcomer was indeed a strange looking bird. The first thing the
Doctor noticed about him was that, in spite of his having only one eye,
he seemed very alert and wide-awake. He had several feathers missing
form his tail and altogether looked like a very rough customer.

'Don't mention it, Doc,' said he. 'Only too glad to be of any help. O'
course, I'd heard a whole lot about you, and we city folks are always
'appy when you pays us a visit. I got a sister over in Wapping what got
herself tangled up in a clothesline. I'd be glad if you could come and
take a look at her. She's broke a wing, I think. Ain't been able to fly
for over a month. We've had to bring 'er crumbs to 'er and feed 'er like
a baby.'

'I'll certainly do anything I can,' said the Doctor. 'Take us to where
she is and I'll see what can be done.'

'Look here, Cheapside, 'whispered Pippinella as the party set off in a
new direction under the guidance of One-Eyed Alf, 'you'll have to
protect the Doctor. Once it gets round that he is doctoring animals he
is just swamped with patients of all kinds. Dab-Dab told me it always
happens this way. He'll never get to my window-cleaner if you let him be
side-tracked by every sparrow who wants to see him.'

And it turned out that Pippinella was right in her fears. For when John
Dolittle arrived at the place where One-Eyed Alf was leading them he
found plenty of work for him. In the back yard of an empty house in one
of London's slummiest quarters there was awaiting him not one sparrow
but over fifty. Birds with broken legs, birds that had been bitten by
dogs, birds that had fallen into paint pots--even birds that had their
tails injured under carriage wheels were there. All the accidents, all
the casualties of London's sparrowdom were gathered to await the arrival
of the famous Doctor.

'I'm sorry, Doc,' said One-Eyed Alf as he gazed over the collection of
patients waiting in the grimy yard. 'I didn't mean to let you in for
nothing like this. I told Maria to keep quiet about your coming here.
But you know how women is--they must talk.'

'Lor' bless us!' murmured Cheapside, scratching the top of his head with
a thoughtful claw. 'Like Puddleby days, ain't it, Doctor? I don't know
what you better do. I s'pose the dogs and cats will 'ear of it next and
you'll have another bunch of hinvalids waitin' for you tomorrow. P'raps
you better disguises yourself and let me give it out that you've left
town.'

'No, Cheapside,' said the Doctor. 'That would never do. I must patch
these birds up, now I'm here. But I think you had better let it be known
that I will see animals patients between seven and ten every morning out
at Greenheath. That's what I've had to do in other towns---regular
dispensary hours. Now, which is your sister, Alf?'

'That's Maria across there in the corner,' said the gang leader. 'Hey,
Maria! Come over 'ere. The Doctor wants you.'

A very dejected little bird, trailing a stiff wing behind her on the
ground, shuffled her way through the throng of sparrows and approached
the Doctor.

In a moment John Dolittle had his little black bag open, and then his
fat but nimble fingers got busy with the tiny wing joints of the
patient.

'Yes,' he said, 'it's broken--in the upper bone. But we can mend it.
You'll have to wear a cast for a week or two and carry your wing in a
sling. Find a dry sheltered spot, a place where cats can't reach you,
and keep perfectly still for ten days at least. Have your brother, Alf,
bring your meals to you as before. Don't peck this plaster off till I
have seen you again. There you are, now! A strip of this handkerchief
will make a sling for you--so--round your neck. Now you're all fixed up.
Next, please.'

The second patient to come forward was a very woeful sight--a young,
inexperienced bird who had been fighting on a new building. In his
excitement he had fallen into a paint pot and all his feathers were
caked stiff with white lead, making it, of course, impossible for him to
fly. The Doctor's task here was to take the paint out of the plumage
without injuring the bird's skin.

Then came a bad case of dog bite. A sparrow who lived around a cab rank,
feeding on the oats that fell from the nose bags, had been caught off
his guard and severely mauled by a fox terrier.

'One of the cab horses moved and trod on the dog's tail just in the nick
of time,' said the patient, telling the story of his adventures as the
Doctor's swift hands felt for the injured rib. 'If he hadn't 'a done
that I'd be a goner for sure. I was half-way down his throat when he
gave an awful yelp and coughed me up again. Then I scurried under the
cab-man's shelter while he nursed his tail.'

'The horse must have been a friend of yours,' said the Doctor. 'Lucky
escape. No serious harm done. Some sprains. You'll be all over it in a
week. Next, please!'

The afternoon was more than half gone before the Doctor had attended to
all his patients and was able to continue his way to the workhouse.

Reaching that gloomy building at last, he knocked upon the door marked
'Visitors' and was admitted by a porter. He had asked Cheapside and
Becky to wait for him outside. He was conducted to a large waiting-room
and presently the superintendent appeared and inquired whom it was he
wished to see. When he said it was someone in the infirmary the Doctor
in charge was brought forward. Not knowing the window-cleaner's name,
John Dolittle had to describe him as best he could, and at length he
succeeded in making the authorities understand who its was.

'Oh, you mean the man in bed No. 17,' said the doctor in charge. 'Humph!
You can't see him. He's very sick.'

'What's the matter with him?' asked John Dolittle.

'Memory gone,' said the other, shaking his heads gravely. 'A very bad
case.'

Well, finally, after explaining that he himself was a doctor of
medicine, the visitor was told that he might see the sick man, but must
not remain with him long.

'He gets so easily excited,' the workhouse doctor explained as he led
the way down a long passage and up a flight of stairs. 'We moved him
into a private room last week. It's a very mysterious case altogether.
He seems to have forgotten even his name. Gets dreadfully worked up when
anyone asks him. I'm afraid we have very little hope of his recovery.'

Upstairs they were taken to a small room at the end of another corridor.
And by the light of a candle, for it was now growing dark, the Doctor
saw a man lying in a bed.

'He seems to be sleeping,' John Dolittle whispered to the doctor in
charge. 'Would you please leave me with him till he wakes up?'

'All right,' said the other. 'But don't stay long, and _please_ don't
get him excited.'

As soon as the door was closed the Doctor brought Pippinella's cage out
of his pocket and stood it on the table beside the bed.

'It's he, Doctor,' whispered the canary. And she chirruped gently with
joy. Instantly the man on the bed opened his eyes and tried weakly to
sit up. For a moment he stared stupidly at the bird in the cage.

'Pip-Pippin--' he began hesitatingly. 'No, I can't remember. It's all
hazy.'

'Pippinella--your canary. Don't you recognize her?' said the Doctor
quietly from the chair beside the bed.

The sick man had not realized there was another person in the room. He
turned suddenly and glared at the Doctor in a funny, frightened sort of
way.

'Who are you? he asked suspiciously.

'My name is Dolittle,' said the Doctor--'John Dolittle. I'm a physician.
Don't be afraid of me. I've brought you your canary--Pippinella.'

'I don't know you,' said the window-cleaner in a hoarse gasp. 'This is
some plot--a trick. But it's no good now. You can't worm any secrets out
of me. I haven't any. Don't even know my own name. Hah! It's a good
joke. Everything a blank. Memory gone. And no one can get it back for
me. I was so successful keeping my life a secret from the world that now
no one can tell me even who I am!'

As the window-cleaner finished speaking he sank back on the bed and
closed his eyes.

'Oh, dear!' whispered Pippinella. 'What shall we do, Doctor? What shall
we do?'

The Doctor though a moment in silence. Then he leaned forward and
touched the patient gently on the shoulder.

'Listen,' he said. 'Please believe that I am your friend. I don't want
to trick you into telling me your secrets. I know a great deal of your
life already. In fact, I am the only man in the world who does know. You
have been very ill. But you are going to get all right again. You are
going to get your memory back. Let us see if we can't recall things. You
remember the windmill on the hill?'

Very quietly and soothingly John Dolittle then told the window-cleaner
the story of his own life which he had learned through his knowledge of
bird language from Pippinella. At first the man on the bed listened
without a great deal of attention. On and on the Doctor went, telling of
the old cathedral town, of Aunt Rosie's house, of the secret writings,
of the kidnapping, the escape from the ship, of Ebony Island, the raft,
the rescue. Gradually the window-cleaner's haggard face showed interest.
At length, when the Doctor was describing his return to the mill and his
finding the place deserted, the patient suddenly gave a cry and clutched
John Dolittle by the arm.

'Stop!' he cried. 'I remember now. The old windmill--the hole in the
floor where I kept my papers. Did you steal them?'

'No,' said the Doctor quietly. 'I have told you I am your friend.'

'But how do you know all this?' cried the other. 'It's all true--every
word. It's coming back to me. Tell me what you are?'

'I'm just a doctor,' said John Dolittle--'a doctor who has spent most of
his life learning the ways and the speech of animals. Most people think
I'm crazy when I tell them that. But it's true. You see the canary on
the table there?'

'Yes,' said the window-cleaner. 'That's Pippinella. She was stolen from
me when I got back to the mill.'

'Exactly,' said the Doctor. 'Well, it was she who told me the story of
your life. If you don't believe me, give me some question now to ask her
and I'll show you that I can do as I say.'

The sick man gazed at the Doctor a moment, still with something of
suspicion in his eyes.

'Either you are crazy or I am,' he said at last.

'I know,' said the Doctor, smiling. 'That's what everybody says. But
give me a question to ask and I'll prove it.'

'Ask her,' said the window-cleaner, 'where I kept the ink.'

And then he chuckled to himself quietly.

The Doctor turned and exchanged a few words with the canary at his
elbow.

'She tells me,' said he, facing the bed again, 'that you never used ink
at all. You wrote in indelible pencil--everything. Is that right? She
says you kept a box of them on the kitchen mantelpiece.'

The window-cleaner's eyes grew wide with wonder.

'It's uncanny,' he murmured--'absolutely uncanny. And yet--what you say
_must_ be true. The things you've told me, about the journey back to the
mill--and all the rest--there was no one there but her, Pippinella.
Funny I always thought she was listening and watching. So you speak her
language, eh? It sounds impossible. But it must be true. I--I am sorry
if I mistrusted you.'

When the infirmary doctor re-entered the room John Dolittle at once
broached the subject of the patient's being moved as soon as possible.
This apparently meant a great deal of filling out of papers and signing
of documents. The Doctor had to guarantee that he would care for the
sick man for a certain length of time. That of course he was quite
willing to do. And after a day had been agreed upon for his next visit,
he and Pippinella left and set off on their way home.

The canary's joy knew no bounds. She was a different bird. She sang all
the way home. The night air was cold; so the Doctor put her little
travelling cage in his pocket. But even there, so great was her relief
to know that her friend the window-cleaner was safe, she went on
warbling away at the top of her voice. And people passing the Doctor in
the street were greatly puzzled to know where the sound was coming from.

When the Doctor and Pippinella arrived at Greenheath the whole family
gathered about him as soon as he entered the wagon, clamouring for news.

'When is he coming?' cried Gub-Gub.

'Next Thursday,' said the Doctor,' 'if he is well enough to make the
journey. I think he will recover more quickly here than at the
infirmary. Theodosia, do you think you could fix up a bed in your wagon
for Pippinella's friend? He'll need a great deal of rest at first.'

'Certainly, Doctor,' said Theodosia. 'I'll be happy to.'

That night Pippinella entertained the whole company with her gayest
songs. She was in splendid voice because the window-cleaner was found
and would have gone on all night if Dab-Dab hadn't brought the
celebration to an end by reminding them that it was past twelve o'clock
and time they were all asleep.



5
THE WINDOW-CLEANER TELLS HIS NAME


THURSDAY came, the day when the Doctor had said he would bring
Pippinella's friend away from the hospital if he was well enough to
travel. And the devoted canary had the poor Doctor out of his bed very
early that morning, you may be sure. Indeed, it was barely light when
John Dolittle, driving a hired wagon so as to have plenty of space to
carry Pippinella's friend comfortably, set out with Matthew Mugg for
Billingsgate.

On their arrival Matthew took charge of the horses at the door while the
Doctor went in to see the patient.

He found the window-cleaner greatly improved and most anxious to leave
and come with him. And as soon as some more forms had been filled out
and signed, the sick man was helped into the wagon and they started back
for Greenheath.

On the way the Doctor discovered that now the window-cleaner had
recovered his memory he was most anxious to get on the trail of his lost
papers again. It was quite clear, too, that whatever suspicions he had
had about John Dolittle's honesty he now trusted him completely.

'And is it your intention,' the doctor asked, 'to go on with your
writing as soon as you are able?'

'Why, certainly,' said the other. 'But I must first get some sort of a
job by which I can earn enough money for living expenses.'

The window-cleaner was half sitting, half lying, in the covered wagon.
The Doctor was seated beside him. Matthew was up in front driving.

'Humph!' murmured the Doctor. 'Er--by the way, I never learned your
name. Of course, if you don't want to tell me, it is your business and
you have a perfect right to keep it to yourself. But while you are with
us it would be more convenient if we have some name to call you by.'

The sick man sat forward slightly to see if Matthew was listening. Then
he turned to the Doctor again.

'I trust you,' he said. 'I am--or was--the Dukes of Loughborough.'

'Great heavens!' said the Doctor. 'But who then is this man who now
holds the title? The day arrived in London I noticed in the papers that
he was leaving town for the North.'

'That is my younger brother,' said the window-cleaner. 'When I
disappeared he came into the estate and the title. They supposed I was
dead--as I intended they should.'

'Well, well!' murmured the Doctor. 'Tell me, why did you do it?'

'It was impossible for me to write what I wanted to write, freely, while
I was still a duke. I would have got my friends into trouble.'

'I see,' said John Dolittle. 'And have you never regretted disappearing?
Have you never wished to go back to your dukedom?'

'No,' said the other firmly, 'never! I may often have been sorry that I
had no money to do the things I wished. But I've never regretted the
step I took.'

'I understand,' said the Doctor. 'Well, now listen: we must have some
sort of a name to call you by while you are with us. Have you any
preferences?'

'Call me Stephen,' said the window-cleaner.

'Very good,' said the Doctor. 'Ah, look, we're coming to Greenheath now.
Matthew and Mrs Mugg have made room for you in their wagon; and you are
to make yourself entirely at home. And, please, ask for anything you
want.'

On their arrival at the now deserted circus enclosure the Doctor
insisted on the window-cleaner going to bed at once and remaining there
until he gave him permission to get up. His meals were given to him by
Theodosia and he was treated like one of the family.

So great was Gub-Gub's interest in the window-cleaner that the pig
sneaked around secretly to get a glimpse of him from behind Mrs Mugg's
skirts when she brought his lunch to him. And after he had learned that
he was a real duke he could scarcely be kept away from the neighbourhood
of the Mugg's wagon.

'You know, I always suspected,' he said at supper that evening--'that he
was some great person in disguise. I suppose he used to ride in a
carriage and drink out of gold basins before he became a window-cleaner.
Fancy giving up all that just to be able to write!'

'He gave it up for the sake of other people he would help by his
writing,' said Too-Too.

'It's a good thing, Doctor,' Dab-Dab put in, 'that you are the only one
who can understand animals' language. Otherwise the man's secret would
be all over the country now that pig knows it.'

'How long is he going to stay with us, Doctor?' asked Jip.

'I'm not sure yet,' said John Dolittle. 'Certainly till he is well
enough to get about by himself. For the present he needs constant
medical attention. He has not taken care of himself at all. That's one
reason why his condition is so low.'

'But after he gets well,' asked Jip, 'is he going back to the mill?'

'I haven't discussed that with him,' said the Doctor. 'He says he will
need some kind of a job--just to make enough money to carry on with.'

Pippinella, who had been listening to the Doctor's family discuss her
friend, came forward and said:

'I won't hear of him going to work, Doctor. I have plenty of money saved
up from the opera. He took care of me, now I'm going to take care of
him.'

'Well, Pippinella,' said the Doctor. 'You can put it to no better use,
I'm sure. In the meantime, he shall stay with us as long as he wishes.'

Within a day or two after Steve joined the Doctor's family, John
Dolittle noticed that he did not seem as contented as he might be. Not
that he said anything or complained. On the contrary, he frequently
spoke gratefully of how fortunate it had been for him that he made the
Doctor's acquaintance. But he so often seemed wrapped in thought and
moody.

'He's thinking of those papers he lost, Doctor,' said the canary one
evening after supper when they were discussing Steve. 'His health is
much better and he's getting stronger all the time. But that is what is
making him unhappy. In the evenings he lies in bed with a pad on his
knees and tries to write; but always it ends the same way. "What's the
use," he mutters. "Even if I could remember the book and rewrite it word
for word--which I couldn't--even then I wouldn't have the documents to
prove what I say." Then he falls to mumbling and cursing the men who
robbed him.'

'Humph, too bad! Too bad!' murmured the Doctor. 'I wonder if there's
anything I could do. Let me see, I might go back to the mill with him.
But I doubt even then if I could do much.'

'Well, try it anyway, Doctor,' Pippinella pleaded. 'You never can tell.'

'All right,' said John Dolittle. 'If he wants me to go with him we'll
take a run up one day soon. I'm sure he's well enough now. We'll take
Jip with us.'

Dab-Dab, who had been listening to the Doctor and Pippinella, fluttered
her wings with annoyance.

'John Dolittle!' she demanded noisily. 'You said that as soon as you
found Pippinella's friend we would go back to Puddleby. Well, now he's
found. Why must we wait in this deserted old mud hole?'

'Dab-Dab,' said the Doctor. 'I'm just as anxious as you to get home. But
neither Pippinella nor Steve will be really happy until we at least make
an effort to find the missing papers. I'm sorry, Puddleby will have to
wait.'

'Oh, bother!' snapped the duck. 'The trouble with you, John Dolittle, is
that you never think of yourself.'

Whitey, who was curled up half asleep in the Doctor's pocket, stuck his
head out and said:

'Listen who's talking, Doctor. Why, Dab-Dab spends every minute of every
day doing something for others.'

'Quite so, Whitey,' said John Dolittle, smiling, 'Quite so.'

The following morning, after the Doctor had examined Steve thoroughly,
he told him that he could get up now and spend part of each day in the
sunshine. But the good news didn't raise the window-cleaner's spirits as
it should have. He obeyed the Doctor but sat dejectedly on the wagon
steps staring into space. Then the Doctor asked him if he would like to
take a run up to Wendlemere in a day or so and have a look around the
old mill. Steve jumped at the offer with such enthusiasm that even
Dab-Dab was glad they were going to have a try at finding the lost
papers.

And that is how John Dolittle came to make still another trip to Aunt
Rosie's town--this time accompanied by the window-cleaner himself.
Dab-Dab packed a lunch for the two men--with a bone for Jip and seed for
Pippinella. They took the morning coach form Greenheath with the canary
in her travelling cage and Jip under the seat at the Doctor's feet.



6
THE SEARCH FOR THE MISSING PAPERS


THE party reached its destination late in the evening and, after
spending the night at the inn, proceeded next morning to the mill.
Things here were, of course, in a more dilapidated condition than
before. But it surprised the Doctor somewhat to find the door to the
kitchen unlocked and a great litter of nut shells and fruit stalks and
other rubbish about the floors and window-sills. This he at first
supposed must have been left by rats or squirrels. But of these
creatures themselves--or, indeed, of any animal life--nothing could be
seen. Hanging from a beam on the ceiling were two bats fast asleep.

In the centre of the kitchen floor was the hole where Steve had kept his
papers. Beside it lay the big stone that had covered it, just as he had
left it when, after discovering that this property had gone, he had
departed, determined to proceed to London.

In bringing Jip the Doctor had hoped that his keen sense of smell and
his eye for tracks might help in the search. And they were hardly inside
the door when Jip put his nose down in the hole and sniffed long and
noisily.

'Well,' asked the Doctor, 'what about it, Jip?'

For a moment Jip did not answer but continued sniffing and snuffling at
the hole in the floor. Then he smelt the stone that had been the lid, or
cover, to the hole. Finally, he looked up at the Doctor and said:

'The scents are mostly quite old ones and therefore very faint. It's
curious the strongest of them is a badger--but not in the room here,
only in the hole.'

'How odd!' said the Doctor. 'Badgers don't usually have much to do with
buildings. But how about the scent of men? That's there, too, isn't it?'

'Yes,' said Jip, 'surely. But it is very dim. Of course I can plainly
smell your friend the window-cleaner. The scent of his hands on the
stone is fairly distinct still. But other men have been in the room
around the hole quite a while before, and some again since Steve as
here, I should judge. That's what puzzles me so. It would seem as though
there had been two lots of men here--at different times. And then on top
of it all the smell of this old badger is so strong that I'm surprised
the other scents are not drowned out entirely. It is a very difficult
problem in smelling altogether.'

'Humph!' muttered Steve gloomily, though of course he had not understood
what Jip said. 'I'm afraid I've brought you on a fool's errand, Doctor.
Everything is pretty much as I left it. You can see for yourself that
the hole is empty.'

'What did he say, Doctor?' asked Jip. 'I didn't quite get that.'

'He is discouraged,' said John Dolittle. 'He fears that there isn't much
chance of your doing anything.'

'Well, don't let him go away yet,' said Jip. 'I haven't finished by any
means.'

'There's some sort of mystery here,' Jip continued. 'It's funny how
different those two lots of men smelt. The first lot had a sort of
office smell--parchment, sealing wax and ink and all that sort of thing.
Probably there were two in the party. And the other was an open-air man,
smelled of wood fires, stables, the mud of roads and rank tobacco. Oh,
look out! Don't disturb that hole, Doctor!'

John Dolittle had knelt down and was feeling around in the loose earth
that lay at the bottom of the hole.

'Why, Jip?' he asked, rising.

'You'll get the smells all mixed,' said the dog. 'Let's just leave it
exactly as we found it. It'll be much easier to pick up a scent so. The
first thing we've got to do is to try and run down that old badger.
While you're going over the mill on the inside to see if you can find
out anything I'll make a circle outside round the hill and try to pick
up that badger's trail. I have a kind of notion that if we can only get
hold of him he'll be able to tell us a whole lot.'

'Why?' asked the Doctor.

'Well--I've a kind of notion,' said the dog.

Jip, who as you know was quite a wonder at the fine arts of smelling and
tracking, dearly loved to wrap a certain amount of mystery around his
doings when employed on work of this kind. The Doctor was always willing
to humour him in this and never insisted on an answer if the great
expert seemed unwilling to give one. So this morning he just drew Steve
away and set about examining the house and left Jip to his own devices.

All this time Pippinella was tucked away in her little travelling cage
in the Doctor's pocket, she had kept absolutely quiet as she didn't want
to be a bother to them. But she was relieved when John Dolittle put his
hand in his pocket and drew her out.

'My goodness, Pippinella,' said the Doctor anxiously. 'I'd forgotten all
about you. I _am_ sorry,'

'That's all right. Doctor,' said the canary, blinking at the
unaccustomed light. 'Perhaps if you let me out I could be of some help
to you and Jip.'

'Certainly,' said John Dolittle, releasing the catch on the cage door.
'But don't go too far away from us. We may have to run for it and we
don't want to leave you behind.'

'I'll be careful,' said Pippinella. 'I'll just ride around on Steve's
shoulder--if you don't mind.'

'Not at all,' said the Doctor. 'Your place is with him.'

Of course the window-cleaner could not understand the conversation
between the Doctor and Pippinella but he smiled and stroked her head
when she flew on to his shoulder.

'Good old Pip,' said he. 'It's like old times to see you there.'

The Doctor with Steve then made a thorough examination of the premises
both inside and out. They discovered very little, beyond what appeared
to be signs that the mill had been occupied not so very long gao. There
were still bits of candles ends here and there, some mouldy apple peel,
a needle and thread which the window-cleaner was quite sure he had not
left behind.

These, of course, might have showed nothing more than that the farmer
had let the mill again to some other person since Steve had left. But
both the Doctor and Steve thought it wiser not to go and ask him.

In the mean time the hour for lunch arrived and the Doctor sat down with
his companion to enjoy the meal Dab-Dab had prepared for them. And still
Jip had not returned. Indeed, it was four o'clock in the afternoon
before he showed up. And when he did he looked anything but satisfied
with the results of his expedition.

'It does beat everything,' he sighed as he flopped down wearily on the
kitchen floor, 'how far a badger can travel when he makes up his mind to
move his quarters. Holy smoke! Since I last saw you, Doctor, I've
covered a circle a good twenty miles across, but not a vestige of that
long-snouted old vagabond could I find. I struck many a trail,
dozens--none of them very fresh--but I followed each one to the bitter
end, just to make sure. They all wound up the same--at the old hole
which Mr Badger had let out to some beetles a month or so before I got
there. Then I consulted all the farm dogs within miles. Most of them
knew him--and said he was a funny, cunning dodger. They'd never been
able to catch him, though every one of them had tried many times. They
reckoned it was about two or three months since he had disappeared. And
that's all I got for one of the heaviest days work I've ever put in.'

'Perhaps some of the dogs killed him--ones whom you didn't talk with,'
said the Doctor. 'Or possibly he may have died of old age. Badgers don't
live terribly long, you know.'

'No,' said Jip patiently. 'I hardly think that's worth taking into
account. This fellow was not an old badger and from what I hear he
should have been easily able to take care of himself against dogs. And,
as for traps, well, you know how farm dogs get around. They nose into
every corner of the countryside and find out everything; they say there
aren't any traps set in these parts. And there you are.'

'Humph!' said the Doctor. 'And you couldn't find any other badgers?'

'Not one,' muttered Jip.

The Doctor gazed through the dirty, cobwebby kitchen window for a
moment, thoughtfully watching the setting sun that reddened the sky in
the West.

'How about the rats and the mice in this place? Pippinella asked. 'There
used to be plenty of them when we lived there. Perhaps they could tell
us something.'

'That's what I was thinking as I came back across the fields,' said Jip.
'But I don't suppose the duffers will know. They never know anything
useful. But we might try. You'll have to do it, of course. They're
scared to death of me. I'd better get outside so they won't smell me so
strong.

'All right,' said the Doctor. 'I'll see what I can do.'

And then, as soon as Jip had disappeared, the Duke of Loughborough,
otherwise known as Steve, was treated to the spectacle of John Dolittle
summoning his friends the rats. Standing in the centre of the kitchen
floor the great naturalist suddenly screwed up his face and squeaked in
an extraordinary high voice, at the same time gently scratching the wood
of the table-top with his finger-nails. Then he sat down in the chair
and waited.

After five minutes had passed and nothing had happened the Doctor went
to another part of the room and repeated his peculiar summons. But still
neither rats nor mice appeared.

'That's very extraordinary,' said John Dolittle. 'I wonder why they
don't come. A place like this, unoccupied, must be simply riddled with
rats.'

Just as he was about to go through his performance, for a third time Jip
scratched at the door and the Doctor let him in.

'It's no use,' the dog said. 'You can save yourself the trouble, Doctor.
There are no rats here.'

'None here!' cried the Doctor. 'Why, that's hardly possible. I should
have said this was an ideal home for rats and mice.'

'No,' said Jip. 'There isn't a one. I've been around the outside
examining the place where the holes come up into the open air. I know
the looks of a hole that's occupied. Even without smelling it I can tell
whether it's in use or not. And I didn't find a single one that rats had
passed through in weeks.'

'Well,' said the Doctor, 'I'm not going to doubt the opinion of an old
ratter like you, Jip. But it's most extraordinary. I wonder what's the
reason for it.'

'Poison,' said Jip shortly, 'rat poison. Lucky for me they used a kind I
know the smell of. I picked up a bone round the back of the mill. And I
was just going to start chewing it up when I caught a sniff that made me
drop it like a red-hot poker. I've been laid up once by eating meat that
had been poisoned and set out for rats to nibble. And I'll never get
caught again. For two weeks I was so sick I could scarcely move. Well,
to go back: after I'd dropped the bone I started to nose around the
outhouses and I came across some bits of stale bread that had more
poison smeared on them. Then I found one or two dead rats in the ditch a
little distance away. That's the reason that there are none in the
house. Some one poisoned them all off. And, if you ask me, I should say
it was a pretty experienced rat-catcher.'

'Well, but they'd come back,' said the Doctor, 'if this work was done
some time ago--as it surely must have been. Other rats would have come
to live here even if all the old ones had been killed of. There's no one
living in the place now to keep it clear of them.'

Jip came up close to the Doctor and whispered in a mysterious manner.
'I'm not so sure.'

'What do you mean?' asked John Dolittle.

'I'm not so sure there isn't some one living here--right now,' Jip
whispered. 'I told you there was something mighty queer about this
place. I saw signs around the doors of those outhouses that makes me
almost believe that someone is making his home here.'

'Great heavens!' muttered the Doctor. 'This is uncanny. But it someone
was living here, even in hiding, you'd have smelled him surely, wouldn't
you? Your nose would have led you right to the place where he's
concealed.'

'It would,' growled Jip, 'if it wasn't for that blessed old badger. The
trails are so crossed and the scents so mixed up no dog could follow a
smell there without getting led off it after two or three yards. Wait!
Did you hear that sound?'

'No,' said the Doctor. 'Where was it coming from? My goodness, how dark
it's getting. The sun has dropped below the hill. I had no idea it was
so late.'

'No, I didn't hear any sound,' the Doctor repeated.

'I thought I did,' said Jip--'a sort of fluttering noise. But perhaps I
was mistaken.'

'Listen, Jip,' said John Dolittle. 'If what you suspect is true, and
there is someone living here, we had better set to work to find him. I
don't think it's possible, myself. But your suspicions are so often
correct. Now, let's see, what places are there where a man could hide?
There's that old attic over your heads; there are the outhouses. And
that's about all, isn't it? Oh, what about a cellar? No, there can't be
any cellar, because that hole in the floor has earth in it, and if there
was a cellar beneath we could see right down into it. No, the attic in
the tower and the outhouses are the only places we need bother with. All
right? Let's set to work.'

And after the Doctor had explained Jip's suspicions to Steve, they got
an old ramshackle ladder and climbed into the attic. Jip stayed below to
watch and help should they discover anyone there and Pippinella went
along with the Doctor and Steve.

'Hang on tightly to Steve's shoulder, Pippinella,' said the Doctor. 'We
mustn't get separated in the dark.'



7
THE SECRET HIDING PLACE


THE attic of the old mill was filled with every conceivable kind of
rubbish. Bundles of old newspapers were piled on top of broken
furniture; cobwebs had gathered on dilapidated trunks and boxes and
discarded clothing lay in heaps of dust and dirt, their threads chewed
and crumbled by a hundred generations of moths and beetles.

'It's obvious no one has been up here for a long time.' said the Doctor,
lighting another match. 'This dust hasn't been disturbed since these
things were put here.'

However, the Doctor crawled around on his hands and knees and peered
into every corner. When they came down and after the Doctor had taken a
candle out of his little black bag (for now they could barely see a foot
ahead of them, the night was so black) they went round to the back of
the mill to examine the outhouses.

Here they had no better success. The ruined buildings contained nothing
more than junk, lumber and odd parts of mill machinery.

'Humph!' muttered the Doctor as they started back for the kitchen. 'I
think you must be mistaken, Jip--although, goodness knows, you very
seldom are in these funny notions of yours. If we could find some life
in the place, rats, mice, squirrels--any kind of animals--I could
question them and get some information. Listen, Steve, you are sure
there is no cellar to the place?

'There was none when I was here,' said Steve. 'Of that I'm sure.'

On reaching the kitchen they found it quite dark inside. For more light
the Doctor was about to open his bag and get a second candle when he
discovered to his astonishment that it was no longer on the table.

'That's curious!' he muttered. 'I could have sworn I left the bag on the
table.'

'So could I,' said Jip. 'But look, there it is on the chair.'

'And it has been opened,' said the Doctor, going towards it. 'I'm
certain that I latched it when I left the kitchen.'

The Doctor opened the bag and looked inside.

'Why, somebody's been through it!' he whispered in astonishment.
'Everything's here, all right. But it's all topsy-turvy inside. _It has
been searched while we were out!_'

For a moment the Doctor and the dog gazed at one another in silence.
Finally John Dolittle whispered:

'You're right, Jip. There's someone in the house. But where?'

Slowly the Doctor looked around the walls.

'If only I could find some animal life,' he murmured.

'Sh!' said Jip. 'Listen!'

All four of them kept still. And presently, faintly but quite plainly,
they heard a curious little fluttering, rustling sound.

'Look!' said Jip, pointing his sharp nose up at the ceiling. 'The bats!
They're just waking up with the coming of dark.'

The Doctor looked up. And there, from a beam across the ceiling, hung
two little bats. Fitfully and sleepily they stirred their wings, making
ready to start out on their night rounds. They were the only living
things that John Dolittle had seen since he had entered the mill.

'Dear me!' he said. 'Why didn't I think of that before? Bats--of course!
Nobody could poison them off without first poisoning the flies. Well, I
must see what they can tell us.'

The odd furry creatures were now circling around the room, their queer
shapes throwing strange shadows on the wall in the dim light of the
candle.

'Listen,' said the Doctor in bat language (it was a very strange
language and consisted mostly of high needle-like squeaks, so faint that
they could scarcely be heard by the ordinary ear). 'I have several
things I would like to ask you. First of all, is this house occupied?'

'Oh, yes,' said the bats, still flying around in endless circles.
'Someone has been living here off and on for ever so long.'

'Is there anyone here now?' asked the Doctor.

'Most likely,' said they. 'He was here last night. But, of course,
during the daytime we sleep. He may have gone away.'

'What can you tell me about this hole?' asked the Doctor, pointing to
the floor.

'That was where the man beside you kept his papers,' said the bats.

'Yes, I know that,' said John Dolittle. 'But the papers were stolen or
something during his absence. Did you see anything of that?'

'It was a very complicated, mixed-up business,' squeaked the bats. 'But,
as it happened, we saw it all, because, although the papers changed
hands three times, it all took place in the evening or night, and we
were awake and watching.'

'The papers changed hands three times!' cried the Doctor. 'Good heaven!
Go on, go on! Who took them first?'

'The badger,' said the bats. 'He used to live outside, but he thought
he'd like to come inside for the winter. So he started making a tunnel
from the outside. We watched him. He bored right down and came up in the
middle of the floor. But the flagging stones were too heavy for him to
lift and he could get no further. However, one evening a man came and
made his home here. Then about a week afterwards two more men came. The
man who was living here hid himself. The two newcomers hunted and hunted
as though they were looking for something. At last they started taking
up the stones of the floor and they found that hole and got the cover of
it pried half-way up. But just at that moment the farmer who owns this
place came to the mill with one of his helpers. The men in the kitchen
only just had time to scuttle away, leaving the hole as it was. It was
the funniest thing. You'd think it was some new kind of hide-and-seek
game. The farmer did some bolting and hammering up--he didn't come
inside the kitchen--and then he left. Very soon we saw the badger's nose
appear at the half-opened stone, trying to get up into the kitchen and
scratching away like everything. But soon _he_ was disturbed, because
the first man--the one who had been living here all the time--appeared
again and pulled the stone right up and laid it down as you see it now.
But the badger, who had been working underneath, had thrown earth all
over the papers and you couldn't see anything inside but dirt. So the
man just left the hole the way it was and set about preparing his
supper. And all the time the papers were still lying underneath.

'There the paper would have stayed awhile,' the bats went on, 'if the
badger hadn't late that night, when the man was sleeping, again started
poking about in the hole. He had made up his mind, it seemed, to have
that hole for a home, and the first thing he did was to throw the papers
out on to the floor of the kitchen. And there the papers lay for anyone
to pick up. We supposed,' said the bat, 'the man who was staying here
would find them in the morning and keep them. But the other two fellows
came back about an hour after he had gone to sleep. However, he heard
them coming and woke up. Then he hid himself and watched. The other two
did not, of course, know there was anyone staying at the mill.

'And as soon as they felt sure the farmer had gone for the night they
entered the kitchen, lit candles and made themselves at home. And there,
the first thing they saw, was the papers they had been looking for,
lying on the floor, as large as life. They put them on the table and
started going through them. After a while one of them went out to
investigate a noise they heard and while he was gone he must have fallen
and hurt himself, for he suddenly called to his partner, who left the
papers and hurriedly ran out to join him. Then, while they were both
gone, the man who was living here sneaked out, took the papers and hid
himself again.

'When the two came back they didn't know what to make of it. Finally
they decided the mill must be occupied. And, drawing pistols out of
their pockets, they went hunting around the place, looking for the man
who had taken the papers. But they never found him, and finally, about
dawn, when we were thinking of going to bed, they departed in disgust
and never showed up again.'

'And they left the papers then in the hands of the man who still
occupies the mill?' the Doctor asked.

'Yes,' said the bats, 'so far as we know, he has them still.''

'Good heavens!' muttered the Doctor. 'What an extraordinary story.'

And, turning, he translated what the bats had told him to Steve.
Meanwhile the odd creatures went on wheeling in silent circles about the
dim-lit room, as though playing a game of touch with their shadows on
the walls.

'Splendid!' whispered Steve, when the Doctor finished. 'Then we may
rescue them yet.'

John Dolittle turned back to the bats.

'And you never found out where the man hides himself?' he asked.

'Why, certainly,' said the bats. 'He hides himself in the cellar. He's
probably there now.'

'But I understood there was no cellar,' said the Doctor, gazing down
into the hole in the floor. 'This gentleman with me lived here for
years, and he says he never found one.'

'No,' said the bats, 'no one would find it except by chance. There's a
secret passage to it. The man who lives there blundered on it by
accident. It isn't under the part of the floor where the hole is at all.
It's under the other half of the kitchen. Listen; you see that big white
stone in the wall over there at about the height of a man's head? well,
you push it at the lower left-hand corner and it will swing inward,
showing a passage. Then if you stand on a chair and crawl into a hole
you'll find a stairway leading downwards on your left, built inside the
wall.'

Again the Doctor translated to Steve. And the window-cleaner got so
excited he was all for getting a chair and staring right away. But the
Doctor held up his hand.

'We've got to go slowly,' he whispered. 'We don't know yet whether this
man has the paper on him. Wait, now. This needs thinking out.'

In whispers, then, the Doctor and Steve worked out a plan of action
while the bats went on circling around the guttering candles. Under the
table Jip, with ears cocked, sat tense and still, listening for sounds
from beneath the floor.

'It is most important,' said the Doctor, 'not to alarm the man before we
are certain where he has those papers. Because, once he knows what we're
after, you may be sure he'll never let us get a glimpse of them.'

'Quite right,' whispered Steve. 'Certainly he realizes their value. I
imagine his idea is to blackmail the agents of the government who came
her for them and sell them to them, if he gets a chance. I have no
notion who he can be; just some chances shady character, I fancy, who
has blundered into this by accident and hopes to make some money out of
it. What plan would you suggest?'

'Let us pretend that we are leaving the mill altogether.' said the
Doctor. 'I don't think he can have any idea yet what we're after. Then
we'll come back and watch. If we have luck he may go to the place where
he has hidden the papers and give the show away. Then we'll have to rush
him and hope to overpower him before he destroys them.'

'Your idea is good,' said Steve gravely, 'Could we overlook the kitchen
from the window, do you think?'

'Quite easily,' said the Doctor. 'But we must be terribly careful that
he does not see us or get suspicious. We will begin by noisily making
preparation for our departure. When we are outside we can settle other
details.'



8 THE THIEF ESCAPES


THEN suddenly talking out loud, the Doctor closed his bag with a snap.
And with much tramping of feet the two of them, followed by Jip, left
the mill.

After they had gone about a hundred yards along the path that led down
the hill into the town, the Doctor said to Jip:

'Now you run on ahead and do a little barking--just like a dog setting
out on a walk would do. Don't bother about us; we're going to stay here
a while and then go back to the mill. But I want you to continue
barking, moving slowly farther away all the time, so the man will think
we're going on into the town.'

'All right,' said Jip. 'I understand. But don't forget to whistle for
me, if there's a fight.'

The Doctor assured Jip that he would. Then, taking Pippinella's small
cage out of his pocket, he put the green canary in it and returned it to
its hiding-place.

'If we should have some trouble,' he said to her, 'You'll be safer
there. Most birds--except bats and owls--don't see too well in the
dark.'

'Yes,' said Pippinella. 'That's why we hide ourselves in the trees when
the sun goes down. With cats on the prowl at night that's the only way
we can hope to be sfae.'

'Quite so,' said John Dolittle. 'Please be very quiet, Pippinella.'

By now Jip was off down the hill and Steve and the Doctor could hear him
bark out every once in a while, each time a little farther away. After
waiting a few minutes they turned and made their way slowly and
carefully back.

When they were within about fifty yards of the mill the Doctor motioned
to Steve, and they hid themselves behind some bushes.

'I ought to have told those bats to keep me informed,' whispered the
Doctor. 'Silly of me not to have thought of it. Listen! There's somebody
opening the kitchen door.'

Presently Steve and the Doctor saw the door of the mill open slowly. A
man came out and stood motionless, listening. In the distance Jip, still
cheerfully yapping for an imaginary man to throw stones, could be
plainly heard from below the hill.

After a while the man seemed satisfied that his visitors had really
departed for he re-entered cautiously and closed the door behind him.

'Look!' said the Doctor. 'He's lighting candles. He has hung something
over the window, but you can just see a glimmer through the chinks of
the door.'

The Doctor and Steve were about to move forwards form their
hiding-places when they heard the faint fluttering of wings near their
heads. Against the sky they saw queer little shapes dancing. It was the
bats.

'He turned us out,' they said to the Doctor. 'We wanted to stay and see
if we could get you any information. But he flapped us out of the
kitchen with a towel. You know some people think we bring bad luck.'

'Did you see anything of the papers?' asked the Doctor.

'Yes,' said they. 'He went and brought them up from the cellar, after he
had closed the door and lit the candles. He's examining them on the
table. He doesn't seem to be able to read very well, because he spends
an awful long time over one line. We couldn't find out any more, because
shortly after he started reading he saw us and drove us out.'

'Thank you,' said the Doctor, 'what you have told us is very valuable.'
And he translated the bats' information for the benefit of Steve.

'We're going to have a job,' the Doctor added, 'because that door is
probably securely fastened from the inside. And the window is too small
to get through in a hurry.'

'I should think,' said Steve, 'the best way would be to watch him and
wait till he goes out for a minute. The chances are that he'll leave
them on the table if he does.'

'Well,' said the Doctor. 'let's sneak up and get a look at him, if we
can, through the cracks of the door. Then we may be able to know better
what to do.'

Together, then, the two taking the utmost care to make no noise, crept
forward to the hill till they stood beneath the great towering shadow of
the mill. On the left-hand side of the door the woodwork had wrapped
away from the frame, leaving a narrow chink. Through this the Doctor
peered.

Inside he saw a ragged, rough-looking man, with a stubby growth of beard
on his chin, seated at the table. The table was littered deep in papers.
Underneath the table was a piece of sacking spread out flat, in which
they had evidently been wrapped and carried.

'Tweet! Tweet!' whistled the canary from the Doctor's pocket.

'What is it, Pippinella?' asked John Dolittle bringing her tiny cage in
the open.

'Do you mind if I have a peek at that fellow?' she asked. 'I may need to
recognize him later.'

'Certainly,' said the Doctor. And he placed the cage at the opening
through which they had been peering.

When she had memorized his features thoroughly the Doctor returned her
to his pocket and speaking to Steve said:

'If only I knew,' he said, 'what kind of a fastening this door had on
the inside I could tell what chance we'd have in rushing it. If it gave
way to one good heave we might grab the fellow and secure your papers
before he had time to do anything.'

'No. Better wait,' whispered Steve. 'If the door should not break down
easily he'd be warned and have lots of time to destroy the papers in the
fireplace or anything else. Better wait to see if he comes out. Can't
you think of a way to entice him out?'

'Humph!' said the Doctor. 'Not without grave risk of arousing his
suspicions and making matters worse than they are. Well, let's wait a
while, then, and see what he does.'

So, despite the cold night wind, which had now begun to blow freshly
from the East, the Doctor and Steve kept guard at the door, watching
through the cracks, hoping the man would get up and come out. John
Dolittle had it all planned exactly how they should jump on him, one
from each side, and secure him before he had a chance to resist.

But hour after hour went by, and still old Jip kept cheerfully yapping
away below the hill and never a sign or a move did the man make.

Finally the Doctor thought he had better go down the hill and relieve
poor Jip, who was still performing the part given him and barking
cheerily at regular intervals. So, leaving Steve to continue watching,
John Dolittle set off down the hill, and finally found Jip--by this time
well within the streets of the town--and told him how things were.

'Bother the luck! muttered Jip. 'Well, what are you going to do,
Doctor?'

'I don't know, Jip,' said John Dolittle. 'But we are determined we're
going to get those papers, if we have to wait all night.'

'How would it be, Doctor,' asked the dog? 'If I were to moan and whine
around the mill? Maybe that would entice him out and you could jump on
him at the door.'

'No,' said the Doctor, 'I think not. We're so afraid of scaring him, you
see.'

'You couldn't get up on top of the tower and drop down on him from the
inside?' asked Jip.

'Not without making enough noise to wake the dead,' said the Doctor.
'You better stop barking now. You may get the townsfolk aroused and do
more harm than good. Come on up the hill, nearer the mill, but, for
heaven's sake, don't make a sound!'

So once more they proceed cautiously up the hill, and, after the Doctor
had stowed Jip away beneath a hedge and repeated his instructions about
keeping quiet, he rejoined Steve at the door.

'Has he moved yet?' he asked.

'Not an inch,' whispered the window-cleaner. 'I believe he's reading my
book from beginning to end.'

'Tut, tut!' muttered the Doctor. 'Luck seems against us tonight. What's
that? Oh, the bats again.'

Once more the little hovering shadows circled around John Dolittle's
head.

'Listen!' the Doctor whispered. 'Do you think you could get inside from
the top and tell me what kind of a fastening he has on this door?'

'Oh, we know already,' said the bats. 'He has hardly anything at
all--just a small, crazy bolt that you could easily force.

'Good,' said John Dolittle.

'Then he explained to Steve how they were both to draw back and to rush
the door together.

'With the weight of the two of us it should surely give,' he whispered.
But we must be sure to hit it together. Now, are you ready? Go!'

Together they charged. And together their shoulders hit the panels with
a rash. The door gave way to the splintering sound of wood and fell
inward. But, unfortunately, the Doctor fell on top of it and tripped
Steve up, too. With a sweep of his hand the man at the table put out the
candle. The Doctor scrambled to his feet and jumped for where he thought
the table was. He found the table, but no man and no papers. The thief
had lifted the piece of sacking cloth bodily and rolled it up.

'Guard the door, Steve!' yelled the doctor. 'Don't let him out!'

But he was too late. Steve, over-anxious to recover his papers, had
already plunged into the dark room and was feeling and stumbling around
wildly. Against the patch of sky framed in the door way the Doctor saw a
man's figure, with a bundle under his arm, bound outward into the night.

'Jip!' he yelled--'Jip! Look out, Jip! He's getting away. _And he's got
the papers with him!_'

Still calling for Jip, the Doctor jumped over the fallen door and ran
out into the open. The wind had now increased and was blowing strongly
from the East. John Dolittle, knowing that the man had doubled away to
the right, realized at once that the weather was again him. Jim, who he
had left a little below the crest of the hill, was to the windward. But
the Doctor's voice and the man's sent would be carried in the opposite
direction.

Thus it was at least tow minutes elapsed before John Dolittle could get
Jip's attention at all. And by that time the man had got a good start,
downwind. However, Jip shot away on the trail at once and the Doctor and
Steve blunder after him through the windy night as best they could.

'Even with the weather against him,' the Doctor panted as he stumbled
over the uneven ground, 'Jip may yet keep in touch with the scamp. He's
a wonder, that dog, when it comes to tracking.'

'I only hope that fellow doesn't destroy the papers,' muttered Steve.

'No, I don't think that's likely,' said John Dolittle. 'After all, why
should he? He certainly could not make anything out of them if he did
that.'

'He might want to get rid of evidence that he had stolen them,' said
Steve.

After about a twenty-minute run, during which the two men entirely lost
touch with the dog, they ran into Jip returning from the hunt. His
miserable, dejected appearance told them at once that he had met with
nothing but failure.

'It's no good Doctor,' said he. 'He got away, confound him! As soon as I
heard you call I dashed off to try to get ahead of hi, where the wind
would blow the smell of him towards me, instead of away. But what with
the start he had and the crossed trails that wretched old badger had
left behind, it couldn't be done. He must have got into the woods below
the second filed--of course, he'd know the country like his own hand,
having lived here. And, although my speed is better than his, the lay of
the land is new to me. I hunted right through the woods and along every
ditch where he might have hidden. The forest was quite large and beyond
it I came out on a road. I followed it a way, thinking he'd likely have
stuck to it because it gave him a chance for clear running in the dark.

'This road led round, in a wandering sort of zig-zag, back into the town
on the far side,' continued Jip. 'There, the wind was against me again.
And to find him by myself among the houses would be pretty nearly
impossible, even if he did not go on through the town--which he probably
did. I'm sorry to have failed you, Doctor. but you see how things were,
don't you.'

'Oh, quite, Jip, quite.' said the Doctor. 'Too bad, too bad! Have you
anything to suggest that we might do?'

'We could go into the town,' said Jip gloomily. 'The three of us, by
hunting through it thoroughly, _might_ run him down. But I have my
doubts. I've a notion that customer had been chased before and knows a
good deal about the game of lying low.'

The Doctor explained to Steve what the dog had said and the three of
them, after the door had been put back in its place to keep the rain
out, made their way down into the town. By the time they got there it
was three o'clock in the morning. As yet, except for a sleepy watchman
in the market square, there was no one abroad.

The Doctor had very little hope of accomplishing anything, but he
proceeded with the help of his companions to make a thorough search of
all the streets. Each one took a section of the town, and it was agreed
that they should meet again in the square after an hour had passed.

But quite early in the hunt John Dolittle realized that it would be
perfectly easy for a man to hide, when hunted at such a time as this
with all the townsfolk abed, to find some shrubbery in a garden, or a
stable, or other place of refuge, from which he could not be routed
without walking up the whole town. And as the nature of their business
was something which Steve did not wish to have made public, it would not
be possible to arrest him in the ordinary way.

When the Doctor returned to the square the first of the market gardeners
were beginning to arrive with their wagons of vegetables. While he
waited for the return of Steve and Jip. John Dolittle reviewed the
events of the night; he tried to imagine what he would do, were be the
hunted man. The only idea that came to him was that he would most likely
try to make his way to London where it would be easy to lose oneself in
the crowds. With this in mind he made inquiries of the farmers who were
arriving from that direction, hoping to hear that one of them had seen
the tramp with the sacking bundle under his arm. But they all gave him
the same reply. Nobody had seen the stranger the Doctor described.

Neither Steve nor Jip, when they finally turned up, had any better
report to give than his own. It was decided then to have breakfast and
talk over what they would do next.



9
THE RUNAWAY COACH


BREAKFAST was a sad affair. Steve's dejection over the loss of his
papers affected all the members of the party. The Doctor sat in silence,
eating his boiled egg, with little relish, while Steve just pushed the
bacon on his plate from one spot to the other.

'You know, Doctor,' he began, 'I don't believe I was ever meant to
finish my book. I think I had better drop the whole thing.'

'I wouldn't do that,' replied the Doctor. Men like you are needed in
this topsy-turvy world. If someone doesn't do something about the
unfortunate people in other countries they may start another war--and
then, sooner or later we'd get mixed up in it, too. Cheer up, Steve.
We're not giving up yet. That fellow may still be lurking about round
here--waiting for a chance to get a ride up to London.'

'And if he does,' said Steve, 'how on earth are we ever going to find
him there?'

'We found you, didn't we?' said the Doctor. 'Cheapside and his sparrow
gangs spent less than a day doing it, too.' The Doctor smiled. 'I wish
we had had him here; that thief wouldn't have got very far with your
papers.' And turning to Jip, the Doctor went on:

'I don't blame you, Jip. Not even a pack of blood hounds could have held
his scent in that wind. But birds--with their wonderful ability to dart
in and out of trees--could have kept him in sight when he went into the
woods.'

Jip looked a little crestfallen.

'But, Doctor,' he said, 'You forget, it was pitch dark in that woods
and--'

'So it was,' said the doctor thoughtfully. 'So it was, Jip--I had
forgotten. Well, now, don't worry. I still think you're the best tracker
I ever knew.'

With that Jip brightened up. 'The crowds are gathering in the market
square,' he said. 'Couldn't we just walk round and see if I can pick up
his scent?'

'A splendid idea, Jip,' said John Dolittle. 'I'll pay the innkeeper for
our breakfast and lodging and we'll get started.'

While explaining the new plan to Steve, the Doctor finished his tea and
called for his bill. Pippinella had breakfasted handsomely on toast
crumbs and bits of Steve's neglected bacon and was ready to start off on
the hunt again. She took her place on her friend's shoulder and said to
the Doctor:

'Please tell Steve that I can look out for myself. He might waste time
trying to protect me when he should be concentrating on catching the
rascal who has his papers.'

'Yes, Pippinella,' said the Doctor. 'I'll explain to him what you said.'

Then they walked among the fruit and vegetable stalls peering into the
faces of those who came to buy. Jip kept sniffing at the heels of each
passer-by until someone accidentally bumped him on the nose with a heavy
boot. Jip let out a squeal of pain and rubbed his paw over his aching
nose.

'Serves me right,' he mumbled. 'I'm acting like an amateur. If he's
anywhere around here I'll get his scent without having to put my nose on
every pair of heels in the market-place.'

The Doctor and Pippinella laughed at Jip's remark. But Steve, not
understanding dog language, looked more put out at the heartlessness of
their laughter until the Doctor explained.

'Jip is right,' John Dolittle said, after he'd repeated the dog's
remark. 'We're all too tense. I think we had better go and sit down for
a while. We can watch people coming and going from the bench over
there.'

The sun was warm and the Doctor and Steve were very tired, not having
slept at all the night before. Fully intending to keep a sharp look out
for the thief, they however, soon found themselves dozing off into a
deep slumber. Jip was curled up at the Doctor's feet, his head on his
paws, watching with one eye open and the other snatching a moment of
sleep now and then, the people milling about the square. It wasn't long
before he, too, gave up and went to sleep.

But Pippinella was wide awake. Something about the night's adventures
had fired her imagination. She felt as if she were living part of her
life over again--just which part she couldn't decide. But there was an
excitement in the air--a kind of anticipation--as she sat on Steve's
sleeping shoulder watching the activity all around her.

Suddenly, as the crowd parted in front of her, Pippinella saw a familiar
figure in a cashmere shawl with a market basket on her arm, walk briskly
along the path in front of a group of vegetable stalls.

'Aunt Rosie!' whispered Pippinella. 'I'd forgotten she lived near her.'

Without waking her three companions, the canary flew over the heads of
the villages and landed on Aunt Rosie's shoulder.

'E-e-eh!' squealed the little old lady, dropping her basket and throwing
her arms into the air. 'What's that?--What's that?'

As she turned her head to see what had frightened her she gasped with
astonishment.

'Pippinella!' she cried. 'I do declare! What a start you gave me. Where
did you come from? Why, I thought you were up in London. I saw you in
the Opera. Quite a celebrity you are these days. And just imagine--you
lived in my very own parlour!'

While she chattered on, a gentleman, who had stopped to watch the queer
behaviour of the little old lady, picked up Aunt Rosie's basket, and
with a bow, handed it to her.

'Are you ill, madam?' he asked.

'Certainly not!' she snapped. 'I was startled by this bird. She's the
prima donna of that famous opera a doctor by the name of Dolittle
presented in London a few months ago. You must have read about it in the
papers, sir. It made quite a sensation.'

'Indeed,' said the man, raising his eyebrows quizzically 'But if this is
the same bird, what is she doing here? And how does it happen she picked
you out to land on?'

'Nincompoop!' muttered Aunt Rosie under her breath. And then, smiling
very smugly, she answered the stranger.

'Sometime ago she used to belong to me. I gave her away to a fellow who
washed windows for me. He must have given her to that opera fellow--sold
her, most likely; he was very poor. I can't imagine what she is doing
here, but she must have recognized me. I wonder if she's lost.'

'Perhaps the doctor you speak of is somewhere about here,' said the man,
glancing over his shoulder. 'That might account for the bird's
presecen.'

The idea so surprised Aunt Rosie that she walked abruptly away from the
man without so much as a nod. She began peering into the faces of the
people around her, searching for the famous impresario of the opera,
Doctor Dolittle. Suddenly she stopped.

'Why, my goodness, Pippinella!' she said. 'I don't even know what he
looks like. Everybody in London was talking about him. And the papers
were full of his pictures but each one was so different from the others
I couldn't make up my mind what he _did_ look like. I know he wore a
high silk hat and--and--'

Aunt Rosie was staring across the square with her head thrust forward.
When Pippinella realized that the old lady had spotted the Doctor, she
spread her wings and took off for the bench.

'Doctor Dolittle! Wake up!' the canary cried. 'Aunt Rosie is coming this
way!'

John Dolittle opened his eyes with a start and pushed his hat to the
back of his head.

'A--um,' he said sleepily. 'What did you say, Pippinella?'

'Aunt Rosie is here,' Pippinella said. 'You remember, Doctor, the little
old lady who took me out of the coal-mine.'

By the time the Doctor was fully awake and had straightened his tie,
Aunt Rosie was standing before him. John Dolittle quickly arose and
bowed to her.

'Doctor John Dolittle!' she cried. 'Why--my gracious me! You're the same
man who came to tea that afternoon--and left in such a hurry to catch
the coach. Your sister said something about your being a doctor and all
that. But I was so disappointed at your sudden departure I didn't pay
much attention. Imagine me having entertained the great John Dolittle.
And didn't know it. I declare! I must tell the ladies of my sewing
circle about this.'

Doctor Dolittle just stood there--hat in hand. It always confused the
modest little man to be treated like a celebrity. He much preferred to
allow others to take the bows and receive the praise.

'Good morning, madam,' he said, bowing to cover up his shyness. 'I'm
very happy to see you again.'

With that, Aunt Rosie let loose a flood of questions. How had the Doctor
come by Pippinella? Did he know his sister, Sarah, had moved to
Liverpool? Was he planning any more operas to be presented in London?
Did he ever find that fellow, the window-cleaner? Wouldn't he please
come to tea some day soon and meet the ladies of the sewing circle?

The Doctor kept opening and closing his mouth in an effort to answer
each question as it tumbled forth. But Aunt Rosie didn't give him a
chance; she wasn't really concerned with the answers--all she wanted to
do was to engage the Doctor's attention long enough so that her friends
around the market-place should see her talking to the famous John
Dolittle.

Suddenly, in the middle of another question, she caught sight of Steve,
who had awakened and shoved his hat off his face where it had served as
a shield against the bright sun. Pointing her finger at him, she cried:

'Why, there he is now--the window-cleaner! Whatever happened to _you_,
my good man? I thought surely you'd be back to do my windows again. That
maid of mine, Emily, is simply no good at it. Are you still cleaning
windows?'

While Aunt Rosie was chattering on, Steve had risen from the bench,
removed his hat, and was waiting for the flood of questions to cease so
that he could answer one of them, at least.

'No, madam,' he finally managed to say. 'I'm living with the Doctor now.
You see, the window-washing was just as mens to an end.--A way to earn
some money so that I could get back to London.'

'Well, I'm not surprised,' said the old lady. 'I knew there was
something different about you. I suppose you're in one of the arts--as
the Doctor is?''

'In a way,' Steve replied.

The Doctor, realizing that Aunt Rosie would not stop probing until she
discovered something she could take to her sewing circle friends,
decided to bring the interview to an end. He took his gold watch out of
his pocket and consulted it.

'We really must be going. Aunt Rosie,' he said. 'It's ten minutes to
eight and we--'

'Oh, my gracious!' interrupted the woman. 'The coach for London will be
here any moment. I came up to market to get some eggs for my sister--she
lives in Knightsbridge, you know. Has six children and uses a tremendous
quantity of food. And they get the most abominable eggs in the city
--not fit to feed to a pig! It gives me a good excuse to pay her a visit
every fortnight or so. Today I'm taking her some cheese as well. Did you
ever taste our local cheese, Doctor? It's made right here in Wendlemere.
There's none better, I tell you--finer than imported.'

'Indeed!' said the Doctor. 'I must try it sometime.'

He glanced at Steve who was waiting uncomfortably for Aunt Rosie to stop
talking. The window-cleaner stepped to the old lady's side and offered
her his arm.

'May I escort you to your coach, madam?'; he asked politely, knowing
that John Dolittle was having a difficult time getting rid of Aunt
Rosie.

'I must get my eggs and cheese first,' she said, taking his arm. 'We can
chat on the way. Good-bye, Doctor. Don't forget your promise to come to
tea one day.'

John Dolittle nodded as they hurried way. Pippinella, who had been on
Steve's shoulder all during the conversation, called out as they left
the Doctor and Jip.

'I'll just go along with Steve, if you don't mind, Doctor. I may catch a
glimpse of that fellow in the crowd. If I do, I'll be back in a hurry.'

The Doctor and Jip watched Steve piloting Aunt Rosie among the stalls as
she made her purchases. Finally they saw them heading towards the coach
stop at the north end of the square. In the distance could be heard the
clippity-clop of horses's hoofs and the jingle of harness as the London
coach approached the town. Over the various sounds that accompanied a
market gathering the Doctor heard the clear sweet voice of the canary as
she gaily sang _The Harness Jingle Song_.

'Pippinella is happy again with her master,' he said to Jip. 'I suppose
the jingle of the harness recalls the song she compose when she lived at
the Inn of the Seven Seas.'

'Yes,' said Jip. 'It's good to hear her singing again. I hope nothing
happens to part her from her friend--no that he's found.'

As they listened, the sound of the approaching coach grew louder. In the
distance, the Doctor could see Aunt Rosie with her arm upraised as a
signal to the driver to stop. Business around the market-place
momentarily suspended while merchants and townspeople turned their heads
to watch the coach from the North arrive.

Suddenly, with a thundering of hoofs and a rumble of carriage wheels,
the coach tore past the stop and continued right on through the
market-lace. People scattered in fright, chickens and ducks ran for
their lives--their feathers flying, and the dust threw a screen over the
whole town.

'What do you make of that?' asked Jip, looking puzzle. 'The Driver
certainly could see that Aunt Rosie wanted to get on.'

'It's very odd,' said the Doctor. 'Wendlemere is a regular stop on this
coach route. It didn't look as though the horses were running away,
either. Oh, look, Jip! Here comes Pippinella.'

The green canary landed with a fluttering of wings on the Doctor's
outstretched hand. Her eyes were watering from the dust cloud through
which she'd flown. She was gasping for breath.

'Dear me!' exclaimed the Doctor. 'You might have crashed into a
tree--flying blind like that. Now, rest a moment before you try to
talk.'

He held her gently in his hand until she was able to speak.

'You saw what happened, Doctor?' she finally managed to gasp between
breaths.

'Yes,' replied John Dolittle. 'And it was most puzzling. Didn't the
driver see Aunt Rosie?'

'Oh, he saw her, all right!' answered the canary. 'But he drove by
anyway. There's something very strange about it. I know that man. He's
the most reliable drive on this road.'

'What do you mean, Pippinella,' said the Doctor. 'I don't understand.
Did you say you recognized the coach-man?'

'Yes, Doctor,' replied the canary. 'I saw his face very clearly. He's my
old friend, Jack--the one who used to bring me a lump of sugar when he
stopped at the Inn of the Seven Seas.''

'Then something surely is amiss!' said the Doctor. 'Pippinella, do you
think you could catch up to that coach?'

'Certainly!' she said. 'I can out fly him by fifty times his speed.'

'Well, go quickly then!' said the Doctor, raising his hand so that she
could take off. 'And find out why he didn't stop. I'll be busy here
getting help should we need it. Report back to me as soon as you can.'



10
THE PAPERS RECOVERED--AND
PUDDLEBY AGAIN


WHEN the green canary left the Doctor's hand she darted through the
leafy oaks that circled the market square. As she reached the outskirts
of town she could see, in the distance, a cloud of dust which marked the
swiftly disappearing coach. Cutting across a field to where the road
swerved to the right she overtook the galloping horses and lit on the
driver's shoulder.

'Jingle! Jingle! Crack and tingle. Coachman hold your horses!' she sang
at the top of her lungs so as to be heard above the racket of the
rumbling wheels. This song, she felt sure, Jack would remember as she
had sung it to him every time his coach had entered the courtyard of the
Inn of the Seven Seas.

'Pippinella!' he cried. 'My old friend, Pippinella.'

But instead of smiling at her he drew his brows together and, grasping
the reins more tightly in his hands, urged the panting horses on.

'Go away, Pip!' he yelled. 'Go away! There's danger here!'

But Pippinella clung more tightly than ever to the cloth of Jack's coat.
Sensing that something was seriously wrong, she dug her claws more
firmly into the fabric and leant way out to see who rode in the body of
the carriage. A face with a stubbly beard and piercing black eyes hung
out of the window. In his hand the man held a big black pistol which he
was aiming at Jack's head.

It was the thief who had stolen the window-cleaner's papers!

'Go away, I say!' shouted Jack again. 'You'll get hurt if that rascal
decides to pull the trigger!'

An evil gleam came into the eyes of the thief. He brandished the pistol.
'Who are y' callin' a rascal?' he screamed. 'I'll blow yer into kingdom
come if yer gets sassy with me!'

Pippinella hopped to Jack's other shoulder so as not to further
antagonize the dangerous passenger. For a moment or two she wondered
what she had better do. Then, remembering the Doctor's orders to report
back to him as soon as she could, the canary flew into the air and head
back to town.

Mean while the Doctor had not been idle. With the help of Jip he had
rounded up a half dozen mongrel dogs who were noted for their bravery
and fighting ability.

'Listen,' said the Doctor in dog language when they had ceased barking
their pleasure at meeting the famous animal physician. 'Can I count on
you for some help--if I need it?'

'Why, sur-r-re, sur-r-re!' said Mac, a Scottish terrier of mixed origin.
'We're verra happy at assist ye, Doctor Dolittle. What is it ye want
done?'

'I don't know yet,' replied the Doctor. 'But it may be very dangerous.'
And glancing from one to the other of the eager faces watching him, he
went on:

'Are you all agreed on Mac's decision?'

The dogs answered the Doctor with a perfect avalanche of tail-waggings,
ear-scratchings and nose-twitchings.

'Come with me then!' ordered John Dolittle. And he started down the
London road at a fast pace with Steve at his side and Jip and the pack
of mongrel dogs at his heels.

As he scanned the sky for some sight of Pippinella, the Doctor heard the
thud of a small object on his high silk hat. Reaching up to investigate
he felt the clutching on his finger of a pair of tiny claws.

'It's you, Pippinella,' he said, lowering his hand as he continued
running.

'No, it ain't "you, Pip",' said the bird. 'It's me, Cheapside! And I'd
like to-know where _yer_ goin'--and in such a hurry. It ain't good for
your heart, Doc.'

'Never mind that now,' said the Doctor. 'I'm delighted to see you again,
Cheapside. How does it happen you are down this way?'

'I didn't 'appen--as you say, Doc,' said the London sparrow. 'I were
lookin' for you. Becky went off to visit her maw who's building a new
'ome in Hyde Park.--Uppitty, the old girl's got since she landed on the
Queen's bonnet during a parade least week. Says Piccadilly ain't no fit
place for a bird what's sat on the Queen's new bonnet. Well, as I was
sayin': Becky went off for the day and I thought I'd 'ave a run down to
Puddleby to see 'ow you was gettin' on. When I found you wasn't there I
'ad a quick look around.--Lor' bless me, Doc, things is in a
mess.--Then I went to Greenheath and 'eard how you was off on another
'unt--for some missin' papers. Say, Doc, slow up a bit, will you? I 'ave
to shout me lungs out to make myself 'eard. And what's the 'ounds doing
at yer heels? Say the word, and I'll peck out their eyes!'

'No, no, Cheapside!' cried the Doctor. 'We're on our way to help
Pippinella's friend, Jack, the coachman.'

As the Doctor was about to continue, he saw a tiny speck in the sky
coming closer and closer.

'Here comes Pippinella now!' he said, slowing to a walk. 'She'll tell
you the rest.'

The little party stood in the road and waited for the canary to arrive.

'She flies good--for a primer donner--don't she?' said the sparrow.

When the little canary landed on the Doctor's hand she had to sit
gasping for a moment before she could speak. Then she described the
predicament Jack was in.

'And the man with the pistol,' gasped Pippinella, 'is _the fellow who
stole Steve's papers!_'

'Are you sure?' asked the Doctor.

'Yes!' replied the canary. 'One never forgets a face as ugly as his.'

'What about Steve's papers?' John Dolittle asked, anxiously. 'Did he
have them with him?'

'I don't know,' replied Pippinella. 'But in any case we must help Jack.'

'Yes, indeed!' said the Doctor. 'We must carry out our plan quickly
now,' he continued. He translated the canary's story to Steve in as few
words as possible. Then turning to Jip, he said:

'Jip, take Mac and the others and follow Pippinella as fast as you can.
Catch up to that coach and tell the horses I want them to stop. Mac,
while Jip is explaining to the horses you get into the carriage and see
that that rascal doesn't use his pistol!'

'We're on our way!' cried Jip. 'That thief isn't going to get away this
time!'

'Wait for me,' cried Cheapside. 'What makes you think I ain't goin'
along to 'ave some fun, too?'

The two birds shot into the air as the pack of dogs, led by Jip, raced
down the road. By now the coach was no more than a tiny speck on the
horizon and it took the strange group of pursuers a good ten minutes of
their best speed to close the ever increasing distance between them.
When they began to near the speeding carriage the dust became so thick
they could barely see one another, nor could they breathe with comfort.

'Cut across this hayfield!' called Pippinella from above. 'The road
makes a sharp turn just before those elms. We can reach the place ahead
of the coach and cut them off.'

With Pippinella and Cheapside flying lower over the standing grain the
dogs followed through the hay leaving a path behind them like the wake
of a ship at sea. When they broke into the open the canary was ahead of
them pointing the way with her bill.

'That's the spot--over there!' she cried. 'Follow me!'

They reached the shelter of the big elms as the coach rounded the bend.
It was lurching from side to side as the horses pounded on in panic.
Jack continued to urge them on while the man in the back hung out of the
window shouting orders and waving his pistol in the air.

Jip dashed into the road and raced beside the galloping horses.

'Stop!' he cried. 'Doctor Dolittle orders you to stop!'

'We can't,' whined the horse on Jip's side. 'If we do, Jack will be
killed!'

'Do what I tell you!' Jip commanded, nipping at the horse's foreleg.
'The other dogs will take care of that fellow with the pistol!'

Cheapside, sitting on the horse's ear, leant over and shouted into it:

'Do like he tells you, Milly! Else I'll peck out yer eyes!'

'Oh, hello, Cheapside,' said Milly, I'm happy to see you again.'

'Never mind the pink tea chatter, you dumb wagon-puller!' screamed the
sparrow. 'The Doc says stop! And I'm 'ere to see his horders is carried
out!'

Milly turned her head nervously and looked back over her shoulder while
she raced on. She saw that what Jip had said was true; the dogs, led by
Mac, the Scottish terrier, were jumping and clawing their way through
the open window of the speeding carriage. The thief had disappeared from
the window and the sound of scuffling could be heard from within. The
exhausted mare turned to her team mate and, puffing and panting, said:

'Stop, Josephine! It's all right. Those dogs have taken care of that
fellow. Thank goodness, Jack is safe and we can stop this senseless
running.'

Gradually the two mares brought the lumbering coach to a halt. With
relief from the nervous strain they became quite hysterical and wept
openly.

'Brace up, me 'earties!' said Cheapside. 'There ain't no cause fer
weepin'. You only did what you 'ad to!'

Milly shook the tears from her eyes and nudged Josephine with her nose.

'Cheapside's right,' she said. 'It wasn't our fault.'

With the stopping of the coach, the thief managed to turn the handle on
the door and man and dogs tumbled out into the dusty road. He tried to
get on to his feet to make a break for freedom but the dogs piled on to
him and bore him to the ground again. Pippinella and Cheapside kept
making short dives at his head, pecking him on the ears and generally
worrying him into complete confusion.

''Elp! 'Elp!' yelled the frightened man. 'Call off your dogs! I'll come
quiet like!'

Jack, with carriage whip in hand, stood over the milling mass of dogs
and man.

'You're not so brave now,' he said--'without your pistol.'

Jip, seeing that Mac and his gang had the situation well in hand, was
hunting frantically for the bundle of missing papers. With a yelp of joy
he found them under the seat of the coach where the thief had hoped to
conceal them.

'Pip! Pip!' he yelled. 'Come here! I've found Steve's papers!'

Meanwhile, down the winding road, could be seen the rapidly approaching
figures of the Doctor and Steve, their jackets billowing out behind
them. Pippinella flew to meet them with the good news that the papers
had been recovered. The Doctor told Steve what Pippinella had said.

'Good old Pip!' said Steve. 'You're the best friend a man ever had.'

'Oh, I didn't do anything,' replied the canary. 'Jip was the one. He's
guarding them until you get there.'

Again the Doctor interpreted.

When they reached the coach they found Jack trying to persuade Jip to
let him have the bundle of papers. Knowing nothing of their history, he
naturally supposed they belonged to the man the dogs were holding and
that they would disclose his identity.

'Good doggy, Jack was saying as he poked his head into the carriage and
tried to remove the bundle. 'I won't harm them.'

But Jip was adamant. He didn't know Jack--except through Pippinella--and
he wasn't going to take any chances. He growled and bared his teeth at
the coachman. But when he saw the Doctor framed in the open carriage
doorway he let out a yelp of welcome.

'Thank goodness, you've come!' he said. 'I didn't want to have to bite
Pip's friend. But I was determined to do it if he insisted on removing
Steve's papers.'

The Doctor then took the bundle and handed it to Steve.

'Excellent work!' he said to Jip. 'I'm proud you. Come--we'll take a
look at this rascal who has given us so much trouble.'

John Dolittle, with a smile at the comical positions of the dogs all
piled helter-skelter on top of the cringing man--said to Mac:

'You may release him now. I want a word with him.'

The dogs untangled themselves, shook their rumpled coats, and came to
stand beside the Doctor. As the man got to his feet the Doctor turned
again to Mac.

'You and your friends are excellent hunter,' he said. 'Not a scratch on
your quarry. I want to commend you very highly.'

'Thank you, Doctor Dolittle,' said the Scottish terrier. 'It was a bit
difficult--when he got rambunctious--not t'nip his ears. But we
remembered what ye said t'us.--Aboot not drawin' blood.'

The man, puzzled by the strange manoeuvres of the Doctor and Mac,--for,
of course, they spoke in dog language--turned his head frantically from
left to right looking for a means of escape.

'I wouldn't make any attempts to get way if I were you,' said the
Doctor. 'My friends here would overtake you in the matter of
moments.--And I'm not so sure I'd caution them against tearing you to
pieces this time.'

'I didn't mean no 'arm, governor!' whined the man. 'I were just lookin'
for a place t' get out of the weather when I seen those fellows
a'sneakin' around the old mill and a' diggin' under the floor. "Well," I
says to myself, "there must be something mighty important in this 'ere
mill. I'll stick around and see what it is."'

By this time everyone--Steve, Jack, Pippinella and Cheapside--had
joined the Doctor and the pack of dogs and were listening to the
stranger's story.

'Like I said,' continued the man. 'I ain't no regular thief. I thought
if those papers were so important to somebody else, they might fetch a
quid or two if I could find the right person. They weren't no good to
me, goodness knows, I couldn't make 'ead nor tail of 'em. All full of
political talk--and about foreigners, at that. Please, governor, let me
go. I ain't done no 'arm. If I'd 'a knowed this bloke were the rightful
owner I'd 'a been 'appy to turn them over to 'im.'

Steve and the Doctor exchanged a glance and the window-cleaner, smiling,
nodded.

'All right,' said the Doctor to the relief of all the party who were
feeling sorry for the man and didn't want to see him punished after all.
'You may go. But try and stay out of trouble from now on. The police
might not be so lenient with you.'

While the man started back up the road towards Wendlemere the Doctor
thanked Mac and his friends for their assistance and dismissed them with
a promise to return some day and pay them a visit.

Cheapside, perched on top of the coach, spoke to the Doctor.

'Is it 'ome to Puddleby now, Doc?' he asked.

'Yes, Cheapside,' replied the Doctor. 'It's home to Puddleby at last!
I'm ready for a good long rest by the fire-side.'

'Hoh! Hoh!' laughed the sparrow. 'If it's rest you want, Doc, better not
go 'ome. The 'ouse looks like a bloomin' 'ospital, it does--since some
gossipin' bluejays passed the word around that you might be comin' back.
Rabbits with busted paws sleepin' all over the place, 'orses with 'eaves
lodgin' two to a stall in the stable, and a sneakin' weasel with her
'ole brood a' nasty little brats coughin' their 'eads off under the
'ouse.'

'Oh, dear,' sighted the Doctor. 'Then I must get there quickly. I'd feel
terrible if one of them should die because it hadn't had the proper
care.'

Jack would listen to nothing else but that he should drive the whole
party home to Puddleby.

'Oh, I couldn't let you do that,' said John Dolittle. 'You see, we must
go to Greenheath first and collect the rest of my family.'

'Well, that's all right,' the coach man said. 'Greenheath is on the way
to Puddleby.'

'But there must be other passengers on the road waiting for you at this
very moment,' said the Doctor.

'Probably,' said Jack. 'But I'm so late now it doesn't matter. The
twelve o'clock coach will be along shortly and can pick up anyone bound
for London. Besides,' Jack continued, 'you saved my life and I'd like to
show my gratitude in some small way. Hop in, and we'll get started.'

'Well,' said the Doctor, hesitating. 'If you're sure it will be all
right we'd be delighted to go home in such splendour. My, my! Our own
private coach! Won't Gub-Gub be surprised. Come along, Steve and
Pippinella.'

'We don't want to be a bother, Doctor,' said the window-cleaner. 'Pip
and I can go up to London and--'

'Nonsense!' declared the Doctor. 'There's plenty of room at Puddleby.
You can finish your book and enjoy some of Dab-Dab's excellent cooking
at the same time. There is nothing she likes better than to have a
company of hungry people around her table. Now, now,' he continued as
Steve began to protest further. 'I won't hear of anything else. Get
aboard everybody. We're off for Greenheath and home--home to Puddleby at
last!'



THE END





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