The Story of Doctor Dolittle

by Hugh Lofting

Chapter 16: Too-Too, The Listener

Additional Information
  • Year Published: 1920
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: England
  • Source: Lofting, H. (1920). The Story of Doctor Dolittle . New York, NY: Frederick A. Stokes
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 4.2
  • Word Count: 1,128
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Keywords: adventure, helping others
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Having thanked the sharks again for their kindness, the Doctor and his pets set off once more on their journey home in the swift ship with the three red sails.

As they moved out into the open sea, the animals all went downstairs to see what their new boat was like inside; while the Doctor leant on the rail at the back of the ship with a pipe in his mouth, watching the Canary Islands fade away in the blue dusk of the evening.

While he was standing there, wondering how the monkeys were getting on—and what his garden would look like when he got back to Puddleby, Dab–Dab came tumbling up the stairs, all smiles and full of news.

"Doctor!" she cried. "This ship of the pirates is simply beautiful—absolutely. The beds downstairs are made of primrose silk—with hundreds of big pillows and cushions; there are thick, soft carpets on the floors; the dishes are made of silver; and there are all sorts of good things to eat and drink—special things; the larder—well, it's just like a shop, that's all. You never saw anything like it in your life— Just think—they kept five different kinds of sardines, those men! Come and look.... Oh, and we found a little room down there with the door locked; and we are all crazy to get in and see what's inside. Jip says it must be where the pirates kept their treasure. But we can't open the door. Come down and see if you can let us in."

So the Doctor went downstairs and he saw that it was indeed a beautiful ship. He found the animals gathered round a little door, all talking at once, trying to guess what was inside. The Doctor turned the handle but it wouldn't open. Then they all started to hunt for the key. They looked under the mat; they looked under all the carpets; they looked in all the cupboards and drawers and lockers—in the big chests in the ship's dining–room; they looked everywhere.

While they were doing this they discovered a lot of new and wonderful things that the pirates must have stolen from other ships: Kashmir shawls as thin as a cobweb, embroidered with flowers of gold; jars of fine tobacco from Jamaica; carved ivory boxes full of Russian tea; an old violin with a string broken and a picture on the back; a set of big chess–men, carved out of coral and amber; a walking–stick which had a sword inside it when you pulled the handle; six wine–glasses with turquoise and silver round the rims; and a lovely great sugar–bowl, made of mother o' pearl. But nowhere in the whole boat could they find a key to fit that lock.

So they all came back to the door, and Jip peered through the key–hole. But something had been stood against the wall on the inside and he could see nothing.

While they were standing around, wondering what they should do, the owl, Too–Too, suddenly said,

"Sh!—Listen!—I do believe there's some one in there!"

They all kept still a moment. Then the Doctor said,

"You must be mistaken, Too–Too. I don't hear anything."

"I'm sure of it," said the owl. "Sh!—There it is again—Don't you hear that?"

"No, I do not," said the Doctor. "What kind of a sound is it?"

"I hear the noise of some one putting his hand in his pocket," said the owl.

"But that makes hardly any sound at all," said the Doctor. "You couldn't hear that out here."

"Pardon me, but I can," said Too–Too. "I tell you there is some one on the other side of that door putting his hand in his pocket. Almost everything makes SOME noise—if your ears are only sharp enough to catch it. Bats can hear a mole walking in his tunnel under the earth—and they think they're good hearers. But we owls can tell you, using only one ear, the color of a kitten from the way it winks in the dark."

"Well, well!" said the Doctor. "You surprise me. That's very interesting.... Listen again and tell me what he's doing now."

"I'm not sure yet," said Too–Too, "if it's a man at all. Maybe it's a woman. Lift me up and let me listen at the key–hole and I'll soon tell you."

So the Doctor lifted the owl up and held him close to the lock of the door.

After a moment Too–Too said,

"Now he's rubbing his face with his left hand. It is a small hand and a small face. It MIGHT be a woman—No. Now he pushes his hair back off his forehead—It's a man all right."

"Women sometimes do that," said the Doctor.

"True," said the owl. "But when they do, their long hair makes quite a different sound.... Sh! Make that fidgety pig keep still. Now all hold your breath a moment so I can listen well. This is very difficult, what I'm doing now—and the pesky door is so thick! Sh! Everybody quite still—shut your eyes and don't breathe."

Too–Too leaned down and listened again very hard and long.

At last he looked up into the Doctor's face and said,

"The man in there is unhappy. He weeps. He has taken care not to blubber or sniffle, lest we should find out that he is crying. But I heard—quite distinctly—the sound of a tear falling on his sleeve."

"How do you know it wasn't a drop of water falling off the ceiling on him?" asked Gub–Gub. "Pshaw!—Such ignorance!" sniffed Too–Too. "A drop of water falling off the ceiling would have made ten times as much noise!"

"Well," said the Doctor, "if the poor fellow's unhappy, we've got to get in and see what's the matter with him. Find me an axe, and I'll chop the door down."