The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

by Hugh Lofting

Part 3, Chapter 9: We Depart in a Hurry

Additional Information
  • Year Published: 1922
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: England
  • Source: Lofting, H. (1922). The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. London, England: Lippincott Publishing.
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 4.2
  • Word Count: 1,222
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Keywords: 20th century literature, british literature, children's literature
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As soon as the door closed behind the Doctor the most tremendous noise I have ever heard broke loose. Some of the men appeared to be angry (friends of Pepito's, I suppose); but the ladies called and called to have the Doctor come back into the ring.

When at length he did so, the women seemed to go entirely mad over him. They blew kisses to him. They called him a darling. Then they started taking off their flowers, their rings, their necklaces, and their brooches and threw them down at his feet. You never saw anything like it—a perfect shower of jewelry and roses.

But the Doctor just smiled up at them, bowed once more and backed out.

"Now, Bumpo," said Polynesia, "this is where you go down and gather up all those trinkets and we'll sell 'em. That's what the big matadors do: leave the jewelry on the ground and their assistants collect it for them. We might as well lay in a good supply of money while we've got the chance—you never know when you may need it when you're traveling with the Doctor. Never mind the roses—you can leave them—but don't leave any rings. And when you've finished go and get your three-thousand pesetas out of Don Ricky-ticky. Tommy and I will meet you outside and we'll pawn the gew-gaws at that Jew's shop opposite the bed-maker's. Run along—and not a word to the Doctor, remember."

Outside the bull-ring we found the crowd still in a great state of excitement. Violent arguments were going on everywhere. Bumpo joined us with his pockets bulging in all directions; and we made our way slowly through the dense crowd to that side of the building where the matadors' dressing-room was. The Doctor was waiting at the door for us.

"Good work, Doctor!" said Polynesia, flying on to his shoulder—"Great work!—But listen: I smell danger. I think you had better get back to the ship now as quick and as quietly as you can. Put your overcoat on over that giddy suit. I don't like the looks of this crowd. More than half of them are furious because you've won. Don Ricky-ticky must now stop the bullfighting—and you know how they love it. What I'm afraid of is that some of these matadors who are just mad with jealousy may start some dirty work. I think this would be a good time for us to get away."

"I dare say you're right, Polynesia," said the Doctor—"You usually are. The crowd does seem to be a bit restless. I'll slip down to the ship alone—so I shan't be so noticeable; and I'll wait for you there. You come by some different way. But don't be long about it. Hurry!"

As soon as the Doctor had departed Bumpo sought out Don Enrique and said,

"Honorable Sir, you owe me three-thousand pesetas."

Without a word, but looking cross-eyed with annoyance, Don Enrique paid his bet.

We next set out to buy the provisions; and on the way we hired a cab and took it along with us.

Not very far away we found a big grocer's shop which seemed to sell everything to eat. We went in and bought up the finest lot of food you ever saw in your life.

As a matter of fact, Polynesia had been right about the danger we were in. The news of our victory must have spread like lightning through the whole town. For as we came out of the shop and loaded the cab up with our stores, we saw various little knots of angry men hunting round the streets, waving sticks and shouting,

"The Englishmen! Where are those accursed Englishmen who stopped the bullfighting?—Hang them to a lamp-post!—Throw them in the sea! The Englishmen!—We want the Englishmen!"

After that we didn't waste any time, you may be sure. Bumpo grabbed the Spanish cab-driver and explained to him in signs that if he didn't drive down to the harbor as fast as he knew how and keep his mouth shut the whole way, he would choke the life out of him. Then we jumped into the cab on top of the food, slammed the door, pulled down the blinds and away we went.

"We won't get a chance to pawn the jewelry now," said Polynesia, as we bumped over the cobbly streets. "But never mind—it may come in handy later on. And anyway we've got two-thousand five-hundred pesetas left out of the bet. Don't give the cabby more than two pesetas fifty, Bumpo. That's the right fare, I know."

Well, we reached the harbor all right and we were mighty glad to find that the Doctor had sent Chee-Chee back with the row-boat to wait for us at the landing-wall.

Unfortunately while we were in the middle of loading the supplies from the cab into the boat, the angry mob arrived upon the wharf and made a rush for us. Bumpo snatched up a big beam of wood that lay near and swung it round and round his head, letting out dreadful African battle-yells the while. This kept the crowd off while Chee-Chee and I hustled the last of the stores into the boat and clambered in ourselves. Bumpo threw his beam of wood into the thick of the Spaniards and leapt in after us. Then we pushed off and rowed like mad for the Curlew.

The mob upon the wall howled with rage, shook their fists and hurled stones and all manner of things after us. Poor old Bumpo got hit on the head with a bottle. But as he had a very strong head it only raised a small bump while the bottle smashed into a thousand pieces.

When we reached the ship's side the Doctor had the anchor drawn up and the sails set and everything in readiness to get away. Looking back we saw boats coming out from the harbor-wall after us, filled with angry, shouting men. So we didn't bother to unload our rowboat but just tied it on to the ship's stern with a rope and jumped aboard.

It only took a moment more to swing the Curlew round into the wind; and soon we were speeding out of the harbor on our way to Brazil.

"Ha!" sighed Polynesia, as we all flopped down on the deck to take a rest and get our breath. "That wasn't a bad adventure—quite reminds me of my old seafaring days when I sailed with the smugglers—Golly, that was the life!—Never mind your head, Bumpo. It will be all right when the Doctor puts a little arnica on it. Think what we got out of the scrap: a boat-load of ship's stores, pockets full of jewelry and thousands of pesetas. Not bad, you know—not bad."