THE TWENTIETH CHAPTER
THE FISHERMAN'S TOWN
But just at that moment the match went out again. And the man thought it was Ben Ali coming back, and he began to punch the Doctor in the dark.
But when John Dolittle told him who it was, and that he had his little nephew safe on his ship, the man was tremendously glad, and said he was sorry he had fought the Doctor. He had not hurt him much though—because it was too dark to punch properly. Then he gave the Doctor a pinch of snuff.
And the man told how the Barbary Dragon had put him on to this rock and left him there, when he wouldn't promise to become a pirate; and how he used to sleep down in this hole because there was no house on the rock to keep him warm.
And then he said,
"For four days I have had nothing to eat or drink. I have lived on snuff."
"There you are!" said Jip. "What did I tell you?"
So they struck some more matches and made their way out through the passage into the daylight; and the Doctor hurried the man down to the boat to get some soup.
When the animals and the little boy saw the Doctor and Jip coming back to the ship with a red-headed man, they began to cheer and yell and dance about the boat. And the swallows up above started whistling at the top of their voices—thousands and millions of them—to show that they too were glad that the boy's brave uncle had been found. The noise they made was so great that sailors far out at sea thought that a terrible storm was coming. "Hark to that gale howling in the East!" they said.
And Jip was awfully proud of himself—though he tried hard not to look conceited. When Dab-Dab came to him and said, "Jip, I had no idea you were so clever!" he just tossed his head and answered,
"Oh, that's nothing special. But it takes a dog to find a man, you know. Birds are no good for a game like that."
Then the Doctor asked the red-haired fisherman where his home was. And when he had told him, the Doctor asked the swallows to guide the ship there first.
And when they had come to the land which the man had spoken of, they saw a little fishing-town at the foot of a rocky mountain; and the man pointed out the house where he lived.
And while they were letting down the anchor, the little boy's mother (who was also the man's sister) came running down to the shore to meet them, laughing and crying at the same time. She had been sitting on a hill for twenty days, watching the sea and waiting for them to return.
And she kissed the Doctor many times, so that he giggled and blushed like a school-girl. And she tried to kiss Jip too; but he ran away and hid inside the ship.
"It's a silly business, this kissing," he said. "I don't hold by it. Let her go and kiss Gub-Gub—if she must kiss something."
"And she kissed the Doctor many times"
The fisherman and his sister didn't want the Doctor to go away again in a hurry. They begged him to spend a few days with them. So John Dolittle and his animals had to stay at their house a whole Saturday and Sunday and half of Monday.
And all the little boys of the fishing-village went down to the beach and pointed at the great ship anchored there, and said to one another in whispers,
"Look! That was a pirate-ship—Ben Ali's—the most terrible pirate that ever sailed the Seven Seas! That old gentleman with the high hat, who's staying up at Mrs. Trevelyan's, he took the ship away from The Barbary Dragon—and made him into a farmer. Who'd have thought it of him—him so gentle-like and all! … Look at the great red sails! Ain't she the wicked-looking ship—and fast?—My!"
All those two days and a half that the Doctor stayed at the little fishing-town the people kept asking him out to teas and luncheons and dinners and parties; all the ladies sent him boxes of flowers and candies; and the village-band played tunes under his window every night.
At last the Doctor said,
"Good people, I must go home now. You have really been most kind. I shall always remember it. But I must go home—for I have things to do."
Then, just as the Doctor was about to leave, the Mayor of the town came down the street and a lot of other people in grand clothes with him. And the Mayor stopped before the house where the Doctor was living; and everybody in the village gathered round to see what was going to happen.
After six page-boys had blown on shining trumpets to make the people stop talking, the Doctor came out on to the steps and the Mayor spoke.
"Doctor John Dolittle," said he: "It is a great pleasure for me to present to the man who rid the seas of the Dragon of Barbary this little token from the grateful people of our worthy Town."
And the Mayor took from his pocket a little tissue-paper packet, and opening it, he handed to the Doctor a perfectly beautiful watch with real diamonds in the back.
Then the Mayor pulled out of his pocket a still larger parcel and said,
"Where is the dog?"
Then everybody started to hunt for Jip. And at last Dab-Dab found him on the other side of the village in a stable-yard, where all the dogs of the country-side were standing round him speechless with admiration and respect.
When Jip was brought to the Doctor's side, the Mayor opened the larger parcel; and inside was a dog-collar made of solid gold! And a great murmur of wonder went up from the village-folk as the Mayor bent down and fastened it round the dog's neck with his own hands.
For written on the collar in big letters were these words: "JIP—The Cleverest Dog in the World."
Then the whole crowd moved down to the beach to see them off. And after the red-haired fisherman and his sister and the little boy had thanked the Doctor and his dog over and over and over again, the great, swift ship with the red sails was turned once more towards Puddleby and they sailed out to sea, while the village-band played music on the shore.