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|Part Three||Hugh Lofting|
I The Third Man
|Page 2 of 3||
"Why, but Captain," said the able seaman, "you surely ain't going to face deep-sea weather with nothing more than this bit of a lad to help you-- and with a cutter that big!"
The Doctor assured him that he was; but the man didn't go away. He hung around and argued. He told us he had known of many ships being sunk through "undermanning." He got out what he called his stiffikit--a paper which said what a good sailor he was-- and implored us, if we valued our lives, to take him.
But the Doctor was quite firm-polite but determined--and finally the man walked sorrowfully away, telling us he never expected to see us alive again.
Callers of one sort and another kept us quite busy that morning. The Doctor had no sooner gone below to stow away his note-books than another visitor appeared upon the gang-plank. This was a most extraordinary-looking black man. The only other negroes I had seen had been in circuses, where they wore feathers and bone necklaces and things like that. But this one was dressed in a fashionable frock coat with an enormous bright red cravat. On his head was a straw hat with a gay band; and over this he held a large green umbrella. He was very smart in every respect except his feet. He wore no shoes or socks.
"Pardon me," said he, bowing elegantly, "but is this the ship of the physician Dolittle?"
"Yes," I said, "did you wish to see him?"
"I did--if it will not be discommodious," he answered.
"Who shall I say it is?"
"I am Bumpo Kahbooboo, Crown Prince of Jolliginki."
I ran downstairs at once and told the Doctor.
"How fortunate!" cried John Dolittle. "My old friend Bumpo! Well, well!--He's studying at Oxford, you know. How good of him to come all this way to call on me!" And he tumbled up the ladder to greet his visitor.
The strange black man seemed to be overcome with joy when the Doctor appeared and shook him warmly by the hand.
"News reached me," he said, "that you were about to sail upon a voyage. I hastened to see you before your departure. I am sublimely ecstasied that I did not miss you."
"You very nearly did miss us," said the Doctor. "As it happened, we were delayed somewhat in getting the necessary number of men to sail our boat. If it hadn't been for that, we would have been gone three days ago."
"How many men does your ship's company yet require?" asked Bumpo.
"Only one," said the Doctor--"But it is so hard to find the right one."
"Methinks I detect something of the finger of Destination in this," said Bumpo. "How would I do?"
"Splendidly," said the Doctor. "But what about your studies? You can't very well just go off and leave your university career to take care of itself, you know."
"I need a holiday," said Bumpo. "Even had I not gone with you, I intended at the end of this term to take a three-months' absconsion--But besides, I shall not be neglecting my edification if I accompany you. Before I left Jolliginki my august father, the King, told me to be sure and travel plenty. You are a man of great studiosity. To see the world in your company is an opportunity not to be sneezed upon. No, no, indeed."
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|The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
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