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|The Story of Doctor Dolittle||Hugh Lofting|
The Great Journey
|Page 2 of 3||
"I'm not sure," said the parrot; "but I think we're ship-wrecked. Tell the duck to get out and see."
So Dab-Dab dived right down under the waves. And when she came up she said they had struck a rock; there was a big hole in the bottom of the ship; the water was coming in; and they were sinking fast.
"We must have run into Africa," said the Doctor. "Dear me, dear me!--Well--we must all swim to land."
But Chee-Chee and Gub-Gub did not know how to swim.
"Get the rope!" said Polynesia. "I told you it would come in handy. Where's that duck? Come here, Dab-Dab. Take this end of the rope, fly to the shore and tie it on to a palm-tree; and we'll hold the other end on the ship here. Then those that can't swim must climb along the rope till they reach the land. That's what you call a `life-line.'"
So they all got safely to the shore--some swimming, some flying; and those that climbed along the rope brought the Doctor's trunk and handbag with them.
But the ship was no good any more--with the big hole in the bottom; and presently the rough sea beat it to pieces on the rocks and the timbers floated away.
Then they all took shelter in a nice dry cave they found, high up in the cliffs, till the storm was over.
When the sun came out next morning they went down to the sandy beach to dry themselves.
"Dear old Africa!" sighed Polynesia. "It's good to get back. Just think--it'll be a hundred and sixty-nine years to-morrow since I was here! And it hasn't changed a bit! Same old palm-trees; same old red earth; same old black ants! There's no place like home!"
And the others noticed she had tears in her eyes-- she was so pleased to see her country once again.
Then the Doctor missed his high hat; for it had been blown into the sea during the storm. So Dab-Dab went out to look for it. And presently she saw it, a long way off, floating on the water like a toy-boat.
When she flew down to get it, she found one of the white mice, very frightened, sitting inside it.
"What are you doing here?" asked the duck. "You were told to stay behind in Puddleby."
"I didn't want to be left behind," said the mouse. "I wanted to see what Africa was like --I have relatives there. So I hid in the baggage and was brought on to the ship with the hard-tack. When the ship sank I was terribly frightened--because I cannot swim far. I swam as long as I could, but I soon got all exhausted and thought I was going to sink. And then, just at that moment, the old man's hat came floating by; and I got into it because I did not want to be drowned."
So the duck took up the hat with the mouse in it and brought it to the Doctor on the shore. And they all gathered round to have a look.
"That's what you call a `stowaway,'" said the parrot.
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