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Part One Hugh Lofting

XI My Schoolmaster, Polynesia

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"What is it, my boy?" said she, smoothing down the feathers of her right wing. Polynesia often spoke to me in a very patronizing way. But I did not mind it from her. After all, she was nearly two hundred years old; and I was only ten.

"Listen," I said, "my mother doesn't think it is right that I come here for so many meals. And I was going to ask you: supposing I did a whole lot more work for the Doctor-- why couldn't I come and live here altogether? You see, instead of being paid like a regular gardener or workman, I would get my bed and meals in exchange for the work I did. What do you think?"

"You mean you want to be a proper assistant to the Doctor, is that it?"

"Yes. I suppose that's what you call it," I answered. "You know you said yourself that you thought I could be very useful to him."

"Well"--she thought a moment--"I really don't see why not. But is this what you want to be when you grow up, a naturalist?"

"Yes," I said, "I have made up my mind. I would sooner be a naturalist than anything else in the world."

"Humph!--Let's go and speak to the Doctor about it," said Polynesia. "He's in the next room--in the study. Open the door very gently--he may be working and not want to be disturbed."

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I opened the door quietly and peeped in. The first thing I saw was an enormous black retriever dog sitting in the middle of the hearth-rug with his ears cocked up, listening to the Doctor who was reading aloud to him from a letter.

"What is the Doctor doing?" I asked Polynesia in a whisper.

"Oh, the dog has had a letter from his mistress and he has brought it to the Doctor to read for him. That's all. He belongs to a funny little girl called Minnie Dooley, who lives on the other side of the town. She has pigtails down her back. She and her brother have gone away to the seaside for the Summer; and the old retriever is heart-broken while the children are gone. So they write letters to him--in English of course. And as the old dog doesn't understand them, he brings them here, and the Doctor turns them into dog language for him. I think Minnie must have written that she is coming back-- to judge from the dog's excitement. Just look at him carrying on!"

Indeed the retriever seemed to be suddenly overcome with joy. As the Doctor finished the letter the old dog started barking at the top of his voice, wagging his tail wildly and jumping about the study. He took the letter in his mouth and ran out of the room snorting hard and mumbling to himself.

"He's going down to meet the coach," whispered Polynesia. "That dog's devotion to those children is more than I can understand. You should see Minnie! She's the most conceited little minx that ever walked. She squints too."

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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