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Part Three Hugh Lofting

VII The Doctor's Wager

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"Oh, rubbish!" said the Doctor. "You never give the poor bull a chance. It is only when he is all tired and dazed that your precious matadors dare to try and kill him."

I thought the Spaniard was going to strike the Doctor he got so angry. While he was still spluttering to find words, the bed-maker came between them and took the Doctor aside. He explained to John Dolittle in a whisper that this Don Enrique Cardenas was a very important person; that he it was who supplied the bulls--a special, strong black kind-- from his own farm for all the bullfights in the Capa Blancas. He was a very rich man, the bed-maker said, a most important personage. He mustn't be allowed to take offense on any account.

I watched the Doctor's face as the bed-maker finished, and I saw a flash of boyish mischief come into his eyes as though an idea had struck him. He turned to the angry Spaniard.

"Don Enrique," he said, "you tell me your bullfighters are very brave men and skilful. It seems I have offended you by saying that bullfighting is a poor sport. What is the name of the best matador you have for to-morrow's show?"

"Pepito de Malaga," said Don Enrique, "one of the greatest names, one of the bravest men, in all Spain."

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"Very well," said the Doctor, "I have a proposal to make to you. I have never fought a bull in my life. Now supposing I were to go into the ring to-morrow with Pepito de Malaga and any other matadors you choose; and if I can do more tricks with a bull than they can, would you promise to do something for me?"

Don Enrique threw back his head and laughed.

"Man," he said, "you must be mad! You would be killed at once. One has to be trained for years to become a proper bullfighter."

"Supposing I were willing to take the risk of that--You are not afraid, I take it, to accept my offer?"

The Spaniard frowned.

"Afraid!" he cried, "Sir, if you can beat Pepito de Malaga in the bull-ring I'll promise you anything it is possible for me to grant."

"Very good," said the Doctor, "now I understand that you are quite a powerful man in these islands. If you wished to stop all bullfighting here after to-morrow, you could do it, couldn't you?"

"Yes," said Don Enrique proudly--"I could."

"Well that is what I ask of you--if I win my wager," said John Dolittle. "If I can do more with angry bulls than can Pepito de Malaga, you are to promise me that there shall never be another bullfight in the Capa Blancas so long as you are alive to stop it. Is it a bargain?"

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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