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|Part Two||Hugh Lofting|
III Jip And The Secret
|Page 1 of 2||
WHEN we reached the house the first question the Doctor asked of Dab-Dab in the hall was,
"Is Jip home yet?"
"No," said Dab-Dab, "I haven't seen him."
"Let me know the moment he comes in, will you, please?" said the Doctor, hanging up his hat.
"Certainly I will," said Dab-Dab. "Don't be long over washing your hands; the lunch is on the table."
Just as we were sitting down to luncheon in the kitchen we heard a great racket at the front door. I ran and opened it. In bounded Jip.
"Doctor!" he cried, "come into the library quick. I've got something to tell you--No, Dab-Dab, the luncheon must wait. Please hurry, Doctor. There's not a moment to be lost. Don't let any of the animals come--just you and Tommy."
"Now," he said, when we were inside the library and the door was dosed, "turn the key in the lock and make sure there's no one listening under the windows."
"It's all right," said the Doctor. "Nobody can hear you here. Now what is it?"
"Well, Doctor," said Jip (he was badly out of breath from running), "I know all about the Hermit--I have known for years. But I couldn't tell you."
"Why?" asked the Doctor.
"Because I'd promised not to tell any one. It was Bob, his dog, that told me. And I swore to him that I would keep the secret."
"Well, and are you going to tell me now?"
"Yes," said Jip, "we've got to save him. I followed Bob's scent just now when I left you out there on the marshes. And I found him. And I said to him, 'Is it all right,' I said, 'for me to tell the Doctor now? Maybe he can do something.' And Bob says to me, 'Yes,' says he, 'it's all right because--' "
"Oh, for Heaven's sake, go on, go on!" cried the Doctor. "Tell us what the mystery is--not what you said to Bob and what Bob said to you. What has happened? Where IS the Hermit?"
"He's in Puddleby Jail," said Jip. "He's in prison."
"What for?--What's he done?"
Jip went over to the door and smelt at the bottom of it to see if any one were listening outside. Then he came back to the Doctor on tiptoe and whispered,
"HE KILLED A MAN!"
"Lord preserve us!" cried the Doctor, sitting down heavily in a chair and mopping his forehead with a handkerchief. "When did he do it?"
"Fifteen years ago--in a Mexican gold-mine. That's why he has been a hermit ever since. He shaved off his beard and kept away from people out there on the marshes so he wouldn't be recognized. But last week, it seems these new-fangled policemen came to Town; and they heard there was a strange man who kept to himself all alone in a shack on the fen. And they got suspicious. For a long time people had been hunting all over the world for the man that did that killing in the Mexican gold-mine fifteen years ago. So these policemen went out to the shack, and they recognized Luke by a mole on his arm. And they took him to prison."
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