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Part Two Hugh Lofting

XI Blind Travel

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THIS news about Long Arrow made us all very sad. And I could see from the silent dreamy way the Doctor took his tea that he was dreadfully upset. Every once in a while he would stop eating altogether and sit staring at the spots on the kitchen table-cloth as though his thoughts were far away; till Dab-Dab, who was watching to see that he got a good meal, would cough or rattle the pots in the sink.

I did my best to cheer him up by reminding him of all he had done for Luke and his wife that afternoon. And when that didn't seem to work, I went on talking about our preparations for the voyage.

"But you see, Stubbins," said he as we rose from the table and Dab-Dab and Chee-Chee began to clear away, "I don't know where to go now. I feel sort of lost since Miranda brought me this news. On this voyage I had planned going to see Long Arrow. I had been looking forward to it for a whole year. I felt he might help me in learning the language of the shellfish--and perhaps in finding some way of getting to the bottom of the sea. But now?--He's gone! And all his great knowledge has gone with him."

Then he seemed to fall a-dreaming again.

"Just to think of it!" he murmured. "Long Arrow and I, two students-- Although I'd never met him, I felt as though I knew him quite well. For, in his way--without any schooling--he has, all his life, been trying to do the very things which I have tried to do in mine-- And now he's gone!--A whole world lay between us--And only a bird knew us both!"

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We went back into the study, where Jip brought the Doctor his slippers and his pipe. And after the pipe was lit and the smoke began to fill the room the old man seemed to cheer up a little.

"But you will go on some voyage, Doctor, won't you?" I asked--"even if you can't go to find Long Arrow."

He looked up sharply into my face; and I suppose he saw how anxious I was. Because he suddenly smiled his old, boyish smile and said,

"Yes, Stubbins. Don't worry. We'll go. We mustn't stop working and learning, even if poor Long Arrow has disappeared--But where to go: that's the question. Where shall we go?"

There were so many places that I wanted to go that I couldn't make up my mind right away. And while I was still thinking, the Doctor sat up in his chair and said,

"I tell you what we'll do, Stubbins: it's a game I used to play when I was young--before Sarah came to live with me. I used to call it Blind Travel. Whenever I wanted to go on a voyage, and I couldn't make up my mind where to go, I would take the atlas and open it with my eyes shut. Next, I'd wave a pencil, still without looking, and stick it down on whatever page had fallen open. Then I'd open my eyes and look. It's a very exciting game, is Blind Travel. Because you have to swear, before you begin, that you will go to the place the pencil touches, come what way. Shall we play it?"

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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