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Part Two Hugh Lofting

XI Blind Travel

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Table Of Contents: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

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"Oh, let's!" I almost yelled. "How thrilling! I hope it's China-- or Borneo--or Bagdad."

And in a moment I had scrambled up the bookcase, dragged the big atlas from the top shelf and laid it on the table before the Doctor.

I knew every page in that atlas by heart. How many days and nights I had lingered over its old faded maps, following the blue rivers from the mountains to the sea; wondering what the little towns really looked like, and how wide were the sprawling lakes! I had had a lot of fun with that atlas, traveling, in my mind, all over the world. I can see it now: the first page had no map; it just told you that it was printed in Edinburgh in 1808, and a whole lot more about the book. The next page was the Solar System, showing the sun and planets, the stars and the moon. The third page was the chart of the North and South Poles. Then came the hemispheres, the oceans, the continents and the countries.

As the Doctor began sharpening his pencil a thought came to me.

"What if the pencil falls upon the North Pole," I asked, "will we have to go there?"

"No. The rules of the game say you don't have to go any place you've been to before. You are allowed another try. I've been to the North Pole," he ended quietly, "so we shan't have to go there." I could hardly speak with astonishment.

"YOU'VE BEEN TO THE NORTH POLE!" I managed to gasp out at last. "But I thought it was still undiscovered. The map shows all the places explorers have reached to, TRYING to get there. Why isn't your name down if you discovered it?"

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"I promised to keep it a secret. And you must promise me never to tell any one. Yes, I discovered the North Pole in April, 1809. But shortly after I got there the polar bears came to me in a body and told me there was a great deal of coal there, buried beneath the snow. They knew, they said, that human beings would do anything, and go anywhere, to get coal. So would I please keep it a secret. Because once people began coming up there to start coal-mines, their beautiful white country would be spoiled--and there was nowhere else in the world cold enough for polar bears to be comfortable. So of course I had to promise them I would. Ah, well, it will be discovered again some day, by somebody else. But I want the polar bears to have their play-ground to themselves as long as possible. And I daresay it will be a good while yet--for it certainly is a fiendish place to get to--Well now, are we ready?--Good! Take the pencil and stand here close to the table. When the book falls open, wave the pencil round three times and jab it down. Ready?--All right. Shut your eyes."

It was a tense and fearful moment--but very thrilling. We both had our eyes shut tight. I heard the atlas fall open with a bang. I wondered what page it was: England or Asia. If it should be the map of Asia, so much would depend on where that pencil would land. I waved three times in a circle. I began to lower my hand. The pencil-point touched the page.

"All right," I called out, "it's done."

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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