BUT alas! even the Three, mighty though they were, could not last forever against an army which seemed to have no end. In one of the hottest scrimmages, when the enemy had broken a particularly wide hole through the fence, I saw Long Arrow’s great figure topple and come down with a spear sticking in his broad chest.
For another half-hour Bumpo and the Doctor fought on side by side. How their strength held out so long I cannot tell, for never a second were they given to get their breath or rest their arms.
The Doctor—the quiet, kindly, peaceable, little Doctor!—well, you wouldn’t have known him if you had seen him that day dealing out whacks you could hear a mile off, walloping and swatting in all directions.
As for Bumpo, with staring eye-balls and grim set teeth, he was a veritable demon. None dared come within yards of that wicked, wide-circling door-post. But a stone, skilfully thrown, struck him at last in the centre of the forehead. And down went the second of the Three. John Dolittle, the last of the Terribles, was left fighting alone.
Jip and I rushed to his side and tried to take the places of the fallen ones. But, far too light and too small, we made but a poor exchange. Another length of the fence crashed down, and through the widened gap the Bag-jagderags poured in on us like a flood.
“To the canoes!—To the sea!” shouted the Popsipetels. “Fly for your lives!—All is over!—The war is lost!”
But the Doctor and I never got a chance to fly for our lives. We were swept off our feet and knocked down flat by the sheer weight of the mob. And once down, we were unable to get up again. I thought we would surely be trampled to death.
But at that moment, above the din and racket of the battle, we heard the most terrifying noise that ever assaulted human ears: the sound of millions and millions of parrots all screeching with fury together.
The army, which in the nick of time Polynesia had brought to our rescue, darkened the whole sky to the westward. I asked her afterwards, how many birds there were; and she said she didn’t know exactly but that they certainly numbered somewhere between sixty and seventy millions. In that extraordinarily short space of time she had brought them from the mainland of South America.
If you have ever heard a parrot screech with anger you will know that it makes a truly frightful sound; and if you have ever been bitten by one, you will know that its bite can be a nasty and a painful thing.
The Black Parrots (coal-black all over, they were—except for a scarlet beak and a streak of red in wing and tail) on the word of command from Polynesia set to work upon the Bag-jagderags who were now pouring through the village looking for plunder.
And the Black Parrots’ method of fighting was peculiar. This is what they did: on the head of each Bag-jagderag three or four parrots settled and took a good foot-hold in his hair with their claws; then they leant down over the sides of his head and began clipping snips out of his ears, for all the world as though they were punching tickets. That is all they did. They never bit them anywhere else except the ears. But it won the war for us.
With howls pitiful to hear, the Bag-jagderags fell over one another in their haste to get out of that accursed village. It was no use their trying to pull the parrots off their heads; because for each head there were always four more parrots waiting impatiently to get on.
Some of the enemy were lucky; and with only a snip or two managed to get outside the fence—where the parrots immediately left them alone. But with most, before the black birds had done with them, the ears presented a very singular appearance—like the edge of a postage-stamp. This treatment, very painful at the time, did not however do them any permanent harm beyond the change in looks. And it later got to be the tribal mark of the Bag-jagderags. No really smart young lady of this tribe would be seen walking with a man who did not have scalloped ears—for such was a proof that he had been in the Great War. And that (though it is not generally known to scientists) is how this people came to be called by the other Indian nations, the Ragged-Eared Bag-jagderags.
As soon as the village was cleared of the enemy the Doctor turned his attention to the wounded.
In spite of the length and fierceness of the struggle, there were surprisingly few serious injuries. Poor Long Arrow was the worst off. However, after the Doctor had washed his wound and got him to bed, he opened his eyes and said he already felt better. Bumpo was only badly stunned.
With this part of the business over, the Doctor called to Polynesia to have the Black Parrots drive the enemy right back into their own country and to wait there, guarding them all night.
Polynesia gave the short word of command; and like one bird those millions of parrots opened their red beaks and let out once more their terrifying battle-scream.
The Bag-jagderags didn’t wait to be bitten a second time, but fled helter-skelter over the mountains from which they had come; whilst Polynesia and her victorious army followed watchfully behind like a great, threatening, black cloud.
The Doctor picked up his high hat which had been knocked off in the fight, dusted it carefully and put it on.
“To-morrow,” he said, shaking his fist towards the hills, “we will arrange the terms of peace—and we will arrange them—in the City of Bag-jagderag!”
His words were greeted with cheers of triumph from the admiring Popsipetels. The war was over.