FROM the way Polynesia talked, I guessed that this idea of a holiday was part of her plan.
The Doctor made no reply; and we walked on silently towards the town. I could see, nevertheless that her words had made an impression on him.
After supper he disappeared from the palace without saying where he was going—a thing he had never done before. Of course we all knew where he had gone: back to the beach to sit up with the snail. We were sure of it because he had said nothing to Bumpo about attending to the matter.
As soon as the doors were closed upon the Cabinet Meeting that night, Polynesia addressed the Ministry:
“Look here, you fellows,” said she: “we’ve simply got to get the Doctor to take this holiday somehow—unless we’re willing to stay in this blessed island for the rest of our lives.”
“But what difference,” Bumpo asked, “is his taking a holiday going to make?”
Impatiently Polynesia turned upon the Minister of the Interior.
“Don’t you see? If he has a clear week to get thoroughly interested in his natural history again—marine stuff, his dream of seeing the floor of the ocean and all that—there may be some chance of his consenting to leave this pesky place. But while he is here on duty as king he never gets a moment to think of anything outside of the business of government.”
“Yes, that’s true. He’s far too consententious,” Bumpo agreed.
“And besides,” Polynesia went on, “his only hope of ever getting away from here would be to escape secretly. He’s got to leave while he is holiday-making, incognito—when no one knows where he is or what he’s doing, but us. If he built a ship big enough to cross the sea in, all the Indians would see it, and hear it, being built; and they’d ask what it was for. They would interfere. They’d sooner have anything happen than lose the Doctor. Why, I believe if they thought he had any idea of escaping they would put chains on him.”
“Yes, I really think they would,” I agreed. “Yet without a ship of some kind I don’t see how the Doctor is going to get away, even secretly.”
“Well, I’ll tell you,” said Polynesia. “If we do succeed in making him take this holiday, our next step will be to get the sea-snail to promise to take us all in his shell and carry us to the mouth of Puddleby River. If we can once get the snail willing, the temptation will be too much for John Dolittle and he’ll come, I know—especially as he’ll be able to take those new plants and drugs of Long Arrow’s to the English doctors, as well as see the floor of the ocean on the way.”
“How thrilling!” I cried. “Do you mean the snail could take us under the sea all the way back to Puddleby?”
“Certainly,” said Polynesia, “a little trip like that is nothing to him. He would crawl along the floor of the ocean and the Doctor could see all the sights. Perfectly simple. Oh, John Dolittle will come all right, if we can only get him to take that holiday—and if the snail will consent to give us the ride.”
“Golly, I hope he does!” sighed Jip. “I’m sick of these beastly tropics—they make you feel so lazy and good-for-nothing. And there are no rats or anything here—not that a fellow would have the energy to chase ’em even if there were. My, wouldn’t I be glad to see old Puddleby and the garden again! And won’t Dab-Dab be glad to have us back!”
“By the end of next month,” said I, “it will be two whole years since we left England—since we pulled up the anchor at Kingsbridge and bumped our way out into the river.”
“And got stuck on the mud-bank,” added Chee-Chee in a dreamy, far-away voice.
“Do you remember how all the people waved to us from the river-wall?” I asked.
“Yes. And I suppose they’ve often talked about us in the town since,” said Jip—“wondering whether we’re dead or alive.”
“Cease,” said Bumpo, “I feel I am about to weep from sediment.”