THE next day I was sitting on the wall of the Doctor’s garden after tea, talking to Dab-Dab. I had now learned so much from Polynesia that I could talk to most birds and some animals without a great deal of difficulty. I found Dab-Dab a very nice, old, motherly bird—though not nearly so clever and interesting as Polynesia. She had been housekeeper for the Doctor many years now.
Well, as I was saying, the old duck and I were sitting on the flat top of the garden-wall that evening, looking down into the Oxenthorpe Road below. We were watching some sheep being driven to market in Puddleby; and Dab-Dab had just been telling me about the Doctor’s adventures in Africa. For she had gone on a voyage with him to that country long ago.
Suddenly I heard a curious distant noise down the road, towards the town. It sounded like a lot of people cheering. I stood up on the wall to see if I could make out what was coming. Presently there appeared round a bend a great crowd of school-children following a very ragged, curious-looking woman.
“What in the world can it be?” cried Dab-Dab.
The children were all laughing and shouting. And certainly the woman they were following was most extraordinary. She had very long arms and the most stooping shoulders I have ever seen. She wore a straw hat on the side of her head with poppies on it; and her skirt was so long for her it dragged on the ground like a ball-gown’s train. I could not see anything of her face because of the wide hat pulled over her eyes. But as she got nearer to us and the laughing of the children grew louder, I noticed that her hands were very dark in color, and hairy, like a witch’s.
Then all of a sudden Dab-Dab at my side startled me by crying out in a loud voice,
“Why, it’s Chee-Chee!—Chee-Chee come back at last! How dare those children tease him! I’ll give the little imps something to laugh at!”
And she flew right off the wall down into the road and made straight for the children, squawking away in a most terrifying fashion and pecking at their feet and legs. The children made off down the street back to the town as hard as they could run.
The strange-looking figure in the straw hat stood gazing after them a moment and then came wearily up to the gate. It didn’t bother to undo the latch but just climbed right over the gate as though it were something in the way. And then I noticed that it took hold of the bars with its feet, so that it really had four hands to climb with. But it was only when I at last got a glimpse of the face under the hat that I could be really sure it was a monkey.
Chee-Chee—for it was he—frowned at me suspiciously from the top of the gate, as though he thought I was going to laugh at him like the other boys and girls. Then he dropped into the garden on the inside and immediately started taking off his clothes. He tore the straw hat in two and threw it down into the road. Then he took off his bodice and skirt, jumped on them savagely and began kicking them round the front garden.
Presently I heard a screech from the house, and out flew Polynesia, followed by the Doctor and Jip.
“Chee-Chee!—Chee-Chee!” shouted the parrot. “You’ve come at last! I always told the Doctor you’d find a way. How ever did you do it?”
They all gathered round him shaking him by his four hands, laughing and asking him a million questions at once. Then they all started back for the house.
“Run up to my bedroom, Stubbins,” said the Doctor, turning to me. “You’ll find a bag of peanuts in the small left-hand drawer of the bureau. I have always kept them there in case he might come back unexpectedly some day. And wait a minute—see if Dab-Dab has any bananas in the pantry.Chee-Chee hasn’t had a banana, he tells me, in two months.”
When I came down again to the kitchen I found everybody listening attentively to the monkey who was telling the story of his journey from Africa.