WE both opened our eyes; then bumped our heads together with a crack in our eagerness to lean over and see where we were to go.
The atlas lay open at a map called, Chart of the South Atlantic Ocean. My pencil-point was resting right in the center of a tiny island. The name of it was printed so small that the Doctor had to get out his strong spectacles to read it. I was trembling with excitement.
“Spidermonkey Island,” he read out slowly. Then he whistled softly beneath his breath. “Of all the extraordinary things! You’ve hit upon the very island where Long Arrow was last seen on earth—I wonder—Well, well! How very singular!”
“We’ll go there, Doctor, won’t we?” I asked.
“Of course we will. The rules of the game say we’ve got to.”
“I’m so glad it wasn’t Oxenthorpe or Bristol,” I said. “It’ll be a grand voyage, this. Look at all the sea we’ve got to cross. Will it take us long?”
“Oh, no,” said the Doctor—“not very. With a good boat and a good wind we should make it easily in four weeks. But isn’t it extraordinary? Of all the places in the world you picked out that one with your eyes shut. Spidermonkey Island after all!—Well, there’s one good thing about it: I shall be able to get some Jabizri beetles.”
“What are Jabizri beetles?”
“They are a very rare kind of beetles with peculiar habits. I want to study them. There are only three countries in the world where they are to be found. Spidermonkey Island is one of them. But even there they are very scarce.”
“What is this little question-mark after the name of the island for?” I asked, pointing to the map.
“That means that the island’s position in the ocean is not known very exactly—that it is somewhere about there. Ships have probably seen it in that neighborhood, that is all, most likely. It is quite possible we shall be the first white men to land there. But I daresay we shall have some difficulty in finding it first.”
How like a dream it all sounded! The two of us sitting there at the big study-table; the candles lit; the smoke curling towards the dim ceiling from the Doctor’s pipe—the two of us sitting there, talking about finding an island in the ocean and being the first white men to land upon it!
“I’ll bet it will be a great voyage,” I said. “It looks a lovely island on the map. Will there be black men there?”
“No. A peculiar tribe of Red Indians lives on it, Miranda tells me.”
At this point the poor Bird-of-Paradise stirred and woke up. In our excitement we had forgotten to speak low.
“We are going to Spidermonkey Island, Miranda,” said the Doctor. “You know where it is, do you not?”
“I know where it was the last time I saw it,” said the bird. “But whether it will be there still, I can’t say.”
“What do you mean?” asked the Doctor. “It is always in the same place surely?”
“Not by any means,” said Miranda. “Why, didn’t you know?—Spidermonkey Island is a floating island. It moves around all over the place—usually somewhere near southern South America. But of course I could surely find it for you if you want to go there.”
At this fresh piece of news I could contain myself no longer. I was bursting to tell some one. I ran dancing and singing from the room to find Chee-Chee.
At the door I tripped over Dab-Dab, who was just coming in with her wings full of plates, and fell headlong on my nose.
“Has the boy gone crazy?” cried the duck. “Where do you think you’re going, ninny?”
“To Spidermonkey Island!” I shouted, picking myself up and doing cart-wheels down the hall—“Spidermonkey Island! Hooray!—And it’s a floating island!”
“You’re going to Bedlam, I should say,” snorted the housekeeper. “Look what you’ve done to my best china!”
But I was far too happy to listen to her scolding; and I ran on, singing, into the kitchen to find Chee-Chee.