"The old rat laughed a cracked and quavering laugh, with no joy in it at all.
As they were approaching the houseboat they noticed a large number of canoes collected about it. To-day was not one of the outgoing or incoming mail days and the Doctor wondered what the excitement could be.
But the second in command plucked him by the sleeve and pointed across the water. Speedy's cannon ball had cut the slaver's mainmast clean in two and brought the sails down in a heap upon the deck!
"Now, it happened that a few days later a neighboring king made war upon the king that owned the country where the pig family lived. Things went very badly for the pigs' king, and, seeing that the enemy were close at hand, he gave orders that all cattle and farm animals and people should be brought inside the castle walls. The pig family was also driven into the castle grounds. But before he left, the baby pig went and bit off a piece of his Magic Cucumber and took it along with him.
He got no answer. But soon, with a rush of wings that nearly blew his candle out, a great seagull swept down on to the houseboat rail beside him.
"Fire!" said Speedy. And the Doctor fired.
The Doctor did not expect an answer to it right away because the Cats'-Meat-Man's wife was a very slow reader and a still slower writer. And anyhow, Cheapside could not be expected to visit Puddleby for another week yet. He always stayed in London until after the Easter Bank Holiday. His wife refused to let him leave for the country till the spring family had been taught by their father how to find the houses where people threw out crumbs; how to pick up oats from under the cab horses' nose bags without being stamped on by the horses' hoofs; how to get about in the trafficky streets of London and a whole lot of other things that young city birds have to know.
"With the greatest of pleasure," said the cormorant.
"What's a sanitarium?" asked Gub-Gub.
"They are very fond of acorns," said Speedy.
"Give me that letter, Doctor. We'll show him."
So the gull, after thanking the Doctor and Dab-Dab for a very excellent luncheon, took a couple of postcards which were going to Angola and flew off to get One Eye, the albatross.
"Because it has never been visited by man since the Flood," said the giant reptile. "You will be the first to see it. We who live in it boast that we bathe daily in the original water of the Flood. For before the Forty Days' Rain came it was not there, they say. But when the Flood passed away this part of the world never dried up. And so it has remained, guarded by these wide mangrove swamps, ever since."
And in this war the King of Fantippo had taken many prisoners, among whom was the woman's husband. Shortly after the war was over some white men in a ship had called at the Kingdom of Fantippo to see if they could buy slaves for tobacco plantations. And when the king heard how much money they were willing to give for black slaves he thought he would sell them the prisoners he had taken in the war.
Now, one day, very early in the morning, when the Doctor was lying in bed, wondering what he could do about the Foreign Mail Service, Dab-Dab and Jip brought him in his breakfast on a tray and told him there was a swallow outside who wanted to give him a message from Speedy-the-Skimmer. John Dolittle had the swallow brought in and the little bird sat on the foot of his bed while he ate his breakfast.