The First Chapter
Once upon a time there was a doctor; and his name was Dolittle – John Dolittle, M.D. “M.D.” means that he was a good doctor and knew everything. He lived in a little town. The name of the town was Puddleby. All the people, young and old, knew him well. And when he walked down the street, everyone said, “There goes the Doctor! – He’s a clever man.” And the dogs and the children all ran up and followed behind him.
The house where he lived was quite small; but his garden was very large. His sister, Sarah Dolittle, was a housekeeper for him; but the Doctor looked after the garden himself. He loved animals and kept many kinds of pets. Besides the gold-fish in the pond, he had rabbits in the cupboard, white mice in his piano, a squirrel in the linen closet and a hedgehog in the cellar. He had a cow with a calf too, and an old horse who was twenty-five years old, and chickens, and pigeons, and two lambs, and many other animals. But his favorite pets were Dab-Dab the duck, Jip the dog, Gub-Gub the baby pig, Polynesia the parrot, and the owl Too-Too.
His sister often grumbled about all these animals and said that they made the house untidy. And one day when an old sick lady came to see the Doctor, she sat on the hedgehog who was on the sofa and so she never came to see the Doctor any more, but drove every Saturday to another town to see a different doctor.
Then his sister, Sarah Dolittle, came to him and said,
“John, how can sick people come and see you when you keep all these animals in the house? We are getting poorer every day. If you go on like this, none of the best people will come to visit you.”
“But I like the animals better than the ‘best people’,” said the Doctor.
“You are foolish,” said his sister, and walked out of the room.
So, as time went on, the Doctor got more and more animals; and at last he had no patients at all. He got even more pets; and of course it cost a lot to feed them. Then he sold his piano and let the mice live in a bureau-drawer. But the money he got for the piano began to go, so he sold his good brown suit and went on becoming poorer and poorer. And now, when he walked down the street, people said to one another, “There goes John Dolittle, M.D.! There was a time when he was the best known doctor in the West Country – Look at him now – He hasn’t any money!” But the dogs and the cats and the children still ran up and followed him through the town.
The Second Chapter
It happened one day that the parrot, Polynesia, flew onto the Doctor’s table and said,
“Be an animal-doctor. Don’t treat the silly people – if they haven’t brains enough to see that you’re the best doctor in the world. Take care of animals instead.”
“Oh, there are plenty of animal-doctors,” said John Dolittle.
“Yes, there ARE plenty,” said Polynesia. “But none of them are any good at all. Now listen, Doctor, and I’ll tell you something. Did you know that animals can talk?”
“I knew that parrots can talk,” said the Doctor.
“Oh, we parrots can talk in two languages – people’s language and bird-language,” said Polynesia proudly. “If I say, ‘Polly wants a cracker,’ you understand me. But hear this: Ka-ka oi-ee, fee-fee?”
“Oh!” cried the Doctor. “What does that mean?”
“That means, ‘Is the porridge hot yet?’ – in bird-language.”
“Really!” said the Doctor. “You never talked that way to me before. Tell me some more!” And he rushed to the desk and came back with the note book and a pencil. “Now don’t speak too fast – and I’ll write it down. This is interesting – very interesting – something …