“I think your house is the most interesting house I was ever in,” I said as we set off in the direction of the town. “May I come and see you again to-morrow?”
“Certainly,” said the Doctor. “Come any day you like. To-morrow I’ll show you the garden and my private zoo.”
“Oh, have you a zoo?” I asked.
“Yes,” said he. “The larger animals are too big for the house, so I keep them in a zoo in the garden. It is not a very big collection but it is interesting in its way.”
“It must be splendid,” I said, “to be able to talk all the languages of the different animals. Do you think I could ever learn to do it?”
“Oh surely,” said the Doctor—“with practise. You have to be very patient, you know. You really ought to have Polynesia to start you. It was she who gave me my first lessons.”
“Who is Polynesia?” I asked.
“Polynesia was a West African parrot I had. She isn’t with me any more now,” said the Doctor sadly.
“Why—is she dead?”
“Oh no,” said the Doctor. “She is still living, I hope. But when we reached Africa she seemed so glad to get back to her own country. She wept for joy. And when the time came for me to come back here I had not the heart to take her away from that sunny land—although, it is true, she did offer to come. I left her in Africa—Ah well! I have missed her terribly. She wept again when we left. But I think I did the right thing. She was one of the best friends I ever had. It was she who first gave me the idea of learning the animal languages and becoming an animal doctor. I often wonder if she remained happy in Africa, and whether I shall ever see her funny, old, solemn face again—Good old Polynesia!—A most extraordinary bird—Well, well!”