Dr. Dolittle has more financial problems (3/21)

And soon the doctor began earning money again. His sister Sarah bought a new dress, and they were happy.

Some of the animals who came to visit him were so sick that they had to stay in the doctor’s house for a week. And when they got better, they sat on chairs on the lawn.

And often, even after they had gotten better, they didn’t want to leave. They loved the doctor and his house so much. And he never had the heart to refuse them when they asked if they could stay with him. So he acquired more and more pets.

One evening, while smoking his pipe on his garden wall, an Italian organ grinder with a monkey on a string came by. The doctor immediately noticed that the collar on the monkey was too tight and that the animal was dirty and unhappy. So he took the monkey away from the Italian, gave the man a coin, and told him to leave.

The organ grinder became extremely angry and said he wanted to keep the monkey. But the doctor told him that if he didn’t leave, he would punch him in the nose. John Dolittle was a strong man, although he was not very tall. So the Italian left, saying rude things, and the monkey stayed with Doctor Dolittle and had a good home. The other animals in the house called him “Chee-Chee,” which is a commonly used word in the language of apes and means “ginger.”

Another time, when the circus came to Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, the crocodile, who had terrible toothache, escaped and came to the doctor’s garden. The doctor spoke to him in crocodile language and brought him into the house and fixed his teeth. But when the crocodile saw what a beautiful house it was – with all those different places for different kinds of animals – he wanted to live with the doctor too. He asked if he could sleep at the bottom of the fishpond in the garden and promised not to eat the fish in the pond. When the circus men came to take him away, he became so wild and fierce that he drove them away. But the crocodile was always as gentle as a little kitten to everyone in the house.

But now the old ladies were afraid to send their lap dogs to Doctor Dolittle because of the crocodile, and the farmers didn’t believe that the crocodile wouldn’t eat the lambs and sick calves they brought to be healed. So the doctor went to the crocodile and told him he had to go back to his circus. But the crocodile cried such big crocodile tears and begged so hard to stay that the doctor didn’t have the heart to send him away.

Then the doctor’s sister came to him and said:

“John, you really have to send that creature away. Now the farmers and old ladies are afraid to bring their animals to you – just when we were starting to do well again. If we continue like this, we will be completely ruined. This is really the last straw. I won’t be your housekeeper anymore if you don’t send that alligator away.”

“It’s not an alligator,” said the doctor, “it’s a crocodile.”

“I don’t care what you call it,” said his sister. “It’s disgusting when it’s under the bed. I don’t want that beast in the house.”

“But he promised me,” the doctor replied, “that he wouldn’t bite anyone. He’s not happy in the circus. Besides, I don’t have the money to send him back to Africa where he comes from. He minds his own business and has generally been very well behaved so far. Don’t be so picky.”

“I tell you again, I don’t want him around,” said Sarah. “He eats the linoleum floor. If you don’t send him away now, I’m leaving and I’m going to get married!”

“Fine,” said the doctor. “Go ahead and get married. There’s nothing else to do.” And he took off his hat and went into the garden.

So Sarah Dolittle packed her things and left, and the doctor was left all alone with his animal family.

And soon he was poorer than ever before. With all these mouths to feed, and the house to take care of, and no one to do repairs, and no money coming in to pay the butcher’s bill, life began to look very difficult. But still the doctor didn’t worry.

“Money is a nuisance,” he always said. “We’d all be better off if it was never invented. What does money matter? It’s being happy that counts.”

But soon the animals themselves began to worry. And one evening, when the doctor was sleeping in his chair by the kitchen fire, they began whispering to each other. The owl, Too-Too, who was good at counting, worked out that there was only enough money left to last a week, if they each had one meal a day and no more.

Then the parrot said, “I think we should all do the housework ourselves. As much as we can, anyway. It’s for us that the old man is leading such a lonely and poor life.”

So it was agreed that the monkey, Chee-Chee, would do the cooking and repair work. The dog had to sweep the floors. The duck had to dust and make the beds. The owl, Too-Too, had to keep the accounts, and the pig had to tend the garden. They made Polynesia, the parrot, the housekeeper and laundress because she was the oldest.

Of course, they all found their new jobs very difficult at first, except for Chee-Chee, who had hands and could do things like a man. But they soon got used to it. They always found it very funny to see Jip, the dog, sweeping the floor with a rag tied to his tail like a broom. After a while, they could do the work so well that the doctor said he had never seen his house so tidy or so clean before.

So things went well for a while, but living without money was very hard for them.

So the animals made a vegetable and flower stand outside the garden gate and sold radishes and roses to passers-by along the road. But they still didn’t seem to be making enough money to pay all the bills, but the doctor still didn’t worry. When the parrot came to him and told him that the fishmonger wouldn’t give them any more fish, he said:

“It doesn’t matter. As long as the chickens lay eggs and the cow gives milk, we can eat omelets and curds. And there are plenty of vegetables in the garden. Winter is still far away. Don’t worry. That was Sarah’s problem, she would have made a fuss about it. I wonder how Sarah is doing, she’s an excellent woman, at least in some respects!”

But unfortunately, the snow came that year earlier than usual. Although the old lame horse brought back a lot of wood from the forest outside the town so they could have a big fire in the kitchen, most of the vegetables in the garden were gone, and the rest were covered with snow. Many of the animals were really hungry.