Always I longed for the time when I should be allowed to leave my father's house, to take passage in one of those brave ships, to sail down the river through the misty marshes to the sea—out into the world to seek my fortune.

But whenever I am in doubt and have to hesitate and think, I always ask Polynesia, the parrot.

That wonderful bird (she is now nearly two hundred and fifty years old) sits on the top of my desk, usually humming sailor songs to herself, while I write this book.

Sailing-ships came up this river from the sea and anchored near the bridge.

I used to go down and watch the sailors unloading the ships upon the river-wall.

But we were both of us so busy then voyaging around the world, having adventures and filling note-books full of natural history that I never seemed to get time to sit down and write of our doings.

Now of course, when I am quite an old man, my memory isn't so good any more.For I longed always to sail away with those brave ships when they turned their backs on Puddleby Church and went creeping down the river again, across the wide lonely marshes to the sea.I longed to go with them out into the world to seek my fortune in foreign lands—Africa, India, China and Peru!And, dreaming of the lands I had never seen, I'd sit on there, watching till they were out of sight.Three great friends I had in Puddleby in those days.He knew a lot about dogs and he would tell me the names of the different kinds as we went through the town.