The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

by Hugh Lofting

Part 6, Chapter 3: The Red Man's Science

Additional Information
  • Year Published: 1922
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: England
  • Source: Lofting, H. (1922). The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. London, England: Lippincott Publishing.
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 4.2
  • Word Count: 873
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Keywords: 20th century literature, british literature, children's literature
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"LONG ARROW!" cried the Doctor. "How splendid! Show him in—show him in at once."

"I'm so glad," he continued, turning to us as soon as the footman had gone. "I've missed Long Arrow terribly. He's an awfully good man to have around—even if he doesn't talk much. Let me see: it's five months now since he went off to Brazil. I'm so glad he's back safe. He does take such tremendous chances with that canoe of his—clever as he is. It's no joke, crossing a hundred miles of open sea in a twelve-foot canoe. I wouldn't care to try it."

Another knock; and when the door swung open in answer to the Doctor's call, there stood our big friend on the threshold, a smile upon his strong, bronzed face. Behind him appeared two porters carrying loads done up in Indian palm-matting. These, when the first salutations were over, Long Arrow ordered to lay their burdens down.

"Behold, oh Kindly One," said he, "I bring you, as I promised, my collection of plants which I had hidden in a cave in the Andes. These treasures represent the labors of my life."

The packages were opened; and inside were many smaller packages and bundles. Carefully they were laid out in rows upon the table.

It appeared at first a large but disappointing display. There were plants, flowers, fruits, leaves, roots, nuts, beans, honeys, gums, bark, seeds, bees and a few kinds of insects.

The study of plants—or botany, as it is called—was a kind of natural history which had never interested me very much. I had considered it, compared with the study of animals, a dull science. But as Long Arrow began taking up the various things in his collection and explaining their qualities to us, I became more and more fascinated. And before he had done I was completely absorbed by the wonders of the Vegetable Kingdom which he had brought so far.

"These," said he, taking up a little packet of big seeds, "are what I have called 'laughing-beans.'"

"What are they for?" asked Bumpo.

"To cause mirth," said the Indian.

Bumpo, while Long Arrow's back was turned, took three of the beans and swallowed them.

"Alas!" said the Indian when he discovered what Bumpo had done. "If he wished to try the powers of these seeds he should have eaten no more than a quarter of a one. Let us hope that he does not die of laughter."

The beans' effect upon Bumpo was most extraordinary. First he broke into a broad smile; then he began to giggle; finally he burst into such prolonged roars of hearty laughter that we had to carry him into the next room and put him to bed. The Doctor said afterwards that he probably would have died laughing if he had not had such a strong constitution. All through the night he gurgled happily in his sleep. And even when we woke him up the next morning he rolled out of bed still chuckling.

Returning to the Reception Room, we were shown some red roots which Long Arrow told us had the property, when made into a soup with sugar and salt, of causing people to dance with extraordinary speed and endurance. He asked us to try them; but we refused, thanking him. After Bumpo's exhibition we were a little afraid of any more experiments for the present.

There was no end to the curious and useful things that Long Arrow had collected: an oil from a vine which would make hair grow in one night; an orange as big as a pumpkin which he had raised in his own mountain-garden in Peru; a black honey (he had brought the bees that made it too and the seeds of the flowers they fed on) which would put you to sleep, just with a teaspoonful, and make you wake up fresh in the morning; a nut that made the voice beautiful for singing; a water-weed that stopped cuts from bleeding; a moss that cured snake-bite; a lichen that prevented sea-sickness.

The Doctor of course was tremendously interested. Well into the early hours of the morning he was busy going over the articles on the table one by one, listing their names and writing their properties and descriptions into a note-book as Long Arrow dictated.

"There are things here, Stubbins," he said as he ended, "which in the hands of skilled druggists will make a vast difference to the medicine and chemistry of the world. I suspect that this sleeping-honey by itself will take the place of half the bad drugs we have had to use so far. Long Arrow has discovered a pharmacopaeia of his own. Miranda was right: he is a great naturalist. His name deserves to be placed beside Linnaeus. Some day I must get all these things to England—But when," he added sadly—"Yes, that's the problem: when?"