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Part Five Hugh Lofting

I A Great Moment

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How can I describe to any one that first meeting between the two greatest naturalists the world ever knew, Long Arrow, the son of Golden Arrow and John Dolittle, M.D., of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh? The scene rises before me now, plain and clear in every detail, though it took place so many, many years ago. But when I come to write of it, words seem such poor things with which to tell you of that great occasion.

I know that the Doctor, whose life was surely full enough of big happenings, always counted the setting free of the Indian scientist as the greatest thing he ever did. For my part, knowing how much this meeting must mean to him, I was on pins and needles of expectation and curiosity as the great stone finally thundered down at our feet and we gazed across it to see what lay behind.

The gloomy black mouth of a tunnel, full twenty feet high, was revealed. In the centre of this opening stood an enormous red Indian, seven feet tall, handsome, muscular, slim and naked--but for a beaded cloth about his middle and an eagle's feather in his hair. He held one hand across his face to shield his eyes from the blinding sun which he had not seen in many days.

"It is he!" I heard the Doctor whisper at my elbow. "I know him by his great height and the scar upon his chin."

And he stepped forward slowly across the fallen stone with his hand outstretched to the red man.

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Presently the Indian uncovered his eyes. And I saw that they had a curious piercing gleam in them--like the eyes of an eagle, but kinder and more gentle. He slowly raised his right arm, the rest of him still and motionless like a statue, and took the Doctor's hand in his. It was a great moment. Polynesia nodded to me in a knowing, satisfied kind of way. And I heard old Bumpo sniffle sentimentally. Then the Doctor tried to speak to Long Arrow. But the Indian knew no English of course, and the Doctor knew no Indian. Presently, to my surprise, I heard the Doctor trying him in different animal languages.

"How do you do?" he said in dog-talk; "I am glad to see you," in horse-signs; "How long have you been buried?" in deer-language. Still the Indian made no move but stood there, straight and stiff, understanding not a word.

The Doctor tried again, in several other animal dialects. But with no result.

Till at last he came to the language of eagles.

"Great Red-Skin," he said in the fierce screams and short grunts that the big birds use, "never have I been so glad in all my life as I am to-day to find you still alive."

In a flash Long Arrow's stony face lit up with a smile of understanding; and back came the answer in eagle-tongue,

"Mighty White Man, I owe my life to you. For the remainder of my days I am your servant to command."

Afterwards Long Arrow told us that this was the only bird or animal language that he had ever been able to learn. But that he had not spoken it in a long time, for no eagles ever came to this island.

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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