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Part Five Hugh Lofting

I A Great Moment

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Then the Doctor signaled to Bumpo who came forward with the nuts and water. But Long Arrow neither ate nor drank. Taking the supplies with a nod of thanks, he turned and carried them into the inner dimness of the cave. We followed him.

Inside we found nine other Indians, men, women and boys, lying on the rock floor in a dreadful state of thinness and exhaustion.

Some had their eyes closed, as if dead. Quickly the Doctor went round them all and listened to their hearts. They were all alive; but one woman was too weak even to stand upon her feet.

At a word from the Doctor, Chee-Chee and Polynesia sped off into the jungles after more fruit and water.

While Long Arrow was handing round what food we had to his starving friends, we suddenly heard a sound outside the cave. Turning about we saw, clustered at the entrance, the band of Indians who had met us so inhospitably at the beach.

They peered into the dark cave cautiously at first. But as soon as they saw Long Arrow and the other Indians with us, they came rushing in, laughing, clapping their hands with joy and jabbering away at a tremendous rate.

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Long Arrow explained to the Doctor that the nine Indians we had found in the cave with him were two families who had accompanied him into the mountains to help him gather medicine-plants. And while they had been searching for a kind of moss--good for indigestion--which grows only inside of damp caves, the great rock slab had slid down and shut them in. Then for two weeks they had lived on the medicine-moss and such fresh water as could be found dripping from the damp walls of the cave. The other Indians on the island bad given them up for lost and mourned them as dead; and they were now very surprised and happy to find their relatives alive.

When Long Arrow turned to the newcomers and told them in their own language that it was the white man who had found and freed their relatives, they gathered round John Dolittle, all talking at once and beating their breasts.

Long Arrow said they were apologizing and trying to tell the Doctor how sorry they were that they had seemed unfriendly to him at the beach. They had never seen a white man before and had really been afraid of him--especially when they saw him conversing with the porpoises. They had thought he was the Devil, they said.

Then they went outside and looked at the great stone we had thrown down, big as a meadow; and they walked round and round it, pointing to the break running through the middle and wondering how the trick of felling it was done.

Travelers who have since visited Spidermonkey Island tell me that that huge stone slab is now one of the regular sights of the island. And that the Indian guides, when showing it to visitors, always tell THEIR story of how it came there. They say that when the Doctor found that the rocks had entrapped his friend, Long Arrow, he was so angry that he ripped the mountain in halves with his bare hands and let him out.

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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