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Part Five Hugh Lofting

V War!

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ON our way back to the village the Doctor began discussing natural history with Long Arrow. But their most interesting talk, mainly about plants, had hardly begun when an Indian runner came dashing up to us with a message.

Long Arrow listened gravely to the breathless, babbled words, then turned to the Doctor and said in eagle tongue,

"Great White Man, an evil thing has befallen the Popsipetels. Our neighbors to the southward, the thievish Bag-jagderags, who for so long have cast envious eyes on our stores of ripe corn, have gone upon the war-path; and even now are advancing to attack us."

"Evil news indeed," said the Doctor. "Yet let us not judge harshly. Perhaps it is that they are desperate for food, having their own crops frost-killed before harvest. For are they not even nearer the cold South than you?"

"Make no excuses for any man of the tribe of the Bag-jagderags," said Long Arrow shaking his head. "They are an idle shiftless race. They do but see a chance to get corn without the labor of husbandry. If it were not that they are a much bigger tribe and hope to defeat their neighbor by sheer force of numbers, they would not have dared to make open war upon the brave Popsipetels."

When we reached the village we found it in a great state of excitement. Everywhere men were seen putting their bows in order, sharpening spears, grinding battle-axes and making arrows by the hundred. Women were raising a high fence of bamboo poles all round the village. Scouts and messengers kept coming and going, bringing news of the movements of the enemy. While high up in the trees and hills about the village we could see look-outs watching the mountains to the southward.

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Long Arrow brought another Indian, short but enormously broad, and introduced him to the Doctor as Big Teeth, the chief warrior of the Popsipetels.

The Doctor volunteered to go and see the enemy and try to argue the matter out peacefully with them instead of fighting; for war, he said, was at best a stupid wasteful business. But the two shook their heads. Such a plan was hopeless, they said. In the last war when they had sent a messenger to do peaceful arguing, the enemy had merely hit him with an ax.

While the Doctor was asking Big Teeth how he meant to defend the village against attack, a cry of alarm was raised by the look-outs.

"They're coming!--The Bag-jagderags-swarming down the mountains in thousands!"

"Well," said the Doctor, "it's all in the day's work, I suppose. I don't believe in war; but if the village is attacked we must help defend it."

And he picked up a club from the ground and tried the heft of it against a stone.

"This," he said, "seems like a pretty good tool to me." And he walked to the bamboo fence and took his place among the other waiting fighters.

Then we all got hold of some kind of weapon with which to help our friends, the gallant Popsipetels: I borrowed a bow and a quiver full of arrows; Jip was content to rely upon his old, but still strong teeth; Chee-Chee took a bag of rocks and climbed a palm where he could throw them down upon the enemies' heads; and Bumpo marched after the Doctor to the fence armed with a young tree in one hand and a door-post in the other.

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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