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Part One Hugh Lofting

XII My Great Idea

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PRESENTLY the Doctor looked up and saw us at the door.

"Oh--come in, Stubbins," said he, "did you wish to speak to me? Come in and take a chair."

"Doctor," I said, "I want to be a naturalist--like you-- when I grow up."

"Oh you do, do you?" murmured the Doctor. "Humph!--Well!--Dear me!-- You don't say!--Well, well! Have, you er--have you spoken to your mother and father about it?"

"No, not yet," I said. "I want you to speak to them for me. You would do it better. I want to be your helper--your assistant, if you'll have me. Last night my mother was saying that she didn't consider it right for me to come here so often for meals. And I've been thinking about it a good deal since. Couldn't we make some arrangement--couldn't I work for my meals and sleep here?"

"But my dear Stubbins," said the Doctor, laughing, "you are quite welcome to come here for three meals a day all the year round. I'm only too glad to have you. Besides, you do do a lot of work, as it is. I've often felt that I ought to pay you for what you do-- But what arrangement was it that you thought of?"

"Well, I thought," said I, "that perhaps you would come and see my mother and father and tell them that if they let me live here with you and work hard, that you will teach me to read and write. You see my mother is awfully anxious to have me learn reading and writing. And besides, I couldn't be a proper naturalist without, could I?"

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"Oh, I don't know so much about that," said the Doctor. "It is nice, I admit, to be able to read and write. But naturalists are not all alike, you know. For example: this young fellow Charles Darwin that people are talking about so much now--he's a Cambridge graduate--reads and writes very well. And then Cuvier--he used to be a tutor. But listen, the greatest naturalist of them all doesn't even know how to write his own name nor to read the A B C."

"Who is he?" I asked.

"He is a mysterious person," said the Doctor--"a very mysterious person. His name is Long Arrow, the son of Golden Arrow. He is a Red Indian."

"Have you ever seen him?" I asked.

"No," said the Doctor, 'I've never seen him. No white man has ever met him. I fancy Mr. Darwin doesn't even know that he exists. He lives almost entirely with the animals and with the different tribes of Indians--usually somewhere among the mountains of Peru. Never stays long in one place. Goes from tribe to tribe, like a sort of Indian tramp."

"How do you know so much about him?" I asked--"if you've never even seen him?"

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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