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Part Six Hugh Lofting

III The Red Man's Science

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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.

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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.

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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