The Worm
Who Came
To Dinner
ManŠos must go down in the record as the City of Deliverance. For at ManŠos a benevolent Providence moved a certain British scientific foundation to establish a research station for the particular purpose of studying equatorial diseases. In charge of this station is an unlooked-for good man; one of his lesser feats has been to abolish yellow fever from the district and he is a wizard with a microscope. With him is a young assistant whose especial study is tropical parasites of every genus known and unknown in their relation to genus homo. He could recite untold horrors about parasites who choose their hosts with fine discrimination, and he was full of enthusiasm to wage battle against the saurian that had taken up residence in my leg and had by this time waxed so fat and strong that I was only a stage ahead of a crutch, and limped along with a stick.

But this was no common affair to be disposed of with undue haste. It had to be approached with circumspection. For rare creatures imported out of the unknown jungles were not to be slain offhand. The ardent scientist wanted that bug alive, to breed it out and see just what kind of monster it might develop into.

So his first day's work on the case was only "preparatory." He merely opened up the entrance to the beast's tunnel --- this one did have local anæsthetics --- and dressed the gash and sent me home. The next day he was all ready for war, armed with probes and tweezers and sundry lotions obnoxious to bugs. The cunning reptile had retreated, of course, to the end of his lair behind the shin-bone. But this medico knew all about that. He applied one of his lotions to the hole, which brought the brute to the door gasping for breath. The scientist was waiting with ready tweezers; and in an instant he plunged them in and grasped the thing by the neck.

"Ha! success at the first attempt!" I groaned. But, though well and truly collared, there the beast stayed; and pulling at it as much as was comfortable for me moved it not an inch.

"Ha!" exclaimed the scientist, in turn. "A dermatobium!" and added with delight, "A new one."

He knew all about dermatobia, this erudite young man. They were the larvæ of a rare and vicious genus of fly. Pollywog-shaped creatures with a mouth at the thin end and a row of curved retractile spines round the thick end which they could dig in and hold on with like grim Death supplied with fish-hooks. So he gave me the tweezers to hold while he prepared a weak solution of chloroform in a hypodermic syringe with which to relax Mr. Dermatobium's stout muscles. Science, of course, must win over brute force; so in a few seconds the beast came meekly forth, and Science, with a hasty apology, left me to stanch my wound while he tenderly put the captive into some soothing solution to revive it, that it might live out its life cycle and be duly added to the rôle of honor as the first of its species to be known.

But alas! the poor thing never recovered from that cruel hypodermic stab. It died on the scientist's hands. Had it lived, he told me, he might have named it after me as its discoverer and importer. It was a pity. For it was a beautiful thing --- so said the scientist. An inch and three quarters long it was, of a slimy white consistency, of slender pear shape, and armed with no less than three rows of wicked black, curved hooks. Personally, I didn't admire it as much as did the scientist --- and when be said that all he wanted for his fee was the corpse, I was glad enough to give it to him.

And he bandaged up my leg very nicely, too, and gave me warning that these cunning creatures lined their tunnels with some composition which, when cut into, had a highly septic effect upon human tissue. So I would suffer considerably with a swollen leg. Which I knew about already; and which duly happened again. So I spent my first week in ManŠos confined to bed in the best hotel in town. A dollar a day, including meals.

--- From White Water and Black
Gordon MacCreagh

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