1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 19

“We did have one, until he broke a leg falling down the stairs in a brothel,” Leon said. “And be fair, Gasparo, Gribbleflotz seems competent enough. After all, he did get Francis through that bout of fever when we first landed at Vodice.”

“He was just lucky,” Gasparo said. “I mean, he didn’t even bleed Francis. What kind of physician doesn’t bleed a man when he’s feverish?”

“As the interested party here,” Francis Scocco said. “Might I suggest that Signor Gribbleflotz is the kind of physician who has his patient’s best interests at heart?”

“But everyone knows you have to bleed a man when he has a fever, how else can balance the humors?” Gasparo said.

Leon looked at Gasparo over his mug. “You seem to know a lot about blood-letting.”

“I have a booklet that tells all about how to do it,” Gasparo admitted. He turned to Francis. “You were lucky to recover from your fever, and it was no thanks to Gribbleflotz and his silly infusion of herbs.”

“Willow bark tea, actually,” Francis said. He grinned at the looks of disbelief on his companions’ faces and shrugged. “I asked him what he had given me.”

“My grandmother used to give us willow bark tea when we were ill when I was young,” Leon said.

“There you are then,” Gasparo said, a smile of victory on his face. “What kind of physician prescribes remedies your grandmother would give you?” He turned back to watch Phillip again. “Do any of you have any idea what he’s doing?”

“No,” Francis said. “Why don’t you walk over and ask him?”

“Not likely,” Gasparo said.


Phillip tried on one of the wreaths he’d made from some of the flowers he’d picked. It took a little adjustment before it felt comfortable. Then he threaded his arm through the rest of the wreaths he’d made and walked across to the other members of the expedition. He dropped a wreath on the table in front of each of the teamsters.

Gasparo looked up at him. “What is it?’

“It’s a wreath of insect repelling flowers. The locals use them and I thought we could copy them and wear these to keep the flies from bothering us.

“Not likely,” Gasparo said as he tossed his wreath back towards Phillip. Leon and Francis followed suit.

Phillip hid a smile as picked up the unwanted wreaths. He didn’t think the time making the wreaths had been wasted because, if what he’d heard about the area they were exploring today was correct, they would soon be begging him for a wreath. With that to look forward to he walked over to the team’s botanist. “Hi, Michael, would you like a wreath of Tanacetum cinerariifolium?”

“I’d like that very much, thank you,” the team botanist said. He accepted the wreath from Phillip and put it on. “How do I look?” he asked.

Phillip reached over and twitched it around a little. “Probably at least as silly as I do,” he said.

Michael jerked his head towards the others. “I see none of the others wanted to wear one of your wreaths.”

“They’ll change their minds soon enough.”

“They’re teamsters, Phillip. You don’t really expect them to change their minds do you?”

“I do,” Phillip said. “In my experience, teamsters aren’t totally stupid, and according to the locals I talked to, the marsh area you want to explore has some nasty insects.” A small grin emerged on Phillip’s face.

Michael shook his head ruefully. “You’re all heart, Phillip.”

“I made wreaths for them. All they have to do is come and ask me for them. I won’t even say a word.”

“Yeah, right,” Michael snorted. “As if you’d ever be able to do that.” He gestured to the bunch of wreaths Phillip still had on his arm. “You appear to have gone a bit overboard making the wreaths . . .”

Phillip shook his head. “No. I’m such a nice guy that I made one each for the animals as well. There’s no reason they should have to put up with the flies if they don’t have to.”

A few hours later

Francis waved a hand at the flies buzzing around his head. They were persistent and annoying. Some of them also bit. He looked at the team of pack animals they were leading. Their tails were twitching regularly to stop the insects settling on their bodies, but they weren’t shaking their heads around anywhere near as much as they usually did. Maybe, he thought, the flowers set around their ears were actually keeping away the flies. He stared at them enviously for a few seconds before making a decision. He hurried to catch up with Leon, who was leading the team.

“Those flower wreaths Signor Gribbleflotz made seem to keep the flies from bothering the ponies,” he said.

“Yes,” Leon agreed.

“I was thinking . . .”

“That you might ask Signor Gribbleflotz if the offer of the flower wreaths still stands?”

“Yes,” Francis said.

“Get one for me while you’re at it,” Leon said. Francis responded with a savage glare, but Leon gestured to the string of pack ponies he was leading. “I can’t leave the ponies.”

Francis released a sigh as he conceded defeat. It looked like he would have to approach Signor Gribbleflotz to ask for a couple of wreaths. He trudged after Phillip and his donkey. Although why he’d insisted on having a donkey to carry his gear Francis couldn’t understand. Ponies were much easier to manage. A minute of two later he came up beside Phillip. “Signor Gribbleflotz, I was just wondering if the offer of the daisy wreaths still stands.”

Phillip responded by pulling three wreaths out of a sack on his donkey’s back and handing them to him. He didn’t say a word, but he did have an amused smile on his face. Francis thanked him and hurried back to Leon.

“Here you are,” he said as he handed a wreath to him.

Leon took the wreath and pulled it on immediately. “What did he say?” he asked as he adjusted the wreath.

“Nothing,” Francis said. “He just gave me three wreaths.”

“One for you, one for me, and one for Gasparo?

“It looks that way. You wouldn’t want to take it to him, would you?”

Leon reached out and gently slapped the withers of the nearest pony. “Sorry, but I can’t leave the ponies.”

“That excuse is getting a bit old,” Francis muttered, much to Leon’s amusement. He glared at Leon’s smiling face and stomped off after Gasparo.

“Here, you’ll probably want this,” he said when he caught up with him.

Gasparo looked from Francis to the wreath of flowers in his hand. “Where did you get them?”

“I asked Signor Gribbleflotz for them.”

Gasparo looked from the wreath in his hands to the one around Francis’ head. “Do they work?”

Francis nodded. Since he’d put on his wreath he hadn’t been bothered by flies trying to land near on his face. “It seems to.”

Gasparo plopped on his wreath. “Where do you suppose Signor Gribbleflotz learned the trick?”

“Didn’t he say they locals used the flowers to keep away insects?”

“Yes,” Gasparo agreed, “but have you seen any of the locals wearing bunches of flowers on their heads?”

Francis thought about it. “No.”

“So how did Signor Gribbleflotz know that wearing the flowers would work?”

Francis shrugged. “You could ask him,” he suggested.

Gasparo shook his head. “I’d look like a fool,” he protested.


Phillip hid a smile. A quirk of the terrain meant that he’d overheard Francis and Gasparo talking. The answer to Gasparo’s question was that he’d learned about the flower wreaths from some of the locals. The reason Gasparo and Francis hadn’t seen any of them wearing similar flower wreaths was because they hadn’t seen any of the locals working in areas where flies and other insects were that big a problem. Things were different for the expedition. They were looking for botanical specimens, and that meant they were entering areas the locals would normally avoid at this time of year, such as the marsh Michael was currently exploring, which seemed to be a breeding ground for all sorts of flying insects.

He looked around to see where Michael was. As usual the botanist had his head buried in amongst the grasses. He walked over to see if he could help.