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Part Four Hugh Lofting

II The Fidgit's Story

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WELL, now that he was started once more upon his old hobby of the shellfish languages, there was no stopping the Doctor. He worked right through the night.

A little after midnight I fell asleep in a chair; about two in the morning Bumpo fell asleep at the wheel; and for five hours the Curlew was allowed to drift where she liked. But still John Dolittle worked on, trying his hardest to understand the fidgit's language, struggling to make the fidgit understand him.

When I woke up it was broad daylight again. The Doctor was still standing at the listening-tank, looking as tired as an owl and dreadfully wet. But on his face there was a proud and happy smile.

"Stubbins," he said as soon as he saw me stir, "I've done it. I've got the key to the fidgit's language. It's a frightfully difficult language--quite different from anything I ever heard. The only thing it reminds me of--slightly--is ancient Hebrew. It isn't shellfish; but it's a big step towards it. Now, the next thing, I want you to take a pencil and a fresh notebook and write down everything I say. The fidgit has promised to tell me the story of his life. I will translate it into English and you put it down in the book. Are you ready?"

Once more the Doctor lowered his ear beneath the level of the water; and as he began to speak, I started to write. And this is the story that the fidgit told us.


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"I was born in the Pacific Ocean, close to the coast of Chile. I was one of a family of two-thousand five-hundred and ten. Soon after our mother and father left us, we youngsters got scattered. The family was broken up--by a herd of whales who chased us. I and my sister, Clippa (she was my favorite sister) had a very narrow escape for our lives. As a rule, whales are not very hard to get away from if you are good at dodging--if you've only got a quick swerve. But this one that came after Clippa and myself was a very mean whale, Every time he lost us under a stone or something he'd come back and hunt and hunt till he routed us out into the open again. I never saw such a nasty, persevering brute.

"Well, we shook him at last--though not before he had worried us for hundreds of miles northward, up the west coast of South America. But luck was against us that day. While we were resting and trying to get our breath, another family of fidgits came rushing by, shouting, 'Come on! Swim for your lives! The dog-fish are coming!'

"Now dog-fish are particularly fond of fidgits. We are, you might say, their favorite food--and for that reason we always keep away from deep, muddy waters. What's more, dog-fish are not easy to escape from; they are terribly fast and clever hunters. So up we had to jump and on again.

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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