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Part Four Hugh Lofting

II The Fidgit's Story

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Table Of Contents: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

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"After we had gone a few more hundred miles we looked back and saw that the dog-fish were gaining on us. So we turned into a harbor. It happened to be one on the west coast of the United States. Here we guessed, and hoped, the dog-fish would not be likely to follow us. As it happened, they didn't even see us turn in, but dashed on northward and we never saw them again. I hope they froze to death in the Arctic Seas.

"But, as I said, luck was against us that day. While I and my sister were cruising gently round the ships anchored in the harbor looking for orange-peels, a great delicacy with us---SWOOP! BANG!-- we were caught in a net.

"We struggled for all we were worth; but it was no use. The net was small-meshed and strongly made. Kicking and flipping we were hauled up the side of the ship and dumped down on the deck, high and dry in a blazing noon-day sun.

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"Here a couple of old men in whiskers and spectacles leant over us, making strange sounds. Some codling had got caught in the net the same time as we were. These the old men threw back into the sea; but us they seemed to think very precious. They put us carefully into a large jar and after they had taken us on shore they went to a big house and changed us from the jar into glass boxes full of water. This house was on the edge of the harbor; and a small stream of sea-water was made to flow through the glass tank so we could breathe properly. Of course we had never lived inside glass walls before; and at first we kept on trying to swim through them and got our noses awfully sore bumping the glass at full speed.

"Then followed weeks and weeks of weary idleness. They treated us well, so far as they knew how. The old fellows in spectacles came and looked at us proudly twice a day and saw that we had the proper food to eat, the right amount of light and that the water was not too hot or too cold. But oh, the dullness of that life! It seemed we were a kind of a show. At a certain hour every morning the big doors of the house were thrown open and everybody in the city who had nothing special to do came in and looked at us. There were other tanks filled with different kinds of fishes all round the walls of the big room. And the crowds would go from tank to tank, looking in at us through the glass--with their mouths open, like half-witted flounders. We got so sick of it that we used to open our mouths back at them; and this they seemed to think highly comical.

"One day my sister said to me, 'Think you, Brother, that these strange creatures who have captured us can talk?'

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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