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Part Four Hugh Lofting

II The Fidgit's Story

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" 'But,' said I, 'why should they go abroad to seek a rubbish-heap, when the harbor is so close? While we were being brought here I saw men throwing their rubbish into the water. If they would only throw us also there, we could quickly reach the sea.'

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" 'The Sea!' murmured poor Clippa with a faraway look in her eyes (she had fine eyes, had my sister, Clippa). 'How like a dream it sounds-- the Sea! Oh brother, will we ever swim in it again, think you? Every night as I lie awake on the floor of this evil-smelling dungeon I hear its hearty voice ringing in my ears. How I have longed for it! Just to feel it once again, the nice, big, wholesome homeliness of it all! To jump, just to jump from the crest of an Atlantic wave, laughing in the trade wind's spindrift, down into the blue-green swirling trough! To chase the shrimps on a summer evening, when the sky is red and the light's all pink within the foam! To lie on the top, in the doldrums' noonday calm, and warm your tummy in the tropic sun! To wander hand in hand once more through the giant seaweed forests of the Indian Ocean, seeking the delicious eggs of the pop-pop! To play hide-and-seek among the castles of the coral towns with their pearl and jasper windows spangling the floor of the Spanish Main! To picnic in the anemone-meadows, dim blue and lilac-gray, that lie in the lowlands beyond the South Sea Garden! To throw somersaults on the springy sponge-beds of the Mexican Gulf! To poke about among the dead ships and see what wonders and adventures lie inside!--And then, on winter nights when the Northeaster whips the water into froth, to swoop down and down to get away from the cold, down to where the water's warm and dark, down and still down, till we spy the twinkle of the fire-eels far below where our friends and cousins sit chatting round the Council Grotto--chatting, Brother, over the news and gossip of THE SEA! . . . Oh--'

"And then she broke down completely, sniffling.

" 'Stop it!' I said. 'You make me homesick. Look here: let's pretend we're sick--or better still, let's pretend we're dead; and see what happens. If they throw us on a rubbish-heap and we fry in the sun, we'll not be much worse off than we are here in this smelly prison. What do you say? Will you risk it?'

" 'I will,' she said--'and gladly.'

"So next morning two fidgits were found by the keeper floating on the top of the water in their tank, stiff and dead. We gave a mighty good imitation of dead fish--although I say it myself. The keeper ran and got the old gentlemen with spectacles and whiskers. They threw up their hands in horror when they saw us. Lifting us carefully out of the water they laid us on wet cloths. That was the hardest part of all. If you're a fish and get taken out of the water you have to keep opening and shutting your mouth to breathe at all--and even that you can't keep up for long. And all this time we had to stay stiff as sticks and breathe silently through half-closed lips.

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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