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Part Four Hugh Lofting

II The Fidgit's Story

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"Well, the old fellows poked us and felt us and pinched us till I thought they'd never be done. Then, when their backs were turned a moment, a wretched cat got up on the table and nearly ate us. Luckily the old men turned round in time and shooed her away. You may be sure though that we took a couple of good gulps of air while they weren't looking; and that was the only thing that saved us from choking. I wanted to whisper to Clippa to be brave and stick it out. But I couldn't even do that; because, as you know, most kinds of fish-talk cannot be heard--not even a shout--unless you're under water.

"Then, just as we were about to give it up and let on that we were alive, one of the old men shook his head sadly, lifted us up and carried us out of the building.

" 'Now for it!' I thought to myself. 'We'll soon know our fate: liberty or the garbage-can.'

"Outside, to our unspeakable horror, he made straight for a large ash-barrel which stood against the wall on the other side of a yard. Most happily for us, however, while he was crossing this yard a very dirty man with a wagon and horses drove up and took the ash-barrel away. I suppose it was his property.

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"Then the old man looked around for some other place to throw us. He seemed about to cast us upon the ground. But he evidently thought that this would make the yard untidy and he desisted. The suspense was terrible. He moved outside the yard-gate and my heart sank once more as I saw that he now intended to throw us in the gutter of the roadway. But (fortune was indeed with us that day), a large man in, blue clothes and silver buttons stopped him in the nick of time. Evidently, from the way the large man lectured and waved a short thick stick, it was against the rules of the town to throw dead fish in the streets.

"At last, to our unutterable joy, the old man turned and moved off with us towards the harbor. He walked so slowly, muttering to himself all the way and watching the man in blue out of the corner of his eye, that I wanted to bite his finger to make him hurry up. Both Clippa and I were actually at our last gasp.

"Finally he reached the sea-wall and giving us one last sad look he dropped us into the waters of the harbor.

"Never had we realized anything like the thrill of that moment, as we felt the salt wetness close over our heads. With one flick of our tails we came to life again. The old man was so surprised that he fell right into the water, almost on top of us. From this he was rescued by a sailor with a boat-hook; and the last we saw of him, the man in blue was dragging him away by the coat-collar, lecturing him again. Apparently it was also against the rules of the town to throw dead fish into the harbor.

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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