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Part One Hugh Lofting

VII Shellfish Talk

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The Doctor was standing at the main table in his dressing-gown. At first I thought he was washing his face. He had a square glass box before him full of water. He was holding one ear under the water while he covered the other with his left hand. As I came in he stood up.

"Good morning, Stubbins," said he. "Going to be a nice day, don't you think? I've just been listening to the Wiff-Waff. But he is very disappointing--very."

"Why?" I said. "Didn't you find that he has any language at all?"

"Oh yes," said the Doctor, "he has a language. But it is such a poor language--only a few words, like 'yes' and 'no'--'hot' and 'cold.' That's all he can say. It's very disappointing. You see he really belongs to two different families of fishes. I thought he was going to be tremendously helpful--Well, well!"

"I suppose," said I, "that means he hasn't very much sense if his language is only two or three words?"

"Yes, I suppose it does. Possibly it is the kind of life he leads. You see, they are very rare now, these Wiff-Waffs--very rare and very solitary. They swim around in the deepest parts of the ocean entirely by themselves-- always alone. So I presume they really don't need to talk much."

"Perhaps some kind of a bigger shellfish would talk more," I said. "After all, he is very small, isn't he?"

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"Yes," said the Doctor, "that's true. Oh I have no doubt that there are shellfish who are good talkers--not the least doubt. But the big shellfish--the biggest of them, are so hard to catch. They are only to be found in the deep parts of the sea; and as they don't swim very much, but just crawl along the floor of the ocean most of the time, they are very seldom taken in nets. I do wish I could find some way of going down to the bottom of the sea. I could learn a lot if I could only do that. But we are forgetting all about breakfast--Have you had, breakfast yet, Stubbins?"

I told the Doctor that I had forgotten all about it and he at once led the way into the kitchen.

"Yes," he said, as he poured the hot water from the kettle into the tea-pot, "if a man could only manage to get right down to the bottom of the sea, and live there a while, he would discover some wonderful things-- things that people have never dreamed of."

"But men do go down, don't they?" I asked--"divers and people like that?"

"Oh yes, to be sure," said the Doctor. "Divers go down. I've been down myself in a diving-suit, for that matter. But my!--they only go where the sea is shallow. Divers can't go down where it is really deep. What I would like to do is to go down to the great depths--where it is miles deep--Well, well, I dare say I shall manage it some day. Let me give you another cup of tea."

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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