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0105_001E Part Six Hugh Lofting

IV The Sea-Serpent

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How long I slept after that I have no idea. I was awakened by a gentle pecking on the nose.

"Tommy!--Tommy!" (it was Polynesia's voice) "Wake up!--Gosh, what a boy, to sleep through an earthquake and never notice it!--Tommy, listen: here's our chance now. Wake up, for goodness' sake!"

"What's the matter?" I asked sitting up with a yawn.

"Sh!--Look!" whispered Polynesia pointing out to sea.

Still only half awake, I stared before me with bleary, sleep-laden eyes. And in the shallow water, not more than thirty yards from shore I saw an enormous pale pink shell. Dome-shaped, it towered up in a graceful rainbow curve to a tremendous height; and round its base the surf broke gently in little waves of white. It could have belonged to the wildest dream.

"What in the world is it?" I asked.

"That," whispered Polynesia, "is what sailors for hundreds of years have called the Sea-serpent. I've seen it myself more than once from the decks of ships, at long range, curving in and out of the water. But now that I see it close and still, I very strongly suspect that the Sea-serpent of history is no other than the Great Glass Sea-snail that the fidgit told us of. If that isn't the only fish of its kind in the seven seas, call me a carrion-crow--Tommy, we're in luck. Our job is to get the Doctor down here to look at that prize specimen before it moves off to the Deep Hole. If we can, then trust me, we may leave this blessed island yet. You stay here and keep an eye on it while I go after the Doctor. Don't move or speak--don't even breathe heavy: he might get scared--awful timid things, snails. Just watch him; and I'll be back in two shakes."

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Stealthily creeping up the sands till she could get behind the cover of some bushes before she took to her wings, Polynesia went off in the direction of the town; while I remained alone upon the shore fascinatedly watching this unbelievable monster wallowing in the shallow sea.

It moved very little. From time to time it lifted its head out of the water showing its enormously long neck and horns. Occasionally it would try and draw itself up, the way a snail does when he goes to move, but almost at once it would sink down again as if exhausted. It seemed to me to act as though it were hurt underneath; but the lower part of it, which was below the level of the water, I could not see.

I was still absorbed in watching the great beast when Polynesia returned with the Doctor. They approached so silently and so cautiously that I neither saw nor heard them coming till I found them crouching beside me on the sand.

One sight of the snail changed the Doctor completely. His eyes just sparkled with delight. I had not seen him so thrilled and happy since the time we caught the Jabizri beetle when we first landed on the island.

"It is he!" he whispered--"the Great Glass Sea-snail himself-- not a doubt of it. Polynesia, go down the shore a way and see if you can find any of the porpoises for me. Perhaps they can tell us what the snail is doing here-- It's very unusual for him to be in shallow water like this. And Stubbins, you go over to the harbor and bring me a small canoe. But be most careful how you paddle it round into this bay. If the snail should take fright and go out into the deeper water, we may never get a chance to see him again."

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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