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Part Six Hugh Lofting

IV The Sea-Serpent

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"And don't tell any of the Indians," Polynesia added in a whisper as I moved to go. "We must keep this a secret or we'll have a crowd of sightseers round here in five minutes. It's mighty lucky we found the snail in a quiet bay."

Reaching the harbor, I picked out a small light canoe from among the number that were lying there and without telling any one what I wanted it for, got in and started off to paddle it down the shore.

I was mortally afraid that the snail might have left before I got back. And you can imagine how delighted I was, when I rounded a rocky cape and came in sight of the bay, to find he was still there.

Polynesia, I saw, had got her errand done and returned ahead of me, bringing with her a pair of porpoises. These were already conversing in low tones with John Dolittle. I beached the canoe and went up to listen.

"What I want to know," the Doctor was saying, "is how the snail comes to be here. I was given to understand that he usually stayed in the Deep Hole; and that when he did come to the surface it was always in mid-ocean."

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"Oh, didn't you know?--Haven't you heard?" the porpoises replied: "you covered up the Deep Hole when you sank the island. Why yes: you let it down right on top of the mouth of the Hole--sort of put the lid on, as it were. The fishes that were in it at the time have been trying to get out ever since. The Great Snail had the worst luck of all: the island nipped him by the tail just as he was leaving the Hole for a quiet evening stroll. And he was held there for six months trying to wriggle himself free. Finally he had to heave the whole island up at one end to get his tail loose. Didn't you feel a sort of an earthquake shock about an hour ago?"

"Yes I did," said the Doctor, "it shook down part of the theatre I was building."

"Well, that was the snail heaving up the island to get out of the Hole," they said. "All the other fishes saw their chance and escaped when he raised the lid. It was lucky for them he's so big and strong. But the strain of that terrific heave told on him: he sprained a muscle in his tail and it started swelling rather badly. He wanted some quiet place to rest up; and seeing this soft beach handy he crawled in here."

"Dear me!" said the Doctor. "I'm terribly sorry. I suppose I should have given some sort of notice that the island was going to be let down. But, to tell the truth, we didn't know it ourselves; it happened by a kind of an accident. Do you imagine the poor fellow is hurt very badly?"

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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