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Part Six Hugh Lofting

VII The Doctor's Decision

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Table Of Contents: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

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The motion was not unpleasant, very smooth and even; in fact, but for the landscape passing outside, you would not know, on the level going, that you were moving at all.

I had always thought for some reason or other that the bottom of the sea was flat. I found that it was just as irregular and changeful as the surface of the dry land. We climbed over great mountain-ranges, with peaks towering above peaks. We threaded our way through dense forests of tall sea-plants. We crossed wide empty stretches of sandy mud, like deserts--so vast that you went on for a whole day with nothing ahead of you but a dim horizon. Sometimes the scene was moss-covered, rolling country, green and restful to the eye like rich pastures; so that you almost looked to see sheep cropping on these underwater downs. And sometimes the snail would roll us forward inside him like peas, when he suddenly dipped downward to descend into some deep secluded valley with steeply sloping sides.

In these lower levels we often came upon the shadowy shapes of dead ships, wrecked and sunk Heaven only knows how many years ago; and passing them we would speak in hushed whispers like children seeing monuments in churches.

Here too, in the deeper, darker waters, monstrous fishes, feeding quietly in caves and hollows would suddenly spring up, alarmed at our approach, and flash away into the gloom with the speed of an arrow. While other bolder ones, all sorts of unearthly shapes and colors, would come right up and peer in at us through the shell.

"I suppose they think we are a sort of sanaquarium," said Bumpo--"I'd hate to be a fish."

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It was a thrilling and ever-changing show. The Doctor wrote or sketched incessantly. Before long we had filled all the blank note-books we had left. Then we searched our pockets for any odd scraps of paper on which to jot down still more observations. We even went through the used books a second time, writing in between the lines, scribbling all over the covers, back and front.

Our greatest difficulty was getting enough light to see by. In the lower waters it was very dim. On the third day we passed a band of fire-eels, a sort of large, marine glow-worm; and the Doctor asked the snail to get them to come with us for a way. This they did, swimming alongside; and their light was very helpful, though not brilliant.

How our giant shellfish found his way across that vast and gloomy world was a great puzzle to us. John Dolittle asked him by what means he navigated-- how he knew he was on the right road to Puddleby River. And what the snail said in reply got the Doctor so excited, that having no paper left, he tore out the lining of his precious hat and covered it with notes.

By night of course it was impossible to see anything; and during the hours of darkness the snail used to swim instead of crawl. When he did so he could travel at a terrific speed, just by waggling that long tail of his. This was the reason why we completed the trip in so short a time five and a half days.

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Hugh Lofting

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