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The Whale’s Story
by [?]

Freddy sat thinking on the seat under the trees. It was a wide, white seat, about four feet long, sloping from the sides to the middle, something like a swing; and was not only comfortable but curious, for it was made of a whale’s bone. Freddy often sat there, and thought about it for he was very much interested in it, and nobody could tell him any thing of it, except that it had been there a long time.

“Poor old whale, I wonder how you got here, where you came from, and if you were a good and happy creature while you lived,” said Freddy, patting the old bone with his little hand.

It gave a great creak; and a sudden gust of air stirred the trees, as if some monster groaned and sighed. Then Freddy heard a strange voice, very loud, yet cracked and queer, as if some one tried to talk with a broken jaw.

“Freddy ahoy!” called the big voice. “I’ll tell you all about it; for you are the only person who ever pitied me, or cared to know any thing about me.”

“Why, can you talk?” asked Freddy, very much astonished and a little frightened.

“Of course I can, for this is a part of my jaw-bone. I should talk better if my whole mouth was here; but I’m afraid my voice would then be so loud you wouldn’t be able to hear it. I don’t think any one but you would understand me, any way. It isn’t every one that can, you know; but you are a thoughtful little chap, with a lively fancy as well as a kind heart, so you shall hear my story.”

“Thank you, I should like it very much, if you would please to speak a little lower, and not sigh; for your voice almost stuns me, and your breath nearly blows me away,” said Freddy.

“I’ll try: but it’s hard to suit my tone to such a mite, or to help groaning when I think of my sad fate; though I deserve it, perhaps,” said the bone, more gently.

“Were you a naughty whale?” asked Freddy.

“I was proud, very proud, and foolish; and so I suffered for it. I dare say you know a good deal about us. I see you reading often, and you seem a sensible child.”

“No: I haven’t read about you yet, and I only know that you are the biggest fish there is,” replied Freddy.

The bone creaked and shook, as if it was laughing, and said in a tone that showed it hadn’t got over its pride yet:

“You’re wrong there, my dear; we are not fishes at all, though stupid mortals have called us so for a long time. We can’t live without air; we have warm, red blood; and we don’t lay eggs,–so we are not fishes. We certainly are the biggest creatures in the sea and out of it. Why, bless you! some of us are nearly a hundred feet long; our tails alone are fifteen or twenty feet wide; the biggest of us weigh five hundred thousand pounds, and have in them the fat, bone, and muscle of a thousand cattle. The lower jaw of one of my family made an arch large enough for a man on horseback to ride under easily, and my cousins of the sperm-family usually yield eighty barrels of oil.”

“Gracious me, what monsters you are!” cried Freddy, taking a long breath, while his eyes got bigger and bigger as he listened.

“Ah! you may well say so; we are a very wonderful and interesting family. All our branches are famous in one way or another. Fin-backs, sperms, and rights are the largest; then come the norwhals, the dolphins, and porpoises,–which last, I dare say, you’ve seen.”

“Yes: but tell me about the big ones, please. Which were you?” cried Freddy.

“I was a Right whale, from Greenland. The Sperms live in warm places; but to us the torrid zone is like a sea of fire, and we don’t pass it. Our cousins do; and go to the East Indies by way of the North Pole, which is more than your famous Parrys and Franklins could do.”