How the Whale Got His Throat


by Rudyard Kipling

In the sea, once upon a time, oh my Best Beloved, there was a whale, and he ate fishes. He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel, and the really truly twirly-whirly eel. All the fishes he could find in all the sea he ate with his mouth--so! Till at last there was only one small fish left in all the sea, and he was a small 'Stute Fish, and he swam a little behind the whale's right ear, so as to be out of harm's way. Then the whale stood up on his tail and said, 'I'm hungry.' And the small 'Stute Fish said in a small 'stute voice, 'Noble and generous Cetacean, have you ever tasted Man?'

'No,' said the whale. 'What is it like?' 'Nice,' said the small 'Stute Fish. 'Nice but nubbly.'

'Then fetch me some,' said the whale, and he made the sea froth up with his tail.

'One at a time is enough,' said the 'Stute Fish. 'If you swim to latitude Fifty North, longitude Forty West (that is magic), you will find, sitting _on_ a raft, _in_ the middle of the sea, with nothing on but a pair of blue canvas breeches, a pair of suspenders (you must _not_ forget the suspenders, Best Beloved), and a jack- knife, one ship-wrecked mariner, who, it is only fair to tell you, is a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity.'

So the whale swam and swam to latitude Fifty North, longitude Forty West, as fast as he could swim, and _on_ a raft, _in_ the middle of the sea, _with_ nothing to wear except a pair of blue canvas breeches, a pair of suspenders (you must particularly remember the suspenders, Best Beloved), _and_ a jack-knife, he found one single, solitary shipwrecked mariner, trailing his toes in the water. (He had his mummy's leave to paddle, or else he would never have done it, because he was a man of infinite- resource-and-sagacity.)

Then the whale opened his mouth back and back and back till it nearly touched his tail, and he swallowed the shipwrecked mariner, and the raft he was sitting on, and his blue canvas breeches, and the suspenders (which you _must_ not forget), _and_ the jack-knife--He swallowed them all down into his warm, dark, inside cup-boards, and then he smacked his lips--so, and turned round three times on his tail.

But as soon as the mariner, who was a man of infinite-resource- and-sagacity, found himself truly inside the whale's warm, dark, inside cup-boards, he stumped and he jumped and he thumped and he bumped, and he pranced and he danced, and he banged and he clanged, and he hit and he bit, and he leaped and he creeped, and he prowled and he howled, and he hopped and he dropped, and he cried and he sighed, and he crawled and he bawled, and he stepped and he lepped, and he danced hornpipes where he shouldn't, and the whale felt most unhappy indeed. (_Have_ you forgotten the suspenders?)