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From The suns babies by Edith Howes.
Start of Story
Age Rating 2 to 4.
Where the waters of an estuary entered the sea were many wide and sunny
shallows. Here the flounders fed, and here in early summer their
little eggs, laid in the quiet water, rose up and floated at the top.
Rocked on the gentle waves, warmed daily by the golden sun, the eggs
hatched into flounder babies. Hundreds and thousands of them there
were, crystal clear except for two black eyes, and so very small that
they could only just be seen. The tide came in and swept them to and
fro, and somehow Fanny lost the shoal and was carried out to sea.
There the big waves jostled her about, the great sea creatures
frightened her. She was lonely and sad and terrified. "Whatever will
become of me?" she thought.
On the third day she fell in with a shoal of tiny whitebait, all about
her own age and size. "I am lost; please let me swim with you," she
"You poor little thing! Of course you may," they said. So for several
days she swam with them towards the shore, playing and feeding in happy
forgetfulness of all past misery. At this time she was so like the
whitebait that no stranger could tell the difference. She had the same
long slender body, the same round head and pointed tail. A week passed
by. One day she said: "I must go down to the sand. Good-bye."
Before they had time to speak she had dropped from their midst. "How
very extraordinary!" said the whitebait to each other. For a day or
two they played about as usual, but by-and-by one said: "The thought of
Fanny worries me. Suppose we go down to see what has happened to her?"
"A good idea," said the others.
They found her lying aslant near the bottom of the sea.
"Are you sick? Why don't you come up?" they asked. "You look very
queer, lying on your side like that."
"I feel very queer," she said. "Can you see what is the matter with my
The whitebait crowded round to look.
"Why, it has moved!" cried one. "It seems to be coming round the
corner of your head."
"I thought it felt strange," said Fanny.
"What a comical shape you are!" said another little fish. "You seem to
be growing flat."
"Oh, dear! I wonder whatever is the matter with me? I don't think I
shall ever come up to the top again," sighed Fanny.
The others tried to cheer her. "Don't be downhearted," they said.
"Perhaps you will feel better to-morrow. Maybe you have eaten
something that disagrees with you."
"But what a pity! She is certainly losing her beautiful shape," they
remarked to one another as they swam away. "And that eye is a most
They came back again a day or two later. Fanny--could it be
Fanny?--was on the sand. She wriggled up to meet them, and they stared
more and more. She was not now long and slim, but flat and wide. And
her eye! It had gone quite round the corner, and was now on the same
side of her head as her right eye. Strange to say, she looked
"I am well again," she said. "See, my eye has gone round out of the
way, and I am so flat that I can lie comfortably on this nice
sea-floor. Isn't it splendid?"
"It is a very ugly change," said one.
"Oh, dear, do you think so?" asked poor Fanny. "At any rate, the
change is most convenient," she went on, brightening. "See--one lies
on the sand, so. One's flatness allows one to wriggle partly under the
sand, so as to escape one's enemies; and one's eyes are both on top,
where they are most needed. You had better come down and grow flat,
"Not for the world!" cried the others in chorus. "What a life, lying
in the sand! And what an ugly shape! Are you going to stay here
"Yes," said Fanny. "The food here suits me."
"Good-bye, then. We are off to the top," they said.
As they swam away one impudent little creature turned round and called:
"Good-bye, Fanny Flatface!" That is how poor Fanny got the name.
"How are you to-day, Fanny Flatface?" the thoughtless little fishes
would call as they swam over her head. They thought it a clever thing
She would bury herself in the sand and pretend not to hear, but it made
her most unhappy. She thought of all the other fishes she had seen.
"None of them are flat," she said, "and none of them have two eyes on
one side of the head. How dreadful I must look!" Lonely and
miserable, she lay there for months, keeping herself well hidden from
One day she left the spot, hardly knowing why, and floated with the
tide into the estuary mouth. A sunny shallow seemed to draw her with
the memory of early days. She swam boldly in. Yes, this was her old
first home. What had become of her brothers and sisters? Would they
receive her, now that she had changed so terribly?
The mud floor moved, and scores of flounders raised themselves and
looked at her. Flat! As flat as herself! And each with two eyes on
one side of the head. What comfort! She was no monstrosity, after all.
"Who are you?" they asked.
"Fanny," she replied.
They all came out to look at her.
"Why, it really is Fanny!" they exclaimed. "But how you have grown!
How bright your red spots are! And how softly silvered is your
under-side! How white and strong your teeth! You are certainly the
beauty of the family. Have you come to live with us?"
"Yes, oh yes," she answered joyfully. What happiness was hers, after
the long months of shame and loneliness!
It was a pleasant life they led. By day, while the warm sun shone,
they basked below the mud. At night they feasted on the shoals of
shrimps and jointed darting creatures that filled the water over them.
As they slowly moved from bank to bank their upper skins changed colour
with the colour of the floor on which they fed, and thus securely hid
them from their enemies.
One day the whitebait, grown now to little herrings, came up the
estuary. "Why, there is Fanny Flatface," said one.
Her sister flounders rose beside her. The herrings gaped in wonder.
"So that was just your way of growing up!" they said at last.
"Just my way of growing up," said Fanny cheerfully.