The Wizard of the Sea/Chapter 10
THE SUBMARINE TERROR.
Captain Savage at once came to the rail, and was soon busily engaged in looking at the wonderful creature which Homer Woddle declared had sunk the ship in which he had been sailing.
The crew were much agitated, for seamen are at all times superstitious, and, never having heard of such a strange monster, they fancied its appearance boded no good.
The monster, which had been perfectly inert up to this time, threw out a marvelous light, which illuminated the depths of the sea.
The magnificent irradiation was evidently the result of electricity, and it revealed the shape of the strange fish, if fish it was, very distinctly.
Its form was what we may call a lengthened oval, tapering off at the head and tail, which were under the water, only part of the scaly back being exposed to the air.
Dr. Woddle called the captain.
"Sir," he said, "the monster is again close to us. I ask you, in the interest of science, to capture it."
"Who's going to do it, and how is it to be done?" said Captain Savage.
"This thing is a scourge of the ocean. It destroys ships, therefore it is your duty to destroy it," persisted the man of science.
"We will harpoon it, if you like, though I do not know why I should risk the lives of my crew. Where's Bowline? Pass the word for Bowline," said the captain.
When Bill Bowline made his appearance he was trembling like a leaf.
"Get your harpoon, my man," said the captain.
"Not me, sir," said the sailor firmly. "I wouldn't harm a scale of the critter's back, were it ever so near. We shall all be sent to the bottom of the sea if I do."
Turning to Homer Woddle, the captain said:
"You see the feeling of my men; what can I do?"
"I'll do it myself," said the man of science grandly. "If no one will attack this monster, the honor and the glory of the task shall belong to me. Give me a boat and loaded guns. It will be hard, indeed, if I cannot put a bullet in him, and lay the mighty brute low. Who will volunteer for this splendid task?"
There was no response.
"What! Are you all cowards? Will no one volunteer?" continued the man of science scornfully.
Mont stepped forward.
"I'm with you, sir!" he exclaimed. "Can't stand by and see a gentleman left alone. I'm not afraid of the creature."
Carl, as a matter of course, took his place by our hero's side, and so did Stump.
Where Mont went his devoted friend and equally attached follower felt bound to go as a matter of duty.
"Three of you. Bravo!" cried the scientist. "Now, we are four, and we shall triumph. Lower a boat, if you please."
The order was given to put the ship about, and a spot favorable for the enterprise being selected near the monster, a boat was lowered, into which the volunteers descended.
Carl and Stump took the oars, Mont grasped the tiller, and Dr. Woddle stood in the bows with a loaded gun under each arm.
"My four troublesome customers," said the captain, in a low tone to the first mate, "stand a very good chance of never returning."
"It will be a cheap way to get rid of them, although it may cost us the boat," said the mate in the same tone.
"Steady, my lads," said the scientist. "Easy all; keep the head before the wind, Mr. Folsom, if you please."
"Steady she is," answered Mont.
The boat stopped at a short distance from the monster, and Homer Woddle stood up, placed a gun to his shoulder, and fired.
The ball struck the huge slumbering beast, but glided off its back as if it had struck a piece of polished steel.
"Hard as the hide of a rhinoceros," said the man of science; "we must try again. Steady, boys."
The monster, however, did not seem to approve of being shot at, and seemed to tremble violently for a moment.
Then with incredible velocity it darted past the rowboat, which was upset in a moment, and proceeded to strike the ship.
It struck the unfortunate vessel a terrific blow directly back of the bow.
The crash was distinctly audible, and amid the noise of falling masts and flapping sails were heard the cries of the sailors and the moans of the dying.
After the concussion the monster retired as it had come.
A cloud obscured the surface of the ocean, and it was difficult to tell where it had gone, or what had become of the ship.
Mont found himself struggling in the sea, and wondered what had become of his companions.
"Hang those monsters of the deep," he said to himself; "I don't like them."
Swimming gently, he got hold of one of the oars of the boat, and so kept himself afloat without much exertion.
It was not a hopeful position to be in.
Struggling alone in the middle of a vast ocean, ignorant of the fate of his companions, and doubtful of succor, it was not to be wondered at if he felt inclined to despair.
Would he sink or swim? The question was, just then, a hard one to answer.