The Wizard of the Sea/Chapter 13


CHAPTER XIII.

THE OWNER OF THE SUBMARINE MONSTER.


Of the two who had entered one was a negro, with intelligent but flat face, and short, woolly hair.

The other was a tall, handsome white man, with keen, searching eyes that looked into the very soul.

He wore a thick mustache, whiskers, and beard, and appeared to be an American.

He regarded the prisoners with a fixed gaze and said something to the negro in an unknown language, which was so sweet and soft that it seemed to be all vowels and no consonants.

At length he fixed his eyes upon the doctor, who, as the eldest of the party, seemed to be the leader of it. The professor made a low bow.

"I presume," he said, "that I am in the presence of the proprietor of this singular machine, and as I am a man of science I respect one who could conceive and carry out the idea of a submarine ship."

There was no answer.

"Permit me to tell you our history," continued the professor.

Still no reply.

"He's remarkably polite," remarked Mont. "Perhaps he don't understand our language."

"Leave him to me," said the professor; "my name may have an effect upon him. I am Dr. Homer Woddle, Professor of Natural History, and Secretary to the Society for the Exploration of the Unknown Parts of the World. I have written valuable books, sir, which have been translated into foreign languages."

The professor paused to look proudly around him.

Nothing in the face of the man before them indicated that he understood one word.

Undaunted by this silence, the doctor continued:

"This, sir, is my friend Mr. Mont Folsom, this my friend Mr. Carl Barnaby. The lad is their servant."

There was still no answer, and then the professor grew cross.

He spoke in French, then in German, finally in Greek and Latin; but with the same disheartening effect.

Not a muscle of the stranger's face moved.

Turning to the right, he muttered some words in his incomprehensible language, and, without making any reassuring sign to the prisoners, turned on his heel and walked away, the door closing after him.

"Well, I'm blowed!" said Mont. "This is a queer go, and no mistake."

"I know one thing," said Carl; "that is, I am dying with hunger."

"If they would only give me a saucepan and some fire," said Stump, "I'd make some soup."

"How?"

"I've got my boots, and the Unknown who came in let his sealskin cap fall. I picked it up and sneaked it. The two together wouldn't make bad soup."

While he spoke the door opened again, and another negro entered with a tray upon which were four plates.

A savory smell issued from them. Knives and forks were provided, and having placed the plates on the table the negro raised the covers.

"Food!" said Mont; "that's good."

"Not up to much, Master Mont, I'll bet," observed Stump.

"What do you know about it?"

"What can they give us? Porpoise stew, fillets of dogfish, or stewed shark. I'd rather have some salt junk on board the ship."

The negro disappeared with the covers, and all but Stump sat down.

"Fire away, Stump," said Mont, looking at the dishes.

"After you; I can wait," replied the boy-of-all-work.

"Sit down, I tell you. When people are shipwrecked they are all equal. Pitch in," answered Mont.

Stump sat down. There was no bread, tea, or coffee, but a bottle of water supplied its place.

It was difficult to say what the dinner consisted of. It was a mixture of fish and vegetable matter, but not an atom of meat.

For some time no one spoke. The business of eating was all-absorbing, for one must eat, especially after a shipwreck.

It was consoling to reflect they were not destined to die of hunger.

"I think," exclaimed Stump, when he had finished his plate, "that they mean to fatten us before they kill us!"

"Hold your tongue till you are spoken to," said Mont.

"Yes, sir. I know I'm only an odd boy, but——"

"Shut up, I tell you. I want to go to sleep."

"Certainly, sir. Sorry I took the liberty, but if I don't talk to somebody I must talk to myself."

"Try it on, that's all, and if you wake me when I'm asleep, I'll give you something for yourself. I'm just getting dry, and shall sleep like a top," answered our hero, throwing himself in a corner.

The professor, who was worn out, had already chosen his corner.

Carl followed his example, and soon all slept.