The Wizard of the Sea/Chapter 9


CHAPTER IX.

DOCTOR HOMER WODDLE.


It was soon discovered that the sail was nothing more or less than a man clinging to a chicken coop, who had taken off his shirt and hoisted it on high to attract attention.

When he was neared, a boat was lowered, and the unfortunate man picked up and brought on board.

He was a little, wiry man, about forty-five years of age, with sharp, intelligent face, and an expression of anything but good temper.

"Which is the captain of this vessel?" he asked on coming aboard.

"I am," replied Captain Savage.

"You've been a long time picking me up. What do you mean by it?" said the little man.

"That's a cool remark," said the captain, "considering we have, in all probability, saved your life."

"And if you have, you only did your duty. Where is your cabin? Give me some fresh clothes immediately, and something to eat and drink."

"You've got a nerve," said the captain, inclined to be angry. "I've a good mind never to save anyone again."

"That will not matter much to me. You are not likely to save me twice."

"Who are you?"

"My name is Homer Woddle, sir."

"You speak loud enough," replied the captain.

"Bah! it's evident you are not a man of science, or you would have heard of me. I have written books, sir—books!"

"What then?"

"I am a famous man. My position in life is that of Secretary to the Society for the Exploration of the Unknown Parts of the World, sir, and I am making my third voyage."

"How were you wrecked?"

"That is the strangest thing. But give me to eat and drink, clothe me, and you shall hear."

"Speak first, and then I'll think of it, Mr. Woddle," said the captain.

The conversation was audible enough to be heard by all on board, who crowded round the speakers in a way that showed how severely discipline on board the ship had been interfered with by the late occurrence.

"Well, well, well," cried the little man, irritably, "what a boy you are! I left Boston last week on board the Comet. Well, sir, that ship was fitted up at a great expense in order that we might make discoveries. Do you see?"

"Not clearly as yet," answered the captain.

"Tush, be quiet," exclaimed the irritable little man; "don't interrupt me. This morning about eight o'clock we were struck amidships, but below the water line, by a wonderful sea monster, which nearly cut us in two."

"Did the ship sink?"

"She did almost directly afterward. I seized a chicken coop, and here I am."

"A monster cut you in two!" exclaimed the captain, opening his eyes. "What sort of a monster? Did you see it?"

"We did for a few minutes. It was black and long, like a gigantic eel, and threw out phosphorescent light."

"Then there was something electric about it?" remarked the first mate.

"Undoubtedly."

"That's a strange yarn," observed the captain.

He took Dr. Homer Woddle, the Secretary of the Society for the Exploration of the Unknown Parts of the World, into his cabin, gave him dry clothes, and provided him with the best dinner the resources of the ship could afford.

Mont had listened curiously to the conversation between Captain Savage and the newcomer.

Taking Carl's arm, he said:

"That's a wonderful yarn of that fellow who has just come on board."

"Very."

"I don't know what to make of it, exactly. A fish is a fish, and unless it has a big horn, it can't sink a ship."

"Perhaps he's cracked."

"Not he. I have heard of him. There is something in it. The man is sane enough. He has been wrecked, and he has told his story plainly enough, only I don't believe in the strange animal."

"What is it, then?"

"That's the mystery. There can't be any rocks in the middle of the sea. It isn't a rock."

"Then it must be a wonderful fish."

A couple of hours passed when Dr. Woddle came on deck, arm in arm with Captain Savage.

After a time the scientist left the captain, and met Mont.

"Nice weather, my lad," he exclaimed.

"Who are you calling 'my lad'?" asked Mont.

"You're one of the crew, I suppose, and you needn't be so snappish."

"I'm a passenger," replied Mont, "and my name is Mont Folsom. Sorry I haven't got a card, but I was wrecked yesterday, and that will account for it. I and my companions come from Nautical Hall."

"Indeed! I presume you were picked up as I was? Did you meet with the singular animal that destroyed my ship?"

"Can't say I did. What was he like?"

"A huge, long thing, covered with scales, half in, half out of the water."

"Are we likely to meet with him again?"

"I should think so," answered the scientist. "Look there!"

"Where?" exclaimed Mont.

"To the right. I don't understand those confounded sea terms, and I don't know larboard from starboard, but on my right is the creature."

"The dreaded animal?" asked Mont, with a laugh.

"Yes. Look!"

Our hero followed the direction of the outstretched arm, and beheld a curious sight.

Not far from the ship was a long, black-looking thing, lying like a great round log on the water.

It was the submarine monster.