THE GREAT SEA-SERPENT 1047
Fishes and snails, everything that swims, everything which crawls or drifts with the currents, noticed this frightful thing, this immense, unknown sea-eel, which had suddenly come down from above.
What kind of a thing was it \ We know what it was ! It was the great league-long telegraph wire, which was being laid down between Europe and America.
There was a scare and a great commotion among the lawful inhabitants of the sea where the wire was sunk. The flying-fish sprang into the air above the sea, as high as it could ; the gurnard flew the length of a gunshot above the water ; other fish sought the bottom of the sea, and fled so quickly that they arrived there long before the telegraph wire had even been sighted : they frightened both the cod-fish and the flounder, which were swimming about peacefully in the depths of the sea and eating their fellow creatures.
A pair of sea-cucumbers were so scared that they vomited their stomachs out ; but they still lived, for they can do that. Many lobsters and crabs came out of their good harness, and had to leave their legs behind them.
Among all this fright and commotion, the eighteen hundred brothers and sisters got separated from each other, and never met again, or knew each other ; only about a dozen remained in the same place, and when they had kept quiet for an hour or two, they began to get over their fright and become inquisitive. They looked round about, they looked up, and they looked down, and there in the depths they thought they saw the terrible thing which had frightened them, frightened both big and little. The thing lay along the bottom of the sea as far as they could spy; it was very thin, but they did not know how thick it could make itself, or how strong it was. It lay very still; but this, they thought, might be its cunning.
* Let it lie where it is ! It does not concern us,' said the most cautious of the little fishes, but the very smallest of them would not give up getting to know what the thing could be. It came down from above ; up above would therefore be the best place to get news about it, and so they swam up to the surface of the sea. The weather was quite calm.