THE GREAT SEA-SERPENT 1049
sunken thing ' lay. The little fish looked and searched about on all sides down in the deep.
It had never noticed before how big the world was. The herring went in great shoals, shining like big silver boats ; the mackerel followed, and looked even more magnificent. There came fish of all shapes and with markings of all colours. Jelly-fishes, like half-transparent flowers, allowed themselves to be carried to and fro by the currents. Great plants grew from the bottom of the sea, fathom-high grass and palm-shaped trees, every leaf adorned with shining shells.
At last the little fish spied a long dark stripe and made towards it, but it was neither fish nor cable—it was the railing of a big sunken ship, whose upper and lower decks were broken in two by the pressure of the sea. The little fish swam into the cabin where so many people had perished when the ship sank, and wrere now all washed away except two : a young woman lay stretched out there with a little child in her arms. The water lifted them and seemed to rock them ; they looked as if they were asleep. The little fish was very frightened ; it did not know that they would never waken again. Water-plants hung like foliage over the railing and over the lovely bodies of mother and child. It was so still and lonely. The little fish hurried away as quickly as it could, out where the water was clearer and where there were fishes to be seen. It had not gone very far before it met a young whale, so frightfully big.
1 Don't swallow me,' said the little fish, ' I am not even a taste, I am so little, and it is a great pleasure to me to be alive ! '
* What are you doing down here, where your kind does not come ? ' asked the whale. And so the little fish told about the long, wonderful eel, or whatever the thing was, which had come down from above and frightened even tho most courageous inhabitants of the deep.
' Ho, ho ! ' said the whale, and sucked in so much water that it had to send out a huge spout of it when it came up to the surface to draw breath. ' Ho, ho !' it said ' so it was that thing which tickled me on the back as I turned myself ! I thought it was a ship's mast which I could use