1050 THE GREAT SEA-SERPENT
as a clawing-pin ! But it was not at this spot. No, the thing lies much farther out. I will investigate it; I have nothing else to do ! '
And so it swam forward and the little fish behind, not too near, for there came a tearing current where the big whale shot through the water.
They met a shark and an old saw-fish ; they also had heard about the strange sea-eel, so long and so thin ; they had not seen it, but they wanted to. Now there came a cat-fish.
11 will go with you,' it said ; it was going the same way. 1 If the great sea-serpent is no thicker than an anchor-rope, I shall bite it through in one bite,' and it opened its jaws and showed its six rows of teeth. ' I can bite a mark in a ship's anchor, so I can surely bite through that stalk/
1 There it is,' said the big whale, * I see it!'
He thought he saw better than the others. ' Look how it lifts itself, look how it sways, bends, and curves itself ! '
It was not it, however, but an immensely big conger-eel, several yards long, which approached.
' I have seen that one before,' said the saw-fish; ' it has never made a great noise in the sea, or frightened any big fish.'
And so they spoke to it about the new eel, and asked if it would go with them to discover it.
* Is that eel longer than me ? ' said the conger ; ' then there will be trouble ! '
' That there will be ! ' said the others. ' We are strong enough and won't stand it,' and so they hastened forward.
But just then something came in the way, a wonderful monster, bigger than all of them put together. It looked like a floating island, which could not keep itself up.
It was a very old whale. Its head was overgrown with sea-plants ; its back was thickly set with creeping things and so many oysters and mussels, that its black skin was quite covered with white spots.
' Come with us, old one/ said they; ' a new fish has come here, which is not to be tolerated.'
' I would rather lie where I am,' said the old whale. ' Leave me alone ! Let me lie ! Oh, yes, yes, yes. I suffer from a serious illness! I get relief by going up to the surface