THE GREAT SEA-SERPENT 1053
• Now we will get the red light!' said the polypus, 1 and so the thing will perhaps be seen better, if that is necessary.'
' On it, on it!' shouted the cat-fish, and showed all his teeth.
' On it, on it,' said the sword-fish, the whale, and the sea-eel.
They hurled themselves forward, the cat-fish first, but just as they were going to bite the cable, the saw-fish drove his saw with great force into the back of the cat-fish : that was a great mistake, and the cat had no strength to bite.
There was a commotion down there in the mud ; big fishes and little fishes, sea-cucumbers and snails ran into each other, ate each other, mashed each other and squashed each other. The cable lay still and did its work as it ought to do. Dark night brooded above the sea, but the millions and millions of living sea animals gave out light. Crabs, not so big as pin-heads, gave out light. It is very wonderful, but so it is. The sea animals gazed at the cable.
' What is the thing, and what is it not ? '
Yes, that was the question.
Then came an old sea-cow. Men call that kind, mermaids or mermen. This one—a she—had a tail, and two short arms to paddle with, hanging breast, and seaweed and creeping things in her head, and she was very proud of that.
' Will you have knowledge and information ?' said she; ' then I am the only one who can give it to you ; but I demand for it, free grazing on the bottom of the sea for me and mine. I am a fish like you, and I am also a reptile by practice. I am the wisest in the sea ; I know about everything that moves down here, and about all that is above as well. That thing there which you are puzzling about is from above, and whatever is dumped down from up there is dead or becomes dead and powerless ; let it alone for what it is ; it is only an invention of man !'
11 believe there is something more than that about it,' said the little sea-fish.
1 Hold your tongue, mackerel,' said the big sea-cow.
' Stickleback,' said the others, and there were still more insulting things said.