HOW TOM WAS BORN A FRENCHMAN 345
a bough with a rope he had with him. Then he gripped the branch overhead and closed his eyes.
Soon he became drowsy, and had a strange dream. A whistle seemed to sound overhead and something chilly to be stifling him with great coils. This gradually passed, and the ghosts of wolves seemed to fade and their howls to decrease as the tree bent and rocked; then all was silence.
After this the Captain fell sound asleep, and did not wake till dawn. As he opened his eyes the first thing he saw was the green boughs overhead through which were glimpses of blue sky. Then he looked down, and at once the terrors of the night were explained. The ground all round the tree was scratched up by the claws of many wolves, whilst one of them, crushed almost out of shape, lay there half swallowed by a huge serpent whose tail was still coiled round the tree.
The Captain trembled when he saw the double danger he had been in : the wolves at his feet and the serpent overhead; for he remembered the whistling sound, and the clammy folds which had so nearly choked him. He remained for some time staring at the strange sight before him, but at last dropped carefully to ground, and hurried away as fast as his feet would carry him.
There was no road in the forest, but the hunter's instinct, combined with the sailor's science, soon enabled him to strike on a track through the thick vegetation. He was hungry, but as, in his haste to fly from the wolves, he had lost his gun, all game was beyond his reach, and he had to be content with such roots and berries as he could find.
At length he thought he saw daylight more clearly, and, quickening his steps, arrived shortly at the outskirts of the forest in sight of a great green plain with a line of mountains beyond. To his joy a thin column of smoke in the distance gave signs of some habitation, and he struck at once towards it.