He had thought it looked and smelt very nice when he was outside, and so it did, for a lobster: but now he turned round and abused it because he was angry with himself.
“Where did you get in?”
“Through that round hole at the top.”
“Then why don’t you get out through it?”
“Because I can’t:” and the lobster twiddled his horns more fiercely than ever, but he was forced to confess.
“I have jumped upwards, downwards, backwards, and sideways, at least four thousand times; and I can’t get out: I always get up underneath there, and can’t find the hole.”
Tom looked at the trap, and having more wit than the lobster, he saw plainly enough what was the matter; as you may if you will look at a lobster-pot.
“Stop a bit,” said Tom. “Turn your tail up to me, and I’ll pull you through hindforemost, and then you won’t stick in the spikes.”
But the lobster was so stupid and clumsy that he couldn’t hit the hole. Like a great many fox-hunters, he was very sharp as long as he was in his own country; but as soon as they get out of it they lose their heads; and so the lobster, so to speak, lost his tail.
Tom reached and clawed down the hole after him, till he caught hold of him; and then, as was to be expected, the clumsy lobster pulled him in head foremost.
“Hullo! here is a pretty business,” said Tom. “Now take your great claws, and break the points off those spikes, and then we shall both get out easily.”
“Dear me, I never thought of that,” said the lobster; “and after all the experience of life that I have had!”
You see, experience is of very little good unless a man, or a lobster, has wit enough to make use of it. For a good many people, like old Polonius, have seen all the world, and yet remain little better than children after all.
But they had not got half the spikes away when they saw a great dark cloud over them: and lo, and behold, it was the otter.
How she did grin and grin when she saw Tom. “Yar!” said she, “you little meddlesome wretch, I have you now! I will serve you out for telling the salmon where I was!” And she crawled all over the pot to get in.
Tom was horribly frightened, and still more frightened when she found the hole in the top, and squeezed herself right down through it, all eyes and teeth. But no sooner was her head inside than valiant Mr. Lobster caught her by the nose and held on.