So to the Mewstone he went, and for lobsters he looked. And when he came to a certain crack in the rocks he was so excited that, instead of putting in his hook, he put in his hand; and Mr. Lobster was at home, and caught him by the finger, and held on.
“Yah!” said the mayor, and pulled as hard as he dared: but the more he pulled, the more the lobster pinched, till he was forced to be quiet.
Then he tried to get his hook in with his other hand; but the hole was too narrow.
Then he pulled again; but he could not stand the pain.
Then he shouted and bawled for help: but there was no one nearer him than the men-of-war inside the breakwater.
Then he began to turn a little pale; for the tide flowed, and still the lobster held on.
Then he turned quite white; for the tide was up to his knees, and still the lobster held on.
Then he thought of cutting off his finger; but he wanted two things to do it with—courage and a knife; and he had got neither.
Then he turned quite yellow; for the tide was up to his waist, and still the lobster held on.
Then he thought over all the naughty things he ever had done; all the sand which he had put in the sugar, and the sloe-leaves in the tea, and the water in the treacle, and the salt in the tobacco (because his brother was a brewer, and a man must help his own kin).
Then he turned quite blue; for the tide was up to his breast, and still the lobster held on.
Then, I have no doubt, he repented fully of all the said naughty things which he had done, and promised to mend his life, as too many do when they think they have no life left to mend. Whereby, as they fancy, they make a very cheap bargain. But the old fairy with the birch rod soon undeceives them.
And then he grew all colours at once, and turned up his eyes like a duck in thunder; for the water was up to his chin, and still the lobster held on.
And then came a man-of-war’s boat round the Mewstone, and saw his head sticking up out of the water. One said it was a keg of brandy, and another that it was a cocoa-nut, and another that it was a buoy loose, and another that it was a black diver, and wanted to fire at it, which would not have been pleasant for the mayor: but just then such a yell came out of a great hole in the middle of it that the midshipman in charge guessed what it was, and bade pull up to it as fast as they could. So somehow or other the Jack-tars got the lobster out, and set the mayor free, and put him ashore at the Barbican. He never went lobster-catching again; and we will hope he put no more salt in the tobacco, not even to sell his brother’s beer.
And that is the story of the Mayor of Plymouth, which has two advantages—first, that of being quite true; and second, that of having (as folks say all good stories ought to have) no moral whatsoever: no more, indeed, has any part of this book, because it is a fairy tale, you know.