Her voice was so soft and low, and the music of the air so sweet, that Tom could have listened to it all day. But as she held the baby over the gallery rail, to show it the dolphins leaping and the water gurgling in the ship’s wake, lo! and behold, the baby saw Tom.
He was quite sure of that for when their eyes met, the baby smiled and held out his hands; and Tom smiled and held out his hands too; and the baby kicked and leaped, as if it wanted to jump overboard to him.
“What do you see, my darling?” said the lady; and her eyes followed the baby’s till she too caught sight of Tom, swimming about among the foam-beads below.
She gave a little shriek and start; and then she said, quite quietly, “Babies in the sea? Well, perhaps it is the happiest place for them;” and waved her hand to Tom, and cried, “Wait a little, darling, only a little: and perhaps we shall go with you and be at rest.”
And at that an old nurse, all in black, came out and talked to her, and drew her in. And Tom turned away northward, sad and wondering; and watched the great steamer slide away into the dusk, and the lights on board peep out one by one, and die out again, and the long bar of smoke fade away into the evening mist, till all was out of sight.
And he swam northward again, day after day, till at last he met the King of the Herrings, with a curry-comb growing out of his nose, and a sprat in his mouth for a cigar, and asked him the way to Shiny Wall; so he bolted his sprat head foremost, and said:
“If I were you, young Gentleman, I should go to the Allalonestone, and ask the last of the Gairfowl. She is of a very ancient clan, very nearly as ancient as my own; and knows a good deal which these modern upstarts don’t, as ladies of old houses are likely to do.”
Tom asked his way to her, and the King of the Herrings told him very kindly, for he was a courteous old gentleman of the old school, though he was horribly ugly, and strangely bedizened too, like the old dandies who lounge in the club-house windows.
But just as Tom had thanked him and set off, he called after him: “Hi! I say, can you fly?”
“I never tried,” says Tom. “Why?”
“Because, if you can, I should advise you to say nothing to the old lady about it. There; take a hint. Good-bye.”
And away Tom went for seven days and seven nights due north-west, till he came to a great codbank, the like of which he never saw before. The great cod lay below in tens of thousands, and gobbled shell-fish all day long; and the blue sharks roved above in hundreds, and gobbled them when they came up. So they ate, and ate, and ate each other, as they had done since the making of the world; for no man had come here yet to catch them, and find out how rich old Mother Carey is.