in my time, that’s truth, and stole the poor Indians off the coast of Maine, and sold them for slaves down in Virginia; and at last I was so cruel to my sailors, here in these very seas, that they set me adrift in an open boat, and I never was heard of more. So now I’m the king of all mollys, till I’ve worked out my time.”
And now they came to the edge of the pack, and beyond it they could see Shiny Wall looming, through mist, and snow, and storm. But the pack rolled horribly upon the swell, and the ice giants fought and roared, and leapt upon each other’s backs, and ground each other to powder, so that Tom was afraid to venture among them, lest he should be ground to powder too. And he was the more afraid, when he saw lying among the ice pack the wrecks of many a gallant ship; some with masts and yards all standing, some with the seamen frozen fast on board. Alas, alas, for them! They were all true English hearts; and they came to their end like good knights-errant, in searching for the white gate that never was opened yet.
But the good mollys took Tom and his dog up, and flew with them safe over the pack and the roaring ice giants, and set them down at the foot of Shiny Wall.
“And where is the gate?” asked Tom.
“There is no gate,” said the mollys.
“No gate?” cried Tom, aghast.
“None; never a crack of one, and that’s the whole of the secret, as better fellows, lad, than you have found to their cost; and if there had been, they’d have killed by now every right whale that swims the sea.”
“What am I to do, then?”
“Dive under the floe, to be sure, if you have pluck.”
“I’ve not come so far to turn now,” said Tom; “so here goes for a header.”
“A lucky voyage to you, lad,” said the mollys; “we knew you were one of the right sort. So good-bye.”
“Why don’t you come too?” asked Tom.
But the mollys only wailed sadly, “We can’t go yet, we can’t go yet,” and flew away over the pack.
So Tom dived under the great white gate which never was opened yet, and went on in black darkness, at the bottom of the sea, for seven days and seven nights. And yet he was not a bit frightened. Why should he be? He was a brave English lad, whose business is to go out and see all the world.
And at last he saw the light, and clear clear water overhead; and up he came a thousand fathoms, among clouds of sea-moths, which fluttered round his head. There were moths with pink heads and wings and opal bodies, that flapped about slowly; moths with brown wings that flapped about