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The Water Devil by Frank R. Stockton

A MARINE TALE.

In the village of Riprock there was neither tavern nor inn, for it was but a small place through which few travellers passed; but it could not be said to be without a place of entertainment, for if by chance a stranger—or two or three of them, for that matter—wished to stop at Riprock for a meal, or to pass the night, there was the house of blacksmith Fryker, which was understood to be always open to decent travellers.

The blacksmith was a prominent man in the village, and his house was a large one, with several spare bedrooms, and it was said by those who had had an opportunity of judging, that nobody in the village lived better than blacksmith Fryker and his family.

Into the village there came, late one autumn afternoon, a tall man, who was travelling on foot, with a small valise hanging from his shoulder. He had inquired for lodging for the night, had been directed to the blacksmith's house, had arranged to stop there, had had his supper, which greatly satisfied him, and was now sitting before the fire in the large livingroom, smoking blacksmith Fryker's biggest pipe.

This stranger was a red-haired man, with a cheery expression, and a pair of quick, bright eyes. He was slenderly but strongly built, and was a good fellow, who would stand by, with his hands in the pockets of his short pea-jacket, and right willingly tell one who was doing something how the thing ought to be done.

But the traveller did not sit alone before the crackling fire of logs, for the night being cool, a table was drawn near to one side of the fire-place, and by this sat Mistress Fryker and her daughter Joanna, both engaged in some sort of needle-work. The blacksmith sat between the corner of the fire-place and this table, so that when he had finished smoking his after-supper pipe, he might put on his spectacles and read the weekly paper by the light of the big lamp. On the other side of the stranger, whose chair was in front of the middle of the fire-place, sat the school-master, Andrew Cardly by name; a middle-aged man of sober and attentive aspect, and very glad when chance threw in his way a book he had not read, or a stranger who could reinforce his stock of information. At the other corner of the fire-place, in a cushioned chair, which was always given to him when he dropped in to spend an evening with the blacksmith, sat Mr. Harberry, an elderly man, a man of substance, and a man in whom all Riprock, not excluding himself, placed unqualified confidence as to his veracity, his financial soundness, and his deep insight into the causes, the influences, and the final issue of events and conditions.

"On a night like this," said the stranger, stretching his long legs toward the blaze, "there is nothing I like better than a fire of wood, except indeed it be the society of ladies who do not object to a little tobacco smoke," and he glanced with a smile toward the table with a lamp upon it.

Now blacksmith Fryker was a prudent man, and he did not consider that the privileges of his hearthstone—always freely granted to a decent stranger—included an acquaintance with his pretty daughter; and so, without allowing his women-folk a chance to enter into the conversation, he offered the stranger a different subject to hammer upon.

"In the lower country," said he, "they don't need fires as early in the season as we do. What calling do you follow, sir? Some kind of trade, perhaps?"

"No," said the traveller, "I follow no trade; I follow the sea."

At this the three men looked at him, as also the two women. His appearance no more suggested that he was a seaman than the appearance of Mr. Harberry suggested that he was what the village of Riprock believed him to be. "I should not have taken you for a sailor," said the blacksmith.

"I am not a sailor," said the other; "I am a soldier; a sea-soldier—in fact, a marine."

"I should say, sir," remarked the school-master, in a manner intended rather to draw out information than to give it, "that the position of a soldier on a ship possessed advantages over that of a soldier on land. The former is not required to make long marches, nor to carry heavy baggage. He remains at rest, in fact, while traversing great distances. Nor is he called on to resist the charges of cavalry, nor to form hollow squares on the deadly battle-field."

The stranger smiled. "We often find it hard enough," said he, "to resist the charges made against us by our officers; the hollow squares form themselves in our stomachs when we are on short rations; and I have known many a man who would rather walk twenty miles than sail one, especially when the sea chops."

"I am very sure, sir," said school-master Cardly, "that there is nothing to be said against the endurance and the courage of marines. We all remember how they presented arms, and went down with the Royal George."

The marine smiled.

"I suppose," said the blacksmith, "that you never had to do anything of that sort?"

The stranger did not immediately answer, but sat looking into the fire. Presently he said: "I have done things of nearly every sort, although not exactly that; but I have thought my ship was going down with all on board, and that's the next worst thing to going down, you know."

"And how was that?" inquired Fryker.

"Well," said the other, "it happened more times than I can tell you of, or even remember. Yes," said he, meditatively, "more times than I can remember."

"I am sure," said the school-master, "that we should all like to hear some of your experiences."

The marine shrugged his shoulders. "These things," said he, "come to a man, and then if he lives through them, they pass on, and he is ready for the next streak of luck, good or bad. That's the way with us followers of the sea, especially if we happen to be marines, and have to bear, so to speak, the responsibility of two professions. But sometimes a mischance or a disaster does fix itself upon a man's mind so that he can tell about it if he is called upon; and just now there comes to my mind a very odd thing which once happened to me, and I can give you the points of that, if you like."

The three men assured him that they would very much like it, and the two women looked as if they were of the same opinion.

Before he began the marine glanced about him, with a certain good-natured wistfulness which might have indicated, to those who understood the countenances of the sea-going classes, a desire to wet his whistle; but if this expression were so intended it was thrown away, for blacksmith Fryker took no spirits himself, nor furnished them to anybody else. Giving up all hope in this direction, the marine took a long pull at his pipe and began.

"It was in the winter of 1878 that I was on the Bay of Bengal, on my way to Calcutta, and about five hundred miles distant from that city. I was not on my own ship, but was returning from a leave of absence on an American steamer from San Francisco to Calcutta, where my vessel, the United States frigate Apache, was then lying. My leave of absence would expire in three days; but although the General Brooks, the vessel I was aboard of, was more of a freight than a passenger vessel, and was heavily laden, we would have been in port in good time if, two days before, something had not happened to the machinery. I am not a machinist myself, and don't know exactly what it was that was out of order, but the engine stopped, and we had to proceed under sail. That sounds like a slow business; but the Brooks was a clipper-built vessel with three masts and a lot of sails—square sails, fore-and-aft sails, jib sails, and all that sort of thing. I am not a regular sailor myself, and don't know the names of all the sails; but whatever sails she could have she did have, and although she was an iron vessel, and heavily freighted, she was a good sailer. We had a strong, steady wind from the south, and the captain told me that at the rate we were going he didn't doubt that he would get me aboard my vessel before my leave ran out, or at least so soon afterward that it wouldn't make any difference.

"Well, as I said, the wind blew strong and steady behind us, the sails were full, and the spray dashed up at our bow in a way calculated to tickle the soul of any one anxious to get to the end of his voyage; and I was one of that sort, I can tell you.

"In the afternoon of the second day after our engine stopped, I was standing at the bow, and looking over, when suddenly I noticed that there wasn't any spray dashing up in front of the vessel. I thought we must have struck a sudden calm, but, glancing up, I saw the sails were full, and the wind blew fair in my face as I turned toward the stern. I walked aft to the skipper, and touching my cap, I said, 'Captain, how is it that when a ship is dashing along at this rate she doesn't throw up any spray with her cutwater?' He grinned a little, and said, 'But she does, you know.' 'If you will come forward,' said I, 'I'll show you that she doesn't,' and then we walked forward, and I showed him that she didn't. I never saw a man so surprised. At first he thought that somebody had been squirting oil in front, but even if that had been the case, there would have been some sort of a ripple on each side of the bow, and there wasn't anything of the kind. The skipper took off his cap and scratched his head. Then he turned and sang out, 'Mr. Rogers, throw the log.'

"Now the log," said the marine, turning to Mrs. Fryker and her daughter, "is a little piece of wood with a long line to it, that they throw out behind a vessel to see how fast she is going. I am not a regular Jack Tar myself, and don't understand the principle of the thing, but it tells you exactly how many miles an hour the ship is going.

"In about two minutes Mr. Rogers stepped up, with his eyes like two auger-holes, and said he, 'Captain, we're makin' no knots an hour. We're not sailing at all.'

"'Get out,' roared the captain, 'don't you see the sails? Don't you feel the wind? Throw that log again, sir.'

"Well, they threw the log again, the captain saw it done, and sure enough Mr. Rogers was right. The vessel wasn't moving. With a wind that ought to have carried her spinning along, miles and miles in an hour, she was standing stock-still. The skipper here let out one of the strongest imprecations used in navigation, and said he, 'Mr. Rogers, is it possible that there is a sand-bar in the middle of the Bay of Bengal, and that we've stuck on it? Cast the lead.'

"I will just state to the ladies," said the marine, turning toward the table, "that the lead is a heavy weight that is lowered to the bottom of a body of water to see how deep it is, and this operation is called sounding. Well, they sounded and they sounded, but everywhere—fore, aft, and midship—they found plenty of water; in fact, not having a line for deep-sea sounding they couldn't touch bottom at all.

"I can tell you, ladies and gentlemen," said the marine, looking from one to the other of the party, "that things now began to feel creepy. I am not afraid of storms, nor fires at sea, nor any of the common accidents of the ocean; but for a ship to stand still with plenty of water under her, and a strong wind filling her sails, has more of the uncanny about it than I fancy. Pretty near the whole of the crew was on deck by this time, and I could see that they felt very much as I did, but nobody seemed to know what to say about it.

"Suddenly the captain thought that some unknown current was setting against us, and forcing the vessel back with the same power that the wind was forcing her forward, and he tried to put the ship about so as to have the wind on her starboard quarter; but as she hadn't any headway, or for some other reason, this didn't work. Then it struck him that perhaps one of the anchors had been accidentally dropped, but they were all in their places, and if one of them had dropped, its cable would not have been long enough to touch bottom.

"Now I could see that he began to look scared. 'Mr. Browser,' said he, to the chief engineer, 'for some reason or other this ship does not make headway under sail. You must go to work and get the engine running.' And for the rest of that day everybody on board who understood that sort of thing was down below, hard at work with the machinery, hammering and banging like good fellows.

"The chief officer ordered a good many of the sails to be taken in, for they were only uselessly straining the masts, but there were enough left to move her in case the power of the current, or whatever it was that stopped her, had slackened, and she steadily kept her position with the breeze abaft.

"All the crew, who were not working below, were crowded together on deck, talking about this strange thing. I joined them, and soon found that they thought it was useless to waste time and labor on the machinery. They didn't believe it could be mended, and if it should be, how could an engine move a vessel that the wind couldn't stir?

"These men were of many nationalities—Dutch, Scandinavian, Spanish, Italian, South American, and a lot more. Like many other American vessels that sail from our ports, nearly all the officers and crew were foreigners. The captain was a Finlander, who spoke very good English. And the only man who called himself an American was the chief officer; and he was only half a one; for he was born in Germany, came to the United States when he was twenty years old, stayed there five years, which didn't count either way, and had now been naturalized for twenty years.

"The consequence of this variety in nationality was that the men had all sorts of ideas and notions regarding the thing that was happening. They had thrown over chips and bits of paper to see if the vessel had begun to move, and had found that she didn't budge an inch, and now they seemed afraid to look over the sides.

"They were a superstitious lot, as might be expected, and they all believed that, in some way or other, the ship was bewitched; and in fact I felt like agreeing with them, although I did not say so.

"There was an old Portuguese sailor on board, an ugly-looking, weather-beaten little fellow, and when he had listened to everything the others had to say, he shuffled himself into the middle of the group. 'Look here, mates,' said he, in good enough English, 'it's no use talking no more about this. I know what's the matter; I've sailed these seas afore, and I've been along the coast of this bay all the way from Negapatam to Jellasore on the west coast, and from Chittagong to Kraw on the other; and I have heard stories of the strange things that are in this Bay of Bengal, and what they do, and the worst of them all is the Water-devil—and he's got us!'

"When the old rascal said this, there wasn't a man on deck who didn't look pale, in spite of his dirt and his sunburn. The chief officer tried to keep his knees stiff, but I could see him shaking. 'What's a Water-devil?' said he, trying to make believe he thought it all stuff and nonsense. The Portuguese touched his forelock. 'Do you remember, sir,' said he, 'what was the latitude and longitude when you took your observation to-day?' 'Yes,' said the other, 'it was 15° north and 90° east.' The Portuguese nodded his head. 'That's just about the spot, sir, just about. I can't say exactly where the spot is, but it's just about here, and we've struck it. There isn't a native seaman on any of these coasts that would sail over that point if he knowed it and could help it, for that's the spot where the Water-devil lives.'

"It made me jump to hear the grunt that went through that crowd when he said this, but nobody asked any questions, and he went on. 'This here Water-devil,' said he, 'is about as big as six whales, and in shape very like an oyster without its shell, and he fastens himself to the rocks at the bottom with a million claws. Right out of the middle of him there grows up a long arm that reaches to the top of the water, and at the end of this arm is a fist about the size of a yawl-boat, with fifty-two fingers to it, with each one of them covered with little suckers that will stick fast to anything—iron, wood, stone, or flesh. All that this Water-devil gets to eat is what happens to come swimmin' or sailin' along where he can reach it, and it doesn't matter to him whether it's a shark, or a porpoise, or a shipful of people, and when he takes a grab of anything, that thing never gets away.'

"About this time there were five or six men on their knees saying their prayers, such as they were, and a good many others looked as if they were just about to drop.

"'Now, when this Water-devil gets hold of a ship,' the old fellow went on, 'he don't generally pull her straight down to the bottom, but holds on to it till he counts his claws, and sees that they are all fastened to the rocks; for if a good many of them wasn't fastened he might pull himself loose, instead of pulling the ship down, and then he'd be a goner, for he'd be towed away, and like as not put in a museum. But when he is satisfied that he is moored fast and strong, then he hauls on his arm, and down comes the ship, no matter how big she is. As the ship is sinkin' he turns her over, every now and then, keel uppermost, and gives her a shake, and when the people drop out, he sucks them into a sort of funnel, which is his mouth.'

"'Does he count fast?' asked one of the men, this being the first question that had been asked.

"'I've heard,' said the Portuguese, 'that he's a rapid calculator, and the minute he's got to his millionth claw, and finds it's hooked tight and fast, he begins to haul down the ship.'"

At this point the marine stopped and glanced around at the little group. The blacksmith's wife and daughter had put down their work, and were gazing at him with an air of horrified curiosity. The blacksmith held his pipe in his hand, and regarded the narrator with the steadiness and impassiveness of an anvil. The school-master was listening with the greatest eagerness. He was an enthusiast on Natural History and Mythology, and had written an article for a weekly paper on the reconciliation of the beasts of tradition with the fauna of to-day. Mr. Harberry was not looking at the marine. His eyes were fixed upon the school-master.

"Mr. Cardly," said he, "did you ever read of an animal like that?"

"I cannot say that I have," was his reply; "but it is certain that there are many strange creatures, especially in the sea, of which scientists are comparatively ignorant."

"Such as the sea-serpent," added the marine, quickly, "and a great many other monsters who are not in the books, but who have a good time at the bottom of the sea, all the same. Well, to go on with my story, you must understand that, though this Portuguese spoke broken English, which I haven't tried to give you, he made himself perfectly plain to all of us, and I can assure you that when he got through talking there was a shaky lot of men on that deck.

"The chief officer said he would go below and see how the captain was getting on, and the crew huddled together in the bow, and began whispering among themselves, as if they were afraid the Water-devil would hear them. I turned to walk aft, feeling pretty queer, I can tell you, when I saw Miss Minturn just coming up from the cabin below.

"I haven't said anything about Miss Minturn, but she and her father, who was an elderly English gentleman and an invalid, who had never left his berth since we took him up at Singapore, were our only passengers, except, of course, myself. She was a beautiful girl, with soft blue eyes and golden hair, and a little pale from constantly staying below to nurse her father.

"Of course I had had little or nothing to say to her, for her father was a good deal of a swell and I was only a marine; but now she saw me standing there by myself, and she came right up to me. 'Can you tell me, sir,' she said, 'if anything else has happened? They are making a great din in the engine-room. I have been looking out of our port, and the vessel seems to me to be stationary.' She stopped at that, and waited to hear what I had to say, but I assure you I would have liked to have had her go on talking for half an hour. Her voice was rich and sweet, like that of so many Englishwomen, although, I am happy to say, a great many of my countrywomen have just as good voices; and when I meet any of them for the first time, I generally give them the credit of talking in soft and musical notes, even though I have not had the pleasure of hearing them speak."

"Look here," said the blacksmith, "can't you skip the girl and get back to the Devil?"

"No," said the marine, "I couldn't do that. The two are mixed together, so to speak, so that I have to tell you of both of them."

"You don't mean to say," exclaimed Mrs. Fryker, speaking for the first time, and by no means in soft and musical tones, "that he swallowed her?"

"I'll go on with the story," said the marine; "that's the best way, and everything will come up in its place. Now, of course, I wasn't going to tell this charming young woman, with a sick father, anything about the Water-devil, though what reason to give her for our standing still here I couldn't imagine; but of course I had to speak, and I said, 'Don't be alarmed, miss, we have met with an unavoidable detention; that sort of thing often happens in navigation. I can't explain it to you, but you see the ship is perfectly safe and sound, and she is merely under sail instead of having her engines going.'

"'I understood about that,' said she, 'and father and I were both perfectly satisfied; for he said that if we had a good breeze we would not be long in reaching Calcutta; but we seem to have a breeze, and yet we don't go.' 'You'll notice,' said I, 'that the sails are not all set, and for some reason the wind does not serve. When the engines are mended, we shall probably go spinning along.' She looked as if she was trying to appear satisfied. 'Thank you, sir,' she said. 'I hope we may shortly proceed on our way, but in the meantime I shall not say anything to my father about this detention. I think he has not noticed it.' 'That would be very wise,' I replied, and as she turned toward the companionway I was wild to say to her that it would be a lot better for her to stay on deck, and get some good fresh air, instead of cooping herself up in that close cabin; but I didn't know her well enough for that."

"Now that you are through with the girl," said the blacksmith, "what did the Devil do?"

"I haven't got to him yet," said the marine, "but after Miss Minturn went below I began to think of him, and the more I thought of him, the less I liked him. I think the chief officer must have told the men below about the Water-devil, for pretty soon the whole kit and boodle of them left their work and came on deck, skipper and all. They told me they had given up the engine as a bad job, and I thought to myself that most likely they were all too nervous to rightly know what they were about. The captain threw out the log again, but it floated alongside like a cork on a fishing-line, and at this he turned pale and walked away from the ship's side, forgetting to pull it in again.

"It was now beginning to grow dark, and as nobody seemed to think about supper, I went below to look into that matter. It wouldn't do for Miss Minturn. and her father to go without their regular meal, for that would be sure to scare them to death; and if I'm to have a big scare I like to take it on a good square meal, so I went below to see about it. But I wasn't needed, for Miss Minturn's maid, who was an elderly woman, and pretty sharp set in her temper, was in the cook's galley superintending supper for her people, and after she got through I superintended some for myself.

"After that I felt a good deal bolder, and I lighted a pipe and went on deck. There I found the whole ship's company, officers and crew, none of them doing anything, and most of them clustered together in little groups, whispering or grunting.

"I went up to the captain and asked him what he was going to do next. 'Do?' said he; 'there is nothing to do; I've done everything that I can do. I'm all upset; I don't know whether I am myself or some other man'; and then he walked away.

"I sat there and smoked and looked at them, and I can tell you the sight wasn't cheerful. There was the ship, just as good and sound, as far as anybody could see, as anything that floated on the ocean, and here were all her people, shivering and shaking and not speaking above their breath, looking for all the world, under the light of the stars and the ship's lamps, which some of them had had sense enough to light, as if they expected in the course of the next half-hour, to be made to walk the plank; and, to tell the truth, what they were afraid of would come to pretty much the same thing."

"Mr. Cardly," here interrupted Mr. Harberry, "how long does it take to count a million?"

"That depends," said the school-master, "on the rapidity of the calculator; some calculators count faster than others. An ordinary boy, counting two hundred a minute, would require nearly three days and a half to count a million."

"Very good," said Mr. Harberry; "please go on with your story, sir."

"Of course," said the marine, "there is a great difference between a boy and a Water-devil, and it is impossible for anybody to know how fast the latter can count, especially as he may be supposed to be used to it. Well, I couldn't stand it any longer on deck, and having nothing else to do, I turned in and went to sleep."

"To sleep! Went to sleep!" exclaimed Mrs. Fryker. "I don't see how you could have done that."

"Ah, madam," said the marine, "we soldiers of the sea are exposed to all sorts of dangers,—combination dangers, you might call them,—and in the course of time we get used to it; if we didn't we couldn't do our duty.

"As the ship had been in its present predicament for six or seven hours, and nothing had happened, there was no reason to suppose that things would not remain as they were for six or seven hours more, in which time I might get a good sleep, and be better prepared for what might come. There's nothing like a good meal and a good sleep as a preparation for danger.

"It was daylight when I awakened, and rapidly glancing about me, I saw that everything appeared to be all right. Looking out of the port-hole, I could see that the vessel was still motionless. I hurried on deck, and was greatly surprised to find nobody there—no one on watch, no one at the wheel, no one anywhere. I ran down into the fo'castle, which is the sailors' quarters, but not a soul could I see. I called, I whistled, I searched everywhere, but no one answered; I could find no one. Then I dashed up on deck, and glared, around me. Every boat was gone.

"Now I knew what had happened: the cowardly rascals, from captain to cook, had deserted the ship in the night, and I had been left behind!

"For some minutes I stood motionless, wondering how men could be so unfeeling as to do such a thing. I soon became convinced, from what I had seen of the crew, that they had not all gone off together, that there had been no concerted action. A number of them had probably quietly lowered a boat and sneaked away; then another lot had gone off, hoping their mates would not hear them and therefore crowd into their boat. And so they had all departed, not one boat-load thinking of anybody but themselves; or if they thought at all about others, quieting their consciences by supposing that there were enough boats on the vessel, and that the other people were as likely to get off as they were.

"Suddenly I thought of the other passengers. Had they been left behind? I ran down below, and I had scarcely reached the bottom of the steps when I met Miss Minturn's maid. 'It seems to me,' she said, sharply, 'that the people on this ship are neglecting their duty. There's nobody in the kitchen, and I want some gruel.' 'My good woman,' said I, 'who do you want it for?' 'Who!' she replied; 'why, for Mr. Minturn, of course; and Miss Minturn may like some, too.'

"Then I knew that all the passengers had been left behind!

"'If you want any gruel,' said I, 'you will have to go into the galley and make it yourself'; and then in a low tone I told her what had happened, for I knew that it would be much better for me to do this than for her to find it out for herself. Without a word she sat right down on the floor, and covered her head with her apron. 'Now don't make a row,' said I, 'and frighten your master and mistress to death; we're all right so far, and all you've got to do is to take care of Mr. and Miss Minturn, and cook their meals. The steamer is tight and sound, and it can't be long before some sort of a craft will come by and take us off.' I left her sniffling with her apron over her head, but when I came back, ten minutes afterward, she was in the galley making gruel.

"I don't think you will be surprised, my friends," continued the marine, "when I tell you that I now found myself in a terrible state of mind. Of course I hadn't felt very jovial since the steamer had been so wonderfully stopped; but when the captain and all the crew were aboard, I had that sort of confidence which comes from believing that when there are people about whose duty it is to do things, when the time comes to do the things, they will do them; but now, practically speaking, there was nobody but me. The others on board were not to be counted, except as encumbrances. In truth, I was alone,—alone with the Water-devil!

"The moment I found no one to depend upon but myself, and that I was deserted in the midst of this lonely mass of water, in that moment did my belief in the Water-devil begin to grow. When I first heard of the creature, I didn't consider that it was my business either to believe in it, or not to believe in it, and I could let the whole thing drop out of my mind, if I chose; but now it was a different matter. I was bound to think for myself, and the more I thought, the more I believed in the Water-devil.

"The fact was, there wasn't anything else to believe in. I had gone over the whole question, and the skipper had gone all over it, and everybody else had gone all over it, and no one could think of anything but a Water-devil that could stop a steamer in this way in the middle of the Bay of Bengal, and hold her there hour after hour, in spite of wind and wave and tide. It could not be anything but the monster the Portuguese had told us of, and all I now could do was to wonder whether, when he was done counting his million claws, he would be able to pull down a vessel of a thousand tons, for that was about the size of the General Brooks.

"I think I should now have begun to lose my wits if it had not been for one thing, and that was the coming of Miss Minturn on deck. The moment I saw her lovely face I stiffened up wonderfully. 'Sir,' said she, 'I would like to see the captain.' 'I am representing the captain, miss,' I said, with a bow; 'what is it that I can do for you?' 'I want to speak to him about the steward,' she said; 'I think he is neglecting his duty.' 'I also represent the steward,' I replied; 'tell me what you wish of him.' She made no answer to this, but looked about her in a startled way. 'Where are all the men?' she said. 'Miss Minturn, 'said I, 'I represent the crew—in fact, I represent the whole ship's company except the cook, and his place must be taken by your maid.' 'What do you mean?' she asked, looking at me with her wide-opened, beautiful eyes.

"Then, as there was no help for it, I told her everything, except that I did not mention the Water-devil in connection with our marvellous stoppage. I only said that that was caused by something which nobody understood.

"She did not sit down and cover her head, nor did she scream or faint. She turned pale, but looked steadily at me, and her voice did not shake as she asked me what was to be done. 'There is nothing to be done,' I answered, 'but to keep up good hearts, eat three meals a day, and wait until a ship comes along and takes us off.'

"She stood silent for about three minutes. 'I think,' she then said, 'that I will not yet tell my father what has happened'; and she went below.

"Now, strange to say, I walked up and down the deck with my hat cocked on one side and my hands in my pockets, feeling a great deal better. I did not like Water-devils any more than I did before, and I did not believe in this one any less than I did before, but, after all, there was some good about him. It seems odd, but the arm of this submarine monster, over a mile long for all that I knew, was a bond of union between the lovely Miss Minturn and me. She was a lady; I was a marine. So far as I knew anything about bonds of union, there wasn't one that could have tackled itself to us two, except this long, slippery arm of the Water-devil, with one end in the monstrous flob at the bottom, and the other fast to our ship.

"There was no doubt about it, if it hadn't been for that Water-devil she would have been no more to me than the Queen of Madagascar was; but under the circumstances, if I wasn't everything to her, who could be anything—that is, if one looked at the matter from a practical point of view?"

The blacksmith made a little movement of impatience. "Suppose you cut all that," said he. "I don't care about the bond of union; I want to know what happened to the ship."

"It is likely," said the marine, "if I could have cut the bond of union that I spoke of, that is to say, the Water-devil's arm, that I would have done it, hoping that I might safely float off somewhere with Miss Minturn; but I couldn't cut it then, and I can't cut it now. That bond is part of my story, and it must all go on together.

"I now set myself to work to do what I thought ought to be done under the circumstances, but, of course, that wasn't very much. I hoisted a flag upside down, and after considering the matter I concluded to take in all the sails that had been set. I thought that a steamer without smoke coming from her funnel, and no sails set, would be more likely to attract attention from distant vessels than if she appeared to be under sail.

"I am not a regular sailor, as I said before, but I got out on the yard, and cut the square sail loose and let it drop on the deck, and I let the jib come down on a run, and managed to bundle it up some way on the bowsprit. This sort of thing took all the nautical gymnastics that I was master of, and entirely occupied my mind, so that I found myself whistling while I worked. I hoped Miss Minturn heard me whistle, because it would not only give her courage, but would let her see that I was not a man who couldn't keep up his spirits in a case like this.

"When that work was over, I began to wonder what I should do next, and then an idea struck me. 'Suppose,' thought I, 'that we are not stationary, but that we are in some queer kind of a current, and that the water, ship and all are steadily moving on together, so that after awhile we shall come in sight of land, or into the track of vessels!'

"I instantly set about to find out if this was the case. It was about noon, and it so happened that on the day before, when the chief officer took his observation, I was seized with a desire to watch him and see how he did it. I don't see why I should have had this notion, but I had it, and I paid the strictest attention to the whole business, calculation part and all, and I found out exactly how it was done.

"Well, then, I went and got the quadrant,—that's the thing they do it with,—and I took an observation, and I found that we were in latitude 15° north, 90° east, exactly where we had been twenty-four hours before!

"When I found out this, I turned so faint that I wanted to sit down and cover up my head. The Water-devil had us, there was no mistake about it, and no use trying to think of anything else. I staggered along the deck, went below, and cooked myself a meal. In a case like this there's nothing like a square meal to keep a man up.

"I know you don't like to hear her mentioned," said the marine, turning to the blacksmith, "but I am bound to say that in course of the afternoon Miss Minturn came on deck several times, to ask if anything new had happened, and if I had seen a vessel. I showed her all that I had done, and told her I was going to hang out lights at night, and did everything I could to keep her on deck as long as possible; for it was easy to see that she needed fresh air, and I needed company. As long as I was talking to her I didn't care a snap of my finger for the Water-devil. It is queer what an influence a beautiful woman has on a man, but it's so, and there's no use arguing about it. She said she had been puzzling her brains to find out what had stopped us, and she supposed it must be that we had run onto a shallow place and stuck fast in the mud, but thought it wonderful that there should be such a place so far from land. I agreed with her that it was wonderful, and added that that was probably the reason the captain and the crew had been seized with a panic. But sensible people like herself and her father, I said, ought not to be troubled by such an occurrence, especially as the vessel remained in a perfectly sound condition.

"She said that her father was busily engaged in writing his memoirs, and that his mind was so occupied, he had not concerned himself at all about our situation, that is, if he had noticed that we were not moving. 'If he wants to see the steward, or anybody else,' I said, 'please call upon me. You know I represent the whole ship's company, and I shall be delighted to do anything for him or for you.' She thanked me very much and went below.

"She came up again, after this, but her maid came with her, and the two walked on deck for a while. I didn't have much to say to them that time; but just before dark Miss Minturn came on deck alone, and walked forward, where I happened to be. 'Sir,' said she, and her voice trembled a little as she spoke, 'if anything should happen, will you promise me that you will try to save my father?' You can't imagine how these touching words from this beautiful woman affected me. 'My dear lady,' said I, and I hope she did not take offence at the warmth of my expression, 'I don't see how anything can happen; but I promise you, on the word of a sea-soldier, that if danger should come upon us, I will save not only your father, but yourself and your maid. Trust me for that.'

"The look she gave me when I said these words, and especially the flash of her eye when I spoke of my being a sea-soldier, made me feel strong enough to tear that sea-monster's arm in twain, and to sail away with the lovely creature for whom my heart was beginning to throb."

"It's a pity," said the blacksmith, "that you hadn't jumped into the water while the fit was on you, and done the tearing."

"A man often feels strong enough to do a thing," said the marine, "and yet doesn't care to try to do it, and that was my case at that time; but I vowed to myself that if the time came when there was any saving to be done, I'd attend to Miss Minturn, even if I had to neglect the rest of the family.

"She didn't make any answer, but she gave me her hand; and she couldn't have done anything I liked better than that. I held it as long as I could, which wasn't very long, and then she went down to her father."

"Glad of it," said the blacksmith.

"When I had had my supper, and had smoked my pipe, and everything was still, and I knew I shouldn't see anybody any more that night, I began to have the quakes and the shakes. If even I had had the maid to talk to, it would have been a comfort; but in the way of faithfully attending to her employers that woman was a trump. She cooked for them, and did for them, and stuck by them straight along, so she hadn't any time for chats with me.

"Being alone, I couldn't help all the time thinking about the Water-devil, and although it seems a foolish thing now that I look back on it, I set to work to calculate how long it would take him to count his feet. I made it about the same time as you did, sir," nodding to the schoolmaster, "only I considered that if he counted twelve hours, and slept and rested twelve hours, that would make it seven days, which would give me a good long time with Miss Minturn, and that would be the greatest of joys to me, no matter what happened afterward.

"But then nobody could be certain that the monster at the bottom of the bay needed rest or sleep. He might be able to count without stopping, and how did I know that he couldn't check off four hundred claws a minute? If that happened to be the case, our time must be nearly up.

"When that idea came into my head, I jumped up and began to walk about. What could I do? I certainly ought to be ready to do something when the time came. I thought of getting life-preservers, and strapping one on each of us, so that if the Water-devil turned over the vessel and shook us out, we shouldn't sink down to him, but would float on the surface.

"But then the thought struck me that if he should find the vessel empty of live creatures, and should see us floating around on the top, all he had to do was to let go of the ship and grab us, one at a time. When I thought of a fist as big as a yawl-boat, clapping its fifty-two fingers on me, it sent a shiver through my bones. The fact was there wasn't anything to do, and so after a while I managed to get asleep, which was a great comfort."

"Mr. Cardly," said Mr. Harberry to the schoolmaster, "what reason can you assign why a seamonster, such as has been described to us, should neglect to seize upon several small boats filled with men who were escaping from a vessel which it held in custody?"

"I do not precisely see," answered Mr. Cardly, "why these men should have been allowed this immunity, but I—"

"Oh, that is easily explained," interrupted the marine, "for of course the Water-devil could not know that a lot more people were not left in the ship, and if he let go his hold on her, to try and grab a boat that was moving as fast as men could row it, the steamer might get out of his reach, and he mightn't have another chance for a hundred years to make fast to a vessel. No, sir, a creature like that isn't apt to take any wild chances, when he's got hold of a really good thing. Anyway, we were held tight and fast, for at twelve o'clock the next day I took another observation, and there we were, in the same latitude and longitude that we had been in for two days. I took the captain's glass, and I looked all over the water of that bay, which, as I think I have said before, was all the same as the ocean, being somewhere about a thousand miles wide. Not a sail, not a puff of smoke could I see. It must have been a slack season for navigation, or else we were out of the common track of vessels; I had never known that the Bay of Bengal was so desperately lonely.

"It seems unnatural, and I can hardly believe it, when I look back on it, but it's a fact, that I was beginning to get used to the situation. We had plenty to eat, the weather was fine—in fact, there was now only breeze enough to make things cool and comfortable. I was head-man on that vessel, and Miss Minturn might come on deck at any moment, and as long as I could forget that there was a Water-devil fastened to the bottom of the vessel, there was no reason why I should not be perfectly satisfied with things as they were. And if things had stayed as they were, for two or three months, I should have been right well pleased, especially since Miss Minturn's maid, by order of her mistress, had begun to cook my meals, which she did in a manner truly first-class. I believed then, and I stand to it now, that there is do better proof of a woman's good feeling toward a man, than for her to show an interest in his meals. That's the sort of sympathy that comes home to a man, and tells on him, body and soul."

As the marine made this remark, he glanced at the blacksmith's daughter; but that young lady had taken up her sewing and appeared to be giving it her earnest attention. He then went on with his story.

"But things did not remain as they were. The next morning, about half an hour after breakfast, I was walking up and down the upper deck, smoking my pipe, and wondering when Miss Minturn would be coming up to talk to me about the state of affairs, when suddenly I felt the deck beneath me move with a quick, sharp jerk, something like, I imagine, a small shock of an earthquake.

"Never, in all my life, did the blood run so cold in my veins; my legs trembled so that I could scarcely stand. I knew what had happened,—the Water-devil had begun to haul upon the ship!

"I was in such a state of collapse that I did not seem to have any power over my muscles; but for all that, I heard Miss Minturn's voice at the foot of the companion-way, and knew that she was coming on deck. In spite of the dreadful awfulness of that moment, I felt it would never do for her to see me in the condition I was in, and so, shuffling and half-tumbling, I got forward, went below, and made my way to the steward's room, where I had already discovered some spirits, and I took a good dram; for although I am not by any means an habitual drinker, being principled against that sort of thing, there are times when a man needs the support of some good brandy or whiskey.

"In a few minutes I felt more like myself, and went on deck, and there was Miss Minturn, half-scared to death. 'What is the meaning of that shock?' she said; 'have we struck anything?' 'My dear lady,' said I, with as cheerful a front as I could put on, 'I do not think we have struck anything. There is nothing to strike.' She looked at me for a moment like an angel ready to cry, and clasping her hands, she said, 'Oh, tell me, sir, I pray you, sir, tell me what has happened. My father felt that shock. He sent me to inquire about it. His mind is disturbed.' At that moment, before I could make an answer, there was another jerk of the ship, and we both went down on our knees, and I felt as if I had been tripped. I was up in a moment, however, but she continued on her knees. I am sure she was praying, but very soon up she sprang. 'Oh, what is it, what is it?' she cried; 'I must go to my father.'

"'I cannot tell you,' said I; 'I do not know, but don't be frightened; how can such a little shock hurt so big a ship?'

"It was all very well to tell her not to be frightened, but when she ran below she left on deck about as frightened a man as ever stood in shoes. There could be no doubt about it; that horrible beast was beginning to pull upon the ship. Whether or not it would be able to draw us down below, was a question which must soon be solved.

"I had had a small opinion of the maid, who, when I told her the crew had deserted the ship, had sat down and covered her head; but now I did pretty much the same thing; I crouched on the deck and pulled my cap over my eyes. I felt that I did not wish to see, hear, or feel anything.

"I had sat in this way for about half an hour, and had felt no more shocks, when a slight gurgling sound came to my ears. I listened for a moment, then sprang to my feet. Could we be moving? I ran to the side of the ship. The gurgle seemed to be coming from the stern. I hurried there and looked over. The wheel had been lashed fast, and the rudder stood straight out behind us. On each side of it there was a ripple in the quiet water. We were moving, and we were moving backward!

"Overpowered by horrible fascination, I stood grasping the rail, and looking over at the water beneath me, as the vessel moved slowly and steadily onward, stern foremost. In spite of the upset condition of my mind, I could not help wondering why the Vessel should move in this way.

"There was only one explanation possible: The Water-devil was walking along the bottom, and towing us after him! Why he should pull us along in this way I could not imagine, unless he was making for his home in some dreadful cave at the bottom, into which he would sink, dragging us down after him.

"While my mind was occupied with these horrible subjects, some one touched me on the arm, and turning, I saw Miss Minturn. 'Are we not moving?' she said. 'Yes,' I answered, 'we certainly are.' 'Do you not think,' she then asked, 'that we may have been struck by a powerful current, which is now carrying us onward?' I did not believe this, for there was no reason to suppose that there were currents which wandered about, starting off vessels with a jerk, but I was glad to think that this idea had come into her head, and said that it was possible that this might be the case. 'And now we are going somewhere' she said, speaking almost cheerfully. 'Yes, we are,' I answered, and I had to try hard not to groan as I said the words. 'And where do you think we are going?' she asked. It was altogether out of my power to tell that sweet creature that in my private opinion she, at least, was going to heaven, and so I answered that I really did not know. 'Well,' she said, 'if we keep moving, we're bound at last to get near land, or to some place where ships would pass near us.'

"There is nothing in this world," said the marine, "which does a man so much good in time of danger as to see a hopeful spirit in a woman—that is, a woman that he cares about. Some of her courage comes to him, and he is better and stronger for having her alongside of him."

Having made this remark, the speaker again glanced at the blacksmith's daughter. She had put down her work and was looking at him with an earnest brightness in her eyes.

"Yes," he continued, "it is astonishing what a change came over me, as I stood by the side of that noble girl. She was a born lady, I was a marine, just the same as we had been before, but there didn't seem to be the difference between us that there had been. Her words, her spirits, everything about her, in fact, seemed to act on me, to elevate me, to fill my soul with noble sentiments, to make another man of me. Standing there beside her, I felt myself her equal. In life or death I would not be ashamed to say, 'Here I am, ready to stand by you, whatever happens.'"

Having concluded this sentiment, the marine again glanced toward the blacksmith's daughter. Her eyes were slightly moist, and her face was glowing with a certain enthusiasm.

"Look here," said the blacksmith, "I suppose that woman goes along with you into the very maw of the sunken Devil, but I do wish you could take her more for granted, and get on faster with the real part of the story."

"One part is as real as another," said the marine; "but on we go, and on we did go for the whole of the rest of that day, at the rate of about half a knot an hour, as near as I could guess at it. The weather changed, and a dirty sort of fog came down on us, so that we couldn't see far in any direction.

"Why that Water-devil should keep on towing us, and where he was going to take us, were things I didn't dare to think about. The fog did not prevent me from seeing the water about our stern, and I leaned over the rail, watching the ripples that flowed on each side of the rudder, which showed that we were still going at about the same uniform rate.

"But toward evening the gurgling beneath me ceased, and I could see that the rudder no longer parted the quiet water, and that we had ceased to move. A flash of hope blazed up within me. Had the Water-devil found the ship too heavy a load, and had he given up the attempt to drag it to its under-ocean cave? I went below and had my supper; I was almost a happy man. When Miss Minturn came to ask me how we were getting along, I told her that I thought we were doing very well indeed. I did not mention that we had ceased to move, for she thought that a favorable symptom. She went back to her quarters greatly cheered up. Not so much, I think, from my words, as from my joyful aspect; for I did feel jolly, there was no doubt about it. If that Water-devil had let go of us, I was willing to take all the other chances that might befall a ship floating about loose on the Bay of Bengal.

"The fog was so thick that night that it was damp and unpleasant on deck, and so, having hung out and lighted a couple of lanterns, I went below for a comfortable smoke in the captain's room. I was puffing away here at my ease, with my mind filled with happy thoughts of two or three weeks with Miss Minturn on this floating paradise, where she was bound to see a good deal of me, and couldn't help liking me better, and depending on me more and more every day, when I felt a little jerking shock. It was the same thing that we had felt before. The Water-devil still had hold of us!

"I dropped my pipe, my chin fell upon my breast, I shivered all over. In a few moments I heard the maid calling to me, and then she ran into the room. 'Miss Minturn wants to know, sir,' she said, 'if you think that shock is a sudden twist in the current which is carrying us on?' I straightened myself up as well as I could, and in the dim light I do not think she noticed my condition. I answered that I thought it was something of that sort, and she went away.

"More likely, a twist of the Devil's arm, I thought, as I sat there alone in my misery.

"In ten or fifteen minutes there came two shocks, not very far apart. This showed that the creature beneath us was at work in some way or another. Perhaps he had reached the opening of his den, and was shortening up his arm before he plunged down into it with us after him. I couldn't stay any longer in that room alone. I looked for the maid, but she had put out the galley light, and had probably turned in for the night.

"I went up, and looked out on deck, but everything was horribly dark and sticky and miserable there. I noticed that my lanterns were not burning, and then I remembered that I had not filled them. But this did not trouble me. If a vessel came along and saw our lights she would probably keep away from us, and I would have been glad to have a vessel come to us, even if she ran into us. Our steamer would probably float long enough for us to get on board the other one, and almost anything would be better than being left alone in this dreadful place, at the mercy of the Water-devil.

"Before I left the deck I felt another shock. This took out of me whatever starch was left, and I shuffled below and got to my bunk, where I tumbled in and covered myself up, head and all. If there had been any man to talk to, it would have been different, but I don't know when I ever felt more deserted than I did at that time.

"I tried to forget the awful situation in which I was; I tried to think of other things; to imagine that I was drilling with the rest of my company, with Tom Rogers on one side of me, and old Humphrey Peters on the other. You may say, perhaps, that this wasn't exactly the way of carrying out my promise of taking care of Miss Minturn and the others. But what was there to do? When the time came to do anything, and I could see what to do, I was ready to do it; but there was no use of waking them up now and setting their minds on edge, when they were all comfortable in their beds, thinking that every jerk of the Devil's arm was a little twist in the current that was carrying them to Calcutta or some other desirable port.

"I felt some shocks after I got into bed, but whether or not there were many in the night, I don't know, for I went to sleep. It was daylight when I awoke, and jumping out of my bunk I dashed on deck. Everything seemed pretty much as it had been, and the fog was as thick as ever. I ran to the stern and looked over, and I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw that we were moving again, still stern foremost, but a little faster than before. That beastly Water-devil had taken a rest for the night, and had probably given us the shocks by turning over in his sleep, and now he was off again, making up for lost time.

"Pretty soon Miss Minturn came on deck, and bade me good morning, and then she went and looked over the stern. 'We are still moving on,' she said, with a smile, 'and the fog doesn't seem to make any difference. It surely cannot be long before we get somewhere.' 'No, miss,' said I, 'it cannot be very long.' 'You look tired,' she said, 'and I don't wonder, for you must feel the heavy responsibility on you. I have told my maid to prepare breakfast for you in our cabin. I want my father to know you, and I think it is a shame that you, the only protector that we have, should be shut off so much by yourself; so after this we shall eat together.' 'After this,' I groaned to myself, 'we shall be eaten together.' At that moment I did not feel that I wanted to breakfast with Miss Minturn."

"Mr. Cardly," said Mr. Harberry to the school-master, "have you ever read, in any of your scientific books, that the Bay of Bengal is subject to heavy fogs that last day after day?"

"I cannot say," answered the school-master, "that my researches into the geographical distribution of fogs have resulted—"

"As to fogs," interrupted the marine, "you can't get rid of them, you know. If you had been in the habit of going to sea, you would know that you are likely to run into a fog at any time, and in any weather; and as to lasting, they are just as likely to last for days as for hours. It wasn't the fog that surprised me. I did not consider that of any account at all. I had enough other things to occupy my mind." And having settled this little matter, he went on with his story.

"Well, my friends, I did not breakfast with Miss Minturn and her father. Before that meal was ready, and while I was standing alone at the stern, I saw coming out of the water, a long way off in the fog, which must have been growing thinner about this time, a dark and mysterious object, apparently without any shape or form. This sight made the teeth chatter in my head. I had expected to be pulled down to the Water-devil, but I had never imagined that he would come up to us!

"While my eyes were glued upon this apparition, I could see that we were approaching it. When I perceived this, I shut my eyes and turned my back—I could look upon it no longer. My mind seemed to forsake me; I did not even try to call out and give the alarm to the others. Why should I? What could they do?"

"If it had been me," said Mrs. Fryker, in a sort of gasping whisper, "I should have died right there." The marine turned his eyes in the direction of the blacksmith's daughter. She was engaged with her work, and was not looking at him.

"I cannot say," he continued, "that, had Miss Minturn been there at that moment, that I would not have declared that I was ready to die for her or with her; but there was no need of trying to keep up her courage, that was all right. She knew nothing of our danger. That terrible knowledge pressed on me alone. Is it wonderful that a human soul should sink a little under such an awful load?" Without turning to observe the effect of these last words, the marine went on. "Suddenly I heard behind me a most dreadful sound. 'Good Heavens,' I exclaimed, 'can a Water-devil bray?'

"The sound was repeated. Without knowing what I did, I turned. I heard what sounded like words; I saw in the fog the stern of a vessel, with a man above it, shouting to me through a speaking-trumpet.

"I do not know what happened next; my mind must have become confused. When I regained my senses, Miss Minturn, old Mr. Minturn, and the maid were standing by me. The man had stopped shouting from his trumpet, and a boat was being lowered from the other ship. In about ten minutes there were half-a-dozen men on board of us, all in the uniform of the British navy. I was stiff enough now, and felt myself from top to toe a regular marine in the service of my country. I stepped up to the officer in command and touched my cap.

"He looked at me and my companions in surprise, and then glancing along the deck, said, 'What has happened to this vessel? Who is in command?' I informed him, that, strictly speaking, no one was in command, but that I represented the captain, officers, and crew of this steamer, the General Brooks, from San Francisco to Calcutta, and I then proceeded to tell him the whole story of our misfortunes; and concluded by telling the officer, that if we had not moved since his vessel had come in sight, it was probably because the Water-devil had let go of us, and was preparing to make fast to the other ship; and therefore it would be advisable for us all to get on board his vessel, and steam away as quickly as possible.

"The Englishmen looked at me in amazement. 'Drunk!' ejaculated the officer I had addressed. 'Cracked, I should say,' suggested another. 'Now,' spoke up Mr. Minturn, 'I do not understand what I have just heard,' he said. 'What is a Water-devil? I am astounded.' 'You never said a word of this to me!' exclaimed Miss Minturn. 'You never told me that we were in the grasp of a Water-devil, and that that was the reason the captain and the crew ran away.' 'No,' said I, 'I never divulged the dreadful danger we were in. I allowed you to believe that we were in the influence of a current, and that the shocks we felt were the sudden twists of that current. The terrible truth I kept to myself. Not for worlds would I have made known to a tenderly nurtured lady, to her invalid father, and devoted servant, what might have crushed their souls, driven them to the borders of frenzy; in which case the relief which now has come to us would have been of no avail.'

"The officer stood and steadily stared at me. 'I declare,' he said, 'you do not look like a crazy man. At what time did this Water-devil begin to take you in tow?'

"'Yesterday morning,' I answered. 'And he stopped during last night?' he asked. I replied that that was the case. Then he took off his cap, rubbed his head, and stood silent for a minute. 'We'll look into this matter!' he suddenly exclaimed, and turning, he and his party left us to ourselves. The boat was now sent back with a message to the English vessel, and the officers and men who remained scattered themselves over our steamer, examining the engine-room, hold, and every part of her.

"I was very much opposed to all this delay; for although the Englishmen might doubt the existence of the Water-devil, I saw no reason to do so, and in any case I was very anxious to be on the safe side by getting away as soon as possible; but, of course, British officers would not be advised by me, and as I was getting very hungry I went down to breakfast. I ate this meal alone, for my fellow-passengers seemed to have no desire for food.

"I cannot tell all that happened during the next hour, for, to tell the truth, I did not understand everything that was done. The boat passed several times between the two vessels, bringing over a number of men—two of them scientific fellows, I think. Another was a diver, whose submarine suit and air-pumping machines came over with him. He was lowered over the side, and after he had been down about fifteen minutes he was hauled up again, and down below was the greatest hammering and hauling that ever you heard. The General Brooks was put in charge of an officer and some men; a sail was hoisted to keep her in hand, so that she wouldn't drift into the other ship; and in the midst of all the rowdy-dow we were told that if we liked we might go on board the English vessel immediately.

"Miss Minturn and her party instantly accepted this invitation, and although under ordinary circumstances I would have remained to see for myself what these people found out, I felt a relief in the thought of leaving that vessel which is impossible for me to express, and I got into the boat with the others.

"We were treated very handsomely on board the English vessel, which was a mail steamship, at that time in the employment of the English Government. I told my story at least half-a-dozen times, sometimes to the officers and sometimes to the men, and whether they believed me or not, I don't think any one ever created a greater sensation with a story of the sea.

"In an hour or so the officer in charge of the operations on the General Brooks came aboard. As he passed me on his way to the captain, he said, 'We found your Water-devil, my man.' 'And he truly had us in tow?' I cried. 'Yes, you are perfectly correct,' he said, and went on to make his report to the captain."

"Now, then," said the blacksmith, "I suppose we are going to get to the pint. What did he report?"

"I didn't hear his report," said the marine, "but everybody soon knew what had happened to our unlucky vessel, and I can give you the whole story of it. The General Brooks sailed from San Francisco to Calcutta, with a cargo of stored electricity, contained in large, strongly made boxes. This I knew nothing about, not being in the habit of inquiring into cargoes. Well, in some way or other, which I don't understand, not being a scientific man myself, a magnetic connection was formed between these boxes, and also, if I got the story straight, between them and the iron hull of our vessel, so that it became, in fact, an enormous floating magnet, one of the biggest things of the kind on record. I have an idea that this magnetic condition was the cause of the trouble to our machinery; every separate part of it was probably turned to a magnet, and they all stuck together."

"Mr. Cardly," said Mr. Harberry to the school-master, "I do not suppose you have given much attention to the study of commerce, and therefore are not prepared to give us any information in regard to stored electricity as an article of export from this country; but perhaps you can tell us what stored electricity is, and how it is put into boxes."

"In regard to the transportation," answered the school-master, speaking a little slowly, "of encased electric potency, I cannot—"

"Oh, bless me!" interrupted the marine; "that is all simple enough; you can store electricity and send it all over the world, if you like; in places like Calcutta, I think it must be cheaper to buy it than to make it. They use it as a motive power for sewing-machines, apple-parers, and it can be used in a lot of ways, such as digging post-holes and churning butter. When the stored electricity in a box is all used up, all you have to do is to connect a fresh box with your machinery, and there you are, ready to start again. There was nothing strange about our cargo. It was the electricity leaking out and uniting itself and the iron ship into a sort of conglomerate magnet that was out of the way."

"Mr. Cardly," said Mr. Harberry, "if an iron ship were magnetized in that manner, wouldn't it have a deranging effect upon the needle of the compass?"

The marine did not give the school-master time to make answer. "Generally speaking," said he, "that sort of thing would interfere with keeping the vessel on its proper course, but with us it didn't make any difference at all. The greater part of the ship was in front of the binnacle where they keep the compass, and so the needle naturally pointed that way, and as we were going north before a south wind, it was all right.

"Being a floating magnet, of course, did not prevent our sailing, so we went along well enough until we came to longitude 90°, latitude 15° north. Now it so happened that a telegraphic cable which had been laid down by the British Government to establish communication between Madras and Rangoon, had broken some time before, and not very far from this point.

"Now you can see for yourselves that when an enormous mass of magnetic iron, in the shape of the General Brooks, came sailing along there, the part of that cable which lay under us was so attracted by such a powerful and irresistible force that its broken end raised itself from the bottom of the bay and reached upward until it touched our ship, when it laid itself along our keel, to which it instantly became fastened as firmly as if it had been bolted and riveted there. Then, as the rest of this part of the cable was on the bottom of the bay all the way to Madras, of course we had to stop; that's simple enough. That's the way the Water-devil held us fast in one spot for two days.

"The British Government determined not to repair this broken cable, but to take it up and lay down a better one; so they chartered a large steamer, and fitted her up with engines, and a big drum that they use for that sort of thing, and set her to work to wind up the Madras end of the broken cable. She had been at this business a good while before we were caught by the other end, and when they got near enough to us for their engines to be able to take up the slack from the bottom between us and them, then of course they pulled upon us, and we began to move. And when they lay to for the night, and stopped the winding business, of course we stopped, and the stretch of cable between the two ships had no effect upon us, except when the big mail steamer happened to move this way or that, as they kept her head to the wind; and that's the way we lay quiet all night except when we got our shocks.

"When they set the drum going again in the morning, it wasn't long before they wound us near enough for them to see us, which they would have done sooner if my lights hadn't gone out so early in the evening."

"And that," said the blacksmith, with a somewhat severe expression on his face, "is all that you have to tell about your wonderful Water-devil!"

"All!" said the marine; "I should say it was quite enough, and nothing could be more wonderful than what really happened. A Water-devil is one of two things: he is real, or he's not real. If he's not real, he's no more than an ordinary spook or ghost, and is not to be practically considered. If he's real, then he's an alive animal, and can be put in a class with other animals, and described in books, because even if nobody sees him, the scientific men know how he must be constructed, and then he's no more than a great many other wonderful things, which we can see alive, stuffed, or in plaster casts.

"But if you want to put your mind upon something really wonderful, just think of a snake-like rope of wire, five or six hundred miles long, lying down at the very bottom of the great Bay of Bengal, with no more life in it than there is in a ten-penny nail.

"Then imagine that long, dead wire snake to be suddenly filled with life, and to know that there was something far up above it, on the surface of the water, that it wants to reach up to and touch. Think of it lifting and flapping its broken end, and then imagine it raising yard after yard of itself up and up, through the solemn water, more and more of it lifting itself from the bottom, curling itself backward and forward as it rises higher and higher, until at last, with a sudden jump that must have ripped a mile or more of it from the bottom, it claps its end against the thing it wants to touch, and which it can neither see, nor hear, nor smell, but which it knows is there. Could there be anything in this world more wonderful than that?

"And then, if that isn't enough of a wonder, think of the Rangoon end of that cable squirming and wriggling and stretching itself out toward our ship, but not being able to reach us on account of a want of slack; just as alive as the Madras part of the cable, and just as savage and frantic to get up to us and lay hold of us; and then, after our vessel had been gradually pulled away from it, think of this other part getting weaker and weaker, minute by minute, until it falls flat on the bay, as dead as any other iron thing!"

The marine ceased to speak, and Mrs. Fryker heaved a sigh.

"It makes me shiver to think of all that down so deep," she said; "but
I must say I am disappointed."

"In what way?" asked the marine.

"A Water-devil," said she, "as big as six whales, and with a funnelly mouth to suck in people, is different; but, of course, after all, it was better as it was."

"Look here," said the blacksmith, "what became of the girl? I wanted her finished up long ago, and you haven't done it yet."

"Miss Minturn, you mean," said the marine. "Well, there is not much to say about her. Things happened in the usual way. When the danger was all over, when she had other people to depend upon besides me, and we were on board a fine steamer, with a lot of handsomely dressed naval officers, and going comfortably to Madras, of course she thought no more of the humble sea-soldier who once stood between her and—nobody knew what. In fact, the only time she spoke to me after we got on board the English steamer, she made me feel, although she didn't say it in words, that she was not at all obliged to me for supposing that she would have been scared to death if I had told her about the Water-devil."

"I suppose," said the blacksmith, "by the time you got back to your ship you had overstayed your leave of absence a good while. Did your captain let you off when you told him this story of the new-fashioned Water-devil?"

The marine smiled. "I never went back to the Apache," he said. "When I arrived at Madras I found that she had sailed from Calcutta. It was, of course, useless for me to endeavor to follow her, and I therefore concluded to give up the marine service for a time and go into another line of business, about which it is too late to tell you now."

"Mr. Cardly," said Mr. Harberry to the school-master, "have you ever read that the British Government has a submarine cable from Madras to Rangoon?"

The marine took it upon himself to answer this question. "The cable of which I spoke to you," he said, "was taken up, as I told you, and I never heard that another one was laid. But it is getting late, and I think I will go to bed; I have a long walk before me to-morrow." So saying he rose, put his pipe upon the mantel-piece, and bade the company good night. As he did so, he fixed his eyes on the blacksmith's daughter, but that young lady did not look at him; she was busily reading the weekly newspaper, which her father had left upon the table.

Mr. Harberry now rose, preparatory to going home; and as he buttoned up his coat, he looked from one to another of the little group, and remarked, "I have often heard that marines are a class of men who are considered as fit subjects to tell tough stories to, but it strikes me that the time has come when the tables are beginning to be turned."