The Sea Forest

The cry, though loud, was no longer defiant, and Tandy with a little
gasp of relief saw the Mountaineers on all the bridges bring their
pikes to rest beside them and gaze aloft for further orders.

“I am Alberif, Prince of the Peaks,” stated the Man on the Highest
Bridge, looking coolly down at Samuel Salt. “But YOU–you who come in
this flying ship to conquer the Island of Peakenspire, who are YOU?”

“Ato, the Eighth, King of the Octagon Isles, Sir Samuel Salt, Captain
of the _Crescent Moon_ and Royal Explorer of Oz, Tazander Tazah, King
of Ozamaland, and myself a Royal Read Bird,” shouted Roger before any
of the others had time to speak for themselves.

The Prince of the Peaks, tall and splendid in his shining coat and
breeches of silver cloth, his broad-brimmed hat with its quill and
rosette of wild flowers, looked so much more impressive than anyone
aboard the _Crescent Moon_, Tandy half expected him to laugh at Roger’s
boastful announcements. But instead, Alberif, leaning far out over his
royal bridge, looked down at them long and seriously.

“Two Kings, a Royal Discoverer, a Flying Ship and a Read Bird! Hi de
Aye de Oh!” whistled the handsome monarch, shaking his head ruefully.
“No wonder we were captured. What then are your terms, Kings, Captain,
Bird and Conquerors?”

“Not conquerors, COMRADES,” called up Samuel Salt in his hearty voice.
“Only by your own wish, agreement and consent shall ye come under the
rule of Oz. If your Highness could but descend from yon Royal Bridge to
this ship, everything can be arranged both peaceably and pleasantly.”

“‘Ware, Alberif! ‘Ware, Alberif!” yodeled the Pikemen on the lower
bridges. “Once aboard that ship eeee-ip! We may never see you again
eeeeee-yen!”

“Oh, nonsense!” blustered Samuel Salt impatiently. “I give you my word
as a Pirate and a seaman no harm shall come to you on the _Crescent
Moon_.”

The Prince stood lost in thought for a moment, then tapping his
long alpenstock sharply he issued a high yodeled command. From the
bridgehead an immense basket swooped down. The Prince seated himself
gravely in the basket and with three men manipulating the ropes made a
swift and dizzy descent to the deck of the _Crescent Moon_.

While Samuel and Roger welcomed the tall and lordly Ruler of the
Mountain Isle, Ato hurried off to the galley to prepare some suitable
refreshments for his entertainment. Tandy, after Samuel had introduced
him, began making careful sketches of the handsome Prince, of the
lovely city of bridges and of the Pikemen, who still looked with
suspicion and distrust upon the ship that had taken the place of their
own.

“How about that basket?” whispered Roger, who had come out to help Ato
in the galley. “How’d you like to be hoisted and lowered like a sail?
And for salt’s sake, King dear, dust the flour off your nose and put
on your crown, or this fellow will think you’re King of the Cookies and
Doughnuts.”

“Ha, ha! When he’s tasted my plum cake he’ll not think it, he’ll know
it!” puffed Ato, bustling happily from cupboard to cupboard. “Bring out
the best tumblers and silver plates, fetch up a dozen bottles of my
famous Sea-pop from the hold and we’ll have this island in our pocket
before you can say Oz Robinson!”

When Ato with one tray and Roger with another came out, they found
the Captain and the Prince of the Peaks striding up and down the deck
in the friendliest conversation imaginable. Matched in height and
handsomeness, the two were discussing with lively interest everything
from ships and governments to the strange limestone that formed the
crystalline rocks of Alberif’s island. Later, seated around the table
with Tandy and Roger passing plum cake and Sea-pop, the Prince grew
friendlier and more confidential still.

“We’ve never been conquered before,” admitted his Majesty with a
puzzled smile, “but really I find it both interesting and enjoyable.”

“Just a matter of chance and luck,” said Samuel Salt with a modest
wave of his hand. “Had I not had balloon sails on the _Crescent Moon_,
your ship would have cut us clean in two before we had time to put
about.”

“That is what I always planned would happen to an enemy craft,” sighed
Alberif. “Naturally our own ship, the _Mountain Lass_, would have been
destroyed too, but we could easily have built another. That is what
we’ll have to do anyway, as we’ll never be able to haul her up the
torrent.”

“Don’t you do it,” begged Samuel Salt, looking earnestly at the
Mountain Monarch. “I’ll send you a set of balloon sails as soon as I
reach Elbow Island. The Red Jinn presented me with two sets and I’ll be
delighted to send you one. Once they’re set, you can fly up as easily
as we did and be ready for all and sundry, even US if we come again.”

“Come and welcome!” beamed Alberif, looking in some surprise at Sally,
who had just lifted her head above the rim of Samuel’s pipe bowl. “But
tell me, what am I to do now that I am conquered? Surely something is
required of us?”

“Nothing! Nothing at all!” Samuel spoke earnestly and admiringly. “This
island and your men are in fine shape and a great credit to you, so
just go on as you are, but from this time forth you’ll be in contact
with the famous and most modern Fairyland in History, and if you are
ever beset by enemies, you can call upon Oz for assistance or help. In
time, fruit, foodstuffs, books and merchandise will arrive from Oz, and
in return you may send back some of the sparkling crystals composing
these mountains. You might even invite a band of settlers from Oz to
come and live as your loyal subjects here.”

“Gladly! Gladly!” agreed the Prince, his eyes sparkling at the
prospect. “We have many uninhabited peaks and spires and could
easily accommodate a thousand new bridge builders. Come with me, all
of you, to Skytop Tower and we’ll run up the flag of Oz and sign a
pledge of allegiance to her Majesty Queen Ozma. AYE DE AYE OH LAY!”
Running out on deck, Alberif joyously beckoned to the men who operated
the traveling basket, inviting them all to enter. Ato, who had no
intention of trusting his two hundred and fifty pounds to this strange
conveyance, shook the Prince regretfully by the hand.

“I’ll just watch it all from here,” said the ship’s cook firmly. “I’ve
pie to cook, potatoes to peel and dinner to stir up for all hands and a
hippopotamus, so, if you’ll kindly excuse me–”

The Prince looked a little disappointed, but cheered up as Samuel,
Roger and Tandy followed him into the basket.

“Haul away!” yelled Samuel Salt, winking at Ato, and to the shrill
tune of a ringing round of yodels their curious elevator rose from the
deck, spun merrily up to the Twin Peaks and highest bridge of Alberif’s
Mountain. Used as he was to the tall masts and lofty rigging of the
_Crescent Moon_, Tandy felt sick and giddy as the basket swooped and
swung upward. But it came down safely at last and at sight of the
shining spans of the lacy city spread out below, and the glittering
castle rising from the royal bridge, Tandy forgot all his uneasiness.
With a little whistle of surprise and interest he followed Samuel and
Alberif into the royal dwelling, while Roger flew off on a little
exploring expedition of his own. Roger knew all about castles and was
much more interested in the many windowed, fluted cottages of the
yodelers.

Ato, watching from the deck of the _Crescent Moon_, presently saw the
flag of Oz fluttering from the top turret of the Castle Tower and with
a little sigh of relief and pride he gathered up the empty pop bottles
and padded off to his galley. Soon Oz flags floated from the posts on
all the bridgeheads, adding much to the gaiety and beauty of Alberif’s
city.

From the Royal Bridge Tandy and Samuel had a splendid view, and of
his many experiences Tandy always remembered best the afternoon spent
on Peakenspire. Alberif was a merry as well as an interesting host,
explaining everything from the strange traveling baskets to the age-old
customs and treasures of the Islanders. In the baskets the Islanders
could travel from bridge to bridge and down to the sea itself when
they wished to go fishing. There was little soil between the rocks,
but such soil as there was, was so amazingly fertile, each family
could raise all the fruit and vegetables required in one small window
box. After long experimentation and culture, Alberif’s ancestors had
perfected two curious vines. On one vegetables grew in rapid rotation,
potatoes following peas, corn following potatoes, carrots following
corn, beets following carrots, cabbages, lima beans and spinach after
the beets. The vine never withered or died and by cutting off the top
every day the Islanders were assured of a continuous supply of fresh
vegetables. The fruit vine was of the same variety, furnishing every
known berry, fruit and melon. Each family was given two of these vines
and thus had very little worry about food supplies. Birds, something of
a cross between wild ducks and chickens, made their nests in the craggy
peaks, and with their eggs and a plentiful supply of fish and other sea
food the Islanders fared splendidly.

The Bridgemen were tall, blue eyed, handsome and happy. Men and women
alike wore short trousers and blouses of silver cloth and carried
pikes that served both as weapons and alpenstocks. The bridges, while
delicate as fine lace in construction, were supple and strong as
steel. The material mined from the mountains themselves was like silver
and crystal combined, a new strong and glittering metal, samples of
which Samuel happily thrust into his pocket.

“Sounds like magic,” said Tandy, who had been listening closely to
Alberif’s description of life on Peakenspire.

“It _is_ magic of a kind,” answered the Prince with a pleased little
nod. “And the air here is so light and sparkling we never tire, grow
old or have illness of any kind, so that my people are always light
hearted and happy, spending most of their time in dancing and singing.”

“I see,” murmured Samuel Salt, “er–and hear,” he added quickly as the
wild, joyous cries of Alberif’s yodelers made every window in the
palace rattle. “I’ll certainly make a note of all this and report
Peakenspire Island to Queen Ozma as the most interesting discovery of
the voyage.”

“I am highly honored!” Alberif bowed stiffly. “Highly honored! HI
dee Aye de OH–hhhhh!” Jumping into the air, the Prince of the Peaks
kicked his heels together from sheer exuberance. “Wait,” he told
them cheerfully, “and I’ll get you some fruit and vegetable vines to
take back with you.” Tandy and Samuel could not help grinning as
Alberif rushed off. To tell the truth, there was something so light
and exhilarating about the mountain air they found it difficult to
walk calmly themselves. As the Prince returned Samuel felt a loud and
uncontrollable yodel rising in his own throat, and seizing Tandy’s
arm, he bade Alberif a hasty and hearty adieu. Bidding him keep a
sharp lookout for the airships from Oz, and loaded down with crystals
and vines, the two explorers climbed into the basket and were swung
swiftly down to the deck of the _Crescent Moon_. Roger, flying under
his own power and yodeling like a native, arrived soon after.

With Oz flags flying from all bridges and the Mountaineers calling out
rousing and melodious farewells, Samuel inflated his balloon sails and
the ship soared gracefully aloft, circled the island three times and
then dropped lightly down upon the surface of the sea. The _Mountain
Lass_ in charge of Alberif’s husky crew lay just off shore and there
she would have to stay till Samuel sent a set of balloon sails to lift
her back to the Lake among the peaks.

Nikobo, who’d been swimming anxiously round and round, gave a bellow of
relief as she spied the _Crescent Moon_.

“I thought you’d been captured and destroyed!” wheezed the
hippopotamus, scrambling hastily aboard her raft. “Next time you fly
off, take me aboard or give me a balloon sail too. I’m so full of
salt water I’m perfectly pickled and somebody’ll have to scrape the
barnacles off my hide.”

“But we’ve brought you a present,” called Tandy, leaning far over the
taffrail, “a vegetable vine that will keep you supplied with fresh
vegetables as long as we’re at sea. SEE! DEEEE Aye DEE OH!”

“Avast and balaydeeaye!” barked Samuel Salt grimly. “Let’s get away
from here. This is no way for able-bodied seamen to talk.” Rushing from
wheel to mast, he quickly set his sail. “Ahoy! Ahoy Dee Oy Dee OH!”
he yodelled, then, very red in the face, he blew three shrill blasts
on his fog horn, swung his ship about and the _Crescent Moon_, with a
spanking breeze on her quarter, went skimming away toward the southern
skyline.

The evening had blown up raw and cold, and after carrying an old
tarpaulin down to cover Nikobo, Tandy had come shivering back to the
main cabin. Samuel Salt had close reefed his topsails and double reefed
his courses, adjusted his mechanical steering gear, and now sat beside
the fire examining a heap of the glittering crystals from Alberif’s
island.

“Just sketch Peakenspire Island on the chart, there where I’ve made the
cross,” he directed, looking up with an absent smile as the little boy
came over to warm himself at the cheerful blaze. “You’re such a hand
with a brush, even in so small a place you can give a good idea of the
City of Bridges.”

“And a good idea they are,” murmured Ato, who was busy mending his
fishing nets on the other side of the fireplace. “In every port we
learn something new, eh, Mate? All mountains, no matter how high and
peaked, could be lived on if they were properly bridged.”

“True, quite true,” agreed Samuel, squinting contentedly through his
magnifying glass, while Tandy began sketching in the latest discovery
on the sea chart. “I’ve written it all up in my journal and put down
Peakenspire Island as able to accommodate a thousand settlers from Oz
and as an especially good place for poets.”

“Provided they are deaf,” put in Ato, looking comically over his specs,
“AYE DEE AYE DEE OH! While you fellows were aloft I got to yodeling so
fast and furious I blew all the sauce pans off their hooks.”

“Yes, that _is_ one disadvantage,” admitted Samuel, glancing
approvingly at Tandy’s picture of Alberif’s Island, “but never mind,
we don’t have to live there, and think of the splendid specimens we’ve
brought away, Mates!” Samuel ran his fingers lovingly through the heap
of crystals and strands of metal Alberif had given him. “And those
fruit and vegetable vines will provision us for the whole voyage.”

“They’re a great comfort to _me_, I assure you,” muttered Ato, holding
up his net to the light to see whether there were any more holes. “Now
I know Kobo will never starve. I put a vegetable vine in a box on her
raft and that leaves two for us, two for Ozma, and maybe Tandy would
like to take the other two home with him?”

“Home?” Tandy swung round in positive dismay. “Oh–we’re not near
Ozamaland yet, are we, Captain?” His voice sounded so dismal Samuel
Salt threw down his magnifying glass with a roar of merriment.

“Shiver my timbers, lad, one would think you did not wish to reach
Ozamaland at all,” he blustered teasingly. “What’s the matter with that
country of yours? You wouldn’t keep an honest explorer from adding a
creeping bird and a flying reptile to his collection, now would ye?”

“No! No! Of course not,” answered Tandy quickly. “But perhaps it is
farther away than you think, Master Salt, and perhaps the Greys have
conquered the Whites and then I won’t be King any more.”

“What’s this? What’s this?” Ato lifted his nose like an old hound that
has just scented a fox, for he loved a good story even better than he
loved a good meal. “Who are the Greys and Whites, my lad? You never
told us anything about this.”

“There’s really not much to tell,” sighed Tandy, seating himself on a
small stool before the fire. “In the first place, I suppose you know
that the great continent of Tarara is divided into two large long
countries? Ozamaland is on the East Coast and Amaland on the West
Coast.”

“Now I’ll just make a note of that,” said Samuel Salt, leaning over to
pull his journal toward him.

“My country,” went on Tandy slowly, “is made up largely of desert and
jungle, best known for its white elephants and camels and the famous
White City of Om, first King and ruler of the Kingdom. The Zamas are
fierce and still wild tribesmen living in tents on the desert and in
huts in the jungle. Only the thousand Nobles and their families who
live in the White City have been taught to read and write and live
under roofs. That is why the Kings of Ozamaland are so well guarded and
never allowed out of the capital.”

“Then I’d rather be a tribesman,” sniffed Ato, letting his nets drop in
a heap around his feet.

“But there’s no choice,” said Tandy thoughtfully. “The nine
Ozamandarins who make the laws have decreed that the King shall remain
in the White City.”

“Well, what about these Whites and Greys?” asked Samuel Salt, pulling
out his pipe and leaning down close to the fire so Sally could light it
for him.

“My people, because they dress in white robes and turbans, are known
as the Whites, and the Amas, the rough plainsmen who rove the long
ranges of Amaland, are the Greys. The Amas care for nothing but their
swift grey horses and often charge over the border to make war on my
countrymen. Then the Whites, mounted on their white elephants and
camels, have all they can do to hold their own.”

“Aha, that’s what I’d call a REAL battle!” exclaimed Ato, his
eyes snapping with enthusiasm and interest. Then, noting Samuel’s
disapproving frown, he pursed up his lips, shook his head and added
quickly, “All very wild and disorderly, Tandy, my lad. Seems as if the
Whites and Greys should manage their affairs more peaceably.”

“Yes,” said Tandy solemnly, “and I’ve often thought when I was grown,
I’d ride over on my white elephant to visit the Greys and see why they
are so unfriendly.”

“A good idea, and if I were you, I wouldn’t wait till I was grown. I’d
do it as soon as I got back,” advised Samuel Salt, taking a long pull
at his pipe.

“And very probably get himself cut up and captured,” shuddered Ato,
shaking his head.

“Well, he’s been both shut up and captured anyway, hasn’t he?” said
Samuel mildly. “Now which one of your aunts do you think had you
carried off, Matey, and how many aunts do you have anyway?”

“Three,” Tandy answered, counting them off solemnly on his fingers.
“And they were all pretty and pleasant enough; but after the prophecy
of the Old Man of the Jungle that I would be carried off by an aunt,
they were all locked up in the castle dungeon and I was locked up in
the Tower.” And, resting his elbows on his knees, Tandy gazed soberly
into the fire as if he might discover there the reason for his cruel
abduction and imprisonment in the jungle.

“If I’d only been awake when I was carried away,” he exclaimed
impatiently.

“They probably gave you a sleeping potion,” decided Ato, nodding his
head portentously, “but it’s such a longish distance, unless this aunt
had wings or a flying eagle I’ll never understand how she shipped you
so far and so fast.”

“Well, whoever it was did _us_ a real service!” boomed Samuel Salt,
twinkling his blue eyes affectionately at Tandy. “Even Peter was no
better aboard a ship–eh, Mate?”

“A real artist and a seaman,” agreed Ato, rolling cheerfully to his
feet, “and when we reach Ozamaland I’ll talk to these aunts like
an Octagon uncle, and the Ozamandarins had better hold on to their
turbans, too.”

“But they wear square hats!” roared Tandy, laughing so hard he almost
fell off the stool, for he just could not picture the fat King of the
Octagon Isle berating the haughty judges of Ozamaland.

“What’s the joke?” demanded Roger, flying in through the open port
and making a straight line for the fire. “Brrr-rah! Wet weather,
boys! Wet weather! Oh, what a coldth and dampth and gloomth. Why, I’m
moister than an oyster and clammier than a clam. How about a cup of hot
chocolate for the Watch, Cook dear? Better see to your sail, Master
Salt. Fog’s thicker than bean soup out there.”

“We’ll _all_ have some chocolate,” said Ato as Samuel hurried out to
see how dense the fog really was. Later, sitting by the stove sipping
Ato’s delicious hot chocolate, Tandy could not help comparing this cozy
life aboard the _Crescent Moon_ with his dull and lonely existence in
the Royal City of his Fathers.

“I wish the Greys _would_ capture the Whites,” he thought vindictively,
as he followed Roger across the slippery deck. “Then I’d never have to
leave this ship.” The kind-hearted Read Bird was carrying a pail of hot
chocolate down to Nikobo on the raft. She could not get her great snout
into the bucket, but she opened her enormous mouth and with one toss
Roger poured the whole pail down her throat.

“That’ll keep her warm till morning,” chuckled Roger, flying back to
join Tandy, “and now you’d better turn in, little fellow, for you’re on
morning watch and eight bells will be sounding before you know it!” All
through his dreams about the Whites and Greys Tandy heard the raucous
voice of the fog horn, and when he rolled sleepily out of his bunk to
relieve Ato, the ship seemed to be hardly moving at all.

“Ahoy, Captain! Isn’t a fog dangerous?” Tandy’s voice seemed more
hopeful than worried, and Samuel Salt, peering down at the little boy
buttoned to his chin in Peter’s old sou’easter, grinned approvingly.

“Just about as dangerous as a man-eating tiger,” he answered
cheerfully. “We’re liable to ram a ship, run on the rocks, or scrape
our bottom on a hidden reef or sand bar. These waters, as you know,
being all unnavigated. But I’ve brought Sally along to keep my nose
warm and throw a bit more light on the subject and we’ll have to take
our chance–eh, Matey? Just step aft and see if you can make out
anything astern, will you, Tandy?”

Four o’clock, or rather eight bells, was always pretty dark and one had
to depend more or less on the ship’s lanterns, but this morning was
the darkest Tandy had ever experienced. Clinging to the rail, he moved
cautiously to the stern and gazed intently down into the gloom. Nothing
an inch beyond his nose was visible and as for the raft and Nikobo,
they might just as well not have been there.

“Kobo, Kobo, are you all right?” There was no answer to Tandy’s call,
but presently a huge and resounding snore rolled upward and, greatly
comforted, Tandy hurried back to the Captain. Samuel Salt was busy
lighting extra lanterns and as he straightened up, a hollow boom,
followed by a splintering crash, sent them both sprawling to the deck.
Leaping to his feet and unmindful of the glass from the shattered
lanterns, Samuel seized an unbroken one and ran furiously to the rail.

“Ship ahoy! Heave to! you blasted son of a cuttle-fish lubber! You’ve
rammed us amidships, you blasted Billygoat. Where are your lights? Why
didn’t ye sound the horn?” His lantern, held far over the rail, made
no impression at all on the choking fog. Jumping up and running after
Samuel, Tandy strained his eyes for a glimpse of the ship that had hit
them, for unmistakably to his ears came the scrape and rasp of wood on
wood. Yes, surely it was a ship. But no answer to Samuel’s hail came
out of the fog, only the swish and murmur of the sea and the rattle
of wind in the rigging. But all this creaking could not come from the
_Crescent Moon_ alone. There _was_ a ship beyond them in the fog,
but where, as Samuel had demanded, were her lights and crew? Wildly
Tandy, hardly knowing what to think or do, continued to blink into the
maddening darkness. Ato and Roger, wakened by the horrible jolt, now
came hurrying out, each waving a lantern.

“Let go the anchor, Mates,” ordered Samuel in a stern voice, “we’re to
grips with an enemy ship, so stand by for trouble. Further shortening
his sail, Samuel waited tensely for the first move from their invisible
foe.

“Might be pirates,” he whispered out of the corner of his mouth to
Tandy, who stood close beside him grasping the scimiter that had once
been Peter’s. “Jump the first man aboard.”

“How about a long shot in their general direction?” wheezed Ato, who
found the silence and suspense well nigh unbearable.

“No, it is not for _us_ to start a fight,” stated Samuel grimly. “But
hah! Just let _them_ start one! Fetch me my stilts, Roger, and be quick
about it, too!”

“Stilts?” choked the Read Bird, dropping the blunderbuss with which he
had armed, or rather winged, himself. “You’ll never be trying those
things again–they nearly shivered our timbers last time. Why take
another chance?”

“My stilts!” repeated Samuel savagely, and Roger, who knew his duty
as a sailor, flew without further argument to the hold. When Roger
returned with a stilt in each claw, the Captain grasped one and moving
silently as a cat over to the port rail, he thrust the long pole
experimentally out into the fog. There was an instant thud, and Samuel
himself got a severe jolt as the stilt struck against some firm and
immovable object beyond. Convinced that it was an enemy ship, Samuel
returned to the others and, drawn up in an anxious row, the four
shipmates waited for the fog to lift or the first enemy seaman to leap
aboard.

“I’ll wager it’s a derelict, or an abandoned vessel with no crew,”
breathed Ato, seating himself on a fire bucket to somewhat ease the
long wait. The first hour Tandy stood fairly well, but the second
seemed interminable. The flickering lanterns, the tense quiet, the
choking fog and gentle roll of the ship all made him desperately
drowsy, and, much to his later disgust, he must have finally fallen
asleep. The next thing he remembered was the shrill squall of the Read
Bird and the pleasant feel of the sun on his eyelids.

“The ship! The pirates! The fog!” thought Tandy, springing up wildly,
but neither ship nor pirates met his astonished gaze. Abaft the beam
lay a great whispering deep sea forest, its trees higher than the masts
of the ship, springing directly out of the water and stretching their
leafy branches to the sky. It was into one of these giant greenwoods
the _Crescent Moon_ had crashed in the fog. Samuel was staring at the
sea forest with the rapt look of a scientist who has just made an
unbelievable discovery, and Ato, with his elbows resting on the rail,
was gazing dreamily in the same direction.

“‘Hoy! Ahoy! Why, I never knew there were forests in the sea,”
exclaimed Tandy, running over to insinuate himself between the cook and
the Captain.

“There aren’t! It’s just plain impossible!” breathed Ato, moving over
to make room for Tandy. “But, impossible or not, there she lies. And
isn’t it pretty?” he mused, resting more than half of his great weight
on the rail.

“I suppose Sammy’ll want to dig up a sea tree and bring it along,” he
leaned over to whisper mischievously in Tandy’s ear. “And anyway, it’s
better than pirates.”

“Look, look, there’s fish in those trees,” screamed Roger, bouncing
up and down on Ato’s plump shoulder. “How about some flying fish for
breakfast, Cook dear?”

“Breakfast? Breakfast? Can it really be time for breakfast? Ho, hum! I
thought I was still asleep and dreaming,” grunted Ato, giving himself a
little shake. “Well, forests or no forests, a man must eat, I suppose!”
And still gazing delightedly over his shoulder, the ship’s cook trod
reluctantly toward the galley, while Tandy hurried into the cabin for
his paints.

Tandy had to call Samuel twice before he would come to breakfast and
when he finally did sit down, he was so busy preparing to explore the
sea forest he ate scarcely a bite.

“We’ll take the jolly boat,” he decided, making long notes in his
journal between his sips of coffee, “the small nets and knives and
baskets for cuttings and any specimens we may pick up and–”

“Why the jolly boat when we have a jolly sea-going hippopotamus?”
inquired Roger, elevating one eyebrow. “A jolly hippopotamus, I might
add, who runs under her own power and saves us the trouble of rowing!”
Roger was much annoyed because he had failed to catch a flying fish
before breakfast and instead of eating his hard-boiled eggs, kept
winging over to the open port to glare at his finny rivals. Tandy, like
the Captain, was too excited to eat, and even Ato downed his omelette
and fresh strawberries from the Peakenspire fruit vine with rare speed
and indifference.

“It’s a lucky thing you’re so enormous, Kobo,” puffed the ship’s cabin
boy, dropping down on the raft a few minutes later. “Ato’s got his crab
nets and fishing lines, Samuel’s bringing an aquarium, a couple of
baskets and a box. And I have this pail, my paints and a cage in case
Roger does manage to catch one of those flying fish.” Kobo was staring
fixedly at her vegetable vine as Tandy dropped down beside her, and now
snapping off a whole bushel of beans, she turned round and, munching
contentedly, surveyed the excited boy at her side.

“Whatever you have can be hung to my harness,” she assured him,
speaking a bit thickly through the beans. “But turn the point of that
scimiter up instead of down; you wouldn’t want to carve old Kobo, now
would you? It will seem funny swimming through a forest, won’t it,
little King? The further we go on this voyage the queerer everything
grows.”

“But I like it queer,” stated Tandy, climbing with a satisfied little
sigh on Nikobo’s broad back.

“I, too, find it most interesting and jolly,” agreed the hippopotamus,
fastening her eyes dreamily on the vegetable vine to see what was
coming up next. “I thought I might be on short rations when I came on
this voyage, Tandy, but I declare to goodness I’ve never had such a
rich and varied diet in my life. You, too, look fine and strong and
much happier than when we met in the jungle. But to get back to the
fare–why, today I’ve had a basket of biscuits, a bushel of beans–”

“And that makes it Bean and Biscuit Day, I suppose,” giggled Tandy,
remembering Kobo’s strange way of dividing up her week. “But look!
Listen! Here they come!”

“Ahoy below, Hip Hip OPOTOMUS, AHOY!” roared Samuel Salt jovially from
above. “All ready to cast off, my lass?”

“Aye, aye, sir!” grinned Kobo as Samuel and Ato came panting down the
rope ladders to the raft. “Move over, Tandy, and make room for the Cook
and the Captain!” It took nearly ten minutes to get all the gear and
crew aboard and Nikobo looked like some curious deep sea monster when
she finally shoved off. Two large baskets were slung from ropes across
her back. The pail and bird cage slapped up and down on one hip, the
aquarium on the other, and through her collar various fishing rods,
nets and poles were stuck like quills on a porcupine.

“Now whatever you do, don’t submerge,” warned Samuel, holding his tin
box for especially fragile specimens high above his chest to keep it
dry. “Just slow and steady, m’lass, so we’ll have time to observe and
admire and make notes of any strange growths and creatures as we ride
along.”

“Creatures!” exclaimed Tandy, twisting round. He was perched on
Nikobo’s head, his paints held carefully in his lap. “Would there be
any wild animals in a sea forest, Master Salt?”

“Sea Lions, likely,” predicted Samuel, peering round eagerly as Nikobo
paddled between two slippery barked sea trees into the murmuring forest
itself. Except for the fact that the floor of this curious sea wood was
the blue and restless sea, it might almost have been a forest ashore.
The trees, tall, straight and stately, towered up toward the sky.
Staring down into the clear green water, Tandy saw their trunks going
down, down, down as far as he could see.

“Rooted in the very ocean bed,” marveled Samuel Salt, touching one
lovingly as they passed. “What splendid masts these would make, Mates!
Avast and belay, Nikobo, I believe I’ll just take a cutting or two.”

“Ha, ha!” roared Ato, peering over Samuel’s shoulder. “So now we’re
going to grow our own masts.”

Samuel himself, leaning far out over Nikobo’s back, severed three young
shoots from the sea tree and popped them happily into the aquarium.
Vines that were really of coral ringed the gigantic trunks like
bracelets, and the leaves of the trees were long ribbons of green and
silver that whipped and fluttered like banners in the morning breeze.

“What’s that?” puzzled Ato as the hippopotamus made her way leisurely
between the trees. “Looks like mushrooms, Sammy! Wait, I’ll just pick
me a few and see.” Hooking his heels in Nikobo’s harness, Ato began
vigorously cutting from the trunk of one of the trees the colored
fungus growths which sprouted in great profusion just above the
water line. Nikobo bravely offered to sample some, and after waiting
anxiously to see whether they would have any ill effects the ship’s
cook decided they were harmless and joyfully filled one of the baskets.
The only specimens that really interested Ato were of the edible
variety. While he was thus employed, Tandy, an experienced climber
by now, scurried up to the top of one of the sea trees, breaking off
several branches so Samuel could press the curious leaves in his
album. High above his head Tandy could see Roger chasing angrily after
a flying fish, muttering with anger at his unsuccessful efforts to
overtake the nimble little sea bird. In our own southern waters there
are large flying fish that leap out of the water of the gulf stream,
but the flying fish in this Nonestic Sea Forest were small, and where
most fish have gills wore strong transparent wings. Their claws,
somewhat like a crab’s, made it possible for them to perch jauntily in
the branches of the sea trees, and these strange little fellows could
swim and dive as well as fly. Pulling out his pad, Tandy made a lively
sketch of one in the tree opposite, for it did look as if Roger would
never succeed in catching one.

All morning Nikobo paddled calmly through the dreamy sea forest; Samuel
making notes, Tandy sketches, and Ato catching in his long-handled
nets plump little fish and crabs, and filling another basket with the
small delicious clams that clung like barnacles to the slippery bark
of the sea trees. In the shadowy center of the forest where the trees
pressed closer together and great flat rocks stuck their heads out of
the water, the explorers came upon several fierce sea lions. They were
not smooth and shiny like the seals of our own oceans, but yellow and
tawny with long yellow tusks, tufted tails and scaly manes. Their front
legs ended in sharp claws, their back legs were shorter and their feet
were webbed for swimming. Only the fact that Nikobo was larger and more
frightening to the sea lions than they were to her saved the party from
a savage attack by these malicious-looking monsters. As it was, they
retired sullenly into the deeper shadows, snarling and roaring defiance
as they backed away, but not before Tandy had made an effective sketch
of the whole group.

“‘Tis a lucky thing for us that you’re along!” grunted Ato, drawing
his feet up out of the water and looking with grim disfavor after the
snarling sea lions. “Likely as not, if you had not made that picture,
Samuel would have tried to drag one along by its tail, regardless of
our feelings or safety.”

“A wild maned sea lion would be a valuable addition to any collection,”
sighed Samuel Salt, shaking his head regretfully. “But then–” he
grinned in his sudden pleasant way, “not much of a mascot at that.”

The only other happening of note was Roger’s capture of a monkey fish.
Unable to overtake a flying fish, the Read Bird had pounced on this
small combination of a land and water beast as it sat quietly sunning
itself on the limb of a tree. Screaming and chattering, he bore it
proudly down to the Captain, and Samuel was so pleased with the curious
little creature that when Nikobo suggested going back he made no
serious objection. And as the hippopotamus, rather weary from her
long swim, headed thankfully back for the ship Tandy and Samuel made
ambitious plans for the monkey fish’s care and comfort.

Thrusting it into Tandy’s bird cage, Samuel regarded it with increasing
enthusiasm and interest. “I’ll rig up a wooden tree in one of the
aquariums, set the aquarium in one of the large cages so it’ll have
both air and water, and call it ‘Roger’ after its discoverer,” beamed
the former Pirate with a wink at Tandy.

“Don’t you dare call that monkey fish after me,” screeched the Read
Bird, flying round to have another look at his strange prize. “Why,
it’s uglier than a blue monkey, looks like a regular goblin, if you ask
me.” And to tell the truth, the monkey fish _was_ even uglier than a
goblin, shaped like a monkey but scaled all over, and with unpleasant
goggly eyes and three short spikes sticking out of its forehead.

“It does look like a goblin,” agreed Tandy with an amused sniff. “But
let’s call it Mo-fi, which is short for fish and monkey.”

“Tip tops’ls!” approved Samuel Salt, taking out his note book. “Wonder
what it eats?”

“Great grandmothers, what would it eat?” moaned Ato, looking blankly at
Samuel. “Another mouth to feed and listen to! Dear, Dear and DEAR!”

“Oh, give it a box of animal crackers,” put in Roger carelessly.

“No, I brought along some gold fish food for just such an emergency as
this,” declared Samuel, making a little flourish with his pencil as he
wrote busily in his journal. “Gold fish food will be splendid for a
monkey fish.”

“Well, don’t forget the bananas–for remember it’s a monkey, too,”
chirped Roger, settling on the Captain’s shoulder to read what he had
written. So, laughing and joking and in the highest good humor the
exploring party returned to the _Crescent Moon_.

What with planting the slips from the sea tree, settling Mo-fi in his
aquarium cage, pressing the leaves from the marine forest, and making
copies and further notes about the sea lions in his journal, Samuel did
not get his ship under way till late afternoon.

Ramming into the sea tree, beyond scraping off some paint, had done
little damage, so singing boisterously, Samuel finally heaved up his
anchor. And soon, with Ato stirring up a huge clam chowder, Tandy
painting the sea forest on the chart and Roger scouring the hold for
Mo-fi’s fish food, the _Crescent Moon_ again dipped adventurously into
the southeast swell.

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