The Sea Unicorn!

“Ahoy! and how goes it with the able-bodied seaman?” called Roger,
swooping down from the foremast. Tandy, polishing the brass trim on the
binnacle, looked up with a welcoming grin.

“Tip topsails!” he answered, pausing a minute to stare off toward the
skyline to see whether any islands or sea serpents were visible.

“And look at that muscle, now,” marveled Roger, touching Tandy’s arm
admiringly with his claw. “You’re twice the lad you were, Mate, and
I’ll wager my last feather you can lay any lubber by the heels. If
anyone gets fresh-water ashore, remember you’re a salt sea-going sailor
and you just take a poke at him. That’s my advice without any charge or
obligation. But then again, a chap that’s a King, the Royal Artist of
an exploring expedition, with a sea forest named after him, might not
need to take any advice at all,” added Roger with a long and knowing
wink.

“But I like you to tell me things,” said Tandy, looking earnestly up
at the Read Bird. “You make everything seem so interesting and jolly.”
With a secret smile, for Tandy was thinking how much he would enjoy
taking a poke at Didjabo, the Chief Ozamandarin, the little boy went
on with his polishing. If Didjabo said anything further about shutting
him up in the Tower, he just plain would take a poke at him. But saying
nothing of all this to Roger, he called up cheerfully, “How’s Mo-fi?
Has he stopped scolding and begun to eat?”

Roger, who was running races with himself up and down the taffrail,
stopped short and held up his claw. “Everything I give him,” he told
Tandy solemnly. “And I declare to badness he’s getting to know me,
Mate. He only pulled out three feathers instead of a fistful when I
gave him breakfast just now. Before long he’ll be so tame he’ll be
riding around on your shoulder.”

“Not MY shoulder,” laughed Tandy, waving his bottle of polish at the
Read Bird. “Goodness, I believe you’re growing fond of that monkey
fish, Roger.”

“Well, why not?” retorted the Read Bird, puffing up his chest. “Ato has
me, the Captain has Sally, you have Kobo, so why shouldn’t I have a
little pet if I want one?”

The monkey fish seemed such a strange prickly sort of pet, Tandy could
hardly keep his face straight, but seeing Roger was quite in earnest,
he tactfully changed the subject. “Do you suppose we’ll make any new
discoveries today?” he asked, screwing the cap on the bottle of polish.
“Any as important as the sea forest, I mean?”

“Why not call it by its proper name?” teased Roger, scratching his head
with his left claw. “And I think it most unlikely we’ll strike anything
as curious and important as Tazander Forest. Two discoveries like that
just couldn’t happen two days running. Still, I’ll just fly up to the
main truck and have a look around.”

“Main truck?” Tandy wrinkled up his brows. “I thought I knew all the
parts of this ship by now. You never told me about the main truck,
Roger.”

“Just the top of the main mast, Brainless.” Giving Tandy an
affectionate little shove, Roger soared into the rigging and Tandy went
joyfully off to have another look at the forest Samuel had insisted
on naming after him. He had taken great pains with the painting and
printing when he sketched it on the map, and now with a sigh of
complete satisfaction he stood regarding the sea chart. Then, suddenly
remembering he had promised to water Samuel Salt’s plants, he jog
trotted contentedly down to the hold.

The tumbleweeds in their small red pots grew so rapidly Samuel had
to cut them back every day. These Tandy watered very sparingly,
snapping his fingers at Mo-fi, who was gravely chinning himself on a
branch of his artificial tree. The slips of the sea trees in their
covered aquarium required no attention at all. Ato had planted all the
vegetable and fruit vines from Peakenspire on the rail outside the
galley, so that left only the creeping vines from Patrippany Island to
care for. He had just picked up one of the small potted creepers when
a sharp rap tap under his toes made Tandy leap straight up in the air.
Someone was knocking on the bottom of the boat.

“Ato! Captain! ROGER!” shrilled the little boy, scurrying up from the
hold faster than he had ever done before.

“Su–su–SOMEBODY’S knocking on the bottom of the boat.” Before he
could explain, or tell them anything further, a perfectly terrific
knock from below made the _Crescent Moon_ shiver from end to end.
Samuel and Ato, leaning over the port rail, turned round so suddenly
they bumped their heads smartly together. Next with a scrape, screech
and splintering of timber, a giant white horn came tearing up through
the decks.

“Whale! Whale!” croaked Roger, falling off the main truck and coasting
crazily down to the deck. “Wha–what ever’n ever’s that?” he quavered,
pointing a trembling claw at the rigid white column between the main
and mizzenmasts. Samuel did not even try to explain, for at that
instant the ship began to rise, to fall, to lash and plunge both up
and down and east and west. Hooking his arms through the rail, Tandy
blinked, gasped and shudderingly waited for the _Crescent Moon_ to fly
asunder.

“Narwhal, Mates!” panted Samuel Salt, throwing himself bodily upon the
wheel. “Horn like a–uni–corn–branch of the Odontocetes and–”

“Oh–you–don’t say–it–is!” chattered Ato, who was lying on his
stomach bouncing up and down like a ball at each frightful lunge of the
monstrous fish. “Well, it’s spiked us–is that a horn or a ship’s mast?
Oh woe, oh! What’n salt’ll we do now?”

Samuel had not the heart to answer, for he had all he could do to
hang on to the wheel as the ship, like a wounded animal, reared and
plunged, thrashing the sea to a fury of foam and spray. Nikobo,
diving precipitously off her raft, began to squeal in high and low
hippopotamy, making brave but ineffective lunges at the lashing giant
beneath the ship.

“Su–suppose it su–submerges?” wailed Ato, who had managed at last to
seize a rope from the end of which he banged and slammed continuously
up and down against the deck. “Oh, my stars! Oh, my spars! Oh, my
beams and–” Tandy never heard Ato’s last anguished cry, for at that
moment a savage shake of the Narwhal’s head sent him flying into the
sea. Coming up coughing and choking, Tandy instinctively began to swim
and for the first time became aware of the creeping vine he still had
clutched tightly in one hand. And in that instant and in that whirl of
danger, disaster and destruction, the little boy suddenly grew calm
and purposeful. This vine–well, why would this powerful vine from
Patrippany Island not work as well under water as on land? The chances
were that it would. Swimming boldly back to the ship, Tandy took a
quick dive, hurling the vine pot and all in the general direction of
the Narwhal. No sooner had the vine touched the water than it began
to open, creep and grow and, spraying out a hundred strong tentacles,
it seized and bound the plunging monster in a secure and inescapable
cradle of leafy wood.

Gasping and sputtering, but with his heart pounding with joy to think
he had really saved Samuel’s beautiful ship, Tandy rose to the surface.
Nikobo, letting off shrill blasts of anger and fright, came paddling
anxiously toward him. But giving the hippopotamus a reassuring wave,
Tandy seized the end of a rope ladder and pulled himself up to the deck.

Samuel, though battered and bruised, still clung to the wheel, and Ato,
almost pounded to a jelly, had rolled into the scuppers where Roger
was fanning him vigorously with a butter paddle. The Read Bird, having
wings, could have left the ship at any time, but had clung bravely to
his post, preferring to go down with the ship and his shipmates. Now
all three of them stared in dazed silence at Tandy as he climbed back
over the rail, for in the terrible confusion and excitement no one had
seen him go overboard.

“Tandy! Tandy! Where’ve you been?” With outstretched arms Samuel Salt
rushed groggily forward. “Shiver my liver! Why’s everything so quiet?
Could it be that you single-handed have destroyed that ship-shaking
menace?”

“I don’t think he’s destroyed, Master Salt,” answered Tandy, limping
happily to meet the Captain, “but he’s caught fast as a lobster in a
lobster pot and can’t move at all.”

“Caught?” rasped Samuel, running across the deck to peer over the rail.

“By the creeping vine,” explained Tandy, and in short, breathless
sentences he told them all that had happened after he was flung into
the sea.

“Well, bagpipe my mizzenmain sails!” gasped Samuel Salt, staring at
Tandy with round eyes. “This is the strangest and happiest day of my
life. You’ve saved the ship and the whole expedition, my boy, and all
we have to do now is cut loose from this cavorting unicorn of the sea
and sail off with the largest ivory horn in captivity. An ivory mast,
blast my buckles! Wait till the Ozites see us sailing up the Winkie
River with four masts instead of three! Ahoy, below! Ahoy, Kobo! Can
you dive with me beneath this ship?”

“Dive and stay under as long as you can,” vowed the hippopotamus,
shaking the water out of her eyes and looking cheerily up at the
Captain. “You see, I was right about those creeping vines, now wasn’t
I?” Nikobo, having done a little investigating on her own account, was
well nigh ready to burst with pride at Tandy’s quick action and the way
in which the vines had overcome their gigantic foe.

“RIGHT!” boomed Samuel Salt, hurrying off for his oxygen helmet and
powerful diamond toothed saw. Ato was too bruised and exhausted to
rise, but Tandy and Roger, perching on the ship’s rail, watched Samuel
in his queer diver’s helmet climb down the rope ladder and clamber
up on the hippopotamus. Next minute Nikobo had disappeared under the
surface and presently from the slight shiver and shake of the boat
they knew that Samuel was determinedly at work cutting them loose.
Fortunately there was room between the ship’s bottom and the whale’s
head for Nikobo to swim about, and so splintering sharp was Samuel’s
saw that in less than five minutes he had cut off the great column of
ivory level with the ship’s bottom, carefully calking the edges with
material he had brought down. In its tight and live wood crate the
Narwhal could not stir an inch, and, while the cutting of its horn was
not painful, it blubbered and spouted so terrifically that Samuel and
Nikobo heaved tremendous sighs of relief when the dangerous operation
was accomplished.

Backing off a few paces, Nikobo began butting the crated sea beast with
her head till she had driven it out from beneath the boat. Roger and
Tandy, with little shrieks of wonder and excitement, saw the crated
fish like some queer and monstrous mummy rise to the surface and go
floating sullenly away toward the east. Now that they had a full view
of the Narwhal they saw that it was three times the length of the
_Crescent Moon_.

“A great wonder Sammy didn’t tie it to the ship and tow it along,”
sighed Ato, who had at last got to his feet and draped himself weakly
over the rail. “Some fishin’–eh, Mates?”

“But look at the beautiful mast we have!” cried Tandy, waving to Nikobo
and the Captain as they came cheerfully alongside.

“Huh! you’re as bad as Sammy,” grunted Ato, rubbing his bruises
sorrowfully. “And of course a mast was just what we were needing! Whale
of a mast! Mast of a whale! HUH!”

“What are you going to call this one?” inquired Tandy next morning as
he and Samuel squinted thoughtfully up at the gleaming ivory column
between the main and mizzenmasts.

“Might call it the whalemast,” said Samuel, rubbing his chin
reflectively. “And it’s a lucky thing for us the point was sharp enough
to cut through the decks without damaging the ship. At any rate, it’s
given us the biggest fish story a voyager ever had to relate. Tossed
on the horn of a Narwhal! And the best part of the whole story is that
we have the proof right along with us. Hah! Right here!” Samuel in his
glee and exuberance gave the whalemast a hearty slap.

“Kobo says that vine won’t unwind for a couple of days, but anyway
it’ll be a fine rest for the whale floating around without having to
swim. And I expect it can grow another horn?”

“I expect so,” agreed Samuel, winking down at Sally, who was standing
on her head in the bowl of his pipe. “If this little Lady would just
talk, she could give us a heap of valuable information about life in
Lavaland, Mate.”

“Roger’s taught Mo-fi to say ‘Ship ahoy!'” observed Tandy, strolling
over to the rail to watch the white foam sweep past the ship’s side.
“And your sea tree sprays have grown an inch since yesterday, Captain.”

“They have?” Samuel blew three rings from his pipe, then walked aft
to glance at the compass. “Well, my boy, if the rest of the voyage
is as good as the beginning, we’ll sail home loaded to the gun’ls.”
The mention of home always made Tandy wince, for the _Crescent Moon_
was the first real home he had known. To think that he would be put
ashore in Ozamaland while Samuel’s ship would continue its adventurous
voyage of discovery without him, was a fact almost too terrible to
consider.

“Maybe we’ll never come to Ozamaland at all,” mused Tandy as he climbed
into the rigging to join Roger. “Maybe the Captain’s reckoning is wrong
and Ozamaland is to the north instead of the south.” Vastly comforted
by this idea, Tandy swung nimbly to the crosstree on the fore t’gallant
mast. Roger was staring intently through Ato’s telescope and as Tandy
squirmed along to a position beside him, the Read Bird let out a shrill
squall, all his head feathers standing straight on end.

“What do you see? What is it?” cried the little King, shading his eyes
with his hands and staring in all directions. “I can’t see a thing.”

“Take the glasses,” urged Roger, handing them over with a frightened
gulp. “Take the glasses and then tell me it isn’t so.” Tandy, scarcely
knowing what to expect, screwed his eye close to the telescope, then
he, too, gave a shriek of consternation.

“Why–it’s a big HOLE, a HOLE in the sea!” he stuttered, lowering the
glasses and staring at the Read Bird in blank dismay.

“Exactly!” croaked the Read Bird, “and whoever heard of such a thing? A
hole in the ground, certainly, but a hole in the sea, why that’s just
plain past believing. Ahoy, DECK AHOY!” Wagging his head, Roger lifted
his voice in a long warning wail. “Heave to, Master Salt! Heave to!
Danger on the bow!”

Somewhat surprised, but without stopping to question Roger, in whom
he had the utmost confidence, Samuel hove his vessel to. And not a
moment too soon, for barely a ship’s length away yawned an immense
and unexplainable hole in the sea. Round its edges the waves frothed,
tossed and bubbled, making no impression on that quiet curious vacuum
of air. Crowding into the bow, the ship’s company stared down in
complete wonder and mystification.

“Now, goosewing my topsails, this’ll bear looking into!” puffed Samuel,
breaking the silence at last.

“Now, now, NOW!” Ato snatched wildly at Samuel’s coat tails as he
raced aft bellowing loudly for Kobo to come alongside. “You’ll not go
a step off this boat. We can sail round this air hole and no damage
done, but as for looking into it! Help, HELP! Avast and belay and I’ll
knock eight bells out of anyone who leaves this ship!” Seizing an iron
belaying pin, Ato made a desperate rush after Samuel Salt, and failing
to catch him before he slid down the cable to Kobo’s raft, he grabbed
Tandy firmly and angrily by the seat of the pants. “Not a step!” panted
the ship’s cook savagely. “Not a step! Roger! Roger! Come back here
this instant.” But Roger, with a screech of defiance, had already flown
after Samuel. Tandy, pinned against the rail by Ato’s two hundred
and fifty pounds, was forced to watch Nikobo, with Roger and Samuel
on her back, moving cautiously toward the edge of the air hole. Over
his shoulder Samuel had a huge coil of rope the end of which he had
attached to the capstan of the boat before he dropped over the side.

“Oh! Oh! and OH!” wheezed the ship’s cook, “If Sammy goes down that
cavern we’re as good as lost. No one to navigate, to up sail or down
sail or lay to in a storm. My, My and MYland!”

“Well, there he goes!” cried Tandy as Samuel flung the rope down into
the sea hole. “Don’t worry, Ato, he’s always come back before, hasn’t
he? Let me go! Let me go, I tell you!” With a sudden jerk Tandy tore
out of Ato’s grasp, climbed up on the rail and dove into the sea.
Swimming rapidly toward the hippopotamus, he climbed on her back and
with Roger fluttering in excited circles overhead Nikobo swam as
close to the edge of the sea hole as she dared, watching in terrified
fascination as Samuel calmly lowered himself into the clouded blue
depths. With mingled feelings of interest and alarm, Tandy saw the
Royal Explorer of Oz go down lower and lower and finally disappear
altogether into the deep blue air below. Now not a glimpse of Samuel
was visible and not a sound came up to reassure them that he was still
there.

“I’ll just fly down and see what’s up,” quavered Roger, and in spite
of the loud shouts and threats of Ato on the _Crescent Moon_, the Read
Bird spread his wings and coasted slowly and bravely into the immense
air shaft. Nikobo, now as alarmed as the ship’s cook, began swimming
frantically round the edge of the misty chasm, letting out piercing
blasts that sounded like nothing so much as a ferry boat whistle.
Tandy himself felt uneasy and frightened and Ato, unable to bear the
suspense any longer, climbed over the side and came swimming out to
join them. After an endless fifteen minutes, during which dreadful fear
and premonition gripped the watchers, the head of the Read Bird popped
mournfully into view.

“Is he all right? Where’s Sammy? What in soup’s he doing? What’d you
find out?” gasped Ato, reaching out to clutch Roger by the wing. Roger,
limp and bedraggled, with all the stiffness out of his feathers, said
nothing for a whole minute. Then, beating his wings together, he
began to scream out hoarsely, “The Captain’s caught! The Collector’s
collected. They have Master Salt forty fathom below. They’ve got him
shut up, I mean down at the bottom of the sea like a gold fish in a
bowl, only he’s in a big bowl of air. They’re poking little fish and
crabs through a trap door in the air shaft and I cannot break or even
make a dent in the transparent slide they’ve shot across the air hole
to shut him off from us. And oh, my bill and feathers! Every time they
open the trap door to shove things in to him, water rushes into the
vacuum. He’s standing in water to his knees now and unless we can break
a hole in that lid the Captain’s done for–done for, do you hear?”

“They?” asked Tandy while Nikobo’s eyes almost popped out of her head,
“Who do you mean?”

“Oh, oh, don’t ASK me!” choked the poor Read Bird. “They’re not fish
and they’re not men. They’re about the size of Tandy, here, sort of
stiff and jellied and perfectly transparent. On a shell hanging outside
of one of their caves it said ‘Seeweegia.'”

“Seeweegia!” moaned Ato, clutching his head in both hands. “Let me see!
Let me see! What’s to be done, boys? Now quick! What’s to be done?”

“Have Roger fetch the saw we used on the whale’s horn,” gurgled Nikobo.

“And I’ll climb down and saw a hole in that slide,” cried Tandy eagerly.

“No, _I’ll_ climb down,” said Ato firmly. “I’ve known Sammy the longest
and if he’s going to come to a watery end I might as well end with
him.”

Leaving the two arguing, Roger flashed back to the ship, returning
in almost no time with the scintillating and powerful saw. Tandy had
meanwhile convinced Ato that he could climb down the rope faster, being
so much lighter, and now, with tears in their eyes, Nikobo and the
ship’s cook saw Tandy and Roger disappear into the air shaft.

Tandy let himself down carefully hand over hand, Roger keeping abreast
of him with the saw. To slide rapidly to the bottom would have been
quicker, but the resulting blisters would make it difficult to use the
saw. Forty fathoms, nearly two hundred and forty feet, is a long way
to go hand over hand on a rope, and before he reached the glass-like
slide, Tandy’s palms stung and his shoulders ached and burned from the
strain. But at last he was down, and dropping to his hands and knees
with Roger mourning and muttering beside him, Tandy peered fearfully
through the glassy substance.

For a moment everything was a green and misty blur, but gradually the
figure of Samuel Salt standing sturdily in the middle of the air bowl
became visible. Although waist high in sea water, and surrounded by
loathsome sea creatures and crabs the Seeweegians had tossed in for him
to eat, Samuel was making slow and interested entries in his journal.
Pressed against the sides of his strange aquarium, Tandy could see the
round, square and triangular faces of the jellyfish men and women.
Brilliantly colored vines and seaweed waved and tossed in the current,
the floor of the ocean was covered with bright shells, polished stones
and all manner of sparkling deep sea jewels. Had Tandy not been so
worried about Samuel Salt he would have liked nothing better than
sketching this strange and beautiful under sea Kingdom with the
Seeweegians flopping and swimming busily in and out of their grottos
and caves, or disporting themselves in the sea weed forests. But as
it was, his only thought was of quickly freeing the Captain of the
_Crescent Moon_ from his curious prison.

“Look, they’ve put up a sign,” hissed Roger, handing over the saw.
Looking in the direction indicated by Roger, Tandy saw an immense shell
on which long wisps of sea weed had been arranged to form the words:

COME SEE THE CURIOUS HIGH AIR MANSTER.
ADMISSION, 1 PEARL, 5 CORALS AND A CLAM!

The sight of this sign swinging from a small sea tree close to Samuel’s
air bowl sent a wave of rage up Tandy’s back. Rubbing his palms briskly
together, the little boy seized the saw and struck it with all his
might against the unyielding surface of the slide. The noise attracted
Samuel’s attention, and looking up he began waving his arms, yelling
out wild orders and commands. Not being able to hear any of them and
being quite sure Samuel was telling them to leave the air shaft before
the Seeweegians shot another slide above their heads and caught them,
too, Tandy proceeded grimly with his task. Roger helped, scraping away
with both claws and bill. For five desperate minutes they worked
without success, then a tiny crack split the slide from edge to edge.
Wedging the saw into the narrow opening, Tandy began sawing away like
a little wild man, for a fresh batch of snails and crabs tossed in to
Samuel had let in another rush of sea water. Immersed to his chin,
Samuel started to swim round and round, dodging the end of the saw as
it flashed up and down above his head.

“Oh!” gasped Tandy, stopping a moment to blow on his fingers. “I’ll
never be able to make this opening large enough. Look, look, Roger,
they’re opening that trap door again. Oh, Oh! I can’t bear it!”

“Help! Help!” yelled the Read Bird, looking despairingly up the empty
air shaft. “Help, for the love of sea salt and sailor men!” His cry,
increased by the curious nature of the compressed air in the air shaft,
increased a hundredfold and fell with a hideous roar upon the anguished
ears of Ato and Nikobo. Almost instinctively and without thought of
her own safety, or Ato’s, or the dire consequences, the hippopotamus
jumped bodily into the sea hole. Roger, still glaring upward, had a
quick flash of an immense falling object. Realizing at once what had
happened, the Read Bird had just time to snatch Tandy and drag him to
the opposite side of the slide before Nikobo landed–broke through
the thick glass, plunged into Samuel’s aquarium and shot out through
the side into a group of horrified Seeweegians. Now do not suppose for
an instant that Tandy, Roger or Samuel himself saw all this happen.
Indeed, after Nikobo struck the slide, none of them remembered a thing,
for the ocean, rushing in through the puncture the hippopotamus had
made in the vacuum, rose like a tidal wave, carrying them tumultuously
along.

Nikobo came up at a little distance from the others, with Ato,
completely wrapped and entangled in seaweed, clinging tenaciously to
her harness and looking like some queer marine specimen himself. Too
shocked and stunned to swim, the five shipmates bobbed up and down
like corks on the surface of the sea. Then Roger, spreading his wet
and bedraggled wings and coughing violently from all the salt water he
had swallowed, started dizzily back to the _Crescent Moon_. Nikobo had
several long gashes in her tough hide, but still managed to grin at
Tandy.

“I–I must have lost the saw,” panted the little boy, pulling himself
wearily up on her back.

“Never mind the saw. I still have my journal, and look what I caught!”
puffed Samuel Salt, dragging himself up on the other side of the
hippopotamus. “Ship ahoy, Mates, a live and perfect specimen of a
jellyfish boy.” Holding up his prize, Samuel smiled blandly, all his
danger and discomfort apparently forgotten.

“Oh, my eyes, ears and whiskers!” quavered Ato, peering out of his
net of seaweed. “Is it for this we’ve been scraping our noses on the
sea bottom?” Nodding cheerfully, Samuel plunged the squirming and
transparent little water boy under the surface, holding him there, as
Nikobo swam slowly and painfully back to the ship.

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