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"See what?" whispered back the doctor. "Is that a canoe full of blacks?"
"No!" cried Carey, in a voice full of disgust; "an enormous crocodile, sleeping in the sun."
Both looked round the side of the sheltering rock again, and Bostock's head popped back.
"There!" said Carey, eagerly.
"Where?" said Bostock. "There aren't nothing but some bits o' stone and seaweed."
"Nonsense!" cried Carey, impatiently. "You can see it, can't you, doctor?"
"No, I see nothing," was the reply.
"Here, let me look again," cried Carey, and the doctor made way.
"Oh!" e.j.a.c.u.l.a.t.ed the boy, in a disappointed tone; "it's gone!"
Bostock shook his head solemnly.
"You're a-getting better, young gen'leman," he said.
"Of course I am," said Carey; "but what do you mean?"
"You shouldn't, sir. There was a young chap once as kep' sheep, and he'd got a larky sort o' sperrit, and every now and then he used to begin running, and--"
"Yes, yes, I know," cried Carey, indignantly; "and cry 'wolf! wolf!'
But do you think--"
"He's been gammoning on us, sir," said Bostock to the doctor.
"I haven't! I wouldn't play such a trick," cried Carey, indignantly.
"There was a great crocodile that looked five-and-twenty or thirty feet long lying close to the water when I signed to you both to come. It wasn't twenty feet away."
"Where 'bouts were it, then, sir?" growled the old fellow, only half-convinced.
"Come and see," cried Carey, and he hurried round the rock, followed by his companions; but there was apparently no sign of any reptile, till the doctor pointed to a great groove in the soft dry sand.
"Yes, that's where he was," cried Carey. "Ah! and look here. You can see the marks of his paws."
"I see," cried the doctor. "Yes, Carey, it must have been a monster."
"Pst! pst!" whispered Bostock, raising his gun, and pointing away to their right.
"Don't fire," said the doctor, hurriedly; "those small shot cartridges are of no use. See it, Carey?"
"Yonder, floating and looking this way. You can only see the monster's eyes."
"Where--where? Ah, I see; those two k.n.o.bs close together?"
"Yes; the brute must have taken alarm, and glided back into the river.
It is evidently watching us."
"Beg your pardon, Master Carey. I thought it was games. Well, sir, it's a good job you see that chap. We know he harnts the place. Who knows but what you might ha' took a fancy to bathe there some day?"
"I was thinking what a beautiful place it would be, because there'd be no fear of sharks in such a shallow place."
"No sharks perhaps, sir, but they're innocent babies to a thing like that. Why, he might have swept you in with his tail before you'd undressed yourself. You and clothes and all."
"What are you going to do?" said the doctor, as the old sailor handed Carey the gun and stooped to pick up a piece of coral as big as a child's head.
"On'y going to show him, cunning as he is, thinking that he's snugly hid under water, that we can see him, and that we know what's the meaning of two k.n.o.bs on the water."
The doctor nodded and looked on, Carey feeling an intense longing to follow the old sailor's example, but feeling that it would be some time before he could throw a heavy stone.
Meanwhile Bostock walked slowly to the edge of the water, and then along towards the sea, reducing the distance till he was not above five-and-twenty yards from the floating reptile, when he stopped short and pitched the lump of coral with pretty good aim; but as it described an arc and was still in the air, there was a tremendous wallow, a wave rose on the surface, and they could trace the course taken by the monster, which, with one tremendous stroke of its powerful tail, glided right away towards the sea.
"Wish it had made a dint in his skull," said Bostock. "Beasts! how I do hate 'em! Dessay there's lots more, so we shall have to take care."
"How big was it, Bob?" said Carey, triumphantly.
"Oh, I wouldn't like to say, sir. I've seen a lot of 'em in my time-- Africa, Indy, and in Chinee waters, as well as off the east coast yonder; but I should think this must be all you said. P'raps more."
Satisfied with the day's adventures, they now made for the raft, and were soon after sailing slowly across to the stranded vessel, where that evening Bostock was in his glory with the cook's stove sending up a cloud of black smoke, and saucepan and frying-pan were well occupied in the preparation of soup and fish.
"The pigeons'll have to stay till to-morrow, Master Carey," he said, confidentially. "But I say, sir, don't say as that hyster soup aren't good."
The lad did not. In fact he was helped twice, while the doctor sent a thrill of pride through the old sailor as he made comparisons between it and turtle.
"Well, no, sir," said the old fellow, modestly, "not so good as that. I dessay, though, we shall find some turtle floating in this lagoon. If we do we must get one, and then you shall see the difference."
"Do you think they are likely to be about these sh.o.r.es?"
"Sure to be, sir. We shall see one, I dessay, floating on the water, fast asleep; and I dessay we shall find something else, Master Carey, and if we do, look out."
"Sea-serpents, sir. I've seen 'em."
"What! have you seen the sea-serpent?" said Carey, laughing.
"Ah, I mean the black and yaller ones as basks in the calm sea 'bout these parts, six, eight, and ten foot long, and as poisonous as any o'
them on land; so be on the look-out, sir; I knowed one man as died from a bite."