The Mer-king.

From: Kobboltozo: A Sequel to the Last of the Huggermuggers (1869)
Author: Christopher Pearse Cranch
Published: Lee and Shepard 1869 Boston



  KOBBOLTOZO sat up and rubbed his eyes, and looked with intense hatred and disgust at the innocent blackberry bush, which had scratched to pieces his splendid dream. Seeing Hammawhaxo still asleep, he expended upon him a part of his ill-nature in waking him without ceremony. “Come, comrade,” he cried, shaking him, “it is time we were going. We have a great deal to do. We must call up the mer-king while the waves are still, and yonder are the rocks where I have no doubt we shall see his cave. Come, get your—what do you call it—incantation all ready. Get up, man—don’t be going to sleep again!”

  So poor Hammawhaxo was roused up, and followed his companion slowly along the beach towards the rocks. There they were not long in discovering a cave, having a narrow opening on one side to the sea, and an equally narrow entrance from the land. They entered. It was very large and dark, the only light being that which came through the above mentioned opening to the sea. Nearly the whole of the grotto was filled with the water, which appeared to be of immense depth, and of an exquisite emerald green hue. The sea was so quiet that the wavelets hardly whispered against the sides of the dark cavern. It was a weird and solemn place. There was a narrow ledge on which they could walk, and here the two dwarfs took their stand.

  “Are you ready with your speech?” said Kobboltozo. “All ready,” said his companion. They then threw into the water some shells and bunches of seaweed, and repeated these lines:—

King of the mysterious sea,
Tell us where the power may be,
Which may set our bodies free
From the enchanter’s tyranny.
Where the wondrous food may be
Which will make us great as he
Who was giant here, while we
Are but dwarfs of low degree!

  They looked into the deep, clear: emerald water, and waited in silence. At last there was a heaving and a bubbling up from below, and soon a vast, dim, colorless shape, half appearing, half hidden in the green water, waved to and fro beneath them. Then there rose a gigantic head,* crowned with magnificent pearls, and coral, and amber, and sea-flowers—an apparition with flowing locks and beard that seemed to mingle with the white foam—and great calm blue eyes that gazed solemnly upon them—and a low voice, in a surfy cadence, chanted this reply:—

Not in the Ocean deep and clear,
Not on the Land so broad and fair,
Not in the regions of boundless Air,
Not in the Fire’s burning sphere—
‘Tis not here—‘tis not there.
Ye may seek it everywhere.
He that is a dwarf in spirit
Never shall the isle inherit.
Hearts that grow ‘mid daily cares
Grow to greatness unawares;
Noble souls alone may know
How the giants live and grow.

  The water heaved once more in long swells—breaking and sparkling and eddying in the unearthly light of the grotto—as the dim shape disappeared and sunk in the sea.

  There was something in the solemnity of the place, and the strange vision, which seemed to impress the words of this reply deeply upon the memory of these two men. But it was more the words than the sense, for it had a meaning they did not altogether comprehend. They turned and left the cave. For some time neither of them spoke a word. They were both sunk in their own thoughts. The appearance of the mer-king had somewhat astonished and awed them; for it was half in jest and unbelief that they had summoned him. The answer disappointed and puzzled them.

  “If the wonderful shell-fish,” said Kobboltozo, “is not to be found in the sea, nor on the earth, nor in the air, nor in the fire—where the deuce is it to be found?”

  “Why don’t you see?” said Hammawhaxo, “if it isn’t to be found in the sea, it may be found on the sea; if it isn’t to be found on the ground, it must be in or under the ground.”

  “Good! capital!” cried the shoemaker. “Why, Hamm, you have a shrewd wit. I should never have thought of that now. That must be it, without doubt. I’ll tell you what, now. We’ll divide our labors, and when we’ve found our treasure we’ll divide the profits. You shall pursue your search on the sea, and I mine under the ground. It’s a bargain, isn’t it?”

  “Well,” said the carpenter, “we can try. I must confess I should like the fun of sailing about a little. I always had a sort of hankering after a sea life, and sometimes almost wish I had gone off with those American sailors who were here—though I should have felt rather uneasy, with Huggermugger for a fellow passenger. And as for you, old Kobb, you certainly have a fancy for making discoveries underground. So we’ll think about your plan. Let’s go home now; we are many miles away from the village, and we must get back before nightfall.”

* See Frontispiece.

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